(This was published in my column of the Business Page in The Philippine Star some time ago. The mountain top experience I had, the opportunity to speak and interact with the people in that place certainly has inspired me to become a better person. This is why I would like to share this with you. Hoping that this would inspire you too. I am sure you have your own defining moments that inspired you to become a better person. Better at your work, better being a parent or child or better a citizen of this country. You might want to tell me about it too.)
One day a little girl was visiting Sunday school when her teacher asked to which religion or denomination her relatives belonged. “Is it Catholic, Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians OR Seventh-day Adventists?”
The little girl replied, “I think they are six-day atheists.”
Many people I know have become nominal Christians and practicing atheists and they can be found in the work place. They don’t want this to happen but somehow it does. The pressures of the city and the demands of work have made life difficult and developed a sense of cynicism in them.
“I’ve got a family to feed. No time for spiritual stuff.”
“My boss is breathing down my neck.”
“I have to reach this month’s quota.”
“We have a difficult planning session ahead of us.”
“I know religion is important but the demands of work suck the life out of me and I just don’t have the time for it.”
Life becomes like running on a treadmill. Faster and faster but getting nowhere.
Oh how desperately we need to reconnect. Reconnect with our Maker and to take time to be still. An expensive spa treatment may de-stress us for a moment. A few days off and a few more hours sleep may bring back a little rest into our system but how do you deal with a growing sense of cynicism and skepticism that has somehow hardened our once tender hearts? How do we bring back sanity to life and more importantly, how do we recharge our connection with God. I have found a way. But first let me tell you what happened.
I couldn’t say no. When the chairman of St. Luke’s Medical Center Robert Kuan invited me to join him for a trip to Sagada one year ago I didn’t have the heart to say no. I did not even tell him I suffer from motion sickness every time I go up a ZigZag Road. Baguio was bad enough for me let alone additional hours in getting to Sagada.
Do you know why I could not say no? Because I can see the gleam and the sparkle in his eyes every time he talks about the place. He talks about what he and the hospital have been doing to help rebuild the Episcopal churches in the north. Renovating, restoring, improving the facilities and bringing joy to their community. And this time he says, “I would like to invite you to speak to the different communities there. I will organize learning sessions for school teachers, students, parents, community leaders and here’s the bonus, you get to enjoy the place too. Now that brought a gleam and a sparkle to my eyes. Robert really knows how to get me.
Flying back from San Francisco, the Ilocana (a term I lovingly assign to my wife Lilia) and I went home, unpacked our things from our trip to the U.S; packed our things for the Sagada trip that starts 2 o’clock the next morning. 13 hours of flight followed by another 12 hours of land trip is more than enough reason to give me an exciting concoction of jet lag and motion sickness and I had it. But the moment I got out of the car, looked at the view, basked in the beauty of God’s creation breathed in the fresh air and all signs of discomfort disappeared within minutes.
I have never been a “nature” or “mountain” person. Beauty sceneries do not thrill me. I am more of a steel, glass and concrete kind. Yet the beauty of Sagada mesmerized me. And then I met the people, they were simple and beautiful and I felt so small in the vastness of God’s bigness and privileged being given an opportunity to speak to them.
Every person in our entourage had only one thing to say. They looked at the mountains, they look at the clouds, they looked at the rice terraces and the experience brings them to utter the words, “How beautiful is God’s Creation!”
Aha… atheism flies out the window… unbelief is replaced by a sense of awe and wonder. Cynicism and skepticism substituted by faith; faith that there is a Master Designer in the universe. Faith that coincides with what the Psalmist says: (NIV) The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard.
Funny, once I got there the motion sickness disappeared. Jet lag has given way to wonder. It’s one of the most unforgettable experiences in my life. Suddenly, the glamour of San Francisco, the modernity of New York and the charm of Atlanta could no longer compete with the majesty of God’s creation called Sagada.
Feeling stressed? A foot spa may be good especially for the feet. Visit Sagada and experience a soul spa. And while you’re there, thank the Creator for His creation.