5/31/2015

A Page on amazon.com


Two things always make me uncomfortable: one, self-promotion; and, two, discussion about money.

“Which is why you will never be rich,” my sister Aie said. She’s one to talk; she is my clone in these departments.  Must be the genes. 

“I am rich,” I replied. “Not in material wealth, but in everything else. God provides all that I need.”

“Touche!” she exclaimed in Ilocano.

This conversation happened a long time ago, and Aie will probably not remember it, but it comes to me now because I discovered, accidentally, that I have an author’s page on amazon.com. My publisher sort of mentioned a few months back that my books are now available at Amazon, but I left it at that.

Three days ago, while I was trying to search for a book in Amazon, I spotted my name. Clueless and curious, I clicked on the link and bingo!     


“You worked in advertising for two decades, and you teach Advertising. You know that a product will only move if you advertise it. How do you expect your books to move?” my friend G admonished me.

I believe in marketing; in fact, I have discussed this with my publisher’s marketing staff ad nauseum. But there is something about overtly doing it myself to promote me that doesn’t sit well with my psyche.

For this Amazon thingy, I tried to conjure enough chutzpah (this took one long day and one long night) and uploaded my author’s page to my FB timeline, emailed it to friends and family, and broadcast it to my various circles.

That wasn't so hard, was it?

It was. But I was rewarded with many positive responses from all quarters. 

While at it, and a bit emboldened, may I add: if you are abroad and looking for a gift (e-book or paperback formats) that speaks of God’s abounding grace written by someone whose heart beats for and in the Philippines, here's the link:

http://www.amazon.com/Grace-D.-Chong/e/B00J14B3FC


5/27/2015

Summer Endings


Eight posts ago, I blogged about summer beginnings—my unfinished paintings. The scorching days were then just starting to assault us without mercy, and today, while the heat is still as oppressive as it was in those early summer days, the whining has lessened.

The universal truth has been proven once again: everything is just a matter of getting used to. 

This morning marks one of my summer endings (finishing a painting is not one of them)—the last day of summer classes.

I've never taught in the summer before because I was always busy with book deadlines, but by a grand burst of generous grace, I was given an early deadline for my latest book—so my manuscript was sent to my editor sometime in March.

The last paper from my habitually late student, turned in as usual at the last minute, is ready for grieving. Not one of my suggestions to improve his draft was followed; all comments, ignored. 

When pressed to explain why, he said, "I forgot."

And the teacher's grief turns for the worse. But I have learned to make grief of this nature short-lived, or I'd need a nitroglycerin under my tongue.

In four days, too, Ate Vi will be back from her summer vacation. With bated breath, I will quickly turn over the noble task of housekeeping, which she dumped on my lap. Happy days are here again!

On to more unfinished paintings . . .  


. . . more reading, and definitely, more writing—there are again too many niggling ideas in my head that need to be transformed into concepts that should eventually end as words.

I had hoped I'd finish at least one painting before summer's gone, but that was just a hope, not a promise. 

Summer endings are just as blessed as summer beginnings, aren't they?

“For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.” 1 Timothy 4:4-5 (NIV)


5/23/2015

Gift of Self


Whenever I receive a gift painstakingly made by the giver, a huge smile escapes my lips. It means so much more than the gift itself. The giver has shared a part of himself/herself, warming the heart.

One such gift came from one of our students (let’s call her Pi) in our medical transcription school. She is actually from India, and is in the Philippines only for a year while her husband fulfills a contract with his multi-national employer. 

To while away her time, she decided to take up medical transcription. What makes Pi stand out from among our current students is that she wears only her country’s traditional costumes—lovely and well-coordinated prints—which never cease to surprise and delight us. 

One day she arrived with an extra bag; inside was a dish she cooked herself.

“I don’t serve my husband and kid any food prepared outside of the home,” she said.

“You do all the cooking?!” I asked, mouth agape. For someone who has zero credentials in cooking, I stand in awe of people who have. 

Then she brought out a dish with mouth-watering brown balls that I’ve never seen the likes of.

Gulab jamun,” she said. “For the three of you.” 
The three are JC, head of school; Leone, office manager; and me, her English teacher.

We didn’t have to be prompted twice. The balls were melt-in-your-palate goodness, with a taste so alien and so perfect. They were gone in minutes.

What made them sweeter was the fact that Pi slaved over a hot stove for us, sharing a part of herself. 

Grace, which deluges our days, also comes in sweet brown balls and through a sweet friend named Pi.  


5/19/2015

Be Silent, Listen!


Silent and listen have exactly the same letters. One is an anagram of the other. 

Not only are they inter-related, they are also inter-dependent. One can’t listen without first being silent.

Not too many people today listen anymore. In my classes, I have to sing and dance (sometimes stand on my head, or eat fire, or walk on burning coals) to make my students listen. Except for a few—the outstanding ones, those who make me want to keep teaching—my stunts are all for naught.

When there is so much noise outside and inside of us, we can’t hear what another person is saying or feeling. Worse, we can’t hear God.

Listening to God is like listening to anyone; before we can hear Him, we must be ready to listen.  If we want to hear God speak, we must be quiet and be focused on what He is saying.

Prayer is one way we converse with God. We can’t hear what He says to us, totally missing out on His grace, unless we shut out the chaos around us and focus on Him.

Reading the Bible is another. The Bible is one of the ways through which He speaks to us.

Whether praying to Him or reading His Word, we have to make a deliberate choice to be silent. 

We live in a terribly noisy world. Everywhere we go, sounds and distractions compete with our minds, submerging our thoughts below the surface level. In this milieu, it is not easy to be silent. 

William Arthur Ward, American author and editor, wrote:

We must be silent before we can listen.
We must listen before we can learn.
We must learn before we can prepare.
We must prepare before we can serve.
We must serve before we can lead.


Words I wish I had written.  

"Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock.” Matthew 7:24 (NLT)


5/15/2015

Quadruple Rainbow


By its sheer splendor, a rainbow always renders me speechless; it makes me remember God’s covenant with Noah after the great flood:

“When I send clouds over the earth, the rainbow will appear in the clouds, and I will remember my covenant with you and with all living creatures. Never again will the floodwaters destroy all life.” Genesis 9:14-15 (NLT)

I am not alone; those who know their Bibles remember that God remembers, too. No matter how much floodwaters we experience in this country typhoon after typhoon, I know that it isn’t going to end life on earth. Something else will—what that is, nobody knows.

If one rainbow stretched across the sky brings me goosebumps, I wonder what a quadruple rainbow might do!

Recently, Amanda Curtis, CEO of a fashion company in New York, was blessed to have snapped a photo of not one, not two, not three, but four rainbows!
After she posted this photo to Twitter, it became a phenomenon, immediately re-twitted thousands of times. All major TV networks and newspapers scrambled their way to Amanda, asking permission to publish/air the photo.

But we are a cynical people, too. After seeing the photo, many branded it to be fake. Some sneered saying, “There is no such thing!” According to the CNN weather producer, this was a double rainbow that has been reflected in the sky, due to a smooth body of water underneath the rainbow.

Rainbow specialists have a scientific explanation, “Quaternary rainbows are natural products of the combination of refraction, dispersion and reflection inside raindrops. These are the same processes that create all rainbows, yet they are taken to their extreme to produce these higher order variants.”

Whatever that means.

For me, when I behold a rainbow appearing in the clouds, I am reminded that there would be no more floods like the one God sent in Noah’s time.

A quadruple rainbow, then, is a quadruple sign—and quadruple grace.

5/11/2015

Fall in Love and Stay in Love


Sometime ago, a friend of mine, an adviser of a university campus paper (on its 10th anniversary), requested me to write a message to encourage the editorial staff.

I welcome such opportunities—nothing pleases me more than to encourage young writers to fall in love, and stay in love, with writing.

Dear Editor,

How refreshing to write those two words! It has been ages since I wrote a letter to an editor. In ancient days, I was an editor, too. I was ten and coerced by my teachers into being the Ed-in-chief of our grade school paper. I must have enjoyed it so much it showed. I successively took on the same role in our church and clan—the Girl Scout and other organizations.

At the University of the Philippines, a magnet pulled me toward the Philippine Collegian, where I reported to an Ed-in-chief. Those were some of the most exciting times of my life.

Campus journalism gave me the ultimate high and disciplined me to a point that if I stopped writing today, I'd probably end up in a hospital bed. I am sure I share this feeling with your staff. I have always believed that every writer has been gifted with the passion to write.

Writing can transform a young wordsmith into someting bigger. Before you know it, the members of your staff will take on roles of leadership in the community and even the country. A stroke of a pen (rather, a click on a keyboard today) is like a magic wand. It conjures images that make good things morph into astonishing wonders.

What wonders are these? Well, your imagination is as limitless as the words that only you can craft. Keep writing beyond your 10th anniversary. Keep writing till it hurts to stop.

Grace

"We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith . . ."  Romans 12:6 (NIV)

Photo credit 

5/07/2015

Parkinson’s law


Are you familiar with Parkinson’s Law? (Yes, the law, not the disease.)  

I heard about this law for the first time in one of those casual grace conversations with friends. One of them, Carol, just delivered a talk on productivity.

She was defining a super-productive person when she mentioned Parkinson’s Law.

What’s that?

“Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion,” she explained. 

Ah, so!

So that's the term that describes people who wait till the last hour to do whatever they are supposed to do. They expand their work to fill the time frame given to them. Meaning, even if you give them a long deadline, they will fall under the same last-minute work ethic toward completion. 

Have you ever experienced Parkinson’s Law yourself?

One student couldn’t turn in her assignment when it was due because her printer had conked out the night before. She could have printed it one week before, right?

All year, a school administrator knew she needed a guest speaker for Mother’s Day, but she put off inviting one till the last month before the occasion. All the possible speakers she had called already had something scheduled on that day and were not available. 

For weeks on end, you have a writer’s block, and then suddenly you become a lean, mean machine in the final week before deadline. During which time, you could have experienced any of these things: a nationwide brown out; a computer crash; intermittent Wi-Fi connection; or an invitation to a surprise party you couldn’t refuse.

Cyril Northcote Parkinson, a British historian, first observed this habit when he was with British Civil Service. He noted that as bureaucracies expanded, they became more inefficient. He concluded:  as the size of something increases, efficiency drops.

He also found that even simple tasks became more complex to take up the time allotted to it. Ergo, as the length of time for a task becomes shorter, the task becomes simpler and easier to solve.

In the advertising world where I used to work, every project was urgent. The office would turn into a steaming pressure-cooker that got things done at the shortest possible time.

That’s why in my workplace today, the academe, I have used the same principle without knowing what it was called. I give myself and my students short deadlines—and check on their work every session.

Does it work?

I am not sure. Maybe pressure-cookers are not their thing. But at the very least, within a short period of time, I could rewrite the rules if things aren’t steaming fast enough, and not wait forever for anyone to finish his work.

Parkinson’s Law, gotcha!


5/03/2015

Not a Boxing Fan


Manny Pacquiao just lost his much-hyped fight against Floyd Mayweather. It was a unanimous decision after 12 rounds.

Sports analysts say Mayweather ((48-0, 26 KOs) ) did a brilliant performance and Pacquiao was diminished, or even done in.

Photo: REUTERS/Steve Marcus 

No matter. He remains a hero among many Filipinos and other people in different parts of the world. Not only is he a well-loved pugilist, he is also a philanthropist. Earning millions of dollars from his fights, Pacquiao has given much to others. 

Personally, however, I cannot muster enough courage to watch any boxing bout—not even when much of the world was all agog over this “Fight of the Century.” There is something about deliberately hurting someone that grieves me.

Combat sports like kickboxing, wrestling, judo, and mixed martial arts are great for self defense under dire circumstances, but if done to disable the opponent with an audience salivating over who should win and chanting, “kill him, kill him” well, that’s another sad story.

At the risk of being branded dogmatic or narrow-minded, I wrote this post because I have never understood how violating someone’s body can be a source of excitement.

I know that danger and injuries do happen in any sport. My second son suffered from a dislocated shoulder for years because he was into many sports (except boxing). C’est la vie.

But because boxing’s aim is to hurt, cut, batter, pummel, and knock-out one’s opponent to win, I am one with others who are having difficulty reconciling boxing with the Christian view of honoring the body, the temple of the Holy Spirit. 

“Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.” 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (NLT)

In my research, I found that since World War II, over 350 boxers have died from ring injuries. Many, like Ali, have had to endure lifelong infirmities. These boxing bodies, losers and winners, made many spectators either rich or poor through betting.

This post will invite brickbats, I'm sure, but no matter how I psych myself up, I shut my eyes when boxing scenes are shown on TV. 

Human flesh, our life on earth, is a one-time amazing gift of grace from our Maker. Is boxing a way to honor it, just as the loser (in this bout, Pacquiao) is honored by millions of fans, and the winner (Mayweather) is honored with a championship belt and millions of dollars?

It's a moral dilemma. I may not get an answer in my lifetime.


5/02/2015

The Growling Tummy


As I visit our atis (sugar apple or sweetsop) fruits and watch them grow in our garden every day, I likewise revisit the book I wrote about this, my favorite fruit.  

The Growling Tummy is the 5th in a series of 16 “Oh, Mateo!” books and highlights the value of honesty. (All 14 books were illustrated by award-winning illustrator Beth Parrocha-Doctolero.)
It was lunchtime in school and Mateo, aged 8, was hungry. His tummy growled. It sounded like the dog that suddenly grabbed his lunch box and lapped up his food!

Now, what to do?

Mateo walks home with his tummy growling non-stop. Suddenly, he sees three of his classmates up on one of the atis trees of the grouchy old lady who owns the growling dog that just ate his lunch.

The boys are freely helping themselves to the yummy atis fruits and putting some in their pockets. They tempt famished Teo to join them, “We're hidden behind so many trees, the old lady can't see us here!"

Teo refuses and instead goes to the old lady, whose house sits in the middle of her orchard,  introduces himself, and warms his way into her heart. She allows him to climb one of her fruit trees after Teo volunteers to sweep her yard of leaves in exchange for some fruits.

Sounding like her dog and Teo’s tummy, she growls, “Mateo, you may pick only one! Any size!”

Teo quickly climbs up one atis tree, and picks the biggest, yummiest atis in the world!

Now, the time has come for my photo of our own atis tree to climb up my site. Soon I will have the biggest, yummiest atis in the world, too. Wink.


The banana fruits, all four bunches of grace—good and perfect—have ripened and gone down some non-growling tummies in our household. The old header has outlived itself and therefore comes down.

“Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow.” James 1:1 (NLT)