Monday, February 26, 2007

Why I am staying in the Philippines (2)

I received this response from Mr. Keh. Thought I'd post his new open letter-slash-invitation for all Filipinos all over the world to help make the Philippines a really better place top live in. Admittedly, we who remain in the country cannot do it alone.

Gawad Kalinga is one way of channeling all our efforts into one cohesive force. But there are similar ideas from kindred spirits. Regardless of the organization we choose to work with, the fact remains- All hands on deck. The country needs all of us.

Patience is a virtue; read on-

--==+==--

Dear Fellow Filipinos,

Greetings of peace!

Last week I wrote an open letter to all Filipinos expressing my views about the upcoming May 2007 elections (for those who failed to read it, its posted at
http://filipinochangemaker.blogspot.com/ ) and the response has been very overwhelming to say the least. Maraming maraming Salamat to all those who emailed me personally and forwarded my email to many more Filipinos all over the world . I am very sorry that I cannot email each one of you personally thus, I have devided to write an open letter to all of you especially to all overseas Filipinos.

Many of those who emailed me were overseas Filipinos some of whom have migrated and decided to live abroad while many more are those currently working on foreign soil. An observation that they gave was the reason why the Philippines has never progressed through the years is because of two main reasons: Poor Quality of Education and Lack of Good Filipino Leaders. I couldn't agree more with these observations but then again the question persists on what shall we do about it or rather what can we do about this growing problems in our society? For those who continually ask these questions especially to Filipinos who now live and/or work overseas, allow me to share with you a possible answer that I have thought of...

Last 2006, the remittances of Filipinos living and working abroad reached more than US$ 10 Billion, this stagerring amount was the main reason why despite the fact that our government has time and again been tagged as one of the more corrupt and least transparent ones in the world, our economy has remained afloat and thankfully, peace and order has been maintained. Now, what if just 1% of this amount (US $ 100 Million = 5 Billion Pesos) was invested by Overseas Filipinos on helping poor college students go to college or building public school libraries so that our Filipino children can learn how to read... here is what would happen:

a.) 100,000 Poor but Deserving Filipino Students would be able to Finish College and hopefully have a better future for them and their families.

b.) 50,000 Public School Libraries would be built. Virtually every Public elementary Schools would have adequate Public School Libraries, helping more than 9 million Filipino students from every nook and corner of the Philippines learn how to read.

Wow! This is how powerful the Overseas Filipinos are, if every Filipino living or working abroad would just commit to making a Social Investment in our country, the results will not be additional money in the bank for you but an even greater return... A Much Better Philippines for you and your children! So that one day the next generation of Filipinos will no longer need to leave our country and their families to seek greener pastures and a better life. More importantly, we can show the world that genuine People Power still exists in our country not in the form of toppling our government but rather in building a nation ravaged by weak leadership and self-serving interests.

And How much does it cost to invest in our country's future? Not much in fact....

a.) US $ 60 can help send a Filipino Youth Leader to a Youth Leadership and Social Entrepreneurship Training Seminar to help develop better leaders for country. Who knows the youth leader you invest in may be the next Mayor, Governor, Senator or even President of our country....(Visit
www.ashoka.org or www.changemakers.org to learn more about Social Entrepreneurship)

b.) US$ 100 can help buy a complete set of reference materials for a Public Elementary School Library for more than 2,000 students to read. (Visit
ahonfoundation.blogspot.com to learn more about building public school libraries)

c.) US $ 200 can help send a student to college for one year (Visit
www.pathwaysphilippines.org or www.iskolar.org to learn more about sending Poor but Deserving Filipino Students to College and giving them a brighter future)

Thus, this is my response to those who ask me what we can do to help our country and to those who ask me to stay so that I may continue to give Hope to our nation. I ask you now to give me and many more Filipinos a reason to stay by investing in our nation. The problems of our country will not go away overnight but we need to start somewhere and it is only in working together that we can help make this country great again. And I know that all of you still believe that we can make this happen! For as long as there are many more Filipinos who are willing to take a risk and invest in our country's future then indeed there is still much HOPE left in the Philippines! :)

Again, thank you very much for your time in reading this email.

May you have a pleasant day and God Bless the Philippines! :)


Sincerely,
Harvey Keh


--==+==--

So why am I staying? Because I know the best Philippines is so close I can almost taste it.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Why I am staying in the Philippines (1)

I received this email with an attached forwarded message a couple of days ago. It's subject read: What will make me leave the Philippines ... An Open Letter to Every Filipino so I opened it ahead of everything else. The contents were compelling enough for me to write a response soon after I read it.

I'm posting the letter of Mr. Harvey Keh and then my response to his letter.

Dear Fellow Filipino,

Good day to all of you! Before I begin my letter... just a disclaimer, for people who know me they know that I love the Philippines very much and I am not really one who rants and complaints to high heavens about what is happening to our country and does nothing about it, in fact, I feel that at my relatively young age of 27, I have done much service to the Philippines by setting up Pathways to Higher Education which has sent more than 500 poor but deserving students to college and AHON Foundation which has already built two public elementary school libraries that have benefittedmore than 3,500 students. Yet, after seeing how events in our nation havetranspired the past few weeks and talking with some friends, I feel the urge to share with you my own thoughts and feelings.

Over the weekend, we saw the completion of two major political alliances for this coming Senate Elections that has just began here in thePhilippines . Now we have two political forces with familiar faces nonetheless on opposite sides of the fences. On one end, you have Tito Sotto and Tessie Aquino-Oreta who were two major stalwarts of the opposition and the FPJ Campaign in 2004 hobnobbing with the woman (Pres. GMA) whom they claimed to have cheated FPJ in the last Presidential Elections. On the other side of the fence, you see Manny Villar, the former House speaker who was actually responsible for impeaching Erap now part ofthe United Opposition who is led by no less than... Erap himself. Now if you don't see anything wrong with this picture then you must be one of the many Filipinos who have accepted this very sad reality that there is indeed no permanent ideals that our government leaders stand up for but ratherthey just go where there self-interests can best be served. It is this kind of politics why I no longer wonder why good people like Ramon Magsaysay Awardee Mayor Jesse Robredo of Naga City or outstanding Bulacan Governor Josie Dela Cruz will find it hard or worse, never be elected to national positions.

It is with these in mind that I'd like to share with you what are events this coming May elections that will make me consider leaving the Philippines :

1.) If former COMELEC Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano of Hello Garci famewins in his bid to become Congressman of Bukidnon... seeking to replace a good man no less in incumbent Cong. Neric Acosta... We would really be the laughing stock of the whole world if we allow a man with the reputation of Garci to be one of our so called "Honorable Gentlemen".

2.) If Dancing Queen Tessie Aquino Oreta reclaims her seat at the Senate...I hope that all of us would still remember that dance that she did during the 2001 impeachment hearings after they voted to overrule the decision of then Chief Justice Davide... let us make sure that people like her nevermake it to the Senate again.

3.) If Richard Gomez becomes a senator... what does he know about making laws? We already have the likes of Bong Revilla and Lito Lapid in the Senate and their performance or lack of it would be reason enough not to elect another actor who has no prior experience in government to the distinguished halls of the Senate.

4.) If Gringo Honasan wins again.... have we not learned our lesson? I cannot believe that just because someone is charismatic then we will justelect him to become one of our senators despite the fact that he has time and again caused so much instability in our country... if we want a military junta similar to that of Thailand ... then lets all vote for this guy...

5.) If Manny Pacquiao becomes Congressman of General Santos City...everybody loves Manny the Boxing Champ but Manny the Lawmaker? Lets be realistic here, Manny is our Hero alright but I think it takes more than just great boxing skills and a desire to serve to be able to make appropriate laws that would help uplift the lives of the many Filipinos who live in Poverty.

6.) If Lito Lapid wins for Mayor of Makati City... I don't like Jojo Binay as well but Lito Lapid as city mayor of the country's finance and business center?!?! And do you really think he is from Makati and has good plans forthe city? The Arroyos asking someone like him to run just goes to show you how much love and concern this government has for our country.

7.) If Chavit Singson becomes a Senator, Illegal Gambling = Chavit...enough said.

Now if all of these 7 things happen during this coming elections then don'tbe surprised if I decide to leave this country that I love dearly. Like I said during the first part of my letter, I feel that I have done much forthis country but I think its time that Filipinos become more vigilant and critical in selecting our leaders for the sake of our future and the generations that will go beyond us. So I appeal to every Filipino who asks what can I actually do for my country...

Choose and vote for the right people this coming elections, huwag na tayong magpaloko sa mga kandidatong maganda lang ang jingle o gwapo lang sa mga poster. Let us choose leaders who have a good track record for service and who are genuinely committed towards serving our country. Manindigan naman tayong lahat para sa ating Kinabukasan at para sa Kapakanan ng ating Bayan!

Thank you very much for your time in reading this letter.

Sincerely,
Harvey S. Keh
Email: harveykeh@gmail. com

My response:

Dear Mr. Keh,

Thank you for converting into words very succinctly the fears and worries of many like-minded Filipinos who love their country (some of whom love the latter more than their own families and their own lives). It is true that a seemingly dire future awaits all of us should these "undesirable" candidates do get to be elected. And since we are plagued with the slooooow process of evolving into a better electorate, chances are great that what you fear will become reality.

My appeal to you, if I may be so brazen, is this: if indeed, these undesirable candidates do get elected, please stay. You have more reasons to stay than leave. If clowns who make a mockery of people's lives and interests get to seat in the arena of power, then the ordinary people at the grassroots level should all the more band together and effect the change which may be slow in coming because of them.

Staying doesn't mean we condone and turn a blind eye to the inept government we have. It is actually because of our realization that the government IS inept that we choose and we will choose to stay: imagine, young people such as yourself, doing government's work of sending people to university or building libraries in underserved areas. If we bailout, just as the holes in this seemingly sinking ship start to gape wider, it somehow negates all the good that we have done and robs us of the great opportunityto be of service to more Filipinos.

I come from a middle class family where all my siblings and both my parents have to work for us to make ends meet. I am a 27-year old physician doing work with an NGO while teaching in a medical school within a state university. I can very well choose to join the mass exodus of health professionals towards greener pastures. The honoraria I receive from both "jobs" hardly pay the bills but I choose to stay because I believe that for this country to rise from poverty and its state of broken-ness, a generation must be willing to think less of themselves, give more for others, so that there will be enough for all. I believe you and I and a whole host of other kindred spirits are willing to take up the cudgels for our country.

I join you in your crusade for a better Philippines, starting with responsible voting. But regardless of the outcome of the elections, please stay. The country needs all of us right here, right now.

God bless us all. Mabuhay ang Pilipinas!

Sincerely,

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Valentine's 2K7

Like what I always maintained, it, too, passed. Valentine’s Day that is.

Sometime among the intervening hours between my last entry and V-Day itself, I’ve come to realize that it was mighty stupid to let this highly-“consumerized” day get the better of me. As Yosemite Sam declared at the end of a long and arduous duel with Bugs Bunny- if you can’t beat them, join them.

To say that my Valentine’s Day 2K6 was wonderful is an understatement. Of course this year was a far cry from the Valentine’s Day we had in 2005, when we were on ER duty at the PGH when some casualties from the Makati City bombing came in to be taken care of. If ever you’ve caught yourself cursing the day you were born simply because of the difficult time you’ve had in removing lice from your child or niece’s head- you cannot begin to imagine how it is to remove tiny shards of glass from the head and face of a bomb blast victim. Too much pressure and you embed the shard further into their scalp and skin. If you try to fast track things by making them shake their heads like a dog and you’ll find yourself the new challenge of glass particles coming into the eyes, the nose, etc.

So how did I join the happy Valentine fracas? First, I woke up early thereby allowing me to reach UP calm, safely and not the least bit harried. I chose to wear pink, just to get into the mood of the day. While I drove over a previously hit cat along Pres. Osmena highway approximately in front of AMA-Makati, the morning drive was uneventful, so much so that I even arrived 10 minutes before my scheduled small group discussion with my students.

Speaking of students, the night prior to the 14th, a student texted me-

Sir, May I ask a favor? Can we move our 8am small group discussion to 8.30? I want to bring flowers to my girlfriend in Vito Cruz.

I had a hearty, wistful laugh upon reading that message. There were times in the not so distant past when I would have requested the same from my teacher. It made my day, for some reason. Feeling a bit un-Scrooge-like, I replied-

Go ahead, Romeo. See you at 8.30.

So at 8.30am three of the four students I was supposed to meet were already there, including our very own Romeo. The fourth student arrived not long after- with two long stem roses for his female groupmates. Nice hehe The discussions progressed, they did their homework but much improvement needs to be done. Overall, though, I’d say they contributed to that V-Day being a good one.

After a quick lunch, I headed to our Gawad Kalinga site in BASECO, Tondo. We were requested to be there at 1pm because apparently a Singaporean donor was donating something. I wasn’t really in the mood since I still had to take care of some of my backlogs which my boss will surely remind me of when he sees me there. But I went anyway, regardless of the possible berating I’d receive (and deserve anyways!).

What I thought was a simple photo-op turned out to be a major production number. The president of the Republic of Singapore was the guest of honor for the symbolic turnover of P1,000,000.00 for our nutrition program in BASECO. The donation came from Singaporean children enrolled in La Salle Brothers-ran schools in the citystate. All the diplomatic trappings aside, I was able to talk to a volunteer doctor who can work with me in my GK site in Quezon City. She’s willing to give up a clinic day just to serve our residents in Brookside, for free. She’s more excited than I was: she’s already planning the lectures she wants to give. BASECO may have gotten a million but I got my own GK site a doctor with a golden heart.

At three pm, I rushed to meet my students again, this time in the Pasay City barangay they were assigned to work with for their community medicine rotation. They were in the middle of facilitating a mini team-building activity for residents involved in the nutrition program.
I must say the students did really well, having mobilized a good number of barangay folk to join the activity at a timeslot typically spent by the latter watching Wowowee.
At the end of it all, the residents had a fun time with the students, hopefully with a clearer appreciation and understanding for teamwork which is especially needed in their fledgling nutrition program.

After the session with the students in the barangay, I rushed home to change for a Valentine’s dinner with some very good med school friends. We met in The Fort and had a blast- true to our common slogan for the day: Alone but not lonely =) I reached my parents in time to greet them as their work day began in the States, just like me seeing the first greeting of the day coming from my sister.

So went a not-so-typical Valentine’s for me. I was able to spend a part of it, no matter how fleeting, with those who do matter. Like what the character of Anthony Hopkins wished for all his guests at the party tendered for him in the last 10 minutes or so of Meet Joe Black- I wish for all of you a life as lucky as mine.

--==+==--

Two quotable quotes from Valentine’s 2K7:


It’s better to be alone but not lonely kesa maging not alone but still lonely. - Ants Cordero, MD

Hindi tayo tao, hindi tayo hayop- BAGAY tayo =) - Inquirer LIBRE

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Valentine's Day- February 14, 7007

In this day and age when relationships last no longer than a snowball fed to the microwave oven set on high, and thousands of couples kissing simultaneously for ten seconds is the most romantic some people will ever get to be, archaeologists in Italy have discovered what is being touted as the world’s most enduring image of love.

Reuters recently took us to the excavation site where two skeletons were found lying side by side, arms intertwined, as if locked in an eternal embrace. In a planet majority of whose denizens are agog in Valentine’s Day frenzy, this seemed a fitting announcement, a grander Valentine gift that a Monet or multi-carat diamond ring, eliciting a chorus of wistful sighs.

Some argue though that the remains’ posture can also be interpreted as two beings out to kill each other; without a doubt, they seem to have succeeded. Some prescribe caution when making a Romeo-and-Juliet-esque reference to the archaelogical find, pending the determination of the sex of either departed Stone Age earthling. Still others suggest the possibility that this was a parent-child or sibling-sibling burial site.

Funny how these scientific musings somehow mirror the state of love affairs nowadays.

That there are relationships which do last.

And, apparently, they run in my family.


From their formative-slash-bf/gf-years to their current state of marital bliss, my sister and brother (in law) have been together for close seven years while my parents have been officially “on” since October 1967 or for almost 40 years.
My grandparents are the real deal though- having celebrated their- gasp!- 66th wedding anniversary last November 22nd.

These three pairs- the loves of my own life- are commendable, admirable, and rarities. But they still have a long way to go before they reach the record of Liu Yang-wan from Taiwan who was married to Liu Yung-yang from 1917- until the former’s demise in 2003- for a grand total of 86 years. Just the same, they make me believe that forever is not at all impossible.


That relationships that are seemingly perfect at first glance are not exempt from internal turbulence and strife

Show me an impeccably peaceful, conflict-free relationship and I’d show you a couple that will wither and succumb faster than you can say I do. From skirmishes and upheavals we learn much about the other and our own selves- our convictions, our stance with regard to issues, the non-negotiables and the lambing-ables in our life. We become skilled at useful everyday survival tactics from dodging fights to enduring silent treatments, from making compromises to sticking to promises. We learn to temper honesty with respect while coating everything with love. We grow, we thrive, we flourish.

That relationships nowadays take on hues and configurations that break the mold

The hands clasping each other come from two separate individuals who have the same kind of chromosome pair 23s. Regardless of how we feel about them, they are here. With us, around us, close to us. We cannot deny their existence. They are human. They love. Let us let them be.

That true love, in its truest form is not exclusively felt by those in romantic relationships

Love among parents and their children. Love among siblings. Love among friends (virtual and real). At the end of the day, of practically each day of our lives, they bring about that inner warmth that vanquishes fear and gloom to the point that being-alone-but-not-lonely is a happy reality I gladly embrace realizing how much love surrounds me from my family and friends.

If in five thousand years we’d still be hugging each other as tightly as the ones in that Italian archaeological site, I can’t wait for day one of those five millennia to begin- wrinkles, beer bellies, arthritis and all.


--==+==--

Those in my immediate circle would attest to the fact that I’ve developed a distaste for Feb the 14th and I was hell-bent on spreading the fact that love is evol. That was what I set out to do when I began to write this entry. Now I’m still not a fan. But I know I have enough reason to dress up a little smarter than usual tomorrow…

Monday, February 12, 2007

Fearbruary rollercoaster

If you can endure the ranting, there is a silver lining to this gray cloud I’m clutching. Read on if you must-

--==+==--

As is wont to happen, I am waaaaaaaay behind in doing all things related to the real world (read: my jobs). I had a ton of backlogs from before I left. And now… they’re devouring me alive. And I’m stunned immobile. Read: procrastinating still.

I fear that I might get fired…

--==+==--

In a few days’ time, it will be a month already since we arrived from the States and I haven’t posted much about it. I was reserving my travel entries for a new blog I’ve started (I belong to the variety which F so lovingly called serial bloggers) but with all the work that’s still left undone… Hayayay

I fear that I will forget my experiences in the U.S. before I get to write about them…

--==+==--

I chanced upon in Yahoo! News a summary of Middle East bloggers who dared write about the goings on in their corner of the world and suffered because of it. Because of one blog’s rather catchy name, I gravitated towards it, just to have a look-see. The latest entry of A. featured an account of a blogger named M. who was sued for libel by the government because he attacked a minister on his online journal. At the end of his own journal, A. asked for opinions on how they can/shall balance freedom to write versus saving their mortal souls- their rights and responsibilities and the legalities of blogging. I chanced upon an online resource for such concerns and submitted a comment to A’s blog which included that link. But when the time came for me to enter an identity as a commenter, I didn’t write my name right away. I usually do affix my blogger identity but this time I hesitated…

...For fear that my pro-freedom of speech stance will backfire and I, too, shall suffer a similar fate as those of other bloggers in their area. I know I'm a bit too conceited to think that I'm a threat to the stability of a Middle Eastern kingdom to that point that I'd be targeted by hitmen by way of my blog and IP address. Then again- who knows? Maybe it’s just an influence of having recently seen The Constant Gardener on tv. But the fear was quite real… Enough to shut up the usually outspoken in me, to hide my blog in shameful self-censorship.

--==+==--

I won't even dive into what is due to be celebrated on Wednesday... For fear of... Nevermind.

--==+==--

One verse practically carried me through med school,

From Matthew 10:29-31

Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin? Yet none of them falls to the ground without your Father’s knowledge. Even all the hairs of your head are counted. So DO NOT BE AFRAID. You are worth more than sparrows.

Lord, just please let fear fly away from me… And draw me nearer to You.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Tiger, tiger burping bright

In one of our small groups discussions when we were medical interns in the Department of Ob-Gyn, my groupmate began the session with a seemingly unlikely Spanish proverb which elicited not a few laughs, including from our professor. We were not very prepared for this graded discussion so I guess he was trying his best to help us wing it. It didn't help that we just came straight from a 24-hour duty.

However, when he gave the English translation of what I initially thought was a fake-Spanish quotation, I was pleasantly surprised on the truth of the statement.

A baby is God's way of saying that the world should go on.

Any baby- regardless of their species.

And if the following Reuters photos of not just one but three white Bengal tiger cubs are not convincing enough, I don't know what will be.



Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Seven Years In Manila

In seven years…

…God has assembled and strengthened a community of believers in Manila who Christify their workplace and beyond.

…God created invaluable works of art- lives reborn, renewed and refreshed by His Spirit.

…We in Manila have written an endless list of blessings in our lives and the healed hurt and imperfections from our past.

…God has remained faithful- even during the times we were not.

Because of these, we have more than enough reason to be grateful, celebrate, and ask for more!

And so, we warmly invite you, brothers and sisters to

SEVEN YEARS IN MANILA:
Take us higher up, Draw us deeper still
The Ang Lingkod Ng Panginoon – Manila

7th Anniversary Celebration

on Saturday, February 17, 2006 at the Oz Audio-Visual Room, Ozanam Building, Adamson University, San Marcelino and Romualdez Streets, Manila. Registration starts at 5pm and will be followed by an anticipated mass at 6pm.

Registration fee: P180.00
Attire: Semi-formal
Inquiries/ suggestions/ comments will be gladly received and shall get response from:
Ian- spiff2005@yahoo.com or
Rona- silentseraph17@yahoo.com

Hope to see all of you there, mga kapatid! God bless us all!

Directions (Please click on the photos below to see a bigger version of each):

Along Taft Avenue and TM Kalaw, you can pass through the Adamson University gate immediately beside Masagana Superstore. Just walk along the walkway, past the main church, and exit to San Marcelino Street. As you exit the compound’s gate, you will see the stoplight with a pedestrian crossing on your left. Go to the side of the Adamson campus opposite that of the big main church. Look for the Cardinal Santos gate then just follow the directional signs from the Falcon Bridge to Ozanam Building. Limited parking slot is available in the compound surrounding the main church of Adamson.

Or

From Taft Avenue, the side moving away from Baclaran and going towards Quiapo, turn right to United Nations Avenue. Go straight, past Medical Center Manila Emergency Room (on your right) and the Western Police District headquarters (on your left), past the first intersection (UN cor San Marcelino St.) Go past the second intersection slowly– UN cor Romualdez- but make a U-turn in front of the Insurance Commission building. Then make a right turn to Romualdez. Adamson University gate is on your left, several buildings after an old Sweepstakes building sign. Parking is available inside the Adamson compound.

Or

From either direction of Ayala Boulevard (from Taft or from Mendiola/ SM Manila), turn to San Marcelino Street, alight after the stoplight with a pedestrian crossing. Go to the side of the Adamson campus opposite that of the big main church. Look for the Cardinal Santos gate then just follow the directional signs to Ozanam Building. Limited parking slot is available in the compound surrounding the main church of Adamson.

Songs in F major

My very good friend F promised me a musical compilation to be distilled from his thousand-CD collection. These words were uttered so many years ago that I grew tired of waiting and forgot about the promise altogether. Lo and behold, last Monday, a messenger delivered a package from him promptly before lunch. Since I still had students to give a lecture to, I delayed listening to the three-CD set. But, boy, were the CDs worth the wait.

The entire day F kept on bugging me- apologizing for the CDs poor quality (the tracks did skip not a few times) and the weird arrangement/ presentation of songs. I repeatedly assured him that I’m truly grateful and not the least bit pissed. After all- I have no idea who the artists were in 99% of the songs. I just happily swam through the songs, lapping everything up- quirky beats, lyrics and all.

--==+==--

In this consumerist world, brand names are king. If you’re a new kid on the supermarket aisle, in the political arena, in school or in the office, you’d hardly get noticed. Untested, unknown, probably a fluke or defective. But by virtue of a product or a person’s lineage and track record, we’re willing to accept them hook, line and sinker at a moment’s notice.

In so doing, we miss out on the joy of discovering something new again for the first time. The inability to move away from our comfort zones, the obstinacy to reject old scions of political clans whom we know are already in a steady state of deterioration, the rejection of new products and services when the ones we have gotten used to are robbing us shamelessly- these breed stagnation whose cost is incalculable.

It may seem costly to risk our hard-earned money or well fought for rights when we opt for greenhorns and newbies. But imagine how life on earth would be if the cavemen did not approach the tree set aflame by lightning or Scholastic Publishing rejected the manuscript of a divorcee mother named J.K. Rowling or corporations scoffed at the ideals of Gawad Kalinga…

--==+==--

Ships in the harbor are safe. But that’s not where ships are meant to be.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Saints and singers

I just attended the first all-men’s prayer meeting for the year of my Catholic charismatic community called Ang Lingkod Ng Panginoon. Around fifty (50) single young professionals from all over the metro converged at one of the function rooms in the parish center of Don Bosco in Makati for this very timely respite from the cares of the world set by the Lord. I tend to lose sight of His presence in my life in the daily onslaught of deadlines; tonight, it is as if my spiritual batteries have been recharged.

--==+==--
Center of the universe I am not

The activity began with Worship, a session where prayers and exhortations are interspersed with singing of praise songs. Being in the Lingkod community for almost a year now, I know many of the songs already so much so that I don’t have to look that often at the lyrics projected on the white screen. “Many” being the operative word.

During worship, I thought I knew one of the songs well enough to sing my heart out. I was- well- letting it all out, to the point that I was, well, performing and not praying anymore. For that window of time, let’s just say nag-feeling Philippine Idol ako.

The first verse and the chorus were very familiar, so I sang those parts without any difficulty. However, I did not know or forgot that the second verse is followed immediately by the third verse. So, while singing at the top of my voice, with my eyes closed, I uttered the first syllables of the chorus while everybody else sang the calmer, softer first syllables of the third verse.

Boy- did my voice stand out!

I stifled the release of the next chorus syllables from my mouth and beamed sheepishly. I opened my eyes, expecting to see giggling or curious stares towards my direction. But there was none: all the brothers’ eyes were closed, still in continuous prayer and communion with the Lord.

Lesson number 1: I am not the center of the universe. God is.

People remained deep in prayer because IT IS GOD’S TIME TO BE THE CENTER OF ATTENTION. It was so foolish of me to think that my little blunder would throw people off. In our world that is full of distractions and disruptions, it is so easy to lose sight of God. But if we fix our hearts and minds on Him and His Word, our attachment to Him will put to shame all the Mighty-Bonds and double-sided tapes and soldering in the world.

Lesson number 2: I am the center of God’s universe, regardless of my singing ability.

I remember reading Bo Sanchez’s piece regarding his awful singing which he likened to a screeching washing machine. I, too, have sat beside such a lady in the PGH chapel during med school. And with the lyrics that I fumbled with during our prayer meeting this evening, I believe I have earned the right to join their ranks: the chorale-of-the-apparent- rejects-of-the-heavenly-host.

But guess what! God, in His infinite perfection, is actually tone-deaf. Not deaf to the point that He cannot hear our pleas, prayers, and thanksgiving. Just tone-deaf. All that emanates from our mouths, when sang or spoken with great faith in and love for Him arrive at His throne of grace as the sweetest music ever.

Each of our voices He hears distinctly as if you or me, plus Himself, are the only ones in the vast universe. Like a father who gladly endures his sons senseless clanging of piano keys or the mother who beams happily while her daughter grates mercilessly her bow on her violin, God pays close attention to each one of us, deriving joy and pleasure from our feeble but spirited attempts at worship. In that zone, if we were to ask God, we’d be referred to as Dions and Bocellis and Nieveras and Salongas.

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The small, daily miracles in my life, I consider, are God’s way of singing back to me. How sweet these songs are, I cannot begin to describe…

May God’s melody fill your day today and always.

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The brothers and sisters of Lingkod – Manila meet every Friday (except the 3rd Friday of each month), 7-10pm at S.M. Lazo Building, corner of Taft and Nakpil. If you can’t seem to feel God’s rhythm in your life, maybe we can help fine tune your antenna. Just leave a message =)