March 26, 2023

“Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you.” (Jeremiah 1:5) Therefore, life must be celebrated.
Jesus said to his disciples: 13“You are the salt of the earth. But if a salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned? It’s no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. 14You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. 15Nor do they light a lamp and then and put it on a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house. 16Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.” (Matthew 5: 13-16)
The essence and meaning of life are found in others who may incarnate it in their lives too and make it even better.
Celebrating birthdays was not a custom at home when we were kids. I recall one birthday celebration when my older siblings bought a bottle of family-size Coke and pan cakes.
The more important teaching when celebrating birthdays is going to mass. As a family, the holy mass became a practice to thank God for the gift of life.
Being the seminary artist, I was tasked to print the names and their respective birthdates on the bulletin board. I skipped my day on the bulletin. For 11 years I kept my birthday secret in the seminary.
In 2023, I encouraged myself to celebrate my 50th birthday for these reasons:
I was weak and sickly when I was young. I used to be absent in class regularly present at the hospital. I thought I will live a short life of 30.
I had many near-death experiences.
In 2000, I was poked with a gun by a drunk former soldier. Ethelbert Bandas can testify.
In 2004, a former policeman chased me with a gun in Sta. Cruz, Ilocos Sur because I stood for justice. Fr. Flor Apalias and Sister Beata Balaso, SIHM, can testify.
In 2007, a political supporter whom I called his attention for attempting to cheat the election canvass got mad at me. He punched and threatened me with his gun. The people in the police precinct can testify to the incident.
A drunk man chased me with his bolo during my evening catechetical session in one of the chapels.
In 1999, I had a serious fall that injured my back and hip during my apostolate in Natonin, Mountain Province. I cannot stand and walk.
At Sitio Posong, Anabel, Sadanga, Mountain Province, I fell when I was in the rice field. Fortunately, my backpack was stuck on a guava twig that held me.
In 2008, I was driving down from Sangey to Poblacion, Sadanga when I miscalculated the stirring wheel and off went half of the car on the ravine. It was hanging and ready to fall.
In 2010, I was sick with pneumonia in Rome, Italy. Winter challenged me with cold, home sickness, anxiety, and depression. Worse, I felt weak and sickly with my illness that almost ended my life. I thank my Malaysian and Indonesian friends who took care of me.
I was driving alone from Baguio to Bontoc, Mountain Province when unguardedly I dozed to sleep from Sabangan section to Nacagang junction.
In my advocacy against insurgencies, illegal mines, gambling, illegal drugs, and vices, I received two anonymous letters with threats.
Last year, I fought Covid-19 and dengue. I lost five kilos,which made me look physically bad.
The sickness and near-death experiences made me ready to face death even at an early age. I thought I will live a short life of 30. I thank God that despite all of these physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual challenges, I was able to reach 50.
Hence, I said to my family, please, help prepare a feast to thank God for the gift of 50 years of existence. It’s a bonus.
God is with me all the time. Celebrating the holy mass is our beautiful way as a humble family to give thanks to God and to everyone. Thank you.
Reach me at [email protected]