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. 



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.


Opportunity to be Nice

Rudeness seems to be the new normal, especially because it is modeled from behind the presidential seal. Many people have merrily followed suit, thinking it’s all the rage. Not many take pains in being nice anymore. Unless you are in the service industry. 

Which we are. 

We run a Medical Transcription School and every day, we deal with people, potential students all. Some inquiries ask non-sequitur questions or ask about what you have just explained; some are just plain arrogant, as though saying, “I am a customer; I am always right.” 

I take these as opportunities to be nice.      
When your patience is running thin, it’s an opportunity to be nice. 

When you’re about to bark a scathing reply, it’s an opportunity to be nice. 

When you’re ready to turn your back and walk out, it’s an opportunity to be nice. 

When banging the phone seems the only option, it’s an opportunity to be nice. 

This opportunity has a name: grace, which is what you need to be nice to someone rude. Anybody can be nice to someone nice. But if you are nice to someone who isn’t, you actually feel nice.  

Those bombers (the inquiries who give us a hard time) usually are not interested in Medical Transcription anyway. Those who are the opposite become our students and friends, and together, we create a happy place where being nice is a way of life. 

Opportunities to be nice still come and go from forces outside, which we welcome.  

But from the forces inside our Medical Transcription School (students, teachers, and staff), being nice is like breathing. You don’t even know you’re doing it.  


Give Thanks

Singing is not one of my strong suits. More so, singing before a big audience.

But I dared to do both in church the day after the 40th MIBF (Manila International Book Fair). My sister, Aie, who attended the early morning service with me, took this shot, which I will now keep and tag as my favorite photo of all time!
“This isn’t you,” she said, laughing. 

But it is.

It's the part of me that people don't see—or have no chance to see, because it's private. It's how I am when the Lord affirms what I do. So here, I am immensely grateful my face (not my voice) shows it. I now realize I could go public with my inner voice in thanking the Lord who makes even the impossible possible. This action song number was performed together with five other oldish women, so their company vanished my  jitters.

Indeed, it was the perfect day to thank the Lord—about whose grace I write—who made possible, despite many odds (I'd rather not dwell on them) the three books (please glance at the side bar to your right), which bear my name, to be completed in time for the book fair. 

Held at the SMX MOA, this five-day yearly event of book lovers gathered more than what a publisher could reach in one year. They came in droves, despite the heavy rains and horrendous traffic, to the happy place where kindred spirits—people who can’t breathe without reading or writing, and in my case, both—meet. 

Give Thanks
  (by Don Moen)

Give thanks with a grateful heart
Give thanks to the Holy One
Give thanks because He's given Jesus Christ, 
His Son
And now let the weak say, "I am strong"
Let the poor say, "I am rich"
Because of what the Lord has done for us
Give thanks 


Off to Work

The 40th Manila International Book Fair (MIBF) is winding down. Gotta' work some more. And experience grace again and again--meeting fellow book lovers: old and new friends, plus family and family of family!


Unli Grace

The word unli, slang for unlimited, is a Filipino-invented word and is now a part of our country's everyday vocabulary. 

Anyone who has a cellphone knows what it means, because the word was first introduced by a telecommunications company via a heavily advertized promotion of unli calls within a certain period for a fixed fee.

Unli has since been used by some restaurants as well—unli rice, a welcome treat for Filipino diners who can't live without rice at breakfast, lunch, dinner and sometimes at snack time, too.
Now, there are places where one can also have unli tea, unli soda, unli anything.

But it was the unli rice that hooked our only grandson Adrian, who stayed with us for one week, while his parents were off to some place, during their short vacation in the Philippines. After we introduced him to various Filipino dishes, he took to chicken inasal (grilled over hot coals while being basted with a marinade). He loved it so so much, he had unli rice up to five servings in one restaurant! No  morsel was left in his plate.

Seeing him enjoy Filipino food and having him with us for seven days was unli grace. 

Son #1 gifted Adrian with a packet of chicken inasal marinade. We're sure his mom would find time to cook him this Filipino favorite with unli rice!

The little fellow is now back in the US with his parents, but each time we pass by a restaurant serving chicken inasal with unli rice, we laugh and remember how he ate like there was no tomorrow.

And we miss him so.


Take Heart:

A Book by Millennials for Millennials 
(This will be launched at the Manila International Book Fair [MIBF], Sept. 11-15, SMX MOA. Come and meet the writers at the CSM booth on Sept. 11 at 4 PM. 'Twas grace that made me a part of its birth, bared in the Foreword. Won't you take a peek?)  


Polar opposites: that’s how I would define the Gen Y (millennials) and my generation (baby boomers), like cousins twice removed. They’ve never gone to bed without checking their smart phone; I’ve never risen from bed remembering where I left mine.     

As a part-time college teacher for years, I interact with these digital natives (which now include Gen Z), up close, at least once a week.

Before every class, I create new, unique ways to engage them. Often I succeed, but often, too, I am clueless why they tune off. Their interests are on cyberspace; they love taking pictures of themselves; they have a lingo all their own; and their thoughts are out of my world.

I am actually describing you, tech-savvy reader, with wonder and fondness. I try (and oh, how I try!) to break into your psyche, but truth to tell, it takes a millennial to understand a millennial.

That’s precisely why this book was birthed.

It was an idea, an inspired one, of the young members of CSM staff. Their collective desire has been to encourage readers their age who might be dealing with issues drowned out by the noise of modern technology and innovation:   

Letters, friendly letters on faith, hope, and love—in young voices that ring clear with empathy and understanding—would be written by millennials for their peers.

These letters would demonstrate that feelings need not be stifled and fears need not be silenced. They would declare that the Lord can send anyone a friend—whom he/she may not have met nor will ever meet—to walk with, through the rough patches of the daily grind.       

As soon as the CSM management gave the green light for this book idea, the core group of young people put together the blueprint. The mechanics included a rigid selection process, a training workshop on the essentials of writing for the chosen writers, and a careful review of all selected pieces.

Fourteen would-be authors, all 30 years of age and below, made the grade. The editorial team invited me to work closely with these millennials for two long days—to further hone their writing skills, after which they were given a few months to craft their letters.

On these pages, then, are the harvest from those two days and long working hours, inspired by the Word and the writers’ personal encounters with God. These letters are not for my generation—they are for yours. In all of them you will recognize your essence (or perhaps even your soul) because they speak your lingo, echo your thoughts, and appreciate your issues.


Carry Your Cross

Simon of Cyrene, the man who helped carry Jesus’ cross on the way to Golgotha, is nondescript. I, for one, took him for granted.

Then a friend uploaded this photo on social media:
And suddenly, Simon of Cyrene loomed large in my head. Why is he mentioned in three of the gospels? (NLT) 

He appears in Mark 15: 20-22: “When they were finally tired of mocking him, they took off the purple robe and put his own clothes on him again. Then they led him away to be crucified. A passerby named Simon, who was from Cyrene, was coming in from the countryside just then, and the soldiers forced him to carry Jesus’ cross . . .”  

Matthew names him in chapter 27:31-33, “When they were finally tired of mocking him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him again. Then they led him away to be crucified. Along the way, they came across a man named Simon, who was from Cyrene, and the soldiers forced him to carry Jesus’ cross . . .” 

Luke’s narrative in chapter 23:26 reads, “As they led Jesus away, a man named Simon, who was from Cyrene, happened to be coming in from the countryside. The soldiers seized him and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus.” 

Only John makes no mention of the man. Why? By faith, I leave it all as written.

Carrying our cross, however, is the calling of Christians. We associate it with problems (emotional distress, health issues, or unexpected tragedies) that we are to endure—to strengthen our faith.

In Mark 8:34, Jesus Himself says to the crowd and His disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me.”

In taking up our cross, we ask for grace because we cannot go it alone. But Jesus can, so why would Simon of Cyrene even help Him?

All we know is that Simon is from Cyrene and had just come from a long trip when he was forced to help carry the cross of Jesus, a condemned man. How did he feel?
  • honored?  
  • humiliated?  
  • annoyed?  
  • reluctant? 
  • special?  
There are no answers.

But I believe that helping Jesus with the cross and being a part of the greatest tableau of all time was a privilege—the same privilege given to us: not only to carry our cross, but to help others carry theirs.