Posted in Perspectives

28 Years

There have been a lot of people, including some friends, who had made fun of their 2020 Planners being the most useless investment or purchase of the previous year. A popular social media icon even asked, ‘how many cups of coffee did you have to drink for the ‘damn’ planner only to have this ending?!’

I myself also bought a fancy planner for this year. It got a whole page of space for each day, so imagine its thickness. It got writing prompts for each month, self-check every end of the month and self-care habits in between. After all the years I did not buy a planner because, hey, I can make use of any notebook anyway, I chose 2020 to have this planner. Hahaha! The universe must be poking fun at me like with everyone else. Gotcha, it must say.

We all entered this year and this new decade with so much hope. 2020 sounds like a perfect vision, I said in one of my boss’ speeches, it must be a year of clarity and achievement this year. We all claimed to be better, fiercer, bolder this year, ala Laida Magtalas version 2.0 (with matching hand gestures yan). Then the coronavirus happened and you knew what other things came up with it –no gatherings, no going outside, no flying to a destination. All this while those in power screw us up. This is definitely not the ending that our lives, including our planners deserve. But what if this is not the ending yet? What if God is working beneath all this?

One of the books I got early this year was an infographic book of the Scriptures, particularly the Old Testament. I am only halfway through it since I decided to read it only at bedtime for being such an effective sleep inducer. (I don’t know if it’s because of the drawings or the sense of confidence in the Lord that it gives.) The book reminded me of beautiful stories where we can hinge our hope on. I know that we know these stories by heart, but I think they are worth revisiting.

(Tulad sa pelikula, yung bida naaapi sa una)

Joseph, Jacob’s favorite son, has been having strange dreams that made his brothers even more jealous of him. He was sold into slavery, landed to a Master who was pleased with him but ended up in prison. In prison, he used his gift of interpreting dreams to serve his inmates. A fellow prisoner promised to speak to the Pharaoh on his behalf, but after being restored to his position at the palace he forgot. This prisoner only remembered him after two years when the Pharaoh needs someone to interpret his dream. This was Joseph’s ticket to being the second most powerful man in Egypt.

Ruth is a Moabitess who forged a special bond with his mother-in-law after her husband passed away. Her faithfulness to Naomi was shown when she braved to return with her in Israel, a foreign land for her where people speak of foreign language. She accepted the Hebrews as her own people and worshipped God as her one true Lord. God rewarded her by allowing her to find true love with Boaz. Ruth, a foreigner and widow, got not only a second chance but her name was etched on the genealogy of Jesus.

David was a young shepherd boy who was anointed by God through Samuel. When Samuel visited Jesse’s house to find the next king, David was tending to his sheep. Samuel met all of Jesse’s sons but none of them was chosen by God. He summoned for David and said, ‘we shall not sit down to eat until he arrives.’ Wow, a young boy regarded as the least in his family is handpicked by the Lord to govern his people in the years to come.

These ‘bidas’ may not have faced a pandemic as we are now. But looking at their stories from the top, we can see that they were not free from misfortunes, heartaches and trials and yet their stories ended well. (Although David had passed through bumpy roads.) God used their circumstances, no matter how bad it was for their good and for His glory.

(What to do with the planner?)

If you also bought a planner, here’s one thing we can do. Let’s list down all the things that was made better by God in our lives. From the big favors from Him to trivial things, list them all! Look at your life from the top and see the small twists of fate and leap of faith you went through. (share with me if you like because I’m sharing some of mine below.)

The Scriptures is always a great place to run into in times of trouble to remember His faithfulness. But I believe that God’s faithfulness, wisdom and graciousness can also be magnified in our lives.

Make use of your planner or an old notebook NOW since you cannot return them anyway (we’ve only got 7-day return policy, haha!). If you plan to re-use them, you might wait for long. I already checked, you can re-use it after… you guessed it right, 28 years.

PS:

Btw, kung nagbabasa ka pa rin hanggang dito, may sinimulan akong blog nung lockdown – Stories that Move. Layunin ko na magkwento ng mga istorya kung saan mapapaisip tayo na kahit tayo’y magkakaiba, tayo’y magkakapareho rin pala. Pareho na may pinagdadaanan, pareho na nabigo, pareho na humuhugot lang ng lakas sa iba.

Kung may kwento kang nais ibahagi, or may kaibigan ka o kapamilya na may kwento na kapupulutan ng yaman, ishare mo naman sakin. 😊

Posted in Perspectives

Overnight Saint Francis

On the wee hours of March 13, two days before the Luzon lockdown, my father fetched me in my place in QC through a car he rented. He did this to 1.) make sure I will spend the lockdown at home and 2.) that I won’t catch the virus while trying to do so.

On our way home, I could only feel bad for the many people also scurrying in bus terminals to go home. Upon spending the first few weeks at home (esp after my self-quarantine), I have seen much clearer the huge disparity between people in different social status. The rich can afford to haul supplies, the middle-class can buy what’s necessary, but the poor had to wait for government’s support or a random stranger’s kind gesture of giving out a small amount to fend for themselves. In our town, some mothers were begging already to feed their children, while some call for help for the people who lives in makeshift homes made of old iron sheets, sack or cartons and worn out tires.

It breaks my heart to witness this disparity, all the more the audacity of those in position to take advantage of the situation or worse, rob the poor further. This is where I realized that I really need to be frugal in order to give more. Even before Covid, I resolved to myself to be thrifty, but this situation roars at me to take frugality seriously.

One evening during the lockdown, I asked my mother if we can repack rice for the people closest to us – delivery boys, garbage collector, etc. The next day, my intention swelled when my sister abroad expressed the same thoughts. Together, we extended a little help. We are not rich, but we felt we ought to do something for someone.

“I have always believed that there is enough for everyone, if we can all share.”

Going back to my road to frugality, I searched on saving hacks and minimalism on nights I can’t sleep (which are a lot by the way, esp at the start of the lockdown). As I list down the most common things that apparently, we can live without or can do away with just one or two of it, I cringe as memories of my unwise spending of the past came to mind. How many times did I buy something because everyone else did? How many times did I buy take-away food because I was too lazy to cook on weekends? How many clothes I bought that I got to wear only once? (but hey, my cousins are wearing them now) I am not wasteful, materialistic or a hoarder, but given my circumstance, I know I still can forego other purchases.

My resolve to save increased. I continued planning all my expenses (been doing it since I started working, haha! Adulting is real) and looked for more ways to earn extra (sa mga nagpapa-edit ng articles/photo/video, maniningil na po ako. Hahaha).

The closest to the ideal thing I had in my mind? – the life of St. Francis of Assisi. Francis gave up his lavish lifestyle and even his father’s thriving business to be with the poor. He slept in the open and begged garbage to eat. I felt that to help the poor, I must be poor. It actually worked for Francis because his new found lifestyle of serving God paved the way for the founding of a religious order. But a huge part of me knows that I need not to be poor to help the poor. I know I can support charities and people here and there. The bottom line then and again was to save more money to give. Hahaha!

“A single sunbeam is enough to drive away many shadows.” – St. Francis

So okay, I’ll only spend on essentials, I said to myself in the middle of the lockdown. However, the quarantine keeps on being extended. I suddenly found myself looking for more of the things I love to do. Number 1, I looked for new books as I’m down to the last 40% of the last book I’ve got from Big Bad Wolf of February 2020. Second, I’d want to write down Bible verses with watercolor again but I left my paint and brushes in QC. Third, I’d want to restart caring for my hair again the CGM way (curly girl method) but I’m running out of CGM-approved products.

I kept asking myself, are these essentials? I think I can do away with them. But they are essential at least to keep my sanity. So here’s a downright confession – I bought books, watercolor brushes and hair conditioner online. Hihihi.

I guess I can never be Francis overnight. Well, I would never be like Francis, but maybe, little by little, I can be that person who fulfills my dream of serving and loving a hundred.

So far, what was your best take away/ resolution/ realization from this quarantine? Share below or maybe, PM? 😊 I’d wait!

Posted in Perspectives

Ruminations in the rush

 

My final semester in my MBA revealed two sources of my life’s major frustrations – my desire to rush into things and my expectations.

This semester made me produce a capstone project, a research on a subject related to my field. It required me not just a huge chunk of my time but my attentiveness to the materials I read, instructions of my adviser and panel, and the deadline since we had to finish everything in eight weeks.

The capstone project is such a lot of work… and reading! I know I love reading, but not this kind. Haha! In fact, in that eight weeks, I finished reading two books that are in no way related to my project. That is how lazy I was on the project. Why don’t they just give me the degree?!

I could no longer remember the number of times I wanted to give up. I was ready to receive an ‘IP’ grade for this sem (in progress). I would just resign anyway, I said to myself. And I won’t be needing this degree for promotion anymore.

Yes, there was an agonizing period in that eight weeks where I wanted to give up my job altogether. It was further aggravated with how some people at work wouldn’t move a finger to do what they are supposed to do. Aaaargggh!!!

Then finally, I got a grip of myself again and realized that I was the one weighing down my own baggage. How silly of me to throw tantrums on this good life of mine.

From the circumstances I mentioned above and the experiences I refuse to mention due to lack of wisdom, I inferred that:

  1. I wanted only the degree and not the process, which is impossible.
  2. I was consumed by my expectations of others, which is a sure formula for total disaster.

It’s funny and annoying when I am rushing into one thing (graduate school) then the other areas of my life get in and join the haste. Suddenly, I also want to rush my career, dreams and other things. You know, if life has that option as Netflix where you can fast forward a film by ten seconds, I would have probably pushed that a couple of times until I see the closing billboard. But there is a supreme, divine reason why life’s not like that. And while we may never know, we need to keep the faith and obedience to God who designs the intricacies of his masterpiece.

I then reminded myself that,

we cannot forfeit the process if we want the promise, aka the prize.

If I wanted my master’s degree, I have to endure and get through with the required subjects and the final project. The same way if we wanted endurance and success, we have to train longer and work smarter. If we wanted the prize, we have to go through the PROCESS. No shortcuts.

It is likewise worth remembering that great things take time and forged through time. Gold is refined through fire and age-old wines have better flavor and finish. Whether it is our faith,  goals or specific skill, great things will take time. We will fall and we shall rise up until perfected.

Lastly, I ask myself, ‘why do I rush?’ Maybe because I want to be certain I’ll get ‘there.’ It can also be because I want ‘that life’ more than ‘this life.’ But hey, I said to myself, life is what happens at the moment, it is not when we get there or achieve that. Life is right here, right now.

This reminds me of a conversation with one of our long-time managers in the office. I remember I interrupted her one afternoon just to hear her story on how she started working until she reached her current position and disposition. From how I saw her story, it was like there was a hand who put things and orchestrate circumstances for her – doors closing and opening as if on cue, people calling and arriving.

Then I asked how the seemingly perfect circumstances and people affected her views in life. She said and I quote, ‘Trust. Just trust. You are always where you are supposed to be.’

And that is the assurance I need to be reminded of again. God called me ‘here’ for a mission. And instead of whining on what the future will look like, I should be rolling up my sleeves to work, here.

And when we are done with ‘here,’ another interesting chapter will surely come next.

So there,  let us not rush. God is in the details anyway. He works even it doesn’t seem so, He listens even when we think He could not hear, and He is already there wherever we are going. 💛

 

Posted in Perspectives

If I die young

 

 

I started singing this song to myself when I was having stomach pains last year, when I still didn’t know I need a surgery to remove my gall bladder. I would hum in front of the mirror, while brushing my teeth and counting the number of pimples on my face, which by the way, I related to the health problems I was having. The more pimples I see, the more depressed I get. Yeah, I could be melodramatic when sick.

When I got out of the operating room alive, I forgot the song and the thought of dying, until before my flight to Indonesia earlier this year.

Before flying to Jakarta, I left home with both of my parents gazing at me through our gate. It dawned on me, ‘what if this was the last time we would see each other?’ The idea stuck to me the entire time I was in Indonesia.

On my domestic flight back to Jakarta while waiting for the plane, there had been a power interruption at the airport. ‘This must be a sign,’ I thought. I must be dying already or something.

I don’t know why I kept on entertaining such thoughts at that time. Maybe my cheesy-old school-young writer heart is looking for signs or for concrete feelings of what is it like to live the last days or last moments of one’s life.

Then during the holy week, a friend asked me if there is any concern she could pray for me. The question she popped at the middle of our conversation on why our Davids aka one true love (OTL) are taking so long to find us.

I told my friend to pray for my health because I was having unusual diastolic blood pressure. Then I blurted, ‘maybe I’ll die young and to minimize casualty, I wouldn’t meet my David.’ (🎵 there’s a boy here in town says he’ll love me forever who would have thought forever could be severed by
the sharp knife of a short life…)

I was just kidding.

My friend told me confidently, ‘hindi yan.’

 

Before passing

There is really no way to tell when our time on earth is up. I wouldn’t call it dying because we don’t really die but we just pass from this life to the next. But if there’s one thing my recent thoughts are teaching me, it would be this: live today as if it’s the last.

And how do we really live today as if it’s the last? Here’s my humble attempt to answer and live just that:

  • Express love to people you love the most.
  • Be kind. (If you have to choose between being smart and kind precept)
  • Be generous not only with material things but with words and maybe with the like/heart button. Do not hold back compliments or a smile. A little thing goes a long way.
  • Do what matters. Don’t get stuck in a work that does not spark joy in your life (naks, Marie Kondo-ing not just our stuff but our life.)
  • Get started on that passion project you’ve always wanted to do!
  • Give your best shot in things you lay your hands to. Do it as if you work for the Lord.
  • Be brave, stop worrying and enjoy life. I have recently watched a video on YouTube about how the universe will end millions of trillion trillion trillion years from now. And there’s this one comment that went something like this, ‘This is how vast the universe can be and here I am worrying if my crush will like me back.’ Not that I resonate with his exact feelings, but it’s true. We hold back in doing things, we fear and we worry when we shouldn’t really be. J

We would fail on most days you know. On most nights we may find ourselves asking God of his mercy because we fell short. Some days we may get tired of living the rules and would just roll our eyes on people. But  we have to keep.on.trying.

Funeral etiquette

In the last funeral I’ve been to, relatives are wailing, stomping and fainting before the casket of their loved one. This is a familiar scene in the Philippines, I guess and I don’t dare judge these people on how they mourn and express the pain of losing someone so dear.

But I thought, ‘I’d never want my loved ones to mourn like that when I pass away.’ I want them to grieve with a trusting hope to Jesus Christ who has risen from the dead and promised us rooms in His kingdom. I want them to feel the pain of losing and at the same time embrace the joy of me departing to be with Christ.

As St. Paul wrote in the Scripture, ‘to live is Christ and to die is gain.’

 

I hope I didn’t scare you but pushed you to live life in the best way you can.

Happy living!