New

A new journey began. It will be a different world. More challenging but rewarding. As I look into the new horizon, hope breams eternal.

I know this is Your will Lord, not mine. But, I surrender to Your Holy plan.

New

“The Lord is my shepherd, there is nothing I shall want…” – Ps 23

In one of the Jesuit’s reflection that inspires me, they shared that discerning God’s will for me does not depend on the skills I have learnt, much less on the level of my knowledge, but above all on the quality of my heart’s listening.

A listening heart knows how to be sensitive to God’s presence. It is built on a basic trust in God’s faithfulness and to his willingness to communicate himself: it is indeed possible to seek and find what is God’s project for me.

As I listen to God, I discover that I need to listen more to myself, even though I might have started with the idea that I need to listen less to myself. It is God who created me and sowed the seeds of desire in my heart, so I do have to learn how to listen to and understand my deepest desires, my dreams, my strong points, as well as my mistakes and disappointments.

Just as I cannot love others unless I love myself, so also I cannot really trust God without trusting myself and what God is doing in me: God’s will is myself!

I do this not in narcissistic self-admiration, where everything is centred on my needs, but in a spirit of deep freedom, the freedom to serve and to love others even when it means carrying the cross and turning the other cheek.

Like all successful communication, this requires time and patient effort, perhaps with the guidance of someone more experienced with whom I share my quest. This can only happen in the context of a stable prayer life, that includes the daily examen of conscience.

As life becomes more complex, and as we become more allergic to rules, discernment will assume a much bigger role in our lives and in that of our communities, including that of the big community, the Church. We are blessed that many who preceded us, including Ignatius of Loyola, have left us many helpful indications on how to discern our decisions.

As I continue my journey, I will continuously yield to His plans for me.

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” – Mt 7: 7-12

Eid Al Fitr 2018

Eid Mubarak to our Muslim friends!

I miss the Eid Al Fitr festival in Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Communities and families usually gather to mark the start of Eid al-Fitr with a meal.

Eid Mubarak is a traditional Muslim greeting used during festivals such as Eid al-Adha and Eid al-Fitr.

The word Eid means celebration and Mubarak translates as blessed.

Therefore, people wish each other a blessed holiday by using this greeting.

I celebrated this special day today with a thanksgiving lunch hosted by a dear friend and a brother servant whose love and passion for providing financial investment advice goes beyond earning commission but a call to mission.

Eid Al Fitr 2018

Cheers to long life! To more years of loving and serving the Lord – my dear friends from Riyadh, KSA.

Bro. Rommel Orpiada said that a good financial advisor is driven by a mission and not only by commission. Or someone who has more concern on your welfare and benefits, and of your loved ones rather than just marketing the products. He/she is someone that you can trust and has a good background and discipline, education, trainings, skills and experience. He/she can advise you on risk management and capital preservation, and can provide a financial solution personalized to your needs.

He aims to empower OFW around the globe in spending their hard earned money efficiently and effectively.

If you need any assistance, please feel free to contact Bro. Rommel for a “Let’s talk!” meeting and call him at 09176557477.

Tons

Few years back, I’ve never imagined that I will experience the blessings of travelling to the city of love but God has a way of surprising me with His loving angels sent from heaven to remind me of His greatness.

Special thanks to Ninang Racquel Reyes and Ninong Wilbert Reyes for their generous sharing of blessings. I will not mention the details but from the ampula of my pancreas, I appreciate all the love.

To a dear sister, fellow servant and co-pilgrim in World Youth Day 2011 in Madrid who toured us in Iloilo and gave us a taste of the Ilonggo hospitality at its finest, thank you so much Sis. Jo-An Mendez!

I felt God’s love in action.

Love and more love

The ‘pilapil’ walk going to the humble abode of Sis. Jo-An Mendez in the middle of a rice field and so many wonderful memories in Iloilo

May God reward you a hundredfold for sharing your blessings and valuable time.

Such kindness and caring gesture will forever be etched in my heart.

And I offer this simple prayer:

Dear Lord Jesus – every good and perfect gift is a blessing from You and You have blessed me with so much and I ask that You would use me to be a blessing to others who are in need or facing difficulties.

Make me a channel of Your blessing – a channel through who You love and peace and joy and love flow out from You through me to others. May I be Your hands to bless others – may You guide my feet to places where I can go and be a blessing… May my speech be seasoned with salt so that I may speak words of comfort and encouragement – and speak the truth in love, and give me the grace to be available when others are in need.

Lord that You may increase in my life and I may decrease – so that the blessings that You pour through me to others may draw each one closer into the arms of the Lord Jesus, in Whose name I pray,

Amen.

Presence

There were times that God spoke to me in various ways. It slapped me on my face.

A sticker signage reminded me that God is with me and I have nothing to fear. He also revealed His mighty presence during my travel to the city of love.

His loving presence

We touch, feel, perceive, sense, recognize, and notice God around and within us; God’s presence is something that is obvious, evident, and plain. I want a passionate faith where I deeply sense God’s presence in my life.

I just need to trust more and heed to His call.

One day at a time.

There is a deep spiritual hunger in all of our hearts that can only be satisfied by the presence of God himself.

God is holy. He is all-powerful. We cannot take his presence for granted.

Cindi McMenamin shared seven ways to focus on God and sense His presence in the midst of your struggle:

1. Come Clean with Him. Sometimes you can’t sense God’s presence because there’s something blocking the communication between the two of you. He hasn’t left, but your sensitivity to His presence might be affected by unconfessed sin in your life. When your fellowship with Him is restored, the communication can flow again. So get clean (through the forgiveness of Christ) and let it flow.

2. Read Scripture Aloud. When you audibly speak God’s inspired Word, you will sense its power and His presence. The Bible says God’s Word is “living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword” (Hebrews 4:12). That sharp sword will either make you aware of its weight or prick your heart through conviction, inspiration, or determination. A pricked heart is better than a dull heart any day, wouldn’t you agree?

3. Sing Him a Love Song. God inhabits the praises of His people. Ever wondered why you sometimes feel closer to God when you’re in a church service, singing hymns or praise songs? Could be because that’s where worship tends to take place. When you start praising Him, regardless of where you are, you’ll sense His presence, probably because you’re no longer focused on yourself, but on Him. When we open the door of our hearts to love Him, He will meet us there.

4. Say His Name. People around you may be using God’s name right and left (as a swear word in anger, or as a thoughtless expression). But Scripture says there is power in the name of Jesus because “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Say His name aloud — as the Answer to all you seek, as the Source to calm your soul, as the One whose presence you long for and you will sense the power of His presence and His peace.

5. Say a Breath Prayer. There are times we need Him but we just don’t know what to say or where to start. Start by saying His name and then speak your heart’s cry. For me, often times it’s just “Jesus, I need You” or “Jesus, give me a heart for You.” I believe the simplest of cries are the ones that penetrate His heart — and ours — the quickest.

6. Take a Walk. Exercise brings your body, mind and heart to life. Feel spiritually dead? Get outside, move around, confess to Him what’s on your heart and let Him waken you up, spiritually. My best times with God are when I’m walking while I pour out my heart to Him.

7. Breathe Deeply. Sometimes we can’t sense God’s presence because there’s too much of everything else going on. Too much noise. Too much traffic. Too much confusion. Too many thoughts running rampant in our minds. Too much anxiety. Center your mind on Him and start to breathe deeply. Try it. Exhale the distracting thoughts. Inhale a desire to sense His presence. Exhale your pre-occupation with self. Inhale a desire to know Him more completely. Exhale the worries of the moment. Inhale His peace. Now, don’t you feel better already? Can you begin to sense that you’re in His arms? There’s a reason His Word says “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalms 46:10).

Ali

A riveting film about love, family and hope kicked off the PLM-SCA servant’s pastoral formation this summer. Ninang/Ate/Dra. Laarni “Let” Fajardo-Roque led the movie reflection activity with Kuya Chad Riobuya.

This must-watch film is an eye-opener for me to value what really matters in life.

Children of Heaven, a 1997 Iranian family drama film was written and directed by Majid Majidi. It deals with a brother and sister and their adventures over a lost pair of shoes.

Children of Heaven

Triumph prize winner at many prestigious film festivals, this uplifting, crowd-pleasing story of family and love was also moniated for an Academy Award as Best Foreign Language Film! When Ali loses his sister Zahra’s school shoes, this young pair dream up a plan to stay out of trouble: they’ll share his shoes and keep it a secret from their parents! But if they’re going to successfuly cover their tracks, Ali and Zahra must carefully watch their step on what rapidly turns into a funny and heartwarming adventure! A magical motion picture acclaimed by critics and audiences alike, Children Of Heaven is a charming treat you’ll love, too!

He takes them to the cobbler for repairs, and on the way home, when he stops to pick up vegetables for his mother, a blind trash collector accidentally carries them away.

Of course, the boy, named Ali, is afraid to tell his parents. Of course, his sister, named Zahra, wants to know how she is supposed to go to school without shoes. The children feverishly write notes to each other, right under their parent’s noses.

The answer is simple: Zahra will wear Ali’s sneakers to school every morning, and then run home so that Ali can put them on for his school in the afternoon.

But Zahra cannot always run fast enough, and Ali, who is a good student, gets in trouble for being late to class. And there is a heartbreaking scene where Zahra solemnly regards her own precious lost shoes, now on the feet of the ragpicker’s daughter.

The tale of two children in the movie communicates to us a lot of interesting values that we can somehow say similar to Christian values.

We may be are different in religious beliefs but we are sure that all of us are aiming for peace and tranquility within our community and the whole world at large.

Though the movie is set in an Islamic country yet we share the same values. We, as Christians, may be are biased on looking at Muslim lives as reported by media as any terrorist attack is always associated to them. We should not create a hasty generalization in judging the acts of their fellow because they do not represent the whole.

Majid Majidi’s film has a wonderful scene where Ali and his father bicycle from the almost medieval streets and alleys of the old town to the high-rises and luxury homes where the rich people live. The father hopes for work as a gardener, but he is intimidated by the challenge of speaking into the intercoms on the gates of the wealthy. His son jumps in, with offers of pruning, weeding, spraying and trimming. It is a great triumph.

And then there is a footrace for the poor children of the quarter. The winner gets two weeks in a summer camp and other prizes. Ali doesn’t care. He wants to place third, because the prize is a new pair of sneakers, which he can give to his sister. My guess is that the race and its outcome will be as exciting for many kids as anything they’ve seen at the movies.

“Children of Heaven” is about a home without unhappiness. About a brother and sister who love one another, instead of fighting. About situations any child can identify with. In this film from Iran, I found a sweetness and innocence that shames the land of Mutant Turtles, Power Rangers and violent video games.

This movie has showed me a side of Iran that one cannot learn about in history books. The movie portrayed life in Iran through the eyes of a little kid and the struggles he faces.The movie also showed showed different aspects of Iranian culture such as family structure and value of relationships. The father was seen as the one responsible for providing food for the family. The little girl would help the mother with preparing food and taking care of the baby. I was also able to see the Ta’arof in Iranian culture through offering food to the old and sick neighbors, and even “pretending” to refuse money after the gardening services were offered. The father took the money only after the old man insisted on it.The wide gap between the haves and the have nots have been very beautifully potrayed.

The entire story revolves around one pair of lost pink color worn out shoes.

It makes me realize that each of us in the world is responsible when a kid suffers to get basic necessities of life.

Many a times we throw money frivolously and seldom realizing that there are millions of children dying from hunger with one set of clothes battling and surviving through life.

It’s a moving story about the universal bonds of family as well as the specific circumstances of a poor family trying to make ends meet in Iran. The climax of the film is exciting reinterpretation of the “comeback kid” sports movie, and it takes many unanticipated twists and turns.

This was the first Iranian film to earn an Academy Award nomination, and with good reason. The themes and characters are universal and the story is as exciting as it is poignant. Children of Heaven is one of those magical films that breaks down perceived barriers and differences between cultures, an enlightening and entertaining cinematic journey.

Cakes

Special thanks to our dear friends and relatives who brought decadent cakes during the 60th birthday celebration of Papa/Engr. Franco Bayot. It was sugar- overload Sunday!

Why do we celebrate birthdays with cake?

Why do we put candles on it?

And why do we sing over these cakes?

Cakes

A dose of sugar high during the 60th birthday celebration of Papa/Engr. Franco V. Bayot

TheVintageNews.com shared that some historical records say that the Ancient Romans were the first to celebrate birthdays with a specially made sweet pastry that resembled bread (cake and bread were rather interchangeable terms in the past).

The content of the Roman cake would be a winner recipe for any modern hipster-patronizing restaurant today: flatbread made from nuts, yeast-leavened and no sugars added–only honey (hopefully, organic).

The Romans had three different types of birthday celebration: a personal, private one with family and friends; the birthdays of past and present imperial emperors who were honored with celebration; and finally, a person’s 50th birthday, which was particularly special and was celebrated with honey cake made of wheat flour, olive oil, honey, and cheese.

Other historians think that the Ancient Greeks, with their honey cakes and bread, were the ones who initiated the custom of having a birthday cake.

Yet another theory regarding the tradition of a celebratory bread or cake suggests that it originated in Germany in the Middle Ages as a sweetened baked dough previously shaped as baby Jesus, as a commemoration of his birthday.

This cake was upgraded in the early 15th century when it began to resemble what we enjoy today.

The Germans celebrated young children’s birthdays with cake, naming the celebration Kinderfest–the nearest prerequisite of contemporary children’s birthday parties.

These cakes were similar to the Romans’ festive bread but progressed into what was called Geburstagtorten–a sweeter, richer cake version.

The design of the cakes, as well as the content, became more pleasing in the 17th century, when sugary icing, decorations, and layers were introduced.

These new cake elements required high-quality ingredients and production, which were quite expensive and only affordable by the upper classes. This changed with the onset of the industrial age, when baking utensils and food became more accessible.

Desserts and cakes saw a considerable price drop while the production increased. Due to mass production, bakeries started offering ready-made cakes at lower prices.

It wouldn’t be complete to talk about the tradition of the birthday cake without mentioning the origin of the lit candles, which, like a sparkling crown, adorn the top of each cake.

According to some, the Ancient Greeks not only came up with the birthday cake but also the lit candles.

The goddess of the hunt, named Artemis, was regaled with cakes that people brought, each adorned with lit candles that were supposed to imitate the moon or moonlight, Artemis’ popular symbol.

It was believed that the smoke from the candles carried people’s prayers to their gods. Supposedly, this ancient belief explains why today people make a wish before they blow out their birthday candles.

Another theory suggests that the Germans were the initiators of the birthday candles’ tradition. A record from the mid-18th century about Count Ludwig Von Zinzendorf’s extravagant birthday party talks about an oven-size cake containing a number of holes with a candle in each, the amount totaling that of the years being celebrated.

These customs are present even today, as a silent wish must be made prior to blowing out all the candles that total the person’s age.

Finally, what would any birthday candle-blowing be like if not accompanied by the “Happy Birthday” song?

It may surprise you that the first title was “Good Morning to You,” written in 1893 by two teachers, Patty Hill and Mildred J. Hill, as a student-welcoming song before classes.

The song became popular in America, so in 1924, Robert H. Coleman presented it in a songbook with an alternate stanza.

This version became highly popular and quickly overshadowed the original lyrics after it appeared in some films and Broadway musicals. It was even used for Western Union’s first singing telegram.