Borrowed Time
RECOLLECTIONS, REFLECTIONS - Dr. Jose "Dodong" R. Gullas (The Freeman) - September 2, 2018 - 11:51pm

Life, for all of us, is full of challenges, twists and turns, ups and downs. We differ from one another in our personalities, attributes, opinions, and in the way we appreciate or deal with challenges that come our way. What I know for certain, though, is that whatever comes our way has a purpose – to strengthen us, not to crush us.

 

God does not play favorites. He won’t put us to a test more than we can hurdle, no matter how difficult or uncomfortable. God gives us just the load we are prepared to carry.

One of the biggest challenges I had to face in my life was when my brother Eddie asked me to run for Congress representing the First District of Cebu. He was, at the time, restrained by certain technicalities from continuously holding the position for another term. I was initially dumbfounded by the challenge, since the world of politics had never been my turf.

Moreover, the words of Mama Pining rang in my head: “Dodong, if you also get yourself into politics, then perhaps that will be the time to let go of the University, your Papa’s legacy.” Much as I wanted to cooperate with Eddie, it was not easy to give an answer outright. I asked for eight days to think, to ponder and pray, to arrive at a decision.

As my parents were already both deceased by then, I had to visit their graves and seek their guidance as I tried to weigh things. As I always do in times of uncertainty, I turned to prayer and sought divine intervention from my constant companion Sr. Santo Niño, with the ever-protective arms of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the watchful eyes of Mama Mary. After eight days, I was ready to face the music and took on the challenge to run for the political position.

I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. I knew it was not some walk in the park. I entertained the thought of losing, and how I could move on from the loss… what it would do to my self-confidence. The challenge was great but my determination to face up to it, any challenge for that matter, was greater.

It would seem that certain events were preparations for the challenges that lay ahead for me. Papa Inting passed away in the 70s when Eddie was a neophyte congressman. That left me with the responsibility of assisting my ageing mother in the University.

Mama Pining passed away in 1984, when Eddie was the governor of Cebu. I had to lead in carrying the torch of our parents’ legacy that has been passed on to us – my sister Inday Sering, Eddie and myself. It was a challenge so great and so difficult, to continue with what Papa and Mama had started with their sweat and blood.

It was then that I understood why Papa Inting was insistent that I totally immerse myself in running the University. He encouraged me to learn the ropes, so to speak, by sending me to meetings of school heads in Manila and be active in the Philippine Association of Colleges and Universities. I learned a lot from rubbing elbows with the “who’s who” in Philippine education, the likes of Armand Fabella, Amading Dizon, Santi de la Cruz and Francisco Dalupan, Jess Jocson and Oscar Mapua. I was privileged to have consulted and been mentored by Dr. Fely Reyes, who pointed out to me the importance of accreditation to sustain a certain standard of quality education.

Up to the present, challenges are a continuing reality with me, the current one being to make Centennial Celebration of the University of the Visayas next year truly memorable. I owe it to my father to make the 100th anniversary of the school he started a momentous event. The present time is doubly challenging as The Freeman newspaper, founded by my Uncle Paulino in 1919, which I revived in 1965 when I was 34, also turns 100 next year. (Its sister publication Banat News will also be celebrating its Silver Anniversary, on its 25th year of existence.)

At this point in my life, my heart overflows with gratitude to the Lord for always being there as I faced all the challenges that comes my way. The wisdom of Papa Inting and Mama Pining has also been my guide: “Dodong, remember this, every moment of your life is very precious. You shall always put your heart in your hands in dealing with your fellowman.” My parents also cautioned me from expecting much from others. “Man by nature is ungrateful, if you can find one who comes back to you to thank you for your kindness, that one is a rare exception.”

There have been caring friends who tell me to slow down now, “to smell the roses,” so to speak. I thank them for the advice. But all the things I’m doing is not a matter of getting busy – instead, I am trying to make my life full.

We are all living on borrowed time. At any time God may knock on our doors. Before He does, I will continue to try to touch as many lives as I can.

May the readers of this column include me in their prayers. That I may go farther still, and have good health so I may do more for others. And that I may always remember to be humble and prayerful through the rest of my own borrowed time.

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