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A lifetime of vocation

I have always viewed my government service as a way to carry out God’s will. “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem,” I was told by a great mentor.

I grew up in a working-class family in Las Pinas, the capital of Davao del Norte, a province of the Philippines. My father was a general captain in the Philippine Army; he worked tirelessly, planning and delivering light aircrafts and supplying units during World War II. When we were still young, he taught us the ins and outs of government, including our right to vote. Although an orphan at 17, my father devoted himself to the process.

I have always regarded my government service as a lifelong vocation, similar to following the rules of a faith.

I was raised to follow and fulfill the values set out by my father, who demonstrated them daily. By completing my service with the Bureau of Customs, I am continuing his example.

In 1963, I was drafted into the Army and went on duty in Mindanao. Five years later, I was shot down over the north part of the country during one of our periodic ground engagements with the communist rebels. When I woke up in the hospital, my heart raced, my stomach churned and I felt the vibration of thousands of bamboo sticks going up and down. My friends told me I had been paraded naked. “Fellow soldiers,” they said, “our enemy has killed a captain.”

My family was overjoyed when I returned to the US after two years of continuous combat duty. It made no difference to them that I wasn’t coming home with much experience at all. My father had taught me well.

I returned to Los Angeles in 1973 and lived for many years in the Brentwood area before relocating in 1999 to downtown Washington. While here, I was instrumental in finding a vacant space for the Washington Press Club Foundation to establish a Press Gallery. It is one of the Capital’s premier gathering places, featuring both press and media.

During my business career, which spanned more than 30 years, I was always on call to serve my government in whatever capacity was needed. I was an environmental specialist for the US National Sea and Air Ambulance Service until it was given to the US Navy, a veterinarian at the Smithsonian in Washington and a doctor at the Suburban Hospital on the Southwest side of Washington. My expertise in business development and marketing led me to joining organizations such as the Japanese American Citizens League, the Center for Asian American Media and the American Civil Liberties Union, which started my involvement in the BCC.

When I was in law school, a missionary asked me to help translate some of his teachings into Spanish. He understood that, like him, all one had to do to become a practicing Catholic was to go to confession. I was 23 at the time, and the priest was kind enough to assign me the task for a week. By the end of that time, I had come to appreciate more than ever the sacrifices his institution makes.

After almost 40 years of service with the government, I decided it was time to step down and focus my energy on retirement and my family. The opportunity to help establish the WCFC Press Gallery was worth my time. I am honored to have had the opportunity to have played a part in it.

Reprinted with permission from Government Health Benefits, vol. 2, Issue 4, May 2018. Government Health Benefits is an online service of the Office of Personnel Management. Co-edited by Brigid Holmes, a senior health policy analyst in the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health and Human Services and an author of the book.

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