Thursday, December 28, 2006

A Christmas song for Raymond

If I’d make a wish for Christmas
Each day would be like Christmas night
When we put aside our fighting
Find the warmth that comes from giving
When the rushing world slows down for once
To share a song of joy

Then the noise will fade
Weary hearts will find themselves at ease
Throughout the world, all men will learn
To live in Christmas peace

If I’d make a wish for Christmas
Each man would be more like a child
Hearts that marvel at the small things
Love and laughter everlasting
And a worldwide wonder as we raise our eyes
To a million shining stars

Only then will we see the Baby Jesus in our hearts
What a miracle, the Heavenly King born in our hearts… If I’d make a wish for Christmas…

A boy with autism, a young volunteer, students and professionals with music in their hearts, a group that spreads the good news--all with hopes for quiet and peace in the land. Something beautiful was at work among them.

And so a Christmas song was born.

Some years ago, Marchan Padla, a young volunteer at Ang Arko ng Pilipinas, a l’Arche community that cares for mentally handicapped persons, wrote lyrics and a melody for a song. It was a song he dedicated to Raymond, an autistic boy who has become an inspiration to many who have come his way.

This song found its way to Hangad, a group of students and young professionals bound by their desire to know God and who, through their music, help others know God. Hangad’s music is recorded and distributed by the Jesuit Communications Foundations (JCF).

Marchan told Hangad that he wrote the song at the height of anti-Muslim violence during the Estrada administration. He titled the song “Raymond’s Lullaby”. This was to honor the boy with autism. Raymond could not stand the Christmas holiday noise in the city he had to be brought somewhere else every time the noise was too much for him. Autistic persons are generally very sensitive to sound and cannot stand noise at high levels. But Raymond is more than the sum total of his autistic self. Proof of this is the song that came to life.

“Raymond’s Lullaby” is the lead track of Hangad’s Christmas album “A Wish for Christmas”. Hangad ( and JCF hope to raise funds for Arko and make people aware of Arko ( and its mission to serve those with intellectual disabilities.

A booklet titled “I Walk with Raymond” written by Catholic priest Roderick Milne (of the Marist congregation) of New Zealand several years ago tells the story about Raymond and the people of l’Arche Punla (or Ang Arko ng Pilipinas) which is the Philippine branch of l’Arche. Fr. Milne ministered to Raymond during his stay in the Philippines.

Ang Arko-Punla is in Bayanihan Village in Cainta, Rizal. L’Arche, an international community, was founded by Jean Vanier. Well-known author Henri Nouwen’s “The Road to Daybreak” tells about Vanier’s work.

Raymond was about eight years old in 1988 when he was abandoned by his family. Ang Arko-Punla, then in Nagtahan, took him in. Raymond has since been with Ang Arko. Raymond does not speak but communicates by making noises and bodily movements. He needs to be assisted but otherwise he is physically healthy and is a brisk walker.

There are many special persons like Raymond who live in l’Arche communities. And there are many good individuals like Marchan Padla and Fr. Milne who have found their way to these communities to serve. Maybe you will, too. The music might lead you there.

It’s amazing how a little song and a person who cannot speak and who hates noise have connected a number of people who did not know one another in the beginning. Paolo Kalaw Tirol of Hangad was so inspired he worked with Marchan to give the song its musical form and arrangement. Julius Guevarra did the instrumental arrangement.

The other songs in “A Wish for Christmas” are “Child Emmanuel”, “Paskong Pinoy Medley” (from five Filipino Christmas staples) and “Silent Night”. I was told it is selling well at P120. The album and other JCF products—music, books, video, etc.—are available at Tanging Yaman Outlets at the Loyola House of Studies in Ateneo de Manila University. From there, you might want to visit Ang Arko in nearby Cainta.

Another music group that needs support for its brave and off-the-beaten track repertoire is the Andres Bonifacio Concert Choir that brought music to our Inquirer Christmas celebration last week. They came in simple Filipino costumes and regaled us with patriotic, indigenous and popular Filipino songs. Founder, composer and conductor Jerry Dadap also coaches the Inquirer choir. He wrote the musical “Andres Bonifacio: Ang Dakilang Anak Pawis.”

The Andres Bonifacio Concert Choir and the Andres Bonifacio Rondalla are under the Andres Bonifacio Music Foundation (ABMFI) which was founded in 1986. If you want to add nationalistic musical fire to your affairs, call the ABMFI at 9314882.


We all know now that: If it had been Three Wise Women (instead of men), they would have asked for directions, arrived on time, helped deliver the Baby Jesus, cleaned the stable, cooked dinner and brought practical gifts.

My addition: And they would have stayed on much, much longer to accompany the Holy Family during their flight into Egypt.

Today, the Feast of the Holy Innocents, let us remember and do something for the children and the infants who suffer because of neglect, widespread violence and disasters.
To those who sent Christmas text messages and did not get a reply from me, I wsh u a gr8 +mas @ a hp nu yr. In other words, I WISH YOU A GOOD AND MEANINGFUL CHRISTMAS AND A GREAT YEAR AHEAD. Remember how simply it all began.