Showing posts with label reflections. Show all posts
Showing posts with label reflections. Show all posts

Monday, December 31, 2018

Year-end ponderings on life and death leading to the New Year

A friend lost his daughter a few weeks ago to what was diagnosed as clinical depression. I learned from various sources that she had already had one attempt to take her own life recently. I also learned that she turned 18 just a week before the end. From all accounts including my friend's and those who knew her, there was no indication of her depression or her going through rough times. The photos in the slideshow at the wake showed what anyone can consider as a happy childhood and a happy, loving family. I have known my friend for almost 29 years now and I know him to be a man of strong faith and convictions. I know that he is an affectionate father and one with a good sense of humor, too.

I could not imagine what my friend and his wife were and are still going through right now. It is certainly a most difficult time given this tragic event. My friend is grieving and has only recently returned to social media where his posts reveal that he is still sorting things in his mind and heart. I pray that he may find solace in his faith and that he would be comforted by happy memories I am sure he keeps of his daughter.

We were at the wake the last Friday before her remains were cremated and witnessed the tributes and testimonials given by the daughter's classmates. The music they shared touched most if not everyone. I felt their grief, their sadness over what happened to a person they regarded as a dear friend. She was Grade 12 and would have graduated next year. She just took the UPCAT and could have passed the entrance examination and go on to study at UP. Sadly, that will not come to be.

Friends talk about how social media and all these information available to us now tend to influence he way we think and feel. I, too, think there's just a lot of information going around these days and people especially the young don't generally know how to filter what's valid or true from the fake. This creates a confusion of the mind and the heart, which may lead to depression and to some, a general loss of hope. It is this hopelessness that we need to address but more so by tackling the root causes. Many people like to say we need to "go back to the basics" and yet it seems they do not know what the "basics" are all about. Perhaps we should have less of social media, of the internet? More of family time, of outdoor activities and interactions? I think we should.

I wish everyone a peaceful, joyful, hopeful, healthy and prosperous 2019!

Thursday, December 21, 2017

End of semester stories - persistence pays off

I released the class standings for the three sections I am handling this semester. Included were their scores for assignments I gave throughout the semester and for the long exams that included those I assigned as take-home work and for which discussions among students were encouraged in order to facilitate learning.

I got emails from four students regarding their scores and tentative grades. One student asked if its possible to have one exam rechecked as he was percentage points away from getting a 1.0. I quickly checked his scores and decided to give him an early Christmas gift as simple rounding off his average will improve his already excellent grade. I am usually generous with grades even if its not the Christmas season. I just don't feel like its worth stressing over percentage points and cases of a few points in exams.

Another student asked why he got a very low score in an exam. I remembered him as one who did not bother to include/attach solutions to his exam but instead submitted only the answers. How could I give full or even partial credit when it is not clear to me that the student did his work and understood the topics covered in the exam? I promptly replied to him asking if he already got the papers back and read what I wrote on his papers. He replied with a 'Thanks' and I never heard from him again.

I got a message from one student who believed she was able to submit one assignment and confirmed with her partner (it was a group project) about their submission on time. Turns out I have no record of their submission and I replied that perhaps her partner failed to submit it on their behalf. She had good scores in exams and assignments but her partner had average scores so I suspected perhaps that the other person wasn't able to submit their work but was afraid to admit it. There was no effort from him to support her. I recalled that there was a confusion where the assignments were to be submitted because half the class placed theirs in the wrong pigeon hole (this was the first homework) in our new building. And so I asked her to check for maybe their paper was still there (students were notorious for leaving their assignments or returned/corrected work so these usually accumulate by the end of the semester). To cut a long story short, she was able to find their paper in the pile and along the way also found the papers of 3 other classmates. I was able to correct their standings and this resulted in higher grades.

I wonder how many students are as persistent these days? I wouldn't categorize her as the grade- conscious type as she was not begging for points or asking for additional work to get a higher grade. The student 'fought' for what she thought she worked for that she wasn't able to get credit for. The other students (total 4) didn't even make an effort to rectify their situations and I suspect they didn't even check what was recorded as non-submissions. I was tempted not to change the scores and grades of the others, in a way making a point or lesson here, but that was not the right thing to do. I took the inspiration of the persistent student for the benefit of the others. Persistence pays off and the effort of one benefited others.
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Thursday, March 23, 2017

Paalam Tito Froi

Last Monday, another loved one was laid to rest. Froilan Laudit, or Tito Froi as my wife fondly called him, passed away almost two weeks ago after succumbing to organ failure due to complications brought about by a severe asthma attack. He was visiting his son's family in Auckland, New Zealand where the latter had immigrated. I could imagine it was a very joyful and exciting trip to Auckland as his first grandchild was born last year and only recently turned one. Who knew that only a few days after arriving there that he would have a fatal asthma attack.

The youngest sibling of my mother-in-law (the eldest), I have known him almost two decades now. The Clairvoyant also had told many stories about him. He spent a significant part of his life as an overseas worker in Tokyo, Japan. We could have been there at the same time when I was a student from 1996-1999. I'm just not sure our paths crossed at least one time because he resided and worked in the northern part of Tokyo while I spend most in Yokohama and the southern part of the capital.

Tito Froi was a doting uncle to his nieces and nephews. He was a good man, a kind person. He will be missed!
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Saturday, March 26, 2016

Black Saturday musings

In my younger days when we spend our Holy Week holidays in my father's hometown of Cabatuan, Iloilo, Maundy Thursdays and Good Fridays were busy days. The Mass commemorating the 'washing of the feet' was Thursday afternoon and usually extended into the evening. I think those were the longest Masses I've participated in and were generally longer than Christmas or Easter Masses that I have also experienced in Cabatuan. The part of the washing of the feet was usually held with much fanfare especially during times when there were alumni homecomings for the town's National Comprehensive High School and when there were elections in May. There was a time when the apostles included the mayor, vice mayor and councilors of the town and the parish priest seemed so deliberate in emphasizing his moral high ground in his homily and the ceremonial washing of the feet. There was a Last Supper reenactment at the town plaza after the Mass.

Good Friday's were even busier with the Stations of the Cross  in the morning that started from the town's centuries old church to their version of Mount Calvary, which is a hill located in one of the barrios not too far from the town proper. The climb up used to be a treacherous one as the steps were narrow and were carved out of the hillside. Later, when I was already in university, the steps were already improved and made of concrete. They were also wider, allowing two-way traffic without having to stop and give way to others. The Stations of the Cross started before 6 AM and usually ended before 8AM for those who followed the main entourage of the priest and participated in the prayers. The rest of the people who joined in don't really seem to be in it except for the 'barkadahan' (fellowship) part, which was all about the merriment aspect of the event rather than the spiritual part.

In the afternoon, people gathered in the town plaza to await, join or watch the Good Friday procession that also started from the church and went around the town passing through the major streets of the bayan. I remember that there used to be less than a dozen carrozas with their santos (religious images depicting scenes from the Passion of Christ) when I was a boy until the time when I was a teenager in high school. Later, there seemed to be more than 20 carrozas that comprised the very long procession. It seemed to me that the organizers of the procession, which included church officials, allowed the additional carrozas and santos from the 'emergent' families of the town who suddenly had the wealth to purchase their own santos and build their carrozas. Having your santo and carroza was a status symbol in old towns like my father's. The old and prominent families of the town owned the old santos but the younger, newer money (mainly from OFW families and those who have established themselves in the US and Europe) were accommodated for one reason or another. 

I used to go with my aunts, cousins and friends on these Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. Tatay used to take advantage of our vacations to reconnect with our relatives and friends including his high school buddies. The last time I was there, I went with my aunt and cousins but my childhood friends were no longer there. Most if not all have moved our to reside elsewhere particularly as many had to find work in other places. Truly times have changed over the years and Tatay's hometown has also evolved along with its people. I just hope that the town does not lose its charm and that when I do visit I could still reminisce happy days whenever I go around.
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Friday, November 1, 2013

What sabbatical?

Relatives and friends always ask me what I'm doing during my sabbatical and I reply that I'm involved in some projects here and there. Of course, it's not really so much as a here and there as I spent a lot of time at our center instead of away from it. I was very much accessible for relatives, friends and colleagues during the last year. I didn't go out of the country or out of town for long periods of time as I had planned the year before when the Clairvoyant was still working in Singapore and we had our nice little home somewhere in Chuan Park. 

She came back to Manila months before I started my sabbatical and we indulged in other, more important projects. Unfortunately, the most important project of all didn't bear fruit but that is a continuing endeavor and despite all odds, I still believe we'll succeed somehow. The next big project is one that's been delayed but for our limited resources. Despite being professionals we weren't as well compensated as others nor do we come from wealthy families who can help us out with things like putting up a new home. This we resolved to do as we experienced another deluge right after the wife returned home. The importance of this second project was reinforced by another flood a few months ago. Then, of course, there is the prospect of an earthquake sometime in the future...and we wanted to have a safe, secure home where we could also live happily ever after.

I am thankful for the year off teaching and the schedules that go with it as well as admin work at the college, the institute and our center. The flexibility in my schedule, however, allowed me to take on bigger and more relevant projects. These included two local projects with an international agency, one international research with well known institutes, and a few smaller ones with my colleagues at the center. These were all very interesting projects that I chose to take on because they were not just important for me but also were important from a larger perspective, that of the country. At this point in my life and career and during this sabbatical, I felt I had to choose my projects carefully and not just take on anything that comes my way. Of course it helped that I was able to travel abroad and in the Philippines in connection with these projects. The travels afforded me the chance to make some sentimental trips to old haunts and I got to meet new people and strengthen old friendships.

I now look forward to teaching again at the university and perhaps at a more relaxed pace. There will be research, extension and admin work just like before but I will be looking at these challenges and applying my own style of time management so I can enjoy life. It's perhaps my way of getting out of the proverbial rat race.

And definitely, I'm already looking to the next sabbatical...

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Thursday, March 28, 2013

Questions and reflections on a Maundy Thursday

Three verses in the New Testament of the Bible have always caught my attention whether they are read during Mass, as part of a lesson from when I was in high school or when I happen to remember them for whatever reason. In Matthew 19:24, Christ says that "it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God." In Matthew 25:35-36, He says "For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me."

The first verse is something that seems to be biased against wealthy people and is often quoted (perhaps wrongly or incorrectly?) by those who tend to interpret these verses too literally. However, the second and third verses that I also cited have been used to explain the first one and probably applies to those who have so much and yet share too little of the blessings granted to them. What was the context of these verses and what was it like being rich at the time? Similarly, what was it like being poor during those times? Was it the same as being poor today? Was poverty as described the same poverty we experience at the present? It seems quite so obvious and yet if we delve deeper, it becomes much more than the financial or economic poverty we automatically associate with these verses. These days, we can extend our definition of poverty to psychology, to health, and even morality, respect and decency. One can be financially wealthy but morally poor. One can have so much property and yet be so corrupt and infamous. Blessed and few are those who have and are able to share their resources and themselves with the have-nots. But then do they give enough (until it hurts?) or do they just give excesses, surpluses that they could just as easily throw away rather than give away to the needy? A popular saying that is also based from the Bible (the story of Lazarus and the rich man) tells us that we cannot bring riches in the afterlife. And so the logic is that all the money and property in the world would not be enough for entry in heaven.

Matthew 19:24 seems in conflict with the "Parable of the Talents" found in Matthew 25 where a master rewarded two servants who used the talents granted to them to produce more while scolding and punishing one who did not use the talents given him. But then one perspective is that perhaps God gave us each different talents and at different amounts. Maybe wealthy people were given the talent to make wealth while less financially fortunate people were granted talents like being able to design things, build things, repair things or maybe a green thumb to grow things for food. I would like to think that these verses from the Bible presents us with a challenge for us to try to understand and extend our concept of sharing. If we are good in making money, could we be good at tilling the fields to grow rice and vegetables? If we are adept in the stock market or trading, could we also be good in fishing? Indeed there are always exceptions to the rule and success stories where the results seem to state that its possible to have multiple talents. But that is not an aberration but rather a sub-case of the same parable. These multiple talents can be harnessed to produce more but the challenge is also to share more with others. 

But we should not forget that this is not a one way thing. Even for those who have less, there is also the challenge to give and not just to take. The problem we often have is something of a mendicancy mind-set. Some less fortunate people have come to believe that they should receive financial and other assistance from the government and those who are better off. The tragedy here is when they become selfish in the sense that they no longer want to use their own talents, to work and improve themselves. And there are so many of these people now who take advantage of other people's goodness and generosity that the former become abusive and the latter jaded of their efforts. These set to motion a vicious cycle that is leading us to becoming uncaring and indifferent and perhaps unbelieving or faithless. 
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Thursday, March 14, 2013

A renewed hope

We have a new Pope in Francis, the first to adopt the name which the Pope himself says is after St. Francis of Assisi instead of St. Francis Xavier. The latter and the Pope are both from the Society of Jesus, more commonly known as the Jesuits. I must admit this came as a surprise as I read the explanation that adopting the name Francis alludes to a message or a statement being made by the new Pope of how he intends to lead the Roman Catholic Church and the possible policies and practices that he will advocate.

I learned about St. Francis of Assisi during my grade school and high school days at Lourdes School of Mandaluyong, a school ran by Capuchin Franciscans (Order Friar Minor Capuchins). There we learned much about his life and works including popular stories of his works with the poor and animals. St. Francis lived a very simple life after giving up his possessions and taking a vow of poverty, chastity and obedience, and forming the order of Franciscans. It is said that Christ spoke to him and asked him to "rebuild my Church." Perhaps, despite all the reports citing the Pope for his being a conservative during his time as Bishop of Buenos Aires, the new Pope will surprise us and become active in rebuilding and reconciling the Church with these modern times.
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Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Looking forward to 2013 and a brief review of 2012

It's the start of a new year and what a year it was in 2012! It was an eventful year with the Clairvoyant returning from Singapore after a 19-month stint there. It was an adventure for both of us as it was also her first time to live overseas for a significant length of time (I was in Japan for 3 years in the 1990's.). The year also was an achievement of sorts for me in terms of travel as I was able to travel from the Philippines to Indonesia and Malaysia via Singapore (where we also had a home) during the week I celebrated my 40th (another milestone!). That meant I covered four of the original five ASEAN member countries in a span of a week. The clincher was a trip to Thailand in October that completed the "collection" of sorts.

In August, we had another challenge in the form of another flood, and right after the Clairvoyant and I arrived back home from Singapore. It wasn't of Ondoy (Ketsana) proportions but it was right there in terms of experiences we won't forget about. It's something like a last straw for us and now, we are looking forward to the likelihood of moving to a new home within the year. There are a lot of things we consider as obstacles, negatives that if we focused on these we are sure to ruin ourselves with the sadness, the frustration, and, to others, the depression that can be brought about by such proverbial curve balls thrown at us. I think we should treat such challenges as "spices" that make life continuously exciting. These are events that make it more interesting for us; keeping us on our feet and encouraging us to be at the top of our game. We should also be reminded of our faith and how we can be stronger after our encounters with adversity.

Following is a photo that the Clairvoyant took one evening as we drove to dinner. We love sunsets as these provide unpredictable but fascinating pictures. The unpredictability is one thing that we (and others) like about and that we should embrace much like the saying about change being the only thing constant in this world.

Sunset along Marcos Highway
We love sunsets because of the drama and the color. I believe sunsets are also like rainbows in that they bear a promise. In the case of rainbows, it is the promise that there will be better weather. In sunsets, it is a promise of a sunrise the following day. It is the hope that everything will be better!

Happy New Year! May we all have a blessed one in 2013!
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Saturday, December 22, 2012

Remember - and do the right thing

I remember a scene in the movie "Look Who's Coming to Dinner" where the character portrayed by the lead actor, Sidney Poitier, was speaking to his parents. His father was admonishing him for what had transpired at dinner as the Poitier's (black) character and his fiance (a white woman) announced their plans of marriage to their parents. At the time when mixed couples (and marriages) were uncommon and presented dilemmas to families even in cases where both sides were educated and living in comfort. What caught my attention was the script where the actor snapped back at his father after the latter said something about the hard work and sacrifices he had to make to raise his son and give him a good education. I recall the father also mentioned something about his son owing him for this. If memory serves, Poitier's character said that he didn't owe his father anything and that it was his responsibility to raise him well and provide for him. I'm not so sure about the differences in the way we think and our cultures but that statement was, in many ways, in conflict with a lot of what we believe in as Filipinos, even those who are living abroad. Of course, the statement should be understood in the context of the story (in the film) but the message reverberates in some issues we face today including those recently tackled in relation to the controversial RH Bill. But that is an entirely different story I would prefer not to write about in this post.

Our concept of utang na loob is quite general in the sense that it can be corrupted but it is also a generous trait that in the right context strengthens ties among families and friends. I write about this now after a recent visit with my parents where Tatay casually mentioned some disappointments about a nephew, a niece and relatives in the south. It was the same comment I heard from him and the same ideas that came into my mind after some rather trying times in 2009. The days after Ondoy (Typhoon Ketsana) were desperate times after the floods ravaged my parents' home in Cainta. Most of their things (and mine as well that I left at my parents' home) were destroyed or damaged so much so that I think Tatay became so depressed. No help came from relatives who were in a position to extend assistance. Those who did, ironically, were those who had much less but helped in any way they could. I understand where my father's frustrations are coming from as he was the breadwinner of their family for a long time before and after he was married and had a family. Though I'm tempted to tell him that perhaps, like the movie character, a lot of these people didn't owe him anything, it is something that's better left unsaid. It is a cruel notion given that it wasn't really his responsibility to extend unconditional help to a lot of his relatives given that he already had a family and children to feed. But he did help, and as I have learned from various sources, he did so out of the goodness of his heart and without expecting anything in return. No matter the circumstances and the distance, he did his best to help out everyone who needed help and asked for help.

I am connected to our close relatives from my father's side in Facebook and I see that many are living comfortably and some, perhaps in luxury. They have good jobs, properties, are well traveled, and can afford the finer things in life. Many are abroad and are already citizens of their adoptive countries, holding foreign passports. I, too, am disappointed and sad when I think about how they seem to have forgotten about people who have sacrificed for them and who are now in need of assistance themselves. I pray that they don't experience what we have experienced and that they won't need to ask for anyone's assistance. Tatay has retired from work many years ago and just celebrated his 74th (or 75th?) birthday. I think at this time in his life he is at a stage of reminiscing and thinking of what has become of many people, especially relatives who seemed to have forgotten about him. It was so easy to remember him when he was this engineer who had a good job in Manila whom you could ask for help to pay for tuition or to buy food or what have you. No one remembered or cared when he was in danger of drowning in a flood. Indeed, perhaps he only needed to know that people cared enough to remember him at the time he was down and out. A simple call perhaps would have been enough from people who benefited from his generosity. Owing is one thing...remembering is another.
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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

End of an era...beginning of another

Today was officially my last day as Director of the National Center for Transportation Studies of the University of the Philippines Diliman. This is based on my appointment for my second 3-year term, which ran from November 1, 2009 to October 31, 2012. I have mixed feelings about today looking back to the many "what could have beens" and "what ifs" throughout my 6-year stint as administrator. There were many challenges and decision points during that time and steering the Center towards fulfilling its mandate was not always smooth considering the many personalities and sensitivities that went with the job.

When I first became head of the center, I set out to create an environment where everyone could work as best as possible according to their preferences and capabilities. I leave my post believing we were able to achieve that and by we I would like to emphasize that I alone could not succeed but only with the cooperation, dedication and hard work of all who were part of the center whether as organic staff, Fellow or partner. Many times, it was a thankless job and those were the times, perhaps, when our work and accomplishments probably mattered a lot. After all, we were not afraid to get our hands dirty and to be as direct as possible in our message even to our partners whom we had to repeatedly remind of their commitments and responsibilities.

Are transport and traffic in Metro Manila and the country better, more efficient and safer than it was 6 years ago? I would like to think there were improvements and many cannot be directly attributed to our work at the center. We are but a small organization in a sea of government agencies and bureaucracy. However, collaborative work with these agencies, private sector partners and other agencies have been key to our influencing policymaking even in cases when advise and opinion from the center were not received well as they clashed with what we have come to term as "nakasanayan na" in many agencies. Truly, it is not easy getting out of established comfort zones where wrong has become right simply because it has been practice all these years.

I will continue to be part of the Center but this time more as an active Fellow. There are those who are Fellows only in name but have little in terms of contributions to the Center's work. I do not intend to be like them and hopefully, I can continue to provide guidance not just to staff but to the next leadership as well. And here begins a new chapter that's still to be written in the time to come...

Monday, May 7, 2012

What motivates you?

The following quote is supposed to have been posted at the Dalai Lama's Facebook account. It is something I believe is true and something we all seem to forget as we go along in what seems to be a world becoming busier and busier everyday. Our being busy distracts us from the more important aspects of life including a genuine concern for the well-being of others. Marunong pa rin ba tayong makipag-kapwa tao? Or are we too engrossed in going about our way, not caring at all for others and only concerned with our own personal agenda?
"The quality of everything we do: our physical actions, our verbal actions, and even our mental actions, depends on our motivation. That's why it's important for us to examine our motivation in our day to day life. If we cultivate respect for others and our motivation is sincere, if we develop a genuine concern for others’ well-being, then all our actions will be positive."
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Friday, April 6, 2012

Good Friday musings

It's Good Friday to most Christians around the world and though it is really Easter that we should look forward to, the entire week leading to Easter Sunday is often a time used for reflection or meditation. That is, if you are one to take time out from an otherwise busy schedule - one full of work that is made into part  of an excuse for "securing the future." I like taking times off including very short ones during the day when I take breathers between classes, meetings and other responsibilities. Such breathers, I confirm, make it easier to go through the day particularly when the activities seem to be routine like scheduled lectures and regular meetings.

Perhaps the breathers I like the most are those that require me to travel. One such trip was to participate in discussions pertaining to the future of transport in the ASEAN region where our hosts organized the workshop in Bali, Indonesia. I must admit it was quite awkward for many of us to be dressed to work in a noted resort where every other guest at the hotel seemed to be in bathing or swimming attire rather than wearing suits or formal batik. Then there are the meetings and field work outside Metro Manila that I like going to as they offer a change in environment. Sometimes, though, these out of town activities afford little time for diversions. In fact, I have had meetings in Cebu, Iloilo, Roxas and Gen. Santos that required me to travel to and from the cities within the same day. These were made possible by the frequent and relatively inexpensive flights to these cities that made day trips more practical and affordable than overnighters. 

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Wednesday, February 1, 2012

February the 40th

I have written about February being my month. It is, after all, my birth month. Allow me to share a little about part of my life that was imparted to me during my formative years until I graduated from high school. I studied at Lourdes School where the Capuchin Fathers guided us in our Christian education.

I believe that the Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi is a very powerful reflection and one that is apt in our everyday lives. It is something that I start my day with upon waking up in the morning. It is something that I never forget to pray especially on days I anticipate to be difficult. The video below is the prayer sung in English by the Philippine Madrigal Singers during one of their recent tours in Europe.



Another prayer is the Canticle of the Creatures or Canticle of the Sun. It is a very beautiful prayer proclaiming appreciation of the things around you. It is something appropriate in these times when our environment has seen so much degradation, when we have failed to appreciate even the most simple things for their deeper and not necessarily commercial value. Below is the Canticle sung by Andrea Bocelli in Italian.

  

This is probably more familiar in the popular form taught to us in school. The video below is from the film "Brother Sun, Sister Moon" that was shown to us back when we were in grade school. The clip features Sts. Francis and Clare of Assisi discovering God in their own way and proclaiming this through the Canticle.



I am thankful that these prayers or reflections are now available through YouTube. The media should be among the instruments for sharing such material for generations to come who might no longer have the time to meditate about what's happening around us and to us in this electronic age.
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Sunday, October 30, 2011

Expression of love and praise

"Hi Ferdi, nice to see you again kanina. Your homily was great and seems to have answered a question running in my mind since last Sunday. The wife and I were hearing Mass at a church in Singapore and prior to the Mass during hymn practice, the choirmaster warned people against raising their hands while singing the "Our Father." He said it was wrong and that the Church didn't teach that. Parang napahiya naman kaming mga Pilipino. Well, I didn't know exactly where that came from considering the choirmaster was supposed to have been knighted by the Pope. We were thinking that it was a sad view considering people raising their hands or holding hands together during the singing of The Lord's Prayer included not only Filipinos but Singaporeans, other Asians, and Caucasians. Kanina, I was reflecting on what you said and I think we should be thinking not of how others see us, how we look to others but rather how God will see us for what is truly in our hearts. I'd like to think our practice of raising our hands or putting them together with the hands of family, friends or strangers is our own expression of worship, of thanksgiving and praising God.
God bless Ferdi!"

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Maundy Thursday

The Merriam-Webster online dictionary has an entry for Maundy Thursday. Its origins are traced to the Middle English maunde ceremony of washing the feet of the poor on the Thursday before Good Friday. The word "maundy" is supposedly taken from the Anglo-French mandet, from the Latin mandatum command.

The Mass celebrating the Last Supper and the washing of the feet of the Apostles is held on Maundy Thursday. My memories of these Masses are mostly of those in Cabatuan, Iloilo, the hometown of my father, which I also consider my own hometown. It is usually a High Mass and in the province I appreciate that it is celebrated in a grand but still solemn fashion. A former mayor friend of my father's used to refer to these Masses as "misang Batman," a humorous allusion to the comic book superhero for the cape used by the parish priest during the Mass.

I have good memories of many parts of the Mass being sung by the celebrant (back in the 80's and the 90's, that was Rev. Fr. Amado Escanan) who had an excellent baritone. The choir was also usually good but I remember a couple of soloists who had operatic voices (and clearly showed they had professional training to hone their talents), whom I was told were music teachers or professors from one of the older families of the town. One can really feel the essence of the Mass when it is sung and sung well. And I get it from the comments of the churchgoers that they too are appreciative of the efforts of the Parish Priest, the choir and the musicians to make this and other Masses a wonderful experience of faith.

The Mass in Cabatuan usually started from 5:00 PM and ended around 7:00 PM depending on the length of the sermon, the ceremony of the washing of the feet, and the rites and procession for the Holy Sacrament after the Mass. The sermon may drag on depending on the message the priest would want to impart on the parishioners. There was one Maundy Thursday during an election period when the priest delivered a scathing sermon over 30 minutes (it felt even longer than that) admonishing politicians and candidates about their shortcomings and controversies they were involved in, and reminding everyone about responsibilities in the context of the season and mentioning the ceremony of the washing of the feet. There were even ceremonies of the washing when those whose feet were washed were not only those of the "Apostoles" but included candidates for local elections.

I usually went with my Nanay Nene (Enriqueta Regidor), an elder sister of my father, and Manang Maya (Rebecca Brey) to the Mass and we usually entered the church by the side entrance near the altar. From there, we had a good vantage of the altar and the choir during the Mass and I can remember the strong smell of incense used throughout various stages of the celebration. This scent is embedded in my memory and I associate it with the High Masses in Cabatuan.

After the Mass and the procession for the Holy Sacrament, we always walked back together with other relatives and friends (neighbors) to our house along Serrano Street. Passing through the plaza and other streets before reaching home, we see the preparations for Good Friday activities including the many still unfinished chapels for the stations of the cross that were set up at the intersections of streets surrounding the plaza. These chapels will be competing the following day when they will be all lighted up and choirs singing the pabasa beside them. It is a recent tradition (from the late 1980's) that has become an attraction not just for those who resided in Cabatuan but also from neighboring towns and even tourists from abroad.

Once back at home, we usually shared a simple dinner and exchange stories well until late at night. Eventually, we go to our respective rooms to get some sleep in preparation for waking up early the following day for activities for Good Friday.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Miracle?

It seems so appropriate that I'd be writing about an experience from almost 12 years ago on the eve of my birthday. It was October 1999 and I had just met the love of my life in late September. I had just returned from a three-year study leave in Yokohama, Japan where I was successful in earning my doctorate. It was a fresh start for me considering there was a lot of things going for me including a pending promotion from the University were I worked. I remember I still had some free time as I arrived towards the end of the first semester and a 2-week break was coming up before I resumed work in the second semester of the same academic year.

The wiring in my brain told me to spend the time wisely and among others that I wanted to do at the time was to visit my high school and particularly have some time at the church of St. Francis of Assisi. I only went to two churches for some quiet time, brief personal retreats I call it. One is the U.P. Chapel and the other was St. Francis. I was quite familiar with the schedule at St. Francis since I attended Grade School and High School at Lourdes Mandaluyong. I was also quite comfortable with the atmosphere since I practically grew up in that area and have so many fond memories associated with St. Francis including milestones like graduations, first communion and Sunday masses with family even when we already lived in Cainta at the time. Well, at the time (1970's to 1980') it was actually no hassle to come to the area since there were few buildings, and there were no malls that now attracted so much traffic. In short, the Ortigas area was still a pleasant area, traffic-wise.

I don't really remember what I was thinking when I went to St. Francis but it was the first time in more than 3 years since I left for Japan. It was always nice to reconnect with places I called haunts and maybe chance upon some old faces including teachers and priests I knew and who knew me. I do remember that as I sat quietly in what was practically an empty church (it was a weekday), the confessional box caught my attention. I believe it was a morning there might have been a few other people there considering Mass was celebrated in the chapel located at a room at the corner of the Church. A light was on indicating there was a priest who administered the sacrament of Penance. The idea of receiving the sacrament suddenly came to my mind, my last confession being prior to Easter that year at Sacred Heart in Yamate. It was also a good idea, I thought at the time, as I wanted to start with a clean slate and that included cleansing myself spiritually through the holy sacrament.

I waited for my turn and was quite anxious not knowing who the priest was. I knew many of the Capuchins at St. Francis as the Rector, Vice Rector and other administrators of Lourdes were also my teachers. The Rector during my grade school and high school days was the same person who celebrated Mass during my wedding. There were also Spanish and Italian priests at St. Francis including one Spaniard who was managed the school's finances for a long time. In fact, I was baptized at St. Francis by its Spanish parish priest in 1972. So it is easy to understand my affinity to St. Francis and why it felt so comfortable for me to return from time to time even for short breathers.

After some minutes of anxious waiting it was finally my turn and I entered the box. I caught a glimpse of the priest on the other side thanks to the holes that allowed for our words to pass through the cubicles. My training at Lourdes kicked in and I remember greeting the priest and automatically reciting the introductory statements prior to pouring my heart out and trying to relieve myself of sins including those I typically consider as petty that they didn't need to be stated every time. I didn't expect the response of the priest on the other side. I only remember now that I received what others may refer to as a tongue-lashing. The priest admonished me and interrogated me about my faith and what I wanted to do with my life. In the process, I thought I felt being exorcised and I poured more of myself in that confessional than in any other time I remember. I ended up crying, perhaps weeping as the priest continued to bombard me with challenges and reminding me how Christ sacrificed himself for the salvation of my soul. In the end, his voice shifted from its angry tone to a more soothing one, reminding me of my responsibilities and how I should live my life from then. In the end, he told me that God had forgiven my sins and that my tears have shown my sincerity for reconciliation. I received my penance though unlike the usual confessions, the priest blessed me but did not tell me to recite any specific prayer or the number of times these should be recited.

I left the confessional feeling fresh and I have not felt that way for a long while. Perhaps that was the feeling of a thorough cleansing that I experienced after receiving the sacrament of reconciliation. Perhaps this was the aftermath of the manner I received the sacrament from a priest I didn't know but who had a heavy accent that I thought was either Italian or Spanish. He sounded like one of the foreign priests assigned to St. Francis but I knew he was not the school treasurer. I caught a glimpse of his long white beard when a ray of light happened to hit us while inside the confessional.

I remember afterwards that I decided to visit the parish office, curious about the identity of the priest. I was told that there were no Spanish or Italian priests at the church at the time and that the school treasurer was away in Spain. This came as a surprise to me and I didn't know what to think or to believe as I knew there was someone there who had a foreign accent and who had just administered reconciliation to me. On my way out, I saw in the corner of the parking lot a statue. It was a bronze representation of a man, a Capuchin priest who is best known as Padre Pio. Padre Pio is well known for the gift of stigmata, the wounds of Christ as He was crucified. His image fit the person who was in the confessional with me. Later, I read about his style of giving confession and came to believe that I had experienced a miracle, a blessing to have received the sacrament from what could have been the person who was to be canonized a few years later.

Such is my experience that made my faith stronger despite all the challenges or obstacles that I have come across since that confession. It is part of the foundation of my belief that indeed there is a God and that He has His ways of connecting to us including sending His servants to remind us of our responsibilities and prepare us for what is to come. Prepare me He did through that priest and to this day I am grateful for that wonderful experience and pray always that I may be true to what the priest had told me that fateful morning. I guess we should always open ourselves to receive such graces from God and that we should be so because we cannot tell when or where we are to receive His graces. One thing we should remember is to be humble so that we can readily surrender to His will and He is sure to take our burdens away just as when He sacrificed His own Son for our salvation.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Signing on

I have made it a habit to tune in to one radio station as I drove from home to the university every weekday morning. As I regularly left for the office before 6:00 A.M., I discovered that if I started early enough, I would catch the station signing on. The sequence for this begins even before the 5:45 A.M. formality as the station warms up with easy listening music that I think is quite appropriate for one starting out the day. At 5:45 A.M. the station plays the Philippine national anthem, and followed by the mandatory identification of licensed personnel (ECEs and radio operators) and the broadcasting power and location of the station. It is a fitting introduction that I imagine myself to be somewhat like the station when I do my own "signing on" ceremony.

When I sign on in the mornings, I make it a point to start with a prayer - a panata of sorts since my days in Yokohama. The Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi is a most suitable prayer to start the day and I do recommend it to anyone who would want to start the day with a simple yet powerful reflection on what one needs rather than wants to accomplish. I believe the prayer is a very personal guide on how I should live my life everyday if I were to follow God's will. I just hope I could carry on and live the essence of the prayer despite all the temptations to do otherwise. For when I sign off for the day, I am also reminded of a song taught to us in grade school where we ask ourselves in the "evening of our lives" if we were brave, and strong, and true, and if we were able to fill the world with love during our lifetime.

Monday, February 14, 2011

No greetings day

The Clairvoyant and I have an agreement to not exchange greetings on this day of hearts. To some it may come as an unusual practice but it is one that we opt not to expound on. It is a mutual agreement that we observe even now when we are physically apart but still one in essence. There are, of course, challenges but as a saying goes, "love overcomes all."

We celebrate our love everyday and manifest this in the simplest and most inconspicuous ways. When before there was IRC and ICQ, now we have Google, Skype and BlackBerry Messenger. And I have scheduled and secured my trips to Singapore until middle of this year, thanks to the generous promos of Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific. Such conveniences weren't possible in the early part of our relationship when airfares were prohibitively high and telecommunications were limited to long distance calls. There were promos then but these were not as substantial as the ones in these days of cut-throat airline competitions and the advent of high speed internet services. Our acquisition of high speed services in both our homes made life more comfortable. We are no stranger to the requirements of long distance relationships and ours is an enduring one, with very firm foundations.

Indeed it is difficult set-up that we have at present and there are probably more challenging times ahead. But I like the message in the lyrics of one popular tune, "love will keep us alive." It is mush at its best and will sound corny for a couple of professionals but we can attest to the truth in those lyrics and have lived our lives with love at its foundation. I believe that our faith in God translates to our faith in each other and it is His love that binds us no matter where we are. This is my firm belief as certain circumstances, of which I shall relate soon in another post, have led me to her. It is a mystery at best but a mystery that despite being difficult to explain, actually brings clarity to how we define love and faith.

My only greeting to the Clairvoyant today is a virtual hug and a virtual kiss. She knows their meaning. I know their meaning. They are enough for a day when we do not greet as everyone else does on this day of hearts. Enough until virtual becomes reality - later at the end of the month.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Change - again

They say the only thing constant in this world is change. I agree with this concept and have accepted a lot about change that has affected the way I live including changes in people and the environment around me. One thing I can say about change that is also similar to what others have found about it is that it is unpredictable in the way it affects us.

Take for example the change in government after the elections last year. After 9 years of working with officials of the previous government and getting familiar with their work styles and tendencies, we now start from scratch with many new officials. Often, we have to replay efforts undertaken in order to get on the good side of these officials and perhaps influence the way they make decisions if only to propagate our advocacies. Never mind if there are those who believe they are entitled to their positions and assume they know better. Never mind if some happen to be recycled and do not have new ideas to also help bring about change that is good to a sector that reflects a country's situation.

Take also the example of persons having children. Indeed having a baby and raising a child is a tremendous game changer. A mother's life is forever influenced by her child starting from when she bears the child in her womb until probably when she passes away, assuming she does before her child. Life would be too unkind if parents or a parent would have to bury his/her own child like what has been experienced in places where there is unrest or chaos.

Parents' lives will have to revolve around their child and yet there is tremendous joy that is derived from this. A child's laughter alone, I can imagine, brings so much happiness in the hearts of parents. And I have seen this and shared in this if only with my niece and nephew. And perhaps I also long for this feeling if only it can be realized and soon. But that, of course, is another story.

We are mostly uncomfortable when people around us change. We are usually forced out of our comfort zones and try to bring order by playing the control game. Often, the struggle for control is manifested in a power trip. Other times, we just tend to shut down people and block communication lines. And this is a sad thing when communications are impeded or cut altogether. It is when people stop talking to each other and friends opening up to share what is inside them and what concerns them when stress enters such relationships and as the Filipino saying goes "nagkakalamat ang pagkakaibigan."

We are all guilty of observing change around us and interpreting such change in a way that is relative to ourselves. We think that the change in other people affect us as if we ourselves do not change and affect other people. That flawed assumption that others change but we don't also brings about the struggle for control and a tendency to attempt to impose our own will and standards on others. And this is a sign that we have not accepted change and that we have not opened ourselves to such changes so as to transform what seems to be negative into something that is positive. This is a challenge that will continue as we live and interact with other people, and hopefully we do learn to embrace change, adjust and open ourselves to its positive outcomes rather than dwell on its disadvantages.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

First day of the year

It was quite appropriate for the priest to mention in his sermon last night that we should be happy on this new year because we are starting from scratch. When we look back at the year that was, we always try to analyze what we did and what we should have done given certain situations. In certain cases, we regret our actions and the magnitude of this regret extends so much so that we feel a sense sadness over it.

The new year is a gift from God and allows us to start anew. We should be happy because it is in a sense (and for the newer generations) an opportunity to reboot and perhaps proceed by using the wisdom and knowledge from the experiences of the past years to improve our lot and perhaps make amends where it is necessary. The new year is also an opportunity for reflection and making a commitment to follow the Truth, the Way and the Life rather than creating our own truths (which may actually be lies disguised as truths as we want it to be), charting our own paths (without a guide to keep us from wandering dangerously) and living recklessly without regard and respect for our fellowmen.

The potential good of this young year will surely be ours if we choose to live by a principle guided by the Light provide to us by the Almighty. And we should do our darn best in keeping this light alive in ourselves, in our hearts so as to prevent ourselves into plunging into the darkness and, borrowing from DC comics, the "blackest night."