(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)   


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) 


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? 


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

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



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.”


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


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).


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. 



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. 


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. 


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.