Not-So-Famous Bible Stories: Crab Mentality – Miriam and Aaron’s Jealousy

Numbers 12: Miriam and Aaron Oppose Moses

1 Miriam and Aaron began to talk against Moses because of his Cushite wife, for he had married a Cushite. 2 “Has the Lord spoken only through Moses?” they asked. “Hasn’t he also spoken through us?” And the Lord heard this.

3 (Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.)

4 At once the Lord said to Moses, Aaron and Miriam, “Come out to the tent of meeting, all three of you.” So the three of them went out. 5 Then the Lord came down in a pillar of cloud; he stood at the entrance to the tent and summoned Aaron and Miriam. When the two of them stepped forward, 6 he said, “Listen to my words:

“When there is a prophet among you,

    I, the Lord, reveal myself to them in visions,

    I speak to them in dreams.

7 But this is not true of my servant Moses;

    he is faithful in all my house.

8 With him I speak face to face,

    clearly and not in riddles;

    he sees the form of the Lord.

Why then were you not afraid

    to speak against my servant Moses?”

9 The anger of the Lord burned against them, and he left them.

10 When the cloud lifted from above the tent, Miriam’s skin was leprous[a]—it became as white as snow. Aaron turned toward her and saw that she had a defiling skin disease, 11 and he said to Moses, “Please, my lord, I ask you not to hold against us the sin we have so foolishly committed. 12 Do not let her be like a stillborn infant coming from its mother’s womb with its flesh half eaten away.”

13 So Moses cried out to the Lord, “Please, God, heal her!”

14 The Lord replied to Moses, “If her father had spit in her face, would she not have been in disgrace for seven days? Confine her outside the camp for seven days; after that she can be brought back.” 15 So Miriam was confined outside the camp for seven days, and the people did not move on till she was brought back.

16 After that, the people left Hazeroth and encamped in the Desert of Paran.

Crab Mentality is a way of thinking that is associated with the phrase “if I can’t have it, neither can you“. It is a habit of bringing other people down, especially those who are succeeding or progressing in life. If you think you have never experienced this kind of mentality, I urge you to think again. Think about your social media accounts and the daily feed you get from it. Think about the news, ads, and shows on television. All of which stir your thoughts towards gossip and desire, convincing you of needing otherwise unnecessary things, creating a society of green-eyed monsters.

We have all become needy people, dazzled by technology – high-tech gadgets, revolutionary beauty enhancements – and because there’s just too much to have and we can’t own it all, we envy and even “hate” those who have it. The hard truth is that we’ve all become egoistic people. With information available everywhere, we convince ourselves that we know better than others. So we resent those who get recognized and we magnify their flaws. Let’s try to have a deeper look at this kind of mentality as we study Aaron and Miriam’s example.

In the bible story we just read, we see Aaron and Miriam beginning to talk against Moses, targeting his marriage with his Cushite wife. They planted doubts about Moses’ character and questioned his authority. First, we need to recognize that they had a choice. They “began to talk” means they chose to act as such. They chose to talk “against” Moses, which became an act of opposition. But why would they do that? They could have chosen to talk about how Moses helped them and how they could support him, instead, they chose to bring him down. What drove them to backbite and criticize Moses instead of being grateful or supportive? To further understand their actions, let’s take a look at the characters in the story.

1Aaron was Moses’ older brother and God used both of them as instruments to free the Israelites from Egypt. At first, God gave them equal rights to enter into God’s Holy Presence. But while Moses was on Mount Sinai receiving instructions from the Lord, Aaron committed a grave offense. He gave in to the people’s demands of creating a golden calf and lead them into worshipping Baal. God forgave Aaron through the intercession of Moses, demonstrating His grace and compassion by restoring Aaron’s position as High Priest.

2Miriam was Moses’ and Aaron’s sister, the eldest child of Amram and Jochebed. When she was still about 12 years old, her mother had to place Moses in a small basket to avoid his untimely death. Jochebed left Miriam nearby to watch it float safely. When the Pharoah’s daughter took the baby in her arms, Miriam was wise enough to step in and volunteer as the baby’s nurse. 3Miriam was also a gifted poetess and prophetess. She led the Israelite women in a song and dance of praise and victory after they had crossed the red sea, seeing the Egyptians’ defeat.

4Moses is described in our story as a very humble man, more than anyone else on the earth. The Lord further shows us how much He favors Moses by telling us that with prophets, He reveals Himself through visions and speaks through dreams, but only with Moses does He speak face to face, clearly and not in riddles.

Looking at their backgrounds, it could have been sibling rivalry between Aaron and Moses. His pride must have been hurt being the older brother and seeing Moses have more authority than him. He must have envied how his brother seemed “perfect” while he committed mistakes. It must have felt good to criticize and find fault in Moses’ marriage for once. On the other hand, Miriam could have been driven by jealousy towards the youthfulness and beauty of this “Cushite wife” who is believed to be a foreigner. Seeing a considerably younger woman so close to her brother could have tarnished her thoughts with insecurities.

But what drives us into bad-mouthing celebrities, politicians, church leaders, co-workers or classmates, and just about anybody? Probably the same things – envy/jealousy, pride/ego, and our own insecurities. Bad-mouthing others becomes an easy self-defense that we run to for fear of being seen as the weaker person. By zooming-in on their mistakes, even if it’s founded by nothing but hearsay or faulty judgment, we feel entitled and think that we have this false sense of power over them. Yes. I admit. It truly feels good – at least at the moment – until God confronts you and you finally suffer the consequences, just as Aaron and Miriam did.

In the story it is important to note that Moses did not run to God for help, nor did anyone tell God about what had happened. God saw everything and He called all three of them to face Him. If Moses had already heard the gossips, we do not know. All we know is that God favored and loved Moses because of his humility and faithfulness and God saw to it that his servant was given justice. God spoke to Aaron and Miriam first in verses 6-8, reminding them how He evidently favored Moses and asked them why they were not afraid to speak against Moses. In verse 9, God was greatly angered and left. Here we find that God clearly saw it as an act of disrespect and rebellion, not just against Moses, but against Him, thus resulting to His great anger. Miriam was now left with leprous skin, white as snow.

Pausing on this part of the story, I am reminded not just about how wrong it is to be driven by envy and overcome by insecurities, but by the fact that when we speak ill about someone, we could easily be instigating our own rebellion against God. And I’m not just talking about avoiding gossip against church leaders, rather it is with anyone – avoiding gossip at all costs. Because God allowed those people to have what they have, bringing them down would mean we are questioning God’s plans. I know that it’s a quite black and white and that there’s more to this issue that we can talk about. But in essence, it is what it is. God only requires that we trust His plans and be content and grateful with what we have – leaving the rest to Him.

Going back to our story, Aaron now turns to Moses acknowledging his sin and foolishness in verse 11 and pleads for Moses’ help in verse 12. Moses once again demonstrates his humility as he intercedes and asks God to heal Miriam. God grants his request but still gives Miriam due punishment by confining her outside the camp for 7 days. This is a clear reminder that although God forgives, our mistakes will still yield consequences – and it’s not going to be fun. What’s also worth noting here is that, if not for Moses’ intercession, Miriam would have died. This is just proof of how God is the prefect judge of character, seeing us for who we truly are.

But what about Aaron? Why do we not hear about his punishment? It sounds unfair, doesn’t it? In my opinion, seeing God’s wrath fall upon his sister was punishment in itself. Being a High Priest, it was his responsibility to rebuke Miriam in the first place. He would have lived to suffer the guilt forever. I could be wrong, but nonetheless, we know that God had other plans for Aaron, just like God has for all of us. Let us not be enslaved by Crab Mentality. Let us not allow media to corrupt our hearts and dictate our thoughts. Let us not be insecure, covetous people. Trust in God’s plans and desire Him, everything else will follow.

Psalm 37:3-4

3 Trust in the Lord and do good;

dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.

4 Take delight in the Lord,

and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Sources:

1 Aaron’s Background: https://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionary/aaron/

2 Miriam’s Background: https://www.biblegateway.com/resources/all-women-bible/Miriam-No-1

3 Miriam’s Background: https://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionary/miriam/

4 Moses’ Background: https://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionary/moses/

Not-So-Famous Bible Stories: God Provides

I don’t know about you, but I tend to grumble. I talk to myself or to God and I say what’s on my mind. Although it helps to let the frustrations out, hearing ourselves speak about too much negativity can lead us to dark paths. We grumble and complain, and we become ungrateful; much like the Israelites.

Numbers 11:1-3

Fire From the Lord

1 Now the people complained about their hardships in the hearing of the Lord, and when he heard them his anger was aroused. Then fire from the Lord burned among them and consumed some of the outskirts of the camp. 2 When the people cried out to Moses, he prayed to the Lord and the fire died down. 3 So that place was called Taberah, because fire from the Lord had burned among them.

Who are these people complaining about their hardships? They are the Israelites who God rescued from Egypt. The same people who witnessed God’s miracles, His power, provision, and protection have now turned into angry mobs; questioning God and His plans of taking them to the promised land. God’s promise was no longer enough for them. They were all very tired and frustrated from travelling through the desert that they could no longer see how God had been so good to them. God took care of them and even gave them an endless supply of “manna” so they always had more than enough to eat. But instead of being thankful, we see them complaining and demanding.

Numbers 11:4-6

Quail From the Lord

4 The rabble with them began to crave other food, and again the Israelites started wailing and said, “If only we had meat to eat! 5 We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost—also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. 6 But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!”

Like spoiled kids, they became self-entitled, thinking that manna was no longer good for them and requiring God to provide something else. Sadly, we all have that tendency. Because God always provides, we think we can get away with asking for anything. We then become impatient when we don’t get what we want at the exact time we expect and like the angry mob, we throw a tantrum before God, wailing and screaming about how He said He’d provide but didn’t.

This pretty much sums up my 2017. I prayed for a lot of things, some selfish wants and others, selfless needs. I wasn’t bothered as much when my selfish wants weren’t provided. But each time my requests and cries for help in providing for my family were rejected, I felt my faith fade a little. I would never blame God. But I would be so hard on myself, blaming unanswered prayers on my mistakes and sins committed, punishing myself for it each time. By the end of the year, I felt like a shriveled, old dog coiled up in an alley – trembling, starving, dying.

Numbers 11:23

The Lord answered Moses, “Is the Lord’s arm too short? Now you will see whether or not what I say will come true for you.”

I suffered not because God was powerless nor because He didn’t provide. On the contrary, He is almighty and all powerful and He did provide for my family and for me, just NOT in the way I wanted or expected. I suffered because I grumbled about the little things and lost sight of the countless blessings surrounding me, magnifying the negative and devaluing the positive. If God had not taken care of me, would I have had a job? Would I have been able to pay my bills? Would I even have had a place to stay in or food to eat each day? I ran into no accidents and I was in full health, still able to completely use my brain and move my body. So yes, He took care of me. And not just me, God helped my family get through the hard times too.

God is absolutely amazing because by NOT giving me what I prayed for, God gave me more. He helped me become stronger and wiser, more persistent and relentless. God taught me to value myself and my future, not just my family’s. He released me from so many things that were holding me back. And that is actually an answered prayer that I could not see and appreciate at first because it came in a different way.

Bottom line is, like the Israelites, we are spoiled brats. We are quick to grumble because it is just easier to “react” rather than sit down and contemplate on God’s plans. Why? Because we will never understand His ways. God is an infinite being and our minds cannot fathom His wisdom. But does this mean we should give up trying to understand? No. In fact, we should press on with the quest of getting to know Him, having that personal relationship with Him. In this way, although we fall short in our understanding of His wisdom, we increase our faith. And by faith, we know that His plans are never to harm us. We learn to trust in those plans no matter the current circumstance.

Jeremiah 29:11

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Cheers to a new year ahead!

The True Meaning of Christmas

Christmas to me has always been about giving.

We are not a well-off family. I live independently, working far from home, and I survive from paycheck to paycheck. I pay for my own rent, bills, and food and I provide for my family as much as I can. Life has been really hard for me. When you’re living alone, you know very well that life is really scary when you don’t have any money set aside for emergency – and I haven’t.

This year, I struggled the most financially because I had to take care of debts that weren’t mine and I reached December with no gifts to give to my family. This was really alarming. I had worked with a much lower pay before but never experienced a Christmas or New Year’s eve where I had nothing to give. I had to really stop and evaluate my year.

First, I learned that it’s good to give but not at the expense of your own financial stability.

Filipinos are known to have tightly-knit families and although mine is far from perfect, being the first child has left me with the responsibility of taking care of the family: ensuring that my siblings get through college, that my mom gets her maintenance medications, that they don’t die of hunger, etc.; I give and I provide because I love them. I am happy when they’re happy. This has always been true. However, this year, I realized that I had given too much and loved too much. I lost myself and I ended up unhappy. I was unhappy because I wasn’t able to give them the material things I had wanted to give them for Christmas. I had wanted to give them the best I could this year, but I failed. I failed because I had given too much the whole year. My help was misplaced. I had kept on giving even when I had nothing to give, resorting to loans. Now I had to borrow money just so I could come home for the holidays.

James 1:2-4

2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

So I learned the hard way that I sometimes have to say no. Because sometimes, saying no is the best help we can give. I too have received a lot of NO’s in my life, and they all have made me stronger and wiser.

Second, I forgot the true meaning of Christmas.

I had become so fixated with the idea of giving material things and seeing the huge, surprised smiles on their faces when they receive their gifts that I forgot why I was giving gifts in the first place. It’s not about them and their happiness. Neither is it about mine, or Christmas traditions, or whatever we think should be done on Christmas. Christmas is all about CHRIST and making Him happy. It is the celebration of His birth. I realized that I shouldn’t feel bad about not being able to give. If God wanted me to give, then He would provide so I could give. Even when we don’t deserve it, He always provides. So at times when it seems He doesn’t, clearly there is a lesson to be learned.

I believe that this year was a year of tests, trials, and learnings. What’s important is that I have joy in my heart because Christ came for all of us sinners –  to save us. Because of Him there is hope and there is life.

1 Timothy 1:15-17

15 Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. 16 But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life. 17 Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Struggling with Fear

I’ve always loved to write. But often, I would end up keeping my works to myself. As I mentioned in an article on anxiety, I overthink A LOT. If my writing doesn’t meet the world’s standards, I fear the judgments and criticisms to come. If it does turn out to be a success, I fear the accountability and responsibility it entails. And most importantly, in writing, I give away parts of who I am, my strengths, my weaknesses, my soul – I fear vulnerability. I FEAR.

Fear is an unpleasant emotion, a feeling of anxiety concerning a potential outcome. But fear is necessary for survival as it activates intuition. It allows us to foresee danger and prepare for it or avoid it. It also allows us to sense a person’s real intention. Although not always right, it is wise to listen to your intuition. If you feel like the glass on the corner of the table is going to be toppled over by someone or something soon, then you don’t wait for it to happen to prove that your intuition was right. You move the glass to avoid the foreseen event from possibly happening. However, fear as an emotional response, can be highly personal and intuition can be highly activated. So much so that it causes one to overthink and foresee a lot of possible results – both rational and irrational. When fear starts to hinder you from pursuing your passion and it steals the joy from your heart, you know you’ve got to do something.

1 Peter 5:6-7

6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. 7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

To humble one’s self is to admit the need for help. People who suffer with anxiety do not share their fears with everyone and anyone – not because they don’t want to, but because they’ve been forced into a corner by the world around them. It is even often hard to spot them because they put extra effort in hiding their fears. Hiding behind a mask is the easier option for us because it avoids rejection and judgments. But the more we hide, the more anxious we become. We have to admit that we cannot get through our struggles on our own. I absolutely understand how hard it is to ask for help. I tend to avoid it as much as I can to avoid becoming a “liability”. But that’s the great thing about God, we are never a liability to Him. When we ask Him for help, acknowledging His power and how much we need to rely on Him, He will lift us up in “due time” – NOT right away, but in His perfect time. Because if we don’t go through the process, we won’t appreciate the change. Indeed in due time, I have now come to understand that what I’m going through is only a liability if I let it. So I decided to write. If by being vulnerable I am able to get God’s message across and help just one other person, then I totally welcome all the judgments and criticisms.

Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares about every single thing you are going through. HE CARES. If you think nobody cares about what and how you feel then this absolutely proves you wrong. Throw that garbage away and start believing the truth. HE CARES.

Isaiah 41:13

For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.

This is not just somebody. This is our Lord, our God – Creator of the Universe – who cares so much for us. Can you imagine how little we must be in the vastness of His creation? Yet He holds each of our hands and says “Do not fear; I will help you.” While in the midst of crisis, we can be so cut-off from everybody and even talking to God seems like talking to no one. We can’t feel the connection nor hear any answer. For months this was how it was for me. I couldn’t feel God’s presence. But looking back, I realized that it was part of the process. I just had to press on. I would quit then I would run back to Him. It was a very hard test of faith that I know I failed many times. So I urge you to press on even when you feel like praying seems empty. Don’t believe me, believe in God and His promise: He will help you.

Matthew 6:34

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

It isn’t easy. Life isn’t easy. Believing in God and His promises won’t magically lift all the pain and suffering from your life. But it will certainly give you peace and joy in the midst of it all.

Psalm 34:4

I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.

Psalm 94:19

When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul.

Because you’re now reading this, it doesn’t mean all my fears have disappeared. I still fear, but I am no longer allowing it to have power over me. I’m not saying it won’t ever overpower me again. But I’m certainly praying and hoping it won’t – with God’s help and His strength.

How to Win the Battle Against Yourself

In our day to day living, we constantly battle with our own thoughts. We go through each day deciding whether to do the right thing or not. Automatically, you’d say of course you choose to do the right thing. But when you’re stuck in traffic, do you always do the right thing? When you’re dealing with irate customers or moody bosses, cramming for a project or taking an exam you haven’t studied enough for, do you always do the right thing? More often than not, our view of the “right thing” can be clouded by how the world defines it, how media defines it, or how our peers define it; until ultimately, we get confused and we end up doing the wrong thing without even knowing it.

The battle is in our mind, our own desires; which are often dictated by the world around us – what to wear, what to do with our money, how to act or react in certain situations, etc. We are individuals with unique qualities and personalities and our decisions are driven by that which weights the most in our hearts. Everything else just revolves around that.

This is why we need to keep our hearts in check. We need to make sure that we are not driven by the wrong things, that we haven’t been manipulated by the world. Winning the battle against yourself means overcoming the wrong desires that you have in your heart and deciding to do what is right. But to do this, we have to make sure that we know exactly what is right; which brings us to the how.

Joshua 1:8 (NIV)

Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.

1. We run to God!

How else would we be able to learn right from wrong, but by reading and studying the Book of the Law. If we want to learn the mechanics of something, we run to the creator or its manual. If we want to learn right from wrong, then we run to God – Creator of life and the bible. While prayer is our way of speaking to God, reading His Word is one of the best ways He can speak to us. We need to spend time with him – not just in prayer, but more importantly, in studying his Word, the Book of the Law. I have gone back and forth from no communication to meditating day and night, and I can tell you firsthand that life and it’s struggles are SO much better with God in it. Joshua even agrees with me as he continues telling us that in effect, we become prosperous and successful.

Hebrews 4:12

12 For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

2. We let it transform us.

In the book of Hebrews, we learn that God’s Word is alive, active, and really sharp. I am a very hard-headed person, stubborn to the bone. I have ran far away from God many times and hidden from Him countless times, although of course, impossible. I’ve built a wall so thick no person could reach me – but God was apparently more stubborn in this aspect than I could ever be. His Word, the Words I’ve studied from a long time ago, never left me. And as mentioned here, it is indeed alive and active. It continued to penetrate my heart. The process was and is still painful. But the more we decide to let it penetrate and control our thoughts and attitudes, the less painful the transformation process becomes. Although for some personalities, it isn’t as easy to turn over the wheel. Like me, you could still be holding on to part of the wheel. But that’s okay. That just means that we’ve already accomplished letting go of one hand. Now we need only to work on letting go of the other and continue letting God’s Word transform us.

2 Timothy 3:16-17

16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

3. We let it equip us.

This is a constant battle and we need to constantly be ready, so we let God’s Word – Scripture that is God-breathed, equip us. We need to be continually taught, rebuked, corrected, and trained to build up our strength and resistance. Imagine learning a new sport. After your first day of training, you’re asked to go out on the field and apply all that you’ve learned. You do as you’re told – sometimes failing and sometimes succeeding. You don’t stop there. You continue to train so the coach can tell you what caused you to fail and how to correct it. And when you do become the best, you still don’t stop training. Because the best become the best by always leaving room for improvements. In our quest for God’s Word, we can become self-righteous – thinking of ourselves better than others – when in truth we are not. We are all sinful beings, which means we need God’s help ALL THE TIME.

Psalm 119:11

11 I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.

4. We let it live in us.

To continually win the battle, we need to let God’s Word live in our hearts. In Psalm it says to hide it in our hearts, which connotes that there’s something out there ready to snatch it away. So hide it where it can’t be snatched –  your heart. Keep it there so you don’t sin against God. Sin might be a big word for you as it can be for me, knowing well that we cannot keep ourselves from sinning at all times. I know for myself that I will fall one way or the other. God knows that too and He loves us all the same. But this does not mean we should abuse His love. Instead, it should drive us to work harder, to do better, that we might be able to make God proud.

Job 23:12

12 I have not departed from the commands of his lips; I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my daily bread.

5. We treasure it more than anything.

Like bread or normal food nourishes our physical bodies and helps it grow, let us never depart from God’s Words, His commands. Let us treasure it as it continues to nourish our spiritual beings, helping us grow in His wisdom and understanding.

Experience has taught me that we can never trust ourselves to be “good” or make the “right” decisions all the time. It is in our nature to sin. We have the tendency to blur the lines until soon enough, the wrong choice becomes the better choice. What choices are you facing now?

What to do with Anxiety – Philippians 4:1-9

Philippians 4:1-9 New International Version (NIV)

Closing Appeal for Steadfastness and Unity

1 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, dear friends!

2 I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. 3 Yes, and I ask you, my true companion, help these women since they have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life.

Final Exhortations

4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

God’s timing is always perfect. This scripture was featured in today’s entry in a daily devotional phone application that I have, called Our Daily Bread, which was appropriately titled: The Cure for Anxiety.

Anxiety, according to the Merriam-Webster and Oxford dictionaries, is defined as a feeling of unease or worry over something; a mental state of distress or concern; a strong desire mixed with doubt, fear, or nervousness.2,3 Anxiety to me is such a familiar feeling. I have been suffering all year because of it. It has driven me mad overthinking everything and anything and it has affected my health most evidently. It has paralyzed me and sucked the life out of me, leaving me more depressed and miserable than ever. But that’s not the worst part! The worst part is that it has shaken me spiritually. My faith has weakened and my soul feels like it’s on critical condition. I have even let go. I have sunken so deep in this hole and stopped looking for the light. But one thing always remains – the truth that God never let’s go. He cares and will never cease to care. Suddenly stumbling upon this scripture after not reading my bible for so long now is evidence of that. So I’ve decided to study it and take it to heart.

To understand the context of this passage, I looked into a bit of history. Paul wrote the book of Philippians near the end of his Roman imprisonment in AD 61/62.4 He wrote this letter to the church in Philippi not as a response to a crisis like he did with the other two letters: Galatians and Colossians. More than any other church, material support for his ministry was offered to Paul by the believers of Philippi. Thus, Philippians was written by Paul to express his affection and gratitude towards them, encouraging them to live out a life of humility in service to the Lord and live out their faith in joy and unity.

In verses 1-3, he expresses his deep affection for them. He mentions two of the women in Philippi who are in disagreement and pleads for them to be in unity, having one God to serve. Paul also stresses for the whole community, the whole church, to help reunite them.

1 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, dear friends!

2 I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. 3 Yes, and I ask you, my true companion, help these women since they have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life.

Paul loved them so much that it was breaking his heart to know of such issue causing a division in the church. And this is an issue that is so familiar in our own churches. I have experienced my fair share as a member of the church music team. So many have come and gone because of differences that weren’t immediately dealt with. Differences that eventually pushed each one involved farther apart, weakening the ministry. Here Paul reminds us to stand firm in the Lord, because clearly, this is the work of the enemy. Paul steers us back to being of the same mind in the Lord – being humble servants – to be reminded of our purpose and who we are serving.

In verse 4, he tells them and then reminds them to rejoice.

4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!

This voices out how Paul knew that this was something we often so easily forgot to do. When we’re so caught up with work, we can be so focused that we become like robots, doing what we’re supposed to do or tasked to do without any passion for it. We become overwhelmed by the challenges that we become sore and bitter, resulting to half-hearted or heartless service. So Paul goes on telling us:

5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.

To me this is an encouragement. It sounds like Paul giving me a pat on the back saying: “I know it’s hard, but just let God’s gentleness flow through you and let it be evident to all, because He is near. He will take care of you and He will do the rest.” Then he continues with:

6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

This is probably the hardest part for me, seeing as this is where I failed and what has pulled me down. So, I’d like to really understand what Paul is saying here by breaking it down as follows:

(1) What not to do: Do not be anxious about anything,

(2) Where to apply this: but in every situation,

(3) How to do #5: by prayer and petition,

(4) How to do #3: with thanksgiving,

(5) What to do: present your requests to God.

(1) First he tells us what to avoid: worrying about anything. It’s quite a big thing to say but it is, I imagine, what we would want with our lives right? Imagine living out your passion without having to worry about anything at all, such as failure, judgment, or the unknown; like if the money you make would be enough to support your family or if they’d find you selfish for pursuing your dreams instead of helping them or others. Imagine the peace of mind and joy you’d experience with that kind of life. But, we can’t help it. We have responsibilities and we worry about things, a lot of things. So Paul provides us with a solution.

(2) Instead of worrying, Paul suggests that in every situation there is an alternative. The passage does not provide a limitation to just certain situations. “In every situation” means what it obviously means: whether we are happy or sad, angry or calm, in a highly celebrative mood or in a mournful disastrous state, his solution applies. I believe we should take a moment to really let this sink in. Think about what situation you are in right now. If it’s positive, then that’s great. The rest of the passage won’t be as hard to fathom. But if you’ve just lost a loved one to an accident or a sickness, you’ve just lost your job or you have a job that’s not at all what you want, or you’re in any other situation that’s clearly causing you all that chaos in your mind, then you’ll most likely be apprehensive like me. This apprehension can hinder us from grasping God’s wisdom and so we need to make sure that we throw that out the window. Again, it says “in every situation”, so that includes your situation and my situation whatever that may be. Now we can move on.

(3) He says the solution is done through prayer and petition. Prayer is a more common term, but what is petition? Petition is an earnest request5 or an appeal to a deity or superior6. It is asking for something in an intense or serious state of mind.7 I could be wrong but I believe this word was placed there for a reason. You know how we can be overfamiliar with the people we’re so close to? When you have a new friend for example, you know you need to ask nicely if you need something. But once that friend turns into a bestfriend, you won’t even think about how you’re going to ask. You either tell them and then get what you want despite them saying no, or you get what you want and then tell them about it (sooner or later). See what I mean? We can be so used to talking to God that we forget who we’re talking to. I’m not saying that God does not want this kind of closeness. In fact, he made us in His likeness and he calls us His children; what could be more intimate than that? However, much like how we should understand grace, it is a privilege that we shouldn’t take advantage of. If we seriously want something, then we should be serious about asking God for it; requesting rather demanding, appealing rather than manipulating.

(4) Next, Paul tells us that other than taking our conversation with God seriously, the key advice that Paul gives us is to be thankful first. Asking for something means you acknowledge what you lack. Conversely, being thankful is to acknowledge what you have or what you have received. This is something so easily overlooked, especially the constant things that God provides us, like good health, being able to eat three times a day, or the protection from accidents that could so easily happen to anyone anytime. By being thankful first, especially when down or depressed, we allow the eyes of our hearts to see beyond the problems we currently face. Sometimes, I find that when I begin thanking God for the little things, the list goes on that I find myself asking why I still need anything more. A thankful heart can do wonders, replacing bitterness with joy, lightening an otherwise over-burdened heart.

(5) If you haven’t noticed yet, so far God has already removed our worries and assured us that no matter what we’re going through, earnestly speaking to Him about it with a thankful heart will already lighten the weight. So instead of worrying, we are to simply present our requests to God to unburden ourselves from whatever worries we still have left. We need to trust God and leave the rest to Him.

7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Moving on to verse 7, we find more benefits from the solution provided by Paul. By not worrying and trusting God with our concerns, we experience an otherworldly kind of peace that is unfathomable. Imagine standing in the middle of a storm with a calm, radiant smile on your face and everyone else in chaos, hiding out in whatever hole they can find, looking at you like you’ve lost your mind. I don’t know how else to describe it, but that’s how I picture it. And this divine, heavenly peace will guard your heart and mind, but from what? When we’re worried about something, what do we need protection from? Ourselves. Our own minds. Our own destructive thoughts. Because when we’re anxious, it builds up. You begin with being anxious about something and then about another thing that is connected to that one thing. Then you suddenly find yourself worried about everything, so you’re now worried about yourself worrying about everything! Now you’re caught up in a loop that’s going to drive you crazy and give you anxiety attacks – which is what happened to me. Paul tells us that God’s peace protects us from ourselves. It pulls us out of that loop and guards our hearts and minds with a serenity that can only come from God in Christ Jesus.

8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

So there’s nothing to worry about. We’ve unloaded everything to God, entrusted Him with our requests, and we’re protected by God’s peace which transcends all understanding. Paul now instructs us to help cultivate a good and healthy mindset. As the saying goes, we reap what we sow. If we keep feeding our minds with negativity, then we’ll eventually find ourselves back where we started – drowning in our worries. On the other hand, when we make the conscious effort of thinking about anything that is praiseworthy as Paul puts it, then we are able to think clearly. We will no longer be paralyzed by our own fears and we enable ourselves to experience joy even amidst suffering.

9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

Of course, all this wisdom we’ve received from God through Paul would be for nothing if not practiced. His message in this passage has transformed my thinking and I hope it does the same or more to you. Paul challenges us to apply it in our own lives and the God of peace will be with us. Otherwise, although God would still be with us, we miss out on the wonderful gift of peace that is so readily available for us all. The choice is ours.

Sources:

1 https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Philippians%204:1-9

2 https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/anxiety?src=search-dict-hed

3 https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/anxiety

4 https://www.insight.org/resources/bible/the-pauline-epistles/philippians

5 https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/petition?src=search-dict-hed

6 https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/petition

7 https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/earnest?src=search-dict-hed

Siargao Day 4 – At Peace, And Not

This was going to be my last full day in Siargao, so I decided to just relax and breathe in all the fresh ocean breeze I could, wishing I could bag it and take some with me tomorrow. I guess I wouldn’t be the first to wish that. We went to Pesangan, a surf spot that Val wanted to try out. This time we would have to take a boat to meet the waves farther from the shore. Kuya Jing and Ate Jasmine, owners of Jing’s Place, offered to take us with them along with some other friends of theirs. Everyone boarded the boat with their surf boards. I was just very happy and looking forwarded to staying in the boat alone, (with the helmsman of course.)

We sailed towards the thrashing waves but stopped where it was safe enough for the boat to drop off everyone. Val and everyone else jumped into the water and raced towards the waves with their boards while I stayed in the boat. The helmsman took us to calmer waters, where he dropped the anchor. As soon as the boat was steady, he picked a corner, laid himself down, covered his face with a hat, and dozed off almost immediately. It wasn’t a wonder, though. To him, this probably wasn’t a job at all. This was his life. This was home. I looked at the clear waters surrounding me. I, too, wanted this to be my home. I felt at home. I sat back, relaxed, and let my mind go.

Out where the large ripples bulged and broke into wild clouds, Val looked tiny. He and the others tried to catch as much of the waves as they could. I was barely watching them. I was riding my own untamed waves as I sat there in the boat. The real world was slowly creeping in on me and I had to constantly let out a sigh of despair to keep myself together. Nature was serene, but I was in and out of it. I’ve had such a hard life that I was actually considering leaving all of it to start anew. To escape, for good. To really disappear, forget all that I was and live a simple life here. Thankfully, (or not,) they had all gotten back to the boat. Kuya Jing had caught some fish and was showing them off to us. When everyone was all-accounted for, we sailed back to shore. I was happy to see how Val had enjoyed his time so much. I told him I enjoyed my time alone as well.

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The Boardwalk at Cloud 9, Siargao

After some food and rest, we took ourselves to the Boardwalk at Cloud 9, the most famous surf-spot in Siargao known for its waves of thick, hollow tubes. We had come at a low tide so there was no water underneath the Boardwalk. Tourists walked on the wet, rocky seabed below, taking pictures while surfers far-out at sea took on the huge waves. We had one corner of the Boardwalk to ourselves. The sun was still bright although it was close to setting. The wind embraced me as if it knew my deepest longings. But no matter the storm in me, the magic of nature just did its job. I felt loved. God’s love is always evident. But here, there was just nothing in the way. It was clear. And I was content.

Siargao Day 3 – Surfing 101: Eradicating Fears

I was so nervous I barely said a word. We had been served breakfast earlier than usual today because we had surfing lessons scheduled at 6 AM. Val was already very excited about his intermediate lessons. It’s his 2nd time in the island and the last time he was here, he had already taken up beginner lessons. I, on the other hand, was very much unsure about the whole thing. I was excited too, but my mind was mostly occupied by unnecessary noise. Fear of drowning, fear of sharks, fear of deep waters, fear of the unknown, and ultimately, fear of dying. What if I get cramps and I get paralyzed while a huge wave devours me? What if the board hits me hard on the head or my head hits a huge rock and I pass out under water? What if the waves just suddenly become too big to handle? I had already almost drowned once, so I know what it’s like. Thankfully, Val saw my fears and reassured me that nothing bad was going to happen. Our focus would just be to enjoy and make the most of our days in Siargao. So we set off to Tuason Point on two motorbikes, accompanied by two instructors, with our surfboards tied on the two large hooks on one side of the bike.

The men went down to the beach as soon as we arrived, while I just stood there, eyeing the waters, pleading with it. The ocean gathered itself in big swells, seemingly concentrating its force until on one side of the swell, large waves would break out. I trembled as a rush of energy ran through my spine. Val was now stretching with his instructor while probably having a refresher course on surfing. Jetjet, my instructor, called for me to join him and so I did. In an effort to calm me down, he told me that the waves weren’t that big; although my mind instantly disagreed. In fact, he says they are just beginner waves. But if you go farther away from the shore, the waves do become bigger and of course, more fun and exciting for surfers. But I wasn’t a surfer. Nonetheless, I just kept quiet making mental notes of the quick instructions I was given about how to surf. He demonstrated and I mimicked. Then after what seemed liked seconds, we were done. It was time for actual surfing and I almost panicked. I told him I wasn’t ready but he just laughed and said, “It’s alright! Don’t worry. You’re going to have so much fun.” I braced myself, tried my best to believe him, and marched forward. After all, so many have done this before me and survived, right? I finally decided I wasn’t going to be such a baby about this. I mustered up all the courage I didn’t know I had and allowed the waves to wash away and carry with it all of my fears.

Facing the shore, I pushed myself up to mount my board and lay flat on my belly, as instructed. I focused on the line in the middle of the board called the stringer, to navigate my body towards the center of the deck. Jetjet secured the leash on my right leg and positioned the cord away from me. I held on to the rails as I adjusted my body’s weight a bit farther from the board’s nose, which is the pointed part facing the shore as I was. I placed my feet together by the board’s tail, ready to pop up anytime. After a quick recap, he pushed my board forward and I placed my palms on the deck, up to the sides of my chest as if doing a push-up. As soon as I felt the water swelling under me, I pushed my body upwards and stood up in a slightly crouching position in one supposedly fluid motion, arms spread out trying to balance myself. I didn’t really know what I was doing, so my first wave resulted to a nose dive. I fell forward almost as soon as I popped up because apparently, I was leaning to the front too much. The wave pulled me in and since it was no use fighting it, I just went with the current. Strangely, it wasn’t at all scary like I had thought it to be. In fact, beneath the waters and amidst the wave’s turmoil was a relieving sense of freedom and joy.

While still under water, I realized that my right leg was leashed to the board. I grabbed it, took hold of the board as it floated me back to surface. I positioned myself onto the deck again and paddled as best I could back to where Jetjet was waiting farther from the shore. He asked me how was it and I told him it was amazing. He gave me a thumbs up for being able to pop up quite well and gave me some tips for my next wave. To avoid the same mistake, he asked me to keep my eyes on the shore instead of looking down on the board when popping up. Looking down would concentrate most of my weight to the front, thus causing a nose dive. Now ready for my next wave, I felt the swell coming, heard his go signal, and snapped myself up on the board. This time, I was able to ride the wave a little bit before falling into the water yet again. My 2nd mistake was crouching too much. Since my body was facing to the right, crouching too much would cause me to fall to the right as well. Now I was getting the hang of it. All I needed was another wave to test my balance. More tips from Jetjet and I was off for another wave.

I stood on the board with my knees slightly bent and my eyes fixed on the shore. I spread my arms and pulled a bit of my weight to the back, gliding smoothly forwards. It was a glorious feeling to have finally conquered one wave. I jumped down and turned to find Jetjet excitedly holding his two thumbs up for me. I was so happy I paddled back to him as fast as I could. The next waves were a series of success and failures, as I continued to explore how to ride the different waves. It was fun but very exhilarating as well. I did panic once when after having been thrown off of the board, both my feet got caught in the leash while I was still under water. I couldn’t swim to the surface and the current was still pulling me down. I tried to kick and disentangle myself but I was already losing breath. If I don’t untangle myself as soon as possible, the next wave is going to pull me even deeper. And with the amount of breath left in me, I was sure I wouldn’t be able to make it. Thankfully, I remembered the one rule Val told me. DO NOT PANIC. Too late, right? But I did calm down. I stopped kicking as this was just making the situation worse. I reached for the leash, focused on freeing the left foot from it and it worked. I swam to the surface as fast as I could, just in time to catch my breath, before another huge wave hit me. I didn’t have enough time to position myself properly back onto the board, but I was able to hold onto it as I once again went under the wave. This time, I was able to reach the surface faster and I took refuge atop my board to rest for a bit. On another ride, I also experienced being hit on the head by the board although it wasn’t that hard. It was after failing to take a hold of the board directly after falling off, which became a mental note from then on.

I had only signed up for an hour of surf lessons; but because I enjoyed it so much, I extended for another hour. I savored every successful ride and learned from each mistake I made. I had triumphed over my fears. It was another glorious day. I left my board with Jetjet so he could surf for a bit before we go. He also wanted to show me some moves so I could observe and learn. After a number of rides, I went for the beach. It was then that I realized that the waves were too strong for me. I was getting pushed hard by the waves and pulled even harder by the current. I should have waited for Jetjet but it was too late now. He was too far behind. I had to fight the waves or be caught in them. The rocks beneath me were huge and very rough. If I went back, it was going to be too risky. So I just kept moving forward as slowly and as carefully as possible. Far behind me Jetjet was already shouting, but I couldn’t hear. I later learned that I had taken the wrong way back and he was trying to warn me. I was now very scared but I refused to panic. I went on trying to feel the rocks beneath me, barely escaping with each wave that hit. Finally, I was close to shore. I was in shallow waters now but I couldn’t stand up and maintain balance as the waves were too strong. When I did try, I earned a graze or two on my hands and feet. The water was just knee deep now and I had stopped moving. A huge rock was in front me and the only way to move past it was to stand up and walk over it. I waited for one wave to pass, then I stood. But as I did, another one pushed hard. I struggled forward and my left heel got scraped. I looked at the wound and saw that my flesh was showing and blood was oozing out of it. Jetjet was finally close enough that I could hear him. I shouted for help. I told him I was wounded and he moved as fast as he could to help me. When he got close enough, he pushed the board towards me and I reached for it. I got on and he helped me go round the other way to the shore.

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Yep. I survived.

I skipped and hopped as I got to the beach, finally feeling the pain on my hands and feet. I cleaned the wounds with salt water, washing away the sand, as I had no fresh water with me. Then I made my way up to a spot where I could wait for Val. He and his instructor were now on their way to meet us and worry was painted all over his face. But I was smiling. I was actually proud of the cuts and bruises I had earned and I hoped for them to leave battle scars once they’re healed. I want to always be reminded of the day that I had bested the waves and overcome my fears. That in the end, I had survived and truly enjoyed every part of it. It was just overwhelming and I still couldn’t believe it. I thought about how much we could be missing out of life every time we let our fears, doubts, and hesitations control us. I wouldn’t have actually known that I could do it until I tried. Without risks, we’re simply living in a shell, shielding ourselves from harm but at the same time, holding ourselves back from reaching our own true potential. We choose to be comfortable, then we become bored and ungrateful people; because we fail to see the whole world outside the little world we’ve created around us. I breathed in deep, inhaling the salty breeze, embracing life with so much gratitude in my heart. In just three days on the island, I had been transformed. Val pulled me in a hug as soon as he got back. He inspected my wounds while I assured him with a huge smile that I was very much okay. He told me how deeply proud of me he was and kissed me. We looked at the ocean, arms around each other, both very grateful to the Creator, the Author of life and all its wonders.

Siargao Day 2 – Island Hopping: A Glimpse of Paradise

I woke up to the fresh morning air and immediately felt a rush of excitement for the day’s plans: island hopping. We had already informed Ate Jasmine the day before and paid 1500 pesos for the whole package, so we had already been scheduled for a boat. We ate our free breakfast and ordered some sandwiches for our packed lunch, as lunch was going to be on the 2nd of the 3 islands we were headed to. We placed them in a dry bag along with a towel, some cash and extra clothes. We hopped on the same motorbike we rented the day before, but this time we didn’t need to pay for it as it was already included in the package. One of their surfing instructors got into another motorbike and lead us to the beach on a 5-minute ride to where the boat was waiting.

Beach in General Luna
Beach in General Luna

It was 9 in the morning and I was now by the beach on another fine, sunny day. Dancing to the harmony of the current were clumps of seaweeds and close to the shore, some 8 to 10 boats were anchored, waiting on their boatmen to take them on another grand conquest. We mounted the assigned boat and our boatman pushed the small craft to deeper waters, before mounting it with us and turning the engine on. The heavens kissed the sea with its light and the water glistened as it carried us closer to our first destination, which is also the farthest, Naked Island. No, this isn’t an island occupied by naked people. In fact, it’s an uninhabited small island, considered as an exposed sandbar; bare, with just a small lump of seaweeds growing in the middle. I lost track of time staring at the water, which was staring back at me. The effect was hypnotic and relaxing. I noticed that the boat’s engine had slowed. We were approaching the island and I was told that it had been a 20-minute ride so far.

Naked Island, Siargao
Naked Island, Siargao

Let me apologize in advance if my next words seem hyperbolic, but really they aren’t. I had just seen paradise. I thought I’d already seen clear waters, but this? This was absolutely crystal clear, like looking through a clean glass of water. Waves of bright light floated on the waters while rays of sunlight pierced through it touching the delicate, white sands beneath. I was blown away and if I were in a cartoon film, my jaw would have literally dropped and my eyes would have popped. I plunged in and enjoyed one of God’s most stunning, splendid creations. I let myself float, trusting the ocean not to take me too far adrift. I squinted as I gazed at the sky, so fascinating, mirrored in the luminous deeps surrounding me. I was overwhelmed and completely grateful, serene and abundantly blessed. And when we had to leave for the next island, I had to find comfort in the thought of one day coming back, praying that this divine abode would forever be preserved.

Daku Island, Siargao
Daku Island, Siargao

I got back into the boat, waved my goodbye, and went off to our next stop: Daku Island. “Daku” means big or large and this was the largest among the three, the only inhabited one as well. Although not as quiet as Naked Island, it wasn’t at all crowded as well. In fact, it had the same dazzling waters and it was equally amazing. We walked up to the cottages, paid the entrance fee of 100 pesos, and rented a table for only 150 pesos. The centerpiece cottages were best for large groups and were for rent at 250 pesos. I learned that you could also bring fish/meat and rice here and have it cooked at 50 pesos per kilogram. And if you didn’t bring any food at all, raw or cooked, you still wouldn’t have to worry. You could simply order straight from their menu. We took out our packed sandwiches and bought soda from the store. We took our time, inhaling the cool sea breeze, resting under the shade of our table’s umbrella and surrounding coconut trees. And we couldn’t help it anymore, we threw ourselves back into the pleasantness of the sunshiny waters.

Guyam Island, Siargao
Guyam Island, Siargao

At around 2 PM, we were ready to leave for the last island, Guyam, which means “small”. The island was indeed the smallest of the three with a pack of coconut trees huddled in the center. The sand was still white but a bit more coarse, although the water was still clear. On one side of the island was a pile of big rocks, contributing to the island’s teardrop shape. We didn’t stay long in the island. We paid the entrance fee of 20 pesos, took some pictures, sat under the coconut trees, and took a quick dip. After deciding that we’d had enough tan for the day, we told our kind and very patient boatman to take us back to General Luna’s shore. The water had now receded forcing the boat to stop a little farther from the beach. We got out of the boat and made our way to dry land, still with full smiles on our faces. The rest of the day was going to be rest, dinner, and more rest in preparation for tomorrow’s adventures. I felt purified. My soul was at home and my heart was full. Cheers to life!

Siargao Day 1 – The Magpupungko and Tidal Pool Adventure

On a small plane from Cebu last June 13, 2017, I looked out the window eager to get as much view as I could of the sky and the ground and waters beneath. For someone who has always dreamed of traveling around the world, love rests in every second’s worth of detail.

It was 7:45 in the morning and the sun’s light bounced off and around the thin blanket of clouds, giving it a more vibrant glow. Slowly the ground below moved out of sight and we tore through the sky en route to Siargao. After about 45 minutes of dark blue waters, the ocean gradually began to mirror the light blue radiance of the sky and islands beautifully covered with miles and miles of coconut trees began to appear. In less than an hour and earlier than expected, we landed at Sayak Airport.

The airport was very small, the smallest I’ve been to so far. It’s waiting area could only possibly accommodate up to 50 people while the receiving area was smaller, simply for passengers to pass through after landing and to shelter the few who would still need to wait. It had a small cafeteria and souvenir shop, and a male and female restroom of course. My partner, Val and I walked the short distance from the aircraft to the airport’s receiving area where we were asked to fill-out a form for tourists. We exited the area and another short walk took us to the parking area. A tent with around 20 chairs arranged in 5 rows were placed to seat those who came earlier than their scheduled flight, most definitely to avoid people crowding in the airport. A number of vans used for public transportation from and to the airport were parked. We chose one by random and asked the driver to take us to Jing’s Place, a homestay in General Luna. Coincidentally, the driver lives just a block away from the homestay. We waited in the van for at least 5 minutes, another pair joined us, and we went on our way.

Once again, I took in as much as I could as we traveled the two-laned national highway from Sayak to General Luna, home of the well-known Cloud 9 waves, thus gaining its reputation as the “Surfing Capital of the Philippines.” On the sides of the road the scene shifted between thick layers of coconut trees and farm lands, some with water buffalos tilling their soils and others with pigs half-dipped in mud. The trip was smooth with very few vehicles on the road being an island so sparsely populated. It was very refreshing to see so much green around me and be on the road not having to deal with busy city traffic. There was no rush. I had no deadlines to beat, no work to think about, no responsibilities to worry about. In this rural area my mind was at ease.

Within an hour we had reached the central part of General Luna. Now I could see some small stores and shops, money transfer and exchange services, but no banks or atms. It’s a good thing it was Val’s second time here so we had already brought enough cash to last us 5 days in the island. It was about as busy as it could get in this small town. Still there were very few vehicles, mostly motorbikes, as this was their mode of public transport. It was easy to spot which motorbikes were for hire as it had a slim roof to give the driver and up to two back-riding passengers some sort of shade or protection, although I imagine that with heavy rains it wouldn’t be much. They also attached two large hooks on one side for passenger’s surfboards. It was definitely a unique sight.

The view on my right was now showing off its beaches and resorts. We took a turn to the left on a sandy dirt road. After a slightly bumpy but very short ride, the van stopped. It was now almost 10 AM as we checked ourselves in at Jing’s Place and Homestay, one of Siargao’s top 10 cheapest places to stay in. The owners, Kuya Jing and wife Ate Jasmine, Siargao locals, personally manage the place, employing their own family members and locals. I learned that Kuya Jing is one of the first surfing instructors in the island. He started out as a surfing instructor after he was trained by a foreign missionary. He saved up his earnings and constructed a small homestay while Ate Jasmine continued to teach at a local kindergarten right beside their homestay. Later on they were able to expand and train locals whom they now employ as surfing instructors as well. Here you could learn how to surf with just 500 pesos an hour, surf board and personal surfing instructor included. After several sessions, depending on your learning progress and you feel that you can now face the fierce waves on your own, you can simply rent a surf board at Kuya Jing’s place for only 500 pesos a day. They have plenty of short and long boards displayed near the entrance with all kinds of sizes to fit your preferences and needs.

Still by the entrance, I looked around and felt immediately at home. I inhaled the fresh air and welcomed the heat of the sun. We went upstairs to our room and settled in a bit. It had a twin-sized bed, a closet, a table, and an electric fan. The walls were made of bamboo and it was pretty airy with its two large windows. For only 600 pesos a night plus free breakfast, we had certainly gotten more than we were paying for. I also found that the cheapest accommodation they had was at 250 pesos a night, for a hostel type of stay, where you only rent a bed/hammock and you are provided with a locker to secure your things. This too, comes with free breakfast! What a lifesaver for those who like us, are looking to maximize their budget in the island. We changed into comfortable clothes and quickly went back down to their small restaurant, which is also where the reception and mini variety store is. We sat down and enjoyed their free WIFI. Oh yes, they have that too. Free breakfast was supposedly only served from 7-10 AM and it was already 15 minutes past 10. Still, they served us our first free breakfast anyway. We each devoured our two slices of toasted bread and two sunny-side up eggs like our lives depended on it. The food was perfect.

We chilled in the homestay for a bit, ordered lunch and enjoyed our food, then made some plans. We did some research on the day’s tide times and charts before heading out. The Magpupungko Beach and Tidal Pools in the municipality of Pilar, Siargao is best enjoyed during low tides and this was the agreed upon plan for the day. According to the charts, low tide was going to be at 3-4 PM. The homestay had motorbikes for rent at 250 a day so we rented one out. He memorized the route to Pilar and saved a copy of the Siargao map on his phone, just in case. We packed a towel and some cash in the dry bag then left at 2:30 PM. We arrived after an hour and a half and paid the entrance fee of 50 pesos per head. Walking on the cream-colored beach sands, I inhaled the salty breeze. Magpupungko Beach is also known for its captivating sunrise and it was a shame I wouldn’t be able to witness that. Even so, the view was incredible. I was now looking at the ocean, marveled by rock formations, structures created by powerful winds and uninterrupted Pacific waves. Tidal pools of clear blue waters, like infinity pools intricately carved and alluringly designed by nature.

magpupungko-rock-formation
Magpupungko Rock Formation

We walked towards the far end of the stretch to get to the famous Magpupungko rock formation. Pungko is a Visayan term for squat. With the added prefixes, the name means someone squatting. True enough, I was now looking at a ginormous rock sitting atop a huge slab. How on earth did the ocean create such a masterpiece? Did it first exist as one mountainous rock and was later on sculpted into perfection? Or did the ocean simply find this massive rock elsewhere and decide to place it upon the slab, like decorating an empty table with an exquisite vase? If so, how in the world does it not roll from its place each time it’s hit by unyielding waves? Instead, it appears that it has been utterly cemented over the other. I snatched my focus back to the still dry sea bed of rock beneath me and I could spot some starfish and small fish trapped in little pools of water, patiently awaiting high tide.

To my right, the ocean was still far from reach and to my left was now a tidal pool. I was even more in awe. It was magically bewitching. The clear waters glittered blue in the sunlight, while a bright green reflection of the seaweeds and mosses adorned the sides. Staring at the water I could imagine fairies gliding up and down enjoying their Eden. But one fact about me is that although I am absolutely astonished by the ocean and the wondrous things it creates and holds in and about it, I am equally terrified. There is just so much we do not know, so many things yet to be discovered; things I might not yet be prepared for. And although being in the water gives me a sense of freedom, disentangling me from the normal day to day pull of gravity seemingly taking with it the pressures of life; it also gives me a sense of helplessness, making me vulnerable to the ocean’s pull, sometimes peaceful and at other times cruel. But Val was there with me, and it was all that I needed; PLUS a lot of persuasion and reassurance, of course. I finally took a dip and I could not have been happier. Although I would still jump at the feel of anything while in the water, drawbacks of having an overactive imagination, it was absolutely gratifying. We closed the feat with a cannon ball jump before heading out, which to me was another achievement unlocked.

On the walk back to the beach, the tide had already risen a little. The water was now ankle deep and the current was now pushing fast, reconnecting the ocean and the tidal pools like lovers racing towards each other in a passionate embrace. I gave the ocean one last look before turning to leave. The tidal pools were now barely visible and the waves were now thrashing, reclaiming the rocks and all of its beauty. We paid 20 pesos for our motorbike parking, hopped on, and went on our way back to General Luna. We had dinner, which was disappointing. The food was not at all great. But it filled our stomachs and we were very grateful for the safe trip and the amazing experience. We went back to the homestay feeling happy and content. And as the day was about to end, I had a new sense of self; deeply determined and highly excited to seek more adventures in life.