When O stands for Objectionable, not OK: A Brief glimpse of Ostentatiously Opulent Scandals Trending in the Philippines

News, Events and Second Glances

Jenny holds her daughter tight inside the crowded makeshift evacuation center, both of them just two wet faces amidst a sea of relocated people due to Typhoon Maring. Her gaze is blank; her mind is lost between thinking about their small house flooded through and through, the streets of their barangay which are teeming with badly paved roads, their yet-to-be-paid-in-full TV set where she watches Ang Dating Daan on and her daughter, sleeping quietly while running a fever.

The television camera pans over her for half a second while she holds that gaze.

It is that gaze that a 23-year-old absently saw on the muted television set in one prominent hotel’s hip bar in the heart of the Metro. From a higher area of the country, where the typhoon’s strong presence can’t be felt, the seemingly rich young lady ordered a round of drinks for her friends with a wave of her bejeweled hands.  She swipes one of her many debit cards, which is one too many for a 23-year-old to have, fueled by money a 23-year-old could never have unless she’s Richie Rich’s sister.

But even Richie Rich’s hypothetical sister would probably have enough sense not to waste the fortune that her parents worked hard for. But then again, when your parents didn’t acquire the fortune you buy flashy stuff with fairly, who’s going to keep count, right?

Why, the Filipino people, of course.

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The above story may or may not be fictional but at the same time, to some, it may feel absolutely real.

Even with displacing thousands of Filipinos, causing high-level floods, disrupting schools and businesses, the anguish Typhoon Maring brings won’t be able to compare with the level of anguish some unbelievable scandals have brought to the Filipino consciousness.

A Scandal’s Theme: I Can Name The Truth in Four Notes

It’s not really hard to pinpoint what a scandal is. Especially when there’s a theme.

First up, we have the lady of the dismal hour, Ms. Janet Lim-Napoles.

Janet Lim-Napoles. Not even Typhoon Maring can drown her 10-B pork barrel scandal. File photo from rappler.com

Philippine authorities are currently hunting down businesswoman Napoles, allegedly the woman behind the 10-billion Pork Barrel scam.  All that money was supposed to have gone towards the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), which could have gone to projects that would benefit taxpayers – like better flood-resistant roads for low-lying areas, benefiting both the poor and the rich alike.

But all that money that the Filipino people worked hard for seemed to have gone to personal bank accounts, her younger daughter’s spending sprees, real estates, and more.

If that wasn’t enough, word around town is that she funneled the funds to fraudulent non-governmental organizations, which was supposedly built under the guise of giving aid to the people. Ironically, instead, she stole from them.

Now, Napoloes is in hiding. But rumor has it that she will be hard to catch since allegedly, her politician friends who helped her with her grand scheme, got her back.

So to sum it up: an evil scheme, ruthless self-spending, an ironic twist and powerful connections.

Which brings to mind a lesser-known scandal of equally appalling misuse of funds. A few years back, a man named Daniel Veridiano did the exact same thing Napoles is now famous for – using money that wasn’t his in gut-wrenchingly opulent proportions.

Daniel “Puto” Veridiano. File photo from an article penned by Jane Abao entitled “Portrait of the ‘raped man’ for whom the Interpol would mobilize”

Not so long ago, one Daniel “Puto” Veridiano used one credit card of the Members Church of God International (MCGI) for his personal gain. By using a credit card that was supposed to have been used for purchasing broadcast equipment for the Church’s propagation efforts, Veridiano used millions of pesos to pamper himself with expensive things.

If stealing money wasn’t enough, Veridiano decided to file a false rape case against MCGI Presiding Minister Bro. Eliseo Soriano to get on a rival religious organization’s good side.  Ironically, he was the one who admitted to raping 14 young men who were his subordinates at the time when he was still a member of the Church. Here’s a video of Veridiano admitting to his misdeeds.

Now Veridiano is hiding in the wealthy bosom of his influential religious friends, as he betrayed MCGI for continued financial support from the company of those whom he said would be “like a quick jump to hell” if he ever joined.

After betraying Bro. Eli Soriano, the very man who helped him when he was ill, Veridiano became a member of the Iglesia ni Cristo. Screen capture from Youtube video.

After betraying Bro. Eli Soriano, the very man who helped him when he was ill, Veridiano became a member of the Iglesia ni Cristo for financial prosperity. Screen capture from Youtube video.

Like the rest of the thinking population of the Philippines, I can’t help but sense a theme here.

The Truth Comes Out of the Shopping Bag: What Scandal-Laden Money Can Buy

Money can buy lots of things.

For the Napoles clan, millions of dollars was spent on posh properties outside the Philippines. And that’s just the tip of the spending iceberg.

The family also owned several luxury cars that she and her family cruise the many beautiful places of the Philippines with.

“Sec. Leila Delima releases the list of vehicles reportedly owned,& possibly being used now by Janet Napoles. pic.twitter.com/a34rvPeGiC” from Nikolo Baua @Nikobaua. Screen capture from Mr. Baua’s Twitter account.

This famous list of cars, now retweeted and emailed by Filipinos for dissemination purposes, has a funny twin in satire form, originally posted on this blog:

Making light out of a very absurd situation: a list of the many absurd things one could probably get away with with the people’s money. Screen capture from “So, What’s News?” blog.

While the list contains things that might make you break into a chuckle, the social networking site of one of Napoles’ children can make you channel your inner 8-year-old and break into a tantrum.

Jeanne Napoles, daughter of Janet Naploes, lived a very lavish lifestyle and “flaunted” it for people to see.

On her Tumblr page, she posted photographs exhibiting the dilemma only a few young ladies face in today’s hard economic times:  Just what should a girl wear to the Grammy’s?

On her list: Purple Max Azria dress. Screen capture from: http://jeanenapoles.tumblr.com/page/5

On her list: Purple Max Azria dress. Screen capture from: http://jeanenapoles.tumblr.com/page/5

She probably wore these to the Grammy's. Christian Louboutin shoes. Screen capture from: http://jeanenapoles.tumblr.com/page/5

She probably wore these to the Grammy’s. Christian Louboutin shoes. Screen capture from: http://jeanenapoles.tumblr.com/page/5

The public's sneak peak: Finally, after days of deep thought and introspection, her Grammy's get-up. Screen capture from: http://jeanenapoles.tumblr.com/page/4

The public’s sneak peak: Finally, after days of deep thought and introspection, her Grammy’s get-up. Screen capture from: http://jeanenapoles.tumblr.com/page/4

This is on top of course of her numerous trips to various countries like Japan and London. You can see more of her photos here.

It’s not so much as her blogging about her life and what she owns and what she wore that’s the problem — every other teenager in the world who lives in the Me Millennium does this too. What’s extremely bothersome is that the young lady is reportedly unemployed, and that the money that funded all her lavish activities and belongings weren’t hers or her family’s. Her parents only made  Php 577,807.47 for 2011-2012.

Hence, that money is the Filipino people’s.

In the same light,  Daniel Veridiano, who doesn’t own any businesses or doesn’t belong to income-generating families had the bad habit of showering himself with expensive gifts.

In an expose article written by Jane Abao entitled “Portrait of the ‘raped man’ for whom the Interpol would mobilize,” she writes about how Daniel “Puto” used an extension credit card to support his opulent and highly unnecessary vices:

Puto loved jewelries so much like he has many hands and neck to adorn, but he appeared to be buying gifts for himself and for others too. The list of Puto for 2003 just for watches and jewelries showed the following in Philippine Pesos: Swatch, 800; Swatch, 3,500; Swatch, 13,600; Lucerne, 6,400; A. Rialto 39,697.00; Montre watch, 26,620; A. Rialto 18,800; A. Rialto 14,776; Venice jewelers, 40,000; and L. Heng Jeweller (Singapore) 79, 131. For 2003 alone, he spent a total of PHP 243,324.00.

For 2004, his list also showed the following just for watches and jewelries alone: Mossanite, 9,000; A. Rialto 23, 364; Multi Time, 446, 777; Gorriceta karat, 18, 801; A. Rialto, 14,750; and No Curfew, 23,940. For this year alone, and for these items, he incurred PHP 536, 632. In two years time, he bought several watches and fine jewelries from only a few thousands to enormous amounts to total PHP 779,956.

This is of course, aside from the many cash advances, posh clothes, town-to-town hops, pricey dermatology appointments, numerous gadgets and devices..

Veridiano on focus. One of Veridiano's shopping sprees caught on camera. Screen captures taken from: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZE2DFrRsuOc

Veridiano on focus. One of Veridiano’s shopping sprees caught on camera. Screen captures taken from: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZE2DFrRsuOc

And of course, to top it all off, a penis enlarger.

All of these, he spent lavishly on himself. And who paid for what amounted to  millions of pesos worth of self-serving damage? The very man who helped him get through his illness — Bro. Eliseo Soriano, or Bro. Eli for short.

Daniel "Puto" Veridiano talks about Bro. Eli Soriano, the man who took him in and helped him get through a serious illness. He would later accuse him of rape. Screen capture from: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a9zc0lf52Ms

Daniel “Puto” Veridiano talks about Bro. Eli Soriano, the man who took him in and helped him get through a serious illness. He would later accuse him of rape. Screen capture from: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a9zc0lf52Ms

And so what do we, the Filipino people, get from these cases of gross opulence on account of innocent people’s money?

We get to see very clear pictures of injustice.  If we think about it, these self-centered events have very cogent linkages to the very basic of what the rest of the populace should enjoy: the money they’ve squandered should’ve gone towards projects of goodwill and community betterment.

We as a country are used to being struck by numerous back-to-back typhoons. And we are proud to say that the Filipino nation is a country of fortitude and resilience: our streets may be flooded, but our hearts and spirits remain high and dry.

These heinous acts of opulence form just a small part of the corruption that strike the country from the highest levels of power, worse than any natural disaster we can ever encounter, weathering our country to the core. And it’s up to us if we let such ostentatious displays of opulence, greed and corruption happen again, and again, and again.

Or we can stand up, object, and do something about it. Let these folks and everyone in the world know, that this show of opulence on our expense is definitely not OK.

Show them that we truly are a resilient people. We do not just spring back at corruption, greed, and injustice.

We strike back by arming ourselves with the truth and holding on to it like it was all we have in life — holding it as tight as we would our only daughter, who has a fever in the midst of a typhoon.

#BibleExpo: Biblical Wisdom through a Hashtag

News, Events and Second Glances

From music to money, the flexible pound sign (#) has been making  lives easier since the 12th century.

And it was that one fateful day in August of 2007 when a mere suggestion by Chris Messina turned out to become the start of something that would change the face of the # forever.

Photo courtesy of InternetMediaLabs.com, from the article entitled The Hashtag: A Door to Discovery on Twitter. Link: http://internetmedialabs.com/twitter-hashtags-101-guide/

Today, the hashtag is everywhere – Twitter pioneered its usage while Google + and now Facebook has followed suit. Thanks to one symbol, social media users are now able to follow and track what topics interest them.

Just as long as a topic is preceded by the #, it is archived in the vast recesses of the Interwebs and will be there waiting patiently for you to peruse it until you get to the nearest Wi-Fi hotspot.

Fast forward to six years from the first hashtag created: August 2, 2013 – a group of people who believe in sharing God’s wisdom to others via technology will be making use of this popular symbol to impart biblical logic to the world.

God willing, these people will be using the hashtag #BibleExpo on Twitter, Facebook and Google + for the Members Church of God International’s (MCGI) Worldwide Bible Exposition.

The official Bible Exposition hashtag: #BibleExpo. Photo courtesy of Ang Dating Daan's Facebook page.

The official Bible Exposition hashtag: #BibleExpo. Photo courtesy of Ang Dating Daan’s Facebook page.

Just like the hashtag, Bible Expositions were created to bring people who would like to learn more about an important topic together – salvation. Visitors from all over the world get to ask their questions on the Bible – and they would get a Bible-based answer from international preacher and MCGI Presiding Minister Bro. Eli Soriano and Vice-Presiding Minister Bro. Daniel Razon.

During Bible Expositions, guests and online followers who may be stuck in traffic or their work desks benefit from the live blow-by-blow account of the questions and answers from the live Twitter feed from the Church’s official Twitter accounts –  @TheOldPathTV (English) and @AngDatingDaanTV (Filipino), as well as from visitors who join in on the live blogging using the #BibleExpo hashtag.

There’s a lot of use to the #. And for a group of humble believers the world over, its use is of something great:

#Salvation

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References:

1] http://socialmediatoday.com/kevin-basset/1545426/history-hashtag-infographic

2] http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/04/magazine/in-praise-of-the-hashtag.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

3] http://www.mcgi.org/about/leaders/

4] http://internetmedialabs.com/twitter-hashtags-101-guide/

9 on the 9th: Nine Reasons Why UNTV is Inspiring Change and Building Better Communities

News, Events and Second Glances

Just one year shy of a decade, UNTV 37 has successfully redefined Philippine public service – and is continuing to do so on a daily basis. In a short span of time, a television network has become something more than just a mere media presence. It has become something that the country desperately needed – a real, no-nonsense public service machine like no other.

In celebration of its nine years of Inspiring Change and Building Better Communities on the air and in the lives of Filipinos, we count down nine of the reasons why UNTV stays true to being the Philippines’ undisputed public service network.

 No. 9 – Real Infotainment Minus the Ugh

What needs to change: Shows that showcase the short, the skimpy and the skintight with not much substance.

UNTV’s Answer: UNTV is dedicated to making sure that its programming are not only enjoyable but are informative and wholesome.

 

No. 8 – Kid-Friendly Programming

What needs to change:  Cartoons are rampant, but there aren’t enough shows  on TV that are actually centered on rearing good, God-fearing children.

UNTV’s Answer: Good programming that will inevitably help kids grow up to become smart, goodhearted and conscientious adults. Just like what yesterday dreamt of. Did we mention that UNTV is the recipient of 13 Anak TV awards? 

No. 7 – An Entrepreneurial Hand at Hard Times

What needs to change: The notion that being your own boss is tedious and that starting your own business is hard.

UNTV’s Answer: Shows that serve as easy walkthroughs to small and big-scale businesses, sharing need-to-know secrets of the trade while entertaining audiences both young and old.

No. 6 – Get Fit In and Out

What needs to change: A lack of television programs that will encourage the maintenance of healthy bodies from the inside and out.

UNTV’s Answer: Shows that will inspire us to keep being fit so we could utilize our strength and abilities for the greater good.

No.  5 – Get Inspired with Real Life Stories in the Real World

What needs to change: More learnings about important national issues, inspirational stories of hardworking folks who made it to the top of their fields and heartwarming stories of goodwill shared with people who need it most. Less of shows that brandish mostly cloying rumors and exploit the poor under the guise of helping them.

UNTV’s Answer: UNTV’s roster of public affairs programs are intent on informing and inspiring the public. The more the public’s hearts are touched with truthful and heartfelt stories, the more they are aware of what realities others face. This will hopefully create more people who would be standing up on the side of justice.

No. 4 – Journalism with a Heart

What needs to change: The notion that helping others has to take a back seat to news reporting and that a news item is a bigger deal than the lives of others.

UNTV’s Answer: Training media men and women to become certified lifesavers so that they can put public service first, reporting later with Tulong Muna Bago Balita.

No. 3 – Unique Public Service

 What needs to change: Public service for ratings’ sake.

UNTV’s Answer: The many public service deeds on and off the camera. Aside from these programs…

It is at the UNTV station where the Clinic ni Kuya and Law Center ni Kuya are. In partnership with the Members Church of God International and Kamanggagawa Foundation, UNTV supports the first free Transient Home, which also offers free food and social services. Not to mention the free rides, livelihood grants to indigents, free education and other services for the benefit of the public.

No. 2 – Kuya Daniel Razon

What needs to change: Broadcasters who don’t walk their talk.

UNTV’s Answer: Kuya Daniel Razon is the driving force behind the many unique and fruitful public service efforts of UNTV. The strong and confident figure behind “Get It Straight with Daniel Razon,” Kuya Daniel gets to the bottom of important issues by asking the questions everyone is afraid to ask. Kuya Daniel is a broadcast journalist who is most comfortable when he is on the streets, seeing the plight of the masses.  With all of the public service projects he has created and is still creating, no one deserves the title “Mr. Public Service” more.

 No. 1. – Bro. Eliseo Soriano

What needs to change? Religious shows that do not focus on what’s important — Christ’s teachings written on the Bible.

UNTV’s Answer: Bro. Eliseo Soriano or Bro. Eli for short is not only the international preacher who is tirelessly sharing God’s words to six of the seven continents, he is also the big heart behind this public service network, being the primary champion and supporter of all the public service endeavors of UNTV and beyond. His award-winning religious program “Ang Dating Daan” or “The Old Path” is being broadcasted via radio, television, satellite, and the Internet. What sets Bro. Eli’s religious programs from the rest is its truthful, Bible-based format: anyone can ask any spiritual question and it is guaranteed a biblical answer. Spirituality at its finest, just what our country needs — and UNTV is home to this longest-running religious program in Philippine broadcasting history.

Cheers to UNTV 37 on nine great years of making a difference on Philippine broadcasting and most especially, in the lives of countless Filipinos.

With the number of unique public service efforts that continue to inspire change and build better communities, I can honestly say that there is no other network like UNTV on the face of the planet.

One More Reason to Heart This Place: Finding Apalit in New York – Day 2

News, Events and Second Glances

It’s safe to say that if there’s one place in the world I so terribly miss, it’s the Ang Dating Daan Convention Center in Apalit, Pampanga.

Believers from the Add Convention Center in Apalit, Pampanga wake up to a special day -- Day 2 of MCGI's International Thanksgiving. Photo Credit: Rovic Balunsay, PVI

Believers from the Add Convention Center in Apalit, Pampanga wake up to a special day — Day 2 of MCGI’s International Thanksgiving. Photo Credit: Rovic Balunsay, PVI

Every so often, I would regale myself with memories of ADD Con – traveling by bus very early in the morning from Baclaran to get to Apalit, smelling the freshly cooked arroz caldo and champorado from nearby vendors, walking the aisles of the convention center to find the perfect seat, singing at the wide stage with the rest of the brethren, the jamming sessions after the international thanksgiving celebrations.

And of course, the people I share those memories with.

By fate, it seems, I’ve found myself living in America. And though I am thousands of miles away from that special place in Apalit, somehow, I have stumbled upon Apalit here in New York. This is a realization that came to me during the second day of the Members Church of God International’s (MCGI) International Thanksgiving to God celebration.

To get to Apalit before 7 a.m., I used to have to make it to Baclaran at around 4:30 a.m. with my family and friends. Here in NY for the second day of the ITG, I travel with friends from New York, Connecticut and Canada to our ITG venue a little over four in the afternoon.

On our way to the ITG venue!

On our way to the ITG venue!

Arriving early at Apalit years ago, I always see choir members practicing before the congregational singing commences. In NY, choir members do the same, making sure that they perform their best because God deserves the best — a bit of wisdom we have learned from our preachers Bro. Eliseo Soriano and Bro. Daniel Razon.

Choir members practicing their opening song number in NYC. Pauline Arellano, PVI NY

Choir members practicing their opening song number in NYC. Pauline Arellano, PVI NY

The beautiful and colorful presentation of choir members and the Teatro Kristiano never failed to astound me as I sat in one of the ADD Con’s white monobloc chairs. I may be sitting on a different kind of chair in NY, but the feeling upon watching these talented individuals remains the same.

Starting day two with music. East Coast USA & Canada Choir members together with the Teatro Kristiano on MCGI's International Thanksgiving to God on July 5, 2013. Pauline Arellano, PVI NY

Starting day two with music. East Coast USA & Canada Choir members together with the Teatro Kristiano on MCGI’s International Thanksgiving to God on July 5, 2013. Pauline Arellano, PVI NY

With the bountiful wisdom being unfolded with each topic delivered by Bro. Eliseo Soriano and Bro. Daniel Razon, rejoicing is inevitable. I have experienced it seemingly endless times in Apalit, and I, together with the believers in America, feel it still, even from afar; simply thankful to God for His wisdom and kindness.

Rejoicing in New York for the many biblical knowledge learned. Photo courtesy of Members Church of God International official Facebook fan page.

Rejoicing in New York for the many biblical knowledge learned. Photo courtesy of Members Church of God International official Facebook fan page.

And the same way as it when I was in Apalit, I am blessed to enjoy hearing such biblical brilliance with God-given friends.

Time will come, in His will, that I will get to walk in ADD Con’s aisles once more and sing, listen, and praise with the rest of the brethren in Apalit. But for now, I am truly grateful for having found a version of Apalit right here in NYC.

Time flies when you’re learning spiritual wisdom! Day 3, up next, God willing!

Faith and Fireworks: Celebrating the International Thanksgiving to God in Sunny New York – Day 1

News, Events and Second Glances

July 4, 2013.

While people from all over New York go to Times Square to watch the yearly fireworks display for the Independence Day celebration, members of the Church of God International in New York enjoy a different kind of fireworks from inside one event hall in Queens, New York.

Six hours before the big event, I, together with two sister-friends boarded the Q17 bus to get to the Thanksgiving location. On a hot, humid day, people wore short shorts and sleeveless tops.

Our “outfit of the day” looked somewhat different, eliciting looks as we passed by residents and commuters alike. No matter, we were proud of what we were wearing: Teatro Kristiano uniform and the usual modest, Thanksgiving garb – like what we were taught in the Church.

The sun shone down and heated pavements at a high 88 degrees Fahrenheit as I checked my old phone’s clock. It proudly told me that it was 1:09 p.m. At last, after about an hour of traveling, we reached the venue – all set, waiting for everyone.

Group by group, brethren from Canada, Connecticut, Maryland, New Jersey, South Carolina, Massachusetts, and even Oklahoma arrived – with suitcases, duffel bags, and their adorable kids in tow. Despite the long travel hours, they all had something in common – they all brandished excited smiles.

Before I knew it, it was 5:55 p.m., and the music ministry choir led the congregants in singing songs of praise in Apalit, Pampanga. In New York, the East Coast USA Choir led us in singing.  Finally, after three months of long wait, the International Thanksgiving to God has finally begun!

The East Coast USA choir, together with choir delegates from Canada, lead the brethren in singing songs of praise during the ITG. Pauline Arellano, PVI NY

The East Coast USA choir, together with choir delegates from Canada, lead the brethren in singing songs of praise during the ITG. Pauline Arellano, PVI NY

Cheers resounded in the small hall where brethren are in Queens, as Bro. Eli, in his signature turtleneck and coat, spoke to brethren all over the world. Bro. Eli Soriano, Presiding-Minister to MCGI welcomed the brethren on the first day of the ITG, immediately after the choir and teatro offered a song of praise to start off the event.

Two topics were discussed on the first day. Vice-Presiding Minister to MCGI Bro. Daniel Razon gave the first part of each topic, while Bro. Eli delivered each topic’s climax.

During the International Thanksgiving celebration, believers from our neck of the woods turn night into day so we could listen fervently to spiritual knowledge that we won’t be able to hear anywhere else.

While some of the brethren in the Philippines drank coffee because it is the morning time norm, the brethren in the Americas did too, at night, to keep awake and focused while listening to the wisdom being unfolded during the three-day spiritual feast.

To make sure that all are up in the wee hours of the night, each short break was used to eat and recharge with power naps. At midnight, while brethren in the Philippines took a break for lunch, we here in New York prepared to take a short nap.

Before I closed my eyes, at 1:09 a.m., I stole a glance out the window. A couple of hours ago, traces of green, red, and blue muted fireworks peppered the ebony sky.

The night turned into day, and with their notebooks and Bibles in hand, the brethren were still up with God’s help and mercy, listening to Bro. Eli up until the very last biblical wisdom shared for the day.

Brethren from East Coast of US and Canada gather in New York to celebrate our International Thanksgiving. Januel Arriola, PVI NY

Brethren from East Coast of US and Canada gather in New York to celebrate our International Thanksgiving. Januel Arriola, PVI NY

Looking out the window, the sun was already high, and no trace of fireworks can no longer be seen from yesterday’s Independence Day celebration here in America. But inside the small hall in Queens, the fireworks are still very much alive.

The fireworks are the exuberant, excited glow of the brethren’s eyes. And as the International Thanksgiving is happening, the fireworks become stronger, more vibrant, and more extravagant. Never fading, never waning; despite the long travel, heat, and exhaustion, the fireworks don’t end.

Happy International Thanksgiving to God, from the brethren in East Coast USA and Canada! Pauline Arellano, PVI NY

Happy International Thanksgiving to God, from the brethren in East Coast USA and Canada! Pauline Arellano, PVI NY

These kind of fireworks may very well last forever.

HAPPY INTERNATIONAL THANKSGIVING TO BELIEVERS IN ALL PARTS OF THE WORLD!

LGBT Pride Month or Not, “Happy Christians” Celebrate Christ’s Love

News, Events and Second Glances
Hope. Pauline Arellano, PVI NY

Hope. Pauline Arellano, PVI NY

It was mid-morning on June 28, 1969, and the hazy bar light half-shone on the hurt and angry faces of Stonewall Inn’s gay patrons. Angered by much police harassment, they fought back and riot ensued. Soon, the riot became a series of riots spearheaded by gay men and women who battled police harassment towards the queer community. This is the infamous Stonewall Riots, the turning point for gay rights in the United States.

This is why June is a special month for the LGBT or Queer communities from all over the world. This is when the LGBT Pride month is celebrated.

But for the Christian queer community in the Church of God International, all months are special months, for they have learned the deeper, biblical definition of gay rights through preacher Bro. Eliseo Soriano.

The Church’s group of talented and vibrant individuals is aptly called “Happy Christians.” And for good reason too. They are indeed, gay, but they are, most of all happy – for they are welcomed, appreciated, and valued in the Church and enjoy the rights to equality awarded to them by a power higher than the highest courts of man: God’s laws.

 “Homosexuals are human beings. All human beings are product of God’s pro-creative power. What is attainable by ‘normal’ human beings (if homosexuals are considered by others as abnormal) can be equally attained by them, also,” writes Bro. Eliseo Soriano on his blog Can a Homosexual Make it To Heaven?

The preacher is often asked about homosexuals and their chance to salvation. And his answer has always been on the positive side of the salvation equation:

“God wants all men to be saved,” states Bro. Eli: a concise yet powerful biblical sentence, full of God’s fairness and justice that many homosexuals have been fighting to attain all their lives. This right to equality in salvation is being enjoyed by the faithful gay community of the Church, making them enjoy the gift of inner peace and contentment in their lives.

The best right that the gays, or anyone else, can ever have, is the right to be saved – and that right has been given by God to all, regardless of sexual orientation, race or color. It’s right there all along, as Bro. Eli teaches, in the Holy Bible.

Now to exercise and celebrate that God-given right is completely up to each human being.

Why offering thanksgiving to God is the best way to end a busy week

News, Events and Second Glances
The New York band gets ready to play "Ama Salamat," which translates to "Thank You Father" during one International Thanksgiving to God celebration. Pauline Arellano, PVI NY

The New York band gets ready to play “Ama Salamat,” which translates to “Thank You Father” during one International Thanksgiving to God celebration. Pauline Arellano, PVI NY

After a week of memorizing several book pages’ worth of information to ace that one test and raise your GPA, traveling from one job to the next, going through seemingly endless traffic on your commute home, running your weekly 5K, running numerous miscellaneous errands for the family, a person is entitled to feel, what’s the word, exhausted. Some would spend the weekend at the beach when the season permits it, the mall, the park, or even just going on a movie marathon at home in their respective lazy clothes with chips and sodas handy. But for a group of believers scattered all over the world, the weekends are reserved for one worthwhile activity no matter how hectic their week was. They wisely cap the week off by offering thanksgiving to God.

You might be familiar with this group of believers. If you’re on Facebook and have them as one of your friends, you might see their peculiar updates that are quite unlike the usual posts you see on your newsfeed. While Facebook sadly serves as the go-to venue for people to hate on others and spread rumors, you’d see these peculiar people sharing thanksgiving quotes to God, both inspirational Bible verses and inspirational Bible quotes, and even partner these up with articles and blogs that brandish their desire to spread spiritual joy to their Facebook pals. Majority of the peculiar ones who live in the Philippines go on a weekly pilgrimage to Apalit, Pampanga, while those who live in other nations go to their respective locale chapters – all of them giddy to offer thanksgiving to God.

Choir members of the Church of God International in New York sing a lively song of praise to God. Pauline Arellano, PVI NY

Choir members of the Church of God International in New York sing a lively song of praise to God. Pauline Arellano, PVI NY

Despite a tiresome and hectic week, these people choose to sing songs of praise to the Almighty One: to express their heartfelt gratitude to God in song. For a week’s worth of deliverance, for His loving-kindness, for new duties entrusted upon them, for His unspeakable gift, for everything – even things that caused them sadness and pain, these peculiar people choose to offer thanksgiving to God over doing anything else.  They are well taught to put God first, among all things.

 

Bro. Eliseo Soriano, the Presiding Minister to these peculiar folks is never lacking when it comes to explaining the beauty behind offering thanksgiving to God. In his blog entitled Forever Offering Thanksgiving, Bro. Eli shares with his readers the things that he is forever indebted to God for:

“I am a grateful creation of my Creator, and I will forever be, with His help.  I have unspeakable reasons to be thankful to Him.  My being, my strength (and weaknesses), my wisdom (and ignorance), my abilities (and inabilities), everything I posses bespeaks of His power, loving-kindness, compassion, and grace that calls for praise and thanksgiving.” – Bro. Eliseo Soriano

 And he has taught the peculiar people to do the same – to give thanks unto God for everything in their lives.

 And so while the rest of the population relax or party the weekend away after a long and busy week, these people choose to pay respect and gratitude to the One who gave them permission to start and end the week in the first place, thanking God for the week that passed, and if it is His will, for the weeks to come.

 

Blessings in Disguise: Behind the Exiles of Jose Rizal and Bro. Eliseo Soriano

News, Events and Second Glances

Photo linked from Bro. Eliseo Soriano's blog entitled

Photo linked from Bro. Eliseo Soriano’s blog entitled “The Lucky Person I Am: Most slandered me” Blog: http://esoriano.wordpress.com/2011/06/02/the-lucky-person-i-am-most-slandered-me/ on Esoriano.wordpress.com

Yesterday, June 19, Jose Rizal would have celebrated his 152nd birthday. Jose Rizal, the champion of the Malay race, died facing a firing squad when he was just 35 years old. It was then that the Philippines lost a doctor, poet, linguist, artist, author, revolutionist, philosopher, activist, professor, and hero.

Before his untimely death, he was exiled in Dapitan. And though he was far away from those whom he loved, his time was not used in vain.

In a website chronicling the life of the national hero, his time away was not time wasted – he spearheaded the construction of an easier water system, taught farmers how to operate modern agricultural devices, learned how to farm himself, practiced medicine, taught students, collected specimens for scientific research, and wrote a book and some poetry.

One could say that his stay in Dapitan was peaceful and at the same time, fruitful.

Fast forward to today’s time, wherein another Filipino gentleman lives in forced exile due to rampant death threats and invented lawsuits. The gentleman is Bro. Eliseo Soriano, a preacher who exposes biblical truth at all costs – even at the cost of his leaving the country to continue his crusade on letting the truth of the Bible be heard.

It was in the latter part of 2005, when Bro. Eli left the country. From then on, following God’s will, Bro. Eliseo Soriano has traveled various parts of the world to preach God’s words. More and more coordinating centers are being established in the western part of the globe, and more is to come, with God’s mercy. Jane Abao,PhD gives a detailed and colorful read on Bro. Eli’s exile here.

Like the late Jose Rizal, Bro. Eliseo Soriano’s exile is fruitful – spiritually fruitful – as evidenced by the many emails he receives on a daily basis asking for services, baptism schedules, and the establishment of nearby coordinating centers.

His Bible-based question and answer program Ang Dating Daan is now translated in various languages. He holds Spanish and Portuguese online Bible Expositions. He travels weekly to different locations to meet and tend to the spiritual needs of brethren and visitors.

He maintains a faith-based blog. He answers any and all spiritual questions on Twitter. He gives a weekly dose of spiritual knowledge to the congregation during Thanksgiving celebrations and answers questions on the spot. He responds to questions via his email. He runs businesses to support the ballooning costs of propagating God’s words in more and more places. He regularly cooks for his family and broadcast staff.

All these, and more, the Filipino preacher does on a regular basis at an age more advanced than Jose Rizal.

Though both were exiled, Bro. Eliseo Soriano’s exile is not as peaceful as the late hero’s. The preacher who’s reputation is continuously besmeared  wrote in his blog entitled “The lucky person I am: Most slandered me”:

I believe using mathematical and logical calculations that, I am the most slandered man in the history of Christianity. The defamations being thrown to my person “go beyond borders.” I mean beyond the borders of the land of my birth, the Philippines. By using the most efficient cyberspace technology that is however lenient in terms of charging responsibility and accountability, my detractors were able to popularize these lies beyond borders.

Both of these remarkable men managed to make the most out of a situation they did not choose to be in.  Both men were exiled, but still, were able to see the blessing behind being afar from those they love. Both remained doing what they do best.

The word “interesting” would be an understatement to describe a conversation between these two men if they met, somehow.

References:

http://esoriano.wordpress.com/2011/06/02/the-lucky-person-i-am-most-slandered-me/

http://kotawinters.wordpress.com/2009/04/30/thank-you-for-the-sorrows/

http://www.joserizal.ph/dp01.html

http://kotawinters.wordpress.com/2009/06/14/dr-jose-rizal%E2%80%99s-language-very-much-alive-in-bro-eli-soriano/

http://www.mcgi.org

http://www.mcgi.org/about/history/

http://joserizal.nhcp.gov.ph/Biography/man_and_martyr/chapter14.htm

Warp Speed Ahead for Spirituality, Thanks to Technology Used Wisely

Literature or Something Like It
Warp Speed Ahead for Spirituality, Thanks to Technology Used Wisely

Warp Speed Ahead for Spirituality, Thanks to Technology Used Wisely

Some twelve years ago on one Sunday morning in Cavite, a group of people boarded two vehicles unique to the Philippines – the world-famous Philippine jeepneys. The leading one had a bullhorn attached to it, playing a popular television show’s theme song. People heard it and recognized it, and followed the jeepneys with lingering looks as they drove past.

Both jeepneys were filled to the brim with a variety of individuals, both young and old. After a while, the jeepneys parked in one town’s busy area – by the market square, and the people moved swiftly and positioned themselves to hand out flyers with sincere smiles.

After a little bit over an hour, they boarded the jeepneys once more, and circled a large residential area to give their flyers out and put them in mailboxes and house gates. Written in the vernacular, the flyers read: You are cordially invited to attend the Ang Dating Daan’s Mass Indoctrination, complete with the coordinating center’s address and phone number.

Today, the invitation is still extended on a regular basis to those who are interested to hear and understand Christ’s doctrines. The manner of inviting though, has broadened significantly, thanks to that wonderful invention of man – technology.

The Start of Savvy

The advent and success of the telegram to telephones to beepers and cellular phones have paved the way to push technology to bigger and better heights. And we Filipinos know this for a fact, being fervent lovers of technology. Even during the early 2000s, for our humble nation, technology is seemingly indispensible.

We Filipinos are known for using technology to our advantage – changing the course of Philippine politics forever by sending text messages to hordes of our kababayans, encouraging one another to don black shirts, stand as one and oust then President Joseph Ejercito Estrada via Edsa Dos. Granted, we didn’t exactly change it for the better when the one who took over the presidency actually took over, but still, the fact remains – through technology, we’ve accomplished something noteworthy.

Three Cheers for Technology!

Enter the Internet – where emails have replaced snail mail, and chatting, lengthy phone conversations. It has spawned a vast collection of social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, which have revolutionized information dissemination at a speed unseen in previous years. Today, with Facebook’s users numbering more than 1 billion, it’s safe to say that a considerable part of humanity is looking at that familiar blue homepage, liking or sharing something that catches their fancy.

Even on Twitter, which was launched in 2006, a few thousand users’ fancy were caught. 26,597 people RT’d this tweet from Taylor Swift, a popular singer from the US:

Image

Photo courtesy of Taylor Swift’s Twitter account. Link: https://twitter.com/taylorswift13/status/146471212455968769

A bit of publicity for a song, a desire to go back in time, a cry for help, her then state of mind, a philosophical notion, or maybe a metaphysical point, we’re not a hundred percent sure. But 26,597 people retweeted that one single, ephemeral tweet, making it one of the most retweeted tweets of all time.

If something like that was retweeted several thousand times for thousands or possibly millions to read, I believe that we can all do the same for something that would benefit us all – something spiritual. Something good for the soul. After all, in these perilous times, spirituality is the best armor anyone could have.

Bro. Eli Soriano, a preacher hailing from the Philippines, who is known for answering any and all questions on faith and spirituality, believes in the power of technology in spreading God’s words, as evidenced by his tweet:

Image

Photo courtesy of Bro. Eli Soriano’s Twitter Account. Link: https://twitter.com/BroEliSoriano/status/34035565770833920

The preacher has brought his Bible Q&A format to his Twitter account and is open for all. It is aptly called Tweetanong Mo Kay Soriano, named after his popular and award-winning religious program, which originated in the Philippines. He is taking advantage of technology to bring God’s words to a greater number of people.

With a simple click of the button — a simple “share,” “RT”, “favorite” or “like”, we could be the efficient bringers of God’s words to our friends, friends of friends, or the public – near or far and transcending time zones, through technology. While photos sporting the infamous “duck face” look and snapshots of what people had for lunch abound on our timelines and dashboards, let’s share Bible verses and words of wisdom. You’d never know who’d be able to read it and be consoled by God’s words – all because you chose to use technology wisely.

Mass Indoctrination Invitation on Facebook; from www.facebook.com/BroEliseoSoriano

Mass Indoctrination Invitation on Facebook; from http://www.facebook.com/BroEliseoSoriano

Today, leaflets are still being handed out in person, and the people doing so still give good-natured smiles. But thanks to technology, the number of people who are able to know about an upcoming spiritual event like Mass Indoctrination sessions or Bible Expositions are not limited to one busy market place and a residential area.

Thanks to the gift of technology, we are able to extend a cordial invitation to the world.


In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thine hand: for thou knowest not whether shall prosper, either this or that, or whether they both shall be alike good. – Ecclesiastes 11:6

 Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. Luke 8:11

The Bare-naked Truth on Self-Expression

News, Events and Second Glances

dream

Pointing out that I’m nowhere near being a fashion guru is important at this stage of the blog, since I consider you, the very patient reader, to be my friend by now.

So my dear friend from the Interwebs, let me just get this out of the way: I do not know “what’s hot and what’s not”. I do not know what kind of dress that Twilight or Hunger Games person will be wearing to the Oscars. Don’t even get me started on couture, because I’m as confused as you are.

However, I took a short sabbatical from reading Halo – Fall of Reach because I do have something to say about dressing up.  And it is my sincerest hope that even with my non-existent credentials as a fashion authority, you’ll find it in your heart to give this a few scrolls down.

Clothes are necessary. For the majority of the human population who don’t live in nudist camps, clothes act as our washable (yes, do wash them from time to time) armor. They hide our curves and unmentionables, or lack thereof. They shield our bodies from freezing temperatures; they help us stay cool on warmer weathers. They also, as considered by some as its primary function, help us express our oh-so-vibrant personalities.

With our feathered hats and zebra-print knee-highs, most of us walk around our school halls and office corridors because we are free to do so wearing whatever we choose to wear.  We are given that right.

Here in America, that right is the First Amendment – the freedom of speech or freedom of expression. It is because of this piece that John Tinker, together with his friends, won a case against the Des Moines Independent Community School District.

Here’s how things went down (it’s short, I promise):

In 1965, high school student John Tinker together with his friends Mary Beth and Christopher decided to express their disapproval of the war in Vietnam by wearing black armbands to school.

Because the school did not allow this, they were suspended until they agreed to return to school without the armbands. They came back after New Year’s, which was when their protest was scheduled to end.

They lost in the in the District Court, but the case was tried in the Court of Appeals in 1968. Tinker and his friends won.  (That was short, as promised. The long one’s here, if you’d like to take a glance at it.)

In today’s world, the freedom of expression has gone from protesting against the war, to protesting for fashion.  Let’s consider this plea from Minnetonka High School principal Dave Adney, in an email he wrote published on the Star Tribune:

Hello Parents of Minnetonka High School students,

This is Dave Adney with an update on high school fashion trends and a request.

As the weather gets colder we have noticed a fashion trend with our young women. Many of them choose to wear leggings usually made of spandex or another form of tight fitting material. In past years this has not been a major problem since fashion norms called for a long sweatshirt, jersey or sweater to be worn in conjunction with the leggings. This fall another pattern has emerged and we are requesting parent support.

Some of our girls have chosen to wear t-shirts with the leggings, thus exposing more leg and backside area. This can be highly distracting for other students and I am asking your assistance. If your daughters choose to wear leggings or other tight fitting clothing please support our goal of keeping things covered up. We encourage students to dress modestly and this trend is definitely a move away from our general expectations.

Thanks

Dave Adney

And disagreeing parties, in student form, rose to the surface. In an article written in the Huffington Post about this principal’s request for his students to cover up a bit, one female student said “If a girl feels comfortable in what they are wearing, then it should be accepted and not prohibited.”

The principal said that they wouldn’t ban leggings altogether, because they are comfortable and they do need it for colder weather. But his small request: wear something longer to hide what needs to be hidden.

It’s the same issue with a different facade: these young girls demand that they be given the right to express themselves, for it is their right, and they want to exercise that right. They want to wear leggings with shirts, which means exposing their behinds and whatever else would be seen, they feel that they should be allowed to do so – it is who they are, they feel. Would the school be robbing them of their right to express themselves if they ask that they wore something longer atop their spandex leggings?

In line with this, I think that the root of the issue is not freedom of expression per se. I am for freedom of expression, especially for religion. I think expressing ourselves is vital. So before we do some serious bouts of expression, we must first turn the attention on ourselves. The real issue lies on who we are. Who are we? And why must the world know who we are?

I believe that before we concern ourselves with what’s outside, we must learn to take a look at what’s inside. Strip away what’s on the surface and look at the bare-naked truth of what’s inside our very beings.  It won’t hurt, I promise.

Ask yourself a few questions. What do I believe in? What do I value? What am I about? What moves me? What motivates me? Why do I feel the way I do? What do I really know about myself?

We all have different backgrounds, cultures and beliefs that mold us into who we are. We have things that we hold dear in our hearts and keep track of in our minds constantly. These dictate who we are. If we believe that who we are is worth showing to the world, then it is our obligation to do just that. At this point in time, the world needs all the inspiration and awareness it can get.

In this video entitled What is the duty of a preacher of God in instilling God’s words to people, Bro. Eli Soriano talks about developing a deep love for God which opens people’s spiritual awareness. He mentioned that this is not present in everyone. And we can testify to this fact. Not everyone has developed spiritual awareness. We see it everyday – in the news, on our streets, and maybe even when we face the mirror.

So what do we do? What do we show the world?

I think that people, especially the youth, who decide to show the world that there is much more to their fresh faces than just fads and the next big boy band sensation from wherever are commendable. Instead of showing their skin, they show a part of themselves that has the potential to change the world – love. They are ready to show the world that charity is easy, with the help of God. That forbearance is a virtue. That being modest is to be brave.  That rights come with responsibilities. That dressing to impress others is nothing when compared to dressing to impress the One who matters.

In the Bible, Christians, or the followers of Christ, are ordained to be meek and modest in clothing. And I must say that to choose to be simple in the time of a very fashion-driven world is quite a statement to make. While the whole world busies itself with trends, Christians make a mark by wearing simple clothes. But on the inside, their hearts are heavily armored with God’s words, ready to fire wisdom at will, for any given situation. For these folks, Christ is the trendsetter, and His words are to be followed at all times. They find comfort in doing His will, which goes beyond the physical comfort the most expensive spandex money can buy will ever give.

So, whoever you are, are you bold enough to show everyone that you are more than what the eyes could see?