Bumping into Bo

by Jose Ma. Montelibano

Jose M. Montelibano

While waiting to board a delayed flight last week, I bumped into Bo Sanchez. He was a pleasant sight and took away what little impatience I was suffering due to yet another delay. Bo is one person that has always intrigued me, what with his almost priestly mission of being a voice for a spirituality that is being drowned out in thought, word, and deed.

Many of us, me especially, are no strangers to people who speak of God, the God of Catholics, who speak of the teachings, and who speak of virtues. Almost 60 years ago, I surprised myself and my parents when I asked to enter the seminary. I did, by the way, but decided after two years that the vows of priesthood would prove to be undoable challenges for me. Yet, that urge to adopt a mission close to what I thought priests were pursuing was strong and somehow never went away. I found it easy to understand and accept that same urge moved many other persons to live their lives in pursuit of it.

A noble vocation or advocacy, in my view, must be welcomed when it is felt and will most probably be a worthwhile life mission. I think evolution works that way, through these urges that knock in people’s hearts and invite them to serve in special ways. I believe that every person has a higher purpose in life that enriches him or her as well as the many others they will surely touch. Many spiritual masters, gurus, mentors and life coaches all say that whatever we know about ourselves and our careers, there will always be more we have to discover.

People like Bo Sanchez are obviously driven by an inner calling to go beyond the usual pursuit of livelihood and income, raising a family, and hopefully retiring with greater material security and comfort than when they started. I do not know how many of us ever get to recognize that higher calling, the nobler purpose, much less answer it. But when anyone does, as in Bo’s case, many others around that person are attracted to the nobility of that special mission and the courage of the person who answered the challenge.

In our own personal surroundings or network of friends and acquaintances, it is easy to point out persons who are relatively unknown publicly but whom we look up to. They exude that an aura that lifts them above us but whom we admire more than envy. Because we intuitively know that their lives, no matter how successful, wealthy or famous they become, are invested with personal sacrifices. Because what is exalted by ordinary mortals like most of us is not only their higher mission but more their lifestyle of hard work, generosity to others, and denial to inordinate desires.

There are many who begin this delicate journey to purity or heroism. They are all around us though we may not yet notice their struggle to reach new personal heights as they live their daily lives. Many falter and fall. We are like them. And while we are in this stage of stumbling and giving in to our weaknesses, we are unable to stand out from the rest of the crowd. There are also those who take off like a meteor and then dissipate despite bright moments or years of exemplary lives. Yes, some do more than falter and fail, becoming a disgrace to the audience that once looked up to them.

Many become heroes of a moment and then revert to being ordinary again, ordinary being the normal hit and miss, up and down life that most of us have. I have witnessed many icons and achievers who fall down hard and are unable to rise up again. We, and so also they, have great recuperative powers. Unfortunately, many of the great ones who fall hard do so because they developed arrogance, and that same arrogance cripples their ability to rise to nobility again.

Of course, that brief encounter with Bo made me reflect on my last several articles, especially my frequently expressed view about how we are prone to look to others to do what we, too, should be working hard to take on ourselves. Many do not still understand that the leaders we hang our hope on cannot be there as leaders if they do not have followers. No followers, no leaders. But even without leaders, the most ordinary can survive. That is how important we are, ordinary we may be. I look up to Bo, but Bo’s spiritual attainment is his alone. I am the only one who can attain on my own.

It is a great blessing to have heroes and saints. Their golden examples are inspirational and become powerful guides for us if we also seek our own special place in the sun. If we cannot move our eyes or attention away from our icons and idols, then we cannot reflect on our own challenges and accountabilities. Country or nation is not about the leader, it is about the natives, the citizens, it is about you and me.

For those who admire and listen to Bo Sanchez, I believe that by now you realize that Bo is not telling you to follow his lead. And even if he talks about commandments, virtues, beatitudes, he does that only because of you – that he is asking you to bring these into your lives. Your nobility, your heroism, is yours to build, not his.

Our nation, too, is not for our leaders to establish. Rather, it is for us, the Filipino people, with our determination, our productivity and our time-honored values to build.

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