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.
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?
Today is May 22, 2015.
Yesterday was my 16th year as a Christian, and I couldn’t help but look back to all the years that have come and gone since I accepted Jesus in my life.
It was during a youth summer camp in Batangas when I surrendered my life to God. I was a shy, skinny, 12-year-old kid back then, and matters about God, embracing a new life and leaving my former way of life are concepts that were too bizarre and esoteric for me.
But on the night of May 20, 1999, my heart took over. The pastor in front was calling out the invitation; an old gospel song (No Greater Love), was playing on the background; and people started crying and walking towards the front. I didn’t fully understand what was going on, but I knew that when I take that step, my life will never be the same. Everything was in a daze, and I began shedding a few tears myself. The song got me — “You loved me, when I was so unlovely. You Sought me when I was lost. You showed me how much You really love me when You bought me at the highest cost.”
Soon enough, I found myself walking forward and joining the others in front.
I knew back then that there’s no more turning back from that decision. And so the following morning, I was baptized in water, declaring that I am a new creation in Jesus.
Truly, the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. The step I took that summer night of May 1999 brought me to different seasons. Since then, God has called me to serve Him through the different ministries of the church. At age 12, I served in the ushering ministry; I remember waking up at 5am so I can attend to my duty for the 6am service. After my stint in ushering, I became part of the worship team — not as a singer or a band player, but as the projector guy. I remember doing my ministry as the “acetate boy” with so much enthusiasm, and I still smile at the thought.
Throughout the years, I have seen the hand of God orchestrating the events of my life. I have seen how he moved me from the backseat and gave me a platform to lead. He has brought me through the furnace of trials and challenges, pruned my character and humbled me before people.
As I look back to all those years, I also couldn’t help but feel thankful for all the people I have met. I’m thankful for all the friends with whom I have made some of the most amazing memories in my life. I will always be thankful to my Kuya’s and Ate’s from Cruzada Church of Christ who first taught me about following Jesus, serving zealously in the ministry, loving others and valuing relationships. I am thankful for all the best buddies I have had — the ones who stood by me, took care of me and offered the best of friendship to me. Nothing compares to the memories we had. I also thank God for the extended families I got there; the moms who took care of me, the dads who accepted me in their family. My spiritual family in Cruzada will always have a special place in my heart.
As I continue this walk with an equally amazing spiritual family in Victory, I can’t help but be thankful for the new experiences, the new friends I have, the new Ate’s and Kuya’s who disciple me and the new people I now serve with in the ministry. A new season in my life is about to unfold, and I am thankful that I am surrounded by people who share the same passion with me; people who I’m sure will be there to stand with me and keep me on the right path. I am blessed to be part of this movement, this family. Thank you for the love, friendship and all the wisdom you all impart. Most of all, thank you for helping me find my calling and for guiding me towards fulfilling my destiny in Christ.
As I celebrate my 16 years of walk with God, I thank Him for giving Me the chance to share His word. I preached at our Youth Service tonight, and I am amazed for all the things He has done in my life. My present self is a far cry from the skinny 12-year-old kid that I was when I first accepted Him in my life.
Happy anniversary, Jesus. Cheers to more years of togetherness! Thank you for not giving up on me.
I’ve been struggling with this for quite a while now. The fact that I can’t think of any sensible topic to write about, let alone come up with some meaty content, is really getting into my nerves.
If you’ve ever felt stupid once in your life, you’d have a faint idea.
My writer’s block usually lasts only for two hours tops. But this has been going on for too long; it’s been a full season of writer’s block already.
I tried the 30-day Blog Challenge, but I was not able to sustain the initiative. I wanted to write something about the Lenten season, but my brain is just too dry to produce any output. I needed to write a piece for a church production; again, nothing.
THIS. IS. WRONG. This is very wrong!
Lack of inspiration?
Nothing new to write about?
Have I neglected my first love for too long that my hands have forgotten what they do best?
This is getting frustrating.
I’d better end the whining here and do something more productive.
So help me God.
So steal my heart and take the pain
and wash the feet and cleanse my pride
Take the selfish, take the weak,
and all the things I cannot hide.
Take the beauty, take my tears,
the sin-soaked heart, make it yours
Take my world all apart
take it now, take it now.
And serve the ones that I despise
Speak the words I can’t deny
Watch the world I used to love fall to dust and thrown away
I look beyond the empty cross, forgetting what my life has cost.
So wipe away the crimson stains and dull the nails that still remain…
— Worlds Apart, Jars of Clay