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Magandang umaga po mga kapatid, ngayong araw na ito ay tinatawag tayo ng Diyos upang makinig sa kanyang mabuting balita!

The bus swerves left to right with so much momentum and velocity even those fortunate enough to be seated are jolted by the extreme laws of motion. And yet the lone man speaking loudly on his lapel microphone, standing on the aisle wearing his favorite plaid shirt and one-size-too-big black trousers, with a sling bag on his back swinging left to right with the bus driver’s death-defying maneuvering, one hand holding the bible another used as his baton while proclaiming the message of salvation for the day, is unperturbed. It seems his feet are firmly planted to the aisle, his whole body resistant towards the physical forces throwing the rest of the passengers to whichever direction. He has found his pulpit.

Mula sa aklat ni Mateo, sabi dito ng Paginoong Hesus…

He looks at his bible for a few seconds, almost praying to the pages, and then stares back at the passengers, many of whom are indifferent to the urban missionary. Late office workers are dozing off. A man is too preoccupied by Clash of Clans. The student in uniform has her ears closed by the sound of pop music. Even the conductor is busy collecting fare.

The man pays little attention to the little attention he is getting. He adjusts his lapel, takes his eyes away from the bible, opens his mouth, and starts proclaiming with great confidence the bible passage for the day, verbatim. Not a single glance back at the bible. As if apart from his ability to maintain balance in a recklessly driven bus along EDSA, his memory too, is superhuman. Every verse, every chapter, every book – all in his head.

At samantalang siya’y nakaupo sa bundok ng mga Olivo, ay nagsilapit sa kaniya ng bukod ang mga alagad, na nagsisipagsabi, Sabihin mo sa amin, kailan mangyayari ang mga bagay na ito? At ano ang magiging tanda ng iyong pagparito, at ng katapusan ng sanglibutan?

There’s a sense of urgency in the way the man orates, as if he had personally asked Jesus about the end of times, and now that he was privy to the answer as he believed it and as it showed in his posture, he just had to let everyone know. It is the sort of undistilled enthusiasm that could be infectious coming from a child or from a teammate in sports. Behind every word is passion and power. Yet, inside the cold bus playing the manic lanes of Manila’s roads, the zeal echoes hollowly, muted by the air hovering over deaf ears and distracted eyes, rendered to be nothing more but a scrabble of apocalyptic words irrelevant to the present reality modern men and women face.

But he carries on, making as much eye contact as he could while exclaiming:

…At dahil sa pagsagana ng katampalasanan, ang pagibig ng marami ay lalamig. Datapuwa’t ang magtitiis hanggang sa wakas ay siyang maliligtas. At ipangangaral ang evangeliong ito ng kaharian sa buong sanglibutan sa pagpapatotoo sa lahat ng mga bansa; at kung magkagayo’y darating ang wakas!

There’s a moment of silence after he finishes the passage like the peace before the sudden burst of a storm’s tail end. The eye of the storm. Clarity. A bit of sunshine. And then the wind picks up again, this time stronger, with a force that would sway, bend, and break any structure weakened by the initial onslaught. The man continues with his preaching by calling out his ad hoc brethren for their sins without becoming reproachful, declaring his Pentecostal church as the only way to salvation without the overbearing self-righteousness most apostolate are afflicted of. It’s almost businesslike, his manner. His homily more of a sales pitch than an evangelization. A smile here, a smile there. A focused stare followed by a smirk. His offer is practical and simple: do good, be prepared for the end of times, pray, and donate money to his church.

Tinatawag tayo ng Diyos upang magbago, magbalik loob, at maging handa para sa katapusan ng mundo!

It’s not the kind of message passengers – after their daily, near-death experience inside a wild bus – would like to hear in their morning commute. But I admire the man. I listened to him, after all. I pitied him enough to pay attention to him. It takes a lot of courage (and balance) to speak in front of a crowd, let alone a thorny audience of men and women who are most likely to be of a different faith from his. A certain degree of insanity is necessary to do what he does, as “falling in love” with a figure like Jesus may compel one to do crazy things. We’ve all done something crazy and seemingly stupid for someone we love too, haven’t we?

For the man, he deliberately puts himself vulnerable in a world becoming more and more indifferent to the Christian message, talking about mysteries and prophecies in front of people increasingly disenchanted by what they cannot see and who would rather leave their religious inclinations at home. By turning the bus into a religious platform, he resists faddishness with a zeal, further isolating himself from the world thanks to the sharp scalpel of modern skepticism cutting away the bridge between sacred and secular, and slowly turning himself into an absurd pariah apparently stuck with medieval conventions.

I am too vain to preach like he does, too pretentious to think like he does. Not to mention, I’m too clumsy to stay upright inside a riotous bus. Even if it were a matter outside of religious context, I think of myself too highly to intentionally put myself in the line of fire. I’m not brave to speak up preferring instead to work within the confines of what is politically correct to avoid criticism. Perhaps, like many, I am unconsciously disposed to more frivolous matters my generation engages in. And I excuse myself for choosing to be discreet with my opinions because it is more practical and more convenient when the world today is already a confusing (or confused) battle.

But maybe that is the real message of the man: to live a life that is not intended at pleasing people. I have always liked the idea of controlling everything in my world, most especially my reputation, that I will do anything to appease a person’s expectations of me. Maybe the man, unembarrassed in his unheard prophetic spiel, doesn’t really care if people pay him no attention (or love offering). He speaks. He throws arrows of words towards the numb. He switches from one bus to another as ordered by his minister. In his faith, he believes he is commanded to do the will of god, and takes the marching orders seriously, never mind if people thought him ridiculous. We all have one thing we will do anything for but are often discouraged to do it by a society quick to squelch anything that looks ridiculous, anything unpleasant to our ears trained to hear only what is so-called politically correct. Maybe, we need to be crazy too!

But I’m afraid I’m too practical, too middle-class and as the Dowager Countess of Grantham would say, too defeatist as well. If I am generous at anything, it is at giving people the benefit of the doubt. I doubt because I am afraid. I question because I know all too well the worst in men. And in possessing this quality, I find myself more comfortable believing the man was more concerned getting his white love offering envelopes filled rather than inspiring souls to work for their salvation.