‘God of Outsiders’
One day or one week is not enough, so International Women’s Day two days ago extends itself to the whole of March, and rightly so. So many issues to tackle, so many unfinished work to complete, so many wrongs to right. As is wont to be said, it takes more than a village, more than a generation, and more than half of the world’s population for change to take effect.
Many women around the world are still outsiders in governments, workplaces, religions, societies, countries, even families. That is, when it comes to decision-making, taking on leadership roles, and becoming agents of change. And so women’s struggle to participate, to lead, to make a difference, continues.
But besides the women of this world, the other half holding up the sky, so to speak, are other members of the population whose biological makeup do not jibe (as societal norms would dictate) with their preferred gender identities in which they feel naturally at home. These are the members of the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender/sexual) community.
While we celebrate Women’s Month, one cannot help wondering whether some of them, the transwomen in particular, would identify themselves with the women’s movement—or would they rather have a celebration of their own? And what about the women whose gender preferences and choice of partners are not in keeping with prevailing societal norms?
All these come to mind during this purple-colored Women’s Month (it’s the purple-themed Lenten season, too), and also because a writer-music composer I know, Paulo K. Tirol, has written and composed “God of Outsiders,” a haunting, poignant song with which many so-called outsiders can identify. And speaking of outsiders, the song’s theme and plaint can well extend to members of society who feel marginalized, ostracized and excluded. I mean those who are on the fringes of society, “ang mga nasa laylayan ng lipunan.”
You can listen to the song by visiting www.soundcloud.com/paulophonic/god-of-outsiders. Here are the lyrics:
I want to be near You,/ Yet I want to walk away/ When voices surround me/ And I can’t help but hear them say I’m less than human, /Deformed, defiled, /Unworthy, unfit to be a child of God. /I want to know, O God—//
Am I too strange? /Am I too wrong? Am I too broken to ever belong?/ When over the voices, /Clear as can be,/ I hear the God of outsiders/ Calling to me. //
I want to remember Your commandment was to love./ It’s hard to remember/ When there are those who lift their hands to their God above/ And draw their lines, /And write their rules,/ And build their walls, /Keeping out the sick, the sinful,/ Blocking out the poor, the foreign, /Shutting out the lonely, weak and small. /But can they recall//
Those who had nothing,/ Those who were shunned, /Those who were different,/ And most frowned upon /Were those you held closest./ So why can’t they see /You are the God of outsiders— /Outsiders like me?//
God of outsiders, /As I am, will You let me serve You? /As I am, will You let me follow You?/ All I want is to love You, who made me as I am,/ In Your holy image. //
I’m never too strange, /Never too flawed, /Never too broken to face You, my God,/ And live as Your witness unwaveringly./You are the God of outsiders,/ The God of love and outsiders, /The very God of outsiders embracing me. //
Paulo ended the page with “AMDG” (Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam) and the date it was composed, Feb. 25, 2016, the 30th anniversary of Edsa People Power.
Right away, the Bible story about the Samaritan woman and the woman caught in adultery, and how Jesus upheld them, came to mind.
When I asked Paulo if I could write about his song, he said he would love the song to reach as many people as possible. He added: “I tried to capture a beautiful truth which, though basic, many have forgotten and to be reminded of, and many ache for and need to be comforted by.”
I knew Paulo since he was little because he is one of two sons of Vic Tirol and Lorna Kalaw-Tirol, both my friends and fellow journalists. Paulo had 15 years of Jesuit education and finished his bachelor’s degree in communication at Ateneo de Manila University. He spent many years in the corporate sector while being a self-taught keyboardist, choral arranger and songwriter for Hangad, an inspirational vocal group under the Jesuit Music Ministry.
In 2012, Paulo decided to make music his full-time preoccupation rather than a sideline, and started his first formal music studies at Berklee College of Music in Boston. In 2013, he moved to New York after he was offered a full scholarship at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts’ Graduate Musical Theatre Writing Program. He completed his master’s degree in fine arts in 2015.
Paulo’s liturgical and inspirational songs and arrangements can be found in Hangad’s eight albums, recorded and released in the Philippines. Last year, he was commissioned by Saint Peter’s University in Jersey City to compose “Saint Peter’s Mass,” which was released in September 2015. (I have the CD.) On the secular/musical theater front, Paulo’s songs have been featured in showcases, cabarets and readings in New York, Boston and San Francisco.
Paulo lives a busy, happy life in Jersey City. His new job is that of communications manager for Sing for Hope Pianos at Sing for Hope, whose goal is “uniting artists, uniting communities.” He hopes it would be a long-term, full-time job. Visit www.youtube.com/watch?v=6o5KFtmC8Uw and see colorfully painted pianos on the streets and how music brings life, love and laughter to many people including the so-called “outsiders.” I wish we could have this in the Philippines where musical talents are aplenty!
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