6/28/2020

Badge of Fans


The corona virus quarantine must have turned me into an FB denizen. Every week I get tons of: 

“You have been identified as one of the top fans of (FB page). Go get your badge now.”
I never did. These nudges, however, tell me two things: 

1. I read every page I see on my own news feed. This is good because I make time to know current ideologies and what modern people think about.  

2. My movements are tracked and no longer private. This is bad because I take my privacy seriously. In fact, my blogs and post are neither chronological nor scheduled as they happen.

And badges for fans? I guess at a certain point in life, one outgrows being a fan of anything. In fact, I can’t even recall how it felt like to be a screaming fan anymore—or being dewy eyed listening to my favorite singers. 

Does age turn one into a cynic? I hope not. I guess interests change with the passing of years. And we begin to have a different definition of what is important.  

So what’s important? 

“ . . . be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days.” (Ephesians 5:15-16 NLT)

6/24/2020

A Tale of Two Leaders


With apologies to Charles Dickens . . . 

These are the best of times, the worst of times—the age of wisdom, the age of foolishness; the epoch of belief, the epoch of incredulity; the season of light, the season of darkness; the spring of hope, the winter of despair.

Using two leaders instead of two cities, I am illustrating polar opposites in leadership values.  
Leader A is young, a newbie in politics. Since day one of the virus lockdown, he has been hailed for looking after his constituents’ needs. Although with good intentions, he almost got into hot water when he allowed some tricycles to transport frontliners. 

On his 31st birthday, he prohibited any kind of celebration. Instead of birthday gifts, he urged his well-wishers to buy grocery food packs and give them to the needy. His tweets:   

Leader B is five years short of being a senior citizen. He is a major general and the chief of the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO). On his 55th birthday, he was surprised by his men and some high-ranking police officers with a party, complete with a Voltes 5 cake, a scrumptious array of food with matching alcoholic beverages, tables and chairs, and balloons. 

Photos of the party were then uploaded online by the NCRPO’s Public Information Office.  

A ruckus on social media trended. Ordinary citizens screamed of violations of government’s ban on mass gathering, alcoholic beverages, and social distancing, which the honorable general was supposed to implement. 

To his credit, leader B apologized but insisted in an interview, "Wala pong mali doon...It would be ungentlemanly kung 'di ko sila hinarap at pinauwi ko sila [There was nothing wrong there...It would be ungentlemanly if I did not face them and if I told them to go home].”  
Here are two of our leaders (A and B) in a time of pandemic, the season of light and the season of darkness. We rejoice, we grieve.  

But beyond all those, we are grateful that it is still (and always will be) the season of grace for all.   

Photo credit: W and Rappler

6/20/2020

Off-strat and Out of Order


“You’re off-strat,” my boss would promptly say when you as much as said anything that veered away from the strategy. 

“Out of order,” says the chairman in meetings when you speak about anything other than what is on the table. 

Sadly, during these critical months, while we race against time to ease people of life-threatening problems brought about by the Covid-19 lockdown, we have been off-strat and out of order. 

These are not my personal opinions; they are from experts: 

For three months now, our updates are not based on raw, granular data. People who died two months ago are added to today’s numbers. Meaning, data two months ago was inaccurate—and yet they were plotted out to be the basis for decisions. 

Over 220,00 jeepney drivers are out of job. Add to this number the daily earners like waiters,  construction workers, etc. Zero income for their families.   

Employees who have been allowed to work have no transportation. Many walk and bike to and from work for hours.  

Schools are generally unprepared to go online. Indigent students cannot afford the gadgets needed for such classes. Schools are hard-at-work putting never-tried-before modules to work. 

Over 40% of micro to middle-sized enterprises (MSMEs) will close. That includes our own.  

Suicide and depression cases are increasing. OFWs are coming home and are now jobless. Children are crying of hunger. Thousands have died. Plus many, many more. 

And yet, the authorities prioritized the: anti-terrorism bill, the suppressing of the press, Rappler, for cyber crime, the closing of a TV network; and discussion on taxing online sellers.    

Can’t those wait till after seeing to the people's more pressing problems? Health. Food. Death.  
How long will we be off-strat and out of order? 

I am no expert and don’t have the authority to offer any solution. I can only echo Habakkuk, weeping while praying for grace from the Almighty:  

“How long, O Lord, must I call for help? But you do not listen! ‘Violence is everywhere!’ I cry, but you do not come to save. Must I forever see these evil deeds? Why must I watch all this misery? . . .”  (Habakkuk 1:2-3 NLT) 

6/16/2020

Dark Ages


The world seems to have fallen back to the dark ages. 

As we are caged in our homes (specially senior citizens like me), we look out the window and try to see where light may be coming from. 

Unfortunately, light comes from neither here nor there. We see sparks, but they are soon gone. 

We read posts of both experts and amateurs, whose minds we respect, and because of many differing points of view (POV), we grope: conspiracy theories, fake news, propaganda, and worse, arrogance and ignorance.  

Dark. 

It is difficult to see the light. 

Then out of this darkness shines grace—brilliance from the arts, the industry most affected by government’s quarantine measures. I behold drawings, paintings, digital art, memes, short videos online that spell light. Again, they get blurred by whining, accusing, blaming, raving, and ranting posts. 

I try to seek them out. And here’s one that gives me goosebumps. It is intrusive and presents a perturbing point of view in four frames, ironically published on June 12, 2020, the Philippines’ 122nd independence day.  

ACL: “Fought to achieve it, fight to keep it.” 
Agree or not, it is an artist’s stunning POV, without resorting to gutter language, the trademark of paid trolls today.

Dark.

If this scenario be true, it is difficult to see where to go from here.

Yet, it was also on a dark night when Light was born. And if we see and believe that Light, and bring It to our heart, we need never experience darkness again.

The world is dark today, but my faith makes me focus on the Light in my heart so I don’t walk in darkness and get lost. 

“I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.” (John 8:12 NLT) 

Photo credit: ACL 

6/12/2020

Handling the Truth


“You can’t handle the truth!” yelled Colonel Nathan R. Jessep, played by Jack Nicholdon, in the movie A Few Good Men. He then went  on a tirade to defend himself.

It came back to me when I looked in my mirror after 75 days of the Covid-19 quarantine. This image stared me in the face.
No, not Mona Lisa—her hair (a meme created by my artist friend, Ggie). That is exactly how my hair roots look today.

Oh, I can handle the truth. What I—and the rest of my womankind—can’t handle is leaving home without a perfect coif. And so we dye and suffer the consequences of chemicals. 

The 75 days of house arrest have actually been grace for my scalp. No dye has touched it since March 16. So I asked myself why I even allow chemicals on my head?

There are over 500 brands of hair dyes in the world, and they come in thousands of different colors and hues, and they are sold in ALL stores, and most of their advertising say: (not in so many words) your natural hair can look better.

And so these become our “truth.” A sad commentary on mankind’s love of self.

I am on the ninth chapter of the book I am currently writing, and this verse made me sit up after that encounter with my mirror. 

“ . . . we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:18 ESV)

Ah me!

6/08/2020

Share Your Art


Writers and artists, the off-the-wall personas who make up a creative team in an advertising shop, have been suddenly barred from leaving their homes because of the corona virus pandemic.

But nobody could cage free spirits.

With their computers, they have been unleashing online their unconstrained creativity via memes, poetry, sound bytes, and art works of all kinds.

One of them, Ggie (my sister from another womb), sent me this. “Come on,” she messaged me, “share your art!”
 “No way!” I balked. “I’d rather write than draw a bird!"

This friend is a nag, and harassed me every day. I let my guard down and thought, Why not? 

Since I have all the time in the world, I tried my hand at computer art. I am a newbie and will never trade writing to visual art, but it was worth a try.

My first attempt: Circles can never go wrong, can they?
 My second attempt: I took some of my books* to draw the bird.

All told, these took one week of my time, after which I proudly showed them to Tony. He said, “They’re okay.”

Okay?! Just okay?! 

On second thought, I’ll take “okay.” It is not his usual, “What's that?"

Let’s enjoy the lockdown artist friends. Thank you for showing us your amazing magnum opuses on social media. The quarantine could take a few more days. Or weeks? Or months?

P.S. I grabbed Ggie's beautiful bird from her wall. I am sure she did this in less than 30 minutes.

*My prayer is that these books on grace, plus all the others that did not make it to this bird, will continue  to take flight despite the downturn in the publishing industry. 


6/04/2020

Mister God, This Is Grace


If you are put off by spiritual laments, feel free to click away.
Mister God, This Is Anna is an old book about friendship between a 16-year-old boy, Fynn, and a four-year-old foundling. I didn’t get to read it till 2001, when my sister Aie gifted me with a copy. It was riveting; I devoured it in two sittings.

The corona virus quarantine makes one look through bookshelves again, in lieu of bookshops, which are all closed, and discover old readings.

This book whispered, Read me again. I have barely gone through page 10 when I felt myself lugubriously sobbing. It was not because of the cruel lashes  etched on Anna’s bruised body, but because I shrunk in shame at the way she went past them—more than I or any adult could, over a slightly bruised ego.

Anna is unscathed, her faith in and knowledge of Mister God is whole and unshaken. She seems like a theologian, living spiritual doctrines both in mind and heart, with a full sense of God’s nature.

Fynn is a foil to Anna’s pint-sized Albert Schweitzer. She asks difficult questions, which require unconventional answers. She knows about evil, pain, and abuse, but shows no sign of suffering from what we conveniently call trauma.

By telling Anna's story, the author (Fynn) memorializes a young but awe-inspiring  kid who is unforgettable. Constantly pondering various aspects of her faith, Anna believes that religion, to be meaningful, must be lived.

"She never made eight years, she died by an accident, with a grin on her beautiful face. She died  saying, 'I bet Mister God lets me get into heaven for this'."

Reading it again 19 years later while anxious over the pandemic, I do not find it only moving, but disturbing. Anna, an unschooled waif, humbles adults ten times her age.

Adulthood blinds us to see beauty where there is uncertainty. To Anna, things may be chaotic, but beauty is undiminished. 

Today, many people—especially me—have been asking, “Why, God?”

But rereading, Mister God, This Is Anna, I find myself thinking, Mister God, This Is Grace. It’s like having a bittersweet sense of what life is about and a capacity to make the mess bearable.

It is mortifying, but liberating.

6/01/2020

The Number 40


“The Israelites,” Pastor Ariel (our home church’s senior pastor) stressed in his livestreamed Sunday message, "were stuck in the desert for 40 years. In all those years, the Lord never left them. They were never forsaken—their shoes did not wear out, their food did not run out, and they won every battle.”

It was one of his several illustrations of how the Lord took care of His people in olden times. “Just as He took care them, He will take care of us. God finishes what He started.”

When God began to create all things, He finished everything in six days.

When God sent Jesus to the world to save people from their sins, He finished His mission on the cross.

When God  started His great work in you and me, He will bring it to a flourishing finish on the day Christ Jesus will come again.

On our 40th day of lockdown, our barangay officials went from house to house to drop off some sustenance. This one’s ours.
Weeks earlier, the Village Homeowners Association gifted us with one whole piece of dressed chicken and the barangay dropped off rice such as the above and some canned goods.

The Israelites were on lockdown for 40 years in the desert (that's several years beyond one generation!), while we have been sequestered in our homes for just over two months.
We cannot complain. For every grace, we give thanks.

Hebrews 13:5 assures us, “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’” (ESV)