Once Long Ago

My foray into blogging began in November 2006, six years after my first books were published. I therefore had not been able to blog about those books.

Since that was so long ago—19 years to be exact—I had not looked back to the events around them until last week when I googled “grace” and out came this: 
It’s a news item about the launching of the second book (hardbound) in the Gifts of Grace series. What made it noteworthy is that it stood side-by-side with the biography of then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (GMA) by no less than the Nick Joaquin.  

Indeed it is history.

Nick Joaquin had passed on. GMA has reinvented herself many times over: she ran for congress and won; she was arrested for various crimes (electoral fraud, bribery, misuse of funds, etc.) committed during her regime; she was portrayed as ailing during her incarceration; and eventually, she was freed by the Supreme Court when Rodrigo Roa Duterte became president, whose campaign—according to some news items—she heavily supported financially. And now GMA wields great power again as the Speaker of the House of Representatives.

Changes, changes.

Whatever they are or will be, I will remain unchanged in my life choice highlighted by that book launching. I will continue writing about the saving grace that changes the course of anyone’s life who comes to Jesus.

Since the Gifts of Grace series (my first non-fiction books for adult readers), I have launched quite a few more. I upload their images as they come on this site to remind me of the path that I took once long ago and, with new strength every day, I will continue to walk on till my last breath.

“But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:31 (NLT) 


What Moves You?

As of last year, 2018, there are 505 million bloggers in the world.  That number is huge. But I wonder how many of those consistently and persistently blog? 

After being persuaded by two of my three sons, I started blogging in November 2006. I got hooked. Thirteen years later, today, I am still blogging—yes, consistently and persistently, uploading one piece every three to four days. At any given time, I have a dozen blogs scheduled for publication. 

A fellow blogger, Y, is an excellent writer. However, whenever I visit his site, I read the same blog he had posted two months earlier. Once we met in a gathering and I told him, “You should blog more often. Your posts are always interesting to read.” 

“I can’t,” he said, “because I can only blog about things that move me.” 

I found that odd. "Oh. But everything m-moves me,” I stuttered.  

And I mean, everything. The sun, moon, stars, flowers, trees, animals, artwork, people, events, politics, malls, food, social media, etc. etc. etc. they all move me in a thousand different ways.
In fact, many of my blogs are series, because there are just too many angles to a certain topic or issue.  

That's why I continue blogging. Sometimes, because of book deadlines/talks, part-time teaching, and church ministries, there isn’t enough time to write all the thoughts and feelings I have in my head. So I find time—during short coffee breaks in school, nap hour, car trips between places, before breakfast, or any time that gives me some minutes to write. 

“You’re odd,” Y said, laughing. 

“That’s what I thought,” I replied. Yet I kept thinking, maybe I am odd in that way because I have chosen to write about grace, which is all over the place—here, there, and everywhere. In fact, I don’t have fingers fast enough to type them all, nor eyes sharp enough to see them all.  

Now let me ask, my cyber friends, what moves you? 


Gentle Annie

Out of nowhere, someone messaged me asking for some of Annie’s photos.

“We are putting together a commemorative book to celebrate our graduation batch’s 50th anniversary at St. Theresa’s College [STC]. Each one will have her own page.”

Annie, my sister-in-law and Tony’s only sister, had been gone for over 15 years. She succumbed to complications of rheumatoid arthritis at age 52. Now where would have I kept her photos?

I visited old drawers and voila! I found albums and loose photos of many people—friends and family. I didn’t realize I had so many photos kept and forgotten.

It took hours to find photos of Annie. She had more letters than she had pictures. She was not your selfie kind of person. In fact, she shunned the limelight. I used to describe her as “a woman for others.”
A gentle soul, Annie was not predisposed to long conversations. But she wrote me many letters, putting words to her thoughts and feelings, mostly about my husband, me, and our three sons, whom she doted on.

Annie had a successful career as Department Administrative Officer, reporting to the Sr. VP of a now defunct giant bank, but she turned away from all that to take care of my aging mother-in-law, who had lost both husband and youngest son in succession.

Tony and I got them a cozy house a block away from our home. And I would cross the street and visit both of them daily.

After Annie passed, we took her mom home to live with us. Every waking hour, she would call Annie’s name, sorely missing her. And one month after, in her grief, she fell ill and joined Annie.

I thank STC and her batch mates for remembering her. Through them, we are once again celebrating her life, thanking God for the grace of a sister-in-law and friend whose gentleness touched many.


Grateful eyes

The artists whose works I love are those that reflect the beauty of God’s creation: Georgia O’Keeffe, Claude Monet, Winslow Homer, Paul C├ęzanne, Carlos Trinidad, Lydia Velasco, Jun Alfon, to name a few. I am sure you have your own list of favorites.

Their paintings are so arresting, they evoke happy emotions from this beholder. What’s even more beautiful is that these magnum opuses do not come from nothing; they mirror our God-given lives as grateful eyes see them.

Carlos Trinidad, for instance, illustrates happy people enjoying various activities in images that seem to move vigorously (see photo below); Lydia Velasco demonstrates the warmth and love between mother and child, and kinship among women; Jun Alfon makes members of a marginalized tribe come alive in vibrant colors. 

"Catch the Pig" Oil on canvas 48 x 48 by Carlos Trinidad
If we, non-artists, could only try to see the beauty in everything as well, we can get a glimpse of the perfection of God’s creation, and experience unbridled joy with which He intended to gift us: a baby gurgling; grandchildren playing; old friends coming together to celebrate anything; showers pelting the roof after a long, hot summer; the sun shining after three days of rain; flowers blooming; vines covering walls; plus many more.

Remember Ecclesiastes 3:11? “. . . God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.” 

The grace we behold with grateful eyes in this life is just a foretaste of the eternal beauty yet to come in the eternal life of those who believe in Him.


Envelopes in My Head

"Can you lend me P100?" asked Rico, a friend at work. "I have no money for my ride home."

He was not asking for a million bucks, so the vulnerable side of me wanted to immediately hand him the money.

But my sane side said, "Don't." For how could anyone not leave enough money for his trip home?

On payday, this friend splurges on good meals in posh restaurants. He likes buying snacks for everyone. On his birthday, he throws a lavish party. Loaning from others has become a habit. Guess who's his favorite go-to pushover?

I suspect he hasn't heard of budgeting.

This was taught me by my mother before my wedding day.

"Envelopes," she advised. "Put the money you receive in them before even thinking of spending a centavo. Label each envelope with your monthly expenses—rent, food, utilities, emergency, amortizations, and oh, don't forget tithe. After filling those envelopes, only then can you spend the money left in your hands."
I did just that. It was tight, yes, but I was never short on cash till my husband's next paycheck, which was a pittance in those days.

Years later, those envelopes moved from my drawer to my head. It had become second nature to me. I could instinctively allocate what cash I had for essentials without physical envelopes. As I matured in my faith, tithe was the first envelope I put money in. 

"I am sorry, Rico," I replied. "My P100 is earmarked for something."

"How about P50?" he haggled. "Just to get me home."

"Sorry." I saw envelopes in head.

On my ride home, I passed by a reedy, old man with a dirty, small kid rummaging through a trash can. I stopped to give them my hard-earned P100.

"Don't squander God's grace—budget," mom stressed moons ago. She didn't cite a particular verse, but this one has suited me fine:

"Careful planning puts you ahead in the long run; hurry and scurry puts you further behind." Proverbs 21:5 (MSG)


Pen Pal

In its original form, pen pal is a term used for a person with whom you become friendly by exchanging letters—written with a pen and sent via postal mail (snail mail we call it today)—especially  someone in a foreign country whom you have never met.

It was sometime in the 1930s that the concept of pen pal began, evolving from its original term, pen-friend.
Just when I thought pen paling has become extinct, my son #2, who lives in the US, wrote Tony that his son (our one and only grandchild), Adrian, aged 11, was taking up creative writing and would Tony and Adrian be pen pals by exchanging stories? 

It’s not the authentic pen paling concept, of course. They would use the email to write each other.

And so they have become pen pals, 21st century version, with Adrian writing stories about the future with bizarre beings and places, products of his fertile imagination. Tony writes stories about the past, his ancient days as a young boy, when computer was still a dream and writing letters was an art. 

I was given the privilege to take a peek at their exchanges and was I blessed with grace borne out of disparate times and spaces. I must say that at his young age, Adrian is an excellent writer. To which Tony would retort, “He has my genes, after all.”   

So, do people still write letters with their pens and send them via postal mail to someone out there? Well, not in the strictest sense.

I know of church groups who write encouraging handwritten letters to inmates with no access to technology.  There are websites that encourage pen paling. My brother in Australia and Tony’s cousin in the US still send us Christmas cards with notes in their handwriting.

New, modern pen paling is still alive and well.


Banana Bonsai

I must have seen close to a million banana trees in my lifetime but none as small as what BoyP (my former colleague and friend) has in his beautiful garden. It’s two feet tall and I have wondered how to eat its fruits—if ever it would bear some.
BoyP, an outdoor-and-travel-loving person, retired much too early from being one of the top honchos in the ad industry.  He said he wants to have time to freely do what he wants to do at his own pace. 

He is doing it now—with a passion, or more graphically, with a vengeance. He grows bonzai, and again, more graphically, he’s a bonsai nut.

(Bonsai is an Asian art form that uses growing techniques to produce small trees in containers that mimic the scale of full-size trees. Bonsai nuts say it symbolizes peace, harmony and balance, demonstrating the dogged fight of a tree against the elements to create a miniature replica; it teaches us to remove clutter from our lives.)

BoyP’s bonsai collection (hundreds of them), particularly his banana bonsai, illustrate for me what he wants to do with his days—declutter and concentrate only on what’s important.

I can never grow bonsai, much less grow anything, but decluttering charms me and it’s what I have been trying to do, in my own way, since I left the workplace in the year 2000. I have not been completely successful—yet. But grace will soon show me how to totally embrace the simple life:

“Make it your goal to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands, just as we instructed you before.” 1 Thessalonians 4:11 (NLT)



In celebration of Women’s Month, March, my publisher OMFLIt, featured their women authors under the theme or hastag #UnstoppableWomen.
For the write-ups, they asked me two questions. The first was,  Name one woman who inspires you and why?

My reply:  My daughter-in-law, Gianina. Nothing could stop her (not a distinguished corporate career nor an MBA from Booth, University of Chicago) from deciding to take care of my grandson, Adrian, full time—a noble and courageous act that can unsettle many women, including me.

She was not a difficult choice, even among big-named, famous women who have left indelible marks in our history. In this modern, complicated world, I believe everything should go back to the basic unit of society,  the family.  If things do not start right, things will not end right either. Children are therefore every married woman's priority.  Any woman who recognizes this knows her purpose.

Alas, in my time, I did not recognize this. Shame on me. Back then, managing a household and a career seemed simple. There were less complications, no distractions such as technology, and nannies were aplenty. But in today's chaotic world, with indiscriminate landmines and traps of all kinds that lure and harm kids, a mother no longer has a better choice than staying home and arming her child to navigate his way through life.   

I salute all women who took the route Gianina did.   

The second question was, What makes a woman unstoppable? 

My reply:  Purpose. A woman who knows exactly who she is in Christ can—let me borrow this Biblical hyperbole on what faith, the size of a mustard seed can do—move mountains.

Matthew 17:20 NLT reads, "You don’t have enough faith,” Jesus told them. “I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would move. Nothing would be impossible.” 

From Him comes enabling grace so we could do what we were meant to do.

May I ask my women friends this same question: What makes you unstoppable?


Why VBS?

Way back in 1894, a Sunday school/public school teacher, D. T. Miles, in Hopedale, Illinois, felt that time spent on teaching Bible to children was too short. So, she started a daily Bible school during the summer.

Four years later, Virginia Sinclair Hawes, director of the children's department at Epiphany Baptist Church in New York City, started a summer "Everyday Bible School" for neighborhood children.

The idea caught on and so all over the world, churches (including our own PVGC) mount a summer VBS. I vaguely remember all the many VBS I attended when I was a kid, but the memory of getting to know Jesus has been inscribed in my heart.

Every year, PVGC uses the themed curriculum prepared by CSM Publishing. Inc., in  partnership with Philippine Children’s Ministries Network (PCMN) this year. CSM is my publisher, so I have seen how much time they take to prepare the curriculum every year.
This 2019, the kids enjoyed the Shield Squad: Secure in God’s protection. 

Aside from new activities and songs, they met the God who takes care of them, keeping them safe and secure. They learned about having the heart of a superhero, saving those who are in danger. 

I took a peek at the SRO graduation ceremonies and was awed by how our youth worked as a team to make the whole program unforgettable. Most important, they had planted the seed of God’s redeeming grace to 130 plus young minds.  

Why VBS?

Statistics: One-quarter of all people reached by any given church anywhere in the world are through VBS!

May all those who support the VBS in whatever form (time, effort, talent, snacks, budget, materials, prizes, presence, etc.) burst with blessings.



This number caused me to wake up at dawn so I could freeze it in time. I knew it would come sometime in the morning so I went to bed early so I could wake up early and wait for it. Tick-tock, tick-tock.

Then, there it was! Screenshot.
I am euphoric, of course, just as I was when I reached 555,555 and 666,666. But this post will remain only for one day because euphoria is temporary and short-lived. On the other hand, seconds and minutes, where grace lives permanently, will keep rolling along.

Thank you to all my guests who dropped by to read my posts these past 12 years and a half. This number is about you—and about the joy that visits me with every post. 


Saving Lives

Many Christian churches have outreach ministries—usually in communities where poverty-stricken people live. Our church has quite a few, mounted on an ad hoc basis.

But starting last year, a group of younger people/couples with a heart for children started one. It has since become a weekly activity that brims with life. Held in one of our village’s clubhouses, the children go through, to my mind, Sunday School (SS) curriculum.

This reminds me of my SS days where we prayed, sang, listened to Bible stories, learned about Jesus, and were served snacks. The only difference is that, today, the children are treated to digital images.

I was privileged to attend one, when my book on sharing was read to the children. What delighted me was their rapt attention and their quick answers to questions about the story. The outstanding ones were each awarded a book.

In my experience, outreach ministries have brought many lost souls to Jesus.  No wonder Pastor Jeremy Norton calls this church activity: Saving lives . . . eternally!  “Jesus was all about outreach ministry,” he said. 

Our Bible tells us that Jesus indeed moved from community to community, reaching out to throngs of people of every kind, bringing the lost to God so that that all may be saved. 

I am deeply grateful to—their names off the top of my head—Anne, Aaron, Carla, Ely, Esther, Joseph, Kit, Malou, Rhiza, Ric, Ruth,Tes, Twinzel, Yvonne, plus many more. They spend time, effort, and resources so that this ministry will stand strong week after week after week. We who are older, and therefore sapped of their kind of energy, can only watch in the sidelines.  

On my wobbly (and sometimes aching) knees, I pray for grace to rain on these faithful outreachers and the children—close to a hundred now—they minister to, so that more and more lives may be saved.



In the language of millennials, this Facebook hashtag means: what happened, COMELEC?

It begs for answers to explain the multiple mishaps and irregularities that took place on May 13, mid-term Election Day. This ignited opposition groups to join forces in mounting a protest rally in front of the Philippine International convention Center (PICC) where the COMELEC (Commission on Elections) are still canvassing the votes—as of this post.    

Various groups of protesters marched from different parts of Metro Manila to call on COMELEC to bare what transpired during the seven-hour delay in the transmission of results from the transparency server—aside from glitches such as “961 malfunctioning VCMs, 1,665 defective SD cards, and 1.02 million bleeding markers.”

Photos and videos of people pre-marking heaps of ballots have also been doing the rounds on social media.


Weeks before the election, the National Citizens' Movement for Free Elections (NAMFREL), a credible election watchdog since 1984, opted out of the polls because COMELEC—for the first time—prohibited access to data that would be published on NAMFREL’S website for transparency. On this website, we read, “NAMFREL’S commitment to clean elections was best shown during the 1986 snap presidential elections with over 500,000 volunteers who offered their time, energy and even their lives, to preserve the sanctity of the ballot.”


Because serious suspicions of massive deception resulting in the wholesale loss of opposition senatorial candidates, Neri Colmenares, one of them, refuses to concede.

Many rallyists stressed, “Seven hours of silence is anomalous!”

On the same day, the opposition Liberal Party (LP) asked the COMELEC to identify the areas where defective voting machines held up balloting for hours, “possibly disenfranchising some 500,000 voters.”

Some groups also urged the COMELEC to conduct a special random manual audit of the elections to erase fears of manipulation.

Whether COMELEC will give coherent answers is uncertain. Up until then, #anyariCOMELEC? is a question I (and many others) will continue to ask again and again.

“No one who practices deceit shall dwell in my house; no one who utters lies shall continue before my eyes.” Psalm 101:7

Photo credits: Inquirer.net; Rappler; CNN Philippines; Twitter; and various posts on FB


“It is Difficult to Love This Country”

It’s been six days since our mid-term elections, and the grief I feel is still lodged deep in my heart. I share this grief with many friends who have the courage to vent it on social media.

All the eight senatorial candidates I voted for lost. It was a straight win for the administration’s bets. If the results were the choice of the people, I would have said, so be it. 

But there were big, major glitches that could not be explained: over a thousand voting machines conked out; thousands of voters were disenfranchised; there was massive vote buying. And worst of all, there was a seven-hour blackout after the initial results were released where all the administration candidates (some of whom have zero platforms and experience in legislative work; some have been accused of plunder) were leading by a mile.

People stayed up all night waiting for partial results—zilch. Seven hours later, we got the same trend as those initially released.

Reading today the column of an esteemed author and national artist for literature, F. Sionil Jose, whose hometown is next-door to mine, I felt grace woven into his moving prose. He titled it, “It is difficult to love this country, so we leave.” He articulates what I could not begin to express.

May I quote him?

“It is difficult to love this country. But it is easier to do so if we think of her as our motherland, the way our mothers nurtured us, embraced us, and gave us their warmth, their loyalty, and caring . . .

“And so I go to the old hometown often, to look at immemorial vistas of well-cared fields and a people made enduring by work. I go there to listen to a language to which I was born but which I don’t really use anymore. Listening to it, I wallow in memory and I feel alive, keen to the sound of living, of memories of the past that I have read about which I know are now entwined with every fiber of my being as a writer who belongs to this unhappy country.”  
"My Sad Republic" by BenCab*
Yes, it is difficult to love this country, and I will leave it someday. Not to other lands, but to where my citizenship belongs.

"But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior."  Philippians 3:20 (NLT)

*BenCab, short for Benjamin Cabrera, is another Philippine national artist (visual arts-painting).  


Puppy Love

That intense feeling of attachment to someone that usually visits young people does not last long. It is romantic love that is transitory, as the world defines it. It fades away as he/she becomes older. That’s why it’s called puppy love.

Our puppy, Judge (born on Christmas eve), was so cute and so cuddly we all loved him to pieces. We were so intensely attached to him so much so that he began and ended our days.  We raced to put him in our lap, pet him, and play with him.

That was just six months ago. Too fast, he has grown into a real dog, no longer a puppy, and has ceased to be cute and cuddly. Where has puppy love gone?     

Judge sleeping with his mom, Attorney
Don’t get me wrong; we all love Judge still, but that feeling is no longer as intense as when he was little.

Thank God, grace isn't like puppy love. It is love everlasting. It is there for us from the womb to the tomb. It does not diminish. In fact, it grows as we mature spiritually. In a way, it matches our faith. It remains as intense as the awe, wonder, and gratitude with which we receive it.

"Surely, goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my live, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever." Psalm 23:6 (KJV)   

Judge (middle) on Christmas Day 2018


Art 2 Art

This is a TV/radio show hosted by Lisa Macuja-Elizalde, identified as Ballerina ng Bayan (Ballerina of the Country). I think it is a most apt title for an outstanding Filipina who has danced solo on many theater stages all over the world.

Produced by the Manila Broadcasting Company, the show airs every Sunday, from 3:30 to 4 PM on radio via DZRH, on cable television via RHTV, and on Cignal TV and Ch. 3 on Cablelink. It also has online livestreaming and may be viewed via the Facebook account of DZRH News Television.

Within half an hour, the show features conversations on art and culture with an invited guest from an art genre.

When I got the invitation to guest the show recently, I was ecstatic—not because I  would appear on TV, but because I would personally chat with the Ballerina ng Bayan, whom I have watched only from the balcony of a theatre, and therefore as small as my thumb. 

On the TV set, there she was, as big as life. She is real, down-to-earth, and a natural.

She asked about the many sides of my love for children’s iterature—where I get my ideas from, who my books’ characters are, and how I weave stories. For 30 minutes, I forgot I was before the cameras and enjoyed the rare encounter with a global celebrity, whose discipline and form as a ballerina are impeccable.

Well, the set was familiar territory—my milieu for more than two decades, shooting talents, products, and celebrities. The only difference was, the computers did all the work. The cameras stayed put, and therefore, stage hands running around were missing. 

You’ve come a long way, baby, I said to myself. I meant that to refer to my age, which grace has allowed to come this far—emboldening me to still write my next books, and talk with the likes of Lisa Macuja-Elizalde.

“That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day.” 2 Corinthians 4:16


Merry Monday of May

Approximately 61 million voters in the Philippines will trek to polling places today to select local government officials and members of both houses of Congress. I will leave my computer alone for now, and join the rest of concerned citizens who are taking time to decide the future of our country.

“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” James 1:5 (NKJV)

Lord, by your grace, please grant us wisdom to choose candidates who honor You with their sincerity and commitment to serve the country. Amen.

My kodigo (personal list of choices) for senators and party list:


Davids, the Underdogs

In four days, we will go to the polls and elect 12 senators, representatives, and all city-and-municipal-level officers.

For three years, our president, Rodrigo Roa Duterte, has practically hushed all opposition to his regime. Many editorials in media here and abroad say that this strongman has quickly managed to control all three branches of government: executive, legislative and judiciary.

He has also cowed the Catholic Church and has been deliberately crass behind the presidential seal—cursing, cracking lewd jokes, maligning women, threatening and harassing critics of his administration, accusing people minus due process, kowtowing to a foreign power, China, and worst, blaspheming the loving God of grace, Who allowed Himself to be nailed on the cross and die for me. This presidential  blustering has become the new normal, to the delight of his followers.

He is Goliath.

But there has been a birth of Davids, underdogs with nothing but a slingshot of principles. No stature, no money from our taxes, no power, no clout, and no fighting chance to slay the formidable giant.

OTSO DIRETSO (Straight Eight) they are called. Eight courageous, straight-shooting and hard-working professionals who have solid platforms, and if elected to the senate, will at least give our ailing democracy in this country a chance to survive via a dissenting voice in crafting self-serving laws.

The Davids are also the people who believe in them and are helping, minus the budget of Goliath, to craft the slingshot by hand, moving others to do the same:     

They have moved me. My conscience now dictates that four days from today, I should vote for OTSO DIRETSO—never mind if the giant is forbidding. 

Samira Gutoc, the lone woman in the OTSO DIRETSO team, messaged the president on stage and in interviews without batting an eyelash, “I am not afraid of you.”

Such is the guts of David, the underdog. 

Photo ctredits: Rappler, photo of candidates; others, from FB posts


Gawad Balagtas Awards Night (2)

The awarding ceremony of Gawad Balagtas capped the 45th UMPIL National Writer’s Congress with the theme: “Literature, Healing, and Wellness.”

All the seven awardees were each given two pages in the printed program, and this one’s mine. 

The citation reads:

"In writing stories for children, she time and again deploys narrative as an efficacious manner of awakening and illuminating. Awakening, as she presents, by way of the various facets of action, the myriad aspects of being human and humane; illuminating, not merely to instil morals among her young readers, but more so, to enlighten a world usually shrouded in darkness. She sows in the field of her stories the seed of valules enriched by Christian perspective. In its growth, in every flip of her books, hope is reaped, time and again, this fruit of faith, not only in the word, but also in the Word became flesh."

The chosen excerpt from my works:

From the “Tree of Life” (13th book in the Oh, Mateo! Series)

I believe that aside from the reasons cited by UMPIL for giving me the award, the real ones are out there—three of them, holding the book quoted above, are these: 
Yna (publications director of OMF Lit, publisher of my children’s books) and son #3 (as Tony can’t navigate stairways and long hallways these days), took time off from their busy schedules to be my cheerers on that special afternoon. 

And so we enjoyed the food, laughter, photo ops, encounters, and conversations. Old and new friends huddled in one hall to celebrate literature.     

Photo credit: Mars Mercado, for children's photo (3rd from top) 


Gawad Balagtas Awards Night (1)

So this is how it feels to receive a lifetime achievement award, I thought when I heard the loud thud-thud of my heart.

As soon as my name was called, photos of my various life stages faded in and out of the big screen. Then an excerpt of one of my books was voiced and scrolled up.  On stage I was handed a heavy and awesome wooden trophy hand-carved by national artist and writer Manuel Baldemor.     

Out-and-out Grace.

In my two-minute speech, I had wished to express the gamut of feelings churning my guts. I tried, but sometimes, words are inadequate to say it all: 

"I am a true-blue Ilocana. In my time, the medium of instruction was English. Imagine my shock and awe when I came upon Florante at Laura in my High School Filipino class. Although the language was difficult to understand, I found the words beautifully written.

"Unfortunately, I had no chance to learn this beautiful language because the children’s books and classics in those those days were all in English. Also because after graduating from UP, I went abroad for further studies.

"Many years later, back in the Philippines, I followed my heart and focused on writing—in the language that I read in books and taught me in school. I had dreamed of writing in Filipino, too, so I wrote a piece, which I slaved over for days, and sent it to my friend, Luis Gatmaitan*, for his comments.

"The piece came back with more comments than my original manuscript. So I wrote another piece and sent it to him. After maybe the 5th try, Luis returned the manuscript to me and said, 'Grace, ang payo ko, mag-English ka na lang!' (Grace, my advice is, stick to English!)

"Forty published children’s books later, I read on Facebook that UMPIL has recognized my work in English. I read and re-read my name aloud. Me?! A GAWAD BALAGTAS awardee?! In my joy, I jumped so high—if I were taller, I might have reached the sky.

"To UMPIL, you can’t imagine how honored I am for this recognition. It means the world to me. Please be assured that this true-blue Ilocana, who writes only in English, will treasure this GAWAD BALAGTAS forever and ever.

"I offer it to the One who enables me to write."

* * * 

*A Palanca Hall-of-Fame Awardee, an excellent writer in Filipino, and a pediatrician, whom I fondly call my BFF

(to be continued . . .)