HOW I BECAME A SERIOUS CHRISTIAN
by
Leonardo V. Magdamo

Credits to Dennis Magdamo

Credits to Dennis Magdamo

“Who will believe our report? To whom shall the arm of the Lord be revealed?” wailed Isaiah. I have a report about two men. Will it be believed?

Pardon the ego trip for a while, for my report begins with me. It was a day after my fifteenth (15th) birthday that early in the morning, Don Bell of KZRH in Manila, announced: “There is war in the Pacific. Japanese planes attacked Pearl Harbor in Hawaii.” A pall of gloom descended upon the town. Then came reports of troop landings in Lingayen, Hongkong and Indo-China. We had to get out of town. We knew how the Japanese soldier behaved in China. Calling him a barbarian was putting it mildly.

Bataan fell, then Corregidor and finally they landed in our town. We were already living in the hills. We couldn’t afford to be seen by them. We had to grow our own food and dodge their patrols. The guerrilla movement sprang up like spontaneous combustion. That angered the Japs all the more. They became more cruel and beastly. Then I found myself “conscripted” by the guerrillas. I did not mind. Many officers were family friends. On the night after I left, a Japanese patrol captured my family and two American missionary families. They beat up my father with rifle butts for hiding the Americans and brought all families down to their garrison. (My family slipped out of the garrison during one of the air raids).

The guerrilla warfare was not that theatrical, really. Nationalistic bravado was unknown. We just wanted the Japs out. They were no good. When the Japanese regiment surrendered after the war, the American MPs surrounded the prisoner-of-war camp not to keep the Japs in but to keep the guerrillas and smoldering civilians out.

Peace time at last! Back to normal. College, marriage, the rat race. Twenty four years later, the company I worked for formed an engineering team that would travel to Japan to negotiate for equipment for a paper mill to be constructed in Mindanao. I was a member. The technology was American. So I had an American engineer counterpart. Our plane landed in Tokyo’s Haneda airport at close to midnight. I could see the man placing chocks under the plane’s landing gear. He was wearing a Japanese army uniform. My blood started to boil again. Here I was, 24 years after the war, still willing to tear a Japanese apart. How could I forget him when scars were still on my father’s back.

For more than two weeks, we held marathon technical meetings. Then one Sunday, three of us; two American counterparts and me, decided to go to church. The hotel told us there was a church for expatriates near the Shibuya railroad station. We went there; arriving late. We had to take the front seats. The service was already half through, and we arrived just in tine for the sermon. The American pastor said, “Our guest speaker will introduce himself”. A small Japanese gentleman, dark for a Japanese, rifle erect, strode to the pulpit. “My name is Mitsuo Fuchida, (followed by a bow). I was the commander of the Pearl Harbor attack.”

WHAAAAAAAAAAAT?!

The three of us practically shot our of our seats. My American companions were Pacific war veterans. “I am a samurai with 40,000 flying hours to my credit,” continued Fuchida. Charlie on my right groaned. He was a Hellcat fighter pilot with 1,200 flying hours to his credit. “You must be wondering how I am behind this pulpit. I will tell you how.” Then Fuchida proceeded to testify. What follows is a paraphrase.

After attending a war crimes hearing where he was a witness, Fuchida proceeded to the Shibuya railroad to catch a train for home. As he entered the station, an American offered him a tract, which he hurriedly stuck into his pocket just to be polite and walked on. He was in a hurry. Halfway through the trip, when he was somewhat rested, he decided to read the tract. It was entitled “I Was A Prisoner Of The Japanese.”

From the pulpit he displayed the tract, now laminated in plastic, almost three feet long, written on both sides, and folded like an accordion. It told of the Doolittle raid and its aftermath. Col. Doolittle was tasked to lead a squadron of medium bombers to bomb Japan — to avenge the Pearl Harbor attack. The mission was not quite successful even if it alarmed the Japanese. All planes were lost. Among the survivors was a bombardier by the name of d’Shazer. He was captured and imprisoned. Physical torture and indignities heaped upon him was the daily standard fare in prison.

The once-upon-a-time happy-go-lucky d’Shazer, now battered and daunted, did the next best sensible thing to do. He went to God. He asked for God’s forgiveness and baptized himself with rain water dripping from the roof of his prison. Since he was convinced that God forgave him, he thought it but fair that he forgave his jailers too. He started befriending his jailers to their bewilderment. Their blows became less and less painful. By the time the two atom bombs were dropped, he was already on friendly terms with his jailers. He was forthwith sent home and forthwith basked in freedom. Then — surprise! — he enrolled in Bible College. After four years, he went back to Japan as a Christian missionary. It is this d’Shazer who was distributing tracts near the Shibuya station and who gave Fuchida one.

Who is this d’Shazer, Fuchida wondered. What was he doing in Japan? He was the victor, back to his old comforts. Why is he back here peddling this thing called “Love of God”? What kind of God is He who d’Shazer is so crazy about? The two finally met and naturally d’Shazer evangelized Fuchida.

In this process, Fuchida found meaning in why he did not sink with the aircraft carrier Akagi during the Battle of Midway. He found meaning in why in the aftermath of the Hiroshima holocaust, all his junior officers died, but not he. He found meaning in why he was not indicted as a war criminal. He realized he was being groomed for a job by a God he did not know.

The most moving part of Fuchida’s sermon that Sunday morning was an experience he had while idly flipping the pages of his Bible. His flipping stopped at the page where verse 34 of the 23rd chapter of Luke can be found. What leapt out of the page was: “Father, forgive Fuchida-san for he knows not what he is doing.”

“Immediately the memory of Pearl Harbor came roaring at me while THAT MAN hanging on the cross and absorbing all that sinning, was pleading with His Father, the author of the universe, to forgive me, Fuchida-san, who was at that time operating the world’s fiercest killing machine.”

I returned to the Philippines virtually in a daze. What is it that could turn Fuchida around? He was no ordinary Japanese. He was a samurai, skilled in the art of war and trained to kill. And d’Shazer. He hardly made sense. But then, did he have to? Look at the fruit of his ministry. And who am I to doubt that this Jesus who these two are working for means business?

Advertisements

Word around the unit is that Systems Development will be separated from the IT Department. Whether that’s only by physical location or by organizational structure as well isn’t clear. Here’s how it happened:

With the departure of the IT Head and the Junior Programmer (two different individuals; reasons irrelevant of one another), things in the IT Department were a bit shook up. Our Senior Programmer was appointed O.I.C. and I, a rookie, was made to take the place of the Junior Programmer.

My new boss was aware that my programming skills were rusty, at best. He assigned me to take care of a Monthly Monitoring System, as well as use it to familiarize myself with the data environment. He eventually had to take it back from me when the clients voiced out their sentiments about the urgency of the system’s development. So while waiting for the atmosphere to calm down, my boss allowed me to take on minor jobs such as data encoding, troubleshooting and some database administration. These are tasks which are looked upon by others as menial, but are seen by yours truly as oddly rewarding.

A couple of days ago, however, a new department within the office arose. Led by a feisty director known for being challenging of her people, outputs flowed quickly from her subordinates. As part of her grand scheme, she arranged for a meeting with our boss – who happens to be a Consultant. She wanted his services for another vast monitoring system. Their conversation led to a point where my boss was forced to let go of some of his other projects, all of which are from different departments within the office, to enable (force?) him to focus on that monitoring and evaluation system.

Unable to refuse, he came back to the IT Department with a defeated visage. It was decided: he was going to have to transfer to another room wherein he would focus on coding. And he was going to bring the two of us with him. It disheartens me to know that I’ll be leaving the troubleshooting behind. I could never understand why I enjoyed fixing stuff for people, but it’s the biggest loss I see. Me and my fellow comrade have ‘programmer’ written all over our job description, but neither of us are sharp with the whole thing. He’s taking interest in PhP and Visual Basic, the latter of which I’m familiar with in some way. The difference between the two of us is that I’m mostly disinterested in programming, and I feel like the whole task is being forced upon me.

I remember when customizing your Friendster page with CSS was the hip thing to do. I never dipped a finger in that. It was, for the most part, unnecessary. Maybe I took up the wrong course, or just the wrong major. I enjoy the tinkering our network administrators do.

But I’ll stay afloat. Like I’ve been saying to myself as motivation, these are opportunities to learn. Perhaps at some point in the future, I’ll look back at this with an appreciating perspective. In the meantime, I’ll just have to earn my pay.

Maybe that shield tattoo will help ease all this discomfort.

The daily stroll to the office includes a tricycle ride, a jeep ride, and a colorum FX ride. There’s also a long queue to get into the FX – which, by the way, perplexes me because the “FX” technically refers to the 3rd generation Toyota Kijang; the same line of Toyota vehicles which includes the Revo and Innova. Why does the Innova have less passenger capacity if it’s the new bloom of its generation? And why do we call them “FXs” when a good portion of them are vans?

 

After going away from my intended topic, let me get back to it. It takes me an hour and a half every day to get to the office. Ho-hum music from my earphones makes things a lot easier (except when I’m in inside a Hi-Ace; I love the sound the engine makes), but as always, there’s a window to look out to and daydream while one is at it.

In fact, I thought of this while I was just in the line waiting for the van.

I’m thinking of getting a tattoo. I’m willing to bet everyone has thought about it at some point in their life. Some have pushed through, some had fun entertaining the thought, some are still planning, and some have gotten themselves inked but are regretting doing so because of a variety of reasons.

I have no intention of getting a tattoo just to look at it one day asking God why I got it. So if ever I’m going to have any part of my skin drawn on permanently, I want it to be meaningful. So dragons, fish, chains, thorns, sharp weapons, grammatically incorrect slogans, or incoherent collages or montages of random stuff are out of the window. Even basketball-related images are excluded because even though I know I can play, I’m not about to strut around the metro with a sports tattoo setting expectations about my skills. I’ve narrowed some of my choices down to this:

  • My name – rather obvious choice. But too mainstream. 
  • A potato – yes, you read that right; a potato. Although people might mistake it for an asteroid; and while I do have some minor interest in the Solar System, I’m not very indulged in the topic to discuss the number of rocks orbiting the Sun between Mars and Jupiter.
  • A loaf of bread – I have weird choices, don’t I? I’m not even a fan of bread much.
  • A bowl of rice – to make it more distinguishable from a bowl of shredded wheat paste, oriental symbols around the bowl might be included.
  • A pupil-less monkey sitting on a barrel – because that’s badass and everybody likes monkeys and barrels.
  • An emperor penguin – because nobody else has one.
  • An emperor penguin with his young walking behind him – on my arm.
  • A tower shield – like the Greeks. Remember when I said sports symbols were out? This is an exemption. If there’s anything I’m confident with myself in with regards to basketball, it’s my perimeter defense. I will lock you down. I will make you work for your shots. I will make it difficult for you to get points for your team. I will make your team earn your points. I will study you and force you to go to your weak side. I will keep you from the paint. I will contest every shot. I will fight through screens. I will DEFEND.

Any other suggestions?

music_penguin_tattoo_by_peak_a_boo_britt-d4pn09z

By the way, this wasn’t what I had in mind.

Haven’t touched my blog in a while; too much stuff to do the past couple of months. My first job is kind of demanding (and a bit discouraging), but I’m trudging along slowly. The opportunity to learn is always there, and always appreciated. A bit of a summary will suffice for this post…in bullet form:

  • First Job: Junior Programmer. I’m learning again.
  • Recently realized how much I put into my right butt cheek pocket. I found paper clips, candy wrappers, printer test pages, empty cigarette packs, fast food coupons and the entire kingdom of Wonderland in there. At least I don’t litter.
  • Nearing 3 years with Catherine, yay!
  • I started the year not wanting to touch another steering wheel again. Now I haven’t driven in 2 months…kinda miss it…
  • My uncle’s recovery is going well. At least that facet of his life is good.
  • Forced to try cheaper cigarettes due to the Sin Tax Law; found out they’re not so bad. Except for Mighty — it’s like the manufacturer wrapped a stick in paper. Can you imagine that? He went into his backyard. And picked up A STICK. Then wrapped the damn stick in paper. Mighty is terrible. Fortune Green, on the other hand, is tolerable.
  • Speaking of the Sin Tax, I have tasted liquor exactly two times since the start of 2013. Now I know why I chugged down 8 bottles of beer during our workshop in Tagaytay, messing up my attendance for the entirety of the following day due to the hangover.
  • Catherine lent me her iPod Touch. Now I realize how delightful it is to be taking pictures of everything and posting it on (gasp) Instagram…and sharing it on (gasp) Facebook and Twitter. I completely regret making fun of those people. I’m going to apologize for that right now.
  • Cath has always been nagging me to get a facial treatment with her. I refuse to have my physical complexion artificially enhanced because I don’t give a fuck about how people look and I don’t give a fuck how I look (I do plan on body building once I turn 21, though…so I give a minor fuck). Finally, after I got back from Tagaytay, she asked again — nicely — and I was too exhausted to play tit-for-tat with her. Now I’m only praying that the products the dermatologist gave me doesn’t whiten my skin.
  • Still waiting on my first pay…

That’s about it. It’s apology time. Wheeeee

A couple of months ago, as I laid out the office directory, I looked at it with aspirations of having my name on it someday.

What do you know, it happened! Actually it’s a pending directory, but as I sketch it out for this year’s reorganization, I finally get to put my name under the I.T. Unit’s local hotline. It’s not exactly my job per se, but I find the task enjoyable. A little bit of an ego boost by seeing what I made being pinned to multiple walls inside the office never hurt anyone.

So anyway, my employment in the office is one of the newer things in 2013. With my arrival came the departure of my boss, however. It’s something she has long planned to do, so I can’t say I’m surprised. The feeling is more of fear of the fateful day, which came in less than a week of my employment. Maybe she left because I came in. Or perhaps it’s just pure coincidence.

I’ve been assigned to Systems Development; programming, basically. An absolutely fine deal. My interests lie more in Network Engineering (wish I found that out sooner). I’ve lost touch with coding. Not to mention the OIC at the moment is our Senior Programmer. But he needs help, since he can’t do coding for 2 systems simultaneously PLUS the managing of the unit. In fact, his demeanor has changed from giggling 30 year old man in his hormonal prime to busy 30 year old man trying to make the best of his hormonal prime. You all know what stress does to people.

Management is offering him a regular position in the office – which pays less than his current position (which doesn’t require him to report for work every day). If anyone can give even one convincing reason as to why he shouldn’t turn down the management’s proposal, give me a heads up and set my pants on fire. Although I assure you my trousers will not be igniting any time.

In other somewhat related news, my uncle’s still on the long road to recovery. It’s not long in the figurative sense as in he’s having a hard time, no. It’s a long road, literally. His psychiatrist says the recovery can take as long as 2 years. Anyway, while waiting for that much awaited 2 years, he has kept himself busy in the house. He has summoned workers to:

  • Repair our leaking faucets
  • Repair our water closet (which I distinctly remember being dismantled by my very own grandfather because “people could get along with pouring a bucket of water”
  • Repair my aunt’s mysteriously broken window; which was shattered 3 years ago and nobody seemed to do anything about it
  • Give his bodega an overhaul
  • Replace the garage tent
  • Re-arrange our not-so-pleasant-looking garden

All of the above, save for the bodega overhaul, were stuff that have been lying there for so long. For some reason, the family (including me) has developed a habit of “adapting to changes”; i.e. not fixing broken things if we can get along with the extent of the damage. So sloth, basically. My grandfather has never failed to chide us for leaving broken stuff (which we admittedly do). His exact words are “leaving an old man to do it.” It’s been that way for 4 years or so.

Now that stuff is moving and another one of the family bloodline is employed, his chiding didn’t seem to stop. Now he complains about us not being home enough and that he has to supervise the laborers around the house. Our caretaker, who has been with us for 10 years, has had to attend family matters in Mindanao for a while, and we were scrambling to find a replacement. The temporary replacement isn’t too bad, but there’s always the learning curve in new territories, so that task falls upon my grandfather, since he’s at home often. Poor man’s restless from not being able to lay down while the people do their thing.

I feel like I didn’t make much sense, or direction, in this post. Feel free to chide, like my grandfather.

P.S. I may talk a lot of smack about my grandfather, but we all love him to death. In fact, I was planning on giving him my first pay. The only thing I got when I told him my plans was more scolding. Not scolding literally, he just told me to give it to the church as the proverbial ‘first fruit’.

He just said it with a scream somewhere near the top of his lungs.