Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Running Joke

[Note: This is my personal opinion and does not in any way represent Makati Gospel Church.]

How come there are people who find telling the truth much harder than weaving a lie? This came to my mind when I saw on the news that former Agriculture undersecretary Joselyn “Joc-joc” Bolante had set foot at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport on Tuesday night after fighting his deportation from the USA for two years while in detention there. Joc-Joc is accused of top-level involvement in a P728-million fertilizer fund scam in 2004. When the Ombudsman found as “sufficient in form and substance” the graft complaint filed against him and when the Senate committee on agriculture launched an investigation into the scam, Joc-Joc run away. He claimed though that he hid and sought asylum in the US because he feared for his life and that of his family. (Source: http://inquirer. net/) In a press statement, Joc-Joc claimed that, Many baseless accusations have been thrown against me these past years. I chose to remain silent but I’ve come to realize that the more I remain silent, the more vicious the accusations have become… Now that I am back, I shall now fulfill my promise of saying my piece, giving my side of the story.” Though we have to presume his innocence unless proven guilty, I cannot help but wonder, “Is not flight a sign of guilt?” Joc-Joc may be in mortal danger but in this Internet world, he could have at least e-mailed his side of the story to the media here. In fact, he would still be in hiding had not the US immigration detained him due to an invalid non-immigrant visa. (The US Embassy canceled his visa upon the Philippine Senate’s request.) Joc-Joc’s promise to say his piece appears to be a running joke.

Running from the truth is no laughing matter. We who cast the stones must make sure we have not committed the same. When we lie about our income to save on taxes, when we fail to give the right wages and fail to give it at the right time, when we bribe our way out of a traffic offense or give it to “grease” our papers, when we vote corrupt candidates into office, we are also running away from the truth. It is time to take the truth seriously.

Brethren, “righteousness exalts a nation” (Romans 14:34, NIV)

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Once Again in the Hospital

Believe it or not, I got confined again in the hospital over the weekend.

As they say, when it pours it rains hahahahaha again, when it rains, it's four! oops hahahahaha You know what I meant... :-)

Last Friday, I woke up with a severe stomach ache. It was a steady pain. It is not gurgling within (otherwise, it would have been just another loose bowel movement episode) or a sharp, cutting pain (then it would have been amoebiasis, which I got during my media days). I also vomited twice. Experience with this kind of pain taught me not to drink any pain reliever or any medication. I had close calls with appendicitis and diverticulitis before.

When I could not bear the pain anymore, my wife and I rushed to the hospital. I drove to the hospital, can you imagine? We live near a mall here so taxis are hard to get.

The ER people suspected either gallstones or appendicitis (my WBC count is 16,000 while the normal max level is 10,000 indicating an infection). The pain is also in the right side of my abdomen. Then I heard those words, "You have to be confined."

Oh, no. Not again! (Just about two weeks ago, I underwent a major ear surgery, remember?) But we had to travel to another hospital, this time my brother rushed to the hospital to drive for me, because my HMO won't pay portion of the bills if I would be confined in the first one. Another 30-40-minute drive.

IV was inserted. (By the way, Filipinos are good at it. I heard that nurses in US [no offense meant] practice inserting IVs with oranges. Here, we practice it with humans hahahahaha) My veins in the left hand are small. But it got in. Whew!

By the next day, the pain subsided. I was already asking the doctor if I could be released so that I could still preach on Sunday (the workaholic me is kicking in). But Ellen insisted that the doctor determine first what caused the pain just to make sure. He agreed.

It's a good thing my mentor (Rev. Philip Tarroja) pitched in for me in our worship service.

I was subjected to a cleansing enema in preparation for a barium enema so the x-ray would get good pictures. I would spare you the gross details. All I can say is that it felt soooo uncomfortable. And that is an understatement.

But things are whirling in my mind. The doctor said if he sees "something" in the x-ray, I would have to go through colonoscopy. The mere mention struck fear in my heart. The pain could be caused by something as mundane as mere indigestion or something as serious as intestinal blockage or, worst, the big "C".

You see, by sheer coincidence, I was confined in the very same room in the very same hospital where my brother-in-law died of cancer. Get the picture?

The night before the x-ray I could not sleep. Other than the discomfort I felt after chugging in one bottle of laxative (orange flavored castor oil. Yucck!), I thought, "What if it is the big "C?"

I started writing my bucket list, something I learned from a movie of the same name.

Sure, I am already assured of eternal life. But the question is, have I been as fruitful as God wanted me to be, have I lived my life the way He intended me to live? So if ever I would go, I want to do it with a loud bang!

An item in my bucket list is to write letters to inspire my future grandkids. That's really in the distant future because my eldest son is just 18, the second is only 11 and the youngest is 10 plus he has autism. Maybe I could videotape myself sharing my thoughts to them. I just don't know if I have to post it in Youtube :-) The reason for this is that the Bible commands us in Deuteronomy to teach not only our kids but also our grandkids. But, in my very fertile imagination, in case I succumb to cancer, I may not be able to do it in person. So, better to write them or leave a video behind.

Another item is to eat tamilok with my best friend, Rev. Jesse Dedel. Tamilok is somewhat like a long, white, translucent worm. It bores into wood and is found in scenic Palawan here in the Philippines. I read somewhere that tamilok is actually a mollusk. People just cut the tip of a branch where there is tamilok inside, pull it out, tear off the head and squeeze the entrails out, dip it in vinegar with chili and calamansi and pop it in their mouths, raw and all. Needless to say, my best buddy immediately shot down the idea when I told him about this item in my bucket list. But I sure hope, if ever I am about to die, that he would honor such a dying wish :-D hehehehehe any more volunteers?

Finally, the results came out. Guess what? Nothing in there. No blockages. No tumor or anomalies whatsoever. That means no more colonoscopy. I heaved a deep sigh of relief. The doctor said it could be what he calls "non-specific colitis" or inflammation of the colon. Diet modification (AGAIN!?! But I have been dieting, believe me! I swear!) is one way to prevent it from happening.

Praise God it's not the big "C." Please continue to pray for my health. Thank you. Yesterday, Monday, I got released from the hospital. God again graciously provided for my hospital bills. (He sufficiently took care of it that we could even politely refuse financial help from dear friends and close relatives.)

By the way, I am still working on my bucket list. I still plan to fulfill it. ;-)

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Monkeys

Allow me to share an e-mail a pastor-friend sent to me which, at the risk of oversimplification, graphically illustrated through a funny monkey parable how the global financial crisis came about: “There was a village near a forest teeming with monkeys. Then a businessman visited them to announce that he would buy monkeys for US$10 per head. The villagers went out to the forest and started catching monkeys. The man bought thousands. But, as the supply started to dwindle, the villagers’ enthusiasm waned. The man then announced that he would now buy monkeys at double the price. Thus, with fresh gusto, the villagers started catching monkeys again for $20 apiece. Soon the monkey population diminished even further. The offer increased to $25. But it was really an effort to even catch a glimpse of a monkey, let alone catch it! Again, the man announced that he would double the price. Each monkey would now be worth $50 each! However, since he had to go to the city on some business, his assistant would now act as buyer on his behalf. While the businessman was away, the assistant whispered to the villagers: ‘Look at all these monkeys in the big cage that the man has collected. I will sell them to you at $35 and when he returns from the city, you can sell them back to him for $50.’ The villagers agreed to connive with the assistant. They squeezed together their life savings and bought all the monkeys. Then they never saw the man or his assistant again… only monkeys everywhere!”

Moral lesson? While maybe not all who got badly hit by the crisis succumbed to greed, many did. Simply put, they bought houses they don’t need with money they don’t have to impress people they don’t like. I even read that since their employers won’t certify the bloated salary figures they wrote on their loan application, the borrowers signed what was dubbed as “liar’s form.” Such is the cost of greed. And now globally we are paying for it. That’s why Colossians 3:5 commands us, “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you [such as] covetousness, which is idolatry.” (ESV) Greed does not pay. We may end up holding an empty bag, or worse, having monkeys everywhere. We may commit the same mistake if we fail to live within our means. Contentment is still the way to go.

Brethren, let us live greed-free so we will be guilt-free!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

My surgery

Thank you for your prayers. I wrote this blog while resting at home after being released from the hospital last Saturday.

Last Wednesday, October 8, my wife Ellen and I checked in at the hospital in preparation for my ear surgery early next day. My best friend, Rev. Jesse Dedel, and his wife Rose kept us company till almost midnight. We ate chicken burgers and salad from Wendy’s, sort of a “last meal.” :-)

The anesthesiologist informed that he made available for me a sleeping tablet that I could take just in case I would feel anxious and couldn’t sleep. I admit I dread the surgery. (I heard enough horror stories about people ending up comatose due to allergic reaction to anesthesia or waking up in the middle of the surgery.)

But that night, by the grace of God I slept soundly.

By 5AM I was awake. The nurse inserted the IV. I changed into the hospital gown. Then they wheeled me to operating room. I was even joking with the doctor about taking video footages of my operation and posting it on You Tube. They hooked me up to the monitors. Then I fell asleep. (Maybe, the anesthesiologist secretly injected his sleeping stuff in the IV when I got distracted about the You Tube talk.)

I woke up in the recovery room. It was as if I closed my eyes just for a moment and then opened it. (Actually the operation took longer than expected. The doctor told us before the surgery that it would take 3 hours max. It really took 4 hours and 45 minutes. I was supposed to be back to my room by 12noon. I returned 3PM.) It was a blur. I was so groggy. I vomited time and again. I slept. I woke up. I felt as if a horse kicked me in the head. Numbing pain, if there is such a phrase. I remember touching my right ear and feeling the thick bandage. I slept again.

When I opened my eyes I was back in my room. I cried out of relief. That the surgery was over.

According to my doctor, the infection is worse than he thought. The CT scan did not show it. Other than drilling through the temporal bone that lies between my brain and my ear and draining the infection, he had to remove two of the three bones in my inner ear. The infection has corroded them. Needless to say, I would lose part of my hearing. We would just have to wait for my ear to heal. Then, a hearing test would show how much hearing I lost or still had. There is now a three-inch gauze packed inside my ear, which will be replaced every two weeks. The stitches will be removed this week.

Ellen and me are comforted with all your prayers. During the time Ellen got so worried that the surgery is taking longer, dear friends rushed to the hospital to pray with her. We got a steady stream of visitors even until a few minutes before I was released from the hospital. We also received encouraging text messages, e-mails and calls.

Thank God for all of you. My family felt so loved. Your prayers pulled us through. I pray that the Lord would bless you a hundredfold.

Friday, October 03, 2008

The Rescue

More than a week ago, 16 small scale miners crept inside an abandoned mine of the Antamok gold field in Benguet, scrounging for “paltek” or left-over gold veins inside a labyrinth of tunnels. But floodwaters due to typhoon “Nina” (International codename: “Hagupit”) rushed through the shafts and immediately flooded the tunnels. It became a death trap. The miners at that time were working 700 feet underground. When they noticed the fast-rising muddy waters, they immediately scrambled towards higher shafts and ledges. But they did not make it to the surface. Six miners drowned. One of them even tied himself to a rope to keep the rushing water from sweeping him away. But he still perished. Ten survived to share their story. To survive, they drank the dripping water from the roof of the tunnel. When they could no longer bear the hunger pangs, they started eating strips of their clothing. They kept their hopes buoyed up by swapping stories and jokes with each other. That kept them sane, even after the lights on their miner’s hats gave out. One of the survivors said, “We were on the verge of crying but we had to entertain ourselves. If we live, we live. If we die, we die.” (Source: http://inquirer.net/) A hundred rescuers from the Philippine National Red Cross, the Philippine Navy, and the local police raced against time to save these miners. Another typhoon almost hampered the rescue. Yet, they bravely waded through the murky waters to look for the miners. One hundred risked their lives to rescue sixteen. Even if they saved only one life, those heroic rescuers would still have rejoiced. And even if they did not save anyone, they knew they can’t be accused of not trying at all. They gave their best and their efforts got rewarded.

We are also part of a search and rescue operation. Our Lord Jesus declared that there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.” (Luke 15:7, NIV) That’s how precious a soul is in the eyes of God. And even if we shared the Gospel and not even one accepted our message, we did not fail the mission. For no one can accuse us of not even trying. Thus, we are to give it our best shot. We are commanded, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.” (Mk 16:15)

Brethren, let us join the rescue.