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The Real Missionaries

I haven’t written in this blog for a long time. Also, I haven’t written about any mission-related stuff in this blog for a long time.

There’s a reason for that.

I’ve been thinking about intentionally getting away from allowing people to see me as some super holy person who left everything to follow Jesus. First of all, please never think I’m a super holy person. From time to time, I may look holy, but that’s just because the not-so-holy part of me is just hiding, but trust me, it’s still there, and when you see it, please don’t be surprised or scandalized, just keep praying (hard) for my soul, thanks.

In a way, I did leave a lot behind when I moved to Cebu, but I want to take all focus away from that because that just has little significance anymore. It’s like growing out of my favorite pair jeans. I left my old ones because they just don’t fit anymore, but the new ones are great. At first it felt like a huge deal because I’ve been wearing those old jeans for a long time and they were my favorite, but after a while, leaving those old jeans isn’t something that needs to define me.

Anyway, that was over two years ago. Those were the “honeymoon days”. It was fun and exciting for a while when things were changing so rapidly, and I really hope my life was/is able to inspire a few people, but the truth is I want to get away with being labled a “missionary in the Philippines” because I am just as much a missionary as you are, fellow Christian. And honestly, I think many of you fellow Christians who are working in the world, are way better missionaries than I am.

I was reflecting on life recently when I realized that my life now isn’t much different from my life before when I moved to the Philippines. I do some things differently, but at the end of the day, I do all the things mostly everyone else does. I have a job, I hang out with friends, I pray, I sin, I travel, I exercise, I watch movies, I struggle 3 times a day trying to figure out what I should eat, my room is a mess, my life is unorganized, I ask for advice from friends, I’m happy some days, I’m depressed other days. I’m just like you, fellow Christian. I just live in a different culture than I did before.

I’m dedicating an entire post about this because I think it’s important. If people consider me special because I’m a “missionary in the Philippines”, I feel like it takes away from all those people back home and here in Cebu, who ARE missionaries in their own culture and in their own homes—which, in my opinion, is way more difficult.

I always look up to people who have full-time jobs & families and STILL dedicate time to do ministry. Those who work all day at stressful or mundane jobs, dreaming all day about serving the Lord, excited to be volunteering at some event or outreach to the poor over the weekend or after work, and then after a long day of work, they find time to spend with and take care of their families AND to go do some volunteer work. Now THAT is impressive, and THAT is something that shouldn’t be left unnoticed.

I know what it’s like to work at a totally secular job (or be in school) all day and dream about leaving it to serve the Lord full-time. I only worked in the world for a good 6 months before I went into full-time ministry, and the working in the world part was hard. After 3 months, I already wanted to quit. Being a missionary in the workplace is not an easy job. People who are living that life deserve way more credit than they’re given. In my opinion, it’s way easier to bring Jesus Christ to a poor barrio than it is to bring Jesus Christ into the office. Pretty much all of my friends here in Cebu are living that life (except for the brothers and sisters, of course), and they’re all holier than I am (including the brothers and sisters), more in love with the Lord than I am, more willing to give more of their lives than I am, more willing to love until it hurts than I am. A lot of my friends here live really simple lives, work so much to send money back to their families, and every free moment they get, they’re doing some service or evangelization project, joyfully and selflessly.

It’s truly an inspiration, and I’m realizing that God put me here so my friends can evangelize me. I don’t really have much to offer here anymore, but I have much to receive.

I read in some other foreign missionary’s blog a long time ago that there’s a saying about missionary life. It goes something like.. Your first year is for you to do the evangelizing, and the second year is for you to be evangelized. Something that like that… and in my experience, it’s true. I’m usually the one who tries to prove all generalizations and sayings wrong with my experiences, but in this case, I can’t.

So friends, thanks for being an inspiration to me. The love you share, and all your sacrifices aren’t left unnoticed. It may feel like your job is super mundane or stressful, but the way you carry Christ with you to the office and after work is an inspiration, and if no one else notices it, at least you know two people do, Jesus and me.

Looking forward!

Life is just moving too fast.

I kinda like it.

But I don’t like the white hairs that come with it.

I’m not the kind of person who likes to plan and plan and plan. I feel like you can miss out of some awesome opportunities that way. I also feel like you spend so much time and energy planning and re-planning when at the end of the day, unpredicted circumstances usually cause your plans to alter and change anyway. For me, life is too short to be spending on planning. Some people enjoy the planning, and that’s great! I don’t. I wish I did. It’d make my job a lot easier, but I don’t. Actually I lied. I like that I’m not a planner. I feel like life is more exciting that way. One year ago, I had no idea I’d still be in the Philippines. Two years ago, I had no idea that I’d ever go back to the Philippines. Three years ago, I just had no idea. And I was totally okay with that.

BUT planning has its perks. Cheaper airfare would be the biggest one for me yet. So here are my plans for this year!

March: Going to Romblon to hangout with family. Pure Heart mission at the LWYD?!
April: Siargao for some surfing.
May: Holy Land for a pilgrimage. Pure Heart mission to Bohol!
June: Fr. Antoine will come for a childrens’ adoration mission.
July: Palawan, for some relaxing.
September: Maybe going to the states to see the pope.

In addition to all that fun stuff, I have goals!
I hope that we can do at least 1 Pure Heart Mission per month.
I hope that we can buy a car to make that Pure Heart mission much more efficient.
I hope that we can do 1 Pure Heart Retreat.
I want to run a 21k in June.
I want to run a 42k before the end of the year.
I want to raise a lot of money for WYD.

One Year after Typhoon Yolanda

November 8th marks the 1-year mark after Typhoon Yolanda. Recovery is still slow going, but thanks to non-government organizations, at least it’s going.

Sr. Agapia and I went back to Madredejos in Bantayan Island to see the progress. We went to each of the families that we bought materials for, thanks to all of your generous donations! It was really refreshing to see that it no longer looked like a typhoon just hit. There were fewer piles of branches and fallen trees laying around. There were almost zero tents left. We saw maybe 1 or 2, and at least one of them was being used more as a storage than a living space now. The people there were so grateful for what they received. The air definitely wasn’t as heavy as our first time going there, and it just seemed easier for people to smile. It seemed almost everyone has a house now. We saw a bunch of new houses that all looked the same. It turns out that our friends from EDM (Enfants du Maicon) happened to come to the same site and built 100 homes! Go NGOs!

Anyway, here are some before/after photos

 before (no house, just living in a tent)

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afterDSC05273

 before (the sisters already donated the roof)

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after
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 before

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after (now they can stand inside the house!)
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before (they got their new roof already, too)
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after

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before (they also already had  a new roof)

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after!DSC05258

before

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after! (they weren’t home to take a photo with us!)
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There were others, but I can’t seem to find the before photos! Here are some more photos from the day:

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One Year

One Year

I’m sitting at Mactan-Cebu Airport waiting for my indecisive flight. It was originally at 11:15pm, then was cancelled, I got moved to the 10pm, which was delayed to 11:15pm. Final destination? Newark International Airport, where I lived during my college years, then to good ol’ Piscataway, NJ, where I lived for the 17 years of my life (minus the first 10 months or so, when we lived in Brooklyn). I didn’t realize that this trip back home would stir up this much emotion in me. Maybe it was the busyness of these past few weeks, but I didn’t really feel any emotion until I turned off the lights in my empty apartment, locked the door, and carried my luggage down the stairs. It could have been the nostalgic music that emanated from the downstairs neighbors that stirred up the strange emotions. It was as if my life had background music and it was a scene from a movie. I almost felt as if I was in my own Truman Show. As I exited my home in Cebu, I realized how much my life had changed since last year, and well, I don’t know how I’ll feel when I get home. Will I want to change my mind about living in Cebu and stay home? Will I be totally bored and anxious to come back to Cebu? I hope for the latter.

This past 12 months of my life really allowed me to be stretched in ways that I’ve never been stretched before. There are different types of stretching. When waking up in the morning, I tend to stretch out my arms and back because it just feels so good. Before playing sports, I would stretch differently. I would stretch until there was a bit of pain in my muscles in order to become a bit more flexible and to avoid injury. Well, I think the stretching that was happening to me these past 12 months was a combination of the two. I was challenged, and it kinda hurt, but oh, it felt so good. If you didn’t watch the Lion King, you might be more impressed with my motto for the past 12 months, “I laugh in the face of danger!” If you did, then it’ll be difficult taking me seriously, but that’s okay because it’s not a serious motto in the first place.

I already wrote about this in a previous post, but in short, I wanted to live this mission giving my all. Fear is not a valid reason to say “no.” Period. And so, God gave me the grace to do all the things I was afraid of. Here’s a nice little list of things I was afraid of doing, but I probably didn’t admit it.

  1. Making friends. I had to get over my introverted self and make friends, and if anyone knows me, they know that I’m so intimidated by pretty much everyone. I knew that if I were to stay in Cebu, I couldn’t do it alone. I needed to make friends. So friends in Cebu, thank you for your friendship. It’s really important to me and keeps me going. 😉
  2. Buying and driving a motorbike. Yes. I’m not usually the scared of this type of thing. But I am quite wounded from seeing the effects of someone dying from a motorcycle accident. Plus, everyone and their mothers told me that when you drive a motorbike, you should just expect to get into an accident. That’s kinda an overstatement. That’s almost like saying, once you leave your house, you should just expect to get hit by a car. Well anyway, it only took a month since I arrived to get over that one.
  3. Starting Pure Heart Philippines. I’m not the type of person to be on the microphone in front of everyone. Or the person to make decisions about stuff. I’m really not the type of person who likes to be in charge. My comfort zone is behind my shiny laptop in my virtual world of Photoshop and Facebook. But God had other plans.
  4. Going to the market alone. I still don’t really like going to the market because I always feel like they’re charging me a whole lot more than everyone else. It’s true sometimes. I’ve been ripped off a bunch of times, but then I feel bad arguing because 50 pesos for me is really only a little over a dollar. Who am I to argue for a cheaper price when it’s already so low to what I’m used to? But now I go to the market and try to sound like a local. I’m sure they see right through me, but I’m not really scared anymore.
  5. Entering a Film Festival. What the heck am I doing entering a Film Festival?!
  6. Training people to speak. Who the heck am I to train other people to speak? I don’t even like speaking myself? And I’m not that great at it!
  7. Moving into an apartment away from the sisters. The life of the sisters is very beautiful and safe. My prayer life was more or less guarded. My angel (Sr. Agapia) was always protecting me. And one thing that I didn’t realize is that I always felt loved. The sisters always found ways to leave me nice little notes or flowers or pictures at my door. People in the world don’t normally do that. Also everything was prepaid, so my financial worries was finished before I arrived to Cebu. But when I moved out, I had to start paying rent again, I had to find a place, I had to detach from my besties who are nuns. (Well, I’m still at the priory almost every day, so I didn’t have to detach too much.)

Well, that’s all I can think of right now. My new fear is one that I shouldn’t really fear. I feel like everyone might be expecting all these amazing crazy stories from me, and I’m not sure I’ll be able to deliver! I’ll just point everyone to my blog, ha!

Other than that, I’m pretty excited about going home. I can’t wait to see all my friends and family. I can’t wait to be surrounded by people that understand my American-ness. I can’t wait to go to a business and not have to deal with everything being out of stock! And I can’t wait to not have to carry around cash because every business has a credit card machine! I’m also excited to see what words on coke cans they have in the States.

But in all seriousness, I’m most excited just to see if I feel at home when I’m at home. Or has Cebu become my home?

Rocia

Fr. Marie-Etienne (locally known as Fr. Steban) asked that I publish this testimony on my blog, and I am honored to publish it here. It’s beautiful.

Saturday, March 22, around 13:30, I was awoken from my siesta by the voice of Brother John of the Eucharist, “Father, there’s a family here asking for a priest, someone’s dying.” We set out with these young people, bringing the Holy Oil and Almighty God, hidden in the Eucharistic host. After fifteen minutes, I arrived at a small wooden house in one of the neighboring barrios. By means of some questions on the way, I had found out that the dying person was only 22 years old and suffered from heart problems. Rocia is clearly in very bad shape. To look at her, I would have given her 15, not 22 years old. Barely able to articulate even two or three words, she received those treasures of grace I brought to her: the anointing, confession, and the indwelling of our Lord. But in speaking with the family, I realize that it’s really a question of taking Rocia to a hospital where she would be well cared for, but they do not have the means. Taking care of her soul and opening for her the way to Heaven shouldn’t prevent us from rolling up our sleeves for her young life on earth. The decision was taken in no time. We arrived at the emergency room an hour later, where a doctor who is a friend of mine took charge of her – glory be to God! A few days later, the cardiologist makes it clear to us that the heart of Rocia is extremely weak, and needs major surgery. The community decided to lend its support.

I learnt more about the situation of our young, smiling Filipina. When she was 7 months old, her mother was shot by rebels who at the time were still to be found prowling in the hills overlooking Banawa. Her father lives alone and she has no siblings. At 16 years of age, no doubt to earn a bit of money, she went to Manila to work as a maid – work hardly suited to her state of health. Two years later, she returned to Cebu and applied for a job, but the medical exam diagnosed her complaint and she was not accepted. As I gradually overcame her characteristically Filipino shyness, I was able to get to know her better, and to discover in her a great faith and uncommon courage. After innumerable appointments and check-ups, at last the doctors were able to program the operation. Before that, however, I wanted us to make a pilgrimage to the tomb of Bishop Theophilus Camomot, as the culmination of our prayers for her recovery. This Auxiliary Bishop of Cebu, who died in 1988, was a very holy priest, a pastor with a huge heart overflowing with charity, especially for the poor and the sick. The Archbishop of Cebu just recently brought his beatification process to Rome. How we would appreciate a beautiful miracle! This day of pilgrimage was a simple moment of joy and prayer. Upon entering the chapel of the tomb, we see written under the image of the servant of God his favorite saying: “God is in the heart.” It’s as if it was written for Rocia!

A few days later she entered the hospital. The night before the operation, she once again received the three sacraments, with great faith. It was a real struggle to find blood donors and it was only at the very last minute that we were able to complete the number! Friday, June 6, in the days between Ascension and Pentecost, the surgeon wrote to me, saying the operation “went very well”. Thanks be to God once again! Two days later, on the feast of Pentecost, in the afternoon, I was able to bring Holy Communion to Rocia.

Monday night, when she was due to leave intensive care, the doctors thought her not stable enough. Tuesday, signs of infection occurred in the evening and the state of Rocia suddenly became very critical. I’m at a loss to understand, as is her family. Leaving the hospital that evening at 11pm, my heart was very heavy. The resident doctor didn’t hide that there was very little hope of halting the septicemia. Kneeling in our little chapel back at the priory, I prayed, not knowing what to say. I continued to hope that it would stop, that our hopes for a happy life for Rocia here on earth would come true after all.

The next day, I go to the hospital and the situation is not much better. Back at the priory, I opened my Bible and came across the passage in St. Mark, “My little daughter is in all extremity, come and lay your hands on her, that she might live.” But on arriving at the hospital around 10am, I find nurses already performing reanimation on Rocia. Her heart had finally given up the struggle that had lasted all her short life. And with that, Rocia entered Life. I commended Rocia to Jesus and to “Mama Mary” with the prayer for the Commendation of the Dying, one of the strongest prayers that a priest can say, even if it is with a broken heart. I felt like I’d hit a wall at full speed. Is that all it comes to, all our efforts, all our prayers – a poor little lifeless body? Why? Why did not you answer our prayers, Lord? Why didn’t you grant us this sign of your goodness, and heal her? Why?

As I got back on my bike, my gaze more than a little empty, no doubt, I thought back to what our father, M.D Philippe, always used to say to us: Like Christ, the priest is meant to be a lamb. His only, indeed his ultimate, effectiveness will always be in that freely given love that can only be found at the Cross. I experience my powerlessness, even a slight sensation of shame, faced with this failure. This “nothingness” is all I have to offer with the Eucharist in the evening, that and Rocia’s lifeless body. Thérèse wrote to Céline: “And we would suffer generously, greatly! Céline, what an illusion! We wish that we would never fall!?” (LT 89) As Providence knows best how to prepare us for the unexpected, it so happened that I had read a few days earlier the luminous pages of Father Matthew Vauchez, a French priest working with street children in Manila: “We can also set our eyes on the scandal of the Cross – foolishness to those who are perishing –, which became the most striking symbol of love. We can come to understand how the hope of our world lurks in the blackened and damaged hands of these “unwitting contemplatives.” (…) We don’t want to save the world, but to be saved with the world – “When I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to me” (John 12:32) – refusing misery with all its absurdity and embracing the fruitfulness of love.”(from “Mendiants d’Amour”, Ed. Artège)

But was there to be no answer? Was the Lord silent? The next day, I return along the path that I had first trodden three months ago. I came to Rocia’s house and spent a time of silent recollection beside her body. Her dad handed me a small blue book, and there, what do I read? “Father, I now know why He gave me this disease: it’s to be closer to Him, to teach the Word of God to others, and to serve Him.” It’s as simple as that! And a little later: “I loved the theater (a play performed by young people during Holy Week), it was beautiful and deep, even if it was too short. The big question that I can’t erase from my mind is: Who is God? Who is God for your life? You know, my father, when I hear this question for the theater, there is a written big in my mind and heart as word. And this word is that He is “FATHER” for us all. In my life, God is the one who has a plan. Everything that happens in my life and in our life is a plan of God. It does not matter what happens or has happened, and if it has to go through happy or sad times, because He has a plan for us. And especially on our borrowed life. Thank you!” And this last message to her father, to her family and to God, is writ large on all these pages, which I read with amazement. This orphan, with such a serious illness, even exclaims: “How lucky I am that God has a plan for me!” Here it is; the Lord’s answer in the middle of the storm. Here, the one I thought I had helped was now rekindling my hope by her simple words. The Lord is accomplishing just what she said: that she would teach the Word of God to others, and already here she is, teaching me abandonment and total trust in the Father. She teaches me to continue to believe, and moreover to love, just at the moment when everything is going wrong, when everything collapses. She teaches me how to lift my gaze, so as no longer to look at what I’ve done or where I’ve failed, but rather to turn my eyes to the Father who holds all this in His loving hands. It’s the only possible way for us to remain faithful. Our life is lent to us like a precious talent; Rocia received this talent and made it fructify, while radiating at all times her unforgettable smile. And the Lord, who is so Good, deigned to share with me a few of these fruits, leading me to pass with her from death to Life. In the midst of what remains such a great trial for us – and first and foremost for her dad –, we can say that what we received was even more than a miracle…

Typhoon Recovery: Five Months and Hardly a Dent

Check out the blog from my first trip.

It seems like recovery from Yolanda (Super Typhoon Haiyan) isn’t really making much progress anymore. World, we started off strong, but now it seems like the hype is over and recovery reached a bit of a lull.

This past Wednesday and Thursday, I went back to Bantayan Island with my besties (Sr. Agapia and Sr. Francesca). Bantayan Island is one of the islands that Yolanda hit the hardest, but isn’t talked about a whole lot on the news. I noticed that there wasn’t much change since the last time I had been there, which was two weeks after Yolanda hit. It seemed a little better because some of the fallen trees were cleaned up, and the sun was shining. But on a closer look, barely any of the homes had been rebuilt. Some NGOs (Non-government Organizations) had come and donated some heavy-duty tents to families so they have somewhere dry to stay while it rained. That was a great help for right after the typhoon, but now these families have been living in tents for 5 months with very little hope for recovery anytime soon. That’s not living, that’s just surviving. Everyone deserves to live.

I went with two other sisters, both of whom Bisaya isn’t their first language, so communication was the first challenge. There was a bit of a language barrier, but I think Sr. Agapia did pretty well with her Bisaya skillz. I, on the other hand, was too shy to even try. Epic fail.

Anyway, we brought a carpenter (Nong Ente) along with us to look at the remains of the homes and see what materials are reusable, and then measure out what more supplies we still need to purchase. Our first priority was the families of the sisters. The sisters received money especially for them, and hey, family first! The sisters had come to Bantayan Island in January and purchased goods for new roofs, so this time, we got to see the fruits of the first trip, and also purchase goods to finish off the houses. After we finished with the sisters’ families, we ventured into the neighborhoods and looked for people to help. Actually the plan was to look for people, but really they found us first. Everyone kept coming up to us and presenting their case.

I’m pregnant, and I have 6 kids. I have 7 kids. I have 9 kids. I live in a tent. It’s hot in there. I have a special needs child. My husband only makes P120 per day (less than 3 USD). I have no walls. I have no roof.

Who are we to choose who gets help and who doesn’t? It was difficult, we just had to pray that we help those who needed to be helped the most. And if we didn’t, well, bahala na. It is what it is. One thing is for sure—everyone needed it.

The sisters received money for general use, so we used that money for transportation, lodging, food, and other things like that. We actually saved a few thousand pesos by doing it all in 2 days. We budgeted for 2 overnights, but only took one. Providentially, when we went to the parish to ask if we could enter the church to pray, a guy answered spoke to us a bit. Then, he offered that we stay in the parish guesthouse for free (Another P1500 saved). They even offered us dinner and breakfast the next morning.

Thanks to all of your generous donations, and some more from France that the sisters collected, we were able to buy materials to rebuild homes for about 18 families or so. (The records are with the sisters, I’ll give you the exact numbers soon).

Oops, I forgot to take pictures with me in them.. I’m behind the camera..

 

The remains of the house of our carpenter’s daughter:

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Her baby!

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With the remains of her home in the background.DSC02360

A new roof built with the donations of the sisters in January.DSC02371

But the rest of it needed some help…DSC02377 DSC02379

The smile of children in the midst of suffering is priceless.
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Our Vice Kapitan.DSC02389 DSC02390 DSC02393 DSC02395

This was the type of tent that most people were living in.DSC02398

The sisters also helped them out with a roof, but now it’s time to build the rest.
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Again, new roof, no walls.DSC02407

This family’s house flew from it’s original spot to where it is now during the typhoon. (See cement floor on the right)DSC02409

We met a girl at an inn and asked her to show us her house. It was a huge house, so we couldn’t help with the whole thing, but hopefully it was enough to fix a portion of it.
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Discussing business with our Kapitan.DSC02422

These kids just followed us around all day, so we made them sing us some songs.DSC02432

This family had 7 children. One deaf and mute (the one in green). No house (the remains are in the background). Living out of a tent.DSC02436 DSC02439

This house was just made out of stuff thrown together…DSC02440

Another home with tarps instead of roofing.
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Another lady, among hundreds living in a tent.
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On our way back to Cebu.DSC02475

In San Remigios, a new roof.
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My Experience in Jail

So, earlier this week, I read an article about sex trafficking, and it made me want to puke. Today, I visited a jail for women and met a lady sentenced for life because of sex trafficking.

I went to the jail with some ladies from Couples for Christ and Fr. Steban, CSJ. We went there to visit a little bit and so that Fr. Steban can say Mass for the detainees for Ash Wednesday. There, I met a lady who is a detainee. Let me call her Jane. Jane seemed to be a leader in that jail; it seemed she had a lot of responsibility. She asked if we could come back, and I asked her who I could talk to in order to set up an event, and she replied that she’s the one to talk to. It made me wonder how jails work around here. I’ve never visited a jail before, but I’ve never seen detainees in movies be given responsibilities like that. Anyway, Jane is such a nice lady. She was really joyful and kept thanking us for coming.

On the way home, I found out from the Couples for Christ ladies that Jane is in there for life for sex trafficking. Crazy! I can’t even begin to imagine what she’s been through. I wish I could hear her story, but I’m not even sure I could handle it. I also wonder if she’s in there justifiably.

The article that I read (and I wish I could link it, but I didn’t save it) told a story of a girl who was captured into sex trafficking. She tried to escape, but couldn’t. So her plan B was to make her way up to the top, which would give her more opportunities to escape. However, making it to the top meant she had to trick other women into the whole sex trafficking scheme. The girl in this article ended up escaping and is spending the rest of her life using her experience to help end sex trafficking.

I can’t imagine any woman wanting to help that business, except for a desperate attempt at survival. It makes me wonder if Jane has a similar story, and if she was a victim the whole time, but just got caught and the law just couldn’t take her side. Now THAT would be a story.

Then I realized that whether that’s her story or not, she’s still a victim. Everyone in that jail is really a victim. I was told by an officer that 85% of those women are in there for pushing drugs. Now, nobody grows up dreaming to be a drug pusher. Nobody wants to be a criminal. I think normally people end up getting into this kind of work because of desperation or maybe ignorance. I guess there are many different reasons people start doing criminal activity. I think if they were able to see clearly and choose, no one would choose to be a criminal. It doesn’t make their actions right, but when someone is driven to desperation, it causes them to do things they don’t want to do.

But despite the suffering and hardships that these women went through, I’ve never seen anyone worship and sing with so much fervor and so much joy than these ladies in jail. They were singing so loudly and so proudly. During the closing song, the women were dancing and clapping and singing their hearts out. After the Mass, many many many of them went to Fr. Steban to ask for a blessing. When some of the girls were going up to get their ashes, their faces were flushed red from crying. Could it be that they were touched by the homily? Touched by the music? Touched by God? Maybe. I mean, it could have been some other drama that I didn’t know about. But regardless, I was surely touched.

I left with the impression that this jail isn’t such a bad place. There are programs where volunteer teachers come in and teach for a year. At the end of the year, the detainees can take a test, if they pass, they get their high school and/or middle school diplomas and can continue to college when they get out. They also train and certify the women how to do hair, nails, and makeup so they have an alternative to their former life. It’s really a place that helps women.

I was expecting to leave the jail discouraged and feeling terrible for the women in there, but I actually left feeling more hopeful than ever. Crazy.

God is good.

UPelikula & Corazon Puro Cebu

First, I’d like to ask for your help. It is no cost to you except for maybe 5 minutes of your time. The deal is, I entered a Film Festival that UP (The University of the Philippines) is sponsoring, and my video made it to the finals. There are a bunch of chances to win some cash prizes, which I can definitely use for ministry instead of digging into my non-replenishing savings account. Aside from cash prizes, winning this would mean publicity. I entered with a YoFoREAL video that I made with some help from some of the YoFoREAL team. So, anyone who watches it will be pretty much sent to the yoforeal website. Anyway, all the other videos in my section are pretty darn good, so I’m not sure what my chances are for winning, BUT with your help, I can definitely win the Peoples’ Choice Award. So please vote for my video! Here’s how to vote.

1. Go to www.gpn.ph and make an account.
2. Join the uPelikula group (your vote won’t count without joining the group)
3. Click on the banner that says vote, go to amateur videos. Find “Inflowance”  Or maybe following this link will work.
4. Click Vote!

So, there are some prizes worth 3,000php and some worth 10,000php.

Thank you, thank you, thank you for taking the time to vote!

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In other news, we’re gonna have our first ever Corazon Puro Cebu monthly meeting on March 8th. So pray for us cuz we don’t really know what we’re doing. =D

Corazon Puro Mission in Cebu!

You know God is in charge when things don’t go as planned.. And one thing is for sure, it’s always nice when things go better than ever expected!

We planned for 4 missionaries to come to Cebu City from New York City. God made it possible for seven to come.
We planned on all the missionaries to be lay people. We got 3 religious.
We thought that no Franciscan Friars would be able to come. Two of them just happened to be on their home visits in the Philippines during the same exact dates.
We planned on getting a grant to fund this mission, it was denied, but we ended raising over $6000 from generous individuals. I don’t even know the exact amount, but we have leftover for the next Cebu mission!

So what did this mission actually look like?

After a couple of days of rest and prayer (in order to adjust from the crazy jet lag), we had a bonding weekend. We went to south Cebu with some of the Young Professionals and got to know them. Good relationships are key. One thing I’ve learned from my stay here in the Philippines is that you have to be trusted before people will listen to you. So, what better way to begin a mission by getting to know the people you will be serving?

The missionaries that came were Holly, Gio, Yazmin, Felix, Sr. Maria Teresa, and Br. Philip Maria, CFR, and Br. Diego, CFR.

During the week, I brought the missionaries around to speak to different groups in the mornings and hold Leadership Formation workshops in the evenings. On Monday, we went to speak to Fiat, a Eucharistic and Marian group at UP. On Tuesday, we visited a friend who lives in a poor barrio and then went to DSWD Haven, where abused women who are taken out of their unfortunate situation live. On Wednesday, we took a break for the normal speaking and just visited sick and malnourished children. On Thursday, we visited the basketball courts to invite boys to come to the retreat, then we visited SIT, a poor school to get them excited about the retreat on Saturday. On Friday, we went back to SIT to speak to the 3rd and 4th year high school students.

I could probably write an entire story about each place that we visited to tell how God really worked through the missionaries, how He touched their lives, and how the sessions always went better than expected, but honestly, it would take too long, and I’m kinda getting tired. Ha. Maybe another time.

In the evenings we went to the St. John Center and held workshops on Chastity, Theology of the Body, and how to evangelize. These workshops were mainly for the Young Professionals, but other groups around the Diocese were invited. Represented were the Young Professionals of Saint John (of course), Youth for Christ, Youth for Christ in Danao, Life Project 4 Youth, Lourdes Parish, L’enfant du Maicon (EDM), Capitol Parish, and others!

On Saturday, the Young Professionals were put to work, taking what they learned from the formation weeks and giving talks, leading the dinamicas, and giving testimonies. It was absolutely amazing. The best part is that the talks were given in the way in which Cebuanos speak. In my experience here, I’ve noticed that my American way of speaking creates a boundary between me and the person I’m speaking to. I am different. Anything I say may apply to me, but might not apply to the other because we’re not the same, and that difference is blatantly in-yo’-face evident through the way I speak. Because the Young Professionals are all locals, they can speak the same way that the people they are speaking to speak. And relating becomes much easier. The missionaries from the states left confident that the Young Professionals, if they choose, would be able to start being missionaries themselves.

SO.. The Young Professionals of Saint John are going to test the waters with this Chastity mission. On Saturday, March 8th at 2:00pm the Young Professionals of Saint John will be holding their first ever Chastity meeting. They will take what they learned from Corazon Puro, make it Filipino, and just do it. Let’s make a mess!

Here are a few photos from the week:

Br. Philip Maria, CFR doing “Evangelization 101”

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Yazmin, CP Missionary:

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Guada, Young Professional of St. John, doing the “Sex Chair” illustration:

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Felix doing some man talk.

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Angelo’s (YFC Danao) apology to women:

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Students from S.I.T. listening to some talks:

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Holly, CP Missionary, talking about Authentic Masculinity and Femininity:

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Ryzza, a Young Professional of St. John, doing the Oxytocin illustration with S.I.T students:DSC01871

Arlee (Young Professional of St. John) and Monna (Fiat) being emcees for the S.I.T. retreat day.
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Lifting up prayers:
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Men of Honor

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Giovanna, CP Missionary
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Rudi, Young Professional, sharing some of her research with the crew:DSC01851

Niño from Fiat, sharing some of his research with the group:DSC01849

Gio, CP Missionary, talking to the 3rd and 4th year high school students at S.I.T.DSC01838