By Deedee M. Siytangco
For people in business, 2020 is just a year of staying alive. Don’t even talk about your dreams or plans. Just make sure you stay alive, then you made a profit already.—Jack Ma of Alibaba
This pandemic has taught us a lot of things. Many of us happily discovered our hidden talents to cook, cut our children’s or spouse’s hair, tend to our garden and grow edibles. Many learned to be more patient with each other and appreciate family members more, look after our kasambahay’s physical and mental health more carefully. These are valuable lessons from our lockdown, so we can bear the irritations and frustrations of being unable to walk freely where we want, including going to mass in our churches.
But if this quarantine taught us to look up at God and in humility ask Him for deliverance, then all our little inconveniences and sufferings would not have been in vain.
To some, like our businessman friend, civic worker, tourism and environmental advocate, gourmand and restaurateur, consul of Latvia Robert Lim Joseph, the lockdown proved to be very fruitful and fulfilling. Bobby was still able to attend to his civic duties and was elected to be 101st president of his beloved Manila Rotary Club. Bobby has been active in the Manila Rotary for many decades and was on the board. He brings to the presidency his passion for service for others, and under him it is expected that this club will continue to grow with committed members and accomplish more projects for the community.
It really is special to be a friend of Bobby. For someone who has been battling stage four cancer for nearly 20 years, he lives life happily, positively, and productively. And he offers his life to God through his devotion to Mother Mary.
Bobby, 70, is living life without a pinch of bitterness, allowing only positive emotions and thoughts to rule his day. Friends and family remember the years when it was “touch and go” with his cancer and its accompanying horrific side effects and pains. His strong faith comforts him every day. With a grateful heart, he fulfills his purpose in life as best he can.
He believes in miracles and his devotions include saying the rosary and going to mass daily, at least when churches were open. He is especially devoted to Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico and Mary Mediatrix of All Grace in Lipa. His best friend, Bobit Avila, introduced him to the Mediatrix and gave him a statue of her from Lipa. This Bobby treasures and he hopes to visit the apparition site soon. He is in awe that Bobit has already been to the apparition site and he is determined to go when “all of this is over!”
“I believe in miracles because Mama Mary gave me the miracle of hope and she has been constantly praying and interceding for me to Jesus! I am a walking miracle with stage four cancer since 2002,” he says.
Bobby is now a “cooperator” with Opus Dei and is happy with his new spiritual mission. Bobby wants to “align himself” to Jesus and His mother to his outreach programs. His very supportive wife, Ida Manalo, and their children, Robie, Rea, the late Richard, Riza, and River, are happy about Bobby’s spiritual leanings.
Wearing many hats, his numerous engagements and projects have kept him going. Besides being a staunch travel and tourism advocate, a passionate environmentalist, a champion of admirable causes, a wine connoisseur, and a businessman, he is also a diplomat (honorary consul general of the Republic of Latvia to the Philippines since 1994), an author, and a motivational speaker.
When he was appointed commodore of the Manila Yacht Club in November 2018, he strongly pursued his advocacy to save and restore Manila Bay’s lost glory. He launched the Save Manila Bay Project in January 2019 in collaboration with the Rotary Club of Manila where he formerly served as director.
Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Sec. Roy Cimatu was Bobby’s partner in cleaning the Manila Yacht Club area and the Manila Bay itself. They made a good team.
Bobby is leading some significant changes in trying to improve the country’s tourism landscape. He, together with Gawad Kalinga founder Tony Meloto, is also involved in a sustainable farm tourism project in San Jose, Batangas called “Paraiso Village Social Tourism Farm.” He is also vice chairman of the International School of Sustainable Tourism (ISST), with former Tourism Secretary Mina Gabor as president.
“It took 20 years for me to be here where I am accepting it despite my condition of living with cancer. I’m taking this challenge to make a difference with the help of my team and those who voted for me. I’ll be counting on your unlimited cooperation to surprise and delight the club, our community, our country, and the world,” Bobby told his fellow Rotarians during his virtual inauguration.
Bobby has laid down his strategic plans for his term. Besides enhancing connectivity among Rotarians, his advocacy for environmental protection echoes in his programs, including the Save Manila Bay Project, which he started two years ago, the promotion of clean water and tree planting projects across the country in collaboration with the DENR and other national and local government agencies, and other outreach programs.
You cannot stop a zealous and dedicated man like Bobby Joseph. He is full of energy and enthusiasm. And we all know no one can question his love for and expertise in tourism and the environment. He matches them only with the passion to serve others, which keeps the flame in him burning.
“We cannot be myopic but we need to ‘rotarize’ everyone and inspire other clubs that we are a super service organization. No one is a taker but a giver. ‘Service above self’ is why we are Rotarians because ‘Rotary Opens Opportunities,’ the theme of Rotary International for RY 2020-2021 under Rotary International president Holger Knaack,” he concluded.
Bobby is no saint, as he can also sometimes be too obstinate with his stand on issues and in his beliefs. He has his faults too, but he can admit them and start all over again.