For today, allow me to share excerpts of my personal testimony I shared during the Fellowship of Christians in Government (Focig) General Assembly held in Camp Aguinaldo.
At West Point, my very first roommate was Jim Nelson, a tall Caucasian from Minnesota. I think we were purposely connected by divine providence. He was the first American I met in my life, as I was the first Asian he met in his life. I believe our God planted a seed in me through Jim to have a better understanding of His Word. So, 17-year-old Jim taught 17-year-old Fred basic Bible principles, such as the relationship between good works and faith in God. But due to the toxic schedule of my cadetship, compounded by the exuberance of my youth, my quest for more knowledge about His Word stopped there. As a side note, after his mandatory service in the US Army, Jim Nelson went to China as a missionary immediately thereafter. He’s now married, has a business providing HR requirements to companies, but still spreads the Word of God in every which way he can.
My 12 years in the Army, 12 years in a law firm, plus my teaching profession in law schools, kept me very busy and preoccupied with the things that mattered in this mortal world—house, car, career, money. However, during my more recent stint with the Bureau of Immigration (BI), through the intervention of Niels Riconalla and his team (Amyjane, Sito and Ronnel), the light within me was rekindled. I suppose God thought, or rather mandated, that June 2015 was the right time for me to be “reloaded” to finish what Jim Nelson started out in September 1983 when we were teenagers.
Niels and his team spent four Monday mornings in the bureau sharing life experiences and lessons with the members of our executive committee. Little did I realize that most, if not all, of those in the BI had our own candles within ourselves. Some candles were lit. Some were shining brightly than others. To me, Niels was my Jim Nelson Part 2. After a long 33-year interim period, I was “reloaded”, in preparation to understand and help others light up their own candles. In the BI, Niels and his team managed to bring out the spiritual side of leadership, the values-based management, and the work-life balance necessary to render decent public service. And the way the team presented their life-changing lessons was done in a way that Muslims, Catholics and members of other religion happily welcomed it.
Personally, my encounter with our God could not have come at a perfect time. I have been separated with my family for a long time now. My marriage has been annulled. I have a lingering problem with my three wonderful children who I sorely miss—Regina Victoria, J. Siegfred and Regina Elena. But my faith keeps me grounded and steadfast.
The irony in my professional life is that I attended West Point but left, perhaps foregoing the “guaranty” to be a general like my father and my brother. In the BI, some say I did many good things, but was fired, a mere five months before the change in administration. Whatever the BI accomplished during my stint from June 2011 to January 2016, I cannot claim credit nor any of my colleagues in the bureau.
The spiritual component brought by Focig was extremely helpful. But the ultimate credit goes to our omnipresent God. Knowing that I am exactly where He wants me to be, I try to find a silver lining in everything. I worry less now, for I know God is with me now and wherever else I go. My faith tells me our God is already there before me. Psalms 16:8 says, “I know the Lord is always with me. I will not be shaken, for He is right beside me.”
Some are “shocked and awed” and worried as the Duterte administration has undertaken a major overhaul, especially in the field of law and order. I say things will get worse before they get better. But let’s all be comforted by our faith that God will take care of our country and of our people. In Philippians 4:6: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”
Let’s always pray but we should also do our share and change how we do things. Let’s follow rules, even if others do not. Let’s help the government in any way we can by simply doing good to others. I admit that I have yet to fully mature in my faith. I am still in the middle of a transformation process just as our country is undergoing the same. While the journey might be difficult, I am comforted by the fact that I am “reloaded”.