Lolo Ome's “First Encounter with the Elite Kind”

romy's faceNote: Today, the whole afternoon, senior citizens Romy, Naz and I were in a reminiscing mood about some victories of yesteryears and in a welcoming mood about some challenges of today. In this piece, Romy remembers someone with fondness and admiration. And I, I remember with gladness that Romy did not write as well yesterday as today. Image taken 18 November 2008 in a basketball court in Calamba City; Romy is the man in white, left; Naz is the man in red, right; I am the photographer -- Frank H

By Roman Romeo G. Nagpala*

In our struggle in life someone, somehow, would had made possible events leading to the path of our own destiny. But of course He the divine creator is the real director in the reeling of our cinematic lives.

The feature article “Uplifting the Lives of Fil-Ams through Empowerment” by Mico Litargo (www.asian journal.com) sparked memory recall button in this 2013 yearend reflections.

Looking back, the one featured in the article – Atty. Jose Y. Lauchengco, Jr. – must had been the man who shifted the directional lever in my life’s railroad track in 1959. The man, indeed, was Lolo Ome’s “First Encounter with the Elite Kind.”

A certified septuagenarian now at 74, this writer (a.k.a. Lolo Ome) more often reflects from the memories of his life-changing encounters.

His first-day summer-class in 1959 at UP Manila Padre Faura flashed back to memory. He was lonesome in the hot summer classroom for the enrolled academic subject “Life and Works of Rizal.” A gentleman well dressed in full barong Tagalog came in silently, exuding unmistakable elite aura.

Lolo Ome accorded him due respect thinking he must be the professor. That gentleman was Jose Yujuico Lauchengco, Jr., a classmate instead.

In our last class-meeting conversation, I confided “Life and Works of Rizal” would be my last.

The dwindling resources in Laguna lake where my family had a trawl fishing boat (suro in the vernacular) affected our wherewithal to support further schooling expenses. I would thereby be a hewer to my plight to “push the waves” in the lake, so to speak. End of conversation.

The stage had been set. The college boy would engage in trawl fishing.

One late Saturday afternoon that summer, he ventured out to the sea with the boat operator. Shortly thereafter before twilight that same day, a red MG sports car roared into the dusty road leading to “Tahanang Nagpala,” Lolo Ome’s ancestral home along the shoreline of the cradle town of Jose Rizal. (Imagine the kids gawking at the little red car, including some elders.)

The unexpected visitor was classmate Jun Lauchengco. Realizing my last confession to him was truthful, he told my family he would see me the following Monday at my boarding place in Manila.

That Monday he would fetch me and introduce me to the service manager of Island Motor Sales Co., then sole distributor of GM cars in the Philippines.

Drawn out from “pushing the waves” my fate would start as an understudy security-receptionist that day; and would rise from the ranks to control tower man in almost three years.

The first term system program study in 1959 at UP Diliman would be my academic waterloo as a working student.

Classes schedule from 7-12 in the morning. Work schedule from 2-10 in the afternoon and evening; the loft at the company’s bodega was my boarding place. I passed only one subject; others were either “Dropped,” “Incomplete,” or “Failed.” No more class enrolment thereafter.

I bid goodbye to the company in 1961 to seek other opportunities.

Destiny had it that Lolo Ome would join the government service. He started as clerk in 1961 in the defunct Philippine Veterans Administration (now Philippine Veterans Affairs Office). He would become its public relations officer until 1975.

Government service had provided him the opportunity to finish a college degree in 1964 – Bachelor of Science in Foreign Service from the Lyceum of the Philippines; and two years in bachelor of laws at Ateneo de Manila under veterans’ scholarship program from 1970-1972.

On June 18, 1972, a day before Rizal’s birth anniversary, he graduated with a bachelor of science in marriage degree instead. The diploma-certificate was signed when the bridal cord was tied in the chapel at the Paco park cemetery where Rizal was originally interred.

Increased transport fares in 1975 due to oil price hike in the world market made impractical commuting Calamba-Manila. He transferred to the Los Baños-based Philippine Council for Agriculture and Resources Research and Development in Laguna as information specialist for seven months; then as public relations officer at the Forest Products Research and Industries Development Commission, also in Laguna (1975-1979).

Better education for his growing sons had been foremost in mind. Tight financial strait would be the driving force to sign an overseas contractual work with an American engineering, design and construction management company as a lowly clerk typist.

Among 11 Filipino overseas contract workers hired for the King Khaled International Airport project, we left home-country December 10, 1979; crossed international time zone and landed in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia December 11, 1979. Thence, “Desert Eleven” would be our batch ID.

Sheer sacrifice away from loved-ones would be the pillar of strength for most overseas Filipino workers (OFW) to annually extend respective contracts.

As for Lolo Ome of “Desert Eleven,” dedicated hard work and basic communication skills would be his tools to rise from a lowly clerk-typist and already an office engineer at the outbreak of the 1991 “Desert Storm” imbroglio until contract completion in 1993.

He sacrificed and survived over a decade in project management contractual assignments in the desert kingdom away from home (1979-1993). It was time to rest but never to quit. After contract completion, home sweet home to savor blissful joy with dear family.

Family, lawn tennis sport, biking, and part-time local PR consultancy preoccupied Lolo Ome’s retiring years during the last decade of the past century. Counting his blessings, thanksgiving and praise to the Great Divine become an advocacy. He simply followed the dictum to be happy in life: free your mind from worry; free your heart from hatred; live simply; give more; and expect less.

The highlight of his working vacation was being subcontracts administrator for a US-based telecom network expansion project in the Philippines (1998-1999). Later on the project would be aborted in the advent of newer, more advanced telecom systems.

The dawn of the new millennium ushered in bright opportunities, challenges. The lure of yet another foreign assignment knocked on his door of fate. Already a sexagenarian at that time, he would be sent on a business travel as OFW supervisor representative. This time it would not be to the desert kingdom anymore but to an island country in the South Pacific.

He would become part of the project public relations and information group and participate in developing right approach to ease natural resistance of local labor to the influx of about 3,000 skilled OFWs. The highlight would be the presentation of this Filipino supervisor representative before a congregation of local tribal authorities; decision to accept the Filipino workforce would be finalized.

This sojourn of the sexagenarian would lead to his “First Encounter with the Tribal Kind” at the mountains of New Caledonia in the South Pacific written in a sequel article.

Apropos of Litargo’s feature article. The humble strength of Atty. Lauchengco in uplifting the lives of Fil-Ams through empowerment overcame the barriers of racism and discrimination, among others. Yet he persevered and successfully reached the finish line ..... empowerment.

Truly he is the epitome of the elite kind. His forceful leadership mothballed a powerful minority group. The browns are now empowered, their lives uplifted.

As regards the featured article, “The First Encounter of the Elite Kind” made, indeed, an indelible mark as the life-changing encounter of Lolo Ome.

To “Joe,” the man with a gentle disposition and a jovial smile; with formidable reputation as a criminal defense lawyer; and a fierce advocate of Filipino political empowerment, MABUHAY!

-30-

*Roman Romeo G. Nagpala, 74 years old, is a native of Calamba, Laguna, Philippines. He was in government service for almost 2 decades; and an OFW for over a decade.

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