The Uniqueness of You

The Fourth Industrial Revolution: It seems a scary type of being as we look at it from the lens of a third world country like the Philippines, where I came from. Are we there yet as a country? In some ways, yes. But in more ways, no. We are the top texting capital of the world, so that would make us belong to the 4th industrial revolution. Right? We have upgraded our systems so that we can also use Gcash when we pay even when we buy from a sari-sari store. So, it makes us attuned with technology. Right? But do not forget, that our dear farmers are still using the carabaos and the wooden plows in the fields. Do not forget that some of our fellow citizens still do not have their own toilets. Do not forget that some of our fellow citizens do not even have an FB account. Yes, true. We may feel that we are technologically advanced already but there are many of our fellow citizens who are still searching for food in the heap of garbage at the Payatas grounds and elsewhere.

We belong to the third world. Yes, we may feel disenfranchised and marginalized from the world view. But no, we may see it from a positive perspective; as an opportunity to build from our strengths.

What do we have that other countries may not have? We should look at it that way. We cannot be disheartened with the fact of being a poor country. We cannot be frustrated that we do not belong to the upper rich countries of this world. We must look from within and see what our country can offer. We are our country. So, what can we offer? What can you offer?

What do you have that others do not have? Looking from a personal view point, what do you have? What are your strengths? This is the way to survive in this fast-changing world.

The fourth industrial revolution is characterized by speed of breakthroughs. The physical, digital, and biological structures have converged to disrupt our ways of doing things. Production of goods, raising and growing cattle and the like, the making of medicines, 3D printing, the new phase of distribution of goods, and such others have become significantly improved from before. Speed!

Thanks to technological and digital advances, the world has become narrower not smaller. Narrower because the gap between those who have much versus those who have little has widened.

Communication has become a commodity and more and more people have access to data and information. Transparency has become a shout-out because people now are becoming more aware of the impact of events and things to their lives. People care! People matter!

So, for the youth of this age of 4th industrial revolution, how would you respond?

If you were on a dance floor with many people and you want to be noticed, how do you think should you dance along with the music? Would you dance as the way the others are dancing? Would you just sway yourself around? No, right?

  1. If you want to get noticed, surely, before coming to the dance floor, you would have prepared an authentic dress – something not superfluous or extravagant that you could not afford, but something that stands out. Stand out!
  • If you want to get noticed, would you dance in the corner while lowering your head and cowardly hide? Surely not. If you want to get noticed, you will dance at the center of the dance floor because you are confident that you have practiced your authentic dance steps. You will stand tall because you believe in yourself. Stand tall!
  • If you want to get noticed, would you dance by making others uncomfortable with you? Surely not! You will want them to like the way you dance. Right? Gravitate to people!

Standing out. It would take a lot of planning to stand out. You have to think about your end-goal. What is it that you want to achieve? How will you do this? What are the steps that you need to do to accomplish your goal? What are the resources that you need? More importantly, assess and evaluate where you are now. What do you need to get to where you want?

Standing tall. It would take a lot of discipline, determination, diplomacy, and diligence (4Ds) to get to where you want to be. Nothing happens just by waiting for grace to jump on you. You have to strive for that goal. You must be ready to bear and face challenges. You must be ready to accept failures. You must be ready to rise after every fall. You must be ready to tell yourself, “I will not give up!”

Gravitating to people. It takes a lot of courage to get affirmation from others. But this world is about relationships and connectivity. No man is an island. You cannot be great when you feel that others are not as good as you. Self-esteem and humility would tell you that many others are better than you. But you sustain your self-resolution and self-commitment to your plan; you are born unique and never less. So, to make other people like you or whatever you are doing, you have to like them first and respect what they are doing, too. RESPECT for others is very important. It is the most basic Christian value that you must clothe yourself with. Reach out when you need help. Do not be timid. Do not be shy to ask for help. It is okay to let others know that you are in want. Who is not? It is okay to fail. Who has not? It is alright to make mistakes. Who has been correct all the time? Just stand up and let others lift you up. No one can be by himself. We are born to be with people. Gravitate.

This 4th industrial revolution may be predominantly driven by divergence of all technologies; yet, one thing remains: PEOPLE CULTURE. People with good values, people who believe in themselves, people who respect others would still be the most important factors at work, in the community, and in the family. These things remain because these are the basics of our humanity. We are after all uniquely human and no AI, no technology, no biotechnology, nothing can take that away from us. We are born with body, mind, heart, and soul. No one else has that but man.

Be proud that you are a Filipino. Be proud that you are the youth of today. Be proud of your community. Be proud of your family. Be proud of who you are. Stand out. Stand tall. Gravitate to people.

The Curtain

I was walking yesterday in the neighborhood. As I passed the beautiful houses, I tried to see how they looked and what tells one house apart from another. Some had beautiful frontages; well manicured lawns. Some had flowers which were neatly arranged to highlight the entrance. Some had garage doors that were left open. I saw how well arranged were the things inside their garage. Some windows had curtains and some had blinds.

As I was nearing our house, I noticed that it was only the window in my room that had its curtains opened like an arch. I looked again at the other houses. Their curtains were closed. I looked up again to my room; it’s odd. All this time, people who passed by may have wondered why my curtain is open that way.

Funny me! I wake up in the morning and the first thing that I would do is open my curtains. I see it as my welcome of a new day. Whether it is sunny outside, or it is raining, or it is chilly, I still open my curtains. Why?

Back then I would joke people who asked me, “Why do you open your curtains?” I would answer them, jokingly, “Oh, it means my store is open.” Some would say, “What store?”

It could be out of habit that I open the curtains everyday. But really, I am asking myself now why I am opening the curtain and to think that it is the first thing that I do everyday, unconsciously. Now, I am becoming aware that I am doing this.

But why am I doing this?

It is my way of ending my prayer in the morning and my way of saying, “Thank you, dear God, for another day.” A bonus would be if I hear the chirping of the birds. That would make me smile back.

When Jesus breathed his last, the curtain in the temple was torn into two. Accordingly, this meant the end of the old testament and the start of the new testament – Jesus – the truth, the way, the life.

Now that I am conscious that I am opening my curtain out of habit, I am grateful that each morning I can still rise and walk towards the window and say, “Thank you, Jesus. It is another day.”

The VIP

Everyone was busy. “The VIP is coming; he is coming,” the rumors and the announcements came louder and louder. “Anyone who is not prepared will miss out the day,” said the leaders of the community.

Everyone was busy. They cleaned and decorated their houses. They trimmed their gardens.

Everyone was busy. They started sewing new dresses to be worn on that day. They washed and ironed their old but nice-looking clothes. They exchanged pleasantries on what they would be wearing.

Everyone was busy. The kitchen was prepared. There had to be a meal just in case the VIP would choose to visit them during mealtime. The food should be more than just sumptuous. It must be presentable, too.

Everyone was busy.

“So what day is he coming?” Someone asked. But no one could tell. Everyone just kept saying, “The VIP is coming.”

Days passed by. Years passed by. The VIP has not come.

Actually, the VIP passed them by. He was there. They missed him.

Just like the VIP that everyone wanted to see and meet and greet, Jesus’ coming was also expected. People waited for his coming. They wondered how he would look like. They marveled at what he would do to rule the earth. They were getting ready for his coming.

And he came. He came from another direction. He did not come on a horse-drawn carriage. He did not come as the VIP that people expected him to be.

He came. He came as a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes. He chose to be with the animals and the shepherds. He chose to be with a simple mother and a carpenter father.

Indeed, he came. He came not with trumpets and horns signaling his arrival. He came with the bleating of the lamb and the sheep. He did not come with fireworks and fanfare. He came with brightly-lit stars in the night and thousands of angels singing, “Glory to God in the Highest!”

Yes, he came in the least expected time and place. He came out from another direction. He chose to be poor, quiet, and unnoticed. He came in humility.

Yes, he came!

The First Answer could be right

I was in church this morning. The priest gave a very interesting homily. He started by exciting the parishioners with this statement – “Today, let’s go to social media.” Everyone sat up straight, getting excited to hear what the priest had to say. He continued saying, “Let’s go to Twitter.” I tilted my head and said to myself, “Is he going to tell everyone that Elon Musk bought Twitter? And why would that matter here?”

Then he proceeded, “Do you know who has the largest following in Twitter?” No one answered; not because they do not know, perhaps. But more so because in the church you have your reservations to answer. Everyone was quiet. So the priest answered his own question by enumerating the top three accounts in Twitter with the largest following. It was like announcing the winners of the Grammy Awards. The priest was the host of the 2022 Grammy Awards Night. It was exciting from that point of view. So he continued to enumerate the big accounts in Twitter. Amazing and interesting info. I got the wrong answer for the top rank.

Not in the least dismayed by the quiet crowd, the priest continued with his enthusiastic homily. He asked another question, saying, “Do you know what was Jesus’ favorite fish?” The Gospel was about the 153 fishes that the disciples of Jesus caught when Jesus appeared to them the third time after his resurrection. I was hoping the priest would explain the 153 because if he asked what it meant, I would have volunteered my answer and say, “Ani Elohim!” (I AM GOD).

But the question was about the favorite fish so I muttered to myself, “grouper?” Voila! The priest, in a loud interesting voice said, “It’s Tilapia!” I knew it was Tilapia. But I did not blurt it out in my mind because I was in a foreign church and I would not have known that they knew Tilapia. I thought Tilapia is a native name for my countrymen’s favorite fish. I was wrong in my perception. My first answer was right. It was Tilapia, indeed.

I was taking quizzes yesterday in an online course. The questions were difficult to answer because some of them were vague and the answers to choose from were also vague. “Is my brain getting dull this time?” I asked myself. But I have to do positive self-talk to keep me going. So I told myself, “The questions are difficult; I have to re-read the materials.” Surprisingly, when I got the feedback to the answers I posted, I got wrong answers in the questions that were confusing me. My first answers were right. But I changed them just the same. Thus, I got wrong.

One Professor in my online course said, “Pause. Stop. Think!” I did that. And I changed my first answer and it was wrong.

Learning from my experience, I should have done this instead before making an answer or a wild guess – Pause. Stop. Think. Then make the wise decision and make that intelligent guess.

In life, we tend to react immediately to stimuli around us. Sometimes, we get angry. Other times we get irritated. Some others send us to sadness; worse, tears. Emotions are normal. Yes! We have to go through them otherwise we lose the experience and we will never learn.

But after allowing that emotion to flow and sink, I have learned to Pause. Stop. Think. Then make the wisest decision that I can make; one that would benefit myself without inconveniencing, harming, hurting another. In that sense and following that pattern, the first answer would be right; from my own personal learning and perception.

Pause. Stop. Think. Then decide to answer. The first answer that comes out may be the right answer.

Beauty is in the Eyes of the Beholder

I was reading this book that gives a simple exercise on how we seem not to see some things even if these are already near our line of vision. I tried and tried to achieve the desirable outcome. Supposedly, I should not be seeing a part of the picture as I draw it nearer my eyes. I tried and tried but to no avail. Perhaps, it had something to do with the material I was holding. Perhaps I did not quite understand the instruction. Or maybe it has something to do with my eyes.

I wear a reading glass.

So I tried wearing my reading glass to see if I could see the point of the exercise. Still, I got the same results. Nothing. I could see clearly. Nothing gets blurred. Nothing disappears.

Or maybe I should not be wearing my reading glass. So I tried again without my reading glass and again and again. Still nothing happened. But why? Am I a freak? Others who read that book affirmed the accuracy of the exercise. Freaky me!

Then I remembered that way back when I was still in my Elementary and High School years, I was always hurt when classmates, friends, or neighbors call me in our native language, “Budlat!” That means “Big eyes” in a discomforting way. It was meant more as an insult than an appreciation of my big eyes. Back then I got hurt. I would just keep quiet. I knew then that what they meant was that I was not pretty or was not attractive because I had such big eyes. Budlat!

So maybe, that exercise of blurring the field just did not work out with me because I have such big eyes.

Speaking of being “Budlat,” I do not get hurt anymore. I appreciate the fact that I have such big eyes. They may not make me pretty but they give me good vision. I can see from the periphery and I have a wider range of seeing the things around me; that is from my point of view.

One time I was in church to attend the daily mass. I usually cry when I pray in church. As I was praying, Jesus whispered to me, “Give a gift to the child at your front. It is his birthday, today.” I usually do not bring money to church except only for the money I give for the Offering. I always have that money in my left pocket. But on that particular day, I had money in my right pocket as well. So when I heard the whisper of Jesus, I opened my eyes and I saw the little boy in the front pew. He looked back at me with his big black eyes. He smiled. I got the money from my right pocket and gave it to the little boy. He was there with his mother and a baby in the mother’s arms. His mother looked back and with a big smile she said, “Thank you,” tearfully. I softly said to the little boy, “Happy birthday!” The mother cried. I bowed my head and folded my arms in prayer.

Big eyes! We had the same big eyes. He looked handsome with his big eyes. I wonder if I look pretty, too, with my big eyes. But it does not matter, though. Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. I am grateful with my two big eyes and I do not mind people calling me “Budlat.” I am just very grateful that God gave me these two big eyes that do not blur and lose focus even if people tell me to do so.

I thank God for being Budlat. It is a gift.

What We Have

I watched this video exercise which showed how much privilege some have in this life and how much others are without such endowments. It kept me hooked into the picture of that lady who was left behind. She did not have the privilege that others had. Those who were ahead in the line, felt sad, too, that there were many others behind them.

Sometimes we tend to forget just how privileged we are in so many ways. The mere fact that we are living or breathing while others are dying in a war, in illness, in hunger, in grief, or in violence, should make us feel grateful.

I am guilty of not appreciating the privileges I have. It is a shame to think about that now. To me, gifts freely given, grace as we call it, are privileges that we should appreciate and receive with grateful hearts.

I was awakened from a dream. It was a scary dream. I was surrounded by rats and they were just everywhere. I was squeezed in hiding. I curled under a blanket. To my horror, one rat was nibbling on my nape. I was screaming and I did not know how to take off the rat from my nape. I was screaming for help but no one came. It seemed that the people around me could not hear my scream. Then I snapped out from my dream, gasping for breath. It was just a dream.

Sitting down, I wondered what that dream was. I prayed for meaning.

Sometimes, gifts are abundant in our midst. Yet, we seem not to recognize them. We look at them as though they are just part of our being “privileged.” The rats! We look at them as though they are not essential. We see them as though they are just ordinary. The nibbling rat!

But these gifts are meant to be received and appreciated.

I sat and with hands open wide, I said, “Thank you, dear God, for all these gifts. I am very privileged to have all these – the air, the sun, the wind, the rain, the moon, my family, my friends, my body, my mind, my heart, and my soul.”

I pray for those who are fighting for their lives. I pray for those who could not scream for help. I pray for those who are screaming yet could not be heard. I pray…

The Bully

We always think of this as one who intentionally teases someone in school to the point of the one teased to feel inferior, hurt, discriminated upon; or even feel trampled on to an extreme extent. We always see this in movies and TV series where one or some students, those who think highly of themselves, would look down on someone, whether a boy or a girl, as weak, poor, or simply one who does not belong to the group. A bully or a group of bullies may end up in the Principal’s office or if they have the right connections, the one bullied may end up leaving that school.

I was bullied not in school but in the workplace. At first I just took it as a joke. But then it came on everytime we had a meeting. I felt hurt. I lost interest to participate in the discussion in that meeting, however important it was. I felt wronged.

But just like the weak and bullied in the classroom, I did not speak up. I chose to be quiet. Why? I was afraid that I may just be branded as “sensitive” or onion-skined. Also, I did not want anyone to feel uncomfortable with me. So I chose to keep quiet. I kept all my hurts and I just responded with a smile.

Looking back, I am now wondering if what could have happened if I stood up and I fought back. Would things turned out differently? Had I been given a chance to speak up and be justified? I don’t know. Perhaps not. That is not how this world works. Those who are strong would always be strong and become stronger. Those who are weak would always be weak and become weaker. That is only from my point of view as the bullied one.

But that is only true when one chooses to be left behind. But is it not the goal of the nations today that no one would be left behind? Would that mean the bully, too, would not be left behind? Would that bully keep on bullying as well; as the bully moves forward with the others?

I don’t think so. There would always come a time for the bullies of this world to realize that people are human beings with human rights; people who are clothed with dignity and the right to live, too.

I stood up by leaving; without telling the bully that I felt wronged. I left and I left the bully behind me. As the Bible teaches us, we must forgive but we do not forget to remember those who have wronged us. We remember them not out of spite or vengeance. We remember them so that we can pray for them. We remember them so that that they, too, would come to know that life is a gift and we are only in our temporary dwelling places.

I believe this: There is a life that is with bliss and there will be no bullies out there. There is only sunshine that comes from one source, The Author of Life.

The Wall

I love walls with stories. Yes, stories. Pictures, photos, paintings, drawings, artwork, symbols: they make the walls alive. I love colors on the walls. They stimulate my brain. I love music coming from walls, they excite my heart.

Yes, walls are just walls. But if these walls have ears, then they could be telling us stories that make us laugh with joyful tears, stories that make us cry with heavy yet happy hearts, stories that make us wonder as our minds wander.

I had lived a life with walls. Back then it seemed scary. I thought my life would just be within those walls. I thought that I would die one day without being able to break those walls.

But I was mistaken. My life is more precious than those walls. There will always come a moment when those walls will just break down. Freedom!

Yesterday I was talking to a student and I was asking her about school. She said, “Oh, this is already my second to the last day of our final exams. After this, it would be ‘Freedom!'”

Sometimes or perhaps oftentimes, we are in situations that limit us and make us feel as though we are in a walled city. I don’t like to be in that, too. But sometimes, those walls are there to make you a better person. The walls may be limiting you in terms of space so that while you are there, you can creatively dream of a better you.

When I was in my “walled world,” I always tell myself, “One day, when these walls will break, I will travel to faraway places and see the rest of the world.” That kept me going and that gave me the inspiration to persevere in that “walled world” of mine.

Prayer broke the walls. Prayer gave me my freedom. Prayer led me to my inspiration to learn the pages of the book of life through my travels. No more walls! And freedom is sweet because I earned it through hardship and perseverance.

The Last

When I was growing up and since I started schooling at the age of four, I trained myself to excel. I always wanted to be the first; first in ranking, first in line, first to get the needles of vaccinations in school, first to be chosen for any activity, first to lead school organizations, first to be in the hearts of my teachers.

The thing about first is that you seem to miss those who are in the last. The thing about first is that you will always look behind afraid that you may be overtaken by those who are in the second, third, fifth, or tenth place. The thing about first is that you are always worried to excel, stressed to do your best, anxious to win.

Lowly as I am, I am and I had always been a struggler to be first.

But life for a struggler like me always means being at my best when the universe would harmonize with my dream. But what if the universe runs counter to my dream?

There can only be two things that a struggler like me could do: to do better than the best or to give up and just be contented with what the universe has in store for this lowly struggler.

But a struggler like me would not give up. I eat struggles for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. They taste bitter but with time they seem to be sweeter. They give a momentary placebo of feeling good until the good comes.

Time is the teacher of this struggler. Time firmly teaches that there is a reason and there is a season. To give up means denying the self of the chance to rise above the struggles. To want to taste other courses for meals would mean to chew and chew and chew the bitter herbs of struggles.

To want to be in the first line of the first row of everything that a struggler like me hurdles through time is almost always impossible. There always comes a tipping point; give it up or give it all.

Lately, though, I realize that life is not meant to be a struggle to be the first. This may be a late realization, too. But there is always time and time is grace in itself.

Realizing the real meaning of my life as a struggler, I can only pray that I may be gifted with the privilege to at least be the last in the last line of the last row of that march towards the Author of Life. He is what life is all about. That march is the ultimate march and it does not matter if I am the last. I would be very happy then.

The Instruction

Instructions.

Sometimes they are frightening. Sometimes they bring about worries. Sometimes they bring about excitement. Sometimes they bring about fortune and luck.

I could still remember one time when after my prayer I was inspired by an instruction to go to this church. The instruction was to tell the priest in that church this message: “Jesus says, He likes your church.”

To someone, perhaps, they would say this is an illusion; I mean the instruction. To some, perhaps, they would say I must be dreaming; one friend told me that, too. To some, perhaps, they would say I must be crazy; that, too, I hear. But there is always no harm in trying to obey an instruction after a deep prayer.

So I went to that church even though I had some hesitations in my mind since I did not know the priest. Moreover, I have not been to that church at mass or church events. But because I wanted to follow the instruction, so off I went.

The church was indeed very nice. It was very clean. It was newly renovated. The floor tiles were obviously new. And to my surprise, unlike all the other churches whose doors or iron gates are closed, this church’s door was open. People were there, praying. The candles were lit. This church is indeed different.

I asked for the whereabouts of the priest. The priest was still having his breakfast in the church convent. So I waited at the door entrance to make sure that he would not slip me by. The church aide told me that the priest was hurrying up to go to his next appointment. So I waited for the priest to come down from the convent. I could see the priest’s car which was already very spotlessly clean. The engine was already running.

I could hear footsteps from the staircase of the convent. There! I told myself, “This is the moment of truth. Are you ready?” And there he was. He was indeed in a rush. So I summoned all my courage and greeted the priest. “Good morning, Father!” Then the priest, without looking sideways towards me, just waved his hand as if dismissing me. He was in a hurry. I completely understood the haste.

I insisted and said, “Father, this will only be short.” Still, the priest seemed determined not to take notice of me. I had the impression that he was afraid that I may be asking for some sort of help. Probably, he had been used to talking to people asking for help. So he was already in the act of opening his car and I was hopeless. I must deliver the instruction.

So I shouted, “Father, I just want to tell you that Jesus said, ‘He likes your church!'”

The priest stopped. For the first time he looked at me. But this time, this time, this time, like evading eternity, it was my time to turn away like a flash of lightning. I hastened and bid goodbye to the priest. I did not want him to remember my face. I hid my face. I just wanted him to remember The Instruction.

That was quite a suspenseful experience for me. Who would have thought that someone so ordinary, someone dressed ordinarily would deliver an important message? A message that that affirms the priest and whatever he had done for the church!

Back then I did not know why I was inspired to deliver The Instruction. I thought I was just an instrument to boost the morale of the priest and to recognize his good works.

But now I realize this.

It was a learning experience for me. My prayer led me to deliver that instruction. I was taught how to obey clear instructions from Jesus. It was a test of my ability to listen, to obey, to have courage to be humble and the willingness to be ignored and misunderstood.

Jesus speaks in our prayers. But sadly, many times, though, I failed to hear His voice because I was too busily seeking for Him in the wrong places. He remains unmoved in the candle-lit corner of the inner room in my heart.