The Ligaya Pathways program continues to be a blessing to all who come to make a CHOICE. Below is the testimony of one such participant who chose to accept Jesus as his king and master.
Good morning brothers and sisters. My name is Caloy Atilano. I’m 36 years old. I’ve been married to Laurie for 11 years and I’ve been blessed with 4 wonderful daughters.
I grew up in a very conservative catholic home and went to very conservative catholic schools. I grew up with a personality of always forcing my way to get whatever I wanted.
Things were looking quite bright when Laurie and I got married in Feb of 2000. I was working in California at that time. Our first child, Bea, was born there. We sold our place for a good price and we moved back to Manila after she was born. A year after we moved back, our second daughter Gabbie was born. Soon after, we were able to buy a place near my parents’ house in Pasig. I felt that God was on my side and I could do nothing wrong.
I did whatever I wanted and justified my actions. If I couldn’t justify them anymore, I’d just go to confession. I did these things and acted this way with the thought that I was still a good Christian. God to me was like a “genie in a bottle”. I expected Him to grant me my wishes every time I’d “rub the lamp” through what I thought was prayer. It was all about me. I felt everything was under my control.
But things started to turn for the worse. It was a very slow process. Slow enough to not really see it. I spent a lot of time with my friends drinking and having a good time. My passions and energy were directed to different things. However, nothing I did brought me fulfillment. I did not feel any sort of peace, joy and love within me. I was behaving like I wasn’t married with kids. I was a terrible husband to Laurie and an absentee father to Bea and Gabbie. And yet God still gave me 2 more daughters, Andie and Talia. I was blessed with other things as well. But I DID NOT acknowledge them as gifts from God. With years of not really having a steady source of income, our savings eventually dried up. I thought I could just “rub the genie’s lamp” and everything will be fine. At this time, around 2008 my sister Anna and her husband Bobby Tenchavez were already inviting me to join them in Ligaya. I said no, it wasn’t for me. I said to myself I didn’t need that because I knew about God enough to not end up in hell. I thought I knew what to do. In hindsight, that was God’s final plea before I ended up doing the most selfish and reckless act in my life.
I sold our place and started a business that I knew absolutely nothing about. I started a medical clinic and I’m not even a doctor! I thought I had the capability to do a miracle and make a business, I knew nothing about, profitable within a year.
Surprise, surprise my plans didn’t work out. The clinic didn’t open in time. And when it did we didn’t get the volume of member patients needed to break even. We decided to close it down just 6 months after it opened. That was the lowest point in my life. I lost all the material things that God entrusted to me for my young family. And I knew I was the only one to blame. I felt no one understood what I was going through. I felt so alone. I also felt everyone abandoned me, not physically but emotionally and psychologically. I felt the world tuned me out. I felt like I was falling into the abyss. I thought it was the end. I just kept on saying sorry to God.
At the totally lowest point of my life, I went to mass on a Friday evening in Christ the King Church. After the mass, it started raining hard and I didn’t have an umbrella. I decided to stay for a while. For those who haven’t been to Christ the King Church, there is this huge statue of our Lord behind the altar with his arms raised as if He is bidding you to go to Him. I felt like He was looking straight at me with His loving eyes. I felt like He was smiling at me and bidding me to come to Him. So I imagined myself running to Him and hugging Him. And I honestly felt Him embracing me ever so tightly and telling me that He loves me very much. He made me feel everything was going to be alright. He made me feel safe. He made me feel His peace. I didn’t want that moment to end. I wanted it to go on forever. I remember that night as if it was just last night. That was the moment I started to surrender myself to Him. That was the moment I acknowledged that He was my one true God. That was the moment I realized that I am never alone because He has always been, is and always will be with me.
A few weeks later, my sister Anna, again, invited me to attend one of their MWG meetings. Laurie and I decided to go. When we left the meeting, I still couldn’t see myself doing it on a regular basis. But I was intrigued by the community.
A few short days after that, Anna called me to say that there will be a Choices seminar in Poveda a few days from that time. And again I felt the urge to just say yes and see how it goes. So we attended.
Even though the seminar was for the hundred or so people in attendance, I felt like God was talking to me on a personal level. Through the sharings of the speakers I started to see how God works in people’s lives. These sharings were quite inspirational. I saw a common trend… people did their own thing and went their own way (which I did). They got lost so they called on God (which I also did). God heard their call and led them to Him (which happened to me). As they connected to Him they started doing His will. Choices taught me how to connect to Him and how to maintain that connection. It taught me how to develop a real relationship with God. Slowly I started singing with everyone. Slowly I could feel my hand rising up on its own (even if tried holding it down with my other hand). I started downloading songs of worship and not only to listen to them in the car but to sing them as well.
I have slowly learned to appreciate God’s blessings. I have come to appreciate my wonderful wife. How caring and loving she is to me and to our girls. I have come to appreciate the beautiful singing voice God has given my Bea. She is also very much like her mother, very loving and caring. I have come to appreciate the artistic talents God has given my Gabbie. She also likes to make people laugh. I appreciate the dancing and gymnastic talents God has given my almost 4yr old Andie. I admire her strength of character and her fun loving nature. I appreciate my soon to be 2 yr old daughter, Talia’s talent to sing and dance. She puts a smile on all our faces. I have also learned to appreciate myself the right way. I’m proud of the fact that God loves me unconditionally and He uses me as an instrument to do His will. God has blessed me with opportunities to take care of our material needs. Best of all He has been showering me with graces for all my spiritual needs together with the grace to truly appreciate them. I have only one true passion now, God. And my passion for Him just keeps on getting stronger. In God I’ve found real peace, real joy and real love.
In Scripture it says “there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents”. Brothers and sisters on behalf of everyone whose lives have been affected by the choices seminars, thank you. Because of your invitations, inspite of probably countless rejections, you lit up our path back to the Lord. You have truly made God and heaven rejoice countless times because of that. God bless you all.
CALOY ATILANO, Pathways Ortigas