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To the woman who taught me how to love, to commit and to sincerely dedicate one’s life in serving God – happy birthday to the most selfless, supportive and caring wife in the world – Jude Borja! Thank you for showing me what true love is. More years of life, hope & faith together! #blessed #grateful #toloveandtohold #tocherishandhonor #tocallmyveryown #bodyheartandsoul

Panama

World Youth Day (WYD) 2011 in Madrid, Spain was one of the unforgettable moments in my life!

Meeting Pope Benedict in person together with the other youth from all over the world was such an amazing experience!

A dear friend posted some throwback photos of team Middle East from WYD 2011.

We are called the trailblazers for being the pioneer delegates from a parish without a physical church and structure where love, faith and hope blooms abundantly.

Team Arethas WYD

Team Arethas goofing around after the WYD 2011 in Madrid, Spain. Pope Benedict in his powerful words. Below photos: smiling with the delegates from South Korea and Poland. WYD Panama 2019 will be a chance for pilgrims around the world to come together with the many young people from the peripheries in Latin America to pray, worship, and celebrate the Catholic faith.

There were a lot of fond memories in Spain- from the mundane to the profound, and many more.

But, one thing that I am proud of our team was finding a family in a group of pilgrims who wanted to become more closer to God through the WYD experience.

Next year, a new set of youth pilgrims will set foot in Panama for WYD 2019.

Group travel has interesting quirks. It can be difficult keeping people together and getting them somewhere at the same time. You can expect that someone will always have to use the toilet, someone will get lost, someone will get sick, someone will miss a train/bus/metro, or someone will lose a plane ticket or money (and sometimes it’s the same person for all of the above). Does it ring a bell, Team Arethas?

The best way to keep everyone on time and together is to leave lots of time for getting places and count heads after every mode of transportation.

One way to keep your group together while moving through a crowd is to have someone hold a unique flag that pilgrims can follow. If you are concerned about the group, have the flag stop on the side and let your pilgrims come to the flag to be counted.

The primary means of transportation for WYD pilgrims will be walking. Prepare your body ahead of time. Do a lot of physical activity before you leave.

I even enrolled in a gym before leaving for Madrid- though my chubby cheeks in photos doesn’t show any justice to it.

According to the bishops here are 10 great ways to prepare for WYD 2019:

1. Pray.
Pray for your fellow pilgrims (even those you have yet to meet), for Pope Francis and the bishops participating, for the people of Panama, for those who cannot travel to WYD, and for yourself, that you may be open to God’s will for you at World Youth Day.

2. Pack.
And don’t pack everything – just what is needed for the journey. Remember clothes (though not too many), good walking shoes, a hat, your morning basics (toothbrush, toiletries, etc.), any medications you need, your sleeping bag, your passport, and items that will help you travel spiritually (the Bible, prayer cards, your rosary, etc.).

3. Walk.
At World Youth Day, there will be a lot of walking. Begin training for that by taking time to walk a few miles each day. Consider bringing others with you on your outings. Plus, it’s a great opportunity to be outside and to get in some healthy exercise!

4. Study.
Find out more about the country of Panama, its saints, and history. Pick up some Spanish phrases. Read about the Holy Father, Pope Francis. Dig deeper into your Catholic faith.

5. Learn.
Learn about World Youth Day: how and why it began, what the schedule will be this year, and who is expected to be there.

6. Listen.
When you’re in such big crowds like at World Youth Day, we need to listen attentively to directions and instructions. Get in the habit of listening to what your group leaders and other church leaders have to say. Listening is also the best way to keep safe.

7. Fast.
When you’re at World Youth Day, you will live simply (just as Pope Francis encourages us to do). To prepare for that experience, consider fasting from food, from excess and material goods, and from bad habits.

8. Give.
One of the best ways to prepare for a pilgrimage is to give selflessly of yourself for others. Not only does this help another person in need, but it also trains us to think outside of ourselves (something good to know on a pilgrimage surrounded by hundreds of thousands of people).

9. Talk.
Tell others about your trip. Explain to them why you are making the trip to World Youth Day, and what your Catholic faith means to you.

10. Share.
Too often, when the pilgrimage is over, people can close themselves off to those who didn’t experience the journey. Instead, consider sharing your joys and struggles with friends and family who aren’t going to Panama. And upon coming home, make a concerted effort to share your experiences in a positive and inviting manner, without making others feel left out.

God-willing I hope I can join WYD 2019 in Panama! Shout out to all my sponsors 😇

Jardin

Do you need a hassle-free venue for a wedding reception in Tagaytay?

Check out Jardin De Padre Pio, which is conveniently located at the compound of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish.

The event place offers room accommodation, a beautiful verdant garden reception area and an indoor hall perfectly suited for your simply made perfect moment.

They are one of the most competitive venue rates in the area.

My wife and I was introduced to Bro. Allan Samson, a Capuchin brother who was in-charged of the venue back 2013. He was very cordial and very accommodating.

Jardin de Padre Pio

The beautiful Jardin de Padre Pio in Tagaytay.

Kuya Willie Gatpandan, the ever-reliable wedding supplier in upland Cavite introduced him to us.

The venue is suitable for wedding, baptism, birthday celebrations and small conferences.

After five (5) years of having our wedding reception in the venue, I had a chance to visit the place and I was amazed on the improvements and it looks more amazing as ever.

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If only the trees could speak and share the beautiful occassions held in the place. I would be glad to hear it and share my wonderful memories as well.

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Fellowship

God wanted us to come together so that we always know we’re not alone.

It was one of the best family days I attended in the community.

Finally, after almost two (2) years of planning, our Light Group had a chance to step back a bit, to unwind and to enjoy summer at its best.

Light Group

1 Corinthians 14:26 “Well, my brothers and sisters, let’s summarize. When you meet together, one will sing, another will teach, another will tell some special revelation God has given, one will speak in tongues, and another will interpret what is said. But everything that is done must strengthen all of you.”

It was a fun-filled weekend!

Just good vibes, more food, sunny weather and memorable memories of being one as a small family in the Light of Jesus (LOJ) community.

Our Light Group

Matthew 18:19-20 “Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”

The venue was too big for us but our giggles and laughters echoed like a thunderstorm in the secluded resort tucked in the heart of Amadeo and Tagaytay.

My Light Group (couples) were the most generous and kind-hearted bunch of servants. They always went out of their way to serve each other.

Led by Bro. Allan and Sis. Bebet Gayondato everyone was inspired to give more and to share more.

Bro. Fred and Sis. Jane Pagala sourced out the venue and like any mission-ready servants, they brought an arsenal of home-goodies to make the fellowship a memorable event like no other from complete set of chafing dish and the best-seller Becky’s Kitchen sweets and knick-knacks.

Bro. Anton and Sis. Flor Erni generously contributed for the venue fees and brought freshly picked and sweet red makopa fruit or wax apple from their farm and also a hefty serving of fresh crabs.

Bro. Don and Sis. Emily Consuegra prepared a piping hot Sinigang during dinner and some “agua de pataranta” for the brothers to enjoy.

Sis. Faye cooked a delish original Bicol Express recipe- seafood and meat combined.

Bro. Mark and Sis. Lorrie Calangian prepared a sumptuous feast of all-time favorite Filipino breakfast. With barely no sleep, they woke up early and became the couple chef in tandem.

Fellowship

Some of the yummy spread shared during our Light Group fellowship.

Our LG was heaven-sent for me, a mixed of future business moguls but humble in serving God. A pure heart to love and to be of service to others for the greater glory of God.

Fellowship like what we did our LG, help us to keep our eyes on God.

He also works through them to provide us what we need in darker times. Coming together with others can aid in our healing process and give us the encouragement to move forward.

Coming together is a great way for each of us to grow in our faith.

God gives us a gift of learning and growing when we come together in fellowship we show each other how to live as God wants us to live, and how to walk in His footsteps.

When we come together in fellowship, it’s like us as a whole demonstrating God. Think of it like a cake. You need the flour, sugar, eggs, oil, and more to make a cake. The eggs will never be the flour. None of them make up the cake alone. Yet together, all those ingredients make a delicious cake. All of us together show the glory of God.

No matter where we are in our faith, fellowship provides us with strength. Being around other believers gives us the chance to learn and grow in our faith.

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To my father who taught me to be cordial with everyone, to spread goodness amidst difficulties, to value relationships over money and to be thankful for all the blessings and challenges – happy birthday Papa Ramon! Cheers to the great life! Abundant blessings & good health! God bless! #grateful #loved #healed

Joy

On the eve of our 5th church wedding anniversary, Sis. Jude and I would like to thank you for your love and prayers in our journey.

Amidst difficulties, hiccups and challenges; there were so many blessings.

Bishop Camilo Balin once said that adversities and trials means becoming more closer to God.

Take courage!

Indeed, courage it is!

My wife is in Riyadh now, I would like to ask for your prayers for the security and protection of everyone in KSA.

Grief

A selfie on the location of my new mission area in the coming days. The beautiful Our Lady of Remedies Church in Malate. In today’s Gospel, Jesus too was preparing His disciples for an awesome phenomenon they were about to witness – the Ascension. He knew that when He ascended to heaven, life as they knew it with Him in their presence would all of a sudden go dark with no apparent explanation. He reassured them: “You will grieve, but your grief will become joy” (Jn 16:20). The Son was hidden for a time, but the darkness gave way to light.

I had a chance to visit today Our Lady of Remedies in Malate, Manila for a thanksgiving mass and also to meet Bro. Edward Centeno for our weekly Light Group (LG) meeting.

Adorned in pristine white orchids, the church was a sight to behold- there was a wedding before the 6pm mass. The priest reminded the couple to have a heart of gratitude. Marriage life is a marathon and never a sprint. Enjoy the journey!

Fr. Michael Martin shared this meaningful verse:

“Amen, amen, I say to you, you will weep and mourn, while the world rejoices; you will grieve, but your grief will become joy.” John 16:20

Grief, mourning and even weeping is a part of life. Children will often weep at the slightest difficulty, but all of us face grief and sorrow throughout life.

In this passage above, Jesus informs His Apostles that sorrow and grief will be a part of their lives. This is a very sober but realistic statement on the part of our Lord. It’s an act of love, on His part, to be up front with His Apostles about the coming hardships they will face.

The good news is that Jesus follows this statement with the hopeful news that their “grief will become joy.” This is the most important part of what Jesus says.

The same is true in our lives. Jesus does not promise us that our lives will be free from hardship and pain. He does not tell us that following Him means that all will be easy in life. Instead, He wants us to know that we will follow in His footsteps if we choose to follow Him.

He suffered, was mistreated and ultimately killed. And this would be tragic if He did not ultimately rise from the dead, ascend into Heaven and transform all prior grief and pain into the very means of the salvation of the world.

If we follow in His footsteps, we need to see every bit of grief in our lives as potentially a means of grace for many.

If we can face the hardships of life with faith and hope, nothing will ultimately keep us down and everything will be able to be used for God’s glory and will result in great joy.

This verse spoke to me a lot. Do not despair when suffering is placed before you. Surrender all things to our Lord and let Him transform it into the joy that He promises in the end.

Lord, I surrender to You all suffering in my life. My grief, hardships, sorrow and confusion I place in Your hands. I trust that You are all-powerful and desire to transform all things into a means of Your glory. Give me hope in times of despair and trust when life is hard. Jesus, I trust in You.

The Good Doctor

We admit my wife and I tend to get sentimental rather easily while watching cinema or following a TV series.

One of the must-watch series we are following now is “The Good Doctor”.

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“The Good Doctor” is a hospital drama featuring an autistic young surgeon. Because of his troubled childhood, Dr. Shaun Murphy is forced to figure out how to navigate the world alone.

This is the story of Shaun Murphy, a young surgeon with autism and savant syndrome, who has relocated from a quiet country life to join a renowned hospital’s surgical unit.

Abused and abandoned by his parents as a child, Shaun just had his brother as his friend who could understand him.

Unfortunately, Shaun loses him in a freak accident as well.

Alone in the world and struggling to connect with those around him, Shaun just focuses on his extraordinary medical gifts to save lives and with it manages to overcome the biasness and skepticism of his colleagues against him.

I have always stayed away from medical dramas. Hospitals and diseases make me cringe. But there is something very special about The Good Doctor.

While the story is layered and there is a lot of depth in its characters, I am enjoying it mostly because of the absolutely incredible portrayal by Freddie Highmore of a young man dealing with autism.

I have no real world experience of how an autistic person might actually be, but Highmore’s performance is so sincere, so endearing and so moving, you simply cannot move your eyes away from him.

It also made me think very deeply about people dealing with similar disorders and how they lead their lives.

One of the unforgettable scenes is from the pilot episode where Shaun is being interviewed by the board of directors in the hospital (most of whom are against his appointment). He is asked why he wants to be a surgeon and his answer and they way he expresses it, really moved me.

Looking forward to completing this engaging show. And now my wife and I are Freddie Highmore’s fan for life.

What a brilliant young actor!