Thursday, January 31, 2008

Healing phenomenon

Is the Philippines now gearing up to be a Christian spiritual pilgrimage site in Asia? Are the Filipinos spiritually ready for this? Or could we still be described as practicing split-level Christianity?

The media coverage of Fr. Fernando Suarez’s healing activities in many places in Metro Manila and the provinces has been quite sustained since he arrived last December. The number of people that flock to the healing Masses has grown exponentially because of the media coverage and one could see from the news reports that working the crowd has become increasingly difficult for the healing priest. The sick poor are crying out for the priest’s attention. They flock to the healing venues, arriving there way ahead of time to wait, hoping they would have their turn to be face to face with the priest and be embraced, prayed over and miraculously healed.

I interviewed Fr. Suarez last Dec. 23 and came out with a Dec. 31 front page feature story on his life and work (“Filipino healing priest does so ‘many miracles like in Bible’”). When I checked the Inquirer website early in the afternoon of that day, I found my article with an icon on it which said “Most Read” article. I wish I knew how many hits it got. You can access the article at www.inquirer.net.

Two weeks later, thousands flocked to the 40-hour vigil at Montemaria in the outskirts of Batangas City where a Marian shrine is to be built. The heavy downpour did not deter the crowd from waiting for the 40-ish Fr. Suarez who also had to brave the mud and rain to get to the site overlooking the sea. Manila archbishop Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales and Lipa archbishop Ramon Arguelles graced the occasion and celebrated Mass there.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Ordinary Filipinos, extraordinary difference

A plug: Tomorrow, if you have the chance, go to the launching of the book “Profiles Encourage: Ordinary Filipinos Making an Extraordinary Difference” at 5 p.m. at the PowerBooks in Greenbelt 4 in Makati.

It’s a small book with a big heart and it features 11 “ordinary” Filipinos (nine individuals and a couple) who made a difference in their little corner of the world and tells about how this difference created ripples that reached and touched the lives of many. It is also about quiet heroism and courage, doing what needed to be done despite the odds. And yes, despite the age, the young age, of some of them.

The featured ordinary Filipinos are James Aristotle Alip (“A Small Loan that has Gone a Gong Way”), Al Asuncion (“Champion, Mentor, Friend”), Josette Biyo (“A Planetary Journey in Cell Stages”), John Burtkenley Ong (“A Man for Others), India and Javier Legaspi (“Weaving Heritage and Hope”), Jika David (“Breathing Life into Dreams”), CP David (“Paradox, Friend, and Builder of Dreams”), Nereus Acosta (“Making Sense Out of Making a Difference”), Onofre Pagsanghan (“A Lesson in Life, Passion, and Hope”) and Milwida “Nene” Guevarra (“The Power of Example”).

I read the book in one sitting. As diverse as the stories of these individuals are, one thing struck me: each one of them is a teacher, a teacher of life. And while not all of them do or did stints in the classroom, each one was able to teach and stoke fires the way only great teachers could. Because they shared the essence of their lives.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Time to set them free

In Aug. 2003, weeks before the 20th anniversary of the assassination of Ninoy Aquino, I spent days at the New Bilibid Prisons interviewing the men who were convicted in the Aquino-Galman double murder case.

I had hoped then that after 20 years, one or several of the convicts would finally own up or make a revelation as to who ordered them to do what they did and lead us to the mastermind.

I got none of that for my three-part series. What I got was the men’s recollection of that fateful day in August, what they were doing when the shots rang out and what they did after the shots rang out. And of course, what the years behind bars had done to their personal lives and their families.

Except for Sgt. Pablo Martinez who, years earlier, had been trying to say something about his complicity but was largely and strangely ignored, the rest had nothing to say. Each one spoke for himself only—where he was, what he did and did not do.

Now, the prison doors are about to swing open so that these convicts could walk free. There is no loud uproar against their impending release. There are only regrets that no one else, other than Martinez, has given leads as to the mastermind.

Ninoy’s four escorts down the plane to the tarmac have always maintained that it was Galman who shot Ninoy. And those who peppered Galman with bullets insist they were just doing their job. ``Galman did it.’’ And not one of them as the court had ruled.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

A cleaner year

The Christmas season ended last Sunday on the Feast of the Epiphany which is about manifestations of the divine kind. Don’t’ we hope to also see manifestations of the human kind, the kind that would ease the burden on the environment and us critters?

The garbage and the pollution that Christmas and the New Year had wrought should have eased up by now. (The holy season has become a dirty season.) It’s time to clean up. Clean up our surroundings and our insides. And let our singing of “and heaven and nature sing” become a reality.

There is hope for the flowers. Here’s some good news:

2008 Waste Trading Markets. The Philippine Business for the Environment (PBE), the Ayala Foundation and several big corporations are continuing the Waste Trading Markets where trading and buying of waste and junk take place.

Trade your scrap paper and cardboard for bathroom tissue, table napkins, bond paper and notebooks. Exchange your empty ink and toner cartridges for remanufactured ones. Your plastic bottles and plastic scraps could be exchanged for hangers, basins, pails and stools.

If you don’t want to trade, they will buy your junk electronic/electrical equipment (PCs, laptops, radios, etc.) and broken appliances; used lead acid batteries (from cars, UPS/voltage regulators, busted rechargeable lamps); used PET plastic bottles and other plastics; aluminum and tin cans; scrap paper and cartons; used ink/toner cartridges.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

‘The Peace of Wild Things’

One of the profound greetings I received for the New Year was the poem, “The Peace of Wild Things” by Wendell Berry, who is known as the prophet of rural America. Based in his Kentucky farm, Wendell, 74, is a well-known conservationist, poet, novelist, essayist, professor, lecturer, philosopher, Christian writer, farmer and defender of agrarian values and small-scale farming.

Feel and listen to the poem’s soothing message. You can’t go wrong with this.

“When despair for the world grows in me and I wake in the night at the least sound in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be, I go and lie down where the wood drake rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds. I come into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief. I come into the presence of still water. And I feel above me the day-blind stars waiting with their light. For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.”

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Healing priest does so ‘many miracles like in the Bible’

Filed Under: Mysteries, Diseases, Personalities, Belief (Faith), Good news

MANILA, Philippines -- He could not believe his healing power. He wanted to run away from it.

A Canadian woman declared dead eight hours earlier, her organs ready to be harvested and donated, suddenly opened her eyes after Filipino priest Fr. Fernando Suarez prayed over her.

Suarez, who was then a seminarian, was stunned. “Let me out of here,” was all he could say, ready to flee.

He was supposed to go and see the woman earlier but he was not able to make it in time. When he arrived at the Ottawa Civic Hospital in Canada, it seemed too late. But Suarez went to see her anyway and, surrounded by doctors whom he requested to be present, he prayed over the woman.

The miracle happened.

The woman is now well, Suarez says, and has resumed her normal life.

That case, which happened almost nine years ago, is probably the most stunning of all, but Suarez continues to amaze, baffle and bring hope and joy through his ministry that has seen the healing of countless sick and infirm in many parts of the world, including the Philippines.

“It is not me,” he says casually. He is convinced that he is just a channel for God’s healing power.

The soft-spoken Suarez, a 2007 TOYM (The Outstanding Young Men) awardee for religious service, projects an ordinariness that is both pleasant and endearing. His boyish looks do not easily reveal “what God has wrought” through him. He does not have an electrifying aura nor does he shriek and shout to slay evil elements like some Bible-thumping televangelists do. Suarez goes about it gently, in his own soothing way, touching, praying over people, pleading for healing. And because he wants everything centered in the Eucharist, he always begins with a Holy Mass.

Like in the Bible

Miraculous healing continues to happen. People who have been assisting him for some time have witnessed the impossible.

Businessman Greg Monteclaro of Couples for Christ-Gawad Kalinga has seen it all. “Except the raising of the dead,” he says. “But the deaf hear, the blind see, the lame walk -- all that is told in the Bible -- I have seen it happen.”

In Bulacan, Monteclaro narrates, there was this young boy who was born with practically no bones. “He was soft -- like jellyfish. I was holding him in my arms when Father Suarez prayed over him. I myself felt the bones grow inside the boy’s body and suddenly there he was --walking.”

How does one explain that?

“My own problem here is that I have seen so many miracles, it has become so common to me,” Monteclaro says.

Not that he is complaining.