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

Yesterday morning when I checked my phone for any messages that were sent through the night, there was one message sitting there from one of the youth leaders that I have mentored.  His text said “thanks for prayers. Now I can buy a laptop.”

I smiled at the thought because I have told him a couple of times that I had been praying for a laptop to help him with his seminary studies.  At a Board meeting last month, he even suggested that I need to upgrade this laptop I am using and then simply hand this to him.  I thought it would be feasible, but these hard times call on us to be more frugal.  But I kept praying that God would give him the means to buy his own.

And God did.  He will be buying a similar laptop ( Dell, of course.)

Then yesterday afternoon, I checked my email and there was another encouraging email for me from another young man whom I had taken in as my younger brother.

I was really encouraged by what he wrote as a response to a quick email I sent through my cellphone last week. I was walking in Megamall and chanced to see the place where we had our conversation.  This younger brother was at that time, out of work and I was trying to be helpful when I said “why don’t you try working in a cruise ship?”

Well, he has been working on a cruise ship for more than a year now and I have not heard from him in recent months, and last week at that mall, I suddenly remembered how he was when we last talked.

Over a cup of coffee at Seattles Best in Caltex along SLEX, this young man poured out his heart.  The store was about to close but the manager sensing the sensitivity of our conversation, politely told us that we can stay for a couple of minutes more.

But this email I received yesterday was very different from how he felt as we talked last.  He was full of hope and he was beginning to understand how God has been patiently working in his life. He has grown amazed at the love of Jesus and how in his surrender, the Lord is beginning to transform him especially since he is outside his comfort zone.

He even attached several pictures and one of them showed him practicing with a worship band.  He attends Bible Studies and regular worship services.

I had to smile when he said that he would like to help out at our youth camp as soon as he gets home next year.  And he quickly added “we need to talk right away when I get back…”

It was awesome. His email made me smile and made me teary-eyed at the same time.  I was really grateful that God had not given up on him and how God had allowed him to go through some difficult times (like being mugged and beaten on his birthday last year!)

Thank you Lord for keeping him safe as they travel through the different ports.

Thank you Lord for looking after him and allowing him to benefit from the work of his hands.

Lead him away from any temptations and walk with him God through the discouraging times.

When loneliness sets in because of him being away, surround him with people who will affirm your love toward him.

Thank you for allowing us to have a small part in his life. It is a privilege to have shared a part of his journey with him and we look forward to sharing many more with him.

He ended his email with the usual “gotta go but will keep in touch…”

The last line of his email made my heart swell with joy and pride…

” I love you Kuya…”

Thank you Lord for allowing us to invest our lives on others, and in doing so, you have enriched ours a thousand times over.

3lbs. 13oz

October 25, 2008

That was how much I weighed when I was born.  I am not making this up. I am looking at my official Certificate of Live Birth document from the NSO.  I needed to renew my passport and my license to solemnize marriages and both documents required a certified NSO Certificate of Live Birth.  This is going to be my 5th passport and please don’t ask me why I still need to produce a Live Birth Certificate.

So I applied for it last week.  The application was a breeze.  The following day, I went inside this huge “oven” for a covered area where the whole town showed up to get their NSO documents as well.  It was like a huge human processing plant. I submissively fell in line like a meek goat about to be slaughtered.  My receipt indicated Window 9.  I did not know what a blessing it was to be sent direct to Window 9 because it meant that my document was already for pick-up.

I found the last person at the end of the Window 9 line.  I did not let go of her because it was as if the whole place was a scenario of slowly gyrating mass of faceless people, all trying to fan themselves while their eyes were fixed on the window of their deliverance….  I wanted to take a picture of the place – because it was incredible.  It has always been like this and, and NSO lines have always been synonymous with chaos.

When I finally got it – it was like a very precious document.  I got 2 copies and headed out of the “oven” and I noticed the looks of envy thrown my way by those who were still lining up through different windows according to the difficulty and complexity of their records.

Once out of the building, I had to find my way through the maze of vendors littered all over the small sidewalk so I could cross the street where I parked the car.  Government ID cases, fake silver jewelries (P10! for a bracelet,  ballpens, fruits, banana-Q, chinese glass breakables…. it was amazing…. no wonder it was difficult to get in and out of the NSO complex.

So now, I am looking at the NSO Document.

3lbs. 13oz… I remember my mom telling me that I was born 2 months premature.  And when people hear that.. I was called “pitong gatang…”( reference to 7 cupfuls of rice.. and then others would nod their head as if finally realizing why I am like this!  Ha!

I remember my mom telling me that I was placed inside an incubator for the whole month. Hmmm… no wonder I still do not like bright lights and how my eyes even to this day, could not take the bright lights inside the malls, particularly SM malls.

I wondered how I must have looked then. 3.13lbs! whoaaa… no wonder the doctor cautioned my Mom that I may not survive because I was too tiny.  Remember this was 1967.

Looking at this document made me more realize how precious this life is. Life may have started precariously back in 1967 – but definitely, God looks after all the babies being born everywhere!

Now that 3.13lbs baby is now 41!

Thanks Dr. Josefina Macaraeg for doing the C-section on my Mom so I was born at 12:30 noontime on October 20th, 1967.

Thanks Nurse Rosita C. Opiana for attending to my mom and preparing my document on October 25th, 1967.

Thanks Dad.

Thanks Mom for giving me life. Sorry you had to go through a C-section when months previous to that you went through an appendectomy.

Thank you God for seeing me before I was born, for sustaining me through the days inside the incubator, and for the many years after that.

I know I will see you when I cross over.

I am ready to spend eternity with you.

Turning 41

October 22, 2008

This is it.  I am deeply entrenched now into this mid-life.

I have fully entered the zone where the mid-life crisis would come.  I think it has started already years ago – until a former psychiatrist colleague told me that there is already what is called a quarter-life crisis.

I am 41 and I look at my life and I could name many deceased people I knew.  I could tell stories upon stories  and tell them with such freshness as if they just happened yesterday!

So many memories to look back on now, and yet, still so much of eternity to look forward to.

What a journey. As I started a personal new year with the Lord, I could not help but think that God has really given us such an awesome gift called life.  And this life is not supposed to be lived on empty.  Rather our lives are to be enriched by the relationships we have with people around us.

What a journey! I finally got my FIRST BIRTHDAY CAKE AT 41!  What a blessing!  Wifey baked me a caramel fondant cake without taking any baking /cake- making classes!

My life has been unalterably enriched by the precious life-gifts of so many people.

Thank you Lovey for being the best wifey in the whole world. You are God’s most wonderful blessing that is way beyond what I expected or imagined.

Thank you for the young people who allowed me to pour out my life on them.  LM and Jocer, what a thrill when I hear you guys call me Dad.

Thank you for the wonderful friends who never fail to show me God’s grace and love.

Thank you for Kuya Eugene for reflecting God’s faithfulness and brotherly love.

Thank you Church for challenging me to grow. For the opportunity to serve. For the memories in those years of service and many more years to come.

What a wonderful journey this has been.  With all the ups and downs, the tears(!) and the belly-laughters.

Thank you Jesus for allowing me to discover what a beautiful life my life has become – ONLY because of YOUR sustaining grace.

Thank you for not letting me go.

Thank you Jesus for knowing the plans for my life.

Thank you for not giving up on me.

Thank you for taking care of me.

Thank you for being there for me even when I questioned your presence and care in my life at times.

Thank you for your daily provision.

Thank you for your encouragement.

Thank you for your great love.

I am a year older. A year closer to being with you, my Lord.

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

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.

The feeding of the lies…

August 21, 2008

I must have been suffering from a blogger’s block.  After writing the 100th post last week, it just sat there waiting to be followed by another blog this week.  Somehow I could not bring myself to write anything until a couple of minutes ago.

I noticed that the blog on YOU ARE MY HEALER has been getting a lot of hits recently, especially since yesterday.  A lot of people must be getting encouraged by the testimony of Mike Guglielmucci.

Until news articles confirmed that his cancer claims for the past two years have been false.

http://www.news.com.au/story/0,23599,24216087-1246,00.html

That even his family members were really shocked at the unfolding events.

Needless to say, I am very baffled. Why a pastor needs to lie about his medical condition – and deceive the whole world?

While the message of the song IS STILL TRUE, I am afraid that the credibility of his witness would suffer for quite a long time.

Here are some of the lies that have really baffled me in recent months:

1. The photographer who took shots of what was supposed to be a “lost” tribe in Latin America, where there was a man covered in red ink in a warlike stance as the picture was taken.  Later on, this turned out to be a fraud.

2. Bigfoot fur remains – when thawed revealed that the whole BIGFOOT mystery was a FAKE. The fur was made of rubber materials.  Mystery is solved for all of us though.

3. Senator Edwards was also involved in an extramarital affair and it forever changed the image of him being an almost perfect husband and father.

4. Athletes caught in doping incidents even at the Olympics and other worldwide sporting events.

5. Gasoline companies declaring before the media that they are not earning enough and kept on jacking up the prices.  Well the price of crude oil is down to $114, yet the price of gasoline in this country has remained unbelievably high when it should have been lowered by more than P20 per liter at this time.

6. I don’t know who is lying when the Philippine government would report that the economy has gotten a lot better since the current President took office.  But millions of Filipinos are going hungry – and those who can still afford to buy food are now mostly eating noodles for viand along with their very cheap rice.  How can the economy be better when the inflation rate has been measured at 12.07% last June?

7. System generation loss of the electric companies. These people need to start being honest and not charge all these to the people who are the poor hapless consumers.  It is not the people who are causing the generation loss – but their faulty equipment, cables and other infrastracture.

8. Who is telling the truth in Mindanao?  When days after the ARMM elections, war broke out and these cruel and savage things are not even reported by the Philippine media? People are being killed and institutions are being burned yet it is not reaching the news channels in the cities.

9.  In the Georgian conflict, lies are being told in the worldwide body right there in the UN Security Council.  Russia has punished the “aggressor” but why is it taking too long for Russia to move out of Georgia? They are acting like the real aggressor with powerful words like “crush” the Georgian military.

We are surrounded by so many lies.  And unfortunately, if we are not careful, we may begin believing some of these as well:

Here are some of them:

1. Religious lies about the exclusivity of certain faith systems/church/denominations – where family members not following their strict religious codes are considered “polluted.”

2. Lies that make us feel and think that we are not worthy to be loved by God.

3. Lies that tell us that we can never be forgiven.

4. That we are not and will never be good enough.

5. Lies that measure our lives according to how much we have accumulated in our lives.

6. That happiness depends on our socio-economic status.

7. When sexual abusers deceive themselves into thinking that they are not responsible for the crimes they have committed.

8. The powerful lie that for the sake of the family’s financial well-being, sexual abuse victims should just remain silent.

9. Lies that tell us, that the Father is never pleased with us, and that He is some distant God who just watches us, uninvolved in our pains and miseries.

How about you? What are some of the lies that may have shaped or may have influenced you?  Sometimes, we do not want to accept the truth because the lie has become so deeply embedded in our thought process that it has become our “reality.”

John 8:32 states that we shall know the truth. And the TRUTH shall set us free.

May the loving Father of the truth gently reveals to us the lies in our lives that we may be set free into the absolute and objective reality of HIS TRUTH.