I was on my way to the office last Thursday (took me this long to blog about this…) for a lunch meeting with some of the instructors at the office. I was running a little late due to the heavy road constructions going on at the SLEX.

Upon reaching the Magallanes toll gate, I sms the office and told them that I may be running a little late. I got this sms “They are finishing now… no need to come here.. Pasensya na…”…

I was driving the car on a coding window… (10am – 3PM) and I need to be off the roads. When I got that, I simply decided to just make a U-turn. Since I was just too eager to be home and wok on some stuff for the Conference, I turned right at the soonest possible road to get me back to C5, which is Kalayaan.

I was almost there at the last intersection, when a man in yellow uniform flagged me down. I calmly stopped and rolled my window and heard the words “Sir, coding po tayo…” “what?..I had completely forgotten about the non-existent coding window in Makati City. I was shaking my head in exasperation why it completely vanished from my mind at that time.

I just waited for him to give me a ticket. Funny how every move I made inside the car, as I reached inside my backpack to get directions how to retrieve my license, the man would always look at what I was doing ( I am not sure if he was anticipating that I would offer a financial cop-out). This reminded me when I was also flagged down in Alabang on my way out of Toyota building and I was headed back to Laguna, a cop was also there and at 8AM I was about to return home because I did not get the slots needed for a repair that day. When i said that I was on my way home and that I just exited Toyota… the cop said “Maiistorbo po kayo pag kayo pa kukuha nito…pang merienda na lang po siguro…” this was when I told him ” I am a pastor….of course I will not offer you a bribe.. please give me my ticket…” He let me go and said “God bless you…”

I was given my ticket. I will try to retrieve it on Monday. I was not a happy camper when I got back to SLEX because it was a bumper to bumper situation. A college classmate was even calling me to turn back for a last dinner reunion before she headed back to the US.

But it turned out really well. My wife and I joined the small dinner gathering and we talked the afternoon away in a nice restaurant in the upscale part of Makati. Then when it was time to go home, Mary Anne took us to the Festival Mall in Alabang where the car was still parked. Thank you Mary Anne!

It was a long day and when I got home, I felt really drained. I looked at the ticket handed to me earlier that day and felt my frustration rising inside. Just one of those days. Started good as I reminisced about my baptism 22 years ago. It got bad in the middle when I felt I spent money on gas and toll fees only to have my license taken away because I had forgotten not to make a turn on any of the Makati streets….

Oh well… these things happen. I am praying for a better week. Having to retrieve my license in a traffic management office that I still need to find and paying for the violation ticket, while may not be my best ideas of ending my week – well, these things happen…

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Exactly 22 years ago, at 4PM, I underwent the baptismal ceremony. Ptr. Romeo Pusta, our pastor in WCG Marikina then, baptized me in his bath tub in their house in Provident Village.

It has been 22 years. What an amazing journey that started eversince i got to know Jesus Christ when my mother taught us how to pray for even the smallest of things. Of my mother reading to us the Bible stories on friday nights then my brother would play the piano and we would gather to sing the hymns. All of these activities were not wasted, but rather connecting paths that would eventually lead to my knowing Him. I surrendered to Him when I was a senior in highschool when a gracious English teacher named Mila Concepcion shared the gospel with me. I remember crying at the initial realization of God’s love for me. I did not know that at that time, a good friend in highschool who became a christian the year before, had prayed for my salvation.

Thank you Lord for this day. Thank you for the Church. Thank you for the people you surrounded me with to share with me the depth of your love. Thank you for the faith of my Mom, who in the earliest of my years demonstrated a life that stubbornly held on to her faith in you despite the many trials growing up.

Thank you Lord for being my God. Teach me to surrender this life daily. Cause me to render worthless the things that may seem significant but only take away my focus from you.

Cause me to live by, through and in faith and not by my sight.

It has been 22 years. It seems long but in reality it is just a blip of a second from your eternal perspective.

The journey has been really profound and thank you for allowing us to know where it will end.

Philippians 1: 6, thank you for your faithfulness to complete it.

One step closer…

May 29, 2008

I was shaking my head again at the thought of what I was about to do. It seems that lately, I have been doing things that would leave me shaking my head in disbelief.

I was on my way yesterday afternoon for the intake exam at the College of Law, and driving through the Mamplasan exit, I suddenly experienced the urge to turn back and simply head back home.

An internal dialogue was taking place in my mind:

“why are you doing this? you are just torturing yourself.”

“I really want to take up Law..”

“Can you afford it? Do you have the means to do so ?”

“None right now…”

“Be logical, you want to take up law. Law is based on logic. Logic dictates that you turn back because you are just fooling yourself into thinking that this is for you…”

“Yes I agree, this is not logical. But this is where faith comes in…”

I took my baby steps toward accomplishing a lifelong dream. I took the written exam.

10 essay questions and 2 hours later, I was beginning to feel the pressure on my right hand. I was no longer used to writing manually this long. And for the life of me, I could not answer the differences between a republic form of government over the federal form of governance, what is more suitable in the Philippine context etc, even if my life depended on it!

I was interviewed next. “Do you really write this way?” “Yes when I am rushing…” “Rushing? she asked.. this looks neat” Hmmmm… nice one. She then recommended using Parker pens or other ink pens. I remembered my technical pens and how I loved using those many years back. She read my essays and commented on the maturity of my writing and hinted about the possibility of writing for the Legal newsletter that they will be putting up.

We discussed some of my answers and I explained some of the salient points I raised in one of those essay questions. She also needed to know the scope, nature and responsibilities of my work because she needed assurance that I would have the time for the classes and the readings.

Then she asked me “when do you plan to enroll?”…. I answered “this semester”. She smiled because she was asking about the immediate plan instead of a broad life schedule (hehehehe). I remember in times past when I would be asked when I plan to finish my grad studies, the response would be in chunks of semesters….

I was given an assessment form and she was very gracious enough to help me with the fees and possible fee installments. She also showed me the prices of the different law books I would need to purchase sometime soon. I opted for an underloaded schedule for me to get a taste of law school without compromising too much my work schedule and ministry load, aside from the fact that I could not afford  the full load requirements at this time.

I drove home with the printed assessment form stating the amount I would need to shell out just to start my law classes. Legal Profession, English Proficiency, Constitutional Law 1, Persons and Family…. 13 units. I felt tired and depleted as I round my way through my Sta Rosa exit. I was still shaking my head – but for some reason, I could not help smiling as well. I got into law school. I am one step closer. I don’t have the financial means to even pay for the deposit and the succeeding installments, but just the same, the reality that I am now accepted into the College of Law made me smile even though I was feeling the hunger and the fatigue.

Lord God, I am now neatly placed for a miracle. Let this be done according to Your will for me. I surrender this dream before you now. If you would, allow me to see Your strength made perfect in my weakness.

AMEN.

She sent me this sms while I was away at a youth camp. I knew what she was referring to and my head started to spin at the many ramifications of that contract signing entailed.

The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration in a recent conference by the denomination stated that on the average 2,800 Filipino workers leave the country on a daily basis. That is a staggering number. My head still reels trying to see that number of people lined up being process through the immigration gates.

Last year, a young friend left to work in one of those cruise ships. I was really anxious for him – and while we were gathered hours before his flight, I could not help but pray hard for him because he was braving to go out into the world at a very young age.

Last year when we went to Kuala Lumpur and as I was paying the airport taxes, the young lady before me had a very frightened look as she presented her brand new passport. She timidly answered “OFW” when she was asked if she was traveling as a tourist.

Two years ago, while waiting to check in my luggage, I started chatting with another young lady. She caught my interest because of the big contrast in the size of weight of our luggage. I was pulling my luggage that almost weighed like a ton and she was just carrying a small backpack… and all the time, she would look behind her back. I asked if she was waiting for somebody else and she said that she was supposed to go to KL with another lady but this woman didn’t make it to the bus headed to the airport. During our conversation, she revealed to me that she had worked in Hongkong before as a domestic helper and without telling much, shared some of her difficulties there.

I noticed her small backpack and I asked where the rest of her luggage was…”I only brought these…”

“How come? That might not be enough for you as you will be working there.

“I brought only this so that they might have pity on me…”

I will never forget her words. A young lady’s strategy in her workplace is to create a pitiful image so that her employer would be kind to her. Inside the plane, I was comforted when I saw her mix with other ladies bound for KL for their jobs as well. She did not even have a jacket and the temperature inside the plane was a little too low for her….she was wearing a plain white collar-less shirt and a pair of basic blue jeans…

We have heard stories upon stories of our OFWs getting the raw end of the deal. Passports taken away, starved by their employers, domestic helpers abused sexually and physically… the list goes on and on. I was very painfully aware of these things as I tried to digest the message that was just sent to me “I just signed the contract”

In the coming weeks, my sister will be joining the ranks of the OFWs. In the coming weeks, my nephew will be psychologically orphaned. My sister said that she really needs to go overseas so she could send my nephew to college.

I wish life was a little bit different for my sister, my nephew and for the many thousands of Filipinos who lose a parent, brother, sister, father , mother because of the economic needs back home.

2,800 of them leave the country on a daily basis. What a diaspora. My generation has seen a lot of children who grew up without a Dad or a Mom. This generation has seen double of what we had experienced. There are times when I am fearful of the future when all of these ramifications would come back to haunt us.

We pray for our countrymen who toil overseas away from their loved ones. Our brothers and sisters who go through untold trials just to have something for their loved ones here and to secure their future by affording them an education. Lord, have mercy and surround them with your grace and mercy. Protect them from evil and any untoward accidents. Guard them and provide for them. Embrace them when the loneliness seems impossible to bear. Reach out to them when they cry out in pain. Lord hasten the day when the families no longer need to be separated for economic gain.

Exactly a week ago, several bank employees of RCBC in Cabuyao, Laguna were killed – execution style as the bank was being robbed prior to its operating hours.  The staff would walk in and the evildoers were already inside the bank’s premises ready to grab them as they come in.

Now pictures of this tragic event are beginning to be circulated.  This happened while we were away at camp and when I heard about this news, all i could say was “Deliver us from evil…”
The country is still trying to recover from this massacre.  It tells us that nothing is sacred anymore.  That the greed for money is more than sufficient to kill, not once, but many times. And the manner how they were killed (bullets in their heads… ) reveal the dastardly acts that only the most cruel of hearts could imagine.

I was looking at the young people having an awesome time at camp – and these people who were mercilessly killed could be their brother, father, sister, friend and neighbor.

Lord, protect us from evil.  Deliver us from the bloodthirsty evil doers.  Protect your little ones Lord and let them enjoy their youth.  Do not let the evil doers snap away fathers and mothers away from their little ones.

O Lord God…. the whole earth is groaning in agony.

Please come soon.

AMEN

I was checking my email when I noticed that a friend was online. I sent him a short message and asked if he was still in Singapore. He said he flew back to the United States because his grandfather suddenly died even though he was still relatively strong.

I had met his grandfather so we talked about the details.  I remember back in 1992 when I visited his family in Buffalo, his grandfather cooked ravioli and he made his own pasta.  It was most wonderful.  That was my first time to witness a pure Italian chef at work.

Well our conversation shifted to other personal details. I shared with him my desire to go to Law School this school year so we briefly talked about possibilities.  Then for some reason after talking about his work, we ended up chatting about the Finals of the American Idol.  My wife is a David Cook fan while I am an Archuleta fan.  Archuleta’s voice is really so pure and that song “In This Moment” was something I really felt.  When he sang “Imagine” – it was not as great perhaps because I had already heard it – but nonetheless it was still very good.
Well anyway, here we were – my friend who was riding a train bound for his work gave me the warning.

“I will be disconnected in two minutes…”

“Really why?”

“I am riding a train – and we are nearing Grand Central…”

“Are you using your laptop”

‘yeah – I can work anywhere…”

I told him how awesome it was.  Here was my friend riding a train in New York while I was more than 12 hours ahead and more than halfway across the globe – and we were loving the technology that made this possible.

“Hey Ron, I said.  Funny how this world has gotten really high-tech and look at us… but we are still talking about the most basic of things.  Our love for music and who we think should win the IDOL season.  He was very amazed too – then he got disconnected.

I came down the stairs and told my wife that my friend Ron is another David Cook’s fan.  As it turned out, Kelly, his wife is an Archuleta fan.

The messages were sent via a web of underground network cables in synapses of binary codes.  My friend was using a laptop while I was using an old reliable Pentium 4 Desktop…. a lot of things have changed in the way we communicate. But what is amazing is that, the content of our communication hasn’t changed at all.

We use high tech gadgets – but basically, deep inside, we still care about the most basic things. Love, friendship, family, relationships and yes, whoever is going to be the next American Idol.

Yesterday (May 20th ) was the closing of the Summer Enrichment Program. 102 teary-eyed campers were waiting for me to give the final devotional that morning.

Within those very short minutes, my thoughts were racing to all the things I wanted to share with them for the last time.  Thoughts I may never be able to share with them anymore once they board their cars back to their respective areas.

I wanted to talk about a lot of things – but the only thing I felt that mattered most in those precious minutes was the reality of who GOD IS.

I ended the devotional by highlighting Ephesians 3: 20 – 21 ” Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than we ask or imagine, according to the power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever!

AMEN.

I played a video entitled “THE GREATEST DAD” about this awesome father and son www.youtube.com/watch?v=GRHxHapwirw

and the powerful song ” I can only Imagine ” by Bart Millard

Lyrics:

I can only imagine what it will be like
When I walk by Your side.
I can only imagine what my eyes will see
When Your face is before me.
I can only imagine.
I can only imagine.

Surrounded by Your glory
What will my heart feel?
Will I dance for You Jesus?
Or in awe of You be still?
Will I stand in Your presence?
Or to my knees will I fall?
Will I sing hallelujah?
Will I be able to speak at all?
I can only imagine.
I can only imagine.

I can only imagine when that day comes,
When I find myself standing in the son,
I can only imagine when all I will do
Is forever, forever worship You.
I can only imagine.
I can only imagine.

Surrounded by Your glory
What will my heart feel?
Will I dance for You Jesus?
Or in awe of You be still?
Will I stand in Your presence?
Or to my knees will I fall?
Will I sing hallelujah?
Will I be able to speak at all?
I can only imagine
I can only imagine

Surrounded by Your glory
What will my heart feel?
Will I dance for You Jesus?
Or in awe of You be still?
Will I stand in Your presence?
Or to my knees will I fall?
Will I sing hallelujah?
Will I be able to speak at all?
I can only imagine.
I can only imagine.

I can only imagine.
I can only imagine.
I can only imagine.
I can only imagine.

I can only imagine
When all I will do
Is forever, forever worship You . . .
I can only imagine.

I wanted to leave them with a lot of things – but Ephesians 3: 20 – 21 would more than suffice.  Imagine GOD. Imagine Him doing beyond what you can measure. Imagine him doing immeasurably more than I can ask.  Imagine God doing more that what I could even imagine Him doing….

And all these things are according to His power that is at work, within us.

No words are enough.

I can only imagine……

Thank you Lord for an awesome SEP camp in Silang, Cavite. It was definitely beyond what I could ever ask or imagine.  You are the God who blows away our imaginations.

Thank you. I can only imagine what will be next.

In Jesus’ name

AMEN