A New Beginning: An Interview with Former Quirino Governor Josie Co

A New Beginning: An Interview with Former Quirino Governor Josie Co

by Alvin Tud

“Many years ago, I was involved in politics. I was former vice-governor, and later governor of the province of Quirino. I’m the 13th child in our family. My mom was a widow when she married my father, and I was the only child they had together.

“I was always “in authority.” Even when I was still young, I forced my parents to submit to me. My half brothers and half sisters were afraid of me. Nobody opposed me. “Whatever Josie wants, Josie gets!” That was my life, and I carried it on into marriage.

“When it came to decision-making, I was always on top. My relationship with my husband was not really good. I didn’t want to submit to him; I didn’t want to serve him. He was the one who served me. In our case, he was a battered husband. I thank God that in our 22 years of marriage, Albert never thought about leaving me.

“My children obeyed me, not because they loved or respected me, but because of fear. I didn’t have time for them. They had a tutor and a nanny so the “mother and child” relationship didn’t occur in our family.

“When I was still serving as vice-governor, a pastor came to our house and tried to share the Word of God. I was busy playing mahjong with my friends. At that time, my hobby was gambling. I told the pastor that from grade 1 through high school, I was first honor in religion so I already know what’s in the Bible. I told him I didn’t have time for him, but he stayed the whole day. About six o’clock, I told him, ‘Okay, if you want to do a Bible study, you can do it at my sister’s house,’ since my sister, of course, could not refuse me. Then I also allowed them to have a Bible study in the Capitol since I was the acting governor that time.

“In 1992, after my term as vice-governor, I ran for governor but I lost. I thought that was the end of my political career. When the pastor came back, after the election, I persecuted him. ’Where is the God you are telling me about?’ I questioned. ‘Because if there is really a God, why is it that He was not able to see that my heart wants to serve the people? Why did your God allow me to lose in the election?’ But still, the pastor persisted.

“In 1995, I ran for governor again and won. But before that, I had a car accident. I remember, after the crash, I asked for God’s forgiveness. I said, ‘Lord, forgive me. If ever you will get me, so be it, but please give me a chance to serve my people.’ Miraculously, I survived. If you saw the car, you wouldn’t believe na nabuhay ‘yung…(pasahero).

“I thought I was already a born-again Christian because when I got elected, I employed various pastors to serve in my office. My executive assistant was a pastor. I instructed him to have devotions before the staff started work, but I didn’t join them. Ang akala ko dun, if I hired pastors, I would be successful in my work. So, if I went to a meeting in Manila, I asked the pastors to pray for my protection or pray that a resolution would be approved by the President. After the request was granted, I would call and say, ‘Convene the people there and thank God because it has been approved.’

But when I arrived back in Quirino, I would meet the leaders and tell them, ‘You thank the President because he approved our request.’ I’d forget all about God. As a governor, the words that came out of my mouth were not meant to be spoken. I continued with my vices. I still didn’t submit to my husband. We fought every day. In 1998, I lost reelection. I forgot all about the pastors.

“Once we went to my sister’s house. She was a Christian. When we arrived at her house, she was fighting with her husband because of the lechon they gave to their church’s anniversary celebration. Her husband wanted to have 1/4 of the lechon. My husband told me, ‘To stop this quarrel, Josie, you have to go. Take along your daughter and their daughter. ’So we went to the church with the mission of getting a large portion of the lechon. We sat at the back, laughing, and giggling because of all the hallelujahs. We thought they were out of their mind because sometimes they would laugh, and then clap, and then dance, but when the speaker started to share the Word, I felt uneasy. I couldn’t understand how I felt. At the end, the preacher pointed at me and said, ‘The Lord said, ‘You did not choose me but I have chosen you. Go and bear fruit, fruit that will last. And, whatever you will ask of my Father, you will receive through me.’ I got shocked. I was crying as I ran to the altar. I said, ‘Lord, forgive me. Lord, I’m a sinner. I will now accept You as my Lord and Savior,’ and it wasn’t even the altar call yet! The preacher was not done with his preaching. I fell down at the altar. There was something different with how I felt.

“A few days after that, I asked myself, ‘Am I really born again? Am I really saved?’ I went to the gambling place to see if I will be tempted again. I stayed there for almost a week, but when I was watching, I could no longer understand how to play mahjong and I had no desire to play.

“After that, I read in Proverbs 31 about the character of a noble woman. I cried and said, ‘Lord, forgive me. I am not a good mother. I’m not a good wife.’ It came to me while I was praying that I have to serve God, my family and my husband. I decided to let Albert become the head of our family. For the first time in 22 years of marriage, I woke up early in the morning and prepared coffee for Albert. I said, ‘Good morning, Darling! Here’s your coffee.’ He held the cup in his hands but he was not able to drink it. He was trembling. He was crying. He could not believe that this was his Josie!

“Every Sunday after that, we went to church. Actually, I did not invite Albert but he went because of the change that he saw in me. I began to try to cook, wash the dishes and pay attention to my children. I had never tried to do anything in the house even when I was still single.

“I asked forgiveness from Albert for all my shortcomings, and he forgave me but, whenever there was a misunderstanding, he would recall the past. So I asked for another meeting and prayer with him. I asked him to list all the negative and positive things (I did) that were on his mind and likewise on my part, and then we shared and prayed. We agreed to forget everything and start anew. That was the beginning of when our relationship was totally restored. After that, I also dealt with my children. I asked forgiveness from my children because I was an irresponsible mother. I was very loving with them, but very authoritative, and Albert took all the responsibilities of a mother. I had never attended their programs before. It was good that the children understood, and we agreed that it was not too late to make up, so that’s why we were in a hurry to catch up with each other. I saw to it that I had time with them.

“I moved around telling people that I had become a Christian. I told them that God had changed me, but they didn’t believe me. So I asked Albert, ‘Why don’t they believe me, ‘di ba darling, I already changed?’ He said, ‘There’s no humility.’

“Here is another story. My father got married after my mom died. I couldn’t accept his wife as my stepmom. Why? Because she was too young and uneducated, and she had been the nanny of my children. Whenever my children cried, I would spank and kick that girl—and now she would be my stepmom? I could not accept that so I would go and attack her from time to time. Albert said, ‘They won’t believe you if you cannot accept Celia as your stepmom.’

“I had a burden for the salvation of my father, my family, my relatives and my friends. Thank God, my friends here in Santiago got saved because I shared with them how God was moving in my life. Nawala na rin ‘yung (mahjong) sessions namin. Meanwhile, one of my relatives said, ‘It’s impossible for Josie to change. I will walk naked if Josie really changes.’

“Praise the Lord nothing is impossible with Him. I fasted and humbled myself, then I went to my stepmother’s home. When she saw me, she ran away, so I ran and caught up with her. I embraced her, knelt before her and asked for forgiveness. I also released forgiveness and accepted her as my second mom. That was the start; my father got saved. Some of my relatives and friends got saved, too.
“Sometimes I feel discouraged and tired, but every time I feel that way, I remember my covenant with Him and the Word that He gave me, that He chose me and I have to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last and ‘whatever you will ask of my Father, you will receive through me.’

The promise that God gave me during that time, talagang nangyayari eh, because God is really providing everything that I need. When my son got into drugs, I did not even try to question God. I knelt before the Lord. I prayed, ‘Yes, Lord, I will serve You but please repair my family.’ Now the whole family is serving the Lord.”