12/07/2019

Imelda


This is not about that notoriously infamous Imelda, whose name often appears in crossword puzzles with clues such as: Ostentatious Philippine first lady;  or, Philippine first lady with 2,000 pairs of shoes; or, Flamboyant wife of ousted Philippine dictator. 

Not that Imelda.

This is about one of the hundreds of unimportant Imeldas who were born and named after that Imelda who beguiled the land with her beauty, wardrobe, opulence, and power that spawned epic events.

This less than inconsequential Imelda is my masseuse, whom I visit once or twice a month.

Since I was disabled by my grasping toes that restrict me to inert activities, this Imelda has been one from whom I seek help. She works at Vibes Massage in the mall. It is not your spa-spiffy, dimly-lit kind of place. It is small, spartan, with no fancy amenities. And all the masseurs and masseuses are blind.

(VIBES stands for Visually Impaired's Brotherhood for Excellent Service.)

This Imelda, who hides her eyes behind huge shades, has healing hands. In the absence of sight, she is a master of touch.
She can feel which part of my spine and right foot ache; she has an uncanny talent for releasing knots. After an hour, my aching toes get a reprieve.   

During the hour, we have sporadic chats.

“We are poor,” she said. “My pay helps with our household expenses . . . we had no resources to continue with my schooling.” 

“I am a book author,” I replied when asked what I do. 

“Oh, wow! I wish I could read your books, but . . .”

“I know,” I whispered, hiding the catch in my throat.

“My mother named me Imelda because the first Lady had everything, and we had nothing. So maybe, if we had the same name, I might . . .” she laughed.

The rates at Vibes Massage are loose change compared to what you pay in a luxurious spa. But the rub down is therapeutic. More than enough reason to leave a well-deserved tip that far exceeds the official rate. 

The name Imelda has ceased to conjure, for me, unsavory thoughts. It now evokes all synonyms of honest living and grace.

12/03/2019

A Different Birthday Celebration


This year I spent my birthday with about 50 grade school teachers from various private schools in Las Pinas.

No, I didn't throw a party, neither did they throw me one. We had a serious, although peppered with fun and laughter, seminar that I'd rather call learning session—both  for me and them.

I was tasked to speak on Effective Communication (verbal, non-verbal, and tacit). As an ice breaker whenever I get invited to speak, I asked questions and gave away some of my books as prices for the brave souls who came forward with witty answers.

What's great about having teachers as your audience is that they practice what they preach to their own students—listen and take down notes.

Their questions were challenging, the better for me to hone my own communication skills. And there were unexpected boons—like birthday grace suddenly dropped from above—about  why they enjoyed and learned from the talk.

In my excitement, I forgot to take photos of the affair. Thanks to Facebook, some of the attendees’ posts tagged me. 

Is there a better way to celebrate a milestone?

11/29/2019

I Am in Ecclesiastes


“Happy birthday!" greeted my friend Malou on the phone. Then she asked, “Where are you?"

“I am in Ecclesiastes,” I replied.

”Celebrating your birthday there?! Where on earth is it?!"

Right at home, where I was mercilessly sorting out previously-treasured earthly possessions and throwing them into plastic bags to give away to whomever could still use them:  bags, green bottles, knick-knacks, clothes, footwear, magazines, etc.

Ecclesiastes is one of the Bible’s wisdom books believed to have been authored by King Solomon, the richest and wisest man who ever lived. The book reveals someone looking back on a life that was long on everything temporary but short on lasting rewards. The writing tone is world-weary and suggests that in the twilight of the writer’s years, he regretted his folly, pointing to a better, simpler life with God’s direction (Ecclesiastes 12:13–14).

The author likewise says that nothing made sense to him after experiencing pleasure and power. And yet, all through his life and in his search of its meaning, God’s hand had been ever present.

How encouraging to note that even when injustice and uncertainty reigned, he could lean on God’s protection. (12:13–14).

Verse 2 in chapter 1 of the NLT version reads: 
Signature bags are heavy, or they have weight even when empty, because of their hardware. My aching shoulders now prefer weightless fabric bags, nameless and cheap with lots of pockets.  
I have had this kind of black bag for five years now. At the end of each year, or when it frays (whichever comes first), I buy an exact replica. If people wonder why I do not change bags, then they can wonder forever.

I am also in Ecclesiastes 3: 1 and 6b . . . "For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven . . . A time to keep and a time to throw away."

My green-bottle collection has to go, too. For what good are they on shelves gathering dust?

What do I need too many clothes for? I go out, at the most, four times a week so I need only four for those days!

Unused dinnerware and merchandise, out. Paper files, out. Scrapbooks, out. Frames and stands, out. Plaques and trophies, out.

I opened drawers upon drawers and kept finding more.

“Malou,” I replied, “I’ll call you back in a couple of hours.”

“Yeah, and tell me about Ecclesiastes. If it’ll take two more hours of your time, it must be a pretty good place for you to celebrate your birthday."

“It is. It’s full of grace,” I said.

Yup, on my last birthday, I spent the first hours in Ecclesiastes.


11/25/2019

So Go Gi Bo Seot Jeon Go!


If you are Korean or a linguist, you would know what these words mean. But if you are an ordinary foodie like me, you wouldn’t care finding out. You’d only care for its taste.

It is heavenly.

When my family and I ordered it for the first time by pointing to a photo on the wall of a small Korean restaurant—along the highway to a resort where we take a breather—I asked the waitress what it is. She simply said, “hot pot.”
Okay, you can never go wrong with a hot pot. What was served us, however, was an extraordinary dish that combines different kinds of mushrooms (oooh!), fish steak, tofu, some veggies, and prime beef (aaah!).

After that first encounter with “so go” (our nickname for its longish, hard-to-remember name), we thought all hot pots anywhere pale in comparison. We’d make  a trip to that restaurant, which is two cities away from where we live, whenever we could, but with the horrific traffic condition these days, it is no longer possible.

It was a treat therefore when, on our way to the resort one holiday weekend recently, we decided to lunch on “so go” or bust!  It was way past lunchtime when we got to the restaurant because of the, yes, traffic, so we were so famished we were ready to pass out.

Our “so go” tasted even better than all the times we had it there! We polished off every drop and morsel.

I totally forgot that this is not a food blogsite. But then, again, grace goes through all conduits of every kind, including a special dish such as this. 

11/21/2019

Walk in to Wok Inn


Almost a lifetime ago, Wok Inn was one of our favorite go-to places for Chinese food. Back then, the traffic was so light my colleagues and I would drive there for lunch and be back in the office less than an hour later.

It was a nondescript place, a hole in the wall in fact, but it served quickly-cooked fresh seafood and veggies—stir-fried or dunked in mouth-watering soup stock. No menus to ponder or choose a dish from. One just had to go to the glass-encased food section and point to what he fancied while an alert waitress wrote them down. In minutes, you’d be served food to die for.

The kids graduated from college, I retired, and Tony decided to let go of his business. Wok Inn became just a wonderful memory. Once in a while, we’d talk about it and plan on going there, but a seven-letter word—traffic—always crushed our longings.

Almost two decades later, I was invited to guest a friend’s solo art exhibit in Intramuros, Manila. Son #3, a history buff like his dad, volunteered to escort me so he could, aside from viewing the paintings, visit once again the centuries-old structures in the walled city.

On our way home, tired and famished, I mentioned Wok Inn and JR snapped, “Let’s go there!”

We crawled, but we got there.
Wok Inn is still the same as it was moons ago: small and characterless, but the food is exactly as I remember it—scrumptious. The price of the dishes, however, after Train Laws 1 and 2, have tripled.

No matter. Every cent, every road jam was well worth it—oh, how it was all worth it! Just walking in to Wok Inn was a walk down memory lane. And that is priceless grace.


11/17/2019

Master of Filipino Tribal Art


Jun Alfon, Filipino artist extraordinaire, has thoroughly internalized the human origins of Mindanao and its soul that his art proudly bares it, in authentic and intrusive colors, to the beholder. 

He intensely and powerfully portrays the early inhabitants of Mindanao—various  tribal people—whose diversity has shaped the colorful multi-culture of this 2nd largest island of the Philippines, where Christians and Muslims, many of Spanish  descent, have converged through centuries.

It was my privilege to be invited as one of the guests of honor at his latest solo exhibit at the historic, old-world Intramuros (home to ancient Spanish-era landmarks like Fort Santiago).



The venue itself—Galeria De Las Islas of the Silahis Crafts and Artifacts—was the ideal setting of Filipino culture. It showcases, through indigenous products with fine craftsmanship, what makes Philippine arts and crafts distinguished.  
My son #3, a history buff, is a big fan of Jun’s works mainly because his subjects capture historical treasures. JR volunteered to escort me so he could gawk at Jun's stunning paintings and perhaps own one someday.     

  
It was an afternoon of shared grace with fellow art lovers and people who are on a journey to dig into, and sop up, the roots of our race through exquisite folk art. As a tribute to Jun’s remarkable art, even the selection and serving of canapes and beverages were done to perfection.          


Last year, a coffee table book entitled “Mystical and Magical Mindanao” featuring Jun’s art, for which I wrote the text, was published in the US.

11/13/2019

Saturday Nights


Son #3 and I find ourselves in someone’s home on Saturday nights.

That’s when we hold our Cottage Ministry (small groups, as some churches call it), various groups of about five families who live in the same neighborhood. We’ve been named after the 12 tribes of Israel.
Our group is called Reuben, the oldest son of Jacob. It’s an apt name since one of us, Ate Miriam, is the oldest member of our church at age 82. 
(As an aside, Ate Miriam has been suffering from Dementia. She has lost most of her memory, but her unyielding belief and faith in Jesus remain clearly etched in her mind and speech.)

We meet to study the Bible, the same lesson for all the other tribes, as prepared by our church’s senior Pastor; we praise and thank the Lord for his big and small blessings; we share our personal burdens and joys; and we pray for one another. We likewise speak to the Lord about issues that affect us—our country, elected leaders of our land, victims of calamities, sick friends, and those who still have to meet the God we worship, the Source of all grace.

Sometimes our Saturday nights, each lasting an hour, is held in our home. It’s a round-robin scheduling that, on occasion, falls on the host’s birthday. In which case, what would usually be ordinary snacks would turn into a special dinner to celebrate the milestone.

These meetings give us time to reflect on things we normally don’t think about on our own. It is like a family coming together—enjoying each other’s company and learning from each other.

How are you spending your Saturday nights? If you are in our neighborhood, please consider joining us.


11/09/2019

Unvanquished


This was how Lydia Velasco’s solo art exhibit was billed. How apt.

The doyenne of Filipino contemporary art, Lyds (a former colleague in the ad industry and a beloved friend), was diagnosed with breast cancer two years ago. She’s been in and out of hospitals for surgery, treatments, and chemotherapy since.

It was blow when she first heard the prognosis; she worried about her art. Is this the dead end?

No, Lyds decided to take a different route—fight. She continued to paint . . . and paint . . . and paint, even if she was feeling faint. I visited her one day and she was resolute: “Despite my condition, I am working on my next solo exhibit. It will be about my battle with this dreaded disease.”

Unvanquished she is.

Through her series of stunning works displayed for the public, she shows a different Lydia—a relentless pilgrim through several stages: despair, denial, anger, fear, and struggle. These are vividly portrayed on huge canvasses.

But more than those, she depicts hope, beautifully, stemming from her faith in our Maker’s grace. These magnum opuses are offered as healing gifts to those who might likewise be suffering from cancer or any life-threatening illness.

She is likened to Frida Kahlo (a famous Mexican painter) by Cid Reyes, art critic. In Lyds Unvanquished brochure, penned by Cid, he quotes Kahlo, “I am broken, but I am happy to be alive as long as I can paint.”

At the well-attended opening of her solo exhibit, where I re-connected with old friends, Lyd’s defiant paintings prove that her art remains unvanquished.
  
 
 * * *

(Note: I handed CSM’s gift, in native bayong, above, to Lyds for generously sharing one of her painting’s faces for the cover of The Other Cheek. She cheerfully signed my copy, also above.) 

11/05/2019

New Cebu (Day 3)


Slides, check. Props, check. Materials, check.

Those done, to the private dining room my now BFF and I went. There was again hefty breakfast enough for a troop laid out just for the two of us. The private elevator was up and running and the music room was thoroughly cleaned of any vestige of litter from the children’s workshop the day before.

The teachers—about 16 of them (18, if you include the department head and school head, who participated in all the activities)—came on time, but unlike the kids, they were quiet and spoke in whispers, as though the venue was some sacrosanct shrine. They thawed after the opening prayer and in time, they were asking questions and participating in the discussions.
Many of them are closet writers and are hoping to have a book published soon. I shared with them the grace of writing, which is everything I know and have learned about the craft, praying that these will encourage them to pursue their writing dreams. 

As I did with the kids, we did varied exercises and during the last two hours, I met with each one to discuss his/her ideas for a book.  It is always a blessing to exchange thoughts with kindred spirits and listen to their encouraging journey. 

The head of school handed the participants and me our certificates and in our group photo, we allowed our wacky selves to come through. 

Over my last dinner in New Cebu with the officers of the school, we said our goodbyes, which (without doubt whatsoever) was blessed by our Lord of love and friendship.

That night, in bed, I smiled as I played in my mind all that went through for two and a half days with writing enthusiasts—both children and adults. These beautiful thoughts stayed in my dreams till I woke up at dawn for my early flight home.


11/01/2019

New Cebu (Day 2)


Despite sleeping in a strange bed away from home, I woke up from a deep, undisturbed rest, all set to dive into the second session of the children's workshop.

But before that, a solicitous lady served a heavy and hearty breakfast at an adjacent private dining room. Then on our way to the music room (workshop venue) two stories down, a private elevator opened.

This is the life, I thought as I thanked the Lord for all the perks that made me feel like a pampered queen. In all my trips to Cebu, I was billeted in a hotel. This time, I was right in the school where I was to "work," with special guest amenities, including an efficient teacher-assistant who saw to my every need.

The kids were as perky as they were the day before. They came prepared with more ideas and questions. Because they are readers, many brought a book to read during our short breaks. The fact that there were no gadgets, except for my laptop and projector for my slides, made all the difference.  We were focused on original ideas from our own heads and not from cyberspace.

During the last two hours at the end of the day, I met with each one to discuss his/her ideas for a story. They opened their hearts and I sort of glimpsed myself there when I was their age. 
We wrapped up with the head of school handing the participants and me our certificates and through a group photo, we recorded for eternity the grace that passed in and through us within a day and a half.
I was treated to dinner by an old chum, Lynnie, and her husband, Doug, and we talked about the blessings of our various ministries—the old times, new times, and end times, too.

(Next post: Day 3 of New Cebu)   


10/28/2019

New Cebu (Day 1)


No matter how many times I’ve been to Cebu, the city always seems new.  Every Cebu encounter is different.

I usually take time to meet old friends and visit old haunts, but the experience is always evergreen.

My latest trip was to facilitate a back-to back creative writing workshop for students and teachers who were handpicked by the school head because of their interest in both reading and writing.

At the airport I was met by Teacher Hananel, the school's representative, who was to be my roommate (and soon BFF) for my whole stay in a cozy guest room adorned with special welcome buntings.
“Are there any places or sites you want to visit?” the school head asked. 

“None,” I said. “I came to work.” But, really, anything that has to do with creative writing is never work, it’s what I love doing.

From the airport, we took a short rest, lunch, then the “work” began. Twenty irrepressible students, grades 7-10, voracious readers all, “worked” with me. There were joshing and laughing and unlimited grace of delightful things. Each one was a quick study and his/her ideas were out of the box. 

We concluded the afternoon with a promise to do more “work” the next day. Their written evaluation of session 1 are now locked in my heart’s treasure box. Here are some of them:

“What I disliked about the workshop is nothing.”

“The games and activities helped me learn in a fun way.”

“I like how the class is interactive and how we are given the chance to write freely and express what is in our mind.”

“Now I know I can open my mind and that my imagination is infinite.”

“I learned that a writer should always be positive.”    
 
My Day 1 in New Cebu ended with a relaxing dinner with some teachers I met for the first time, in an old place I saw with new eyes. 

(Next post: Day 2 of New Cebu) 


10/24/2019

2019 National Children’s Book Day


(Reprinted from the OMF Lit website)

To celebrate National Children’s Book Day, we asked some of our Hiyas authors to answer two simple questions.

These are the answers of award-winning and best-selling author Grace D. Chong.

WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF READING TO CHILDREN?

Various studies by educators and psychologists have been conducted to find out the advantages of reading to the young. No disadvantages have been recorded, only advantages—and they are countless.

Three of them are:

1. They learn about sounds, words, characters (animals, people, nature), thus developing their imagination, creativity, language skills and fluency.

2. They learn to listen, concentrate, and sit still, which is difficult for this new generation of kids who are given gadgets as “yaya” and see their elders busy on the same.

3. They learn critical thinking (especially if you read to them diverse books)—asking questions, forming opinions—and will be encouraged to enjoy reading, as they grow up, to find answers and new information.

 May I add a fourth, and the most important one for me:

WHAT’S THE LATEST CHILDREN’S BOOK YOU’VE READ THAT YOU REALLY LIKED?

My son #2 just gave me this pasalubong from Iceland. Quite timely!

Note: Iceland is the country that filed a resolution calling on the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to act on killings linked to President Rodrigo Duterte's crackdown on illegal drugs. The president’s reaction: “Iceland, ano ang problema ng Iceland? Ice lang.” (Translation: “What’s Iceland’s problem? Just ice.”)

10/20/2019

Do Church Sizes Matter?


Commodious and complex would be how I’d describe the The New Millennium Evangelical Church to where I was invited to meet up with 10-12-year-old kids. 

I had to ask around to find my way to the Sunday School area. I looked for Ms. Joyce, a fellow children’s book author who invited me, but not one of the several guards knew her.

The church contrasted with my small home church where, through one door with no guard, one can say "hello" to every member and call him by name.  The only time I attend a church as huge as this is when I am in the US, visiting son #2, or when I get invited to guest events such as this.   

Initially intimidated by the church's size, I was warmed by the welcoming nods and smiles of the throng of faith brethren briskly heading to one direction. I followed them and soon, I was in the right place.

Fellow believers everywhere exude that before-worship look, ready to praise the Lord of lords and listen to His Word.

Finally I found Ms. Joyce and the Sunday School teachers ready to assist me. There were about 20 kids in the room, to whom I read the story of The White Shoes. I chose this book because the main character, Eva, belongs to the lower stratum of society, and I wanted these upper-tier kids—who may never meet in their lifetime the likes of her—to understand and feel compassion for needy children’s plight.

Before reading the story, I asked, “How many have at least five pairs of shoes?” All hands went up. I worried they might not appreciate the story of Eva who only had one pair in a wrong color.

I worried for naught.

In their written summary of the story, all the kids got the message: Success is all about making the most of what you have been blessed with, and being thankful for it all.

This, then, is true: God’s little children—in big or small churches—know precisely the Source of grace. And they know how to thank Him for this undeserved gift.     

10/16/2019

And the Crowd Swelled


Came the weekend, and the wish of every MIBF (Manila International Book Fair) exhibitor was more than fulfilled: the crowd swelled to SRO.

The first three days had been a dispirited version of past MIBFs, when  people in droves surged through the entrance doors. Where have all the people gone? I asked what everyone must have been asking himself.

We got the answer that Saturday.

My author’s ID, provided by my publisher, saved me from the harrowing mile-long queue of people waiting their turn to enter the venue. Whew!

The OMF Lit Booth, where I was scheduled for book signing of  Grace at Work, was already teeming with book fans when I got there. Again, I had to wade through the crowd.

Grace at Work was published in 2014 but has been made-over this year: New size, new cover, and new layout with updated entries.

Lynnie, all the way from Cebu's airwaves, was OMF’s voice during the event. She asked me questions about the book and welcomed the people who attended the event.

And there they were!

In the crowd were some of my students, waving and grinning. Not only did they surprise me, they took me to seventh heaven and back. For this unexpected grand gesture, I will be grateful for life.

These photos hardly capture God’s grace at work that special Saturday afternoon. 

10/12/2019

I Cried on Teacher’s Day

This photo does not show me crying, but yes, I cried before I called it a day. 

I never gave Teacher’s Day much thought. Hardened in a former workplace where Marketing was our do-or-die daily fare, I know how days such as this are invented by marketers to manipulate buying behavior.

Cursory nods were all I had for those who greeted me, “Happy Teacher’s Day!”  So when I was invited to the reception organized by the students in the university where I teach, I attended as a matter of courtesy.

But then, surprises rushed in. My students—shy and proper in the classroom—paid sincere tribute to us via song-and-dance numbers, poetry, games, and a video presentation, tied vivaciously together by two emcees.

And there were awards, where grace overflowed and overwhelmed.

Flashback to 18 years ago: When I decided to teach part-time, recognition was not in my list of aims. All I wanted was to pay forward what I had learned at work (okay, in life) and perhaps touch my students in a way that would make them more disciplined, more critical, more creative, more driven, more learned, and more sensitive—fully armed for the rat race.  

Here are the eight awards, all imaginatively worded*, that floored me: 

Before I turned in, as I said my thanksgiving prayer, asking the Lord to bless all my students for the day that was, the tears flowed. I have morphed from a steely marketer into a silly mush?!

That’s not a bad thing, is it?

 * * *

*Citations:

1. Omelette Award – for coming up with the most eggs-citing ideas
2. Bunsen Burner Award – for coming up with the hottest ideas
3. Smart Cookie Award - for having the most clever and creative classes
4. Bubbles Award – always having bubbly and enthusiastic attitude
5. Snickers Award - for great sense of humor and the ability to make others laugh
6. Best supporting Teacher – for being ready to go whenever needed
7. Walking Wikipedia Award – for always having answers to anything you ask
8. Amazing Faculty – has embodied the 5C’s core values: character, competence, commitment,  creativity, and collaboration

Can a teacher love her students any less?


10/08/2019

2019 CSM Grand Book Launching:

A Moving Moment 

Once a year, on a Friday night, CSM (Church Strengthening Ministry) holds a grand book launching of their new releases at the Manila International Book Fair—on stage.

In the last five years, I have been privileged to go up that stage with the rest of the authors of these new titles.

This year (CSM's 30th anniversary), over a dozen titles were launched—among which was The Other Cheek in what seemed like an inviolable thanksgiving ritual, a holy tradition held dear through the years. As in previous launches, each author had three minutes to give an overview of his/her book. 
Then after the talkies, the authors were invited up the stage for the highlight of the evening—the unveiling of these new books. 
Aside from my joy over The Other Cheek, I was thrilled beyond telling to see Take Heart (a book by millennials for millennials, for which I wrote the Foreword) take flight. The young authors, with whom I shared a book table, were each in his/her element. For, after all, this is their first published book—and firsts are not only important milestones, they are a benchmark for excellence. 
As the authors were prayed over and our books offered to the Lord by a CSM officer, deep down in my heart I thanked Him for gifting me with the opportunity to share with readers how He lavishes love on people, circumstances, and me on this pilgrimage called life.  
It was moving moment. 

It moved both my inner and outer core to take bolder steps in echoing and emulating what Paul said, “However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.” Acts 20:24  (NIV)

* * *

Post-event photos:


10/04/2019

Books in Waiting


The formal book launching of my book “The Other Cheek” wasn’t till 6 PM that Wednesday. But son #1 and his friend, both book worms, wanted to go to the MIBF early so they could scour the place. Due to the horrible traffic condition, which cannot guarantee arrival at any place on time, I decided to go with them.

Waiting for eight hours usually borders on obscene. But waiting surrounded by books is just a stone's throw away from heaven.

Now, how could I manage with my pesky right toes—those digits that have made walking difficult in the last two years? I hatched a seamless plan: walk slowly, park myself in every booth, take groufies with friends, and enjoy the books at every pit stop.

In a couple of hours, I had been able to breeze through all the books I bought. Then off to the food section. There I spent another couple of hours reading my purchases.

Then, with enough rest and a full tummy, I struggled to the second floor, where the children’s books were displayed. I found the Hiyas booth, where I was treated to a grace bonanza. Even without a scheduled book signing, I was happy to do just that. New friends (mostly kids with their moms), the staff of Hiyas and I whiled away the time by chatting about—what else, books! 

Before I knew it, it was time to change to my semi-formal attire for the CSM’s grand book launching at the theater area.


9/30/2019

Abstract Concept for Children


What makes writing books for children difficult is that kids are still not equipped to digest an abstract concept. A writer must break this concept down to chewable pieces with matching visuals to make it edible.

Nationalism, for one.

How does one explain to children “identification with one's own nation and support for its interests, especially to the exclusion or detriment of the interests of other nations?” How does one present it so that they would feel it in their gut—where nationalism should reside.   

Thanks to Facebook, I read one post by a teacher, which, for me, explains what nationalism means in  succinct language and one photo. And what a photo!*

“This young girl stopped walking and stood still under the rain during the singing of the Philippine National Anthem!”

By Jbdm
I had attempted this concept in two books in the “Oh, Mateo!” series: First, Big eyes, Small eyes (book 2); and second, A Flood of Kindness (book 14).

The first opens the eyes of the main character to the beauty of his country, which he has ignored, through the eyes of a balikbayan. The second illustrates how townspeople come together after a natural disaster to re-build their community.

And so, as a children’s book author, I continue to look for ways anywhere and everywhere so I could teach my readers values through abstract concepts such as this.

I am grateful for grace—it is my compass; it shows me directions and helps me find my bearings. 

*http://tnt.abante.com.ph

9/26/2019

Book Fair 2019


On opening day, September 11, the crowd was sparse, unlike last year’s and the years’ before that.  I worried, Are printed books on the way to extinction?  

This sad thought comes to me now and then because it seems to be where the world is going—printed books, out; e-books, in.

And so I had my book signing for “The Other Cheek” at 3 PM, dreading the possibility that no one will come. But they did! Friends and readers, who know me only through the books I write, appeared like magic. As I have always believed, grace vanishes fear. 

Those who braved the traffic, limited parking space, an earthquake, and sporadic rains wore that certain glow I see nowhere but at the book fair. 

After about an hour, at 4 PM, I joined the 14 new writers for book signing of “Take Heart.”  One could taste and see the excitement, which accompanies first book launches. Each writer brought his/her family and friends, packing the CSM booth to the rafters.    

I was messaged later by friends—who bought “The Other Cheek” at the CSM booth but couldn’t squeeze in the dense crowd to say “Hi!” and have their book signed—asking about my next schedule at the MIBF.

So will printed books eventually disappear and render book fairs irrelevant?

On one side, yes, because according to some doomsayers, it is not the most effective way of storing knowledge to be passed on to future generations. It is wasteful and vulnerable to being destroyed.

On the other side, some say, “No, books will not disappear entirely. Like cloth weaving and woodblock printing, printed pages may assume a different role in a different realm—aesthetics—meant to be looked at but not read [coffee table books and art catalogs] and will appeal to a very limited audience.” 

Uh-oh. I hope not in my lifetime.