11/30/2009

Thinnest House


Have you seen a thinner house?


One of the rewards of not knowing how to drive is the grace to enjoy all the things you pass by.

This house has always fascinated me. I have tried to get a good photo of it, but the traffic is always busy—either the house is hidden by a truck or bus on red traffic light, or the green light is on and we need to zoom away.

My imagination goes crazy:

The residents can’t lie down crosswise;

The dining table is very long and very narrow;

Every resident is lean and slim;

Party guests chat in a queue;

Nobody can walk side by side;

Nobody does stretching exercises;

There is no such thing as hallway; or is it all hallway?

Space did not prevent the owners from building the house. It is a roof over their head, and as good as any structure to be turned into a home.

11/26/2009

I Love Catanduanes


“I Love Catanduanes,” says our friend Cesar Sarmiento of this beautiful, breathtaking province with the most spectacular beaches, waterfalls, rivers, streams, and rustic scenes comparable to the best in the world.

No photo could do them justice.


Who would not love such a paradise?

Oh, but Cesar speaks not from a tourist’s point of view. He speaks of Catanduanes as one would speak of one’s roots—where Cesar was born, bred, and betrothed (to our friend Lala Alcantara, another pure-bred Catandunganon).

“I love Catanduanes” is not just a buzzword for Cesar. It comes from the heart. Such big love for a small island!

No wonder friends have been egging him to run for public office, particularly for congress, where he could pass well-crafted and heart-felt laws to put this untapped, unharnessed island in the map where it belongs.

I hope Cesar takes the challenge because if there is anyone who could help Catanduanes, it would be someone like him—an outstanding lawyer and a civic worker, known for his integrity and passion in all his positions in both private sector and government, and who has already done so much for the province even as a private citizen.

If I seem like I am rooting for Cesar, it is because we badly need people like him in government—there is a dearth of his kind!

These photos were taken at a big bash organized and paid for by friends who all came with a prayer: for CS (CatanduaneS) to run, win, and do good.


May God’s grace be upon Cesar as he, Lala and their family ponder their next big move.

11/23/2009

On My 3rd Year:

I Have Turned Yellow

Yellow no longer means cowardice, not in this country anyway. Since the early 80’s when Ninoy Aquino came home from exile and was killed, yellow has become a color with a myriad of meanings, all of them worth our pride.

Taking a cue from the song, “Tie a Yellow Ribbon,” people braved and defied the wrath of the dictatorship by tying yellow ribbons on car antennas to welcome Ninoy. Then not much later, yellow became the color of protest and restoration of democracy, in support of Cory, Ninoy’s widow, who eventually became our first woman president.

In August this year, trees, car antennas and posts blossomed with thousands of yellow ribbons again when Cory died. It was a spontaneous gesture from those who are grateful for her legacy of integrity and simplicity, in a country where glitz, glam, and greed are the daily fare of those drunk with power.

Today is my 3rd blog anniversary (three years of blogging every three to four days, wow, it has been thrilling!) and so I am taking the opportunity to review my numbers—over 60,000 guests from 136 countries, thousands of new friends, and 300 blog posts. This occasion is definitely the day to signal change.

I have abandoned my green background color and turned yellow. Not so much as a political statement, or to jump into the yellow bandwagon, but because yellow evokes powerful memories and vivid images of refreshing change.

Our garden is all abloom with flowers of grace—yellow gumamelas—and so, why not a yellow blog page?


I also say good-bye to my past header:               


And say hello to my new one: 
                         

11/19/2009

Ode to a Bread Bun


The queue is always extra long and it takes approximately 15 to 30 minutes to wait one’s turn. Yet people flock to this nondescript, unnamed bakery in our neighborhood before sunrise. Among those who patiently stand in line is Tony, who is impatient with everything else.

The object of everyone’s desire is the bakery’s special pandesal.


To Tony and me, it is the best-tasting among all the other pandesals in our village. Many others believe so, too. Otherwise, they would still be in bed, not in the extra long queue.

Pandesal is a yeast-raised bread bun usually eaten in the Philippines at breakfast. It is made of flour, eggs, lard, sugar, and salt. Despite the literal meaning of its name (bread of salt), the taste of pandesal varies from bland to slightly sweet. It usually costs 2.50 pesos or a US nickel.

Our favorite pandesal (approximately two bites) is neither big nor small, and neither sweet nor salty. It doesn’t look good nor does it taste good—it tastes ummmmm!

When Tony brings a bagful home, the bread buns are still piping hot. And as one bites into its fluff and texture, one feels the comfort of home.

Like the stirring of joy at sunrise, grace comes in the morning.

11/14/2009

A Rare Respite


If or when we find a common free time (which is rare), my boys and I drive to a residential resort south of Metro Manila and stay the night. One of the place’s attractions is its spring weather, which makes one forget the stress and jobs we temporarily leave behind.

As soon as we hop in the car, the fun begins. We drop by a bee farm, “Ilog Maria,” and buy our toiletries handmade from beeswax. Then on to lunch c/o gift certificates sent by JB, Gianina and Adrian. Lunch overlooks the world’s smallest volcano, Taal. After which, JC treats us to coffee and dessert in a coffee shop along the way.


After checking-in and swimming in the heated pool, Tony treats us to the spa. There’s nothing like a shiatsu massage to decompress weeks of taut muscles and overworked brains. A leisurely dinner, then individual walks around the quiet neighborhood come next. On to reading for me (the boys go on their own) before turning in.


A late morning breakfast at the clubhouse, then some looking around and lots of reading and sitting around, we check out for an easy, unhurried drive home—dropping by a new eating place, JR’s treat. This time it is Dawais, a Vietnamese restaurant tucked behind stretches and stretches of pineapple plantations (this goes into a separate post).

As soon as we hit home, the heat of global warming hits. But the two-day lull makes it all bearable. And in a couple of hours or so, we leave for the evening service where we praise and worship God for His lordship, and thank Him for his grace of family, rest and relaxation.

11/11/2009

Reading Glasses


People raise an eyebrow when I say I have over a dozen pairs of reading glasses. “I just forgot to bring one today.”


(Not in photo are those I have on and those left in the places I frequent: church, school, vehicles, and maybe even the supermarket)

Who’d be crazy to have these many reading glasses anyway?

Me.

The one thing that upsets my equilibrium (aside from dry faucets and toilets that don’t flush) is leaving my reading glasses at home. I panic when I can’t find one in my purse.

Without them I can’t read a thing within two feet away—and that’s practically everything I live for: books, computers, newspapers, cell phone, and labels in supermarkets.

To solve this problem, I amass as many pairs as I could and strew them all over the house: bathroom, bedroom, terrace, computer room, kitchen, Tony’s Elvis room, on the piano, on the TV set, in Tony’s car, in JC’s car—everywhere! When I lose one, I immediately buy a replacement, or two.

And yet, there are days when I leave them all behind. Age? Rush? Feeble mind? Fuzzy brain?

All of the above.

Once I was in school for my Marketing class, and no glasses. I looked for someone who had a pair I could borrow. All the faculty members at that hour were at least twenty years my junior so no one needed reading glasses. All afternoon, I was at the mercy of my students. Someone had to read my text messages, the lessons, the attendance sheet, the test scores, etc, etc. It was their lucky day, I didn’t have the eyes to nit-pick over their seat work.

Eyeglasses holder? I lose them, too.

On those I-forgot-to-bring-glasses days, I thank the Lord for the grace of seeing. Although my eyes have grown dim for close range reading, I can still see clearly everything around me with 20/20 vision.

11/09/2009

Bliss



Bliss: spring weather out of town

Bliss: a rare weekend getaway

Bliss: reading my Bible in chronology

Bliss: writing in my head

Bliss: focusing on the Word

Ahhhh, bliss is God’s grace at work in all of the above.

11/06/2009

"Flying" takes Flight


Manila Times featured "Flying on Broken Wings" on November 8 this year.                      
  

Let me share with you an excerpt of the write-up:

IN HER OWN WORDS

Author Grace Dacanay-Chong talks about her new book and the writing life

Interview by Perry Gil S. Mallari
Reporter

Manila Times (MT): You were known for writing great inspirational books. Would you agree that writing in this genre demands more than excellent writing skill but also the depth of the writer’s experience in the issues he is talking about?

Grace: Writing inspirational books demands heart and soul. It is introspective. A writer must be willing to dig deep into her core and share the unique things she mines there.

An inspirational book author can only write incisively about the things she believes in and has experienced. It is easy for anyone to write about a topic, but only a creative writer can write about life, what one has gone through—because that is exclusive, enriched by people and circumstances that will never pass her way again.

There is nothing I like doing better than writing. That’s why sometimes I wish I should have started writing much earlier. But then, again, I wouldn’t have much to write about when I was younger, than I have now that I am battle-scarred, so to speak.

MT: What is the best hour of the day to work? Do you have any personal rituals before you begin writing?

Grace: I am a day person. I wake up as early as 5 AM for my morning walk; then after breakfast, I start writing. I knock off around 7 PM when my husband and kids arrive from work for dinner. I retire early to wake up early again the next day.

No rituals—just a quiet, personal talk with God, thanking Him for a new day, praising Him for His grace, and seeking His guidance for the words that I write.

MT: Your books obviously are very spiritual in nature. Can you share insights on personal spirituality and its connection to daily life?

Grace: I personally believe in living by grace. That apart from God, I can do nothing. So every thought that I write is a product of my relationship with Him.

For this, I have a Bible verse to guide me (I call it my life verse): Matthew 5:16 “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”

I chose this verse in a youth camp when I was 12, not because I understood it (or particularly liked it) but because we were asked by the camp director to choose a life verse. It was only when I started writing in the year 2000, when I found time to reflect on its essence, that I fully understood what it meant.

I guess it wasn’t an accident that I chose it after all—it led me to what I am doing now.

MT: You were in the lucrative field of advertising before you decided to pursue creative writing, can you tell us more of that important turning point in your career?

Grace: This was what I wrote in my writer’s folio:

One day I woke up and my children were wonderfully grown. After 20 years in advertising, I found the landscape quickly changing. And so was my attitude towards career and the corporate world. In the year 2000, a merger between our company and another giant was in the offing. So was a juicy early retirement offer for the upper tier of management.

After prayers after prayers, I took it.

Finally, from a long and winding detour, I am writing. Not for mass media but for God’s glory.

MT: Can you name a particular person or event that made the greatest influence in your life as a writer and as a person?

Grace: My dad was a bookworm. I remember watching him read—it was as though he was in another world. I wanted so much to be in that world, too. Reading and writing are Siamese twins.

As a kid, I always loved to write. I wrote speeches and letters for aunts, uncles, and my mom’s friends. I was always assigned to do scripts for skits, plays and to edit newsletters. In the closet, I was writing poems, plays, essays, letters to whomever. I was also contributing to publications.

But there was no creative writing degree at that time. So I was waylaid and took up other courses.

There are many (as in countless) people who have influenced my life as a person. In my “Gifts of Grace” book series, I speak of how grace was sent to me through a total of 45 people in three books. I could go on and write till book 10 and beyond, and yet I’d still have many people left out.

MT: What motivated you to write Flying on Broken Wings?

Grace: May I just quote Bezalie Uc-Kung? She is the Executive Director of New Day Publishers. She wrote this in the book’s “Publisher's Note.” I couldn’t write it any better.

"I waited many years for this dream book to come to fruition. . . "

MT: What future works await Grace D. Chong’s followers?

Grace: I blog, every three to four days. I hope that counts. I work on every blog post like I was writing for a publication.

I am also working on a daily devotional for young, busy women, due in March. What qualifies me to write this book? Well, I have always been busy myself and I wish I had read a book like this to affirm my busyness in the early days of my career. Again, this falls under the inspirational genre. I am not a theologian or a Bible scholar, so this book is not going to be preachy.

Through my journey, particularly my life’s dips and swells, I think I can share perspectives that others see differently. By combining mine with those of the readers’, I know they will go through their busyness with lighter, spryer steps. And as they reflect on these nuggets of life, they will find theirs more meaningful.

In between, I write children’s books on family values.

I am what you call a cut-to-cut person (an influence of the fast-paced advertising world). I can’t work on something non-stop. I usually take a breather and write something else; I guess it’s to give myself some space, the better to know where I am going.

11/02/2009

"Ugh" and Chicago Winter


You could say I am looking for sympathy. I have been feeling, well, no English word describes it accurately, so let me use the catch-all, "Ugh,” short for the Ilocano term, Garadugod.

A few blogs ago, I wrote about my two harrowing days in the hospital for medical tests due to tummy troubles. I thought that would be the end of it.

I was wrong.

Over two weeks after medication, the "ugh" persisted. So my doctor advised a CT Scan, with contrast (whatever that means).

Before the procedure, I was told to drink 1000 ml of water with an odious taste. "Dye," the little young lady said in a sweet voice. It was another "ugh."

"Ugh" got ughier and ughier inside the CT Scan room. It was as cold as winter in Chicago.























No blanket was thick enough to keep me from shivering. And the little young lady asked permission to pierce me with a humongous needle. She didn't make any headway—not until three tries later. "Ugh. Ugh. Ugh."

"I am sorry, ma'am." she said repeatedly, but because my tongue—like the rest of my body—was frozen, I couldn’t utter one word. The procedure was quick, no more than twenty minutes, but the "ugh" of fear was ten times longer.

In that all white, sterile room, I asked God for grace—not a dollop, not a glob, but a drumful into which I could be dunked.

"You will feel a warm sensation when we pump the dye in," a masked young man with twinkling eyes said. "And that will taste like rusty steel."

"But nothing to worry about, ma'am, that is normal," the little young lady added.

Through their voices, I heard God's reassurance, and yes, sympathy: "Just as I was I with Moses, I will be with you . . ."

And so He was, even as I stepped out of Chicago winter into Manila summer.

Tomorrow—when the results come in—is another day.