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Davao Blast: What I saw was our country’s nightmare

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The view from the plane’s window at 5:45 AM. 31 August 2016

At four in the morning on the 31st of August 2016, I flew out of Manila; at a quarter before six, we were hovering over the mountains of Mindanao. When a sliver of morning light illumined the serene landscape of Davao, welcoming me to my new mission, I said to myself, “This is gonna be exciting!” Across from my residence two days later, a bomb exploded.

 

I was horrified. It was around 10:30 in the evening. The sound of the blast reverberated at every nook and cranny of Ateneo de Davao University. It came from a portion of Roxas Avenue, the massage area of the Night Market that opened at 6:00 PM and closed at 11:00 PM.

 

On a Friday night, the long rows of food stalls with makeshift tables and monoblock chairs were always full of people. The food was very cheap: a glass of lemonade was at Php 10.00; a stick of barbecue with rice is around Php 20.00. For people on a budget, the Roxas Night Market was heaven. Except on that Friday night on the 2nd of September: that street was hell.

 

From my room on the top floor, I heard screaming and saw frenzied movements on the street below. I took photos of the AFTERMATH: people were running in every direction; some froze in shock; bodies where strewn all over the place. Tables and chairs were overturned, and I could see some blood on the street where a few minutes ago massages were offered to the weary.

(WARNING: Some photos are graphic!)

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For a moment, time stood still. Then I heard the sirens from police cars and ambulances. A fire truck skidded on the parallel side of Roxas Avenue. The street had an island of trees at its center. Some civilians with cars helped bring those wounded to the hospitals. Later, ambulances would field bloodied survivors to other hospitals, while those who sustained minor wounds were admitted to the Ateneo’s clinic.

 

But those who did not make it remained where they were. The scene had to be examined untouched. In less than an hour, the area was cordoned off. It seemed that those who were valuable witnesses but were not wounded, were asked to stay. Those outside of the crime scene were asked to leave.

 

Ateneo de Davao locked down the whole campus immediately. No one was allowed to go out of the buildings or to go into the cordoned area. I was, at this time, on the ground floor taking these photos that you can see below, which I also uploaded on Twitter (@jboygonzalessj).

At around 11:30 PM, all we knew were unconfirmed numbers: 30 or more people were being loaded into ambulances; the dead count at this time was nine. But I knew the numbers would increase in due time. People were shocked and traumatized. One student asked me in disbelief, “How could this happen? This is a peaceful city!” I was (and still is) a priest, and I had no answer.

It took some hours before I saw government officials on the scene. The fault was mine: I was new to the place, so I could not identify officials who could have been there before this first photo I took of an obvious public leader. What gave him away was this: media practitioners rushed to interview him. He was, I learned, Vice Mayor Paolo Z. Duterte of Davao City.

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Vice Mayor Paolo Zimmerman Duterte being interviewed by the media. 2 September 2016

Sad and disillusioned, I retired to my room at 2 AM, a few minutes before the President came to visit. I knew he was in Davao then. But I wasn’t interested: the night was cold and quiet. The body bags had already been brought to wherever they should be. Only the media, police and other forces particularly concerned about what had happened remained. But the quiet was not peace. It was the eerie quiet of those traumatized and in shock.

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The Philippine police, army and the SWAT team at the crime scene. The featured photo above was in the Philippine Star on 3 September 2016.

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It would take time for people to re-imagine Davao now. What seems to be immune to violence under the President’s protective arm has been infiltrated under his nose. The Davao blast then challenges his promise of peace to his people. Will he be able to keep his word?

 

But what concerns me now is not about his leadership. The most important thing is how to allay a people’s waning confidence in the present government’s ability to protect innocent lives amidst the President’s all-out war on drugs and the peace negotiations being carried out with militants in the South.

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Taken during the memorial mass held at the site of the bombing. The mass was presided by Bishop Romulo Valles DD of Davao City. Mayor Sara Duterte was present, as well as of other government officials, priests, religious, and civilians. 3 September 2016

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Chasing mangroves in Palawan: Why we have to conserve and protect mangrove forests.

I began falling in love with mangroves when I visited the mangrove forests being protected in Culion, Palawan. It was holy week and we were at the end of the Good Friday procession which ended at the Jesuit Retreat House. I could see the patch of green trees below the place where we had the prayer at the end of the Via Crucis. Since then, I started to research on mangroves.

***

A study on the Mesoamerican reef, for example, showed that there are as many as 25 times more fish of some species on reefs close to mangrove areas than in areas where mangroves have been cut down. This makes mangrove forests vitally important to coral reefs and commercial fisheries as well.

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***

Why do I advocate for the protection of mangrove forests?

 

  1. Mangrove forests protect the land from the sea.

With rising sea levels due to climate change, mangroves function as a buffer zone, a natural shield against ecological disasters (eg. erosion) and storm surges (eg. Yolanda), therefore protecting the shoreline and coastal areas and those living there (eg. fishing communities).

Puerto Princesa

 

  1. Mangrove forests are very important for estuarine and marine life.

It is the breeding ground and nursery for a variety of marine animals such as fish, invertebrates, amphibians, reptiles, and mammals. When I explore mangroves, I check on fish, shrimps and crabs, the main sources of income for shoreline communities like fishing villages. It has been proven that those with a large population of mangroves also have a large population of fishes and an increase in marine diversity.

 

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  1. Many of us do not know that mangroves are also good for timber, fuel and fodder.

Mangroves are used to build houses, furniture, or even electrical posts. And because of the density of the wood, they are also excellent as firewood. In some countries where pastures are nearly scarce, mangroves are used to feed cattle.

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  1. The barks of many species of mangroves produce tannin.

Many fishermen use bark extracts to make their fishing nets durable. In one of my skin diving experiences, snorkelers and divers who use the flower of the mangroves to clean goggles fascinated me.

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  1. Like many trees and plants, mangroves help purify the air and water.

Mangroves absorb pollutants and heavy metals in the water and in the air. Thus, you can be assured that you are breathing fresh air if you are in a mangrove forest.

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***

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What can we do?

 

  • Plant mangroves.

Know what species of mangroves in the area. Those are the types of mangrove trees that you should plant. The introduction of a new specie will affect the ecosystem. Remember that mangrove forests have many species of mangrove trees and plants. For example, some areas have nipa palms; some do not.

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  • Organize groups to protect it.

I would highly encourage church groups to participate in government efforts as part of their living out Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment, Laudato Si.

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  • Be vigilant.

Report to authorities destruction of these forests. Some local governments have mangrove and reef conservation efforts and programs. It is good to participate in their efforts to protect these crucial ecosystems.

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  • Create appreciation and awareness.

Since we are all on social media, we might want to post photos and articles about mangroves and reef conservation efforts, such as clean up drives, mangrove planting, etc. At the very least, post photos of mangroves when you find yourself in an island or in a place with mangrove forests. Photos of these forests posted on Instagram or Facebook make people appreciate its beauty and its importance.

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The Islands of Gigantes Live Up To Its Name

It was a trip devoid of a single regret.

I heard about the group of islands across the town of Estancia in Iloilo from Bok Pioquid, a faculty member of the Ateneo High School’s Christian Service Involvement Program. He and his wife would go on a “couple” backpacking tour every now and then. Until today, their unwavering passion is exploring the Philippines. They have gone to many places, and they travel on the cheap — and this is what I love about their stories. You can go on an adventure without breaking the bank.

I told Bok about Fr. Ruben Orbeta SJ’s invitation for me to help out at Sta. Maria Parish in Iloilo City for the Holy Week. I would fly in on Palm Sunday and fly out on Easter Sunday. My work was to give a recollection talk for an hour each day of the Triduum and hear confessions on Good Friday. So I had three days free: Holy Monday to Wednesday. Bok suggested the Gigantes trip because I was already there. He gave me the number of Ms. Rolin Barba (0929-3949708) of Paon Beach Club Inc,*** and off I went.

GigantesJboySJ I took the Ceres Bus to Estancia from the Jaro Terminal on a very humid Monday. It took around 2 hours to the town. From Panian Crossing, I took a tricycle to Paon. GigantesJboySJ

I woke up early the next morning for the boat ride to Gigantes Islands. It was a 2-hour trip to the islands. I learned that Gigantes did not belong to the Municipality of Estancia, but the town of Carles. So if you prefer to take off from Carles, it would be an hour to the islands.

Rey Ambito, our guide,** said that the group of islands was named after an ancient skeleton, discovered in one of the isles. The height of the human bones was taller than many natives, hence, a higante, a giant. I also heard you could go caving if you preferred that adventure, but the caves were in Gigantes del Norte. Unfortunately, I explored only Gigantes del Sur where many islands with white sand beaches were, and whose views were “Instagramable” and picturesque.

Below are great reasons why you should visit the islands. Believe me, I was in awe all the time I was there! It was indeed a gigantic experience!

  1. Cabugao Gamay Island

From a vantage point is the iconic view of the whole island. The famous photos of Gigantes are taken from here (see featured photo above). Below is the eastern side of the island. The sun was rising when I took this photo.

 

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    1. Bantigue Island’s white sand bar.

It is a long island, but the tip of the island is perfect for a photo shoot. From a certain point, you have many islands as your backdrop. But do take a dip. The water is pure and perfect as you can see.

 

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    1. Antonia Island’s beach.

This is the usual stop-over for lunch. Fishermen would sell scallops and wasay-wasay shellfish. You can’t imagine how cheap the scallops are: Php 1.00/per piece. When I was there, Rey and I feasted on a hundred pieces with spiced native vinegar and lots of rice. Rolin made sure that I would bring more than enough cooked rice, water and vinegar. I was so grateful for her thoughtfulness.

 

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    1. Cabugao Dako Island’s rock formation.

The rock formation is like the backdrop from the movie, “The Lord of the Rings.” Simply, the rocks are surreal. Let the photos speak for the islands.

 

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    1. Tangke Island’s Lagoon.

The boats will dock at a certain opening between towering rocks. These high-rise rocks protect a beautiful sanctuary of a white sand lagoon where you can swim. But be sure to be there before 2 PM: the water begins to drain during low tide.

 

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    1. Cheap seafood.

In Punot Restaurant and Grill in Estancia, I ordered a bowl of Imbao (shellfish) Sinigang (sour soup) and grilled squid. I loved imbao; the flavor just bursted in my mouth. I thought the servings were just enough for me. I was surprised that the servings were good for four. Each order was just Php 100.00. (Shout out to Engr. Carlito Centeno for my dinners!)

 

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  1. Estancia’s Dried Fish.

The town of Estancia is famous for its dried fishes. I tell you, your trip will never be complete without a sampling of their dried fish especially for breakfast. Paon serves them.

 

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***

 

You might wonder why I write about these trips. Going out from my usual work in school enriches me. The world is far greater and bigger than Ateneo. And this is what I like to do: go and explore the richness of the very home God has given me.

When you get to see how beautiful this world is, this home of ours, then you will do everything to protect it. You will become a real steward of creation, just as God has appointed us to become. This is the premise of Pope Francis’ encyclical, Laudato Si. The encyclical’s dream is for every single human person to be at home in the very planet we live in.

In a few months, I will bring my students to Iloilo. Last November 2015, I explored Iloilo accompanied by Bok and some parents. We saw what this province could offer us: a pilgrimage of churches, a food trip, an ecological adventure and a cultural experience.

We hope that our students will truly love our country because they have seen how beautiful the Philippines is. We also have a greater hope: that they would be angry enough to act when unscrupulous people would dare corrupt its beauty.

Just like falling in love, you will always protect that which matters to you — or whom you deeply care about.

 

***

Some notes:

*We call these visits to Jesuit schools, “Eco-Spiritual Pilgrimages” instead of the usual “field trips” because there is a spiritual angle to the tour. We do an “ecological examen” and end our day with a mass. And as part of Ignatian prayer, we ask God the specific grace to “Find Him In All Things” — in creation, in the people we encounter, in the experience. This program is part of the Jesuit Youth Ministry of the Philippine Province of the Society of Jesus.

It also includes an interaction with students from the place where we visit. This August 2016, the Iloilo Pilgrimage will include an interaction between students, parents and faculty of Ateneo de Iloilo to share our common experiences of being in a Jesuit school. In other words, the program is always in partnership with other Jesuit schools, and one of our goals is the appreciation of our common Ignatian spirituality.

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** To the left of this photo is Rey Ambito, waiter and tour guide of Paon Beach Club. He accompanied me on the boat to the islands. I highly recommend him because he is both knowledgeable and trustworthy. You can call or text him at 0930-5859104. If you can’t reach him, Rolin can help you find your guides.

 

*** Call Paon Beach Club Inc. at (033) 397-0444 or 0929-394-9708. And oh, you can also enjoy this sunset from Estancia.

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On Teamwork: Ang Kuwento ni Trevor Tubig

 

Pangalagaan ang kabutihan ng bayanihan at huwag kaming pabayaang manghinawa sa pakikipagtulungan sa kapwa. 

Si Trevor Tubig ay isa lamang na butil ng tubig na may malaking pangarap: ang balutin ang buong bundok at bukid ng niyebe o snow. Nang sumikat ang araw, umakyat siya sa isang manipis na ulap. Ngunit hindi nagtagal, bumaba uli siya sa lupa bilang ulan.

Ilang beses itong nangyari at tila nawalan na ng pag-asa si Trevor Tubig na maabot ang kanyang pangarap.

 

Isang araw, nakasali siya sa isang makapal na ulap. Ngunit hindi niya nagustuhan ang pangyayari doon. May ibang mga butil na mautos: “Ang mga maliit na butil sa itaas; ang mga malalaking butil sa ibaba. Magsiksikan at huwag hihiwalay sa lahat!” Naisipan ni Trevor Tubig na huwag sumali at hayaan na lamang siyang bumaba sa lupa bilang ulan.

Nguni’t may kumausap sa kaniya: “Marami kaming pumunta dito sa ulap dahil sa gagawin nating sabay-sabay. Binubuo natin ang ulap ng niyebe. Bababa tayo sa lupa at babalutin natin ang mga bundok at bukid ng yelo!”

 

At nagkatotoo ang pangarap ni Trevor Tubig. Natutupad pala ang pangarap kapag nagtutulungan!

Mga kapamilya, magtulungan tayo upang matupad natin ang ating pangarap, na siya ring pangarap ng ating bansa: ang kaunlaran at kapayapaan!

Manalangin tayo: O Dios, simula ng lahat ng kabutihan, itanim sa aming mga puso ang pangarap Mo sa amin. Pangalagaan ang kabutihan ng bayanihan at huwag kaming pabayaang manghinawa sa pakikipagtulungan sa kapwa. Amen.

On Trustworthiness and Honesty: Ikaw ba ay Mapagkakatiwalaan?

 

Kilala natin ang mga “lady bugs,” “ladybirds,” o “ladybeetles” dahil sa polka dots sa kanilang pulang pakpak. Noong mga panahon, wala pa ang mga polka dots sa kanilang pakpak. Sa katunayan, iilan lamang ang natira sa kanila nung dumating ang isang malaking delubyo at sinagip ang kanilang lider.

Isang araw, nagusap sila na maglakbay patungo sa isang malaking lawang narinig lamang nila sa kanilang mga ninuno. Dahil dito, ang mga kandidatong gustong maging pinuno ang mauuna doon upang sa kanilang pagbalik, sila ang magiging guia nila.

Marami ang bumalik na nagkuwento kung gaano kaganda ang lawa. Malinaw ang tubig; malago ang mga dahon ng mga tanim; makukulay ang mga bulaklak. Maliban na lamang kay Lita Ladybird. Ilang araw ang nagdaan bago ito nakabalik. At iba ang kanyang kuwento.

Kabaliktaran ng lahat ng kuwento: putikan ang tubig; binaha ang mga tanim; walang bulaklak sa paligid. Natural, hindi naniwala ang buong tropa. Nang nakarating sila sa lawa, natuklasan nila na totoo pala ang kuwento ni Lita Ladybird!

At dahil dito, hinirang nila bilang Dakilang Pinuno si Lita dahil siya ay mapagkakatiwalaan. At ang mga sinunggaling? Pinintahan nila ng bilog na itim ang kanilang mga mga pakpak! Mga kapamilya, panatilihin nawa nating malinis ang ating budhi’t karangalan, upang pagkatiwalaan tayo!

Manalangin tayo: O Panginoon, ipagkaloob mo na pakundangan sa panalangin ng aming mahal na Ina, linisin mo ang aming mga puso upang matamo namin ang kaligtasan at kaluwalhatian ng iyong Anak na si Hesus. Amen.

A whale sharks moves graciously away. Oslob, Cebu. 23 August 2015 Photo: Fr. JBoy Ginzales SJ

Si Gina, Amy at mga Sirena

Kape't PandasalPagpapahalaga o value: harapin ang takot

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Matakutin ka ba? May mga takot ka bang pumipigil sa iyo na gawin ang gusto mong gawin? Halimbawa, takot na tanggihan ka sa alok mo ng pag-ibig; o takot na i-friend zone ka na lang?

May kuwento ako ukol sa takot. Magkaibigan si Gina at Amy at pinagtatalunan nila kung tunay nga bang may mga sirena sa dagat. Kaya upang malaman kung tunay nga ang sirena, pumalao’t sila upang sumisid sa dagat.

Iba’t ibang klaseng isda ang una nilang nakita. Sa maliwanag, may mga maliliit at malalaki rin. Habang lumalalim sila, dumidilim ang kanilang nararating. Sa pinakamalalim, wala na silang makita. Nang tinamaan sila ng takot, bumalik sila sa ibabaw ng dagat.

Ngunit, hindi sila mapakali, dahil hindi nasasagot ang kanilang tanong ukol sa mga sirena. Kinabukasan, nagpasiya sila na sumisid muli. Sa pinakailalim, binuksan nila ang kanilang dalang ilaw at nakita nila ang isang tropa ng mga sirena.

Lumapit ang mga sirena sa kanila. Gusto sana nilang makipagkaibigan kay Gina at Amy sa una nilang pagsisid; ngunit nag-akala silang ayaw nilang makipagkaibigan dahil umalis sila kaagad.

Mga kapamilya, lumalampas sa atin ang mga mabubuting pagkakataon dahil sa ating mga takot.

Manalangin tayo upang harapin ang mga ito:

O Dios na makapangyarihan tulungan mo kaming laging maisip ang mga bagay sa langit upang maging marapat kami sa pakikibahagi ng Iyong kaluwalhatian. Nawa’y pagningasin ng aming Inang Maria ang aming mga puso, sa gitna ng aming mga takot. Amen.

Kids swim and play in the shallow basin of Tumalog Falls. 23 August 2015

Ang Tabak ng Hari

Kape't PandasalPagpapahalaga o values: kapayapaan

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Sa panahon ng iba’t ibang digmaang nangyayari sa buong daigdig, may kuwento po ako ukol sa kapayapaan. Nangangarap ang isang tabak na makasali sa isang malaking digmaan. Dahil bago at gawa sa pinakamalakas na bakal, siya ang tinatawag na “The king’s sword” o ang tabak ng hari.

Isang araw, naranasan niya ang digmaan. Labis itong nabigla sa nakita: tambak ang mga patay, maraming duguan, at maraming nag-agaw-buhay. At dahil dito, ayaw na niya sa anumang digmaan.

Isang araw nagkaroon ng away ang dalawang hari na nauwi sa hamon ng isa pang digmaan. Sa bisperas ng digmaan, hindi mapakali ang tabak ng hari. Hindi dapat mangyari ang digmaan. Sa kanyang takot, nanginig siya nang nanginig, at narinig ng ibang tabak ang ingay ng kanyang panginginig o vibration. Naunawaan ng ibang tabak ang kanyang ginagawa. Hindi rin nila gusto ang nangyayari sa digmaan, kaya sabay-sabay silang nanginig.

Dahil sa ingay, hindi nakatulog ng mahimbing ang mga sundalo’t hari.

Dahil nakapagpapahina ang puyat, pinagpaliban ng mga hari ang digmaan. Ngunit sa pagkakataong ito, nakapag-usap ng masinsinan ang mga hari. Napagtawanan nila ang kanilang alitan, hanggang sa naisipan nilang makipag-ayos at magtulungan na lamang bilang magkaibigan.

Mga kapamilya, hindi kailangang maranasan natin ang digmaan o anumang alitang nauuwi sa patayan upang matutunan ang halaga ng kapayapaan.

Manalangin tayo:

O makapangyarihang Dios, ikaw ay buong giliw naming tinatawag na Ama. Loobin mong mabuhay kami bilang mga anak Mo nang mapayapa. Amen.

Photo by Bok Pioquid, CSIP, Ateneo High School

Ang Mga Hayop Sa Bintana

Kape't PandasalPagpapakahalaga o values: Pagkakaibigan

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Minsan ang pagiging banal ay nauuwi lamang sa pagdarasal at pagsisimba. Nguni’t ang pagiging tunay na kaibigan ay isa ring pagpapakabanal.

May kuwento ako.

Nagkasakit nang malubha si Anthony, isang anim na taong gulang na bata. At dahil mahina ang kanyang katawan, nakahiga na lamang siya sa ospital at pinagbawal ang mga batang dadalaw sa kanya. Sa kanyang lungkot, mas naging malubha ang kanyang sakit.

Isang araw, tumingin siya sa labas ng kanyang bintana. May nakita siyang unggoy na nakasalamin na kumakain ng isang sandwich. Nagtaka siya, ngunit hindi niya sinabi sa iba. Baka mapagkamalan siyang sira-ulo. Kinabukasan, isang aso naman ang kanyang nakita na nakabihis ng kanyang uniform sa eskuwelahan. Ganoon din nangyari sa sumunod na araw: minsan kambing, ibon, elepante, atpb. At tuwang-tuwa siya sa kanyang mga nakita.

Dahil dito, gumaling siya nang gumaling.

Nang pumasok na siya sa kanyang eskuwelahan, nakita niya ang kanyang kaibigan si Lancel at naikuwento niya ang kanyang mga nakita. Habang tawa sila nang tawa, nakita niyang may naka-usli sa bag ni Lancel. Nakita niya ang buntot ng unggoy at tenga ng asong nakita niya sa bintana ng ospital!

Manalangin tayo:

Paunlakan mo, Panginoon, ang aming hinihiling na kalinga ng tulad ng galing sa tunay kaibigan. Pangalagaan ang aming buhay at kabuhayan nang makapaglingkod kami sa Iyo nang buong katapatan. Amen.

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Ang Manika ni Lola

Kape't PandasalPagpapahalaga o Values: Respeto at Pagaalaga sa Kagamitan

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Matagal akong naassign sa Payatas. Gabundok doon ang basura. Iba’t ibang bagay ang nakatapon doon. May mga bagay na kung inalagaan nang maayos, maaari pa sanang gamitin ng iba. Tulad ng manika ni Anna na binigay ng kanyang lola.

Bumalik si Aling Nena sa kaniyang pinanggalingang lalawigan sa Camalig, Albay.

Matagal na siyang umalis doon nagmulang nakapangasawa siyang taga-Maynila. Natuwa pa rin siya dahil bagaman lumang-luma na ang bahay ng kaniyang mga magulang, naroroon pa rin ang kanilang mga kagamitang alaala ng kaniyang pinagmulan.

Binuksan niya ang kanyang dating aparador, at nakita niya ang manikang bigay ng kanyang magulang sa kanyang kaarawan. Iningatan niya ito at inalagaan.

Pag-uwi niya ng Maynila, ibinigay niya ito sa kanyang apo. Habang pinaglalaruan ng apo ang manika, dumaloy na parang batis ang mga alaala ng labis na pagmamahal ng kanyang mga magulang sa kanya. Hindi niya ipagpapalit ang mga alaalang iyon. Mga kapamilya, alagaan nawa natin ang ating mga gamit, kasama ang mga alaala ng ating mga nakaraan. Bawasan ang basura at alagaan ang kalikasan.

Manalangin tayo.

O Dios, ang pinagmulan ng lahat ng lakas at kabanalan, patnubayan mo kaming gamitin ang mga makalangit upang makamtan ang ligayang walang hanggan. Amen.

Two children enjoy the fish spa in the Enchanting Tree, Lazi, Siquijor. Photo: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

Ang Bag ni John

Kape't PandasalPagpapahalaga o values: Pagkakaibigan o Kasiyahan na nagpapagaling sa atin.

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May kasabihan na “laughter is the best medicine.”

Meron akong kuwento. Nagkasakit nang malubha si John. At habang tumatagal siya sa ospital, nararamdaman niya ang kawalang-pag-asa. Lumulubha nang lumulubha ang kanyang pakiramdam, hindi lamang sa katawan, kundi sa kaluluwa. Naging malungkutin ang bata.

Isang araw, may dumaan na clown o payaso. Nakita niya si John kaya pumasok siya sa kuwarto at nakipagkaibigan ito sa maysakit.

Wika ng payaso, “Anong ginagawa mo diyan? Hindi mo ba alam na may langit para sa mga batang maysakit, na mas maganda kaysa sa mga wala? Ngunit kung gusto mong makarating doon, kailangan mong punuin ng mga papel ng kabutihan ang bag na ito.”

At inilabas ng payaso ang isang bag. Sabi ni payaso, papalitan ng ticket ang mga papel, ng mga anghel sa langit. Kaya nang dumating ang kanyang nanay, nginitian at hinalikan niya ang kanyang magulang. Sa gabi, sinulat ni John ang mga katagang, “Natuwa ang Nanay ko ngayon.”

Araw-araw, nag-isip si John ng mga mabubuting gawain: inalagaan niya ang ibang bata sa ospital, hindi siya naging pasaway sa mga nurses, hanggang naging bukal siya ng kaligayahan sa buong ospital. At araw-araw, nakikita ni John na dumadami ang ticket niya sa kanyang bag. Hindi napuno ni John ang kanyang bag.

Ngunit dahil sa kanyang saya sa buhay, gumaling nang gumaling siya!

Manalangin tayo.

Lumakas sana ang aming pananampalataya, pag-asa at pag-ibig Panginoon. Loobin mo na ang inihahandog naming buhay sa iyong karangalan ay magbunga ng kasayahan sa lahat. Amen.

Vendors sell their goodies at the entrance to Tumalog Falls. Oslob, Cebu. 23 August 2015 Photo: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

Ang Tatlong Magkakaibigang Binhi

Kape't PandasalPagpapahalaga o values: Tiwala sa Diyos na ibibigay ang kailangan natin sa anumang haharapin.

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Kapag hinaharap natin ang anumang hirap sa ating buhay, nalilinang natin ang mga bagay na gagamitin natin sa pagharap sa anumang hamon sa ating buhay.

Kuwento ako. May tatlong binhing magkakaibigan. Isang araw, dinala sila ng hangin sa isang patag sa kagubatan. Tuwang-tuwa sila sa kanilang naratnan. Ngunit hindi nagtagal nakita nila ang dahilan kung bakit walang kahoy ang tumutubo sa patag: hinahagisan ng mga unggoy ang anumang binhing tumutubo ng saging.

Sinimulan ng unang binhi ang tumubo. Ngunit hindi pa siya nakakarating ng ilang metro kataas, hinagisan siya ng maraming saging at halos napatid ang kanyang mga tangkay. Kaya sinabihin nito ang dalawang pang binhi. Sumang-ayon ang pangalawa, ngunit, nagmatigas ang pangatlong binhi: ang binhi ng narra.

Sabi niya, susubukan niyang tumayo, tumubo at lumago. At ito na nga ang nangyari: sa bawat hagis, dinoble niya ang kanyang pagsisikap.

Paulit-ulit ang hamon sa narra at hindi tulad ng ibang binhi, hindi nawalan ng pag-asa ang binhi. Hindi nagtagal, lumakas ang kanyang mga tangkay hanggang nakayanan nito ang lumago sa kabila ng mga saging inihahagis sa kanya.

Manalangin tayo.

O Dios, tanglawan mo ang mga nawawalan ng pag-asang magsumikap sa kabila ng anumang hamon sa kanilang buhay. Loobin mong dumami at maging banal sa wika at gawa ang mga nakaanib sa iyo. Alang-alang kay Kristong aming Panginoon. Amen.

Two girls walk towards their school carrying flower garlands used for a Philippine cultural dance. Photo: Fr. JBoy Gonzales SJ

Kuwento Para sa Simpleng Pamumuhay

Kape't PandasalSi Olav ang pinaka-kinatatakutan sa lahat ng mga Vikings. Kaya niyang patumbahin ang anumang hayop tulad ng mga toro, oso at leon sa isang iglap lamang.

Kaya upang makilala siya, inilagay niya ang kanyang mga tropeo ng mga digmaang kanyang sinalihan sa kanyang helmet at balabal. Sa kanyang helmet ang higit na isang libong mga sungay at sa kanyang mga balabal ang higit na limampung mga mabibigat na diamanteng kumikinang habang siya’y naglalakad sa daan.

Isang araw, nabangga ni Olav si Virgensten, isang patpating estudyante ng medisina, dahil nagbabasa habang naglalakad ang binata. Sa galit, hinamon ni Olav si Virgensten; at hindi rin tumanggi ang binata sa isang kondisyon. Sabi niya, “Dahil malabo ang aking paningin, hindi kita makikita hanggang suot-suot mo ang iyong helmet at balabal.” Pumayag si Olav. Nang nagsimula na silang mag-away, iisa lamang ang ginagawa ni Virgensten: sa bawat suntok at tadyak ni Olav, umiwas siya nang umiiwas.

Sa tagal ng kanilang pag-aaway, bumagsak si Olav na waring namatay. Nagtagumpay si Virgensten!

Dahil dito, naging simple na lamang sa pananamit si Olav. Mas gusto niyang makilala siya, hindi dahil sa kanyang mga tropeo, kundi sa kanyang pansariling lakas.

Manalangin tayo.

O Ama, dahil sa kababaang-loob ng iyong Anak, itinaas mo ang sanlibutan. Ipagkaloob mo sa amin ang simpleng pamumuhay at banal na kaligayahan sapagka’t iniligtas mo kami sa kasalanan at pinangakuan ng buhay na walang hanggan. Amen.