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24 March 2021

FOCAL POINT : The Toronto Baha'i Chorale, "O My Servant!"

Indian sitar virtuoso and composer Ravi Shankar wrote the music of "O Aalok Putra Agyani" for the 1986 opening of the Baháʼí House of Worship in New Delhi, India. This was one of 10 Hindi songs the maestro wrote for the dedication. Years later, choral arranger Tom Price adapted the music to the sacred words of Bahá'u'lláh and The Báb. The result is the glistening "O My Servant!", performed on this video mashup by The Toronto Baháʼí Chorale.

23 March 2021

Happy Naw-Rúz!

The New Year of Baháʼís and Persians is upon us. Millions worldwide celebrated Naw-Rúz on 20 March, the day of the vernal equinox in the Northern Hemisphere. Literally translated as "New Day", Naw-Rúz is a time of joy and celebration, with winter's cold and dark ending and spring's warmth and light beginning. To all my friends, Happy Naw-Rúz, with all the change and hope it brings!

17 March 2021

Saint Patrick's Day

He came from a Romano-British imperial family, but he was abducted and enslaved as a herdsman in the Irish hills. He escaped Ireland but returned as a missionary, planning to convert the Irish people to Christianity. Thirty years later, in 461 AD, Patrick died and became Ireland's patron saint. That day, March 17, has since become Saint Patrick's Day, a day of wild celebration all over the world.

For our sins

The nineteen-day Baháʼí fast is currently being observed. It involves complete abstention from food and drinks from sunrise till sunset. It is a spiritual reinvigoration period through meditation and prayer when Baháʼís detach from the material world's selfish desires.

28 February 2021

Festival of Ayyám-i-Há

The Bahá’í World is celebrating the Festival of Ayyám-i-Há, a period dedicated to compassion, hospitality, generosity, friendship, and preparation for the nineteen-day fast. The festival spans the extra days that fall outside of the 19 months of the Bahá'í calendar. Bahá'ís observe it between the seventeenth and nineteenth (the time of fasting) months of the year. This year, it began on 24 February and ends today.

16 February 2021

What is love?

IN THIS season of love and affection, nothing defines love more affectingly than a unified family. Here are my siblings and their families offering answers to one of the most immensurable questions in life: "What is love?"

24 January 2021

The Bernie Sanders memes

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS ignited the internet for an inauguration image that showed him seated in thick mittens, a parka, and a totally chilled out mood. Memes broke out in hundreds and flooded social networks. The images became a hilarious sideshow to the Biden inauguration, and punctuated the global community's sense of joy at the start of a new presidency.

The Biden inauguration ends with a bang

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN'S inauguration this week was like no other in American history. It went through heightened security measures and COVID-19 precautions in the nation's capital. It also became the first inauguration snubbed by the outgoing president since 1869.

21 January 2021

The Biden inaugural address

HERE ARE excerpts from President Joe Biden's inaugural address, which I received on email this morning from the Biden Inaugural Committee. President Biden wrote the 21-minute speech with the assistance of speechwriter Vinay Reddy, senior advisor Mike Donilon, incoming Secretary of State Tony Blinken, and chief of staff Ron Klain. The address was described by the New York Times as "a return to the ordinary discord of democracy, with a reminder that politics doesn’t have to be a raging fire, destroying everything in its path."

20 January 2021

The Biden inauguration

AMERICA HAS a new president, and a new day has begun. Joseph Robinette Biden, Jr. takes office as the 46th president of the United States at the crossroads of historical moments. On the one hand, Kamala Harris is sworn in as the country's first female vice president. On the other, America is experiencing deep economic losses, socio-political divisions, and health crises like never before. President Biden delivered a 21-minute speech filled with compassion and commitment. It left me teary-eyed.

17 January 2021

COVID-19 : India begins the vaccination

PRIME MINISTER Narendra Modi has launched one of the world's biggest inoculation drives—targeting India's 10.5 million infections (against a population of 1.4 billion). The country anticipated this inoculation drive highly, as its many lockdowns have not impacted virus control. The first phase of the vaccination rollout targets 30 million healthcare and frontline workers. By July, the government plans to inoculate 300 million people.

10 January 2021

The Bahá'í life in a year like no other

THE BAHÁ'Í World News Service has released a video compendium of the most compelling stories of the global Bahá’í community in 2020. The video illustrates what Bahá’ís do: collectively serving humanity and refining their lives according to the teachings of Bahá’u’lláh. The year needed the greatest need for togetherness, and Baháʼís have shown how hope, effort, and unity helped alleviate human suffering in societies worldwide.

07 January 2021

Storming the hill

SOURCE: The New York Times

THE VIOLENCE at the US Capitol wasn't just a defacement of America's image as the exemplar of democracy. It was a threat to the idea that peace is inevitable. If such disruptive forces could happen at the very core of America's leadership, then it could happen everywhere.

03 January 2021

As 2021 rolls in

MAY CALM fill your daily life,
   that you may hear the chords of violins
     and not the discords of violence.

   May you hear again the music of the stage,
     see the starry lights of the concert hall,
       taste the magic of the cinema.
         feel the heart of the art.

     May you find a piece of art in anything you do.
     May the work you do help those around you,
       that they may help others in return.

       And may the earth heal.
       May the skies continue to clear,
         and the waters remain blue.
       May the air you breathe
         fill your lungs and your vaccinated veins
           with the cleansing power
             of a new-found purity.

If your birthday comes in quarantine,
   may you celebrate the day
     with virtual pomp and splendor.
May the splendor spill over the next day,
   and the next day,
     and the next.
May your birthday fill your soul with love.

   May your love of family and ties of fellowship
     continue to grow in harmony and peace.
   May you have a chance
     to hug them in the streets,
       to hold each others' hands,
         to smile beyond the masks,
           to dance again, together.

     And when grief arrives and leaves a heartache,
       may the memory of joy swiftly heal the pain.

   May you rise above it all,
     ever hopeful,
       trusting in God.

May you have
   a healthful,

24 December 2020

The night before Christmas

LIKE ANY other social activity this year, Christmas meant new ways of connecting and celebrating. Our Zoom gathering last night was gripping for a big reason: this was the first time we all gathered together on Christmas since the mid-1990s. It might also have been the least expensive gathering ever! My nephews and nieces showed up to surprise us; two of them even sang and played the guitar. We exchanged our usual jokes that never got stale. It was a day (or night in my case) that was incredibly merry and bright.

Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

The Night Before Christmas, 2006
The Night Before Christmas, 2007
The Night Before Christmas, 2008
The Day Before Christmas, 2009

17 December 2020

Happy birthday, Mr. Beethoven!

LUWIG VAN Beethoven was born on or around this day 250 years ago in Bonn. As we end the year, we remember the Ode to Joy—a paean to the humanity's triumph against war and desperation—from his Ninth Symphony as a fitting deliverance from this ravaging year.

29 November 2020

Ascension of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá

THIS MONTH, Bahá'ís around the world commemorate two Holy Days associated with ‘Abdu'l-Bahá: The Day of the Covenant (26 November) and The Day of His Ascension (28 November). On these two occasions, we remember and celebrate the presence of the oldest son of the Founder of the Bahá'í Faith among us. In their 26 November 2018 message to the global Bahá’ís, the Universal House of Justice wrote:

In this season . . . every Bahá’í heart is stirred by remembrance of Him Who is the Mystery of God, the Centre of Bahá’u’lláh’s impregnable Covenant, the Mainspring of the Oneness of Humanity, the embodiment of every Bahá’í ideal, the Most Mighty Branch of God whereunder all can find shelter.

28 November 2020

1,000 YouTube subscribers!

MY YOUTUBE channel, Paul Ancheta, has just hit the 1,000-subscriber mark! I can't thank each one of them enough.

21 November 2020

FOCAL POINT : Wayne Roberts, "The Professor"

THE PROFESSOR starts off well: a dying upper-middle-class English professor decides to be nonconforming in the few months he realizes he has left in his life. Unfortunately, the movie's suspense dies ahead of its main character. What could have been an emotional roller coaster turns out to be a meandering train of many promising twists and turns, none of which leads anywhere.

15 November 2020

Honoring mothers : a birthday salute

THIS VIDEO, backed up by JJ Heller's "A Mother Like You", honors two of the finest mothers in the world: my sister Carla and sister-in-law Tara. Both were born one year apart many Novembers ago. Happy birthday, sisters.

07 November 2020

ʻAbdu'l-Bahá, "Prayer for America"

EARLIER TONIGHT, my siblings and I got together and offered a prayer for America. It is one of two that ʻAbdu'l-Bahá revealed a hundred years ago for this country, a nation so worthy of divine bestowals and mercy.

Hi Joe Bye Don

"KAMALA" IS Sanskrit for "lotus". May the new POTUS and "LOTUS" at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue help bring in the fragrance of healing and unifying these disunited states of America.

31 October 2020

Honoring mothers : a family memorial

AS CATHOLICS commemorate saints and souls in this solemn weekend , I remember departed members of my family and honor their selflessness and nobility. They include the parents-in-law of my siblings: because of them, stronger love and blessedness exist in our family.

30 October 2020

FOCAL POINT : Seth Grahame-Smith, "The Last American Vampire"

FACT AND fiction collide in Seth Grahame-Smith's otherworldy novel, causing hilarious sparks of adventure and horrifying flashes of gore. The collision is delicious and so difficult to avoid. The Last American Vampire (along with Mr. Grahame-Smith's first book, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter) will entrance those who love Elizabeth Kostova's The Historian. This is not at all for fans of vampire romance and other supernatural light fare.

26 September 2020

Moschino's marionettes in Milan

JUST WHEN the pandemic is changing everything we do, here's Moschino presenting a new opportunity: a more sophisticated use of couture and craftsmanship. At the ongoing Milan Fashion Week, the brand presented its Spring-Summer 2021 collection with no guests . . . and no models.

13 September 2020

FOCAL POINT : Narges Fani, "Dastam-Begir, 'Abdu'l-Bahá"

THIS IS the majestic "Dastam Begir, 'Abdu'l-Bahá (Hold My Hand, 'Adbu'l-Bahá)" performed by Narges Nouhnejad Fani and the Bahá'i World Congress Choir at the Second Bahá'i World Congress in New York City in November 1992. The song was written by Nikki Manevi with lyrics based on a poem by Habib Mu'ayyad. It is an exquisite melding of eastern vocal music and western classical and choral traditions.

27 August 2020


MUSIC HAS always helped in blocking out work distractions. Working from home has one big perk: playing music the way you want it, without having to worry about distracting your officemates. Spotify is my music service preference: Pandora isn't available in India, and YouTube Music's dashboard is too clumsy to use on my gadgets. Back in the office days, I listened to Spotify through earphones. Now, at home, I have Spotify filling the room with its gloriousness through my sound system.

12 August 2020

It's a Biden-and-Harris show!

I GREW up in the Philippines saying "Hey Joe" to any American I'd see, and lived in India saying "Hi Kamala" to acquaintances. So it's such a welcome and hopeful treat to now say "Hello Joe and Kamala, it's so nice to have you both where you belong"!

06 August 2020

13 years on Twitter

DO YOU remember when you joined Twitter? I do—it's been 13 years, since 6 August 2007. I signed up after hearing an American speaker at a conference gush over this newly-launched app. She proclaimed its ability to keep you instantly updated on news due to its real-time messaging technology.

25 July 2020

FOCAL POINT : Barbra Streisand, "Sing!"

2020 marks 60 years since Barbra Streisand sang live for the first time. Since then, her stage performances in clubs, concerts, television shows, and fund-raisers have become unparalleled channels for showcasing her bounty of grace and warmth, her dedication to excellence, her passion for truth, and her gift of song.