• Watching John Wick before Holy Week

    Watching John Wick before Holy Week

    After years of “exile” from the cinema, I got to watch in a movie house again thanks to some generous friends ;). I wouldn’t have guessed the first film I’d see would be John Wick 4 as I’m not fond of action movies, but I discovered it’s also quite enjoyable to watch the artistry and intelligence of fight scenes. Entertainment aside, what really surprised me in this movie is how simply human John Wick is.

    Despite the incredible battles that make him seem super-human, staying alive regardless of all the bullets aimed at him or the many times he fell from the endless stairs of Sacre-Coeur, John Wick, in the end, proves to be as human as anyone of us when he asked for freedom instead of revenge.

    Freedom from all guilt and punishment caused by our sins is one of the most desired kind of freedom of the human heart. To a generation such as ours, this is not really obvious. It’s not easy to see that sin is a hindrance to freedom since modern morality does not seem to have much opinion of the former and at the same time, has a narrow appreciation of what the latter truly means.

    But if we look into our hearts, often, the wearies and hurts therein are caused by sin– ours and that of others. Because sin is an act that is contrary to our purpose and what is good for us, its consequences bring disorder and suffering to our humanity. Over the years, these pain and wounds accumulate, and we can find ourselves trapped under the weight of so heavy a burden, manifested, may it be, in our easily angry mood, complicated relationships, and deep-seated fears that haunt our hearts unbeknownst to us.

    With already three other movies at his back, I could imagine how tiring it is by now for John Wick to continue such a chaotic lifestyle. I guess he got fed up, as would any of us with our many problems, and so desired, as his final reward, the freedom from all the consequences of his offenses against the High Table. Therefore, they could not hunt him down again, take revenge against him, nor make him pay for whatever he has done wrong heretofore.

    For a “killer” such as him, what freedom! He is actually asking for redemption, reinstation– the kind that gives us again a clean slate in life, as if we never did something wrong (something naturally familiar for those who frequent the Sacrament of Confession.)

    But what man can make a ransom for his life? Says Psalm 49. “No one can, by any means, redeem another or give God a ransom for him” The price of man’s freedom from sin is too costly; it costs his own life. No one can afford that and then still live. This forces us to confront man’s great dilemma– the problem of escaping sin alive.

    For “the wage of sin is death.” (Romans 6, 23) This is the due that justice demands from our humanity. If we were to be just, which is good, we would be condemned to death, which is bad. Is there any other way, by which we could possibly be saved? Anyone could give up one’s life and die, like John Wick, but how can that make one free when one would be dead?

    From this darkness dawns the Good News of our salvation. God, our Father, against whom we owe the payment for our sins, happily, is not only just but also merciful. He provides us another way, so we can be saved, and that is Jesus, His Son. However, mercy does not disqualify justice, and so death, the consequence of sin, still remains to be conquered. And that is exactly what Jesus does for us in his passion, death, and resurrection. This is what constitutes the story of our redemption.

    “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that anyone who believes in Him may not perish but may have eternal life.” Jesus comes into our humanity to be both the mercy and justice of God, giving His life as ransom for our sins. And the heart of this story is what we are entering into next week, Holy Week, wherein we commemorate the most important events of all history– Jesus, dying on the cross, paying for us the wages of sin, and then resurrecting from the dead, giving us the freedom to live anew!

    What John Wick nor anyone of us could never do, God Himself does for us. This is what we celebrate for a whole week next week and for the coming Easter– the true freedom that our hearts so eagerly desire.

    “If the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.” -John 8, 36

    Photos from:



  • Lenten Fast and Jeepney Rides

    Lenten Fast and Jeepney Rides

    I discovered something I could fast from this Lent: Maxim rides. The dawn of habal-habal apps has truly been one of the better things that happened to commuters like me. Motorbikes may be a traffic soar but to ordinary citizens who just need to get from point A to point B amidst the jungle that is the Cebu City streets, they are like an answered prayer.

    Anyone who braves the sea of aspiring passengers waiting at the sidewalk for that elusive jeepney or bus ride knows that getting into one is not so far from winning a lottery. Fortunately, if you don’t have time for that game of chances, there are habal-habals everywhere, always ready to offer the quickest way out. Personally, I prefer to use Maxim since it’s cheaper and has more available drivers. It’s not the most comfortable ride but with the crazy traffic, I consider it a luxury, which is precisely the kind of thing to lessen this Lent.

    While I was ranting about this favorite complaint of mine, particularly having to wait one time for 20 minutes for a bus under the scorching sun, someone simply said to me, “Oh, that’s actually short. In my town, I wait one hour.” I immediately justified my grievance but moments later, that comment continued to pique my mind and eventually my conscience.

    I started to realize that the transportation situation is truly one of the battle fields of patience for me. Often, the determination to avoid any troubles and inefficiencies pulls me to prioritize above all else my well-being, my convenience, and my success over my great enemy– the chaotic, pollution-filled, and exasperating Cebu traffic. Little did I know, my annoyance over this matter has actually fed my self-centeredness and indifference towards others around me.

    And so one evening, when I was getting back home after an appointment in the city, I decided to be a little more patient. Since it was not yet so late in the night as well, I tried my chances on the public vehicles. As expected, I stood waiting half an hour as jeepneys filled to the brim with passengers, passed by me one after the other, not even giving any glimmer of hope. I noticed that a lady standing nearby was most likely in the exact situation as me. She was already there when I arrived, glancing here and there, probably wishing a vacant spot with every jeepney that approaches. Seeing her anxious look, I thought that maybe she was a mother, tired, having gotten off from work, needing to get home to take care of her family.

    Then suddenly, the traffic light turned red and we both stared at the jeepney that was obliged to stop. I held my breath as I waited for the sign that this is finally is it! Lo and behold, two passengers got down freeing up some space. I was closer to the jeepney so I immediately ran for it, thinking there should be enough room for me and the lady, who was not far behind, following my stride.

    When I finally arrived inside, the passengers started saying there’s room for only one more. I was surprised because that does not calculate but quickly realized it is reasonable because one or two, who may have been just sitting with half their butt, must have taken the chance to get more space. Just a second later, my lady companion was there, also realizing the situation. I did not take a seat yet because I wanted to make sure that there’s space for her as well, since she was waiting longer than me. But sizing up the scene, I figured it wasn’t possible for the both of us to decently sit down. Turning to her, I said, “Take the seat; I’m getting down.” “But how about you?” “Don’t worry. I’ll get on another one.”

    For the first time, maybe in months, I finally noticed another passenger other than myself. Instead of ensuring my own welfare more than anything, I was considering that of someone else. Patience and humility helped my narrow heart, that could only accommodate myself and my priorities, to widen and welcome another one who may actually be in more need than me. And then I realized, that’s how we learn how to love. When we choose to let go of our own comforts and accept a little suffering, we then are able to let go of ourselves and able to accept others into our hearts; to notice them and care about them and even to put their good first before our own.

    Love, indeed, requires sacrifice and the more willing and free we are to sacrifice, the more we grow in love. It makes sense then why fasting is one of the most enduring practices that the Church teaches us during this time of call to repentance and conversion. It is a basic way to sacrifice that trains us to make those ultimate sacrifices for the sake of love. Truly, it is one of the highways that leads us to a greater charity and a fuller joy.

    That evening, I stepped down that jeepney, missing my ride for the nth time, but I was happier than I ever was on a Maxim bike.

  • Waiting II

    Waiting II

    I wonder if we truly know the taste of such a mystery as waiting. Often, waiting is only thought as idle inaction and the world never does that. We often pass the time from one minute to another with much activity. Waiting for a download, waiting for something to heat in the microwave, waiting to arrive in your destination—all these are filled with other activities in between. Maybe because of the dominance of efficiency, the most important thing about waiting is time and not to waste it. But when our only focus is counting down the hours or days till we finish, we lose sight of the mystery that is passing by and is actually inhabiting the time.

    Photo by Genine Alyssa Pedreno-Andrada on Pexels.com

    Proceeding from one stage of life to another is also a waiting. We may not be as much aware of that because of its eventfulness but the progress of life from one phase to the next is marked by a change that nevertheless passes through a period wherein we wait. From student life to work life, for example, there is a waiting, because who we are as a student is not yet ready to become who we are as a worker. We need to wait with nature, to physically grow; wait with our intelligence, to learn what we did not know before; wait with our maturity to be prepared in our heart and soul.

    Certainly, this particular progress is filled with tasks to do but there is a factor that is not within our control, unlike how, in a way, we can control how much or how fast we study. All through such stage, there is a part that needs to happen but it does not come from us—that is the mystery. And so our place is to wait, which is the proper attitude towards such mystery in our midst.

    In the end, waiting is more than just about time. It is a welcoming and accommodating of a mystery. It may be lived as a weighing of considerations and questions, or a striving towards an inner disposition. It is making a home for that mystery, something that was not present before but is on its way, and maybe is already there and yet gradually. And time is but where we are as we go through all this waiting.

  • Season of Darkness

    Season of Darkness

    There are different seasons of life. We may be in a season of beginnings or challenges or transitions. And sometimes we are in the season of darkness. It is a period of time that is not at all easy to understand nor to go through. Pain, woundedness, and trials seem to abound on all sides during such season. However, it is a most sacred and privileged time in our lives.

    When I was going through a time such as this, it inspired me to write some poems, especially after reading a book of poems written by a local Carmelite nun. Little did I know that such theme ran deep in the Carmel spirit as I would discover St. John of the Cross still later on. He was a Spanish Carmelite and reformer who is known for his experience and writings of “The Dark Night of the Soul.” His witness proves to be a pillar for the whole Church not just in the domain of spiritual life but also even in poetry. Thanks to his experience of darkness, St. John of the Cross has written some of the most beautiful poems in Spanish and Catholic history.

    This season is a most powerful time in the life of a Christian. It is most certainly true for me. This poem that I share with you is one of its fruit and witness and at the same time, an offering of worship and thanksgiving to the God who loves faithfully even in the dark.

  • Ordinary


    Nothing like the Parables of the Seed (and the Trees and the Fields), usher me into Ordinary Time! With its agricultural mood, I can almost see the vastness of foliage, smell the freshness of the grass, and feel the simplicity of the soil that goes with the usual impression of mundaneness of the period that we liturgically call, “ordinary.”

    Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

    Yes, Ordinary Time seems vast, that is, long, only happily interrupted by the glorious Easter season, and of course, the great Lenten season that comes before that (let’s not forget😉). It is deceivingly simple because in contrast with its toned-down aesthetics, it is quite eventful, something that an extensive stretch of time could not avoid. And above all, it is fresh, in every sense of the word, because it is a time of beginnings, into which Jesus, himself, journeying from the desert to Galilee to start his public ministry, welcomes and accompanies us step by step. It is a time of new chances, optimal strength, and fullness of hope that eyes with eagerness the rest of the year.

    After the pomp and high of Christmas, and especially here in Cebu, extended through the Sinulog, Ordinary Time might feel like a sudden, unawaited party-pooper, or we may also say, the awakening to real life, which is actually just before us but we were given a license to ignore thanks to the festivities. But on the other hand, I’d like to think of this period of “ordinariness” as a period that actually “normalizes” all of life—both the little moments and the great.

    “What can we say the kingdom of God is like?… It is like a mustard seed which at the time of its sowing in the soil is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet once it is sown it grows into the biggest shrub…” (Mark 4, 26-34) The kingdom of God is both the little seed and the great shrub—and this is the Ordinary Time! Normal does not mean there is nothing special about it. It means that extraordinary moments do not happen rarely nor to just some but they are constitute of every person’s life. After all, as how St. John Paul II puts it, we are gifted and called to the “high standard of ordinary Christian living.”

    The big solemnities like Christmas and Easter are high points that remind us of how high life with the Lord can get. But Ordinary Time is bringing that seasonal reminder into our daily lives—“night and day, while we sleep and awake.” (Mark 4, 26-34) It’s like we spent Christmas to remember that there are little “Christmases” all through our lives, where Jesus, our light comes into our darkness. It doesn’t happen just once, but it is “normal,” a staple in our life. And so, when we go through the other staples, like heart breaks and loss, starting over, doubts and poverty, we also already know quite well, the presence of other things that are “as certain as the dawn” – God’s grace, presence, and salvation.

    And so, this vast, simply eventful, and fresh time, where it is normal to expect the extraordinary, is quite simply, “life,” also known as “Ordinary Time.” As I remember reading in an old lectionary, the green color of the vestments aptly symbolizes this liturgical period. The vitality of life, the growth of greenery, the hope of Christ’s salvation—the richness of the Christian adventure lived in every day.

  • Waiting


    Are we not constantly in the disposition of waiting? During the course of a day, waiting for the water to boil, waiting for people’s replies, waiting for a ride. In a lifetime, waiting to begin, waiting to figure out things, waiting to finish. And then, we wait again. “What we shall be has not yet been revealed…” (1 Jn 3) Ultimately, we are always in wait, for God and for ourselves.

    Who am I and who is God? What shall we live, even as we live now, as we wait together for each other. Where shall we meet? And yet knowing, we go there together.

    The waiting of the Magi, the waiting of Mary, the waiting of Joseph. They all waited from different places, journeying different routes, and then coming together in the same stable, where God has come, awaiting them.

    And then the little Jesus, finally arriving, begins his wait anew. A waiting that is most discrete, simple, and silent– the “in between” that is childhood. Hidden in the littleness of a child, what great patience, what strong humility, to stay ordinary, unheard, and in wait for the revealing of his own destiny—what He came to the world for (Jn 18:37).

    I marvel at the thought that when Jesus was a child, He was most like us in the sense of being ordinary human beings. He did not preach, did not work miracles, and was not famous. He was just a child, just like us. God has truly stooped down to us, to the simplicity of being in wait—subjected to the length of time, the slowness of the flesh, while holding in patience the burning desire of the heart, and all the while hoping and trusting in God for the time of accomplishment. He waited to grow up, to be fully a man, and to meet the “acceptable time”, the “appointed time,” to fulfill what God willed for Him to be.

    He shows us to wait with childlike faith. To journey through the process as weak, limited, and dependent. And that is fine, because we are in the time of being a child when we are waiting for the fulfillment of the will of God in our lives.

  • Your Hand in Mine

    Your Hand in Mine

    I had a little retreat, the Ignatian way, that finished yesterday, and I am delightfully surprised how beautiful it was for something so short. I even received a precious gift from the Father with this verse, “Though the mountains leave their place and the hills be shaken, my love shall never leave you nor my covenant of peace be shaken.”

    A love that does not change, is the love of God for us. It was the sweetest and most incredible love even before we took notice of it. It is still like that now even as I am pondering about it. And it will still be like that if one day I’ll wake up and find myself depressed and disappointed, unloved, and a failure. It’s like God is always on the same day, wearing the same shirt, even as we sleep and awaken, sleep and awaken, our moods changing, our lives going up and down. And all the while, God never stopped looking at us with love. We find Him still, with the same incredible, tender love for us, like the first day we discovered it, and was sure it is for real. And we discover again that it is still real and always had been in all its sweetness and immensity. Like He is always on the same day with the same shirt, wearing the same love for us, that day that He loved us, a day that never ends.

    On another note, I am reminded of a poem I wrote few months ago. Because He is always the same, He is always with us, and actually, that’s the only thing that assures us in this life.

  • The Heroism of Men

    The Heroism of Men

    “Joseph, her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly.” – Mt. 1, 19

    A man’s heart has an immense capacity to love, manifested in his strength, courage, and service. This love reaches a fullness when a man loves a woman. Often men dream to be the hero for the woman they love. They want to do all the extraordinary things for her: catch the stars, climb the highest mountains, give her the moon; to save her from danger and dangerous people; to protect her because she is delicate and precious and beautiful. This great masculine capacity to love is often highlighted in these exterior ways and may be the reason why women often think of men as their prince, knight in shining armor, their superman.

    But the incredible strength of men is not just meant to be exercised exteriorly. I believe the physical strength is but an image of the great capacities men are capable of wielding interiorly, especially through the practice of virtue. Because, truth be told, taking the moon is not really such a loving act in itself except that it exemplifies the fact that great works accompany a great love.

    And these great works are what is demanded in a love that is true, that is, a love that exercises virtue. Depriving oneself of pleasure in the service of a higher good require great efforts. Numerous trainings, constant prayer, and a lot of courage are the basics in acquiring virtue, notably, temperance and chastity. Often, in the end, it can be the most heroic thing a man can do for a woman. To go against the gravity of lust is not so far from climbing the steepest mountains. To save and protect her is the very thing he does when he keeps good boundaries between them. He gives her the moon and all the riches of the world when he gives her a love that is pure and true.

    St. Joseph, the protector of the chaste virgin, our Mother Mary, whose birth we celebrate today, shows this incredible strength in what to me is the wondrous display of his richness in virtue. He decides to let her go in silence because he desires to protect and save her. In the middle of what must have been a painful and shakening situation, Joseph has Mary’s best interest at the topmost of his priorities. He was “unwilling to expose her to shame.” She is the very reason why he decided in this way. He desired what is good for her more than what is good for himself. He wanted to love her more than he wanted her love.

    This to me is the fruit of his chastity, a love that sacrifices freely and willingly for his beloved. Because as Fr. Stephen Gadberry says, “There are some things in life that you have to do because love requires it of you.” Many of these things that love requires are sacrifices. And chastity is what helps us to make these sacrifices, the great manifestations of love. It helps us to love well, most truly and most fully, the one we love. It is the superstrength that empowers us to be “unwilling to expose” our beloved to what will eventually harm him or her, even if that bad guy can be ourselves. And it can even be the greatest heroic display of love that we can do for another– as Joseph has done for Mary and as Jesus has done for us at the cross.

    Image from “Life of Mary (IV): Betrothal to Joseph”

  • The Glory of all His Faithful

    The Glory of all His Faithful

    Reflection on Today’s Scripture Readings

    Our Father displays His great love for us so plainly in the readings of today. In the Gospel (Lk 6, 12-19), He calls each of the apostles by name. The Father knows us so personally that He calls us Himself, by His own choice, His own voice, His own Word, and takes us as who we are, represented by our name. Not generically, as a category, like when instructors would call us by our group number or by titles or affiliations. No, it is exactly me that He calls. It cannot be mistaken as someone else nor can any other suffice because my name is individually me. It is precisely me that He desires, He had been looking for, and He wants and calls now. This alone is cause for festive dance with timbrel and harp, ‘for the Lord loves his people.’ How incredible that loving us is the joy of God!

    Photo by Naomi Shi on Pexels.com

    This shows me how great truly is our dignity as His precious ones. We sense something of its incomprehensible greatness when St. Paul reminds us in his striking yet simple way in the first reading, “Do you not know that the holy ones will judge the world? Do you not know that we will judge angels?” (1 Cor 6, 1-11) We are going to judge angels? Yes, I didn’t realize it’s for me to do something like that. We do not realize the depths of the meaning of our dignity. We are an image of the immensity of God, of His Wisdom, His Holiness, His Goodness, His capacity to judge.

    “Then why not everyday matters?” It seems this is the way we reflect Him in this aspect, as His little ones dealing with the little things of the world, yet in the immense Wisdom of our Maker. I guess because of our littleness, we, as well as our works, are like a “zoom-in” of the intricate detailness of the Wisdom of our Loving Father.

    Photo by Liza Summer on Pexels.com

    However, this ‘right’ or capacity to judge is not equal to the license to criticize people or complain against them and then passing it as an act of charity. Our right to judge is in the service of charity, ‘to settle things with our brothers,’ to meet each other and reconcile. It is not for the purpose of waving his fault in his face nor to prove ourselves right in an argument. We judge in order to see what is wrong or lacking and then search for the loving ways to learn and grow from our mistakes towards each other. To help each other become more holy, to live with each other in peace and greater mutual love.

    In as much as we are an image of His Majesty, so are we of Our Father’s tender Mercy. I guess this is the other aspect of Him that we need the most in order to live the former one in its fullness. St. Paul speaks to us of its radical implications as he continues his letter with an unusual question, “Why not rather put up with injustice? Why not rather let yourselves be cheated?” Wow. I think no one would calmly suggest this to anyone, especially in the midst of our injustice-stricken world, where a lot painfully suffer from it or fight against it. It is one of the lessons of Mercy that is just impossible to understand and live when we just depend on our limited human understanding. Because that question can also be asked in another way, “Why not forgive the one who has hurt you?” Faced with the sin of the other, there is only one way to pass through it alive, or rather, resurrected, and that is through forgiveness.

    Photo by Alem Su00e1nchez on Pexels.com

    God is incredibly and tenderly merciful. The only one who has the ultimate right to judge pardons us. It is indeed mind-blowing to live in such an abundance of love everyday, especially considering how utterly insignificant we are as mere creatures of this universe. But we are tenderly and infinitely loved. And we are made with the capacity to reflect this in our own hearts– to judge and acknowledge the wrong done to us and to pardon it in order to love again and anew. This is the reason why we can live with joy and hope even when we face great difficulties in our relationships, why we can forgive and love even more in the midst of conflicts. God’s judgment and mercy is ours to live, too. Indeed, as the Psalm today exclaims, it is ‘the glory of all His faithful’ (Ps 149).