“Somewhere Over the Rainbow” by Judy Garland (1939)

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Music by Fr. Nick F. Lalog II, 20 June 2021
Photo by Ms. Anne Ramos, a rainbow appeared during our Blessed Sacrament procession at the start of the lockdown, 22 March 2020, in our former parish at Bagbabuin, Sta. Maria, Bulacan.

Movies are great sources of good music. We cite two movies today for our featured Sunday music in relation with our Gospel when Jesus pacified a violent storm while they were crossing the Lake of Galilee in the middle of the night (https://lordmychef.com/2021/06/19/jesus-amid-our-storms-in-life/).

From the 1939 classic film The Wizard of Oz sang by Ms. Judy Garland which also became her signature song, Over the Rainbow that was also featured by Hong Kong film director John Woo in the 1997 action movie Face/Off starring John Travolta and Nicolas Cage.

While praying over the gospel this past week, I remembered Woo explaining why he inserted the music Over the Rainbow in the violent gunfight scene of Face/Off between Travolta and Cage where Nicolas placed a headset on “his” son as they shoot out with the FBI:

“When I was young my life was very difficult — almost like a living hell. But when I heard Judy Garland sing this in The Wizard Of Oz, I suddenly felt as if I was on the other side of the rainbow, in heaven, in a place full of hope. When I used it in Face/Off, it was to say thanks for showing me that the world is still full of beauty.”

John Woo, 24 April 2014, https://www.empireonline.com/movies/features/john-woo-personal-playlist/

Woo is such a great director that aside from his beautiful choices of music for his movies, he always used symbolisms like white doves in trying to show the good side of life no matter how violent and bad is the scene or story.

And that is the meaning of our gospel this Sunday: there will always be a lot of darkness and storms in our lives that sometimes we feel and think God does not seem to care like when Jesus was sleeping soundly at the stern of their boat during a squall in the middle of the night as they cross the lake. His silence does not mean he does not care; moreover, he is silent because he had won over a long time ago at his Cross every evil and suffering in this life!

He was the first one to pass “over the rainbow” who now assures us of reaching the shores of safety and peace, joy and fulfillment with him and in him. Hence, this Sunday let us cultivate an intimacy in Christ to be reconciled with God our Father who alone is our surety in this life who had promised Noah with a sign of the rainbow as an assurance he shall never destroy earth.

In the movie Face/Off, Woo masterfully sequenced the song playing at the high point of the gunfight when Nicolas Cage’s “son” was caught in the cross fires:

 Somewhere over the rainbow way up high
There's a land that I heard of once in a lullaby
Somewhere over the rainbow skies are blue
And the dreams that you dare to dream really do come true

Someday I'll wish upon a star
And wake up where the clouds are far
Behind me
Where troubles melt like lemon drops
Away above the chimney tops
That's where you'll find me

Try watching Face/Off this Father’s Day and reflect on Judy’s music to find faith in God anew that after all these storms in life during the pandemic, there is a beautiful rainbow to delight us.

*We have no intentions of infringing the copyrights of the music except to share its beautiful message. Thank you.

Jesus amid our storms in life

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B, 20 June 2021
Job 38:1, 8-11 ><}}}'> 2 Corinthians 5:14-17 ><}}}'> Mark 4:35-41
Photo from vaticannews.va.

More than a year ago in March, Pope Francis delivered an extraordinary Urbi et Orbi Message before an empty St. Peter’s Square reflecting on the gospel we heard today when COVID-19 began to wreck havoc upon us, claiming about 3.85 million deaths worldwide as per latest data show.

We are still in the same darkness, in the same storm but much have already changed since the pandemic first struck us last year. Jesus had calmed the seas and the storms with some relief offered by vaccines. Our journey continues as we cross this sea of the pandemic to safer shores.

Like the Pope’s Message last year, we must continue to call and trust in the Lord but at the same time, realize the deeper spiritual meaning of this pandemic, of the need to have a more intimate relationship with God through Jesus.

On that day, as evening drew on, Jesus said to his disciples: “Let us cross to the other side.” Leaving the crowd, they took Jesus with them in the boat just as he was. And other boats were with him. A violent squall came up and waves were breaking over the boat, so that it was already filling up.

Mark 4:35-37

Life is a constant crossing of the sea in darkness with Jesus.


See that in our journey in life, 
it is when evening comes, 
when there is darkness 
that Jesus invites us to come with him to cross the sea.
When there are problems and crisis in life, 
that is when Jesus calls us 
to get to the other side of life's situation.
On his side.  

I love that imagery painted to us by St. Mark in our gospel today, from a casual preaching last week out in the open field with the warm sun shining, Jesus invited his disciples when it was getting dark to cross to the other side of the Lake of Galilee.

Life is a journey that when evening approaches, our instinct is to find a safe place to spend the night. But, today St. Mark shows us a more appropriate imagery of life as a journey which is like crossing the sea.

See that in our journey in life, it is when evening comes, when there is darkness that Jesus invites us to come with him to cross the sea. When there are problems and crisis in life, that is when Jesus calls us to get to the other side of life’s situation. On his side.

And what a beautiful expression we have in “to cross to the other side”! There is always the cross to carry in this life that is like the sea, the uncertainty from our usual sureties like family and friends, jobs, and the status quo because Jesus wants us to have him alone as our surety in life.

A few years ago a Malaysian Air plane perished at sea; despite all the modern technologies, it has not been found yet. It is a reminder to us all of how vast is our world with so much mysteries impossible for humans to master or even fully understand.

Yet, our gospel and first reading assure us that though the world is awesome with great wonders and occurrences, its Creator – GOD – is more awesome for he alone has complete control over nature, especially the sea which is the most difficult of all!

The Lord addressed Job out of the storm and said: Who shut within the doors the sea, when it burst forth from the womb? When I set limits for it and fastened the bar of its door, and said: Thus far shall you come but no farther; and here shall your proud waves be stilled!

Job 38:1, 8, 10-11
Photo by Mr. Chester Ocampo, off the coast of Catanduanes, 2017.

Our awesome world, more awesome God.

St. Mark’s description of the situation inside the boat with Jesus asleep in the middle of a violent storm at sea is very surprising that seems to be exaggerated like in the movies for dramatic effects not to entertain us but to remind us of that basic reality found in his entire gospel account that Christ came to usher in a new world where never again shall sin and death prevail over us.

Recall the other scenes he would later show Jesus exercising total control over the sea like when he walked on water amid a storm (Mk.6:45ff) and ordered a legion of demons to enter a herd of swine that drowned into the sea (Mk.5:13).

As the Son of God, Jesus has total sovereignty over the sea that symbolized the realm of evil, exorcising it to free us from its clutches when he finally died on the cross.

In the first reading, we heard the fictional story of Job being assured by God who got everything under control, even the mighty sea, putting a limit by stilling its proud waves.

In our gospel, we see the reality of God in Jesus Christ calming the storm at sea.

Jesus was in the stern, asleep on a cushion. They woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” He woke up, rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Quiet! Be still!” The wind ceased and there was great calm. Then he asked them, “Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?”

Mark 4:38-40
Photo by author, crossing the Sea (Lake) of Galilee, May 2019.

Notice Jesus was sleeping soundly, not disturbed at all neither by the storm with its giant waves that tossed their boat nor the commotion and yelling of his disciples. He was so composed and serene.

The same scene we shall see again when St. Mark tells us how on the night of Holy Thursday when Jesus was betrayed and arrested to be tried by members of the Sanhedrin. It was all dark with Christ so composed and relaxed answering the questions of his enemies while outside was Peter so afraid, denying the Lord thrice while the rest of the apostles went hiding out of fear for their lives.

What a beautiful imagery of our Lord and of us!

Here is Jesus so composed and serene as always while us on panic mode, so terrified, even reproaching God – “do you not care that we are perishing?” – when our lives are threatened as if God does not care at all.

When we look back to last year, it was very frightening like that situation the disciples were into: nobody knew exactly the nature of COVID-19, without any known cure and method of treatment, people were dying daily, and life was at a standstill due to the lockdown.

But, with faith in God, we have moved on. Some weddings finally pushed through, students went back to school while others dared to venture into new businesses and other endeavors, crossing the sea so to speak amid the darkness. Those who got married last year now have their first born while students who enrolled last year have graduated and we who risked to move on are now better off than before.

Had we waited for the pandemic to end before deciding to enroll back in school or find a job or get married, we would surely be into great losses for there is still the pandemic that will most likely remain until 2022 or beyond.

As we have reflected last week, Jesus continues to work in silence in us, with us and for us, making us grow like the tiny seed. He never abandons us especially in times of great trials. This we have proven when we dared to venture in life during this pandemic.

Let us entrust to him our very lives for he alone has total sovereignty in this world and in this life for he himself is life – more powerful than any storm who has the whole world, especially the seas, in his hand.

A life centered in Jesus


We cannot wait for things to get better, 
for the pandemic to end, 
for us to be well physically, emotionally and financially.  
It is right in the middle of a storm 
when we are expected to make a stand for Christ, 
to rely on him who is most often silently journeying with us.

After Jesus had pacified the storm and the sea, St. Mark briefly ended our gospel story by telling us how the disciples “were filled with great awe and said to one another, ‘Who then is this whom even wind and sea obey?'”(Mk.4:41).

More than the stories of the Lord’s teachings and miracles, St. Mark wants us to make a stand for Jesus, to center our lives in him as we journey in this life, whether in the ordinariness of parables, the safety of the open field and high mountains, or the dangers and perils of the sea at night, with or without storms.

Remember Nightbirde last week who said, “You can’t wait until life isn’t hard anymore before you decide to be happy.” We cannot wait for things to get better, for the pandemic to end, for us to be well physically, emotionally and financially. It is right in the middle of a storm when we are expected to make a stand for Christ, to rely on him who is most often silently journeying with us as St. Paul tells us in the second reading.

Brothers and sisters: The love of Christ impels us… So whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come.

2 Corinthians 5:14, 17

Now more than ever in our modern history that the whole world needs a lot of healing and reconciliation. But unlike the proposals of experts, it is not merely a reconciliation of peoples with one another. We do not need a “new normal” which is a misnomer because a norm does not change. What is true and good and fair would always be true and good and fair at all times.

That is what we need, to bring back the true normal in life which is a reconciliation of every person with God so that we may see our world in a more wholistic sense that we become more just and humane.

There can be no true reconciliation among peoples unless there is first of all our reconciliation with God in Jesus Christ so that we become in him a new creation, new persons filled with his love and mercy, justice and kindness. Of course, there will still be many storms as we cross the many seas of our lives but they will be less frightening if we have Christ on board, even if he is soundly asleep. Amen.

Have a bright and sunny week ahead!

Photo by Fr. Pop Dela Cruz, Binuangan Is., Obando, Bulacan, May 2021.

Learning in time of COVID-19

Homily by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Baccalaureate Mass, Basic Education Department
Our Lady of Fatima University, 16 June 2021
From IgnitedToInspire.com

Congratulations! Today, everyone deserves a warm round of applause, a pat on the shoulder and perhaps, a little treat after our Mass for making it through the Academic Year of the pandemic, 2020-2021.

Most likely while you were chilln’ after your final exams last Wednesday evening, you have seen and heard this great woman of America’s Got Talent, Nightbirde who mesmerized us not only with her voice but most of all with her infectious joy and presence on the stage.

Her words last week are the most quoted in social media even in our Masses last Sunday: “You can’t wait until life isn’t hard anymore before you decide to be happy.”

She connected so well with us because there is a little Nightbirde in each one of us when we look back to this past academic year when the pandemic happened before we ended classes last year and did not have any Baccalaureate Mass in our University.

Despite the uncertainties and fears and apprehensions due to COVID-19 , we decided to be happy.

We did not wait “until life isn’t hard anymore” to go back to school despite the enormous challenges and adjustments we all have to go through: parents, teachers and faculty, University admin, and most especially you, our dear students.

And if there is one most important lesson we have learned in this past academic year of the pandemic, it is GOD.

Yes!

Like Nightbirde, we have realized how God never abandoned us, always with us, loving us, silently working for us even with just 2% chance of surviving cancer or COVID or passing an exam.

St. Paul said it so well in our first reading:

Moreover, God is able to make every grace abundant for you, so that in all things, always having all you need, you may have an abundance for every good work. You are being enriched in every way for all generosity, which through us produces thanksgiving to God.

2 Corinthians 9:8, 11

The Lord never failed in providing us with all that we need, even during this pandemic.

Let us be open to more of his grace by trusting him more, and sharing his blessings with others.

Dare to “rise to the top” amid the pandemic and other challenges in life!



We did not wait 
"until life isn't hard anymore" 
to go back to school 
despite the enormous challenges 
and adjustments we all have to go through:  
parents, teachers and faculty, 
University admin, and most especially you, 
our dear students.  

From Our Lady of Fatima University/FB.

God never abandoned us this year. We are still alive and we are now moving up, advancing in our pursuit for education. Some of us may have lost a loved one, others were left behind due to many reasons but we celebrate today our achievements made possible by God.

He is the most important lesson we have learned this year of COVID-19: only God suffices. Without God, we are nothing.

What would our lives be today if we all waited last year for the pandemic to be over to resume classes?

And the good news is, God is assuring us today in this Baccalaureate Mass that he shall be blessing you more this coming academic year 2021-2022.

There will surely be a lot of challenges awaiting us, even more difficult but rest assured that if you were able to complete your Prep or Kindergarten, Elementary or Junior High and Senior High stage, there is nothing you cannot do now!

Lahat kakayanin ninyo huwag lang kayong bibitiw sa Diyos!

God has beautiful plans for you despite this pandemic. Persevere and remain in him.

Study hard, work harder, pray hardest!

I have one assignment to give you my dear students as you go on your academic break this June: continue studying, continue praying.

Try to get a copy of a book called “Imitatio Christi” or the Imitation of Christ written around the years 1418-1427 by the German-Dutch monk named Thomas á Kempis.

Don’t worry… it is available in the internet and it is an excellent devotional book. You won’t regret reading it. In fact, next to the Bible, the Imitatio Christi is the other leading devotional book in Christianity.

His reflections are very timely and relevant especially in this time of COVID when he said that what matters most is that we love the Giver – God – and not the gift because God is the source of all good things in life.

A wise lover values not so much the gift of the lover, as the love of the giver. He esteems the affection above the gift, and values every gift far below the Beloved. A noble lover is not content with a gift, but desires Myself above all gifts. 

Imitation of Christ, Book III, Part VI, “Of the proving of the true lover” by Thomas á Kempis (d. 1471)

Study hard, 
work harder, 
pray hardest!

From Pinterest.com

Do not forget amid the many gifts we have received this year of pandemic is the giver of these gifts, God.

When you have God, you have everything. And you can do everything.

Fall in love with God.

So many times in our lives especially when we are still young and strong, we forget God, wasting our lives and precious time with less important things.

We do not realize that God alone is the one whom we must always seek and have in life because he alone loves us truly to whom alone we must always turn to.

To fall in love with God is to cultivate a prayer life, to be a man or woman of prayer.

When you love somebody, you always talk to that person.

If you love God, then you will always pray.

God loves you very much. He believes in you. He knows what you need even before you ask him.

What we do not know is what God wants from us. That is why we have to pray in order to learn what are the plans of God for us this coming academic year 2021-2022.

“When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners so that others may see them. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. When you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. Your Father who sees in secret will repay you.”

Matthew 6:5-6

God is the best and most loving teacher of all. His lessons are always practical and personal. That is the meaning of “entering your inner room” – go into your heart and there you shall meet God, always waiting for you, eager to listen to you and speak to you about his love and plans for you.

He only has one lesson plan: love, love, love.

See how during the pandemic even the most powerful nations were crippled by COVID-19. Even until now these vaccines we have are not an assurance of being safe from the virus. We do not even know its other side effects.

We still have to hurdle so many problems this year.

Problem is we refuse to see that this pandemic is also spiritual in nature, not just medical and social.

Let us learn our lesson very well – God.

And so, I ask you again, my dear students to work hard, study harder and pray hardest this coming Academic Year 2021-2022 to achieve your dreams and realize God’s great plans for you in the future, now. Amen.

God bless you all!

Photo by Mr. Red Santiago of his son praying in our former parish at Bagbaguin, Sta. Maria, Bulacan, 2019.

Prayer to not shrink

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday in the Seventh Week of Easter, 18 May 2021
Acts 20:17-27   ><)))*> + ><)))*> + ><)))*>   John 17:1-11
Photo by Mr. Red Santiago of his son, 2019.

God our loving Father, we thank you in giving us St. Paul and all the other saints who inspire us in dealing with life’s many troubles and challenges especially in this time of the pandemic. How great are his words – and courage – in telling “the presbyters of Ephesus” of the great trials coming his way that he might never see them again.

"You know how I lived among you
the whole time from the day I first came
to the province of Asia.  I served the Lord
with all humility and with tears and trials 
that came to me because of the plots of the Jews,
and I did not at all shrink from telling you
what was for your benefit, or from teaching
you in public or in your homes."
(Acts 20:18-20)

Twice St. Paul mentioned to them, “I did not at all shrink”: what an amazing gift and grace of courage! He never chickened out in proclaiming Christ’s gospel of salvation, boldly admitting to everyone his repentance to God in persecuting the Christians before while at the same time proudly declaring his deep faith in Jesus in words and in deeds.

Most of all, St. Paul gallantly faced the realities of life like rejection and other hardships most especially of death, telling the Ephesians they would never meet again (v.25) as he bid them goodbye for Jerusalem that led him to his trial in Rome.

Too often, O Lord, we are afraid to seriously discuss or even entertain thoughts of our death, of our finiteness not only because we are afraid of dying but mostly because we are also afraid of facing the harsh realities of our selves — that we have been wasting our time, we have been remiss with our duties and responsibilities.

And yes, we have shrunk from many instances when we should have stood for what is right and good, for what is fair and just.

Worst, we have left you, dear God and failed to do good, choosing to sin than be loving and kind, and forgiving.

May we hold on always to your High Priestly prayer for us, Lord Jesus that like you, may we realize that the path to glory is always the way of the Cross.

We pray most especially for those who are stuck in situations they know so well as not proper and good; give them the grace and chance to correct their lives, to repent for their sins and return to you and their loved ones.

We pray for those we look up to who do not shrink but deep inside are so hard pressed with the many challenges of remaining upright and holy.

Keep us faithful to you, O Lord, now and forever. Amen.

Photo by Onnye on Pexels.com

Fatima in time of COVID-19

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday in the Sixth Week of Easter, Memorial of Our Lady of Fatima, 13 May 2021
Acts 1:12-14   ><}}}*> + ><}}}*> + ><}}}*>   Luke 1:39-47

While this Memorial of Our Lady of Fatima was approaching, I was asking myself – consciously or unconsciously – “how many more Rosaries do we have to pray before this pandemic ends”?

Like you, I have been praying the Rosary primarily for the ending of this pandemic since it started last year. And it is not far-fetched that even before the Blessed Virgin Mary first appeared 104 years ago today at Fatima in Portugal, the people were most likely asking God in countless prayers and Rosaries too, to end the First World War that had started in 1914.

See some of the similarities of our time with that time 104 years ago when Mother Mary appeared to the three children of Fatima, asking them to remind the whole world to pray and be converted in her Son Jesus Christ:

  • 1917 was in the first two decades of the new century (20th), just like ours (21st) when COVID-19 was first detected in 2019.
  • In 1917, the world witnessed the fiercest and bloodiest large-scale war to ever happened in human history, World War I until it was followed shortly by World War II; at the start of the 21st century, we witnessed the a different kind of deadly war that is “faceless” and “borderless” with the 9/11 attacks as we continue to live daily under threats by another wide scale war and ongoing pocket wars in various parts of the globe.
  • In 1917, Communist Russia was threatening the world of “spreading its errors”; since 2010 or even earlier, the only remaining “Communist” country of China has been flexing its muscles in Asia and Africa to assert its power and dominance in the world.
The sanctuary of the Parish of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima seen through its glass door at night during the lockdown last year due to COVID-19.

The Relevance of Fatima

Both in 1917 and 2021, God’s response to our cries and pleas is still the Our Lady of Fatima because then and now, mankind had never heeded Jesus Christ’s calls to return to him and be converted: “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel” (Mk.1:15).

It does not matter how many Rosaries we pray or how many Masses we celebrate or how often we go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. The problem is not with God but with us who until now refuse to recognize the spiritual dimension of this pandemic.

Whatever solution we eventually find in ending COVID-19, most likely another pandemic or worldwide problem could occur if we continue to refuse in respecting life and every person as an image and likeness of God. Recall that when World War I ended in 1918 as promised by our Lady of Fatima, that same year started the Spanish flu pandemic that claimed about 50-M lives worldwide. Then in 1939, World War II started.

The Spanish flu and the World War II were not punishments from God; he does not punish because “God is love”, nothing evil and bad can come from him. Those things happened after the Fatima apparitions because of man’s refusal to heed Mary’s calls for prayers and conversion of peoples which is happening again in our own time.

Our Lady of Fatima consistently reminds us since 1917 her Son Jesus Christ’s teaching of the centrality of God in our lives through prayers and our daily conversion through humility and being like a child, trusting God completely like her.

More than a century ago, the Lord through his Mother, has been telling us the key to lasting peace in the world and in our very lives lies in our daily conversion, in our conformity to his life intimately united in the Father like the Blessed Virgin Mary.

It is a life of daily fiat – of faith in God, of letting his will be done in us! The Holy Rosary and the Sacraments are the means so we may bear fruits of love and holiness in our faith in God like Mary.

When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.”

Luke 1:41-45
Our Lady of Fatima at the National Shrine in Valenzuela, the first locally carved image of Fatima done in circa 50’s to 60’s.

True blessedness

For better and for worst, COVID-19 had truly changed our lives, teaching us that true blessedness is not found in money and things, nor in popularity and influence or other things that have become the benchmarks of everything that is good in this life.

In less than a year when everything stood still as COVID-19 ravaged earth with so many deaths, the pandemic had shown us what our Lady of Fatima has always been telling us since 1917: go back to God our Father through our Lord Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist and Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Mary believed and lived her faith in God. She was the first to receive the Good News of Jesus Christ by setting aside all her plans in life, her wedding to St. Joseph, of what people would say if found pregnant before they were actually married, and many other things to consider.

She abandoned herself to God completely that immediately after Gabriel had left her, she went in haste to visit her cousin Elizabeth in the hills of Judea not to help her nor verify her being pregnant but to share with her the Good News she had received (Jesus Christ) to show that God’s plan for them are closely linked even with their sons to be born with John being the forerunner of Jesus.

Thus, Mary became the perfect image and model of discipleship in Christ that at the start of his public ministry, she was the first to believe in his saving work when she interceded at a wedding in Cana.

Mary was also the first to believe in Christ’s Resurrection that she remained standing at the foot of his Cross on Good Friday. Last but not least as we have heard in our first reading today, Mary was the first to believe in the coming of the Holy Spirit that she accompanied the Apostles praying at Jerusalem on Pentecost day.

Our Lady of Fatima procession at the Fatima Shrine in Portugal, 2017. Photo from vaticannews.va.

The Challenge of Fatima in our time

Like Mary who appeared at Fatima in Portugal 104 years ago today, may we grow deeper in our faith in God by believing more in him than believing in the world or with our very selves.

In this time of COVID-19, may we bring unity to our family and community, church and nation, so that like the Blessed Mother we may help in strengthening the faith of one another, in believing in God by submitting ourselves to his holy will.

May we not waste time to avert another catastrophe – not as a punishment from God who does not punish – that when rooted can always be traced back to our selfishness and pride, lack of concern for others, and for playing gods who claim to know everything.

These were some of the reasons Mary appeared at Fatima in 1917 to bring us back to God through his Son Jesus Christ. After all the pains and losses we have gone through in this time of COVID-19, have we not still learned the need to be simple and humble?

Like Mary, let us believe more in God by being kind and charitable with one another so that sooner, we may finally end this pandemic. Amen.

Manatili

Lawiswis Ng Salita ni P. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Ika-04 ng Mayo 2021
Larawan kuha ng may-akda, takip-silim sa Pampanga, Enero 2021.
Sinabi mo sa amin Panginoon
huwag kaming mabalisa,
manalig sa Diyos 
at manalig din sa Iyo
dahil ikaw ang tunay na puno
at kami ang iyong mga sanga; 
kung kami'y mananatili
kami'y mamumunga ng sagana
kaya naman sa tuwina 
aming hiling at dasal 
sa Iyo huwag kaming bibitiw 
manatiling nakakapit 
kahit masakit 
hanggang aming masapit
inaasam naming langit.
Patuloy nawa kaming sa Iyo lumapit
 ano mang sakit aming ipagwalang kibit
upang manatili sa Iyong piling
lalo na't kapag dumarating
pag-aalinlangan aming mga hiling
at daing tila hindi Mo pinapansin
kahit mga ito sa Iyo ay makarating;
ipaunawa Mo sa amin
ang pananatili sa Iyong piling
ay pagsuko ng aming mga mithiin
at hangarin, baguhin
aming mga landasin
upang tuntunin at malasin
Iyong banal na kalooban
sa amin Iyong inilaan noon pa man.
Maraming pagkakataon
simula ng pandemya noong isang taon
nagkapatong-patong, suson-suson
mga problema at hirap aming sinuong
hanggang ngayon hindi kami makaahon 
tila nilalamon ng mga dambuhalang alon;
sa aming mahigpit na pagkapit
nagiging napaka-sakit
hindi namin lubos maisip itong sinapit 
kaya sana sa amin daglian kang lumapit
ibsan aming mga hapis at sakit
manatili at magsumakit
Iyong kalooban ay masaliksik
upang Iyong kapangyarihan maranasan
sa gitna ng aming kahinaan at kawalan. 

Paalala ng Banaba

Lawiswis ng Salita ni P. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Ika-30 ng Abril 2021
Larawan kuha ng may-akda sa Immaculate Conception School for Boys, Malolos City, 27 Abril 2021.
Tirik noon ang araw 
aking ramdam ang init at alinsangan
sa paradahan ng paaralan, 
nanunuyo lalamunan habang 
tagatak ang pawis, naiinis 
naiinip, kailan aalis
virus ng COVID-19 sa atin;
kaya hanggang sa gitna ng init
sumasagitsit sa isip at kamalayan
paghihirap nating pinagdaraanan
nang ako'y maginhawahan sa malamig na lilim
ng nakayungayong mga dahon at sanga ng Banaba;
sa aking paglingon patingala
ako ay namangha at nabighani
mga lilang bulaklak namumukadkad
handog ay kagalakan at kapahingahan.
Luminga-linga pa ako sa kapaligiran
saka lamang napagmasdan
isa pang puno ng Banaba nalampasan
hitik sa mga bulaklak niyang lila
naroon din sa bukana ng paaralan
nagpaparamdam ng mahalagang aral
matutunan sa pandemyang pinagdaraanan:
kung kailan kainitan,
walang patak ng ulan
saka ipinagyayabang nitong Banaba
angking kagandahan at kabutihan
maging kahusayan dapat nating tularan
sa panahon ng kagipitan, doon lumalabas
tunay nating kulay -
ikaw ba'y matamlay at mapusyaw
at hindi makagalaw?
Alalahanin pangangaral ni Hesus nating mahal,
"At bakit kayo nababagabag tungkol sa pananamit?
Isipin ninyo kung paanong sumisibol
mga bulaklak sa parang, hindi nagpapagal
ni humahabi man; maging si Solomon
sa kanyang karangyaan hindi naramtan
ng gayong karinglan!
Kaya't huwag kayong mabalisa
sa inyong kakanin, iinumin o daramtin."
Madaling sabihin, mahirap gawin
lalo na sa marami sa atin sapin-sapin
suson-suson mga paghamon sa buhay
ngunit sa puno ng Banaba naroon
ating tugon:  magpakatatag sa pagkabaon sa lupa
paglipas ng taon uusbong mga dahon at bulaklak
dulot nitong bunga lunas sa maraming sakit at karamdaman.
Larawan kuha ng may-akda sa Immaculate Conception School for Boys, Malolos City, 27 Abril 2021.

Praying to gather those scattered

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday in the Fourth Week of Easter, 27 April 2021
Acts 11:19-26   ><)))'>  +  <'(((><   John 10:22-30
Photo by author, October 2020.

Your words today, O God our Father, speak both of scattering and of gathering: of how we must respond when the world scatters us and when we must join you to gather those scattered.

Those who had been scattered by the persecution 
that arose because of Stephen went as far as
Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch,
preaching the word to no one but Jews.
There were some Cypriots and Cyrenians among them,
however, who came to Antioch and began to speak 
to the Greeks as well, proclaiming the Lord Jesus.
The hand of the Lord was with them and a great number
who believed turned to the Lord.
(Acts 11:19-21)

Teach us to trust your amazing ways, dear God, when we are disturbed, when we are thrown off-balanced from our usual ways of doing things like when the early Church was persecuted in Jerusalem, it became a blessing in disguise and led to its quickly spreading to other parts of the known world.

But at the same time, help us realize that every time the world destabilizes and scatters us, let us take it also as our cue to gather one another closer to you.

Like Barnabas who was sent to Antioch to encourage and strengthen those early followers of Jesus Christ who were scattered even among many gentiles.

Most of all, let us go out of our way like Barnabas to find and gather those lost and scattered like Saul who was doubted with his conversion. Help us to bring home to you and to one another those who have been separated from us due to various reasons.

Let us be the voice of Jesus the Good Shepherd gathering the lost sheep into one flock.

Merciful Father, with so many problems and sufferings we have been going through with this pandemic that had scattered us literally and figuratively speaking, give us the grace to gather once again our family and friends, to let go of our many differences, and to forgive those who have wronged us through Christ our Lord. Amen.

My unforgettable characters of COVID-19, images of Christ

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 15 April 2021


While COVID-19 truly provided us with so many images of hope amid the crisis we went through on its first year, the pandemic had also left us with some unforgettable characters that moved us to feel our humanity that unfortunately many of us have lost for so long.

In fact, it was grace-filled moment of this time of the corona virus that we feel our humanity again when we found our true friends with our true colors emerging.

We were moved to tears even by people we hardly knew but felt their pains and their joys, their love and their kindness, their fidelity and courage in the middle of many storms in life especially when most others preferred to be bystanders and be quiet.

Most of all, we found Jesus Christ among them who became our unforgettable characters during COVID-19’s first year.

Leading my list is Mang Dodong of Caloocan City.

Photo by Mr. Vincent Go, 2020.

It was early May last year when we were reeling from successive news of government officials breaking rules of health protocols, abusing their powers and worst of all, getting away with it! Some even got promoted like Police Gen. Sinas who is now the chief of PNP for his shameless mañanita birthday party.

Mang Dodong left their home in Caloocan sometime in early April to buy fish at Navotas he intended to peddle among his neighbors for some much-needed money. That was the last time his wife and adopted child saw him until after almost a month in May 2020. He was detained in Navotas for not having a quarantine pass.

But looking deeper, we see it so common ironically in this administration claiming to champion the masses, we find Mang Dodong’s primary violation was his being poor and most of all, an honorable man unlike the clowns and chimps in the corridors of power.

He was detained for almost a month with his wife said to be a semi-illiterate not knowing where to find him. Had it not for the church volunteers of the Diocese of Caloocan under the Most Rev. Pablo David, Mang Dodong could have stayed longer in detention with the officials having no any qualms at all with his situation.

It has a been a year since then and nothing happened with the case of Mang Dodong. No one was held responsible for his sufferings and hardships because he is poor yet an image of Jesus Christ immortalized in the beautiful hymn by the late Jesuit Father Ed Hontiveros:

Hesus na aking kapatid
Sa bukid Ka nagtatanim
Kung sa palengke din naman
Ikaw ay naghahanap-buhay

Tulutan mo’ng aking mata
Mamulat sa katotohanan
Ikaw, Poon makikilala
Ikaw, Poon makikilala
Ikaw, Poon makikilala
Sa taong mapagkumbaba


When COVID-19 reached our country in mid-February last year directly from a Chinese tourist who became the pandemic’s first victim to die outside of the virus origin in Wuhan, everybody thought our dry season could flush out the corona.

It did not happen at all. Worst, the dry season even spelled disaster with many fires hitting the metropolis that summer like the one that hit Happyland district in Tondo on April 18, 2020 from where we got our second unforgettable character of COVID-19: a young man carrying his grandfather to escape the fire.

From the Facebook of Marivic Tribiana, April 2020.

So many families were left homeless with scores injured with some fatalities in what was the second or third fire to hit Tondo in Manila.

It was also the octave of Easter, a few days before “Divine Mercy Sunday” when it caught the attention of Fr. Marc Ocariza who was then the parochial vicar of St. Peter Alcantara in Taal, Bocaue, Bulacan.

Fr. Marc was so struck by the photo that he shared it on his Facebook account and that was how I saw it too.

Screenshot by Fr. Marc, April 2020.

Another day day passed, on the eve of Divine Mercy Sunday, Fr. Marc interpreted Ms. Tribiana’s post into a work of art using the app Digital Art Timelapse and dubbed his creation as “Nag-aalab na Pag-Ibig” which in turn inspired me to write a poem “Bakas ng Habag at Awa ni Jesus” I published in my blog on April 20, 2020 (https://lordmychef.com/2020/04/20/bakas-ng-habag-at-awa-ni-jesus/).

Click the link for our reflection why that young man is our unforgettable character, too.


Three great men of the Church did the same thing to us during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic and quarantine, making Jesus present among us as the Good Shepherd in a time people were looking for true leaders giving us light when darkness enveloped us.

Without doubt, Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Dagupan, Bishop Broderick Pabillo of Manila, and Bishop Virgilio David of Caloocan will be among the most unforgettable characters during this pandemic following their bold efforts in alleviating the plight of the people in their respective diocese and most of all, in being the most vocal pastors who insisted for the opening of churches considering that religious activities are essential.

They were the voices in the wilderness who spoke the truth of Christ, bringing hope and enlightenment to everyone, including us priests as they both shared us their insights and encouragement to pray and serve God’s flock in these troubled times.

In those three Bishops we find what everybody else is missing in this pandemic: that it is not just a medical and social issue to be addressed but most of all, something of the spiritual and moral nature calling for our conversion as a nation, as disciples of the Lord.

Thank you very much, Bishops Soc, Pabillo, and David for bringing Christ in this time of the pandemic, providing us the spiritual nourishment and emotional support we all needed during this first year of the pandemic.

Photo by Angie de Silva, licas.news.
Photo from CBCP News.
Photo from UCANews.

And now we come to the most unforgettable characters of COVID-19 who are truly our modern day heroes and saints, who truly served like Jesus Christ forgetting their very selves to save countless men and women stricken with the virus.

Frontline workers in personal protective equipment man the E.R. at the Gat Andres Bonifacio Memorial Medical Center in Tondo, Manila, March 24, 2020. Photo by George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News/File

Hail to our MEDICAL FRONTLINERS – the doctors and nurses, medical technologists, staff of every hospital, driver and crew members of ambulances who transported the sick day in, day out since the start of the pandemic until now.

They were the ones who kept us alive since day one of the pandemic until now with so many of them among the first casualties when COVID-19 hit the country last year.

Photo from Mobility PH of Phil. Daily Inquirer, 20 August 2020.

Sadly, despite their dedication to work, many of them had to suffer humiliation like one nurse who was evicted by her landlady after being positive with COVID while another nurse biking his way to the hospital died after being hit-and-run by a motorist.

Philippine Red Cross rescued nurse kicked out from her boarding house after testing positive with COVID in Makati last year. Photo by ABS-CBN News.

Words will never be enough to describe their dedication and love for those getting sick.

Every night, I pray so hard for them including their families who must have been so used to sleepless nights praying and worrying about their safety.

One thing I ask the Lord in my prayers for our medical frontliners: that they will all be around when this pandemic is over so we can celebrate with them and meet them, hug them and thank them for keeping us alive since it all began in 2020.

God bless and keep our medical frontliners!

Health workers form hearts with their hands as they show appreciation after the residents of La Verti Residences gave a tribute to frontliners on Easter Sunday last year. Photo by Czar Dancel, ABS-CBN News.

There are still other unforgettable characters who kept us alive and well, even sane, during the pandemic. We continue to pray for them as they work in silence serving us during these critical times like bakers and vendors, teachers, government workers, those in the police and military.

Not to forget, too, are our parents and everybody making our lives bearable even comfortable in these trying times. Do stay safe so we may celebrate with everyone when this virus is gone.

Easter is obeying God than men

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday in the Second Week of Easter, 15 April 2021
Acts 5:27-30   ><)))*> + ><)))*> + ><)))*>   John 3:31-36
Photo by author, dome of the chapel at Shepherd’s Field, Bethlehem, the Holy Land, 2019.

Your words today, O Lord, from the first reading invites me to examine my attitude when somebody or something reminds me of my sins and sinfulness. What a shame that too often, we are like the members of the Sanhedrin who refused to acknowledge their complicity in your crucifixion, much less even mention your name.

When they heard this,
they became infuriated
and wanted to put them to death.
(Acts 5:33)

Forgive us, Jesus, when our worldliness prevents us from seeing you and others, when we tend to see only ourselves that we do not care at all to others, thinking we have a monopoly of truths, of having so many excuses and alibis defending ourselves.

We pray most especially to our government officials led by the president himself who continues to see himself self-righteously, maligning his detractors and critics despite the many deaths and sufferings of the people especially the poor.

We pray for their blind supporters that you open their minds and hearts that “we must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29) as Peter had told the Sanhedrin during their trial.

Most of all, dear Jesus, only you has the power to cast away all evil and convert hearts: we pray for our leaders and their blind supporters to be reminded always that it is only you “who comes from above is above all” (Jn.3:31), that there is no other God except you!

How sad and tragic that while this pandemic is raging around the world, so many people, world leaders and nations are acting as if they are gods who are above all, doing everything that pleases them, unmindful of you and of others.

For so long, our government leaders have been “rationing God’s gift of the Spirit” (Jn.3:34), feeding us with half truths and worst until now, they have no definitive plan in containing the pandemic except quarantines that have severely affected the poor.

Like the psalmist, we trust only in you our Lord and our God.

The Lord confronts the evildoers,
to destroy remembrance of them on the earth.
When the just cry out,
the Lord hears them,
and from all their distress
he rescues them.
(Psalm 34:17-18)

Amen. Amen. Alleluia, Amen!