By Fr. Roy Cimagala

I JUST had a gratifying chat with a young alumnus recently. No, I can’t mention his name. At 19, he is now working at a shipbuilding facility in Balamban, Cebu. When asked what he does there, he just casually said: ship-designing. Of course, to my utter astonishment!

He dashed to explain certain details of his work, to remove the thickening web of disbelief in my head. You see, this guy is just a natural for computers and things like those. His instructors, all praises for him, are one in saying he can hold his own, whatever the circumstances or the competition.

Three years ago, when I first met him in school, he was just a gangly wisp of a boy who came from a southern mountainous part of the province. He looked, dressed, spoke and behaved like someone from there, complete with an accent.

But pity was not the first reaction I had toward him. He has a permanent smile that convinces me this boy would go far. His eyes almost disappear as he speaks. And his words are unbelievably good and sweet always, not a tinge of irony whatsoever.

He’s the eldest in the brood of eight. His father is a farmer, his mother also helps in the farm. Life for them, you can just imagine, has been very austere, which made me wonder how he could have such a sanguine temperament with all the hardships he had to face. Well, God has his ways.

True enough, as we started to meet and chat, I discovered that the guy has a basic sense of simplicity and humility. He gave me the impression he was born without original sin. He refused to get entangled with problems. If they are not solved now, he said, they will be solved later. That’s his attitude.

I believe these are the core traits that firewalled him from going complicated and courting if not inventing all sorts of tragedies. Sadness and pessimism are simply not in his vocabulary.

When I probed into his life of piety, the fellow simply has it. In fact, it’s quite deep and developed. He used to walk 4 kilometers just to attend Sunday Mass in his town. Prayer is a constant in his life, inculcated in him by his grandmother and reinforced by the parents.

So in school, I only had to drill him in basic catechism, polish his virtues, and introduce him to a plan of devotional practices. He was always attentive and appreciative, readily putting to practice what he learned.

His work ethic is superb. He has discipline, a sense of goal and direction. In that last chat we had, he told me that in the three years he was studying in our school, he said there was not even a single time of tardiness or absence. He had perfect attendance.

So finally I asked him, more out of curiosity than anything else, how much he was receiving for his work. After a short pause, and always with his smile and disappearing eyes, he said, “Taking away all the deductions, I receive 10k per payday.”

That again dislodged me from my seat in astonishment. And I could not help to tell him that before becoming a priest, when I was still a professional man, my first pay was only a microscopic fraction of what he is receiving now.

“And to think that I finished a 5-year course in a leading exclusive school for boys in Manila, with honors, and I was already working in a very prestigious company,” I told him more to encourage him than to lament over the unfair comparison.

He just smiled, and managed to amaze me further because he just told me, “Father, it’s not all about the money. It’s about the joy of working, and of learning, and of being able to help.” Wow!

He enumerated to me how he budgets his money, which left me thoroughly impressed. The guy just fits what I know about the virtue of Christian poverty. He continues to live simply, humbly and cheerfully. Success has not spoiled him at all.

I had to rush back to my prayers, overflowing with thanksgiving for being given the chance to meet this fellow. I can’t deny that this guy has left me—and hopefully, you too—completely inspired

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