Sunday, January 01, 2017

Solemnity and Hope this New Year

The holiday season passed so quickly.

As fast as the fireworks’ sound that faded out about 10 minutes after midnight.

The 9 day novena preparing us for the day the word became flesh on Christmas day is now just a memory relying on notes and posts to prompt recall. Not if we see its significance that His birth gives a new meaning to humanity. The late Fr. James Donelan in his homily said Christmas sets a new beginning, “ . . . where the eternal cycle of despair is broken, the holding pattern is no longer holding, the Gospel proclaims that today is different from yesterday, that we are not finished with life because God is not finished with us.”

Celebrating the solemnity of Mother Mary on the eve of New Year’s Day is a reminder after Christmas to see our life from a fresh point of view, reminding us that there is hope and that we can begin again.

Even if events happen so fast, it is this hope that we can hold on to that the promise of salvation can be fulfilled. That is why we can start the new year happy.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Birth of New Faith, Hope and Love. 2016 Simbang Gabi at the Gesu

9. The gospel of the final novena of the Simbang Gabi at the Gesu narrates the naming of the old couple Elizabeth and Zachariah's son as John. The ceremony fulfills the transition of the childless couple from barrenness to fruitfulness as a result of conception.
Fr. Adolfo Dacanay in his homily explains that the name John which was divinely inspired captures the significance of the birth as it means "precious gift of God." Childless for decades, the conception gives importance to the virtue of patiently waiting which is lacking today especially in this virtual age.

When the promise of salvation is fulfilled with the birth of Christ, God would have gifted us with the ultimate joy.

This Christmas, we are reminded not to take the gift for granted which is manifested in opportunities, blessings as these are precious which the merciful God granted to us unconditionally.

Merry Christmas!
2016 Katipunan

Banner from the Ateneo website
8. On the 8th day of the 9-day Simbang Gabi at the Gesu, Fr. Arnel Aquino provides a perspective on the meeting of Mary and Elizabeth. Like Fr. Luis David’s scholarly homily, it expands on the significance of the Magnificat, magnifying God but with a point of view of humanity. While we glorify God, it should not diminish man to smallness. Magnifying Him should not invalidate our humanity. Yet we also magnify when we like to look good, invalidating, belittling, underestimating and putting people down.

God created man in the likeness of His image. God’s biography is imprinted on humanity. Through the promise of salvation fulfilled on Christmas day, it should bridge us close to him. Thus life is sacred and to be valued. To be alive is pregnant with grace.
Fr. Aquino closed his homily with a message to reset our sense of self-importance: by magnifying God’s blessings multiplying our thank-you’s,  validating each other and showing importance and building up.
That is the spirit behind the prayer “My soul magnifies the Lord. In God, my Savior, my spirit rejoices.”

7. Mary and Elizabeth engage in a conversation about the shared conception experience, Elizabeth with John and Mary with Jesus.

Fr. Luis David expounds on its significance and relates it with magnificat, the magnification of space and the magnification of God. In today’s time, we have a role in the magnification of God but be wary that magnification can burn.

Featured choir was Aleron which rendered an inspired “Ave Maria” and “Lord make me an instrument of peace" during communion.

Nearing Christmas, my intentions for myself, my family, my community and my nation got clearer sparked by the song Gifts for the Child of Winter with this line "O bring us winter gently, let our hearts be warm."
6. Mary conceived first in her heart and then in her womb. Mary in the virgin state was painted as innocent, naivete and childlike. Appropriately, Fr. Roberto Buenconsejo devoted his homily on Mother Mary on the 6th Simbang Gabi, a traditional Christmas novena in her honor. It enlightened us on the significance of the announcement of angel Gabriel that Mary a virgin would mother a child called Jesus.

The Ateneo College of Law Glee Club (yes, kumanta sila) interpreted the song Inay by Fr. Arnel Aquino about a mother waiting for the child to come home as a fitting tribute to our mother.

Our closing prayer on teaching us the value and sacredness of human dignity was offered through the intercession of Mother Mary.

5. Expounding on the barrenness to fruitfulness of Elizabeth, the mother of St. John the Baptist, Fr. Jason Dy highlights learnings happening between the transition. 1. God can transform. 2. Submit to God’s timing. 3. Fruitfulness is God’s blessing to be shared.
Barrenness in those times is seen as unfaithfulness and a punishment. To transform to fertility is a result of the promise of salvation.
This Advent season as we prepare for the birth of Christ, those among us fruitful are called upon to share with the less fortunate who are victims of structural injustice and circumstances not within their control (not the victimizers nor the opportunists but those you see as helpless but can be enabled with your gesture. No to dole outs too). Doing so makes the coming of Christ a more meaningful season for us.
Before the final blessing, a special prayer was offered to teach us the value and sacredness of human dignity among other related intentions.
Singing was led by the Ateneo College Glee Club.

4. "Do not be afraid," announced by an angel to Joseph, instilling fear, a negative emotion. We fear "what we do not understand and hate what we cannot conquer." Survival is at stake. Like going out at night and be mistaken as an addict or visiting a local prison cell. But fear also leads to a positive outcome. Spiritually, it makes us trust God. Fear awakens hope. Fear based on faith is hope. -4th night of Simbang Gabi 18 Dec at the Gesu presided by Fr. Eric Escandor. Music led by the Bukas Palad Ministry.

3. On the 3rd Simbang Gabi at the Gesu, continuing with the 2016 theme of birth of new faith, hope and love, Fr. Antonio Moreno expounds on the gloom and doom narrating the Aleppo Syria killings and evacuations, the bombing of the Jesuit chapel in Syria and closer to home, the extra judicial killings. But with solidarity and hope and the church with Pope Francis, we will overcome. Emmanuel, “Christ is with us.” Christ as the suffering man will see us through in suffering and in joy.
2. Fr. Nono Alfonso in his homily on the 2nd Simbang Gabi at the Gesu painted a gloomy picture of despair, loss, failure and defeat with the imprisonment and beheading of St. John the Baptist. Relating it to contemporary times locally and globally politically, post May 2016 elections, activities perceived as defeats were cited. So dreadful was the feeling that when peace be with you was offered, there appeared to be none.

After the mass, I personally told the priest I could not wait to jump from Day 2 to Christmas. Fr. Nono said, “matatapos din iyan.” The bad news just filters our faith to better prepare us for the birth of Christ. It is in these moments when we turn to the life of Jesus.
1. We may not want to hear the prophecies of St. John the Baptist building walls to filter them out. We unfollow him and will not gain our redemption. Yet the messages we ignore maybe what we need to know and to face. Not to forget that these unpleasant news are the ones that made Christ one of us this Christmas. –Gist of the homily of Fr. Johnny Go on the 1st Simbang Gabi 2016 at the Gesu.

Ateneo de Manila University Community Prayer
Dear Father in Heaven,
Lead us not into temptation,
the temptation to lose heart
in this time of darkness and confusion.
Deliver us from our lies and deception,
from our fears and anger that darken the Light of Truth.
Discipline our ambition, restrain those who abuse power,
those who exploit the poor and the weak.
Hold back the arm of violence,
the terror that walks our streets.
In these trying times, we pray for justice and truth,
for true peace and unity in our country.
Teach us to be vigilant always.
Give us the courage to face the dark forces
that steal the life and hope from our people.
We pray for our leaders
and for those to whom we give authority to protect us.
Turn them to your light and to your ways.
Remind us again of the value and sacredness of human dignity.
Teach us again to respect and uphold the rights of every person at all times.
No matter how sinful we are, we are still all Your children
who are precious in Your Eyes , who are Living Temples of Your Spirit.
Teach us to remember the lessons of our past.
Train our children to love and fight for the Truth,
Your Truth that makes us free and just to our neighbor.
As we wait for our Lord Jesus Christ in this Holy Season of Advent,
grant us the grace of patient discernment
to become a community that is empowered
by a faith that does justice,
a community that believes in your love
and incarnates that love in mercy and compassion.
Our faith leads us to hope in You alone
as we fight to let your light shine in the darkness,
under the banner of the cross of your Son,
and with the people you have created in your image and likeness,
out of the depth of your love.
We offer you these prayers through our Lord Jesus Christ,
with the help of Mary, our Mother.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Hearing the sound of keys again

He asked for a mechanical writing machine, an unfamiliar apparatus in this information age.
A heavy duty steel Royal typewriter which served the documentation requirements in the 60’s up to the 90’s has been unused for almost four and half decades.

It is working but dusty, mechanical parts needed oiling to smoothen the movements and the keys intact though stained and had to be brushed.
Months ago, I spotted a number of shops along Evangelista st. in Quiapo displaying similar units of various models, brands and types: portable, heavy duty, electric, steel and hardened plastic case. All obsoletes in today’s digital era.

To fulfill the request satisfactorily, I wanted the typewriter cleaned, overhauled and rehabilitated. Without driving to Quiapo and taking a private transport, how do I transport this 15 kilo piece of steel to the shop 18 kilometers away from Quezon City?

Ride the LRT2 lugging the unit in a trolley from Anonas to Recto.

I parked at a nearby supermarket with access to the LRT entrance and pulled the trolley at the main asphalted road of Aurora Boulevard preferring it over the uneven surface of the tiled pedestrian lane.

Going through the mandatory inspection at the gate, the lady guard stopped me to ask for guidelines from an officer via radio. She reported and asked, “a man with a big typewriter in a trolley with wheels without any wrapping is here. Should we allow?” Overhearing the conversation, I protested loudly, “This is not any different from a school boy’s bag on wheels, except that the unit is exposed.” The officer further probed, “is there a chance the trolley will roll-over?” “It will not sir because it has handle and he can control it.”

Clearance was eventually given allowing me to step inside beyond the clearing table. The conscientious guard perhaps as part of her training asked a brusquely male tending to the K9 dog to carry the trolley for me in climbing the stairs up to the entrance. I managed beyond the turnpike, slid the trolley at the working escalator up to the platform. Luckily that Sunday afternoon, there were available seats.
About 20 minutes later, I was thinking of an approach to maneuver the long climb down the exit. Without any hesitation, a young gentleman voluntarily lifted the other end of the trolley handle to assist me up to the next and the forthcoming platforms until it was easy to pull to trolley. I expressed my sincere thanks for the unsolicited assistance and kindness.
Walking to the repair shop along cemented  Evangelista st. about a 100 meters away from the exit was a breeze. Upon my sight, instantly, Mang Nestor, an elderly man, veteran in typewriter repairs since the 70’s understood my requirements and worked on the overhaul.
He wiped off the visible dirt using a white cloth, blew away the stubborn dirt with an electric air blower, brushed the keys with a steel brush and a thinner, unscrewed the blank roller and checked on the moving mechanisms and screws.
All the keys were working including the “ň.” The tab insert and release buttons were functional, magic margin release operational, the heavy and light touch mode was working, ribbon cartridges moving and the roller spacing and movement sliding precisely. Mang Nestor showed off his typing skill and speed in typing “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.” not once but at least five times to prove the machine has  been cleared for another several decades of forthcoming heavy duty work.
Thirty minutes after I surrendered the unit, the rehabilitated Royal was more than ready to take in the pounding to document mechanically compositions. I was charged P400 for the expertise (excluding the LRT toll fee), almost a token payment for the priceless restoration of memories.
Taking the return route back home, I was more confident of getting manpower and machine assistance. After the security inspection at the Recto station, I proceeded to the senior citizen help desk to request for a hand which was readily provided for without asking for proof of age.
At the destination at the Anonas station, I took the Super Metro access where the escalators down to the road level were working.
Back home that same afternoon, I placed the typewriter at a table with bond paper inserted to proudly present an accomplishment and compliance to a request without the benefit of narrating the drama behind the achievement.
My father, who requested for the typewriter positioned his left and right hands at the keyboard, pounded some keys, heard the sound, felt the motion but did not imprint a line. It did not disappoint me.
For me, it was enough that the typewriter episode triggered a recall of stories about his proficiency in typing during his schooling days, hearing again the sound of the keys during my elementary and high school days which for decades have not  been played. It made me see again in my mind typed documents created by the dynamic mind of a storyteller shared to us in a printed medium. This was made possible because of a skilled typist who documented his thoughts in paper for us to appreciate using the typewriter.
These were the intangible rewards that motivated me to go beyond the ordinary for the difficult task of complying to a simple request.

Delivering the request was certainly more fulfilling than the thrill and fun of writing this piece of article using a manual typewriter.

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

An inspiring enduring human spirit

On the day Typhoon Ondoy hit Metro Manila September 25, 2009, Marvin Urbino was in Harrison Plaza in Pasay attending to a client. Marvin, a trained massage therapist was not aware of the magnitude the disaster exacted in his place in Cupang Marikina, about 28 kilometers away.

Luckily, the MRT and the connecting LRT 2 did not suspend operations that tragic day. He got off at the Katipunan station and walked home wading in the floods with his cane alone. Striding by instinct and basic navigation skills, he safely reached home.
That was risky for Marvin as he is blind. His optic nerve was damaged beyond cure when he was still in high school. This eye condition, genetically influenced has already affected three generations in their family. From his generation, he was so far the lone unfortunate casualty of a vision loss.

Recalling the day he was diagnosed with the disease in 1993, he was angry. He stopped schooling not completing his high school degree. He stayed mainly in his room feeling sorry for his helpless condition isolating himself from the rest.
Until slowly, he started to accept his fate learning to do household chores first eventually specializing in cooking. He learned to sharpen his other senses such as smell, touch and sound. Little by little, he stepped out of his comfort zone and exposed himself to the outside elements again.

In 1995, two years after, he was introduced to National Vocational Rehabilitation Center NVRC, a ESCOPA-based organization that specializes in the development of the welfare of the blind teaching them skills to be confident and self sufficient. He underwent training to graduate as a massage therapist.

Like a normal human, years after, he eventually met a relationship, got married in 1998 raising four caring kids.
As Marvin still has some vision of light although blurred, unlike his other colleagues who are completely blind, he leads fellow therapists on the use of cell phones, navigation gadgets as the GPS and of course cooking. He has a sharp sense of smell ably identifying local ingredients, spices and condiments. Surprisingly he picks up new recipes from televised cooking shows.
Recalling Ondoy 7 years ago, he wants to be better prepared for disasters. He would like to learn 1st aid for himself and others and be taught how to swim for endurance. His swimming stroke is unscientific limited to wading.
Listening to what he has gone through, his practical request is doable. As I am neither a certified Red Cross Philippines instructor nor a professional swimmer, I ask that I write instead on his behalf. A small feat for someone who inspires and whose anger has slowly been transformed to a positive attitude and helplessness converted to self confidence and self sufficiency.
Marvin is an inspiring enduring human spirit. He works at RM Massage Clinic at the Riverbanks Mall in Barangka Marikina. If you wish to support his request to enhance further his survival skills, visit their clinic. Tel (632) 463 9648.

Friday, July 15, 2016

BBC Earth Wind Fire and Water. "To mine or not to mine"

Crystals in Mexico
BBC’s “How Earth Made Us” hosted by geologist Professor Iain Stewart documents 4 incredible natural forces that shaped history: Water, Fire, Earth Beneath and Wind.

Each force is treated independently with a strong revelation per force that keeps one glued to both the professor’s narration and the awesome visuals typical of BBC’s documentaries.

While the forces are separately treated, they are linked together creating a complementing picture of how they shaped history and the advancement and destruction of civilization.

It showed the importance of water and how it cycles where at each stage, man abruptly disrupts resulting in distortion of the natural process.

Experiencing Fire
The earth beneath reveals minerals and metals which when converted speeded up the shaping of the earth.

Beneath the Earth
Wind influenced the discovery of land through the natural air flow opening up new frontiers via sailing.

Fire transformed earth’s natural condition to an industrial and mechanical state.

All forces lead to a climax keeping your curious mind interested and prompting you to beg for the answer which Professor Stewart eventually provides.
1. How did water influence the maturity of early civilization and the wealth of the state?
2. How did coal make countries rich?
3. How did fire wipe out an entire civilization?

How Earth Made Us shows us conditions and dimensions we have not seen before like crystals beneath the earth, fire in the eyes of man, inside an aquifer.

The 4 hour documentary ends posing a point of view: resources are finite and man is exponentially expediting its depletion. The team of writers mainly scientists also presents a perspective that man too has the power to reengineer the shaping of the earth. How? The answer won’t keep you hanging but you have to watch it.

Text by Chito, visuals from the BBC site.

Monday, July 04, 2016

Joy in a ride

Joy ride is a favorite past time in my hometown in the 70’s, where the calesa is the main mode of transport to go around town in Tuguegarao. The kutsero steers us to the four corners of the town: Horno and the Cathedral in the East, St Louis in the South, St Paul and Ermita in the West and Cagayan High School in the far North. In between, we pass through Kalye Komersyo and the Town Hall. 30 minutes and a few centavos (25 or 50 centavos) in a slow calesa are all it takes to swing around town. There is no definite destination except to experience the joy of riding of seeing landmarks in a company of friends passing time in a relatively small town.

Described as adventure, expedition, gimmick, or events now, the experience is tagged by the positive emotional experience it brings, joy. No discipline is needed to plan this activity except to gather a group. Just stop a kalesa roaming around the main road or at the side street, declare a joy ride, and hop in. The kutsero’s chuckling sound signals the frail horse to move pulling the over 300 pounds of boisterous passengers to a short distance of 3 to 5 kilometers in slow dragging 1 to 2 hours of ride. His cart serves as the venue for a series of stories, anecdotes narrated spontaneously by anyone on board. For as long as the kalesa is in motion, stories keep on unfolding and unfolding.

The same joy evoked in this calesa ride decades ago was my intention in riding the LRT from Balintawak to Monumento in EDSA. The metro train segment was launched this Holy Week 2010 as part of the 360 degree government project to close in Metro Manila loop connecting Monumento to Quiapo to EDSA via Taft and to West Avenue via EDSA. For P 15.0 I viewed in an elevated platform for the 1st time North Luzon Expressway, Caloocan, Malabon and to certain extent the skyscrapers in Roxas Boulevard at the extreme East. The joy was short lived as it was only a 5 minute ride for a 3-4 kilometer stretch. The thrill that lingered was the excitement of seeing familiar object in a new light and being one of the 1st to do so.

The pleasure of a ride whether in a small town or in a highly populated city was pretty much the same. Even in a double deck bus. This June 2016, in another setting, in an enhanced form of transportation in the company of an expanded group, the word “joy ride” which was getting obsolete resurfaced. Passengers from Metro Manila joined in an excursion to Everybody’s Café to celebrate Father’s Day riding in a double deck bus called Sky Jeepney.

Much like the kalesa, the Sky Jeepney served as a moving platform for the members of the family to share stories, update each other and to recall the food and place of our parent’s hometown San Fernando Pampanga. Not just 6 but 22 were on board. Travel time was about the same as the kalesa ride but the distance covered was twenty times longer and about 60 kilometers faster. Conversation was more intense. Subjects discussed went beyond the trivia and spanned through decades of experiences.

The joy ride in a kalesa was for recreation to pass the time away. So too was the Sky Jeepney but not to pass the time away but to remember the times. In remembering the times, newer experiences were told, deeper insights were discovered, funnier stories were narrated and stronger bonds were established. That ride was not just for the food, for the place nor to celebrate an event. It was not just a ride for joy but a journey of thanksgiving and gratitude for 6 decades of solid togetherness as a family.

When passersby and motorists wave at us staring at the bus with wonder and amusement, I gamely smile back relishing the joy of that memorable ride and planning in my mind the next one.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Baptism as gateway to faith and renewal of friendships

Baptism is one of the milestones in the life of a catholic infant. Baptism prepares a child to the Christian world as a gateway to the other sacraments. It brings about the birth of water and the spirit, a prerequisite to enter the kingdom. Supporting the child with the church are the parents and godparents.
Deandre De Vera’s baptism was also a social permission for the parent’s mountaineering club to get together in a reunion with their friends to renew friendship and ties. In a luncheon reception at the vicinity of Plaza Rajah Sulayman, relatives of both Jun de Vera and Jalyn Javier met the couple’s friends sharing a common bond for the mountains, travels and adventures.

Celebrating with the family’s historical Christian events along with illustrious loyal club members and past officers Bart Bartolo, Ronald Parlan on vacation from Qatar, Jon Linao, VP Roy, Major Raymond,Patrick Alcomendas on short weekend vacation from Singapore were Jong and Yay of UP Org, JB Aňonuevo, Regie Pablo of Revolve, Chito Razon among others.
As part of the club’s solidarity tradition, the luncheon was extended to drinking socials in a beer joint explored by Regie, Ronald, Roy on foot along Adriatico st. Rounds over rounds of Red Horse and Pale Pilsen kept on being replenished at the three tables commandeered by the group for the impromptu occasion courtesy of the most generous members and host parent.
Like a climb socials, talks revolved around Regie’s twenty years’ affiliation with the club and MFPI, memorable climbs with the Adobo Boys’, Jun’s enterprising outdoor store venture, the Quirino federation climb, MESAU’s medical mission with medical supplies mixed with Ginebra San Miguel and chaser Eight O’ Clock courtesy of generous friends and sponsors, Roy and Regie’s exploratory Batad adventures and most interestingly, coming from a divisive national presidential election, the talk on internet trolls with Jon L. at the center.
Discussions were lively and animated considering the two special guests' absence in the climbing scene for years and decades that the scheduled morning baptism has extended into late in the evening.
MESAU as a social institution has withstood the test of time even with the advent of millennial and overnight mountaineers primarily because of its membership, a solid bunch of warm bodies sharing a deep passion for camaraderie and the mountains.
Those precious hours with the members were sufficient trigger for us to remember the high points of our climbing careers supplementing the positive and exciting experiences with our own respective clubs. Thanks for adopting us and allowing us to contribute to your solidarity.
As Regie wrote in Deandre’s scrap book, “remember me when you drink your first beer Deandre.” Putting words in Jon Linao’s message, “remember Deandre when you vote, do not allow the yellowtards to reclaim their power.”
All these of course in the spirit of respect and fun which any mountaineer in the late 90’s to early 2000’s lives by imbibed by an informal code of ethics.

Hanggang sa susunod na binyagan.