Wednesday, February 12, 2014

FOREWORD by John J. Ziegler, PhD

Among the benefits of reflecting on one's personal faith and the spirituality that flows from it are a deeper appreciation of the roots of our faith and those key experiences that demonstrate that what we believe is both uniquely our own  and, at the same time, a reality shared by people of diverse religious traditions.  Payak by Dr. Maria Nolita M. Banda is the product of such reflection.

The author is a native of the Philippines, a Christian country surrounded by predominantly non-Christian nations, and a child of Protestant and Catholic parents.  She was taught to be open to diverse religious teachings and practices.  For her, religion is clearly not the substance of one's faith; it is an organizing system whereby we open ourselves to all things godly, aspire for what is noble, and discover the power that transcends every religious expression.

It was in this spirit of openness that she fulfilled a long-held promise to attend the wedding in Chareidi Country of a dear friend of the Chareidi Orthodox Jewish tradition.  Her participation in the events of this celebration, which she vividly describes, became a personal experience of inclusivity that led her to a deeper understanding of the God in whom she believed.  This profound awareness prompted a series of blogs written in a style engaging and, at times, poetic that form the content of this work.

Although not a theological treatise, the author's description of her personal faith is an expression of what many theologians would identify as incarnational theology, which emphasizes the role human nature plays  in God's plan to embrace humankind.  It is this humanity within, by which we live and experience ourselves, that becomes the means by which  we engage in our relationship to God.  As a consequence, an incarnational spirituality emphasizes the call to human authenticity, which is to be fostered in our relationships with one another and in our engagements with the events of our here and now.

For the author, piety focuses on the humanity of all persons who share the same needs, yearnings, and desires for community.  It brings out in us the best of our human nature while providing us with a guide path for living life to its God-intended fullness.

Within that context, the author speaks of her "universal sacraments".  While not referring specifically to the sacraments as defined by the Catholic Church or acknowledged in varying degrees by other Christian traditions, the notion of universal sacraments implies that even the most mundane of objects can express the dynamic presence of the Transcendent Being acting in and through the experiences  of our daily life.

Tithing is the notion the author uses to describe how we are to acknowledge God's goodness to us and respond to that love by our love for one another.  Rooted in humility, marked by prayer and hope, and stemming from a grateful heart, genuine tithing is more than a sharing of one's material assets.  it is a comprehensive way of living whereby we are committed to responding in whatever way necessary to those who are in need and to fulfilling those everyday responsibilities whereby we can live with one another in genuine peace and harmony.

Woven throughout the content of this book is an attribute that the author calls payak.  A Tagalog expression that literally means "simple", it refers to that humble self-acceptance that gratefully recognizes God as the source of our dignity.  It gives us the freedom and the gentleness to be ourselves, an essential ingredient for human authenticity.  This freedom opens us to those experiences that come our way that may lead to new discoveries about God, life, and who we are as human persons.

Moreover, this attribute recognizes the God-given dignity of others and calls us to be gentle with one another, to respect the sacredness of others, and to do all we can to enhance their freedom to be themselves.  For the author, this spirit, inherent in every genuine religious tradition, is a key to realizing that vision all people of good faith long for, the harmonious and peaceful world described in chapter 11 of Isaiah.

There is much in this book for the reader's prayerful meditation.  It also serves as an invitation and an incentive for readers to reflect  on their own personal faith.  When undertaken with the openness and humble thirst for God exhibited by the author, readers will assuredly recognize the many powerful ways God has been and continues to be present in their lives as they travel along the path to authenticity.

Friday, December 6, 2013


Welcome to these collection of posts under PAYAK that speaks of my transfiguring experiences when I visited Chareidi Country in the summer of 2011.  I wonder what brought you to my site - word of mouth, my website at Xlibris, or Google search.  However way you have arrived, A WARM WELCOME TO YOU and please stay a while. Be at ease. Come into a stance of stillness and enter the context of the narratives and the reflections.  Follow the dates of the posts  which started on July 23, 2011 to acquire a chronological perspective of the events.  Let me know how you experienced the brave claims I made.  May your own meditations find you transformed as well.   It will mean a lot to me that I can count you amongst my visitors so please post a comment.  I thank you for your time and effort.

Read. Ponder. Be The Peace.

Friday, July 19, 2013

About this Book/ Summary

PAYAK is a collection of narratives and reflections by a pious Catholic Christian that evolved from attending an ultra-Orthodox Jewish marriage ceremony in Chareidi Country, the invitation for which was under the auspices of a beautiful friendship with an American-Jewish family.  Mystical insights  accrued which led to the development of the thesis that durable PEACE in one's self, in one's locality and in the world is achievable  through vital piety, the mojo of which is humility.  If every person, place, object and event, no matter how unfamiliar or diverse, is encountered in a stance of openness and innocence, violence in all its permutations can be averted. Holding our differences in reverence can antecede religious literalism.   Communication will be fluent even without words,  appreciation of the dignity of fellow human beings in their local contexts will make cognizant similar needs and longings,  good deeds become the currency of piety,  and every healthy goal will be possible with the audacity of Faith.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Order of the Book

Front Cover with Illustration

Title Page

Copyright Page


Table of Blogs, Epigraphs with Illustrations





Blogs divided by epigraphs with illustrations



Author Photo Page


Back Page with Illustration

Blogs and Epigraphs with Illustrations

St. Augustine Epigraph with Illustration



Moshe and Noya

The Promise

A Stance of Stillness

Black-and-White Elegance

A Holy Man

"One Who Trembles In Awe of God"

My Own Cherished Dream Came True In Their Life

I  Was Looking For A Balabusta

The Fifth Commandment

The Bachelor's Night

Success and Fast Failures


CHUPA Epigraph with Illustration


On the Road to Sacred Vows

The Reception

The Bride

The Most Tender Moment


Wedding Party a la Chareidi

Sheva Brachot


MLK Jr.  Epigraph with Illustration


Bracha H'shem, GruB Gott, Pagpalain Ka Ng Maykapal, Ojigi

Ari's Leap Of And To Faith

Promesse D'Amour

A Peaceable Ghost

Are You Religious?

Abraham Joshua Heschel:  My Jewish Saint of Ecumenism


Leo Tolstoy Epigraph with Illustration


A Bowl of Mitzvot

Postmodern Incarnation of a Mitzvah

These, I Believe

The Noblesse Oblige of Godliness

The Mojo of Piety

Universal Sacraments


Goethe Epigraph with Illustration




Sunday, June 23, 2013

Postmodern Incarnation of a Mitzvah

Early on in our formative years, my Dad and my Mom inculcated in our family the habit of what is popularly known in the Christian lexicon as "tithing" which has its origins in biblical and Marian spirituality alike.  In this book however "tithing"  simply refers to giving, to sharing, to contributing, to donating and the measure is ever so subjective, i.e. one can give as little or as much.  Tithing is a religious matter because it is between one's self and one's God.  One's deeds are the direct reflection of one's God.  Tithing is one of those frailer virtues that require other virtues to support it or else it can easily weaken and dissipate without much forethought or effort.  Everyone can tithe irrespective of race, creed, gender and sexual orientation, educational attainment, physical abilities or disabilities, and socio-economic status.

Tithing is a discipline.  It requires the following:

1) HUMILITY, to accept that all that we own belongs to God.  That we are stewards of such talents.  That we are asked to manage it well for the glory of God and not ours.  Therefore we need to ask ourselves - do we tithe in order to respond meaningfully to the need of a fellow human being or do we respond to plume our feathers and to leaven our egos, or worst of all to condescend or to patronize the one we are to help thinking that such a one is less than us, which is the most wicked form of prejudice.  Beware that we are not overtaken by our own "goodness'.  It is a fine and a dangerous line to tread without prayer.  I still feel discomposed when I remember the "tithe" that I made based on pride and needless to say, this proved to be fruitless to put it mildly.

2) PRAYER AND LOTS OF IT because it is the leading of the Holy Spirit that will direct to whom to give, what to give, how much to give, and how to give it.  Sometimes the better part of tithing is NOT to give, to stay still,  and wait for God's bidding.

3) A DISCERNING AND AN ASTUTE MIND because a budget has to be set.  One has to determine  what one can afford to give.  Tithing is meant to be painless and an act of compassion first towards ourselves and then towards others.  We cannot give what we do not have.  And God frowns upon unnecessary and thoughtless suffering.  However it is amazing to discover how much we have, in surplus even, once the desire to tithe takes root in our hearts.  The collateral advantage of paying heed to this desire is having our financial house put in order, properly placing things where they belong, giving to Caesar what is Caesar's and, to God what is God's.  It is akin to putting together an investment portfolio that pays rich dividends in unforeseen and unforetold ways and more importantly, this market of justice never crashes.  The ancient truth holds true, what you sow you reap.

4) A GRATEFUL HEART because a grateful heart is a merciful and a forgiving heart.  Sometimes untoward and unintended consequences happen to a tithe.  Tithe is sweat, blood and tears as it is a by-product of hard work.  Therefore we want it to benefit whom we intended it would.  My Mom was on her way to bring alms to church when she was robbed.  During 9/11 donations poured in for the Twin Tower victims via an organization only to find out later, that the organization's administration was bogged down by corruption.  Is it possible that God redirected the money to someone who needed it more...can our heart grasp the possibility of such seeming impossibility?  Once we have discerned what to give after prayerful meditation, the moment the tithe leaves our hands, it goes on its way according to God's plan for it.  We have to let it go to do what it must.

5) HOPE, the deep knowing that we tithe because it is the right thing to do irrespective of the cost to us, or even irrespective of the rewards to us.  I have yet to meet a consistent tither who has not been abundantly blessed by it.  Tithing in itself is its own irrepressible benediction, it frees us from anxiety, and it makes us fearless.  It has its own justifying power that is outrageously beyond-the-pale.  If one does not believe in a Benevolent God one will never comprehend the seemingly unlikely relatedness of one current good event to another future good event or even an event that was considered not good now that turns out to be good later.  I know of someone who does not see the connection of his demeaning ways to his subordinates and the pathetic suffering of his autistic son.  Can you fathom how those two phenomena are possibly cause-and-effect?  How can one have more if one has given away?  The more we give, the more we receive.  Poor mathematics.  Paradoxical.  Counter-intuitive.  But true. A devoted tither does not assume returns.  Yet good fortune happens to him and his.  For a personal example, I just was several months into my employment contract at the hospital when I had to leave it to take care of my full licensure.  I had no emergency fund yet as I was newly employed.  It took me six months of unemployment before I was reinstated to the same contract.  How did I survive?  The federal income tax refund check that I thought I lost turned up and the funds were just enough to meet all my needs during that period of time. Is this supernatural, or superstition, or plain, old coincidence?

As part of the tithing culture in my family, we attend to the following as best we can:

1)  Visit the sick.  Respect the sick, including their privacy and their dignity.  Do not insist to visit, to call or bring gifts if they do not want you to.  Be present but do not overwhelm.

2) Go to wakes.  In the Philippines wakes took place in the home.  My Dad admonished us to not pass by a house holding a vigil for the dead without paying respects.

3) Pay your bills right away since you have received the service already.  If you completed a job yourself, wouldn't you want to be paid as soon as possible also?

4) A debt must be paid.  When you don't, you not only dishonor your family and your ancestors and your God, you heap misfortune on yourself.  Unless it was rescinded by your creditor and even then,  you have a debt of gratitude that you pay back not necessarily to the creditor but forward, to someone else who arrives in your sphere of awareness and influence who now needs help.

5) Do not return to the store and get a refund for goods you have already used and enjoyed.  If that store goes bankrupt we are all affected negatively in one way or another.

6) Be fair. Expect unfairness. Wait and watch as God puts to right what was wronged.  Another personal example, for some unknown reason, our work scheduler was preventing me from working extra calls.  I was livid.  I prayed, if only to detoxify myself, and had no more expectation.  All of a sudden the scheduler became indisposed and there was no choice but to give the overflow work to me and guess what, my earnings from the overtime was greater than my basic one.

7) When you pray, pray for everyone, including the flora and the fauna and now including tectonic plates.  If everyone and everything is well, you will be assured wellness yourself.  Anything that is not to rights out there in the Universe will ultimately reverberate to affect all of us.

8) Never say never.  Never say:  "I am busy.", "I don't have money.", or "I definitely cannot."  This mentality closes off your own accessibility to grace and precludes God's power.  Words breathe and live.  Say instead: "I don't have it yet, but it is coming in God's good time."  "God-willing, it's on its way."  "Let me pray on it and see what I can do."  In the same token, if your knee is painful, don't say you're paralyzed because it is an insult to those who are.  Don't give food you cannot eat.  Don't give clothes you cannot wear.  Don't give anything that you yourself cannot use properly.  Ultimately, you are the final arbiter of what is good and useful.

9) Exercise the wisdom of 24 hours.  Who will be served better by this resource given the next 24 hours, you or me?  If I have something that will ease your burden, why should I not give it to you now?  If I did not give it to you, how would hoarding it help me?  Will I even remember fretting over today's decision tomorrow or at the same time next year?

10)  To increase, decrease.  If the vessel is full, it cannot take anymore.  It is more useful when it is empty.  God is best glorified through us when we act from our position of lackness and poverty because we give Him a wide berth to work in His miracles.

What do you do when you think you have nothing to give?

***In the first place, it should never occur to you that you have nothing to give.***

One has to bring one's soul into silence, to rest and be still, and to settle down comfortably into one's skin.  No matter what our external circumstances are, by virtue of our belonging to God, we are endowed with the power to multiply loaves and fishes...literally!!!  There are plentiful opportunities for gentleness, mercy and genuineness it we are open to them.  The only requirement is the desire to share to be unwaveringly rooted in one's soul so that God can act on it, enable you to be led where your personality, your wealth (you have more than you think) and even your poverty are best suited to be "the" response to someone's supplication.  In a somewhere unbeknownst to you at the moment, either in your locality or in the wider world, there is a someone on bended knees begging our Good God to answer his/her prayers. Here lies the calming and healing properties of tithing, where you are able to advance God's ministry by dint of who you are.  Because you might be "the" answer to this someone's prayer.  There is no one but you who can respond perfectly to the supplication and so only you are called to do the task.  No one else would suffice except you.  Be at ease.  You will know when you are called and then the Holy Spirit will guide you how to respond.  Unless you decide squarely though, the wealth of resources out there will stay inert, waiting patiently to be deployed under God's faithful auspices on your say so.

How does one develop a do-able and a fruitful system of tithing?

Make an inventory of your assets.  Everyone has an asset no matter how poor one is.  In my mind, the only poor person is one who has no desire whatsoever to share and that is indeed one pitiable person!  Your assets are your time, energy, talents, material possessions, money, demeanor.  Balance your checkbook. Pray and pray again.  Then pray some more.

God loves a cheerful giver.  So extend to others what you enjoy yourself.  What are your favorite things to do?  Are you an extrovert or an introvert?  Do you prefer working alone or in community?  Are you a good listener?  Do you love to read?  Are you good with numbers?  Do you love clothes and dressing up?  What is your expertise?  What is your avocation?  Do you love music?  Sports?  The outdoors?  Politics?  Are you a nurturer?  Do you like children including bratty ones?  Are you a day person or a night person?  Do you have an embarassment of riches like appliances, shoes, clothes, stuff, cash?  How would you like to be relieved of the burdens of such redundancy in your closets or bank accounts?  Will your spouse and children want to participate in these endeavors too?  Are you homebound and a great pray-er?  Know thyself and take it from there.  There is a reason to your gifts.

By managing your assets ("talents) wisely, you are not only present to those who are marginalized but more importantly you help avert more people from becoming vulnerable.  It is far easier to help someone who is down and out than to give a leg-up so that someone do not fall through the cracks.  It is a no-brainer to help a beggar, but the same person in better clothes might be more difficult to help even if the one critical help we provide will avert disaster for him.  We are so used to hierarchical levels of living that imagining a world where everyone is equal in everything is difficult to do.  More often than not, unintentionally perhaps, we contribute to the vulnerability of our world.  Hence, the value of prayer to open our eyes to what is true, to open our skin so we can leave it and enter into the skin of another and know what it is like to wear it, and to open our hearts to discern what is best for everyone to the boundless extent that God provides through our doing.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Mojo of Piety

Piety is the key to settling all differences.  Piety enables us to focus the prism of our differences into our one similarity - the humanity in all of us.  We have the same needs, the same longings, the same yearnings.  We need food, shelter and water to exist; we need safe socio-political and economic infrastructures to thrive. We want to be successful in our endeavors.  We long to be cared for and to be attended to as a dignified individual.  We long to be loved unconditionally.  We yearn for our better half, a healthy ecology for our children and our children's children, and we all wish to leave a noble legacy that will echo through the ages.

Family.  Community.  A world of communities in harmony.  I do believe that only an awesome fear of a goodly God can bring our tethering world into an axis of calm.  The humility which makes piety coherent dissolves all our negativities into our optimisms, our ideals into fruitful harvests, our finitude to our infinitude.  We are able to appreciate each other As We Are.  For example, I observed something in Ari that is all his own, which has nothing to do with his religion, just his essential God-given attribute.  He has a sweet and generous disposition.  He always was that, very passionate and abundant in giving.  It comes through in his demeanor unfeigned and it enhances his religiosity.  He makes his devotion to his religion persuasive.  His piety facilitates his becoming into God's Intent for him.   His religion does not take away from the God-given substrate from which he evolves.  It would be a travesty to his God if he abandoned the good that he was born with in an attempt to comply with the requirements of his religion.

Piety, this unconditional devotedness to God is marked by humility by definition and by necessity.  Humility is the core value of piety, its vis-a-tergo (force-from behind), its mojo.  When violence results from piety it is not piety.  When we cannot bring out the best in those whom we meet or within the limits of any given set of circumstances - this is not piety.  Many scoff at pious people because of the common understanding that piety is fanatical, shackling, fossilizing and as such causes agitation instead of calm.  That is NOT piety.  True piety is the actualizing of life in the fullness of God's expectations of that life - a life that is vibrant, nurturing and productive.  A pious person is a person who lives responsibly and peaceably, conducts business fairly, contributes to the good of his community, never hesitates to take the higher ground in matters major and minor, and respects the divine in everyone.  A pious person is never one who uses his religious constraints as a crutch to avoid his duties and responsibilities to the larger society.  Piety is a style of living that includes one and all in its ever-widening circle; a style of living that is patient when resources are long in coming and refuses to compromise ideals in the meantime;  a style of living that is ready to share even the most attenuated of gifts; a style of living that is wealthy with gratitude no matter how that life is put through its paces; a style of living where one finds true joy in the achievements of others and of course in one's own; a style of living where one does not hesitate to take peers along on the path to success; a style of living that upholds and fights for justice, compassion and mercy as a matter of faith.  Piety rocks - it is cool, energizing, freeing, wholesome, noble  and transformative when lived within the breadth and height and depth of its divine imperatives.  And the sine qua non of piety is humility.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

About the Author

Maria Nolita M. Banda, MD

Hello fellow seeker:

I am ecstatic to offer you this my first book, as an emphatic voice to advent durable peace in our selves and abroad.  I am one who has always lived my life in unlabeled and uncategorised ways.  I was formed and shaped by a cauldron of differences, from the time I was conceived in the Philippines to my adulthood in the States.   Which has been further enriched by my acquaintances of different peoples in their local cultures in my extensive travels half-the-world over.  I have also lived part of my age of discretion in New York where I was exponentially nurtured in the thoughts, emotions, visuals, smells, textures and sounds of a veritable melting pot of races, religions, social strata, sexual orientations, cultural mores.  My profession as an obstetrician-gynecologist, first as a house-officer-in-training in Manila and then as a hospitalist in Syracuse,  has given me intimate occasions into diverse family dynamics and other remarkably challenging human relationships in both Third World and First World settings.  I have learned that we can peaceably overcome the demands of our differences if we could but dignify the beauty of our humanity in all its grit and glory.

I welcome further discussion and any questions - visit where your commentary can be posted.  Thank you.


Title Page


The Mojo Of Piety

Maria Nolita M. Banda, MD

Illustrated by Jessica Marie Banda-Smith
Foreword by John J. Ziegler, PhD