It seems that the years are flying past faster than ever.
When I was young, I couldn’t wait for the years to pass so that I could drive, or watch certain movies, or live on my own. I don’t particularly like driving in Manila traffic and I can’t seem to stay awake in movies, so among the three things I mentioned, only living alone has turned out to be better than I imagined.
That is not to say that living in my parents’ home was terrible. On the contrary, in my biased estimation, it was the best place to grow up. An intense yet affectionate dad who couldn’t understand why a whiteboard and a pie chart couldn’t take the place of a bed time story, and a sweet, artsy, incredibly comforting mom who grew claws when it came to people threatening her babies. Threats of course included the ladies I went out with. She told me that I placed too much importance on looks, to which I replied, “Do you want ugly grandkids?”
She responded, “No David. But I want you to marry someone wise and moral.”
“Did you marry Pop because he was wise and moral?”
To this my dad interrupted, “Of course not. She married me for my looks.”
And we all laughed.
More on my girlfriend later. I always put the good stuff mixed into the end of my posts that way people don’t leave my long-winding writing. I worked on this. I want you to enjoy it.
Nants ingonyama bagithi Baba
Sithi uhm ingonyama
Nants ingonyama bagithi baba
Sithi uhhmm ingonyama
Ingonyama nengw’ enamabala
(Ok if you’re wondering where these lyric like weird words are from, they’re actually the chant from The Circle of Life. Just so that I don’t mislead you, I did not draw that from a reservoir of African knowledge but from google.)
The first is always a special occasion, and in Brothers Bonifacio lore, we’re about to have our first offspring. For my parents it is their first grandchild, officially earning them the titles of Lolo and Lola (grandfather and grandmother). My mom has said that she wants to be called Nana (like we called her mother, our grandmother) and my dad wants to be called Obi Wan (yes, from Star Wars, which was his laser tag code name as well). Joseph of course wants to be called dad, Josh has decided on “heart break kid” instead of uncle, and I’ve warmed to “fearless leader”.
This is also the first kid from us brothers. This is understandable of course as we are just following the natural chronology of events. Joe’s born first so gets married first so has a baby first. I was born next so I…
During one of our conversations, it came out that Joe and Carla wanted to name their baby Olivia, which I told them is the same name I want to give my daughter, to which they replied, “You don’t even have a girlfriend.” I had no idea you needed a girlfriend to reserve a baby’s name. I’ve always liked that name because I really like olives. To prevent them from getting this name I have come up with some amazing names for our upcoming little prince.
If it’s a girl, I was thinking Kate Middleton Bonifacio if they want to go for something more royal and is much more behaved than Kate Upton Bonifacio.
If it’s a guy, I was thinking of pulling from Joe’s roots. Many people don’t know that before all this “Pastor Joe” stuff, Joseph wanted to become a GENERAL. Which made the guy do hundreds of pushups and sit-ups every day as a boy because he read somewhere soldiers did that, and that’s why along with World War 2 books, an Encyclopedia of modern warfare’s weapons, tactics, vehicles, and equipment, he wanted to collect guns and knives. So my name suggestion is Jose “Ghurka” Bonifacio III because my dad’s Jose, my grandfather is Jose, and Joseph is related to the name Jose. So I guess that would make him the IV? Yikes. I personally think having Roman Numerals in your name is passe. I never liked them in school either. But Ghurka, now that’s something legendary. If you don’t know what a Ghurka is, do what I did with The Circle of Life, google it.
Other ideas were Jose Hannibal Bonifacio or Jose Mossad Bonifacio or even Jose Jack Ryan Bonifacio, his nickname could even be Rainbow Six but might be hard to be a six year old boy growing up with the name Rainbow. I was also thinking of Jose Wellington Bonifacio but may not match because we’re not Chinese.
I’m quite confident Joseph and Carla will look upon my name suggestions favorably.
I’ll continue this later. My cleaners are here and I want to go for a quick swim.
NOW you know where romantic Joe gets it.I really like Kristie for Josh. My family does too. She’s an amazing addition to us. Beautiful, smart, with a kind and generous heart, she’s able to make life work with Josh in ways no other person can. And just so you don’t think this is a problem-free fairytale as many simple minds tend to do, what makes their love amazing is durability despite the circumstances. This is the inspiration to a song I’m writing for them that has the lines:
You light my life
Every time I see you
I don’t want to go
We’re in a moment
A moment in time
We must move forward
Or say goodbye
I can’t be without you
Please say I do
I’ll post it when it’s finished. The whole idea was to capture how their relationship lasted and how they’ve hit a point of having to either firm up their commitment or stop. I’m happy they’re taking this step. Marriage will be good for them. Marriage is good NOT because it puts us in a perfect situation. It is good because, like I said in an article about Joe’s wedding, it brings two imperfect people together to be perfected by love.
Joshua reminded me that I have a plus 1 for his wedding and that I have to find a date. He told me this months ago but I never took it seriously, now there’s two months to go, and the chances of me running into someone who is incredibly beautiful, sweet, easy-to-be-with, fun, forgiving (because I must admit I need a lot of that), as well as not think I like her appears to be impossible. My friends have told me, “You can’t take a girl to your brother’s wedding and expect her not to think she’s special.” I asked them, “Why not? Why does it have to be so impossible?”They resignedly say, “You’re impossible!
“More on that later. I’m going to workout.
I woke up a little before 5am today which is not rare for me. It’s not rare for me to wake before my alarm clock, to rise before the sun, and to get moving before I want to. The reality is, like pretty much everyone else, my body would like nothing more than to stay rested.
But these days, every day feels like Christmas time for me as a boy. Back then, I would wake up earlier than everyone to check what new gifts were added to the tree, and while there were lean years where the gifts were noticeably less and smaller, being a child, the excitement and belief that this Christmas would have amazing things in store.
That’s how I feel.
But now that I’m older, I’ve come to realize that the only reason why Christmas was always worry-free for me was because my parents did the worrying for me. I never thought about how much everything would cost, or the traffic, or the details that make occasions special. I simply showed up and engage. I showed up and believed that everything was going to be perfect – even if behind the scenes my dad was worrying about the money or my mom was worrying about the home.
I didn’t worry, I wasn’t afraid, because deep down inside me, beyond cerebral definitions, I knew Papa Joey and Mama Marie loved me and would take care of everything.
(So that I don’t mislead you again and paint a picture of perfect parents, they weren’t. They’ll tell you themselves. We have our own heartaches and challenges. But that’s why there’s forgiveness as my dad likes to point out. Forgiveness restores.)
Through the years, my own challenges would grow and outgrow my parents’ ability to secure me, and with that my childlike trust go. It’s not a bad thing when our parents can’t do things for their kid. Let me repeat. It’s not a bad thing when parents can’t do things for their kids. The problem with our culture is we baby people, particularly people we think are vulnerable. I think we should stop raising kids and start raising men and women. We have 30 yr. old men with sharp clothes and fancy cars but still live with their folks. And we have women who are impressed by that. We have men and women who spend their parents money, and this is true among the rich and poor, without any thought to what it costs their folks, much like how I was when I was 6 years old.
And we have parents who are pressured to give iPhones and laptops and Air Jordans and college degrees, and piano lessons, cars, vacations, and Sunday school, thinking that if I don’t provide these I’m a bad parent. Now these are all nice, but I know a lot of people who had all of these but are not particularly useful for meaningful work.
What does all of this have to do with Joe’s Baby, Josh’s Wedding, and your girlfriend that doesn’t seem like she’s ever going to show up?
Everything.Because here’s the first point of this long post: Time goes by and the future is upon us before we know it. Many of my childhood memories seem like it was just yesterday but reality is that season is gone and we’re now in a new one, a new season that requires us to stand on our own as our own men – not our parents’ sons. Our wives are going to need us, not their in-laws, to be strong for them. (Ok ok. Their wives.) ) Our kids are going to need us to be mature, to be examples, to provide, to protect, not lolo and lola. Our people, the men and women who rely on our leadership, will need a grown-up Joseph, David, and Joshua NOT the children of my Brothers Bonifacio stories.
It’s just the reality of things.
And we will mess up. We may even mess up big time. But we can wake to each day excited, like I did as a boy on Christmas morning, like I did this morning and intend to do for the rest of my life, knowing that someone is going to make things special, that God Himself promised, that despite my disqualification, He has a hope and a future for me, and all I have to do is show up and engage.
Last Sunday, I was on the rowing machine in my parents’ bedroom and I noticed a framed message on their wall that said something like “I love waking up next to you every morning.” and under it the names “Joey and Marie”. Obviously my mom put that up there. Can’t imagine my dad doing that. Like he says, “Your mother makes everything prettier.” It reminded me of another thing my dad told me when I was younger, “Marry a woman whose face you’ll want to see every morning.”
I think I understand that a bit better now.
When we were in Australia, my dad talked about my mom, and how she brings him delight. He explained that men will never understand women because they’re a mystery (in Tagalog our word for that is malabo. Just kidding.) He said that he has learned to stop resenting the mystery and start embracing the beauty of it, that there’s always something new, something unexpected, that there’s always something to discover. He likes to say that he’s the luckiest man alive to be able to wake up to next to her every day, to wake up next to beauty, to something new, something unexpected, and something waiting to be discovered.
The funny thing is I wake up to the same thing every day as well. It’s true. A relationship with Christ can be heart-wrenching like any relationship, but as I learn to walk with Him, I realize more and more that He makes everything beautiful in its time, that His mercies are new every morning, that no eye has seen or heard nor mind has conceived what He has in store, that He can open my blind eyes to see new things and to see old things in a new way, that’s what discovery is. This is why I wake up early every day, to check His messages to me.
That is the second and final point of this post: It is the relationships in our lives that make life beautiful. I wake up to the most beautiful. And you could too.
What happened to your girlfriend?
I’ll tell you about her some other time. This post is too long already.
– Neil Gaiman
Teach Your Kids to Read, to Think, to Uncover, and so Discover.
If you don’t want to read another potentially long post, I put my point in one, the very first line. But if you’re interested in my winding way of talking about this one idea, read on.
Growing-up, my parents made what I now believe to be a wise decision of limiting our access to TV. For most of our lives we did not have cable and had to rely on books and outdoor activities to keep us engaged. The shows we did watch were usually videos, sports, and in our maids’ room – which had cable. So there Josh would be, in the maids’ room with a bowl of ice cream watching an NBA game.
This practice has directly influenced my current way of living. I gave away all my TVs, I don’t have cable (of course, what good is cable without a TV), and I don’t find myself media-starved at all. If anything, I still feel too connected because of my phone.
I really think it’s important that parents take active participation in the media their children consume. I use the words “active participation” because I don’t simply mean being a board of sensors. If all your kid thinks you do is tell him what to read or not, then you didn’t really help him discern did you? You just taught him what your preferences are. Instead, I encourage you to go deeper than that. Read-up on what they read, and prepare book lists for them to read, or even for you to read to them. Know what they’re listening to and listen to the lyrics. I’m able to add lyrics to my posts and journal entries because, unlike most people, I actually understand the lyrics – not merely hear them.
Teach your kids not only your preference, but to know how think and uncover, and so discover not just what you think they should be consuming, but how to live a life that is not superficial (such as “I just like the beat”), but is interested in going deeper.
You’ll enjoy your books, music, shows, and other media, when you have an appreciation for the production, for the talent (and you’ll be able to spot the lack of it), and you’ll teach your kids to curate and create, not just consume.
We need more curators, people who filter and think through the millions of offerings out there. We need more creators too, people who come up with new things, with amazing things. We need less consumers, people who always needing to be fed.
Now that my moral lesson is out of the way, what I’d really like to write about are the stories of childhood. Pretty much every night, before we went to bed, my mom or dad would come into the room my brothers and I shared, and would read us a story. In my opinion, spending bed times with your kids is one of the single most efficient moments available to parents. In this moment, you are able to have fun, entertain, teach, and bond with your child, and have them going into 8 hours of rest with you and your voice being the last thing they hear. Never underestimate the lessons learned right before a person slips into the unconscious.
Many of the stories we were told, were about animals…
Lions in Cages
My dad talked to us about how in each of us was a lion in a cage. This lion is tame and peaceful inside the cage.
But don’t be fooled by appearances.
Take this lion out of his bars and out comes a ferocious animal of destruction. He said that while we were kids and lived under his roof, he could tame us and guide us, but that someday, we would have to go on our own, and if that lion hasn’t been transformed, we’re going to cause a lot of damage.
Which is I guess what happened… HAHA!
Anyway, it was his way of telling us about the limitations of external government. That you can try caging a ferocious heart, but you haven’t changed it, you’ve only held it down. As soon as the external controls are gone, the true nature of that heart comes out. So the secret was to use the time of external boundaries to learn to change the heart.
I don’t know why parents think that ordering around a child they have no relationship with should actually lead to change? Does change precede forgiveness? Doesn’t forgiveness precede change? And what precedes forgiveness? Kindness. Because love is kind. Without that, this is a lion in a cage.
I don’t know why counsellors think couples who do not love, trust, communicate, and/or forgive each other can and should stay together because “it’s the right thing to do”. This, in my opinion (and this is my opinion, not my family’s) is simple minded. It’s simple minded to place an expectation of success without recovering the factors that contribute to the desired success. You cannot build a great building without a great foundation. Fixing what’s above the soil without fixing what’s under does not strengthen the structure. You just made a future-crumbler prettier. Instead, again this is my opinion, stop spending so much time on what “should happen” or “should be” instead spend the time on actions that build love, trust, communicating, and forgiving, starting with trust, because that’s the foundation. Without these, all the nice gimmicks and relationship advice are externals that only help when the fundamentals are set right. Without these fundamentals, you have a lion in a cage.
I don’t know why people think that they can get fit and healthy by joining the latest health craze. In my experience, the ones I see who are really healthy are the ones who eat right, drink a lot of water, stay active, and don’t stress a lot. There’s nothing sexy about that, but it works. Most people think they can put their lack of discipline in a cage called a “program” and that will make them healthier. Um… No. It may help you in the short run but as soon as you don’t have a program or a trainer you’re back to snacking, to eating whatever looks good, stressing out, and living dehydrated like most people. Just another example of a lion in a cage.
Another example is religion. Religion is a beautiful thing. To have a legacy, to have traditions, to have orderly ways of experiencing the spiritual is a gift. But if inside a religious person is a heart unloving, proud, and unkind, and selfish, then religion not only becomes useless but dangerous. For the weak it becomes trapping. For the strong it becomes a tool for oppression. That’s why Christianity was supposed to be different. It wasn’t a religion for the weak to fight back nor the strong to lord it over. It was a religion for the loving. It was a way of living out your spirituality in as loving a way as possible. That the strong loved and lifted up the weaker. That the weak loved and served the strong. Without this heart of love, we have lions in cages – people trying to behave and cage their most natural instincts to become someone their “cage master” tells them to be. As soon as they’re free of that guess what will happen?
Nowadays, when I view and discuss social problems, I use this frame of the lion in a cage, and instead of thinking about how I can cage and control people, I spend more time thinking about how they can be transformed.
Some simple minded person will say, “They just need to become Christian.” And my response is: What does that actually mean? How many of us Christians claim to have Jesus but still act like lions in cages? I know I’m one. I dislike these bumper sticker answers that are not operationalized into actions.
I believe that transforming the lion means capturing his heart. Capturing someone’s heart is done with beauty – with excellences so attractive – he, on his own accord, embraces you. And there’s nothing more beautiful to someone than to be loved faithfully, devotedly. What does that look like in action? It means being patient, kind, gentle, and so on.
It means being all the attributes I’m not know for. HAHA!
Caging a lion doesn’t change a lion. I don’t think God designed us to live mindlessly ferocious BUT I also don’t believe He designed us to live in cages – not worldly, nor religious.
People need to fall in love and be transformed.
It reminds me of my mother, after years of struggling with me and how to get me to obey, behave, harness my will, sat me down and said, “You know David, I’ve realized that the reason why you’re so strong-willed is because someday, like your name-sake, you’re going to have to face giants and you’re going to have to be strong and brave, and you’re going to win. You know that your second name is Michael, we named you after the arch-angel who led the angels against satan and his demons. God gave us your names, and I know you’ll live them out.”
To be honest, it didn’t transform me instantly. There were a million more spankings and disciplinary actions that followed. But I still remember the feeling of having my identity explained to me. Through the years that memory has helped me fall in love more and more with the role I have to play – a role I must admit I’m not exactly the best candidate for. But this change of direction by my mom, from always just presenting the rod, to presenting the vision, the beautiful future the was waiting for me, changed me. Through the years, whenever life is especially difficult, among the things I remember is mom’s voice, “…you’re going to have to face giants and you’re going to have to be strong and brave, and you’re going to win.”
It’s a memory that tells the lion in my heart to be still, I’m going to win.
It’s the same with my spiritual life, I hated being told to read 4 chapters a day by people I thought had the luxury to read it because they actually liked reading the Bible (and not much else) and had nothing better to do. But I read it anyway.
I was a lion in a cage, a proud lion in a cage.
Until, not so long ago, my eyes were opened to a simple truth: Jesus loves me. Period. All of a sudden I reread C.S. Lewis’ classics, consumed some Peter Kreeft, GK Chesterton, Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology, and ton’s of Timothy Keller media. What changed? I couldn’t read my Bible without drooling on it, now I was I eating it up.
To put it simply at the risk of sounding corny, I fell in love.
And just like my parents did when I was a kid, telling me stories that went straight to my heart, I’m giving this idea of transformation more time in my reading, spending more time to think about the noble, the good, the honorable, the praiseworthy, to set my mind on things above, hoping this lion heart will one day be completely His.
In a restless world like this is
Love is ended before it’s begun
– Nat King Cole
“Because when I think about love, I don’t think about the wisest and smartest people I know. When I think about love, I actually think about people who were so in love that they had gone beyond comprehension, as if they had gone crazy. When I think about love I think about the story of a boy who had nothing, a girl who should have known better but didn’t, who put their trust in the greatest Love available to us, and didn’t let anything get in the way. I’m talking about my folks by the way, and they just celebrated their 28th anniversary this month.
I know I’m known for being an Asian Professor Higgins, but I have to say, that really inspires me.”
– Brothers Bonifacio: Now Showing
Another One Bites the Dust
So my younger brother, Joshua, got engaged to his long-time girlfriend, Kristie, and just like that another Bonifacio Brother is stolen away. I’m reminded of a scene from one of my favourite movies:
I’m so happy for my brother. He’s found an amazing woman in Kristie. There are a lot of beautiful girls, and pretty faces, a lot of talented ones, and a lot of friendly and pleasant personalities, but to have all of the above mixed in with work ethic, humility, and an immensely kind and generous heart is a rare thing. My brother found a gem in Krisite, and the amazing thing is she’s truly crazy about him.
To have one person crazy about you brings butterflies, to have someone of incredible quality crazy about you brings dignity.
Already, there are two stories that have really made me proud to be brother and future-brother-in-law to these two. One is, after the proposal, Kristie tells Josh, “My only request is that you’ll lead us to God, try your best at whatever you do, it doesn’t have to be big, just try your best, and lessen your drinking.”
In a world full of entitled people, including me, with a million different fantasies for what we want in a partner, here was a woman with admirable clarity of values saying, “This is what’s important to me: that we honor God together and that you become the best version of yourself.”
The 2nd story is how, after the New Year countdown, my brother and his fiancé, moved to a corner to pray. Her newly married brother and his wife would join them, and these two young couples would dedicate the new year to God.
Listening to Joshua tell me these stories, I was wondering who the stranger talking was and “What had he done to Josh?”
But I guess, as another brother bites the dust, out rose a new man, a brave man, a loving man, a leader. I’m shown a clear example of how life-laying love transforms not just the loved but also the lover. And once again, I’m reminded of why there’s hope for mankind.
Am I Next?
My family has placed their bets on Vito getting married before me but I may just surprise everyone by beating my mom’s 2 year old shitzu to the altar. Besides, we’ve already had this conversation on the episode: Our Father’s Favor.
When I Fall In Love
I’m a lucky guy. I’m sandwiched by two brothers with amazing relationships, not perfect, far from perfect, but amazing, and I’m looking up at the two most incompatible people in the world, my folks, breaking the 30 year mark together. Walking home, after the engagement, I hung back a little to take a photo of my brothers and their females walking together holding hands. Joe holding Carla’s hand and Josh holding Kristie’s. I really like that picture now.
I know these two couples are going to go the distance. I don’t just hope so, I know so. I know so because I know the people involved. I know that at the end of the day, God will be honoured before entitlements are claimed. I know that they won’t keep a record of wrongs, because they understand that God has not kept a record of their wrongs. I know that they’ll lay down their lives for each other as Jesus laid His life for them.
A few days ago I looked for the words “unconditional love” in the Bible. And after searching and searching, I actually found no phrase with the words “unconditional love”. Maybe some of you can help me find it. I had a thought, all the relationships I admire contain two people who aren’t making claims to the other’s “unconditional love”. They’re too busy working together to place the conditions needed for love to thrive.
Love is like a plant that needs the proper conditions to grow. A plant grows in conditions where there is sunlight and water. Maybe love is the same way. Maybe we should spend less time thinking about “how I’m loved” and spend more time on “How I love”. Maybe the question isn’t “Am I loved unconditionally?” Maybe the question is, “Are we providing the right conditions for our love to grow?” I don’t know. It’s an idea. And I’m no expert. I’m asking smarter people at the moment. Maybe I’ll write about it in the future.
All I know for now is this, when I fall in love, at least the next time I do (Haha!), I’ll be taking pages from the two better members of the Bonifacio Brothers trio, because for whatever reason, in this area, these two have gotten it right.