I began falling in love with mangroves when I visited the mangrove forests being protected in the island of Culion, Palawan. It was holy week and we were at the end of the Good Friday procession which culminated at the Jesuit Retreat House chapel on a hill. Overlooking Culion’s coasts, I could see the patch of green trees from the chapel. I guess I was looking for a refreshing view after a long Via Crucis. Since then, I started to research on mangroves.
A study on the Mesoamerican reef, for example, showed that there are as many as 25 times more fish of some species on reefs close to mangrove areas than in areas where mangroves have been cut down. This makes mangrove forests vitally important to coral reefs and commercial fisheries as well.
Why do I advocate for the protection of mangrove forests?
Mangrove forests protect the land from the sea.
With rising sea levels due to climate change, mangroves function as a buffer zone, a natural shield against ecological disasters (eg. erosion) and storm surges (eg. Yolanda), therefore protecting the shoreline and coastal areas and those living there (eg. fishing communities).
Mangrove forests are very important for estuarine and marine life.
It is the breeding ground and nursery for a variety of marine animals such as fish, invertebrates, amphibians, reptiles, and mammals. When I explore mangroves, I check on fish, shrimps and crabs, the main sources of income for shoreline communities like fishing villages. It has been proven that those with a large population of mangroves also have a large population of fishes and an increase in marine diversity.
Many of us do not know that mangroves are also good for timber, fuel and fodder.
Mangroves are used to build houses, furniture, or even electrical posts. And because of the density of the wood, they are also excellent as firewood. In some countries where pastures are nearly scarce, mangroves are used to feed cattle.
The barks of many species of mangroves produce tannin.
Many fishermen use bark extracts to make their fishing nets durable. In one of my skin diving experiences, snorkelers and divers who use the flower of the mangroves to clean goggles fascinated me.
Like many trees and plants, mangroves help purify the air and water.
Mangroves absorb pollutants and heavy metals in the water and in the air. Thus, you can be assured that you are breathing fresh air if you are in a mangrove forest.
What can we do?
Know what species of mangroves in the area. Those are the types of mangrove trees that you should plant. The introduction of a new specie will affect the ecosystem. Remember that mangrove forests have many species of mangrove trees and plants. For example, some areas have nipa palms; some do not.
Organize groups to protect it.
I would highly encourage church groups to participate in government efforts as part of their living out Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment, Laudato Si.
Report to authorities destruction of these forests. Some local governments have mangrove and reef conservation efforts and programs. It is good to participate in their efforts to protect these crucial ecosystems.
Create appreciation and awareness.
Since we are all on social media, we might want to post photos and articles about mangroves and reef conservation efforts, such as clean up drives, mangrove planting, etc. At the very least, post photos of mangroves when you find yourself in an island or in a place with mangrove forests. Photos of these forests posted on Instagram or Facebook make people appreciate its beauty and its importance.
I heard about the group of islands across the town of Estancia in Iloilo from Bok Pioquid, a faculty member of the Ateneo High School’s Christian Service Involvement Program. He and his wife would go on a “couple” backpacking tour every now and then. Until today, their unwavering passion is exploring the Philippines. They have gone to many places, and they travel on the cheap — and this is what I love about their stories. You can go on an adventure without breaking the bank.
I told Bok about Fr. Ruben Orbeta SJ’s invitation for me to help out at Sta. Maria Parish in Iloilo City for the Holy Week. I would fly in on Palm Sunday and fly out on Easter Sunday. My work was to give a recollection talk for an hour each day of the Triduum and hear confessions on Good Friday. So I had three days free: Holy Monday to Wednesday. Bok suggested the Gigantes trip because I was already there. He gave me the number of Ms. Rolin Barba (0929-3949708) of Paon Beach Club Inc,*** and off I went.
I took the Ceres Bus to Estancia from the Jaro Terminal on a very humid Monday. It took around 2 hours to the town. From Panian Crossing, I took a tricycle to Paon.
I woke up early the next morning for the boat ride to Gigantes Islands. It was a 2-hour trip to the islands. I learned that Gigantes did not belong to the Municipality of Estancia, but the town of Carles. So if you prefer to take off from Carles, it would be an hour to the islands.
Rey Ambito, our guide,** said that the group of islands was named after an ancient skeleton, discovered in one of the isles. The height of the human bones was taller than many natives, hence, a higante, a giant. I also heard you could go caving if you preferred that adventure, but the caves were in Gigantes del Norte. Unfortunately, I explored only Gigantes del Sur where many islands with white sand beaches were, and whose views were “Instagramable” and picturesque.
Below are great reasons why you should visit the islands. Believe me, I was in awe all the time I was there! It was indeed a gigantic experience!
Cabugao Gamay Island
From a vantage point is the iconic view of the whole island. The famous photos of Gigantes are taken from here (see featured photo above). Below is the eastern side of the island. The sun was rising when I took this photo.
Bantigue Island’s white sand bar.
It is a long island, but the tip of the island is perfect for a photo shoot. From a certain point, you have many islands as your backdrop. But do take a dip. The water is pure and perfect as you can see.
Antonia Island’s beach.
This is the usual stop-over for lunch. Fishermen would sell scallops and wasay-wasay shellfish. You can’t imagine how cheap the scallops are: Php 1.00/per piece. When I was there, Rey and I feasted on a hundred pieces with spiced native vinegar and lots of rice. Rolin made sure that I would bring more than enough cooked rice, water and vinegar. I was so grateful for her thoughtfulness.
Cabugao Dako Island’s rock formation.
The rock formation is like the backdrop from the movie, “The Lord of the Rings.” Simply, the rocks are surreal. Let the photos speak for the islands.
Tangke Island’s Lagoon.
The boats will dock at a certain opening between towering rocks. These high-rise rocks protect a beautiful sanctuary of a white sand lagoon where you can swim. But be sure to be there before 2 PM: the water begins to drain during low tide.
In Punot Restaurant and Grill in Estancia, I ordered a bowl of Imbao (shellfish) Sinigang (sour soup) and grilled squid. I loved imbao; the flavor just bursted in my mouth. I thought the servings were just enough for me. I was surprised that the servings were good for four. Each order was just Php 100.00. (Shout out to Engr. Carlito Centeno for my dinners!)
Estancia’s Dried Fish.
The town of Estancia is famous for its dried fishes. I tell you, your trip will never be complete without a sampling of their dried fish especially for breakfast. Paon serves them.
You might wonder why I write about these trips. Going out from my usual work in school enriches me. The world is far greater and bigger than Ateneo. And this is what I like to do: go and explore the richness of the very home God has given me.
When you get to see how beautiful this world is, this home of ours, then you will do everything to protect it. You will become a real steward of creation, just as God has appointed us to become. This is the premise of Pope Francis’ encyclical, Laudato Si. The encyclical’s dream is for every single human person to be at home in the very planet we live in.
In a few months, I will bring my students to Iloilo. Last November 2015, I explored Iloilo accompanied by Bok and some parents. We saw what this province could offer us: a pilgrimage of churches, a food trip, an ecological adventure and a cultural experience.
We hope that our students will truly love our country because they have seen how beautiful the Philippines is. We also have a greater hope: that they would be angry enough to act when unscrupulous people would dare corrupt its beauty.
Just like falling in love, you will always protect that which matters to you — or whom you deeply care about.
*We call these visits to Jesuit schools, “Eco-Spiritual Pilgrimages” instead of the usual “field trips” because there is a spiritual angle to the tour. We do an “ecological examen” and end our day with a mass. And as part of Ignatian prayer, we ask God the specific grace to “Find Him In All Things” — in creation, in the people we encounter, in the experience. This program is part of the Jesuit Youth Ministry of the Philippine Province of the Society of Jesus.
It also includes an interaction with students from the place where we visit. This August 2016, the Iloilo Pilgrimage will include an interaction between students, parents and faculty of Ateneo de Iloilo to share our common experiences of being in a Jesuit school. In other words, the program is always in partnership with other Jesuit schools, and one of our goals is the appreciation of our common Ignatian spirituality.
** To the left of this photo is Rey Ambito, waiter and tour guide of Paon Beach Club. He accompanied me on the boat to the islands. I highly recommend him because he is both knowledgeable and trustworthy. You can call or text him at 0930-5859104. If you can’t reach him, Rolin can help you find your guides.
*** Call Paon Beach Club Inc. at (033) 397-0444 or 0929-394-9708. And oh, you can also enjoy this sunset from Estancia.
We traversed a river to get to Sitio Matamis, Malita, Davao Occidental to talk to the Tagakolu tribe, particularly two indigenous teachers whom we consulted together with the Missionaries of Jesus who run two indigenous schools. We were proposing to put up an internet facility via satellite to help them with their internet needs.
It is in our consultation and conversation with them that I discovered that these two schools are threatened by red-tagging and the effort of the Department of Education to streamline all curriculum, without considering the uniqueness of each tribe’s culture and history. The IP curriculum preserves, protects and passes on their identity to the next generation.
In this episode of Kape’t Pandasal, I would like to bring awareness to the situation of our IPs in the growing oppression by the military.
The following is a transcription of the video below.
Mayroon ka bang malasakit sa ating mga kapatid nating katutubo? Para sa mabungang-buhay, tayo na po’t magkape’t pandasal.
Nandito po ako sa Sitio Matamis, Demoloc, Malita, Davao Occidental. Malayo po ito sa kabihasnan at tumawid po kami sa ilog bago makarating dito. Dito po naninirahan ang ating mga kapatid nating mga tagakolu. Makakausap natin ngayon ang dalawang guro ng Tagakolu Mission School at malalaman natin kay Ate Matet Gonzalo at Kuya Helbert Pamat ang minimithi ng kanilang sariling tribu.
“I hope for the preservation and growth of our culture, on which the life of our future generation will be based.”
Matet Gonzalo, Tagakolu Teacher.
“I hope for the continuity of indigenous education; that the Malita Tagakolu Mission continues to help the two Indigenous People’s schools for the future generation.”
Helbert Pamat, Tagakulo Teacher.
Kung titingnan natin, ang mga mithiin nating lahat ay iisa, ang tamang edukasyon. Sa kasalukuyan, malaki ang hamon ukol sa pagpapatuloy ng IP education.
Tinuturo ng ating pananampalataya sa Panahon ng Kuwaresma ang buksan ang ating puso sa mga nangangailangan tulad ng mga nasa laylayan ng ating lipunan.
Manalangin tayo: O Diyos, nawa’y isabuhay namin ang diwa ng Kuwaresma sa pamamagitan ng pagtulong sa aming kapwa. Amen.
This article is the transcript of the video below.
Ano ang mas naghahari sa iyong pagdedesisyon, ang iyong damdamin o hangaring matupad ito?
Gusto mong mataas ang grado, nguni’t naghihintay ka ng inspirasyon para mag-aral. Gagawa ka ng kanta, nguni’t naghihintay ka ng gana. Hangad mong gumaling sa pagsasayaw, nguni’t depende kung may panahon magensayo. Nais mong tumagal ang iyong lovelife, nguni’t naka-batay ito sa “spark” ng damdamin. Sa panahong na nananaig ang feelings sa lahat ng bagay, pinapaalala ni Hesus ang halaga ng will power.
Mahalaga ang willpower sa buhay. Hindi sa lahat ng panahon may inspirasyon ka sa pag-aaral, sa pagpapalago ng talento, at higit sa lahat, sa anumang ugnayan.
Nandito ako ngayon sa Bitiala Center sa Cotabato City. Bitiala ang tawag sa “dialogue.” Matagal nang sinasabi ng Simbahan ang halaga ng pagkakapatiran bilang mga anak ng iisang Diyos. Dito sa Bitiala Center, ginaganap ang pagpapatupad sa turo ng interreligious dialogue ng Vatican II at Fratelli Tutti ni Pope Francis.
Dito, hindi lang nanatiling salita ang pagkakapatid kundi isinasagawa ito.
Dito pinapalaganap ang kultura ng mapayapang pamumuhay ng magkakaibang relihiyon sa pamamagitan ng pag-uusap, respeto at pagtutulungan. Kailangan ang will power sa pagpapatupad nito.
Manalangin tayo: O Diyos, nawa’y maisagawa namin ang iyong turo sa aming mismong buhay. Amen.
Paano ba natin aalagaan ang ating kapwa? Bakit daw itinanggi ni Simon Pedro si Hesus bilang kanyang kasama? Dahil pinagaling nito ang kanyang biyenan!
Lagi itong ginagawang biro kapag ang ebanghelio ay ukol sa paggaling ng biyenan ni Simon sa kanyang lagnat. Ayon kay San Marcos, ito ang ginawa ni Hesus:
“Lumapit siya, hinawakan sa kamay ang maysakit at pinatayo. Bigla siyang iniwan ng lagnat at naglingkod siya sa kanila.”
Kaysa tuluyang maalala ang biro, tingnan po natin nang mas malalim ang kuwentong ito.
Nakakagaling ang tinatawag nating empathy o pakikiramay sa may pinagdadaanan. Gumagaan ang ating kalooban kapag may kasama tayong nakakaunawa sa ating kalagayan.
Ayon kay Daniel Goleman, may tatlong uri ang pakikiramay. Ang cognitive empathy ay ukol sa pagunawa sa iba’t ibang pananaw. Ang emotional empathy naman ay kapag nararamdaman natin ang dinaramdam ng iba. At ang empathic concern ay ang kakayahan nating malaman ang pangangailangan ng iba, kahit hindi ito sinasabi.
Samakatuwid, personal na personal ang pag-aalaga ni Hesus sa atin.
Kaya mainam na balikan po natin ang ating mga motibasyon sa ating mga pagtulong. Ang pagtulong ba natin ay dahil sa pakinabang nito sa ating ambisyon; o bilang hanap-buhay; o bilang obligasyon, o bilang isang tunay at taos-pusong pagmamahal?
O Diyos, hubugin mo ang aming puso na maging tunay sa lahat ng aming ginagawa para sa kapwa. Amen.
This is my take on inspiring leadership. In the advent of a rising number of “influencers,” not all those who have influence are leaders: those that encourage people to take positive action. Leaders should have the ability to speak in front of people but at the same time inspire action because those who listen know that what comes out of their mouths are lived. Below is a transcript of the video below, taking from the example of Jesus in Mark 1: 22.
Gusto mo bang maging kabighabighani? Meron ka bang naging guro, mentor, kaibigan na malaki ang naitulong sa iyong pagpapakabuti? Sila yung mga taong meron kang tiwala sa kanilang mga payo; o meron kang paghanga dahil isinasabuhay nila ang kanilang mga prinsipiyo at pinaninindigan? Sila yung papakinggan mo, kumpara sa ibang meron ka laging agam-agam? Kung oo ang iyong sagot sa lahat nang tanong ko, sila ang mga taong nakakabighani.
Nakakabighani ang Panginoong Hesus.
Pagkatapos Niyang magturo sa sinagoga, ayon kay San Marcos, “namangha ang mga tao sa kanyang aral, palibhasa’y nangaral siyang katulad ng may kapangyarihan, hindi katulad ng mga Escriba.”
Siya yung tagapagsalitang hawak niya ang iyong atensiyon, at hindi ka magsasawang makinig. Kapani-paniwala ang kanyang mga salita dahil sa dalawang bagay: laging magkatugma ang kanyang salita at ang kanyang mga gawa. Isinasabuhay niya ang kanyang payo.
Paano ba maging katulad ni Hesus sa pagtuturo natin ng Mabuting Balita sa iba? Para makinig sa atin ang tao, kailangan natin ng credibilidad na nakukuha sa pagsasabuhay sa ating mga payo. Words are proven by our deeds and vice versa. Walang ipinanganak na magaling: gumagaling lang tayo dahil sa araw-araw na pagsisikap maging mahusay sa ating mga gawain. Mahalaga ang tiwala sa sarili at sa Diyos: hindi ibibigay ng Diyos ang ating talento kung wala itong silbi sa buhay. At dahil ibinigay niya sa atin, wala tayong dahilan upang pagdudahan ang ating kakayahan.
O Diyos, ginagalingan mo lagi ang iyong pagtuturo at pagsasabuhay, nawa’y gumaling din kami sa paglilingkod sa iyo at sa aming kapwa. Amen.
This is a transcript of the video below. It presents some tips on how to know that you are indeed where God wants you to be. Check it out.
Paano mo malalaman ang tawag ng Diyos sa iyo? Pinatawag ka na ba dahil may ipapagawa sa iyo? Hindi gumagana ang internet at ikaw lang ang may alam para maayos ito. Lambing ng anak mong may lagnat na magluto ng sinigang at ikaw lang ang marunong magsigang sa bayabas.
Halos araw-araw nararanasan natin ang ganitong mga tawag. Nang tinawag ni Hesus sina Simon Pedro, Andres, Santiago at Juan, winika niya,
Nakita ng Panginoon kina Simon, Andres, Santiago at Juan ang posibilidad na maging kanyang mga katuwang at pinuno sa pagpapalaganap ng Ebanghelio ng Diyos. Ito ang dahilan kung bakit tayo pinatatawag: may pangangailangan at ikaw ang may galing upang tugunan ito. At dahil sa tiwala at paniniwalang kaya natin ito, damang-dama din natin ang ating kahalagahan.
Kaya pagnilayan natin ito: Kanino ka bumabangon araw-araw? Ano ang kanilang pangangailangan? Ano ang kakayahan mo upang matugunan ito?
The Japanese principle of fulfillment is called Ikigai found in the intersection of the following: What do you love? What are the world’s needs? What are you good at? And adds, What can you be paid for? Praktikal.
Hindi hinihiwalay ng Diyos ang ating hanap-buhay sa ating bokasyon.
Manalangin tayo: O Diyos, ituro mo sa amin ang layunin at tamang tugon sa iyong tawag bilang iyong mga anak. Amen.
This is my take on the question about how deep has the Catholic faith taken root in the lives of Filipinos that it transformed Philippine society. This is a transcription of the video below:
Inako ba natin ang pananampalatayang Kristiyano hanggang sa binago nito tayo? Ginugunita natin ngayon ang ika-limang daang annibersaryo ng pagdating ng Kristiyanismo sa ating bansa. Simula noong 1521, lumago ang iba’t ibang debosyon sa Sto. Nino tulad ng Sinulog sa Cebu at Ati-Atihan sa Aklan na punong-puno ng sayawan at kasiyahan.
Gaano ba kalalim ang iniugat ng Kristiyanismo simula noong 1521 hanggang 2021?
Nanatili lang ba ito sa nibel ng personal na debosyon? Ayon sa PCP II, tunay-na-tunay ang pananampalataya ng mga Pilipinong Katoliko, nguni’t hindi nito napabago ang buong sambayanan dahil sa kakulangan sa tamang pagtuturo nito.
Nang tinanong ng mga alagad si Hesus ukol sa pinakadakila, tinawag Niya ang isang bata at sinabi, “Ang sino mang magpapakababa ng gaya ng batang ito ay siyang pinakadakila sa kaharian ng langit” (Matthew 18:4)
Ang pagpapakumbaba o humility ay isang katunayan ng paglago at paggulang ng isang tao. Mahalaga ito sa paglilingkod sa bayan, sa pakikipagkapwa-tao, at higit sa lahat, sa pagsunod sa kalooban ng Diyos.
Ang ebanghelio sa misa ng Sto. Nino ay hindi ukol sa batang Hesus, kundi sa mga katangian ng bata na mahalaga upang tanggapin tayo sa Kaharian ng Diyos!
Manalangin tayo: Biyayaan mo kami, O Panginoon, ng pananampalatayang nagpapabago sa aming lahat. Amen.
This is the transcript of my homily on Mark 1: 21-28. Jesus returns from his baptism in the Jorden to Capernaum where he begins his ministry. His strategy is to start preaching where people are– at the synagogue. There he preached with authority and power. Inspired by this, how can we preach as Jesus preached?
I. The Baptism of Jesus. After coming from his baptism and receiving the approval of God and the confirmation of the Holy Spirit, Jesus begins God’s call to action in Capernaum. So if He has a message from God to give, the natural place to which he would turn would be the church where God’s people gathered.
A. Synagogue. What is a synagogue? It is primarily a teaching institution. The synagogue service consisted of only three things: prayer, reading of God’s word, and exposition or the explanation of the reading or the homily.
B. Style of Teaching. Jesus preached with a new method and atmosphere, and not like the scribes who were the experts of the law.
a. He taught with personal authority. No scribe ever gave a decision or a teaching on his own. They would always begin with “There is a teaching that” and would quote all authorities. Their teachings are always in reference to another scribe.
On the other hand, Jesus taught with independence and with great confidence.
b. He proved his authority by exorcising demons. That was his first victory over the powers of evil.
For Mark, we are to listen to Jesus’ words because they are of authority. We trust in his words, because he has proven that his words are powerful as shown by the deeds that he performed. Jesus’ credibility is in the congruence of both his words and his deeds: he does what he preaches and vice versa.
How do we teach with the power and the personal authority as that of Jesus? How do we teach with confidence?
I. Our Baptism and various experiences of acceptance, confirmation and a call to action.
a. Work: After applying for a job, you receive a confirmation that you have been accepted and with it comes your job description.
b. Student Leadership: After winning an election, you are confirmed through an initiation rite for school leaders, often done during a school-wide assembly. With it are tasks and responsibilities for the school-year.
II. Strategy: On Confidence
Confidence is a state of mind. It is not built by a set of rules. It is tacit knowledge: you develop confidence by doing the following repeatedly. It means that you believe that you can do it.
a. Positive thinking. Always believe that the Holy Spirit is in you. That God is in you. Therefore, believe that you can do it. Hope that you can do better. Believe that failures prepare you for a better future.
b. Practice and training. Always believe that you have a responsibility to develop your gifts. God has given us our talents, however, it is responsibility to develop them.
c. Knowledge. Always believe that you know what you are talking about. Your content is based on facts, not from fake news; on truth, and not on hearsay; from thorough research and not from disinformation. Learning the truth is finding the Truth. Learning does not stop after graduation; nor is it confined within the classroom.
d. Talking to other people. Believe in other people’s gifts as well. Celebrate their greatness. Listen to what they’re saying; or to what they are not saying. Believe that whatever gifts you develop is for the sake of service. Connect with people. Communicate meaningful content. Show genuine concern.
These lessons affects what we believe about ourselves and other people. Thus, from your encounter with people, take what are legitimate experiences that affirm the dignity of every human person. On the other hand, undo what denies human dignity and value.
e. Pray: Always believe that our work is also God’s work. Praying removes our self-doubt.
This is a transcript of the video below. Watch more videos like this on my video channel.
Gaano ba kahalaga ang tanggapin? Naalala mo ba ang iyong pakiramdam kapag may nagsasabi ng ganito ukol sa iyo: Anak ko iyan! Girlfriend ko iyan! Kaklase ko iyan! Kaibigan ko iyan! Hindi ba nakakataba ng puso ang mga salitang ito? Dahil ito ay mga salita ng pagtanggap at pagpapatibay kung sino tayo sa kanila!
Ito marahil ang pakiramdam ni Hesus sa kanyang binyag sa Ilog ng Jordan. Winika ng Ama ang mga katagang ito, “Ikaw ang aking minamahal na Anak na lubha kong kinalulugdan!” (Mark 1:11) At sa salita ng San Pedro, “Pinahiran ng Diyos si Jesus ng Espiritu Santo.” (Acts 10:38) Para kay Hesus, ito ang mga salita ng pagtanggap at pagpapatibay ng kanyang pagkakakilanlan. These are words of validation and confirmation.
Knowing who He is, Jesus would then articulate what He is going to do. Wika niya, “Ang Espiritu ng Panginoon ay sumasaakin, sapagkat pinahiran niya ako. Sinugo ako upang ipangaral ang mabuting balita sa mga dukha.”
Luke 4: 18-19
Upang maging mas malinaw ang pinapagawa ng Diyos sa atin, mahalaga ang pagiging totoo sa ating pagkatao. Tayong lahat ay mga anak ng Diyos at dahil dito, tanggap at pinatitibay ito ng Kanyang pagmamahal sa atin.
Paano ba natin ipapakita ang pagtanggap sa ibang tao? Simple lamang: sa pagpaparamdam ng ating presensya sa isip, sa salita at sa gawa, tulad ng pakikinig, pangungumusta at iba pang makahulugang gawain na nagpapakita ng kahalagahan sa tao.
O Diyos, bigyan mo kami ng pusong tulad nang sa inyo. Nawa’y tanggapin din namin ang aming kapwa nang gaya ng pagtanggap mo sa amin. Amen.
This is a transcription of the video below, aired on the week of the Epiphany of Our Lord, 3 January 2021.
Meron ka bang mga biglang liko na hango sa karanasan ng Diyos? Para sa mabungang buhay, tayo na po’t magkape’t pandasal.
Mga kakaibang pagbabago tungo sa mas nakakabuti ang tinutukoy ko sa unang tanong. Ito ang mga pagbabago ng pangarap, patutunguhan, o kahit ang mga nagbibigay ng kahulugan sa buhay. Dati gusto mong mag-artista, nguni’t nang nagkasakit ang iyong nanay, nangarap kang maging duktor at hindi mo na ito binitawan hanggang sa katuparan.
Nang nabalian po ako sa aking kamay, ibinasura ko ang aking pangarap na maging isang piyanista, at nang naimbitahan ako na magtugtog sa parokya ng San Juan Bautista, nagsimula na akong magisip na maglingkod sa Diyos nang habambuhay.
Madalas hindi napapansin ang pinakahuling salita ni San Mateo ukol sa mga magong nag-alay ng regalo sa sanggol na si Hesus. Pagkatapos isalaysay ang paglalakbay ng mga tatlong mago galing sa Silangan upang hanapin ang Mesiyas sa patnubay ng isang bituin, sinulat ni San Mateo na mula nang natagpuan nila si Hesus, hindi na sila bumalik sa dati nilang dinaanan. Sa halip, tinahak nila ang isang panibagong ruta (Matthew 2:12).
Ano ang karanasan mo sa Diyos na nagpabago sa iyo? Isang before and after na kuwento. Your story doesn’t have to be dramatic. Maaari ang pagbabago ay nasa kalooban, o sa iyong puso, o sa iyong pag-uugali.
What was that one encounter with God that has changed you for good?
O Diyos, ipinakita mo ang iyong sarili sa aming lahat, nawa’y hindi kami matakot tahakin ang pagbabagong dulot ng iyong pagmamahal. Amen.
Rev. Ike Tarabi and I met at Sacred Heart Novitiate in Novaliches, Quezon City in 1990. It was in my second year in Jesuit formation when he entered as a first year novice. We became close because of our constant conversations at the novices’ library. I was then the community’s librarian, and it was I who re-arranged the library to make it more inviting and cozy. Ike was one of those who loved reading and lounging at the library’s sofa.
He was in Juniorate when he left and pursued Jem, who eventually became his wife. I had a role in their story. The video below will give you an idea of how our friendship and our deep faith led us to pursue our vocations: I as a Jesuit priest, and him, as a permanent deacon (yes, Catholic and married).
He got ordained at 10 AM (US Time) on 19 December 2020, St. James Cathedral, Archdiocese of Seattle, USA. I attended his ordination virtually at 2AM (Philippine Time), 20 December 2020.
Here’s our story in broad strokes.
When you told me that you were considering the diaconate, I was very excited. The reason was more personal: You and I will be sharing the same apostolic ministry as ordained ministers. You will perform sacraments as I do; and with the memories that we already have as friends, we can add more memories of ordained service.
We’ve come a long way since 1990 when you entered the novitiate. Our conversations, and yes, including the spiritual and not-so-edifying conversations in the library that I re-designed for people to linger and love reading; the story about how you liked this girl named Jem, a daughter of an administrator in Tala Leprosarium where I was assigned prior to yours. And how you wanted to send letters to her, and I without reluctance, volunteered to be the conduit between you and her. Well, until we were caught and reprimanded by our superiors. Of course, I apologized to them as an obedient Jesuit. But honestly, I lied: I did not regret it. It will remain as one of my fondest memories of you. It is my claim to fame that I had a role in bring you and Jem together, and with Cielo, it is an honor to have my life intertwined with your family.
I will not forget your manner of discerning in the early 1990s: We were lying side-by-side in the middle of Masterson’s Road in Ateneo de Manila University at midnight. You said that if a car would appear heading straight at us, it would be a sign that you were to pursue another vocation; and if not, you would stay as a Jesuit. Well, no car ever appeared, thank God we are still alive, but you still left and forged your own path.
I am happy that God has shown you clearly what you were meant to be and to do. And may I say this with great conviction: God works according to our hearts. I have known you as someone who thinks and reflects, sometimes too much, (just don’t overdo them, ok?). However, your magnanimous and generous heart successfully tempers your mind. And rightfully so in your call as a married deacon: May your heart love Jem and Cielo intimately and passionately, as it expands more to accommodate others as well.
I stand before a mural of Pakighinabi or Dialogue in English. I stand here to bring Mindanao, your home to where you are now, so that you will not forget the beauty of Zamboanga as you celebrate your ordination. Pope Francis emphasized that we are all brothers and sisters, and that no one should be excluded. Mindanao is multi-cultural and diverse, thus may your shepherding be marked by inclusivity and acceptance of others.
So, congratulations Ike. I share with all those who are here how blessed we are to have someone like you; and how blessed I am to have a lifelong friend like you. And may I say this with audacity that the Church is blessed too as she welcomes you into the ranks of the ordained. You already know that I have always kept you in my masses and prayers. Congratulations too, Jem and Cielo. I love you all! And, cheers to more memories!
This is a transcript of my closing remarks at the end of the November-December non-academic activities on December 18, 2020. But in this speech is what the title above says: what really happened in the months of November and December 2020 in Ateneo de Davao University’s High Education Unit. As the academics prepared for the 2nd semester, the non-academic formation team was tasked to keep the students and the university who are not involved in the academic preparations alive. The video is below:
First things first: Let’s give a round of applause to the Campus Ministry led by Mr. Patrick Jose Cavan for making this event, the culmination of the non-academic student activities, very successful. Assisting in this event are members of the SAMAHAN. Daghang salamat.
The magi in the Christmas story travelled for around 400 miles, approximately two or three weeks on camel or a month’s journey by foot to bring the Christ child the first Christmas presents. And if they traveled at night to be guided by a star, then the journey would take an even longer time.
Notwithstanding the surprise when a few days before the 1st semester ended, we were then thrust to take charge of the first two months of the 2nd semester, while the academic personnel were given the time to prepare their courseware. And to take charge means to keep the students busy. But non-academic activities cannot be required, nor can it be coerced upon students. What we can do is to sell our activities, and hope that students will buy what we offer. If they don’t, we are powerless.
But like the magi, we followed a star: we left what we cannot control in the hands of God, and hoped that many would still take advantage of the time to learn on their own, love on their own will, lead on an inspiration that comes from self-determination and a love for others. Not everything needs to be graded. And like the magi, following the star led to an experience of God: in the darkness that followed, there were packets of light.
November and December were experiences of joy and grace. We tightened our ranks, collaborated vertically and horizontally, and prayed. And with what worth it gave us, we were able to pull it off.
We are grateful for the efforts of student leaders and the formation team, beginning with the Mental Health Week, Drug Addiction Prevention, Mindanao Week of Peace, Christ the King, International Volunteers and Human Rights Week among others. The Guidance Office, the Arrupe Office of Social Formation, Office of Student Affairs, the Campus Ministry Office and other collaborators tirelessly worked to make those days memorable and educative. (See the schedule below)
And despite the pressure of completing their requirements, some students still managed to contribute to these events voluntarily. Maraming, maraming salamat po.
On behalf of the Formation Team for Students, I would like to greet all of you a Merry Christmas and may 2021 be kinder and a more grace-filled year for all of us.
Below are two things: (1) The schedule from November 9 (Monday) to December 18 (Friday), 2020 and (2) my closing remarks for the Human Rights Week where I mentioned about the Formation Offices involvement and in collaboration with other offices such as the Senior High School’s Wellness and Testing Center; or ADDU’s CAID and UCEAC.
I. Schedule for Nov-Dec Non-Academic Formation Activities and Rationale.
1. Underlying Principle/Objective of all activities: Collaboration/ Working Together/ Teamwork.
We are creating a culture of collaboration vertically and horizontally across units. The Basic Ed will collaborate with the college’s non-academic formation whenever possible—since alignment is one of our mandates.
2. The Daily Schedule per Week.
a. Mondays – Thursdays are dedicated for individual club/cluster activities.
b. Fridays: 3:00-4:30 PM: Collaborative Non-Academic Formation Activity.
3. The Weekly Schedule for the Non-Academic Formation Activities is below. The themes are derived from AdDU’s school calendar.
November 9-13: Preparation Time. Lead: The Higher Education’s Student Formation Team.
November 16-20: Mental Health Week. Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Week. Lead Office: Guidance Office.
November 23-27: Christ the King Week. Elimination of Violence Against Women and Children. Mindanao Week of Peace. Lead Office: Arrupe Office for Social Formation.
December 1-4: World AIDS Day and International Volunteers Day. Lead Office: Arrupe Office for Social Formation
December 7-11: Immaculate Conception Novena and Ateneo-wide Celebration. International Anti-Corruption Day. Human Rights Week. Lead Office: Office of Student Affairs. Note: Closing Remarks is below.
December 14-18: Celebrating Togetherness at Christmas and Culmination of the Non-Academic Activities for November and December 2020. Lead Office: Campus Ministry Office.
II. Closing Remarks for the Human Rights Week (Dec 11, 2020)
My Closing Remarks for the Human Rights Week is below. I already mentioned the offices involved in this video to promote an awareness that all activities from November until December in Ateneo de Davao University are products of teamwork.
III. Evaluation of the Nov-Dec Non-Academic Formation Activities.
“The Formation Team composed of the Arrupe Office of Social Formation, Campus Ministry, Guidance Center and the Office of Student Affairs of the Higher Education Unit led by Fr. Jboy Gonzales, SJ was asked to design and conduct non-academic formation activities during the advisory period of the second semester of 2020-2021 to enable the instruction unit to prepare for the migration to Moodle for all classes.
Given the limited time, the team was able to design and conduct six (6) major thematic online activities for a good of one and half hours through the ADDU Facebook live platform.
I believe the laudable gains of this project are the following: The spirit of collaboration was fostered among formation offices. The student leaders and volunteers under the guidance of these offices were able to witness cooperation and coordination among their peers and hopefully inspire them to move as one rather than as compartmentalized organizations.
The student leaders and volunteers were able to exercise their leadership and competently designed and implemented university thematic and traditional activities which exemplified the principles of leadership, AdDU sui generis.
With the period of time, given to prepare, the team of formation offices was able to deliver activities with very good content and creative process.
The objective of providing a breather for the students to recharge while still having a menu of activities to choose from was achieved as evidenced with their attendance to various activities laid out for them. There was quality participation considering that the participation is voluntary.
The experience of the six-week line up of activities serves as a good benchmark for the design and conduct for the remaining months of the semester.
I would recommend the same structure and system as I found them effective.”
Lilibeth Arcena, Arrupe Office for Social Formation.
This is a transcript of the video below. My “thank you” to all of you will never be enough for all that you have given me, supporting me in my social media ministry. Nevertheless, saying it in a video is better than finding something more perfect. At least, it comes straight from me. Maraming salamat po, and let’s face 2021 with hope and an unceasing prayer that this year will be better for us and our country.
Hi everyone! I am sending out all of my love and thank you to everyone who has supported me in my social media ministry this year 2020 by watching my videos, interacting with me and the content I share, and by sharing your questions for me to produce.
2020 has been tough for me personally, professionally and ministerially. I would always remember that incident of a storm ravaging the disciples at boat while Jesus was peacefully napping. While the outside storms like the pandemic that punctured every single calamity and callousness from our leaders, I find myself asking Jesus, “Why are you just sleeping through all these?”
2020 has surfaced a lot of our inner storms, and inner storms are a lot more difficult to manage. But it is your questions that fueled every single post on social like those about mental health and online education. After all, faith life intersects with culture and answers not just our theological questions but even the existential ones.
So my apologies to the many whom I have not ministered too well, to those whom I was not able to respond quickly as expected, and to those I promised something but were all put on hold. I guess I almost drowned from the waves.
I was able to reconnect with my grade school and high school classmates, my church group in Sagrada Familia in Payatas, and I was able to say a regular mass for my family. I have upskilled. I learned Premier Pro for video editing, cooked more Bikol dishes, spent regular times working out and swimming, otherwise difficult prior to the pandemic. I also discovered talents from my workmates and students: they have helped me navigate and animate online formation.
I also learned to trust God more, like every farmer who places in God’s hands the growth of the seed they have planted, as well as the calming of my inner storms, accompanied with a trust and belief in science than the words from the mouths of politicians. I learned how to have a healthy doubt that moves me to verify and to do research than just believing what I see on social media.
I am rethinking my social media ministry for 2021, learning from many creative accounts, both Catholic and non-Catholic. After all, I live for adventure; for experimentation; for trying out possibilities. Jesus did not tell us how to do things in 2021, but He clearly articulated what we’re supposed to do: to proclaim the Good News to everyone.
I am happy that I have to figure out the how.
For all these, I continually hope for a better future for all of us, and yes, a better new year. Once again, thank you and I do hope to interact with you more than our previous engagements. Promising you continuous prayers, have a grace-filled new year!
This is a transcription of the video below. This is my take on the week of the Feast of the Holy Family of Mary, Joseph and Jesus, as we are in the Octave of Christmas.
Sikaping buuin ang pamilya. Bakit mahalaga ang pagkakaroon ng positibong ugnayan sa pamilya? Unang nararamdaman ng mga anak ang seguridad at pagmamahal sa buhay sa loob ng isang pamilya. Nakakatulong din ang magandang ugnayan sa pag-aayos sa mga pag-aaway at hindi pagkakasundo, sa sama-samang pagtutulungan, at sa kasiyahan sa piling ng bawat isa.
Nang pinigilan ng mga alagad ang pagpapalapit sa mga bata kay Hesus, winika Niya, “Bayaan ninyo na lumapit sa akin ang mga bata; huwag ninyo silang hadlangan, sapagkat sa mga gaya nila nauukol ang Kaharian ng Diyos” (Mark 10: 13-16). At diniin din niya sa mayamang batang lalaki na nagtanong ukol pagpasok sa Kaharian, idiniin ni Hesus ang mga utos kasama ang paggalang sa magulang” (Mark 10:19).
May kanya-kanya tayong problema ukol sa pamilya, lalo na sa pagbubuo ng kung ano mang maaari pang ayusin.
Paano ba natin bubuuin ito? Nakakatulong ang quality time. Ang Pasko ay isa sa mga pagkakataong magsama-sama dahil may kanya-kanyang buhay na rin ang bawat isa. Maaari din natin tingnan ang paraan natin sa pagsasalita, o kaya kung paano tayo nagtutulungan kapag may alitan. Higit sa lahat, kung paano natin pinapakita ang pagpapahalaga sa bawat isa. They said we need five affirmations a day to live an emotionally healthy life.
O Diyos, pinakita mo sa amin ang halaga ng pamilya nang ipinagkatiwala mo si Hesus kay Maria at Jose. Nawa’y tulungan mo kaming buuin ang aming pamilya ayon sa iyong hangarin. Amen.
This is a transcript of the video below. This was presented at the Catholic Social Media Summit 2020.
Social Media is P2P not B2B. Social media is about person-to-person communications and not business-to-business. You are connecting with real people—not “avatars” or “users”. Social media is not the usual parish bulletin board. When you use your social media, think that you are talking to a person: Tell them about what you’re doing through your posts. Twitter asks: What’s happening while Facebook asks what’s on your mind? Your focus should be on helping your community.
Social media is a great way to find the people meant for your ministry. You can find the hashtags used by the people whom you want to minister to. For example, if your social media focuses on religious practices such as devotions, then go to search and type #CatholicDevotions and it can give you leads on the people whom you want to target. If your social media targets your parishioners, then you can use #CamaligParish #JohnTheBaptistParishCamaligAlbay to bring people from the town of Camalig, Albay to your social media account.
Some Ways to Use Social Media: Engagement and Regularity
Social media can host a chat to engage your followers. You can use the chats to answer people’s biggest questions pertinent to your social media account like inquiries, faith questions, pleas for help, even the schedule of your masses.
You can also educate them about an important issue that matters. Or, you can use them for brainstorming. After the chat, it is beneficial to post a summary of the conversation, or an update of the course of action you’ve taken listening to their various opinions and ideas.
That way you can encourage them to join you in the next conversation and you know that your course of action is anchored on the context of the people.
Consistency and Regularity. Social media will require consistency and regularity. You’ll have a hard time generating followers in your social media if you post once in a while and then disappear until your next tweet, post, or promotion. You have to be consistent to have conversations, grow your following, share your content and help others. Regular can mean daily, three times a week, even weekly. But not too long that you’ll lose their attention.
There are many applications that can schedule your posts so that you don’t have to open your social media every day. I use Plann or Planoly or even Hootsuite to schedule my posts. And oh, do not barrage them with successive posts. It annoys people who follow you because you dominate their feeds.
The New Mission
I have long been in social media. I committed a lot of mistakes. I was banned and trolled. I got into the ire of my Jesuit superiors and my brothers. However, these mistakes helped me study, observed and pushed me to know more about the new “mission area” then Pope Benedict XVI reiterated in his message at the 43rd World Communications Day. He wrote:
“These technologies are truly a gift to humanity and we must endeavor to ensure that the benefits they offer are put at the service of all human individuals and communities especially those who are most disadvantaged and vulnerable.”
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, 43rd World Communications Day
In my years of experience, there are many ways to use social media, but not all ways fit a person with a mission to serve people and communities.
However there are three elements that I have learned that is appropriate for a social media accounts with a faith-based mission. They attract more people to your social media account. These are connecting with your people; creating meaningful content; and finally, showing genuine and authentic service. In other words, you should know your people, find what they need, and then deliver the service.
The Three Elements For Faith-Based Social Media Accounts
1. Connect With Your People
First, connect with your people. Many religious social media accounts get the idea that they need “content” but the idea of actively building an audience for their content is often neglected. And with a handful of followers, they end up concluding that social media is a waste of time. It’s the old paradigm: priests giving out homilies without keeping in mind who their audience is. They end up with few people listening or even finding their points too conceptual or irrelevant. And they say, “What’s the point when you have no one listening to you?” And I always retort, “Because you don’t know their context!” It’s the same thing, no matter how great your content is, if you don’t have people on social media who might be interested in you and what you have to say, your content is useless—no one’s listening! Proclaiming the Gospel to everyone means that you must have people who listen to you.
Show that you are a genuine person. Not a troll. Not a BOT. Include a personal profile photo, a link to your website, a biography of your interests, a short, easy-to-remember user name. And remember this: Find them. Follow them. Hope they follow you back! Now you don’t need to have a million followers. One of the interesting Instagram account is that of the Daughters of St. Anne. They have posted photos of them cleaning homes and streets of a community affected by the flood. That to me is witnessing! That to me is proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus through photos!
2. Provide Meaningful Content
Second, create meaningful content. Meaningful content creates a reaction that begin conversations in a person-to-person basis. Social media IS social. There is a high value for being authentic and human on Twitter, Instagram and Youtube, a lesson I learned early on. When Ivana Alawi, a youtuber, was asked to give an advise to beginners, she said that you should just be yourself. This explains one of my experiences: I sweated over long articles, blog posts, messages for my targeted audience. But nothing happened and I was bored. I shared my experiences as I am, and then, I got people interested in what I do or who I am!
One of the people I follow is Pokwang. Her current follower count on Instagram is 2.5 million. Do you know what I like about her? She posts what she’s currently doing, her life as a mom and a friend, her new shows, her cooking, etc. Her posts are raw and un-edited. But people don’t mind. Following her, I practically saw how she progressed from putting up a small business from her interest in cooking to growing her business! I am following a real person!
Authenticity in Social Media
At some point, I was engaging and friendly to people who have been with me on Twitter or Instagram for a longer time; they were my virtual friends. When I saw them online, I began joking around with them, sharing something I was experiencing, the food I was eating, some personal events, the places I’ve been to, the content of my talks, other than my usual promotion of my homilies. I posted content that showed my whole personality, my human-ness, my weirdness, my various interests, not only the “priestly” part of my life. Taong-tao ka pala, Father!, they said afterwards.
At the crossroads, a wonderful breakthrough occurred. Instead of trying to find my audience, they found me. Social media is about sharing content for humans, not for search engines.
I have a website: a composite of my interests at jboygonzalessj.com. From my homilies to my scripts for Kape’t Pandasal, to articles about youth formation, leadership, places and food finds, even a journal, the posts are my portfolio. Blogs are not anymore as popular as before, but I kept on maintaining it because they play an important role in credibility in social media. Our profiles, status updates and posts on Twitter and Facebook indicate that you know stuff, but blogs, Youtube and Instagram demonstrate that you actually know what you are talking about!
3. Show Authentic Concern
Finally, authentic service. Genuine helpfulness. One of the people I also admire in social media is Gretchen Ho. Aside from her being a friend of mine, you can see from her Twitter and Instagram how she has built an advocacy. She has found a niche for service in the time of the pandemic: the need for bicycles for people to safely travel to their work, and thus, it prevented from being exposed to the virus while traveling, and at the same time, promoted exercise. Her current follower count is 888 thousand followers.
People are sick of being sold to, marketed to, and being solicited from. Posts that shows actual active help-giving not just build credibility. It makes your social media interesting. In an always-on, real-time, global world, the priority is on human interaction that leads to connections. Connections lead to awareness. Awareness leads to trust. Trust is the ultimate catalyst to all human relationships, including the relationship you build in social media.
Demonstrate Genuine Service
Here are some ways to demonstrate genuine service to others and engage in a way that builds relationships.
Answer questions or refer them to people who know. Nothing says I love you than a retweet now and then. Respond to those who tagged and mentioned you in their posts. Show gratitude publicly. Check out those who are new and respond to some of their tweets. Take private conversations to Direct or Personal messages. Congratulate people publicly on their birthdays or when they celebrate an accomplishment. Rally people around an advocacy, a relief operation, or a worthy movement. Live-tweet highlights of wonderful talks. Or, extend the conversation and build a relationship by taking it offline.
I had a wonderful experience one day when I was invited to visit Commune Cafe in Makati by Ros Juan, who was my friend on Twitter. She was the owner of Commune and I never met her face to face. When I finally arrived at the cafe, many of my Twitter friends were with her! We had a great time; I met new friends.
And now our relationships are not confined to the internet. Currently, we are helping each other with our own advocacies. Since they all have Instagram and Youtube, we followed each other, adding not just a number but real faces with real lives on my social media accounts. In religious terms, the number of my parishioners grew, adding more ears to the Gospel of Jesus that I am proclaiming.
Hope you too will use social media for the service of humanity especially the proclamation of the Gospel that everyone is welcomed as Pope Francis invites us to do.
This is a transcription of the video below. Subscribe to my channel for more videos like this. You’ll get a fresh new video every week. Thank you.
May mga kuwento ka bang binabalik-balikan sa iyong nakaraan na hanggang ngayon nagiging parte siya o nakaka-impluensiya sa inyong mga desisyon sa buhay?
Binabalikan ko lagi ang una kong panunumpa sa Kapisanan ni Hesus noong May 31, 1991. Naalala ko ito dahil namatay na ang daddy ko, at sinabi niya sa mommy ko na ipatuloy ko ang bokasyon ko dahil aalagaan ng Diyos ang pamilya namin. Kaya hanggang ngayon kapag may problema sa pamilya ko, inaalala ko ang sinabi ng daddy ko bago siya namatay.
Sa buhay ng ating Mahal na Inang Maria, ang kanyang pag-oo sa paanyaya ng Diyos sa pamamagitan ng Anghel Gabriel ay isa sa mga foundational stories ng kanyang buhay. Hanggang sa katapusan, ang nangyari sa kanyang buhay at sa buhay ng kanyang anak na si Hesus ang kinahatnan o kinalabasan ng kanyang pag-oo.
One of the foundational stories of Christianity is Christmas. Ang hirap ma-imagine ang ating pananampalataya na walang Pasko. Mahirap din ma-imagine ang anumang taon na hindi nagdiriwang ng Pasko. Kahit pandemiya, hindi mapipigilan ang pagdaraos ng Simbanggabi, noche buena, at pagbibigayan ng regalo. Ang iba nga ila-Lazada na lang basta makabigay ng pamaskong handog.
How about you, what are your foundational stories?
O Diyos, nawa’y hindi napapawi ang tunay na dahilan at diwa ng Pasko, ang inyong handog sa buong daigdig. Nawa manahan si Hesus sa aming puso’t isipan. Amen.
Maligayang Pasko po at manigong bagong taon sa inyong lahat!