Snapshot Decision

photo snapshot 2

Of course it has more to do with my clumsiness, but I sometimes catch myself wondering if my phone has a mind of its own. Why? Random pictures, I’ve apparently taken without knowing it, turn up in my photo collection on a regular basis.

As with all the other arbitrary oddities, I’m about to delete my phone’s latest contribution when – I just can’t.  “This is for keeps!” is the sudden conviction. 

It’s the typical angle: downwards, one foot, a lower leg. But the ground is what needs to be recorded for posterity: that all too familiar mosaic of mud and garbage.

The location is one of Manila’s largest squatter areas, somewhat euphemistically known as Temporary Housing. Thousands of people live here, crammed together in barracks, built for ‘only’ hundreds, over 20 years ago. The original residents were families being relocated from the city’s infamous Smokey Mountain garbage dump, just a mile up the road.

Whatever its history, what matters utterly when you’re walking there for the first time is how all the senses are overwhelmed instantaneously; the heat, the stench, the noise, the visual chaos.

The overcrowding and extreme poverty are bad enough, but there’s also an invisible layer of disturbing intensity: The atmosphere is thick with the exhaust fumes of trucks on the main port road, and the reek of rotting refuse – the recycling of Manila’s garbage.

This recycling has nothing to do with environmental care. It has everything to do with human survival. Young and old scavenge through the waste dumped nearby, collecting recyclable items such as plastic, wood, and metal. These are sorted, cleaned and sold to local junk shops, which in turn sell the materials to the recycling factories. Labouring hard as a scavenger means enough pesos at the end of the day to feed a family. Barely enough.

Working with an NGO providing education, so future generations will have careers other than as scavenger, I’ve trodden here countless times the last decade. Sensory overload is

very unhandy, and thankfully humankind is very adept at adapting. You get used to it. But sometimes you don’t. You can’t. You won’t.

Several months ago, after carrying some personal tension due to unrelated issues, walking through this area, felt much like when I’d first set foot in the place.


The aching anger: This is totally unacceptable! That they have to live like this!?

Their smiles, resilience, gracious welcome, only fueled my fury. Why do we allow fellow human beings to stay trapped in this existence?!

As a Filipino friend lamented, “How is this not a national emergency?!”

God forbid, but have we got used to poverty on our doorstep? We don’t see it, we don’t hear it, we don’t smell it, we don’t feel it anymore?

Thanks cellular device. This photo is for me.

A reminder to be




First published in Lemon Theory:





Short story: ‘Belonging Here’


Chaos. Wrenching at her. It will sweep her away if it can. Clari’s left hand grips the gummy steering wheel, her right the stubborn gear stick. Catapulting her way through Manila traffic, she jostles for position within this gargantuan herd of metallic water buffalo. The old SUV’s air-conditioning battles the fume-ridden oven heat. Clari’s brow drips liquid salt into her eyes. She wipes away the worst, then swipes hard at the car horn…


Read more here:

Love’s Cautionary Tale april 2019

Discerning fellow human beings means truly seeing The Other:

The Poor 

The Young 

The Old 

The Homeless

The Sick 

The Prisoner 


To the degree we see each other simply as needy target groups, we utterly miss the mark; the mark of love.

Do I get it, do I really get it: that God loves The Other NO LESS than He loves me?

Jesus says, 

I was hungry

I was in homeless

I was sick

I was in prison 

(Matthew 25)

Because God identifies Himself precisely with that poor brother, that stricken sister, 

that malnourished child. 

How about this thought: He is better able to associate with the above-mentioned than with those of us who think we have it all.

Lack of truly seeing The Other can mean an astounding lack of discernment. 

Some of us proclaim ourselves unwittingly as the extremists we are. 

Fooled by our own advertising, we may be the only ones blind to our own blinkers.

Sleeper wake up!

Blind man see!

How revolutionary is

this love.


This is how the rich abandon the poor

we forget them because we can, over and

over again

Don’t you see?


This is how the poor stay voiceless

common slaves to our dictates, they cannot

hold us to account

Do you see?


This is how the poor die young

victims of the impunity that pays

cops for their blood

Have you seen?


The blood, blood

on the street

it cries out

Even if you don’t





First published in Collective Unrest:




The hatred tree, wherever we find it, ultimately produces its hatred fruit. 

Seeds of hate, incubated in hearts and minds, eventually lead to deeds of hate.

Though there is such a thing as righteous anger, let us not be deceived by that which parades itself as righteous hate. It makes us feel so right, but it could not be more wrong.

Hate is hate is hate. It poisons and blinds.

As Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

Advent: Love

blog love

Love us. Don’t pity us.


“Love us. Don’t pity us.”


These words were spoken by a dear friend of mine, representing hundreds, if not thousands, of Filipinos forced to scavenge through the trash of Manila, simply for survival.


Because Love is all about respect. Take the respect away, all you really have left is condescension, a.k.a. patronizing superiority. (However, sweetly dressed it is.)


And Love liberates. Pity and patronage doesn’t.

If I love you, I will seek your best, whatever that may mean.

If I pity you, I may well enslave you, and use your suffering to polish up my own reputation.


Divine Love, Divine Respect


God’s Love for us has NOTHING to do with condescension!

The Almighty Creator of the Universe respects us, has due regard for us.

… Quite honestly, I can hardly get my head around this. But that is the conclusion I must come to, because Divine Love is True Love.


Perhaps one of the closest ‘parallels’ is the love of a father for his child. However misguided a little boy’s thoughts and actions may be, a good father respects his son’s perspectives, and knows how to lead him back on the right path without bulldozing over the youngster’s will.


The Love of God does not diminish us.


Hard reality


The Christmas Story: Not necessarily having the respect of those around us is a hard fact of life. Mary knows that. She is pregnant, and not married.

But in the midst of public misunderstanding, even condemnation, she is secure in the Love of God.


And sometimes it isn’t even the judgement of others that is the sneakiest of thieves, snatching away at our sense of being loved:

Sometime it is self-condemnation,

sometimes we are our own worst enemy.


Also here – Love is the answer to the lack of it.


“… let’s not just talk about love; let’s practice real love. This is the only way we’ll know we’re living truly, living in God’s reality. It’s also the way to shut down debilitating self-criticism, even when there is something to it. For God is greater than our worried hearts and knows more about us than we do ourselves.”

1 John 3:18-20

God’s Love is the very breath of life.

And basically the answer to everything.


Love liberation


This Advent may we know the Love of God that sets us free.

Freedom from fear of the opinions of others.

Freedom from self-condemnation.

Freedom to truly Love our fellow humans,

not pity them.



First shared with Church Simplified, Manila:





Advent: Joy

blog joy


Looking in the wrong place?


Joy can have a bad reputation, can’t it. It’s notoriously elusive. Like a morning mist, the moment the sun comes up, it’s gone. Shine the spotlight on it, and we’re empty-handed.


But, if we are looking, maybe we’re looking in the wrong place.

Maybe quintessential Joy isn’t even the thing we think it is…


We’re not talking here about the mob-ecstasy-experience when shouting or singing our throats raw at a sports, music, church event with 500 or 500,000 others.

Nor, for that matter, the simpler pleasures of, say, great coffee or a good massage.

Not even the exhilaration of conquering a mountain or a relationship.


No, this Joy has all the sophistication and subtlety of the divine.

Because it is.

And, because of its divinity, we may miss it.

(Though it can also come as the in-your-face revelation of a God-intervention.)


Instantly recognized or not, this Joy is a very different creature from its distant relatives.


Joy tracking


Clues to its identity…


It takes exquisite delight in good coming to another.

It thrills when spotting the traces of God’s fingers working in human existence, or the extravagance of ingenuity, beauty and diversity in His Creation.


It’s in the smile behind a boy’s smile: seeing the rescued dog relish her newfound safety.

In the sigh beneath a woman’s sigh: watching the adopted child relax into his belovedness.


Joy is free of all bonds to please self, it is free to fully cherish the other.


Love connection


I believe God wants us to know this Joy, His Joy.

And His Joy has everything to do with His love and friendship.

Jesus says:


“I’ve told you these things for a purpose: that my joy might be your joy, and your joy wholly mature. This is my command: Love one another the way I loved you. This is the very best way to love. Put your life on the line for your friends. You are my friends when you do the things I command you. I’m no longer calling you servants because servants don’t understand what their master is thinking and planning. No, I’ve named you friends because I’ve let you in on everything I’ve heard from the Father.”

John 15:11-15; The Message


One gorgeous detail


The Christmas story: It’s a story so well-known, but we may miss an essential, gorgeous detail:


The yet unborn John leaps for Joy in Elizabeth’s womb – “skipped like a lamb for sheer joy”– when his mother hears the greeting of Mary, who is pregnant with the Saviour of the world. And the Joy is utterly infectious, for John’s mother “sang out exuberantly,… ‘Blessed woman, who believed what God said, believed every word would come true!’”


This Advent season may we also be gloriously infected, anticipating with Joy the meaning of Christ’s coming!




First shared with Church Simplified, Manila: