Monday, July 14, 2014

Three Messages That Tells Me My President is Arrogant

Tatlong mensahe na nakuha ko sa DAP explanation ni PNoy. Three things that I heard from what PNoy said about his DAP explanation.

1.       “Presidente ako, kaya puede ko gastusin ang pera ng kahit sino”
-          The President can use and transfer the use of any savings from other appropriated budget according to the Administrative Order he has cited. It doesn’t matter whose money is it, the Philippine president is the most powerful person in the country and so he can touch and use anybody’s money whenever he wants to. It doesn’t matter if it was indeed appropriated and approved by congress, the president can appropriate the money according to his own budget. After all, DAP is not PDAF. According to PNoy, hindi naman pumunta sa NGO ni Napoles ang DAP kaya magkaiba yun sa PDAF. Regardless if the budget were diverted illegally, napunta naman sa mabuti kaya OK lang na i-manipulate ang budget appropriations.

2.       “Mali sila, dahil tama ako.”
-          The Supreme Court is wrong in their decision for the simple reason that they do not agree with the President’s interpretation of the law. It implies that only and only the President’s understanding and interpretation of the law is the correct interpretation. Any other interpretation by the 13 magistrates who have dedicated their lives in studying and upholding the law are definitely mistakes. I can even hear the threat to the SC, when he said “gusto nila ng personalan.” I will not wonder if another “Corona Impeachment” will happen to any of the justices sometime soon.

3.       “It’s okay to disobey the law, as long as your intentions are good.”
-          Obviously, for PNoy, the end justifies the means. Yes, even if it means breaking the law. Using the example of parking on a “no parking zone,” PNoy justifies that even if DAP was deemed illegal, it is still to be lauded for the good intentions of the program. We should not wait for another two years following proper procedure to use the money saved. Forget the bureaucratic procedure. It is okay to disobey the law, as long as one aims to help the needy. It is okay to beat the traffic light because you are rushing to help another. It is okay to steal, because you will give the money to the poor. It is okay to kill a person because you will save the innocent. I can hear PNoy shout at me saying, “Let us forget the law and order, and do what is convenient in the guise of doing good towards a matuwid na daan.”

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Para Kay Pepe sa Iyong Kaarawan

Pareng Pepe,

Isang maalab na pagbati mula sa mga bagong bayani. Oo, mga bayani daw kami. Hinahanay kami sa mga katulad mo at ilan pang nagbuwis ng kanilang buhay para sa ating bayan. Marahil tinawag kami ng gobyerno na mga bayani dahil inaaasa nila sa amin ang pag-angat ng bayan na dapat sana'y kanilang sinumpaang tungkulin. Ngunit ang liham na ito ay hindi pagpuna sa kakulangan ng gobyerno. Mahirap pag-aksayahan ng panahon ang hindi nagbibigay ng tamang panahon para sa iyo. Nais ko lamang gunitain ang iyong kaarawan bilang tanda ng pasasalamat sa Poong Maykapal sa ginamit niyang buhay bilang huwarang Kristiyano upang mapulutan ng aral ng kapwa Pilipino.

Ang iyong dedikasyon sa pagpapahalaga sa kapakanan ng iyong kapwa Pilipino ay tanda ng isang mabuting Kristiyano. Katulad ng isa sa mga mahalagang pangaral ni Hesus, "mahalin mo ang iyong kapwa katulad ng iyong sarili, (Marcos 12:31)" ang buhay mo ay naging halimbawa ng aral na ito. Hindi mo inalintana ang mga puedeng mangyari sa iyo, sa iyong pamilya at sa sarili mong buhay alang-alang sa ikabubuti ng maraming Pilipinong nagdurusa sa pang-aabuso at kawalang ng hustisya. Nagbunga ang iyong mga pasakit at nakalaya nga ang iyong bansa mula sa mga dayuhang mananakop. Ngunit nakalaya nga ba sila sa mga pahirap ng pang-aabuso at walang katarungan?

Ang tinuro sa iyo ng nanay mo na magdasal sa Diyos ay dala mo hanggang sa huling hininga mo. Hindi ka nakalimot sa iyong Diyos sa lahat ng pagkakataon lalo't higit sa mga panahong ikaw ay sinusubok. Ang tunay na Kristiyano ay laging inuuna ang kanyang Panginoon sa lahat ng bagay. Hindi ka nakalimot sa kung ano ang tunay na mahalaga. Nang ang simbahan ay lumihis sa turo ng Biblia, binatikos mo ito. Hindi ka lumayo, bagkos ang pag-ibig mo sa Diyos ang naging dahilan ng pagtuligsa mo sa mga mali na iyong nakikita. Hanggang sa huli, nananalig ka sa Diyos at siya ang iyong naging sandalan. Ang paglapit mo sa Panginoon sa huling sandali ng iyong buhay ay tanda ng mataimtim na pananampalataya na dapat tularan. Ang hinahon ng Diyos ay bakas sa iyong mukha bilang tanda ng lubos na pagsuko ng iyong buhay sa Kanya.

Ikaw ay bayani. Ngunit huwaran ka ding Kristiyanong matuturing. Nawa'y ang iyong halimbawa ay makita at maging inspirasyon para sa mga sisibol na tunay na bagong bayani.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

A Daughter's Love for Her Mother: A Kidney Transplant Story

I just want to appreciate my sister who donated her kidney to our mother who has end-stage renal disease. God has a plan but we never saw it.

When there was too little option for a donor for our mother, we started looking for relatives. Although it may have higher chances of familial disease, we had to take the chance. Now there were only a handful of our relatives who were willing to donate their kidneys. You can count them on one hand. However, all of them failed the matching test. Then we started looking to those people beside us. We candidly asked ourselves, would anybody from the family would like to donate a kidney to mom?

How much does a child love one's parent when the child is not willing to donate a kidney? Would donating a kidney a test of a child's love to one's parent? Maybe not. But how much then does the child love the parent?

A child choosing not to donate a kidney to one's parent is not a measure of a child's love to the parent. But donating a kidney to one's parent speaks a thousand words.

People ask, why would a daughter donate her kidney to her mother?

She never answered it. She just did. Even the ethics committee never bothered to ask the question because they saw the answers in her eyes.

My sister is a social worker. She once explained to me why she loves doing good deeds. I always thought she would do good deeds because as Christians that is expected of us. I never understood what she meant when she explained that most people would imitate a movie star idol or an athlete. She was doing good to imitate Christ. Jesus sacrificed his body, his career, his future and eventually his life for other people's sake. I never thought my sister would go that far imitating Christ.

When it was time to have the transplant, every body was anxious. What will happen? Will it be successful? What if something goes wrong? What if the kidney was rejected by the body?

It was a test of faith. It was a simple pure surrender to God's plan. It helped that we are a God fearing family. It is cliché that "a family that prays together, stays together."

More than that, there were people, relatives, church family and friends who showed support. It was an outpouring of God's love through the people around us.

Then the time has come. The nurses and the doctor came to the room. There was silence. As the nurses prepared my sister, she was calm. Everything was set, then they started rolling her bed out of the room. There was one last thing that needs to be done. The family gathered around her... and Auntie Bing, who is a clergy, thanked God for a daughter's courageous act... The doctor assured her, the single kidney she will donate is healthy enough to support her mother. My brother squeezed my sister's hand and said, "it is all part of God's plan"... tears fell.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

How to Celebrate a Birthday Away from Home

I have always emphasized the importance of celebrating birthdays. No, I do not mean that I love to party. Christians should always be grateful to God's goodness. Nothing more important to be thankful than to the life God has breathed on us. Our birth-days are a reminder of the gift of life God has graciously given to us. We ourselves celebrate in gratefulness to the life God has given us and the opportunity to experience life and worship God.

As Christians, our family members and friends must celebrate birthdays with us. They are the people God blesses through our life (I hope). Our family and friends show their thanksgiving to God for the blessings that flows through our Christian life. But what if we are far from our family and friends? How do we celebrate?

I am out of town to begin a new job - in the Middle East - with not too many Christians around me. How can I show gratitude to God? How can I share the celebration with my family and friends? To add spice, how can I praise God among non-Christians?

This is not the first time that I will celebrate my birthday away from the closest people in my heart. I have always wondered though how to celebrate my birthday if it was a thanksgiving for God's gift of life to me.  I did three simple ways  to celebrate my birthday perfectly.

- First, you've guess it right - I prayed. Of course, we talk to God and express our gratitude for our life and the blessings in the previous years. We also thank God for the opportunity to be a channel of blessing to more people in the coming years.

- Second, dine with your family and friends through Skype. While there is no substitute for physical presence - it is never the measure of fellowship. We Christians have long known that physical presence or absence does not define our relationship with our fellow Christians. Even time cannot be a hindrance to our fellowship with other Christians of old and the future we anticipate. As such, our fellowship can be spiced up by the social media available in our finger tips.

- Third, receive a gift. A gift is offered to show how special is the person. God gives us gifts because we are special to God. Birthday gifts for us are expressions of how meaningful and special we are to others. But more than that, receiving gifts is a reflection of how important we are to God. Now since, I am alone - I bought myself a gift that tells me I am special.

These three simple ways was the best way to celebrate a birthday away from home. It made me happy. I saw my family and friends happy as well. I am sure God is happy too.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Three Things a Former Secretary of Health Taught Me


The Dr. Alfred Bengzon, the former Secretary of Health now the CEO of Medical City, met to welcome us in the Medical City family. He shared his insights and thoughts in his 5 decades of being a medical professional. In our meeting, I learned three things from him:


1.       “Doctor’s should go beyond medicine” 
2.       “Heroes can come from the government”
3.       “Patients are partners”

I appreciated that Dr. Bengzon opened our meeting with a prayer from Bishop Desmond Tutu. He said it was something that he wants to be done in all other meetings. We were off to a good start.

The first thought that really had a big message for me was when Dr. Bengzon shared how he was able to appreciate being a doctor by going beyond the scope of medicine. He shared his story how a doctor like him ended up being a manager and taking an Master’s in Business Administration in Ateneo. But that “deviation” from the field of medicine allowed him to have a wider perspective and appreciation of medicine.  He was resolute to tell us that doctors must not only know medicine. He asked me who I was and what’s special about me and I told him that I am a doctor and a physician – the wholistic approach to medicine in person. Our talk turned to spirituality and I was impressed by his wide knowledge of the subject. He talked about Mitch Albom and his books and offered some of his insights on the topic of spirituality. He asked about how a loving God would allow unrepentant people to go to hell. He left it for us to theologize on it. He admonished the other doctors to also read Albom’s “Tuesday’s with Morrie” and not just be limited to their Schwartz, Harrison’s or del Mundo’s. He reminded us that doctors will be able to appreciate medicine better if they know other than medicine.

The second thing I learned from the good doctor is that heroes can still come from the government sector. The recent current events and forever have focused on how government officials and their cohorts have been stealing the people’s money. The inefficiency and ineptitude of the government to address the country’s problem has been an acceptable fact for many. But Dr. Bengzon told the story of an underpaid midwife in the mountainous typhoon-zone part of northern Luzon and her dedication to uplifting the health condition of her community. The midwife would travel on foot for several hours climbing mountains and crossing rivers just to be able to deliver vaccines for the children. Not even her surgical operation that required her to rest could stop her from performing her duty. It was no wonder that she died in the line of duty because she drowned when she was caught by a flashflood while crossing the river one stormy season. Some people in the government are still doing their best to improve the health condition of others. There are still heroes in the government. The field of medicine is like that – sacrificing more of ourselves for the health of others. Medicine is service oriented. He reminded us to help the government in serving the people because anybody can be a hero even in their own little way.

The third lesson I learned from Dr. Bengzon is in looking at the patient as partners in health. This concept has been taught to me in my residency training as a medical doctor and was not something new. But the experience and the examples he gave made it real and practical. It was no longer just a concept. He shared how one of his protégé applied the concept that patient are partners through the design of his clinic. The clinic did not have the traditional doctor’s table where the doctor sat on one side and the patient on the other side while the medical consult is ongoing. Rather, the clinic only had a couch and a center table. The doctor and the patient sat in the same couch to emphasize that the doctor-patient relationship was a partnership. The clinic structure allows the patient to look at the doctor at eye level and sit shoulder to shoulder to emphasize that both of them works in partnership and has equal role in the patient’s health. Dr. Bengzon reminded us how doctors love to go ego-tripping and that this culture must come to a stop. He challenged us new doctors that in our practice, we will treat our patients as partners who must also be given the responsibility and control of their own health.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Guest Post from a Typhoon Yolanda Reflection by Monalinda Cadiz

A postscript to faces of living hope

Sprawled in an orange and pink colored mat are a couple of diapers bundled with colorful, bulging eco bags.  Excited hands were untying gray, plastic bows, and female chatter was in the air.
“Wow! There’s also a baby dress set in our pack, I got a blue one...do you like this color for your baby boy?”  “Sure, thanks! Here, I’ll exchange with you this pink one-  suits your baby girl better.”
It was while observing these moments, amidst my frantic implementation of World Vision’s Women and Young Children Space (WAYCS) at the relief response in North Cebu, that I was reminded it was in fact the festive month of December.  Although the scene wasn’t kris-kringle, it appeared that Christmas wasn’t suspended afterall.  Not even in those parts, bulldozed just weeks earlier by typhoon Haiyan.  Surprisingly at that moment, seven mothers who were victims of an historic natural calamity would remind me not only of festivities to look forward to when I get home for the holidays after my deployment.  Marie, Myrna, Rossan,Shirley, Cris, Fe, and Marilou-  these women wore a burst of a refreshing aura in the aftermath of the Haiyan disaster- the human face of living hope.  
Inside that WAYCS tent in the village of Bagay of Daanbantayan town, breastfeeding babies succumbing to sleep were oblivious of their mothers’ excited remarks and frequent giggles.  If not for a breastfeeding poster behind one of the moms who was nursing her baby, the scene wouldn’t immediately appear to be an emergency tent put up to help mothers and their babies recuperate from the terrors of the calamity that had striken.  At that moment, there was hardly a trace that these women and their young ones were in a life-threatening situation just weeks earlier.
“I was still pregnant when Typhoon Yolanda came, which is why I had twice the fear.  The howling wind was so frightening, it’s the first time I heard the wind to be so angry.  The surroundings quickly turned gray during the day,” recalls Fe as she clutches her two-week old infant. 
“I hid under the sink holding my baby tightly.  I was so scared watching our house stripped of the whole roof over our heads, and the glass window smashed.  We were all rain-soaked and trembling of fear and the cold, but I held on to my child,” recalls Rosann. 
She invited us to see the house later on, a two-story structure seemingly skinned to the bone, with the family’s meager possessions inside piled up in mud and rubble.  Rossan picks up a baby shirt covered in mud, saying it’s good there was a replacement inside the infant kit she received from the WAYCS.  Pointing at a bed suspended on a door, she continued, “my baby and I were lying on that bed when the typhoon came.  We had to move the bed to seal the door from the angry wind; my husband went up to hang on to the roof, but the wind was stronger and lifted it,” says Rosanna, pointing to the open sky over head.
“But my baby did not get sick even after being soaked in rain and the displacement.  I believe it was my breastmilk that saved him- my baby Edson has been purely breastfed until six months,” proudly shares Rosann.  The other mothers nod in agreement, as if hearing the talk of the village midwife again, which emphasized on the life-saving potency of continued breastfeeding of babies.
Amidst what they went through, these mothers were among some 300 who would regularly troop to the WAYCS tent put up in Rosann’s village, on invitation by health workers.  They listened to the midwife or the local nurse discuss basic practices to ensure that proper nutrition and care of their young children is continued even in disaster situations.
“Honestly, it’s my first time to hear that it’s alright to breastfeed another baby other than your own.  I’ve always thought it was not good.  Older people in my neighborhood said that if you breastfeed especially a baby girl, you will become malnourished and your milk would dry up.  Your own baby would suffer because you won’t be able to feed it anymore.”
Marilou was happy that she attended the WAYCS when the midwife discussed breastfeeding because she learned that what she believed in was just a myth- now she knows the truth.   “Now I can help breastfeed the baby of my neighbor if its own mother cannot do it herself.  I have to tell my old neighbors about it,” continues Marilou.
It still amazes me to this day how these mothers managed to become attentive to new information, and think of others to whom they could share what they learned, considering their situation that time.  How can someone stripped of the comforts of normalcy, of life-long earned material belongings, perhaps in extreme situations- even loss of loved ones- live at the hard moment and look forward to a happy tommorow where they can’t wait to share what they newly acquired?
I remembered these raw images in the communities where World Vision responded in Cebu at the turn of the new year when I was already in the midst of holiday revelry in the comfort of home and family, when I received messages about hope for a new beginning.  It was not new in fact, but a rehash of that seasonal message theme.  Just like what Marilou experienced from the village WAYCS, it was as if I heard the information the first time in my life. 
A burst of gold in the horizon never failed to light up my way back to the city after a day at  the community.
The message of hope for new beginnings had a cohesive meaning when I heard them at the start of this year as I took stock of times past.  I remember my two-week interaction with community people in the disaster zone, the miniscule task I took which form part of a huge world response to the disaster, of overwhelming gestures of gratitude and generosity from sources in the community that are surprisingly, still coming from typhoon victims. 
I fumbled to recall those Greek words I last re-learned from Darrel Johnson-  kronos, the reality, tick-tack time of the moment,  and kairos,  the spiritual-level time, God’s time, and how they concretely met in the Haiyan response in the community.  I saw both the kronos and kairos times intersect because of the face of hope I saw in mothers and babies as their eyes locked at each other while breastfeeding, giving life to each other.  I could visualize the promise of a new beginning in mothers sharing their stories of survival and plans for the future.  Living hope is also materialized in village health workers working 24/7 to serve their community even when their own families were also victims of disaster.
Take Maribel, a registered nurse volunteer in Tabogon town in Nort Cebu, dedicated facilitator of World Vision’s WAYCS in two barangays.  She has five children, including a six-month old baby.  Maribel is the current family breadwinner because her husband recently underwent a major surgical operation of his liver.  Her house was also damaged by the typhoon and the whole family had to momentarily move to a sibling’s house. 
When Maribel rode back with me to Cebu City where she was scheduled to take an exam with the Department of Health, she confided that her family
did not receive relief goods.  She apparently missed the validation process because she was facilitating a session during the opening of the WAYCS in Somosa village and there was no one in their house.
“It’s alright, I don’t regret leaving my house to facilitate the opening of the WAYCS in the barangay and discussing the importance of breastfeeding to almost  a hundred mothers.  What I ask for from God now is to allow me to pass the RN Heals exam so I can continue to work for my community and support my family,” says Maribel.            
At that instance, she’s my living hope-  that despite her real-time struggles, she’s living up to her role as a nurse to bring the good news, like in reminding a distraught mother that she is naturally endowed with the capacity to nurture her baby.  Just like the seven mothers inside that WAYCS tent I spent some moments with as they exuded happy aura, reminding me there can be happiness at the core of gloom.  They all remind me that my vocation is like theirs, and everyone else’s- to be a living hope, just as Christ Jesus was.###
Sugarcane flowers adorn the hills in North Cebu, the previous typhoon path.
from monalindabc.blogspot.com

Monday, March 3, 2014

Cheap Ministry

I am having trouble understand why Christians love to think that it is OK that the ministry of God can be cheap or even free.

For example, you work as a missionary doctor for the church and you will earn only Php 20,000 a month ($500) and people will tell you that is OK because it is for God's ministry anyway.

Or a church member will tell you, let us get Church Member A as our accountant for the School because we can ask her to waive her professional fee or lower her PF, after all this can be her ministry.

Many other similar examples exist and all will tell you that ministry can be done with little expenses or for free. Of course that is a great strategy if you do not have the budget for your ministry.

And that is my problem. Too little money is spent in the ministry. It is like ministry can be cheap. Ministry then becomes a cheap ministry.

I look at how we spend for our different ministries as a symbol of the value we give to God's ministry. A cheap ministry is not a valued ministry. If you are willing to pay only Php 20,000 to your missionary doctor then you are not only telling the doctor that his value as a missionary is only that much compared to other doctors also healing the sick. If you want to waive the PF of the accountant you are not only telling the accountant that her value is only that much compared to other CPAs. Of course, the missionary doctor and the CPA will think that they have a lesser value than their counterparts. More than that, you are telling them that the ministry the doctor and the CPA are involved are not valued as much as well. The ministry they do is not as important as others.

Bo Sanchez wrote in his book The Abundance Formula that "money is merely a symbol of value." If he is correct, then how much you pay your missionaries is also how much you value them. How much you are willing to spend and put a budget on your ministry is also how much you value the ministry of God. Of course, there is more value to people than what money can pay them. But if we live our spiritual life in the context of the world, for we do not live in a vacuum, then in the language of monetary value our ministry is a cheap ministry.