The Poetry of Getting Investment Grade on Holy Week

Many will find loss and the loss of things valued, cheered on by the value systems of shallow minds and selfish hearts.

One thing I learned, God doesn’t have to condemn me, when I choose to walk away from Him, I condemn myself.

It’s 5:00am as I write this. Tried a new sleep aid and obviously it didn’t work. None of them seem to work anymore. This last one looked promising, tasted the best so far, but, as my 4am barrage on Twitter proves, has been a disappointment.

It’s a good time to be up anyway.

It’s Holy Week! It’s that time of the year in Christendom for my heart to be exclusive to God for a week.

Oh, you’re right. Thank you for correcting me. Holy Week break starts Wednesday afternoon. So I only need to clock in 4 1/2 days of exclusivity, and because God is love, I only need to inject some form of devotion each day and He’ll fall answer MY prayers, remove MY pain, MY suffering. He’ll make MY dreams come true.

It doesn’t matter that my heart is proud, that I’m rationalizing lust, have accepted my unforgiveness as ok because he’s at fault, that I have less and less self-control, that the fruit of the Spirit is less and less evident in my life, God is love, I’ve skipped my beer and beef, what’s His beef with me?

In case you didn’t get it, I’m being sarcastic.

Well, actually, to be honest, I’m not.

I’m guilty of approaching my relationship with God that way.

“Here God. I love You so so so so much. You’re so great. I worship You. Here’s my minimum passable performance. Here’s my religious duty. Thank You for being so loving, for accepting me as I am – even as I keep the best of me for myself and offer the rest to the world.”

It sounds like a lady who prepares dinner for her husband, listens to how his day went, thanks Him for the flowers he brought home, for always being reliable, talks to him about her dreams and plans, smiles across him as he eats, does the dishes, makes passionate love to him, then texts her other lover while her husband sleeps the words, “I love you.”

In other words, “I did all of these things for him, but my heart is yours.”

I would never settle for a relationship with someone whose heart is not mine – no matter what obligation she fulfils.

I hope you won’t either. I hope you can see that there’s something wrong here.

But we are full of double standards. We are willing to rationalize what we want to rationalize, and usually, we are willing to rationalize what benefits us and doesn’t hurt us. We’re ok with being surrounded by cheaters as long as they don’t cheat me, with drunks as long as they don’t smash my car, with robbers as long as they don’t steal from me.

We’re ok with anyone as long as they’re nice.

Nice has become the ultimate standard for goodness, as the theologian Peter Kreeft expresses. Nice is popular because nice is comfortable.

Who cares about truth? Who cares about real beauty? Who cares about family? Who cares about convictions?

What is important is that we’re nice, that we don’t rock anyone’s boat, that no one is hurt by our actions, that we help others live as validated, as secure, and as comfortable as possible.

The problem here is this: Selfishness, shallow thinking, validated excuses always always always will hurt someone. It will hurt you, maybe not right away, but it will. It will hurt your kids and their kids. A lot of the pain you’re suffering now is because of someone else’s life. 

To think that one week of devotion, can undo the effects of a lifetime of selfishness as long as I’m nice is absurd – even if millions of people believe it.

We have double standards.

A standard is a level of quality. The higher the standard the higher the quality.

One of the curses society suffers with today is the relativism of standards. Standards are so relative today that it’s hard to know what standard to trust. When standards are eroded, trust will be eroded. That’s why we need 3rd parties now to tell us objectively, what the standards are. That’s why we need ratings agencies.

Which leads me to the upgrading of the Philippines to investment grade.

While I’m just as happy as the next Filipino to be “investment grade”, it is better than less, I’m not jumping for joy nor allowing sentiments of having found a panacea. Here are my reasons why:

1. Ratings agencies are the same ones who labeled bad US debt as good investments. This led to massive investments buoyed by the assurance that the standards of these 3rd party agencies had reduced their risk. The result was a financial crisis.

When confronted with their bad judgement on investments, the ratings agencies responded by saying that they offer “advice” and “opinion”. It is up to the investors to do what they want with the information.

2. Objectively, the Philippines has grown. Our country has grown a lot. But we are haunted by a ticking time bomb, a time bomb that has not been defused just because its clock ticks silently. That bomb is inequality as seen by a terrible Gini Coefficient. Any student of history knows that large gaps between the rich and the poor leads to social conflict.

To put it simply, if you and your friend made $1,000,000 and you got a dollar and he made the rest, how would you respond?

Think about it.

I’m not saying we should be communist. No, no no. I am saying inequality IS a problem and it is a cancer that grows as our wealth does.

3. Even as an outside institution gives us the thumbs up, our inner structure has major cracks. We are a consumption driven society. So as the economy expands, most of our citizens are actually getting poorer with more dependence on debt, lower savings (even no savings), and shallow financial knowledge. While literacy, the ability to read and write, is generally ok, wisdom, discernment, the ability to self-govern, to act justly, to choose the best among the fun is lacking. 

When a person invests more on entertainment and comfort than growth there is a problem. We understand this. When a nation does the same we can expect a disaster.

What’s the connection between Holy Week and ratings agencies? One word: Standards.

The standard we believe, the standard we accept, the opinions, the advice, we embrace, will dictate our decisions, and the outcome of our life will reveal us for who we truly are, for better or worse.

To me, this is the poetry of getting investment grade on Holy Week: it is the celebration of external achievements even as a deeper look reveals internal fault lines. 

Almost zero savings, high consumption, terrible inequality, high literacy, low wisdom, religious yet dishonest. Shifting sand.

It is not about what people on the outside think we are. It is who we truly are inside, at our core that determines our course.

Remember that.

It’s the same with our soul. Better no one agree with you, better no one give you the thumbs up, but be sure to your very core that your heart, the one thing God specifically said He wants, is humbly offered to Him. 

In the same way, this seal of trust is great, but better if it leads to truly better lives for ALL Filipinos.

Maybe that’s what woke me up so early. Maybe like a concerned stakeholder who can’t sleep with all the issues affecting my brothers and sisters, the purpose was greater than the sleep. But as I read through the articles, as I scrolled through the Holy Week festivities, as I read the reports of the faithful, I couldn’t erase the picture of an unfaithful wife.

In general, we, including me, have reconciled our religion with our dishonesty. We’ve found a way to make our selfishness valid. We’ve made greed good. We’ve made shallow cool. We’ve found a way to make our pride applaudable. We’ve found a way to launder our cash. We’ve found a way to celebrate our sins. We’ve found a way to make things work by simply inventing our own religion, which is a system of beliefs. We have picked and chosen our favorite quotes, phrases, practices, and ideas from all sorts of sources, including unreliable ones, and have proclaimed: 

“This is nice. I believe it.”

In this case I agree with the atheists, “We do not follow a God who made man, but a man-made god.”

And we’ll take whatever article we agree with to celebrate and forget that what we have hit is a “milestone” not the promised land.

Many will find loss and the loss of things valued, cheered on by the value systems of shallow minds and selfish hearts. Even as the ratings agencies admitted themselves, be careful what you do with the standards, the opinions, and the advice you’re given.

This is true  for our soul.

One thing I learned, God doesn’t have to condemn me, when I choose to walk away from Him, I condemn myself. One loses nothing from sharing truth, from embracing it, no matter how painful. One loses everything when holding on to lies. There is no joy in telling someone  “I told you so.” Only pain in seeing another train wreck that could have been prevented.

Let us take today to recalibrate our hearts – not based on the ratings of the world – the ratings that tell us selfish living is good – but back to life laying, life giving love, to inner peace over outer validation, to purpose over temporary pleasure.

I believe in a beautiful Philippines, I wouldn’t be so vocal nor active in social work if I didn’t. But I do believe that beauty, transformative, life-giving beauty, is not made up of sentiment but of the lives of those given to a purpose greater than themselves.

Responses, Opinions, and Our Character

Another tragedy has hit our beloved Philippines. One of us, a young lady, has taken her own life, and the reason that has been reported is that she could not afford to pay her tuition and had to take a leave of absence.

Now before I continue, I will admit up front that I am not completely informed on this event, and all I know comes from links and reports. I say this because I want to make it clear that I am not writing about my “analysis” of the circumstances of this tragic death.

I am writing about our responses.

How one responds to tragedy, to pain, to criticism, to correction, to offence, to discomfort, to lack, to persecution, to threats, reveals more about the responder than it does about the circumstances. Circumstances are what they are, how we face these circumstances, how we act and respond is what will decide whether we move forward or backward.

Now the mind of the mob is always “someone needs to pay”. So we must identify that “someone”, and, by making him pay, the problem is solved.

Or does it?

History will tell us having a scapegoat never solved anything. Logic will tell us the same thing. If someone ate your cookie and you punched him in the face, it doesn’t give you your cookie back. Yes, it may prevent a future theft, but it doesn’t bring what you originally lost back to you, and you sever the chance of building anything meaningful with the person you punched.

You’ll say, “He severed it.” Just like a 6 year old saying, “He started it.”

And that is why our society is the way it is. We have placed our personal entitlements, real and imagined, over others. We, who want the benefits and freedom of adults, process circumstances like 6 year olds.

Yes, there is a place for punishment – but that is for the proven guilty. And punishment alone doesn’t make life better. You cannot weed a garden without planting and watering flowers and trees and expect something beautiful. What you’ll have is a desert. With the removing we must be including.

What I am about to share next is my personal opinion, an opinion that is under-informed on this topic so take it with a grain of salt.

Also, don’t put much weight on the words of those not willing to scrutinize their own soul nor act on proclaimed convictions. So until you have ascertained that I do consciously reflect, that I apply high standards to my own life, and act on my convictions, don’t believe everything I write.

This applies to all the different opinions and messages thrown at us every day. The source of the opinion matters. There are wrong opinions and right opinions, and it is important that people learn how to discern between both. Don’t be so quick to take something as truth because its initial taste was pleasing to your sensibilities.

Listen to the critic who studies his own motives, to the citizen who is a neighbour with principle, to the radical who serves others. The opinions of those who will not pay the cost of seeing their convictions made real are shallow – no matter how loud they are.

Anyway, here is my opinion.

We should wait before blaming UP or the officers for this suicide. It is inaccurate and reductionalist to crucify without the full story. Society is always looking to crucify a “criminal” for a “system” we ourselves perpetuate with our own apathy and pride.

When someone else is guilty that means we’re not guilty right?


Just because someone is guilty, doesn’t mean we don’t bear any responsibility.

If there is anything true about the story of The Good Samaritan it is this: we are all always responsible. I wrote more about my thoughts on responsibility in the article Whose Fault Is It?

When a tragedy hits, must we bicker amongst ourselves on who should be sacrificed to atone for our collective responsibility?

I believe there is a better response, and I’ll try to be as practical as possible. Instead of spewing all sorts of opinions and blame, use suffering to build character by coming together and persevering together in the direction of our collective dream.

In short, instead of collectively finding someone to blame. Let us collectively take on the responsibility of showing love, of giving comfort, of repairing brokenness, of educating others, of preventing future incidents.

Now, given how fragmented our country is, it is currently unrealistic to expect some national coming together, so in your own circles, particularly your own families, come together and ask this question:

How should we respond?

Parents, group your families, discuss and pray. Take this is a call to get to know your kids, to show more concern for understanding them, to learn to listen. Pray as a family for those affected and that God will show you how to live in harmony.

Children, honor your parents, listen to them. Ask them about the challenges they have faced and how they overcame. Fill your soul with stories of those who faced severe adversity yet did not give up. Care for your siblings, spend more time with them. If you’re older show a good example. If you’re younger show respect.

Teachers, it’s time to go back to true education. To educate someone means to bring out the best in them. It is not merely a downloading of information so that someone will pass a test. It is a deliberate effort to identify the best traits of a person and use your expertise to cultivate these traits.

Politicians, obviously should lead, but you’re not just a politician. You’re a public SERVANT. If you succeed in the popularity contest but didn’t succeed as a servant – you’re a failure – and you who have been given much will be judged with a higher requirement.

Churches, it’s time to promote true Christianity, which is Christlikeness that loves and lays life down because we overflow with the life He has given us and the love He fills us with. It is not a sanitised theology that believes God is here to make my life problem-free and as comfortable and respectable as possible.

We can go on with examples but the point is, whoever we are, wherever we are, whatever group we belong to, the ability to respond and make a positive difference in the lives of others is within us, and the first step is admit, “I AM RESPONSIBLE. I HAVE TO DO SOMETHING.”

Then follow this up with deliberate prayer and reflection asking God, “Father, show me how You want me serve.” I use the word deliberate to indicate discipline and action, NOT a mindless habit.

Then go out and lay your life down.

Now imagine what that would look like: lives laid down to form a bridge instead of a mob erected into a wall.

Again, I want to be clear that these are humble opinions, and are in no way comprehensive solutions to our society’s ills. I do hope that this drop will ripple in your minds, because I do believe some of you, if not many of you, will be blessed with creative ways to make our country more beautiful for our beautiful people, and all that’s needed is for you to respond.

My Heart

“Oh, I’ve loved you from the start
In every single way
And more each passing day
You are brighter than the stars
Believe me when I say
It’s not about your scars
It’s all about your heart”
– It’s All About Your Heart

Last Saturday, my aunt, Carol Lozano, celebrated her birthday with some friends and the kids of the Real LIFE Foundation. If you haven’t been to a Real LIFE event, make sure you contact Real LIFE at

While playing with the kids, I told one of the kids to get up from the floor and held my hand out to pull him up. I was caught off guard when the child extended an arm that ended oddly in the palm of my hand. I don’t know what happened but he didn’t have a hand. I took hold of him, lifted him, and walked him to a chair.

Later, while eating, I saw him using his good hand to hold his spoon and his stub to keep his bowl in place. I had a thought, “One doesn’t need two hands to eat. One only needs to be hungry. Success is the same way.”

But then I remembered the story of Nick Vujicic, a man with no limbs, not just no hands, no hands, arms, legs, and feet, and I thought of how many lives he inspires and brings hope to, including mine. I looked at this boy and could feel God speaking to me, “Man looks at the outside. I look at the heart. There are so many limbs out there I can’t use because their hearts are so far. Watch what I can do with when you give me your heart.”

So I sat the boy on my lap, looked him in the eyes, and told him, “You’re going to be a great man someday.” I gripped his stump and continued, “You’re going to be great. Your hands are going to shape the lives of others. Thank you for teaching me something today.” And I thanked God for using this child to remind me of such a fundamental truth of what Christianity means:

A Christian is someone who has a heart that is exclusively offered to God. Man looks at our achievements, our looks, our success, our behaviours. God, who sees EVERYTHING, who does not miss a thing, focuses His sights on our hearts. 

I was reminded of a beautiful song I stumbled upon after uncharacteristically purchasing Mindy Gledhill’s album on iTunes. I first liked the song It’s All About Your Heart because it starts off by saying, “I don’t mind your odd behaviour. It’s the very thing I savour.” The people that know me know that I have quite a set of odd behaviours, and I like the idea that someone might not just be able to stand my idiosyncrasies but actually like them.

I also like it because it reminds me of a failed attempt to tell a girl how beautiful she was. At least now, if a similar event ever presents itself I’ll just tell her to play this song. Haha! Sometimes the perfect song comes too late.

Anyway, here’s the song but please read on.

I think too many times, we live out our Christianity trying to prove to others, particularly our “leaders” that we’re Christians. It’s like a guy who spends more time trying to impress everyone he deserves a girl but fails to do the necessary things to win her heart. Guess what the outcome is going to be?

He’s going to lose her – even if he manages to convince everyone else.

It’s the same way for me. If I don’t spend the necessary time with God, if I don’t love Him on my own, in my isolation, in my difficulties, if I don’t spend more time seeking Him, if I spend my time seeking the approval of respectable people, if I waste my time trying to convince everyone and become an example without daily, consistently, truthfully, sincerely spend my energies on having a relationships with God than I am wasting my time. 

If I don’t seek Him I will lose Him, not because He remains aloof, but because my heart will inevitably seek something or someone else.

Even if I manage to convince everyone, even if everyone thinks I’m blessed, even if everyone calls me a “leader”, even if I check every box on man’s approval list, if maintain a heart that is still self-centred than I am going to lose.

It’s really that simple.

Again, Remember…
I’m a very forgetful guy. I’m very forgetful of the fact that I live each day only through the grace of God. I forget that everything I enjoy is His goodness. I forget that everything I don’t enjoy, every worry, fear, pain, is still His grace showing me something, teaching me, moulding my character, teaching me to see past comforts and trappings. It’s still Him reminding me that what is important to Him are not the things people admire, not even the things “Christians” admire. What is important to Him, what He admires, is a heart, broken, whole, wounded, healed, hurting, joyful, in whatever state, offered daily to Him.

Again, I am reminded, “Watch what I can do when you give me your heart.”