"Pangangaluluwa" or Trick-or-Treat?

A few days ago, some of my grandchildren had the rare opportunity to do Trick-or-treating at the White House and have a photo with the President and First Lady after giving them each a bar of candy. They were in their costumes: Batman, Twilight Sparkle, Sofia, etc. Tonight, children, also in their Halloween costumes, will come to our door to say "trick or treat" and we will give them candy. Halloween, as practiced in America, has a counterpart in the Philippines, but there are differences. "Pangangaluluwa" (pronounced: "pah-ngah-ngah-loo-lwah") is a Filipino tradition, now mostly seen only in the provinces, during which a group of children and adults, who may or may not be in costumes, st

The Church Bells of San Isidro

The church bells of my old hometown parish figured prominently in my boyhood. As an altar server and later on a violinist with our choir, I had the chance to ring the bells by pulling the bell rope from the choir loft level and sometimes climb to the belfry with my best friend from where we had a good view of the town. The church bells of San Isidro woke up the people without fail one hour before the daily morning Mass and the Simbang Gabi Masses to invite them to church. The bells were also rung at noon and 6:00 p.m. for the people to pray the Angelus. The bells were also rung outside those hours to announce the passing of a parishioner. They called it "plegaria" (prayer). The tone of the

"Sino Ako?"

(Who Am I?) I have attended many funeral Masses at Saint Columba, our parish. The Church calls this "Mass of Christian Burial," a celebration of the life of the dear one who has passed on from this earthly life to the next. The coming together of family and friends before the mortal remains of the departed one to show sympathy on their loss is also an occasion for all to think again about who we are, and the meaning of life and death. In some cases, people get to choose what songs they would like sung at their own funeral Mass. Easily a favorite one is the Tagalog song "Sino Ako?" composed by Fr. Jose S. Castaneda. The song is simple but has a clear message. The message keeps our feet firmly

Parallel Parking

I was doing parallel parking in front of St. Mary's Basilica to catch the 12:10 p.m. Mass but it was taking me too many little turns to squeeze into the space between two cars. A lady Mass-goer appeared and offered help by giving me a driving tip. There was joy on her face when she saw me complete my parking "perfectly," she said, giving a thumbs up. I thanked her for the help which she did not really have to give. But it was a little act of kindness that merited much appreciation from me. We were inside the church on time. After Mass, there was an old woman, Jane, who often sat at the steps with her hat, a bag and her cane, and as usual, she extended her hand for a dollar. How could I skip

"If You Love Your Mom . . ."

After the Our Lady of Perpetual Help Mass last night, a parishioner told me an office mate of hers asked her why Catholics worship Mary. She said she answered: "No, we don't. But we love and honor her." I said: "Correct answer." Then I said to her: "If you love your own mom, how can you not love Jesus' mom? If you don't love your mom, how can you love Jesus' mom? If Jesus loved His mom, how can you not love Jesus' mom? If you do not love Jesus' mom, how can you say you love Jesus? Jesus loved His mom. He was a good son. He followed the 4th commandment. He performed His first miracle even if it was not yet the proper time. But He did it . . . for her. Hanging from the cross, Jesus made sure

Gosnell -- Earthly Justice

I had not gone to a movie theater for many years. But when I learned about the trial of the man billed as "America's biggest serial killer," that is, of living babies from failed abortions, was showing in a limited number of cinema houses, I made sure to go and see it before they take it down. The scenes shown in the movie were horrific, cruel and shocking, to say the least.  It is hard to imagine how a person trained to heal and save human life can earn his living from destroying it, big time. Talk of man's inhumanity to man! Man taking the prerogative to destroy human life that God created. And he did it without any sign of qualms of an obviously numbed conscience, and when confronted he s

"We Made A Deal"

Sometimes when I see my daughter always happy with her beautiful family, I cannot help but quip: "We made a deal." And she knows what I mean. When we were preparing to come to America many years ago, my daughter did not want to come with us. She was happy with her friends, her school, and her involvement in a Church ministry with those same friends.  She cried unashamedly when all her friends came to send her off. And so I said: "Let's make a deal. Come with us. If you later find out you are not happy there, you may come back and spend your life where you feel you will be happy." The rest is history. I pat myself on the back: Father knows best. Once upon a time, a wealthy old man, Abram, wel

Gone With The Wind

For want of a free interesting movie on TV, I paid a few dollars to watch the 1939 epic film "Gone With The Wind." The movie took more than three hours to watch, but it was worth it. Set against the backdrop of the American Civil War and reconstruction in the South, the movie revolves around the pursuits of the daughter of a plantation owner, Scarlett O'Hara, who herself wooed a man who did not love her and married someone else. However, she did not give up even after she married another available man for the wrong reason. Finally, she accepted the proposal of a wealthy Army officer Rhett Butler, who truly loved her. After many happy years with a daughter who eventually died, the relationsh

Lynne Broke An Angel

As my daughter Lianne and her four children were leaving after a visit, we heard Lynne, my granddaughter who is in first grade, suddenly cry loudly. She had accidentally brushed an angel figurine as she was getting to her shoes to put on and it broke into three pieces on the floor. Finding out why, my daughter Lily, picked Lynne up and embraced her, saying, "It's okay, Lynne. It's not your fault. It's an accident." And I chimed in, "It's okay, Lynne. It's just a figurine. You are much more important than that." The next visit, Lynne saw the same figurine, whole and entire on the same spot. Grandma had had the pieces glued together but there was no sign of the repair. When Lynne asked Gran

"Why did you change the color of that?"

Last Sunday, a little girl, probably in pre-K or kinder, tugged at my dalmatic a few minutes before Mass started and asked me: "Why did you change the color of that? (pointing to my green deacon vestment). In the simplest way I could, I explained why we change to the colors green, red, white and purple of the priest's and deacon's vestments and what each color means. After Mass, she was there again, and she looked at me while holding her mom's skirt, and I gave her a blessing. I said to the parents, "You have a great child!" I added: "You are doing a good job!" I remembered a verse from the Book of Proverbs saying: "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not dep

"My Brother Is Not A Book"

A former beauty queen publicly defended her accused politician brother by saying: "Don't judge my brother. He is not a book!" (obviously alluding to the expression "Don't judge a book by its cover.") Since that time as a celebrity, other statements she made involving grammatical errors and incorrectly quoted idiomatic expressions and other funny sayings attributed to her elicited laughter and delight among viewers. Some poked fun at her unintended mistakes and they were compiled as "__isms." Today, the former beauty queen's beauty has faded a little, but she has gone on to become a more successful movie and TV actress, personality coach, and celebrity endorser. Her most famous quote: "Don't

My Friend Behind the Wheel

Last Sunday as I was entering the church, a voice called my name and I saw Jean in the driver's seat of her car. When I approached her and saw plastic tubes attached to her nostrils and the oxygenator box beside her, I asked if she could drive and she said yes. I have not experienced having oxygen tubes to help me breathe. I am sure it must be uncomfortable and inconvenient. But Jean behind the wheel was a picture of peace and joy. She said that she had accepted what God had given her and trusts fully in Him until He calls her home. I was greatly edified. Jean and I had talked before, in Bible Study, which she enthusiastically led, and I had seen her as part of the Gospel Choir which alway

Growing Tomatoes

After waiting for more than a month, the tomato seedlings I had planted in a couple of plastic pots had grown tall and leafy but did not show signs of flowers that would produce tomatoes. This despite my having previously mixed fertilizer with the soil and watering the growing plants regularly. I was greatly disappointed. But I did not give up. I researched why this was happening and what I should do to make my plants bear fruit. I checked the composition of the fertilizer I had used and the location of the pots to ensure they got enough sunshine. I used a different kind of fertilizer that was high in fruiting nutrients and added more soil in the pots. I continued watering the plants regula

The Daisies Are In Bloom

When I woke up this morning the sun was already up. And when I went out my front porch to where my Mama Mary's shrine is, the sun was shining brightly on the red and pink daisies in bloom, on the pink roses and the few clematises nearing the end of their flowering season. Then I remembered today is the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, who made the Battle of Lepanto a victory of the followers of her Son against those who do not believe that God is a Father Who has a Son. October is also the month we are urged to pray the Rosary daily, which is a meditation on the life of Jesus from His Incarnation to His passion, death, resurrection and the assumption into heaven of His Blessed Mother. My lit


"In those days, Jesus went out to the mountain to pray, and He spent the night in prayer to God." Luke 6:12 This weekend I was on retreat with other deacons and deacon wives at the quiet and scenic Loyola on the Potomac, an event I have looked forward to each year. In military warfare, retreat is the turning away from the enemy in the face of perceived possible defeat, but to regroup, get reinforcements, and fight again. In business and other organizations, a retreat is going away to a different environment to assess operating results and make a plan for the future. A spiritual retreat, on the other hand, connotes a retreating from the hustle and bustle of one's ordinary world into a place w