Monday, May 2, 2016
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?”
“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 stood 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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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? 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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
Saturday, March 12, 2016
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!
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
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:
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
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.
Friday, March 4, 2016
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 . . .
Monday, February 29, 2016
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
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.
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.
Monday, February 22, 2016
(I wrote this column five years ago for a magazine, but the incident almost happened again, so it feels like I just wrote it yesterday.)
"What is the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning?” asked a little kid in one of my book talks.
I gave him a few answers, but he said all of them were wrong.
With wisdom belying his young eyes, he remarked (it seemed more like an admonition from an old professor to a truant student), “You should first pray and thank God for the new day.”
Why, of course! How could have I missed that?
From that day on, I had to be conscious that before I rose from bed for my morning walk, I should first be grateful to the Lord for the grace of a new day.
My day begins just a few minutes before 5 A.M. By five, I am shod in my walking outfit, with a pedometer to measure my steps, a hat to protect me from the dawn draft, and a long stick to ward off street dogs.
On one of these mornings, I prayed upon waking up, donned my walking gear, then went for my one-hour exercise. It was unusually dark; I thought there must be a storm brewing.
After ten minutes, I was ready to greet Mang Ramon, the newspaper man who delivered the dailies in the neighborhood and the first person I'd see on the street every day. No sign of his bike anywhere. I thought he might be sick.
In another ten minutes, I expected to meet Aling Baby, the lady who attended mass at the same hour daily. No shadow of her either. I presumed she overslept.
I gingerly walked by the big house with the most rabid dog that gnarled when it heard my footsteps. Not even a yip. I thought it might have been on vacation somewhere.
It was the eeriest morning—there were no stray cats and the school buses plying their route at that hour were nowhere to be found. I couldn't even hear the roosters usually crowing from somewhere. Alarmed, I asked myself, What is happening to this neighborhood?
Panicking (after I had already walked half an hour), I ran back home. Upon opening our front door, the clock stared at me. It was only 4:30 in the morning! I woke up one hour too early!
I laughed so hard my husband stirred from his deep sleep, “What's wrong?”
After I had told him the story, he didn't think it was funny, so he went back to bed.
Good mornings begin with a prayer and a mix-up such as this!
Thursday, February 18, 2016
Ching’s lovely voice wafted inside the hushed church. As one of our Praise and Worship team leaders, she sometimes sings solo, with lyrics that dovetail with our Pastor’s message to drive home the grace of God’s Word.
That one Sunday, as she rendered “His Eye is on the Sparrow,” I blinked back tears. This hymn never fails to move me.
Growing up, I’d wonder why the adults in our church would wipe their eyes whenever this was sung. But eventually, I’d be wrapped in the same emotions whenever I reflect on the lyrics.
"Sparrow" (or Maya in this country) was how different species of common birds in the Bible were called—they were so numerous they gathered in noisy flocks and built untidy nests in the eaves of houses.
In Jesus’ time, sparrows were cheap. The poor who could not afford to sacrifice a sheep or a goat would bring a sparrow to the temple. So insignificant were the sparrows that they were always on sale—if you bought four or five, the seller would throw in an extra for free. It was this free sparrow which Jesus spoke of, “and not one of them is forgotten before God.” (Luke 12:4-7)
If God is concerned about the sparrow, how much greater must His concern be for you and me, more valuable than a mere sparrow! Jesus chose the most common of all birds to assure us: in God's eyes, no one is insignificant.
The story behind the writing of this hymn by Civilla Martin is just as gripping as the lyrics:
In 1905, Civilla and her husband met a couple named Mr. and Mrs. Doolittle. Mrs. Doolittle had been bedridden for nearly twenty years. Her husband was a cripple and wheelchair bound. Despite their afflictions, however, they lived happy Christian lives, inspiring everyone in their circle.
Civilla asked why they had such a happy disposition; Mrs. Doolittle replied, "His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me."
Let’s sing the hymn together and be comforted.
Why should I feel discouraged
Why should the shadows come
Why should my heart feel lonely
And long for heaven and home
When Jesus is my portion
A constant friend is he
His eye is on the sparrow
And I know he watches over me
His eye is on the sparrow
And I know he watches me
I sing because I'm happy
I sing because I'm free
His eye is on the sparrow
And I know he watches me
Sunday, February 14, 2016
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
Can grace be more eloquently and profoundly defined?
There are many people in history who died or "took a bullet" for country, for a loved one, to protect others, or to save someone's life in the name of love, but none had stripped himself of all riches and power to suffer and die for mindless, stubborn, and worthless mankind.
Only Jesus. Not one could ever come close.
Today, February 14, let’s celebrate the greatest love of all!
Wednesday, February 10, 2016
It happened again. I turned into a pig on Chinese New Year’s eve.
There were endless choices of food in possibly the biggest buffet array in this country that even a perpetual dieter like me can cave in with a one-sentence excuse, “It’s only once a year.”
Tony’s side of the family usually celebrates the Lunar New Year in a place where one hotel floor has nothing but food and one special room is reserved for cheeses and tapas. That room alone can make one forget food resolves and doctors’ admonitions. So I snort.
“Skip the Chinese dishes,” advised third son, JR. “Or you won’t have enough space for the rarities.”
The rarities were foie gras, lobsters, fresh oysters, abalones, and sea treasures one hardly gets to see on her own dining table.
Even with zero Chinese food on Chinese New year, however, my plate was overly full many times over.
These calorie overloads were polished off over sporadic conversations with relatives who speak more Chinese than languages familiar to my ears; elaborate dragons in various colors weaving in and out of our room; red lanterns; red beverages; and a fortune cookie that read:
A pig I might have turned into, but my human mind had been able to ponder that statement. It revised it to:
“The first step to better times is grace.”
Despite the glorious food and loving relatives on New Year’s eve, no imagination can conjure better or bad times. We can imagine all we want, but it is His will that prevails. And to those who believe, better times beyond this life await them.
On that note, I concentrated on pigging out.
“This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” 2 Corinthians 5:17
Saturday, February 6, 2016
What were the most encouraging words someone ever said that pushed you into doing what you love doing now?
The words that keep ringing in my ears right now are:
Yet, they were not even said to me directly. They were scrawled by my professor on the title page of my typewritten script for our playwriting class.
These two words were more than medals or plaques of merit. For me, they meant I had something going there and that I should pursue it.
I did not pursue writing right away—not in the way I have been relentlessly at it in the last 16 years. But I remember those words each time a reader sends me an encouraging message or a note with words so close to "Keep writing!"
Today, these have evolved into a nagging reminder for me to read and hear to stoke the writing ember that can die with the onslaught of modern concerns.
This has been a killer week. I had not had enough time to write everything I have in my head for a book that's due in March.
My blog rhythm has been compromised (16 hours late), too. Just as I get ready to write, something pops up. Or just when I am immersed in a paragraph, something tumbles down my lap.
I should, I really should. Ooops, my phone's ringing.
Tuesday, February 2, 2016
Yesterday, the first day of the so-called love month, I did nothing but teach my college editorial staff how to do interesting newsletter layout.
As the adviser of our university paper, the look and the content—and attitude—of the publication fall on my lap.
It is an exciting assignment, something I took on with no question asked. But with this job come coaching and mentoring, tasks that require gargantuan patience—and going years back, plucking from my university memoir, as a campus journalist, what can be taught today to hard-core millennials.
Aside from their writing talents, my chosen editors (who had to pass a rigorous test), have zero knowledge of journalism.
Words like headline, subhead, ears, nose for news, news angle, column inches, page jump, tombstone, etc. are as foreign to them as how a typewriter looks like.
What to do?
I guess that's why there is a love month. It's when you painstakingly teach the ABC's of a job you used to love so they, too, will love it.
As one of only a dozen, chosen from among thousands to write for a prestigious campus newspaper, and one who will always look to those wonder semesters as part of her life's peak moments—I received grace in many unmeasured column inches.
Journalism would also become the venue for meeting my future husband (maybe I should blog about that, too, one day soon).
Memories of a job so loved, then, should be shared—and passed on.
So, I now move from a header of hope . . .
to a header of love: