Philippine literature, religious, spiritual nonfiction, Cecilia Manguerra Brainard, Cebu
Published by Anvil Publishing, Inc. Finding God: True Stories of Spiritual Encounters is a collection of 18 essays about people’s true-to-life experiences of encountering God. Contributors have written honestly about their spiritual encounter after the death of a family member, or illness of self or of family members, or infidelity of a spouse, or difficulties with family members. Others write of experiencing God’s presence during childbirth, in school, during a zen-moment, and during pilgrimages to Lourdes and Medjugorje. The experiences are varied; some writers are Catholics, some are Born-Again Christians. Eleven of the contributors are based in the United States, while seven are based in the Philippines. The book thus provides a Filipino and Filipino American points of view.
Contributors are: Mila D. Aguilar, Raquel Villavicencio Balagtas, M.G. Bertulfo, Susan Evangelista, M. Evelina Galang, Evelyn Regner Seno, Tony Robles, Edgar Poma, Aileen Ibardaloza, Paulino Lim, Jr., Brian Ascalon Roley, Marlinda Angbetic Tan, Lisa B. Martinez, Felice Prudente Sta. Maria, C. Sophia Ibardaloza, Reme A. Grefalda. Cecilia and Marily also have essays in the book.
There is one thing I am sure of, and it is that God will never do anything that is bad for us. Our puny minds often cannot understand how all our sufferings can be good for us, but if we look back at our lives, we see how everything eventually works out well in the end. This is the faith that underlies the essays in this book. It is a simple faith, but a profound one.
Isagani R. Cruz, Philippine Star
My father confessor once told me, that at times one would not be able to see
God's plan until one looks back or partake in the experience of others. This
book, a collection of narratives on finding God will surely uplift our faith
as we learn from the experience of others.
Jocelyn B. Gerra,Ph.D, OPL, ( Lay Dominican), Executive Director, Ramon Aboitiz Foundation, Inc.
Finding God on earth, next to entering heaven in eternal life is, to my mind,
the greatest gift one can experience.I know that not everyone can be aware that
he or she is finding God at
precisely the moment this experience is happening, but all the contributors are to be envied, for finding God can be such an awesome moment whether it happens when one is in great physical pain or in deep spiritual anguish. I am privileged to write one of the blurbs of a book being dedicated to the memory of my dear friend, Jose de Santos Orosa, who taught me what forgiveness is all about.
Josefina T. Lichuaco, columnist, former Secretary of the Department of
Transportation and Communications
BOOK REVIEW: "Finding God" BY ALLEN GABORRO (Philippine
News, November 20, 2009)
TITLE: Finding God: True Stories of Spiritual Encounters
Edited by Cecilia Manguerra Brainard and Marily Ysip Orosa
PUBLISHER: Anvil Publishing (Manila)
158 pages, nonfiction
Distributed in the US by palhbooks.com, email email@example.com
“Finding God: True Stories of Spiritual Encounters” is a righteous anthology of works that focus on the mark that God has made on the book‘s writers. A total of 18 pieces have been contributed to “Finding God” which was put together and edited by author Cecilia Manguerra Brainard and book publisher Marily Ysip Orosa.
Their publication is timely, depending of course on how you would identify yourself as either a religious person, an agnostic, or as a non-believer. The book attempts to fill the void between Christian ideals and the confounding reality of our modern, secular existence by trying to inspire its reading audience into realizing a closer, more personal relationship with God. And in a time when Filipinos and Filipino Americans are ever-mindful of the pressing demands of the temporal world, “Finding God” seeks to rebrand humanity with God’s fullness and grace.
At the risk of sounding evangelistic, Brainard and Orosa have touted their anthology as nothing less than “God’s book” and that they were “His tools” in the creation of that book. A little melodramatic perhaps, but that is not to say that the true believing reader will not feel God’s presence throughout the pages of “Finding God.” In fact, it is not an exaggeration to say that the editors have indisputably attributed the conception and the production of the book to God himself.
“Finding God” finds unity in diversity as it respects the authors’ individualism and the awareness that they share something in common that is very sublime and transcendent. That something is their Christian faith and it is the glue that holds all of the book’s contributors together. Brainard and Orosa apply that faith to create a consensus of spirituality out of a collection of people who, judging from the multiplicity of their backgrounds, may not agree at all on other issues.
Foremost among the stories in “Finding God” is the anthology’s very first one, titled “Losing God” by Mila D. Aguilar. To understand Aguilar’s essay, one need look no further than her life both as a young girl and then later, as a political revolutionary. As a young girl, Aguilar determined that God did not exist, that “there was no God, that he was but a figment of man’s imagination.” Her first-hand look at poverty in the Philippines caused Aguilar to conflate the deprivation she saw with the nonexistence of God. Consequently, her mindset acknowledged no other philosophy other than atheism and communism “as the ultimate solution to social inequality.”
The images of Aguilar’s arrest and incarceration in 1984 by Ferdinand Marcos’s security forces are filled with tension, drama, and danger. Surviving her imprisonment becomes tenuous at one point, as one of her interrogators implies that her days on earth are numbered. Ironically it is at this point that Aguilar, the atheistic revolutionary, refers her fate to a divinity in her moment of impending doom: “If that is what God wills…I was as ready to die or be butchered.” Aguilar eventually finds her way to God after her release from prison following the downfall of the Marcos regime.
A spiritual being can easily find divine inspiration in the collection’s narratives for “Finding God” reverently depicts the vital spirituality that colors its assortment of stories. However, a principally secular humanist and rationalist—there are far more of them among Filipinos and Filipino Americans than one might think—would take issue with this. The book is to the Filipino Christian faithful what a prayer meeting is to a gathering of devoted attendees. “Finding God” conveys a message that is totally commensurate with the Christian worldview and ethos, but one that is also at variance with any model of critical discussion. In this sense, Brainard’s and Orosa’s publication is a microcosm of Christianity’s immutable version of compassionate conservatism and pathos.
With seemingly intricate candor, “Finding God” tries to do justice to the completeness of God by posing an interchange between the spiritual lives and faith of its contributors and those who choose to closely consider the moral and historical contradictions that surround the Christian religion. By doing so, the book’s editors deliver a spiritually sobering yet uplifting message of faith that some readers will embrace and others will take with a grain of salt.
(Photo l-r: Marily Orosa, Mila Aguilar, Cecilia Brainard, Marlinda Tan)
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