The gospel according to Five for Fighting on living & leaving

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 20 September 2022
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com
I'm 15 for a moment
Caught in between ten and 20
And I'm just dreaming
Counting the ways to where you are

I'm 22 for a moment
And she feels better than ever
And we're on fire
Making our way back from Mars

The piano, the voice and the lyrics were unmistakably Five for Fighting when I heard it played again after a very long time at the 40th day of the death of a young college student in our parish recently.

It was only then when I truly appreciated this 2003 hit “100 Years” after realizing its deeper implications about life and death leading to eternity. Besides, there were some interesting things about the song and the deceased young man who was also a talented pianist like Five for Fighting himself – Vladimir John Ondasik III. Most of all, the deceased young man I have celebrated Mass for was aged 22 like the character depicted in the song 100 Years.

Celebrating Mass at the funeral of a child, whether an infant or a grown-up is the most difficult one for me. Normally, we children bury our parents but, it is so different when children die ahead of their parents and even grandparents. As a priest, I could feel the pain of the grieving parents in losing their son or daughter even if I totally do not know them at all. Yet, it is a grace of the priesthood that while we are emotionally affected by grieving parents we hardly know that we are likewise uplifted in identifying with Jesus who had brought back to life a dead young man at Nain after being moved with pity for the man’s widowed mother (Lk.7:11-15).

Photo by author, Pangasinan, April 2022.

Notice that Jesus brought back to life the dead young man because of pity for his mother, not because he pitied the dead son. God tells us in the Old Testament that he is saddened with the death of even just one of us but the event at Nain shows us how the eyes of the Lord are always with those left behind especially mothers because they are indeed the most pitiable in losing a child who would always be a part of them. Moreover, life is most difficult for those left behind who have to continue to bear all pains and sufferings while their departed loved ones rest in peace in eternity. And here lies the call of Jesus for us all to help those grieving to rise again and move on with life after the death of a beloved, especially of a child.

We shall talk about this later and let us just remain a little more with the reality of death.

Although 100 Years is a soft-rock ballad about a love relationship, it is very philosophical, in fact a Martin Heidegger, in calling for “authentic living” because we are all “being-towards-death”. While the song is generally a “feel good” piece, it reminds us of that reality we refuse to accept that coming to terms with death is coming to terms with life. It is when we are faced with the “existential” possibility of death that we begin to see the beauty of life and the joy of living.

15, there's still time for you
Time to buy and time to lose yourself within a morning star
15, I'm alright with you
15, there's never a wish better than this
When you've only got a hundred years to live

Half time goes by, suddenly you're wise
Another blink of an eye, 67 is gone
The sun is getting high
We're moving on

Truly, as the song tells us, our life is precious – whether you are 15 or 22 or 33 or 45 or 67 or 99 – because it could all be gone in a moment or a blink! Like Heidegger, Five for Fighting is calling us in his song to cherish each one’s presence with more love and kindness, care and understanding, with a lot of mercy and forgiveness because we live only for a period of time like 100 Years.

St. Paul also spoke of this constant awareness of death, of how “the world in its present form is passing away” (1 Cor. 7:31) that we should live authentically as Christians. This pandemic has taught us in the most strongest terms this truth, not only with actually dying but also of being prevented from spending precious moments with our dead’s remains! May we not forget this pandemic’s lesson of living in the present moment as if it is also your final moment in life, of cherishing each other always because true riches are found only in God through one another as Jesus reminded us in last Sunday’s gospel (Lk.16:11).

Photo by Ms. Jo Villafuerte, Atok, Benguet, September 2019.

To live is to love. What we need are more people, more children, more friends to celebrate life with. Like God, friends and family do not perish; they live on even if we do not see them because they just move on to higher level of existence. Unlike money and wealth, power and fame, and other material things that perish and become obsolete after a year.

Our weekday readings these past week teemed with so many beautiful nuggets of wisdom about people and relationships learned at the heels of death: the centurion who sent for Jesus for the healing of his slave who “was valuable to him” (Lk.7:2) on Monday; praying for those who grieve like that widowed mother in Nain (Lk.7:13) on Tuesday; and last Wednesday at the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross we were reminded of our transformation through life’s sufferings or little deaths in life; and, finally on Thursday at the memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows, of how we are invited to imitate Mary who remained at the foot of the Cross on Good Friday with her dying Son Jesus Christ. Here we find how death has become a blessing when seen in the light of Jesus and his Cross as witnessed by the Blessed Mother and preached by St. Paul.

This positive aspect of death as a blessing is wonderfully portrayed in the music video of 100 Years set in an isolated place in soft shades of dark blue and green, with some hues of grey evoking a deep sense of peace and tranquility minus the morbidity. Laid-back and relaxed, perhaps. Of course, Five for Fighting’s trademark piano makes the music video so lovely, so appealing, giving a joyful note on death’s certainty leading to eternity.

I'm 99 for a moment
And dying for just another moment
And I'm just dreaming
Counting the ways to where you are

15, there's still time for you
22, I feel her too
33, you're on your way
Every day's a new day

At the start of the music video of 100 Years, we find a younger man playing the piano before Five for Fighting appears singing. That shifting of the younger and older Ondasik would happen about six times maybe interspersed with other characters coming to play the piano too until in the end he leaves to walk toward a big tree to meet his older self. Or God maybe.

Photo by Mr. Jay Javier, “Acacias”, UP Diliman, QC, April 2022.

That big tree seems to convey something like paradise, a gateway to eternity where time is totally held in completeness with everything at the present moment shown by Five for Fighting’s repeated returns to climb the big tree to look at his younger self kissing his first girlfriend until toward the end, he fell from the tree as if he had died only to be seen singing while playing the piano again. It was reminiscent of one of the final scenes in the 1990 movie Flatliners with Kiefer Sutherland trying to amend his childhood sin and crime in pushing to death his playmate from a similar big tree; Sutherland was eventually forgiven when during an induced “flatline” he was able to go back to his past to apologize to his dead playmate with a reversal of role, of him as an adult in the present moment falling from the big tree.

It was after that scene of falling from the big tree when Five for Fighting had awakened singing and playing the piano again when he finally stood to walk back to the big tree to meet his older self, or maybe God — something like Easter.

On the first day of the week, Mary of Magdalene came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb. Mary stayed outside the tomb weeping. And as she wept, she bent over into the tomb and saw two angels in white sitting there, one at the head and one at the feet where the Body of Jesus had been. And they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken by Lord, and I don’t know where they laid him.” When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus there, but did not know it was Jesus.

John 20: 1, 11-14
“Noli me tangere” (touch me not) fresco in the Lower Basilica of St. Francis Assisi Church in Italy painted by Giotto de Bondone in the 13th century from commons.wikimedia.org.

Like on that Easter morning, there will always be the darkness of death but only for a moment if we keep our eyes and our hearts open to Jesus who had risen. Many times we are like Mary Magdalene grieving and weeping that we fail to see the light of Jesus and of our deceased staying with us right in the darkness of grief and death that envelop us. And like Mary, we keep on insisting in relating with them in our old, physical level, forgetting the fact they have risen with Jesus to new life, to new realm of existence.

Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni,” which means Teacher. Jesus said to her, “Stop holding on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” Mary of Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord,” and then reported what he told her.

John 20:16-18

“Stop holding on to me” or “noli me tangere – touch me not” are the words also meant for us today who continue to cling and hold to our departed loved ones like Mary Magdalene, still hoping to hug and kiss them again, to touch and tell them how much we loved them or perhaps say sorry for our sins and lapses when they were still around. It is time to level up in our relationships with them as Five for Fighting reminds us in the last stanza that “every day is a new day”.

It does not really matter if we, or they our departed, are just 15 or 22 or 33 or 45 or 67 or 99 — what is most important is we value each moment of our lives here and now where in the present we meet them once or twice if we are living fully and not blinded by our grief and wishful thinking. Have faith in God. Someday, we shall all be together. For the moment, here is Five for Fighting with his100 Years. May the Lord console you and raise you up to move forward again in life. Amen.

*We have no intentions of infringing into the copyrights of this music and its uploader except to share its beauty and listening pleasure.

From YouTube.com.

“The Hurt” by Kalapana (1975)

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Music by Fr. Nick F. Lalog II, 19 June 2022
Photo by author, 19 April 2022.

With everybody greeting dads this Father’s day, we have decided to feature Kalapana’s first major hit from their first album in 1975 called “The Hurt” to remind everyone of the many hurts most dads have.

It is most fitting too with our gospel on this Sunday when we also celebrate the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ when we are reminded that everybody is a somebody, everyone has to be loved and respected because we are all members of the Body of Christ. How sad that since the time of Christ, many people still take some persons as nobody especially those considered as ordinary people, those without power and wealth (https://lordmychef.com/2022/06/18/corpus-christi-everybody-a-somebody/).

The Hawaii-based group so famous in the country during the 70’s not only for their music but also for their looks produced some of the coolest sounds and romantic lines on that famous decade; it is just sad that the three original members of the four-man band had all died very young.

The Hurt is about a man who seems to have had his karma after fooling for sometime that now either he was dumped by his girlfriend or being played by her as her lover despite her going out with other men. It is the beat of the music that makes this so lively and appealing, especially the oft-repeated word “hurt, hurt, hurt” especially at the end of the song.

But still, the song is nice with a gospel-message challenging us if we would hurt the one who especially loves us and cares for us. The person may be your boyfriend or husband, could be our dad, or may be your girlfriend or wife, or anyone who truly loves you.

Oh you say you’re mine
And I believe you every single time
Even though they say you’re not my kind
I just can’t believe you’d lie
Oh all my friends are laughing
Seeing you out with other men I’m dying
Can’t you see it in my eyes I’m cryin’
I just cant believe you’re not mine

Would you hurt the man who loves you
Would you hurt the man today
Would you take the love you gave me away
Would you hurt the man who loves you
Would you hurt the man today
Would you take the love you gave me away

Oh what have I done
All the time I guess it was just fun
I gave away this Sweetest girl I knew
Oh, just for you

Would you hurt the man who loves you
Would you hurt the man today
Would you take the love you gave me away
Would you hurt the man who loves you
Would you hurt the man today
Would you take the love you gave me away

Just don’ hurt anyone, physically and emotionally speaking. Have a blessed week ahead!

*We have no intentions of infringing into the copyrights of this music and its uploader except to share its beauty and listening pleasure.

“You Are Everything” by the Stylistics (1971)

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Music by Fr. Nick F. Lalog II, 01 May 2022
Photo by Ms. Jing Rey Henderson in Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental, 27 April 2022.

Every Gospel proclaimed in our Eucharistic celebrations is always about the immense love of God for us expressed in the Passion, Death and Resurrection of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.

But there is something so lovely in this Sunday’s story about the third appearance of Jesus to his disciples at the shores of Lake Tiberias that calls us to be in love with the Lord also in order to see and experience his daily coming to our lives, something which the Stylistics expressed in their first gold disc that sold over one million copies in 1971, their song “You Are Everything”.

Today I saw somebody
Who looked just like you
She walked like you do
I thought it was you
As she turned the corner
I called out your name
I felt so ashamed
When it wasn't you, 
wasn't you, oh, oh

You are everything and everything is you
Oh, oh you are everything and everything is you
Oh, oh, you are everything and everything is you

You Are Everything tells us of our common experience of always seeing, even hearing the ones we love even after they are long gone. It is love’s most unique power and quality that enable us to find our beloved everywhere because they are everything to us.

Such was the experience by John the beloved and Simon Peter who recognized the Risen Lord in their each peculiar manner of loving him: John in his blessedness and Peter in his sinfulness (https://lordmychef.com/2022/04/30/jesus-in-our-blessedness-and-sinfulness/).

After a fruitless night of fishing, Jesus appeared to the disciples before dawn, telling them to cast their net to the right of their boat when suddenly they could not pull it with the plentiful catch! Seeing the great catch, John the beloved recognized the man at the shore as Jesus, telling Simon Peter “It is the Lord”! Only him recognized the Risen Lord after seeing the plentiful catch because he was the only one of the Twelve who truly loved Jesus by remaining at the foot of his Cross on Good Friday while the rest went into hiding.

Later after their breakfast, Jesus asked Peter thrice by addressing him in his real name of Simon, “Do you love me?” We are told that Peter was distressed after the third question by Jesus because he knew so well it had something to do with his three denials of the Lord on the night of his arrest and questioning by the Chief Priests. Peter’s response was so beautiful, admitting his guilt while at the same time professing his faith and love in the Lord by telling him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.”

So many times, we are like Peter: we know so well that Jesus knows even our most guarded sins and yet, we know that he perfectly knows too that despite our sins and weakness that we love him.

This is the grace of this third Sunday in Easter, that we remain in love with Jesus. We cannot follow nor meet Jesus whether in our blessedness or sinfulness unless we love him first of all. Jesus perfectly knows human love is imperfect; only he can love us perfectly. We do not have to pretend to be perfect before him; just be our true selves, sinful yet sorrowful, to surely meet him who never leaves our side for he alone is our everything.

Have a blessed week ahead!

*We have no intentions of infringing into the copyrights of this music and its uploader except to share its beauty and listening pleasure.

From YouTube.

“When It Was Done” by Hugo Montenegro (1970)

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Music by Fr. Nick F. Lalog II, 10 April 2022
Photo by Arch. Philip Santiago, Lourdes, France, 2015.

All roads lead to churches today as we begin the holiest week of the year with the celebration of the Palm Sunday in the Lord’s Passion today reaching its highest point on Saturday evening with the Easter Vigil that leads to Easter Sunday, the mother of all feasts in the Catholic world.

Our celebration today is actually a combination of two practices in the earliest times of the Church that were only merged in 1963 during the reform of the liturgy at Vatican II: the procession and blessing of palms was the practice in Jerusalem as early as the 4th century while a hundred years later, the Pope in Rome ushered in the Holy Week with the proclamation of the passion narrative of Jesus Christ.

Hence, the long title of our celebration, Palm Sunday in the Lord’s Passion; however, it is not something we look back in the past but one that we make present in the here and now as we look forward in that future when we shall all be together celebrating eternal life in God’s presence in heaven.

That is the challenge of this Holy Week: how we can follow Jesus in his Passion and Death in order to be one with him in all eternity. Like the people in Jerusalem when he entered the city more than 2000 years ago, would we side with those who followed and believed him or be with those who mocked and jeered him? (https://lordmychef.com/2022/04/09/the-cross-our-door-to-heaven/)

That is the problem of the main character in the song When It Was Done which is a list of wishful thinkings of a man to a woman already in a relationship with another man. It seems the man was too slow or came late to do everything in order to win over the woman he loves and all he could do at the moment now is to wish of having her perhaps in the afterlife in the future.

If I could bind your mind to mine
In time I'd keep you from that world of his
If I could change the strangeness in your kind
Then I'd know where your soul is

Then I'd know what song I'd have to sing
To touch that chord within you
And I would weave such wonders
That when I was done I'd win you

If I could stand with the stars on either hand
And say, "This ain't the answer"
If I had been where you're goin'
But then I'll never be no dancer

And if I was I'd know what step to take
And laugh at what had freed me
And smash the great wall down, girl
When it was done you'd need me

If I could face the fait that waits to cast me
In the scramble
And sit across the velvet boards from God
Then I'd gamble

Then I'd know what chance I'd have to take
And before somebody sold you
I'd bet my soul against the stars
When it was done I'd hold you
When it was done I'd hold you

Composed in 1969 by Jimmy Webb and originally recorded that same year by Walter Wanderly Set, it became popular in 1970 after Hugo Montenegro released his version. Montenegro was a former US Navy musician who pioneered research and recordings in electronic music. His biggest break came in 1966 when he covered Ennio Moricone’s theme for the Clint Eastwood starrer The Good, the Bad and the Ugly that paved his way into a long career in creating music for movies and television series.

When It Was Done is one of the 200 songs covered by Montenegro he had waxed with his cool arrangements using modern electronic instruments and technologies of his time that gave his music a different feel, like in this piece that is very soothing with a sense of sublimity.

It is a very lovely and feel good music that reminds us too to do every effort in the present moment to express our love for others like Jesus Christ who until the end never ceased from doing good for everyone. It is in being like Jesus that we can truly sing Monetenegro’s When It Was Done more convincingly and truly. Amen.

*We have no intentions of infringing into the copyrights of this music and its uploader except to share its beauty and listening pleasure.

From Youtube.

“Question Me An Answer” by Burt Bacharach/Bobby Van (1973)

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Music by Fr. Nick F. Lalog II, 10 October 2021
Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, 2020.

I used to tell my students before that a person is known more with the questions he/she asks than with the answers he/she gives. Too often, our answers are wrong or not certain but if we ask the right questions, even if we do not have the answers immediately, we shall get the right answer at the right time as we mature in life.

What matters most is we ask the right question always.

And that is why we have chosen “Question Me An Answer” from the 1973 movie of the 1933 novel The Lost Lost Horizon for our Sunday music this week. Written by Burt Bacharach and sang by the late Bobby Van in the movie, Question Me An Answer may sound very American and colonial but still, the message is never lost, especially if you listen well to Van’s introduction to his students at Shangri-La.

In this Sunday’s gospel, we find Jesus being asked by a man and then by Peter with questions we ourselves also ask sometimes because deep inside us, we are worried that no one can seem to provide us with the right answer.

As Jesus was setting out on a journey, a man ran up, knelt down before him, and asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 

Mark 10:17

According to Mark, the man’s “face fell and went away for he had many possessions” after Jesus had answered fully his question which in turn bothered Peter who began to express to Jesus his worry over his answer to the man who had left.

Peter began to say to him, “We have given up everything and followed you.”

Mark 10:28

One of the beauties of seeking and following Jesus are the endless questions that come along our journey with him. That is why we need to pray always and ask for the gift of wisdom so we may be guided in this life that becomes more wonderful with the questions we ask, not with the answers we give, or even get (https://lordmychef.com/2021/10/09/our-secret-worries-in-life/).

And the good news is, next to Jesus to accompany us in this journey in life is we also have great music keeping us company.

*We have no intentions of infringing into the copyrights of this music and its uploader except to share its beauty and listening pleasure.

From YouTube.com

“Samba Song” by Bong Penera (1976)

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Music by Fr. Nick F. Lalog II, 22 August 
Photo by author, 2019.
A blessed Sunday everyone!

We continue with our Original Pilipino Music (OPM) this Sunday amid another surge in COVID-19 cases this week with numbers going into five-digits as we ironically downgrade into lower level in quarantine controls in the metropolis.

So as not to burden you with more worries, we have chosen something light and easy, refreshingly old from 1976 as our featured music courtesy of Mr. Bong Penera called “Samba Song” with English vocals by Ms. Norma Ramirez.

More than 20 years before the country was hooked with bossa nova in the early 2000, we have all been so delighted with many great Pinoy jazz artists in the mid-70’s to 80’s, thanks to WK-FM which is now back in the internet through the efforts of the original good guys of Brother Wayne and company.

We find Penera’s Samba Song related with this Sunday’s gospel which concludes Jesus Christ’s bread of life discourse wherein the people led by his own disciples left him to return to their old ways of life when they found his teachings so difficult to accept.

Life is like a dance, a samba of Brazil or any dance. You always need a partner to truly feel its music. We need somebody in life, someone we believe in, someone we love to join us in our dance, in our journey in life especially when things are not clear at all or when we are saddled with many problems and trials.

Kung gusto kong kumanta
At gusto ko ring sumayaw
Ako'y sumisipol saka malalaman
ako pala'y payasong walang kasayaw
Bakit tayo ganito
Mga puso nati'y mailap
Lumapit ka giliw at tayo'y magsamba
Kahit minsan man lamang.

One thing I like with OPM during the 70’s is its use of Taglish or Tagalog-English that had maintained a sense of elegance, whether the English lyrics were inserted as mere lines or as stanzas like in Penera’s Samba Song.

The first two stanzas were in Tagalog sang by Penera as an exposition of his feelings, of his longing for a partner, for his beloved to come and dance with him and live with him. Then comes the response by Ramirez expressing her same feelings in English.

And this is the time for that dance
I don't feel alone because
I know that you'll stay with me
to samba through life with me.

And there you have it! A great samba tune and meaning of life, of being together, of believing and loving like in the gospel when Simon Peter answered Jesus, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God” (Jn.6:68-69)

Let us try “to feel at home” in Peter’s company during this pandemic to be led to a similar faith insight and commitment in Jesus no matter how difficult it may be.

Faith is like love: we believe and love not because we are sure of ourselves but because we are sure of the one we believe and love. That is why we commit our lives to our beloved. It is not primarily because of us at the center but of the other. Like Jesus. Or a loved one.

https://lordmychef.com/2021/08/21/lord-to-whom-shall-we-go-faith-in-jesus-in-time-of-pandemic/

Have a blessed week ahead, drive those blues away with our great Original Pilipino Music!

*We have no intentions of infringing on the copyrights of this music except to share its beauty and listening pleasure.

From YouTube.

“Lost Stars” by Keira Knightley (2013)

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Music by Fr. Nick F. Lalog II, 18 July 2021
Photo by Atty. Polaris Grace Rivas Beron, Mt. Sinai in Egyot, May 2019.

This is the second time we are featuring this lovely song from the 2013 movie Begin Again starring Keira Knightley, Mark Ruffalo and Maroon 5’s Adam Levine who also sang the same song in the said movie. But, like most people, we have always preferred Knightley’s version.

In Begin Again, Knightley is dumped for another woman her boyfriend Levine had met after signing up with a record studio in LA.

Knightley was naturally left broken-hearted and lost in New York City where she was discovered by a struggling recording executive (Ruffalo) in a local bar singing one of her songs.

It is a beautiful love story with excellent selection of songs but Lost Stars is the movie theme composed by Gregg Alexander with Danielle Brisebois that earned an Academy Award nomination for best original song that year.

It captures so well the pains and fears of being lost with no one to turn to which is part of the theme of our Sunday Mass readings when Jesus was moved with pity upon seeing the crowd who have followed them for they were “like sheep without a shepherd” (https://lordmychef.com/2021/07/17/being-lost-getting-lost-in-christ/).

But, being lost is not totally a loss at all like what Knightley – and Ruffalo – have both realized in the movie for their losses led them to gaining back everything they have initially lost like family and career, most of all, one’s self.

Cupid's demanding back his arrow
So let's get drunk on our tears
And, God, tell us the reason
Youth is wasted on the young
It's hunting season and the lambs are on the run

Searching for meaning
But are we all lost stars
Trying to light up the dark?
Who are we?
Just a speck of dust within the galaxy
Woe is me

Jesus came to the world to search for those lost so they may find life again. And the beautiful part of it is that even if we are lost, we are like lost stars the still shine brightly leading others unto life and meaning.

This Sunday, get lost in Jesus Christ to find your self and others. Have a blessed week ahead!

*We have no intentions of infringing into the copyrights of this music and video but simply to share its beautiful message. Thank you.

“Just Like Heaven” by The Cure (1987)

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Music by Fr. Nick F. Lalog II, 16 May 2021
Photo by author at NLEX-Pampanga area, January 2020.

Happy Ascension Sunday!

After so many tries at other songs that speak of “heaven” in relation with our celebration today, I finally settled on The Cure’s “Just Like Heaven” as our featured Sunday music because first of all, they are one of my favorite bands.

Secondly, unlike the other songs that speak of heaven, The Cure’s Just Like Heaven is so unique: music is cool and crisp that is soothing and relaxing like most romantic songs. It speaks joyfully of the beautiful love between two people so in love with each other that turned out to be only a dream — because the reality is that they have parted ways!

“Show me, show me, show me how you do that trick
The one that makes me scream” she said
“The one that makes me laugh” she said
And threw her arms around my neck

Show me how you do it
And I promise you I promise that
I’ll run away with you
I’ll run away with you

Spinning on that dizzy edge
I kissed her face and kissed her head
And dreamed of all the different ways I had
To make her glow
Why are you so far away, she said
Why won’t you ever know that I’m in love with you
That I’m in love with you

And so, you ask, where is heaven?

Remember our reflection last week about love that despite the pains and hurts of every break up and “LQ” is always the fact that we still love. The man in the song is still so in love that he keeps on dreaming her.

Here lies the deciding factor in our choosing Just Like Heaven for this Sunday’s music: The Cure’s lead singer and composer Robert Smith claims it is his most favorite song in all their music. He admitted in some interviews that composing Just Like Heaven was so different than the rest that he could not repeat. No wonder, a year after writing and recording this song in 1987, Smith married his girlfriend Mary Poole and since then, have lived together — just like heaven! (Mary is the woman who kissed Smith in this music video before waking up from is dream.)

For me, this song captures the meaning of the Lord’s Ascension: it is entering into a higher level of relationships with God through others in Jesus Christ that we have to work for. Heaven does not come on a silver platter; it is both a grace from God we have to strive for as The Cure imply in “Just Like Heaven” (https://lordmychef.com/2021/05/15/levelling-up-in-jesus/).

Have a blessed week and hope you work to deepen your relationships with more love and kindness, and doubling more of forgiving!

“Pagtingin” by Ben&Ben (2019)

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Music by Fr. Nick F. Lalog II, 21 March 2021
Photo from GMA Network of a scene from Ben&Ben’s music video “Pagtingin” with Gabbi Garcia and Khalil Ramos, 25 February 2021.

We go OPM this final Sunday in Lent to ease everyone with the alarming surge of COVID-19 infections happening in our country especially at the National Capital Region. Stay home, be safe, pray and listen to some good music from our homegrown local band Ben&Ben as we try to link the Sunday gospel to their recent hit “Pagtingin”.

I know… Ben&Ben is not my generation but that is the wonder and joy of music as food of the soul: it always strikes a chord in anyone’s heart that reaches to the soul, enabling us to see more beyond the material and natural realities.

Like with their 2019 hit called “Pagtingin” which means in English as “feelings, a sort of crush and attraction to a woman or a man.” Its Filipino root is “tingin” or “see” in English. Remember when we were growing up, feeling drawn to someone so special that we would look at her or steal glances just to see the woman we adore? And the kilig moments when your sights meet?

But of course, the moment you reveal those secret feelings, that is also when you begin to see the bigger picture: your object of pagtingin will either accept or reject you. There is always that risk because sometimes in life, what we see is not what we truly get.

Dami pang gustong sabihin
Ngunit ‘wag na lang muna
Hintayin na lang ang hanging
Tangayin ang salita

‘Wag mo akong sisihin
Mahirap ang tumaya
Dagat ay sisisirin
Kahit walang mapala’

Pag nilahad ang damdamin
Sana ‘di magbago ang pagtingin
Aminin ang mga lihim
Sana ‘di magbago ang pagtingin

Bakit laging ganito?
Kailangang magka-ilangan
Ako ay nalilito, ooh-ooh-ooh
Ooh-ooh-ooh, ooh

Pagtingin speaks similarly with the gospel this final week in Lent wherein some pagans requested the Apostle Philip “to see” Jesus (https://lordmychef.com/2021/03/20/lent-is-seeing-jesus/).

Seeing in the bible means believing. There are times when we see, we believe; but, ultimately, it is in believing first that we are able to see the whole picture in life especially Jesus in the light of his dying on the Cross. And this is what the song Pagtingin is hoping in the end that amid the pains and hurts with some prayers, the man with special feelings will finally see closely with him the woman he sees from afar.

Pahiwatig
Sana ‘di magbago ang pagtingin
Pahiwatig
Sana ‘di magbago ang pagtingin

Iibig lang kapag handa na
Hindi na lang kung trip-trip lang naman
Iibig lang kapag handa na
Hindi na lang kung trip-trip lang naman

‘Pag nilahad ang damdamin
Sana ‘di magbago ang pagtingin
Aminin ang mga lihim
Sana ‘di magbago ang pagtingin

Subukan ang manalangin
Sana ‘di magbago ang pagtingin
Baka bukas, ika’y akin
Sana ‘di magbago ang pagtingin

A blessed week ahead of everyone. Stay safe always. Amen.

Roadtrip in time of COVID-19, Part 2

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 26 January 2021

Every road trip is filled with music. A lot of music. In fact, it is not a road trip without any kind of music! As I was telling you, this road trip was inspired by that line from Steely Dan’s Kid Charlemagne, “Is there gas in the car?”

As we drove to Tanay from Baras Church, our playlist had Rod Stewart singing one of our generation’s staple music so “relate much” with our own experiences…

I didn’t know what day it was
When you walked into the room
I said, “Hello” unnoticed
You said goodbye too soon

Breezing through the clientele
Spinning yarns that were so lyrical
I really must confess right here
The attraction was purely physical (oh, yeah)

Okay. Suspend your judgments for now and let me say too that when men get together whether on a road trip or not, surely topic would always be on women and past relationships.

Always. Even with priests like me who had studied and worked for a long time “outside” the seminary. There is always that somebody in the group who would pop up with that question “have you had a girlfriend before”?

Sorry… you have to go with me in an actual road trip to hear my stories while I am obliged with the “seal of confession” of sorts to keep my lips zipped with Dindo’s stories as we talked about our past relationships while singing with Rod Stewart on our way to Tanay. One thing for sure, though, like real gentlemen, when we talked about women, it was very true, so divine, like those lines …

My love for you is immeasurable
My respect for you immense
You’re ageless, timeless, lace and fineness
You’re beauty and elegance

You’re a rhapsody, a comedy
You’re a symphony and a play
You’re every love song ever written
But honey, what do you see in me?

You’re in my heart, you’re in my soul
You’ll be my breath should I grow old
You are my lover, you’re my best friend
You’re in my soul

Main altar of the Parish of St. Ildephonse in Tanay, Rizal declared by the National Museum of the Philippines as “National Cultural Treasure”, another example of maintaining the noble simplicity of old churches.

The way we relate with women
indicates how we relate with God.

Twenty years ago, I have read from one of the writings by Papal Preacher Raniero Cardinal de Cantalamessa how an American Dominican exegete had put forward that the way we relate with women mirrors our way of relating with God.

That is very true.

Women are God’s loveliest creations that without them, we men would never be complete. Some even claim that women must be the one closest to God in appearance, more perfect than us men that is why she was created last.

What is amazing again with this road trip is how our second stop at the Tanay Church confirmed our discussions of women.

First, it was a woman who directed us to the main entrance to the church because its gate was partly hidden by some obstructions at that time from the main road. Then, inside the church, three women catechists warmly welcomed us near its magnificent altar.

And when I recognized its Patron is St. Ildephonse of Toledo in Spain, I realized again how this road trip “was taking us instead of us taking the trip” on that rainy Thursday, January 07, 2021.

When I was ordained deacon in 1997, I was assigned to help the late Fr. Johann Sebastian in a parish at Pinaod, San Ildefonso town in Bulacan. Of course, San Ildefonso is St. Ildephonse…

Next, Fr. Johann was a resident of San Ildefonso whose house was across the Parish Church where we used to watch the procession during his feast on January 23.

Most of all, it was from Fr. Johann that I learned so much about St. Ildephonse who had lived around the years 607-667 in Toledo, Spain that used to be the main seat of the Church in Spain before Madrid. Outside Fr. Johann’s room used to be displayed a huge painting of the Blessed Virgin Mary appearing to St. Ildephonse while giving him heavenly vestments (chasuble) as gifts for his efforts in propagating devotions to her. In fact, St. Ildephonse was one of the early bishops who had written about the Immaculate Conception of Mary that was finally declared a dogma of the Church in 1854.

Here we are in the beautiful church of Tanay recently declared by the National Museum of the Philippines as a “National Cultural Treasure” under the patronage of St. Ildephonse, truly a holy and a gentleman with a great devotion to the Mother of God that mirrored his fidelity in serving God his Master and Lord!

Shortly after praying and exchanging stories with the three catechists, the Parish Priest, Msgr. Rigoberto de Guzman came to meet and formally welcomed us in his church. Actually, we were hesitant to meet Msgr. Rigs as we did not want to disturb him but we were told that he usually welcomed pilgrims to their parish.

Likewise, I was not so sure if he could still recall me since we have met only twice ten years ago when he was the Rector of the Antipolo Cathedral during the time of Bishop Gabby Reyes while I was with Radio Veritas. And, lo and behold — Msgr. Rigs still knew me, even telling me how he had come across some of my reflections in the Sabbath publication!

A very soft spoken and kind-hearted man of God, Msgr. Rigs thanked me on behalf of our diocese in forming many of their priests who have graduated from our Major Seminary. As a token of his appreciation especially after learning that I teach and serve as a spiritual director in our major seminary, he gave me a framed image of Our Lady of the Poor and Suffering known also as Our Lady of Banneux in Belgium where she appeared eleven times to an 11-year old girl in 1933.

Oh my God!

First, it was St. Joseph who greeted us at Baras; now, we have my second most favorite image of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Banneux welcoming us in Tanay! As I thanked Msgr. Rigs for his gift, he led me to the side of their church where stood an exact replica of the Virgin of Banneux — something we have overlooked earlier due to the rains!

At that very moment, I felt the Blessed Mother’s comforting assurance of love and guidance, especially with my new assignment as chaplain of the Our Lady of Fatima University and Medical Center effective February 16, 2021. What a pleasant morning talking about the women in our lives now capped with the most wonderful woman of all, our Mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary.

The first time I learned about Our Lady of Banneux was when I met the sisters in charge of the Boys’ Town and Girls’ Town in Cavite way back in 2007 after learning about the works of their founder, the Venerable Fr. Al Schwartz, an American priest who worked here among the poorest of the poor. He was a devotee of the Our Lady of Banneux who is very much like the Our Lady of Fatima, so lovely and very simple. Both appeared in the early 20th century in Europe to show Mary’s oneness with humanity going through so many sufferings and afflictions up to this age. It is something many devotees in our diocese in Bulacan seem to be missing with their pomp and pageantry in crowning every image of the Blessed Virgin to be found, even in a bodega or a patio!

That is the beauty and charm of the two old churches we have visited in Baras and Tanay: both are simply elegant, not extravagant nor loud where one can have time with God and the sacred.

After the rains have stopped, Msgr. Rigs prayed over us and blessed us as we left for Pililla while listening this time to Hall and Oates. More rock and roll reflections in our final installment. See ya!

Dindo Alberto, Msgr. Rigs de Guzman, and author.

E-mail me at <lordmychef@gmail.com>.