“It’s been a long time. Come, let’s have some coffee,” I told Fidel over the phone. He’s a long-time friend I hadn’t seen for many months and I wanted to catch up with him.
When he alighted from his vehicle, I saw his smiling face, exuding joy and happiness. I’ve known him for almost 20 years and have seen him pass through trials and victories. It was good to hear that his family has just moved to a better home and his kids are all doing well in school and at work. It is a story of deliverance: from the constant struggle of “just getting by” to enjoying a “life to the full” (John 10:10).
I’m blessed when I reconnect with friends. Their stories strengthen my faith in the Lord. When they go through times of long-drawn difficulty and yet continue to trust in Him, I see God’s saving grace at work in their lives.
A simple fellowship. A simple story. But it was something that built me up and inspired me. That’s why the Bible says, “Therefore, encourage one another and build one another up, as indeed you do” (1 Thessalonians 5:11).
Pope Francis Says: “I think this is truly the most wonderful experience we can have: to belong to a people walking, journeying through history together with our Lord, who walks among us! We are not alone; we do not walk alone. We are part of the one flock of Christ that walks together.”
Lord, thank You for friends. May You always be in our midst as we fellowship with one another. Amen.
[This reflection was first published in Didache April 8, 2016]
Smiling in the “City of Smiles”: Bacolod
by Danny Tariman
This was my family’s first time to set our feet in the City of Smiles, the nickname given to Bacolod City. We all are pretty excited to explore this new place to discover. This city is about 1 hour and 15 minutes ride by plane, south of Manila. It is located at the western side of Visayas group of islands in the Philippines.
The day before our departure, we were greatly troubled because our flight to Iloilo City (another destination we are going to) was canceled and we were told to re-book our flight. The plan was from Iloilo, we will take a fastcraft boat to Bacolod. We had some difficulty getting booked for the next earliest flight; as we were informed that we can fly at about 12 noon.
But God has the best plan for us because instead of landing in Iloilo, then taking a 1-hour boat ride to Bacolod, we were able to get a flight direct to Bacolod, as no cost to us!
We arrived Bacolod Airport (which is actually in Silay City, part of Metro Bacolod) at abour 5:30 in the morning. We were met by my smiling cousin (true to the name City of Smiles) at the airport. We swiftly drove to the city proper, passing though sugar plantations. It was a relief that after all the problems we encountered in our flight booking, we easily reached the city.
Our first stop, as we usually do when we visit places, is the local church. We visited San Sebastian Cathedral where we offered our thanksgiving and prayers to the Lord who had blessed us with a good trip. This is a centuries-old church which was built in 1882 reportedly from coral stones from the neighboring Guimaras Island. The interior is so beautiful, with arched ceiling. I had noticed that the 2 bells are not hanging at the belfry but are actually hung in a brick structure on the church yard.
St Pope John Paul Tower
This tower was built exactly on the spot where Pope (and now Saint) John Paul celebrated the Mass when he visited the City in 1981. This 7-story tower is located in the reclamation area at the fringes of SM City Bacolod. When we reached the top, we got an good, unobstructed view of the Bacolod seas.
At the ground floor are some of the memorabilia of the saint.
The St John Paul Tower standing on the exact spot where the Pope, and now a Saint, celebrated Mass in 1981
Capitol Ground and Lagoon
The provincial capitol of Negros is becoming a tourist destination. You can see the busyness in infrastructure developments from all sides: malls, and office buildings under construction. The stately capitol building stands as a good backdrop of the well-manicured lawn in front.
Fronting the grounds is a huge lagoon where golden statues of Malakas and Maganda are standing on each side. A good place to take photos!
On the sidewalk of the Capitol area, we bought from a cart vendor, a famous local fruit, not easily available in Manila, called “marang”. This fruit has a strong smell; it is prohibited to be brought inside our hotel room! The external of the fruit is like a jackfruit with finer “skin protrusions”. But the fruit! Oh, so exotic! It tastes very sweet; much different from jackfruit (langka) and durian. Its meat is soft and creamy sweet.
It was good that the museum is open on Saturdays! Haha! Our tour of this place gave us an insight of the historical past of the Negros Island. It showcased murals depicting the pre-colonial life and culture of the island and its people. It had artifacts from various period of its history. It also has toy collection reportedly worth millions of pesos, according to our museum guide.
We were fortunate also the hear and watch at the lobby, a practice of budding classical music performers: a young soprano, and a young tenor who was also playing an old piano.
The Manokan, or in English “place of chicken” is a row of restaurants near the reclamation area fronting a mall. All of these restaurants offer almost the same dish, the Bacolod Inasal – vinegar-marinated chicken, grilled on charcoal, basted with achuete that brings out a yellow-color. The dish is usually served without the usual spoon-and-fork because the guests are expected to eat by hand. This is a must-try for visitors of the city.
We had our first lunch at Aida’s along the Manokan row of restaurants. The place has ‘carinderia’ ambiance. What caught my attention in this place aside from the tasty Bacolod chicken, are the masks on display. The masks are the ones worn during the Maskara festival in the city
We also went to Calea bakeshop. This is a must for a city visitor: very delicious cakes of various recipes, at very affordable price!
In the evening, we had dinner at Aboy’s: an excellent way to cap a day. It offers seafood, and other Filipino food. Good ambiance.
We bought some local goodies from Bong-Bong’s. Various flavors of the famous piaya, barquillos, napoles, butter scotch, and more! You have to taste napoles, a tasty bun topped with sugar icing. Really a treat for people who loves sweets. We bought the items from the factory outlet, rather from the shop at the city central. The good thing about this store is that it can pack your goodies “airport security ready”; really nice packing!
I would like to personally thank my cousin who was our guide in the whole trip and who also provided us the vehicle for our trip. I won’t mention his name; he is a senor officer of a local company owned by a Filipino business tycoon.
“You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” – Acts 1:8
“A witness is someone who testifies to what he has seen or heard.”
“A Christian witness is someone who testifies by his action or by his word what the Lord has done for him.”
I have heard or read these definition many times. We are all called to witness to the Lord, and our actions speak louder than words. Jerusalem was where the Apostles first received the Holy Spirit. For us, “Jerusalem” is our home. Our family should see Jesus in us through our love, compassion and patience. Judea is the surrounding area of Jerusalem. For us, this represents our neighbor, the people beyond our home who should see the Christian in us.
Samaria is farther than Judea, and this, for us, represents people beyond our neighborhood with whom we should share the Gospel.
It seems like a daunting task. But if we begin by doing everything we do for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31), it’s a great start to being a witness for the Lord.
Do people see Jesus better through us?
Pope Francis Says: “Christianity spreads through the joy of disciples who know that they are loved and saved.”
Lord, grant me the power to witness for You 24/7. Amen.
[This reflection was first published in Didache May 8, 2016]
“Did you not know that I must be in my father’s house?” – Luke 2:49
I have been out of “service” for 12 months. Since I had set my foot in Papua New Guinea, I had not a chance to proclaim the Good News the way I did in Manila.
I was enjoying my secular work as manager of Information Technology department of one of the country’s biggest retail chain. There was, however, a void deep inside of me. It was about my Father’s business.
When I left Manila for this job, I knew there was something I needed to do. I knew that my new workplace and the new city I will live in is my mission field. I did my best to share the Lord at every opportunity; I tried to witness for Him, even in the most difficult situations. I spoke of the Lord to my peers, fellow managers, guards, janitors and whoever I had the chance to meet. Person-to-person, one by one, sharing the Good News. I was not “ashamed of the Gospel” (Romans 1:16).
Until one day, the Lord opened up a bigger audience: I was given the task to do the teaching for the archdiocesan Catholic Charismatic Renewal weekly gatherings.
After the long wait, it is now “Business as Usual.”
Are you ashamed of sharing the Lord to your officemates and peers?
Lord, I am sorry for the times I passed up the opportunity to share Your goodness. Empower me to witness for You!
[This reflection was first published in Didache June 12, 2010]