A Day at the Movies

Four movies, two restaurants, and three coffee shops—all in 10 hours. That was last Saturday, my day with my two boys, son number one and son number three. By 11 in the evening, way past my bedtime, my eyes were bloodshot and my back, half-bent.

It was the loveliest night of the year!

As they did last year, JC and JR took me to Cinemalaya. It was a birthday treat for their long-suffering (they won't agree to that adjective) mother. This year, now that he has a job, Atty. JR took care of the tab.

It had been a week-long festival of Philippine Indie films, dubbed Cinemalaya Cinco (year five), but the three of us only had one day free together. Their father is a regular guy—he preferred to watch a regular action movie in a regular movie house.

We trekked to the Cultural Center of the Philippines two hours before the first scheduled screening to beat the long queue. Unlike last year, we didn't argue over which among the ten movies to watch. I had a list ready, from the blog entries of my friend, Lilit, who had earlier been reviewing the films and whose taste in movies I respect.

Lilit didn't disappoint. The three of us agreed all four movies must be among the best from this year's harvest. They were. One of them, Last Supper #3 (a funny social commentary) was the grand prize winner. And the other three—Mangatyanan, Colorum, and Nerseri—got plum awards in other categories.          

Now, aside from the gift of fine movies and food was the grace of seeing old friends, art buffs. There were fewer of us this year. Those who comprised the crowd were students and yuppies, which, to me, is a good sign. Like spring, they're new shoots from new roots and they will inject new life and a new level of intellect and dignity to the film industry. There was no frenzy for celebrity and glam. Only sincere miens with appreciation for this emerging force of moving art.

Next year, we promise to watch all the full-length movies, as well as the shorts. Which means, as early as now, we should be making the whole of Cinemalaya week red-letter days in our calendar. But if I recall, that was what we promised ourselves last year.

Filipino film has a future, a very bright one. This I have always believed—we have never been wanting of talents, just of budget.

(Photos by JC)


Have You Seen This Van?

I ask that question because I haven’t seen this van either. My friend, Luis, who sent me this photo is more fortunate than I am. He even took a shot of it with his own camera!

The reason you or I haven’t seen it is, it’s a limited edition of one. And because it is a limited edition, the van may not even be in circulation anymore. But the fact that it is one-of-a-kind makes it even more precious to me than it already is. I will treasure this photo forever and ever, and show it around to everyone, as I am doing now.

In fact, I would toss this van to the top of my list of favorite vehicles—if only I had such list. I can’t tell a Volvo from a Porsche.

Can you blame me then for gushing over this one single van? You see, the chances are almost nil for my name, Grace, to be printed on anything that moves. But on this van, it is printed four times. Eight, if you count the book titles!

Neato. I am not lying then when I say, there is a van of grace.


The 20th of July

Of all the days in the year, my Kodak camera conks out on me. Just when I really need it to take a picture of the sheet of paper that is hanging by our dining table lamp!

I have no choice now but to simply blab about it—and no photo to show I am not exaggerating (as I am wont to do, being an advocate of hyperbole):

I get up early as usual, 4:30 AM. Unlike in the past days, the dawn is dark. It seems like a December morning. Peering through our bedroom window, I see the heavens blanketed with dark clouds; rain threatens to pour. I quickly don my walking outfit and prepare to drink my first glass of water before hitting the road.

That’s when I see it—the sheet of paper. It isn’t going to be a dark day!

Printed on it are photos of me—one as a baby, and a few as an author (signing books and looking happy). The words read, “The living story of God’s faithfulness.”

Instantly, the sun in my heart bursts into millions of rays and as I walk under the black clouds I see bright light. I look back to my journey on mother earth and realize how the Creator of sun has proven His faithfulness in my every stride. Sometimes (okay, often) I see only the shadows and stumble on blind spots.

But today, I am told of the story of that faithfulness by my boys who worked on that sheet of paper. The lessons I've learned and the strength I've gained through all the valleys of daily grind are the conflict in that story of faithfulness. Today I seem to have resolved it.

And I now believe that birthdays need to be celebrated—they are important parts of the continuing plot of that faithfulness story.

My eyes smart as I look up the sky, and then the God of surprises rains laughter on me: the sole of my left rubber shoe goes flip-flop and if I walked any farther, I will totally lose the flopping sole. Adidas is not supposed to flip-flop on anyone!

Oh, but Kodak shouldn't conk out either. There goes the two big brands I used to sell through advertising. On this beautiful day, they both fail me.

Well, cameras, shoes, and anything on earth fail, but the Lord’s faithfulness is forever, and His grace weaves into the fabric of our life stories.

What a birthday gift!


Mateo Lands on Front Page

A front page item on July 12 (encircled above) was an early Sunday morning grace. It also made me flush like an over-ripe tomato.

Philippine Daily Inquirer (PDI), one of the biggest daily broadsheet newspapers in Manila introduced Mateo, the main character in my book series “Oh, Mateo!” to some 100 children at the Inquirer Read-along session. The affair, which was an advance celebration of National Children’s Book Day on July 21, featured television news personalities Pinky Webb, Winnie Cordero, and Anthony Taberna.

The first book that was read in the program was “The Money Mystery” (Oh, Mateo! Book 4 in the series) by guests. The story is about Teo who solves the town’s money mystery by being brave. In the process, he also learns about honesty, especially when it comes to money.

Webb, Cordero and Taberna, hosts of the popular morning show “Umagang Kay Ganda,” also read “Teo’s Trash Can” (Oh, Mateo! Book 8). It’s about hard-working Teo discovering antique artifacts in an old, rundown shack. These turn out to be valuable historical treasures.

Webb acted as the narrator, while Taberna read role of Teo’s father. Cordero, a familiar voice on radio and TV children’s shows, voiced Teo! (Photo shows Teo, the character, on the left; the two books read, on the right, all illustrated by Beth Parrocha-Doctolero.)

Nine-year-old Andrea Nicole Valerio, a Grade 4 student, said, “I really enjoyed it, especially Tita Winnie [Cordero]’s segment! She’s really good, especially with her voice. I learned how important it is to work hard,” she added.

A news item in PDI a few weeks ago reads: “Launched in May 2007, the Inquirer Read-along project received an award for excellence this year from the Philippine Quill, the country’s most prestigious award-giving body for business communicators, for spreading the passion for reading to more than 4,000 children.”

More than landing on the front page, I am happy that my books are partnering with Inquirer Read-Along in igniting passion among children to read.


The Sunrise I Couldn't Watch

A road trip to Baler, Aurora is a treat that doesn’t come every day. Tony and JR packed their bags and were determined to have a grand weekend.

Sadly, first son JC was busy, and so was I. We were separately deep into commitments we couldn’t postpone. And so we reluctantly wished father and third son, “Enjoy yourselves!”

Properly tanned and fed, they came home brimming with stories and photos. Among all the spectacular shots they took, the minute-by-minute image of the sun rising (I am sharing a few of them here) took my breath away.

As my eyes feasted on every frame, imagining and vicariously experiencing each rising movement, I sang (silently of course, until I could muster the courage to impose my non-voice on others), Sunrise:

Then I shall come to the end of my way,
When I shall rest at the close of life’s day,
When “Welcome Home” I shall hear Jesus say,
Oh, that will be sunrise for me . . .
Sunrise tomorrow, sunrise tomorrow,
Sunrise in glory is waiting for me;
Sunrise tomorrow,
Sunrise tomorrow,
Sunrise tomorrow,
Sunrise with Jesus for eternity.

I might have missed watching the awe-inspiring Baler sunrise, but the promise of sunrise tomorrow is grace beyond imagination.


Enormous Wonder

As soon as Adrian got back to Grand Rapids, Michigan, after an 18-day vacation in the Philippines, his mom whisked him to Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park so he could quickly get back to the familiar, the feel of home base.

I always feel vicarious excitement when I see a photo of this enormous “DaVinci's Horse,” by Nina Akamu. It is the largest horse sculpture in the Western Hemisphere—a tribute to Leonardo DaVinci, who was commissioned by the Duke of Milan to make a similar sculpture, but failed to complete it. At 24-feet tall, this bronze sculpture dwarfs those who come to admire it.

Once again, this horse demonstrates how enamored man is of extremes—the largest, the smallest. It is particularly interesting to me as I continue to read my Chronological Bible, which narrates and details how God created the biggest planet and the smallest quark—and all the details and sizes of nature in between—for man.

He covers the heavens with clouds; He prepares rain for the earth; He makes grass grow on the hills. Psalm 147:8

It baffles me no end . . . despite all these enormous proofs, man continues to doubt God's existence, or spurn His sovereignty, and miss to discover His enormous grace.


Middle Pages

It's July. We’re into the second half of 2009.

This tells me that I should have read half of the Chronological Bible which I promised myself I'd read every day. It was my New Year's resolution.

Well, my bookmark is now right smack in the middle and my Bible date says, July 14. This means, I have read all the way up to that day—ten days ahead of schedule!

The old testament is an extremely melodramatic read. It beats all the epic movies I have watched in my lifetime. It also beats all the scandal sheets I have read both on the printed page and the internet. Greed, betrayal, deceit, idolatry, crime and all the scourge of this earth are detailed from chapter to chapter.

All those, despite the miracles that God endlessly performed right before their eyes, plus the power of His presence, and the depth of His patience.

" . . . what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?” Psalm 8:4

Out of the dozens and dozens of kings, generation after generation, I could count with my fingers those who obeyed God's commands and honored him with their deeds. And the sequel or cycle goes on.

Most of our leaders today, as reported on media, "Do evil in God's sight," also wallowing in greed, betrayal, deceit, idolatry, and crime.

All those, despite the promise of eternal life to those who believe in and follow Him.

From the beginning of time to the middle of my Bible, I have learned that this book mirrors our ephemeral life and God's everlasting sovereignty.

It gives me only two choices: to waste my 5-foot mound of flesh away to the lure of things that will wither and disappear with the twinkling of an eye (Ecclesiastes: “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity!”; or to use this petite mound of flesh to give glory to Him, whose saving grace—will take me to where the real treasures are.

P.S. Ecclesiastes ends with: “Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil."