What is Prayer?

Ever since I started a brand new morning routine maybe a week ago, I became conscious if I was doing things right. This morning routine consists of waking up earlier than usual, saying my morning prayers, meditating, praying the Feast Abundance Prayer while looking at my vision board and finally, reciting a list of affirmations. (If there is enough time, I read the Bible.)

Although this set up allows me to find peace easily, I cannot help but feel disrupted a bit at times. Am I doing things right? Should I get down on my knees? Can I do it any better? Is it alright if I pray for myself most of the time?

It’s like I’m swimming in the waters and fighting so hard to float and move. But before I drown, I went back to basics – I stop fighting the water, collect myself and remember the proper breathing for me to float.

Yes, I went back to basics. What is prayer? Prayer is when we talk to God (or the Source or the Higher Being or whatever some people call it). But I think prayer is not limited to words, tears can be prayers too, as well as feelings of love, longing, thinking, and sighing.

Our actions can be prayers too – when we choose to be more patient with a difficult person, when we smile in the middle of Edsa traffic, when we give up a seat for an elderly, or when we are considerate of others’ feelings.

As my favorite saint tells it,

“Prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look turned towards heaven; it is a cry of recognition and love; embracing both trial and joy.” – Saint Therese of Lisieux, Story of a Soul

But prayer is not one way. Prayer is also listening to the answer in the deepest parts of our being. Fr. Bob McConaghy, in his new book Closer, said that prayer is intimacy. It means saying to God, “into me, see.” It is when we ask God to see our hearts, our thoughts, our hopes, our fears and our concerns.

Prayer, Fr. Bob said, is when God communicates with us in the midst of that prayer, saying, “I know. So, into Me, see.” This is when God invites us to see how much He loves us, how much He’s right with us and will never abandon us – even though it doesn’t feel like it.

With these descriptions, I finally know that I what I was doing was right, but I know I need to work out my listening skills more. And so in silence, I place my heart.

I hope you do too. 🙂

Or do you have a unique way of praying? Share it to the comments below! 🙂

Closer
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To the Women I Love

I noticed that I have friends on Facebook, particularly women friends who berate themselves for many reasons, from not having the perfect curves to not being the person that they deem ideal to be. And since it is still women’s month, I came to write these things for all the women I know, for all the women out there!

To the women I love and to all the women out there, it is my utmost hope and my deepest prayer that you take time to affirm yourself. I know, we can be our greatest critic most of the time. We judge ourselves for not being the woman that is worthy of the magazine front cover. But what are these silly standards set by the magazine cover and the television? These are just lies that we were brought to believe in so that beauty companies gain profit at the expense of our self-esteem.

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quotesgram.com

Please keep in mind that you are beautiful, unique, loved and special. Everyday affirm yourself for trying, embrace yourself for surviving, forgive yourself for the mistakes and nourish yourself because you are deserving of every love. We are all a work in progress, even those front cover girls whose flaws were brushed off with Adobe Photoshop.

The next time you face the mirror, I hope you can see the beauty that unfolds right before you. Start speaking beautiful words, smile a lot and attract positive energy.

To the women I love and to all the women out there, let us all take time to create and grow! We were all made to be co-creators of this earth and so whatever your passion or curiosity or purpose is, keep going. If you were made to paint, create paintings that express your heart in each stroke. If you were made to write, write words that echoes the depth of your soul. If you were made to sing, serenade the world with your tune. Do whatever keeps you alive.

Now you might say, my art has already been done or I am not the greatest yet. I will tell you this which I also tell myself all the time: no one on this planet has been born great with what they do! Likewise, all the things may have been done too, but they have not yet been done by your hands. So c’mon, start that craft or hobby that you have been wanting to do! Now na!

Growing is also a choice we have to make every day. Remember when I mentioned earlier that we are all a work in progress? Well, it takes two to tango. The Maker can only finish a work in each of us if we give our permission and full cooperation. Let us make a progress in every areas of our lives, girls! We can run & be fit, eat healthier foods, read more books, learn investing, and mingle with different people for learning and expanding our networks.

I would like to emphasize that last example I wrote which refers to the social area. You know, I’m a confessed introvert. I love being alone and I sometimes dislike being with lots of people. I love a quiet ambiance and I dislike noise. However, growing up, I realized that I needed balance in my life. I need friends who like big crowds for me to learn to be comfortable outside my comfort zone. And that place outside my comfort zone? It’s just the best place for me to grow! And I am loving every bit of my learning! 🙂

To the women I love and to all the women out there, acknowledge the abundance of love in your heart! If you only knew, we all have plenty of love in us; love not only for ourselves but for the entire world. If we open our heart, there we can find the love that we need and so we need not find love in things that are fleeting. I am not saying not to seek love from our families and friends. I am saying that you are already complete. 🙂 Once you see this abundance of love, you can overflow love to other people.

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I think every day is a woman’s day – for a child who needs hugs, to a husband who needs to be cared for, for the society that needs compassion, for the families that need inspiration.

Celebrate your womanhood, girl! 🙂

Love and prayers,

Neri

Who Do You Follow?

Yesterday my sister and I ran an errand for our aunt at SM Hypermarket. I was in a hurry because I will be attending a friend’s graduation and so I just grabbed the only things we needed – fresh milk and butter. (We were also in the mall for other purpose, in case you’re wondering if we went all the way to the mall for milk and butter. hihi)

I lined up in the cashier to pay for my items. While on the queue, I noticed a mother and daughter cutting through the line and placing their push carts ahead. I was struck by what I saw and I wasn’t able to manage a single word. I know myself to be mataray and so maybe that was the reason why I didn’t say anything.

However, another mother and daughter next to me wanted to do the same! They wanted to cut the line too. Since I was in a hurry, I secured my spot in one of the cashiers to also prevent them from getting ahead of the line. hehe.

This morning while catching a ride with our driver and his friend, our natural discussion was about the traffic. Our driver recounted an instance when he passed by a road that was only meant for public vehicles. He said he just tailed to the vehicle in front of him and so he was also tailed by the vehicle behind him. They were all caught by the traffic enforcer but he managed to avoid the violation ticket because of some reason. (Yan tayo e! hehe)

With these two recent experiences, I realized that people follow what they see, whom they fix their eyes to, regardless if an act is wrong or not. I’m sure we are all familiar with phrases, ‘ginaya ko lang sya’ (I just followed him/her) or ‘bakit ginawa nya, ako hindi?’ (s/he did it, why can’t I?).

Most often, people are caught up between messy situations (a violation ticket, an accident, or a fuming-with-anger day) because of following the fad or fellow violators some people or certain situations.

I think there is only one sure way not to mess things up. There’s only one way, one person to follow and that is Jesus. If we can all follow this Man, I’m sure we can never go wrong.

This Holy Week, it is my prayer that we all strive once more to follow Him and His ways. With the many falls we all had in the past, may we never tire of rising up and following Jesus again. Because, friends, there’s no other way but Him.

Have a meaningful Holy week!

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Photo from flickr.com

Provincia de Tawi-Tawi

Note: This will not be another travel blog with hotel and food ratings or recommendations where to go since I was only able to visit the place on official business, meaning, I was there to work. I was just blessed to squeeze in, as in squeeze in, some side fun trips.

 

The first time my officemate Cariz asked me to join the trip in Bongao, Tawi-Tawi was also the last time. I said yes right away. Though I had bits of apprehension, my curiosity about the province pervaded.

On Sunday before our trip, I asked my Light Group (friends from the Feast Bay Area) for their prayer that we may be safe in Bongao. After all, I don’t know what lies in the most southern tip part of the country. Will there be armed men like what the media tries to portray at times of the places in Mindanao? Is there a comfortable place? Will it be safe?

My day in Bongao went so fast that I forgot my little apprehensions. The truth is, my only worry was taking a bath with the hotel’s water supply. It was as if the water was recently pumped straight from the soil. The water was grainy but it’s safe to take a bath with. I would recommend though bringing extra bottles of water for brushing teeth and washing face. Anyway, I am not sure if it’s the same with other hotels, maybe not.

Going back, my boss, officemates and I took the first flight to Tawi-Tawi from Zamboanga City. We arrived in the island’s small and simple airport at around 8 am. There was no conveyor for the luggage and so we had to wait for them in a huge cart and try not to grab a stranger’s luggage.

After a quick breakfast in the hotel (our friend and tour guide Ms. Lisa was in a hurry because she wanted us to have more time to tour around the place), we headed to our first destination – to the town’s electric cooperative. (By the way, I work at the National Power Corporation, the government agency mandated to power up the farthest islands in the country. The corporation operates 291 small power plants in 207 municipalities across 35 provinces in the Philippines. Yeah, I could recite facts like this with eyes closed. 🙂 )

In the bus on our way to the coop, my hands were itching because I wanted to take photos of the streets but I can’t open the painted window! Then I saw  Atty. Patrick parking a motorcycle when we arrived in the coop’s office, I have to catch a ride with him, I thought, for the sake of good photos.

The dialogue with the electric coop lasted for maybe two hours. While I take photos of the meeting, we were also eating more delicacies and hearing stories about the place from the employees there.

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Cariz eating Pitis. It’s like our typical kakanin but with coconut bits inside.
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Lyza being enlightened on what is it like in Sitangkay. hehe. 

After the dialogue was my boss’ visit and interaction with the personnel of Bongao Diesel Power Plant which is just a stone’s throw away from the coop.

For me, it’s really inspiring to meet the corporation’s employees in the islands. They do not have the convenience of the city/Manila but they still give 100% service to the people. Imagine, plant heads from the small islands of Tawi-Tawi had to travel for hours on boat just to meet us in Bongao. Sitangkay for instance is four hours away.

The next destination was the Power Barge located in Barangay Lamion. We rode motorcycles to capture photos of the streets going there. My boss meanwhile got busy talking with the employees of the barge. I took photos of the discussion, took notes of the statements for my story, downloaded photos in the laptop and tried to write the story in my mind to upload it on the corporation’s Facebook page within the day. This was my routine every event. Yes, it was like juggling colorful balls, except that I was not trying to be funny. hihi.

Lunch was next. But before that, Atty. Pat and I drove for an extra mile to take photos around. We stopped by in an area by the sea to just capture photos of the wood houses and DIY foot bridges. While one kid was shy to have his photo taken, a family did not only strike a pose but also welcomed us in their homes.

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The half-shy, half-willing -for-a-photo boy.
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This family welcomed us in.

We wouldn’t be returning soon for lunch if it wasn’t for the man behind me fetching us. hehe. 😊

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Behind me is the famous Bud Ponga/Bongao Peak.

We grabbed a quick bite so that everyone who waited for us can go back to the hotel to freshen up. The forum with the local government unit and some stakeholders starts at 2 pm.

After a swift rest in the hotel, we headed to the provincial capitol for the forum. But again, Atty. Pat and I went again for a visit in another street. We went to the street where big boats are being constructed.

The forum went for three hours. I did my juggling routine again to be free to roam around the place after. 😊

The motorcycle ride after the forum brought us to more faces of the place and the locals.

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Refueling for longer ride.
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Taken from the capitol grounds where one can view the Bongao town.
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Posing with the boat makers’ kids.
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Overtime work (it was already 5:30 pm)

For dinner, Governor Nurbert Sahali prepared a sumptuous buffet with the best pieces of seafood the town has. But more than the food, Tawi-Tawi’s culture was presented to us through songs and dances. It was a great night to top off our day.

Tawi-Tawi is just like any other province, there is a distinct place, a special delicacy and of course, its people. But unlike other provinces, Tawi-Tawi is a peaceful place where both Christians and Muslims live together, a warm place where everyone you see smiles and waves back at you (I kept smiling and waving at strangers while riding the motorcycle! haha), and a place of beautiful beaches and mountain.

Tawi-Tawi made me feel I was living in my early years again as a kid when life was simpler. I want to come back there again, this time for pure pleasure.

Tara, let’s come to Tawi-Tawi! 😊