Carlo Garcia of the Philippines
By Carlo Garcia
Laudato Si’ Animator, Philippines
I was not aware that God was leading me toward a new direction and preparing me for a new mission. It is only now, after putting the pieces together, that I understand and appreciate the big picture. I must say that I am in awe seeing myself in this beautiful picture, hand-crafted by God.
Let me tell you my story. I was nursing my wife who was stricken with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus, a debilitating disease with no cure. At the same time, I was taking care of our son, who at the time was in grade school. I was also working full-time.
God knows how much I loved them, I still do, of course. But with my imperfections, I felt stressed, drained, and deserted. With the sole intention of distracting myself from these recurring emotions, I enrolled in a summer program on environmental education. With my positive experience from this summer program, I eventually enrolled in a PhD program in Environmental Education.
God must have loved me very much because our Lord enabled me to balance my four different roles — being a husband, a father, an employee, and a student. It was a miracle that I was able to perform those roles very well. In those years, and until now, God was — and has been — my constant companion.
Despite my challenging circumstances, I saw the beauty of life. My various environmental subjects led me to explore the rich biodiversity in my country’s unique ecosystems. It was a respite from my problems — definitely not an escape. As I studied the science of the environment, I saw and experienced God’s presence in the forests, in the fields, in the seas, and in every corner teeming with life.
It was a paradox. I saw death slowly creeping into the frail body of my beloved wife, and at the same time I saw new life emerging as God continued to renew the Earth.
My dissertation was about the lives of selected environmental leaders in the Philippines. Through my in-depth interviews with them, I saw how the lives of these beautiful yet courageous souls evolved amid the challenges of the environmental movement in my country. I saw the future of the environment in their aspirations, and I still do. I saw the meaning of life, including my own life and our people’s lives, in their narratives.
After graduation, I was appointed to my current role as the Executive Director of the Environmental Studies Institute of Miriam College, Philippines. The task of raising the ecological awareness of our students and orchestrating ecological action among them and with various sectors is in my hands.
I also lead a reforestation project that involves community development. As we build people’s capacities to protect and manage their ecosystems, we also help empower them through education and livelihood. On the side, I teach graduate school subjects and facilitate trainings.
My wife graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental Planning. She pursued a Master’s Degree in Urban Regional Planning but discontinued the program when she got sick. She was the first environmentalist in the family. Before she passed away, she said she was happy that I somehow continued her mission. Yes, I did. I am proud to be the second environmentalist in the family.
Looking back, I did not realize that what I thought would be a rest from a stressful and lonely life would lead me to a new mission. Had I not trusted God and had I not allowed our Lord to navigate my seemingly confused life back then, I would not have reached this far. I became an educator for the environment because I allowed God to lead me to where I am now. I am happy being here.
I completed the Laudato Si’ Animators Program, and I plan to develop modules that will integrate faith, arts, and sciences. I commit myself to bring God’s presence to all of my educational work. May God continue to inspire and guide me as I continue this mission — a renewed mission.
This story was adapted from the November Laudato Si’ Resource. The spiritual resource is produced monthly for Laudato Si’ Animators, Laudato Si’ Circles, and everyday Catholics to use and help them grow closer to our Creator.