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 greatly affect how we live. 

We may see or hear from the news about deforestation, illegal logging, forest wildfires, and illegal mining. Some of these activities are a natural phenomenon while others may be a result of massive industrialization resulting from greed. We may not only hear about it, but we may actually have witnessed some of these in reality.

In the Philippines, we have several groups and personalities who are environmental warriors; environmental activists, and Philanthropists who deeply show their love and concern about our environmental welfare. One of those personalities I truly 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 people, those who are underprivileged, and those who are poor in love and spirit.

With the higher consciousness she has attained in her mission abroad, she decided to return to her origin in the Philippines to spearhead a 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 which is considered as 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 may have gone since she already passed away, but her spirit as she said will always be alive. She will remain to be 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 she deeply believed that we can fly high and make things happen. This is her vision and together if we believe we can do it, then we will indeed experience a piece of heaven on earth; not a fantasy, but our shared reality.

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

As an environmental advocate, I patronize the emerging rise of the farm tourism industry in the country and I believe that 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 to breathe fresher air, to be under the shade of the tree, to see the forest, and to benefit from the natural resources that 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 kind of heaven we all deserve to live.

© 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 be a result of past traumas, anxieties, guilt, and toxicities from people and the environment. We call it "emotional baggage" which is unwanted and causes us to pay for the price.

Just 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 for a while to withdraw from the ATM. From that moment I was uneasy, but luckily I was able to 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 having to carry for more and paying for the price. Our lower emotions like anger, jealousy, pride, and rage take away the peace in our hearts. That heaviness from inside prevents us from moving fast forward since we are distracted from so many rumbling thoughts and the roller coaster of emotions.

Perhaps one of the reasons we are stuck is because of the attachments we have on 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 wellbeing, there's a way out to escape before we become totally stuck. It is when we recall in detail what went wrong that we start to be directed by a compass; the right direction towards the desired destination.

It is when we decide to escape from the trouble that 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 wellbeing. 

At the summit, we breathe out what is unwanted; something that doesn't contribute much value to our being. And then, when we feel the lightness, we are now ready to take on the next adventure on our road to forever. We are ready 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 haven't understood much about its religious significance until recently when I have 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 the time 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 would end the life of his son, 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, to 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's like God's way of telling Abraham to pay attention to Him and obey His will and that Abraham will be able to follow wholeheartedly when his attention is undivided and to God alone.

In our reality today, God may be talking to us and commanding us of what to do, but we choose to ignore Him or simply we don't focus on listening to Him. We are preoccupied with our daily activities, our work, or building relationships with our family and the community, but we don't give him much time and attention due to so 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 and that is the Divine plan. It is then we realize that God is in total control of everything, even the breath that 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 take.

Today, we may be making sacrifices to save us and to uplift our souls. We may be sacrificing 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, we accept a new relationship and we 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 we cultivate deeper understanding, acceptance, and belonging. We do not fear, but we face the reality stronger and steadily. We do not ignore, but we co-celebrate with humility and love to our Humanity. For we live to co-exist and we 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. Today, it is even stronger and bigger 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 melodious and angelic voices of the youth choir touch the soul of the people 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 was welcomed by the youth at Lucero National High School. 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 of Pilgrim Youth Cross, it was the time to pass on to the next Parish in the nearby town of Tapaz. On August 10, the Youth Cross together with the Youth Ministry members headed to San Nicolas De Myra Parish and was 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. 

This year 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 soul of the young ones, the cross comes to symbolize hope and faith that no matter how challenging life is, still 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 is blessed with a natural ecosystem and booming ecotourism. This tiny island is peaceful and wonderful that many people are attracted to its natural splendor.

I have visited the Island of Guimaras for the first time in March 2014 and have met a Religious Community in the town of San Lorenzo. That was just about 2 hours of immersion but I have 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 was able to enjoy swimming at the beach with its semi-white sand and clear waters and so I promised to come back to explore the other side of the Island. In December of that same year in 2014, I came back and enjoyed a day in the islet called "Tatlong Pulo" in the town of Jordan and that was my first ever camping in a cove and my second and last visit on the Island that 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 have 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. Of more than 50 passengers, there were reported survivors, 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 to happen?

I suddenly remember what I have learned from the AGOS forum about Disaster Resilience back in July 2017 when they have discussed the possibility of zero casualties by following the 3 goals which are to Prepare, Respond and Recover. In this case about the boat incident, there might be a lack of 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 their right judgment that have caused the lives of innocent people. To have responded and recovered would be essential goals, but there's always one goal that we tend to neglect and that is "preparation" and so this tragic event will keep on repeating itself until we learned 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. I believe that accidents do happen no matter how careful we are, but there are things that we are of total control. Hence, we can improve on our right 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 in a possible maritime incident. We can't always play a victim for something which we can do. Nowadays, we can't predict or anticipate an accident to happen, but one thing is for sure that 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 easily and may need our deepest sympathy and prayers. I have known them to be deeply spiritual people and they will remain to be strong and will always rise up 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 certain that we may be able to recover, but not cover the pain. We can live our life again with the best learnings and wisdom we can gain.

© 2019 Del Cusay

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