It is 9PM. The necrological rites for Francis Magalona may have already started at Christ The King Church in GreenMeadows.

The recent death of Francis M when he succumbed to leukemia was really felt by the show business industry – and more importantly, by at least 2 generations.

Francis M, 44 year old Pinoy rapper and host, actor and endorser not only touched the people in the late 30s generation, but even the mid-20s and the late teens of today.

Francis M – was a voice of my generation.  In the late 90’s when rapping found its way here  – he was the one who embraced that medium and turned it into a patriotic expression for the young.  His rap compositions were clean, upbeat and very distinctly oozing with pride as a Filipino.  I remember the Royal Commercials he made and the powerful messages of being a filipino that he sent across.

Francis M – made it cool to be a Filipino.  His work paved the way for the new birth of new Filipino styles of singing, composition and other musical expressions.

His piece ‘Mga Kababayan” – sent powerful messages of values and patriotism as he rapped about what we can do as Filipino people.

Here is the link to his Francis Magalona’s multiply account:

http://francismagalona.multiply.com/

January 2009

January 2009

I look forward to the pain as I know my journey is on full speed ahead. I will not be bold to say that without asking a favor from you all. PLEASE PRAY for me as I undergo treatment. Your prayers, as always, have sustained me. And am sure the Lord will listen to all our prayers. To His will I submit myself.”
Tonight at 12 midnight, his body will be cremated.  His cremains will be buried tomorrow at the Loyola Memorial Gardens next to his parents.

Goodbye Francis. You had given this generation a voice – and for that, we will always be grateful.

You will be sorely missed.

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This was the statement of a 12-year old boy whose father died last January.  I did not know his Dad and his Mom very well because I only met them once at a Couples’ Dinner  hosted by a local church.

This pastor and his wife were the hosts for the whole evening and they entertained the couples by singing some very romantic Filipino love songs.

When I visited our congregation in Antipolo last sunday, I was informed that this pastor had passed recently.

At the funeral, his eldest child, uttered the statement that I quoted above. “Please pray for me – so that I can be a pastor someday like my dad…”

I drove home thinking about that grieving family.  They lost their father at a very young age.  And the grieving wife will still go through the grief work in the coming months.

Everything after his death will be processed primitively according to this:

1. When he was still alive

2. After his death.

Please pray for this very young family who just lost a husband, a father and a pastor.

May God tenderly wrap them in His embrace when the tears come and the sadness surround them.

Thank you Lord for the beautiful life and what this pastor shared with the flock.  Please take care of his loved ones.  They are very special in your sight. She is now a widow and the children are now father-less.

Not even death could separate us from your love.

Please surround them with your loving grace.

I surrender them in your hands, where they are most loved and most taken care of.

Amen

See you Lolo Eli…

February 17, 2009

Last Sunday at 11AM, my wife’s grandpa was cremated at Loyola Guadalupe.  His children and grandchildren were all there – except for those who did not make it from overseas.  Mama, Wifey’s mom was the eldest among the siblings.  I could still remember some of the Lolo Eli anecdotes she shared with us when she was still alive.

The cremation took close to two hours and we whiled away the time talking to the younger cousins from the second family Lolo had during his younger days.

It was my second time to be inside a crematorium.  The first one was wayback when I was a ministerial trainee for a church in Manila.  The lady who died was the secretary of our small group for the elderly.  When she was cremated, I was requested to help put her inside the machine.  It was something I was not totally prepared to do, and the image of which, stayed with me for a long time.

When the cremains were presented to all of us, many were surprised that the cremains were white in color.  People naturally assumed that the cremains would have a black color – but the body being cremated is not exposed to the flames but to the intense heat, approx 1600 degrees that easily reduce the body to the bones.

There was something strangely comforting when I saw Lolo’s cremains.  I told my wifey at breakfast that it was more positive for me rather than seeing a casket being hoisted down the hole.  While funeral gives the whole experience a sense of finality, I sensed a stronger sense of acceptance and finality when I saw Lolo’s cremains.

We proceeeded to the old Makati Cemetery, where we learned that body funerals were no longer being done there.  But his cremains were allowed to be buried because it would only occupy a box measuring 14 X 14 inches on top of his older relative’s grave.

While seeing the cremains made it strangely comfortable, the sight, smell of the old Makati Cemetery was downright depressing.  Bordered by the International School on one side and a new set of condos being built on the other, the MAKATI cemetery looked very forgotten.  There was even a growing community of people who made permanent residence of the graves and other small mausoleums of the deceased.

I did not even wait for the whole cementing of the box to be finished. I made my way back to the car where wifey, Lola and Tito Al were waiting. I earlier discouraged them to go inside the cemetery for hygiene and sanitary reasons.  I slowly felt my spirit getting overwhelmed by the sadness of the place where Lolo’s cremains were placed. I am not at any liberty to explain but it was not the intended place to become Lolo’s final resting place.

Here in the Philippines, they have started discouraging the spreading of the cremains.  Unlike in the US where designated spots have been allowed for cremains to be spread.  That would have been ideal for Lolo Eli.

It would have been better if we were allowed to spread his cremains at some poignant spot, where the serenity of the place, could magnify the beauty of the life of the dearly departed.

Lolo Eli, we will be seeing you.

Now you know, as you have always been,  loved and known by Christ

He was executed last Tuesday in Saudi Arabia by beheading.

The news of his beheading did not reach the Filipino news channels until today.

He had an odd sounding name for a Filipino male – but the story behind his stay in Saudi Arabia and his execution was very gut wrenching.

His name was Jenifer Bedoya.

He was so happy, thinking that he was going to be released.

He was so happy, thinking that he was going to be released.

In 2005 after working in Manila, (he was from Mindanao) he was able to find work in Saudi Arabia.  And like thousands of Filipino men working there, his safety and well-being had always been threatened by the prurient interests of the Arab men.  I must have heard countless number of stories from men and women who were sexually threatened with rape – and those who succeed were never brought to justice.

In Dumaguete recently, a sister narrated how common it was in Kuwait, for Kuwaiti young men to prowl around the posh villages, waiting for the Filipina maids to throw the garbage.  These domestic helpers would be grabbed by the men and taken to the desert where they will be gang raped.

In the Middle East, our Filipino men and women are facing different forms of harrassment.  They are literally in “harm’s way.”

Jenifer Bedoya, approx 22 years of age, resisted the rape attempt of a Saudi man.  He fought.  And in the fight, killed the Saudi man who raped him.

He was immediately jailed for that.

The pictures of Jeniper flashed across the TV screens tonight, showed a good looking young man who just wanted to help his family.  He was able to talk to his mom and Dad last Monday and it seemed that no one knew that he was going to be executed the following day. Not even Jeniper knew it was his last time to talk to his parents.

While in jail, he still wanted to be able to send money home. He would wash clothes or even offer to do reflexology so that he would still earn some money that he could send home to his parents.  His jail mates indicated that last Tuesday, Jeniper was even jumping for joy. He was ecstatic because the prison cell was being opened for him.

He thought he was being set free.

Instead he was walking toward his execution.

The grieving family now told the media that they signed a document sent by the DFA – for them to keep the case confidential.  Jeniper was a casualty of the callousness shown everyday by the powers that be.

No one knew that a young man was languishing in jail. No one knew of his execution date. The family of the Saudi national who tried to rape Jeniper did not want to make any settlements. No blood money.

And now we will see the finger pointing that will take place. The vague and confusing explanations that the government will try to give.  In the end, another Filipino who defended himself from being raped, ended up losing his head.

I feel my anger rising.  My anger is directed toward a culture that sees sodomizing the helpless guest workers as “just one of those things…”  Toward societies or cultures that do not defend the defenseless and the innocents. Or the governments that may declare them “heroic” but would not lift a finger to care for their “heroes.”

We have seen way too many grieving families. Families who send their loved ones overseas, only to welcome them in their caskets.

Lord God, when will all these stop?

My heart broke  as i try to imagine his last few moments.  Who was with him when it finally dawned on him that he was not being set free.  Who did he talk to last?  Did he cry?  Did he beg? My heart breaks for him and countrymen like him, who all died so far from their land and their loved ones, often because they just wanted to be safe from evil men.

Lord God, you saw him there in jail.  Lord you saw Jeniper walked to his death.

I trust Lord that you comforted him.  He was so young.

Lord, there is no flag big enough to cover the body of those whose innocent lives were taken from them.

Only YOUR blood could cover the life of the innocents and the guilty ones.

Only YOUR blood could cover the loss of a young man’s life at the hands of evil men.

And only YOUR blood can cover the life of that Saudi national who tried to rape him.

Lord cover us all with your precious blood.

AMEN

http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/pinoy-migration/10/17/08/ofw-executed-saudi-thought-he-was-be-freed

This news item from South Korea hardly made it to the big broadcasting networks. Even the Asian subsidiaries of these giant networks did not broadcast what has been happening lately to the young people in S.Korea.

Within a span of days, two young popular celebrities have committed suicide.  These were the suicides that got the attention of many in Seoul, but one could only wonder about the many that went un-reported in weeks and in months.

The young people are killing themselves.  And the world was too busy to pay attention.

When young people kill themselves, we must pay serious attention.  We must pause from our daily grind and race and determine what is causing this phenomena in a society that seemed to have been able to rise from so many threats and challenges.

It would be very easy to theologize, pontificat even or just cite reports as to why the young people kill themselves.  But given all these, I think we need to have a fresh look into the lives of these young people.  Celebrity suicides could also give the act celebrity status for the very impressionable ones or worse, disconsolate majority.

How about you? What are your thoughts on the young people and why they are killing themselves?  Have you determined what could be some of your pre-conceived biases or judgment toward the young people?  When young people commit suicide, do you shake your head in disgust and point a blame to the society, their upbringing, their “weaknesses…” or does your heart swell with compassion to the parents and regret that the voice of that young person was not adequately heard soon enough?

Let us pray for the young people in South Korea right now.  No one is noticing that they are going through so much because the whole world is busily just trying to survive.

Remembering Grandma Boning

October 8, 2008

I woke up this morning thinking about Lola Boning. Lola in our language means grandma.  I don’t know why but lately, I have been thinking of people and relatives who had passed.

I wish I had known Lola Boning more when she was alive.  We did not get to visit her as often as we would have liked because Mindoro was very far from Manila ( when I was growing up). Now, the travel is more convenient and the time to get there has been significantly reduced.  Back in the day, I would remember the long hours of waiting inside a parked bus, boat and another bus.  We would always get there around 3 – 4am…

Few memories stand out as I remember Lola Boning now.

1. Lola Boning fixing me a papaya snack with condensed milk one afternoon.

2. Lola Boning making her signature suman late through the night so that we could bring some on our way back to Manila.  Now that I am older, I am pining away for those original,  home-made sumans.  She made the best kind.

3. When I left for college in the US, I was so surprised to receive a letter from her. It was the only one she wrote.  I could not remember all the details contained but one significant sentence stood out and I remember it so clearly now…”napatunayan kong mahal mo pala ako kaya hindi mo kinuwento ang muntik mong pagkalunod kasi natatakot ka na baka tumaas ang presyon ko…”

“I have proven that you love me because you made secret your near-drowning incident because you were afraid that my blood pressure will rise…”

I can even visualize that paper now. I wish I had kept that letter.  She was referring to my near drowning incident up  in the mountains when I swam at the lagoon – and halfway through, my limbs froze because of the coldness of the water.  I almost drowned in a very remote place and no one, except God, would have seen me flailing away despite my Advanced Swimming class in UP the previous semester.

4. Lola Boning sitting at the bottom rung of the old staircase and telling me that Lolo Inoy was “asking her to join him…”

She said the first time she was asked was when I was leaving for college, and so she told him “but your grandson is going to the US. I will wait for him to come back first…”

The second time was when I got back. She said “but wait, I am still waiting for your grandson to marry someone…”

I just listened to her and hugged.  Wow, I can still smell her hair which she diligently took care of with coconut oil.

Lola did not want to travel that long to see my wedding. We planned to visit her afterwards – but unfortunately, it did not work out.  It was too late.  When I brought my wife to see my Lola – Lola Boning was already inside her coffin.  My uncle who had passed this February said “Hindi man lang nakita ni Lola mo ang asawa mo…”  ( Your grandmother did not even get the chance to meet your wife…)

He was right.

I did the funeral rites for Lola Boning at the request of my Dad before her coffin was taken to the Catholic Church for a catholic blessing.

I woke up thinking of Grandma Boning – and my thoughts shifted as well to Lola Santa and that one special prayer with her that I will never forget.

I don’t know why.  But I suddenly miss them both.

A Nation in Grief

June 24, 2008

The skies are clear. Things are going back to normal. Deep inside i didn’t want things to go back to normal. Normalcy has a way of forgetting the unresolved issues in life, and can easily lull people into thinking that things are going well. The skies are clear. But there are still hundreds missing from that ferry ship that sunk off the coast of Romblon. Princess of the Stars

I wanted to be angry. I wanted to ask someone who could give me definite answers. But yesterday, I had to listen to a friend about the problems caused by a drug-dependent husband. There seems to be no justice in sight. I turned on the TV late at night and a geriatric lawyer of the Sulpicio Lines tried to present the company as compassionate and caring. I mean really tried to show the compassion.

But tell that to the marines.

We see pictures of families waiting for the any news, any updates as they wait outside the closed doors of Sulpicio Lines Building. With their security guards not allowing anyone to enter the building. There is no compassion there. No sympathy from that company at all. More questions left un-answered.

On our way to see my distraught friend, we passed through a mall to get my wife’s new glasses. There in the center of the mall were all the flashy and new cars on display. There were all glossy cars. Really, really nice. Under normal conditions, I would have inspected all those flashy cars, taken note of their details, asked for their prices and looked at the interiors, maybe sat on the driver’s seat – all that. But yesterday, my heart was still grieving. It still is. This was not the time to look at these flashy cars when more than 700 people are still perishing.

Still no children were found…. yet children’s footwear were found floating everywhere. Last night, I tried to listen as much as I could, to the harrowing stories of the 38 survivors….

It is getting to be too tiring to listen to how these agencies are trying to explain how things are being done now to attend to the families of the victims. I am still waiting to see candles and flowers being offered in memory of the victims that perished at sea. I do not see any flowers at the Sulpicio Lines office…. no candles… no signs of compassion to those who were left with inconsolable grief.

Everywhere in Metro Manila, things are going back to its same chaotic pace. The images on the TV screens showing Iloilo and other areas and the sunken ship, are fast becoming images that do not elicit any more emotions.Flooded streets of Manila

This nation is in grief. But clearly, this nation does not know how to grieve.