Night Out with the Big Boys

Some students had wanted to interview me for their class assignment on authors. So we set a date, time, and place.

It was the exact date and time Tony was scheduled to meet his classmates in grade school (yes, grade school!). It was their monthly (yes, monthly!) big boys’ night out.

He suggested that I joined them for dinner after my interview was over so I could have a ride home. I had the option of being the only girl in a big boys’ club or of taking public transportation during rush hour.

It was a difficult choice.

What could I contribute to the conversation?

I have nothing in common with these men, well, except Tony.

I could always concentrate on the food and allow my mind to wander, which isn’t difficult.

Or I could listen and learn a thing or two from men who go back a long, very long, way.

I listened.

And I laughed. I was amused and amazed at the same time. Here were eight oldish men (one of them is now a congressman; one is a DJ; a lot of them entrepreneurs; four or five couldn’t make it but they kept calling and wanted updates on what was happening) talking like little boys without a care in the world.

Their topics ranged from the old shops they used to pass by on their way to school, the pretty teacher who was their common crush, the bullies and the nerds among them, how the political situation is still the same even after so many years, and oodles of other topics that kept me mesmerized.

They talked as though I wasn’t there. But I picked up one great nugget of wisdom: nothing—not age, not political affiliation, not religious beliefs, not time, not tragedies and comedies—can break up friendships forged in early life.

On our drive home, I told Tony: “The dinner was great but the jokes and conversation even better.”

“Same topics and jokes month after month,” he said, snickering.

I wanted to ask why, then, would he always look forward to attending those dinners if the topics and jokes were the same month after month for, uh, ten years now.

I bit my tongue; I knew better.

Old men (and women, for that matter) must never really grow old. They are able to weather life’s earthquakes and quicksands only because they keep the carefree little boy they once were in their hearts.   


Funny Days are Here Again!

From day one, I have been a fan of American Idol. Go ahead, laugh. It’s probably the only TV show I watch consistently. Unless I am in a prayer meeting or out on an errand, I watch every show.

I don’t care much for TV anymore, not since I left the workplace where all I did was watch TV ad nauseum to get a feel of trends and mass media advertising.

But American Idol—which is airing again for a new season—is an exception. Why? Well, a show like this doesn’t have to be analyzed or synthesized. It’s just plain fun. And funny!

I am extremely amused at the combination of the three judges who share no similarity except for their love for music. Simon is acerbic and curt, reminding me of my high-handed clients of yore. Paula is effervescent and spontaneous, typical of a person in creative—a perfect foil to a client. And Randy is both soul and technique, knows his notes and pitches to the last vibrato.

And oh, there’s Ryan Seacrest who’s always quick-on-the-draw, parrying, bantering, sparring with words and turns of phrases that leave one in stitches.

It’s a casting coup. Together, they are a riot.

And then, you hear music, music, music and watch expensive extravaganza, set on a glitzy stage with high-tech production values, interspersed with human drama.

I said I wasn’t going to analyze the show, but by force of habit, I have just listed what I think makes American Idol the no. 1 show in the US for several seasons now.

There is another episode coming up in a few hours. I will abandon my keyboard and the book chapter I am about to finish and for 60 minutes, I’ll free my mind from writer's angst.


Googleganger (2)

I tried to google myself again for the second consecutive day (vanity is endless). This time I was even more curious as to what I would discover further.

Alas, I didn’t find any more interesting googleganger. But I uncovered a few things written about me. One is in a blog of an 18-year-old girl. She listed me as one of her favorite book authors, alongside legends! She wrote . . .

“(my name) . . . is a local author in the Philippines and I really love her works. She wrote the "Oh Mateo!" Series, "Hello God!" Prayer books for kids, and "The Magic of Apo Mayor". Yes, I know I'm too old for these books but I really cherish her works.”

My heart leapt to my throat.

And her other favorite authors?

“J.K. Rowling - Hello?!?!? Do I have to say more? She's absolutely, positively amazing!

“C.S. Lewis - He's practically a legend at his game! All his works are written greatly.

“Lemony Snicket - He specializes in the drama category and is a real master. He may write about gloomy stuff but he rocks!!”

I came off my perch—“absolutely, positively” humbled. I may never earn my right—not in a zillion years—to be in the same league as these super authors, especially C.S. Lewis who is my all-time favorite children’s book writer, but I am “absolutely, positively” grateful that in the mind of an 18-year-old I have.

There are a few other blogs that mention my work, but my eyes are smarting and I feel so inadequate to key them in. I will simply write them in my heart and relish the beat of God’s glorious grace there.


Googleganger (1)

I can’t get over this new word in my vocabulary in 2008! Thanks to the American Dialect Society which voted it as the most creative word in the year that was:


It’s defined as, "a person with your name who shows up when you Google yourself.”

I have always wondered about my namesakes—who might they really be. With this new word, I googled myself again (vanity, vanity) and what do you know? One of them really shocked me. She holds a world record for something so notorious I can’t even print it.

There aren’t too many of us. And what we have in common is just our name. One is young enough to be my granddaughter, one lives on the opposite side of the planet, and another one is some kind of a science genius.

Why not try discovering who your googlegangers are? You’re in for a lot of surprises.

Photo credit


Over-the-top Generosity

Amazon is slipping. It was three weeks delayed in delivering JC’s gifts for his parents.

My husband and I were not really bothered. Gifts that come late are gifts nevertheless; their value is never diminished. Both with heavy marketing background, we know that dates are simply merchandising hoopla.

But JC was livid.

He’d have wanted to give us these gifts on Christmas. I could hear him chewing off the ear of whoever was on the other line. His voice sounded like gunshots.

The package, which arrived on our doorstep only yesterday, was worth the long wait. Tony got two seasons of “Everybody Loves Raymond” (his favorite TV show, next to . . . uh, Desperate Housewives?).

Me? I got not just a book, but The Word on the Street!

“I couldn’t find it in any bookstore here,” JC explained.

The Word on the Street by Rob Lacey is a retelling of the scriptures from Genesis to Revelation, although it has a qualifier on the cover –

“Purist alert: This is not THE BIBLE (capital B) . . . but it might just get you reaching for one.”

It is not meant to replace your Bible (mine is KJV); it simply brings to life, in today’s language, the gripping stories and the passionate voices found in God’s Word. I love reading it (with my KJV beside me) because it is theatre, song, e-mail, web page, storytelling, and reality show all in one.

JC scrawls on the first page, “Mommy, combining your two loves: the Word of God and the theatre.”

Turning to the chapter on love, 1 Corinthians 13, here’s what kept me smiling (verses 4-8):

What is love anyway? Not the tripe you’ve been force-fed! No, love gives people space and time; it does people good. It’s not jealous, loud-mouthed or big-headed. It’s not vulgar; it doesn’t look after No. 1. It’s not got a short fuse—it forgives and forgets. Love doesn’t smile when dark stuff goes on, but throws a party when the truth gets out. It protects more than a blockbuster hero; it trusts more than a toddler. It’s always positive; it always hangs in there. Love doesn’t let you down.

If the book is gripping, the story behind its creation is even more so. Lacey was diagnosed with terminal cancer when he started writing the book in the year 2000. All through the three years that it took him to finish it, he was in and out of hospitals, in between chemotherapy and surgery, pain and remission, anger and stupor.

He lived to see it chosen as the Book of the Year (2004) at the Christian Booksellers Convention Ltd. UK. After another two years, Lacey joined the One for whom He lived his life as a writer and a performer.

This book’s blurb says, “For those who’ve never read the Bible, and for those who’ve read it too much.”

I don’t know if I fall within the second category, having in my possession at least a dozen translations which I refer to often. But what Lacey says about grace keeps me thinking I have not read enough—can never read enough.

“Grace is too big a word to define: favour, forgiveness, salvation, regeneration, love of God – all these don’t quite make it. Hence my struggles to define it.”


The Word on the Street’s phrase to mean grace, "over-the-top-generosity,” is way over the top, but it doesn’t even come close to defining it fully, even in today’s street-smart super lingo.


6989 Steps

Tony’s gifts to me are never a surprise. I pick them out myself and he simply pays for them. I know that inwardly he winces when he sees the price tag. But that’s a small price to pay (pun intended) for him having to search the stores himself. He abhors shopping.

Last Christmas season, however, I was too busy chairing the committee for our clan reunion. Before I knew it Christmas eve was upon us. For the very first time, Tony’s gift surprised—floored may be a better word—me.

He gave me something I wouldn't dream spending a cent on: a pedometer. It's a small gadget you tie around your neck and it measures your steps. I’ve been walking without one for seven years and it can’t make me walk any more than I already do.

I think he gave me a pedometer because he knows how obsessed I am with walking; or, among all the stores in a mall, the sports shop is the least crowded. Ooops, I should be thanking him instead of speculating on why he bought it.

I have always been tentative about my answer when someone asks, “How many kilometers do you walk in the morning?” My guess: seven kilometers, considering I walk one whole hour at a very brisk pace.

My new pedometer confirmed that: 6989 steps.

At 1,000 steps per kilometer, I do walk approximately seven in one hour! I wear the thingy the rest of the day to confirm having made 10,000 steps at day’s end (what some doctors recommend to help maintain good health). Now I know how much walking I do during the day—a lot.

This same pedometer was what my sons had in mind when they were shopping for my gift. They did a turnabout when it was beyond their budget (which mothers have to share with pretty young things). One of them bought me instead a blouse on sale and the other, a book which has not arrived. Amazon has made the holiday mail traffic a perfect excuse.

I have tried to suggest—not very subtly—to these boys that a nice letter telling me what a good mother I am would make the best gift, without them worrying over budgets. Obviously they’d rather spend precious cash than wrongly butter up their mother’s ego.

"I hope I don’t lose my pedometer the way I lose my cell phones and umbrellas," I said to nobody in particular.

“How can anyone lose anything tied around her neck?” JC asked.

Children ought to work harder at getting to know their mothers. I've lost flash drives, ball pens, pendant watches, IDs, necklaces, you name it. They were all neatly tied around my neck.


Taking Down the Tree

End of the merry season.

As I was taking down our tree early this year, I kept rewinding in my mind what our pastor said about Christmas trees. I’ve always been half guilty about making such a big fuss over a tree every December.

Without knowing what I go through to spruce up our 6-foot-tall green tree, he said, “Christmas trees are symbolic of the celebration we do at Christmas. However, we must not forget that it is just the beginning of the unwrapping of the greatest gift to man.

"The unwrapping continues and finally, the gift is fully opened and given at the cross. Go ahead, have a Christmas tree, but focus on the cross. From the tree to the cross—that is the total gift package.” 

My eldest brother Peding in the US gave us a crystal cross on his last visit. I took a shot of that cross overshadowing our office tree to remind me of the most selfless gift in Calvary for all of mankind . . . including undeserving me.

Oh, what grace!


Reunion 007: A Time to Bond!

The clan reunion that kept my pulse over-speeding all of December came through! It exceeded all our expectations, trashed all our worries, and proved all our apprehensions wrong.

We knew we had a winner in the venue. Tucked away in some forgotten place, “The Lord’s Garden” is so close to Laguna Bay.

It was difficult to get there, though. One had to navigate narrow roads clogged with tricycles and sidewalk vendors. But once you’re there, you get a whiff of bygone days.

Clean air caressed us and all around were wide open spaces with lots of trees, flowers, grass, birds, frogs, and—a giant chess set.

But that was about the only ace we got. Anything could go wrong with over 170 reunionites (or clanistas, as we have nicknamed ourselves; more than half live overseas)—aged 7 months to 89.

Nothing did. We realized that nothing ever goes wrong when family gets together to strengthen relationships and renew old ties. Oversights are forgiven.

Things went on as planned, plus more. James Bond numbers, parlor games, sports, talent and quiz shows, board games, kiddie activities, raffle, Bible-lympics, and other fun activities one can think of kept us laughing and bonding for 3 days and two nights. It was organized chaos, so to speak. One could participate in any event of his choice.

But two activities were non-negotiable: the opening worship service and the “friendship circle” where we were locked together in a hand chain while we prayed to await the end of the old year and the beginning of the new year. Everybody had to be there.

As a clan, we believe that everything is up to God. We could meet every year—running 63 years now—as a family only because of His grace. We therefore must give thanks together before we do anything else. In this worship service, which began Reunion 007: A time to Bond!, we remembered the clanistas who have gone ahead—all 42 of them. As they lit our way, may we—those who are left behind—also learn to light the way of those whom we will likewise leave behind.

May the Lord find us always faithful.

What gives me the right to chair this reunion?

My grandparents on my mother’s side had nine children. All nine branches of the big clan is assigned a reunion. As the eldest in my mother’s branch, I get to head the reunion committee every nine years. It is an awesome responsibility which I could never go alone.

This year, we were short-handed—13 of our sub-clan members are abroad. They all shared in the work in terms of creative ideas and donations, but the execution was left to the 11 of us.

The older among us (me and my husband, my sister, my brother and his wife) watched the "shaken and stirred" younger ones, our children, do the tasks we couldn't do ala Bond, complete with his espionage music in the background. Boy, was that dizzying!

Four days after the closing ceremonies, I am still exhausted from the overdrive. Well, I have nine years to recover. By then, I'd be nine years older and the clanistas in the group photo below would spill over the frame even more. But by His grace, I will be all fired up—again.


Happy New Year!

I said I was coming back on the 2nd of January, but it is now the 3rd. I am lagging behind in my writing (both blog and book). I was submerged in too many activities in December and couldn't come up for air, till now.

Today I took the chance to join my friends Bezalie and Yay for a long, chatty lunch, occasionally marred by a sneezing spell. I quickly took an anti-allergy pill and now I am woozy and my eyelids are heavy as lead.

Tom . . . or. . . row . . . zzzzzzzzzzz . . .