Monday, December 05, 2011

Backpacker: Experience in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

It’s my second time to travel alone in a country I’ve never been into. I chose Vietnam for its simplicity and historical richness. But purposely, I just wanted to explore new culture and test my faith in travelling by solitude. With my backpack, I travelled with just enough resources but believing in the limitless grace and abundance of God. I carried in my heart the hope and excitement of discovering the mystery of what they call the “unknown,” unlocking the secrets of uncertainty which somehow scares those who live in comfort zones, like I do.

I have zero knowledge of the place aside from the information I rushed surfing over the internet. With less than three hours of flying in the dark sky, our arrival was a total relief. I made it! I landed into a place so strange and promising I could hardly express my feeling. I went on the usual process of queuing my passport to the immigration section. No questions asked, no problem encountered, so far so good, I thought.

But the worst thing happened to me! I was about to fall in line at the airport’s money changer when I discovered something’s missing. I lost my wallet! I was hundred percent sure it was just on the pocket of my cargo pants, but I couldn’t find it. I felt numb, and began to panic. I have just arrived but I wanted to go back home! Lord, help me! I couldn’t remember how many times I prayed to the Lord for rescue. The feeling was indescribable. Everything was in my wallet. I felt so poor.

I proceeded to the lost and found section and asked for assistance. Language barrier came in but I tried to communicate in the best way I can to relay my concern. The lady staff was kind enough to assist me and told me to just wait while she’s coordinating with the airport’s security. While waiting, I remembered Dr. Son, a friend I met at EAGC in Hong Kong. We were in constant communication via email prior to my travel, and I decided to call him even at unholy hour. Dr. Son was accommodating enough to listen to me, but I could sense he didn’t know what to do as well. While talking to him, somebody from the airport security came in with my wallet in his hand! Praised God! They found it inside the aircraft. I literally uttered halleluiahs many times. I thanked Dr. Son for accepting my call and told him I’d love to see him the next day. I thanked the staff, the airport security. I found a friend in Ho Chi Minh City. God remains my confidence.

I exchanged my money for Vietnam Dong. I rode a taxi and went on to a decent hotel where I could rest. It was about 2am, one hour behind Philippine time. Rest mode!

I woke up early, excited to explore the city. I started my day communing with God. It was almost a thanksgiving prayer, with some petitions for safety and enjoyment. This time, I learned my lesson. I left some money at the hotel room, just expecting the worse, and roamed around the city with just my camera bag strapped in me. And I began my journey in full liberty and thrill.

(Dian ako sumakay :) )
Like a usual traveler, I went to war museums, the old seat of government, statues, restaurants, old temples, parks, market, shopping area and other outskirts of Ho Chi Minh City in one day. I haven’t really explored the entirety of Saigon, but I guess that’s enough for the meantime. I said to myself, I would go back soon to explore other parts of Vietnam, particularly the countryside where natural wonders are located. It would be happier if I have companyJ

Two thumbs up for the food in Vietnam! I’m not into using chopstick, but tried my best as their food were just irresistible. Aside from being delicious, I bet most native foods are good for the healthJ

It’s good thing I found delight in walking. Thanks for the map as well, it complemented my instinct to locate where I stayed. I also enjoyed the night walk, like what I always do in Baguio City, Philippines. Saigon at night was generally safe and peaceful, except for the thought of being bumped by the reigning motorcycles almost everywhereJ

Sleeping is another self delight. But it was a cold night for me, literally. I could hardly sleep, thinking the peculiarity of the adventure I got into. In my heart, I was convinced to believe that finding solace in solitude was possible. Although I also believed that there’s no greater comfort if accompanied by people closest to your heart. And God is my comforter after all. The words in Psalms 71: 20-21 affirmed this truth, “Though you made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth you will again bring me up. You will increase my honor and comfort me once again.”

The next day was intended for corporate worship. I decided to attend the service in Dr. Son’s church. He was very kind to fetch me at the hotel, and we travelled for more than 30 minutes thru a motorcycle.

I didn’t understand the service since there’s no translation. But Doctor Son tried his best to provide keywords for me to grasp what the pastor was teaching. The message was about being careful with SIN. Indeed, there is no foreign language that God cannot understand, and there’s no other gospel other than that of Christ (Gal. 1:8-9) which I couldn’t relate to.

 After the service, we ate together in a Vietamese restaurant. There I tried to taste their fried spring roll, their usual food. For my whole Vietnam tour, I survived eating noodles, noodles, and noodlesJ Aside from the food, I was also blessed to see Dr. Son’s wonderful family. I was inspired to witness their simple living. I just smiled when he asked me when I would get marriedJ. I just said I would let him know. I praised God for the time we’ve met. Thanks for the friendshipJ.

After which, I did my last itinerary! I went to Ben Thanh Market to buy some stuff for pasalubong. I went back to the busy and lively place of Pha Ga Num to buy a jacket, the only item I bought for myself. Everything else was reserved for family and friends back home. I tried my best to haggle for the best priceJ

My energy was consumed exhaustively by walking and walking and walking. I went back to the hotel for short sleep. But I found myself watching HBO instead. I even tuned in to my cell phone for background music but couldn’t help either. I was prompted to pray, give thanks to the Lord for everything that He has done. I praised God for the scariest moment I have ever experienced (lost and found wallet), and the simplest opportunity of being reunited with a friend I met almost two years ago. Somehow, I felt guilty for being insensitive to the calling of my Creator for intimate communion. But I still praised God because He showed me his love, grace and mercy afresh.  

In my prayer, I realized it is good to travel alone. Solitude brings focus, sense of purpose, and independence. But I also believe that I’d be happier if I travel with a company: family, friend, or a special someone. I cherished moments with myself and with God, and I am looking forward to lavishing moments with someone someday.

I wish I could have more time to stay and visit other places in Vietnam. I haven’t seen the half of it. And I desire to be back someday, and that time I’ll be more prepared and excited to bless others and be blessed as wellJ 

Wednesday, October 05, 2011


I felt relaxed and calm while sitting in front of college students in one classroom setup. It’s just a bit hot inside the room, but everything is alright. I was informed it’s part of their interpersonal communication subject, and particularly, the bone of contention would revolve around the tragic media killings in the Philippines. I honestly mentioned that I am a newbie to be speaking on media killings. My more than three-year experience would not be sufficient to answer in full details the ever complex and elusive issue of media killings. And as my rule, I simply answer questions I know.   

The first part of the interview focused on the onion-skinned layer of inquiries about how I get into media. Questions after questions, I enjoyed giving my answers. For more than three years, I’ve been the one asking questions as part of news gathering, and that special hour, it changed. I was the one being pampered by interesting and insightful questions I myself had to think twice before answering.

Program Hosts Lou De Guzman & Joy of University of Pangasinan
during their ISYU program
“If you are not a media practitioner, what would you be?” asked by one of the program hosts. It’s always my dream to become a teacher, and I said that’s what I wanted to become someday. But I answered the question directly: I might be a missionary!

I could sense in the students’ eyes their surprise about my answer. It’s like a bombshell to many, a “big-what?” to a few others, and a so-what expression maybe for one or two more heads. To support that, I mentioned how fulfilling campus ministry was during my college life, and how it transformed me. Indeed, campus ministry was one of the most joyful and challenging chapters of my life. For two years, I served voluntarily as a graduate team member of InterVarsity in Baguio. During those years, I learned many challenging things, from depending and trusting God for provisions, to realizing how wide and great is the world to just live it for oneself. I learned to live simply while enjoying God’s goodness and faithfulness extravagantly. I learned how feeble and vulnerable and weak I was to realize my sinful nature, but at the same time, affirming my identity in Christ as a justified, redeemed, atoned and part of a royal priesthood, all because of God’s grace.

I could have answered these during the interview, but I did not elaborate actually. Besides, they did not ask for follow-up questionsJ. But I was glad because at the end of the interview, I felt I have answered not just their queries but my future concerns as well. And to put it straight, I have no regrets of becoming a media practitioner because this is what I prayed for and love to do. I also reconciled within those years that where I am is my mission field. It is where God puts me, and in my own way, I could be a missionary, a herald of truth, a voice for the voiceless, and a hope for the hopeless.

This brought me to answer another question: How long are you going to become a news reporter? My answer: “Until my heart says so, until there are people who trust in what I do, until I could still hear people grateful to have been given attention, until somebody is inspired with the stories that I pursue.”

“No story is worth dying for.” Yes, and that I will uphold in every story I make.

The more than one-hour interaction with the students turned out to be of greater help to me. It was an informative discourse that paved light to my own confused future concerns. And as of this writing, I do not still know what my future will be, but I know, I am on the right tract. My God, the Alpha and the Omega, whom I trust, has already gone there.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Renewed Commitment

Fresh from the foggy city of Baguio, I excellently rushed my script for a meeting set at 4pm in Dagupan. After three years of being part of the Graduate Team (GT) in Baguio, I finally I responded to the calling of being a GT member again, this time in my home province in Pangasinan. I would say that my response took so long, but the Lord, I believed, has forgiven my delay. And I embrace this opportunity of serving again, voluntarily, in the ministry of InterVarsity in Pangasinan for His glory.

Together with Gilbert, a passionate Christian friend and a former schoolmate, we proceeded with our first meeting. No students with us, yet. Yes, we are in pioneering stage, and without certainties, only backed up by the calling of serving God through campus ministry. We are also joined by Aiah, a younger graduate, who followed later. Ate Sel, a former staff, who is pregnant with her 2nd baby, is also part of the team, but she cannot yet join us. But we have set meetings at their house for spiritual nurturing. We have a wonderful team, I must say.

What are we going to do? Where do we start? Well, it’s my idea that we held our first meeting over a cup of coffee. I need caffeine to keep me awake. Gilbert and I proceeded with knowing how our week has transpired, with our works, personal devotions, and our complaints and praises. Then we tried to study together Psalm 130, a heartfelt song of ascents, a prayer of hope.

It’s very refreshing to study the word together, doing a bit of OIA style of bible study. Not only is the word relevant to our personal lives; it’s also what we needed most at that time. HOPE. We are driven by hope to re-pioneer a student movement in Pangasinan universities.

First two verses show how the psalmist cried to the Lord for mercy. I couldn’t imagine how profound the “depth of his cry”, and from where he is coming from. But one thing is for sure, he is in dire need of God’s help and mercy. From captivity, from a place and situation full of unrighteousness, the psalmist pleads for mercy.

In the same way, as volunteer servants in the campus, it’s but through asking mercy and through prayer our action should start. Everything else MUST start in prayer, seeking where the Lord wants us to move and minister.

I should say we are already victor for our first meeting!

The second meeting, Gilbert and I went inside one campus. While Gilbert was waiting, he’d been doing a Jericho walk type of prayer, moving from every corner of the campus to pray. It was a delight to see such initiative. We really shouldn’t miss to pray. And the Lord granted us contactsJ.

As we were about to leave the campus, two students seemed to be “talking” about us. I suspected they just knew me, face familiar, something like that. So we approached them and introduced ourselves, and the quite long casual conversation took place until we bid goodbye having their numbers and schedules for the next meeting.

We’re just in the pioneering stage. I hope to herald more meaningful stories in the days ahead about how the Lord will work in and through us in the campus! Shalom.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

When I become a father myself

I’ve got a list of self-formulated difficult questions that I used to answer. Browsing it over, my attention was stuck in number 23 which asks “What was the most hurting moment of your life?” My answer was “When I can’t do anything but pray when my father experienced mild stroke.” I was so helpless then (late last year) thinking about the condition of my father. He informed me of his condition when he was already in the hospital, badly recuperating and no one close to his heart was watching over him. He is an OFW.

I was the first one to have known his condition. My father thought I was strong enough. He instructed me to just inform my mother and sister about what happened to him. He bet they’d be too emotional and worried, so he let me do the job of heralding the tragic message. But without him knowing, I was already worried and crying and praying that the Lord would just heal him, comfort him, and restore his health. And of course, my mother and sister were apprehensive knowing the message later from me. But we were in one accord praying for our hero miles away.

Every time there is an issue or topic about father, there is always an emotional punch in my heart. I grew up without my father’s guidance beside me, beside the three of us his children. I only knew we have a father who supports us financially, calls us at least twice a month, and welcomes us with great gifts during his vacation. That was the trend for almost two decades, him working in grand distance for all of us. He’s a very great provider. That’s why I so love my father for his sacrifice and love, but I feel at fault for some reason that he was been deprived of personal intimacy from his own family members.

That’s why during his last vacation, I asked him what does he really want to see from his children for him to retire and just stay at home?

“I just want you to be successful and living well-off,” my father said.

I just remained silent for his answer. I wanted to say it’s not all about success and wealth, but I kept my mouth shut. I understood what my father meant, really, and I didn’t need to lecture him about self-less living, about purpose and truth-driven life lest I would appear proudly omniscient which I am not.

But I just want to let him know and feel that he has done so much for us. So we, my sister and I in particular, want him to retire from working abroad. But the father’s heart seems so eager and willing to continue until he sees his “other” children become successful and living a good life. And so for the nth time, he left us again to fulfill his desire for us.

From among his children, I am the only one left without a family of my own. And therefore, no one is calling me a father, yet. My father and I have different mindsets. I could not agree with him all the time. But with his persistence of working and showing his love, he is like telling me that fatherhood comes in different facets, and I can only understand him when I become a father myself.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Long Life

I received a lot of text messages greeting me a happy valentines. But a text from my immediate superior caught my attention. “Text me if gising ka na, tawagan kita,” the SMS says. And I did text her, and she called me up. She told me that she dreamed of me to be dead. I was then covering an event when suddenly I collapsed, and my cameraman reported the incident. As she was telling her nightmare about me, she gave superstitious and traditional advices to counter the awful dream. I just listened, thanked her for calling me up, while over the phone, I was smiling, at the same time, realizing the possible meaning and interpretation of the dream.

Actually, that was the second time that somebody dreamt of me lifeless. My sister initially dreamed of me to be dead as well. I was a bit bothered with the successive dreams about me being dead. Well, some say it’s the other way around, that it would mean long life. Oh thank God if that is so. But I thought there would be no proper attitude or reaction better than praying and realizing that indeed life is short. Too short to waste it preposterously, too short to miss God’s blessing.

I prayed. I informed some of my friends about the dreams, and received their comforting and encouraging words. Some rebuked it, some said it’s really the other way around; others commit to pray for me continually.

Death - the end of life, and the beginning of life, as well. As a Christian, my fear of death was no longer hunting me. I become secured in the hands of Jesus. “For it is by grace you have been saved through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – no by works, so that no can boast.” (Eph. 2:8-9) This security roots in the very heart of the Lord through His love, grace and mercy for all the sinners, including me. Not a single or a thousand goodwill could ever be credited to my salvation, but only through Jesus.

Nightmares about my death in the month of heart won’t follow me all the days of my life. It’s just a distraction from the devil. As long as the Lord is my shepherd, the words in Psalm 23:6 will remain true: “Surely, goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” †

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Next time your story

I am now a broadcast journalist, and I love what I do. But sometimes, I am not just contented with the salary I am getting out of my job. It’s not really enough to sustain my cravings for coffee and cakes, my leisure to watch movie at least twice a week, and my desperation to travel outside the AOR at least once a month, and be out of the country for tour once a year.

I do not even have savings that can assure me of not having to work for at least three months, enough time to look for a new job, just in case. But I’m working that out, the saving thing, hehe. Don’t worry, I love my work, and I’ll be staying until my heart tells me so.

I dream of a mazda car, but as an urgent need and desire, a second-hand wheel is alright with me. At least I would be spared of unintentional chitchats when I am inside of a public transport. I feel uneasy when people around seem to be talking about me, a so-called mini-celebrity. Good or bad, I’m not comfortable. Thank you if it’s just an assumption, and sorry if I pretend too much. Anyway, I claim to have one before this year ends. Mark your calendar, my generous God will provide me one.

But will I be happy for eternity if I have one? Why I become so materialistic? Am I? Why not? Hmmmm.  Maybe, I forgot the joy and fulfillment of serving the Lord. But I know that I need one, I just want to know my priority. But for now, I have to be contented of what I have and be wise in using them.

Professionally speaking, I want to be recognized as one who performs his job excellently. I want to write again, and be awarded in a prestigious writing contest. But hey me, I don’t do anything. I don’t even write for the past years; my reading habit also dwindles. This desire of winning I traced back since college seems to be overdue. And I want to achieve it ASAP. I can do it. But for whose glory? Another question that I know answers will point me to the giver of gifts and talents. Don’t be deceived: “for everything in the world – the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does – comes not from the Father but from the world. “ (1 Jn.2:16)

And Yes, I am turning silver this March, still single, and most of the times happy. Praise God. I have to say I do not enjoy when I flirt with someone, sometimes. Forgive me. I can’t feel the spark and the LOVE, it’s so superficial. I want to feel what love really means and what love can do to change me. I confess I have dated ladies, to get to know them, and feel if one of them is God’s gift for me. But I can’t teach my heart, I can’t see the heart of the Lord to any one of those I dated.  Lord, you know my heart’s desire. I pray that I wouldn’t miss the girl that You have prepared for me; I know you only give the best, and with an expectant heart, I claim your promises. Pag-ibig nga naman!

I have a lot of things in mind, hopefully not load of craps. I want to do many things, but you are correct that the simplicities of things are sometimes the most meaningful ones. 
And I notice I always speak about me. Don’t worry, next time I’ll tell stories of others, of family, of friends, of work, of ministry, and more of God.