Florante Marmolejo Catanus, 54, has ridden the crest of popularity to win the coveted Bagong Bayani (new heroes) Award for Social and Community Service in 2018.
Such popularity has been anchored on solid achievements based on competence, public service, and faith in God.
The Bagong Bayani Awards (BBA) recognize the most exceptional and exemplary Overseas Filipino Workers from the Philippines (OFWs). OFWs are recognized and honored for their contributions to fostering goodwill among people worldwide, improving and promoting the image of the Filipinos as competent, responsible, and dignified workers, and significantly contributing to the socioeconomic development of their communities and the Philippines.
In most cases, Saudi Arabia has been tolerant of religious practice, so in most cases, it has allowed expression of devotion by attending a Mass and saying prayers at home and in private places.
But Florante, his wife (the former Analiza Magno), and three sons have been discreet in their religious practice by attending Mass in Dhahran, a city located in Eastern Province, Saudi Arabia.
The couple was both members of the choir in the early 2000s. "I have been involved with the church since I was seven as an altar boy," he said.
He drew solace by being close to God when his father, Loreto, passed on when he was in Grade V.
His mother, Esperanza, followed him to the Great Beyond when he was about to graduate from college. Florante’s parents were both teachers.
After his father’s passing, his aunt took him to Jaro, Iloilo City in the Western Visayas region of the Philippines on the island of Panay, and Florante again became an altar boy at the Jaro Metropolitan Cathedral and the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Candles in Iloilo City.
He also joined the choir, which explains his good singing voice as he belts out inspirational songs on various occasions.
He was also a guitarist and was involved in Bible reading and giving out communion bread as a layperson. He has never done anything wrong outside of school, as far as he can remember.
He studied at the Jaro Elementary School, Jaro National High School, and Colegio de San Jose (CSJ) in Jaro, Iloilo City. He graduated Cum Laude with a degree of Bachelor of Science in Commerce majoring in Accounting in 1989.
CSJ is run by the Daughters of Charity, a congregation of Catholic nuns who have devoted their lives to serving the poorest and most abandoned individuals in today's society.
During his college days, Florante joined the outreach programs of the CSJ like jail visitation and doing community service in the adopted poor barangays in various places.
At present, he’s pursuing a Master of Business Administration degree from the Far Eastern University Roosevelt through distance learning.
Before trying his luck overseas, he worked in Makati (Manila) as an accounting supervisor at the Weekly Graphic Magazine for one and a half years, starting in 1990.
In 1992, he flew eastward to try his luck overseas. He worked in Jeddah (a Saudi Arabian port city on the Red Sea) for four years. On one of his annual vacations in the country, he paid a visit to his former school and met Ms. Analiza Magno, who was a college faculty member teaching Music, Art, Physical Education, and Health (MAPEH).
Analiza studied at the West Visayas State University in La Paz, Iloilo City, where she was a varsity team member playing tennis. After a three-year-long distant relationship (LDR), they tied the knot. They have been blessed with three grown-up boys: Rolf Azil, 22; Nikos Fluiz, 18; and Ranzil Emir, 14.
Asked how long more the family would stay in the Kingdom, he said, "We’re just waiting for the youngest to be ready for college."
If and when he and his family decide to call it quits and leave for good, Filipino old-timers in the Kingdom will remember him, his voice reverberating in the corridors of time, as he reported through The Filipino Channel (TFC) on OFWs in Saudi Arabia.
He’ll also be remembered as active in the Filipino community, catapulting himself to the presidency of the All Filipino Community and Sports Commission (AFCSCOM), an umbrella organization in the Eastern Region of Saudi Arabia, giving something of himself and time for the benefit of others.
His assistance has been sought for various purposes by one and all: the needy, students, and the less fortunate.
He has been rewarded with a good family, unadulterated friendship, and self-fulfillment that money can’t buy!
Radio Veritas Asia (RVA), a media platform of the Catholic Church, aims to share Christ. RVA started in 1969 as a continental Catholic radio station to serve Asian countries in their respective local language, thus earning the tag “the Voice of Asian Christianity.” Responding to the emerging context, RVA embraced media platforms to connect with the global Asian audience via its 21 language websites and various social media platforms.