“You are the salt of the earth” (Matthew 5:13)
“You are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14)
These scripture stuck with me the first time I heard them expounded by my pastor at church as a young girl and stayed with me throughout my adult life. To my understanding, if I claim to be a believer, or just as a good, decent human being, I need to make a difference. As salt gives flavor and preserves, I understood that I need to add to my own betterment, improve myself, and to nurture what I have in skill and talent,; and in turn these skills and talents harnessed in and for service to others. As light brightens, illuminates, makes things visible, I understood that I needed to shine, to inspire, to excel in my community as a human being who cares in its truest sense of the word. I don’t want to sound preachy but I take these Scripture very seriously and want to be accountable as admonished by it.
When I was invited to attend a Rotary meeting of the Rotary Club of Daly City and Colma Evening. I was impressed by the ethos and the values evidently observed by this club. I was almost star struck by its Charter President Willie Santamaria and Incumbent President Marilyn Beckleheimer, so much so that when I was given the formal invitation to join, I did not hesitate. This was my opportunity to exercise the admonition to be the “salt and light of the earth”. I signed-up, attended orientation and went to the required number of meetings to become a full-pledged Rotarian. During the whole time, from the day I signed up to the present, I am being mentored to do service above self.
Last year, I put up a show with the following thrusts: One, be an inspiration to women cancer survivors, as I am a survivor of ovarian cancer myself. Two, to be an inspiration to young widows, as I lost my husband not too long ago– also to cancer – and lastly, to encourage others who are going though deep depression as I have, as a result of these two tragic events in my life. I called the show “Blackbird” ; black, as I am now a widow, and bird as Paul McCarthy refers to a woman; or a girl, generally in the UK. The Beatles’ song “Blackbird” , even though it was written with a more political reason, had a tremendous impact on me. The lyrics “all my life, I have waited for this moment to arise” made me feel like this was a moment for me to tell God’s story of goodness and kindness all throughout my long and arduous journey. I sang away my life’s story in songs.
While I was preparing the show, I also realized that it was not enough to just sing away my sentiments but I wanted to express my gratefulness and give back and share the blessing of an extended life, to a cause. I picked the fishing village of Purok Bangkal in Sagay, Bacolod in Negros Occidental, as beneficiary to this fundraising show because I was touched that this community, like me, had survived in more ways than one, a lot of life’s trials and tests. It is a poor community of fishermen with very little help from the Philippine government. Certainly, they receive aid and support from non-government organizations but I did feel a genuine need to give a little help as a friend to this community. I feel bad that I have not gifted them with a lot., only hoping that I did inspire someone somehow. And so, I dreamed of continuing to be of assistance to them. My heart was touched that this village uses an old building where the elders used to dry fish as part of their livelihood; and that they are trying to convert this to a study center for about 150 children in their own village and more from neighboring village (or purok).
This year, I got even more excited that after joining the Rotary, I found out that my vision of continuing to be of assistance to Purok Bangkal was so warmly embraced. It was even a greater surprise that my dream of building a library for this community was in a congruent plane to the literacy program of the club. I am a Librarian’s daughter and thought that it is but appropriate to build one in honor of my father. He had taught me to travel extensively to various countries by exploring the world vicariously through books. He taught me to be inquisitive and to keep asking questions until I got answers. He taught me to experiment and research. He taught me to look for the possibilities in the seeming impossible situations. He used to tell me that one can learn a whole lot just from reading but that we must improve our own character as strengthened by what we learned from reading, from those with vast experiences. He taught me to listen as others tell their own stories, to observe and not judge. He taught me to live and love without question or motive. I remember that on weekends I spent my mornings at the basement of the Ateneo de Manila University. By 4th grade, I hade read all of the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys series of detective stories By 5th grade I had read more than 50 of Janet Daily’s and Barbara Cartland and by 6th grade I had read more than 50 of the works of Earl Stanley Gardner, creator and author of the famous Perry Mason. Because of reading, I had wanted to be a detective, a lawyer, a doctor and a scientist. In the end, I earned my Bachelor’s degree in English. I had opened my own tutorial school as I mentored young elementary and middle school aged children in my neighborhood.
To honor my father and his legacy, I have always dreamt of building a Cesar G. Lacanienta Memorial Library and Study Center. After all, he taught me that everything we do from the choices we make has an impact to those around us. I remember him quoting this to me:
“There comes a moment when you realize what matters the most
is your life. Let that moment be now and that matter be your love
and kindness.” “if your best friends do not read books, they read you”
“There are so many things we can have in this world, but only 10
percent of it changes the condition of someone’s heart.”