Deep breaths and Doodles

Sunday. The sun was out and so it was hot but my new found friends and I were comfortably seated inside Aliw Theater. We were listening to our Feast Builder, Bro. Migs Ramirez deliver the talk of the week. Migs loves telling stories and on that particular day, a gripping story was unfolding right before us – a story that made me literally grip the arm rest of my seat and forget to breathe for about five or more seconds. Good thing, Migs asked us to take a deep breath or else I’d die right there.

Iiinnnnhale, exhale. Breathing is automatic but deep breathing requires a little bit of effort. Deep breathing is breathing deeply into our abdomens, three to four seconds in, three to four seconds out. It is the kind of breath that cleanses the lungs, clears the mind and strengthens the body.

I cannot say that Bro. Migs taught me to take deep breaths but it is apt to say that he reminded me that deep breaths are necessary whenever I find myself in gripping situations or when my back is against the wall or when resources seem scarce… or when I am going to have an interview with famous people like Migs himself.

Butterflies were fluttering in my stomach on the day of our meeting. “It’s okay if it’s going to be postponed because something happened,” I said to my friend Madz who went with me for the interview to make sure I’m not going to faint even before I could introduce myself to Migs. (OA ako minsan)

My friend just laughed at me the same way Migs laughed as I recall the scene to him later in our talk. You see, I love talking to people and asking them questions. It’s my job for the past five years to ask, take notes, and write something worthy from the conversation. But in my past interactions with people, I have reasons for asking them – my boss told me so or the government needs it. This is the first time (I guess, though I am chatty to anyone even with street vendors) that I have asked someone for an interview for my, well, for my blog.

So pag-papraktisan mo ako?” teased Migs when I told him it’s going to be for my blog. I said yes and thank him for his generosity and kindness. We all laughed.


No Accidents

As what our favorite panda movie taught us, there are no accidents (Kung Fu Panda, 2008). That is why Migs never called it an accident that from being a 12 year old lector in their parish then, he grew up today to be a teacher and Feast Builder.

“My dad was an officemate of Bro. Obet [Cabrillas]. Umuwi si Papa one day [telling me] meron akong training, public speaker’s training, umattend ka,” Migs recalled.  “Ininterview ako only to find out na hindi sya public speaking course, it’s a leadership training course, so from there, it was all God –incidence.”

Migs remembered how shy he was then during the course since he doesn’t know anyone from The Feast. And so when the time has arrived for a demonstration in their public speaking session –

Ang sabi ni Bro. Obet, piliin ninyo yung pinaka mahiyain sa grupo ninyo, so obviously the choice was me. Tumayo ako sa harap, I gave a talk and that’s when Bro. Obet invited me to accompany him to LSS (Life in the Spirit Seminar) when he would be invited by communities,” Migs related.


From there, Migs was tapped into Campus Missions then found his way leading worship in Feast Manila. Last year, he became the Feast Builder for the Singles and Youth in the Feast Bay Area.

I have seen a lot of preachers both inside and outside The Feast and there are a lot of times when I notice these people’s distinct characters in teaching the Word, in relating to their flocks and in touching hearts. And so I had to ask Migs on his brand as a preacher.

“I realized, una sa lahat, ako yung preacher na may audience participation, facilitator’s style. Gusto ko yung mga taong kasama, may ginagawa ang mga tao,” he answered.

Image A

The second thing he wishes to be known for is the creative or innovative preacher. Migs shared that his brand is like an offspring of spirituality and creativity.

“For example the book (his book – Imagine This!), it was born out of innovation, creativity. Who has done a book that has doodles and talks about spirituality? [The book] is something that resonates with me, gusto ko laging fresh ang mga bagay.”


Imagine This

It was difficult to put down Migs’ book when I started reading it. ‘Imagine This’ is light yet deep, fun yet thoughtful. I finished it right away including the areas for doodling about my life, plans, name and all. (I left two doodle areas blank though, to allow myself more time to think about it.)


I am sure that the people who have read the book would agree with me when I say that the book deserves to have a part two. And so I took the liberty of asking Migs if there will be a second book.

“I hope so, I want to expect from myself. But in my mind, tatlong libro na ito. The first book is about [your] self, the second book is how to relate with others and the third book is relating to God,” Migs shared.

One thing I liked about the book is its authenticity and honesty. It was written in the perspective of God’s light and so no matter how vulnerable Migs presented himself to be in the book, the readers can only accept him and love him more.

In the book, Migs shared about his feelings of being inferior when he was younger. I think this is a common experience to a lot of people including myself. I asked him as an educator on what can be done to stop having this feeling among our children today.

“It starts at home, it starts from the parents, with the family. We still need love.”

My copy of IMAGINE THIS! Catch your own copies here.


Although Migs shared that he never wanted nor dreamed of being a writer, I still asked him tips for aspiring authors like me.

“Hmm. One would be keep writing which you are already doing. Second would be, this worked for me in a very intimate way, write for one person. Imagine one person who really needs what you are writing about,” he answered.

That’s the word imagine again, dear writers! Remember when Albert Einstein said that imagination is more important than knowledge?


Free Fall

As our conversation went longer, more questions and stories poured over. Knowing Migs’ discernment for his vocation and having difficult times myself in decision making, I asked him, “What were the greatest lessons that your decisions have taught you?”

Ang lalim ng mga tanong, pang Miss Universe,” Migs managed to say. And just like a scene from a question and answer portion of a pageant (less the drama though) he said, “pakiulit yung tanong?

We learned in high school Physics (or maybe even earlier?) that free fall happens when gravity is the only thing that influences the motion of an object. Migs’ answer to the question was the same except that the sole influencer of his actions was not gravity, but his faith.

“Right now, the greatest lesson is to trust. As in the biggest, having gone through so many things. Ibang klase pala yung tiwala, pag naranasan natin sya, it gives you a sense of helplessness. Para kang lumulutang [or] free falling pero alam mong may sasalo. It’s very disturbing at first but it’s very peaceful in the long run,” Migs said (don’t worry, not yet in between tears! Char!).

He then related how he has taken the time to be still and pray for his vocation since last year. Will he return to the seminary? Will he get married and have his own family? These were the things he prayed about. These were the prayers that sent him free falling, trusting and waiting for God to catch him.

One day, God finally laid down His divine hand and caught him. He was brave to make a decision and say it out loud – I’m going to the seminary.

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We can imagine a drum roll after that and expect an ending for this blog entry right here, right now. But I still had one final question: What is your message for single people?

“I would always notice na yung mga kwento nila, kwento ko. Na yung mga issues nila, at one point, it reflects who I am, pinagdaanan ko na rin or pinagdadaanan ko or there’s a part of my life that would connect what they are telling me. So probably the first message I would have is, I am going through the same thing that everybody is going through, all of us have our own struggles, and all of us has a way of dealing with it. I am no better than anyone,” Migs said.

His second message is this: “Most of the time, yung mga sasabihin ko sa kanila, advise ko rin sa sarili ko. Kasi narirealize ko, a lot of our issues come from this longing to love ourselves and to really be at home and at peace with who we are.

[In the past] ang dami kong self doubt, ang dami kong issues sa sarili ko, ang dami kong gustong gawin, pero hindi ako naniniwala sa sarili ko. But I had to accept the fact that I have everything that I need for me to become successful and all is stopping me is myself. If I want to be successful, I just need to do it. And it starts with loving myself. So I think that’s one the biggest things I want to share to all the single people in the world and all the people in the world, actually.”


Wow! Let’s take a moment to dig that in. Take a deep breath.

It starts with loving ourselves – our dreams, our healing, our relationships, our passion, our faith. And it is my fervent prayer that we all start loving ourselves more and more, not in a selfish way but in a way that expands our hearts to accommodate more people in it. The bigger our hearts, the fuller our lives. The fuller our lives, the more we glorify the Lord.

Quote box


Before we parted ways, I did not waste the chance on having Bro. Migs sign my copy of his book. I purposely did not look while he was on it. I wanted to be surprised. On my way home, I peeked on the front page like a kid sneaking a hand in a cookie jar. I smiled to myself to what I saw – doodles in red, blue and yellow inks. 😊


Bro. Miguel Ramirez is a preacher, singer, composer, teacher and most recently, an author. Bro. Migs has also founded the BIG CATCH Creative Training Co., which aims to unleash people’s creativity and motivation. He is the Feast Builder of the Feast Bay Area Singles and Youth in the Name of Christ (SYNC). The Feast,  which is one of the happiest places on earth, is a weekly Catholic gathering of the Light of Jesus Family. 

Seven Things About Me

Today, I chanced upon that video of Calysta Bevier performing on America’s Got Talent with Rachel Platten’s Fight Song.  If you haven’t watched that wonderful performance, you can watch it here.

I got teary eyed watching the video because her statement on ‘chasing dreams’ resonated so much to me. But that’s not this is going to be about. 😊

After watching her video five hours ago, the song has been on the loop in my Window’s Media Player and has probably played a hundred times now. My officemate seated next to me claims he has already memorized the song. “Like a small boat, on the ocean, sending big waves…” he sings.

Since, I’ll be gone for a couple of days to go to the beach, I thought of sharing some weird things about me like 1. playing a song over and over and over until my phone or computer explodes out of boredom to the same song. Or until my officemates walk out on me to plug their earphones and play their own songs.

Ready for the rest of the list? Here it goes:

2. I still have a milk tooth on supposedly my right fang. My dentist and I failed to figure out where my fang went. She said that it’s supposed to grow (inside my gums) even if the milk tooth didn’t fall out. But x-ray reveals no right fang anywhere.

3. I am naturally curly like that instant spaghetti that became famous on TV (oooohhh, that rhymes). When I was younger like in grade school, my mother would always ask my hair dresser to get me a pixie cut. I remember being teased in school about it. They say my haircut is for boys only. Today, screw those brats!

that curly!


4. I am utterly (sorry for the adverb, allow this for emphasis) terrible in Math! I would always get a zero in our Math quizzes during high school. In College I got 2.5 grade in Algebra, can you believe that?! Haha! But maybe, I am not that bad because I got 1.0 in Statistics. Just don’t ruin my numbers with letters, okay? 😊

5. I don’t know how to swim, therefore soaking in the ocean or the swimming pool scares the hell out of me. I am afraid of the waters ever since I was younger. I remember I would skip washing my face for the fear of drowning. Haha! Weird. But recently, I got to float in the ocean without gripping onto anyone. Let’s see if it will still work on the coming days (remember, I’m going to the beach again). 😉

I got to swim alone!


6. I daydream a lot. Some of my fantasies are: singing on a stage before an audience (hahahaha!), attending my book launching, going to places around the world and sleeping, yes, I am day dreaming of sleeping longer. 😁

7. Lastly, though I am a writer, I would admit that I am not good in spelling. Haha! I would check Mr. Webster whenever I am uncertain about the spelling of a word I am going to use like occasion, accommodate and rhythm.


Years ago, I wrote a blog about how stupid I can get at times. I included there my being terrible at Math and how I put the word ‘underscore’ in my file names during high school when our Computer teacher told us so. 😹 Some of my friends who read the blog was shocked to find out those things about me. They thought I was so smart that I never had those dim-witted moments. But the truth is, just like everyone else on this planet, I am not perfect too.

I guess that’s the reason for my sharing today, to remind myself that people are not perfect and that we are all a work in progress. And I am sharing my imperfect self to you so that I can also allow you to be just the way you are.

Let’s celebrate our uniqueness! Cheers! ❤


Dearest Tatang (A letter to my long departed paternal grandfather)

(I wrote this a few days before my birthday last February. I did not share it then because I feel this is so raw and it is still raw today. I could still improve this in terms of construction but that would take time when all I want to do is to share something personal and true this Father’s day. Happy father’s day to all!)


Dearest Tatang,

In a few days from now, it will be exactly 27 years since you first held me in your arms and bragged to everyone that I look like you. It’s almost three decades and here I am this morning, crying like a baby as if you were gone only yesterday. Crying is not even the word to describe it, maybe wailing is a more appropriate word. Why do you have to leave so soon? Why did you have to leave me without a memory of you or a lesson or at least one bonding moment? Can you please ask God to send me answers to my questions? I was barely a year old when you left and I didn’t even know your voice. Why?


They say this is one of your favorite poems. They say you would recite it once in a while, maybe after getting occupied with your woodworks. Now that reminds me of the table where I am currently writing this, you made this and that’s why I so love this table. I even refurbished it with your bunso (my father), if you saw us that day.

If you only left when I was a bit older, say six or seven years old when I can already speak. Maybe you could teach me the poem and watch me recite it in front of you. You know, I was already reading English at five! We were already reading the Come and Play book at school.  You could have also taught me other poems or read short stories for or with me. You know Tatang, I adore stories today. I love reading and has in fact just finished reading four books this month. You will be proud of me.

They say that you’ve been also in the army. My father would tell me the anecdotes you told them when you were still in the battlefields. And I would imagine you, young, wearing commando’s clothes and fighting in the fields. If you were alive today, you would be happy that I am working with the government too. With the stories I hear about you, I know you loved our country too. You’re a father and a patriot.

They say you’re the best encourager ever. You would push your children to pursue and chase away their dreams no matter what. I remember when Ate (my aunt, the second eldest among the brood of six) would always recount the story of her taking the Licensure for Teachers’ Exam. You were always there for her – providing money for the exam and providing tons of encouragement. She passed the exam and started teaching in a private school. Now with your wisdom, you pushed her to transfer to public school where she can be more appreciated, both morally and financially. That’s what she did and she always tells us it’s one of the best decisions she ever made her entire life.

If you were alive today, I am sure that you will also be my number one fan. You will be my bank of good words and love whenever I feel lonely or discouraged. You will hug me each time I cry and I know you will teach me how to fight again.

tatang 2
One of two surviving photos of my grandfather. I thought there’s a photo of us together but I found out that I only fabricated that photo in my mind after hearing stories of him saying I was his favorite apo.


They say you were a diligent carpenter, good husband and provider. You work with much concentration and precision. I think that’s one of the things my father got from you because whenever he works on my project, it’s really taking him long! He makes sure all the measures are correct, all the lines are ‘pantay’ and all the materials are complete. You also loved Inang and the kids with all your heart. I know that from the tales I was told.

My birthday is coming and I also miss Inang. You know, she would be the first person to greet me every time I celebrate my birthday. She never fails to be the first greeter, believe me. She would go downstairs first thing in the morning and greet me and of course bring me cash gift. haha! 😁 Please send her my love and greetings too in heaven.

I dearly miss you Tatang. If there is a time machine where I can travel back in time to see and meet you in person, I would trade anything for it. But maybe all I can do now is write you letters and read them out loud for you to hear. This is the only thing I can do now, to wait for my spoken words to dissolve in thin air until it reaches heaven.

Lots of love from your favorite apo,


Show Up!

I am writing this in my mind with a stabbing pain in the right side of my back, seating like a princess inside UP’s Balay Kalinaw and admiring the veranda in front of me and the wonderful view, not to mention the fresh air, that comes with it.


The pain in my back was probably from the long journey I endured last night from the office to our house. It was a Friday yesterday and so getting home was grueling. When I say grueling, it means more than an hour of standing in a queue and bearing the heavy traffic of Edsa. I remembered sending an SMS to my sister saying that I would probably wait for the fourth bus to get seated. It turned out I was keeping my hopes too high because I got a seat on the sixth bus! But this is not the message I want to leave today.

This morning, I took a cab to get on time in a workshop in Balay Kalinaw International in UP Diliman. For someone who takes the public commute and endures heavy traffic every day (I know, I should know how to drive by now), I realized that taking a cab is like heaven! haha! I felt rich today because I splurged on that smooth ride. Also, I felt good to have been kind to myself. Though being kind to one’s self can be a good blog topic, this is not the message I want to leave today.

What I want to leave for you today is what happened in between of these two circumstances I mentioned above. It happened this morning when my alarm hit off at the top of its, well, at the top of its maximum ringing tone.

With my exhaustion since my trip to Masbate the other day, I asked myself if I would get up and prepare for the workshop which by the way concerns my biggest dream OR sleep for more minutes and arrive on the workshop a bit late.

In the past when I face similar situations, I would usually bring up a lot of reasons, from ‘I would be late anyway so why not have a few more minutes on bed’ to ‘I deserve a rest.’

Today, I decided to rise up from bed and show up in the workshop.

I arrived in Balay 15 minutes before 9 am! Would you believe I was not late? 🙂

I realized that most of the time in my life, all I need to do is show up and just do my part. I then found myself talking to itself again.

“You want to write a novel but you feel afraid if you will ever get published? Show up, do your part of the job.

You want to pursue your dream but you don’t know if it’s meant for you or if it will really happen? Show up, do your part of the job.

Just show up for your job day after day after day after day and someday, your stubbornness will surely amount into something wonderful.”

Have you always wanted to dance or paint or create a design or learn an instrument or produce a masterpiece or grow a plant but you don’t know if it will work? Show up and do your part of the job! 🙂

Praying for you and your dreams,


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! 🙂


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.


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.


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,


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!

Photo from

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.

Cariz eating Pitis. It’s like our typical kakanin but with coconut bits inside.
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.

The half-shy, half-willing -for-a-photo boy.
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. 😊

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.

Refueling for longer ride.
Taken from the capitol grounds where one can view the Bongao town.
Posing with the boat makers’ kids.
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! 😊

Present (Birthday Blog Part II)

[This is the second part of my Birthday realizations and so it would be great if you could catch the first part here. ☺ If not, it’s fine to read away.]


Now that we have introduced to you our house rules, we would like to call here in front those who have already violated them. They may like to explain themselves, Bro. Pong, the giddy host of the retreat said.

He started calling names. My seatmate’s name has been called and I was like, ‘oh my, what did you do?’ Yeah, I said that like I was terrifying a five year old kid that someone’s lurking in the dark.

Then my own name was called. What did I do? I thought, this time seriously. My mind flashed back for some seconds searching for something wrong but I could not find any.

Bro. Pong finished calling names and revealed to everyone that the people in front are the batch’s birthday celebrators! Haha! Wow Mali! 😛

He then handed to us our birthday presents and I started greeting my fellow birthday celebrators. The seatmate I tried to frighten earlier? I hugged her. 😀 (She turned out to be my buddy during the retreat and of course, even after!)

I didn’t open the gift right away. I know it was a booklet but I waited for the right time to read it.

On Sunday morning, I found myself missing the Love Life Retreat. That’s when I started to read the present.


It is a beautiful read about the visions and messages of Jesus and Mary during a celebration of the Holy Mass to Catalina Rivas.

(The booklet was given authority to be published (Imprimatur) by Bishop Jose Oscar Brahona C. of El Salvador, Central America and was recommended for spiritual inspiration by Bo. Daniel Gagnon, OMI, of the Commission for the Doctrine of Faith of the Archdiocese of Mexico.)

In the booklet, Catalina recalls how Jesus and Mary spoke to her on what really happens during the mass – the offering of guardian angel’s intentions during offertory, the presence of the saints and departed loved ones during consecration and more.

I was struck the most when I arrived at her recollection of the communion.

 Jesus said in a sad tone: “Did you notice? Not once did she (a fellow mass   goer) tell Me that she loved Me. Not once did she give thanks for My gift to   her of bringing My Divinity down to her poor humanity to elevate her toward      Me. Not a single time did she say: ‘Thank You Lord.’ It has been a litany of requests… and almost all of those who come to receive me are like that.

I became conscious of what I usually tell the Lord after taking His flesh and blood. More importantly, I realized a very beautiful truth after reading further.

“I have died for love and I am risen. For love I await each one of you, and for love I remain with you… But you do not realize that I need your love. Remember that I am the Beggar of Love in this sublime hour for the soul.”

Wow. Just wow. The Lord who died for me on the cross because of His love now begs me again, over and over during the Holy Mass for my love.

Suddenly, all the times I have been receiving favors from the Lord without my asking made sense to me. He exactly knows what I need and so He gives them to me even without praying for it – my parent’s devotion to the Holy Mass, new opportunities and unexpected blessings every single day that made me safe and calm.

I realized that we really not need to ask because He already knows. What we need to do is just express our love and be present. 😊

Twenty Seven (Birthday Blog Part I)

Nope, this is not about the movie of a girl who had 27 different dresses for 27 weddings. My story is somehow close to hers though, only mine is maybe short of 20 dresses. This isn’t also a list of 27 things I noticed wrong about the society or the government nor a list of 27 things I love doing or places I plan going to. This is about my 27th birthday.

For my birthday, I decided to pull off something different for myself. Not the usual lunch or dinner dates with my friends and family which I have been doing since my 16th. I chose to spend my birthday with 81 other strangers in a retreat. It was a ridiculous idea, I know. I mean, who else wants to celebrate a birthday with unfamiliar people? But I didn’t care because all I came there for was to be with the Lord. And true enough, He has honored my decision with abundance.😊

At the end of the first day of the retreat, I was already telling and listening to the deepest stories to/of my fellows. We were already hugging and assuring each other that things will be fine or that God will provide. We were already laughing hard together, sharing meals, serving each other with our needs.

In the past, I believed that these kinds of things (being nice and all) happen in a retreat because people are expected and supposed to act nice and kind.

Today, I realized I was wrong. We were able to hug and love each other instantly because we all became open and vulnerable and accepting. Most importantly, it is because humans are made out of love and therefore capable of giving love, no matter what. And I realized this is something people don’t do outside the retreat, in the real world. Why? Because we are always on the look-out if others would just hurt us, cheat us, leave us, use us or ignore us, and so people (including myself) chose to play safe by not loving or loving too much.

The truth is we are all capable of loving people no matter what their looks or attitudes or shortcomings are. We just have to summon more love from the Lord. Kaya nga mayroong, Yes I love you with the love of the Lord. 😊 (Kinanta mo rin ba?)


Fast forward to the end of the retreat (because I’m such a talker), I noticed that the servants were soaking wet with perspiration because of our worship and just jumping out of joy for us participants. (They have offered sacrifices too from leaving their day jobs to interceding for us the entire two days.) Their job must be hard, I thought. I pondered if I can give that energy in service to others on top of my work and relationships.

Then I understood that life is like that – uncomfortable because of exhaustion and perspiration and heartaches. Loving, growing, giving, dreaming and probably all else in life is uncomfortable, should be uncomfortable. When I am uncomfortable, it means I am leaving my comfort zones and exerting my best efforts, all eyes on the prize in the end.

Finally, I realized that my life’s progress depends on my willingness to cooperate with the molding of the Lord. If I wanted to grow faster than my current sluggish journey, I should be open to his pruning no matter how ugly or painful it is. Because at the end of the process, I am sure that he’s produced a masterpiece. 😊

Happy birthday to me! Cheers! 😊