“Laglagip ken Panagrambac” (Part 1)

If that sounds Greek to you, it might well be. It was the Ilocano theme of our 75th (yes, 75th!)  annual clan reunion that ran from the last two days of 2019 to the first day of 2020.

Translated to English, this means “Memories and Celebration.”

Laglagip . . .

The host sub-clan took us back to where it all started in Pangasinan:

- the first reunion site (UCCP church) to unveil a commemorative marker
- the lands of our grandparents that financed our early reunions
- the man-made water reservoir to maintain their farms
- the school that bears our grandfather’s name in appreciation of his donating the land
It was a historical journey for the few remaining cousins who were in the first reunion, and a heritage lesson for the younger generations (3rd to the 6th) who have no idea about their roots. 

In a convoy of about 50 vehicles, we stopped at all the above places. Then we gathered inside  the church—built by our grandparents and which remains robust today—for a memorial service, remembering all the clanistas (clan members) who are no longer with us. More than a hundred of us sang at the top of our voices old hymns reminiscent of a bygone era when our forefathers sang the same tunes in praise of our God.

"Count your blessings; Name them one by one."

"Great is thy faithfulness, mercy, and love." 

From there, we visited our grandparents’ burial ground, which is a vivid narrative of their faith. Our lolo designed and supervised the building of his and our lola’s tomb himself, knowing this mortal coil would one day cease. And after that one day, we would finally be home to where we truly belong—the house of forever with Jesus. He had this built while he was still strong, years before he and our lola breathed their last. 

How can we not remember the blessings of yesteryears? How can we not celebrate His faithfulness and His grace of family

We then drove, still in a convoy, to a resort in a nearby town for the panagrambac (celebration).

Random photos of Laglagip . . .

(to be continued next post . . .)

Photo credits: https://www.facebook.com/groups/2118128734969348/


When Flowers Bloom

Just across our house, this refreshing view greets me every morning:
It’s the first thing that catches my eye when I open our gate. These bougainvilleas somehow bloom every day, rainy season or dry.

Flowers of every kind never fail to stun me, even if I am a total failure at gardening. That’s probably why I paint flowers instead (now and then) . . .

And write about them—which I did from the first page to the last in “When Flowers Bloom,” the 3rd book in the Oh, Mateo! series (illustrated by Beth Parrocha-Doctolero).
For this book, I focused on the value of hardwork—of using time wisely. To help young readers visualize this value, I created a character, Ms. Milagrosa Florera Flores, who loved flowers with so much passion she never stopped making them bloom.

How? By planting them, embroidering them, crocheting them, quilting them, knitting them, drawing them, painting them, etc. etc. etc. on fans, baskets, bags, vases, curtains, scarves, etc. etc. etc. 

Only one little boy, Mateo, and her father, who remained awake while everyone slept before sleeping time, welcomed her.

But in the morning, how could anyone not notice a happy lady (“It is easier to be happy than to be sad!”) wearing a floral dress and flowers on her hair, who lived in a house that bloomed with flowers from the roof to the ground?

And what do you know? The townspeople were roused from stupor into excitement. And they, too, made flowers bloom!

(All the books in the Oh, Mateo series are available in any bookstore at P120 per copy)


Old Dogs, New Tricks

My learning curve for technology is steep, perhaps more steep than Mt. Everest. 
One day, my generation—who grew up on snail mail, the typewriter, and social telegram to name a few—woke up to a sea of gadgetry that challenged and upset our equilibrium.

What took my then 12-year-old son to learn in minutes took me a year or more. Before I could blink, more new-fangled contraptions rushed in and continue to deluge my already jumbled brain. What can an old dog do?

Learn new tricks, even way past the learning phase. Meaning, slog on, ask the same questions over and over again from any young tech savvy, who’d rather do it (with a scowl) than show you.

“Have an FB page apart from your personal page, Mom,” suggested son #1. “There you can freely talk about books without alienating any of your friends who do not read.”

It was a brilliant idea. But how was I going to do it?

“Read the instructions,” he said, instead of volunteering to do it for me.

Yeah, for one who loves reading, reading instructions should be a cinch. Naah.

So during the Christmas break, every waking hour, I fiddled with icons on my computer. This was in cadence with a dull ache in my head that came and went with every mouse movement and keyboard click.

After two weeks, just two days before Christmas, voila!
“Try Instagram, Mom,” my daughter-in-law prodded me. Naah.

“Do Twitter,” suggested son #2. Naah.

“Download the app that I use for . . .” my student chirped. Naah.

One trick at a time.

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.” (2 Corinthians 4:16 NKJV)


Does God Play Favorites?

God’s Favorite is a series of three children’s books for beginning readers. These are concept books especially written to help adults (parents and teachers particularly) introduce to young children basic knowledge—colors, shapes, and faces—that will become an important part of their learning process. 
What makes this series different from all other concept books? 

It builds on what children already know about God. It weaves concepts with God’s wondrous creations. In colorful images (by imaginative artist Ggie A. Bernabe), every page shows the little ones that everything good they see, hear, touch, smell, and taste is a gift from above; that our Creator understands and loves all children. 

Through this inter-connectedness of concepts and a loving heavenly Father, children will gain a deeper appreciation of a mighty God whom they need to thank and praise as they grow up. 

Book #3, God’s Favorite Face, tackles racism in a light, simple manner. My prayer as I wrote this book: if only children at an early age will discover that facial characteristics and skin color vary from country to country, and that God loves them equally (no favorites!), they might grow up without prejudices.  
But an author and an artist can only do so much. It is only by grace that knowledge can come to any child through his parents’ values and guidance, reinforced in school by his  teachers.

". . . Jesus said, 'Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children.'” (Matthew 19:14 NLT)

These books are available at any bookstore at P120 each. You may also order them online: www.omflit.com


The Secret Ingredient

Many successful family restaurants have a particular dish or specialty that makes them different from all others. The recipe, which is a tightly guarded secret, is usually passed on to the next generation by the matriarch of the family.

While eating the paella in one such restaurant recently, I was reminded of my book,“The Secret Ingredient” (Oh, Mateo! #9) written in the year 2006.

What inspired the book, however, was not this kind of secret ingredient, but the “ingredient” that pleases the Lord.

Mateo, the eight-year-old hero in the book, had often wondered what was inside the small clay jar atop the highest shelf in the kitchen. His father always took a pinch of the ingredient inside and sprinkled it into everything he cooked.

But whenever he asked his father what it was, he’d  say, “This was your late mother's; she passed it on to me when she got sick.” He would add that Mateo had to wait till he was older to cook and find out for himself what the secret ingredient was. 

Teo didn't have to wait. His father figured in a mishap and Mateo had to do the cooking! This unexpected accident led to his discovery of the secret ingredient that made his father’s cooking so yummy.

The book and the author (right) before age crept up on her
What could that secret ingredient be?

If you are a faith brethren, and you believe in the saving grace of Jesus, birthed over two thousand years ago, I am sure you know what makes you different from all others.

"So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God." 1 Corinthians 10:31 (NLT)

Spoiler alert: This was handwritten on a tiny piece of paper by Teo's late mother. She placed it inside the small clay jar as a reminder to always honor God with her cooking and everything she does.


River of Praise

When I was told that our first stop in my Cebu Book tour was a school named River of Praise, I was reminded of this verse:

“Look! There is a river whose streams make the city of God rejoice, even the Holy Place of the Most High. Since God is in her midst, she will not be shaken. God will help her at the break of dawn."  (Psalm 46:4 ISV)

We were going to a Christian school, where God is in its midst!

The general vicinity was an unlikely place for an educational institution. A line of busy stores and a public market were beside and across it. But as soon as we entered the tall gate, I seemed to have been transported to a river whose streams make the whole campus praise.

There must have been 300 children in the auditorium where I was to tell the story of  The White Shoes (art by Sergio Bumatay and published by Hiyas.)
My thoughts, What should I do to keep their attention?  How can I reach the kids at the far end of the place?   

I worried for naught. The children from the first row to the last listened and answered all my questions in a roaring chorus. Then pandemonium broke loose when we offered free books as prizes to whomever was brave enough to say his thoughts about the story.    

Ah, the school was indeed a river of praise. Chatting with the teachers and school head before leaving the campus capped a morning of grace.   


Unique School, Unique Kids

One of the nine stops in my Cebu book tour was Marie Ernestine School (founded by Dr. Marie Ernestine D. Fajatin).

What makes this school unique is that it employs the Environment Science Education Curriculum (ESEC). Its thrust is on interrelationships of people and their environment and focused on environmental consciousness. Founded in 1976, the school has two campuses; we visited the one located in Lapu-Lapu.

And there the grade school children were waiting.

It was the same drill—some story telling, some Q and A, some interviews, some book signing—but it was another totally new and grace-filled experience.

Kids are unpredictable and their responses to anything is different. They are adorable and unique this way.

These photos tell the tale of that unique afternoon: 




Childlink Learning Center 

My encounter with Childlink Learning Center in Cebu started in the year 2007. Since then, I have been invited to the school a few times to conduct seminars for parents and teachers, and of course to meet up with the students about my books.

In those 12 years, the school has staged two of them: No Lipstick for Mother and The White shoes. It’s been a long-distance friendship, which I treasure, with an institution that loves books.

Then, in October last year (2019), I would visit Cebu again. I was delighted when informed by Lynnie of OMF Lit, that the school was part of my itinerary. It would be a reunion with old friends—teachers and students alike.

I knew there would be changes such as the students being taller, but what I saw pleasantly jolted me: the buildings have multiplied and are taller; the campus is wider, and the name has changed to include Childlink High School.

And the students who welcomed me 12 years ago have graduated.

But I met new young friends in grade school who listened to the story of Gone

Being with children is always an exciting affair. They don’t rein in their emotions and they speak their minds. I like to think my books got positive reviews based on their smiles and energy.

Teacher Tess, the school directress who never runs out of creative ideas—aside from giving me a certificate—made me sign the poster of The White Shoes with the student who played the lead.
That’s more than reconnectimg. It’s re-reconnecting, a word I coined to illustrate the infinitude of grace.


Kobe Bryant: A Legend Dies

Aling Anna, aged 100, had been begging the Lord to take her home. Her daily prayers:  “I can’t walk anymore, I am mostly in bed night and day, and my children are having a hard time taking care of me. Lord, I am grateful for my long life, but I ask for your grace of death for me to live forever with you.”

Last month, Aling Anna turned 102, with mind intact. So she continues to talk to the Lord daily—praying for herself, friends and family or whomever she could think of.

Per contra, Kobe Bryant, legend, rich, adored the world over, suddenly died in a helicopter crash at age 41. Just like that.

What’s even more tragic is, his daughter Gianna, aged 13, who was following in his footsteps as a basketball player, was with him. Nine perished in that fatal accident.
Call me strange but Kobe Bryant never figured in my consciousness for years. I was not into sports. But when my husband and I visited kin in the US for three consecutive years beginning in 2016, I was thrown into the “lion’s den.”

I had to roar with his rabid fans or I’d be gored. In every house we visited, the TV sets were glued on basketball—on Kobe Bryant. And I, too, became a fan. 

At his passing, social media posts screamed:

“Nooooooo, Kobe!”

“Devastating news!” 

What will happen tomorrow? “You do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.”  (James 4:14 ESV)

Tomorrow, Aling Anna might wake up still. Kobe’s family and fans will be grieving more deeply.

For today, may this be our prayer: “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12)

Photo credit: nypost.com


Lovely Table Just for One

On my way to breakfast, I found myself humming Englebert Huumperdinck’s (if you are 50 years old and below, look it up) song, Lonely Table Just for One.    

But I substituted the “n” with “v.”  It was lovely to dine alone leisurely in the coffee shop of Cebu’s Cuarto Hotel, my home for four days and three nights late last year. Within the hour, I would be picked up by my publisher for my book tour.

Engelbert loomed large in my youth. He sang songs that evoked angst, which was cool then. Now they call that “depression,” a mental illness. But I digress—and oversimplify.

Book tours take me to my readers, up close. My ears catch what they say about my books, and these serve as my uppers (again today, that word refers to cocaine, amphetamines, etc. and therefore a no-no, too).

“Then” and “now.” These words inveigle themselves into my blogs more often these days. C'est la vie. 

A bonus was the hotel’s elevator. It felt like I was in wonderland, which was partly true because these experiences are wondrous grace that enfolds me when I am out of town.   

Another bonus was the Robinson’s mall across the street. There I took unhurried walks between schedules.

Now I am back home to a lovely table just for two. Son #3 leaves very early minus breakfast. Son #1 takes a hurried breakfast about an hour after Tony and I have ours.

Here are the first lines of Engelbert’s song (italics, mine):

Lonely (lovely!) table just for one
In a bright and crowded room
While the music has begun
I drink to memories in the gloom (bloom!)


Gray Area

Indeterminate territory. Undefined position. Neither here nor there. Neither black nor white.

That’s how gray is defined in dictionaries. In an artist’s palette, gray is usually an unresponsive color. It is unattached, neutral, impartial—but alas and alack, also indecisive.
When we say gray area, a term which dates from the 1900s, we refer to an ill-defined situation or field not readily clear or not conforming to existing set of rules. Gray areas cannot have a precise definition or conclusion.

That’s where the towns within 17 kilometer radius of Taal volcano, which erupted eight days ago, are today. The ashfall-covered areas are all gray.

Gray area: iffy, uncertain. 

According to the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS), a total of 787 volcanic earthquakes were recorded in just 24 hours yesterday. PHILVOCS’ update says that even if the volcano seems behaved for now—we feel the lull—it continues to be restive.

What next?

The volcano can either have a continuous eruptive activity at low levels or suddenly blow up and swallow all of the towns surrounding it, redrawing our existing map. 

There is nothing we can do to stop where it will swing. But in our anxiety and fear, we can be emboldened by God’s Word that remains unchanged, constant, invariable—and certain.

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7 NKJV)

Beneath and beyond gray is grace in full color. 


From Green to Gray

“Everything is iffy,” grieved my friend G when her healthy, active sister was suddenly diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. “One day you’re healthy, and then bang.” 

Bang, and Taal volcano spewed ash up to nine miles last Sunday afternoon.
Before we could blink, the ashfall had reached Metro Manila and panicky people rushed to buy face masks. 

Those within a 17-kilometer zone around the volcano—over one million people—are severely affected. As authorities urge them to “totally evacuate,” they are scurrying away like frightened rats from the place they used to call home and everything they ever owned.

Earthquake and rains accompanied the initial eruption. On Monday, what used to be green—plants and the trees—turned gray. 

Everything is iffy, unpredictable. We all experience seasons of uncertainty, not knowing what will happen tomorrow, even if today is grand. A placid Sunday afternoon suddenly sparked confusion.

Four days later, today, victims are in crowded evacuation centers. Concerned organizations and private citizens are pooling their resources to help those who are now homeless and hungry. 

At a time like this, it's easy to be terrified and allow anxiety to overwhelm us. Life seems out of control.

In the midst of confusion, God’s Word is the only thing that can get us through. Apostle Paul said in Philippians 1:6, “. . . I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” 

Despite the iffy phases in our lives, we are confident that God’s grace will end it  happily ever after—with Him.

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.” (1 Corinthians 2:9)

Photo credits: 
Bored Panda (top and bottom)
Euro News (3rd from top)
Aljazeera (4th from top)   


Taal’s Fury and Man’s Folly

While earthquake victims in Mindanao are still picking up the left-over pieces of their lives, another disaster strikes in Luzon. Taal Volcano erupts, venting its fury (level 4) and sending people scurrying from their homes. As it spews lava with ashes reaching as far as Manila, Taal has caused panic. 

Ashfall has invaded every surface—roads, rooftops, cars, plants—causing asthma attacks, coughing, and sore throat. Times like these either bring out the best or the worst in us. Some immediately made arrangements to help those in need and prayed. And some, just as quickly, moved to sow more fear via fake news and to earn big bucks.

Face masks, usually sold at P37 each, has soared to a ridiculously high P500 in some areas. Bottled water have gone scarce because they are being bought in bulk by the moneyed crowd to wash their pricey cars.

There are many more unconscionable and despicable acts that are unprintable on a leaf that speaks of grace. 

In an interview, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, head of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, said, “Our worst-case scenario is that the whole volvano island would lift and spew everything out.”

It will not get any better. What’s even sadder is that people will not get any better either.

“. . . in the last days there will be very difficult times. For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred. They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control. They will be cruel and hate what is good. They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God. They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly.” 2 Timothy 3:1-5 (NLT)

These are all happening today. Are we in the last days?

Photo credits: Top 4, CNN; bottom, Inquirer


Choosing Christmas Gifts

"Choosing what gifts to wrap for friends, family, and associates is always a struggle for me,” my friend C whined. “Some already have everything and some may not like or use what I think they need.”

My reply, “Choosing gifts has never been my problem since the year 2000. I give books, nothing but books.”

“You’ve been doing it for 19 years?!” she was skeptical.

“Yup, since my first book was published.”

She had this look that seemed to say, You’re sure they like your book? 

Reading her mind, I said, “Whether they like it or not is not what matters. Items bought from a store may or may not be liked or used either. In my heart, what I give is all of myself—I spent days and nights for months (sometimes years) knitting the words in them together. They’re a gift of love.” 

So last Christmas 2019, I gave my books again as gifts to the needy children at the Rotaract party, organized by some of my college students. (An aside: with our embarrassing showing in the PISA report as the Southeast Asian country at the bottom of reading comprehension, I hope reading these books will help in some way.)
My hubby likewise gave my books as presents to the indigent children in a party organized by  his Rotary Club chapter. In this event, I am sure that at least one of them likes her gift. Tony said she took to the book immediately, and ignored all her other gifts. 
For family, friends, and associate, can you guess what I wrapped in one note?

“What Christmas gifts to wrap?” This question I never ask myself. Books are all I have. Books are all I am. Because my books are all about the Grace birthed on Christmas Day. 


Glorious CHRISTmas

That title might be misconstrued to mean that other Christmases are not as glorious. But I chose it for my Christmas post because that’s what it is for me: The day Grace came down.

Son #3 and I attended the Christmas eve worship service in church, where the nativity scene came to life once more.
Son #1 and hubby stayed behind, perhaps to reflect on the meaning of the season in the privacy of our home.

Then we ordered pizza for four for dinner, after which we waited for 10 PM to open whatever gifts there were on the living room table. The early hour was in consideration of the two seniors whose sleeping  patterns have to be followed or they'd suffer through a turbulent night.

I got one gift. Son #1 gave me another beautiful book, a different Bible translation with devotionals by Christian authors this time. He gives me God's book every year, perhaps to make sure I don't neglect reading the Word.
Son #3’s gift was scheduled for Christmas Day.

The hubby was apologetic after receiving the newest two volumes (from son #1 and me) of his favorite Prince Valiant republications, “I have no gift for you.”
I replied, “How about your love?”

He raised one thumb, and that ended our eloquent romantic discourse. Off to bed we went to snooze, leaving the two boys to wait for 12 midnight.

Before closing my eyes, I asked the Lord to please embrace very tightly for me the other members of our family (son #2, his wife, and son), who live so far away we couldn’t share with them our pizza Christmas dinner.

“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” (Luke 2:11-14)

How can CHRISTmas not be perpetually and permanently glorious?



These page-hit numbers of grace came to me on 01 January 2020.  They didn’t stay long, though; they clickety clicked away after I had taken a screenshot.

What’s cool about screenshots is that they will forever remember what the screenshot taker forgets.

These numbers don't mean anything per se, but they represent friends and readers who took time to visit my blog through all these 13 years.

Now I await the coming of the next page-hit numbers: 999,999 or one click away to one million. But not as eagerly as I look forward to the Lord's second coming, which should be anytime  soon.

The end of the year 2019 and the beginning of this year 2020 had been hectic for me and my family. So this short post ends with my life verse—as I committed it to my Maker and my memory many moons ago:

“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16 KJV)  


20/20 Vision

It’s the first day of the year 2020. Happy New Year!

The number naturally calls to mind 20/20 vision, a term used to express normal visual acuity (the clarity or sharpness of vision) measured at a distance of 20 feet.

Laymen equate this to “perfect vision.”
Although experts say this is not exactly perfect, I’ll refer to it as such for this post, and therefore a good way to look at things this year 2020.

There are fogs and smogs of worldly wants that obscure our vision: big bucks, travels, career, the latest gadgets, trends, political correctness, new ideologies, plus many more.  We can’t see where we’re supposed to go—and trod the wrong road. Worse, if we can’t see where God is, we get lost and go astray.

“We don't yet see things clearly. We're squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won't be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We'll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!” (2 Corinthians 13:12 MSG)

In my NLT Bible, the same verses are worded this way, “Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.”

“It won’t be long before the weather clears . . .” Let’s hope we use our 20/20 vision to find the trails of grace on the right road for us to clearly find our way.