Why Life Begins at 40!

Fr. Christopher Gonzalez, or simply Fr. Tope, a visiting priest, had this to say.

Life begins at 40 because everyone is in need of second chances. Life begins at 40 because this is the time to think about the regrets which one would like to rectify. Life begins at 40 because by this age, one would have known what is at stake with life and thereby knows how to proceed with it.

By way of analogy, Fr. Tope related the story of Simon Peter, the erstwhile apostle who denied Jesus 3 times. It would not have been so devastating if Peter was low key.  But no, he was at the forefront of Jesus’ preaching life. He was the next buddy.  He was there during the multiplication of bread and fish.  He was there during the roughwaves of the sea.  He was there at the transfiguration. He was at the Last Supper.  He was even there at the garden of Gethsemane when Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus.  But lo!  When asked if he was with Jesus’ ministry, he denied Him three times.

That is what is ultimately regrettable in life.  To have known and believed but allow cowardice to prevail. And many of us do this.  That is why we commit mistakes which are seemingly perceived unforgivable.

But second chances are given us to redeem ourselves from those surmountable mistakes.  Like Peter, Jesus appeared a third time after the resurrection.  This time He asked Peter Do you love me? When Peter said yes, Jesus replied Feed my lamb. Then He asked again Do you love me? When Peter answered yes, Jesus said Tend my lamb. Then He asked a third time Do you love me? Peter was hurt because Jesus must know how much he loved Him.  But he said yes again.  And Jesus told him Feed my sheep.

That is the way with God, he gives us so many second chances.  He allows us to realize our regrets and rectify our errors.  That is why when one is blessed enough to reach the age of 40, one must already have discernment.  Life becomes more relaxed and happy.

Life begins anew!

Mortification & Penitence

It is hard to be a Catholic!  The Canon law requires many MUSTS in order for one to be fit in entering the kingdom of God.  The forty days of Lent is a time of abstinence and fasting. Although the church does not make this strictly an obligation and has even created exceptions for the sick and the children, one feels guilty of disobeying the rituals.  If the Muslims can fast for a solid straight month in the season of Ramadan, why can’t Christians abstain from meat and eat only one full meal on the Fridays of Lent?  Surely Christians can mortify a little.  After all, Jesus had suffered the much.

As it is, I,  the devout Catholic, had been lenient in my practices.  I actually could not fast by virtue of being diabetic.  But I also could have controlled my food intake.  But I did not.  As a result, I have become larger than my usual built.  And my reflection on the mirror isn’t exactly nice to look at.  And I suppose I am liable for gluttony.

But I did not realize all these until Tish, while nursing her aches from her org culminating activity said My grades are low and I am indisposed, probably because I failed to pray the rosary. Oh no, I thought, I had said the rosary just once in a long, long while. And Tish was sorry she did not pray hers often enough.  And then she added But I am refraining from the internet for the whole duration of Lent and from drinking coke for one whole year. That is my mortification.  What is yours,  ma? Ooops! Guilty!  I had none. I did not answer.

To double the guilt, Jean declared that she is trooping her way to the confessional box. So what have you done? I asked.  And she replied, I did not have the chance to hear Mass in Bohol.  I have a mortal sin! That punched me straight to the soul.  I have not been to that sin box for ages and my faults, deliberate or not, had piled up.

I hope I am not too late for the mortification and penitence.   So I am logging off right now to make my own personal reflections.  Hopefully I’d be back soon.

The Boy Mathematician from the Province

I attended the recognition rites for the College of Science scholars.  Tish, for two semesters in a row, was able to meet the excellence required by the college and the university.  Amazingly, there was a packed room of recipients from different majors – Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Mathematics, Microbiology, Marine Biology, etcetera.  And the proud parents, sidelined for viewing, made sure corsages and photo pins adorn their children’s casual clothing.  Tish got her pin from Angel’s dad though.  I am never for  obvious display and refrain from putting flowers on the chest, nor pins.  But I was grateful this time because I had no camera.  Jean has her own activity in her college and couldn’t attend the rites.  But before the students accepted their certificates on stage to the tune of the Aida March, an unassuming. ordinary looking gentleman took the lectern.  His name is Mr. Lope, mathematician.  And the following is the story he related to us.

He was the eldest of 9 siblings. His parents were public school teachers in the province.  The productivity was due to the romantic atmosphere of their abode, the address of which is perhaps the shortest one can find.  Their home has no number nor street, just the barrio and the province.  And this home he still retains to this day, for the love of his family and the memories of how he grew up to become the inspirational speaker standing before academicians, scholars, and parents this day 1 March 2010.

He was just a boy excited about learning new things in their local school.  But he did well in his arithmetic and was thus prodded to represent their school in the 3rd grade Math competition.  Easily, he emerged 1st place winner. And this forced his parents to send him to the bigger school in town where he could receive more challenge.  And so, from Grafe 4 to Grade 6, he would commence his day at 5 am for the 4 kilometer walk to school. He said that perhaps boys who don’t have much wouldn’t ask for what they don’t know and don’t have.  But now that he is grown, he is thankful for all those breaking of dawns and sunrises, the number of which far exceeds that of a busy man’s lifetime viewing of the sunrise. And those years in town prepared him for the optimum academic training he was destined for – a scholarship at the Philippine Science High School in Diliman, Queson City.

Philippine Science High School was an entirely new scenario.  He was now away from his parents and his siblings who he loved most.  He was housed in a dormitory with new faces.  And this was the school for the best and the brightest in the land, the cream of the crop.  And so he proceeded to do the one natural thing he knew how – answer every problem in the textbook.  He didn’t know it was the most horrible thing to do.  And before he knew it, he became known as the nerd.

But he figured he could work the image to his advantage.  The 1 k stipend he was receiving was surely not enough to finance all the requirements they were asked to do in class.  And so he accepted tutorials for a fee.  That augmented his financial needs. The brain training also allowed him to achieve the highest honors bestowed upon a scholar.  He excelled not only in Math but for Physics and Chemistry and Biology as well.

The preparation was more than enough for the college course he chose in the University of the Philippines – Mathematics, of course.  Aware of the much needed educational funding of his brothers and sisters, he hastened to finish his course in three years.  And he did.  The occasion could have been the happiest in his entire life but his father passed away two weeks before graduation.  And the task of being breadwinner fell on his shoulders.

He could have coursed his life a bit differently but the huge stipend the Japanese Mombusho scholarship offered could help his family so much.  Without hesitation, he embarked on a 5 year study grant in the land of the rising sun. And so while working on his Master’s Degree, he was also sending home money.  By the time he was homeward  bound one spring day in Japan, he was already able to graduate four of his siblings from college.

Mr. Lope stood there before us, proud of his story.  Many of us came to the College of Science in our own cars.  He probably walked the distance from his home in the campus or nearby.  He would have been ready to dance the maglalatik, a native fast beat coco shell dance, which his friend said he does with charm.  But that Monday morning, he was there to tell us how simply beautiful life is.  We only have to live according to the intelligence we are blessed with.  Everything follows suit.

Well done, Mr. Lope.  God bless you all the more.

Happy 75th Birthday, Mommy!

Let me tell something about my mommy.  She turns silver today.  And like the ever grateful child of God, she celebrates it with the company of family and friends.  Where?  Take a guess!  Max Restaurant, of course.  But this one is not on Philippine soil.  It’s in Glendale, California.

Well daddy couldn’t be there definitely.  His abode is the nursing home now.  But I am sure he doesn’t mind.  Mommy is really a party goer and daddy always opts to stay at home.  It had been something like that for more than fifty years.  Half a century! But daddy likes mommy to take reprieves in celebrations.  After all, mommy had tasked herself dutifully as a wife, mother, and breadwinner.  Now that she had been retired from office work, she had taken the role of the ever loving better half, preparing meals and literally spoon feeding daddy.  He is in absolute pain and had lost arm movement.

To everything there is a season.  A time to sow, a time to reap.  It’s harvest time, mommy. Go for it.

And yes, daddy, there is a time for every purpose under heaven.

I love you both, more than you know.

The Lost Cross

Tish hastened me one morning to bring her to K n’ L.  I asked her Where is that? thinking it was some airline agency or a hamburger stand probably.  She responded with I really don’t know but it’s along CPGarcia Avenue, it’s where we’re going to hold our rummage sale. I answered Okay, I know where that is but I have not seen any K n’ L establishment there. Tish did not say anything anymore, too busy seeking out the appropriate clothes she would share for their org fund raising activity.

Half an hour later, we were cruising the long avenue and Tish was asking for instructions from an org mate on the cellphone.  Then she asked me to stop beside a small side street.  She said that she either has to walk or take a pedicab to get to K n’ L.  I was alarmed because as far as I was concerned, we were at the entrance of a squatter’s area. Oooops, I said, I will go with you. But there was no space to park in the busy road.  And the car after me was honking like crazy. Tish waved a hurried Bye. And I had to let go.

At lunchtime, Tish texted to tell me to come fetch her at the university.  She was so hungry.  In between bites of her one piece chicken meal at Jollibee fastfood, she related to me that K n’ L stands for Krus na Ligaw, literally translates Lost Cross.  But the street also looks like a cross and it is lost from the general commuters because it ain’t passable.  The people fill the street.  And that is where they laid their boxes of branded shirts and pants.  All of them hoped they could generate a good sum. The clothing cost a thousand and up each, and most of them were slightly worn. But alas, the buyers tossed the shirts and dresses asking which one is priced at ten pesos. What? They were hoping they could sell one at three hundred!  Sadly, that was not to be.  Their treasured clothes were given up for five or ten pesos only.

Tish sighed after her meal They were so poor, ma!


Today is Ninos Inocentes Day!  It had been quiet all day.  Tish was busy with her sig sheets and Jean downloaded and uploaded whatever….!  I tended my garden in the morning, had a tit for tat chat with Mr. Young on the telephone, cooked carbonara which is the only fill our refrigerator has, and reread my journal… a fitting way to while the time whilst waiting for the new year.

Yesterday was Holy Family’s Day!  Fr. Eymart, our new parish priest (oh well, he had been here since September but I just forgot to write about him because I had not heard him say mass till yesterday) expounded on the meaning of each one’s role in the family. He explained why Jesus remained in Jerusalem during the Passover feast and how Mary and Joseph searched for Him for three days.   Gosh!  I had forgotten how Fr. Eymart  related the importance of family (and it was just yesterday) but I believe I was impressed by how he delivered his homily… very close to the heart.

But if there is one thing I do remember, it is the Christmas reflection of Fr. Jerry Orbos on tv.  He said the we celebrate the birth of Jesus who was born in a manger, wrapped in swaddling clothes, surrounded by sheep and cattle, visited by shepherds and three magi who believed in His majesty.  The Babe turned into a boy who helped His foster father Joseph with carpentry till He was thirty.  Then He lived a solitary life heeding to the Father.  He was without family preaching beside His apostles.  Many people listened to Him even if He had no credentials.  He had no school grades nor a college degree.  Yet His teachings penetrate our hearts at this very moment.  He had been hanged on the cross, but he continues to save us this very moment.  Jesus walked the sand-filled desert.  He never had a limousine to transport Him.  Yet He is hailed to by the world today as the Messiah!  Jesus had given us the Supreme Sacrifice.  It is our turn now to ease that a bit.

Corazon Aquino, a Filipino Miracle!

Corazon Aquino died on  the early morning of 1 August 09, a first Saturday,  before the breaking of dawn.  She had been battling cancer of the colon for over a year.  Her family had given her the best medical and surgical treatment.   The chemotherapy had worked for awhile, considering the cancer had been at stage 4 when it was discovered.  The bonus months of life had probably been for the youngest grandchild James who had been only two at the time of her demise.  She was 76.

The stately funeral that followed was a testament to a life well lived.  Cory Aquino was just a housewife to a Filipino martyr called Ninoy.  She took care of her brood when her erstwhile senator husband was incarcerated in prison during the grim years of  martial law.  When he was murdered in cold blood on a broad daylight of 21 August 83, Cory took to the streets: first, to bury her husband in the longest Philippine funeral procession ever, and second, to be with the people whom her husband died for.

Cory Aquino toppled a dictator who dismissed her as an ordinary housewife.  Little did he know that this quiet woman who responded to his condescending  snap election challenge was a valedictorian in grade school, pursued higher education abroad, and even enrolled in law before she yielded to become the better half of a seemingly better man.  She was also made of good stock, coming from a wealthy political and business-wise family from Central Luzon.   And the years she endured as spouse of a political detainee had put the icing on the cake.  None could have been more prepared to clash arms with a toughie tyrant who had ruled with ruthlessness and abuse.  Surprisingly, the widow called Cory armed herself only with a rosary against battalions equipped with lethal weapons.  Amidst  threats of termination, Cory carried her people to a peaceful revolution the world had never known.

Cory’s presidency had been besieged by coup d’ etats and natural calamities.  Cory once said that her beloved husband cringed at the knowledge that whoever succeeds the dictator would suffer the consquences of the Marcosian avarice.  Little did Benigno Aquino Jr, in all his genius, realize that it would be his unassuming wife who would be in that position.  Yet, he also did not know that his housewife could perform miracles.  The world was watching when the Filipinos overturned brutality into peace.  The world’s finest legislators stood up for an ovation to Cory in yellow as she delivered the story of her people.  That was, thus far, the most thunderous applause the Congress of the United States had given to a mere wife and mother.   And it brought in the much needed aid.  Cory needed just one more miracle to make her a living saint.  But just as quickly as we see her doing good, so as quickly did she bequeath the presidency to her successor at the end of her term.  The constitution was obeyed to the letter.  This could have been the third miracle, the humility of not hanging on to power.  But the people did not give it much thought.  They had focused their attention to a new found freedom of living in democracy, the Cory legacy.

So citizen Cory had obligingly gone back to her original task of building home and family.  The trials could have ended when she passed on the baton, but alas, it was not to be.  Being a mother made her vulnerable to hurt and pain.  When her youngest child Kris had gone astray, she stood the grounds of morality.  Yet everyone witnessed how she embraced her erring child when she comes home down trodden.

Cory never advertised her life, but every now and then, she is seen on national television backing up a cause or supporting someone in desperate need.  She still wears yellow and still kneels in prayer, but everyone had alloted that image as her trademark.  She does not always win in her many battles yet she never speaks of any ill feeling towards another.  When actor Joseph Estrada won a seat in the senate, she extended her congratulations but straightforwardly said “Your charisma is different. I campaigned against you but the people still voted for you.”

When Cory had finally been confined in the hospital  for lack of appetite, people commenced praying for healing.  Somehow, in the depths of the people’s soul, mortality had caught up with Cory.  But then again, what if God is willing to extend the lease on life.  Who knows?  But of course, that is not to be.  Cory had succumbed to an illness that had never bothered her.  In fact, she had said that she had lived a full life. Her date with her Creator had at long last come.

And the people finally recognized miracle 3.  The outpouring of grief extended from Cory’s home to as far as the Philippine embassies abroad where  books lie for  messages to the bereaved family.  The queues for the public viewing of her mortal remains had been lashed out with hard rain and piercing heat, but the people did not budge.  Friends and foes gather together for the final respects they could muster befitting a president.  And the eulogy at the necrological rites and the requiem mass divulged a thousand and one secrets of generosity and loving kindness.  The Cory magic was real because  Cory was as genuine to each and everyone, that someone be her seamstress or security guard, her cabinet minister or her chauffeur, or just the peasant in the fields who gave his last centavo for the country.

Cory was laid to rest after a volley of fire and a 21 gun salute.   She would not have liked pomp and circumstance anyway.  As it is, the streams of yellow ribbons from the harbor to the expressways, from the  corners of student dormitories to the corn and rice fields, Cory must be smiling down upon us from the high heavens.

Time magazine had immediately honored her on the front page cover as the saint of democracy.  Whoever can refute that?

By way of saying good-bye to a beloved president, we can only say “Godspeed!”

“You made us proud being Filipino and we are glad we existed in your time.”

In My Diary 17 July 2009

The sporadic rain of the past few days had finally turned into a storm.  Classes had been suspended in the primary and secondary levels.    For the tertiary, the decision  had been left to the discretion of the university administration and to the local government.    Glad the text brigade had been quick in disseminating the UP Main Campus conforming to the advice of the weathermen – stay home!

Jean though is in Makati serving her student volunteer task at Mandarin Hotel.   She seems to be very busy because she did not even comment on the text message I sent about our viewing of Harry Potter and the Half-blood Prince.  And she is an avid HP fan!  Completely!  Heels over head!  But the head can compete and win in any HP contest.   She once did at an Eastwood promotional gimmick.  Since then Jean and Tish live ala HP and his friends.  Even UP’s mini forest had become the dark forest.  But for now, Jean is learning the facts of life fast.  I was a bit emotional seeing her off at the Trinoma train station a few days ago.  She’s wearing slacks and carrying her packed bag, all set for spreading her wings.

Mommy called Sunday morning from a hospital in Los Angeles.  The doctors had deemed it wise to amputate daddy’s left leg.  It had been causing him severe, intolerable pain.  The culturing of the blood isn’t an option anymore.  Sepsis might sip in.  A tube had also been imbedded on daddy’s chest.  For the first time in his life, daddy had given in to distress.   The flesh is weak.  But God truly works in miraculous ways.  Just when he was about to be amputated, the compensation check under the Equity Bill arrived.  That cheered him up and gave him hope.  The spirit is willing!

Farrah Fawcett.

Farrah Fawcett’s demise had long been coming.  She was diagnosed with anal cancer two and a half years back.  She had put a desperate effort to keep alive and overcome an illness that weakened the body and the spirit.  She had fought a good fight.  But mortality prevailed.

Farrah Fawcett had been an icon of glamour and sweetness.  Every girl had wanted to have similar wavy locks that made her every boy’s pin-up poster girl in the 70’s.  She had also inspired every ordinary nobody in that time and age  that fame and success can be achieved.   Farrah Fawcett’s angelic image had been an inspiration.

Yet Ryan O’Neal had not been all right when her passing had finally come.  Ryan had been her life partner, her true love.  In a way all of us couldn’t be all right.  When someone we had admired had been taken away, life just couldn’t be the way it was.  Farrah Fawcett contributed to the redefining of television viewing in the 70’s.  She also redefined our way of living.

Michael Jackson.

Michael Jackson died today.  He was 50.

I was one of those million people who said What did you say? My daughter received the news via text message.  She told me it was probably a joke.  I said No No That is something you don’t joke about. If that is the case then he must be dead.  I uttered a little prayer Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him, May he rest in peace, Amen.

I switched on the television for the noontime news the moment I got home six hours later.   True enough there was a footage about the King of Pop and his Thriller MTV. People had started to gather outside the hospital in Los Angeles where the doctors tried a futile effort to revive him.   But he had been gone.   At a nearby establishment,  Michael Jackson’s music played.

A certain sadness.  Michael Jackson had made his mark.  He had embedded his ingenuity and artistry in his music and his craft.  He had given the world a distinctly MJ show, trademark  not patented.   Thus the world followed suit and copied his move.  No one can claim originality, Michael Jackson alone has that honor.

Farewell to the man who had given a life so all the world would be entertained.  Farewell to Michael Jackson who wanted to dwell in Neverland but the world never allowed him to.   Godspeed, may you find light shining bright as you well deserved.

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