Godspeed Amang

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.” Romans 12:1

Today, as I gaze at the sunrise, I think of a loved one who can no longer marvel at this awesome sight. Nor all other sunrises of mornings ahead.

He had gone to rest forever to bask no more in sunshines nor moonshines, but in the light of God’s eternal light. 

We thank the Lord for the blessing of him in our lives. He is a simple and ordinary man. Yet unique, special and funny, even when life slowly slipped away from his frail body, and his memory faded with it.

We thank God for the fine man that he had been, for by him, the standard was raised for his sons and grandsons to follow.

I thank  Amang for his sacrifices and hard work in the name of love for family, which never ever diminished his sunny disposition.  

For this reason and more, I will remember him with every sunrise, and the happy memory of his smile. 

The Colors of My Christmas

“She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” Matthew 1:21-23 

In a few days, we shall celebrate Christmas. Again. Being Christians, it is as essential as breathing.

I just realized it will be my 50th Christmas. I can remember vaguely, how each year was celebrated. But I’ll never forget how Christmas felt like.

When I was a child, it was all fun. Christmas tree and lanterns, Santa Claus and gifts, apples and grapes. Those were what Christmas was about. As I close my eyes, I see red, green and gold.


Then as I grew up and learned about the Nativity story.  The Belen, the Simbang Gabi and the Gloria became part of the list. So blue was added to represent Mama Mary.

When I got older and had a family of my own, the Holy Family: Joseph, Mary and Jesus became the goal. Christmas should be family.

In 2009, 4 days before Christmas, Daddy passed away. It was a season for families to be together. Hence, his funeral was held a day after, so we could be together at Christmas for the last time. The color I see was purple.

Now at 50, I know now what Christmas is all about- Jesus. Not the one in the Belen. Not in traditions. Definitely not in things. But Jesus in our hearts and mind. Absolutely. 

This year, all that I am used to celebrate Christmas with were taken away. What is expected of me, myself included, is to sulk and despair.

But no. There is a only certain calm and peace knowing that this is God’s will for me. All I can see is white. Pure and simple. JESUS is the reason for this season.


My prayer for you is to not be blinded by the world. Because the world has its way to keep you from seeing the true picture of Christmas.

My heart rejoices for the colors that Christmas brings into my life. May you also find Jesus in the kaleidoscope of your celebrations.

He isn’t far. He is right there in your heart, waiting for you to unwrap His gift of love, hope and peace.

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.

Jesus is Alive

“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”  – John 15:13

It’s Easter Sunday. We celebrate.  We believe that Jesus lives.

Though my eyes cannot see Him, my whole being knows He is here.  No explanation is necessary.  I just know.

There were times that I thought Jesus was so far away.  When I sin.  When I despair. I couldn’t feel His presence.  Not that He was, but because I chose to look away and ignore Him. 

Through it all, Jesus remains faithful.  He never gives up on me.  No matter how bad and stupid and stubborn I could be, He still loves me. 

I don’t know what He sees in me.  All I know is that He didn’t had to, but He died on the Cross to save me.  So too He is risen to love me.  For all eternity.

It is my fervent prayer that I may be worthy of His sacrifice.  So that His pain and suffering shall not be in vain, I pray too that I be able to carry my own Cross for the sake of others. 

Glory be to God forever!

It’s All About Jesus

“Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
    and gave him the name that is above every name,
   that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
   and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.”  -Philippians 2:9-11

The first time I watched the movie “The Passion of the Christ” a few years back, I was shocked by how the events were presented.  The scenes from the agony in the garden to the moment that Jesus breathed His last, were just so detailed and yes, bloody.

Today I watched it again.  The experience is now entirely different.  It is personal and profound.  I almost ‘felt’ how Jesus suffered and died.  Every time the camera focused on His eyes, it was like Jesus was actually looking at me, so lovingly and forgiving.

It is the same movie that I watched, but on each instance, the experience is entirely different. What changed?  Life did.

In between both viewing, life have been teaching me lessons that make me ‘see’ clearer. I realized that no matter how weak and flawed I am, Jesus never gives up on me. His willingness to forgive is always greater than my desire to be forgiven.

Jesus proved that I am worthy to be saved, but unless I truly believe that indeed I am worthy and sin no more, He is patiently waiting for my complete turnaround.  He is faithful even when I am not.

Today is Good Friday.  It is a day of reflection on the passion of Jesus Christ, of gratitude for His sacrifice and repentance to be worthy of His perfect love.  Today I changed my site title from Angel119 to Everyday with Jesus.  Because I realized life is not about me, it is all about Him.  With His mercy, I shall carry my cross to remind me everyday that Jesus carried His because of me.

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.

The Greatest Announcement

But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.” Luke 1:30-33

Who doesn’t love surprises? I’m sure I have had my share in the 48 years of my existence. But as I try to recall which one had the most impact, not even one comes to mind. Now that surprises me!

Let me see. Well, a wedding proposal might have surprised me. I would have loved to be in the receiving end of one. But sorry for me. Because during our time, it was not necessary. Not because we were less romantic. It was just that the wedding and marriage were already being discussed over the courtship stage that it was in itself, already a proposal and a yes.

And yes, a diagnosis from my OB once surprised me. But in a negative way though. So I would not want to count it in.  And the proper term should be “scare” instead of surprise. If scare is the word, then I have a lot stored in my memory.

So let us go back in time with Mary; when the angel Gabriel announced to her that she was going to be the mother of God, and she will call Him, Jesus. Now that was a big surprise to her. Imagine, in her simplicity and meekness, she found favor with God. Imagine her wonderment. Imagine a life-changing surprise in all her innocence.

But what differs us now, with Mary then when she received God’s word?

Mary was young and inexperienced, while we are older and “matured”, so to speak, and have years of religious instruction in school and the church. Yet when she got the greatest announcement of her life, she trusted God wholeheartedly and believed in His grand plan for her absolutely. She humbly went on with her daily life, even with the knowledge that she was (and still is) most special.

How about us? How do we accept the big surprises that come our way? It may be an unexpected promotion, a huge bonus, a love life that’s long overdue, healing for our ailments, maybe even winning the lottery. Do we receive them with humble and grateful acceptance? Or do we get drunk with self-entitlement that we fail to see the hand of God in all the merriment? And do we even remember to thank Him?

Like Mary, the greatest announcement we could ever receive in our lives is Jesus. Let us be innocent like Mary. Ever trusting. Ever thankful. Because whenever we least expect it, Jesus will continually surprise us with His everlasting love.  And it would be pleasing to Him if we respond exactly like His Mother.

The Journey Continues

“But take care, as you value your lives! Do not forget the things which you yourselves have seen, or let them slip from your heart as long as you live; teach them, rather, to your children and to your children’s children.” Deuteronomy 4:9

On February 27 of this year, our Christian Life Seminar was finally over. The “travelling angels” from Riyadh in Saudi Arabia and from San Diego in California, USA noted that it was the longest CLS in the history of CFC-FFL.

Tito Cris and his wife, Tita Poochie began with the first talk in March 2014. They went home to the Philippines in summer. Thereafter, they encountered difficulties in securing visas to enter Bahrain. So that it was only in early November that we were able to meet again. In February of this year, we were introduced to Tito Froy who was temporarily assigned to Bahrain. And before our dedication, came his wife, Tita Belle. During the Feb Fridays that we gather in Jesus’ name, Guadalupe, a two month old baby girl, together her parents Bro Seneth and Sis Joy, joined our family, Bhoy, Megan, Miguel, and Mac in our praise and thanksgiving to God. And so our CFC-FFL family was complete, just as the CLS was completed.

That was the chronology of the CLS events as I recalled- one year summed up in one paragraph. Yet the substance of each single moment that we have shared together in the love of God is so profound that it will take a lifetime for me to share. It is pure joy to know God and love God. It is divine to share His love.

As the purpose of the CLS is evangelisation and spiritual renewal, it is now our life’s purpose to fulfill the will of God.

We will be forever grateful to our “travelling angels”, Tito Cris, Tita Poochie, Tito Froy and Tita Belle, for their valuable time, perseverance and effort to enable us know God and love God better. May the Lord continue to shower his blessings upon them.

Our CLS may have come to an end, but the journey continues. We, who are called, together with Bro Seneth and Sis Joy, have a lot to do. May we not be weakened by the world’s distractions. But rather, call upon the Holy Spirit day by day for the constant renewal of our faith, while we carry our own crosses together with our Savior, Jesus Christ, on the path towards the eternal kingdom of God.

 

 

 


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.