Force of Life: The Filipino Odyssey

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The Filipino Odyssey

Acts 17:26-28

From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; AND HE MARKED OUT THEIR APPOINTED TIMES IN HISTORY AND THE BOUNDARIES OF THEIR LANDS. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.


diaspora noun. \dī-ˈas-p(ə-)rə\

  1. The movement or migration of a group of people, such as those sharing a national and/or ethnic identity, away from an established or ancestral homeland.

In his novel, “El Filibusterismo,” Jose Rizal appealed to the next generation of Filipinos:

“Where are the youth who will consecrate their golden hours, their illusions, and their enthusiasm to the welfare of their land? …Where are you, youth, who will embody in yourselves the vigor of life that has felt our veins, the purity of ideas that has been contaminated in our brains, the fire of enthusiasm that has been quenched in our hearts! We await you, O youth! Come, for we await you!”

Fast forward to the 21st centuryWith Filipinos scattered throughout 214 countries, the Filipino diaspora has truly become global. A new generation of Filipinos emerges – a generation born and raised in a culture and land foreign to that of their parents and grandparents. In the words of F. Sionil Jose, the Filipino is everywhere – “in the pitiless deserts of the Middle East, the icy wastes of the Artic, and the booming cities of the West.” [1]

The concept of “diaspora” challenges ideas often associated with nationhood such as culture, identity, and social affinity. As people migrate from one country to another, they take with them their customs, culture, and ethnic identity.

With more than a million Filipinos every year leaving to work and reside abroad, the social space of the diaspora expands, thereby extending the potential of Filipinos to impact the communities around them.

Filipinos have encountered and continue to encounter unprecedented challenges and realities of living outside their homeland. Nevertheless, the call to know one’s roots, to consecrate one’s life to a noble cause, and to live for the sake of others – as echoed by Rizal – continues to challenge the next generation of Filipinos, whether they be in the Philippines or overseas. “We await you, O youth” – to work hard, excel, and rise up to embody the vision of a nation aspiring to break the chains of mediocrityand respond to the call of uniting a truly fragmented people.     

Unfortunately, it is not often the case that the Filipino abroad perceives his or her life as an opportunity to carry the dream of a people. Instead, perspective becomes myopic and the “American Dream,” a pursuit centered on me, myself, and I, becomes life’s ultimate goal.

However, is living for one’s self, meeting one’s own personal needs, and ensuring survival on a day-to-day basis satisfactory in defining a truly fulfilling and significant life?

odyssey  nou.n \ˈä-də-sē\

  1. A Greek hexameter epic poem traditional ascribed to Homer, describing the travels of Odysseus during his ten years of wandering after the sack of Troy. He eventually returned home to Ithaca and killed the suitors who had plagued his wife Penelope during his absence
  2. A long and eventful or adventurous journey or experience. [2]

“Filipino Odyssey” is but a fitting phrase to encapsulate experience of the Global Filipino for it connotes a journey traveled by a people seeking to serve, uplift, and shine. Wherever we may be called or placed to live in this world, will we be able to leave a legacy that will outlast even our own lives?

Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of Great Britain during World War II once said,

“One of the signs of a great society is the diligence with which it passes culture from one generation to the next. This culture is the embodiment of everything the people of that society hold dear …

When one generation no longer esteems its own heritage and fails to pass the torch to its children, it is saying in essence that the very foundational principles and experiences that make the society what it is are no longer valid. This leaves that generation without any sense of definition or direction, making them the fulfillment of Karl Marx’s dictum, ‘A people without a heritage are easily persuaded.”

In an era that deeply values identity, Filipinos abroad represent a generation faced constantly with the question, “Who am I?” For it is when we know who we are and where we stand as a people can we truly understand the uniqueness of our contributions and our service to the world. It is then can we truly be a blessing and shine our light wherever we may be.

In searching for himself and his place in this world, the sojourner never arrives and presses on – never content, always learning, and ensures that every step he takes he leaves an imprint on the hearts of the people around him.

There is a race marked out for each and everyone one of us. To echo the words of Mordecai in the book of Esther – WE WERE MADE FOR SUCH A TIME AS THIS.

Will YOU travel the journey of the Filipino Odyssey?  

Hebrews 12:1

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us RUN WITH PERSEVERANCE, the RACE MARKED OUT for us…




Force of Life: The Hero’s Journey

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The Hero’s Journey

‘Well, in our country,’ said Alice, still panting a little, ‘you’d generally get to somewhere else — if you ran very fast for a long time, as we’ve been doing.’

‘A slow sort of country!’ said the Queen. ‘Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place.

If you want to get somewhere else, YOU MUST RUN AT LEAST TWICE AS FAST AS THAT!’
– Lewis Carroll (conversation between Alice and the Red Queen), Through the Looking Glass

Of David.

1 The Lord is my light and my salvation—
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life—
of whom shall I be afraid? -Psalm 27

Take a look at this picture. Look at the details. Look at the colors, and look at the figures. What did you see?

For a lot of people what they end up seeing are the cars, the bustle, and the general craziness of everyday life. For some, that’s all they would ever see.

This is a picture taken by David Guison—a photographer and blogger—when asked what does it mean to be a force of life. In truth, that’s a question that many of us would want to ask ourselves. What truly does it mean to apply the force of life in our own lives? Let’s take a look at those people who did become forces of life: Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Nelson Mandela, Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Mulan, Genghis Khan, etc.

Together, we could get this list to grow to epic proportions, so much so that we could fill the entire page of the blog with just the names of people who have made an impact in the world. However, knowing of them would do nothing to us except for filling our minds with trivia. KNOWING what they went through is a different story. When we see these names, we think of all their accomplishments. However, it is not accomplishment that brings all these people together. What is it? It would actually be hard to believe.


Let’s get back to that picture. That picture seems to show everything that we would want to change, the traffic, the mess, the chaos. That picture shows us the reality of what happens. It seems to be something that is so simple! It’s a highway, meant to bring people from point A to point B, but we can never seem to get it to work the right way! How are we to dream of being a force of life when we cannot even get to our destination!

But therein lies the magic. Let’s take a look at heroism. What started the path towards heroism? Wasn’t it an insurmountable problem? Did not Theseus have to face the Minotaur, a being that nobody has ever been able to defeat, aside from having to escape the Labyrinth? Did not Perseus face Medusa for him to complete his journey? Did not Odysseus need to solve the problem of Troy before he would have been able to come back home? It is not the problem that becomes our stumbling block towards being a force of life. It is how we face it. EVERY SINGLE HERO IN HISTORY HAD TO FACE AN INSURMOUNTABLE PROBLEM, AND OVERCOME IT. So do not be afraid of problems. Do not be afraid of hardships. Don’t look at things that go wrong and end up cursing the darkness. Instead, shine a light that would be seen across the whole world.

2 Timothy 1:7 “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.”

Week 46: Friday – Force of Life


Don’t Hesitate To Be GENEROUS!


“You have to be burning with an idea, or a problem,

or a wrong that you want to right.”

― Steve Jobs


Luke 6:38 (TMSG)

Give away your life; you’ll find life given back, but not merely given back—given back with bonus and blessing. Giving, not getting, is the way. Generosity begets generosity.


Watch this guy:


A Force Of Life significantly affects society because he is GENEROUS. His mindset is not on HOARDING FOR HIMSELF. People who have made it their goal to be a BLESSING TO SOCIETY are always the HAPPIEST. It is tried and proven. When a person uses his talents for the BENEFIT OF MANKIND, life has a way of returning the favour. LIFE IS NOT ABOUT GETTING and KEEPING. Remember how life flourishes when seeds are planted to the ground… When flowers surrender their pollens to the gentle winds… When rivers give in to the current flow. This kind of rhythm gives way to new cycles of LIFE, ever fresh, ever new. HOARDING IS SELFISHNESS, and SELFISHNESS LEADS TO DEATH… and there’s no other worse punishment to a selfish life than EMPTINESS.


Robert Schuller wrote:


“I’ll never forget the young man who longed for a Ferrari. He dreamed about it. He imagined himself behind the wheel. He could smell the soft, supple leather. He could feel the power of the engine as it hugged the road.


Then it happened. He got the promotion he wanted, and with the promotion came a good sized raise. At last he knew he could fulfill his fantasy. Shining black, the Ferrari gleamed and glistened as he drove it away from the showroom floor. His dream had come true. He was ecstatic!


The car was magnificent to drive, and the young man loved all the attention he received from envious young men and lovely ladies. But the payments were steep. The entire raise and more was going into this car. The girls that the car attracted expected him to take them to expensive restaurants. They expected expensive gifts. And parking attendants expected fat tips.


Then it came time to have the Ferrari serviced. Wow! He had no idea that a mere lube job would cost so much. He managed to pay, although the high charges left him in the hole financially.

But it was worth it! He had a Ferrari-his dream car! The young man enjoyed washing and waxing the Ferrari, rubbing the wax and watching the sun glint off the mirrored body. But after a few months he began to notice little nicks in the paint and scratches on the door.   He began to get tired of the attention and the demands that the car and its new friends made on him. In fact, he was beginning to wonder who the girls were going out with-him or his car!


That car-the young man’s pride and joy, his source of happiness-was beginning to become a source of disappointment and depression, as well as a burden. This letdown was totally unexpected. He had thought he would be eternally happy once he had that car. But he wasn’t.

Future shock overtook-and shook-him. Now he was haunted by the question: “Will I ever be happy? Will I ever be satisfied?”

(“The Be-Happy Attitudes.”)



“What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us;

what we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal.”

— Albert Pike

Week 46: Thursday – Force of Life


No Matter What: Live An Amazing Life!


“Security is mostly a superstition.

It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it.

Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure.

Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.”

~ Helen Keller


1 Timothy 4:14 (ESV)

Do not neglect the gift you have…


Below is a repost of an article published by Elite Daily.

The sadness of a life unused for greatness. A waste of talents unshared.

All because we sometimes choose CONVENIENCE over CHALLENGES.  COMFORT over COMMITMENT.

May this man find hope. It’s never too late for a midway redirection.



Man Tells Heartbreaking Story

Of How He Realized He Wasted His Life


“Life slips by so quickly.

Often, we aren’t even aware our lives aren’t taking the shape we’d hoped. It’s easy to settle for a job or a relationship, rather than make decisions that create the person you’d like to become.

Redditor JohnJerryson, 46, posted on a forum called Today I F*cked Up. Usually, these posts are funny, unfortunate accidents that happen throughout the day.

But, this man posted his story with the title “TIFU my whole life.”

Nearing middle age, JohnJerryson explains how he’s wasted his life and become a stranger to himself.

Hundreds of people have since responded to JohnJerryson, sharing their inspirational thoughts or pained empathy. The full text is below.


‘TIFU my whole life. My regrets as a 46 year old, and advice to others at a crossroad

TIFU. More like more whole life really.

Hi, I my name’s John. I’ve been lurking for a while, but I’ve finally made an account to post this. I need to get my life off my chest. About me. I’m a 46 year old banker and I have been living my whole life the opposite of how I wanted.

All my dreams, my passion, gone. In a steady 9-7 job. 6 days a week. For 26 years. I repeatedly chose the safe path for everything, which eventually changed who I was.

Today I found out my wife has been cheating on me for the last 10 years. My son feels nothing for me. I realised I missed my father’s funeral FOR NOTHING. I didn’t complete my novel, travelling the world, helping the homeless. All these things I thought I knew to be a certainty about myself when i was in my late teens and early twenties. If my younger self had met me today, I would have punched myself in the face. I’ll get to how those dreams were crushed soon.

Let’s start with a description of me when I was 20. It seemed only yesterday when I was sure I was going to change the world. People loved me, and I loved people. I was innovative, creative, spontaneous, risk-taking and great with people. I had two dreams. The first, was writing a utopic/dystopic book.


The second, was travelling the world and helping the poor and homeless. I had been dating my wife for four years by then. Young love. She loved my spontaneity, my energy, my ability to make people laugh and feel loved.

I knew my book was going to change the world. I would show the perspective of the ‘bad’ and the ‘twisted’, showing my viewers that everybody thinks differently, that people never think what the do is wrong. I was 70 pages through when i was 20. I am still 70 pages in, at 46.


By 20, I had backpacking around New Zealand and the Phillipines. I planned to do all of Asia, then Europe, then America (I live in Australia by the way). To date, I have only been to New Zealand and the Phillipines.

Now, we get to where it all went wrong. My biggest regrets. I was 20. I was the only child. I needed to be stable. I needed to take that graduate job, which would dictate my whole life.

To devote my entire life in a 9-7 job. What was I thinking? How could I live, when the job was my life? After coming home, I would eat dinner, prepare my work for the following day, and sleep at 10pm, to wake up at 6am the following day. God, I can’t remember the last time I’ve made love to my wife.

Yesterday, my wife admitted to cheating on me for the last 10 years. 10 years. That seems like a long time, but i can’t comprehend it. It doesn’t even hurt. She says it’s because I’ve changed. I’m not the person I was. What have I been doing in the last 10 years? Outside of work, I really can’t say anything. Not being a proper husband. Not being ME.

Who am I? What happened to me? I didn’t even ask for a divorce, or yell at her, or cry. I felt NOTHING. Now I can feel a tear as I write this. But not because my wife has been cheating on me, but because I am now realising I have been dying inside.

What happened to that fun-loving, risk-taking, energetic person that was me, hungering to change the world? I remember being asked on a date by the most popular girl in the school, but declining her for my now-wife. God, I was really popular with the girls in high school. In university/college too… I studied everyday.


Remember all that backpacking and book-writing I told you about? That was all in the first few years of college. I worked part-time and splurged all that I had earned. Now, I save every penny. I don’t remember a time I spend anything on anything fun. On anything for myself. What do I even want now?

My father passed ten years ago. I remember getting calls from mom, telling me he was getting sicker and sicker. I was getting busier and busier, on the verge of a big promotion. I kept putting my visit off, hoping in my mind he would hold on. He died, and I got my promotion. I haven’t seen him in 15 years.

When he died, I told myself it didn’t matter what I didn’t see him. Being an atheist, I rationalized that being dead, it wouldn’t matter anyway. WHAT WAS I THINKING? Rationalizing everything, making excuses to put things off. Excuses. Procrastination. It all leads to one thing, nothing. I rationalized that financial security was the most important thing.

I now know, that it definitely is not. I regret doing nothing with my energy, when I had it. My passions. My youth. I regret letting my job take over my life. I regret being an awful husband, a money-making machine.

I regret not finishing my novel, not travelling the world. Not being emotionally there for my son. Being a damn emotionless wallet.

If you’re reading this, and you have a whole life ahead of you, please. Don’t procrastinate. Don’t leave your dreams for later. Relish in your energy, your passions. Don’t stay on the internet with all your spare time (unless your passion needs it).

Please, do something with your life while you’re young. DO NOT settle down at 20. DO NOT forget your friends, your family. Yourself. Do NOT waste your life. Your ambitions. Like I did mine. Do not be like me.

Sorry for the long post, just had to get it out there.

I realised I let procrastination and money stop me from pursuing my passions when I was younger, and now I am dead inside, old and tired.’”

Week 46: Wednesday – Force of Life


Older And Wiser!


“Nature gives you the face you have at twenty;

it is up to you to merit the face you have at fifty.”

Coco Chanel


Psalm 92 (NCV)

12        But good people will grow like palm trees;

they will be tall like the cedars of Lebanon.

13        Like trees planted in the Temple of the Lord,

they will grow strong in the courtyards of our God.

14        When they are old, they will still produce fruit;

they will be healthy and fresh.

15        They will say that the Lord is good.

He is my Rock, and there is no wrong in him.



In one of my walks, I passed by a big, nice house with an old man tending the garden. I said hello. He greeted back with a wave.

That was the first of many others. Sometimes, with a little more time in my hands for chitchats, we talk about  food, migration, work, family. Just about anything. I began to call him uncle and his wife auntie.

I always comment how beautiful his garden is. And to this, his only answer remains the same:

“Just to kill the time!” And with that a frowning face, a grimace actually, as if he’s in a lot of pain for not knowing what to do with what’s left of his life.


He mentioned one time how miserable he is. Worked since he was 17 and now he’s in his 80s, and hasn’t enjoyed much. His only child lives far away and seldom visits with his family. And all he has left to do everyday is tend his garden.  “Just to kill the time.” He then went on to advice me to enjoy life while young. His wife said, “It’s good you don’t drive because if you do, nobody will talk to us.”

Now that made me really sad.


When I am older, I want to be a fountain of wisdom for the young. I want them to enjoy talking to me because I have so much to give.

That when they talk to me, THEY WON’T FEAR OF GROWING OLD. That at the end of every moment with me, their dreams affirmed, their energy reinvigorated.

That’s why TODAY,  I am preparing myself to be a STURDY Narra Tree someday, beautifully aged by the moonsoon rains and scorching sun. People are afraid to be old. They worship youthfulness. This, again, is one of  the many repulsive dictates of our present society so devoid of depth and substance. NOBODY ESCAPES TIME. Only the dead. Even their corpses are subject to decay brought about by time.


Think about it. Are you just waiting for the grave?

Or is life just eating and drinking and merry-making?

A FORCE OF LIFE is like a fine, AGED WINE. The older it is, the higher its value.


Samuel Ullman said:


“Youth is not a time of life; it is a state of mind;

it is not a matter of rosy cheeks, red lips and supple knees;

it is a matter of the will, a quality of the imagination,

a vigor of the emotions;

it is the freshness of the deep springs of life.”

Week 46: Tuesday – Force of Life




“Don’t worry about what the world needs. 

Ask what makes you come alive and do that,

because what the world needs is people who have COME ALIVE.”

~Howard Thurman


1 Peter 4:10 (NIV)

Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others,

as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.



The most popular word among the youth we hear nowadays is “Boring.”

It’s not just the young. The older ones complain how MONOTONOUS life is… That it’s another Manic Monday, can’t wait for Friday… How they wish it’s long vacation, etc. It’s weekdays again and LIFE IS SO DULL.

These people are nuts, grumbling about a life of their choice. It’s not the situation that is boring. It is them. They are boring people.


I really got a problem with people who say “Boring.”

They lack imagination and passion. Their creativity level is entirely zero. People who say life is DULL are those that think the world owes them more entertainment. People who say, “Oh just killing the time,” are nitwits. OUR ENTIRE LIFETIME IS NOT ENOUGH FOR NEW DISCOVERIES… THERE IS SO MUCH TO SEE… TO TASTE… TO LEARN… TO EXPERIENCE.



William Arthur Ward wrote:


If you are wise, you will empty yourself into adventure.

Empty your days of the search for security; fill them with a passion for service.

Empty your hours of the ambition for recognition; fill them with the aspiration for achievement.

Empty your moments of the need for entertainment; fill them with the quest for creativity.



“Your greatest contribution to helping other people

live their destiny is for you to live your own.”

– Alan Cohen



When you LIVE YOUR DESTINY, you become a FORCE OF LIFE.

You will COME ALIVE. And everything you touch COMES ALIVE.

And the most exciting thing is, your life will never be colourless, uneventful, bland, or uninteresting.

In short…


Week 46: Monday – Force of Life


“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is,

‘What are you doing for others?’”

– Martin Luther King, Jr.



“For we are God’s handiwork,

created in Christ Jesus to do good works,

which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

– Ephesians 2:10


‘A man fell in a ditch.

Realist: “That is a ditch.”

Optimist: “Things will get better.”

Pessimist: “Things will get worse.”

Christian Scientist: “You only think you are in a ditch.”

Newspaper reporter: “I’ll pay you for an exclusive story about life in the ditch.”

City official: “Did you get a permit for your ditch life?”

Mathematician: “I’ll calculate the length and depth and width of the ditch.”

Preacher: “I see three things about the ditch that are noteworthy.”

IRS agent: “Have you paid your taxes for the ditch?”

Jesus: “Give Me your hand.”’

(The Speaker’s Quote Book)


A Force Of Life doesn’t always have a good night sleep.

Sometimes he lays awake at night thinking how to feed the hungry. How to clothe the cold. How to change the world.

How to make it a better place for others. His heart is always broken, simply because HE IS SENT TO A BROKEN WORLD. A world that needs not only a good repair, but a world that needs to be renewed.

A Force Of Life’s FUEL runs low in times of ease, when all he’s concerned about is himself. Why? Because he doesn’t thrive in the comfortable and convenient, that which is sure and secure. No.

He is a Force because his fuel is FIRE. His Food is TOIL and his appetite, LIFE.


He’s called A FORCE OF LIFE because he can’t afford not to care.

And so he goes about changing lives, spreading hope, healing wounds, and lifting souls.

He is a VOICE THAT CANNOT BE MUFFLED; a light whose shining cannot be subdued.


To a fainting heart, his gift is HOPE.

In a world so ugly and dark, HE CAN’T HELP BUT CREATE BEAUTY.

And whoever he meets learns to give generously. They find themselves BELIEVING again in what good that’s left.

He is a LEGEND, you say. A hero, a pair of feet that rarely pass this earth.

But in reality, he’s just a common person. As common as you and me. And yes, as plain as you and me.



“We must learn to reawaken and keep ourselves awake,

not by mechanical aid, but by an infinite expectation of the dawn.”

– Henry David Thoreau


Week 45 (Day 4): Force of Life


“As a father has compassion on his children,

so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;

for he knows how we are formed,

he remembers that we are dust.

The life of mortals is like grass,

they flourish like a flower of the field;

the wind blows over it and it is gone,

and its place remembers it no more.

But from everlasting to everlasting

the Lord’s love is with those who fear him,

and his righteousness with their children’s children—

with those who keep his covenant

and remember to obey his precepts.” – Psalm 103:13-18

How does one become a force of life?

A Force of Life sings a song of hope in the darkest of nights.

The first mention of the word flower, one immediately associates with it the ideas of beauty, freshness, youth, and hope. In poetry and song, flowers had been used to evoke a feeling of nostalgia, speak of a coming renaissance, or symbolize the transience of life. Culturally, the Japanese ethos is represented by a beautiful yet ephemeral flower, the sakura or the cherry blossom, which speak of the importance of living life in every breath. Jose Rizal himself wrote the beautiful poem To the Flowers of Heidelberg through which he reminisced the time he spent in Germany and the moments of deep reflection he had on his love for is motherland while he is in a foreign land.

The imagination of countless children of the 20th century was captured by the music and the narrative of the film The Sound of Music. For most kids, the movie is a succession of wonderful songs that express the vibrancy and energy of being young and adventurous. Do-Re-Mi, Sixteen Going on Seventeen, and So Long, Farewell were just some of the songs that are until today being sung by children of all ages across cultures and countries. One of the most memorable songs and perhaps the most important song of the film is a song about an Austrian flower called Edelweiss. The edelweiss can be found at altitudes 1,800-3,000 meters above sea level where the air is cold and the atmosphere is dry. It is a delicate short-lived flower that grows where limestone can be most found. In folklore, the edelweiss is a flower given as a gift if one is to make a promise of dedication to someone they love.

“Edelweiss, Edelweiss

Every morning you greet me

Small and white, clean and bright

You look happy to meet me

Blossom of snow may you bloom and grow

Bloom and grow forever

Edelweiss, Edelweiss

Bless my homeland forever”

Captain von Trapp, the head of the von Trapp family, sings the song Edelweiss in two occasions in the movie. The first instance was with his children in one of the many rooms in their mansion. It was the first time that the captain ever sang again with his children after the death of his wife. It was a beautiful moment when a father sings a song of love for one’s motherland to his seven young children. He was teaching them through music what it means to be Austrian. The second time was during a singing competition held in Nazi-ruled Austria. He and his family was about to flee Austria upon learning from a telegram that he is being commissioned to serve in the German Navy. Their plan to leave in the dark of night was discovered by the Nazi officers. This event led him and his wife Maria had to come up with an alibi which led the entire family to perform in the singing competition. His love for his homeland Austria caused him to sing the song Edelweiss as a way of bidding farewell to his motherland and as a way to remind his countrymen that they are supposed to fight for the integrity and glory of Austria amidst Nazi rule. He could not be coerced to serve in the German Navy because he believed that Germany had not right to invade his country. At that time, he thought that the only way for him to be a true son of Austria is by leaving Austria. He sang a song of hope in a time of great personal and national crises. There could not have been a better song to sing during that time of darkness and uncertainty. After all, edelweiss is a flower that is given as a gift when someone makes a promise of dedication to the people or country he holds closest to his heart.

Week 45 (Day 3): Force of Life


“Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my attendants will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.” Esther 4:16

How does one become a force of life?
Not far removed from reality, a Force of Life is one with the heartbeat of the people.

The 2008 Bollywood film Jodhaa Akbar is a love story between the Mughal Emperor, Jalaluddin Mohammad Akbar, and Rajput Princess, Jodhaa. Their epic romance happened at a time when the unity of the subcontinent of Hindustan (now India) under the Mughal Empire is being challenged by treachery, rebellion and political manoeuvrings from within the family of the emperor as well as from kingdoms that refused to pay homage to the Mughal emperor. It was a pivotal time in the history of India as the empire of Hindustan stretched as far as Afghanistan in the northwest to the Bay of Bengal in the east, and from the Himalayas in the north to the Godavari River in the south. In fact, Emperor Akbar is remembered in history as the most illustrious ruler of the Mughal Empire.
The film may be about the greatest among the Mughal emperors but it is also about the Rajput princess who was able to influence the emperor to become a great leader beyond the battlefield. In the film, Jodhaa’s marriage to Emperor Akbar was that of political convenience as her father King Bharmal of Amer presented her to the Mughal emperor to strengthen the alliance of Amer and the Mughal Empire. She refused to be a mere pawn in the political game among rulers. She used whatever influence that she had at that time to reveal to her husband the plight of the common man. She used her marriage to the greatest Mughal emperor as a platform to raise the issues of the world outside the royal court. She believed that for her husband to be a truly great emperor, he must first win the hearts of his subjects but first and foremost becoming one with them in spirit.
In this dialogue, Jodhaa challenges her husband, the emperor, to become a man whose heart beats with the hearts of the people of Hindustan. In essence, she was telling her husband that being married to her means being married to the simple folk of their empire.
Jodhaa: “You know how to wage war and conquer. But do not know how to rule.”
Akbar: “What did you say?”
Jodhaa: “That you have only conquered me but not won my heart yet.”
Akbar: “This is unfair. I have fulfilled your every wish. I have respected every demand of yours. I have carried out my duties as a husband!”
Jodhaa: “If that were true you’d never have sent me away without hearing my side.
Akbar: “But try to understand that considering the circumstances, a misunderstanding was inevitable.”
Jodhaa: “But you should have at least tried to know what really happened. But the truth is that you are far removed from reality. You do not know how to win hearts. To do that, you need to look into their minds, discover their little pleasures and sorrows, and win their trust. Be one with their heartbeat! And the day that you will succeed in doing that, you will rule my heart!”

Asking for her forgiveness, Akbar eventually embarked on a journey to discover what it was like to be a simple man in Hindustan. He went incognito in the marketplace to understand the daily needs of his subjects and, in the process, he discovered the unjust Pilgrim Tax that his empire had for the longest time collected from his Hindu subjects. He immediately abolished the Pilgrim Tax and his people began to see that he is indeed a great leader, a leader of all people in Hindustan regardless of culture or religion.
“Akbar” is a word that literally means “great”. But Akbar only became truly great when he finally became one with the heartbeat of his people. Jodhaa was once a Rajput princess who was used as a pawn in a marriage of alliance but she only became worthy to be called “Empress of Hindustan” when she fought for the simple and oftentimes forgotten people of her empire. Their marriage transcended its original purpose which was only to build an alliance between Amer and the Mughal Empire. Instead, they created an empire founded in truth, justice, and benevolence.

Week 45 (Tuesday): Force of Life


“Then after Moses grew up, his faith made him refuse to be called Pharaoh’s grandson. He chose to be mistreated with God’s people instead of having the good time that sin could bring for a little while. Moses knew that the treasures of Egypt were not as wonderful as what he would receive from suffering for the Messiah, and he looked forward to his reward.” Hebrews 11:24-26

How does one become a force of life?

A Force of Life does not feel inferior.

It can be said that Lee Kuan Yew is a man of his time. He lived in a time when colonialism and imperialism were the factors that determined the trajectory of countries and territories. He lived during the time when Singapore was a British colony. And at the age of 19, he witnessed first-hand the cruelty of Japanese imperialism during the Second World War. He lived in a time when being Chinese and Singaporean meant being perceived to be inferior to the colonial masters and subordinate to the imperial invaders.

Lee Kuan Yew once recalled that he himself should have been killed by the Japanese imperial soldiers as a huge number of taller and larger built Chinese Singaporeans were ordered to dig their own graves and were then killed by being shot from behind. He was about to board the lorry that would have brought him to his death when he was allowed to board the next day instead. This proved to be a game-changer for him when a sudden change of Japanese imperial officers the next day ultimately led to his life being spared.

The death and destruction brought about by war almost stole his future away from him. The toxicity of pessimism and doubt that pervaded during his youth seemed to have the power to define his destiny. Lee Kuan Yew, after the war, had the opportunity to study in London and there he thought that even the greatest of empires can come to an end. Post-war London was a place that allowed Lee Kuan Yew to reflect on freedom and what it means to take a stand for one’s homeland. As a Chinese Singaporean, he felt unwelcomed in London as he experienced first-hand how the Westerners perceived themselves as superior over the people from the Orient. Lee Kuan Yew said that in the midst of a different culture, he did not see himself as being inferior in any way. He fought bigotry with pride over his own Oriental roots and unmatched diligence as a student. He was never ashamed for being a man of Eastern heritage in a period when his country has not proven anything yet to the world.

He eventually returned to Singapore. As a passionate young man who had gained wisdom from his first-hand experience of the Second World War as well as his time as a student in London, he found himself becoming the leader of a country without natural resources and a post-colonial people without a common identity. Fast forward today, Singapore is now a nation of the future where what were once impossibilities have become the norm. It is a city-state that represents the future aspirations of mankind. All that Singapore achieved over five decades would not have happened if the man who was called to lead the “against all odds” journey of his country was a man who saw himself inferior to everyone else around him. There is dignity and nobility that comes with being able to stand by one’s people especially during the worst of times.

Moses was a prince of one of the most powerful kingdoms in the history of mankind but by faith he refused to be called Pharaoh’s grandson and instead chose to be mistreated with his the people of his own race. Moses was not lured by the accoutrements of Egyptian royal life. He saw that to journey with the God of his forebears Abraham, Isaac and Jacob was a much greater reward. Such is a Force of Life. He is an individual who does not allow his fear and the societal notions of power and prestige to define what he is and what he can do. He is driven by a heavenly fire. He is led by an understanding the world around his can never define him and, on the contrary, the world within him is what will transform the world around him no matter the darkness and the destruction.