Sunday, August 25, 2019

Heaven in Our Hearts: Soaring High on Earth

Environmental protection and preservation are what the world needs. Nowadays, we hear about natural and man-made disasters affecting our environment and ecosystem, which significantly affect how we live. 

We may see or hear about deforestation, illegal logging, forest wildfires, and illegal mining from the news. Some of these activities are natural, while others may result from massive industrialization and greed. We may hear about it and have witnessed some of it.

In the Philippines, we have several groups and personalities: environmental warriors, environmental activists, and Philanthropists who deeply show their love and concern for our ecological welfare. One of those personalities I genuinely admire, and respect is Gina Lopez, who advocated and founded several foundations supporting environmental protection.

I consider Gina Lopez as the Mother Teresa of the Philippines. As a missionary in Europe, Africa, and India for 2 decades, she has developed a Divine consciousness by devoting her time and energy to serving the marginalized, underprivileged, and poor in love and spirit.

With the higher consciousness she attained in her mission abroad, she returned to her origin in the Philippines to spearhead the Foundation of one of the country's largest media companies. She founded the Bantay Kalikasan, which cause is to protect the environment and natural resources. She was also active in the rehabilitation effort of the Pasig River, and one of the advocates for the La Mesa Ecopark considered the last and remaining forest in Metro Manila.

Team building at the LA Mesa Ecopark in May 2011

Gina Lopez may not be able to witness how far her efforts have gone since she passed away, but her spirit, as she said, will always be alive. She will remain a well-loved personality since she has touched so many lives through her breakthrough projects and various social development programs.

Gina Lopez was a visionary. She has a great love for Filipino people, and once she uttered that if 'heaven is made from people's hearts, she thinks that we can build heaven in the Philippines' and profoundly believes that we can fly high and make things happen. This is her vision, and if we think we can do it, we will experience a piece of heaven on earth, not a fantasy, but our shared reality.

Gina Lopez envisioned a natural environment that is sustainable through Ecological tourism or known as Farm tourism. She was one of those who believed that we can achieve prosperity through harmony with nature.

As an environmental advocate, I patronize the emerging rise of the country's farm tourism industry, and it will become a living trend not only today but in the years to come.

Our love for our country can be shown through the kind of environment that we live in. We envision the next generations breathing fresher air, being under the shade of a tree, seeing the forest, and benefiting from the natural resources we have protected and preserved.

We may have lost a strong leader and Environmental protector, but her legacy will remain in our hearts as she envisioned the heaven we all deserve to live in.

© 2019 Del Cusay

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Road to Summit: Unloading Our Emotional Baggages

There are times when we feel stuck at some point in our lives. There's heaviness in our hearts causing us to slow down or to quit, to end the game and breathe out the pain.

That heaviness on our being may result from past traumas, anxieties, guilt, and toxicities from people and the environment. We call it "emotional baggage," which is unwanted and causes us to pay the price.

Like in our travels, we never wanted to pay for excess baggage at the airport counter, which costs us more. It gives us inconvenience and stress and a bad experience. I remember sometime in 2014 when I was at Kathmandu Airport in Nepal going back to New Delhi in India, when the airport counter lady charged me more for my excess baggage. Without much cash in my wallet, I left to withdraw from the ATM for a while. From that moment, I was uneasy, but luckily I could get my money to pay for the price of my excess baggage, and I felt so bad.

From that horrible experience, I can relate it to the present reality of carrying for more and paying the price. Our lower emotions like anger, jealousy, pride, and rage take away the peace in our hearts. That heaviness from the inside prevents us from moving fast forward since we are distracted by so many rumbling thoughts and the roller coaster of emotions.

One of the reasons we are stuck is because of the attachments we have to someone or something from somewhere. Or it could be the other way around when someone is so attached to us that we suddenly become mentally connected.

When this excess emotional baggage affects our well-being, there's a way to escape before we become totally stuck. When we recall in detail what went wrong, we start to be directed by a compass, the right direction towards the desired destination.

When we decide to escape from the trouble, we start to experience emotional freedom as we travel on the road to Summit. From there, we take a deep breath, relive the present moment, and capture what is pleasant and peaceful. Suddenly without us knowing, we unload the heaviness of emotions that caused us pain and sorrow. That is good for our mental health and overall well-being. 

At the Summit, we breathe out what is unwanted, which doesn't contribute much value to our being. And then, when we feel the lightness, we are ready to take on the next adventure on our road to forever. We are prepared to love again, for this is the right thing to do, and we have made the right choice. To live and laugh again, to love and be whole again.

© 2019 Del Cusay

Monday, August 12, 2019

Eid'l Adha: Its Interfaith Significance

This day marks the Islamic celebration of the 'Festival of Sacrifice' known as Eid-al Adha. This festival was unknown to me for many years despite being declared a holiday, and I hadn't understood much about its religious significance until recently when I made an Islamic and cultural immersion at the Manila Golden Mosque in celebration of the end of Ramadan or the  Eid'l Fitr: A Moment of Peace.

Community Immersion at Manila Golden Mosque during the celebration of Eid'l Fitr on June 5, 2019

Eid'l Adha is when Muslims from around the world commemorate the willingness of Prophet Ibrahim or Abraham to sacrifice his son. What's interesting about this festival is the similarity of the same story in Christianity found in the book of Genesis in the old testament.

In the Quran, God appeared to Abraham and was told to make a sacrifice for his son, Ishmael. In the Bible, the son of Abraham to be sacrificed was Isaac. Then, just before Abraham ended his son's life, a lamb was replaced by God instead of his son. That was a test of faith given by God to Abraham, and he passed it faithfully.

In a deeper sense and in today's significance, that son of Abraham may not be just a literal person but would be something in us that is valuable, a part of us that we are most attached to. It could be an attachment to someone, a worldly possession, or obsolete thoughts.

These attachments take away our precious time with God due to divided attention. When God tested Abraham to sacrifice his son, it was like God's telling Abraham to pay attention to Him and obey His will so that Abraham could follow wholeheartedly when his attention was undivided and to God alone.

In our reality today, God may be talking to and commanding us on what to do, but we choose to ignore Him or simply don't focus on listening to Him. We are preoccupied with daily activities, work, or building relationships with our family and the community. Still, we only give him a little time and attention due to many physical, mental, and emotional distractions.

It's also a reality that God may take away something valuable or someone we love and that we have nothing to oppose but to accept it wholeheartedly because that is His will, which is the Divine plan. Then we realize that God is in total control of everything, even the breath we take and even our last breath on earth. 

Eid'l Adha is not just significant among our Muslim brothers and sisters because all of us, regardless of faith, may have learned about the sacrifices that we have to make.

Today, we may be sacrificing to save us and uplift our souls. We may offer a relationship with someone, a friend, or a group. This is where we let go of things that do not give much value to our being but just give us pain and sorrow.

When we let go of old habits and obsolete beliefs, we then take on a fresh idea, accept a new relationship, and nurture what is ideal for God's glory and Divine love. That's an interfaith significance we all can learn from our Muslim brothers and sisters.

We do not hate but cultivate more profound understanding, acceptance, and belonging. We do not fear, but we face reality stronger and more steadily. We do not ignore but co-celebrate with humility and love to our Humanity. We live to co-exist and can live harmoniously, peacefully, and happily.

© 2019 Del Cusay

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Year of The Youth 2019: The Pilgrim Youth Cross

The Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish in Lomboy, Linambasan, Capiz, has been home to a strong community of Youth Ministry since the time of Reverend Father John Denosta, the first-ever designated Parish Priest. It is even more substantial today as the Religious Community grows under the Parish Head, Reverend Father Jeffrey Estrella, and co-Parish Priest, Reverend Father Chris Seรฑeres.

Since the early years of the Mission Station, before it was elevated to a Parish status, I have witnessed the Religious presence and dedication of the youth in their Church service. The youth choir's melodious and angelic voices touch the people's souls during the regular Sunday mass and special occasions like Christmas. We see a growing Parish Youth Ministry to be the bearer of light and hope not only today but in the years to come until they fully bloom in their Community and Religious service.

In celebration of the Year of the Youth this 2019, The Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish welcomed the Pilgrim Youth Cross on August 3, 2019, facilitated by the leaders and members of the OPH Parish Youth Ministry. 

The Youth Cross was transferred by the Youth Ministry of San Vicente Ferrer Parish to be venerated at the Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish for about a week. The Youth Cross was brought to the neighboring barangay of Lucero and welcomed by the Lucero National High School youth. It was then brought to Macario Bermejo National High School in Jaena Norte, where hundreds of youth have embraced the religious symbol of the Catholic faith.

At the end of a week-long Pilgrim Youth Cross, it was time to pass on to the next Parish in the nearby town of Tapaz. On August 10, the Youth Cross and the Youth Ministry members headed to San Nicolas De Myra Parish and were welcomed by their Youth Ministry.

The National Youth Cross was specially made for the Philippine Catholic Youth Ministry and is being circulated in different Parishes nationwide. It was inspired by the founder St. John Paul ll since it was introduced in 1985 and presented during the celebrations of World Youth Day, where thousands and even Millions of Youth Pilgrims came to celebrate and profess their faith. 

2019 has been a memorable journey for the Pilgrim Youth Cross as it reached the Parish of  Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish. May the Youth Cross bring them closer to Christ as it reminds them of the personal cross that they carry within.

When darkness invades the souls of the young ones, the cross symbolizes hope and faith that no matter how challenging life is, they will come to defeat the darkness and unleash the light from within.

© 2019 Del Cusay

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Resilience of the Filipino Spirit: The People of Guimaras Island

The Island Province of Guimaras in Western Visayas, Philippines, has a natural ecosystem and booming ecotourism. This tiny island is peaceful and wonderful, and many people are attracted to its natural splendor.

I visited the Island of Guimaras for the first time in March 2014 and met a Religious Community in San Lorenzo. That was just about 2 hours of immersion, but I felt the warm welcome from the Religious leaders and the members. That was the Iglesia Filipina Independiente or Philippine Independent Church that I have served through a practical health talk as part of our WellLife Program delivered in key cities in the Philippines.

Apart from meeting with the Religious Community, I could enjoy swimming at the beach with its semi-white sand and clear waters, so I promised to return to explore the other side of the Island. In December 2014, I returned and enjoyed a day in the islet called "Tatlong Pulo" in Jordan. That was my first ever camping in a cove and my second and last visit to the island I call a paradise. 

WellLife Program in San Lorenzo, Guimaras in 2014

On August 3, Saturday, I was saddened by the news about the tragic incident of the 3 passenger boats that capsized in Iloilo Straight, just in the middle of the waters of the province of Iloilo and the Island of Guimaras. This happened despite the absence of a typhoon signal but the presence of strong wind and water currents. There were reported survivors of more than 50 passengers, but the sad part is the number of casualties and the missing passengers whose lives were not saved.

I feel their loss and empathize with the stories of some survivors and those who are mourning the loss of their loved ones. Who could have imagined the sudden death from a tragedy that could have been prevented from happening?

I remember what I learned from the AGOS forum about Disaster Resilience in July 2017 when they discussed the possibility of zero casualties by following the 3 goals to Prepare, Respond and Recover. In this case, about the boat incident, there might be a need for more preparedness on the part of the authorities when they have not suspended the boat operations despite inclement weather. 

They may not be prepared with higher anticipation and proper judgment that have caused the lives of innocent people. To have responded and recovered would be essential goals. Still, there's always one goal that we tend to neglect, which is "preparation," so this tragic event will keep repeating itself until we learn our lesson on the essence of preparation. 

This would be one of the most tragic maritime incidents in the Iloilo Strait, and we can better prepare so that this will be prevented. Accidents do happen no matter how careful we are, but there are things that we are in total control of. Hence, we can improve our proper judgment, leadership, and sense of responsibility and accountability.

On a personal level, one lesson would be a need for enhanced survival skills like swimming to avoid drowning, and this could be part of our preparation for a possible maritime incident. We can't always play the victim for something which we can do. Nowadays, we can't predict or anticipate an accident to happen, but one thing is that specific survival skills and techniques will go a long way if we value life and become a survivor. 

The people of Guimaras and Iloilo and those families affected may not be able to recover quickly and may need our deepest sympathy and prayers. I have known them to be deeply spiritual people, and they will remain strong and rise again from this sad fate.

As Filipino, we will always rise up from tragedies... we can rise up from natural calamities. Our resilience remains amidst sorrows and pain. But one thing is sure we may be able to recover but not cover the pain. We can live again with the best learnings and wisdom we can gain.

© 2019 Del Cusay

Related Post: