My (sisters and) brothers, I am Bro Ned, Calapan BCLP 3, an Agriculturist and a social development worker now working as Executive Director of MAHAL, Inc. a local non-governmental organization working with the poor. I am the father of Engr. (Bro) By de Guzman, BCLP4 and his twin sister Malaya, a college Psychology instructor.
Did anyone know I was born in Manila Zoo? Well, I was born on April 28, 1951 in our home at MH del Pilar St. Malate, Manila. In that portion now known as Manila Zoo! The government needed our property for the said project and as law abiding citizens, my parents gave up my birth place and gave way to Manila Zoological and Botanical Gardens or Manila Zoo.
We transferred to Murphy, Quezon City, just outside the GHQ of the AFP before I was even one year old. It was in our new home that the youngest of the 5 de Guzman siblings, the only girl was born. I was no longer the younest but this only girl thing who we all were brought up to love!
We were all raised as God-fearing Catholics by our loving parents. They made sure we had our Cathechism as early as possible and we grew up very close to each other until we had our families of our own.
I was admitted to the Catholic Church on March 16, 1952 when I was baptized at the Old Balara Chapel in Diliman QC which was then still under the Sacred Heart Parish (Kamuning). Was it a coincidence that my first BCBP breakfast was about that date in March 2004 and I am now part of a community whose Patron is the Sacred Heart of Jesus under the San Lorenzo Parish?
I received the Sacrament of Confirmation in the church at Villamor Airbase before entering the intermediate level at grade school. Actually that was the anniversary of the Philippine Air Force in 1960 and my god father was Lt Segundo Aquino, PAF (Ret).
Actually, I was the only male sibling who has not entered the seminary. The eldest finished his highschool at the Mary Help of Christians Minor Seminary in Binmaley, Pangasinan when our late Bishop Valerio was the Fr. Rector of the said seminary. The 2nd eldest received his tonsure in the Immaculate Conception Major Seminary, in Vigan, Ilocos Sur, became Vice-Director and Dean of Studies of the Columban College Catechetical Center in Olongapo City, took his Masters Degree in Theology at the Ateneo de Manila Loyola House of Studies and his PhD at the Catholic University of Louvain in Belgium. The 3rd , my elder brother, took his degree in Philosophy at Major Seminary in Vigan.
I studied Agriculture. I, then, would always join in Summer work camps to do community work among farmers and fisher folks.
During the Disasters of the 70s. I would always be part of emergency response to bring relief goods to the poor victims of floods or drought in Central Luzon and Southern Tagalog.
But my eyes never allowed the rich to escape the blame of how they agrevated the situation, exploit the situation to get richer. Even the clergy didn’t escape the blame for I perceive them as the priest only of the rich. Then I didn’t believe there was a church of the poor. He has shown me the Social injustices the poor and the common people suffer. He actually let me experience these social injustices. I need not recount what I and my family experienced in detail. Just allow me to enumerate some to spark your imagination: my father was swindled of his entire retirement pay; my mother not given her salary for one year for refusing to give her district supervisor the gift, a cow he was asking for to process her appointment; I had to be harassed because I was suspected to have seen some wrong doings by one very respected person; my orphaned niece raped by someone supposed to be her protector then she committing suicide; I being forced out of school to work below minimum wage but to sign 2 payrolls (one for the DOLE and the other for the actual amount paid) and a lot many more. I was becoming bitter. I felt I was breaking. Hatred was growing in my heart. I did not understand His plan for me. (He made you experience want and put you to the test, so that it would be for your good later on, lest you say, “with my own strength I have attained all these good things”. – Deuteronomy 8:16-17)
“Hear this, you who trample upon the needy and destroy the poor of the land! “When will the new moon be over”, you ask, “that we may sell our grain, and the Sabbath, that we may display the wheat? We will diminish the ephah, add to the shekel and fix our scales for cheating! We will buy the lowly man for silver and the poor man for a pair of sandals, even the refuse of the wheat we will sell.” The Lord has sworn by the pride of Jacob: Never will I forget a thing they have done! –Amos 8:4-7
In 1972, Martial Law was declared. It gave me time to reflect and realize my calling, my part in God’s plan. He was calling me and preparing me for the task He was asking me to do since my childhood. And time to realize how much God loves us and cares for us.
He gave me the best parents and siblings for me. He has been protecting me and my loved ones from all sorts of danger all these years. How blind I was!
One vivid memory that comes to my mind was when I have just finished my first year in college. I was very excited to go home. It was my first summer vacation. I was booked for the midnight trip so I will be home early the next morning.
I was very angry because I was not accommodated in the PANTRANCO midnight trip to Pangasinan. I want to be at home in the morning because I want to be at home on my birthday. I have to be content to be in the next trip. When we reached Tarlac we passed by a PANTRANCO bus, the one I was supposed to have taken had they not have given my seat to another passenger, badly damaged and almost all passengers killed when it hit a parked logging truck. I felt very weak and don’t know what to think. I was crying and silently murmuring, “Thank you, Lord!”
“Keep me safe, O God; in you I take refuge. I say to the Lord, You are my Lord, you are my only good.” Psalm 16:1-2
In 1974, I was married to Tita (Teresita Manahan) on the Feast of St Luke, that is October 18. Is it another coincidence this date in 1981, I was called to be part of an international NGO (Foster Parents Pan International) working with the poor and I will be called to direct as Executive Trustee the Mindoro Assistance for Human Advancement thru Linkages, Inc. or MAHAL that will be established in October 18, 1988. I shall then be called in January 17, 1994 and it is another coincidence. January 17 is tita’s birthday!
He sent them in pairs before Him to every town and place he intends to visit… The harvest is rich but the workers are few… I am sending you as lambs in the midst of wolves. Luke 10, 1-3
My union with Tita was blest with a fraternal twins a boy and a girl. It was also on our anniversary date 7 years later that PLAN Int’l took me in as an Agriculturist. Within a few months, I was already a Supervisor. I rose from the ranks and assigned to various departments from technical to livelihood, to evaluation and monitoring and before my 12th year in the said agency, I was Program Manager for Mindoro and Marinduque. I was sent to various trainings, from bookkeeping to Auditing Development Management, to Cooperatives across the country. I was sent to Conferences in Bangkok, Thailand, Singapore, and Mysore, HD Kote and Karnataka in India. I realized only later that this are just a preparation for a bigger task.
In MAHAL, my wife and I worked in various programs from poverty alleviation, local governance, gender equality, disaster risk reduction and management, global warming and climate change adaptation; then were tasked to go to Wales and England for a month and a half to show the people of Great Britain how we believe in life before death!! Work in MAHAL is not the bigger challenge! It is preparation before we were called to work in the community under the Parish of San Lorenzo Ruiz.
Indeed God has planned that I work among and with the poor.
In this work, I had a deeper insight on the social injustices being suffered by the poor. Even my work with MAHAL is preparation to my work in our Church communities!
So what else do all those coincidences mean but that I am being called to work among the poor and bring glory to His name!
I just don’t know when. Probably, when my sister was miraculously cured at the PGH. In August, 3years before my commitment to BCBP (which was on August 7, 2004) she was hospitalized because of pancreatitis. She was about to take her lunch at the UP cooperative cafeteria. She was taking up her Doctorate’s at the State University then. She collapsed and was brought to the hospital. She was transferred from one hospital to another. Finally she was confined at the UP-PGH ICU. From August to December, they could not close her operation. Everyday they have to wash off portions of her liver. The hospital bill was already approaching P 2M yet no end in sight yet. She is our youngest and our only sister. We love her so much. I prayed to God. I asked him to save her. Cure her and I vowed to go to Mass daily. On December 24 the Team of Doctors discharged her as cured. They proclaimed her their MIRACLE PATIENT. (Somehow, the bills were paid which I also consider a miracle.)
“Ask and you will receive. Seek and you will find. Knock and it will be opened to you. For the one who asks receives. The one who seeks, finds. The one who knocks, enters…” Matthew 7, 7-8
And I became a daily church goer. Unknowing, BCBP noticed and I became a target for their recruitment.
Perhaps the hatred was lost when I started reflecting and started to realize how good really is God. He gave me the best parents and siblings, protected me from all sorts of danger, natural and otherwise, all these years.
As I grow older working with the poor, with God’s loving presence in my heart I believe He erased it completely and replaced it with stronger faith, love and hope. He brought me in to the BCBP which all the more strengthened my faith, love and hope.
They devoted themselves to the teachings of the Apostles, and to communal life, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers. Acts 2, 43
Very clearly, the fundamentals of Christian Life is the Gospel, Community life, Eucharist and prayers. We cannot do anything without God’s grace. We need all the four elements mentioned above to obtain grace. Thanks to BCBP. Here in my wallet is my Commitment card or Covenant Card spelling out how I can enhance or live out these fundamentals… to pray daily for at least 15 minutes a day and to read the Bible at least 15 minutes daily. I still hear the voice of our Lord Jesus Christ saying:
“You are the Salt of the earth. But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned? It is no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the Light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden.” Mark 5:13-14
I have received so many blessings and graces from our God. He made me whole again. I have to give Him thanks and praise.
Jesus took the occasion to say,” Were not 10 made whole? Where are the other nine?” Was there no one to return and give thanks to God except this Foreigner?” He said to the man, “Stand up and go your way your faith has been your salvation. Luke 7:17-19
[The article above is authored by EDWARD DE GUZMAN, Action Group Leader and Group Discussion Leader for BCBP, Pastoral Community Coordinator for San Lorenzo Parish, Calapan City, Oriental Mindoro, Philippines]