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.

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)