Haggai Asia Pacific Summit
Manila, 18 September 2010
Good morning, brothers and sisters. I truly thank the Lord for this beautiful day that we are all gathered here, to praise and worship God. And I truly thank the Lord for this wonderful opportunity given to me to speak to you this morning.
I stand before you today perhaps like many of you, a sinner, and like all of you, one who keeps on coming back to God, begging for his mercy, seeking for His love & grace.
I have a very simple story to share with you this morning.
In the year 2000, my wife and I seriously thought of migrating to America or Canada. At that time, there was a lot of fear in our country, triggered in part by the Asian crisis that affected many of our neighbor countries, and in part by the problems plaguing our government. Around that time, many of our relatives and friends migrated to the US and Canada.
So my wife and I were also tempted to leave our country. But after talking about it for almost a year, we decided to stay. We decided to live our lives here and raise our children in our own country, the land where God planted us.
Still, after making the decision to stay in the country, there were some questions that kept haunting me – “What if the Philippines does not progress in the next 20 or 30 years?” What if, 30 years later, our country’s situation becomes worse, that it will not be safe for my children to go out into the streets or highways? What if, 30 years later, there will be a dearth of opportunities in this country for my children? By then, will I tell myself and my wife that we made the wrong decision in staying in our own country?
These concerns eventually led me to ask myself – Is there something that I can do to help my country, to help ensure a better Philippines for my children?
When I looked at life, I realized that I had always been a writer. I was a writer when I was in high school. I was a writer when I was in a military school, and I was a writer when I was at the University of the Philippines. Right after law school, I became a columnist in one of the big newspapers in the country. Then I became the publisher and editor-in-chief of a magazine.
So I told myself, perhaps this is where God wants to use me – as a writer. Perhaps God gave me my pen as a tool and weapon to help my country and people. Then, in 2003, I encountered one of the favorite lines of Mother Teresa which reads – “I am but a small pencil in the hand of a writing God, asking all people in our world that we need to love one another.” This particular line of Mother Teresa gave me so much inspiration as a writer.
So sometime August 2004, four years after my wife and I decided to live our lives in our own country, I decided to write a book. I gave myself 7 months to write the book. I rearranged my schedule, declined dinner invitations and meetings during the night. For the next 7 months, I disciplined myself to be home before 7pm, to sit on my chair in front of my study table at home by 8 o’clock in the evening. I vowed to myself to try to write from 8pm in the evening until 12 midnight, every night for the next 7 months. My target was just to write 1 page a night. There were nights that I could not write. There were nights that I was just praying. There were nights that I was just crying. But there were nights I was writing until the wee hours of dawn.
Seven months later, I finished the book. I dedicated it “To my Creator, who has blessed me with so much; and to my Country, which yearns for love from its people.” And the title I gave to the book was “12 Little Things Every Filipino Can Do To Help Our Country”.
When I told my wife that I wanted to print 2000 copies, my wife looked me in the eye and said, “Do we know 2000 friends who will buy your book?” But upon the advice of my long-time good friend, Reiner Puno (former president of Philippine Haggai), who owns a printing press, I decided to print 2000 copies.
To my complete surprise, the 2000 copies were all sold out in 3 weeks, despite the fact that we were just selling the book from my office and in my wife’s office. Encouraged by the result, we decided to print 10,000 copies for our 2nd printing. These 10,000 copies were all sold out in less than 3 months. For our 3rd printing, we printed 10,000 copies. These 10,000 copies were all sold out in December 2005. By the end of 2007, the book has been reprinted 8 times.
During that period, this may sound incredible, I have received an average of 200 speaking invitations a year to share the book’s message. The book has brought me to different parts of our country as well as to various Filipino communities in different countries abroad.
During that period, the book has been circulated in the internet many times over. It has been featured in all the major newspapers in the country. It has also been reviewed, analyzed and commented upon by most of the newspaper columnists in the country. It has also been featured in a number of school newspapers in various schools. It has also been featured in a number of popular TV talk shows in different TV stations. Several radio stations nationwide also serialized the 12 Little Things in their radio programs.
In October 2007, I attended the Haggai International Leadership Training in Singapore. My 23-day training in Haggai Singapore was one of the best periods in my entire life. It was one of those very rare moments in my whole life when I felt God was so near, was so close to me, that I could almost see Him, feel Him, and hear Him everyday during those 23 days at Haggai Singapore. Later on I told myself that if I died right after my Haggai Singapore training, I would have gone straight to heaven. It was a good time to die. I promised myself that I will also send all of my 4 kids to Haggai training in the future.
In the past 3 years since my Haggai training in Singapore, many wonderful things happened in my life.
On my personal level, my wife and I have received tremendous financial blessings in our family in the last 3 years. My wife and I are experiencing today so much love and beauty in our marriage. And it is truly a treasure to see that our 4 young children are growing up wonderfully in this world, but more beautifully so in the eyes of our Lord.
As of today, the book has been reprinted 15 times. I continue to receive around 200 speaking invitations a year in the last 3 years. The biggest and largest television network in the country (ABS-CBN) featured the book in the 3 types of calendar it produced – wall calendars, desk calendars, and executive planners. One company that manufactures bags also wrote each of the 12 Little Things in their bags. One t-shirt company also printed the 12 Little Things in their t-shirts.
Many national organizations adopted the book and its message of promoting Good Citizenship among Filipinos. Among these organizations are the National Laity Council of the Philippines (under CBCP), Galing Pilipino Movement, Ang Bagong Pinoy Movement, Ang Kapatiran Party, Philippine Book Talk Society, Dilaab Movement, Yaman Pilipino, Yabang Pinoy, Global Pinoy, Philippine National Training Institute of PNP, Philippines Jaycees, Institute on Solidarity Asia (ISA), PhilExport, Buy Pilipino Movement. The Philippine National Police Academy (PNPA) has also adopted the book as part of its training program.
A few months ago, some big companies in the country also asked me if I could be a commercial model or endorser of their products. This one my wife egged me to accept.
Last year, one popular singer composed and sang the now famous song “Mabuting Pilipino”. Last year, a group of patriotic Filipinos formed an organization called “Mabuting Pilipino Movement”. And also, last year, because of the book and my speeches, I was invited to run for the senate under the political party of President Aquino III. And recently, I have been told that several big groups in the country, with the support and blessings of our government, will soon launch a call for cultural change or cultural revolution, which they will anchor on my book “12 Little Things”. I was also told that they want me to play a significant role in this cultural revolution. If they do, it shall be a cultural revolution based on faith and patriotism. It shall be a cultural revolution based on love of God and love of neighbor, the 2 highest commandments of God according to Jesus Christ. In this Cultural Revolution, we shall ask every Filipino, here and overseas, to be part of the Solution, to be part of the Answer, to be part of the Hope we seek for our country. We shall ask every Filipino to be an ambassador of the beauty of Filipino, to be a builder of the greatness of our country Philippines, and for all Christians and Muslims to be good citizens.
My brothers and sisters, you may wonder, why I am saying all these things to you?
All this is not about me. All this is about God – all this is about the power and the beauty of God in my life. This is not my story. This is the story of God in my life. This is about God who, as shown in the Bible and as shown in history, can exceed your expectations, or the world’s expectations of yourself. This is about God who has done many great and truly amazing things throughout history.
I remember so well when I was writing the book. There were nights when I could not write, when all I did was pray and pray until late into the night. And I clearly remember that many times I asked God to allow this book to touch our people’s hearts and to help our country. I clearly remember, many times asking the Lord to send me many wonderful people who can help me spread the book’s message among our people, not only here but also abroad.
Looking back, 5 years later, my dear brothers and sisters, God has granted me all my prayers. He has sent me many wonderful people who truly helped me spread the book’s message. He has allowed the book to touch many of our people’s hearts, and to help our country.
This is God’s story in my life. This is about God’s faithfulness. In Matthew 25:21, God said “Since you have been faithful in small things, I will entrust you with much more”. In Genesis 28:15, God said “I will not leave you until I have finished giving you everything I promised you”. In Psalm 89:2, it is written there that “God’s faithfulness is as permanent like the sky”.
It is truly good to know that God is always there, never giving up on us. It is truly good to know that God will always love us, will always help us, and will always bless us.
I truly thank God for all the blessings He has given me. What He has given are truly wonderful, considering where I came from, where I started. I was born to a father who finished high school but who was not fortunate to reach college, and to a mother who spent all her years as a public school teacher, teaching Grade 2 elementary pupils in the remote areas in the province of Negros Occidental. There were 8 of us children. When I was 14 years old, my parents had an LQ – or lovers’ quarrel. And they eventually separated. Life became so difficult in our family, that one of my sisters had to work as a house maid in a big city near our town. Another sister had to work in Japan in late 1980s. But I dreamt big for my family, prayed hard to God, and looked vigorously for opportunities.
I truly believe in the words of Dr John Haggai. We have to dream those big dreams that can only be attained by God’s power. We have to dream so boldly, so big and so high, that they can be achieved, not by our talent or power, but only by God’s grace.
Let me end my testimony with an act of gratitude – In your presence my dear brothers and sisters, I truly thank the Father Almighty for this wonderful life He has given me. I also thank Dr John Haggai and the Haggai Institute for all the great and wonderful works that you do in our world, in equipping leaders for Jesus Christ, in saving millions of souls for the Lord. May God always use you mightily and wonderfully for all His people on Earth. God bless you always.
Thank you very much.