Finding Beauty in Chaos

“Have I not commanded you?  Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid, do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9 

In a span of one month, I lost my job in Bahrain, then transferred to a new one in UAE. Barely two weeks after I left,  our dearly beloved cat was put to sleep because of lingering illness, now he’s free from pain.  Until now my resident visa is still on hold as there are findings on my x-ray that require further tests; yet it may be a way for me to reaffirm the real status of my health.  It is causing a grim outlook for a permanent status in the workplace, but then again, it may be saving me for a better one. Since 1st August of last year, I have been made redundant thrice; and thrice I was redirected to new assignments.  Why these series of unfortunate events keep happening, only God knows.

Some say it’s unfortunate, I say I’m blessed.  From the past year onwards,  I continue to struggle.  I cringe in fear. I cry in frustration.  Why is life so mean to me, I ask sometimes.  Yet oftentimes, I realize life is kind in ways that far outweigh what I struggle with; what I fear most, and what I cry about.  Why?

These I know.

He never said it would be easy.  But He promised He would never leave us.  So. I may not see Him with human eyes, but He is alway present in all my medical tests to hold my hand as each needle pierces my veins.  He rides with me everyday as I travel for hours to my workplace in the middle of the desert.  He cries with me when I think about Storm.  He knows when I miss my family, and so He comforts me withthrough the scriptures.  He makes me fall asleep whenever I’m exhasuted.  He provides what I need, even when there seems to be nothing left.

I know that God is love.  I know that this is a imperfect world we live in.  I know that in between, a beautiful mess thrives, that’s me.  To proclaim God’s perfect love in all the brokenness is to find the the real beauty amidst all the chaos – JESUS 💜

So I thank Him everyday – for the chaos only highlight the glory of God; the twists and turns only enhance the colors of the rainbow of His promises, and the abyss of my distress finds rest only upon the rock-solid foundation of Jesus’ love where I will feel secure and always protected.

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Embrace the Sadness

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

It’s been four days now. So I told Bhoy yesterday that I feel sad and I don’t know why. Being the thoughtful husband that he is, he tried to find ways to make me happy. 

He bought chocolates for me. He agreed to walk 3km in the park even if unsure of the heat and humidity. He tried to make me laugh with his antics. But to no avail.

It’s not just him. I also did my part. I worked to distract my thoughts from my sadness. I blogged. I listened to Wayne Dyer’s podcasts. I watched the Pope in New York. But even that made me sadder because there are many issues in the world and only a few care and act.

But that’s getting ahead of my story.

Today we planned to go fishing and moon watch. They said the super blood moon will appear again only after around twenty years or so. So it’s a must to go and witness this rare phenomenon at least once in our lifetime. 

But we remembered it is a Sunday. We go to mass at 7pm. So there, change of plans. Fishing has to be scrapped. We’ll go to the tree of life after mass and hope that we’ll still be able to catch the moon at its grandest.

There you go. I feel this way because life has not turned out the way I planned it. Even the simplest plan for the day would often be cancelled or changed as needed. 

But come to think of it. Life is not about my plans. It is about His plans for me. Since my life is intertwined with all of God’s creation, I should welcome all that it has to offer, including detours, cancellations, postponements and pleasant surprises.

I still feel sad. I embrace the sadness trusting that God has a purpose for its existence. I may not figure it out yet, but I trust God’s perfect time when all his plans for me including dreams, failures, lessons and achievements will be realized. 

It’s never about me. It’s all about my Lord. 

Abundance as a State of Mind

“All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had.” – Acts 4:32
We have been praying to receive our annual bonus.  Oil and gas companies are not doing well in the Middle East, so our expectation is as low as our revenue.

But hope is there until we received the email confirmation that there will be no bonus or salary increment this year. Oh well, we’re still grateful that we still have jobs.  Our faith is in God’s plan.

We would not know what exactly the plan is, until it unfolds before our eyes.

Then I remember the story that’s gone viral in the internet, about a student who they say is Einstein (though some say it ain’t him). He argued with his teacher that there is no evil, but the absence of God in our heart.  Much like there is no darkness, but the absence of light.

Abundance in the universe is always there ready for our picking.  It’s just up to us which kind we choose to see, partake and share.

So scarcity is actually non-existent.  It is the absence of an abundant mindset and the presence of a selfish existence.

If our mind dwells in what we lack, no amount of wealth can satisfy us. But if we choose abundance in whatever form, nothing will ever fall short.

Bonus or not, I choose to always be grateful, because if God is all I have then I have everything I need.

A Holy Life

Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known. – Jeremiah 33:3

The Season of Lent may be over.  So is the Holy Week.  

Did it bring us closer to God? I hope so, we all did.  With all the retreats, Visita Iglesias, Pabasa, Meditations on the Seven Last Words, Way of the Cross, pilgrimage, processions and the sacrament of penance, it’s impossible to ignore the presence of Jesus in our lives.

Now we’re back to the humdrum of our usual, ordinary days.  Slowly and surely, we will soon be snatched away from the serene state of being back to our toxic way of living if we let complacency rule.

Simon Wiesenthal once said  “For evil to flourish, it only requires good men to do nothing.” 

We wouldn’t like that to happen, do we? So we remind ourselves to pray without ceasing. Holy Week or not. It is the only way to stay in tune with Jesus, that in whatever we do, we let Him participate.  In each moment, let us invoke His presence.  

It ain’t that hard. We just need some getting used to. What better way to do that than to practice.

Think of Him when you’re stuck in traffic, or when waiting in line. Pray to Him when waiting for someone in the coffee shop, or while walking in the park. Talk to Him in your mind and with your heart while working out, or while doing the dishes.

Jesus is everywhere.  You may feel His presence in the church or in a grotto.  But you can also feel His presence in the least likely places, if we only let Him in our hearts.

Truly Holy Week lasts but for seven days.  But a holy life is forever.

The Good Saturday

“Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.”  Psalm 51:10

It was supposed to be on the altar in the living room facing the main door.  But while we were still sorting out where to put what when we moved in a month ago,  the crucifix with a rosary hanging around it was temporarily placed on our kitchen counter backed against the wall.  

It never made its way to the altar because it is meant to be where it is now.  

That crucifix is a constant reminder that Jesus is always there with us in every family meal. 

I was alone for breakfast this morning, but I realized that I was not really on my own.  Jesus is there in front of me.  Indeed, today is Good Saturday. With Jesus, it is always a good morning.  It is always a good life. 

God is good all the time!

Teks, Komiks at Iba pa

“He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:2-3 
 

I’m blessed with a happy childhood.  It always brings me joy to remember.

My Tata Sixto has such meztiso features while my Inana Eya was more exotic.  They  had ten children, one of whom died during the war.

My Daddy was third among these children.  Being the eldest boy, he had shared responsibility in raising up his younger brothers and sisters.

My Mommy is a beauty from the north.  Being ten years younger than my Daddy, there was some sort of generation gap between them.  But they survived forty-four years of marriage, because according to Mommy there was no expiration date on their marriage contract.  Thank God.

Aside from two spinsters, my Daddy’s siblings all have families of their own.  With this huge clan, my brother, sister and I grew up with learning to drink beer before we were even teenagers.  We also learned how to play mahjong, black jack and lucky nine like it was a family membership requirement.

But note:  this was only during fiesta of Patron San Marcos … and Christmas … and  New Year … and some Tito’s or Tita’s birthday.

During these celebrations, the third generation to which I belong had the time of our lives.  We get to stay up late until dawn.  We played habulan, taguan, and patintero.

We read komiks rented from the store in the kanto.  We played teks and goma.  We climbed trees.  We collect flowers for Flores de Maria in May.  We invade Inanang Mary’s store for kornik and chicharon lapad.

Above all these, we were taught values that would be our guide when we grew up.   Inana Eya was a devout Catholic.  And though she did not impose, we were taught how to practice our faith by her example.

We were taught how to “mano po” to show respect to our elders.  Say “po” and “opo”.

In Manaoag, during our vacations to Mommy’s hometown, we even experienced how at 6pm, when the church bells rang, every one stopped to pray the angelus.  Even if they were on the middle of the street, people would stop to face the church and pray, in reverence, until the church bells stopped ringing.

Those were the days when our grandparents lived and loved.  Those were the times when all we did was laugh.  And if we must cry, it was because we yearned to laugh some more.

What Easter Means to Me

“When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. They asked each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?’

They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread. ”  Luke 24:30-35

Today is Thursday after Easter Sunday. In the Middle East, it was a working Easter. That day being also the deadline for submission of month end reports, I struggled to keep my focus on the image of the risen Christ as I battle emails and phone calls, in between entering data to finish the tasks at hand. To top it all, my colleagues were on holiday and so my work load was multiplied like the bread to feed thousands.

By end of business hours, I was really exhausted but nonetheless, the Holy Spirit helped me through the day. So it happened that we were able to attend the 7pm Easter Mass. The smell of tires being burnt on the road leading to where Sacred Heart Church was located, dominated the festive atmosphere. That did not stop the hundreds who were inside the church compound to pray and praise God. And that was my Easter of 2015.

If the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ is a one day affair, I would really, really feel bad that a great number of hours on that day was taken up by my earthly duties. But as I continue to “follow” Jesus after He left the tomb, my eyes were opened.

Easter is our daily reminder that Jesus is alive and one day, we shall see His face when He comes again. My eyes were opened, that it is alright to fulfill our earthly duties when it glorifies God and the greater good comes out of it. My eyes were opened, that as we go about our daily lives, the Holy Spirit is ever present. Just like Jesus was, with Cleophas and his companion on their way to Emmaus.

Between life and death, we choose life. Easter is the life after Jesus Christ suffered and died on the Cross. We also died from our old selves during Lent and were renewed on Easter, forgiven of our sins when we repented sincerely. So therefore, let us celebrate Easter everyday so that the sacrifice of Jesus, the sign of His infinite and eternal love will ever be worth it.

Counting the Costs

“When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father- the Spirit of truth who goes out from the  Father- he will testify about me.” John 15:26

44 is the number of PNP SAF troopers who perished in Mamasapano in Maguinadanao, Philippines. 21 is the number of Egyptian Coptic Christians who were beheaded in Libya.  11 killed in the Charlie Hebdo headquarters in France.  I can mention a number, and probably there is a match to a group of human beings who died in some way that could have changed the way we think or live.

It is shocking to know how collectively a group of people could be wiped off from the face of the earth, and sad that what a majority could only remember is their number.

These people have names.  They have families.  Loved ones.  They had dreams. They had lives. Until somebody else decided otherwise.  And now their souls cry out with their own stories to tell.  We did not know them when they were alive, but now we know them because they are dead.

Some died because of freedom of expression, others for love of country. And lately, for love of God.

The thought of them left me to wonder. How long can I stand up for what I believe in?  How much can I sacrifice for those I love?  How far can I go amidst the raging waves of my own personal struggles?

We have only 1 God.  3 is the number of Persons in the Holy Trinity. 3 is the number of words that a martyr last uttered before he was beheaded- “Jesus help me”.  That sums up the answer to my questions.  We can withstand any suffering, endure all pain and weather any storm.  Because our Father loves us, Jesus saves us and the Holy Spirit helps us.

May we, who  are left to ponder on the countless lives lost for whatever reason, learn that the manifestation of our selflessness is the true essence of our humanity.

Please offer prayers for the souls of our brothers and sisters who died because war, violence and terrorism. May their souls rest in peace.

Of Misencounters, Reencounters and a Prayer for Peace

“Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.” Psalm 34:14

The images of the honorable PNP SAF Troopers who died on that fateful morning on January 25 in Mamasapano, Maguindanao will forever be etched in our minds and hearts. The details of what many in our government call a misencounter had already been told and retold. The weeping of the families and loved ones of the fallen are being heard over and over within the echoes of our recent memories. And now as the continuing story of investigations and inquiry will follow through the pain that would never go away, there is one thing that we should never forget. The one thing that these gallant 44 had fought hard for, and that we should cherish so their sacrifice would not be in vain. That is PEACE.

At this moment, when the wounds in our hearts are still fresh and the strength of each loved one is still delicately fragile, there is only anger, outrage and betrayal. I must admit, as far as I may be from Mamasapano, my initial reaction is shock at the number of lives lost. They were just too many to comprehend. Then sadness…The sight of the lifeless bodies who once stood with dignity and courage were just too much for a gentle heart to handle. And finally anger… I was angry that people are capable of doing something horrific so close to home. I was furious that the President Aquino made a choice that caused the hurt already too much to bear, to swell all the more. I was like “OMG you are President and you can’t cancel a scheduled appointment? Not even for the sake of your so-called “bosses” would you spare some mercy and compassion to what they were going through at the time they needed them most?” I would have wanted to think that the Mitsubishi rendezvous was a “misencounter”. That the President went to the wrong place at the wrong time.

But who are we to judge? What good deed have I done for my country that make me consider myself better than the President or other government officials for that matter so much that I loathe every unpopular decision that they make or any grave mistake they commit? So we are all angry. Now what? Does my loathing help ease the pain of a hurting nation? Or am I just adding to the problem instead of solving it?

As prayers continue to pour for the souls of the valiant PNP SAF Troopers and for the family and loved ones they left behind, I continue to pray for peace. I realized, that as it is human to feel the way we did, there is a time to get past the rage. What good would it do if we keep on scratching the wound? It would just cause the wound to grow bigger and eventually impossible to heal.

I am still angry at what had happened in Mamasapano. I am still grieving together with those who mourn. But I choose to continue to pray. For HEALING,for JUSTICE, for PEACE…

We need not wait for deals, agreements or pacts to be signed to attain peace. We can begin now, with ourselves. We have the choice to be channels of peace. It is the only way. So that after the haze of gunfire and tears had died down, our reencounters will instead be borne of brotherhood and love.

To our heroes, rest in peace in God’s sweet embrace and I pray that your great sacrifice would be worth it… I salute you.

1. Sr. Insp. Ryan Ballesteros Pabalinas
2. Sr. Insp. John Garry Alcantara Erana
3. Sr. Insp. Max Jim Ramirez Tria
4. Sr. Insp. Cyrus Paleyan Anniban
5. Sr. Insp. Gednat G. Tabdi
6. Insp. Joey Sacristan Gamutan
7. Insp. Rennie Tayrus
8. SPO1 Lover L. Inocencio
9. PO3 Rodrigo F. Acob Jr.
10. PO3 Virgel S. Villanueva

11. PO3 Andres Viernes Duque Jr.
12. PO3 Vitoriano Nacion Acain
13. PO3 Noel Onangey Golocan
14. PO3 Junrel Narvas Kibete
15. PO3 Jed-In Abubakar Asjali
16. PO3 Robert Dommolog Aliaga
17. PO3 John Lloyd Rebammonte Sumbilla
18. PO2 Amman Misuari Esmulla
19. PO2 Peterson I. Carap
20. PO2 Roger C. Cordero

21. PO2 Nicky DC Nacino Jr.
22. PO2 Glenn Berecio Badua
23. PO2 Chum Goc-Ong Agabon
24. PO2 Richelle Salangan Baluga
25. PO2 Noel Nebrida Balaca
26. PO2 Joel Bimidang Dulnuan
27. PO2 Godofredo Basak Cabanlet
28. PO2 Franklin Cadap Danao
29. PO2 Walner Faustino Danao
30. PO2 Jerry Dailay Kayob

31. PO2 Noble Sungay Kiangan
32. PO2 Ephraim G. Mejia
33. PO2 Omar Agacer Nacionales
34. PO2 Rodel Eva Ramacula
35. PO2 Romeo Valles Senin II
36. PO1 Russel Bawaan Bilog
37. PO1 Angel C. Kodiamat
38. PO1 Windell Llano Candano
39. PO1 Loreto Guyab Capinding
40. PO1 Gringo Charag Cayang-o

41. PO1 Romeo Cumanoy Cempron
42. PO1 Mark Lory Orloque Clemencio
43. PO1 Joseph Gumatay Sagonoy
44. PO1 Oliebeth Ligutan Viernes

Close Encounter with Pope Francis

It was a typical day.The sun was just up rising above the mountain range that stand guard to our little barrio, Balian where there was a time during my childhood when everyone knows everybody.

All of a sudden, a man in a white robe and skull cap breezed into the sala from nowhere. Of course we knew he was coming. But to literally enter our home was a heavenly experience. Time stood still for a moment as we stood there staring at him in awe, as we share the same space and breathe the same air. We were Pope-strucked!

As I came back slowly to my senses, which seemed like ages, I inched toward him, bowed down, took his hand and kissed it in the traditional way that we, Filipinos, do the “Mano po” to pay our respect.

His hand seemed huge. And I said to myself, this is the big hand of a generous man who has likewise a big heart.

It was quick. The next moment, I saw him sneaking out through our back door. Then everything was vague after that. But every moment with him was vivid.

Then I woke up. It was the day before his arrival in Manila. And I was 7,367 km away here in Bahrain. And I was dreaming!

The following days, much has already been said and done of the papal visit. as I watched the entire Filipino nation welcome Pope Francis wherever he went; as TV cameras focused on each and every face that radiated the joy Pope Francis shared; as I saw my fellowmen wiping their tears at the mere sight of him as I tried so hard to hold back my own- I couldn’t help but remember the dream that I had and how the Pope made me feel. So I empathized. And I understood. I was overwhelmed. I have to write and share.

For five very special days, for Filipinos everywhere in the world, it felt like heaven was within reach.

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Pope Francis rekindled our faith in God, in Jesus who he represents on earth, in the Spirit dwelling amongst us. Pope Francis awakened the innate generosity of our humanity as Filipinos that has long been put to sleep because of social injustice brought about by corruption and greed disguised as government. Pope Francis reaffirmed the sacredness of family and its importance in spreading the Word of God. He reminded us that in order to follow Christ, we should follow His example.

Be a beggar. Be a child. Think well. Feel well. Do well. Be quiet. Cry. Dream. Love. These were notable reminders from the Pope that we will cherish in our hearts and minds long after his departure.

But the real essence of our encounter with the Pope is Jesus. In our generation of materialism when our daily goal had become to make more money, he reminds us that there is something more important in life. That despite how the world has gotten ahead of itself in terms of technology, humankind in fact is getting poorer in terms of the quality of lives of the majority of its population.

It is therefore imperative for us to look back into that five days (six days for me) when Filipinos were elevated to holiness because we came face to face with who we really are and what we should always be. And we are a merciful and compassionate people filled with God’s love. Let not the absence of Pope Francis in our midst once again diminish us to self-centered, self-righteous and self-sufficient people that we are not. God created us in His image and likeness. Let us live up to it.

Let us continue to pray for Pope Francis with grateful hearts. Let us pray for each other as we live not for ourselves alone. We need one another. So let us tell the world of His love. Like Pope Francis joyfully does.