May 21, 2011
Alex Lacson with his wife Pia and children Theo, Ally,
Angeli and John

Six years ago I read an article by Max Soliven about the late writer’s encounter with a Good Samaritan who gave him a ride when his car broke down. Then I also received several forwarded emails about the12 little things every Filipino can do to help our country written by a young lawyer, the same guy in Soliven’s story. Then a few years down the road I found myself voting for this guy to the Senate. A couple of months ago, I personally met and, together with my co parishioners at the Our Lady of Consolation, listened to a two hour storytelling by this same guy – Atty. Alex Ledesma Lacson.

          But before I go to his storytelling, I’d like to share with you some stories I gathered about Alex from the internet and from Alex himself. If you google Alex Lacson, you will see that he is already in Wikipedia. 

          Alex hails from Negros Occidental. When we asked him if he had any relations to the rich Lacsons in his hometown, he said, “There are two kinds of Lacson in our province: the rich ones and the good looking ones.” Then he flashed a timid smile to deliver the punch line, “I don’t belong to the rich Lacson clan.”

          The seventh of eight children, Alex grew up in Kabankalan, Negros Occidental. His mother was a public school teacher while his father had a small business. Unfortunately, his father abandoned them when Alex was 14 years old, leaving his family with financial burden and somehow a shame of being a broken family. The five older children left home to find work and probably to escape the shame. This brought a lot of sadness and challenges to their family, which could have led Alex to the wrong path. I asked him how he coped with this period in his life. This is what he said, “When my father and mother separated while I was in high school, I saw how my mother cried and suffered a lot. I guess that pushed me to do my best. So I studied hard. Before I finished my 4th year high school, I already started looking for scholarships so I could pursue college.”

          Aside from his mother, Alex was likewise influenced by priests, “I grew up very close to Mamang. Whenever she went to church, I would always go with her. Eventually, I became an altar boy and was introduced to and became very close with some very idealistic and patriotic priests. Mamang and the priests heavily influenced me and my thoughts.”

          Alex was successful in a finding scholarship. After his high school graduation in 1982, he attended the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) where he studied for three years. Then he moved to the University of the Philippines (UP) to take up political science and law where he was a working student. He was a professor’s assistant during the day and a bank telemarketer at night. His sister who worked in Japan also helped him with his student’s expenses. He finished law in 1996 and in 2002 he took post graduate studies at Harvard Law School in Cambridge, Massachusetts. By that time we could really say that our young lad from Kabankalan has come a long way.

          But between Kabankalan and Harvard, Alex life had its colorful turns and spins worthy of a teleserye. In 1990 his ailing father went back home. Alex was then in his 20s. It was not just about to end with a simple forgiveness and a happy ending. For during this time, Alex learned that he had a half-brother. His father sired a househelper. Unfortunately, his father did not acknowledge the boy as his son, even until he passed away three years later. But Alex knew he was his half-brother for he looked very much like their father. He looked for him and found him in one of the poor towns in Palawan where he was a fisherman living in a bahay kubo with his wife and three children. Alex was moved and decided to give him the love and care withheld by their father. He helped support his half-brother’s family by sending his children to school. The half brother is now a messenger at the Palawan State University, a job he got with Alex’s help. The oldest son is now working in Makati while the two younger ones are studying.

          Alex is just thankful of his blessings that he readily shares them with those in need. One of his sisters was diagnosed with breast cancer while she was pregnant with her sixth child. When she passed away, Alex took the responsibility of sending her children to school and adopted the infant.

          From the time he started working, Alex has been saving up for a 3,800 square meter lot in his hometown Kabankalan. He plans to subdivide this among his siblings so they could live together. Today that lot has been fully paid.

           His generosity goes beyond his family. He now has several scholars on top of his family scholars and is building a chapel in Kabankalan. All these generosity come from his awareness of his blessings. Alex is a happy family man. He married his law school sweetheart Pia who is now a corporate lawyer. They have four children – Theo (14 years old) incoming high school sophomore, Ally (12) incoming 7th grader, Angeli (10) incoming 6th grader, and John (5) pre-schooler. His little book entitled 12 Little Things Each Filipino Can Do For Their Country is now a big best seller having sold over 125,000 copies. He is a well sought out speaker and he has received many awards – Galing Pilipino Award in 2005, Young Filipino Achiever’s Award in 2006 given by Global Pinoy, Model Filipino award in 2009 given by the Edsa People Power Commission, Best Filipino Linguistic award in 2009 given by M.I. International School in 2009, among others.

          Despite all these accolades, Alex remains a humble man. During his talk in our parish, he regaled us with numerous stories in his soft-spoken voice. His stories ranged from Michelangelo’s detailed painting of the ceiling of the Sistine chapel, to the life cycle of the eagles of the wild, to his dormmate who read one hour everyday to fulfill his dream of becoming the editor-in-chief, to Cecille Salarga, a very poor lady who sold peanuts and patiently worked and grew her business to a multi-million endeavor, to the rise of Singapore to first world status.

          He told us all these stories to make a very important point: There is great power in small things. All his stories show how the small everyday things can eventually make a huge impact and result into significant transformations. He also narrated to us a very personal story – that of their decision whether to migrate to another country or not.

           After the process he and Pia went through, they decided to stay and Alex ended up writing his now bestselling book entitled 12 Little Things Every Filipino Can Do To Help Our Country. These are:

  1. Follow traffic rules.
  2. Always ask for an official receipt whenever you buy anything.
  3. Don’t buy smuggled goods. Buy local. Buy Filipino.
  4. Talk positively about us and our country especially when you talk to foreigners.
  5. Respect your traffic officer, policemen and soldier.
  6. Do not liter. Dispose your garbage properly. Segregate. Recycle. Conserve.
  7. Support your church.
  8. During elections, do your solemn duty.
  9. Pay your employees well.
  10. Pay your taxes.
  11. Adopt a scholar or a poor child.
  12. Be a good parent. Teach your children to follow the law and love our country.

           I ended up checking myself how well I do in ticking this list. I’m pretty happy with my score. How about you, what’s your score?

Rose Fres-Fausto

Alex has come up with supplementary pamphlets to the book: “12 Little Things Our Filipino Youth Can Do To Help Our Country” and “12 Little Things Our Senior Citizens Can Do To Help Our Country.” He recently launched his new book “12 Little Things Global Filipinos Can Do To Help Our Philippines” when he went to Las VegasChicago and New York.