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


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!