Juxtapositions: How sharing spaces with those different from us is good

I am sitting at my daughter’s dining room table looking out the window. I am always struck by what I can see when I am high up on top of something. It gets me thinking about how space is arranged within cities and how at times diverging or even opposing parties find themselves adjacent to one another.

There is a house immediately behind the condo building that has two prominent, colourful, pictures of Jesus — one on the garage and the other beside the front door (you can see them in the photo above). I should point out that having a picture of Jesus on the front of your house is not at all unusual in Metro Manila but in this instance it seems like a different message is being portrayed. Then I noticed that on the next street over was a small Iglesia ni Cristo [Church of Christ] chapel and I realised that this particular area has an abundance of members from that church. The Iglesia ni Cristo is a Filipino new religious movement whose main location is just a few minutes down the road. Because of this reality I suspect the homeowner is sending a message to their neighbours: We are Roman Catholics in this house.

Thinking along these lines got me to take a closer look at the other spaces I could see. The largest part by far is indeed taken up by the properties of the Iglesia ni Cristo. Sticking up from the greenery of the surrounding mango trees is the new hospital, media center, member apartments, and university. A little further around we can see the main worship center with its grand spires.

Immediately behind the INC site is the beautifully-treed University of the Philippines Arboretum. The space, although transited by a 16-lane highway, is connected to the greater University of the Philippines, the premier university in the Philippines and the place where three members of my family went to school.

Immediately in front of the vast INC estates lies the Culiat Muslim Compound, an islamic community made up of people whose primary origins are in the far south of the country. The space contains a large community of people and is also home to at least five mosques.

Several Roman Catholic orders also occupy adjacent space including the Augustinians who have a variety of training centers and chapels, the Claretians who include the Claret Seminary, the Claretian Missionary Sisters, and the The Institute For Consecrated Life In Asia, and the Adorers of the Blood of Christ with their St. Maria de Mattias Center Inc.

There is also the smaller Our Lord’s Temple Ministry compound squeezed in between these different groups.

Interspersed in between these various institutions are houses and homes occupied by people from all walks of life. From the wealthy members of exclusive subdivisions to the poorer members of various informal communities squeezed in between other more formal establishments.

What is interesting is that while there are a variety of religious beliefs, practices, and traditions represented, at the core they are all interested in making the world a better place. I wonder how the different beliefs impact this desire?

Another question it raises is how such diverse groups manage to survive beside on another. Certainly the niceties of modern societies prohibit any overt forms of harassment from one to another. I wonder if there is any cooperation between these groups as they try to make the world a better place?

Which, of course, leads to a question that is relevant to whoever is reading this blog: How do we survive in close proximity to others with divergent beliefs, practices, and traditions? Any suggestions or examples from your own life? Please comment below.

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Remember sharing is what friends do.

Image is mine.

Positionality: How knowing about the interconnections I have with others makes life more understandable

Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers sang, “Islands in the stream that is what we are …,” a song of two people who assume their one-night relationship has no impact on anyone or anything beyond the two of them. A better philosophy might be John Donne’s “No one is an island,” that recognises the complexity of human relationships. How does knowing about our interconnections with other humans help us understand life in a deeper way?

It used to be common knowledge that if you wanted to study something or someone else you needed to maintain distance between you and the subject. This distance was designed to reduce any bias that you have that may influence your observations, analysis, or conclusions. Extreme versions of this practice led to studies the included hidden cameras, uninformed subjects, and other unethical research practices. All based on the assumption that we can extract people from their contexts and put them into a petri dish for study.

Nowadays, thankfully, that common knowledge is changing to recognise that biases exist, really can’t be eliminated, nor should they be. There is a newer recognition that any study includes the interaction between the researcher and their research counterparts, who have just as much a role to play in the shaping of knowledge as the researcher. I can’t say much for the so-called hard sciences since my expertise lies in social science, but bias is still an integral part of the hard sciences, too. For example, who makes the choice as to what is being studied? Who decides where to point the hidden cameras? Who decides what questions to ask? Who decides what factors are important? Who decides to develop nuclear weapons rather than nuclear power? All of these decisions are made because of some kind of researcher bias or another.

This is much more complicated when we enter the realm of social science that seeks to understand how humans interact with one another. For example, in my study of how Filipino men in my community conceptualise and create their understandings their own masculinity and their being maka-Diyos it was necessary for me to identify my own positionality to the men and the subjects.

I should point out that maka-Diyos is a Filipino term that doesn’t exist in English. It encompasses godliness and religiosity but goes much deeper than that. It is related to loving our family, our neighbour, and our God.

What does positionality entail?

At face value, I am an outsider to my community. I was born 11,700 km away in a different context and culture. I don’t look the same as those around me, my mother tongue is not Tagalog, I prefer running shoes to flip-flops, and I don’t handle the heat all that well. When kids see my blue eyes, they stare. I am taller than most people that I meet. Almost everything that people notice about me sets me apart as different.

But on another level maybe I am not as far out there as one might think. My obvious identity as an outsider aside, Filipinos are very accommodating, and a couple of things cause me to question my outsider status. I am a pastor, a role that is still seen in a positive way by much of Philippine society, my wife and I have also been welcomed into close relationships with people in our community, we try to communicate in Tagalog as much as possible. All this is possible because Filipinos have a complex understanding of interpersonal relationships. Rather than simply identifying someone as either insider or outsider, Filipinos have a range of relational milestones that show how someone transitions from being an outsider to being an insider. But that is a discussion for another post.

At this time we need to recognise that positionality recognises and includes the role of the researcher into the life of the community of the researched. Both parties contribute to shaping knowledge is a way that benefits others.

Positionality for non-Researchers.

You may ask, “How does this relate to me since I am not a researcher?”

Life is collaborative. I once heard that even the most introverted people influence 10,000 people over their lifetimes. Family relationships give us a glimpse as to how this works. A married couple represents at least two relationships but once they start having children the number of relationships increases exponentially. Not to mention that the two individuals who form the initial two relationships bring with them their own set of complex relationships. That means that each of us is constantly creating a life in collaboration with an increasing number of people. That also means that it’s impossible to extract and individual from this complex dance and expect the dance to remain the same. In order to make sense of this world and find some way of becoming successful in it, we need to recognise our own positionality in it.

What this all means is that our current divided society can be rectified through understanding positionality. Once we see how each of us is connected, and how we really have no choice but to interact with one another, we come to understanding, we see things from other’s points of view, we realise they, too, have legitimate perspectives. We are no longer individuals — nor individual families — but are rather a part of a larger community that is all journeying together towards a better future.

How are you positioned? How does who you are position you to have a better connection with your community? Why not let us know by commenting below?

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Remember sharing is what friends do.

Image is by Ahmad Odeh on Unsplash.

Tiktok: Bakit ako sumali sa isang social media phenomena na puno ng mga tao mula sa ibang henerasyon?

Read this post in English.

Oh. Nasa Tiktok na ako. Baka isipin mo na nagsimula na akong sumayaw o gusto kong bumagsak ang aking karera sa musika, huwag mag-alala. May paliwanag ako. Ang Tiktok ay nasa likod ng aking isipan mula pa noong isang klase na itinuro namin sa SEATS noong 2021 na nagrekomenda ng paggamit ng plataporma para sa ministeryo sa simbahan ngunit dahil wala akong ganap na karanasan sa Tiktok ay hindi ko naisip kung paano eksaktong gamitin ito. So anong nangyari para makumbinsi ako?

Ilang taon na ang nakararaan pinangasiwaan ko ang pagtatayo ng isang paanakan malapit sa aming bahay. Hindi ko makuha ang kredito para sa paanakan — naroroon ako para sa mga kapanganakan nina Emily at Daniel ngunit wala akong pagnanais na dumalo para sa mga kapanganakan ng sinumang bata — ngunit nakapagbigay ng ilang input pagdating sa pagsasama-sama ng pasilidad kung saan ipinanganak ang mga sanggol.

Ang isang pangunahing aspeto sa anumang uri ng konstruksiyon ay ang mga manggagawa na gumagawa ng aktwal na trabaho. Mayroon silang iba’t ibang mga kasanayan. Ang ilan ay kasangkot sa proseso ng disenyo. Ang iba ay likas na matalino sa pangangasiwa sa gawain. Ang mga skilled ay may mga espesyal na kasanayan tulad ng pagkakarpintero o pagmamason. Ang mga labor ay gumagawa ng mabigat na pag-aangat ng pangkalahatang paggawa. Masaya at marami akong nakilalang lalaki. Bilang bahagi ng aking kontribusyon sa pagsisikap, nagsagawa ako ng lingguhang pag-aaral sa Bibliya tuwing Sabado bago matapos ang araw (kung kailan sila matatanggap ng kanilang suweldo para sa linggo).

Isang araw sinabi ko sa isang kaibigang pastor ang tungkol sa aming proyekto, alam kong kamakailan lang ay nasangkot siya sa isang katulad na proyekto nang itayo nila ang kanilang bahay sambahan. Ipinagmamalaki kong sinabi sa kanya na nagsasagawa ako ng pag-aaral ng Bibliya sa aming mga manggagawa bawat linggo. Bumalik siya na may pahayag na nagsagawa siya ng pag-aaral ng bibliya araw-araw bago magsimula ang trabaho! Nagulat ako pero napaisip ako. Ang resulta ay nagkaroon ako ng maikling debosyonal bago kami magsimulang magtrabaho tuwing umaga. Ang mga lalaki sa pangkalahatan ay hindi nahihiyang makipag-usap tungkol sa Bibliya sa normal na buhay at pinahahalagahan nila ang mga panalangin para sa kanilang kaligtasan araw-araw, kaya naging maayos ang lahat.

Noong isang araw, habang naglalakad ako sa clinic at iniisip ang huling yugto ng proyekto (na inaasahan nating magsisimula sa bagong taon), naalala ko na kapag nagsimula muli ang konstruksiyon ay kailangan kong pag-isipang muli ang mga pang-araw-araw na debosyonal. Noon natamaan ako. Maaari na akong magsimulang gumawa ng maikling araw-araw na debosyonal ngayon sa Tiktok! Nagpo-post ako ng pang-araw-araw na talata sa bibliya sa nakalipas na ilang taon sa mga social media account ng aming mga ministeryo kaya hindi ganoon kahirap gawin iyon para maging pang-araw-araw na debosyonal. Kaya gumawa agad ako ng Tiktok account at nagsimulang mag-record ng mga video.

Sa puntong ito wala akong ideya kung hanggang kailan ito magpapatuloy o kung anong mga partikular na benepisyo ang maaari nitong ibigay sa mga tao. Gayunpaman, ang mga tao sa loob ng aking ministry circle ay nagpahayag na mahalaga sa kanila ang araw-araw na mga talata sa bibliya na aking ipinadala. Mayroon ding mga tao sa aming komunidad na hindi makalabas ng kanilang mga bahay dahil sa malalaking isyu sa kalusugan at maganda ang video patungkol sa Bibliya para sa kanila .

Anong mga kakaibang bagong bagay ang ipinapagawa sa yo ng ng Diyos? Ano sa tingin mo ang kakailanganin para makumbinsi ka na gawin ito? Paki iwan ang iyong sagot sa comment box sa ibaba?

Tandaan na ang pagbabahagi ay ginagawa ng mga kaibigan.

Kung nasiyahan ka sa pagbabasa na ito, mangyaring huwag kalimutang i-like at i-follow ang aking blog.

Para sa mga kawili-wiling malaman ang higit pa tungkol sa aming proyekto sa paanakan narito ang isang maikling video na naglalarawan sa aming ginagawa.

Larawan ng SCREEN POST sa Unsplash.

Tiktok: Why I joined a social media phenomena full of people from a different generation

Basahin mo sa wikang Tagalog.

So I’m on Tiktok. Lest you think that I have taken up dancing or want my music career to take off, don’t worry. I have an explanation. Tiktok has been in the back of my mind ever since a class we taught at SEATS in 2021 recommended using the platform for church ministry but since I have absolutely no experience with Tiktok I wasn’t able to conceptualise exactly how to use it. So what happened to convince me?

A couple of years ago I supervised construction of a birthing clinic near our house. I can’t take credit for the clinic — I was present for the births of Emily & Daniel but have no desire to be present for anyone else’s kid’s births — but was able to provide some input when it came to putting together a facility within which babies are delivered.

A key aspect to any kind of construction is the workers who do the actual work. They have various skills. Some are involved in the design process. Others are gifted at overseeing the work. Some have special skills like carpentry or masonry. Others do the heavy lifting of general labour. It was fun and I got to know a lot of men. As a part of my contribution to the effort, I conducted a weekly bible study every Saturday just prior to the day’s end (when they would receive their pay for the week).

One day I was telling a pastor-friend about our project, knowing that he had recently been involved in a similar project when they built their church building. I proudly told him that I was having a bible study with our workers every week. He came back with the statement that he had done a bible study every day before work! I was taken aback but it got me thinking. The result was that I had a short devotional before we began work each morning. The men in general don’t shy away from talking about the Bible in normal life and they appreciate prayers for safety during the day, so it all worked out well.

The other day, while walking past the clinic and thinking of the final phase of the project (that we hope to begin in the new year), I was reminded that when construction starts again I would need to think about daily devotionals again. That’s when it hit me. I could start now doing a short daily devotional on Tiktok! I have been posting a daily bible verse for the past couple of years on our ministries’ social media accounts so to turn that into a daily devotional wasn’t all that hard to do. So I bit the bullet and created a Tiktok account and started recording videos.

At this point I have no idea how long this will go on for or what specific benefits it might offer people. However, people within my ministry circle have expressed their appreciation for the daily bible verses that I have sent. There are also people in our community who are unable to leave their houses due to major health issues and for whom an option to watch a video about the Bible is a blessing.

What strange new things is God calling you to do? What do you think it will take to convince you to do it? Why not leave your answer in the comment box below?

Remember sharing is what friends do.

If you enjoyed this read, please don’t forget to like and follow my blog.

For those interesting in finding out more about our birthing clinic project here is a short video describing what we are doing.

Image by SCREEN POST on Unsplash.

Oh no, Canada? Have we progressed in the past year?

Last year, Eva and I spent Canada Day while stuck in Canada because of COVID-19-related travel restrictions. It gave us a chance to be reacquainted with the land of our birth and hear first hand some of the issues facing Canadians. Now, a year later, Eva and I are back at our home in Quezon City, Philippines, wondering how Canada is on its birthday.

A year ago, I took the opportunity to write a few reflections on Canada in light of some of the less honourable achievements the country has had. Here is a link if you are interested in reading my thoughts from a year ago.

Oh no, Canada: Reflections on Canada on Canada Day

I guess my question on 2022’s Canada Day is this: Are we making any progress as a nation? If so, what have you seen?

Please leave a comment either below on or on my post from last year.

Remember, sharing is what friends do!

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Image by Jason Hafso on Unsplash.