Life as it happens. Time as it passes.

Travel Journal

Land of Sand: You and Me, UAE

I am right now in the United Arab Emirates, the second in my three-country itinerary for two months. I will be spending a month and twenty days here, going around Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Ras Al Kaima, Sharjah and Al Ain, visiting our works and ministering to them.

We arrived at Dubai last November 28. Pr. Nonoy Nacion, our congregation preacher in Al Ghusais, picked us up, together with Ms. Leny Cruz from our Sharjah congregation. They brought us to an Italian restaurant that was still open at that time (it was already 11PM), and had a light dinner just before we went to our villa and retire for the night.

The following night, our beloved pastor spoke before the joint crowd of our UAE congregations for the weekly Bible Institute. He began a series of lectures on Biblical worship, and also tackled the importance of following a Bible-based pattern for worshipping God in His church. ¬†Thursday that week was a declared holiday, as it also happened to be UAE’s 40th National Day, and so the BP and the brethren took the opportunity to hold an MBBC UAE Workers’ Conference at the Al Ghusais Congregation. More than 100 members were there to hear the BP speak and give the continuing lecture on Biblical worship.

The following day, Friday, was the 13th Foundation Day Celebration of MBBC Al Ghusais, where they had more than 400 in attendance. I was assigned to speak to our Al Satwa Congregation, led by Ptr. Raul Nazaret, who had just arrived from his vacation in the Philippines. We had a great time that morning, and later in the afternoon, we had another joint service at the Al Ghusais’ foundation day venue, where our BP gave a powerful message before the people just before leaving for the Philippines.

That night after the service, we were busy putting some items into the balikbayan boxes set to be sent to the Philippines. Our beloved pastor was leaving early morning at 5AM and so we had to prep things up so we can still catch some winks before we bring him over to the airport. We finished packing at around 2AM.

The alarm woke me up at 3AM. A few more preparations and we were soon off to the airport, where we accompanied the BP to the check-in area. I gave him a big hug and thanked him for the opportunity of representing him here to our people. He gave me a few final instructions and challenges before he went on to board his flight back to Manila.

Now begins my official tour of duty here in the UAE. Check out the story on our next post, where you’ll here about my first few days in Dubai, Al Ghusais, and then my stay in Abu Dhabi.

 

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Land of Sand: The Kuwait Leg of My Trip

For my 65-day trip to the lands of sands, my first stop was Kuwait. We were scheduled there for five days in time for the celebration of the MBBC South Congregation’s 4th Foundation Day. It was the first time that our BP would be present for the South Congregation’s anniversary, as he would usually be with the Kuwait Central’s birthday during summer time.

Just before we headed out of the immigration to the waiting area, my pastor quipped to me “you’re lucky you came here at this time of the year. It’s cooler here now than if you went here last summer.” A few more steps nearing the exit doors, I felt for myself how true his words were. But I soon found out it wasn’t the exit door yet–it was just the doors heading to the airport mall. The closer we were getting to the actual exit doors, it was getting cooler and cooler. It wasn’t long before cool became cold. As in literally cold!

I remember Cess telling me to bring two jackets, preempting for the cold climate of the middle east during this season. I told her one would just be enough.

We were both wrong. We should have brought three.

Ptr. Allen Belwa, the designated resident pastor-in-charge there, picked us up at the Kuwait International Airport. As our pastor was staying at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, a car from the hotel was on hand to pick him up. We dropped by the hotel first to check if the BP had any instructions for us, and when we were cleared to go, we first went to the congregation’s villa, where I spent the remainder of the wee hours of the morning to get some winks, before we checked in at the Safir Hotel at 10 AM.

Our morning and afternoon schedules were free for that day, so I had some time to prepare some of the lectures I compiled for the Preachers’ Conference that the Kuwait brethren will be hosting among our preachers from the GCC countries the day after their anniversary festivities. Later that night, the brethren treated us for an all-fish dinner fellowship.

Just as the evening gathering was progressing, I felt my eyes were getting heavy. I checked on my cellphone clock and saw that it was 9PM in Kuwait–which means it’s already 2AM in the morning in Manila. That was my very first encounter with jetlag.

My seatmate in the dinner table, Bro. Jojo, was trying to jolt me out of my dreariness, noticing that I wasn’t returning to the buffet table anymore for seconds. I was telling him that my body is telling me to find a bed and get some sleep. He laughed and told me it will be a full week before you get to adjust to the whole time difference thing.

After the dinner, we headed back to the hotel. I actually didn’t notice that we’ve arrived already, because I was totally knocked out during the travel from Crowne Plaza to Safir. I went inside my room and just dropped like a log into the bed.

The following day was the 4th Foundation day Celebrations of the Kuwait South. We had a great time, where more than 600 adults and young people came and attended to hear our beloved pastor preach the Gospel. The Philippine Ambassador to Kuwait, who happens to be a ¬†relative of the BP, came and attended to address the Filipinos who attended the event. After our BP’s preaching, more than 100 people came forward to receive Christ as their Savior. Since it was a whole day of set activities, the members did not leave the venue anymore, where they had prepared lunch for everyone, by 3PM the service resumed, where the BP preached a message that has yet to be heard by the main church. It was a challenging message that saw three couples coming forward to surrender their lives to the Lord.

The following day, the Preachers’ Conference pushed through, where I was also slated as the kick-off lecturer on the music ministry. I spent almost an hour discussing the details of the music ministry, before our BP took on the pulpit and preached for the next five hours.

Later that evening, a victory banquet was set in a hotel, where the members were treated to an almost acoustic concert by our beloved pastor, who sang songs and played the guitar to the delight of his people. He gave an inspirational message to challenge the brethren to keep on keeping on for the Lord in Kuwait.

On our last night in Kuwait, the BP got another chance to talk to the brethren during their Sunday evening service. There were a few visitors who attended also, who were later on dealt with the Gospel. After the service, I got a chance to do a hands on rehearsal with the Kuwait choir on how they should do their vocalizations and pre-rehearsal routines. And then finally, for the last time, the BP and the brethren went out for a fellowship dinner, where he had a wonderful time telling jokes and funny stories to the brethren, who just can’t resist laughing out loud in the restaurant over the BP’s humorous tales.

Our trip going to Dubai was slated in the afternoon, and so several of the members who were already off from work joined in accompanying us to the airport. We had a few more chats in the airport mall just before our flight number was announced ready for boarding. We said our goodbyes and ’til thens to the brethren, who are anticipating the BP’s next trip there next year, probably August or November.

I had a great five-day trip in Kuwait. I enjoyed the fellowship we had with our BP and the brethren there. The experience with them is something that I will cherish and remember as well for a very long time.

But this was just the first leg of my 65-day trip, and soon we were bound for Dubai.

(To be continued)


Land Of Sand: My Two-Month Trip To Kuwait, UAE and Qatar (preface)

Preface

It’s been 24 days already since I left the Philippines for a 65-day ministerial trip here in the Middle East. This is one of the very rare privileges that our senior pastor, Dr. BMA, gives to a select few of his pastoral staff to go around our foreign congregations and minister to them for a minimum of 9 weeks. I thank him very much for the opportunity to represent him among God’s people here abroad.

This is my second time to be out of the country–more than a year ago, our BP sent me to Brunei for a two-week ministerial visit as well. It was a trip of many firsts for me–my first time of putting my passport into good use, my first time to be in a place where I was the foreigner, and my first time to be away from my wife by being in another country. The experience taught me a lot of beautiful and wonder things, as well as the intricacies and details of traveling outside the Philippines.

When our BP confirmed my trip to our Middle East congregations for two months, I had mixed emotions about it–happy to be going abroad, excited to meet our brethren and minister to them, but also quite sad that I will be away from my wife, and this time, from my daughter as well. Nonetheless, this was a rare opportunity, and so I prepped up everything I can before I left.

It’s only now that I thought of putting up a journal post about this trip–after all, it might be a very long time after this that I get to go out again for a trip abroad. So, I might as well record a journal about this trip and share to you the many wonderful experiences I have gathered and will continue to gather for the remainder of this trip.

This is just to wet your appetite guys! And I hope I can get to compress on the next post, everything that has happened in the last 24 days of may stay here already. With 41 days left on my schedule here, we’ll all be in for a lot more of surprises!

Keep it locked in here!

 


Last Day in Brunei

Today’s my last day here in Brunei Darussalam, my first ever trip out of the Philippines. I thank my senior pastor, Dr. Benny Abante Jr., for the privilege and opportunity to represent him in our work here in Brunei for the last two weeks.

We had a great time here learning together, me and the MBBC Brunei brethren. We were able to conduct a three-day new believers’ class, a one-night workshop for the men and workers of the congregation regarding church ministries and involvement, two nights where we got to talk about cheerful giving, and an opportunity to share the gospel and witness to seamen from the ship that ACTS Preacher Ben Dampal is steering as captain. We were able to visit several Filipinos here and invited them to church, as well as disciple new believers who got saved on the first Sunday I arrived. We also baptized one mother at the Pantai Muara beach resort, as well as learn more gospel songs from our hymns. It was indeed a very fruitful ministry visit.

Tonight, we’re having one final service just before I leave tomorrow early morning at 2AM. The members decided that they will have the service tonight at 8, have it run until 12 and bring me to the airport by 1. Tomorrow morning and evening, instead of having the service, they will be joining the MBBC Main Church for the services via webcast.

I would like to thank Pr. Henry Pangan for the hospitality, support, and partnership he extended me during these last two weeks. Also I would like to thank all the members of the MBBC Brunei who were very kind and warm in receiving your servant as a guest. While each and every member of the congregations was gracious, special thanks goes to Bro. Frank and Jigs Limboc (and to their only boy Franz), as well as to ate Ruth, Ruby, Lisa and Leah. Also to Pr. Ben Dampal for the chance to share the word to his crew on the ship, as well as having him come over with his other crew to our service last Tuesday.

We will be praying for the work here at MBBC Brunei as they prepare for their Cheerful Giving Sunday on December, as well as their upcoming 4th Anniversary on March 2011.

Terimah Kasi, MBBC Brunei!


The Thing About Brunei… (Part 2)

… is that it’s hotter here than in the Philippines. Since it’s closer to the equator than the Philippines, they enjoy longer daylight, but endure more scorching sun. At 6PM here in Brunei, it’s as bright as 4PM in Manila, but that means the sun is already up and blazing as early as 9AM, all the way to 4PM.

… is that they’ve got a lot of welfare going on here. In tagalog, andaming libre, that is, for the nationals. Since the Sultan is one of the wealthiest in the world, he seems to find it enjoying to pay for a lot of things for his people. Hospital benefits and education are free. They hardly pay any tax. The only ones paying taxes are the big corporations, not the individuals. If you’ve got no home of your own, the Sultan is willing to pay one for you–at BND 50 per month, payable for 25 years. That’s Php 1500 per month for 25 years for a house that features 2 rooms and air-conditioning. San ka pa?

… is that they pay utilities at a very low price. For each month, a regular home pays only 2 Brunei Dollars–that’s 60 pesos! As for the electricity, they only pay BND 30, or Php 900, for a house that has all appliances available, PLUS THREE AIR CONDITIONERS!

… is that you can tour the ENTIRE COUNTRY in one day. Since traffic is very light, the free ways are really free, and the drivers are ALL disciplined, the trip around Brunei can start at 8AM and end at around 4PM. Try doing that in Manila. Good luck.

… is that their Sultan is perhaps one of the most down-to-earth head of state in the world. You can see him driving his own car on the way to the palace, taking a stroll with his grandkids in the eco-park, or simply walking down the busy city of Bandar Seri Begawan, greeting people like he knew them very well.

(I’m sorry, the uploading of the pics are taking too long and is making the laptop hang. I’ll try to update this post with pix when I get a clearer, stronger wi-fi signal).


The Thing About Brunei… (part 1)

…is that it’s clean. Surprisingly, I haven’t heard a single dump truck come around our place to pick the garbage, and it seems like for every one hundred houses, there’s only one big garbage area for everyone. Either they don’t create that much trash, or they’re good at recycling.

…is that they’ve got some commodities here which are cheaper than those in the Philippines. Imagine this: a liter of diesel here is only 30 cents. If I were to convert that to a regular full tank in the Philippines, I can already get a full tank for my Crosswind for only Php 900. In fact, car gasoline here is cheaper than a 1-liter bottle of water. As for the car where that full tank will go, here in Brunei, you can buy a decent second hand car for only BND 900, which is a little over Php 28,000! I even saw an ad where they’re selling a Mercedes Benz E-Class for only BND 2,000, which is almost Php 70,000!

…is that it’s quiet. Believe it or not, I was on the freeway for 1 hour, city streets for half an hour, and walking around two blocks for one hour, and I did not hear one, single car horn blow (according to Kuya Henry, folks here are not used to blowing the car horns, since they’re all patient, yielding and educated drivers, a rare occurrence in the Philippines). There are no night clubs, bar joints, or any areas here where there’s a nightlife. There are no riots, videoke night outs, or inuman sessions in the streets. This is no exaggeration, but from the third floor mezzanine of where I’m staying, at that moment that no car is passing, you can hear two nationals talking…across the highway!

…is that they’ve got a place called Kampung Air, literally “water villages” which are considered the slum areas in Brunei. These houses are built on top of swamps and shallow marshes in Bandar. Here’s how “slum” they are: they have cars on their own, which are parked in a strip of land on the edge of the swamps, and each of the houses here have aircons. That’s right, let me capitalize that for you… AIRCONS!

More coming your way next time.


First Flight Out

This is RCandCess, reporting to you live from Brunei Darussalam. I’ll be here for the next 13 days, visiting the MBBC Brunei work of Bro. HJP (for security reasons, I can’t divulge the details.)

This trip is the first among so many other things. It’s my first time to travel by plane all by myself. I thought I wouldn’t be able to manage it by myself, but thank God everything went smoothly. It was relatively faster than my usual inter-island trips in the Philippines. This also is my first ever trip out of the country. It’s a privilege to represent my senior pastor Dr. BMA and the MBBC to our work here in Brunei, and to help the brethren here with their weekly meetings, as well as give them lessons and messages on discipleship, doctrines, and cheerful giving. We will be having a three-night lecture-workshop here for new members, as well as lectures on homiletics.

It’s quite bittersweet, though, since I left my wife at Manila. They still have classes though, and she’s prohibited for trips like this due to her pregnancy. But the 14 days will pass quickly, I’m quite sure, and it won’t be long before I’m back.

That’s it for now, guys. Will see you soon!


From the Corner

img000376My hands are sweating, and so are my feet. I’m inside the gasoline station’s snack shop, writing down this blog.¬† It’s an air-conditioned room, but since I am seated next to the AC unit, I can hardly feel the coolness of the place. But that’s fine. They’ve got free wi-fi here, and so instead of going to internet shops that are cluttered all across the neighborhood, I prefer surfing the internet and doing my work here, where it’s all peace and quiet, while all the world’s cacophony are competing at each other outside. Only a half-inch, almost soundproof tempered glass window is separating me inside a peaceful environment from the insanity of the Aguinaldo Highway.

I look at the clock, and it’s now 6:51 PM. I had just finished the initial plans for the upcoming camp of our church on May 25. As a way of simmering down the pressure of work, I checked out the blogsites of friends I know. One in particular that caught my attention was that of Chico Garcia, one of the better DJ’s in the metropolis from RX 93.1. Delle, her co-anchor in the “Morning Rush” Show, once described Chico as the “blog-aholic dj.” Early this morning over at their show, Chico was flaunting his blogsite, which was aptly called “Strange Fruit.” I’ve been browsing through it for two months now, primarily because I was checking out the archives of the Top Ten entries that he was posting over his blog.

As the weeks passed, there grew this healthy jealousy for Chico and his blog. I posted a comment over his blog and told him that I was a frustrated blogger, which meant how I really would love to have a blog of my own, but was actually afraid of maintaining it and keeping it updated with posts on a regular basis.

As I logged out, the thought hit me that, hey, maybe it’s about time I do my own blog.

And so here I am, writing this first blog entry of mine ever.

I was contemplating on what best to name my blog. I thought of so many things, including using my RX code name RCnCess. But I already have two social network sites doing the job of expressing my love for my one and only Princess of eight years. I thought maybe it’s not a bad idea to have one of my own, for my own, where I could just dish out my spontaniety and my genius.

And so I shelved the RCnCess idea (although that name is, in fact, the address of this blog), and instead used this title: Timothy’s Window Corner.

I chose this title for many reasons. First, Timothy is the name of two very important persons in my life. The first Timothy is the Timothy from the Bible. Timothy was a very young man when God called him to become a pastor of a church which was entrusted to him by his mentor, the Apostle Paul. Timothy’s character and reputation is synonymous with youthful uprightness, vibrance and spiritual maturity. It is for these reasons that Timothy is my favorite Bible character.

Here's a candid close-up of my kid brother

The second Timothy is my kid brother, Timothy Denzel. He is now 6 years old, and, boy, he is such a true joy to have! He’s very sweet, charming, witty, and, not to forget, cute! Whenever I come home to Manila from my work in Cavite, I would see him at our house seated like a king just 8 inches away from the television, enjoying a yummy bowl of pancit canton. As he glances at me with those joyful eyes, he drops everything down, rushes towards me and gives me that tight bunso hug. Haaay! That’s the joy of being a big brother.

The other half of the blog title, Window Corner, is so because I am doing this blog right at the window corner of the gas station’s snack shop. From there I am closest to the electricty plug, the wi-fi router, and the safe side of the highway. From where I am seated, I see the world running and happening right in front of me. From there I gather my thoughts and ideas, let them flow freely from my head to my fingers to the keyboard to the screen. I wish not to stop and look at how far I have gone writing by now, so that by the end of this entry, I would have actually done a full-pledged blog–pure, unadulterated, spontaneous, free.

By this time, my back is now aching, as I am just sitting on a high stool. But the joy and feeling of having fulfilled a long overdue passion has overwhelmed that.