feature

Rev. Nelson Butron Villarin’s Journey of Faith

August 12, 2019

It is never easy to be a servant of God, least of all become a pastor. A calling that only a few heed when they are called. Last June 2nd, 2019, Pastor Nelson Butron Villarin of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines was finally ordained a minister of his church. The simple rites held at the UCCP Cagayan de Oro Church where he currently serves as chaplain for the Cagayan de Oro Christian School marked the end and beginning of a lifelong journey of faith which tested him to the limits. Rev. Sonny, as he is better known to friends, was born and raised in Lapasan, Cagayan de Oro City, the fifth child in a family of four boys and a girl of former Lapasan United Church Men (UCM) Chairman Gonzalo Tabaco Villarin and Remedios Butron Villarin. His testimony of faith started during his Christian Youth Fellowship (CYF) tenure at UCCP- Lapasan when he was just 14. Like anyone else his age, he was happy-go-lucky and didn’t really give much to his future. Indeed, serving God was not his first chosen calling, but rather architecture. He holds a diploma in BS Architecture from Cebu Institute of Technology. Even when wasn’t hired to be a regular employee in all of his many jobs in Cebu, Makati and Cagayan de Oro from 1988 to 2002, he didn’t realize at the time he had another calling. So he came home and tried again in his hometown in Cagayan de Oro. Meantime, he immersed himself in church related activities which gave him pause that perhaps he was meant for another profession. “I failed to discern at the time that even in Cebu the Lord was calling me to serve as a shepherd to his flock,” he recalls. “However, my continued failure to land a regular job as an architect finally made me realize God was calling me. Without a job, he took a great leap of faith and enrolled at the Silliman University Divinity School, graduating with a Masters of Divinity in 2006. In was touch in go for a while but his God never deserted him. Already married to Nates Fausto Villarin in April 21, 1992 and with a growing family, somehow there was always a provision when there was a need. “We accepted laundry from our colleagues and also did ironing. In addition, we prepared and sold the local sweet potato (Camote) delicacy called kamoyang to make ends meet,” he recalls. The couple is blessed with 4 children, NN Gri, Vhien Klein, Gabriel David, Chessedh Chedech; and granddaughter Coleen Angela, his pride and joy.   But it seemed like Job in the Old Testament, the Lord wasn’t quite done testing him yet. He considers his failure to hurdle two of the subjects in his ordination exam in 2017 as one of the most challenging tests yet that God sent his way. “It was a one of the most challenging moments when I learned that I had to retake two subjects in my Ordination Exam when I was expecting that together with Pastor King (Rev. Beryl Sale) we would be both ordained together but it was not to be.” However, during the interview with the Examination Committee he was given an opportunity to be ordained. “A lot of things to do, a lot of patience to undertake, and lot of prayers to make, so that I would be able to win the race for my ordination,” he recalls. “After a year things went well and patience worked a lot.” Thus, during the Conference Assembly last April 2018, the Examination Committee finally endorsed him for ordination as a full-fledged Minister of the UCCP. Rev. Sonny’s day-to-day spiritual journey with God still has its ups and downs, but he knows that despite life's challenges and his faith shaken, he would not falter nor crumble. To him, it is just a way of God's testing his faith. Taking every life's turns with positivity. He is a living testimony of how God works wonders in one's life. He believes one should fear God, because to him the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom like what the psalmist said. (with Roan Gorres)   -30-

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On the March: The Jesuits in the Philippines since the Restoration - Book authored and published by XU Alumnisweeps 2019 awards season

August 12, 2019

On the March, a coffee table book on Jesuit ministry in the Philippines, has scored its fourth major award this year, adding to its Gold Anvil Award and Platinum Anvil Award from the Public Relations Society of the Philippines and its Gold Quill (Award of Merit) from the prestigious International Association of Business Communicators. The book was cited with an Award of Merti by the Philippine Quill under the Publications Category during the recently concluded 15th Philippine Quill Awards at the Marriott Grand Ballroom.    The Philippine Quill Awards is presented every year by the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) Philippines. IABC Philippines is the first chapter outside North America of the international IABC, a global network with membership of around 15,500 business communicators in 80 countries. The prestigious annual Philippine Quill Awards is presented to honor excellent communications programs and tools. The award recognizes excellence in categories in external communication, strategic processes, organizational communication, social responsibility, digital communication, photography, writing, audiovisuals, and marketing communication, among others. Categories cover programs, projects, collaterals, designs, and creative work.  A group of dedicated alumni from Xavier University - Ateneo de Cagayan (Xavier Ateneo) and Filipino Jesuits assigned to the school contributed their hearts and souls to its publication. Fr. Jose S Arcilla, SJ was principal author of the book edited by John Nery and published by Media Wise Communications. Manuel Paras Engwa and Ramoncito Ocampo Cruz were co-publishers.  Fr. Arcilla was assigned as regent ​ i​n XUHS 1956 and as GS student counsellor and GS glee club moderator and College history professor from 1965-68, and among his students were executive publishers Manuel Paras Engwa and Ramoncito Ocampo Cruz, fondly known as Manny and Monching, respectively. Manny graduated from Xavier Ateneo (Class Salutatorian - XU High School 1966; and AB Economics 1969). He attended the Industrial Economics program of the University of Asia and the Pacific. On the March is his personal tribute to the Jesuits who have dedicated their lives to the Philippines. Manny Engwa’s professional experience encompasses investment, agribusiness, property, and pharmaceuticals. He has worked for a prestigious multinational since 1981 and has served as country manager in Indonesia, head of Southeast Asian operations. Ramoncito Ocampo Cruz began his first eight years of education at Xavier Ateneo in 1959 (Grade School, 1967). He moved to St Andrew’s School in Parañaque City (High School, 1971) and graduated from the University of Santo Tomas with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree, major in painting in 1976. A visual artist, advertising and publishing professional, Monching is a multi-awarded publisher and artist. He won his first Catholic Mass Media (CMM) citation as well as a Philippine Quill award for publishing MUSE, a magazine dedicated to art, culture, and travel. He has had three one-man art exhibits. Joining them on the editorial team are two Jesuits who previously served at Xavier Ateneo and two graduates who are now journalists. Fr Arcilla as the book’s principal writer was assisted by journalist John Nery, who also served as the book’s editor, and Mike Baños, (also a journalist) who rounded up the writers’ pool. Fr Rene Javellana SJ, currently the archivist of the Archives of the Philippine Province of the Society of Jesus, bolstered the team with photos and documents related to the topics presented in the book. Fr Javellana SJ also served as a regent at Xavier Ateneo from 1971-1973 teaching mostly juniors and seniors at the high school when Timoteo Butalid was principal. He was also the moderator of the High School Yearbook, taught in the English Dept in College with Fr Al Nudas as his chair. He was also active in XU college theater, and worked with Fr Al in the production of Antigone, with Mario Francisco in Foursome and other absurd plays by Eugene Ionesco. For two years, he was also involved in XU and Barangay 40's Holy Week Passion plays. Not the least, he participated in an archeological dig at Huluga led by Museo de Oro then headed by Fr Francisco Demetrio SJ. ​Journalist John Nery was formerly the online editor and currently writes a column for the Philippine Daily Inquirer. His Revolutionary Spirit: Jose Rizal in Southeast Asia was published by Singapore’s Institute of Southeast Asian Studies and by the Ateneo de Manila University Press in 2011. John studied Philosophy in Ateneo de Manila. He also went to Xavier University - Ateneo de Cagayan and Ateneo de Davao. After finishing his AB Philosophy degree at AdMU, he taught at the Xavier Ateneo High School. He has received awards for his journalism; his book editing has been recognized with two National Book Awards. He was a Nieman Fellow in Journalism at Harvard University in 2011-2012 and the Jaime V Ongpin Memorial Lecturer in 2013. Freelance writer and journalist Mike Baños started his preschool at Ateneo de Zamboanga in 1964 but later moved to Western Mindanao State University (formerly Zamboanga Normal College, and later Zamboanga State College) where he finished his Grade School and High School education. He got his AB Economics degree from Ateneo de Zamboanga (now a university) in 1978 (class salutatorian) and his Master in Business Administration in 2000 from Xavier Ateneo. A dedicated community journalist, Mike has had a wide-ranging career which includes stints with the local government and chamber of commerce, academe, banking, retail, and broadcast and print media (ABS-CBN, FUBC, Business World, The Manila Chronicle, The Philippine Star, Today) but his heart remains with community journalism as he writes online and in local newspapers as a freelance writer and journalist. He was a pioneer fellow of the Dart Centre Asia Pacific (for Trauma Journalism) in 2009 and was recognized by the Rotary Club of Manila Journalism Awards as 2017 Provincial Reporter of the Year (Print). Finally, and perhaps the most instrumental in giving meaning and purpose to On the March, is Fr Jose VC Quilongquilong SJ STD, who succeeded Fr Herbert Schneider SJ as president and executive director of the Philippine Jesuit Aid Association Inc (PJAA). Fr Joe studied AB Sociology at Xavier Ateneo before joining the Society of Jesus. He completed formation in philosophy (Ateneo de Manila University), Bachelor in Sacred Theology and Master of Arts in Theology (Loyola School of Theology) before his ordination to the priesthood in 1993. He is also concurrently the president of Loyola School of Theology, Ateneo de Manila University. Fr Joe was already actively part of the team last year and was primarily responsible for facilitating the book launch last September 29, 2018, at the Arete. All proceeds from the sale of On the March will be donated to PJAA for the benefit of elderly, retired and infirm Jesuits, and the promotion of Jesuit vocations in the Philippine province. ​ ​On the March chronicles the Jesuits’ ministry of education and the many aspects of their apostolate in the Philippines as they bring the faith to the most remote corners of the archipelago. “This latest recognition affirms our commitment to use excellent communications to help the organization achieve its goals and make a difference in society, true to the Philippine Quill’s own aims,” said Cruz, who is also Media Wise president and CEO. In January 2019, On the March bagged its Platinum Anvil, a recognition given to entries that stand out among the Anvil Gold winners. The PRSP cited the book for “recognizing the vital role of Jesuits in the country, the book highlights their mission and achievements, including their evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity, and obedience.” The Anvil is the symbol of excellence in public relations, awarded to outstanding PR programs, tools and practitioners. In June, Cruz flew to Vancouver to receive the book’s Gold Quill from San Francisco-based IABC at the 2019 IABC World Conference. Just four other Filipino organizations have received the coveted international distinction. The IABC awards committee said On the March earned the distinction for “exhibiting high-quality writing and superior production values.” “The book is well-organized, consistent... from the beginning to end. It flows well. It’s clear that [Mediawise] brought together the right mix of interviewers, writers, designers and publishers to produce a high-quality communication vehicle,” said the committee. -30-

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Oro Integrated Cooperative, Xavier Ateneo ink naming-rights agreement for SHS facility

July 22, 2019

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines — Oro Integrated Cooperative (OIC) and Xavier University - Ateneo de Cagayan signed a memorandum of agreement on Friday afternoon, June 21, for the naming rights of a facility at the new XU Senior High School campus in Pueblo de Oro.       The signing ceremony was led by XU president Fr Roberto “Bobby” C Yap SJ and OIC chief executive officer Floriano R Hilot, and witnessed by OIC chairperson Doris Calatiz, XU’s VP for administration Edison Sasoy and SHS principal Dr Roger Gawahan.      OIC, with their donation worth quarter a million, has earlier expressed its desire and intention to perpetuate the name of their cooperative by way of inscribing it on a facility in one of the premier universities in the country.      Xavier Ateneo, through its Advancement Office, opened the Naming Rights Program (NRP) last year to interested donors and organizations who want to name a facility or space at the new XUSHS campus, thereby, sharing in the university’s vision of becoming the “Senior High School of Choice in Mindanao.”      The new XUSHS campus will implement environment-friendly technology in its buildings and operations. Among its salient features are the following: a sewerage treatment plant, rainwater collection system, natural ventilation, and sky gardens. They are designed to reduce the overall impact on the environment and human health.      Xavier Ateneo and OIC have been partners in various undertakings, particularly in the promotion of the cooperative movement and social development in Mindanao. OIC also supports four college scholars of Xavier Ateneo.

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Media Wise awarded 2nd IABC Gold Quill Award of Merit

July 10, 2019

The little boutique publishing house that could has done it yet again.      Media Wise Communications, Inc. was awarded its second Gold Quill Award of Merit by the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC)  for the coffee table book On the March: The Jesuits in the Philippines Since the Restoration at the Excellence Gala held 11 June 2019 during the 2019 IABC World Conference in Vancouver, Canada.       On the March chronicles the journey of the Jesuits as they bring the Catholic faith to the most remote corners of the Philippines. The book focuses on their ministry in education through the years, and the many aspects of their apostolate in the country.      Edited by journalist John Nery, it also includes essays by Cora Llamas (associate editor), journalist Mike Baños, Ticia Morente, Fr. Bert Boholst SJ, and Margie Logarta. Manuel Engwa and Ramoncito Ocampo Cruz are co-executive publishers.      “Editing this book (the second coffee table book on the Jesuits published by Monching Cruz and Manny Engwa, to raise funds for the Philippine Jesuit Aid Association) was a gift, a joy, an answered prayer—and a way to give back and to give thanks to the many Jesuits who served as mentors or colleagues,” Nery said in a statement posted in his blog.      Cruz, a visual artist, leverages his creative background to produce “elegant, artistic books of substance.” Among other books he has published for the Ateneo community are ‘150: The Ateneo Way’, released for AdMU’s sesquicentennial; ‘Veritas Integritas Justitia: 75 Years of the Ateneo Law School;’ and ‘Jesuits in Mindanao: The Mission,’ which have all won International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) Quill Awards and Anvils.      Cruz runs a tight ship with his managing editor Rey Albert Fuentes, tapping a formidable stable of freelance writers, photographers, and graphic designers to partner with.      On the March earlier earned a coveted Platinum Anvil Award at the 54thAnvil Awards held last January 30 at the Marriott Grand Ballroom.       Organized by the Public Relations Society of the Philippines, Anvils are the ‘Oscars” of the public relations industry in the country, and the Platinum is the highest award it confers. It is given only to projects that stand out among the ‘Gold’ Anvil winners, already the best of the best.       The IABC Gold Quill Awards are IABC’s global initiative to recognize and award excellence in strategic communication worldwide, and is acknowledged as one of the most prestigious awards programs in the industry.      Held at the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver, the Gala ceremony reeled off at 5:30, followed by dinner at 7:30pm with announcement of the recipients for the special awards at the Grand Ballroom.      There have been 4,451 projects entered in the Gold Quill Awards since 2008.      For 2019, a total of 202 winners were recognized, with entries from 10 countries being awarded the Gold Quill.      Winning entries are sorted into two groups: Awards of Merit and Awards of Excellence.       To qualify for a Merit Award, an entry must score at least a 5.25 out of 7, and a 5.75 to qualify for an Excellence Award.       All entries are rigorously evaluated against established criteria aligned with IABC’s global standards in communication.      Media Wise Communications, Inc. was one of five 2019 Gold Quill awardees from the Philippines, including the Aboitiz Group; ABS-CBN Corporation; PageOne & Center for Health Solutions, Innovations Philippines, Inc.; and,  Jollibee Foods Corporation & Stratworks, Inc.      Media Wise was first cited with a Merit Award by  IABC in the 2017 Gold Quill Awards for Jesuits In Mindanao: The Mission  under the Communications Skills Division (Category 26: Publications).       Jesuits in Mindanao: the Mission also won the Philippine Quill Award of Excellence for Publications under the Communications Skills Division at the 2013 Quill Awards, and another at the IABC Asian Pacific Silver Quill Awards held in Singapore in 2016. Like Jesuits in Mindanao, proceeds for the sale of On the March are going to the Philippine Jesuit Aid Association (PJAA), an institution headed by Fr. Jose Quilongquilong, S.J.  for the benefit of elderly, retired and infirm Jesuits, and the promotion of Jesuit vocations in the Philippines. (with Jenny Ortuoste)

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DC forum gives a perspective on Mindanao

July 7, 2019

WASHINGTON, D.C.— Representative Amihilda J. Sangcopan (AMIN-Anak Mindanao Partylist) was the featured speaker in a forum entitled “A Perspective on Mindanao” held at the Philippine Embassy in Washington, D.C. on 25 June 2019.      Representative Sangcopan began her talk by providing the audience a snapshot of the political composition and landscape of the incoming 18th Congress of the Philippines, and noting that the majorities supporting President Rodrigo Roa Duterte in both chambers may well allow the passage of major legislative priorities of the Administration.      She highlighted the priority legislative agenda of the Administration, particularly as they pertained to Mindanao, such as law and order; creation of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao; and Islamic banking & finance.      Representative Sangcopan also discussed the pillars of a Mindanao 2030 vision where there is improved quality of life for all Mindanawons. Aside from providing enabling conditions in power, infrastructure and connectivity; and a definite and lasting peace, she said that all efforts are being geared towards a dynamic, inclusive and green economy; and for human development and social cohesion.      The final part of her presentation dwelt on the recovery, reconstruction, and rehabilitation efforts in Marawi City. She noted that great impetus in this regard was provided by the House of Representatives through the sub-committee for Marawi Rehabilitation that exercised its oversight powers on the rehabilitation efforts in the city undertaken by the Task Force Bangon Marawi.      Representative Sangcopan closed her brief presentation by reminding the audience that the story of the people and cultures of the southern Philippines is undeniably intertwined with that of the Filipino people.      “The narrative of every Mindananoan is the narrative of every Filipino. Let us reconnect and reclaim our shared heritage toward a peaceful and progressive Mindanao,” she pleaded in ending her remarks.      The presentation was followed by a wide-ranging and substantive discussion ranging from the challenges of climate change in Mindanao, to the federalism debate, the importance of effective reconstruction and rehabilitation in Marawi, and to the continued relevance or usefulness of the partylist system.      Remarks and perspectives were also offered by Presidential Communications Operations Office Undersecretary Lorraine Marie Badoy and MSU-Iligan Institute of Technology Professor Yasmira Moner who are both in Washington DC for other official engagements.      “The story of Mindanao and the Philippine Government’s commitment to its peace and development is one that needs to be shared more with our friends here in Washington DC. I am happy that Representative Sangcopan was able to do just that during her presentation,” Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose Manuel G. Romualdez said in a statement after the forum.      “Congresswoman Sangcopan provided a valuable perspective on Mindanao at a critical time in the transition to new autonomy arrangements in the southern Philippines. Americans in the audience benefitted especially from her insights into the challenges and opportunities facing the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao,” US-Philippines Society President Ambassador (ret.) John Maisto also said in a statement.      The Forum was organized and hosted by the US-Philippines Society with the support of the Philippine Embassy.

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