Killings

I've been closely following the news on the Virginia Tech shooting. While thinking about it, I've struggled with with the question, "How should I respond?" In fact, I've told some of my friends, jokingly, of my growing concern: what if my roommate...?

But I came across this entry entitled What to say about Virginia Tech which helped me set my perspectives straight. May this article minister to you as well.

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Dry and hot

I'm going to have a heat stroke, I tell myself. The heat, it's too much to bear. I turn on the fan. For the first two minutes I feel cool, but the air gets warmer every minute. The fan becomes a blower. So I head to the bathroom and turn on the shower. The comfort is momentary because five minutes after I get out, sweat starts tickling all over me. The summer dry spell. We need snow.

Cleanliness, DNA, and MBB block pics

Of course not a single city in the Philippines made it to the top 25 cleanest cities in the world. The list has just been released by Forbes magazine. If, say, Manila were included, we have reason to doubt the legitimacy of the research. It's a dirty place here--there's garbage all over. Discipline, that's the key. Cut the limbs of people who throw garbage anywhere; give a singko to those who can't classify nonbiodegradables. This part's hyperbole, of course, but you get my point.



Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., the director of the Human Genome Project, says that he sees the "DNA, the information molecule of all living things, as God's language, and the elegance and complexity of our own bodies and the rest of nature as a reflection of God's plan." I read this in an article (Collins: Why this scientist believes in God) published in the CNN website. I say amen to this. Thanks for the link, Jef.



If you'd like to kill time, head over to Wegs' photo album to see our MBB block pics:

MBB 110 laboratory sem ender, the block year ender special, CWTS, biochemistry lab and many more.

Julia in the Philippines

A sane person will only leave his comfort zone for two reasons: either he wants to or he needs to. Julia Campbell, I guess, left hers for both reasons--she wanted to help and she felt the need to help. At 38 she left the "rat race in New York" to join the US Peace Corps and "boarded a plane for Manila." That alone is commendable. She could've enriched herself even more by chasing stories as a journalist and getting paid for them. But she chose the hard way, a way that's less traveled because it requires sacrifice, courage, and the threat of the absence of decent toilets. In her own way she initiated good changes in Philippine communities whose cries for help are drowned in the monotone of political bickerings.

And we know the next part of the story: she got killed, her body found half-buried and rotting in the mud a couple of days ago. Whoever did this to her deserves some form of punishment. After reading the news about Julia I felt a sense of shame. It's shame to know that a Filipino--one of our kind--may have killed her. It's a shame to hear this country's Justice Secretary blame her for her own death, citing her "irresponsibility" as the cause. Above all, it's a shame to admit that a person working for the good of this world could die just like that.

I've been reading Julia's blog, especially the comments posted on her last entry before she died. It's full of good wishes, condolences, and tears. May more people rise to follow her cause.

Her legacy lives on.

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The inevitable end of my teenage years

I turned 20 yesterday--the official end of my teenage years, the crucial prelude to adulthood. Until now the thought still overwhelms that I have to constantly remind myself that everyone--and not just me--goes through this phase of life.

After Sunday service, my brother and I ate a hearty lunch at a restaurant along Timog. I wanted my birthday "celebration" to be as simple and quiet as possible. I also didn't have cash to treat my friends out, and I needed time to think.

Stuffed and sleepy after the meal, we spent the afternoon at home, until such time when manong and Kuya John left to see Ate Joan and Kuya Arbie in the University graduation ceremonies. Left to myself, I continued watching tv but decided to stop when it finally dawned on me that April 22 only comes once a year, and I didn't want to waste it with news about Baby James.

So I looked back at my life. Flashbacks of past events came rushing through me like an old movie. The moment I tried to piece them all together, these pieces of memory formed what seemed to be a mosaic that cried out with all its might: GOD IS FAITHFUL!

And indeed He is.

I always tell my friends that who I am and who I will be are because of what God has done for me. I could never bask in the glory of myself because I have nothing to boast of in the first place. So what about the trophies of life that I have accumulated for the past 20 years? They all boil to nothing. I pray that the Lord give me faith to count them all rubbish compared to the "excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord" (Philippians 3:8).

My prayer and birthday wish was for God to "restore to me the joy of His salvation" (Psalm 51:12) because there have been times when I lived not for Him but for myself. I sought my glory more than His, and it was during these times when I felt saddest, lowest, and all my efforts at life seemed to be futile.

Now more than ever my desire is this (Psalm 27:4):

"One thing that I have desired of the Lord, That will I seek: That I may dwell in the house of the Lord All the days of my life, To behold the beauty of the Lord, And to inquire in His temple."

The bench

While most lowland tourists pick the best places to have their pictures taken, I heave a sigh as I sit on a bench overlooking the mountains. I take a deep breath, sucking in like vacuum all the pine-scented air I could gather. Ah, Baguio. The last time I've been here was four years ago, but the city still evokes the same age-old feelings--of contemplation, of peace, of serenity.

Alone and with no one else to talk to, I flip through the pages of a book I had brought with me. Better catch up on my reading before classes start again, I tell myself. Then I find that it's hard to concentrate because the words in my head are drowned in the innocent laughter of children playing nearby and the uncontrollable chatter of friends reunited after all these years. So I set the book aside for later. For a while I pause, look around, and stand amazed at the beauty of God's creation.

The cold is already making me drowsy when an old lady, probably in her late sixties, asks me, "Is there someone sitting here?" referring to the vacant part of the bench.

"Oh, that's vacant. Do have a seat, Ma'am."

"Is there anybody with you?" she asks and I say no, not for the meantime because they've all left to buy pasalubongs in the nearby stores. She tells me how the city has changed throughout all these years. "There used to be fewer people and no traffic." I learn that she and her husband both hail from Iloilo and Bacolod, but that they've been living in Manila for years. I tell her we have many relatives in that part of Panay. She asks me what my family name is, and I say, "Catedral."

"Catedral--yes, I had a classmate once--but I'm afraid I can't remember his name anymore. Pedro Catedral, I think," she says, and I tell her he must be a distant relative. From then on, we begin talking in Ilonggo, the sweetest language ever to be spoken in the face of the earth. There and then I realize that she sounds just like my Lola.

Minutes later, an old man wearing a cap, polo, and black slacks, approaches the bench where we sit. "I get dizzy with all the walking, and there's just a lot of people," she tells him. Her husband is a lawyer who has come all the way here to meet with a client for consultation. I tell him to have a sit, but he says, no thank you.

"Are you still studying?" he asks me.

"Yes," I say, "molecular biology."

"You want to be a doctor?"

"Yes, I'm praying for that."

"Our daughter's a doctor now. You really should study hard. All your efforts will pay off in the end." They beam with pride as they tell me this.

"How about you? Do you have a girlfriend?" he asks me.

Dumbfounded, I meekly reply, "No, sir. I'll have to finish schooling first before that." They smile at me.

With the topic of romance at hand, the old lady was quick to tell me that when she was young, she didn't want to marry a lawyer because lawyers are the last persons she'd want to argue with. Upon hearing this, he breaks in a hearty laughter, and we all join in seconds later.

Minutes later, my aunt, cousins and my brother arrive. I introduce my family to them, and they politely greet each other. The old man and my brother talk about law--he gives manong pieces of advice, mainly to take schooling seriosly, especially now that he's on his sophomore year. Auntie Net talks to the old lady: how Baguio has changed, about the last time she had visited Iloilo, and if Manny Pacquiao has a good chance of winning in the elections.

The midday sun is just on its way to its throne at the center of the sky when we all say our goodbyes, but the heat is not obtrusive nor irritating, but heartwarming and cozy. They're on their way to eat lunch with a client, while we buy snacks to take with us as we go home. This is why I like Baguio: you can meet complete strangers without the feeling that they might just be the cellphone snatchers everyone is talking about.

I walk past the clean alleys, with the cold breeze caressing my cheeks. In my mind, the question lingers, "When will I be back again?"

Missions

“The harvest is plentiful."--Matthew 9:37a

Higher Rock Christian Church will have a medical mission-relief giving program on April 19-23 at Brgy. Balading, Malinao, Albay. This town has been hit by two consecutive typhoons that left most of the people homeless and hopeless. The main objective is to preach Christ's message of salvation to the lost there. It also aims to alleviate the pain and suffering of the people by the giving of relief goods, free medical check-ups, among others. Let's commit in prayer the people in Brgy. Balading--that the Lord would prepare their hearts for the Gospel. We must also pray for the missions team—that the Lord would use them for His glory!

Spartan men have 300-packed abs

Finally I did get to watch the movie 300. The experience before I entered the moviehouse was rather harrowing: I was asked, for the nth time now, what my age was--in a PG13 an R13 movie! Imagine my dismay at the incapability of the guard in-charge to see my growing moustache, my deep masculine voice, and my muscular physique that only real men possess.

Lance: Nagstart na po ba ang 300?
Guard: Oo, kanina pa. Pero pwede ka nang pumasok.
Lance: Ah okay. 'Eto ang ticket ko.
Guard: Teka, ilang taon ka na?
Lance: Nineteen.
Guard: Sigurado ka?
Lance: Oo naman.

Now the movie was fun to watch. I liked how the blood literally gushed out when heads were decapitated--it resembled the geysers we see in Yellowstone National Park. The dialogue was rather amusing, too, especially the line, "Only Spartan women give birth to real men." Who'd forget the abs that I could only dream of having? And man, the graphics and special effects were awesome!

At the beginning of the movie, there was a scene showing an old man discarding small, frail newly-borns into the bottom of the cliff, where small baby skulls were lying--the movie's version of unnatural selection. Now if I were born during that time and in that place I have no doubt that I would've been thrown out. My body would've made a good fertilizer for their farms.

Emotional

I'm checking my mailbox when my brother asks, "Uy, what's that?"

"Nothing," I say casually--it's short for, "Nothing that really concerns you, so please go about your business." He doesn't budge but stays behind me instead. I don't shoo him away, of course. Instead, I motion him to come nearer. "Here, read this," I say. It's an email I wrote to a friend. "See?" He reads some parts of it.

"Strange. You're actually capable of emotions," he tells me. I laugh my heart out. I'm emotional like that.

Spontaneous decisions can take us to places, like Laguna

"I want to get out of the city," Manong Ralph said.

"Yeah, I'd like that... breathe some fresh air before summer class begins," Kuya John said, bursting with excitement.

And then my brother's bright amazingly brilliant idea: "Let's go to Laguna, John."

The decision was spontaneous; all it took was for two people to decide that they liked and missed the taste of "provincial air" and of course, a couple of text messages sent to some people—their close high school friends mostly. It was a shame Kuya Arbie, Michael and Ate Jenny weren't able to come. Kuya Arbie had to finish his thesis (let's pray for him); Michael had to take an exam at the Japanese embassy; Ate Jenny was simply unavailable. As for Kuya Imnay, he took a gazillion years (this is becoming a favorite expression) to decide whether he was coming or not; in the end, though, he said yes.

So that morning, Manong and Kuya John, both gifted with the uncanny ability to cook food without burning it, decided to prepare curry and adobo for our "trip". And the food, we would say later, actually tasted great. With our meals ready, our bags packed, and our money properly accounted for (thanks to Kuya Imay who can add and subtract without using a scientific calculator), we began commuting all the way to Los Baños at 4:30 in the afternoon.

I had no idea where we were going. Thankfully Manong and Kuya John knew some people there. We were advised to tell the bus driver that we were on our way to "Bayan, sa Los Baños." If we did that there was no way we could get lost. When we were getting near, the bus conductor told us, "Malapit na." The bus stopped, and we hopped out of it. It was about 8 pm.

I said, "Where are we? This is the wilderness." All we could see was the bend, plus a couple of houses whose residents were obviously asleep—at eight o'clock!

We hailed a tricylcle, asked where Lake View was, and when we got there, the guard told us, “Naku, walang tubig ang pool.” So we had to find some place else. It was fun—getting lost and all that, just for the fun of swimming at night. We were directed to find Paciano Rizal’s ancestral home because that was were City of Springs was. We found it and didn’t quite like the place, so we decided to go to Splash Mountain instead.

We were surprised to still see a lot of people there—at night, swimming with their families and friends. Holy Week was over, so we expected fewer people in resorts. We were mistaken, though. Anyway, we checked in, then found a quiet spot beside the pool. It took us a while to process everything: the pool was in front of us, we were supposed to jump in there, but somehow, we were just too tired. So we waited for our body processes to stabilize before we immersed ourselves. My, the water was boiling so hot you could poach eggs in there. Literally. But hot water is supposed to open the skin’s pores, so we didn’t really mind.

We had fun, taking lots of pictures (which I’ll be posting soon), eating to our heart’s delight. At about 3 in the early morning, we said, “Uwi na tayo.”

So we packed everything up, hailed a bus, and slept all the way to QC. We were all dead-asleep when we got back to the apartment, and we didn’t wake up until 9 am. When we eventually snapped out of Dreamland, we were all so amazed at what we did last night.

When Ate Uly asked us where we were last night, we said, “Pumunta kami sa Laguna, tapos bumalik din agad.

Dear readers, you should try it sometimes. This is the life.

Hospitals

This afternoon I've been to a hospital. Finally, a real one. I could describe to you the familiar scent of Lysol, the eery silence of the well-lit corridors, the sound of moving wheelchairs, and the stench of sickness hovering around.

For the past days the only exposure I've had to medicine has been Grey's Anatomy and House, MD--entertaining shows, yes, but they both reek of artificiality and Hollywood. Surely there can't be that many good-looking doctors working in one hospital. Thanks to my active academic workload during the past semester, I was deprived of watching these shows. Besides, there's no cable TV in Yakal to begin with. I feel that now is the best time to catch up. Ah, don't we all just love the summer break?

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Together with Ate Rae, Manong Ralph, Joel, Deb, and Kito, I went to visit and minister to Ate Arene. She has been diagnosed with cancer. I was told she's been undergoing treatment for the past three years. So far, there have already been complications in the brain and in other internal organs.

We first met at Gateway where we had a nice afternoon chat. From there, Ate Rae drove us to Cardinal Santos Medical Center. When we arrived, we saw Kuya Lito and his wife, Ate Fe, approaching--they came to visit, too.

Minutes later, there we were, in front of an ill woman whose body was hardly movable, in whose arms were long tubes, whose speech was barely understandable. But her face--oh, you should see it!--it was shining. It was almost an impossibility really, for how could someone in deep-seated physical pain still manage to smile? She knew we were there. In an unintelligible voice, she motioned us to sing for her. If only we had known, we would've brought guitars and beat boxes and keyboards with us. We sang "God is the Strength of My Heart," "In Your Presence," among other common church songs. We could say that she was singing with us because her lips were curling to make out some words in the songs.

Just before we left, we prayed for her. May she realize that even in this trial, albeit painful and hard, God is in control. May she find comfort in the fact that all this is for God's glory and for her own good--no matter how hard that may be to understand. My dear readers, do pray for her, too.

The world is beset with sickness--of a physical kind and worse, spiritual. Troubled people may need Dr. Grey or Dr. House to cure them of their bodily pains, but when it comes to the diseases of their souls, they ultimately need God. And unless the sick find the need to have a thorough examination in God's hospital, they will have no hope.

Made for Joy

Yes, I still write this from Manila. I haven't gone home yet, the reason being that I attended the church's summer youth camp in Dasmariñas, Cavite. I had fun. The camp theme was Made for Joy; the theme verse, Revelation 4:11. The main message echoed throughout all the discussions and plenary sessions was that God made man for his own pleasure; man should live to glorify him. It is only in God where true joy is found. God is most glorified when we are most satisfied in him.

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From top to bottom
--Kuya Lito Sto. Domingo, the youth pastor, orients the campers upon arrival in Camp Jabez.
--The getting-to-know game. Campers roam around the plenary hall, looking for new faces, and asking others to answer on sheets of paper. The team who finishes first wins.
--Team Red-Nosed Rangers works overtime on the last leg of the message relay game. The challenge: facial expressions instead of verbal messages are exchanged.

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Group Dynamics. We had to look for 89 balls and stuff them in a black pail. These had to be transferred only by pulling the ropes which were attached to the pail. It took us almost an hour to finish this.

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Teamwork. After exposure to the scorching, cancer-causing heat of the afternoon sun, after enduring the excruciating pain under the soles of our feet (we had to run around the camp site barefoot for this game), we were so tired we could collapse anytime. But there was joy in it all. The joy we had in the Lord just overflowed. Hence, these smiles:

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Lost things

I lost my wallet this morning. Why are some things just bound to get lost?

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Thanks to Kuya Arbie for the headset with the sleek mic. Again, this is my attempt to be productive in the midst of summer-break idleness. Oh, and one last thing. It's supposed to be a 19-year-old male voice you should be hearing.

Phoned in

I called home this morning. I talked to my mother, who was just on her way to the hospital. She checked on how I was doing, and I said, "Great, 'Nay, I'm trying to recover the sleep I lost during the sem." I also chatted with my father who, as always, reminded me to buy vitamin supplements. He asked me when I planned to go home. I said I had no definite plans yet. I've also been told that my Sean is in Davao to attend a church youth camp. I don't know if this is his first time, but I'm praying that the Lord would use this opportunity to deepen my brother's faith in Him. I told my father my sem's finally over. He said, good for me--now I should get all the rest I can. He went to remind me that I couldn't have done it on my own--getting to the finish line of the sem. God helped me get through. When he reminds me of spiritual truths like this, he always sounds so amazed. And for a very valid reason, because what an amazing grace it is indeed.

Advent of Summer Break

Absolutely no school work in mind. It feels weird different. No reports to think about. Nothing school-related at all. I take that as the first sign of summer vacation. Ah, finally, a breather. The official break hasn't arrived yet, but it sure is looming over the horizon.

While most of my friends have decided how to spend the next two months or so, I still have no definite plans. I don't even know when I'm going home. For sure, I'm not taking any summer classes. But I'll be attending the Youth Summer Camp in Cavite on the first week of April. I'm so excited. I also need to stay a little longer to edit the Torch, the youth's quarterly publication. Two months of idleness at home would be torture. I'd want to make myself productive. A summer job, perhaps?

On another note, Nanay has informed us of her plans to come over. She has a conference to attend around the last week of April, I think. Auntie Net is also coming. Wow. If the Lord allows, we might just go to Baguio. All of us, with Manong. Too bad Tatay and Sean aren't coming. Oh well, there'll be other opportunities.

Can't help but tell you that I've been watching a lot of House, MD lately. It's a lot of fun. It sounds more medical than Grey's Anatomy; the hospital even looks better spiffier. And man, I like Dr. House's character--sarcastic, emotionally dysfunctional, ironic, and bearded--but he's certainly not the doctor I'd want to diagnose me. But if he does, I'd definitely tell him to sign on my intestinal lining, in case he operates on me.

Next in my to-do list: find a great book lots of great books to read. I'm thinking, Nobel laureates this time. And Christian classics. Oh, and before I sleep, where can I buy a copy of The Precious Jewel of Christian Contentment?