“Seeking for an Answer”-Personal Experiences about Religion

Written and Posted by: Margie Babon

 

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It is not a surprise to me if some people hate me for what I am writing about religion and cannot accept some ideas that I concluded. Like you, I am also seeking for an answer. I keep searching for the truth and join different group from different religion. Yet, the sad thing was, none from any religion I connected with I have found an answer. N-o-n-e…None! .I did not find what I am seeking… There are no regrets that I experience joining them for awhile mainly for the reason of observations and what I gain are all lessons and that lessons have helped me to complete the puzzle and answer my very own questions about god. That the answer I am seeking cannot be found from other people, it is not an external matter but right inside the sacred part of my heart, in the silence of my own thoughts and spirit that is where I find god, in my own nature and the nature around us,  that is where I can communicate with god.

My memory is sharp that I can remember some things happened to me starting at the age of five years old. I have a playmate from nearby neighbor who is deaf and mute that was my one and only friend until I was six years old before moving to Manila for schooling. At age five, I love staring at the sun especially sunrise. Because I am the youngest, I keep on following my mother, to be with her like every morning that she will clean the vegetable garden or make some harvest or water the plants. We usually wake up at five thirty. Before the start of a golden sunrise, we were already out of the house and already at the garden.

While staring at the sun I keep talking to god. I keep asking god why my friend Veronica cannot speak and she can’t even hear me and why me, I am normal. Why Veronica is not like me, is there something wrong in the heavens, with the angels because she cannot talk. There was a time that I told god I am mad at her because I cannot understand what she’s saying and then she bites my hand and then run away. But then even if we cannot understand each other, we are still playmates and we love playing together. Sun, stars at night and wonderful blue sky is my avenue of communicating with god. If my parents scolded me or my brother is teasing me, I run out of the house and go to our small vegetable garden which is at the right side of the house in a hilly downward slope, and then I sit beside the circular well made of large stones and stare at the blue sky, looking at the beautiful formations of clouds and keep talking to god, no matter how sunny it is and how high the sun is, you will always find me there.

As a kid, I am very imaginative. I see clouds as beautiful angels and we are playing together. And when I hear my mother or father calling me to eat, my favorite farewell dialogue to the sky, to the clouds, to god is:“God I want to become a guardian angel. I want to have wings, to fly and hold a sword of light then fight the bad spirits because they are hurting me. God, promise it to me, I am an angel.  Bye for now, need to go home, see you later.” Because I see bad spirit in my half-wake dream and they are strong that they can pinch me while I am sleeping so I keep telling God I want to become a guardian angel and fight the bad spirit.

Since I am too young for six o’clock prayer to pray the rosary with my family, I was only there sitting at the corner and observing them. My parents are very strict Roman Catholic esp. my mother. There was a time when my two older sisters (who were eleven to fifteen years old that time) went home late from school, they arrived six thirty and the penance was they kneel on the floor full of rock salt. While praying the rosary, they were crying and their knees were bleeding. My siblings keep telling me that I am lucky because I never ever experience that kind of penance. My grandparents on father side though half Chinese are healer and they are pagan though they go to Catholic Church to hear the words of god, still they have their own style of faith. My father is not that strict but encourages us to pray before we sleep. While the grandfather on my mother side is purely Spanish who is a devoted Roman Catholic and how my mother discipline her children are based on her experiences from her father.

At age six years old when we moved to Manila, my parents’ lifestyle becomes different. They become busy working and they are not so strict anymore on praying the rosary every six in the evening. We usually do it every weekend especially Sunday during family day. Yet, I still cannot understand what is the rosary for and why do we need to pray it, speaking words repetitively. At age six, I am faking myself because I am scared of my mother, I have to pray the rosary, go with them to attend mass and follow what she wants. Still, I love going out of the house and stare at the sun, blue sky, and beautiful formation of clouds and telling the same prayers that I want to become a guardian angel with wings and that I can fly.

 

Holy

When I started schooling, we pray before and after the class. Doing sign of the cross and pray. As a kid, I am happy to be with other kids and we are reciting prayer together. At age nine years old, my curiosity about religion becomes stronger when we are required to have first communion.  I asked my teacher what it for is, she said for my own salvation. And I said, “To save from what? I did not do anything.” My teacher gets tired of my never ending question so she said, “You have a lot of questions, ask the priest and he will answer all your questions.”

My sister who is five years older than me is a devoted Catholic and at young age of fourteen, she has a role at the church as lector and commentator. She was the one who accompanied me for my first communion. But I didn’t know that before having the first communion, we need to go to the confession booth and talk to the priest and tell all our sins. I told my sister, “Why should I tell it to the priest? The priest doesn’t commit sin, is he a god to forgive us? He is only human like us. No I don’t want to confess.” Though I ran away, my sister dragged me and my teacher scolded me. That time I still remember I am crying hiding underneath the pew because I don’t have any choice but to follow them. Yet, I still did not tell anything to the priest. And guess what happened? The priest went out of the confession booth and talked to my sister, he said, “Talk to your sister, it is not appropriate that she is asking questions at that age.”

When the mass was ended,  I went out of the church and found a pocket garden with angel sculpture and a small wishing well. I looked up the sky and started talking to god. I asked god, “Do I really have to do this, to go to the church? Is that you god on the cross? Is that you? But it is not you, it is not!” I am silently crying and angry that time, because even how many times I keep talking to god, I never find any answer. So I need to follow what my family wants, I need to follow the school requirements are …for me to belong, for me not to be different.

Then years have passed, I am still following what my parents want, what my family want…I am still obedient to the religion we belong to.

Then the most unforgettable experience I had when I reached eleven years old happened during grade 6. Our adviser is a devoted Roman Catholic and she imposed to us to attend Sunday mass every four o’clock in the afternoon. We have this small form of attendance sheet where we will let the priest sign the form as a proof that we attended the mass. We need to complete a certain month for us to get clearance from our teacher since we are graduating already.

My favorite color is white and most of my Sunday dress for church is white even before my teacher set a rule that we need to attend the mass. So I keep wearing white dress to attend the required mass. Like other girls, I am behave and obedient making sure I finish the mass and get the signature from the priest.   I listen to the mass and attentive. Yet there is a different behavior of me from the rest of the kids, after the communion, I am always in a deep meditation, kneeling and praying.  Eyes closed, it was like I shut off the physical world and connecting within my spirit.

The next day in school, didn’t know that my classmates have noticed it. A group of boys are mocking at me, laughing at me and calling me, “Holy, holy,holy!!”  Of course I cried and get offended. Though my adviser told this group of boys to stop mocking at me, they still keep doing it secretly. One time when we were at the school garden and I am taking out the grass, somebody threw a small stone on me, then I saw these group of boys laughing and shouting “Holy, holy,holy!!”  And I also throw a small stone on them showing my anger. What feels too bad, the leader of that boys mocking at me is running for Salutatorian. I found out that he is so mean aside that he is so arrogant and proud.

After few weeks of mocking me, I told my teacher I don’t want to go to the church anymore. I would rather be with my family, with my parents to go to church. Until now as an adult, the memories of it are still vivid. It is easy to forgive but the visuals of what happened, it is difficult to forget.

 

Rapture

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When I reached high school, being in a pilot class, I met classmates that were same belief as mine. Like them, they are questioning religion. There was even times that I don’t want to go to church anymore with my parents but the problem; I will not have any allowance, and my parents told me to stop studying if I will continue being friends with my classmates who doesn’t like Catholic. I know, I don’t have any choice but still to follow them because I don’t want to stop schooling. During my fourth year high school, something happened that affect my parents and other siblings.

My older brother who is eight years older than me told my parent by surprised that he was converted as born-again Christian. My mother was so upset and so angry. Yet my brother keeps on reasoning why it is important to convert. He even convinced my three older sisters to let them convert that leads to regrets. My older sister said that the pastor who baptized them is asking for five hundred pesos to pay the service.  My sister refused and never went back again. Though my older sister warn my brother that it is a scam, my brother still keep on attending until to the point that he wants to leave our house and never go back again. He wants to live at the service church. He even gave away all his clothes, shoes, watch, all his things to his church mate, and he keeps on saying “The world will be vanished soon. We will all die with the rapture. Rapture time is near. Join me and praise Lord Jesus.”   He sounds insane; he is starting to get crazy. We are so afraid of my brother. My parents talked to the pastor who keeps on visiting my brother at the house telling them that they will file a case against them. Aside from getting money from my brother and from my parents, they are poisoning the mind of my brother and he is going insane. My brother stopped from his studies and he was sent to the province of my mother where he will be far from the born-again group. After a year, my brother recovered and went back to being Catholic and went back to studies again.

What happened to my brother was my first-time to encounter born again Christian. I don’t want to generalize all of them because they have different group but what I noticed, how they teach and preach is “poisoning of mind.” The second encounter with born-again was when I reached college and the friendship for more than two years I had with my close friends was ruined and destroyed by this religion. And this affect me how I see people, how I get close to people by being more careful not depending too much from them even to close friends.

 

Non-believer

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I act as a leader of our group which composed of five females and several male classmates ever since first year college. Taking up architecture is a tough course especially if there is a grouping project that you need to spend overnight at the house of your classmate. Since I act most of the time as a leader, I offer our house to them. My parents and other sibs are so kind that they even prepare meal for us, for them without asking any payment. For more than two years, my four female classmates become close to my family that they even call my mother “Mama.” We treat them as a family. If one of them lack of allowance or fare going home, my mother is giving them extra money.  Then a new transferee came when we reached 3rd year college that I was elected as president of student council of our department. I get very busy and seldom spend time with my friends that I am not aware that they become close to this new transferee who is a born-again Christian. It was fast, like, the girl is only a week in our school then after, my four close friends are ignoring me and don’t even want to talk to me. This new transferee became their leader and formed their own group and leaving me alone.

It was very very bad, I do not know what is happening that my close friends have left me. I did not do anything wrong as why they are avoiding me.  I confront them at the hallway after design class asking them why they have left me casting me out.  And their reason almost shocked me. They said, “Why should we consider you as a friend? You are non-believer! Antichrist, you’re devil! Catholics are Antichrist, do you know that? Worshiping an idol, praying rosary repetitively! You are non-believer and we shouldn’t make friends with Antichrist and non-believer! You are evil!”  I felt my blood abruptly went up to my head; they mocked me in front of other students. So I replied, “What?! You were poisoned by this new one that you do not even know who she really is. So this new girl is your savior? After how many years we build the friendship, you even eat and sleep at the house, helping you in your project, lending you what I have, unselfish of what I have then now telling me I am a devil?! Is that your new god now, condemning people that we are non-believer, Antichrist! You’re so mean! All of you are so mean!”

Though I can still see them in other classes for the remaining two years, I bear that hardship to be with myself. What they have done to me changes me as a person, I become careful not to get close with other people, it was difficult for me to make new close friends.  Which until now, I still carry that lesson. I become much closer to my parents and my siblings. I become much closer to myself. And starting eight years ago, my spiritual life becomes more stronger creating my own journey, that when my mother died and without parents anymore, living independently teach me trust more of God, that my life is being guided as long as I am responsible who I am. I communicate more to God through silence, meditation, and through nature.

I live independently alone, living independently lead me to become more spiritual, to be more closer to the divine who created everything—to God that I can find within my own silence, within my meditation, within any activity of work that I put myself to. Though I keep seeking for the truth, there is still the curiosity of why there must be religion.

 

Gate Crasher

One Saturday afternoon while doing some sketches, I was at the study room facing the balcony. The balcony has staircase outside so anyone can go up to the balcony. Because I was so focused in what I am doing, I notice someone appear in front of me. The window of the study room is facing the balcony. I was so surprised and even yell. “Excuse me maam, I will just share to you the words of God,” she said.

She’s a member of Jehova’s witnesses.  Then I said, “Why here at the balcony. There is a main door downstairs that you can knock. Don’t you know what you’re doing is trespassing.” Then the old woman said, “I will just give you the booklet and it is free.” Then I said, “Okay but I am not interested. Don’t you have any other dreams in life that you are so devoted to your religion? Better go home and be with y our family than distributing that. And the old woman left.

 

Other trial and observations

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One time I was invited by a yoga teacher to attend Sunday yoga with him and his group. I am not aware that his Sunday free yoga class has short lecture on Hinduism.  I know that yoga came from Hindu and the teachings of this very ancient religion is more on conscious and spiritual path of knowing yourself more and connecting with your spirit. I enjoy the yoga class and the meditation. I have also met some that are devoted of Krishna in their uniform. What I cannot understand, they are not allowed to eat garlic and onion and other spices that will have sexual arousal. But then, it is part of biological feature of human being to have sex, to bear kids, to enjoy life.

On the other hand, I was also invited to attend a Buddhist preaching. During the sharing of the topic about unselfishness, a girl told her sadness about this Buddhist Temple  that he wants to go inside and stay for a night but the people at the temple did not allow her though she have done it before. The girl was disappointed because she needs to finish a certain level of studies about Buddhism before she can join the event that night. According to the girl, she cannot understand why there are boundaries and limitations as well as selfishness of sharing information in which makes her feel frustrated. After that sharing of stories, I found out that people around me that day are like me, also seeking for the meaning of God…on finding God.

 

Questions Answered

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For how many years I am seeking about god, the mysterious creator, and the answers on why there must be religion, etc. all these were answered along the way of self-discovery and life’s adventure.  When I was given a great opportunity to finish the book for indigenous people to claim their land, my stay in their place for more than a month and visiting them for a year have helped me to further my insights about faith, god, and religion. I have witnessed the way they live, though it is very simple, still they know how to smile, how to laugh and how to inspire me with the beautiful stories of their culture. Yes I was surprised when I saw a born-again church in their place but most of the elders I have interviewed with and talked with (on and off of the voice recorder), they are against religion. Like me, they were also condemned as non-believer, pagan, Antichrist and devil. But then, they keep on telling that “they are only human like us and by heart they know there is god.” I was touched by the explanation of Dada Selang who is the eldest of the group. She said,

“My parents, grandparents and ancestors believe in god. Born-again and Catholics are saying we are on the practice of animalism and we do not believe in god. Religion and people created different names of god but all of these things around us were created by god. Do they know the true god? We do not know how to read the bible but we believe in god. The moment the sun rises over the ocean, then you see birds happily flying around, these beautiful mountains, beautiful blue ocean, forest full of tall tress—all of these nature around us are the evidence that there is god. And at night, look at the night sky, there is full moon and beautiful stars watching us…and what more, each night that we sleep and then the next day we still have breath, we are still alive, is the greatest evidence there is a god. If we are punished with our sins, why are we still alive and yet nature still provides us food—fish are abundant, forest food can still be found. I don’t like religion and I did not allow my son, daughter and even my grandchildren to embrace that religion and be baptized. You don’t need to make your life complicated when it comes to faith. The moment you think about god, the moment you admire nature, you are praising god, you are praying. In this age of mine, I am too old and I don’t need those preaching.  I learned that what is important is your personal belief. Just live, enjoy life, but be kind, always be good to others. Because creation is out of gods’ kindness, we too must share that kindness. God wants us to be kind.”

I was astonished with the wisdom of an elder age around 65 years old who is Agta-Dumagat. And she is right; it is human nature that we believe that there is god. Though it is such mystery, it is beyond our thinking so why should we bother about it. Let it remain as mystery because we are created to live in a mystery.

With all the different group of religion I have encountered and have experienced, none of them have I found the wisdom I am looking for. Yet, it teaches me that, in order to belong to, to be called as group or to be labeled, join and be under the religion. Like any other enterprise, religion is a business and it cannot run on its own without financial sustenance.  Though they have different charities, still, on top of it, you have to believe on what they believe.  And because of the label attached to each religion, this divides people. It is a casting of same entity.

I know that we need to give respect to each other especially when it comes to religion. But respect is only being given if there is mutual respect from one another without forcing people to convert them and there is a huge respect of not changing the original belief, customs, traditions of people.

In this age of mine and for the difficulties I’ve been through with religion, I have realized that a person can live and survive without religion. And because you don’t want to “belong,” you have your own way of praying, you have your own practice of communicating with god, and you have your own way of thanking god and expressing your love to god.

Always be responsible for who you are…for god wants us to be our own authentic self pursuing our own purpose in life, to be successful, to be truly who we are. Do not be bothered by society’s norm as long as you are doing your best in order to survive. As long as you know honestly that you are maximizing your life’s greatest potentials,  and you are sharing your life, you are into generosity and kindness, giving love to others, you do not do anything wrong, not harming people or hurting people, you are kind to yourself, to other creatures, you are kind with nature,  you are doing good…you are living with greatest kindness, you are totally fine. Just enjoy life, focus on work, focus on what must be accomplished and set aside the worries about god and religion. You are here to discover who you are and share your life to others and not to carry doubts about god. Surrender those questions to the mystery for that mystery is beyond human thinking. Focus on your own life and find ways how to share it and become a blessing.

 

Credits:

Photos from Google images except the last part under the section “Questions Answered”  which was my photo during the documentation with Agta-Dumagat of Luzon.

 

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