Stumbling Blocks To Stepping Stones

Life is about choices. We’re put in situations and given things but it’s up to us to choose what we do with it. I’ve said this before during the several times I’ve been asked to do motivational talks. Life is like poker. It’s not always the best hand that wins. It’s who plays their cards right that often end up winning.

I was born with a rare genetic disease that has robbed me of a lot of physical abilities. I was fortunate enough to have been brought up with a positive disposition. I could use my sickness as a stumbling block or a stepping-stone to something great.

Some people tend to dwell on the negative things of a situation. In my case some people in my situation would tend to think about not being able to walk, or do things on their own. I admit I think about those things. I don’t dwell on them though. So I can’t walk or do most things on my own. Tough. No matter how much I cry over it though it won’t change anything.

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Blown Away

Blown Away by Carrie Underwood
Carrie's fourth album, Blown Away

I’ve liked Carrie Underwood ever since she was a young small town girl who auditioned from American Idol. I remember thinking and even hearing my dad say when she auditioned that she would most likely win American Idol.

There’s something about her that people can easily relate to. Not to mention she’s a looker. But the thing I like most about her is in the sea of auto-tuned celebrities that people try to pass for singers, she is definitely a true singer.

Listening and watching her live performances over the inter-webs you can see and hear that she is as good live as she is on her records. It’s like listening to the record itself.

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Choose To Live

In life we always have a choice. For Avery Canahuati and her family the choice was simple, they chose to live.

Avery was diagnosed with an extreme form of SMA of Spinal Muscular Atrophy. It’s a rare genetic disease that robs the person of his abilities. From walking, moving all the way to breathing. In Avery’s case she was not expected to live past 18 months.

It’s hard for any parent to accept that their child will die so young. A parent should never have to bury their child. Yet given this dire situation, Mike and Laura Canahuati, Avery’s parents decided that they would choose to live rather than focus on Avery’s death. “Mike always told me that we’ve got all the time in the world to cry. We can cry, you know when she’s no longer here” Laura was quoted as saying during an interview by CNN.

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It’s What You Do Everyday That Matters

I love that you get to see such random things in Facebook. Today a friend of mine posted this quote.

bq. “Just because you go to church on Sunday… Does not mean you can act like an asshole the rest of the week.”

That made me laugh. It’s funny. It’s also true for some people. I’ve seen and heard about a lot of people who go to church religiously but the moment they step out they become monsters. There are also people who go to church religiously yet they violate the commandments of God like they’re mere suggestions.

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It Starts From You

I saw this image on Facebook. It’s a picture of an old lady in a wheelchair who is playing with her shadow. She sees her shadow standing up and striking a pose. The image has a caption that says:

“How others see you is not important. How you see yourself means everything.”

I absolutely love the image and caption. I can honestly relate to it. Let me tell you why.

One of the things I value most was the way my parents brought me up. Early on when they found out I was going to have a severe disability; they made a decision not to treat me differently. They would make considerations, sure but they would not see me as someone who less worthy or capable as a normal person.

I never once heard my parents talk about me in a negative way. They always encouraged me to do the things I wanted to do. They never pushed though. They allowed me to find out things on my own and see what I can or can’t do.

They encouraged me to finish school even if I wasn’t motivated to do so because I just wanted to enjoy my time here on earth. I had been told I might not live past the age of thirty so I figured why waste it on doing something I didn’t like.

Turns out, I lived past thirty. I also benefitted greatly from the education I got.

Growing up I also surrounded myself with people who would encourage me. I hated people who would tell me I couldn’t do things. One of the sure fire ways of getting me to do something is telling me I couldn’t do it. Maybe I couldn’t but I would sure try.

All of these led to how I see myself today. I don’t look at myself as someone who can’t amount to anything because of the abilities I lack. Actually, most of the times I forget I am differently abled until I need someone’s help to do something. But even in that instance I don’t see myself less.

I see myself as a person who needs to do things differently but still every bit as worthy as the next person. I see myself as a productive member of society. I see myself as a peer to most people.

How the world sees us is dependent on how we see ourselves. If we believe in ourselves, if we think we are capable then the world will see us as such. Each person has a distinct beauty inside of him/her that is unique. Each one of us is special. Sometimes the world fails to see it because we fail to show it to the world.

If you want the world to believe in you, you need to believe in yourself first.

God’s Love

Sometimes it’s amazing how things happen. I had just sat down in front of my computer after taking a shower. I was preparing to do work stuff. I was also thinking about a sharing that I’m supposed to do tom for the Christian Life Program of the Singles For Christ chapter I belong to.

I often get invited to give talks about God’s love. It’s a topic I’m familiar with and I can do impromptu. I know it because I’ve experienced and continue to experience it everyday.

I was just thinking about my talk tom when I decided to open this web site that my friend Lizza told me about. It’s called “3 minute retreats”: by Loyola Press. It’s basically a quick way to get your prayer time done each day. You should check it out. I digress. When I open the site, bam! The topic or retreat for the day was about God’s love. How’s that for a sign or coincidence?

I’m sharing the passage that was in the 3-minute retreat.

*Psalm 139: 1-3*

bq. LORD, you have probed me,
you know me:
you know when I sit and stand;
you understand my thoughts from afar.
My travels and my rest you mark;
With all my ways you are familiar.

I’ve learned that throughout my life God has shown his love for me. He has shown it through everyday miracles like just waking up in the morning. He has shown me his love by giving me a wonderful family, great friends and just people I meet along the way who have made a difference in my life.

Have I told you about the time that I got placed in the ICU in New York? It was just supposed to be a checkup with a specialist that turned out to be a 5 day stay in the hospital. I got better thanks to the wonderful doctors that cared for me but the bigger miracle was that we didn’t have to pay for the ICU. The specialist that looked after me found a way to fund the hospital stay. That’s saying a lot since being hospitalized in New York is extremely expensive.

God continues to show his love for me everyday. He might not give me all I ask for otherwise I’d be dating a supermodel and driving around in a Porsche Cayenne but he gives me everything that I need.

He knows me inside and out. I’m starting to trust in his plan for me. He knows what is best for me, when to give it. Sometimes bad things happen in our lives but that’s not to say that it’s not part of a grander scheme.

I’ve been living with this disease for 25 years. I could look at it as something bad or as God punishing me. Instead I saw it for what it is. A situation that has allowed me to grow as a person and allowed me to have such a wonderful opportunity to share with others the things I’ve learned. This includes how God has worked his love throughout my life.

The Weak May Become Strong

I was going through my daily readings for today. I’m quite proud I made it two weeks straight of daily prayer. I share not to brag but only to give encouragement to others and myself.

The commentary for today from talked about St. Mark. I do not know St. Mark’s full story and I’m pretty sure that it is a remarkable one as most of their stories are, instead I was struck by a particular line in the commentary that said.

bq. “that the feeblest among us may through God’s grace become strong”

We live in a world where the common notion is that the strong rule over the weak. There’s a lot of emphasis on men who are muscular and strong, who wield the most power. It’s a world of survivor of the fittest.

Then there are people like me who were not blessed with strength like most. I have long realized that strength does not only come in a physical form. It comes in various ways. Some people are strong emotionally and psychologically. Some are strong spiritually.

Through the course of my life I’ve had moments where I needed to be strong. One of them was when I came to fully realizing what my disease was and what it meant for me. I’ve always drawn strength from the people around parents, my sibling, and friends. It’s helped a lot but one thing that got me through the tough times is my faith in God.

I am not a very religious person but I have strong faith in God. I guess it’s in that faith that I draw strength from each time adversity comes.

I sincerely believe in the saying above that even the weakest among us, can be strong if he or she has tremendous faith in God. I believe that God will give us strength to rise above the tough times for so long as we have faith in him. He will carry us through all our trials.

What If God Said No

I believe God answers all our prayers. It’s just that it’s not always yes. Sometimes he does say yes, sometimes it’s maybe, sometimes it can also be not now and then there’s just the flat out no.

I guess one of the things that scare me the most when I pray is that what if God says no. That’s something I’m not sure I’m ready to accept yet.

Case in point. My frequent prayer to God is to send me someone I can spend the rest of my life with. Ever since I was young, my dream was to get married and have a family of my own. I’m 35 and nowhere near that dream. I’ve often felt sad about it. My friends tell me to pray for it. I’m stubborn and I refused to pray for it regularly. I’d ask God sometimes but I’d ask half-heartedly.

It’s not because I didn’t believe in prayers. It’s because I was scared that God might say no. What if he said, “son, that’s not for you”? What then? Am I ready to give up my dream and follow God’s plan? I honestly can say I don’t know. I won’t pretend and say that I will when I know in my heart I might not ready to give up on it.

I guess that’s why now I like the first part of “The Serenity Prayer” so much. It goes:

bq. God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Now my ardent prayer is not for what I want. I pray to know what God wants for my life. I pray for the wisdom to know if it’s God’s will. I pray for the strength to accept it and be at peace with it.

I’m not saying God doesn’t want the same things I want for myself. I’m saying as of this moment I don’t know. I’m praying to know so I can follow his plan.

I believe God has a great plan for each of us. Some of us just don’t follow it hence our lives don’t go according to how it should. Lucky are those who figure out God’s purpose for them and live it with grace.

I Thirst

Last Good Friday, I got invited to participate in the “Seven Last Words” program that aired on ABS-CBN. I didn’t realize how much people were able to see that.

I was at mass yesterday when after the mass finished a lady approached me to tell me she saw me on T.V. during the program. It was nice to hear the kind words she said.

I’m posting the sharing I made for that program. It was for the fifth word “I thirst”.

Fifth Word: I Thirst

Despite being born with a very rare genetic disease called Pompe Disease, I consider myself blessed.

I come from a middle-class family. I was fortunate to have two wonderful and supportive parents, the best brother a person could ever want and now I also have a wonderful sister-in-law as a new addition to our family.

Throughout my 20 something years of battling this disease, my family has loved, supported and cared for me. I was able to finish school, get a job and be productive. I don’t think I could have asked them for anything more.

From my immediate family all the way to my extended family and friends, I’ve always felt loved and accepted. However as I grew older and got exposed to the world outside my family and friends I learned that the world or at least some parts of it is not as accepting.

I realized that I was different. My disease has caused great disability and that disability made it difficult for some people to accept me as their equal.

From the moment I step out of the door of our home, I venture into a world that does not automatically see me the way my family and friends do. There’s a stigma or a perception that is associated with someone in my situation.

I was taunted and teased as a kid. As I grew up the taunting and teasing lessened. However other things replaced it. Some people would look at me with pity. They think that just because I’m in a wheelchair and can barely move that I am a person who has very little worth. All they see is the disability and not the person inside.

One of the things I feel bad about is that sometimes when I am outside, whether it’s in the mall or just out side the place I live, some people would look at me and instead of talking to me ask the person I am with “uy, ano sakit niya? Kawawa naman”. They automatically assume that I am not able to converse with them or answer their questions in a rational way. But I can. I am probably the best person to ask about my condition. Also I think I am smart enough to answer their questions.

Sometimes society has certain stereotypes about people. People with severe disabilities should be looked down with pity.

I am proof that society shouldn’t.

Despite my challenges and with my family’s support and tremendous faith in God, I’ve grown up to be someone that I can be proud of. I’ve managed to finish school. I graduated from college. I am gainfully employed and contribute to society. I’ve done things that most people haven’t.

It took a lot of hard work but I managed to make something of myself. God showed me through the countless blessings he has bestowed upon me throughout, that he does not see me any differently from his other children. He loves me just the same.

Apart from my physical challenges, I am no different than most guys my age. I feel and want the same things most “normal” people do. I want to be a productive member of society. I want to be a good Christian. I want to love and be loved. I want to have a family someday. I want to make a difference in other people’s lives. I want to grow old and during my final moments in this world, say to myself that I have lived a life worth living.

I know that like other people we have all the things we want in life. I know that and accepted it as such. But like most people all I ask is the opportunity to try and pursue my dreams.

In a way some parts of society right now are like the soldiers who gave Christ sour and cheap wine as he yearned to satisfy his thirst while carrying the cross. Some parts of society treat people such as myself as those soldiers treated Christ, by offering them half-hearted gestures.

I look forward to the day wherein our society doesn’t look at a person such as myself and see his or her disability. Instead society looks at him or her and sees the person and what he or she truly is, a gift from God who deserves the same respect and love like everyone else.

I look forward to the day wherein society treats us like equals and offers us not cheap wine but the same wine as what they would have for themselves. Our lives are as valuable as anyone else. It might not be apparent from the surface but when look past the shortcomings you will see the true value that is in everyone.

Each person has a unique gift that is his alone. No two people are alike. Each one of us carries a beauty that is all our own.

I am not alone. There are countless people such as myself who either suffer from a disease or something else that changed their lives, people who walk this earth a little different from most. We all want to be accepted. We all thirst for love and empathy as you would give others. We ask not to be treated special but to be treated as equitably. We understand we are different in some aspects and need consideration for those things but for the most part, we are like every other person. We will continue to carry our cross, bu we thirst for your love.


I’ve heard and actually one my share of sharing for the local Christian community I belong to, Singles For Christ. Sometimes you hear about people giving testimonies about their lives. Some of it consists of peaks and valleys. Meaning extreme highs and extreme lows.

Sometimes you hear people’s stories of tremendous acts of faith and goodness that really inspire you to do your best. One particular story I like best is from Dylan Wilk. Dylan would eventually become a good friend of mine.

I still remember the first night I met him, many many years ago. It was during a Christian Life Program and both of us were invited to speak. I was seated beside him. Dylan was very unassuming. He exchanged pleasantries but nothing more than that at first. I gave my talk first. It ended up being a good thing because I don’t think I would have mustered enough courage to speak after him.

Dylan talked about his life in the UK. He came from nothing and became a millionaire. He enjoyed the high-life only to realize that he wasn’t happy. He found happiness here in the Philippines when he learned about Gawad Kalinga. He gave up most of his wealth after and donated it to Gawad Kalinga and for a time built-homes for the poor.

Dylan would eventually settle down here in the Philippines. He would marry Anna, one of my friends. They now have a social enterprise here called Human Nature.

His is a story that is matched by very few. Remarkable and Inspiring! I honestly don’t think I could do what he did.

On the other end of the spectrum I would hear stories of extreme lows, people who came from the gutter. There are stories of people who either strived through immense hardships or lived a life of great sin.

Theirs is a tale of pulling themselves out of the gutter and changing their lives for the better. I’ve heard stories of former gang members and criminals who would change their lives and even study to become officers of the law. Remarkable and Inspiring!

These are special kind of people. These are stories that truly deserve to be told and draw inspiration from.

That’s why sometimes I find myself questioning why people would like to hear my story. Sure I suffer through an illness but in the greater scheme of things I never thought of it as something as tremendous as their stories.

However I think that most people can also benefit from hearing stories about ordinary people as well. The above-mentioned inspiring individuals usually live lifes of peaks and valleys. They either do something so tremendous that it’s way up there or come from a valley so deep you would really be amazed how they made it out.

Most people though live lives of ripples. The ups and downs of their lives aren’t as drastic but similar to ripples, a little high and a little low.

Most people need to hear stories that they can relate to as well. For the most part I think that’s what my life is. Apart from the illness most of the issues I go through are ripples compared to others. I feel bad about small things and I get to do things that are good as well but not necessarily life changing.

I think most people need to connect to other people who also go through life in ripples. Maybe they listen to me because I’m just in a different package. I’m slightly different therefore a little interesting but they can connect as well because most of the things I have problems with are ordinary issues like family, work, friends, it’s just in my context and therefore just makes it a little more interesting.

My life is not peaks and valleys. I haven’t done life altering things that books should be written about or awards given to. I also have not come from a life of great despair. For the most part and if you take out the illness my life is pretty much ordinary. That’s ok too. I think people appreciate hearing stories of ordinary people as well and relate to it.