By Maria Elena “Marilen” Tronqued-Lagniton, past president of the Rotary Club of Cubao Edsa, Quezon City, Philippines
I shall pass this way but once. Any good that I can do or kindness I can show let me do it now.
But what if today was the last day of your life? Would you be fulfilled with how you have invested your time? Would you have any regrets? Time is the currency we begin each day with. It is our most valuable and most limited asset.
Rotary has taught me how fortunate I am, and how blessed I am to be able to make and deepen friendships by working alongside others in service. It is like sunshine on a rainy day. And as Rotarians, we need to share our story with others, so they, too, can see that sunshine and join us.
I was urged to join Rotary by family members. Like many, I approached Rotary with some hesitation. Too much was going on in my world as senior vice president of two major hospitals in the metro area. Rotary was at the bottom of my priority list. That is until my eyes and heart were opened.
The chair of the Board for the hospitals I worked for was Robert Kuan, past governor of Rotary District 3830. He had none of that hard-hitting, arrogant harshness that clouds power and success. This man was at his best and most inspiring when he talked about Rotary. From Banaue, the mountains in the northern Philippines to Korea to China – it seemed like all he ever did was Rotary. But no, it’s just that ALL he ever wanted to talk about was Rotary.
Medical mission opens eyes
One day, I took part in a medical mission to a province north of Metro Manila to feed a group of indigenous people. They had to travel all night from their homes in the mountain just to have access to care. This level of effort was more than I could comprehend.
As the children started chasing balloons around an open hall, I was struck by how simply things like a napkin or a glass of drinkable water, were an extravagance for them. As a breeze carried the stench of garbage from down the street on this humid summer day, I wondered how they could really get used to that smell.
I knew then why I needed to go on that medical mission. Even though I work at a hospital and see people in need, I still find myself irritated by simple annoyances, like a cup of coffee gone cold, or a computer that freezes up on me.
As I began to take part in my Rotary club’s service projects in poor areas of our city, I increasingly saw how often I take for granted basic necessities — a roof above my head, a refrigerator to keep food cold, and clean running water. Things like air conditioners, smartphones, cars, even hepa filters to purify our air during this pandemic, are luxuries that simply don’t exist a few short miles away.
Telling your Rotary story
I met past district governor Lyne Abanilla when I was a new Rotarian. Neither of us knew at the time how our careers would intertwine. She was vice president of a national English-language newspaper and I was a frequent source for healthcare reporters – not because I knew so much but because I was accessible and willing to return phone calls. I also met past governor Chit Lijuaco, editor of a popular magazine. Through Rotary, both these relationships became deeper and stronger as we served together.
Lyne, Chit, and I get invited to speak at many workshops on public image, because of our background in storytelling. We know the work that goes into doing it well. So we frequently encourage other members to tell their Rotary stories.
By sharing your Rotary story, you might be bringing sunshine to someone’s stormy day. And maybe that’s just what they need to begin a journey in Rotary that will change their perspective on life.