Encountering the poor can be disturbing


During the First Sunday of Advent Mass this noontime, I saw the crippled old man who goes to daily Mass. It was the blessing of senior citizens after the prayer after communion when I noticed him. Since the priest asked them to go near the altar for the blessing, he also went there though he struggled in standing up and walking. He went there unassisted. It got the thinking, was he born crippled or he got a stroke? Because of the way he walks, he can be mistaken as a beggar just like I did when I first saw him. I find his identity mysterious. He dresses simply with a white shirt, shorts, and slippers, and brings along a hand bag with him every time he enters the Cathedral. He even got a proper haircut than I (blame the Nazorite challenge this November where I suspend haircut and shave this month).  He is thin and dark. His face wrinkled. I heard stories about him sometimes not being able to ride the jeepney because of the way he looks. And whenever he rides the jeep and the driver refuses his payment, he will get angry and insist that his payment be taken. I heard that he is not that poor. He looks like he is not that taken care of. Or was it because he is just stubborn to be taken care of by his relatives? If he is single or got a family of his own, I am not sure. How does it feel to live like him? I want to know. After the blessing of the seniors, he did not anymore take his seat but he went back where he was from, stayed standing on the aisle instead of sitting on the pew, and went straight out of the Cathedral after the final blessing. Since I was seated near the aisle, I was able to look at him closely. It was my first time to do so. I looked at his eyes. Our eyes met. I saw not the eyes of someone who has lost hope. I can tell that look of someone who has lost hope because I saw them before in the eyes of beggars, abandoned, and old people in the home for the aged. It was not that look that I saw in him. I saw his fierce and piercing eyes that looked back at me. As I go out of the Cathedral, I saw him approach a mother and child who seem familiar to him. He blessed both of them. I was stirred. Encountering the poor can be disturbing, I thought to myself. He might be thinking to himself that his life is near to the end that he chooses to praise God every day by attending daily Mass. I don’t know. I might only be imagining this. It’s as if I saw Christ in him. It’s as if this old man is living a life of a mystic. Content with how he lived his life and spending the rest of it thanking the Lord for his life.

In the eye of the storm

The Philippines had just two storms, Karen and Lawin, enter in succession in just one week. For me, my storm was this past first half of the school year. Looking back, it feels like it was so long that it was gone in a blink of an eye. I experienced rains, gusts, and at times peaceful days. It’s like the government suspending classes only to go out of your house with the sun greeting you a good morning. When you’re a student or a teacher or even a parent of a schooling child here in the Philippines, you can relate to this. We have twenty typhoons every year not counting the low pressure areas or tropical depressions. 

And because it’s school break, I can afford to wake up in the morning just recalling about a recent dream and musing the past five months of teaching. When I was in elementary or high school, I caught myself a lot staring outside the window or doodling. Daydreaming is my past time. Not that I am twenty seven, I still long for these kind of opportunities. Even if I am busy teaching, I still have lots of free time. My compulsion is to use internet or play a computer game. I often forget to read books, write a journal, spend time in silence, adore the Holy Presence in the chapel, and other things that are done solitarily (except the last example).

Tomorrow will be our Personnel Retreat. I hope that with this, I can spend more time in silence. The only exception will be the writing in my journal and on this blog. 

May you have a blessed Sunday. Peace be with you.

Will Saint Thomas Aquinas would approve my beer indulgence?

Dear friends,

Just before anything else, an update of my life.

Last Saturday is the birthday of a fellow brother here in the community. Happy Birthday! We celebrated with lots of buko salad (coconut salad), lechon (roasted pig), grilled bangus (milk fish), rice (of course), dinuguan (search it!), and some dishes I cannot recall. We invited the school administrators, novitiate community, and some friends for the dinner. I l lead the prayer (as usual) and our festive meal did not even last for two hours which is quite fast given it’s a Filipino birthday celebration.

I don’t usually drink alcohol but I joined the friends of my fellow brother because it’s his birthday. I saw them when I was going to the library where I was playing a computer game, an old modified map in Warcraft 3 with Bleach, Naruto, and One Piece characters in it. I think this year I am consuming lots of beer compared to the previous years of my life.  Even my fellow brother, who happens to be our community superior, said that I might share in our young brothers assembly that I learned to drink alcohol from him. That was said in jest of course. The typhoon Karen even made way to Cotabato City with all it’s gustiness and rain that our drinking session outside the veranda was transferred to the library. It’s convenient that it’s just adjacent. So they, the visitors whom I know because they work here in the school, saw all my books, unreturned student activities, school supplies, school record, in the big table because I slowly turned the library into my personal office. That was not planned if only I have organizational skills to remove clutters. So here it’s obvious that I don’t have a table inside the faculty room due to some space constraints there. I have a table in the campus ministry office which I rarely use. So that’s why all of the clutters was there in the library table in full display to the visitors.

Since the computer was in the library, we turned it into our television by just tuning in to YouTube. We had a marathon of the 80’s music because that’s the generation of the visitors. As a 90’s kid, I barely knew the songs except for some. I know some of them because the songs were the pop songs during their time and it just so happened I’m familiar with them thanks to MTV. The good times lasted until 2:00 AM.

Of all the alcohol, I think I won’t be consuming hard drinks anymore and settle with beer or wine because with beer I can still think clear and not really that uninhibited and can still walk straight. With a strong liquor, I don’t think that would be wise for me. Maybe St. Thomas Aquinas would approve this beer indulgence of mine. Or probably not because his quote on Sorrow was misattributed. We have a weird prayer on blessing beer even to the point of calling it as a “creature”. I just saw that prayer somewhere. I am thinking of connecting beer to the Wedding Feast at Cana where Jesus turned water into wine. I lack the technical skills for explaining theological nuances so I’ll just leave this as it is. Besides, I don’t think there’s a need for it. Anyway, I just remembered them.

The next day, Sunday, I was originally planning to attend again a feast somewhere near here because the principal invited us during the personnel meeting last Wednesday. Hung over until 12 PM, I decided to scrap the plan since I just woke up before noon time. I attended the Sunday Mass at 11:15 AM because we have a meeting at 3 PM to vote for our representatives for the upcoming 22nd General Chapter. It was Game 4 of the PBA Finals and Ginebra won despite the uncalled travelling violation of Sol Mercado in the crucial last minutes.

Now, this week is the last week of the first semester before the break. I’m done with the students’ grades, lessons, lectures, and just waiting for the week to finish. This week, I gave my students a lantern making project with a Marian Theme because it’s the Rosary Month.

Next week will be our annual personnel retreat. I might again write some of my reflections during that time of prayer and rest.

Peace everyone! I’m out.

A Morning Reflection

A student asked me me whether I hate Moslems or not. I did not answer her question directly. Not pausing, I immediately said that encountering one bad Moslem doesn’t mean that all followers of Islam are evil. That’s all I said. 

It’s like a paraphrase of a quote from Gandhi about contaminated water. But when I answered, I was actually recalling the dialogue of the Queen of Fishman Island when she said about humans not being totally evil. Sometimes, I see good values being taught by anime. I think that’s what Lumen Gentium 7 was talking about when it mentioned about the Truth contained on other religions. Something like that. I need to go now, I’m a substitute teacher for my Department Head in Values Education. She’s now confined in the hospital because of her polio. Please do pray for her.

To be a Christian means to have the heart and mind of Jesus.


Hello. How are you? Me? A bit sad this day. Is this what they call separation anxiety? Maybe. Our young novice Br. Jay Jay went back to the novitiate as he now finished his apostolic exposure here in Cotabato community after three months of staying here. Br. Ador is in Bangkok until next week. Now, we’re only two brothers here in the convent as of the moment. Br. Oca also said that it feels sad now that we’re just two in the house. Absence of presence here now. The house is big but the occupants are few. That’s like a paraphrase of the harvest is abundant but the laborers are few. At least we have the Real Presence in the chapel. Let’s pay a visit to Him later.

Life as a brother can be lonely sometimes. No girlfriend, no wife, no family, no children. This is the life I have chosen. Sometimes the road can be lonesome. I hope what I feel is in solidarity with what my mother and sister in Japan feels like being isolated with their loved ones. To all widows, brokenhearted, single, overseas Filipino workers, I feel you. I pray for all of you. I don’t like this feeling but, yeah, I will savor this moment too. There’s a time to be sad and a time to rejoice. I will feel it and pray for it. And now I wrote it. 

Cheers to life!

St. Francis of Assisi, who lead a life of solitude to follow our Lord, pray for us.


Today is a holiday here in Cotabato City. Before the day ends, I want to share the ups and downs of this day. First, I woke up late again in the morning. Missed the morning prayer and saw the clock already 6:48 A.M. The bed was too comfortable. Went downstairs and saw the chapel empty (of course). I saw the dining table with one plate missing already. I felt a bit down seeing empty plates with me to spend breakfast alone. There are five empty plates left and it seems that our cook miscalculated. There’s only three of us today. So when I took my glass to drink water, I then saw Jay Jay, the novice who was here in our community for three months since July 4. He slept like a log too (It’s nicer to hear the equivalent expression in Tagalog). It is his last day today in our community because tomorrow he’s going back to the novitiate which is just a ten-minute ride from here. Since we are just three in the convent and Br. Ador is somewhere in Bangkok, we don’t have yet a despedida for Jay Jay. But after the breakfast, I went ahead to update the grades of my students using MS Excel. I still had time before the table tennis players go to the gym and practice. But when I went at 9am to the gym and saw only the high school basketball and volleyball girls, I went back to the convent. I was told by the table tennis coach that they will come this morning. Well, they aren’t there so what can I do? So I just went back to the grading until I saw the evaluation paper that I was writing last night. It’s for Br. Jay Jay. When it’s morning, ideas flow very easily that I can reflect on what to say about our novice brother in the house. So no empty spaces were left for the comment section. Then I went back to the play on numbers afterwards. Seems I haven’t recovered yet from teaching mathematics last school year.
11:30 A.M. lunch with all of us complete. Eating the lasagna, which was supposed to be the merienda, left me no room for more rice. Kangkong na Adobo can’t be resisted so I ate some of them. No siesta this afternoon because of my mindless Facebook News Feed scrolling habit. Then continued with the formula and encoding of grades. I get my thrill in making my own formula in Excel. I think I ate too much merienda composed of lots of water, banana chips, Piatos, and Sky Flakes. Since I was using the table in the sala, I can overhear what Br. Oca was watching on TV. He’s watching the senate hearing on the rising cases of extrajudicial killings with lots of people from Davao City being interrogated. He already took his early dinner so he stayed on the sofa also to relax from the volleyball practice sessions with the students.

Then it’s 6:30 PM and waited for Jay Jay. But I am not in the mood to eat yet. So when I said that aloud in the dining room with me just about to peel a banana, I heard a knock from the school guard. We have a guest of three. Was not aware of their arrival. Long story. 

Good timing! We haven’t eaten our food yet. So since they come a long way from Davao and we don’t want them to go out anymore (we’re in Cotabato City), we offered our food and decided to just eat outside. As Jay Jay told me, he remembered the expression “timing is everything” which sounds cliché to me but of course I didn’t tell him that. So before we go outside, I asked Jay Jay for some time to just tell him my feedback regarding his stay in our Cotabato community. I said my affirmations, areas of growth (or concern), and common stories that are of importance to him and his formation as a novice. My takeaway from him is his prayerfulness. He reminds me that I can still learn from people younger than me if I just let myself to. I told him that novitiate is one of the best times in my life and I hope he’ll cherish it too. Then we went outside to Mang Inasal for dinner then went home safe and sound. Cotabato seems to be more quiet when it’s past 7 PM already. 

I was thinking today is the Feast Day of St. Francis of Assisi but I was wrong. Today is the “transistus”. Tomorrow is Saint Francis’ feast day. He is the most famous brother saint I know that even our current pope took his name. May his prayer of peace transform hearts towards non-violence especially here in our country where death toll of extrajudicial killings related to illegal drugs is alarmingly rising.
St. Francis of Assisi, pray for us.

Youth having fun at the 8th Vocation Jamboree of the Archdiocese of Cotabato

During the 8th Vocation Jamboree last night.

Because it’s Sunday and I’m free, I’m going to write. Last night was the 8th Vocation Jamboree of our Archdiocese of Cotabato. It means we gathered youth throughout the Diocese by having fun through dancing and singing, and telling stories of seminarians and religious about their formation how to become priests, and religious sisters and brothers. To paraphrase a priest whom I heard three years ago, we need to promote vocations to priesthood and religious life since married life is promoted anyway through media and even the example of our parents. It might be a bit of dragging because it’s a nightlong activity and presentations doesn’t have time limit. But it’s alright because I saw young people enjoying, listening to stories and expressing feelings through music and dance. 
I heard stories of the Diocesan seminarians, the RNDM, and our Marist story. During the presentation of the life of our founder, Marcellin Champagnat, I seated beside a working student whom I think have a vocation to religious life. He said that it was his first time to hear the life of Father Champagnat. After the Marist presentation, I excused myself and my companion because it’s already one o’clock in the morning and just at the middle of the night program. 

I recall that when I was a novice, I have no time to sleep that we were up until the sun rises and we even attended Sunday Mass twice. It is still embarrassing to recall that I was sleeping during the Mass in the cathedral so technically I was able to get some sleep during the Jamboree three years ago. But this year, they had sleeping quarters and didn’t stay up the whole morning just like we did before. The Vocation Jamboree keeps getting better every year.