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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Join us in a day of quiet and reflection.

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Do you know any young women who might be interested to go on recollection this Lent? Please share. Thanks and God bless!
 

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How a taxi driver taught the lessons of IEC 2016 to a nun.

Visita Iglesia and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament at Asilo de la Milagrosa, Cebu

Visita Iglesia and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament at Asilo de la Milagrosa, Cebu

We just finished the Visita Iglesia of the International Eucharistic Congress 2016. It was late. My companions were all going the opposite direction and I did not know how to get back to the convent. I asked a barangay tanod who said that since many roads were closed, the best option was to take a taxi. He flagged a taxi and told the driver my address (in Cebuano).

Grateful to be on my way home after a full day, I observed the passing scene. Suddenly, the route seemed unfamiliar. The road was getting dark and winding. I started to get worried. It was my fourth day in Cebu and for the first time, I was traveling alone. I silently whispered, “Angel of God, my guardian dear…”

“Manong, parang iba po ang dinadaanan natin. Sa Daughters of St. Paul, Osmeña Blvd. po tayo, malapit sa Harrison Place.”
(Sir, it seems we’re on a different route. We’re supposed to go to the Daughters of St Paul in Osmeña Blvd, near Harrison Place.) I told the driver.
“Ay, Harrison pala. Akala ko sa Radisson,” (Oh, Harrison! I thought it was Radisson), he replied.
“Naku hindi po! Harrison. Ano po ba yung Radisson?” (No, sir, it is Harrison! But what is Radisson?), I asked.
“Malaki at magandang hotel yon – Radisson Blu.” (It’s a big and beautiful Hotel), he replied.
“Naku, Manong, hindi po tumutuloy doon ang madre. Sa kumbento lang po.” (Sir, sisters don’t stay in those hotels but in convents.)

Then we went back to where he picked me up, turned the meter back to zero, and restarted it. I was surprised, to say the least! This will never happen in Manila!
“OK lang po sa inyo? Hindi kayo lugi sa gasolina?” (Is that OK with you, sir? Won’t you be at a deficit?” I asked.
“OK lang ma’am. Mali ako eh. Dapat tinanong din kita.” (That’s OK, ma’am. It was also my fault. I should have asked your address as well.)

My worries flew out of the window, and we chatted through the traffic, as we passed by other groups still in procession. I asked about his family, his work, and the impact of IEC on Cebu and it’s residents. Courteous and simple, he readily opened his heart. He told me his dreams (a better life for his five children) and his disappointments (there were many). He is happy and proud that Cebu was chosen to host the IEC. What a great honor! Yes, there were inconveniences: traffic is worse, the hassle of closed roads and rerouting, etc., but it was OK.

We finally reached the convent. I was opening my purse to pay and give him a good tip, when he stopped me.
“Sister, huwag na po. Tulong ko na po sa misyon ninyo,” (No, Sister, no need to pay me. Keep it as my help for your mission), he said with a smile.
“Naku, Manong, kailangan nyo po ito, ng pamilya nyo,” (But sir, you need this, and your family), I insisted, giving him the money.
“Hindi po ako makakasali sa IEC, at wala naman akong maibibigay na iba. Yan na lang ang contribution ko para sa misyon,” (I cannot join the IEC nor volunteer, and I don’t have anything else to give. That’s the only contribution I can make to the mission), he said, as if pleading. “Sige na po.” (Please!)

I conceded and accepted the gift with a humbled heart. This was something extraordinary!  I was moved at the unexpected gesture of solidarity. I promised to pray for him and his family, and told him that all the sisters in my community in Pasay will do the same. (Will you please pray for him, too?)

Thank you, Manong Estrellito! You are one in a million!

Thanks to you and all the valiant volunteers who made IEC 2016 not only a huge success but also an experience of a lifetime. Thank you for showing me what the foreign delegates kept on repeating: “You are an amazing people! Always ready to help, always with a smile. Gracious and welcoming, respectful and dignified. And it’s not for show, either!”

Altars servers lead the procession to the next church.

Altars servers lead the procession to the next church.

An Irish delegate, Fr. John, observed: “Filipinos have a good heart; something you will not see anywhere else.” A heart that is grateful for having been chosen. A heart ready for any inconvenience or sacrifice in order to serve. A heart open and generous to give – whatever one can – to contribute to the common good. A heart that lives what it believes.

Yes, we heard brilliant theological discourses and touching testimonies about the Eucharist during the Congress. Yes, the Mass, the Adoration, the procession and Statio Orbis were glorious celebrations of the Eucharist. But it was the thousands of volunteers, the organizers and the people of Cebu, like Manong Estrellito, who allowed us to experience with them what being Eucharist truly means: being a people blessed, broken and shared!

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Contemplative Life and Mission

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Here’s my reflection for World Mission Sunday which appears in the Homily Guides and Reflections for World Mission Month 2015:

One of the most touching moments of Pope Francis’ visit to our country early this year was the Mass at Tacloban airport. He told the people of Leyte and neighboring provinces who suffered greatly because of typhoon Yolanda: “I come to tell you that Jesus is Lord, and he never lets us down… So many of you have lost everything… I do not know what to say to you – but the Lord knows… All I can do is keep silent… And I walk with you all, with my silent heart…”

We were moved, some even to tears, because in him we felt the very closeness of Jesus. We felt loved, and in spite of all our trials and sufferings, our weakness and poverty, and the inclement weather, we rejoiced! Through his presence, his gestures, his words and his silence, Pope Francis spoke to the heart of each single Filipino.

This is what mission is about – to speak of Jesus and to allow Jesus to speak to the hearts of people. Today, as we celebrate Word Mission Sunday, the Holy Father reminds us: “When we pray before Jesus crucified, we see the depth of this love which gives us dignity and sustains us. And we realize that this same love expands to embrace all humanity – and that he wants to make use of us to draw closer to his beloved people.”

“He wants to make use of you…” yes, YOU… to get closer to all peoples – your family, your friends, your neighbors, your classmates, your co-workers, your Facebook friends, your co-parishioners. He also wants to get close to people who are in the “peripheries,” the people you evade or do not notice: beggars at the church doors; street children; young people lost in drugs; the elderly; children and women who are trafficked; people with HIV/AIDS; victims of natural disasters; corrupt politicians; IS terrorists; unscrupulous businessmen; etc. Yes, he wants to get close to and loves even your enemies, plus the billions of people who do not yet know him.
You may say, “I am just an ordinary person with no particular gifts, power, position, wealth or connections. How can Jesus make use of me?”

In the Gospel today, Jesus tells his disciples and all of us: “Whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all. For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

To serve and to give one’s life. This is what Jesus did. Like the suffering servant of Isaiah in the first reading: because of Jesus’ affliction we shall see the light in fullness of days. Through his suffering, Jesus shall justify many, and their guilt he shall bear.

A 27-year old volunteer, Kristel Padasas, allowed Jesus to make us of her to get close to his people. Do you remember her? She died in an accident when Pope Francis celebrated Mass in Tacloban. Her dedication to the people affected by the typhoon extended beyond her official work with Catholic Relief Services (CRS). She traveled a great distance to volunteer at the papal mass and to remember the victims of Typhoon Haiyan. She came: “to serve and to give her life for many.” She volunteered and offered not only her talents, her time, her treasures but also her very life to serve the poorest of the poor!

Pope Francis recounts that when he was 21 he got seriously ill and had to have part of his lung removed. He was in great pain and the usual greetings did not help him. It was his catechism teacher, Sr. Dolores, who told him something that struck him and gave him peace: “Keep imitating Jesus.” In the light of those words, even everyday suffering took on a different value. Suffering was not taken away, but it gained significance. Thanks to a religious sister whose wise words continue to enlighten the Pope.

On this Year of Consecrated Life, we look to our brothers and sisters who have given up everything to follow the poor, chaste and obedient Jesus. Religious men and women who by their mission and by their life proclaim the Gospel “to the poor, the sick and those who are often looked down upon or forgotten.” It is their love for Jesus and for his people that impels them to bring the “Gospel, the source of joy, liberation and salvation for all men and women.”

“The mission of the servants of the Word – bishops, priests, religious and laity – is to allow everyone, without exception, to enter into a personal relationship with Christ… All the faithful are called to live their baptismal commitment to the fullest, in accordance with the personal situation of each.”

As we pray for all the missionaries in all corners of the world who continue to offer their lives for Jesus and his people, let us support them with our prayers, sacrifices and offerings.
Pope Francis appeals to all of us, but most especially to young people who are capable of courageous witness and generous deeds: “Do not allow others to rob you of the ideal of a true mission, of following Jesus through the total gift of yourself.”

Jesus is calling you to be his presence by a total gift of yourself. Will you come? Will you allow him to send you forth and experience him “walking with you, speaking with you, breathing with you?”

May Mary, the Queen of Apostles, sustain and protect all missionaries. May she pray for many young men and women to answer the call for more laborers in the vineyard of the Lord.

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