Holidays, Religion and Spirituality, society

Easter message on Good Friday

I’m one of those Catholics who don’t anymore observe Lent in the traditional sense. Because, can’t I live my entire life as a ‘sorry’ and at the same time a ‘thank you’ as well such that Lent, Easter, and Christmas are everyday experiences? Does that make me a bad Catholic? Anyway. In other words, while my family has been observing the week traditionally, I’ve been busy with work (I don’t get why government finds it a duty to declare a holiday as early as Wednesday when it merely sends people scurrying off to the beaches to gallivant in scanty clothing and such, or to reunions in their home provinces which for the most part is a subtle contest of who is the relative with more material riches this year? In the meantime, matters otherwise urgently needed by citizens are left behind. Is that the spirit of Lent? Work is a better penance, especially when it means other people’s lives become better as a result of timely actions. Besides, what about the citizens of other religions? Government, it being for all Filipinos, should stop declaring holidays favoring or upholding religious rites of just one group or sect. There’s already a standard that takes care of the process. With organizations, Catholic employees can just take it out on their paid vacation leaves (especially good for those who refuse to go on vacation just so it will be converted to cash at year end!). This is what it also means by separation of church and state.). On the other hand, there was practically no people and vehicle on the roads! I went to the capital on Good Friday and what bliss! EDSA and the streets were deprived of the usual offending noise, congestion, and vehicular traffic! Even the L/MRT was shut down. The capital was quiet, still, and peaceful. Everyday should be Good Friday!

In Makati, I met with my assigned mentor (in my volunteering work) who came all the way from across the world. Why she had to come is a longish story, but what I can say at the moment is I missed the two meetings, global and regional, held abroad due to unexpected difficulties with bureaucracy here. After weeks of papers and calls going back and forth, the agency decided to send instead their staff, my mentor, to me. She came just to train me in person for the research work. I couldn’t thank them enough (and felt so disappointed with my own government or should I say it’s workers who allowed pettiness to cloud their actions). My mentor, when I finally met her, is really old, maybe late 60s. But, she was spritely, cheerful, and game. Soon afterward I forgot all about my sadness over the circumstances of her travel.

She wanted to go around and explore the area. First, lunch. We found out that the malls were closed. So much for the food courts we planned to eat in. Practically all the restaurants were. What, Good Friday fasting is now a law? What if I’m a non-Catholic, or if one, I chose not to fast and I’m far away from my own kitchen? But thank God for the Chinese, Japanese, and Korean restaurants and the fastfood chains that were open. We hungry folks will be fed. Otherwise, lunch was to be a thousand peso per meal affair back at the hotel. That won’t feel like a Lenten meal will it?

We ended my training early and went to the nearby church, Saints Peter and Paul on DM Rivera in Poblacion. I’ve attempted twice before to visit after learning from locals that it’s a pilgrimage church but I wasn’t able to both times. I didn’t imagine then, how would I, that I’d be actually visiting the church on a Good Friday with a non-Catholic foreigner and my mentor at that.

Good Friday at Saints Peter and Paul Parish Church, Poblacion, Makati City
Built in 1620, the church is one of the oldest and most historical Catholic churches in the Philippines. It is under the Archdiocese of Manila. Declared a national cultural site by National Historical Commission in 1937. At first, one wonders how it came to be that the church is right in Makati’s red light district but one must know the area was a hacienda when the church was built. Photo credit: RLF at philippinecatholicchurches.blogspot.com
Good Friday at Saints Peter and Paul Church, Poblacion, Makati City
The altar is the original carved retabo The altar area also showcases a gallery of saints. When we went, the images were all covered up. On later reflection, I thought that it served às some kind of Lenten fasting for me. Not food but this, which is more painful to bear. Like, being deprived of your loved ones’ faces. I’m quite capable of going without muxh food or material comfort for days. I’m not as good at not knowing. Photo credit: RLF at philippinecatholicchurches.blogspot.com
Good Friday at Saints Peter and Paul Church, Poblacion, Makati City
The ivory image of Nuestra Senora de la Rosa, from Mexico, was enshrined in 1718 in the church from Mexico. It once held a reliquary containing a strand of hair of Mary. In 1899, during the Revolution, the reliquary as well as the ivory head and hands got destroyed. The latter were replaced with wooden replicas. Photo credit: RLF at philippinecatholicchurches.blogspot.com

We were in time for the Mass. The place was jampacked but we took our place at the front. We had to stand though. I looked around. Statues were wrapped up in purple cloth. I wondered why. Only later did I realize, crazy me, my Carmelite sister-friends will get my throat for this, that it’s what’s done on such a day. Also, at the reading of the Gospel, I was about to make the customary sign of the Cross but saw in time that no one around me was doing it. Then I realized the Gospel was the Passion Play. I put down my hand. I felt my face burning. We were really near the altar and you know the all-seeing priests. I blame my lack of sleep from an all-night travel. Ha ha!

While they were doing the drama, I reflected on things. Like, how many centuries have Catholics here been reading and listening to the persecution and death of Christ yet how is it that norms in Philippine society then as now are more or less the same? Injustice. Disregard of others. Incongrous divide between rich and poor. Destructive power structures. Nothing much has changed. How is it that we have not become any wiser for others? This is the question that’s trying to catch up with us.
The sermon centred on the meaning of death, for Jesus and individuals. I reflected on this too. The archbishop said death is painful and we fear it. That is exactly the challenge of the Gospel on us. The undignified death of Christ is for me a call to put to death injustice, disregard of others, the divide between rich and poor, power that enable this culture to continue; and, put in place the opposite of death- life, love. We are called to confront our fear of the pain of death. It’s the only way to cross to the other side which is life. Jesus sweated blood in anticipation of the pains in his death. Still he chose to walk toward it. Why, we ask? But don’t we know? It’s love.

Then the bishop said Good Friday was the birth of the Church. But funnily as it happens, forms of injustice, disregard of others, the divide between rich and poor, destructive power structures are also perpetuated by the institution. Church officials as well are not spared from the call to confront their fear of the pain in putting a stop to these.

We left toward the end of the sermon (sorry, all-seeing priests) as my mentor has a scheduled Skype conference. Back at her hotel, I said my thanks once again and she reassured me of her support and wished me safety. I felt truly loved in that moment. Then we said our farewell.

That was how Good Friday went for me this year. The church visit, visita iglesia in a sense, was unplanned but the Gospel message was spot on. It summed up my experiences of the day – what good is it to die on the cross when there’s no love behind it? what good is observing traditional practices (of Lent and Easter) when we don’t have love to go with it? Such won’t transform ourselves or anybody. It is love that will and being open in order to allow it to re-form and trans-form oneself. I understand now what our Mother Superior said when I asked her if doing xxx is good or bad. She told me, it “depends on your motivation, what’s in your heart as you do it”. I didn’t understand her statement then and was too proud to ask what does that mean? I saw the world as just black and white. Life is indeed full of surprises.

Holidays, Religion and Spirituality

Christmas and the gift of human dignity

nativity-scene-stained-glass

​God came to earth “not in a raging whirlwind nor in a devouring fire,” in the words of Philip Yancey, author of “The Jesus I Never Knew,” but in humility, without power or wealth, in a world marked by strife and terror.

Jesus spent his infancy in Egypt as a refugee, Mr. Yancey points out, and the circumstances of his birth raised the specter of scandal. His life, then, was a profoundly human one, involving work and rest, friendships and betrayals, delight and sorrow. This has deep implications for how Christians should understand and approach life.

For one thing, the Incarnation dignifies the everyday. There has been a temptation throughout Christian history to denigrate the things of this world, from material comforts to the human body, viewing them as lowly and tainted. But this concept is at odds with what Jesus’ life taught, which is that while worldly things can be corrupted, they can also be elevated and sanctified.

For some of us, Christmas is a reminder that while moral rules can be issued on stone tablets, grace and redemption are finally and fully found in a story of love, when the divine became human. I didn’t enter Jesus’ world; he entered mine.

  • Humanizing Jesus, Peter Wehner, The New York Times

Read the complete article here.

Holidays, People

“Surviving the family holiday”

surviving-family-holiday

Family relationships are complicated because of the expectation that “we are all the same” because we’re part of the same family. The expectations we have of each other (because we’re related) can make it difficult to “be ourselves,” especially if we have different values and goals than do other family members. Because of pre-established roles of who we are supposed to be and how we are supposed to act (based on gender, birth order, family rules, family rituals), family systems do not always give us the space to be who we are.

Families are “systems,” and when change occurs within that system or outside of it, the balance/equilibrium is upset. Keeping that balance is complicated because change is inevitable; people do change and grow in spite of the pressure to conform and keep the balance.

​Returning home or being with family when one has changed, and when one’s values/expectations about the holidays are now different, can be stressful. It’s easier sometimes to just “go along” with “the way it’s always been” rather than “rock the boat.”

People want to belong and feel connected during the holidays. This desire can be so strong that we overextend ourselves emotionally, physically and financially.

Read the complete Stanford University BeWell article here.

Holidays, Movies

Kdrama initiation

I’ve been exploring the new Viu app- it’s truly all Korean stuff. Kdrama, a dizzying array of it, as well as Klifestyle features. Nothing in the drama section was familiar to me. When you say Korean, I say Samsung because my gadgets are which is more a conscious effort on my part to buy from within the region. Kcosmetics I know as well, of course. Who’s the gal into make-up that doesn’t? And, oh, ESL, because they’re here mostly for that. And, don’t forget, Kfood- bibimbap, kimchi which are staples on my table. Come to think of it, I’m pretty K loaded!

My familiarity of Korean doesn’t extend to the country’s entertainment and creative industry though. But, wait. I did know F4 if that’s at all related. From when the band toured here and Filipinos went totally insane (I believe that’s about when the KPop wave also came to stay for good here). Me, I went gaga over Wonder Girls’ upbeat Nobody. I remember that I worked from our office library (nobody went in there to actually read) just so I could shut the door and wallow in the song in the background. One afternoon, the Director found me there. I thought he looked a bit jangled but also bemused. His image of me didn’t quite match with that me. And, yes, Gangnam Style by the artist Psy- for a while there, it rivalled the national anthem as the most played music during school programs here. Beyond these, I draw a blank.

In Viu, I tapped on a show at random just to see how it plays in the app. And, surprise, sutprise, I didn’t want to stop until after the final episode! Ha!

My Girl has a straightforward story line ie. it didn’t try to get more and more people and histories in in an attempt to make it sophisticated, which I like. The reason I can’t sustain my attention for TV drama is because unlike movies in which I’m able to know the beginning and end in one sitting, TV plots branch out into intricate sub-plots that could stretch into six years! I admire the imagination put into that but I simply don’t want to be entertained by the same thing that long. So anyway. Sixteen episodes of this refreshing fast-paced series went by like a breeze. I found out afterwards that the show was shown years ago- 2005. That long! I also had no inkling who the actors are only that they were right for their roles. I looked them up on the Net afterwards. I was impressed. Even blacks in the US are diggin’ into K artists! Also, the leading man who looked like a young Keanu had actually come to visit after his huge following here “petitioned” a media company to sponsor! I watched his appearance on Wowwowee- the reactions! I totally understand it though. I felt the same in my time when Menudo first toured Manila. The screaming and everything. Embarassing in retrospect but such is life. For fans. What I don’t get is paparazzi, attention to the point of making another person feel violated and fearful.

I’m sure there were plenty of reviews about the drama, and though much belated here’s mine in the form of what I’ve taken away from watching it:

  1. My girl may appear to refer to just Yoo Rin in relation to Gong Chan, but in totality, it’s also about the other girls around them- Syeo-hyun to Gong Chan, Gong Chan’s grandfather toward his granddaughter(s), Yoo Rin to Jung-woo, Gong Chan’s maiden aunt to Mr. Jang, Gong Chan’s assistant to Yoo Rin’s friend’s brother. While the story focuses on Yoo Rin’s and Gong Chan’s love story, several other love stories are happening close by. And if airports, snow, and view from the top are symbolic of the ties that bind Yoo Rin and Gong Chan, the others have their own too. These provide interesting depth and variety.

  2. True friends are worth more than any gold. Yoo Rin’s two friends stuck by her no matter what. It’s to them that she could be honest. Their friendship is her lifeline to a normal world. After them, Jung-woo is the first stranger who sees her despite her lies. Gong Chan who was not a friend at first had to go through a kind of purging in orde to see her and ironically become her most important friend.

  3. We grow to love those who we make memories with. And, it goes without saying that we cannot do this in absentia. Two years of memories were what Gong Chan and his girlfriend lost during the time she was away. And, before both are able to make up for lost time another equally irresistible being has already physically moved in and occupied a significant portion of that gap. It’s hard to fight that kind of advantage, as what Syeo-hyun learns in the end and accepts: I thought I lost to a girl named Yoo Rin but I actually lost to love. Same with Jung-woo who failing in a final bid to get to Yoo Rin admits, why can’t I see what’s in front of me? Heartbreaking both realizations, yes, but I guess that’s what it means by all’s fair in love– sometimes it’s really about who gets there at the right time first.

  4. Fifty Shades’ what is it with elevators? apparently wasn’t the first. But, joking aside, the drama’s many elevator scenes drove home the point that elevators are film-worthy sites on their own.

  5. Last but not least, the soundtracks. I love them! KPop has some similarity with Cambodia’s which I was introduced to by a shop owner in Phnom Penh from whom I bought my first mp3 player. They loaded it with their music, free of charge “because you’re Filipino”. Ah, that’s music to our ears!

The most awkward and amusing scene for me is when the girl, stealing oranges from Gong Chan’s orchard, is caught redhanded by the man himself, and before that, received payment from the same man after he drove right on and squashed some of the oranges that fell on the road. She had been selling the fruits as well as the jams she prepared from them. Homeless, she had been living in his vacation house she had broken into. She knew of the house from when Gong Chan hired her to interpret for his business partners who he took to his Jeju Island estate. There, she discovered that he has an orchard filled with ripe oranges that nobody seemed to care about. Imagine meeting your future spouse under bizarre circumstances! But there you go!

Everything Baguio, Holidays

“Sunshine on my shoulder makes me happy”

sunbathe indoors
It’s supposedly the cold season in Baguio City, but temps are unusually warm to hot at times. Apparently this “mini winter heatwave” is felt across the globe. Hopefully this is only just another quirk of the leap year. On the other hand it’s like summer hasn’t gone away and I like that. What the City lacks in holiday lights and cheer and I’m not referring to the malls, the strong sun makes up for it.
Holidays, Technology

Spread the love

coffee body scrub from Starbucks' coffee grounds
Coffee grounds from Starbucks (you have to ask for it in branches where it isn’t openly displayed) can be upcycled into homemade body scrub. Spread the love is the word this Christmas season, and couples could do just that, literally, in true holiday spirit. (images via Starbucks Philippines and glaminati)
Holidays, Religion and Spirituality

Almost a halloween story

church bell c.1912 St. Michael the Archangel, Irosin, Sorsogon, Philippines This huge one is at the St. Michael the Archangel Church in Irosin, Sorsogon. In the background is Mt. Bulusan. I lingered by it taking in it’s history. Bells jog my memory. It was the day before my wedding and I was staring at the image of St. Joseph on my wall. Mother had put it there weeks before. She told me it’d be good if I say a novena to him (the church where the wedding was to take place is named after the saint). I hadn’t. But that day I suddenly remembered. What should I pray for? I wasn’t sure so asked for the first thing that came to mind- a sign that it’s the right decision. Then I went about helping with last minute preparations, already forgetting what I’d earlier prayed for. I didn’t actually expect an answer. In the afternoon, in my bed chatting with my sister I suddenly heard the distant toll of bells. I almost jumped out of my skin. It seemed to come from the east side of the house but from far, far away. Strange as the only church with a bell in our area is toward the west side, 15-minute walk away. I asked my sister if she heard the sound. She didn’t. It then dawned on me- the possibility of it being the sign. It frightened me. I decided that the whole thing was just my imagination. Years later, when I was ready emotionally to look with humor at what happened to my marriage, the memory of the bells I had suppressed came back to me. The sound of the bells had been that of a call to mourning. It frightened me because what did it mean? I had wanted a happy and joyful answer fit for weddings. And, what was I supposed to do? Call off the wedding? On the eve? It would’ve been insane if I did. So I chose sanity. Family honor. Personal pride. I showed up for those, I realized years afterward. I also had a kind of falling out with the saint, because well I didn’t appreciate his sad news. I owe the saint a belated apology, I know. A lesson this has for me is, to not ask for signs if I’m not prepared to believe or act on it.

time off at the beach
Holidays, Poems and Quotes

Work hard, play hard

at the beach

It’s important that at some point in your life you really focus on your career, almost to the point of insanity.

You’ll never get this time back.

You have to want it so bad that you wake up in the morning and you think about it, love it, breathe it, eat it, and see it all day.

After you’ve accomplished a couple of things, then take a moment back from work for those first years and then come out of the matrix a little bit and take a freaking vacation.

Nicki Minaj, interview, Glamour May 2015

Holidays

One wish down

I’ve lost all the rosaries, scapulars, religious rings and bracelets given me.  Maybe I’m just not into such representations.  But, I was humbled seeing that my former boss carried on him always a rosary in his pocket.  The image of him touching his pocket throughout the day to make sure it was there remains in my mind to this day especially whenever as a Catholic I’m stricken now and then by guilt over not having any religious article on me (I’ve been joking with a foreign national who was baptized and grew up a Catholic but as an adult changed religion that ‘Catholic’ does you in with guilt).  “You carry a rosary,” I observed aloud to him and he looked at me like I’ve lost my mind. My former boss is a priest, you see, so, well, he should carry one if only for the sake of walking the talk.  But, he’s also a man and I thought, how humbling it is for a man to carry on him a rosary.

These days, perhaps because ageing does weird things to you, I’ve been remotely thinking about getting an article, precious enough that I’d not want to lose it.  But where to buy that sort?

And then, in a recent Christmas gathering the field office head of our national partner-organization called me aside and presented me with – what do you know? – a glorious ‘knotted rosary’!  You’re a Catholic naman aren’t you? she asked.

glass bead bracelet caritas

I was only able to open the package in my room after the party and when the bracelet fell on the bed, I realized after a moment that a search has just ended.

I immediately fell in love with it; again, as I read the words etched at the back of the tiny angel charm, and again as I note the story behind the making of the rosary- I wonder who that particular inmate is.  I wondered about what the circumstances were at the time and what went on in the inmate’s mind as s/he worked on this project.  But whatever. Now that it has found it’s way to me, I guess it means I ought to pray for that person’s wish to also come true.

I found myself making a promise- to take good care, this time, of this unexpected second-chance gift of religious article.  The following morning, I ceremoniously told the lady manager, in a sort of witness taking to that promise, that I’ll wear the bracelet.  Always.

Holidays

Going off the grid

I think when you spend enough time when it’s quiet around you and you don’t open your mouth for three or four days, there’s parts of your brain that can kind of rest. I think when we’re out in the world and we have to talk to people, we edit ourselves. You know, we have to like, act a little bit. As honest as we may be as humans, when we’re out there, we’re all kind of wearing mirrors on our faces. You know, constantly reacting to how to react to the people around you. And I think when you’re alone for a long enough time, you can feel a lot more peace.

– Justin Vernon of Bon Iver, in an interview speaking about living in his father’s cabin for three months when writing For Emma, Forever Ago (via thehabitofbeing)

mountain home

Holidays

The meaning of spring

cherry blossoms

In Japan, it’s sakura season once again.  In the cities, the beauty this time brings is evident in urban gardens and parks especially designed to showcase such.

Similarly, in February, Baguio City celebrated the beginning of spring, panagbenga in the local dialect. 

The celebration however needs to go beyond commercialism and one-off hurried planting of flowers in the downtown area into longer term preservation of green spaces where plants native to the City are grown and showcased. 

Burnham Park, for instance, continues to deteriorate before our very eyes.  Melvin Jones has turned into an eyesore with it’s seriously balding field which once was verdant and smelt of clean grass. 

The funds derived from business activities during the Panagbenga festival should have, first and foremost, gone to green space preservation starting with Burnham Park and Melvin Jones 

image

How many years has the festival been going on?  The observation is that these years did not translate into improvements even to the downtown area.  In fact, the area has become dirtier, darker (especially lower Session Road), smellier, browner/dustier. 

‘Spring’ in the City is beginning to mean factory made that can be bought off store shelves and hung on posts when so desired; neglected, we consequently kill the season and its attendant natural process.