10/25/2020

No More Tears


It’s been sometime (almost 70 years) since the No More Tears Johnson's Baby Shampoo was launched. But it still is very much around today, with even a safer formulation.  

As an ad gal for over 20 years, I marveled at the impact of the No More Tears slogan, which had become a benchmark for advertising campaigns.  

My babies are all grown up and my taste in shampoos has changed. But I distinctly remember the slogan today after listening to the live-streamed message of our pastor. 

For about three months now, his messages have been focused on Revelation, the last book of the New Testament. 

It’s an extremely difficult book for me to understand as it is allegorical, symbolic, metaphorical and emblematic all at the same time. I could write thousands of blogs about it and still would not be able to cover the breadth and depth of what the Lord is telling us about the end times.  

Even Bible scholars are divided in their interpretation of the last days. My readings of commentaries over the years have not given me a clear picture of what to expect—not with my limited imagination and wisdom. 

But one thing is so simple in my heart and mind: Those who believe in the saving grace of the Lord Jesus Christ will be protected all through the great tribulation—where the worst, never-before-felt pain and terror, will throw mankind into panic, anguish, and hysteria. 

His children will come out of the great ordeal safely to be with Him. And there will be no more tears. 

 

10/21/2020

Soft Pillow


This Bible verse in various translations is perhaps the most quoted and uploaded online: 

“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” (Roman 8:28 KJV) 

It is a reassurance to those “called according to His purpose” that things will not remain the way the are: deaths, sickness, hunger, anger, enmity, and a general feeling of hopelessness. 

Roman 8:28 is a promise of hope. There have been volumes of paeans for this verse, but the one that resonates most with me is a metaphor: 

“Soft pillow for a tired heart.” 

It was preached and penned by Reuben Archer Torrey (28 January 1856 – 26 October 1928), an American evangelist, pastor, educator, and writer. 

At the end of an exhausting day, there is nothing like a soft pillow upon which to rest our weary head—and sleep soundly, refreshed and energized when we rise in the morning. 

Our pastor analyzed the verse word for word for us one Sunday. Allow me to distill (a habit I carried over from advertising, where a complicated message is communicated in a 30-second commercial) the one-hour-and-a-half message.  

We know,” he said, “means we who believe know the truth. Some may not acknowledge it when faced with troubles, but we know that God is in control.” 

He stressed, “Everything includes all, nothing is omitted.” 

Works together,” he said and explained, “The hardships we are going through during this pandemic have been unprecedented. But we know that our tears over this crisis plus all the other events in our lives then and now will work together for our good.” 

He expounded on the crucial caveat, “To them who are called according to His purpose.” Not to every man, not to all; only to those who know His purpose and are living a life according to that purpose. 

Clearly, this verse aims to bring comfort—a soft pillow at the end of a draining and trying day. 

Apostle Paul knew the pain of tiredness and the feeling of being beaten down. That’s why he reminded the Romans that God is working out all things for good. 

Romans 8:28 is a call to magnify our vision of God and His immeasurable grace.   


10/17/2020

Stunned Silence


If you have ever been stunned by someone or something, you know the feeling. Your tongue freezes. Your breathing halts. Your mind goes blank. But only for a few seconds.  

“When the Lamb opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.” Revelation 8:1 (ESV) 

Half an hour?! Now, by earthly standards, that’s almost eternity for anyone to keep still. 


Scripture does not specify the reasons for this long silence in heaven after the opening of the seventh seal, but Bible scholars offer possibilities. Our pastor described amazing scenarios in his message last Sunday on the Book of Revelation.  

“Glorious worship.” “Too awesome for words or movement.” 

Other theologians continue to theorize: 

“It is a sign of deep respect in the presence of the Judge of all the earth. Just as earthly courtrooms demand silence when the judge is presiding, so does the heavenly courtroom.  ‘The LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him. [Habakkuk 2:20]’” 

"The scroll of God’s judgment is fully revealed for the first time. Now all heaven can see God’s plan to judge the wickedness of the earth, destroy the kingdom of the beast, and set things right. All heaven remains silent as God’s righteousness is on display.” 

“Heaven can now see the trumpet judgments . . . ‘more terrible than anything the world will have ever seen [Mark 13:19–20]’ because the final catastrophes are about to befall the earth, and stillness fill the time of tense expectation." 

“It’s like the calm before the storm.” 

"It's anticipating the revelaton of a secret."  

“It emphasizes the importance and impressiveness of the final and seventh seal. With its opening comes a climax in the Day of the Lord. Evil has had its day; now the Lord will have His.” 

"Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” (Psalm 46:10 ESV) 

Any of those expectations is enough to make any believer’s jaw drop. So why even try to guess? 

Meanwhile, as you and I await that stunning day, I will continue to soak in the warmth of His moment-by-moment grace.  


10/13/2020

Teachers' Quiet time


Sometime in February this year, I got a call from my publisher, “Would you consider  writing a 365-day devotional for teachers?? 

Consider?!  

It took less than a millisecond for me to reply, “I can start now!”  

There are no ifs, buts, or maybes for me to write a book on grace. There is nothing I like to do better. 

“It is not scheduled for launching this year, so take your time. Your deadline is November.” 

My heart jogged for three days.  

Immediately I did a Focus Group Discussion (FGD) among 13 teachers, and started churning out devos after devos. Being a teacher myself, I know mostly what problems teachers encounter daily and what their spiritual needs are.  

Little did I—nor anybody—know that just a month later, the world will be at a standstill due to the Covid-19 pandemic. In one fell swoop, the teacher’s life has changed. Her concerns have made a u-turn. Her spiritual needs have gone deeper and wider. 

The devos I have already written now seem to belong to a long-forgotten era. Another FGD is out of the question because seniors are banned from going out of their homes. I did some phone calls and email blast, but surveys are not the same as dynamic and interactive conversations.  

Where to go? 

How do I get into the psyche of a teacher who’s burdened with this? 

So here I am, stumped. My deadline is nearing—or is there a deadline, considering the changes in Book Fair schedules and book issues? 

And yet it is at this time when teachers (saddled with digital problems and lack of  resources amidst pay cuts) need to have refreshment from the Word. It is at this time when those who have been assigned the job of teaching children the path of the Lord need to quiet their anxious soul.  

I look up and these are the words I hear: 

“Do not be anxious about anything, 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 your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7 ESV) 

Photo: borrowed from a social media post

10/09/2020

Last Hurrah


Edwin O'Connor’s novel, “The Last Hurrah” written in 1956, became popular after it was filmed into a movie. Since then, “last hurrah” has become an expression to mean swan song; end of an era. 

I am borrowing the phrase, but it is not in the context upon which the book was written, which is about a hugely popular, astute politician, Skeffington. He lorded it over his rivals until times changed and in the end, his political savvy, at age 74, was crushed in a world overhauled by technology. He was defeated and he died a fallen man. 

Fallen is a word used today by businesses slain to death by the coronavirus pandemic. Many have closed shop, down and beaten.  

On the contrary, son #1, who runs our Medical Transcription (MT) training center, sees this as an opportunity. 

“Our time has come,” he said, and started setting up a fully online system that will keep the school running despite the lockdown. "Medical Transcrition was not a top-of-mind career before the pandemic. But being shackled at home will make people realize this is exactly the job they need without going out to work and risk being infected." 

Spot on. MT can be done right at home. 

He then took steps to make the school be known via social media ads and messages to old inquiries. "Now anyone can train in MT wherever they are in the Philippines, or outside," he explained with confidence. 

While he was toiling over the new system that can adapt to a world overturned by an unseen virus, I told myself, Our last hurrah. 

Meaning, for as long as God makes this Covid-19-infested world turn, the sun will still rise, the flowers will still bloom, the grass will still grow, we will still get up in the morning, and we will continue to discover grace that the Lord offers free to those who want to receive it—one last time. 

His optimism is catching. How can one not see the opposite of Skeffington’s fate? 

Tony and I have joined the fray—for us who grew up on typewriters, transitioning to online learning is like traipsing a forest with ferocious animals—doing odds and ends to help. 

Son #1 has reason to be bullish. In all our 14 years in the business, MT companies have hounded us for more hirees. About 98% of our graduates (2% opted for other calling) are often employed before they could graduate and many are occupying premier positions in MT companies here and abroad. Those who are in Manila come and visit our school with food to celebrate their milestones. 

However, there is no longer a need for a four-walled classroom; we will soon vacate it. In its place is a borderless learning lab that will prepare students anywhere for an ideal job—in the comfort of home. Can we dare stop?

   

Our MT center’s hurrah is not the last. Not at all. It’s a hurrah that is meant to last.  

"See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland." (Isaiah 43:19 NIV)

10/05/2020

Analog Brain


In this digital age, how does one with an analog brain survive? 

I kept asking myself that question when I was requested by my publishers to record this and that. I asked the same question over and over again when I was invited to speak in one webinar—then two, then three.  

Something fast had to be done with my brain or I’d be forever panicking. Son #1, who is a techie, puts on an ugly scowl on his otherwise handsome face when I ask him a question. His thought balloon, Mom, you asked me that question a million times. And you still don’t know?! 

I was getting paranoid. 

My last, and best, resort: hire someone with a digital brain. And so I did. 

The kid was ecstatic, “When do I start Ma’am?” (From my view, everyone's a kid; he actually just graduated from college but the pandemic stole what would have been his first job.) 

“Next week,” I said. 

But that same day, the university where I teach conducted a webinar on how to engage students online. The facilitator simulated different apps—games, quizzes, interactive gizmos—and my analog brain went berserk. A short circuit blew it up. My monitor kept giving me instructions contrary to what the facilitator was saying. 

At the same time, my publisher messaged me, “Please re-shoot your recording. It should be horizontal and the sound is not too clear.”  

My nerves took a downward spin. 

So I called the kid. “Can you start now?”

“You mean now, Ma’am? As in, now?”

“As in this second!” 

And so today, I go online—doing book tours, conducting seminars, joining online meetings, acting as a panelist in discussions—minus the stress, with my own Siri and Alexa. Ask me to configure anything and all I do is message my digital brain. The only computer control key I use—without having to touch my keyboard—is voice command. 

“Next slide please” 

“Please upload.” 

“Let's re-shoot. Please add captions.”  

“Louder sound please.” 

“Revise slide #25. Thank you."  

Yes, the one with an analog brain is surviving with the precious gift of digital grace. 

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” (James 1:17 NIV) 
 

10/01/2020

Severe Hunger


Aside from death, the other brutal and terrifying consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic is severe hunger. 

I wanted to ignore such news to preserve my sanity and fragile nerves brought on by seven months of lockdown, but the headlines screamed—online and in print. 

“Hunger hits new high of 30.7%” 

This alarming percentage, gathered by the Social Weather Station (SWS) in a mobile survey conducted from September 17-20, translates to 7.6 million households all over the country! 

It is a number that can’t be glossed over even if one were in a glass cage   or born with a calloused heart. 

What a sharp increase from a poll conducted one quarter earlier! If the quarantine  continues—and it will, if one were to look at the infected cases now at over 300,000—the trend will rise further. 

Gutom na Kami (English translation: We are hungry)
Severe hunger or extreme scarcity of food causes the fast deterioration of mental and physical health, spawning epidemics of fatal infectious diseases (in addition to what has been plaguing us) that eventually will lead to . . . death. 

This is tragic—even more so because there is hardly anything an individual, who is not in a position of power nor have the resources, can do to help and do something about it.

There is one act, however, that we can do individually or collectively in our confinement. We can turn our eyes upon the Giver of grace and pray. I know and I believe that He will answer His children's plea, not in the way we want or expect, but in His unfathomable but loving ways.  

“You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father.” John 14:13 (NLT)

Photo credit: rappler.com

9/28/2020

PVGC: Never Ever Forget (Part 2)


(This is the second and last part of an earlier blog posted four days ago.) 

Growing-up years  

Shortly thereafter, the Pilar Village Community Center, Inc. (PVCCI) was organized & registered with the SEC to run and maintain PVGC. 

And as the membership grew, so did the building. The members pooled their physical strength and resources together to erect a bigger and sturdier place of worship—continually being refurbished and improved until today.   


Then a series of movements again shook the church. Many members immigrated and worked in other lands. And some moved to bigger churches. But the few remaining families, again, walked on and never wavered, with the help of  CAMACOP pastors assigned to be our shepherds.   

Maturing phase 

There is no stopping the work of the Lord. 

Ministries have blossomed: visitation, musicales, celebration of important dates, children’s choir, Sunday School, Junior church, DVBS, all part of the programs  outlined during Church Board strategic planning sessions at the beginning of each year. 

Enlarged mission field

Village Christian Alliance School was founded to help nurture pre-school children in the ways of the Lord. 

In the year 2009, VCAS was registered with the Department of Education and was renamed ACTS (Alliance Christian School and Tutorial Services, Inc.) to include grade school. Now even with the pandemic, ACTS remains strong and ready to take on fully virtual or blended learning. 

Organizational support

Meanwhile, the PVCCI Board keeps busy and elects a Chairman yearly. Two pioneers, who never faltered in serving God despite the many trials, were: 

Atty. Ireneo Espiritu+ 

Arch. Ephraim Santos+ 

The others: Bro. Art Eugenio,  Bro, Rolly Balabagnp, Bro. Samuel Pagdilao, Sis. Bing Talahuron. Bro. Sam Pagdilao, Jr., Ley Sarinas (8 terms); Ernie Uy, (10 terms); Bro. Mario Ayon; Bro. Manuel Batto, Sis. Grace Chong, and Bro. JR Chong (8 terms).  

Aside from Pastors Franco+ and Domingo+, and Pastor Joe Dalino, there were  other lead pastors at PVGC (please refer to the timeline for names and dates).  

Year 45

Today we thank the Lord for Rev. Ralph Dulman (associate pastor) and Rev. Ariel Cole (senior pastor) who lead us in keeping the PVGC light shining. Sis. Kamilla Barbo recently joined the pastoral team as our intern pastor for kids. We praise the Lord for picking us up whenever we fall down and make us stand up again.   

Ten decades and six years since our birth, we celebrate the ministries the Lord has entrusted to us: 

    • Children: outreach program, Sunday School, VBS, ACTS, children’s Sunday worship 

    • Auxiliaries: seminars, workshops, Life Growth

    • Cottage Groups: weekly meet-ups for prayers and Bible study 

    • Elderly: Sunshine Fellowship 

    • General activities: Virtual worship every Sunday; daily prayer time; medical/dental mission; disaster relief; scholarship programs; commemoration of special occasions, and many more. 

We remember the trials and the missteps, but we remember even more vividly the days of triumphs and blessings that kept us going. We, who saw those early years, now remind our children and their children’s children . . . 

". . . when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.” (James 1:2-3) 

Never ever forget what PVGC is all about.  

* * *

(Addendum: son #3, who was born five years after we found PVGC, is now chairman of the church board. And although this piece has been published online, I am uploading it here as well, so I will always remember, for as long as my mind is intact or until the Lord comes again, or until He calls me home.) 

Son #3, in front wearing blue polo barong 

9/24/2020

PVGC: Never Ever Forget (Part 1)


(Note: PVGC is Pilar Village Gospel Church, my family’s home church. This “historical” article was written for Pathway, the official newsletter of the church—now online.) 

 “. . . Be careful never to forget what you yourself have seen. Do not let these memories escape from your mind as long as you live! And be sure to pass them on to your children and grandchildren.” (Deuteronomy 4:9) 

Now nearing the age of Methuselah, I seem to be the go-to person at PVGC when it comes remembering the church’s history, But as I am not a historian—one that records exact dates and cold facts—I narrate what has been stored in my heart for 44 continuous years (2 years after PVGC’s birth), like treasures that only memory loss or death, whichever comes first, can steal.  

Call this narrative, then, a stream of consciousness voice. 

My second son was newly born when we moved to Pilar Village. The first thing we did on our first Sunday was to look for a church. What we found was a bodega spilling over with so many people, seated like sardines in makeshift pews. 

The next Sunday, I was shocked to see the bodega almost empty. There were less than a dozen people inside. The message was delivered not by the bombastic pastor the previous Sunday, but by a white-haired pastor who said the benediction in Spanish—Pastor Severino Santos+.   

There was no word about where the throng of people went, but the very next week, the few women who were in church visited our home that was still brimming with stacks of unpacked cartons.  

The visit: women's group with me and son #2
Upon seeing my piano, they chorused, “Oh, answered prayers. Now we have a church pianist!” 

We later found out that the members who left put up a UCCP church and those left behind were CAMACOP members. I belonged to two generations of UCCP members and had never heard of CAMACOP, but I felt that this was now my home church—God’s appointed place of worship where I could serve in every way I could  and where our children would grow up in the Lord.  

The birth of PVGC 

PVGC began as a small home Bible Study Group among homeowners, led by a pastor sent by CAMACOP: Pastor Francisco Franco+. A member of the group, Arch. Ephraim Santos+, offered the Pilar Village bodega, storage of construction materials, to be their place of worship. 
The lowly bodega finally had a name

It was lowly, but it was granted by the government the wide open space that allowed many possibilities. Quickly, worshipers came to honor God Sunday after Sunday—up until that Sunday two years later when majority of the people went pffft.  

The crisis worsened when Pastor Franco was suddenly called home by the Lord. CAMACOP assigned Pastor Apolonio Domingo to the rescue. But another tragedy struck: Pastor Domingo was called home, too. 

CAMACOP quickly sent a young, single, and a healthy pastor—not likely to be called home soon—to take the place of the first two. He stayed for five years. His name? Pastor Joe Dalino. 

Pastor Joe with my son #1 (left) and son #2 

(Part 2 will be uploaded four days from today, this blogsite's rhythm or frequency) 

9/20/2020

September (and Sleep) Loss


It was in the month of September when we lost dad to cancer 38 years ago. We had not commemorated his death anniversary for years and years because we (my siblings and I) have always believed in remembering his life, not his death. 

But yesterday, my younger sister, Aie, posted online dad’s photo and I sat up and remembered—especially the part of him that has now become a daily part of me. 

I have been having half-insomnia for a few years now. I say half because I sleep so well from 9 PM to 3 AM. And then I couldn’t get back to dreamland after that. 

All through my growing up years, I would see dad reading a book in the living room at three in the morning, my usual pee time. I’d quickly get back to bed and three hours later, when we had all risen and shone, he'd stir from his chair, close his book, and join us for breakfast.  

I see his image vividly in my heart now as I think of all my three o’clocks and me grabbing a book and reading, too. 

Sleep-deprived is how I describe myself today with all my tossing-and-turning and reading at dawn. 

Once long ago, I could sleep anywhere, anytime, in any position. That was when I was still in the stress-filled workplace. Sleep was my panacea. 

Between client meetings, as soon as I had stepped inside the car, my eyelids would shut off the world and I’d doze until the client’s parking lot—fresh and ready for another word-and-psyche war. 

On the drive home late at night, after a long day of production meetings and ad shoots, I would immediately snooze away the one-hour trip.  

Behind my desk, after I had discussed a storyboard with a concept team, I’d cat nap before the next team entered my office door. 

No wonder I survived the corporate pressure cooker for 20 years!  

In contrast, here I am today enjoying the things I had no time for—writing, blogging, reading, teaching some, and idling some (a lot during this Covid-19 pandemic)—but could not get the same quality of sleep that used to come unbidden.  

“You don’t need that much sleep anymore, Mom!” son #3 says to stop my incessant whining.  

He means, of course, you’re old. 

And, of course, I am. It’s been years since I left the workplace and there have been changes—as many and as much as the grace that comes with them. 

So why complain? Well, I often asked myself, What happened? 

Now I know; I took after dad. My dear Ading Aie jogged my memory. 

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens . . .” Ecclesiastes 3:1 (NIV)

9/16/2020

Lost September

 

September is the month every writer I know looks forward to. 

This ninth month of the year holds two very important events: the Palanca Awards Night, where authors like me hobnob and celebrate with lovers of the printed word; and the Manila International Book Fair (MIBF), where my new books are launched, where I can buy all the books I saved for all year, and where I meet my readers up close.  

These two grace events are a dream, magical almost.  

September is all about excitement, joy, if not bliss. I spend all year wishing it would come sooner, counting the days when it will finally say, “I am here!” 

But this year 2020, September is lost somewhere. It didn’t come; it is nowhere to be found. 

No Palanca Awards Night, no MIBF. No September.  

In its place is the fear of being infected with the corona virus if we as much as left the safety of our home . . . 

In its place are terrifying photos on the Net of people suffering from lack of transportation and means to buy a decent meal for their families. . . 

In its place are rants on social media about an inept government . . . 

In its place are curses and fake news about how great the government is. . . 

In its place are requests for prayers for someone languishing in a hospital and needing blood to survive . . . . 

In its place are lawmakers whose eschewed priorities at this critical time of life and death can make ordinary citizens puke in disgust . . . 

I can't go on. My blood is curdling and my pulse is racing.  

Where are you?  

Will you ever come again? 

“Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again— my Savior and my God!” Psalm 43:5 (NLT)  

9/12/2020

Sorry We're closed


Closed is undoubtedly one of the most distressing, even depressing, words in the dictionary. When you’re raring to buy something very important from a store and right on the door is the word closed;  or when you need to withdraw some cash for an emergency from the bank and this sign greets you:   

How would you feel?  

$%$#@#!!! 

That’s exactly how my stomach churned after reading today’s news: over four million students have not enrolled and 748 private schools have closed. 

What’s sad about the word closed is that, at one time it was open. So now it means: boundary, barrier, restricted, and worst, blockade, like a fire wall or an iron curtain that divides.    

Those now-closed private schools have educated hundreds of thousands of students over the years. I know many private school owners and teachers who had been passionate about their roles, going beyond the call of duty to prepare kids for the future.  

And today, or perhaps the days thereafter, I grieve with them—not so much for the income and jobs they lost (that goes into another chamber of weeping and wailing) but for the students deprived of education that would teach them life skills, their armor in this world that has become a war zone

Parents, more than ever, upon our shoulders rests the job of educating our children from our homes. I have no how-to manual, but we can begin by reading our Bible and teaching our kids about grace and the ways of the Lord. 

Deuteronomy 6:7 tells us, “You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” 


9/08/2020

Right Click

 

All along I thought that “right click” meant the opposite of wrong click. 

Whenever I made a mistake or couldn't find the command for whatever I was typing, I blamed it on my fingers, which are no longer dexterous in clicking the right buttons, and my eyes, which have dimmed from overuse (or more correctly, through the passing of years).  

But when I complained—aloud, very loud, so my sons could come to my rescue without moi having to beg them—they would holler, “Right click, Mom!” 

All the more I thought they were subtly berating me for clicking the wrong button.

And then one day, I was gifted with a grace moment. One of my fingers stiffened and I accidentally clicked on my mouse’s right button. Voila! 

There cascaded a list of things that could solve all my problems: paste, paste special, synonyms, insert comments, paragraph, bullets and numbering, etc. etc.  I no longer had to spend hours and hours looking for those commands. 

Indeed there is a right click, aside from a left click, and it is not the opposite of wrong! It almost froze or rusted on me from years of under-use.

I was wildly ecstatic that I hallucinated I was now a techie, which I really was after meeting with my friends, my age. 

“Hey, I just had an amazing discovery!” I gushed. 

“What?” they chorused and held their breath.

“Right click!” I said, almost shouting with excitement. 

Again, they chorused, “There is a wrong click?!”  

I stopped and felt another grace moment: my brain has not atrophied; it continues to absorb new digital wonders. 

Who ever said technology is for the young? 


9/03/2020

Are You an Entrepreneur?

 

An entrepreneur I am not, and will never be. All my audacious attempts at “business” were a dismal failure. All my investments fell under one category: sad. So why was I excited to read “The Happy Entrepreneur,” a book by Ardy Roberto

Ardy is a friend, a faith brethren, and a writer, with whom I share a book publisher. I bask in the successes of fellow pilgrims on a writing journey, leaving tracks of words that hopefully will, as Bud Garner wrote, “echo down the ages.” 

“I have just finished writing my first novel,” Ardy told me in one author gathering. 

“A novel!” I gushed. I personally know very few people who have attempted a novel and succeeded. 

“I can’t wait to read it,” I said. 

“The Happy Entrepreneur,” published by ABS-CBN Publishing Inc., hit the bookstores a few months after that meet-up. I believe it will just be a matter of time before it becomes another bestseller like Ardy’s other books, which are contextualized (Taglish) for Filipino readers. 

What riveted me was not the thread about conglomerates but the parallel, and more moving, story of redemption. Beneath the mentoring of a business wannabe with mental issues, there lurks a triumphant tale of discipling, a mandate for followers of Christ to embrace, which shone brighter for me. 

  

Tim, a successful businessman enters into a one-on-one relationship with a not-quite-yet a believer Eddie and guides him through the Word, based on Tim's own highs and lows in the business arena.    

Here’s a made businessman, whose genuine interest in the life of a nobody makes him reach out, way beyond anyone in his shoes would be willing to go, and help a goner meet and grow in the Lord. 

This entrepreneur teaches endurance and the joy that accompanies the learning; he teaches forgiveness the way we are edified in Scripture; and most of all, he speaks the language of business when he talks about the Truth to hard-nosed businessmen like the John Gokongwei in, of all places, the clouds inside a cramped airplane.  

I have met and heard the real people (fictionalized in the book’s pages) speak about their early beginnings, and what led them to success. But it is in the book’s dialogue, peppered with Filipino words and nuances, that the power of discipling comes alive. 

The reader is invited inside the mind of Tim, who is astute about the spiritual needs and struggles of Eddie—and able to communicate them. 

In their travels together, Tim witnesses for Christ with clockwork precision, carrying the Great Commission that should be in every Christian’s soul-winning program—preceded and ended in consultation with God through prayer. 

How Ardy was able to interlace entrepreneurship with discipleship is, for me, a work of grace. May the business world, Ardy’s milieu, be blessed with Tims so that the Eddies will one day discover the right path. 

“Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.” (Proverbs 3:6 NLT)    

8/31/2020

Spoon-feeding


(This was written a lifetime ago, before the corona virus totally changed the academic landscape. But it is more relevant than ever today with online classes. Teachers now grieve over the way students respond to lessons with a camera and microphone at their fingertips, turned on and off at will. Call this post, then, an ancient lament of a once-upon-a-time traditional college teacher.)

Of the 15 students in class, about seven were looking at nothing in particular. Four were on their laptop, pretending to take down notes, and the last four had glazed eyes. 

It was one of those days.

“Today’s marketing is consumer-centric. Meaning, ooops,” I caught myself, “I am spoon-feeding!”

One looked up from his laptop and in his loudest voice said, “Miss, spoon-feed all you want!” 
All 15 applauded spontaneously, as though they heard a magic word, and now awaiting the largess.

They listened to my every word after that—and without their knowing it, I veered away from spoon-feeding.

More than any time in our educational history, most students today want to be told what they need to know.  Instead of thinking on their own, they click a few buttons on their gadget and there it is! The idea has been fleshed out for them in various ways. It’s like eating puree that needs no chewing, just swallowing. 

If you are a teacher and you want to make your life easier, spoon-feed. Just give them all the information so they do not need to think for themselves.

But I guess I am of the old school. In my workroom, I keep a card—given to me by one outstanding student on World Teacher’s Day years ago—that reads:
I also remember my dad when my siblings and I were little.

“What does bureaucracy mean?” I asked once. He was a lawyer, he should have been able to explain it in a few words.

He said instead, “Look it up.” I did, and I’ve been looking up things on my own since.

As a part-time college teacher, my approach to student learning is based on Matthew 7:7: “Seek, and you will find.” (ESV)   

8/27/2020

Extremely Low


Nothing could be lower than “extremely low” in research data or classifications. That’s as low as low can get. 

Unfortunately, during this pandemic, this has gone even lower.  Much lower. 

In Majar Mangahas’ (of SWS) Philippine Daily Inquirer column on 5 August, he wrote, “Our May and July numbers are so terrible that our old term of Extremely Low, for our old bottom category of -40 or worse, is woefully inadequate. Thus SWS has decided to designate the fixed range of -40 to -49 as Extremely Low, and create a new term, Catastrophic, for a new open-ended category of -50 or worse.” 

Catastrophic: a new, added term in research language.         

“In SWS July 3-6, 2020 Mobile Phone Survey, 79% of adult Filipinos felt they got worse off in the past 12 months.” 

That’s how 79% (an alarming percentage) of polled respondents replied to questions of hunger and hardship. It’s catastrophic in all parts of the country: National Capital Region (and the balance of Luzon), Visayas, and Mindanao.  

Yet, that’s not the pits yet. I dread to read about the results of the third quarter survey. 

Catastrophic is not only historic, it is heartbreaking. Are we, as a people, at the end of our rope? 

When hope seems gone among 76% of Filipinos, we can only turn to the One who is mightier than the Covid-19 and every calamity on earth. 

Although we continue to lament and cry over our pain and suffering, we must look forward to His grace of comfort and calmness. Pray with me?  

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, 
And in His word I do hope. 
My soul waits for the Lord 
More than those who watch for the morning—
Yes, more than those who watch for the morning.” 
(Psalm 130:5-6 NKJV) 

8/23/2020

What Was My First Boss Like?


Arrogant, I thought.  

He looked me over and asked, “Have you done any writing?” 

I had written for the Philippine Collegian in college (the UP student publication) and before this interview, many of my feature stories had been published in the US, where I was taking up my degree in Performing Arts (Chicago Art institute). 

My thought balloon, If you don’t hire me, then it’s your loss, not mine.  

It was the year 1968 when the Board of Directors of the Chicago Filipino-American organization had handpicked him to be the Editor-in-Chief of the first-ever Filipino newspaper in the city. A graduate of journalism from the UST, with impressive writing/editing credentials, he was deemed most qualified.

My uncle and his wife (an American), who knew about my love for writing, suggested my name to be in the editorial staff. That was why the Chief summoned me to that first editorial meeting, where he decreed in no uncertain terms who was the boss, outlining his vision and policies.

I remember that day well. Snow and wind blew, pummeling downtown Chicago relentlessly. Because buses and cabs were sparse, he volunteered to drive me home in a rickety, old car borrowed from a friend. 

His conversation starter was, “Do you know where I work?”

“Where?” I mumbled, to be polite. 

“J. Walter Thompson.” (It was then the world’s largest advertising agency.) 

Clueless, I asked, “What’s that?”

He rattled off statistics, meant to shock and awe.

I yawned, “Oh.” As a starving art student, advertising agencies were the least of my concerns. I whispered, Bring it on!   

Our first issue had to cover the biggest Filipino event in Chicago—Rizal Day, December 30. It was a formal affair and since I was along his route, he picked me up. My aunt answered the doorbell and there he stood in his rented tuxedo. 

She asked him, “Where’s the corsage?” (No matter how many times I had explained that corsage was unnecessary since it wasn’t a date, she wouldn’t hear of it.)  

From that day on, whenever she read Ang Balita (The News), our chosen name for the newspaper, she would grumble, “I won’t give you two cents for that jerk! He thinks he is god almighty.” 

That man’s working style? He minced no words. 

“Rewrite, make it interesting.”  

“Too repetitive.” 

“Give it an angle.” 

“It is not focused.” 

After 10 issues (every fortnight), the Chief came back home to the Philippines, for good. One year and seven months after that first meet-up, I came back home as well, for good. 

In another month, I married the Chief, Mr. Arrogance himself, my first boss—and Ang Balita, where I first worked, became a part of history. 

What happened between our first meeting and our wedding? 

Love. 

But that has nothing to do with “What Was Your First Boss Like?”    

(This article was originally published in StoryWorth early this year.) 

  

8/19/2020

Tiny Miracles


Every so often, we receive chain letters/prayers on the Net. They instruct us to “Send this to 10 friends and you will receive a miracle in 10 days.”

Delete.   

We receive God’s miracles, not because we will it, but because He does. In fact, He does not owe us any miracles. He has already given us the big ones: the creation; His self-sacrifice on the cross; and His gift of eternal life.

In Exodus 15:1-21, Moses and the people of Israel sang praise songs to the Lord for delivering them from slavery in Egypt. They had just escaped from the Egyptians who pursued them toward the Red Sea which parted for the Israelites’ safety. The first two verses read:

“I will sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously; he has hurled both horse and rider into the sea. The Lord is my strength and my song; he has given me victory. This is my God, and I will praise him—my father’s God, and I will exalt him!” 

When we experience a great miracle in our life—a sick loved one now certified Covid-19 negative,  a successful presentation, a prayed-for raise or promotion—we pour out our unbridled praise on God.

But miracles need not be big to merit our praise. If we open our eyes, we see “tiny” miracles happen everyday. We wake up still breathing, the flowers are blooming, the sun is rising, and the clouds are dancing.

In fact, every good thing, every grace is a miracle.
Let us praise Him with fervor as Miriam did in verse 21: “Sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously; he has hurled both horse and rider into the sea.”

Photo credit: Pinterest

8/15/2020

Tears of Joy


“Why do I cry when I am happy?” Ching, a music teacher, asked the people in her Bible study group.

“Like when?” asked the group.

“Like when I am singing a joyful gospel song praising God. The words are all about His love for me, but why do my tears flow?”
Fans scream and cry when they see their idols; winners in any competition (from beauty pageants to sports) break down in tears. Intense happiness often result in crying, which normally reflects negative emotions.

But the opposite also happens. We’ve seen people laugh (nervous laughter it is called) when they face a difficult/frightening situation. Some smile in times of extreme sadness.

Ali, a psychologist, explained: “When you are overwhelmed with strong positive emotions, you cry because somewhere in your subconscious, you remember the difficulty in getting there. And, when you are overcome with extreme negative emotions, there is that inner desire to get over it—and so you smile.

These two phenomena may be explained further in Ezra 3:7-13, during the building of God’s Temple. After the foundation was completed, people shouted and sang God praises:

"But many of the older priests, Levites, and other leaders who had seen the first Temple wept aloud when they saw the new Temple’s foundation. The others, however, were shouting for joy. The joyful shouting and weeping mingled together in a loud noise that could be heard far in the distance.” 

The older priests, although very happy, were crying because they remembered Solomon’s temple and its former glory.

When Ching (or any of us) sings of God’s wonders, she (we) must be remembering the grace out-poured on the cross—the extreme sacrifice Jesus did for her (us).

8/11/2020

This Is War


Without knowing about the American band, Thirty Seconds to Mars, my husband said on the first day of lockdown, “This is war.” 

That’s the title of the third record of this band (December 2009). It begins with:  

A warning to the people
The good and the evil
This is war
To the soldier, the civilian
The martyr, the victim
This is war 

Tony stressed then, “During World War II, people had only one thing in mind—to escape from the enemy to survive. They hid in dug-outs or remote areas, where they would be safe. They never left the place except to look for food. They waited till the war was over before they got on with their lives outside."         

Four months into the lockdown, I read the message of Uganda President Kaguta Museveni that seems to echo Tony’s opinion about the corona virus, but said with eloquence to uplift the spirits of the Ugandans: 

(My abridged version)   

“In a war situation, nobody asks anyone to stay indoors. You stay indoors by choice. If you have a basement, you hide there for as long as hostilities persist. During a war, you don't insist on your freedom. You willingly give it up in exchange for survival . . . you don't complain of hunger; you bear it and pray that you live to eat again . . . you don't argue about opening your business; you  close shop and run for your life . . . you don't worry about your children not going to school . . .

“The world is currently in a state of war . . . a war without guns, bullets, human soldiers, borders, cease-fire agreements, and  sacred zones. The army is without mercy . . . no milk of human kindness. It is indiscriminate, with no respect for children, women, or places of worship. This army is not interested in spoils of war. . . its only agenda is a harvest of  death. 

“Thankfully, this army has a weakness and it can be defeated . . . COVID-19 cannot survive physical distancing. It only thrives when you confront it . . . It is helpless when you take your destiny in your own hands by keeping them sanitized as often as possible.

“. . . Let's exercise patience . . . In no time, we shall regain our freedom, enterprise, and socializing." 

Thirty Seconds to Mars ended “This is War” with the same hope:

A brave new world
The war is won
The war is won
A brave new world   

Tony often repeats himself, “This war will end.” 

“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1) 

Meanwhile, we beg God to fill our hearts with His grace of peace. 


8/07/2020

Change


Next to “dentist,” the most frightening word for me is “change.”

A change in flight schedule makes me bite my nails; a change in daily routine makes me dizzy; a change in an appointment date tightens my throat; a change in weather causes me to sneeze non-stop and my nose to run. And now, this life-changing Covid-19 lockdown!

In short, in the aging process, I have become a creature of habit.

But there is one area where I enjoy change—writing. I change every word, every sentence, every punctuation mark, every concept, as quickly as I can blink. I switch from writing one book to another and to another. I thought this was a horrible habit, so I kept it a secret within the four walls of my writing room. 

I thought wrong.

When I was in Cebu to guest at Childlink Learning Center and Childlink High School, Inc. late last year, I received a surprise certificate. It referred to me as a “Master of Change.”
It reads:

“Dragonflies shed their old selves over and 
over again, from the wingless swimmers 
they’re hatched in the water to air-breathing 
crawlers up blades of grass or cattails. 
There they finally unfurl the wings 
they’ve been growing in secret preparation 
for this day—and they take to the air.  

You make it look so easy.”  

My writing secret is no secret after all. And it isn’t a horrible habit as I thought it was. In fact, I just might have met a kindred spirit in the Directress of the school who signed this certificate.
Change is a dragonfly, created by the Master of grace. 

8/03/2020

Books of Grace


Social media have been with us for a number of years, yet I still don’t know how to use them effectively to communicate with fellow netizens. Or perhaps my brain still could not assimilate their reach and power. 

My sons (who coerced me into blogging over 13 years ago) had been nagging me to create a page for my books and reading in general. 

Son #1: Mom, you have a variety of too many friends on your FB timeline: family, friends, acquaintances, and readers. Your posts are just as varied. You need to have a separate page for books, so your messages can be more focused."

Son#2: There is hardly any advertising or promotions for your books, how will readers know about them? 

“They’re in book stores,” I argued. 

Chorus: Mom, how many people go to bookstores? Only you and us, and book worms—we are not very many.  

Chorus: Mom, writing books is useless unless you have readers. 

Okay. 

This gave birth to “Books of Grace,” a page on Facebook. I considered no other name, since I write about grace and my name happens to be, yes, Grace. 
I thought my job had ended with doing the design, but . . . well, if you happen to run a page,  you know how much energy and time it entails. You need to reply to queries and keep looking for something newsworthy to engage your readers. 

It has not been easy, but it has been fun. 

There I meet fellow book lovers and get a feel of how they react to my books and reading in general. Their messages and responses guide me in writing the next one. 

If you are on FB, please consider dropping by “Books of Grace” and leave a message. Nothing delights me more than meeting and conversing kindred spirits. 
 

7/30/2020

A Mother’s Quarantine Lament


Our thrice-a-week househelp, Teresa, has become a permanent fixture in our home because of the quarantine. She chose to stay in rather than go home and not have any job (she used to have daily work schedules in various places).  

She is efficiency personified, an angel from the heavens. There is not a corner in the house she does not clean and disinfect. She finds things we had forgotten we had. She tends to our garden with a thumb so green, everything is flowering and growing. It's as though our househelp of over 40 years, the late Ate Vi, has come back to life. 

Unfortunately, Teresa has one big lament. 

Her son, aged 21, got into trouble in December last year. The parents of his girlfriend, 14 years old and therefore still a minor, sued him for rape and he was jailed. He insisted that the act was consensual, but the law is clear that any intimate act with a minor is considered rape, a heinous crime penalized by imprisonment of six to 12 years.  
Teresa’s public attorney suggested out-of-court settlement with the complainants. This forced Teresa to make a loan of P50,000 (the amount specified by the accusers) from various sources and immediately handed the cash to the girl’s parents. 

The next step would have been a hearing so her son could be set free. But the lockdown happened, and court proceedings stopped. When the quarantine eased, the hearing was finally scheduled. But the lawyer was infected with the virus and had to be quarantined. 

After that, another hearing was calendared. This time, the judge got the virus, too, and so the whole courthouse had to be closed for disinfection and sterilization.  

He has been languishing in jail (crowded, hot, dark, and unclean) for seven months now. Teresa sends him money to buy food other than what prisoners are served (sometimes “half cooked rice” and “just tuyo”), but he said the money is confiscated by uniformed men. Sometimes Teresa sends him food through emissaries, but these are seized by prison bullies.     
We are trying our best to help ease Teresa's lament by making her feel at home. Away from the problems of her family, she has our home for a refuge where she can relax, watch You Tube, get in touch with her son via mobile phone. We upped her pay so she could have enough savings to tide her over after the lockdown; and most importantly, we pray that God may grant her His grace of comfort and peace of mind. 

There are many lamenting Teresas in the country today, while we all grapple with the onslaught of the virus. May we cover them with our prayers and help them, where we can.    

photo credits: grabbed from various e-newspapers and thesun.co.uk

7/26/2020

Sorry I'm Late


This apology, “Sorry I’m late,” seems to be a tic among chronic late comers. After that, everything seems forgiven, especially if one of these explains it:  
“Filipino time” is how we call people’s penchant for arriving late at events. It is supposed to be derogatory, but has become an accepted theorem (Who cares? No big deal!) and a part of our culture. Weddings scheduled at 4:00 PM are printed on invitations as 3:00, in anticipation of guests coming in late.  

My grandparents and parents were advocates for promptness. As children, my siblings and I got a dressing down if we were late to any occasion, especially a church service or activity. They would say “Don’t put to shame God’s grace” in all permutations: 

“Being late is telling people that their time is not as important as yours.” 

“It’s disrespectful and rude to keep people waiting.” 

“Making people wait around for you wastes time, money and other resources that could be put to better use elsewhere.”

“It sets a bad example to the young.” 

“It makes people who take the trouble to be prompt feel like suckers.” 

And worst . . .  

“You send out the message to punctual people that ‘I am more important than you.’”  

In schools and workplaces, we have tardiness rules. 

Now, how about the highest office of the land? How many times did our president start the Covid-19 report (Monday nights) with his cabinet and team on time (per announcement)? In all those 18 times, did we ever hear him say, “Sorry I’m late”? 

This is the behavior streaming from the top, saying to everyone, “I am more important than you.” Of course he is. But I hope children will not emulate him, because not all of them will become president one day.  

Two GMRC are being habitually violated: 1) not being ready on time; 2) not apologizing for it. 
What does Scripture say about the need to be always ready? 

“You also must be ready all the time, for the Son of Man will come when least expected.”  Luke 12:40 (NLT) 

7/25/2020

999,999


These numbers are just one digit away from one million—the total number of page hits my site has received since I started blogging in November 2006, over 13 years ago. The last time I celebrated my numbers was when I reached 888,888
It will take some time before I reach another row of the same numbers (1,111,111), so please indulge me; I will post this now for posterity, just for 24 hours.  

It took a few seconds before it changed to one million: 
And these came on my birthday. Another surprising grace. 

So how am I spending my quarantine hours? The same way I had been spending my non-quarantine days: writing, blogging, reading (and solving crossword puzzles). Despite the alarming and often infuriating posts and news online, I try to maintain my sanity. 

At the moment, I am awaiting the edited manuscript of one of my books scheduled for launching in October, and I am finishing another one, which is due in November. 

Join me in my prayer today . . . 

“Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12 NLT) 

Amen. 

7/22/2020

Longlong for Short


His real name is short, but difficult to pronounce or spell, so he tells friends, “Just call me Longlong for short.” 

Longlong was one of the art directors in the advertising agency where we used to be on our toes 24/7 to deliver excellent work to clients. He was one of those who could draw figures on tiny squares (called storyboard) and make them move (simulate movements) and move (evoke emotions) the beholder. 

Those were days of grace when we worked with Matisses, Renoirs, Monets, and Cezannes. They had no computer icons, images, and apps; just sheer, incredible talents. With a flick of a pencil or a brush, Longlong, et al. could tell a compelling story—stories, rather, since they had to do more than three studies per product per day. 

I sought out Longlong for my first storybook, “Fly, Malaya, Fly” (co-authored with my son, JR) that was scheduled for publication. He lent his magical hands gratis et amore and did the illustrations. After that, our paths hardly crossed again. 

But the pandemic served as a most unlikely venue for us to meet big time—on social media. He has been whipping up sketches, daily, of everyone in our old workplace. 

Under the hashtag #RoughPulido (translated as roughly polished), he has turned sketching into a nostalgic trip. Every day, former colleagues try to guess who the featured person is—it’s great, but hard, to remember. There is a gap of at least 20 years since we all saw each other. 

Here is how he remembers me: 
One of us, Hurley, made a collage of all the sketches thus far. Longlong makes us all come together again (the biggest square is that of our big boss, Sev Alcantara).   
 Who'd have thought that a pandemic could transport us back to the past?  

Though we are all physically apart, Longlong’s #RoughPulido summons up memories of: huddling in a brainstorming room, bumping into each other on corridors, debating over deadlines and concepts, and holding each other up in a crisis. 

“. . . encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11 (NLT) 

7/20/2020

50 Is Gold


Last year, when things were normal (pre-Covid quarantine), my family and I had some conversations. I say “some” because when you live with men, conversations are crisp and curt. No issue is ever belabored. I know the exact moment when they tune off in the midst of my prattle.   

Those “some” conversations had to do with my and my husband's 50th anniversary celebration. A golden anniversary is, after all, a milestone by any standard. In ancient days in northern Europe, a husband would gift his wife a beautifully crafted golden wreath, garland, or necklace. 
Why gold? It was the ultimate token of love then because it symbolized the lasting and prized nature of the passage of time. 
My husband knows that my love for jewelry is gone with the wind, and our sons, like us, are not party people. During those “some” conversations, they mentioned about pooling their resources together to gift us with a Caribbean cruise, which is ideal for two people who could no longer stand a plane ride or walk long distances. 

The pandemic changed all that. 

But a 50th wedding anniversary is a rare occasion, considering the high number of separations, divorces, and living-in arrangements today. And so we celebrated with a simple lunch at home with me in my "gown" and Tony in his "tuxedo." 

I look back to that day 50 years ago when we exchanged our vows before God in a small chapel in Quezon City. No frills, no guests, just immediate family. The only aliens were the old pastor who officiated the short ceremony and the photographer (smart phones were still an inspired thought), who took a total of 12 shots. Both begged off from the intimate thanksgiving dinner in a Chinese restaurant. 
From that simple wedding 50 years ago to the golden celebration amidst the quarantine, we give thanks for the immeasurable grace that sustained Tony and me in our life journey as partners, parents, and now, grandparents.   

“. . . what God has joined together, let not man separate.” (Mark 10:9 NKJV) 

7/18/2020

Where have All the Jeepneys Gone?


I can’t remember a day not seeing a jeepney. It has always been a part of the landscape. 

This gaudy, brightly painted, and folksy vehicle is found only in the Philippines. A mestizo, half local and half foreign, the jeepney is reflective of our national character.  

After World War II, the U.S. soldiers left us thousands of non-serviceable jeeps, which helped solve the transportation problem. But not before we gave them a new, unique look—stretched, roofed, and benched into what we all know as jeepney, the “king of the road.”   
This proudly Pinoy creation has symbolized the Filipino’s resilient and optimistic spirit.  

A miniature jeepney is what I proudly give as gifts to foreign guests who gush, “Oh, what an unusual vehicle!” It's a conversation opener about our beloved country. 

Seventy six years later, during the term of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, the jeepney is in danger of becoming extinct. The Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program (PUVMP), launched in 2017, is aimed at making public transportation system efficient and environmentally friendly by 2020. Each jeepney replacement is estimated at P2.1 million (payable in seven years).  

Came 2020, bringing along the Covid-19 lockdown. In one fell swoop, the jeepney was pushed off the road, garaged and rendered useless, leaving over 200,000 drivers jobless. 

We’re now on the 126th day of quarantine in Metro Manila, and very few jeepneys, have been allowed to  ply the roads. 

Where have all the jeepneys gone? And the drivers? 

Still on the road—not driving, but begging. It's one of the options they have with zero income.  


What’s in store for these jeepney drivers at the end of the road? 

That’s just one of the many hard questions I have been asking myself since the onset of the pandemic, which has plunged our country into recession. 

With no answers on the horizon, I run to Scripture for help and hope:  
 
“Be on guard. Stand firm in the faith. Be courageous. Be strong.” (1 Corinthians 16:13 NLT) 

Oh, that by God’s merciful grace, I pray I can. 

Photo credits: Rappler. Inquirer, Philippine Star, and and Facebook posts