November 29, 2005

The Sieve

In our journey towards Eternal Life, we must be vigorous in sieving our souls, to chase away the many impurities that haunt the spirit. No one escapes sin and therefore no one shall boast that he or she will need to sieve no more.
Let us be reminded for all times that a man without his prayers is like an ant lost and wandering in the middle of the Saharan Desert. He is alone and grasping for direction, he has no compass in his hands and the road ahead does not tell any clue about his destination. He has no map in his keeping and the path that he threads is dark and winding that no signposts would assist him in his journey towards Eternal Life.

Our religion and our practice of faith are part of our spiritual life that without the benefit of its ethical codes and guidelines, we would meet the hardest of times in coping with the disputes of the modern life where in every corner we turn, the temptation to sin and to do wrongful ways are ever threatening. Our faith is the sieve that shall purify us out of our impurities.

When daylight comes into view, we must remain before Him in thoughtful prayers for a new day is about to come and we need the beacon of his never-fading light, His ever-permeating wisdom and guidance. When dusk appears, as we ready ourselves in bidding farewell to another passing of day, our prayers shall be in gratitude for the wondrous gift of life.

While we know in our hearts that faith alone could not save our souls, it is of no wisdom to dispel completely our practice of faith and to disregard the power of our prayers. We must conform to the habits that give meaning to our pleadings before the Lord. We petition Him in many ways and our faith shall provide us the avenue for our supplications. Faith and works shall go hand in hand like hammer and nail for without the other, one alone would be fruitless at most.

We must seek the calmness of the churches and the temples at least once in a month so that we do not forget faith. We must establish regular prayers in the conclaves of our homes for to forget the practice of faith would redound to forgetting the Lord God and the things He desires us to be. We must not harbor apostasy for the flames of the unending fire shall await those who procrastinate.

Our act of faith is also our language of obedience. As we attend the ceremonies of our churches, we are declaring in effect that we are in full obedience to the Lord. How else could we show Him our greatest of faith if we just sit in the corner of our room, without prayers and without seeking the harbor of the churches and the temples?

Our path towards the Kingdom is often fraught with the many traps of sins and errors that whomsoever says he or she is without need of the churches is one who trek the perilous road, without a map in his or her hands, without a lamp that shall light the ways.

Without our prayers, the heart becomes inundated with discontent and sorrow that Satan knows always when to take the proper opportunity. When we are at our weakest, it is the very moment that the demons come to disturb our minds, and take advantage of our human frailties, to examine and study carefully our desires and wants, and then to reward these desires if we commit folly and mischief, upon their commands and biddings. When we are the weakest, our hearts desires the most things, even the things that we should not desire.

The demons come into us like water into a vessel. The moment they notice a man whose spiritual conviction is weak, they tempt him like a child reaching out for a candy. They would notice a desirous soul miles and miles away, like snakes in the mountain who seek their prey in hills miles and miles apart. There is the imbalance in a man that makes him an easy prey to the demons, and makes him fall on the wayside, and that would be the end of his spiritual balance. When a soul moves farther and farther away from the churches and from the harking of the priests and the preachers, the soul languishes in neglect of faith and becomes the slave of wanton desires and would be the most fragrant prey to the snakes in the mountains.

When the demons come, we often do not notice them for they come in the name of deceit and their masks are not easily uncovered. We only realize their grievous influence when it is already too late, when remorse finally fills our hearts. If they come often because of our lack of faith, there would come a time that the hearts does not feel remorse anymore that the soul and the demon becomes already one and the same, and salvation of the soul becomes the farthest.

We must shield ourselves from the snakes in the mountain for even if we are miles apart, we could become prey to these demons if we are the least in faith. We fortify our stronghold through our habitual practice of faith. The more we become closer to the men of God we become shielded the more. We must hear the preaching of the knowledgeable ones, and we must strive to fill our hearts with the verses of the words of God and be strict in our obedience. We must read the words frequently for they are like balms to our wounded soul. We must gain our shield against the menace of the Darkness and we must fortify our faith. In daily prayers, we are brought into the most righteous path and we shall not be like a lamb lost in the wilderness.

Religion, and the practice thereof, is like a sieve upon sandy water. It sieves away the materials that make our hearts impure. We go on sieving the water again and again in order that that the sands may not stain the water we drink. Is it not that the more we sieve the water, the more it becomes pure?

In our journey towards Eternal Life, we must be vigorous in sieving our souls, to chase away the many impurities that haunt the spirit. No one escapes sin and therefore no one shall boast that he or she will need to sieve no more. Our acts of faith are our compass, the maps in our hands. If we are without the signs that lead our voyage, we are easily led astray into the darkness of sins and soon our path would lead to the lake that burns with an unending fire.

We have faith that is why we do works. We should have no faith alone or works alone. We must have both faith and works. We must do both for the two must come like hammer and nail.

November 28, 2005

INTO THE GREAT WIDE OPEN

"I just saw a woman in white walked by in the kitchen hall!" I exclaimed.

Note: From my draft autobiography titled "A Prophet's Life".

When finally I was of school age, my mother got me back and started living away from my grandfather. It was hard at times to be away from my grandfather since I got so used to be with him. The giddiness and wonderment of childhood might have staid off these longings for my grandfather that I easily readjusted to newer surroundings. When I was with him, I played with my cousins, when I was with my mother I played with my sister and two brothers. Children always play it seems. They were built and created for to play and nothing more that games was like a narcotic to every child's longing and impartibility. Old habits did not die down that in the afternoon, on Saturdays and Sundays, I would earnestly find some solitary moments and played with "unreal" friends. I would climb trees alone and fish with a crude hook and line equipment in a nearby pond. My mother was living in the house of our grandaunt, Hadja Saniya, and it was an old house with a colonial built. In that place, there was some woods full of banana trees and a guava tree in the midst of it, near the pond were tadpoles litter it to the hilt.

The guava tree gave me a view from above and I had always liked the air up there. I would climb it and stayed up there for hours that I could not almost feel the afternoon passing by until twilight comes and all the children were up playing hide-and-seek or cherry base, a game where one would guard a post in order that the others would not take and conquer it by surprise and win the game.

One day while darkness crept slowly into the night, I was in a hide-and-seek game when suddenly, as I looked into the area full of banana trees, while hiding from my seeker, I noticed a little distortion in the trunks of the banana trees, and as I stared lengthily towards the woods, I noticed that a group of persons were looking at me. Some were standing while a couple was sitting in a kneeling position. They were all staring at me. They looked unusual that they had skin gleaming like bronze and their body sizes were relatively small like children's body and yet their faces looked old. I should have been scared and immediately run away but they seem to have put me in a trance that fear was absent in me at that moment. I remember it now so vividly, as I try to recollect these past events. I could even describe to you how one is put in a trance. As I looked at them, my head felt a gentle swelling, painless and smooth, as if the rest of me disappeared, except my head and my feet did not feel the ground. Again, my surroundings became yellow and everything seemed to glow despite the lateness of the day. My sight became sharper and I could hear my heart pounding and my body seemed ethereal like I was a spirit floating above ground. The one person sitting kept on signaling to me that I should approached them, because perhaps of the trance that I was put in, I headed towards the woods slowly, into the thick groupings of banana trees. As I pierced through the woods, the surroundings became brighter and ahead of me was a pathway in the forest, and I could see many of them at each side of the pathway, hanging from trees and huge stones. They all held palm leaves in their hands and shook it that collectively they made a swooshing sound that is gentle to the ear. Nobody spoke to me and nobody touched me. After a few meters of going forward, I stopped abruptly without deciding on my own, and turned back and into the games that I was playing with the other kids. It was a transition so smooth that I could say that time stood still and the event suddenly disappeared from my mind, never able to tell it to any of my friends or to my mother about the particular strange occurrence. It was only later on in life, that the memory kept coming back every time I walked into some woods with the same landscape and contour, feeling déjà vu every time, and vividly recalling details of such event. It must have been a dream. It must have been not. But dreams I could really recall to be dreams no matter how vivid they were and the forest incident was never a dream. In fact I had a dream once, about three years ago that was so vivid and yet I fully recognized it as merely a dream, not a memory of past events. In that particular dream, there was also a pond. I found myself in the middle of a wasteland, with red cracking clay all over, up to where my sight could reach. And then there was the pond that was unusually situated near a sloping hill and the air was yellowish and the sky a bit red, bleeding into many hues and concentration of red. There were no trees or a single bush in the arid ground except for a leafless tree protruding at one side of the shore of the pond and the wind was very still and motionless and the only sound I heard was the poundings of my heart. If you could perhaps imagine Mars and its landscape, that was how the dream looked and felt like.

The pond was of fair size in a shape that is almost perfectly circle. It was a small pond indeed with a radius not more than ten meters. I climbed the barren tree and sat there looking into the water, undecided about my next move. I could see the water inviting me to jump, almost feeling the coolness that it harbored; the dewy color of the water was refreshing to the sight. There was some life in the pond that I felt it could talk and communicate as if it was a creature on its own, with a head and a torso, and the tentacles of an ancient mollusk. I stood up from one of the tree's branches and dived into the water. The splashing sound it made as I entered the water reverberated throughout the heavy air that I could hear it rumbling even while I was deep into the water. Such sound made me reckoned that the pond was deep, so deep in fact that I kept going further and further into the water and I could not see ground. As I went deeper, there was exaltation inside me, a sudden gush of joy that became more and more prevalent as I dived deeper and deeper. But even as I go further into the water, I could find no end, as if it was a bottomless pit. I was insisting to lunge deeper when suddenly I felt a hand grabbed my body and pulled me towards the surface. When I reached the surface of the water I realized that I could not swim that the man who grabbed me had to help me reach the shore. There were actually two men that helped me get out of the water, as I lay there gasping in the banks. I examined the two men and observed them carefully and to my amazement, they both looked like me. They were my twins if only in that particular dream.

I sat there at the pond's shore while the two men stayed in the water, so expert in their swimming prowess that you could not tell from the surface if they are really moving their hands and feet to wade above the waters. That was the time that I saw this vision of an old person who looked like an old woman in a very long white dress. She looked so old that I had initially thought of her to be a ghost but despite such apprehensions, I could not move and continued to stare at the apparition. She approached me slowly as she floated through the wind, her feet entirely above the ground. As much as I thought that she was approaching me, as much farther she had become. It was completely a distortion of physics and of sight. She moved away from me, hovering towards the top of the nearby hill. A smile was pasted on her crinkled face that somehow I felt reassured that she meant no harm. She pointed towards the tree and through my mind, she instructed me to dive once more into the water. And so I recreated my previous dive and the sudden gush of happy emotion was there again as well as the temptation to go deeper and deeper. To seek the ultimate depth, the bottomless pit. The water offered such narcotic feeling that the two men had to grab me and pull me up before I go so much deeper and became lost into such very fearful depth. Every time I reach the shore, I dived again and then dived again until I was able to swim on my own, having gained the patience not to go deeper into the water.

And the dream went into a blur. The last recoverable image I have got of that dream was the old woman dancing atop the hill, while floating, and swaying her arms sideways and roundabout, as if ordering the wind and all the elements to move, and the air moved. In fact the entire atmosphere was in a whirl.

If dreams could be so vivid, nothing could top that particular dream where even when years had already passed, I could still remember the details, and the minutest of emotions that I felt. It was one of those dreams that once I woke up, I had the feeling that I had been transported from one place towards another instead of the general feeling of waking up.

Of dreams and of past memories therefore I have a healthy recognition and have reasonable distinction.

It was also in my Hadja Saniya's front yard that I also had another experience of trance. Again, we were playing a catch-me-if-you-can as twilight was already heavy into the night that it was only the full moon in the sky that gave us sufficient illumination. When the moon was full, us children would play into the night and it was sort of a ritual for us every time the moon appeared at its fullest. Before night came, the older children would inform all of us that the moon would appear in the night so we had to prepare for the night games. They say the night was full of monsters and ghosts but when the moon was full, even the olds would be in the yards to enjoy the mystic of a moonlit night.

The extra playing time we've got made us giddy and a little bit livelier. Every one seemed to laugh and snitched, until we were all laughing incessantly as we go running in a circle continuously and I started to hear laughing voices not of my friends but of some other persons'—old persons'. I stopped moving while the others kept running in circles, and the laughing voices faded as if I became suddenly deaf. And I stood there petrified and my body moved independently of my will until I was positioned apart from my playmates and gazed towards a guava tree whose leaves was crumbled due to the coolness of the night. The night became a little bit darker and my friends disappeared into a blur, as if I was the only person on earth that night. There was a red flickering light in the middle of the guava tree. The spark of light flickered so slowly as if someone was blowing it again and again. I squinted my eyes and I saw a figure of a huge man with the head of a horse, and the flickering light was at the end of what looked like a huge cigar. I could see figures in shadow because the tree was just about twenty meters away from where I was standing. The figure then changed into the figure of an elephant. After a few moments, I saw the shaped of a whale, then a horse head again, then of a monkey. The shape kept on changing and changing. The occurrence took about nearly an hour but when it ended my friends was still running in circles. I felt a sudden loneliness that I started to cry for no reason at all. I saw my mother coming after me and asked what was wrong with me. The other kids said that we were just playing. My crying caused the disruption of our over extended play into the night. Somehow, I could not remember telling my mother or anyone about the strange figures I have seen. Funnier still, when the day after came, nobody mentioned to me that I acted queerly by just standing there and crying so suddenly. Just like those other strange memories, I always failed to tell anyone for reason that is perhaps beyond careful remembrance. It may be perhaps the feeling I had then, even up to now, that no one would believe some queer stories anyway that it was not worth telling in the first place. Such memories faded in my head as the years went by, to recur as deja vu in later years.

All these experiences had one major tread that are similar to all and that is the feeling of entering into another dimension, penetrating an invisible wall that divides this world from some other parallel existence. I have a great feeling that those events were planned by some supernatural beings, as a way of introducing their presence here on our material world, to declare that they are here.

*****************

Hadja Saniya was unlike other elders we had. The more she got older, the sharper she had become. She had been tending a store and kids like us could not touch the goods as easily, in order to put some candies into our pockets without paying for it. All day long she played solitaire and was all too engrossed in it. I have learned one lesson or two about playing cards from her. At age six, I was already crazy about solitaire. At age nine, I was already gambling with the older cousins and uncles, playing poker and baccarat.

She never spoke much but she was always ready with the broom every time we did some mischief in the house, even those malefaction we did outside whenever news of such reach the house. One afternoon, words got to her that we took some bits of pork meat from some neighbors grilling a whole swine. I did not have so much beating from anyone as much as I had from her. That was my first religious lessons. Moslems do not eat pork she screamed and gnashed and from then on, I never touched the meat for a long, long time.

Her house would have been so grand when it was newly built as if centuries ago. While I was scrubbing the floor and wiping the dusts from furnitures, I imagine it to be a classic house made of wood, somehow Spanish in architecture but always remind me of American houses that I often see in the movies, just like the one in American Psycho. Her husband died years back that we did not really saw him alive but his picture hanging in the living room reminded me about how handsome he might have been, a man pure in Middle Eastern blood, leaning to the Turkish rather than Arab. He might have been a cinch with the ladies in his younger days. I imagined their stories of adornment. Perhaps, he was a handsome young man then, setting eye upon a fair Samal lad, and some other girls. He must have been a rich man to put up such a house. In Moslem wedding engagements, at least to those who were prosperous, all the matters are never settled in one sitting, at least not in one grand ceremony, merely climaxing upon such explosion of merriment and celebration. There would be the engagement procedures where the family of the male would bring all kinds of sweets and delicacies wrapped in colorful packages. In recent times, they used colorful cellophanes and Japanese paper when in the past they have to make use of carefully garnished garments and expensive silk from china. The china man brought these things and porcelains in exchange for the gold of the local tribesmen. There must have been a lot of gold vein in the area of Zamboanga that there were old pictures of Samal tribesmen flashing those teeth that glitter even if the photograph were in fading black and white.

Imagine yourself in a stock exchange as quoted prices flew by here and there and you would be able to feel how the parties negotiate for the amount of dowries to be taken by the family of the would-be bride. The spokesman for the male party would offer all the things that were superfluous like four heads of cow or a pocketful of pearls and morsels of gold. The father of the bride-to-be would of course negotiate for a better deal until the two parties meet at one delta of understanding. About a year after the agreement, the wedding ceremony would take place and in those olden days, it would last almost a week of merry making and festivity. The gongs would reverberate throughout, day and night, insistent and almost to the point of annoyance to the neighborhood. The best dancers would be invited to take turns, as the bride and groom are kept apart until the last day of the ceremony. There was the persevering smell of rice cakes and pastries made of mustard and egg, the kind that I always look for whenever I am in such activity, identifying the area of the kitchen as early as possible and then reconnoitering the area like a vulture. I usually fill my stomach with a lot of native coffee as the supply was bottomless and unending and every adult would took notice that such young child would spoil himself with nerve wracking amount of coffee.

Even in her fading years, Hadja Saniya looked fair that there was no doubt that she had deserved such grand wedding from the "Turkish" suitor.

Years after, the house of Hadja Saniya was graying and the paint on the walls subsided that there was an apparent darkness everywhere. When night comes, the darkness is more pronounced as silence complements the general dimness. The smell of old wood always lay heavy upon my nose that every smell of wood reminds me of the house. Dirt stuck to the decades old walls invites me always to stare at them and I reckoned then that the dark stains on them formed the shapes of men and other unlikely beings. The house was alive I thought then and it breathes into our lives every moment we happened to be there. In the night, these shadows become sharper that I thought I saw the shade of an old woman always while the lights are out and I lay there trying to find sleep, turning in my bed while cuddled inside heavy fabric, sweating profusely from fear of shadows.

I would sweat so heavily from warmth as I resisted the terrifying shadows of an old woman sitting just at the foot of my bed. There were times that the fear ate so much into me that I screamed and cried in the middle of the night. My father thought I was just missing my grandfather that at midnight, they would deliver me to my Uncle Mameng's house nearly ten kilometers away.

Of course, I would have to be back with my mother when school finally opened. The shadows finally came at lesser frequency and besides sleeping together with my brothers kept me somewhat reassured. If that old woman would strangle me, at least I would not be the only one to be strangled.

I could not tell if those shadows were really ghosts or spirits but I felt so sure that they breathe a life and they were unmistakably the shape of human beings.

My real sighting of a ghost came years later when I was just about ten or eleven years old. I could remember some particulars as I relate this to you now. It was near midnight, on one weekend, when most of the members of our household stayed wide awake to watch a television special; it was a late night movie if I am not mistaken.

Usually when the night comes, I had felt dutiful always to check the back door if they were safely locked and shut tightly. That night, before I sat to watch the show, I reconnoitered the kitchen and locked the door after reassuring that every chore in the kitchen has been done. As the show started, I felt a strong urge to relieve myself that I headed for the comfort room, situated just to the left of the kitchen. As I turned towards the direction of the kitchen, I saw a figure of a woman in white gown, with her hair down to her knees, walked pass the hall leading to the kitchen.

" Is someone still in the kitchen?" I asked.

"Everyone is here. Why?" quipped my Aunt Coney.

"I just saw a woman in white walked by in the kitchen hall!" I exclaimed.

"Do not kid us like that." She warned.

"Really. I did saw a woman"

We all stared at each other and after a moment, we all scurried for the main bedroom. Every one was blaming me for playing some wicked game on them and I kept on denying them.

"It must be your imagination." they all indicted me.

Half an hour later, we were back in front of the television while I was feeling so sick already from fear. I had no choice but to join them in the living room otherwise I would be alone in the room.

While the television was glaring, a sudden wind blew forcefully from the window and rain poured instantaneously as rumbling thunder shook the house. It was just another bad weather, as we disregarded the weather's tumult and stay stuck to the television show. Perhaps the wind was so whipping that small bits of stones were thrown at our direction, entering thru the window.

"Damn it. Someone is throwing stones at us," Coney said and we all peered into the window to investigate the malefactor and we find exactly nobody outside as more bits of stone came at us. The sound of thunder became extremely forceful that the lights went out. By this time, I could already feel the fear that had enveloped not only me, but also the rest of them; fear has a smell I realized that moment. In the middle of the living room, a small whirlwind was lifting the small stones towards the ceiling in a circular motion and while the stones circled above ground, the wind suddenly stopped and the bits of stone fell simultaneously to the ground. We all screamed and run to the bedroom.

It was strange that the day after, no matter how patently strange the experience we had the night before, everyone was merely jesting about it while Hadja Saniya simply dismissed it as the playful imagination of our minds, us who were still tender in the head. She was deep in slumber when the strange happenstance occurred. Even those who were present in that strange occurrence simply forgot about it, never mentioning it again. My Aunt Coney just did not talk about it. My brothers Nasrullah and Akmad and my sister Rimaisa just went to the yards and play the usual games, as if nothing happened. If I remember well, my cousin Nimfa and Mernisa was present then and similarly, they never took it so seriously despite the common terror we had felt that night. Where in contrast, that unusual night were etched forever in my mind.

The eldest who was there was Aunt Coney. I had expected her to convince the others that some spirits really played fun on us but she acted as if the strange night was merely a usual occurrence, and did go on with the ordinary chores, as if nothing happened, as if she was expecting such things to happen ordinarily. After that night in fact, she had slowly gained isolation from the rest of us, at least it was how I have observed her to be. She would walk along and would give me that iniquitous stare that I felt somehow uncomfortable that she had suddenly become so mindful of my presence that she would shout at me easily if for example I happened to touch the expensive jar in the living room.

I reckoned that she had blamed me for that strange occurrence in that one strange night.

November 25, 2005

The Moral Safe Zone

The booby traps of our sins are all abound as we walk through our lives.
We must be heedful always that we do not fall to these traps that lay hidden in
the path ahead. Our sins are also like the serpents in the fields that could
smell their prey many miles away. If the snakes are farther down the road, we
must change our directions.
The Middle Way
There is the extent of devotion that men of many words call in no flattering manner as “zealotry”. It has became a mark that common men today desist with utmost effort, avoiding being called a zealot by all means and at all times.

When you pray too hard and become too pious and hence trying to be righteous overeagerly, the eyes of men looks at you in stranger circumstances as if to be holy is one mortal sin and a mud in the face. Take no heed to these culprits for they know not the way to the Kingdom of the Lord.

Pray in the means and manner that you find the most convenient and expedient. It is the first step towards finding the “Moral Safe Zone”. Call upon the Lord in the churches or in the confine of your shelters and surely your spirit will be lifted out of the quagmire of doubt and faithlessness. Pray while you eat or while you are aboard a jitney—there is no difference in the eyes of the Lord for wherever that you may be, He is present.

In the days of old, a scribe had once asked our Lord Jesus Christ on the subject of faith. The scribe wanted to know about the very foundation of faith and the Lord Jesus told him that most of all, the faithful should always remember “to pray to the Father above” and “to love our neighbors like we love ourselves”. These two commandments are the foundations of our faith, basic instructions from the Divine One that we must not disregard at all times. When we pray, we become strong in faith and with acts of charity, we are close to accomplishing what Christ the Lord had advised us as to be the foundation of our faith.

When we know the foundation of our faith, we could never go wayward in our path towards salvation and to the road that leads to Eternal Life. When we are schooled and educated as to the meanings of our devotions, we are in good hands and we are safe in the company of the faithful.

Let us find our “moral safe zones” my brothers and sisters so that we may not be led astray. We must always be mindful and not be forgetful of these things that makes us stronger in spirit and lively in soul. Let us no gamble with our salvation and risk the damnation of hell. If we are told to pray, we pray at times that we apportioned in our daily lives, as we awake to a new morning and after the day’s labor. If we are told to become “Good Samaritans”, then we must strive to do our best to be always a helping hand. These burdens are light for the Lord carries us and lighten the weight of our troubles. For those who lighten the load of others, the Lord lightens their toil in return and the rewards of the Kingdom of God shall be theirs.

We live in such an imperfect world that we live mortal lives that are left fragile and unprotected against the many temptations of evil that hounds the present world we are living in. Living the life we live is already such a burden for many of us that there are times we ask ourselves, “have I become rightful to the rewards of the Lord?”. Not a few times that we become silent in the stillness of the night thinking if we have indeed live the kind of life that the Lord advises us to be. What are the things have I done? Have I committed them so wrongly? Shall the Lord forgive me for the many transgressions that I have committed already? What are the things that I shall do so that my faith to the Lord becomes worthy again?

As a fellow faithful, it is enough that I must tell you that we must be reminded always that the time of reckoning is near to come and that we must strive to strengthen our faith again. We must always be heedful to the call of the times. We must strive to do good deeds always and avoid evil things whenever possible. As each day passes, we must be constrained enough to evaluate the things that we do commonly. Are they of goodness or are they of sin? To be sure, not one of us could be perfect by having not to have done anything wrong---that is impossible to attain---but to be always mindful of the common things we do everyday would surely help us become nearly perfect in the eyes of the Lord. If we are not sure if the things we do is right or wrong, then we must stop for a while and ponder upon it very well.

The booby traps of our sins are all abound as we walk through our lives. We must be heedful always that we do not fall to these traps that lay hidden in the path ahead. Our sins are also like the serpents in the fields that could smell their prey many miles away. If the snakes are farther down the road, we must change our directions.

To be in the moral safe zone, we must develop a life that may not verge on zealotry, but on the other hand we go through our daily lives without committing the grievous sins that the Lord had imbibed us to dispel. Meaning, we may not be overly pious in the eyes of men, but when we live lives that are simple and without the stains of grievous transgressions, then we are closer to the Lord.

We do not steal nor murder nor commit adultery in this safe zone. As we go along the righteous path, we must only remember that we may not be overly religious and yet we go along our lives contented with the things we attain and with the purposes we are driven with. The ways of the divinity renders that patience and discipline is a wondrous virtue that whomsoever suffers now shall be redeemed in the end, that whomsoever is patient and discipline at present, his or hers is the reward of salvation when the day of reckoning shall come. In this zone, when we are not sure if the things we are about to do is right or wrong, we must always ponder upon it very well before pursuing such idea. We must always stay safe and away from the temptations of evil.

The Moral Safe Zone could also be called as “the middle way”, one that never borders on the extremes but conforms towards moderation in all things that we do. Not to become too perfect in our devotion to the Lord for that is a mission nearly impossible to attain but at the same time not to become excessively sinful by avoiding the grave sins of murder, stealing and fornication---among many other all-too-serious wrongdoings.

To attain the balance in our faith is easier if we do not become too overarching in our objectives. If zealotry instills fear and distaste in your mouth, do not easily be led astray away from the Lord for it is enough that we become faithful to Him through the observance of the “Moral Safe Zone”, the moderate life. St. James once reminded the faithful by asking: “what good does it do to you to have faith and yet you have no works?” It is not merely to have faith by prayerful devotion alone that matters but we must reflect it through our deeds, and having deeds includes leading the moderate life, aside from acts of charity and service to the community. It is good deed to lead simple lives that are not stained by evil things.

We all begin our good deeds by going through our daily lives evading evil deeds then after that, we can begin our works through devotions and acts of kindness. In this manner, we avoid becoming hypocrites where we are too pious in the eyes of men and yet in the confines of our hearts are many evil deeds and the unwillingness to help the downtrodden amongst us despite the excessive wealth in our hands.

November 24, 2005

A Good Notice

My heartfelt gratitude to the Philippine Blog Awards for shortlisting this blog as a semi-finalist in the Most Informative Blog Site Of The Year Category. For sure, the nomination alone is already such a great reward that it is like winning altogether. Kudos and many thanks to the people behind PBA.

November 16, 2005

The Brotherhood of Man: Chapter 9 of My Book "The Night of Angels"

I had once come across a principle whose progenitor now I could not remember so well. Such principle is actually a theory upon the very meaning of man’s existence here on Earth. It declares that all men were meant to be different from each other so that they may understand each other all the more. It elucidated quite explicitly the reason why some of us are white and some of us are black. There are some of us who are Caucasians and then there are the Malays, the Africans, the Yellow Race and many others. We even speak in variant languages and dialects, to the most evolved tongue and to the crudest ones. Just the same that we are all separated into many cultures aside from the major division of being Western and Eastern. Just also as we have diverse geographical conditions obtaining, from the jungles of South America to the desert of the Sahara. In my own meanderings, I reckoned that there is a major reason or cause for these differences, that is, in order for us to ponder upon these differences and inquire upon them the more, gaining answers to many questions and therefore promotes more understanding among us. There is synergy in diversity, the wise men say.

At a glance, the principle above spoken seem to be ridiculous and absurd. Is it not that wars and conflicts of the world are mostly premised upon the differences of men? The whites against the blacks? The Jews against the Arabs? The Yellow Race looking down on Malays? Malays distrusting the Yellow Race? The Christians against the Muslims? English against Irish? The Socialist against the Democratic?

Upon further thought on the other hand, the principle on the differences of men above spoken has certain form of credibility. Let us for example imagine a world where everyone else is Caucasian living in the same culture and having the same language, breathing in the same environmental conditions. When all the lands having been conquered and peopled, what would be left then to urge a person to visit and see other places when everything outside is the same as the home country? Even with some differences attending, still many would have no motive to travel and reach out to others except for the usual reasons of pursuing business and visiting family relations.

Without silk, the Chinese people would have no motive to travel half the world away to sell it, as well as to the Europeans who would have had no desire to staged major expeditions to China to buy silk and porcelain. Now, could we imagine with the same practicality Americans inventing or creating porcelain? The making of porcelain is deeply rooted in the Chinese culture, without that culture, there would be no porcelain but jars of clay. If the land in Europe produced spices in abundance, Ferdinand Magellan would not have been able to circumvent the world, upon the purpose of finding the Spice Island. Alexandria of old was a haven of scholars that people of all races traveled to that place to earn their education. If the same education were everywhere at that time, there would be no traveling of such great number of people.

The uniqueness of each land and culture are the things that pushed men in the past to spread out and explore. If without the differences in geography, climate and environment, mankind would have not reached this level of understanding as we have now, where economy had become so global that barriers have become invisible and communication happens with just a click of the button anywhere in the world.

It was for the fervent travels made by our ancestors in the past that we have now achieved greater understanding of the Chinese man, of the American, of the Italian and of the African-- the food they eat, their temperaments, and the clothes they wear. We have become familiar with the music others play and the many dances they do. We have become wary of the things we could do and the things we could not do while we are in their country. They say, when in Rome, do what the Romans do. But how could we ever know what the Romans do if men did not travel as much as they did in the past and until today?

A wandering man reach places and discover the unknown. A motionless people remain trapped in the past.

And why would men travel vigorously if everywhere there were silk and porcelain? If every nation or country has the same kind of produce, environment and culture. If variety does not take place, men would rather stay home than roam.

Nowadays, those who travel the world are tourists and businessmen. Why would one be a tourist today if everywhere there were beaches and Buddhist temples and pyramids? Why would one travel the world and make business contacts across the continents if everywhere there are microchips or mangoes?


If I were born Caucasian, with bristled blond hair and skin pale as the cloud, I would not mind so much a white man walking our local streets for I will find no new things in him. But because I am of the Malay Race, I would be a little more interested in him if he materializes in my presence. I would probably ask his country of birth and the concerns he has in life, the things he does for his daily bread. With some probability, he would more or less ask for my name also, the place where I reside and the things I do everyday. And possibly, he could become my friend and perhaps offers me opportunities in his land of milk and honey. We could not say what opportunities that might come our way through meeting other people from some faraway land. Or perhaps I could assist him in finding the best antiques in town and we could go to our house for dinner after that. There are many stories like that. The basic difference in the way a man look brings people closer and gives forth more understanding among them.

In the old times, an ancestor of ours might have asked why a Spaniard’s hair was blond, his skin pale and his tongue queer. Or an Italian coming in peace may have asked if gold was abundant here for he has some fine leather shoes in his baggage that may be of interest to the natives.

Let us imagine also if we all have the same faith and religion. To what form of belief would my faith differ from if there were no other religion but my religion? To what other form of belief would I compare my faith from if there are no other faith but mine? How could I say the color purple is the finest if there is none other shade existing but purple? How would I value and accept my faith the more if I do not have a point of comparison?

The matter of faith is of course not a matter of comparison but a matter of truth. But if man is indeed a little vain by nature--where man is an imperfect creation--then man would always look at their possession and belief in contrast to others. Why would I gleefully wear my leather shoes made of fine Italian craftsmanship if all others wear the same? How do I see my faith in comparison to others? That is man, imperfect and tainted with vanity. Do we still argue on this point? If we say men should not be vain, then we are imagining a different creature. It is not altogether proper to say that men hold their faith in vanity, but it would do them good to appreciate their own faith in contrast to others, to hold it so dearly and then to follow its edict so diligently.

In order to see white, we must also see black. The diversity of man’s faith is to see white from black without saying that either black or white is the more enlightened.

Let us walk further into these meanderings. If we wish that all men should be Christians or Muslims all, then it should be upon the premise that we all are of the same race and culture, and that would be an impracticality of nature and of circumstance. Even if such spiritual utopia is possible, it would take humanity thousands of years of struggle and strife to achieve such peak level of unity in spiritual mind and purpose.

A Jew like Jesus Christ, the Son of God, may have walked the hills and valleys of China yet he would not have been as acceptable and as effective. If he had walked in the land of Arabs, he would have been in the most precarious position. Imagine if Prophet Mohammad (Peace be upon Him) walked the lands of the Jews or Hindus, he would not have had much impact or enough ground to take off. If Buddha walked the streets of England, he would have been relegated to the status of a minor spiritualist, an inconsequential oriental spiritual master.

In the olden times, perhaps until now, to teach the Chinese people about faith, a preacher must be a also china man in order for education to be full and fruitful, moving within the structure of the Chinese culture. For the matter of faith is fragile when culture clashes, and in fact blood are often spilt as it had been in the past, where men in great number died for and in behalf of religion.

Today, an American preacher may teach the words of God to his Chinese followers and may have some success, as humanity today has grown mature. In the olden times, this is a highly impractical task.

Now, is there one true religion? The answer to this inquiry is highly debatable, ever since and up to now, where no particular religion could claim the truth upon incontrovertible facts. They may present all the thesis and hypothesis, invoking even all the historical fossil and yet not one sect could come up with conclusions beyond reasonable doubt, that the argument may take the debaters through hundred days and hundred nights of professing and arguing, to somnambulate with passion, to be so wise in words and actuations, and yet the clash of ideas and principles would not meet a delta of unity, at least a significant unity. The debate may not end but there is a premise where all could concur, a premise that declares that even before the word “Catholic” or “Islam” was invented, there is already Him, the Creator of All Things. Is God a follower of Muhammad or of Buddha? Certainly not-- He is the One to be followed and not the One to follow.

And when every religion speaks of good against evil, why should we then squander our mind upon the inconsequential differences? When every religion preaches the belief in a Greater Being as the Father of All Things, at which point or significant matter do we really differ? Is the Caucasian a lesser man just because he has blond hair and not black as Asians have? Is the African becomes a lesser man just because he has darker skin? Is rice a lesser food just because it does not grow from under ground like potatoes does? Is the language Filipino becomes a false language just because it is not as widely used as English?

Do I become a false human being just because I am a Filipino or a Jew or an Arab or an American?

When men have been created differently from each other, born in different civilizations and culture, is it for us then to expect that we all have the same religion? Is it for all of us to expect that we all eat rice or drink tea on a sunlit afternoon?

My blood brother does not look like me nor talk like me. He does not act like me or believe the things that I believed and yet he is my brother. My brother is not like me and yet he is my brother.

I may eat some other kind of food and speak a different tongue but you could not say I am a false human being. You like to sing popular music while I hum lullabies in the stillness of the night yet that does not make me a false man. You eat with chopsticks while I eat with spoon and fork and yet you could not say I am a false human being.

Religions are the embodiment of ethics that leads us all towards the good and away from evil and they become an important aspect of our humanity. Religion purifies us and structures our faith within the confines of disciplines in order that we may not go astray. We are like the water siphoned-off of the many impurities it carries and religion is the mesh that cleanses this water.

Religion must not lead us to violence, prejudice and contempt. It is only to evil things and to evil men that we should be prejudicial and contemptuous.

There must be a brotherhood of man in order for us to diffuse widespread violence and contempt among men today. We must accept others as brothers and sisters without regards for race and geography, and most importantly, without regards to faith. The diversity of humanity is something that we should accept as a mechanism for unity, and not a cause for quarrel, for in synergy there is diversity.

Diversity in the world has its purpose for without it, this world would not turn and revolve, as it turns and revolve for us now, in order to create and recreate the truest meaning of life, so that the potentialities of mankind are exhausted. For no matter the mass of norms and standards that had been laid upon our consciousness and no matter how we accept them as part of our reality, there is always something out there for us to search and wonder upon, that if it reaches the point where a man loses his sense of wonderment, it is the time that he loses the true meaning of life.

Would you want to eat the same viand over and over again? Would you rather see and visit the same places over and over again?

In the concept of the real brotherhood of man, the key towards lasting peace and harmony in this world, as the Creator had desired it to be, is acceptance and understanding of the differences of man. To be different is to be interesting. To be different is to understand others.

Note: Some chapters of "The Night of Angels" have alreafy been published in this blog and in some of my other blogs that could be found in the links provided in the sidebar.

November 06, 2005

Fleeting Clouds In The Night

San Beda might have been somewhere in my past memory if only memories were so affirmatively credible every time. The minute I went there, I thought I had known just how those gothic buildings would have looked like; as if I had previously walked those high-ceilinged halls before, where my shoes would click and clack like horses' hooves. I felt a little de ja vu as I roamed those halls with their handsomely checkered floors. I must have loved temples and mansions in my past life.

So much of the past was in my mind.

I burned candles for nearly four months in order to refresh my grasp of those mountains and mountains of law books, as if I had any grasp at all. I rented a room less than a kilometer away from San Beda and for most of my stay in Manila; I must have walked the length between the law school and the boarding house a million times over.

I felt comfortable the minute I stepped into my boarding school. My room was overlooking the busy street of Legarda while facing the northern sky.

At night, I sat in near the window and watch the motorcars speed through the street below. I relaxed my tired mind by listening to my Walkman, letting my consciousness slip slowly into sleepiness.

As I gazed towards the night sky, a very bright star near the sky summit always took my attention. Every night, I could see that star at the places it usually appears, treading the same path in the sky consistently. I had realized then that navigation thru the guidance of those heavenly bodies could be so accurate that even in the ancient times, men find faraway places by merely staring at the night sky.

It is one those nights typical in Manila, windy and wet. The clouds would move easily that they have patent fragility. The clouds were too dynamic that I indicted Manila to be a place of queer weather. I thought that back in Zamboanga, the clouds never moved like this. I pitied the Manila indeed, always struggling against typhoons and hurricanes. A city with the burden of being the capital of a nation and at the same time bugged with hellish winds.

One night, the movement of the clouds started to move so queerly that I decided that was not the weather anymore. The thin clouds would seem to break out, then close in again. Sooner, I thought I saw the shape of a man. Then there were the winged horses. Then there appeared also a shapely woman in white gown.

I retreated back to my room thinking my mind merely needed rest. Too much reading may have affected my visions that I started seeing things.

Inside my room, I sat in front of my study table and proceeded to read. My head started to move independently, sideways then all around, until it got plastered facing the wall. I could see shadows and then figures began to move. The shape of a boat took shape and at both ends were two little beings that looked like the form of aliens usually depicted in movies, hairless heads and thin body structures. Again I questioned my senses and proceed to the living room and gasped for air. I started to worry then about my sanity. In my past readings, seeing things is a symptom of schizophrenia. This may be it, I thought. I was already losing my mind.

I recollected myself and began to calculate my entire person. How does an insane man think and behave. Am I of the unusual behavior? I had also asked myself. Do I talk senselessly? Am I still able to acquaint with the usual people I know?

After such inquiry, I concluded so determinedly that indeed, there is no marked changes in the way I behaved and relate with others. I am still able to have the common notions and senses. If I were not insane, then only one thing was deductible—the visions is a reality that I must accept. I tucked my thoughts through a deep sleep, hoping somehow that whatever defect of mind that bothers or would be bothering me would soon go away.

And yet, the night after, I looked at the sky again and the clouds behaved as usual—so fleeting and fragile—and the bright star that I have mentioned earlier shone the brighter than the night ago.

When the clouds began to form figures again, I did not retreat anymore to my room and instead tolerated what was then to me was a huge stage show in the night sky.

As I trained my sight so carefully, in the middle of the sky appeared a figure of a person with wings extending towards its sides. It was an angel, as we know them through stories and movies, cloth in a long white garment and wings so white that it almost shone. Such image stayed there for a long time that it had seemed that it had merely served a center point of the entire visions. At the farther left of the sky, I saw clouds in the shape of a ship of the ancient form, with huge mast and sails, voyaging towards the eastern side of the sky until it faded as the clouds soon disintegrated into thin parcels of smoke. Then I saw the figure of a man, also sailing by from the left of the sky heading to the right. Despite the distance, I could see that the he looked like a Chinese man with a headgear, and he was smiling. If Genghis khan were photographed before he died, the man would have resembled him. That was the thought that immediately came into my mind.

I returned my attention towards the middle and there were the winged horses trotting the center of the sky, in circling motions, so steadfast and so gallantly.

Those were my initial visions.

The night after, the visions became more lucid that the angel in the middle of the sky showed me a dance that was somehow familiar and yet altogether unique.

The angel spread its wings again and again and I just stared. This particular vision was so clear that some tears flowed from my eyes as I realized that the visions had already transgressed the bounds of reality, as I know it then. I became so concern that one of my companion in the boarding house might come and find me in such unusual condition—staring vehemently at the sky while my eyes were wet with tears. One of them, Alexis, was just nearby at that particular moment, reading in the living room just outside my room. In later times, I had felt the notion to tell Alexis about the vision since he was the closest to me--sharing the room I had-- but most of me relented because again, that would only propel the suspicion of insanity. In the mind-numbing mad rush towards the bar examination, many had lost their minds in the past.

So I just stared at the angel and marveled at the sight. I could feel a little rising in my emotions and a general feeling of gratefulness.

The angel kept on spreading its wings, again and again; that I thought it wanted me to follow such movement. My head nodded independently. I took this as an instruction so I spread my arms while being so wary that some of my mates would suddenly come in towards my direction and deduce insanity.

Then the angel's arms showed as apart from its wide wings. It swayed its arms towards the right side of its body in a circling motion and I followed it. Then its arms went back to the middle of its chest, while its palms were open, and then I followed suit. The arms swayed to the left of its side, and I also followed suit. After a while, the Angel moved its arms in circling motions that were so complicated that I was not able to follow it as it slowly faded away.

That part of the vision was the mesmerizing of all for it was the one that exhibited a lot of movements that naturally ordinary clouds could not do. This is perhaps more coherent than the vision of a bearded man sitting on the throne. About the bearded man, I saw a huge throne and the man sitting on it. If my notions were not wrong, I reckoned it looked like Jesus Christ in clean white raiment. But this vision was static compared to the dancing angel where there was dynamism of mobility that had clearly erased whatever doubts I had of the phenomenon.

The morning after, while still embraced the foggy streets of Manila, I recreated the dance I had witnessed the night before. I planted my feet in a fairly wide position and swayed my hands from left to right, just like the angels did. I did the routines as far as my memory could serve me right. Then after a while, my hands started to move by themselves that on its own it had seemed, my hands repeated the complicated movements that the angel made, the ones that I was not able to follow well the night before.

The dance drew some lightness of being inside me that it felt good always to recreate them. It was sort of habit forming, an addictive action. There was such lightness of being that I felt floating above air when I walked. I felt my hands and I could feel some force in it, a trapped wind beneath my palms that whenever I held my hands against a surface, I could feel a palpable force underneath, a kind of a magnetic force. And my body started to move queerly at times, a sort of an independent force was controlling my movement and from my mouth the sound of a bird's chirping came out too often. I would sway to one side and to another without intending to move. I would walk into directions that I never intended to head.

There was a visible smirk on my face whenever I walked the streets or the hallways of San Beda. The phenomenon of angels had given me such giddiness that humored my mind to no end. How could such things happen? I asked and meandered upon myself and why of all people it had happened to me? I must be the "chosen one" I was tempted to deduce. For what purpose that I was chosen was not yet apparent to me at that time.

The review for the law examinations had gotten more intense. By the end of July, all the students were priming up for the big month, which was September.

I had been tenacious with my reading in order to recompense for the poor quality of my law foundations, the result of boredom and frequent inattentiveness at school during my college years. As September approached, I even forgot to eat at times.

The "night calls" of the angels somehow tempered the rigidity of readings. And because of the queerness of my body movements, I felt so strongly that I gained the attention of many. They were good attentions although I could feel some look that decided that I had gone haywire in the head. Most of the attentions however were of the inquisitive kind; the way one looks upon an exploding mystery. In the library, when I thought no one was looking my way, I would sway my hands to recreate the dance of the angel. The dance always relieved me of stress, especially when my readings became so ardent and straining. Obviously, some of the students noticed me that some of my acquaintance started to inquire about the strange movements I made with my hands. I felt embarrassed by the inquiries so I had no recourse but to explain it. I could not explain it to them as factual as possible for I felt it would be too much for them to accept and then it would only lead them to the belief that my mind had already succumbed to the pressure of the bar preparations. So I put up a comfortable lie. I told them that I was a practitioner of a Chinese form of meditation and I sway my hands in order to relieve me of stress.

My comfortable lie might have been convincing that instead of shying away from me, most of my acquaintance became interested in the movements of my hands. They wanted me to teach it to them. I said I had no luxury of time to become their Chinese meditation master. They liked it many condescended because of the harmony and synchronicity of my palms swaying thru and fro.

Some threw me a disconcerted look. Some stares were stained with disparagement. And then there were those with amazement in their eyes.

I seemed to be easily get blown by the wind that I had to readjust the angle of my footing or walk in order to evade the whipping of heavy breeze. When I stood still, some force was tugging me towards some direction that perhaps many observed it so keenly and decided fairly that I was not just making them up.

The inquiries about my condition had become more prevalent but still, I had not yet gained the proper mindset to divulge the truth about my visions as the cause of these strange movements. I continue to hide under the lie of a Chinese meditation. Perhaps, my lie was somehow weak in some point, there were gossips going around that I was really going haywire in the head. The talk spread like wild fire that it had reached my hometown of Zamboanga. Apparently, one of the barristers preparing for the examinations was my town mate. I did not know her so much because she was from the lower years though her face was familiar to me. I received messages in my cell phone from friends back in Zamboanga, advising me to slow down and take some breather. I felt disturbed by the gossips running around in San Beda and as far as back home. But I easily set it aside for I felt that someday they would know the truth about all these matters.

From A Prophet's Life: An Autobiography. See Link On My Sidebar.

Tuba