Tag Archives: faith

Pope Francis-mania in Manila

Tomorrow, around this time, His Holiness Pope Francis I will already be in Manila in time for his Mercy and Compassion country visit. The Philippines, considered the largest Catholic nation in Asia, has been preparing for this visit since 4th quarter of 2014 — with parish churches often announcing the expected activities during mass and tarpaulins already sprouting from major thoroughfares. With one day to go, you can probably imagine how excited Filipinos are. Early this week, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has already released major details of the trip, ranging from the Holy Father’s itinerary, the security measures in place, the roads closed and to be affected, alternate routes, admonishments to shameless politicians and businesses cashing in the Pope’s arrival plus a list of Do’s and Don’ts for the millions and millions of Filipinos who will be attending the Holy Mass at the Luneta Church on January 18.

I was in sophomore year in high school when St. John Paul II went to the Philippines to celebrate the 10th World Youth Day, also month of January in 1995. I remembered badgering my mom non-stop so that she’ll pay for my joining fee as one of the chosen delegates of the school.

pope john paul II

That was probably one of the best days of my high school life: we had delegates come over from other provinces in the Philippines and classes in our school was suspended to accommodate their stay in our school. I studied in an exclusive, all-girls Catholic high school and the fact that there were high school boys (from another Catholic school from other provinces) sent the cloistered girls of St. Anne’s into a flurry of excitement and anticipation. We met with other youth delegates, performed traditional dances, went on a gimmick with the out-of-towners in nearby malls and for a time, even maintained our friendship with some of them. For a time, I was able to be pen pals with about three delegates before we finally lost touch just right at the time I was about to start University.

One of my fondest moments was spending the night, camping at the sprawling grounds of the Luneta Park waiting for the morning mass of the Holy Father, who is now one of the saints of the Catholic Church.

One of these scrawny kids is me, I will not tell which one (hahaha!):

high school classmates world youth day

world youth day sleepover

So, you can probably imagine my excitement now that another pope is visiting the Philippines. While I am not an active member of the Church and I eschew anything that involves too much pomp and pageantry, I am a dedicated and devoted Catholic. In my darkest and lowest moment, it is my faith that pulled me out of my misery. I was a big fan of Saint (Pope) John Paul II and was the type of person who remembered where I was (and what I was doing) when he passed away. I feel the same excitement, respect and awe with Pope Francis I. I have read so much about the Pope and found him to be a refreshing change compared to the stuffy, traditional men of cloth usually present in my country.

Anyway, for those who would like to know where to find Pope Francis I, here’s an infographic of his stay in Manila:

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As for me, I am representing my company as one of the health volunteers during his Papal Mass at the Manila Cathedral on January 16. With God’s blessings, it will be the second time that I will get to the Head of the Catholic Church in person.

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Personal Reflections this Holy Week

We are not allowed to go anywhere when it’s Holy Week and we commemorate the Passion and Death of Christ. A few years ago, my siblings and my then-boyfriend (now the hubby), had the gall to book tickets to Boracay, choosing to stay on the island for three days. When we came back on Easter afternoon, our mom was not talking to us. One, for choosing to break her “no-travel-on-Holy-Week” rule and the second one, for ditching her “Pabasa” which happens year after year.

My mom had been doing the yearly recitation of the Passion of the Christ for sixteen years now, after my grandmother passed away. Before her, my grandmother had been doing it for more than 30 years, after inheriting it from her husband (my grandfather) who in turn inherited it from his dad. My mom is now in a dilemma. At 58 years old, she already asked us, her children on who would inherit the yearly Pabasa. I declined because it’s not something that I see myself doing and I used to be to COMMITTED to something as binding as this. Again, you can blame my allergy to anything that will bind me, and second because my mother’s brand of hysterical fanaticism, blind religion is not something that I subscribe to. Both my sister and my brother seemed averse to continuing the family tradition. I told her that maybe she can adopt a child off the streets for the sole purpose of continuing the Pabasa. I hope I was kidding but I am not. The rigors of continuing a tradition as constricting as this is just crazy: the building of the altar, asking neighbors to sing the Passion of Christ for you, the buying of food and all that. Actually, the buying of food and serving is the easiest part of the experience.

It’s not like, I just slept and stuffed myself with food during the Holy Week. I observed it, my own brand of sacrifice for this blessed part of the year. The hubby and I started our tradition of Visita Iglesia, where we visit seven churches to say a prayer in reference to the 14 Stations of the Cross. This year, the hubby was rendered unavailable due to work so I chose to do it on my own. Only this time, I went to one place only to relive the 14 Stations.

I’ve heard before how Church Simplified has been staging Walkway:Reflections on the Stations of the Cross at Bonifacio High Street for a few years now. Been wanting to check it out but since I have chosen the traditional Visita Iglesia route, I only get to experience it this year. Yes, these are the 14 stations of the cross presented in a more simplified manner in the middle of Manila’s upscale mall. The only difference is you do not feel like you’re in the middle of the mall, with people gawking at you. Here, you’re on your own, free to express your faith without people judging you.

Since this Station of the Cross is interactive, in Station 2 we were asked to drop a marble on the things we chose before our faith.

Like many others, it’s Ambition that’s bringing me down.

Other pictures from my Station of the Cross:

this stone represents the person I branded negatively immediately
Did you know that the lashes Jesus received is intended to reduce him to near death?

At the Station depicting the Crucifixion of Christ, we were asked to nail black cloths to the big cross placed in the middle of the area. The black pieces of cloth symbolized our sins and we were asked to write them on the piece of cloth using only our finger. I wrote “Envy” and “Hatred”.

a representation of sin

I wanted to carry this cross, said to mirror the size and weight of the one Jesus carried but since I am on my own, I was afraid that I’ll buckle under the pressure. So what I did is just carry it for a bit, around ten seconds tops, in one place and I had to ask the guide to get it off my shoulder. IT WAS VERY HEAVY. So, imagine how the Lord must have felt? Though I felt a slight tinge of regret that I didn’t just carry it and see how it goes…

carrying the cross

I am glad that I went through this, even if I was on my own. I had some pretty good realizations that Thursday morning. Looking forward to doing this again next year.

Thou are dust…and to dust you shall return (Day 52 of Project 365)

Apologies for the grainy photo. We were in the middle of mass and I can already feel my soul slowly being lowered to the deepest recesses of hell.

I am not a big fan of holidays. I develop rashes and hives whenever Christmas and Valentines roll into town. But I love Ash Wednesdays and Easter (and also Halloween — but that’s another story).

I love Ash Wednesdays because of the gravity of its symbolism: “we all came from ashes and from ashes we shall return”. I love how this time of the year provides us the opportunity to reflect on the transience of life. How we can be here one day and gone the next. I love how it reminds us to prioritize the really important things in life: like family and health and being a good human being. During mass earlier, the priest said that we will never be given a chance to bring our material wealth to heaven when we finally kick the bucket — and well, it’s the truth. What really matters is how we have managed to earn brownie points in heaven while we are still alive.

And oh, one thing that I also love about Ash Wednesday is the cross placed on our forehead. I always get a kick out of seeing really big ones, the type that threatens to brand you a sinner for life if I doesn’t get erased immediately. I don’t like those small, lonely faint crosses that immediately gets washed away by the grime and oil of everyday living.

When I was young, my religion teacher told us that if the crosses are distinct and heavy and very thick, it means you are sinner. You can just imagine how guilty I would become every time Ash Wednesday rolls around and I always end up with a giant advertisement of my transgressions cleverly imprinted on my forehead. I kept asking if God knows I have been getting coins from my dad’s jeans pocket or my mom’s cash box. I feel like I have just been branded a sinner, the only thing missing are the colored lights and blinking neon signs advertising my temporary residency in Gomorrah.

I hope you were able to visit church today. May the start of your Lent be blessed.

Higher Power (Day 15/January 15, 2012/ Project 365)

There are times when intelligence and a high emotional quotient is not enough to solve the problem at hand. There are times when you need an anchor to keep you sane and alive amidst all the chaos and the sh*t that life brings us.

I found that anchor earlier.

I am not really a very religious person. Being the neurotic person that I am, I shun anything that will make me participate in a “group activity”. I shun anything that will require me to sing or dance or be part of a “community or legion”. Due to some past bad experience with organized church organizations, I look at anything that contains the words “legion, choir or community” through slanted, suspicious eyes. I don’t go to mass as much as my mom would have liked (she is a senior leader in their church group). I am also not loyal to one particular parish, but I have enjoyed going to the Sto Nino Parish in Greenbelt. The funny thing is, even if the church is at the midst of Makati’s Central Business District and the Ayala malls, there is still a sense of serenity and peace when you enter inside the chapel.

While I am not religious, I have very strong faith in God. I can’t function without saying my prayers…basically just talking directly to Him and telling Him how my day went. I pray in a way that seemed like I was just telling someone important my story. Before I close my eyes, I say my thanks and ask Him a small favor: that in case I don’t wake up, keep the people I love safe and happy for the rest of their lives.

I’ve been through hell since Friday night, I am fine now. After all, praying always works.

Of Faith and Persuasions

As much as possible, I try not to write anything too personal in this blog.

I guess it’s enough that my best 3 readers know that I am a neurotic drama queen easily obsessed with androgynous looking Asian boys (read: Japanese). Beyond that, I try not to dwell too much on my personal life even if I managed to post my husband’s face and that of the circle of friends that I maintain.

So even if there are days when my heart is breaking, or my chest is too painful that I can’t breathe…for days when I’d rather say things I want to say, or even write the things that I am too much of a coward to even utter — I try to stay away from this blog. There are days when I feel like my heart is breaking and I needed an outlet to say what I really feel…my natural recourse was to write, but I keep on editing myself, not wanting to divulge anything too personal.

The purpose of this long discourse is my decision earlier to attend Fr. Fernando Suarez’ healing mass held at Glorietta 5. Fr. Fernando Suarez is a Filipino-Canadian priest known for his healing gift. Through his intercession, countless wheelchair bound patients have managed to walk again, the sick was healed and the distressed was given strength.

I have been depressed for almost a month now due to financial, emotional and physical problems that have been hounding me repeatedly. I have been suffering from chronic headache, colds and cough; the hubby was diagnosed with gallstones and might have to undergo surgery (right at the exact moment when we were very low on funds); I was stressed at work plus all these baggage were adding up to put strain in my marriage. Plus, I have been asking the Lord for one thing that I wholeheartedly desire.

Honestly, I am not a very religious person. Yes, I am spiritual and very attuned to my beliefs…but I am not the type to spend hours and hours at the church. Plus, I have a serious aversion to deeply religious people (case in point: my own mother) who are very active in the church yet seriously lacking on fellowship to common folk. So, when I had the chance to get tickets to the healing mass, I was approaching it with a very open yet (slightly pessimistic) mind.

And I am glad to be proven wrong.

The mass was serene and hopeful, very solemn in spite the fact it was held at the middle of a busy mall, with attendees close to 500 people. Fr. Suarez has a way of connecting to his audience. His words are moving and easy to understand. He speaks humbly about his gift and stresses that he is not the one who should be credited with the power of healing, but Jesus Christ and The Lord alone. He is just an instrument, he says.

How do you explain faith? This is what I asked myself when right in front of me, I saw old men and women–feebled, their bodies ravaged by sickness–stand up from the very wheelchair that they used to occupy. I saw an old lady wheeled in by her daughter…only to stand up after the blessed father laid his hand on her chest. I saw people, overcame by the Holy Spirit, fall to their knees (to the waiting hands of some volunteers from the Landmark), only to wake up a few seconds later. I saw men–big burly men–crumple to the ground like a used sack of clothes, crying while praying. I wish I was making this up — but I saw it.

Here’s the funny part — when I started seeing people fall to the ground, my overactive, mildly neurotic mind started to wonder. I really do not want to fall in public. One, your face and your fall due to His grace will be beamed live to the four corners of Glorietta 5 courtesy of the ever present camera documenting those who were crying, who were healed and most importantly, the neat row of people lying on the ground after they have felt. I keep on thinking, “I don’t wanna fall and resume consciousness surrounded by worn shoes plus with a camera sticking to my face”.

I guess this was the reason why I didn’t fall right the moment Fr. Suarez held my hand and prayed over me. I reached out and touched him and said my solemn prayer invoking his intercession. When I looked up, I was still standing, while a neat row of unconscious people were laid at my feet. At first, I was sad that I didn’t collapsed, does that mean that I didn’t get the Holy Spirit? The thing is, right after Fr. Suarez uttered his prayers, I felt a very light feeling in my chest. As if a load has been lifted.

In my heart I know that I believed and that He heard my prayers. I believe that in due time , the Lord will give me his answers.

Faith is a very tricky word–prone to misuse and abuse. At the end of the day, it depends on what your heart desired. For someone who is crying out for His help, there is no need for words. In my mind, faith is the language that our heart uses when we talk to our Maker.

Saying thank you for the things that matter

I have been pretty blessed — but there are instances where I rather see the negative than the many good things happening around me. I had a superb weekend, spent time paying bills thus blowing my whole month’s pay in two hours. It’s a sad reality but they always say that bills are as constant as life.

Weekend started in a pretty good note, got this courtesy of the office big boss:

Superman #1 (DC Re-Imagining)

The kaisha big cheese, let’s call him Bruce Wayne (he is terminally obsessed with the Caped Crusader) has given me the first issue of Superman 1 (The DC Reimagining). You can just imagine that it took me all I got just not to: a) scream b) shower him with unwanted kisses due to the gratitude and nothing else and c) scare him off by profusely offering my gratitude and looking like a complete dork. Bruce Wayne are both comics aficionado though we tend to bat (no pun intended) on two separate end of the spectrum: I am a die-hard Superman fan and he swears allegiance to Batman.

While Bruce Wayne likes comics, he is a very no-nonsense, very efficient COO. He has a way of mobilizing people and getting things done. I guess that’s the dynamism that a young head honcho can bring to the table.

Anyway, moving forward — weekend was well, an utter monotony where I managed to past time listening (and counting) the clock’s constant ticking.

Monday came and I was notified by my boss who is looking awfully sweet today due to the dress combo that I am due for regularization in two or three weeks time. Hence, I am now in the mercy of the evaluation for regularization of employees. Yey me 😦

While I am a (bit) confident of my performance thus far–hello, overtime work! — I now that my four month stay in the kaisha is not perfect. I tend to be lax on my grammar usage and I tend to forget a few projects just because there’s just so many of them. But I am doing my best and God knows I am really, really trying.

I reviewed my list of to do’s and I almost passed out when I realized that I have 3-effing-pages of various tasks on varying shades of completion. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Bar none, I am SupereffingWoman!

PICTURE NOT MINE

At the office earlier, I had the misfortune of being close hearing range while another boss went all drama queen on her poor, hapless secretary. She was screaming non-stop for close to two effing hours and I was starting to palpitate cos I was just too scared. Hell, I was more scared than the poor secretary who was rushing to and fro just to pacify the angry boss. It’s the exact moment that I realized that I had residue phobia from the time I was working under a wicked, dried up crone three years back.

I had so much in my plate right now and I kinda now that they are not going away. I refuse to be defeated by obstacles. I can make it pass this. I am a strong woman.

Found knowledge – Under the Overpass

The problem with having easy connection to the internet and having Momo beside me is the fact that I have forgotten to read books. I used to spend hours finishing a single book, lost in the character’s world while I travel to new places without leaving the miserable space that I call my room.

Now, I consider it a miracle if I finish a book in five days, the high stack of unread tomes in my bed side table looking at me accusingly. I can hear the books whispering, “traitor — slave to technology!” and I am almost tempted to forgo Facebooking and blogging just so I can devote time to my books once again.

That’s why I thank my sister, the Queen for lending me this book:

Under the Overpass: A Journey of Faith on the Streets of America (pic not mine)

Under the Overpass: A Journey of Faith on the Streets of America tells the story of Mike Yankoski and his friend Sam Purvis, who spent six months living on the streets of America trying their best to live as Christians and children of God while faced with drug addiction, helplessness and violence that permeated the streets of America.

Mike and Sam are both Christians who grew up in upper middle class households enjoying their life as privileged young men blessed with good education and family. Unlike the majority of the privileged in America, Mike aims to test his faith in God and his claim of good Christian living by forsaking the trappings of material wealth and seeing what it’s like to live in the streets. Armed with backpacks, a 3-dollar sleeping bag and their trusty guitars, Mike and Sam trawled the dangerous streets while panhandling (by singing worship songs) in the hopes of raising money for their everyday food as well as travel money.

They wanted to know: stripped of material wealth, can a young Christian still do what is expected of him as a believer of Christ?

“Under the Overpass” is one of the best books about the Christian faith that I’ve ever encountered my whole life. You see, I am born a Catholic and I have no intentions of changing my religious belief (my sister though converted to Christian-ism), but the lessons imparted by Mike and Sam were not bound by any denomination or religion.

Love others just as you loved yourself Isn’t this the primary teaching of Christ? That we should always try to see ourselves in others? In the book, Mike and Sam likened living in the streets to “losing your pride and dignity” — you smell horrible, you look horrible, at times you eat from the trash, you ask people for money, people don’t even look at you…it’s like you don’t exist.

I won’t be a hypocrite and say that I will start giving money to every homeless person that I see on my way to work. It might be different in America and it’s different also here in the Philippines. In fact, on my way home earlier, a little kid went up the jeepney to ask for money. The kid kept touching people’s hands and harassing us for a few coins — it was sad and annoying at the same time. You know why? this kid (about 5 years old, i think) shouldn’t be asking people for money. It’s the responsibility of the persons who created him. I did not gave a single cent because that will only encourage him to beg. It will also encourage his mom and dad to left him in the streets to earn money for them.

In the Philippines, the best way to help is to be part of a third party organization or an NGO that promotes the welfare of street kids and the homeless, like Virlanie Foundation, Bantay Bata, Golden Acres (for the elderly and destitute) and many other organizations. Do not ever give money directly to those who beg because you do not know if they are part of a syndicate or if they will really spend it on food.

This sad reality of poverty in the Philippines is what depressed the hell out of me. How can I make a difference, like Mike and Sam? After thinking about it, I realized that we become our version of ideal persons through our “neighbors” — the people around us: our parents, our siblings, co-workers, the weird neighbor down the street.