Posted by: cris | June 24, 2013

Winged Bean (Sigarilyas)

Sigarilyas, a nitrogen fixing plant is a good vegetable to plant in your garden, be it on the ground or in containers.
All of its parts can be eaten. The young leaves can be eaten steamed just like spinach or you may add it to your soups,
and stews like Sinigang (a favorite). The fruit can be added to stews, steamed and can be sauted also. The root tuber can be eaten like potato. Even the flower is useful as it is used to color rice and pastries. It is a good source of protein, Vits A, C, B1, B2, B3, Copper, Calcium, etc.

It is known in other places/countries as Goa bean, asparagus pea, four angled bean, and winged pea. These vegetables can be found in tropical countries like the Philippines. It is a vine with climbing stems.

This vegetable is nutritious, however, a study was done on accumulation of aluminum in the plant’s edible parts and sad to say it was found out that all edible parts has aluminum content in high and very high levels. As I always mention, anything good can get bad if it’s too much. So, let’s eat different vegetables so we don’t get too much of each.

Sources: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Winged_bean
http://stuartxchange.org/Sigarilyas.html

Recipes with Sigarilyas or winged bean

A. GISING! GISING! (Sigarilyas/Winged Beans Version) http://www.busogsarap.com/2012/07/gising-gising-sigarilyaswinged-bean.html

INGREDIENTS:

1 clove of garlic

1/2 medium onion

1-2 tbspn cooking oil

100g pork mince

100g prawn meat

10pcs sigarilyas (winged beans)

1 can coconut cream (400ml)

2 tbspn bagoong (Filipino sautéed shrimp paste)

1/2 cup water (+ 1/4 cup if needed)

1-2 bird’s eye chilli (optional), deseeded/finely chopped

pinch of ground black pepper

Procedure:
Top and tailed your Sigarilyas (Winged Beans) and wash in cold water, slice in slanted cuts to make butterfly shapes. Peel the outer skin of your onion and only finely dice half of it. Crush your garlic clove and remove the skin. Using your large knife, finely mince your prawn meat and set it aside next to your pork mince.

In a large wok/pan, heat (medium high) your cooking oil and sauté the garlic and onions. Add in the pork mince, stir for awhile (make sure you are breaking the clumps of meat) till meat becomes light brown. Stir in the prawn meat and separate the clumps and cook till the prawn meat becomes white and some of it have that orangey bits. Add in your bagoong and chopped bird’s eye chilli (optional), stir it in well with prawn and pork pieces.

Pour in your coconut cream, stir it well and bring to boil the mixture. Lower heat till the mixture is just simmering. Add in your chopped Sigarilyas (Winged Beans) and let it simmer for 5-10 minutes.

Add the water once you see the sauce is becoming too thick, increase it for another 1/4 cup of water if needed to thoroughly cook the chopped Sigarilyas (Winged Beans). This dish should have a slightly thick creamy sauce and should not be watery. Remove the pan from the stovetop and let it BEST WITH: Crispy Fried Fish and Fresh Steamed Rice.

NOTES from the original author:

You can blanch your chopped (slightly matured) Sigarilyas in boiling water prior to cooking your Gising! Gising. Cook for 3 minutes and then drain, it will turn bright green.
But if you happen to have bought young Sigarilyas (small ones with green frills, no indication of browning edges), don’t blanch them…no need for it.
I’ve written the bird’s eye chilli as optional as I have to cook my version without it because of the kids.rest for a while. This dish can be serve in individual bowls or one large serving bowl for the family to share at the table.

B. Sauted Sigarilyas http://sweetchummyla.blogspot.com/2013/03/sauteed-sigarilyas-winged-beans.html

Ingredients:

1/2 kilo sigarilyas
1/8 cup shrimp anchovies
1 onion sliced
1 clove garlic sliced

Directions:
1. Saute garlic and onions in a little oil.
2. Mix in the shrimp anchovies and wait till it turns a bit brown. Once the colour has changed, put in the sigarilyas beans and stir all together.
3. Do not overcook to save the savory taste of the vegetable.
Note: you may also add pork and serve with steamed rice

C. Sigarilyas and squid salad http://www.breakfastmag.com/06/20/2013/winged-bean-and-grilled-squid-salad/

Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 15 minutes
Serves 5

Ingredients:
2 cups sigarilyas (winged beans), cut diagonally, blanched and cooled
1 cup tomato wedges
1 onion julienned
2 cups grilled squid, cut into strips, seasoned with salt and pepper and grilled

Dressing:
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 cup vinegar (ideally native vinegar of choice)
1 tablespoon fish sauce (patis)
1/4 teaspoon ginger juice
Dash of pepper

Procedure:
1. Mix ingredients together and toss into salad mixture.

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Posted by: cris | June 24, 2013

Talong (Eggplant)

Talong, called Eggplant in American English, aubergine in British English and French, and its scientific name is Solanum melongena (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eggplant)

We Filipinos, normally typecast the eggplant as purple in color and elongated. But do you know there are different colors and shape of eggplants? There are long, ovoid/round eggplants and color range from white, yellow, green, reddish purple and dark purple.

Though others may be allergic to eggplant, it is still loved by a lot of people, which includes me (that may not be surprising because I love eating, hehehe). Eggplant contains vitamins and minerals and important anthocyanin phytonutrient found in the skin called nasunin. According to http://www.whfoods.com/ Nasunin is an antioxidant and free radical scavenger. Eggplants are a good source of Vitamins A, B, C, calcium, phosphorous and iron according to http://stuartxchange.org. StuartXchange also lists a number of medicinal uses of this ordinary vegetable as well as new studies for eggplants.

Here are a few recipes for eggplant:

A. Tortang Talong (http://www.filipinorecipesite.com/filipino-recipes/tortang-talong-eggplant-omelet.html)

Ingredients:
2 to 4 talong (eggplants), average size
2 to 3 eggs, beaten
salt and pepper, to taste
oil, for frying

Cooking Procedures :
Broil eggplants until tender (the skins are charred and blister appears).
Once cool, peel off the skins of the eggplant and retain the crown and the stem. Gently flatten its meat by using the back of a fork. Set aside.
In a bowl, beat the eggs and season with salt and pepper.
In a skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Dip each eggplant, one at a time into the egg mixture. Gently bring the bowl near the skillet and tip, lowering the eggplant onto the heated oil.
Fry until golden brown on one side, then turn and brown the other. Drain on paper towels. Keep warm and serve.

Note: I usually add minced onions to the batter. If ground pork is available, i saute it before adding to the batter.And if this is the case, I usually place the eggplant in a saucer then add the batter before i put it in the frying pan.

B. Kinilaw na Talong (eggplant salad) http://bisayajudkaayo.blogspot.com/2009/09/kinilaw-na-talong-eggplant-salad.html

1. Poke some holes to the eggplant using a fork.
2. Grill them until skins will burn, keep turning around to make sure every skin are cooked or charred. Eggplants are cooked when they are soft.
3. Let them cool then start peeling off the charred skin making sure to take out those black particles from the charred skin.
4. Chop eggplants into cubes or shred them.
5. Add chopped tomatoes, sweet onions, scallions, garlic, ginger and Thai bird chili if you want it spicy and hot.
6. Add salt and vinegar, i like to use Datu Puti (Filipino Vinegar) or apple cider vinegar.
Serve with the bbq or fried fish.

Note: for those who can live without meat/fish this is already complete. Here in our place, we add coconut sap vinegar.

C. Fried eggplant chips (http://www.theheights.sa.edu.au/documents/kitchen/eggplantchips.pdf)

Ingredients:

· 4 large eggplants · 4 cups water
· salt · 1 tsp turmeric
· 5 cups plain flour · oil for frying

Procedure:
1. Wash, then slice eggplants into 1 cm slices.
2. Lay slices out onto a large chopping board and lightly salt
one side of eggplant. (This will absorb any water in the
eggplant and remove any bitterness.)
3. Place 2 cups of flour in a large bowl and coat eggplant slices
with flour. (This will absorb any remaining moisture.)
4. In another bowl combine 3 cups flour, turmeric and 4 cups
of water and whisk well to make a thickish, yellow batter.
5. Heat 2 large frying pans and add a generous amount of oil.
6. Dip eggplant into batter, drip off excess, then gently place
into pan. Fry until golden brown on both sides

Note: for gluten sensitive people, maybe rice flour is a good susbstitute.

Posted by: cris | June 24, 2013

Singkamas (Jicama) Part 2

Here are some recipes I found online:

A. Singkamas Salad (http://www.yummy.ph/recipe/Singkamas-Salad)

A refreshing side dish to Grilled Tuna Belly

Serves 4 Prep Time 10 minutes

1 cup singkamas (jicama), cut into fine strips
2 tablespoons cilantro leaves, chopped
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 teaspoon white sugar
dash of salt and pepper

1 Combine all ingredients and mix well.

B. Lumpiang Singkamas (http://marrecipe.blogspot.com/2012/09/lumpiang-singkamas.html)

4 regular singkamas cut strips
1 cup sweet potato strips
1 cp pork cut into cubes
1 cup peas (chicharo) or baguio beans
2 tokwa or tofu squares
1/4 cup pounded peanuts
salt and sugar to taste

Pare singkamas and cut into strips.
Cut tokwa or tofu into cubes.
Prepare sweet potato in the same manner
as the singkamas.
Saute garlic and onion in oil.
Add pork cubes and tokwa or tofu.
Add sweet potato.
Then add singkamas, and cover.
Let boil for five minutes.
Add peanuts, salt sugar, toyo and vetsin. Transfer to another container and drain.
Wrap on lumpia wrappers and fry in deep fat oil.

Note: If you don’t use vetsin (msg) like me,you may instead use sugar (that would be muscovado/raw sugar on my part)

C. Singkamas Salad with grilled prawns (http://www.appetite.ph/recipe/mango-and-singkamas-salad-with-grilled-prawns)

INGREDIENTS

2 pcs Indian mangoes , peeled and julienned
1 pc Ripe yellow mangoes , cubed
1 pc Cucumber , peeled
1 pc Singkamas , peeled and julienned
200g watercress or arugula
1 tbsp dessicated coconut , pan-roasted

Ingredients For The Prawns:
8-10 pcs Medium tiger prawns , peeled
1 tsp iodized salt
1/4 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp black pepper
a pinch of cayenne pepper

Ingredients For The Salad Dressing:
2 tbsps Patis
2 tbsps Calamansi Juice
2 tbsps Honey
2 tbsps Olive oil

STEPS

In a large mixing bowl, combine all the cut vegetables. Cover with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator.

In a smaller bowl, combine all ingredients for the salad dressing. Cover and chill in the refrigerator. do not dress the salad until just before serving.

Season peeled prawns with salt, paprika, black pepper and cayenne pepper. Grill or pan-grill until cooked.

To assemble, pour dressing over the mango-singkamas mixture and toss gently. mix with some watercress or arugula. Top with grilled prawns and sprinkle some roasted dessicated coconut just before serving.

Posted by: cris | December 7, 2012

Singkamas (Jicama) Part 1

Singkamas (Tagalog), Jicama (“HIC-a-ma.”), Yam Bean, Potato Bean, Bang kuan (chinese), Bengkuang (Indonesia), Ubi sengkuang (Malay)

Aside from being a low calorie food, Singkamas is a good source of Vitamin C, fiber, and has small amounts of copper, magnesium, and Vit E. It is a good source of calcium and iron (even the young pods). But you have to be careful because seeds also yield a poisonous substance which is toxic to fish when pounded and dropped in water and toxic to dogs. Seeds also yield toxic resin. So to stay safe, just use the seeds for planting and nothing else. This leguminous vine plant grows up to 20 feet (6 meters) in length and when left on the ground, the roots grow from them.

In the Philippines, the roots are eaten raw and young pods are cooked as vegetable. During my school days, it is sold in carts sliced and topped with sauted tiny shrimps (Bagoong alamang). Mature Singkamas is also used as addition to Shanghai Lumpia and spring rolls.

In Mexico, it is cut into strips like carrots, and added to salad, They also marinate it in Mexican Lime and served topped with chili powder. Since mexican lime is not available, try marinating it in calamansi before eating.

According to http://nutritiondata.self.com, a cup of singkamas (120g) provides you with zero fat, zero cholesterol, zero sodium, and total carbohydrates of 11g, Dietary Fiber 6g, Sugars 2g, Protein 1g. It has Vitamin A and Calcium 1%, Vit C 40%, Iron 4%, (based on 2000, calorie diet)

Just an additional info, those with an allergy with peanuts, beware. Since Jicama is a cousin of peanuts, you may also have an allergy with this.

Here are other ways to eat Jicama (Singkamas) I got from the web:

Jicama salad with sweet fish sauce dressing and grilled steak.

Cut it up like french fries, season them with salt and eat it with salsa or humus or guacamole (avocado based sauce) or ranch dressing or lime juice.

Cut jicama, watermelon, cucumber, orange, mango, pineapple,(or any other fruit you want). Then add lime, salt and hot sauce mix it all together and enjoy!

Fresh salad of jicama, mangoes, pomegranates, blueberries with lime juice as dressing.

Sliced and soaked with lime juice, salt and a bit of red pepper, the kind used on corn on the cob.

Tip: when buying Singkamas, choose the small and firm one 150px-Pachyrhizus_erosus_2for best flavor! the bigger ones are not very sweet. When the skin is already brown, its not as sweet as it used to.

sources:
http://stuartxchange.com/Sinkamas.html
http://www.botgard.ucla.edu/html/botanytextbooks/economicbotany/Pachyrhizus/index.html
http://www.wisegeek.org/what-is-jicama.htm
http://www.livestrong.com/article/488604-what-are-the-health-benefits-of-jicama/
photo: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pachyrhizus_erosus

Posted by: cris | December 6, 2012

Bahay Kubo

I intend to start my return to blogging with something reminiscent of the past.
We used to sing this folk song, entitled “Bahay Kubo” when we were in school. I sang this to my kids when
they were little and still sing it to my youngest son (who has special needs and 15 years old now), from time to time.
And the song goes like . . . .

Bahay, Kubo, (A small native house)

Kahit Munti (Even if it is small/tiny)

Ang Halaman Doon, Ay Sari sari ( There are plenty of plants)

Singkamas, at Talong (Jicama and Eggplant)

Sigarilyas at Mani (Wing Bean and Peanut)

Sitaw, Bataw, Patani (String Beans, Hyacint Bean, Lima Bean

Kundol, Patola (White Gourd Melon, Sponge Gourd)

Upo’t Kalabasa (Bottle Gourd/White Pumpkin)

At saka Meron Pa, (And there’s more)

Labanos, Mustasa (Radish, Mustard)

Sibuyas, Kamatis, (Onion, Tomato)

Bawang at Luya (Garlic and Ginger)

Sa Paligid ligid ay puno ng Linga (And everywhere you see plenty of Sesame plant)

I’ve eaten and planted most of these plants in my lifetime except for Sesame. I’ve never seen a single plant of Sesame ever. Nevertheless, since it is the last item, I still have plenty of time to research.

And this will be the direction of my blog now, I’ll tackle each of the Bahay Kubo vegetable based on their appearance in the song, but will still interact with all of those who wanted to ask questions about my previous posts.

Hopefully, I’ll be able to achieve this goal in spite of my limited abilities. I also welcome additional information from
those who happen to pass by my corner. Thank you.

Posted by: cris | November 24, 2012

On my return

It’s been more than two years since my last personal post. Sorry folks. I’ll start my comeback with pictures from the farm.

We built a bigger bahay kubo in 2010

We had yellow corn in 2010

Our dwarf coconuts has increased its fruits by may 2011

which increased as the days passed

We planted more dwarf coconuts

By 2012, we started to receive orders for dwarf coconut planting materials because fruit production has increased

While the old coconuts continued to provide fruits for copra processing

As of Nov 2012, the price of copra is very low around P14/kilo. Hopefully the buying rate will increase soon.

sales from dwarf coconut seednuts helped us in maintaining the farm.

Local orders are basically grown seednuts

But for outside Cebu orders, we ship just seednuts to prevent damage during shipment.

Posted by: cris | May 13, 2012

Hello, again.

I’m sorry for replying late to your comments. I’ve been busy. However, I am back. Will start posting soon. Thanks

Posted by: cris | August 21, 2011

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe Week XXI, Year A 21 August 2011 Isaiah 22:15,19-23 // Romans 11:33-36 // Matthew 16:13-20 Last week in our Gospel, a Canaanite woman surprised Jesus Christ with her incredible faith when she engaged the Lord in a conversation for the healing of her daughter possessed by a demon. Today I invite you to let God surprise you with His immense love and mercy for all of us in the same manner that Jesus surprised Peter in today’s Gospel. From the foreign territory of Tyre and Sidon, Jesus returned to Israel today with His disciples via the region of Caesarea Philippi where He asked them “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that Iam?” Simon Peter said in reply, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly father. And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Mt.16:13-19) As I prayed over today’s Gospel this past week, I strongly felt the element of surprise from God as I realized that this scene is not merely about the primacy of Peter as first Pope and head of the Church that we usually preach about. It is also about our “primacy” in the heart of God despite our many sins and failures. We are Simon Peter, a “rock” foundation entrusted with so much blessings and responsibilities, including the keys to the “kingdom of heaven” when we are able to truthfully answer Jesus’ question because to know the Lord is to enter into a personal relationship with Him. Anyone with a very sinful past like St. Paul in our second reading would feel so surprised too to be loved and trusted by God: “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How inscrutable are his judgments and how unsearchable his ways! For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” (Rom.11:33,36) Since his conversion to Christianity, St. Paul had been surprised daily by the many great things God had done to him, convincing him of a love that is deeply personal and not just generic. When we allow God to surprise us with His kindness and goodness, things change for the best for us no matter how bad our situation is. Let’s see, and hope you would be surprised, some of the surprising revelations by Jesus when He praised Peter for his remarkable answer that day in Caesarea Philippi: First, God is in us because He speaks through us. He reveals Himself right in our hearts because He dwells there as Jesus said “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.” Here we are also reminded of Gabriel’s greeting to Mother Mary at the Annunciation of the birth of Christ: “Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.” (Lk.1:28) Jesus indeed is the Emmanuel, the “God-is-with-us”. Don’t look down on yourself; always see yourself the way God sees you, a beloved child of His, His indwelling! Every one of us is blessed in spite of our sins and shortcomings. Second, God believes in us, making us a “rock” solid foundation upon which to build a community, be it a family, a parish, or a corporation. We are all “Simon Peter” in a sense because we can build and lead communities that would journey with Jesus with the Cross into eternal life. A lot often, we always feel so bad at how we do things that we could not trust our own abilities, our very selves; yet, God finds us to be trustworthy of nurturing a community, of relationships, or any undertaking that would eventually lead people out of misery and sin, pains and sufferings. And to top it all, as a surprise to the surprising rock foundation He had made of us, God entrusts us with “authority” in the belief that we could really do our jobs and calling in life! These are the keys to the kingdom of heaven that Jesus gives us every day as we go on with our being rock foundation. Have you realized what a great honor for you to be trusted by God as a driver, a doctor, a nurse, a businessman, a husband, a housewife/homemaker, maybe a priest or church worker who in one way or the other does the work of God, bringing joy and comfort to many people? Every authority is always a mandate from God, a sharing in His task of helping the needy as shown in our first reading: Eliakim was chosen to replace Shebna as King of Israel on whose shoulder would rest “the key of the house of David.”(Is.22:22) Shebna had fallen from disgrace due to his evil ways and the unknown Eliakim was catapulted to the throne by God’s grace. He too must have been surprised at why was he chosen by God! But that’s the way it is in this life: God is full of surprises, surprises that delight us, that give us a “kick” to do more after the initial fright because it is in our weaknesses that God empowers us. It is in our poverty where God’s riches become truly enriching. Toward the end of their discussions that day in Caesarea Philippi, Jesus “strictly ordered his disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.” It was quite a disturbing surprise why Matthew had to report it when all the secrecy about Jesus being the Christ had been revealed when he wrote his gospel account. This discretion applies even today because to be able to truthfully answer Jesus’ question of “who do you say that I am?” requires more of our feelings and experiences rather than of our thinking and explanations. That is the biggest surprise of God: we have to experience Jesus first in a very personal way to be surprised by His love and friendship. This is the purpose of the World Youth Day started by Blessed Pope John Paul more than 30 years ago. Today our world is marked with so much sophistication and certainties in science and technology that people try to apply them even into their lives. Nobody wants to be surprised anymore and spirituality often comes under severe tests and even mistrust; if not, anything of the soul is brought down to more realistic and understandable level like the “arts”. Their dictum is “only matter matters”. The sense of wonder, the sense of awe, the sense of surprise is said to be the spark of genius always because it is also the very beginning of the experience of God. No wonder, the most simple like children and the most creative like artists (in the truest sense) are the ones who surprise us most because they always allow themselves to be surprised by the world around them. And it is no wonder too that they are the most to touch our inner selves with their antics and remarks, paintings or poems because their sense of surprise and wonder keep them in touch with God, with their true selves, and with life itself. When Jesus asked His disciples that day on what do people said about Him, they readily answered Him. But when He asked them the more personal “who do you say that I am?”, it was Peter who initially allowed himself to be surprised by God with his remarkable answer. Later, the disciples and those who followed after them found and experienced the right answer to the Lord’s query and must have been so surprised now that they are with Him in the kingdom of heaven. Lord Jesus Christ, give us the grace of being empty and be surprised always by presence. Amen. Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II Parish of St. John the Evangelist Bagbaguin, Sta. Maria, Bulacan 3022 Philippines

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe
Week XXI, Year A 21 August 2011
Isaiah 22:15,19-23 // Romans 11:33-36 // Matthew 16:13-20

Last week in our Gospel, a Canaanite woman surprised Jesus Christ with her incredible faith when she engaged the Lord in a conversation for the healing of her daughter possessed by a demon. Today I invite you to let God surprise you with His immense love and mercy for all of us in the same manner that Jesus surprised Peter in today’s Gospel.

From the foreign territory of Tyre and Sidon, Jesus returned to Israel today with His disciples via the region of Caesarea Philippi where He asked them “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that Iam?” Simon Peter said in reply, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly father. And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Mt.16:13-19)

As I prayed over today’s Gospel this past week, I strongly felt the element of surprise from God as I realized that this scene is not merely about the primacy of Peter as first Pope and head of the Church that we usually preach about. It is also about our “primacy” in the heart of God despite our many sins and failures.

We are Simon Peter, a “rock” foundation entrusted with so much blessings and responsibilities, including the keys to the “kingdom of heaven” when we are able to truthfully answer Jesus’ question because to know the Lord is to enter into a personal relationship with Him. Anyone with a very sinful past like St. Paul in our second reading would feel so surprised too to be loved and trusted by God: “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How inscrutable are his judgments and how unsearchable his ways! For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” (Rom.11:33,36)

Since his conversion to Christianity, St. Paul had been surprised daily by the many great things God had done to him, convincing him of a love that is deeply personal and not just generic. When we allow God to surprise us with His kindness and goodness, things change for the best for us no matter how bad our situation is.

Let’s see, and hope you would be surprised, some of the surprising revelations by Jesus when He praised Peter for his remarkable answer that day in Caesarea Philippi:

First, God is in us because He speaks through us. He reveals Himself right in our hearts because He dwells there as Jesus said “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.” Here we are also reminded of Gabriel’s greeting to Mother Mary at the Annunciation of the birth of Christ: “Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.” (Lk.1:28) Jesus indeed is the Emmanuel, the “God-is-with-us”. Don’t look down on yourself; always see yourself the way God sees you, a beloved child of His, His indwelling! Every one of us is blessed in spite of our sins and shortcomings.

Second, God believes in us, making us a “rock” solid foundation upon which to build a community, be it a family, a parish, or a corporation. We are all “Simon Peter” in a sense because we can build and lead communities that would journey with Jesus with the Cross into eternal life. A lot often, we always feel so bad at how we do things that we could not trust our own abilities, our very selves; yet, God finds us to be trustworthy of nurturing a community, of relationships, or any undertaking that would eventually lead people out of misery and sin, pains and sufferings.

And to top it all, as a surprise to the surprising rock foundation He had made of us, God entrusts us with “authority” in the belief that we could really do our jobs and calling in life! These are the keys to the kingdom of heaven that Jesus gives us every day as we go on with our being rock foundation. Have you realized what a great honor for you to be trusted by God as a driver, a doctor, a nurse, a businessman, a husband, a housewife/homemaker, maybe a priest or church worker who in one way or the other does the work of God, bringing joy and comfort to many people?

Every authority is always a mandate from God, a sharing in His task of helping the needy as shown in our first reading: Eliakim was chosen to replace Shebna as King of Israel on whose shoulder would rest “the key of the house of David.”(Is.22:22) Shebna had fallen from disgrace due to his evil ways and the unknown Eliakim was catapulted to the throne by God’s grace. He too must have been surprised at why was he chosen by God!

But that’s the way it is in this life: God is full of surprises, surprises that delight us, that give us a “kick” to do more after the initial fright because it is in our weaknesses that God empowers us. It is in our poverty where God’s riches become truly enriching.

Toward the end of their discussions that day in Caesarea Philippi, Jesus “strictly ordered his disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.” It was quite a disturbing surprise why Matthew had to report it when all the secrecy about Jesus being the Christ had been revealed when he wrote his gospel account. This discretion applies even today because to be able to truthfully answer Jesus’ question of “who do you say that I am?” requires more of our feelings and experiences rather than of our thinking and explanations. That is the biggest surprise of God: we have to experience Jesus first in a very personal way to be surprised by His love and friendship. This is the purpose of the World Youth Day started by Blessed Pope John Paul more than 30 years ago.

Today our world is marked with so much sophistication and certainties in science and technology that people try to apply them even into their lives. Nobody wants to be surprised anymore and spirituality often comes under severe tests and even mistrust; if not, anything of the soul is brought down to more realistic and understandable level like the “arts”. Their dictum is “only matter matters”.

The sense of wonder, the sense of awe, the sense of surprise is said to be the spark of genius always because it is also the very beginning of the experience of God. No wonder, the most simple like children and the most creative like artists (in the truest sense) are the ones who surprise us most because they always allow themselves to be surprised by the world around them. And it is no wonder too that they are the most to touch our inner selves with their antics and remarks, paintings or poems because their sense of surprise and wonder keep them in touch with God, with their true selves, and with life itself.

When Jesus asked His disciples that day on what do people said about Him, they readily answered Him. But when He asked them the more personal “who do you say that I am?”, it was Peter who initially allowed himself to be surprised by God with his remarkable answer. Later, the disciples and those who followed after them found and experienced the right answer to the Lord’s query and must have been so surprised now that they are with Him in the kingdom of heaven.

Lord Jesus Christ, give us the grace of being empty and be surprised always by presence. Amen.

Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Parish of St. John the Evangelist
Bagbaguin, Sta. Maria, Bulacan 3022
Philippines

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe
Week XX, Year A 14 August 2011
Isaiah 56:1,6-7 // Romans 11:13-15,29-32 // Matthew 15:21-28

Filipinos are the world’s leading “texters” that our SMS messages could rightfully be considered as mirrors of who we are: fun-loving, humorous, romantics and on the negative side, very confused. Examine this text sent to me a few weeks ago by my cousin Portia:

“Ang Pinoy hindi tumatama ang sagot kahit maayos ang tanong…
Q: Kumain ka na ba? A: Busog pa ako.
Q: Saan kayo galling? A: Lumabas lang kami.
Q: Paano mo ginawa yan? A: Madali lang.
Q: Bakit wala ka kahapon? A: Absent ako.
Q: Anong oras na? A: Maaga pa.
Q: Saan ka na ba? A: Malapit na ako. Wait lang.
And my favorite… Q: Saan tayo kakain? A: Kayo?”

A few years ago, Francis Kong gave a talk to Catholic school teachers in our Diocese where he noted that the leading text message of Filipinos at 38 million daily is “K” or “Ok” while the next most popular text we send at 36 million a day is “Wer na U” or “San ka na?”. This means, according to Francis Kong, that 38-M Filipinos are feeling “OK” everyday while 36-M of them do not know where they are!

When I was vacationing in North America eight years ago, my relatives kept on reminding me of talking straight, of expressing in clear terms my ideas and desires especially when dealing with the Americans and Canadians. They would always tell me that our Filipino style of being shy, of beating around the bush do not simply work there. A lot often, we Filipinos prefer to take the circuitous route rather than hit the matter head on, straight; and, it seems that this is how we also express our faith with our so many rituals and prayers that sometimes we forget about God Himself.

Today, Jesus Christ is inviting us to be like the Canaanite woman who talked straight to Him by engaging Him into a conversation. Jesus and His disciples were in a foreign territory, Tyre and Sidon in modern day Lebanon when a Canaanite woman pleaded Him to heal her daughter possessed by a demon. Matthew reported that Jesus “did not say a word in answer to her” that the disciples begged Him to grant her wish so that she would stop pestering them.

He said in reply, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But the woman came and did him homage, saying, “Lord, please help me.” He said in reply, “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.” Then Jesus said to her in reply, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And the woman’s daughter was healed from that hour. (Mt.15:24-28)

For the past three Sundays, Matthew have shown us the importance of having faith in Jesus Christ who journeys with us everyday whether in the wilderness where there is little food, in the high seas amidst the storms, and now in a foreign land where we are totally a stranger just like Him! The other Sunday, I have shared with you the need to shed off our scarcity mentality to bask into the abundant blessings of God; last week, Jesus asked us to “cast out our fears and take courage” as He walks us through the many storms of life. Today, Jesus is inviting us all to claim Him as ours, that we assert our being His beloved brothers and sisters!

St. Paul said it so beautifully in his Letter to the Romans: “For the gifts and the call of God are permanent and irrevocable.” (11:29) Let us always be assured of that: God wants only the best for us and He would not take it away from us. So often, the problem is with us why fulfillment and even success becomes elusive: because we don’t have Him, our faith wavered as we opted to trust more on our selves and others than Him. We need to assert our faith in Jesus Christ especially when things are getting tougher for us, when we are in foreign territories, literally and figuratively speaking. Just like the Canaanite woman, whose race is another enemy of the Jews at that time, she was getting so lost with her daughter’s sickness but perfectly on track with Jesus, in believing in Him as the only One who could help her by recognizing Him as “Lord, Son of David!” And when she heard Jesus explaining to His disciples His mission, she came and did Him homage, addressing Him anew as “Lord.”

This is where the engaging conversation, and faith, happened like a hand-to-hand combat or grappling in judo: He said in reply, “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.”

Remember the Wedding at Cana where a similar conversation happened between Jesus and Mary His mother who told Him that there was no more wine? And Jesus said to her, “Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come.” (Jn.2:4)

Jesus was not being rude to the Canaanite woman nor to His Mother but was simply emphasizing His mission from the Father which is to bring salvation first to Israel and then to everyone by dying on the Cross. The Canaanite woman’s response was like that of Mary who told the servers to do whatever Jesus tells them: an assertion of faith in Jesus that He alone could make things happen.

That is what I call “engaging” that connotes “intimacy” as we say in Pilipino, “matalik na ugnayan”.

Lately, I have felt in my prayers that when we come to Jesus asking Him for healing or anything, He does not really test us whether we would persevere in our prayers or not but is simply asking us to enter into Him in an intimate relationship, to be engaged with Him always because He has been so involved with us even before we experienced scarcity, fear, and alienation. From the very start as the Isaiah prophesied in the first reading, God had always regarded us all as His own children, that “my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.” (Is.56:7)

For the past three weeks, Jesus had shown us why we must have faith in Him because He’s the only one who would save us whether in the wilderness or the high seas or foreign territory…today, let us claim Him in what we proclaim! Amen!

A blessed week ahead of everyone!

Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
St. John the Evangelist Parish
Bagbaguin, Sta. Maria, Bulacan 3022
Philippines

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe
Week XIX, Year A, 07 August 2011
1Kings 19:9,11-13 /// Romans 9:1-5 ///Matthew 14:22-33

“Fear is the path to the dark side.
Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering.”

That was Master Jedi, Yoda, speaking to the child Anakin in the first prequel of the “Star Wars” trilogy “Phantom Menace”. And how true is Master Yoda that we suffer so much despite the aplenty of things around us simply because of our many fears!

Perhaps, the scarcity mentality we discussed last week is largely due to our many fears that sometimes cripple us and lead us to a life of darkness and suffering. Almost every day, we fear of so many things that prevent us from experiencing love and joy, mercy and forgiveness, friends and family, and most especially God. We fear almost everything like fear of being late and being reprimanded by our boss or teachers, fear of being robbed or losing our possessions and wealth, fear of losing a loved one, fear of being cheated or shortchanged or being duped, fear of dying, fear of the end of the world…you name it, and we have so many fears aside from the thousands of other phobias we are afflicted with.

Fear can be beneficial because it can harness the great potentials we have within; it pushes us to our limits and enables us to achieve many things that make us better persons once we overcome our fears. It is normal to have fears; the person who faces and tackles his fears is the brave one, the courageous one. On the other hand, the person who has no fear is a stupid one.

Today, Jesus Christ is asking us to boldly step out of our fears because He Himself had conquered every fear in the world: “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.” (Mt.14:27)

The word courage is from the Latin “cor” meaning “heart”; to take courage as Jesus had told His disciples while walking on water means to take it from our hearts, from within because that is where Jesus dwells in each one of us. That invitation of Jesus for us to “take courage and be not afraid” is a call for us all to cast away our fears because Jesus is with us in facing them. Allow yourself to be embraced by Jesus; listen to His voice from within you and be reassured of His love and presence, of His might and goodness.

One great temptation in our spiritual life is that we always fix God in a particular place or locality that we often believe like the disciples that Jesus must be up there in the mountain or in heaven merely watching over us. When Jesus walked on the water, the disciples could not believe it was Him because they knew they have left Him on the shore. We are like them, thinking Jesus is just there in the Blessed Sacrament or worst, He is the statue we have touched! We have entirely forgotten that Jesus is the “Emmanuel” prophesied by Isaiah, or “God-is-with-us”!

Last Sunday after our evening Mass, a 24 year-old man asked me if we could have a short conversation which dragged on for almost two hours. It was not even a conversation because I merely listened to the young man’s story who turned out to be afflicted with a tumor in his brain. After praying over him and his family, as I retired to my room and read today’s Gospel, I asked whether God could also be coming in disguises like our own fears and afflictions? Maybe….. because, sometimes God comes to us in the most unexpected circumstances, even where and when we least expected Him. I have learned that in this life that, ultimately, it is always and only God who has the final say on everything. And He could be in our fears like what Prophet Elijah experienced in the first reading.

Elijah was fleeing from the soldiers of the evil Queen Jezebel out to kill him. God told him to hide in Mount Horeb and to wait at the mouth of a cave for His coming. So many great things have happened like earthquake and fire but God was nowhere until, “After the fire, there was a tiny whispering sound. When he heard this, Elijah hid his face in his cloak and went and stood at the entrance of the cave.” (1Kgs.19:12-13)

Let us not look for God in great and bombastic instances in our lives; He is often in the simplest ones just like our fears and darkness or storms that come into our lives. Yes, this is easier said than done but that’s the way it is: fears are like gifts which, sooner or later, we’ll have to open them and accept whatever may be inside for us. And the greatest surprise of it could be Jesus Christ Himself coming out from that gift!

That was the experience of St. Paul who was stricken with grief over his fellow Jews who refused to accept Jesus as the Christ. In a sense, St. Paul was also stricken with fears for his fellow Jews but he did not allow these to overcome him; instead, he faced them head on in the name of Jesus Christ that he ended up extolling the Jews as our spiritual brothers and sisters because it was to them that God first revealed Himself.

Today, Jesus may be revealing Himself to us in the darkness and storms of our lives, in the many fears that enslave and immobilize us. Let us step out in faith, no matter how small this may just like with St. Peter, so that we could experience the abundant life God has for us. Last week we have realized that from our littleness come the many leftovers when offered to God; today, Jesus asks us to step out from the darkness of fears to experience true freedom from suffering and freedom for life and fulfillment!

A courageous week ahead of everyone!

Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
St. John the Evangelist Parish
Bagbaguin, Sta. Maria, Bulacan

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