Sunday, August 30, 2009


I have been privileged to be the adviser of our school's (Southville Foreign University) marketing team in the past four years. My task consisted mainly of overseeing a group of students as they tackle a marketing challenge posed by the Philippine Marketing Association in its annual Strategic Marketing Competition.

We again made it to the finals this year. But last year was a banner year because we wrested the championship title from the state university which had dominated the competition for some time. "Southville what?" People would inquire whenever our school was mentioned. How could this relatively unknown and tiny "David" go head-to-head against established Goliaths like the University of the Philippines, Ateneo or La Salle?

We are confident of bagging the title again this year. (The winners will be known this coming Friday, Sept. 4, 2009, in the Strategic Marketing Conference at the Cuneta Astrodome.) This year, competing schools designed and implemented a market research proposal, with the finalists presenting their work last week to a panel of judges.

Congratulations Team Aspire, for a job well done. A champion's performance indeed!

And believe me, this conviction proceeds not necessarily from conceit but from faith. You see, whenever we set out to tackle a contest like this, we remind ourselves that, "The battle is not ours, but the Lord's," and the only way we could win is by humbling ourselves before God. "For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted" (Matthew 23:12).

He then becomes the center of all our efforts, trusting Christ to guide us with His wisdom, understanding, clarity of mind, even strength; so that every member of the team endures through marathon and late-night meetings, break-up sessions and field work (either to brainstorm, draw up budgets, craft and produce creatives, interview respondents, tally results, etc.---whatever the contest required) to submit a paper within tight deadlines. He even sent highly qualified people to critique or give their expert advice!

These on top of the team members' need to attend regular classes and turn up exhaustive assignments.

"Whatever happens, we are the champion!" One team member declared. I bet you she was not referring to just the trophy or the title. "The experience, the application of principles to actual situations, plus being able to endure personality differences, discouragement, even conflicts while you try to function as a member of a team---if we learned from all these, we are indeed winners."

A champion's attitude! The trophy and the title are really just icing on the cake.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Feeding Sessions

Isabelle is as pretty as a doll, what with her dainty pink dress, full bangs and shoulder length curly brown hair. It’s her second birthday and we’ve been invited to her party this particular Sunday at Max, ATC. Isabelle is the daughter of Franjo, my (late) brother-in-law Onib’s second child. In a number of weeks, Sofia, granddaughter of my sister-in-law Papoose, will also celebrate her second birthday.

These are some of the happy occasions my sisters and brothers-in-law, and even our sons and daughters, look forward to as a reason to chill out and catch up on family matters: “Does Jojo have a girl friend yet?” “What about Joy, is she ever settling down?” “Ria is already five months on the way, how is her paglilihi?” “When is Bambi due?” Etcetera.

Most of the answers to these questions we of course know, but we just want to talk about them. Or probably, in our own little way, show that we are family and we are concerned about each other.

Because we’re not really lacking in updates. Everyday, bits and pieces of comments, jokes, reminiscences and even sarcasm easily get passed around the family e-group. Even now, I’m learning interesting shreds of information about Mader and Pader (my parents-in-law Mama Lourdes and Papa Luis) from (their eldest sister) Polong’s hilarious emails. Their brother Pats has his own way with words, murdering English as though in a rampage. I tell you, each of these ten sons and daughters—two have sadly passed away—possesses a unique brand of wackiness, bequeathed by their Papa. No wonder no one wants to be the first to leave these happy affairs. (Only the waiter’s nicely-stated warning—“additional charge po if you exceed use of the function room”—made us dash for the door.)

With birthday celebrants covering practically all months of the year, we do not need more lunches (No more dinner gatherings—seniors must go to bed early.), aptly called the birthday club, but recently dubbed by Polong as feeding sessions. Imagine how oldies with low metabolic rates attack a Chinese lauriat! “Too much feeding sessions,” quipped Papoose, when she felt terribly ill after last Sunday’s affair.

Why the need for these events? “Our numbers are dwindling,” noted Bettina, Isabelle’s Mamita (Lola) as we posed for the customary “picture-picture” last Sunday. As on my side of the family, quite a number of my in-law's’ immediate family members have migrated elsewhere, others to the hereafter; so why not spend more time together while we could.

Isabelle’s recent birthday party photos will soon be emailed, downloaded, filed and maybe soon forgotten. Some things however could not as easily be stashed away. The pat on the shoulder. The request for a prayer. The kind “How are you?” The kiss, the hug. The jokes and the laughter. The expressions of wonder on those little apos’ faces. And of course the realization that these little children, as they have seen in these oldies, will grow up loving and reaching out to their next of kin too.

Unconditional love, that probably sums it up. When family members take each one for who he or she is, and through thick or thin lift each other up. Because honestly, we have a lot lot more than just feeding sessions.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Book Crazy

Now with more time in my hands because of a hiatus from teaching, I've decided to muster all I've got to put together my third book and bone up on my writing skills before I get busy again in the next school term.

Am still at a loss though on that book project. My heart and mind went rah! rah! when the concept ignited, all possible chapters listed, and the intro drafted; with my publisher giving her thumbs up. But everything seemed to have been reduced to a whimper lately. That's funny because my proposed topic was precisely meant to encourage women my age to get a life after retirement.

So I turned to my second objective---be a more savvy writer. Writing a novel had always been percolating in my mind. Should I take the plunge? In a seminar for women writers sponsored by OMF LIterature Inc. (Thanks Yna Reyes!), renowned Christian author and mentor of writers Miriam Adeney challenged us to rise above the clutter to fill the void for "readable" Christian literature. That novel-kneivel desire creeped up again!

So could I really do it? I don't know. Only God knows, and I need to pray about it some more. He promised to open the door if I would just knock and continue to believe His promise: "Turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding, and if you look for it as silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom, and from His mouth comes knowledge and understanding" (Prov.2:2-6). This I know: I need to start writing that third book. Up your butt, Lola!

But a dam had been burst. Craving for the classics, I went to Powerbooks and blew my tightly-guarded allowance on some Hawthorne and Dickens books. How could I refuse when they came as hard-bound, gold-rimmed and expensive-looking, and on sale at just P63 and P198!

Many days and nights, I found myself lingering in the world of CS Lewis, wishing the breathtaking episodes in the Chronicles of Narnia would stretch forever---and be real! Adding fuel to the cause was OMF's Lindy Hope, who gladly lent me a Jane Austen book from her immense collection. Current day writings pleaded stronger, so I went back to William Young's The Shack, and fell in love with Bodie and Brock Thoene's Vienna Prelude, bought for a mere P25. OMF had it on sale!

This crazy book episode my have been ignited by my grandchildren's love for books. Visiting my daughter's family recently in Australia, I often substituted to put her kids to sleep. Joaqui, six years old, just could not go to bed without a read. My convenient pasalubong for him from the Philippines were Grace Chong's books (mostly of the "O Mateo" series) which we read and re-read many times over. So I inquired, "Do you like Tita Grace's books?" "No. I don't like them," he replied ho-hum style. Then crescendoing, he gushed, "I love them. I super-duper love them!"

I used books to lure two and a half year old Charlize to more quiet playtimes---kinder to her sedentary Lola. But here's the rub: Hardly had a page been turned, she'd say, "Wead mo book, Wowa!" forcing the book from my hand and thrusting another.

I'm happiest knowing that my apos are growing up loving books. (Lucci makes it a point to regularly borrow books from the public library, guaranteeing a fresh supply always, at no cost.) Even if my dream of becoming a novelist fizzles, Joaqui just might. Well, only the good Lord knows.

Monday, August 17, 2009


"Wuk, Wowa, wuk!"
These are my granddaughter Charlize's words whenever she wants to call my attention to whatever new find or skill she suddenly discovers she's capable of doing. "Look, Lola, look!"---uttered in her two and a half year old twang ---always sounds jazz and every marching band to my ears. That's me, proud Lola!

Charlize is my daughter Lucci's second child, next to Paolo Joaquin, my other source of joy (a lot more "Lola" stories about them in later postings.) A few days ago, Charlize happily found out that she could actually hold it a little while longer and dash straight to the toilet to poo. Being set free from stinky and sticky bumbum (She used to do it with her nappy or diaper still on. As if you didn't know!) must have been such an allelujia moment in her blossoming life! Had I been there, she would have excitedly called out and showed Wowa this "accomplishment" herself.

But it's been more than two months now since I last heard her say, "Wuk, Wowa, wuk!" That was when I visited my daughter's family in Australia's New South Wales last April. I gladly babysat Charlize to give my daughter, even temporarily, some reprieve from her multi-tasking go-round. Charlize's short attention span and inquisitiveness made her mind wander from wonder to yonder. Lego blocks now, tinkering with her mini piano in a minute. Browsing a book now, dancing a moment later. Now vying for space in the kitchen sink to "help" me wash the dishes, in a wink scrambling for her toy michrophone for an urge to sing. Oh how she croons at the top of her larynx while Maria coaches her wards with "Do Re Mi" in the movie The Sound of Music.

Age of wonder! Since when have I last viewed things like Charlize?

We of the mature ("old" sounds so yawny) generation used to wonder too, so much so that a day was not enough for discovering new joys. Young once upon a time, we rode the train or the bus and pressed our noses---even poked our heads out the window to savor the rushing wind, and let our eyes be overwhelmed by the amazing sights around us. That was when we used to look at the world without filter or bias, but as it was, bursting with color and texture and sound and life. That was when like us, our playmates were not afraid of touching bugs or earthworms, "cooked" leaves and flowers for little paper dolls, frolicked under the rain or rolled in muddy pools.

How many times have we asked, "Why?" And not seemed to have been satisfied with the answer, we begged with another, "Why?" Those instances in our young lives when we were just like sponges, readily soaking up each new "Wow!," "Aha!" and "Cooool!" moment because they were just too precious to let go. And by God, they were just so wonderful we could not stop figuring them out, so we desperately needed to run to somebody and say, "Look, how awesome!"

Even without cataracts or jaundice, a lot of people's eyes (or is it hearts?) have become jaded. "I'm too old for silly things. No time to waste. Busy! Don't bother me with childish matters." Thank God for grandchildren. They let us see the world and each fleeting moment for what they are.

I wonder what Charlize will teach me next time I see her again.

"I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the
kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 18:3)

Sunday, August 16, 2009


Doing this blog, my first, is not easy. I'm probably just afraid of stumbling. I've always had this fear of being vulnerable if I said too much, with strangers ganging up on me for whatever reckless things I say. But I succumbed finally.

My author friend Grace Chong has been blogging successfully---and quite happily---for a few years now and I am just awed at how effortlessly she lets us know God's gifts of grace even in the most mundane and insignificant situations. And she often nudged me to start blogging. "I have become a blogaholic," she proudly proclaimed as she gave a testimony about my first published inspirational book when it was launched last year at Powerbooks. Blogging is like child's play once you get used to it, she suggested.

Because, frankly, there are just too many things to write about, little life lessons which I believe someone can identify with and learn a thing or two from, especially those in the most interesting and care-free part of their existence---meaning people in my age group who are nearly or already flashing senior citizen cards whenever they eat in restaurants; or young people who may benefit from the wisdom of the young once. So save your heart, your fear or your tear, dear. I didn't grow grey hair for nothing. Let's sit and talk a while.

Know that these little nuggets of wisdom come from someone who's been there, done that. I'm my first reader and demonstrator actually. My everyday is a series of stumbles, fumbles, foibles and rising up; and what lessons these crashes and rises bring.

Besides, at least if the good Lord takes me anytime soon, and I face Him to give an account of my life, I will not be accused of having hidden and squandered whatever gift He's so graciously lent me. Too, while my memory is not yet on silent mode---because I feel it unexpectedly snoozing even without prompting---I might as well put these musings to bed. Also, what if my next book doesn't get printed? A blog entry is alive forevermore in this etherworld called the net even if it doesn't see print!

So there you are, blog. You're finally out in the open. That wasn't so hard after all. Yes, by God's grace, I did it!

With my encourager Grace Chong