1/13/2018

Getting to Know You


All the exhilarating essentials that make our clan look forward to our annual reunion was in place, except for one additional bonanza. Our 73rd reunion was hosted by the sub-clan whose over 30 members live in the US. And majority of them flew in to attend it!

This three-day-two-night event was planned entirely abroad. Except for some assistance from a local executive committee, everything—from the theme, logo, advertising, activities to communications—originated from across the miles. Social media made it all possible; it bridged all gaps.

It was Broadway time.

"Getting to Know You" from The King and I musicale served as a most fitting theme since many of the reunionites (or clanistas as we call ourselves) have not met the hosts for years, or at all.

Broadway it was, too, because one of our nieces is a Broadway star, who has played many major roles in different musicales over the years. Ali Ewoldt currently plays Christine Daae—the first Asian-American to be cast thus—in the long-running Phantom of the Opera

(Photo from Rodney Ingram's website)
We have a newsletter, edited by son #1, which details all activities, but because it has limited pages, it could not document all the untold grace through kin who came from all parts of the world.  Each one, therefore has his own heart newsletter, and this one’s mine.

The riot began at registration (total 206, an unprecedented number) when cousins, nieces, nephews, grannies, aunts and uncles—ages one year to 89—saw each other again. I, for one, could not believe that the cousins of my childhood were just a hug away, and my soul clock yo-yoed between the happy past and the happier present.

Ours is a competitive, no-kyok (this word deserves a separate post; for now, I’ll simply define kyok as, “Perform or else!”) clan and so everyone gave his all in the games, sports, talent night, videoke, etc. 

(The yellow team, to which I didn't belong, was the over-all champion in all events.)
(Top photo: Ali Ewoldt performing with her sub-clan.)
A solemn memorial/thanksgiving service officially opened the reunion, after which every good and noisy thing erupted. Divided into teams, our version of the Olympics began.

We have grown too big to fit our traditional love-circle into any hall. So we made do with a squiggly shape to re-enact for the 73rd time the “The Tie That Binds” (our hymnal battle cry) to say goodbye to 2017 and welcome 2018.

Holding on together, we sang old favorites and after a thanksgiving prayer by our resident pastor, our oldest clanista started the electric handshake and then, 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1, HAPPY NEW YEAR!

And I sang . . .

Suddenly I 'm bright and breezy,
Because of all the beautiful and new
Things I'm learning about you (all 200 plus of you!)
Day by day.   

Photos by nephews Egay and Noel

1/09/2018

555,555


I’ve waited for this number for some time. If only I could catch it, I wished, I’d take a screen shot. Why ever not? It comes only once in a blog moon.

I am referring to my blog hits. When I reached the half a million mark early this year, I had this hopeful thought to reach this six-digit number five.

Then on Christmas eve, while waiting for the clock to strike 12, I visited Leaves of Grace, and was surprised to see my blog hits almost reaching 555,555. I kept returning to the page on my computer screen—between gift unwrapping and reading my new Bible devotional on Grace, a Christmas present from son #1.

And there! My 555,555 suddenly came. Click, click, click—before it could change.
A mundane thought: The next time I’d have uniform numbers would be more than a hundred thousand hits from now. Wouldn’t it be great if I took a screenshot of 666,666? 

Nah, those numbers have too pregnant a meaning.

While reading Dr. Roger Barrier’s (author and retired pastor) explanation of what the book of Revelation says about the number 666, I have second thoughts about celebrating it. If you’ve been reading about the last days, we are told about an Antichrist which is closely associated with the number.

Of course, our limited knowledge cannot fathom what that number really means. The Bible is, after all, both historical and prophetic. So since we are now living in dangerous, chilling times, I’d rather not celebrate it.

In fact, numbers shouldn’t a blogsite make. These e-leaves will continue to write about grace till it reaches its ultimate number on planet Earth.

“Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” Psalm 90:12 (NIV)

1/05/2018

Resibo


Fake news abound today. What’s worse in our country is that the most notorious fake-news peddlers are columnists who occupy high positions in government.

Amidst this scenario of falsehood, fabrication, and filth, a brave purveyor of truth shines  through: PAB.

She dares condemn the lies of the powerful and mighty in her Pinoy Ako Blog (PAB). With every controversial issue she writes about, PAB presents proof (equivalent to in-text citations in academe or supporting documents in court) to underpin her statements and calls it resibo (official receipt).

Thanks to PAB, I now have the exact word to prove that the news below isn’t fake.

I keep bragging to friends that one of my nieces is a Broadway star, the current Christine Baae in Phantom of the Opera, no less. But nobody takes me seriously. They think it’s a joke. 

Well, Ali Ewoldt recently came to the Philippines to attend our three-day clan reunion, where she awed us with choice songs from her various Broadway roles. With mouths agape, and jaws locked in mid-air, we watched and listened. Tear-drenched eyes with matching goosebumps filled the hall. Such soulful, soaring soprano voice!

Resibo. 
 
That's Ali and I. If you think that’s not moi . . . 

Resibo.


(From left) son #1, son #3, moi, and Tony, all made-up for our family presentation.

Resibo. 


Ali’s signature and my name. Only family calls me Grace May.

I first met Ali when she was just toddler, in one of my rare trips to New York. At that early age, she already showed promise in music and acting. Years later, I read about her in the news. And then I get to see her again in person—not as a toddler but as an unassuming celebrity.
    
Resibo.

Resibo.

Resibo.

Bravo, Ali! Keep using the grace of singing that brings joy to music lovers in various parts of the world.

“In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well . . .” Romans 12:6



1/01/2018

Mateo Wins Big


In the context of the New Year, I am writing about Christmas.

Every December, the University of the Philippines (UP) campus in Diliman erupts with lights, colors, and fireworks at what people have known as the annual Lantern Parade, a tradition which began in 1922.

Then it was a simple homage to an old Christmas tradition at the UP Manila campus, but has evolved into a spectacular event with remarkable creations (lanterns, floats, music and costumes) that are mostly commentaries of the social and political landscape of the country.

Once when I was still a student, I was honored to be chosen as its emcee. That’s why the UP Lantern Parade brings warm memories.

But the festive event suddenly became even more meaningful for me this year because of Mateo.

“Mateo?! Mateo of the ‘Oh, Mateo!’ series?!”
“Yes, that Mateo."


At this point, I will let AT and GMA News tell the story:

“At the tail end of the 2017 Lantern Parade were the works of the students from the College of Fine Arts, who compete in their own category. Their creations were a celebration of human rights, especially rights that every child enjoys at birth.

“The students visualized a child's right to life, right to be safe from harm, right to education, and right to information among other things.

“Second year students who presented right to self-expression won first place!" (Exclamation point mine)

Mateo was the students’ top-of-mind choice to: “Speak Right, Speak Love.”

I could only guess why. These students (aged 16 and 17 today) must have been reading the “Oh, Mateo!” series while learning to read and growing up.

Mateo is an eight-year-old, adventurous Christian boy whose mother died when he was a baby. His father, a hardworking farmer in a small town, is bringing him up single-handedly.   

Together with OMF, my publisher, I envisioned Mateo to symbolize children reared on good values such as RESPECT (for elders, peers, nature, rights of others), HARD-WORK (in school, at home, in the neighborhood), and HONESTY (with money, possessions, words, feelings). Award-winning art director, Beth Parrocha-Doctolero, gave Mateo a unique, lovable image, and she went on to illustrate all 15 books of the series. 

This winning float therefore affirms Mateo, what he stands for. He won not only in the competition, but won big in the heart of children.  

Every new year, as kids grow up and outgrow the “Oh, Mateo!” series, I pray that they will never outgrow the Christian values they learned through him. And that new, younger readers will find a friend in Mateo.

Happy New Year!