The day was exceptionally hot—recorded as the hottest day in years—but I was having chills. Tony’s lined jacket felt like tulle; and our blankets, lace. No wonder, the thermometer registered a 39°C fever.

Worse, I had a prolonged coughing fit. Within a few hours I had lost my voice.

It was the wrong time to get sick. I was to facilitate a writing workshop in three days. And I had a series of appointments before that.

“You are overbooked,” JR chided me.

Well, I had just arrived from an overnight trip to Cebu and I had been lecturing in our MT school for three straight days and will continue to do so in the next two days. I was also expected in several meetings. I had to cancel.

But the seminar was non-negotiable. It was for World Vision and the 20 attendees had already reworked their busy schedules to be there. I texted my prayer warriors; they got on their knees.

My doctor prescribed anti-biotics and paracetamol. That night I was KO'd. The chills were gone and in their place was a furnace. Then something wonderful happened. In my sleep, I felt ice water being roughly rubbed on my legs, arms, and face. It was like suddenly being pelted with rain after being scorched by the noonday sun. What a cool, glorious dream.

Except for my voice, everything seemed back to normal the next day. Tony said he panicked when he felt my burning skin. His common sense told him ice cubes were the best antidote to heat and got to work. It wasn't a dream. (He had not paid attention—with three boys running high fever every so often, over the years—he missed seeing the ice cubes!)

God’s grace creeped into everything—the medicines, the thermometer, the ice cubes, my doctor, and the rough hands that cared for me.

I made it to my seminar with 50% of my voice on the first day, and 75% on the second day. But I certainly received 100% blessings through 20 Christian writers, hot with enthusiasm to write about the grace that healed me.


"She Day" and Hurried Good-byes

Before Adrian and his parents went home, I had to fly to Cebu for an overnight stay. I was invited to the OMF “She Day” annual affair which is usually attended by approximately 600 women.

Although I looked forward to attending this event (it’s the 4th), it came at the tail-end of Adrian’s visit. I wanted to spend all the time with him, but it was a commitment I made months ago.

It was a most unforgettable trip! I took the earliest flight on the day of the affair so I could be there early and have some time to rehearse and dress up. But as the plane was about to take off, there was a medical emergency. A passenger had a heart attack and we were asked to stay put in the plane for over two hours.

I got to Mactan airport barely one hour before the affair. After a few hurried greetings, Carol, the lady who picked me up said, “Grace, sit tight. I will be rough.” True enough she was rough! She snaked in and out of the heavy traffic. We got to Marriott Hotel where I dumped my things, went to the venue for sound and light check, then back to the hotel with a packed lunch and back to the Ayala Onstage Theater just in time for the opening. Whew!

The affair turned out as well as I expected. Trust OMF Cebu staff to always outdo themselves. It was an afternoon of overflowing grace. We all learned a lot from the two speakers and I got to meet old and new friends.

After that, it was a whirlwind of activities: some book-signing, some milling around, some chit-chats, dinner, and a treat to the spa. I got back to the hotel by midnight, and by 7 AM, I was finished with breakfast and dashed to the airport for my trip back home.

It was the shortest trip I ever had in my life—20 hours, but I came home with so much memories plus a special carrot cake (the best I have ever tasted) from Leona’s Bake Shop which we partook of at the despedida dinner for Adrian, JB and Gianina.

Again, hurried good-byes. The three had to be in bed for their early flight the next day (they were with Adrian’s other grandparents). Well, hurried good-byes don’t allow tears and such. In a way, they’re a whole lot more manageable.


Till Next Year, Adrian . . .

Our little guest is now en route back to Michigan with his parents. Two weeks ended all too soon. During his very brief stay with us, the sun was brighter, the air was fresher, and the days were shorter.

May the God of grace wrap them in His arms as they travel back to the land which they call their temporary dwelling place.


Angkong, Adrian and Amah

Amah (Chinese honorific for mother of my father) may not be in any of the pictures, but I sure was an eyewitness to all the big events between Angkong (Amah's counterpart: father of my father) and Adrian. As you can see, I have been preoccupied snapping grace after grace after grace.


Surfing Grace

Idle web surfing brings surprising grace. I found this on the net, in a blog called The Book Buzz. It’s an interesting, incisive site that focuses on reviewing books. One of the books reviewed was Half and Half, the first in the Oh, Mateo! series.

The blogger does not identify himself. But I want him to know how deeply I appreciate every word written here. Borrowing his words, I am “armed with nerves of steel” to not “crumple at the occasional emotional havoc wrought by this heartwarming book" review:

"The truth is, I'm weak-kneed when it comes to children's books. I can handle epic novels and violent plot twists and literary whodunit cliffhangers... but I crumple at the occasional emotional havoc wrought by that rare, outstanding book written for little readers.

"And I think this first of Mateo's stories in a series by Grace D. Chong is simply one of those for me.

"It tells of an endearing boy, Mateo, who everyone can easily think of as a kid brother or best friend or the-son-you-never-had. His teacher asks their class to draw their favorite fruits, all for a big inter-school contest. So they all draw their hearts out, including our little Mateo.

"But his drawings, although exceptional, are only halves of fruits. A smart aleck!, the teacher thinks. The teacher is incensed (as we all probably would be, as grown ups--we easily forget that we once saw the world as children, too) and calls Mateo's attention. Is this his idea of a joke? Did he not understand the instruction? Which is, plainly, to draw your favorite fruit... not half of your favorite fruit!

"And what did Mateo have to say to all that? He explained that no, he wasn't fooling around; and yes, those indeed were his favorite fruits... and he drew them exactly as he has always had them at home. You see, his father brings him home fruit whenever he has any extra left from what little he earns. And Mateo shares it half-and-half with him. That's the kind of fruit he likes: shared with a loved one.

"I realize now I'm giving you the whole story, but I feel this urge to justify the kiddy tears that brimmed my grownup eyelids as I read Mateo's simple explanation to what is probably one of the more complex values our society has yet to fully grasp and practice. Love that cannot contain itself, and overflows into unselfish giving.

"I look forward to reading the rest of the series, armed with nerves of steel this time, so Mateo will not have me wound up around his little pinkie...!

"Oh, what the heck. He's so cute anyway, I'd gladly let him take me on a ride into his world any time, tears or no tears—and let me see everything through the eyes of a child again :)"


Adrian Turns Two

This little birthday boy is in town for a short visit. Naturally, I am closing shop, for at least two weeks.

Last year was a time of firsts for us and for him.

Together with his papa and mama, he came home from icy-white Michigan to red-hot Philippines so we can take turns pampering him, and be all witnesses to his dedication to the Lord. The ceremony was officiated by the same minister who officiated his parents' wedding four years earlier.

We also celebrated with him his first birthday. “We” means his mother's family (lolo, lola, and two titos) and his dad's family (Angkong Tony, Amah Grace [moi], JC and JR). That's a total of 10 people plus this special little guy who is our bundle of grace, and who turns us into mush—the first grandchild of both his maternal and paternal families. In less than three weeks, he flew back to Michigan.

One year later, today, we celebrate his second birthday. It's not a time for seconds, though. Everything seems new again.

During his party (two days ago), he played basketball (his mama's sport), and played the guitar (his papa's musical instrument).

He gobbled up noodles, proof of his Chinese heritage; and entertained everyone, proof of his Pinoy psyche. He speaks fluent Filipino and some English.

And, yes, he can ask me for anything he wants. Ooops.


So Where's the Book? (Part 2)

When my friend Eli announced she and her husband were leaving for the US for a medical check-up, I grabbed the chance to plead, “Please, please get me The Christmas Box.”

“No promises, Grace,” she apologized. Theirs was going to be a very brief trip.

I was hopeful. Eli is a fellow book lover and I just knew she would yield to the call of at least one bookstore.

Exactly two weeks from the day Eli left, she calls.

“I’m back! And I want to thank you for asking me to buy you The Christmas Box.”

“You got it?”

“Yup, plus more!I also got you Timepiece.”

(Timepiece is the prequel/sequel of The Christmas Box.)

I was right. Eli could never resist the lure of a bookstore. She squeezed in an hour of her crammed schedule to visit one. And when she got out of there, she was lugging over a dozen other books, which she hand carried, and which, I am afraid, caused her a major arm injury.

“How much do I owe you?” I ask, when I finally get hold of my two new books.

“Forget it,” she says. “Those are my books. After reading them, I felt thoroughly inspired and blessed. And I am more than happy to bequeath them to you.”

I have written three books on grace (received through people). About my friend, Eli, I think I will write one more.