Stand up for life!

No to death penalty

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Hacksaw Ridge: A Love Story

This review was written for CBCP CINEMA. Check out full ratings here.

“While everybody else is taking life, I’m going to be saving it. With a world so set on tearing itself apart, it doesn’t seem such a bad thing to want to put a little bit of it back together.”

imageThese words sum up the true story of Private Desmond T. Doss, a conscientious objector (or conscientious cooperator, as he puts it) during World War II, brilliantly portrayed by Andrew Garfield (of The Amazing Spiderman fame) in Hacksaw Ridge.  Like all young men of his time, Desmond enlists to serve his country despite the protests of his father Tom (Hugo Weaving), an alcoholic and wife-beater who is a World War I veteran himself. An earlier experience has turned Desmond into a pacifist and now, training as an army medic, he refuses to carry a gun, not even in rifle training.

This doesn’t sit well with Sgt. Howell (Vince Vaughn), his commanding officer, his company and the army leaders. Ridiculed, bullied and beaten up as a coward he holds on to his principles even when this leads to imprisonment and court martial. His faith in God as a Seventh Day Adventist and the unwavering support of his beautiful wife Dorothy (Teresa Palmer) empowers this simple, ordinary man to do extraordinary things during the Battle of Okinawa. He was the first soldier to be awarded the Medal of Honor without using a weapon.

Hacksaw Ridge is Mel Gibson’s comeback vehicle after a 10-year-hiatus proving that he still has the chops. With effortless mastery Gibson balances the elements of the film from the opening scene to the closing credits. We are shown the sweet innocence of love between Desmond and Dorothy, his religious upbringing, and the circumstances of his choices. Dark violence builds up until the viewer is shocked with the horrors of war through excellent cinematography, well-choreographed battle scenes and a fittingly moving musical score. The inspiring true story of Desmond Doss comes to life through outstanding characterization of the lead actors (Garfield, Weaving and Vaughn) and the rest of the cast, each fitting their role like a glove. Garfield essays the unlikely hero with such honesty, conviction and passion you can’t help but root for him even if you disagree with his principles. Hacksaw Ridge is a wonderful addition to World War films, but it is like no other. Why? Because it shows that the valor of man lies not in aggression and dominance but in faith, love and self-sacrifice without being preachy.

The opening scene sets the tone of the film as we see the conflagration of battle and hear the words of the prophet Isaiah: “Have you not heard? The Lord is an everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom… those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles…”

We see Doss, a Seventh Day Adventist, reading the Bible in many occasions and we know he has been praying because he lived by the tenets of his faith. He stood up for God’s command not to kill by refusing to bear arms. Pressured to abandon his convictions, he tells Dorothy: “I don’t know how I’m going to live with myself if I don’t stay true to what I believe.” And in his darkest moment on the battlefield, he talks to God: “I don’t understand… I can’t hear you…” He then hears the wounded soldiers’ call for help and one by one he courageously rescues them to safety, putting his life on the line. By doing so, he not only saves 75 of his companions but inspires the rest of the company to subdue the enemy. Doss’ heroism echo Jesus’ words: “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

As our country and the rest of world grow weary of reports from more than a hundred ongoing conflicts, Hacksaw Ridge  jolts us by showing the brutal, gruesome, horrific and relentless violence of war. This is what war veterans suffered and what those in uniform go through. And while some may be reduced by war to act like animals, it also calls for the highest virtues of human beings exemplified by Desmond Doss. By being true to himself and relying on God, he saved lives, including the enemies. Hacksaw Ridge challenges us: Are we ready to stand up for our faith? Are we willing to suffer for it? Can we serve our fellow human beings? Unconditionally? In short, are we ready to truly love?

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A Ride to Dreamland and the Sto. Niño

photo-2Her full, scarlet lips pouted as she checked a message on her android. Her perfectly arched eyebrows knit, and the hoops on her ears dangled as she shook her head, artfully crowned in a messy blond bun. A fuchsia shirt, denim leggings and 6-inch platform shoes complete the look. She looks up and catches me staring at her. I know it was rude and felt embarrassed, but she dimpled a shy smile and gave me a respectful nod. I smiled back and thought: “That’s one of the things you get away with if you wear the veil!”

You’d think that would deter me from observing further, but I couldn’t help myself. It was as if my eyes were on full alert that day taking notice of so many details. There were only three of us as we waited for more passengers. The other one is a young man seated behind the driver, with earphones on, feet tapping and head bobbing up and down to the beat of the music on his mobile phone. That’s one happy fella!

A bespectacled man in a long-sleeved, pin-striped shirt came up sweating profusely and started sending messages on his smartphone as soon as he sat down. He’d glance at his wristwatch every so often, then continue composing and sending messages. Here’s a man who knows how to make the most of his time, you can almost see the thoughts zipping through his forehead.

Beside him is a gray-haired woman in an “I LOVE LONDON” T-shirt in Union Jack colors. She too was busy on her small phone which may be her first. She would compose a message, shake her head and clear it up, then start over, her tongue unconsciously slipping out of her lips as she pressed on the keys. She’d mumble an audible “tsk, tsk…” at each wrong key. Was she sending a thank you message to a grandchild who sent her the shirt and the phone? Or to a co-senior to prove her prowess on this new technologies?

A young man in a denim polo, all buttoned up to the chin, sat in front of me. He opened a leather messenger bag and held a pink portable mini-fan before him. Then he turned his head ever so slowly to the right, then to the left, careful not to disturb his well-gelled hair.

A muscled man in sleeveless black shirt and matching beanie squeezed his way beside the young man. His large callused hands had nicks and scratches, his torn jeans and sneakers stained with paint. Could he be an artist? a carpenter? a construction worker? The state of his backpack favors the latter.

Jumping last onto the vehicle in a checkered green skirt and white blouse was a teenager. She unraveled her neon green earphones with impatience, navigated to her playlist and unceremoniously buried her face on the bulging backpack on her lap.

As the jeepney picked up speed, the lady beside me gathered her rebonded tresses at the side. She was wearing moss green overalls with matching leather pumps and a lady’s bag. I think she could be another Makati executive, as the scent of Chanel wafted my way. Something was peeking behind her collar, though. Intricately tattooed on her nape was the figure of a heart and a man’s name – maybe her boyfriend’s?

To my left was a mother clutching a shopping list on one hand and a market bag in the other. Wearing a simple white T-shirt, long shorts, and clean but almost worn-out flipflops, she would nervously glance at her list, check her pockets for something, and sigh. A deep, long sigh!

As I looked at each of them, I wondered what each of their story is. What a world of meaning there is in the sigh of the woman beside me! Or in the student who buried her face on her backpack. And the tattooed nape of a respectable woman. I gazed on them one by one and wished I could listen to each of them share their life. I did what I know I could do. I offered a prayer.

As I did, all my co-passengers zoned off all together! It was as if someone hypnotized everyone to sleep. Was it the drone of the machine? The humid air as we sped through the Skyway? The sense of safety among strangers, with the makeshift door of the jeepney closed? The worry lines and nervous mannerisms disappeared. Even my ‘sweet-painted lady’ looked like an innocent girl. Bobbing Bob’s head is now swaying left and right, and Mr. Executive is momentarily out of control, his hands limp and his mouth agape.

Unbidden, the words of Psalm 131 slowly came to mind:

“Like a child at rest in its mother’s arms, so will I rest in you, my God.”

There is no doubt that each of us bears a cross, a trial, a problem. But each time we succumb to sleep, we let go of control. Isn’t it wonderful how God makes each day new after a night’s rest? When we sleep, we renew the act of embracing what is, knowing that we are enfolded in the loving arms of our Father/Mother God. Granted, we do this automatically, many times unconsciously. But like a child in its mother’s arms, we allow ourselves to rest.

photo-3As we celebrate the feast of the Sto. Niño, may we allow God to take control, not only when we are asleep, but each waking moment of our life. The Child Jesus reveals a God who assumes all our humanity in order to show us what it means to be truly human.

May we have the courage to consciously embrace all that we are, with all our beauty and weakness, our greatness and our pettiness, so that we can begin to discover all that He truly is.

Viva pit Señor!

 

 

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Oro: Dugo ang kulay ng ginto – movie review

imageHere’s a review I wrote for CBCP CINEMA. Read full ratings and details here.

Hindi lahat ng kumikinang ay ginto—sa Oro, ang obrang pambato ni Alvin Yapan sa MMFF 2016—”dugo ang kulay ng ginto”.

Ang Oro ay isang malikhain at makatotohanang pagsasadula ng “Gata 4 Massacre” na naganap noong 2014 sa isang isla ng Caramoan, Camarines Sur. Ilampung taon nang pangingisda ang pangunahing ikinabubuhay ng mga taga-Gata, pero kapag mahina ang huli, nagkakabod (gold panning) sila. Sa Oro, kahit na lugmok sa kahirapan, tahimik at payapa ang buhay nila sa pamumuno ni Kapitana (Irma Adlawan) at ng kanyang kanang kamay na si Elmer (Joem Bascon). Bigla na lang silang bubulabugin ng mga armadong lalaki na kasama sa tinatawag na Patrol Kalikasan (Environmental Patrol).

Pagbabawalan silang magkabod dahil diumano’y nakasisira sila ng kalikasan at wala silang maipakitang permit, subalit di maglalaon, ang mga patrol mismo ang magkakabod at magpapatuloy ng operasyion ng ball mill. Sisikapin ni Kapitanang kumuha ng permit, habang ang ilan sa mga taga-Gata, dahil sa pangangailangang buhayin ang pamilya, ay mapipilitang magtrabaho sa ilalim ng kapangyarihan ng mga patrol. Pagkatapos ng apat na buwan, makakamtan ni Kapitana ang permit mula sa DENR, nguni’t hindi ito pahahalagahan ng lider ng patrol. Lilisanin ng patrol ang isla nang may bantang magbabalik upang gumanti. Isang gabi, nag-iinuman ang mga minero pagkatapos ng isang nakakapagod na araw sa pagkakabod, lulusob ang mga armadong patrol at walang-awang pagbababarilin sila ng mga ito.

Simple at natural ang pagganap ni Adlawan bilang Kapitana. Kapani-paniwala din si Bascon bilang Elmer at si Cabral bilang kasintahan nito. Sa katunayan, nagtagumpay ang buong cast na ipakita ang buhay at pamayanan ng Gata, Caramoan, pati na ang dynamics at interaction ng bawat isa. Nakatulong nang malaki ang pagsama ng mga mamamayan ng Gata sa mga nagsiganap upang maging higit na makatotohanan ang pelikula. Sadyang hindi rin ipinakita ni Yapan ang kariktan ng Caramoan upang mabigyan ng higit na pansin ng manonood ang kahirapan ng mga naninirahan doon, ang paniniil ng mga makapangyarihan, ang hindi pagpansin sa kanilang pagdurusa, at ang mahabang proseso ng pagmimina ng ginto. Payak ang storyline at ang dialogue, walang “hugot lines” at melodrama ngunit puno ng simbolismo: ang timbang ng ginto, ang mga aso, ang kwento ng mga mangingisda, ang apoy, etc., na humahamon sa manonood na mag-isip at manindigan.

Hanggang ngayon ay hindi pa nabibigyan ng katarungan ang apat na minerong pinaslang sa Gata noong Marso 22, 2014. Buong tapang na binigyan sila ni Yapan ng pagkakataong makapagsalita sa pelikulang ito sa pagkukwento ng kanilang naudlot na buhay at gumuhong mga pangarap. Ipinapakita ng Oro ang payapang pamumuhay ng mga dukha na puno ng pagmamalasakit, pangangalaga at pagdamay sa isa’t isa. Tulad ng pangingisda sa dagat, ang pagmimina ng ginto ay hanapbuhay para sa pang-araw-araw na pangangailangan. Walang nagmamay-ari ng minahan kundi ang buong bayan, ang barangay. Dahil sa kasakiman hindi lang sa kayamanan kundi pati na rin sa kapangyarihan at karahasan, ay dumaloy ang dugo sa Gata. Patuloy na nagaganap ang pagtapak sa mga dukha sa ating panahon at hinahamon tayo ng pelikula na harapin ang ating pagka-makasarili, pagpapabaya, at pagwawalang-bahala. Umiigting sa galit ang Oro at tinatanong tayo nito: Ano ang tama at mali? Alin ang mas mahalaga sa batas, ang pangalagaan ang kalikasan o ang karapatan ng tao? Ano ang katarungan? Para ba ito sa lahat, pati na ang mga dukha? Ano ang kapangyarihan? Ito ba’y pag-aari ng may mga baril lamang? Ano ang magagawa ko? Matindi ang mga temang tinatalakay sa pelikulang ito lalu na’t napakaraming mga “hinihinalang suspek” ngayon ang basta na lang binabaril o pinapatay. Marahas at madugo ang pagpaslang sa mga minero ng Gata na hanggang sa ngayo’y nagpaparamdan at sumisigaw ng KATARUNGAN! Mananatili ba tayong bingi?

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Working Beks movie review

imageAng Working Beks ay pagsasalarawan ng buhay ng limang lalaki na iba-iba ang pagka-bakla. Kilalang aktor si Champ Reyno (Edgar Allan Guzman) na nasangkot sa iskandalo nang maging viral ang sex-video niya na kasama ang isang lalaki. Bigla siyang nawala sa sirkulasyon at naging usap-usapan kung maglaladlad na ba siya ng kapa o sila na ba ng kanyang ka-loveteam na si Joy (Bela Padilla). Masipag, madiskarte at matiisin ang transvestite na si Gregorio, a.k.a. Gorgeous (John Lapus). Malakas ang kita ng kanyang maliit na turu-turo na siyang sumusustento sa kanyang napakalaking pamilya, pero parang walang nagbibigay ng importansiya sa kanya. Corporate executive naman si Tommy (TJ Trinidad) na nilampasan ng promotion dahil sa hayagan niyang ipinakita ang kanyang pagka-bakla: kilala ng mga ka-opisina niya ang kanyang partner na si Jeric Raval at ang kanilang dalawang ‘adopted daughters.’ Call center agent naman si Jet (Prince Stefan) na takot na takot na baka may HIV din siya dahil nabalitaan niyang nagpakamatay ang isang dati niyang partner nang malaman nitong HIV positive siya. Ikakasal na si Mandy (Joey Paras) pero hanggang sa huling sandali ay atubili pa rin siyang lumagay sa tahimik dahil ramdam niya ang pagka-akit sa kapwa lalaki.

See full review and ratings at CBCP-CINEMA site.

Gaya ng pelikulang Working Girls ni Ishmael Bernal na sumalamin sa buhay ng mga babaeng nagtatrabaho noong dekada 80, ipinapakita naman ng Working Beks ang buhay ng mga “beki,” shortcut ng “bekimon” na ibig sabihin ay binabae o bakla, sa ating panahon. Tulad ng karaniwang tao, ang mga beki ay mayroong kani-kaniyang mga pagsubok, problema at mga karanasan sa trabaho na hindi nabibigyan ng pansin. Ito ang sinikap bigyang-buhay ng mga bidang nagsiganap sa pelikula. Simple lang ang kanilang dialogue, maayos at hindi OA ang mga costume. Kapani-paniwala si EA Guzman bilang Champ at mahusay ang paglalarawan nila ni Bela Padilla sa mundo ng showbiz. Pino at understated naman si TJ Trinidad bilang Tommy. Subalit kahit na natural at may galing sa pag-arte ang mga bida, hindi nabigyan ng sapat na pagbuo ang kani-kanilang mga karakter. Sapat naman ang panahon para ipakilala ang bawat isa, kaya lang ay imbes na ipakita ang pagkatao nila upang madama at makiisa ang manonood sa kanilang pinagdadaanan, nauwi lahat sa katatawanan. Maraming eksena na paulit-ulit, mabagal, at sablay ang punchline. Hindi rin naging maayos ang pagkakatagni-tagni ng mga kwento kayat hilaw ang katapusan nito.

Maganda ang layunin ni Chris Martinez na isalarawan ang buhay ng mga bakla. Mahusay rin na naipakitang nagtatrabaho sila sa corporate world, sa pagtitinda ng pagkain, sa call centers, at sa showbiz at ng isang gustong magpakasal sa babae. Hindi maikakaila ang kontribusyon ng mga bakla sa pamilya at sa lipunan. Karaniwan silang nakakaranas ng discrimination at kinukutya, o kaya’y binabalewala. Dagdag pa sa kakulangan sa pag-unawa at pagtanggap sa kanilang buong pagkatao ay ang panganib ng HIV/AIDS na pawang isinalarawan sa pelikula. Malalim at napapanahon ang mga temang ito na maaring pagsimulan ng talakayan tungkol sa homosexuality at wastong pagpapahalaga sa mga bakla, kaya nakapanghihinayang na sa tangkang gawing magaan o komedya ang pelikula, hindi ito nabalanse ng direktor at naging katawa-tawa (ridiculous) tuloy ito.

Tinatanggap ng Simbahan ang lahat ng kanyang mga anak, ano man ang sexual orientation ng mga nito. Ngunit may mga bagay na dapat linawin sa mga binibigyang-katwiran ng pelikula. Nang magpa-HIV test si Jet, inulit ng nurse na “hindi kasalanan ang magkaroon ng HIV. Sakit ito, hindi kasalanan.” Siguro kung nahawa ka lang sa asawa mo, gaya ng nurse, o dahil sa isang medical procedure, hindi mo nga kasalanan. Pero sa kaso ni Jet na may maraming gay sexual partners, ibang usapan na yon. Binibigyang-daan ng CINEMA ang tinig ng Simbahang Katolika ukol sa mga bagay na ito, at sinisikap na imulat ang mga mata ng manonood na sakit nga ang HIV, ngunit huwag nating kalimutang ang gawaing pinagmulan nito ay kasalanan pagkat ito’y taliwas sa batas ng kalikasan. Pinaninindigan ng Simbahan na ang pagtatalik ay ang paraan ng kalikasan upang ipagpatuloy ang lahi, kaya’t ito’y nararapat lamang na mamagitan sa isang lalaki at isang babae, bagay na pagmumulan ng supling. Maganda na sana na nagising si Jet sa kanyang pagkakamali, pero pati ito ay ginawang katatawanan. Ipiniprisinta din ng pelikula na normal na magsama ang dalawang lalaki bilang mag-asawa at umampon ng mga bata bilang mga anak. Sinasabi sa Banal na Kasulatan, “Ginawa ng Diyos ang tao—babae at lalaki… Iiwan ng lalaki ang kanyang ama at ina. Magsasama sila ng kanyang asawa at sila’y magiging isa.” Dahil sa mga paksang ito at ilang maseselang eksena, binibigyang ng CBCP-CINEMA ng V18 rating ang Working Beks.

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Ang Milagro ng Grab-Car-Driver at ang Lambing ni Neneng

imageNakakita ka na ba ng milagro? Yung tipong mamamangha ka at mapupuno ng kasiyahan ang puso mo pero mananatiling pipi ang iyong bibig? Tinagpo ako ng milagro hindi sa simbahan kundi sa daan.

Limang minuto na akong naghihintay pero puro puno ang mga tricycle na dumaraan. Napansin ko tuloy ang isang kotseng nag-aatubiling lumiko sa kanto. Medyo naipon na ang mga sasakyang kasunod niya. “Naliligaw siguro,” sa loob-loob ko. Nang mapansin ko na nawala yung signage ng DBCS (Don Bosco Center of Studies), inakala ko na ‘yun ang hinahanap niya. Biglang bumuwelta ang kotse at sinenyasan kong huminto nang dumaan ito sa harap ko. Pagbukas ko ng pinto, tinanong ko kung ano ang hinahanap niya. Pero ang sagot ng driver sa akin:

“Sakay na Sister, saan ba punta niyo?”

“Hay naku, hindi po. Naghihintay ako ng tricycle papuntang SM Bicutan. Akala ko may hinahanap ka o naliligaw.”

“Taga-dito po ako. Sakay na Sister, Grab Car po ito. Ihahatid ko na kayo sa SM. Papunta din ako ng highway.”

Balbas-sarado si Kuya, pero mukha namang disente. Sumakay ako, habang sa loob-loob ko’y nagdarasal: “Angel of God, my guardian dear…”

Nakita ko yung malaking ID ng Grab Car. Nestor L. Ramos ang pangalan niya at heto ang kanyang kwento:

Labimpitong gulang si Nestor nang lumuwas sa Maynila mula sa General Santos. Bunsong anak sa anim na magkakapatid, nakipagsapalaran siya sa lunsod at nakitira sa isang pinsan. Magsasaka ang mga magulang niya, pero gusto niyang maging engineer. Nag-aral siya sa Adamson University at gusto niyang makapagtrabaho. Kailangan niyang kumita dahil butas na ang sapatos niya pero hindi siya matanggap sa mga food chains: Jollibee, Mister Donut, etc. Isang araw, may napulot siyang nobena sa Mother of Perpetual Help sa harap ng simbahan. Dahil nga kailangan niya ng trabaho, pumasok siya sa simbahan at dinasal niya ito. Simula noon, araw-araw niyang dinadasal ito, umaasang baka-sakaling tulungan siya ng Mahal na Ina. Natuto din siyang magsimba araw-araw dahil may misa sa Adamson Church ng 6 AM, 12 noon at 6 PM.

Paglipas ng tatlong buwan, nakahanap siya ng trabaho. Lunes hanggang Biyernes ay nasa school siya, pero kapag Sabado at Linggo ay namamasada siya ng taxi. Nuong una raw, ayaw siyang tanggapin ng mga taxi operators. Sino nga ba ang magtitiwala ng kotse nila sa isang binatilyong tulad niya? Nagpatubo siya ng balbas para medyo tumanda ang hitsura. Isang kaklase na may best friend na taxi-operator ang parents ang nagbigay sa kanya ng break. Sa “Luring Taxi” siya nagsimula.

Maswerte raw siya kasi inalagaan siya ng mga beteranong taxi drivers. Ipinaubaya nila ang weekend sa kanya para kumita siya. Kahit na noon daw, uso na yung 24 oras na pasada. Marami sa kanila ang tumitira ng shabu para hindi antukin dahil mahirap talagang mag-straight na 24 oras. Kaya daw kung may barumbadong taxi driver, minsan epekto na yun ng shabu o ng kawalan ng tulog. Kulang na kulang din daw ang kinikita ng mga taxi drivers, kaya minsan ay namimili ng pasahero dahil sa heavy traffic o hindi nanunukli. Ang mga operators ang yumayaman. Sana daw, maunawaan ng mga pasahero na mahirap maghanap-buhay. Ang kaunting tip na maibibigay nila ay malaking tulong na sa pamilya ng driver.

Pitong taong namasada ng taxi si Nestor, pero nahirapan talaga siya. Nagkanda-bagsak-bagsak din siya sa ilang subjects kaya nuong fourth year na siya, inisip niyang mag-apply sa Don Bosco Technical School sa Makati. Pinagsabay niya ang engineering course at automotive mechanic night classes mula 5:00-8:00. Kung sakaling hindi daw niya matapos ang engineering, at least may fall back siyang trabaho. Natapos niya ito noong 1991 at naka-graduate din siya ng engineering hanggang makapasa sa board at maging licensed mechanical engineer.

Iba-ibang trabaho ang napasukan niya pagka-graduate. Nagtrabaho siya sa Negros Navigation bilang purchasing assistant, plant mechanic sa Coca-Cola at field service engineer sa ibang kumpanya. Nakapag-abroad din siya bilang field service engineer. Nangarap siyang magkaroon ng pamilya at noong 2002 ay ikinasal siya kay Emma na taga-Calamba. Pero tuwing mabubuntis si Emma ay nakukunan ito. Tatlong beses siyang nakunan pero hindi sila nawalan ng pag-asa. Nagsayaw sila sa Obando, nanalangin ng mga nobena at hiningi sa Panginoon ang biyaya na magka-anak. Nagpatingin din sila sa isang espesyalista para malaman ang dahilan sa miscarriage. Matapang daw ang anti-bodies ni Emma. Pero imbes na ipaliwanag sa kanila ang procedure at mga gamot na kailangan, mas interesado daw ang doktor kung ano ang trabaho nila at kung magkano ang kinikita. Sabi niya, siguro daw naniniguro lang yung doktor na matatapos nila ang treatment para hindi masayang.

Dahil wala silang sapat na pambayad at sadya namang napakamahal ng gamot, itinuloy nila ang panalangin sa Panginoon at Mahal na Inang Maria. Hanggang sa magpunta sila sa Kamay ni Hesus sa Quezon at humingi ng panalangin kay Fr. Faller. Dininig ng Panginoon ang kanilang pagsusumamo at noong 2007, ipinanganak ang unang baby nila. Dalawang babae na ang anak ni Nestor at Emma. Ang pangalan nila? Jesu Marie (siyam-na-taon) at Jessa Marie (pitong-taon) – dahil pareho daw silang milagro ng Panginoong Jesus at Mahal na Birheng Maria.

Sa edad na 46, senior mechanical engineer na si Nestor sa kumpanya, kaya per project na ang trabaho niya. Madalas daw ay sa ibang bansa ito. Pero ayaw niyang masayang ang oras kaya bumili siya ng kotse at ginagamit niya ito sa Grab Car kapag libre siya. Naging popular daw ito sa Pilipinas dahil talagang may sinasagot na kakulangan. Hindi kasi maaasahan ang pampublikong transportasyon dito sa atin.

Hindi ba napakaganda ng buhay ni Nestor? Parang isang serye ng mga himala ang nangyari sa buhay niya! Ang daming taong nagbukas ng daan para magkaroon siya ng pagkakataong matupad ang kanyang mga pangarap. Pero nagsikap din siyang tugunin ang lahat ng ito sa sipag, tiyaga, pagpupursigi at katapatan. Hindi lang sa pag-aaral at trabaho, pati na rin sa buhay pamilya at bilang isang Kristiyano. Sabi niya:

“Marami din po akong kamalian at mga kasalanan, mga kahinaan. Pero hindi Niya po ako pinababayaan.”

Napansin ko na may nakasabit na rosaryo sa gilid ng manibela. Sabi ni Nestor, nakaugalian na din niyang magbasa ng Daily Bread araw-araw, at hangga’t maari ay dumadaan siya sa simbahan.

“Mas mainam na po yung nakausap mo na Siya sa unang bahagi ng araw mo, di ba? Siya lang naman talaga ang makakapitan natin, eh.”

Medyo naantig ang puso ko nang marinig ko ito dahil hindi ko inaasahang sasabihin niya yon. Sasagutin ko sana nang may idinugtong pa siya:

“At alam n’yo po, kahit isang beses ay hindi pa ako na hold up. Isang beses pa lang ako naaksidente. Kaya nangako po ako bilang pasasalamat, kung may madre o pari na maisasakay ko, hindi ko sisingilin dahil sila ang nagdadasal para sa atin.”

Paano naikwento lahat ito ni Nestor sa akin? Imbes na ibaba niya ako sa SM Bicutan ay inihatid niya ako sa kumbento namin sa Pasay. May lalakarin din daw kasi siyang papeles sa DTI Libertad, kaya isasabay na niya. Nagulat nga ako pagkasabi niya nito. Kasi, bago umalis sa library ng DBCS, naglambing ako sa Ama, na halos hindi ko ginagawa. Sabi ko: “Magpapadala ka ba ng maghahatid sa akin?” Wala pang sampung minuto pagkasabi ko nito ay dumaan si Nestor sa harapan ko. Ano ang probabilidad na magtatagpo ang landas namin sa araw na iyon? Siguro mga 0.00001%, o marahil ay mas kaunti pa. Si Nestor ang sagot ng Ama sa lambing ko – isang buhay na himala!

Salamat Nestor! Sa dami ng mga balita ng karahasan, korupsyon, pagsasamantala, pag-balewala sa buhay at pagtalikod sa Diyos ng marami, ipinaaalala mo sa amin na ang kaharian ng Diyos ay narito na sa ating piling. Narito siya sa mga taong tulad mo na patuloy na nagtitiwala, sumasampalataya, nagsisikap, nagmamahal, nananalig at nagpapasalamat. Salamat sa mapagpalang aruga ng Mahal na Birheng Maria sa iyo at sa iyong pamilya.

At para sa akin, isa kang patotoo na kasama natin ang Diyos – handang ibigay ang lahat, kahit na ang kanyang Bugtong na Anak – upang makamit natin ang ligayang tunay at walang hanggan. Salamat sa Amang tumugon sa isang simpleng lambing – tunay ngang mapagmahal siyang Ama na nasisiyahang magbigay-galak at pasayahin ang kanyang mga anak. Kung dinidinig niya ang lambing, ano pa kaya ang dasal at pagsusumamo?

Ikaw, kelan ka huling naglambing sa Diyos? Lambing na! Siguradong may milagro din siyang inilalaan para sa iyo.

Share mo naman dito kung meron.

 

 

 

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Life from Death: A Day with Pasay City’s “Hidden” Communities

​“Sister, matagal kayong hindi nadalaw!” An elderly woman welcomed us, with a tone of reproach, as we entered the gates of Pasay City cemetery. My sisters have been doing regular outreach programs with the families who are literally living among the dead. I finally had the chance to join the group. The postulants took care of the catechism for children. The professed sisters gathered the adults (mostly women) for Bible study and lectio divina. My specific task was to document the activities. Armed with a point-and-shoot camera and an iPad, I observed, recorded images, kept a list of impressions, and paid attention to words.

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The first thing I noticed was the great number of children as they assembled in front of a mausoleum. They were excited. They came running barefoot, others bare-chested, one was completely nude, and all of them seemed oblivious to it. There is a lot to cover here, I told myself, and I didn’t want to miss anything. I started clicking away. At each click of the shutter, a thousand questions rushed through my brain: Why are they here? Where do they come from? Where are their parents? What is the city government doing for them? How can they survive? What about their future???

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​I am no stranger to poverty. I grew up in Tondo where I learned hard work and dogged determination from my parents. They neither refused to give up on life nor allowed themselves to be victims of their circumstance. Life was not easy, but there was faith, and hope, and joy and music, and family. Could I find that here, I wondered?

​A man was chiselling a name on a marble urn. It was for a woman whose remains will be cremated that day. “How did you learn to do that?” I asked. “I had to earn a living, and found out I could chip on marble and was good at it,” he smiled.

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​A group of teenagers was enjoying a bottle of soft drinks in a sari-sari store (nestled between two mausoleums). They just graduated from high school and dream of going to college: to be an accountant, an engineer, and a teacher. One of them said her parents take care of two tombs and they get “free board and lodging.” They’ve extended the hospitality to four other families – practically all her relatives live with them, among the tombs.

​There were some newcomers in the Lectio Divina group and I captured the scene of an elderly woman teaching a young mother, with a baby in her arms, how to find a bible passage.

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​The children were a marvel to behold and kept me busy. Oh, they were dirty and they smelled and created a racket. They sang. Click. And danced. Click. Lined up for snacks. Click. Laughed and ran around. Click. Shared their bread. Click. Prayed and played. Click. Exclaimed with delight at the books. Click. Asked questions. Click. Some gamely posed for a solo. Click. Or with a friend, minus his two front teeth. Click.

​A girl of seven or eight caught my attention. She’s not only pretty – she’s really beautiful. In spite of her unkempt curly hair and unwashed face, she’s a standout. The youngest of three sisters, she clung to her Ate and never left her side. I included her in most group photos and “stole” some close-up shots. When I reviewed the shots later I noticed that her face remained impassive all throughout the day. Although she was singing and dancing and eating with the others, her beautiful face was blank. Her eyes seemed like an old woman’s. More questions!

​And then it was time to go back to the convent. I gave them a last look and brought them all to the Lord in prayer. I asked him many questions at evening prayer and adoration, but he remained silent. Fine. I thought that was the end of it.

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​Just before dinner, I showed the sisters and postulants the pictures of the day. I pointed to the poker-faced girl and introduced my new “boyfriend.” He’s a boy with joy painted all over his face and demeanor. One of the postulants recognized him. She said that after she gave them snacks, this boy came near. While the other kids busily opened their bags of goodies, he asked: “Sister, sister! Pwede pong payakap? Kahit saglit lang?” He is almost nine-years-old, doesn’t go to school, and his parents scavenge for a living. “Nakayakap na siya diyan sa picture, Sister, kaya masayang-masaya.”

​His request kept ringing in my ears, over and over. “Sister, sister! Pwede pong payakap? Kahit saglit lang?” I could not sleep because the earlier questions came back; this time, with the answers.

Yes, people are hungry for food,
but they are more hungry for love.
A few minutes of your presence today,
your smile, your embrace
reminded them that I care;
that I have not forgotten them;
that I am Father.
You cannot do all. You cannot change much.
But you were there – and for that little boy
there was joy, and life, and love today,
no matter how fleeting.

The tears came, but also restful sleep, secure in the Father’s loving embrace.

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