I have confirmed lately that the olfactory sense is connected somewhat to the tastebuds. So what I smell, I can also taste.

I live in a beautiful compound here in Guisad, Baguio City. We’re covered with pine trees. Just last summer, my wife improved our frontyard, converting the almost-jungle piece of land into a beautiful garden. Our porch is facing southeast and it is very gorgeous to watch the sunrise coming up at an angle. The air is very crisp at 15 degrees centigrade. The morning fog mixes with the herbs in our garden that would bring a rush of excitement to one’s nerves. A cup coffee at hand would complete those beautiful praise-filled mornings in our porch. But as they said, some good things never last.

Every morning at 6am, our neighbor across the street would take out some trash and burn them. This my friend is a taste of hell.

It all began when Baguio had its (in)famous garbage problem. People were then forced to find alternative ways to dispose their garbage; burning included. This really irritates me: emotionally and physically. I have weak lungs. I suffer hard bouts of coughing when exposed to irritants (dust, molds, smoke). My neighbor (whom I am supposed to love) is not helpful at all.

So instead of perching on my porch, I just decided to move inside. But the smell of burning trash do not respect boundaries. It has invaded my living room! I even asked the Lord if it is okay to pronounce a curse on all trash burners. Of course He did not like the idea. Instead, he taught me a lesson. He reminded me of hell.

During the time of Jesus, people were already burning their garbages. In Jerusalem, that would be in the valley of Hinnom. When Jesus needed an image to describe the future state of those who rebelled against God and rejected the Son of Man, he found the valley of Hinnom a useful illustration. I can now imagine the shock of the disciples (and the brewing anger of the Pharisees) as they turn their heads toward that cursed valley. Fire. Smoke. Decay. Death. Scary. The smell that hounds me every morning is nothing compared to the Hinnom Valley. And the one in Hinnom Valley is no match to the situation in Hell.

As the evil smoke from the trash being burned across the street rises and poisons Baguio’s air, it now serves to me as a reminder of Hell. So I decided to offer a smoke, a fragrant one, to counter that. The prayer of the saints are like incense rising to the very throne room of God. And if you’ll excuse me, I have much praying to do for my beloved city.

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