11/28/2016

Are You Writing Your Next Book?


This question has a two-step answer.

1) Yes. I am always writing.

2) Whether it will be a book is another matter. Only publishers can decide whether to turn manuscripts into books—unless authors self-publish.

The first statement is the only answer reading kids need to know. They should be spared from the complexity of roadblocks authors meet.

I was asked that same question again at a book signing/speaking engagement last week. It was followed up with, “What is it about?”

When an author is blessed with tons of reading kids gathered under a covered court, she gets those questions—pushing her to write some more and do nothing else.

These kids at the Laguna BelAir Science School (LBASS) are encouraged to read. And during the school’s 20th anniversary celebration (Emerald Visions 20/20), they had a book fair.

Because their teachers have been using my books as teaching materials, I was invited to interact with the children by their librarian, “to have a meaningful and personal connection with you . . . you will serve as their role model in critical thinking and effective communication.”

At the school gate, a streamer greeted me. So did the guard.
From there, everything was effusive warmth, beginning with the principal, the vice principal, the teachers, and staff.

“A meaningful and personal connection” was grace I’d never have thought possible. As I walked into the covered court, the kids waved, jumped up and down, roared with “hellos” and other greetings with big smiles.

Before posing for the photo ops, they rewarded me with short zippy conversations and unabashed hugs—a court-ful of attention. “I feel like a rock star,” I teased Chino of OMFLit (my publisher).

During my talk, I knew it was impossible to have everyone’s young ears, but their incisive questions afterwards proved they listened well.

“Are you writing your next book?” “What’s it about?” Questions from the LBASS thinking, insatiable readers.

I wish I could tell them about those still unpublished stories. But the book they will eventually read may be totally different.

So between then and my next book, I pray that the children learn and live by the values woven into the stories already in their hands.


11/24/2016

Ten


Ten is the first number that has two digits.

Ten is the first number in grammar rules that is written as a numeral and not spelled out.

Ten refers to a perfect score of 10.00 for a single routine in artistic gymnastics.

Ten is an adjective for a lady who is so attractive she personifies perfection.

Ten is used to describe something that couldn't get any better. 

Ten is the number of years I have been blogging. And I intend to make it better.        

Hah! And some of my friends said blogging is ningas kugon (a Filipino phrase or idiom meaning “flaming cogon grass” or figuratively, quickly going up in flames). It’s attributed to the Filipino cultural trait of eagerly starting something, but then quickly losing steam soon after.

What’s behind my sticky tenacity? Grace.

There is always something about His grace to write about. And there is always grace to stoke the writing fire and keep it burning.    

In ten years, I have uploaded 1,044 posts. My numbers include readers/guests from 193 countries in the world, 44 change of headers, and an all-time-page-views history of over 395,000. My 10th year's page hits came up to a high 103,000, which totally surprised me.

I have maintained the layout/look I created on day one (a lesson I brought home from advertising: brand essence), and I will continue blogging till my fingers stiffen from arthritis or my eyes blur from too much reading.

I will celebrate! Sing with me?

I will celebrate
Sing unto the Lord
I will sing to Him a new song
I will celebrate
Sing unto the Lord
I will sing to Him a new song

(Don Moen)

11/20/2016

Dear Imee

(An open letter to Imee Marcos) 

Please do not trivialize the anti-Marcos-burial protesters by calling us "yellowish."

During Martial Law, my personal friends were jailed, tortured, raped, maimed, and murdered; we lost our jobs because your father shut down media; we lost our legal rights because he suspended the writ of habeas corpus; plus many more atrocities.

Would you call those “yellowish?”

You let your father’s body fester, displaying to the world his replica, for 27 years so that you could, on November 18, 2016, 12 noon, brandish his power over Filipinos once again by burying him at the Libingan ng mga Bayani (Heroes’ Shrine).

You opened up our old wounds; you forced us to relive those dark, dark years in our country's history.   

Forgive? Yes, every Christian must. But reward? Reward the perpetrator of beastly crimes with a hero’s burial? Marcos is not a hero.

So please do not gag us nor kill our spirit, like your father did, by branding us “yellowish.” Call us by our real names:

Martial Law Victims.

We.are.not.yellowish.

We are black. Black with and in pain. 
Without our loving God, it would be difficult to make our way through the darkness. "Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me." Psalm 23:4 (NLT)

May the grace of humility find you, Imee. When it does, I pray that you receive it.

11/18/2016

How Bitter is Bitter?


A constant source of joy in walking at dawn is meeting fellow walkers and hearing your own voice and theirs chirping, “Good morning!”

There aren’t too many of them—rising before the sun is up is, after all, an ambitious endeavor, especially for people held captive by electronic gadgets through the night.

One of my meet-and-greet friends is a middle-aged man who walks with his dog. Let’s call him Masiong—he with a baritone voice that shoo away the last remnants of sleep, "Good morning!"

For years, that was my ritual with him and the few others whose voices signal roosters to crow and households to stir.  

Then one fortuitous day, Tony (my husband), an officer of our neighborhood organization, had a meeting with 11 others. They had to decide whether to approve or disapprove the application for a carwash shop along our road. All except one voted "nay."

I was unaware that the applicant was Masiong.

The next time I met him on the road, he made a U-turn. "Lovely day!" I called out. He quickened his pace.    

"Guess what," Tony said later that week, "our neighbor Masiong just gave me a severe sneer. I wonder if he knows that I wasn't alone in denying his application for a carwash shop. It was almost a unanimous decision." 

"Come again?” 

Tony explained, and I agreed, that a carwash shop in our quiet neighborhood would create traffic; invite noise, strangers and maybe crimes; deplete our water supply, etc.”

Masiong was naturally disappointed. 

Fast forward to five years later.

At dawn, on the days that I walk, Masiong with his dog either makes a U-turn or cranks his head away from me. He also does the same with Ate Vi, our long-time househelp, who is another early riser.  

Bitter, he was. Bitter, he is. And bitter, will he always be?       

Who can hold a grudge that long and still survive? How can anyone withhold the grace of forgiveness that was freely given on the cross to even the most evil of men?

Dozens of verses in the Bible call us to steer clear of bitterness. One of them is, “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.” Ephesians 4:31 (ESV)

Tomorrow, like I always do, I will chirp, “Lovely day!”

Who knows? I just might hear Masiong’s baritone voice again.  


11/14/2016

From Grief to Hope


Shortly after uploading my post on deep grief, this message by one of my FB friends catches my eye, “We are a people of hope. We must not give in to despair."  

I scroll down and another post talks to me, "Hope has two beautiful daughters; their names are Anger and Courage. Anger at the way things are, and Courage to see that they do not remain as they are.” Augustine

Further down, "Hope is being able to see the light despite all the darkness." Desmond Tutu

Just below it, "We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope." Martin Luther King, Jr.

What else would make me single out these posts but grace? They leap out of the page to make me reflect on why I have been grieving the way I do. And now, as I am plucked out of the black hole, I begin to see light. 

I grab my Bible and turn to the verse I often heard from the children with whom I have had the privilege of conversing at Compassion Philippines. It’s a verse I have highlighted many times over: "'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'" Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)

Indeed, tomorrow is promising. The Lord may even surprise us with His second coming. But between now and then, hope should "spring eternal." 

We leave our deep grief at His feet and from the black hole, the seed of hope takes root and sprouts. 

11/10/2016

In Deep Grief


"Black hole: a place in space where gravity pulls so hard that even light cannot get out."

 I feel like I am in it.

The news on Nov. 8 that nine Supreme Court Justices voted to allow ex-president and dictator Ferdinand Marcos to be buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani (Heroes’ Cemetery), with only five anti-votes, knocked me out.

It was a tragic, sad, bleak day. And the darkness remains.

My growing family and I slogged through and lived in fear during the difficult Martial law years, the darkest part of our history I would not wish upon my worst enemy. I agree with these dissenting opinions:   

"Marcos is not a hero or 'an exemplary public officer' because of the human rights atrocities committed under his regime." Justice Marvic Leonen

"Even if Marcos was a medal of valor awardee, he 'ceased to qualify' for interment at the heroes' shrine because he was ousted through the 1986 EDSA People Power Revolution." Senior Justice Antonio Carpio

"The argument that the late president's burial does not make him a hero 'disregards the status of Libingan as a national shrine, the public policy in treating national shrines . . .'” Justice Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa

"President Rodrigo Duterte acted with grave abuse of discretion by allowing the burial because it violates domestic and international law ‘to do justice for human rights victims’ – both monetarily and non-monetarily." Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno

And from the office of the Vice President:

"We strongly oppose the decision to bury former President Ferdinand Marcos in the Libingan ng mga Bayani (LNMB).

"How can we allow a hero's burial for a man who has plundered our country and was responsible for the death and disappearance of many Filipnos? Those who have gravely committed crimes and moral turpitude to the Filipino people cannot be buried at the LNMB . . .

"It is our responsibility to teach our children the heroism and sacrifice of our forefathers. And Mr. Marcos is no hero." Leni Robredo

At a time of deep grief, only grace can pluck us out of a black hole and let our light shine through again.

“For kingship belongs to the Lord, and he rules over the nations.” Psalm 22:28 (ESV)



11/06/2016

Family Matters


This dates me, but the first thing that comes to mind when I hear “Family Matters” is the American TV sitcom in the late 80’s that ended before the new millennium began. It was about a well-knit, big family in the city where I turned the corner from a clingy, self-indulgent kid to a braver, bolder adult: Chicago. 

Eons later, back to home country, here I am talking about “Family Matters” again—but no longer about the sitcom, but about a magazine and a radio program. They have the same name (which proves that matters about family truly matter), but are totally separate entities.

“Family Matters,” the magazine, is where my friend Ruth writes feature stories. She messaged me one day asking if I could talk about being a lola in its special grandparents’ issue.

“But I only have one grandson. And he is abroad, coming to visit only once a year!” I hedged.

“One is enough,” resolute Ruth replied, asking questions on values in rearing children—and grandchildren.

Ruth’s article raised my happiness ratio to maximum level.   

I immediately sent it to my grandson, Adrian (aged 9), who said, “Wow, I am featured in a magazine!”

Someday, when he’s older and re-reads what his Amah (Chinese honorific for grandma) said about having him, I pray he learns from it.

“Family Matters,” the radio show (DZAS), is where my friend Marie and Haydee regularly broadcast nuggets of wisdom on daily living. Through CSM (book publisher), they invited me to a chat about my book, Twin Blessings. 

 It is a one-and- a-half-hour program that combines praise to our Savior, laughter on air, book talks, relationships with listeners, and odes to family. We randomly discussed why, when, where, how I write, what I write about. 

Unlike long ago and far away when I also dabbled in radio hosting, radio stations today is equipped with state-of-the-art facilities that immediately show audience response—giving the hosts real-time feel of how the show is going.

Both “Family Matters,” (the magazine and the radio show) were pathways for me to talk about the only thing that drives me as a lola, wife, mother, teacher, writer, etc. while my life clock continues to tick closer to my appointment with my Maker: His grace. 

And I have my dearest friends in media to thank for these opportunities.


11/02/2016

Send the Light


“Send the light, the blessed gospel light,” wistfully sang Pastor Popoy, our church's young missionary, in his soulful voice during our worship service. 

Knowing the hymn by heart, I silently sang along with him. It’s been two weeks since that Sunday and I am still humming it—definitely an LSS (last song syndrome) or more importantly, a prayer. 

It’s a plea to our Master, Who rules our universe, for His light to please shine upon us.  

Many have been feeling like we’re living in the Dark Ages. With all these modern gadgets that bring us news all over our country, almost from island to island, I know how our light as a people has grown dimmer and dimmer over the past months.

We have new leaders in government, hugely popular, that have been ramrodding their way to challenge existing laws and policies in the guise of change for the “good of the Filipino people.”  It’s an open season for killing, diplomatic turnabout, cursing, flip-flopping—confusing many but empowering more toward impunity.

Never has the Christian community been so divided right down the middle.

“If the Bible says it’s wrong, it’s wrong,” says one side.

“The Bible tells us to respect authority,” says the other side.

“Respect and condoning what is wrong are two different things,” the argument continues.  

“Opposing the leadership, in whatever form, undermines unity,” the retort comes fast.

And so the debate (peppered with bitterness, anger, malice, and self-righteousness) rages on and on, magnified on social media.

Where do we stand?

I, for one, feel as though I am teetering in the dark, badly needing light, God’s light, to shine upon what’s right so I may see where we are going and what to do before we reach either doom or glory.

One thing is sure, every Christian I know is praying. But, again, many prayers (at least those I read on social media) are either “for” or “against” pronouncements and actions of the new dispensation. 

My own are the lyrics of this old hymn by Charles H. Gabriel (1888):

“Let us pray that grace may everywhere abound,
Send the light! Send the light!
And a Christ-like spirit everywhere be found,
Send the light! Send the light!”

Amen.