5/30/2016

A Single Yellow Rose


Being a principal sponsor or witness (ninang) in a wedding is, for me, a big responsibility.

I take it seriously especially because the pastor usually asks during the ceremony, “Will you promise to counsel, guide, pray for, and act as second parents to the couple?”

Due to life’s roadblocks, I have not been totally faithful in carrying out this responsibility.  But in some areas, or when there are red flags, I try.

There was that one couple who held modest jobs and lived modest lives, but with plans to include all the frills that shape modern weddings today: fresh flowers, well-known caterer, pre-during-after videos, fancy invitation, new clothes for the entourage, etc.

I invited both the groom-to-be and bride-to-be to dinner and there I spoke about my own wedding.

I had a single yellow rose in lieu of a bouquet.
That symbolized the beauty of simplicity that would define my wedding and married life. We only had immediate family members in a small church plus the pastor, who declined to join us for dinner. Thirteen people. Thirteen photos.  

Our savings and gifts allowed us to fully furnish our first apartment with enough left-over for emergencies and for helping others in need.

“Focus on what’s important. A wedding is a ceremony of two people committing to stay together and to love each other, before God. Beyond that, everything else is luxury to impress the guests,” was the essence of what I said through dinner.

I re-enact  the same scene (in a different restaurant) with other couples—as needed—hoping they at least half-listen and will consider leading a simple lifestyle.

This concept of simplicity has been affirmed time and again in Sunday school when we study stewardship: that the owner of everything we have is God, even if we think we earned it all through our own smarts and hard work; we are only His managers. We should not lavish ourselves with what we don’t own.   

At the risk of being a fuddy-duddy, I advise young couples who choose me to be their ninang not to  squander the grace that comes to them on the day they say their vows before God, after which they become one, “till death do them part.”  

“. . . aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands - ” 1 Thessalonians 4:11 (ESV)    

5/26/2016

White Castle


Long ago, when I was a starving art student in Chicago, my small circle of Filipino friends, all faith brethren, and I would treat ourselves to teeny burgers in a place called White Castle. 

Back then, it was the cheapest burger joint in town—open 24/7.

With these friends I attended the church service and Sunday school every week. One of us, Cito, had an excellent ear for music, composed gospel songs, and played the guitar. He initiated our forming a singing group, which we forgot to name (or was there a name that I can’t remember?).

This tightly-knit group with a limited repertoire would be invited to sing in suburban churches. At night, on our way home, we’d drop by White Castle.

As life would dictate, the road forked and we went on separate ways, hearing from each other only intermittently. I came back home to get married and live here for good.

Fast forward to 2016.

We heard that Esoy had a massive stroke, with 70% of his brain affected, the left side of his body paralyzed, and his speech impaired. He was in ICU for weeks.

So when Tony and I made our sentimental trip to Chicago, our first act was to visit him.  

I held his hand and he surprised me with a grip so tight I thought my bones had cracked. The image that popped in my head was White Castle. I asked him, “Hey, do you remember White Castle?”

He smiled, teared up, and whispered what sounded like “yes.” These were first-time feats, surprising even his wife. It was a grand grace moment.

I spoke into his ear about our White Castle days and I could feel his hand grasping mine even more tightly. He smiled, mouthed some phrases, and his eyes told us he was latching on to those memories.  

Medical science tells us that Esoy is not likely to recover fully. Well, science does not know everything. We reserve our questions for the One who has all the answers.

But for now . . .

“Dear friend, I hope all is well with you and that you are as healthy in body as you are strong in spirit.” 3 John 1:2

Photo credit

5/22/2016

Twin Butterflies


Let me quote HonorĂ© de Balzac today, “When the heart is full, the lips are silent.”

Unexpectedly, I came upon twin good news, like twin butterflies coming out of one chrysalis. And because the heart is full, there is no way my lips can utter a squeak.

That’s half true, of course.

I always blurt out every good news the moment I receive it. But this time, both news constrain me—one has been “embargoed” (that’s what the email said), and the other can’t be announced till the proper time.

So why am I even blabbing about them?

I want to honor the Creator of butterflies. As I asked in one of my books . . .

How can a squiggly, ugly worm morph into a beautiful, colorful flying wonder? Does this crawling misery know that one day, it will morph into epiphany? Does it realize it will transform into a new spectacular shape with exquisite design? And then when it flies freely, sipping sweet nectar from one lovely flower to another, does it not show the fullness of grace?   

From worm to butterfly—this is what unexpected good news does, especially after having been barraged with bad news and thrown down into a dark, dunk place.

I am changing my header, in thanksgiving for the twin butterflies that doubly delighted me one dreary day.         

 
“For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.” John 1:16 (ESV)

 

5/18/2016

Beaten Black and Blue


The bruising presidential campaign/election in the country has left the electorate black and blue.

Sensibilities, personalities, ideologies, and especially egos have been savagely smashed, leaving a gushing, gaping wound in people’s hearts. Just visit group sites in social media and you can feel the depth and breadth of people’s collective moaning (vanquished) and collective gloating (victor).

We have elected another minority president, Rody Duterte, who got roughly 39% of boisterous votes, 3% short of the mandate of his predecessor, Pres. Benigno C. Aquino III, our current president.

For the sake of our country, which has been through so much self-inflicted turmoil, I sincerely hope our new president will slowly get the cooperation of the rest of the equally boisterous, but much larger, 61%.  

“Change is coming!” was his campaign battlecry, which he orated with expletives, cusses, and braggadocio.

Change is a catch-all phrase that the 39% interpreted as a U-turn; no to continuity of our gains (as espoused by his closest rival); all new—a quick-fix to still unresolved issues and unsolved problems. And 39% bought it.

Having been beaten black and blue in this 2016 election myself, I believe we can’t be healed by one tough-talking president, no matter how well-meaning his battlecry was. 

Change can only come from each individual heart. And that change can happen only if that heart is open to accept grace. 

“. . . And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart.” Ezequiel 36:26

Photo credits: Top; bottom, The Silent Majority FB page

5/14/2016

Grace Month


If I were to reduce to numbers our one-month stay in America from mid-March to mid-April this year, they would be:

Nine airplanes, nine cities, seven beds, 16 blog posts, 567 photos, and thousands of dollars, courtesy of second son.

Those stunning numbers for two seniors traveling far and wide, after a long time, was nothing short of a miracle that is unlikely to happen again.  

But numbers do not a life make.

The new experiences, new encounters, and new perspectives—those are non-quantifiable. I could only sum it all up as: Grace Month, a month when we woke up to God’s mercies every morning.

It took years before we made the decision to make that one-month trip. When we finally did, and after setting the schedule, we were at our busiest and unhealthiest time.

Life does have a wry sense of humor.

But all through the trips, not once did we have to see a doctor (well, seeing doctor-son every day does not count) nor take emergency medication, nor feel our usual aches and pains. 

It was the first time in 12 years that we got to celebrate second son’s birthday with him and his family. It was the first time we saw Adrian’s school, room, church, and all the places he likes to go to. It was the first time I had marathon chats and went shopping with my daughter-in-law. It was the first time to literally walk down memory lanes in Chicago where it all began.

It was my first time to paint grace on clay. 

It was the first time for countless things. 

Now, as our broadcast-media friends would say, we are back to regular programming.

“The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22-23 (ESV)

5/10/2016

The Heat is On!


Spring in America for tropical beings like my husband and me was winter weather. It was so unbearably brrr, every one of our hosts turned the heat on.

Now, with the heater turned on, it was pretty comfortable for us, like enjoying our own Baguio weather in December. But our hosts peeled their clothes off and wore either shorts and sleeveless tees or fanned themselves furiously to beat the heat.

The problem with the heater is it dries up your throat—an occurrence that when you are treated to the grace of deep sleep, your mouth opens and makes funny noises. 

In every home we visited, our hosts went over the top to welcome us; they suffered for our convenience and treated us like royalty—pampered, coddled, and indulged.

Then we came home.

Everything was (and still is) just as hot. Our summer this year is the hottest in years. As soon as we deplaned, we felt the searing, debilitating heat.

Not only is the weather oven-hot, the political campaign for national positions, which ended on Election Day, May 9, turned out to be the hottest ever (coincidentally, heat index was 41 degrees!). In recent weeks, the campaign turned vicious, ugly, and lava-hot.  

I tried to keep my peace, but my piece had to be said.

The heat (weather) will not abate till the rains come; the heat (politics) will not abate till . . . we don’t know.

But I, for one, a citizen of this country, take comfort in the knowledge that . . .

". . . our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ . . .” Philippians 3:20


5/06/2016

Silent No More


This has been a most divisive and derisive presidential election.

Traditional media and social media have been fast and furious. Often, news items and memes are published without thorough research or verification. Some are purposely cruel, inflicting pain upon those who have differing opinions. And whichever side we're on, we've been quick to believe, re-post, and repeat them, with our own additional careless rants.

Brothers and sisters by blood and in faith have been ripped apart. Some are more vocal than others and would lash out with innuendos or plain insult on cyberspace. Some nurse their hurt in private. 

Except in conversations with family and close friends, I had resisted the temptation to speak on the Net. I did not want to add fuel to the combustible heap of rash judgments and negativity.

Silently, I wished that the more sober people, our spiritual leaders especially, would be above it all—unifying, enlightening; more circumspect, instead of taking sides and stoking the fire. But from some of their walls, we see "shares" that vilify personalities, disparage institutions, or kill the spirit of their communities.    

Silently, I combed sites; read opinions and analyses of respectable journalists; hopped to pages of friends; read the candidates' biographies, track records, and ideologies; watched the debates; compared platforms; checked loyalties; reflected on the Word—and prayed for the grace of discernment and guidance.

Most importantly, I visited that part of me where I keep my treasures—values I hold dear, the foundation of my faith, my conscience.

So finally, today, careful not to divide nor deride, I choose to end my silence.

In a democracy, I have a voice—albeit a small one—that  is allowed to speak. Silent no more, this is my personal decision: 

I am voting for Mar Roxas as my President and Leni Robredo as my Vice President on May 9.

They are a team so they are on the same page.

I now know and have been affirmed that the future of the country where I was born, and where I am going to die, will be in good hands.

Image credit: The Silent Majority FB wall


5/02/2016

Where It All Began


In our one-month trip back to the USA (from west to east), four days were for Chicago. It was going to be, for Tony and me, a nostalgic trip to the windy city where, as he calls it, it all began.

We planned on visiting old haunts that witnessed our young relationship in those ancient days.

Chicago was where Tony and I met. He was chosen Editor-in-Chief of the new newspaper to be published by the Filipino community. I was nominated as one of his section editors.

The Chief summoned me and his editorial staff to a meeting, where he would outline his vision and policies.

I remember that day very well—not because sparks flew between him and me, but because snow and wind blew, pummeling downtown Chicago relentlessly.

After that first meeting, where the Chief decreed in no uncertain terms who was the boss, buses and cabs in such woeful weather became sparse.  He volunteered to drive me home in his car (which, I later found out, was borrowed from his best friend).

Boy, you are snow-and-wind personified, I thought. His first salvo was a question: “Do you know where I work?”

“Where?”

“J. Walter Thompson.” (At that time it was the largest advertising agency in the world.)

Clueless, I asked back, “What’s that?”

He rattled off statistics, meant to shock and awe.

Un-shocked and un-awed (I was a starving art student and advertising agencies were the least of my concerns), I said, “Oh.” Or something monosyllabic. My thought balloon, Bring it on!   

One year and seven months later, I married my boss in the Philippines, where we settled, and Chicago became a part of our distant, historic past.

That’s how I remember it. Tony does not remember it at all. 

So despite the crazy Chicago weather in the spring of 2016 (rain, hail, snow, sunshine [all with accompanying wind] alternating within minutes), we did visit all the places that we both remember:

(Clockwise) The house where I lived . . . the apartment building where he stayed . . . the skyscraper where he worked . . . and the school which I attended.

The office where our editorial work was put to bed and where one newspaper every two weeks took shape, unfortunately, is gone. A new building stands in its place.

In this trip down memory lane, what we (or maybe, just I) remember most was the grace that brought two strangers, with a mutual passion for writing, together.