Praying for respect and paying respect

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
First Friday in the Fifth Week of Easter, 07 May 2021
Acts 15:22-31   <'(((><  +  ><)))'>   John 15:12-17
Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, April 2020 at Infanta, Quezon.

Today, O Lord, you give us some lessons about respect. And so, I pray first for the grace of respecting others and secondly that I learn to pay respect to the highest order of all, to you our Lord and our God!

Jesus said to his disciples:
"You are my friends if you do what I command you.
I no longer call you slaves, 
because a slave does not know what his master is doing.
I have called you friends,
because I have told you everything I have heard 
from the Father."
(John 15:14-15)

Thank you dear Jesus in taking us as your friends, as having a special relationship with you that is deeply personal, for bringing us closer to the Father too.

How I love to think in this part of your teaching the word friend: if you remove the letter “r”, what is left is the word “fiend” or enemy. For me, the letter “r” stands for “respect” that literally means in Latin to “look again” or “re specere” (from specere came spectacles, spectacular).

Whenever we look again at the other person, we remember he/she is a brother/sister; failure to look again is when we disrespect, when we refuse to recognize him/her as a brother or a sister or a loved one. And that is when sins occur: infidelity, betrayal of trust and everything.

Teach me to respect always at all times like you, to always look again, and again and again at the other person as a friend, a beloved with honor and dignity, who must be held with respect and esteem because everyone is an image and likeness of God.

If I cannot look at the other person as a friend or a brother or a sister, then, let me see you, dear Jesus, in him/her so I may be respectful like your Apostles in the first reading when they decided “not to place on the gentile converts any burden beyond what is necessary” (Acts 15:25). The apostles looked again and again to finally see your face, O Lord, among the gentiles being your friends and beloved too!

This is the highest respect we can pay to everyone – to see you dear Lord in their face, in their person so that like the Apostles, we may be respectful to God, especially to the working of the Holy Spirit among us.

How lovely were the apostles to recognize and paid their highest respect to you when they declared “It is the decision of the Holy Spirit and of us” (Acts 15:28).

It is the highest respect to see the hand of God in our every endeavor.

And this I ask and pray from you, Jesus, in the same manner that you have told us everything from the Father. Amen.

Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, April 2020 at Infanta, Quezon.

Road trip in time of COVID-19: the company we keep in life’s journey

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 04 February 2021

We have started this travelogue sharing with you how the Divine — God and music as food of the soul — have guided us in this road trip. He is the Invisible Hand leading us to directions not found on maps nor recognized by GPS, leading us to new discoveries not only to places outside but deep within us.

Let me now share with you the people we have met in this road trip, our companions who enriched our journey.

The word companion is from two Latin words cum + panis that mean “someone you break bread with”, not just someone you travel with but someone you share life with. After all, every journey is not just about places we visit but more of the persons we travel with and meet along the way.

During our first stop at the Baras Church, its sacristan mayor named Alvin told us an interesting story that had allegedly happened at the Pililla Wind Farm before its closure last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to Alvin, a group of bikers in 2019 allegedly posed half-naked while doing the dirty finger sign with the wind turbines as background. The people at the wind farm felt the place “desecrated” by that act especially after the photos were posted in social media, prompting them to tighten security in the area until the pandemic came that have kept it closed since then.

Though we have no way of verifying Alvin’s story about the “desecration”, it was not farfetched at all considering our penchant for anything notorious and vulgar like – sorry for the terms – kasalaulan and kababayun.

How sad that everything is desecrated and disrespected in our country like a whole environment, public places that include parks and monuments, even churches and schools as well as culture and history, not to mention the people taken for granted especially the weak and marginalized.

But it is not that bad at all. Especially in the province of Rizal where local residents remain warm and hospitable. Most of all, honest and trustworthy.

We were actually laughing because we both did not know how to take selfies…

This we have experienced first hand after Dindo had left his wallet at a convenience store two kilometers from Baras. When we returned to the store, we were so impressed because the guard and another staff member were waiting for us to give us back the wallet. We did not even leave our car as the wallet was promptly handed to us without asking us any questions at all.

Honesty is still very much alive here in our country. We just have to trust and be honest with others, too!

In fact, one thing we noticed that whole Thursday in Rizal was how everybody was so kind and nice, especially at the three churches we visited in Baras, Tanay, and Morong.

They were so kind and courteous with a ready smile to everyone, not grouchy like in some parishes. I did not have to introduce myself as a priest to be treated well that I felt like coming home while visiting those three churches!

It prompted me to commend Msgr. Rigs de Guzman of Tanay in having formed so well their church workers and volunteers whose goodwill flowed so naturally, not rehearsed nor faked because we were visitors.

St. Joseph Parish at Baras, Rizal.

Such kindness and niceties are things becoming so rare these days in many churches in our predominantly Christian nation when people complain against priests and lay people alike in being so cold and impersonal in dealing with the faithful who complain, saying “mga taong simbahan pa naman… kay susungit at sasama ng ugali.”

Sometimes, people leave the Catholic Church not because of difficult teachings and doctrines but of difficult people who failed or refused to witness Jesus Christ in their lives as his servants and disciples.

Parish of St. Jerome in Morong, Rizal.

At the beautiful Parish of St. Jerome in Morong, we arrived while a funeral Mass was ongoing. Not knowing where to park as the patio was filled with people, I drove up its old and beautiful driveway all the way to its main door.

Surprisingly, nobody blocked or prevented us from driving there; when I asked if we can park there, the people simply nodded their heads in approval!

And when we went to the parish office to ask permission to go to the side altar to pray, one of the volunteers willingly led us inside so we can comfortably have a seat.

After we have prayed, we decided to skip our usual picture taking due to the ongoing Mass, choosing to feast our eyes with the amazing sight of this church’s unique architecture built by Franciscan Missionaries in 1620 and renovated to its present structure in 1853.

As we marveled at the imposing but genteel facade of the Morong Parish Church, I somehow got a feel of the people’s vibrant faith nurtured by their pastors who must be so dedicated too to have maintained its old and original architecture. One may also notice the same thing with the modern churches in the Diocese of Antipolo that covers the ecclesiastical province of Rizal where there is that blending of faith, arts, and architecture.

They must be so rich in having “respect” as in respect to the past, respect to the culture, and respect to the people that they have kept their many old and modern churches unaltered for so many years.

Altar of the Parish of St. Ildephonse in Tanay, Rizal declared as a National Cultural Treasure by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts in 2001.

How sad is the “edifice complex” afflicting some priests especially in our own Diocese of Malolos in Bulacan where many churches, old and new alike, have been disfigured with never ending renovations and constructions as well as overdecorating them that many have looked like cheap cakes smothered with icings.

Many seem to have forgotten the direct correlation between “church as the people gathered in faith” and “church as a building”.

Incidentally, the term used by the early Christians to refer to the Holy Eucharist as they gathered together was “breaking of bread”, a direct reference to our word companion because in every religious gathering, the companionship of the people is indicative of their kind of faith in God.

How lovely it is to see our churches, especially the old ones, as companions in our faith journey in God, to God!


'The real voyage of discovery consists 
not in seeing new sights,
but in looking in new eyes."
--- Marcel Proust

As we end this series of our travelogue, we go back to the lovely Parish Church of St. Ildephonse at Tanay, Rizal where we found something so mysterious like Steely Dan’s Pretzel Logic and Deacon Blues.

On the left wall near the main door is found the Seventh Station of the Cross when Jesus fell for the second time on his way to the calvary. It is a huge woodcarving done by local artisans in 1785 using local colors like the Malay features of the images depicted with their brown complexion, large and round eyes, and “squared” body features.

See the man leading the pack blowing a carabao horn for a tambuli while the soldier carried a bolo instead of a sword?

Most unique of all that makes Tanay’s Stations of the Cross as the most amazing and beautiful in Asia is that man at the middle wearing sunglasses, looking afar.

No one can truly explain why that man was portrayed as wearing shades that were already in existence at that time from China called “smoked glasses”. Some claim that man is the high priest Caiaphas who led the Sanhedrin in the trial that found Jesus guilty of blasphemy for claiming himself to be God.

Still, it does not answer the question why wear shades?

My kinakapatid Dindo claimed the woodcarving proves that rock and roll had long been in existence since the time of Jesus Christ, the real Superstar as presented in the 1970 rock opera by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Weber.

Rock and roll is more than a kind of music. It is a way of life, a different kind of looking at things that try to disregard conventional and traditional ways by trying to get to the very roots of the things we do and hold on to.

Again, the word roots is from the Latin radix from which comes the word radical to describe people with revolutionary thoughts who go against the usual and accepted ways of life by going back to the roots of our many ways of life.

Radicals are not necessarily violent who shake our beliefs to see things more clearly like the woodcarver of this Seventh Station of the Cross in Tanay.

He must be telling us how often we try to color the world according to the hues and shades we want to see it that we become oblivious to the plight and sufferings of those around us like Jesus falling for the second time. Sometimes the key in truly enjoying this journey called life is to take off our shades and see others in their true colors by revealing also our true selves.

That is the greatest joy of every road trip when we do not really take the trip but it is the trip that takes us, giving us new eyes to see life in new perspectives and dimensions never seen before.

Our recent road trip actually started even before we planned it three years ago. Dindo and I have been traveling together as companions – breaking bread with each other – sharing life, its joys and pains, fears and hopes long before we took this road trip.

Though we travel on different roads in life, our paths have merged in various points and intersections without us really knowing it, deepening our ties and friendship truly as kinakapatid. It was actually a trip started by our dads who were cumpadres and never did I imagine those trips to their home at Little Baguio every New Year while growing up would eventually lead us to Baras, Tanay, Pillila, and Morong in Rizal!

In between songs and stories and jokes as we got lost going to Pililla Wind Farm, we have realized that we all have the same problems and issues in life. They just come in different shapes and colors that make every journey so wonderful.

Where have you been lately? And how are the people you have met? Try to remember the people you have been traveling with as companions in this journey of life. Thank them and most of all, take a break to let any trip take you — a road trip, a food trip, or any trip except bad trip!

Thank you very much in joining me in this blog and trip. May God bless your journey as well as your companions. Amen.

Road trip in time of corona, part 1

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 21 January 2021
The Church of Baras, Rizal first built by the Franciscans in 1595; present church was completed in 1686.

It was a road trip that took us three years of planning. Though it just covered a little more than a hundred kilometers east of Metro Manila done in 12 hours, it was a road trip beyond maps and GPS as it turned out into some sort of a personal journey within.

Sometimes in life, the most wonderful trips are those made at the spur of the moment – “biglaan, nagkaayaan lang” – when an Invisible Hand guides us, sometimes purposely allowing us to get lost along the way with many detours leading to so many discoveries.

That exactly happened with this road trip with my kinakapatid Dindo (Fernando Alberto, Jr.) last January 07, 2021. It was his idea that we go on a road trip so we can share more of our many common interests like Steely Dan music, singing like crazy Kid Charlemagne’s, “Is there gas in the car?” that has become like a password in our conversations as well as in our chats.

And so, two weeks ago with a tankful of “gas in the car”, I left my parish in Bulacan at 5AM and headed south to pick up Dindo almost exactly an hour later reaching the Church of Baras via Sumulong Highway in Antipolo a little past 7AM.


"Reeling in the Years":
the charm and beauty of Baras Church

If you are looking for a good, old church near Metro Manila that has remained faithful to its past, then go to this Church of Baras town that has retained its quaint Spanish period Baroque architecture.

Set on top of a hill still surrounded by forests, its simple facade is “so cool” and very comforting at first sight that gives every pilgrim a sense of serenity and silence, so welcoming especially to those tired and confused in life.

What struck me first were the beautiful patches of mosses and fronds growing right on the steps all the way up to the bell tower made of adobe bricks exposed without plasters. I have always been amazed with mosses and fronds because they remind me of how life continues to thrive even in the most difficult and harsh situations while their luminous green color look like natural carpets ready to absorb whatever shocks and weight you may be carrying.

From afar, the Baras church looks like an oasis tucked in a lovely corner not far from the busy highway outside. Everything is green and so refreshing. Just looking at this church from the patio dotted with yellow spots for social distancing during Masses, one may already conclude upon arrival that it was worth the trip.

Even after we have missed its main entrance after the small bridge in the poblacion, our peg remained chillax after being welcomed by its sacristan mayor named Alvin who right away opened the main door for us so we can pray inside. And, voila!

Inside the Baras Church. Its pastors have done a great job in keeping the church intact all these years unlike other old churches that have fallen prey to disrespect of its heritage and roots.

Upon entering, one’s sights are directed upwards to its exposed wooden trusses supporting the roof. It has no ceiling like most old churches in Ilocos, exuding with that sense of freedom and openness as if the heavens were rent apart by God to assure that He listens to every prayer said by anyone who comes to this church.

One thing I appreciate in this church as a priest is the prevalence of that sense of coherence, of wholeness from which the word holiness came from. So unlike many churches these days that have become more like a hodge-podge of so many things and colors that distract you away from God.

Baras church is a rarity where that old maxim in liturgy is still kept so many priests ignore: noble simplicity. Nothing kitschy or baduy like tarpaulins and what-have-you that inhibit silent meditation and contemplation with enough room for God and His saints. And you.

The adobe bricks without plasters give you an impression of a relaxed life, safely and securely ensconced inside to rest in the Lord, literally and figuratively speaking. Nothing artificial, so natural is the feeling inside without the ubiquitous giant ceiling fans and flatscreen TV’s. Touch the walls and you can still feel the whispered prayers of the faithful long dead still reverberating!

Sauntering to the sanctuary to pray while feasting my eyes with the ancient wood carvings at the side walls, it was only then when I realized how blessed is this road trip, so timely to have happened that day, not earlier or even later.


"We find that after years of struggle 
we do not take a trip;
a trip takes us." 
-John Steinbeck

Lo and behold! When Alvin turned on the lights of the retablo, I felt so blessed when I recognized St. Joseph is the Patron of this church, the husband of Mary and foster father of Jesus Christ, my personal patron saint since seminary days!

What a tremendous blessing indeed that our first stop in this road trip is a parish dedicated to St. Joseph on the first month of the Year of St. Joseph as declared by Pope Francis last December 8, 2020 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the declaration of St. Joseph as Patron of the Universal Church.

Most of all, it was a time in my life I was feeling so afraid, even scared and bothered almost like St. Joseph after finding out Mary was pregnant with a child not his that he decided to silently divorce her until an angel appeared in his dream, explaining everything. In my case, I have just received my new assignment as chaplain of a university and hospital in our diocese. Aside from that fearful feeling going into a new field of ministry, I was wary of the hospital setting in time of COVID-19.

But there before the altar of the Baras Church as I knelt praying, I felt the very same reassurance of God through St. Joseph, as if telling me, “Nick, do not be afraid to take that new assignment for I shall be with you always.”

After saying our prayers, I told Dindo the significance of our first Church that happened to be dedicated to St. Joseph.

And that’s when we realized how along the way we were sharing about our own beloved fathers now both gone to heaven, of their impact on us while growing up in their old-school brand of discipline and parenting that have molded us into who we are today weathering so many storms in life, never giving up, always fighting, always standing for what we firmly believe as true and good.

While there, I prayed to St. Joseph for all the fathers I know, including those priests who have blessed me and nurtured my vocation, deceased and still living. In a special way, I prayed for all dads silently crying in pain because of their great love for their children; dads never understood by their wife, always deferring for them for the sake of balance and peace at home; and, most especially, for dads who are sick after laboring for so long in raising their family.

At the left side of the nave is displayed prominently the original cross used in the church by the Jesuits who administered the parish from 1616 to 1679. Above that is a wood carving of Santiago de Compostela or St. James the Great, patron of Spain and elder brother of St. John the Beloved, the patron of my parish for nine years and seven months. The parish of Baras was originally dedicated to him. Why they changed it to St. Joseph, nobody could tell us.

But, Dindo and I at that time knew, this stop was meant for us both a father and for our own dads who are still cumpadres on a different trip in heaven. We had our light breakfast prepared by Dindo being a great cook himself who was part of the original Mandarin Hotel officers in Beijing three decades ago.

Join us next week at our next stop in Tanay where we met St. Joseph’s wife, Mary.

And along the way, we proved that rock and roll has always been a way of life since the time of Jesus…

Original cross venerated in the Baras Church with a relic from the true Cross of Jesus found in Jerusalem by St. Helena; above that is a woodcarving of St. James the Great, the first patron saint of Baras.

Email me at <lordmychef@gmail.com>.

On leaving and living

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nick F. Lalog II, 09 November 2020
Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, 30 October 2020.
I have always believed
life is more on coming
than on leaving 
because 
whenever we leave,
we also come.
But, 
there is something
about leaving 
that makes 
it strongly felt 
than coming:
from the pain of leaving
follows emptiness -
the angst of still living
when someone is missing.
Most painful part of leaving
is when you are the one left behind;
it is the one who leaves
who actually comes
to somewhere else
while the one left
bears the scars
of leaving,
like grappling
with the unseen
presence
of nothing
but memories
gone 
with the one who had left
who might never come again.
But, I think
it is when leaving 
is truly hurting
that it turns into a coming -
an arrival 
of blessing
of opening 
to a new lease on life 
and living when we discover 
somebody anew
filling what's missing within 
not necessarily seen
that together we spin
a new thread in life again.
The other person
gone is never replaced
by a newfound one;
that's the beauty
of every leaving
and coming
when we leave
in order to come
creating a space
for a new one
until it leaves again
to come another one
until finally
we become one in the Only One.

Friendships should depend on nothing like TIME and SPACE. Remove TIME and what we have is NOW; remove SPACE and what we have is HERE. Don’t you think we could meet once or twice between NOW and HERE?

Richard Bach, Jonathan Livingston Seagull (1970)
Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, 07 November 2020.

“Someone Like You” by Van Morrison (1987)

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Music by Fr. Nick F. Lalog II, 05 July 2020

At that time Jesus exclaimed: “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for your selves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Matthew 11:28-30

If there is anything we all wish this first Sunday of July 2020, it must be rest from all the worries and burdens in this time of the corona. We all want something that would be lighter in this second half of the heaviest year we have ever had in decades or even a generation.

Being light does not mean being worry-free, no problems nor sufferings. Dr. M. Scott Peck insists in his book Road Less Travelled that “life is difficult” – the sooner we realize and accept this, the better for us (see our homily, https://lordmychef.com/2020/07/04/we-are-disciples-of-a-meek-and-humble-lord/).

Being light is having a companion to share with our burdens and woes in life because having these all by ourselves is so difficult and impossible. Most of the time, our problems need not be solved at all but simply be accepted and shared with someone who loves us, cares for us, and believes in us.

Jesus Christ is that only companion par excellence we can have for he is meek and humble of heart.

Van Morrison’s lovely ballad Someone Like You released in 1987 captures this essential desire among us all to seek and forge many relationships.

I've been searching a long time
Someone exactly like you
I've been traveling all around the world
Waiting for you to come through

Someone like you makes it all worth while
Someone like you keeps me satisfied
Someone exactly like you

Though the song has become a staple in many weddings and in many romantic movies covered by various artists, Someone Like You sounds more like a spiritual song longing for God through our loved ones for he is always faithful and loving to us despite our many weaknesses and sins.

I've been doin' some soul searching
To find out where you're at
I've been up and down the highway
In all kinds of foreign lands

Someone like you makes it all worth while
Someone like you keeps me satisfied
Someone…

May Van Morrison’s song bring you closer to God through your loved ones as we continue to hurdle the many obstacles and trials ahead in this time of COVID-19.

Have a blessed Sunday and brand new week ahead!

Video uploaded at YouTube by Megan Smith.

“Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories” are recipes for troubled hearts and lonely souls

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nick F. Lalog II, 20 November 2019

A chef is basically a person who loves people. And that is why for any chef, cooking is both a passion and an art. His menu are not only meant to feed the body but most especially enrich the heart and soul of every diner.

Welcome to Netflix original series “Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories”!

Each episode is exactly like every recipe the main character called “Master” dishes out to his patrons and customers who come from all walks of life with their unique burdens and story to share and eventually, resolve after tasting his fresh and easy to cook meals.

Midnight Diner is as Japanese as the ramen and sake the Master serves his guests. Everything is in Nihongo with English subtitles that demand one’s total attention to understand the conversations briefly interspersed with first person accounts by the Master.

At the opening, the Master gives us the warm and nice ambience of the series set at midnight until seven in the morning for people who do not wish to go home straight after their office hours.

It turns out that they are not only looking for good food but for warm company as well which the Master ably provides with his total attention and communion.

Very interesting to note that the Master is a celibate, reason why he can devote himself wholly to his diners, listening to their joys and sorrows, victories and defeats. So far, from what I have seen in its two seasons, he has no love interests although it won’t be surprising if in the third season he turns out to be a character from one of Murakami’s novels or short stories.

Though he is a fictional character, he is rightly called “Master” for his commanding presence that is not intimidating but so warm and gentle, so unlike the celebrity chefs we see on TV.

The Master can cook anything, including fancy corndogs and pancakes that are very American. He always has a “menu of the day” as title of each episode.

Should anyone ask for any kind of dish, he willingly prepares it subject to availability of ingredients that turns out he always has or sometimes, like a true chef, finds other alternatives just to fulfill a customer’s cravings. In one episode, a patron comes nightly with his own three pieces of bread so the Master can make him “yakisoba sandwiches” — exactly how we Filipinos eat pancit with another carbohydrate!

What makes the series so good is that the Master is more than a chef — he is the Tokyo counterpart of Paris’ Cafe Anglais famed lady chef “Babette” of the 1987 Danish film “Babette’s Feast” and James Taylor’s 1977 hit single “Handy Man” rolled into one.

More than the food he passionately serves, the Master delights and comforts every troubled heart and lonely soul longing for love and relationships, forgiveness and kindness they finally find in his Midnight Diner.

Most of all, neither the Master nor his food is the main focus of each episode but the story of every customer who comes to his diner at the most unholiest hours – between 12 midnight and seven in the morning – searching for food for their souls!

Mainstays of the Midnight Diner.

Helping the Master in processing every customer are his interesting mix of characters of regular patrons: LGBTQ members, career ladies mostly single, retirees, professional gamblers and of course, Yakuza gang members.

They are the Master’s “secret spices” who bring out all the flavors and aroma of every customer’s life story like a widowed lawyer searching for his lost step brother to a nightclub stripper sought and saved from miserable life by her high school teacher suffering the early stage of Alzheimer’s disease. Sometimes they act like the Master’s garnishings, adding taste and beauty with some sprinklings of life lessons to lost customers.

Though most stories are understandably peculiar to Japanese culture, they all touch a common chord within us for our basic need of acceptance which the Master warmly provides like his steaming hot dishes.

Unlike most TV series, Midnight Diner’s pacing is so fast and without any pretensions that prevent it from becoming dragging and boring. In less than 30 minutes, each episode is deftly resolved just as magically how the Master came out with a superb meal from his limited resources and tiny kitchen.

But the best attraction of the show is how the viewer eventually finds one’s self warmly welcomed into the diner, laughing or crying, sympathizing or objecting to whatever situation is presented by every guest.

It is a very lovely series that transcends language barriers and cultures because it nourishes and warms our soul that never rest nowadays due to the demands of modern living. Somehow, inside the little Midnight Diner, there is always a space welcoming everyone including us viewers to unwind and be fulfilled with good food, nice people, and meaningful conversations.

Hoping for the next season soon.

Irasshaimase!

Why old friends are the best

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nick F. Lalog II, 16 November 2019

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

A friend from the mid-80’s recently invited me for lunch when in the midst of our conversation she asked me how I unwind and take breaks as a priest considering my toxic schedules.

Suddenly, I just felt so light inside being filled with joy when I answered, “good old friends like you”!

We had a hearty laugh together as we remembered those good old days and nights with our other friends, wondering together how far we have all come in life, hurdling all those many struggles of our younger years.

When I was ordained priest in 1998, I promised to “leave behind” my family and relatives as well as friends to give myself totally in serving Jesus Christ among those people entrusted to my care.

I am so glad when I recently found out that I have not really turned away from them when I embraced a lifetime service to God because they have continued to keep me too as friend!

Old friends are always special because they have stood the test of time, standing by our side, believing in us during those many dark nights we have gone through even without us knowing it!

True friends are indeed a treasure especially those we have known and kept over the years because even if we no longer see each other so often or even communicate with them despite the suffocating social media around us, we have remained good friends deep in our hearts.

It is something we mutually feel deep inside for each other because despite our separation from college and from work or residence, we have never grown apart from each other as if there is an invisible thread that links us together.

Photo by Negative Space on Pexels.com

I used to tell young people in my recollections that friends are always a gift from God. Each friend is unique, each with his/her own strengths and limitations. There are no perfect friends but if we can allow our friendships to have spaces for love and kindness, respect and understanding, mercy and forgiveness, friends can truly be the best gifts we can have in life.

Friends are a gift because they are always wrapped in mystery: the moment we receive them, we really do not know what is in store for us. In a similar manner like the lyrics of a song we loved singing in our daily Masses in the Minor Seminary (high school), friends are “gifts of God to me, who come all wrapped so differently: others so tightly, others so loosely, but wrappings are not the gift.”

Our task in every friendship is to uncover a friend’s “giftedness” to us, something which we cannot change. We can nurture and cultivate our friendships but we cannot force our friends into becoming someone they are not meant to be.

Every friend’s giftedness is from God because every friend is a signpost for us to be closer with God: some eventually become partners in life as husband and wife while others become the bestest of friends as “emotional shock absorbers” or a inspirations to another.

That, my friend, is something we cannot and must not dare alter because as the saying goes, people come to our lives for a reason, for a season, and for love.

Photo by Roberto Nickson on Pexels.com

Lately I have been seeing – “catching up” – some good old friends. What I like best when we are together is the ability and gift to laugh our hearts out like never before. There is something so deep with old friends laughing together not only with old jokes and anecdotes we cannot forget but also with some new realizations that come with our age.

And we laugh together, we realize we are not alone after all. There is still somebody very much like us, somebody we continue to grow up with, somebody who understands our fears and anxieties because he/she is also going through the same phase in life or have just gone through something similar.

That is why good old friends are the best because despite our long separation, we still find each other traveling, walking through the same path albeit for sometime in parallel manner.

They are the best because good old friends eventually teach us to be more appreciative and grateful with life and with friends who continue to journey with us no matter how slow and cranky we have become.

Cheers to all our old friends! Make time to reach out to them. Your message or text or call could mean so much to them!

Coming together in the Lord

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul
Wednesday,Week XIV, Year I, 10 July 2019
Genesis 41:55-57; 42:5-7, 17-24 >< )))*> Matthew 10:1-7
Pyramids of Egypt. Photo by author, 09 May 2019.

Thank you very much, our loving Father, for making us all come together as family and friends, colleagues and acquaintances on many occasions you have planned in all eternity in your infinite wisdom.

Like the sons of Israel who have come to Egypt to buy food during a famine and the 12 Apostles summoned by your Son Jesus, our coming together for various reasons in different seasons were all caused by your divine will.

The sons of Israel did not know how their coming into Egypt would reunite them with their lost brother Joseph they have maltreated and sold a long time ago. The 12 Apostles never had an inkling at that time how they would be betrayed by one of their very own that they welcomed each other as disciples of Jesus.

In your time, God, you perfectly know when and where and how we would meet the many people we now have in our lives.

Give us the grace to always seek your holy will, your grand design and plan with the people who come to our lives. Let us take care of them as precious gifts of family and friends you give us, let us shower them with your love and attention while still around us. May we never take them for granted, value them always as they value us too as gifts coming from you.

Let us not take them into someone not meant to be in our lives.

We pray also for people without friends and family around them, for those in far and distant lands working away from their loved ones, for those languishing in jails especially the innocent one that they may soon be reunited with their family.

Most of all, our loving Father, may we always see your face on every person we shall meet this day. Amen.

With our fellow pilgrims at the Sphinx in Egypt, 09 May, 2019.

Love and Respect in Marriage

The Lord Is My Chef Recipe for Wedding of Bryan and Catherine, 24 May 2019
St. Francis of Assisi Chapel, Fernwood Gardens, Quezon City
Ephesians 5:2a,25-32 >< }}}*> <*{{{ >< John 15:11-17
The Tamsui Lover’s Bridge, New Taipei, Taiwan. Photo by author, 29 January 2019.

Congratulations, Bryan and Catherine!

Our gospel is very clear today with Jesus telling you, “It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you” (Jn.15:16). In his infinite wisdom, God had planned this day to happen today, not last year or last month nor tomorrow or next month.

Today the Lord had chosen you Bryan and Catherine to tie the knot as husband and wife in this lovely chapel so you would be his witnesses of his immense love for us. You went through a lot of challenges in your love that is a certified “LDR” – you got me thinking for sometime what those letters mean.

As classmates in elementary until you were separated in high school when Catherine and her family moved to Marilao, you remained friends. When you pursued your dreams in college, the great distance between UP Los Banos and UST in Espana did not keep you away from each other as friends until you realized you love each other that you became sweethearts.

After graduation, Catherine had to move again with her family and this time, thousands of miles away from you Bryan when there were no free messaging apps yet like Messenger and Viber. Bryan had to make those expensive overseas calls while Catherine had to be patient with the unreliable, cheap call cards bought in Asian and Filipino stores in New Jersey.

Thanks very much to Mark Zuckerberg and you had more time seeing each other in social media that your love deepened through time and distance. But, Facebook did not resolve your main issue at that time.

It was Jesus who moved you both to realize that “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (Jn.15:13).

Both of you Bryan and Cath sacrificed so much to be finally together, today and forever. Married life is not a competition in love, in seeing who loves most. Husband and wife simply love, love, and love. St. Paul said it so well in our first reading, “live in love as Christ loved us” (Eph.5:2a).

To live in love like Christ is to respect one another.

In our gospel, Jesus said “You are my friends if you do what I command you” (Jn.15:11) which is to love like him, giving up one’s self to your friend.

Bryan and Cath, you are now the bestest of friends. In the word “friend” you find a letter “r” that if you remove it, you get the new word “fiend” or enemy, the exact opposite of friend. That letter “r” in “friend” stands for respect which means in Latin “to see or look again”.

Without respect, any love will not grow. Without respect, love withers and dies. Respect deepens our love because in seeing again, in looking back to our loved ones, we remember our vows to always love.

From Google.

Three things I wish to share with you Bryan and Catherine about respect so you may live in love as the bestest of friends.

First, always look at your very selves, see yourself as the beloved of God.

God makes no mistakes. You are God’s perfect creation as he intended when he created you, Bryan and Catherine. Be proud of who you are even you have lost your hair or have had wrinkles, or gained weight to have so much “love handles” around your waist.

Bryan… Catherine… you are not only one in a million… you are a once in a lifetime.

Catherine, stay true to who you are as a woman. St. Paul never meant in our first reading that the wife must lose her identity in a relationship. Everything and everyone changes for sure, but a healthy marriage will always grow with you and never against you.

When you are apart and not together due to work, always look at each other. Always try to see the other looking at you. That is respect because in that way, you remain faithful to each other and avoid sin.

Second, always look back to your dreams, to your plans and vision in life.

The ideal man finds himself first before he finds his ideal woman, and vice versa. What do I mean? Many people have sights but not all have visions. A visionary is someone who dreams with eyes wide opened. Vision makes us see where we are going and what it will take to get us there. Like the “Mission-Vision” thing you have Bryan in Maynilad.

The moment a man/woman starts to have a vision of himself/herself with a partner in achieving that dream in the future, then he/she has become the ideal husband/wife. When you have a purpose in life and included in that is someone special, even if you have not met him/her yet, then you are the man, you are the woman.

When trials come in your lives Bryan and Catherine, look again into your vision and dreams in life. Start to work for it again with each other, together as one. If you have to start all over again, do so. Together. Pursue your dream and make it come true!

Third, every day, Bryan and Catherine, look again to God. Always see God in your life. Remember the Holy Family how every year they would go to Jerusalem to worship God. When the child Jesus was lost and they could not find him, they went back to Jerusalem and found him in the Temple. Mary and Joseph looked to God to find Jesus and they found him!

When you always look to God Bryan and Catherine, you will also find yourselves and your dreams. In that, you live in love, respecting each other always as gifts from God.

May today be the least happiest day of you life as husband and wife, Bryan and Catherine! Amen.

From Google.

Friend, or fiend?

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul
Friday, Easter Week V, 24 May 2019
Acts 15:22-31 ><}}}*> John 15:12-17
From Google.

What a lovely Friday you calling us friends, Lord Jesus! What an honor for you to regard as your friends even though so many times we disappoint you, even betray you with our sins.

You are my friends if you do what I command you. I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father.

John 15:14-15

How funny, Lord, that just one letter in the word “friend” can spell the big difference to turn it into its exact opposite, the letter “r”: from friend to fiend or enemy.

So many times, Lord, it is the lack of respect that leads us to sin against you and one another, that we become fiend than friend. Friends always respect, which is from the Latin roots re and specere or to “look again”.

Teach us, like your apostles in the first reading to learn to respect one another, especially those different from us that we may always see them as brothers and sisters despite our differences like backgrounds, culture, and color.

Teach us, O Lord, to see more of you in others to be the very basis of our friendships rather than looking more into our many differences that we always make as excuses in being apart. Amen.

An optical shop in Madaba, Jordan. Photo by author, 02 May 2019.
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