12/28/2019

Correct Me If I Am Wrnog


I was neck deep in writing my next book—a devotional (I will withhold announcing who the target reader is at the moment, as the book will not be launched till the Manila International Book Fair in September 2020). I was particularly crafting an entry on discipline, based on Proverbs 10:17.

And as grace is wont to come anytime, even when you don’t expect it, the doorbell rang. I had a package from Cebu, a Christmas gift from my friend, Steph.

I could not wait till Christmas day to open it, so I ripped the wrapper open and got the most pleasant surprise of my life! It is a creatively printed t-shirt with the same exact verse I was reflecting on.

Except that Steph’s tee was done in a fun, young, ingenious way. “Correct me if I am wrong” (originally an idiom that means being unsure) is how the young would say it when they graciously accept discipline.
This is how Proverbs 10:17 is written in my NLT Bible:

“People who accept discipline are on the pathway to life, but those who ignore correction will go astray.” 

My prayer is that the youth who will chance upon this t-shirt will accept the grace of discipline so that he/she/they will be on the pathway to life.

12/25/2019

Merry Christmas!


"Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being.

"When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.

"Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
 and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. 

(Philippians 2:6-11 NLT)

12/22/2019

The Number 13


My late dad used to joke that his favorite number was 13. He specially said it aloud when he was around superstitious friends. He liked to boast (flex, in today’s lingo) that he was the 13th placer in the bar exam, and all the great things in his life always happened on the 13th—and often on Friday the 13th.  
I guess it was also his way of teaching us, his five children, not to believe in old wives’ tales and man-made supernatural beliefs. There was no doubt about the only One Whom we should believe. Then my mom took over actively in the details of our spiritual growth.

I speak of dad now because I just remembered that my 13th blog anniversary fell on the 24th of November, one month ago. Due to so many activities and writing deadlines that swamped my days, it totally slipped my mind and it passed by quietly.

It isn’t too late to celebrate. So today, I thank my Savior Jesus Christ for the 13 years of blogging about how He has blessed my life and guided my writing—and all other activities related to it.

My numbers?

  • 1,345 posts (from 1,211 last year); 
  • 882,000 hits (from 685,000); 
  • 20 change of headers. 
I have no idea what these all mean, but now I know that I have readers who share my views on grace.

“Let's march into his presence singing praises, lifting the rafters with our hymns!” (Psalm 95:2 MSG) 

Won’t you sing the refrain of this old hymn with me?

Thank you, Lord, for saving my soul
Thank you, Lord, for making me whole
Thank you, Lord, for giving to me
Thy great salvation so rich and free 
(Seth Sykes, 1892-1950 )

12/19/2019

When Kids Cry


Book tours are happy, grace-packed affairs. I come face to face with children who get ecstatic listening to a story read by the person who wrote it.

I had avoided telling my own stories orally, because I felt inadequate to make a story interesting. But I realized I need to, or I’d have to pack a storyteller in my suitcase to all the places I go to.

The last school in my Cebu book tour—where I told the story of The White Shoes—was hurried because I had a plane to catch. Lynnie, the book lady of OMF Lit Cebu, kept reminding me of the few minutes I had left. But I got so engrossed I forgot the time.
“Let’s go, “Lynnie nagged, “our cab is waiting!”  

That was when I noticed one of the kids crying and being comforted by her teacher. I rushed to her and asked, “What’s wrong?”

The teacher explained, “She left your book at home. She would have wanted you to sign it.”

Oooh, I gave her a tight hug and cooed, “That’s okay. Even without my signature, that book was written for you.”

But she was inconsolable. And I had to dash out. 

The image of her crying haunted me till I got home, so I told son #3 about it. He was incredulous, “Mom, you could have bought her a book from the book table, and signed it!”

Duh. Why didn’t I think of that!?

To atone for my gaffe, I messaged her teacher and asked for the kid’s name. I signed two of my books, wrapped them up, and sent them via courier to her school.

The next day, her teacher messaged me with these attachments. 


Now I know better.

12/15/2019

Disgrace and Disaster


Among all the sad news on media that day, one particularly distressed (and embarrassed) me deeply. The Philippines, one of the 76 countries surveyed in the 2018 Program for International Student Assessment  (PISA), had hit rock bottom in reading comprehension.

Digesting the news further, I found that Filipino children, in general, do not read.
 

As a children’s book author since the year 2000, I poured my pain on paper, but restrained myself from uploading it because it reeked of disgrace.
Today, while reading the column of Federico D. Pascual (Philippine Star) titled “Pitfalls of our being superficial readers” I found his pain similar to mine:

“Our lack of appetite for the written word and digesting its substance can help explain why few Filipino authors venture into writing books (e.g. novels, short stories, socio-political commentaries). Not enough Filipinos are expected to read them, so why bother?”

Decision point: Why do I bother?

He said further, “Our failure to develop the reading habit among our youth [just like their elders] is a national disgrace and disaster . . . We should be embarrassed enough to do something . . . For a people who boast of being the most literate in the region, the PISA report . . . should jolt everybody, including private and public educators.”

Analysts point to poverty as the root cause of non-reading among children. Instead of spending P100 on books, for instance, their parents could buy their family’s semblance of a meal for the day.
I weep some more. Is this news about children not reading any worse than poor families not eating? This question is both a disgrace and a disaster to us as a people.   

I turn to what Scripture says about poverty in James 2:5 (NIV), “. . . Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?” 

Photo Credit (top)
Photo credit (bottom) 

12/11/2019

Thanksgiving Sunday in Cebu


“You will speak before young adults on any topic of your choice,” Lynnie, the book lady of OMF Lit Cebu, wrote me. 
“I scrounged around for a topic that might interest young adults. After research and consultations with the OMF Lit editorial staff, I finally zeroed in on Grace Online and Offline.  That done, I finalized my slides and manuscript. 

But the day before my trip to Cebu, Lynnie messaged me again, “The event with the young adults has been canceled. The pastor is requesting you to deliver the message on Thanksgiving Sunday.”  

“That’s tomorrow,” I replied, my pulse suddenly skipping.  

“Yes, and your topic is Overcoming Grumbling with Gratitude.” 

What!? 

The temptation to grumble was so intense, I had to pray for a smorgasbord of grace. But a sense of overwhelming gratitude eventually took over. I began to view this as an opportunity to share about the things I am grateful for—and hopefully encourage even at least one in the pews to have an attitude of gratitude.  

As I worked on my message, the problem was not what to say, but what to leave out from the glut of things I had written down. 

Remember the ancient Jews who were saved from slavery in Egypt? They didn't know how to handle such a huge blessing, and so they grumbled. This behavior forestalled their reaching the Promised Land for 40 years in the wilderness.    

I spent the rest of the day and night on my manuscript and slides, remembering not to grumble. Early the next morning, on my way to the airport, I had both packed in my luggage. 

There were about 200 people in church, decked with piles of farm harvests—the way the ancient Jews practiced thanksgiving. And then my name was called.    
In our hectic, fast-paced lives—ruled by gadgets and selfies on cyberspace—we tend to see the opposite of gratitude: grumbling.   
But if we focus on the good things we already have, they will appreciate and grow. In the same manner, if we focus on our problems . . . they too, will increase.   

Focusing on what we HAVE appreciate. These things—like plants that are nourished by sun and rain—grow.   
“In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”  1Thessalonians 5:18  

Like everything else on the path to mastery, gratitude is a choice. We can choose to grumble while waiting for something pleasant to arise and then be grateful.   


Or, we can choose to be grateful at all times, no matter how dire the circumstances, and enjoy how God assists us in everything we do.    

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?