by Franco John Perry Dayap

The first time I saw the webinar: “Choosing to Change: Mental Management in these Challenging times” by J. Enrique G. Saplala, Ph.d.,C.Psych. posted on our JVP page, I felt a burst of hope gush forth within me. I could not help but think that this event was extremely relevant to me. As a Psychology graduate and having Emotional Intelligence as a big part of my career life, I was engaged in so many group coordinated activities that really helped people discover their individuality thus unlock their strengths and unleash their potentials. However, Covid-19 came, as you know things started to change. Still, I was trying to keep up with my services but all were shifted into the online world, and this shift seemed to take away all that really mattered in group coordinated activities. Like you, I too have experienced a lot of death in the past months. I lost my father two years ago, I lost my job a few months after, and my S.O. left for Japan a few months later and then COVID-19 came later that year.

Personally, when I watched this webinar, I had an epiphany. When Dr. Saplala was naming the different kinds of struggles that we were going through in this pandemic – languishing and ruminating to name a few, I realized that this act of naming was already a form of combating this encompassing challenge we call the Global Pandemic. In the early stage of the pandemic, I was among those who had known so little about what was really going on. So I did my research just as most of us did. But I didn’t stop there, when I was already seeing people being cordoned into minor lockdown areas in our city, it started to become alarming as there were not enough “ayuda” being distributed. To make it worse, people started to lose hope and some even took their own lives. After these life-changing events, things became personal to me. It was clear to me that this pandemic was not only a medical concern. The act of cordoning was not only smothering us physically but it was becoming a brooding spot for spiritual harassment. 

Presently, I am in constant communication with a friend who is really deep in his struggle to get through this pandemic. He’s been languishing and ruminating to a point of almost no return. These two terms were unknown to me before watching this webinar. I was fighting a losing battle until now that I have named these kinds of struggles. Now that I have a clearer description of what I am up against, I know how I can be able to address these kinds of difficulties. If I may so boldly connect this with how Jesus expelled demons from the possessed individual. He first commanded the unclean spirit in his words, ‘Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!’ Then Jesus asked him, ‘What is your name?’ And so the demon said his name. And as you know it is written in the Gospel of Mark 5:1-20 that the demons were sent into the swine and eventually jumped off the cliff. You must be wondering, what is the connection? 

As I mentioned earlier, this pandemic is not only a medical concern. Although the world leaders are addressing this as such, I would beg to differ. I firmly believe that this is spiritual warfare that we are all now a part of as prayer warriors. As Dr. Saplala has generously graced us with his presence by sharing his expertise on how to handle the effects of the pandemic in our day-to-day lives, I would like to consider him as one of the modern messengers of God. As St. Luke was a doctor, for sure, he too had his own clinical/medical practices applied in his ministries. I believe that you too, have your own beautiful way of serving the least, the lost and the lonely.

I hope I had made sense in this humble sharing of mine. I hope and pray that you all are well and that together we shall overcome. As I end this reflection, please allow me to quote our favorite statement from our late Archbishop Oscar Romero’s prayer, “We are workers and not master builders; ministers not messiahs. We are prophets of a future not our own.” 

[The writer is a BS Psychology graduate from Xavier University - Ateneo de Cagayan. He is a member of the  Jesuit Volunteers Philippines [JVP] Batch 35 missioned at Gelacio I. Yason Foundation-Family Farm School in Roxas, Oriental Mindoro as Guidance Counselor and Science Teacher]