3/31/2011

Must Children Beg?


When a six-year-old child is pushed to beg in the streets by his parents, what could he be thinking? 

1. I wish I could play with my friends instead.
2. I love doing this; there's nothing I'd rather do!
3. I need to do this so I can earn some money to buy food. 

This child couldn't speak for himself, so I wish to speak for him in this forum where I  hope I won't remain the sole speaker.  Please feel free to share your views.        

My guess is, answer no. 1.  Kids are wired to play and be kids.  
As for for number 2, I do not know of any kid born a workaholic. 
And 3, earning a living is an adult concept, not yet a part of a kids' psyche.

3/27/2011

Long-distance Love


I talked to Adrian on the phone this morning (evening in Michigan, USA) and I was surprised to find his voice “grown-up.”  His tiny-tot rasp is gone.  What I heard was a clear, crisp voice of a little boy turning four, in four and a half weeks.  

My first question was, “What are you doing, Adrian?”  I keep forgetting his parents' request for us to speak to him in Filipino.

He replied, “Ano po?”  (Rough translation: What was that again, po?)  Po is a Filipino word of respect for an older person.

I almost fell off my seat.

Recovering, I asked the same question in Filipino, “Anong ginagawa mo, Adrian?”

3/23/2011

Heaven's Corner


Somewhere in Baguio City is Heaven's Corner—a cozy place where one can commune with God or with the people He has assigned to write about Him.  With a flip of a page, here and there, you could read all about His grace and His mighty acts in many books.

Heaven's Corner is a Christian bookstore that opened its second branch on Saturday at SM.  It was the reason I went up to Baguio where I enjoyed the cool air that doesn't come from consoles powered by electricity but from nature powered by the Almighty.

In the short dedication ceremony, the pastor reminded us that Heaven's Corner is a blessing from God, who is the Source of all good gifts.  It must therefore exist to honor and give glory to Him.  We do not own anything, we are simply caretakers of any business He entrusts to us.

We prayed that every reader who enters the place may likewise be blessed by Him.

A kiddie show followed.  Teacher Cynthia, owner (rather, caretaker of God's bookstore), read “Half and Half” to the children gathered there.  And then, a surprise! Mateo, the puppet, appeared and spoke his lines in the story!
 
Mateo then interviewed me, to the delight of the kids and their parents.  Free books were given away to brave kids who came forward to answer questions and introduce themselves.

For the first time since the “Oh! Mateo” series was launched, four Mateos were in one place all at one time:  Mateo, the puppet, traveled all the way from Manila in the OMF van; my nephew Mateo who inspires the adventures of Mateo, the book hero; my brother from whom my nephew got his name; and then  my late father, the original Mateo, who was very much in my mind that day.  

The event had the same scenes that are re-enacted in many places in the country —wide-eyed kids lined up for their books to be signed, parents assisting them in the process, 'hellos' from new friends introducing themselves, and the OMFLit staff making sure everything is done in clockwork precision. 

But there was something awe-inspiring about the idea of a corner in heaven. 

In my imagination, it's an airy place with clean, crisp wind caressing your cheeks as you converge with the little children Jesus loves; and in the same tableau are parents standing in the periphery, grateful for being chosen to play important roles in these children's lives.

Oh, in heaven's corner—how awesome it would be to there someday!

3/21/2011

Bladder Control


My trip back to Manila from Baguio began with what seemed like a violent rebellion, similar to what is ongoing in Libya. 

When people started filing into the deluxe bus—with comfort room—the stewardess announced, “Sorry, Ma'am, Sir, the comfort room is out of order.

“WHAAAAT?!”  “x*&x+*#z!!!” A loud howl from all the passengers.

“Victory Liner will refund P100, Ma'am, Sir . . .”

x*&x+*#z!!!”  in accelerating crescendo. 

We were helpless at that point.  The buses on schedule that day and the next were already fully booked. 

“Okay,” one sensible man suggested, “the bus should stop by a gas station whenever necessary!”

Everyone agreed and so we, seething still, took our seats.  I put my tired feet up and tried to be as comfortable (!) as possible.  

But it was my misfortune (more like a cruel joke) to be seated in front of the comfort room and all through the five-hour ride, the “out of order” sign was right smack at my eye level.

Traveling on a public bus takes a lot of bladder control, if you are taking prescription  pills with diuretics.

Well, everyone who took the bus for the same reason I did, managed pretty well. Two pit stops and the groaning stopped.

It was a safe, scenic ride all the way and every once in a while, I'd softly sing the hymn printed on the UCCP Church Bulletin which I kept after the morning service before my trip. It was to remind me that there are more important things in life than fretting about a sudden hiccup. 

“O Jesus, Thou hast promised to all who follow Thee,
That where Thou art in glory, there shall Thy servant be;
And, Jesus, I have promised to serve Thee to the end;
O give me grace to follow my Master and my Friend!”


It was comforting (pun intended) to find Tony at the bus depot, who, as usual, half listened to my impassioned narration of the passengers' woes about the busted comfort room. 

"So how did the affair in Baguio go?"  he asked instead.

(Oooops, I should really be blogging about that, not this. Next post, I promise.)

3/18/2011

Road Treat to Baguio


In two hours I should be in a bus to Baguio to attend the opening of a new bookstore there. 

It's going to be a long five-hour ride; it would take a couple of hours more if I rode an ordinary bus. 

Thankfully, there is now what they call Victory Liner de-luxe, non-stop, with a comfort room, TV, a stewardess who serves free snacks, and free wi-fi.  For a few additional bucks—much cheaper than going by car—this ride will afford you time to go through a gamut of activities and still relax a spent body and mind. 

I am actually looking forward to it—the bus ride, not Baguio (this deserves another post). I know exactly what to do with five hours—some crosswords, some net surfing, some snoozing, some eating, some sightseeing, some reflecting, some Nook reading, and some editing.

Yes, editing.  Self editing.

I have recently finished a book on "singlehood" (if you need to know more, please leave a comment or e-mail me)  which I am about to discuss with my publisher.  Before I could have the nerve to do that, the manuscript has to go through some more tweaking and twisting.

I'll need a lot of grace to wade through 20,000 words or so, and to make sure each one is in place.  The hardest part of being a writer is when you try to put yourself in the shoes of the reader and hear a question in your mind: 

"What do you mean by this word/sentence/paragraph, Grace?" 

I believe that the first responsibility of a writer (before he can even begin to inspire, encourage, or excite) is to make herself  understood.

So do you understand me this far?

I hope you do, because I am about to upload this blog, log out, and run to the bus station. 

And oh, please help me pray for traveling mercies.

3/16/2011

Chivalry is Alive


"If Chivalry is dead, women killed it,” said Dave Chappelle, an American comedian, and many others who might have quoted him or had the same idea. 

Chivalry as we used to define it in my time is gallantry, courtesy, and readiness to help the weak—noble qualities of the knight in shining armor who saved women in distress.

Then, men opened doors for women, offered their seats and jackets, walked on the danger side of the street, and paid for all the bills on dates and parties. 

These are different times. 

The most common scapegoat for the death or near-death of chivalry (as an aside, my family is of the old world in this respect) is the feminist movement. Many laws have been passed in many countries since the 70’s on the equal rights of women, and many old habits have been altered. 

The other scapegoat is the abolition of ROTC that taught young men good manners and right conduct in society.

And the universal scapegoat is, of course, technology, which has kept us in our own little bubble.

The days of scented love letters have been taken over by ungrammatical, hastily written emails.  Visits to ladies’ dorms and homes (including the late-night serenade) have been replaced by hurried text messages and phone calls.

The smaller the world is becoming, the easier it is to communicate, and therefore the need to reach out to others personally has drastically fallen to the bottom of priorities.  

I had this frame of mind when I boarded a bus for Makati last week.  It was SRO but I had an appointment to catch, so I thought standing from Las Pinas to Makati was the better deal than being late.

There were burly, able-bodied young men seated all around, some looking out the window, some  riveted to the TV set, and some feigning sleep.   

Then a young, slight lady, maybe in her early 20’s, suddenly stood up and tapped my shoulder.  “Ma’am, you may take my seat.”

“Oh, no! I can’t do that.  But thank you anyway,” I said, surprised by her kindness.

“Please,” she said, giving me a sweet, lovely smile.

The men heard nothing, saw nothing, said nothing.

So I took her seat, and thanked the Lord for this unexpected grace. 

“You are an angel,” I told her.

Now that I was comfortable, I looked around.  There was a pregnant lady and another lady carrying a toddler at the back, both trying hard to balance themselves as the bus driver hit the brakes.

Then an elderly, stooped man came into the bus.  He joined the rest of humanity who were in the bus aisle trying to live with what is. 

So is chivalry dead?

Our world is going into a new direction and we seem to be powerless to stop it.  But I believe that my angel that day was taught about chivalry.  Not chivalry as we define or defile it, but chivalry as good parents know it, and teach it. 

Children who learn the right values at an early age—in homes that live by Bible truths and follow the ways of Jesus—carry these with them as they grow up, whether they're men or women.

In them, chivalry is alive.

3/12/2011

Earthquake and Tsunami:

Love Conquers All 

I was putting on my party dress when the Japan earthquake crumpled buildings, swept away cars, and swallowed up homes.  Hours later, when the party was in full swing,  tsunamis rampaged over coastlines and wreaked havoc on anything that was on the way.

And I was oblivious to it all.

Switching my cell phone to mute so I could savor the 25th wedding renewal of vows of two dear friends, I was deaf and dumb to the  danger, disaster, and devastation that was happening in another part of the world.

If a wedding can bring tears to one's eyes, the renewal of wedding vows can grip one's heart to goose bumps.  In this era of divorces, separations, and annulments, a 25-year marriage is big reason enough to celebrate. 

The “bride and groom” read the scripted words “I am renewing my . . .” but they also read new words from their heart, like: “If I were to live my life all over again, I would still love and cherish only one woman—the mother of my three daughters, my wife of 25 years.”

There were moments of tears—when their own marriage's earthquakes and tsunamis were confessed to the crowd of family and close friends.  But most of all, there was much rejoicing for and toasting to a grace-filled married life.

It was only this morning when I woke up, and watched the world news, that I found out what had happened the night before. 

The horrific images feel like it's the beginning of the end of the world!  It may well be.

We are experiencing the wrath of nature never before seen in our lifetime.  And there are predictions, based on scientific studies, that we should brace ourselves for more.

In these turbulent times, we can no longer just sit passively and let nature take its course.  We need to celebrate God's love in our lives, and believe in the one true God who is more powerful than what we are witnessing today with our human eyes.

He said in Deuteronomy 7:9 and in many parts of the Scriptures, “Understand, therefore, that the Lord your God is indeed God. He is the faithful God who keeps His covenant for a thousand generations and lavishes His unfailing love on those who love Him and obey His commands.” 

Let us put our trust in this love, for nothing is greater:  “ . . . so we will not fear when earthquakes come and the mountains crumble into the sea.” (Psalm 46:2)

Relish God's love on your 25th, Congressman Cesar and Lala!

3/08/2011

Where the Action Was


To reading advocates, one of the most delightful habits anyone could ever have is, reading. That's why I often write about it.

We've read in our history books that Gen. Douglas McArthur (World War II) left the Philippines for the USA, but vowed, "I shall return."

On October 20, 1944, he indeed returned and landed in Palo, Leyte to lead the drive against the Japanese forces.

When I read about this in my own history textbook as a little girl, I imagined how this dramatic coming back was like.

The many photos showing Gen. MacArthur and his team when he marched through the sea water to the shore, in full uniform, paled in comparison with the photos in my mind.

Yes, any book (which allows one's imagination to enter every impenetrable wall, including the characters' mind) is exceedingly better than any movie version.

Now how about if you saw the real thing? I mean, saw something you've only read about in textbooks, imagined, seen in photos, and re-enacted in movies?

I had that one-of-a-kind experience recently.

I was at the spot where Gen. McArthur landed to fulfill his promise, "I Shall Return."

Approaching the place, I could see giant bronze statues. They looked exactly like the photos I'd seen as a little girl. But as soon as we got close to the giants, I started gasping.

They are huge (much larger than the giants in my imagination), and because they are three-dimensional, they look almost in motion!

I am sharing with you (below) one of the dozens of photos I took.
 

Reading, as I keep saying, is a wonderful thing. But, then, when you get the chance to be at the same spot where people, places, and events you've only read about actually are, it's grace beyond imagination.
(Excerpted from my column, "Big Little People,"  The Freeman, February 17, 2011 issue.)

Oh, to be in places where Jesus walked! 

3/04/2011

Slave to Statistics


When at last "The Little Prince" lands on planet Earth (Antoine De Saint Exupery's well-loved novel of the same title) in Chapter 16, the author cites many crazy numbers, to dramatize that this place where we live is different from other planets in the universe. 

We earthlings like to count, a habit that has become a full-blown science called Statistics.

Statistics are now indispensable in all disciplines, because they add credibility to any pursuit. We like to measure productivity or success in terms of numbers.  Statistics are undeniably useful—we are able to chart future occurrences (global warming, for instance) or behaviors based on previously gathered data. 

The trouble is, I think I may have become a slave to statistics.

Gosh, I had just blogged about my grammar affliction, and now I have another malady.   

My early symptoms: I subscribed to an electronic counter which tracks the number of my blog guests—how long they stayed, how often they returned, and where they come from.

Every day I visit this counter and it always determines my delight index. When the number of hits leaped from one (mine) to nine, my heart leaped as well.
  
Then two days ago—four years later—my leaping heart did a somersault over my extraordinary number—88,888!  Never mind if most of those hits were stray or a result of erroneous googles

Although this number is smaller than those of food, travel, dating, celebrity, and political blogs, it's still far beyond my book readers' total. How can one not get delirious?

Suddenly last Friday, Dr. Melba jolted me out of my delusion.

As our speaker at the Christian Writers Fellowship at OMF, she reminded us of our responsibilities as authors:  

"Use your gift so it can speak for those who can't speak for themselves." 

"The ability to verbalize what others can only perceive, or half understand, is a calling."

"Words can protect; words can put men on their feet."

"Writing opens windows for children."

"Writing should be used to critique abuse of power."

"Writers should stand on the side of the oppressed."

"Do justice, love kindness, walk humbly with God." Micha 6:8

"Bear witness.  Writers should be like Joseph, Daniel, Esther—instruments of blessing in the diaspora."

"Many people feel there's something wrong. Writers should discern, have insight, and tell them why."

In short, writers should not count; they should write. 

Two or two thousand may read my writings—that should not bother me nor butter up my ego. 

I revisited my first post (I should do it more often) to make me remember why I decided to blog.  I wrote:   

"As you e-flip through my leaves, you'll find nothing but songs of grace. For I know deep inside of me—in  that place where I often look—everything good and potentially good, big or small, that I see, hear, smell, taste and touch are what I am keen on writing about."  

A comment came in:  "This is my first time to visit your blog. Our dear professor actually recommended it. As a graduating student who's been into a lot of stressful situations lately, your entries instantly refreshed me. And I know they always will. Expect my frequent visits, then."

Now, that one hit isn't just a number.

(Lower photo, borrowed from Ruth, second from right on second row)