Easter Vigil 2010: “I Do!”

Something profoundly amusing caught me last night during the Easter Vigil. I was carrying 27-month old Hans as he held the lit Easter candle with his right hand. He was wide-eyed over the steady flames in rows and lines from the choir loft to the outflow on the wing sides of the church. It’s those dotted darkness that remains so endearing to me through all these years, the simple interplay of paradox that a linear mind is easily silenced: Creation out of chaos, or the pregnant silence from the tomb. Meanwhile, the talo catcher that Mommy had cut out from a DVD cover had it underneath faces of Alvin and the Chipmunks. Being a chipmunk fan himself, the creatures also became his distraction as he punctuated the surrounding silence with a murmur: “Daddy, munks.” Amusing enough to me already to laugh. But the more amusing part came during the renewal of baptismal vows, my most awaited part. Because every after “I do” of the congregation, Hans overheard it and duplicate with an almost eloquent “I do” for both the west and east sides of the ritual.

I was thrilled that moment, having at the back of my mind that if there is one sacrament that Christians must pay with contemplative attention equal to the Eucharist in this age of postmodern chaos – it is BAPTISM. This is our common heritage from the Holy Trinity, a gift always with the goad for me to claim as boldly as i can: “I am loved. I am loved by the Father. I am safe in the Father’s arms, even in death.” The Cross is telling. The Resurrection is telling. It’s only a matter of saying “I do believe” in words, silence, and deeds.

I need the fire to keep saying “I do”.

So i keep…

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Against Abortion: A Way from a Mother’s Womb

For this 4th Sunday of Advent, i am sharing to you something very personal. This was originally shared to a clinical group 5 years ago and given the title Culture, Spirituality, and Transformation: A Way from a Mother’s Womb. With a little pruning, I am giving it a different title however for 2 reasons and in view of these 2 crucial events: one is Mary’s visit to her cousin Elizabeth where the “infant leaped in her womb”; and the second, as my protest against the 15 US Catholic Senators who voted to finance abortion through public money.

Let me set the reflective mood first with this quote from Henri Nouwen:

Where is this peace to be found? The answer is clear. In weakness. First of all, in our own weakness, in those places of our hearts where we feel most broken, most insecure, most in agony, most afraid. Why there? Because there our familiar ways of controlling our world are being stripped away; there we are called to let go from doing much, thinking much, and relying on our self-sufficiency. Right there where we are weakest the peace which is not of this world is hidden.”

Adam’s Story: The Peace That Is Not Of This World”

There is power in telling our stories, there is transformative power in sharing them. By sharing our stories, we learn to embrace our “angels” and name our “demons.” I have my story. You have your story. Let me begin mine from something so unique to me yet shared by human beings: what i learned, still learning, and need to unlearn from my mother’s womb.

Being in the womb was like being in the garden of relationality. It was total unity, like that of Adam and Eve before their expulsion from the Garden; a unity of my father’s sperm and my mother’s egg, of my mother and me. A unity so primordial and ancient, so universal. Never so close can one living being get to another living than being in one’s mother’s womb. What a profound and life-changing bond! Me, altering my mother’s body, my mother significantly shaping an emergent being in me. My mother standing with her own intra and extra personal resources: physical, psychological, and spiritual; Me, heavily dependent on those resources yet thriving independently on my own.

At the 16th week of my mother’s pregnancy, i could have been sensitive to light as my vision developed slowly in the dim, confined prenatal garden. Then by the 4th month, i may have developed basic reflexes and a host of facial expressions. At 5 or 6 months, i may have been sensitive to touch, then eventually to the noises in my mother’s body, and to voices , or music. Between 28 and 34 weeks, my brain’s neural circuits may be as advanced as a newborn’s and my cerebral cortex, mature enough to support consciousness. A few weeks later, my brain waves could have become distinct. Thus far in science, this is how a “normal” prenatal being develops.

I hope yours was a normal one.

I probably struggled hard with mine. After all, my mother was born fatherless and denied of her natural need for a father. My grandmother was a victim of masculine violence. And so is my mother, a kind of masculine violence that perhaps will never be resolved in her lifetime.

How about you? What was your mother’s experience in her mother’s womb?

While in my mother’s womb, the cycle of masculine continued. My father left her with no intention of taking responsibility for his actions. Masculine violence being passed to me, and certainly, to a good number of innocent beings around me. No wonder – millions die from violence! My prenatal world knew only the hostility of wounded men. Certainly, i must have felt my mother’s anxiety and her endless, restless thought to protect me. Our bonding was deepened because i was her treasure in a fragile vessel. The more intense the anxiety, the more neurohormones released to combat stress. I wonder what measure of those anxieties i have absorbed. It was a stressful world for a fragile being like me. No doubt, it was my first experience of violence in that garden of unity.

How about you? Was yours a serene world or a world of protest?


I grew in complexity as the environment, both internal and external, continued to fashion me. My growth continued despite the injustice. Or more ambiguously, despite the dialectic of my father’s absence and my mother’s over-attachment to me. My growing complexity continued. The more complex i became, the more resistance i had against my upcoming detachment. The womb became my protection against a violent world. My mother never had an easy “death” for me (i have one scar on the skull from some forceps). Alienation from that comfort zone was too painful. Onward with the struggle against the seemingly punishing uterine contractions and constricting birth canal. I have to “die” from that archetypal union anyway, to discover more about that violent world that i sensed, my mother hoping to find friendship for me outside her life-nourishing womb. It was only through the struggle of contraction of the uterus and the birth canal, the struggle against alienation, and the “emptying of the womb” that i could be thrown back into the “womb of the universe” where a more developed consciousness thrives.

Since then, i learned that truth is not as clear as black or white. I learned about culturally induced and unnecessary anger and anxieties. And so about the dialectic of connectedness, alienation, and transformation. Now, i am back to that struggle to reclaim that lost primordial oneness with Mother Nature. This time, in the womb of Mother Earth with its connecting, alienating (like abortion), and transforming elements.

In the midst of anger and anxieties, uterine contraction and paternal absence, alienation and violence, LIFE PREVAILS! Because,

You formed my inmost being;You knit me in my mother’s womb.
I praise You, so wonderfully You made me;
Wonderful are Your works!
My very self You knew;
My bones were not hidden from You.
When i was being made in secret,
fashioned as in the depths of the earth.
Psalm 139:13-15

I am wonderfully made. I can forgive. I am forgiving.

I am evolving more beautifully from my past.

I hope you are…

————Photo credits: VickyvSwiredfool

My Silent Madness

With my bike, i was out alone last moonnight in a churchyard that is becoming my mall of silence. You can make me sit and face an empty wall and give a reading on Gibran while everyone in the house snores audibly. Such a tryst is more than consuming a half-gallon of Selecta ube ice cream to me. (I often think of food indulgence these days as a rebellion against the human spirit’s craving to be simple and sacrificing in small, many ways.)

But nothing beats going out into the wild expanse of Nature, peering through my minute eyes into its uncontainable vastness, being awed endlessly by its seemingly eternal presence. The past 2 weeks had been alternate nights of clear, star-dotted and cloud-shrouded skies, as the moon gradually without maneuvering other physical beings around her, revealed its full grandeur. Last night, i was one witness, wondering over its seemingly late showdown from the horizon. The security guard likewise wondered when at 9PM, the moon emerged with its melon-hued fullness from the veil of clouds like a 6AM sunrise. We are in for longer nights and shorter days plus the cool breeze i can only savor in silence.

I walked to and fro on the concrete ground, craned my neck upward to wonder with the stars and the festival of celestial lights crowned by the lunar light. Priceless! Incomparable to any man-made entertainment!

But even the simple thought of joining their silent festivity could shock a consciousness hardened by noise. The human mind tends to think, imagine, plan, worry, or chatter endlessly so that submission to the silence of the moon and the stars is no eating of a Red Ribbon choco moca crunch. It takes some efforts and intention – from foregoing TV time to saying no to a child’s after dinner cajole to play. Just around 200 meters outside the churchyard is a bustling street. I have to be conscious of the difference between a city street and a silent churchyard because each demands two different kinds of consciousness: the city – at least an awakened sense of control and mindful activities (hindi pwedeng patanga-tanga sa kalsada); silent churchyards, or any ground of silence – of carefree, no wristwatch wondering.

In silence, time is less segmented into minutes, hours or days characteristic of city life because Silence is the Great Uniter of past, present, and future. It’s where i’m going in the ultimate sense of the word. And so you are. Never too bad to get to know it in the fullness of the moon and the glow of the stars. Tonight, i might go out again, moonless or otherwise, pedal from a city-consciousness to Nature-mindfulness, leaving behind a sleeping mother-and-child, believing that the silence that charges my being effuses and blesses everyone around me in return. Tonight, i will empty my mind again, leaving up to Silence to fill it. And i can tug some into the space because Nature is always community-minded.

A Love Triangle

While the typhoon wind was raging last Saturday, I was re-reading Hagar – one of the most dramatic stories in the hagar1 hagar book of Genesis, and one that’s truly universal in its portrayal of the complexity of human desires. Hagar was Abram’s Egyptian maidservant. When Abram’s wife Sarai in her advanced age could no longer bear a son for him, it was Sarai herself who told Abram to sleep with Hagar. Round as the Halloween moon, Hagar got pregnant as Abram’s wife. In a very fickle-minded manner, the news of Hagar’s pregnancy angered Sarai and soon despised and mistreated her. Hagar fled into the desert, found by the Lord’s angel, announcing to her a child she would name Ishmael will be born soon, telling her to go back to Sarai’s household and submit to her.

If blogging or facebook had been a fad then, Hagar could have handily hang out online, her FB wall streaming with the sense of betrayal and isolation that Sarai had caused. What could have been her blog titles, intentionally anonymous for the despicable thought that Sarai from the other end, could google her anytime and once found, would craft comments (also anonymously) to further degrade her? Some possible titles:

  • The Wife That Never Was
  • Desert Rodent
  • Hating S.
  • Point of No Return
  • Missing Abloy
  • Laylay Na, Sablay Pa

Haha – you can come up with your own… Our time, our age of information of course, is a point of no return, and is pointless to return, to the time when the world beyond our yards were largely unknown or unheard of. What’s known is known so that denying factual knowledge is like puking food forcibly. The point for this hypothetical set-up is to highlight differences of our time and Hagar’s: ours is a time of increasing speed and space to vent out our thoughts and emotions, a time of growing human solidarity with our personal malaise. Isang note lang sa FB ng sama ng loob at may makiki-simpatiya na kaagad. Hagar’s time must be doubly depressing for its snobbishly hard and isolating landscape. Ikaw kaya mapadpad sa disyerto bitbit ang mo ang yong love triangle drama? Desert life is survival at its extreme.

But hey – i need not be quick to judge desert time especially from the lens of our ‘information time’. One – i haven’t lived in a physical desert. Two – I’m not Hebrew for whom deserts are ambivalent places of struggle with the “demons” as well as transfiguring landscape of dialogues with God. And third – silence and solitude (space and intention to be alone with God) is not the staple habit of our tendentiously noisy ‘information time’. I can only approximate what the desert time was for Hagar in silence and solitude and less through our antsy information time. Every good thing has its own pathology they say. Parang siomai lang sa bagoong alamang pag too much daw.

On the contrary, what was good about the boring indifference of desert time that Hagar encountered was the gift of picking up “hints and guesses” from the Lord’s angel. Sinong gustong makausap ang anghel ni God, taas ang kamay? The problem is even the image of a conversation with an angel appears too mountainous to absorb for our ‘information time’ mindset, even laughable from our literal, scientific, and practical conditioning. But the greater point is in the silence and solitude of Hagar, painful as it was, anything can happen – even an angel’s appearance. Or a burning bush. Or being blessed with courage enough for Hagar to decide to go back to Sarai and face the love triangle drama head-on. Surely, more dramas await Hagar at Abe’s house. At wala pa ring broadband sa kanyang pagbalik kaya wala ring blogging at fezbuk hehe.

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Photo credit: Lillylilla

Halloween Parties

We had our street Halloween soiree 2 nights ago with the bubbly kids in the mask neighborhood. It was a blast of laughter and sharing of food enough for everyone: kids were showered moderately with Kopiko and other candies, adults with giveaways from one bachelor medrep. At the tune of “Nobody,” packed prizes were given to the top tomfooleries on the dance floor. Unknown to most of us, the kids had been dancing the moves of the Wonder Girls in their schools, thus dwarfing over our adults’ awkward mimicry of the sleek Korean twirlers. I got the laxative Senokot shirt as a giveaway in the adult category plus a pink-coated pen. I was happy. The rest of my time was spent chasing 1-year-10-month Hans slicing carelessly through the crowd, grabbing the microphone and mumble and sing to the delight of everyone, climbing on the parked mo-ped, swatting away the food on the table with his bare hands, snatching others’ pumpkin candy containers, and wiggling his small body to the dance music of the night – Nobody. He is bursting with too much energy enough to become a stressor in the house. But the way he shamelessly mumbled over the microphone speaks gloriously of how gregarious he is and chatty he could be opposite my pensive personality. We watched him with delight and shook our heads.

Ours is not a posh neighborhood, and nothing grand, nothing lavish, nothing pricey a prize glittered the gathering. It’s one of those common urban corners where the gossipmongers and the modest co-exist, at times in passive hostility, and in other times, in shared gaiety. Real enough, right? Halloween-like in some manners when I get to gambol with my “witchy” (and bitchy)  side by wearing masks while sharing our food and vivacity. Halloween-like in the way I romp with the “dry bones” of my alienation from God and others in a more communal way – singing, scaring each other, or playing with my shadowy self.

Halloween parties are quite a ritual where my lights and shadows are symbolically held and celebrated in fun, creative tension, where the gossipmonger and the modest in me hold hands as shameless as Hans holding and singing and mumbling undecipherable a stretch of – is it mere sound or language coherent enough from toddlers’ point of view? Clear or incoherent language, they don’t matter come Halloween party time. I am a mixture of both. Besides – who has mastered the language of the living, and who has mastered the language of the dead? I tend to oscillate only between these two ends of the bridge.

Happy Halloween peeps…

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Photo credit: creative liverpool

The Pandesal Seller

I am inspired to write this musing after reading Brother Jun-G’s entry Negosyong Pandesal. To make sense of this post, I encourage you to read first Negosyong Pandesal:

i sense a simple man,
who got used since childhood
with his almost empty hands,
open those while the rest were asleep.
it was economic – the pandesal-selling,
but breaking the dawn with his voice
is analogous to the Psalmist’s desire “to awake the dawn,”
so that pandesal-selling became an opening up
of the spirit to the approaching light.

the discipline of waking up early,
the doggedness to sell,
in other words – the nascent, growing singlemindedness,
the focus on purpose with those globular pandesal,
i assume this is where being singlehearted begins,
and it is a long journey from the mind to the heart,
counting all the detours and the crossroads.

it really makes me wonder,
why the only thing he seems to need to do
is to come back into full circle with pandesal?
i suspect it is less the desire for profit
than the remembrance of those dawn moments,
hard-wired in his brain,
when his spirit braved the dark alleys,
while silently soaring against the darkness of poverty,
or apathy,
or a little more convenience from an extended sleep.

The pandesal, to me becomes sacramental,
nudging him mysteriously to open up
to his light within,
and the sun’s,
and God’s,
while filling up those empty spaces of one’s stomach.
Eucharistic, i assume, in his “pandesal way”.
no wonder the conversation ended,
only to begin,
in the more open,
more silent,
Greater Eucharist.

Michael Jackson: the many crossovers

mj

There are 3 things boiling in my brain and bones currently: the passage at Luke 8:22, fatherhood, and the demise of a legendary stature in Michael Jackson.

Fo almost a week now, I dwell on this passage from the Desertfisher: ” Let us go over to the other side of the lake.” I know what a lake is, and somehow familiar of how it behaves under a stormy weather. At some point, it was both a wild and tamed creature during my childhood and adolescent years. You can read here. You may ask: “So, what’s left unfamiliar?” There are 2 things in this passage: the going over and the other side.

Just the other day, the news was one plane boarded by tourists headed for the best beach in Asia, Boracay, got into engine trouble. The whole imagined escapade got messed up. Think of discipleship, of trailing the Desertfisher’s track this way. The disciples thought otherwise and so had their lessons in the Boat University in fear and trembling: “Don’t you have faith yet?”

Consider a band of disciples, ordinary, tax-paying folks from the outskirts burdened by the Roman rule. Not hard to imagine, right? There are legion among us – hoping the yoke of living would get lighter each unfolding day. People at the outskirts of the country scurrying for answers to their burden of soul and body, perhaps The Answer. The disciples thought The Answer is unfolding before their eyes everytime they were fed to their fill.

Alright, you found The Answer in me, it doesn’t matter. Much work to do guys. Let’s go over to the other side of the lake,” said the Desertfisher.

You know what happened with this invitation for a crossover – big squall tossed their boat. Had this happened yesterday, Twitter and CNN would have been our first sources haha.

I thought we have the Desertfisher around, where is he anyway? asked one desertfish.

So you think it’s all neat and sanitized guys, as if faith is a formula you only need to memorize? Storm like this – this is sanitizing your faith. We’re getting there. You can blog about this later,” the Desertfisher retorted.

Michael Jackson: the many crossovers

Who doesn’t love the genius in him? Who doesn’t think his personal life was a whole mess? As one writer exclaimed: “What a talent! What a tragedy!” One article that prods me to blog these thoughts was a piece of truth from Andrew Sullivan’s article Thinking About Michael and I quote a couple of sentences:

There are two things to say about him. He was a musical genius; and he was an abused child. By abuse, I do not mean sexual abuse; I mean he was used brutally and callously for money, and clearly imprisoned by a tyrannical father.”

Michael had done a lot of crossovers in his life: from one concert stage to the next; from one hit album after another; from one messed-up marriage to the final one; from one media canonization here to one unforgiving derision there; from black to “white”. But of all the crossovers he’d gone through, I pick this up: the crossover of childhood. For instead of being assured of a protective paternal presence like that of the Desertfisher, it was one that exposed him further to the squall, that caused the squall of his tender years. Freud wrote:

I cannot think of any need in childhood as strong as the need for a father’s protection.”

Sullivan seems to make a point: he never recovered from there. Yes, despite the money for all the high profiled therapist he could hire. Did he get to the other side, the healing side I presume? Had someone assured him in his Boat of Fame about faith that needs be sanitized? You can gather all the hints and proofs you want to come up with your own tentative judgment. All I know is that had responsible fatherhood hold his childhood arms, it might have been a different Michael less mourned for a tragic end of the story. Thank you Michael. Rest in peace.