Never in my life did I plan something like this. It just sort of—happened. Who would have thought that a Russian consul would call me on the phone and meet with me personally! This was really amazing to me. So unexpected and a once in a lifetime experience—at least for me. He called me because I am the senior pastor of the Worldwide Church of God (WCG) local congregation in Pampanga.
This morning, the Pampanga prison ministry team of WCG escorted the Russian Consul as he made a courtesy call to the city mayor of Angeles City. Days before, he invited us (insisted) that we go with him so that he can explain and express to the mayor his gratitude to us in the WCG Pampanga prison ministry team for helping his fellow Russian citizen who was wrongly imprisoned at the city’s district jail for about 5 months. It was actually WCG Pampanga’s prison ministry leader, Ed Estrella—whose passion is to reach out to prison inmates— that got into contact with this Russian citizen who was unjustly imprisoned.
Russian Consul Receives Symbolic Key from City Mayor
The visit was cordial and the two dignitaries exchanged pleasantries. The mayor gave the consul a symbolic key to the city. The Russian consul also thanked the chief immigration officer who also extended help to his fellow Russian citizen whose visa expired as a result of being unjustly imprisoned.
At the end of the meeting, I had the honor of leading in prayer for the city mayor as well as for the Russian consul. What a “once in a lifetime” experience that was! Surely, God was with us and was directing everything that happened. We just sort of—enjoyed the ride haha!
Several years ago, I attended a seminar in Tagaytay conducted by Dr. Shelly Trebesch of Fuller Theological Seminary. It was attended by many of our top denominational leaders in the Worldwide Church of God (now, Grace Communion International) from around the world along with many of us locally in the Philippines.
During that seminar, I learned that although one may already be retired or maybe in his twilight years like maybe 60 or 70 years old, he can still accomplish a lot of things and leave something worthwhile just before he finally leaves this earth. Dr. Trebesch called that stage in a man’s life as the “afterglow.”
Leaving a Legacy
If I recall rightly, she explained that during the last remaining years–twilight years–of a man’s life, he can still glow so brightly by leaving something worthwhile for humanity. A legacy. Instead of griping and complaining about opportunities he missed in life, he can still make an impact in society. I have never forgotten that seminar ever since. It’s a good lesson for me to remember as I grow older and after having been retired from full-time employment recently.
Moses Shone Brightly at Age 80
Instead of dwelling on self-pity because he was driven out of the Pharaoh’s palace and forced to live in the desert for about 40 years, Moses was one of those who shone brightly and was used by God to lead his people out of Egypt when he was already 80 years old.
Don’t End Up Miserable Till Dying Day
I’m sure that we all know of some senior citizens among us who ended up brightly and successfully in life. But on the other hand, we also know of some who ended up as failures, feeling miserable and sorry for themselves, feeling lonely and defeated up to their dying day.
We Can Still Glow Just Before We Go
I guess it’s not too late for me and for everyone. If it is the Lord’s will to give us a longer life, we can still glow so brightly when we’re old and gray. We can take the right direction and end up a happy and fulfilled person. I thank Dr. Trebesch for that wonderful lesson in life that she gave me. Lord, grant us good health and long life that we may experience an afterglow just before we go.
Although he lived at a time when there was no internet yet, but surprisingly my Dad’s name, Jose Joson can be found on the internet. He is mentioned in relation to the history of Bayugan City, in the province of Agusan del Sur, Philippines. According to what can be found on the internet, my dad, Jose Turla Joson, led the early settlers in their desire to make Bayugan a barrio (barangay) during the 1960s.
History of Bayugan City
Bayugan City used to be just a small settlement (a sitio). Back then, it was not even a barrio yet. In so far as I can remember, it was sitio Bayugan, Barrio Maygatasan, town of Esperanza, province of Agusan. It was located at the “crossing” of the Butuan-Davao (north-south) road and the Valbueco-Esperanza (east-west) road. As a young boy, we used to live right at the “crossing” (as it was called back then) when there was no rotunda yet. It was aptly called the crossing (not rotunda) by the early settlers during the early 60s. We used to live right at the center (almost) of the present rotunda.
As Bayugan’s first Tiniente del Barrio, I remember my Dad settled a lot of disputes or misunderstanding among the barrio folks. He also counseled on marital and family problems at times. That’s how I remembered it during those early days of Bayugan. I also remember that my Dad had one rural police under him. He had a khaki uniform but he had no shoes—just slippers! And he had no gun too but just a short batuta (club) haha!
Post-humous Award for First Barangay Captain
On April 2005, my Dad posthumously received a plaque of recognition for having served as “Barangay Captain” during the years 1960-1964. I find this humorous because back then, he was never called a captain. Just a lieutenant. No, not in the military. A barrio lieutenant! Or in Spanish, the first Tiniente del Barrio of Bayugan hahaha!
Off to US after Serving as Provincial Board Member
On December 31, 1969, the province of Agusan was divided into two. My Dad was among the first three elected provincial board members of the newly-formed province of Agusan del Sur. He served until 1985 when he and my Mom left for the US to attend a reunion in Missouri of his former American war buddies in World War II. He was the only Filipino in that group of American soldiers who fought in the Philippines against the Japanese troops. Unfortunately, my Dad was never recognized officially as a war veteran because he lost his papers. According to my Dad, some Filipinos got their papers processed although they were fakes and became “veterans” after the war enjoying veteran’s benefits. He said he did not pursue being recognized as a veteran because all he wanted was to serve his country. I admire him for that.
Recognized as WWII Veteran in US
Thankfully, my Dad’s American war buddies corroborated his being a war veteran. He died of a heart attack in 1990 in Los Angeles, USA and was buried in Oregon. After some 17 years, in August 2007, I had the chance to visit my Dad’s grave and interestingly for me, I read on my Dad’s gravestone written in capital letters, “WWII VETERAN.” I thought it odd that my Dad had been recognized in a foreign land (USA) as a war veteran but not in his own country, the Philippines. At least, he was recognized by his very own American war buddies during WWII—though not officially by the US government.
Finally, this part of Bayugan City history is now written and is on the internet. I’m writing this for my kids so that they may know more about their grandfather, my Dad. And may I share this for everyone too. From a very small settlement decades ago, Bayugan is now officially a city—Bayugan City!