Sunday. The sun was out and so it was hot but my new found friends and I were comfortably seated inside Aliw Theater. We were listening to our Feast Builder, Bro. Migs Ramirez deliver the talk of the week. Migs loves telling stories and on that particular day, a gripping story was unfolding right before us – a story that made me literally grip the arm rest of my seat and forget to breathe for about five or more seconds. Good thing, Migs asked us to take a deep breath or else I’d die right there.
Iiinnnnhale, exhale. Breathing is automatic but deep breathing requires a little bit of effort. Deep breathing is breathing deeply into our abdomens, three to four seconds in, three to four seconds out. It is the kind of breath that cleanses the lungs, clears the mind and strengthens the body.
I cannot say that Bro. Migs taught me to take deep breaths but it is apt to say that he reminded me that deep breaths are necessary whenever I find myself in gripping situations or when my back is against the wall or when resources seem scarce… or when I am going to have an interview with famous people like Migs himself.
Butterflies were fluttering in my stomach on the day of our meeting. “It’s okay if it’s going to be postponed because something happened,” I said to my friend Madz who went with me for the interview to make sure I’m not going to faint even before I could introduce myself to Migs. (OA ako minsan)
My friend just laughed at me the same way Migs laughed as I recall the scene to him later in our talk. You see, I love talking to people and asking them questions. It’s my job for the past five years to ask, take notes, and write something worthy from the conversation. But in my past interactions with people, I have reasons for asking them – my boss told me so or the government needs it. This is the first time (I guess, though I am chatty to anyone even with street vendors) that I have asked someone for an interview for my, well, for my blog.
“So pag-papraktisan mo ako?” teased Migs when I told him it’s going to be for my blog. I said yes and thank him for his generosity and kindness. We all laughed.
As what our favorite panda movie taught us, there are no accidents (Kung Fu Panda, 2008). That is why Migs never called it an accident that from being a 12 year old lector in their parish then, he grew up today to be a teacher and Feast Builder.
“My dad was an officemate of Bro. Obet [Cabrillas]. Umuwi si Papa one day [telling me] meron akong training, public speaker’s training, umattend ka,” Migs recalled. “Ininterview ako only to find out na hindi sya public speaking course, it’s a leadership training course, so from there, it was all God –incidence.”
Migs remembered how shy he was then during the course since he doesn’t know anyone from The Feast. And so when the time has arrived for a demonstration in their public speaking session –
“Ang sabi ni Bro. Obet, piliin ninyo yung pinaka mahiyain sa grupo ninyo, so obviously the choice was me. Tumayo ako sa harap, I gave a talk and that’s when Bro. Obet invited me to accompany him to LSS (Life in the Spirit Seminar) when he would be invited by communities,” Migs related.
From there, Migs was tapped into Campus Missions then found his way leading worship in Feast Manila. Last year, he became the Feast Builder for the Singles and Youth in the Feast Bay Area.
I have seen a lot of preachers both inside and outside The Feast and there are a lot of times when I notice these people’s distinct characters in teaching the Word, in relating to their flocks and in touching hearts. And so I had to ask Migs on his brand as a preacher.
“I realized, una sa lahat, ako yung preacher na may audience participation, facilitator’s style. Gusto ko yung mga taong kasama, may ginagawa ang mga tao,” he answered.
The second thing he wishes to be known for is the creative or innovative preacher. Migs shared that his brand is like an offspring of spirituality and creativity.
“For example the book (his book – Imagine This!), it was born out of innovation, creativity. Who has done a book that has doodles and talks about spirituality? [The book] is something that resonates with me, gusto ko laging fresh ang mga bagay.”
It was difficult to put down Migs’ book when I started reading it. ‘Imagine This’ is light yet deep, fun yet thoughtful. I finished it right away including the areas for doodling about my life, plans, name and all. (I left two doodle areas blank though, to allow myself more time to think about it.)
I am sure that the people who have read the book would agree with me when I say that the book deserves to have a part two. And so I took the liberty of asking Migs if there will be a second book.
“I hope so, I want to expect from myself. But in my mind, tatlong libro na ito. The first book is about [your] self, the second book is how to relate with others and the third book is relating to God,” Migs shared.
One thing I liked about the book is its authenticity and honesty. It was written in the perspective of God’s light and so no matter how vulnerable Migs presented himself to be in the book, the readers can only accept him and love him more.
In the book, Migs shared about his feelings of being inferior when he was younger. I think this is a common experience to a lot of people including myself. I asked him as an educator on what can be done to stop having this feeling among our children today.
“It starts at home, it starts from the parents, with the family. We still need love.”
Although Migs shared that he never wanted nor dreamed of being a writer, I still asked him tips for aspiring authors like me.
“Hmm. One would be keep writing which you are already doing. Second would be, this worked for me in a very intimate way, write for one person. Imagine one person who really needs what you are writing about,” he answered.
That’s the word imagine again, dear writers! Remember when Albert Einstein said that imagination is more important than knowledge?
As our conversation went longer, more questions and stories poured over. Knowing Migs’ discernment for his vocation and having difficult times myself in decision making, I asked him, “What were the greatest lessons that your decisions have taught you?”
“Ang lalim ng mga tanong, pang Miss Universe,” Migs managed to say. And just like a scene from a question and answer portion of a pageant (less the drama though) he said, “pakiulit yung tanong?”
We learned in high school Physics (or maybe even earlier?) that free fall happens when gravity is the only thing that influences the motion of an object. Migs’ answer to the question was the same except that the sole influencer of his actions was not gravity, but his faith.
“Right now, the greatest lesson is to trust. As in the biggest, having gone through so many things. Ibang klase pala yung tiwala, pag naranasan natin sya, it gives you a sense of helplessness. Para kang lumulutang [or] free falling pero alam mong may sasalo. It’s very disturbing at first but it’s very peaceful in the long run,” Migs said (don’t worry, not yet in between tears! Char!).
He then related how he has taken the time to be still and pray for his vocation since last year. Will he return to the seminary? Will he get married and have his own family? These were the things he prayed about. These were the prayers that sent him free falling, trusting and waiting for God to catch him.
One day, God finally laid down His divine hand and caught him. He was brave to make a decision and say it out loud – I’m going to the seminary.
We can imagine a drum roll after that and expect an ending for this blog entry right here, right now. But I still had one final question: What is your message for single people?
“I would always notice na yung mga kwento nila, kwento ko. Na yung mga issues nila, at one point, it reflects who I am, pinagdaanan ko na rin or pinagdadaanan ko or there’s a part of my life that would connect what they are telling me. So probably the first message I would have is, I am going through the same thing that everybody is going through, all of us have our own struggles, and all of us has a way of dealing with it. I am no better than anyone,” Migs said.
His second message is this: “Most of the time, yung mga sasabihin ko sa kanila, advise ko rin sa sarili ko. Kasi narirealize ko, a lot of our issues come from this longing to love ourselves and to really be at home and at peace with who we are.[In the past] ang dami kong self doubt, ang dami kong issues sa sarili ko, ang dami kong gustong gawin, pero hindi ako naniniwala sa sarili ko. But I had to accept the fact that I have everything that I need for me to become successful and all is stopping me is myself. If I want to be successful, I just need to do it. And it starts with loving myself. So I think that’s one the biggest things I want to share to all the single people in the world and all the people in the world, actually.”
Wow! Let’s take a moment to dig that in. Take a deep breath.
It starts with loving ourselves – our dreams, our healing, our relationships, our passion, our faith. And it is my fervent prayer that we all start loving ourselves more and more, not in a selfish way but in a way that expands our hearts to accommodate more people in it. The bigger our hearts, the fuller our lives. The fuller our lives, the more we glorify the Lord.
Before we parted ways, I did not waste the chance on having Bro. Migs sign my copy of his book. I purposely did not look while he was on it. I wanted to be surprised. On my way home, I peeked on the front page like a kid sneaking a hand in a cookie jar. I smiled to myself to what I saw – doodles in red, blue and yellow inks. 😊
Bro. Miguel Ramirez is a preacher, singer, composer, teacher and most recently, an author. Bro. Migs has also founded the BIG CATCH Creative Training Co., which aims to unleash people’s creativity and motivation. He is the Feast Builder of the Feast Bay Area Singles and Youth in the Name of Christ (SYNC). The Feast, which is one of the happiest places on earth, is a weekly Catholic gathering of the Light of Jesus Family.