1/30/2020

Re-reconnecting:

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.


1/27/2020

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

1/24/2020

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!)

1/20/2020

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. 

1/16/2020

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)   

1/14/2020

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

1/13/2020

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. 

1/09/2020

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?

1/05/2020

888,888

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)  

1/01/2020

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.