Saturday, June 11, 2005

The Peace That Surpasses All Understanding

Today our country is in chaos once more. Two days before Independence Day, our identity crisis has again polarized the nation into indescribable proportions. It is as mind-boggling as it is heartbreaking to see our tendency to self-destruct so evident and worse, so inescapable.

Amidst the chaos, however, I am surprisingly at peace, for I was reminded on this very same day that who I am is independent of my leaders, whether in community or in government. I am, after all, a beloved daughter of God. I find it necessary to share how my June 10, 2005 went.

After battling with a body that seeks bed rest, I pulled myself together and made it to the Sandiganbayan, to report for work for the second to the last day. My love-hate relationship with my legal work was nearing its day of rest and I had only a small portion of strength to survive on. As He promised, God's grace was sufficient for me. It did not run out!

There was excitement in the air for all the preparations for the anniversary Mass and program. Having been inconspicuous around the office for sometime now, I thought I would just be a mere spectator. When we got to the SB Multipurpose Hall, however, my former choir-mates called out to me because they needed singers for the Mass. That was a higher calling I could never say no to. Exactly a minute before Mass started, we all realized that nobody was assigned as commentator. Somebody lifted the microphone from the guitar and handed it to me. That was how I found myself serving at the SB Mass for the very last time - totally unprepared, and Spirit-led. Needless to say, I savored every part of that Eucharistic celebration. I prayed for the people at our office while offering my heart to the Lord.

I didn't expect that the anniversary program would move me as well. The speech of Presiding Justice Teresita J. Leonardo-De Castro, my boss, turned out to be her best one yet. She was her idealistic and passionate self and I nodded my head vigorously at her repeated references to the basis for the Sandiganbayan's existence, that is, to uphold the constitutional precept that "a public office is a public trust". With that, she launched the Sandiganbayan hymn which was written by my friend Atty. Lily Biton and arranged by Music Works ministry. Chief Justice Davide described the hymn as "simply beautiful" and gave a very inspiring speech as well. He spoke about how special the SB was to him since his Batasang Pambansa and ConCon days. He lauded the efforts of the SB of coming up with a hymn after 27 years, saying that "music is the language of the soul" and singing about "honor, integrity, accountability" would make the goals more real for each employee. The Chief quoted Scripture and said that like the Lord said through Isaiah, He is looking for people whom to send for His mission and this Judiciary week, court employees are being tasked to answer "Here I am, Lord, send me."

The message was different for me. I was hearing a different tune. Although I believed that "honor, integrity and accountability" are ends that are worth fighting for, I felt that it was time to put down the sword and shield for that particular battle and confirmed what was in my heart, that the Lord was indeed calling me out. He just gave me the blessing of looking back at an institution I served with pride and hope.

We have the possibility of trying another president for impeachment, and I have hope in my heart. Call me idealistic and passionate.

The guest singers, who said they were missionaries who wanted to spread the good news through music, sang "The Prayer", something I used to sing with my partner Sunday for Lingkod mini-gatherings. I sang along. Then, they launched into "More Than Wonderful", a song about Jesus that I had been planning to sing if God sends me the person to perform it with, as it's a duet. I could relate more to their mission. I realized that we each have different missions and one is not necessarily better than the other. I was happy to find my purpose and to be on the road towards its fulfillment.

Then in the evening of June 10, I attended Lingkod QC's 5th anniversary entertainment night or E-Night. This tradition was started in 2001, when very talented QT's ( I speak with pride and gratefulness to God) came up with a variety show to celebrate God's goodness and share their gifts to others. I have been part of E-Nights for four years as a singer and dancer. This year, I distinctly heard the Lord telling me to relax and let my other brothers and sisters do the preparations and the performing. So I came to watch my brethren perform.

There were presentations, skits, gimmicks, and songs that were classic and unforgettable. Gay's Unit showcased QC with "Tara, Byahe Tayo", highlighting the best of QC as a place and as a branch. The brothers could not accept the lyrics that went like this: "ang ganda ng mga sisters, ang galing ng mga brothers". Hehe. Then, Mirac's Unit left us all in stitches, especially with Ricky Reyes' surprise appearance and the heartfelt singing of Riags. The brothers launched into the best of their past performances, with a remake of "Pataay" under new talents, and "Iba't Ibang Pagdarasal" QT version. Finally, Mercy's Unit presented a song about "Laura".

So who's Laura? That was me, I realized a few seconds into the performance. They traced my childhood dilemma between piano and law, my past discernment about law practice and missionary life, and my question as to my state of life, with a prophetic shot of a bride whom they saw at a hotel where their unit had their outing. The bride's name, they found out, was "Ella". So who's Ella? My gosh that was me. They could not remember the name of the groom. I thought it could be prophetic as well, but alas, I was not meant to find out. Too much blessings for one night, probably.

And then they were on a roll. The branch decided to honor their outgoing leaders. That was Rommel and me. What was a total shock was their request for us to sing a song that we had never ever performed before. Come to think of it, we probably had only two songs in our repertoire, "You are Holy" and a Tagalog song. Given that we're both perfectionists when it came to singing, I summoned all the saints in heaven in order to sing my part of the song originally performed with my erstwhile partner Sunday, "Come What May" from "Moulin Rouge". In fairness, Rommel sang it better than Obi Wan! He had the benefit of practice, plus he's the 100-percent scorer with the Magic Sing. My voice refused to cooperate and I just relied on my brothers and sisters' commitment, for they clapped and cheered, probably all too happy to see two old Tiguls so relieved to just be singers and not anymore their leaders. "Suddenly the world seems such a perfect place", the words which I sang, described how it felt, that moment of being with the Lingkod QC brothers and sisters.

I held back my tears as Gay gave her honoring. It caused a major headache afterwards. What was totally new was a performance from the Music Ministry in lieu of the traditional branch dance led by the Dance Ministry. This year, they decided to sing "You Raise Me Up", one of my favorite songs by Josh Groban, previously performed by our brother Daniel Strickland, in four voices! I felt like I was enveloped in clouds and was being lifted literally into heaven. With around 20 men and women gathered as music min, I knew it was indeed time to step down, and to step down with a smiling heart. God had raised up new leaders and members. A new life has begun in our branch. It felt good not to be cut off from the branch but to be considered a root as new leaves sprouted, flowers bloomed, and fruits ripened.

Then they prayed over us. God said we should be courageous for what lies ahead. My tears fell. I was still anxious about the future, and there my God was telling me to have courage. When Alan sensed that the Lord was pleased with us and was telling us to forget what we failed to do for Him, I could not help thinking of the way I performed for the song "Come What May" just a few minutes ago. I did ask for forgiveness, for I could have done better, but under the shocking circumstances, it was all I could muster. And the Lord said He was pleased with that. More tears fell!!!

Capping the night at Mocha Blends Morato, we all happily recounted the whole night. Marlon's punches were delivered with perfect timing and he, together with Tina, were the discoveries for this year's E-Night. Aside from creating an interactive (or hyperactive?) blog, Marlon had a dry sense of humor that made Ryan sigh with relief.

I don't know how to thank all the men and women who took time to be there tonight. Mercy and Karreen's presence were palpable not only in their unit video but also in the music min's number. All the brothers and sisters who were considered as QT's through the five years of its existence are also part of tonight. Some of them are not with us for various reasons, but I know that in God's time we would all be together again. Maybe on this earth, or maybe in heaven.

Reflecting on Chris Jandic's exhortation for E-Night, I realized why I was at peace despite coup rumors. I have my eyes, heart, mind and soul fixed on God and all the wonderful things He is doing to the world around me. I have found such peace that surpasses all understanding. I end this blog with the verse which Chris read:

"Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice!

Your kindness should be known to all. The Lord is near.

Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God.

Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus."
-- Philippians 4:4-7 (NAB)

Joyfully we proclaim God's glory. Rejoice and be glad, He said. There is so much reason to obey Him in this. My cup overflows.

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