MANILA, January 6, 2006 (STAR) By Wilson Lee Flores - Those who have succeeded at anything and don’t mention luck are kidding themselves. – CNN talk show host Larry King

The only thing that overcomes hard luck is hard work. – Harry Golden

Be lucky this new year by not being fooled! Do I believe in the ancient Chinese art of feng shui? Yes and no, but this isn’t a wishy-washy, cop-out kind of reply, just an honest assessment grounded on facts and history. This New Year, don’t be misled into wasting time and money with foolish acts advised by all sorts of false prophets on TV and radio claiming to have roadmaps to good luck, good health, good love and good fortune. If you e-mail me, I’ll have more practical and sensible advice for you than those clowns!

This writer was flabbergasted a few days ago to watch ABS-CBN’s ANC Channel news program interviewing a lady feng-shui charlatan pontificating about all sorts of detailed acts to ensure good luck for New Year’s eve – from the bizarre advice to roll 88 mandarin oranges on the floor, the placing of ang pao (red envelopes) under an urn with rice and what color clothes to wear, to the need to have pink bedsheets to sleep on or red tablecloths for the media noche (midnight snack).

Strictly speaking, as a Christian, I shouldn’t believe in all kinds of superstitions, whether Oriental or Western. But as a Filipino of Chinese heritage who cherishes the magnificent 5,000-year-old civilization of my ancestors, I wish to defend the true essence of feng shui from shameless fake "experts" who peddle falsehoods on luck.

Feng shui is the ancient Chinese art of arranging our environment and surroundings to attract the positive life energy known as chi, so that it can flow smoothly in our body and environment. Feng shui in its lofty form is actually an Asian art on ecological balance and harmony with nature, evolving from the belief that people are positively or negatively affected by their surroundings. The additional beliefs or crazy claims that sound like voodoo are similar in their inexplicability and bizarreness to the folk Catholic beliefs of the masses, which aren’t taught by Roman Catholicism in its lofty form in the Vatican or in Ateneo theology classes.

Feng shui started several thousand years ago in ancient China and guided even the most educated emperors in constructing vast palaces or entire cities like the imperial capital of Beijing. Even the ruling royal families of other Oriental kingdoms influenced by Chinese civilization – like Korea or Vietnam – follow this ancient art. Feng shui principles made good sense for ancient China, since the geography of that vast empire required careful analyses when constructing roads, buildings or other infrastructure thanks to the severe mountain winds and lowland areas prone to seasonal flooding. Thus, this art became known as "feng shui," which literally means "wind and water."

Feng shui has been used to choose great burial sites for the wealthy and palace locations for the imperial rulers or the feudal elite. Countless tales through the ages recount achievers who do not touch or change their ancestors’ humble tombs if their sites have proven to be auspicious for their family fortunes. Though I believe in God and scientific facts, it is nevertheless great to recount the mystical aspect of our ancestors’ feng shui beliefs.

When industrialist John Gokongwei Jr., former Bangko Sentral governor Gabby Singson and I visited the business taipan’s ancestral Khi-tang Village in Jinjiang County (now city) in Fujian province, south China, a few years ago, local old-timers showed us an ancient tree next to their ancestral home which the villagers referred to as the Go clan’s "feng shui tree." From this home came the 19th-century Cebu "rags-to-riches" tycoon Pedro Lee Gotiaoco, the great-grandfather of Gokongwei, the father of the Sy-Gaisano clan matriarch Modesta Gaisano, also the father of President Sergio Osmeña and grand-uncle of Filinvest Group/East West Bank taipan Andrew Gotianun. Despite this, at a dinner with 180 young Filipino-Chinese entrepreneurs of the Anvil Business Club, Gokongwei confided: "I don’t rely on feng shui. I believe hard work brings us good luck and success."

A younger brother of self-made "shopping mall king" Henry Sy of the SM Group told me that their late grandfather’s tomb is an auspicious "feng shui tomb" in their ancestral Ang-khue village in the Dieng-Oh municipality of Jinjiang City, Fujian province. An expert said because of the tomb’s feng shui, "The Sy family shall enjoy great wealth that will not fade away for 100 years and the family shall even produce government officials." He recalled that his brother Henry was only two years old when five kids became seriously ill with smallpox, but only Henry lived, while the four other kids died. He also recounted that during the Japanese military occupation of the Philippines, a bomb exploded and wounded Henry’s leg but not his head. He also said Henry overcame a serious ailment at age 75, and in addition to Henry’s traditional Confucian values of hard work, frugality, discipline and devotion to family, the great feng shui of their grandfather’s tomb in China has helped the family flourish. He added: "If not for great feng shui, outstanding men can die young and not be able achieve their great destiny."

I once asked Henry Sy about the secrets of good luck and success, and the billionaire replied: "My success was not made overnight, it was built through decades of honest hard work, consistent good credit standing, and determination. Never give up. If the road is not smooth, try to overcome but don’t give up. On the factor of good luck, you need a combination. Without real hard work, opportunity is nothing and there can be no success."

Reputed to be a believer in feng shui is Philippine Airlines chairman Lucio Tan, the self-made taipan whose sprawling residence in Quezon City is located in an area reputed to be "the head of the dragon." But when asked to share advice with Philippine STAR readers on how to achieve good luck and success in 2006, Tan replied: "I believe in good luck, of course. But my struggles in business showed me that the best ways to achieve luck and success are still good old-fashioned hard work, thriftiness and non-stop education. My advice is for us to focus on hard work, less on politics."

An old tycoon recently said that the body of the late President Ferdinand Marcos should be buried for good feng shui for the Philippines, not displayed in that awful air-conditioned museum in Ilocos Norte. The businessman recalled that in the prime of his political career, Marcos was a known believer in feng shui and had his own favorite consultants. He added that one of the reasons the Philippines has suffered from bad feng shui for so many years is the polluted Pasig River beside the seat of power in Malacañang Palace. He urged that the Pasig River be dredged, cleansed and that the throwing of garbage or chemical pollutants be banned, or else President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo should find another official residence elsewhere.

If feng shui ensures good fortune, why is it that deposed President Joseph Estrada, a believer in feng shui, was ousted from power and is now still detained in his Tanay estate? The old tycoon chuckled, reminding me that feng shui is not a 100 percent guarantee of success; that at best, it can enhance the good luck of people who are basically hardworking and have orderly lives.

Corruption Is Bad Feng Shui

Feng shui promotes harmony, respect for the earth, working with the flow of nature, positive thinking and optimism. I reject the debasement of feng shui with the use of dubious trinkets, ridiculous superstitious mantras and other nonsense shortcuts to attract good luck. I also believe the brazen corruption and other inanities of our many politicians are a form of evil cosmic pollution that brings so much negative feng shui to the Philippines.

Our New Year’s resolution for 2006 should be to do our share to push sweeping reforms and stop all that abominable, bad feng shui which derails the country’s harmonious progress!

Believe in God as the true master of the universe, believe in ourselves as the masters of our destiny. Do not transgress the laws of nature. Purify your heart from hatred, regrets and rancor. Work hard, pray, lead balanced lives, be healthy. Always be in love to keep heart forever young. Never, ever lose hope no matter what troubles come your way. Dream, always be of good cheer, then the New Year shall be truly happy and lucky.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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