The Arrupe Office of Social Formation — the social formation arm of the Ateneo de Davao University — invited Joji and me as one of their resource speakers last 28 February 2023, for the event entitled “Love Stories: Paano Umibig sa Panahon ng Ligalig? The Way of Love in Troubled Waters”. This event is one of the activities in commemoration of the 32nd death anniversary of Jesuit Father General Pedro Arrupe. Our talk was part of a series of short talks and performances inspired by Fr Pedro Arrupe’s “fall in love, stay in love, and it will decide everything” and is grounded in Christ’s most fundamental teaching: love. Joji and I were so grateful for the privilege of sharing our harmonious view of love — that of loving the Creator, loving our being, loving others, and loving the whole creation.

Our fellow speakers in this love-event were Dr. Rhodora Gail T. Ilagan, Chairperson, Psychology Department, Ateneo de Davao University; and, Ms. Myla J. Leguro, Technical Advisor, Social Cohesion and Church Engagement, Catholic Relief Services. It was an honor for us to share share love stories with them.

Remembering Father Arrupe and his well-quoted statement on love

Jesuit Father Pedro Arrupe’s statement “fall in love, stay in love, and it will decide everything” has become well-known and beloved among the Ateneo de Davao University community because it encapsulates his message about the importance of love in guiding one’s life choices.

Pedro Arrupe was a Jesuit priest who served as the Superior General of the Society of Jesus from 1965 to 1983. He was known for his advocacy of social justice and his commitment to serving the poor and marginalized.

The quote itself comes from a longer message that Arrupe delivered in 1973 to a group of Jesuit volunteers. In the message, he encouraged the volunteers to approach their work with love and compassion, saying that “nothing is more practical than finding God, than falling in Love in a quite absolute, final way.” He went on to say that when one falls in love in this way, “decisions will necessarily follow.”

The message resonated with many people, and over time the quote “fall in love, stay in love, and it will decide everything” became a shorthand for Arrupe’s broader message about the importance of love in guiding one’s life choices. At Ateneo de Davao University, the quote is often cited as a reminder of the school’s Jesuit values and the importance of living a life guided by love and compassion.

Romantic love that flows through social justice

The event tackled the theme of love in all its forms — directed toward others, one’s faith, dreams, country, environment, and self. The organizers informed us that this event was designed “to be an avenue for students, faculty, non-teaching personnel, administrators, and alumni to gather, share, and listen to stories that awe, educate, and inspire.”

Joji shared her journey of love as a wife, as a mother, and as a social entrepreneur. She told her personal love story that has been intertwined with her professional journey as a social entrepreneur. She narrated the growth she has been experiencing as the co-founder and CEO of Coffee for Peace, Inc., a social enterprise based in Davao City, Philippines that aims to promote peace and reconciliation through the sustainable production and marketing of coffee.

The vivid story-telling of Joji, starting when she was born in the Philippines but spent much of her adult life in Canada, where she raised her three children with me, reminded me of how blessed I am for this life-partnership. In Canada, Joji became involved in various community organizations and worked as a Financial and Investments Consultant. Yet we always felt a strong connection to our homeland and a desire to make a positive impact in our Native Land.

After returning to the Philippines in 2006, we founded PeaceBuilders Community, Inc. (PBCI) and Coffee for Peace (CFP). Both PBCI, a non-government organization, and CFP, a for-profit corporation, were dedicated to justice-based peacebuilding and inclusive development. As a partner organization of PBCI, CFP works with small-scale coffee farmers in conflict-affected areas of Mindanao to help them improve the quality of their coffee and connect them with international markets. In doing so, the justice-based and peace-oriented inclusive development team of PBCI and CFP effectively promoted economic development and social cohesion in a number of communities.

As a socio-economic demonstration of love, Coffee for Peace has been recognized with numerous awards, including the 2020 Oslo Business for Peace Award. Through PBCI-CFP IncluDev initiatives, we have been able to combine our passion for promoting peace and reconciliation with our love of social entrepreneurial endeavours, and our love-energized commitment to help improve the lives of certain marginalized communities.

Alluding to the values expressed in the movie “Avatar: Way of Water”

This event was actually an annual social conscientization by the Arrupe Office of Social Formation. The organizers matched this activity with allusions to pop culture “to make it more relevant to the youth.” This year’s theme, “The Way of Love in Troubled Waters,” is inspired by Academy Award-winning director James Camerons’ Avatar: Way of Water — a film that, according to the Arrupe Office organizers, explores the capacity of “being compassionate to others and to creation while attempting to strike a balance between needs, desires, and what’s best for their families, communities, or futures.” They also tied this narrative to “how people navigated troubled waters with love, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

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