Birthdays and New Life


I celebrated my seven decades of a grace-filled life yesterday. And my youngest just reminded me that in those seven decades I have been responsible for seven new lives coming into the world. Sevenfold blessings for my seven decades of life. And I just  love this collage of the three beautiful princesses in my life today.

The birth of a child has always been seen as a blessing, a gift from heaven. I love the fresh, soft touch of a baby. I love the tenderness I feel when I hold on of these angels in my arms. I love their heavenly scent, that mint-fresh smell straight from their source. I can spend hours just holding one in my arms. And talking with a baby is among the most inspiring conversations I can imagine.

It is a very sad commentary on our society today that in many places and in many instances children born today are seen as a burden, as a problem. I share the anxiety of many over unplanned and even unwanted pregnancies. But to tolerate or even encourage the killing of unborn children is plain and simple murder. That there is life on earth is an awesome reality. That we should deliberately snuff out this life is a real tragedy.

Every baby born is an affirmation of worth and value from our Source and Creator.

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My Seventy Years


So yesterday was a landmark birthday, my 70th. It was spent in the loving company of family. At the end of the day, Msgr. Pagulayan, whom we endearingly call Peggy, came and gave us this most beautiful present. It is a print of Murillo’s Holy Family in Nazareth. Monsignor Peggy says that he thinks of our family whenever he sees this painting, which he brought home from his visit at the Prado Museum in Spain.

Peggy was the officiating priest at our wedding. He has been most religious in greeting us on our wedding anniversary. He has never forgotten. Not once. I often kid him, “Do you remember it is our anniversary because it is Nora Aunor’s birthday? Or, you know it is Nora’s birthday because it is our anniversary.

Ours has been a most blessed marriage. We have had our own share of trials and troubles. But still in all, we have been richly blessed like the Holy Family in Nazareth. We have been blessed not by one son but three wonderful boys, now men, who have given undreamt of life and color to our marriage. Knowing how weak and flawed and fragile we both are, Anabelle and I that the blessings of our marriage and family are totally undeserved. If our efforts were the only inputs, there is no way we could have expected the kind of outputs we have achieved. The only other input that made all of these possible is God’s grace, which has been poured on us so abundantly through no merit of our own but most probably through the prayers of friends like Monsignor Peggy.

Indeed he is one of several religious-friends who I believed have been praying unceasingly for Anabelle and me and our family. Aside from Peggy, I remember . . . .

Sr. Mary Angeline. Tessa was a dear friend from Xavier School. She died a few ago in the odor of her sanctity. She was a living saint and I know we were constantly in her prayers.

Brother Louis Tremblay. Anabelle was one of her favorites in Xavier School. Because Anabelle loved me, Brother Tremblay also loved me. He is so much like Saint Joseph. He shows his sanctity through the physical and manual labor he doesm in which he excels.

Fr. Terry Katigbak. He did not let go and set forth on his eternal voyage until Anabelle came to visit him. On his desk, when he was assigned in Sacred Heart School in Cebu, was just one favorite photo on display. It was the picture of our family. I loved to imagine we were also always in his prayers.

Fr. Carlos Abesamis. He taught me about real prayer. He was a consistent presence in our family. he’d be gone for long periods but he would always show up consistently. He prays deeps and I am sure we were also always in his prayers.

Sr. Mary Cordis. Bebet is a dear friend who is a pink sister. I used to jokingly tell others that she entered the nunnery because I married Anabelle. But cloistered as she is, she is attuned to what is happening in the world. I know in my heart that we are also constantly in her prayers.

Sr. Bubbles Bandojo. She is one sister that our sons were very close to growing up. She used to teach with Anabelle in the Ateneo Grade School. When she entered the Cenacle, our family remained close to her so that when we were living near their community, we always joined them for their Christmas and Easter vigils.

Sr. Cora Dangalio. The self-proclimed Tita-madre of my sons. She would sneak into out condo in Xavierville to pray over the then baby Macky. And what a fine man he has turned out to be.

Thank you for life.
Thank you for the 70 years.
Thank you for love.
Thank you for family.
Thank you for friends.
Thank you for the prayers.

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Taken, Blessed, Broken, Given


Then taking the five loaves and the two fish,
and looking up to heaven,
he said the blessing over them, broke them,
and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd.
They all ate and were satisfied.

Often, we look at blessings as the reward for our struggles, the end of a journey, the answer to our prayers. In fact, we live life always looking to our rewards and blessings at the end so that blessings are seen as the end of life instead of seen life as the blessing itself.

But God does not give me his blessings at the end of life. He gives me his blessings in the beginning for life is the greatest blessing itself. He takes me. He calls me. He chooses me and says, “You are mine.” And then he blesses me. He anoints my head with oil and declares, “You are my beloved.”

Then, he breaks me – to pieces, into parts. Not to destroy or end me. But to put me back together into a new creation, a newer and better version. But more importantly, to be given away. Broken, there are more of me to be shared and given away. Like seeds that are scattered, strewn, sowed.

Christ was taken by the Father and blessed, “You are my beloved son.” Then, he was broken on the cross. Then he was given back to us in glory. In a similar way, we are chosen and called. Then we are blessed. To be broken. And then to be sent and given away.

Blessings are given not as rewards in the end. But blessings are given in the beginning to show and prove our beloved-ness, to fortify us for the brokenness and the giving away. Consider the beatitudes.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Who gives us a better glimpse of heaven? The poor struggling through their poverty or the rich wallowing in their lucre?

Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Who brings more joys and blessings to others? The merciful or the merciless?

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Who shows us that there is God? Those who bind the wounds of war or those who wage it?

This is the life that God has given us: he takes us; he blesses us; he breaks us; and then he gives us to our brothers and sisters.

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My Here and Now


Learn from the way the wild flowers grow.
They do not work or spin.
But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor
was clothed like one of them.
If God so clothes the grass of the field,
which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow,
will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith?

Because I exist, anything and everything is possible.
Because I am alive, my now is truly the only moment I have.
I have my past but it gone and lives only in my memories.
There are good memories, for which I am grateful.
There are also bad memories, whose lessons i will remember.
I have a future, to which I look forward with hope.
But the future I hope to have, I can only create in my present moment.
I live in the present moment and it is in the present that build, create and act and do.

I also am truly present only in my present location, my here.
I can be in many other places vicariously or through technology.
Likewise, I can be in another place somewhere in the past or even the future.
I may want to be with the protesters in HongKong and share their commitment;
or I may want to be in Toronto to feel the excitement of a championship;
or I may want to be in San Jose or Oxford to care for Ela or Maia.
But it is only in my here that I can act efficaciously.
I am here and here I will bloom.
It is only here that I can build.
It is only here that I can make my contribution and make a difference.

I am an immortal being.
I have an eternal soul.
Yet, it is in my here and now
that I truly have my whole.

Posted in Encounter, Life, Mystery, Spirituality | Tagged | 2 Comments

The Real Treasure


Sailing on San Francisco Bay

The great savant Carl Sagan once remarked that it is the height of self-conceit for man
to believe that he and the earth he lives in is the center of the universe.
Indeed, in the vastness and grandeur of the universe,
with its exploding stars and expanding galaxies,
the earth is but ‘a pale blue dot’ (Sagan’s own description).

Man will always be wondering about his origins and the meaning of his being here. Every generation has tried and has come up with its own answer to such questions.
In today’s highly scientific and technology-driven world,
it would indeed be the height of folly for a man to reveal and proclaim
that cause and origin of everything we see (including what we do not see but is)
is a person who loves us and relates to us very much like a father would to his children.
I find that incredibly amazing.
And I believe.

Everyone seeks and wants to have some wealth, some power, some fame.
Some have these more than others; a few have these than anyone of us can imagine.
Yet, there is only one treasure worth wanting and worth keeping – life itself.
Life that we have received unmerited and unconditionally
from the same source as the universe we live in.
Without life, no amount of wealth, power and fame would mean anything.
With life, we have everything we need and everything we have is a treasure.

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth,
where moth and decay destroy, and thieves break in and steal.
But store up treasures in heaven,
where neither moth nor decay destroys, nor thieves break in and steal.
For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.

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The Lord’s Prayer

IMG_0505.JPG – Version 3

“This is how you are to pray:

‘Our Father who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name,
thy Kingdom come,
thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread;
and forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us;
and do not let us fall into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.’

I love praying the Lord’s Prayer. Biblical scholars agree that the ‘Our Father’ are the very words (ipsissima verba) of Jesus himself. They reflect the mind and heart of Christ. I get to see a glimpse of the person that Jesus Christ is. And what do I see?

I see the one-ness of all life and creation. Everything that is alive and everything that exists come from one source – the Lord and the Giver of Life. Everything in heaven and on earth has been willed by him into existence. By His Word, we were designed, done and delivered into life. And yet this creative force is not some inanimate principle that operates automatically. This force is a person who exists for love. The very act of creation is an expression of that love. He cares for each and everyone of us. He is not some distant power not really caring for us; but someone who cares deeply and infinitely for us moment by moment. In fact, he is very much like . . . . Our Father.

I also see and experience his oneness of the cosmos and the interconnectedness of this grand creation that is the universe in my daily ordinary existence. I rely on the fruits of the earth for my daily bread. These have been designed, done and delivered by the many  people who make it possible for me to have food on my table. I do my share in sustaining this life we share in anyway I can. And the others I share this earth with; we live together, we laugh and we love one another. There are times we fight and have disagreements. I pray for forgiveness even as I am ready to give it to those who have offended me. For always, there are temptations and there is the evil one who would frustrate the divine will for us to love one another.

I imagine all these words and all the thoughts coming from Christ and I am awed by the gentle greatness and indeed the divinity of his person, summing up in these few words the awesome adventure we all share that we call life, existence, creation.

The Lord’s Prayer has always been my favorite prayer. I try to pray it at least once a day.  When sleep is hard to come by, I recite it instead of counting sheep. When I am angry, I pray it instead of counting up to 10. When caught in traffic, I say it instead of automatically reaching for my cell phone as I often do.When I am happy I pray it in gratitude. When I am sad, I pray it for strength and comfort.

Posted in Environment, Life, Spirituality | Tagged | 4 Comments

Let the Children Teach Us


I love children and there are times I’d rather be with them than with adults.
I love how they look and see life and the world
with eyes of unending wonder and amazement.
They teach me everything I need to know about relationships:
totally accepting of everyone,
putting in no conditions,
not afraid to get hurt
and color-blind – including the color of money.
They are factory fresh and redolent of the smell and feel of their source.

I also think of all the children robbed of their childhood by illness, poverty and neglect.
Neither can I understand or accept the outright killing of the unborn through abortion.
How can we participate in God’s work of bringing beauty and innocence into the world
and then wantonly abandon it like it were thrash?
Children often teach us bigger and deeper lessons than anything we can ever hope to teach them.

The ‘lessons’ of life, which include fears, disappointments, frustrations and even betrayals, would later make them forget what life is all about and where they came from.

I find that rather sad.

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