That most sweet 4-letter word, “Dear”

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 02 August 2022
Photo from https://krugsstudio.blogspot.com/2016/07/does-anyone-write-letter-anymore.html

Two amusing anecdotes happened with me recently that reminded me of this four-letter word rarely used these days that is so powerful yet very endearing and lovely, and so touching too. It is the word dear we often use in writing letters, at least for my fellow 57 year-olds and above.

Let’s begin with the more recent incident that happened yesterday when I went walking again after a one week break due to toxic schedules. I felt funny walking yesterday while stretching my arms and moving my head with everyone asking me what have happened that I was absent for so long. When I returned to the parish for a break, I met our Rector Fr. Elmer and told him to write me an “excuse letter” that says, “Dear Everyone: Please excuse Fr. Nick for not being able to walk last week due to pastoral reasons” which I would show whoever would ask me again of my long absence.

Photo by Eva Bronzini on Pexels.com

That was how I remembered – while still walking – something so stupid when I was in grade 3 after I had asked my dad to write me an excuse letter to my teacher after being absent due to a fever. Despite my failing memory at times, I vividly remembered yesterday that scene of how my dad took his yellow pad and removed the blue cap of his Bic Orange FINE BILLE CARBURE ball pen to write my excuse letter in just a minute which he asked me to read aloud.

That’s when problem arose: I protested to my dad why he wrote the word “Dear” in addressing my teacher!

Hindi ko malaman kung anong katangahan o kalokohan pumasok isip ko nung umagang iyon at hindi ko ma-take sinulatan ng daddy ko yung Grade 3 adviser namin ng “Dear Ms. Legaspi”? Kasi, akala ko noon yung “dear” ay para lang sa asawa at kasintahan. Akala ko nanliligaw daddy ko kay ma’am… Gara ano?

My dad, who has always been so cool, simply took off his glasses, grinned at me, impishly smiled and explained that “dear” was the standard salutation in letters. But I was adamantly holding on to my conviction that “dear” had romantic undertones that should not be used in writing excuse letters as I remained seated on our sofa, not touching my excuse letter and making face until my mom came to explain things to me, assuring me that it was ok with her for my dad to write my teacher with “Dear”.

Corny? Weird?

Yes, I am both corny and weird but as I matured – getting more corny and more weird than ever – I have come to keep that love affair with the word “dear” so alive and well with me. I use it to address not only friends and relatives, colleagues and acquaintances, but most especially God in my daily prayer blogs as I have learned that it expresses a special kinship, a special relationship that is so honorable and dignified.

Maybe it is no coincidence that dear is also a synonym for expensive, a direct opposite of cheap. It is very interesting that in Filipino, the words dear and expensive are translated as “mahal”, the opposite of cheap or “mura”. Mahal is love. From mahal comes mahalaga, equivalent to English as valuable and important. Things that are dear and expensive are always valuable.

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

The same is true when you address anyone with the salutation “Dear” – he or she is loved and valued with respect and honor.

Maybe, one reason we have lost the art of letter writing is not just due to computers and text messages but because we no longer value persons that much unlike before. There is something so special, so touching inside when one receives a letter or a card or even a postcard that makes you feel so good inside because you were thought of, remembered and cared for.

Gladden the heart of someone today by writing him/her with a short note saying hi or anything by starting with the word “Dear”. Try it. It feels good too to the letter writer.


Now, the very first incident that reminded me of the word “dear” happened the other Monday afternoon when I was called to our hospital for an Anointing of the Sick by the family of a patient who was transferred from the ICU to a regular room. Actually, I have visited the patient that Sunday before at the ICU, anointed him with Holy Oil and even gave communion to his family.

Photo by Daan Stevens on Pexels.com

When I arrived at the hospital room and saw again the wife seated on a wheelchair, crying like when I saw her at the ICU a day earlier, I realized it was not really the patient who needed me but his wife who could not accept the hard truth her husband was dying. So, I asked the other family members to leave the room as I counseled the wife to let go of her husband, to speak to him and tell him how much she loved him, not to worry about her, and most of all, to forgive him and say sorry as well for her sins to him.

The patient was 80 years old, so thin and pale, dependent on life-support system while the wife was 78 years-old who could barely walk except for very short distances. After a while of crying, the wife told me she was ready to speak to her husband to tell him those words we have rehearsed: “I love you”, “I forgive you”, “I am sorry” and “I now give you to Jesus, go and don’t worry about me.”

While assisting her to the bedside of her husband, I asked her how they called each other and, before answering me, she bowed her head, wiped her nose, and softly said, “dear”.

“Ah, dear po pala tawagan ninyo” as I led her closer to him.

Please forgive me… when I heard the woman told me how they called each other as “dear”, I felt the mischievous child in me giggling, so tickled with joy as I heard the woman almost whispering to her husband, “Dear… I love you”, “Dear…I forgive you for your sins against me”, “Dear… I give you back to God. I’m ok now.” What a kilig moment!

I felt like in a movie with two elderly couples together, the husband at the threshold of eternity with his loving wife calling him perhaps for the last time as “dear”. What a precious moment indeed when the patient responded by opening his eyes, making me wonder how he would say the word “dear” to his wife too!

The following day, the patient died peacefully. Most likely, after hearing again that lovely and assuring word, “Dear” by his wife. How I felt so dearly loved and blessed by God in answering his call to counsel the wife and return to anoint the man with Holy Oil for his final journey back home.

Thank you, my dear friends for bearing with me! Have a blessed, dearly loved week!

Photo by Mr. Chester Ocampo, springtime in Japan, 2017.

Priests and the elections

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nick F. Lalog II, 19 May 2022
Photo by Ezra Acayan/Getty Images.

Like many of you, the people I elected lost last May 9. Fact is, I felt the same sense of loss and sadness and disappointment – but not depression nor anxiety – many of you feel today as early as 2016 when not even one opposition made it into the Senate.

It was in the 2016 elections when I realized that our people would continue to be less discerning in electing their leaders, of how it would get worst before getting any better, not even in my lifetime. The following morning after Duterte was elected president in 2016, our kasambahay came to me during breakfast to apologize, saying, “sorry po Father… binoto ko po si Bung (Bong Revilla) kasi baka wala pong bumoto sa kanya.”

You see, I have been trying to educate Manang to be more discerning in choosing candidates since the start of the 2016 elections campaign period but no amount of explanations seemed to have convinced her. Hence, I just told her, “kakaawa mo sa kanya, hayun, naging topnother si Bong Revilla, ngayon kawawa ang bayan natin.” The same thing happened last week that we now have Robin Padilla as Senator of the Republic too.

However, I am still filled with hopes in our future. We are not a hopeless case of going to the dogs if we start learning the lessons of these 2022 elections that were similar with 2016’s if we priests return to our original mission of teaching and sharing Jesus, only Jesus and always Jesus. Enough with our political partisanship, of endorsements and campaigns for candidates no matter how worthy they may be.

Photo by Lauren DeCicca/Getty Images.

This may sound very simple, even simplistic. As a priest, I feel and fear we have forgotten Jesus in these recent elections. Even a week after, many have not stopped in their “fight”, making all those unChristian comments in social media that prove we have indeed lost Christ lately.

“Oh, men of little faith!” is how Jesus would probably exclaim at some of us priests and bishops in this post-elections period.

Instead of educating the people, some priests and bishops went too far into campaigning even at the pulpit for particular candidates that led to disillusionment than enlightenment. And now, we are into this mess – the second elections in a row since 2016 – when the people resoundingly rejected not only the clergy’s candidates but also the Church we represent as an institution. What is tragic is how we priests still do not get it, even that simple lesson in history that every time priests endorse candidates, they turn out to be kiss of death!

It is so disappointing how most of the priests and bishops were so quiet, not silent, in 2020 when the quarantine period was prolonged more than twice or thrice that kept our churches closed, denying the people much needed spiritual guidance and nourishment during the pandemic. Sadly when the campaign period for the elections started last year, many priests were suddenly out, vocal and filled with courage in joining rallies even on Saturdays and Sundays when they should be celebrating the Mass in their parishes, when they should be praying and reflecting on the gospel to nourish souls but were instead baffling the faithful if their pastors were leading them to heaven or hell.

The double standard cannot be denied: when Leny declared her candidacy last October, some priests and parishes posted on social media pictures of Gaudete and Laudete Sunday’s pink motifs but, when Red Wednesday came in November to honor those persecuted in the Church, the same priests and parishes issued clarifications that the liturgical red motif was not in any way political.

Of course, it has always been non-political until they started it! Unfortunately, the bad taste of insincerity was all over and no one felt ashamed at all. Which brings us to the many sanctimonious “sermons” – not homilies (they are different) – that followed during Lent, filled with self-righteousness and holier-than-thou attitudes as if there are no thieves and liars among us.

Photo by author, Stations of the Cross at the Parish of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima, March 2022.

The question being asked by the faithful – where is God? – following the results of the recent elections is an indictment of the priests who have abandoned Jesus and so believed in themselves and their candidates, denying Christ the chance to do that much-needed miracle we were all hoping for since the start of the campaign period.

A former student now based in Canada recently narrated how he and his wife told their eight year-old daughter the need to stand and defend the truth. I was impressed and touched that I congratulated him as I recalled those first 12 years of my priesthood teaching them in our diocesan school in Malolos City. I mentioned to him how it pained me that some of our graduates have joined the “dark forces” in politics with one notoriously grandstanding during the proceedings revoking the franchise of ABS-CBN.

We can only do as much but the most important thing is to remain focused in Jesus, in words and in deeds despite our weaknesses and unworthiness. When people experience and get to know Jesus, everything good follows. We called it in my former school assignment “Sanctitas in Sapientia” or “Holiness in Wisdom” – the more we get to know Jesus, the more we grow in wisdom and holiness becoming like him so that we also follow him and love him through others.

That is the challenge to us this post-election period: let us double time, spend our energies in bringing back the people, especially the young inside the churches not to the streets to learn more about Jesus in the Sacraments. Most of all, to reach out to those in the margins, the majority we love to bash in putting into office the same “unworthy” candidates as leaders of the nation.

A few days after the elections, we had the first Confession and first Holy Communion of our Grade III and IV students at the Basic Education Department of Our Lady of Fatima University in Valenzuela City. It was then when I got more convinced how in the past 24 years that priesthood is bringing Jesus to the people first through the meaningful celebrations of the sacraments, especially the Holy Eucharist where his words are proclaimed and cracked open to let Jesus touch the hearts of everyone.

Both in the parish and in the school, I have seen that Jesus is the One transforming people, the One who changes people, not us priests nor anyone. We are merely his instruments.

Photo by Mr. Paulo Sillonar, Basic Education Dept., Our Lady of Fatima University, 11 May 2022.

In the beautiful story of the feeding of 5000, we are told that when Jesus saw a large crowd coming to him, he said to Philip, “Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?” He said this to test him, because he himself knew what he was going to do (Jn.6:5-6).

Jesus knows very well what he is going to do in every situation, especially elections. Our job is to listen to Jesus, to make Jesus present to everyone, to share Jesus.

Later after the feeding of 5000 in the wilderness, Jesus gave his bread of life discourse to the people who have followed him to Capernaum but they could not take his words that eventually, they left him along with the other followers of Christ. Only the Twelve remained with him whom he asked, “Do you also want to leave?” Simon Peter answered him, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (Jn.6:67-68).

Do we have the same faith and focus of Simon Peter in Jesus? Why worry after we have lost these elections?

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us that all our affairs in this life and in this world must always be seen beyond its social and economic, even medical and political implications but always in the light of Christ and his Cross. This reality is perfectly captured by the Inquirer photographer last August 2021 when the chapel of the QC General Hospital was converted into a COVID ward during a surge. The photo speaks loudly and clearly of the one reality we always forget, especially us priests.

Again, my views may be simple, even simplistic, compared to the learned but so many times, that is how God works too. Thank you for taking time to read. Join me in praying:

Lord Jesus Christ, 
so many times we leave you behind, 
following ourselves and others 
instead of you alone who is 
"the way and the truth and the life"
(Jn.14:6). Amen.

Have a blessed weekend!

Front page photo of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, 20 August 2021.

Mary in our troubled time

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, 105th Anniversary of the Apparition of Our Lady of Fatima, 13 May 2022
Acts 13:26-33   ><]]]]'> + <'[[[[><   John 14:1-6
Photo from vaticannews.va, 13 May 2017.

Our gospel this 13th of May is so timely for us in the Philippines when Jesus said to his disciples shortly before his arrest at the Last Supper, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me” (Jn.14:1).

It is the same message of the Blessed Virgin Mary when she first appeared to the three little children at Cova de Iria in Fatima, Portugal exactly 105 years ago today.

Jesus said to his disciples: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me.”

John 14:1
Photo from vaticannews.va, 13 May 2017.

In the past 200 years, notice how the two most significant apparitions by the Blessed Virgin Mary at Lourdes in France (1858) and at Fatima in Portugal (1917) were both calls for us to renew our faith in God through Jesus Christ, something we keep on forgetting and even disregarding in these modern times.

When the Blessed Mother appeared in Fatima, the First World War was still raging with the former Soviet Union spreading its venomous doctrines of atheism and communism. Today, though the USSR has long been gone and dismantled, its ideology still lives on in Russia which had recently invaded its neighbor Ukraine.

And here in our country, the mood since Monday evening when unofficial results of the elections started to come has been like a Good Friday with so many going through some forms of emotional stress and distress.

It is very sad and disheartening when people started saying of moving to other countries abroad, casting doubts on the elections results with all the insults and other moral aspersions against the winners and their supporters.

Where is our faith in God, in Jesus Christ?

Photo from Commission on Social Communication, National Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima, 2020.

When Mary appeared in Fatima in 1917, the world was in a great transition like our time with ever increasing discoveries and inventions in the field of science and technology with the new ideas and thoughts being put forth that were so materialistic, disregarding God, spirituality and morality.

Today we are reminded anew of the ever-relevant calls of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Fatima to go back to her Son, our Lord Jesus Christ in this time characterized by so much modernities in life brought about by new technologies that also spawn more materialistic thoughts that are often relativistic.

How ironic that as we love to hate modern media, we ourselves have relied on them too these past months. We have relied more on numbers than with God, falling into the trappings of social media of all glitz and glamour that were empty and worst, not the reality at all! We have been warned long ago to never rely on what we see in media that are most often human constructs. There is only one reality in this life, in this world: Jesus Christ.

Photo from Commission on Social Communication, National Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima, 2020.

Thomas said to him, “Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

John 14:5-6

The recent events in the country speak so loud and clear of how we have forgotten Jesus Christ. We have believed so much in ourselves, especially some of us in the clergy who have crossed the lines or, moved the lines, so to speak, forgetting the most essential, the only one Real, the person of Jesus Christ and his universal message of love and salvation to everyone.

In all our efforts and endeavors in this world, especially in those advocacies and causes we passionately work for, may we not forget that ultimately, it is all about persons and not ideals. The ideals we work and stand for are good because of the persons we fight for and ultimately, because of its very roots, the Person of Jesus who called us to do his work or mission in liberating the people, especially the poor.

Jesus had told us that the way, the truth, and the life on this earth is himself, a Person. Our ways can disappear and become totally obsolete but Jesus is always relevant and accessible, most of all, infallible as we have reflected last Sunday in his being the Good Shepherd who gives us eternal life. That is why he is the way as well as the truth and the life for everything hangs together in himself.

This is the basic truth that the Blessed Mother expressed at Fatima that she insisted to the three children of the need for us to enter into an intimate relationship in Jesus Christ her Son through the Sacraments of Penance and the Holy Eucharist.

Going back to Jesus as Mama Mary had taught us is going back to prayers and the sacraments. Of course, they are not everything but what can we live on if we are empty of Jesus? The recent exchanges of insults are proofs enough of whether we have Jesus or not.

Photo from Commission on Social Communication, National Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima, 2020.

Life is filled with so many mysteries, with more questions than answers. We have had all these questions long before of actors/actresses getting elected to local posts and to both houses of Congress but until now we have refused to accept the answers that majority of voters are not like us – proof how we especially in the Church have always been detached from the rest of the people. Instead of spending too much time with politics and with social media, we must go out and reach out to those people at the margins, the poorest of the poor we find only in our countless documents but never inside the church.

When Jesus and later his Mother Mary told us the simple answer to our question verbalized by Thomas, that Jesus himself is the way and the truth and the life, we are reassured that there is no other secret path or road to fulfillment in this world and into heaven where he is preparing a room for us to dwell after this life. But for now, we have to focus on Jesus more because as he later stressed to Philip in our gospel today, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (Jn.14:9) – which is a call to witnessing the gospel more than ever!

In the first reading, Paul reminds us of the wrong choices made by his countrymen and fellow Jews in crucifying Jesus Christ who rose again from the dead. His Resurrection is proof of how God continues to work for us in our favor despite and in spite of setbacks and even crushing defeats.

Never lose hope in God. Do not let your hearts be troubled. Like in 1917 when Mother Mary first appeared in Fatima, life was so difficult and truly uncertain with so many kinds of wars at all fronts like today. On this feast of Our Lady of Fatima, Mother Mary is assuring us of better days ahead despite trials and difficulties if we choose and remain in her Son Jesus Christ.

May the Blessed Mother of the Rosary, our Lady of Fatima, pray for us always. Amen.

From FB of Our Lady of Fatima University and Fatima University Medical Center, 06 May 2022.

Thoughts on homesickness

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nick F. Lalog II, 24 January 2022
Photo by author, sunrise at Camp John Hay, Baguio City, 2018.

I have always taken homesickness lightly, dismissing it as a simple feeling we all go through once in a while when we leave home for various reasons. Maybe that is due to my entering the seminary in high school, aged 13-16, when I left my family for three years.

Everything changed when I went on vacation to the US in 2003. For the first time in my life, I felt so homesick after extending my two-month vacation to almost five months! That was when I realized the painful truth of homesickness: it is not really that you wanted to come home but more of longing for your loved ones from home, wishing they are with you having a great time at Times Square or enjoying the views from Washington’s Monument or devouring those giant oysters at New Orleans.

Homesickness is not really missing home as a place but home as family, as persons. One writer had said it so well that “homesickness is not really about the places but the faces we miss”!

It is having that feeling while in the midst of all those sights and sounds and tastes, you wish your loved ones are with you too, doubling the fun and adventures you are having. It is wanting to go home and take everybody out to your vacation or location.

But, lately I found out there is something else deeper with the faces and company we miss when we feel homesick; it is also the time and moments lost and gone in the past you try to bring back into the present. Not just of other persons but your very self – including all your dreams and pursuits or desires that got sidelined for so many reasons, valid or not. It is not really about having regrets in life but somehow, homesickness is a feeling best described by our Filipino word panghihinayang. Or, sayang.

It is a case of wasted presence, of taking persons and things for granted.

Thanks to the COVID pandemic. Aside from the virus, we are all afflicted with homesickness, of missing our loved ones whom we cannot visit or stay with due to the corona virus. And, whether we had mild or severe symptoms, homesickness was strongest – and strangest – when we were in isolation or quarantine due to infection.

Basta, all we strongly felt was to see our family and friends because we love them.

Photo by author, Sonnen Berg, Davao City, 2019.

Homesickness depends – for better or for worst – on the kind of presence we have spent with our loved ones.

If we have always been intense – and truthful – in our relationships with family and friends, homesickness becomes a soothing balm that relaxes us after a very tiring day or week specially when in isolation or quarantine. You know that kind of feeling within of assured contentment that you love and you are loved by other persons you do not see often or not even communicate with frequently. That is because when you were together, the presence you have spent with each other was so intense and pure that it had created an invisible bond between or among you that you do not seem apart from each other at all.

There is that wonderful feeling of remembering, of suddenly experiencing the warmth and loving face of your beloved. It happens briefly like a blink of an eye that seemed eternal. That’s because of the love you have.

Problem happens when our occasions of being present with one another is superficial or shallow, when we were physically present with another but emotionally and spiritually detached. That is when the hairline difference between homesickness and regrets occurs. We become homesick, trying to go back not only in place but in time to meet the persons including our old self now all gone. Our former rector, Fr. Memeng Salonga used to tell us in high school seminary that it is not really time that is passing by but you who are passing by. One cannot bring back time that had passed, specially the chances and opportunities it had for you if you do not use it wisely.

That’s the painful truth with homesickness when you miss so much how you have missed and let go of the time and moments you have to be truly present with someone and with your very self. And we say sayang.

Photo by author, Israel, 2017.

Recently I was exchanging text messages with a former student. We last met five years ago and both promised to meet again to work on a project and just simply have another great time together over some bottles of beer.

It never happened because we were both busy. Last Friday, he told me how he had COVID last year, the Delta surge. None of his connections could even get him into the ER of any hospital in the city. It was an eye-opener for him, indeed a second life as he survived COVID with a lot of faith and prayers. And love of family.

As I told him of my plans of slowing down in life and retiring early, he texted, “The way I see it po, it can also be wanting to really live. And not function like a machine.” (See why I love talking to him?)

Exactly! Sad, but true.

That has always been the challenge of life, of authentic living – when we become truly free to live and love and be faithful to God expressed in our kindness and service to one another. Of living in the present, in the here and now, in the “today” of Jesus Christ.

Homesickness does not need to be a sickness if we are always “present”.

Then all we have are memories, persons and events we remember and make present again as part of the here and now.

We hope the experts are proven right that the Omicron could be the beginning of the end of the pandemic. And if ever they are wrong, still, may we all be present, be a gift to everyone, and be home in every today God gives us.

From Facebook by Fragments of My Mind, 22 January 2022.

To rest – magpahinga -is to be filled with God

The Quiet Storm by Fr. Nick F. Lalog II, 19 January 2022
Photo by author, 31 December 2021 Ubihan Island, Meycauayan, Bulacan.

It is my fifth day in home quarantine after contracting COVID-19 with mild symptoms of colds and coughs last Saturday. From the bottom of my heart, thank you everyone for your love and concern, prayers and gifts like food and fruits you have been sending.

But, no thanks at all to those who told me that God simply wanted me to have much needed rest that is why I got sick.

Whoa!!!

And to those planning to tell me or anyone else afflicted with Omicron, please STOP!

With another week to spend in home quarantine, I feel compelled asking everyone to PLEASE DO NOT EVER SAY GOD WANTS US SICK SO THAT WE CAN HAVE OUR MUCH-NEEDED REST.

It is not true.

It is not uplifting because it is simply stupid and insane. Nothing bad can ever come from God, like sickness or accidents or disasters. Or pandemic. Always remember 1 John 4:16, “God is love”.

However, God continues to work in silence even in the midst of our troubles, doing his very best that even the worst scenarios in our lives would still turn out well and good in the end to proclaim his love and mercy for us.

Photo by author, 31 December 2021 Ubihan Island, Meycauayan, Bulacan.

A few years ago I concelebrated in the funeral Mass for the two brothers of a priest shot multiple times by a neighbor with an Armalite right at the gate of their home. How I wanted to walk out from the Mass to tore my garments when the homilist said with his matching “drama” of tears and breaking voice that it was the will of God: “Ipagpasa-Diyos natin ang lahat… kalooban niya ang pangyayaring ito ngunit siya ang nakaaalam ng higit na mabuti”!

OMG!

So kawawa our God…. and most kawawa are we!

How can a priest claim God willed the brutal slaying of those two brothers?

When Ondoy flooded vast areas of Metro Manila and nearby provinces in 2009, “acts of God” became the most notorious phrase to simply describe a disaster never imagined.

It is neither spirituality nor even Christianity when God is always made the reason and – scapegoat – for anything that happens to our lives. May the Good Lord have mercy on us!

Photo by author, Singapore, 2018.

Now with another surge in COVID due to the highly transmissible Omicron variant, the “spiritualists” and “pseudo-theologians” among us are busy spinning those blasphemous threads of God simply wanting the sick to have much needed rest and “me-time” too.

Totally untrue.

God could have just sent us with tickets to Boracay or El Nido or anywhere to go on vacation to rest, instead of sending us the COVID pandemic!

When we are sick, that is when we have a dis-ease. We are not at ease, there is dis-order in our body functions. And we remedy that with medications and a lot of rest which is part of recovery and healing.

But we do not need to be sick in order to rest.

In fact, we need to always rest so that we do not get sick.

That is the lesson of this pandemic. What we can do is to continue praying and help those who are sick instead of “theologizing” or “spiritualizing” them with such insane ideas.


In the Old Testament, God gave the third commandment to “Keep holy the sabbath day” (Ex.20:8 and Dt. 5:12), instructing us for all time to always rest – in God.

Here we find the beauty of our Filipino language: to rest is “magpahinga” from the root “hinga/hininga” or breathe/breath. Literally speaking, to rest in Filipino which is “magpa-hinga” is to be “breathed on by God”.

Photo by author, November 2021.

In the story of creation, we find how the “Lord God formed man out of the clay of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and so man became a living being” (Ge. 2:7).

In our Filipino Bible, it is translated as “hiningahan”. This beautiful scene was repeated by Jesus on the evening of Easter when he came to visit his disciples at the Upper Room in Jerusalem, “And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit'” (Jn.20:22).

In its simplest sense, to rest essentially means to reconnect with God, to be breathed on by God to be one with him again who is our source and final end.

To rest – magpahinga – is to be filled with God anew. A rested person is always a renewed creation!

This is one of the many important lessons this pandemic has taught us, of the need for us to go back to God and be one with him again in Jesus Christ through one another along with Mother Nature. This we do by taking a rest, a pause and conscious stop from the daily grinds of life so we can see clearly again ourselves and one another in God and in his creation.


This COVID came because we have not only abused Earth but also our very selves. This pandemic is definitely not from God but he is using it to remind us of his loving presence. And most especially of his healing that can truly last and end this pandemic if go back to him.

Experts say the Omicron variant is the beginning of the end of COVID.

But, just before it finally ends, may this also be the start of our renewed relationships with God and with our very selves as we rediscover the essence and meaning of rest.

So, take a rest and stop saying God makes us fall sick in order to rest; God created rest so we do not get sick.

Have a restful moment with the Lord and your loved ones to be well and healthy!

Photo by Mr. Raffy Tima of GMA7-News, 18 January 2022.

Life directions and freedom

The Quiet Storm by Fr. Nick F. Lalog II, 10 January 2022
Photo by author, Ubihan Island, Meycauayan, 31 December 2021.

It is said that “life is a journey” but I have found through the years that as a journey, life is more of a direction than a destination. It is always easy to plot our life destination but upon reaching them, what do we do next?

If life is a journey that is more on destination, all we will be doing in life is keep on thinking of new places to visit and new goals to achieve until we ran out of destinations and we have nowhere else to go!

That is why life is more of a direction.

It does not mean we stop making plans or setting goals to reach; we just learn to be more open with the directions life is leading us into.

So often it can happen that while pursuing a goal or reaching a destination, we find many things and meet persons along the way who make us change directions in life for something better we never knew existed before.

Sometimes we discover while at the middle of a journey the many directions we have been seeing or noticing earlier that suddenly later make sense, opening new routes for us to take to something more fulfilling or clearer and better.

As we become open for directions in life, the more we become free to be our true selves, free to pursue what is best than be fixated and even held hostage by a previous goal or destination we have set before which we find no longer viable.

It is like using those travel apps Waze and Google Maps that give us the pertinent information like traffic conditions that help us choose the best routes to reach a specific destination.

However, as we travel, we find the apps taking us to longer routes or may even be misleading us because the data available are obsolete or the internet signal is unreliable. And so, we disregard the apps and try to find our way to our destination through directions provided by actual people and signages we check on the streets. Recall how the apps would continue to “speak” and even insist us to turn left or right as it is bent on reaching the destination. Travel apps are concerned merely with the place to reach, totally “unaware” of the person traveling.

That’s the problem with journeying more on destination when we forget persons that we miss the fun and adventures along the way.

When we journey more on directions, we are more concerned with persons and people that we experience fun and adventures, learning new things about peoples we meet or travel with as well as places we pass through on the way to our destination.

Sometimes, we have to scrap everything as the new directions lead us to more interesting places to visit.

In that way, we grow and mature as persons because we have become more free to be ourselves, more free to follow our inner voices within our hearts that lead us to far and exciting new places. In the process, we also discover our true friends and companions in life!

Ultimately, when we are free to follow directions than simply reach destinations, the more we also discover God – the most wonderful journey in life because ultimately he is our only destination and end.

God as a direction demands us a deepening of our faith, hope and love in him whose “invisible hands” guide us to persons and places and situations that seem to be unrelated at first but as we journey, we discover their many linkages, like tiny pieces of a mosaic creating a wonderful picture bigger than us.

God as a direction leads us to more freedom to discover life itself. That is the beauty of every new year: those twelve months of the calendar have no specific destinations but give us directions to follow by being sensitive to where God is leading us. It is totally senseless and useless to consult fortune-tellers for their fearless forecasts of what is going to happen for that will only make you “unfree” to seek and follow new directions in life. Besides, only God knows what will happen and that is why we follow his directions.

Above all, remember that the discovery of God is not the end of a journey but the beginning of a new one in him, with him, and through him. The journey never stops in Christ Jesus to God our Father in heaven. So, have life and be free to follow new directions from God this new year!

Keep traveling in Christ this 2022. Who knows, we might meet once or twice along the way. Amen.

The Cross looming at Bethlehem

The Lord Is My Chef Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
A Funeral Homily, 29 December 2021
Photo by author, Basic Education Department chapel, Our Lady of Fatima University, Valenzuela City, 24 December 2021.

The Christmas liturgy offers us valuable lessons about life, of essentially the meaning of Christ’s coming into the world: He did not remove death and suffering but instead came to suffer and die with us so we may rise with him to eternal life.

Looming over the Nativity scene at Bethlehem is the Cross of the Calvary as we immediately see (except this year) the following day after Christmas on December 26 when we celebrate the feast of the first martyr of the Church, St. Stephen and again on the 28th when we wear red vestments during the Mass for the feast of the Holy Innocents massacred by Herod after being duped by the Magi.

These lessons of our Christmas liturgy become more real, even surreal for some, when there is death happening during this most joyous season of the year.

On this fifth day in the octave of Christmas, we heard from the gospel of Luke the story of the Presentation of the Child Jesus at the temple met by two elderly people promised by God to see the Christ before dying, Simeon and Anna.

Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. This man was righteous and devout, awaiting the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Christ of the Lord. He came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus to perform the custom of the law in regard to him, he took him into his arms and blessed God, saying: “Lord, now you let your servant go in peace; your word has been fulfilled: my own eyes have seen the salvation which you prepared in sight of every people, a light to reveal you to the nations and the glory of your people Israel.”

Luke 2:25-32

What a matter-of-fact story this Christmas of awaiting death, awaiting Christ’s coming!

What a beautiful scene reminding us of the realities of life and of death, coexisting side by side.

“Presentation at the Temple” painting by Italian Renaissance artist Andrea Mantegna done around 1455; Mary holding Baby Jesus while St. Joseph at the middle looks on the bearded Simeon. Photo from wikipedia.org.

Life is like our two hands, the left and the right, always with ironies and paradoxes: life and death, light and darkness, joy and sorrow, triumph and defeat, gains and losses.

That is how life is wonderfully portrayed today by Simeon who held in his arms the Child Jesus, filled with joy, basking in the sacred moment with the Savior, and the words that came from his mouth was about dying: “Lord, now you let your servant go in peace; your word has been fulfilled: my own eyes have seen the salvation which you prepared in the sight of every people.”

That is the “moment of Christmas” we mentioned last Saturday: “Christmas is therefore a blessed event, a most sacred moment of holy communion of man and God in Jesus Christ that continues to this day in the most regular yet miraculous reality of life going on amid many joys and pains, victory and defeats, prosperity and poverty, health and sickness, light and darkness and even in death” (https://lordmychef.com/2021/12/24/rejoicing-christmas-moments-all-year-through/).

Simeon shows us that it is only when we have fully appreciated this life we have in God do we fully accept and welcome death which is eternal union with God. Coming to terms with life is coming to terms with death and the same holds true vice-versa. That is why like Simeon we have to strive to live attuned to the Holy Spirit always to be aware of those sacred moments when Jesus comes to us in our daily living.

Photo by author, 18 November 2021.

I know, these are easier said than done… and, yes, it is doubly painful when our loved ones leave us during this Christmas season but when we try to reflect on it deeply, we find it more meaningful.

Ten years ago I met a family in my previous parish who have come to gather for 41 years every Christmas since their mother passed away on Christmas day. They told me how they were celebrating Mass on a bright sunny Christmas day when they have to immediately leave to rush to the hospital where their mother had died after a lingering illness. It was then I learned that their mother was born on March 24, the eve of the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Birth of Jesus; that’s when I told them of how blessed they must be: their mother was born on the date we celebrate the Incarnation of the Son of God while she entered eternal life on the date we celebrate Jesus came to earth! They loved the imagery I have shown them and from then on until now, I have been invited to their family reunions….

That is the main blessing of Christ’s coming here on earth: he sanctified death that before was a curse. Recall how we have mentioned that Jesus Christ’s Pasch actually began at Christmas, when he passed over from heaven to earth, from eternal to temporal which reached its highest point in his Passion, Death and Resurrection that led to our salvation.

Photo by author, Basic Education Department chapel, Our Lady of Fatima University, Valenzuela City, 24 December 2021.

When the pandemic came last year, everybody laughed at the year 2020 with all kinds of memes and jokes, describing the year supposed to signify “perfect vision” as the worst and most disastrous. It was labelled so bad and almost cursed that everybody eagerly awaited 2021. Now, the jokes and memes are back, calling 2022 sounds like “2020 too”, insinuating another round of disasters as COVID surges happen in Europe and the States.

But, that is life.

As we have said at the start, it is like our two hands, the left and the right. There is always life and death, light and darkness, joy and sadness. That is why Jesus came and from then on we have reckoned time to his birth because every year is an Anno Domini, the year of the Lord.

Whenever we put our hands together at prayer, life and death becomes one along with joy and sorrow, light and darkness in Jesus Christ who gives meaning and fulfillment in everything.

Handle life with prayer. God bless you all!

The Holy month of August

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

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

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

What a sad reality in our Catholic Christian country.

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo of Auschwitz from Google.

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

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

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

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

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

Photo from inquirer.net.

My 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.