Monday, May 10, 2010

The One Little Thing I Did for My Country

Dear God, thank you that I am a Filipino. Thank you that I can show my respect and love for my country with this privilege and right to vote. Thank you because whatever happens today, everything is under your sovereignty. Amen.

I whispered this prayer as I climbed the stairs to the third floor to find my precinct and cast my vote. I was still undecided as who to vote, though one presidential candidate’s name rang over and over in my head. Nothing was certain except the fact that only God holds the future. I knew then how crucial it was to trust that God will see the whole Filipino nation through this electoral process.

It has been a long journey to this day. There was much fear especially when the precinct count optical scanner (PCOS) machines started failing one after another during trials. Many predicted doom while others remained optimistic. Many feared the worst while many also hoped for the best. Many were apathetic while others remained passionate about their candidate of choice. Colors were all over the place. I think after this election, at least for a few years, yellow, green, blue, orange and red would always have their political connotation.

Regardless of what color we took to the polls, I believe that when all is said and done, the next best thing to do is to be true Filipinos. This means after we have fulfilled our duty to elect our leaders, we need to put our allegiance to our country. When the winners are proclaimed, losers should humbly accept it. When the new president, vice president, senators and local officials have been given their seat of leadership, we should “give to Caesar what is due him.” When the new government rolls, we should go with it regardless of who is in command. But above all, we should safeguard the legacy of those who have gone before us so that we may have something to bequeath to those coming after us: the legacy of a people with dignity, hope, courage, history, culture, faith. Our submission to the authorities does not mean turning a blind eye to unscrupulous individuals who use their government positions to amass wealth at the expense of millions who are starving. Our allegiance to our country means caring for one another for we are all Filipinos under one flag. At the end of the day, our loyalty should be to each other because we belong to one land. And this land gave us our lives, our identity, our heritage. No matter what others say, the Philippines is still our home. No matter how badly the Philippines has been criticized or the Filipinos have been maligned, we are still a nation ruled by our own countrymen. No matter how far away we settle, the Philippines is still our point of origin and our Filipino hearts will always yearn to go back. No matter how good it is to live in another country, it is only in the Philippines where we will be our selves. As Prof. Winnie Monsod said, “I don't care where you are, you go to Hong Kong, you go to Singapore, you're rich, rich, rich, you're still gonna be a second-class citizen anywhere. ANYWHERE, but in the Philippines. Think of what you can do for this country.”

I am married to a foreigner, not because of economic reasons but by matter of faith. When it comes to issues of where to establish our home, without a doubt, I would always say the Philippines is my first choice. It scares me to think of the day when my husband would say, “It’s time to move.” I feel my insides turning into a knot at the thought of surrendering my passport to become a citizen of another nation. I always held the conviction that God did not make me a Filipino for nothing. I am in the Philippines and will not leave it if only to escape the difficulties that plague it. I am a Filipino because I have a purpose to fulfill as a Filipino no matter how big or small it is. After all, there is nothing insignificant in the eyes of the Creator of the universe, who also happens to be the Creator of this land and its people. For now, casting my vote was my one little contribution to my country. I’m glad my right forefinger is stained.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Quiet Times in Noisy Places

When I was a new wife and mother, I often got frustrated at my inability to carve out time for personal meditations everyday. Worst, my heart weighed heavy with guilt the whole day whenever I fail to do this Christian duty. Ashamed of what I deemed to be my lack of spiritual vibrance, I approached a mentor. Expecting a sermon, I was surprised when she said, “Grace, you just have to learn to practice God’s presence.” That came to me as a profound statement at that time. Though I did not fully understand what she meant, I was content to bring home that piece of advice. But I constantly asked myself, “How do I practice God’s presence?”

Three years after that conversation, I find myself holding on to that spiritual maxim. Now, that I am in the mission field and still very much a wife and a mother, “practicing God’s presence” is what keeps me spiritually strong and fresh.

I must admit that my personality requires that I print out my detailed weekly schedule and post it on the wall near my study table. But the reality and the context where I am in just don’t allow me to follow it to the letter. There’s really no way to predict my day. We can never tell when the community would call for help. For instance, one Sunday my husband, Mang, and I agreed to set aside the whole day for our family. We were excited to attend a church in Davao for the first time. We’ve heard good reports about this church and since we’ve not found one where we can regularly attend since we arrived, we thought we just might finally find a home church away from home. After an inspiring worship and singing time, we were all set to listen to hear God’s message preached. That was until Mang’s mobile phone vibrated, indicating a message just came in.

“Sorry, I’ve got to go,” he whispered to my ear. Sensing my bewilderment, he further explained. “The waves in Bucana have suddenly gotten big. Our community center is flooded. I’ve got to go and help the guys out.”

Without hesitation, I got up and took our son, Lian Ed, from the toddlers’ room. We immediately went home. Mang hurriedly changed his Sunday clothes into jeans shorts and faded T-shirt, kissed us goodbye, hopped on his motorbike and sped away. He and other members of the team with some people from the community did “patch-up” carpentry and cement work at the center until the end of the day. As I stayed at home, cared for our son and prepared supper, I simply whispered prayer after prayer for them.

I’m used to having my quiet time in the morning. Now, I can’t say which time of the day I can have it. The most conducive time would be when Lian Ed has finally taken a nap. That would mean just a little over an hour.

I used to have a pattern, too. I pray for guidance. I read the Bible. I read a devotional book. I pray in relation to what I’ve read. Then, I write in my journal whatever insights I gleaned from my time with God. Now, with the very little time I have, I hardly have time to jot down my thoughts. Don’t get me wrong, I still read my Bible and occasionally, inspirational books but I have to say that I read with a different pair of eyes now. My eyes have been opened to the reality of the brevity of time and the pains of life. I now see a different facet of who God is in the life of urban poor Muslims, the homeless, the prostitutes, the gays and the street children and youth.

In some ways, I think I’ve learned what it means to practice God’s presence. It is being conscious of Emmanuel—God with us. Whether I’m locked up in my room in deep meditation or walking in the sandy alleys of Bucana or sitting with the transient residents of Osmena Park, God is with me. And if He is with me then I can commune with Him anytime and anywhere. After all, the purpose of my cherished spiritual disciplines like devotions and Sunday worship is to know God and hear from Him. Often, I “read” His Word through the lives of my teammates who live out Christ’s teachings on humility, unconditional love and selfless service. I participate in what the Prophet Isaiah calls true fasting and praying—feeding the poor and caring for the widows and orphans. I actually learn to walk in the steps of Jesus as our team does what He said, “Feed the hungry. Clothe the naked. Love your enemies.”

At the end of each day, I look back and see what it means to practice God’s presence. Though unconventional in light of my evangelical upbringing, this way of communing with God works for me in this unconventional context of serving Muslims and outcasts.

(Written in Davao City in 2006)

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Sinong Iboboto Mo?

Sharing with my readers this article (written in Filipino) by Dr. Melba P. Maggay. It's something that really made me think about this coming elections:

Sinong Iboboto Mo?

Ni Melba Padilla Maggay, PhD

Sa halalang ito, nakita natin ang paglitaw ng dalawang kandidato na kumakatawan sa dalawang isyu na ayon sa mga survey ay pinakamahalaga para sa mga botante: ang corruption at ang kahirapan.

Si Noynoy Aquino ay nangunguna sapagkat pumukaw ng pag-asa na mabibigyan ng lunas ang mga katiwalian sa pamahalaan. Ang kanyang pangako: “Hindi ako magnanakaw.” Si Manny Villar ay nanguna rin sa mga unang survey dahil sa pangakong tatapusin niya ang kahirapan. Kung nagawa niya na umahon sa hirap para sa kanyang sarili, magagawa rin daw niya ito para sa buong bansa.

Gayun na lamang ang tindi ng korapsyon at kahirapan na naging pangunahing konsiderasyon ang mga ito sa pagpili ng napupusuang kandidato. May mga nagsasabi na kahit may ibang kandidato na higit ang kakayahan kay Noynoy, mas pipiliin pa rin nila ito bilang paniniguro na hindi mauulit ang garapal na pagnanakaw sa gobyerno. Gayun din, marami ang nahihikayat na bumoto kay Villar sa pag-asang aangat ang mahihirap kapag siya na ang nakaupo. Ngayon na si Villar ay bumababa ang ratings, mukhang ang sumasalo sa mga botong ito ay si Erap, na matagal na ring nagsasabi na siya ay ‘para sa mahirap.’

Dahil sa dalawang krisis na ito ng ating panahon, may mga kandidato na kahit lamang sa talino o may kakayahang mamuno, ay hindi umaangat sa surveys. Nariyan si Gibo Teodoro, o kaya’y si Dick Gordon, na kung tutuusin ay siyang may pinakamahabang karanasan sa pamamahala at may maganda namang track record na masasabi.

Si Jamby Madrigal, si Nicky Perlas, si JC de los Reyes at si Brother Eddie Villanueva ay pawang may mga kakayahan din at matibay na paninindigan. Subalit bakit mukhang malayo silang manalo?

Sa ganang amin, hindi lamang kagagawan ito ng mga surveys. May mga tinatawag na plausibility structures, o mga istruktura at mga puwersa sa ating lipunan na nagsisilbing konteksto upang mangyari ang isang bagay. May pangalan si Noynoy, halimbawa, may angkan na bantog sa ating kasaysayan. May pera naman si Villar upang mapalaganap ang mensahe na maaring mangarap ang mahirap. Nariyan din ang ating kalagayang panlipunan at kultura, na hindi naaakit sa mga usapang malayo sa sikmura, ika nga. Yung ginigiit natin na bigyang pansin ang plataporma at hindi lamang personality ay hindi naririnig sapagka’t sadyang mas interesado tayo sa tao at nabo-bore sa mga abstract at hindi mahawakan na mga usapin.

Sa madaling salita, may mga puwersa na kailangan upang mangyari ang isang bagay at magawa ang ating mga pinapangarap. Ang mga pagbabago ay nakasalalay, hindi lamang sa mga tao, kundi sa mga puwersang nakapaligid at may malaking impluwensiya sa paghubog ng anumang gobyernong uupo.

Kaya’t sa halalang ito, matamang isipin, hindi lamang ang pansariling katangian ng mga kandidato, kundi ang mga bagay na maaring magbigay ng puwersa o maging hadlang sa kanilang mga pinapangako.

Sino o ano, halimbawa, ang mga puwersang nakapaligid kay Gibo? Ano ang maaaring mangyari kapag mailuklok ang manok ng kasalukuyang administrasyon? May kakayahan ba si Gibong manindigan para sa katarungan kahit hindi ito ayon sa kagustuhan ng kanyang padrino? Maaari ding itanong, bakit umanib siya sa partido ng isang administrayong lublob sa korapsyon? Ano ang ipinahihiwatig nito tungkol sa kanyang prinsipyo at pagde-desisyon?

Sakaling si Erap ay mahahalal, ano ang sinasabi nito tungkol sa antas ng ating pagpapahalaga sa kalinisan ng ating pamahalaan? Ano ang magiging papel ng mga cronies niya na nagsilbing midnight cabinet noon at kasa-kasama niya sa mga eskandalong nagpabagsak sa kaniya? Ano ang mga bagahe na dala-dala niya, ano ang mga puwersa na magtutulak sa kanya dahil sa dami ng kanyang mga anak at asawa na kailangang tustusan?

Gayun din, kaya ba ni Noynoy na sumalungat sa sari-saring interes ng mga nakapaligid sa kanya? May kakayahan ba siyang mamuno at manaig sa mga puwersang sa ngayo’y tumutulong sa kanya?

Ayon sa pananaliksik, lumago nang 29 times ang mga negosyo ni Villar simula nang siya’y maupo sa puwesto. Ano ang maaaring mangyari kung siya na ang pangulo ?

Maliwanag na tayo’y naghahangad ng lunas sa korapsyon at paghihirap. Sino sa mga kandidato ang tunay na may kakayahang manindigan laban sa katiwalian at isulong ang kaunlaran ?

Sa Lunes, gagawa tayo ng isang makasaysayang desisyon. Ang ating kapalaran sa mga susunod na taon ay nauukit, hindi sa ating mga palad, kundi sa ating mga puso at isipan na nagpapasiya kung ano ang tawag ng ating panahon. Ang atin bang pagboto ay ayon sa matuwid at makatarungang landas na hangad ng ating Panginoon ?

Lingid man sa atin, ang kalooban ng ating Panginoon ay nagaganap dito sa lupa sa pamamagitan ng kanyang mga anak na nagpapasiya at tumatalima ayon sa kanilang pakikinig sa yabag ng Banal na Espirito sa ating kasaysayan.

Ito po si Melba Padilla Maggay ng Institute for Studies in Asian Church and Culture, naghahatid ng mga pananaw na Sa Ganang Amin ay tugon sa ating panahon.


Si Melba Padilla Maggay ay President ng Institute for Studies in
Asian Church and Culture (ISACC).


Sa Ganang Amin ay isang bahagi ng Tawag ng Karunungan, programang pang-radyo para sa 'voter education' at mabuting pamamahala (good governance). Mapapakinggan ito Lunes hanggang Sabado 8:00-9:00 n.u. sa radyo, ipihit lang sa 702 DZAS-AM, o sa internet, i-kilk lang ang Listen Live 702 DZAS sa

Contemplating on Who to Vote

Today has been interesting. I started off with a good breakfast with my kids. Afterwards we headed for the TV room (where there is also an exercise mat originally intended to be the children’s play area) so I could do a 25-minute dance exercise routine following the Jaclyn Smith Beauty and Balance video. I wasn’t even fully warmed up yet when the phone rang and it was for me. It was 8 in the morning and a friend was talking to me about the current events (I was out of town for two and a half weeks). Furthermore, he was convincing me to vote for a certain candidate as this person was the supposed “conscience vote” of the thinking Filipino. While my friend’s rationale for promoting the cause of his chosen candidate was quite convincing, the irony of the whole thing to me was that my friend was not even a registered voter! He had long decided to forego his voting rights because he no longer believes in the system…that is the Philippine government. In fact he is one of those who are among thousands of Filipinos who are considering migration to a “first world country” as a better and more practical option for his family. This conversation set me off to a whole day of contemplation: Who is really a thinking Filipino? Who is the Filipino who loves this country? Who is voting according to conscience? Who is voting out of mere obligation? Who is voting out of ignorance or bandwagon mentality? I did not arrive at any answers but I really thought hard about who should be my presidential bet on May 10. This day ended for me with reading a few more articles on why I should vote and not vote for certain people. In the end, I found the article of Dr. Melba P. Maggay most enlightening (I’m copying that article onto this blog spot, too). My conclusion is Ako ay mananalangin at boboto sa Mayo 10. Ang hindi boboto walang karapatang magreklamo!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Hearts Burning

Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us? We reflected on this question as we read the incidents that followed Jesus’ resurrection found in the 24th chapter of Luke. Reading the Scriptures at our breakfast table on Resurrection Sunday meant looking back at the greatest miracle and greatest proof of the authenticity of our faith. It was an edifying and comforting experience.

Days before Jesus was taken up to heaven, He made sure that His followers fully understood His Word and His work. “Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures” (Luke 24:45). Until the end of his earthly ministry, Jesus made careful steps to reveal His self and communicate His message. As a result, his disciples acknowledged that “their hearts burned while He was with them” (Luke 24:32), “they worshiped Him” (Luke 24:52), “they returned…with great joy” (Luke 24:52), and “they stayed continually at the temple, praising God” (Luke 24:53).

Indeed, it is only when Jesus opens our minds (cognitive), hearts (affective) and bodies (kinesthetic) to His truths and His self that we can fully understand His character and will. Only then can we fully appreciate His suffering and death. Only then can we fully experience the power of His rising from the dead. Only then, can we return to our spheres of influence with a joyful heart and an attitude of praise.

Our prayer is for Jesus to open the inner sanctum of our beings to His self and His Word. May the Scriptures come alive in us that we may see its relevance even in the trivialities of life. May His presence become real that it is concretized in our daily dealings. May His Words permeate our hearts, burning it with passion to live out the essence of the cross and the empty tomb.