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By Vincent Marcos Ragay
When Joel and Roselyn Castillo broached to me their plan to put up a foundation several months ago, we were on our way to visit their mother, Rosueta Tuazon, in her new home in a rustic location in Sto. Tomas, Subic, Zambales. When we got there, I was thrown back into those halcyon days in that same town where Ramil Tuazon, Rose's older brother, and his family resettled from Bacolod City to start a new life with their three young children, plus another one coming, in 200?.
Living and working on a farm were my own late grandparents' legacy to my family. Their property in Villasis , Pangasinan is now a vacant lot which has remained almost untilled for many years, waiting for a long-awaited renewal. My late father, an agriculturist, also gave our family a firsthand view into the life tied to the soil when we resided inside a provincial nursery-farm in Negros Oriental for five years – some of the best years of my life.
Sto. Tomas gave me a renewed appreciation for myLelong Simeon and Lelang Praxedes and their sacrifices as farmers, as well as for my father Emilio who was a 4-H Club pioneer and an all-around farm hand. (He became the national coordinator of Anak Bukid, the Philippines' version of the 4-H Club.) Ramil and I, together with his wife, Christy, and their kids, virtually lived off the land -- and even slept on the floor (we had no beds then and had to borrow mats at the start). When we had no money to buy food, we caught tilapia and mudfish in their fish pond, gathered "escargot" (snails!) and harvested vegetables in the garden. In between our joyful tasks running a printing business, we practiced our music, photography, target-shooting skills and even read Jane Austen, lying in a hammock under the mango tree. It was by far the best way to read Pride and Prejudice! Quite often, we were lulled to sleep by the refreshing sound and coolness of the breeze fanning through the dancing bamboo leaves.
It was those days and moments we had spent living on a farm that nurtured and welded our friendship and fellowship beyond mere business, religious or social connections. Our experiences upon the land and among the people in that part of Luzon formed a bond that will forever be etched in our hearts, our spirits and our lives.
My memories of those days in that Sto. Tomas farm were emblematic of what family life is all about. I was practically raised on a farm and have longed to go back to it all these years. However, my own dysfunctional life's experiences have brought about a "change of plans" that has thrown my career and my vocation – no, my entire life – into wild, unpredictable yet adventurous discoveries of new paradigms.
It would be an understatement to say that my partnership with the Tuazons brought about life-transforming vistas and events that helped bring out the inner man in me longing to find meaning and contentment in this world. Ramil, who has suspended his printing business, now has a thriving business in the wellness industry. His own search for the body's physical salvation parallels that of mine, even though we both started out as would-be theologians in Baguio City struggling to find salvation for the soul.
Through Ramil, I met Joel and Roselyn and the rest of the extended family. I have become practically a real brother to them all as I consider their mother to be my own loving and faithful mother. I met Joel's charming mother, Nanay Isabelita, only recently when I interviewed her and Nanay Rosueta for IROG's website. Both of them deserve the honor as the foundation's source of inspiration.Please read my articles, based on those interviews, on this site.
Working as a Content Writer for the Castillo's LGO a local and international provider of quality website designs and top SEO outsourcing company based in Subic Bay, Philippines and IROG now has added another dimension in this continuing relationship that seems bound for greater heights. The first time they invited me to give an inspirational talk to the beneficiary students of Sto. Tomas Elementary School during LGO/IROG's gift-giving Christmas party last December both flattered and humbled me no end. Unlike Ramil who is a veteran debater and pulpit-preacher, I dread speaking in front of people, even if I had spent years preaching in churches and teaching in schools. Yet, the sight of so many schoolchildren and the surge of unbounded energy they projected, rekindled my desire to be part of a growing family of people who are reaching out to others in need, not merely of material blessings but of loving and caring.
Today, I consider LGO/IROG as my new family in Subic, aside from the Castillos and the Tuazons who always welcome me into their lovely homes whenever I visit. My new good friends at LGO/IROG prove that my search for that elusive search for meaning and contentment in life is a growing process. I know I am not alone in this quest. We all are part of a movement to find these life treasures, not just for ourselves but also for others.
Every time I visit the LGO/IROG office, I am amazed at the way the Castillo husband-and-wife tandem has transformed the once grassy, muddy lot into a modern Makati-styled enclave with the touch of the Sto. Tomas farm rusticism – love the bamboo bahay kubo and fruit-bearing mango and guava trees and banana plants, providing that unbroken connection to the nourishing land! Subic may be host to a modern industrial complex; but the town remains almost an unspoiled backdrop to the simple, unaffected Filipino agricultural spirit and soul.
What is in store for these lovely and loving people? Nothing but the best and the greatest. I know this is so because their hearts are some of the best and the greatest I have ever known and felt in my life.
It is my great honor to be part of this growing, big-hearted family. God bless them all!
Manariwa ang IROG!