It was a very early drive back to Legaspi from Sorsogon. I was riding in Dr. Manzano’s van along with other volunteers.  He was driving quite slowly for comfort and I was getting impatient. I did not know that his van underwent an overhaul days before the medical mission – and he was doing a “break-in.”

The trip from Sorsogon to Legaspi usually takes 2 hours or so – but since I was riding in a van with a newly overhauled engine driven by Dr. Manzano, I figured it was going to be a longer ride.

I was dozing on and off – and since everyone in the van was quiet, I did not offer to start any conversations.

Then at 6:01 am, I saw her.

Rising majestically on the horizon with no clouds to hinder the view, Mt. Mayon left me breathless.  She was really beautiful.  Most perfect cone-shaped volcano that seemed to grow bigger as we approach Legaspi.  It was so beautiful that I asked Mrs. Maninang to wake up her daughter Jasmin so she could see the awesome sight.

We drove in silence.  The other men riding with us were from the area and have seen this sight thousands of times. But I have not seen it like this.  I was mesmerized.  I did not have any camera with me so I had to take a good grateful lookand try to memorize the view.

Later on we drove to the Cagsawa ruins.  I have seen it many times but only through postcards.  Seeing it for real was like a very precious gift.

Here are some of my favorite shots:

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The Churches were constructed using volcanic rocks and if you would noticed the massive walls.  These structures not only serve as the belfry but also as watchout towers to warn the communities of any impending attacks against the Spanish rule.

A closer look of the ruins of the Cagsawa Cathedral

A closer look at the ruins of the Cagsawa Cathedral

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Zooming in on the volcano from the Cagsawa Ruins

And this is the best shot I have taken from the trip. Seeing this cross right at the spot where so many lives perished during that volcanic eruption that also destroyed the cathedral.  In 2006, a massive landslide from the volcano destroyed everything on its path.  The communities around were buried and the water just pushed everything back to the sea. It was a devastating event that claimed so many lives.

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Mustering all my photography skills to capture this poignant scene.

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Almost everyday a news item would carry stories of companies laying off their workers.  It has become a daily announcement that it could probably trigger any of these two reactions:

1. Feel overwhelmed at the scope and enormity of these job losses.

2. An apathetic attitude because the person hearing the news does not want to feel emotionally uncomfortable.

But these news items on job losses are still coming in.  And these jobs cuts are not in the dozens, but in thousands.  THOUSANDS.

Each job representing a family that has daily needs, bills to be paid and hungry mouths to be fed.

And these job cuts are not just limited in one geographic location. The whole world is reeling over this dilemma on how these multinationals could recover from all these upheavals.

Please say a quiet and heartfelt prayer for these millions of people affected by these job cuts.  Even our OFWs are coming home in hordes – after losing their much awaited jobs overseas.  For millions of our countrymen, their overseas jobs are not merely means by which their needs could be met, but these are vehicles by which their dreams and their aspirations for their children could be achieved.

Millions of our countrymen leave the country to be able to afford the college tuition and pay off their debts.  And with these job losses threatening more than a million of our countrymen, it behooves us to all come together and ask ourselves what can be done to alleviate this situation.

We need to brace ourselves by having the “war-time mentality”.  In times of war, the things that are important and essential to us are magnified clearly.  We eat, sleep and breathe and do things to meet  our basic needs, and not our wants and greed.

Look into our lives and see what are the things we need to let go of. What are the dreams that may need to be delayed a bit?  What are the things that we can still use instead of pining away for things that may not really be necessary right now, but in our mind, may seem to be the most urgent need. 

We pray for the millions of people right now who have lost their jobs.  We pray for those whose jobs are being threatened right now by the ailing economy.  These are stressful times.  The lost of a job is even just a few points below the stress scale of someone who lost a loved one.  Losing a job is also a form of death.  With the lost of a job, there are things that are real and imagined, that go with such loss.

And anytime we lose something, the degree of its perceived and inherent value, determines to a certain extent the depth, length and width of the griefwork that we need to do.

We pray for all of them Lord. We pray for the provision that so many families would need.  Take care of their children.  Please show mercy upon all of them by opening wide the gates of opportunities for them.  Let them feel the encouragement that could only come from you.  Let us all realize how much all of our needs are taken care of because You are our Father in heaven.  Thank you for crying with them and for them.  Give them the strength to daily live a life of faith and surrender their fears and whatever host of emotions they will go through.

There are millions of people affected when thousands lose their jobs.

Lord you are more than enough for all of us.

Do not let anyone go hungry or become unconsolable.

We place everyone in your loving hands.

In Jesus’ name.

Amen

Psalm 23 remains to be the most popular chapter in the Bible.  The psalmist’s way of declaring himself as one who is in need of a shepherd echoes universal pathos of dependence and at times helplessness.

We are like sheep in many ways.  We need to be taken to a safe place so we can drink freely.  We get scared by so many things and without a shepherd to guide us, we will just be following the next sheep or person ahead of us.

Sheeps are direction-less. And in many ways, so are we.

The most poignant of this Psalm is toward the end :  Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…”

Walking through the valley.  This could picture still having some semblance of strength to walk through it.  Maybe the remaining strength is no longer enough for you to run through it, thereby escaping all the associated fears of the moment.  But the psalmist declares “even when I walk…”

Many times in our lives – when we go through our difficulties – it can be likened to a a very slow walk.  You are moving to a certain extent, but the pace could really kill you from anxiety.  But I think the action described here is not merely poetic.  Because in the real sense, when difficulties arise, the pace could be so fast that many times it feels like a rug has been yanked from under your feet.

You walk.  This shows the daily walking, breathing, living along with the trial that surround you.  You go through the valley.  It could be dark – and the surrounding mountains are too high to be scaled upon by whatever measure of strength left in your body.  So you walk. One step at a time.

You see shadows and these shadows may actually point you to the light or may keep you from seeing the light.  The shadow is all around you as you walk through the valley.

What is the valley of death that you are walking on right now?

A failed marriage perhaps. A lost opportunity for love?  Health concerns that seem to keep on coming back?  A family dispute that will take you nowhere? A financial meltdown?  Death in the family and you wonder how you would ever cope without this precious life to love you?  Failed and lost dreams?  These and more are shadows as you walk through the valley.

Of death.

But the psalmist does not end there.  He bravely declares, “I will fear no evil… For you are with me…”

I will not fear.  This signifies decision that has been made from the most resolute part of the heart.

I will not fear, not because I can command the shadows to go away.

I will not fear, not because I have the strength to walk through the darkness.

I will not fear is a statement based on the confidence of who he is walking with.

And this is our secret.  We go through the shadows. We walk through the valley and many times, the shadows hide the precipitous cliffs and difficult traverse.

But we do not go through it alone.

We never go through it alone, and this is what the psalmist is highlighting for us.

For You our Lord, is with me.  Your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

So hang on dear friends.  The Lord knows exactly where you are, right under the shadows, painfully walking through the valley. He has been there. He knows how it feels like – and because He has gone through it – we are never alone as we traverse this valley filled with shadows of the unknown.

Friends may walk with you for awhile. Brothers and sisters may even grow weary of lifting you up. But HE who came down to be like us, will never leave you hanging. He will never leave you to drown in your fears.

As you walk – He is walking with you.

May you ever experience the loving, tender,compassionate and healing presence of the Lord as you go through the shadows of the valley of death.

In Jesus’ name.

AMEN

Rm 203 Fernando’s Hotel ( wi-fi available in the room)

10:59 PM ( EG and Orly fast asleep as I type this in the dark…)

Lord God, it is almost a month now.  The painful saga is just about to close, but not yet.  Lord please hasten the day when all things will be back to “normal” for us.  I do not even know how normal would look like.  But I pray for your healing, for the sympathy and love that is most needed.

May we learn to forgive even if the person who have wronged us do not even acknowledge in our presence the pain that have been caused.

May we learn to forgive even if circumstances are not changed.  Rather, change our perspective Lord and teach us how to love.  The kind of love that is divine, and the love that is unconditional.  Love that is not dependent on what it can offer as change, but love that can give and nurture inspite of and despite the lack.

We can love because you have loved us.

We can forgive because you have forgiven us.

We can reached out to someone because someone has reached down on us.

Would you look at us now with your divine compassion.  Would you search our broken hearts and shed in those fragmented pieces, your love that can transcend our broken-ness.

Let me sing to You Lord, this beautiful hymn that captures my prayer in behalf of my family.  Thank you for the healing grace that is possible through You alone. Thank you for this song that so amazingly captured the words from my heart as we go through these difficulties.

Take care of my loved ones – and touch them all as we lay our heads to sleep, wherever we all may be at this time.

HEALING GRACE

Merciful God and Father

Loving us like no other

Hear our prayer

The cries of our hearts as we come to You

We acknowledge our transgressions

We confess to You our sins

Show us mercy and compassion

Touch our lives with Your healing grace again….

BRIDGE:

Release us from our past

As we seek Your face

Wash us free at last

We receive Your love

We receive Your healing grace

Tomorrow will be the first day of the medical mission here in Sorsogon.  60 medical doctors and nurses arrived from Texas and LA this morning in Legaspi city and took an hour drive to Sorsogon. 100_4811

Orly and I have been here since Saturday as part of the pre-medical mission staff meeting with Mrs. Escudero, the wife of the incumbent congressman and the mother of the current Senator Chiz.

5000 patients are expected to be served at this 3-day event. 165 surgeries have been planned and 5 municipalities of SORSOGON will benefit from this very noble endeavor of the Missions Medical Texas Team.

And as early as now, they have started talking about where they will conduct their medical mission in 2010.

It has been raining since we got here. And today it rained pretty consistently the whole day.

Lord, please grant us the most favorable weather so that the people will be able to come and benefit from the medical mission here in this place.

Thank you for taking care of our loved ones.

Thank you for sending the doctors.

Thank you Lord for the hope that we always have with you.

I am here in Sorsogon surrounded by the many concerns, and tomorrow, I will see on their faces the concerns of the people.  Use me as your conduit of mercy and grace. In our time of broken-ness, use us as your instruments of grace for their healing and comfort.

In your precious name, Jesus.

Amen

Sleepless in Albay

January 18, 2009

This is our 2nd night in Bicol. We drove and got here in Legaspi last night. Today was spent driving to Sorsogon for the medical mission prep mtg then back to Legaspi. I miss our bed. I miss Wifey:-). Yeah, I miss our own restroom.. .

Blogged using K608i.

Someone from Pakistan sent this to me.  I am posting this here because I support the merit of this article. And though I am not Jewish, like Ben Stein, I am also asking those same questions:

Isaiah 55: 5 – 7 SEEK THE LORD, WHILE HE MAY BE FOUND.  CALL UPON HIM WHILE HE IS NEAR. LET THE WICKED FORSAKE HIS WAY FOR HE WILL ABUNDANTLY PARDON.

Subject: Remarks from CBS Sunday Morning (everyone should read!)

I only hope we find God again before it is too late!! image001

The following was written by Ben Stein and recited by him on CBS Sunday Morning

Commentary.

My confession:

I am a Jew, and every single one of my ancestors was Jewish.  And it does not bother me even a little bit when people call those beautiful lit up, bejeweled trees, Christmas trees..  I don’t feel threatened.  I don’t feel discriminated against. That’s what they are:  Christmas trees.

It doesn’t bother me a bit when people say, ‘Merry Christmas’ to me.  I don’t think they are slighting me or getting ready to put me in a ghetto.  In fact, I kind of like it  It shows that we are all brothers and sisters celebrating this happy time of year. It doesn’t bother me at all that there is a manger scene on display at a key intersection near my beach house in Malibu ..  If people want a creche, it’s just as fine with me as is the Menorah a few hundred yards away.

I don’t like getting pushed around for being a Jew, and I don’t think Christians like getting pushed around for being Christians.  I think people who believe in God are sick and tired of getting pushed around, period.  I have no idea where the concept came from that America is an explicitly atheist country.  I can’t find it in the Constitution and I don’t like it being shoved down my throat.

Or maybe I can put it another way: where did the idea come from that we should worship celebrities and we aren’t allowed to worship God as we understand Him?  I guess that’s a sign that I’m getting old, too.   But there are a lot of us who are wondering where these celebrities came from and where the America we knew went to.

In light of the many jokes we send to one another for a laugh, this is a little different:  This is not intended to be a joke;  it’s not funny, it’s intended to get you thinking.

Billy Graham’s daughter was interviewed on the Early Show and Jane Clayson asked her ‘How could God let something like this happen?’ (regarding Katrina) Anne Graham gave an extremely profound and insightful response.  She said, ‘I believe God is deeply saddened by this, just as we are, but for years we’ve been telling God to get out of our schools, to get out of our government and to get out of our lives.  And being the gentleman He is, I believe He has calmly backed out.  How can we expect God to give us His blessing and His protection if we demand He leave us alone?’

In light of recent events… terrorists attack, school shootings, etc.  I think it started when Madeleine Murray O’Hare (she was murdered, her body found a few years ago) complained she didn’t want prayer in our schools, and we said OK.  Then someone said you better not read the Bible in school.  The Bible says thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not steal, and love your neighbor as yourself.  And we said OK.

Then Dr. Benjamin Spock said we shouldn’t spank our children when they misbehave because their little personalities would be warped and we might damage their self-esteem (Dr Spock’s son committed suicide).  We said an expert should know what he’s talking about.  And we said OK.

Now we’re asking ourselves why our children have no conscience, why they don’t know right from wrong, and why it doesn’t bother them to kill strangers, their classmates, and themselves.

Probably, if we think about it long and hard enough, we can figure it out.  I think it has a great deal to do with ‘WE REAP WHAT WE SOW.’

Funny how simple it is for people to trash God and then wonder why the world’s going to hell  Funny how we believe what the newspapers say, but question what the Bible says.  Funny how you can send ‘jokes’ through e-mail and they spread like wildfire but when you start sending messages regarding the Lord, people think twice about sharing.  Funny how lewd, crude, vulgar and obscene articles pass freely through cyberspace, but public discussion of God is suppressed in the school and workplace.

Are you laughing yet?

Funny how when you forward this message, you will not send it to many on

your address list because you’re not sure what they believe, or what they
will think of you for sending it.

Funny how we can be more worried about what other people think of us than what God thinks of us.

Pass it on if you think it has merit.  If not then just discard it… no one will know you did.  But, if you discard this thought process, don’t sit back and complain about what bad shape the world is in.

My Best Regards,  Honestly and respectfully,

Ben Stein