Saturday, February 26, 2011



That’s the only way Pinky could describe her Christchurch, New Zealand, experience.

Pinky is one among hundreds of Australians who got caught in the intesity 6.3 tremor which reduced this beautiful city to a rubble recently.

I last saw Pinky when she visited Manila a few weeks back with her husband Bob (eldest son of my sister Dulce) and son Timothy. Upon reaching Sydney, she and her sister Gina, also a Sydney resident, soon after flew to Christchurch to visit their brother Ron--- confined in a hospital for an emergency operation. He just finished an English course along with other Filipino nurses.

Then it happened. As they were preparing to go back to Sydney, the quake hit. Rushing back to the hospital, the siblings awaited the worst, constantly praying, running towards Ron--- still on his hospital bed, and hugging each other, with every aftershock.

The six-story CTV school which Ron attended was flattened like a deck of cards, with those on the fifth floor scampering off the building as if from its ground floor. Some of those still trapped under enormous piles of concrete and wood and steel are Filipino students who have pinned their hopes on making New Zealand their future home someday.

Search crews have not yet given up. To this day, both local and foreign rescuers continue to dig, bit by tiny bit, making sure that those still alive could be scooped out alive. Australian television continues to report increasing death tolls, more than 140 at this writing, showing a city mourning and mangled to its core; yet hopeful that a rebound is the only way to go from here.

Pinky and Gina were more fortunate. They were back with their families in Sydney in due time, courtesy of Australian army planes. It is comforting to note that in their new-found home, the government prioritized the welfare of its citizens above anything else. They deplaned to a host of doctors and nurses, social workers, blankets, food and water, and loved ones thankful for their miracle.

"People have experienced what is known as a reality rip, where everything we are confident and secure about is suddenly ripped open and unsettled--- it makes us wonder what we can count on," remarked University of Auckland head of sociology Dr Tracey McIntosh. He expects a lot of people to leave New Zealand.

This episode makes you wonder too. Where could one really go when the earth shakes or the torrents come or the blizzards raze with their deathly sting ?

We've had our fair share of earthquakes and super typhoons in the Philippines. Chile, Haiti, Japan, Indonesia, China, U.S.A. These countries have experienced them too, and in increasing numbers. Those once immune from disasters wonder why they're getting hit more often now. Scientists and environmentalists have explained the reasons why: The earth's ring of fire, global warming, etc.

But what about wars and rumors of wars? Local revolts seem the Middle East's daily fare from Algeria to Yemen. Iranian and North Korean nuclear threats have always bedeviled the super powers.

These shouldn't surprise us. Matthew 24 talks of these as the beginning of birth pains just like a woman in labor. Along with these, an increase in lawlessness and famines in many places.

Because of these, Jesus says that the love of many will grow cold. Many too will fear. That's the bad news.

The good news is this: God is still in control and He wants to give comfort to those whose hearts are fainting. "Come to me all of you who are weary and heavy laden, for I will give you rest," says Jesus.

Your life may be bottoming out. Your ground may be shaky. A dreaded disease might be consuming you or your loved one. You may have lost everything because of a disaster or a bad decision. Your life may have long been broken and in the dumps because of some family dysfunction.

But His love assures us: He will protect. He will provide. He will heal. He will restore. He will give you wisdom. He will be your Rock. And on that rock, you can stand secure, no matter the circumstance.

Oh Jesus, thank you that you are my Lord. And Lord of everything in my life, therefore I will not fear anything because you are the Rock of my salvation.

Monday, February 21, 2011


From a recent probable seven, my stress level has dwindled to almost nil today.

No deadlines, lecture notes or powerpoint materials to prepare. And no test papers or assignments to check. Well, it's because I'm off-term from any kind of teaching, also from conducting seminars or writing for others.

Nowadays, my time is spent mostly with our daughter Lucci, son-in-law Joel, and their children Joaqui and Charlize in their suburban Sydney home.

I'm definitely home, even here.

It may be a cliche, but home is really where your heart is.

Ask any lolo or lola. Being with one's grandkids makes your heart swoon, ups your happy hormone, turns your vocabulary from bland to yummy (You've no choice, otherwise they won't understand you!), and forces your aching joints to flex to Justin Bieber's Baby.

Helping to dress up Charlize (she just turned four Feb.8) for school this morning, I asked if she knew how to put her shirt on. Pointing to the shirt's label she explained, "I've figured it out for myself."

Lola had no choice when Joaqui (he's eight) asked me to put together the kite pasalubong from the Philippines. I hadn't even done this for my son Carlo when he was a kid.

Anyway, another Joaqui request, "Can you help me fly it?" So to the backyard we went. While Joaqui ran with the kite, Charlize chased after it. Lola chased after them too, loving the cool Down Under air.

My sister Dulce and her family also reside in Sydney and we've planned our first bonding period this weekend.

Her delicious welcome treat: Fresh cherries, among other fruits! Dream come true (Ang babaw ko, hehe.) for someone who just gets to eat cherries (preserved pa) only from the top of a Red Ribbon black forest cake.

Well, at least I took the time to write today. And I pray I'd be in the groove to start writing the next book.

Stress level check? Nil and loving it.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


Been on a roller-coaster ride recently.

My friend Grace Chong and I had this rare chance to speak to early education teachers through the Association of Christian Educators Inc.' (ACSI) conferences. We made lagare a series of ACSI conferences starting in Manila, then Davao and Tacloban, courtesy of our publisher OMF Literature.

Alternating between doing keynote and plenary addresses, including two seminars each per destination, I felt exhausted (especially because of the plane rides, sleeping in places unfamiliar---namamahay, and unguarded eating) but fulfilled that God would use us (in spite of our being unworthy vessels) to inspire these teachers to persevere in their God-given purpose.

The bonus, of course, was that we'd been able to promote our books. Kudos to OMF's Choy, Lynnie and Aileen and their staff, also Arlene of PCBS Tacloban! Lynnie practically mothered us in Tacloban.

In all these events, Grace especially had to sign piles and piles of her children's books and devotionals, followed by lots of kodakan.

Not only have we made a lot of new friends and acquaintances, including ACSI's Janet Nason, Tabitha Bullecer, Naxie Ebarle, Chambi Soriano, Dahlia Businos, and Ces Tajale; and the teachers who showered us with appreciation and love. These ACSI ladies and their associates never seemed to rest, with the continuing education and empowerment of Christian educators and (thus) their pupils as their primary concern.

I won't forget Naxie (or Gay, her other nickname), probably one of the most joyful and energetic persons I've ever met. She always brought the house down with her wit and memorable teaching demonstrations.

Attending Christ Fellowship Church in Davao, we met Karen Guitarte who happened to be a volunteer at Davao's hit Christian radio station, The Edge Radio; which led the following day to my live radio guesting re my book "Going Up?" in the station's two-hour "Fill In the Blanks" program.

Station manager Faye Magalong's cool and casual interviewing style made the talk seem like a breeze. She introduced the night's theme with the the fill-in-the-blank statement, "Success to me is ___," after which text and online messages came streaming in.

The Edge Radio has been a pretty powerful medium, bringing the gospel to the young via its contemporary Christian music and themes which college students and yuppies could relate to.

Well, I thought I could carry on being on full-throttle mode.

I came back to Manila sick and utterly exhausted, unable to do another important task I promised to do for someone.

"I've opted to do things the linear way," I told Grace as I flopped my legs up to just take it easy after a workshop. I marvelled at how she could sit down to write her newspaper column or her blog while we took our break in between our speaking or facilitating assignments.

I used to be a multi-tasker too but nowadays I've made a decision to do things one at a time. At my age, I should.

And foremost in my mind today is to be with my daughter Lucci and her family---be lola to my grandkids Paolo Joaquin and Charlize when I visit them in Sydney soon.

"Do not get sick or you may be quarantined," warned Lucci. Knowing how strict Australia is, I am not taking any chances.

"Be still and know that I am God"(Psalm 46:10), always reminds me that I am but dust, clay in the Potter's hand. And it is up to Him to use me. I will soon be ready for my next assignment. Meanwhile, He too says, "Sit back. Relax. Put up your feet. Dig into My Word. Feast in the abundance of My grace, for this is where you'll find healing."