In 1959 or thereabout, I was studying as a self-supporting student , third year in high school at Feati University in Sta. Cruz, Manila. As I was a working student, I attended classes at night since I had to sustain my daily expenses with a modest income from selling.
During daytime, I persistently went from house to house, door to door, offering to them the statues of the Sacred Heart of Jesus or Christ The King for their altar and enthronement in their homes especially the big new ones.
My very first personal encounter with the Devotion of the Sacred Heart was during my third year high school in around 1959 at Feati University. Every First Friday of the month then, the owners of Feati, Don Salvador and Dona Victoria Araneta offered an irresistible incentive to all who would attend First Friday Mass, confess and receive Holy Communion; a free snack of sandwich and a bottle of soft drink thereafter.
I've almost always availed of it because as a Catholic and Christian, I firmly believe in God. At the same time, it was a big deal to have a good meal, which was hard to come by and not easily affordable for me that time. Little did I know that it was the beginning of a lifelong devotion to the Sacred Heart.
After a long while, I realized that I became closer, more inspired, intimately devoted to the Sacred Heart and have started the faithful practice of passionately attending First Friday Masses, Confession, and Holy Communion, as much as humanly possible.
The Sacred Heart is faithfully true to His Promise of sustaining me in my daily necessities, as I was able to finish my high school in Feati, despite tremendous difficulties and unbearable hardships; which I eventually survived by selling the statues of the Sacred Heart and Christ The King.
In January 1967, my girlfriend, Tita Campos who was then working in Citizens Bank in Juan Luna St. near Sta. Cruz Church in Manila and I started to pray the Novena almost every First Friday and even ordinary Fridays at the Sta. Cruz Church during her lunch break. We continued such practice for several months.
Sometime in April 1967, during our Novena prayer with Tita beside me, in front of His statue, I most sincerely and humbly petitioned my urgent request as I told Him, "All throughout my life, I've always been working and fervently praying that my struggles, sufferings, hardships, poverty, hard works and endeavors be rewarded but until that time, He has yet to grant it."
To the Sacred Heart I pleaded, "I fervently and urgently ask you my Lord that You please grant us now the immediate approval of my contract with the Department of Public Works and Communications for the supply of asphalt, which was long pending in Malacanang Palace; since Tita and I would like to get married soon." I was so intense, passionate, emotional and sincere in that desperate moment that tears streamed down from my eyes, I cried openly inside the Church.
Shocking and to my pleasant surprise, on May 23, 1967, the long awaited contract was finally approved by the Office of the President, and thereafter I immediately started implementing my first million peso contract and business. I told Tita, this was indeed a miracle, and an answered prayer.
With the help and grace of the Sacred Heart, Tita and I had a beautiful grand wedding on December 16, 1967 at the Santuario de San Antonio Church in Forbes Park, Makati City. Thereafter, we had our reception at the plush new and swank fine dining restaurant, The Plaza, likewise in Makati.
To show my sincerest appreciation and heartfelt gratitude to the good Lord, I proudly wore my Sacred Heart Scapular during our wedding ceremony inside the Church, as officiated and blessed by Archbishop Reyes. It was then and still is a first and unique memorable experience for me to demonstrate and give sincerest thanks to the Sacred Heart for His kindness.
That particular momentous event of the fulfillment of one of the Sacred Heart's Promises was immortalized in a picture on our wedding album. To this very day, this very same Scapular of the Sacred Heart is still with me about 44 years from the time I acquired it, and was recently blessed by no less than His Eminence, Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales at the Archbishop's Palace.
After more than a year and upon completion of the aforesaid contract with the government, Tita and I decided to go back into our small private business, which is the retailing and export of costume jewelries and other Philippine handicrafts which we previously started prior to my asphalt business and even before we got married.
I've always acknowledged the great mercy and kindness the Sacred Heart has so generously given to me and my family. This is the reason why since January 1973 and up to the present time, it has been my annual and continuous commitment to donate rice, milk or other items to the Institutions of Hospicio De San Jose, Monasterio De Sta. Clara, The Missionaries of Charity of Blessed Mother Theresa and The Pink Sisters; twice a year during my birthday in July and Christmas time.
In 1974, I discovered, pioneered and started the export of Puka Shell which became a big boom in the USA, Europe, South America, South Africa, and even Asia. That enabled me to travel around the world to sell Puka Shell and other Philippine handicraft, while my wife Tita took care of the supply and shipment of our products to our importers from different countries.
In all my endeavors as a businessman and family man, my wife Tita was always there to provide me with unwavering love, trust and support. Truly, the Sacred Heart was kind enough to bless me with a loving wife and mother in the person of Tita as the fulfillment of two of His 12 Promises; which were to give peace to my growing family and bestow abundant blessings upon all our undertakings. I gratefully thank and consecrate my family to His Most Sacred Heart, as we are about to celebrate our 40th Wedding Anniversary in December 16 of this year.
When I was in Rio De Janeiro in mid 1980's, I made it a point to visit the 7th Wonder of the World-famous huge Shrine of Jesus The Redeemer, and was enthralled and awed to the point of inspiration. Since then, I've always been thinking of the possibility of erecting a Shrine of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in the Philippines with the help of private individuals or groups particularly the Catholic Church. For this Divine Purpose, I've continuously prayed to the Sacred Heart that if this be His Will, then it shall be done accordingly.
Providentially, I was introduced by Fr. Prex Fajardo about a couple of years ago to His Eminence, Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales and informed him about my proposed Sacred Heart project after the good Cardinal celebrated the Sacred Heart Feast Day Mass at the National Shrine of the Sacred Heart in Makati City.
In one of my visits with His Eminence at the Archbishop's Palace in Intramuros, he informed me about the arrival of a world-renowned Filipino priest-healer, Fr. Fernando Suarez, based in Ottawa, Canada who was coming to Manila.
Fr. Suarez' ministerial group of Mary Mother of the Poor Order in Canada was to discuss definite plans to build, construct and develop a huge and sprawling pilgrimage worship and tourism-related project for local and foreign tourists and visitors to be built in a scenic mountain island situated near Batangas City, breathtakingly surrounded by the Pacific Ocean.
In May 2007, after the good Cardinal introduced me to Fr. Fernando Suarez, right then and there, we immediately agreed to consider and study my proposed project for establishing the monumental Shrine of the Sacred Heart of Jesus within the same mountain island vicinity where the aforesaid project was envisioned.
Since the location is only about 14 kilometers from Batangas and can be reached easily by car, it will surely be conveniently accessible to many future local and foreign pilgrims and devotees alike.
On July 18, 2007, as Fr. Fernando Suarez returns to Manila, he and I will meet with His Eminence Cardinal Rosales to discuss details of this project. May the Sacred Heart guide me, as I bring along reputable design and engineering advisers to discuss installation plans of the Image of the Sacred Heart and the possibility of starting it soonest.
We are hopeful and confident that with the grace and blessings of the Lord, and through the kind assistance, invaluable prayers of the benevolent Cardinal Rosales, Fr. Suarez and all others who will join and help us in this endeavor, we will be able to push through with this special and important project into a reality.
In the book I recently wrote and which was launched last December 7, 2006, Be Your Own Boss! The Puka King Story, I mentioned clearly and discussed lengthily many of the blessings, help, assistance and fulfilled promises the Sacred Heart of Jesus lovingly bestowed upon me and my family. I shared these stories to bear witness to His great Magnanimity and Infinite Mercy.
Through the unwavering help and guidance of the good Cardinal, I was recently interviewed twice as a resource person at Radio Veritas station in Mr. Mel Acuna's radio program. I've been passionately committed in promoting my book to inspire the youth, students, the overseas foreign workers (OFWS) and their dependents, among others, so as to strongly encourage them to become independent businessmen and energetic entrepreneurs instead of being lifelong passive employees and migrant workers.
Likewise, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Department of Labor are assisting me to promote my book around the world where there are many OFWs, through their embassies, consulates and labor attaches. They have been most helpful in initial communication efforts with Filipino leaders in several countries through their good offices.
To demonstrate my personal commitment, from September 1 to October 24, 2007, I'm going to embark on a working visit to personally inspire and convince our OFWs and their dependents stationed in Paris, Madrid, Barcelona, London, Rome, Milan, and other European cities as well as Riyadh and Dubai.
My ongoing mission is to persuade our OFWs there with the help of our embassies, consulates and labor attaches, to work hard, save and start a business of their own to become self-made entrepreneurs in their home country and become economically self-reliant; instead of being financially dependent on foreigners, working in foreign lands away from home, their family and loved ones.
Most of all, I'm forever grateful for the numerous and abundant blessings bestowed by the Sacred Heart to my family, as my wife and I were able to provide the best possible education to our children, Cristina, Anthony and Howard.
They had finished with flying colors and graduated in three of the best colleges and universities in the United States; Cristina from Boston University, Economics, Cum Laude; Anthony from Boston College, MBA-Finance; and Howard from Rhode Island of School Design, Architecture and Fine Arts, respectively.
It is by the continued blessings of the Sacred Heart that Tita and I were able to simultaneously build a successful family and a modest prosperous business, which we started from scratch from day one of our marriage when the Lord without fail generously rewarded my fervent and persistent prayers.
Truly and honestly, I believe that I could not thank the Sacred Heart of Jesus enough for what He has generously given us, for we will not be where we are now it not because of Him. As I say this to you, as He has done to me, so He will do for you, if you faithfully ask, seek and knock to His Most Sacred Heart.
With the continuing guidance, enlightenment, and assistance coupled with strong faith, determination, invaluable help and prayers of His Eminence Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales and Fr. Fernando Suarez, our friends, supporters and devotees of the Sacred Heart, there is reasonable ground to believe that this valuable and important project in honor of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, His Will shall be done accordingly in His time.
For more information about the inspirational book, BE YOUR OWN BOSS, The Puka King Story, please link to www.pukaking.com and email firstname.lastname@example.org
HERNANDO M. VITAS
Chairman and CEO
The Providence-Vitas Foundation, Inc.
Author, BE YOUR OWN BOSS! The Puka King Story
The Providence Tower
2471 Leon Guinto St., corner
Estrada St., Malate, Manila
Tel. (632) 524-4714 / (632) 525-9099