First Draft

Each author regards the first draft differently. Ernest Hemingway said that “The first draft of anything is s—t.” 

Nicholas Sparks has another view, “Writing the last page of the first draft is the most enjoyable moment in writing. It's one of the most enjoyable moments in life, period.”

Today, after I tore off the last page of February from my calendar, I typed in the period to the last sentence of the first draft of my next book with the working title, “Gifts of Compassion.”

I don't think it's s—t. It still needs a lot of work, but the framework is there.


Yellow Sky

The nation was on tenterhooks 27 years ago when then President Ferdinand Marcos refused to leave his seat despite millions of people gathered at EDSA and elsewhere in the first-ever people power the world has ever seen. Yellow was the color that symbolized our unity.

Then on TV, on the edge of our seats, we saw the man and his family board a helicopter leaving at last.  It was like New Year's Day, but the rejoicing was accompanied with cathartic tears and euphoria.


Crossing the Street

One of life's most difficult endeavors is crossing a street in Metro Manila. Vehicles don't stop for hapless pedestrians.
Traffic signs seem more like suggestions than regulations.  To cross successfully without minor mishaps (sudden skipping of heart, stubbing a toe, straining a leg muscle, and holding one's breath) is a prized achievement, not unlike completing an obstacle race or getting out of a maze after hours of dead ends.

My one wish, which will never be fulfilled in my lifetime, is to be exempted from ever crossing a street.  But truth is, an ordinary mortal with no access to private transportation every single day needs to cross a few.

There was that one day which I keep wishing would come again:


No Teeth

Dread is the perfect word to describe what I felt about renewing my passport.  In past years, it took a minimum of two hours to wait in line and get things done.

This time my survival kit included my iPad (euphemism for a small scribble notebook) and two crossword puzzles, torn from that day's newspapers; Tony is less impatient, so he needed no survival kit.   

Our travel agent was there on the dot. He ushered us to a hall filled with people in snaky long queues.  

“Three simple steps,” he said. “First floor for identification, second floor for picture taking, and back to ground floor for exit.”  

He then gave us the password: “Senior citizen.”


Risking it All

A big, deep, pure love came to Jesus.

And it came from the lowest of the low—a despised prostitute. 

Today, Valentine's Day, I will attempt to talk about that love (Luke 7:36-50) from my limited, layman's view.

Many sermons have been delivered and many books have been written about it, and yet we are still trying to fathom if we, too, are capable of loving the way she did.


Chinese New Year

(Year of the Water Snake)

“Are you Chinese?” People sometimes ask me.

“No, but my children and husband are,” I reply. “And I celebrate Chinese New Year.”

Chinese New Year's eve this year was a quiet, extremely quiet affair. Tony and I were invited to dinner at the home of his closest living relative—a septuagenarian first cousin, whose wife is three years younger.  

For the first time in years, I was in a group where I was the youngest.


The Great Commission

If you are a Christian and feeling guilty (as I am) about not being able to do something about the Great Commission, don't. There is something we can do—or may already be doing—about it.

This was the gist of my talk at the district conference of women in over 50 churches recently. I was invited to challenge the attendees into doing missionary work:  

"Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20 (NLT)

I felt unworthy because I am no missionary. While praying about it, however, I came upon this verse:

“In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.” Romans 12: 6-8 (NLT)

Let me share with you excerpts from that talk:

I have no authority to preach. I am not a pastor, neither was I ever in Bible school. I have no advice about being a better mother or a better wife or even a better person—because I, myself, have not been an ideal mother nor wife.  I don't think I can tell you to be more faithful servants of God, because many times I fail miserably in my faithfulness.

Everything that I know about the Great Commission, women of God like you already know.

Then it dawns on me that not all of us can be a missionary in the sense of 'going out to share the gospel.' We can use our individual gifts right at home to help those who have the gift to proclaim the Word.

I constantly ponder what I have been doing in terms of the Great Commission. Aside from contributing to the Missions fund and praying for our missionaries, I have not been doing much else. The world out there is thirsty for God's Word. They badly need to know about the saving grace of Jesus.


Cancer (3)

(This is the third and last part of the excerpted chapter, My friends Sonia and Brenda, from “Gifts of Grace” Book 3. )  
My Friends Sonia and Brenda (Part 3)

Good-bye millions in damages—money for my medications and hospitalization, a small part of me said. But the bigger part of me thought of God, how He must have felt when He sent His only Son to be crucified and die for our sins. I wept and started going back to Ward 451D. They stopped me, saying I could occupy that private room for free.

 I said, “No, I belong to Ward 451D. It’s where I met my God!”  

P.S. Ward patients are not supplied with newspapers.  But from then on, I began receiving mine. Every day. That’s what I got for damages.  My own newspaper. And that is more than enough.

I had difficulty breathing myself—from trying to hold back my tears. I e-mailed back immediately, “Brenda, our e-group friends are really blessed by your short e-mails on faith.  Through you, God’s magnificence is almost palpable. With your permission, may I share your two-part e-mail to me with our e-group?”


Cancer (2)

(Continued from yesterday's post. To those who have just chanced upon this blog, this is an excerpt from my Book, “Gifts of Grace” Book 3, which has a chapter on two friends afflicted with cancer.)  

My Friends Sonia and Brenda (Part 2)

Our response was instant and electric:   

“Welcome to the group, Brenda!”

“Another one to include in my daily prayers, thanks Brenda!”   

“Hi, Brenda! Please delight in reading our sometimes crazy but always interesting exchanges about anything under the sun. Share with us your thoughts.”

Brenda’s first e-mail to us read, “I feel so honored to be a part of this e-group. Thanks for letting me in. I was diagnosed with a cell lung cancer last year, given three to four months to live, but by God's healing grace, here I am—still very much alive.”

That was the beginning of Brenda’s short but regular e-mails. She updated us on her condition. She was now also a faithful prayer warrior for our sick friends. Always, she spoke of her unwavering faith in God.

I e-mailed Brenda privately about the gift of salvation and sent her a Bible plus my books Gifts of Grace 1 and 2.  She thanked me privately as well, and shared with me a most gripping story—in two installments. I was moved that she chose to let me in on what turned her life around. Let me summarize it, hoping to capture Brenda’s heart.

First installment:


Cancer (1)

(Another loved one just lost her battle against cancer. Every so often, I would read posts of friends grieving over someone suffering from this dreaded disease. One posted an excerpt from my book “Gifts of Grace” Book 3, which he says helped him in his darkest hours after his wife's  death.)  
Let me share this excerpt with you. May it help others deal with their grief. 

My Friends Sonia and Brenda (Part 1)

Not too long ago, people were reticent about cancer. We would refer to it as “The Big C” and would say it in whispers. But the scourge and rise of the disease has become so severe—the No. 2 cause of death in the U.S. in the year 2007—we now call a spade a spade, so to speak. People openly say, my aunt or uncle or friend or mother or father or grandmother or grandfather has cancer.

It is in this light that I will speak about my friends Sonia and Brenda. They have touched my and other people’s lives on such a grand scale that by writing about them, I hope that many more will be similarly touched.

Sonia and Brenda never met each other. And never will—at least not in this lifetime. But they always come to my mind simultaneously. They had two things in common: faith in God and cancer, in that order.


Cockroaches and Motorcycles

Cockroaches. That's the only image I can summon to describe the motorcycles on the road.
The above photo is kinda gross I know, but I needed to upload it to get the point off my chest and join the crusade in abating road deaths.

Like these cockroaches, motorcycles are all over, darting here, there and everywhere. If you want to be stressed, just get on a vehicle and observe them (if you are a passenger, that is; if you are driving, have a third or fourth eye—and a reservoir of patience—to avoid being needled by them).