Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Are You a Migraineur?

Migraineur. Cute word.

But no; it's not some French-y word like auteur or amateur.

A migraineur is someone who contends with migraine, a type of headache caused by the enlargement of blood vessels releasing chemicals from nerve fibers around the brain 's large arteries.

And there's nothing cute about migraine. I've lived with it for the most part of my life; and if it weren't for God's grace, I'd probably by now have become a dodo bird---flightless, lifeless and extinct.

Many things can trigger a migraine, in my case, prolonged computer use, glare from the sun or even a light bulb, loud music or noise, extreme heat or cold, strong offensive smell like someone's breath reeking of alcohol, cigarette smoke, even potato chips laced with MSG.

I remember one serious episode during our town fiesta in Lucban. The day was hot and humid. Vehicles and throngs of people crowded the town's streets. Our house rocked with guests from everywhere---and they were all babbling; so my husband Jack and I decided against staying overnight and drove back to Manila the same day. Wrong decision.

In spite of me having taken medication, vomiting seemed the only way to further relieve the pain. Throughout the entire trip, I puked till there was none to puke while my body writhed with pain and my head throbbed incessantly. I had always feared dying not necessarily from the pain, but from aneurysm because of too much stress from migraine.

"I'm dying," I cried, and begged Jack to just bring me to the nearest hospital. I survived that one as I did all my other migraine experiences.

I once ran out of the usual prescription medicine and had an attack. We stopped at every botica along the way but none would sell because I didn't have a doctor's prescription, so the migraine intensified.

Jack laid hands on me and prayed, "In Jesus name, migraine be gone." Out came three monstrous sneezes, maybe a score of ten, in a one to ten range---something I thought impossible because my sneezes would typically be meows. And the migraine was gone!

Lately, they've come more frequently, with my replacement pill retailing at P230 per. (I would sometimes try to scrimp on its use, only to find myself facing a bigger headache, because I took it too late in the pain.)

"I'm sick and tired of pain," I bitterly complained to the Lord recently. I practically begged Him to take me home and decided: No more teaching, no more writing or consulting, no more using the computer, no more thinking, no more stress. I'm retiring from life! "I just want to be in your presence where there is no more pain or suffering."

Then just like the aroma of freshly-brewed chamomile: "My grace is sufficient for you. For my power is made perfect in weakness. (2 Cor 12:9)"

And His loving rebuke: Hindi mo pa ba na-gets? Haven't you gotten it yet? All your so-called abilities or accomplishments is because of My power in you! In your weakness, I have become your strength. When you're unable, I am able. When a migraine debilitates you, I thrust myself between you and the enemy, absorbing each blow and strengthening you with my grace. I told you life would never be easy, but I did promise you: You are more than a conqueror in Me! And aren’t you precisely that today, in spite of migraine?

What about the next migraine, Lord?

That's why I gave you the sneeze! Just sneeze it to smithereens. I am your healer.

Further, and He said it through a friend: Dance. Exercise. Praise. Worship. Be thankful. Get on with your life. Be a cry-baby once in a while but don't quit!

"...Fear not, for I have redeemed you; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior... (Isaiah 43:1-3)"

Saturday, June 18, 2011


Tatay was an OFW, well sort of. Out for work always.

I grew up not seeing much of him because his jobs required him to always be in Manila or elsewhere---a really big sacrifice for my parents who wanted to make sure their eight kids (I'm the bunso) were armed with something better for their future.

Being teachers---Tatay taught High School Physics, Math and Biology while Nanay was Grade One maestra---they planned on sending us all to college, so being employed somewhere seemed the only way for this dream to come true. (Tatay had always wanted to be a doctor but his father's early death sealed that possibility off.)

So I don't recall spending a lot of time with Tatay when I was little.

One incident I could not forget. I must have been four of five years old that time: had my usual temper tantrum one weekend. Arriving from work, Father caught me in the middle of my screaming and kicking frenzy while I threw whatever object I could get hold of from the top of the stairs.

This was an age when whacking one's kids meant discipline, not abuse. Yes, I got the belt. And learned a great lesson that day.

Tatay was a disciplinarian and his booming voice always scared me and my brother Dan (my best friend and playmate when we were kids, he's the 7th) witless.

As I got older, I learned to appreciate Tatay more. He instilled integrity in us---to the point of sacrifice.

He worked longest at the Bureau of Internal Revenue. There was an instance when he lost an envelope-full of documentary stamps---which cost quite a sum---because he fell asleep while commuting from their head office.

He could just have made excuses or lied about it, but I remember him selling a piece of his itsy-bitsy inheritance to pay it off. This was when corruption was already rampant in that agency.

I cherish having spent more time with him and Nanay when they were already retired and living with my sister Malu in the U.S.

(That is why I love Mcdonald's so much. I love to tell my Marketing students this story: Tatay always treated us to McDonald's when we'd go out. So McDonald's meant more than just burgers. It became some sort of comfort food to me. It meant precious times with my parents. They had always been busy trying to feed and clothe and educate their eight children when they were younger; so those bonding moments gave me the chance to get to know them better!)

Tatay suffered from cancer toward the end of his life. (He passed away 1989 and would have turned 101 this June 28.) The disease had already penetrated his bones and doctors warned us the pain would be pretty excruciating.

But he didn't show any sign of pain or complained of anything. His voice no longer boomed. As he lay on his hospital bed and with his barely audible voice, he would always thoughtfully remind us to eat. Then he slept his final sleep.

I believe Tatay is in heaven, in the presence of the Father who sustained him as he faithfully fulfilled his role as husband, father and provider.

One day, I will hear his booming voice again. And I will behold with him Jesus who sustained us both, in that place where there is no more pain or suffering---or OFWs.

For the Lamb of God at the center of the throne will be their Shepherd; He will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe every tear from their eyes. (Rev 7:17)

Friday, June 10, 2011

Setting Free the Lonely in Families

"I'm one of the 6.5 billion people cheering for you... thank you for not giving up," commented my former student Patrizia in one of her Facebook posts.
The attached image showed a pretty woman with an expression of either awe or disgust.

Intrigued, I clicked the arrow on the image and in streamed the Youtube video of Sung-Bong Choi auditioning for the reality show "Korea's Got Talent".

The pretty woman was apparently one of the show's judges--- amazed at what she was hearing from Sung-Bong.

The 22-year old answered the judges' questions almost stoically, his eyes almost always glued on empty space or the floor. But what he said stung both the judges and the audience.

"I just want to be normal," he said, and disclosed his un-normal life: Abandoned at the orphanage at age three. A runaway at age five because he could not stand people abusing him. A street kid since then, selling gums and energy drinks; at night making the stairs or public toilets his home.

The judges and the audience as you realize by now were either sniffling or already in tears.

But there was more. He did a jaw-dropping performance, just like an opera singer.

Yes, there may have been some missed notes. His face wasn't expressive enough. He felt awkward gesturing.

But how could the judges or the audience ask for more if their hearts were about to burst?

"I would have taken master (music) class if I had the chance," he said, "but I just practiced."
He heard someone singing one day at a night club. "He sang so sincerely," he added; and so started his journey to his dream. As he practiced singing, he started dreaming of "a normal life".

Sung-Bong is probably in for the shock of his life. And I believe his road will fork as Korean Idol gives him the opportunity to improve his singing and his life.

"I just want to hug him," said one of the judges.

"I just want him to be happy from now on," said another, hinting at wanting to help him fulfill his dream.

Remember Joseph, the son of Jacob who was sold by his brothers to slavery, then imprisoned for a crime he didn't commit?

He waited 13 years for the promise to be fulfilled. He saved his own people and the world from hunger when by God's design, he became governor of Egypt.

Sung-bong spent 17 years just waiting for this breakthrough, the chance to be normal. He had been toiling as a manual laborer, working hard to also finish his high school education.

"Enough is enough," God is probably saying to Sung-Bong or anyone who's waited patiently for freedom of whatever kind.

"My purpose will prevail. I will turn your mourning into dancing, your sorrow into joy."

God promised (Psalm 68:6) to set the lonely in families free and lead to joyful singing those who have been prisoners.

Hope indeed springs eternal!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

A Reminder to Young and Old

Solomon, supposedly the wisest man who ever lived, found life meaningless on many counts. He had everything, tasted everything, enjoyed everything, but at the end of his life realized that life was empty without God.

Heed his advice:

“Be happy, young man, while you are young, and let your heart give you joy in the days of your youth. Follow the ways of your heart and whatever your eyes see, but know that for all these things God will bring you to judgment.

“So then, banish anxiety from your heart and cast off the troubles of your body, for youth and vigor are meaningless.

“Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, "I find no pleasure in them", before the sun and the light and the moon and the stars grow dark, and the clouds return after the rain;

“when the keepers of the house tremble, and the strong men stoop, when the grinders cease because they are few, and those looking through the windows grow dim;

“when the doors to the street are closed and the sound of grinding fades; when men rise up at the sound of birds, but all their songs grow faint;

“when men are afraid of heights and of dangers in the streets; when the almond tree blossoms and the grasshopper drags himself along and desire no longer is stirred.

“Then man goes to his eternal home and mourners go about the streets.

“Remember Him--before the silver cord is severed, or the golden bowl is broken; before the pitcher is shattered at the spring, or the wheel broken at the well, and the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.”

(Eccl 11:9-12:7 NIV)