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.


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


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



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



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.



    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.




    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


    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



    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.




    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!)



  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.





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.



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.


** 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.


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.


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.


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.


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?


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.

Make Time for Nothing

Note: This is a personal entry. A reflection while staring out of the window during a rainy day.

Do you have time to think of nothing? It sounds like a silly question. But I find myself scouring for a time to think about nothing; to find some space between Zoom meetings and monitoring the progress of teachers. The “I-don’t-have-time-for that” or the “I’m-too-busy” has become a daily mantra, that after I say it, I hate myself for saying it because I know that I spent some precious time worrying about things that I do not have control of.

Every single day, I am pressed for time, pressured by work, and pushed by circumstances beyond myself. It seems that the new normal is busier than ever. Sometimes meetings become longer, because instead of using other ways of communicating, like the use of messaging apps for work as Discord or Slack, colleagues meet as if we were meeting face-to-face, without considering online fatigue and the hazards of screen exposure on the eyes. Or feeling that we are always within reach, that work time encroaches on personal time.

All day, every day, we try our best just to do what has to get done. Isn’t it exhausting?

I am afraid that if I immerse myself in this kind of routine, inevitably I will lose sight of myself, and perhaps subconsciously, about what makes me happy, or even at peace. So, I have made subtle shifts in my routine. I sleep earlier than before (well, relatively to my usual night work), and wake up, of course, earlier than before the dawn of the pandemic.

How early and how subtle? Around 15 minutes early. I can almost feel your skepticism and is that a slight chuckle? But then it works because the change is not drastic. I have some time to think about nothing. Not to snooze, but to linger, to be with myself as myself, without haste and without impatience. Just emptying my mind, and just let the Holy Spirit fill me with light. I guess this is what it means that emptying oneself is important in a life of faith. We are after all, earthen vessels of God. This way, I find myself not caught up in the things around me.

At first it was difficult. Distractions barge into my mind, and just as I was trained as a Jesuit to meditate for an hour, I try to send them away, one by one. As they enter, I open the door of my mind to shove them out. When I do so, I begin to notice the present moment, the subtle shifts of the morning sun illuminating my room, knowing that it is God’s way of keeping me alive and well. When I am not distracted by other things, I can say that I become at home with my pure and authentic self. I don’t lose sight of who and what I am.

This is the secret why what people say about me has become unimportant. I have been very much at home in my own skin.

I guess making time for nothing, for not thinking about anything creates a greater appreciation for what matters. Simple things can make a huge difference. Hope you too can make these shifts. I guarantee, it is worth it.

How to Manage Stress from Online Learning

Note: This is a transcript of the interview on stress management arising from online learning stressors besetting young adults, featuring Lance Carr, a star of Pinoy Big Brother’s Otso, and now taking Mass Communications in Ateneo de Davao University. The video is on my Youtube channel with the same title as above. You can access the video here.

Intro spiel: He was in Pinoy Big Brother’s Otso, a Modelong Ateneo, and a Blue Knight, a member of the Ateneo de Davao Senior High School’s basketball varsity. Juggling between the demands of online learning and showbusiness, he will share with us 11 ways to manage stress from online learning. We are honored to have as our guest, Lance Justin Carr. It’s worth your time.

Jboy: So let’s begin.

How was your journey from Senior HS, and then to PBB Otso, and now back to Davao for your college course? So how was it so far? Kuwentuhan mo naman kami kung anong nangyari after senior high school.

Lance: Napakalungkot nga Fr. JBoy coz I was not able to experience my graduation di ba? Wala po ako noon. Sayang nga po. Pero enjoy naman ang experience ko sa PBB. Yung na-learn ko sa senior high, especially the 6Cs, na-apply ko naman po sa loob ng bahay [ni kuya].

After that, I tried the showbiz world for one year. After that, I decided to study in Ateneo for college. I had two options po Father: to study online in a different school or to study in Ateneo. Well since the pandemic, I decided to go back to my roots, my alma mater, to Ateneo kasi I really trust the system of the Ateneo. Talagang gawin nila ang lahat para maging effective yung online learning.

Jboy: Our lives really circle around the students. What can help them? What are their struggles? And we’re really happy to have you with us. You talked about your memories in senior high school. Gusto ko tanungin kung ano yung mga memories mo nung senior high school which you cherish.

  1. Be grateful.

Lance: My life in senior high revolved around studies, basketball, and pageants, di ba? I joined Modelo Ateneo. Sa PBB I’m very lucky kasi timing yung mga weekly tasks namin because it involved basketball and pageants, so ayun yung mga learnings ko dati sa senior high school, like what I said earlier, na-apply ko sa PBB.

Pero ang nakakamiss po talaga sa senior high is the fun. Yung fun talaga ng senior high ibang-iba from junior high o elementary. I mean, the fiesta, the intramurals, the subject, the teachers, kayo, yung mga masses niyo po. Yun talaga yung namiss ko Fr. Jboy, the fun talaga in senior high.

JBoy: When you were in senior high school, we were together in basketball varsity, naaalala mo iyan with your games, what are the things that you remember about being in varsity, like the discipline that is part of being a basketball player, how did it help you become who you are now?

2. Be productive.

Lance: The number one thing that I learned being a basketball player is being competitive, but not towards other teams, other players, but competitive within yourself. You test yung limits mo, kung hanggang saan kaya ng physical attributes mo o ng mental toughness mo. Talagang, pinu-push ka sa limit mo talaga.

Next is the discipline. Well, being a student athlete, kailangang may i-maintain kami na grades para makalaro. Fr jboy, may usapan dati is may failing grade o mababang grade hindi makalaro, so it’s actually the discipline of time management po talaga fr jboy, kung ano talaga yung priorities mo.

Jboy: Kapag pumasok ka na sa showbiz, di ba tuturuan ka nilang sumayaw, how did discipline, time management, all of those things you learned help you out?

3. Learn new skills.

Lance: Ang alam ko talaga Fr jboy, time management comes with patience, I also believe in that. Patience and willingness to learn new things, since ako, ang alam ko lang talaga before entering showbiz is basketball, that’s it. Maybe some, a little background from acting kasi Teatro Ateneo din ako nung junior high.

But in showbiz, you need to be flexible sa lahat, lalo na with singing and dancing. Nandoon po lumalabas yung patience and willingness to learn. I’ve been attending various dance and acting workshops, para ma-improve yung skills ko in performing.

JBoy: Anong pinaka-challenge mo, sumayaw o sa acting? What was your greatest challenge?

Lance: The greatest challenge talaga father, yung iiyak ka, grabe iyon. Sobrang hirap umiyak. Sobrang hirap talaga umiyak as in like yung parang nafru-frustrate na talaga ako pag di ako nakaka-iyak, yun yung mga eksena.

Jboy: Anong iniisip mo kapag umiyak ka? Kailangang meron kang paghuhugutan, di ba?

Lance: There is this thing called, karga in acting. We believe that acting is personal. We apply our personal experiences to the scene para mas lumabas ang emotions, ang natural namin when we’re performing a certain scene.

Jboy: Our experiences in life, they actually come together, in a great performance. Even for musicians. What we do is when we play something, we have to put all of our emotions. There was a time when Ryan Cayabyab once said “that singer kailangan niyang masaktan para maintindihan niya yung kanta.” So hindi pwedeng hiwalay ka.

Lance: Yung iaacting mo lang for the sake of acting.

Jboy: Tama. Kasi malalaman din nila kung plastic na plastic, kapag pilit na pilit. Lalo na when you act, at ‘yung mukha mo halos pareho lang. May mga actors na parang ganoon, ibig sabihin, hindi talaga nangagaling sa kanilang sarili.

So you decided get in to college. You decided mass communication.  Was there a dilemma in choosing your career?

4. Keep goals in mind.

Lance: Since I am in the showbiz world, I took up mass communications kasi parang workshop na rin siya sa akin, Father. Kasi nandito na rin lang ako. Actually ito na talaga ang work ko, showbiz, so might as well pipili na lang ako ng course kung saan ako kumportable; kung saan ako may background na rin, para di ako mahirapan. Kasi Fr. jboy maalala mo, I was a STEM Pre-engineering student.

But I think yung influence ng showbiz sa akin ang tumulong na makapagdecide ako na magmass comm. I think na mas ok siya ma-balance ko; I think I will have a harder time in balancing engineering and showbiz po.

Jboy: Now that you’re into your studies, what are the challenges that you undergo especially with your studies online?

5. Overcome challenges.

Lance: Usually father I look at the smaller details. The internet connections. Hindi lahat may strong internet connection. There are some interference and may mga lag ng konti, sa teachers, sa students din.

JBoy: Are there any stressors that you experience while studying online. It’s not just the studies but the whole environment, being only at home, you cannot go out, etc. etc.

Lance: Actually I took this learning test. I discovered that I am a kinesthetic learner, (Jboy: pwede ba tayo mag-apir online. Pareho tayong kinesthetic learner) so sanay tayo sa mga physical activites, magalaw tayong tao, so being online, syempre nakatutok ka lang sa monitor mo, sa keyboard, sa laptop, nahihirapan po talaga ako mag-adjust kasi. Unlike the face-to-face there are a lot of physical activities you can do, for example in certain subjects, may mga role play, or sa math, may problem solving. Sobrang nahirapan po talaga ako mag-adjust being a kinesthetic learner to online classes po talaga. It’s not talaga my forte na nakaharap lang talaga sa monitor, and listening to the teacher. Iba talaga yung face to face di ba po?

Jboy: When we study part of it is the social element. Alam mo yung nag-aaral ka, you learn something because you are interacting with your classmates. Tama ka, kapag kinesthetic learner ka, kailangan mong gumalaw nang gumalaw. Parang hindi umaandar ang utak kapag hindi ka gumagalaw.

Lance: Doon nga pumapasok yung loneliness factor, fr. jboy. The vibe, the aura of the class, yung ingay na mimiss ko na nga, the productive noise as I would say in senior high. As in, iba talaga.

Jboy: Oo nga. May klase na sumisigaw; may klase na nagpapalakpakan; may klase na nagkakantiyawan, you all hear that while in your own class. Somehow it gives you some gasoline.

Since you’re very, very young and online, what are the things that you do to manage your stress?

6. Ask for help.

Lance: You ask for help. Hindi ako naniniwala, Father na may hindi nahihirapan sa online class. All of us are really struggling because we’re adjusting to the new system, new way of learning, so I think we should ask for help sa teacher natin. Huwag po tayong mahiya sa kapwa classmates natin, and most of all, sa parents talaga natin. Sila po talaga ang close sa atin di ba?

7. Have fun.

Don’t forget to have fun. We may see online classes as a struggle, but we need to see (parang Catriona Gray lang) the silver lining of it— the beauty of online learning. At least, di ba, hindi masayang yung one year natin, kasi one year can change you a lot. So I am very thankful to Ateneo that they pushed through with online learning. Just don’t forget to have fun, kasi it’s something new.

JBoy: But your Instagram tells me a lot about you having fun. O dalawa di ba? Nagbabasketball ka, nagti-tiktok ka.  O ikuwento mo kung papaano you’re having fun.

Lance: I think it’s a stress-reliever. I forgot the term for it.

Jboy: Coping mechanism.

Lance: Yea, it’s a coping mechanism. Like ako, dinadaan ko na lang sa tiktok on my spare time.

Jboy: Pero ang galing nga ng sayaw mo sa totoo lang?

Lance: Makikita naman nila.

Jboy: Puro basketball lang itong batang ito, tapos biglang nakita ko na yung tiktok mo. But I am really happy that you have discovered another aspect of your life, alam mo iyon. Don’t look down on people who are doing tiktoks, as long as, you know, of course, their decent. Those tiktoks are short videos that is manageable if you’re learning a certain hobby, learning a new talent. Those tiktoks are helpful.

Lance: Very helpful because it is a way of expressing ourselves, especially if you’re interested in singing, in dancing. Kasi tiktoks can be used in all kinds of aspects nga father. Ako nga, kahit basketball skills ko, dine-demonstrate ko sa tiktoks. It’s a way to release talaga the tensions in your body. Para loose ka lang and you get to be yourself.

JBoy: It might inspire some people to learn new things and that’s a great stress reliever. Not everything is your studies, hindi ba? You have the left brain and the right brain, we have different intelligences, therefore to discover a lot of things which you can do, is very empowering.

8. Be kind to yourself.

Lance: Another one that I really find interesting is being kind to oneself. May times talaga that we commit mistakes. Minsan hindi talaga natin naaabot yung passing scores. But that’s ok; that’s the beauty of it. We learn from it para hindi na natin maulit. Actually I have experienced various retakes in certain quizzes kasi father ganoon talaga ako nahirapan. It’s a way to really challenge yourself. Sana hindi naman tayo aabot sa point na dinadown na natin yung sarili natin, nawawalan na tayo ng pag-asa, sana alam mo kung saan nangagaling yung limits mo, yung ceiling ng limits mo. Minsan nao-overwork na tayo.

Kasi in college, in our case father, we have the formative assessments and we have this thing called summative assessments. By the end of the sem, so, as in, I see various tweets online, post sa FB na grabe formative assessment lang ito, tapos iniiyakan na natin. What more na lang kaya if summative.

Jboy: There’s a way of looking at failures. It can make you or it can break you. Pero parang basketball lang iyan. Minsan natatalo tayo di ba? But yung point at importanteng attitude sa basketball ay tingnan niyo kung paano kayo naglaro, paano kayo mag-iimprove para in the next one, you’ll be better. I think the quizzes are like that. I’m a teacher guys, so I tell you that sometimes what can teach you are those mistakes.

Lance: Hindi buo ang learning process without the mistakes themselves.

JBoy: Tama. And that is also true in life, di ba?

Lance: Oo naman.

Actually I have two secrets to relieve stress.

9. Avoid negative people.

The first secret is really to avoid negative people kasi, ako, paglabas ko ng PBB, ang dami kong bashers. Di naman maiwasan iyong mga bashers talaga. There are really persons who will try to bring you down, para ma-angat sila or say, yun na yung happiness nila. I think the negativity talaga is something that we should avoid, para we can grow and be productive. We should focus more on the positive side, kasi, these people will try to bring us down. It’s a challenge in our lives.

10. Talk to God.

The second secret that I would say father is talk to God through prayer. I think God plays an important role, lalu na nai-stress tayo. When we talk to God, we share to God the struggles natin, kasi, at the end of the day, God is there to help us. Para malagpasan natin yung mga struggles natin.

JBoy: And with your personality, to be kinesthetic, to stay put, is difficult. Ganoon din ako: Pwede ba tayong gumalaw-galaw! Buwisit talaga itong virus na ito. Biglang nalimit tayo bigla!

What would you advise people who have dreams such as yours?

Lance: I am working as an artist, but i would say to people that have dreams in general, is really don’t be afraid to commit mistakes. I’ve been in various auditions. I’ve been in various VTRs, talagang your time will come lang talaga. God has a way for you. God has a plan for each one of us.

And I think with the help of failures to make us stronger, it allows us to make us believe more in ourselves, na hindi dapat ang tingin natin sa sarili natin ay magaling ako sa ganito, magaling ako sa ganyan, hindi dapat ganyan. We need to know where we can improve on para ma-achieve natin yung goals natin, so that we can get outside of our comfort zones.

And just don’t lose hope. Pray to God. And patience with time management.

11. Schedule your priorities.

To quote my high school former coach, Coach Miggy, hindi siya prioritize your schedule, it’s scheduling your priorities. We have certain priorities, so we need to schedule them talaga. Hindi yung basta gawin natin ito, gawin natin iyan, dapat may certain plan talaga tayo.

Jboy: In other words, what is important when you dream is that you continually hope. And you need a lot of courage to fulfill those dreams. Kaya tama sabi ni Coach Miggy, you schedule your priorities, hindi ka pwede magkalat. As long as you know what you really want.

Final Words

Lance: Unang una, I would like to thank you Fr. JBoy and the Ateneo community for inviting me once again. I would like to say to all the students, to all the teachers na experiencing struggles in online learning is don’t give up, don’t lose hope. And see the beauty in it. Stay safe guys.

Jboy: Oo nga, stay safe. You are safe at home. Maraming salamat.

Extro: Once again, thank you very much, Lance Justin Carr, for guesting. I promise to pray for you, your studies and your future. And to all of you, thank you for watching. Drop a question on the comment section for future content, and don’t forget to subscribe. This is Fr. Jboy on the line. See you next time.

Magtulungan sa Pasukan

Note: This is a transcription of my Kape’t Pandasal video now published on my Youtube channel here. Because of the challenges besetting those who will begin online classes this August, it is important to be more understanding, patient, and extra helpful to all those who are adjusting: the teachers, the students, and the parents. Here’s a sharing of our experiences so far, since we opened ahead of many schools.

Pasukan na sa maraming paaralan ngayong buwan, kaya lang may pagkaka-iba sa dati nating buhay: lumipat na ang eskuwelahan sa bahay sa pamamagitan ng internet. Hindi madali ang buhay online. At sinasabi ko po ito sa inyo dahil nauna na po kami dito sa Ateneo de Davao noong June 22 sa online education.

At totoong nahirapan po ang lahat dahil hindi ito isang paglilipat lamang ng klase sa internet. Maraming kailangang baguhin kasama ang lesson plans, ang stratehiya sa pagtuturo, pati ang mga aktibidades at gawaing-pangkurso. Naisip niyo na ba kung paano gagawin ang laboratories ng chemistry sa bahay?

At dahil itinapon tayo sa ganitong sitwasyon ng virus at ang pagkawalang-bahala ng gobyerno, minamadali tayong lahat. 

Nguni’t hindi lang ang paaralan ang nagkakandarapa sa paghahanda. Panibagong hamon sa estudyante ang online, hindi lang ito problemang pang-gadget at internet access. Natututo tayong Pilipino lalo na ang bata, kapag may interaction sa mga magkakaklase.

The social element of the physical class is reduced to a minimum when online.

At kakabit sa hamon sa estudyante ang pagdadaanan din ng mga magulang na hindi sanay sa buhay-online. Kailangan ng parental supervision ang kanilang mga anak, na dati nasa kamay ito ng mga guro sa pisikal na paaralan. 

Dahil dito, mas kailangan natin ang pag-uunawa, pagpapasensya at pagtutulungan ng lahat.

Nagsisikap ang guro, estudyante’t mga magulang. Nguni’t mas mainam na maghanap ng iba’t ibang paraan upang mas maging matagumpay ang online classes. 

Manalangin tayo: O Diyos, gabayan Niyo po kaming sama-sama sa mga pagbabago’t hamon sa buhay ngayon. Amen. 

Maging Tulad Ng Tubig

Usapan ngayon sa social media ang pagtaas ng nibel ng stress dahil sa pandemyang ito. 84% ng mga Pinoy ang nababagabag sa kalagayan ngayon kasama ang dinadaranas na gutom, kawalang-trabaho at iba pang epekto ng pandemya. Habang tumatagal lumalala ang sitwasyon. Dahil dito, damang-dama ang takot na babagsak ang bayan kung ipagpapatuloy ang ganitong pamamalakad ng pamahalaan.

Nguni’t kailangang lumaban sa buhay hindi lang para sa ating mga kapamilya kundi pati na rin sa buong bayan.

Buong paghanga ang nakikita ko sa social media: mga kababayan nating nakakuha ng pagkikitaan, tulad ng pagnenegosyo online ng mga ube pandesal at sushi bake. Nakakatulong din ang mga panibagong hilig. Nakakatuwa ang mga nagiging plantito o plantita. Nakakawala ng stress din ang nagpapakita ng galing sa pagsayaw, pagkanta o kaya pagluluto na pino-post sa Tiktok.

Higit sa lahat, ang paggamit ng teknolohiya sa pagpapalago at pagpapalalim ng ating mga pagkakaibigan ang isa sa mga nakakatulong sa ating emotional well-being. Marami pang paraan upang pangalagaan ang ating kalusugan, pisikal man o emosyonal.

Ganito ang tubig. Maglagay ka man ng balakid, makakarating pa rin ito sa patutunguhan. Walang makakatigil sa tubig.

Water will always find its way to the sea.

Ganito ang sigaw ng mga tao sa Hong Kong. Ganito rin sa pananampalataya: hindi papayagan ng Diyos na manaig ang kasamaan sa buhay.

Manalangin tayo: O Diyos, ikaw ang aming Tubig ng Buhay. Pahintulutan mo kaming maging matatag sa dinaranas namin ngayon. Amen.

What Happens When You Live Out The Examen

Note: This is the transcription of the Youtube video with the same title. The link is here.

JBOY: If I am going to ask someone to share how the examen has greatly influenced his life and his choice of music, I have no other in mind than him. He’s very popular especially in YouTube singing praise music with his band, “Where’s the Sheep?” Know more about him and his choices, and what’s best, he’ll sing for us. I’m “On the Line” with Mike Shimamoto. Stay with me.


JBOY: Who and what influenced you to choose inspirational music over other popular genres in music?

Mike: My journey really started in church. I am the youngest of two brothers. I was around 10 years old, fairly young when my brother was invited to join in our parish’s charismatic community, the Youth Life in the Spirit. He was 5 years older than I am, and I was much too young to join technically, but I found it so unfair that he was permitted to go, so I threw the biggest tantrum para makasali. I really wanted to experience what a prayer meeting was.

In Merville, where I am from, The Parish of Our Lady of Beautiful Love, we have a very good music ministry. That was the first time that they played worship music, praise music from Hillsong. It was my very first experience of music that really felt different. It had a different power to it. And I genuinely fell in love with that music. I fell in love with the power that had to make you feel. You know when you’re feeling a particular kind of emotion, feeling frustrated, restless, sad, music had this kind of potency to be able to shift your mood and impart some kind of energy. And I fell in love with it.

I was in basketvall in grade school lang iyon Father! I did a little of track (and field). So (my life) was more into sports and trying to keep up with the academics. But it was in Grade 7, confirmation yata, I sang a song, tapos nandoon si Kuya Cyrus (Lim). So after non, he just started inviting me and sir Jampao (Reyes) started inviting me in different school masses until naging school-wide mass na siya. I just kept going deeper and deeper into just the power of praise music. And obviously it was also this time that I was falling in love with God and also discovering my faith, and what that meant in my life.


JBOY: If you would review your life, what are the things that you are grateful for that have led you to your choosing this career path? If there is one thing that you will always remember of the Lord barging into your life, what would it be?

MIKE: It was really just the overwhelming presence of love that I have experienced throughout my life. When I was eleven years old until I was college, I was serving every Saturday. But those were also the years when things were difficult for me personally. My father got sick, and it was just a really long period of trying to navigate that time. My mother being extremely heroic, tried to raise my brother and I by herself. It was definitely not an easy time for us, physically, emotionally, spiritually. It was very challenging. But you know, I really felt that throughout my life, I was being guided. And there were so many people in our community who made us feel that we were cared for. I remembered, ganoon kasi ako, music was never a career option for me; it was more of a language, a space of communication. All of my friends say na madaldal ako, but I had a hard time truly articulating how I feel.

I grew up in church and I have been introduced to the concept of the audience of one. In the moment of performance, yes you have a responsibility to your audience to engage them and to lead them, but ultimately you’re singing for that One person, that one intention that makes the song true for you. So I was definitely fully engage in singing to God, for a specific person. But to witness that there was a conversation happening between not only myself and God, but the other person, in whatever they were going through, to be part of that was life changing for me. It was nothing I’ve ever experienced before.

JBOY: You know the difference between pop music and church music is that when you sing in church, you lead people, you lead people to God. You are a leader without people knowing you are actually leading them. And without you also knowing that as you lead people (to sing), you too are being led by God. Serving in church is leading people to pray.

MIKE: What was told to us is that we are mere mirrors. We reflect the Light. When we reflect Him, you know that you’ve done your job the best way possible.

I definitely thought of pursuing a career in mainstream. It was the usual thing: when you get there, you’re given projects and contracts with a certain figure. I was supposed to have a handler (giveaway na ba masyado?). Ang entry point ko pa nga ay I was supposed to be part of a soap opera, and a singing career after. I just remembered going through that entire process, I was constantly discerning and reflecting. What dawned on me was this, “Why doesn’t it feel like the music I fell in love with?”

We did a concert in Dulaang Sibol in high school. It was a last hurrah. Ateneo meant so much to me, formed who I was and my music, and I wanted to give back. But I remembered distinctly in that moment, in that concert, that I felt so free. Music felt so freeing, colorful and so powerfu! We were just having fun, and we weren’t even trying to send a message. It was really more of a celebration. But at the end of it, I had a friend who approached me. He placed his hand on my shoulder and said, “Thank you. I was able to pray.” And that wasn’t really naman the purpose. But when he said that, alam mo iyon, something clicked inside of me. This is what I want. Whatever music I pursue in the future, it should always have this at its core.


JBOY: Do you have any regrets in life, that would have been important especially in your career choices?

MIKE: Definitely my life hasn’t been perfect. I am the first one to claim that I am very limited and that I have so many flaws to work on. I do know that in every stage of my life, I tried to put God at the core. And I know how that sounds! But it’s really genuine! There were a lot of opportunities and a lot of different moments where I could have pursued something more; whether it was a career in showbiz or to live somewhere else and what not, but I was always trying to be conscious of His will for me. So I have no regrets in terms of the choices I made professionally. All the ridicule that we had going into “Where’s the Sheep?” I remember, tinatawanan kami ng mga radio heads kasi we were trying to put Christian songs into the radio. I don’t have any regrets about that.


If anything, I wish I was a lot more open, I guess, with the people in my life. I was definitely, well I guess I still am where I would like to shoulder most of the burden and I was trying to keep a very closed border with myself, and I wish I shared more, like I felt there were so many people who wanted to know and also to be a part of my experience pero I was a lot, you know, I wasn’t as open as I should have been, and who knows what we could have created if only we allowed something like that.

JBOY: You know that is also part of your enigma, people get to be curious about you, that’s how I know you, madaldal ka for other things, but we cannot glean anything from your personal life. But that’s who you are, and that to me is a gift. It is important that you are able to get hold of who you are, even your problems because there are things that are really very private, right?

MIKE: Yes.

And The Examen Becomes Him.

JBOY: So the examen: those are the steps (Review, Gratitude, Forgiveness, Ask God) that we’ve taught our students. If you do that every day, getting to see how God is working in your life, or the things that you’ve missed, how would the examen help you as you move to the path you’re treading?

Examen as a Discernment of God’s Presence

MIKE: Kaya I was also excited to talk about this with you. Really, genuinely, in all honesty, discernment and the examen are the most important lessons I learned from 16 years of Jesuit education. I started in Prep, and I graduated college in Ateneo (de Manila). Every morning, I do meditation and prayer. I started out 10 – 15 mins, but now 30 to an hour. I am just in a quiet, reflective meditation and prayer. My prayer follows the same steps as the examen. I start off with gratitude. On what I am grateful for, I recognize: the blessings that I have, that I sleep in a comfortable bed, a roof over my head. And then I do repentance, parang for all the shortcomings that I’ve had. Intention: I always ask for wisdom and knowledge to discern His will, but also for patience and openness. The rest was mostly adoration and thanksgiving, and I learned that from being exposed to years of examen. And it has really changed my life.

Examen as a Discernment of Meaning

There’s just so much responsibility placed on you. And my practice of the examen, of meditation and prayer, allow me to take on a bigger view on my experiences, to re-center me into what I feel is my core. Like the Jesuit concept of going back to your “why” and I feel that always helped me. There’s so many things to worry about, so many things to have to be anxious about, but when you go back to that core of you are and what you’re doing this for, it makes things so much more bearable. It reminds you of why you’re doing these things.

And I feel like taking 5 to 10 mins out of your day, to just kind of go back to your body, allows me to come back to who I am, remember who I am, so that I can gather myself again, and prepare to give it away again. And I feel that the examen is like that: it’s like getting recharged before you go back to the world.

JBOY: The effect of the examen gives you peace, and you find yourself collected. Parang nabuo ka ulit. Every day parang nakakalat ka palagi. You’re always scattered because there are many concerns, and sometimes you lose who you are. The examen re-gathers you. There is an experience of wholeness. And I think what you’ve said is very important: that doing the examen gives you meaning and purpose, and that moves you towards direction. These three things are very important if you begin to tread wherever you’ll be, wherever God wants you to be. Definitely pagganoon ka, you’ll be happy because you are at peace.

Examen as a Discernment of God’s Will

MIKE: And at the same time, it is also such a great litmus test. If you find yourself just constantly unhappy, frustrated or restless and you go back to the examen, you go back to who you are and your purpose. You are able to discern parang, “Teka lang. Bakit ko pa ba ginagawa ito? Especially if it is not really aligned to how I feel I should do. It allows you (to realize) na parang, “Ok it was not as important as I thought it was at that time.” And it gives you this holy detachment: if it is not what God wants for me, bakit natin ipagpipilitan.

“Blessings” by Laura Story

MIKE: The song that I will be singing is a song by Laura Story called, “Blessings” and it’s really a song about hope. The first time I heard it in church, it had such a controversial message for me, kasi the chorus goes, “What if your blessings comes through raindrops, what if your healing comes through tears, what if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near. And what if trials of this life, are your mercies in disguise.”

And I think that it is human nature, that when we’re put in conflict and in times of hardships, we feel that God really seems far away. And it seems that He has taken Himself apart from us. But I feel, especially with me, in my times of darkness, this song constantly reminds me that even the hard times, God is here. And in His infinite wisdom, He is walking with us, crying with us, feeling our pain, gives us hope. So I will do a rendition of this which I recorded and will be sharing with all of you.

(By the way), the campus there is really memorable to me, and I can’t wait to see how it changed. Hopefully we can come and visit again, and I am praying for all of you and all the work that you’re doing, Fr. Jboy.

JBOY: Thank you very much. So, Mike Shimamoto!

“Blessings” by Laura Story

We pray for blessings
We pray for peace
Comfort for family, protection while we sleep
We pray for healing, for prosperity
We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering
All the while, You hear each spoken need
Yet love is way too much to give us lesser things

‘Cause what if your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise

We pray for wisdom
Your voice to hear
We cry in anger when we cannot feel You near
We doubt your goodness, we doubt your love
As if every promise from Your Word is not enough
All the while, You hear each desperate plea
And long that we’d have faith to believe

When friends betray us
When darkness seems to win
We know that pain reminds this heart
That this is not our home

What if my greatest disappointments
Or the aching of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy
What if trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are your mercies in disguise

How to Reboot in the Time of the Pandemic

Note: This is a transcription of the vlog entry on my Youtube channel. Get the link here.

To find a quiet place in a very noisy world, I oftentimes find myself doing a reboot. I’d visit churches, especially the old traditional churches with high ceiling. I would spend a few days in prayer, away from my office. I would break a sweat climbing mountains and enjoy the sweeping vista from the top. I would go on a long journey to stand before a crystal blue sea, and just stare out at the horizon, especially at sundown. 

Now that our lives have changed, how can you reset your life?

My answer: Make subtle shifts in our daily habits.

Hear me out. 

Have you ever experienced this sense of being refreshed and renewed in such extraordinary moments when you are removed from the busyness and craziness of everyday living? My heart would feel elated, and a warm and cozy energy would surge through my body. All the tensions and worries of daily life slowly diminishes for a few minutes of staring at the sunrise, or even the sunset when the great ball of fire turns reddish before it disappears. You can just feel yourself alive at the moment, and often you would wish that time would stand still before the evening. 

I often find myself losing my footing. I worry about many people who matter to me. I get confused when barraged with information from social media and the chatter of companions. That is why I would seek out the extraordinary, in an attempt to reboot my mental balance. 

I have pushed reset several times, and wished there would be a reset soon. But the extraordinary remains outside of the everyday. I would seek them out, try an adventure, like seeking for a treasure. 

But I would return still to regular life, and stress accumulates, and the mind gets bogged down in a lot of things. Feeling heavily burdened, I seek out the extraordinary. No matter how I would rant about the complexity of life, changing the world, even one day at a time, is no simple task. Does this never-ending cycle sound familiar to all if not, some of you? If I can’t change the world the way I want it, oftentimes dangerous because I tend to believe that my how-to-do-it is also how-God-wants-it, then perhaps I have to change myself. If it is obvious that it is not what God wants, for very clear reasons in prayer or feedback from people, it is therefore me who should change, because God’s ways are not mine.

And then the virus hit us hard, and there is no way to climb mountains or stare at the sea, unless you live near it. The world I know is now different and it demands a change of lifestyle and a different paradigm. I cannot move through it comfortably as before, and I must find a way to live with it with ease. 

Maybe if I would just go out of my way to seek the extraordinary, what if I could just live freely, subtly changing the usual ways in my everyday life? I don’t believe that changing my lifestyle needs to be difficult. Maybe a slight change in my habit; or a subtle shift in my perspective will help. 

I realize I don’t need to go to old Spanish churches to find solace; or to climb mountains or explore the streets of the world; or live near the sea to stare at the horizon. With really some minor effort, it is possible to savor the extraordinary. Especially in a lockdown; or when our lives are threatened by the virus, it is better to stay safe at home, and find the extraordinary there.

Adopting some very simple habits, life can become so much more relaxed. 

Take for example organizing our desktop. The state of my desk reflects the state of my mind. If my desk gets cluttered and messy, I become unsettled and unfocused. When things get out of order, I straighten them out. I think this is a good way to cope with our online life. When the day ends, and before you finish work, tidying up your desktop can be therapeutic. I remember when I was starting off as a Jesuit, we were asked to clean the building every day. We call it, “manualia,” and we cleaned every morning at 8. It was not to feed the obsessive-compulsiveness of our lives, but the reason was anything but shallow. We cleaned with all our heart, not because the place was dirty. The purpose was not only to make the floor sparkle, but also to polish our minds through the act of cleaning. With every sweep of the mop, we cleared out the dust in our minds. 

This applies to our desks where we work and study. Do not allow yourself to be disrupted by your anxieties, the key is to keep your mind invigorated by putting the things around you in order. Cleaning hones the mind. In the complexities of the world, simple changes can make a huge difference in our lives. This can help you reboot while at home. 

Upang maging Malinaw ang Isipan, Ayusin ang Mesang sa Trabaho Inilaan

Hindi kailangang malalaking hakbang para magbago ang buhay. Naalala ko noong nagsisimula pa lamang ako sa pagpapari. Naglilinis kami ng seminaryo tuwing alas-otso ng umaga. Tinatawag namin ito bilang manualia, ang araw-araw na gawaing pambahay.

Tinuturuan kaming maglinis nang buong puso, hindi dahil madumi na ang lugar, kundi matuto kaming tumutok sa dapat na gawain, ialay ito sa Diyos at hindi gumala ang aming isipan. Malinis na ang sahig sa araw-araw ba naming pagpupunas, ngunit ginagawa pa rin namin para sa budhing walang dungis. Sa bawat pagwawalis, inaalis ang mga dumi sa aming puso. 

Sinasalamin ng ating mesa ang tunay na kalagayan ng ating isipan.

Kaya sa panahon ng “work from home” o “distance learning,” ihanda ang mesa para sa araw-araw na pakikibaka. At bago matapos ang trabaho, mainam na ayusin ang mga kagamitan, punasan ang mesa, at ihanay ang mga libro upang maihanda ang ating sarili sa pagpapahinga. Makakatulong ito lalo na sa kalusugang pangkaisipan o mental health.

Manalangin tayo: O Diyos, ikaw ang lumikha ng maayos naming kapaligiran, nawa’y ugaliin namin ang linisin ito kasama sa paglilinis ng aming puso’t isipan. Amen. 

How can plot twists in our lives transform us?

Note: This is a transcript of the Youtube video of the same title.

Are you a fan of superheroes? Remember the obvious transformation in their origin stories such as when Spiderman gets bitten by a radioactive spider; or Diana, the warrior princess of the Amazons meets an American pilot, and leaves her home for the first time to fight in the war, eventually discovering her full powers and destiny as Wonder Woman.

Or the turning points in the prime of their careers. Remember when Thor becomes unworthy of the Mjolnir, his hammer in Ragnarok, or Captain America wakes up in the present day, or when Doomsday and Superman kills each other? These plot twists, though fiction, are relatable, and that’s why we love them.

Have you ever experienced a life-changing moment when your life took a different turn for the better, gained a new perspective, found a greater clarity in terms of your dreams, and forging a path of your own?

I had this moment when I entered the Jesuit novitiate on the 30th of May in 1989. While the novices were singing “Ito ang Bagong Araw,” two of them were slowly closing the main doors. The drama, a traditional ritual of the Entrance Day, marked an end and a beginning of my life as a Jesuit.

At the novitiate, we were quarantined from the world, so that when we emerge from there, we would be renewed and prepared for what we were meant to be and to do.

The Chinese calls it a weiji, a turning point in one’s life. And a weiji has two parts. It is usually initiated by an accident, a painful experience or finding yourself at rock bottom. For St. Ignatius of Loyola, his weiji was at the battle of Pamplona on the 20th of May 1521, when his right leg was shattered by a cannonball, fired by the French-Navarrese expedition force.

And then, it is followed by a retreat. It is a time of great reflectiveness, coming to terms with one’s story, including one’s painful past, regrets and resentments; embracing all that was with great humility and acceptance. After the battle of Pamplona, St. Ignatius was then returned to recuperate at his father’s castle in Loyola. In an era without anesthetics, he had several operations to repair his leg because it wouldn’t be nice to walk with a limp.

But it was during his days of recuperating that St. Ignatius had a religious conversion, a spiritual weiji, facilitated by the only books available: the Life of Christ by Ludolph of Saxony and the Lives of the Saints.

Our human experience illumines a specific starting point when, after exhausting our tears and expressing our helplessness, we begin to recover, finding meaning and value once again, emerging with a greater self-possession and self-mastery, to pick up our shattered pieces to rebuild and reshape our future.

This stage of our cannonball experience is usually a religious experience, having found a personal God breaking into our lives once again, like the first rays of sunshine in the morning, as greater desires once again burst and bloom.

The cannonball experience ultimately would lead towards a change in St. Ignatius’ worldview, a shift of loyalties, from being a knight of a human king, to a soldier of Christ the King, and a new set of influencers, the saints. To cut the long story short, he eventually co-founded the Society of Jesus, or the Jesuits, with a clear mission to serve the Pope in regard to the missions. He died on the 31st of July 1556.

How about you? What is your cannonball experience, and how did it change your life?

In many Marvel or DC Comics stories, even superheroes would turn into villains, whether they are influenced by evil, or forced to do so like Superman who was tricked by the Joker into killing  Lois Lane and his unborn child. But what I find is a pattern, usually heroes like Angel turning into Archangel, turn from good to evil, and only one, the Scarlet Witch who turned from evil to good, and became one of the greatest force among the Avengers.

Perhaps, we can have a personal weiji, turning from the evil that we do, into the good that we are.

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