Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Promise Ha?


I will give you one of these luscious cakes (courtesy of my niece Nina) if you promise me one thing:

No new year's resolutions!

Whaatt? No new year's resolutions? That's just like Christmas without Santa Claus!

Precisely! The concept of Santa had been a lie peddled through generations of unsuspecting minds. In fact, Santa has perennially stolen the thunder from the real intent of Christmas---God offering salvation to lost mankind. Christmas is Christ, Savior, not Santa or the lighted tree and the gifts under the tree.

Pure superstition or myth. That's how we too should view new year's resolutions. We bundle them with "new-year-gotta-haves" like firecrackers to ward off bad luck or wearing polka-dotted clothes or filling our baskets with round fruits when the clock strikes "new year."

Aren't all these vows just a lot of bubble which bursts as soon as the euphoria is over, with no result to show for it?

Let's run through our usual new year's resolutions and how we break them at the first instance:

"I will be honest."

Yet in a matter of seconds, another lie straight from the horse's big mouth! White lie naman, excused naman yun, di ba? But come to think of it, does heaven color-code lies?

"I will be more patient and kind."

Crossing the intersection soon after, someone rudely overtakes my driving, and all hell breaks lose! (unprintable)! Oh, where did my vow hide this time?

In fact, how many times have I promised to brush my teeth after every meal? The simplest of vows, yet I'm still unable to keep it! What gives?

Because promises are meant to be broken.

No wonder Jesus warns us from making any solemn promises. "Do not swear at all," He says in the gospel of Matthew, "either by heaven or by the earth, or Jerusalem, or by your head."

"Simply let your 'Yes' be 'Yes,' and your 'No,' 'No.' Anything beyond this comes from the evil one," He added.

Grace! That's what we really need if we want change. It starts with asking for His grace for a changed heart.

Wanting to be upright is not a matter of willpower. We need a heart-attack. Attack the source of all lying and and cursing and greed and lust. All these come from the same murky fountain anyway.

It starts with surrendering our heart to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. He alone can tame the savage beast within, making it sensitive to His leading and molding and changing.

"I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. and I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws" (Ezekiel 36:26)

Er... about that cake. What cake? Oh that cake! Oops, sorry I have to break that promise. Gosh, didn't I promise never to make a promise?

Happy new heart in the new year, everyone!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

An Open Letter to Team Excel

Dear Clarice, Tanya, Joessaine, Kisha, Gatch, Michael, Nathan, Dee, Joshua, Shantelle, Denise, Dria, and other members of Team Excel,


I encouraged you to believe in Jesus, to trust Him to give you wisdom and give you the victory.


So you did! You gave it your all, worked your case study through nights and weekends when your friends were out there gimmicking while you were cooped in a room, debating, arguing, converging. And I from time to time badgering you with need-tos. I’d give you an AAAA++++ for perseverance.


I’ll admit, there were times I had been discouraged, seeing how you “kids” struggled with analyzing and processing your case.


But we prayed—you prayed—everyday for wisdom and direction. And everything fell into place. Amazed, I saw how the details fell through the cracks, a giant puzzle put together by little hands anxious to prove that you indeed were winners.


Then I beheld the tapestry, amazed at the clarity of your assumptions, the design of the research projects, the integrity of the culled data. Making it through the finals was a breeze. And I knew you would be the champion team.


This conviction in my heart was nailed down when you presented to the panel of judges. Clearly, it was a superb presentation, towering above those who presented later. Then the stunner: Another team declared champion.


Like all of you, I could not understand it. Their data was questionable, research tools not in keeping with the case company’s internet and desired global presence. In other words, a shabby work full of holes and shallow assumptions. “Real marketing people would have seen through those,” I thought. But the judges’ decision was final.


And you, of course, reacted near to violent. I seethed inside too.


My other dilemma: how could I now convince you that God honors faith when He did not answer your prayer. You believed and persevered and never missed a beat. Though there were some mishaps in the earlier part of the project, you made up for it and never complained that I took you to task for them. And boy did you learn to excel! And you became a team!


This morning I asked God, why again. What I said yesterday, He confirmed. He's not finished yet. He’s molding your character, like gold in the fire. To be exalted, be humbled first. That’s easier said than done. It needs to be experienced. He’s molding your character to equip you for more battles. He wants you to win your entire course, not just one battle. He wants you to win the war. We expected a direct answer to our prayer. God's answer is different, and it's impact is for the long term.


Come to think of it, this one was peanuts compared to what’s in store.


Be ready for more molding and shaping and beating and stretching. One day you’ll look back at this experience and say, “God is great! He let me fly on eagle’s wings, let me through the storm and enabled me to glide above it.”


You’re now no longer wearing kid gloves. You’ve been primed for real battles. But you know what, nothing can change the fact that on that sound stage, you proved and behaved as the REAL CHAMPION.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Prophesied

I received a precious gift recently.


It came from my new-found friend Marilou Rodriguez. We both attend a ladies’ bible study.


“Why Yay?” She asked me one day, curious about my name.


“It’s the name of my father’s favorite writer during his time,” I replied.


Then on my recent birthday, she handed me a book—its pages already brown with age, a compilation of articles from a popular magazine column entitled “Where a Country Begins,” from 1955 to 1962. It’s author: Yay Marking.


Marilou scribbled: “This book has sentimental value to our family. We have taken good care of this book for about 48 years. Hope you’ll take care of it.”


I was close to tears as I leafed through its pages. Then it dawned on me. Tatay must have prophesied about my purpose, even when I was just a baby. Well, father knows best!


And our heavenly Father definitely knows! The bible says He calls us by name. He definitely knows me! All my days have been ordained by Him from the beginning of time.


What could have caused my father to own that name for his bunso? I never imagined I would—couldbe a writer, much less a book author. No wonder Tatay didn’t allow me to take a course I wanted after high school; and I even begrudged him for that. He definitely treasured something in his heart for me.



Tatay passed away a long time ago. If he were alive, he would surely be grinning from ear to ear, knowing that his little girl finally fit into the mold.


No wonder I found that name cool, and use it more often than my real one. When I started to write for magazines in the 80s, a friend suggested, “Use Yay!” And so I did, ever since.


Oh, wow! I have a name to keep up with. Yay!

Monday, December 6, 2010

MCU Community

I recently conducted a seminar for some 300 high school and college graduating students of the Manila Central University—courtesy of my long-lost friend and former San Miguel Corporation colleague Ira Maniquis—to commemorate the University’s 106th anniversary.


Thank you Ira (Ira now heads MCU's Communication Affairs on top of doing what he loves most—coaching basketball. Ira used to handle SMC's basketball teams aside from managing its Corporate Communication Office), Student Affairs Dean Lourdes Cruzat, University President Dr. Aristotle Malabanan, and the school’s various deans for your warm welcome.


I sensed the University leadership's efforts to be student advocates, be up-to-date and viral—to make learning fun and relevant to the needs of the students.


Case in point: In its recent anniversary mardi gras, everyone, from the university's management to its student organizations and groups, put together their talents and creativity so that booths could be put up and everyone tasting and enjoying whatever they could share to bless others. A practical lesson in community building.


Great packages indeed sometimes come in subtle tones. MCU had been a really low-key institution but search its website and you’d be surprised at what it’s contributed so far—some of the country’s best doctors, dentists, pharmacists and nurses, with its board examinees always making it to the top-notchers’ lists.


Hats off to you, MCU!

Monday, November 15, 2010

SCARE


Had a recent bout with the ultimate fear-faith factor.


“How long do I have?”


“Lord, will I see you soon?”


“No, still need to enjoy all my grandchildren, even those soon to come!”


“Streets of gold at last!”


“Whose hand will my hubby grasp in his old age?”


“No more pain, no more crying!”


“More books to write, more souls to win, not yet!”


“No more white hair! Forever young!”


“Lord, if this is it, let there be no more complications. Just let me walk into the light.”


I’m sure you could identify with this tug-of-war between leaving and staying. For crying out loud, I’m turning 59 before month’s end. Some of my younger friends have gone ahead. Who’s to say the next buzz isn't for me?


And what would you have thought if your doctor orders a colonoscopy because you reported a series of bloody poo days? (Could one Briton’s similar incident a long time ago have prompted the by-now classic expression, “that bloody loo?”)


Anyway, before I digress, thank God the colonoscopy confirmed that whatever I hemmed and hawed about for four days was plain and simple hemorrhoid.


But just for the sake of argument, what IF?


How can I even bargain with God? He said He held my life in His hand. My life is not my own. He created me. He knows exactly the number of days I have on planet earth.


Couldn’t our Maker who appoints the seasons and times of our lives do with us like the turning of leaves from green to orange to yellow to brown, then falling off their branches and finally finding their resting place in an obscure patch of land?


But I’m not a leaf. I am His beloved. We are His beloved!


For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son so that those who believe in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.


So how can I even fear death? As far as I am concerned, death has lost its sting! Like Paul, I believe that to be absent from this body is to be present with the Lord. I will not be a wandering ghost instilling fear in the hearts of my loved ones. Hey, heaven is heaven! I won't be staying here a second longer.


That’s why when the trumpet or the buzzer or the whistle sounds, I’m all ears. Neither am I packing anything. I have everything I need. Jesus promised salvation to all those who believe. My good works? He’ll surely reward me for those but those will not be the reason I’m entering heaven. Jesus is! Check out His conversation with Nicodemus in John 3, the bible.


Believe in Jesus. That’s your ticket to foreverland! And this is no fantasy either. Jesus promised He would go and prepare a place for us.


Proud, directionless, I-me-myself-self-centered Yay one night yielded her heart to Jesus. Little by little she grew in her faith; learned to distinguish her priorities; realized that life is not about position or power or possession, but knowing and obeying Jesus, the author and perfecter of one’s faith.


You could have that too, and no longer be afraid of death or anything. He has you covered!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Forever Big Brother

Kuya with his grandkids Raffy and Uriel


Happy birthday, Kuya!


Kuya Tony turns 73 before the end of this month. He’s the eldest among eight siblings, with me at the bottom of that ladder.


So you can imagine that when I was yet a whiny toddler (my siblings always chorused I was the ultimate cry-baby), Kuya was probably busy chasing after his crush and getting quite serious with “where-do-I-go-from-here?” thoughts.


He was, I’m told by his contemporaries, the “crush ng bayan.” I don’t doubt that at all because his old photos show a striking resemblance to current heartthrob, actor Jericho Rosales. “Pero hindi lang gwapo,” a high school classmate said, “magaling pa!” He was always on top of his class.


As expected, even while working to finish his engineering course, he excelled in college, then pursued a career which brought him to executive level in one of the country’s biggest corporations. We both retired from San Miguel Corporation in 1998.


Kuya is not so well nowadays, and he and Ate Cora, his wife, have bravely coped with the challenge. We make it a point to visit him once in a while for a tete-a-tete and to discuss some family business. Funny it’s only now that I’m seeing my brother in three-D. Coming from a big family and with six siblings in between, we hardly spent time together in our younger days.


Nowadays, he regales my brother Dan, our sister Mita and myself (our other siblings live abroad) with stories of his youth and we’d always end up laughing our heartiest laughs, hanggang maiyak sa katatawa.


Then we’d once more reminisce nung unang panahon incidents which would draw even more teary laughter. When our cousin Kuya Ador (Kuya’s contemporary) joins us in these visits, our conversations turn more hilarious.


Kuya Tony recently talked about his first pair of leather shoes, bought after religiously saving money to afford his dream brand. “Besa shoes!” This new yuppie sat on the bus one day, excited about his prized acquisition and imagining everyone admiring it when he got off in our hometown (Sampaloc, Quezon). He sat like someone on cloud nine, extended his foot a bit too far, then felt a scrape. Besa's been scratched! “Mayabang kasi!” He now laughs it off.


But really, Kuya had never been a show-off. I remember him as a hard-worker and passionate about life, even music—he was my Pavarotti! But never boastful.


After his recent hospital stay, Kuya lost considerable weight. Well, we all grow old and lose weight and never look like our former selves. That’s life.


But my image of Kuya will never changekind, funny, considerate, self-controlled, patient, intelligent and wise, lover of life, a good son, father, husband and provider to his family.


Kuya Tony will forever be my big brother!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Yuppie Map



(With Butch Jimenez and cover artist designer Nixon Na)

“You’re trying to make your mark in the corporate world. The workplace will test your character and your faith. You either go with the flow – you compromise. Or you go away – you resign. But there’s another way. You go up – you submit to God and trust Him to mold you as you do your job in the best way you can.

”In Going Up? the author, Yay Padua-Olmedo, shares with you lessons she learned from 30 years of navigating through the pitfalls and highpoints of the corporate world. Going Up? is filled with nuggets of practical wisdom you can apply in your everyday work situations.”


This blurb basically describes my second book, launched recently by OMF at the Manila International Book Fair.


If you’re a yuppie, I pray you’d go and get the book, now available in OMF Literature and other Christian bookstores. Penned in those pages may be something you can relate with, for a sort aha! moment you may need re your current work situation.


That of course is the Holy Spirit’s work. Mine was just to dig up the experience. His is to flavor your reading with wisdom.


I hope this excerpt from Butch Jimenez’s (currently senior vice president and head of Human Resources and Corporate Transformation, PLDT) foreword helps:


“Yay’s book is a balance of everything. While she drives home principles, theories and more importantly values that will help a person navigate through the corporate maze, she draws these principles not from textbooks but from actual experience, as she herself rose from the ranks in some of the country’s biggest companies.


“In many respects, this book is like a map. It helps guide you. A map can’t take you to the place you want to go. You have to ride in a car or start walking to get there. But a map does guide you where to turn right or left, or what to do when faced with a fork in the road. If you want a ‘heads up’ on what you may experience in your corporate journey, this book will give you the insights.


“Finally, a distinctive of this book is that it is written with a lot of wisdom. A lot of business books are filled with tech­nical knowledge. But in truth, it is wisdom that will help you make the right decisions and take the right path. God once asked a young man what he would want most in the world. The man asked for wisdom. And he went on to become the most powerful man of his time.


“For those starting on the journey into the wild and crazy corporate world—here’s a map to guide you along the way.”

(With loved ones, the OMF family, friends and book lovers)

Monday, September 13, 2010

Joaqui's Favourite Pastime


Forgive me if I crow a bit. Believe me, only grandparents are entitled to this privilege.


Got some great Joaqui news.


Of course to a grandparent like me, “great” may mean that special moment Joaqui started turning to his side, the first time he chuckled, the moment he pointed to the Jollibee mascot and said “Jabee,” or his first ever no sablay dash to the toilet.


When Joaqui adeptly held my son’s drumsticks for the first time and wowed us with his baby drumsing (that was what he said when caught with the sticks, “Oh, I’m just drumsing!”), we naturally chorused, “Hallelujia!”


So here we are again, proud grandparents, grinning from ear to ear as if Joaqui won an Oscar. So, as usual, I’m just too happy to share his opus with you.


“My Favorite Pastime,” speech he delivered at Mt. Annan Christian School’s (Campbelltown, NSW) Speech Night (second place among Year 2—Grade 2 in our system—contenders):


“My favourite past time is playing with my sister. I like my sister because she’s very funny and silly.* My favourite game to play with her is hide and seek and tag. We like playing together because she is part of my family.


“My sister’s name is Charlize. She looks cute. She has long black hair and big beautiful eyes. I love my sister. And I’ll still love and forgive her every time she does something wrong.


“My sister is 3 years old. And when she turns 4, she’ll go to prep next year and I’m excited to be the one to pick her up from her classroom.


“My sister is very joyful and happy and is always there to cheer me up. That’s why playing with my sister is my favourite past time.”


Paolo Joaquin Atas, bow.

------

*To Australians, “silly” stands for being playful and humorous

Monday, September 6, 2010

Super-Size Me

What makes your blood pressure rise whenever you see one of these hallowed brands in a store window?

Louis Vuitton? Hermes? Gucci? Prada? Chanel? Rolex? Lacoste?

I bet you would say, “All of the above!”

We love good brands. That’s understandable—since trusted brands assure us of quality and performance. A trustworthy company surely takes the pain to gain its customers’ confidence, making sure its brands satisfy for the long term, giving them that extra edge above other consumers.

No wonder they command the highest prices. And their customers don’t flinch!

Offer Paris Hilton a stylish $10,000 Hermes Birkin bag—a brand which easily caters to her vanity and which she may love too for its utilitarian appeal—and she’d just be too happy to oblige.

You may get the same unblinking reaction from our own very own Ruffa Gutierrez, or Jinky Pacquiao. With the latter’s billions, who’s to say she couldn’t have a Louis Vuitton, even if it costs Manny, the world’s most prized boxer, say P200,000?

Inggit lang tayo!

But we ordinary mortals would flinch at these price tags! In the first place, LVs or Rolexes are out of our league.

Enter jafakes. They look and sometimes feel like the real McCoy.

And they definitely envelop you with a weighty super-size me aura—a sparkle which gets to your friends whom you truly magnetize with your feel-rich blings .

Because otherwise, why settle for a jafake when you can trust another brand which will work as efficiently anyway.

Case in point: I bought an imitation designer bag for a few bucks. In a few months’ time, its handles gave way, so bye-bye runaway Coach!

Naunahan kasi ng porma, instead of common sense.

So I made sure my next choice was a no-nonsense yet still stylish leather bag. It was definitely costlier than a jafake, but it didn’t cost me a fortune, and proved a good match to its weightier contents. (You know what things teachers lug around in our bags?)

I’m sure I’m not alone. Most of us Filipinos have a collective propensity to embrace branded products, no matter how fake.

I used to go with my sister Daisy (She’s now in heaven by the way and so immune from the worldly desires we still struggle with.) to Greenhills shopping center. Oh boy, those goods really looked delicious. Of course they were all fakes! But observe shoppers going gaga over them.

So who are we to blame for our collective love affair with branded goods, even if they’re not the real thing? (Don’t we always look for a whipping boy?)

“Mental colony,” someone wittily punned "colonial mentality" a long time ago to satirize our tendency to glorify anything American even if they're undesirable. But we’ve moved from being a US stooge. Today, we are as competitive as any Tommy Hilfiger, Dickies and Harry Potter brand.

My goodness, we devour foreign authors’ works yet snub our own which can stand up against them. (Please excuse this diversion so I can plug my book—“GOING UP? Making Right Choices at Work”—due for release at the International Book Fair, SMX, Mall of Asia, Sept. 15-19. Please look for the OMF booth.)

Honestly, we can never be defined by our possessions, more so by the brands we acquire.

And I’ve discovered that only one brand—or one name or one manufacturer or one identity —matters.

“For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Eph 2:10). The bible says that in the Lord’s hand, I am a brand new creation!

Why must I be agog about other brands when what matters IS MINE already?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Oceans High Fives

I love the sight of the big ocean. But I hate being in it. Simple reason: I can’t swim!

Give me the swimming pool any time! I could attempt to float; and if I find myself remaining in the same spot (which happens all the time!), I know I’ve not been washed to the edge of the world, so that’s okay. How could I perish with giant rubber duckies and four tiled concrete walls hemming me in?

But sometimes I just could not avoid it. It comes with the territory. Maybe His way of telling me too that whether on land or the vast sea, or in the valley, if He’s the one holding my life, why fear?

So I did walk on water one day, like Peter! Er, call that walking under the sea. No, I wasn’t cast as a mermaid in a Disney movie.

I was then a free-lance writer and was invited by an airline for a familiarization tour of Saipan, a Pacific island territory of the United States. One of the tour’s highlights was a mid-ocean tete-a-tete with Nemo and his underwater friends.

Made to wear this astronaut-like headgear (cool, huh—which allowed the water to reach only our shoulder even underwater), we were then led through a stairway going to the bottom of the sea. Holding on to a rope as we walked on, yes, the ocean floor, we then received a pinch each of fish food. Then they surged—schools of fish of varying colors and designs, dancing then swarming! I recognized Dory, friend of Nemo’s father in the crowd.

I sort of heard her sneer, “So now you know how it is to be inside an aquarium and be taken captive,” as my thighs tingled with their nibbling. “This is revenge for Nemo, you human!” Good thing piranhas didn’t join our tormentors, or should I say, new-found friends.

My recent brush with the ocean was again part of work. Coming by air through Semirara island, we then took a one hour (seemed endless in my mind) boat ride to the island of Caluya for a two-day planning and team-building seminar for Caluya’s municipal staff.

My imagination worked overdrive again: “What if…?” It rained the entire trip and though the sea didn’t roar and foam, those jerky sea wavelets had me retracing Jonah’s three days inside the belly of the big fish. Yes Lord, I repent!

Of course it turned out the fish would be in our belly instead. From day one in Caluya, we feasted on Lapu-lapu (bought by our host at P88 per kilo!) and the best kinds of fish, big and small, which if you’re in Manila, would cost you a slice of your fake signature bag.

And so with thoughts of ocean disaster far from my mind, I made the most of this rare island adventure. Our team, composed of Trixie, Eddan and myself, and beefed up on the third day by Miguel and Vicky, buckled down to work.

It’s good to know that in this remote Antique island lives a group of people with a passion for transforming their communities into models of good governance.

Mayor Genevieve Lim, who asked for this exercise, is a first-term mayor. She ran in lieu of her father—then the incumbent mayor—who succumbed to cardiac arrest weeks before the recent elections.

Mayor Lim believes in the value of planning and teamwork if she is to succeed in her calling. Remember Joseph in the bible? God gave him a dream. He eventually achieved it in spite of discouragements and trials. I pray Mayor Lim will be unfazed as she leads her people to better days.

With that in mind, our boat ride back to Semirara for our plane ride back to Manila seemed much more pleasant. Wow, the island really looked beautiful this warm sunny day!

We may feel like a tiny plankton in the middle of the big ocean but crossing it has its rewards.

High fives for braving the big ocean!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Change

Everyday change is what we need.

I mean lose change, especially if you live in BF Homes, Paranaque, where parking in its commercial areas almost always requires tipping a whistle-blowing teenage boy, a kuya or a manong so you can back out of your parking slot.

Frankly, it's no sweat getting out of your parking slot. That's why cars have rear view mirrors and breaks; yet somehow, we've relied on these guys to prrt-prrt us out of there for one simple reason: Better for them to prrt-prrt than to pick pockets or beg.

So it's a real problem if I run out of lose change.

It comes handy too when you go for other services like your car's gas refill, which I went for today.

But oh-me oh-my, I ran out of lose change.

Gas boy Ardent (If my memory serves me right. Promise, I memorized his name!) offered to clean my front windshield while my tank got filled.

"No, wala na akong pang-tip (I don't have anything for tip)," I refused.

"OK lang po," he said cheerfully; then proceeded with his wiping chore; adding, "Lilinisin ko na rin po yung likod (I will clean the back windshield also)."

Not content, he added, "Tingnan ko na rin po yung tubig at oil (I'll see if your radiator water and oil are OK.)," After finding out these were good, he didn't offer to sell me anything as I'd experienced may times in the past with other gasoline station attendants.

Ardent didn't stop there. Observing my limp-looking left front tire (which I had put off airing for sometime), he directed me to the air pump; then sent me off with his undiminished smile.

Thanking him profusely and leaving him with a big, "God bless you!" I took a mental note of giving him a big tip the next time around.

My tip would be a pittance however compared to what God has in store for Ardent. I wondered what promotion awaits him as he consistently performs a swell job.

That's by far greater than some lose change!

Jesus tells us a similar story (Matthew 25:23) where a master tells his servant: "Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things. Come and share your master's happiness."

Reminds me of the apostle Paul who said, "Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men, because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does..." (Ephesians: 6:7-8).

Pressed down, shaken together, overflowing blessings! That's no lose change.

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Saga of the Toga and the Hope of Ana

I’ve never felt comfortable wearing the toga.

An ancient accoutrement, it comes with a cape which eventually ends up burying your neck till only your chin—double, in my case today—shows.

Plus I hate it when the toga cap messes my coif. After you take it off, notice your by-now-plateau-top.

But in spite of the toga travail, donning that gown and cape (as faculty members), and seeing our students—especially long-staying ones—move on, is a pleasure.

If only togas could talk! Rented year in and year out, their stories could fill volumes of tele-novela episodes.

Oh that they would record graduation speeches! Would these talks be graded corny, tear-jerker, snore-inducing, highfalutin, inspirational, or plain gibberish?

The graduation speech delivered last Saturday by Macky, one of our finest students, deserved an A for honesty, inspiration, entertainment value, and yes, some drama. A great toga moment.

Here’s another for toga memory:

After receiving her diploma and getting offstage, Ana (not her real name) bent over me for a beso-beso. Then she hugged me tight and didn’t let go until we were both crying and laughing.

That was Ana’s D-day. She proved that in spite of a learning disability, one can stand tall in the company of scholars and learned men.

I was in charge of the school’s mentoring program that term Ana enrolled. Instead of assigning her to other teachers, I appointed myself to be her mentor.

Ana struggled passing her subjects. Teachers spent longer hours coaching her on assignments and projects. But she always came to class on time. She too was very courteous.

And we met regularly as mentor-mentee. Pretty soon, we were discussing not just school matters. Ana shared her dream of opening a flower shop. She talked of her crush.

Some days, she asked for mentoring time to just share how bad she felt—some mean individuals ridiculed her slowness. Oh how we prayed for them too.

But Ana has a special gift. She could write. And unlike most students, she could speak flawless English. Her mother took pride in the fact that despite her learning disability, Ana was skillful with words.

“Written by Ana.” I have since envisioned Ana authoring children’s books.

Oh, that the toga could tell us more Macky and Ana stories to encourage the young that if they persevered and asked God for wisdom, the future would be promising.

“You who are simple, gain prudence, you who are foolish, gain understanding. Choose my instruction instead of silver, knowledge rather than choice gold, for wisdom is more precious than rubies, and nothing you desire can compare with her.” (Proverbs 8: 5, 10-11)

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Love Your Rubbery Tapa: A Lesson from Jocelyn and Mary

This morning, my concern was to just fill my already stinging stomach.

“Never allow yourself to go hungry.” My doctor always nagged me against going without food as a precaution to ward off migraine, my sort of thorn-in-the-flesh adversary.

And having come from a blood extraction (for annual physical exam) which required an overnight fast, my mind really just focused on food to prevent the onset of migraine.

Nearest stop: McDonald’s Alabang Town Center. But the parking lot was so full, I just had to drive on. “Food, I need to have food.” My head started to ache.

Then I made a wrong turn and found myself in BF’s Tropical Hut Hamburger.

Anyway, breakfast at last! The coffee was good but I wasn’t happy at all with my rubbery tapa.

I sat near a table where a mother cuddled her baby. Starting a conversation with her, I pretty soon discovered her “baby” was already a 14-year old girl, curled up like an overgrown fetus.

Mary suffered from cerebral palsy so she leaned on her mother Jocelyn like a spineless infant. Jocelyn said she was waiting for her other daughter so they could go home to their shanty somewhere in Sucat.

“Nabenta po lahat ng tinda kong sabon (All of my detergent products have been sold.),” she gladly related, pointing to her empty bag; implying too that she’d finished her snack, when I offered to order her one.

Jocelyn added that she and her brothers and sisters played musical instruments. She was adept with the guitar and even performed with a show band when she was younger.

Her only dream was to provide Mary the best care and have her other daughter finish college.

Before we parted, Jocelyn and I prayed—for Mary and for God’s grace to abound in her life and her family. I even invited her to church.

My slowly percolating headache was gone, replaced with joy for having met Jocelyn and Mary.

Yet I felt ashamed. Being so focused on my gut and my pain, I almost lost sight of what mattered.

So what if once in a while our head aches, or the beef is rubbery, or that our wallet just has a few cents left.

I pray these fleeting concerns won’t consume us to the point that we get immune to those who hurt around us. God allowed me a detour this morning to let me peek into my heart.

Moses prayed (Psalm 90:12), “Teach us to number our days aright that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” May His wisdom allow us to be sensitive to others, as well as teach us to value every little blessing.

Friday, July 2, 2010

In fashion?

My friend, Grace, and I get drawn to almost the same things displayed in store windows—maybe because our creative handle on things oftentimes intersects.

We chorus “wow” and “nice” looking at the same bling or clothing draped on skinny mannequins.

Then we’d end up shrieking and laughing, “horrible!” “disgusting!” soon after the hologram-like image of ourselves in skimpy wear kicks in.

Yes, window-shopping in the mall is fun. But we—wowa types—prefer to linger nowadays in coffee shops or restaurants to just talk.

Grace and I almost always find ourselves driving to either Pergola Mall in BF or SM Southmall after our teaching hours in the school where both of us are lecturers.

That’s either Shakey’s or Sugarhouse. Could it be that we, being “old dogs,” couldn’t be taught new tricks anymore? Who cares, we love their cushioned chairs and polite service.

But wait, yesterday, we tried Amici’s gelato. “This is the life,” Grace sighed as we sat down to lick our espresso ice cream.

Trying new things is definitely refreshing.

I’m endlessly amazed at how designers craft out-of-the-way and radical stuff then have fashionistas raving. Things I couldn’t imagine wearing are cool to others.

I guess that’s all right as far as fashion goes. But we’ve somehow treated real stuff like closet stuff.

What’s your reaction to this news? “This week, Iceland's Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardotti married her longtime partner Jonina Leosdottir, making her the first head of government in the world to marry a same-sex partner.”

That was part of our coffee time conversation yesterday. “If a country’s leaders brazenly violate God’s laws, how could they possibly expect their citizens to follow man-made laws?”

And we agreed, “When people do not accept divine guidance, they run wild…” (Prov 29:18)

How far can we really push the boundaries and say that wrong is right and right is wrong? Or that one fits me, but not you. We treat God’s commands like we’re choosing from a Shakey’s menu.

God’s eternal word is no menu. It’s His way of making us stay on a certain path so we can enjoy life, not just the menu!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Oh Wowa!

Apostolic work. If you’re a Filipino grandmother, you’re probably familiar with this joke.

“Apo” is Pilipino for grandchild.

Because grandmothers like me presumably have a lot of spare time, we find ourselves being asked or volunteering to help our children who have decided to live abroad.

The SOS becomes louder when their kids start coming. Retired moms to their next apostolic mission!

I stayed a full three months in Sydney to help my daughter Lucci when she gave birth to her baby girl, Charlize (She’s now three years old.); and to relish just being Lola (“Wowa,” says Charlize today.) to her then five year old son Joaqui.

I remember being an eagle-eyed and extra-cautious baby-sitter when Joaqui and I joined the picnic of my sister Dulce’s family in a water fun resort (without Joaqui’s parents of course).

But all caution was thrown to the wind when grandkid and wowa braved the water slide—with both of us screaming while I cradled Joaqui on my legs through almost a half kilometer of sloshing and fast-winding turns.

A repeat of that? My wowa insinct screamed, “No way, Jose!” But for the love of apo, one heart-stopping splash was tolerable.

I begged and cajoled Joaqui afterwards that the small kiddie cartoon character boats with their tame sprinklers and lazy rocking were the best for him.

Good thing many boys his age frolicked in those parts. Which then made me so self-conscious, being in the middle of all those babies. “Whoa, any adults here? Who’s taking care of all these kids?”

I even learned to ride my grandson’s shifty-wheeled car or whatever they called it. In another picnic, my sister Dulce and I pulled those cars uphill then raced down to our campsite. How many times, I forget.

Whew, adrenaline rush fit only for the young—or the young at heart!

Apostolic missions are the best ways for wowas to learn new tricks, make one feel younger and guarantee weight loss. Imagine doing round-the-clock exercise.

Sweeping, mopping, washing dishes, carrying or feeding the baby, changing diapers, —name it, you don’t need to go to the gym to keep fit. I would almost always return to Manila ten pounds lighter!

And how nice it is to tuck those little ones to bed, first with a book—to feed their mind and jog their imagination; then with a prayer—to let them feel secure in the love of Jesus.

A wowa mission again? Any time!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Sorry for What

Oh how we love plants. We talk to them, believing they’ll thrive if we handled them with TLC.

Some of us get attached to animals, treating them like kin, even bedding with them.

Isn’t it true that we sometimes care more for moss yet dismiss people like dross?

Jonah the prophet is typical. God told him to go to Nineveh to warn the city of God’s wrath if they didn’t shape up.

He went the opposite way, riding a boat to Tarshish. But God’s business was---and up to now---that of loving people and saving them.

So He chased the boat with a storm, forcing its crew to throw Jonah into the sea. Three days inside the belly of a fish, he had no choice but to repent and obey God.

He did warn Nineveh of God’s impending doom if they didn’t repent, which they did; so God withheld destruction.

Jonah’s reaction? “Very angry,” was how the bible described his response---because God didn’t level the sinful city.

As Jonah sulked, God made a leafy plant to grow beside him to shield him from the sun. But too came a worm. It ate the plant which pretty soon died.

Feeling sore that the plant withered, he became furious again. “Is it right for you to be angry because the plant died?” God asked.

“You feel sorry about the plant... Nineveh has more than 120,000 people living in spiritual darkness... Shouldn’t I feel sorry for such a great city? (Jonah 4:10,11)

Aren’t we just like Jonah? Raring to pounce on others because we think they’re scum and so must suffer God’s wrath.

Honestly, we all are guilty just like the people of Nineveh. None exempt!

That’s why Jesus came. He showed us Jonah-and-Nineveh-types that God’s grace overlooks our wrongs. Jesus offers love and forgiveness instead.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Days

Hi, I’m back. So sorry for my long absence.

After a string of activities—from doing seminars and stuff for some clients, getting involved in family events, to days when I was quite busy with really nothing, it feels good to blog again.

One of the special gatherings we attended on my husband’s side of the family was my brother-in-law’s birthday. Lito, their eldest, blew his 80th birthday candle.

I say “candle” because having 80 candles to blow may have been quite a feat for someone who has seen the sun set more than 29 thousand times. But at 80, Lito is a guy in control, planning his birthday up to the minutest detail. And what a blast his gig was!

I wonder if I could even reach that far. My guess is, I just might, because my mother went to be with the Lord at age 92; her sister at close to 100.

If Nanay didn’t break her pelvic bone (one day her behind missed the rocking chair), she could have lived to a hundred. I’m sure she’s a pretty 16 year old in her heavenly body now.

But I’m not even aiming for a hundred earth years.

“Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12). I just want to complete my assignment. With flying colors! And when I’m done, I’m done!

Our days are just like a breath really. But what a sweet breath it would be if we spent it with His purpose as our daily fare.

Time to quit doing nothing.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Why I Will Vote for Eddie Villanueva

Scams have been exposed. Accusations and counter-accusations have been hurled. And he-did-she-did emails continue to pour in day in and day out, to the point that my political meter is bust.

And it’s been like this election after election.

Then we still get a president who plunges us deeper into the pit. Marcos,Aquino, Estrada, Arroyo. One was so brilliant he managed to perpetuate himself in power, scandalously enriching himself in the process and institutionalizing corruption as a way of life in all levels of society.

The next one blew it so bad but we charged it to her inexperience. The one after her led us through his drunken stupors and brought us even deeper. The last one simply wouldn’t let go even if all of us started to vomit her like last night’s lead-infused meal.

But maybe we got it all wrong. We’ve been too immersed in glorifying or blasting qualifications, and in witch hunt and dirt-digging (Enough of the slander and the complaining already!), that we still end up getting the wrong side of the bargain.

Because we’ve lost sight of what really matters.

That’s why this time around, I’ve decided to vote for a president who was not built through praise release, catchy jingles and adspend, or by consistent jockeying for prominence in Congress. I will vote for one who has performed consistently and is himself not afraid of change—and who has a solid campaign platform besides.

I will vote for Eddie Villanueva. Education and experience credentials-wise, he can stand toe to toe against the rest of the candidates. He finished Political Science and business courses; was and still is an educator and a teacher.

Today, he leads a five million-strong congregation—worldwide. And this is where the road forks. He has replicated his leadership style such that wherever you go and you meet a Jesus is Lord member, you see them as upright, hardworking, capable and God-fearing people. My husband and I have JIL friends all over and they are the most law-abiding and one of the finest people to be around with—humble too if I may add.

Change is what we crave for. Don’t all these demonstrate what one God-fearing person can do?

Brother Eddie is himself a changed person. Formerly hateful and vengeful because of an injustice done to his family, he met Jesus one day and changed paths, afterwards dedicating himself to influencing young people to turn themselves to the Lord so that they can experience change themselves.

Shouldn’t we be happy that a God-fearing yet capable leader is making himself available? I say “God-fearing” first, “capable” second. Eddie Villanueva is no saint. I have seen him make wrong decisions and take flak for these boo-boos. But he fears God! And he’s also capable. And his capability has been shown in the lives he’s touched and helped turn around.

Change is what I crave for, so I will give my vote to Eddie Villanueva. Besides, he acknowledges that apart from God, he could not do the task. Folks, let’s be very honest about it. Apart from God, we could not change. It is all by His grace! And I am confident that Eddie Villanueva will heed God’s voice for every decision he makes.

And please, let’s dissociate ourselves from the notion that God and government are separate entities. Atheists in the U.S. have succeeded in taking God out of their public education system. Look at where godless American youth—and their nation—are headed today.

Since the beginning of time, God blessed nations whose leaders led their people to righteousness; and cursed those whose leaders were wicked. “The government will be on His shoulder,” says the bible. That’s why we need Jesus-acknowledging leaders who will not be ashamed to heed God and follow after righteousness.

Why are we in this deep morass? What can we do about it? “If My people shall humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will heal their land.” Pray, my friend! God will surely answer.

It’s time for real change.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Cry Out

O Lord, you reign!

You’re the great God who, by your Word, made everything. Your Word is truth, your promises unfailing.

Your Word is alive in Christ, Your Son, the Word who became flesh. He offered salvation, that those who put their trust in Him would not perish but live; and enjoy
abundant life.

Jesus, you are alive forevermore, continuously interceding for us, enabling us though we are weak. Forgive us for our pride, for thinking that we are by ourselves great and don’t need your help.

We cry out to you. We repent of our sins. Save us from this quicksand which we ourselves jumped into! We say we love You and we love our country but we continue to grumble, disobey and tear each other apart, and by so doing grieve your Spirit.

Change our hearts of stone and replace them with hearts that are sensitive to you and your leading. And as we humble ourselves before you, reveal your perfect will for our nation.

Forgive us for believing that change will happen because of the will or the ability of man, or because we chose leaders whose names the multitudes shout aloud in the streets.

Forgive us if we’ve put a dividing line between governance and our faith, justifying this as separation of church and state; thus negating your promise that “The government will be upon Your shoulder!”

Help us not to be swayed by the voice of the multitude which compels us to choose a leader because he will be a sure winner, and to not reject those with hearts of integrity, are attuned to Your will and are qualified to lead because of their experience.

So I pray and agree with those who continue to believe in your promise: “If my people who are called by My Name shall humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I shall hear from heaven and heal their land.”

Our land will dance again because of You!

Let each one who claims to be a Christian humble His heart, seek You and obey You; because if we obey, You will move, mightily! Joshua obeyed God and the Jordan river parted so the Israelites passed through dry ground to conquer their promised land.

For with God nothing is impossible. To You be all the glory!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Incredible Semirara

It’s definitely not love at first sight.

Because that’s surely what you’d feel when you set foot on Boracay with its fantastic beaches, impressive resorts and sophisticated-looking vacationers.

Getting off the plane on Semirara island—just a few nautical miles from Boracay, you’d be impressed by, hmm… let me think. The concrete runway, that’s it! And nothing more.

Everywhere else you go is dust—no need for facial powder because you’d get all powdery anyway by just going out where the tricycles and huge trucks rumbled.

But there I go again! That’s me being judgmental. I judged Semirara even before the dust had settled.

Mea culpa! Today, I'm totally smitten by Semirara.

Because Semirara is anything but dull. Under that limestoney facade are layers and layers of coal. Hot! That means subsidized power rates for the residents even as its coal is sold elsewhere.

But power is just the tip of the iceberg. Its people are so blessed they’re always thanking the good Lord for their windfall of blessings; and they’re many.

Semirara is part of the Antique islands in the Visayas. It used to be literally dirt-poor, a fourth class municipality—until Semirara Mining Corporation (SMC).

The company took over the island’s mining operations in 1997 and since then, things have not been the same. The municipality has become filthy rich, as has the province and the national economy. And mind you, it even surpasses Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) conditions!

Semirara Mining has transformed the island’s first mine into a lake which now teems with rich marine life and attracts migratory birds searching for food-rich tropical destinations.

If you’re a first timer, it would be hard to imagine that this huge placid lake overlooking the ocean was previously a mine pit dug more than 200 meters below sea level. Rehabilitation around the mine area goes on full blast, with narra, molave, coconut and other fruit trees and agricultural crops being planted everywhere.

Its second mine, Panian, is also almost mined out. Soon, a third mine’s overburden or soil will fill up the huge Panian crater. Get ready for a greater-than-Boracay destination because SMC is serious about turning this entire island into an eco-tourism hub that will demonstrate eco-friendly practices—a world standard if you please.

So what makes us think this vision is not just lip service, as many companies are wont to do just to get their way to stuff their pockets full?

Here lies the difference: Aside from the massive rehabilitation and development efforts, both of its inland and marine resources, SMC is investing a lot—and I mean humongous sums—on education and the training of Semirara residents on skills and entrepreneurship, and supporting them every which way possible.

Prime example: Its fisherfolk have greatly increased their catch because they now have five big boats for deep sea fishing, a good-sized pier and an ice plant. The company’s marine biologists, on the other hand, have started to propagate giant clams in the island’s widely-protected mangroves (which the company also planted) to quicken the production of marine life.

Giant clams apparently help filter and enrich the water with food, making mangroves caring nurseries for baby fish.

SMC president Victor Consunji states it simply: “When our task is over, we want to leave a place where its leaders and residents are equipped to manage their resources and their future. The island’s wealth should accrue to them.”

Is this Shangri-la? No, it’s just a place where a company—with its uncommon leaders—makes common-sense work for the good of many. (And I’m not in its payroll.)

Hats off to you, Mr. Consunji, your team and the Semirara people!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Fly High

I would like to reproduce portions of the message I was privileged to share yesterday with the graduating elementary students of the Perpetual Help System in Biñan, Laguna:

Let me tell you a short story about an eaglet named Norman.

“Norman, would you like to fly? You can try,“ pleaded Norman’s Mom. Her name was Betsy.

But Norman was just too happy and content playing with his toys. He too was afraid to go out of his nest. Oh how soft and comfortable it was! Besides, if he wanted food, Mom Betsy just gave him a delicious wriggly worm.

One day, Mom Betsy brought home some twigs and small branches. “Aw, that hurts,” complained Norman whenever he bumped into them. Later on, the nest even had rocks and other rough things.

“Fly, Norman?” Mom Betsy tried to convince him again, pushing him little by little to the edge of the nest.

Oops, Norman fell! “Fly wings, fly!” He commanded his wings, panicking. But his wings would not obey. Oops, they’re opening, they’re opening. Oh no, I’m dead!

Mom Betsy caught him just in time before he hit the ground. Supermom saved fearful Norman, just like Superman!

“I can fly, I can really fly,” thought Norman after he realized what Mom was doing. His wings did flap, even a little. “Mom, let’s do it again,” he bravely said.

So Norman practiced flying. Mom Betsy would scoop him, bring him up in the air, then drop him, forcing Norman to open his wings and fly.

Again and again they did it, with Betsy dropping Norman from higher and higher heights, so he could fly longer and farther.

Now he was enjoying the wind and gliding in the air just like a real pro. He became such an expert and excellent flyer he became known as “King Norman.”

In seconds, he could shoot up high in the sky, spot his prey like a rabbit or a monkey with his powerful eagle eyes, then just as quickly dive for it.

An eagle is meant to fly.

Let’s come down to earth. To this beautiful country we call the Phiippines.

Here, a young Caviteño named Efren Peñaflorida decided in his heart that he would help children learn to read and write and dream like himself, and therefore help them escape poverty.

Efren was proclaimed by CNN last year as “the hero” besting nine other heroes from all over the world. He received a trophy and a huge amount of prize money in elaborate ceremonies in the U.S.

In our country too was born years ago, a gifted woman named Cecile Licad. Discovered later as a child prodigy, she was soon hailed by concert masters worldwide as a genius at the piano, bringing our country honor wherever she played, a model of perseverance and discipline.

I am proud to say that, last Sunday, I was one of those who lined up to get her autograph and take her picture after her free concert in a mall near our place.

You see, even before the world proclaimed Efren and Cecile great, they were great within themselves first. They are everyday people just like you and me. But like Norman, our eaglet, they discovered their gift, used it and soared with it.

Thank God for parents who lovingly push you to study, study, study; and practice, practice, practice. Some of you need to be pushed harder but that is for your own good. Because they could not forever baby you.

You must fly. You must soar. Because that is God’s plan for you. You are His wondrous creation, made in His image—that is why you can do wonderful things, just like Efren and Cecile; and not to forget Norman, our mighty eagle.

So what is your gift? Is it in the arts, science, math, writing, teaching, in computers, in building things? Better yet, what is your dream? Never face life without it because without a dream, it is so easy to give up when problems come.

Here’s your challenge: Be an everyday hero. Be the best in whatever you do, everyday. Be honest, be decent, be concerned, be committed. Always think that someone is looking up to you.

If you see people around you cheating or going through the red light or giving a bribe, don’t be like them. Be great within yourself even in un-great situations.

One tiny light will make all the difference in the world. Jesus did just that and changed our world and our lives entirely.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Muchness

I’m a great fan of Johnny Depp, not because he’s such a looker but because he brings such freshness and quirkiness into each character he tackles onscreen.

He did it again in Alice in Wonderland which my daughter-in-law Opal and I watched recently as part of our bonding time.

“You’ve lost your muchness,” his Mad Hatter character told Alice, sort of rebuking her for stubbornly believing that whatever she was going through in Underland was a dream and that its problems didn’t concern her.

The statement struck me—on top of all the delightful scenes and effects ingeniously created by director Tim Burton.

I suppose the kid in us accounts for much of this muchness.

We can think fantasy, just like author Lewis Carroll whose “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” inspired this movie; or wonder, like Johnny Depp who approaches a role like he were treating us to candy ready to be unwrapped then slowly savored, leaving one clamoring for more, with some shrieks and chuckles besides; or other-wordly, like Tim Burton’s take on most of his movies (Remember Edward Scissorhands and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory?).

I would love for me to think like a child again—for muchness.

Then I would not be so dense to reject others’ point of view, or judge them or consider them less than myself.

I would be more teachable, like Alice learned “why” when she went to that place in her heart where she became a child again.

That was when she understood and took her mission to heart.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Gay, Lord!

Are you gay-proof?

How do you react when you see gay people on television, walk into a beauty parlor full of them, or sit beside them in church?

With aversion or amusement? A lot of us really don’t care. Wala lang.

And are gays really gay? Having accepted themselves for who they are, are they now freer to celebrate life and do what they wish to do? Are they happy with their new-found freedom?

Not really, says John Zulueta, executive director of Bagong Pagasa, an organization which counsels and trains homosexuals to rebuild their lives on the basis of God’s love and perfect plan for them.

Bagong Pag-asa recently held a seminar (Citygate Christian Ministries, BF Homes) on homosexuality and the Church’s response to it.

Zulueta and his co-facilitators assert that homosexuality is an identity and relationship problem. And in the process of dealing with it, gay people shield their inner hurts with their celebratory tactics—carefree lifestyle, partying, colorful lingo or slapstick behavior.

And they’re not nursing those wounds either. They just get sucked into a downward spiral, making us believe that life is rosy when in reality they’re just groping in the dark.

Zulueta’s team managed to slowly unmask the seminar participants’—supposedly “normal” people’s—deep-rooted bias against homosexuals which all the more drives them into a world diametrically opposed to ours. It was a big eye-opener for me.

Co-facilitators Carl and Francis testified of their journey into homosexuality and back into the mainstream—because of those who invested their time and unconditional love into their lives.

Put it all together—condemning words, confused self image because of faulty modeling by parents and others close to them, abusive treatments, molestation during childhood—and you have a pretty explosive recipe for gay-hood.

To say that homosexuality is inborn is like saying God made a mistake in creating us. We—supposedly normal people—with our self-righteous indifference, must have unwittingly caused some of them to refuse help.

It's time we see things in a new light.

The good news is, God is still in control. No matter how seemingly irreversible one's situation, He sends those who are willing to turn Gay into Jay.

For more information on Bagong Pag-asa, go to www.bagongpagasa.org.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Grace to Write

I’m probably one of the most undisciplined writers you can find.

I teeter between being passionate about it one time, then lazy the next. Pretty reminiscent of my menopause years when hot and cold, hot and cold seemed to be the order of the day.

That’s why I like hanging out with my writer friend Grace. She’s like Paul to his disciple Timothy—but in my case, Grace may feel she’s coaching a stubborn procrastination-bound mule.

I got caught in a gentle avalanche of Grace’s writing wisdom again in the recent OMF writers’ fellowship. She talked about developing a writing habit; and there it was again, boom! God’s loving entreaty yet stinging poke at my wandering heart: Take your writing seriously!

Grace confesses to spending 80 per cent of her planned writing day, writing. And she does it prodigiously, like her deadline were yesterday.

I woke up today focused on two writing jobs—this article and another essay. Last night, I planned, for the nth, and hopefully the last time, the structure and flow of my next book, noting down all interviews and materials that must be gathered.

No excuses this time. I’m turning a new leaf. All by God’s grace! And my obedience to His will.

So write, Yay.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

End of Days

I’ve just finished reading "Epicenter," best-selling author Joel C. Rosenberg’s book on end-time prophecies and how current events seem to line up with them, especially with what's happening in Israel, the Arab nations and Russia.

A Messianic Jew, Rosenberg (“A strong Jewish brand name,” he jested during his recent 'Signs of the Times' conference at the Christ Commission Fellowship in Manila.) has for sometime hogged the limelight for his novels "The Last Jihad," "The Last Days," "The Ezekiel Option," "The Copper Scroll" and "Dead Heat."

Frankly, I still need to get these other books (I’ve arranged book swapping with friends to make sure these purchases fall within budget.) but reading Epicenter and some of his blog entries alone has revved my end-of-days interest to top gear.

So what pulls readers to Rosenberg’s books? Mainly this: That his story lines and their heart-stopping twists and turns uncannily resemble the real-life political thrillers of our times. Imagine this: In one of his novels, a political leader dies; and just after that book’s launch, his equivalent in real-life dies! And his novels abound with these eerily prophetic parallels. But he has countless times denied being a prophet.

To be sure, Rosenberg is a serious student of life, history and the Scriptures. With hawk-like attention to historical facts and current events, he analyzes situations through the lens of the bible, and carefully validates his research with biblical experts, scholars, political leaders and those with inside track of stories which even the media fail to catch.

Surely too, Rosenberg has made it his mission to warn us that God’s plan will prevail, and that the “current rumblings in the middle east” must not be taken lightly but instead compel us to preach Jesus and pray; and be prepared and expect that God’s grace and protection will see us through even in these last of the last days.

The end-time signs mentioned by Jesus in Matthew 24 seem be getting more frequent by the day. The actual events chronicled in Epicenter seem to match perfectly.

Humbling ourselves before God—as we pray for Jerusalem, the rest of the world, political leaders, our nation, and our loved ones—would be our only hope even as these prophesies come to pass.

Christ is our only refuge. Because He promised to give us peace and save us from the tribulations that have now started to strike terror in the hearts of many.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Charlize, 3

“Thank you Lola Yay! And that's it,” replied Charlize as my daughter Lucci read my birthday email for her.

With them in Australia, we made do with phone and chat greetings, but I felt emailing my heartfelt wishes was still in order.

“My everdearest grandaughter Charlize, today is your birthday!


Lolo Jack and myself, Tito Carlo and Tita Opal very much want to be there to kiss you and hug you because today is your very special day.

“But since we could not be there, we're asking your Mom and Dad and Joaqui to give you lots of hugs and kisses for us. Mhwa! Whwa! Mhwa! Mhwa! Kiss! Kiss! Kiss! Kiss!

”Now you're three years old and we've seen how pretty and smart you've grown. Be obedient to your Mom and Dad and be a good sister to Joaqui, OK?

“I hope you're not a cry baby any more and you're no longer peeing and pooing in your nappy. You're a good girl, we know.

“We want to hear you sing the next time we see you again. I've seen your dancing and singing in the video taken by your dad. That was really good!

”Jesus loves you and He wants you to grow up loving Him and obeying Him. We know you will!”

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Week Highs

Blessings overflowed this week.

Friday was reunion day with an old friend who complimented me with a ticket to Christ Commission Fellowship’s “Signs of the Times” Conference.

Techie and I were colleagues back when we were employees of San Miguel Corporation eons ago.

No kidding! She looked as young, pretty and perky as when I last saw her fussing about her last social development project in SMC.


Today committed to living and sharing the Word of God, she holds bible studies with a group of equally devoted women believers and puts her faith into action in partnership with Christian workers in a less privileged community in Quezon City. Old passions never die!

And since it was her birthday, her hubby Jun treated a party of 15 joyful—and hungry—souls with a buffet blowout at Cabalen (Megamall) during our lunch break from the conference.

The most memorable part was when, back in the hall, a guest speaker, Pastor Ray Bentley of Maranatha Church, California, asked the congregation to pray for each other, and guess who I prayed with? Techie’s 13 year old son Benny who used to be a toddler in our SMC days. Techie and Jun must be mighty proud of this God-fearing young lad.

The greatest part of the day, which I hope to write about separately in the near future, was the eye-opener messages of the conference speakers, particularly author Joel Rosenberg (The Last Jihad, The Last Days, Epicenter, etc.), on the need to bring the gospel to all the ends of the earth, because Christ is coming soon.

An addendum: Earlier this week too, spent a grand time with the ladies in church as we relished God’s transforming power taking us from brokenness to wholeness. Of a kindred spirit, we worshipped and prayed and joked and laughed too.

Ah, God is really good!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Joaqui

“Thank you very much for caring for me.”

This was our grandson Joaqui’s response to all those who greeted him on his seventh birthday.

Time surely flies. It seems only yesterday when we waited for him to be born in what seemed to be the longest night of laboring and praying.

Thought I’d share portions of an article I wrote after his birth:

“It amazed me no end when with the ultrasound, I first laid eyes on my apo— already a breathing, throbbing and very recognizable being even if it (This time of course, we didn't know its sex yet.) was only a few weeks old. As the doctor patiently explained what we were looking at, I could only mutter, ‘Hello there, baby,’ while I waved at the tiny figure onscreen. I must have looked silly. Welcome to grandmotherhood.
“In a subsequent ultrasound, that young fetus moved to cover his face. ‘Shy boy!’ We chorused even as we beheld his beautiful spine, tiny femur and kidney, and his lustily-throbbing heart. ‘Almost pee time, his bladder is full,’ noted the doctor.

“Psalm 139 became an even bigger revelation to me: ‘For you formed my inward parts. You wove me in my mother's womb. I will give thanks to you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made… Your eyes have seen my unformed substance, and in your book they were all written, the days that were ordained for me when as yet there was not one of them.’

“Joaqui’s D-day finally came January 13. Since my daughter gave birth via cesarean section after laboring for 15 hours—his umbilical cord got wound around his leg, so into the incubator he stayed awhile after coming out of that entanglement .

“And there we were marveling. He was the nursery’s last guest, yet of all its occupants, Joaqui was the most active, turning his head left and right and back again, and flailing his legs and arms as if he were conducting an orchestra."

Hmmm, no wonder he’s quite a karate kid today. He plans on getting his green belt this year, “With hard work,” he says. And by the way, that's his attitude too about school; no wonder he excels. But for only being you, we love you, Joaqui!