8/29/2014

I Forgot

Forgetfulness is the domain of the elderly, or so I thought. The world has believed that when one grows older, his neurons lose their agility and therefore the ability to recall things progressively wanes as well.

This couldn't be farther from the truth.

Being with millennials twice a week (my teaching schedule in a university), I am convinced that college girls and boys are just as forgetful, or worse.

Every session when I ask for their assignments or requirements, half of the class says, "I forgot."

This also holds true with lectures and instructions. After eloquently and jauntily explaining a lesson or two, I try to fish for some feedback by asking questions. I get any of the following: the look of nothing; a sheepish smile; a scratch of the head; a knitted brow; a challenging glare; and many more  versions of "I forgot."

So fellow seniors, don't despair. Forgetfulness is not about age.

Try giving instructions to a 17-year-old and ask him to echo it back to you. He'll give you that glazed stare that blatantly says, "I forgot."

Let's worry not about becoming forgetful as we move farther down the horizon. Let's bask in the grace of our growing years. There are multitudes of millennials out there whose neurons are attuned elsewhere and quick to command their vocal chords to say, "I forgot."

"Wisdom is with aged men, With long life is understanding." Job 12:12 (NASB)


8/25/2014

What Is a Hero?


(I usually blog every four days, but I am making an exception today, National Heroes Day. I had just posted a blog early this morning and now, before the morning is over, I am posting one again.) 

As we thank the Lord for the lives of our big-time heroes who did big things for our country, let us not forget to also thank Him for the many heroes around us who may not be honored in a proper forum, or may not even be recognized in their lifetime. 

What is a hero?

Philippine Daily Inquirer Junior Edition defines it as "ordinary people doing extraordinary things."

This I had not read till I received two separate text messages with the same content from my good friend Luis and my sister Aie. They advised me to check out yesterday’s issue of Junior Inquirer. A 10-year-old kid singled me out as her everyday hero! 

Instantly, I had the whole household scurrying to find the newspaper. We found it in seconds (encircling mine).

And true enough, on the front page, a girl named Victoria Albitos wrote these words:

Among all the awards I have received as an author, this one’s a oner; it has its own hallowed place on my shelf of treasures.

I have always cherished the thought that unknown heroes are strewn everywhere. In fact, I wrote about 45 of them in a series of three books. Unlike Junior Inquirer’s tag of  Everyday Heroes, however, I called them Gifts of Grace.

They are one and the same.

And to be cited as a modern-day hero in a major daily by a young girl named Victoria (putting into words what I try hard to do with my storybooks, the only reason I write), this blogger will always remember National heroes Day 2014.   

“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6 (KJV)


Infinitea


We have discovered a common mind and body relaxant at home on a Sunday evening before we all part ways again tomorrow, to each his own schedule, when the work-week begins.

The grace of tea.

We order it from our neighborhood tea parlor called Infinitea that serves, and delivers, a large (maybe infinite) variety of tea. 

I always order for myself winter melon tea, the tallest size, please.

Ahhh, the refreshing taste of my tea gives me indescribable serenitea because this oppotunitea of drinking tea with family is a raritea and a noveltea.  

In fact, this activitea in itself is some kind of festivitea for me. It has the abilitea to take away the incongruitea and rigiditea of the enemies of a working life: stress and frustration.     

That’s why as I sip my tea, I am blogging with hilaritea and levitea. I am sure that in realitea, the qualitea of my Infinitea tea has relaxed me, with certaintea.  

I am all tead up. Yes, on a Sunday evening my tea cup runneth over.   

“Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.” Psalm 23:5 (KJV)


8/21/2014

Grace@Work


Every fraction of a millisecond, grace was palpably at work through my latest book, Grace@Work.  From the birth of the idea to the day the final cover was approved (below), nothing could have moved without grace.
 
Grace@work was initially conceived as a devotional for the workplace to uplift busy, stressed-out men and women—as I was for years—whose whole being is plugged to his/her work from sunrise to sundown (sometimes extending till dawn), like an overcharged mobile phone.

But as the book wrote itself, the issues extended beyond the workplace, too. After all, working people’s existence intertwines with the frenzied arena of daily living.

Writing a book, as all authors know, is a full-time, exacting craft.  

I don’t mean the body being tied to the computer 24/7. I mean heart and mind, through all waking hours (and sometimes, even sleeping hours), being wired in ideas, concepts, and words that dovetail with the Word, with what the Author of life has written in Scriptures.   

Sights and sounds compete to distract, and one can get easily sidetracked. So body and soul have to team-up to get it right. It is a formidable job; there are no short-cuts.

Grace@work, published by OMF Literature, spanned for me two school semesters, United Nations Day, the Halloween, Christmas, New Year, an emergency hospital confinement, a computer crash, a printer blast, brown-outs, typhoons, the dead heat of summer, and everything in between. 

Yet the joy of making it come through overwhelmed. "I burst out in songs of thanksgiving."* 

Against all odds, it will be launched at the 35th Manila International Book Fair in mid-September (17th to the 21st), SMX MOA, and I pray that everyone who'll read it, wherever he/she may be, will feel God’s grace at work.     

*“The LORD is my strength and shield. I trust him with all my heart. He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy. I burst out in songs of thanksgiving.” Psalm 28:7 (NLT)

8/17/2014

The Janitor: Half Beautiful


“Beautiful” is not the adjective to describe a movie about police work that spends half of the time re-enacting and solving a grisly robbery with 10 people massacred.

But The Janitor, loosely based on the worst-ever bank robbery that shocked the country years ago, and one of the five indie films I watched at the Cinemalaya X, is extraordinary. 
  
For me, everything about the film is two-thumbs-up: from the cast (very well put together in ensemble acting) to the costumes to the dialogue to the set design to the sounds to the cinematography to the editing.  You forget that you are watching an indie because it has the spit and polish of a sleek commercial film while dramatizing grit.

My usual beef about many Filipino films (long, lingering, laborious scenes) is missing from this fast-paced masterpiece that surprises at every turn.  

Why do I say half beautiful when all I have been doing is gushing over The Janitor?

Well, I am averse to violent scenes; rather, my cowardly heart can’t take action-thrillers with gory, bloody images. So half of the time, my eyes are shut and opened again when the gun shots and thuds are gone. But those I was with (people in advertising whose judgment and taste I respect) are over the moon with their praises for the scenes I missed.

Half and half make a beautiful whole.

Watching Cinemalaya films is like watching grace at work, particularly in me. I am pushed to see the world at large to further understand the complexities of the human brain and heart—and feeling how grace works its way in, ready for the taking.  

On awards night, the talented people behind The Janitor, directed by Michael Tuviera, were duly recognized for best director, best screenplay, best supporting actor, best sound, and best editing for their beautiful handiwork.

Rightfully deserved, beautifully deserved indeed.

Photo credit

8/13/2014

Yearly Indie


Once a year, two of my sons, some friends and I pay tribute to the Philippine movie industry by watching as many indie films as we could pack in one day at the Cinemalaya (Philippine Independent film Festival).  

It is also what I call my personal annual booster shot, or vaccine against the ills of society. The people in my circle generally live sterile lives, blind from the dregs and dung around us. The indies open your eyes, open them big, to see the contaminated sewer in which we live.   

I had our tickets bought (day passes that allow you to watch any movie without queuing in ticket booths). But as we got to the Cultural Center of the Philippines, Norbert sends a text message that he couldn’t make it to the first screening. What to do with his ticket?

JR prods me to sell it at half the cost. So I approach a student at the tail end of a line and ask, “Would you like to buy a ticket at half the price?”

He looks at me with suspicious, bleary eyes and shoos me off. And I thought I was doing him a favor!

I walk over to another ticket booth where the queue is a mile long. Using the same spiel, I approach some students. They give me the same look, and turn me away. But a yuppy who must have heard my voice from somewhere in the line rushed forward and said, “I’ll take it! I’ll pay you the whole amount.”

“No, no, I am selling it at a discount. Our friend couldn’t make it.”

He grins like a cheshire cat. Or in my language, he has the look of one who has just received grace.

Ooops, I talked about my being a scam suspect and forgot all about the movies. (Reviews on my next posts, I promise.) 

8/09/2014

How to be Happy


I just read about a 72-year-old study* that began all the way back in 1937, when 268 Harvard University sophomores were asked to participate in a study measuring “a formula—some mix of love, work, and adaptation—for a good life.”  In short, how to be happy.

Here are three lessons culled from that study:

1. Have a healthy outlet.

2. Don’t take yourself too seriously.

3. Happiness must be shared.

These three things are nothing new.

If at all, they validate what every Bible-reading person or Christian has known for over 200 years. 

No. 1: Jesus had repeatedly promised, "Pray unceasingly. I am listening. I am with you. Put your cares upon me and I will take care of you.”  He likewise said, "Pray for one another."

Over the years, I have dumped a lot of my personal garbage upon the members of my spiritual family in our small village church. They have been there through a succession of family illnesses and deaths. Just one text message and they are all there to stand by me and pray for me.

No. 2: Humility was what Jesus practiced all His short life on earth.  Despite being 100% God Who created the massive universe and everything in it, He walked with the downtrodden, was seen in the company of the scums of the earth. Except at the wedding in Cana, He was not seen in society functions that boosted one's ego.

No. 3: Share your happiness? Jesus shared everything He had, even His life.

Can grace be defined any further?

*Reported in the media for the first time by Atlantic Magazine, June 2009


Photo credit

8/05/2014

Is Peach the Color of Rude?


“Even if you don’t respect a man, respect his position,” my dad used to say, implanting good manners in me. It made no sense then as it was beyond my comprehension. 

Years later, in the workplace, my boss would mouth these words in a staff meeting, “Even if you don’t respect the man, respect his position.” He had heard our grumblings about a client, a CEO, whom we baptized “King He-rude.”

The words finally hit home. And I’d echo them to people in my team, and now, even to my seminar audiences and students.

Then horror of horrors, as I awaited our president’s SONA (State of the Nation Address) on TV, after he had been introduced and before he could utter his first words, about seven creatures in peach walked beneath the rostrum. I thought they’d perform a doo-wop, you know, like a musical ta-da.

I’d later find out that they were the “honorable” guests, who had filed an impeachment case against the president. They were the same guys dressed up to the nines, in matching peach barongs/gowns, and had hogged TV spotlight on the red carpet as they ranted and raved against the highest official of our land. 

They were also the same peaches who, days before, had been given huge media mileage through interviews about their complaint. In all, they had filed the case in the proper forum, aired their tirades, made peach their color, and recruited enough peaches for their cause.

Still unsatisfied, they walked out on the president at the single biggest gathering of elected officials in the country: the joint session of the Philippine Congress. A flagrant disrespect of the position.    

I have just defined rude in its most despicable terms. As a kid-lit author on Christian values, I worry about what that pitchy behavior would teach our children. Has the lovely peach in all hues become the color of rude?

These seven "honorable" peaches might be heirs of the honorable Pharisees who were rude to Jesus—the Son of God, the Messiah, and the Lord of lords—at every turn. This rudeness rubbed off on people, and eventually, rude would morph to crude, cruelty at its most abominable height.

This savagery hounded Jesus until His death on the cross; walk-outs, tirades, rants and raves accompanied His last words, “It is finished” (John 19:30).

Photo credit

8/01/2014

Not Bad Words


“Saying bad words is not bad as long as you don’t mean them,” Marlon, a Christian who works in a movie production shop, said. “They are just expressions—like 'oh,' 'cool,' or 'wow!'”

“I can’t believe I am hearing that from you!” said his sister, appalled.

“When I say '#*@!#!!,' I don’t mean it at all,” Marlon explained.

“Then why even say it? There are gazillions of other words in the dictionary!”

Our standard of good words has declined over the years, and people seem to be declining with it.
 
Our tongue is a gift from God; it must honor Him with what it says. The book of Proverbs is a treasure chest of lessons on what to do with our tongue:

10:19, “Too much talk leads to sin. Be sensible and keep your mouth shut.”

21:23, “Watch your tongue and keep your mouth shut, and you will stay out of trouble.”

15:2, “The tongue of the wise makes knowledge appealing, but the mouth of a fool belches out foolishness.”

I agree with Marlon's sister; to honor a Holy God with our tongue, we need to use words that reflect His grace.  

*The names above were changed to protect the characters’ privacy.