3/30/2007

You're NOT Handsome


“You’re not handsome” is Dili ka guapo in Cebuano—one of the Philippines’ major dialects (or language, as linguistics students call it because it really is totally different from most of the country’s over 80 dialects).

Dili ka guapo said to someone’s face would be suicide. You’ll get maimed, minced and mutilated. It’s simply not said (keep it in the dark chambers of your thoughts)—not aloud, not even in jest.

But in GenSan (a bustling city in Mindanao, almost at the bottom of the Philippine map), in a restaurant that serves mouth-watering ostrich dishes, Dili Ka Guapo is said with exuberance and exultance, while you dribble and drool, up in the same league as serendipity!

Dili Ka Guapo is a specialty dish. It is a combination of dilis (dried teeny-weeny fish), guaple (giant guava), and pomelo (a tropical grapefruit).

Tis a pity I have no photo to brag with, but I can gush. May I?

Imagine a white platter decked with dices of pastel greens, chunks of translucent pinks, and shreds of golden browns. They look like they shouldn’t be together; but you change your mind as soon as you take the first spoonful of the concoction into your mouth.

Pomelo
Dilis
Guaple
And then you think that one without the other would be tragic. Sometimes sour, sometimes salty, sometimes sweet—but always crunchy, juicy, and chewy, all at the same time.

If you are a foodie, you know exactly what I am babbling about. But it isn’t as easy as putting together dilis, guaple and pomelo. The secret is in the type of dilis, guaple and pomelo. In that restaurant called Sixblings, the chef has an exclusive recipe for his dilis; his guaples are handpicked; and his pomelos come straight from Davao (a bigger city three-hour drive away, where the sweetest and juiciest pomelos are grown).

At Sixblings, God’s grace comes in bowls, plates, saucers, and platters, I pondered.

Dili Ka Guapo is just one of the many things I was pampered with by my hosts when I was in GenSan for less than 24 hours. It deserves one post. Other posts, still on GenSan, are on the way.

3/27/2007

Oaf


“Oaf” is the three-letter word I write in the tiny squares of the crossword puzzle when the clue says, an inept, clumsy person. Sometimes the clue also says, someone who’s lacking in aptitude and intelligence.

It describes me.

I can’t operate a digicam without: a) erasing all the other photos already there; 2) clicking and the photo gets lost; 3) missing a moment because I am forever fiddling with a myriad of tiny knobs with tiny drawings I can’t see without my reading glasses on; 4) and a lot of other things you don’t want to know.

I was extremely content with my Prima Canon camera even if my children, nieces and nephews laughed at me whenever I used it. I ignored every ribbin’ and teasin’—even sarcasm on occasion. I got all the photos I wanted and I have a cabinet full of spiffy albums and scrapbooks where my photos are mounted. However, those same photos don’t look too well when scanned and sent to cyberspace. But who cares? Photos are all about moments, not composition or clarity, right?

If I want crisp, clear photographs, I have artist friends to borrow from or Getty Images to run to.

But then I got hooked on blog hopping. And oooh and aaah, the photos in other people’s blogspots are simply marvelous, not to mention scrumptious. You can almost taste those delectable dishes; or feel the air in those exotic places; or touch nature’s promises in air, land, and sea; or hear the sounds of cities and ranges wide awake.

And to top it all, my son in the US painstakingly wrapped his first digicam--purchased with his hard-earned money treating patients two years ago--mailed it and bequeathed it to me. What’s a mother to do?

A mother who is also an oaf, that is.

I’ve been to several very important occasions worth a thousand photos the last two months. And I have nothing to show for them! Zilch.

Over the weekend I was in an awesome ostrich farm in GenSan and saw for the first time a lot of ostriches making like they were burying their head in the sand! What I’ve been reading about as a child had finally come true before my eyes. I was also treated to sumptuous ostrich meals in wonderful gastronomic presentations by the chef. And all I have is an ostrich egg which the farm/restaurant owners graciously gave me as a souvenir.

That's what makes my ostrich egg extra special. It now sits in an exotic basket for everyone to see—and with it comes my lengthy live narrative of what would have easily been recorded on digicam!

What’s my family doing to help me in this crisis? They’ve given me instructions over a hundred—maybe a thousand?—times, and well, enough is enough I guess.

Summer vacation has dawned upon us and I vow to make it worth my while. I will pore over the digicam manual and memorize every step.

Failing that, I may be able to visit my friend Robbie again. He is now out of the hospital, after over one month there, and I will ask him if he will be so kind as to show me exactly how he takes those drop-dead gorgeous photos with eyes closed.

















(The photos show my precious ostrich egg beside a regular egg from our ref.  Who took these badly-lit shots? Guess.)

3/22/2007

Family Gathered, Scattered


Against all odds, the answer is a yes.

Ask the person beside you, “Do you have a relative abroad?” You get a nod, or “Of course!,” or “Yup,” or a show of fingers. At no time in our history has the family been more dispersed and scattered, physically. Hardly do families have a gathering with complete attendance anymore.

My very small family (a husband, three sons, and a daughter-in-law), has not been together for three years. The culprit in this dispersal is not just the call of overseas. It’s having individual lives, chasing individual dreams.

I “lost” my children before they could officially leave home.

Second son went to medical school and it was foolish to cling to home which was an hour drive (barring traffic) to his school in Dasmarinas, about 40 kilometers away.

Youngest son is now in law school and the story repeats itself—he stays in a condo close to Rockwell and comes home only on weekends.

Eldest son is a techie down to his teeniest bone, works on weekdays, and when he’s home he talks to his three computers. 

This situation is replicated in many homes. The photos below show reunions that never happened; just a family gathered, and scattered.  


   

















It stands to reason, then, that the one, extremely rare occasion when my family was together moons ago, in one space, I encrypted it in my hard disc; I wrote about it. (If you think do nothing but write, well, kinda’.) To all sons, daughters, fathers, and mothers out there who can't attend a family reunion for whatever reason, you may want to read this with me.

A Circle of Dry

It was almost midnight, it was raining, it was a long way to home, it was slippery on the highway, it was the day the family was in one space in months, it was the worst time to have a car breakdown. Bang!

"We just had a
flat tire!" I screamed.

"Naaaah," my husband said, like a tic—when I am in the throes of panic.

Then the car wobbled. The unflappable father of my equally unflappable three sons (unmoved from their sleepy slouches), managed to park the car close to the island.

Kahlil Gibran said, "Our children are not our children." I add, "...after the age of puberty." Before then, they are our children. They want to go wherever we go, eat whatever we want them to eat, do whichever we want them to do.

Unfortunately for me, my three boys, who each have contrasting interests and schedules, are al
l beyond the age of unreason. So this drizzly night was special. And now a flat tire to ruin it...
Putting it mildly, we were in great peril. My husband Tony was recovering from a quadruple bypass surgery; first son never, ever, changed a tire; midd
le son was suffering from a shoulder injury; last son was like first son in inexperience. And all of the above had not read the Revo's (a week-old purchase with no EWD) manual; no one knew where the jack was or how to extricate the spare tire from its hiding place.And me? "We could be sideswiped!"

"Call Jimmy Dumlao and request for a highway patrol," Tony tried to distract me.

Jimmy is a friend who heads the Philippines Toll Regulatory Board.
Help from Jimmy's traffic men was not forthcoming. Vehicles, with eerie apathetic sounds, sped past us. The rain persisted. My chin shivered from the cold and fright. And right on the hazardous highway, my face was soaked from looking up, from praying for grace.

But opening my eyes, I was treated to images more stunning than the photos of man landing on the moon. Stunning images frozen by my heart's camera in snapshots.


A father's umbrella providing sons (huddled over manual) a circle of
dry. Click.

Three pairs of scruffy shoes sloshing through mud
in cadence. Click. Three pairs of soiled hands gripping metals and latches in unison. Click. Three pairs of wet arms tensing over nuts and bolts in sequence. Click. Three pairs of eyes focused on rubber and wrench. Click. Three boys alternately conferring with each other, pushing and pulling, and lying on wet pavement together. Click. Click. Click.

I splurged on rolls upon rolls of imaginary film. How often does a mother get a chance to witness a bicker-less event? Not often. Sometimes never.

Common household dialogue: From three sons, "I did it yesterday, it's kuya's (older brother) turn today." "Why does it always have to be me?" "I can't mom, I have homework to do."

From their father, "I'll do it for you. I have no homework, I have no
kuya, and I have no choice."

The spare tire now almost in place, Jimmy's men arrived in a patrol car with pulsing lights and piercing siren. They watched my now bedraggled sons finish the job.

My cell phone rang.
It was Jimmy. "Are my men there yet?"

"Yes, thank you."


"Were they any help?"


"Yes, thank you again." I was grateful they came late. I was grateful they left us alone.
God's grace neither comes late nor leaves us alone. Not even on a highway on a rainy night when our car breaks down. “You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy.” Psalm 30:11.

3/18/2007

My Mother's Manila


What was old Manila like? I mean, the Manila before World War 2 crushed and tore it down. My mother used to describe it, with tinges of regret and much nostalgia, to me and my siblings. It has been difficult to imagine knowing how Metro Manila has become—over 15 million people, cramped with homes even on railroad tracks, along river fringes and under bridges.

“Old Manila was nothing like the Metro Manila you people know,” she said. “No litter on the streets, no graffiti on walls, no jaywalkers, no pickpockets, no slums, and definitely no reckless taxi drivers.” Roxas Boulevard (called Dewey then) was a serene parkway. Manila Bay was a family resort. The Manila pier was the longest and most modern in the world. And Pasig River? It was a place where romance bloomed. (Maybe a little like Luboc River in Bohol today—clear, clean, and charming.) That era was called "Peace Time" or the Age of Optimism.


My mom’s gone now, but before God took her with Him, she would lament, “You young people don’t walk anymore. All you do is ride the car, bus, taxi, jeepney, tricycle, and now LRT and MRT! Walk, walk, walk!”

Then she would reminisce about her daily brisk walks. (I think I may have gotten my love for walking from her.) She’d walk from Paco, where her parents in the province built a halfway house, to the University of the Philippines, Padre Faura, where she was a B.S. Pharmacy student, “It was a good five-kilometer distance,” she’d brag, “and I traversed it four times a day!” In those days they went home for lunch.

Well, there were no fumes, dust, smog, sidewalk vendors, or a horde of impatient, sweaty pedestrians—and other obstacles—that make brisk walking in that part of town an impossible endeavor today!

This week, I finally saw and pictured exactly what my mother was talking about and the places where she walked briskly. I found this video taken before we (yes, us, bloggers and surfers) were born.

I invite you to watch and enjoy the Manila that was my mother’s: previous post.

(Video is 6+ minutes. For uninterrupted viewing with music of a bygone era, please allow it to download before playing.)

Manila: A Bygone Era

3/15/2007

Name Dropping


What would you call someone who is closely related to two celebrities and who talks about it?

Name dropper.

That’s what I am, at least for this post. Not because of the glory it will bring me (I am sure none is forthcoming) but for the pride I feel in having them as my niece and nephew.

First, Ali Ewoldt.




















Ali plays Cosette in the re-staging of Les Miserables on Broadway! Yes, she’s the daughter of Fantine, played by Lea Salonga. She can sing up a storm—has been singing since she was a toddler.

Me? I can’t carry a tune, even if I keep trying. I love Broadway plays though (I have a collection of Broadway CDs, original soundtrack) and if I were in New York on opening night, I would have been invited to the family night and opening night. Hah!

See? We are related. In her veins run Ilocano blood and values. She is the daughter of my first cousin, formerly Leah Vergara Anolin.

Second, Alvin Patrimonio.

Anyone who knows his basketball in the Philippines knows Alvin. Four-time NBA Most Valuable Player.

He’s a giant at 6’3” and I’m a midget at 5’. I am not into sports (except walking and occasional swimming) and I hardly watch basketball games. But trust me, we are related. Alvin’s the son of my first cousin, formerly Ophelia Vergara.




















There are things I know about Alvin that the world doesn’t–that’s the prize of being an aunt. He knows his manners and his values are well oiled.

At age 3, the family predicted he would be a great basketball player. He’d play with anything that’s round (fruits, toys, even a wad of crumpled paper) and make like he was shooting it.

The Vergaras are a closely-knit clan, meeting every single year (62 years now) for a clan reunion.
















And we keep in touch all-year-round through a Vergara e-groups and a website, complete with a family tree, consisting of 6 generations! We know what each other is up to.

Ali and Alvin, although second cousins, have not met each other—not yet. Ali still has to visit the Philippines; we’re all hoping she will one day.

Okay, that's about it. My name dropping time is up. I will now go back to my ordinary self—and enjoy the amazing grace God pours upon ordinary lives.

(Photo below shows Alvin, with his tiny aunt [in orange], when he attended the launching of my book, "Gifts of Grace 2" -- where he upstaged me big time. Featured in one of the book chapters, Alvin was asked to pose with the guests for photos, non-stop. The queue for his signature was twice longer than the queue for the author's!)
 

3/13/2007

I Won Big Prizes from Blogging!


When I started blogging, I was writing for my local community, focused on friends and relatives. And, by a stroke of luck, maybe for a sprinkling of Pinoy readers.    

 Myopia.

Now what do you know? Just into my fourth month and I receive one surprise (prize!) after another.

ONE, hits from the big, wide world.

After I learned to operate my stat counter and to analyze its facts and figures, I realized that my guests, aside from Filipinos, are people from faraway lands—China, Poland, New Zealand, Chile, Portugal, American Samoa, United Kingdom, Japan, Africa, Brazil, Italy, Canada, Spain, Australia, US (from over a dozen states), and Saudi Arabia?! I thought they might have been misled surfs or errant hits, but their visit duration lasted minutes and hours?!

TWO, friendship with total strangers.

One of my guests asked via email where she could buy my books for her four kids. I named all the bookstores in the country, including those in Baguio. Little did I know that she is from Vermont, USA. She invited me to visit her blog—an intimate diary of a SAHM (Stay At Home Mom), “white European mix” married to a Chinese. She's now my e-pal.

Other emails from virtual strangers, and acquaintances I have already forgotten, also make my day.

THREE, gifts of grace from other blogs.

As I visit other websites, I meet people who, unselfconsciously, let you in on their lives—what they hate and love; their activities and their thoughts; their tears and fears; and how they learned life lessons. You see parallels with your own life and you start feeling better and finding new options which were not in your original limited list.

FOUR, the joy of “throwing caution to the wind.”

Lest that cliché mislead you, let me explain. I come from a generation where writing is sacred. When I was growing up, we had a writing discipline. Before sending out letters, we first wrote a draft, which was checked for errors then copied to a neat stationery. Since internet was still an idea, we diligently researched in the library and wrote our course works with our own, well-crafted words. We read the classics and loved the printed word.

Reviewing my old jottings, however, I found that there are correction marks on the handwritten ones, and liquid paper on the typewritten ones—even in private I was editing my work!

In advertising, every word we wrote had to be justified, and if possible, backed up by market or copy research.

Then I got published. I wasn’t surprised when my publisher assigned me, as a matter of course, two editors: a major one and a back-up one. And are they precise! They see every misplaced apostrophe, cliché, faulty capitalization, overdrawn paragraphs, mixed metaphor, non-space, misquotes (and the sources of the right ones), copyright infringement; yes, every teensy wrong dot and visible pixel.

That affirmed my writing ethic: Every piece one writes, which would be read by a person other than herself,  needs to be reviewed ruthlessly and rewritten endlessly.

A month before November 23 last year, the day I started blogging, I read a few blogs. They were written as though they were spoken spontaneously, sometimes rambling, sometimes babbling, with utter disregard for rules and substance. I read the comments on these posts and no doubt, their visitors, too, were in cadence with them. I said to myself, Why not take on the same attitude?   

Today, I read and revisit maybe a dozen blogs a day, and but for a few exceptions, they have the same cadence. They are what my 18-year-old student told me, “Blogs are self-expressions, not philosophical treatises.”

“Not literature?” I asked.

“Naaah,” he replied.

"Not pieces of art?"

"Nope. It’s kinda’ like . . . well, you know. Wala lang. (translation: just for the heck of it; or, no reason whatsoever; or, it just is; or, no brain surgery needed.”

I have learned that grammatical lapses, or misplaced figures of speech, or flagrant syntaxes, or dangling participles, or typo errors, or even mile-long paragraphs consisting of ten different thoughts, shouldn’t be causes for bursting blood vessels or recurring nightmares.

Ah, the prizes of blogging. They are big, many—and counting!

3/09/2007

A Wish: Honeymoon Forever


If my hands were not on the keyboard, I’d be clapping as I write this: One of my book editors and friend, Joan, is getting married in June!

Weddings are always a happy occasion, awaited with bated breath. But because wedding ceremonies are not made with cookie cutters, they take time to prepare. At the moment, Joan (and Nixon, her fiancé) have to see to a million details.

I want to put my two cents’ worth, not on the wedding, but on the honeymoon. I have a place in mind—and it’s no less than a paradise. It’s aptly named one, too: Eden Nature Park, in Davao. I was there in the summer of last year and naturally, I wrote about it in my journal.

What was I doing there? I was invited to conduct a Creative Writing Session for the Leadership Development Program (LDP) of Compassion International during the LDP Congress.

April 3, 2006

The nippy wind stings my cheeks as I breathe in the fresh, early morning air. The sun has not risen and the birds chirp and fly to welcome the new day.

This wonderland couldn’t be anything but Eden, the perfect
garden God himself made, and where He created the first man, and then the first woman. And here I am—3,500 feet above the traffic clog and smog of Manila! 











April 6, 2006

At dawn, the place was just beginning to stir. I had just taken a walk with two of the other invited speakers, Sito and Arni. The three of us went up and down hills and narrow lanes, passing through the bushes and thickets, under the tallest pine and palm trees, our eyes feasting on deer, fireflies, and peacocks.

With a full view of Davao
below, our rubber shoes crunched on pebbles and got soaked from the morning dew. We looked up and the finest, almost invisible drizzle moistened our faces.

“I wish I could bottle the air and bring it back to Manila,” Arni said, wistfully. His remark we all silently shared. For it seemed like the very same air Adam and Eve breathed in that first garden where they walked with God daily. What place could be better?

The question haunts me as I relish the hours at Eden Nature Park and Resort, a 40-hectare man-made, expensive getaway, which, I know, is just a speck, a billionth speck, of the grandeur that was the real Eden’s. It’s the same question that has kept Christians perplexed over the first woman who turned away from it all because she wanted more.

“Wanting more” are two words which continue to be the bane of man. More money, more power, more prestige, more recognition, more clothes, more shoes, more enjoyment, more happy occasions, more, more, more.

In Christian-speak, more blessings. Truth is, there are more blessings than we can ever acknowledge. On Eden alone, I can write over a thousand blessings, and my list would still be dreadfully incomplete. For the God of the huge universe is also the God of the teeny mustard seed.

I tried to guide the seminar participants (LDP scholars) in writing interesting letters that their sponsors (benefactors) would relish and treasure. One of the exercises was to demonstrate that ordinary information can be said in other ways to better involve the reader.

Fact:

“I am now attending
the LDP Congress. It is being held at the Eden Nature Park and Resort, south of the Philippines.”

But written from the heart, I
said, this straightforward fact takes on a different texture . . .

“Every day, here at the LDP Congress, I walk proudly with deer and peacocks! They roam around in this 40-hectare cool resort called Eden Nature Park.”

and another . . .

“When I look up, I can almost touch the blue sky—as though heaven is within reach. That’s how glorious it is here at the LDP Congress.

and another . . .

“I am up in the mountains in a place called Eden—where the air is so cool it stings; the trees so tall I can’t see where they end; the grass so green they look like carpet. This is the awesome venue of the LDP Congress which I am privileged to attend.”

and another . . .

“I feel as though God is holding my hand as I walk up and down winding paths, smelling the flowers and chilling from the breeze. He made it possible for me to attend the LDP Congress in this paradise on earth called Eden.”

and yet another . . .

“I meet God again and again in this breathtaking place He created. Tall mountains and rolling hills, flowers, butterflies, fireflies, and rabbits! Everywhere I turn, I see the spectacle at Eden Nature Park, the venue of the LDP Congress.”

My “students” took it from there . . . but even words (or photos) were inadequate to do justice to the wonders of God’s creation. The closest, I thought, as I filled my lungs with Eden's air (the next best thing to bottling it), was that word: paradise.

I was dribbling with excitement when I got home and described Eden to my husband in picturesque prose, short of being the resort’s publicist. His expected response (he has a penchant for reducing my lengthy meanderings to bare bones): “Baguio, 40 years ago.”

Joan and Nixon, ‘nuff said. May your honeymoon (in Eden or elsewhere) last forever.

3/05/2007

Purely Pinoy, Purely Pearlie


In my last post, “One Correct Answer,” I wrote about Pearlie (Aussie Puh-lie), my ten-year-old niece, who was my muse in writing the book “Book Eyes, Small Eyes,” two years after her visit to the Philippines—when I met her for the first time.

Pearlie has since gone to high school and graduated with honors. Her graduation gift from her parents is a month-long overseas travel to any of the six continents—other than Australia—where she hasn’t been to.

Pearlie needed no menu of choices. She had already one, and only one, in mind: the Philippines. What, the Philippines?! Huh? Why not, uh, France? Or maybe Spain? Greece perhaps? Or even Africa?

No, thank you. The Philippines. And so it is.

In February this year, she flew in to NAIA and out again to Boracay, Bohol, Cebu, Bacolod, Dumaguete and all the other scenic, undiscovered places in our country most Filipinos have postponed or skipped visiting in favor of trips to other countries.

What was there to expect in the second coming of Pearlie? Definitely more “Oooooh cooool!”

Wrong. The wide-eyed little girl is gone, with her “Oooooh cooool” totally thrown into obsolescence. In her place is a willowy stunner—taller than me and both her parents. She is mostly quiet, with a phrase, a sentence or two in breathy Aussie twang, silent nods, a lot of smiles, girlie giggles and endearing cuddles. She is an ardent listener, and an eagle-eyed watcher, as though faithfully recording every bit of Filipino rustle and bustle.

In deference to her, my family and I were careful not to lapse into speaking Filipino. When we did, we quickly translated it to English. Why, we need not have bothered! Pearlie may not be able to speak the language, but understands every Filipino word (including her father’s native tongue, Ilocano), according to her mom who accompanied her on the trip.

We were excited to introduce her to the many Filipino thingies (celebrities, movies, new sights and sounds) that are alien to aliens. She surprised—if not shocked—us all. She knew more than my husband, sons and I did, put together.

She was keen on “Pinoy Big Brother” (yes, the reality TV show that has captivated viewers for many seasons). In fact she wanted to see for herself, first hand, the Big Brother’s house. She also knew all the new teen idols like Marky Cielo, Richard Gutierrez, Dennis Trillo, Angel Locsin, Jennilyn Mercado and Katrina Halili, all strange names to me until she came. I had to consult my househelp, Ate Vi, who these people are and what they look like! Ate Vi gave me the look-- “Shame on you!”

Puh-lie knew all about “Eat Bulaga” (and the colorful story behind its two famous hosts) and other TV emcees, including controversial Willie Villarame. With the likes of Nicole Kidman, Mel Gibson and Russell Crowe, big-named Aussies, she is excited over Ogie Alcasid?

When we took her to the south for a heritage tour, she wanted her photo taken in front of the old church where Kampanerang Kuba (the tele-serye, I was filled in) was shot. For lunch in Liliw, Laguna (where she bought a Pinoy-made sandals), we took her to a restaurant which had piles of Filipino glossy magazines for the reading pleasure of the diners. She said she already had some copies of those at home and she had in fact bought a few more (despite her mother’s protest due to their weight) to bring home.

In our sentimental journey to our family’s hometown, Umingan, and then up to Baguio, she had to be stopped from tasting all the native delicacies and fruits lest her Aussie tummy wouldn’t agree. Again, we need not have worried. She was a risqué local more than a finicky tourist.

Now let me ask (myself, I guess), who among us—especially those who’ve developed a taste for foreign glam like the Oscars, the Tonys and American Idol—has the same pride and passion of being a Pinoy—and shows it?

Here’s 17-year-old girl who was born and bred in a milieu so alien to a homegrown Filipino and yet remains as purely Pinoy as a 17-year-old who grew up in anything but.

“Is this how Fil-Aussie teen-agers are in Melbourne?” I asked her mom—my mouth agape.

“Not at all!” she replied, laughing. “In fact, her cousins are wondering what’s gotten into her? But that’s the way she is. She convinced her father to subscribe to the Filipino TV Channel and she patronizes Filipino goods.”

And as though these weren’t enough, she told us, through her mom, that with her savings she wanted to send one needy child or two in our hometown to the high school where her dad graduated. It’s some kind of a personal scholarship, most probably in the name of her late lola and lolo, my parents. I can’t imagine bigger surprises in store for us when she graduates from college and earns her own money.

Incredible? I like to think that when Puh-lie came home that first time at age ten, she saw with her own eyes (big, literally, but bigger still, figuratively) what she is and what home is like. In both trips—and through all my writing days—she would be my muse and God's channel of grace. If ever my Gifts of Grace Book 3 would ever see print, the first chapter belongs to Pearlie.

She’s introduced me to all the unknown Filipino OFW’s and immigrants (in droves, judging from the overseas call in noontime TV shows and overseas Pinoy concerts) who are in distant lands but, like Pearlie, did not abandon their roots; they brought it along with them—and kept it in their hearts.













(Photo shows Pearlie and her parents)