Encounters with an Agnostic

Is God real?

Is the Bible telling the truth?

Is there a heaven?

Do I really hear God or am I just talking to myself?

This and many other similar questions were forced to surface in my mind again as I had a conversation with an agnostic friend. I have been forced to evaluate my beliefs which I’ve had for years and had never questioned. It felt like 15 years ago all over again when my beliefs were questioned by another agnostic friend. Only that time, I didn’t had the answers and I was forced to seek for them.

This time, I do have the answers. And though they may not satisfy his curious and wandering mind, my faith will nonetheless, never be shaken.

For you see, it is not a question of how I can prove that God exist. It is not a question of how I can be certain that I am not merely crazy for claiming that God can speak to me directly. Whatever intellectual question is thrown at me will no longer faze me.

I am intelligent. And I am wise. And if believing in God makes me look like a fool, then so be it.

For what I have now is an experience, an encounter, that no one can take away. I may not be as deeply rooted in all the intellectual stuff concerning the Bible, if God exists, etc. (despite having finished a year-long Bible course) but I am deeply rooted in my faith simply because I have encountered Him.

It is an encounter that transcends human knowledge – that bewilders human intellect. It is an encounter that is so personal, I know for a fact it is real.

And nothing anyone says can take that away.

The Peace in Mindanao

Image via Sun Star

This morning, during my usual commute to the office, I heard the radio commentator discussing the current situation in Mindanao. With the recent tragedy involving the SAF Elite Unit, it appears the peace process is compromised – possibly altogether abandoned.

He said that before we all rush into emotionally charged decisions, we should consider first all factors involved – rationally. The peace process gave hope to our fellow Filipinos in Mindanao. Not the rebels, but the civilians. Civilans who have become too scared to seek means of livelihood. Innocent children who have become too scared to go to school. Thousand of innocent Filipinos, caught in the crossfire between the government and the rebels. They are the ones for whom the peace process is for.

And with the recent skirmish, abandoning talks of peace process all over again, is akin to dashing that single shred of hope to bits and pieces. A shred of hope that for years they haven’t even the slightest idea was possible.

While it is true that we must grieve and mourn the fate of the Fallen 44, that we must sympathize with the families who have lost them, we should not let ourselves be consumed with our emotions to forego all rational thinking. After all, these brave men died for the very same thing many wants to abandon – peace.

The Bangsamoro Issue, these peace talks and peace process with Mindanao, these are all issues that I have heard over and over again. Back in college, I gained a better understanding about the Bangsamoro and their plight. I gained friends who were residents of Mindanao, proud to be so, and longing to see peace in their land. I know they deserve it. Like us, who fight for our basic rights, these people also deserve the most basic right anyone can get – peace.

With the recent momentum in the peace process, I shared their glimmer of hope. That finally, after so many years, peace will come to Mindanao. It was a shock when the masacre happened. It was a shock even more when people reacted so strongly to the point that they wanted to abandon the peace process. I even read some hate messages to simply wipe out the rebels.

It made me wonder: are we still humans? Are we still capable of love? forgiveness? peace? even in the midst of tragedy? Yes, it was a loss. But it was not just a loss on the military (or police’s) side. There was also lost in the MILF side. There were civilan casualties as well. But as a friend from Mindanao put it, why would the media care? Why would people care? The Fallen 44 were the glorious heroes. The fallen MILF were the bad guys. The fallen civilians were the extras.

War is a lose-lose situation. Each side will suffer. One side may win but at the expense of what? The best course is to really forge peace. Peace is a noble thing to aspire for. It will not come without a cost; without challenges. But we must hold on. We must desire it and fight for it to not deterioate.

What can we do? We can do the most powerful thing we can. PRAY. Pray for our leaders. Pray for the people in power who have the ability to move things. Pray that peace really happens this time. Pray for healing in the hearts of those who grieve. Those who are angry. Those who are ignorant. Prayer can do wonders. It is time we do our part.

Exploring an Old Gem

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Eversince I heard about Paco Park and discovered it was where Toni and Piolo shot a scene from their movie Starting Over Again with Iza Calzado, I put the place in my must-discover list in Metro Manila. I know it sounds too showbiz cliche but beyond the allusion to a local movie I wanted to discover what this place had in store. I knew it was historical but why I didn’t knew. So one sunny Sunday, I found myself making the short trip to Paco Park.

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The park is actually an old cemetery back in the days when Intramuros was a vibrant city. It’s the final resting place of Manila’s high society. In fact I saw several tombs with gravestones still in Spanish. Although majority of the tombs have been sealed off, inhabitants probably moved, there are several which remained (I think).

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Paco Park is also the burial place of the GOMBURZAS and Jose Rizal before he was moved to Luneta Park. The martyred priests were buried in a common grave while Jose Rizal was buried in an unmarked grave. His sisters had to look for him in various graves and when they discovered the correct one they marked it RPJ then later had the body exhumed. Upon exhuming they realized that he was buried without any coffin. His urn was kept in the house of his sister Nerissa before being buried in Luneta Park in 1912.

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The park is a quaint, quiet place amid the bustling city. It’s a favorite venue for weddings although I find it weird to get married in a former cemetery more so to have your reception in the place. But when I visited there was an entourage having their reception in one of the enclaves and another one having their wedding pictorial long after their wedding ceremony has ended.

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Will I return? Probably. To go for a leisure stroll, some introspection perhaps or maybe to have endless chat with a special someone.

Paca Park is open daily from 7am-5pm although there’s a mass on the chapel every Sundays at 6:00am, 5:00pm and 6:00pm. Entrance is P10 but it seems if you are just going there for the mass then entrance is free. Though how they distinguish whose there for the mass and there to stroll around is beyond me.

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