Bathrooms make and break my life. There, my anaconda nightmares come to life. I always think that it curls up at the ceiling of our bathroom, ready to attack me every time I pour out the bucket of water to myself.
Meanwhile, it is also where I realize a lot of things. Whenever I sit on the toilet, look myself in the mirror, wash my face, and brush my teeth, sudden realizations flash before my eyes. I suddenly think of my wedding hashtag, the next article to write, the name of my future children, the very statement that made me laugh two months ago. Name it and the glorious bathroom will reveal it unto me.
On one occurrence in the bathroom, I didn’t battle with the anaconda in my head. Instead, I got to interview myself on why I travel. (I’m weird like that. Lol)
“Why do you travel?” I asked myself as I scrubbed my arms.
“To learn and to grow. I traveled to learn and to grow two years ago,” I said.
“So what’s your greatest learning experience?”
“I was in Bacolod then when I learned to return to God. That’s it. That’s my greatest learning experience.”
“So why do you travel now?”
“Why do I travel now? To learn and to grow still.”
“And… To make Him known. Yes, to make Him known!” I added in delight.
It was a eureka moment for me that made me excited to travel again. For the past few months, I won’t deny that I grew weary of traveling alone even though it has been blessing me with wonderful learning experiences. I wanted to have companions now when I’m out there. I felt like I was so done with going solo. But then I was reminded of why I do what I do: to learn and to grow whether I’m alone or not. The fire for these is still and will always be in me, but I realized that there is more to these.
It’s not about myself now. It’s not about what I can get, but what I can give. It is about God and the people around me. I have to pass on the greatest learning experience I’ve gained. The desire to make Him known is not just a fire but an eternal flame that I must share to the ends of the earth. It’s a mission that summed up learning and growing.
“If someone doesn’t see your light, don’t worry. Like moths, good people are attracted to flame and to light, and they will come.”
First assignment in Bohol
I was set to go on a six-day work trip to Cebu and Bohol a week before this realization came to me. It was timely because apart from going back to these places, I was looking forward to how He will reveal Himself to me again and how I will make Him known to the people around me.
On my first of four days in Bohol, I got to free dive in Dumaluan Beach. It was all fun until my camera, phone, money, power bank, devotional booklet, etc. got soaking wet. It was frustrating, but I tried my best to calm down throughout the mishap because I know God will provide.
When I got back in the hostel I’m staying in, I met my Spanish roommate (SR) who also happened to be traveling alone in Bohol. We instantly became buddies during our stay there and he wholeheartedly allowed to take photos for my work upon hearing my misfortune. Praise God!
As days went on, I found out that SR is a nonbeliever.
“So, Mikee, are you a Christian?” he asked out of the blue while we were walking on Dumaluan Beach.
“Yes, and you?”
“I’m an atheist. I know Jesus but I don’t believe in His powers.”
In that moment, I knew that God was giving His first assignment to me. I found it challenging because I didn’t want to make SR feel uncomfortable by discussing our respective beliefs and because he is not well-versed in English. But He is good all the time. He never fails. The hidden glories in His creations helped me to make Him known.
“Oh, ironic how you came from Spain and you don’t believe in Him,” I said. “Do you know what His powers are? Look at you. You are the example of His power. He gave you to me just when I broke my camera and my phone,” I answered. With nothing left to say, he nodded and smiled.
On our second day, we were riding a motorcycle from Alona to Tagbilaran when he brought the topic back to religion. “Do all Filipinos believe in God?” he asked. I was left in awe, thinking how and where does his curiosity come from. Little did I know, he saw the Bible verse Psalm 145:9 that says, “The Lord is good to all,” painted at the back part of the tricycle in front of us. “Most of us, yes,” I answered, pointing out to the verse. “Oh, wow, see!”
I was grateful how I was meant to be with a nonbeliever on an island where His presence can be richly felt. Every time we hit the road, God makes sure to spark SR’s curiosity through the tricycles around us. Every Bible verse he saw on them was followed by a question, which made my assignment easier than I thought. There came Psalm 46:1 that says, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” Matthew 1:23 that says, “God is with us.” Amos 3:3 that says, “Do two walk together, unless they have agreed to meet?” and a bus with a back sign that says, “In God we trust.” Everything was heaven-sent.
“Perhaps you are not where you are by accident. You are there by assignment.” Esther 4:14
On my third and last night in Bohol, I took a time off with SR to grab a dinner with the two Dutchmen that I also met in the hostel. Over garlic shrimp pasta and eggplant kilawin, I found out that the both of them prefer sex before marriage, don’t see the value in marriage at all, and are also non-believers. “Here goes my second assignment,” I thought to myself.
I shared how I turned to be a devout Christian, that I don’t think I could marry someone who doesn’t believe in my God and my renewed stand on marriage before sex. “Why do you believe so [marriage before sex]?” Dutchman 1 (D1) asked. “Because God designed it that way. Sex is sacred. It is a gift that only husband and wife can get,” I answered. D1 argued that sex is one of the most important things in a relationship and that he would like to know how good his partner is in bed before anything else. He added that if his partner is not good, then that would be a big problem for them.
Later on, D1 and Dutchman 2 (D2) shed light on their stand on religion. D1 said that religion divides people, while D2 prefers to practice a little bit of everything in each religion. D2 specifically likes the ways of Buddhists. “Treat others the way you want to be treated. That’s my religion,” he ended.
Our debate went from sex, marriage, and religion to one’s freedom, take on compromise, and vices. I didn’t expect our night to be that serious and fruitful. It was appalling and amazing at the same time to know other people’s take on sensitive topics like these. “I like this [conversation]. It’s very interesting. It’s always beautiful to see yourself in other people’s eyes,” D1 said. I found it humbling even that though our differences in values got intensely magnified, we still found the heart to respect and learn from each other.
Before we called it a day, I handed a little something to D1.
“What’s this?” he asked as he inspected every detail of it.
“Uhm, a cross. Keep it and let it guide you,” I said.
“I knew this day won’t end without you putting your beliefs on me,” he smiled.
Message in mess
A day before I leave for Cebu on Monday, my sister in faith dropped me a line, asking if we could be prayer partners for a prayer fasting on Thursday.
“Hi Mikee. Can I invite you to be my prayer partner on Thursday? Haha. Mag-fasting ako / tayo, night of worship din yon. Hehe. Kahit nasa Cebu [Bohol] ka non, you can do fasting. Read ka about fasting,” she said.
“Sige girl, as in mag-pray lang tayo together, ganon?” I asked.
“Pwede tayo mag-exchange ng list of prayers. Not necessary marami or konti. We’ll just ask God to reveal to us yung will niya regarding our heart’s desires.”
“Sige. Paalala mo girl ha, nasa isla kasi ako non. Baka makalimutan ko.”
“When we are physically weak kasi, our spirit is vulnerable kaya mataas ang tendency that He will reveal to us and maririnig natin siya. We’re like consecrating ourselves in this earth,” she clarified. “Mag-fast ka ng most na nakaka-disturb sayo para makapag-focus ka.”
“Phone lang naman ang ultimate distraction ko,” I ended with a laugh.
I immediately sent her a list of 12 prayer requests that focus on my intention to make Him known while I’m away.
Truly, God is faithful. He allowed the destruction of my phone, among others, to keep me from being distracted. And that happened right on my first day in Bohol, where He knew that I’d be surrounded by nonbelievers. How great is our God???
I was phoneless for almost a week, and I can’t thank Him enough for it. My hands were free, my eyes were focused on the things and people around me, and my ears could hear His instructions. If not for it, I wouldn’t be able to focus and cross paths with SR and the two Dutchmen who taught me a lot of lessons.
On my fifth day, SR and I went back to Cebu for a night to catch my flight to Manila and his flight to Palawan the morning after. We had a rough time parting ways because of all the fun and misadventures we had for five days. “The best part [of traveling] is meeting people like you,” he said.
Before I boarded, I handed him my well-kept scented rosary. “Ahhh, to believe!” he exclaimed with a huge smile as he took the rosary. “My mother will be happy. She will say that I have a very good friend in the Philippines.”
“Loco loco. Keep that.”
“Yes, of course. I want, I want [to believe].”
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:8
World in my (and His) words,