Old Treasure on a Shelf

There were treasures and treasures at the recent book fair. But treasures cost and so the hunt halted abruptly for me.

The hunt ended with a bang for JC. He discovered the book that caused him to have goose bumps just by taking it down the shelf—the 1560 Geneva Bible!

It cost him an arm and a leg but he bought it anyway. For years, he'd been wanting to buy one, and thanks to book fairs, it came within spitting distance, urging, “Here I am now, buy me.”

When JC let me hold his purchase at home, it was my turn to have goose bumps. My gut reaction was, “Let me pay for it and give it to you on Christmas as your present.”

That would give me a chance to partly read it; Christmas is two months away.

It isn't an easy read, though; it's more challenging than its successor 51 years later, the KJV. The spelling of words and fonts are way beyond my limited vision and comprehension.

Just to jog your memory, the Geneva Bible was the first Bible translated to English from the original Greek and Hebrew Biblical texts. It was also the first Bible to divide the scriptures into numbered verses. Its extensive marginal notes (one third the length of the whole Bible!) interpreted the scriptures for the common people.

The notes infuriated King James I, who made it a crime to own one. He particularly raged about the notes perceived to be against the monarchy. He then introduced the King James Version (that drew largely from the Geneva Bible, minus the marginal notes).

The Geneva Bible is considered by many as the first study Bible and the most historically significant English translation. In the 16th century, it was used by literary giants: William Shakespeare, Oliver Cromwell, John Milton, John Knox, John Donne, and John Bunyan. It was one of the Bibles taken to America by the pilgrims on the Mayflower.

Cradling in my arms the treasure that is God's Word, its essence unchanged for thousands of years, I felt like I was holding the very Bible that early Christians read with fervor despite threats of being punished as common criminals.

The Word can be read today in over 450 English versions. It is my prayer that many will appreciate how it came to us through historical detours, read it with reverence, and discover the grace waiting to be mined from every chapter.


Double Delight

That sounds like an ice-cream flavor.

Not really, but close. This is not about ice-cream but about two delightfully sweet little people . . .

Every Saturday at four PM, you know exactly where to find Tony—at home. Whatever he might be doing, wherever he might be before the hour, he makes sure he's home by four.

That's the schedule of the twins to come for their one-and-a-half-hour study session with, yes, Tony.

The twins are Maika and Nikka, seven years old. They live in an abandoned house not too far from ours.

Tony used to see them playing down the street in the morning when he did his morning walk. Last summer, he encouraged them to attend DVBS in our church by providing their tricycle fare for all of six days. Then one day, he happened to ask how old they were.

They said, seven.

"Where do you go to school?" he asked.

"We don't go to school."

"Why not? You're seven; you're supposed to be in first grade."


"Every child of school age should be in school," my husband grumbled in his grumpiest mood when he came home.

"There's a public school in the neighborhood," I replied.

"The school in church, is it open to grade school?" he asked.

"Yes, but it isn't free. And there are uniforms and books and other expenses," I said. "Their parents won't be able to afford it."

The next thing I knew, he talked to the twins' mother and told her about enrolling the girls in our church's school. But there was one big question—qualification. The twins hadn't gone to pre-school and couldn't tackle first grade work, "Unless," the school head said, "they go through a whole month of rigid tutorials before enrollment."

They did, courtesy of my roommate, the grumbler, "Every child should have a future!"

The little girls didn't know an A from a Z, nor a triangle from a circle, nor an elephant from a whale. But their tutor said, "They have unrestrained enthusiasm and are always bubbling over with excitement!"

After one month of tutoring, they could recite and recognize the alphabet, all shapes and colors, and were raring to start school.

Two months after classes started, the girls knew how to read in Filipino, although very slowly. They still couldn't understand a word of English, the medium of instruction. The grumbler bought DVDs of Sesame Street and other educational programs. Under his breath, he grumbled some more, "My grandson, Adrian, knows all the dinosaurs and superheroes and uses 'privacy' in a sentence."

Last Saturday, they arrived saying, "Good afternoon!" and "Thank You!" after being served snacks. They shrieked with glee as they read a whole sentence and learned a new English word.

"They are still behind," their teacher reported, "but they are a million times better than when I met them the first time."

Maika and Nikka, doubly delighting us with their spunk and sweetness, will get there. I know it in my gut and heart. God's grace never fails.


Alternative to Serenity:


Discovering and visiting new beverage places is probably one of JC's many favorite activities.

A friend of a friend invited him to this shop that served nothing but tea and aptly called Serenity, which I mistook for serendipity, considering how it was discovered.

This branch is in BF Homes Paranaque, a subdivision not too far from ours. Serenitea Cha Kitchen claims to be the first tea shop to use customized espresso machine for tea. It gives many, many choices of cold or hot tea mixes in a myriad of flavors, with a chart of how one wants his sugar level—from very sweet to barely sweet.

On my first visit there, I chose frozen strawberry milk tea. It was heavenly! Note to self: will come back next week.

Alas, next week was my visit to the doctor for my tummy ailment which comes and goes. She gave me a two-week dose of medicine which came with this order: “For two weeks, while on medication, avoid spicy and sour foods, coffee, tea, and milk.”

“That means, after two weeks, I can take them again . . .” I said.

“That means after two weeks, you come back to see me,” she replied.

And so that is the state of my stomach affairs. I need 14 days so my system can have the serenity it needs and after that, I hope to have the Serenitea I want.

These two weeks, while on medication, may God grant me an equal dose of grace to heal and feel better again.


Have a Little Faith

The book, which I couldn't put down and couldn't blog about on Tuesday evening because of supper hour, is Have a Little Faith by Mitch Albom.

When I saw it in bookstores months ago, I planned on buying it—as soon as it is in soft cover. In this country, hardbound books are prohibitive (to people like me anyway). I have become an Albom fan since Tuesdays with Morrie.

At the book fair, there was a softbound edition. But I already had purchased too many books, way beyond my measly budget, so I hooked my chance on my friend, Eli, who was leaving for her yearly sabbatical in the US, and who buys me books, every single time, from a dollar shop.

I gave Eli a list of three books. “Only if they cost a dollar each,” I said.

In two weeks she was back with three books!

As usual, she refused to take my money. “Grace, I quickly read them all, so those are my books which I am bequeathing to you.” In that case then, nobody ever refuses a bequest.


Have a Little Faith stirred in me the deep thoughts and feelings I visit when questions leap and tumble in my brain. Albom has a way of wrenching human emotions and un-wrenching them all at once. He feels deeply about people and a whole range of those heart rumblings he shares through simple, uncomplicated words.

He also has an uncanny way of piecing various story lines together, like solving a jig-saw puzzle, making each piece interconnect, never to separate again.

He recognizes mentors in ordinary and extraordinary people (gifts of grace, I call them), and seeks them out, never letting go nor getting off.

And most of all, in this book, he made me understand what one goes through in a faith struggle, and how he is redeemed through those he adopts as life gurus, who do not teach faith, but live it.

He ends the book with, “I am in love with hope.”

So am I.


The Secret of Happiness

Focus and do some serious writing!

I admonished myself early yesterday morning. So finally I started writing my next book. It's about finding your own true love.



But first, I prayed for grace—to pump adrenaline into my alarmingly lethargic Monday system. And, presto, for eight hours straight, I thrashed my computer keyboard like I never did before, breaking only for a brief lunch.

Before supper, I had a ten-page first draft of the first chapter.

This first draft has to undergo thrashing, too. Today would have been the first of the many days that it would go through beating and bruising, but I made the mistake of picking up one of my new books.

“Reading and writing, they go together,” I would often say in my talks. I followed my own advice today, and reading took every single hour I would have spent on my first-chapter draft, or writing the next chapter.

I will blog about the book—one of the most engaging and stirring I have ever read—when I have more time. Right now, I am being called to the dining table for supper. Let me just summarize page 102.

“What is the secret of happiness?”

“Be satisfied.”

“That's it?”

“Be thankful.”

“That's it?”

“For what you have. For the love you receive. And for what God has given you.”

“That's it?”

“That's it.”


Behold the Rainbow

I have seen many, many rainbows in my life. And always, they leave me spellbound. That astounding arch, with all the colors I love, takes my breath away.

Poring over a coffee table book in-the-making last week, I was oblivious to the world. But Elmer, the person I was discussing the book with, abruptly stood up, and went straight to the window.

Then I saw it, too!

The rainbow in all its splendor across the skyline of the Global City. Knowing that rainbows don't stay long, I hurriedly took my camera from my purse and wished it would capture the grandeur that my eyes saw and my heart felt.

It didn't, not even with over 50 shots from all angles in various settings.

Let me then turn to William Wordsworth who has the words for me:

“My heart leaps up when I behold
A rainbow in the sky:
So was it when my life began;
So is it now I am a man;
So be it when I shall grow old,
Or let me die!”

I also once wrote a poem about the multi-colored arch in my children's book, God's Favorite Color:  

All the colors, even those without a name,
God gave them all, their beauty all the same.

They come together in a lovely rainbow,
that wonderful arch we have come to know.

Yes, all the colors, even those without a name,
God gave them all, their beauty all the same.

Thank you, Lord, for the rainbow; and the grace for me to behold it.


Earrings for a Painting

“How many paintings have you done so far?” I am asked by those who see a few of my paintings on the wall.

I don't know; I lost count.

If this sounds like I've done so many paintings, well, modesty aside, it's true. “Many”means, more than I thought possible. There was that one year, 2003, when the painting bug bit me. Hard.

I had just lost my mom, and Tony was recuperating from a life-threatening quadruple bypass surgery.

God helped me cope by sending images of flowers, flowers, and more flowers in my daydreams. I wanted nothing more than to capture those beautiful creation on canvas.

I was writing too, of course, but I was never more furiously obsessed with painting. And half of my joy was giving them away as fast as I could finish them.

Several months later, Tony's only sister passed on, and my mom-in-law fell gravely ill with grief. One of her old friends specially came to our home to cheer her up. She spoke Chinese so she and I could only exchange gestures and nods, not words. Before she left, I took down one painting from the wall and gave it to her. It seemed like the only right thing to do. Her eyes misted, and so did mine.

Just 33 days after, my mom-in-law went the way of the only daughter she loved. The old lady came again for the wake. Before she left, she cupped my palm with hers and pressed in it a small white box.

Inside the teeny box was this pair of gold cameo earrings, which looks better worn than photographed (actual size).

Between a painting and a pair of gold earrings in our shared grief, grace was, enabling misty eyes to express more than words ever could.

(After two years of unbridled excitement to paint, I stopped. Today, I have only seven flowers-on-canvas left, which, if I ever get around to writing my will, should go to JC, JB and Gianina, JR, and Adrian, and whoever among my siblings and friends may want the remaining two, after I am gone. I will bequeath to them a few more—when I am able to borrow some time from my writing. But this is more of a wish than a plan.) 



Today is the 10th day of the 10th month of the year 2010. Numerologists and seers say it is a lucky day.

I am neither a numerologist nor a seer, which is why I don't believe in luck, but in grace.

I believe that power comes only from God, not from numbers, or things, or coincidences. And the unchanging truth is found only in God's WORD (the scriptures). “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” James 1:17

Having said that, I want to thank the God of truth and grace for JR, my original 10-10-10 boy, who celebrates his 28th birthday today.

Every number associated with JR's birth was the number 10. He came into the world at 10 PM. He weighed 6.4 pounds (6+4). My hospital room was #10 and my medical bill was P10,000.

When I told him this story about his birth a few days ago, I stretched the numbers game even further. Your age, 28, is also 10 (2+8).

He laughed, as though I cracked the funniest joke in the world and joked back, “Maybe I will be president of this country one day.”

I returned the favor and laughed as well.

For me, every day is a day of our Lord. It matters not under what number it falls. It's our choice to make it happy or gloomy. He pours His blessings to one and all. But only those who believe in grace are grateful to the Giver.

Won't you sing with me?

Give thanks
With a grateful heart
Give thanks
To the holy One
Give thanks
For He's given
Jesus Christ, His Son

And now, let the weak say
I am strong
Let the poor say
I am rich
Because of what
The Lord has done
For us
Give thanks . . . 


Oh, to Fly Free!

It was an odd, inactive day at the office of our medical transcription school. I was pinch-hitting for the office manager who was on a holiday and I expected to be swamped with work.

But from 8 AM to 4 PM, there was not one phone call, not one guest, and not one errand to fuss about. Most of our students (nurses) were on leave because of the oath taking.

One could stay only so long on FB, or blog, or write newspaper columns two weeks before deadline. I had not anticipated the lull, otherwise it would have been the perfect time to: 1) Write. But all my unfinished manuscripts were in my hard disk at home; 2) Read. But all my new books from the book fair were likewise at home; 3) Go shopping. But I was on duty and couldn't leave the office, could I?

I paced the floor, called all my friends, and scribbled new ideas in my notebook. One more long hour to kill.

Then, from my desk I saw movements outside the window.


A flock of birds soaring, dipping, swooping down and around the clouds. I rushed to the window ledge and enjoyed the breathtaking view. Round and round and round they flew—free and easy, enjoying the cool wind, the warm sun, each other's company in the great outdoors, so close to heaven.

Instantly, I imagined myself as one of them, instead of a bored pinch-hitter cooped up in an air conditioned small office, and I flew, round and round and round—free and easy, enjoying the cool wind, the warm sun, each other's company in the great outdoors, so close to heaven.

Imagination . . . what a grand gift of grace from the Creator of birds! And it comes faster than your next breath. I flew for one whole hour till I was jolted back to earth by footsteps of students saying, “See you tomorrow!”

Tomorrow, when all the students come to school, I won't have time to fly free.


Cat Face

Talk about timing, perfect timing.

The week I caved in to have my facial warts burned, was exactly the same week I got invited to watch Cats at the Cultural Center of the Philippines.

No buts, ifs, or maybes. I said, “yes,” never mind if my face was covered with pock marks, telltale signs of vanity. I found myself pining to be in theater again after a long time—pining to have my face masked with cat make-up.

“You have too many warts on your face,” my friends would chide me for years. “It doesn't take long to have them removed. You'll have scabs all over but that would only last a week.”

It wasn't easy to convince me. Why should I pay to suffer. I had heard that wart removals are a painful process. Then one day, a young friend who specializes in facial thingies said, “Tita, I am leaving for Dubai two days from now. I could come to your house now and get rid of your warts.”

Whatever made me say yes is beyond me. I had been able to hold off for ages, but I guess she caught me at my weakest hour (the same hour that comes and goes when I pass by Cara Mia's espresso ice-cream).

It was not root-canal pain, but painful in a unique way. And then looking into the mirror one hour and 100 tiny electrocutions later, I howled. I looked like a million ants decided to bite my face and reside there!

I'll hide from the world for a week, I resolved. But the phone rang and the invitation (the cost is prohibitive otherwise) to Cats made me dump all resolves into the trash can. I do have weak knees when it comes to Broadway plays.

I had watched Cats on Broadway years ago, and I wanted to see how it evolved, considering the wide spectrum of technology available to stage plays today. I also wanted to watch how Lea Salonga would play Grizabella.

The question, “What happened to you?!” was a small price to pay for what was dangled in my polka-dotted face.

So I braved the world.

Guess what. Nobody asked the dreaded question; not one of my friends and acquaintances I hobnobbed with at cocktails! Either my face was too inconsequential to talk about, or the cats' masked faces were too spectacular to talk about anything else.

The black ants have long been gone and when I look in the mirror, I am no different from how I did before they were cauterized. Ecclesiastes 1:2 is spot on, “Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, all is vanity.”

But with my memories of Cats, which had all the elements I loved on Broadway (cats creeping through the aisles, distinct characterization, and seamless choreography), and now even more spirited, more techno savvy, more vibrant, more breathtaking with 12 minutes of Lea Salonga's presence, I feel I received a lot more grace than the warts that were torched or singed away.