How to Choose a Restaurant

My sons go to a lot of trouble reading food and restaurant reviews. Based on their research, they conclude that a restaurant with consistently good reviews is excellent.                                            
I am not that scientific. If the choice were up to me, I only have one criterion for picking a great eating place.

I take a peek from the outside. If it is a Chinese restaurant and I see many Chinese dining there, then the food must be yummy!

A Japanese restaurant, if frequented by Japanese, should be worth every bite!

Korean, Thai, Spanish, Greek, Indian, Mexican, Hungarian, Persian and what-have-you—they are excellent when their own nationals outnumber the locals. They know whereof they eat.

And so there is this unimposing Korean restaurant in Alabang tucked behind a premier car shop, unseen from the outside world, far from the maddening crowd, and situated nowhere near a mall. It is always filled to the rafters with Koreans.

That is where I like to go for authentic, glorious Korean Food.

To order, I also have just one criterion. Spy on the next table and ask the waiter for exactly the same dishes! And you just know you made the right choice—your taste buds burst with pure delight. Nevermind what those dishes are called.

The restaurant is named Sogamiga. There, God's grace comes—up to the last morsel of food and conversation with family.


Davao She Day 2010

The event gathered over 600 women of various persuasions in one room—the Grand Ballroom of the Apo view Hotel.                     

The invitation for me to be one of two speakers read, "It's for women who are feeling overworked, over-scheduled and overwhelmed. It's for the woman of today whose life is complex and demanding. . . we know you have a lot of rich stories to tell as you encourage and inspire women to be transformed in the different facets of their lives."

Rich stories about life's grace I do have—millions of them. Some of these are already in my books. But talking about them in a ballroomful of women posed a different kind of challenge and so I took a day off from grandmothering (Adrian is here on a three-week visit) and headed out to Davao. I was armed with an 11-page manuscript, 29 slides and a clicker.

The jampacked ballroom spooked me at first (crowds always do in all of my talks), but the warm smiles of the women were very encouraging. Writing about grace is one thing; talking about it is another—at many points it chokes and wrings the heart. But God's faithfulness never falters and so one can go on with whatever He allows one to say.

Timmy Cruz was a welcoming host; she set the tone with three of her inspiring songs. That helped greatly to calm my nerves. After the event, many of the women lined up patiently and cheerfully for their books to be signed and to have our pictures taken. They quoted parts of my talk which they said touched them deeply, or reminded them of a lesson learned. And I was humbled by every remark.

I thought that the blood, sweat, and tears that the staff of OMFLit (led by Lynnie of OMFLit Cebu, with the help of dear friends Mai-Mai and Carol; and ably executed by Eileen of OMFLit Davao, with a bevy of women volunteers in black and hot pink) was well worth every second. Madel, assigned to pamper me, went way beyond the call of duty.

It is I who have been transformed.


To Davao and Back

Just flew back in from Davao, with a suitcase filled, crammed, and tamp-packed with grace.

I left Manila early yesterday morning and came back less than 24 hours later. Just had enough time in that big, bright city to land, lunch, look, then talk before over 600 women at the She Day 2010 held at the Apo View Hotel Ballroom.                                                                     

Immediately after the program was the book signing and informal interaction with readers, then dinner with the organizers. After quick chit-chats and good-byes, I hurried back to my room to pack for my early morning flight today.

Will have more strength to write a postscript blog tomorrow. Meanwhile . . . y-a-w-n.


Three Bonuses

When my book signing events fall on a holiday, I get three bonuses in the form of three escorts: a husband and two grown-up sons. I honestly think they want to be supportive, and make me feel they appreciate the work that I do. Even if they get bored in the process.

It was Easter Sunday and OMFLit Bookshop in Pergola Mall was open on a Sunday for the first time. I was invited by the mall management to sign my books after the story telling (part of the Easter activities) of my latest book, "The Crying Children."

Somewhere in the crowd were my escorts. Surreptitiously, I took these triple shots while they weren't looking. They were there all right, but they were also elsewhere. (I suspect they have all read about, and take to heart, the ministry of presence.)

And me? Well, bored escorts notwithstanding, I always take my time and enjoy myself. I even dress for the part—in contrast to their weekend garbs.

At the end of it all, usually after two hours, we join up for a meal around a table in a nearby restaurant, and their wandering spirits return to their bodies. Then all's well that ends well. They get their food, and I get my escorts.

After dessert, the two boys hurriedly go back to their own lives, probably heaving a silent sigh of relief.

Grace does come in all manner of things.


Honorable Mention

I have always been a fan of Rina Jimenez-David, who regularly writes about women and other pressing issues in her column "At Large" with the Philippine Daily Inquirer. You'll most likely hear thousands of other readers say the same thing.

In one survey among the youth and yuppies, she ranked as the most-read opinion writer in the country.

I believe it's because she walks her talk. She is actively involved in organizations which promote the rights and health of Filipino women and children. The awards for her leadership and written works are many.

I met Rina personally once, long ago, in one of those noisy advertising functions where people said "Hi" and "Good-bye." I doubted whether she'd remember me if ever we bumped into each other again.

But months later, she briefly reviewed a chapter (on marital relationship) of my book, "Gifts of Grace" Book 1 in her column. That took me by surprise. To this day, I call it my honorable mention—for it is such an honor to be mentioned by a lady whose readers are legion.

Again, one Sunday last month, she gave my latest book, "Flying on Broken Wings," another honorable mention (let me also call it grace in black and white). My cellphone almost burst that day, and the day after, with text messages from friends who had read her column.

This honorable mention advanced the cause of People with Disability (PWD) about and for whom I wrote the book; it brought to the fore the need for society to take notice of this marginalized group that needs laws and attention to make them enjoy the same rights able-bodied people enjoy.

Rina, thank you.


Count Me In

It's all over but the proclamation of Noynoy Aquino as the 15th President of the Philippines. It won't be long now.

I decided to visit the Noynoy Aquino Official Website (which had pages and pages of information and photos) one last time. I was surprised—felt sad and happy at the same time—to find only a page of it left.

But this one page eloquently summarizes what the Noynoy campaign was all about—People Power. Many old and young unknown souls worked quietly in the sidelines. Volunteers. Doing what they could to help in a movement for change. I had not done much, except buy from the fund-raising Tindahan ni Noynoy campaign materials which my family and I gave away to neighbors and friends.

Now this website, which clarified a lot of kinks in my mind, and which made me decide to support Noynoy's platform, is down and gone forever:

This official campaign website was created and managed by the New Media Bureau of the Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” S. Aquino III Presidential Campaign.

The New Media Bureau was composed of volunteers that committed their time and contributed personal resources as their expression of ardent support of the candidacy of Sen. Noynoy.

The New Media Bureau is grateful for the privilege of having been part of this historic people's campaign for meaningful change. We thank all the people who have, in one way or another, contributed to the success of this website.

We are officially ending the operation of this website which will be transitioned into the Official Website of the President of the Republic of the Philippines at the appropriate time, with the sincere hope that as president, Noynoy Aquino will continue to use this website to reach out to the ordinary online Filipino.

If you wish to continue interacting with other Noynoy supporters, please visit:


My own little pledge to our new president's invitation to continue the fight for a better Philippines: "Count me in."

Continue to discover God's boundless grace in your watch, Mr. President.


My Vote Will Be Counted

(This day must be pretty special. This is my second post in less than seven hours.)

Consider this a prayer—an ardent one—and hope, rather than confidence: my vote will be counted.

Just before the polls opened, Tony, JC and I trooped to our precinct. The whole of humanity, already soaked in sweat since 6 AM, was already there.

There were multiple queues; we didn't know where we belonged. We asked the volunteers of the PPCRV (Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting) strewn all over, but they were each giving contradictory information over the noise of the unprecedented crowd.

Past elections were different. Then, the precincts of our barangay were in several places. But now, with the automated counting, COMELEC consolidated it in one sardine can, masquerading as a school.

And so finally we found our assigned room, but the queue was about a kilometer long. My temper, which has lain dormant for years, lurked just beneath my breath. But seeing the determination on the faces of people to make their voices heard, I doused my raging volcano by taking shots of everything around me.

After one long hour, we were ushered into our room. The teachers were a picture of patience, all smiles and oh-so-helpful.

The voting itself took only five short minutes—from the signing of my name, making a thumb mark, to the time the PCOS machine lapped up my ballot and flashed, "Congratulations! Your vote has been registered!"

All told, the whole process took 1½ hours. Just a wee bit shorter than queuing in my bank.

As the voting in every part of the country continues today, I pray that God will give every voter the grace of patience to go through what I've just been through.

Everything seemed to be above board. BUT. What's bothering me up to this minute is what I saw in the voting register. My son JB, who has been in the US for five years, had a thumb mark opposite his name in the last voting! Someone voted in his stead. How long has this been going on? How many thousands of absentee voters in Las Pinas were cheated?

I'd have questioned it right then and there, but it was the wrong time and venue to do so. There were hundreds in the queue and they had to take their turn.

Now I don't know know whether to celebrate or mourn the voting exercise.

Yet I will continue to pray for better tomorrows for this country, under the watchful eye of the One who generously dispenses grace.

Please Go out and Vote

The whole country has been on tenterhooks the last couple of months, especially in the last two days.

There have been many—far too many—glitches in the preparations of our first-ever-automated polls. Faulty memory cards, undelivered ballots and machines, overpriced folders, untrained teachers and poll watchers, gross programming negligence and incompetence, malfunctioning LCD lights, discharged batteries, uninstalled CF cards, and oh, the list is very long.

Many have been hysterical, crying to go back to manual count, or at least a parallel one.

Despite suspicions of massive fraud and organized cheating, I am giving this new system a chance, and COMELEC the benefit of the doubt. We need to go out and be counted. Whatever happens next . . . well, that's for another day. But today, in about half an hour, when the polls open at 7 AM, I will participate in this democratic process.

Let us not give up on this country. God's grace will uphold us—as it has, despite corrupt and untrustworthy officials—and give us wisdom on how to re-build a crumbling democracy with new leaders who have the heart to serve, starting now, May 10, 2010.


I Am Ready to Vote

In less than 48 hours, those who care for the future of this country will go to the polls and vote. I have chosen candidates who I personally think will lead us out of the dark ages.

The members of my family and my friends have likewise chosen theirs. In a democracy, we can vary in opinions and have the right to express them.

But for all believers of grace, we need to have one single prayer: That God's will, not man's, shall prevail.

May the Lord grant us peaceful and credible elections (and counting) we can all be proud of.


Adrian's 3rd Visit and 3rd Birthday

This little fellow, the apple of all our eyes, and who can twist us around his little finger, arrived from the USA with his parents for a three-week vacation at midnight today. Photos show him unpacking his own little bag (filled with his books and toys) for our benefit.    

We see him only once a year, on the week of his birthday, so you can imagine the excitement and joy that comes with his every visit.

As it was in his last two trips, he will spend half of his time with his maternal grandparents and the other half with us.

It is my prayer that he grows up in the path of grace, and never be waylaid by the lure of new, modern, and worldly tricks.

May the Lord bless you and keep you, Adrian. Welcome home and happy birthday!