My screen this quarantine – when trolls and bullies rule the earth

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 15 September 2021
Image from Pinterest.

Instead of being sick with the government’s new experiment that begins today of designating letters and numerals to our quarantine level, stay home if there is nothing really necessary for you to do outside and keep your sanity as you enjoy some series at Netflix that has become our bestest friend since this pandemic began.

Topping our recommendations are Clickbait and Blackspace that tackle relevant issues of our time, reminding us for the need to recover our sense of morals, values and virtues now becoming so rare.

What we like best with both series is its packaging into short installments of eight episodes with each running less than 50 minutes. Each episode is quick-paced, so impactful that you would be forced to finish the series in one whole day, especially if you happen to be in quarantine due to COVID-19.

Communicating responsibly

The term “clickbait” was coined by blogger Jay Geiger in December 2006 by combining the words “click” of the computer mouse and “bait” that literally means to lure the user to something in the internet. Google defines clickbait is an internet content that aims to attract attention and encourage visitors to click on a link to a particular web page.

The term has become notorious in its meaning and usage which the Netflix series Clickbait presents and explores so well that in the process every episode had in fact been a clickbait – luring you to click on the next episode to finish the series.


Clickbait is one series that may be used in computer literacy programs
 that reminds us of the Church's teaching at Vatican II that  
"Communication is more than the expression of ideas and the indication of emotion.  
At its most profound level, it is the giving of self in love" 
(Communio et Progressio, #11). 

Photo from webseriescast.com.

Australian Tony Ayres did an excellent job creating the series with its story line that kept us “clickbaiting” too to find out if Nick Brewer really “abused women” and finally, who really killed him.

And that indeed is a good question to ask as the series unfolds with so many twists and turns happening, exactly like in real life when we are so quick to jump into conclusions “whodunnit” just because everything seems to fit with what we think, with what we know, or what we believe.

In the end, we realize like Dustin Hoffman in the 1997 movie Mad City that we killed” a totally innocent man because of how we have allowed ourselves to fall into bait in abusing and mishandling the great powers of communication.

Clickbait teems with so many instances reminding us to be careful with this gift of communication which is a power God only shared with us humans. Recall how in the creation account that God spoke only with words and everything came into being; such is the power of communication. Hence, another movie, Spiderman reminds us too that with “great powers come great responsibilities”.

From Facebook, February 2020.

The series Clickbait presents so well how our pride and ego come into interplay for our dreams of greatness, of being somebody else who is famous, well-liked by everybody, building our own tower of Babel, only to crash and crumble in death and destruction because of the web of lies we have succumbed to and could no longer be stopped just like those nasty things we find trending and viral in the internet or simple rumors and gossips going out of proportion.

At the same time, Clickbait teaches us with so many values, primarily the importance of family relationships (first and foremost), fidelity, respect to elders and love among siblings, the value of life as against suicide, and most of all, the value of every person – that we in our very selves are good without any need to be famous and be liked by everybody.

It also focuses on the need for more trust among couples and siblings in this age of modern and instant communications that can never fully express who we are and what we feel deep inside us.

Clickbait is one series that may be used in computer literacy programs that reminds us of the Church’s teaching at Vatican II that “Communication is more than the expression of ideas and the indication of emotion. At its most profound level, it is the giving of self in love” (Communio et Progressio, #11).

Don’t miss this series. See it with your loved ones because Clickbait is one good mirror of who we are these days of the internet and smartphones, of how sincere and honest are we with one another and with our true selves.


Respect for each one’s dignity

One very good thing with Netflix is our being exposed to foreign movies and series we never had the chances before. It is very educating and enriching like this Israeli series Blackspace that is so bold and daring to discuss the dignity of every human person through prevailing issues not only there but in the whole world.

The series begins with a caution to viewers of the violent and disturbing scenes in its first episode that opens with a mass shooting inside a school during a memorial program.

As we have said, the series is bold to present how the Israeli police attempted to twist their investigation by coercing some workers found hiding on the school’s roof deck as primary suspects to the crime just because some were from the West Bank and non-Jewish.

But what is so entertaining and thought-provoking in Blackspace is how the chief investigator Rami Davidi played by Guri Alfi solved the case by proving himself right that it was an inside job by some students who were all victims of bullying – just like him!

Photo from netflix.fandom.com.

It was in fact a homecoming of sorts for Davidi to his old high school still with the same principal who was the assistant principal when he was bullied while a student that cost him his right eye.

Though the series is a bit slow in its pacing, it is still an excellent one where the creators have woven seamlessly various topics into a beautiful tapestry that present to us the many problems we adults and the young people are dealing with without getting into its very roots.

First is the value of respect for every person with equal rights and dignity that begins at home, at how parents treat their children and accept/reject them when their inclinations are different from theirs or when they have homosexual tendencies. It is very surprising how this series is able to weave into its storyline issues about fatherhood and single-parenthood, about suicide and drugs, and yes, the abuse and misuse of the internet and computer technologies!

“Blackspace” is supposed to be a meeting room of the students in the dark internet.

Everything is summarized towards the end like a scene between Pontius Pilate and Jesus (no pun intended) when Davidi finally solved the crime that involved a school official who told him, “There is no truth. Only consequences.”


It is amazing that 85 years ago today, Pope Pius XI wrote “good motion pictures are capable of exercising a profoundly moral influence upon those who see them. In addition to affording recreation, they are able to arouse noble ideals of life, to communicate valuable conceptions, to impart a better knowledge of the history and of the beauties of the Fatherland and of other countries, to present truth and virtue under attractive forms, to create, or at least, to favor understanding among nations, social classes and races, to champion the cause of justice, to give new life to the claims of virtue and to contribute positively to the genesis of aa just social order in the world” (Vigilanti Cura, #25).

Clickbait and Blackspace just did what the Holy Father wrote in 1936.

See you in the next flick. Have a blessed day!

Praying for holy hands

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Memorial of St. John Chrysostom, Bishop & Doctor of the Church, 13 September 2021
1 Timothy 2:1-8   ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]*> + ><]]]]'>   Luke 7:1-10
Photo from Google.
Your words today, O God our Father
through St. Paul are so difficult,
so hard to accept:

Beloved: First of all, I ask that supplications, prayers, petitions, and thanksgivings be offered for everyone, for kings and for all in authority, that we may lead a quiet and tranquil life in all devotion and dignity. This is good and pleasing to God our savior, who wills everyone to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth.

1 Timothy 2:1-4
You know very well 
the kind of leaders and 
people in authority that we have;
however, you know so well too
how they came to power through 
our ignorance and/or arrogance.
Yes, Father, the fault is in us
and that is why we pray also
today that we may be gifted with 
"holy hands that pray without
anger or argument" as St. Paul
instructed Timothy.
Cleanse our hands through
your Son so we may imitate
the centurion in humility,
admitting before Jesus
 that he is not worthy
to have him enter under his roof
that is why he never bothered
to come near him too; but,
with clean and holy hands,
he asked Jesus to only say the word
and his servant shall be healed
and it was granted him! (Lk.7:6-7)
Through the intercession of
St. John Chrysostom whom you
have gifted with "golden mouth"
to speak what is true
following long hours of prayer,
cleanse us of our sins so
we may pray to you with holy hands
and holy lips, without anger or argument
for our leaders.
Amen.

The Holy month of August

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 30 August 2021
Photo by Fr. John Howard Tarrayo, National Shrine and Parish of Fatima, Valenzuela City, 06 August 2021.

Like the months of November and January, August now suffers the same fate of being more known with pagan rituals and beliefs despite its rich liturgical celebrations and feasts we celebrate – ironically – as the only Christian nation in this part of the world.

Spurred mainly by the social media, more and more Filipinos now believe that August is a “ghost month” with almost everybody even not a Chinoy are posting those “Do’s” and “Don’ts” on Facebook to cast away or avoid the evil spell by ghosts that August is supposed to bring.

What a sad reality in our Catholic Christian country.

Forty or 30 years ago, all we have was “pangangaluluwa” when some people would sing in front of our homes for some donations like in caroling during Christmas season. With the advent of social media and our penchant for anything American, we now have every November those grossly erroneous and pagan Halloween practices of costume party and “trick or treat”. Not far from that is our January tradition borrowed also from pagans of literally welcoming every New Year with a lot of “bang”, wasting precious money that also cost some lives and injuries to so many due to fireworks and firecrackers.

Here we find the kind of religiosity that binds most of us, more on rites and rituals but lacking in roots and spirituality, centered on ourselves to be assured of every kind of blessings, forgetting all about the very object of faith who is God expressed in our concern for one another.


August is not a ghost month nor any other month of the year.  
Like the days of the week, every month is a blessed one.  
No day nor date nor time is malas because 
when God became human like us in the coming of Jesus Christ, 
life has become holy, filled with God, 
debunking those ancient beliefs of the Divine being seen in various cosmic forces.

August is not a ghost month nor any other month of the year. Like the days of the week, every month is a blessed one. No day nor date nor time is malas because when God became human like us in the coming of Jesus Christ, life has become holy, filled with God, debunking those ancient beliefs of the Divine being seen in various cosmic forces.

In this regard a text by Saint Gregory Nazianzen is enlightening. He says that at the very moment when the Magi, guided by the star, adored Christ the new king, astrology came to an end, because the stars were now moving in the orbit determined by Christ[2]. This scene, in fact, overturns the world-view of that time, which in a different way has become fashionable once again today. It is not the elemental spirits of the universe, the laws of matter, which ultimately govern the world and mankind, but a personal God governs the stars, that is, the universe; it is not the laws of matter and of evolution that have the final say, but reason, will, love—a Person. And if we know this Person and he knows us, then truly the inexorable power of material elements no longer has the last word; we are not slaves of the universe and of its laws, we are free. In ancient times, honest enquiring minds were aware of this. Heaven is not empty. Life is not a simple product of laws and the randomness of matter, but within everything and at the same time above everything, there is a personal will, there is a Spirit who in Jesus has revealed himself as Love[3].

#5 of Spe Salvi (Saved in Hope) by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, 30 November 2007
From catholicapostolatecenter.org.

Consider the name of this month August which was borrowed from the Roman Caesar Augustus that signifies reverence or to hold someone in high regard. As an adjective, august means “respected and impressive” like when we say “in this august hall of men and women of science”.

Most of all, consider the great feasts that fall on this month of August: the Transfiguration of the Lord Jesus Christ on August 6 and the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven on August 15. Both feasts remind us of the promise of glory in heaven as we strive and persevere to lead holy lives in this world filled with pain and sufferings.

(See our blogs on these feasts, https://lordmychef.com/2021/08/06/transfiguration-in-time-of-corona/ and https://lordmychef.com/2021/08/14/mary-mirror-of-gods-greatness/.)

There are also so many saints we celebrate on this month of August like our patron saint as priests, St. John Vianney (August 4); St. Dominic who died 800 years ago on August 8 after serving not only the Church but also the whole world in general when he founded the Order of Preachers (O.P.) also known as the “Dominicans”; St. Clare of Assisi (August 11), a contemporary and friend of St. Francis; St. Bernard of Clairvaux (August 20) who wrote so many beautiful homilies, hymns and prayers like the Memorare; St. Rose of Lima (August 23) who was the first saint from the New World; and of course not to forget the greatest mother and son tandem next maybe to Mary and Jesus, St. Monica (August 27) and St. Augustine (August 28).

August is also the month of two great followers of Jesus, St. Bartholomew the Apostle (August 24) and two former Pharisees who buried our Lord, St. Joseph of Arimathea and St. Nicodemus (August 31). Likewise, it is on August 29 when we celebrate the martyrdom of the Lord’s precursor, St. John the Baptist who was beheaded during the birthday party of Herod who was so afraid to take back his oath to give whatever Salome would ask him after delighting his guests with a dance number.

There are two special saints we celebrate this holy month that according to St. John Paul II are both saints of our modern time, St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (August 09) and St. Maximilian Kolbe (August 14). Both saints were martyred in the gas chambers of Auschwitz during the Holocaust.

St. Teresa Benedicta is the same German philosopher Edith Stein, a former Jew who had become an atheist in her younger years in the university but upon further studies and prayer, converted into Catholicism, becoming a Carmelite nun where she adopted her new name. She wrote in one of her writings that “Those who seek truth seek God, whether they realize it or not“.

Though she had become Catholic, she did not abandon her Judaic roots, even writing the Pope at that time to ask him to speak strongly against the Nazi Germans’ extermination of Jews. Her death on August 9, 1942 at Auschwitz with her younger sister who had become a Catholic too was a fitting testimony to her faith, honoring her Jewish roots by dying among them as a martyr of Christ and one who had “learned to live in God’s hands” according to Sr. Josephine Koeppel, OCD, a translator of much of her works.

Dying ahead of her in Auschwitz on August 14, 1941 was St. Maximilian Kolbe, a Franciscan priest who was arrested for his writings against the evil Nazis. It was actually his second time to be arrested.

When a prisoner had escaped from the camp, authorities rounded up ten men to die in exchange of the lone escapee. Fr. Kolbe volunteered to take the place of a married man with children. They were all tortured and starved in order to die slowly in pain. A devotee of the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Maximilian was injected with carbolic acid on the eve of the Assumption after guards found him along with three other prisoners still alive, without any signs of fear like screaming but silently praying.

Photo of Auschwitz from Google.

We no longer have gas chambers but atrocities against human life continue in our time, hiding in the pretext of science and laws. Until now, men and women, young and old alike including those not yet born in their mother’s womb are hunted and killed to correct what many perceived as excesses and wrongs in the society. Just like what Hitler and his men have thought of the Jews at that time.

The Nazi officers and soldiers of Auschwitz remind us the true “ghosts” or evil spirits of our time sowing hatred and deaths are people who may be well-dressed, even educated in the best schools, and come from devout or “normal” families. They sow evil every day without choosing any particular month, blindly following orders without much thinking and reflections or introspection.

By the lives of the many great saints of August, or of any other month for that matter, we are reminded especially in this time of the pandemic that holiness is not being sinless but simply being filled with God, allowing that holiness to spill over and flow onto others with our lives of authenticity to the truth of God among us in Christ expressed in charity and mercy, kindness and justice, humility and openness with one another.

It is very sad and depressing to watch in the news and social media feeds how some among us continue to display their lack of any concern at all with the suffering people with their lavish lifestyles and display of expensive clothes and food. And worst of all are those men and women, in power or hungry for power, in their excessive display of brute force against the weak and the poor.

Let us make every month holy and blessed with our good deeds to make everyone aware of Christ’s presence among us.

Photo from inquirer.net.

My screen this quarantine

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 17 August 2021
Image from Pinterest.

We are almost done with the first week of our third lockdown with nine more days before it is either extended or modified depending on what jumbled letter combinations come out from the magic roulette in the Palace. Either way, hail to all couch potatoes for longer weeks in front of that magic screen!

Thanks for the gift of Netflix in keeping our sanity in this pandemic. And more thanks again Netflix in streaming more television shows lately especially coming from the Philippines.

Forget My Amanda that should have been called My Cars or My Abs or My Hair

One series you should not miss before the end of this Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) is Bagman starring Arjo Atayde.

First released in 2019 as an original series in iWantTFC, Bagman is so unique as a Filipino series because of its fast-paced tempo of less than 30 minutes per episode without the usual Pinoy director’s penchance for intense close up shots on faces of the characters with nothing expected to happen at all.

Everything in the production is superb, especially cinematography and musical scoring as well location sets that are characteristically the hallmarks of every ABS-CBN film undertaking. In fact, Bagman is one perfect reason that ABS-CBN should get back its franchise to operate for helping elevate television and film in the country.

Unlike other socio-political movies where we already know how low and evil is politics in the country, Bagman challenges us for a more personal response in ending this vicious circle of corruption and decadence in our culture and life as a nation.

Kudos to its creators Philip Kind, Lino Cayetano and Shugo Praico who directed the two-season series we hope would still have a final sequel. Their great attention to details with subliminal meanings on the roles and manners of different characters make the viewers “experience” – not just watch – the series done in first-person storytelling with narrations by Atayde himself as a former barber becoming a bagman of the governor. Each episode opens with a disclaimer that it is a work of fiction based on realities we have heard and read.

At its best, Bagman can be described as “totoong-totoo” – very true with its great storyline with characters played out so well by every actor like a thespian, beginning with Atayde and his co-stars that included the resurrected former sex-goddess Ms. Rosanna Roces and former Bagets Ms. Yayo Aguida.

From Twitter.

Personally striking for me as a former smoker and police reporter is Atayde puffing his cigarettes clipped between his middle and ring finger.

So classic, tsong!

They must really have a superb study for Atayde and even everyone, like Mr. Joel Saracho who played a supporting role in a few episodes as a former cobbler turned “assistant” of the evil congressman played by Romnick Sarmenta. A writer himself and a veteran to many great productions on stage and the movies, Saracho brought his usual finesse in the few scenes he was included with great impact.

Bagman teems with many scenes focused on marginalized people forced to make that desperate “kapit sa patalim” due to poverty and exploitation by crooks who come from both the rich and poor alike. Here lies the beauty of the series in teaching everyone without pontificating the need to always choose the right path in life, to be careful of getting stuck into a situation one can no longer get out and cost one’s life or loved ones, or both.

One unforgettable scene for me is that episode focused on Atayde’s father-in-law played by Rolando Inocencio as a Political Science professor telling his class the story how three congressmen died and were held at the gates of heaven by St. Peter for interview. The first two were sent to hell for their sins but the third lawmaker made into heaven after “bribing” St. Peter!

The whole class burst into laughter while Inocencio lamented in a very fatherly manner how deeply ingrained is corruption among us Filipinos until the bell rang and his class dismissed. In a later episode, Inocencio would ask their hostage-taker (Karl Medina) claiming to be his former student how did the third congressman get into heaven to check if he was indeed in his class at the university.

Medina would not give any reply at all to Inocencio who would again lament how every student of his would surely know the answer because he tells the same story in every class he handled. For me as a priest, the scenes that followed reverberated with voices, asking us teachers and educators what have we really done in forming the minds of the young in our schools and parishes when corruption is even getting worst?

Bagman is a timely reminder for us in this time of pandemic of rectifying the excesses of our “old normal way of life” that is so unfair and unjust that many clamor to bring back in the face of the “new normal” that is still far from what is just and true.

One downside for me with Bagman is the excessive use of foul language, one of the worst “new normal” introduced to our society four years before COVID-19 came. The series could have been more effective and compelling minus those p*@#&^_!

See it for yourself. Enjoy and reflect the series.

More power to the people behind Bagman!

From Esquire Philippines.

Sa tuwing umuulan…

Lawiswis Ng Salita ni P. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Ika-24 ng Hulyo 2021
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com
Sa tuwing umuulan,
unan at higaan ating tinutunguhan
lahat ang hanap ay kapahingahan
sa gitna ng panahong malamig
at kay inam ipahinga pagod na
katawan at isipan habang may 
ilan sa ating ay walang masilungan
walang uuwiang kama na malamig
ni upuang mahalumigmig
habang ang iba naman
lagaslas ng ulan sa loob at
labas ng tahanan ay pareho lang
dahil sa butas butas na bubungan
barong-barong na tirahan.
Sa tuwing umuulan,
mga tiyan at sikmura
mabilis kumalam kahit 
puno ng laman
kaya naman kay raming dahilan
tumungo sa kalan at magluto
ng mga pagkaing masarap
tikman tuwing umuulan
pinaiinit nanlalamig na katawan
nagigising mga kalamnan
habang mayroon namang ilan 
kape lang ang nakakayanan
maibsan lang lamig at kalam
ng tiyan na walang laman.
Sa tuwing umuulan
huwag sana natin makalimutan
ang maraming walang masilungan
ni matulugan dahil kanilang mga
pinananahanan nasira o lumubog
sa baha na dala ng ulan;
Sa tuwing umuulan
huwag sana natin makalimutan
ang maraming kapatid natin
wala nang damit at gamit
wala ding pagkaing mainit
ni tubig na malinis
pagkakasakit tinitiis
inaasam pagsikat ng araw kinabukasan.
Sa tuwing umuulan
tayo ay manalangin
upang ipagpasalamat mga
biyaya at pagpapala natin
na tayo ay magkakapiling
nakakatulog ng mahimbing
nakakakain ng mga paboritong lutuin;
tangi ko lang hiling
lubusin ating pananalangin
bukod sa pagtulong at pagdamay natin
dagdagan ating pandamdam
huwag maging manhid
iwasan pagpopost ng pagkain
dahil sadyang di maganda ang dating
sa panahon at buhay
ay napakakulimlim.

Pakanin nagugutom, huwag pakialaman nagluluto

Lawiswis ng Salita ni P. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Ika-14 ng Hulyo, 2021
Larawan mula sa inquirer.net, 11 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.
Unang katatawanan 
bunsod ng kayabangan nang 
paratangan na ang lugaw 
ay non-essential
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
kanilang sabihin
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
paano mapapakain
mga nagugutom na kapatid natin.

Directions where to go

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 07 July 2021
Homily for Wednesday in the 14th Week in Ordinary Time
Genesis 41:55-57;42:5-7,17-24  ><)))*>   Matthew 10:1-7
Photo by Jens Johnsson on Pexels.com

There are two essential questions each of us asks in our lifetime that give meaning to our lives and existence: “Who Am ?” and “Where am I going?”. Both questions go hand in hand even if their answers unfold or evolve through time because the directions we take in life flow from how we have known ourselves (identity).

But of the two questions, it is the second one that we keep asking, thinking it is easier to answer that so often, we take many directions in life without much reflections.

And prayers.

Today our readings speak about “going”, directions from God that we must take in life, inviting us to pray and reflect about the many directions we have taken in life.

From the beautiful story of Joseph the “dreamer” in the Old Testament to Jesus in our gospel, God gives us directions, telling us where to go to find fulfillment and fulness in life.

Photo by author, Egypt, 2019.

When hunger came to be felt throughout the land of Egypt and the people cried to Pharaoh for bread, Pharaoh directed all the Egyptians to go to Joseph and do whatever he told them.

Genesis 41:55

Go to Joseph…

God directs us to go find people of credibility and integrity who will mold us into better persons by discovering our true selves, harnessing our talents, learning and growing from our mistakes and painful past.

Here we see the need to have a true friend, a good spiritual director, a faithful co-journeyer in life who can nourish us with their holiness and spirituality, positive outlook in life, maturity and sincerity.

The other day I came across an anecdote from the late Filipino taipan John Gokongwei who claimed that the most important decision one has to make in life is choosing the person to marry because your spouse is your lifetime partner with whom you shall make your dreams come true, clarifying things for you when there are uncertainties and doubts, showing you other perspectives to consider, and one who would always stand and believe in you.

That’s is very true!

God speaks and comes to us most of the time through people he sends us like family and friends, colleagues and superiors, even strangers and people we hardly know.

Important thing is for us to be open not only to learning new things but to simply meeting people because life is about interacting with persons. See that the author of Genesis narrated how the Pharaoh told the Egyptians to “go to Joseph and do whatever he told them.”

Photo by author, view from temple of Jerusalem, 2017.

Jesus sent out these Twelve after instructing them thus, “Do not go into pagan territory or enter a Samaritan town. Go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”

Matthew 10:5-6

Go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.

This is the most striking but also most beautiful direction of God that he sent us Jesus Christ our Savior: to go and search for the lost, the weak and sick, the forgotten and those in the margins. We find God most among those people.

This direction of God is also a call to service, to a loving charity to share and bring his Son Jesus Christ among the poor and rejected.

It is among the poor that we find Jesus because whenever we come to them sharing Jesus, we are surprised to find out that the Lord has been with them – also waiting for us to meet him among them! And that is when grace happens and blessings abound: the Christ among the marginalized affirming the Christ in those serving and proclaiming his gospel.

That is heaven, union with God who directs us to go and share life, to have life in its fullness.

From the FB post by Julian Arguilla, 05 July 2021.

This brings us to the heroism of the 50 soldiers who died in the plane crash last July 4 in Patikul, Sulu.

One of those who perished there is an alumnus of Our Lady of Fatima University’s College of Medicine, Capt. Dr. Nigel Emeterio of Batch 2015.

From what I have gathered among some people in the University and those who have known him and his wife who is pregnant with their second baby, Capt. Dr. Nigel was a “fearless fighter in life” who have selflessly given himself to everyone since medical school, helping friends and strangers alike in every way he could.

He had always wanted to serve in the Philippine Air Force and was the flight surgeon of the the C-130 that crashed in Sulu last Sunday while transporting troops from Cagayan de Oro City.

As a flight surgeon of the Air Force, Capt. Dr. Nigel was not only at the forefront of the government campaign against terrorists.

The young military doctor is also a medical frontliner against COVID-19 when the pandemic struck early last year, serving people in remote areas of the country being served by the Philippine Air Force.

In him we find the truth that life is not measured in years but the life in years. Though he died so young at the age of 30, Capt. Dr. Nigel had lived life to the fullest. In his six years of being a doctor, he had served and saved so many lives mostly those from the margins of the society.

He had lived life to the fullest most of all with his love not only for the people but most of all to his family, especially his wife, Dr. Dana who was also a classmate at Fatima University. She is now pregnant with their second child.

From the FB post by Julian Arguilla, 05 July 2021.

I have not talked to his widow but from the screen grabs of his posts to her shared with me by their friends, the more I admired this Capt. Dr. Nigel who had followed God’s directions in life.

His messages to his wife who is also a Doctor are filled with love and respect, hopes and dreams in the future.

Most of all, Capt. Dr. Nigel was fond of speaking about the beauty of life he had found in her and their first child, his gratitude for her love and support, and “after a year of prayers”, for the gift of a second baby.

Here is a man in touch with God, who followed the Lord and Master in serving the poor, who went to follow the divine direction to go and marry his wife to raise a family.

Last Sunday, Capt. Dr. Nigel was again sent to go as flight surgeon of some 90+ troops and civilian volunteers to fight terrorists in Sulu.

Like in his previous missions of saving lives, Capt. Dr. Nigel followed orders.

Their plane crashed and exploded after missing the airport.

Though they did not make it to their destination, surely, Capt. Dr. Nigel and the soldiers and civilians with him must have found fullness of life, now in the presence of God where we shall all go in the end.

It was a mission well-accomplished in the Lord.

Eternal rest grant unto Capt. Dr. Nigel, and companions, O Lord;
May your perpetual light shine upon them.
Amen.
From the FB post by Julian Arguilla, 05 July 2021.

*Please do pray also for those wounded, for those left behind by the casualties of this accident, their friends and colleagues as well as for our military men and women who serve selflessly our country, always going wherever the Lord directs them.

Praying for those sent away

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Memorial of the First Martyrs of Rome, 30 June 2021
Genesis 21:5, 8-20   ><)))*>  +  <*(((><   Matthew 8:28-34
First Martyrs of Rome, from Pinterest.com.
You touched my heart so much, 
God our loving Father
as your words spoke today
of people being sent away:
Sarah noticed the son 
whom Hagar the Egyptian 
had borne to Abraham
playing with her son Isaac;
so she demanded of Abraham:
"Drive that slave and her son!
No son of of that slave is going to share
the inheritance with my son Isaac!"
(Genesis 21:9-10)
Abraham was greatly distressed
and so am I, Lord, when I remember 
and think of those many people  
driven away, sent home or so far away 
due to anger and jealousy, 
hatred and modern forms of slavery
as well as sometimes for reasons of 
inefficiency and deficiencies.
Have mercy on us, O Lord
when we find it so easy 
to drive people away 
without realizing 
for every person sent home
or driven away
with nowhere to go
not only a job or education is lost
but most of all,
we deprive them of life and future.
And that is why we thank you O God,
in taking care of Hagar and Ishmael
after they were sent away
like those many others in our own time
sent away without the basic necessities
and worse victims of human trafficking;
We beg you, dear Father,
like Jesus in the gospel
may he set us free from the evils that
bound us today when we see more
the value of things and money
than of every person.
May the first martyrs of Rome
pray for us to be firm in standing
for the value of every person.
Amen.

The silent works of God

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B, 13 June 2021
Ezequiel 17:22-24 ><}}}'> 2 Corinthians 5:6-10 ><}}}'> Mark 4:26-34
SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA – JUNE 03: Yuka Saso of the Philippines hits an approach shot on the 17th hole fairway during the first round of the 76th U.S. Women’s Open Championship at The Olympic Club on June 03, 2021 in San Francisco, California. Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images/AFP (Photo by Sean M. Haffey / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP)
AMERICA’S GOT TALENT — Episode 1602 — Pictured: Nightbirde — (Photo by: Trae Patton/NBC)

Two great women made me cry this week: our very own Yuka Saso who made history as the country’s first major golf tournament winner after she bagged with much finesse and style the 2021 Women’s Open title in San Francisco, California.

And second was Nightbirde, a cancer patient who mesmerized us a few nights ago with her talent – and joyful disposition as a cancer patient competing at “America’s Got Talent”.

What I like with both women is their authenticity – Yuka with her grit at a very young age pursuing her dream, Nightbirde with her radiance appreciating life despite the threats of cancer.

But most of all, both admitted how God has always been behind them, silently working in their lives, fulfilling their dreams!

It is so touching to hear stories of accomplished people like Yuka and Nightbirde who are very talented, so driven yet humbly recognizing God as the very reason for who they are and where they are now.

God at the center stage of life

Yuka and Nightbirde are two modern parables who show us how true are the teachings of Jesus this Sunday as we finally dive into the Ordinary Time with St. Mark as our guide.

After celebrating two major feasts of the Lord these past two consecutive Sundays, we find the mystery of Jesus slowly unfolding among the people who have started following him after hearing him speak and heal many of the sick.

At the same time, St. Mark is slowly introducing us at this part of his gospel the start of the “trial” of Jesus by his enemies who have began to look at him with suspicion and jealousy, accusing him of blasphemy and contempt for the Law.

Caught at the middle of the controversy are the crowds and his disciples – including us today – who have silently followed Jesus. In these coming Sundays, we shall see and hear more stories of the teachings and workings of Jesus, challenging us to take sides, to make a stand like Yuka and Nightbirde that “it is the Lord!” (Jn.21:7) who is at the center stage of our lives, silently working for our own good.

Jesus said to the crowds: “This is how it is with the kingdom of God; it is as if a man were to scatter seed on the land and would sleep and rise night and day and through it all the seed would sprout and grow, he knows not how. Of its own accord the land yields fruit, first the blade, then the ear, then the full in the ear. And when the grain is ripe, he wields the sickle at once, for the harvest has come.”

Mark 4:26-29
“The Sower” by Van Gogh from Wikipedia commons.org.

God is never absent nor distant from us in life.  
He is always at the center stage of our lives 
especially when we are going through tests, 
just like during an exam in the classroom!

In the two parables that he tells us today, Jesus describes the little beginnings of the kingdom of God like the seed. And in the littleness of this seed is found also the silence of God in transforming us in the same manner seeds grow into plants and crops that bear fruit.

Let us focus on the first parable that is so close to the hearts of the plantitos and plantitas among us. See Jesus vividly telling us how in life God takes all the initiatives, all the “doing” in silence. God is never absent nor distant from us in life. He is always at the center stage of our lives especially when we are going through tests, just like during an exam in the classroom.

Remember how during exams when our classroom is most silent, everybody scratching his/her head, wracking our brains while hurdling the exams while our teachers quietly watch us? They do not give us the answers for the exam for it is part of our learning process but it is during that time when they work hardest, watching over us.

The same with God when we go through tests in life. He is always present and even closest with us as exemplified with Christ’s self-offering on the Cross. That is the meaning of the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart we celebrated Friday.

Of course, like that sower or farmer, we still have to do our very best, we have to work hard in cultivating the soil, watering the crops but aside from that, there is nothing else we can do but to patiently wait in silence, trusting in the good quality of seeds we have sown. We do not know how the seed we scattered would sprout and grow but deep inside us, we believe, we know of its good quality that soon enough, it would be harvest time when the grain is ripe.

We may not say it but unconsciously deep in our hearts we know, something good is going to happen for God does everything good. All the more because the seed he had sown in us is his Son, Jesus Christ, the Word who became flesh. How could things not turn out good if we have the bestest seed of all, Jesus Christ?!

We just have to believe and be convinced of his love for us.

Photo by author, Pulilan, Bulacan, 2020.

Hope. And be surprised!

Brothers and sisters: We are always courageous, although we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight.

2 Corinthians 5:6

What a beautiful a reminder from the great Apostle, St. Paul who wrote this letter under severe personal tests and trials from the Corinthians who have resorted to some nasty talks against him instigated in part by some missionaries who sowed confusions about the gospel of Christ.

This is the most personal of all the letters by St. Paul as he bared his very soul after being hurt by the Corinthians who could only see the surface and external things of himself without knowing his great sufferings for them.

That is what we must all try as disciples of the Lord: like St. Paul, we have to believe first in Jesus in order to see him and his glory. We walk by faith, not by sight wherein we live in vibrant hope in God that while everything seems to be too dark and difficult to understand, he is doing something within us that would transform us into better persons after these trials.

Photo by Mr. Jim Marpa, 2018.

Like the power inside the seed being harnessed through time – nobody knows except God almighty what is happening inside. It just happens that one day, we are so amazed at how big and tall a tree has become considering it started from the minute piece of seed like what the Lord had promised Ezekiel in the first reading.

Thus says the Lord God: I, too, will take from the crest of the cedar, from its topmost branches tear off a tender shoot, and plant it on high and lofty mountain… And all the trees of the field shall know that I, the Lord, bring low the high tree, lift high the lowly tree, wither up the green tree, and make the withered tree bloom. As I, the Lord, have spoken, so will I do.

Ezekiel 17:22, 24

We are journeying in faith without seeing especially in this time of the pandemic. Our time is that of patience and courage. Most of all, of hope.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI said in Spe Salvi #27, “In this sense it is true that anyone who does not know God, even though he may entertain all kinds of hopes, is ultimately without hope, without the great hope that sustains the whole of life (cf. Eph 2:12). Man’s great, true hope which holds firm in spite of all disappointments can only be God—God who has loved us and who continues to love us “to the end,” until all “is accomplished” (cf. Jn 13:1 and 19:30).”

Sometimes, even if we try our very best, things do not turn out as we expected, exactly like what most farmers experience after sowing their seeds. When crops fail, they scatter seeds again the following season because they believe in being surprised by God, not by sheer luck.

They choose to believe, to have faith in God who is our present and our future in Jesus Christ who lives in us, whether in good times or in bad.

Going back to Nightbirde, recall how she entered the stage so cool and relaxed, smiling as she answered questions when she confidently declared being a cancer patient. When asked why all the smiles and joy radiating in her, she simply said, “You can’t wait until life isn’t hard anymore before you decide to be happy.”

Whoa!

And when she sang until Simon hit the golden buzzer… for a brief moment, I felt God passing by or even stopping by my computer screen, saying hello to me, reminding me about my many complaints in life until I saw Nightbirde. Indeed, the French poet Charles Péguy was right: hope is God’s favorite virtue because it always surprises him.

Like what Nightbirde and Yuka did to us last week.

Let God surprise you this week by doing what you like best. Do not worry. God will do the rest.

A blessed Sunday to everyone! Amen.

“Caritas Christi urget nos”

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Saturday, Solemnity of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, 12 June 2021
2 Corithians 5:14-21   ><)))'>  +  <'(((><   Luke 2:41-51

Praise and glory to you, O God our loving Father for your immense love for us. Yesterday we celebrated the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus your Son who revealed to us the boundless love you have for us all as your beloved children.

But, such great is your love for us, God our Father, that today, we celebrate the Solemnity of the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of your Son Jesus Christ who gave her to us to be our Mother too!

All for your love for us!

What a wonderful twin celebrations of your love for us which must also be the main reason, the very essence of everything in our existence. St. Paul expressed it so well in today’s first reading, “The love of Christ urges us” (Caritas Christi urget nos, 2Cor.5:14).

Love is the very reason, the only reason why you have created us, why you have saved us, why you have given us your Son, why he had given himself for us.

Forgive us when we refuse to accept and recognize, and most of all, when we refuse to share your great love for us with others.

Teach us to be like the Blessed Virgin Mary whose heart is so inflamed with great love to you and her Son Jesus Christ.

Open our hearts to welcome you always, Lord.

Dwell in our hearts, reign in our hearts, dear Jesus, so that we may work for peace, for reconciliation in ourselves with the Father, with our family and friends, and with our countrymen. Help us to heed these beautiful words of St. Paul today:

So we are ambassadors for Christ,
as if God were appealing through us.
We implore you on behalf of Christ,
be reconciled to God.
For our sake
 he made him to be sin who did not know sin,
so that we might become the righteousness of God in him.
(2 Corinthians 5:20-21)

Like Mary, along with Joseph, may we always find our way back to God our Father when they decided to go back to Jerusalem to look for the missing child Jesus. And once found, may we imitate Mary who “kept all these things in her heart” (Lk.2:51). Surely, you must have told her many other things, Lord, but most of all, it was YOU whom she must have kept and treasured in her heart!

And that is why on this most crucial part of our history as the only Christian nation for 500 years in this part of the world deeply caught in all kinds of crises especially moral decadence in governance despite our celebration of 123 years of Independence from foreign rule, help us to consecrate our nation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary of the Blessed Virgin Mary so that your love Jesus Christ may impel us to never waver in our efforts for true reconciliation, for real transformation to be truly a people dedicated to God our Father. Amen.