Officially, there is no Thanksgiving Day in the Philippines. As an American colony before, the country used to celebrate it on the same day as in the United States. While the holiday for “roasting turkeys” has been abolished many years ago, some Filipinos still observe the tradition of celebrating the day dedicated to expressing gratitude. As I studied, worked, and lived in the US for a significant number of years, I too was one of the Filipinos who commemorate Thanksgiving Day. After all, four siblings live in the US. I wrote about Thanksgiving a few times in this same column many years back. Still, it remains fitting to look back and see how the years have come and gone. There will always be a part in us that desires to reminisce the memories, then move forward as part of learning some of life’s lessons, enhancing our skills, and growing in faith.
And when it comes to growing in faith, one glaring example is recently freed Senator Leila de Lima. She recently declared her intentions in the near future, that is, not to focus on politics, but to portray a life of perseverance. She knew her persecution, as concurred by many local and international observers, was a warning and deterrent against any other vocal opposition against former President Duterte’s bullying tactics. Indeed, such was effective for no other significant voices were heard, lest they will be incarcerated like de Lima. Once voted in a reputable magazine as one of most influential people for speaking truth to power, she also declared that she will remain as a crusader for what is right and just. She was never afraid before; she will never be afraid at all to expose the truth behind all the extrajudicial killings during the so-called drug war. Never broken yet she suffered, in her own words, “incapable of pecuniary estimation—the damage that was done to me in almost seven years of detention: the lost opportunities, the lost milestones in my life, in my family and personal life.” Despite going against the incumbent President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., she openly thanked him for allowing the independence of the judiciary to prevail over her cases. What I liked the most is how de Lima openly acknowledged the power of Almighty God and remained faithful to the justice system.
In good times and in bad, we should find God in both. American monk and writer Thomas Merton once said, “To be grateful is to recognize the Love of God in everything.” I was told that every day should be a day for thanksgiving. The Bible is filled with reminders that we should remain thankful in all things. When asked what her favorite Bible verse was, my sister Ione Mison-Voor who has lived in the US when she was 17 years old, quipped three simple words—“Pray without ceasing.” Such simple verse found in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 is actually in between two powerful but often taken for granted verses—“Rejoice always,” (1 Thessalonians 5:16) and “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). My sister is actually the Pollyanna type who always finds the goodness in all things, and, in her own little way, praying without let up is the best act of gratitude she can do. Her lifestyle, summarizing her favorite verse, is to simply “rejoice, pray, give thanks.” Believers are all wired to give thanks.
In the US or wherever place in the world that celebrate Thanksgiving, governments declare the day as a holiday to allow families to get together. It can also be another opportunity to reflect on what the Scriptures say about the blessings we receive, both physically and spiritually. Perhaps, the current administration can re-designate a current holiday, say the day we celebrate Bonifacio Day on November 30 as Thanksgiving Day. There will be no additional regular holidays and it can be fitting to usher in the month of Christmas by introducing a habit of gratitude—by thanking the Father of the Katipunan, Andres Bonifacio, for without his bravery, our country would remain in bondage. But instead of roasted turkey as Americans do, Filipinos can prepare Bonifacio’s supposed favorite dish—Lechon Manok sa Saha ng Saging (roasted chicken in banana tree bark).
Thanksgiving Day or not, believers should be expressing gratitude not just during the day their governments told them to do so, but in all the days of their lives! Whether we give thanks by helping, giving, sharing, or praying, we should make it as a habit.
I’m sure Senator de Lima has developed the habit of praying unceasingly while in detention; I hope she will continue to do so, and include giving thanks in all things, now that she’s free. After all, only a handful all over the world can have such an up and down experience and live to tell the world their story, with much prayers and thanksgiving!
A former infantry and intelligence officer in the Army, Siegfred Mison showcased his servant leadership philosophy in organizations such as the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, Malcolm Law Offices, Infogix Inc., University of the East, Bureau of Immigration, and Philippine Airlines. He is a graduate of West Point in New York, Ateneo Law School, and University of Southern California. A corporate lawyer by profession, he is an inspirational teacher and a Spirit-filled writer with a mission.
For questions and comments, please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.