Thursday, September 27, 2007

What Am I Busy With?

I am here in San Francisco trying to relax after our conference in Las Vegas. I have exercised my shopping muscles, against the advice of people who have moral ascendancy over me. I can justify it by saying that it is my way of de-stressing.

Then I read today's passage and was struck by this:

"Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins?

Now, therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts: Consider your ways. You have sown much, and harvested little. You eat, but you never have enough; you drink, but you never have your fill. You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm. And he who earns wages does so to put them into a bag with holes.

“Thus says the Lord of hosts: Consider your ways. Go up to the hills and bring wood and build the house, that I may take pleasure in it and that I may be glorified, says the Lord. You looked for much, and behold, it came to little. And when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why? declares the Lord of hosts. Because of my house that lies in ruins, while each of you busies himself with his own house." (Haggai 1, 4-9 ESV)

I felt the Lord speaking to me through this passage. Nothing satisfies, only Jesus. The problem is how to be part His work while going about my earthly business and not being tempted to be busy with my own "house".

I did get out of Las Vegas without betting a single cent in the slot machines that could be found in every corner of the city. Yet, the struggle continues to be "in the world" and not "of the world", as Jesus exhorts His disciples to do.

There is no simple solution to this struggle. All I can do is to keep trying, daily. In fact, I can start again tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Blogger is Out

Not that I have been able to update this blog regularly, but just in case you're curious, I will be silent in the blogosphere for a while as I won't have regular Internet access. I'll fly off for business but will definitely squeeze out some pleasure by visiting friends and relatives who live in the area.

Until then, may the Force be with you. Keep the faith. And please pray for the success of our conference!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Procrastinating Again

My bags aren't packed and I'm not yet ready to go. I can't get myself to finish it, as if I'm waiting for something. I've met up with several friends this past week. I've reminded myself that I need to go to confession because it's a long trip away from home that I would be taking in a few days. I've made checklists for things to do but I have a certain sense that I'm forgetting something important.

Maybe when I finally roll up my sleeves and attempt to travel light for the first time, I would see what it is that's bothering me. I know I can't finish all the work that I wanted to finish before leaving. I've begged off from the services I had volunteered for before, but haven't done everything I had planned to do to make the turnover smooth.

This always happens when I lose control of my time and I'm overrun by tasks. I take it one step at a time but somehow still miss out on certain things.

It is possible that my checklist was not comprehensive and complete in the first place.

Maybe these feelings are the effect of what happened to me. I got lost last night and arrived home late. I took a wrong turn and ended up on a deserted highway in the middle of the night. I prayed hard to be able to find my way home safely. I was thankful that I had stopped for gas earlier that day so that my tank was full. Relief flooded me when I finally saw our gate. I couldn't call or text anyone as I was afraid to pull over and be seen as alone through my clear car windows. Instead I kept driving and looking for road signs that would show me the right way. I thank God that He kept me safe and found my way back, after being lost for a short bit of time.

The hotel where I will be staying made it to the US headlines today, as that was where OJ Simpson figured in another controversial situation. I hope that by the time we check in, everything would be peaceful in that building. These things do compound the need to go to confession A.S.A.P. Life is short and we neither know the time nor the hour.

I must be sleepy and tired. I'm not my usual Disney-ending self here. I have days like these, too.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Sandiganbayan: Erap is Guilty of Plunder

The verdict on former President Joseph Ejercito Estrada by the Sandiganbayan: guilty of plunder, but acquitted in the perjury case. His son Jinggoy Estrada and lawyer Edward Serapio have been acquitted of the charges.

It won't read like Harry Potter, but for those interested, you may download the full text of the decisions here. There are several mirror sites but due to the number of people downloading the files at the same time, it might take a while to open the documents. Just be patient.

I noticed that they forgot to indicate who penned the decisions (the ponente). Probably, the three magistrates comprising the Special Division wrote as one body; hence, I was looking for the words "per curiam"*. I'm in the office so will reserve my other comments for later, after I've read the decisions.

* Latin for "by the court" where the court gives an order or decision on the whole operating as a single body without any particular judge being the author. Taken from

Erap's Judgment Day

I know that this post will only be relevant for a few hours, as today September 12, 2007, the Special Division of the Sandiganbayan, the Court that tried former Pres. Joseph Estrada for plunder, shall promulgate its decision. A total of 6,000 cops have been deployed within Metro Manila, mostly near the Malacanang Palace and here along Commonwealth Ave.

There will be a live coverage of the promulgation and for sure, all eyes will be on the Sandiganbayan. I'm worried that I might not make it to work on time as I live a mere five minutes away from where the demonstrators have been allowed to gather, in front of St. Peter's Church. I cannot work-from-home as I have deadlines with our printer for the souvenir program and handouts that we will bring to our lawyers' conference in Las Vegas next week.

Funny how seemingly apathetic I've become, for I used to work in the Sandiganbayan. Had I not resigned to serve as a full-time volunteer mission worker for our singles community, I would probably be part of the action, even if just to assist the justices in the research and the drafting. But now I'm just as clueless as the rest of the world as to Erap's future.

He was tried the way Marcos, the dictator, should have been, had the proper laws been enacted before. It would be very interesting how the Sandiganbayan justices would explain their decision, as whether they convict Erap or not, their ratio decidendi would definitely be subjected to intense scrutiny especially by the media, the politicians, and the lawyers .

The whole world would be watching, classes have been suspended, and all I could think of is how to escape Commonwealth Avenue to get to work. I'm watching myself from a distance and I'm surprised at the lack of emotion there.

I am praying for justice to prevail and for peace to reign. I do not want our people to take to the streets again. There must be another way to make ourselves heard and to fight for our rights.

In about twelve hours' time, this blog entry would be moot and academic. We'd know by then whether Erap was acquitted or not. And I would probably be in the office trying to beat a deadline.

Life goes on.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Lingkod's 23rd Anniversary

Lingkod QC Sisters with Branch Leader Ted Te and Ang Lingkod ng Panginoon (ALNP) National Director Mon Samson

The present and past QC BWMs with the current National Director. Please see name tags. There you go.

From left: Francis Iturralde, former Lingkod National Director; Ella, former QC Branch Women's Moderator, ALNP Corporate Secretary, National Administrator; Pepot Alquisada, former Makati BWM; Mau Viterbo, Regional Women's Moderator for Metro Manila, former Makati BWM; Jun Viterbo, ALNP Board Vice President, M.M. Assistant Regional Director, former Greenhills BL; Judd Cabasug, former Makati BL; Lot Cabasug, former Makati Unit Leader; Nerry Gool, National Women's Moderator; Chas Alapag, Fund Development Head, also former Angeles BWM & North Luzon RWM; Pola Cartalla, Makati BWM; Ted Te, QC BL.

Lingkod QTs talaga.

Happy Anniversary, Ang Lingkod ng Panginoon! Let's start gearing up for our 25th anniversary. Calling all Lingkod alumni. You'll hear more about this within the next two years.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Getting Back on My Feet

After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, "Abraham!" And he said, "Here am I." He said, "Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you." (Gen 22:1-2)

This is a familiar story and many of us have, at one time or another, experienced something akin to Abraham’s “Moriah experience”, where we had felt God asking of us our most treasured possession or beloved, and we had reluctantly surrendered to Him, unable to take after Abraham who simply told his son Isaac, when the latter was looking for the lamb to be their burnt offering, that God would provide.

I’ve always related this story to particular people in my life that I’ve had to sacrifice just because it was wrong for me to hold on to them. While driving home tonight, however, I realized that my recent and most concrete Moriah experience did not pertain to a person, but had everything to do with my career. This is the wisdom and clarity provided by hindsight and a cup of coffee shared with an old friend.

I could be second-guessing God, over-spiritualizing my life, and jumping to conclusions, but then again, being human and of limited understanding, I could only grasp at what my life means and where God is taking me. I am entitled to be unsure of what God is truly up to, as usually it takes me a lot longer to figure things out. But I have wounds that are healing, and these new insights that I discover along the way help in easing the pain and in letting me walk again. If they point to the truth, I am all the more relieved.

So what was my Isaac, “my only son”, one which I had waited for for a hundred years under pain of a huge mistake along the way, like Abraham did? It was something I had to wait for a very long time to achieve, and, surprise!, it was my being a lawyer. I had written about it many times before that in my pride God showed His mercy by letting me fail the bar exams and teaching me to put my complete trust in Him when I took it the second time. Just like Abraham, I thought my career would pave the way for God’s other promises to me. God promised Abraham descendants as many as the stars in heaven, and Isaac being his only son surely was going to be instrumental in the fulfillment of that promise.

If I was going to make it in life, my career as a lawyer would define it, as it provided me with many opportunities. There came a time, however, when God called me. I was sure of it; I consulted others about it; and I was able to confirm it – He wanted me to give up being a lawyer and to serve Him as a volunteer mission worker. The mission field before me then was Lingkod, and I sad yes. It was like setting myself up to be burned alive, however, as my decision was tested and contested by many people. I had to endure months of doubt and disappointment. I left everything and followed Him. Or so I thought.

Things did not fall exactly into place. I did get a fulfilling service in Lingkod, and I had the support of many friends, brothers, and sisters; still, something did not fit. I was restless again, but since I had discerned about it, I did everything I could to make it work. I addressed the people I had difficulty serving with. I endured the pain of correction for my mistakes. I helped point out matters that could be improved. I thought I was living out my dream, but happiness remained elusive. There was the knowledge that I was “seeking first God’s kingdom” and “building my treasure in heaven”, but slowly I grew tired of meeting the high expectations I set for myself as a supposed servant of the Lord.

I checked with Him again, after months of crying almost everyday, if there was any other way He wanted me to sacrifice my life. What was it that was so wrong with my situation that it was not bearing as much fruit as I knew it could? People said I was doing a good job but I did not believe them. I could not feel the “click” that I was looking for. I could not see what was in store for me. I was stuck in an idealistic mold.

Slowly, I lifted my eyes in prayer and God gently showed me that I did not have to struggle so much. I went through discernment again – retreats, spiritual direction, consultations – and heard God’s encouragement to be free to serve Him the way He created me. It was hard to understand because I believed at that time that I did not have to be a lawyer anymore. I stopped paying my membership in the IBP. I refused to accept consultations. I stopped reading the news. I soaked myself in all things spiritual and shunned anything that was “legal”. I said to myself I had a whole lifetime to figure out why God allowed me to be a lawyer who did not want to practice.

I eventually got back on my feet and found a job that was a blessing (a subject of many previous writings). Just as if I never left it, God gave me back my profession, and even allowed me to expand what I could do with it, breaking away from the traditional mold of a lawyer-in-a-suit appearing in court. I am now applying my interests in technology, research, writing, organizing, and working directly with people. I’m no longer prepared to say this is it for me, that I’ll die in this company. No, I’m just thankful to be here where I am now, and to see that what I had sacrificed, God gave back to me, with so much more than I had before.

I thought I had placed myself as a sacrifice and God refused the offering my life. That was a major cause of my tears before, that I displeased God in some way that’s why the decision to be His alone did not last.

I was wrong. Jesus had already offered the ultimate sacrifice, and He did it for me. God did provide the sacrifice, but so that I would see and understand, He waited to see how I would respond if He asked it of me, like He did for faithful Abraham. In some ways working back in the corporate world seems like a deviation from the path to heaven that I was aiming for a year ago, but on many levels it is a part of the personal journey where I could give, receive, and become the person God promised I could be, which could still be hiding somewhere inside me.

Another Old Testament character who was tested, Job, put it best when he said, “The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD." (Job 1:21) As we have read from the Bible, God spared Isaac and fulfilled all His promises to Abraham. As for Job, “…the LORD blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning. (Job 42:12)

Therefore, regarding my career as a lawyer and I, I believe that love should be lovelier the second time around.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Make Love, Not War

I was invited to speak during the Christian Life Series (CLS) sponsored by Christian LAw Students Evangelization (CLASE) for law students within the University Belt. I used to visit them every year at San Lorenzo Ruiz Dormitory along Legarda, but they had since moved to UST, and tonight was my first time to attend there.

I couldn't recall if I had actually stepped foot inside a UST building before. I had been to the UST hospital a few times as a child and I took swimming lessons one summer in the pool, but that was it. All my UST memories were from the '80's. As I entered the main building earlier and walked towards the classroom where the CLS was held, I saw paintings on the wall that reminded me of Hogwarts. I wondered if National Hero Jose Rizal walked those very same halls, or if my father did, when he took up Philosophy and Letters in the late '50's.

At the CLS, I met new students and young lawyers, gathered together to proclaim the good news on a Saturday night. I was inspired by the witness of the lives of the people of CLASE and those they had invited. Not so long ago, I too was a struggling law student with a perpetual backlog in my studies, so I knew how precious time was for all of them. Yet, they chose to listen to two CLS talks inside a semi-deserted building on a rainy Saturday night. Other people of their age and background were probably watching a movie or attending a party at that exact moment that they were listening to my talk on Repentance and Faith.

I shared with them what I had learned about repentance: that it did not come from emotions alone. Merely feeling sorry or promising not to do something again was not enough. Fraternities had time and time again apologized for the consequences of violence as a result of hazing and rumbles, and yet, students like Cris Mendez (senior Public Ad student at the University of the Philippines who passed away a few days ago) still continued to die young in their hands.

I am one with the U.P. community in prayer. Justice for Cris Anthony Mendez. And peace inside U.P. Diliman. No to fraternity violence! I have many friends who are members of fraternities and I urge them to speak out and do something to stop this endless cycle that operates on hate, not love. There are many positive endeavors where those energies spent in violence could be channeled. Our beloved U.P. will celebrate its 100th year in 2008. There are a million things that we could be proud of. But we have to remember that our graduates who more often than not become leaders should show strength through their deeds, not their batons.

Repentance, I have learned, is about a complete change of heart and of direction. It entails a concrete decision to avoid serious sin, and a daily struggle to sustain that decision, because following Jesus means turning away from sin. It is done in faith, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to move further away from the cause of the struggle, which is sin itself. It is objective and not subjective. Let's pray we would see genuine repentance in our hearts for the times we supported violence as a means to wield power.

An important law-related event will start tomorrow: it's the first Sunday of September, and the first Sunday of the bar examinations. For four consecutive Sundays, bar hopefuls will troop to De La Salle University along Taft Ave. amidst fanfare from well-wishers. All that noise could just create "violence" inside the examinees' minds. What they really need is prayer, for this could very well be THE most difficult exam of their lives.

I will end my list of prayers tonight with one for more Christian law students in the country, so that we may have more Christian lawyers. They do exist. I prayed and worshiped with them tonight.