Bernardo M. Villegas
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Dreams Falling Short of Reality (Part 3)

          As a bystander, I have witnessed how the married members of Opus Dei, both men and women, have tirelessly helped numerous married couples, whether or not in touch with Opus Dei, to fulfil their most important obligation in their lives which is the proper upbringing of their children.  These efforts resulted in the establishment of a foundation called EDUCHILD which has spread its activities outside the borders of the Philippines in a number of Southeast Asian countries.  EDUCHILD tries to put into practice these words of St. Josemaria: “The parents are the first persons responsible for the education of their children, in human as well as in spiritual matters.  They should be conscious of the extent of their responsibility.  To fulfil it, they need prudence, understanding, a capacity to love, and a concern of giving good example.  Imposing things by force, in an authoritarian manner, is not the right way to teach.  The ideal attitude of parents lies more in becoming their children’s friends—friends who will be willing to share their anxieties, who will listen to their problems, who will help them in an effective and agreeable way.” Over the last forty years, I have witnessed the impressive professionalization of the EDUCHILD courses for parents who have been trained in the most rigorous manner in the science and art of child rearing.   Thousands of parents all over the Philippines and Southeast Asia have become better parents, thanks to the selfless efforts of married members of Opus Dei and their friends.  Again, the dream I had during that academic year 1963 to 1964 in Barcelona, Spain has fallen short of reality.  That was, however, not the end of dreaming.

    When I returned to the Philippines in 1964, after having spent four years in the U.S. and an academic year in Spain, I had the great opportunity to pass by Rome where I met St. Josemaria Escriva, Founder of Opus Dei, for the first time.  I wanted to know what he expected of me and the few other members of Opus Dei who would start the apostolic activities of this Catholic institution for lay people in the Philippines.  He reiterated what I already knew was the main feature of Opus Dei. Here I quote from his writings.   Opus Dei  is made up of a great multitude of men and women of different nations, and tongues, and races, who earn their living with their professional work.  The majority of them are married, some others are single.  They share with their fellow citizens in the important task of making temporal society more human and more just.  And they work with personal responsibility, shoulder to shoulder with their fellow men and experiencing with them successes and failures in the noble struggle of daily endeavor, as they strive to fulfil their duties and to exercise their social and civic rights. And all this with naturalness, like any other conscientious Christian, without considering themselves special.  Blended into the mass of their companions, they try at the same time to detect the flashes of divine splendor which shines through the commonest everyday realities.  In a word, what was expected of us was personal holiness and the personal apostolate of friendship and trust.  We were to sanctify work, sanctify ourselves as we work and sanctify others through our work.

         As an exception, Opus Dei would promote a few corporate undertakings which have eminently secular characteristics.  They are the fruit of human, cultural and social initiatives, carried out by citizens who try to make them reflect the Gospel’s light and to enkindle them with Christ’s love.  They can take the form of technical training centers for industrial workers; agricultural training schools for farmers; centers for primary, secondary and university education; and other varied activities for the service of society.  In fact, my short stay in Barcelona exposed me to actual examples of a training center for industrial workers, high schools, a business school and student residences like the one in which I stayed at Harvard.  After observing what then were the needs of Philippine society which the few of us who were starting the apostolate of Opus Dei could address, we decided to start the nucleus of a university that would be strong in research, something which in the mid-1960s was still rare.  Fortunately, Jess Estanislao, who also joined Opus Dei while pursuing his doctoral studies in economics at Harvard, was steeped in research experience, having been a disciple of the Nobel laureate in economics Simon Kuznets, father of national income accounting.  Upon his return to the Philippines also in 1964, he started to work for the Program Implementation Agency (PIA) which evolved into the Presidential Economic Staff (PES) under the Marcos Administration.

         Together with me and a few other economists, Jess started what was called the Center for Research and Communication (CRC) literally in a garage lent to us by the late Ambassador Jose Romero Jr. in his office of the Philippine Coconut Authority. CRC was formally incorporated in 1967 and by August 15, 1968 moved to a residential building converted into an office on Jorge Bocobo St., Malate.  For the next 20 years or so, CRC grew to be the leading business economic think tank serving the needs of hundreds of business enterprises, both national and multinational, for data needed for industry analysis, strategic planning, project planning and operational planning.  The CRC brand became synonymous with economic forecasting for the private business sector and policy advice to the Government, especially needed by the people in business during those tumultuous years of martial law.  We never lost sight of the request of St. Josemaria that CRC would eventually transform itself into a university that can turn out quality professionals who would be of service to Philippine society in such fields as education, journalism, business, public administration, engineering, information technology, law and other fields of studies. By 1981, we moved to a much bigger and permanent site in the Ortigas area, thanks to a generous donation of land from the Ortigas family.  In 1989, we started the CRC College of Arts and Sciences.  By 1995, the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) gave us the authorization to operate as an institution of higher learning which we called the University of Asia and the Pacific. (To be continued).