Of Faith And Religion: A Lenten Reflection

I shall start this note with a line from Mahatma Gandhi: Religions are different roads converging to the same point. What does it matter that we take different road, so long as we reach the same goal. Wherein is the cause for quarreling?


I have never been a religious person; never have been and perhaps, never will be.

It’s not that I do not believe in religious institutions.  It’s simply that I feel something more meaningful and profound, something that transcends all earthly and mortal practices and dogmas can be found not under the organized structure of religions but within myself.  I could be one among the throng of worshippers and pilgrims and yet inside myself, I am as lost as I can be because what I am seeking by being part of a group is not found therein.  I feel a considerable enjoyment being with other worshippers, but alone with myself, the emptiness comes back to haunt me — I found no joy.  The search for the CHRIST has led me to attend different congregations only to find out that while these religious gatherings and rituals have the potential to show me the way to my MAKER, they have as much potential to stunt my faith since some organizations focus not in the Saviour but in dogma and tradition with the false notion that it is for glorifying the Saviour.

Religion as defined:


[ri-lij-uh n] noun

1. a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.

2. a specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons or sects: the Christian religion; the Buddhist religion.

3. the body of persons adhering to a particular set of beliefs and practices: a world council of religions.

4. the life or state of a monk, nun, etc.: to enter religion.

5. the practice of religious beliefs; ritual observance of faith.

I have no idea what the best religion is — and I am not interested to know, because I am not interested in religion per se. I am more interested in the positive change brought about by a certain religion to  specific persons. I am more interested in seeing people embrace the shortcomings of people and helping them rebuild their broken lives.  I am more interested in observing whether the cancer of religious division has metastasized across social sectors or whether religions have been able to bridge gaps of faith among humankind.

The world literally overflows with religious organizations claiming certainty of salvation and yet establishing themselves as the be all and end all group.  They seemingly shout to others, “Join or  perish in eternal damnation.” I simply cringe at these self-gratifying claims. Aren’t we putting the Christ who died for us to shame with our self-righteous proclamation that we have absolute claim to salvation because we belong to this certain group and yet we could not coexist with one another in peace just because of the silly fact that we DO NOT  belong to the same religious organization?

Personally, I believe that only CHRIST is the way. He said as much in John 14:6, “Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

What, then, is true religion for me?

True religion is one where these can be found:

James 1:27

Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

Romans 13:10

Love does no wrong to a neighbour; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

Mark 12:33


Micah 6:8

He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God?

Mahatma Gandhi has the most profound explanation about faith.  It goes this way:

“It is beyond my power to induce in you a belief in God. There are certain things which are self proved and certain which are not proved at all. The existence of God is like a geometrical axiom. It may be beyond our heart grasp. I shall not talk of an intellectual grasp. Intellectual attempts are more or less failures, as a rational explanation cannot give you the faith in a living God. For it is a thing beyond the grasp of reason. It transcends reason. There are numerous phenomena from which you can reason out the existence of God, but I shall not insult your intelligence by offering you a rational explanation of that type. I would have you brush aside all rational explanations and begin with a simple childlike faith in God. If I exist, God exists. With me it is a necessity of my being as it is with millions. They may not be able to talk about it, but from their life you can see that it is a part of their life. I am only asking you to restore the belief that has been undermined. In order to do so, you have to unlearn a lot of literature that dazzles your intelligence and throws you off your feet. Start with the faith which is also a token of humility and an admission that we know nothing, that we are less than atoms in this universe. We are less than atoms, I say, because the atom obeys the law of its being, whereas we in the insolence of our ignorance deny the law of nature. But I have no argument to address to those who have no faith.”


To My High School Graduate: To Be A Professional or A Non-Professional

My dearest Felaine Andrea,

The curtain to your high school musical has been pulled close. In another month’s time, you are going to commence another play — that of going to college to prepare for your lifetime adventure. I am ecstatic at what you have achieved.  Regardless of whether you have been awarded those 3 medals or not, I would have been so happy still.  After all, it isn’t every day that a daughter completes high school.

My  happiness is laced with a tinge of misgiving though.  A lot of questions hover in my mind —  questions concerning courses and skills development trainings because this is that moment in your life when you have to be most careful in making choices. The choices you make at this point could make  or break  your future. Unfortunately, anak, the time has come when I can no longer decide for you.  You have to make the decision all by yourself because what you decide on today will be the life you are going to live in the  future.  I can only guide you, I can only make suggestions… but in the end, the deciding factor will ultimately be this question: WHAT DO YOU ENVISION YOURSELF TO BE 20 YEARS FROM NOW?

A four-year course has always been viewed as a surefire way to financial stability in years past.  This belief no longer holds true at present.  Millions of licensed professionals loiter busy streets in the hope of landing jobs only  to  find out that most licenses today amount to almost nothing.  These professionals are forced to accept jobs that aren’t really in line with their chosen profession because most of them think that to be underemployed is way better than to be unemployed. We have discussed the population age structure in our Economics class and I have always told you that unless something drastic is done to our “very young” population structure, this overwhelming problem on unemployment and underemployment will continue to rise in the next 10 to 20 years.

Where does this leave you, then?

This situation leaves you to think a thousand times before finally making a choice. The Philippines boasts of the best work force in the world, yet ironically, it could not offer jobs to its millions of licensees.  This is not because these licensed graduates lack the skills, knowledge and attitudes to be accepted for job openings but because of the fact that the Philippines literally overflows with professional surplus. We have more professionals than what our economy needs and if you aren’t careful, you will be one addition to  the rising statistics of desperate applicants 6 or 7 years into the future.

White collar jobs have always been regarded so highly.  Let go of this notion, anak. While this may have held some truth twenty years ago, this just isn’t true at present. Crisp and freshly-pressed uniforms may look pristine and immaculate to the vantage point of the unemployed, but that just isn’t the case in reality, anak. There’s more heartache and anguish and despondency than what meets the eye more so, when you are an applicant who has submitted requirements for 5 years straight and are not accepted for any position. More than the blow to the ego, if this happens to you, it may cause you to forego some important life-changing decisions which may leave you empty in the end.

A blue collar job doesn’t appear as attractive as its counterpart, yet judging by the number of skilled workers who have landed overseas jobs or started their own businesses, this choice is the more favourable one. You won’t have an immaculately pressed uniform, I warn you, but it’s certain that this puts food on the table better than a white collar “dream” ever can.

I am not telling you to pursue a purely technical vocation.  I am implying that you do not limit yourself to the “professional dream” most young people hold in their hearts. Endeavor to complete  a four year course, BUT never make that course as the be all and end all choice in your life. Learn livelihood skills, invest in small-scale business, monetize your talents —- anything just so you can be certain of survival in this highly competitive world.

Where do we begin, then?

I also don’t  know, anak.  I can only answer for myself, but  I can not make answers for you.  It’s your life to live, you should be free to make choices.  I can only suggest these guiding questions:

1.       What do  you want to do for the rest of your life? Do you  want to be trapped in the four corners of an office? Do you want to have full control of your time and effort?

2.       How will you go about achieving what you want to do in life? Will you go to college? Will TESDA be of help? Will it be fine to enroll in dancing school? Would it be useful to pursue choreography? Will it be good idea for you to widen your skill in make-up application?

3.       In 15 years time, will you still want to be what you want to be today? Yes, seriously ask yourself this question because what you want today may be the PRISON you have built for yourself in the future.

4.       What skills have you been given by God inherently? Tap them, use them, benefit from them. God didn’’t give them to you so you can waste them.

5.       What does God want you to do with your life? Pray, meditate, read your Bible. When you have answered this most  important question, then you have made the perfect choice. What  God wants for you may not offer you wealth and prestige, but I  am sure He will “satisfy your every need.” You will learn later in life, anak, that sometimes”more is less” and “less is more” — wealth doesn’t always guarantee happiness and fulfillment.

Be brave, my little one. This life is not for the faint of heart. Your wings have become sturdier, you are now fit to fly all your own.

Have hope, have faith and have love.

Above all, keep God always at the heart of your very heart.  With Him guiding you in life, everything is going to turn out good and well.

God bless you always.

Prayers and Love,

Papa and Mama


An Open Letter To A Daughter Who Is Turning Sixteen

My dearest Andrea,

At this time, sixteen years ago,  I was pacing the halls of Faith Hospital awaiting your birth.

It’s been sixteen years.

Time passed by so fast, I wasn’t even prepared for how swiftly you have grown.

I still remember all too well the moment of your birth; of how, after the indescribable pain of going into induced labor and childbirth, I couldn’t stop staring at you.  But don’t flatter yourself, anak; you weren’t the most beautiful baby ever born, hehehe.  You were a mix between gray  and violet (as you so proudly proclaimed when you were yet a child).  Your hair stood when dry. You wailed all the time and you were awake just when everyone else needed their precious sleep. It was a daily night time routine for us all to dance to the tune of “Dayang-dayang” just so you would fall asleep.

And if I remember right, I wasn’t the best mother at the onset.  I wasn’t prepared to have you yet by then. I had unresolved emotional issues and I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to fulfill the responsibilities of motherhood.  Your lola Ellen took my role for a time.  You were lola’s girl. Somewhere into our lives, I grew better.  I didn’t have much choice by then since lola had already left for the US. I became a better mother to you not because I relied on my own capacity and judgement but because I placed my faith in the One who gave you to me — GOD.

As you were growing up, I literally grasped at straws as to how I was going to raise you.  I sometimes wished you came with a User’s  Manual so I could easily scan through the pages in order to figure out what works for you and what things do not; how to  make you become your best or how to fashion you into someone I wanted you to be.  But it just wasn’t the case.  If you were a thing, I wouldn’t be too concerned whether you’d break during the first few years because a thing can easily be replaced.  I can always buy something new if finances would allow it.  But you are a person — such a precious person to me to experiment with —-and there I was, not knowing how to do things right with you. And so I prayed harder.  I prayed for Him to guide me each day because I felt it was the best thing to do.

The first day you wore your school uniform, I was crying as you excitedly walked to your first grade building while I watched through my classroom window.  I knew then that those first few steps were the very same steps that would take you farther from me day by day.  As you so excitedly savored your new experiences, I watched with awe, excitement, happiness and pride because I was looking at one of the masterpieces God entrusted to me becoming the vision of what God wanted her to be.

For the first sixteen years of your life, I had been the focal person.  I had been the key character in the story that is your life.  I really pray that despite my imperfections, my many flaws and the countless mistakes I made along the way, I had been able to guide you to become the person that God wants you to be — never into the pattern of what I wanted you to become.  After all, I am but your caretaker. You aren’t mine.  You are God’s masterpiece. You were sent to me to be cared for so He can fulfill His plan in your life and through your life. Nothing will make me happier than you becoming the person that God desires of you to become by making HIM your first priority and by considering what hurts Him in every decision that you make.

Day by day, you are eagerly exploring life.  As I watch you, I know I had achieved one good thing as a mother:  that of planting the seeds of faith into your heart.  I now see the seeds sprouting as I see your faith growing stronger.  You may have thought me a heretic while you were growing up because you seldom saw me go to church, yet all the while, you knew I was a person of faith — never of religion. You knew I was healed by faith; perhaps, that made an impact to you.  I sowed the seeds of faith into you in the way I knew how with the sole reason of wanting you to freely find your own way straight to the Father without the biases of religion.  I realized long ago, anak, that I cannot walk your journey to Him.  You have to go seek Him yourself.  I can only prepare you for the way, but I can never walk the way for you.  I may have been wrong, but looking at you today, listening to you speak, reading the words you write, observing how you carry yourself — I am thankful at what God has done in  your life and with your life.

Others might not understand the way I am dealing with you. I don’t care.  I don’t care about them anyway. I only care about one thing: that you understand why I am doing these things.  I know you by heart and I recognize what you need and whom you need it from.  I recognized potentials in you needing to be exposed into the open with the right person tapping it and coaxing you to open up your shell a bit wider. I accepted the fact that the person who could coax you out of your hiding place is not me. It was not with resignation but with confidence in your judgement that I gambled with fate when I gave you my go signal to fall in love. I was apprehensive, to be honest, but all apprehension I felt slowly dissipated as I watched you and Dodo become better persons through the friendship and fraternal bond you established together.  I pray for both of you to be filled with the Holy Spirit as we, your parents, guide you through every new experience so you can become good examples to other young people. To quote a dear friend, Janet Javier Atkins, “LET FELAINE BE STRONGER THAN YOUR FEARS. The Lord hears the prayer of a mother. You have showed her how to live, let her show you that she learned. Entrust her to the Lord; she is HIS.”

I know that you have realized this: that people could make or break you if you let them — and this is what I want you to learn well.  Your life is yours to live.  But you don’t have the liberty to destroy or mess up your life because how you live it is your responsibility to the ONE who gave it to you. Without you even realizing it, sometimes, your little acts influence the people around you — so live it well.  As you once reflected in an essay you wrote, “Be careful how you live your life.  You may be the only Bible some will ever read.”

Most of the parents you know create a gap between themselves and their children with the old-fashioned view of demanding respect.  If you must have noticed, I bridged the gap with camaraderie and friendship because I realized that respect, although I am your mother, cannot be demanded; it must be earned.  I have chosen to be friends with you knowing that if I were to guide you well, I have to be your friend.  If I can be friends with other people, if I can throw away my mask and be playful with them, why can’t I do it with the people who mean the world to me— papa, yourself and Althea? I am glad of this decision, anak. Reflecting on the openness you show me, I know this is another milestone for me as a mother.  I can only pray earnestly that through all the seasons of your life, you will never let go of God’s hands.  Only with Him in your life can you ever be certain that you will never stray.

Medals and merits aren’t important to me.  You are far more valuable than all the glory of your academic achievements.  Your academic feats are but the icing on the cake that is your life.  They add color, but they do not hold substance — for what would the entire icing amount to without the cake wrapped with it? The ultimate honor is for me to see you living your life in awe of the Father and living for Him day after day. I don’t dream of you to become rich or prestigious. I only pray of you to draw nearer to the Father everyday— trusting Him, believing in Him, never losing faith in Him.  I pray that the Lord will give you peace, harmony, love and friendship, and just enough of everything to last you through this lifetime — yes, just enough— because anything in excess becomes a vice.

Ever so slowly, I ease the gates to your freedom open.  My confidence in you will have to be tested but if I were to make sure your wings shall grow sturdy if you are to fly high one day, I need to do this.  I may not have complete faith in you yet, but I have great faith in the One who gave you to me. You might outrun my protection, but you can never outrun His love because He wants you to fulfill His will in your life. Today, anak, I hand to you the key to your freedom… the freedom to make sound decisions and choices. In moments when you get confused and unsure, rest in the knowledge that I am right behind you to get you through it all.

The next 16 years and onward is a vast arena of possibilities and uncertainties.  Like a rosebud slowly opening up to the sun, your life unfolds slowly yet ever so surely.  There is no turning back for life isn’t meant to be lived backwards.  Set your sights straight to your goal as you strive to envision what the unknown future holds.  No one knows what tomorrow brings; but with your great faith in God, I know that you are more than eager to explore; safe in the knowledge that for as long as you entrust your future to the God who knows it all, you are in the safest of hands.

Where you and Althea are concerned, the phrase “I love you” is an understatement, anak, because I am bound to you both by something so much stronger.  I am much more than a mother who loves and protects you because I intend to be so much more — I intend to be everything tangible that you need in your life: a friend, a confidante, a critic, a buddy, a mother, a teacher, a counselor— I can even be superwoman for you  if need be.  Until I breathe my last, I shall be hovering around you like a shadow — even when you will already be mothers yourselves — because that’s what mothers are good at, hehehe.

Your father and I have shown you what friendship is all about and why friendship should be the foundation in every relationship.  We hope you have learned from us and through us.  Despite our imperfections, know one thing, anak.  We love you and will love you perfectly even in moments when you will fail us — as you inevitably will fail us —because the love we have for you knows no conditions — the way Jesus loved us even when we have sinned.

Dare to dream, chase your dreams and if you can, live your dreams.  The three of us —Papa, myself and Althea—shall be right at the side lines to cheer you on.

Your life has been a blessing to us, anak. It is our fervent hope that we, too, have richly blessed your life for the simple reason that papa and I are your parents.

Happy birthday, Beatrix Isabella (this should have been your name if Lola Ellen didn’t insist on placing half her name into yours, hehehe)!

You are now sixteen! May God give you more and more years to explore the wonders of life with HIM and in HIM.

May your life be a testament of God’s love and presence.

God bless you and guide you always.

Regardless of what life may bring, let nothing and no one separate you from the love of God.

With my love and prayers,



The Little Things Are The Big Things

We often dream big, because dreaming big is what we were made to do.   As a dear  friend (Felbert Go) once wrote  on my old autograph way back in college, “Dreaming demands no cost so we might as well fool ourselves with unreachable fantasies.” No big deal about dreaming big at all because it is when we dream that we allow ourselves to see beyond our limitations.  It is when we dream big  that our spirits can grow wings —wings that enable us to fly beyond our marginalized situations and be one among the stars for fleeting moments  until that time when, after we have given our all in our desire to chase our dreams, we have finally enjoyed the fruits of our endeavor because right in the palm of  our hands lies the  fulfillment of the big dream we never thought we could  achieve.

Dreaming big however, doesn’t mean we also grow big — physically or psychologically.  We know all too well what growing big physically means and I do not need to elaborate the issue.  Growing big psychologically is something we should be more concerned with though.  This could trigger issues bordering on insanity if not managed well.  Most of the time, when we finally reap the fruits of our labor, when we finally grasp in our very hands the proverbial pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, we tend to be forgetful of our humble  beginnings; thus we lose sight of where we are heading to next.

In our pursuit of  the larger and finer things, we forget that it isn’t always the big things and the big dreams coming true that places happiness right into our hearts.  If we are honest  enough, it  is the little things that make happiness and contentment more profound.  To phrase it simply, it isn’t the grand vacation alone at the most expensive destination  but the little moments of peace snuggled close with the ones we love that matters more. It isn’t how much the bank account holds, but the number of people who smiled and sang praises to God because you have blessed them through the blessings God sent you that makes earning remarkable and enjoyable. It isn’t what we possess but how we use that which we possess that brings fulfillment.   Like if I were to  buy a computer set but I wouldn’t allow my children to touch it because of fear that they might destroy it, what sense was there for having bought the computer in the first place?

But then, everyone has his  own point of view… I was simply sharing mine.  I am glad God placed in me a fine taste for what really matters in life.  I am not saying I don’t enjoy material blessings though.  I am simply stating that material possessions, no matter how grand, pales in comparison to the true wealth that is family, true friends and most of all, GOD.


Is Your Glass Half Empty or Half Full?

Life could be likened to a glass filled halfway with whatever.  Some would look at it as “half-full; others would say it’s ‘half-empty”. How one looks at the glass would literally spell out his personality. The one who sees the glass half-full is the one who is optimistic, the one who finds reasons to be happy,  the one who is always thankful to God for the blessings he receives no matter how small.  The one who sees the glass half-empty obviously wallows in pessimism.  He has kept a blind eye to the blessings God has endowed him with since birth and spends all his days whining and complaining, looking for minute matters to fuss about.



The optimist looks for the good in every bad situation; choosing to believe that God’s hand is behind everything that is happening.  The pessimist looks for the bad in even the seemingly perfect situation and feeling a sense of selfish gratification each time he can point out a minor fault because it makes him feel better.



The optimist can laugh at himself knowing that like everyone else, he is bound to make booboos — after all, despite the immaculate aura he exudes, he isn’t too full of himself. The pessimist hates being laughed at, but has the loudest voice when laughing at the failures of others. He really isn’t happy about what he does.  He just wants others to think that he is.



The optimist recognizes the challenge in every hardship.  He knows it is an avenue for him to become better.  The pessimist only sees hardship in even the most mundane challenge.  He knows he can do it if he tries harder enough, but he doesn’t do it because for him, to complain is much better than lifting a finger.



So, how do you see your glass, is it half – empty or half -full?



Rough Waters, Placid Shores

Judging by the clear clouds yesterday and the steady zephyr that made the leaves rustle in the early afternoon sun, I decided it was a safe day for travel.  And indeed it was. The shallow water was placid, rippled once in a while by the the steady blowing of the breeze. My daughter and I boarded the fast craft that would take us to Dunaguete City with the notion that it would be a smooth journey. Halfway through, the waters started to get rough with the small craft tossed from side to side as it struggled to remain upright.  Looking beyond the glass window, I can only see white foams all around us and I could feel the clammy hands of my daughter right beside me.  I knew she was frightened so I held her hand tight and assured her we were going to reach our destination in one piece because God is with us. I didn’t feel apprehensive or fearful because I had been through situations more frightening than yesterday. If anything, I was more concerned that my daughter would ave another anaphylactic reaction due to rise in temperature brought about by fear than of the dancing sea craft I was on.  



The chaos around us started to wane as we neared Negros island.  When we reached Dumaguete, the shore was as unruffled as the one we left at Siquijor. If someone looked across the sea to the island we left less than an hour earlier, no one would guess the storm brewing along the way.  



Leads me to reflect on me and of the people I see. 



Most of us go around pretending that everything is in its neat place. We project an image of perfection, that nothing could possibly ruffle our feathers.  We let others think that we aren’t afraid of anything, but in reality, there’s a storm raging right within each of us.  There’s a storm that most of us do not know how to calm.  



I experience these raging storms from time to time.  I come to moments when I find it difficult to calm the storm that rage within myself.  But everytime, nothing and no one ever came close to calming the storm in my soul than the one who calms the sea: JESUS. 



No one calms my raging heart except JESUS.



The Enigma That Is Myself

How well do I know myself? I sometimes find  myself pondering on this question. Much as I want to believe that since this is myself and my life,  I should be the expert as to what makes me tick, what makes me lose my cool, my dreams, my everything.  However, no matter the level of expertise about myself that I brag about, this fact still rings true: I KNOW MYSELF CONSIDERABLY WELL, BUT I HAVEN’T QUITE ATTAINED THAT LEVEL OF EXPERTISE ABOUT THE ENIGMA THAT IS ME.



There have been moments when I was baffled at things I said and did.  When I look in the mirror, I see the familiar reflection gazing back at me, yet I couldn’t help but wonder if the heart that has guided me all through these years is the same heart that beats deep within because I feel differently. A big part of me says I haven’t changed, but I feel it just isn’t so anymore.  Although I may appear the same on the outside, so much has changed deep within.



Do I still know myself?  I am a bit doubtful as to the sincerity of my answer.  Much as I would like to readily answer with a YES, nagging doubts tug at my being that make me look deeper within myself if the affirmation that lay at the tip of my tongue is accurate.  How could the answer be yes when the warrior who had always been braced for retaliation at the first sign of attack is no longer there?  The fencer who was always poised for the lunge has taken in a neutral position — the need for self-defense has become a less-compelling motivation.  While I always appeared like the feline gladiatress who messed with just any catfight, finally, I have found the control nub within myself that enables me to turn off the desire to fight back when provoked.  I get hurt, yes, but my response at being hurt has changed.  The ego has ceased to matter little by little.  Perhaps, I owe this transformation at having aged.  I have learned that not everything is worth fighting for — that I need to be choosy of the wars I invest my passion and energy on. Having achieved such, perhaps it’s not too ambitious to claim I have been displaying signs of aging gracefully.



In my heyday, I prided myself of my fearless defense of principles which I thought mattered to everyone.  I held the silly idea that I can single-handedly change the world with my idealism.  The years, and a few ego-shattering bruises — taught me one important thing: I CAN ONLY CHANGE MYSELF; NEVER THE WORLD. This realization may have been the turning point that put an end to my impulsive persona and idealistic demeanor — the realization that I can only alter that which I have control over — MYSELF — and leave those that aren’t within my control as they are.  Some things may brush my skin some time, ruffle my feathers at some points, but that’s all they ever do.  They can never make me lose my grip on the nub of control that I have just found within reach because it sure took me longer than necessary to be at peace with the realization that although I may not know everything in this world, I know enough to get me by.



Though I don’t know everything about myself, I know enough to keep me going in my desire to know myself better.