The Baguio That I Knew

The Baguio of my youth smelled of pine trees, not of diesel. It was thick with fog, not with smog. It had old low-rise buildings, not new high-rise condominiums. The weather was chilly, not iffy. Burnham Park teemed with flowers and trees, not with vendors and vagrants.

When I looked for someone, all I had to do was wait in any part of Session Road, and in a few minutes, I'd spot her strolling along.

There was a sea of sunflowers that faced east, saying "hello" when I walked to school, and faced west, saying "good-bye" when I walked home. Every single day, they stood there waiting. Where might they have gone?

Why am I reminiscing about Baguio?

Well, I am right here, celebrating the grand homecoming of our high school class in the 60's, with 50 or more classmates who drove/flew in from all parts of the world.   

That's me, extreme right
Except for friendships forged in those early years, which can never be broken by time nor space, and the school building where we played patentero, sang and danced for school programs, and laughed with gay abandon, there is nothing left of the Baguio that I knew.

But for three days with former classmates—now proudly sporting white hair, wrinkles of wisdom, scars of life battles, bulges of blessings, and cellphones loaded with photos of grandchildren—we are recreating the beautiful, glorious Baguio of our salad days.

And we are discovering that this Baguio, which we all enjoyed, shared, and owned, is not a physical place. It is a memory. It is grace.


The Good Euro

The word "euro" gave this country a bad name when it became a prefix for General.

If you recall, the Euro-Generals' scandal involved the Philippine National Police (PNP) generals and officials who went to Russia with their spouses in October 2008 to attend the International Police Conference.

A shockingly large sum of undeclared euros were found in the possession of the retired comptroller (with the rank of Director) and his wife. The amount came up to a whopping 105,000 euros or P6.9 million in cash!

Back home, we covered our faces in shame. A senate committee had recommended the criminal prosecution of these Euro-Generals. As you and I know, nothing came out of this except the putrid taste it left in the mouth of God-fearing Filipinos.

Now four of these Euro-Generals are running for public office! "Some police officials called the group’s participation in the party-list elections as a 'mockery' and a 'travesty' of the Constitution." (PDI 2-5-10)

I will say nothing more because this is not a blog on disgrace. So I'll speak of the good euro—the grace that this word brings.

One is the Euro Massage which my husband frequents and to where he treats me once in a while. Here, all the cares of the week (especially frustration over earthly justice) are rubbed, pressed, and kneaded away by skillful hands of the sight impaired.

I always feel like a million euros when I step out the door!

Two, the excellent, gigantic ensaymada (bread cake) of Malolos which JR brings home when he goes to that place for a court hearing. Because it is so big and easily spoils, we eat the ensaymada as quickly as we could and give away the rest to friends.

I always feel exceedingly blessed after binging on it.

Euro is a good word. But, somehow, the PNP Generals managed to turn it into a word of international embarrassment.


Not a Flower?

Pityriases Rosea

This sounds like the scientific name of one of these exotic flowers, doesn't it?

Well, Pityriasis Rosea isn't a flower, it's a skin rash caused by a virus that has chosen to lodge in my system.

I woke up to a few roundish red spots on my arms and legs one day last month. I thought nothing of them—probably just mosquito bites, or allergy to the wind (as diagnosed by friends). Two days later, the spots multiplied exponentially. The odd thing was, they didn't itch. They just stayed there looking gross and unsinkable.

So I consulted a doctor. After asking many questions, she said, Pityriases Rosea. "It's viral and the red spots (welts? rashes?) will go way in two to three months."

That long?!

For a month now (two more to go), I've been attending functions and going around with these little red round mounds (which I try to cover with long sleeves and long skirts or pants).

They look awful and alarming, but thankfully, grace has made the initial paralyzing fear vanish—way, way ahead of the time the horrid red spots could leave, eventually.


I Remember Mama

After my mother was laid to rest, my siblings and I were not surprised to find that she hardly had any material wealth in her home—only the necessities of everyday living. Just enough linens, dinnerware and glassware, toiletries, and groceries for her and her househelp. Even her paste jewelry was sparse.

What filled her closets were mementos of family and friends—scholastic medals of her children, letters, scrapbooks and little knick-knacks she received as gifts.

In life, my mother was a giver. Nothing was too precious to give away to someone in need. One look at her things and we decided to give them all away, too—to the needy people whom she had helped all her life.

"You can have this," my sister said, handing me mom's wrist watch with tiny rhinestones, and with a matching bracelet.

Mom won that watch as a door prize in our clan reunion. When mom opened the box, I gasped with admiration. She smiled and immediately said, "Here, you can have it."

"No, it's yours!" I replied.

Now, with mom gone, I was saying the same exact words to my sister, No, it's yours!"

We didn't put it into words, but my sister and I both wanted to remember our mother for the way she lived, not for what she left behind.

We commemorate Mom's death anniversary every Easter. But it was on a Good Friday, April 18, seven years ago, when Jesus took her to live with Him and His angels for eternity. She was 83.

So today I remind myself of what I always say to friends who have lost a loved one, "Remember her/his life, not her death."

(My siblings and I smile, remembering God's boundless grace on Mama Chit's long life.)
(Flowers sent from the US by best cousin, Minna, and her siblings)


Two Left Feet

This time it's not Tony's kind of dancing I am describing. It's my kind of shopping. I have totally lost touch or control.

I was in a building in The Fort for a meeting with client. I was too early, and one of my friends excitedly nudged me, "Grace, there is a Nike sale on the 10th floor, all at 70% discount! If you're interested, I could take you there."

She took me there.

Sure, I needed another pair of rubber shoes for my morning walk. The five pairs I already have are not enough, are they?

The whole room was filled with heaps of shoe boxes. Unfortunately, or fortunately, every single pair in my size had been snapped up hours before!

So I walked over to the male slippers. My boys, I thought, would thank me for thinking of them. I didn't know their sizes, but did it matter? I bought two pairs.

I was very happy with my purchases—a steal, they were. So when I got home, I opened the boxes with flourish—ta da!

"Mom, this is perfect for Goliath!" It was four sizes too big.

And the second pair? "Mom, these are for two left feet!"


There may be a lesson being taught here (?)

Grace stepped in.

I went back to the Nike's offices days later with my two boxes of slippers. The receptionist, with perfect customer-service smile, said. "No problem, ma'am. Please wait here."

In less than a minute, she came back with two perfect pairs of slippers in perfect sizes. "If you have any more problems ma'am, please come back within four days while the sale is still ongoing."

"I won't be back," I promised. I won't be back to any sale again, I wished.


Books of My Childhood

Someone asked me what sort of books did I read as a child. I mentioned over a dozen, but the first one that came to mind was The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. Maybe because I recently purchased a reprinted edition from a second-hand book shop.

Two different movie versions of The Secret Garden have been produced and neither came close to how I imagined the unfolding of the stories. Well, no movie (to my mind) is ever better than the book. Books let you enter the hearts and minds of the characters; movies can't.

In almost the same breath, I also mentioned The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. Also because I treated myself to a second-hand reprint of this childhood favorite last year. My level of understanding of this book then was different from what it is today, but the level of joy is the same.

C.S. Lewis was a bigger-than-life name in my tiny brain in those days. That's why every so often I still I re-read him (Chronicles of Narnia). Again, I was able to buy on sale a complete set, which I share with my grown-up children.

Hans Christian Andersen was a great source of girlie sighs and swoons. I couldn't afford to buy his books with my meager allowance, so I'd go to a small market stall where books were rented out. I'd sit on the ground for hours after classes and read as much as my 20 centavos could take me.

My uncle Joe in the US was a vital vessel of grace—most of the books above plus classics like Huckleberry Finn, and series like Nancy Drew and Dr. Seuss, plus hardbound Bible parables, were fillers in his balikbayan packages that bore clothes, linens, and toys.

What I forgot to mention, and which was my first reading staple, was Pepe and Pilar, a first grade textbook which I could declaim from memory at age three, according to my mom. I may no longer find a copy of this book today.

Oh, the marvelous readings of childhood! Undiluted memories that purify the sullied soul of adulthood.


Why Footbridge?

Each time we drive past this footbridge with this streamer, questions rush in to confuse my mind.

1. Why are we thanking the highest official of the land for a tiny footbridge?
2. Did she donate it/spend for it?
3. Did she build it herself?
4. Doesn't she have bigger projects to do?
5. Did we elect her to build footbridges?
6. Shouldn't this be a municipal project?
7. Can't our municipal officials do it?
8. Why do our municipal officials have to depend on our president for this?
9. Does this happen in other countries?
10.Can you imagine Pres.Obama or Queen Elizabeth being thanked for a footbridge?
11.Shouldn't the tax payers be thanked for this footbridge instead?

I could go on. But this blogsite speaks only of grace.

In contrast to this footbridge, the most powerful One and grace Giver does not order nor obligate us to display streamers to thank Him. He only requires quiet faith to let Him be the sole God of our life.


One Reason for Writing

A friend and fellow writer, Marlene, called my attention to this photo on Facebook. The little girl, Bea, is seriously reading, studying, reflecting on (her quiet/devotion time?) the Word in What's for Breakfast? Book 1.

Every so often, grace allows me to discover scenes such as this on the net, blowing away uncertainty that comes and goes with the unpredictable winds of book publishing, which are beyond a writer's control.

My reasons for writing are irrefutable. This is one of them.


He Is Not Here

 "He is not here; He has risen, just as He said. . ." Matthew 28:6

And to mankind came an undeserved windfall: the grace of salvation to anyone who invites Him into his/her heart.


Happy Easter everyone!