THE FILIPINO CHAMPION: RICO MARQUEZ, AGAINST ALL ODDS

By Henni Espinosa, ABS-CBN North America Bureau

Mar 18, 2013

MILL VALLEY, Calif. – Life has not been easy for 33-year old Rico Marquez, who grew up in Leyte, Philippines. He was six years old when he was stricken with polio. He said, “I remember one time, I had to crawl all the way to school. When I had crutches, my classmates would laugh at me. They would take my crutches away. Some adults would taunt me, saying, ‘Why are you walking like that?’ I just kept silent. But it was very painful.”

He said that even his own family did not want anything to do with him. He said, “My brothers would tell me, ‘You are good for nothing. You should just die.”

At 14, he thought he had no one else to hold on to, so he turned to God and became a Christian. He said, “Suddenly, I could walk without any support, without any crutches. This is the work of the Lord.”

Rico shared that his father threw him out of the house because of his newfound religion. So Rico lived in a wooden shed behind a pastor’s house. He said, “He had a big family so that was the all he could provide for me. I lived there for three years while I attended high school. He taught me how to conduct Bible studies and training workshops in church.”

While earning his Bachelor’s Degree in Theology at the Baptist Theological College in Cebu, Rico would travel to three towns on foot every week — to preach the Gospel.

Rico was ordained in 2003 and became a pastor at the Metropolitan Heritage Baptist Church in Iligan City, Mindanao, an area surrounded by poverty and rebel activities.

In 2008, he expanded his ministry and moved to California, through the sponsorship of the Trinity Baptist Church in the town of Rodeo.

A year after, he began taking classes at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary in Mill Valley, where he also received financial aid. To support his wife and two young children, Rico works as a janitor in the seminary from midnight to nine in the morning.

Rico believes hard work and sheer determination allowed him to finish two master degrees, one in Divinity, which he finished last June, and another in Educational Leadership, which he finished last December.

During his graduation, he was awarded the William O. Crews Presidential Leadership Award, the highest recognition given to a student at the Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary. He became the first Filipino to receive such an honor.

Jeff Iorg, president of the Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary said, “His story of how he came to the seminary is moving and inspirational. Once he arrived here, we were even more impressed with how hard he worked to make his way through seminary.”

Rico preaches at the East Bay Baptist Church in Alameda and teaches a Bible training course there for church leaders every Sunday. He also founded a church for Filipinos in Pinole.

He and his family now live inside the Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, where his wife, Marge, is taking up a Masters Degree in Educational Leadership.

Marge said she wants to help Rico in his plan to open a seminary in the Philippines. She said, “It has been his passion to study more, so he could help other leaders and teach them.”

Rico’s success in the U.S. did not stop him from reaching out to his family in the Philippines. He said, after years of estrangement, he and his family in the Philippines have rekindled their ties.

He hopes his story would serve as an inspiration to other Filipinos, who find themselves in desperate situations. He concluded, “Have faith that you have the potential, the capacity to succeed. God will give you strength to finish and accomplish your dreams.”

If you know a kababayan like Rico Marquez who inspires you and makes you proud, you may nominate him/her by sending an email to thefilipinochamp@abs-cbni.com or calling (650) 508-6137.

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