31 Filipinos, 31 Miracles

June 2-8

I wrote this story in 2005. This is the first publication 

Assuming responsibility for your actions is the ultimate test of character. It’s one thing to admit a mistake – and it’s another to reveal to the entire world your innermost failings and weaknesses, warts and all so to speak, in order to testify about the infinite mercy, goodness and love of God. And that is probably the most undisputable proof that the transformation was genuine – that Jesus Christ had truly come to your life – when you cease to care about the world’s opinion as long as you remain in His Everlasting Light. After all, if God is with us, who can be against us? 

            This Is My Story chronicles the lives of 31 people as they journey from passion to compassion, frustration to forgiveness, murder to mercy, sin to salvation. And all the more miraculous because almost all of them have fallen into the abyss – killers, swindlers, drug pushers, drug users, pimps, hardened criminals. But look at them now! And it’s all because they have called on Jesus to take charge! Now they’re fired with a sense of purpose and hope and peace, blessing joyfully and confidently each day that comes in their meaningful and fulfilling lives.

            And when you really think about it, it’s because of people like these that this world becomes a better place for all of us, and for all those still to come.

            Steve was the ultimate hippie. “I went into drugs, starting with marijuana before LSD, and barbiturates and amphetamines…I totally dug the culture. I began to grow long hair” After college, the funkiest line in literature flashed in his mind: “I’m into drugs, so I should be working on a drug firm!” He did, and he was in heaven – of a different sort. He left before he was fired, and soon after, found himself in the slums. “By 10 AM everyday, I was already drunk with local gin, walking around half naked…I would bang my head against the wall and cry out loud, ‘What is happening? I’m a well-educated person but this is out of control!’ I cursed God. I blamed my parents for the senseless life I was living. I blamed the educational system, the government – everybody but me.”

            Jess’ M.O. goes like this: after gaining a businessman’s trust, he would issue him a bogus check, then zoom! But he’s not just third-rate con artist. In 1975, “I started by signing a check for P50,000 and surprisingly, it was cashed! Our operations grew and even extended to the Visayas and Mindanao. We also had government authorities in our payroll…We had operatives in the Post Office…I had a personal adviser from the Supreme Court… We also dipped our hands into the pensions of teachers including the back-pay of dead teachers.”

Jose was 8 years old when he sneaked aboard a Manila-bound ship. At 9, he was taken to Juvenile Prison for theft. “I moved on to more serious forms of stealing such as snatching, hold-up and robbery when I was 14. The years 1356 to 1958 saw me going in and out of jail for the same offenses…At 16, I was a convict. Charges of robbery, 34 counts of frustrated homicide and homicide were lodged against me after my arrest in 1960.” At Bilibid Prison, “I killed an inmate and had another one killed by my jailmate. On another occasion, I masterminded the murder of a warden.”

            Michael was a RAM soldier who was part of the 1989 coup attempt.  While in detention, “I seethed with anger, hatred and bitterness.” His daughter also suffered and his wife’s epileptic attacks aggravated. “There was even a time when she had seizures while visiting me. Never had I felt so helpless in my entire life at the moment. I desperately wanted to put a spoon in her mouth to protect her tongue. Yet all I could do was scream for help as I watched her twist and convulse in agony,”

Eddie had always been an activist fighting for social justice. Then a time came when he had to fight for his own. “Our ancestral land was illegally foreclosed…Vicious men forced my parents to sign documents…We filed charges at the courts…our papers always disappeared, with the help of the influence of the syndicate’s many powerful backers…If justice proved elusive, I vowed to seek revenge…by killing our oppressors one by one.”

Noel was 7 when he and his father and his four brothers started to live in the streets. “At night…we slept inside a jeepney that was parked along Avenida…By day, we begged and ate leftover food from the restaurants…I became a thief and sold my body to homosexuals.” In high school he became coordinator to a Marian organization but he still “continued to steal even after being caught several times.” Then, on Nov. 1979, trying to impress a girlfriend, “I, together with two other men, robbed and killed my sister-in-law’s grandmother.”

Susan was the single mother to four. “My kids were all boys, with three different father.” In 1985, she went to Japan and there “experimented using all sorts of drugs. I started with cough syrup. Then I tried uppers, downers and …shabu. In 1988 I met another man…Each time I got pregnant, I would get rid of the baby,” The final straw came in 2001. “I checked out of the hospital carrying with me a small box with my dead baby in it.”

Renato was a communist – a “full-time cadre of the National United Front Commission.” After a decade of rising in the CPP-NPA hierarchy, “I became discontented and disillusioned. Inwardly I questioned our right to determine the fate of others when we ourselves were not beyond reproach…my comrades and trusted friends were one by one subjected to harsh punishment…I had played a role in causing their misery.” He was the father whose young son cried out, “Hindi na ako dedede para hindi ka na palaging aalis (I won’t drink milk anymore so you won’t always have to go away).”

Cesar had everything – then lost everything. “In 1958 I entered prison…I was very angry with God. I was angry because I was punished for a crime I did not commit.” Inside, his health deteriorated. “I got cirrhosis of the liver…I had also diabetes and there were already holes in my lungs. My bitterness was also eating me up. From 178 lbs., I dropped to 118 lbs. I was practically skin and bones.”

Toni was “the product of a marriage that lasted all of five days”. She spent her life trying to fill this void. Her early marriage promptly fell apart. “I turned to drugs when a person I thought I could trust introduced me to it.” When she separated from her husband, she again “turned to drugs for security – only this time I went for the heavier stuff…It got so bad that my mother gave up on me.” It was then her husband took their children away from her. “My whole life flashed before my eyes. The pain was so intense, even drugs could not numb it. Everything and everyone I had were slipping away from me. My so-called friends had given up on me…Drugs had completely taken over my life.” In 1985, in a rare moment of sobriety, she was able to join her children in a New Year party. Her 2-year old son James “put his little arms around me and hugged me tightly. With tears rolling down his eyes he pleaded, ‘Mommy, please don’t leave us! Please let me go home with you!’ Silence fell upon the place. But because I was considered an unfit mother, my little boy was pulled away from me. He and his brother were sent crying into the car, back to their father’s house.” 

How Jesus came into their lives were not always radical – but always glorious. They have opened their hearts and received His gift: the greatest love of all. Read this book alone in your room with the doors locked – so that you won’t have to be ashamed if you find yourself crying.


Dear Jonathan,

Imagine sitting down to play poker in Las Vegas, one of
America's biggest gambling destinations. How would you
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You'd be far more willing to take a risk, wouldn't you?
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Maximizing Human Potential
A wise Cherokee Indian chief was imparting the lessons of life to his grandson. “It’s like we have two wolves inside of us. One is good, the other is bad. Both demand our obedience.”

The boy asked, “Which one wins?”

The chief said, “The one we feed.”
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