MW Bro. Agapito S. Suan, Jr.
102nd Grand Master of Masons
Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of the Philippines
PER ASPERA AD ASTRA: Through hardships to the stars.
A fitting maxim that would describe the life of our Grand Master, who rose from a life of obscurity and adversity to live a challenging yet fulfilling life as a man and as a mason.
THE EARLY YEARS
Adversity often prepares ordinary people, for an extraordinary destiny.
In his life’s journey, trials and tribulations were his constant fellow travelers. But instead of being tormentors, these companions became his best teachers and guide. They are the tools that sharpen and strengthen him to confront the obstacles in his path, and manfully overcome them.
He was face-to-face with hardship everyday. It brought home the painful truth that suffering is an essential ingredient of life. And so he embraced it as a friend. He discovered that adversity is a unique and incomparable gift. Its sublime purpose is not to hurt us, but to help us. It is the blunt instrument that life uses to correct us, to mold and hone us to become men of humility, integrity and purpose.
Most Worshipful Brother Jun hails from the beautiful city of Cagayan De Oro. He was born on November 20, 1958 in the rustic town of Sapang Dalaga, Province of Misamis Occidental. His parents, Agapito Duhaylungsod Suan, Sr. and Nieves Pilayre Sales, eked out a living from their small coconut farm. Life was hard and the income from the farm was barely enough to sustain a family of six.
The youngest of four siblings, two boys and two girls, he was the apple of his father’s eye. He even slept between his parents. That could be the reason why he remains the youngest child.
Being a farmer, his father rose with the roosters, and woke Jun up to accompany him to their farm. Thus, at the tender age of 5, Jun developed already the self-discipline to be an early-riser. Even now, half a century later, when he is his own boss and owns his time, he still gets up at cock’s crow.
We teach our children, not by our words, but by the life we live, he used to say. And so Jun has acquired the virtues of humility, patience and hard work from his father, who taught him by example. His father never finished elementary, yet he was accepted to serve in the police force in their hometown. His humility and patience earned him the respect of his peers. He was a popular choice by the police force to apprehend hard-core and deadly criminals, trusting him with his art of disarming criminals with his kind, persuasive approach, and he was able to bring them peacefully to the fold of justice.
Our loved ones never really leave us. They remain with us in the treasure chest of memories that we cherish in our hearts.
One of Jun’s inspiring boyhood memories was when he became a Boy Scout. He remembers how excited he was to participate in the town parade. But his joy turned to disappointment and sadness when he learned that he couldn’t join after all. He didn’t have the required pair of khaki short pants which was the uniform of the Boy Scout. Early in the morning of the parade, his loving mother quietly slipped away to the market. And just before the parade started, she rushed back, triumphantly waving the khaki short pants which she was able to dig up at the relief goods stall (now ukay-ukay). On that day, there was no happier Boy Scout than Jun, marching proudly in the parade, wearing his fitting ukay-ukay short pants!
Years later, life compensated Jun for the painful sting of its arrows. He became a member of the Board of Trustees of the Boy Scouts of the Philippines, Cagayan De Oro Chapter. It was a gratifying recompense for the poor Boy Scout who almost didn’t make it in the parade.
Jun’s talent for business surely comes from his mother. Even though Jun already had a flourishing advertising business, his Ma would also sell varied snacks and dried fish to his employees. When his father passed away, Jun’s mother lived with him and his family for 17 years until she too passed on to the Celestial Eternal City at the age of 86.
Jun has a poignant memory of his Papa, the thought of which makes him teary-eyed every time he recalls that deeply affecting scene with his father. He was already working as a clerk in a bank in Cagayan De Oro City. He had a small rented room in a nearby boarding house. It was noon time and one of the boarders told him somebody was asking for him downstairs. He peeked down from a window to see who it was. He saw a tired old man, in ragged clothes, wearing a battered hat and holding a shabby sack filled with marang fruit. It was his beloved father. He had a bumper crop of marang and he wanted his favorite boy to have a taste of it. His Papa endured the ten hours of bone-breaking travel by bus from Sapang Dalaga to Cagayan De Oro city just so his son can savor the delicious taste of his marang fruit.
Jun was so touched by the loving sacrifice of his father that he could hardly contain the tears of joy mixed with pity, as he tightly embraced his Papa. His father did not even notice that the marang had become soggy and messy from the bumpy ride, because Jun ate it with gusto together with his boardmates. Until now, Jun still has a penchant for the succulent marang fruit.
At the youthful age of 7, Jun already showed early flashes of business savvy when he hawked peanuts, boiled egg, and freshly-picked star apples and santol fruits to passengers at the bus terminals. What he missed with playing around with fellow teeners was amply compensated by the actual business education which became a valuable asset in later years.
At the impressionable age of 14, while other teenagers were enjoying their carefree youth, Jun was already hard at work as a janitor at the Immaculate Conception College in Ozamis City, which is now La Salle University-Ozamis. As a full-time working student, he was already up at the crack of dawn, diligently performing his job of sweeping, scrubbing the floor and cleaning classrooms and toilets. His boyhood habit of waking up early gave him a strong advantage to hurdle his job.
He owned only two pathetic pants. One had a hole in the butt, which he used for working. The other was slightly presentable, which he used for schooling. He had to finish his work early, so that the students won’t catch him in his tattered, “hole-in-the-butt” pants.
Life is a cruel taskmaster. As if being a school janitor was not difficult enough, Jun at the same time had to endure strenuous work as a houseboy with a family, to earn his free board and lodging. In time, this family that he worked for as a houseboy, became close to him. They stood as principal sponsors during his wedding to Girlie in 1982.
These are just a few glimpses of the crucible where Jun was molded and sharpened, to become the strong man of courage that he is today. Despite the crushing burden to survive, Jun never let resentment cripple his enthusiasm, nor let self-pity steal his hope. Instead of grumbling over his heavy cross, Jun used it as a bridge to cross over to the mountain of success. We think we carry our cross, but in reality, it is our cross that carry us!
During his solitary, soul-searching moments, Jun humbly acknowledges that if not for the poverty and obstacles, he will not reach the heights that he has achieved today. The obstacle is the path! God has already put in our hands the tools that we need to succeed. But many don’t use it because it entails sacrifice. If we don’t sacrifice for your dreams, our dreams become the sacrifice.
The Grand Master, MW Agapito S. Suan, Jr. during his younger years.
In 1977, Jun graduated with a degree in Bachelor of Science in Commerce, Major in Accounting, at a very young age of 18. His alma mater was the ICC-La Salle University Ozamis, whose floors and toilets he had diligently scrubbed and cleaned for three and a half exhausting yet exciting years.
To MW Bro Jun, education is the golden key that opened the door of opportunities to fulfill his cherished ambitions. His heart overflows with gratitude to ICC-La Salle University Ozamis, for its kindness in giving a poor struggling student a chance to build a bright future. His gratefulness took the form of generous contributions to the school’s scholarship program, which once supported him. In a stunning turnaround, the janitor has become the benefactor. In appreciation, his Alma Mater honored him as its Most Outstanding Alumnus in 2009. He served as one of its Board of Trustees for six consecutive years from 2007 – 2013.
After graduation, Jun’s father wisely advised him to leave their sleepy town of Sapang Dalaga and seek his fortune in the big, bustling city of Cagayan De Oro. Jun started his young professional career as Auditor of the now defunct Hotel Mindanao in Cagayan De Oro City. From here, he went to work in the banking industry for nine years, briefly with Solidbank (now MetroBank), and at the Philippine Bank of Communications (PBCom). This proved to be the destiny’s romantic call, as it was there at PBCom where he met his inspiration, the comely Ms. Clarissa Mae “Girlie” Gualberto, his future feisty lioness. Together they added four more frisky lion cubs to the pride.
In 1988, at the energetic age of 30, Jun ventured into the vast, challenging world of business. He resigned from the bank and received a separation pay of P70,000 pesos which he used as his start-up capital. To a man with ambition, this is the stairway to heaven. In business, the sky is the limit. Armed with nothing but optimism, enthusiasm and determination, Jun was not only wishing on a star, but striving to reach the stars.
While working as an employee of a bank, Brother Jun would spend his weekends nurturing a start-up t-shirt printing business as his pleasurable pastime. From what started out as a hobby, translated into a more serious business venture into the fabrication of lighted plastic/panaflex signs - the beginnings of what would later blossom into a full-grown outdoor advertising business with huge and spectacular billboards erected in strategic places all over the country.
The best investment on earth is earth. Tattooed in his mind was his father’s admonition that if you own a land and you’re willing to cultivate or develop it, you will never go hungry. Jun invested in land, and whacked his axe in the real estate business. He enhanced the pristine beauty of the rolling hills of Bukidnon by putting up a homely mountain resort there. He has investments in poultry farming, franchised fast-food chain, and owns a radio station, where Girlie hosts a daily motivational and spiritual program.
Jun believes that the measure of success is not how much wealth you have gained, but how much benefit others have gained from your success. Some of his civic affiliations include: YMCA Cagayan De Oro Chapter, Boy Scout of the Philippines, Cagayan De Oro Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Outdoor Advertising Association of the Philippines, Rotary Club of Uptown Cagayan De Oro (Paul Harris Fellow), and many others. His numerous philanthropies are known and recorded by Divine Handwriting alone.
EARLY DAYS: Our Grand Master, MW Agapito S. Suan, Jr. during his installation as Worshipful Master of Macajalar Masonic Lodge No. 184.
Brother Jun first knocked on the mystery-shrouded door of Freemasonry in 1980. He patiently waited four long years before he finally gained admission into the hallowed halls of Macajalar Lodge No. 184 of Cagayan De Oro City. This is an admirable test of his patience and tenacious desire to become a Mason. He was raised as a Master Mason in 1984 and became Worshipful Master in 1992, where he was awarded as the Most Outstanding Worshipful Master in the grand jurisdiction. When he descended from the Oriental Chair, he served in various capacities as Grand Lodge Inspector, District Grand Lecturer, and Junior Grand Lecturer. He again earned distinction by being adjudged as the Most Outstanding District Deputy Grand Master for 2001-2002 during the time of MW Napoleon Soriano.
In 1990, Jun donned his red fez as a Shriner under the Aloha Temple. He became a 33rd Degree Scottish Rite Mason with the title of Inspector General Honorary under the Mindanao Bodies of the Orient of Misamis Oriental and Bukidnon. In 2018, after a 28-year trek over the hot sands of the mystic Shrinedom, Jun was deemed worthy to wear the reverential fez of an Illustrious Potentate of Agila Shriners under the jurisdiction of Shriners International.
In a parallel universe, Brother Jun’s masonic journey surged to unprecedented heights in 2016, during the 100th Annual Communication in Tagaytay City. Against all odds and aided by faith-filled prayers, Jun was elected and installed as the Junior Grand Warden. And now at this (103rd) AnCom, he is poised to assume the Grand Oriental Chair and wield sovereignty as Grand Master of Masons of the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of the Philippines.
FAMILY COMES FIRST: The Grand Master, MW Bro. Agapito S. Suan, Jr. thinks that after God, a mason should always put premium on family moments.
As a family man, Jun savors the warmth of hearth and home with wife Girlie and four children; two boys and two girls, all of them professionals in their respective fields. Mainly brought about by the masonic influence of the doting father, Jun’s two sons who are Senior DeMolays, have joined the Craft. They are now active members of Macajalar Lodge No. 184, Jun’s mother lodge. His eldest son is a lawyer and a city councilor of Cagayan De Oro City. His eldest daughter is a member of the Rainbow for Girls and Job’s Daughters International. She is now happily married and residing in Australia. Her husband is a member of the Lodge Alpha No. 970 of Blacktown under the United Grand Lodge of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia. Jun’s third child Aga is a registered nurse but followed his dad’s penchant for business. His fourth child Mary is a psychometrician but helps in the family business.
A natural sportsman, Jun plays a mean game of golf, as attested by the numerous trophies he has won. But time is a temperamental master, indiscriminately scattering aches and pains in our golden years. Freemasonry is also a capricious mistress, demanding big chunks of time, energy and money. So the precious golf clubs are put aside at the moment, to be used mainly for ceremonial tee offs at fundraising golf tournaments.
In the autumn of his years, and enjoying the blessings of a life well lived, Jun is not about to slow down and ride his golf cart into the sunset. The best is yet to be! We are never too old to set new goals or dream new dreams. Yes we die, but we don’t have to retire. Jun is excited to step into his grand destiny, and lead the fraternity through relentless challenges and blazing paths of glory in 2019. The extraordinary is not in who we are, but in what we do. We do not decide to become heroes. We decide to do heroic things.
How MW Brother Jun’s brethren describe him:
In the struggling labors in both his career as businessman and as Mason, what he is where he is now, Most Worshipful and Illustrious Brother Jun Suan is easily best described by his brothers in the community of Freemasons and Shriners in unwavering unanimity of love and admiration. In one introduction of him as a keynote speaker in a district convention in Bukidnon, this was how the brother said of him: “All these accolades attributed to him do not make any imprint apparent and pompous upon his social bearing, his personality. No, he does not like to make himself stand over and above others. He has maintained himself to be as modest and humble, ‘on the level’ as can be, soft-spoken, unassuming, approachable and listening. This bespeaks truly of him as an exemplar of a better man and a mason.”
In the latest interview of him in his favorite hub that he actually owns, Ultra Winds Mountain Resort at the mountain top of Barangay Pualas, Baungon, Bukidnon which overlooks in spectacle panorama the city of Cagayan De Oro, he was as candid as modest as he carries himself in his aura, to admit how so thankful he has been to the Great Architect of the Universe for the many blessings showered on him. When he bought the property he never did have any idea of the gift from HIM just below the earth in the bosom of the mountain a natural supply of alkaline water more than he needed. He could not believe it, the water was just there below the ground waiting to be mined. As he did not expect to be in the pedestal of the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of the Philippines and of Agila Shriners as Potentate which he just recently relinquished, for him it is just destiny he cannot refuse. This is the element in him that connects him firmly to God that Sister Girlie who manages the radio station, also uniquely shares to acknowledge in her spiritual devotion so profusely spread in their ‘Radio Ultra’ daily broadcast programming.
Another prominent Brother Mason and Noble Shriner in Cagayan De Oro, PDDGM VW Brother Teodorico Capuyan succinctly said of him, thus:
“His amiable demeanor conceals the very satisfactory life he is leading that is the envy of his colleague. He remains humble in spite of his lofty stature not only in the Masonic Fraternity but also in the community where he lives.”