Friday, April 14, 2017

Forgiveness requires hope, and it already came

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Zeke Smith, despite a fellow contestant outing him, maintained a positive outlook. Robert Voets/CBS

(Warning: I intended to revive this blog on a Good Friday as of posting because I assume many would have already watched the latest Survivor US episode by this time [it was first aired on Maundy Thursday], but if you still haven't watched the episode yet, read this at your own risk.)

IN case you're wondering what happened to my blogs, well many of you are already aware that I am focusing right now on my two news organizations, Dugout Philippines (Mah baby!) and the Philippine News Agency, so I could not reserve some time for my other websites.

But this year, I was introduced by my high school friend to the world of online reality games (ORG's), online simulations of well-known game shows like Survivor and The Amazing Race.

She placed third in a certain online Survivor simulation, which made me think, "Hey! I should give the Survivor online game a try."

I was eventually cast to another Survivor ORG, and I placed second... to the last (I was the second guy eliminated, that is. Sorry, Jen. I did my best.).

Still, it revived the inner Survivor fan in me, so I eventually got hooked up to the latest Survivor US season, an all-star season titled "Survivor: Game Changers", and this is where the real point of this blog will come from.

In the latest episode shown on Thursday (Philippine Time), three-time participant Jeff Varner, in an effort to save himself from elimination, called out fellow Game Changer Zeke Smith and asked, "Why haven't you told anyone you're transgender?"

That question apparently blew their fellow contestants, host Jeff Probst, and the production staff's minds when the said open forum, aptly called a "tribal council", happened last year (Survivor: Game Changers was filmed about 10 months ago but will only be concluded with a live finale next month), and it surely blew the viewers' minds as well.

The analyst in me would say, "This is part of Varner's strategy. He just wanted to stay alive in the game," but personally, I was upset with the said move, considering Varner, like Smith, is part of the LGBTQIA community.

The desperate move obviously backfired, and Varner would still be voted out, making him the last pre-merge boot.

But I was impressed with how Zeke remained calm during the said moment, which is now ranked as one of the darkest, if not the darkest, moments in the history of the reality show franchise.

For sure, he knew that it was part of Varner's gameplay, but his calmness looked beyond the Survivor level.

What moved me even more was the episode postmortem article that he posted on The Hollywood Reporter.

One particular excerpt impressed me a lot, and this is coming from a guy who claims he's "not particularly religious."

"...forgiveness does not require friendship. Forgiveness does not require forgetting or excusing his actions. Forgiveness requires hope," the excerpt read.

However, that hope already came 2,000 years ago when Christ came to Earth.

Right now, we are in a so-called "Holy Week" in commemoration of how forgiveness came upon us.

Knowing our sinful nature, God knows that we deserve to die (Romans 6:23a), but He also loves the world so much that He came right down to Earth, took the form of a human, and gave Himself up for us so that we may not perish and have eternal life (John 3:16), which is a gift to us (Romans 6:23b).

Indeed, our hope already came in Jesus Christ. He already forgave us and took our supposed punishment.

And it's not just an ordinary forgiveness: "God demonstrates His own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8 NIV)"

What's cooler is that the KJV translation of Romans 5:8 says that "God commends His love toward us," that is, through His sacrifice on the cross, He entrusts His love to us. Considering the things we did that hurt God so much, it's surprising that He would still entrust His love to us, but He loves us unconditionally.

God is our ultimate hope, and already forgave us. To fully grasp the love and forgiveness He gave us, all you can do is this: "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, you and your household, and you will be saved. (Acts 16:31 ESV).

Friday, November 18, 2016

A(n awkward) story about grace

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LET'S start with a story.

Two teams entered a contest, and they were the favorites to win it all considering their respective backgrounds.

Team A has been dominating the said competition for quite some time, while Team B is etching its own story of success in recent times.

Then came the contest proper. Team A was the first to perform, and despite the pressures of being team number one, the squad made a beautiful performance.

Two teams later (there were eight competing squads), it was Team B's turn to give its best shot.

Its performance, however, was kinda unpleasant to see. The team went sloppy, and everybody thought, "They won't even make the Top 3."

After the remaining four teams did their contest pieces, the awarding came.

To everyone's surprise, Team A, with all of its "clean" showcase, would only take home the bronze.

The fans of Team A thought, "OK. We'll take it. Team C (another known dominating squad but has only made a renaissance recently) will win it for sure due to their epic performance."

Curiously, Team C's "perfect" routine was only good for second, and the people at the venue became more puzzled.

The champion team was announced, and, lo and behold, Team B won!

You may ask, "So what does this have to do with your Christian blog?"

Let's start with the first quote. Because of Team B's botched bid, it should not really make the podium. That's justice.

However, the judges, although they gave the necessary deductions, looked at the positives in Team B's bid and thought, "Hey! They have what it takes to win this." That's mercy.

Finally, the host's announcement of Team B as the grand winner is the "grace" part.

Let's connect this to the story of the Gospel.

Because of our sin, we're as botched and more of failures as Team B, so by rules of justice, we are losers. In fact, God has made a penalty for our sin: death, which the Apostle Paul ironically coined it as our "wages of sin" (Romans 6:23a). I almost forgot: everyone, including me, has sinned (Romans 3:23).

But God created us in His own image (Genesis 1:27), making us His prized possession. While justice says we should all die, the Lord loves us so much (John 3:16a) that he decided to acquit us and instead came down to Earth, taking the form of a human, and carried our supposed punishment to the cross, effectively giving us mercy.

In fact, He gave us a gift that we really don't deserve: eternal life (Romans 6:23b). Through Jesus' victory on the cross, we share His "championship" too as long as we embrace that He is our Lord and Savior. That's the ultimate example of grace.

If you want to have an eternal life and experience God's victory that He gave to you, pray this:

"Lord, I'm sorry for the sins that I have made. Thank You for Your sacrifice on the cross, and thank You that Your victory is our victory too. I embrace that victory and let Jesus Christ be my Lord and Savior. Thank You for the eternal life. In Jesus' name, amen." 

"For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God... (Ephesians 2:8 ESV)"

PS: If the story above seems familiar to you, yes! That's what happened in last year's UAAP Cheerdance Competition. It may seem awkward for a Christian from UP to be inspired by the NU Pep Squad's upset considering all the controversies about the result that eventually led to UP Pep backing out this year. However, just like the upset, we are not deserving of God's victory, but He shared it to us.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

The closure

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The Chainsmokers performed in the Philippines last month. Screen capture from
IT all started when the officemates of a high school friend of mine, who is now based in Singapore, posted a video of them dancing to the Chainsmokers and Halsey hit "Closer". They posted the video on the day my PBA D-League coverage ended, so I reposted the video the day after with the caption, "[I] would have loved doing one in Biñan (Alonte Sports Arena) last night (Stu Traveled mode: If you want to go to ASA, take the Mamplasan Interchange from SLEX and go east bound. ASA is inside the Biñan City Hall Complex)."

Exactly three weeks after they posted their "Closer" dance and with other people following suit, here I am updating my Christian blog (setting aside my sportswriter duties and snapping yet another dormancy period of this website).

Here's the thing: I accepted the "after-work challenge", or the "'Closer' dance challenge" for others. I already choreographed most of the steps (all by myself) while working out at the gym but eventually gave up and vowed, "I will just do a guitar cover instead (never too late to play the six-stringer)."

But everything changed when I joined my churchmates for a jog.

After we finished (we actually didn't finish the full course because two of us thought we took a different path) the run, I somewhat joked to my churchmates about the "zumba" dance by performing the first step of my "Closer" dance (Don't dare me to repeat it) while singing it.

Then one of my churchmates "rebuked" me about the song, currently at number one in various radio countdowns and may have had some airtime in "masa" stations as well.

This is where the point of this post comes in. "Closer", although in a "beautiful" manner, discusses about sex, especially the chorus (I am expecting Andrew, Alex, and Ashley [Halsey's real name] to air their side of the song if they see this). While there's nothing wrong in sex in general, the song primarily discusses pre-marital sex, which somehow degrades the sacredness of marriage (read Genesis 2). I simply overlooked the song's sense.

To be fair, there's nothing wrong if Christians patronize some secular music. In fact, I would say that I like "Closer" more than "Roses" and "Don't Let Me Down".

But again, I overlooked what "Closer" is all about, and that's the same for most of us. We tend to like a new hit so much that we ignore the message it implies, especially if it's NSFW.

To end this, I'm just gonna remind you that before you should check first the implied (or sometimes explicit) message of the hit song and determine whether it's "wholesome" to your standards or not. But above anything else, ask God that He will direct you as you listen to the tracks on the radio. And of course, there's nothing more pleasing to our ears than worship songs to our Lord. And to further discern what songs we should put in our playlists, here's God's (through Paul) tip for you:

" filled with the Spirit; speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord... (Ephesians 5:18b, 19 KJV)"

Another reminder: "...your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you... Therefore, glorify God in your body. (1 Corinthians 6:19a, 20 ESV)

PS: If you're asking me if I will push through with the "dare", I am now backing out of the challenge.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

More than common sense

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Photo from the PBA
SO... It took a statement from Manny Pacquiao for me to make a comeback at TLIMC. After checking my Christian blog,... lo and behold, my last post was barely seven months ago!

Anyway, let's jump straight to the issue in question. The former boxing champ drew flak from the LGBT community and even some straight guys who also advocate the LGBT rights when he reiterated his stand against same sex marriage in the most awkward of explanations.

Pacquiao, currently a congressman and a senatorial aspirant, likened human relationships to that of animals and said that romantic relationships among two men and two women are nastier those of animals as per mere common sense.

Well-known personalities known to be gays publicly cried foul over Pacquiao with TV host Boy Abunda, despite the boxing legend's apology hours earlier, venting ire on live television.

Before I continue, I made sure that the next words you will see will not hurt my LGBT friends, but I just wanna say sorry in advance if there will be any LGBT member or pro-LGBT rights advocate who may get offended with this post.

Now, here's my take on the issue. First, I agree with most of you that Manny Pacquiao indeed made a wrong analogy of things during that interview with TV5. While I got his point, he simply used the wrong words.

Next, his Instagram post that followed the release of the controversial video interview quoted a Scripture which said, "Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men..." (1 Corinthians 6:9 NIV). I admire Pacquiao's decision to stand firm in his faith for God, but Paul's message to Corinth about that did not end there. Apparently, Pacquiao did not add Verse 10 which says, "nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God," and the most pivotal verse of the said Scripture part, Verse 11 that says, "And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God."

Manny was somewhat wrong when he ended his statement with the "masahol" part (or probably his video was cut by TV5 at that part if Pacquiao continued after it). Many interpreted that part as if Pacquiao was saying people who will do same-sex marriage will go to hell. But here's the thing: we are now at the New Testament era, or what Bible scholars would call the "time of grace".

The law says, "If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them, (Leviticus 20:13 ESV)" but that was the Old Testament days or the so-called "time of law". Like I said, we are now at the time of grace. God knows that everyone will fail to follow all of His commandments because sin has already been part of our lives since the time of creation. While God is just and does not want sin to be ignored, He loves us so much being his most special creation. That's why He sent His Son Jesus Christ to earth to take the punishment we deserve, including the punishment for homosexuality. Because of Jesus' sacrifice on the cross, "sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace (Romans 6:14 ESV)."

While I felt the irony, I find it a good move that some members of the LGBT community sympathized with Pacquiao. After all, Pacquiao did not say that he hates the homosexuals but only the homosexuality. That's what God is telling us. Hate the sin, not the sinners. In fact, He said, "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you... (Matthew 5:44 ESV)" Yes, Pacquiao may have sinned more than the mistakes the LGBT members committed as what they brought up, but one should remember that regardless if we sinned only once or more, we are still sinners who have fallen short of God's glory (Romans 3:23) but was given eternal life through Jesus (Romans 6:23). All we need is to believe in Jesus, and we will attain that gift from God (Acts 16:31).

If you want someone who is now feeling the confusion about his gender to realize who he or she really is according to what God said, start by building a deeper friendship. Once he or she feels the love of God in you, then you may start telling him or her what God thinks he or she is.

For the new Pacquiao haters from the LGBT side, I want you to discontinue the bashing. Yes, he may have hurt you a lot, but revenge is not the answer. While I still hope that you will meet God, if you're happy with your life right now, just enjoy it and make the most out of it.

I did not make this post in full support of Pacquiao's senatorial campaign (if you really wanna know my stand on whether to vote for Pacquiao or not whether from a sportswriter's standpoint or not, my Facebook, Twitter, and Ask.FM handles are open 24/7), but I'm here to tell you that God has already forgiven Pacquiao and the LGBT community. Yes, homosexuality is not in the Lord's vocabulary, but He loves us so much that "while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8 ESV)." And it's not just common sense. It's the truth. God really loves us regardless of our identity.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Why I like my mom

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MY mother raised me on her lonesome, and she never failed to show her love to me despite the fact that I have my own struggles financially and personally.

Every time I ask my mom to lend me some cash since our two-year-old start-up project, Dugout Philippines, is just beginning to make some mainstream waves, she scolds me because of it.

However, in the end, she still provides for me because after all, she still cares for me.

I vow to her that once DPH becomes more stable, I will return the favor because I love her.

This reminded me more of how King Lemuel described my mom and every woman who fears God.

A challenge given to us by Pastor Jayson Lo during a church event right after the mid-morning service was to read every chapter of Proverbs everyday, starting from Chapter 1 on Day 1.

Although I posted this one on the 24th, I read the final chapter of Proverbs, which talked about the model female Christian.

Verse 10 said, "She is far more precious than jewels." She may not notice it since were nautical miles apart, but despite me sometimes not pleasing Mommy (Sorry, Lord and mom), I treat her as a gem as how God wants me to treat her.

Yes, we may not be as blessed financially, but having my mom is a blessing for me, and I also call her "blessed" just like what Lemuel said in verse 28.

To my mom, I love you so much despite the financial and personal matters. I'm going to return the favor soon.

Probably, one way to give back to her is to give her a "fountain of youth", that is, a collagen drink.

I first tried a collagen drink when someone gave it to me last year. It was tastier when mixed with other drinks, but many prefer diluting the powder only in water.

One of the available collagen powders right now is HyC 150.
Premium HyC 150, developed by FINE Japan Co. Ltd., is now available in the Philippines. Premium HyC 150 is unique because it is the only supplement drink that has the optimal combination of active anti-aging ingredients such as hyaluronic acid, collagen and ubiquinol.

Premium HyC 150 has other benefits that go beyond skin care and a rejuvenated, more youthful look. To maximize the benefits of collagen, one important element, hyaluronic acid, has to be present. At least 50 percent of hyaluronic acid in our body can be found in our skin. Premium HyC 150 contains 150 mg of hyaluronic acid, the optimal dosage to replenish the body of this essential nutrient. Hyaluronic acid acts as space filler by binding to water and keeps the skin wrinkle-free. It lubricates joints, ligaments and connective tissues. It also hydrates surrounding tissue and keeps the collagen nourished and healthy.

Premium HyC 150, exclusively distributed in the Philippines by BrightRAY Enterprises, is now available at Watsons stores. For information, visit

(Editor's Note: This is a sponsored post.)

Saturday, January 17, 2015

When we experienced a "storm"

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I never thought my first trip to the Cavinti Falls aka Pagsanjan Falls would turn out
to be a nerve-wracking one. Azrael Coladilla/Azrael's Merryland
In my 27 years here on Earth, I have experienced some of the worst storms that hit Southern Luzon. I endured a week without electricity when "Rosing" hit Metro Manila in 1995. I got stranded and eventually braved the storm when "Milenyo" came in 2006. I and my churchmates got stuck when "Ondoy" was in town in 2009. I witnessed how my former boarding house got ravaged by "Nesat" in 2011 (I was yet to build TLIMC then). And recently, I experienced walking for 13 kilometers just to get remittance because it was a total blackout during another storm last year. But this one, although not really a storm, made me feel I was in one again.

It was my first time at this place called Magdapio Falls, which is better known by locals in the town of Cavinti as the Cavinti Falls and by everyone else as the Pagsanjan Falls. At first, I was jokingly hesitant to go on a balsa trip to the falls because I left my other shorts in my bag (I was sporting the full Master Game Face Media Challenge kit I got during my birthday). Eventually, I decided to go to brave the falls. So me and a group of bloggers went aboard the balsa.

One thing I noticed was that the balsa was overloaded. It turned out, there are supposed to be two balsas, but the other one is damaged, prompting the sailors to maximize the remaining balsa to de-congest the long queue. If not for the fact that we were wearing life jackets, I don't know if we would get up from the deep waters if the balsa got broken.

Well, we made the cave safely. We decided to stay inside for a while while another blogger, Ross Del Rosario, opted to go back because of some minor health issues. We took selfies (I left my tablet in my bag for security purposes) and we went "wild" inside the cave. Then came a group of Koreans coming from Pagsanjan and, as what some 9Gag memes and comments would say, "S*** just got real."

My fear about the overloading just happened. The water flow from the falls became stronger (probably because it was raining almost the entire afternoon in Cavinti), and it was enough to overpower the sailors and the Korean-loaded balsa. We had to save everyone and remind him to stay calm. Moments later, a fellow blogger hurt her right arm. And here I was, all alone way inside the cave and sat a la Kevin Durant (the photo below may help you).
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images (file photo)
I really wanted to go back to the mainland immediately after everything that took place. We eventually got back only to find out that our injured friend passed out. And everyone worried. Rules state that if you made the falls via the Cavinti trek, you have to go back there, the same if you decided to take the boat from Pagsanjan (the easier and the more well-known route, thus, naming the area Pagsanjan Falls although its part of Cavinti) to get there. I don't know how our the tour organizers convinced the boat sailors to get her aboard since they were hesitant at first, but of course it's already an emergency. Eventually, they made it to Cavinti safely.

I prayed for thanksgiving that we were kept safe from the "storm". I was reminded of the past real storms and how God saved me. But of course, what I am more thankful is that the Lord saved me from a more devastating storm called sin. And all it took was a sacrifice by no less than Him on the cross.

"No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you." Joshua 1:5 (NIV)

PS: More of my Cavinti adventures on Stu Traveled and Sporty Guy.

Friday, January 16, 2015

On why even the non-Catholics like Pope Francis

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Azrael Coladilla/Azrael's Merryland
Even prior to his visit here in the Philippines, one thing I noticed about my friends, who are mostly from the Protestant movements like me, as per their social media posts is that they like Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio also known as Pope Francis. I wonder why. It turned out, they are not the only ones who like the pope.

Even non-Catholics all over the world can attest that Pope Francis is a likable church leader. According to Wikipedia, many Protestant, Orthodox, Jewish, and even Islamic communities and even some atheists welcomed his papacy.

For a sportswriter like me, I focused too much on the results, the latest news, and the latest trade rumors that I, despite reading the Scriptures and at times posting and reposting verses on social media, rarely read news from the Catholic church. Probably, the fact that I'm from the Born-Again Christian community adds to the reasons. But after reading a transcript of Pope Francis' message, I begin to appreciate him more.

He started his sermon earlier at the Manila Cathedral with a very important word from Jesus Christ: “Do you love me?… Tend my sheep. (John 21:15-17)”. He continued, "I ask you to share the joy and enthusiasm of your love for Christ and the Church with everyone, but especially with your peers. Be present to young people who may be confused and despondent, yet continue to see the Church as their friend on the journey and a source of hope." He also quoted 2 Corinthians 5:15 saying, "Christ died for all so that, having died in Him, we might live no longer for ourselves but for Him." Simply put, Pope Francis is telling every Christian, regardless of his denomination, to go back to the basics.

In this time where some debate religious groups have turned into something personal and with all the issues concerning the Christian world, Pope Francis is reminding us that we should remember our first love, which is remembering and honoring God and spreading the Gospel as what He commanded. As what the Apostle John told the Ephesian church, "Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. (Revelation 2:5a)"

I now understand why Pope Francis is loved by even the other religious communities. It may just be some of what he said, but he knows what every Christian needs now. He really is a champion of faith. To further prove that, a meme I saw bore another important words from him as the caption: "Do not hide your faith. Do not hide Jesus."

The full transcript of his message at the Manila Cathedral can be seen here.