A ‘Cannonball Conversation’ with Fr. Bobby Yap, SJ

In celebration of Ignatian Month, Radyo Katipunan 87.9 FM aired the first episode of its “Cannonball Conversations” last Tuesday afternoon, July 6.   

Streamed live via the ‘Voice of the Blue Eagle’s Facebook page, no less than University President Fr. Bobby Yap, SJ guested on the hour-long program hosted by Ms. Mhir De los Santos (Office of Mission and Identity)—where different members of the Ateneo community will share poignant experiences that reflect God’s workings in their lives.

Recalling his younger days as a timid college student who would take afternoon siestas in his Cervini dorm room, it took one eventful summer vacation for Fr. Yap to change his life’s entire outlook and direction.

Noong malapit na matapos yung school year, naimbita ako sa immersion. Work camp for six weeks sa Antique. Nakilala ko doon si Governor Evelio Javier. This was 1978, pre-EDSA Revolution. I remember him talking to us over dinner, assigning us to help the experimental farm, which was a livelihood project for farmers,” he told.

“It opened my eyes to social concern and involvement, doing these out of faith. It was there where I met like-minded people who took being ‘men for others’ seriously. Two years later, naging president ako ng Ateneo CLC (Christian Life Community), at doon ko nakilala sila Jett Villarin at Danny Huang. When I was graduating, I realized that my plan—doing economics, working at a bank—had to change.”

When asked about how he was able to process a great internal shift as a young adult, Fr. Yap cited the importance of having a strong support system of genuine friends and mentors.

“My friends and our community, we were all ‘co-pilgrims’, all looking for meaning, developing concern for the country, learning how to pray together. We would do seminars where we had great speakers like Fr. Archie Intengan SJ and Fr. Tony Lambino SJ. I’ll always remember how Fr. Ben Nebres SJ, would spend time with us.”

Years later, while taking on the role of the Society of Jesus Philippine Province’s treasurer, a fateful visit to the doctor and succeeding CT scan would hurl yet another ‘cannonball’ towards Fr. Yap.

“They found a lump in my kidney that they had to remove. Sabi ng doctor sa akin, ‘swerte mo the cancer cells were still in the sack’. My main insight was, ‘God still has a mission for me’. May pagagawa pa ang Diyos sa akin,” he realized.

“I lived the experience of what ‘indifference’ means. Through sickness or health, what matters is what will lead to God’s glory, what will lead to doing His will. You really learn to place yourself in God’s hands.”

Looking back at his 39 years of Jesuit life, Fr. Yap acknowledges that difficulties and moments of darkness, do dampen some of his days—such as nursing a fractured knee while directing Typhoon Sendong relief efforts as President of Xavier University. However, it is in these trials when he is most reminded of “how God’s love and mercy hold you, how we are infinitely loved.”

“Do not deny the pain, confusion, and darkness—but do not get consumed by it. Believe in the God of surprises. Be open to the God of surprises. Be ready to be led out of your comfort zones, as these can be moments of grace,” advised Fr. Yap.

As he returns to his task of leading the university through the many uncertainties of the pandemic, Fr. Yap prays that the Ateneo community finds consolation in God’s presence and in the lessons of their beloved patron saint.

“A real grace this Ignatian year is that we are invited to conversion. Pope Francis says that when we are in ‘cannonball moments’ like these, we either come out better or worse. I think the challenge is for us to come out better and dream,” he affirmed.

“Ignatius shows us that. He is a witness to that. For the Ateneo community, we’re aiming for a different type of resilience. We’ll come out a better and stronger university, because of and in spite of the crisis.”  

YouTube link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SN87fpxrKaU

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