Thursday, November 18, 2010

Pacquiao Vs. Margarito: The Lessons from the No.1 Pound-for-Pound in Boxing

“Take each of these ancestors of ours as an example, and you will realize that no one who puts his trust in the Lord will ever lack strength.” 1 Maccabees 2:61

Last Sunday, Nov. 14 (Phil. time), Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao gave every Filipino in all corners of the world a reason to smile. In Jerry Jones Cowboy Stadium in Arlington, Texas, the smaller Manny Pacquiao humbled the bigger and taller Antonio “El Tornado de Tijuana” Margarito to win the WBC Junior Middleweight Championship of the world.

To the average Filipino like me, the event was very sweet because it did not only added a feather to Pacquiao’s (and to every Filipino’s) cap in the world’s stage, but it was also inspiring because of the big physical difference between the fighters. Pacquiao came into the ring 17 lbs lighter, 4 inches shorter in height, and 6 inches shorter in reach. Therefore, in all physical aspects of the game of boxing, Pacquiao was at the disadvantage. From this statistics alone, an outsider of boxing wouldn’t bet his house on Manny Pacquiao.

But in the eyes of every adoring fan, Manny Pacquiao is not just statistics. Like David, God gifted Manny with a sling – the ability to move quickly, and punch hard. With these two attributes alone, if you look at the rear view mirror of Manny’s boxing career, it is littered with the bloodied heads of his fallen foes rolling on both sides of the road! However, other boxers can do this, too, yet they are not as great. So what makes Manny Pacquiao very special?

Get your pen and write this on your wall: (1) Humility (2) The desire to make his fans happy (3) World-class dedication to his craft (4) Courage rooted on his deep faith in God. We might be unable to emulate Manny’s punch and agility, but surely we can apply his other four attributes to improve our own life.

All of us are gifted by God. But our gift is like a car with an empty tank if we will not use this to give value to others as well as to ourselves. Manny gives value to boxing fans by perfecting his craft, and by painting an electrifyingly exciting art on the canvass of the ring that will remain etched in the memory of the viewers long after the gate was closed or the TV was turned off.

As a young boy, Manny peddled cigarettes in the street, and had to stop his studies because of poverty. Now, he is a multi-millionaire, and probably, the most popular Filipino all over the world. How does Manny keep himself from self-destructing like most celebrities do after receiving a great amount fame and fortune? By planting his feet firmly on the ground. And how he did that? Manny knows that all his blessings come from God, not from himself, so he has no reason to boast.

Finally, I’ve never seen a boxer kneel down on the ring to pray before every fight. Manny does this solemnly even when the whole world is watching him. He is not ashame of his faith and this god. And rarely do I see a fighter that doesn’t bad-mouth his opponent; instead, he shows them respect. It is now common knowledge to boxing fans that he does his talking inside the ring…with his fists…to the tune of a thousand and more punches. Ouch!!!

Manny is not a saint, though; he is not perfect, like all of us. But he reminded us that despite our failings, adversities and chaos in life, we can remain beautiful human beings – talented, courageous, honorable, compassionate, achieving, and above all, God-fearing. After all, we are all fighting our own battles in the ring called life against invisible and powerful enemies. But as Manny showed us, it doesn’t matter as long as we have a big God on our side.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Who is the Better...Charice Pempengco or Mariah Carey?

"Then he took the seven loaves and the fish, and when he had given thanks, he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and they in turn to the people. They all ate and were satisfied."  Matthew 15:36~37

One afternoon, after lunch, while sprawled across our abaca-made mat, my ears picked up the slow humming of Barbara Streisand's voice over our battery-operated AM radio as she began to sing, “The Way We Were”. Then my heart began to skip a beat as the aftertaste of her music gave me a strange feeling. It’s hard to put it in one word. Longing. Nostalgia. Sadness. (But in a nice way.) The funny thing was, I hadn’t lost a love one.

Music is undeniably one of the most wonderful gifts God has given to man, for it does not only delight the ears, it also touches and moves the heart. It adds color to our life; it draws out deep buried feelings to old memories. It can keep us awake.

Fast forward many years later. It was 2AM. I sat in front of my PC at home admiring Charice’s (Pempengco) awesome cover of the song, Listen, by Beyonce, during the Oscar party held in the Kodak Theater, for the nth time. Yes, I was glued to YouTube for more than 3 hours just going over the performances of Charice. It was amazing!

Then I clicked a video clip showing Charice singing a medley of the timeless songs of the late Michael Jackson like Got to be There, Ben, One Day in Your Life, I’ll be There. (All of these are my favorites.) This was her tribute to the King of Pop Music who just died. Once again, she was down right amazing. She showcased both the incredible breadth and depth of her vocal powers which gave me a new level of appreciation to the music of Michael Jackson.

But then, somewhere in the middle of the video clip, Mariah Carey was shown singing, I’ll be There, which was the last song that Charice sang, in front of the coffin of the Pop King. As expected, she was very affected and emotional; her voice almost broke off at the start, and she had difficulty forcing it out.

Then somebody pop the question, “Who’s better?” What followed was a long thread of opinions willingly expressed by both fans and detractors of both artists.

This was what I had in mind: “Why compare?” Can’t we just enjoy the music of both Charice and Mariah Carey. Why do we have to put down the other? Can’t we put them together side by side?

When Jesus fed the 4000 in the wilderness, 2000 years ago, He did it with only 7 loaves of bread, and a few small fish. Was there a miracle? I believe there was. But the central message of that great miracle is not the impossible-made-possible, but the value of sharing, even with what little we have. Sharing is a godly way, and God’s way creates miracles. I believe this is what Jesus wanted to show us.

Music is a gift from God; it is suppose to soothe the soul. The men, and women who were gifted with the 'song', and the pipe to deliver it, were chosen by God. Is it right to fit them against each other? No! Leave them alone and let them do their job. What we should do is to sit down, enjoy their music, and share their message to the world. After all, what our world badly needs is not another conflict, but another dose of soul-soothing music. And Charice, Mariah Carey, Barbara Streisand and others can do that. They are God's gifts to us.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Locked Secret Room Inside our Head (4)

When a thought comes to our conscious mind, we have to ask ourselves, “Is this good, neutral or evil?” If it’s evil then dismiss it right away! When a lustful thought, for example, comes to us, we don’t entertain it even for a second.

When a feeling surfaces, we have to ask ourselves, “Is this good, neutral or evil?” If it’s evil, we have to fight it and ask God to heal us. When you feel envy, prejudice or hatred towards someone, acknowledge that that feeling exist and that it’s not right. But more importantly, offer it to God and ask Him to heal you.

A change in us doesn’t normally happen overnight, but over time. It’s called erosion. The enemy is cunning enough to know that erosion is very subtle and difficult to detect; therefore, his victim won’t defend himself or herself until it’s too late. This is why the Bible calls us to guard our heart with diligence. The guarding of our heart and mind is an every second, every hour, everyday activity for us followers of Christ. That’s an awful lot of work. Who can do that? Not many I guess, if there is anyone at all. That’s why we need Christ in our life to protect us, to guide us, to cleanse us, and to renew us. Spiritual renewal should be done everyday in the same way that the cells in our body are replaced everyday.

TV and movies are a few of Satan’s favorite weapons of eroding our values and morals in life. True, not all TV shows and movies are bad. But the sad truth is that most of these, albeit unintentionally, deliver the wrong message to its viewers.

When I was in college, I watched the movie, “Ang Anak ni Baby Ama”, starring Robin Padilla, and Amy Perez. As a teenager, the scene that struck me the most was the rape of Honey, the girlfriend of Angel, the main protagonist. It struck me because I was depressed since I sympathized with the protagonist, Angel, and also I was boiling with lust. I watched that movie around 1990, but until now I can still see the obscene images clearly, should I choose to – but I know better. That is how powerful TV and movies are in shaping our thoughts and feelings. Their effect can be long lasting.

Does this mean that we should not watch movies, TV series and programs anymore? Not entirely. I think the message is clearly stated in Proverbs 4: 23: “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” This means that we have to be very choosy in what we will watch and what we will allow our children to watch. In my case, since July, 2004, I have no TV at home. I used my computer for the entire family to watch chosen movies. This way I have a measure of control on what unspoken messages are delivered to my family. As much as possible, I don’t allow my children to browse the internet alone while their values and judgment are not yet strong.

The passage also means that we have to filter our thoughts and feelings, and that we teach our children to do the same. As the saying goes, “We cannot prevent the birds from flying over our head, but we can prevent it from building a nest on it.”

And finally, we have to rely on God for guidance by reading our Bible everyday, and talking to Him as often as we can; we must feed our mind and heart with good and godly ideas everyday. We cannot prevent Satan from dumping garbage into our unconsciousness, in the same way that he cannot also prevent us from seeking God’s help to clean his garbage. After all, we can only do so much. But our Creator can do a lot!

The Locked Secret Room Inside our Head (3)

For example, if you feel strongly (positive or negative) towards a person and you can’t figure out why, it’s because your senses pick up his or her non-verbal messages and sent it straight to the unconscious department of your brain which triggers that feeling.

If you are a pornography addict, like I was, when you are awaken in the middle of the night with a very strong urge to relieve yourself, it’s because the tons of pornographic ideas and images stored in your unconsciousness trigger that irresistible lust.

We can control our conscious, but not our unconscious department. This is the reason why will power alone cannot make us good because we mostly act or say based on our feeling, not our thought. Somehow, during the course of our day, we have to let our unconscious department take the driver sea; we act in autopilot. This is the reason why for years I fought my addiction without consistent success. Only when I came to the realization that I can’t do it alone did my real healing began. We need the grace of God to uproot the evil stored in our unconscious department.

What does it mean to be a follower of Christ in the brain level?

To become followers of Christ, we need to put in place strong filters in our thought process.

This takes some work, and this is part of the cross that we Christians have to carry everyday. What are these filters?

The Locked Secret Room Inside our Head (2)

As a teenager, I was already very fascinated with how man thinks and arrives at a decision. For example, why sometimes I do something that I know is not the best course of action or it is downright wrong?  More importantly, I was also very interested to know how to become a better person. Finally, after reading the books like the Bible, Malcolm Gladwell's, Blink, and others, a theory or a model of how an idea (unpacked message) produces action finally bubbled up to my conscious mind. I am not sure though if this model was already shown before by another author. Anyway, here it is.

Our brain is like a pacman; it gobbles “everything”. What we see, hear, feel, taste and smell is stored into our brain system. These go straight to the unconsciousness department, but those we focused upon go to the consciousness department. In the unconscious department nobody knows what is going on in there; it’s a room full of secrets and psychologists have no success unlocking it so far. The heart doesn’t necessarily refer to the fist-sized organ that pumps blood throughout our body, but to the system in your body that generates feelings and emotions.

Now, you can see why it’s dangerous to watch bad TV programs, movies and shows? The unspoken messages go straight to your unconsciousness and generate feelings. And do you know that you act most of the time based on your feelings than your thoughts? We are supposedly rational being, but most of our actions are not the product of our thinking; more often than not, these are the product of our feelings, and emotions.

This model looks simple, but very helpful in explaining our behavior, and in finding ways to improve it. In short, it helps me answer the questions that long fascinated me.

The Locked Secret Room Inside our Head (1)

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” Proverbs 4:23

San Carlos was the most famous university in Cebu when I graduated from high school. So in the summer of 1991, I went there to enroll in the engineering department. The problem was, I did not know it then that there were two campuses – the Main, and the Talamban (engineering) campus — so I ended up going to the wrong campus, the Main.

Way back then, the Main Campus students already had this refutation of being well-off, and sophisticated. In short, it was a scary place for people like me. Much more that I went in wearing a plain white t-shirt with “Lucy Marketing” printed in front, a faded “Used” jeans that was already too small for me since I outgrown it, a weather-beaten rubber shoes, and a pair of black-rimmed glasses, like that of Superman’s. I felt like a local street dog entering a cage full of Poodles, Chihuahuas, Huskies, Mastiffs, etc

Since it was my first time in the campus, I went around looking for someone to ask for direction. That was when I spotted three lovely ladies sitting on a concrete chair under a large old tree. They were reading books though I could sense that they spotted me approaching. (Romance time) “Excuse me, may I know where is the guidance counselor’s office?” No reply. One girl just stared at me. I repeated my question twice as politely as I could, but still got the same response. Each time I ask the same question, the volume of my voice got lower and lower as my fragile self-esteem got smaller and smaller. Finally, I left, hurting. The unspoken message was loud and clear, “We don’t like you!”

Watching television shows, and movies that depict violence, drugs/alcohol abuse, sex, greed, bad politics, bad weather, bad news, etc. is like facing those three lovely ladies. You watch to be entertained or informed, but you leave with some unspoken messages tattooed to your brain, messages that could hurt you spiritually. Some are so subtle you can’t even put your finger on it, though you can feel its ill effect in your thoughts and behavior.

For example, when you “often” see in your favorite noontime show lovely and curvy ladies dancing or gyrating like there’s no tomorrow, wearing skimpy attire or showing more flesh than required, then you receive “unspoken” messages like it’s OK to dress like that, it makes you look lovely and sexy dressing like that, girls nowadays like being sexy, etc.

Another example is when you “often” see teenagers in your favorite TV series engaging in pre-marital sex and swapping partners every other episode, you receive an unspoken message that pre-marital sex is normal (and if you don’t go along with it, you are too old fashion), sex and love are the same (most definitely not), etc.

Take note that I highlighted the word “often” because the more often we see something, the more it will look normal to us. This is where the danger lies.