Wow, what a year!

For some reason, the Ask Go Negosyo Thursday column falls on important days this holiday season. Last Thursday was Christmas Day, and today is New Year’s Day. How lucky I am to be able to share my Christmas and New Year message to all.

My column last Thursday, entitled “My Christmas Wish List”, surprised my wife and my mom. My wife was especially happy because in a way, I was able to acknowledge all her efforts in Laura Vicuna and Vides Foundations. My mother, who was also surprised, shed tears while reading it. Even my relatives’ friends who hardly read my column sent me messages to say it was quite touching. A friend of mine also sent the column to our common friend, who is fighting for his life in Houston. Basing from his last email to all his friends, he is ready to confront his cancer with optimism and the will to live.

Sometimes, we must take time to pause in our lives. Then, we will be able to realize the many things that we are missing. When we are caught up with our businesses, we tend to live in a world of our own. Then, we fail to realize how life is out there. Frankly, I am also guilty of such, especially with my blackberry. With cell phones, we become wired to a material world. These are life’s challenges. We know the things that we should avoid, but we keep doing the same old things. I am sure many of the New Year’s Resolutions never get done. These resolutions are just symbolically written in paper. My father and my uncle Raul Concepcion, who just celebrated their 77th birthday, are both guilty of this. They have also stopped making their resolutions. Being twins, my baby Isabella is so confused when she sees both of them, wondering if how can there be two ‘pappies’. We celebrated their birthday here in Hong Kong, with most family members.

For many of the wealthy, the year 2008 has brought about the most humbling experiences. Many had to experience great anxiety, after seeing their investments tumble and lose value. This makes us realize that in this material world, we can lose what we have in a matter of seconds. The financial catastrophe of many nations, especially of America, is unimaginable. It is like the story of Job in the bible. He lost everything he had.

Who do we blame for this? Well, we can say that our private bankers and financial counselors are to be blamed. But, equally, it is the greed in each of us. If there is someone out there who would say that he does not have any form of greed, he must not be human. As humans, greed and fear exist in us. We just have to find ways to manage and control these. For me, these traits have caused all these problems and crises. Excessive greed and fear are what caused the problems. It all started with the greed that caused assets to increase beyond its real value. This emboldened people to borrow and leverage beyond their capability. Then, as markets collapsed, we now see extreme fear that pushed all kinds of assets to its all time low.

What lies ahead in 2009 is a big question. How long will this crisis last? And how will it affect us in the Philippines? This is the common question people ask me time and time again. But, maybe one of the best answers came from a sermon during a Sunday mass here in Hong Kong, where we also spent the holidays. The sermon delivered a message addressing the OFWs, who were present in the mass: the greatest love of a parent is shown through the sacrifice to leave home and work overseas for a better future for the family. The pain and loneliness that parents go through, being absent specially during Christmas and birthdays, shows their highest form of love. They are willing to sacrifice just to make sure that the family back home has a better future. This is quite true when we look at the millions of OFW workers and even Filipino-Americans who risk so much just for their families. They are living examples of people taking control of their own destiny. But, there are still countless Filipinos out there who just pray for the pot of gold, hoping that one day it would come without doing anything. I made sure my kids understood what the priest meant, and how lucky we are along with other Filipinos who are able to spend time with their families abroad.

Sometimes, we do take these luxuries in life for granted. It didn’t feel like a recession, seeing so many Filipinos in Ocean Terminal, as if we were in Greenbelt shopping area. If the Koreans invaded Manila, the Filipinos invaded Hong Kong this holiday season. Filipinos are very family oriented. We enjoy family reunions during the holidays, bonding with each other until the point of having too much of each other. I guess this is what makes us all different. Imagine how we can use this strength as a nation of Filipinos – united and not divisive, more on inspiring and uplifting one another rather than keeping up with crab mentality, full of optimism and less of pessimism, more of ‘yes we can’ and none of ‘no we cannot’. What happens in 2009 does not lie on what PGMA or this government will do for us. It lies on all of us, focusing on our purpose in life and doing it the best we can. Happy New Year!

* * * * *