The Murder of Marlou: The Xander Ford Case

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Society killed Marlou.

Yes, Marlou Arizala is dead, and society is responsible for it.

It was in 2015 when the guy first went viral on the Internet, along with his group Hasht5, as their photos and videos circulated the Web. The reason for their sudden fame, however wasn’t because of good publicity. In fact, they were ruthlessly bashed and called many names. One of them stood out from the gang.

Marlou — with his bright red hair, his dark skin, and his face that people would soon exploit on memes and funny posts.

I would admit that at first, I myself also took a swipe at the guy because of his braggadocio and his rather uncommon facial features. But after watching an interview with them a couple of years ago, what I saw Was a young guy with an unrelenting drive to reach for his dreams, and a person who was trying to hide his insecurities by creating a strong facade.

The growing hatred for the guy was the inception of a grand scheme to assassinate the man — his character, his dreams, his ambitions.

Society killed Marlou.

His Facebook posts would always elicit hate comments from people who had nothing better to do. He would be the subject of online ridicules and cursing from people who wished him dead. Yes, others would even go as far as to tell him to just kill himself.

Society eventually succeeded in killing the young man.

Last night, his transformation from Marlou to Xander Ford has finally been unveiled on national TV. And the Internet exploded with posts and tweets about his new identity, garnering mixed reactions from netizens.

Finally, people have something good to say about Marlou, albeit skin-deep and superficial.

The people’s reactions reveal the kind of society we live in. They show that people’s respect for one another is based on how one looks, what he wears, or what his skin color is. Society has forced Marlou to grab the opportunity to change what people hated about him. He was made to believe that his worth and identity will improve greatly if his face and his name would change. Marlou was forced to leave his old self — even if it’s just the face that changed — if that’s the only way to escape the razor sharp criticisms that he has probably grown tired of.

Matagal ko nang pangarap ‘to, ang maging guwapo,” he would say, which actually reads, “Matagal ko nang pangarap ‘to, ang mahalin at tanggapin ng mga tao.

Alas, when his new face was finally revealed, some even questioned why he couldn’t be content with what God has given him. I am pretty sure that he was perfectly fine with how he looked, until society turned him into a laughingstock.

We live in a bipolar, double-standard, hypocritical society. And we have permitted this culture of shame and bullying to permeate our collective minds and psyche.

Inside Out Transformation

What Marlou and all of us needed was not cosmetic surgery. What we all need is an inside-out transformation — a change that starts from within.

Beauty is fleeting and charm is deceptive, the Bible says; making it an unwise basis for people’s worth and identity.

If only someone had told Marlou that his worth as a person is not based on his outward appearance, but on his inherent value as a human being — created in the likeness and image of his Maker. If only he was told that the opinions of people about him don’t diminish his value as a person; because to the One who sees the heart, he will always be fully pleasing. If only he was told that Somebody thinks he is so valuable that he was actually worth dying for, he would’ve embraced who he really was, and enjoyed his uniqueness as a person.

What Marlou needed wasn’t a name-change in order to change his identity. He needed a rebirth from the ashes. Changing his name from Marlou to Xander Ford will not erase his former identity. What will change his identity is when he exchanges his old life for the new life that Jesus offers. That if anyone is in Him, he is a new creation. The old will pass away, the new will come.

What Marlou and all of us needed is not a face surgery, but a heart transplant — the removal of the wicked, depraved heart and the placing of a new, clean heart.

Let us start spreading this message. Let us overcome society’s lies with the life-changing truth that we are deeply loved and fully pleasing, for we are fearfully and wonderfully made by our perfect Father in Heaven.

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The Two Gardens

We have just gone through the Lenten season, I know, but this random thought just hit me today:

Humanity’s greatest downfall and the dawning of humanity’s greatest hope took place in a garden.

Genesis 3 lets us in to the scene of the crime. Just like in any crime movies, the day started out like any other day. It was at the Garden of Eden.

In the middle of the humdrum, the day took a fateful turn. The questions were thrown at the unsuspecting victim — the woman. The lies were spoken; the serpent’s words were too alluring that the woman’s heart was deceived. Soon enough, the man, who was with her, also took part in the crime.

When the flesh of the forbidden fruit touched the flesh of man, the fall of humanity has begun. When their lips touched the forbidden fruit, it was the serpent’s kiss of death on humanity. And when the fruit fell to the ground that fateful day, humanity’s glory fell with it.
As sin entered into the world, it brought with it pain, tears, bloodshed, decay and death.

Fast forward.

In another garden and in another time, we see another man. The setting of the drama is the Garden of Gethsemane.

But it wasn’t like any other night. This man was about to be sentenced to death, and he knew about it. He has seen how it will be like; he took part in making that plan. He knew how painful it will be — the physical pain of the thorns and the nails; the emotional pain of betrayal, false accusation and rejection.

He was about to pay for the crime that was committed at the Garden of Eden. This man was Jesus. 

In this garden, we see him kneeling to the ground, overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death, asking the Father if it’s possible for him to be delivered from what was about to transpire (Matthew 26:38). 

But when he said, “let Your will be done,” humanity’s hope was restored. 

At the Garden of Eden, we see Adam’s failure and man’s descent to hell. But at the Garden of Gethsemane, we see Jesus’ love taking over in order to redeem us and provide the way for us to heaven. 

An Open Letter to the LGBT

You are not an animal.

You are the pinnacle of God’s creation — the cherry on the ice cream, the icing on the cake. When God made the animals and the rest of creation, he saw that everything was good. But when He made mankind? Man, He said that it was very good! YOU ARE VERY GOOD!

God didn’t lift a finger when He created the universe. He didn’t move a muscle when He called the animals into existence. But you? He got His hands dirty with mud to craft you; He designed every part of you. He was probably whistling with delight in the cool of the day as He was making you. Take this: YOU have the fingerprint of God!

Not only that! He breathed on your nostrils to give you life.

Imagine: The lips of God touching your nostrils… Gently… Intimately… Lovingly…

When you breathed your first, He was so thrilled He couldn’t help but smile. 

And if that is not enough to blow you away, brace yourself: You are created after God’s own image! You look exactly like Dad. How cool is that?!? 

You are not an animal.

And no, you are not worse than the animals.

You are a creation of God— the loving God who is crazy about you; who longs for you; who watches you from afar, protecting you, making sure you’re safe and good; the loving God who is worried sick about you and is waiting for you to come home every single day.

Society may have reduced your sense of self-worth. Fear of judgment, rejection and condemnation may have forced you into hiding. But you know what? In God, you don’t need to hide. You don’t need to fear rejection. He loves you more than anyone will; He loves you more than you even love yourself. 

Forgive us, Christians, if we may have misrepresented Christ in our words and actions. The Bible is not a book of judgment, but a factual love story of how a holy God loves and redeems a sinful world. Jesus is not a heartless ruler, but a loving Savior. In fact, if Jesus is in our world today, He will choose to hang out with you more than He would hang out with the religious bunch. Jesus loves your company! He loves you so much that He wants to hang out with you for all eternity! He loves us so much that He gave everything, including His life, so that we may be with Him forever!

All of us — whether gay or straight — need the same thing: Love. Sometimes, in our quest to find a truly satisfying love, we do foolish things, we draw from the wrong source, and we invest with the wrong person.

But the love of God will never disappoint. In Jesus, YOU ARE DEEPLY LOVED. 

I pray that this love will win you over — the love that is greater than any human love; the only love that lasts forever. I pray that you will find and experience true freedom because of His love — not freedom to be who you want to be, but freedom to be who you are destined to be. I pray that in the end, we will all say, “true love wins!” 

While there are many aspects to the subject surrounding this controversy, the only thing that you need to know and experience right now is the love of God. Let me be God’s instrument to tell you that He loves you, and He wants to be more intimate with you. 

Could you breathe a simple prayer to let God speak to you now?

Vote for LIFE

Better than any serye to date on Philippine TV, the race towards Malacañang in the 2016 elections demands public attention. With much fanfare and unexpected plot twists, the presidential race has gripped the entire nation with a mixture of dread and anticipation.

Political propaganda, news coverages, election surveys, Facebook memes and (sometimes ridiculous) interviews do little in helping us determine who to vote for come election day. I, myself, am still undecided about who will get my precious vote on May 2016, but here are the qualities that I think we all should find in a candidate.

I will vote for someone who supports and embodies LIFE — that’s leadership, integrity, faith and excellence.

Leadership

Everything rises and falls on leadership, says renowned leadership guru John Maxwell. All kinds of reforms — whether political, economic or social — will only end up in the ditches without good leadership.

But leadership is a tricky subject. Having the balls to push for an ideal, win public acceptance, outwit political opponents or, heck, exterminate them from the land of the living don’t necessarily indicate strong leadership. 

A leader is a servant. He who serves best leads best. Service doesn’t mean feigning compassion for the poor, enjoying boodle fights, directing traffic and whatnots in front of a camera. A leader serves by using his power to protect the welfare of the people, promote the common good and defend the weak.

One doesn’t need to look far to validate a person’s leadership. Check how he manages his own family and see their relationship, values and culture at home. If this candidate doesn’t know how to manage and protect his own marriage and household, how will he lead an entire nation?

Moreover, the ultimate mettle of leadership is the person’s ability to lead himself. How does he govern himself in view of existing laws, ethics and moral standards? If a candidate does not pass this acid test, chances are his leadership will crumble in the face of strong pressure or trials. 

Integrity

A person’s ability to lead himself depends largely on his character. In leadership, character is everything. As John Maxwell puts it, leadership is about influence, and a person’s influence is built on his credibility and moral track record. With strong moral leadership, a leader gains the people’s respect and admiration.

What the Philippines needs is a leader who will lead with integrity. Integrity is doing the right things no matter what. It’s about sticking to one’s moral standards. Integrity means doing the right thing even when no one is looking. Integrity is about being morally consistent, whole, undivided. We’ve already had leaders in the past who may have had brilliant minds, economic acumen or strong political will, yet we remain to be the sick man of Asia.

Why? Because what we need are not just leaders with outstanding intelligence; we need leaders with unmistakable integrity.

Economic progress is not the only problem that we need to focus on. We need to restore the moral standards and values that founded our institutions — love, righteousness and justice.

We don’t need leaders who will clean the streets by striking fear, but leaders who will show us that we as a people know better than embrace barbarity. We need leaders who will not fool us into believing that they can end our economic woes, but leaders who will empower us and inspire us to embrace the future with hope. We don’t just need leaders with political experience, we need leaders with unquestionable character.

Faith

A person’s faith shapes his character. Indeed, faith is the moral compass that guides a person, especially when circumstances demand sound decisions. Faith is the barometer through which a leader leads.

I will not vote for a candidate whose faith is questionable. I want a president who will establish the government on the strong foundation of justice and righteousness. I want a president who will protect the marriage institution and will not push for legislations that seek to undermine it. I will vote for a president who will uphold the value of human lives and will do everything in his power to protect it.

Look at the United States. While it remains to be the strongest superpower on earth, its social institutions are in the brink of collapse in the face of moral degradation. Economic progress is not the end-all-and-be-all of everything.

As CBCP President Socrates Villegas puts it, corruption comes in many shapes and forms. Stealing from the public funds is one of it, but moral corruption spells greater doom. We need a president who is guided by the right moral compass. We need a president who understands that all governments are instituted by God; it is a charge from God, and that he is ultimately accountable to Him. 

Hence, we need a president who will not play god, but will be guided by his fear of God.

Excellence

Knowing that the government is a public trust, and that it is a charge from God, public officials must perform their duties to the highest standard of excellence. This one is the easiest to see; one should only look at the candidates’ track record as a public servant.

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These qualities will surely narrow down — or complicate — your choices. Perhaps, upon close examination, you may find that none of the candidates pass these qualifications. I just hope that on the day of the polls, we will be guided by the right values and principles in choosing our leaders.

Whoever wins this election, let’s participate in the work of nation-building, pray for the new leaders and bless our nation. 

It may be difficult for now to look for political candidates who embody leadership, integrity, faith and excellence, but I am part of a movement called Every Nation Campus, whose ultimate desire is to raise up the next generation as world-changers and nation-builders.

I’m keeping my knees bent and my fingers crossed. God bless the Philippines.

Random Ramblings

Two words perfectly describe the world we live in today: FAST-PACED and MAD.

By fast-paced, I meant that the world is changing at a rate that is faster than ever. And by mad, I meant that the world is getting crazier by the minute as shocking events unfold in different parts of the world almost simultaneously.

On November 12, 43 people were killed in two suicide bombings in Lebanon. A day after this incident, another 19 people died in Iraq because of another suicide bombing incident at a funeral. The pinnacle of these events took place on the same day in Paris, where several terror attacks claimed at least 127 innocent lives. The notorious ISIS claimed responsibility for the attacks.

The world as we know it has changed. The significant moral decline, the plummeting regard for the value of human lives and the growing evil in society indicate that we are now living in the 11th hour.

Things happen so fast nowadays that we no longer have enough time to process and mourn over a crime before another one takes place. It’s like browsing your Facebook feed: The emotion you feel over one post from a friend only lasts until the next post hits your eyes.

Here are some of the trending issues that currently affect us. Allow me to share my thoughts on each.

Laglag Bala modus

laglag bala gangPerhaps anyone will really feel indignant about this because of the shame it brought upon our country and the chilling effect it created among travelers. To the perpetrators of this crime, you may evade justice in this lifetime, but the justice of God will hunt you down. Turn away from your evil deeds before your time is up.

To the government, it’s time to wield the sword and get some heads rolling. Fulfill your mandate to protect the State — the sovereign people who placed you in your position — and get to the bottom of this oppression.

To my kababayans who allegedly bring bullets to be used as amulets, put your faith in God who has real power to protect you from anything. Putting your faith in anything or anyone else can get you into trouble.

The #PrayFor Debate

pray forNewsflash: Those who were hurt or killed in Paris, Lebanon and Iraq do not care about our profile photos on Facebook. We can stop arguing about who really prayed for Paris, what hashtag to use, or who to pray for. It’s time to focus on the most important thing — LOVE. This isn’t a time to hate over trivial matters. This isn’t a time to fight over religion. This is a time to love one another as human beings. It doesn’t matter whether you changed your Facebook profile photo, or whether you changed it for the right reason. Whether you’re praying for Paris, Lebanon, Iraq, Syria or the world, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that people are praying for somebody — or at least are joining humanity’s stand for a better world.

APEC Horror

12273059_10154408865316632_1295954226_nSocial media are abuzz with horror stories caused by the APEC Summit this week. Metro Manila has already been experiencing horrific traffic on normal days, and this summit escalated that to an extreme level.

I understand the hatred and frustration by the people, and the least that I want to do is to fuel their anger. I pray that this scenario will compel our government to grow in terms of hosting high-level events like this. The woes of the working class — the very people who fuel our economy — undermine the economic goals that this summit aims.

Nevertheless, I would like to enjoin everyone to keep praying for the success of this summit. Big things are at stake in this event, including our territorial claims in the West Philippine Sea. Also, in light of recent world events, let us pray for protection for our country as we could be the target of terrorist attacks while the summit is taking place.

Ronda Rousey

ronda-rousey-1024Ronda Rousey’s defeat in the hands (or, should I say, deadly leg) of Holly Holm somehow succeeded in taking our attention away from the attacks in Paris. I’ve seen the match, and I can’t help but say, “Oh, how the mighty have fallen.” Indeed, pride comes before a downfall (Proverbs 16:18).

Peace out to all Rousey fans out there! She’s an amazing fighter, and I’m sure that she will be greater once she learns to put her confidence not on her strength but on God who gives real strength.

 

Alma Moreno

alam-moreno-1This deserves the final spot on this list because of the social media attention it is getting.

Adding to the ire of Filipino netizens is aspiring senator Alma Moreno, who blew an interview with veteran journalist Karen Davila. The whole interview was cringe-worthy, filled with nervous laughs, motherhood statements and ignorant opinion on important matters that a senatorial candidate must be familiar with.

While I understand the disgust of everybody, there’s really no need to shame her for her ignorance. I think that Ms. Moreno has good intentions for running, but she is probably being used by people who seek to promote their political agenda by fielding an ignorant ally to win a seat (and a voting power) in the Senate.

Let’s just thank Ms. Davila and her fellow journalists who endeavor to educate the voters for the upcoming elections. Let’s do our part in guarding the country’s rein and do what we can to spread awareness.

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In the midst of all these madness, let’s guard our collective sanity as a nation. Spread good vibes, pray for our nation and keep a positive outlook! Stay sane, everyone!