By Bo Sanchez

Carol was peeking through the window again.

Daily, she’d watch the sweet couple next-door, doing their morning ritual: Before the husband went off to work, he’d kiss his wife, give her a hug, and declare to her, “I love you!” for all the world to hear. Each morning, Carol saw this sight, and every time, her heart was filled with envy.

Finally, one day, she couldn’t take it anymore.

So Carol confronted her husband Pete. “Why can’t you be like our next-door neighbor?” She pulled the curtain for him to take a look. “See? This man kisses his wife, embraces her, and says, ‘I love you!’ every morning. Every Morning! Why can’t you do that?”

Pete’s face was pale. “Honey, I can’t do that!”

“Why?” Carol asked angrily.

“Why, Honey, I… I don’t even know that woman!”

“Sheeeeeesh. Pete, I’m not asking you to do it with that woman. I’m asking you to do it with me!”

“Oh…” he muttered blankly.

“Tell me that you love me again. I haven’t heard it in a long time now!”

Pete shrugged his shoulders. “Gee, Carol, I don’t know. I mean, I said, ‘I love you’ thirty years ago during our honeymoon. And I told you that if I changed my mind, I’d tell you. Well, I haven’t.”

By now, I think many wives reading this would like to throw a few cooking pans in the direction of Pete’s head.

Let me ask you a question. Why is it necessary for spouses to tell each other, “I love you” each day? I mean, can’t one ‘I love you’ be sufficient for the next thirty years?

This is the same principle that works for reading the Bible. Or from learning about God. (Huh?)

That’s right. As mushy as this may sound, the Bible is God’s love letter to you.

And so, in your daily “Scripture” time, you can’t say, “This is boring. I’ve read this story before”; or, “Oh no, today’s reading is the Prodigal Son again. Gosh, I’ve read this a million times; or, “The beatitudes? Again? I can recite that in my sleep!”

So what? You see, you’re forgetting one thing: Christianity isn’t just a religion. It’s primarily a relationship.

It’s a personal relationship where “I love you” is repeated for a million times.

The temptation among Christians is to look for the new, the esoteric, the higher learning, the advanced subjects with big words—thinking that they can graduate from the basics. Stuff like trust. Obedience. Humility. Faith. Surrender.

And God whispering, “I love you” in our hearts again and again and again.

If you feel like you can graduate from the basic stuff, I think you’re in the wrong religion.

Because this one has no graduates.

We remain students of love, forever.



By Bo Sanchez

Let me speak to married men this time.

One morning, let’s say you find your wife in bed with tears in her eyes. When you ask her why, she mumbles, “I’m depressed.”

As a husband who has read the Bible, attended prayer meetings, and was now active in the parish, the temptation at this point is to love her with your mind. “What? How could you be depressed?” You shake your head in dismay. “Sweetheart, you’re not yet spiritually mature! Trust God! Follow Proverbs 3:5 and you won’t be depressed! ‘Trust in Thy Lord with all thine heart, leaneth not on thine own understanding, in all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shalt direct thy paths!’”

If you are the wife, and your husband tells that to you, I’m giving you permission to say to him one of the most expressive words in our language: “Heh!!!”

Husbands, don’t love her with your mind.

Love her with your heart.

When she says, “I’m depressed,” do this: Put your arms around her, stroke her hair, and plant a kiss on her forehead. And then say, “It’s okay, hon. It’s okay. Can you tell me why you’re sad? I’m listening.”

Now imagine your wife says, “I’m depressed because this morning, I looked at the mirror, and I saw so many wrinkles on my face!” (Boo-hoo-hoo…)

Immediately, husbands, you’ll be tempted to love with your mind again. So you say, “That’s all? Darling, you’re vain!” you say with a preacher’s bombastic voice, “Where’s your spiritual maturity? Scripture says, ‘Seeketh thy treasure in heaven where thieves doth not break in and steal or moth destroy,’ and ‘Indeed we believeth that when this earthly tent of ours shall passeth away, we shall findeth a new home, a dwelling in the heavens, not made by human hands, but made by God to last forever!’”

Husbands, don’t love her with your mind.

Love with your heart.[1]

At this point, she doesn’t need a preacher. She needs a lover.

Cradle her in your arms again, and if you have a somewhat-tolerable voice, sing to her the love song of Steve Curtis Chapman, “I Will Be Here.” (If your voice chases away cats and dogs, just say the lyrics.)

“I will be here,
You can cry on my shoulder,
When the mirror tells us were older,
I will hold you,
I will be here,
To watch you grow in beauty…”

[1] There is only one time where you should love with your mind, and that’s during courtship. Think. Analyze. Evaluate. But once the wedding ceremony is over, the heart rules.

Define Your Core Gift and Remain Faithful To Who You Are

By Bo Sanchez

Here’s My Gift: I’m Not a Theologian With Three Doctorates---Just a Preacher In Blue Jeans…

UNLESS you remain faithful to who you are, you have no gift to give to the world.

A few months ago, The Philippine Daily Inquirer ran a cover story about me in its Sunday edition. If you were not able to buy a copy, blame my mother who bought every single copy she could get her hands on—and gave it as a gift to all her friends. (She is still the uncontested President of The Bo Sanchez Fans Club.) My photo was so large, covering the entire spreadsheet, it made my nose look like the grand piano.

But I loved the label. Because in that article, editor Ruel de Vera officially knighted me as the “Preacher in Blue Jeans.”

Ruel said I’m a “Preacher in Blue Jeans” because people understand what I preached. That I don’t lecture about purely “spiritual” stuff, such as doctrine, or prayer, or the Bible... Instead, I speak about the nitty-gritty stuff of daily life— like how to earn money, how to have a loving family, and how to overcome temptations and problems…

When he interviewed me, he said I’m also a “Preacher in Blue Jeans” because people can identify with me. Especially when I become vulnerable, sharing my weaknesses and sins. (He was referring to how I confessed that I was sexually molested as a child.)

Not everyone feels the same way though.

I remember how an old priest scolded me many years ago for writing the way I did. He was a learned, scholarly priest, and he castigated me, saying, “Bo, stop writing about yourself. All you talk about is yourself. Start writing about God!”

I told him, “I’ll consider your advice, Father…”

I did, oh, for about 10 seconds. (I wanted to respect an older man.)

But I threw away his advice in a snap.

Because he wanted me to write like him.

Because he wanted me to write to religious guys like him.

Because he wanted me not to use my core gift and become someone else.

Others can do that, but that’s not my edge.

Yes, I usually write about me. And about my 87-year-old father who can’t see clearly anymore, I have to cut his fingernails and toenails for him, which is to me my greatest achievements in life. And about my 81-year-old mother who at an early age infected me with her devotion to God. And about my loving wife who is the real magic behind the preacher. (I cannot do what I do now if she didn’t support me 100%.) And about my wonderful sons, Bene and Francis, who remind me that life is unfair: How could I have deserved such fantastic gifts as these two boys?

I write about my large nose, my missing tooth, and my daily struggles.

I write simple stories, discerning God’s fingerprints in ordinary events.

I write to people who like listening to gritty reality, not scholarly theology.

And do you know what made me more confident in throwing out his advice?

As I spoke to this priest, I was leaning on a five-drawer filing cabinet, jam-packed with happy, tear-stained, heartfelt letters from my readers. Thousands of thousands of letters, telling me that they have seen God through my stories. (I was tempted to ask him, “Do you also have a filing cabinet filled with thousands of letters from your readers like this one, Father?” Thankfully, I stopped myself.)

Friend, don’t let anyone force you to be who you are not.

Your gift won’t be for everyone. So don’t try pleasing everyone.

But there are people out there who will be desperate for your unique gift. That’s your target market. Go after them and serve them. Don’t mind everyone else.Some people won’t like you. (That particular priest didn’t like me, but I’ve got lots of priest and bishop friends who like my writing—and tell me that they steal my ideas for their homilies.)

Friend, define your core gift, and remain faithful to who you are.



7:00 AM
One Saturday morning, I kidnap our ANAWIM (Editor's Note: ANAWIM is the non-profit home that Bo operates to help the underprivileged in the Philippines) orphans and kids, all fifteen of them, and squeeze them into my car for a day of fun. Along the way, the kids are singing, dancing, screaming, and vomiting on each other. No wonder my car’s air freshener isn’t working well. And where are we going? Not to those expensive amusement parks where people pay $8 per head. Multiply that by fifteen, and I’ll be poorer than a presidential aspirant who has just lost the elections. Instead, I decide to go to a place that suits my personal tastes and cultural preferences and artistic orientation: a place with no entrance fee.

9:00 AM
I drive them to a free park (Quezon Circle in Quezon City, Philippines), rent old bikes—that cost me only $8 for everyone! I spend the whole morning trying to teach the small ones how to balance on a two-wheeler—and wondering whether the big kids left the park and were now biking up Canon road to Baguio City (200 miles away)!

11:30 AM
As I try to catch my breath, wipe my sweat, and remove the new designs off my shirt and pants (i.e. bike-tracks), I begin to wonder why I ever got into this thing of putting up an orphanage. Perhaps I should shift careers now. I begin to imagine entering into Showbiz, and making a movie with Cameron Diaz.

12:00 NOON
After failing to catch them with a lasso, or with ingenious pits that I dig and cover with leaves—I give up and softly whisper to myself, “I am getting hungry and I am going to eat now. If you guys don’t want to eat, I will!” Immediately, all fifteen are behind me, little angels in a row.

1:00 PM
After budget meals, plus ice drops – four cents each - for dessert, I decide on a discovery expedition, to a place that they’ve never been to. I escort them to a public toilet. Naturally, they are flushed with excitement. After that, it was “swings and slides” time in the park. Life’s pleasures are free indeed.

5:00 PM
I’m driving home with my tired crew. I’m exhausted, yes, but peeking through my rear-view mirror, I catch a glimpse of the kids sleeping soundly, and my heart skips a beat.

I love them so much.

One girl was still awake. She sides up to me and whispers, “Uncle Bo, I am so happy right now.” So I wonder if it was the bike ride, or the swing, or the ice drop, or the public toilet. I ask why.

She gives me a tight hug. “Because, today you were with us.”

I try to drive carefully. My tears are getting in the way.

(Click here to view the many articles you can find in, America's Catholic Lifestyle Magazine. Be informed, be inspired, be blessed. )


"You Can Choose to Be Happy" by Bo Sanchez

I recall a few years back, I felt depressed.

I had a million problems! I had conflicts to deal with, a few storms in my Catholic community, plus a number of personal trials as well. To top it all, my dandruff was getting worse and my pimples are erupting again.

I prayed, “Lord, are you sure you want me to continue preaching and writing? I know I’m good-looking (depression has a way of making me hallucinate), but shouldn’t You have picked someone much holier and wiser and more loving?"

As I poured out my grief before God, and as I felt His tender comfort, a crazy question popped in my mind: “Bo, give me five reasons why you should be happy today.”

“Happy? Lord, how can I be happy at a time like this?”

But the question remained lodged in my brain, and I couldn’t give it up.

“Well,” I mumbled, “my five reasons for being happy are lovely Lily, sexy Sylvia, pretty Pamella, terrific Tanya, and gorgeous Grace.” (I was still single at that time, so I could make jokes like these.) Fearing that lighting may strike me anytime, I decided to become serious.

“First reason, Lord: You. We have a great relationship. You love me so much, and uh, I love You sometimes. What a God! Second, I have a beautiful family. Dad’s old and Mom’s (bleep!), yet we’re still together… Third, despite of it all, I have a great Catholic group. Fourth, I’ve got a fantastic job as preacher, writer, helping the poor… Can it be better than this? And fifth, I’m in love with this one girl. (Not five!) Pretty, sweet, loving, honest, and insane enough to go out on dates with me.”

And before I realized it, my “lousy feelings” left me and I felt happy!

You know, it worked so well, even to this day, I’ve decided to do this daily. Before I go to bed, I recall five things that happened during that day which I want to be thankful for.

It could be small stuff like, “Today, I watched the sunset,”; or “A little kid put her arms around me today and that felt so good”; or “My wife and I ate at Macdonald’s ‘cuz that was all I could afford but felt t’was a candlelight dinner in Shangrila.”

Because of this practice, the way I see life has changed. Because from the moment I wake up, my antennas are up—looking for the five things I’m going to be thankful for. I’m no longer focused on the bad things that happen, but on God’s great blessings each day.

Happiness is a choice.

You and I have everything that we need for happiness. Happiness isn’t “out there” but something that’s deep within us.

We choose to be happy. We choose to make our lives great.

What will you choose?

(Click here to view the many articles you can find in, America's Catholic Lifestyle Magazine. Be informed, be inspired, be blessed. )


"GOD IS A HAPPY GOD" by Bo Sanchez

Let me describe to you a hard-headed, stubborn-viewed, narrow-minded, obstinate-thinking, stiff-necked man.

Two guys bump onto each other on the street.

And one says, “Tom? Wow, Tom! My, you’ve changed! You were so stout before, and now, you’re soooooo thin! And you used to be short, but now you’re incredibly tall. And my goodness, you were so fair-skinned before, but you’re dark now! And your clothes! You’ve changed your style! You’ve changed soooooo much!”

The other guy says, “Uh, I’m sorry sir, but I’m not Tom. My name is James.”

“Gosh!” exclaimed the first man, “You funny boy! You’ve even changed your name!”

There are creatures like that in the world today. About 99.99% of the earth’s population, I think.

They’ll insist on what they think, perceive, and feel—no matter what reality is screaming at them.

Another example: Like I always believed I was ugly. But all the girls around me keep telling me I’m kinda good-lookin’. So what do you think should I do? Be stubborn or open to the truth?

Some may not like that example very much, so I’m giving you another one.

Every time I see a gorgeous sunrise, or play with a baby, or hear glorious music, or stand on top of a mountain, or run on the beach, or catch a child smile at me—I automatically think that perhaps God must be having fun at that particular moment.

I think: God must be a happy God! Laughing and having a grand time when He’s creating and recreating stuff.

Or why would He make those lovely things?

That’s reality. It screams the truth to me!
"Uh, I’m sorry, but I’m not Tom. My name is James.”

But you think I’d still believe the truth the next day?
“Gosh, you funny boy! You’ve even changed your name!”

For when I start my routine of the day, I immediately forget all about my great discovery. In the monotony of my existence, I revert back to my programmed idea of who God is, the image I carried in my brain since I was a scared child spanked by my religion teacher, scolded by a parish priest, and severely warned to be silent in church by my parents: Gray throne, long beard, long face, angry eyes.

Suddenly, I’m uneasy with Him. Because He’s too serious. If I really want to have fun, I’d do it when He’s not watching.Too bad. ‘Cuz He wants to have fun with me.

I wonder. When will I ever get real?

Please heal my stiff neck, Lord.

(Click here to view the many articles you can find in, America's Catholic Lifestyle Magazine. Be informed, be inspired, be blessed. )


In my life, I have found three places that give me a deep sense of the presence of God: 1) A scenic mountain with lovely forests; 2) A tranquil beach under a blue sky; 3) And the passenger seat of Roger's red '86 Corolla.

You see, my friend Roger drives like a mad man. Once he starts driving, those riding with him instinctively reach for their wallets and tearfully kiss the photos of their loved ones.
Every time I ride with him, my prayer life is enhanced. Deepened. Invigorated. It feels as though Heaven becomes so near to my soul.

One fateful day, I was riding with him again. We were blazing through a highway like a cruise missile. Roger looked at me and said, "Bo, I have good news and bad news for you."

"What's the good news?" I inquired between my Hail Mary's.

"We're efficiently moving at an average speed of 140 kph."

Involuntary spasms shot through my body. "Are you trying to tell me that we'll be arriving at our destination in no time?"

"That's the bad news..."


"We're lost. I have no idea where we are."

"Stop this car NOW!" I screamed.

We screeched to a halt, asked around, got info, and turned back: We were efficiently and swiftly driving towards the opposite direction. At 140 kph!

I realize that's no isolated incident among human beings. We're prone to commit the same idiocy: We get busy, do a million things, hop here and there, move fast, get efficient.

But gosh, efficiently going where?

What are your highest dreams, anyway?

Your deepest aspirations?

What do you think will give you gut-level, soul-deep joy?

Stop for awhile.

Take a break.


Listen well.

Pray desperately.

Read a map of life.

Know His dreams for you.

When I was thirteen years old, I saw myself doing two things: preaching to a crowd of people and helping the poor. After many years, those two dreams are reality.

I'm a preacher.

And I built ANAWIM, a home for the abandoned elderly and a few orphans.

I've made a decision.

I'm not riding with Roger again until I'm 80. (No matter how much he assists me with my spiritual life.)

Because I think I still have a few more God-Dreams to fulfill

(Click here to view the many articles you can find in, America's Catholic Lifestyle Magazine. Be informed, be inspired, be blessed. )


from “Bo’s Soulfood,” a ParishWorld blog by Bo Sanchez

They tell me that the average speed of a car in Manila is 25 kph. That's catastrophically slow, about 12 mph. That's just the speed of a turtle injected with steroids.

Aside from traffic, there are two other things that make vehicles go slow: Humps and potholes.

Between these two, I'd rather choose humps.

Especially those that are painted bright yellow and smooth on the curves, with nice signs to tell us they're coming.

But I don't like potholes, period.

They come in all sizes: tiny Mickey Mouse holes to nuclear bomb testing craters.

And they never come announced. They just appear when you're one inch away, and kabloom. And kablagblagblag... Life's like that.

When God wants you to slow down, He'll send you potholes. But He can never give you humps, because that's something that you should deliberately make for youself. (More on this later.)

Potholes are the small and big problems of your life.

When you have a bleeding hangnail, an expensive Italian shoe isn't very beautiful. When your doctor tells you that you have malignant cancer, your Mercedes or BMW suddenly lacks oomph. And when you discover that your teen-age son is on drugs, your jewelry doesn't shine as brilliantly as before.

Like potholes, problems come suddenly. No one warns you they're coming. And your whole life goes kabloom and kablagblagblag...

But because of these kablooms, you're forced to stop and think. You ask fundamental questions, like, "What's life all about? Where am I going?"

Overnight, your hierarchy of values changes. The most important things in life--such as your soul, your family, your God--become painfully obvious. And what used to be so pressing and insistent and noisy, reveal themselves to be cheap.

Humps, on the other hand, are deliberately made.

By you.

You plan them out. (And fight for them with your life.)

A quiet time for prayer each day.

Or Mass during lunch hour.

Perhaps a weekly prayer meeting.

A personal retreat every year.

Humps are special times when you'll ask the very same fundamental questions: "What's life all about? Where am I going?" But this time, not because you're forced to, but because you want to.
Take a lot of humps.

Perhaps potholes won't come as often.

(Click here to view the many articles you can find in, America's Catholic Lifestyle Magazine. Be informed, be inspired, be blessed. )



I now own a cell phone.

People who have been reading my stuff for a few years know how I love the simple lifestyle, ala St. Francis of Assisi. I've always wanted an uncluttered and free life. I didn't want ringing, beeping, and vibrating things disturbing my prayer time. And for the sake of humility (or so I thought), I didn't want the status symbol of a cell phone hanging from my belt.

So except for my computer where I write my books, for many years I've avoided all sorts of personal gadgetry, equipment, and other luxuries: no car, no cellular, no beeper, no wristwatch, no walkman, no girlfriend, etc.

But slowly, I had to face harsh reality.

My once friendly, gentle, and otherwise mentally balanced staff of seventy-five people -either working forSHEPHERD'S VOICE (publisher of this book), or my Catholic community, or ANAWIM (our work for the poor) - have become more and more violent these past few months.

I hear screams like, "Where were you? Planet Mars?! We've been looking all over the world for you these past three days!" Suicide attempts have been reported to me. A few have been acting weird every time the moon is full. And I have received a few death threats from otherwise very loving people, if I don't get a cell phone.

I've realized that there is one law above every other law. Yup, even above my desire for simplicity. Or prayer. Or humility. It's called the demand of love.

If I love these people, I'm going to get a cell phone. Whether it'll interfere with my simple lifestyle, my prayer life, and my great humility. (You see, I'm the most humble person in the world. I get awards for my profound humility. You know, I'm so humble that blah, blah, blah, blah, blah...)

What does love demand in your life?

Disturbing your prayer time because your little son wants you to carry him? Not attending your prayer meeting this week because its Mom's birthday? Saying "yes" to a leadership position even if you really want something low-key? Saying "no" to an abusive friend even if everything about you wants to say yes?

For me, it was the simple act of getting a cell phone.

I also got myself a girlfriend who later became my wife, but that's another chapter in this book.

(Click here to view the many articles you can find in, America's Catholic Lifestyle Magazine. Be informed, be inspired, be blessed. )



When I was a kid, I sort of liked getting sick.


Not only because I could miss school and stay home. I liked being sick because Mom would bring me milk and cookies as I stayed in bed.

In all the times I got sick as a kid (which was about every other month), I never saw my Mom get too tired not to serve me, or feed me, or fuzz over me. In my mind, the earth may shake, the moon melt, and the sun explode, but she was the one thing in this universe that will never ever change.

Many years later, already as a lay missionary, I remember getting terribly sick. And there she was, just as if the decades folded up into mere days, as she went up to my room for her hourly visits, bringing food, warm clothes, medicine, prayer, etc. Again, it felt good having a loving mother to watch over me. All I had to do was ask, and she'd be there for me.

But this time, as her visits progressed, I noticed how she entered my room almost panting, her breath short, her words faint, her movements slow. I also read in her eyes the acceptance of a painful loss: for the first time, she was discovering that she couldn't care for me much longer.

My suspicions were right. A few days later, she tearfully shared with me her emotional realization. "I'm just getting older, Bo. I got so tired these past few days caring for you. I began thinking that perhaps it'll be good for you to get married and have a wife now." That was the first time she ever said that to me -- someone who for years always wanted me to be a priest.

One day, Mom got sick. A rare event when it happens. So I went to her room, sat beside her, and chatted about everything she wanted to talk about. (To her, talking to me is better than all the milk and cookies in the world.) I felt good just being beside her.

I'm writing this to you, Mom.

I know I travel a lot and I'm rarely at home, because that's the life of a missionary. And I do thank you for your all-out support for me in my decision to serve the Lord.

But if you do get sick, and no one's at home to give you milk and cookies, I want you to know that all you have to do is call me, and I'll be there for you. Yes, we can talk as much as you want.

You're the best mother I can ever wish for.

You may be too old to care for me the way you did, but I'm old enough to care for you now.

In my pride, I don't show it as much as I should, but I just want you to know that I love you, Mom.

I really, really do.

You have given me your life.

I thank you.

(Click here to view the many articles you can find in, America's Catholic Lifestyle Magazine. Be informed, be inspired, be blessed. )



When I was getting married, I cried, "Heeeeeeeeelp!" I wanted to call the Fire Brigade. The Marines! The SWAT team. Power Rangers! Batman and Robin. Lois and Clark! Jacky Chan. Anybody!

Why? Because I felt incredibly awkward.

To say, "I was getting married," was like as saying "I'm blonde" or I'm from Pluto" or "My nose is gorgeous." Because if you've been reading stuff I wrote a few years back, you'd probably recall these lines from me:

"My friends, I want to remain celibate for life. Will He give me the grace to remain so? I'm giving myself two years to pray for the blessing of celibacy. If I find it, and I really hope I do, I'll make a more permanent decision at that time..."

Well, that was written in December of 1995.

And I didn't find the grace. Sniffle.

I prayed for the gift of celibacy.

He gave me the gift of marriage instead. (Mom, don't cry too much. My son may be a bishop.)

In this whole discernment process about my future, I realized two important things about me.

1) I love being a lay preacher. I love it too much to give it up for a Roman collar and velvet stole and church altar. Preaching as a normal human being works too well for me.

2) My heart longs for a female companion too much, too often, too strongly. What can I say? I'm made for luv. (Oh no. I'm watching too many Meg Ryan movies.)

A friend of mine tells me that searching for the will of God "out there" is a big boo-boo. Because His will for us is in the depths of our hearts. We'll discover His plan for our lives in our DEEPEST DESIRES. (Still, it'll take prayer and time to find out what they are!) When God made us, He implanted within us a burning desire for His will. He'll never twist our arm and say, "Be a priest!" or "Be a nun!" or "Get married!" or "Be the Tom Cruise of the Philippines."

He won't force.

Because we'll simply desire His will.


(Click here to view the rest of the many wonderful articles that await you in, America's Catholic Lifestyle Magazine)

HOLD HANDS by Bo Sanchez

Boy and girl.

Sweet young things.

Around their late teens.

Both walking in front of me, lost in their world of cute cupids, beating hearts, and chocolate cream cakes with caramel toppings.

They walk as if walking on air, hand in hand.

Hip to hip.

Shoulder to shoulder.

Eye to eye.

Nose to nose.

Bad breath to bad breath.

But do they mind?

Of course not. They're in luv.

I watch this scene with amusement one night, while going home from one prayer meeting.

At my side was another couple walking home.

Friends of mine.

Not so young.

With three kids. (The eldest is twenty-three years old.)

Grandparents in the making, really.

In fact, the guy's balding. There's nothing on top except a few overstaying weeds. Airplanes can land in and out without a problem. He can sing, "Shine Jesus shine," with superb visual effects. He compensates by his bushy eyebrows, combing them upwards as far as possible.

The woman on the other hand is gifted, endowed, and abundant. Through her, the vastness of the Kingdom is displayed. She has cellulite deposits with interest compounded daily. Indeed, she receives all that life has to offer her. But to her embarrassment, people always ask her, "When are you giving birth?"

But this fiftyish couple does something that blows my mind.

They walk hand in hand as well.

And their handholding is so different from the way the young lovebirds in front of me hold hands.

This time, I know it isn't just a cutey-sweety symbol.

It's proven. Full. Real. Unquestionable. Pregnant! (With meaning!) Backed up by twenty-five years of cooking meals, washing dishes, doing the laundry, and raising bratty kids.

Stop reading. And hold the hand of your spouse. Your mom. Your dad. Your friend. And prove it for the next twenty-five years.

And beyond.

(Click here to view the rest of the many wonderful articles that await you in, America's Catholic Lifestyle Magazine)



I remember a time when life was a little simpler.

During an ancient, pre-historic era, there was only one Shakey's pizza store in the country - located in far away Angeles City. I was only twelve years old when my father would bring me there for a two-hour drive, just to eat pizza. He'd eat two slices, and I'd eat the rest.

More than the pizza however, I treasure the time I spent with Dad. In my heart, I knew that my father loved me. Because he loved me enough to waste his time on me.

Things have changed now. Today, we no longer go out of town to eat pizza. We don't even leave the house. I just dial delivery, and Dad and I can eat pizza. My father's an older man now, and so am I (Sniffle). Sometimes I pay the bill. (Waaaah!)

But when I really think about it, the deeper things haven't changed. Dad still eats two slices, and I still eat the rest. And I still enjoy his deep friendship, much more than ever.

As a kid, Dad and I walked together to Cubao, a local commercial and shopping center. And we loved passing by that tiny Shoemart - if you can still remember that ancient SM that sold only shoes and nothing else.

I loved those walks!

Just Dad and me, walking man to man.

What has changed?

Today, SM consumes 30% of the geographical land space of the Republic of the Philippines. And it sells everything else except nuclear reactors and live piranha.

Also, Dad and I are no longer able to take long walks. I've become a missionary and that has taken me away from home. But when given a chance, I invite Dad and Mom to hop along the journey. So we've gone together to different parts of the world.

They don't give talks or anything like that.

I still do the preaching. But from the pulpit, I could see Dad and Mom, praying at the back of the crowd.

They're praying for me.

They love me.

Thank God, some things don't ever change.

Because in this insanely chaotic world of ours, our kids desperately need to know that they can hold on to certain realities that remain true for life.

Or else they'll lose their way, and die somewhere inside.

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I'm taking post-graduate courses in Theology to remind me of how ignorant I really am. You see, I love listening to my brilliant professors speak high-tech "theologese."

But I guess it's not just for me. I can't write straight with big, heavy-duty words, quoting stuff from super-duper theologians.

That work to me is just a little bit less difficult than doing advanced Trigonometry. But I recall one time when I took a shot at it. I started pounding on the keyboard, "Some contemporary approaches to spirituality convey paradigmatic alterations from traditional soteriology, rooted in modern biblical hermeneutics..."

Ugh... It was pure torture. (I offered my sufferings for the conversion of the world. And I bet you'd do that too if I wrote that way, hmm?)

But in all this, I've learned something quite glorious:

God is flexible.

He's made of rubber.

He can stoop down to hallow, lazy brains like mine.

And He can also meet the best and sharpest minds of big-time theologians. And still win.

He can be wise to the wise.

And simple to the simple.

I've realized that God will meet us where we are.

He can be very tender to you if you need an embrace.

He can be firm to you if you need some spanking.

He can be terribly awesome when you need a miracle.

He can be painfully quiet when He wants you to trust Him.

He will be what you need him to be.

(Note: Not 'want' Him to be. I said, 'need' Him to be.)

Question: What do you really need right now?

Believe me.

He knows about it more than you do.

So let Him meet you where you are.

And let Him love you, right there.

(Click here to view the rest of the many wonderful articles that await you in, America's Catholic Lifestyle Magazine)



I've been traveling too much, I sometimes wake up in the morning wondering what city I'm in. Am I in Davao? Or Bacolod? Or Toronto? Or LA? Or Jakarta? Or Cebu?

Everything is a giant blur.

But the moment I step outside the sunny day, and inhale the heavy, poisonous, potent, mutant, radioactive, genetically-altering, tuberculosis-causing, cancer-inducing fumes of the air...

Ahhh... (Cough.)

Instantly, I know I'm back in Manila.

This is my city.

Where else are you forced to trust God every time you inhale? Only here.

And many people complain of its absurd, insane, foolish traffic jam. It's phenomenal how we cause them, I think it'll become one of our major tourist attractions.

But I call it sweet traffic. This monstrosity causes me to do an extra fifteen decades of the rosary in the car. Cool, hmm?

While doing so, I try to avoid a mad rush of death-machines swerving left and right beside me (I think they were called public buses decades ago). I say a prayer for the crazy drivers, "Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing..."

My patience is tested and stretched, and little by little, my soul gets love-trained for Heaven.

And when I walk through Megamall, and see the crowd that rivals the sands of Mt. Pinatubo--it becomes the perfect place for earnest intercession. I walk around, praying for that happy couple eating ice cream, that crying child on her mother's breast, that bored saleslady, that punkish kid...

I pray for hundreds of people that day.

Suddenly, God becomes very close to me.

If given a choice, I can decide to live somewhere else - tomorrow if need be. I can escape it all and move to a tiny hamlet in a remote island of the Philippines.

I'd escape the heat, the smog, the madness...

But deep in my heart, I believe God wants me here.

In Manila.

This is my mission place.

And my home is where God is.

And He's here.

I feel Him in every breath I take. (Cough.)

Listen. Anyplace can be your home. It's not the location. Or the ambiance. Or the scenery. It's where God is calling you, pure and simple.

Do you feel Him where you are?

If not, you're not yet home.

(Click here to view the rest of the many wonderful articles that await you in, America's Catholic Lifestyle Magazine)



I can still see it.

There was a bamboo hut I saw while traveling in a far-flung island in the country. Right smack in the middle of nowhere, with mountain ranges and farmlands around it, lay this tiny shack the size of your regular toilet.

I had to stop to take a good look, because it had a sign on top of it. And the sign was bigger than the house itself. I read it, in big, bold, bright, red letters:


Now they'd be in trouble if that were their central office.

Then boy, whoever put that sign had faith.

I actually felt like that bamboo hut when at fourteen years old, a prayer group leader 'prophesied' to me that I will preach to different nations all over the world.

She said she heard God tell her that in her prayers.


Me, an international preacher.


I'm not insane, thank you.

You see, I knew myself. I saw who I was every time I looked at the mirror, which I tried to avoid to relieve myself of unnecessary stress. I was a small-packaged, toothpick-structured, pimple-infested, grotesquely-formed, fourteen-year-old creature who also wasn't very bright. I was struggling in high school algebra, chemistry, physics, and Pilipino.

I wasn't much of anything, really.

Oh, I was a preacher all right.

At that time, I was already leading a small prayer group of thirty (30) people. Impressed? Don't be. My audience was um... a little bit biased. The regular members of my prayer group were the following: my mother, my father, my five sisters, their husbands, my nieces, my aunts, their husbands, my cousins, and the neighborhood dogs. Count that and you get thirty very loyal people with a few representatives from the animal kingdom.

International Preacher?


But listen. I'm now thirty-three years old. With lesser pimples; but with a receding hairline now. (I don't run out of problems.)

And insane has happened: I've preached to sooooo many nations all over the world these past years, I sometimes wonder if my next flight will be to a planet called Jupiter.

I'm not boasting. You see, I don't think I can. Ever.

I still see myself as that bamboo hut out in the middle of nowhere. I'm still that fourteen year old nobody.

All it had to take was God.

And a guy who failed in algebra, physics, and chemistry.

The truth?

Your past doesn't define your future.

(Click here to view the rest of the many wonderful articles that await you in, America's Catholic Lifestyle Magazine)


My father isn't the expressive, sentimental type.

He isn't the hugging, 'I love you' kind of a guy.

But I recall as a young boy, he showed his love to me the only way he knew best: He spent enormous time with me. We'd jog together every night, walk to a pizza joint on weekends, and simply talk. (Actually, I'd do the talking and he'd do the listening.)

My father was my best friend.

A few months ago, Dad was trying to fix a light bulb in our garage. Standing onto a chair for greater reach, he lost his balance and went crashing down. His head hit the concrete floor and immediately, blood spurted out like water from an open faucet.

Because of the impact, there was like a dripping faucet inside his brain as well. Blood clots started to appear in his X-rays, and he began to experience paralysis in his body. Even after brain surgery, he lost his language ability because of a new blood clot, found even deeper than the others -- too deep for another surgery to reach.

The gravest blow was severe pneumonia, an infection that developed after a few months of staying in the hospital. His lungs were now filled with fluid, and that was when the crisis hit.

He was hooked up to a respirator, and the long wait began: The doctors told us frankly that he could go anytime. At that point, he was only absorbing 20% of the oxygen they were pumping to him. Someone doesn't last too long in that state.

I looked at Dad's hands and face, and they were bluish in color. I whispered to his ear, "I love you, Dad."

That was when he regained consciousness for a few minutes. He looked at me with so much sadness in his eyes.

Then he did something that he never did in my entire life. He raised his hands towards my face, and clasped me on both cheeks. Then he brought me down towards him, and gave me a hug.

My father gave me a hug.

He was telling me that he loved me too.

He was also probably bidding farewell.

My emotions were running wild inside me.

I was both grieving and joyful.

Joyful because for the first time, my tough, unsentimental father gave me a hug. Grieving because he was going away. Grieving because it might be the last hug I'll ever get from him.

"Dad, we should have done this a long time ago," I muttered to myself.

Today, my father has recovered a little bit, narrowly escaping that ordeal.

I hug him more often now.

Hug someone today, while there's time.

(Click here to view the rest of the many wonderful articles that await you in, America's Catholic Lifestyle Magazine)


I hold her hand.

And stroke her hair gently.

And getting enough courage, I steal a kiss from her cheek.

And when she finally smiles at me, I think I am one incredibly lucky guy.

Tracy is already a young woman.

But her head is bent downward, and drool flows through one side of her mouth, and her face is bereft of any expression. She can’t speak. Or move by herself. Every once in a while, someone has to shift the position of her head, her arms, her legs -- or else they becomes painfully sore. (Doctors regularly give her painkillers.)

And the hand I hold is small for her age and contorted. Her limbs are terribly thin, twisted, and abnormally short, and have to be strapped in a special wheelchair.

She doesn’t eat the way you and I do. She’s fed through a tube attached straight through her abdomen. Some would call her a vegetable.

I wouldn’t. Because her name is Tracy.

And there’s one thing she does well, despite all these.

Tracy smiles.

And her smile takes your breath away.

You see, she is able to smile when she likes something.

It’s the only way she communicates.

So I playfully rub the back of her neck, and whisper to her ear, “Tracy, do you like this? Smile if you do…”

She does, and it’s so sweet, you’d fall in love with her right there. I wipe her saliva with her bib, which is now soaking wet, and continue to hold her hand for the rest of the day.

I go home with tears in my eyes.

The next morning, I visit her again.

I can’t get away.

Yes, I know the past days were the most unproductive days of my life: no articles written, no preaching made, no songs composed, no meetings held, no books read, no plans designed...

All I did was hold her hand.

And allowed myself to be loved by a smile.

But the peace I felt!

And I realize why: I was being deeply transformed by the power of this girl - the one who couldn’t even move a finger.

Tracy was training my soul to love well. She was training me to love one person, one face, one heart at a time. And she was training me to find love in the most unexpected places.

Even her memory speaks to me, asking me to slow down if I want to really love.

I picture her in my mind, and she smiles.

She tells me that I always have a choice.

I can make life beautiful.

(Click here to view the rest of the many wonderful articles that await you in, America's Catholic Lifestyle Magazine)



Can you believe this?

At a time when KERYGMA had about 250,000 readers all over the country (there’s more today) plus a few more thousands around the world, we only had two phone lines in our office.

You read that right: Two.

That was like putting the entire Pacific Ocean through a small two-inch pipe.

And rusty ones too. Because our phones had the audacity to break down on us. During that memorable era of our history, if you called us up and heard a ring you didn’t shout Yabadabadoo just yet. Some actually danced the boogie and bought some ice cream at that point, but we advised not to do them yet.

Because the phone could have been busted, and all you’d have heard was the ringing. And the ringing. And the ringing. And nothing else, except your own scream: “Aaaarrrrggggggh!” Imagine how our callers felt? Some suffered a neurotic episode right there.

And if you heard a ring when you called us up, we asked people to check what time it was: It may have been two in the morning.

But here was the real miracle. If you finally heard our receptionist lift up the receiver and say, “This is KERYGMA office, may I help you?” we gave you the go ahead signal to break down into joyful weeping and dance not only the boogie, but the cha-cha and tango at the same time. Buy the ice cream, we told you, and fly off to Boracay ( Editors note: It's a very popular island resort in the Philippines.)

Because you beat the odds.

You won.

You out-dialed thousands of callers.

Believe me, probability-wise, you had more chances of being killed by a terrorist than reaching us by phone.

Guess what.

Nowadays, I feel that God doesn’t eat ice cream as often as He wants to.

Because every time He calls us, all He gets is the busy signal.

Our hearts receive thousands of calls from our different affections and attachments and ambitions...

This is my suggestion (It’s really quite simple): Keep the number of your heart secret. Between you and God. Please don’t share it to the whole world. Let your deepest, most powerful affections be for Him. Alone.

And then no one else will clog your line.

Not your dreams.

Or your idols.

Or your other loves.

God isn’t on diet.

Let Him enjoy all the ice cream in the world.

(Click here to view the rest of the many wonderful articles that await you in, America's Catholic Lifestyle Magazine)