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FR. MAR IN BOHOL: FINDING PEACE, HOPE AND JOY

The face of hope amid adversity in Leyte. Can we find joy in the midst of pain? Can we transform suffering into peace and hope? What is the greater good here? The generosity of people that poured out — this is a manifestation of God’s providence. The bayanihan spirit and the compassion of people, these are the Christian virtues that surfaced after all these things happened.” As Fr. Mar sees it, joy comes about when we are able to get beyond ourselves and reach out to others to make their lives less and less difficult. “Joy rests in the hearts of those who are empowered by the Holy Spirit,” he points out.

ALSO:  Two popes and prayers

Pope Francis visited his predecessor Benedict XVI on Monday for an informal Christmas greeting, as the Argentine pontiff prepares to celebrate his first Christmas as leader of the world’s Roman Catholics. Francis met with the 86-year-old Benedict in a former monastery building on a hill inside the Vatican City walls where the pope emeritus has taken up residence following his historic resignation earlier this year. The two men could be seen praying side by side in a chapel inside the residence and chatting amicably on white sofas with a Christmas garland in front of them in photographs released by the Vatican press service.

ALSO: Countdown: New Year parties

Waterfront Pavilion Hotel and Casino Manila rings in 2014 with a bang! The Bellevue Manila in Alabang mounts its Hollywood-inspired New Year countdown party at the Vue Bar. Discovery Shores Boracay is set to stage its "A New Year's Discovery" gala dinner and countdown party with Martin Nievera.

ALSO: 5 good health practices to ‘survive’ Christmas feasts

Some time ago, Inquirer Science/Health interviewed nutritionists for tips on how to stay healthy even when surrounded by the Christmas buffet table. Their advice is still worth mentioning today. Here are the five must-do practices for a tragedy-free Christmas. 1 Potluck tasty but healthy food. Nutritionist Blecenda M. Varona advises party-goers to contribute healthy dishes to a party if possible. Make sure they look and taste good, however...continue reading below....


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Finding peace, hope and joy


The face of hope amid adversity in Leyte

MANILA, DECEMBER 25, 2013 (PHILSTAR) BETWEEN EAST & WEST By Tonette Martel- Can we find joy in the midst of pain? Can we transform suffering into peace and hope?

Fr. Mario Jose Ladra, a dynamic religious leader says that this is precisely the essence of the Christian faith — it is a religion of hope. Fr. Mar, as he is known to his parishioners at the San Isidro Labrador Parish in Pulilan, Bulacan, and those who seek his guidance, is a reassuring presence, a voice of calm and solid good sense.


Fr. Mar and his charity workers bring relief goods and a message of hope to the Boholanos.

In our encounters over the years, he often steers the conversation to the virtues that one must hold on to in good times and tough times. In the last couple of years, I have come to know the many aspects of his mission.

Gifted with healing powers, he would hold healing masses once a week at his former parish, The San Lorenzo Ruiz Church in San Jose del Monte, Bulacan.

As executive director of the San Lorenzo Ruiz Charity and branch director of the Consuelo Madrigal Foundation in Bulacan, he has spearheaded community development programs for indigent families and individuals around his parish and nearby areas.

He has compiled and edited a collection of prayers in the book Straight from the Heart, which has sold nearly 500,000 copies.


Fr. Mar and a family in Bohol: They were among the many families deprived of life’s basic necessities in the wake of the national disaster that hit the province and left much devastation.

Last month, he was installed as the 50th parish priest of the San Isidro Labrador Parish, a centuries-old church in Pulilan, Bulacan where he will carry out a mission in response to the new evangelization program of the Catholic Church.

In recent months, he has gone directly to disaster areas in Cagayan de Oro, Bohol and Leyte, armed with relief goods and a message of hope for those whose lives were devastated by the forces of nature.

“Our group went directly to the disaster areas instead of channeling the help through other sources. This is our way of showing the face of Christ to those who are in need,” he says. He describes the scale of the tragedy in Leyte as “miserable, heart-breaking and unthinkable.”

There he met Fr. Rex Ibanez, whose church of San Antonio de Padua in Basey, Samar, was completely destroyed, and who then seemed numb and helpless in the face of so much death and destruction. As he looks back to the crisis, and now the efforts to rebuild lives, Fr. Mar says, “This is a wake-up call for everyone.

It is time we return to the Lord. Nowadays, many people have forgotten God. God has a message for everyone — that is to return to him and transform our lives, to become better people and better Christians. There is so much evil around us, so it is time to renew ourselves. Sometimes, when adversity strikes, a greater good also emerges.

What is the greater good here? The generosity of people that poured out — this is a manifestation of God’s providence. The bayanihan spirit and the compassion of people, these are the Christian virtues that surfaced after all these things happened.”


A church in Bohol destroyed by the natural disaster that struck the province

As Fr. Mar sees it, joy comes about when we are able to get beyond ourselves and reach out to others to make their lives less and less difficult. “Joy rests in the hearts of those who are empowered by the Holy Spirit,” he points out.

Yet amid widespread suffering, there were heartening moments. In Bohol, people told Fr. Mar that despite their pain and loss, the one thing they would hold on to was their faith in God. Fr. Rex told him that the people of Samar felt that they were not alone in the crisis, and they felt one with the Fr. Mar and his parishioners who had done much to help see them through. “I believe this is how we translate love into action, when we give our care and concern to others,” says Fr. Mar.

“As Christians, we must continue to pray even when we don’t feel God is there, because God is always there. The fruit of prayer life is when we become loving, generous, humble, forgiving and patient. Our prayer life must result in these virtues, and these we must share with the less fortunate. The practice of active prayer is that we live out what we are praying for,” he points out.


Unity in diversity: Helping hands in Bulacan reach out to those in need in Leyte.

As we get carried away by the festivities of Christmas, and the holiday season, Fr. Mar says that we must not lose sight of the message and meaning of Advent. “Christmas is not only a season in December, Christmas is every day when you give your love away and share it with those who have less in life. Advent is a time of repentance, and Jesus can only be born in the manger of our hearts, if our hearts are clean and our spirits are pure.”

Below, is one of the inspirational prayers compiled by Fr. Mar in the compendium of prayers, Straight from the Heart.

The Difference

I got up early one morning, and rushed right up into the day.

I had so much to accomplish that I didn’t have time to pray.

Problems fast tumbled about me, and heavier came each task.

“Why doesn’t God help me?” I wondered. He answered, “You didn’t ask.”

I wanted to see joy and beauty, but the day toiled on me, gray and bleak.

I wondered why God didn’t show me, he said, “But you did not seek.”

I tried to come into God’s presence, I used all my keys at the lock.

God gently, lovingly chided, “My child you didn’t knock.”

I woke up gently this morning, and paused before entering the day.

I had so much to accomplish, that I had to take time to pray.

FROM MANILA STANDARD

Two popes and prayers By AFP | Dec. 25, 2013 at 12:01am


Francis meets Benedict. This handout picture released on Dec. 23 by the Vatican press office shows Pope Francis (right) meeting with Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI at the Mater Ecclesiae monastery at the Vatican. AFP

VATICAN CITY—Pope Francis visited his predecessor Benedict XVI on Monday for an informal Christmas greeting, as the Argentine pontiff prepares to celebrate his first Christmas as leader of the world’s Roman Catholics.

Francis met with the 86-year-old Benedict in a former monastery building on a hill inside the Vatican City walls where the pope emeritus has taken up residence following his historic resignation earlier this year.

The two men could be seen praying side by side in a chapel inside the residence and chatting amicably on white sofas with a Christmas garland in front of them in photographs released by the Vatican press service.

Both were dressed in the white cassocks used by popes.

Francis came to “give his best wishes for the Christmas celebrations”, the Vatican said in a statement.

The 77-year-old pope earlier on Monday compared the Catholic Church to an expectant mother during a homily at one of his daily masses in the residence where he has been staying since his election by fellow cardinals in March.

“Like the Virgin Mary, the Church this week is expecting a birth,” Francis said.

“Is there space for the Lord or is there space only for parties, shopping and making noise?” he asked.

The Christmas festivities begin with the unveiling on St Peter’s Square of a traditional Nativity scene named in honor of Latin America’s first ever pontiff at 1530 GMT.

Francis is expected to watch the ceremony from the window of the Apostolic Palace overlooking the square and light a candle for peace.

Then from 2030 GMT the Argentine will celebrate the solemn Christmas Vigil mass in St Peter’s Basilica.

On Wednesday, Francis delivers the “Urbi et Orbi” (“To the City and the World”) blessing at 1130 GMT on St Peter’s Square —where he first appeared after his momentous election by fellow cardinals on March 13.

Popes often use their “Urbi et Orbi” blessings to announce specific prayers, for instance, for the victims of conflicts or for global economic justice.

Pope Francis will be marking his first Christmas as leader of the world’s Roman Catholics with crowds of pilgrims expected to attend the annual celebrations in the Vatican.

FROM THE DAILY TRIBUNE

Countdown: New Year parties Written by Tribune Tuesday, 24 December 2013 00:00

Countdown in Manila
Waterfront Pavilion Hotel and Casino Manila rings in 2014 with a bang! Savor champagne and canapés starting at 7 p.m. while mingling with friends and family at Seasons Café followed by a lavish gala dinner.

Before the clock strikes midnight, guests at Seasons will have a free pass at the Boulvar for the countdown.

Following a night of revelry, guests are invited to retreat to the hotel's newly renovated guestroom accommodations with their holiday room package. Advanced bookings will be given huge discount to the gala dinner.
Visit the Waterfront Pavilion Hotel and Casino Manila at United Nations Avenue corner Maria Orosa Street in Manila. Log on to www.waterfronthotels.com.ph or call 526-1212 for inquiries. Like or follow @WaterfrontMNL for regular updates.

Groovy celebration
The evening commences with a lavish dinner at Discovery Suites' 22 Prime from 7 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. After the sumptuous dinner buffet, guests can proceed to the Columbus Function Room to enjoy a retro '70s themed party entitled "Have a Groovy New Year.” The gala dinner and countdown party is on Dec. 31 and priced at P2,650 net per person.

Guests may also avail of the New Year's Eve Room and Party Package inclusive of two tickets to the New Year's eve dinner and countdown party with rates starting at P11,500++ for a Junior Serendipity Suite.For inquiries and reservations, call (02) 719-6822 or 719-8888.

Hollywood in Alabang
The Bellevue Manila mounts its Hollywood-inspired New Year countdown party at the Vue Bar. For P2,540 (adults) and P1,800 (children aged six to 12 years old), party the night away on Dec. 31 and enjoy these inclusions: dinner buffet, two rounds of standard drinks, sparkling wine for toasting, party poppers and noise makers. Guest artist include the Revamp Band.

Tickets are available at the front desk; children five years old and below are free of charge. Table reservation is on a first to purchase basis. For inquiries, contact 771-8181, 0917-8718181, 0918-8718181 or log on to www.thebellevue.com.

Island revelry
Discovery Shores Boracay is set to stage its "A New Year's Discovery" gala dinner and countdown party with Martin Nievera. The gala dinner is prepared by the hotel's award-winning culinary team. It is priced at P5,888++ per person and P2,944++ for children six years old and below.

After the lavish spread, groove to the latest hits and all-time favorites with Martin Nievera as he ushers in 2014 at the stroke of midnight, with a countdown party and fireworks show, culminating in a night of dancing to the music of DJ Ron Poe and DJ Gandhi Tuazon.

For inquiries and reservations, contact Discovery Shores Boracay at (632) 720-8888, (6336) 288-4500 or visit www.discoveryhotels-resorts.com.

FROM THE INQUIRER

5 good health practices to ‘survive’ Christmas feasts By Tessa R. Salazar Philippine Daily Inquirer 11:08 pm | Friday, December 20th, 2013


They’re dreaming of a green Christmas. On the eve of Christmas day, Environment Secretary Ramon Paje called on Filipinos to avoid overindulgence during the holiday celebrations out of sympathy for disaster victims and to reduce the season’s impact on the environment. “All of us should be mindful of how we hold our celebrations not only to reduce carbon footprint but also in consideration of those affected by recent disasters in the Visayas,” Paje said in a statement. Although many government agencies and private companies have decided to tone down Christmas festivities, Filipinos cannot totally do away with the tradition of gift-giving, preparing a lot of food and greeting the New Year with fireworks, he said.

Some time ago, Inquirer Science/Health interviewed nutritionists for tips on how to stay healthy even when surrounded by the Christmas buffet table.

Their advice is still worth mentioning today. Here are the five must-do practices for a tragedy-free Christmas.

1 Potluck tasty but healthy food. Nutritionist Blecenda M. Varona advises party-goers to contribute healthy dishes to a party if possible. Make sure they look and taste good, however.


It’s chicken salad the way my mom used to make it–but with no chicken, mayo, or hard-boiled eggs. So maybe it’s not exactly my mom’s chicken salad, but it’s close enough to satisfy my craving for something savory and crunchy to put between two slices of bread.

These healthy recipes include vegetarian kaldereta, a mix of tomato sauce, coconut milk and fried or baked tofu, as prepared by vegan lifestyle advocate Nona Andaya Castillo; tofu stroganoff, which consists of tofu, shiitake mushroom (dried or fresh) and dairy-free cream sauce—cashew nut with blended tofu; meatless embutido made from mushroom whole-wheat veggie meat, veggie smoked sausage, vegetables and whole-wheat vegan carrot cake with dairy-free butter sauce; and Susan Voisin’s easy vegan spinach and mushroom lasagna (check out http://blog.fatfreevegan.com/2006/03/my-favorite-lasagna.html).

Taiwan-made smoked veggie meats sold at the Daily Veggies store in Quezon City not only taste like the real thing but have the ISO 9001 quality assurance stamp. Try tofu sisig or shiitake mushroom sisig at Blissful Belly at Llanar Building, Xavierville Avenue, Quezon City (look for Valme Calzado); vegan burgers at Corner Tree Café at Jupiter Street, Makati, or at Agico restaurant (Araullo Street, San Juan); log on to www.happycow.net and type your location (anywhere in the world).

2 If you’re hosting the party, you should encourage guests to take home the leftovers so you’re not tempted to overindulge the following day. This was suggested by Victor J. Alfonso Jr. of the Food and Nutrition Research Institute.

3 Eat a high-fiber snack before you go to the event. Varona suggests that you choose vegetables, fruits, vegetable salads and healthy desserts; choose pasta and nonmeat entrees; avoid dips, gravies, dressings and sauces as much as possible (or bring your own dairy-free dressings like mango vinaigrette, which Chimara’s at Greenbelt 3 Makati uses).

4 Have a healthy snack before you go to a party or function. “Filling foods such as sandwiches or a bowl of cereal are a good idea,” said Alfonso.

5 Visualize a healthy meal. Before going to a friend’s noche buena party, Varona said you should already decide and imagine yourself making food choices.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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