‘My Rainbow Run’
The past week has been depressing. The national budget of P3.8 trillion for 2019 is still up in the clouds with leaders from the Senate and the House of Representatives trading accusations about monkeying around with the ratified bicameral conference committee report. The nation suffers while the bickering over pork continues. To top it all, there is no water in our taps.
No budget, no water. What’s next?
Today we have an inspiring story that should lift our spirits and make us proud as a people. “My Rainbow Run” is the story of a man who, as the refrain from a popular song goes, “Was poorly born on the top of the mountain.” The song was known and sung by all the schoolchildren in La Trinidad, Benguet, where Orlando P. Peña was born in 1930. The small town of La Trinidad was named after the wife of a Spanish noble during the time of the Kastila.
The Peña family was not really poor. His father Jovencio Peña and mother Paula Peralta, both from Sarrat, Ilocos Norte, were schoolteachers, the first products of the American educational system. “Orly” could belt out the “Star Spangled Banner” better than most Americans, and could recite the names of every American president in consecutive order. In La Trinidad, he learned to “touch and play with the soil, with the flowers, the vegetables, the kids of other teachers and the mountain folk.” It was here where he learned not only to survive on what nature provided, but more importantly, to earn from this abundance. It was here that he first found out about “hotdogs.” The natives boiled the dried penis of a dog and drank the brew as a cure-all medicine. The penis was called a “hotdog.” American soldiers stationed in the Mountain Province brought back the term and gave it to their own version of a great snack food during athletic events and outings.
From a farm school in La Trinidad, Orly moved on to the big city, graduating from the University of the Philippines with a business administration degree that was almost denied because of too many extracurricular activities. After graduation, he went into personnel management, becoming one of the country’s most outstanding practitioners in this particular field. He served for four terms as president of the Personnel Management Association of the Philippines, and was honored by his alma mater as a Distinguished Alumnus of the College of Business Administration in the field of personnel management. He also served as personnel director for the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization in Bangkok, Thailand.
For his expertise, he was taken in by the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, the African Development Bank, and the UN Development Program as the lead trainer in their various development programs. He was codirector of the Trainers Training Program at the Economic Development Institute of the World Bank. Eventually, he was appointed secretary general of the Association of Development Financing Institutions in Asia and the Pacific, and the World Federation of Development Financing Institutions, the first Asian to hold this prestigious post. His work would take him all over Asia, including Mongolia and the Central Asian republics of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan. The Pacific island group including Vanuatu, Western Samoa, Cook Island, and the Marianas Islands were also part of his development responsibilities.
As a child, Orly suffered from asthma until age 17. The foreign travels would take a toll on his health. At 60, he broke his spinal column during one of his airport stopovers. At 72, he was diagnosed with cancer of the colon and several years later, he broke a leg while playing golf. For two years, he suffered much pain that painkillers or acupuncture could not relieve.
Orly says “the roads to healing are many and varied, and not all respond to the medication that works for others.” In the case of his asthma, inhalators, menthol rubs and Chinese balm had no effect. It was daily swimming that his PE instructor required of him, that did the trick literally “blowing out” his asthma. It was nutrition therapy that cured him of his colon cancer. The disease has not returned after more than 10 years. Orly believes that weakened cells brought about by poor nutrition is the cause of many of our ailments. For 44 long years, Orly was smoking two-and-a-half packs of cigarettes a day. One evening, listening to a preacher speaking on help for smokers, he decided to follow what he heard. He has not touched a single stick since then, and says “nothing is impossible with God.”
Last Thursday, Orly celebrated his 89th birthday in the pink of health. He continues to lecture at various management seminars throughout the country and is a eucharistic minister at the Rockwell mall in Makati. His “Rainbow Run” has been blessed by incredible success. He has had failures — his dream was to be a violinist — but as he points out, failures make success even sweeter.
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