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A Filipino of faith
BY THE WAY By Max V. Soliven
The Philippine Star 12/19/2005

We keep on paying lip service to the catchword, "Faith
in the Filipino." In this Christmas season of hope
and also sadness this faith and confidence in
ourselves too often falls short of being justified.

However, here's one story which I must tell.

This incident took place last Thursday in the late
afternoon. I was rushing home in my car, an X-5, from
my last meeting in Makati already far behind
schedule, since my next appointment, after a change of
clothes, was in Malacanang. My vehicle broke down in
the mounting rush-hour traffic on the Paseo de Roxas,
not far from the corner of Buendia. There I was,
frantically trying to hail a cab in vain while the
avenue was crawled alongside, almost gridlocked. My
desperation must have been all over my face. I had
fruitlessly attempted calling my Stargate office on
Ayala Avenue, then my associates and friends nearby. I
needed a car badly to rescue me from the corner where
I had been stranded. But nobody could be contacted.

Then a white Chevrolet Ventura pulled up to the curb.
The young man at the wheel leaned over, his window
rolled down, and asked: "Can I help you, sir?"

I blurted out, "Yes my car over there broke down. I
must get home in a hurry! Can you bring me somewhere
where I can find a taxicab?"

The fellow smiled and said: "Hop in, Sir I will drive
you home."

I scrambled aboard, thankful to the kind stranger, and
God and for my good fortune. In retrospect, I wonder
why it had never occurred to me he might be an armed
hold-up man. I guess it was the disarming nature of
his smile, his earnest approach. Yet how could anyone
be so generous as to stop in the middle of traffic,
then offer a total stranger a ride all the way to his
home? He hadn't even asked how far away I lived; he
made the offer without hesitation.

When we were underway, I asked to shake his hand and
asked for his name, "My name is Alex," he simply said.
"I'm Max," I replied, then fished in my pocket and
offered him my card. He peered at it, then exclaimed:
"Wow. It's an honor! I read you every day!"

"Now. Alex, you owe me your card in return." I said.

Stopped at a light, he took out his wallet, got one
and politely handed it to me. It read: Alexander L.
Lacson, above which was his firm's title: "Malcolm
Law", underneath that, "A Professional Partnership."
By golly, I had been rescued by a lawyer.

There you are. Somehow, when faith in the Filipino
wavers, a Filipino comes along to restore your faith.
Restore it? So surprise you with his kindness and
generosity. This is an experience and a shining
gesture I'll never forget.
* * *

I finally told Alex I was headed for Greenhills. He
grinned. "By coincidence, since I'm taking you there,
my destination happens to lie not far away I'm
headed for Wack-Wack subdivision to give a talk at a
Christmas party."

"Why?" I exclaimed. "In addition to being a lawyer,
are you also a preacher?"

He smiled even more merrily and explained that he had
written a little book. It was on the car seat beside
him, and I picked it up. It was entitled: "12 Little
Things Every Filipino Can Do to Help Our Country."

Alex had his little volume (108 pages) published
earlier this year by the Alay Pinoy Publishing House
in Quezon City, and it had sold out in its first
printing within three weeks. The second and third
printings were about to sell out, too.

No, he wasn't selling it through any bookshop, the
biggest book shop (unnamed here) wanted too big a
portion of its possible earnings, but I told them I
wanted the proceeds to go to a scholarship foundation
for the needy."

So, Lacson has been selling his book out of his office
and out of his home.

The dedication of the slim tome reveals his sincerity
It says: "To my Creator, who has blessed me with so
much, and to my Country, which yearns for love from
its people."

As we drove up EDSA, Alex said: "I read your mother's
book, ?A Woman So Valiant, too " and I loved it!"

Can you beat that?

My mama had written that book of hers in longhand, on
yellow pad paper not long before she died at the age
of 81 on October 16, 1990 and belatedly, we had
published it last year. Astoundingly, it had been a
runaway bestseller, without publicity, and had sold
out in the National Bookstores.

My sister, Mrs. Mercy S. David messaged me when she
arrived from New York that the Japanese were now
planning to transcribe the autobiography into Japanese
and publish it in Tokyo, as a chronicle of what
happened to a Filipino family in the war years (and
during Japanese military occupation). The proposed
Japanese title, "A Valiant Mother and Her Nine
Children."

But that's another story, far removed from today's
inspiring tale about Alex Lacson's Christian spirit
and generosity. One thing Alex said demonstrated he
had really read Mom's book. He remarked that the thing
he vividly remembered in Mama's memoirs was that, in
spite of our poverty, she had determined: "I don't
want my children to feel poor." Thus, one of us or two
of us in turn had been taken by her, on her meager
earnings as a seamstress, to eat at a good restaurant.
The "classy" restaurant of the time, Alex recalled
from its mention in mama's book, was The Aristocrat.
How lives intersect in this spinning world.

To get to the end of the "rescue" saga, Alex Lacson
drove me to my home in Greenhills, and I noticed he
never broke a traffic rule. I was tempted, in my
selfish agitation to get home and get my tuxedo for
the State dinner in the Palace, then dash over to
Malacanang, to cut corners, such as push into the
opposite lane when stuck not far from the Buchanan
Gate, in order to sneak into the Gate. But Lacson
calmly awaited his turn in traffic. Obey the law and
obey the rules were obviously the bedrock of his "12
Things" credo.

In any event, getting to Malacanang in the end was
only the bonus. Meeting someone like Alex Lacson was
the real miracle.
* * *

Alexander Ledesma Lacson, it turned out, modest as he
was in bearing, was a graduate of the University of
the Philippines College of Law, 1996, and took up
graduate studies at the Harvard Law School in
Cambridge, Mass. (Good old Harvard Yard, by gosh). His
wife, Pia Pena it turned out even more amazingly
is the daughter of an old friend, Teddy Pena from
Palawan! She, too, is a lawyer U.P. 1993 a legal
counsel for Citibank. They established a foundation
together to help underprivileged children through
school, and are now subsidizing 27 young scholars in
different public schools in Alex's native Negros
Occidental.

The reason Alex had been headed for Wack-Wack was the
fact that the officers and employees of a company
named Resins Inc., after buying 1,000 copies of his
book had invited him to give the "homily" at their
Christmas party. This was not a small group the
company had 600 employees, waiting for his "word" that
night.

Alex, it struck me from our conversation, is an
eloquent and devout Catholic. He believes God must
have destined our people for some great role why, in
all history, he reasoned, were we Filipinos the "only
Christian nation in Asia?" One thing is certain: He
and his wife Pia practice their Christianity and
live it.

Four years ago, he and his wife had a serious
discussion about migrating to the US or Canada because
the Philippines, as a country appeared hopeless since
things only got worse year after year. They wanted to
know if their children (they have three, one boy and
two girls) would be better off staying in our country
or abroad in the next 20 years.

Pia and Alex had asked themselves the question: "Is
there hope for the Philippines to progress in the next
20 years?"

They reasoned: If the answer is Yes, then they would
stay. If it was No, they would leave and relocate
abroad while they were still young and energetic.
There were long discussions. One day, the realization,
Alex recalls, struck them: the answer to that question
was in themselves. The country would improve, Pia and
Alex finally understood, if they and every other
Filipino did something about it. Leaving the
Philippines was not the solution. As Lacson put it in
his book: "The answer is in us as a people; that hope
is in us as a people."
* * *

When I read the book afterwards, I discovered that
many important people had endorsed it.

But these encomiums are not needed. Alex laughed when
I quipped that he must be one of the wealthy Lacsons
from Negros Occidental, like my classmates and
schoolmates in the Ateneo. He cheerfully, and proudly,
said that he was "a poor Lacson." His mother, he
pointed out, had been a public school teacher in
Cabangcalan.

No, he's not poor his richness are in his friends,
and in the heart.

Here are, in outline, his 12 commandments:

1) Follow traffic rules. Follow the law.

2) Whenever you buy or pay for anything, always ask
for an official receipt.

3) Don't buy smuggled goods. Buy local Buy Filipino.
(Or, if you read the book, he suggests: 50-50).

4) When you talk to others, especially foreigners
speak positively about us and our country.

5) Respect your traffic officer, policeman and
soldier.

6) Do not litter. Dispose your garbage properly.
Segregate. Recycle. Conserve.

7) Support your church.

8) During elections, do your solemn duty.

9) Pay your employees well.

10) Pay your taxes.

11) Adopt a scholar or a poor child.

12) Be a good parent. Teach your kids to follow the
law and love our country.

These are the 12 things every Filipino can do to help
our country. At first blush, they seem simple. When
you study them more closely, they are difficult to do.
But all of us, together can do them.

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