Lawiswis ng Salita ni P. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Ika-14 ng Hulyo, 2021
Isang katatawanan na hindi malilimutan
sa taong 2021 nang pagdiskitahan ng ilan
pagkain ng bayan
patunay na marami sa pamunuan
hindi ramdam pintig ng mamayan
lalo na ang kalam ng tiyan.
bunsod ng kayabangan nang
paratangan na ang lugaw
pagkaing hindi mahalaga
kaya buong bayan nag-alma.
Heto na naman
mga henyo sa kalakalan
ibig nama'y magtakda ng batayan
sa pagluluto ng mga paboritong ulam ng bayan;
ngunit anumang paliwanag
walang kabuluhang pakinggan
mga pinag-iisip nila'y walang katuturan
patunay lamang na manhid at mga payaso
mga tao ngayon sa gobyernong ito.
Maari bang itakda ninuman
mga sangkap na ibig malasap,
sarap at linamnam na ibig namnamin
ng bawat kumakain?
Alalahaning hindi lamang laman ng tiyan
ang pagkain kung ating susuriin
inihahain pa nga lang, lasap na natin
diwa at katauhan nagigising
ng maraming alaala at kuwento
ng pagkaing bumusog sa atin.
Suriin bawat kalinangan
nasasalamin sa lutuin at pagkain
dahil doon sa mesa nagsisimula
lahat ng ating kapatiran at kaisahan:
walang kumakain kasama ang kaaway,
ano mang kasunduan ay may handaang kasabay,
higit sa lahat, sa pagdulog sa hapag
doon nagaganap tunay na pagdadaop-palad
dahil sa tuwing tayo ay mayroong piging,
sarili ang ibinabahagi natin sa anyo ng pagkain at inumin.
Maging ang Panginoong Hesus natin
pinili ay pagkain at piging
upang gamitin tanda ng kapanatilihan
niya sa atin: kanyang itinatag
hapag ng Eukaristiya
doon sa mesa ng Banal na Misa.
Tangi niyang tagubilin
tinapay na walang lebadura gagamitin
sa bawat pagdiriwang ng piging
kung saan pinapaging-ganap natin
pagmamahal niya sa atin
nang ihandog sarili bilang ating pagkain.
Kaya, huwag nang pag-isipan
ng mga nagmamagaling
paano lutuin mga paboritong pagkain
bagkus kanilang isipin
mga nagugutom na kapatid natin.
It was a Tuesday within the Octave of Easter under our first – and world’s longest – Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) when I started this prayer blog based on the Mass readings as a “spiritual recipe” for tired and weary souls at that time when churches were closed and public Masses were not allowed.
It was pure grace that I was able to keep it daily until now in my new assignment, never running out of inspiration from God for my prayers, poems, essays and reflections, and the usual Sunday homilies I have been sharing via email since 2003.
Some of my inspirations came from unforgettable images of COVID-19 that went viral on Facebook and the news that for me were “images of hope” of the Risen Christ reminding us of his presence during this pandemic.
They are images of hope because they tell us modern Easter stories of holiness and kindness, love and sacrifice among ordinary people willing to share Jesus in their very selves for others in need.
And this photo tops them all!
I got this from the Facebook by a church-beat reporter who personally met the photographer who took that shot and interviewed the banana vendor.
What a beautiful reminder of the poor widow praised by Jesus who gave “two small coins worth a few cents” into the temple collection box, saying: “Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury. For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood” (Mk.12:43-44).
My initial reaction upon seeing this image of COVID-19 was how the world never runs out of many good people, who give without expecting anything in return: “may mga tao pa rin palang tunay at dalisay ang pagmamahal at hindi naghihintay ng kapalit.”
I wonder where is that vendor now and what has happened to him. Surely, God must have blessed him abundantly!
A week before the lockdown that March 2020, another set of images appeared on Facebook of a beautiful story of miracle in the supermarket.
According to the Facebook post that became viral, people were panic buying following rumors of a lockdown to be imposed due to the pandemic.
A young lady waiting at the long line to the counter noticed a man had only a basket containing a handful of grocery items.
She turned out to be a “fairy godmother” who offered the manong to get more goods for his family assuring him she would pay for them.
Manong was hesitant at first, very shy with the kind offer by the young lady until he acceded, getting a few more canned goods.
According to the post by an eye-witness, the “fairy” asked manong again to get more goods, saying “dagdagan pa po ninyo at babayaran ko.”
That was when miracle happened…
Some of those at the counter were infected with a holy virus by the young lady’s generosity.
One by one, each customer gave manong a can or an item of their purchases so that he had a basket full of goodies to take home for his family!
Indeed, love begets love begets love… it is the kind of good virus I am sure still happening today even without being reported in social media.
What a beautiful modern version of Jesus Christ’s feeding of 5000 in the wilderness when everybody shared their baon with others (Jn.6:1-15) that filled everyone to his/her delight with still plenty of leftovers.
I turned 55 on March 22, the first Sunday of the start of last year’s lockdown, the fifth Sunday of Lent. It was also the first time we went online with our Mass that morning when I called on the people to wait outside their homes later at 3PM – while maintaining health protocols – for the “paglibot” (motorized procession) of the Blessed Sacrament in our Parish at Barangay Bagbaguin made up of ten purok.
How my heart was moved at the sight of people, young and old, rich and poor alike, kneeling on the streets with some crying, adoring Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament!
Truly the images of hope that have sustained and blessed our parishioners at Bagbaguin with the lowest incidence of COVID infections and deaths that year in the whole town of Santa Maria, Bulacan!
But the most beautiful image of hope for me that day was the appearance of a rainbow before the end of our “libot” of the Blessed Sacrament.
We were at the last leg of our “libot” when it started to rain with our volunteers asking whether we would still go to the next purok of Gulod or not. From the back of our truck with both my hands holding the big monstrance, my response was adamant: we proceed even if it rains!
I knew we have brought plastic to cover and protect the Blessed Sacrament from the rains and I felt what mattered most then were the people to have a glimpse of Jesus in their most difficult trials in life.
Lo and behold, after a few minutes, the rains stopped and a rainbow appeared at the horizon!
Tears rolled down to my cheeks saturated with perspirations as I held the big monstrance.
I could not contain the joy within my heart as I thanked God for the grace of that moment, of sending us with a rainbow to assure us like during Noah’s time that he would keep his promise never again to destroy earth with floods or with virus, that we would be safe during this pandemic.
It was the best birthday gift I ever had in recent years that made me decide to continue that practice of libot of the Blessed Sacrament every Sunday while public Masses were not allowed during the lockdown.
What are your images of COVID-19 that were images of hope that sustained you in this year-old pandemic?
Join us again this Friday with more images of COVID-19 and this time, images of Christ among us!
*Other photos by Ms. Ria De Vera and Ms. Anne Ramos of our Parish Commission on Social Communications.
Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 05 April 2021
It was a Holy Wednesday when the incident went viral as picked up by network news that evening when the previous night some barangay officials in Muzon, San Jose Del Monte, Bulacan insisted that lugaw is “not essential”, that man can live even without lugaw.
The timing was so perfect being a “Spy Wednesday” or the night of traitors when Judas Iscariot struck a deal with the chief priests to hand them over Jesus for 30 pieces of silver (Mt.26:15).
And so, there were the three barangay officials handing over to their power trip the common lugaw not knowing they have in fact betrayed us Filipinos in their arrogant insistence that lugaw is a non essential food.
The following Holy Thursday, another Judas Iscariot not only betrayed but crucified si lugaw as non-essential without knowing his remark was a self-indictment of this government’s preoccupation with politics, disregard for the people and lack of any definitive plan regarding the year-old pandemic. Trying to sound a smart aleck and clown rolled into one this administration has too much of, his explanations only made him look like the lowest kind of lugaw – rice leftovers boiled in water.
The benighted souls who have denigrated our favorite food have just proven that this pandemic is something we have to see in the light of spirituality and morality, not just a medical and social issue to be addressed.
Any food is always essential because every food signifies a person, has life and sustains life.
Recall that during his Last Supper on the night before he was betrayed, Jesus had chosen the most ordinary but very essential food to be the sign of his loving presence among us until the end of time – the bread. An unleavened bread, to be exact, which was the food taken by the Jews during their exodus from Egypt at the time of Moses.
The bible teems with so many references to the lowly food of bread as something divine with deeper meaning as a sign.
Consider that Jesus was born on a manger which is an open box or a trough for animals like horses and cattle to eat from to signify his being our very food in this life journey. He was born in Bethlehem that literally means “house of bread”; thus, at his last supper, Jesus gave himself to us under the sign of a bread.
In establishing the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist which St. John Paul II emphasized in 2002 by adding the Mysteries of Light in praying the Rosary, Jesus elevated the meal into the most sublime human activity making our food divine and holy. As a result, the table had become one of the most intimate places in our lives that every time there is a meeting or any gathering, there is always the meal to be shared. I used to tell my students before that every first date is always in a restaurant – if possible a fine dining one – because what matters most is the moment to be shared together by you and your date.
It is always easy to know when couples and parents are not in good terms with each other: they never eat together or during meals, they do not talk or speak to each other. The same is true when people decline our invitations for dinner or party or simple meal: they do not want to be with us. Period. That is why Judas Iscariot had to leave and not finish the Lord’s supper!
See that we never call people as “enemies”: like Jesus Christ, as much as possible we welcome everyone to our table to share meal with us and it is only then when we realize who is our enemy when like Judas, some people stab us in our backs while sharing meal.
When we eat and share food and drinks, we actually share our very selves to our guests and friends. We host parties because we want to share our very selves with our family and friends, to share and be a part of our lives, of our achievements, of our important stages in life. Their coming signify the same willingness to share us their lives too.
The food we share are signs of our bonding, of our relationships, of how we care and respect for one another. It does not really matter what food we share. More often, the most simple and ordinary food are the ones that truly delight us like tuyo. Or lugaw!
How I wish parents today would bring back those days of old when nobody is supposed to waste not even a single grain of rice or any food for that matter because it is from God.
When we were growing up, every meal was the most awaited family time not because of the food but more of the bonding and exchanging of stories. As we age, it has become more truer than ever! That is why we all wish this pandemic would end so we could all eat together as families and friends, is it not?
Any food is always essential because every food signifies a person who has life and sustains life of others.
Every one of us is a companion to each other. From the two Latin words “cum panis” that mean someone you break bread with, a companion is a friend, a fellow traveler who sustains and nourishes you like food in your journey!
In that beautiful story of the road to Emmaus when Jesus appeared to two disciples disappointed with his death and news of his empty tomb on Easter, they recognized him only after he had broken bread but simultaneously disappeared because at the table of the Lord, we also become his Body meant to be shared with everybody.
The recent issue that went viral on whether lugaw is a non-essential or not is a tragic indication of the kind of people we are, of how we categorize persons like food.
There seems to be a direct correlation
between food and humans:
when there are plenty of food,
that is when people are taken for granted,
while where there is scarcity of food, people are valued.
Take the case of ice cream. When somebody is rich and young and beautiful or handsome, they are the “flavor of the month” or the “all-time favorite” and “classic” or “premium”.
And how do we call our ordinary ice cream peddled by Mamang Sorbetero? “Dirty ice cream” – dirty because ordinary and cheap like the street kids, the poor, the “wa-class” and opposite of the more expensive sosyal ice cream.
Worse, with so much food available these days unlike before when we valued every food so much because we can only have apples (and softdrinks) when sick or chocolates when relatives from the States sent packages or some rich neighbors brought you as pasalubong from Dau’s PX stores outside Clark Air Base in Pampanga, things today have also changed in the way we relate with one another.
There seems to be a direct correlation between food and humans: when there are plenty of food, that is when people are taken for granted while where there is scarcity of food, people are valued.
As more food are readily available these days, the more we have become choosy, the more we categorize food as essential and non-essential that at the same time, the more we denigrate humans.
Such was the plan of Satan with his first temptation to Jesus – turn stones into bread after fasting for 40 days in the wilderness.
For Satan, let us have more food and things to satisfy our body so we forget God and one another, and everything of higher value. When food is retained in the stomach and becomes an end in itself, it then becomes an occasion for sin like gluttony, exactly what Satan was pushing for so that we just keep on filling our stomachs with food, satisfying the cravings and desires of the body until we destroy ourselves and our image as likeness of God.
Jesus put food into the right perspective that God is our real and true food that in two instances at least, he fed vast crowds of people in the wilderness after seeing them rightly disposed for material food.
Call it as generation gap but I am shocked when I hear some people especially the young describing handsome men and pretty women as “yummy” and “delicious” like food. Problem with that kind of mentality is how it shows we have come to regard everybody like food that if we are no longer “fresh” or “new”, becoming “old” and stacked in the cold fridge, later to be discarded or thrown out like old people being sent to retirement homes totally unknown to us 40 years ago.
Worst of all is how this administration launched its bloody campaign against drugs when addicts and other criminals were considered as non-essentials to be eliminated or killed like animals – exactly the deeper implication of what that government official kept saying last Holy Thursday that “non essential si lugaw”!
Since last year’s Holy Week when we first went into this lockdown, I have been telling friends to avoid as much as possible posting their lavish food on Facebook as a sensitivity to others with almost nothing to eat. And I maintain it is still valid to this time of this worsening crisis.
Let us be food to everyone as source of strength and nourishment, of inspiration. We do not have to make extraordinary efforts. Simply be human as yourself. Be present with a text or a phone call to those suffering. Pray for them and let them know you care for them.
Be a lugaw who could warm someone’s cold body freezing in fear and anxiety, offering quick relief from whatever suffering others may be going through.
Most of all like a hot, steamy lugaw, giving hope that Jesus is with us, his salvation is coming soon.
Lawiswis ng Salita ni P. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Biyernes Santo, Ika-02 ng Abril 2021
Kung mayroon mang higit na malungkot
ngayong Biyernes Santo
habang tayo ay muling binalot
saka pinalaot sa gitna ng bulok
at kawalang sistema sa pandemya
noon pa, iyan ay tiyak walang dili iba
kungdi si Hesus na ating Panginoon
at Manunubos; marahil hindi Niya maubos
isipin sa gitna ng masasamang nangyayari sa atin
mas binibigyang pansin ng maraming hangal
sa ating pamahalaan mga bagay-bagay
kay daling isipin habang mga paksa
nagiging usapin dahil sa pagsisinungaling!
Ngayong Biyernes Santo
araw ng pag-aayuno
upang ating mapagtanto
Panginoong Hesus ay naririto
sa ating pagtitiis ng kagutuman
nalilinis ang puso at kalooban
nawawalan ng laman
upang tayo ay mapunan
ng Diyos ng kanyang kabanalan;
kay laking kahibangan
lalo ng mga nasa kapangyarihan
kalimutan at talikuran tuluyan
mga payak at aba, lugaw ang kumakatawan!
Pinakamalungkot pa rin
ngayong Biyernes Santo
ang Panginoong Hesu-Kristo
dahil katulad niya noon
patuloy pangungutya sa kapwa
lahat hinahamak at minamaliit
gayong kanilang mga isipan
ang walang laman, sadyang
mapupurol at makikitid
na hindi nababatid
ang tao na higit na dakila
hindi masalita, nakikilala sa
busilak ng kanilang puso at diwa.
Huwag nating kalimutan
bago sumapit ang Biyernes Santo
noong gabing ipagkanulo si Kristo
pinili niyang walang hanggang tanda
ng kanyang kapanatilihan sa atin
tinapay na walang lebadura
na alalaong-baga sa atin dito sa Asya
kapantay ay lugaw na siyang inihahain
sa mga panahong alanganin
ito ang kinakain upang maging sapin
sa tiyan na dumaraing sa maraming hinaing
di lamang sa gutom kungdi pati
kawalan ng mga pumapansin.
Alalahanin tuwing ikaw ay kumakain
nitong paborito nating pagkain
lugaw marahil ang hihilingin
ni Hesus na Panginoong natin;
lasap kanyang linamnam
hindi maselang lutuin
walang ulam na aalalahanin
ano man maaring isahog at i-pares
sarap at ginhawang walang kaparis
kaya nakakainis mga nagmamalinis
sana'y umalis na
dahil sila ang mga panis!
Lawiswis ng Salita ni P. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Ika-10 ng Pebrero 2021
Doon sa magandang simbahang
aming pinuntahan kamakailan
matatagpuan din kakaibang larawan
ng ikalawang pagkadapa ni Jesus
habang ang Kanyang krus ay pasan;
isa sa mga taga-usig Niya
hindi kita mga mata dahil
suot niya may kulay na antipara
kagaya ng maraming nabubulagan
at hindi makita katotohanan
nasisilaw sa kapangyarihan
ngunit kaliwanagan ayaw masilayan.
Palagi namang kulang at kapos
ating kaisipan at karunungan
kahit anong ingat at siyasat
Diyos lamang ang ganap
na Siyang nakasisipat
ng mga magaganap
na ni wala sa ating mga hinagap
kaya naman madalas mas mainam pa
na ating matanggap kahit mabigat
kakulangan maging kahangalan
ng mga nanunungkulan.
Madalas aking napag-iisipan
sa dami ng mga kamalian
kagagawan ko o ng iba pa man
kailanma'y hindi naman ako pinabayaan
ng Panginoong Maykapal;
sinasamahan maging sa pagpapasan
ng mga pinagdurusahang bunga
ng mga kasalanan at kamalian
hanggang sa maliwanagan
lahat ay malampasan
at muling makabangon
sa Kanyang kabutihan at kaganapan.
Ito ang ating panaligang
katotohanan sa ating buhay:
lahat ay nagkakamali
maging mga pari
ngunit si Jesus kailanma'y
sa atin ng Kanyang pagpili
kaya tayo ay manatili
patunayan nating hindi Siya nagkakamali
magsumakit sa Kanya mapalapit
hanggang ang langit ay masapit!
Mayroong mga nagsasabi
ito raw lalaking nakasalaming may kulay
ay si Caiaphas na punong pari
na siyang humatol laban kay Jesus
nang Siya ay litisin ng Sanhedrin
nang dakpin noong gabi sa hardin
kay gandang pagnilayan
ngayong aming lipatan ng kaparian
paalala sa amin ng yaring larawan
alisin na at hubarin salamin na madilim
upang makita si Jesus nakadapa sa tabi.
Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 04 February 2021
We have started this travelogue sharing with you how the Divine — God and music as food of the soul — have guided us in this road trip. He is the Invisible Hand leading us to directions not found on maps nor recognized by GPS, leading us to new discoveries not only to places outside but deep within us.
Let me now share with you the people we have met in this road trip, our companions who enriched our journey.
The word companion is from two Latin words cum + panis that mean “someone you break bread with”, not just someone you travel with but someone you share life with. After all, every journey is not just about places we visit but more of the persons we travel with and meet along the way.
During our first stop at the Baras Church, its sacristan mayor named Alvin told us an interesting story that had allegedly happened at the Pililla Wind Farm before its closure last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to Alvin, a group of bikers in 2019 allegedly posed half-naked while doing the dirty finger sign with the wind turbines as background. The people at the wind farm felt the place “desecrated” by that act especially after the photos were posted in social media, prompting them to tighten security in the area until the pandemic came that have kept it closed since then.
Though we have no way of verifying Alvin’s story about the “desecration”, it was not farfetched at all considering our penchant for anything notorious and vulgar like – sorry for the terms – kasalaulan and kababayun.
How sad that everything is desecrated and disrespected in our country like a whole environment, public places that include parks and monuments, even churches and schools as well as culture and history, not to mention the people taken for granted especially the weak and marginalized.
But it is not that bad at all. Especially in the province of Rizal where local residents remain warm and hospitable. Most of all, honest and trustworthy.
This we have experienced first hand after Dindo had left his wallet at a convenience store two kilometers from Baras. When we returned to the store, we were so impressed because the guard and another staff member were waiting for us to give us back the wallet. We did not even leave our car as the wallet was promptly handed to us without asking us any questions at all.
Honesty is still very much alive here in our country. We just have to trust and be honest with others, too!
In fact, one thing we noticed that whole Thursday in Rizal was how everybody was so kind and nice, especially at the three churches we visited in Baras, Tanay, and Morong.
They were so kind and courteous with a ready smile to everyone, not grouchy like in some parishes. I did not have to introduce myself as a priest to be treated well that I felt like coming home while visiting those three churches!
It prompted me to commend Msgr. Rigs de Guzman of Tanay in having formed so well their church workers and volunteers whose goodwill flowed so naturally, not rehearsed nor faked because we were visitors.
Such kindness and niceties are things becoming so rare these days in many churches in our predominantly Christian nation when people complain against priests and lay people alike in being so cold and impersonal in dealing with the faithful who complain, saying “mga taong simbahan pa naman… kay susungit at sasama ng ugali.”
Sometimes, people leave the Catholic Church not because of difficult teachings and doctrines but of difficult people who failed or refused to witness Jesus Christ in their lives as his servants and disciples.
At the beautiful Parish of St. Jerome in Morong, we arrived while a funeral Mass was ongoing. Not knowing where to park as the patio was filled with people, I drove up its old and beautiful driveway all the way to its main door.
Surprisingly, nobody blocked or prevented us from driving there; when I asked if we can park there, the people simply nodded their heads in approval!
And when we went to the parish office to ask permission to go to the side altar to pray, one of the volunteers willingly led us inside so we can comfortably have a seat.
After we have prayed, we decided to skip our usual picture taking due to the ongoing Mass, choosing to feast our eyes with the amazing sight of this church’s unique architecture built by Franciscan Missionaries in 1620 and renovated to its present structure in 1853.
As we marveled at the imposing but genteel facade of the Morong Parish Church, I somehow got a feel of the people’s vibrant faith nurtured by their pastors who must be so dedicated too to have maintained its old and original architecture. One may also notice the same thing with the modern churches in the Diocese of Antipolo that covers the ecclesiastical province of Rizal where there is that blending of faith, arts, and architecture.
They must be so rich in having “respect” as in respect to the past, respect to the culture, and respect to the people that they have kept their many old and modern churches unaltered for so many years.
How sad is the “edifice complex” afflicting some priests especially in our own Diocese of Malolos in Bulacan where many churches, old and new alike, have been disfigured with never ending renovations and constructions as well as overdecorating them that many have looked like cheap cakes smothered with icings.
Many seem to have forgotten the direct correlation between “church as the people gathered in faith” and “church as a building”.
Incidentally, the term used by the early Christians to refer to the Holy Eucharist as they gathered together was “breaking of bread”, a direct reference to our word companion because in every religious gathering, the companionship of the people is indicative of their kind of faith in God.
How lovely it is to see our churches, especially the old ones, as companions in our faith journey in God, to God!
'The real voyage of discovery consists
not in seeing new sights,
but in looking in new eyes."
--- Marcel Proust
As we end this series of our travelogue, we go back to the lovely Parish Church of St. Ildephonse at Tanay, Rizal where we found something so mysterious like Steely Dan’s Pretzel Logic and Deacon Blues.
On the left wall near the main door is found the Seventh Station of the Cross when Jesus fell for the second time on his way to the calvary. It is a huge woodcarving done by local artisans in 1785 using local colors like the Malay features of the images depicted with their brown complexion, large and round eyes, and “squared” body features.
See the man leading the pack blowing a carabao horn for a tambuli while the soldier carried a bolo instead of a sword?
Most unique of all that makes Tanay’s Stations of the Cross as the most amazing and beautiful in Asia is that man at the middle wearing sunglasses, looking afar.
No one can truly explain why that man was portrayed as wearing shades that were already in existence at that time from China called “smoked glasses”. Some claim that man is the high priest Caiaphas who led the Sanhedrin in the trial that found Jesus guilty of blasphemy for claiming himself to be God.
Still, it does not answer the question why wear shades?
My kinakapatid Dindo claimed the woodcarving proves that rock and roll had long been in existence since the time of Jesus Christ, the real Superstar as presented in the 1970 rock opera by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Weber.
Rock and roll is more than a kind of music. It is a way of life, a different kind of looking at things that try to disregard conventional and traditional ways by trying to get to the very roots of the things we do and hold on to.
Again, the word roots is from the Latin radix from which comes the word radical to describe people with revolutionary thoughts who go against the usual and accepted ways of life by going back to the roots of our many ways of life.
Radicals are not necessarily violent who shake our beliefs to see things more clearly like the woodcarver of this Seventh Station of the Cross in Tanay.
He must be telling us how often we try to color the world according to the hues and shades we want to see it that we become oblivious to the plight and sufferings of those around us like Jesus falling for the second time. Sometimes the key in truly enjoying this journey called life is to take off our shades and see others in their true colors by revealing also our true selves.
That is the greatest joy of every road trip when we do not really take the trip but it is the trip that takes us, giving us new eyes to see life in new perspectives and dimensions never seen before.
Our recent road trip actually started even before we planned it three years ago. Dindo and I have been traveling together as companions – breaking bread with each other – sharing life, its joys and pains, fears and hopes long before we took this road trip.
Though we travel on different roads in life, our paths have merged in various points and intersections without us really knowing it, deepening our ties and friendship truly as kinakapatid. It was actually a trip started by our dads who were cumpadres and never did I imagine those trips to their home at Little Baguio every New Year while growing up would eventually lead us to Baras, Tanay, Pillila, and Morong in Rizal!
In between songs and stories and jokes as we got lost going to Pililla Wind Farm, we have realized that we all have the same problems and issues in life. They just come in different shapes and colors that make every journey so wonderful.
Where have you been lately? And how are the people you have met? Try to remember the people you have been traveling with as companions in this journey of life. Thank them and most of all, take a break to let any trip take you — a road trip, a food trip, or any trip except bad trip!
Thank you very much in joining me in this blog and trip. May God bless your journey as well as your companions. Amen.
The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul
Feast of the Sto. Niño, 17 January 2021
Isaiah 9:1-6 >><)))*> Ephesians 1:3-6.15-18 >><)))*> Mark 10:13-16
Today we spend an extra Sunday for the Christmas Season’s Feast of Sto. Niño granted by Rome to the local Church in recognition of the important role played by that image of the Holy Child gifted by Magellan to Queen Juana of Cebu in 1521.
Its role in the Christianization of the country cannot be denied, considering the historical fact that when Miguel Lopez de Legazpi arrived in Cebu 44 years later after Magellan to claim the country for Spain, they were surprised to discover how the natives venerated the Sto. Niño inside a special hut for worship along with their other anitos.
Legazpi’s chaplain Fray Luis Andres de Urdaneta attested to how that devotion to the Sto. Niño in Cebu enabled them to Christianize other natives without difficulties as the Holy Child image at that time has become the favorite among the people in asking favors like children and bountiful harvests as well as protection from calamities and wars.
The late National Artist Nick Joaquin was absolutely right to claim in his many writings and talks that it was really the Sto. Niño who truly conquered the Philippines that continues to be the most popular Christ-devotion in the country along with the Nuestro Padre Jesus de Nazareno of Quiapo.
More powerful than the swords and cannons or any force in the world indeed is the Child Jesus who has continued to be a paradox in world history: the Son of God born in a lowly stable in a small town called Bethlehem because there was no room for them in the inn during the time of the powerful Caesar claiming to be the king of the whole world by ordering a census of all his subjects in the vast Roman Empire now totally forgotten, his kingdom long gone.
What an irony the God who came so weak like all of us, without any title to His name nor an army at His command still influencing the world in His weakness and silence, in His childlikeness. A reality in life until now we have refused to accept even in the Church.
People were bringing children to Jesus that he might touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he became indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not prevent them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Amen, I say to you, whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it.” Then Jesus embraced them and blessed them, placing his hands on them.
Christ’s path of weakness vs. the world’s path of power
It is so timely that during this Ordinary Time we have this Feast of the Sto. Niño to remind us of the central teaching of Jesus Christ to be childlike that gets lost in the novelty and sentimentality of our Christmas celebrations.
See how this call for us to be childlike becomes more difficult even almost impossible to achieve in our world that has become so technical and “sophisticated” as we seek to shape and manipulate everything according to our own design.
The world of men, of macho men we love to relish with delight in the secular and religious world in all of its trappings of fads and fashion and “hard talks”, of external showmanships that we try so hard to project cannot hide the hypocrisies within, of keeping grips and control on everyone and everything like the disciples of Jesus. The tragedy of that scene continuing to happen in our time is how some few people who live in darkness pretend to be seeing the light that in the process are actually misleading people towards darkness and destruction.
Every time we refuse to allow others to come forward with their new thoughts and new ideas, fresh perspectives in governance and management, in the ministry, in theology, when we close our minds to hear others ideas and opinions in doing things, then we are into serious power plays that can be pernicious at the same time.
When this happens, we are all the more challenged to be child-like before God in taking all the risks in exposing what is true, what is real like those kids shouting “the emperor has no clothes”!
To be a child means to owe one’s existence to another which we never outgrow even in our adult life. It is an attitude of being open, that Jesus can be talking to us through people not necessarily like us, even different from us. It is an attitude of trusting others, unlike those hungry for power who only believe in themselves, so afraid they might be proven wrong because their minds are either narrow or closed.
Are we not surprised at all that these control freaks around us who try so hard to project images of power and strength are often the perverts and deviants hiding their childishness and immaturities and other skeletons in the closet?
Becoming and living as God’s children
Jesus shows us today in this feast of the Sto. Niño that it is in the path of being weak like children when we are truly free like Him – free to be a child of God indeed! This He accomplished by dying on the Cross not only to forgive us for our sins but made us a “new man/woman” in God as His children.
Brothers and sisters: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in then heavens, as he chose us in him, before the foundations of the world, to be holy and without blemish before him. In love he destined us for adoption to himself through Jesus Christ, in accord with the favor of his will, for the praise of the glory of his grace that he granted us in the beloved.
How sad that in our efforts to be in the man’s world of power and dominance, we try so hard becoming somebody else whom we are not only to end up alone, lost and unfulfilled.
Our being children of God is something innate in us, already within us that was accomplished by Christ for us at the Cross.
The key is to always go back to Jesus at the Cross.
We have said earlier that to be a child is to owe one’s existence to another that is, ultimately speaking, to God alone.
Hence, one sure sign of being like a child is having the sense of gratitude, of thanksgiving.
Incidentally, the Greek word for thanksgiving is eucharistia or eucharist! In the gospel accounts, we find so many instances of Jesus thanking the Father for everything that beautifully reminds us of His childlikeness.
The moment we feel strong enough without need for others, then we stop being grateful, then we lose that childlikeness in us as we start tinkering with power and influence, assuming to ourselves that everybody owes us, the world needs us.
That is when we stop growing and sooner or later, we collapse and eventually fall so hard on our faces.
How amazing that the Sto. Niño image given by Magellan to Queen Juana holds an orb or a globe. It is very interesting where did the maker of that image got that idea that the world is round when in fact it was the theory that Magellan had in mind in setting out to his ambitious expedition by sailing westward and returning from the east?
Records show that the first images of the Child Jesus or Sto. Niño as we know came from Flanders, a region in the Netherlands. The Flemish people have been making those images as early as the late 1400’s. That is why there is also that popular image of the the Child Jesus in Prague in the Czech Republic.
The mystery remains where did they get that idea of the Child Jesus holding an orb?
Could it be that the Flemish people who were devoutly Catholics at that time must have found the “light” from Jesus Christ in their devotions and prayers as prophesied by Isaiah in the first reading?
Nobody knows for sure but the next time you look at a Sto. Niño, be reminded always that it is the Child Jesus who holds the world in His hands. If you want to have the world in your hand too, be child-like! Be always grateful for who you are and what you have. Jesus promised it anyway.
The Lord Is My Chef Simbang Gabi Recipe-7 for the Soul
by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Advent Week IV, 22 December 2020
1 Samuel 1:24-28 >><)))*> + <*(((><< Luke 1:46-56
When I was about to enter the high school seminary, an aunt would always comment on our way to school how I would become a priest when I am a big fan of rock and roll music. You know, the usual stuff ever since with old folks about rock music as evil and everything…
Looking back, I just imagine what if I had told her and my other relatives the meaning of Steely Dan that is my most favorite band? Most likely they would have fainted! And I would tell tell them too that I am the only priest who had played Stairway to Heaven in Radio Veritas where I used to co-anchor a show, playing only good, old rock n’ roll to the delight of many listeners despite protests from management.
Lately I have been blogging every week linking secular music with the Sunday gospel that had enabled me to reach new and younger generations I hope had rediscovered Jesus in the music I had offered them.
The German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer had said that “music is the food of the soul” and it is very true for it transcends cultures and languages that even if you do not understand the lyrics, music always touches the soul.
Meanwhile, the great English playwright William Shakespeare is said to tell his audience at the start of his plays that “If music be the food of love, play on.” That’s very beatiful. Like love, music is best served with another person; when we sing, it is always to pour our hearts out. We let others hear our song even if we sing alone because that is what music is all about – it is meant to be shared.
This is the reason why Mary sang her Magnificat during her Visitation of Elizabeth, not by herself in Nazareth after the angel had left after announcing to her the birth of Jesus.
Mary said: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior. For he has looked upon his lowly servant. From this day all generations will call me blessed: the Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his Name.”
Mary praised and thanked God with her “Magnificat”
Recall how Elizabeth praised Mary twice and her baby Jesus in the womb once yesterday at the Visitation. Naturally for us, when we are praised we always return it by praising too whoever spoke nicely of us.
But that was not the case with Mary. She took the occasion to praise and thank God for all His goodness and salvific work in her and in Elizabeth. Like Hanna in the first reading and responsorial psalm today who sang praises to God in giving her a son in the prophet Samuel, Mary while filled with the Holy Spirit sang this canticle, narrating how God worked in her and through her.
Our lives is a song of thanksgiving always to God who never stops doing great things for us not to make us famous but to bring His divine will into fulfillment. Mary affirmed this when she admitted her own blessedness, “From this day all generations will call me blessed: the Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his Name.”
Yesterday we have reflected that true blessedness is to trust in God. Likewise, Mary added another dimension in what is to be blessed before God and that is being His servant, His slave or in her very words to the angel at the annunciation, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”
A handmaid is the feminine form of “slave” but more than being poetic in her identification as a female slave of God, Mary through her Magnificat showed us a glimpse of the lives of the early Christians at that time who were considered “weird” and “odd”, even “bizarre” among the Roman pagans who could not understand why they worshipped Jesus Christ they saw as “a crucified criminal”.
Worst of all for the pagans, they could not understand why the early Christians who were mostly poor would give themselves to Jesus in loving service to others like the sick, the elderly, the hungry, widows and orphans and those living in the margins.
In fact, the Roman historian Pliny recorded in his writings how during the persecution the emperor’s soldiers rounded up Christians in every town and city by looking for anybody doing good, serving the poor and needy! It is something to think about for us Christians today: Would any one of us be arrested because we are doing something good like serving the less fortunate?
Mary, the first model disciple, the first to live out the Gospel
In singing her blessedness by God, Mary had assumed her being the spokeswoman of the early Christians, the poor ones or anawim of Israel who were truly poor materially, trusting entirely on God.
Here lies her challenge to us who love to sing her Magnificat: do we allow God to work in us His salvation?
“He has mercy on those who fear him. He has shown the strength of his arm, and has scattered the proud in their conceit. He has cast down the mighty from their thrones and has lifted up the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty. He has come to the help of his servant Israel, for he remembered his promise of mercy…”
Again, we find many similarities in the Mary’s Magnificat and Hanna’s song we heard in the responsorial psalm. But, more than that is the striking similarity of Magnificat with the Beatitudes to be preached by Jesus according to Luke.
In Matthew’s gospel, there are eight Beatitudes preached by Jesus at his sermon on the mount; Luke narrated it differently by citing only four Beatitudes he paired with four woes that Jesus preached in His sermon on the plain (this is due to the different audience Luke and Matthew addressed):
Blessed are you who are poor… Blessed are you who are now hungry… Blessed are you who are now weeping… Blessed are you when people hate you…
Woe to you who are rich… Woe to you who are filled… Woe to you who laugh now… Woe to you when all speak well of you…
Magnificat is the Gospel in a nutshell. See the works of God cited by Mary perfectly jibing with the Beatitudes of Jesus. Here we find again how Luke has shown us the consistency of Mary as a disciple of her Son Jesus Christ by witnessing to His teachings, living them out for which she was crowned as Queen of heaven and earth.
This is the reason why I love so much the image of Fatima and of Banneux known as Lady of the Poor with Mary portrayed as so simple yet so lovely and beautiful. What a scandal for the Church in our time with all those lavish processions and coronations of the Blessed Virgin Mary where the poor are left out, becoming more of a social function among the rich and famous. What a shame most especially amid the pandemic when some parishes can spend so much fortune in these rituals that look more as a show which the Blessed Virgin would definitely disapprove. Keep in mind how Mary identified herself as “handmaid of the Lord” — do away all those pomp and pageantries please!
Every night, we priests and the religious sing the Magnificat in our Evening prayers to examine ourselves if we have lived out the Gospel message of the Lord, if we have been poor and hungry, if we have allowed ourselves to be used by God to effect His salvation among the suffering.
The same is true with every disciple of Jesus: when we sing the Magnificat or “Ang Puso ko’y nagpupuri”, we have to do some soul searching how consistent we have been as a disciple of the Lord like His Mother Mary.
How sad late yesterday when some people -whether they are trolls or not – had come out expressing support to that cop who brutally shot and killed Sonya Gregorio and her son Anton in their home in Paniqui, Tarlac Sunday afternoon.
How can some people be not affected and even defend or belittle such unspeakable crime of a man supposed to uphold the law, protect civilians?
What had gone wrong with us as the only Christian nation in this part of the world?
Can we sing “Ang puso ko’y nagpupuri sa Panginoon, nagagalak ang aking espiritu, sa aking Tagapagligtas” while we rejoice and defend all forms of brutalities and violence around us?
As we strongly condemn this unspeakable crime and demand justice for Sonya and Anton, let us work hard and pray hardest to imitate Mary to effect change in the society we live in and create by being a voice of the poor and vessel of God’s salvation. Amen.
The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Music by Fr. Nick F. Lalog II, 06 December 2020
Finally got a song so perfect for this Second Sunday of Advent that speaks so well of being awake, awaiting judgement day by leading a life of loving service to others. It peaked on top of the Hot Soul Singles chart of 1976 for two weeks that launched the careers of some of the big names in R&B during that great decade of 1970’s.
My dear readers and followers, welcome Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes doing the original version of Wake Up Everybody.
Wake up everybody no more sleepin' in bed
No more backward thinkin' time for thinkin' ahead
The world has changed so very much
From what it used to be
There is so much hatred war an' poverty
Wake up all the teachers time to teach a new way
Maybe then they'll listen to whatcha have to say
'Cause they're the ones who's coming up and the world is in their hands
When you teach the children teach em the very best you can
The world won't get no better if we just let it be
The world won't get no better we gotta change it yeah, just you and me
Since its release in 1975, Wake Up Everybody has been covered by other artists not only in the US but also in Great Britain and France. During the 2004 US elections, it was covered by various prominent R&B artists with some rappers to urge young people to go out and vote. John Legend also did a cover of the song in 2010 with The Roots featuring Common and Melania Fiona.
Perhaps because of its theme and lyrics, the song has always been considered as political but, hey! even Jesus and John the Baptist were also accused of political leanings in their preachings about truth, dignity of every person, and value of life!
It is said that music is the food of the soul that when a song is so true and really good, it will always present the gospel values of Jesus Christ which is the case in most protest songs of the 60’s and 70’s like Wake Up Everybody.
See how the composers of this classic – John Whitehead, Gene McFadden, and Victor Carstarphen -have consciously or unconsciously incorporated Advent thoughts and theology in Wake Up Everybody that is still so true today:
Wake up all the doctors make the ol' people well
They're the ones who suffer an' who catch all the hell
But they don't have so very long before the Judgment Day
So won'tcha make them happy before they pass away
Wake up all the builders time to build a new land
I know we can do it if we all lend a hand
The only thing we have to do is put it in our mind
Surely things will work out they do it every time
The world won't get no better if we just let it be
The world won't get no better we gotta change it yeah, just you and me
Next to the lyrics, what makes this song so Advent-ish is its slow and cool instrumentations at the beginning of the song that bursts under control with the soothing voice of the late Teddy Pendergrass taking over, sounding so calming yet hits hard through one’s inner core without being preachy either.
That is how Advent happens: Jesus comes to us whenever we proclaim and embrace his gospel of repentance, doing what is right and good to everybody, when we wake up from our life of sins and evil, and indifference with others.
Listen, and wake up to this classic piece and have a blessed Second Sunday of Advent!
Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 23 November 2020
Surely, there will be Christmas this year
despite the pandemic
but there will be less traffic,
less madness in malls and streets
and more praying and silence
in our homes and parishes.
There will be less dinging
of cash registers
and maybe more singing
from the hearts
as we begin to see more
of Jesus in the other
the face mask.
Surely, there will be Christmas in this time of corona
as there will be more presence
of persons and loved ones
than presents and gifts recycled
or bought without any thoughts;
there will be more crèche
and boughs of greens
so we do not have to be mean
if we do not receive anything.
For so long
we have been receiving gifts
when it is not us celebrating
birthday but the Lord
who only asks for our open hearts.
Surely, there will still be Christmas amid COVID-19
when we shall finally be hearing
music celebrating Christ's coming
not cheesy songs masquerading as carols
wishing for every maiden's Prince Charming;
there may be less cheese and ham and wine
for our Christmas dinner
with memories and dreams overflowing
as we gather filled with faith, hope and love;
it does not matter if there are no blinking lights
or even Christmas trees with all the trimmings
or boxes of gifts below or socks hanging
for as long as the glow of Christ's light
and warmth bursting in everyone's hello!
Surely, there will always be Christmas
no matter how favorable or
unfavorable each year
is more than a date to
keep and remember
but an event, a Person
to cherish and welcome,
to follow and imitate,
to care and let grow
within us, among us
the God who became human
like us so we can be divine
Surely there will always be Christmas every year
but after 2020, may our Christmas be for real:
less hugging and kissing
but more loving and caring;
less laughing and merrymaking
but more of rejoicing and comforting;
less having and buying
more giving and sharing;
for justice and peace;
less clapping, less "liking", less "trending"
more praying, more kneeling
to Jesus our Savior and everything! AMEN.