Tag Archives: Baptist Pastors

Is experience still the best teacher?

Since time immemorial, experience has been acclaimed as the best teacher. Nobody dares argue. Not until somebody claims, it is the worst. I don’t want to join the debate because I already found the best teacher, i.e. life itself. A timeless, tireless, relentless and irresistible teacher, as well. Giving me lessons, despite my unwillingness to learn.

The year 2009 will long be forgotten by my family as it marks my 55th birthday. At the peak of service, I felt relatively stable and fulfilled in my achievements. The ups and downs of life’s experiences have increased my knowledge and honed my skills in living and serving. Unsophisticated, my direction was to receive less and give more. Beaming with confidence I have learned much from life, my motivation was to teach and share with others the riches of knowledge and experiences in service.

At that time, my successful leadership as national president of the Baptist pastors affiliated with the Convention of Philippine Baptist Churches was wrapping up. Five years earlier, I was awarded as one of the ten outstanding social workers of the Philippines. I could not have asked for more except longer life to continue my service. And to consolidate my life’s experiences and service into a dream book/publication on spirituality for future references.

All of the sudden, the ecstasy was shattered by a chronic heart ailment, compounded with unusual nerve disorder in the last quarter of the aforementioned year. A matter of three months away from our national assembly to cap my six years of service and leadership. It was a devastating experience for me and my family. The worst we ever encountered so far. Such condition has constrained my active life of service. Adding pain was the realization that we have given all in service without saving for ourselves in times of crisis.

Since then, most of my time has been spent at home due to limited mobility, making me vulnerable to discouragement and depression. This condition goes on for more than a year. An on-going wrestle with the nagging issues of pain and suffering and search for the meaning of all these experiences in life. Still, I manage (should I say, force) to maintain my teaching employment, after 8 months of sick leave.

The healing process has been very slow with intervals of critical interlude due to heat and humidity or every time I overstretch my limits. During lucid times, I almost forget my condition, especially when missing my traditional diversion at home –carpentry, gardening and yard cleaning. Hence, I end up either with strained heart or hypertensive condition which require more medication and time to recover. It is here where experience is no longer best teacher.

However, my attitude has dramatically changed. Instead of lingering on endless questions and debates, alluding to God or blaming self and circumstances, I take everything as part of the process. Assured that sooner or later, I will learn lessons and find the meaning to any circumstance in life. For, indeed, “nothing can separate us from the love of God.” He will never allow all of life – experiences, pains and gains, sorrows and joys in service, and more to come to naught. For after all, He is with us now and in eternity. Reflecting on the totality of life – both here and thereafter, I have discovered the real best teacher. LIFE itself.

_______________________

The article was posted two years ago on my PADAYON  blog. I decided to repost it today because of its relevance.

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The virtue is not in Suffering

Article first published on PADAYON: Our Life Journey

While many tend to glorify suffering, people who experience it will surely disagree. Having tasted the worst in life, so far, I can attest to this.

Yet, the belief in the virtue of suffering has been embedded in the psyche of Filipinos for centuries. More so, that there are also efforts to perpetuate such conviction for reasons only known to perpetrators. Some take suffering as a pass to heaven. Others look at sufferings as trademark of the followers of Christ. There are denominations that associate or even expect their clergy to undergo the process inevitably. Church members fondly call their pastors manugpangabudlay. An Ilonggo term which connotes hardship and difficulties.

Countries with colonial past, where religion is used in conquest are most vulnerable to this fate. Like the case of the Philippines. Historians note how colonizers integrate religion into their subjugation scheme. From feudalistic to capitalist systems, religion plays a big role in domestication of the subjects. In the context of the Philippine, as pointed out by nationalist historians, while the sword was used in conquest, the cross pacified resistance. The blessedness of poverty, mourning, oppression and persecution as taught in the church make people accept their fate, with relief, expectant of the future reward.

The belief in the virtue of suffering is more evident during Lenten season. Most often, crucifixion and death have been given emphasis in the observance. This can be attributed to the prevalent notion that the cross has salvific power. Redemption has been closely associated with pain and suffering. While Easter is considered the cornerstone of Christian faith, in practice people put emphasis on crucifixion.

Interestingly, attempts have been done by church authorities to dissuade rituals of self-inflicted pain and suffering in holy week celebration. Clergy, of various affiliations, consistently highlights the significance of resurrection in Lenten sermons and teaching. Still, it has not penetrated yet to the Filipino psyche. Filipinos are very much predisposed to suffering, according to Archbishop Emeritus Oscar Cruz. “The Church can only do so much to highlight the importance of Easter among Filipinos because suffering and poverty as well as the love for children are already deeply rooted in Philippine culture,” he noted.

While working on this series of Lenten reflections, I remember the article of a Filipino Jesuit priest. It was published after the execution of three Filipinos abroad convicted of drug-related offense. Fr. Manoling V. Francisco contends that suffering is not virtuous, but love is. Suffering is not even redemptive per se. The love underlying the pain makes it salvific.

Does it negate then the impact of the sufferings of Jesus? Not really. Fr. Francisco qualifies his point: “Jesus’ physical torment and emotional anguish do not redeem us; his willingness to suffer for his convictions and out of love for us is that which saves.” You might be interested to read his article, in the April 3, 2011 edition of the Philippine Star, When suffering becomes a virtue.

EDSA Revolution: A Shift in Life’s Direction

Our forum on EDSA Revolution was successfully conducted this morning at the Reading Area of Henry Luce III Libraries of Central Philippine University. It was our way of celebrating the 26th Anniversary of the People Power Revolution. The activity was co sponsored by the Department of Social Work, Office for Student Affairs, and the Iloilo Coalition of Non-government organizations and People’s organizations (ICON).

Dubbed EDSA Revolution: Recollections, Lessons and Relevance to the New Generation, the forum was an attempt to bring into the consciousness of the young historical insights to make them value the God-given freedom. Our resource persons were consistent advocates of human rights and front liners in local mass actions even until now. They were joined by a young Baptist pastor who shared his theological reflections on the relevance of the unprecedented event in our faith.

I could not help being nostalgic even at the start of the program when my social work students sang the Bayan Ko. The song was often sung during the protest rallies and even religious prayer rallies during the dictatorial rule. It has become popular that some considered it the unofficial national anthem of the Philippines. Inevitably, memories flashed back in my mind when we joined the people’s struggle at that time.

Yes, Protestant Christians, or should I say Baptists, were participants in the struggle, too. Some of our youth and pastors who dared to brave the “darkest nights” were gone without seeing the dawn. Their contribution was never documented, neither appreciated by the Baptist community. Others continue to live with the stigma of the haunting past.

Unlike others, we were not there in EDSA to experience the birth pangs of restored democracy and jubilation in winning the battle. But we were with the group of peasants, workers, student activists holed in Sta. Teresita Church, Iloilo City for some days. At that time, there was a stalemate in constant clashes between rallyists and government troops. Cornered, the former found refuge in the church and started to appeal for help from middle forces.

I was among those who responded, representing the church sector. Bringing blankets, food contributed by seminarians, pastors, church members, and some CPU students and faculty, I was not able to leave the place due to security risks brought about by heightened tension. There, we served as negotiators, peace keepers, counselors, planners for the ecumenical services and prayers, advocates to get more support to sustain the needs.

My political conversion took place some years earlier while doing pastoral ministry to political detainees in Camp Delgado. Raised up in seemingly apolitical environment, my primary motivation was to witness for Christ which I did. However, when they also shared their work and struggles, I could not help but being awed by their commitment, dedication, courage and strong resolve in the service of people.

I felt humbled to think that these people who were not even so much concerned about their faith in God or the lack of it have this kind of love to the least of Christ’s brothers and sisters. Unlike those who confessed and professed to be followers of Christ but failed to put such faith into practice.

Thereafter, I became interested in studying Philippine realities, attending symposium, forum on human rights, joining prayer rallies, organizing seminarians and pastors. At times, I just enrolled part-time in the seminary to have more time doing volunteer work in church-related organizations. In 1984, with only one semester left before graduation, I decided to work full time doing solidarity work during the intensification of the people’s struggle.

After the historic EDSA ’86, I decided to go back to the seminary to resume my studies. It was then that I realized the price I had to pay. For technical reason my return to the seminary was disallowed. Upon our dean’s advise, I shifted to social work and return to the seminary upon compliance of the requirements.

My first year was sort of a test on how to survive the isolation from Christian community because of past experiences and the trauma attached to my involvement. With the help of my family and my beloved and the support of significant people, I finished my Bachelor of Science in Social Work degree and employed in the University. Thereafter, I also earned my Theology degree.

Gradually, I recovered from the isolation and was given more opportunities for development including masteral study at University of the Philippines- Diliman. It was also within those period that a major split and bloody rift among former comrades began to intensify. Confronted with various crossroads, I tried to find other means to continue my commitment to serve the people. Hence, the shift in my life’s direction.

Experience is not the best teacher*

Since time immemorial, experience has been acclaimed as the best teacher. Nobody dares argue. Not until somebody claims, it is the worst. I don’t want to join the debate because I already found the best teacher ,i.e. life itself. A timeless, tireless, relentless and irresistible teacher, as well. Giving me lessons, despite my unwillingness to learn.

The year 2009 will long be forgotten by my family as it marks my 55th year. At the peak of my career, I felt relatively stable and fulfilled in my achievements. The ups and downs of life’s experiences have increased my knowledge and honed my skills in living and serving. Unsophisticated, my direction was to receive less and give more. Beaming with confidence I have learned much, my motivation was to teach and share more.

At that time, I was about to wrap up my successful leadership as national president of the Baptist pastors affiliated with the Convention of Philippine Baptist Churches. Five years earlier, I was awarded as one of the ten outstanding social workers of the Philippines. Nothing more to ask except for longer life to continue my service. And to consolidate my experiences as registered social worker and ordained minister into books/publications . So that I can teach others also.

All of the sudden, the ecstasy was shattered by a chronic heart ailment, compounded with unusual nerve disorder in the last quarter of the aforementioned year. Three months away from our national assembly to cap my six years of service and leadership. It was a devastating experience for me and my family. The worst we ever encountered so far. Such condition has constrained my active life of service. Adding pain was the realization that we have given all in service without saving for ourselves in times of crisis.

Most of my time is spent at home due to limited mobility, making me vulnerable to discouragement and depression. This condition has been going on for more than a year. A wrestle with the nagging issues of pain and suffering and search for the meaning of all these experiences in life. In solitude, I have discovered the best teacher. This is LIFE itself.

*Article first published May 06, 2011 on Faith Journey