Showing posts from 2007


I missed watching the Federer-Sampras matches when they were shown on cable last November. Too bad I had no tv. But thanks to Youtube, I got to see some of it anyway. Yesterday, though, their Seoul match was aired on tv. Man, I miss Pete Sampras. His hair’s receding now. He used to be the Roger Federer of his time, the world number one of tennis, winner of numerous grand slam titles, before he resigned five years ago. Roger Federer was great in court, too. Commentators call him the best tennis player who’s ever lived. He’s quick, smart, strong—and he’s just as passionate and soft-spoken as Pete. Federer beat Sampras, of course: 6-4, 6-3. But it wasn’t an easy win for the Fed. Clearly, he had to improve his service receptions. Sampras scored a lot because of aces—he still has got it. The match was amazing. Two of the best tennis players in history played each other. Surprisingly, there was no pressure—only hearty laughter from the crowd and the two of them.

UP SOCCSKSARGEN Quiz-mas Challenge for High School Students is, like, tomorrow na!

If you're in Koronadal City, feel free to drop by FitMart Mall on December 22--my, that's tomorrow!--at 1-4 pm, for the UP SOCCSKSARGEN Quiz-mas Challenge for High School Students . Schools throughout Region 12 will compete for amazing cash prizes amounting to Php 10,000. Categories include Math, Science, English and Literature, and History and Current Events with focus on Region 12. Support your schools and support UP SOCCSKSARGEN! See you all there!

A Christ-centered Christmas

1. We in YCF ministered to the street kids in UP more than a week ago. We had games, food, and gospel sharing sessions in Sunken Garden. The kids were very participative—some were harder to control, but they immediately listened the moment we asked them. The kids in my group asked relevant questions like “ Lahat po ba ng simbahan ay tama ?” (Are all churches teaching the truth?). We later handed out colorful bracelets whose colors represented an element in the gospel message. We were certainly blessed. 2. In Higher Rock’s Youth Fellowship, we ministered to kids in Barangay Payatas. We also had games. We presented a skit that was related to the gospel, which Kuya Lito followed up with a brief message. Meanwhile, a lot of us were able to share the gospel to people there even before the program started. 3. We had our Family Day in Higher Rock. The presentations were awesome! We in the Youth presented a choral medley. We sang songs like “A Mighty Fortress is Our God,” “Raise Up an Army, O

Sarah's rescue

I shot these on the last day of our Antique trip. Sarah will probably forgive me for posting some of her photos here. I did warn her. I had no idea the pictures were going to come out this way--like in a horror flick--until I sorted them in folders. Sarah looks really scary, doesn't she?

God be with you, Glenda

Jaylord had this as his primary headshot picture (himself, Jason, and myself) in his Friendster account, one of the most visited, most commented, and most viewed in the network. The caption read: "Mga pinakagwapong lalaki sa Yakal." True, oh so true. Then Glenda wrote an entry, Yes, Jaylord , in response to the photo. Glenda's just thoughtful like that. She writes about anybody the moment a person pops out in her mind. Thanks for the kind words , Glenda. And yes, we dearly miss you, too.

Koronadal, here I come

The date is December 19, a Wednesday. I don’t know if it’s going to be sunny or cloudy—or if it’s ever going to snow in this part of the world—but what I do know is that I’m coming home for Christmas. My kid brother Sean is down with chicken pox in his rented apartment in Davao. He’s probably stuck in his bed with all his bed covers on, his skin covered with itchy red and black sores. I hope it’s going to be over when he comes home. I’ve never had a chicken pox, and I can’t afford to look like someone has drawn black dots on my skin while I was sleeping. My older brother Ralph is in his apartment two jeepney rides from where I live, also detained with his inch-thick readings that never run out of supply. If trees are being cut down for paper production, blame it on law schools. And then there’s me, writing this entry as a petty excuse not to start reviewing for a Monday exam. I will, believe me, but in the near future. Exams have a way of distorting my schedule. I resolve not to be bo

Christmas party at Kuya Dave's

Kuya Dave and Ate June Griffiths give one of the best Christmas parties in the world, something I look forward to each year. The Christmas decors and lights are fascinating. The food is unmistakably and deliciously English: bread and butter, trifle (gelatin with custard and fruits), and well, some Filipino additions, too, like pansit .The games always seem new and fresh, even if they're the same ones we've played for the past hundred years. In YCF's Christmas party this year, Kuya Dave invited three foreigners to speak about Christmas in their country and what the celebration means to them. Pastor Nnamdi from Nigeria spoke on the increasing materialism in his country's Christmas celebration. Pastor Vishna from Cambodia told us that there are very few Christians in his place. The celebration is mostly confined to the churches. Pastor John from Papua New Guinea shared a good news to us: the materialism that's prevalent in Western (and our ) society is not found in th

Ten minutes

I just boarded the jeep, then she did, after a few seconds. She sat in front of me. During the 10 minutes of travel, we had a good chat: on life, on career, on faith. It was all so refreshing, like a glass of cold water after an exhausting jogging session. We talked about how fast time flies: who'd have thought it's been four long years since we first enrolled in UP? We talked about God's faithfulness, and how He has, never once, left us nor forsaken us. "How are you?" I asked. "I have peace--I can't explain it--because I'm sure that where I'm going is where God wants me to be," she said. I hope we could all say the same thing.

UP Singing Ambassadors: Tulad ng Dati

The air was biting cold as I walked my way to the Church of the Risen Lord to watch the concert of the UP Singing Ambassadors (UPSA). Aside from the carols I hear in malls, it’s the chills that remind me that Christmas is near. UPSA’s Christmas offering, Tulad ng Dati , features songs from a wide repertoire—world song classics, Christmas songs in English and Filipino, as well as popular songs of the present. Conducted by Ed Manguiat, himself an international prize winner, the choir gave masterful renditions of songs like Poor Wayfarin’ Stranger (an American folksong), I Thank You God For This Most Amazing Day (Eric Whitacre, written by E.E. Cummings), and Diwa ng Pasko (Ramon Tapales, arranged by L. San Pedro). In one of my favorites, Creation , the choir cleared off age-old notions about choral singing by performing a word-less piece composed by B. Cmenypko. The song narrated—literally without saying a word—the story of how this world came to be. I was amazed when some singers shri


I sing because I'm happy, I sing because I'm free.... -- Civilla D. Martin and Charles H. Gabriel, 1905 I remember the night when I poured my heart out to the Lord. Yes, I remember clearly. There I was, a filthy rag, guilty of my sins, deserving nothing less but punishment. I remember how my tears literally soaked my pillows, creating moist imprints that would disappear the morning after. There was pain in my throat as I cried out to God for mercy. "Forgive me," I pleaded. But at the back of my mind, I knew I did not deserve what I was asking for. I offended my Lord and my God. When I sinned, it was as if I spat on His face shamelessly. "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" ( 1 John 1:9 ). These words gave me courage to come to my Father that night. I confessed my sins to Him. I trusted in His faithfulness. He would forgive me not because I deserved it, but because He is merciful and

Stem cells from skin

In my Ethics class, we discuss the issues that surround the field of research. There are many troubling questions. Different sectors of society respond differently. It's a chaotic debate that's going on. It seems endless. As each year unveils a development in the biosciences, new issues are inevitably introduced. But here's good news for everyone, something that could "quell the ethical debate troubling the field": Two teams of scientists reported Tuesday that they had turned human skin cells into what appear to be embryonic stem cells without having to make or destroy an embryo. All the scientists did was add four genes which reprogrammed the chromosomes of the skin cells, much like clicking the system restore key to a computer. This is a breakthrough because it shows that cells of the body can be induced to become "embryonic-like." Cells in this state are best for research because they're easily manipulated. They can easily become other cell types

JP Asong at Game KNB?

When JP told me one night if he could borrow my black shoes, I sensed something strange. I got giddy when he broke the news: ABS-CBN called him up. He qualified to play at Game KNB? JP on national tv! How could I miss that? I almost cut class just to see the show. He looked good. But I could tell he was shaking. He won 60 thousand plus an entertainment showcase. As soon as he got back after taping, he rushed to my room, said he couldn't believe it, and thanked God profusely. He lost to an Atenista in the second round. He chose "Seeing stars" category, thinking it was about constellations. Sadly, it was about some movie. It wasn't for him this time. But, my golly, we were walking after dinner awhile ago when some people on the other side began screaming, "JP!" He didn't win the million, but he's a certified star.

Gospel tool

In presenting the gospel, we must make sure that we're presenting it faithfully. Here's a great guide we can use. Here's the Tagalog version .

Paper Dolls

Paper Dolls is a documentary film featured in the 8th Israeli Film Festival in the country. It tells the story of homosexual Filipino OFW's in Tel Aviv who work as caregivers in the morning and as entertainers at night. Touching, moving, true to life. Made me realize how hard it must be to work abroad. I watched the movie with Mike, as a requirement for Art Stud 1. After the show, I congratulated critically-acclaimed director, Tomer Haymann. Mike and I even had our photos taken.

A bug's life

Sibalom, Antique. Watch the 10-minute slide show here: DCF Missions Exposure Trip


We set out, twenty of us, from Metro Manila to Sibalom, Antique. The bus in Cubao was nothing imposing. Trust me, you won't even bother taking a second look at it. The green paint looked new, with the words Dimple Star--the name of the company, I guess--sprawled on its sides. But curiosity got the better of me. I surveyed it carefully, and when I saw the sign hanging in front that said "Antique," I was taken aback. Times have changed, old people will tell us. They used to travel for weeks to hop from this to that part of the country. Now all it takes is a bus. From Cubao, we went to Batangas City. From there, we rode a ferry to Mindoro. Then, we took another bus ride to reach the other port, from which we rode the ferry going to Caticlan. We took another bus ride to take us, finally, to Antique. All in all, travel time was 19 hours. Not, it wasn't easy. It wasn't torturous either. At the end of the trip we all looked haggard, almost like refugees: layers of oil


I had many reasons to go. These I pondered as I packed my clothes for the trip that would take me to Antique and then finally to Negros. I'd be out of town for two weeks, so I had better have my clothes, socks, and underwears ready--or I'd have to wash them in the course of the trip. Because I'm a pretty light traveller, I packed as few clothes as I could. You're free to disagree with me, but I believe that the enjoyment in travelling decreases with an increase in baggage. I'll bring a tote bag if I can help it. I was going on missions. To tell people of Christ. To show them that they can be assured of their salvation. To remind them of God's love and mercy. After I finally zipped my bag, patted it like a man would to a friend, I said, "Ayos! Ready to go na." But was I ready?, I asked myself. In my room, I pleaded God to search me. After all, I might just be going with all the wrong motives--for sheer companionship with dear friends in the fellowship,


Travelling is like having four years of college education—it transforms you, but only if you let it. This I remember my favorite University professor telling us in class three years ago. In my seat, I was in what can only be descibed as a trance: my teacher's voice playing in the backgound, my imagination taking me to places—in an old castle in Spain, in sprawling vineyards in Italy, or in some fireplace in Sweden. I left that class with restless feet. I was determined to travel the world, but when I learned of the staggering cost of plane tickets, I had to think again. You see, I've always loved travelling—both the experience of reaching places I've never set foot in, and equally, of the process of getting there. The past two weeks have seen me travelling around the Philippines. A cross-country vacation, I'd tell people in amusement, when they asked me what I had been up to. It's no secret. I joined the UP DCF Missions Exposure Trip to Sibalom, Antique. After more

Nobel 2007

Every time the world rejoices at the winners of the Nobel Prize for the year, I get a little frustrated because no Filipino has ever won it. Cory Aquino was close to getting the Peace prize, I was told, but she didn't make it. Not one of our home grown scientists and writers and economists have earned the award either. To see a Filipino win a Nobel is to bring the Philippines back on the map. But more than that, it will affirm that the Filipino is not merely a spectator, watching other powerful countries play the game in the international arena. A Filipino winning the Nobel is proof that the Filipino is, in fact, actively involved in human affairs, propelling this world to change, and to change for the better. I'd like to see that happen in my lifetime, inasmuch as I'd like to rejoice over a Filipino grabbing an Olympic gold. But when? Here are this year's notable Nobel Prize winners: for Peace : Al Gore and the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change,

Who says we're nerds?

A basketball girls match in the College of Science (SC) Sportsfest. In this game, MBB defeats Biology. Checa Robles emerges as the highest pointer of the match. She's poised to pull off that crucial free throw, advancing MBB's lead by a point. In a technical time out during the first half, MBB head coach Juanchi Pablo reminds the players of the game strategies. Five minutes before the end of the game, MBB and Biology players anticipate where the ball is going to fall. Dianne Deauna of MBB warms up after being called to the bench. As for me, well, I took the pictures.


I. Frustration Frustrated, I walked out. You know the feeling when something you've been praying for has been granted, but you didn't have enough courage to grab it at that very moment? Today could've been the chance for me to share the gospel to a friend. But I was dumbfounded. I was hesitant. I was afraid. II. Evangelism Frustrated, I went to church. The preaching on evangelism dug deep into my heart. Evangelism was defined as the "sharing of the gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit to sinful people for them to trust in God as their Savior and Lord." To share the truth about Christ is a command (Matthew 28:19-20, Luke 24:47, Acts 1:8). Sadly, we often choose to disobey it. Why? We are afraid. We fear that the message we carry will be rejected. We fear for our reputation. We think that a specialized training is a prerequisite for evangelism, such that we have an adequate amount of Bible knowledge to answer every single question thrown at us. We think we can lea

Heroes, Season Two

I hated Heroes when I first saw it. I eventually outgrew all my prejudices and began to like it. My brother, who’s a huge fan of the show, laughed at me when he learned I was hooked. “I told you,” he said, grinning. “It’s still terribly un-scientific, though,” I told him. “What do you expect?” he said. “Science taken all by itself is boring. One has to fictionalize it.” Last Tuesday afternoon, I watched the first episode of the second season. New characters have emerged. There are many more coming, I think. I’m glad my favorite Matt Parkman is still on the show. Many questions are left hanging, too. Is Peter Petrelli going to come back? Who’s the next big villain after Sylar? And, of course: When will Nathan shave again?

Silent afternoon

College of Science Library, University of the Philippines, Diliman.

Why we dream

I awoke in the middle of the night. The restroom was four rooms away from mine. A long walk, yes, especially if you want to sleep some more. But my bladder was going to burst big time. Besides, I was too old to pee in bed. Relieved, I set out to sleep the moment I got back. I attempted to continue the dream that was interrupted. Sadly, the virtual movies that play in our minds while we're asleep have a way of evaporating, unnoticed, into the land of the forgotten. This was no exception. I twisted and turned, waiting for sleep to come. It wasn't a severe case of insomnia, but it was enough to give me a headache. Of course I tried counting sheep, but they looked so unfamiliar and detached as they hopped from one side of the fence to the other, floating in mid-air fashion, that I just had to stop. I resorted to thinking happy thoughts instead, imagining I was in some place in the Pacific, lying on a hammock, drinking from a coconut with a long, colorful straw. The picture wa


This picture taken just before I slept one night reminded me of how a tiny spark of light of God's truth can serve as a beacon for the salvation of many. Regina Jansen, Dutch missionary to the Manobo in Mindanao and the urban poor in Manila, spoke in YCF last night. I was reminded to ask God for opportunities to share the gospel, and be a salt and light to this darkened world.

Seeing and Savoring Christ

I've just finished reading John Piper's Seeing and Savoring Christ . If you haven't read it yet, I suggest you do. The book can be downloaded for free at . Piper has faithfully created a Biblical sketch of the Person of Christ, from his birth, crucifixion, resurrection, up to his second coming. The book has 13 very short chapters, each ending in a prayer. Piper argues that since "the deepest longing of the human heart is to know and enjoy the glory of God," one must know Christ to satisfy that longing. Christ, after all, is the image of the invisible God. The author also talks about Christ's humility. Our Lord left the thrones of heaven to assume the despicable frame of man. He endured mockery, rejection, and hypocrisy, and the most painful suffering imaginable: death on the cross. He came to save us because He loved the Father, He loved His glory, and He loved us. Piper expounds on Jesus' power, wisdom, and mercy, explains why Jesus had to


Yakal Residence Hall pathway.

Herman is in town

Herman Padernal, classmate from grade to high school, is in town for a field trip. Shean and I met with him at the SM Mall of Asia. We had had a great time relishing the good ol' high school days. Herman will always be remembered for his nose where most of his pimple took residency, and for his tongue that's as long as a dog's. Really. Who in the Philippines doesn't know anything about SM? So there we went, for lack of any places to go to. Most of the time we walked. The photo shows SM Mall of Asia during lazy Sunday afternoons. Makes me wonder why these people seem to have all the time in the world strolling around. After three hours or so of talking, laughing, reminiscing, and updating (who's involved with whom? whatever happened to this and that classmate?), Herman eventually went back to his hotel and bid us goodbye. We'll miss you, man.

Cris Mendez

It was just before my anthropology class when I learned Cris Mendez was dead. I didn't recognize the name at first. But my hands got moist and cold when, upon reading a newsletter, I saw his picture, smiling, his hair combed like Jose Rizal's, and his aura so alive no one would imagine that he was but a cold corpse. "I know him. I know Cris," I told my seatmate in a hushed voice. "We were classmates in Geog 1." That was three years ago. We were both wide-eyed freshmen then, curious of what UP would be like. He was good in class. Always present, hardly ever late. And who'd forget the field trip we had in Corregidor? Great times, great laughs. Now I'm wishing I had the power to turn back time to tell Cris, "Don't bother joining that frat. You'll simply get yourself killed." I know he'd listen because he always did. But I can't, can I, because one cannot travel through time, let alone bring the dead back to life. It pains me to

Hot momma

"Joe, what if you suddenly feel like peeing while delivering the baby?" I ask. My friend smirks at me, amused. "I don't know. What's important is that I let the baby out." "They say having kids softens even the hardest hearts," I say. "I guess so. I don't feel that excited now. But I'm curious as to how he'll look like." "What will you name him?" "Aleph Yakov, but my family wants Stephen Andre instead," she says, her face replete with confusion. Names matter, after all. Give your child a name like Maria Pigsa and people will laugh at her face. A frightened yet indignant scream jolts the hospital ward. The feeling is terrible. She feels as if she's going to be ripped apart, inside and out. "He's about to come out," she whispers to herself in between bouts of recurring pain. She looks at the large, bulging area in her stomach and gradually strokes it. "Relax, Baby. Everything will go o

Three deaths

How will my life end? Will it be like the inglorious white-hair fuzz of a balding dandelion fluff, scattered into the wind by the soft, steady puffs of old age with the memories of years long-gone?-- Jef Sala Three deaths in two weeks. First was of Ermin Soloren who died chasing the Abu Sayyaf. Second was of Cyrus, someone I met in a debut party my family attended during the Christmas break of 2006, who died of cardiac arrest. Third was of Cris Mendez , a classmate in Geography 1 four years ago, who died in the process of joining a fraternity. Whoever said hazing has completely vanished? Three deaths in two weeks. Reminds me of an article I wrote in fourth grade, “Nothing lasts forever. Life, like everything else, is fleeting.”


Humbling. The process is hard, yes, but the result is a broken spirit and a contrite heart. When we ask God to humble us, He willingly does so in ways we can hardly imagine. Photo : Banga, South Cotabato, Summer Vacation, May 2007.

A hero's death

I hardly know him. In fact, I don’t—except from the vague personal sketches I’ve heard from the ones who did. He went to the same high school as my brother but almost half a decade earlier. He lived from a nearby town, about an hour drive from Koronadal City. But I don’t remember ever seeing him, not even vaguely. His name, though, has a familiar ring into it. Weirdly, Michael tells me my father were friends with his. Is it just my memory, or we’ve never really been introduced? My friend Katrina tells me he was a math genius. Days before Kat would join math contests, she’d run to him for some tutoring, which he’d do gladly and for free. Michael tells me he was quiet. He’d probably only talk when it was called for, with every word from his mouth eliciting some sense. His dream was to become a soldier, so goes the Inquirer article . When he was young, he liked to play military drills. Funny, when I think of it, because I never had that phase in my life. To me, the most perplexing questio

Long walk home

During my first year in the University, my friends and I used to walk along this path daily, from our dorm to our classes. They hated the smell of the rotten fruit, while I loved it. To my disappointment, the janitors would always sweep this place clean before lunchtime. But the smell would always be there, lurking in some hidden place.

Room 125

June 2007, Start of First Sem (2007-2008) The room looked the same when I left it two months ago, except for the tiny shreds of paper a summer resident may have left on my desk. I switched the lights on and opened the windows to let some air in. It was so quiet I could hear my steady breathing. It was like this, too, when I first came to Yakal. My brother was with me, and we were both tired carrying our luggage. When he left me to get a drink nearby, I sat in a corner, thinking what would happen next. Would I call this place home? Would it be as fun as Kalayaan? Would I meet friends here? Silence has a way of keeping our mouths shut and our minds talking. 2005-2006 I was roommates with my brother for a whole year. It was a mistake, I thought at first, for we would only quarrel like immature brats in front of others. But we did get along, and the only disagreements we had was when he played music while I was solving math equations. He works better with the Media Player turned on; I get

When it rains, it pours

Rain's pouring hard outside as Typhoon Egay makes its way through the Philippines. This is rain water flowing on the glass panels of Yakal Residence Hall, University of the Philippines, Diliman.


I thank the Lord, for never have I regretted my decision of shifting to MBB. It's my third year in the program, which means I'm nearing the finish line, but still not there yet. So far it's been a learning experience. When people ask me (and they normally do, usually with bewildered eyes and gaping mouths) why I shifted from English Studies to Molecular Biology, I'd normally tell them that I no longer wanted to be a lawyer, English being a recommended pre-law course, but that I wanted to save lives by being a doctor. It's true, of course, but not exactly complete. I shifted because I wanted to know God more through His creation. My utmost consideration for a course was this: where I was going, would I come to a deeper understanding of God? I thank the Lord because now my answer is a resounding yes. For the past years I've learned so much, my mind like a sponge being soaked in information. And each time, I'd be amazed at how things work in the molecular leve

Summers of childhood

An hour and a half of watching Gulong reminded me of the summers of my childhood: afternoons spent playing under the sun, hanging out in the quiet neighborhood, and going where our feet led us. Life, like everything else, was enjoyed in simplicity. Gulong , directed by Sockie Fernandez, is a finalist in the Cinemalaya Film Festival (Full Length Films Category) now showing at the UP Film Institute. The story is told by Apao, a kindhearted boy who wants to buy an old bicycle. With his cousin Momoy and friend Tom-tom, they work for weeks to purchase the bike--all these for the price of going to a fishpond where beautiful women are found bathing. But they learn that life isn't so easy after several instances that hinder them from finally buying it. And each time, Apao's kindness would prevail, like a waft of cold mist in the sweltering heat. The movie isn't pretentious.; it tells the story as it ought to be told. It's also distinctly Filipino, definitely one of the movies t