Carry my cross and follow Jesus

It has been a rollercoaster ride of emotions this past few days and I am keeping it to myself. Is it because of vocation crisis? Maybe.

I have to make a decision: consecrated life or married life.

A few days ago, I opened up to my father about my vocation story and how he had helped me to enter the Marist Brothers. It is on my Twitter feed (@allenjambalaya) and you can actually browse through it. It is through a borrowed book from him eight years ago that I was so inspired and inquired about entering the Marist Brothers. The book’s name is The Way by St. Jose María Escriva. I didn’t get to finish the book by the way but I recall reading the first part and the word I can describe when I read it is “emphatic”. That time, I was still unemployed and just a month removed from getting a college degree which from the beginning never intended to use in getting a job. Of course while studying, I used to entertain thoughts such as getting a master’s degree in Psychology and teach in the tertiary level.

Also, an untold story was that I drifted from the Catholic faith since I graduated in high school. In my last two years of secondary education, my Sunday Mass attendance was in a downslope as I was already questioning my faith and kind of missing the point of participating in the Holy Sacrifice and why I need to receive Jesus in the form of the Eucharistic bread. In short, the Catholic education and formation I received was lacking in solid foundation. I’ll write about this is detail later on.

Well, I wanted to go back to the Church so bad I entered right away in discerning to consecrated life. One counselor even told me I was rushing and that it’s a very tough life decision to make.

And so I did took my faith to the next level: I entered religious life.

Though at times I hesitated to continue on, I never regret this decision.

And now, this is my source of suffering now.

It. Is. Hard.

During the Mass this morning (which is in Japanese by the way), I was meditating on this and it reminded me of Jesus telling his disciples and all those who are weary and burdened to come to Him and He will give them rest.

I was very moved and teary-eyed during the receiving of the Eucharist. Maybe some Japanese seated near me saw me wipe my tears.

Though my heart is suffering, I know I am free and full of joy because that is the Good News—the Gospel. This is what the Triumph of the Cross and the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows reminded me.

This passage was so alive in my heart as I was walking in the street.

His yoke is easy and burden light.

I know compared to others, my burden is very easy and light indeed. Mine is a unique kind of yoke. But I am thankful that I am with the Marist Brothers.

For now, I will carry this cross and follow Him.

May you have a joyful Sunday.

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Are You Interested In Filipino Historical Films?

Goyo: Ang Batang Heneral is now showing in Philippine theatres. Sadly, I am in Japan and away from the country. I watched Heneral Luna by Jerrold Tarog last 2015 and was looking forward for more historical epic films and Goyo is one of them along with another film about Manuel L. Quezon.

Among the local genres of films in the country, this is one of the closest to my heart. In my childhood, I was always waiting for the show Bayani every morning along with Sineskwela in ABS-CBN before going to school. If you think about it, all of the films are actually heartbreaking because almost all of our national heroes were killed, most of the time brutally, while they were fighting for the country.

Back in high school, Philippine History is one of my favorite subjects to talk about and listen to inside the classroom. I am blessed to have amazing Araling Panlipunan (Social Science) and Filipino teachers in Marist School. I hope we produce more teachers and historians who are passionate about the story of Filipinos in the past. Nowadays, it’s easy to fabricate stories and distort history so we really need them to tell us about telling the truth and how to spot what’s not true.

A true story: One of my childhood friend is a descendant of Emilio Aguinaldo. We were batchmates for two years in Elementary but he transferred school after Grade 4 and since then I never heard of him since our family also transferred house.

When I entered the chess varsity in Grade 5, one of my teammates surname was Bonifacio, which is rare.

Speaking of, my great grandmother’s name was Bonifacia. Named after the great Manileño hero, it somehow gives me an insight how popular he was and how Filipinos back them regard him as the de facto national hero.

How about you? Have you encountered some of the relatives of any of the important historical figures in the Philippines?

Another open letter to a friend

Dear Friend,

Spending these past few months are the most humbling moments I ever had in my life. It reminds me that I am just a simple pilgrim travelling and searching here on earth. These moments of being all by myself gave me almost all the spectrum of feelings I felt with myself. Sometimes I pity myself; I got angry with myself with the choices I made; I felt sorry for how life events turned out for myself; and, I felt proud for what I have done these past few years particularly for all the graces and opportunities I got in joining the Marist Brothers.

I am sorry for sometimes disregarding and being indifferent to people I have met along the way especially to my family and friends. You know well that I always say sorry to you guys. If I have hurt you in ways I am not aware of, patawad po (I’m sorry).

Though people hurt me, stabbed me in the back, maligned me, called me names, used me in any manner, treated me indifferently, or though some of them keep hurting me, I forgave them all and will forgive them anyway. They might have almost broke me down but all of them made me stronger, tougher, and wiser. So thanks to you all.

It has been 29 years of existence for me and I am still keeping on dreaming. I don’t know what I really want exactly for myself to be quite honest and I am okay with that. But one thing I am sure of that no one can take away from me is hope. But yeah, hope is a good thing to paraphrase Andy Dufresne of Shawhank Redemption, my all-time favorite film.

I know myself well that I sometimes miss the point of how it is to live as a brother and I forget sometimes to do things with love. Love is also synonymous charity. Speaking of it, it reminds me that I might be speaking in tongues and be great in many things but without love, I am nothing. I know without it, I am nothing. Let it be for the sake of love and let it be with great love that I will be able to do great things.

If I feel proud, let it be not because of myself but because of all the great things God has done for me in my life. Let it be for God’s grace that people will call me blessed.

Your little brother,

Allen, FMS

Buy Bust: Movie Review

  1. Advanced happy feast day of St. Jean Marie Vianney, patron saint of parish priests! I started writing this because I woke up at dawn and I couldn’t sleep again. If that happens, I usually write whatever comes to mind. But this time, it’s time to write an annual movie review.
  2. Spoiler Alert: If you haven’t watched the film yet, then you may stop reading now. But if you want spoilers before watching the film, then feel free to scroll.
  3. What is a Buy Bust? It is a term used for a drug entrapment operation of Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (thanks Google!). They would send an asset (undercover agent), and use marked moneys with the drug dealers to pretend buying their illegal drugs and bust them.
  4. It starts with (one thing!) police officers De la Cruz and Alvarez torturing and extracting details from Teban about a big-time drug dealer named Biggie Chen. Now, the policemen plan out a buy bust operation in Tondo, Manila. Threatening to hurt his wife, Teban volunteers as their asset though he does not know exactly where Biggie is but he guarantees he can fish out Biggie.
  5. Kapayapaan! I recognized Alex Calleja as Teban and waited for comical relief. I was not disappointed. When Alvarez showed Teban the map of Tondo shaded with a majority of blue and asked what does it mean, Teban’s answer was kapayapaan (peace)!
  6. Anne Curtis as a rebellious officer: Next scene is on a PDEA team training with high-powered guns. Nina Manigan (played by Anne Curtis) committed a mistake on the drill by leaving her team and acting on her own. She argues that sometimes, an officer must disobey orders for the mission to succeed. Irritated by this defiant behavior, team leader Lacson (played by Victor Neri) shot Manigan in the back with a rubber bullet. Lacson tells her that her attitude will let the whole team down and her to death.
  7. A back story: Nina Manigan was part of a botched PDEA entrapment team before and she is the only surviving member of that team. In the barracks, she scans through some old pictures and saw a handwritten name at the back of one of the photograph: Hudas.
  8. Hudas: Taken from the biblical character Judas, the one who betrayed Jesus for 30 silver coins. That’s the clue that PDEA is infiltrated with a higher-up who orchestrated their past entrapment scheme at their expense, the operation’s front liners.
  9. When freeloaders take the credit: In real life, we only hear of the victims of extra judicial killings but never about the lives of policemen and soldiers being fielded in the frontline and getting killed. Like the generals were playing chess and they are the real-life pawns. When I went to the infamous Ampatuan massacre site in Maguindanao last 2013, I heard of the stories of some soldiers’ sentiment of being left out and their leaders earning the credit and promotion from their hard work. If we have freeloaders in school group projects, we too have them in the corporate world, government offices, and even in national security.
  10. Going back to the film, Alvarez approaches Lacson to work on a mission in Tondo with De la Cruz leading their team. Their plan is to hold the entrapment on a park. With the PDEA officers in disguise and looking out for Teban, Biggie Chen then talks to Teban through the phone with their conversation wiretapped. Biggie asked Teban to change location as he suspects Teban selling him out and Biggie thinking the park is not a safe place to meet. Biggie instructs Teban to meet him in Gracia de Maria.
  11. Them going to Maria de Gracia reminds me of the book of Joshua with Israelites invading the walled city of Canaan or the King Solomon’s troop and the shepherd boy David going up against the Philistines and Goliath. Inside the van, the operation team prayed a psalm of deliverance in Filipino (I am interested where exactly in the Book of Psalms they got for prayer).
  12. True Story: When I was a young boy, (you saw this coming, right? Here’s Welcome to the Black Parade) I wanted to become a soldier. I played with self-made wooden guns and pellet guns with my cousins and get hit occasionally. Though I am taller than the average Filipinos, I know I wouldn’t last in the army. I remember that when I entered high school, Marist School just scrapped the CAT (Citizen Army Training). I don’t know why they did it but I was actually looking forward to join the CAT. I have yet to touch an actual gun.
  13. Before entering Gracia de Maria, they split into two groups: Alpha group lead by Lacson and Beta with De la Cruz and their asset Teban. Team Beta acts as Teban’s bodyguards and Team Alpha stays behind as lookouts. Since Gracia de Maria is quite populated, Team Alpha held some bystanders as hostages to silence them as they might blow the team’s cover. Teban meets with Biggie’s goons lead by Chongki, who even has a metal detector with him and got a little tense with De la Cruz’s team Beta as they refuse to hand over their guns to these goons.
  14. As they walk inside Biggie’s drug den, we see a glimpse of Gracia de Maria’s environment. We are now getting introduced with three different groups inside the slum: PDEA officers, Biggie’s goons, and the Gracia de Maria’s residents (which will play a vital role in the film later).
  15. Gracia de Maria: This place has a lots of stories to tell it can inspire another film. This slum area is like a labyrinth. We see a family grieving in a wake, adults dancing in a night club, a discreet meth lab, and abandoned buildings.
  16. Abandoned buildings are a thing in the past local action films and I am glad it got a reprisal (no, I’m kidding).
  17. Translated in English as the grace of Mary, Gracia de Maria is a slum area in the Tondo that shelters to poor and innocent bystanders constantly caught in the middle of the “drug wars” between the police and the drug dealers.
  18. Biggie Chen and Teban then meets but we couldn’t see them. We hear them speak though and we get a feeling that these drug dealers might kill them all and just take all the marked money. Manok (played by Joross Gamboa) enters and whispers to the goons guarding outside Biggie’s den. Gunshots are heard, implying that all Team Beta members are now down and Team Alpha now abort their mission but it’s too late. The drug dealers now start for a hunt as we hear the improvised alarms and spotlights flashing to the main pathways. It was a trap all along. The PDEA officers now becomes the prey while the drug dealers “caged” them.
  19. While they were escaping, Chongki hostages one (I forgot the name) Chinese-looking man whose phone was loudly ringing and threatened the hiding PDEA to surrender or they’ll kill a hostage. There was no response from Team Alpha so Chongki kills the man. This provokes Solomon, the grieving man for his dead son Judiel, and brings out a gun and leads the people of Gracia de Maria to fight and kill both the PDEA and the drug dealers.
  20. All the interesting fight scenes are all here in the hunt for the PDEA team and I won’t spoil what exactly happens and see for yourselves how they end up falling down one by one and how they fought back. If you watch the film, you’ll know why they brought a mixed martial artist in the person of Brandon Vera. I got the shock of my life when I saw Anne Curtis’ fight scenes. She got moves!
  21. A comeback for Filipino action films? We are spoiled movie viewers. We just had Mission Impossible 6 and Skyscraper, both foreign action films, and now they are screening Buy Bust, a local action film. I can now dare to say that action films in the Philippines got a future with the top-notch fighting scenes choreography. I hope this film would start a trend in local cinemas.
  22. Hudas blown uncovered? Now some members are dead and some still alive and wounded, the escaping team Alpha encounters Teban and De la Cruz both unscathed. Manigan then declares De la Cruz as “Hudas” who betrayed their buy bust operation. Lacson would then handcuff De la Cruz with Teban escorting him even declaring to the bald officer that he is now the boss, “Ako na ngayon ang boss mo!
  23. Team Alpha is clearly outnumbered but it seems that the goons have difficulty catching them. They accidentally goes to a roof of sleeping back-up of the drug dealers who open fired at them, practically annihilating Lacson and his wife and another team member.
  24. An order: Lacson orders Manigan to leave her behind as an order and since she promised beforehand that she would obey him, she complied. Remember that we had good government leaders before whose public service were cut short due to an illness or accident. I hope that our policemen have their own version of Lacsons and Manigans. Salute to these kind of noble men and women!
  25. Now stranded on an abandoned building, De la Cruz and Manigan got in a heated as she vents out how her former team were left out to die in an operation. De la Cruz provokes Manigan to shoot him but Yatco tells her not to but she kills Hudas anyway. Down with three people, they are now trapped in this building with a riding-in-tandem open firing at them and Manok threatening to set the building on fire. Yatco and Manigan split into two and manages to escape and even kill all the goons outside. Somewhere, Teban walks away but will meet Chongki later.
  26. On Talismans: Yatco, played by Brandon Vera, wears a bottle cap as an amulet. He even tries to use the cap to heal his open wound in the shoulder to no avail and Manigan ridiculed him. Anting-anting as we call it in Filipino is quite common in some parts of the Philippines and people believe it can keep them safe from death if not completely from any harm.
  27. It will be bloody: The remaining PDEA officers, Yatco and Manigan, gets trapped by an angry mob who had enough of the killings and operations inside their turf. Manigan signals Yatco to get ready as they are up for a blood bath.
  28. The fight reminds me of zombie apocalypse films and Metal Slug, the video game we used to play before in a playstation console.
  29. Brandon Vera as Antonio Luna! The bottle cap as an amulet seems working! No other character in the film got punched, shoved, stabbed, as Yatco (next to Manigan). It was like a replay of Antonio Luna’s murder scene in Heneral Luna.
  30. Last (wo)man standing: Now Yatco is dead, Manigan gets his “anting-anting” and wears it on her neck. She survives the wave of the angry mob and fainted. She had a quick nap which lets her recover and steps over pile of dead bodies over. Do not underestimate the power of taking a nap! She saw Yatco’s dead body floating. Manigan borrows his anting-anting and wears it.
  31. As she searches for the way out, Manigan saw Teban being shot by Chongki in the head and she follows Chongki and his henchmen. She now discovers the meth lab. She sneaks behind them and was able to finally kill all the homies of Biggie and see him finally. Biggie Chen, played by Arjo Atayde, raises up his arms in the air.
  32. Who is Hudas? Manigan asks him who is Hudas. Which one? There’s more than one, Biggie replies.
  33. We now hear one of the most memorable dialogues we will ever hear about the so-called “drug war”. With a gun pointed at him, Biggie casually tells Manigan what is the drug war all about in a nutshell.
  34. A henchman arrives and distracts Manigan so Biggie was able to maim her (I’m not really sure here, I was looking at my phone!). Now, Biggie gets the gun but decides not to kill Manigan. He rings the other Hudas (aside from De la Cruz) and we now know that Alvarez was a Hudas too! So the interrogation in the opening of the film was all lies and pretension!
  35. A fitting ending: After a final scuffle with Biggie, Manigan decides not to kill Biggie and places him in an arrest with a glass shard pointed at his neck. As viewers, we know that Alvarez is a Hudas too as pointed out by Biggie. When Manigan hands over Biggie and gets a hug from Alvarez, I like how the camera focuses on Manigan with her back turned on the audience as she constraints herself to express how angry she really is with Alvarez, the real culprit  why her former and current squad all died. Lacking an ambulance, Alvarez now leads Manigan to a utility van for her to be rushed to a hospital. But instead of only her and an accompanying police on the utility van, she was joined by Biggie and Alvarez himself. Alvarez shoots Biggie inside the van and the weak Manigan still has energy to steal the gun from Alvarez! What stamina Anne Curtis has! Then she avenges her team by shooting Alvarez to death and the accompanying officer.
  36. “What happened?” The police officers asked. Like the usual answer Filipinos hear on the local television, Manigan blurted out, “Nanlaban ang suspect.” (The suspect fought back). When the Philippines started the “drug war”, the line nanlaban would be the buzz word heard about alleged drug pushers and users getting killed. The last time I blurted out nanlaban while watching a film was when I was watching Seklusyon two years ago.
  37. Casualties: only thirteen! While the media is reporting, an aerial shot of dead bodies inside Gracia de Maria can be seen while a song by Asin plays on the background. It was like 1,300 people or more died there. This scene is like a diss to the inaccurate and unverified reporting of media and of the policemen covering up or overlooking crime details. Omission of any detail of news, be it good or bad, is disservice as it takes away our access to the truth. Besides, the number of casualties are not just about numbers but about persons!
  38. I like how films by Erik Matti serve as social commentaries particularly the “real talk” of Biggie.
  39. Are we going to see more quality action films after this? Well, the next action movie that I want to watch is about Trese. It would be interesting for me (at least for me) to see Anne Curtis play the role of Alexandra Trese.
  40. One of the best local action movies of all time. This is the Filipino action movie I’ve been waiting for since On The Job (I don’t know if Goyo or Heneral Luna counts as actions films though). It took five years for a follow-up. I’m not complaining though as Erik Matti gave us Seklusyon two years ago. Hands up to all people who made Buy Bust movie possible. I don’t know if this would start a trend but I hope local movies would lessen the romantic comedy films produced at present. We need more films who will let us not only be amazed and be entertained but also to think, and even care for our country. Or maybe it’s just me asking Erik Matti to direct and produce more films in the future.
  41. I am now heading to Japan in two weeks time and Buy Bust might be the last Filipino film I would ever watch before I fly to Kobe and stay there for three years. It feels like I am on a death row and being asked for what I want before I get executed. If that’s the case, I would tell the warden that I want to watch Buy Bust as my final wish. The anxiety is real. Please pray for me.
  42. That’s all and peace be with you all!

Fraternally,

Allen, FMS

A beer story

Hello WordPress,

Here’s my story on beer.

I remember making a fermented beer mango for my Science Project in Grade 8. I just smelled the bottled green mangoes in our refrigerator and got an idea to make it as my project. I liked the smell of it but after tasting it, I decided it is not good for consumption and even for mass production. I even tried to make a rice wine but was not really successful. I never really liked beer until I turned eighteen. I think it’s for the silly reason that it is not sweet and it would make my tummy bulge.

In our high school physical education, alcoholic beverages was one of the topics and I learned about the proofs, alcoholic content, and how to drink in moderation (as the television ads would remind us). Never drive under the influence of alcohol as it affects our gross motor movement.

The first time I finished drinking a full bottle of beer was during my 18th birthday. Before turning eighteen, I was just tasting beer and never really finished drinking a bottle. My friends and I were in Katipunan, I bought some beer from 7-11, then we went to a nearby restaurant to eat dinner and drink the San Miguel Light beers we bought. Actually, we were not allowed to bring in those beers but we managed to break the rules. When the guard noticed us, we had already finished drinking our beers so there’s nothing he could do but to feel annoyed. Anyway, we were not unruly or obnoxious but just having a small chitchat.

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My status

Hello WordPress,

It has been a while since I wrote an entry here.

There’s a lot of happenings (I hate to use this expression) this past months and I have gone through a lot of transition and change of addresses since March. To paraphrase a tweet I saw on Twitter, is there a life outside my comfort zone?

Within the year, I applied for a Japanese visa. I tried both long term resident visa and missionary visa but it seems I need to use a missionary visa temporarily since I do not know how to speak, read, or write in Japanese language.

We have three Brothers there in Japan and they don’t get any financial subsidy from the Korea-Japan Sector or the Province. I only learned anout this when I visited Kobe community last June and I learned that it is only the pension that supports them in terms of daily finances such as food, transportation, medical expenses, clothing, grooming, toiletries, and other necessities. Because we had a house property and even a school, which we used to manage but no more due to lack of vocation, we look rich from without. Anyway, I do not really know how can I contribute financially if I am not allowed to work using a missionary visa. I might use Patreon, Soundcloud, or even Youtube if there is a need to earn some money.

I only applied for a certificate of eligibility last June and I will need to wait for at least a month or three month at most.

I want to study TESOL in Claret. I do not want to spend money in studying Japanese here in the Philippines so I will just rely on the internet and some friends who knows how to speak, read, and write Japanese.

I want to learn how to drive.

I might visit Japan Foundation in Makati tomorrow but there’s a super typhoon Gardo/Maria right now.

Waiting for a visa without doing any work might have been affecting my self-esteem. Last two years, I have been very important because I taught in school. Now, I just stay in the convent reading, playing sports, surfing the internet, washing the dishes, cleaning the kitchen, using a stationary bicycle, watching NBA Finals (last month) and the World Cup 2018.

I feel very powerless, irrelevant, and not-so important.

I feel so irritatable this past few days. I cry sometimes inside my room. I drink beer almost every day. Maybe I am regressing a little bit. I am so down right now and I don’t want to confide it to anyone besides no one can understand me anyway. I feel now the pain of those suffering from Mental health problems; I feel now the sorrow of the psalmist. I did not chose to feel how I feel though. I am like in a state of sorrow. But as our Lord Jesus reminded me in the Gospel, I won’t let my heart be troubled. I won’t let this fox steal my joy. I might not be happy but I still have joy in my heart.

Now on my late 20s, I was like asking myself how did I end up choosing this life I am living right now. It is like I am going to a stage of purgation.

The readings for this Sunday inspired me that it’s not all about me. I feel these maybe because I am proud and egotistical. But just like Saint Paul said, the Lord’s grace is enough. It is when I am weak that I am strong because the Lord Himself is my Consolation. Christ said He has nowhere to rest His head; He who was rejected just because they know His parents and where they live. Christ had undergone through a lot of hardships and trials which compared to mine are nothing.

It is easier to see the things I am lacking and it takes silence and reflection to realize how God is so good to me in providing what I just need and not what I want.

For all the things I have and enjoy, thanks for it.

For the company of my fellow brothers in Marikina community, the brothers in different communities I visited who have been so accommodating and good to me, to my family, friends, fellow teachers, GIA scholars, and former students who have touched my life, thank you very much!

Whatever I say, feel, and do, let God’s name be glorified!

Amen.

An open letter to a friend

Dear friend,

How are you?

I wrote to you to remind you again that my vocation is responding to the call as a religious or consecrated brother. I know you do not know what kind of vocation I entered.

I chose this life thinking it is the best way for me to be closer to God. I was “away” for a long time and I wanted to come back home. I think you saw me struggle with faith before. I thought this was the best way for me to be back home again. To be consecrated means to be set apart. And with the help of discernment, I was convinced that it is best for me to follow Christ set apart from the world, my family, friends, dreams and ambitions. It is a hard choice.

The life I have chosen is counter-cultural. I am not a priest yet I am not going to marry. How foolish is that? If I appear to be foolish by choosing this path, I would not argue. Indeed, I am a fool for Christ.

I watched the Infinity Wars yesterday. If Dr. Strange would ask me which master do I serve, I would love to say that I serve Jesus. But I know deep inside of me, my heart is divided. I admit that I have strange idols. I won’t mention them one by one. This is one of my hardest struggles I face. I sometimes lose sight of Christ. I am just like Peter who tried to walk in the water but looked elsewhere. I stumble many times in trying to walk this life. But I know that He will catch me whenever I fall. I am having a hard time right now. My consecration is the “cross” I am carrying to follow Christ.

I must admit that along the way it feels so hard to keep my fidelity and zeal as a consecrated person, I am struggling and trying to be the best that I can offer though I know deep inside I am a great sinner.

If you are frustrated for the fact that I, despite of my absence of good looks, would forego dating or marriage, then I respect your right to feel that way. I just do not know if you are just truly concerned of my personal happiness. If you are, then I thank you my friend.

And I must remind myself everyday that it is not about me, it’s about Him. I pray to our good Lord that let not my will be done, but may His will be done.

If it is God’s will for me to be a brother in consecrated life, then so be it. Amen.

If it is God’s will for me to be a brother in common life, then so be it. Amen.

I hope that we will see each other face to face in the future and we will listen to each other’s stories over a cup of coffee.

Please pray for me.

Your little brother,
Allen