Monday, December 31, 2007

Ending the year 2007

Let me end the year with the two books I recently finished. The first one, I discovered while surfing the net. A friend kindly bought it for me in the States. It helped free a part of what’s inside me. The other one was a recent Christmas gift from the same friend (she knew I love the books of Jane Austen). Inspired from the story of Mr. Darcy and Lizzy, I found it very helpful to end the year. Hands-down, it is interesting.


The first book may not sound too inviting for people NOT in the know. “In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day.” What??? But grab the book and you will find why. Writer Mark Batterson (www.evotional.com) took what appeared like a few insignificant Bible verses but when dissected, they pointed out to an inspired way of thinking, and living. Not an easy book to read. Not because it contains complicated words. In fact, the words are simple. The ideas are not. They made me think. They made me analyze myself. They challenge. And they demand an answer.

Basically, it is about being courageous and facing your fear. So that you will discover your God-given potential.

From the book, I quote here some points I will always remember.

- Goodness is not the absence of badness. You can do nothing wrong and still do nothing right. Our calling is much higher than simply running from what’s wrong. We’re called to chase lions – look for opportunities in our problems and obstacles, and take risks to reach for God’s best.
- Half of spiritual growth is learning what we don’t know. The other half is unlearning what we do know.
- The goal in life is not the elimination of fear. The goal is to muster the moral courage to chase lions.
- God wants us to learn to see bad experiences through the good we have gained from them.
- Stop spending all your energy making plans for God, and start seeking God.
- Sometimes taking a calculated risk means giving up something good so you can experience something great.
- A relationship with God is the ultimate win-win relationship because you can never give up more that you get back.
- If you want to see and seize God-ordained opportunities, you’ve got to live in prayer mode.
- Maturity doesn’t equal conformity.
- Christ followers ought to be the most passionate people in the planet. To be like Jesus is to be consumed with passion.
- Part of spiritual maturity is caring less and less about what people think of you and more and more about what God what thinks of you.
- How you think of God will determine who you become.

Courage is such a heavy word. But I am learning to have more of it.

Sarah Arthur’s “Dating Mr. Darcy” (www.saraharthur.com), when read cursory is really for those who are starting or are already in a dating relationship. But to me, it is for anyone who is in any kind of relationship (romantic, filial, familial, or phileo). It teaches us to see a person through his/her family relationship, his/her interaction with friends, how he/she is with her faith and the importance of having an alone time. And more significant, to see ourselves through the same kind of approach.

I found the book timely for, at the end, the book asks probing questions which are useful to end the year. I am still reflecting on how to give complete answers but let me post some of them…

What are my top five strengths?
What are my top five weaknesses?
What are my goals in life? What am I doing to achieve those goals?
What do my goals show me about myself?
How do these goals affect my relationship with my family, friends and God?
How healthy are my relationships in general?


With these two books, I have tried to review my life for the past year.

I had to make a mental check about how I am doing with my relationships with my family and friends. I have been evaluating my faith and my alone time. I know that I still need to improve in these aspects, most especially on the latter.

I realized that God has allowed me to face a lot of fears, both imagined and real. Happily, I conquered a lot of them. Because of His strength. Another year is coming. I know I will face more fears. I really hope and pray that I will be ready to face more lions. Even better, to run after them!

Again, Carpe Christ!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

It can make me move!

Not too many things can make me leave my country. Not coup d’√©tats, not the decreasing peso (last year), not the doomsday announcements of pessimistic Filipinos. There are just so many things that make me appreciate this land and its people.

But there are some things that might just make me snap and I will immigrate!

One sore spot in my book is the traffic. Okay, fine, there is traffic in every major city. Hmmm… Let me correct myself. I don’t think I really meant traffic specifically. It is more about the noisy streets. Are other major city streets as noisy as it is here? Not in Europe, I think.

Here, they sound the horn for everything. Warn a crossing pedestrian. Make the bus in front move. Indicate that the bus just arrived and that there are still seats to be filled. Call the attention of possible passenger. Or just plain show displeasure for the turtle-like movement of the traffic!

Along Boni EDSA, signages are all over. I even saw one traffic man waving it to the public. It says, “Bawal bumisina (no sounding of horns). I so love to see that sign. There is silence. But whenever there is no traffic man, you will still surely hear the same ugly sound. Just to show how noisy it is, try to imagine, I am at the 34th floor of an office building but I can still hear the sound of blaring horns!

How come drivers of public transportation consider the buses or jeepneys as their own disco room? I know we Filipinos love music but a volume of 10 decibels or more is really painful. Non-stop, very loud music for thirty minutes = pure hell.

Commuting to work can be very trying. When you get out the door, you really don’t know what kind of bus you will be riding in. I hate to ride the old and decrepit ones. Those, I believe, should be sold as scrap metal. These are filthy and grimy, not on the outside, but inside! One could see the little cockroaches walking along the window, making you stop and think about sitting down.

Then, those drivers who should be arrested for not knowing how to drive. There should be a law that requires drivers in the public sector to go though formal training. It really makes one dizzy when a driver constantly breaks, abruptly. Imagine if you have been standing inside a bus from your home to your destination? It is like you are holding on to a swaying rope. It is okay if there is only one rope. But there are 40 ropes, with 40 people hanging on them inside the bus!

To continue my griping, let me share a story. Once upon a time, the roads were nice from my house to the highway. I take trikes and my travel was so nice and comfy. Then, the potholes began appearing. Not because of rains. Not because of usage. It was the result of roadworks of water, electric or phone companies. They dig. But they do not refill the holes beautifully! The comfy ride has been transformed to a mini-rollercoaster.

I have to say though that I like riding buses. It is interesting to watch the people. It is nice to just sit and after 30 minutes you can go off to work. No parking to think of. I love that I can look outside the window but in fact, see nothing. My mind had begun weaving its thoughts. Or I could be praying, having a private time with Him. Or it is also nice to take a quick nap, especially if I had a late night.

If only there could be less noise, more learned drivers, and newer buses. Oh, I have to add one more important thing = cleaner air.

I am thankful that a good friend lets me ride in her car whenever she is in the city. Otherwise, I might already be … somewhere?

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Pretty vice

I don’t know which one is more dangerous. Cigarette smoke or carbon monoxide. But then, I haven’t heard of anyone dying for staying so long inside a room filled with cigarette smoke. Or maybe there should be an experiment. Put someone in a closed car, fill it with cigarette smoke, and let see if he/she is still alive the next day.

Sounds mean? But then, isn’t that in a way kinder? At least that person will not go through a long and painful death. We all know about its side effects as well as the end result.

Among the various vices we humans take pleasure in, the one I really can’t understand is smoking. Food is delicious. Alcohol is invigorating. Gambling could be beguiling. Racing (cars, horses, even dogs) could be adrenalin-pushing. But cigarettes? Okay, I heard when the caffeine kicks in, it can feel good. Then just drink a lot of coffee. Or better yet, eat loads of chocolates. At least, it will trigger feel-good chemicals and it tastes delicious.

Maybe, because it’s a cheap vice? Especially here in our country.

I am just posting some of the pretty pictures associated with smoking.




Anyone, is this true? Then, cigarette smoking is in fact cigarette smoke + carbon monoxide? Hmmm...


(from www.hpb.sg)
Made this smaller. To those who are eating, please excuse me. : - )

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas 2007

I felt disconnected when I arrived back home in the middle of December. It seemed like everyone else has done their shopping, arranged their schedules for parties and reunions, had set the noche Buena menu. A few days after though, I was hooked back into the mainframe. I started with my gift list, thought about what food to buy for the Christmas dinner, looked into my agenda to make sure there was no conflict in my schedule.

For a while, I felt like panicking but I stopped. No. I will not be pressured into the unrelentless demands of the season. One should not get stressed by unnecessary things. It is important to remember why we are happy during at this time of the year. It is to celebrate God’s love when He gave His only child, Jesus Christ.

It is Christmas today. And beyond my joy for the Savior’s love, I am contented also for other things. I realized why I enjoy December. I know it should not only be during this season but it has become a good reason to see people you haven’t seen for so long.

I met with a college friend and we were able to update on things happening in our lives. I had dinner with her family and enjoyed the company of her little cute daughter. I had buffet lunch with church friends I made from my teen-age years. Aside from the delicious food, it was fun to laugh and tease each other again. For the first time, I was finally able to join the birthday celebration of a friend I’ve known for four years. Having the same birthday as Jesus Christ can be challenging. It was only this year that our group of friends celebrated it near her birthdate and almost all of us were present. Happy Birthday B!

Christmas parties can be expensive. What with the food contribution and exchange gifts. But I like the fact that I get to see, event for just a while, the people I love and admire. Often, they carry their littIe ‘uns with them. I had time to entertain and be entertained by cute little nieces. To giggle and tickle them for a few hours. It was enjoyable to receive their sweet hugs and see their cute smiles. It was a time to visit elderly relatives and make them happy with a box of treats and little gifts.

I had fun taking pictures of get-togethers, reunions, Christmas parties and cantatas at church. I was happy to greet people with a Merry Christmas while shaking their hands or giving them a kiss on the cheek. It was a pleasure to drink blended juice (raspberry black currant!) while having a hilarious time with church friends, better yet, my extended family.

I love giving gifts. It is my little way of telling them I appreciate them. How I wish I could give more but surely they know that they mean more than the monetary value of my material gift.

I spent the day at home. Quietly doing what I should have been doing during my vacation (school work). Still, it was fun. It was enjoyable to just linger at the kitchen table or stay in front of my computer and just devour pasta, corn on the cob and grilled beef. Or savor buko pandan or the home-made ube of Tita Glor. Or just munch on chips and chew on chocolates.

Thank you Lord for letting me see the beauty of the things this season brings.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Thoughts on love... aloud and frank

It was only two weeks ago that I realized something. I never really thought much about it. True, I enjoy the stories. I sob when there are hurdles. I feel distressed over separations. I gush over the happy endings. But at the end of a real story, or of a song, a movie, a play or a book, it is all over. Out it goes from my mind. I get on with my life.

Recently though, in far-away lands, I was surrounded by what seemed to be its blissful manifestations. I read real and delightful testimonies about it in the virtual world. And of course, the cheery time of the year makes one feel it in the air. But what made it strikingly real to me was a line written by a friend. In his blog (www.capncrisp.multiply.com), he declared… “I told Claire that I love her.”

I had to ask myself, how did he know? For that matter, how does anyone recognize its presence? And so when I got back, I pestered some close friends. How does it feel? How do you know that it is the right person? What was the sign given to you?

On the question of feeling, the standard reply was “masarap” (wonderful). Happy. Another remarked that people would think you are silly for having a constant smile on your lips. On the question how do you know… the reply was, you’d know! Regarding the sign, the replies varied.

I understand how it feels to be happy. I am familiar with having a silly smile on my lips. About knowing, that is another thing.

I am fairly certain that I have never been in love. The romantic kind, anyway. I know all about loving God. I am familiar with filial or familial love. Love for pets, I have lots of this. But the engulfing emotion books narrate, the intense sensations that become the center of stories, the stirring feelings over which movies make a saga of… this I don’t think I ever went through.

Other questions…what does love entail? How powerful is it? Is it really so overwhelming that one would be willing to leave everything known and familiar? And travel halfway around the world to be with a loved one? Or to concede about so many things one believes in, swayed by love? How strong is it to make one courageous enough to give his/her heart to another person and hope that the other person would hold it with care? How does one know that it is not just deep infatuation and completely flitting?

It is said that it is better to have loved and failed than to not have loved at all. Also, to not have loved is to not have lived at all.

So does this mean that I have never lived? Do I wish that I have loved romantically in my very younger years? No, I think I don’t. I would have been ill-prepared. It would certainly have been too emotional and hurtful. Surely, I would have made mistakes that I would be lamenting over right now.

What then? What have I to show for the last decade? Simple. I have had a roller coaster love relationship with God. He was constant, I was not. I betray Him. He embraces me. I withdraw, wanting my own way. He forgives and He draws me back in His arms.

Is it right to compare romantic love with God’s love?

No.

For my Father’s love is incomparable. His is far more real and complete. It encompasses me yet it sets me free. During those years of innocence romantically, I have found and learned to know myself. Something I needed to do, if ever I am to be with someone else. I will not change the past for anything. For that was the time I discovered that love is a decision. For when I loved God, it was a decision of my mind and heart.

I still wonder if I am capable of romantic love. Would I be willing to commit my life to another person? In the spirit of discussion, will there be such a man who would be eager to be devoted to me despite my failures, challenges, and struggles? Would the door of my heart open to such an offering?

I think so. I hope so.

Something else… there is something I realized. If ever God will grant me such a love, there is a very important feature I have to find. The non-negotiable factor. This man must be passionately intimate with my God. He must be zealously pursuing a loving relationship with Him. This man must be totally in love with Him first. Otherwise, no deals.

I heed though the wisdom of Solomon when he said…

<< Oh, let me warn you, sisters in Jerusalem, by the gazelles, yes, by all the wild deer:
Don't excite love, don't stir it up, until the time is ripe—and you're ready. >>

It will come. If the Lord wills it.

For now, I am just basking in my love affair with God.

And oh, May dear, one other thing. This man, it wouldn’t hurt if he would look yummy in my eyes. :- )

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Adieu with pictures

Promise, this is going to be my last post on my recent trip to Europe. Just some last interesting pictures.

Let me just say that I was at the zero longitude of the world. Let me post its short description:


THe Prime Meridian is an imaginary line running north-south through Greenwich. In 1884, the line was named as the world's longitude Zero by the International Meridian Conference.

Every position on earth is defined by its longitude (its distance east or west from Greemwich) and its latitude (the distance north or south of the equator). Both latitude and longitude are measured in segments of a circle: degrees'', minutes'' and seconds''.



Isn't that cool? And I was there!!!




















I was there at this exact date and time!




















Who wants to spend a night inside the museum?

















The fish ate my camera and my hand. Eerie when I saw this picture...







Jojie's hands inside the interesting dryer...














This is for beng!










we stayed here...














It was enchanting to be inside Harrods! All those things that one could buy! The chocolate! The bags! The caviar and the shrimp! Reah, you should go shopping here! : -)















Just wanted to show the buses in London. It was a marvel how the drivers manouevered the turnings. Oh, by the way, I found the roundabouts interesting. And the rule of right on the road. If you are not familiar with them, start researching!

















Where we ran after the bus because we were on the wrong side of the road!

















Fish and chips... yummy, really.























Can you see me? I really don't like Ferrero but it was an interesting ad.















And oh, this is for PJ2! :- ) Don't you just love me? :-) kill me?????? : -)

Another form of worship

I hit the gym yesterday. After almost a month-long hiatus. And it felt good. To run, to stretch, to feel the pull of the weight. Many have asked me, why do you go to the gym? You don’t need it. But I say, yes, I do!

Exercise to me, in a sense, is a form of worship. Isn’t it mentioned that in everything we do, do it for the glory of God? And thus, this too, I do for Him. How? We are told to take care of our bodies. Man was created to toil, to sweat, to use up the energy inside him. In the last few generations, with our “easier” way of life, we have seen how humans have stopped utilizing what was given him.

Result?

Excess. Pain. Disease. Death.

Exercise can take many forms. Running, jogging, walking, hitting the gym, sports activities, even just doing a lot of moving. Just use up that surplus energy. Especially if you have the tendency to take a little more than what was ample.

Unused sugar and fats (etc.) stay inside the body. Later on, they are converted into high blood pressure, diabetes, arthritis, heart problems, blocked arteries, etc. Fine by me if it was only the one responsible who will suffer. True, what we sow, we reap. But I look at it in the long term. Often times, it is our loved ones who suffer more. The spouse who worry over the high blood pressure of his/her partner. Or patiently takes care of a paralyzed wife/husband for years and years. The wife left to tend for the kids for the husband went to his Maker a little early than expected. Children unable to finish their schooling or emotionally incomplete without the guidance of both parents. Or they are left with the burden of spending for the medicines and hospital bills.

I am sure that these loved ones do not begrudge these things for they do these in love. And of course, we also have those genetic predispositions, that is, diseases we inherited from our ancestors. We can’t change these. But for those that we can, we are accountable for our actions.

I believe that if you love your kids, your wife/ husband, your whole family, you will spare them the burden of suffering brought about by your way of living. Thus, eat the right food and exercise.

Oh, don’t worry, I too have my excesses. I love sweets and chicken, especially the crispy skin! But I have learned to balance it by going to the gym. (and not eating too much of everything).

For I always remember, taking care of my body is, in fact, loving my family (and future family) and worshiping Him.

Distinctive experiences

I will understand if no one reads this. It is too long. But once again, this is for me. To remember…

It was the first time for me to:

- Enjoy various kinds of foods. From tapas (Cuba), to pate flambé (Strasbourg), Pad Char Goong (Thailand), fish and chips (UK), Gyoza (Chinese), couscous royale (Turkey), salmon teriyaki (Korean), Chicken curry (Indian), berries (European), pizza provencal and croissants (Paris), sinigang and adobo (Philippines), etc. Truly international.

- See new places and buildings. In Strasbourg, the various European Institutions, Petite France and German districts, the Vauban dam, Ponts couverts (covered bridge), the Cathedrale, etc. I especially enjoyed walking along the river Ille. And seeing the moving bridge. In London, I loved the view of and from the Tower Bridge. My favorite part was walking along the Thames river. It was lovely seeing all the scenery and structures. And to feel safe.

In France: (Strasbourg & Paris)

- Take, on my own, a long trip on the urban train network in Paris. Called the RER, I took the line C in order to reach Champs de Mars. It was the nearest station to reach a friend’s house. The metro station was under construction. Either I brave the RER or get lost walking. I chose the former. I was thankful for the young lady who answered my questions and directed me to the right train.

- Experience that even to only take a metro ride, some people dare to break the law. At Picpus station, a black guy was standing. He waited as I went out and then he entered through the exit door. At the Gare de l’Est, a black girl asked if she could enter the metro with me. I’ve seen this before, 2 persons go in by just using one metro ticket. I said I am not sure if I am going in and then proceeded to the other door (the correct entrance for my train). I heard her cursing.

- Feel so nervous in France. While eating our Chinese take-out and enjoying the Christmas tree at a plaza in Strasbourg, my friend and I were accosted by three French guys. We saw them too late as they aggressively headed our way and demanded if we speak French. We remained silent and quickly fled. We heard them making noises that sounded like Chinese. They thought we were Chinese. Thank God, nothing bad happened. One of the reasons why I don’ feel safe in France.

- Drink hot wine. It was very effective in warming my frozen hands.

- Ask three little girls for direction and thus took the long way to arrive at my destination. It was at this time that I found myself walking behind a homeless guy. And fervently praying that nothing bad would happen to me.

- Meet an Indonesian girl. She was seated beside me at Hillsong Paris. She was doing the European tour. Thank God I was not alone when I headed back towards the metro. She knew the correct and shorter way.

In London:

- Try the fish and chips of the English. I loved the taste of codfish. I liked the chips (these are in fact, potatoes, much like the French fries but bigger).

- Wear three tops and two pants. Plus a coat, a scarf, head covering ang gloves. There as a time I was wearing two sets of socks. It was really cold. Especially when it became to windy.

- Be at the front seats of the Upper Circle of Queen's Theater. To enjoy the live performance of Les Miserables. To finally see what was happening when there was only music playing (from the CD/tapes). Got around 40% off the ticket price. Just buy it on the same day of the showing. Finally was able to see it live! Wonderful voices! I cried when Eponine and Jean Valjean died.

- Drink a shot of chocolate. Totally delicious and intoxicating.

- Win in a raffle but unfortunately I could not take home the prize. It wouldn't have fit inside my bag.

- Be surrounded by birds and swans. They won’t even budge an inch when they are approached by a human. This was at the Kensington Gardens.

- Almost touch a squirrel. I think it was so hungry that it decided to accept Skyflakes. Or maybe, Filipino food was just too tempting.

- Run after a bus because we were at the wrong side of the street. For that matter, it was my first time to ride in a right-hand drive car or to read the sign on the road before I cross the street!

- Get dizzy while looking for the Post Office. It was my first time to mail a letter in London. A good lady lent us her scotch tape and scissors (to reinforce the packaging).

- Ride in front of the second level of a bus. Bus drivers can earn around 500 pounds a week plus overtime pay. Tempting. But wouldn’t it make you crazy to drive around all day following the same route?

- Eat inside a pub. Food in there is cheaper, I learned. Choose your seat, order at the bar, pay your bill. Sit down and wait for your food. Then eat.

- Be in an English speaking city yet to feel like I am in a foreign land. It was hard to eavesdrop. British English is harder than French! Leicester is pronounced as Lester. Same rule for Gloucester. Thames river is in fact pronounced as “Tems.” I already forgot the pronunciation of the words that my host taught me!

- See what used to be the red-light district. Soho. It is now a posh hang-out place, especially for artists (I hope I understood Malu’s explanation correctly)

- Almost get hit by the hand of a child. On his father’s arms, the boy raised his arm while they were walking down the street. Good thing I saw what was coming and was able to sidestep what could have been painful.

- Get my very own Oyster Card. I heard you can keep it forever. Mine is waiting for its next trip back to London.

- Experience the civil and courteous British. From what I have seen so far, they are a helpful lot.

There are so many other things but I couldn't very write them all here. This is just for me... lest I forget.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Leaving Paris with Hope

Paris. I’ve seen its beauty. I’ve experienced some of its enchantments. One thing I do not consider it to be so: it is not the place that will make me easily think of God.

Two contrasting experiences made me realize that God is still working hard in this city, famous, not for agape, but for romantic love.

Two nights before I left, two friends took me on a car ride to see Paris at night. To behold the city illuminated with glorious lights. The Eiffel Tower as it blinks every hour and the trees along Champs Elysees, dressed with droplights.

To show me something different, we cruised along the Bois de Boulogne. Seems innocent when translated... Boulogne Woods.

Surely, it was majestic by day. But at night, there is a different scene being played out. Shrouded by darkness and hidden by the green foliage, transvestites stand in the cold. They wear half-opened dark coats that expose undergarments that should only be seen within the confines of a private room. They leave nothing more to imagination. They offer their wares to willing clients who are ready to go within the dense coverage of trees.

I was told that it is not illegal to do this since it is considered a profession. It’s okay as long as the general public does not see what they do.

I knew such things existed but in my desire to be naive, I’ve taught myself not to look for such sights. It embodied the dark side of city. It can represent souls in need of salvation.

But the night before I left Paris, I saw a big window of hope. Though I feared going to an unfamiliar place, I asked God for courage so that I could see with my own eyes. I don’t feel safe in this city yet I was convinced that I must go. I wanted to know what it meant for Hillsong to be in Paris.

The foyer was welcoming as people greeted one another. It was not only coffee that was free-flowing, there were a lot of smiles too. As I sat in my little corner, I enjoyed the noise. It was a marvelous noise. French people in a fellowship mode. It seemed like another world.

Two years ago, during my first time in Paris, I attended a very, very solemn Christian service. It struck me that there weren’t too many young people. And that worried me for they are the next generation. If they do not know God, what will be the future of this city? I prayed then that someday I hope to see men and women of this nation exuberantly praising and worshiping God. It seems highly unlikely. What with my encounters with its people and culture. Will I ever see the reality of this wish from my soul?



I really don’t know how many people were inside. 200? 300? Maybe even more? Male and female, old and young (more of this), different colors and nationalities, different languages, all of us converging to worship God on a Friday night service. It was wonderful to behold the passion of the band as they led the praise and worship time. And a blessing to see an audience dancing with joy and lifting their hands to glorify the Creator. They sang in French and in English, with the words flashed on the screen, with the respective subtitles thereunder.

And the preaching that night, in English (with an Australian accent) but simultaneously translated in French, was about Nehemiah who saw things differently. It was through the eyes of God. Voir des choses differement. I got reminded that I must dream big but remain focused on the small things of the now. Parce que Dieu peut tout changer et tout faire.

As I sang with the band and listened to the words of the speaker, I could not help but shed a few tears. This was the answer to a prayer I deemed impossible to happen. But once again, the words of Pastor Brendan assured me, nothing is impossible with God.

I really do not know why God has directed my path towards learning the language of this people who seems to have it all. I am patiently waiting for I know He will reveal it to me. But as I wait, I continue to pray for this city, this foreign country.

I left Paris with a lighter heart for I see hope. God is moving, slowly but surely and most importantly, powerfully.

(http://www.hillsongparismychurch.fr/)
= = =




I also visited Hillsong London. There were maybe around 600 people inside the Dominion Theater. Once again, it was filled with different kinds of people.

The speaker spoke and showed awesome pictures of the universe, the earth, the sun and other heavenly bodies which give testament to the power of God. Though we are small in a very big universe, God knows us and loves us. I quote the speaker in saying this… Long before you have decided what to do with Him, He has already decided what to do with you.






Core of a whirlpool galaxy (www.hubblesite.org)

(http://www.hillsonglondonmychurch.co.uk/)

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Ordeals of traveling

I am back in Manila. Back to reality. But in order for me to remember the last 16 days, I have to write about them. So bear with me. For this entry, let me share my experiences with the different modes of transportation I took. This is going to be long.

Hell. That was the only word I could think of as I waited for 13 hours in Hongkong. KLM issued my e-ticket with the wrong schedule. It was only the night before my flight that I find out. My booking experience with KLM for the past two years went well that I trusted the same service would be given me. Too late I found out that my 5:00 pm departure from Manila was moved to an earlier 8:00am flight. Imagine my panic as I finished my packing. I was unable to eat a proper breakfast. I was not able to buy pasalubong (gifts) of food delights for Filipinos in France. So tired, I had to rush to the airport.



All I could think of in HK was that KLM would be the object of my ire upon my return in Manila. Sleepless the night before, I felt so cold despite 3 layers of clothing. It was not possible to rest. Only individual seats connected to one another were available. How could one sleep peacefully while seated? Good thing I had some food with me. But these were not the hot and filling food I could have eaten if I was at home waiting for my correct flight.

My flight to Paris was quite nice. I was seated beside a retired man with his wife. We chatted quite nicely about France, the Philippines, their travels and what I would be doing in Paris. I was able to get some sleep albeit disturbed from time to time by movements of the crew or the person beside me. I could understand his constant turnings. There was not enough leg room to stretch long legs.

I noticed something different though. There was no waiting in line for the use of the toilets. I often encountered this in my other air travels with predominantly Filipino passengers. We tend to brush our teeth after every meal, change clothes, refresh make-up, etc. It was nice not to queue for long. But imagine the smell of a room filled with un-brushed teeth. Sorry to sound disgusting, but for someone like me who has a sensitive sense of smell, it could be trying to be in such a room.

I had to rush again upon my arrival in Paris. I was to catch a TGV bound for Strasbourg. For those unfamiliar, TGV is a train system of France, very famous for being fast. It was my first time to ride this. And what do I like about it? Seats do not face one another. The only other person you can interact with is the person beside you. The gentleman beside me was kind enough to lift my bag to the overhead rack. He could have been the Ethan in my Before Sunset. A pity that it was he who was reading and I dare not ask what it was about.


To go to London, I decided that I’d take the Eurostar. Another new experience since the train goes underwater and through the English Channel. The seating arrangement this time was that four people would be facing each other. Good thing we all went to sleep during the trip (except for moments when I would look outside the window to see the changing view.



The station in London was newly opened. St. Pancras looks beautiful. Especially with the sculpture of a couple sealing their reunion with a kiss.







The London metro (or what they call as Tube) seemed a bit more complicated. I already mastered the Paris metro system which designates the each line with just a number (there are 14 lines). The London Tube calls each line with a specific name (Central, Embankment, Central, etc.). But I did get the hang of it as I traveled more each day.

The railways from outside and to London were much like the RER in Paris. One has to check if it will pass your chosen destination. There are express trains that only stop at specific stations.



What I love about the transportation in Paris and London is that one can buy ride-all-you-can tickets (Carte Orange for Paris and Travel Card or Oyster for London).

From London to Amsterdam, I was on an aisle seat right by the emergency exit. Great leg room but one needs to be ready in case of emergency. It was a quick flight. Obvious because only chips and juice were given as snacks. Long flights require full meals.

The connecting flight from Amsterdam to Manila was quite full. It was the hub of KLM and thus most of European flights converge here to go to other destinations. I noticed there were lots of Filipinas married to foreigners, towing little kids with them. It hit me that it was in fact already December and thus, many Filipinos are coming home for the festive Christmas season that only our country can provide.

Babies and little kids were crying all night. But that was not the reason I went almost sleepless throughout the flight. Some things that were happening in Manila and what I have seen in Paris and London were troubling me. Questions that I need to ask myself but not willing to face. Answers that I find hard to give. Thoughts swirled in my mind as I attempted to see where all these are heading. There were resolutions I decided I have to make.

Those thoughts were still in my mind as I took my taxi ride for home. Passing through the shanties near the airport, I realized that I am now back to where I am supposed to be. For now.

PS.

I just got a call today from the airline. They owned up to their mistake and apologized. I showed no fury for I acknowledge the fact that humans err. But for that hell of waiting, I am demanding for just compensation. I still do not know if anything would be given. But hey, I did try!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

A taste of France

Paris has a lot to offer regarding food. Not just their own, but a taste of the world.





Looks familiar? Yup, had lunch at a Chinese restaurant. Lots of them.















One night, we went to a Turkish restaurant. And ordered Royale couscous. With lamb, beef, chichek, and sausage (no pork). And wasn't able to finish it. Delicious and filling.







At the Christmas market in Strasbourg. He was preparing the nutella crepe I ate. Rich chocolate.








Khaki. Sounds weird for a fruit name. I am trying to remember its taste. Like a peach. With the same consistency yet harder. With a hint of guava and kiwi?




I've tasted hot tea, hot coffee, hot everything. But not hot wine. With honey and fruits, it is just right drink to make one feel warm in a windy and cold night.
Preview


I like the fact that sugar here in Europe can come in various shapes. One sugar please, for my tea.



Looks delicious. It's not quite the same cheese cake we know in the Philippines. The cloying sweet taste is missing.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

I need to read more...

I got this from abaniko's site (www.abaniko.blogspot.com)...

The blog readability test : What level of education is needed to understand your blog?

cash advance


But then, it'll be easier for people to read my words...

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Visiting Strasbourg

Almost 48 hours of traveling from Manila to Hongkong, to Paris, then to Strasbourg,and a definite lack of sleep, I finally reached my destination ...for now.

This is definitely the coldest I have ever been. Ranging between 7-8 degrees, with the wind blowing is kind of torture for me who has always been in a tropical area.



And I feel big. Only because I am normally wearing three tops under my coat, two sets of socks, thermals with leg warmers, gloves, covering for my neck and head! I feel like I am carrying with me my whole suitcase!

Let us talk about food... this is choucroute, a specialty of this area, Alsace. Big? You bet it is! Wasn't able to finish it...



I love the variety of trees...









Pictures to follow... maybe when I get home :- )

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Omnium-Gatherum (Random Thoughts 4)

I have been feeling it in the air for the last three days. It was the kind of coolness that only this particular season brings. It was refreshing, creeping on your skin into your bones. I tried not to notice it. Acknowledging its presence meant that the year would soon be over. It makes more real the fact that time does fly so fast.

But the rain today made it more pronounced. It made the coolness colder. I had to wear a jacket all day.

It was icy cold. I had to accept the reality: The Christmas season has arrived.

- - -

I grew up reading European literature, dominated by English writers. Amongst my favorites were Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters, Charles Dickens, and Shakespeare. I loved what I read.

I never dreamt though that one day I would be able to go see places that I have seen only in my books. Get a glimpse of the Buckingham and Kensington Palaces, even just from the outside. Visit Bloomsbury, Hyde Park, Covent Garden. Maybe watch Les Miserables or the Phantom of the Opera. Walk along the river Thames.

I wish I could see ladies, with their pretty dresses, and gentlemen with canes, promenading or alighting from their carriages. But then, that was in another era.

I will be there in three weeks time. I do not know what to expect. I only hope to have the best possible week in a world I have seen only in print.

= = =

I dared not dream to be where I am now working. It seemed unreachable. I knew my capabilities and skills. Thus, I recognized the impossibility. I had unpleasant experiences with their people. Thus, I was averse to working with them again. Two reasons which are sufficient to create a great barrier.

But I have become aware of why I was brought to where I am now. To help some sisters find their way.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Real score

So many years ago… I really don’t know what the leader above me saw in me. Maybe my commitment. Maybe my desire to help. Maybe just because I was always present. But digging from my memories, I knew that there was nothing I could boast of. I was shy and quiet. I had no overflowing confidence to boost me. I did not have that quality that would make me win Miss Congeniality.

But the responsibilities that were given me changed me. I needed to be worthy of the call to lead. Not for pride, not for myself. But because I did not want to be a hypocrite. I wanted Him to be proud of me. I wanted to be able to walk my talk. I wanted my life to be a living testimony.

I learned to be conscious of what I do. I learned to think ahead. I remind myself that I am no longer doing things just for myself.

It was hard.

In the beginning, I have to admit, it was more on the outside. Within me, two forces were struggling. The call to be responsible for my actions battling with the desire to be free to do what I want.

Do I really need to be careful? Must I always be early or on-time? Do I need to be constantly present? Do I need to check my actions? What about the words I say? The friends I keep for company? The character that I show? The jokes that come from my lips? The smile that I have to keep?

God impressed to me to change from the inside out.

My life was affected. I had to be organized in order to organize others. I needed to remember things so that I could remind others. I needed to learn to calculate and schedule my time. I decided to take care of my body otherwise, if I get sick, I would let down people depending on me.

There are things I had to forego. I learned to select what it was I must and must not do. I learned to choose and to act on those choices.

It was not easy. It was a struggle. I could have insisted that I have my own life. I have my own dreams to pursue. I have my own busy life.

Leadership brought me responsibilities. Responsibilities that come with a great price, it seemed.

It seemed better to let it go. Life would be simpler. Would it really be?

Was it worth it?

Yes. For one reason : for the difference it made. In other people’s lives. And most especially, in my life.

Lest I forget, I remind myself over and over again. As I led, leadership changed me. And changing me still.

Leadership is not about demanding. It is about serving. It is not about authority. It is about humility.

Most of all, it is not about keeping others in line. It is about making me remain in line.

I just wish that others would see it this way.

Leadership is not a burden. Leadership is a blessing.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Coffee and friendship



It's 2:30am and I am wide awake. I used to think that I was immune to the effects of caffeine. But twice this year already, I have lain awake all night because of coffee's potency.

This proves that my immunity is gone. Maybe being a former tea addict (tea is also caffeine laiden albeit lesser in quantity) somehow shielded me from the power of coffee. But I have become a water drinker and thus, any trace of caffeine contributes to surges of my internal energy.

A good friend generously treated us with a cup of coffee (thanks to a recent blessing as well as the need to complete the Starbucks promo). All night long, discussions abounded. About various topics such as future vacation trips, an excursion to Divisoria (a local market famous for bargains), getting awards for being the best team, awesome maturity and sad regression of some young people who used to be under us, influencing people at the workplace, wastage of cute guys surrounding us, plans for the venue and date of the Christmas party, encouragement of others to join our group, etc. Of course, the conversation was spiced with laughter and teasing. There was even candid shots that give witness to the simplicity of fun that night (or morning?).

The abundance of coffee shops here in Manila created this phenomena of growing camarederie and openness. It is now possible to stay up all night and talk about everything and nothing. What I love best is that is not necessery to become inebriated in order to be frank and cheery. One stays mindful of one's words yet can be forthright and truthful.

I have to be careful about drinking coffee again. But surely, I will join these friends again when we go roving in one of these coffee-good-for-friendship-places.

An order of orange juice. A venti, please. To last me the whole night.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Fiddling with life

Fiddler on the Roof is set in a Jewish community, in the village of Antevka, in Tsarist Russia. Tevye is a poor milkman who has a personal relationship with God in whom he confides all. He strives, very hard, to keep up the traditions of his faith, race and culture. But trying to marry off the eldest three of his five daughters, plus the changing times, threatens to breakdown the traditional values he believes keep the balance of life.

= = =

Be ready to laugh. Enjoy the quips of Teyve as he converses with God. Have fun as he talks to himself as he analyzes the things happening to him and to his world.

Be ready to shed some tears as you witness how humans can bear to hurt other human beings. Cry for things and people who bring suffering.

I had a wonderful time watching Miguel Faustmann (as an alternate) as he, in my opinion, did great justice to his role as Teyve. I felt I was really in a Jewish community as he, together with the other casts, sang and danced to the sounds of music we normally associate to this chosen people of God. Joy Virata sang beautifully though there were times that I thought her voice was rougher than it should be. The daughters have pretty voices. I commend the dancers for the balancing act with bottles (I heard there was no trick. It was for real!). Kudos for the effects in the Dream. It was believable, especially the flying thing (so as not to be a spoiler for those who don’t know the story!). And of course, wonderful music from MSO!

I love the songs. Listen to them well for they are also about our own struggles in life and the questions we want to ask God.

I have to be frank, though. Something was definitely off in the second act. Maybe, it was the timing. Maybe, there was less power in the rendering of the songs. I can’t quite place it but I know something is quite amiss. I know the ending is meant to be sad but its impact must remain strong.

I do hope that it was better during the opening night (I watched the dress rehearsal the other night. Thanks to the free ticket I got from an MSO member!).

All in all, worth watching!

= = =

(Please do not read if you are planning to watch the play and don’t want spoilers!)

Culture and tradition do keep things in place. There is sense of assurance that all is well. Sometimes though, we become prisoners of traditions that have lost their meaning. I am glad that we can be free from traditions that could smother us to death.

There is wisdom in the old practice of parents’ choosing the person to wed their children. It takes away the confusion and the troubles that a single person may encounter in finding his/her life partner. But I am happy that I live in an era when we can choose to marry the person we love (and also consider the practical side).

We may judge Teyve for not accepting Chava’s (third daughter) marriage with Fyedka (a Russian youth). She has chosen a man with a different faith, not race, but faith. For a marriage to succeed, its very foundation must be on the same belief, shared by the two persons who are to become one. Otherwise, troubles will visit their union.

And no, emphatically no, I don’t agree with Yente’s quote. No, it is not better to marry the worst man than not too marry at all. We are given the choice. To borrow a part of a song, no, I don’t want to make my own bed of nails.

Monday, November 05, 2007

38 Questions

**Answered on Monday Night.

1. Name one person who made you laugh last night? Nio

2. What were you doing at 0800? On my way to the office

3. What were you doing 30 minutes ago? Assuring our dog, Hercules, that everything is okay

4. What happened to you in 2006? Had a great time in Rome and Geneva, took a penalty course in UP, finally saw my brother after 9 years…

5. What was the last thing you said out loud? You taught me who I am, I am yours (singing along with Casting Crowns)

6. How many beverages did you have today? Maybe 5 glasses of water and a glass of buko juice

7. What color is your hairbrush? Mahogany

8. What was the last thing you paid for? Tricycle ride

9. Where were you last night? Shangri-la mall, eating Japanese food with friends… then blogging

10. What color is your front door? White… make that dirty white ☺

11. Where do you keep your change? Red coin purse

12. What’s the weather like today? Gloomy and windy (with rain showers)

13. What’s the best ice-cream flavor? Pistachio

14. What excites you? Opportunities to travel, organizing events, helping change a life

15. Do you want to cut your hair? Just a trim…

16. Are you over the age of 25? Definitely.

17. Do you talk a lot? Depends on the person I am with.

18. Do you watch the O.C.? No idea what show is that :- )

19. Do you know anyone named Steven? Hmmm… Is Stephen okay? A churchmate.

20. Do you make up your own words? Yes, sometimes.

21. Are you a jealous person? Sometimes.

22. Name a friend whose name starts with the letter ‘A’. Anna

23. Name a friend whose name starts with the letter ‘K’. Kristine

24. Who’s the first person on your received call list? Kuya George, a friend who is now in Australia.

25. What does the last text message you received say? An advertisement from Globe, a network provider here in Manila.

26. Do you chew on your straw? Not really.

27. Do you have curly hair? No.

28. Where’s the next place you’re going to? France.

29. Who’s the rudest person in your life? He/she might be reading this. : -) I will just pray for him/her.

30. What was the last thing you ate? Corned beef and rice.

31. Will you get married in the future? I hope so.

32. What’s the best movie you’ve seen in the past 2 weeks? Haven’t seen one in the past 2 weeks.

33. Is there anyone you like right now? Just decided to unlike him :- )

34. When was the last time you did the dishes? Last Friday.

35. Are you currently depressed? No. I don’t let myself stay depressed.

36. Did you cry today? Nope.

37. Why did you answer and post this? Because I was tagged by Gypsy.

38. 5 people you tag next? Jeckjr, Gina, Beng, Nio, rodellacson

Sunday, November 04, 2007

The Influencers

The influencers.

I have known them a little more than three years but it seems like I have known them forever.

We come from different backgrounds yet our similarity runs deep: our love for God.

Married or single, male or female, younger or older, either in experience or in age, in various fields of accounting, editing, healing, banking, computer technology, missions, administration, languages, etc. There is variety yet there is unity. We come together seeking excellence in many aspects of our humanity.

I will always be thankful to God for giving me the courage to attend my first activity. It opened a whole new domain to me. A world full of friends, sisters and brothers. A world of learning and experiences.

Learn from monthly seminars on topics such as financial freedom, investments and excellence. Enjoy songs of love during special events. Have fun during birthday and Christmas celebrations. Serve the poor and sick during annual medical and dental outreaches. Train others so they can better serve the people around them. Visit the elderly or the orphans. Converge with other professionals and be strengthened from their experiences. And always, hear messages of hope and love.

The weekly meetings with other professional women (also for men) are filled with discussions that challenge our minds, characters, standards, work ethic, dreams, plans, relationships, etc. As we share our own struggles and weaknesses, we get encouraged to change and to strive to be the best. There is no judgment in our mistakes. Instead, there is support in words and actions. We hang on together in the season that God has told us to wait for a change in career, status, etc. We enjoy each other's victories, from simple tests or hard-won battles.

Be the first to test the cooking lessons of Beng. Learn from the alternative medicine of Dr. Shawie. Laugh over the increasing jokes of Anna. Wonder at the perspective of Honey. Enjoy the humor and music of Gina. Grow from the lessons of Grace. Bask in the sweetness of Rachel.

We talk about nothing and everything. About challenges at work or career direction. Struggles in marriage, child-rearing, and time-management. The highs and lows of spiritual lives. About responsibilities and fears. Relationships or the lack of it. Lest we appear to be so serious, I beg to differ. We talk about the current fashion-craze, the latest news about Hollywood or local actors, recent telenovelas or reality shows, try out certain sports activity, gush over the hunky new guy at the office or the gym, discuss the advantages of hair straightening or rebonding, go to formal cocktail parties, choose the right style of jeans or make-up color, cry at movies, binge on Chinese food, swap travel adventures, exchange books and movie/music cds, etc.

There are other people whose lives are worth enjoying and emulating. Couples like the Laos, the Turralbes, Crisostomos, Castillos, Egenias, etc. My favorite couple, Jay and Arlene, whose marriage I have always admired. Malou and Juliet, amongst women who are like older sisters, always concerned, always caring. Men who have become friends and brothers like JC, Miler and Anjou.

I love the fact the there is a network of contacts all over the country, all over the world. Friends I met through friends. Filipinos I met here who are now in London, Greenhills, Dubai, Cambodia, Davao, San Diego, etc. Foreigners who are living in Egypt, Kazakhstan, Scotland, United States, etc.

The group's mission is to develop influencers toward moral and professional excellence in the business community. We are being influenced by Christ. We seek to influence one another. We seek to influence others. Professionally. To make ourselves better. To help them be better.

Truthfully though, our intertwined lives have gone beyond the professional and have become personal.

I have become a better person.

I am an influencer.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Omnium-Gatherum (Random thoughts 3)

I just entered the bathroom. Guess what happens?

A lizard hiding behind a pail cover jumps on the toiled lid.

What happens next?

I go out of the bathroom screaming.

Called out to my father to get it out. I insisted that he should not kill it. Lizards are not like cockroaches. Thus, I can still be kind to them.

When I again enter the bathroom, I made sure there are no little monsters lurking.

Then, I cleaned the toilet lid. The lizard just stepped on it. I don’t know where it last came from.

My mom laughed. She said lizards’ feet are clean. Technically, it hasn’t soiled its feet. Still…

Why are these things happening to me?

= = =

I spent the whole day of yesterday twisting wires. For the Christmas decorations at our church.

The nerves at my fingertips are dead, I think. It felt like I played the guitar all day.

The decors are beautiful, though.

= = =

I found myself laughing so hard a few weeks ago while chatting.

Why? While struggling with a problem at work, I kidded certain friends that it is a test that I needed to pass in order to qualify for the next chapter of my life. Just a way to reduce a bit of the tension. Just to find humor in all the confusion that was happening.

I think I passed the test. I did what I felt I was supposed to do. And that same night, the little award came. It was a glimpse of how easy it is for God to orchestrate things in our life.

That is why I was laughing so hard. I saw the sense of humor of my God.

Hey, you might not understand what I am saying here. It doesn’t matter.

This is my way of reminding myself.

God is in control. I know he is smiling. And He is making me laugh.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Uneasy night

I don't ask for much. I just want a quiet night.

I could have watched an interesting movie of Cine Europa at Shangri-la. Or enjoyed Stardust. Another possiblity, to have had dinner with friends.

But I had to go home for I have to work tomorrow. Despite it being declared a special holiday for elections. I am the only one to report for work amongst the locals. A foreign company is coming to meet with local distributors. Since I am the one who arranged everything, it is only rational that I should be there.

So I settled on my folding chair. Read the kit I prepared. Just to make sure that I still remember the details of the meetings as well as review the information about the health sector (as if I would be able to remember them all!). And of course, with the wonderdul wi-fi of my neighbor as well as my own DSL connection, I began to check my mails and blogs, and then, hopping on to other blogsites.

The attacks began. There was just one. Hiayahhhhhhhh! I shrieked. My mom chased and killed it. Then, three suddenly appeared! I had to get out of my room while I edged my mother to ran after them with the not-so-mighty spray. She got one, then the next. But then, another two came!!! I finally realized that they might be coming in from the partially opened wooden wall near my bed (the result of the recent strong rains). I had to refill the spray bottle and let my mom do her thing. I sought shelter from the other room. But there also, two were lurking behind the steel double-deck.

The spray sounds were then replaced by the smashing of a broom against the cement wall. A crunchy sound follows, assuring me that another of their species has just died. It seemed that those little monsters were gone. Finally, I could go back to my blog-hopping.

Nohhhhhhhhhhh!!! Another three came!!!! Nohhhh!!! My mom is downstairs, sanitizing her hands from the accidental spurts of the killing spray. Why are they here???? Either the next door neighbors just did their annual spray or the little monsters felt the arrival of the rain (most likely the latter). But why tonight? Of all nights? When I should be resting!

In my anger, I wielded the mighty broom and killed one, and then another. While my body was covered all over with goosebumps.

Still is... for as I write, I am looking around. I can hear the rustling sounds that their hairy legs and ugly wings make against everything they come in contact with. Only us who are bonafide haters of their kind have this particular talent, the ultrasonic hearing capability. I can feel them looking at me, waiting for the right moment. Waiting for me to close the lights, close my eyes and launch the attack.

This is not going to be an easy night.

Smash! Splat!

I just killed another one.

Blogging

It is really overwhelming to see how the world has become smaller with the invention of computers and internet. It has become easier to communicate with people at the other side of the world. Pictures and updates are sent with just a click. Friends you haven’t seen since elementary days are now accessible through friendster. Foreigners you have met in local events become your poke friends in Facebook. Blogger and Wordpress are your links to fellow serious bloggers. Multiply has become a repository of our lives with its collection of pictures, stories, music and links. I find it very useful to keep in touch with friends and families who are hundreds of miles away in Australia, Geneva, America, London, Dubai, etc.

What I find surprising though is how it has become possible to meet new people through this technology. Gypsy’s adventures led me to various places she has been to. Abaniko’s perspective about things I find quite interesting. I will forever be grateful when Gibbs dropped me a line since his take on the performance world is necessary for those who want to know what is happening around town. Since blogs often contain their thoughts, experiences, and activities, I get a glimpse of how they see the world. Some I got to know through friends, I met Swipe through Blissful drifter and Jojie through Gypsy, Grace and Sillyserious through Beng’s site, and so on and so forth.

I even got an award. Thanks Gypsy for giving me this… In fact, I want to award the same to you. (http://gypsyshaven.blogspot.com/) I am also giving them away to some other people.



To Blissfuldrifter, for the clamchowders, sound trippings and anecdotes about your life, I wish to see more of your stories in print. You have a unique perspective. (http://blissfuldrifter.wordpress.com/)

To Beng, your writing rocks! There is beauty in your words and I know that your are using them for His glory.(http://blissfuldrifter.wordpress.com/)

To Mommy G, I find joy in your stories about your experiences with your boys. I know from where they are getting their smart minds. (http://ginasboys.wordpress.com/)

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Safest place

A blast in Glorietta, a commercial area in Makati, created such uproar. A whole section of the mall got destroyed. 10 people died and around 120 people were injured. A lot of them were just enjoying the Friday lunch-out that has become the practice of many Makati office workers.

Once again, fear seem to have pervaded greater Manila. I hear parents forbidding their kids from going to malls. Many are being sent home straight from school or work. Loved ones in the provinces make frantic calls to their kids in the city. Call centers are doing rollcalls of their employees. The turn-out in a foreign film festival was not quite what was expected. My brother just told me that he feared riding public transportation and going inside other commercial centers.

I can't blame them. I, too, became slightly paranoid. Those 10 people never knew that it would be the day when their lives would end. It could have been one of the people I know. It could have been me. Our office's lunch break (1:00 - 2:30 p.m) exactly falls within the blast time. I could have been walking through the walkway towards National Bookstore. I could have been doing a quick grocery at Landmark's basement. I could have been buying a gift for a godchild, in Glorietta II.

In this chaos though, I am thankful that the lunch-hour was over when it happened. It could have been worse. Good thing, salary was given a few days before. There could have been more people in the casualty list.

Surely, for many more weeks, we would be all moving with slight hesitation and fear. Many would think twice about going to public places. There is always the thought hanging over our heads, wondering if another blast is waiting to happen.

I heard again this certain quotation a week ago, way before this tragedy happened. It is the reminder that we need not worry for it says, the safest place to be is in the center of God's will.

The question now is, are you in the center of God's will?

I know I am. I have peace that surpasses all understanding.

If you are not, I hope you are doing something to make sure that you are.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Story of Reconciliation

Hollywood formula requires an ending to a story... and mine should have one.

But in fact, it is a story within a story.

I wrote about this situation as a test for me. God was dealing things in me. My character needed honing. My courage I have to improve. My faith needed a boost.

And so, I did tell.

It was ordeal, especially since my words were foreign. I felt fear all over me, wondering how things would turn out to be.

I marvel though how God works. Everything went smoothly. Peaceful. No raising of voices. No flooding of tears. No sign of anger. Frankly, no one would think something happened.

Yet, something is happening. I am seeing a second chance. I am witnessing a soul coming back. I am hoping that I have been a vessel of reconciliation. To a child who got lost and now is being asked to come back.

I am praying. And I have asked this person to keep on praying. There are so many things that needed fixing in his life. This won’t be an easy battle. The enemy would fight for what he thought his to keep. But my God’s words assure me : He, who is in me, is greater that he who is in the world.

I am holding on to His promise. He would never leave, nor forsake His children.

The story is still unfolding.

Pray with me.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Judgment day

For almost two weeks now, I haven't been sleeping so well. My mind was and is rife with jumbling thoughts and emotions. I find myself turning over whichever way various courses of action. I try to distract into forgetfulness things that are disturbing me.

To tell or not to tell, that is the question.

It has often been easy for me to defend what is correct. I can differentiate between what is right and wrong. And I can be passionate about standing up for what is right and just. But it can be hard when you know the guilty person. It becomes complicated when you know the background, when you know where he is coming from. With this knowledge hanging over your mind, you begin to be understanding, forgiving, even ready to forget.

I have to remember that yes, God forgives the sinner yet He completely hates the sin. That forgiveness does not entail exemption from the consequences of wrongdoings. Also, I have to remind myself that I am not the one to decide the judgment. Someone higher up would do this. But I have to do my part.

We are not perfect but we all have been given the choice. To choose the right over the wrong. Sadly, he chose the other side of the coin. I pray for God's mercy for he who did wrong. But I pray more that he has learned a lesson.

I believe that this is also my test. Tomorrow will be the judgment day.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

A test and a trust

Rereading a few months back the Purpose Driven Life, a book written by Rick Warren, I got reminded again that we live life according to how we view it. Or in the words of the author, the metaphor that we use for our life becomes our basis in living life.

Doing what is right: it is a choice entrusted to us. It is a test that I want to pass.

May I have the courage to do it.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

How

How do you make right a wrong when the wrongdoer is a friend?

How can you keep the trust when the secret entrusted to you was in itself a betrayal against you?

How can you declare the crime when you might be dooming not only the guilty but also his children?

You want to forgive and forget but how can you when in fact you don’t see a penitent heart?

But how can you remain silent when it tortures your soul not to do what is right?

For I know that by blowing the whistle I might save the sinner from future crimes.

Tough love. How do you apply it?

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Different worlds

Avenue Q. The title itself I found intriguing. Is there really such a place? The synopsis seemed interesting. A young man just finished college and was about to enter the real world. On his own. Many of us have passed through the same initiation. It would be worthy to see how others faired in their experience.

It was remarkable how the creator pulled off the mixture of puppets representing people, puppets as monsters and people as people. I love best how the people holding the puppets are themselves demonstrating the emotions and body movements that the puppets are supposedly showing (if they could do so). I’ve gotten used to puppets being controlled by unseen hands. This style is refreshing.

The computer screen at the side of the stage was a walk down the memory lane. I did not grow up with Sesame Street nor with Batibot but the recitation of letters, the shouting of kids, and even the flashing of drawings were all derived from that style of television showing.

Admirable are the talents of the singers. Especially those who played two roles. The swift changes of tones and personalities. The sudden shift of movements and steps. The alteration of the facial expressions. And most of all, the changes of the voices. I think Rachel Alejandro really did a great performance in playing Kate and Lucy. Not really an expert in the musical scene, I don’t really know all of the cast but each one demonstrated great talent. I enjoyed the show.

I have to say though that I was kinda shocked with the content. A friend mentioned that somehow, it destroyed her memories of her childhood puppet shows. It is the same with me. I associate puppets with innocence and pure learnings. The show was clearly not. True, it could have been based on real life. These events could have happened to any one among us. It showed one possibility of how a young man (or woman) could experience and what he could get out of life.

I am thankful that there are other possibilities. It may not always be like that. There are various worlds. I like my world.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Reality According to Hollywood

All grocery shopping bags contain at least one stick of French bread.

The ventilation system of any building is the perfect hiding place.

The Eiffel Tower can be seen from any window in Paris.

A man will show no pain while taking the most ferocious beating but will wince when a woman tries to clean his wounds.

Any lock can be picked by a credit card or a paper clip in seconds—unless it's the door to a burning building with a child trapped inside.

All bombs are fitted with electronic timing devices with large red readouts so you know exactly when they will go off.

It is not necessary to say hello or goodbye when beginning or ending phone conversations.

Any person waking from a nightmare will sit bolt upright and pant.

—Brett Kays, PreachingToday.com

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Uniform

When asked for his ticket, the man seated beside me loosely waived his left hand in the air. Asked by the ticket inspector for the second time, the same man answered, “I am a policeman.” Showing no emotion to such a declaration, the inspector proceeded to checking the next passenger’s fare tickets. Me, on the hand, had a different reaction, albeit it was all inside me. Hearing the policeman’s confident announcement, I can’t help but feel two distinct emotions.

The first one was fear. Growing here in our country, I imbibed this instinctive fear that our society normally endures when faced with their kind. This shouldn’t be the case. They are meant to protect us. Instead, we are trying to protect ourselves from them. We have become accustomed to hearing about corrupt and perverted versions of this group whose members were meant to serve the people. That is why, even when in a foreign land and I see those who are in uniform, I make it a point that there is a certain distance between us.

Revolt was the next thing I felt. How did carrying such an appellation ever mean that you get free rides on a public transportation? How can anyone trained to be in a uniform declare without shame that he is demanding as a right a service that must be paid? Pity, he was even carrying a hard-bound copy of the Local Government Code of the Philippines.

On the other hand, I have to lodge my own defense for them. They are underpaid and overworked (those who really work, anyway). The challenges they face are not rightly remunerated. Many of them have to live in squatter areas for lack of enough money to stay in pleasant neighbourhoods. Thus, I read somewhere, they absorb the culture of criminality of such locality.

I do not like hearing and seeing such wrongful practice. I hope I won’t be a witness of another one. I prefer to think, even if only on my perfect world, that they are in fact the models of our society.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Loss

For what amount of loss would you be so willing to be run over by a bus? Five million dollars? Five million pesos?? A million? Three hundred thousands? Or much less than that? How much do we value our savings that we would be desperate enough to end our lives?

A few weeks ago, I witnessed an old man as he tried to stop his wife from flinging herself in front of a moving bus. She was crying uncontrollably. She was in despair.

I knew the couple by sight. I see them every morning on my way to work. She sells candies and cigarettes while he minds the newspapers and racing bulletins. They were always there, rain or shine. I later learned that someone got away with all their money while she was buying some stocks for her little store. P800 as payment for the newspapers. P2,000 that she has been saving to buy plywood for the little house that she was planning to build. And another P1,000 for her medicines and their food.

For a loss of P3,800 she wanted to end her life. It seemed so small to us who are earning more. For some, it is just a small percentage of the monthly taxes that they pay. It may mean just a whole day’s shopping spree for a lady. Yet, this amount of money represented her whole life’s savings. To her, its loss seemed like the end of the world.

For many days, I saw her cry. Though she tried to wipe them away, tears were streaming down her eyes. One could see her utter sadness as she looks into nothingness.

I couldn’t help it but be disturbed by her situation. And of the many others who just try to survive on a daily basis. How do they last in this miserly world?

I am thankful that though my resources are not big, I can be one who is confident that my needs will be provided. The storehouses of my Father has endless supplies and He will meet what is required and even surprise me with wonderful gifts. I need not wear a blank face of hopelessness for I can look with expectation to my Jehovah Jireh.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Hairspray

With no idea what the movie was all about, I was happy to discover that it was wonderful to watch. Hairspray revolves around the story of a young girl, Tracy Turnblad (Nikki Blonsky), who dreams to be part of “The Corny Collins Show,” the famous dance TV show. Normally, Tracy shouldn’t fit it and there lies the beauty of the story. From “Good morning Baltimore” to the last song (I can’t remember it, sorry), I was able to enjoy the story, the songs, the acting, etc.

John Travolta did well as the mother of Tracy. Some may say that he is not so convincing, but then knowing that it is him playing the role made it more interesting and funnier. There is grace in his steps and his facial expressions were endearing. I think he did great. Christopher Walken’s role as a dense yet caring father is a departure from his usual kontrabida roles. I love seeing his smile since it starts from his lips and crinkles up to his eyes. It was remarkable to see the handsome (he really is!) face of James Marden (Cyclops) and discover his talents in singing and dancing. Who would believe that he could do both? Another surprise is Michelle Pfeiffer and her lilting voice as she reminisced about her Ms. Baltimore days.

It even tackled serious issues such as the integration of the blacks and whites in performing TV shows, going after your dreams even if everyone is saying that you are not entitled to have them, and also stepping out of your comfort zone to discover what the bigger world could offer. It presented the reality that it is possible for the “different” to defeat the mainstream (especially regarding our idea of beauty), for love to see beyond skin color or physical distinction, even for children to go beyond their parents’ limited dreams for them.

True, it somehow has the Hollywood formula of a happy ending but hey, these things do happen in real life. And I do love leaving a cinema with a happy feeling. Even if only for the beauty of the songs.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Pursuing Him

The first two lines of Michael W. Smith’s Draw Me Close make this song a favorite. This has always been my prayer to God. For Him to never let me go. To always draw me close to Him.

It so easy for life to engulf us. It is so easy for the cares of the world to sneak into our hearts and to forget what matters. It is so easy for us to get so busy that we fail to remain connected to our first love.

Lately, I have been thinking that this is happening to me. It was not evident at first. That was part of the deception. The warning bells are so faint. It was so hard to hear them. What made it more awful is that the guilty conscience doesn’t seem to be working. It was then that I realized I have to do something.

I need to get back to Him. Even though I am not feeling any sensation, my mind was telling me that something must be done. I got reminded of the song. And I prayed it. Draw me close to You. Never let me go. The more I prayed, the more I realized that He has always been there and He has been constantly drawing me to Him. It was me who was slipping from His hold.

According to Philip Yancey, God is shy. Shy? How can He be shy when He has created me and the whole world? Isn’t He the one in control? But it is true. He is shy to intervene. He is shy to act. He lets us be until we let Him in.

I am learning something different. For me to get back in His fold, I need to pursue Him. It must be my choice to return to Him.

The pursuit is exciting. I know there will be wonderful things to discover about Him.

= = =

The sensation of silence cannot be helped : a loud and evident God would be a bully, an insecure tyrant, an all crushing datum instead of, as He is, a bottomless encouragement to our faltering and frightened being. – John Updike

Lion Chaser Manifesto

Quit living as if the purpose of life is to arrive safely at death. Set God-sized goals. Pursue God-ordained passions. Go after a dream that is destined to fail without divine intervention. Keep asking questions. Keep making mistakes. Keep seeking God. Stop pointing out problems and become part of the solution. Stop repeating the past and start creating the future. Stop playing it safe and start taking risks. Expand your horizons. Accumulate experiences. Enjoy the journey. Find every excuse you can to celebrate everything you can. Live like today is the first day and last day of your life. Don't let what's wrong with you keep you from worshiping what's right with God. Burn sinful bridges. Blaze new trails. Criticize by creating. Worry less about what people think and more about what God thinks. Don't try to be who you're not. Be yourself. Laugh at yourself. Quit holding out. Quit holding back. Quit running away.

Chase the lion.

In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day by Mark Batterson (www.evotional.com)