Saturday, 19 July 2014

Killing Children

Children have suffered, or have been killed, in conflicts or war in many parts of the world today. We’ve already read of the young and the innocent shot in schools by fools who have no respect for life. Most disturbing, though, are the senseless death of children in the hands of parents or their close relatives.

In the month of July 2014, we read of disturbing news about murdered children.

On July 8, Dayana Valencia, a 5-year-old girl, tried to stop her stepfather from attacking her mother, Facunda Velenzuelaleon, in their home in Kootenai County, Idaho.

The killer confessed to strangling his wife and to killing the child because she hit him as he was attacking his wife.

The crime was committed after the killer learned that his wife confessed to cheating on him during a trip to California. Dayana’s body had cut marks in her neck, throat and chin — and she had an electrical cord wrapped around her neck. The killer spared his two biological children by bringing them to a friend’s house prior to the killing.

On July 9 in Spring, Houston, Ronald Lee Haskell entered the Stay family home looking for Katie Stay’s sister whom he had been divorced. Failing to obtain an answer, Haskell shot Katie, her husband and their five children, aged 4 to 15.

One child, Cassidy, the eldest, whose skull was fractured by a bullet, played dead until the killer left. She immediately called the police to prevent him from killing her grandparents. The police intercepted the man before he could continue his killing spree.

The 15-year-old girl, in an interview, said that she felt as if angels were with her whispering to her to be quiet during the attack.

On July 10, a news item told of the Utah police announcement that Megan Huntsman, 36, admitted that she killed six of her newborns (from 1996 to 2006) and stored their bodies in a garage as “she was high on drugs and didn’t want the babies or the responsibility.”

It is incomprehensible that some people commit such horrendous crimes. Surely the justice system shall give them due punishment.

But what is far worse than the three instances is the institutional murder of children. Governments in a number of countries have allowed abortion, some with conditions, while others unconditionally.

For instance, Great Britain’s Abortion Act of 1967 permits abortion for a variety of reasons if certified by two physicians. In Canada, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that abortion is legal for any reason at any stage of pregnancy.

In Sweden, abortion is legal in all circumstances within the first 18 weeks of pregnancy. Most shocking is Russia, where more babies are aborted than those who live,
and in China, where there is no defined time limits to access to the procedure.

What has become of the world? Do we not realize how precious the children are?

"See that you do not look down on one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven.” (Matthew 18:10)

Sunday, 6 July 2014

In A Woman

I received a call early in the morning of June 23 from one of the organizers of an event that honors women, asking me if I could write a poem to be read during the awarding ceremony.

As I rode on the bus towards my workplace, I scribbled a few verses of the poem I titled, “In a Woman.” It was not difficult. I remembered my late mother, Milagros Batulan, who dedicated her life to care for us, her children.

I recalled the times she accompanied me to the dentist when my tooth ached and when she bought me supplies in Sen Hiap Hing at the start of the school year. I could see her smile as she listened to my inaugural speech as national president of the Philippine Institute of Certified Public Accountants.

I also thought about my wife, Debbie, who cared for our three children, bringing them to school and attending to important occasions in their lives.

I thought about my daughter Jam as she raises her two kids while working as nurse on weekdays. I thought about my daughter-in-law Krizia looking after her baby.

We find so much inspiration in the labor and love of women to their children, in the sacrifices they make to feed and raise their offspring, in their contributions to make the world a better place to live in.

It brought me to thinking about Mary, the mother of Jesus, who carried the Holy Child in her womb, raised him towards maturity and witnessed his death on the cross.

The poem was completed within the day. On June 28, I read it before the eight women that were recognised. The room fell silent except for my voice (I was never asked to read a poem in public before), and not only could I feel the joy in the eyes of the awardees but those of most of the women in the audience as well.

The organizers had placed copies of my poem in picture frames and given to each of the awardees. I felt humbled when the daughter of one of the recipients asked me to affix my signature.

Here is the poem I wrote for all the women in the world:

In a woman’s womb/Is sown the life of the earth/A child shall be born/To ensure every tomorrow/

In a woman’s eyes/Is seen the splendour/Of the seas and the skies/Of the creations from Above/

In the woman’s mouth /Comes the warmth of words/Of care and assurance/That we are never alone/

In the woman’s hands/We feel the touch of affection/The grip of protection/The refuge of helplessness/

In a woman’s heart/Is a limitless amount of love/ To a child, to a husband, to all/To fill the world with joyfulness/

In a woman’s soul/Is the presence of the God/Whose only Son was conceived/In Mary, the Queen of the Universe//

Woman,/You are the precious gift/Of heaven to humanity/You are the most cherished treasure//

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

No Superheroes. Angels Yes.

In Acts 12:1-11, we are told about how St Peter escaped from prison through the help of an angel. When he had reached a safe place, the angel disappeared and “then Peter recovered his senses and said, “Now I know for certain that the Lord sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people had been expecting.”

During our gathering among TawagAwit members on 29 June, I posed the question, “Do you believe in angels?” Everyone nodded their heads.

Sis Debbie, an Auckland resident, told about Joel C., a neighbor in Cebu, who believes that he has the gift of discernment.   Visiting Cebu to repair her house and look for an occupant, she had a chance to chat with Joel who told her. “You know Debbie, as you arrived, I saw ten angels accompanying you.”

Of course, she was surprised. But she was amazed of the positive things that happened thereafter, including finding a lessee who agreed to pay advance rental for one year!

Bro Ferdie, for his part, told us on how difficult it is to find a parking space in the University of Auckland when he fetches his daughter.  He says a short prayer for an angel to help him, and always he finds a space.

Counting the number of times angels are mentioned in the Bible, the total is 273.  Two of those read: "Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents." (Luke 15:10) and “And I saw another angel flying through the sky, carrying the eternal Good News to proclaim to the people who belong to this world—to every nation, tribe, language, and people.” (Revelation 14:6) 

Superheroes are unreal. Angels? They are real, and you can always count on them in times of distress.

Monday, 5 May 2014

Two Saints

The Catholic Church welcomed two saints – St John XXIII and St John Paul II – on April 27, 2014 when Pope Francis canonized the two past popes to become members of the Communion of Saints.

After the celebratory feast on Easter Sunday, the faithful were gifted with the sainthood of two men who had differing paths, yet have contributed to Catholicism remaining as a vanguard against the changing morals of modern times.

St John XXIII through Vatican Council II made the Mass speak in many languages and allowed people to actively participate. St John Paul II, in his long period of papacy, was a pilgrim pope who tirelessly brought the Gospel to the four corners of the world and touched the young through the World Youth Day.  He was also the pope who canonized as saints the most number of holy people and martyrs in the Church’s history.

There have been issues regarding the canonization of the two popes, not just on the speed of the process, but also on their teachings and legacies. But one writer said, “Without assessing those objections, it’s worth noting that whenever a pope is beatified or canonized, Vatican officials insist it’s not tantamount to a declaration that every policy choice during their papacy was beyond reproach. It’s rather a statement that despite their human failures, they strove to live a holy life worthy of imitation.”

Let us rejoice and be glad for our new two saints. Let us make them our models for even with their human weaknesses, they offered their lives fully for Christ. I hear St John XXIII and St John Paul II resonate what St Paul told the Corinthians, “Be imitators of me as I also am of Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1).

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Black Sheep

He was the black sheep of the family.   He was the eldest son of my father, out of wedlock. He lived with us and we called him “Noy Warren”. While the rest of us put school first in our young lives, he was engaged with friends in the neighborhood (called estambays). As a young man, he worked as a taxi driver, while the rest of us busied ourselves getting an education.  “What would he turn out when he’d matured?” was a question at the back of my mind in those times.

But Warren Tesaluna was such a likeable person. He was charming and handsome having inherited the Hispanic-look of our father. And he always looked at the sunny side of life. Like in one instance, I visited him during my university days; there he was flying a kite in one of the crowded suburbs of Cebu City. He was always fun to be with.

As he got older, he became an entrepreneur and quite successful at it. He was a dedicated family man while pursuing his livelihood. The last time I saw him was about 9 years ago when he accompanied my family to the airport as we left for New Zealand to migrate. He helped us with our luggage and cargoes, and bid us goodbye. I came to realize at that moment how wrong I was in judging Noy Warren as a black sheep in my younger days. He was unique; but he was basically a caring and loving older brother that one could be proud of.

He is gone. He died on April 21, 2014 at the age of 70. I am sure he had no regrets in life: having a loving wife, having raised good children, and having fun until the end.

In the Book of Genesis, Jacob upon being released by his uncle Laban was asked, “Name me your wages, and I will give it.”  To which Jacob responded: “I will pass through all thy flock this day, removing from there every speckled and spotted animal of the flock, and every black one among the lambs, and the spotted and speckled among the goats, and these shall be my wage.” (Genesis 30:32)

While “black sheep” today connotes one who contradicts the values and norms of a family, one author says that it could also mean, “People who have the innocent acknowledgment that they are not perfect; that they do tend towards evil and false things”. The “black sheep” is who Jesus came to save. The New Testament reads: “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost." (Luke 19:10)

Farewell, Noy Warren. You can rest now as you find everlasting joy in the presence of the Lord.