Catholic Laity: Be Heroic Leaders

National Laity Week
Masayang Familia, Naglilingkod Sa Sambahayan, Sa Sambayanan
Dagupan, Sept 24, 2016

Keynote Address of former DPWH Secretary Rogelio L. Singson to the members of Sangguniang Laiko ng Pilipinas. 

Greetings! Thank you, Bro Jun.
Most Rev. Bishop Soc Villegas, Hon. Mayor Belen Fernandez, Mrs Zenaida Capistrano, Mr. Osmundo Lambino, Laiko National Council of Leaders Present, Distinguished lay leaders and guests, Brothers and sisters in Christ.

Magandang umaga po sa inyong lahat!

Thank you for inviting me as your speaker this morning to share my personal journey particularly in the last six years when I was the secretary of Public Works and Highways and while being a covenanted member of the community where I belong to, ang Ligaya Ng Panginoon community.

Let me start by saying I would not have survived the last six years without the support and prayers of Ang Ligaya ng Panginoon, and other well meaning people including of course, President Aquino and my colleagues in the cabinet, and for the loving support of my wife and family. I was asked to bring along my wife, Binggay. Unfortunately, she is still helping out with my son and his Chinese wife who just gave birth last August 17 to their second baby. We felt the urge to help them out since their first son is only 16 months old and both are working. We decided, that instead of taking a vacation or trips, we would rather serve our son and his family by doing apostolate work. Since both of them are working and without any help, we realized it was going to be very difficult for them. Talagang mahirap sa kanila!! I was with them for almost a month, but had to cut short my stay to make it to this event and some other professional commitment starting October 1.

Allow me first to start by honoring all the wives and women leaders of the Laiko for their critical role in the mission of evangelization and work for the church. Whereever I traveled abroad and attended church services, I see Filipino women very active in keeping their churches alive. It reminds me of the reading from st luke last Friday Sept 16,… Jesus journeyed from one town and village to another, preaching and proclaiming the good news accompanied by the twelve apostles and some women, Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Susanna, and others.” Let us thank our women lay leaders for their service and their role in our family life. Palakpakan po natin sila.

Let me share the circumstances surrounding my accepting the cabinet position so you will understand better my predicament and to understand how I lasted.  Sometime in May of 2010, as President of Maynilad Water Services I was attending a Water Conference in Sao Paolo, Brazil. While in Brazil I received a text message from someone in the Aquino Selection Committee asking if I was open to joining the Aquino cabinet as DPWH secretary. My very quick and immediate response was “Thanks but no thanks”. I was quite comfortable with my situation then. Having a well paying job, happy and peaceful family life and was actively serving our community as a district coordinator and pastoral leader.

When Igot back from Brazil, we had our annual Ligaya ng Panginoon Coordinators Retreat early June 2010. And of all topics, the theme of the retreat was on heroic leadership. Our retreat master and spiritual leader, Fr Herb Sneider on the very first session, discussed how we should take on heroic leadership, if we are to be good disciples and servant leaders, following the footsteps of our Lord Jesus. What stuck to my mind in that first session was what Fr. Herb said, that all the many sacrifices and sufferings (he called desolation) we will experience as leaders, can be overcome with only one consolation, and that consolation is that …. We are obeying and doing the will of the father. He emphasized that it was very clear with the example of our lord jesus who would suffer all the way to the cross. Knowing and obeying the father’s will is the be all of heroic leadership. As leaders dapat handa tayong magpapako sa krus.

That very same afternoon after the first session, I received a text message from another key member of the Aquino Selection Committee saying „Are you open to being considered, again open to being considered, as DPWH secretary“. This time my reply was „i’m in a retreat and Iwill pray about it“. The quick response I got was „We know our prayers will be answered“. The rest of the retreat already focussed on my praying and discernment about the call to serve government. Together with the leaders of community present during the retreat to whom Ishared my predicament, all helped me in prayers and discernment. Discernment and reflections went on even days after the retreat.   When Itold my wife of the call, my wife was very supportive of any decision Iwould make and also my children except for my eldest who even said “Ihope you are not considering it because its crazy.” to me it was very clear that the retreat was meant for me to listen to the lord and obey his call for me to serve God and country. Through prayers it was very clear that the lord assured me,   ” do not be afraid Iwill be with you always.” this was the resounding word from the lord. Do not be afraid. There were many passages and reflections during my prayer time and discernment process in the days that followed, that indeed it was the lord’s will that Imake myself available to serve in government. Let me say, that the leaders of ligaya ng panginoon and my supportive wife were primarily responsible for praying and supporting me to accept the cabinet position last july 2010.

The rest is history, by God’s grace and mercy, I was able to serve as secretary of DPWH, among the very few, I believe only the second,  who has completed a full term as secretary. The average stay of secretaries in DPWH is less than 18 months.

Only by God’s grace and prayers from our community, was I able to persevere and survive the 6 years in government calling for a lot of personal and family sacrifices which includes very, very long working hours, high security risk on me and my family, loss of privacy,   media bashing, and a huge financial sacrifice with very low government pay. And the only consolation was that I was obeying the will of God to serve God and country. While being a cabinet member, I continued to be faithful to my commitments to our community way of life and to my family life. Although I had to take a leave as a district coordinator due to my hectic schedule at the department. I gave priority time specially to the weekly prayer meetings at night of our men’s and womens group. My wife Binggay continued on as a women leader of Ligaya ng Panginoon, requiring her more prayer meetings in the evenings.

To balance my family life, I made it a point to go to office very early meaning by 7am and come home to join my wife for dinner or together attend to prayer meetings. Since it is just the two of us at home now.   I did not accept lunch or dinner meetings and invitations, specially from contractors, except maybe to attend  official functions in malacanang. To be able to finish all incoming documents and paper work in the office, I normally would bring a crate or two of documents to the house which Iwould work on after dinner or even after arriving from prayer meetings late at nite. I have gotten used to less than 5 hours of sleep every day. I will not say I enjoyed my last 6 years because it was indeed a difficult and challenging journey. But the only consolation after 6 years is being able to serve God and country. I survived because I made Jesus the center of my life and he gave me the grace to persevere. After all, we have a faithful God who promised, to those who obey his will, that he will be with us always.

In all the 6 years as secretary, I had to show a good example of a public servant and a family man. I had to be very clear about where I stood against corruption. Political intervention specially in promotions was a no-no. Made sure of proper use of government resources and practiced prudent and simple living. I also organized recollections and included moral values formation in our training programs. The feeling of joy and consolation Iget is when dpwh employees and officers come to me and say that Ihave served them well and have changed the image of the department. When employees come to me and say that they are now proud to be part of dpwh. That they would not have been promoted to their position since they do not have political backers. Up to now employees text me saying they miss my leadership. It gives me great joy to know that Iwas supported fully by president aquino and my colleagues in government in our programs to reform the department including retiring over 4,000 employees and being able to hire 1,500 young and the brightest civil engineers nationwide to ensure the future of the department. All these brothers and sisters, is by God’s faithfulness as we obey his call to serve him. Our God is a faithful and merciful God. He will finish his mission for us. Do not be afraid to go out of our comfort zones to be heroic leaders and servant leaders for the lord.

Before closing, let me also share my formula.

First, staying close to jesus in daily prayers and reflection so that my life was not cluttered and priorities become very clear. With all the distractions, temptations and even my own pride, I could easily loose focus on what really matters.

Second, I continued to pray for the gift of fortitude, for me to persevere and endure, joyfully bearing and fighting the difficulties and challenges that came along the way. The gift of fortitude gave me patience, perseverance, compassion, courage and even confidence knowing that God was always there for me. In your service ask for the gift of fortitude (sometimes we forget this) so the you will have patience, perseverance, courage, compassion and confidence in your service – huwag lang parating wisdom or patience. Ask for fortitude to be heroic leaders so you will have all the virtues you’ll need in serving God.

Third, Istopped complaining about everything or anything. When I accepted the job, I knew what I was getting into. It was not going to be easy and would require a lot of sacrifices. I remember the words of Pope Francis and he says, good christians do not complain about their trials but endure them with patient silence, because their hearts are at peace.” The holy father further says that the Christian response to suffering and pain is “silence in endurance, silence in peace.” lets keep in mind what discipleship is all about, after all the sacrifices, blood, sweat and tears, that our only consolation is that we are doing the will of the father.

Finally, again, let me thank Archbishop Soc Villegas, the Laiko leadership and to Brother Jun Cruz for inviting me today and to all of you for your service to the church. Be heroic leaders for the lord. I pray for the success of this Lay Leaders Conference and for the gift of fortitude to all of us for our mission work.

A pleasant good morning to all of you brothers and sisters.

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