Monday, July 26, 2010


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!