A grace-filled celebration of Faith and Love

I wrote this reflection almost 3 years ago but I haven’t thought of publishing it in my blog until now.

In 1995, Worth Youth Day was held in the Philippines, my birth country, it was the largest Papal gathering in the history of the Catholic Church but I was too young to attend. The enthusiasm and energy of the youth in our parish returning from WYD made a lasting impression on me which moved me to promise I would attend at least one once I am able. I nurtured that desire in my heart for nearly 2 decades. In July 2013, my desire was fulfilled while attending WYD in Rio de Janiero. My experience was amazing in every respect!

It was for me a time of grace, blessedness, freedom, love and celebration! Energy filled me day after day from the time my feet touched the ground in Rio. For the first time in many years, my concerns seemed out of reach. I was filled with many wonderful feelings and emotions; there was no space for worries.

There were so many highlights and moments of grace during my WYD pilgrimage. Just few minutes before our plane landed, I looked outside the window and was greeted with an endless view of lush green forest, hills and mountains that appeared to have mushroomed out of the ground. This beautiful sight tugged at my heart, evoking the warm feeling of coming home. I couldn’t stop smiling, I was filled with joy! However, as I was walking out of the airport, I saw lines of unfamiliar faces, suddenly I felt lost. I wondered who is picking me up and will I recognize them? At the end of the line, I saw two women holding a piece of paper with Jovie Ann Decoyna and Cabrini written underneath. When I saw the cross they were wearing, it was enough for me to let go of my luggage and run towards them. We embraced each other and I couldn’t help but cry. I can still vividly remember the overwhelming feeling of joy and relief which even now as I am writing this, my eyes are welling up with tears. Our conservation was limited because of the language barrier but the language of love is universal; Srs Rosa and Rossini didn’t have to say a word to make me feel welcome.

I met many Cabrinian Youth and MSC sisters from different countries predominantly from Latin America who have made my WYD experience wonderful. A couple of days prior to WYD week we had the Cabrinian Journey. We spent time getting to know each other and learning more about St. Cabrini’s life, mission and spirituality. There were presentations from the MSC sisters, music, fun and prayer group activities and a visit to Mother Cabrini’s memoriam. Throughout these activities, several young people able to speak English accompanied me along with Srs Gloria and Rosa who also translated, helping me understand what was going on.

It rained for the first few days of WYD week, enough to turn the Campus Fidei into a muddy field necessitating a change of venue for the overnight vigil to Copacabana beach. During those days, we braved the rain attending the activities armed only with our rain coats, pilgrim kits and joyful hearts. Our enthusiasm and desire to meet Pope Francis overcame the discomfort of hunger, thirst and standing for hours in the cold drenching rain. Throughout the week, we spent hours walking, waiting and falling in line for every activity but that didn’t dampen our spirits. We sang our way through all those times, people were cheering and greeting each other, sharing whatever food we had in our backpacks to soothe our grumbling stomachs. Our daily return to the Cabrini Formation and Spirituality Centre was marked with a common scene of people rushing to get to the bathroom first, others to the dining room to have their fill of the wonderful meals that the sisters prepared. You would think we are so exhausted we’d hit the sack but not quite, the young people had so much energy, you could hear them singing well past midnight!

My catechesis in English was located quite far from the spirituality centre. The trip required two bus rides and two hours each way but it was well worth it. I was expecting that seeing the Pope would be the highlight of my WYD experience, yet to my surprise it wasn’t, it was my catechesis. When I saw Pope Francis, I felt a sense of peace and sincerity radiating from him. My heart swelled with joy seeing him get down from his mobile car to embrace a pilgrim in a wheelchair. I felt blessed to have the opportunity to see him in person and hear him speak.

The message from the Cardinals and Bishops about Christian hope vs. weak hope, crowd vs. community, life of disciples and characteristics of Christ disciples were all very enlightening. To see so many young people involved in catechesis strengthened my sense of community and hope. It was heartening to hear the Cardinal from South Africa say, “I congratulate you on your courage to profess your faith when being a Catholic is not fashionable.” In Australia, faith and religion is not openly discussed. Doing so is thought to be disrespectful or offensive. The catechesis empowered me. At work, I find myself more free to discuss with my patients their religious and spiritual needs and offer them the services that the hospital have to address those needs without thinking that I might be offending or upsetting them. The theme of WYD 2013 was “Go and make disciples of all nations!” One of the pilgrims asked the cardinal,”How we are going to make disciples?” He responded, “Baptize them! Bring them into the faith by your own example; baptize them into a way of life! Let Jesus shine through you in the way you live your life.”

As I was lying down on Copacabana beach during the vigil night with millions of others, I could hear people singing, cheering and praying with four helicopters hovering above us adding to the cacophony. Amidst all the commotion around me, I was able to quite down and be within myself for a few minutes. For a moment, everything stood still. When I open my eyes, all I saw was the lunar crescent, the Stella Maris and several stars scattered in the sky! A deep sense of gratitude filled my being. I said to myself, “Jovie, what is the chance of you, who grew up in a tiny mountainous village in the Philippines, from the other side of the globe, attending this World Youth Day and sleeping in Copacabana beach with millions of other pilgrims?” I heard a voice within respond, “You are blessed, you are beloved, you are chosen to be here.”

I forgive you

I’ll be 30 next year.

Every time I think about turning 30 I feel really old. Tonight has been my lowest moment. I feel like a wreck. Not because I’ll be turning 30 but because I feel like I’m drowning. I’m starting to suffocate. The walls are closing in around me. Walls that I have built around myself for almost 3 decades. I always say to myself and to other people who asked me, “No, I’m not angry.” It is true I was never angry. I became indifferent instead to protect myself and to keep my head above the waters. I carried this baggage on my shoulders over the years and survived every mountain on my journey. I have succeeded in every step I took.

Tonight I feel like a wreck. I listed all the things that are weighing me down at the moment from the most trivial to my biggest stressors. When I stopped for a second to read what I wrote, the baggage that I have been carrying the longest is the heaviest.

I sobbed and sobbed as if someone just died after this realization. I can’t stop myself from wailing. The walls I built around myself is starting to crumble into pieces. If I don’t get myself out, I’ll be crushed to death. It will kill me very soon.

I decided to take the leap tonight. I mustered all the strength and courage I have left to pick up the phone and dial the number. I needed to say, ” I forgive you for all of your inadequacies, for my traumatizing childhood, for all the things I missed and longed for from you that you withheld from me, for the missed opportunities, for the pain and suffering we had to endure, and for any hurtful things that I will encounter in the future as an after-effect. I forgive you. I also forgive myself for taking this long to get out of the walls and cross the bridge. I forgive myself for holding back all these years.”

I am ready to put this baggage down. I am tired and my soul is weary.

I thank you for everything. Every single thing that I went through has molded me into the person I am today. It has definitely made me stronger. I know that I will be able to overcome whatever difficulties lie ahead of me.

Yes, I do forgive you.


Cold, pitch-black, and raining,
Strong wind bashing the flowering bush outside my window,
Screeching sound of cars passing by,
Attempting to empty my mind of today’s events is futile

As I lay underneath layers of wool blankets,
This feeling hit me in the gut and gnawed,
Curled myself into a ball, my knees touching my chin,
“Yes……I’m really missing home a lot.”

I miss listening to nothing but the roaring and gushing sounds
Of Sakop and Pikaw waterfalls from my bedroom at night after a heavy rainfall
And waking up to the smell of earth and life,
The mountains, waterfalls, rivers and fields beckon me..

Weathering Winter

photo 1

Like a child waiting in vain for the promised gift,

Sitting by the window in anticipation,

Daylight getting shorter, darkness taking over,

The cold, the damp, the gloom crawling its way into my bones.

But like a child I’ll keep waiting,

With a spirit full of hope, a trusting heart,

Enjoying the gift of not knowing what’s to come,

Never cease believing, never stop wondering.

                                                                -Jovie Ann Decoyna


Fashioned by the Potter’s hand

I used to write my goals or plans on my journal whether it’s a short or long term goal including the target dates and ticked each one as I achieved or completed them. I used to feel proud that I achieved something because I was persistent and determined. I used to think I’m in control of my own destiny. I used to believe that if you work really hard, you will get what you want, something that you deserve based on the effort and time you invested in it. However, as I looked back, I realized I was just fooling myself thinking I was in control. I cannot take credit for anything.

All those years I could see myself as a tiny piece of clay, being fitted and molded to create a great masterpiece. As a child, I have always dreamed of doing great things. I have always believed that I was created for a greater purpose. I feel like a child at the edge of my seat looking through the window expectantly and eagerly waiting for her father’s return or a child running around excited for her present to arrive because she was told she will receive one anytime soon.

As each chapter of my life unfolds, I see myself as a spectator of my own life. Indeed, it was like a gift being unwrapped in front of my eyes. When I decided to start doing something, somehow along the way the control is taken out of my hands. Like a captain of a ship, I would set to sail with the plan, the route, and the purpose of the trip in mind. But for some reason in the middle of the vast ocean, someone takes over the steering wheel and I was allowed to just sit back and watch.

When someone tells me I’m very good at what I’m doing, I would say thanks but deep inside I feel like I didn’t really do anything much. I am not devaluing the other person’s compliment or the gift that God has given me, I was just acknowledging that whatever good I did was not solely from me but from whom all Goodness and Love emanates.

Many times I would say to myself “I feel like I’m not in control”, “it was not just me”….” it’s not because I worked hard or persisted,” “I didn’t even think I deserved it.” But experience taught me, that’s what GRACE is, you can’t do anything to make yourself deserving or worthy of something. It is given as a gift and God will make you worthy of that gift.

Every blessing that I receive reminds me that this life is not mine to waste. I don’t even have a bit of right to take it for granted. I can’t promise to always live it to the full because I know I’m not that strong. There’ll be times I’ll stumble. I can only promise to strive every day and pray for courage to rise each time I fall. And when I feel that things are not going the way I  planned, I’ll just have to remember to put my trust in God.

“For it was you who formed my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; that I know very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes beheld my unformed substance. In your book were written all the days that were formed for me, when none of them as yet existed.”-Psalm 139: 13-16

They have weathered the storm (Elders from Bakun)

Bulsiana Bagtangan

Bulsiana Bagtangan

Melina Bandao

Melina Bandao

Carlos Sacyat

Carlos Sacyat

Apo Tiso Bandao

Apo Tiso Bandao

Lubenta Bagano

Lubenta Bagano


This is nothing to Jimmy Nelson’s but they are my own people. Part of their lives they shared with me and the community that contributed to who I am today…
I had a personal experience with each one of them that I treasure in my memory, never to be forgotten..
If I am given the opportunity I would take a portrait of everyone who molded me….if in doing so I could make their memory live a little longer…

At Sakil-angan River

My Memory Brings Me Home

Sitting in the porch, hearing the screeching sound of passing cars
Carbon monoxide-filled air assaulting my lungs
Seeing tall buildings at night with flickering lights
Overwhelming my senses, my head is going to explode
I want to flee, I want to escape.

Oh how I long to be home!
Distant memories of how everything was at home started to come to life
The chirping of sparrows perched on the avocado tree outside my bedroom window    The crickets singing lullaby at night, the rooster crowing in the morning                           The sound of the waterfalls cascading from the mountain top

The sound of raindrops beating our galvanized roof                                                                     The rice terraces and the meadows after the rain                                                                           The dew that cover the leaves of plants early in the morning                                                 The gentle breeze caressing my cheeks                                                                                      The smell of sweet potato and peanut roasting in the open fire                                               The joy of riding on the carabao’s back

The freedom of running wildly in the fields
The feel of mud on my face and the smell of it
The relief brought about by the cold water in the river after a whole day’s work in the field
The taste of wild berries and fruit trees

Vividly these memories fill me
Forever sketched, a part of my history                                                                                            I place I can revisit when I need some breathing space
Where I can find peace and solitude                                                                                      Where once again, I can say, “I am where I should be.”

– By Jovie Ann Decoyna

Thoughts About Women’s Bodies

You Monsters Are People.

In prehistoric times the thing that made a woman the most desirable to the rest of her pack was having both arms. Things like sharp teeth and having no diseases were just perks back then. If you were some archaic human female spending her days trying to pull all the skin off a mammoth carcass, had most of your teeth, functional reproductive organs, and could start a fire without help, then you were probably the sexiest woman on the planet. Every man in your tribe would show up in front of your cave with a cup of dinosaur milk and a sharpened rock in the hopes that it might be enough to gain your favor.

Fast forward into modernity and the dinosaur milk has dried up. Everyone is arguing about body shape and what not to wear. There are campaigns endorsing fatness and abhorring skinniness where people make outrageous claims…

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