The others.

As an alternative to being decomposed by boredom, I’ve been roaming around the blogsphere, reading my friend’s latest entries, and, upon seeing that their latest entries have been written eons ago, I’d write comments, urging them to update.

Jef writes about his backsliding and how terribly hurtful the consequences can be. He writes:

The cataracts of my sin blocked my eyes, and I lost sight of Him. And instead of seeking what is infinitely desirable, I settled for what is empty. And ephemeral. But, by "the richness of His kindness and forbeareance," (Rom 2:4) He did not let me go that easily.

Paul B. expresses this same view about his sin, and says, "You cannot write edifyingly about backsliding if you are backslidden—I cannot write edifyingly." He then goes on to quote a wonderful message from C. Spurgeon.

Razel’s final entry has been written in Charie's PC. She writes: I'm going home. I failed to write that yesterday, I did a Lance and went to SM, too.

Hence, from now on, I did a Lance would not only mean catching nine frogs for the whole class to dissect, but also to rush to the mall alone to meditate on God’s goodness.

“My desk is clutter,” writes Kuya Jordan. On second thought, so is mine.

Family portrait


(From left)

There's Manong Ralph and Sean. I've written about them in this post. They're my two other brothers, the very people I grew up with. I've fought with them a lot of times, especially when we were young--and those were pretty bloody fights, comparable to the Gladiator battle scenes.

Manong would get mad at me for using his things, and I'd get mad at him for using my things. With Sean, it was different. A most wonderful brother that I am, I'd put my nose close to his ears, mumble noisy sounds, and, like a tiger catching his prey, he'd slap me, and I'd slap him, and I'd laugh while we slap each other. Then I'd rush to my room, lock the door, and hear him crying outside. Sweet.

Then there's my mother. She never fails to remind us to brush our teeth every night (I guess dentists always do that to their children), which is her way of showing us her care. And then there's my father. As soon as my mother says, "Brush your teeth," he'd immediately add: "And drink your milk and vitamins." Whenever I'd call home and ask for prayers, Tatay would always say, "Lance, you don't need to tell us that. The moment we [he and Nanay] wake up in the morning and before we sleep at night, we always ask the Lord to bless you [Manong, I and Sean] wherever you may be."

My parents are very happy people. It's not a wonder then why the entire family is.

Meditations in SM

Prompted by the need to buy a new pair of slippers, I went to SM North alone. There was no one to accompany me: either my dorm friends had exams, or had gone home already—maybe they were sleeping, or I just couldn’t find them. But I figured, I wanted to go alone anyway. There’s something to solitude in the midst of the noisy crowd of people that makes you think deeply.

And so I hailed an SM North jeepney, sat there for 15 minutes or so while listening to two nice ladies talk about how they had managed to trick their daddies into buying them things when they were little. Ah, the early signs of manipulation.

The last time I’ve been to SM—or to any mall, for that matter—was when my brother and I watched the Narnia last January. After that, my life revolved entirely on going to Church, to classes, to late night dinners at McDo Philcoa, sometimes to McDo Katipunan, and to the dorm. I’ve never really gone anywhere else—no, definitely not to SM, even if it’s just one jeepney ride away. Time wasn’t a luxury I could enjoy.

When I came in with the horde of people, it hit me: the sem is FINALLY over. It’s a seriously overwhelming thought. I wonder how I’m supposed to spend a week or more doing nothing, except perhaps, updating this bottle of a blog or reading Steinbeck (but, yes, I thank the Lord for this comfort because finally, I’d be able to enjoy longer quiet moments with Him). After a few steps from the entrance, I heard my stomach growl: FILL me up.

I thought it good to eat pizza. So I went to Sbarro, ordered a double-layered pepperoni-and-cheese with a soda, and tastefully ate the meal in more or less 25 minutes. After thanking God for the feeling of satiety, I found myself in deep thoughts—so vast were they that I must’ve looked like I was staring at some blank space four meters away.

I strolled around, bought was I was supposed to buy, namely, a pair of slippers, and went home.

As I write this, my heart still overflows with the thoughts I’ve pondered at the mall: how infinitely merciful and gracious the Lord is for a great year He’s allowed me to have in MBB, for the lessons He has patiently taught me, for His Word that I’ve clung on to when I was at the end of my strength, and for His other blessings that are too many too mention.

Above all, He has answered my prayer before the sem started—I’ve known a lot about Him. For that and for a lot of things, I will be forever grateful.

Learning from the Master

I’m now convinced—more than ever—that it is often easier to learn spiritual truths from God when we are in times of difficulty than when we are in times of comfort.

A friend will not graduate this April, but she will have to wait for another year (I think) so she can take the two subjects she had failed. Still yet another friend of mine got failing marks in one of his exams. Even if he gets a perfect score in the finals, it wouldn’t be quite enough to reach the passing mark for the course.

But in all these, I’ve been blessed by both of their testimonies. After all, both of them have recognized that behind the veil of trials and hardships and disappointments, there is the mighty, sovereign hand of God. Finite as we are, we may not comprehend the plans of God, but we could always choose to trust in our Lord’s heart. He desires only what is best for us.

So, dearest friends, wipe your tears away, and see, even for a while, the radiant beam of Hope from the sky.

The First BOTTLED Podcast in History!


I've decided to join the bandwagon. I thought, "Why don't I make my voice heard--literally--over the internet?"

So here it is, my first and hopefully not the last podcast . I asked my brother Ralph to interview me. The topic is why I blog. A correction though: the second verse I mentioned is supposed to be 1 Corinthians 10:31, and not 10:13.

You can download it here.

Making much of God


I’m still reading John Piper’s book, Don’t Waste Your Life; I’ve just finished the eighth chapter, Making Much of Christ from 8 to 5. This section of the book deals with answering the question, “How can my life count for the glory of God in my secular vocation?” The answer he gives is: to enjoy much of Him by the way we work. Or, in my case, by the way we study.

So how do we do that? Dr. Piper directs us to six Biblical truths.

Through the fellowship that we have with Him throughout the day in all our work (1 Corinthians 7:24).

By the joyful, trusting, God-exalting design of our creativity and industry.

When it [our work] confirms and enhances the portrait of Christ’s glory that people hear in the spoken Gospel.

By earning enough money to keep us from depending on others, while focusing on the helpfulness of our work rather than financial rewards.

By earning money with the desire to use our money to make others glad in God.

By treating the web of relationships it [our work] creates as a gift of God to be loved by sharing the Gospel and by practical deeds of help.

There’s just a lot of spiritual reminders in this book that every time I finish a chapter, I’d almost always say, “Oo nga, ano?”

Formatted

For some reason or the other, our computer crashed. By “crash”, I do not mean that I jammed against it while somnambulating (my mass is too small to create a huge momentum); or that, by a sudden increase in the earth’s gravitational pull, it fell onto the floor and was broken into smithereens.

It crashed because a virus that goes by the stupidly notorious name, Brontok, had deviously entered our local system from Yakal’s computer network (someone may have downloaded MP3’s or movies from an infected computer), multiplied upon contact with some of our very important files—and these processes led to an eventual but unfortunate lysis of the PC. Uhm, not “lysis.” It’s supposed to be “breakdown.”

My brother and I, clueless and ignorant as we were (still are) of these things, didn’t immediately create back-up copies of our files nor transferred these files to a separate disk drive. After all, Manong is an English major (whose expertise is on Shakespeare and literature—and there is no literary piece that dwells on the subject of crashing computer systems!), and I am a molbio major (and biology defines viruses as organisms composed of capsomeres and DNA’s and all that jazz). In effect, our knowledge of technological things is reduced to using Microsoft Word—and some other things, so how were we supposed to kill the virus?

You get my point.

On the outset of the virus infection, our system became miserably slow—I had to wait for a thousand years for some programs to open, and I couldn’t chat with my lab groupmates. And then, there came a point when it refused to restart. It just won’t. I’ve asked help from the enlightened ones—the beings who breathe and eat technology, and probably dream about them—and after tweaking with the PC in its degenerated state, all they could recommend was, “I-reformat na lang.”

But that would mean:

1. We’d both lose our files,
2. We’d both lose our files, and
3. We’d both lose our files.

There was no other way. Goodbye, beloved files. I hope to see you again soon.

But here we are: the old has gone, the new has come. And our PC, with its breath of fresh air, seems to be enjoying its new life.

Living for His glory

When I had learned of my Chem 26 final grade, I knew I had two choices: either to vent out my frustrations at not having acquired a better mark, or to humbly accept it as the sovereign purpose of the Lord. It's a good thing I've been reading John Piper's excellent book, Don't Waste Your Life, during those times. The bestseller book exhorts everyone, young and old, to live only for the glory of God. According to him--and this is precisely in tune with Scripture--life not lived for Christ is not worth living at all.

And so it ocurred to me, like a white streak of lightning in a tumultous sky, that anything good we receive is undeserved. It's all by God's grace. Unfortunately, people have acquired the habit of saying "by God's grace" to sound spiritual and have forgotten the real meaning of the expression: God's grace means His underserved favor bestowed upon sinners like us. I don't deserve my grade at all. In fact, I don't deserve anything. I couldn't boast of any accomplishment that would merit favor from the Lord.

I was wandering through Miranda Hall, looking at the class exemption list, and heaved a sigh of thankfulness. The Lord has answered my prayer: in my weakness, His strength has been perfected.

First wave

The first wave of exams has ended rather abruptly. Still reeling from the after-effects of shock at the immensity of exams lined up for the whole week, I’ve decided to give myself a break—something I don’t necessarily deserve—and update this bottle of a blog.

My prayer in my daily meditations has been centered on asking God to reveal Himself more fully to me as I prepare for and take my exams. My friends know that I’ve been having sleepless nights because of the enormity of the information to be piled up in my cerebral cortex. But the Lord, faithful as He is, has answered my prayer—I’ve known much of Him in these hard times.

“Lord,” I prayed, “I may not understand Your will. But I pray that You might reveal to me my weaknesses, and when I do come to that point of understanding, may I see You as my only source of strength. May Your strength be perfected in my weakness. Be glorified, Lord.”

Let us take time to praise God for the problems we face—be they exams we need to pass, school requirements we need to fulfill, relationships we need to patch up, whatever—because it is in times of trouble that we are taught to trust in Him, and never in ourselves, because on our own, we are weak, and in Him, we are strong.

The second wave of exams, as I wrap up this entry, is looming over the horizon.

Thinner and taller

“Lance, you look emaciated.”

I was in the process of hurriedly putting on my belt (without it, my pants won’t fit), and my brother was watching me. “You really have to eat, Lance,” he said.

“But I do eat!”

“Let’s see what Tatay will say when he sees you.”

* * *

Agnes, a former Chem 16 classmate last sem, saw me and said, “Lance, ang payat mo na.”

“Talaga? Di naman ako mataba nung first sem, ah,” I said.

“Pumayat ka lang talaga.”

“Baka sa damit lang—on second thought, ginamit ko naman ‘to dati. Teka, tumangkad ba ako?”

“Teka—oo nga, Lance. Tumangkad ka.” I beamed like the sun when I heard her. I am growing taller.

So it should not surprise you, dear reader, that as I write this, I am discussing blood paths with Wegs and Juanchi while devouring Kenny Rogers muffins which Art, my other roommate, brought us from a family surprise party.

I need to get fat before my parents see me when they come here for my brother’s graduation in April, and I need all the grow-food I can consume while I’m still in this sacramental stage of life called adolescence. My goal: the six-foot mark.

Froggy afternoon

Thinking of frogs turning as handsome princes can be very charming indeed—except perhaps for the old wives' tale that kissing them causes lip warts (or is there such a tale?). But after my Bio lab class today, I’ve realized a singular idea: catching nine frogs is overwhelmingly exhilarating. And awfully messy.

After the lecture class was dismissed, we headed to the laboratory. But by we, I mean, myself, Juanchi, Weggie, Ciara, HK, and the Beautiful Group of Psychological Ladies. I knew we were going to do the dissection of a live frog. I had no qualms about it: I pretty much did the same thing when I was in grade school (and I even distinctly remember a classmate who felt cold and nauseous after seeing the frog’s blood—apparently, she had the morbid fear of blood). And so, with nothing else bothering my consciousness—okay, I was desperately longing to head back to my dorm and sleep the entire afternoon off—I placed my things on my table, and waited for Ma’am Sumugat to dish out the instructions. The attendance wasn’t complete yet: maybe some just went to the CR or ate a quickie luncher (if brunch is breakfast-and-lunch, luncher is lunch-and-dinner—cool, but that’s just my invention).

Like a heavenly vision, my lab instructor came in and addressed the entire class. “I need two men to catch the frogs.”

HK, my Korean classmate, immediately raised his hand, and he did so with zeal that I wondered, “Maybe he was born for this.” In contrast, I had no plans to catch any amphibian that afternoon.

“No, HK, you’re too big to get inside the cage (or was it a pen?),” Ma’am said.

And then I looked around and saw, to my dismay, that aside from HK, Juanchi and I were the only sperm-producing organisms in class. Where were the other men?

“You mean, we’re going to catch the frogs?” I asked Juanchi. The answer was affirmative. “But I have no gloves.” Then, a classmate, good-natured and kind in heart as she was, offered to lend her pair. She has small hands—hence, a small pair of gloves. It didn’t fit Juanchi when he tried it. I mean, if he’d forced his hand inside it, it would have been torn apart. And so I tried it in mine. In my mind, I was hoping it wouldn’t fit, but it did. Perfectly.

I’ve been naturally selected to catch the wretched frogs: not just one, but all nine of them for the entire class to vivisect.

And off we went. There and then I saw it: the cage with all its horror and evil tidings and yes, the frogs.

Kinakabahan talaga ako,” I said.

I went inside the small hole, edged my way to get farther in, and saw them sleeping. Well, they looked like they were sleeping because some of them were inside the spaces of hollow blocks lying on the floor. Some of them were merely lying in one of the corners oblivious to the fact that someone—that’d me be—would sentence them to death for the sake of scientific progress.

It was a conscious effort to prevent myself from shrieking. But I reminded myself that I was wearing gloves. Sometimes in life, even the minutest details could spell the difference between being able or failing to accomplish what you’re supposed to do.

The most difficult part was the moment before I actually got hold of the frog. “Will it wiggle? Will it urinate at me? Will it run? Will it bite me?” But, by God’s grace, I managed to grab the first frog. And it surprised me immensely that it didn’t panic, but remained calm in my comforting hands.

Just when I was about to rejoice at my premature victory, I realized that there were still eight more to be caught. By God’s grace, I was able to catch them all.

It was a froggy-frog-frog, froggy-frog-froggy afternoon.

Ang daming nangyari

Much has happened for the past few days.

1. Titus Tan, an MBB classmate, has been elected as one of the University’s Councilors in the Student Council.

2. We’ve had a most wonderful time kicking off the graduating members of the Dormitories Christian Fellowship. I’m still reeling from the after-effects of joy at seeing KalCF organizing the entire event. There they were, the little, wide-eyed freshmen emceeing, leading the worship, and making these colorful nametags. (I will write a longer entry on this).

3. I’ve had a most wonderful time chatting with my friend, Jef, who happens to be on the other side of the globe.

4. Next week is exam week, so I’m trying to get all the sleep I can get.

May the Lord alone be glorified and honored in all of our lives for He alone deserves it.

When our pride is crushed

Most of the time we think we’re self-sufficient. I guess that’s the result of pride. We think we can do anything we want, we can get anything we dream of—and all we have to do is work harder. But it’s a false notion altogether. After all, to say that one is self-sufficient is to deny the grace of God and to say that one does not need God at all.

In life, there are times when we do act like we don’t need God. These are the times when we pursue our dreams that are not in accord with His will and purpose. These are the times when we hold on to the very things that hinder our fellowship with our Creator. These are the times when we desire the things of this world—fame, money, fortune—more than we desire Him.

But, by His grace, we suddenly bump our heads onto hard, cold walls. The after-effects are dizziness, nausea, and a horrible feeling of pain. But with these is the inexplicable moment of clarity that comes as soon as we open our eyes to the world. It is a moment when we suddenly see things clearly. We can then relate what have happened to us in the past—a failure, a disease, or even an achievement—to the present-day circumstances. We then see threads that intertwine and inter-connect. Then, with much gladness, we find ourselves explaining, to a degree, the reasons why those events have happened in the first place. Either the Lord has destroyed the very things that hinder our fellowship with Him, or that He has disarmed the power of pride in our hearts. Maybe He has caused all the pains to come so we may realize that He is to be our all in all—that no amount of material gain can compare to the joy of knowing Him personally. Or, maybe He has caused these to happen so we may find ourselves insufficient, and in due time, we may come back to Him who is our Supply.

Thank you, Lord, for crushing my pride.

Baywalk



On my way from the Church’s Youth Fellowship and the University Infirmary where Basti was confined, I heard familiar voices from the other side of the street.

“Lance, sama ka!” Ah, my friends from the dorm fellowships.

“Saan ba kayo pupunta?” I asked quizzically.

“Sa Baywalk.” Then they went on explaining that there were cultural presentations by selected artists from the National Commission for the Arts. I said I had many things to do (my standard excuse when I’m invited to parties and debuts and other gatherings, which, by the way, happens to be the truth). “Si Manong mo, pupunta,” they said.

“Really?” And, without any reservation, I crossed the street, and with them, hailed a jeepney, rode the MRT, picked a taxi, and listened to the sweet, familiar music that so enchanted us all.

And yes, these things happened with the fishy, awful smell from the cleanest water form in all the earth, Manila Bay.

Now this is a winner



What if I do this in my math exam on Thursday?

* * *

It was a couple of months ago when Dr. Pascual asked me, in one of our Chem 26 lectures, to pinpoint what the first element in Group 6A is. I looked at the periodic table beside the blackboard, counted backwards from the Halogen Group... "Group seven, group six, ah, there it is," I thought.

"Ma'am, it's zero."

And then the entire class laughed like hyenas. Blood gushed through my face like flashflood, and I suddenly felt stupid. "OH NOOOO MA'AM! Sorry. It's Oxygen."