How my Faith, family walked me on my journey to becoming a writer

The author was baptized a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Philippines when he was 10, the same religion people used to call ‘Mormons.’

By Mark Polo Eyo

When I was offered the extraordinary privilege to become the Communications Lead for NaFFAA, I asked myself if I was ready to play that significant role in amplifying our voice through writing for our Filipino American community. I felt the heavy burden of following the great footsteps of master communicators and writers who came before me. Upon pondering, I realized that my life journey had prepared me well for this great responsibility. 

My Faith. My faith has significantly impacted my life growing up in the Philippines.

I was baptized a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Nueva Ecija, Philippines, when I was 10. This is the same religion people used to call “Mormons”, because of The Book of Mormon. Our faith has 833,045 members in the Philippines alone, which means 1 in every 132 Filipinos is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Our worldwide membership is close to 18 million.

I grew up reading The Book of Mormon and the Holy Bible in English regularly. I learned to read and pronounce complex English words from the scriptures. Reading several church materials exposed me to a variety of ideas and helped improve my writing skills. 

I grew up in the church.  During Sunday meetings, I became comfortable sharing and speaking about God and His teachings with members and non-members alike. I also gained the crucial communication skill of actively listening to other people’s opinions and ideas. Through this experience, I observed firsthand the reality of Theodore Roosevelt’s powerful quote, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Most importantly, I developed the skill of communicating with God through prayer. These basic communication practices laid the foundation for the skills I need as a writer in this modern day.

Mark’s family at the LDS Philippine Temple in Quezon City.

My Church-service Mission. At age 18, I decided to serve a full-time church service mission. It required me to leave home to teach people about Jesus Christ. I was assigned to serve in Negros Occidental, where I learned two additional languages. To teach the wonderful Negrense people about God, I became fluent in Hiligaynon and Cebuano. Learning to speak fluently in these two languages did not come quickly, but it did eventually come. It came after a month of countless prayers, practices, and conversations with native speakers. This is the principle I apply when I write today. I write because our Filipino American voice needs to be heard, and people must learn about our great history.

My Mentors. My writing journey was paved by mentors who taught me how to express myself in writing, from my English teacher, Mrs. Andrea Soliman in the Philippines at Juan R. Liwag Memorial High School; to my English and Political Science professors Dr. Neil Andersen and Dr. Brian Houghton, during my undergraduate years in Brigham Young University-Hawaii; to my graduate school professors at the BYU Marriott School of Business, Dr. Kurt Sandholtz and Dr. Rob Christensen in the MPA Program. My mentors taught me that writing requires patience just like a journey. Writing requires planning, researching, brainstorming, drafting, receiving feedback, and lots of revising. When done correctly, it is not just the ability to report events and express ideas, but also the power to unite people and shape the future.

From 2013 to 2015, Mark serves his full-time church service mission in Negros Occidental.

My Family. My journey to becoming an effective communicator and writer would not be complete without my family.

My father, Antonio Eyo, taught me the value of sacrifice through his example as an Overseas Filipino Worker for almost 26 years.  His example taught me that producing the best write-ups will require sacrifice. It is in the example of seeing my mother, Lourdes Eyo, work diligently until very late at night preparing for the Business and Accounting classes she will teach the next day that I learned not to give up when tired. It is in seeing my younger brother, Mikee, exemplify humility as he navigates his new role of being a young father that I learned to humble myself and be not afraid to ask for help if needed. Finally, with our bunso Macky’s example of showing patience and grace as he navigates a lot of unknowns as he decides which career path to pursue, I learned the value of learning how to enjoy the rain instead of waiting for the rainbow.

Whether through faith, life, or school, I believe anyone can find inspiration in their life journey to become a better writer and communicator. We have a great Filipino American history that deserves to be preserved and shared for generations to come. These include stories of sacrifice and resilience that will inspire the Filipinos of tomorrow. It is our responsibility to write our history in this great American history – a history book in which we are almost always forgotten.

As Jose Rizal once said, “To foretell the destiny of a nation, it is necessary to open the book of her past.”

Let us write to teach and inspire future Filipinos. The feeling of waking up every morning to write history motivates me to write, even when I am tired. I have the sense that the things I write might one day help shape the future of our great Filipino American community.

As the acting Student Body president for Brigham Young University-Hawaii from 2019 to 2020.

Mark Polo Eyo is the Communications Lead for the National Federation of Filipino American Associations. He is a native of Gapan City, Philippines, and currently resides in Orem, Utah. He is a graduate of the Brigham Young University Marriott School of Business Master of Public Administration Program. Outside of NaFFAA, Mark currently works full-time for a tech company in West Jordan, Utah, and is a Provo City Council staff member. 

(C) The FilAm 2022



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