Fr. Jose Maria Lopez Suffers Stroke

Life in Tugbok has had its ups and downs since the last publication of CNN.

On March 8, Fr. Jose Maria Lopez, who had celebrated his eightieth birthday on September 30, 2009, suffered a stroke.

We knew something serious had happened when he dropped his breviary just before we began Compline. Fortunately Bro. Peter our in-house nurse was able to contact the Davao 911 squad, who arrived and took Fr. Jose Ma. to Doctor's Hospitals almost immediately.

The stroke affected his right side and his heart beat, and his pulse remained erratic for most of the following week. However, both of these gradually stabilized and on March 22, Fr. Jose Ma. was released from the hospital and was able to return to Tugbok where a hospital room was prepared for him on the first floor of the St. Joseph Dormitory building with a wheelchair and other hospital amenities.

As Fr. Jose gradually gained controlled over his right side to the extent that he could walk by himself he consented to be flown to Manila on May 7, where it was decided he could flown to Manila on May 7, where it was decided he could receive more and better medical facilities than would be available in Davao.

This was done and Fr. Jose Maria is presently housed in the St. Joseph building adjacent to the Parish Community where he can receive visitors, Religious and Lay, and regale them with his never failing smile.

As some of us are approaching retirement age it is comforting to know that there is new blood forthcoming to take our place.

Five Make Their Profession of Simple Vows

On April 17 the two Filipino and three Vietnamese Novices who had previously been approved for first vows made their Profession in the hands of V. Rev. Narciso Reyes, OCD , the Commissariary of the Philippines. They were bros. John Eric Alim, Gregory Baguio, Paul Nguyen Cong Vinh, John Bosco Nguyen Tu Chuong, and Joseph Le Van Dong.

Present for the Profession Ceremony was the mother of Bro. John Eric from Lucena and the mother and some other family members of Bro. Greg who arrived from Cagayan de Oro City.

The newly Professed took the religious names respectively of John Mary of the Holy Face, Gregorio Therese of the Merciful Heart of Jesus, Paul of the Passion and Resurrection, John Bosco of the Cross, and Joseph Mary of the Holy Eucharist.

The five newly professed then departed for their respective homes whether in the Philippines or Vietnam, for some carefree days before continuing in their respective formation programs.

Happily, the First Profession ceremony coincided with the fraternal visit of Very Rev. Peter Chung, OCD, General Counselor of the OCD for East Asia and Oceania, who had arrived in the Philippines from Korea only two days previously.

Very Rev. Peter Chung, OCD

arrives in Davao

Fr. Peter, meanwhile, used his time in Tugbok to interview the Solemnly Professed members of the Tugbok Community, the first of the Communities of Friars of the Philippines to be thus visited. But I am getting ahead of myself.


New blood arrived in Tugbok, albeit temporarily, in the persons of the eight Scholastics who arrived in order to make their Second Novitiate of three months and enjoy the quiet and relaxed pace of Tugbok life in preparation for their final commitment as Teresian Carmelite Friars after having successfully completed their courses of studies.

The first batch to arrive comprised by Brothers Vito Competente Jr., Francis Nguyen Quach Tien, Joseph Nguyen Binh and Jonald Pagnganiban.

They began their routines almost immediately, including the daily times for prayer, housework and plenty of time for reading in the morning and manualia and basketball in the afternoon.

Soon these four were joined by four more Scholastics on April 30, namely Brothers Benedick Pianco, Ransom Rapirap, Andie Quiza, and Richard Escoto.

The first batch of Scholastics and the second batch as well added to the decreased numbers of the community, namely Bro. Peter Ganon and myself, since Fr. Ronaldo Ruanto, the house superior, has been away lately most the time fulfilling national and international commitments.

But the eight Scholastics added much more to the community than mere numbers or to the orderliness of the place. Their presence added to the prayerful atmosphere of the place as well as to the enlivening our recreation periods. And on occasion they relieved Bro. Peter and my beleaguered selves, taking assignments to the apostolate we found difficult or impossible to fulfill.

Two New Hermitages on the Property

These two hermitages, I might add, have already been finished, constructed mostly with lumber from the "mahogany forest" as well as with gifts in kind and in cash from generous benefactors. These two hermitages standing near the fence adjacent to the house of Tranquilino Buizon and near the Los Martyres gazebo, are to be christened on July 11 after the regular Sunday Mass with the names St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross and Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity.

Two More Young Vietnamese in Tugbok

But the bloom of the youth will not have departed entirely from the Tugbok Community with departure of the eight Scholastics. April saw the arrival of two younger Vietnamese, Anthony Nguyen Duc Thang and Joseph Nguyen Duc Hau to the Tugbok Community. Anthony had already been approved for the novitiate program, but since there is no batch of Novices this year, the Formation Committee and the Commissariat Council decided to hold of Anthony's novitiate until next year.

Joseph on the other hand arrived in the Philippines only several months ago. Both of them are presently enrolled in language school here in Davao in order to perfect their English skills.

A Vacation in Davao Oriental

The usual community routine was dispensed for three days from June 21 to June 23 when the whole community went on vacation to Davao Oriental. After staying overnight at the Monastery of the Carmelite Nuns in Mati the group went to Masaio, Davao Oriental where we boarded a banka for Juaneban Island on the east coast of Davao oriental. After spending the day on this islet the group stayed overnight at the lovely beach home cum hotel of Attorney Leo Sabala, a friend of the Nuns at still another location facing the gentle swells of the Pacific Ocean.

The Ordination of Rev. Ramil Oraiz, OCD

Another sign of the nascent viatality of the Commissariat was an event which was participated in by hundreds of Davaoenos as well as by many from outside Davao. I am referring to the Ordination to the Priesthood of Rev. Ramil Oraiz. This took place in the chapel of the Teresian Carmelite Nuns’ chapek in Bajada, Davao City last April 16.

Fr. Ramil, a native of General Santos City, chose to be ordained by Archbishop Fernando Capalla in Davao City, and his Ordination was witnessed not only by family members from Gen San but by number of Teresian Friars coming from the different Philippine Communities, as well by a large number of religious and lay people. Most of these stayed to enjoy a sumptuous dinner which was prepared for the guests at the OCDS Prayer House along JP Laurel Avenue, Bajada, Davao City.

Meanwhile Fr. Tom Martin very fortunately arrived on different occasions to kindly extend some needed help with the daily Masses as well as other apostolic commitments in favour of the community. So while we witness comings and goings in Tugbok, we can only thank the Lord for this continued presence, and hope that Tugbok might do its part for the Commissariat, which, despite the gradual graying of a number of us, portends such a marvelous future.


At this time of the year, when people are going about frantically shopping for gifts and putting up the Christmas decoorations, amidst all this hustle and bustle, I can't stop to think what is the Christmas message for me this year. With the early rising, preparing the church for "Simbang Gabi," the lack of sleep, I am too exhausted to do much reflection. Nonetheless, it is important for all Christians to take time to discover the meaning of Christmas anew.

As I observe what is happening around me, I also reflect what is happening with me. I struggle with anger, indignation, and bitterness. Anger and indignation at what has happened, the humilation, and a growing sense of bitterness. Gone are the days of a happy and joyful youth. Life seems to rob you of these. Or rather, the vicissitudes of life. Sometimes, we suffer because of the malice of others, by there stupidity and incompetence, and our having to put up with them. And at others times, we suffer because of our stupidity and pride. We percieve, wether real or imagined, that the others want to "do us in" to see us fall and take delight in our failure. Such perceptions leave one either melancholic or angry. Or sometimes both. We ask, "Why is the world so evil? Why is there so much hatred and bitterness?"

But it is into such a world that Christ was born. Our God was not born in a place or even in an inn, but in a stable for animals. Why? Because we did'nt want him to be anywhere else but the meanest of places. We don't want to be bothered. We are happy where we are with our own group of friends, and we don't want any "outsider" in our midst. We just want to be left alone.

Today, this same Jesus wants to be born in the human heart. In a human heart filled with anger, hurt and bitterness. It is those who are sick that needs a doctor. And Christ came to save us, to heal our wounds and mend our brokenness. He wants to lift us up from the misery of our sinfulness, and to clothe us with the finest robe and to have a feast in our honor, like the prodigal father. This is the God that we have; the God of mercy and compassion. Despite our wickedness and pride and our constant pushing him away, our God looks tenderly on us with his arms wide open, ever ready to embrace us.


I was born in 1953 to Jackie Lee (Chinese) and Shelia Fraser Thompson, in Rangoon, Burma. My father died when I was 5 and my mother subsequently remarried to Chen You Main. We were four siblings to my father and additional five to my stepfather. At 13, I joined the Diocesan Minor Seminary where I studied for four years. After high school I studied Law and pre-medicine. I made my choice to study Burmese Traditional Herbal Medicine, followed-up by Chinese Acupuncture. I completed all my studies in 1978. I then started to practice medicine and my first patient was a young boy named Timothy, age 14, who had leukemia. I asked for the intercession of our Blessed Mother Mary for a cure as I treated him with some herbs for six months. Timothy is still alive and is now 44 years old, working as a farmer in a village not far from the capital of Rangoon. My family has had a deep devotion to the Blessed Mother Mary, through the Rosary and the novena to Our Lady of Perpetual Help. She has never refused any of my petitions for my family, friends, and especially for my patients with cancer, AIDS and diabetes.

In 1983, I joined the Focolare Movement as a volunteer. The same year, I moved to Taiwan and continued with my medical practice in a Chinese Hospital in the evenings, and served as a health officer in the Dominican International School at Taipei during the day. There, I first met a Carmelite priest, the school chaplain, Fr. Henry Muscat from the Province of Malta. He was such a jolly and good-natured person, making everyone in the school happy. His character and personality attracted me to inquire what made him so happy every day. That was the beginning of my Carmelite vocation. But I was then very active at the Focolare Movement, faithfully participated in all their activities, the Mariapoli annual gatherings, and the monthly sharing of experiences of unity with my volunteer cluster group in Taipei.

In 1989, I went to the Focolare Training Centre in Loppiano, Firenze, Italy where I met the foundress, Chiara Ljubich, who, in one of her meditations, mentioned St. Teresa of Avila’s The Interior Castle. When I traced the origin of it, I discovered that it was from the Carmelites. When I got back to Taiwan in 1992, I approached Fr. Henry Muscat and gathered more information about the OCDS and OCD way of life. At his suggestion, I joined the OCDS and I was with them for five years. In the meantime, I frequented his office every Saturday after the Mass at the school chapel to learn more about the lives of the Carmelite saints and the spirituality. The saint that most attracted me was St. Therese of the Child Jesus with her doctrine of the little way and her total confidence in God. I was also attracted to St. John of the Cross’ path of nada and todo, and his divine union spirituality. I was also attracted to St. Teresa’s bookmark, “Let nothing disturb you… God alone suffices”.

In 2002, having been overworked in the school and in the hospital, I decided to take a break and open up my private clinic. To my surprise, instead of getting rest, more patients crowded at the clinic that I even had to extend clinic hours to Sundays and to midnight to serve the third-shift factory workers.

In 2004, when I was in the peak of my fame and wealth, an “atom bomb” dropped from heaven when a banner appeared to me on which was imprinted the phrase “The Last Call”. What a shock it was! I tried to ignore it but it reappeared over and over until I became restless. I began to pray more intensively for the grace of enlightenment. In some Masses, the Word of God would become so alive that on hearing certain passages or words, tears would begin to roll down my cheeks. As time passed, it became more serious that I had to close my clinic and enter into the solitude in prayer and fasting. The gift of tears was incredible; never had I experienced such in the past, not even when my parents died.
On March 19, 2004, while I was praying the rosary after the Mass, I heard a voice from the depths asked me, “Don’t you want to become my spiritual physician?” I wondered if God was asking me to upgrade my status from a physical physician to become a spiritual physician. But I answered, “Lord, I am not worthy. It is you who is healing all the patients. I am only your poor little instrument, without you I can do nothing, and I am nothing without you.”

On the last day of my solitude, I dreamed of St. John of the Cross, so pale and weak, carrying a white cross, St. Teresa of Jesus, with a manuscript and a pen in her hand, looking at me very seriously, and St. Therese in her childhood dress of age 8, running across, smiling and waving at me as if she was telling me, “Don’t be afraid, follow my little way, have confidence in God and love will spring from your heart… to love, to love all. Know that your vocation is to love, nothing else.” And the three of them vanished from my dream.

On March 5, 2005, one week after I arrived at the OCD Formation House in Singapore, I had another dream wherein Jesus’ whole body was burning in flames of fire, carrying a burning cross, climbing towards a red hot lava flowing down a mountain. I wondered if that mountain was the Mt. Carmel in St. John of the Cross’ Ascent of Mt. Carmel. I meditated on the meaning this dream for about a week, and I understood that my call to the Carmelite vocation is not going to be an easy one. But I am not afraid because I have the three of them, my heavenly folks, who went ahead of me and who have shown me the way.

Like St. Teresa of Jesus, who has taught me to have a determined determination in following Jesus, St. John of the Cross has taught me to “strip myself to complete nakedness” in order to have that freedom of spirit to enter into divine union. And St. Therese has taught me to follow her little way of complete abandonment to God and to live the vocation of love even after death, “spending heaven in doing good on earth”. What more do I need to follow my vocation in Carmel? What else do I need to do but to love all unto Eternity!
Rev. Fr. Ronaldo Ruanto, OCD
Local Superior

Our Holy Mother Teresa teaches us that our prayers should always make us grow in virtues: Their must be a direct proportion between what happens in our relationship with the divine and what happens in or relationship with one another. There's a Latin saying which declares in
medio stat vitus (Virtue lies in the middle). It is in the wisdom of realizing that the practice of virtues is most possible when excesses are avoided.

Our novitiate is truly an ideal place where we can learn to hit the balance of things, the regularity of life. Every Carmelite understands so well that the simplicity and ordinariness of life ironically offers complex and extraordinary demands about the call to be perfected as persons of life virtues. This a mark of Teresian Carmel. As we live the essentials and acquire the necessary, a meaningful life is configured in such a mode that the integration of who we are with God and who we are with others in desired. That is journey, a process, a passage which we've been trying to grab hold of in the 2005-2008 triennium. And looking back, we are indeed happy to observe how the ordinary brought extraordinary blessings to our community.

Faithful Everyday for Fifty years! We had the honor to celebrate two golden jubilees of priesthood. Fr. Igue and Fr. JoMa are living gurus of commitment. Their presence in the novitiate, their faithfulness to the horarium, and their expressed preference for the place are indeed encouraging not only for the novices but for every one of us who want to cultivate dedication by nurturing it moment by moment, day by day.

Universality in Simplicity. This is the first time that we have international collaboration in our work of formation. The novitiate is now home for six candidates from the Taiwan- Singapore circumscription. The whole set-up in this corner of Tugbok can be best described as simple. But this uncomplicated undoubtedly creates a particular venue where the universal thirst to be with the Holy One is quenched. Last January 19th was the Clothing of out two new novices: Bro. Ruy from Singapore and Bro. Jeffrey from Taiwan.

'Pag may itinanim, May aanihin' ( harvest comes only those who plant). This is a tagalog saying which has always been realized inTugbok. Our two-and-a-half hectare property is verdant with plants and trees. The Prolific fruit trees have always been a special delight for those who reside here. They are fruits as well of the labors of our brothers who planted those years ago. Mother Nature can't be outdone in generostiy if we respect her and take good care of her. In May 2006, because of a road construction, we had to cut 62 of our Mahogany trees planted at least 12 years before. The timber we got was transformed into a beautiful gazebo which we named Los Martires.

Patience attains Everything. This Teresian precept applies in point of fact to every phase of every walk of life. Certainly the novitiate has changed in many dimensions since its conception in 1974. It has changed persons too in varied proportions One experience which must never be overlooked is that all these changes did not occur in an instant but living the spirit of Carmel faithfully.

Finding the simple Carmel is finding the simple Life. . . a movement from the Death to Life really. In the spirit of this Resurrection we are greeting all of you: