The Best Bo Sanchez. The Best Frank H

Revised at 0725 hours 04 May 2010
MANILA - Last Sunday, 02 May, was my first time to attend the Holy Mass at Valle Verde Country Clubhouse, Pasig City, and I was with my eldest son Jomar and his wife Clarisse and their children Sean and Lucia, and my daughters Neenah and Ela. The previous 2 days the two had been attending to the virtual needs of participants in the 2-day Internet Marketing workshop of Jomar at Cubao, Quezon City. Sean is 1 year and 9 months, and he has begun to enjoy the company of this grandfather.

I wasn't paying much attention to the homily of Father what's his name, so I can't tell you more.

I was paying more attention to The Feast newsletter issue of 02 May 2010 that said there was going to be a series of 6 lectures in 6 Sundays by Bo Sanchez on "A Life of No Regrets." I was reading.

And then I was paying more attention to the tarpaulin poster that was on the wall in our little corner room of the clubhouse that said:

A Life of No Regrets
The Joy of Intentional Living.

No fakes.
No fears.
No indifference.
No rush.
No small thinking.
No regrets.

The tarpaulin poster has become the mass medium of choice of the new millennium. The tarpaulin image that accompanied the 5 Nos was that of 5 pencils half shown, the rubber eraser heads towards the viewer. "No regrets" was the summary. They were telling me: Erase, Erase, Erase, Erase, Erase. A computer wonk, I said to myself, Delete, Delete, Delete, Delete, Delete.

When I saw the tarpaulin poster, within 5 minutes I had rewritten the 5 Nos, with the 6th as my own summary of my list:

Have A Life To Thank God For
Be true
instead of No fakes.
Be bold instead of No fears.
Take sides instead of No indifference.
Take time instead of No rush.
Think big instead of No small thinking.
Thank God instead of No regrets.

That's how my creative mind works: instantly (well, almost always). It's not really the editor in me; it's the writer. I like to write what to do or what needs to be done in a positive way. And no, I never take No for an answer.

"A Life To Thank God For." Actually, in this instance, I mentally rewrote "A Life of No Regrets" following the style of Ernest Hemingway: To describe action, don't describe; instead, use verbs. And if you do that, you will find you can hardly be negative.

And the parallel construction, in this case 3 sets in all, is a technique I have developed in 53 years of writing, since high school, from reading the Reader's Digest: (1) "Be true." "Be bold." (2) "Take sides." "Take time." (3) "Think big." "Thank God." (There's even a surprise little twist in the last set.) You can see it often in my writing these days, starting 2006 in my blogs and in the American Chronicle. It is simple, and memorable; the construction is also good-looking and, therefore, powerful.

So, when the Mass was done, Bo Sanchez began his first lecture. True enough, he said: "No fakes. Be true to yourself." He quoted Joseph Campbell saying, "Follow your bliss" because that's who you are. Discover that which you love the most doing, and just do it.

He showed us an old photo of a boy in a box. The box is gone; the boy has grown. It was Bo Sanchez when he was that tiny. The box was just big enough to contain him, if you know what I mean. Bo said when he was younger, he was an introvert, an extremely shy person. His mother confirmed that. His mother told him later she could put him in a box, literally, and he would not get out of the box even if it took the whole day. The boy was Jack in the Box, and no, the last time I heard, Jack never got out of there.

Looking at the boy in the box, instantly I thought, "Bo Sanchez wasn't thinking out of the box!" But I was wrong. As if thinking my thoughts, Bo instantly said while physically he was in the box, really in the box, he wasn't really in the box. His mind was elsewhere. He was thinking in the box but really out of the box. He was the one-in-a-million thinking boy in the box thinking out of the box.

Many years passed. What happened to the boy in the box? He became Bo in the Box. His box is wider now; actually, it's borderless. That' show he thinks in the box out of the box, physically present, mentally prescient. And therein lies a story.

Bo said when he was young, he wanted to become a priest. Really. But he didn't. Really, it was his mother who wanted Bo to become a priest. She kept saying to her son words like these: "Bo, of course, it's your choice, but I really would love that you become a priest. Of course, you know, I leave it to your decision, you're old enough now, but I really would love that you become a priest." Or words to that effect. Bo got the message.

So he studied to become a priest, to take the sure road to Paradise. I mean, he said even before entering the priesthood, he took up philosophy in college, in preparation for the priestly preparatory studies of 9 years of philosophy (to be followed by 9 years of theology). To be sure, he was very religious in his studies, but they didn't take him to the priesthood. It wasn't his true calling. It was his religious mother who was calling him, not the religious life.

No big deal. He didn't become a priest in church, but he became a priest on paper. So, instead of preaching in drab robes, he is now preaching on colorful paper in colorful language, or on TV in living color.

He said the Paradise Shift happened after he had a talk with God, or something like that. God told him in no uncertain terms:

No, Bo, I didn't create you to become a priest. I created you to become the best Bo Sanchez in the world!

Bo Sanchez got the message. You would if you were him. I did. I put myself in his shoes: "I created you to be the best Frank Hilario in the world." Actually, I got the message, though not in those clear and powerful words, at least 20 years ago, when in one of our Bible sharing ("Living Word") sessions with Bukás Loób sa Díyos, BLD, a Catholic Charismatic Community, my gift was revealed to me as "wisdom" - reading the Bible and understanding the difficult passages, getting the context, relating ancient text with today with a little anecdote. Actually, it was no miracle: I was using several versions of the Bible and comparing the translations. In addition, already at that time, my mind had become so creative one word or phrase was enough to trigger an association with a real-life event, no matter how small. "The kingdom of heaven is like …" The biblical parable became to me simply a modern-day simile: "The verse we have just read is like what happened the other day …" Apparently I was the only one doing it. It was so simple a lesson in understanding.

Bo founded the Shepherd's Voice Publications ( years ago, and today it is probably the most successful original publisher in its line of business in the Philippines, that of publishing Christian literature: books (2 new ones being Enjoy God's Best For Your Life by Arun Gogna, Choose To Be Wealthy by Bo Sanchez), e-books, daily reading guides, magazines (FiSH for the youth, Kerygma for the adults, MUSTARD for kids) audios (CD/MP3), and videos (DVD, MP3). Bo is preaching by moving fingers, moving lips, moving pictures - for moving people.

"Be true to yourself," Bo Sanchez said. Finally, he became true to himself, not as a priest that he wasn't meant to be, but as a preacher anyway. Along the journey of a thousand males, this one didn't become a man of the cloth. Instead, he became a man of the mouth. A preacher. A preacher in blue jeans.

There was a blank card with a title boldly proclaiming: "This is me!" After explaining himself as a model of someone who didn't know his true self until he discovered what he was not meant to be - not meant to be a priest - Bo asked us to write on the blank who we think we are, to be true to our selves. I wrote on mine: "A WRITER FOR GOOD." The double meaning is intentional; after all, we are going after "The Joy of Intentional Living," aren't we?

Me, I don't preach. To be true to myself, I don't preach anymore - I used to do that, and in science. Modern science writing in the Philippines still follows the exact same formula I saw was being taught in 1960 when I was studying at the University of the Philippines Los Baños: This is modern farming. Do what this fellow did and you will be as successful as he is. Science has been written as if it were biblical injunction! The details differ, but this message has not changed in the last 50 years. Follow instructions and you will succeed in life.

I have been in the public print media for the last 35 years. For the last 20 years or so, I began to popularize science but I learned to no longer tell you what to do; instead, I tell you about options, and what I will do if I were you. Science doesn't have all the answers; I have the Internet to surf 24/7 but I don't have all the answers either; I never forget to write about options now.

In a way, borrowing from Bo Sanchez, my life as a writer can be summarized in 6 short sentences, as to "Have A Life To Thank God For:"

Be true.
Be bold.
Take sides.
Take time.
Think big.
Thank God.

Be true. I discovered my talent in writing when I was in high school, more than 50 years ago. I vowed to develop it, and I kept my vow. At 69, I'm the best writer I can be today.

Be bold. I venture where angels fear to tread. Like, I ventured into humor in popularizing science. Nobody ever did that in the Philippines, none that I know of. It didn't make me wealthy, but I'm happy.

Take sides. In my dear country the Philippines, journalists pride themselves, from beat reporters to Editors in Chief, as objective communicators, as persons with no prejudices. And they believe in their own stories. I don't. I take sides; I always take sides, and it's usually the side they don’t take. Positive versus negative.

Take time. Some people rush, rush, rush their writing. I also rush my writing - but it's only the draft. Then I take time off, a few hours or 24, then I go back to my draft. I would be finished with this after 3 revisions at least.

Think big. Some people are so content with their lives, young or old, that they don't venture outside their own comfort zones anymore. I finally was bold enough to tell in an email an old friend of mine who loves to send email attachments of green jokes, how to make his life less boring: "Think of something bigger than your selfish self and dedicate yourself to it for the rest of your life." I love green, I love jokes, but not green jokes.

Thank God. This is something I began learning to do 20 years ago, and I can tell you it has been hard work, very hard work. Try it yourself sometime! How can you thank God for disappointments, for lost opportunities, for a nagging spouse, for your mistakes small and big - not only for blessings? How can you thank God for, heaven forbids! your enemies? It's impossible, and that's why you have to do it. Just think: you can't fight your enemies. Just when you think you have defeated one, here comes another. I know that for a fact. In YouTube Charice, when you read a comment that is not only negative but destructive of the character of this young Filipino world-class singing sensation - like, "She's ugly" - you react immediately and tell the commenter to go to hell, which he might, but he will be replaced by another with even more ugly comments. I was reacting with smart repartee, and so was enjoying all those bad comments. I then realized that instead of vanishing, those ugly comments were multiplying! I was going to run out of words to say.

Thank God I remembered that instead of fighting evil with evil, I should be fighting evil with good - that comes from Romans 12, my favorite Bible chapter after all. So I came up with a series of comments that speaks only of the life of Charice, in bits and pieces, all the more to encourage the viewers to visit and revisit YouTube Charice. And I vowed not to respond to any of the vituperative comments, and I know that they hate that. I love it!

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