True North - April 2014 (Volume 9 Issue 1)

Page 1


volume 9 • number 1 • APRIL 2014

powEr OF

Hope Love



Rising from the Ashes

Surviving the Storms


VOLUME 9 • NUMBER 1 EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Ramoncito dela Cruz Managing Editor Aly Sulit-Placino Editor Mich Cruz-Villar Editorial Board Gary Mendoza (coordinator-in-charge) Berry Marfori Anna Sobrepeña Chito Sobrepeña

the cover It took a lot of coaxing and cooing to make Baby Xavi smile before the camera. It was fun to watch how parents Paulo and Portia doted on him and how Ligaya brothers and sisters played with the little one to make him comfortable on the set. It turned out that Baby Xavi just needed to take a short feeding time before he is ready to flash his winning smile.


ART DIRECTOR Cleone Baradas


Editor’s Note Hopeward Bound 4 YouthChat Unfazed by the Unknowns 7 Life Tips 10 Things to Do for a Happier You TRUE NORTH BEAT 1

CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Mae Abiva-Leung Marc Alejo Marla Espiritu Blaise Fortuna Manny Manuel Jun Viterbo PHOTOGRAPHER John Rich Villas

Why True North?

In navigational parlance, True North is a constant that guides travelers. In the course of our lives, our True North is Jesus Christ, the constant for all times. True North is a publication of Ang Ligaya ng Panginoon ( ph) and its partners – Christ’s Youth in Action, Ang Lingkod ng Panginoon, and the Institute for Pastoral Development. LNP is a member of the federation of communities around the globe, Sword of the Spirit (

you are invited

True North is inviting all engaging storytellers—through words and pictures. We are expanding our pool of writers, editors and photographers for our forthcoming issues. Before we can write beautiful prose and compose inspiring pictures, we also need story ideas. Interested members of Ang Ligaya ng Panginoon and all its outreach organizations are welcome to email or call Monching dela Cruz at ramoncitodelcruz@ or 0917 891 7644.


14 30

11 14

A Miracle to Behold Surviving the Storms

TRUE NORTH BEAT 2 18 20 22 24 26 30

A Chapter Lost, A Good Book Found In the Master's hands Rising from the Ashes Teachings An Invitation to Joy A Christian's Guide Adding Bitter Potion to our Faith 10 Questions After God's Own Heart

NOTE: All recent True North issues can be shared and read in Look for the True North page.

Our resident photographer John Rich Villas chills after a four-hour photoshoot.


photo credit: john rich villas

Hopeward bound

Happy Easter! We’re often told that we are an Easter people, rising victoriously with the Risen Lord. Yet, most of the time, we are living as if we’re stuck on Black Saturdays—not quite in the throes of deathly passion of Good Friday, but still not yet in the exquisite joy of Easter Sunday. As we go through our journey here on earth, we encounter little victories, little defeats here and there. We achieve key accomplishments and commit major blunders along the way. Some of us forge ahead with an eternal perspective, not held captive by the here and now. You will find many such people in this magazine with hope and restoration as the main themes. You will read stories on the power of love and hope against made-for-Job trials and devastating tragedies. The stories of Paulo and Portia de Alba (pages 11 to 13) and Junjun and Vannie Ocampo (pages 14 to 17) will inspire us to cling on to God’s promise of salvation in His perfect time.

Paulo and Portia (South Sector) lost their first son right after he was born, and they could only pray: “The Lord has given, and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:21). Junjun and Vannie (Lingkod Ormoc) barely survived the full wrath of super typhoon Yolanda in Ormoc, yet they willingly share whatever little they have to others who are more in need. Rex Bayani (Central Sector) tells us how he survived a painful and disfiguring accident and chose not to be bitter with the Lord (pages 22 to 23), while Boy Tambule (Tahanan ng Panginoon Sacred Heart) shares how he found God after losing all hopes for freedom and being reconciled with his family (pages 18 to 19). Our young adults set aside fears and apprehensions about their future, and decided instead to place their full trust in the Lord as they navigate the uncharted waters of corporate and university lives (pages 4 to 5). A new year. A new beginning. A new pool of writers. Last January 18, True North welcomed several brothers and sisters who have responded to the call for more volunteer-writers. Many of them have stepped up to the challenge and filed their first stories in this issue.

Marc Alejo joined forces with Manny Manuel III (both North Sector) to write about those in the Young Adults and University District, while Blaise Fortuna (South Sector) profiled Marie Amarra who is in Italy studying Art Conservation and Restoration (pages 20 to 21). On the other hand, Marla Espiritu (Lingkod Manila) compiled a list of 10 things to do for a happier you (pages 7 to 9). We will be introducing many other more in the upcoming issues. Indeed, we have many things to be hopeful for. Even Pope Francis in his Evangelii Gaudium reminds us: “The Gospel, radiant with the glory of Christ’s cross, constantly invites us to rejoice.” Read more about it on pages 24 to 25. As we all journey towards our heavenly Home, I hope and pray that we too are always hopeward bound. Happy Reading!

True North’s editorial advisors Chito and Anna Sobrepeña join the expanded team in an editorial workshopand-story conference. They shared stories of how True North came to be what it is today.



D E Z A F N U by the UNknowns by Marc Alejo and Manny Manuel III

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6

Ireneo “ID” De III (Central Un manarig iversity District)

Joan Ravalo (Central University District

Jeremiah “Jaim (Young Adulty” Salvedia - North)


les e “Bea” Mora Monica Beatric ult - North) Ad (Young

Elizabeth (Young Adu“Nini” Rivas lt – Central)

o” Escoto Gabriel “Gab ity District) rs ive Un th or (N

Summer’s here, so why are you feeling on edge? I am worried about my CPA board exams this year. I always try to think positive, but we can’t take away the fact that there is a chance that I won’t be able to make it. At the same time, I’m now a staffer for CYA (Christ’s Youth in Action) in UP Diliman. I keep asking myself how I can become fruitful, how can I grow as a staffer, how I can bring others to the Lord.

Being a product of home-schooling, my greatest anxiety is taking the college entrance tests. I fear of not reaching the standards of the college I want to go to.

School has been a great challenge for me. There has been a lot of pressures going on. As an incoming fourth year student, I need to make a decision on my college course this year.

Many things have occupied my mind: We need to develop new activities for CYA-UP Manila as our summer break has been extended due to the new academic calendar. Being a core member of CYA-UP Manila, my worry is that our schedules won’t coincide with the other UMC schools, and this increases our need to be more autonomous.

Entering college for the first time makes me anxious. It's a new environment, and it will definitely be a challenge to be able to adjust well.

Preparations for the Civil Engineering board exam are not easy. It takes time and self-discipline on my part.

How are you coping? I never planned to be a CYA staffer but the Lord called me to be part of His work to bring more young people to Him. Random evangelization is such daunting task for me. But instead of running away, I told myself that I have to learn to do this.

There is also pressure from the teachers, who expect so many things from us! And the grades. I need to get my grades high so I can pass my preferred school and course. It’s really stressful!

I've started learning to be independent. I know I will eventually have to learn how to do house chores. I’ll probably get to more experience when I join to a household this summer.

As a way of stepping out of my comfort zone, I have made several choices to steer away from being idle—I wake up early now to go to my review classes, and I have chosen to set aside more time for my review.

Aside from juggling 15 to 20 units of academic load, I also have twice- or thrice-a-week service in CYA, other extracurricular and Community activities. It is tough.

I’ll take a gap year to serve God. I can still choose to do whatever I want to do, but I think God wants me to train myself. He gave me this opportunity to be a “gapper” so that I can be more responsible and to learn more about the new environment I’m about to enter.


YOUTH CHAT So, what’s next?

Through all these challenges, I know that this will be another tool for me to serve God and use these experiences of mine to help my fellow youth. These challenges have tested my faith, but I still believe that I’m doing all these things for the Lord and He will never give up on me.

I pray that He not only gives me the desires which He believes will be best for me, but also that these experiences will mold my character and make me the person He wants me to be. I sense that He wants me to be more generous and obedient this year; so it’s my prayer that He gives me the grace to submit to what He wants.

Young or old, we are faced with decisions that will impact and shape our lives. We experience both anxiety and hope about these decisions and find ourselves asking for the grace to trust in the Lord.


God has been telling me to trust in Him because He won't put me in a situation that I can't handle. God has been slowly reassuring me that I will be formed by Him if I step out of my comfort zone. I want to be a better servant, a better daughter and a better handmaid for His greater glory. I know I'll be able to grow more as a person through these experiences and God has told me countless times that He will never leave me because He loves me and He cares so much for me to allow me to become the best version of myself that I can possibly be. I guess I need to take the big leap of faith into the unknown and trust that He will take care of the rest.

As I prepare for my Board exams, I hope that I will be able to overcome my old self. And with God’s grace, I will strive to be more disciplined and, slowly but surely, become the man God wants me to be. I am confident that I will end up being a winner because I’m sure that the Lord placed me here and that He will equip me in every obstacle that I am going to face.

Moving on to something that we aren't familiar with involves a lot of courage, trust and hope in the Lord to overcome the fears and anxieties that come with “stepping outside the boat and walk on water”.

photo credit: john rich villas

I hope that the Lord will reveal Himself more to me as I take my gap year. Before, I didn't pray a lot. I think God wants me to have this gap year so that I can make my own prayer time and listen to Him; to know what plans He has in store for me. This will make me more ready for the next stage of my life.


10 Happier You Things TO DO FOR A by Marla Espiritu

The search for happiness is everybody’s quest. It may seem daunting at times, but there are some simple actions that you can do every day to make a big difference. Here are 10 tips backed by research and science to help us be the happy persons that we really are.



Take a digital detox Whenever you open your internet browser, do you immediately check your Facebook account? Or at times, open a new window and a few clicks later you have unconsciously landed on your Twitter page? These are not bad per se. But doing these during officer hours? I’m as guilty as the next person. Social media and their addicting goodness have swallowed a chunk of our time on a daily basis. If you look at how much of your day you have spent simply checking (not even actively using) your social media accounts, you will be surprised. Maybe it’s time to take a break from this digital indulgence. Remember that the world will still turn even if we are not online. Be with the persons who you are with in the physical realm, not with whom Facebook connects us to. Let us remind ourselves that there are more important things to spend time on in the real world.



Sleep is special Sleep is our body's natural process to recover from the day's stress and rejuvenate itself. Sleep is also key to our happiness. Apparently, people who sleep appropriately at night will have a positive outlook the next day, and remember more positive memories than those who lack hours in their sleep.

Skip Sedentary Various studies have made the connection between mental and physical activities. People who engage in exercise are happier with their body image even if they do not see any physical difference. So the next time you feel that extra stress, you better take a run around the block.





Eat Right Filipinos are natural food lovers. We, in the Community, make our gatherings more enticing with simple meals or snacks. After all, food makes every gettogether more fun. We are all aware that our eating habits can affect our health. When we eat healthy, studies show that we feel better for ourselves; we are more confident and we look at ourselves as healthier beings. No wonder the trend of the century leans towards healthy eating habits. Just take note to carefully examine which health trend you are going to take: research, read and analyze.




Great Gratitude The fact that you are right here, right now, reading this article, is a reason to be grateful. Apart from this, we have a lot to be thankful for. One good idea to remind you of these things is to have a gratitude jar. When you find yourself smiling or when you receive a blessing, write it down and put it in a jar. Whenever you feel the need to, or simply want to, reminisce God’s goodness to you, read those pieces of paper and you’ll find yourself going down the nicest memory lane.

Inhale, Exhale Breathe. It has been proven that simply taking a few minutes to relax helps improve sleep, decrease anger and even boost our immune system. That’s why as you read this, I encourage you to pause, close your eyes and just breathe in and breathe out.

photo credit: john rich villas, aly capote and WWW.FREEDIGITALPHOTOS. COM (computer button and luggage)

Go out! If you spend too much time basking in artificial light, please get out of your office or room. You need your Vitamin D boost that is proven to aid weight loss, promote self-esteem and improve a person’s ability to interact with others. Go out. Have fun and explore the great outdoors. Sooner or later, you'll truly be brighter than the sun.



Pack Light We have all been hurt one time or another. We have our heart broken, earned our cupful of disappointments and struggled to get back on our feet. The best next move is to leave the baggage behind—the fear, shame, depression, anger, doubts and whatever else that are weighing you down.



Nurture relationships Relationships are the extent of our riches. Harvard’s happiness expert Daniel Gilbert explains: “We are happy when we have a family, we are happy when we have friends; and almost all the other things we think make us happy are actually just ways of getting more family and friends.” People with strong social ties are found to be healthier and tend to live longer. It is a good thing that we are part of a spiritual community. Our Community offers support and friendships that often last for decades, critical for longterm health. Most importantly, the Community provides an important element for happiness—a meaning in life.

Converse with god daily Studies show that people who live by faith have less stress and anxiety, because they entrust their trials and worries to a Higher Being. As we pray, we surrender our desires to God and ask Him to transform these to His own. That is why amid the challenges that we face, we know that He is there and we find comfort in Him. A strong relationship with the Lord is the peace and happiness that we seek, even in the midst of chaos.

Let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice. (Psalm 105:3) 9


journeys of

photo credit: tomas eric sales




A Miracle to Behold How can a sorrowful event turn into a victorious one?


photo credit: john rich villas

by Mae Abiva-Leung hese are the words frequently spoken by Paulo and Portia de Alba, as they share their testimony about God’s overflowing love for them during their most trying times. Paulo and Portia, both covenanted members of Ang Ligaya ng Panginoon, began their married life on January 10, 2010. Together, with hearts for God’s mission, they served in their respective ministries and lived the Ligaya way of life. Soon after, they were overjoyed to learn that they would be becoming parents. Portia’s pregnancy was uneventful until she started bleeding profusely in her 36th week of pregnancy. Unknown to them, Portia and the baby’s life were in danger. As a result, Portia had to have an emergency Cesarean section to save her and her son. “You will witness and see a miracle.” This was God’s answer to Portia’s prayer before giving birth to her premature son on December 7, 2010. However, Diego Andres D. de Alba was born with no heartbeat. The doctors tried to revive him as Paulo stood and watched. He prayed: “Lord, forgive me for my sins. Please spare the life of my son.” Sadly, Diego did not make it. Paulo was devastated. He mourned for the passing of his firstborn but he knew he had to be strong for Portia.

Breaking the news to Portia was the most difficult thing Paulo had to do. When Portia learned about the passing of their newborn son, she uttered: “The Lord has given, and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:21). Amid the painful loss, Paulo and Portia still saw the love and mercy of God. “In small ways, pinaramdam ng Panginoon ang pagmamahal Niya sa amin,” Paulo says. Portia was able to see and hold Diego. When people from the hospital prayed over them, Paulo and Portia were overwhelmed by all the love and help they received from their family and the Ligaya Community. Paulo and Portia carried their grief together and sought comfort in the Lord. Prayer time together increased and became more meaningful. It was during their prayer time that the Lord




promised them that He would see them through and help them heal. Words of hope filled their hearts and they continued to trust in the Lord. The Lord also revealed to them that the miracle God promised Portia was sparing her life and blessing them with people who surrounded them with love and support. Portia shares her realization: “If you are not grounded in the Lord,

maloloka ka talaga. If you are not in control of your emotions, you really have to surrender it to the Lord. May awa ang Diyos sa atin. We are really recipients of God’s mercy, favor and love.” “I often ask, how could a sorrowful event turn out to be joyful and victorious all at the same time? God’s love is more than enough to fill that sadness and loneliness. Being real, you

photo credit: john rich villas

In small ways, pinaramdam ng Panginoon ang pagmamahal Niya sa amin.

TRUE NORTH BEAT 1 will come face to face with all the grief and pain. The pain that I have in losing a child, it will be there, a hole that only the Lord can fill. Only when I see God face to face in heaven, doon lang mawawala. Every day is a choice, either you dwell in the sorrow and pain or you see beyond the pain, and allow God to heal you.” To lose a child is unbearable and yet, Paulo and Portia saw the love and mercy of the Lord. They chose to see everything with “God’s loving eyes” and to surrender everything to Him. In 2013, during their day of prayer, God revealed that it would be a year of resurrection for them. True enough, Paulo and Portia learned that they would have another child. This time, Portia’s pregnancy was closely monitored to make sure that everything was all right. On September 10, 2013, Lucio Xavi Andres D. de Alba was born prematurely at 31 weeks. Xavi stayed in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) for 39 days. For the first three days, Xavi was taken off the ventilator. However, on the third day, Paulo was suddenly called back to the NICU. When he arrived, he saw a familiar frightening sight. CPR was being administered to Xavi. Paulo immediately prayed: “Lord, please breathe life into Xavi.” Portia upon learning about Xavi’s situation, said a prayer of victory and faith, “Lord, we know you will give life to him.” The parent’s prayers were a declaration of who God is—the Lord, the Creator and God over all things. It was a prayer of total surrender to God’s plans.

Prayers were abundant from family, friends and the Ligaya Community. After a few minutes, Xavi was revived. Portia, Paulo and the doctors believe that it was the prayers that helped save Xavi. Again, Paulo and Portia recognized the hand of God with the miracles that happened— Xavi’s attending nurse was quick to apply the Ambu bag procedure when he stopped breathing, the doctor returned to the hospital because she felt a leading that she needed to go back, and the prayers that everyone offered for Xavi. Xavi’s revival and fast recovery is another manifestation of God’s tremendous love for their family. Nearly losing a child again can really test your faith in God. But Paulo and Portia continue to declare who God is in their lives. Their love for God does not falter. With these experiences, Paulo and Portia have been able to connect with brothers and sisters who have had the same experience. From their sharing, hope is planted in their hearts. Encouragement and affirmations were exchanged. Healing happened. As for Xavi, he has brought so much joy not only to the lives of his parents, but to other people as well. He is growing up really fast and is a happy little boy. Unknown to Xavi, at his very young age, he has already started his mission for the Lord. He has touched and inspired many lives with his story. For 2014, the Lord revealed to Paulo and Portia that it will be a year acceptable to the Lord and a year of favor. With eager hearts,

they are looking forward to God’s plans for Xavi. It is indeed going to be a year of abundant surprises. “So how can a sorrowful event turn into a victorious one?” Portia declares: “Blessed be the name of the Lord. It was the grace of God that allowed us to praise Him not only in times of joy and victory, but also in times of sorrow and challenges. We are really blessed. We are privileged and humbled to be able to have that kind of grace and to receive that kind of grace from the Lord.” Paulo and Portia. Diego and Xavi. People are touched and have witnessed the love of God. Their story of sorrow and pain has turned into a story of love, hope and healing. Yes, miracles still DO happen.

Paulo and Portia are now with the South Sector. They are serving in the University District and in the Young Adults program.




Storms by Jun Viterbo

It is He who saved us and chose us for His holy work not because we deserved it but because that was His plan. (2 Timothy 1:9) 14

A seeming setback A relative calm before the storm is hardly new. Just like any faithful single sister from a prayer community, Vannie went through her State of Life Discernment in 1995 and was confident that the best way for her to serve the Lord was as a married person. That discernment, however, was put to a test in 1999 when she was diagnosed with endometriosis, a condition that makes child bearing a challenge because of the series of treatments that it entails. Upon learning the setback, Vannie’s first

photo credit: john rich villas

surviving the

anessa “Vannie” Siloterio-Ocampo is used to the storms of life. We can even say that she has been prepared for these storms by God’s grace. When the physical storm that was super typhoon Yolanda was about to hit their home in Ormoc City, Leyte, Vannie and husband, Romeo “Junjun” Ocampo, were more than prepared. They had just attended the National Lingkod Training Conference (NLTC) of Ang Lingkod ng Panginoon in Cebu in October where the theme was “Saved to Serve.” As expected, they were fired up to love and serve like Jesus. Little did they know that in less than two weeks, super typhoon Yolanda would strike parts of the Visayas and God would use them to bring hope amid the storm. Four days prior to Yolanda, they—aware that they run a big household—bought a month’s supply of groceries from nearby Tacloban City. Back in Ormoc, all they needed was to purchase more rechargeable lamps, candles, milk and diapers. With their supplies intact, the Ocampos interceded as a family and prayed the rosary on the night before the storm. Confident of God’s presence, they were in a “bring-it-on” mode as the storm approached.


Junjun and Vannie’s home in Ormoc turn into a relief and repacking center

thought was “sana nag madre na lang ako” (I should have been a nun instead). But she was confident that since she sought God when she made the decision to be a married person, God would likewise bless this decision. Not surprisingly, Vannie met her future husband, Junjun, when both were serving as full-time staff of Lingkod, a movement of single young professionals who aim to “Christify” the workplace. Junjun knew from the start of their relationship that if they do get married, the possibility of having children of their own was remote. But this hardly deterred Junjun as he assured Vannie that he had accepted this fact without reservation. As they went through their marriage preparation as an engaged couple (handled by Melvin and Maite Montelibano), Junjun and Vannie decided to go for adoption the moment Vannie turns 40 years old. Time came when Vannie turned 40, and they made themselves accountable to close community friends about their decision to adopt. They were already happy with all the spiritual children that the Lord gave them in Brotherhood of Christian Businessmen and Professionals and Lingkod Ormoc (where they are serving as action group leaders and at the same time also serving as Lingkod regional leaders for Eastern Visayas). Even Vannie sees her 23 employees (mostly teachers) as her additional spiritual children. Still, even though their marriage had been blissful even with the absence of their own kids, they didn’t want to be too comfortable in that state and forget about the product of their prayer: the call to adopt. God somehow answered this desire in a most unique manner as He would pave the way for them to be Ormoc City’s answer to Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, in terms of their openness and generosity to children. Yours, Mine, Ours On the third year of their married life, Junjun and Vannie helped and housed their first scholar, Jessa,

in her college studies. She is now a graduate of AMA College, working in Ormocnet, and, more importantly, is also serving in the Music Ministry of Lingkod Ormoc. Jessa is now paying it forward as she helps her own sister through college. Mac-mac, Jessa’s cousin, was also one of their wards. They helped finance his vocational course and he has finished his seafarer’s course specializing in stewarding. And there is Hilda, who started as their househelp, who graduated from her vocational TESDA scholarship last year. She is working in one of the hotels in Ormoc. Their houseboy, Jun, is taking Alternative Learning System of the Department of Education. Once he passes all the modules, he can move on to take a vocational course. The next blessing came as a “package deal”. Their former helper, Manang Gloria, had a daughter who ran away with a man but left her to care for her three children. Already in her twilight years, Manang Gloria was in a dilemma as to how to support her grandchildren. She came to work for the Ocampos and brought her three grandchildren to live with them. The Lord once again opened this opportunity for Junjun and Vannie to love these children. Apart from giving them food and shelter, they now also send them to a nearby school. Five-year-old Dodong now goes to a public day-care center; eight-year-old Shenith is in Grade 2; and ten-year-old Ebin is in Grade 3. Added to that brood is four-year-old Erika, daughter of their current helper and Dodong’s classmate at the day-care center. And the blessing of giving kept on coming. The Ocampo household has also “branched out” to teens. Stephen, a third-year high school student who is part of a special science class, is the grandson of their other helper and recently came to live with them. He is not only a student but also a tutor as he helps the younger kids with their homework. But nothing prepared them for the coming of baby Angel. On Oct. 7, 2012, they got a call from Ate Vi (a social worker and former member of Lingkod Ormoc) offering them to take in a baby who was abandoned in the public hospital. The baby was born outside Jollibee-Ormoc on October 2 by a mother who is mentally challenged. Since the home for abandoned babies in Ormoc was already full, the social workers could not accommodate baby Angel anymore. So, the Department of Social Welfare and Development started looking for couples who may want to care for her. Many declined for various reasons. Knowing the potential extent of the responsibility, Vannie initially pulled back back a bit: “I immediately took my Bible from my bedside. It was probably a Holy Spirit moment, I guess, when I challenged the Lord that very minute—“Lord, if the Gospel reading today is about letting the little children come to Jesus then this baby must be for us.” When I opened my


Bible, the Sunday Gospel was from Mark 10:1-16. It started with the teaching on divorce and then verses 13-16 was exactly the passage I asked from the Lord. It was the kind of prayer time I was not ready to pursue so I closed my Bible. Despite the confirmation, I was still not ready to take care of a newborn baby. I was already happy with our current set-up of having older kids laughing and running around the house.” She then made a litany of her fears to Junjun: from sudden infant death syndrome to the 24/7 care to the additional costs of a baby to their already huge monthly budget to a job that entails a lot of travel and practically anything she could think of. Junjun said it was the first time he saw Vannie very afraid. So afraid was she that when Angel arrived in their home, she suddenly had diarrhea and fever brought by fear and stress. Vannie admitted that

Junjun and Vannie give extra attention to the kids in their formative years. Between the two, Junjun is the disciplinarian. He will call for a family meeting whenever there are concerns that needed to be taken up or correction to be made with the children. Part of their bonding and spiritual nourishment as a family is their daily prayer time where they all take turns in leading the prayer. In addition to these, they also have an annual recollection.

she just wasn’t emotionally prepared for this new responsibility. But Junjun’s reaction was entirely the opposite. He was immediately helpful and welcoming and was simply very open to the idea of caring for baby Angel. He even said that if only everyone will help each other, then there will be no abandoned babies or children. Her husband’s reply was an epiphany for Vannie, “I long realized that I married someone whose heart is truly rooted in the Lord. God must be so very near my husband that He gave Junjun two people (Angel and myself) who had pre-existing conditions and yet Junjun responded with unconditional and authentic love. I just praise God for the gift of Junjun.” Looking back, the Lord taught Vannie a valuable lesson through Angel. “When I was struggling to accept her in my life, I sensed the Lord telling me: ‘You can reject this baby, that is what free will is all about. But you will miss the wonderful opportunity to experience a deep kind of love that you have not experienced before.’” God is true to His Word. Angel taught me what it meant to love unconditionally and what it meant to be loved that way,” she says. It is not surprising that pretty soon, the Ocampo house is starting to be known in Ormoc City as the “Bahay ni Kuya Jun”.

gathered the whole family in the dining room to pray the rosary. Little by little, the dining room and the living room started to leak too until they found final refuge in the master’s bedroom. In all those rooms, the family somehow managed to pray a whole rosary before evacuating. Amazingly, the children were all calm except for Angel who understandably was afraid of the howling winds. Angel was eventually lull to sleep despite the intensity of the typhoon. While Yolanda was pounding for more than four hours, all they could do was pray. Vannie told herself that “if this is going to be my last day, I would be found praying and praising God. I prayed to Jesus repeatedly with the words—Jesus have mercy on us, Jesus help us, Jesus free us, Jesus save us. We are certain that Jesus heard our prayers and that His Mother Mary covered us with the mantle of her protection.” The effect of Yolanda in Ormoc City was catastrophic. At least 80% of business establishments and homes suffered major damage, thousands lost their homes and many lost their lives. There was no electricity for weeks after the typhoon and no access to any form of media. The Ocampo house was blessed to be part of the 20% that were not as badly affected. Still, many areas within their compound — fence, garage, trees, etc. —


Surviving Yolanda One occasion that they did not see coming was the massive devastation of super typhoon Yolanda. The rain started to come at dawn and was pouring hard by 6 A.M. There was leaking in their family room where they normally do their family prayers so Junjun

photo credit: john rich villas and the ocampo file photos

TRUE NORTH BEAT 1 were completely destroyed. While their cars which were parked outside did not sustain any damage, they still lost two roof panels which caused tremendous leaks that made their ceiling an instant swimming pool. Their ceiling somehow managed to hold up and did not collapse. Moreover, their two offices, Little Saints Tutorial Plus and Prulife UK, sustained minimal damage. Junjun’s bodega for his rice trading business was also protected by God, and except for a few sacks that got wet, the rest were in excellent condition and served a lot of families after the typhoon. It became the first source of relief goods that were released to many families. The Ocampos and their brood survived on green papaya for the next three days after the storm as there was no drinking water and very limited access to medical help.

“When Yolanda struck, it was like life as we knew it stopped. I wanted to move on as usual as if nothing happened. I wanted to go back to my routine but I could not do that because things have changed. At that moment, I knew the right thing to do was not to proceed with my life’s routine, but to help my husband in the relief operations. We were praying after Yolanda struck and His message for us was—“something good is going to come out of this”. Junjun adds: “Yolanda changed many things— physical structures will change, our mindset and outlook have changed. Nothing is going to be the same again after Yolanda.” As 2014 opened, Junjun and Vannie had to deal with a house needing repair, their business prospects severely affected and yet one thing did not change: they still had to provide for a dozen or so people in their household. Vannie naturally was anxious

Exactly three days after the typhoon, their houseboy found out that there was a cell phone signal while he was on top of a tree. Junjun and Vannie sent text messages to their loved ones in the U.S., Manila and Davao to let them know that they were safe. Then, they texted the leaders of their spiritual family, Lingkod and Ligaya and asked them to help mobilize relief operations for their fellow Ormocanons. The Bahay ni Kuya Jun instantly became a quasirelief center and instant venue for Saturday afternoon prayer meetings. The first relief goods given to Ormoc came from Lingkod. The goods arrived on Sunday afternoon and were distributed immediately to the families of Lingkod members. Tons of relief goods from Ligaya and Lingkod arrived the following days after the typhoon and these provided for over 600 families in Ormoc. Just like the multiplication of loaves, the abundance of generosity even enabled Junjun to go on four mission trips to Tacloban and share the relief goods.

about their livelihood. Yet God’s word for them during their time of prayer was unequivocal – “2014 will be a challenging year for you but I will show you My greatness and power amid the difficulties. I will provide for you and your family like never before.” Junjun and Vannie continue to have hope in that word and as early as now, they can already see the many good things happening in their lives. It is purely by God's grace that has moved Junjun and Vannie to open their home to erstwhile strangers pre-Yolanda. Their commitment to give is inspired by Ephesians 3:20: "God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams." Indeed, with the Lord's sustenance, provisions, protection and love beyond measure, they only have thanksgiving in their hearts.

Before they moved permanently to Ormoc in 2006, Vannie Siloterio-Ocampo was a covenanted member of South District G while husband Junjun Ocampo was serving in the North Sector’s University District. Currently, they are with BCBP Ormoc and Lingkod Ormoc. They are Lingkod’s Regional Director and Women’s Moderator for Eastern Visayas.



A CHAPTER LOST, A Good Book Found by Ellen Viriña


n June 13, 2002, Ireneo “Boy” Tambule attended a baptismal party. He came home 11 years later. Of those intervening years, Boy spent two days in a hospital due to wounds sustained when a drunken neighbor charged in and hacked the guests in that party. He spent around 10 and a half years in the Quezon City jail awaiting a court decision for the crime—where he was attacked, yet falsely accused of perpetrating it. The rest of the time was spent at the National Penitentiary for being at the wrong place at the wrong time. Boy is no longer bitter as he recounts his unjust incarceration. Gone are the anger and thirst for revenge. While he admits that he regrets the years of being away from his five children; he remains thankful that during those years, he has found life with the Lord and lived a life of service in gratitude for all that He has done.

Pit of Darkness

Boy was at the baptismal party for his godchild when the hacking incident happened. After his brief hospital stay, he went to the police precinct to file a complaint. However, he and his three friends were beaten to it. The victims suddenly became the accused. He and his friend had been charged with frustrated murder, attempted murder and murder. Their first lawyer took his acceptance fee and vanished soon after. They then settled for a lawyer given by the Public Attorney's Office. The case landed in the fiscal's office and moved glacially through the preliminary investigation phase.


Boy was consumed with anger, resentment and an overwhelming desire to take revenge on the investigators, who never questioned them about the incident and stood party to their unjust detention. The money raised to help move their case or settle with the family of the aggressor (who died after others in the party fought back) was absconded by the one who was entrusted to help raise the fund. "I lost my appetite. I just wanted to end it all," Boy narrates. His wife was pregnant with their fifth child then and he was the sole breadwinner of the family. “I depended on my co-workers and family for money— but goodwill has its limits." He hid under a bunk for days, miserable and unwilling to go out and eat. Until one day the “mayor” or cell leader called him out, berating him for his absurd behavior. “Brother Boy,” the mayor told him, “No one can help you except yourself. Stop what you are doing and join us. We will pray the rosary.” Words from a “mayor” are commands. Boy joined in reciting the rosary, not understanding what was going on. They asked him to read a mystery. He read. They read the daily liturgical readings, and he read with them. But all these were mere words that didn’t make sense to him. A non-government organization rendering services to the jail inmates conducted a Catholic Life in the Spirit Seminar. He was told to join as he was among the new inmates. He did as he was told. Upon entering the chapel, he was struck by a Bible verse written on the board. It’s from Matthew 11:28 and he remembers it clearly: “Lumapit kayo sa Akin, lahat kayong nahihirapan at nabibigatang lubha sa inyong

photo credit: john rich villas

"For I know well the plans I have in mind for you...plans for your welfare and not for woe, so as to give you a future of hope." (Jeremiah 29:11)

pasanin, at kayo'y bibigyan Ko ng kapahingahan.” He attended the sessions religiously, gaining strength and hope after the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. On days when he had no visitors, he fought the loneliness with a strong fervor to serve the Lord who is the only One he could turn to. Little by little, his desire for revenge fell apart. Under the care of Carmelite sisters and Women for Christ member Betty Evangelista who was a Restorative Justice worker, Boy's spiritual awakening was nurtured. He was soon tasked to work with the worship services at the City Jail, which meant taking care of the chapel and its sound system, and finalizing the schedules of the different religious groups serving inside the jail.


After 10 years of waiting, changing lawyers and other judicial delays, the court reached the promulgation of their case during the Lenten season of 2012. They were found guilty and sentenced to reclusion perpetua. The decision took them by surprise since they were sure of their absolution as there was no evidence presented or witnesses to collaborate the charges. Rather than be crushed, Boy found solace in the Lord's promise in 1 Thess 5:18, "Magpasalamat kayo sa Diyos sa lahat ng pagkakataon; sapagka't ito ang kalooban ng Diyos para sa inyo sa inyong pakikipagisa kay Cristo Jesus." Faith and practicality made him decide to accept his fate, rather than appeal the case and have it dragged on longer. He was initially transferred to Camp Ricardo Papa in Bicutan. Incarcerated with the Abu Sayyaf, there was no way Boy could serve the Lord in the way he did in Quezon City Jail. It was then that he read the Bible from cover to cover. Since Bicutan took him farther away from his family, family visits became even rarer. It was the visits of Ang Ligaya ng Panginoon members who served the Quezon City jail ministry that sustained him. Even his family's material needs were provided for. They helped him appeal for a transfer out of the Muslim quarters. They also helped him file a motion for reconsideration on the decision at court. On July 15, 2012, his sentence was reduced to homicide carrying a sentence of 12 months and a day. His service as a church worker facilitated his move to a medium security prison and eventually to a Living Out status that requires him to report back to the penitentiary at 5 P.M. Through the years inside the jail, Boy's service to the Lord took him from being a sacristan, a commentator, a lector,

a sound technician, a choir member and even a drummer. On January 9, 2013, Boy was called out and asked to pack his bags. He was going home! His first stop out of jail was the Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish that served the Quezon City Jail. He attended the Holy Mass there and sought out Fr. Jerome Marquez. The parish priest invited him to lunch and gifted him with a post-Christmas present: money to help him get a driver's license and a way back to earning a living. Today, Boy serves the Tahanan ng Panginoon Sacred Heart group, and assists in paralegal services of Quezon City Jail inmates. He also helps out with the evangelistic efforts of Papemelroti among its employees. Boy is forever grateful for what the Lord has done for him. He has claimed the Lord’s promise to him: "For I know well the plans I have in mind for you... plans for your welfare and not for woe, so as to give you a future of hope." - Jeremiah 29:11



In the Master’s Hands by Blaise Fortuna

arie Amarra’s passion for the arts started as a child when she enjoyed painting pictures. In college, she took up Fine Arts degree in Advertising where she did graphic designs. But little did she know that it was in helping out in her family’s picture frame business that she would find her true calling: Art Conservation and Restoration. “There were art owners who were looking for someone who could restore some art pieces. Since I have a background in painting, my mom would ask me to do minor retouching on some of the paintings, but always with the permission of the owner. That really started my interest in art restoration,” she recounts. Art restoration is a process that attempts to return the work of art to a form that the restorer imagines as the original. Unknown to many, the process of conserving and restoring art is a highly specialized skill that requires a great amount of detail orientation. For Marie, she is drawn to art restoration because she sees it as a marriage of art and science—two worlds which she is fond of. “There’s a very scientific process in treating an old art piece. I must understand the composition of the painting and from there, apply the right chemicals and institute procedures to bring it back to life.” Eager to learn about art restoration, Marie took up a short course at a museum which turned out to be about the conservation of books and paper. “What I wanted was painting restoration, yet the


workshop was about books and paper," she recalls. Still, Marie enjoyed learning about books and paper conservation. When the workshop teacher asked the class: “Why are you here?” She expressed her real interest, and lo and behold, the teacher gladly said, “I know someone who can help you.” That opportunity led Marie to her mentor who helped her further in her pursuit. “My mentor was the curator of San Agustin [Church] Museum in Manila, where she also restores antique arts and books. She eventually encouraged me to take up more studies about art restoration.” Discerning her mission As Marie pursued her passion in the arts, she never neglected to seek God’s will for her life. Her inclination towards art restoration was confirmed when she attended a workshop by Fr. Herb Schneider about discovering one’s mission statement. “The Lord spoke clearly to me at that time. Interestingly, all Bible verses that I gathered from that workshop spoke of restoration,” Marie remembers. From then on, Marie was certain that this was indeed the path where God was directing her. Today, Marie continues to follow her dream. Since 2012, she has been in Florence, Italy, home to many of the world’s greatest artworks in history, to pursue higher studies in Art Conservation and Restoration at Instituto Per L’arte E Il Restauro. Restoring art is painstaking and tedious, but she is finding joy in doing what she loves. “The time in order


to finish restoring a masterpiece depends on the damage that needs to be repaired, and the size of the artwork. If I will work by myself or with a team, it can take as little as two weeks of daily work, or maybe even months of thorough work,” she says. Marie has her own approach to art restoration. “I pray for the artworks that I touch, asking for God’s grace and help. I usually pray that I give the work justice, but at times I also pray that I don’t destroy it!” she says with a laugh. She also likens art to people. “A painting that needs restoration is like a broken person. And as a restorer, I am used to bring the painting back to life. As a restorer, I must be patient. It’s really about patience. And, every artwork that I encounter is a challenge. Each painting requires a distinct treatment, as each has a different concern.” Looking back, Marie says that she has always wanted to pursue a field that would allow her to make a difference in the world. “I remember that when I graduated in college, I put in my résumé, ‘To make a difference… to contribute out-of-the-box ideas, try out new things and explore the depths of the art world,’ not fully understanding then what specific area to focus on, until I met and fell in love with Art Restoration and Conservation.” In finding her true purpose, Marie is most thankful for the Greatest Artist of all—a God who is able to see her value beneath the grime, and whose brush strokes and techniques restore her into His own unique creation.

Like an old painting, we deteriorate with sins, our hurts and disappointments. But it’s a joy to know that in spite of our brokenness, we can be restored, may it be through circumstances or the people we meet.

Marie Amarra is a covenanted member of the Singles District of the South Sector. She is the daughter of Archie and Agnes Amarra of Ang Ligaya ng Panginoon South District C.




by Rex Bayani as told to Aly Placino

Naalimpungatan ako.


olted out from my sleep, I was still in a daze when I rushed down to the ground floor to respond to my wife Raissa's cry for help. She told me she smelled gas fumes from the kitchen. I searched for the source of the leak and absentmindedly twisted the switch of the cooking range that ignited a gas explosion. Boom! In that one instance, my life was changed forever. My body was on fire for about 20 seconds, I crouched low and rolled on the floor to extinguish it. After doing that, I had to go back to extinguish the stove's hose which was going haywire with fire. About 70% of my body was burned. I sustained seconddegree burns which are the most painful (as a third-degree burn would have scorched my flesh and nerves, therefore no more sensation to speak of). I could see my skin peeled off and hanging loose near my wrists. It was like being burned by lighted cigarettes in many parts of the body. It was torture. The torture didn’t stop there. Every day, our pastoral leader, Dr. Zaida Gamilla, would come to my hospital room to place fresh placenta over the burned parts of my body to help hasten my healing. I was in extreme pain and discomfort, as I didn’t have any skin on me. After three weeks in the hospital, I was discharged but I needed to go for check-up two months later. My body didn’t heal immediately. I contracted a bacteria which led to pus growing all over my body. The only way to counter that was to bathe in Betadine, which our Brother Abe Pascual kindly provided. As I bathed in Betadine, Raissa would scrape the puss out of my body. That was the second part of the torture. The next stage was learning how to walk again without tearing

photo credit: john rich villas

Rising from the J

up my new skin. My new skin was too thin to bear the pressure of my body. The healing took a year. Ang Ligaya ng Panginoon Community was a big help for me, Raissa and our then-three-yearold son Ramy. My boss, who is also from Ligaya, allowed me to have an extended medical leave. Community members also helped us financially and were generous with practical help. In the midst of my suffering, I asked the Lord: "Of all the people around us, why did you allow this to happen to me? Of all the types of suffering, why this one?" I felt that God was distorting my appearance, with all the pain that I was going through. I was at the peak of serving the Lord when the accident happened. I was the head of the Music Ministry during the time when Ligaya had just one music ministry. My wife and I were pastoral leaders too. Sometimes, I would get questions like: "Ano ba ang nagawa mo?", insinuating that I must have done something awful to deserve such a fate. I did not answer because I did not know how to answer that question. But this is what I know now: The only way Satan can take us away from the salvific love of God is for us to hate God. Any kind of suffering brings us to a tipping point of either hating Him or surrendering to Him in love. Para sa Diyos, I can be deformed, but that is not what God is after. He is after the heart of the person. It's about choosing God all the time. Suffering brings us to a higher level of spirituality. It is like a shortcut to heaven. If our intent is to prove to the Lord that we love Him, then that is what suffering can do. This is what I know today that I did not know then: Anything can happen to me, but my love for God can never change.

COMING HOME In 2004, Raissa Bayani was in the thick of her Master’s degree education and was appointed as the Musical Director of the Ateneo Children's Theater (ACT). She had to work and study during weekdays and attend to her ACT duties on Saturdays. "Very often, I would attend Ligaya meetings by myself," Rex says. “Because we were unable to make our commitments, we were then asked to take a leave from the Community until Raissa completes her studies.” During their leave from the Community, the Bayanis established their own family choir and served in their parish every weekend. "After so many years with Ligaya, service was already ingrained in us. We kept the same intensity as we were serving in the parish. But our only source of nourishment was our family Bible study, the Lord's Day and the homily of the priest," he says. The Bayanis were away from the Community for about seven years. “Even after Raissa finished her Master’s degree, it never occurred to us to come back. Maybe we have become comfortable with our routine," Rex explains. At a certain point, his friend and former colleague, Lito Casal, started inviting them to join their Men's and Women's Group meetings. They were regular guests until they were asked if they were ready to commit again. Rex admits: "We didn't know how to come back. Some, like us, were invited to return. Some never came back because they were never asked. The richness of the Community remain with them even when they are no longer part of Ligaya. I'm sure many of those are yearning for it." In 2011, Rex and Raissa renewed their commitment to the Covenant and to the way of life with the fervor of ones who know how it is to live apart from the Community. Their renewed zeal in service can be seen in the way that they have given themselves to the Central Sector's Music Ministry and in how they are serving as pastoral leaders of the group under their care. Rex's understanding of suffering has also inspired him to initiate a new ministry that will help the poor. They desire to set up a He Cares-like ministry in the poor barangays of Pamayanang Diego Silang where volunteers can come to give free tutorial services to young school children.



Joy by Beth Melchor

During our Bible study on the Book of Revelations, a question was posed: “If there’s a letter addressed to your church community today, what would the letter say?” I’d imagine it to be Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, because it is what we need to hear today. Below are some excerpts from Evangelii Gaudium that will hopefully draw readers to read this wonderful exhortation written by someone whom God has given to the Church “for such a time as this.” Pope Francis truly speaks from the heart as a pastor who loves his flock.


The exhortation opens with a moving invitation: “I invite all Christians, everywhere, at this very moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting Him encounter them; I ask all of you to do this unfailingly each day. No one should think that this invitation is not meant for him or her, since ‘no one is excluded from the joy brought by the Lord’.” Pope Francis then opens our eyes to the world we live in by aptly describing today’s society and the dangers it poses. “The great danger in today’s world, pervaded as it is by consumerism, is the desolation and anguish born of a complacent yet covetous heart, the feverish pursuit of frivolous pleasures, and a blunted conscience. Whenever our interior life becomes caught up in its own interests and concerns, there is no longer room for others, no place for the poor. God’s voice is no longer heard, the quiet joy of His love is no longer felt, and the desire to do good fades.” He challenges us to live the Gospel at its very core, as if cheering us on at a pep rally with the following chants: • No to an economy of exclusion and inequality • No to the new idolatry of money • No to a financial system which rules rather than serves • No to inequality which spawns violence

• No to selfishness and spiritual sloth • No to a sterile pessimism • No to spiritual worldliness • No to warring among ourselves • Yes to the challenge of a missionary spirituality • Yes to the new relationships brought by Christ Ending with the loud cry: “Challenges exist to be overcome!” Pope Francis is purposive throughout his exhortation, even in showing how to evangelize “person to person” or how a homily is to be prepared. He acknowledges challenges and limitations to our missionary call. But most of all, he calls all believers to “embark upon a new chapter of evangelization marked by joy.” One can go on and on, but rather than tasting tiny morsels, feast on the banquet itself. I pray you have time to read and reflect on Evangelii Gaudium, the Joy of the Gospel. I close with a final excerpt on joy. "There are Christians whose lives seem like Lent without Easter. I realize of course that joy is not expressed the same way at all times in life, especially at moments of great difficulty. Joy adapts and changes, but it always endures, even as a flicker of light born of our personal certainty that, when everything is said and done, we are infinitely loved."

Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel) is a 224-page document that outlines the Pope’s vision for a missionary Church whose “doors should always be open”.

photo credit: john rich villas

An Invitation to


GLIMPSES OF GAUDIUM For quick reading, here are other quotes from the document. These quotes are in no way meant to represent the overall tone, meaning or intent of the Holy Father’s Apostolic Exhortation. The full document is nuanced and full of thoughtprovoking messages which should be read in full. 1. God never tires of forgiving us; we are the ones who tire of seeking His mercy. 2. The Gospel, radiant with the glory of Christ’s cross, constantly invites us to rejoice. 3. All revealed truths derive from the same Divine Source and are to be believed with the same faith, yet some of them are more important for giving direct expression to the heart of the Gospel. In this basic core, what shines forth is the beauty of the saving love of God made manifest in Jesus Christ who died and rose from the dead. 4. I want to remind priests that the confessional must not be a torture chamber but rather an encounter with the Lord’s mercy which spurs us on to do our best. A small step, in the midst of great human limitations, can be more pleasing to God than a life which appears outwardly in order but moves through the day without confronting great difficulties. Everyone needs to be touched by the comfort and attraction of God’s saving love, which is mysteriously at work in each person, above and beyond his faults and failings.

5. The Eucharist, although it is the fullness of sacramental life, is not a prize for the perfect but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak. 6. How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points? 7. The Pope loves everyone, rich and poor alike, but he is obliged in the name of Christ to remind all that the rich must help, respect and promote the poor. I exhort you to generous solidarity and a return of economics and finance to an ethical approach which favors human beings. 8. Marriage now tends to be viewed as a form of mere emotional satisfaction that can be constructed in any way or modified at will. But the indispensible contribution of marriage to society transcends the feelings and momentary needs of the couple.

scientific competence by making certain statements or claims. But here the problem is not with reason itself, but with the promotion of a particular ideology which blocks the path to authentic, serene and productive dialogue. 10. Sometimes we are tempted to be that kind of Christian who keeps the Lord’s wounds at arm’s length. Yet Jesus wants us to touch human misery, to touch the suffering flesh of others. He hopes that we will stop looking for those personal or communal niches which shelter us from the maelstrom of human misfortune and instead enter into the reality of other people’s lives and know the power of tenderness. Whenever we do so, our lives become wonderfully complicated and we experience intensely what it is to be a people, to be part of a people.

9 The Church has no wish to hold back the marvelous progress of science. On the contrary, she rejoices and even delights in acknowledging the enormous potential that God has given to the human mind. Whenever the sciences—rigorously focused on their specific field of inquiry —arrive at a conclusion which reason cannot refute, faith does not contradict it. Neither can believers claim that a scientific opinion which is attractive but not sufficiently verified has the same weight as a dogma of faith. At times, some scientists have exceeded the limits of their


A Christian's Guide

Adding Bitter

potion to our Faith


by Jun Viterbo


their effect on our sacraments and general belief in God. We hope this highlights another Filipino virtue that has carried us through many crises in our history: the ability to laugh at ourselves.


If you are pregnant and eat twin bananas, you will have twins.

The myth explained: As kids, we usually raced to pick bananas that have one peel but two bananas inside. It’s the banana tree’s version of identical twins. No difference in taste except for the satisfaction of buy 1, take 1. There appears to be an antidote: apparently, if you split the twin bananas behind your back, no twins are forthcoming. Silly-o-Meter rating: ***1/2 In the days of ultrasound machines, do we really expect a banana peel to determine the result of a pregnancy? Whatever happened to the accepted studies on genes, DNA and cells? Does that mean that if we eat twin bananas of the saba variety, the twins will be big-bodied? Perhaps the expression “going bananas”

photo credit: john rich villas and mike villar

Superstition is the deviation of religious feeling and of the practices this feeling imposes. It can even affect the worship we offer the true God.

ake no mistake about it, our devotion as Roman Catholics has long been peppered by something less than Christian: namely, tradisyon (tradition), kasabihan ng mga matatanda (old folks’ tales), paniniwala (beliefs), alamat (legends) and pamahiin (superstition). Our Church calls these irreligion—the vice contrary by defect to the virtue of religion. While they add richness to our culture, they unfortunately take away something from our trust in God and belief in common sense. Somehow out of fear, pressure or indifference and the patronage of horror movies, we find ourselves subscribing to these outrageous beliefs. Many may say: “Wala namang mawawala” (nothing to lose) or “mabuti na ang sigurado” (better safe than sorry). Let’s not be equivocal in this. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (the section on “You Shall Have No Other Gods Before Me”) is clear on this: Superstition is the deviation of religious feeling and of the practices this feeling imposes. It can even affect the worship we offer the true God, e.g., when one attributes an importance in some way magical to certain practices otherwise lawful or necessary. To attribute the efficacy of prayers or of sacramental signs to their mere external performance, apart from the interior dispositions that they demand, is to fall into superstition.” Here is a short list that True North compiled with emphasis on

A Christian's Guide

had something to do with its relation to reality. Reality Check: If you are pregnant, consult your obstetrician-gynecologist, period.


If your baby is always sick, change his/her name to fool the evil disease spirits. The myth explained: It is hoped that if the baby’s name is changed, these spirits will be confused and not wreak havoc on the poor child. It does not state whether you just change the first name, second name or nickname. Neither does it say if changing the spelling a bit will do the trick—will Baby Boy to Baby Bhoy suffice? Silly-o-Meter rating: *** A baby’s name is never a cause of sickness. Of course, later on, the baby will grow up and resent you for your poor taste in names (Angel Lina Jo Lee, anyone?) but that’s another story. Reality Check: Do you know how costly and tedious it is to change one’s name? You have to file a petition in court or face possible prosecution for falsification of a public document. And let’s give the evil spirit more credit here. Even the Devil can quote Scripture, so I don’t see them being deceived that easily.


If you come from a wake, do not go home directly, lest the evil spirits follow you home.

The myth explained: This is probably the most famous superstition right now due to the movie Pagpag which was shown last December during the Metro Manila Film Festival. The evil spirit will supposedly stay where you have your stopover. Silly-o-Meter rating:**1/2 Again another case of undermining evil spirits. Do we mean that many of these 24/7 convenience stores or McDonald’s or Jollibee now house a bevy of evil spirits? Reality Check: Funerals are a social event. Sometimes, many may just extend these minireunions after the visit, especially when coffee has run out in the wake or they are just tired of drinking another pouch of Zesto. I personally was not aware of this belief until recently. The power of suggestion of cinema indeed.

Silly-o-Meter rating: *** Technically, both warring babies can have the same mother. You can’t ban a mother from her own child’s baptism, can you? Reality Check: Relationships cannot be determined by a vicarious event. Two babies who encountered each other when both their mothers were pregnant (let’s call them John and Jesus) seemed to do just fine and somehow defined salvation history.


Trying on your wedding dress before the wedding means it will not push through. The myth explained: The soonto-be bride’s greatest dilemma: to succumb to the belief or to have


A pregnant woman should not attend a baptism because the baby inside her womb will not get along with the baby being baptized.

The myth explained: There is the fear of a proxy war between the unborn and the just born.


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a dress that fits her. This could also be a designer’s greatest fear: thousands of pesos are paid for a dress that will not fit well and with that, so goes his/her reputation. Silly-o-Meter rating: **** Brides traditionally lose weight deliberately or from pure stress before the wedding date. Chances are the initial measurements taken at the start will be a tad too big on the wedding day. Thus, the concept of final fitting was born. Reality Check: A successful wedding cannot be rooted on


whether or not the bride tried on her dress. Many couples have disregarded the myth and have somehow managed to stay happily married sans the curse. We call these people—sane.


During Baptism, a child who cries loudly is bound to be richer, and a child should be carried by someone who has plenty of coins to bring good luck


Siblings should not get married in the same calendar year as it brings bad luck to the latter’s marriage. The myth explained: This is immortalized in the movie Sukob. Perhaps, this is most acceptable superstition that many Christians observe or succumb to. Silly-o-Meter rating: ***1/2 Some have avoided the myth by having a joint wedding which is somehow easier on the budget. Still, no bride, as much as possible, wants to share the limelight on her wedding day. To circumvent the “spell”, some have scheduled weddings on December 27 and then on January 2. This is however cruel on everybody dealing with the holiday rush and the burden on the groom’s family budget (especially if they are siblings).

photo credit: john rich villas, mike villar and aly capote

Parents fall into the trap of getting godparents for their pockets rather than their values.

The myth explained: Every parent dreams of a better life for their child. This is why some parents fall into the trap of getting godparents for their pockets rather than their values. Come to think of it, those in the Top 20 of Forbes Magazine billionaires must have had ear-splitting cries during their baptism. Silly-o-Meter rating: **1/2 During baptism, a baby is expected to cry especially when the ceremony disrupts his/her nap or feeding time. Some have speculated that the deafening cries are the child’s protest against the parent’s decision to clad in them in what was formerly part of a tablecloth. Reality Check: A baby’s chance of success actually depends on the basics: a good education and good values (i. e. love of God and country), no matter who carried him/her or how loud he/she cried.

A Christian's Guide

To top it all, the ladies dare not repeat an outfit since they will encounter practically the same crowd in two occasions only five days apart. Apparently, there is another superstition to counteract this superstition: the second couple to be married must pass through the backstairs during the first wedding to neutralize the effect of sukob. Go figure. Reality Check: Luck is never a factor in a wedding and much more in a marriage. It takes hard work, patience and the support of many people, not to mention the presence of the Lord in the relationship. The success of one's marriage is simply not determined by its date.

a bath as you will become ill. The myth explained: With these myths, we might as well call the day Jesus was crucified the Worst Friday. Apparently, Jesus’ death

had led to many restrictions among Christians who believe these superstitions are part of Christian dogma. Silly-o-Meter rating: **** Driving around Metro Manila on Good Friday is such a pleasure. The risk here is not evil fairies but overspeeding. The delay in healing during Good Friday is probably because your friendly neighborhood drugstore is closed and band-aids are in short supply. For a day of fasting and abstinence, barbeques and frying seem out of place. And finally, one could really be ill if one does not take a bath on Good Friday. Reality Check: The observance of Good Friday is one of the most solemn occasions of the Liturgical calendar. Embellishing them with all these inane observances divert us from the sacrifice that Jesus made. One’s piety can be served side by side with good hygiene. We suggest a more internal observation of Good Friday.


The Good Friday Don’ts: Don’t go out as evil fairies are running around to hurt you; don’t get cut as it will heal longer than usual; don’t barbeque or fry food as it will lead to black freckles on your face; and don’t take 29




My full name is Jhoanna Paula. I was born in the year when Pope John Paul II visited Manila for the first time. Don’t guess what year that was! My parents wanted a unique nickname because many were named after the Pope that year. So they got the beginning and end of my real name and coined Jhola. Some people would joke me and call me Jhopau.

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It is not often that we witness a sister taking a vow to live single for the Lord. How do you feel about it?

For quite a while, I have been longing and asking in my heart: “When will I finally be married to the Lord?” It was already clear for me that this is the vocation God has prepared me for and the vocation I am freely choosing. Then suddenly by the Advent of 2012, things fell into their right places, and I found myself already at the threshold of being wed to Him. I was excited and I joyfully anticipated making the vow yet I continued to quietly seek God’s affirmation for this state of life. I am amazed at its timing. I felt it was perfect since most sisters of the Bethany Association, the international association for women living single for the Lord in the entire Sword of the Spirit, were coming for our conference. I am truly grateful for the support and practical services of many brothers and sisters that affirmed this call.

What made you decide to live single for the Lord?

Love, call, grace and the Community. My experience of God’s personal love for me led me to decide to choose this particular way of life. In my prayers, I have heard God’s concrete invitation and affirmation of the call. How can I say “no” the One who has given me everything I have and everything I will ever have? I will be nothing without Him. No one could ever match His love for me. I also recognized that He has also given me enough grace to live out this way of life; I can only be faithful because He is faithful. Furthermore, the Community and the Bethany Association gave me the proper context and support to live out and respond to this particular call.

photo credit: john rich villas


Jhola is very unique name Can you give a brief history of your name?


What is your greatest “what if ” moment in life?

My greatest “what if” moment is: “What if I have not met Christ's Youth in Action (CYA) in college?” I wonder how long will it take for me to allow God to find me. I know that I could have made several choices that I would eventually regret. It is in CYA that I have made a radical choice to be a disciple of Christ. That first "yes" I gave to Christ as a freshman in UP Diliman made a lot of difference in the path I have taken. He has saved me from making mistakes and probably unnecessary hurts by giving me the grace to respond as a young person.


If you were not a full-time CYA worker, what profession would you be engaged in?

I dreamt of being a lawyer and eventually becoming a judge. However, God made it clear in my discernments that that is not where He wanted me to be. Sometimes I’d joke around and say, if I have not been with CYA I would have been rich by now and would be a CYA donor! But really, I could have been anywhere as long as I could be in a place where I can best love and serve God.


What is one gadget that you can’t live without? I have been interested in gadgets and gizmos for the longest time. I would sing “I got gadget and gizmos aplenty.” I like tinkering with them. I use my iPad mini most of the time, it’s my all-in-one gadget – my Bible, my GPS, my journal, my breviary, my ebook reader, etc. However, to say I can’t live without it is a fallacy. I use gadgets as a means to an end but I know I can also live without them and be detached from them if I choose to.


What is your family like?

One, big, happy family! On my last count, we are 19 in my immediate family. My siblings and I all grew up in Oriental Mindoro and studied in Manila. We like gathering and celebrating life’s milestones together – birthdays, anniversaries and they were all here when I made my lifelong commitment. Our family supports each other’s pursuits and dreams in life—helping one another becoming a better person. It was also in my family that the foundation of my faith has been strongly built on.


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What makes you laugh very hard?

Good jokes, witty comments and funny and absurd ideas. I enjoy bantering and enjoying good humor with brothers and sisters.

When was the last time you cried?

When I peeled onions while cooking in Jerusalem House, that’s the easiest way to make me cry. Other than that, I seldom cry. I try to be level-headed and to control my emotions externally.

What will you tell your 18-year old self?

Relax. God will find you and answer your questions but you have to wait patiently. Always remember that there is nothing you can do to increase or decrease God’s love for you, His love is constant, steadfast and enduring. Do not be afraid to show who you truly are. Believe that your dignity and worth lie in you being God’s beloved, you are the daughter of the King Most High – a princess!

Jhoanna Paula Salazar made her lifelong commitment to live single for the Lord on August 18, 2013. She is Financial Comptroller and Senior Training Officer of CYA. She is currently finishing her MA in Theological Studies at the Ateneo de Manila University. Jhola is one person who thrives in the background, making things happen for others. What she says about her hobby, photography, says it all: "Mahilig mag picture, pero hindi mahilig mag-pose."



The grandeur of the sun ablaze In sheets of pink, yellow, and orange Speaks to me in ways my lips cannot describe I simply bask in the glow of your love Moved to tears, I look back In all the roads I have been I see you in every detail of the past As the glory of your love shines on me I embrace all that has been And come to embrace all that will be. Everything is a prayer in thanksgiving To you, O Lord. - Therese Pelias

photo credit: john rich villas

Prayer at Sunset

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