Sunday, May 22, 2016

Twin Butterflies


Let me quote Honoré de Balzac today, “When the heart is full, the lips are silent.”

Unexpectedly, I came upon twin good news, like twin butterflies coming out of one chrysalis. And because the heart is full, there is no way my lips can utter a squeak.

That’s half true, of course.

I always blurt out every good news the moment I receive it. But this time, both news constrain me—one has been “embargoed” (that’s what the email said), and the other can’t be announced till the proper time.

So why am I even blabbing about them?

I want to honor the Creator of butterflies. As I asked in one of my books . . .

How can a squiggly, ugly worm morph into a beautiful, colorful flying wonder? Does this crawling misery know that one day, it will morph into epiphany? Does it realize it will transform into a new spectacular shape with exquisite design? And then when it flies freely, sipping sweet nectar from one lovely flower to another, does it not show the fullness of grace?   

From worm to butterfly—this is what unexpected good news does, especially after having been barraged with bad news and thrown down into a dark, dunk place.

I am changing my header, in thanksgiving for the twin butterflies that doubly delighted me one dreary day.         

 
“For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.” John 1:16 (ESV)

 

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Beaten Black and Blue


The bruising presidential campaign/election in the country has left the electorate black and blue.

Sensibilities, personalities, ideologies, and especially egos have been savagely smashed, leaving a gushing, gaping wound in people’s hearts. Just visit group sites in social media and you can feel the depth and breadth of people’s collective moaning (vanquished) and collective gloating (victor).

We have elected another minority president, Rody Duterte, who got roughly 39% of boisterous votes, 3% short of the mandate of his predecessor, Pres. Benigno C. Aquino III, our current president.

For the sake of our country, which has been through so much self-inflicted turmoil, I sincerely hope our new president will slowly get the cooperation of the rest of the equally boisterous, but much larger, 61%.  

“Change is coming!” was his campaign battlecry, which he orated with expletives, cusses, and braggadocio.

Change is a catch-all phrase that the 39% interpreted as a U-turn; no to continuity of our gains (as espoused by his closest rival); all new—a quick-fix to still unresolved issues and unsolved problems. And 39% bought it.

Having been beaten black and blue in this 2016 election myself, I believe we can’t be healed by one tough-talking president, no matter how well-meaning his battlecry was. 

Change can only come from each individual heart. And that change can happen only if that heart is open to accept grace. 

“. . . And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart.” Ezequiel 36:26

Photo credits: Top; bottom, The Silent Majority FB page

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Grace Month


If I were to reduce to numbers our one-month stay in America from mid-March to mid-April this year, they would be:

Nine airplanes, nine cities, seven beds, 16 blog posts, 567 photos, and thousands of dollars, courtesy of second son.

Those stunning numbers for two seniors traveling far and wide, after a long time, was nothing short of a miracle that is unlikely to happen again.  

But numbers do not a life make.

The new experiences, new encounters, and new perspectives—those are non-quantifiable. I could only sum it all up as: Grace Month, a month when we woke up to God’s mercies every morning.

It took years before we made the decision to make that one-month trip. When we finally did, and after setting the schedule, we were at our busiest and unhealthiest time.

Life does have a wry sense of humor.

But all through the trips, not once did we have to see a doctor (well, seeing doctor-son every day does not count) nor take emergency medication, nor feel our usual aches and pains. 

It was the first time in 12 years that we got to celebrate second son’s birthday with him and his family. It was the first time we saw Adrian’s school, room, church, and all the places he likes to go to. It was the first time I had marathon chats and went shopping with my daughter-in-law. It was the first time to literally walk down memory lanes in Chicago where it all began.

It was my first time to paint grace on clay. 

It was the first time for countless things. 

Now, as our broadcast-media friends would say, we are back to regular programming.

“The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22-23 (ESV)

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

The Heat is On!


Spring in America for tropical beings like my husband and me was winter weather. It was so unbearably brrr, every one of our hosts turned the heat on.

Now, with the heater turned on, it was pretty comfortable for us, like enjoying our own Baguio weather in December. But our hosts peeled their clothes off and wore either shorts and sleeveless tees or fanned themselves furiously to beat the heat.

The problem with the heater is it dries up your throat—an occurrence that when you are treated to the grace of deep sleep, your mouth opens and makes funny noises. 

In every home we visited, our hosts went over the top to welcome us; they suffered for our convenience and treated us like royalty—pampered, coddled, and indulged.

Then we came home.

Everything was (and still is) just as hot. Our summer this year is the hottest in years. As soon as we deplaned, we felt the searing, debilitating heat.

Not only is the weather oven-hot, the political campaign for national positions, which ended on Election Day, May 9, turned out to be the hottest ever (coincidentally, heat index was 41 degrees!). In recent weeks, the campaign turned vicious, ugly, and lava-hot.  

I tried to keep my peace, but my piece had to be said.

The heat (weather) will not abate till the rains come; the heat (politics) will not abate till . . . we don’t know.

But I, for one, a citizen of this country, take comfort in the knowledge that . . .

". . . our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ . . .” Philippians 3:20


Friday, May 6, 2016

Silent No More


This has been a most divisive and derisive presidential election.

Traditional media and social media have been fast and furious. Often, news items and memes are published without thorough research or verification. Some are purposely cruel, inflicting pain upon those who have differing opinions. And whichever side we're on, we've been quick to believe, re-post, and repeat them, with our own additional careless rants.

Brothers and sisters by blood and in faith have been ripped apart. Some are more vocal than others and would lash out with innuendos or plain insult on cyberspace. Some nurse their hurt in private. 

Except in conversations with family and close friends, I had resisted the temptation to speak on the Net. I did not want to add fuel to the combustible heap of rash judgments and negativity.

Silently, I wished that the more sober people, our spiritual leaders especially, would be above it all—unifying, enlightening; more circumspect, instead of taking sides and stoking the fire. But from some of their walls, we see "shares" that vilify personalities, disparage institutions, or kill the spirit of their communities.    

Silently, I combed sites; read opinions and analyses of respectable journalists; hopped to pages of friends; read the candidates' biographies, track records, and ideologies; watched the debates; compared platforms; checked loyalties; reflected on the Word—and prayed for the grace of discernment and guidance.

Most importantly, I visited that part of me where I keep my treasures—values I hold dear, the foundation of my faith, my conscience.

So finally, today, careful not to divide nor deride, I choose to end my silence.

In a democracy, I have a voice—albeit a small one—that  is allowed to speak. Silent no more, this is my personal decision: 

I am voting for Mar Roxas as my President and Leni Robredo as my Vice President on May 9.

They are a team so they are on the same page.

I now know and have been affirmed that the future of the country where I was born, and where I am going to die, will be in good hands.

Image credit: The Silent Majority FB wall


Monday, May 2, 2016

Where It All Began


In our one-month trip back to the USA (from west to east), four days were for Chicago. It was going to be, for Tony and me, a nostalgic trip to the windy city where, as he calls it, it all began.

We planned on visiting old haunts that witnessed our young relationship in those ancient days.

Chicago was where Tony and I met. He was chosen Editor-in-Chief of the new newspaper to be published by the Filipino community. I was nominated as one of his section editors.

The Chief summoned me and his editorial staff to a meeting, where he would outline his vision and policies.

I remember that day very well—not because sparks flew between him and me, but because snow and wind blew, pummeling downtown Chicago relentlessly.

After that first meeting, where the Chief decreed in no uncertain terms who was the boss, buses and cabs in such woeful weather became sparse.  He volunteered to drive me home in his car (which, I later found out, was borrowed from his best friend).

Boy, you are snow-and-wind personified, I thought. His first salvo was a question: “Do you know where I work?”

“Where?”

“J. Walter Thompson.” (At that time it was the largest advertising agency in the world.)

Clueless, I asked back, “What’s that?”

He rattled off statistics, meant to shock and awe.

Un-shocked and un-awed (I was a starving art student and advertising agencies were the least of my concerns), I said, “Oh.” Or something monosyllabic. My thought balloon, Bring it on!   

One year and seven months later, I married my boss in the Philippines, where we settled, and Chicago became a part of our distant, historic past.

That’s how I remember it. Tony does not remember it at all. 

So despite the crazy Chicago weather in spring (rain, hail, snow, sunshine [all with accompanying wind] alternating within minutes) we did visit all the places that we both remember:

(Clockwise) The house where I lived . . . the apartment building where he stayed . . . the skyscraper where he worked . . . and the school which I attended.

The office where our editorial work was put to bed and where one newspaper every two weeks took shape, unfortunately, is gone. A new building stands in its place.

In this trip down memory lane, what we (or maybe, just I) remember most was the grace that brought two strangers, with a mutual passion for writing, together. 

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Thunderbolt on a Clear Day


It was a sunny Easter Sunday in LA.

Four of Tony’s old friends welcomed him with a sumptuous lunch and raucous reminiscences of shared young-and-foolish years.
They later moved to the coffee shop where I was meeting up with my dear friend Lucy, whom I have not also seen in years. The laughter was so loud it might have resounded all the way to the Philippines.

That lively and vibrant day set the tone for the reunion of pals who live on opposite ends of the world but found time to re-connect. The song in my mind then was Barbara Streisand’s “On a clear day you can see forever.”

But forever was not to be.

Just ten days later, while Tony and I continued with our travels, this time traipsing all over New York, we received word that one of those four friends, Art, had a heart attack and passed away.

No hints. No warnings. No good-byes.

It was a heartbreaking, shocking news, like a thunderbolt on a clear day. It can’t be, we cried. Those frightening thunderbolts happen only on a stormy day, not when the sky is blue. But this time, it did.

Because such is life.

Those whom we hold dear today may be gone tomorrow. Which is why we can’t, and shouldn't, postpone re-connecting, in whatever way we can, while we still have time. It is a small comfort that Tony and friends were with Art for one short day, one last time.

We grieve with Art’s family and loved ones. But we also thank God for the life He gave Art to share with kith and kin. He will be painfully missed, but never, ever, be forgotten.

Because such is grace.

“He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” Revelation 21:4 (NIV)


Monday, April 25, 2016

A Beautiful Day


It was definitely going to be a beautiful day in New York, never mind the weather forecast of an unbearably cold 30 degrees and rain showers.

My two cousins, L and M, were going to take Tony and me to the Broadway play, “Beautiful: The Carole King Musicale” at the Stephen Sondheim theater.

With umbrellas in tow, we headed to Manhattan all bundled up—Tony and I in borrowed winter clothes, complete with hats and gloves.

But first, they hauled us to the Rockefeller Center. On our way there, we passed by familiar landmarks of yore: a building that housed past clients, with whom I had a meeting years ago; Empire State Building; Waldorf Astoria; Saks Fifth Avenue; and sidewalk hotdog stands.

At the Top of the Rock, we saw all the other areas of NY we couldn’t visit otherwise, not with our limited time of only four days. Click, click, click, we turned into tourists.

Tony struggled, step by step, from 36th to 43rd St. where the theater was. 
But “Beautiful” was worth every pained limp. We tapped our feet and clicked our fingers while singing quietly to the songs of our youth. (Fond memories of my theater days even came flashing back.) 

After the curtain call, hailing a cab in the “city that never sleeps” was like finding a needle in a haystack. My teeth chattered and Tony’s knee quivered. But seconds before we could succumb to frostbite, grace braked right before us and into the cab we clambered.

It was a beautiful day!


Friday, April 22, 2016

Speed Reading in America


A slow writer and a slow reader—that’s how I’d describe me. When I write, I agonize over every word. When I read, I romance every sentence.

I have to put this slow habit (or luxury) aside in America where our vacation has a deadline: one month.
So we visit a library in Stockton that has all the books I’d have wanted to read but couldn’t find in the Philippines (buying them online, in dollars, is prohibitive). Now here they all are in one library—where you could borrow up to 25 books in four weeks.

I am overwhelmed, but will take on the challenge. With only fourteen days left before we fly back home, I could only take in two books, and only on speed reading. So I choose the two books of Jan Karon that I haven’t yet read.
This makes me ponder the disparity between my country and America when it comes to books. USA is a paradise for every reader and author. A book lover like me has to come all the way to read two books hurriedly; and an author as well, I wonder if a paradise such as this will ever be in my country.

As I continue to write about grace, however, I am happy, content, that the only paradise we will ever need is somewhere up there, where Jesus lives, waiting for anyone who believes—whether he or she is from America or elsewhere.

In that unimaginable wonderland, nothing will ever be hurried, because everything is forever.

(Note: this post was written two weeks ago. Now back home, I was not able to read the books—not from cover to cover—as I had wished. Just the beginnings and endings, but both were a heavenly read just the same.) 
    

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

On the Run


My friend Lucy facetiously says that Tony and I are on the run. 

In a way we are: Four major US cities in one month, not including the other lesser known cities we visit along the way.

How glorious, how precious, what grace, to see Lucy again after many years—on Easter Sunday! We agreed to meet at a Krispy Kreme in the outskirts of LA after lunch. It was a 15-minute drive for me, one hour for Lucy.

She had instructed Jess to take a photo of the precise moment when she and I met again. Naturally, Jess—very much like Tony—always takes instructions as suggestions. When we saw each other, Lucy and I shrieked, hugged, and giggled, but no photo.

The photo would come later, after we have wolfed down our dessert and ready to say our good-byes and run.

It was a three-and-a-half hour chat, too short to catch up on everything, but we are on the run, remember? Our hosts planned on taking us out to a barbecue dinner with the members of their clan.

Lucy summed up our meeting on her FB page hours later, “Grace and I talked our heads off—our husbands mere garnishing.”

Years ago, travelling for me was visiting tourist spots and shopping. Not this time around. Tourist spots could easily be found on the Net and shopping could be done when we get home.

“Are you on tour?” asks a lady, who must have noticed we are not locals.

“We’re on people tour,” I reply.

She wrinkles her nose.

And so we are on the run—to the next city and the next—each stop to meet those from whom we were separated by time, space, and life’s choices.


Saturday, April 16, 2016

The Short Hop to Los Angeles


Our drive to the Sacramento airport (with daughter-in-law G on the wheel and grandson Adrian on a kiddie car seat), the check-in and security processes, plus the long walk and train ride to the departure area, is longer than our flight to LA. 

I catnap as soon as I put my seat belt on. When I wake up, we are taxiing on the runway.

Compared to Stockton, LA is a beehive. There is a super long queue to the Avis rent-a-car that lasts two hours. Famished from all the waiting, we drop by Panera, one of Adrian’s favorite eating places, to grab some salad and sandwiches before another hour drive to our destination: Tony’s side of the family.

I have forgotten that everything about the US is expansive, with all the synonyms of big—roads, parking lots, food servings, even sidewalks. No wonder second son always comments when he comes home to the Philippines for a visit, “This house seems much smaller than I remember.” 

The rambling house of Tony’s cousin, L, sits on a half-acre lot, with two huge living rooms, one with a fountain and a pond filled with colorful Koi, and lots of spare bedrooms. Tony and I are assigned one, G and Adrian (joined by second son a few hours later) are assigned another, all complete with amenities not often offered in hotels or inns. 

Tony and L were playmates in childhood, but they have not seen each other since they-both-can’t-remember. Therefore, everything—both physical and emotional—is super large and overflows.

From my side of the family, a nephew organizes a mini reunion. Fifteen of them— nieces who were babies when they left the Philippines, new in-laws, etc.— come from all areas of LA. The joy of hugging kin one sees only on FB over the years go beyond words. I try to document everything with my trusty old camera and hope that my battery, with a charger that doesn’t fit in any socket  here, won't conk out on me.

Tony’s aching right knee is eased with Tylenol and with the cane he brought with him from home. I take my anti-allergy pills to lull me to sleep so my resistance can hold with our youthful schedule. 

In Los Angeles, grace has been abundant.

It flew us here on a short hop to reunite with people dear to our hearts. We leave for another place in three days, but already the airplane in my mind is packed to maximum with memories.



Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Our Home Base in the US of A


All too soon, our four-day stay in Cupertino ended with a three-hour drive (the GPS estimated it to be one hour and five minutes only) to Stockton, our US of A home base—where our second son, daughter-in-law G and grandson Adrian live.

My Manong Ped (with his wife, Manang C) drove us through a freeway that had a monumental traffic jam reminiscent of Manila’s. Tony slept through it all while I had to stay awake to keep the driver’s mind alert.

Our home base is off-white outside, girded with a wide patch of green, and pristine-white inside, including the carpet and cabinets. It is a home out of the pages of an architectural magazine. A dinner spread of American and Greek cuisine was laid out for us and a few other guests who jointly welcomed us.

Just next to Adrian’s bedroom is ours, which has a full view of the gated village. This is where we would be coming back to from all our hops to other cities meeting up with long-time friends and kin.

Second day in Stockton was spent with only G since second son had full clinic hours and Adrian had full school hours. But G drove us to second son’s clinic and toured us in Adrian’s school as highlights of our leisurely, touristy day . . .

A drive along acres and acres of farms and orchards; a wellness massage in a nature spa; a light lunch of American burgers and BLT in a quaint town called Lodi; a slow walk through a book store that carried both pre-owned and new books and where Tony grabbed two volumes of the American Revolution without looking at the price tag (which G insisted on paying for).

We don’t have a daughter, but in Stockton we found in G everything we could ever have wished for. She prepares our meals, around which Adrian regales us with his wit and antics. She more than makes up for the absence of her extremely busy husband by patiently driving us around and documenting our stay with photos.

Left: Adrian picked "patience" for me and "strength" for Tony.  Right: Adrian's version of pancake sandwich.


Most important, in Stockton, infamous for guns and goons, grace followed us to wherever we went.

That made Tony remark, “It is my kind of town.” 

 

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions


Making decisions in America is a mind-boggling, brain-twisting, and synapse-altering experience.

We go into a burger shop and reading the menu alone makes me go insane. There are just too many variations and permutations. So I order a simple cheeseburger meal that comes with a side order and drink to simplify the process.

“What kind of cheese?” asks the waitress and rattles off, "American, cheddar, stilton, brie, roasted gouda, Monterey jack, yada, yada.”

“That one,” I say, my impaired hearing unable to make out her oral menu of choices.

“Which one?” she pushes.

“The first one,” I reply, crossing my fingers it is an edible choice.

She asks again, “How would you like your burger? Rare? Medium rare? Well done? Yada, yada, yada."

“The first one,” I cut her short.

She asks some more, “And dressing for your side salad? Vinaigrette? Caesar? Greek? Yada, yada, yada.”

“The first one,” I repeat like a looped recording.

“And drink? Coffee? How’d you like it brewed? Dark? Medium? Light? Yada, yada, yada. With cream? What kind? Sugar? Honey? Yada, yada, yada.”

To make a very complicated story short, I finally come face-to-face with my cheeseburger meal, after making millions of non-life-changing decisions that have caused my dormant acid reflux to erupt anew, with a vengeance.

Life in America became so complicated when I wasn't looking. Well, life in general has become so maddeningly complex.

But in God's infinite mercy, we only have two choices: to follow Him or not. That for me was the easiest decision of all. I pray that others will make that same choice, if not now, soon.

Before I dig in, I say grace for my cheeseburger meal, and spend a little more time asking for God’s grace of sanity.



Friday, April 8, 2016

Cupertino, a New Landmark


“Cupertino? Where is that?” people asked when I told them I’d be going there to visit my older brother.

Even if it is a big chunk of the famous Silicon Valley, Cupertino is still an obscure city, not very well-known, not in the same league as San Jose or Palo Alto. But after staying there for four days this month, I am sure that pretty soon, people would instead be asking, in shock and awe,  “You were at Cupertino?!”

The development in that area is amazing and going on in a frenzied pace. Apple’s super huge Campus 2 is rising very quickly.
A year from now, 24,000 people will be hired and new, wider roads and recreation/shopping centers would have been built.

Real estate prices have quadrupled and the excitement is palpable.

My Manong’s wife, C, said, “When you and Tony come back sometime in the future, Cupertino will be the new landmark in California.”

In my book, Cupertino has always been a landmark. That’s where she, my Manong Ped, and their well-knit family, which now includes a six-year-old grandson, live. Grace always found me there. Or should I say, I always found grace there.

“Coming back sometime in the future,” though, may no longer be an option.

   

Monday, April 4, 2016

The Spring of Our Lives


It took about three years before I finally mustered enough courage to travel to the US again. Our second son, who lives here with his family, had been inviting (okay, urging) Tony and me to come and visit.

This was where Tony and I met (in his words: where it all began), and my past advertising job required me to travel endlessly to many parts of the world and the US. Traveling had been exciting then—new people, places, and feelings.

But since I took up writing after retirement, the body has picked up enough physical maladies that make one retreat to the comforts of home—particularly my spot in the computer room which is my daily window to all the new places and new inventions that invade our digitally-wired planet; particularly a home church brimming with praying friends.

Tony, however, loves traveling, despite some serious health problems last year (including a bad right knee that suddenly assaulted him two weeks before our scheduled flight). So I caved in and agreed to a month of travel that spans the west and east.

It happens to be spring in America!

Like a new beginning, it’s the season for new leaves sprouting after a long, cold winter (but not of discontent) of our lives.

We are actually seeing old things in new ways. And new things in newer ways.

We are re-learning that children of Filipinos are different from their American counterparts. They still possess our beautiful values, despite growing up or being born here.

We are re-learning that there is a great chasm between the rich and not-so-rich (Republicans vs Democrats), and how they view welfare and the Obama care.

We are re-learning that among our circle of friends and relatives, there is as much love that goes around as what we find at home.

We are re-learning that America is a land of plenty (in everything that money can buy) and opportunity, and that our homeland has many more years, way beyond my lifetime, to be in the same league.

We are re-learning that citizenship in a country, other than your own, is not a guarantee that you love that adopted country more.

We are re-learning that Tony and I both so love our country, warts and all, because that is where God put us. 

We’ve sprouted new leaves—worth more than the aching knee and scaly skin brought about by an almost-forgotten weather and an almost-alien landscape.

Spring has given us new grace. How much more bounty can traveling give? 

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Perfect


Fatigued, spent, and disoriented from the long flight and the even longer queue at the Immigration that required some picture taking, some interview, and some bio-metrics, I couldn’t describe what I felt at the crowded San Francisco Airport.

It was a beautiful Sunday morning, cool and chilly—the same Sunday morning, hot and humid, we left in Manila 15 hours earlier.

At the arrival area, Adrian (who met us with his mom G) ran to hug us. Aaahhh. Then we walked some more in a huge parking area to find their car. It was another hour drive to our hotel in Cupertino, our home for the next four days, where the bed instantly sucked Tony, with his aching right knee, in.

My manong (big bother) Ped, a minister, called, saying he was half expecting us to be sitting in the pews while he delivered his sermon. He was prepared to lengthen it in case we came in late. That was the original plan, but our jet-lagged bodies refused to cooperate. He wanted to meet up with all of us at lunch; I didn’t have the heart to wake Tony up.

So only Adrian, G, and I drove to a nearby restaurant. My head was still afloat and I couldn’t put my finger on how or where I was, but hoped that lunch might make my head land atop my neck.

At Applebee’s the waitress was perky, pretty, and full of life—the opposite of where my body had dragged me down. “What would you have?” she asked.

I chose the first item my droopy eyelids could make out, “Romaine salad.”

“Perfect!” she said.

Adrian ordered teeny burgers, and she said, “Perfect!”

G’s order had the waitress saying, “Perfect!” too.

My manong arrived with his wife, all dressed-up from the church service. It was the long-awaited, wonderful reunion I had looked forward to. I wished Tony were around. Manong Ped was the reason our first stop was San Francisco—to be able re-connect with him and his family in Cupertino after many years.

Their orders made the waitress say, “Perfect!” as well.

As we lunched, chatting about then, this, and that, I felt grace embrace me, tightly, even as I tried to summon my head, still stubbornly hovering inches over my body, unable to land where it should be.

It was then that I was finally able to spell the word to describe our arrival in this foreign land that was once-upon-a-time Tony’s and my second home, p-e-r-f-e-c-t. In short, grace.

Monday, March 28, 2016

The Long Flight to San Francisco


Twelve hours sitting in one place, hearing only the droning airplane, and seeing my legs swell into logs—no matter how you look at it—is a long time.

“Stand up and walk around every two hours,” advised doctor-son on the phone earlier.

Tony and I did better than that. We went to the lavatory every hour. Somehow, idly staring at nothing in particular made us hear the voice of our kidneys.  In between, I tackled the plane’s four newspapers and their crossword puzzles.  My seatmate took in a movie, or two.

At mealtime, my equally bored partner had his first tantrum.  (He insists these episodes are no tantrums, they’re fighting for one’s rights—or giving excitement to a humdrum situation.) We were the last to be served and left with no choice but beef.

“I don’t want to eat beef,” he said. “It’s chicken, or nothing.”

The stewardess turned as white as sheet. “B-but, we only have beef left.”

“Well, turn the plane around and get me my chicken,” he countered.

The poor stewardess apologized profusely and scampered to the kitchen. In ten minutes she came back, “I have chicken for you but no more mashed potatoes, just pancit.”

“Okay,” he said, grudgingly.

I might have heard her release her breath, after maybe incanting some abracadabra to conjure up a chicken dish. 

I turned to my chronological Bible, the only book I brought with me, and found solace in the book of Deuteronomy.  We were not exactly battling a war (except that boredom can be as merciless as war), but this verse came as reinforcement.   

“When you go out to fight your enemies and you face horses and chariots and an army greater than your own, do not be afraid. The LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, is with you! Deuteronomy 20:1 (NLT)

Every verse is laced with grace that made a long, exceedingly long, flight seem like a wee wrinkle in time.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Be Suspicious


Two days before Tony and I flew to the US to visit our grandson, my siblings and their spouses came to our home to send us off.

Over dinner, they exchanged horror stories about scams, rackets, and ruses at the airport that have duped many unsuspecting passengers. Their collective advice: Be suspicious.

One modus operandi is, angel-looking-do-gooders, who are assigned to push wheelchairs, volunteer to take care of your luggage and assist in checking you in.   

Some would volunteer to watch your bag for you while you go inside the ladies’ room cubicle.

Their innocent demeanor gives you wonderful thoughts, "Oh, what kind souls!” 

In your naiveté, half of the contents of your luggage is gone, or your boarding pass goes missing.

We’ve all heard of the “tanim-bala” (planting a bullet in your bag). You get apprehended and to quickly get out of the fix, you pay grease money for the authorities to let you go, instead of waiting for a lengthy investigation that would delay your trip. 

“Be suspicious” is not how I want to live. I have always believed that in every human being is an innate goodness, being a creation of a good God.

Yet, naiveté has become a curse. Beneath many angelic smiles lurk a dark intent. Times are such that more and more people, who appear like angels, are actually devils in disguise.

Came our day of departure. With three big bags in tow, Tony and I slowly did our best to help ourselves at the airport, sizing up and refusing assistance from those who came forward to help.

Maybe some of them were pure in heart, but we remembered to “Be suspicious.” 

As judgment day nears, we who live for the risen Lord, can only be covered by grace.  

"So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.” Deuteronomy 31:6 (NLT)


Monday, March 21, 2016

Delay: Bonus or Minus?


“What?!”

I heard my usually unperturbed husband exclaim on the phone. From his tone of voice, I knew right away it was bad news. Or was it?

Our travel agent called at noon saying that our flight to the US that night had been cancelled, and moved to the next day.

Prior to that fateful call, my stress level was almost at breaking point—getting things in order, leaving instructions to about six people, trying to meet a deadline set by my editor, fitting the kitchen sink into one luggage, making phone calls, checking papers, and everything else I wanted to finish before we left.

Tony was visibly disappointed, so was I. But another way of looking at a delayed flight is, you suddenly get extra time you never thought you had.

And that I had.

It all goes back to what I wrote in one of my books:

“There are always two sides to everything. Like a glass half-full or half-empty, we all see midnight through different eyes. Some see it as the end of day, some see it as the beginning.
 
“The blessing of being a writer is you teeter somewhere in between. God in his infinite wisdom allows you to take a peek at both, chronicling them without having to render judgment on anyone’s choices—and discovering how layered life can be.” 

So I teetered somewhere between bonus and minus.

In there was grace. 


Thursday, March 17, 2016

Who Gets the Bullet?


Two of our church friends, a young couple, were shot at close range.

Hit by one bullet each, the wife died on the spot; the husband had some breath left.

Instantly, kith and kin went on their knees to pray for God to save his life. He never woke up.

They left behind three children—the youngest of whom is only five years old. What breaks our heart to pieces is, in less than 24 hours, the life of these kids made a sharp turn. That morning these innocent ones had both parents. In the evening they had caskets.

For whatever reason, nothing is grave enough to give anybody the right to snuff out lives.

Life does not come cheap. It is a precious grace from the One who created it. Every fiber of our being had been carefully knitted together from nothing into something wonderful by God.  

Can we ever explain such dastardly barbaric crime?

Those who brazenly pulled the trigger can fabricate all the excuses for such an act, but they will not get past the great Judge on Judgement Day, which might come sooner than we think.

“Many of those whose bodies lie dead and buried will rise up, some to everlasting life and some to shame and everlasting disgrace.” Daniel 12:2
 
We live in a cruel world where flowers and weeds co-exist. Both get the same grace of rain and sunshine to grow.

But then the weeds crowd out the flowers, till the beauty is gone and the pesky, unwanted weeds reign supreme. 

I use the weeds-and-flowers metaphor now because bullets remind me of weeds. Unless we pluck them out, they will continue to hide or kill the beauty of flowers. But who does the plucking? Certainly not earthlings like us who live in a fallen world. 

We can only make a choice—to preserve the warmth and beauty of life or join those who pull the trigger of coldblooded guns.

The assurance of those who live for Christ is . . . if ever one bullet at close range killed our body, it could not kill our soul. 

We continue to pray for the three children’s comfort and beg God to make them grow up in His light and that the people who surround them become their surrogate parents in every way possible.  

Photo credit

Saturday, March 12, 2016

(My) 18th Birthday


I deal with many 18-year-olds every week of my life as a part-time college teacher. These are millennials who grew up in the digital age, where everything is as quick as a flick of a finger—and as short as a phrase uploaded to social media.   

They don't linger to analyze an issue. After all, these are available on the Internet. They want to move to the next one, looking for something new, something more exciting than the last. They can only take ten minutes of lecture, and if you want their attention after that, you'd have to sing and dance, or stand on your head. 

If you are a parent of a millennial, you know whereof I speak. It is a constant challenge to engage them. They seem to be elsewhere all the time, made possible by their smart phone nailed to their palm. It is even more challenging to pass on to them the values we grew up with. 

But ah, when one speaks of time, 18 is an awesome number.

I was invited to the coming-out party of one of my students and it was literally a ball from beginning to end.  

With Hollywood as the motif, her classmates and friends were dolled up in designer formal outfits, fit for sashaying on the red carpet.

Watching the guests all through the party, I saw enthusiasm. Why, they were engaged every step of the way!

Huh?! 

It was at that party where I realized that at an 18th birthday celebration, the millennials lap up every scene. They hang on to every word. They tap their feet to the music. They take selfies, tons of them.

It was also at that party that I realized why older people yawn all through the rituals and dread being invited to one.

There is this gaping hole between our eras. What they like—unstructured spontaneity, dead air, unprepared speeches—are what we abhor. They swoon over what we groan at. And vice-versa.

It seemed like my coming-out party, too—grace that came to me on red carpet. There I discovered that millennials' newfangled ways can never be mine.

Rudyard Kipling foresaw this in 1889 when he wrote:

East is East, and West is West and never the twain shall meet.

But reading further, we should see likewise that everything is not for naught; there will come a happy ending, and it will be ever after:  

Till Earth and Sky stand presently at God's great Judgment Seat;
But there is neither East nor West, Border, nor Breed, nor Birth,
When two strong men stand face to face, though they come from the ends of the earth!


Tuesday, March 8, 2016

From Homophones to Hieroglyphics


What has digital messaging done to spelling?

Massacred it, leaving only carcass that looks so grossly mangled, it is nothing like the original, complete form—not even close.

I got a bizarre text message today that went this way:

“Oks magazk?” 

My head throbbed with a dull ache for close to an hour, trying to decipher what it meant. I read it aloud countless times, tried a myriad of permutations, but either I have lost my synapses, or my brain has shriveled up due to aging.

I replied, “What did you mean?”

She wrote back, “Is it okay if I ask you a question?” (Her first message was a combined form of Filipino and English slang terms.)

Now why would anyone, in this age of modern communication, want to garble spelling?  

Having to deal with homophones (same sound but with a different spelling/meaning) is hard enough—so having to decode fancy-sounding spelling is like reading hieroglyphics. 

Take these six words that have exactly the same sound but each with a totally different meaning

Air: Breathable gas

Err: Make a mistake

Heir: Scion

Aire: A tune (as in, Londonderry Aire)

Are: A unit of area equal to 100 square meters

Ere: poetic and old form of “before”

These one-syllable words are difficult enough to differentiate from one another, so why do we complicate spelling further?

This is especially heart-breaking for me because I teach Business Communications.

But I guess I will not get an answer before I turn to dust.

I now beg for grace, maybe a smorgasbord of grace, to understand hieroglyphics such as what I received today—and hope not to receive at all.

Photo credit

Friday, March 4, 2016

Three Crosses


Three crosses cast a shadow upon Calvary over 2,000 years ago.   

The middle cross was Christ's. On each side were two robbers. One thief chose to be with Jesus and went to Paradise; the other spurned Jesus and went to the fires of hell.

What a simple equation that helps us sort out the way we want to end—or never end—our life!

The robber who went to Paradise was a sinner, but died a saved sinner, ending his mortal life cleansed, in peace, and with a new heart because he was eternally forgiven.

The other robber, on the other hand, died with all his sins still in him, ending his mortal life with a heart full of anger and bitterness because he asked not for forgiveness.

In Jesus, there is no middle road on the highway to heaven. It's all or nothing. One either receives the free gift of salvation or rejects it.

We read in Matthew 27:38, “Then were there two thieves crucified with him, one on the right hand, and another on the left.” 

The two crosses on either side of Jesus’ represent how humanity is divided by Christ. The cross on the right held the saved; the left held the lost.

But all three crosses represent God's grace. In the middle, Christ died for both the sinners. The same grace was offered to both—they had the same opportunity, but Jesus let them make a choice.

This month, as we approach the Holy Week that happily ends with the resurrection on Easter, I pray we make our choice for Christ.

To celebrate the triumph of Jesus' cross, I am changing my header. From this . . .  

to this:   


photo credit

Monday, February 29, 2016

Our Hyphen


Among all the punctuation marks, the hyphen is what I leave for last in my English classes.

It is the hardest to understand because it is often confused with a dash, and therefore needs more teaching time. And especially because, in modern times, the hyphen is now being left to oblivion. To name a few, inter-action, hyper-ventilate, and de-emphasize have each lost their hyphen and have become one word. 

It is also because on our computer keyboard, we use the same key or symbol for both.

But there is one use for the hyphen (okay, dash) that will never change: its role in obituaries or in biographies of the dead. 

William Shakespeare, 1564-1616

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 1906-1945

Mother Teresa, 1910-1997 

Adolf Hitler, 1889-1945

Ferdinand Marcos, 1917-1989

That hyphen defined the way they lived their lives: between the time they were born and the time they left this earth. That same minuscule line, when the Lord calls me home, will define the way I shall have lived mine.

“. . . you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.” James 4:14 (NKJV)

Our life is but a hyphen (or dash, or that tiny horizontal line on our keyboard).  Small and short. I pray we spend it walking on the path that leads to the narrow gate, open to us by God’s merciful grace.  


Thursday, February 25, 2016

Never Again


Have we been remiss?

Have we not told our children enough about the evils of Martial law? Have we taken for granted that they will learn about it by themselves or by osmosis?

If some publications are to be believed, youth groups are leading the movement to elect the dictator’s heir, remorseless and unrepentant. These same groups are shamelessly proclaiming that the Martial Law years were the golden age of this country. They are courting its return.

Watching the sky turn yellow on TV once more, and staring at the re-enactment of the EDSA People Power this morning, I was overcome with vivid images and gut-wrenching memories of an event 30 years ago that changed the lives of those who suffered through the malevolence of dictatorship.
I shed tears, remembering those dark years all over again. 

We were there, we saw it all, we suffered it all, and we made possible the end of it all—the abuses, excesses, atrocities, injustice, and debauchery. With clenched fists and courageous defiance, we walked hand-in-hand to break free from the chains of coercion.

And we were successful.

As a nation, we made the dictator flee, shamed and fallen. 

At EDSA, we were one.

Can we be one again in passing on the anger and frustration to those who were still unborn or infants when it happened?

Will our youth, our children, clueless and coddled, value what we fought for?

Never again. Is it just a slogan now, 30 years later, for the old and the aging? Will I live to see the grace of EDSA be left unsullied and solid?

I pray we do not allow our heard-earned freedom be shackled: Never Again. 

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