December 26, 2013

Christmas commences the faith journey of God: Some random thoughts

The Yuletide break has given me the opportunity to work on my other blogs. It was not difficult for me to update some as there are recent activities related to their particular niche. Others are continuation of the series of articles being posted or reposted. It is on this blog  where I  take a pause. Although I have already decided on the  topic, I am a little bit cautious as I  deal with faith journey in relation to Christmas. Much more that my random thoughts lead me to write on the  faith journey of God in Jesus.

My first impulse was to relate my faith journey to Christmas. A quick flashbacks on  life’s experiences brought me to my childhood dream to become a pastor as exemplified by the life of Rev. Salustiano Cabahug in his relationship with the church and community. Unable to pursue my dream to enroll in a seminary where he graduated, I shelved that dream when I got converted to my father’s  trade whom I also idolized in his relationship with peers, subordinates and gambling clientele.

I felt so secured and comfortable in an unstable world of gambling, that my only wanting was a wife to establish my own family. Yet, it did not come, as I was more inclined to touch cards and mahjong tiles than a hand of a woman. My dreams, at that time,were more of figures to beat in number games than faces  or vital statistics of woman I want to marry. It was only when I encountered a series of life threatening motorcycle accidents that I was convinced to  enter a bible school which eventually led me to another journey culminating  in a  near fatal illness.

A mystical journey followed resulting to a bargain with God for a year of lease of life so that I could work full time in ministry. As it turned out,  it  only serves  as a transition to more journeys in life including dialectic materialist ones which have changed the course of my life, ushering  me to where I am now  with two more critical sickness as life-changing  interludes.

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In the process of relating my faith journey to Christmas, I got overwhelmed by  God’s love and grace to me that  as I started to wonder about it, my thoughts  also wandered  on what the first Christmas could have been to God’s own faith journey in Jesus.

Undeniably, Christmas is the fulfillment of the promise and prophecy and, in some sense, a  culmination of the faith journey of the old. For Jesus  is considered the fulfillment of the Old Testament.  In Christmas,  all the labors and waiting  of the old were not in vain  because the Immanuel finally took place as foretold.

However,  it is also the beginning of the faith journey of the people to whom the incarnated God associated with. It  was not necessarily the start of the faith  journey of Mary and Joseph. They have already succeeded to hurdle the shame and embarrassment  for the controversial pregnancy of Mary prior to their  marriage and of course the stressful condition of literal journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem just the time she is expected to give birth. But it  was the beginning of the faith journey for the shepherds, and would be disciples, friends and associates of Jesus.

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More importantly, it  was  the beginning of   the faith journey of God who has exposed himself   to the cruelties of the world in incarnation. Logically, God knows how to handle the faith journey of humanity throughout the ages. While He knows how fragile humanity is, God has seen how they put their trust on Him in difficult situation. And despite  their failings  and backsliding, God knows how to discipline them to guide them  to the right track.  At times, He put them to test to gauge their faith but with restraints for He never allow humanity to be tempted beyond their capacity to cope.

But it’s a different story for God to entrust His life’s vulnerabilities  to humanity.  Can He really trust them,  knowing pretty well how  they have repudiated his messengers and even killed the prophets?  Can they be trusted of the intimate secrets? Can they discern the message and signs of times? What might have been in the thoughts of God when  Joseph  flip flopped  in his decision in their plight  as refugees?

Was it intentional or circumstantial  for God to commence  Jesus journey  in the care of the  lowest and most despised social groups and later on in the company of  unschooled and ordinary,  drunkard,  tax collectors and sinners? Was He more secured and comfortable in the company of these people than the  prestigious and  elite,   including the  religious ones? Were these some reasons why Jesus  showed  concerns and admiration for  the  traits of the former in contrast to the skirmishes and confrontation he had with the latter through parables and actual encounters?  Were his sighs   recorded in the bible manifestations of Jesus impatience or irritation in the course of his journey, when confronted by  humanity’s  lack of faith? What could have  Jesus felt in his faith journey when confronted by furious crowd that almost threw him off the cliff?

These questions  challenge  me to review  the Gospel  in the context of some random thoughts.

November 17, 2013


Guest blog post by Arlyn Liling Tagakapis*

Article first published as Let your tears flow on her timelime in social media.

Let your tears flow,
Why be ashamed of them?
They are not signs of weaknesses, but power;
Allow that salty water to stream down your cheek. 
Stick out your tongue and lick that bitter taste of salt that fell into your lips.
It’s the mark of your oneness with the oceans and seas.

Let your tears flow,
Why do you have to wipe them off with paper or cloth?
Allow the wind and the sun to dry your face;
The storm is not your enemy. 
They must exist to keep the planet earth alive. 
Let all the elements of the earth to work with you as you re-build your lives – restoring your hopes and dreams with your loved ones.

Let your tears flow,
Why so anxious of having a “clean” face?
Let tears collect into your palm and draw stain at the cloth that covers your body;
Then, open your arms and fly; and plunge into the water. 
The rivers must know of your own story, loud and clear.

Taken from: Jordan Clark CAPISNON Facebook Community
Let your tears flow,
Why be afraid of your vulnerabilities?
They tell you that you are human; embrace your pain and perplexities; they are holy:
Your tears of uncertainty remind you that you belong to a family, relatives, friends, and neighbors and the world.

Let your tears flow,
Why hide them with a smile?
Do you know that mermaids don’t cry and so the most unhappy specie on earth?
Have you had a chance to see mermaid? I hadn’t either. 
And we fret over so many things we don’t know about? 
Take things one at a time… moment by moment.

Let your tears flow,
Why fear to be blinded by tears?
Your tears are rain upon the blinding dust of the earth that hardens your soul.
As tears cover the eyes, it uncovers the heart.
And, in this blindness, prepares the way for a different kind of seeing: sight through the “eyes of faith.”


*Arlyn is a US based friend and partner in volunteerism and advocacy for change and development. A versatile fellow, she wrote this poem in solidarity with all the people in the Philippines who face harsh realities and  must re-build their dreams around the “catastrophic damage” left by the strongest ever tropical cyclone (dubbed in the country as Yolanda, internationally known as Haiyan) that made a series of landfall in the Island.

November 9, 2013

Scene Unexpected of the Prayer Operatives (SUPO): Reflections after the storm

I could have  entitled this article  Scene of the Storm Oddities  as a post storm reflections on  Yolanda, dubbed  as  one of the strongest typhoons  on earth which smashed the Central Philippines.  But the would- be acronym  SOSO sounds profane especially that this post deals with arguments on prayer and faith in social media related to  the storm.So I changed it  to Scene of the Prayer Operatives (SOPO) only to replace it, in  a matter of few seconds,  with the final title as you read it now to emphasize the intended meaning as represented by our local  dialect.

Taken from
Of course, the use of this acronym was influenced by  the  popular Philippine reality television series of ABS-CBN hosted by ace reporter reporter Gus Abelgas. Dubbed  S.O.C.O. (Scene of the Crime Operatives), it aims to find answers to serious crimes with the help of local police and forensic investigators.

If my memory serves me right, we used the word supo in gambling during our  younger days and in arguments which implies the discovery of  somebody’s  tactic  to  outwit another in  the game.This is closely related to another  Ilonggo term supok which means to contend, oppose, stand against. Scanning over the thousands website suggested by Google when I inquired, the convincing  explanation I got was  the conjugation of Spanish word  saber (to know). Hence, the title is used in  this context.

I was monitoring  in social media the unwelcome visit  of  Yolanda to Iloilo since classes were suspended and office closed  a day before the schedule. I have been appreciative of this gift of  technology to  mankind and the corresponding  initiatives or gestures of netizens to share links with one another on pressing issues or concerns. Yesterday, prior to  the blackout, my facebook (FB)  News Feed were flooded with satellite images of the direction of Yolanda, and of course prayer requests or respective prayer posts.  Until I started to become amuse  of  the exchanges of comments  and arguments over how prayers are posted.  Of course, each comment may reflect one’s theology or spirituality. There  were however others who could not hide their irritation or scorn to  perceived hypocrisy or  naivety .

Taken from 
Apart from the theological arguments in one FB group where I belong,  a  friend's post amused me and tempted me to click like, had it not been for the spark of conservatism in me.  Here's an excerpt: “Stop sending messages of prayers about the typhoon. It only causes people to panic. I read one which says  'Lord please cause the typhoon to change direction.' What??? You want the storm to pass over Cagayan de Oro or Batangas instead? Either way, people will be killed...And by the way, Jesus advised us to pray in private. So stop announcing your prayer habit; most likely, you just want people to know you are religious.” It got 275 likes and 30 comments as this article is being drafted. Except for one who called for tolerance, all other comments were favorable to  the post.While this friend is  known for his straightforward irreligiosity, I admire his spirituality. I'll deal with this in succeeding posts.  

But the differing views on prayer  reminds me of a scene during our overnight  class sessions  when I was still a student in social work. It was a class on Group and Community Processes where group dynamics, conflict, etc were being discussed.While  we were discussing at the wee hours, suddenly masked armed group barged into our classroom and ordered all of us to lie down pointing their guns on those who resisted. We were all caught off guard why such an incident happened inside the campus whose gates were manned by security personnel.  Male members were neutralized as the intruders took our teacher and a lady classmate as hostage. The atmosphere was so tensed dominated by crying, weeping,  sobs and suppressed scream as the intruders ordered us to keep quiet.
As expected almost all started uttering prayers, according to their religious orientation. Suddenly, at  my left , a classmate scolded another classmate on my right side who was holding a rosary and pleading to the Virgin Mary  to  instead direct the prayer to Jesus. Another  one commented  why to Jesus when you could directly pray to God. For a while their  fear was set aside to engage into heated arguments of correct theology. In fact, they almost quarreled.  I could no longer recall, if it was me or another who calmed them down by telling them just continue with their respective prayers and avoid further argument lest it would bring us more harm than good.

When the tensions subsided, we were told that the incident was orchestrated  as  part of activities of the social process. Insiders later told me it was supposed to be my girlfriend who should be taken as hostage to test how I would react. But the guard  confused her to another classmate with similar features. That was probably one reason why I scolded the group assigned including our teacher during the processing session. But this will be a good topic  later for my other blogs.

(To be continued)

October 20, 2013

Thank you, Lord for everything

Dear God,

Thank you for this new day you have added  to my life. Thank you for  the extended years and the corresponding blessings, changes and development within me and through me. You know how everyday I savor the beauty of life- one thing I had neglected in the past.
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For,  before, I spent most of the day on  thinking what to do rather than appreciating  what  life brings with each passing moments. I failed to appreciate the beauty of rest and even sleep as I wished I could live without  them so that our work would remain unhampered. ‘Twas the peak of my leadership and service in pastoral ministry that we were gearing,  without delay, redeeming the time by taking advantage of favorable circumstances.  How many times, I  tried to defy the laws of nature, yes, my  human vulnerability and even impending death in vain attempt to do more for your glory and honor, believing  I had the immunity to face consequences  in the name of service.

It is only now that I learn to enjoy the natural gift you have given us – fresh air, sunlight, exercises, nature's beauty, new spirituality  as I cannot  start each  day without them. It is only now that I learn to appreciate and value all of my body parts for having sustained my well being despite my negligence and  abuse due to unhealthy lifestyle and mindset.  There was even a time when  I seemed to spite them for being weak to  protect myself and resist illness and sickness.  But after  undergoing the painful and  harrowing health related experience, I realized their strength and made at peace with them as I apologized for my shortcomings as steward of my body.    

It is only now that I value my parenthoood as my health condition  constrains my mobility, forcing me to stay at home after office work to supervise  household chores and our kids. It is in this experience that I become closer to my kids and  learn the harsh lessons that most of the things I don’t like in them are mere  product of my own doing.  One time, I had to  slap my head  when  confronting  them  on the late night’s sleep, they replied:” Haven’t  you remembered, father, when we were still children that we could not go to bed until we bid you goodnight? Oftentimes, you went home late and we had to  wait for you. Since then, we have been conditioned to sleep late.”
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For long, I had neglected this endeavor,  considering my work including voluntary ones, especially those related to ministry, as an excuse for  not getting involved in such "menial task." Worse, I even reinforced the challenges to my wife to join me in a worthwhile calling, depriving our kids of family togetherness during weekends. I cannot forget  the night when we were informed about the narrow escape of our kids from the flashflood brought by Typhoon Frank in 2008. My wife and I were in another province doing voluntary work and we had to finish our speaking engagement the following day before going home to process the traumatized kids.  But now, I enjoy trading wits, reasons and arguments with our teenage  daughter and two  sons to convince them of my agenda as they now have minds of  their own which I  cannot dictate. Every day is an interesting struggle as I try to catch up with whatever left within my influence towards their growth and development. 

I can cite more changes and realizations in my life and the corresponding blessings- all because of the near death experience I had four years ago. That was when I faced all the consequences of my negligence and abuse to my body. Still, I attempted to  defy them by invoking faith and the imperative of service, until  literary  I became unable to walk for even a couple  of  meters or talk for  half a dozen minutes. It was then when I started  blaming even you, dear Lord, for my fate, as if You didn’t care with the unfinished tasks all for your kingdom and glory. 

But you  seemed to keep your distance. And in your deafening silence, I realized  my frailties  and started to value each step that I take both physical and steps of faith.  I continue to experience the gradual and painful process of recovery up to now. Yet, inside me the healing is almost  complete which matters most.  For I know the healing inside will soon be reflected  in my whole being. For this, I thank you, Lord for all the trials that come my way and for the victory that growing brings as I continue with my faith journey.

October 6, 2013

Katipan Hall: A legacy of faith in action

True to its meaning, Katipan  has become a symbol of solidarity among pastors. It bespeaks of the realization of collective faith and action (Katumanan sang Tingob nga Pagtoo kag binuhatan). A such, Katipan has   galvanized our relationship. It even boosted the morale of pastors who have been stereotyped to be always in the receiving end. The KATIPAN Hall also stands as monument of the gains in networking. Pastors have exhausted their linkages and network in order to complete the project.

Katipan Hall in 2006
Our faith journey  started from an invitation of the Pastors’ Kids (PK) Association to hold our National Assembly at Camp Higher Ground in 2006 for free. At that time, they were starting to develop the Camp Higher Ground after the mandate to manage this neglected treasure of the Convention of Philippine Baptist Churches (CPBC) in Barotac Viejo, Iloilo. Few months later, the Convention leadership rescinded their action, forcing the PK to cancel its goodwill.

Having set our preparation on the venue, our Association decided to take matters in our hands. With the projected cost within our reach, we undertook the project. Only to found out later, there was an overly underestimation of the cost. Upon expert advice, we opted to improve the design with permanent materials due to susceptibility of the area to termites. Exhausting our own resources, we engaged in various fund campaign and use our network, both personal and organizational. Concerts, dinner for a cause, solicitation, loans were but a few of the strategies we undertook.

Katipan Hall in 2007
Like the boy in the parable of the feeding of multitude, our initiative, though viewed  with reservation, soon gained support.  Touched by our commitment to share  meager means, other organizations followed suit. Soon the spark  got the fire burning. The Pastor Kids’ commitment to develop the Camp Higher Ground was rekindled. They did not only give donation but took charge of the floor tiling. Women’s group, Baptist Men and Youth likewise contributed their share, as well as churches and related academic institutions and hospitals. Provincial Kasapulanans, individual members and even government officials  also responded to the appeal. The Gilopez Kabayao Foundation showed  support by making our association the beneficiary of their concerts. Pastors abroad sent their contribution. Rev. Danilo Borlado  mobilized the church in Hongkong to shoulder the painting cost. Funds surplus even completed the construction of basketball court beside the edifice. But the bulk of the donation came from pastors.

Katipan Hall is not merely another successful infrastructure project. Beyond the construction issue, the  Hall has been transformed into a spiritual warfare in reclaiming the legacy of the Camp Higher Ground. The place, which serves as venue for camping, conventions, retreats, conferences, has been a living witness to transformation of lives brought about by past experiences in the Camp. It is considered an icon of serenity, spirituality and renewal. However, the place had been abused and neglected for the past decades. Seldom was it used for the aforementioned purposes. Through the project, pastors attempted  to reclaim the spiritual heritage of the Camp. Thereafter, its beauty and usefulness has been gradually restored. Its presence has attracted other organizations to resume retreats, seminar, conferences and other religious activities.

But there is more to the Katipan legacy.  It has brought our association to the door step of the CPBC leadership and politics. Of course, there are  pastors who have been in the mainstream of  politics  in our denomination. Some already identified with a particular group or block. There was even a time when a pastor’s  group that participated in the people’s struggle during the dark years of dictatorial rule in our country  established alliances with leaders in Negros. Later, such alliance dominated the CPBC politics, sustained by new leaders and some members of our group. The rest refrained from politics, some maintain independence while others formed another block or aligned with young progressive pastors who are in the forefront of  Go for Change movement. However, seldom does our  association, as a whole, directly participate in the politics.

Katipan Hall in 2010
Things, however, have changed because of the Katipan project. There was a shift in my personal stand to dissuade pastors to leave the CPBC politics to lay leaders and focus in our association. Every time we were confronted with difficulties in sustaining the project, I recalled the culprit. The leadership flaw, as manifested in the rescindment of the Board in their approval of Pastors Kids management of the Camp on flimsy ground

I then decided to enter the CPBC politics during the May 2006 election running as independent. The pastors did not fail me, some crossing group lines/affiliations. I won in that election which was a show of force and money of organized groups within the CPBC. It was marred with block voting and boat buying, if not vote buying. Thereafter, I advocated for the pastors cause resulting to some significant changes beneficial for pastors.

Katipan in Katipan
Katipan Hall in 2011

September 29, 2013

Why I won’t give up yet on Camp Higher Ground

In my previous post, I made mention about having been  in the side light when my leadership term ended in our  organization in 2010 and the glaring  lull  in succeeding leadership to continue the cause we have collectively and organizationally started. But why won’t  I give up yet?

I  could still recall the scene during the  2009 Convention Baptist Ministers Association  (CBMA) National Assembly, when an elder pastor stood up in response to  my insinuation  that we hold the next  assembly in the city. This was in reference to  inconveniences experienced by delegates at the Camp Higher Ground  due to lack of facilities. At that time, I seemed to feel some kind of guilt that for some  years, pastors were deprived of better accommodation because of  our advocacy for  the Camp Higher Ground.  He boldly said something like this:  If we had endured such inconveniences for the past four years, why stop now when we almost succeed in reclaiming the legacy of the Camp as icon of serenity, spirituality and renewal. 

His subsequent motion was unanimously approved by the assembly to hold upcoming gatherings  at Camp Higher Ground.  I was humbled by such sincere gesture coming from a well meaning member. (It is this kind of unadulterated spirit that always serves as  glim of hope which keeps me going.)  At that time,  the Katipan Hall we initiated in 2006 was almost complete. True enough, the next two assemblies were held on same venue. Except for   administering  both the opening and closing ceremonies, I  was not able to fully enjoy those assemblies because of my critical health condition.

However, just when my health was quite improving  and intended to attend the assembly in 2012, the venue was no longer at Camp Higher Ground. I was told,  due to a request of  a local church for their anniversary. Although, it was met with various reactions including  some nasty criticisms which can be retrieved from archives of the Association’s FB Group, such assembly served as precedence in leaving  the Camp (and seemingly the corresponding advocacy). The  succeeding assembly was held no  longer at the Camp because of another request of local  church in commemoration of centenary   and the upcoming one in January 2014 will be held in another region as requested, again.

It remains to be seen whether the assembly would ever remember our  previous commitments and advocacy related to the Camp Higher Ground. Whether  the idiomatic expressions  Absence makes the heart grow fonder, but too much makes it wander would old true in our organization.

But I, for one, won’t give up yet on Camp Higher Ground. Why? It’s because of  the breakthrough we once had which served as a symbol of solidarity among pastors. The KATIPAN Hall which was established by our collective faith and action.

Katipan is an Ilonggo term for Covenant. In the CBMA context it sums up the phrase Katuman sang Tingob nga Pagsalig kag Binuhatan. In English, this means “realization of collective faith and action.” True to its meaning, KATIPAN Hall has become a symbol of solidarity among pastors. Katipan has galvanized our relationship. It even boosted the morale of pastors who have been stereotyped to be always in the receiving end. Of course, not a few had raised their eyebrows questioning our capacity to sustain the project. Even engineers who volunteered their labor could not help but smile upon learning our start up budget.

(to be continued)

September 22, 2013

My thoughts won’t give up yet on Camp Higher Ground

Yesterday while waiting for our graduate students, I had a hearty  chat with a colleague at the Department of Social Work on lots of issues and concerns related to our profession, work and dreams including our fairy tale wishes.   Sounds funny, ridiculous or absurd at our age. Yet we have some of these moments probably as part of our stress relieving mechanism.

One of the things we discussed was my dream for the Camp Higher Ground and my seemingly irreligious thoughts on where to get the resources. A week earlier I remembered also talking with a younger faculty at the Department  during our free time with similar topics and  almost the same  fantasies. Very much earlier, or should I say from time to time, I would cherish memories of our previous advocacies and gains  related to the development of Camp Higher Ground and engage in day dream  of an aborted advocacy on Pastors’ Village at the Camp.

One that is complete with  facilities and amenities for  pastors to stay, especially the retired ones so that they will have more time for fellowship while sharing their stories of faith and struggles. In the process, these  are documented for the benefit of younger generations and perhaps as reference for our  theological institutions and legacy of faith. The village can also provide opportunities for them to maintain their productivity and  a venue for interaction with younger ministers and seminarians.  And probably, for them to enjoy the abundant life which had been deprived to some, while waiting for the kingdom come or the eternal bliss whichever happens  first.

Every time I hear or read news about philanthropists who donated huge amount for charity and church-related endeavor, more often for priests, I cannot help but wish that one of these days, there will  be similar blessings for pastors welfare. So that  I would put an end to my irreligious thought of possible resources.

In fact, few months ago, I could not help myself but awed by the gesture of a business tycoon, Ramon Ang,  for  donating  P120 million of his personal funds to the local Jesuit community for  a  multi-story “Jesuit Health and Wellness Center for aging priests who have dedicated their lives to serving Filipinos. Again, I asked myself, when will the time come that such kind of gesture will be directed to our pastors?

Early this morning while doing my regular walking exercise and reflections, I have realized that after  more than three years of being in the side light when my leadership term ended in our  organization. Despite the lull  in succeeding leadership to continue the cause we have collectively and organizationally started, my thoughts won’t give up yet on Camp Higher Ground.

The clarion call we made almost 7 years ago keeps ringing  on my ears. The challenge to reclaim the heritage of the  Camp Higher Ground  as icon of serenity, spirituality and renewal is  still valid. The multifaceted testament of  our KATIPAN Hall project is worth the recall to give us fresh hope. What more, my seemingly irreverent thought of possible funding sources has been added with incredible  wish that a philanthropist somewhere, sometime might read this blog and, in a rare instance, decide to donate his fortune to make our dreams come true. A day dream again? Maybe yes. But am I not a believer of endless possibilities?

(to be continued)

September 1, 2013

Hitting a plateau?

It seems I have reached a some kind of plateau in my journey both in blogging and in my spirituality. Indicator:  No new post on any of my  seven other blogs for the past three months, not even  on this blog which is supposed to be the journal of my faith journey.

Probably, I was just exhausted after a successful defense of my dissertation last June. So exhausted that until now I have not submitted the final copy  despite a minor revision. Although I know I can do it, if I will, in less than a week.
Courtesy of seekeronline.infonli
But I don't want to prolong this experience. Today, I decided to break the plateau by idly opening this blog, attempting to  make a new post. Surfing the web related to the subject matter,  in random, two links caught my attention. Hence,  I am sharing the Post dissertation stress disorder and  Have You Reached A Spiritual Plateau? to change the status  quo.

May 25, 2013

Bogged down but not blogged out

The blogging lull in the couple of weeks in May was caused by systems bogged down. First the computer, followed by my own body. Although not necessarily related (but who really knows?), both point to my vulnerability. The laptop which had been my partner through thick and thin for more than three years just turned off. Having no resources for immediate replacement of expensive part, I have to squeeze my schedule with the kids for family computer until my sister-in-law lends me her own for a particular time.

But it did not bridge the gap, right away. Having been attached to the previous laptop, adjustment was not easy for me. All blogging drafts and ideas were stored in it. Despite the gradual transfer of necessary files to alternate computer, I cannot take off in blogging and idea generation. I realized the old laptop ceased to be a mere static electronic device. It has become a personal partner which assists me even in generating ideas and plans. It appears to have a mind of its own, hastening the formulation of plans and project completion.

For more than a year of bout with chronic ailment, aside from the bible, the laptop has been my constant companion especially when bedridden. No matter how they wished to be always at my side during those moments, my wife and kids had to attend to work and studies related activities, respectively. But the bible and the laptop have been constant companions 24/7. Hence, the significant gap with its loss.

As if to make matters worse, when I was about to adjust with an alternative computer, my body bogged down. With limited time for computer, I found another interest – gardening and yard cleaning. Hence, after 30 minutes of morning walking exercises, I extend some minutes in cultivating a plot with spade and digging canals in preparation for rainy season. The new-found diversion enhances my sweat glands which I feel beneficial for my nerve disorder. However, one day, I might have overstretched my capacity. Subsequently, my blood pressure shoot up. Thereafter, it was not stabilized until two weeks of rest.

Feeling bad about the situation, the temptation to shoot endless questions alluding to God or blame oneself dominated my thoughts. More so, that I had set my mind walking down the road to full recovery. Believing to have passed the painful test of times and circumstances, I religiously watched my steps and movements throughout the gradual healing process. Still, this vulnerability which almost put all things together to naught. In that context, one can understand my frustration.

Yet, the feeling was just temporary. Looking back to my past experiences, particularly on how God sustained me all through the pain and sufferings, I immediately discard any negative thought and entrust to Him everything. Then the scenario has changed. I found peace and assurance all things will work out for good in due time, although I don’t know when and how.

With such realization, I resumed blogging, First, posting my open letters to pastors and revising some contributions earlier published in other sites. Bear with me. I have been bogged down twice but not blogged out.

The article was posted two years ago on my PADAYON blog. I found the article as I reviewed  God's grace in my faith journey which led me to higher ground.

May 5, 2013

Experience is not the best teacher

This is a repost of  my article which was published on this site two years ago.

Since time immemorial, experience has been acclaimed as the best teacher. Nobody dares argue. Not until somebody claims, it is the worst. I don't want to join the debate because I already found the best teacher ,i.e. life itself. A timeless, tireless, relentless and irresistible teacher, as well. Giving me lessons, despite my unwillingness to learn.

The year 2009 will long be forgotten by my family as it marks my 55th year. At the peak of my career, I felt relatively stable and fulfilled in my achievements. The ups and downs of life's experiences have increased my knowledge and honed my skills in living and serving. Unsophisticated, my direction was to receive less and give more. Beaming with confidence I have learned much, my motivation was to teach and share more.

At that time, I was about to wrap up my successful leadership as national president of the Baptist pastors affiliated with the Convention of Philippine Baptist Churches. Five years earlier, I was awarded as one of the ten outstanding social workers of the Philippines. Nothing more to ask except for longer life to continue my service. And to consolidate my experiences as registered social worker and ordained minister into books/publications . So that I can teach others also.

All of the sudden, the ecstasy was shattered by a chronic heart ailment, compounded with unusual nerve disorder in the last quarter of the aforementioned year. Three months away from our national assembly to cap my six years of service and leadership. It was a devastating experience for me and my family. The worst we ever encountered so far. Such condition has constrained my active life of service. Adding pain was the realization that we have given all in service without saving for ourselves in times of crisis.

Most of my time is spent at home due to limited mobility, making me vulnerable to discouragement and depression. This condition has been going on  for more than a year. A  wrestle  with the nagging issues of pain and suffering and search for the meaning of all these experiences in life. In solitude, I have discovered the best teacher. That is LIFE itself.

April 21, 2013

Pushing beyond limits

It’s just today that I realized how busy I had been for the past two weeks when I visited my blogs. I made it a point to update my blogs at least once a week to raise my Alexa rank. Alexa is a quick and easy way to estimate how popular your site is compared to other sites. Ratings start from 1 to 20,000,000 and even beyond. The lower the number, the better your rating is.That  has become my self imposed challenge  to test my reflexes without necessarily stressing myself.  Assessing the backlog vis-à-vis  my limits, I decided to repost my previous blogs according to their value and relevance. The following article, first published April 16, 2012 on Lariza Website, qualifies in my Faith Journey blog.

Elsie E. Malabon, cum laude, leads the BSSW 2012
graduates of the Department of Social Work
The 84th Commencement Exercises of Central Philippine University on April 15 has been inspiring. The Department has produced 12 graduates in the Bachelor of Science in Social Work, one with academic honor, cum laude. Together with 3 others, the honoree was not even expecting to graduate this semester, as some of her subjects were supposed to be offered in the 1st semester classes , a sort of lapses in advising.

But, as it were, I took time to study the complex condition of irregular students upon resuming my position as head of the Department. Thereafter, arranging their load in unconventional manner and semestral offerings so as to minimize the period of their stay. This skill was honed from those unlikely experiences in past life – my exposure in gambling during my youth. Like risk taking and the skills in arranging/organizing cards, mahjong tiles to win despite their weak/losing state. Yes, maximizing all the chances, even pushing beyond limit.

Equally inspiring is the fate of our Master of Science in Social Work (MSSW) graduates. There are four of them who made it completing the Magic 10 to mark the 10th year of the revival of University’s MSSW program. It was in 2002 when we reactivated the program, a couple of years after I finished my Master of Social Work from the University of the Philippines- Diliman. With the strong support of Dr. Fely David, Dean of Graduate Studies, we succeeded to achieve it during the University’s historic Centennial Year in 2005.

The Magic Four with their thesis adviser. (L-R) Kareen Jay Diesto-Lozada, Sr. Aubrey Casimiro DC,
 Araceli Tondo, the author, and Carol Kay Cortuna-Blando
One of our MSSW pioneering students succeeded to complete the academic requirements and passed the final defense. Subsequently, Mrs. Lolita Camarig, municipal social welfare and development officer of Leganes had joined the commencement march of the Centennial graduates. Thereafter, we produced graduates with non BSSW degrees who subsequently hurdled the board exam, namely: Aujun Labrador, Lunnie Lasquite, and Melody Arandela-Ambangan. Ruby Plagata, another graduate, will soon take the social work licensure examination. Our other graduate is Prof. Maribel Gonzales, former head of the Department of Social Work, University of Negros Occidental-Recoletos.

Pose for posterity after the graduation ceremony.
The author, flanked by Kareen Jay (L) and Carol Kay (R)
Completing the Magic 10 are this year’s four MSSW graduates. Of the four, two are faculty of the Department of Social Work, CPU, namely: Carol Kay Cortuna-Blando and Kareen Kay Diesto. Both are close to my heart being my students during their undergraduate years; colleagues when they joined the teaching force of the Department; partners in volunteerism and development endeavors.

But organizational changes separated us for awhile until we have the opportunity to work together again. Having something in common both as victims and victors of experts in manipulating people and circumstances, we developed the biblical slogan “overcome evil by doing good.” Renewing our relationship, we committed to resume the interrupted partnership and development including their MSSW degree. Thereafter, I served as their thesis adviser struggling with them through thick and thin until they were conferred with their hard earned degree yesterday.

The other two are personnel of the Colegio del Sagrado Corazon de Jesus,namely: Sr. Aubrey Casimiro and Araceli Tondo. The bonding we have may not be comparable to the previous ones. Yet, it is also interesting and equally significant. Adverse circumstances did not hinder their desire to finish studies according to their schedule. Even my serious sickness and subsequent health limitation could not withstand their earnestness to complete the course.

We have experienced pushing beyond limits just to continue our classes. At times, holding reportorial sessions at home due to my limited mobility. In some instances, conducting classes at the University gazebo because I could not make it to the 3rd floor where Graduate School classrooms are located. There was even a time we had classes under the acacia tree beside the Department of Social Work, having no access to the office which used to be an alternate venue for my masteral classes.

But tougher times were just waiting ahead, making their presence felt during thesis writing stage. Aware of my health limitation, we tried to organize their respective schedule to avoid overlapping that would put unnecessary pressures on us both. Despite this, however, unavoidable circumstances compelled us to confront realities that push us beyond our limits.

A delay in the data gathering of one advisee had  a domino effect on our overall schedule.  With the scrambled schedule, we were compelled to confront the pressures we wanted to avoid. More so, that another advisee was affected by the changes of schedule of the accreditation involving our own department.

It was trying moments for us all. Especially, that I was still in the process of recuperating from critical illness which dramatically changed my lifestyle. While in the past, I could work effectively under pressures, I have learned to avoid such situation after my ailment. Previously, I loved doing homework; especially rush paper work until early morning. However, since my sickness, I have disciplined myself to sleep early with strict resolve not to bring home any school or office assignment.

Faced with the dilemma vis-à-vis the aforementioned limitations, we braved the tough times with faith in God and team work. I encouraged them to share with one another the development of their work to challenge each other. Similarly, the under development to make each one aware that she is not alone in such situation.  By God’s grace, our faith journey did bear fruits – they graduated even when we were pushed beyond limits.

April 4, 2013

"Resurrected" MSPM? Thanks to NETS!

My lenten blog and the invitation for the 3rd Graduation Ceremony of the Negros Theological Seminary have inspired me to repost this blog which was first published April 9, 2012 on PADAYON: Our Life Journey.
Congratulations to the Batch 2012 of the Negros TheologicalSeminary (NETS). Special mentioned to  Pastor Teofilo Boy Mahilum and Pastor Stephen Gallenero for being the pioneer graduates, as far as the Master of Socio Pastoral Ministries (MSPM) is concerned. With your graduation, the sustainability of MSPM program is already assured in Negros or even in Panay. More so, that the guest speaker in your 2nd Commencement Exercises   is one of the pioneer faculty of the MSPM, Dr. Melvin M. Mangana.

Pastor  Mahilum, Seminary President, welcomes
graduates and gusts to the NETS First Commencement
Exercises held in 2011 in Sagay, Negros Occidental.
When we started the program in 2007, some downgraded  our voluntary effort while others already expressed skepticism of its sustainability, even before it is tested. Worse, there were those who consistently campaign against it when the program was well accepted by pastors, even to the extent of recruiting those already participating in the MSPM program to join the program they promote.

Some students  even experienced  “harassment” from  an on- and- off  personnel who intimated to monitor the program as it is suspected  to be used against the CPBC leadership. A ridiculous claim as the program was approved by the Board of Trustees of the referred institution. Of course,  the reactions mostly came from  people who have been conditioned to believe that  they are the  center if not the sole reservoirs  of  learning or power. Apart from them or their blessings, no other initiatives will ever prosper.

However, like the unknown kid in the Bible, whose small initiatives resulted  to the feeding of  5,000+,  we were not disturbed by overwhelming discrepancies and limitations, even criticisms. Such voluntary spirit made a difference. Amidst reservations, if not downgrading of the modest offering, Jesus made use of what was available and another miracle happened.
MSPM pioneer students during the Semestral Joint Class in North Negros Baptist Bible College

The MSPM stands as witness to the unprecedented unity in the Convention Baptist Ministers Association (CBMA) and Convention of Philippine Baptist Churches (CPBC) five years ago. It is one of the   two breakthroughs  undertaken when the  CPBC Unified Theological Education System(UNITES) was conceived, approved by the CPBC Board of Trustees and gradually implemented by the Theological Education and Ministerial Concerns Committee. Those were the days, my friends, we thought would never end, when theological institutions affiliated with the Convention  were so united to formulate a Standardized Curriculum.

A combination of Master of Social Work and Master of Ministry, the mission of the Master of Socio-Pastoral Ministries program is to prepare pastors for leadership roles in  church, church-related institutions  and community. Specifically, it is geared towards a healthy and balanced  pastoral leadership in church and community services. For we have a holistic mission and ministry  exemplified by  our Lord and Master  Teacher, Jesus, the Christ as he  put into action the avowed mission in Luke4:18-19.

Three years after  the program was implemented, it has produced  23  pioneering graduates from Panay and Negros, despite some attempts to sabotage the program . The Conferral Ceremony  was held  on May 1, 2010 at  Ajuy Christian Development Academy, Ajuy, Iloilo with the approval of the General  Secretary of the CPBC, Rev. Job Santiago, who served as speaker on said event. Pastor Stephen could have joined that Batch, but without his knowing it,  he opted to graduate in NETS together with Pastor Boy today.

MSPM program  is unique as it democratizes the center of  learning and power. The program  exemplifies a sharing, self-reliant , self sustaining and  empowering community. Faculty are volunteers.  Students in respective centers shoulder the transportation expenses  and accommodation. Classes are conducted in provincial centers  offered by  churches and institutions who subscribe to the idea.  Participating theological institutions conferred the degree to graduates.

Baptist Pastor united in prayer of thanksgiving for the learning  opportunity
through the MSPM during the  Semestral Joint Class held at North Negros
Baptist Bible College in 2008
As such, the program serves as good news  to  pastors who dream for an alternative continuing pastoral education, affordable but qualitative, without necessarily   leaving their pastorate and families. Its message to the whole CPBC constituents is clear. Nothing is impossible if we only share. Our pastors can earn masteral degrees if we pool our resources together.  The CPBC, with the help of our theological institutions and volunteer faculty – our pastors and lay leaders  can liberalize the educational opportunities and improve the plight of the pastors.

Prof. DZ P. Lariza together with the
Pioneer graduates of NETS
But  such beauty and uniqueness of the program  are not attractive to people who do not believe in empowerment and sharing of resources for the benefit of the many. Changes in leadership in our Convention and respective bible schools  have curtailed the development of the program. Politics and personal  interests  caused  some  to scamper for the opportunity to push for their respective agenda  when  in the leadership position.  Some opted to  put a new label to the same product.  With  my complex  health condition, the more the program was sidetracked.

However, as the saying of old contends “you cannot put a good  person or product down.” By God’s own timetable, NETS  was organized. Subsequently,  a new center of learning and empowerment has been established.  I am glad that the school administration included  in their course  offerings  the MSPM.   With this development, coupled with  the graduation of Pastor Boy and Pastor Stephen, today, we are assured  of the "resurrection" of the MSPM . Those who have started the program in Negros and in Panay  can  now earn their respective degrees in NETS.   Let us spread this good news ! God bless.
*Statement of Support, read by Prof. DZ Patriarca-Lariza on my behalf,  for the 2nd Commencement Exercises of the Negros Theological Seminary (NETS) in Escalante City on April 9, 2012 as requested by the  Seminary administration.

March 28, 2013

The 'womb-to-tomb' faith journey of Jesus

Article first published April 22,2011 on Ezine Articles

The Garden of Gethsemane, on the way to the cross, serves as venue of Jesus affirmation on his willingness to sacrifice as redeemer. There he wrestles with his humanity vis-a-vis the divine mandate. As recorded in the gospel, the scene in the garden portrays the last struggle. Jesus pours out his innermost thoughts and feelings to the Father. Reviewing the justice requirements and redemption scheme, he attempts to argue for other alternatives apart from the cup of suffering and death. In the end, he seals his commitment to undergo the last stage of redemption with this prayer: "Nevertheless, your will be done, not mine."

Thereafter, the culmination of his suffering takes place. The cross is only part of the "womb- to- tomb" painful experiences of Jesus. Hence, the old rugged cross is not the only thing we must cherish and exchange someday with a crown. Our salvation is not the product of the suffering of Jesus just on the cross. It is the totality of the life of Jesus that exemplifies the love of God for humanity.

From conception, he has already foretaste the cruel world system. The intrigues his earthly family encounters due to the controversial pregnancy prior to marriage. At birth, he has been exposed to vulnerable condition of the poorest of the poor, being born in a manager. His childhood experience is colored with the uncertain life of refugees to escape the persecution. Likewise, he has to adjust to the internal struggle in family relationship, as well as the immediate social environment as he keeps up the ideal living, even going against the norms.

Prior to his public ministry, he has to undergo the process of immersion. Living in a depressed community, he has seen the hypocrisy of leaders in the socio-cultural, economic and political structures. Their wanton disregard of the avowed mission to serve the people as ordained by God. How corruption and abuse of power has encroached the ideal immunity of the religious establishment. How religion has been used for business and profit. Yes, he has witness how leaders enrich themselves at the expense of the people they are supposed to develop.

Jesus also knows the struggle of well meaning people in the government and other sectors including revolutionary forces in effecting change. Their two pronged vulnerabilities- stereotype from victims and antagonism from the mainstream perpetrators. Aware of their conviction, he includes some of them in the core of his disciples, mainly composed of representatives from the basic masses.

It is in this context that our observance of religious events or even public holiday should be done in the totality of the life of the honoree. It's unfortunate that Christians have become selective in remembering the life of Jesus. Traditionally, there are only two most celebrated events in his life- Incarnation and Passion. Recent survey of the Social Weather Stations revealed that Filipinos consider Christmas as the most important of the two.

The other aspects of Jesus life are seemingly neglected, especially his manhood. Some sociologists and theologians view this as manifestation of cultural distortion or vested interests. We love to think of the baby Jesus and Crucified Christ. Their images evoke compassion. More importantly, less threatening as they reflect innocence and helplessness. But we are uncomfortable of the adult Jesus who confronts everyone without fear or favor, even turning the tables of those who make business out of religion. It seems, we want to evade the Jesus who challenges us to follow his example in service.

As one clergy observes, almost all church members can easily recite John 3:16. For it is comforting to know that "God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." But many do not know what is 1 John 3:16: "This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters."

March 22, 2013

Do I have to move mountains to prove my faith?

Exactly two years ago, this article was posted on this site. I still find its relevance today. Hence, the repost.

My sickness has given me sufficient time to rest, pray, meditate, read the bible, reflect and write. All the wonderful experiences  my previous hectic schedule deprived me. Among other things, I have been grateful to God for the subsequent  inner renewal taking place in my life. My faith has been strengthened every day.

During those extreme  moments when I was bed ridden, the bible became my constant companion. It continues to be, providing new insights and inspiration, no matter how many times I go over the books, chapters and verses. Literally or symbolically, the scripture has provided me relief, guidance, assurance,  and strength.

I  cannot count the times I revisit the Gospel. So much so, at times, I find myself on the actual scene of the encounters of Jesus with harsh realities of life. It is not difficult for me to realize his frustration with established, exclusivist religious structure and leadership and the skirmishes that follow. Likewise, the consequent effect of stirring the hornet of  exploitative system which takes its toll on his life and ministry.  I understand the jubilation of his followers and the tensions created by the triumphant entry leading to his crucifixion. The inevitable price of  advocating and standing for  the way, the truth and the life. I can easily identify with his concern for the poor, the deprived, the oppressed. My social work experience and involvement in the people’s struggle during the dark years of dictatorial rule in our country make me sensitive to the situation.    

Literally, I follow his teachings on forgiveness and love even the enemies. Though difficult it may be, I enjoy  its soothing effect to my soul. Even his exhortation concerning worries about the cares of the world including the daily needs  is feasible.  Although the expected provision does not always come on time, still I continue to follow his teachings. Whereas before, skipping daily maintenance due to lack of resources made me panic. Now, I take it as part of my healing process. Of course, at times my heart complains when deprived for weeks of the medicine. But I have to assure it that all things will work together for good and wait for the provision.

Yes,  I can attest that the teachings of Jesus are relevant, feasible and worthwhile.  But I stumbled on some things. Foremost, is his teachings on faith as recorded in  Mark 11:22-24.’'Have faith in God,' Jesus answered. 'I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, "Go, throw yourself into the sea," and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours."

Its realization appears to be elusive. Many times, I try but  fail. I  cannot  not even move my health condition into another level, no matter how I  apply  suggestions on the power of faith or power of  mind or a combination of both. But always, I find refuge on the belief that the fullness of time will soon come. The delay is part of God’s preparation for ministry. At times, I reflect:  Do I have  to move mountains to prove my faith?  

March 20, 2013

Is suffering a virtue?

The lenten season has motivated me to repost reflections from my other blogs that are related to my faith journey. The following article was first published on PADAYON: Our Life Journey, April 17, 2011.

Much as I wanted to attend the 83rd Graduation Ceremonies of Central Philippine University last week, my health constrained me. But I got a copy of the commencement message of a brilliant young lawyer who is the only son of my mentor at the Department of Social Work. Addressed to graduates and respective families, the last portion of his speech inspires me. Subsequently, this series of Lenten reflections.

Atty. Peter Irving C. Corvera associates success with significance. For unless our success leaves any imprint on the lives of others, it remains a personal accomplishment. His contention is that success and significance are not dependent on material factors and the length of stay in this world, respectively. Hence, the challenge to make a difference now. He cited the case of Jesus the Christ, whose earthly life was short but significant. The impact of Jesus life on the world and the lives of people is eternal.

Emphasizing service, more than excellence or riches, as something that gives significance to life, he shares the story of his mother. This is where his message penetrates my soul. For I know very well Mrs. Ruth Ciriaco Corvera. How she spent the best years of life on her passion for service as pastor and social worker. Either in church or community, she consistently espouses her development slogan- empower people to reach their full potential before God. I have been a witness to her irresistible commitment. Nothing can stop her, not even problems, difficulties, illness, pains and sufferings. She has given all with seemingly nothing for her old age. Yet, at the age of 82, she was stricken with cancer. Now on the eighth year, six years of which were in stage-4, she continues to think of ways how she could be useful to others.

Every time I think of the life of Ma'am Corvera and others like her, I feel humiliated. Admittedly my wife and I have been devastated by what happened to me. More so, when in crises, we realized our folly of not saving for our own needs. Obsessed in service, we seem to give all. Worse, because one of the major causes of my suffering was principled voluntary work in community and church, especially for pastors. For a year, I continue to wrestle this issue. Now, I realized my experience pales in comparison to hers. Her condition is even worse than mine. Yet, she still has the time to periodically call me and inspire me to hold on and go on with life and service.

When I reflect on the life of Jesus, the more I am humbled in my sufferings. Despite being the only begotten Son of God, He was not spared from the harsh realities in life. Even if we combine all our pains in life, the product falls short to the sacrifices, persecution, betrayal, humiliation, and disgrace he encounters in the name of service. It is in this context that the lent must be viewed, as well as our sufferings.

March 11, 2013

Count your blessings, never the failings

Early this morning while doing a regular walking exercise, a friend sends me a text message. He was the one I referred to in my other blog who beyond my expectation volunteered to shoulder my magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan which has long been delayed due to lack of resources. However, since the hospital to which he addressed the cheque does not have the machine, I underwent a nerve study instead.

Here’s his message. Six things to keep in mind:

First, make peace with the past so it won’t screw up the present.

Second, what other people think of you is none of your business. You can never please every one.

Third, time heals almost everything.

Fourth, no one is in charge of your happiness except yourself.

Fifth, don’t compare your life to that of others and don’t judge them. You have no idea what their journey is all about.

And lastly, SMILE. You don’t own all the problems in the world. Think positive. Tell yourself: It’s gonna be a great weekend. And I’m gonna make a difference in someone’s life today.

Much earlier, in my meditation, I resolved the nagging concerns about my actual condition which crop up every time I am confronted with health-related issues triggered by various circumstances.

Last month, a pastor friend shared his health condition through group email. How he underwent rigid examination in Manila by persuasion of his friend and the result of those tests. The angiogram revealed that there are seven blockages in his coronary arteries and thus needing a heart by-pass operation as soon as possible. He was advised to prepare almost a million pesos for the process. Few days ago, his wife updated us of the successful operation and the improve in his condition.

His case is significant to me because it was just last January when we came to know each other. He invited me to serve as one of the resource persons in a missionary training program under his supervision. I was impressed by his commitment and his deep seated faith in God while sharing our health condition.

At that time, he was so concerned with my situation and even encouraged me to take the food supplement recommended to him by another friend because of its healing effect. Then he also shared his heart condition which we took lightly compared to my own condition. Although I was about to advise him to see a cardiologist, his faith both to God and to food supplement overwhelmed me.

Thus, I was quite disturbed upon knowing the gravity of his condition and the subsequent medication. Inevitably, I compared my case which might have been worse than him based on the manifestations during our sharing. Unlike him, I did not have the privilege of undergoing rigid examination due to lack of resources.
We were drained out of resources because of my previous hospitalizations and daily maintenance to the extent that I let go of some recommended tests to rule out the root causes of my infirmities.

While entertaining such thought, the feeling of insecurities started to creep into my being. The same feeling every time I read from national dailies how government officials and their families easily spent millions of pesos for medication. The wanton spending of huge amounts by them which become scandalous and the subject of allegations and accusations. The wishful thinking that had I been endowed with such resources, I could have been healed earlier, availing myself with sophisticated equipment for diagnose and expensive process of medication that only the privileged few can afford.

However, when I was about to feel really bad, I remembered the comment of a friend after knowing my painful experiences. He was impressed on how lucky I have been for being alive despite all odds. He told me about the case of his other friends who have all the resources in life yet remained in the very delicate health condition.

Past events swiftly flashed back into my mind. How God snatched me from death and provided my resources during hospitalization and the subsequent crisis even until now. How just the time we almost gave up, came His answers to our needs. How the delay in the healing process has effected the inner renewal resulting to a new lifestyle.

I realized how fortunate I have been to experience healing without spending much amount. Then came the thought that if indeed my condition really need all those sophisticated diagnosis and expensive medication, would not God also provide the resources as He has been doing in our lives. Relieved, I thanked God for His grace.

Such was experience when I received the aforementioned text message while doing the regular walking exercise. I decided to encode the message, as well as my experience. Until I realized this is a good material for blogging. Thus, this blog to inspire others. Enjoy your day by counting your blessings, never the failings.

A repost from my  other blog  published on March 10, 2012 because of its relevance to our faith journey

February 23, 2013

"The hand of God was there..."

Article first published February 26, 2012 as EDSA Revolution: An Unspoiled Mystery on Lariza Website.

The mystery of EDSA Revolution remains unspoiled, not completely unfolded.

More than two decades have passed, the mystery of EDSA has not been fully unfolded. Analysts from various socio-political persuasions attempted to explain the event. Some had to come up with new concepts as EDSA Revolution departed from any of the standard categories.

While new testimonies from living participants came out every year, they just shed light to understand the pattern of events and contributing factors. But the mystery still remains. EDSA bloodless Revolution defied logic.

For how can one explains this phenomenon: “When guns and tanks of a dictator melted before the flowers held out by priests and nuns, by millionaires’ sons and squatters’ daughters, by ordinary men and women and by young and old alike; when… a new day was ushered in by ordinary Filipino common tao who rose to heroic heights that won the admiration of the whole world…” The quoted description was that of Jorge Lorredo, Jr. in his article Four Days that changed History published in Bulletin Today, as cited by Douglas J. Elwood in his book, Philippine Revolution 1986.

The hand of God was there…” was the explanation of the late Dr. Quintin Doromal, former PCCG commissioner & president of Siliman University. Quoted by his friend Douglas Elwood in the aforementioned book, Doromal was a witness to the event, having joined his old friend Fidel V. Ramos at Camp Crame and stayed there with him throughout those critical anxious hours. A noted Ilonggo leader, Dr. Doromal is a son of a Distinguished Centralian, Atty. Rosario Salas-Doromal.

Indeed, God acts through people, as surely as he speaks through people, and that he uses the sometimes complex interconnection of human forces to serve his larger purposes….”

February 9, 2013

Faith conversation on scribbles of ambivalence

My  post  on  scribbles of ambivalence has elicited faith conversations in social media.  I shared the link  on my Facebook timeline with the following comment: "Thereafter, I had that sort of mystical experience- an inner peace, a sense of security and confidence that when I resumed reading the bible, I got struck by Revelation 3:20 in its literal sense."

Many liked  it while others  made comments.  An intriguing one came from a friend  and partner in development and volunteerism endeavors who is now based in the United States .  Below is our faith conversation.

Arlyn: “ Yes mystical experiences can never be questioned and I always take it with  ambivalence.”

Me: Thanks for your  comment which has  triggered more thoughts on ambivalence. It made me recall more of my faith journey in 1975. After the flashing effect of the literal interpretation of Revelation 3:20 on my psyche, which was sustained/fertilized by the insights from books on miracles by Pentecostal writers, I started to “walk by faith.

Whereas before, I needed assistance to get out of bed, with the new found faith, I tried to walk out of the room after prayers of faith. And I succeeded. However, just when I thought it was a miracle and moved further and faster, I got exhausted and forced to lie  down on bed for some days. But I got thrilled with the new faith experience and continued the "walk with faith."

Until one afternoon, after much prayers and certainty, I decided to take a leap of faith outside our house carrying a wooden chair going to the river bank some hundred meters away from home to meditate and watch the sunset.(Of course, to the amazement or protest of my mother whose love and concern for me overcame all her ambivalence). Although exhausted, my faith had been strengthened by another success. Unfortunately, the weather appeared to be uncooperative. Dark clouds gradually enveloped the bright sky as if the forces of darkness wanted to mar the beauty of faith journey. Caught on ambivalent situation, I took it as test of faith.

Instead of retreating, I prayed to God to vanish the darkness. But the clouds appeared to be less threatened by prayers. I prayed more assuring God I won’t surrender my faith. The more the weather was agitated and shower started to fall. Undaunted, I held my ground with ambivalence, as raindrops keep falling over the leaves of banana and trees covering me .

And in the last ditch attempt to save my faltering faith, I closed my eyes and told God, “ I won’t leave this place. I know you hears and answers prayer and won’t fail me. Even it rains heavily, you will cover me with your grace.” As the sound of raindrops got louder, my meditation got deeper. And would you believe, Arlyn, despite heavy pouring of rain, not a single drop ever reached my head, as if somebody was shielding me. Amazed, I slowly opened my eyes. Guess what did I see?

Arlyn: What did you see?

Me: Dare to guess or your share your imagination?If you were in my place, what would you expect to see? Something that would strengthen your faith. Something that would convince you that, indeed, God hears and answers prayer.

Arlyn: You looked up and you saw big umbrella over your head...ah... it was your wife holding big umbrella up to protect  you from rain...

Me:  I was not married yet in 1975.

Arlyn: Then let's change wife to Mom .

 Me: This confirms my perception that you are a prophet.  Yes, I was so engrossed in prayer that I did not notice my mother holding the umbrella. Seems funny but at that time, it did not matter much to me whether my mother or an angel was shielding me from rain. What was important for me was the fact that God answered my prayer, that my faith had stood the test of time and circumstances. I went home together with my mother with a happy and grateful heart believing it was a miracle. My faith was strengthened. That experience, including the literal interpretation of a particular scripture had contributed to my healing.

I cannot help but smile as I recall and reflect on that experience.God could have been amused with my child like faith and alerted my mother, knowing the impact on my heart condition at that time had my prayer not answered. I wish to recapture some elements of that past faith experiences to guide me in my journey.

Arlyn: You really made me smile Rev. Lariza. But thanks for sharing. Child like faith is sometimes funny as we look back but we know in the heart of our hearts that this faith has guided our journey like the "pillar of fire" during the night and "pillar of clouds" during the day.