Proud Grads

In the Philippines, when the youngest child graduates from college, the parents also graduate.

Unlike other cultures, ours sees every child through all stages of schooluntil college. Or in our case, post-graduate school. Children are not expected to leave home at age 18; they stay till they’re married. (And in some families, they stay forever.)

Youngest son JR recently graduated from Law School with a degree called Juris Doctor.

It was a time for rejoicing. The joyous occasion was made even more special by the presence of middle son JB who was in the country for a vacation. JB took the chance to be with the whole family to watch baby brother receive his hood and diploma.

The event, held at the Meralco Theatre, was celebratory. There were confetti of tears from choked-up mothers, and flashes of bulbs that could light up a whole town from proud fathers.

Since it was also the graduation day of many other schools, restaurants were filled to the rafters at dinnertime. We chose the glass-encased Chateau 1771 at Greenbelt 5, where Gianina and baby Adrian joined us. Adrian unfortunately was asleep in his pram all throughout the long, chatty dinner and was not within camera range.

It was an enchanting culmination of eight grueling years for JR who (my eyes are welling as I write this), despite the pressure of schoolwork, still managed to be active in his church ministries: every summer, mission work in far-flung places; and every Sunday, Sunday School in our village church as teacher to tweens.

JR will have a fit if he found out his mom has been tattling on him. Well, it’s my graduation too!

He is 0.0003% short of making it to the honors roll; I am 3000.0% short to the honors mom (should they decide to award such a wonderful thing).

And it is my opportunity to praise the Source of grace who made all these things possible in all of JR’s university years. To Him be all the glory.


Nasty Or Nice

Two contrasting masks—sad and happy, tragedy and comedy—represent the theatre.

I’ll borrow them for now to show the contrasting reactions of people to those who are nasty and to those who are nice.

Since I joined a cyber group that reviews member-sites, my own has been reviewed almost 300 times. These reviews have been very uplifting and immensely helpful.

I thought all reviews were as positive as these because I have made it my personal policy to review only the sites I like. If I don’t fancy a site, I quickly exit and promise myself never to go back again.

But I happened to visit some members’ sites and was appalled at some of the nasty reviews posted there. Discouraged and downhearted, some of them lamented, “Why can’t people be more encouraging?”

My feeling is, if I don’t agree with a site’s beliefs, I have no right to impose my own. All my opinions are freely written in my own site anyway—whether visitors like it or not.

That, for me, is the essence of blogging. I think of a personal site as a home in a community, the blogosphere. It is the blogger’s home. He can decorate it any way he pleases. He can put anything in it—art or junk. He can turn it into a pig sty or a sanctuary. I’ve decided to make mine the latter. It is a place where grace is discovered, received—and shared.

Putting it simply, every blogging day, a blogger—like a citizen of a country—has two choices. Be nasty, or be nice. Here’s what some of my friends say about that:

“Why waste energy on being nasty when it is so much easier to be nice?”

Or, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t.”

That’s nice.


The Gift of Second Motherhood

“Second Motherhood as Book Author” was how Carina Roncesvalles, writer/journalist of Philippine Star, defined what I am today. It was very kind of her to write about me in the newspaper’s Mother’s Day issue.

I am honored . . . and humbled.

Motherhood is such a noble role that to become one is a privilege of the highest order. Mothers are celebrated the world over on Mother’s Day. And on any ordinary day, we are probably the most lionized group of human beings this earth has ever seen.

To be a mother twice in a lifetime, now that’s what I call . . . double grace.

“Second careers have been heard of. But motherhood can take a second turn, too,” was how Carina began the feature story.

“When her army of three young men graduated from her cudgels, motherhood for Grace took a second challenge as she writes children’s books.

“In writing books for children, Grace presents her learning as a mother when her kids were growing up. She has become a second mom to the kids who reads her stories.”

Despite being a flawed part-time mom when my children were growing up, I had not realized how this role could be given twice in a lifetime. Indeed we have a God of second chances! For this second act, the Lord has gifted me with all the time I need in a day and as many children as my books can reach.

I’d like to thank Carina for making me see myself in this new light.

The article has a photo of my family in my “first” motherhood; and a photo of my “second” motherhood with some of my “children.” Here are the two photos in bigger size. They look like nits in the article reduced many times over to fit this post.

I am keeping a copy of the clipping (actual size: 1/3 of a newspaper page) because it will remind me that on Mother’s Day 2008, I was made aware of the grace of motherhood granted me twice.


My Stress Buster

For the past three days, I have been shuttling (literally running) between my computer and the TV set. I’d type in a paragraph during commercial break. And last night, being Sunday, I totally abandoned my computer. I just sat before the TV set for hours and hours, from late afternoon to way past my bedtime.

Now I know how it feels to be a couch potato.

What kept me glued on TV? American Idol Marathon. World Star channel ignored its regular programming and had been showing nothing but American Idol episodes one after the other, with very minimal ads.

American Idol has been the only show I watch consistently, except on those days when I am not at home. This has been solved by the marathon. Now I have seen every single show of season seven. Now, what to do with strained muscles and eyes . . .

For me, AI is unadulterated fun and entertainment, a family show at its best—delighting people in all life stages. It doesn’t take brain surgery to enjoy it. It’s full of laughter and good-natured bantering. And it’s all about music. It’s a perfect stress buster.

Three days from now, all this will end at the finals—to resume again next year. My TV viewing will go back to what it has always been—sporadic. Which isn’t a bad thing, really. Now that I am out of advertising, I don’t need to watch ads anymore, nor am I compelled to be updated on the shows which fit which ads.

Meanwhile, who will win in the battle David vs. David? I think David Cook should win. But David Archuleta will.

It doesn’t really matter. The show’s been my gift of grace—sent by a creative God through the boob tube so I may receive it on certain days to relieve the incessant stress brought on by a world getting wearier every day.


The Grandest Grin

We are told that our mind’s hard drive can store all the memories of our lives. Trouble is, we can’t retrieve them all, no matter how hard we try.

But the memories of our “firsts” can leap out of our subconscious at will. They’re bookmarked as our favorites, easily and quickly accessible. Here’s a short list—first airplane ride, first love, first cell phone, first award, first paycheck. I know your imagination is now on overdrive just thinking of all your other “firsts.”

I remember my first published book . . .

The Lord gifted me with the grandest grin and I allowed nothing and no one to diminish nor take it away. That stayed on my face for days, or maybe weeks. And it comes back when I hear of a new published author:

This time, it's my friend and colleague, Yay.

Her book “Sorry to Burst Your Bubble (Life Leadership Lessons from the Greatest Dreamer)” will be launched on Friday, May 16 at Power Books, Greenbelt, 5 PM. Published by New Day, it is an inspirational book for young adults/yuppies.

Yay and I teach in the same university so we encounter young people often. We both feel their struggles and dilemmas. But it is Yay (she heads the school’s mentoring program) who decided to play a continuing role in their lives: be their mentor in a book that may help them make crucial decisions through crossroads and dead ends.

She has been typecast for this role. She speaks their language.

“Sorry to Burst Your Bubble” is anchored on the Word (the life of Joseph), and written in a bubbly and vibrant style, almost staccato, tailor-made for the target readers.

Yay gave me a signed copy fresh from the press over cappuccino this week!

I read it again when I got home. I say again because she made me read her first draft. I was convinced that the book could help young people who may not have a map in looking for directions. (True enough, Yay has been invited to conduct a series of seminars on this book before it even went to press.)

To Yay, may God’s grace continue to shine upon you as you celebrate this first book! There will be many others, but the “first” will always give you the grandest grin.


Two Hands-off Moms

Although I have always believed that mothers should not be honored only today, Mother’s Day, I would like to pay tribute to two great moms whom we sorely miss.

At first blush, they were poles apart. Mama Chit (my mom) loved to talk and Amah Alice (Tony’s mom) loved to listen.

Mama was pure Ilocana and Amah was pure Chinese. It was a big, wild wonder how they got along so well together, and held each other with affection and respect.

Mama lived in the province and Amah lived close to us in Las Pinas. So they never really saw each other often. But during the times my mom would visit my family, she would walk over to Amah’s house, every afternoon, and they would have a one-way chat.

But peering closely, one would see that they were very similar in the things that really mattered.

They both left my husband and me alone, respecting our decisions and never blaming us for our mistakes. They gave "hands-off" a new, wonderful dimension. Although they were always supportive of our plans and were there when we asked for help, they never imposed any rule; never obligated us to do anything we hadn’t planned on doing.

Mama had one strong advice for me though: “You may pick a fight with me, but never, ever with your mother-in-law!” This I heeded to the letter.

I suspect—and I have every reason to believe—that Amah had the same advice for Tony.

Two great moms, two great mothers-in-law. Now that they are both ‘beyond the sunset’ or on the other side of the pearly gates, I am sure they are conversing. Rather, one is talking and the other, listening.

Is there any other way to describe how they were to us but acts of grace?


Where is Adrian?

On baby Adrian’s last day with us (eighth day), I took tons of photographs.

Since I am behind the camera, there is hardly any shot of me. But these photos bare all of our (Tony’s, JC’s, JR’s and mine) hearts—including Ate Vi's and Jen's (our doting househelps) and Sam, Tony’s driver.

The whole neighborhood asked this same question when I resumed my daily dawn walks after Adrian and his parents had left, “Where is Adrian?”

According to his mom’s text message, “We are back in Michigan. Adrian slept most of the way.”

Adrian is once again far, far away; but he has never left our hearts.

"Love me tender, love me sweet," croons Elvis' twin.

One last squeeze from Ate Vi and Jen while Elvis' twin looks on . . .

Thanks for the visit, Adrian.


Four Men and a Baby

In jest (and in dreams), I call our family the Chong Dynasty. It used to consist of one man and three boys who became men in a blink of an eye; and now, in a blink of another eye, there is a new baby boy.

I haven’t blogged in almost a week because we’ve been trying to cram so many activities in eight days—the only time in four years that the dynasty is complete, and with a new, tiny addition who can wrap every grown-up around his little finger.

You’ll be surprised at what you can do and enjoy in eight days:

A whole day drive to Laguna higlighted by a visit to the underground cemetery beneath a chapel in Nagcarlan (the meeting place of the early Filipino revolutionaries in the 1800's), an overnight stay in Canyon Woods, Tagaytay with stop-overs for lunch and coffee.

Every second is an adventure—including packing and unpacking. Taking down and putting up a play pen, a pram, a high chair, a car seat, not to mention the diapers, toys, and formula bottles, etc. etc. take one whole hour and one whole van.

I asked my daughter-in-law, Gianina (who was a true-blue corporate citizen before Adrian was born), “How do you do it so well?”

Indeed, how can one mom (with very little help from a full-time-physician dad) do it?

“Just do what you have to do,” she said beaming.

Eight days may seem like a short time, but as we do what we have to do, we thank God for blessing us with family. Through His grace, we've been brought together these eight days to enjoy the gift of dynasty.