Wednesday, February 29, 2012
Last Sunday evening, a fellow St. Mary's College (SMC), Quezon City alumni Minda Eco, called me up to convey the sad news. One of our common friends in the SMC alumni, Roxanne 'Roxy' Yabes passed away last Friday (Feb. 24) at the age of 64.
Roxy had apparently been at the ICU for a week until finally succumbing to cirrhosis of the liver which she had been battling for a long time now.
On New Year's Day, Roxy even texted me, wishing that we could meet at Facebook. Soon after, we added each other us friends. I appreciated the fact that this social network gave us the opportunity to keep in touch with friends that you other do not get to meet as often as you may want. I remember her telling me through text that Charianne was all grown up now. Roxy asked me to be one of Charianne's godparents during her baptism. I believe she was my first god child and I felt honored by Roxy to have been chosen to be one of her daughter's god parents. She texted that I should see Charianne one of these days. I regret not doing it earlier this year.
During the wake for Roxy which I attended last Monday, I was able to briefly talk to several SMC alumni classmates and friends of Roxy - the Eco sisters - Minda (H.S. 1963) and Baby (H.S. '64), and Sessie Caoyonan (H.S. '63), a former SMC Alumni Association President. Luisa Pablo ((H.S. '64), a long time alumni officer was also there that evening.
Roxy had requested she be cremated when she died and was placed in a light brown urn. She was buried yesterday at the Holy Cross Memorial Park in Novaliches.
I ask everyone to pray for the eternal repose of her soul and that she finds perpetual bliss in the arms of our loving Creator. I also seek your prayers for her two children, Charianne and David. As teenage orphans, they would face challenges in their youthful lives. May they not be discouraged but rather be inspired by the love and commendable life of their loving mother. May God bless them, keep them and give them solace during these moments of grief.
Across the various batches, Roxy was one of the kindest SMC alumni I ever had the privilege of knowing. She was a good person and a good Christian.
She was a good friend...and she will be missed.
Wednesday, February 15, 2012
My post-Valentine post this month is a short commentary on a story forwarded to me by a good friend, Sis. Grace Cajipe. It talks about a story of love as retold by a theology professor between God and one of his unbelieving (at first) beloved. And like all stories of enduring love, it conquers all including the most hardened of hearts.
Like Tommy in the story, many of us at some point in our lives, sadly treat God as some sort of a divine servant in waiting. God I don't need you today...God now I need you, please show yourself and help me with my problem with all you greatness and majesty! In time we realize it simply doesn't work that way.
God loves us simply because. He loves us not because He needs us to exist, He loves us simply because He wants to. And because God loved us first He doesn't owe us anything. We on the other hand, have been blessed with so much of His steadfast love.
When Tommy finally met God in his life, he ultimately realized our purpose here on earth. It wasn't about us...it was always about God. Then he knew what he had to do.
The question is: what do YOU do with God's love?
A STORY OF LOVING
I just want to share this loving story as told by John Powell, a professor at Loyola University in Chicago, about a student in his Theology of Faith class named Tommy. I am so much blessed by the story and praying you, too, will be blessed as you read Tommy's story as told by his professor...
Some twelve years ago, I stood watching my University students file into the classroom for our first session in the Theology of Faith. That was the first day I first saw Tommy. My eyes and my mind both blinked. He was combing his long flaxen hair, which hung six inches below his shoulders. It was the first time I had ever seen a boy hair that long. I guess it was just coming into fashion then. I know in my mind that it isn't what's on my head but what's in it that counts; but on that day I was unprepared and my emotions flipped. I immediately filed Tommy under "S" for strange...very strange.
Tommy turned out to be the "Atheist in residence" in my Theology of Faith course. He constantly objected to, smirked at or whined about the possibility of an unconditionally loving Father/God. We lived with each other in relative peace for one semester, although I admit he was for me at times a serious pain in the back pew.
When he came up at the end of the course to turn his final exam, he asked in a slightly cynical tone, "Do you think I'll ever find God?" I decided instantly on a little shock therapy. "No!" I said very emphatically "oh," he responded, "I thought that was the product you were pushing." I let him get five steps from the classroom door and called out, "Tommy! I don't think you'll ever find him, but I am absolutely certain that he will find you!" He shrugged a little and left my class and my life. I felt slightly disappointed at the thought that he had missed my clever line, "He will find you!" At least I thought it was clever. Later I heard that Tommy had graduated and I was duly grateful.
Then came a sad report. I heard that Tommy had terminal cancer. Before I could search him out, he came to see me. When he walked into my office, his body was very badly wasted, and the long hair had fallen out as a result of chemotherapy. But his eyes were bright and his voice was firm, for the first time, I believe.
"Tommy I've thought about you so often. I hear you are sick." I blurted out.
"Oh, yes, very sick. I have cancer in both lungs. It's a matter of weeks."
"Can you talk about it Tom?" I asked.
"Sure, what would you like to know?" he replied.
"What's it like to be only twenty four and dying?"
"Well, it could be worse."
"Well, like being fifty and having no values or ideals, like being fifty and thinking that booze, seducing and making money are the real "biggies" in life."
I began to look through my mental file cabinet under "S" where I had filed Tommy as strange. (It seems as though everybody I try to reject by God sends back into my life to educate me.)
"But what I really came to see you about," Tom said, "is something you said to me on the last day of class." (He remembered!) He continued, "I asked you if you thought I would ever find God and you said, "No!" which surprised me. Then you said, "But He will find you." I thought about that a lot, even though my search for God was hardly intense at that time." My "clever" line. He thought about that a lot!)
Tommy continued, "But when the doctors removed a lump from my groin and told me that it was malignant, then I got serious about locating God. And when the malignancy spread into my vital organs, I really began banging bloody fists against the bronze doors of Heaven. But God did not come out. In fact, nothing happened? Did you ever try anything for a long time with great effort and with no success? You get psychologically glutted, fed up with trying. And then you quit."
"Well, one day I woke up, and instead of throwing a few more futile appeals over that high brick wall to a God who may be or may not be there, I just quit. I decided that I don't really care...about God, about an afterlife, or anything like that. I decided to spent what time I had left doing something more profitable."
"I thought about you and your class and I remembered something else you had said: 'the essential sadness is to go through life without loving. But it would be almost equally sad to go through life and leave this world without ever telling those you loved that you have love them.' So, I began with the hardest one, my Dad. He was reading the newspaper when I approached him:"
"Yes, what?" he asked without lowering the newspaper.
"Dad, I would like to talk with you."
"I mean...it's really important."
The newspaper came down three slow inches. "What is it?"
"Dad, I LOVE YOU. I just wanted you to know that."
Tom smiled at me and said with obvious satisfaction, as though he fell a warm and secret joy flowing inside of him.
"The newspaper fluttered to the floor. Then my father did two things I could never remember him ever doing before. He cried and he hugged me. And we talked night, even though he had to go to work the next morning. It felt so good to be close to my father, to see his tears, to feel his hug, to hear him say that he loved me."
"It was easier with my mother and little brother. They cried with me, too, and we hugged each other, and started saying real nice things to each other. We shared the things we had been keeping secret for so many years. I was only sorry about one thing: that I had waited so long."
"Here I was, just beginning to open up to all people I had actually been close to. Then, one day I turned around and God was there. He didn't come to me when I pleaded with him. I guess I was like an animal trainer holding out a hoop, 'C'mon, jump through.' 'C'mon, I'll give you three days, three weeks.' Apparently God does things in His Own way and at His Own hour. But the important thing is that he was there. He found me. You were right. He found me even after I stopped looking for him."
"Tommy", I practically gasped, I think you are saying something very important and much more universal than you realize. To me, at least, you are saying that the surest way to find God is not to make Him a private possession, a problem solver, or an instant consolation in time of need, but rather by opening to love. You know the Apostle John said that. He said "God is love, and anyone who lives in love is living with God and God is living in him."
"Tom, could I asked you a favor? You know, when I had you in class you were a pain. But (laughingly) you can make it all up to me now. Would you come into my present Theology of Faith course and tell them what you have just told me? If I told them the same thing it wouldn't be half as effective as if you were to tell them."
"ooh...I was ready for you, but I don't know if I'm ready for your class."
"Tom think about it. If and when you are ready, give me a call."
In a few days Tom called, said he was ready for the class, and that he wanted to do that for God and for me. So we scheduled a date. However, he never made it. He had another appointment, far more important than the one with my class and me.
Of course, his life was not really ended by his death, only changed. He made the great step from faith into vision. He found a life far more beautiful than the eye of man has ever seen or the ear of man has ever heard or the mind of has ever imagined.
Before he died, we talked one last time. "I'm not going to make it to your class," he said. "I know, Tom."
"Will you tell them for me? Will you...tell the whole world for me?"
"I will, Tom. I'll tell them. I'll do my best."
So, to all of you who have been kind enough to hear this simple story about love, thank you for listening, and to you, Tommy, somewhere in the sunlit hills of Heaven: "I told them, Tommy...as best as I could."
THOUGHT FOR TODAY
BE A PERSON FULL OF LOVE AND LIFE, STAY SIMPLE YET HAPPY. WHEN THINGS GO WRONG JUST PRAY AND SAY, "I WILL GET THROUGH." ALWAYS REMEMBER GOD LOVES YOU.
Also remember that "the glory of life is to love, not to be loved; to give not to get; to serve, not to be served."
QUOTE FOR THE DAY
"Life is only traveled ONCE. Today's moments becomes tomorrow's memories...enjoy every moment, good or bad, because the Gift of Life is Life in God." - Selected
Sunday, January 15, 2012
My wife newly received a letter from a dear family friend and former De La Salle student Cubbie Navarro who with her fellow Filipino husband Noel and their two kids, Jiaana & Christa now live down under in Melbourne, Australia.
I have so much admiration for their family as to how they have coped with the numerous trials in their life. Especially Cubbie who is one of the most loving mothers I have ever had the privilege of knowing.
During her pregnancy with Christa their second child, she was vigorously advised to abort her as the fetus was diagnosed to have Down's syndrome. A virtuous Christian, she instead decided to change her unsympathetic doctor and bravely continued with her pregnancy. Only into her second year of life, Christa had already undergone open heart surgery for cardiac heart defect. She needs to wear a hearing aide because her hearing is only 40%. Now she also undergoes chemotherapy treatment as she was recently diagnosed to have leukemia.
Even as a parent of four children, I cannot imagine what Cubbie and Noel must be going through particularly these past few months. These are the times that I have difficulty not asking God why...why these things happen to good people like Cubbie. Why for instance during New Year's Eve do bullets from indiscriminate firing end up hitting the bodies of innocent children? Why can't they land on the unscrupulous instead?
But in the end, I just entrust and surrender everything to Him whom I know has a perfect plan for each and everyone of us (Jeremiah 29:11-14). During times of tribulations I am reminded of the prophet Habakkuk and how he dealt with adversity in life - with trust and gladness in God.
Towards the end of his prayer to God, Habakkuk (3:17-18 ESV) declares:
"Though the fig tree should not blossom,
nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold
and there be no herd in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the LORD;
I will take joy in the God of my salvation."
May I ask that you join me in offering prayers for the Navarro family, for the speedy recovery of Christa and the wellbeing of the entire household. May they be consoled and strengthened by God's steadfast love. Like iron cast into the fire, with God's grace, I know they will come out just fine...and bonded stronger as a family. This, I declare by faith, through the powerful intercession of Mama Mary who is the most loving of all mothers, and in Jesus' mighty, mighty name. Amen.
Thursday, January 05, 2012
Sometime earlier, "Families for Christ", my third blogsite achieved a noteworthy high point in its more than five years of existence - 100,000 visits! More than 10 months ago, the same humble feat was first attained by my second blogsite established, "The Road to Emmaus".
It may not be much to other people, but in both milestones, I felt a deep but humble sense of accomplishment and joy in my heart!
In the same manner do I continue to be mindful of Pope Benedict XVI's message to "be aware that the truth which we long to share does not derive its worth from its 'popularity' or from the amount of attention it receives."
With the unrelenting vicious attacks on the traditional family and Christian values around the world, now more than ever, do we need to defend this social institution and domestic church by utilizing all media of social communication.
More than five years ago, I envisioned "Families for Christ" to be "a place for families to share the love of Christ that we experience in our day to day lives, for all to see."
Albeit my need for more time to constantly update my blogsites, they continue to present the experiences of my family and that of my Christian brothers and sisters as we journey through life - with hope, faith and love.
I look forward in welcoming the next 100,000 visitors!
Happy new year everyone and to God be all the glory!
Tuesday, December 20, 2011
Two Monday evenings ago (December 12) my community household held its first Christmas party as a CFC-GK, Q.C. household. Sadly, unlike in the previous years my wife Odette couldn't be there with us because she wasn't feeling well and had to come home earlier from her office due to her condition. Still, the attendance of those present during this Christmas gathering was a strong testament to the resolve and dedication of those who remained faithful to what we believed as the genuine CFC mission and work with the poor through Gawad Kalinga (GK).
Potluck food abound
Now for the third straight year, the household's Christmas party had been held at the Meloto residence in New Capitol Estates (NCE) II. As a term of endearment, we came to refer to it as "Casa Meloto".
Like last year, Odette and I were assigned to bring vegetable salad. Like before, I we tried to bring in a good variety of food "adjuncts" to the leafy salad to give our brethren more variety and richness of choice for their individual salad preparations.
We all had our assignments and "specialties". For example, Bro. Willy Bagsarsa is known for his specially crafted and all-time favorite 'tuna kinilaw' (raw fish immersed in spicy vinegar). Bro. Gerry Santos utilized his cooking skills for a big warm pot of 'shabu-shabu' which he mixed on-site bringing along several condiments to also allow the individual to choose how spicy he or she may want her soup to taste.
"Chef" Bro. Gerry Santos prepares the much awaited shabu- shabu
Brethren prepare for the thanksgiving prayer led by host Bro. Tony Meloto
Exchange gifts are properly labeled by Sis. Thelma Grana as Bros. Willy Bagsarsa and Omin del Castillo looked on
A variety of colorful fruits
Green and fruity salad, chicken, spicy shabu-shabu soup and kinilaw na tanigue (raw fish marinated in vinegar) were my favorites that night
Sisters Celes Naguiat and Lyn Meloto are all smiles
Everyone was quite "busy" with their gastronomic choices
The wives prepare for their yearly gift "grabbing" este..."giving" tradition
While the men engage in a healthy colloquy
The game begins!
After the opening of gifts, what soon followed was a hilarious protracted series of gifts changing hands
Since my wife was absent, I had to play on our behalf. I didn't exactly know all the game mechanics but enough to know that it was a wacky game that never seems to end! Just when you think you choose a gift you like, someone in the next round of drawing cards gets it again from you.
When the smoke cleared, I got a nice blue long-sleeved dress shirt, a set of salt and pepper shakers and a environmentally friendly plastic storage box (which was one of the gifts Lovey and I actually bought).
Bro. Steve Kruger led the closing prayer
As the gathering drew to a close, we again thanked God for all the blessings we had received individually and as a group. Despite the trials and difficulties we had to endure this year in relation with the establishment of CFC-GK, Q.C., this year was a test of strength of character and commitment to a cause to genuinely serve God by serving the poor.
We move forward to 2012 with renewed hope and resolve to continue the mission and vision of CFC-GK!
Merry Christmas everyone!
Friday, November 18, 2011
This year I begin sharing prayers of healing founded on a strong devotion to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, the infinite source of healing, forgiveness and mercy for the whole world.
The Priests of the Sacred Heart, a religious congregation that I have been supporting in their various ministries here in the Philippines sent me a beautiful booklet entitled "Book of Healing Prayers", a collection of prayers to the Fountain of Life and Divine Mercy, for those who seek cleansing, respite, restoration and redemption for their wrongdoings, woundedness and afflictions.
Through His Most Precious Son and Holy Spirit, may this prayer along with the ensuing ones, bring you closer to the supreme and divine Healer, our God and Father Almighty!
May the Sacred Heart of Jesus
be loved everywhere!
A Prayer for Healing
Sacred Heart of Jesus,
You invite all who are heavy burdened
To come to You and find rest.
to reach out to You in my need.
To lead others to Your Sacred Heart.
Touch my soul
With Your compassion for others.
Touch my heart
With Your courage and love for all.
Touch my mind
With Your wisdom and grace.
Touch gently my life
With Your healing hand.
Wednesday, September 28, 2011
CFC-GK brethren assemble at the St. Peter's Parish
Last September 6, on a fine Tuesday evening, the 2nd CFC-GK Quezon City General Assembly was held at the St. Peter's Parish along Commonwealth Ave. The second city-wide assembly since the formation of CFC-GK, Q.C. early this year, it was a timely gathering among brethren who against much trials and hardship chose to take the path of loving and serving God through a renewal community which remained faithful to its vision and mission. That faithfulness includes continuing to work with the poor through Gawad Kalinga (GK).
Bro. Willy Bagsarsa led us through our opening corporate worship in an evening of inspired sharings and learning from people from various GK sites in and even out of Quezon City.
78 year-old Sis. Juanita Gatchalian from GK Bulaklakan inspired listeners with her story
Sis. Juanita Gatchalian, a beneficiary from a relatively new site called GK Bulaklakan along Republic Ave. shared her appreciation for the group's work for the poor. Sis. Juanita is a member of the first batch of Bayanihan volunteers in GK Bulaklakan.
Two Youth for Christ (YFC) - SIGA members from GK Ruby, Marvel Obemio and Pad Batinga for their part told of their respective tales of transformation growing up with GK. Both are GK scholars presently studying at De La Salle - College of St. Benilde. Marvel is taking a Bachelor of Arts course majoring in Animation while Pad is studying Business Administration majoring in Human Resource Management. They are just two of many scholars whose lives continue to be changed for the better.
SFCs like Marvel Obemio and Pad Batinga shared their life changing experiences with GK
Bro. Art Bolo of CFC-GK Bulacan
GK Sectors leaders like Bros. Jun Dimarucot, Gerry Santos and Tony Meloto took turns speaking before the assembly
GK founder Bro. Tony Meloto introduced visiting foreigners from GK (Enchanted Farm) Angat in Bulacan
Sometime midway during the program, a number of visiting students from various European and Asian countries currently staying in GK Enchanted Farm in Angat, Bulacan arrived at the assembly. They were introduced by Bro. Tony Meloto by the countries from where they came from. Several were Germans, at least one was Russian, one was Chinese and another was Japanese. All came to know how the Gawad Kalinga system worked and how they could contribute further to its success.
Team CFC-GK Bulacan
Bro. Delfy Heraldez, present Quezon City GK Head talked about his GK experiences
Long time former CFC elder and GK advocate Bro. Ernie Maipid, Jr.
Songs and prayers as the assembly drew to a close
As Bro. Terence Grana led the closing prayers, I felt reenergized by the collective strength of the community. I sensed that many realized that we were not alone in this renewal mission and that a whole lot more in the country shared in our vision. A vision that asks our faith in God be seen in our works, works that include uplifting the lives of the poor and promoting nation building across the land.
May God bless CFC-GK!
Friday, July 29, 2011
On our way to Calamba, Laguna
Everyone in our CFC-GK cluster household has been raring to have an out of town fellowship activity for quite some time now. Bro. Omin and Sis. Nette del Castillo were just more than willing to arrange the same in a place they knew in Laguna. So last weekend (July 23-24), many of us stayed overnight at a resort in Calamba City, Laguna for some fun and bonding time together.
Mt. Makiling appears on the horizon
Unfortunately, again for my wife Odette, she couldn't join the group as she had to conduct a training activity for a private company that same weekend in another province, Bataan. In fact, early that Saturday morning, I had to accompany her in a taxi ride to the rendezvous point at the corner of EDSA and Quezon Avenue where she joined the training organizers and participants to Morong, Bataan.
Later that afternoon, hiring the transportation services of Bro. Rico Nicolas, Faith, Joshua, nanny Maylene and I rode for Laguna. Junior and Sonny decided to just stay at home. Along for the FX taxi ride went with us members of the Palma family, Brod. Jun, Sis. Ivy, and their son, Gerard.
In separate vehicles whom we met at the South Luzon Expressway (SLEX) were the Granas (Bro. Terence and Sis. Thelma), the Kruegers (Bro. Steve and Sis. Baby), and the del Castillos (Bro. Omin and Sis. Nette).
We arrive at our destination: Jaredval Resort
The site named Jaredval Hot Springs Resort was a private venue located at Barangay Pansol in Calamba City, a fast growing urbanized area of the province of Laguna.
Rich in historical heritage, this birthplace of the country's national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal, is also famous for its therapeutic hot springs similar to those of the neighboring town of Los Baňos. The lakeshore city of Calamba due to its strategic location has become an important center of tourism, commerce and trade, transportation, housing and education not only for the province but for the whole southern Tagalog region as well.
Places of interest include the ancestral home of Rizal which has been transformed into a historical shrine, the old Calamba Church and the huge clay pot - "Kalan Banga" where the city derives its name.
Even when I was young, I always remember Calamba particularly Barangay Pansol for its numerous resorts many of which are spread near the National Highway over a four kilometer stretch across the municipality.
Faith eagerly waits to jump into the pools
Jaredval had two swimming pools waiting for us to dip in. The smaller one was for the kids. The larger pool was for adults with its deepest point somewhere around six feet. Both pools had stone slides which the kids later had a grand time using over and over again.
The kiddie pool
The kids play billiards...
But before the swimming came dinner which the adults joined hands to prepare. The kids like Joshua and Faith played the billiard pool while waiting for dinner to be served.
...while we adults prepared dinner
Rest and relaxation begins!
Billiard player Joshua prepares to make a difficult shot
Ooopps! Bad Shot!
Gerard Palma croons a videoke song
Bro. Terence Grana delivers the opening shot (break)
Balls are spread on one side of the table
Brod Steve Krueger leads the thanksgiving prayer
A simple but delicious feast of rice, adobo...
...golden yellow duck eggs and fresh tomatoes
Kainan na! (Eating time!)
I have always liked salted eggs and the oily sauce that comes from an Adobo viand, but these seemingly ordinary foods never tasted better that night!
Maybe we were all hungry or must have been the appealing golden color of the duck eggs or the general feeling that you eat more heartily when you are with friends and loved ones! Must have been all of the above!
Bonding time with Faith and Joshua
Fun at the pools begin
The kiddie pool from another angle
Joshua sliding on his belly
Joshua sliding with goggles
Joshua sliding from the bigger slide
Joshua gleefully hits the water
Joshua does it again
"Look Ma, no hands!"
Brods Omin del Castillo, Terence Grana and Willy Bagsarsa chill out
Later that night, members of the Bagsarsa family led by Bro. Willy and Sis. Bing arrived at the resort.
CFC-GK women bond: Sisters Bing Bagsarsa, Nette del Castillo, Baby Kruger and Ivy Palma
Bagsarsa family eats dinner
The household enjoys the pool
The quite sleepy morning after
Breakfast serenade by Bro. Omin del Castillo
The videoke singing yesterday was all night long up to the early hours of the next day. I should know because I was the last man standing. I think I stopped singing sometime between 3 and 4 o'clock in the morning.
That Sunday morning, the happy, happy crooning marathon started all over again!
We are joined by new arrivals Bro. Jun and Sis. Gie Garcia
The singing continues throughout the morning
The kids never tired from swimming
Covered but imposing views of Makiling
Household bonding moments again
Lunch time! Kids get hungry from all that swimming
Grilled shrimps and squid...yummy!
Preparing our things on the way home
As always we close the fellowship with a prayer
A new plaza in Calamba in honor of its favorite son...
Gat Jose Rizal
The relatively new Calamba City Hall
As pasalubong (homeward bound treats), we bought Buko (young coconut) pies and Espasol from the new location of the store named Melgian's Sweets along Real Road almost near the South Luzon toll way going to Manila. The Buko pies were okay but my family smelled an odor similar to kerosene with the espasol. It was edible as I ate it but such stench could really be such a turn off! So buyers beware!
Nevertheless, the fellowship activity itself was a good respite from all the seriousness of our CFC-GK mission. Refreshed, we come back to our respective homes to continue serving God when and where He wants to lead us!
Thank you Lord for the rest and recreation! Thank you, Lord for the brotherly ties that bind us together in our household! Thank you!
Bye, Calamba! So long Laguna! Until next time!
Wednesday, June 15, 2011
I am posting this month the Pastoral Letter of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) dated January 30, 2011 on the grave issue of the Reproductive Health (RH) Bill. For so many Congresses of the Philippine Legislature, proponents have sought to have this controversial bill passed through the House Committee on Health. This 15th Congress, it has reared its ugly head again. But this time around, showing its true colors in the Committee where many long suspected it now manifests its real purpose and objectives, the House Committee on Population.
The Pastoral Letter to my mind has been so far the most comprehensive, concise and incisive response to the claims and misinformation that proponents of the RH bill have been spreading on a massive scale. It was high time for the Catholic Church hierarchy in the country to go on a more pro-active mode in addressing the issue and informing the faithful about our religious and moral stand on this matter.
I call on every Catholic Christian, particularly those who are Filipino to read, study, disseminate, discuss and pray on the contents of this pastoral letter. Invoking the Holy Spirit, may He guide you into action to defend the traditional family and life in all its various stages.
I also urge our Christian brothers and sisters in other denominations to choose life, to protect it and unite with us in this advocacy.
May God bless the Philippines!
(A Pastoral Letter of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines)
Our Filipino Brothers and Sisters:
The State values the dignity of every human person and guarantees full respect for human rights (Art. II, Section 11). The State recognizes the sanctity of family life and shall protect and strengthen the family as a basic autonomous social institution. It shall equally protect the life of the mother and the life of the unborn from conception (Art. II, Section 12).
We begin by citing the Philippine Constitution. We do so because we intend to write you on the basis of the fundamental ideals and aspirations of the Filipino people and not on the basis of specifically Catholic religious teachings.
We are at a crossroads as a nation. Before us are several versions of a proposed bill, the Reproductive Health bill or sanitized as a Responsible Parenthood bill. This proposed bill in all its versions calls us to make a moral choice: to choose life or to choose death.
At the outset we thank the government for affording us an opportunity to express our views in friendly dialogue. Sadly our dialogue has simply revealed how far apart our respective positions are. Therefore, instead of building false hopes, we wish at the present time to draw up clearly what we object to and what we stand for.
Moral Choices at the Crossroads -- at EDSA I and Now
Twenty five years ago in 1986 we Catholic Bishops made a prophetic moral judgment on political leadership. With this prophetic declaration we believe that we somehow significantly helped open the door for EDSA I and a window of political integrity.
Today we come to a new national crossroads and we now have to make a similar moral choice. Our President rallied the country with the election cry, "Kung walang corrupt walang mahirap." As religious leaders we believe that there is a greater form of corruption, namely, moral corruption which is really the root of all corruption. On the present issue, it would be morally corrupt to disregard the moral implications of the RH bill.
This is our unanimous collective moral judgment: We strongly reject the RH bill.
Commonly Shared Human and Cultural Values -- Two Fundamental Principles
Far from being simply a Catholic issue, the RH bill is a major attack on authentic human values and on Filipino cultural values regarding human life that all of us have cherished since time immemorial.
Simply stated the RH Bill does not respect moral sense that is central to Filipino cultures. It is the product of the spirit of this world, a secularist, materialistic spirit that considers morality as a set of teachings from which one can choose, according to the spirit of the age. Some it accepts, others it does not accept. Unfortunately, we see the subtle spread of this post-modern spirit in our own Filipino society.
Our position stands firmly on two of the core principles commonly shared by all who believe in God:
(1) Human life is the most sacred physical gift with which God, the author of life, endows a human being. Placing artificial obstacles to prevent human life from being formed and being born most certainly contradicts this fundamental truth of human life. In the light of the widespread influence of the post-modern spirit in our world, we consider this position as nothing less than prophetic. As religious leaders we must proclaim this truth fearlessly in season and out of season.
(2) It is parents, cooperating with God, who bring children into the world. It is also they who have the primary inalienable right and responsibility to nurture them, care for them, and educate them that they might grow as mature persons according to the will of the Creator.
What We Specifically Object to in the RH Bill
Advocates contend that the RH bill promotes reproductive health. The RH Bill certainly does not. It does not protect the health of the sacred human life that is being formed or born. The very name "contraceptive" already reveals the anti-life nature of the means that the RH bill promotes. These artificial means are fatal to human life, either preventing it from fruition or actually destroying it. Moreover, scientists have known for a long time that contraceptives may cause cancer. Contraceptives are hazardous to a woman's health.
Advocates also say that the RH bill will reduce abortion rates. But many scientific analysts themselves wonder why prevalent contraceptive use sometimes raises the abortion rate. In truth, contraceptives provide a false sense of security that takes away the inhibition to sexual activity. Scientists have noted numerous cases of contraceptive failure. Abortion is resorted to, an act that all religious traditions would judge as sinful. "Safe sex" to diminish abortion rate is false propaganda.
Advocates moreover say that the RH bill will prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS. This goes against the grain of many available scientific data. In some countries where condom use is prevalent, HIV/ AIDS continues to spread. Condoms provide a false security that strongly entices individuals towards increased sexual activity, increasing likewise the incidence of HIV/AIDS. "Safe sex" to prevent HIV /AIDS is false propaganda.
Advocates also assert that the RH Bill empowers women with ownership of their own bodies. This is in line with the post-modern spirit declaring that women have power over their own bodies without the dictation of any religion. How misguided this so-called "new truth" is! For, indeed, as created by God our bodies are given to us to keep and nourish. We are stewards of our own bodies and we must follow God's will on this matter according to an informed and right conscience. Such a conscience must certainly be enlightened and guided by religious and moral teachings provided by various religious and cultural traditions regarding the fundamental dignity and worth of human life.
Advocates also say that the RH bill is necessary to stop overpopulation and to escape from poverty. Our own government statistical office has concluded that there is no overpopulation in the Philippines but only the over-concentration of population in a number of urban centers. Despite other findings to the contrary, we must also consider the findings of a significant group of renowned economic scholars, including economic Nobel laureates, who have found no direct correlation between population and poverty. In fact, many Filipino scholars have concluded that population is not the cause of our poverty. The causes of our poverty are: flawed philosophies of development, misguided economic policies, greed, corruption, social inequities, lack of access to education, poor economic and social services, poor infrastructures, etc. World organizations estimate that in our country more than P400 billion pesos are lost yearly to corruption. The conclusion is unavoidable: for our country to escape from poverty, we have to address the real causes of poverty and not population.
In the light of the above, we express our clear objections:
1. We object to the non-consideration of moral principles, the bedrock of law, in legislative discussions of bills that are intended for the good of individuals and for the common good.
2. We are against the anti-life, anti-natal and contraceptive mentality that is reflected in media and in some proposed legislative bills.
3. We object strongly to efforts at railroading the passage of the RH bill.
4. We denounce the over-all trajectory of the RH bill towards population control.
5. We denounce the use of public funds for contraceptives and sterilization.
6. We condemn compulsory sex education that would effectively let parents abdicate their primary role of educating their own children, especially in an area of life - sexuality - which is a sacred gift of God.
What We Stand For
On this matter of proposed RH bills, these are our firm convictions:
1. We are deeply concerned about the plight of the many poor, especially of suffering women, who are struggling for a better life and who must seek it outside of our country, or have recourse to a livelihood less than decent.
2. We are pro-life. We must defend human life from the moment of conception or fertilization up to its natural end.
3. We believe in the responsible and natural regulation of births through Natural Family Planning for which character building is necessary which involves sacrifice, discipline and respect for the dignity of the spouse.
4. We believe that we are only stewards of our own bodies. Responsibility over our own bodies must follow the will of God who speaks to us through conscience.
5. We hold that on the choices related to the RH bill, conscience must not only be informed but most of all rightly guided through the teachings of one's faith.
6. We believe in the freedom of religion and the right of conscientious objection in matters that are contrary to one's faith. The sanctions and penalties embodied in the proposed RH bill are one more reason for us to denounce it.
As religious leaders we have deeply and prayerfully reflected on this burning issue. We have unanimously made the moral judgment - to reject the RH agenda and to choose life.
1. We call for a fundamental transformation of our attitudes and behavior towards all human life especially the most defenseless, namely, human life being formed or being conceived. The cheapness with which many seem to consider human life is a great bane to our religious-oriented nation.
2. We call upon our legislators to consider the RH bill in the light of the God-given dignity and worth of human life and, therefore, to shelve it completely as contrary to our ideals and aspirations as a people. We thank our legislators who have filed bills to defend human life from the moment of conception and call upon all other legislators to join their ranks.
3. We thank the great multitude of lay people all over the country, and particularly the dedicated groups who made their presence felt in the halls of Congress, to defend and promote our position. We call upon other lay people and adherents of other religions to join the advocacy to defend and promote our commonly shared ideals and aspirations.
4. We call on our government to address effectively the real causes of poverty such as corruption, lack of social and economic services, lack of access to education and the benefits of development, social inequities.
5. We call for the establishment of more hospitals and clinics in the rural areas, the deployment of more health personnel to provide more access to health services, the building of more schools, the provision of more aid to the poor for education, and the building of more and better infrastructures necessary for development.
6. We echo the challenge we prophetically uttered 25 years ago at EDSA I and call upon all people of good will who share our conviction: "...let us pray together, reason together, decide together, act together, always to the end that the truth prevail" over the many threats to human life and to our shared human and cultural values.
We commend our efforts against the RH bill (or the Responsible Parenthood bill - its new name) to the blessing of our almighty and loving God, from whom all life comes and for whom it is destined.
For the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines.
+NEREO P. ODCHIMAR, D.D.
Bishop of Tandag
January 30, 2011
Tuesday, May 10, 2011
MANIFESTO IN SUPPORT OF CFC-GK (Q.C.)
To keep our spiritual essentials on a defined path and set the tone in support of CFC-GK, we state hereunder our perspective, beliefs and intentions:
- We deeply value and acknowledge the pivotal role the Couples for Christ (CFC) has played in influencing our spiritual life: most importantly, as the avenue for personal and family renewal; and as the channel for God's work including Gawad Kalinga (GK) that led us to where we are now in our spiritual journey.
- We retain our CFC identity. We do not intend to establish another community. We keep our covenant with God and continue to seek heightened spiritual involvement to deepen our faith, nurture hope and fulfill our purpose in CFC.
- We are consistent with his Holiness Pope Benedict XVI's World Peace Message that religious freedom is the path to peace because this allows us to direct our personal and social life to God in whose light the identity, meaning and purpose of the person are fully understood. We aim to achieve authentic and vital human development.
- We see Christian Faith in the light of the God who has a human face bearing in mind that each person remains unique and unrepeatable. We consistently seek Holy Spirit discernment in building up a social community in the spirit of respect for the common good.
- We respond with boldness the call to choose a course of action that will restore us back to vibrant service in the CFC community. We choose Gawad Kalinga as our response to God's call to work with and for the poor in our journey of faith in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. We embrace the values and ideals of GK. We firmly believe that GK through community and nation building is integral to missionary activities of the Catholic Church. Ultimately, it will fulfill the role of a powerful catalyst for innovative evangelization and world peace.
- We strive to become "doers of the Word not hearers only" because "by works faith was made perfect". We remain to shepherd the flock that God has entrusted to us being faithful to the truth and justice of the Gospel. We persevere to serve the least and last of our brethren.
- We reject deliberate attempts to undermine GK's noble works by the distortion of truth and dissemination of inaccurate information aimed to discredit the prime movers of GK.
- We trust that if our posture is contrary to the teachings of Jesus, then one should discard this manifesto completely! But if one finds that we are taking our stand upon the Holy Scripture, then let no fear keep him from threading with us the path of faith and obedience to the Word of God, in order that God's people here on earth be of one mind - one heart and that we in faith experience what He Himself has said, "Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom".
- We enjoin everyone, mindful of his personal convictions, who subscribes to the preceding statements to make a significant decision and strongly support the CFC-GK movement.
- Lastly, we the undersigned come together in an expression of solidarity and reiterate to espouse the aspiration of CFC-GK. United in our belief in Jesus Christ our Lord of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church we uphold the unity of faith, love, hope and heroism in the pursuit of peace and holiness. Together, we stand behind this declaration in prayer and promise to combine forces and resources as we commit ourselves to participate in God's mission through CFC-GK.
We in CFC-GK, Q.C. continue to gather signatures and support for the movement with this concise manifesto so that brethren and critics alike would be truly informed of our position, beliefs and intentions.
May God bless us all!
Tuesday, May 03, 2011
"Welcome brothers and sisters in Christ! Peace be with you all! I am very excited to log in for the first time in this blog which is intended to be a place for families to share the love of Christ that we experience in our day to day lives, for all to see. The website will feature the experiences of my family and those of my community as we journey through life's everyday struggles with hope, faith and love."
I wrote those same words five years ago.
Families for Christ was my third blogsite and this entry was my first post in this blog. I'm sure many of our readers with blogs of their own could identify with my exhilaration, the opportunity to be directly heard by a potentially boundless global audience. The excitement hasn't really died down the last five years. I continue to feel excited sharing particularly our family experiences in this blog with practically anyone who is eager to listen and see how God moves through our lives both in glad times and difficult moments. I am doubly elated when I know that at least one person was moved or blessed by what I posted.
I always say that even Christians like me and my wife who have for years been active in the lay renewal movement, continue to be 'works in progress'. In the same thread, my experience with this social medium continues to evolve and hopefully my blogs in all aspects improve for the better in the years to come!
I look forward to the next five years of Families of Christ in the LwC community, all for the greater glory of God!
Friday, April 15, 2011
CFC-GK Quezon City - Visita Iglesia 2011: A spiritual journey across Rizal, Laguna and Quezon provinces (Part 1)
(Also posted at Ferddie's Blue Jeans)
CFC-GK Quezon City - Visita Iglesia 2011: A spiritual journey across Rizal, Laguna and Quezon provinces (Part 2)
CFC-GK Quezon City - Visita Iglesia 2011: A spiritual journey across Rizal, Laguna and Quezon provinces (Part 3)
Wednesday, March 30, 2011
Answering God's call for service in Montalban, Rizal
God works in mysterious ways. And he sends His servants in all directions and to all places.
Prompted by God's somewhat mystifying working ways he sent me for the first time to speak before Christian Life Program (CLP) participants in Montalban, Rizal last Sunday, March 27.
When I received the invitation, I was understandably hesitant due to my fresh affiliation with the newly formed CFC-GK in Quezon City. Knowing the possible backlash on the innocent CLP service team members who are not aware of the ugly dynamics that could get them in trouble with their sector elders by getting me as one of their speakers my willingness to proceed was rather tentative. In the end, I had to trust God and his baffling ways, believing there is always a good purpose for his instructions.
That Sunday afternoon, I met two CFC brothers at a meeting place near Litex Road and Commonwealth Ave. who with their car brought me to the venue in the Municipality of Montalban know also called Rodriguez in the province of Rizal. The ride was relatively traffic-free, being a weekend I suppose because I think it only took us roughly twenty minutes to reach the CLP site. Along the way I had the opportunity to tell them the state of affairs we were experiencing in North B sector.
The venue was a chapel in Barangay San Jose. Across the main road was a school which served as the actual venue of the CLP but was unavailable that day due to a school activity.
San Jose Chapel: Venue for their CLP this weekend
The CLP was being conducted by brethren from the local CFC Global chapter (East B-2C). As with many local chapters across the country, our brothers and sisters were very warm and sincere individuals, devoid of the bitterness and animosity that many of them were not even aware of, that have been brewing between and among CFC-IC and GK leaders.
With members of their CLP team
Bro. Eric Dipay led the opening prayer and introduced me to the participants
I was invited to deliver CLP Talk # 4, on Repentance and Faith, something I believe like many things while in working for the Lord's army was no mere accident.
God was reminding the participants including myself of the importance and saving grace that true repentance brings to a person. Such 'metanoia' or conversion is possible for everyone regardless of your background. If you truly repent and decide to change for the better, you shall be blessed by God. But it does not stop with repentance. One also has to put his whole life under the Lordship of Jesus Christ in order to be truly saved. Genuine repentance and faith in Christ always go together. One is simply incomplete without the other.
By the participants' reactions, I believe many were touched and appreciated the talk and my sharings. I pray that as couples they shall truly decide to commit themselves to Christ and resolve to be better Christians from hereon.
For me, I was constantly reminded that one who asks for forgiveness should also be ready to offer forgiveness to others. I ask the Lord to constantly give me the grace to forgive others especially those who do not ask for forgiveness but instead continue to persecute you and malign you and do you wrong. That is something I continue to struggle with. Concerning faith, I ask that God gives me the grace never to doubt His plans for me. I know that our recent decisions in the community have been very difficult, but in faith I believe they were ones that had to be made. In time and in faith, I believe we will be justified.
I just thank the Lord that he continues to use me for his plans and for his greater glory!
Souvenir picture with the CLP team
As a final note, let me honor the brothers and sisters in Montalban who continue to serve the Lord with faith and gladness!
East B - 2C CLP Team
Chapter Leaders: Bro. Edwin and Sis. Liza Evangelista
Supervising Unit Leaders: Bro. Carlo and Sis. Rowena Mallari
CLP Team Leaders: Bro. Bro. Eric and Sis. Rudith Dipay
Facilitators: Bro. Tirso and Sis. Edith Cereňo
Bro. James and Sis. Amie Tangilon
Bro. Macky and Sis. Charmagne Maque
Bro. Beltran and Sis. Joy Baylon
Prayer Warriors: Bro. Rodel and Sis. Rose Crisostomo
Thank you, Lord for the honor to serve You in Montalban!
Monday, March 28, 2011
1st CFC-GK General Assembly (Q.C.) held at the Good Shepherd Parish Hall in Fairview
The dice has been cast in Quezon City.
CFC leaders and members who have remained faithful to the original CFC, with Gawad Kalinga (GK) as one of its ministries, as stated in the duly Vatican recognized International Statutes of our community have finally decided to formally establish a new group earlier this month named CFC-GK, Quezon City.
September of last year, the CFC-International Council (IC) issued an unprecedented public delisting of well-known CFC leaders involved in GK. One of the major accusations was that these leaders were espousing disunity in the community through active recruitment of members for 'CFC-GK'. This new emerging group within the community was primarily born out of the actual hurtful experiences of our CFC brothers particularly in Cagayan de Oro and Negros Occidental with the IC.
Needless to say at that time, there was no CFC-GK movement in Quezon City. But the public delisting, the non-compliance with CFC traditions by the SAME ELDERS contrary to what they advocate in paper, have continued to spread in other areas including various sectors of Metro Manila. In an effort to preserve and protect "unity" in the community, the IC and their cohorts at the sector level have resorted to all sorts of tactics including intimidation, intrigue and outright deception of our chapter leaders to dissuade them from joining any similar group. This month alone, sector governance team leaders in North B met some leaders in our chapter in Sta. Lucia in a meeting I was not appropriately informed by the proponents. In fact I only learned about the meeting because it was leaked to me by the CFC brod whose home was made venue of the surreptitious meet. During the meet, it was asked whether I was invited to that same meeting to which one of the proponents said yes and that I was just making up an excuse not to attend with our scheduled pastoral talk that day. That was simply a blatant LIE! No one from their camp had the courage to even text me about the meeting despite the considerable time they had leading up to the meet. And how could I make the pastoral talk an excuse when it was scheduled later that day at 830pm. The meeting they called for was for around 2pm that afternoon. Another SGT leader was quoted in saying that we (referring to the GK supporters in the CFC North B-1 cluster household) all resigned from their posts. Another blatant LIE! While there were some who did resign from their service assignments, everybody remained CFC, attending our households and performing our chapter tasks.
Question to ponder: If we had all truly resigned from our service assignments, wouldn't it be reasonable to expect reassignment of households from our cluster household to another lower household? Unless of course we were already deemed delisted members ourselves due to some "inimical" action on our part against the community.
In paper, the IC and their cohorts have always stated that the leaders have not been force to choose between GK and ANCOP something very far from the sad reality. Such was the case in North B. In fact in many areas, it has already been a standing directive that anyone who volunteers for GK work could be allowed to hold any position in CFC, not even a household or as a coordinator for a service ministry. Now whose espousing confusion and division in the community?
Initially, I was lukewarm to the very idea of a CFC-GK. Not because I sympathized with the IC but rather because I still believed constructive change could still be possible within the present system and structure. The holding of Pastoral Congresses was a step in that direction. Instead, rather than building on those initiatives, 2009 and 2010 for the most part were marked with the need for one authority and consolidation of power and control. I had simply lost confidence on our community's top leaders by the start of this year. To think I even attended the Leaders' Conference at Araneta and the Mission Core Group Weekend in Baguio this January in a last ditch effort to make some sense of where our leaders were really taking the community. With our own 'expulsion' from the community, my little personal efforts for internal reform have been rendered plainly moot and academic.
I dare say, with all their counter-culture actions and posture, the IC and their cohorts have become the biggest and greatest recruiters for the CFC-GK movement!
The support of CFC members who faithfully remained to serve in GK was manifest in the overflow of people who attended the first ever CFC-GK, QC General Assembly held at the Parish Center of the Good Shepherd Cathedral in West Fairview, Quezon City last March 26.
All across the city, representatives from various GK sites and CFC chapters, people came to express their support and conviction for continued genuine work with the poor.
Brethren who came in droves line up for registration
My wife, Odette and our youngest child Faith joined me in this momentous event. Our cluster household (which was described as "illegal" by our sector head) which continued to welcome delisted brethren and meet as a fully functioning household acted as the core group that made this assembly possible. That night, CFC brethren along with GK site beneficiaries from West C sector also came to throw in their commitment to the CFC-GK cause.
Various music ministry groups prepare songs for the assembly
Bro. Aster Peňa's warm smile characterizes the general atmosphere
Final preparations before the assembly proper
The song 'Prepare the Way' aptly opens the corporate worship
Participants unite with environmentalists in the worldwide Earth Hour activity
As the time for corporate worship coincided with the world wide campaign for environmental conservation and protection through the Earth Hour initiative, we decided to praise and thank the Lord and listen to His inspired messages with most of the lights off between 8:30pm to 9:30p.m in solidarity with all the people across the globe who care for our environment and planet.
It might look insignificant but these power reductions not only translate into savings but contribute to the decrease in the accumulation of gases that generate global warming in the Earth's atmosphere.
The worship continues
Bro. Steve Krueger gives the opening message
Bro. Jun Dimarucot also gives his welcoming remarks
The jam packed parish center continued to receive registrants
Main speaker and CFC-GK spiritual leader Bro. Tony Meloto addresses the community
During his talk, Bro. Tony honored the faceless servants of God who remained faithful to the CFC that work with the poor through the Gawad Kalinga ministry
CFC-GK leader Bro. Tony Santos from West C sector gives a lively and funny sharing
much to the delight of the crowd
New GK song is introduced to the community
CFC-GK advocates flock to Bro. Tony for souvenir pictures
With our energies and enthusiasm still very high, brethren many from our cluster household continued to converse in a post assembly meeting at the nearby Starbucks Coffee shop along Regalado Ave. to initially discuss our next courses of action.
The dice has been cast in Quezon City. Not as a wager but as a leap of faith...that this work is our true calling...our genuine work with the poor as couples for Christ!
I end this post with an excerpt from the new GK song introduced during the assembly entitled "Huwaran ng Pilipino" which I understand was composed by CFC-GK Brod Dale Lugue. It is followed by my humble attempt for an English translation.
May God bless us all!
"Ang buhay mo ay buhay ko
Sa bansang muling mangangarap
Halimbawa mo ay kay ganda,
Siyang magiging gabay.
Sa pagtahak natin ng landas...
Ng bayan kong...Pilipinas"
(Your life is my life
In a country that will again dream
Your example is so beautiful,
It will serve as our guide.
As we walk the path...
To a...beautiful tomorrow
Of my country...the Philippines!)
Monday, February 28, 2011
The elders comprising the so-called International Council (IC) of my renewal community have been coming up with highly questionable policies and actions for more than a year now starting with the letting go of Gawad Kalinga (GK), the heart of our work with the poor and various socio-economic ministries in 2009, its replacement with ANCOP by the end of that year, the marginalization of many GK volunteers including many CFC leaders who continue to serve in GK sites. Their dubious decisions reached new heights last year with the public expulsion of 8 well known CFC leaders (by memorandum) that included GK founder and former IC member Bro. Tony Meloto, Bro. Luis Oquinena and Bro. Jun Dimarucot (former Sector Head of North B).
Like last year's Leaders' Conference, this year's annual meet which reflected on the community's almost thirty years existence, barely made reference to its communal past with GK. Instead, it opted for a very hard sell marketing campaign for ANCOP, an IC construct that continues to grope for relevance and even the barest of essentials like funding for its mimic programs.
Dissent has been brewing in many parts of the country, often leading to painful but understandable divisions such as the emergence of CFC-GK movements in Cagayan de Oro, Negros Occidental and Davao, composed of brethren who under the circumstances have rightly dared to question the authority of the IC. They have chosen to continue serving GK under the same CFC vision, mission and culture that actually gave birth to Gawad Kalinga.
Initially, when all this controversy stated, I thought I was even sympathetic to the IC, giving premium to their authority and the need for clear governance in and among the CFC's various communities. But as memos and rejoinders circulated, accusations and counter accusations flew, inside stories shared and anomalies exposed, the truth was very clear. Persistent sins of jealousy, pride, greed for power and ambition have again raised their ugly heads sadly, in the hearts and minds of the community's top echelon of leaders. By many accounts, what I believed started only as personal differences among the top leaders eventually led to a power struggle and deep animosity among the top elders. Under the pretext of "letting go", GK a time tested ministry, was eventually and quite deliberately replaced by ANCOP, a political animal left much to their own devices.
When these elders said that GK was God's gift to CFC and CFC's gift to the world, I believed them.
When these same elders shouted that "GK was CFC and that CFC was GK!" I took those words to heart.
When the same elders said that 'pasaway' (difficult/toxic) leaders or members should not be despised but should rather be ministered to, as a pastoral leader myself, I tried to painstakingly comply.
But when CFC leaders are made to "choose" between GK and ANCOP, where is the love?
When top leaders rarely go down to talk to you and consult people on the grassroots but quickly do so when there are "threats" to their control and authority, where is the love?
When you publicly expel top leaders whom you do not see eye to eye on issues, resorting to misinformation, malicious deceit and arm twisting tactics? WHERE IS THE LOVE?
It's a low down crying shame when you see leaders who preached about the virtues of patience, humility, kindness, tolerance, service and most of all, of love doing exactly the opposite.
Our sector head met me for an unusual 'one on one' last February 1 at McDonald's - Regalado Ave. Unusual because of the timing and that this was the first time he had scheduled one with me. I confirmed from other chapter heads in our cluster that they have had similar meetings with other sector leaders.
It was obviously a loyalty check for the sector governance team. Without much ado, I informed him of my personal stand of giving the IC leaders 'a vote of no confidence' so to speak. That implied that I did not recognize their authority over our chapter and shall seek the support of my chapter brethren to hold remittance of our tithes pending a change of leadership to which he was visibly displeased.
For around three hours, we talked about various issues and concerns we had from the field, many to which he had very tentative responses, very uncertain answers.
After that one on one, never did I hear from him again, only reports of an impending reorganization inside North B. The thing was, there was a pending reorganization alright only it was a purge of the clusters particularly of North B - 1's pro-GK leaders. In short, contrary to long standing CFC culture, many of us were unceremoniously stripped of our chapter leadership. No notice, no meeting, not even a phone call or text. And to think that some of the last statements my sector head had with me was to remind me to attend the upcoming Mission Core Group Retreat (MCGR). Why would he still urge me to attend such a requirement for mission core leaders if he didn't consider me to remain doing chapter service. Again, sometime along the way, the sector leadership may have decided that I was more of a liability than a useful asset considering my position against the IC. To date, there is no correspondence from the sector. No message that you have been replaced as chapter head and that you have been duly reassigned to such service or household. Not even a phone call or a text message. Again, may I beg the question, where is the love?
It pains me that after almost thirty years, there is a still a great need with our community leaders for spiritual maturity, genuine discernment which calls for a strong desire to really seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit, humility and a heart for service.
After all, what's the purpose of preserving unity, authority and control in a renewal community if there is no genuine sense of charity towards your brothers and sisters? Which reminds me...charity does begin at home.
Thursday, January 27, 2011
Burned Biscuits - author unknown
When I was a kid, my Mom liked to make breakfast food for dinner every now and then. And I remember one night in particular when she had made breakfast after a long, hard day at work. On that evening so long ago, my Mom placed a plate of eggs, sausage and extremely burned biscuits in front of my dad. I remember waiting to see if anyone noticed! Yet all my dad did was reach for his biscuit, smile at my Mom and ask me how my day was at school. I don't remember what I told him that night, but I do remember watching him smear butter and jelly on that biscuit and eat every bite!
When I got up from the table that evening, I remember hearing my Mom apologize to my dad for burning the biscuits. And I'll never forget what he said: "Honey, I love burned biscuits."
Later that night, I went to kiss Daddy good night and I asked him if he really liked his biscuits burned. He wrapped me in his arms and said, "Your Momma put in a hard day at work today and she's real tired. And besides a little burned biscuit never hurt anyone!"
Life is full of imperfect things and imperfect people. I'm not the best at hardly anything, and I forget birthdays and anniversaries just like everyone else. But what I've learned over the years is that learning to accept each others faults - and choosing to celebrate each others differences - is one of the most important keys to creating a healthy, growing, and lasting relationship.
And that's my prayer for you today. That you will learn to take the good, the bad, and the ugly parts of your life and lay them at the feet of God. Because in the end, He's the only One who will be able to give you a relationship where a burnt biscuit isn't a deal-breaker!
We could extend this to any relationship. In fact, understanding is the base of any relationship, be it a husband-wife or parent-child or friendship!
"Don't put the key to your happiness in someone else's pocket - keep it in your own."
So please pass me a biscuit, and yes, the burned one will do just fine. And PLEASE pass this along to someone who has enriched your life.
Be kinder than necessary because everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.
My wife forwarded me this wonderful story from the internet a few days before my birthday last year. It's an endearing reminder of how we should always handle our marital relationship...any relationship for that matter.
Sometimes I just smile at the fact that 2 decades have passed and Odette and I have gone through a lot of bitter and sweet moments during those twenty fleeting years. Doesn't feel like twenty but the passing of time has surely aged us with more patience and acceptance of one's faults and imperfections that go with our respective good side.
I am reminded of Bishop Mercado's homily during a CFC leaders' conference in Araneta earlier this month when he talked about how pearls are made. The oysters create pearls when they experience irritation and stress due to impurities in the water. That is why pearls are described as the fruits of great sacrifice, the perfect example of which was Christ's sacrifice for the atonement of our sins.
If God loves us (and loved us first!) despite our imperfections, how could I not do the same.
So bring on the burned biscuits I say to my beloved wife, as we course through the next twenty years of our sometimes bumpy but steadfast conjugal life!
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
My CFC Cluster (NB-1) Household and friends
Our CFC Cluster household for NB-1 decided to hold our yearly Christmas party again at last year's venue, the lovely residence of the Meloto couple, Bro. Tony and Sis. Lyn in New Capitol Estates (NCE) II.
It was a good weathered Wednesday evening that 15th of December and I was glad that both my wife Odette and I was able to join our household for this endearing night of fellowship.
Our potluck assignment: Leafy green salad with all the other ingredients
We were assigned to bring leafy salad to the party, a favored staple food of our older brothers and sisters in any gathering. Nonetheless, Odette and I made sure that that choices would not be limited to green leafy vegetables but would include a wide variety of other ingredients and choice of dressings to boot.
Sharing the evening meal with the Palmas (Bro. Jun and Sis. Ivi)
From left to right: Sis. Chona Santos, Sis. Thelma Grana, Bro. Jun Dimarucot (standing), Bro. Terence Grana, Bro. Tony Meloto and Bro. Willy Bagsarsa
Host Sis. Lyn Meloto beside her beautiful Christmas miniature house collection
The sight of Sis. Lyn's wondrous display of miniature houses never fails to delight the child in me! The collection I understand has considerably grown in the last few years which now even include a small GK house that was manufactured in one of the actual GK sites. The centerpiece of the collection is a magnificent snow covered cathedral with a nativity scene and a choir inside its structure. When fully lit, the collection which resembles a small European village in winter was a joyous sight to behold!
Bros. Steve Krueger and Jun Palma unlock their singing abilities
Filipinos love to sing. Members of this household are no different from the average Filipino who just loves to sing the night away with a karaoke microphone in his hand.
An emerging Christmas tradition among the wives: the exchange gift game
Now it's Brother Tony's turn to croon
CFC brothers in God's army...
...with their supportive wives: CFC sisters join together
It was a time for fun and celebration of our camaraderie as soldiers in the Lord's army. May this strong bond of friendship among brothers and sisters flourish as we move forward in Christ faithful to our mission and vision...towards the fullness of life!
Merry Christmas everyone!
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Gift giving is so much a part of our Christmas tradition.
Every year whether during Christmas parties or through friends and acquaintances, everyone seems a little more generous, a little more charitable toward other people.
This time around instead of just giving out the usual gifts that people may have received many times over this season, I thought of giving out Bibles for Christmas. "May They Be One (MTBO) Bibles" to be more exact. This initiative of course goes well with one of my current advocacies which is to help the Episcopal Commission for the Biblical Apostolate (ECBA) of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) and the Philippine Bible Society's (PBS) along with other faith based organization's joint undertaking dubbed the "May They Be One (MTBO) Bible Campaign" which aims to freely distribute 5 million Bibles to 5 million Filipino families by 2015.
Combined orders of MTBO Bibles arrive at our home
Thus, during the NB-1 C Christmas party held last December 11, 2010 at the Barangay Sta. Lucia Hall, Odette and I gave out ten (10) MTBO Bibles as part of the various gifts we donated as raffle prizes during the Christmas program.
I also urged other chapter leaders to buy and give out MTBO Bibles as well, to household members and poor families whom they knew needed at least one copy of the Holy Bible in their respective homes.
Another CFC leader, Bro. Phil de Guzman, who's ongoing Christian Life Program (CLP) was nearing its completion also bought MTBO Bibles for their new set of couple graduates and Youth for Christ (YFC) members.
Bro. Sonny is one of the MTBO Bible gift winners
A number of MTBO Bibles were of the Today's English Version (TEV) translation otherwise known as the Good News Bible. But the majority were written in one of the local dialects, the Tagalog Popular Version (TPV) which is still the language most utilized (along with the Cebuano dialect) in proclaiming the Word of God to the masses.
All smiles from the winners of other raffle prizes
The chapter celebrated through games, songs and dance!
May God's shining message of joy, hope and salvation bring about national transformation in the years to come!
Merry Christmas everyone!
Thursday, November 04, 2010
Commonwealth Lanes by night
I don't know how to compute for the score in a bowling game.
But that didn't stop me from enjoying our cluster fellowship night held at the Commonwealth Lanes last Sept. 27, a day after my 43rd birthday.
The household has been planning for such a fellowship activity for quite some time now and majority agreed that bowling would be a fun activity appreciated by all. Inside the Ever Gotesco Shopping mall along Commonwealth Ave. in Quezon City, the place was very appropriate because of its proximity and quality of facilities and equipment.
Cluster household in fellowship
I believe everyone was excited because this was the first fellowship activity the cluster household had that the vast majority were present. Moreover, many brethren enjoyed bowling including me, but the period between my bowling days were far and wide so I really looked forward to this activity.
Obviously, I was a little rusty. It had been years, around three I believe when I last held a ten pin bowling ball. That was when I played several games at the Baguio Country Club during the conduct of several trainings there in 2007. Before that, I think it was around seven years before at the turn of the millennium when I played bowling for a team in an office wide tournament.
Luckily, bowling was quite similar to riding a bike, you never really forget it. After some frames, I was hitting my groove, finally drawing spares and strikes. Unfortunately, as you remember the skills, you also tend to remember and redo your bad habits. Such as bad releases or body movements that tend to misdirect your ball from the kingpin and things like that. I had to relearn how to focus!
Teammate Bro. Steve releases a curved ball
After a few rounds of practice, we formed teams for a friendly competition. My usual teammates became Bro. Steve Krueger, our cluster household head and the elderly Bro. Vic de la Cruz. We competed with the equally dangerous combination of Bro. Willy Bagsarsa, Jun Garcia and Omin del Castillo.
The wives also had a friendly competition on their side of the bowling lanes. Each one had her own pose after release of the bowling ball. I remember Sis. Lyn Meloto who usually goes on a knees bended position after releasing the ball as if praying for a strike. You know what? Often times, she actually does get a strike!
The ladies are in the heat of battle
Bro. Vic de la Cruz aims as Bro. Willy Bagsarsa waits his turn
Our team trails at the onset....
...but prevails by the end of the final frame
With such fun and exercise, this activity was bound to be repeated. So when other leaders in the sector heard about our little competition, others wanted to join in.
So after roughly a month, another fellowship night was organized and held at the Commonwealth Lanes with leaders from the B-2 cluster joining us last October 29, a Friday evening.
We are at it again! North B-1 and B-2 leaders this time converge
This time two of my kids, Joshua and Faith joined me very curious and excited to see a bowling game. To add spice to the event, we were joined by our beloved CFC-International Council IC "de-listed" community leaders Sis. Lyn Meloto (wife of Bro. Tony Meloto) and former North B Sector, Palawan and Bulacan Provincial Area Head Bro. Jun Dimarucot and wife, Sis. Angie. Bro. Tony was on travel that day so he couldn't join us.
Of course the delisting imposed on them and other identified Gawad Kalinga (GK) advocates by the IC didn't really have any bearing on our relationships as brethren in the community. We believed the delisting was without reasonable basis and totally uncalled for. Besides, up to now, the community has yet to be told of the REAL reason why GK as our work for the poor had to be replaced by the IC-created ANCOP. So many questions responded to by limited and vague answers from the IC. As it was, this was one directive that wouldn't spoil our fellowship night! No way!
Not so focused picture
Second strike! (This pose looks oddly familiar!)
We formed mixed groups for our friendly competition which included NB-2 leaders Bro. Terence Grana (Cluster Head) and Donald Geocaniga. Bro. Jun Dimarucot acted as the unofficial photographer of this remarkable sporting event.
The wives also have a great time competing with each other
Bro. Terence Grana, cluster head of North B - 2 takes a swing at the kingpin
On this side of the CFC community, we just don't "delist" anyone
Bonding moments with my kids
At some point, the kids and I got a little hungry so I bought them some drinks and a delicious square Pepperoni pizza from the Magoo's outlet inside the bowling facility. It had also been awhile since I last munched on a couple of square pizzas from Magoo's and I have to say that they still taste quite well! The kids definitely liked them!
The only sad note to this otherwise successful affair was when Sis. Lyn Meloto lost a substantial amount of cash and some cards apparently to a group of pickpockets at the Ever Mall. She got money from an ATM to buy some medicines for herself and wanted to treat the group to some food. However, on her way to the nearby drugstore, she noticed that the said things were no longer in her shoulder bag. Despite the incident, we were just glad that no physical harm came upon her.
After a sluggish middle game, my performance began to again improve
I still don't know how to compute for the score in bowling games.
But the important thing is that the bowling nights definitely drew us CFC brethren closer to each other. Furthermore, like many people who have yet to belong to a covenanted community, a lot of CFC brothers and sisters also (want to) enjoy the simple joys of life...like bowling!
In the future, I hope I could also get my whole family to share together some evenings of bowling and fun!
Thursday, October 14, 2010
I first knew about Aira de la Cruz reading through old newspapers two weekends ago and coming across this human interest story in the Philippine Daily Inquirer (PDI) dated September 24 about an 11-year old who had been confined at the Santo Tomas Hospital since June 20 of this year due to stage 4 non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
Lymphomas are varieties of cancer derived from a type of white blood cells called lymphocytes. Non-Hodgkin lymphomas (NHLs) are a varied group of blood cancers that include any kind of lymphoma except those that are diagnosed as Hodgkin's lymphomas. NHLs also differ in terms of severity from inactive to very aggressive.
The more I read through the article, the more I felt that God had really guided me to see her story and do whatever I could for this child. Mary Jane de la Cruz, Aira's mother and single parent told the Inquirer that if Aira doesn't show signs of improvement from her chemotherapy sessions (a session costs 30,000 pesos), her doctors advised that she would have to undergo radiotherapy as well. She admitted she doesn't know how expensive the treatment would be, but added nevertheless, that she "was determined to try everything to save her daughter's life."
As a parent myself to four kids and father to our only daughter Faith, I can really relate to Mary Jane's resolve. I'm so thankful to God that despite the relatively minor illnesses my children had gone through in their young life, we have not experienced any serious illness of this magnitude.
Initially, I had planned of simply and quietly giving my own personal financial donation for Aira. Later, due to her increasing hospitalization expenses I realized I would be of better help to also share her story with the most number of people. That meant talking to my officemates about her plight, my CFC brothers and sisters and of course readers of my personal blogs to join me in helping this beloved child of God. Secondly, and I believe more importantly, I ask for your fervent prayers.
Last October 6, as I accompanied Junior to UST to pay the balance for his college tuition this 1st semester, we looked for Aira at the UST Hospital. We found her at the pediatric ward, Rm. 322 (Bed E) at the second floor of the Clinical Division building. Her grandmother, also named Mary was there watching over her. Lola Mary broke down to tears as I introduced myself. I felt her deep anguish over her granddaughter's condition but also her heartfelt gratitude at the financial assistance I gave and was able to solicit from officemates at the Research and Special Studies Bureau. She asked my name which I hesitantly wrote down. Lola Mary said she asked my name to offer pray on my behalf. A gesture I very much appreciated. At some point I shook the hand of frail Aira. She shook my hand but also gently placed it on her forehead. For Filipinos that was a sign of reverence and gratitude. My heart melted away at this heartrending and humbling sight. I had asked Lola Mary to tell her daughter who is seeking help from the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) to look for an officemate working at our Resident Ombudsman office at the PCSO who could facilitate her request for assistance. As I bade them goodbye, I told Aira to get well. She nodded her head, both lola and her apo waving goodbye and thanking me for my efforts. I thanked them as well for their warmth and prayers.
I couldn't help but cry as I left the ward. My heart bleeds and at times couldn't help but wonder how these kinds of suffering could befall such sweet and innocent children such as Aira. But then we can only trust in the Lord's wisdom and perfect plan.
I didn't know if Junior understood what I was exactly going through. But if I was to see my kids grow up to be kind and compassionate people through my example, then I would be very happy to know that at least in this aspect, I was able to be a good father to them.
Aira's unpaid hospital bills have reached up to P300,000 (roughly around $7,000). This amount is expected to rise as her therapy sessions continue. If you also feel that God is drawing you to this child to help, please do not hesitate to share your blessings. PDI's article listed Mary Jane's cell number at 0921-9991762. Donations may be deposited through her Metrobank account (Account No. 152-3152404833).
Similarly I ask for your prayers and financial assistance for Chino Nebrao. As of this time, Baby Chino, the third child of CFC missionaries Clark and Cynthia Nebrao, would be nearing or just may have celebrated his first year of delicate existence. He suffers from an unusual heart problem, what doctors categorize as severe mitral regurgitation with mild stenosis. To a lay man it meant he had a defective heart valve, a condition that couldn't be treated with medication and the survival rate only at 5%. At this point, it also meant that he would have to undergo surgery at the soonest possible time.
The open heart surgery along with the hospitalization and medication expenses is expected to reach the amount of 2 million pesos (an estimated $45,000). Friends and family of Chino's parents have already come together to ask around 2,000 generous souls to give at least P1,000 ($20) to raise the needed amount. In addition, everyone believes that your passionate prayers shall work wonders for Baby Chino.
Kindly deposit your donations to:
Cynthia Marie Adalla-Nebrao
Account Number: 3106523407
Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI)
Let us ask our God of healing and miracles, our God who knows no boundaries, and to whom nothing is impossible, to pour down his blessings and grace upon these special innocent children.
I also pray for all the kind-hearted souls who would share their blessings and prayers for the complete healing and recovery of Aira and Chino. May the almighty God bless you and your respective families!
Thursday, September 02, 2010
Sunday morn at Immaculata
People were all smiles that morning.
MER Fellowship Nights have always had that positive effect on people. By God's grace, we have helped the couple participants build and maintain stronger relationships between themselves with Christ at the center of their lives.
Tapsilog (Beef tapa, fried egg and rice) breakfast to rev up our day
Bro. Oty Narciso talked about building our homes for God
North B - 1 C chapter leaders and members arrive including my wife
Faith and Joshua enjoy the modest amenities of my room
The Holy Mass is celebrated
White is the color of the day
My wife gives out one of the liturgical readings
The bread and wine we offer...
Fr. Valerian Ma. Castillo, OFMConv., pastor of nearby St. Maximilian Mary Kolbe Parish delivered a very witty homily
The mass celebrant, Fr. Val wasn't your typical minister of God. He was comical, zany and entertaining. His antics amused the faithful throughout his brief stay at the St. Maximilian Hall. But more importantly, his sermon was incisive and people well received his words of advice.
Couples are allowed to give the Holy Eucharist to their spouses
Participants renew their marriage vows...
...then Fr. Val blesses the couples
Bringing these eight couples together for MER was God's miracle
Couples sign their certificate bearing a prayer for God's blessing
As a fitting and lasting memento of their MER experience, the service team crafted a certificate bearing a prayer for the Lord's blessing on the couple participants.
I do not know the author of the prayer they chose but I took the liberty of writing down the said prayer in this post for everyone to appreciate and realize the happiness and contentment of placing a couple's union under God's plan and providence.
Prayer for God's Blessing
Lord God, whose name is love,
Once you made our ways meet
And called us to find a home and a family.
We look back with gratitude
On the years you have given us together,
And the children who have filled our lives
With hope and joy,
Sustain our love with your love,
That, is ever-growing unity of heart and soul,
We may together reach
Your unending marriage feast in Heaven,
Bless this our wish and task
As we renew our commitment for love
This day always.
Participants show the souvenir gifts they received
Couples share their MER learnings and experiences
During the sharings, one common sentiment was expressed by many if not all the participants, a deep sense of appreciation and thankfulness to God that they decided to go through the MER experience.
The MER 1 concludes with a very sumptuous lunch meal
By lunch time, everyone was understandably itching to go. Hopefully, this desire included the fire to share and pass on the joy of their MER experience.
Service team members enjoy the overflowing food
Bro. Phing and Sis. Mean Santos were our designated MER team leaders
The women of CFC North B- 1 C (Sta. Lucia chapter)
The MER: Bringing families together under God's lordship
Like what I always say, there are really no accidents in life. Everything that happens has a purpose. The presence of these eight couple participants to the MER was no fluke. It was God's miracle at work! It was like God telling us..."You keep your faith in Me, just do your tasks and I'll give you signs and wonders!"
We kept the faith and God made miracles in the participants' lives and relationships.
All these Lord, for your greater glory!
Wednesday, September 01, 2010
I experience a unique feeling every time I serve during a Marriage Enrichment Retreat (MER) 1.
Is it the fulfillment that I get seeing couples recognize their missionary role in the Church, their great potential for evangelization and pastoral formation of other couples and individuals? Is it the joy of seeing couples strengthening their relationships and bringing themselves willing and able for Christian service? Or was it my own spiritual enrichment, reminded of my duties and responsibilities as a Christian husband to my wife and father to my children? I believe it is all of the above...and then some. As many CFC members and leaders will surely tell you, the MER 1 is indeed a memorable experience that every Christian couple should all go through.
For the current chapter I now presently serve, this was also the major activity that we weren't able to push through in 2009. So, when we were able to raise ample funds from the Summer Jam late last May, I sent the chapter household into high gear to ensure its conduct before the end of the year. Considering that you rarely see CFC chapters/clusters or even the sector leadership conducting MER 1s on a regular basis and conducted in its traditional design due to economic constraints, we even opened it up to the NB-1 cluster to maximize the opportunity to all eligible couples.
To say that our MER went through some difficulties was an understatement.
Initial interest from prospective participants ranged from tentative to none. Venue arrangements, schedules...documents and materials to prepare. We had speakers who encountered problems like conflicting schedules, health related concerns, etc. Participants backing out a few days before the retreat. Serious budget considerations. The works.
But in the end, with God on our side, everything came to pass and we were triumphant!
The following images create a pictographic compilation of the MER 1 experience last August 20 to 22, 2010. We held it at a familiar place, a venue I knew from experience was conducive to these kinds of encounters with your spouse and with the Lord, the Immaculata Retreat House inside Greenfields Subdivision in Novaliches, Quezon City.
Our chapter music ministry opens the MER with songs to the Lord
Dinner is served!
Your friendly retreat master enjoys his sumptuous supper
Fra John N. M. Maagma, OFM Conv. welcomes the participants and
explains the house rules
Evening praise and worship
I volunteered to stay overnight and throughout the whole MER course at Immaculata. It was therefore logical that I acted as the retreat master as I looked after the couple participants.
I gave the first talk of the retreat, teaching the participants how to serve God through a couple's Christian marriage. The key to this of course is in the realization and acceptance that one's marriage is in fact part of God's plan.
I still remember the room that was assigned to me. I think it was the same room that I also stayed in as a member of the MER 1 service team of the Fairview chapter way back in 2005. It had its own toilet but the room looked smaller. Maybe it was because there was only one bed now. The first we held a retreat in Immaculata, I think we had three beds in the service team's room because two other CFC brods stayed overnight at the retreat house. By the way, I'm thankful to Fray John to let me use the air conditioning unit at my room for no additional charges. That really helped me endure the warm and humid evening weather.
As the day drew to a close, I had yet to see sparks fly between the couples present. But then again, that was quite to be expected. I had been told that many of them still had reservations up to the very last minute, undecided on whether to join or not to join this activity. I had faith in the Lord that those anxieties and doubts would eventually fade as soon as they learned more about the retreat. A faith that was well founded.
As morning arrived and breakfast was to be served, I had informed the couple participants and implemented to them a cherished MER tradition, "Thou shall not enter the mess hall and eat until you have kissed your spouse with earnest passion!" (I may have supplied the qualifying phrase "with earnest passion" but I think you get the drift!)
As usual, hungry as they were, couples always complied with this beloved tradition!
Mealtime at the Immaculata as always is an enjoyable experience!
Bro. Mar Arriola led us during the morning worship
Bro. Rene and Sis. Ana Reyes of North A handles the talks on
their respective roles as Christian husband and wife
An inspiring sight: In the MER, couples are drawn closer together
Service team members pray over the next speaker
Bro. Dandy Calvez stresses the importance of effective communication in marriage
As lunch time came, service team members get into the MER kissing tradition
When you don't succeed with your spouse the first time...
...remember that patience is a virtue!
Remnants of my happy meal
Bro. Mar Marquez led us in the afternoon prayer and worship
With Bro. Terence who spoke on Christian couples as pastoral teams
Pudding with raisins for our afternoon snack
Bro. Al Cruz handled the pivotal 6th talk, "Healing our Marriages"
Bro. Al Cruz a good friend who works at the Legislative Archives office of the House of Representatives looked haggard as he gave the sixth talk, "Healing our Marriages." He had been ill for some time but that didn't stop him from delivering a powerful sharing that early evening.
He shared the troubled and difficult moments in his life and how God through the CFC community slowly but surely changed his life for the better, how God's healing hand began to mend his deep woundedness.
I knew he struck a chord with the participants. By the time couples were invoking the prayers for inner healing and forgiveness for each other, practically everybody was quietly shedding a tear, including myself. As retreat master, I tried to compose myself throughout the whole experience, but my own brokenness needed healing, by my own faults, I too needed forgiveness.
Couples prayed for healing....
Praising God for His mercy and love!
The Bawag (Bro. Wek & Sis. Tess) and Marquez (Bro. Mar & Sis. Myrna)couples were some of the brethren who came to visit the participants during the fellowship night with the participants
A thankful Lord's Day celebration ensued
Members of our CFC chapter and family members dropped by to show their support to the MER participants
Thanksgiving for the bread and fruit of the vine that comes from the Lord
Dinner time again!
Participants perform different musical renditions of the song 'God is Good'
As usual, the fellowship nights that we organized following dinner turned out great! Participants and well-wishers had such a blast! I had asked game host Sis. Mean Santos to play the competitive game of various groups singing the same gospel song but with a twist! Groups were to render the song using different musical styles that they were picked through a lottery. The first team who set the bar high from the onset eventually won the contest wooing the crowd with their performance level hip-hop rendition of 'God is good'.
Oldies but goldies
Next team has a junior member
The last team sang minus one (minus one participant that is!)
The audience reacts to the entertaining performances
Participants need all the memory they can muster during
the 'compatibility' game
The compatibility game never fails to bring laughter to the crowd and playful anxiety to the couple participants as they both try to remember trivial and not so trivial things from their shared past. The result of their jumbled recollections and occasional memory gaps is no less than a fun-filled evening of teasing and laughter!
Marshalls also acted as the tally scorers
The romantic portion of the program begins as husbands offer roses to their beloved spouses
The candle lit room is filled with music ministry's sweet serenade
As the program ended and the couples went back to their respective rooms, I briefly went out of the retreat house, in search of cold drinks, a persistent habit that never fails to surface regardless of were I sleep at night. After buying the refreshment I sought, I returned to my humble room looking forward to a much needed rest. With all the love around me today, I began to miss my wife and kids, consoled only with the thought of their arrival here at Immaculata tomorrow.
Back to my humble room
Looking forward to a restful sleep
Good night, world! More to come on my next post!
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
No, I'm not talking about those kiddie meals that you get at a famous fast food outlet where the main mascot is a clown who wears oversized red shoes. I'm talking about those traditional gatherings where family members gather around the dining table saying grace and thanking the good Lord for the home cooked meals you share with your loved ones.
Rapid urbanization changed much of that. I remember when I was in the United States in '99, people especially income driven families had little time to spend with each other at the table. Everyone was in a mad rush to go to somewhere. It was only with retired couples that I saw some slow pacing in their daily routine.
Back home in the Philippines, I realized that Filipinos were quickly adapting to a similar rat race lifestyle. Nowadays, my family rarely has breakfast all at the same time even during weekends. During weekdays everyone rushes to school and office. Despite a flexible work period, I barely eat breakfast at all. And when I do it often comes from one of those fast food outlets where their main mascot is a clown who wears oversized red shoes. Yup...guilty as charged!
That is why my wife and I try our best to have those family meals back in our home. During evenings and weekends, we try to have everyone present at the dining table, complete not just to share the meal but more importantly to share the time for quality family bonding. It's the perfect opportunity to catch up with everyone's lives especially now that the older kids are slowly but surely having their own individual universes. While the younger children openly share their thoughts, activities and experiences with you, the older adolescents have become more reserved. Sometimes you even have to pry it out! Family meals have a way of making communication between and among family members better. Not always happy or cordial mind you, but if our conflicts or tensions are positively resolved through family meals then they are obviously better than family members not talking at all.
Looking back, now I remember that many of the important discussions my siblings and I had with each other and with our parents happened at our dining table. During the height of storms that regularly passed through the archipelago, I recall my family around our old rectangular wooden table sharing light moments while enjoying champorado with either milk or tuyo (rice porridge with milk and dried fish).
Research has drawn similar conclusions derived from several scholarly studies.
As per findings of a September 2006 study carried out by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at the Columbia University, "teenagers who have two or less family dinners per week are more than twice as likely to have tried cigarettes compared to teens who have five or more family dinners per week. Teenagers who have two or less family dinners are also one and half times more likely to have tried alcohol and are twice as likely to have tried marijuana."
It is quite evident that when parents make an effort to have meals with their children, the experience gives the family great opportunities to bond closer together.
Which brings me to another point - it need not just be inside your home. In my book, anytime or anywhere we sit around and eat together, whether it is takeout food or home-cooked food, and share life experiences constitute a family meal.
A family lunch meal in Baguio
According to Filipino psychologist Honey Carandang, "Strong values are often imparted at the dinner table, and this is especially crucial for children who are still in the process of developing an identity."
Source: Business World
Other researches have shown similar positive outcomes:
- Meals eaten at home are often more nutritious containing more fruits, vegetables and dairy products. The family meals introduce the child to new foods and give parents the chance to act as role models for healthy eating.
- Adolescents exposed to frequent and structured family meals with a positive environment were les likely to have eating habit disorders.
- Frequent family dinners are associated with lower rates of smoking, drinking and illegal drug us in pre-teens teenagers as compared to families who eat only twice or fewer times a week together.
- Children and teenagers who eat together with their other family members four times or more in a week have higher academic performances in contrast to teenagers who eat with their families twice or fewer times in a week.
Source: The Surprising Power of Family Meals by Miriam Weinstein, The Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine - August 2004
Eating happily together as families, extended families and even as a community of families matter. In a family meal, each person should get the message that they are there because they are all equally important, they belong and they are loved!
Make it a regular habit then and strive for those happy, happy family meals!
Thursday, July 22, 2010
Celebrating life at GK Concepcion (Tarlac)
Bro. Omin del Castillo and I attended a post-birthday celebration for Sis. Lyn Meloto held at GK Amalia Village in Concepcion, Tarlac last July 10.
The trip to Tarlac gave me another opportunity to meet new friends across the country, some acquaintances even coming from other countries.
The occasion also introduced me to Gawad Kalinga's Bayan-anihan (BA). GK's food sufficiency program, BA is a multi-sectoral partnership between Gawad Kalinga, the Department of Agriculture (DA), various local government units (LGUs), Association of Colleges of Agriculture, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) like Couple for Christ (CFC).
Globe Telecom, one of the country's leaders in telecommunications has been a strong partner in the implementation of GK programs including Bayan-anihan. Working together with community residents they have set up one in GK Amalia, putting up since 2008, no less than 35 Bayan-anihan farms nationwide.
When we arrived at GK Amalia, a fairly good sized GK village of around 150 families, we were warmly met by their Kapitbahayan leaders and CFC brethren who were with Bro. Tony Meloto, Sis. Lyn's husband and GK founder.
GK friends from France introduce themselves
There were several French nationals at the GK site during the festivities. They readily joined the games and danced to the delight of the village residents. Eena Meloto informed me that they were students who came to the Philippines to learn more about Gawad Kalinga.
The GK site was bubbling with children
The site's plaza 'fountain'
The celebrant is joined by me, GK Amalia Project Director and CFC Bro. Arnold Capati, Shawn Raydo UCLA - Public Health Grad student and CFC couple Bro. Nonoy and Sis. Malou Zapanta
The French enjoyably danced and played in the parlor games during the program
Sis. Lyn joins the GK partners from Globe Telecom in a dance
PD Bro. Arnold talked about the fruits of GK in their community
Mabuhay ladies perform a traditional dance...
...then asks the French guests to dance as well
Bro. Tony Meloto, Gawad Kalinga Chairman, spoke to the people
French guy does a handstand
For a seafood and pasta lover like me, the food was divine
GK advocate and former Dept. of Agriculture Secretary Sito Lorenzo and his family arrived
Globe brought the delicious catered food from the famous restaurant Antonio's
Photo ops with the Meloto and Lorenzo couples
Belated happy birthday, Sis. Lyn! The weather was extremely humid but the equally warm smiles and hospitality of our GK partners made it a lot more bearable. Our trip to Tarlac was definitely well worth it!
Monday, July 19, 2010
Change is one thing constant in life. As in life, so it is with CFC service.
Officially announced Chapter Head of North B-1D last July 2 (Friday) during the Fairview chapter's corporate assembly, Bro. Jun Palma assumed chapter leadership from Bro. Omin del Castillo who will take on a higher assignment in the CFC community.
Filled with zeal for his new service, Bro. Jun felt the sense to share during the MCG Big North gathering the following weekend (July 4) at the covered court of BF Homes in Quezon City. There he bared his experiences and trials in life while also taking time to show his gratitude for those whom he felt contributed to his family's pastoral formation.
The Palmas are of course no strangers to us. Since joining the Fairview chapter after a long hiatus from the community, they have always been a member couple of my regular household and eventually, my unit household.
It gives me a sense of pride to see two leaders out of the four having assumed higher forms of service since we were assigned to North B-1C. Bro. Omin now currently serves as the cluster's Pastoral Formation Office (PFO) coordinator.
Cluster Household meeting at our home
(Bro. Jun and Sis. Ivi wore the same white CFC shirts)
We welcome Bro. Jun and Sis. Ivi into our cluster household!
May God bless them in their new service!