Giving back: a response to Matthew 9:35-38

“Sorry, God, if it took me so long to get your message. The signal must have been very bad.” 

This one I wrote in the opening description of my Facebook album which contains photos on my birthday celebration last July…not actually birthday, but birth month celebration. So obviously, it’s some sort of a #latepost blog content. Sorry for that, but I cannot not post it here on my official blog because I’d like all of you to still be part of it, even though the activities were all over…because the truth is, I guess the Lord’s not yet done with me. The celebration, and the works are not yet over.

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So this is the FB Event and album cover photo: Wheat fields.

Wheat fields reflect harvest. It shows us a glimpse of abundance, of peace, and security. It also reminds us of how God brings forth life from the earth, to and for the earth.

While some of us experience a life in abundance (financial, emotional, spiritual), peace, and security, many still live in hunger, distress, and vulnerability. They are the people who hardly taste an abundant harvest from God’s own creation. They are the people who scarcely feel the abundant love of our Father in heaven, simply because men on earth have built prerequisites in experiencing His affection.

I have always believed that in the verse “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few,” (Matthew 9:37), ‘harvest’ simply refers to people who have not yet been evangelized or who have not yet ‘heard’ of Jesus. But as I became more aware of the reality of humanity, I began to doubt my interpretation, or rather, the interpretation handed down to us in traditional Sunday schools and sermons.

Beggars, homeless elderly, tambays, and street children form part of the ensemble cast in our daily lives, but never have they been more visible to me than in the past two or three years.

I wrestled with God on this. I asked, “If the harvest would only mean verbal evangelism of salvation from hell and getting a ticket to heaven through Christ, what do we do with these people who pray to be saved from daily hunger and oppression?” I thought, the least thing these people would need is to hear another Bible story about God’s love while enduring the day without a single bread on their table, or without someone whom they can share their fears and struggles with, receiving no condemnation or a solid one-verse-is-all-you-need answer.

I struggled, and I thank some of my friends who struggled with me and bore patience with me as I kept on asking the hard questions. And slowly, it dawned on me that, maybe Jesus was referring to a harvest of good works and compassion, and in a way, a harvest of laborers for such purposes, a harvest of people who are so ripe and so eagerly yearning to taste and see God’s kingdom here on earth. The passage paints this scenario:
“And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

I may be wrong, or right, or somewhere in between, given my shy knowledge and experience on exegesis (or whatever you call that in the seminary). But it has stuck to me, like an LSS.

For some time, I prayed to God to reveal more of His heart to me. I remember myself earnestly praying that bridge line from the song “Hosanna”—break my heart for what breaks Yours; everything I am for Your kingdom’s cause

I should’ve been more careful with what I have prayed for. Now, I guess I’m beginning to experience just that.

It’s overwhelming, frustrating, depressing, inspiring, and challenging, all at the same time. And this year, I guess my heart just wanted to burst out open, pour out my all and make up for all the years I’ve been waiting for the Lord to send me out to His harvest—no, I guess I myself was causing the delay. I can picture God standing from afar (or beside me, or elsewhere), waiting for me to utter Isaiah’s words “Here I am. Send me.” 

Birth month for a cause

I decided to celebrate by giving back to the community through various activities:

  • Burgers on wheels – give away free burgers to street children and homeless families (a sort of corporate social responsibility of our burger business, GEEX Burger House, which is now closed, but we’re planning to reopen)
  • Outreach program for kids in my community
  • Road to Damascus – I learned about the Damascus Foundation in Bulacan, and I included it in my line-up of activities. It’s a rehabilitation center which is now more focused on shaping character/values of out-of-school youth, and has a Day Care center.

I created an FB Event for this, and invited some of my closest friends and contacts to celebrate with me, either by physically joining the activities, or by extending monetary support, or giving donations in kind. I was really surprised on how it all turned out! God is so amazing, He let us all realize that we can create chains of goodness, because He is good, because we are created in His image. If someone would just provide a venue or an opportunity for others to extend love and kindness, they would be willing to do so.

Here’s a rough photo essay of what happened in my month-long celebration. 🙂 (Photos by Jim Bryan Ducusin) 

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July 7 – So this is the GEEX Burger team. 🙂 Sorry, I got no photos of us giving food to street children, I didn’t want to spoil the real moments. The above photos were captured after the activity. We biked around Almar, Zabarte, and Novaliches Bayan and gave away free burgers to street children/homeless families. It was dead tiring, yet fulfilling! The recipients of the free burgers are more human than me. They taught me lessons I could treasure in my heart for a lifetime.

 

From upper left (clockwise): (1) Kids listen to others’ self-introductions; (2 and 3) sharing a modified version of the ‘Good Samaritan’ lesson, in the context of school bullying; (4) Our lesson, from Luke 10:27 and Matthew 7:12; (5) Kids flash their smiles after the outreach program  

View more photos here.

July 22 – We originally planned to conduct this in a half-court area near these kids’ community in Palmera Springs Subdivision, Camarin, Caloocan City. Yung tipong mararamdaman nila na tayo yung umaabot sa kanila, kaysa sa maramdaman nila na we are just inviting them to the church. However, due to the construction of a tower (National Power Corporation) on that same spot, we held the event in our church instead. I let them introduce themselves first, and share their dreams. Then I shared with them Jesus’ dream for all of us: that we’ll be able to love one another, through the modified story of the Good Samaritan. We ate our snacks (pizza and hotdog), then enjoyed the games. We distributed to each kid a pack of school supplies containing a pencil, notebook, drawing pad, crayons, school snacks, and a storybook from Adarna House and Hiyas by OMF Literature. In the following Sundays, some of these kids returned and attended Sunday school. I hope and pray that they learn more about Jesus here, and elsewhere.

 

Aug. 5 – Ang Damascus Foundation ay naitayo ni Sir Robert Tiangco para magsilbing isang rehabilitation center para sa mga kabataan na biktima ng ipinagbabawal na gamot. Pero ngayon, naka-focus sila sa character building ng mga kabataang lalaki na wala ng pamilyang inuuwian, yung iba naman kakalaya lang sa kulungan pero walang kumpanyang tumatanggap sa kanila. Bukod dito, may Day Care Center din ang Damascus.

I met Sir Robert in a radio program episode of our organization in DZRB, featuring some of the country’s outstanding volunteers. He was one of our guests. He shared his story–a life that reflects God’s mercy and love. He was a former substance user and pusher, but God saved him from his then miserable life. When he became a President of a Rotary Club chapter, he began to live a double-life: active in outreach programs in the morning, and taking illegal substance in the evening. He wanted to change. He underwent rehabilitation and spiritual development with the help of a Catholic priest, until he was cleansed (physically and spiritually). His experience urged him to put up a foundation that would cater to those who were like him. He put up the Damascus Foundation Inc. in Angat, Bulacan.

It was an ecstatic day for me. My closest friends in high school, Jan, Rara, and Garet, joined the activity (aside from donating some goods). Mama, who also celebrated her 60th birthday last July 28, enjoyed the experience. My cousin, Ate Jing, and her husband were the ones who supplied the food for us. My partner, Jikjik, and Bryan (one of the GEEX Burger dude, and pro photographer) listened to the stories of the Damascus boys. We had fun watching the performances prepared by the Damascus community. Kids handed me thoughtful letters. One of the Day Care teachers gave me a handcrafted bag, one of the products in their livelihood programs for mothers.

These people are authentic. I am grateful to God that once in my life, I met them, and was loved by them. The experience was indeed overwhelming.

After our outreach program in Damascus, Sir Robert gave some words of wisdom and encouragement. He said (non-verbatim), “Masarap magbigay lalo na sa mga taong alam mong hindi ka masusuklian. Ang pagbibigay ay tanda ng pagmamahal sa atin ng Panginoon, at tulad ng pagmamahal niya, alam naman nating hindi natin iyon masusuklian. Gayunpaman, hinihimok tayo na ibalik ang ating pasasalamat sa pagbibigay o paglilingkod din sa iba sa anumang kaparaanan na kaya natin. The chains of goodness must never stop.”


In a debriefing session, Jikjik told me that while he was reflecting on “giving back”, he realized that we can look at it this way: that we can’t really give back directly to God, but only through and to our fellow humans (with whom Jesus dwelt, and became God-incarnate himself).

And so I guess my birth month celebration won’t be the last. Jesus was right when he said that “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few”. There’s so much work to be done in God’s kingdom. No, I won’t do this alone, because I believe that there are many people out there, like me, who want to give back, to respond to God’s calling. Therefore, let us pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.

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Self-debriefing: September 21 experience

I am writing this to debrief myself on my experiences last September 21, 2017, as I joined two activities in the observance of the 45th Anniversary of Martial Law in the Philippines. President Rodrigo Duterte suspended work and classes on that day and declared it as a National Day of Protest under Proclamation No. 319.

Hindi ko alam kung ano ang tumakbo sa isip ng Presidente kung bakit niya sinakyan ang hindi matahimik na sambayanang Pilipino sa kasagsagan ng pagdanak ng dugo sa kanyang war on drugs (at isama mo na ang kamakailan lang na pag-apruba ng House of Congress na P1,000 budget para sa Commission on Human Rights, na binawi rin nila noong Sept. 20. Nakakaloka, kung iisipin mo ang petty, nakakapagod din minsan patulan).

Sabi sa Proclamation, he signed it “in solidarity with the people’s call against all excesses and shortcomings of the government, and with the people’s desire to uphold the highest standards of integrity, efficiency, and accountability in government.”

I am not God to judge his intentions, and to assess whether they’re pure or not. Pawang mga obserbasyon lang at karanasan ang kaya kong ilahad dito.

Sept. 21 at pahaging sa Martial Law

Hindi na mabubura sa kalendaryo at sa isip ng mga Filipino ang September 21, ang araw kung kailan nagdeklara si dating Pangulong Ferdinand Maros ng Martial Law noong 1972. May mga nagsasabing okay naman ang mga panahon na iyon, pero sa tingin ko, mas malakas ang tinig ng mga naghuhumiyaw pa rin para sa hustisya dahil sa mga inhustisya na nangyari noon–abuso sa kapangyarihan at batas militar, mga decaparecidos, paglabag sa mga karapatang pantao, at iba pa.

Hindi pa man idinedeklara ni Duterte ang Martial Law sa buong Pilipinas ngayon, pero mga ganoong sentimyento na ang maririnig mo mula sa ilang mga Filipino. Patunay ang mga nangyaring protesta noong Sept. 21. May ilang sources na nagsasabing umabot na sa mahigit 13,000 ang namamatay kaugnay ng digmaan laban sa droga (na halos puro mahihirap lang ang tinatamaan), pero naglabas ang gobyerno ng kampanya na ‘Real Numbers‘ noong May na sinasabing nasa mahigit 4,000 lang daw (parehas na mas mataas sa 3,240 reported killings in Marcos’ Martial Law era). Hindi natin alam kung alin ang totoong numero. In fact, we should not reduce the killings into mere statistics/numbers. Ang totoo sa atin, may pagpatay, mas dumadami ngayon ang patayan–hindi lang dahil sa mga kriminal, kundi pati dahil sa mga pulis.

Hindi ko pinalampas ang pagkakataon para makasama sa kaingayan noong Sept. 21–ngunit hindi para manggulo, kundi para mahanap ko rin kahit papaano ang katahimikan sa nagniningas kong damdamin, umaasang makahanap ng kahit kaunting kapayapaan kasama ang mga katulad kong hindi na rin kayang tumahimik dahil sa mga nangyayari sa paligid.

Christians for Life and Dignity

Kasama ako sa Christians for Life and Dignity, “a group of Filipino evangelical Christians who believe that the central thrust of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is to give, promote, and sustain life.” Our tagline: Bawat Buhay Mahalaga, Bawat Tao may Pag-asa. We meet online and offline para pag-usapan ang mga hakbang na pwede naming gawin sa mga nangyayaring patayan ngayon bilang mga alagad ni Kristo. Kasama sa nagawa na ay ang paglabas ng aming Statement on Killings. Kasama rin sa napag-usapan ang kilos protesta noong Sept. 21. Ang orihinal na plano ay sumama sa malawakang protesta sa Luneta, pero marami ring alternatibong gawain. (Rappler’s list of September 21 activities)

Making a choice

I showed up in two events, Misa para sa Katarungan sa U.P. Diliman Chapel, at Unveiling of Jose Diokno’s statue in front of the Commission on Human Rights. Hindi dahil hindi ko gusto sumama sa Luneta. Sa katunayan, gustung-gusto ko na doon sumama, pero hindi pinayagan ng pagkakataon.

Hindi pala ganoon kadali lalo na sa katulad kong hindi naman ganoon kadalas sumama sa mga protesta. Ang huli ko yatang nasalihan na march ay March for Climate Justice noong 2015 pa yata. Ang hirap itodo ang pagtanggap ng risks sa pagsama sa malawakang protesta sa Luneta sa araw na iyon lalo na’t may mga haka-haka  na the police, or Duterte’s supporters can hijack the peaceful protests and turn it into a violent mob, leaving the blame on those who protest against the current excesses and shortcomings of the government. Ang hirap itodo dahil hindi ko pa nalalahad sa mga magulang ko ang aking paninindigan sa mga panahong ito, though alam ko naman na may alam sila kahit kaunti. Alam mo yung pakiramdam na kung sakaling magkaroon ng putukan o bomba sa kung saan ako nag-protesta, at nasama ako sa napatay, pakiramdam ko ang selfish ko nun dahil iniwan ko nang hindi handa o well-oriented ang mga magulang/pamilya ko sa kung ano ang pinaninindigan o pinaglalaban ko.

Bukod sa mga ganitong agam-agam, kasama ko ang boyfriend ko sa kilos. Umaga pa lang, tinetext na kami parehas ni mama, nagpapaalalang mag-iingat daw kami kung sakaling sasama kami sa anumang rally (ang galing ng nanay noh, nararamdaman niya kahit di ko pa sinasabi sa kanya na may balak ako LOL). Nagmakaawa din siya na kung pwede, sa U.P. na lang daw kami, huwag na sa Luneta dahil sobrang nag-aalala sila ni papa sa akin. Nangako si nyoypren 🙂 Haha At kailangan niya nga rin makapagpahiga para makapasok sa susunod na shift niya.

Attending a Catholic Mass (Misa para sa Katarungan)

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So ayun na nga. Foremost, I really wanted to start my Sept.21 itinerary by joining a mass. Tulad ng lagi nating naririnig na advice, start your day with a prayer. But I wanted more than that. Gusto kong makiisa sa misa kasama ang mga kababayan kong lumuluhod din sa iisang Diyos para sa katarungan at kapayapaan sa buong bansa. Gusto kong makarinig ng mga awiting magpapaalala sa akin na ako’y bahagi ng isang mas malaking kabuuan (community songs). Gusto kong makarinig mula sa isang pinuno ng simbahan ng mensaheng napapanahon sa nangyayari ngayon sa ating bansa.

We experienced all this that day in a Catholic mass, at the U.P. Diliman Chapel. We’re glad we joined the mass. The Catholic crowd has been a huge source of encouragement for us, even before September 21, we’ve been reading articles on print and online about dioceses and priests standing up for justice and righteousness, which I could scarcely see and feel from my own denomination, even from the vast majority of the evangelical community. (Sorry talaga sa mga kapwa ko leaders na makakabasa nito, pero I know that you know what I mean. You know very well the prevailing silence in our churches. Not just silence, but even the preaching of twisted interpretations of Bible verses to justify the violent war on drugs. Hindi naman lahat ng leaders/pastors ay ganito, pero mayroon, at delikado iyon.)

While we were waiting for the mass to start, we listened to the Filipino version of “Do You Hear the People Sing” (a song from the musical Les Miserables). The song was translated to Filipino by Vincent de Jesus. I knew right then and there that this could be the song of the rising revolution. I discovered later that the song was also sung in the Luneta protest.

The priest’s homily revolved around two passages: Ephesians 4:1-7 and Matthew 9:9-13 (Jesus calls Matthew). “When was the last time our leaders instructed public servants to walk with humility and dignity? (referring to the Ephesians passage),” was one of the questions asked by the priest. He also reminded everyone of Jesus’ message of hope in Matthew, for us sinners–us all.

I missed singing Catholic songs. They are indeed for community singing. Some of the tear-jerking lines were: “mapasa-amin ang kaharian Mo, sundin ang loob Mo dito sa lupa para ng sa langit”, “Walang sinuman ang nabubuhay/namamatay para sa sarili lamang”, “Kordero ng Diyos na nag-aalis ng mga kasalanan ng mundo, maawa ka sa amin…ipagkaloob mo sa amin ang kapayapaan”, “If there’s one more gift I’d ask of You Lord, it would be peace here on earth…when will we realize that neither heaven is at peace when we live not in peace?”

We also joined the communion. It was my first time to take a bread from a Catholic priest. I let him put the bread in my mouth. It was both a physical and spiritual demonstration of letting myself be fed, this time by a priest, by a Catholic congregation, both with a physical and spiritual bread. It was quite overwhelming. Salamat, mga kapatid ko kay Kristo Hesus.

Unveiling of Jose “Pepe” Diokno’s statue

After which, we participated in the unveiling of the legendary late Senator and founding chair of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) Jose “Pepe” Diokno in front of the CHR. I only learned about him through stories and some lessons in history, and series of lectures from my boyfriend. He’s become an icon during the Martial Law era for fighting for the cause of human rights. The monument and the freedom park is a long-overdue tribute for him.

I saw myself cheering amidst the white-shirted people, paying homage to the hero, and raising our voices and hands as a sign of our oneness with Ka Pepe in upholding human rights for all.

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A program shortly followed the unveiling of Diokno’s statue. CHR Chair Chito Gascon delivered a message of appreciation for Filipinos who continue to show support and uphold human rights and encouraged everyone to not give up the cause of human rights. Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno delivered a moving imaginary dialogue with Pepe Diokno.

I was blessed to see two young people from our denomination who also joined the event, and even stayed for the Manlaban para sa Karapatan rally after the program. These boys are blessed to have parents who are well-grounded in history and know the atrocities of the Martial Law era.

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Beyond political

Though we all wore white shirts, many Duterte supporters would criticize both events as organized by the ‘yellows’ or dilawan. At a glance, you can’t deny it. Former President Noynoy Aquino, Vice President Leni Robredo, and other Liberal Party members were there in the mass and the unveiling of the statue. The newly organized #TindigPilipinas, who seemingly organized the event, are accused of being a group of ‘dilawan’ even if they say otherwise. Kahit ako nung nakita ko sila, nasabi ko talaga sa isip ko, na-politika na.

But again, who am I to judge their intentions? If they’re there to sincerely join the Filipinos in a mass, and in celebration of Pepe Diokno’s human rights activism, why not. Pero kung nandoon lang sila para sa kanilang political agenda at gamitin ang mga gawain na iyon upang magpabango sa media at sa mga tao, shame on them. Again, we are not to play God here. Bahala na sila doon.

Nakakalungkot lang na sa mga ganitong pagkakataon, hati-hati pa rin ang mga Pilipino. Tila bang hinahati natin ang watawat ng Pilipinas–pinag-aaway-away ang pula sa dilaw sa asul. ‘Hindi maiiwasan’ sasabihin ng ilan, pero naniniwala akong maiiwasan eh–sa tamang edukasyon, sa paghatid ng maayos na mensahe ng pagkakaisa, pagiging mapanuri, at pagtindig bilang sibilisadong mamamayang Filipino na may takot sa Diyos.

Just like what I said in my Facebook post last Sept. 21:

This is not a time to be divided, and to curse each other for differing political stands. This fight is beyond political (NOT pula vs dilaw vs asul). It speaks of our identity as Filipinos, our moral values, the relevance of our faith in this troubling times (kung ano man ang relihiyon mo). It is also spiritual, as we wage war against the rulers and authorities of the natural and supernatural world who are responsible for perpetuating dark and evil schemes.

As for me being a Christian, I would show up today to join my brothers and sisters in Christ who are like-minded and vocal on our country’s pressing issues. I would show up to represent other friends who would also want to join the activities but could not for some reasons (some are OFWs, some pregnant, while others have more important matters to attend to). I would show up for our generation, and the next. I would show up to listen to and understand other voices as well by personally interacting with them (not just on social media).

While we understand that people/groups joining the protests today have differences in statements and approaches, we have to cut through all the noises and see that it is in this diversity of voices that we realize public outrage and resistance against the prevailing violence in our nation. We do not consent.

Together, let us pray for our nation, including our nation’s leaders, and most especially, the reawakening of the Filipinos. In God we trust.

Sabi rin ni Pen Medina sa Luneta protest, “Huwag mong awayin ang mga Duterte supporters at tawagin silang ‘Dutertards’. Huwag mong awayin ang mga dilawan. Huwag mong isumpa ang mga Marcos loyalists.” Huwag tayong maghati. Tulungan natin ang isa’t isa makita ang katotohanan, mamuhay sa katotohanan, sa pag-asa, sa kapayapaan tulad ng mga itinuro sa atin ni Hesus at ng ating mga bayani. Aralin mabuti ang kasaysayan, matuto sa mga magaganda at hindi magagandang nagawa ng mga nauna sa atin. Huwag ng ulitin ang mga hindi maganda at kasuklam-suklam sa mga mata ng Panginoon. Sikapin na tumindig sa katarungan, at kapayapaan, para sa maka-Diyos, makatao, makakalikasan, at makabansang samabayanang Pilipino.

So may nangyari ba nung nag-protesta ka?

Ito ang kadalasang tanong sa mga nagpo-protesta. Some would dismiss it as mere noise, o dagdag lang sa traffic. Some would even tell you (coming from your fellow Christians) that to protest or to join a rally is not a wise thing or not a Christian-way to deal with social issues. You can say that to join a rally might not be the ‘Christianest’ approach (if there’s such a thing); I’d say it is a valid one and it can’t be easily disregarded as an ungodly one.

There is something in protest that makes it sacred. Protests gather people together, encourage them to voice out their sentiments, and their prayers to God for a just and more humane society. It is a collective cry of God’s people. We can even say it’s a form of prayer or petition. And so, it would be a shame to dismiss them as mere noise.

You can ask, “Eh ano namang nangyari, paggising mo kinabukasan iyon pa rin naman ang problema ng lipunan.” Yes. But we believe that our cries would not all land on deaf ears. Kami ay nagprotesta kasama ang pag-asa at panalangin na kahit isa o dalawa man lang na tao na nanood sa telebisyon o sa smartphone niya ay mabubuksan ang mga mata at tainga sa mga nangyayari, at matututong magtanong, at matutulak ring kumilos sa mga susunod na araw, o buwan, o taon, kung kailan mas kakailanganin ang mas malawakang pagkilos para labanan ang karahasan, inhustisya, at kadiliman na bumabalot sa ating bansa.

More so, we believe that our just and merciful God heard our petitions.

Evolving

Source: Evolving

Here’s the first in a series of posts in my new blog “Press Unreleased“. This is to give you an idea on what had been going on in my head the past few years which led me to a hiatus from blogging. 😛

I have become less certain of what I already know or believe in (particularly in faith), but the wondrous thing is, I’m all okay with it–of not being always sure, of not being always right, or not having to know all the answers all the time. I have to tell you, it’s very humbling, and liberating in all sense.

View the entire post here.

Romans 13 and the Sovereign Filipino People

A glorious attempt to pacify Romans 13 warriors 🙂 With historical background and context of Romans 13, brief analysis on the 21st Century Philippine Government, the Sacred Contract, and Jesus.

“The Constitution is indeed a “sacred contract” between the “sovereign Filipino people” and the public servants who were elected or employed to serve the people. This document is our “governing authority.” The authority of our public servants flow from this Constitution. By ratifying it, we the Filipino people agreed to be governed by it. All of us–may we be ordinary citizens or elected public servants–are to be subject to this “governing authority.” No one is “above the law.”
…Understanding this, we can say that government officials are accountable to us, the sovereign people. Furthermore, I believe it is we the “sovereign Filipino people” that will give an account to God for the kind of government that we allow to operate so that the justice and righteousness of God may be established in our nation.” ~ Caloy Magsakay Diño

Captive Thoughts

I’ve gotten myself into a number of discussions on social media and small group huddles lately, about what followers of Jesus are supposed to do during these politically turbulent times. Every now and then, someone would give a sharp critique of certain actions of the government, critiques which I consider to be quite reasonable.

So I find it strange when in response to these criticisms, someone would say, “but should’t we just obey Romans 13?”

View original post 1,428 more words

Stay humble.

stay humble

The stars are definitely bigger than your pride. Stay humble. You are not the center of the universe.

#RaiseYourVoice for the Lumad

LumadI do not know any of them personally; I haven’t had any encounter with them in the past. But when I heard the news about the gruesome killing of some of their men, mixed grief and anger were enough to tell me that same blood rushes through our veins, that I belong with them and they with with me; and that compels me to raise my voice and shout #StopLumadKillings.

They are the Lumad–an indigenous group of people in Surigao del Sur, Mindanao in the Philippines. They are not slaves. They are a free people. They are the Lumad–my kapwa Pilipino, my kapwa tao. 

Three of the Lumad leaders were recently killed for refusing to give up their ancestral lands to those who wanted to build coal mining plants in their place. The alleged killers were identified as the paramilitary “Mahagat-Bagani”.

Michelle, one of the eyewitnesses of the incident recalls: ““…armed men forced everyone to go out. In front of all those gathered at the basketball court, sat my father (Dionil Campos). They began shouting– because you believe this man and refuse the mines coming here we remain poor, we could all have better lives! Drop down!– they shouted to everyone and began shooting over our heads. Then the gun was turned on to my father, and at close range he was shot in the head…”

In one of the statements released by the Diocese of Tandag, Surigao del Sur, the diocese said, “One can see and understand that only those community of [lumads] who firmly stand to protect the forest and reject mining activities and anything that destroys nature were obviously the ones being hounded and intimidated supposedly by the aforementioned notorious group.”

In the militarization of Lumad schools, one man stood up to fight for a noble cause, and that is to provide a learning center for the Lumad children. He was Emerito Samarca or known as Tatay Emok, Executive Director of the Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development. He was found dead in that same school where he devoted his life, with stab wounds in his neck, and a slit across his throat.

Manobo elder, Datu Juvillo Sinzo, was also not able to escape the evil hands of Mahagat-Bagani. He was “pulled to the tub. He was beaten, his arm broken, and shot” as told by another eyewitness.

(c) Loi Manalansan
(c) Loi Manalansan

All these three Lumad fought for what they know is right, and for what they know their people deserve–a land and natural resources of their own, a decent and peaceful life. But because of the capitalists’ greedy pursuit of profit, wealth, and power, they were robbed of the chance to provide this kind of life to their families and their community.

BUT THEY HAVE US–their fellow Filipinos, their fellow humans. Their fight would be declared ‘defeated’ if we refuse to continue their battle and if no single person would at least try to do so. If we do, then the fight goes on.

Currently, Lumads are still being forced to leave their lands caused by corporate mining interests. There are about 680 Lumad displaced through their neighboring cities, looking for refuge and safe haven. While there is still one of the last remaining intact rainforests of the Pantaron Mountain Ranges inhabited by the Lumads, the mountain range is threatened by mining concessionaires set to exploit 9000 hectares for coal mining, 2000 hectares of which is already in operation, and 6000 hectares for gold mining.

This is a form of modern day slavery, as what also occurs in many parts of indigenous lands across the globe. Lumads are free; but they are being oppressed and enslaved by heartless people who prefer to put profit over humans and the planet.

But let us remember this: we are much greater in number than these greedy oppressors. They may have strong connections with the higher ups; they may have the amount of wealth that can buy them resources and manpower. But on our end, we have our voices. If only we, in solidarity, would shout and cry out for justice, our collective voice would surely drown theirs. We would surely win this fight. So then, let us keep going to put an end to modern day slavery and other forms of social injustices.

The campaign on #StopLumadKillings will be hyped on October 26–on this day, over 700 Lumad will arrive in the Philippine capital, Manila, from a 1,500-km walk starting from Mindanao, to assert their right to life, land, and justice. Their struggles are our struggles. Let us join together and stand with the Lumad.

You can also help amplify their voices by joining us on Twitter in demanding PH president Noynoy Aquino to #StopLumadKillings.

Michelle (center) with the Lumad communities protesting against the killings in Mindanao. (c) Pinoy Weekly
Michelle (center) with the Lumad communities protesting against the killings in Mindanao. (c) Pinoy Weekly

This is my personal contribution to the Blog Action Day 2015 themed, #RaiseYourVoice

Sources:

350.org – People Over Profits: #StopLumadKillings

walkfree.org – Blog Action Day 2015

Lumad killings ‘extensively planned’ says Tandag diocese