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. 

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.

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

Never Empty

Peter said, “I have neither silver nor gold, but what I do have I give you: in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean, rise and walk.” Acts 3:6

It was a great disappointment  that i gave in to my weakness on Good Friday.  Fasting was totally deleted as i hesitantly (with guilt that almost choked me), downloaded that salmon carpaccio and tonno. thanks to vapiano.  being in an Islamic country is not an excuse.  In fact, there are no excuses at all. The Muslims fast for forty days during Ramadan and I cannot, even for just one day.  Shame  on me!  God forgive me.

Yes I know if I prayed  hard enough, He will.  And maybe i can forgive myself too.  But not before I could sincerely ask for His forgiveness, do penance and make up for the grave sin that I committed.

So how do i do that?  I need the Helper, the Holy Spirit to get me through this.  Grace to sincerely ask for forgiveness.  Humility to do penance.  And charity to make up.  All these three, I need. Big time.

The first two is between my God and me. The third, I had to reach out to my brothers and sisters.  Be generous and kind.

There is a grave misconception about the word charity for me, that charity is an exclusive exercise for the rich.  So that it becomes synonymous with letting go of material  wealth or possessions.  Until I took into heart what Peter said.

I was waiting to get rich to be charitable and generous.  But i realized that even if I am not, I will never ran out of opportunities to be kind and giving.

My cup of blessings are full and overflowing.  And so does yours.  It  may not be quantified with monetary value.  But our cups are never empty.

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In the same way, that the recipients of charity should be restricted only to those who need money or things.  There is another class of poor in our midst.  There are those who may have all the riches in the world, but think they have no more reason to live for.

Even those who  are in dire need of someone who will listen in times of distress. Who will lend a hand in moments of weakness. Who will offer a smile when the whole world frowns upon him.  Rich or not, we need others to fill in a void in our lives.

God sends us to fill in that void.  Let us be that angel.  Let us be that someone.  Let us be that friend.  Because if there is anything that we will not be short of, it is ourselves.  we will always have something  to give.  Because the Lord fills up our cup.  And refills it each time we pour ourselves to others.

He stirs my venti!

“Even now,” declares the LORD, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.”  Rend your heart and not your garments.  Return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and He relents from sending calamity.”  Joel 2:12-13

after my surgery,  from the recovery room onto my hospital bed where my kind kabayan nurses gently laid me, my anaesthesia started to wear out.  the images were still a blur.  i could hear them vaguely, but the tone of their voices were clear.  they were amazed at how i could still smile despite the pain.

it was not an inherent trait of mine.  i was a cry-baby.  as a girl, i was impossibly stubborn that my pout has been my trademark long before angelina jolie became mrs. smith.  then as a teener, my temper kinda mellowed when i began to read about personality development books.  that was when i learned that a smile matters.  that it could actually set the mood for the day.  and that the smile that you give away is contagious.  and it is free.

practice makes perfect.  now, even when i cry i still have that tendency to smile when someone else sees me.  smiles lighten burdens, hide the pain, ease suffering.  now even when trouble is way over my head, or when longing for my children almost kills me, no one would ever know.  because if there is anything else that i don’t ever run out of – guess what else? smile, smile and some more…

among many things that could bring a smile to my face, a cup of coffee is definitely on the list.  or should i say, cups of coffee.  i love coffee so much, that it is what i gave up this season of lent.  since ash wednesday, i tried my darn best to refrain from having my usual early morning cup, as well as the other cups throughout the day, and that final cup just right before i sleep at nights.

the best part of the coffee ritual for me is after i stir it. that is when the aroma and the flavor is at its peak, it almost takes over my senses. 

so do i miss my coffee cups?  yes i do! yet i still manage to smile.  because the Lord never runs out of ‘sugar’ and ‘cream’ to pour on my cup of life.  He also continuously stirs my heart, to prevent complacency from setting in. 

my coffee sacrifice is nothing compared to the Lord’s sacrifice when He gave us his life for the forgiveness of our sins.  as i feel the pain from the consequences of my own sins, i surrender my cup of life to Him with complete trust and utter submission. 

for as long as i live, i know He will go on stirring my cup.  but i won’t mind.  the Lord blessed me with a venti 🙂

 

   

some kind of light

“Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you girded yourself and walked where you would; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish to go.” John 21:18

my daughter megan was compared by my mom with Christmas lights that blink and blink.  when she was younger, she had  a temper which she undoubtedly got from me.  fortunately she got the ‘flash’ type temper.  ’twas here, next second pfft, nada, gone. 

i wish i could control my temper like that when i was younger.  like a switch, i could have just turned it off as quickly in a flick.   and so should the spanking too.  (if that caused my behind to be this plump,  something good came out of it somehow, ha-ha.)

this is just to point out that as we grow older, the more subdued and considerate we become.  when as infants, we cry when we were hungry or wet,  no matter if it was in the middle of the night when everyone else was asleep.  or we smiled and giggled when we feel like it, even when there was no one around  to smile with us.  who cares?  as kids, we were carefree. no worries, no inhibitions.  walang pakialam sa mundo.  at walang kamalay-malay. we didn’t care what time of day, or night it was.  our parents took care of everything we need.

when we matured as teenagers, tougher rules were implemented.  parents stared at the clocks longer. tick-tock, tick-tock.  “time to do this, time to do that”.   “you’re late again”.   darn! these were played on and on like broken records.  that’s the reason we couldn’t wait until college graduation was over.  when finally, we would be able to find decent jobs and meet financial bliss minus parental restrictions.  aaaahhh sweet freedom!  haha! or so we thought…

we don’t realize it until later that as we went about to build careers and eventually settle down and raise kids of our own, that we were never  free afterall.  when we signed employment contracts, we were bound.  when we get married, we tied the knot.  and the marriage contract didn’t even have an expiration date.  and the power over our own life would remain a dream, because our sense of responsibility decides when to turn on and off our self-indulgence.  we will forever be prisoners of time, jobs and loved ones.  or on a grander scale, prisoners of our own organization, company or advocacies.  

by prisoner here meant to be involuntarily restrained.  as adult human beings, it is an instinct to belong.  and to belong means that one exists no longer for himself alone, but for someone else or something that he puts higher importance to, at times even more than himself. this requires sacrifice and self-denial especially when one’s desires and comforts are set aside for the well-being of another.   

when we stretch out our hands to be tied down or when we allow ourselves to be taken and girded to be carried to where we would not want to go, we are perceived to be prisoners by human standards. but when we conform to a higher spiritual order, the restraints become the most profound symbol of freedom.  chains are made of love instead of steel.  and the prison walls of  warm embrace, instead of concrete.  when we are finally freed from the bondage of our own selfishness, we finally taste freedom of the sweetest kind.

Jesus stretched out his hands to be crucified.  He allowed himself to be girded by others and carried away to where we would not want to go, to Golgotha where His body and blood were sacrificed so that we may be all be free from the bondage of sin.  it was not about weakness.  but obedience.  and love.

the fate of St. Peter was predicted to be like that of his Savior, only upside down.  though he “blinked” 3 times, when he denied Jesus, he freed himself from the anguish and shame by accepting his designated task on earth.  to be the rock upon which the Church would be built.  to be the shepherd of Jesus’ flock after His Ascension.

wouldn’t it brighter, if instead of blinking lights, we would rather be spotlights?…ever radiant and focused where the hand of God sets us upon.

the crowning with thorns

“The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head.  They clothed him in a purple robe and went up to him again and again, saying, ‘Hail, king of the Jews!’ And they struck him in the face.”  John 19:2-3

a crown is always associated with power and authority.  a symbol of one’s superiority over his subjects.  it stands for royalty, pride, grandeur, wealth and pomp. 

but not the crown of Jesus.  it was made of thorns that pierced his head and caused blood to gush on his face.  his crown was a symbol of humility,  sacrifice and love. 

as human beings, it is in our nature to be drawn to that shining, sparkling crown which looks  magnificent on top of our heads.  we think that just because we wear one,  everybody would look up to us. then it will lead us to think that we are far better than everybody else who does not wear one. 

(please take note: we may also refer to physical beauty, wealth, power, fame as our crown.) 

but what if that crown gets lost? maybe stolen or perhaps taken away? and what if that crown is the only  source of our pride and joy? of our confidence and security?  what then  becomes of us minus the crown?  we feel worthless.  we  feel empty.

the crown of Jesus is way too painful to wear.  it requires the greatest and absolute self-sacrifice.  a self-denial that does not diminish, but rather increases self-worth. 

in the natural order of life, we are all part of God’s grand design.  though we are easily attracted to what is superficial, our instincts also move us to reach out and look after one another.  it is when we go against this basic human compassion, that we begin to be less than what the Lord has planned us to be. 

it is when we focus on the well-being of others that we experience true and genuine happiness.  because with the realization that we were able to serve, we validate our status as part of one community; that is God’s family.  and the more sacrifice that our service necessitates, the more meaningful our existence becomes.

we are also heirs to a kingdom.  the kingdom of God that lasts forever.  if we accept this truth, then we should likewise be ready, willing and honored to wear the crown of thorns.

the scourging at the pillar

“From the sole of the foot to the head there is no sound spot; wounds, bruises, open sores not dressed, not bandaged, nor soothed with oil.”  Isaiah 1:6

there was not much details in the four gospels about the scourging of Jesus. the most vivid depiction that i ever witnessed was from the motion picture “passion of the Christ”. i almost cannot stand to watch that scene at all.  but i still did. and  it was like i also felt Jesus’ suffering when i did.

back in our hometown, bhoy participated in flagellation rites on Good Friday when we were younger.  together with our childhood friends, they made whips out of  short bamboo sticks or metal chains tied to nylon cords.  they designed banana leaves to serve as long skirts for their costumes. then they wore masks made from old shirts to cover their heads.  at dawn, they went to church to repent and pray.  then they proceeded to a riverbank where they hit their backs until tender.  that was the time they would lightly slash about one centimeter line patterns on their backs with a razor blade.  there would be a hundred wounds, more or less, which they will scourge over and over, as they walk around town under the scorching heat of the sun barefoot.

when i asked him why he had to do it, he said it was his panata.  a panata is a tagalog word which means repayment for a prayer or wish that was granted.  he never told me what his prayer or wish was.  but what i was certain of, those wounds surely hurt.

compare those wounds to what our Lord had to bear.  they are not even close.  yet both of them have a prayer.   this Holy Tuesday, whatever we are suffering from, let us all remember that our Lord suffered way much more than he ever deserved.  we can scourge ourselves all we want, but we can never repay the life that was sacrificed for our redemption. 

let our panata be that we no longer add more to what the Lord had already suffered.  instead, let us not waste our pain.  but from it, let the healing follow.

the rope

Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen Me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen, and yet  have believed. ”  John 20:29

there was one story that was emailed to me and had really struck me head on.  it was about a man who tried to climb aman-in-fog mountain all alone.  it was getting late when he got lost along his way.  since a storm was coming, there was darkness all around him.  no stars and no moonlight to guide him.  still he pressed on until he fell into the rocky side of the mountain.  he was entangled with the rope that he brought along, that was tied to his waist.  and he hanged there for dear life.  he was terrified with no help in sight.  and so, he remembered to pray hard enough that God answered him right away.  He told the man that if he wanted to be saved, he must cut the rope.  But the man did not follow God’s instruction.  The next day, he was found by rescuers frozen to death by the icy cold night.  He was only a few feet away from the ground and could have walked to the nearest shelter just a near distance from where he was found dead… if only he had just cut his rope.

the story led me to ask myself, if  i were this man, would i follow what God had told me to do? or would i be as afraid to let go? 

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for me, the want to climb a mountain on my own, represents pride.  the storm stands for the trials and difficulties  in my life.  the darkness represents  hopelessness.  getting lost is living without the Word of God in our life.  the rope is the attachment that keeps me from totally trusting in the Lord;  the rope that i keep on holding on to, with the belief  that it is the only way.  and it is not.  JESUS IS THE ONLY WAY.

the true test of our faith is when that Someone whom we trust to save us, does so  in a manner that is contrary to our expectations.  the Lord answers all our prayers for help.  sometimes He does so with urgency.  but sometimes He waits for the right moment.  and there are times that His answer is NO,  because these are the times when what we pray for would bring us only more harm than good.  so when He does not give in to what we pray for, we have to be thankful that He didn’t.  because it is always a blessing in disguise.

96ecbf43bc925864Jesus gave us an excellent example of what true and genuine trust is, when He died on the Cross.  He is God.  Jesus can save Himself, but He did not.  He followed the will of the Father because He trusted in His grand plan.  And that was to save mankind…to save us… to save YOU…  and ME!  and all because of His great love for us.

So the next time we are in a life or death situation; or when we are  in trouble and don’t know what to do gods-handnext;  when we are asked to cut our ropes again, let us always remember that Jesus died for us on that Cross.  Must not the Father who sacrificed His Son for us, be more than willing to just simply catch us when fall?

The distance of us hanging on to dear life to the safer ground below, depends on our faith to JUST LET IT GO…

and LET GOD.