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For the past six months since I started writing this column, I have shared part of my family stories with our readers. One of the most touching and widely read was “My father, the Entrepreneur” which I wrote for my dad, Joecon’s 75th birthday. From time to time, this column will also try to share stories of how entrepreneurs prevailed over challenges in their lives. I think this is how we all get inspired, thru reading stories in the GoNegosyo book and in the book written by Butch Jimenez and Flor Gozon “Blessings in Disguise”.
Talking about blessings, last March 20 at 1:30 p.m., Maria Isabella Alexandra Concepcion was born. She is truly God’s greatest gift to us. My wife and I have been married for 24 years, we have four children and prior to Maria Isabella, our youngest is 10 years old. We are not a young couple and had almost given up on having our 5th child years ago when suddenly months back, my wife complained of a stomach ache. She was rushed to the hospital for a series of tests including an MRI. We still did not know she was pregnant which we only found out after a week thru a pregnancy kit. At first we could not believe that she was pregnant so we went to the hospital again to have her tested, this time thru an ultrasound and there she was – a miracle baby.
We are in our middle age (will not reveal our true ages) but the funniest part is that my own father could not believe who was pregnant in the family after being asked by my sisters. Even our own kids were shocked to hear that their mother was going to have a baby. “Yuck, aren’t you too old for that mom?” was the question they asked. As we went thru dinner with friends and attended cocktail events, her pregnancy was being more apparent and people joked saying how could I, did I not pity my wife? All I could say was we did not expect this. Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala was most encouraging with his statements having gone thru same with Lizzie giving birth in her early 40s. Recently Sandy Prieto also gave birth at about the same age. We could say these are blessings in disguise.
Before this happened, I used to find it strange to see old couples attending whenever I go to my children’s PTA meetings. Sometimes I thought these couples attend for their grandchildren only later to find out it was for their own child. Now I would fall under this category! Kidding aside, going thru your wife’s pregnancy after 10 years was truly an experience. It was like starting all over again and sometimes we forget what it felt like. It’s also a bit funny when people would ask you how many kids do we now have? Since we don’t look that old (even if we are), they would get shocked to see the number of kids we already have.
My wife decided to give birth here in San Francisco not by choice as I wanted my daughter to be a Filipina and to be born in the Philippines. But the procedure she wanted to do was a VBAC which is a natural delivery after having a caesarian delivery. Many doctors would choose not to do this in Manila since the process is very risky and there is a possibility that both mother and child could die. It’s safer here in the US where the doctors have the latest equipment and skills. Dr. Hamilton is one of them and I would say he is one of the best I have met since he took great care of my wife all throughout the labor. Considering her age, the labor lasted for half a day and they had to induce her with a procedure called the balloon.
Dr. Hamilton is part of the annual missions in the Philippines who help a lot of poor patients who need difficult operations. They do this once a year and they go all around the Philippines with returning Filipino doctors to provide medical services for charity. They were in Legazpi, Bicol this year and also went to the resort of Gov. Lray Villafuerte for wake- and ski-boarding and he was shocked to see his clients there. They too were shocked to see him wake boarding at the age of 60 plus.
Another reason for my wife to give birth in San Francisco was her father, a truly inspiring and persistent entrepreneur in his own way who started House of Rugs and a furniture export business then when he was in his 40s. He was diagnosed to have cancer and is currently being treated in Stanford. Like a true eldest daughter, she did not want to leave her father alone. Her mother at the age of 47 passed away with breast cancer. I had to give in to her request despite the fact that our kids and I will be away from her for sometime before March 18. Our kids had to finish the schoolyear and I had to make sure that things back home in Manila were running well, including the well-attended Tourism Negosyo last March 2 to 4 and the book signing event we had last March 16 with PGMA present in both events (see last week’s column). I also had to attend my grandmother’s centennial celebration at White Cross. My grandmother Doña Victoria Lopez Araneta is a true entrepreneur as she founded the country’s first civil airline flying the Iloilo-Manila-Hong Kong route called the Far Eastern Air Transport Inc. which later became FEATI University. She also founded Araneta University, but most of all, she started White Cross Society, an institution that gives shelter to orphans until they get adopted by a long waiting list of couples who cannot have children. We grew up being exposed to this institution either by inviting the children to celebrate our birthdays or going to White Cross and celebrating our birthdays there. So in memory of my grandmother, what could be more fitting and touching than to have her centennial celebration at the very institution that she helped establish.
I barely made it in time for my wife’s delivery. I arrived here on Sunday and by Monday, we were already in the hospital. My wife would have killed me if I were late but thank God I made it on time. In a way, we feel very blessed. When we least expected it, God has given us a great gift, not another acquisition of a business but a child at this time of our life. As entrepreneurs or negosyantes sometimes we fail to pause and look at our life. What have we accomplished? Sometimes we determine success by the amount of wealth or power we have achieved. Believe me, it is not easy and we are all guilty of this. It is a challenge to put our life in the proper perspective. As Stephen Covey says, to have a balanced life is what determines success and I am a true believer of this. The temptation that comes about to achieve material wealth and power is sometimes what draws a lot of successful entrepreneurs astray to what is important in life. Giving time for family, health and a spiritual life is equally important.
Giving back what one has achieved is equally important and I am glad that the 50 GoNegosyo entrepreneurs and the others who have joined this advocacy to inspire Filipinos that our country has a bright future have decided to give back thru mentorship and share their inspiring stories to everyone. We all want to achieve happiness and the constant challenge is indeed to try to achieve a balanced life, giving time to family, health, work and of course our spiritual life, which binds it all together. Among all of my achievements in life, I would say my family is still God’s greatest gift to me and now with Maria Isabella Alexandra, what could even be greater?