Sunday, April 12, 2009

Happy Easter :)

I actually had Black Saturday reflections ready but my internet sucks so I couldn't post them on time. For that day, I read the Acts of the Apostles, and I realized how wonderful it was to be part of the early Christian community. I'd like to think YFC is modeled a lot after those early communities, empowered by the Spirit, motivated to bring the word of God to the ends of the earth. Especially in times when the community discerns its course, I remember how our own YFC leaders discern the course of the organization.

I didn't really get to read anything today for Easter. I knew I didn't have to read about the joy of the disciples when the one clearest sign that theirs was the one true faith (although I don't think they needed the vindication) was to find Jesus alive and kicking. I knew God put a lot of reminders of that great joy of the Risen Christ in my life -- in my family, my friends, the people I love, my entire life. I don't need to look for that joy in any manuscript -- I'm experiencing it everyday of my life, the awesome love of God.

What I did do was to start making Easter resolutions. It made sense because after all that reflecting, I knew I had to act on the things I found out about myself. I won't post them here but I pray God grants me the grace to actually carry out these things.

Summer classes begin in two days, Sanggu work began for me this morning, YFC work began for me yesterday, the work of being a Christian is a 24/7 job. I'm just thankful for that brief but meaningful respite I got, probably the most meaningful Lent I had in my life.

Happy Easter everyone. Thank you for magnifying the joy of the Risen Christ in my life :)

Friday, April 10, 2009

Something to Remember 20

Today, I decided to read the accounts on the Passion of Christ in Luke and John. They were a bit contrasting in perspective, but I took them as complementary in imagining Christ and the situation at that time. Luke was presenting a more human Jesus while John was emphasizing the divinity of Jesus. But in both accounts, the other characters were the same.

Here are my reflections on the characters of the account:

(1) Jesus, in Luke, was depicted as having finally understood the gravity of His destiny, was in so much agony over it that He asks the Father to take the cup away from Him if it be His will. But God responds with a sign of strengthening, and though Jesus rightly was feeling pain and sorrow, He did not let this hinder Him from fulfilling the Father’s will. As a man, He was acting in total surrender to the will of God.

And yet despite this terrible agony, He never just looked to Himself but to the people He loved. In John, He spends His last moments before the passion praying for them. In Luke, He prepares them, though in vain because the disciples didn’t understand Him, for the mission ahead.

Once crucified, in Luke, He asks forgiveness for the very people who were hurting Him when it would be understandable for any human to cry out for anguish and justice. In John, already on the cross, He didn’t spend His last moments with His mother sharing goodbyes or signs of affection, but instead, entrusted her to a disciple.

These acts of selflessness together with the final act of selfless love, His innocent death on the cross for us, against the backdrop of all the persecution, mocking and pain that Jesus had to endure just fills me with so much gratitude. That even before I was born into history, my God had already paid for my debt. We see in Jesus what we ought to be – men who endure for God’s will, and who give everything selflessly in His name. That is true human perfection, no matter how the world tells us otherwise. And though it is surely beyond us, our mere intention to be like Christ pleases Him and He will surely help us achieve what He has designed us to be.

(2) I resonate a lot with Peter in both accounts. Jesus was already grooming Peter to be the leader of the Church after His departure from history. Peter, zealous as he is, promises Christ to follow Him to wherever He will be. But Jesus knew this was an empty promise and I feel that He sought to humble Peter by predicting correctly how many times he will end up denying Christ. Many times I feel like Peter, promising so much of myself to Christ but not really living up to those promises. A lot of times, I fail to get the point of discipleship, like when Peter attacks the slave when Jesus’ point for the sword was to prepare for the trials in their mission ahead. A lot of times, I do not cooperate with what He asks of me, like when Jesus asks His disciples to pray that they may not undergo the test, but instead they sleep in grief.

I think that Peter felt forced to deny Jesus in order to survive. Not at any point did Peter actually deny Jesus for who He is, but only that in those three times he denied Jesus, he thought more about himself. He was the character foil to Christ in those accounts, a selfish man who knew what had to be done but didn’t. I already know Jesus, but a lot of times, I am guilty of being too selfish to do what must be done for Him.

But I take great comfort in that, in Luke, despite Peter’s denial, Christ still looked at him. I think, though not explicitly stated, it was the most loving look Christ ever gave Peter. I pray that I always find that loving stare in my life because I know it is what will sustain me to choose the right things for Him.

(3) Finally, I also somehow resonate with Pilate. For all the condemnation Pilate has received throughout history (yes, we condemn him every time we say the creed), we have to give him credit that despite not having heard Jesus before unlike the Pharisees who sought to have him killed, he understood that Jesus had to be treated with a modicum of respect. He knew the truth to a certain extent – that Jesus was an innocent man. It was the only truth that mattered at that time, the truth that could have saved Jesus from damnation. The sin of Pilate, which I think I am guilty a lot of times as well, is that despite having known the truth, he allowed the pressures of the world around him – the Jews, the political situation, the laws and man-made customs – to push him to do what he knew was wrong. A lot of times, I hide behind these empty reasons when I fail to do what is right despite having known it. I pray that I be more courageous in not just being aware of what is true, right and good, but doing what ought to be done for Him.

Have a blessed Good Friday ☺
Today is a time for celebration, because 2000 years ago, Jesus sacrificed Himself for us to restore our friendship with God.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Something to Remember 19

I just finished reading Jeremiah. I've been wanting to read it for the longest time but it was often difficult for me to finish because of the type of language used and I wasn't as knowledgeable of the entire context of Jewish culture before. I wanted to read it because I knew it had a pretty good story of how a young man is called by God to serve in the most difficult way possible.

Some of the main lessons and themes I got from reading it:
(1) God calls us the day we were conceived (or even before). It was a matter for us to decide when to actually listen to that call.

"The Word of the Lord came to me thus:
'Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you,
before you were born I dedicated you,
a prophet to the nations I appointed you.'"

Often times, when we hear the call, we are afraid, perhaps rightfully so, because we are aware of our weaknesses.

"'Ah Lord God!' I said, 'I know not how to speak; I am too young'"

But when the Lord calls us, He promises to help us be the person we need to be to serve Him.

"But the Lord answered me, 'Say not, "I am too young"
to whomever I send you, you shall go;
whatever I command you, you shall speak,
have no fear before them,
because I am with you to deliver you', says the Lord"
- Jeremiah 1:4-8

It was a difficult vocation to be a prophet during Jeremiah's time. Israel and Judah were undergoing radical changes mainly because the nation was subscribing to the cultures and with it, the religion, of the world powers surrounding it. To speak for God was to fight the powers-that-be and to persuade a stubborn society to change itself to escape a doom that was its own doing.

And yet Jeremiah answered, proclaiming the prophesy of Israel's doom, her sins against God and prescribing a way to salvation. It was confusing to read the book at first because it seemed like the lamentations against Israel were being said multiple times in that 44 chapter book. But I realized after, this was a prophet that lasted three reigns of the kings of Israel, from Josiah to the last one during the Babylonian occupation. He never tired of doing God's will and though it was with great hurt that he was speaking of the doom of Israel, he did so courageously, even in the face of persecution and death.

(2) It was also difficult for me at the beginning to reconcile how the God of love of the New Testament, who sent His only Son to finally bring us all back to Him, could be so vengeful, so angry and so unforgiving. Imagine having children and feeding them to the lions. God was telling His chosen people, because you have forsaken Me, I will let Assyria and Babylon lay waste to you. And then after it had come to pass, He tells them I will help you rebuild your lives. And when they rebel again, siding with the Egyptians when God explicitly tells them to serve the Babylonians, He allows the destruction of their nation. It was an interesting thing to see God exacting justice we humans can easily understand.

But I think the book was sharing a different point on God's justice. Certainly, God was not happy that His people was turning His back on Him. But the point wasn't God punishing those who choose to denounce His love, but that He was a stern Father teaching His children humility. The mere fact of God conversing with His people through Jeremiah is sign enough of His love for Him. Of course, given the understanding of God at that time, we see a vengeful and spiteful God reminiscent of the gods of Greek mythology. But I think beyond the cultural differences, the main message of Jeremiah is that God was concerned for His people and that He allows justice to be dealt upon them to teach them humility.

The Israelites were a stubborn and proud people. If you read the entire Old Testament, you'll probably see a pattern of God getting angry and then Him getting angry at the oppressors of His people, the same ones He unleashed upon them. But what is more fruitful to look at was the cycle of Israel's attitude with God. At times, they were a faithful people, but when they reached the zenith of prosperity, they forget their roots, turn to the ways of their affluent neighbors (which inevitably includes religious practices) and in a way, forget the God that brought them that prosperity in the first place. I can imagine that by taking away that comfortable life, God reminds His people that it was He that brought them out of slavery from Egypt, and that it was in Him only can they live prosperous and peaceful lives. God is faithful, that is why He does not allow His people to fall so far away from Him.

We should look to ourselves and consider if we are growing too proud of ourselves that we forget the Source of everything that is.

(3) A final thought that is liberating. For all the freedom we've been granted, we achieve our ultimate potential not in a world we create for ourselves but, paradoxically, by surrendering ourselves to the will of God.

"You know, O Lord that man is not master of his way. Man's course is not within his choice, nor is for him to direct his step."
- Jeremiah 10:23

Have a blessed Maundy Thursday. :)
Today is special in the life of the Church because 2000 years ago, Jesus instituted the Sacraments of the Eucharist and the Holy Orders. How did He actually do it? It was simple really: He washed the feet of His disciples and shared a meal with them.
Truly, God is the God of both the simple and the grand. :)

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Step-up :)

(Warning: A very long post. I’m writing it chronologically so realizations may pop up in the middle of the paragraphs.)

This entry is an attempt to capture what I experienced in the 16th CFC- YFC International Leaders’ Conference in Cebu City from April 3-6, 2009. I say attempt because the richness of experience you get from these events of such scale (9000 delegates from different parts of the world, 44 from Ateneo and a lot of other familiar faces in a region ___ kilometers away from home) can never really be expressed satisfactorily in words. It is both faith enriching and community building and so the only reservoir fitting for the experience would be the heart. The task to articulate the experience was so daunting that last year, I utterly failed. But the impetus to do it was so strong that I started this blog on the premise of recording these very memorable annual events and sharing God’s messages to the world.

I begin this sharing by talking about what ILC has always meant to me. The first ILC I went to, the 14th in Naga City, solidified God’s call for me to be part of YFC. The second ILC I went to, the 15th in Tagaytay City, affirmed God’s promise of helping me in the long and arduous task of actually growing up. The ILC has become a bookmark in my spiritual journey that began since birth but I recognized the way I do now in 3rd year high school. My ILC experience is a continuing story, a saga of my life that has yet to end. At the same time, it’s also a kind of retreat as you leave everything to go to an unfamiliar place with people whether friends or strangers, reminiscent of Jesus’ frequent travels to the top of the mountains and hills or middle of the deserts and seas usually to find Himself and God before He engages in His ministry. It’s a different kind because you are rarely silent but called to always be prayerful. Usually for me, God’s call is clearest in these events where you can step back and look at the entirety of the picture. It’s so easy to have a conversation with God when you have nothing to think about but just the small things: food, lodging and where to sit to get the best view. It’s a spiritual pilgrimage, but a truly exciting one in the modern sense of the term – with everything that will engage all your senses.

This year’s ILC, in retrospect, was in a way one of God’s responses for my request to “grow up”. Unlike Naga and Tagaytay, I would have to travel by plane to a place that would not be easily accessible by my parents. But I didn’t have as much difficulty asking permission to attend the event as I did in Naga. I guess and I hope they see how YFC is transforming my life and it is a subtle affirmation that I continue to live out my faith the way I do. The more difficult task was to actually acquire the resources for the trip. I will be frank about the expenses – Php 8,000.00 for just the basics (transpo, lodging, registration). I probably spent about Php 10,000.00. Again in retrospect, perhaps it was God’s challenge for me to actually be a grown-up, to use what talents and resources I have to get what I want and what He wants for me. I set-up a small loading business and with a lot of saving up, I managed to cover 80% of my expenses. Truly, a lot of growing up was needed to keep yourself from eating that extra cake or buying that book or spending an extra hour playing in a computer shop. But by God’s grace of discipline and direction, I was able to achieve it. As you may have noticed, the logistics and finances, no matter how secular they may seem, can easily and clearly be rooted in the faith we all strive to live out and it makes so much more sense if there is that steady direction to the things that we do.

I was bringing plenty of “experiential baggage” that I hoped God would make sense of in the ILC. I guess in responding to my yearning for opportunities to grow up, God just unleashed a multitude of new experiences in my life, breaking me where I needed to be broken and fashioning a different me, transforming my life to the point of non-recognition. But it was a process between just me and God. He wasn’t giving me liposuction or a facelift. For a whole year, I was undergoing internal pruning from both internal and external sources. I experienced a lot of deaths, got into a dorm and experienced a slightly higher modicum of freedom, met a lot of new people, and became intimate with a lot more – each and every experience building up to another. Second year was marked by a lot of crossroads and intersections, and I had to give up a lot of things and stand up for a lot of decisions I had to make. It was a confusing time for me. I was broken in to a million pieces, but God was steadily molding me into a new and better person, more open to His promptings and more ready than ever to respond to what He wants for me. It’s not over, but I have recognized this much. The ending highlight of the year perhaps is my exploration of two of three possible paths to my life-long vocation – priesthood and marriage. I was bringing that question to the ILC and I was hoping He would give me an answer there as well. So I traveled with that question in mind, hoping to find clues to what God wants for my life but expecting to be surprised again.

The travel to Cebu was pretty interesting. It was my first domestic flight, and it was comfortable. Though some of our other delegates got better deals with PAL, I was just glad to be on that plane on the way to Cebu. I’ve been on a plane once in my life before, on the way to Hong Kong, but I could barely remember the experience. It was just like riding a roller coaster, and yet you can see the world fall below you. We were flying at around 30,000 feet and I can only marvel at the beauty of God’s creation. I’ve always been a fan of clouds, so I found it awesome to see them from the top. As we were descending, I was thinking of how small we actually are in the bigger cosmic schemes. It has always been said but I was seeing it first hand, we were literally specks in the grandeur of the world and yet we seem to have the uncanny ability to build our own worlds and forget how we are but a mere part of it. As we arrived, and went down the plane, I realized why we are able to do it – our ingenuity and creativity seems so limitless that we can build planes to conquer the skies. One of God’s most enduring gifts to us is our intellect and we have used it to extend ourselves to master the world. The question that popped was are we using that gift well?

We landed on Mactan so there was the matter of traveling to Cebu. We were expecting to get cabs but fortunately, the organizers rented a bus for a free ride to the staging area, Sacred Heart School. Throughout the trip, I was on the look out as to how different Cebu was from Manila. For one thing, there was a lot less traffic and a whole lot less noise. It was a Thursday and for someone so used to the hustle and bustle of Cubao, North Avenue and Recto, Mactan and downtown Cebu was like Binondo during Pacquiao matches. So for all the touting of Cebu being the “Queen City of the South”, it was still a far cry from “Imperialistic Manila”. But the thing that caught my attention was it seems there weren’t a lot of shanties – they probably had them relocated before the last ASEAN summit in Cebu. It wasn’t able to hide however that poverty was very much present in Cebu as well. I have one photo in my album and I was thinking, “May taong grasa din pala sa Cebu, parang Katipunan lang e.”

After we dropped our bags at the Center for Education, Development and Training (CENDET) of the United Churches of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) along Osmena Boulevard, we went on to some of the historical sites of Cebu. We rode jeeps (or multicabs as they seem to call it there) that bore the amazing route numbers. I’d like to think they were a product of more progressive planning – something Manila sorely lacks. We passed by downtown Cebu and it was really just like Binondo only smaller. As we reached Magellan’s Cross, the first thing that caught my attention was how small the Cross actually was (hehe). The next was that City Hall was directly in front of it which affirms that Cebu was really built by the Spaniards following the “pueblo” model of city planning – putting all the government and religious buildings at the center. The final thing that moved me was that there were candle vendors much like in Antipolo, but they actually wore costumes, with IDs. They were middle aged to senior women asking us to buy candles and dance something as a sign of tribute to the cross. Moving on to the other side of the Basilica, there were also old women selling candles, only they probably weren’t registered so they wore their normal clothes and sold candles on the street. Who would possibly buy in such an inconspicuous area? I was filled with a strange feeling. I was worried for them, asking myself how they could keep surviving that kind of life and that they seem to be the neglected part of society. The interesting thing was inside the Basilica, there was actually a candle lighting area and they actually had candles there (they are theoretically free but you are invited to donate for their use). Basic economics: why would I buy candles from ambulant vendors when there was a solid institution that could satisfy my needs. This was a lot different from Antipolo because you knew people would actually be buying candles from these vendors. It was a puzzling experience to think about how these old women, nearing the end of their lives, with their backs bent and possibly hurting, could still continue such as livelihood that promises so little in return. Are these not the kind of people that should be taken care of already by the government or the Church? I could only speculate how they manage to survive but I know they do as we all do, by God’s grace.

We explored the Basilica of Sto. Nino de Cebu and it was again smaller than I expected, although they had this huge plaza where I presume they would have their open air masses. It was a lot smaller church than the seats of archdioceses in Manila (I’ve been to two: Kalookan and Manila Cathedrals) and yet like in Antipolo, there were a lot of people lining up to touch the Sto. Nino. It was as much a tourist destination as it was a place of worship. I found nothing wrong with it except its still beyond my faith to have this intense devotion on images of reverence, such as the Sto. Nino, presumably the first gift of the Spaniards to the people of Cebu.

We moved on to Fort San Pedro and it was a smaller version of Fort Santiago. It was a triangular fort with cannons but they transformed the inner grounds into something similar to a garden you could use for receptions. This place was memorable not for its historicity (although I do enjoy it), but because this was my first opportunity to do something about that strange feeling I had at the Basilica. I realized God was turning my attention to these things for a reason and I realized perhaps it was Him telling me to give what I can to people I meet, probably for the last time. I had nothing to give but the warmth of a conversation and actually remembering who they were. I’ve heard this once before, that asking a person’s name gives a face to an otherwise faceless person who was simply to us a vendor, or a driver, or a stranger in the crowd. So it was in this place that I met Mang Adonis, a vendor at the souvenir shop. He’s been selling these things for years already but he seems to be happy about his life. He had this ingenious way of writing stuff on the souvenir items – a syringe with paint. That’s what he used to write on the decorative souvenir we bought as a token for the Villa family who later fed us. We said goodbye to Fort San Pedro and went on to the Villa residence along Mabini Street. Their house was pretty big and you’d see how they can afford to send Nile to the Ateneo. They hosted a dinner for all 44 of us and it was great. The taxi driver who brought us to Mabini (I forgot his name ☹) was talking to us about life in Cebu, how it was cheaper to get food here and yet every bit more sumptuous than food in Manila. He used to drive in Manila but transferred back in Cebu. Gasoline was a lot more expensive in Cebu because of freight costs (Php 36.00 per liter compared to our Php 23.00) but food was really cheap. He talked to us about pusu, rice wrapped around leaves and cooked that way and how cheap but tasty it was. It was the same pusu that we ate at the Villa residence together with lechon that didn’t have sarsa but didn’t need to have to because it was so filled with flavor already. For desert, we had mangoes, some of the sweetest I’ve ever tasted. ☺ The house wasn’t much different from the ones you’ll probably see in La Vista or Xavierville. Nile’s Lola was actually even watching “May Bukas Pa”, the same show my mom was probably watching the same time. It kind of reinforces how similar life in Cebu and Manila were and how technology can help bridge the cultural gaps these two places may have by uniting them into a singular Filipino culture continually built, transformed and perpetuated by mass media. It was also the first time we saw our beloved graduates who came from an earlier island hopping trip between Cebu and Bohol.

(I hope you’re still with me, this is really a long post)

So our day two begins with some GDs, processing etc. I was chosen to be a team leader again this year, but it wasn’t such a new experience for me because I got to do it last year. What I am glad about day two was that I got to meet more new people – Roi, Jolo, Mara, Teddy, Lalaine and Topher. I made it a point to really remove my “mahiyain” self and make them feel more welcome in our community that was known really for cliquishness (hehe). Hence, I teased Roi and Mara which a lot of people enjoyed and because Teddy was part of my team, I tried to make sure he was comfortable and not bored. It was a tiring thing to be thinking about others, especially a whole team of people, but it made sense later on.

We went to Ayala Center-Cebu and discovered how similar it was to the Ayala Malls in Manila. We ate at Giligan’s because we were looking for seafood because we were abstaining but the highlight of the trip was Dessert Factory. Think Banapple + Five Cows. Their cakes were amazing especially Achocolypse! and that amazing Carrot Cake. Thank you Mara and Nile for bringing us there! An interesting thing happened as we were heading back to the ILC proper. I was wearing my Ateneo jacket and suddenly a group of YFC guys came up to me and started talking to me. They were telling me that they were the only Ateneo team to join the Bayani Challenge in Cebu a week before ILC. We were talking about Xavier University and said what I knew about it, from Fr. Jett to Chuckie. We ended the conversation as we were about to leave by getting their names but I only remembered Chito. It was a funny thing because I wore the Ateneo Jacket to attract some kind of attention and that hopefully another delegation will come up to us and talk to us. It actually worked! hahaha

So we went on to our real first day for ILC which started with the praise parade, a colorful march of different regions showcasing the richness of their culture. This was followed by a mass which had a terrible choir (!!!) but I guess the main highlight, as it has always been, was communion time. It was reminiscent of the feeding of the five thousand and this time, it was nine thousand! It was such a sight to see, a sea of humanity lining up to receive the Bread of Life and sharing a common purpose and common understanding for why they were there and what was about to happen. After the mass was the opening worship and it was simply amazing. This was markedly different from the kinds of worship we have in Ateneo in recent times, because it was a pure praising of God, no inputs, no realizations, just a lifting up of praise to Him with all the energy we could muster. It was prayer as it is supposed to be – an attempt of His creatures to give glory to Him.

I missed the first session because I had to do something for Kimui but I knew it was an affirmation that God was going to speak to me not just through the sessions but the entire experience of being in Cebu. So I did try to help my friend as much as I could and traveled back for what was left of the session. It was talking about basically the different sectors of YFC, how much we’ve accomplished so that we could look more clearly into our future as a community. I guess it was empowering for a lot of people, but I was still disconnected from the theme.

The second day was for workshops and the main sessions of the ILC. It was the morning worship that I liked best of all the worships because it was simple but I knew I was really speaking to my God at that point. We were basking in the heat of the sun but it didn’t matter to us because we were also basking in God’s prescence.

We had to cut up the delegation to three for the three available workshops. I would have wanted to go to the vocation discernment workshop but I knew I had to give up my slot for the graduates who probably needed it more so I went with the rest of the boys to the exhortation workshop. It was an amazing workshop because it quantified for us one of the most important components of worship leading. Exhortation is about preparing the entire community to worship God. It was amazing not only for the input but also for the opportunity to try it out. I guess this was God preparing me for the other thing He has asked me to do soon. We also met here some friends from Negros especially Jayson who was part of our group. He just graduated this March and was going to take a test to get into Ateneo but opted to go to ILC instead. To a lot of people, it was probably a stupid decision, but seeing him share it to us with much conviction, I could understand how important YFC and this event was to him so I respect him for that certainty of where his heart is.

We went back to the venue for the sessions. It wasn’t very memorable except the message Forget and Focus which many of us felt should have to be characterized further. For me, you can’t really forget anything because that’s how you actually learn – through memory. It’s more of dissecting an experience, removing the negative things that can prove so cumbersome to move on and focus on the positive things that could help you move forward better prepared for the next challenges. It seemed to me a big sharing of what full-time work was about, or what stepping up in YFC is but I just couldn’t connect anymore because my stepping-up time for the moment had passed and the bigger question of vocation wasn’t being answered by the input given. What I did appreciate about day two was the final worship wherein the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament was put at the core of the worship. It was an amazing thing to not just put it as a separate event or an exclamation point to everything but to put it at the very heart of what we see as our identity as YFC. It was answered prayer for my part and a lot of others I’ve shared this too. I wasn’t sure everyone was prepared for it because I noticed some people didn’t understand what was happening, but for me, the mere actualized intention of returning to the core of our faith is a good sign that I’m still in the right community. ☺

In the second day mass, I asked a brother from Bulacan, Jasper, to sit with us because they simply didn’t have enough seats. We talked a little after mass talking to me about how big their delegation were, where they stayed and how he was liking it so far. It was unfortunate that they had to move because of the bounty parade. But it was an interesting surprise for him to text me the morning after we went back to Manila to thank me for the kindness. It was such an amazing thing for a stranger you opened up to for just a while to go out of his way and tell you he say God in you in that small act of kindness. Galing talaga!

As we were going home, I met Mang Nelson Pareja who used to be a jeepney driver in Manila taking the route of Navotas-Divisoria. He was there a long time ago because he was sharing to me landmarks that had long been replaced. But it was an interesting experience to have someone a thousand kilometers away know about my hometown.

Everything only made sense in the third day. I can’t recall exactly how I got to it but I think for all the stepping up the sessions were talking about, God was directing me to a different place. The past year, I’ve been immersed in questions of things larger than my life – vocation, or even the big decisions of which leadership position to assume. I heard God telling me to look into the smaller details of my life and to step up in them – He called me to be a “kuya” somehow to my group because He was preparing me to be a better “kuya” if I’m given a household or simply to people who look up to me and my own brothers at home. He was calling me to be a better student, as I now realize I’ve neglected so much. He was calling me to step up more in the leadership position I had assumed, to bear the cross I’ve chosen with much vigor. He was calling me to step up in the friendships I had especially with the graduates who would no longer be as present physically. He was calling me to step up as a son, to relearn humility in obedience and love. These were “smaller” things, but daunting at the same time. This was God’s call for me for the year, and as always, He gave me the promise of company in the journey He was calling me to take. God speaks to me through opportunities and it’s a funny thing that right after ILC, He’s been giving it to me.

Before the final worship, we went to speak with the La Salle delegation. There was a time our two schools were a lot closer that we shared a camp once four years ago. So we talked for a while, and we’re expecting Miguel to join us next year. He’s incoming LM.

The final worship was truly an empowering one. To be praising God in the heat of the sun was one thing, but to do it with the community you’ve grown with and you’ll grow it is another. To pray over each other and to ask God to bless each one was for me the most empowering thing YFC has always given to me. When you pray for each other, it wasn’t simply calling God’s grace to fall into that person, it was a promise of you becoming that grace to him. It’s the sacramental principle: grace builds on nature. God’s grace is not some magical aura that enters you, it’s concretized in things of this world, and for that special moment, I knew we were to each other God’s grace. There was a rare meteorological occurrence during the worship – a rainbow appeared on top of us, horizontal so it means the cirrus clouds above us were actually precipitating but it wasn’t reaching us. That way, there was a prism being formed above us and it looked like a circle was covering us.

ILC might be over but our trip to Cebu wasn’t. We headed to Portofino Beach Resort and along the way we met Mang Florie, a taxi driver. He also used to drive a taxi in Manila but he found his wife in Cebu so they decided to settle here. It was interesting how you can make such big decisions for the people you love – leaving your previous life in Manila just to start a new one with your one true love. And I wondered if I could do the same or if God actually cut me out to experience it.

I had to sleep for a while because I was terribly exhausted and Ed was also sick. But when I woke up and went to the beach I was in for a surprise. Our delegation was in a competition with La Salle – Dasma building sand castles and we won (hehe). So the La Salle delegation danced the YFC Step-up chant. Later on, while we were gearing up to join them, you could here them singing and having fun along the beach as far off as our cottage. It was such fun to find other YFCs who were practical strangers but had been through the same experience you went through as well. Solidarity the way Christ envisioned it ☺ Another surprise was that UST was also there and the three got together and decided we should worship together in the middle of the beach. So amidst the many onlookers there at the beach, we formed a circle and just worshipped God. Extra amazing was Roi who stepped up and led us into worship. ☺ Amazing lang talaga.

We also went to Su Tu Kil for dinner and it was amazing to see the market so clean. Talked with Ate Sally there who was sharing that they had a shellfish business and the empty shells they collect to make souvenir items. Sustainable business framework, walang waste in fairness ☺

We left the beach, stayed for a while at SM Cebu where we bought plenty of pasalubong, went back to Mactan Airport and finally home.

Haaaay. Haba haha. I’m bringing home a lot of things from Cebu but I think the most powerful is that I still have a family in YFC no matter what – one of the clearest signs of God’s faithfulness in my life. ☺ I’m excited for the year ahead and where God will lead all of us next ☺ Next ILC sa Baguio wahoo!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

WANTED: Freedom

I don't know when it started, but I feel I'm a prisoner. I am chained to my responsibilities, put behind the bars of expectations. My being yearns to be something it is hindered from becoming. And I feel my search now is not so much a love that makes me happy, or makes me complete, or understands me - but a love that liberates.

This is the theme of my life right now: The search for liberation, to be known for nothing else but by who you are, to be loved so effortlessly, so completely. 

I know where to find it. I'm just waiting to be released. Or then again, maybe I'm my own jail warden.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Note to Self :)

You can never get tired of love, because if you truly, deeply, fully love people, there is no doubt that they will share it back, though that love will surely be transformed into something more beautiful. Love seems to be an infinite commodity. And you always have to place your heart where it receives the most love. Stretch the heart, because love will make it full anyway. :) 

Yesterday was truly, deeply, fully a revelatory event for me. I understand now the oft-used phrase: "I love because God has loved me first." Because how could so much love exist in the world if it did not come from an infinite source? Love is our first experience of our final destiny with God. Yesterday, I was overwhelmed with that experience, in the most positively profound way possible. Salamat Panginoon, pinaalala mo sa akin na it's all worth it. :D

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Back to Basics

The past two months have been incredibly heavy, painful and difficult for me, like one looooooong long test and you can't find the answers. Or perhaps, you know the answers but you just can't write them down in the proper form to get full points. I've began to doubt myself again and when I do that, I feel guilty because I seem to doubt what God has in store for my life. 

One realization I've managed to get from the confounding combination of moderately difficult problems that I am facing right now is that I have a lot of growing up to do. But when you think about it, do you really just say I want to grow up and it happens? Because if it does, it's not working for me. 

I feel that this painful tunnel in my life will be longer than I would hope but, cliche as it may seem, there is always light at the end of the tunnel. Because if there isn't, what a sad journey it would be. 

Then again, only in the darkest night when the moon is veiled and the clouds are gone do we see the beauty of the millions and millions of the jewels of the universe. It just keeps growing darker for me these days and the best thing to do perhaps is gaze at the stars.

"You will suffer the world. But take courage! I have overcome the world." - John 16:33