Joshua, 20, single, is in third year college, working on a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration degree, major in Financial Management.
He lives in Puerto Princesa, Palawan.
Young as he is, Joshua perceived he didn’t measure up to his parents’ expectations, and thus he struggled through a low self esteem which led to lamentable consequences, including straying away from his Catholic religion.
We are withholding his last name to protect the privacy of people involved in his story.
We are nine children in our family, and I’m the seventh child.
When I was a kid, I felt unappreciated by my parents because my brothers and sisters were all outstanding students. They received academic awards while I just got a ribbon for being the “Most Behaved”. I felt so sorry for myself that I developed low self-esteem. I felt I could not do anything right, I was no good, and thus I was of no use to my family.
With this mindset, I guess I coped by trying to impress people.
First, my parents. I was like, “If I could not excel in school, at least I should not be so much of a burden to my parents.”
I was only 7 years old then. So I won’t have to rely on my parents for my school allowance, I decided to earn money by selling pan de sal. I woke up as early as 4 a.m. to pick up the pan de sal from a nearby bakeshop so I could sell them in the neighborhood before going to school.
It wasn’t easy. One time, a dog came running after me. I was so scared, some pan de saI fell off the box I was carrying. I escaped the dogs only because I was able to climb up to the nearest wall.
Even at the time, I knew the Lord was protecting me and I still managed to sell whatever was left in my box.
When I entered high school, I promised myself to focus more on my academics to prove my worth to my family and make my parents proud. I discovered I loved Mathematics— and I was good enough to represent my school in Math competitions.
I also liked basketball, so I worked on my shoots— and I made the varsity team.
Thinking I was not appreciated at home, I guess I tried next to get attention in school— although the wrong way.
When I was in third year high school, I hang out with the tough guys in school who introduced me to smoking, alcoholism, and addiction to computer games. Since we were the rowdy bunch, we got into fist fights and bullying.
Alas, the vices led to three lamentable consequences.
First, if earlier, I peddled bread to earn money for my allowance, this time, I had to take money from my parents to sustain my vices.
Second, I cut classes so I could go to my drinking sessions. But surprisingly, I finished high school— I guessed, then, out of pure luck.
Third, the vices worsened to a third one— womanizing. Getting into college, I fooled around many times.
Then, I met “the one”— or so I thought. I loved her so much that I did everything for her and took care of her in a way I didn’t for the other girls.
We got so passionate, she eventually got pregnant. Confused, we fought, playing the blame game. I accused her of frustrating my plan to be of service to my parents and she chided me for destroying her future. Stressed out, she went away to her hometown, far from Puerto Princesa, far from me.
Our time apart gave me enough space to think things through and to plan for our soon-to -be “family”.
I decided to stop schooling and work for her and our coming baby. I was willing to take risks for them, ready to face ridicule, if not recrimination from my family and other people.
I didn’t hear from her for three months. Then, I just found out from a friend that she aborted her pregnancy. I went to see her, asked her about the abortion, and she confirmed it, but feigned no remorse.
I was so mad, I just couldn’t stand facing her, much more live with her. So we broke off.
After our breakup, I promised myself to change and be a better man. I didn’t want to commit the same mistakes I made and cost a life again. Thus, I resolved to shape up. I started cutting down on my vices. I focused on my studies, and ignored the temptation of beautiful women around me. I told myself that I should not put to waste the second chance for me to live upright.
My life went pretty well then. I replaced my addiction to computer games with a new hobby.— reading books.
Instead of cutting classes for my drinking sprees, I stayed in the school library, studied hard, and as a result, my grades went high. Eventually, I made it to the Dean’s List.
I felt that finally, I had a new purpose— I had something good to do with my life.
But my naughty days were not yet over. I was tempted to court two girls at the same time, not knowing they were bestfriends. I was close to get each girl’s “Yes”. But one day, I bumped into them in the campus— together! Needless to say, they dumped me. And so I went back to my good boy image and I didn’t look at any girl — for some time.
After a long year, I met who I thought—again— was “the one”. She was my classmate and she was the first woman I ever brought home to meet my family. But my parents were against our relationship because we had different religions. My parents worried that the girl would get me baptized in her church.
I did attend a couple of her church services. But still, we could not reconcile our differences. She wanted me to convert to her religion, I wanted to remain Catholic. We fought a lot about our beliefs. Tired of our fights, I flirted with other girls. She found out about it, and so we broke up.
Our breakup was a wakeup call for me. I was in third year college then when I realized how I was totally missing out in life. I realized that my dreams were not coming true as they are supposed to because of all the crazy things I had been doing against women and against myself. I also thought that as I was growing up, my parents too were growing old and it might be too late for me to give them the life I had always wanted to give them. They became my motivation to study and work harder.
I joined a business club for multilevel marketing and exerted so much effort to be finally of help to my parents. I did everything so I could make them proud and happy for me. In time, I became financially independent at a young. age. And I became the family breadwinner—providing allowance for our home, paying our bills, paying for my tuition fees.
My parents couldn’t be any prouder and happier and it felt really good to see them smile because of my achievements. And to actually they used to think I had nothing better thing to do than computer games and basketball— but now they were proud that they had a successful businessman son.
I bought myself a motorcycle as a reward for my hard work.
I already had achieved what I longed to achieve in my life. I never felt so fulfilled and satisfied. So at that point, I thought that I could already get into a serious relationship. It was a dream relationship with the famous girl in school. She was running for the highest academic honors, and so she was like a trophy for me.
I took care of her and we gave ourselves enough boundaries to stay pure and simply to pursue our careers. I supported all her dreams and served her like a princess. I must say, I was enjoying my life shared with her.
But perhaps, the Lord had better plans.
As I was enjoying life with my girlfriend, I overlooked —yet again— the family that I was working hard for. Since I’d been providing for my family, I guess I must had become swell-headed, and thrown my weight around at home — something my mother pointed out one day. She must had meant well— like a mother just keeping a son in line.
But I didn’t take the correction well. Stunned, I could not say a word. After all, she was right. I walked out of the house with a heavy heart, and drove off in my motorcycle. I was so hurt I wanted to go on a drinking spree, or worse, commit suicide. I felt so worthless, thinking that I could never give enough, do enough, and be enough for my family. I never felt this depressed in my entire life.
With such anguish that evening, I found myself in the most unexpected place for a man like me. I went inside the Adoration Chapel of our parish church and wept. For the first time in my entire life, I cried my heart out to God—all my frustrations and dismay, all the pains of feeling neglected and rejected by my own family. I brought them out to the Lord I only just met that night – which happened to be on a Sunday.
I believe that the Lord brought me into His presence that evening where I could just cry out to Him and ask Him anything. And so I ranted about the life I was living all these years. I asked Him what else had I not done for my family? What else was the reason I was alive? As tears fell from my already swollen eyes, I blurted: “Lord, draw me close to You. I want to be near You!”
After crying my heart out to the Lord,I attended the Mass— only to find myself crying even more as I heard the words of the priest and the community of believers around me. I cried as I heard every hymn and every prayer. I cried over the simplest things that were happening that night, in front of the altar, in front of the Cross where the image of the crucified Jesus was something that I could relate to. To think, I was never a crybaby until that fateful night.
I can never forget what the priest said in his homily: “Lahat ng bagay na ginagawa natin, kaya natin to ginagawa kasi gusto natin maging masaya.”. Everything that we do, we do because we want to be happy. True.
I wanted to do what would make me happy. And right there and then, I realized that only Jesus could give me such happiness. So I cried even more. I was not ashamed that I was crying like a baby during the Our Father, even as the two persons at my either side looked at me with pity. They must had wanted to give me a tissue paper or something as my face was already drenched with tears.
I felt that the Lord was embracing me at that very moment, giving me all the love I’d always longed for. I went home tired, worn out, but happy— knowing that something was changed inside of me.
I felt really light the next day seeing my parents in our living room. I knew that somehow, they were worried about me.
After looking at them for a moment, I approached them and said, “Ma, Pa, sorry for my excesses, for neglecting you.”
My parents hugged me and we cried together. At that moment, I felt loved, accepted, my pride torn off from me. Even as early on I thought I had done everything for my parents, my heart told me that apologizing was the more appropriate thing to do.
Two days after, I broke up with my girlfriend.
I told her, “Let us give each other space to make things right in our life first, and to keep ourselves focused on our goals.”
Finding The Feast
I have a friend who always told me about The Feast. Thursday, four days after that fateful night in the Adoration Chapel, this friend invited me to attend The Feast Video gathering at A&A Plaza Hotel in Puerto Princesa. I went with her with so much excitement because I had heard a lot about Bro. Bo Sanchez and I really looked up to him.
It was as if the talk Bro. Bo was giving was exactly for me. I asked the Lord, “Is this the answer to my prayer last week?”
I cried even more during the Worship time. The next few days were days of crying yet days of redemption, I must say.
That week was full of blessings— God lovingly embracing me, forgiving me, and showing me His Light. I knew then that I had found real happiness at The Feast.
I once thought that happiness could be found in peers, girlfriends, and vices. But I was wrong. Genuine happiness can only be found in the Presence of the Lord, in loving Him back, in serving Him.
I had failed many times because I relied on my own strength. Now, I have come to realize what was or rather, Who was missing in my life.
Because of The Feast Video and the Light of Jesus Family, I was able to build a stronger relationship with God and my family. I also found great friends to support me every step of my spiritual walk.
Four months after that blessed week, I was invited to join ALAB 2016, a Light of Jesus Youth Missions Leadership Camp.
I was just 1 out of 300 young persons in that camp. We where divided into groups and my teammates chose me to be their leader as we competed in various camp games. I had doubts about my leadership but I knew then who the real Leader was, so I raised my hands in full surrender and trust in God. By God’s grace, out of 24 teams, our team emerged as champion!
Perhaps, it was God’s way of telling me: “Give me your best and I will do the rest…”
It was surreal. It was amazing. It was the hand of the Lord working right before me.
Jesus said, “Many are called but few are chosen.” (Matthew 22:14)
Indeed, so many young people need this closeness and deep relationship with God, and so I felt very blessed that I’d been among the ones chosen to attend this youth camp.
I now realize, God has always been there for me, answering my every question, attending to my every need. And His plans are always way better than mine.
I know that my journey with Him wouldn’t be that easy. It might be filled with struggles, temptations and tears, but at the end of the day, it will all be worthwhile as long as I am with Him in this thing called Life.
Back to the Church
Before, I prayed only when I had problems. I went to church only when I just felt like it, or when I was with a girlfriend.
Aside from the church one of my girlfriends invited me to, I also explored other non-Christian services.
At The Feast, I feel like I have a second family, guiding me, comforting me. There, I always feel that God is at my side, looking at me, speaking to me.
Only seven months in The Feast, I am now a member of the Choir, the Dance Ministry, and the Warmth Ministry. I am also already leading a Light Group.
The Feast has also well inspired me to attend Mass and appreciate more my Catholic Faith. I now attend Mass regularly and I even serve as member of the Choir in my parish church.
What I like most about our Church is being a good shepherd to others and sharing the Light of Jesus to anyone who is in darkness.