Featured

Chasing mangroves in Palawan: Why we have to conserve and protect mangrove forests.

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.

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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.

Puerto Princesa

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Why do I advocate for the protection of mangrove forests?

 

  1. 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).

Puerto Princesa

 

  1. 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.

 

Puerto Princesa

 

  1. 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.

Puerto Princesa

 

  1. 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.

Puerto Princesa

 

  1. 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.

Puerto Princesa

 

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Puerto Princesa

What can we do?

 

  • Plant mangroves.

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.

Puerto Princesa

 

  • 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.

Puerto Princesa

 

  • Be vigilant.

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.

Puerto Princesa

 

  • 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.

Puerto Princesa

Puerto Princesa

Puerto Princesa

 

Featured

The Islands of Gigantes Live Up To Its Name

It was a trip devoid of a single regret.

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.

GigantesJboySJ 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. GigantesJboySJ

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!

  1. 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.

 

GigantesJboySJ

    1. 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.

 

GigantesJboySJ

GigantesJboySJ

    1. 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.

 

GigantesJboySJ

GigantesJboySJ GigantesJboySJ

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    1. 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.

 

Gigantes Gigantes

GigantesJboySJ

GigantesJboySJ

    1. 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.

 

GigantesJboySJ

GigantesJboySJ

    1. Cheap seafood.

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!)

 

GigantesJboySJ

  1. 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.

 

GigantesJboySJ

***

 

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.

 

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Some notes:

*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.

Gigantes

** 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.

GigantesJboySJ

Respect Differences

Note: This is a transcription of the video published in my Youtube channel. Here’s a link to that video.

Mas madalas na ngayong maranasan ng mga bata ang pang-aapi o pambubully. 13% of them were made fun of, called names or insulted. 12% had rumours spread about them. 10% were cyberbullied. 5% were purposefully excluded, pushed, shoved, or tripped. 2% had their property destroyed. Kahit sino man sa atin ang hindi papayag na maranasan ito ng ating mga anak. Kaya sa Bullying Prevention Month ngayong Oktubre, tulong-tulong po tayo sa pagtuturo ng mga gawaing makakatigil sa ganitong karahasan.

Ayon kay Pope Francis sa kanyang bagong encyclical, Fratelli Tutti, ang pagkakapatid at pagkakaibigan ang mga paraan tungo sa makatarungan at mapayapang daigdig.

Pinapaalala sa atin na likas ang pagkakaiba nating lahat. Iba’t iba ang ating kultura, kulay, paniniwala, kasarian, atpb. Dahil dito, mahalagang ibaon sa puso’t isipan ang halaga ng respeto. We come from diverse backgrounds, but we have the same emotions. Simple lang ang kailangan: When you see someone alone and being bullied, reach out and help them by starting with “hello.”

Nangagaling sa mga magulang ang ugaling mang-aapi. Psychologists say that bullies also need help, because they are bullied at home. Kailangan din nating iwasang mang-api sa salita man o sa gawa, upang matigil din ang kulturang ito.

Basic mental health is a recognition of the value of oneself and the value of others. We need to have both to teach a child to be kind.

Manalangin tayo: O Diyos, nawa’y maramdaman namin ang aming kapatiran at pagkakaibigan sa buong mundo. Amen.

Self-Care After Exam

Note: This is a transcription of my Youtube video, Self-Care After Exam. You can check this link.

Kapag tapos na ang mahirap na parte ng ginagawa mo, ano ang pwedeng mong gawin para sa iyong sarili? Para sa ating kapakanan at kalusugan, ang mga mumunting pamamahinga at pag-aalaga ng sarili ay mahalagang-mahalaga. Lalong pina-iigting itong pag-unawa sa pagdiriwang ng World Mental Health Month ngayong Oktubre.

Upang maalagaan ang iba, kailangan nating maalagaan ang ating sarili. “Mahalin ninyo ang inyong kapwa, gaya ng pagmamahal ninyo sa inyong sarili,” wika ng Panginoon.

Puhunan natin ang kalusugan sa katawan, sa isip, sa puso at kaluluwa.

Kapag napapagal at nabibigatan na tayo, bigyan natin ang sarili ng mga positive reinforcements, tulad ng pabuya o rewards. You must have something to look forward to every end of an exam day after mastering a hard lesson you spent so many days studying. Pwedeng kumain ng kahit anong gusto mo, matulog nang mahimbing, bagong sine, kumanta hanggang magdamag, o makipagtsikahan sa kaibigan.

Higit sa lahat, manalangin nang tahimik.

Hindi kailangang meron kang sasabihin. There is what we call a restful prayer: just stay quietly in one corner, close your eyes, and imagine that you are sleeping in the embrace of God, because we are. Wika ni Hesus, “Magsilapit kayo sa akin, kayong lahat na napapagal at nabibigatan, at kayo ay aking pagiginhawain.”

Manalangin tayo: O Diyos nilikha mo kami sa hugis at puso mo, dinggin mo ang hangarin naming mamahinga pagkatapos ng madugong pakikibaka sa buhay. Amen.

Self-Care Tips For Teachers

Note: This is a transcript of a video I published in Youtube, “Self-Care Tips For Teachers,” and check out this link. I’ll appreciate a subscription from you. Thank you.

Happy Teachers Day po, mga minamahal kong mga bayaning guro! Paano ba natin aalagaan ang ating sarili bilang mga gabay sa pag-aaral?

Magaling magturo ang ating Panginoon. Ginamit niya ang mga larawan sa paligid sa kanyang mga Talinghaga upang madali maintindihan ang Kaharian ng Diyos. Nagtuturo siya sa iba’t ibang lugar na wala kang marinig na reklamo. Nguni’t napapagod din Siya. Umaakyat siya ng bundok upang magdasal at mamahinga.

Dahil dito, mahalaga sa ating mga guro ang tinatawag nating “self-care.” You cannot give what you don’t have: so the best give we can give to our students is our being well and healthy.

  1. Huwag kakaligtaang matulog. 2) Magpa-araw: nakakatulong ito sa produksiyon ng Vitamin D at nakakaganda ng kondisyon. 3) Magluto. 4) Magsulat ng gratitude journal o kaya 5) sabihin ang nasasaisip. 6) Cuddle a cat or a dog. 7) Maglakad o magbike sa labas. 8) Mag-ayos at maglinis ng kuwarto. 9) Read about people whose lives are more complicated than ours. 10) Maging plantito o plantita. 11) Magpa-yakap. 12) At makipag-tsikahan sa mga piling-piling mga tao. Iwasan ang mga nega: hindi sila makakatulong sa gana sa buhay. 13) Laugh and learn from your mistakes: a great gift to yourself and others.

Sa pamamagitan ng pag-aalaga sa sarili, maaalagaan din natin ang ating mga mag-aaral. We are teachers leading in crisis, and re-imagining the future for our students and for the world as well.

Manalangin tayo:

O Diyos, Ikaw ang aming Dakilang Guro, biyayaan mo kami ng lakas at saya sa aming piniling bokasyon bilang pagtugon sa iyong pagtawag na magturo ng katotohanan sa aming mga estudyante. Amen.

Prayer for Teachers

Note: This is a transcription of a video I published in Youtube, “Prayer for Teachers” to celebrate World Teachers Day. Here’s the link to follow.

Dear Lord,

We praise you as our greatest teacher. You taught as God’s ways so that we may be able to become as children of God, which we are. As we gather here today to ask for Your blessing on all educators on the global celebration of Teachers Day, we pray that we may tackle with all our heart, strength and soul our role as leaders in a global crisis such as the pandemic, among others.

We know that teaching is hard especially in unlearning and relearning, in remolding and re-creating our ways of doing things so that whatever we do in this vocation of ours, we may lead people to a knowledge of the new normal, the world and of God. May we strive to share our knowledge with gentle patience and steady endeavor to bring the truth to eager minds.

Open our ears to listen and learn also from our students; they too have the Holy Spirit in them. May we appreciate, that under your eyes, O Lord, we are also students, so open our minds so we can learn from our colleagues, as we navigate a different world. Enlightened our hearts and minds as we reimagine the future with greater hope and renewed energy. Amen.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Practical Tips On How To Be Holy

Note: This is a transcription of this video. Follow this link.

Sakop ng pananampalataya ang ating buong pagkatao. Kahit ang kasuluk-sulukan, ang pinakatatagong-lihim, ang karumaldumal: lahat ay nililiwanagan ng pagiging banal. At dahil dito, kasama ang araw-araw nating buhay sa pagpapakabanal. Hindi lamang ito nakalaan para sa debosyon at pagsisimba, ang kabanalan ay praktikal.

Paano tayo magiging banal sa panahon ng pandemiya bukod sa pagdarasal? May minumungkahi si Pope Francis.

Unang-una, huwag mangtsismis. Huwag ipalaganap ang kasinunggalingan; huwag sirain ang pangalan ng ibang tao, lalo na sa social media. Mainam na huwag magtapon ng pagkain sa panahon ng taggutom dahil marami ang nawalan ng trabaho. Ilagay sa plato ang kaya nating ubusin.

Make time for others. Sa ating pamamalagi sa bahay, maaari nating kumustahin ang isa’t isa sa paraang ligtas at malayo sa panganib. Nakakatulong ito sa kanilang mental health. Kung mamimili, piliin lamang ang kailangan at mura; huwag ganid para makabili din ang ibang tao.

Huwag manghusga ng tao, sa halip, buksan ang puso upang mas kilalanin ang mga kasambahay lalo na ang mga anak na mahirap maunawaan. Ito ang pagkakataon upang maranasan ang makulay na buhay ng bawat isa.

Higit sa lahat, ugaliing kausapin ang Diyos sa gawaing pambahay, tulad ng “Lord, ano kaya ang lulutuin ko ngayon para sa mga anak ko?” “Ano ang punto at halaga ng binabasa ko?” Sa pamamagitan nito, binubuksan natin ang ating buong buhay para sa Diyos.

Manalangin tayo: O Diyos, liwanagan mo ang buong aspeto ng aming buhay upang maging ilaw din kami sa iba. Amen.

Paanong Mapapawi ang Pagkabagabag sa Exam

Note: This is a transcription of the Kape’t Pandasal video on text anxiety published on 21 September 2020, as some schools approach the end of the semester using an online or modular learning mode. Check the video here.

Isa sa mga biyaya ng Espiritu Santo ang karunungan. Ngunit hindi natin ito mapapalago hangga’t meron din tayong i-aambag. Mag-aral ka na sa simula ng klase. Don’t wait for an exam announcement to study.

Review your notes every day, take your formative assessments seriously because they are like practices. The more you practice, the better.

Siguraduhing meron kang study schedule. Mag-aral nang may layunin. Ipako mo ang iyong mata sa pinag-aaralan, kaya tanggalin ang anumang sagabal sa mata, tulad ng cellphone. Isipin na nasa eskuwelahan ka at hindi sa bahay.

Mas mabuti kung balikan mo ang iyong class notes sa gabi, dahil mas maaalala mo ang tingi-tinging impormasyon, kaysa sasabayin mo ang lahat, pagmalapit na ang summative exam.

Kung hirap ka sa note-taking, simulan mo na ngayon ang pagpapractice. Kung makakatulong ang colored pens (nakatulong sa akin), gamitin mo! Kung mag-notes ka, maglagay ng maraming espasyo para sa mga detalyeng gusto mong isulat kapag nag-aaral ka na.

Matutong mag-outline sa lahat: ang tinalakay sa klase, ang binasa, atpb. Huwag kakalimutan ang main points, definition of terms atpb. There are apps available in the internet to help you organize.

Magpahinga. Magmerienda.

Higit sa lahat, magdasal nang ganito: balikan mo ang araw, ano ang mga natutunan mo sa araw na iyon, at magpasalamat sa Diyos. Sa bawat natutunan, lumalago ang karunungang ibinigay ng Diyos sa atin.

Manalangin tayo: O Diyos ng karunungan nawa’y hindi kami magsawang mag-aral para matuklasan ka namin araw-araw. Amen.

How to teach your heart to forgive

Note: This is a transcription of the Kape’t Pandasal video for 14 September 2020. Check this video here.

Gusto mo siyang patawarin, kasi mahal mo. Pero masakit. Mahirap. Malalim ang sugat. Nguni’t alam mong gusto mo siyang kasama habambuhay. May paraan. Nang itinanong ni Pedro kung ilang beses kailangang magpatawad, ang sagot ni Hesus ay “hindi lamang makapito, kundi makapitumpung-pito.” Seventy times seven. Seven is infinity to the Hebrews.

Therefore, all the time. Laging magpatawad.

Mahalagang magpatawad dahil nakakatulong ito sa paghilom ng ating mga sugat, at paglaya sa ating nakaraan, upang magkaroon ng kahulugan at saysay ang ating kinabukasan. Tulad ng pagiging physically fit, maaari din tayong maging “forgivingly fit,” maging handang-handa tayong magpatawad.

Unang-una: commit to do no harm. Magpakita ng kabaitan araw-araw. Tandaan na lahat tayo ay sugatan. Nasaktan ka niya; nasaktan mo rin siya; nasaktan niyo rin ang iba.

Mahalaga rin na huwag maliitin ang ating sugat. Do not diminish your pain by saying, “Everything happens for a reason,” because any hurt inflicted on us or on others are never reasonable. By addressing the injustice of the experience, facing real pain in all its goriness will make forgiveness deep and transformative.

At dahil mahirap magpatawad, kailangan mo ng mga taong tutulong sa paghilom ng sugat. Surround yourself with positive and patient people who can accompany you in your healing.

Higit sa lahat, patawarin mo ang iyong sarili. Alam ng Diyos na magkakasakitan tayo sa ating pagmamahal, kaya handa rin tayong masugatan at magpatawad. Binibigyan natin ang ating sarili ng halaga sa self-forgiveness. Bagaman marami tayong pagkakamali, mahalaga pa rin tayo sa mata ng Diyos.

Kung pinapatawad tayo ng Diyos, gayun din tayo magpapatawad sa sarili at sa kapwa. Forgive others as the Lord forgive us.

Manalangin tayo: O Diyos, sinasambit namin na “patawarin mo ang aming mga sala para nang pagpapatawad namin sa nagkakasala sa amin,” nawa’y isabuhay namin ito nang taimtim at totoo. Amen.

What To Do When Someone Wants To End Everything

Note: This is a transcription of this video for the Suicide Prevention Month this September 2020. Check the video here.

Binibigyan natin ng diin ang halaga ng buhay sa buwan ng Septyembre, ang Suicide Prevention Month. Ayon sa libro ng Deuteronomiyo (30: 15-20), hinihimok tayo ng Panginoon na laging piliin natin ang buhay. Kapag may kapamilya o kaibigan tayong nais tapusin ang kanyang buhay, huwag tayong magambala: meron tayong magagawa.

Be yourself. Kinakailangan mong maging ikaw sa pakikitungo sa kaniya. Hindi mo kailangang maging pari o counselor. Importanteng masabi mo na meron siyang karamay at hindi siya nag-iisa.

Makinig: masakit at mahirap makinig ngunit kailangan nilang mailabas ang kanilang saloobin.

Magpakita ng simpatiya at huwag maging judgmental. Wasto ang pagbabahagi ng kanilang nararamdaman sa iyo, kaya hindi kailangan ng advise o paghuhusga.

Huwag kalimutang ipadama ang pag-asa. Ipaalala na mahalaga ang kanyang buhay sa iyo, may maaaring tumulong sa kanyang iniisip, at mapapawi rin ito sa paglipas ng panahon.

At higit sa lahat, seryosohin ang kanyang sinasabi. Huwag balewalain at gawing katatawanan. Kung magsabi siyang “Depressed ako,” maaari mo siyang tanungin kung iniisip din niyang wakasan ang kanyang buhay. Huwag po tayong mag-alala, hindi natin sila binibigyan ng ideya, kundi binubuksan natin ang pagkakataong ibahagi nila ang sakit na kanilang dinaramdam.

Hindi nakakatulong ang pagbibigay ng lecture, pakikipag-away, paghuhusga, pagpapakita ng pagkabigla, pag-aalay ng solusyon o pag-iisip na aayusin mo sila.

It is not how bad the problem is, but how badly it is hurting your friend or loved one. So, help your friend choose life.

Manalangin tayo: O Diyos, diligin mo kami ng sigla’t inspirasyon upang lumago kaming nagbibigay-buhay at pag-asa sa iba. Amen.

How To Care For The Sick

Luke 4: 38-44: The Healing of Peter’s Mother-In-Law

The Gospel today has a particular attractiveness to it because it is relevant and relatable to many of our situation today. You get to see the scene: Jesus’ fandom followed Him everywhere, and indeed, His was a huge crowd all wanting a piece of Him to heal and to exorcise their demons. But then, He takes a personal move: to cure the mother-in-law of Peter, who is His friend. This is cura personalis, you are able to personally care for an individual you particularly know.

Today, we will reflect on us, practicing cura personalis in healing, and is greatly meant for families who are isolated because of Covid19. How do we take care of our families or our friends, when one or more members are afflicted with Covid?

The homily today is a how-to, based on personal and pastoral experiences. Fr. Aytoy, the parish priest of Sta. Maria della Strada, requested me to write to both patient and their families in his parish, as part of their Faith, Family and Food program in response to the epidemic.


It is emotionally draining to be a patient or a family member of a patient. We often say, “ang sakit ng kalingkingan, sakit ng buong katawan.” Because of our intimate bond with each other, we share our pain, our fears, and our lives. And the struggle is prolonged, as it interferes in daily life: while worrying about their members who are sick, the student still needs to study, the working members still need to focus on their tasks at hand, and the patient needs to fight it out. We often ask, “how do I make it stop?” Here are some steps culled from my experience.

1. Turn to what you have.

Like breaking your piggy bank when you run out of money, it is helpful to check what you’ve got within yourselves or within your homes. Rely on what makes you feel safe, nurtured and deeply loved. You can browse cherished photographs, think about a funny memory with the sick person, and if you are the patient, fill your mind with memories of happy days. Good memories fortify the bonds you share. In the process, they become a foundation strong enough to ground you when your world is shaking. You therefore become more mindful of the good, and unmindful of the stressors. When suffering is shared, pain becomes more bearable.

2. Self-soothe.

St. Ignatius tells the exercitant who is in silence to intensify and activate their senses. Covid takes away our sense of taste and smell, and thus, it is just right that we fight to take it back. A family member of mine eats, even without taste, to force his body to pursue what it has lost and increase his desire to be healed. There is a tenet in Jesuit training: agere contra. Loosely, it means “to do the opposite” —when you are tired and your senses are numb, take out your eucalyptus and menthol balms to invigorate you!

3. Open the lines of communication.

Nothing beats having someone to talk to while we are at our worst. The same holds true to an experience of illness: we need to air out our emotions; to put words on what we feel. Psychology has it that naming what we feel makes the emotion lose its power over us. It is therapeutic to acknowledge our feelings by identifying every single layer of emotion, and then being able to express it with those we trust. This is the reason why shared prayer is greatly helpful. The letter of James (5:13-15) comes to mind:

“Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.”

James 5: 13-15

The tendency of others is to avoid the sick or their families, aggravating isolation. It is worse with Covid because without a cure in sight, it carries with it a stigma. But for people who serve God, as members of a community of believers, our sense of love conquers fear. We do agere contra, the opposite. We reach out to those who are suffering alone. Check on them regularly through safer means like social media or mobile device. Or, to have food brought to their doorsteps. Make them feel our presence, and let this sense of belongingness become a present to them.

The process of healing is not linear, but cyclical.

As we keep on repeating the above, our wounds slowly heal. Our bodies acquire the strength to fight what ails us. And our grieving hearts become consoled.

Anong Gagagawin Kapag May Sakit sa Iyong Pamilya?

Note: Wrote this script thinking about families in isolation because of Covid19. This is the transcription of the video you will find in this link.

Sakit ng kalingkingan, sakit ng buong katawan. Kapag umaaray ang ngipin, umaangal ang katawan natin. Kapag merong maysakit sa pamilya, apektado din ang buong kabahayan. Simple lang: kapag sinisipon ka, mahahawaan mo ang iba. Kaya kailangang alagaan | ng mga kasama mo ang kanilang katawan | upang hindi sila mahawaan. Kung gumaling ka, siguradong ligtas din sila. Paano ba natin maaalagaan ang maysakit, ayon sa utos ng Diyos sa atin?

Mahalagang maramdaman ng maysakit na meron siyang karamay at kasama. Madalas natin tinatanong kung anong gamot ang iniinom, nguni’t mas mahalaga ang pagbisita, o kung hindi, ang anumang uri ng pangungumusta. Kaya nakakatulong ang kuwentuhan ukol sa mga magagandang alaala ng samahan, mga lugar na makahulugan lalo na ang pwedeng puntahan. Ito ang nagbibigay motibasyon | upang madaliin ang paggaling!

Mahalaga din ang “self-soothing,” –gamitin ang anumang bagay na nakagagaan ng pakiramdam.

Dahil pinapatay ng maraming sakit ang panlasa, pang-amoy, paningin, atpb. kaya nakagagamot ang masarap na pagkain, mabangong bulaklak, paboritong kanta, malambot na kumot, at silid na maliwanag at maaliwalas.

Higit sa lahat, nakakatulong ang may nakaka-usap.

Nakakatakot ang anumang viral infection, kanser, atbp., dahil binabantaan nito ang ating mismong buhay. Kailangan natin ng mga taong mapaghihingahan ng loob at sana, sila ang ating mga kapiling.

Manalangin tayo: O Diyos, hiling namin na pagalingin mo po ang mga maysakit lalung lalo na sa Covid. Amen.

Bakit Mahalaga Ang Wika sa Panahon ng Pandemiya

Paunang Salita: Ito ang aking Pambungad na Salita sa pagdiriwang ng katapusan ng Buwan ng Wika sa Senior High School ng Ateneo de Davao University. At ito ang link para sa video na ito.

Kumusta kayong lahat. Binabati ko kayo sa pagdiriwang ng ating Buwan ng Wika. Ako po si Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ, ang inyong punong-guro sa paghubog. Labis akong nagpapasalamat sa inyong pagtangkilik sa pagdiriwang natin ng Buwan ng Wika. At lalung lalo na kapag pinag-uusapan ang halaga ng wika sa panahon ng pandemiya.

PAGLILINAW

Importante ang wastong paggamit ng wika sa paglilinaw: kapag kailangang maipahiwatig sa buong bayan ang tamang impormasyon o datos ukol sa krisis na pangkalusugan. Mahalaga ang pangnakaraan sa pangkasalukuyan. Halimbawa, iba ang kahulugan ng “ang bilang ng mga nag-positibo sa Covid NOON” ay umakyat na NGAYON! Isipin mo na lamang kapag mali ang balarila o grammar sa paggamit ng wikang Ingles o Filipino sa pagbibigay ng mga tagubilin upang ma-protektahan ang taumbayan laban sa virus.

PAGPAPALIWANAG

Mahalaga din ang wastong paggamit ng wika sa pagpapaliwanag upang may kalidad ang ating pag-aalaga sa ating kalusugan.

Kapag nagkakaintindihan ang pasyente at ang doktor, mas magiging tama ang impormasyon, pagsusuri, pagbibigay ng gamot, pagpapaliwanag ng mga gagawin upang gumaling.

Hindi natin maikakaila ang halagang ito, lalung-lalo na nung nalaman natin na mali-mali ang datos na ibinibigay sa atin ng Department of Health. Nalaman natin ito sa  social media kaya nararapat lamang na ipaglaban natin ang katotohanan, hindi ang pagkakalat ng kasinungalingan sa pagbabalita.

PAGPAPALAGO NG WIKA

Nang dahil sa pandemiya, marami tayong nilikha na mga salita, mahalaga ang kasalukuyang pangyayari sa pagpapalago ng wika. Naging popular ang salitang “pandemiya,” “quarantine,” “social distancing,” “work from home,” at “online learning.” Maaaring galing sila sa Ingles, ngunit, sa ganitong paraan nabubuhay ang wika: hinihiram natin sa ibang kultura kapag wala tayong katumbas na salita, ngunit nagiging pang-atin ito sa patuloy na paggamit—dahil nagkakaroon ito ng panibagong kahulugan o nuance na tayo lang ang nakakaintindi. We Filiipinize the words; ginagawa natin itong atin. Ito ang WIKA NG KASAYSAYAN ngayon. Sige, challenge ko sa inyo: Ano ang QANON?

PAGKAKAUNAWAAN

Mahalaga sa pagkakaunawaan ang pagsasalita sa iba’t ibang wika. Sa panahon ngayon, mahalaga na maunawaan at magamit natin ang mga wikang katutubo, lokal, pambansa o pandaigdig. Ang tunay nating kasarinlan ay hindi maaaring hiwalay sa konteksto: kaya kung mamahalin natin ang ating wika, minamahal din natin ang ating sariling bansa. At kapag nauunawaan natin ang isa’t isa, hindi tayo magkakawatak-watak.

Ang pagkakaisa ang kailangan upang puksain natin ang pandemiyang ito.

May KASAYSAYAN ANG WIKA, kasama sa kasaysayan ng mga tao. Mas naunawaan ko ang mga tubong Mindanao nung natuto akong magsalita ng wikang Bisaya nung na-assign ako sa Cagayan de Oro, at ang Davaoeño, ang Bisaya ng Davao.

May pinanggagalingan ang isang wika.

Mas gumagamit ng mga salitang Tagalog ang taga-Davao, dahil ang karamihan sa taga-Davao ay galing sa Luzon, nguni’t may pagkakaiba: iba ang balarila ng Tagalog sa wikang Davaoeño.

Nawa’y bigyan natin ng nararapat na pagpapahalaga ang wika, hindi lamang tuwing Agosto, ngunit sa ating pang-araw-araw na paggamit nito. Maraming salamat po.

Mga Paraan Para Matulungan ang Estudyante sa Online o Modular na Pag-aaral

Note: Taken from various conversations between parents, teachers and students, this video contains five tips to help students thrive in home schooling, whether they are on online or modular modes. Here is the link to the video.

Praktikal ang utos ng Panginoon na tulungan natin ang isa’t isa, lalo na ang ating mga kabataan. Hindi madali ang online learning. Nguni’t magiging matiwasay ang pag-aaral kapag marunong tayong i-supervise sila. Pagkakataon natin itong turuan sila ng Time Management.

  1. Alamin ang oras ng kanilang klase, i-schedule ito sa planner o online calendar, isama ang oras sa paggawa ng assignment, panahon ng pagkain kasama ang buong pamilya, at huwag kalimutan ang oras ng pamamahinga at pagdarasal.

2. Teach them to plan and keep meaningful routines but according to their own rhythm. 

3. Bigyan din natin sila ng lugar sa bahay na hindi sila madidistorbo.

4. Tanggalin ang anumang bagay na makakagambala sa pagtutok sa pag-aaral.

5. Panatilihing tahimik ang paligid at ugaliing huwag silang guluhin sa panahon ng klase: huwag utusan, pakialaman, o gawin ang kanilang assignment, ngunit mainam na bigyan ng pangmeryenda.


Mahalagang-mahalaga ang “parental supervision” sa panahong hindi makakapunta ang ating mga anak sa pisikal na paaralan. 

Manalangin tayo: O Diyos, bigyan mo kami ng biyayang huwag mag-alinlangang palampasin ang pagkakataong maging tunay na parte ng buhay ng aming mga anak. Amen. 

Panatilihing Matatag Ang Inyong Mga Ugnayan

Note: I got many questions that asked the same thing: How can we maintain our relationships while separated by quarantine restrictions? This is a transcription of this video about relationships.

Estudyante ko si William nung nasa high school pa lamang siya, at pinakilala niya si Anna nung tumuntong siya sa kolehiyo. Si William ay nasa Singapore at naiwan dito si Anna. May plano silang magbakasyon ngunit naabutan sila ng lockdown. Araw-araw pa rin silang nag-vivideo call, nagde-date gamit ang Zoom, at nagte-text tuwing umaga at bago matulog. Hindi lumabo ang kanilang pagmamahalan nang dahil lang sa pandemiya.

Bagaman lahat tayo ay pinaghiwalay ng Covid at hindi natin nakikitang harap-harapan ang ating mga mahal sa buhay, hindi ibig sabihin nito na hahayaan din nating manghina ang pagiging magkakapamilya, magkaibigan, o magka-ibigan. Hindi imposibleng maging mas malapit pa rin sa isa’t isa kahit hindi magkita.

Tandaan natin itong tatlo: Talk, Accompany, and Support.

Mag-usap. Samahan ang isa’t isa sa lahat ng pagbabago sa buhay. At suportahan ang isa’t isa sa hirap man o ginhawa. Itong tatlong ito ang sikreto nina Anna at William.

Manalangin tayo: O Diyos, Ikaw ang bukal ng pag-ibig, biyayaan mo ng lakas ang lahat ng aming mga ugnayan sa panahong ito. Amen.

Blessing for Students, Teachers, Parents

Note: I was requested by Mr. and Mrs. Louie and Tonette Climaco of the CFC St. Jude Community, Jacksonville, Florida to give some words of wisdom for many of their household members who are about to enter a new school year in the midst of the pandemic. This video was what I sent them.

However, I thought of publishing it to my Youtube channel because it also applies to all students, teachers and parents who are also about to plunge into online classes—though DepEd postponed the opening of classes. You can access the video here.


Hello to everyone of you! I am Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ, and am very happy that you requested me to share some experiences about being online since I am a teacher, and at the same time to impart on you God’s blessing since I am also a priest. So let’s begin with my sharing: 

Since the pandemic has affected all of us worldwide, not withstanding its effect on the economy and education, we have been grappling with the challenges of making online classes still engaging and interesting to students of all ages. 

Let me first say this: it is difficult on various levels.

Please accept this truth as you all enter into the new school year, things will be different, and with every change, we all have to adjust. But it is less difficult if we go through this together: as one. 

Education is not anymore between teachers and students, but now, more is placed on the hands of the parents. Thus, keep each other in mind, not just in your prayers, but provide emotional support. And if possible, know when to ask for help. Utilise guidance counsellors in school when things are difficult, or even the counsel of your friends and community. 

Do not just say, laban lang. Do not just aim for survival. But say to yourself every single day, especially at the start of the day: THRIVE! Bloom where you are planted. Bloom in the midst of difficulties.

One of my favourite images is the lotus flower which you see all over Southeast Asia. The lotus grows in murky waters. But when it blooms, it’s on the surface of the water, and it is pure, beautiful and most importantly, it looks up to where the sun is.

Keep your head and heart above every situation by facing the difficulties one at a time, as they come, without losing your gaze on the Son of God.

So repeat every single day, “Thrive.” We become what we repeatedly say we are. 

Prayer and Blessing

And so we pray. We remember that we are always in the presence of God. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The Lord be with you. 

And with your spirit. 

We gather here today to ask God’s blessing on all of our students, teachers and parents as they begin the new academic year. Studies are hard, especially at this time of the pandemic, when all are subjected through online learning and in danger of the virus. Yet the reward is great for all who continue learning amidst the challenges. Learning leads to a knowledge of the world and of God’s work in us. May God enlighten our hearts and minds as we listen now to the word of God in the book of Sirach 6:32-37:

If you wish, you can be taught,

If you are willing to listen, you will learn;

If you give heed, you will be wise. 

Frequent the company of the teachers,

Whoever is wise, stay close to them. 

Reflect on the precepts of the Lord,

Let his commandments be your constant meditation; 

Then the Lord will enlighten your mind,

And the wisdom you desire He will grant.

The Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God. 

Let us pray and bow for the blessing from the Lord: 

Lord God, your Spirit of wisdom fills the earth and teaches us your ways. 

Look upon these students, let them enjoy their learning and take delight in new discoveries.

Help them to persevere in their studies and give them the desire to learn all things well.

Look upon all teachers and parents who are also teachers. Let them strive to share their knowledge with gentle patience and endeavor always to bring the truth to eager minds. 

We pray for protection from the virus and all other evils that surround us. We include also those who are present here who are frontliners. May you grant them strength, courage, and perseverance in their chosen service. 

Grant that students, teachers, parents and all of us here, that we may follow Jesus Christ, the way, the truth and the life, forever and ever. Amen. 

May almighty God bless you all, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Once again, thank you very much. 

Mahalaga Ang Pakikinig

Note: This is the transcription of the Youtube vlog episode on Listening. You can access the video here:

Sa panahon ng pagkabalisa, maraming nahihirapan sa pagbabago. Sa larangan ng edukasyon lalo na ngayong buwang nagsisimula na ang semestre, damang-dama ito dahil sa online learning or distance learning. Apektado nito ang lahat: ang estudyante, ang guro at ang mga magulang. Nangunguna na rito ang problema sa teknolohiya at sa internet connectivity. At dahil dito, maraming pananaliksik na nagpapatotoo sa pag-akyat ng anxiety levels ng mga tao.

Kailangang tugunan ang mga problema ukol sa emotional well-being. Nakakatulong ang simpleng pakikinig.

Maaaring wala tayong magagawa sa mabigat na dinadala ng ating mga kapamilya at kaibigan, ngunit malaking tulong ang magkaroon ng isang taong maaaring mapahingahan ng loob, masabihan ng nararamdaman, at ang katiyakan ng kasama sa pakikibaka.

Halimbawa, may mga natatanggap kaming mga feedback galing sa estudyante at mga magulang, maganda man o masakit. Nguni’t ang pakikinig sa kanilang mga hinaing ay nakakatulong upang lalong mapabuti namin ang aming paglilingkod sa mga estudyante.

Isang biyaya ng Panginoon ang pakikinig. Ayon sa Salmo 116: “Iniibig ko ang Panginoon, pinakinggan Niya ang aking pagmamakaawa At dahil pinakinggan niya ako, lagi akong mananawagan sa Kanya habang-buhay.” Ang nakikinig, pinapakinggan din.

Alalayan natin ang isa’t isa sa panahon ng pagbabago.

Manalangin tayo: O Diyos, pinapakinggan ninyo ang nasa aming mga puso, biyayaan mo po kaming gawin din ito sa aming kapwa. Amen.

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