5/31/2018

Only for Young Writers


Due to the dreadful traffic condition, which has worsened from nasty to nastiest in the last year, I  vowed never to travel outside of our district anymore.  My decision has led to missed reunions, art shows, special events, etc.

My last trip to Makati (45 km from where I live) took me four hours and that was cruel punishment for someone whose bladder was close to bursting.

But my friend Neni, to whom I cannot say no, invited me to facilitate a workshop for precocious kids who love to read and write. Double whammy! I can never say no either to encouraging kids who have the potential to be the next generation of writers.

It took my driver—who incessantly complained from the time he revved up the engine to the time we reached the venue—more than two hours to navigate what could have been a 30–minute drive. As a peace offering, I treated him to a lip-smacking lunch in a Japanese restaurant where his scowl turned to, well, something akin to a smirk.

His smirk finally turned into a smile when he realized that the workshop venue would be in a bookstore—and with a coffee shop! Knowing him all these almost 50 years of traffic and non-traffic togetherness, I had no doubt I could leave him there for hours—if not forever. There is something about books and coffee that make a good mistress.

The children, ages 7 to 12, were everything I wished every kid would be. I asked if they had read this book and that. All hands went up with every title mentioned.
These bookworms excelled in all the creativity exercises. They were alert (I never once lost their attention) and wrote with gusto. 
“Writers see old, tired things with fresh, new eyes," I said. In a blink, they went to work. Reading their pieces later, I knew we were on the same page.
On our drive home, the traffic was even worse. It was the perfect time for passenger me to complain or even curse (forgive me, Lord). But looking back to the one-and-a-half hours I spent with the kids, whose bright writing future awaits, I could only think of grace.

I’d do it again—but only for young writers.


5/27/2018

Seasons of Sleep


Sleep-deprived is how I’d describe me after last night’s tossing-and-turning episode at three in the morning till it was time to get up. This isn’t unusual; I get these kinds of nights often these days.

Once long ago, I could sleep anywhere, anytime, in any position. That was when I was still in the stress-filled workplace. Sleep was my panacea.

Between client meetings, as soon as I had stepped inside the car, my eyelids would shut off the world and I’d be in dreamland until the client’s parking lot—fresh and ready for another word-and-psyche war.
    
On the drive home late at night, after a long day of production meetings and ad shoots, I would immediately snooze away the one-hour trip. 

Behind my desk, after I had discussed a storyboard with a concept team, I’d cat nap before the next team entered my office door. 

No wonder I survived the corporate pressure cooker for 20 years! 

In contrast, here I am today enjoying the things I had no time for—writing, blogging, reading, teaching some, and idling some—at my own time and I could not get the same quality of sleep that used to come unbidden.

“You don’t need that much sleep anymore, Mom!” son #3 says to stop my incessant whining. 

He means, of course, you’re old.

And, of course, I am. It’s been years since I left the workplace and there have been changes, changes as many and as much as the grace that comes with them.

So why complain? Well, a friend happened to upload one of my old blogs, written a decade ago, and it is about the joy of sleep, storied sleep.

This made me wonder, what happened?

I looked up another old post,  “A Thousand Sleepless Nights,” and that shut me up—for now.  

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens . . .” Ecclesiastes 3:1 (NIV)

Photo credit: (top) 


5/23/2018

Forty Days


It's been two months after Easter, and our pastor is still at it—preaching about Christ's resurrection. For good reasons. The most important of which is, “Resurrection is not a one-day celebration. It should continuously take place in us as we walk through life.”

Instead of ascending immediately to heaven after His resurrection, Jesus stayed on earth for 40 days.
During these important times, He demonstrated to His followers that the greatest miracle on earth had taken place. 

Jesus is alive!

After Jesus’ death on the cross and his body was sealed in a tomb, they grieved, totally devastated. Desperate and fearful, many of them went into hiding. They had believed Jesus was the promised Messiah – but now He was gone.

They had totally forgotten His promise that He would return from the grave.

Jesus had to appear before various groups to prove beyond any doubt that he had been raised from the dead by God's power. Although He appeared to them in the same form that they had seen, He was no longer trapped in that earthly body.

He exhibited to all that He was already omnipotent (all powerful with no limitations), omniscient (all knowing), and omnipresent (He could be everywhere at the same time).  So He appeared here and there, knowing exactly what was happening, and had been able to enter any place, even a room locked from the inside. 

By appearing to His disciples and believers, He was preparing them for the task of evangelism, of the Great Commission—of telling others about what they had witnessed: That Jesus had conquered death, He is alive, and that by grace, we, too, will resurrect from our earthly death if we believe in Him.

 “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14 (ESV)

Photo credit

5/19/2018

Et tu, Supreme Court?


One word is missing from this old phrase dating back to 1707: judge, jury, and executioner.  Please add: accuser.

That’s what the Supreme Court of my beloved Philippines has become: accuser, judge, jury, and executioner. The judges ousted Maria Lourdes Sereno, the Chief Justice (CJ), via quo warranto* (QW) in vote of 8-6.

The role of the Supreme Court, the last time I looked, is judge—final judge in all cases involving laws of Congress, and the highest law of all, the Constitution.

Accuser?

Some of the judges, on live TV, testified against the CJ in a house impeachment hearing. It was my first time to see Supreme Court justices up close so I was riveted to the boob tube. From the replays, which I again watched closely, it was obvious that some of them had personal gripes against the CJ.

Judge?

The CJ therefore asked that these judges, who appeared on air, to inhibit themselves from the voting in the QW. They did not. These same accusers acted as judges, and predictably, they voted in favor of the ouster petition. Judges, as universally defined, are impartial decision-makers in the pursuit of justice.

Jury?

Same as judge, since the Philippines has no jury system. 

Executioner?

Universally, again, an executioner is defined as an official who carries out a sentence of death on a legally condemned person. The Supreme Court judges legally condemned the CJ, and carried out their sentence of death by ousting her.

From the point of view of ordinary citizens—who oppose the manner in which the CJ was ousted—the death sentence was on the whole judiciary, because it was executed by the country’s highest judicial court. 
In a world of betrayal and bitterness among ordinary citizens, I can only ask “Et tu, Supreme Court?”

A pall of doom has been cast upon our democratic system. As a believer of grace, however, I have absolute faith in the justice of the one true Judge.

“For the LORD is our judge, The LORD is our lawgiver, The LORD is our king; He will save us . . .” Isaiah 33:22  (NLT)

*QW can be filed against a “person who usurps, intrudes into, or unlawfully holds or exercises a public office, position or franchise.”


5/15/2018

The Lost Mystique


Being a non-lawyer, I had somewhere in my subconscious that judges of the Supreme Court were isolated from the rest of mankind. It was not important to know who they were.

Their position required them to be cautious in their appearances and behavior in society—avoiding any impression of indecorum. 

They were clothed in mystique. They were not supposed to support any cause nor take sides. 

In recent months, however, they suddenly stripped themselves naked of this mysterious aura.  They took sides, one even displaying personal bitterness.

We met them on national television, live (replayed many times over). And what I saw were mortals, just like you and me, prone to raving and ranting. My jaw dropped when, on close up, Associate Justice Teresita de Castro spew controlled vitriol during the legislative hearing on the impeachment complaints against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno (CJ). The camera caught her and Court Administrator Jose Midas Marquez exchanging whispers.

I suddenly realized that these revered beings are like regular social media netizens who can let it all hang out, and freely rant and rave, albeit with restrained language and demeanor.

There have been talks that in the hallowed halls of the Supreme Court some are being paid by gods-that-be and therefore their decisions are predictable. I filed those rumors in the trash bin of my heart.

But more. Social media was abuzz again when Rep. Vilma Santos (a popular movie star on the side) said OMG! This was during the annual meeting of Philippine Women Judges Association where CJ (on indefinite leave) was the invited speaker, after which Santos would speak. But because the CJ touched on the impeachment case against her during her talk, de Castro, president of the association, beat Santos to the podium and rebuked the CJ publicly.

OMG indeed.

This caused many netizens to baptize de Castro as “Pambansang Ampalaya” (The National Bitter Gourd).

And more! The CJ asked that de Castro and the five other judges, who had appeared on TV accusing CJ of misdemeanor, inhibit from voting in the Quo Warranto (QW) case. Nobody inhibited. Hence the vote of 8-6 granting the QW petition to oust the CJ.

Immediately, countless memes such as this flooded the Net:
Other memes showed this photo of all judges who voted for and against the CJ’s ouster.

So now we can put faces to the names we only used to peripherally remember. Now we can recognize them on the streets, in the mall, or any place at all. Now, we can track their failings and feelings. Now I know that one of them owns the mansions I pass by almost daily.

The mystique is lost, and respect for the Supreme Court, diminished.

There is indignation—and celebration. People have taken sides; there is war. We are passing through the rivers as a divided nation. Will the grace of peace unite us ever again?   

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you . . .” Isaiah 43:2

5/11/2018

Supremely Sad


While I am 12,000 miles away from Motherland, something supremely sad happened in the country that is my home.

The Philippines’ Chief Justice, Maria Lourdes Sereno, was ousted in a vote of 8-6. The ruling of the supreme court judges: “She is found disqualified from, and hereby adjudged guilty of unlawfully holding and exercising, the office of the chief justice.”

Brief background: A quo warranto (QW) petition was filed by Solicitor General Jose Calida with the intent of ousting Sereno. QW petition is defined in the Rules of Court . . . It can be filed against a “person who usurps, intrudes into, or unlawfully holds or exercises a public office, position or franchise.” 

On March 5, 2018, Calida accused Sereno of “failing to meet the integrity test when she only filed three of her Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth [SALN] in 2012.”

(Contrary to this, these particular SALN were not required by the Judicial and Bar Council [JBC], the body that screens candidates for judicial posts.)

The Rules of Court further says that a QW proceeding may be commenced within one year after the cause of ouster. But only two months after Calida filed the petition, the Chief Justice was ousted today, Friday, May 11.

There are many dissenting opinions penned by justices, lawyers, and legal organizations. There have been protests and prayer vigils among Christians, pleading for God not to allow this to happen.     


Yet it happened. While I do not question God’s sovereignty, my heart bleeds.

I will not go into details, for fear of hemorrhage, as I recall all that had happened—and will continue to happen—in “Pilipinas kong mahal” (my beloved Philippines).  This has been an extremely divisive issue, tearing apart further an already uncertain nation.

But I am certain that our God of grace will still hand down His own verdict at His own perfect time.

Meanwhile . . .

I will follow what was blatantly dishonored by Calida and the eight supreme court justices: Romans 13:1 (NLT), "Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God." 

Middle photo: by Bullit Marquez/Associated Press

5/07/2018

Perks


Perks are those special benefits—in addition to the big money one is paid—that comes with the job. The more important the position is, the more impressive those freebies are.

But what if you are no longer employed and therefore have been stripped of any title that commands a high basic pay and an impressive coterie of people under your control?

Will perks still apply?

Sure they do.

From the day I chose to be an author, a complete turnabout from the corporate world which consumed me, I knew I was no longer entitled to perks. For one, there is no pay to speak of.

But receiving affirming letters and hearing oral testimonies—of how God has used my books to encourage a troubled someone, or uplift a grieving spirit, or heal a broken heart—have become my basic pay, much more than I ever thought possible.

Beyond that, do I still deserve perks?

No, but I get them anyway. Here' one of them:
This was sent from the US by someone I have not met, so it is more than a perk. It is a windfall. 

It is grace. 

5/03/2018

The Other Cheek


My friend G nags me no end about writing a book on forgiveness. “I have an interesting story for you,” she dangles a carrot in front of me. “I have friends who have other heart-rending stories,” she dangles more carrots.

This has been going on for five years.  But each year, I'd write a book on another subject. She’s probably wondering why I have not considered it, forgiveness being a brave act every person on earth agonizes over.

I have considered it. In fact, I have been chewing it in my head since that day G broached the idea. However, I could not put a finger on what it is exactly. Is it saying “I forgive you” to someone who has deeply hurt you? Or is it moving on and ignoring it with these idiomatic attitudes? 

“Swallow the bitter pill.”
“Sweep it under the rug.”
“Leave him/her ‘out of the picture.’” 
“Treat it like an ‘elephant in the room.’”

Forgiveness was demonstrated to us on the cross, and it is inimitable. Only the Son of God  could say to betrayers, sadists, punishers, executioners, jeerers, haters, and corrupt judges, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.”

So how can humans do even a semblance of this selfless act?

The Bible has the answer: Turn the other cheek. “But I say, do not resist an evil person! If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also.” Matthew 5:39
This metaphor nailed it for me. Forgiveness can be humanly demonstrable.

Let me cite Q, a battered wife. Through her married life (25 years), her husband humiliated her by openly flaunting his girlfriends to the world, unmindful of her feelings. One day he left her and lived with a string of beautiful mistresses, one after the other.

Now with his nth mistress, he fell ill, diagnosed with a degenerative disease that needed full-time caring. Guess who offered to give him exactly that? Not any of his mistresses, but Q. She nursed him through his sickness, without rebuke nor reproach for what he had put her through. 

On his deathbed three years later, he sobbed, “Will you ever forgive me?”

“I already have.”

He slapped Q on her right cheek and yet she offered the other.

Her friends sneered, “Martyr complex.”

Q thought otherwise. She saw the essence of forgiveness: offering the other cheek.

This forgiveness story ended the way my childhood books did. And Q “lived happily ever after.”  A life of  peace, soaked in grace.