“Pinapatawad na kita,” (I now forgive you,) she would tell me with a smile.
And I would be totally annoyed!
I wasn’t even asking for her pardon, and now she is “forgiving” me?!
I wasn’t even admitting to anybody that I made a mistake!
I would give my rebuttal, “Wait. I don’t need your patawad (forgiveness). I’m explaining to you what happened and that it wasn’t my mistake,”
I would bullishly resist. Because by accepting her “forgiveness”, I was accepting my “shortcomings”.
She would re-assure me with a pat on my shoulder, with her playful smile and sincere heart: “Pinapatawad na kita.”
Little did I know that this cheerful banter would prepare me for a life blessed with forgiveness that comes from the grace of God.
Shelah and I met in Baguio through common elementary and high school friends back in summer of 1988. Our paths crossed again more than a decade later in 2001. I started work at the Foundation for IT Education and Development (FIT-ED) where she had been working for a couple of years prior.
Shelah and I had a bitter-sweet friendship as I was going through a rough break-up with my fiancée at that time. I turned to Shelah as a friend who helped me through major changes in my relationship, my career, and my spiritual life.
So here I was trying to explain to her why I was late for a meeting.
Or in other instances, why I hadn’t emailed that report.
Or in some cases, why I had completely messed up big time.
And in all of these situations, she would tell me with a smile: “Pinapatawad na kita.”
It was funny when we’d have these conversations.
I felt it was a Shelah’s way of making me realize that I had made a mistake.
I felt there was a tinge of sarcasm meant to just shut me up.
The underlying context in my mind was as if I was being told: “Oo na, tama na excuses, I forgive you na.” (“Yes, enough excuses, I have forgiven you.”)
I later realized that although I perceived this exchange as a “half-joke”, there was genuine forgiveness.
Whether in big or small mistakes I made, Shelah always showed genuine forgiveness.
The result: I would shift from defending myself, to laughing at myself!
And then I would admit my mistake and sheepishly apologize.
Oh, Shelah and her infectious glowing smile of forgiveness!
To be forgiven before giving an apology: Disarming
To forgive before receiving an apology: Liberating
To forgive after receiving an apology: Mutual Healing
Shelah helped me experience the extent of God’s forgiveness, whether in big things or in small things. It is simple for our good God to forgive us, no matter what.
“God forgave us all our sins;
he canceled the unfavorable record of our debts with its binding rules
and did away with it completely by nailing it to the cross.”
Through the years as part of my daily life, I learned to use Shelah’s line: “Pinapatawad kita.”
- When I’m driving down EDSA and a car or bus cuts into my lane, I take a deep breath and say:
“Pinapatawad na kita.”
- When I’m at a restaurant and I receive bad service from a waiter, I give him sincere feedback and say with a smile:
“Pinapatawad na kita.”
- When a workmate fails to deliver, I say these words so we could move forward and find a solution:
“Pinapatawad na kita.”
These small declarations of forgiveness prepared me for some of my biggest tests of forgiveness later in my life. (That’s a story for another article :D ).
As I forgave in small ways, God helped me forgive in big ways.
Turn Forgiveness to Joy
A few days ago, I was driving down Rada St. in Makati with my wife after inquiring at Union Church about Shelah.
I turned to my wife, Rezza, and asked her: “Hon, would you agree that I am quick to forgive?”
My wife said “Yes.”
And I continued: “I realized just now that it was Shelah who first taught me how simple it could be to forgive.”
Shelah, I bless you for sharing to me the gift of God’s forgiveness.
I celebrate our friendship, happily and cheerfully.
Just as with our creator whom you join now,
you turned my shortcomings from
“Pinapatawad na kita!” to “Pinapatawa na kita!”
(From “I wish you Forgiveness” to “I wish you Joy”)
You’ve turned my mourning
Into dancing again
You’ve lifted my sorrows
And I can’t stay silent
I must sing
For Your joy has come
– Mourning into Dancing, Ron Kenoly
Shelah Lardizabal-Vallarino joined our Lord on Sept 6, 2013 . She had fought a brave battle with cancer and had lived a full life. God Bless her husband, Ambassador Roberto Vallarino and their daughter Stephanie. God Bless Shelah and her entire family.