Corridor Conversations (1)

Our school corridors, all four of them, are where I say “hi” and “goodbye” to students. Once in a while, someone starts a conversation and I linger a little.
Student: Hi, Ms. Grace!

Me: Hi!

Student: I heard you publish books.

Me: No, I write books. I have a publisher, well, publishers actually.

Student: You see, I am a writer too and I want my book published soon. How do I go about it?

Me: Go to publishers’ websites and try to get to know their structure, find out what type of books they are inclined to publish. After you’ve chosen a particular publisher, download the book proposal form and fill it up—just follow the simple instructions.

Student: I want my book published not here, but abroad. I mean, internationally.

Me: Oh, in that case, try to look for an agent. He/she will do the ground work for you—scouting around and guiding you as you go along.

Student: I see.

Me: What is your book’s genre?

Student: Genre!? What’s that?

Me: Ooops, gotta go, I'm late for my class. Have a good day!


Once Long Ago

My foray into blogging began in November 2006, six years after my first books were published. I therefore had not been able to blog about those books.

Since that was so long ago—19 years to be exact—I had not looked back to the events around them until last week when I googled “grace” and out came this: 
It’s a news item about the launching of the second book (hardbound) in the Gifts of Grace series. What made it noteworthy is that it stood side-by-side with the biography of then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (GMA) by no less than the Nick Joaquin.  

Indeed it is history.

Nick Joaquin had passed on. GMA has reinvented herself many times over: she ran for congress and won; she was arrested for various crimes (electoral fraud, bribery, misuse of funds, etc.) committed during her regime; she was portrayed as ailing during her incarceration; and eventually, she was freed by the Supreme Court when Rodrigo Roa Duterte became president, whose campaign—according to some news items—she heavily supported financially. And now GMA wields great power again as the Speaker of the House of Representatives.

Changes, changes.

Whatever they are or will be, I will remain unchanged in my life choice highlighted by that book launching. I will continue writing about the saving grace that changes the course of anyone’s life who comes to Jesus.

Since the Gifts of Grace series (my first non-fiction books for adult readers), I have launched quite a few more. I upload their images as they come on this site to remind me of the path that I took once long ago and, with new strength every day, I will continue to walk on till my last breath.

“But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:31 (NLT) 


What Moves You?

As of last year, 2018, there are 505 million bloggers in the world.  That number is huge. But I wonder how many of those consistently and persistently blog? 

After being persuaded by two of my three sons, I started blogging in November 2006. I got hooked. Thirteen years later, today, I am still blogging—yes, consistently and persistently, uploading one piece every three to four days. At any given time, I have a dozen blogs scheduled for publication. 

A fellow blogger, Y, is an excellent writer. However, whenever I visit his site, I read the same blog he had posted two months earlier. Once we met in a gathering and I told him, “You should blog more often. Your posts are always interesting to read.” 

“I can’t,” he said, “because I can only blog about things that move me.” 

I found that odd. "Oh. But everything m-moves me,” I stuttered.  

And I mean, everything. The sun, moon, stars, flowers, trees, animals, artwork, people, events, politics, malls, food, social media, etc. etc. etc. they all move me in a thousand different ways.
In fact, many of my blogs are series, because there are just too many angles to a certain topic or issue.  

That's why I continue blogging. Sometimes, because of book deadlines/talks, part-time teaching, and church ministries, there isn’t enough time to write all the thoughts and feelings I have in my head. So I find time—during short coffee breaks in school, nap hour, car trips between places, before breakfast, or any time that gives me some minutes to write. 

“You’re odd,” Y said, laughing. 

“That’s what I thought,” I replied. Yet I kept thinking, maybe I am odd in that way because I have chosen to write about grace, which is all over the place—here, there, and everywhere. In fact, I don’t have fingers fast enough to type them all, nor eyes sharp enough to see them all.  

Now let me ask, my cyber friends, what moves you? 


Gentle Annie

Out of nowhere, someone messaged me asking for some of Annie’s photos.

“We are putting together a commemorative book to celebrate our graduation batch’s 50th anniversary at St. Theresa’s College [STC]. Each one will have her own page.”

Annie, my sister-in-law and Tony’s only sister, had been gone for over 15 years. She succumbed to complications of rheumatoid arthritis at age 52. Now where would have I kept her photos?

I visited old drawers and voila! I found albums and loose photos of many people—friends and family. I didn’t realize I had so many photos kept and forgotten.

It took hours to find photos of Annie. She had more letters than she had pictures. She was not your selfie kind of person. In fact, she shunned the limelight. I used to describe her as “a woman for others.”
A gentle soul, Annie was not predisposed to long conversations. But she wrote me many letters, putting words to her thoughts and feelings, mostly about my husband, me, and our three sons, whom she doted on.

Annie had a successful career as Department Administrative Officer, reporting to the Sr. VP of a now defunct giant bank, but she turned away from all that to take care of my aging mother-in-law, who had lost both husband and youngest son in succession.

Tony and I got them a cozy house a block away from our home. And I would cross the street and visit both of them daily.

After Annie passed, we took her mom home to live with us. Every waking hour, she would call Annie’s name, sorely missing her. And one month after, in her grief, she fell ill and joined Annie.

I thank STC and her batch mates for remembering her. Through them, we are once again celebrating her life, thanking God for the grace of a sister-in-law and friend whose gentleness touched many.


Grateful eyes

The artists whose works I love are those that reflect the beauty of God’s creation: Georgia O’Keeffe, Claude Monet, Winslow Homer, Paul C├ęzanne, Carlos Trinidad*, Lydia Velasco*, Jun Alfon, to name a few. I am sure you have your own list of favorites.

Their paintings are so arresting, they evoke happy emotions from this beholder. What’s even more beautiful is that these magnum opuses do not come from nothing; they mirror our God-given lives as grateful eyes see them.

Carlos Trinidad, for instance, illustrates happy people enjoying various activities in images that seem to move vigorously (see photo below); Lydia Velasco demonstrates the warmth and love between mother and child, and kinship among women; Jun Alfon makes members of a marginalized tribe come alive in vibrant colors. 

"Catch the Pig" Oil on canvas 48 x 48 by Carlos Trinidad
If we, non-artists, could only try to see the beauty in everything as well, we can get a glimpse of the perfection of God’s creation, and experience unbridled joy with which He intended to gift us: a baby gurgling; grandchildren playing; old friends coming together to celebrate anything; showers pelting the roof after a long, hot summer; the sun shining after three days of rain; flowers blooming; vines covering walls; plus many more.

Remember Ecclesiastes 3:11? “. . . God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.” 

The grace we behold with grateful eyes in this life is just a foretaste of the eternal beauty yet to come in the eternal life of those who believe in Him.

*Some of their works are posted on ArtThrobs, Facebook page. 


Envelopes in My Head

"Can you lend me P100?" asked Rico, a friend at work. "I have no money for my ride home."

He was not asking for a million bucks, so the vulnerable side of me wanted to immediately hand him the money.

But my sane side said, "Don't." For how could anyone not leave enough money for his trip home?

On payday, this friend splurges on good meals in posh restaurants. He likes buying snacks for everyone. On his birthday, he throws a lavish party. Loaning from others has become a habit. Guess who's his favorite go-to pushover?

I suspect he hasn't heard of budgeting.

This was taught me by my mother before my wedding day.

"Envelopes," she advised. "Put the money you receive in them before even thinking of spending a centavo. Label each envelope with your monthly expenses—rent, food, utilities, emergency, amortizations, and oh, don't forget tithe. After filling those envelopes, only then can you spend the money left in your hands."
I did just that. It was tight, yes, but I was never short on cash till my husband's next paycheck, which was a pittance in those days.

Years later, those envelopes moved from my drawer to my head. It had become second nature to me. I could instinctively allocate what cash I had for essentials without physical envelopes. As I matured in my faith, tithe was the first envelope I put money in. 

"I am sorry, Rico," I replied. "My P100 is earmarked for something."

"How about P50?" he haggled. "Just to get me home."

"Sorry." I saw envelopes in head.

On my ride home, I passed by a reedy, old man with a dirty, small kid rummaging through a trash can. I stopped to give them my hard-earned P100.

"Don't squander God's grace—budget," mom stressed moons ago. She didn't cite a particular verse, but this one has suited me fine:

"Careful planning puts you ahead in the long run; hurry and scurry puts you further behind." Proverbs 21:5 (MSG)


Pen Pal

In its original form, pen pal is a term used for a person with whom you become friendly by exchanging letters—written with a pen and sent via postal mail (snail mail we call it today)—especially  someone in a foreign country whom you have never met.

It was sometime in the 1930s that the concept of pen pal began, evolving from its original term, pen-friend.
Just when I thought pen paling has become extinct, my son #2, who lives in the US, wrote Tony that his son (our one and only grandchild), Adrian, aged 11, was taking up creative writing and would Tony and Adrian be pen pals by exchanging stories? 

It’s not the authentic pen paling concept, of course. They would use the email to write each other.

And so they have become pen pals, 21st century version, with Adrian writing stories about the future with bizarre beings and places, products of his fertile imagination. Tony writes stories about the past, his ancient days as a young boy, when computer was still a dream and writing letters was an art. 

I was given the privilege to take a peek at their exchanges and was I blessed with grace borne out of disparate times and spaces. I must say that at his young age, Adrian is an excellent writer. To which Tony would retort, “He has my genes, after all.”   

So, do people still write letters with their pens and send them via postal mail to someone out there? Well, not in the strictest sense.

I know of church groups who write encouraging handwritten letters to inmates with no access to technology.  There are websites that encourage pen paling. My brother in Australia and Tony’s cousin in the US still send us Christmas cards with notes in their handwriting.

New, modern pen paling is still alive and well.


Banana Bonsai

I must have seen close to a million banana trees in my lifetime but none as small as what BoyP (my former colleague and friend) has in his beautiful garden. It’s two feet tall and I have wondered how to eat its fruits—if ever it would bear some.
BoyP, an outdoor-and-travel-loving person, retired much too early from being one of the top honchos in the ad industry.  He said he wants to have time to freely do what he wants to do at his own pace. 

He is doing it now—with a passion, or more graphically, with a vengeance. He grows bonzai, and again, more graphically, he’s a bonsai nut.

(Bonsai is an Asian art form that uses growing techniques to produce small trees in containers that mimic the scale of full-size trees. Bonsai nuts say it symbolizes peace, harmony and balance, demonstrating the dogged fight of a tree against the elements to create a miniature replica; it teaches us to remove clutter from our lives.)

BoyP’s bonsai collection (hundreds of them), particularly his banana bonsai, illustrate for me what he wants to do with his days—declutter and concentrate only on what’s important.

I can never grow bonsai, much less grow anything, but decluttering charms me and it’s what I have been trying to do, in my own way, since I left the workplace in the year 2000. I have not been completely successful—yet. But grace will soon show me how to totally embrace the simple life:

“Make it your goal to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands, just as we instructed you before.” 1 Thessalonians 4:11 (NLT)



In celebration of Women’s Month, March, my publisher OMFLIt, featured their women authors under the theme or hastag #UnstoppableWomen.
For the write-ups, they asked me two questions. The first was,  Name one woman who inspires you and why?

My reply:  My daughter-in-law, Gianina. Nothing could stop her (not a distinguished corporate career nor an MBA from Booth, University of Chicago) from deciding to take care of my grandson, Adrian, full time—a noble and courageous act that can unsettle many women, including me.

She was not a difficult choice, even among big-named, famous women who have left indelible marks in our history. In this modern, complicated world, I believe everything should go back to the basic unit of society,  the family.  If things do not start right, things will not end right either. Children are therefore every married woman's priority.  Any woman who recognizes this knows her purpose.

Alas, in my time, I did not recognize this. Shame on me. Back then, managing a household and a career seemed simple. There were less complications, no distractions such as technology, and nannies were aplenty. But in today's chaotic world, with indiscriminate landmines and traps of all kinds that lure and harm kids, a mother no longer has a better choice than staying home and arming her child to navigate his way through life.   

I salute all women who took the route Gianina did.   

The second question was, What makes a woman unstoppable? 

My reply:  Purpose. A woman who knows exactly who she is in Christ can—let me borrow this Biblical hyperbole on what faith, the size of a mustard seed can do—move mountains.

Matthew 17:20 NLT reads, "You don’t have enough faith,” Jesus told them. “I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would move. Nothing would be impossible.” 

From Him comes enabling grace so we could do what we were meant to do.

May I ask my women friends this same question: What makes you unstoppable?