Friday, March 30, 2012


I immediately envisioned a special edition pony-tailed Barbie doll, complete with accessories like cool sunglasses, army fatigue uniform and boots, weapons holsters---with guns, knives and munitions for combat all tucked in.

Why not? Especially since in our day and age, "female" does not necessarily stand for someone always dolled up and wearing stilettos and fashionable clothing---just like Barbie.

Women, without necessarily chanting the female lib mantra, have indeed come a long way---definitely still faithfully raising their children to be upright citizens, but also putting their lives on the line to preserve our cherished way of life and protect our freedom. So shouldn't our children's toys also mirror that reality?

Well, my new edition doll would be an exact replica of Carolyn.

Carolyn is a full blooded
Pinay (Take a bow, her classmates from De La Salle University!) who met her future husband in the US military. We got acquainted with her at a recent chikahan in her parents' house. This time, she looked all woman, quite beautiful with her brown long highlighted hair and subtly-applied make-up.

But the more she spoke and the more we egged her to share her combat field adventure, the bigger she grew in our eyes. Was she 5'5" or seven feet high or taller? Wow, a real live action hero sat right in front of me, and female yet. Too, a Filipina! Can it get any more exciting than this?

Carolyn was a rarity in an army which counted one female for every 30 male company commanders. She was part of the US contingent which surged with the coalition forces into Iraq in 2003---with logistics support as her unit's responsibility.

"We came into Iraq, this huge place," she said, "with 50,000 vehicles and almost 80,000 troops; and had this monstrous traffic jam. We were trying to get a gas refill for our vehicle when I was ordered to clear the traffic, so I did, but I told my driver to stay put." She lost him and managed to reach camp by hitchhiking with three different drivers.

Her craziest stint was at Helmand Province in Afghanistan. "We were 30 days in the middle of nowhere; my first time to be shot at."

Her photos tell a million words about what the US troops go through in war-ravaged Afghanistan.

"But you cannot be afraid. You must think like a soldier, be competent, diligent, disciplined, self-motivated and think out of the box. As long as you know your mission and do things legally and morally, you'll know how to survive. You're prepared for dying by thinking you're not gonna die. But sometimes you wonder if you can trust your equipment."

Does being female make a difference? I asked.

You cannot exploit the fact that you're female. You're a soldier. Period. Be proficient with your weapons. Don't act like a man, but don't forget that you are a woman.

So where has she applied her female skills in the midst of war? She showed her Christmas photos in Afghanistan: Christmas decor all over the wall of a fairly rudimentary facility---with a fake fireplace, fake snowflakes "falling" from the sky and other familiar Christmas decor fashioned out to make her mates feel like it was home, with loved ones. "That's where being a woman helps," she says.

I could not help but think of David, the man after God's heart. In the book of Samuel, King Saul questions David's capability to go against the giant, Goliath.

"You are but a young man,"Saul warned.

Goliath glowered at David, dismissing him as "a little more than a boy, glowing with health and handsome, and he despised him" (1 Samuel 17:42). But even before the giant could come near him, David sent his stone hurtling from his sling, straight into Goliath's thick skull. And Israel pillaged the Philistines down to the last warrior and treasure.

The next time you meet someone, hold that first impression. You'd be surprised at what you'd uncover once you get to know her or him better. Almost always, you'd discover gold, sometimes neatly packaged as a live action heroine risking her finesse for our peace.

Friday, March 16, 2012


Let's talk about tiny or small things.

Dust is so minute, yet it can sting your eye and cause severe itching and redness the more you try to dislodge it with your big fist.

The picture of a tiny baby---a fetus to be precise---can summon oohhs! and aahhs! and dozens of "Oh, how cute!" "Amazing!" comments in one's Facebook entry. What more could a cute bouncing bundle of joy do to us? "Nakakagigil!" And we go gaga over her!

Imagine termites and locusts wreaking havoc on properties and plantations. Can you believe the sometimes deadly effect of allergens on our health?

Small things. We treat them either with care (Oh, they're so fragile! Shush, the baby needs her nap!), caution (Careful, you may get a cold!) or fear (Let's pray the bird flu never reaches our shores!).

The tongue is tiny too but deadly!

The bible compares the tongue to the rudder of a ship. Today's ships, especially cruise liners, are so humongous, you'd think they're cities roaming the seas. Imagine small rudders turning these monstrous ships around.

That's how powerful the tongue is. It can cause a mountain of troubles (James 3:5-6)---just like a great forest being set on fire by a small spark. It is also described as "a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body, corrupting the whole body."

It says further (v 7-8): All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

It is strange, James says, that we praise God with our tongue yet curse others with it.

Can you recall the times you courted trouble because of an irresponsible remark? I'd been in a lot of hot water because of things that I said which I couldn't take back anymore. If only I could swallow back those words. But what had been said already did the harm.

Imagine marriages being broken because of harsh words. "It is better to live at the corner of a roof than with a nagging woman," says one proverb.

Imagine children scarred forever because of some irresponsible parents' relentless tongue lashing. "You will amount to nothing." "You're an idiot." We've heard these words a lot.

We definitely can't tame this tongue, no matter how small it is. But its Maker can.

If Jesus is indeed our Lord and Savior, He has given us the Holy Spirit to teach us to "Hold it!" "Zip it!" "Don't spew that venom!"

Taming the tongue is not about our being able to control ourselves. It's about allowing Jesus to be in control.

If you've given your heart to Jesus, He will replace our well of words with those that are wholesome, life-giving, kind, loving; and remove those which are vengeful, hateful, judgmental and which might cause others pain. And maybe allow you to undo the hurts caused by previously carelessly spoken words.

"I love you!" "You've done well." "You are so gifted." "You can do all things through Christ Jesus who strengthens you!" "God loves you." Imagine these words making someone's day today.

Don't be deceived by tiny. Be overcome instead with His mighty amazing grace.

Saturday, March 3, 2012


"Don't judge me!" We express that a lot especially when we feel that people misunderstand our intentions.

But that's what we basically do everyday. A stranger walks into a room and almost instantly, we hand out a verdict:

Uy, mayaman (rich)!" "Mukhang pobre (poor)." "Huwaw, maganda, siguro mabait din (Beautiful, must also be nice)!" "Ang pangit naman (ugly)." "Parang bobing (stupid)." "I don't like her face."

It's an awful thing to be judged, especially when we mean something and others perceive the opposite.

What's worse is, I see someone's weaknesses or wrongs but fail to see mine. You see my dirt but don't see yours. We have become each other's judge.

But almost instantly, we soon realize our bad judgment. And worser than worst (now we sweat, heart throbbing faster) it's now too late to take it back because we've somehow whispered it to someone and that someone has shouted it from the housetops,
na-broadcast pa sa TV. Patay (I'm doomed)!

Or even if we judged right, did we need to let the whole world know? The anatomy of slander!

No wonder Jesus cautions against judging. "Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye" (Matthew 7:3)?

Because if we must judge, we should ourselves be above reproach. Or don't judge at all.

Now we realize the awesome calling of a judge in the court of laws.

A judge's responsibillity is to impartially decide on the merit or demerit of a case, something which must be done based on credible evidence and witnesses. Individuals' reputations---and how their future may pan out---rest on the wisdom of judges to rule without bias.

No wonder the symbol of justice is that of a blindfolded woman with a scale. It's a weighty and nerve-racking task.

I know of a Christian judge who belabors every decision because he knows his responsibility to God and the need to mete out the right penalty to law-breakers, especially murderers, rapists and drug dealers. This person I write about also tries to live free from political or family influences and others' attempts to bribe him. He and his wife also live simply, stretching his judge's salary and careful not to show off or flaunt his position.

(Oh please, Mr. President, realize that judges' salaries must be substantial for the risks they take in making fair decisions and so that they will not fall prey to
lagay [bribery]!)

How terrible it is therefore to be in the place of Justice Renato Corona. His trial under the senator-judges now puts him in the hot seat of the accused, with his own inequities being floated and flouted one by one by the prosecution.

Ironic, isn't it that the Justice of the highest court of the land is now being judged!

But here's the other irony: Senator-judges now preside over his case. Do they judge from a supposedly higher ground? Are they themselves beyond reproach? If someone were to sit on a much loftier ground, will these senator judges emerge as clean and good-smelling like a Tide-with-Downy-washed laundry?

I bet none would. None of us qualifies!

Let those who need to promote the rule of law do their work. That's why we have laws. We need order and righteousness to prevail in the land. But let them be the first to model integrity and impartiality! Let us pray the leaders and justices of our country will come out of this experience with a realization that they must first "remove the plank from their eyes," as Jesus said.

Now, who would want to be the judge?

There's only one righteous judge: Jesus, who will judge us at our life's end. For now, He reaches out to us with grace, not condemnation. Because He wants you and I to come humbly, acknowledging Him as Savior and Lord.

"All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23).
"Christ ... died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, in order that He might bring us to God" (1Peter 3:18). "If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved" (Romans 10:9).

Would you rather be saved than judged?