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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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)