Page last updated at 09:03 Asia/Manila, Tuesday, 29 November 2016 PH
Some time last May 2016, I attended the 60th Wedding Anniversary of Mel and Chichi Nepomuceno, close friends of my family. Mel belongs to the prominent Nepomuceno clan in Angeles City who owns the prestigious Holy Angel University, a Catholic university run by lay people. HAU is one of the institutions of higher learning in the Central Luzon area that can enable the future Clark Metropolitan Area to be both an industrial hub like Silicon Valley as well as a university center like San Francisco, California. I have no doubt that under the Duterte Administration, the premier international airport in Luzon will be in Clark and that the areas surrounding Clark (especially the provinces of Pampanga, Tarlac, Bataan and Zambales) will rival the Metro Manila region in industrialization and urbanization. Already the big players in real estate based in Manila, such as Ayala Land, Megaworld, the SM Group, Federal Land, and others are aggressively expanding to Central Luzon.
The Nepomuceno clan is not limited to investing in education. It is also a leading player in the distribution of electricity, being the owner of Angeles Electric. During the celebration of the wedding anniversary, the guests were entertained by a musical play entitled Juan & Nena Nepomusical, a story of how spouses Juan and Nena Nepomuceno overcame almost insurmountable odds in raising a family of eleven children and establishing a veritable business empire which included beverage production, health products, education and energy. Although they took their Catholic faith seriously, Juan and Nena were not the typical unworldly religious zealots who spent all their time praying on their knees. They were very much involved in temporal realities, using all their talents in producing goods and services for the local market and employing hundreds of workers in their business enterprises. They already anticipated the doctrine of the Second Vatican Council about the universal calling to sanctity: that lay people sanctify themselves through their ordinary work and family life.
I have known this clan since my college years because the eldest son, Javier, taught three of my accounting classes at De La Salle College in the mid-1950s. Javier who is now over 90 years old is still very active professionally as a financial adviser to the Zobel de Ayala family, a position he has occupied for over 50 years. He was very close to the late Joseph McMicking and his wife Mercedes Zobel de Ayala. It was while watching the musical that I learned that Javier was in the Death March from Bataan and was miraculously saved through the prayers of his parents. It was impressive to witness the story of Juan and Nena Nepomuceno bringing to this world and raising eleven children despite all the hardships they went through which included bankruptcies of some of their business ventures, persecution by the Japanese (Juan himself was kidnapped) and being forced to evacuate to the mountains during the Japanese occupation. They were not spared calumnies by detractors who questioned their spirituality and integrity. As the note on the musical stated: “Still, they soldiered on, with Javier taking over the electric company, Rely and Josefina joining the religious life, Peter running the family businesses and the rest of the children building their respective lives and careers.”
Juan and Nena could very well be cited by Pope Francis as role models for married couples in this Jubilee Year of Mercy. The two spent the rest of their lives in prayer and corporal works of mercy. Also, their having raised eleven children in very dire circumstances would earn them accolades from the Pope who wrote in “The Joy of Love” that “large families are a joy for the Church. They are an expression of the fruitfulness of love.” Thanks to the way they interpreted responsible parenthood, they were able to bring to this world individuals who have been valuable assets to the long-term development of their region as well as for the entire nation. We can only hope that there will be many married couples like Juan and Nena who will not easily succumb to the anti-life propaganda which is based on the pretext of the financial and other difficulties of raising large families. For comments, my email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.