In the Silence

 

I have embarked on a week-full of silence last week – no phone (and social media) for the whole day except for reading devotion via YouVersion app (c’mon lets be classmates, install here) in the morning and setting the alarm in the evening. I also engaged in small talks instead of the usual long chat with colleagues at work. It was nothing drastic, I still talked but was very mindful of what to say to avoid nonsense. If I could wear a badge that says ‘I’m in silence’ so I can really rest my throat and practice total silence I would. I’d love to try that next time.

Two reasons why I chose doing this for five days:

  1. I have accumulated enemies in the past three months because of something I said and how I smile. I know we can never be without enemies as there would always be people whom we cannot please. However, these people who chose to burn bridges with me made me realize the importance of pause and ponder.

 

  1. I felt that I have abused and misused my words. I knew this when my words failed to capture the contents of my heart. I could not seem to build anything on them. I was also ashamed to speak words before the Lord at night, I might just blabber nonsense. Instead of praying with words, I prayed with heartbeats trusting the He will bring out something beautiful out of it – a melody, a canvass of the sky in hues or a sweet fragrance.

I filled the days with my breath prayer, you know, the quick as breath prayer we utter to God which encompasses our feelings and thoughts.

 

My practice of silence was not perfect. There was a day when I got sick and was moved to call my mom or my sister just to get a tinge of warmth from home. There were times as well that I spoke and laughed a lot.

Nonetheless, in my imperfectness, God’s grace was everywhere to meet me. I listened intently and I would like to believe I heard Him.

With my notebook and pen I wrote them down to always remember. And for the next three days, I would share them here.

I hope that you could also find time to listen to God in the silence of your heart. In the middle of a busy day or a ‘hell’ week, in the midst of life’s blows, be still and listen, draw close to Him and He will come close to you (James 4:8).  💛

 

 

 

 

In response to ‘stupid God’ remark

Ito yung masasabi ko, ang imperfect lang. Parang may kabalintunaan, pero hindi ko naman mabura kasi yan talaga nasa isip ko.

Binasa ko ngayon yung statement ni Bishop Soc, ang gentle! Wow. Yun na lang basahin natin.

 

 

 

“A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy; I came so that they might have life and have it abundantly.” John 10:10

 

A recent tirade to the Catholic Church made by the President of the Philippines has sent people, at least in my Facebook wall, posting affirmation of their faith and faithfulness to the Triune God.

His mother must be rolling in her grave, I thought.  Like seriously guys, who else would be proud to his display of gibberish eloquence. Maybe his hundreds of cohorts in Batasan Hills or maybe some well-educated Senators and a balding lawyer kissing his ass occasionally. (Sorry for this paragraph, it’s so un-Christian. I might get scolding from our Parish Priest.)

Since his assumption as head of the state, I have made a couple of notes for a blog that did not see publication to this site until now. I wrote about my trips to the farthest islands and how the poorest of the poor gave their trust in him and to the change he promised. I took notes about leaders having integrity. I had mental notes on empowering, not killing the poor.

These ideas did not push through, not because I think my voice is small or because others have drive home the point better. It is because every time I try to write, I tell myself, ‘wait, there must be a sign of hope somewhere, a silver lining.’ But there is really none, not after 6 months, not after two years in power.

Now that he’s engaging in the destruction and division of our nation in another arena, something that is close to me as a person, I thought I must share my thoughts already.

 

If you can’t convince them, confuse them – the notorious political adage

The President is not really ignorant of the Catholic faith. I think he knows the answers to his religious dilemmas. He was after all, schooled in Ateneo. (Or baka absent sya nung tinuro? ) What is he trying to do now? He is not only insulting the Catholic faith but he is also diminishing Catholicism and religion in general into epoxy clay – panakip butas.

He knows that the Filipino people are gullible people, we easily engage in discourse even if we do not know the entire story. He also knows that religion is a great avenue for debate and division.

So here’s what he’s trying to do, he’s giving us another candy stick to fight over so as to prevent us from looking at the whole mess he was quick to accomplish – the rampant corruption (like in the DOT) and freeing of convicted plunderers, debacle in Kuwait that put thousands of OFWs in danger including our consuls, the same-same and even worse transport and traffic system, the all-time high inflation rate, the discrete selling of our sovereignty to China and more.

Ayan! Jusme. 💔 Kulang pa yan, wala akong listahan e, I don’t watch news anymore.

That is also the reason why I have avoided writing about this, it’s breaking my heart. (Guys, mas masakit pa sa hindi ka crush ng crush mo. Lol.) But I believe, that we cannot heal what we don’t feel (naks, hugot pa). We cannot confront what we don’t acknowledge to exist. If we see these problems in the eyes, that’s when we can act and do something about it.

 

The Christian cure to anything – love

I am not prescribing a declaration of affection be given to the president. I am proposing that we love more as the enemy tries to sow division among us. Let us go big time with kindness – in our homes, in our community, on our way to and from work and in the office.

Let our love learn no limits, a love that will embrace the poor, our enemies, and people of all race, culture, religion, political party and sexual orientation. We are after all brothers and sisters, made from the same oven (not to confuse the President though on his understanding of Creation, haha).

Go ahead and send love to the President, he needs it the most. And how are we going to do that? We can do that by loving our neighbors and we can hope that as our love is passed on, it will reach him.

As Pastor John Piper said, let us love each other earnestly from a pure heart (1 Peter 1:22) so that the church becomes a beautiful alternative to the corruption that is in the world (2 Peter 1:4). This is such a beautiful thing to do, the best company we can have in the middle of all this mess is each other.

Secondly, let us offer prayers as a nation of God. If we have time to whine about government leaders and their idiotic policies (ie. Paghuli sa tambay), all the more that we should give time to bend our knees and pray. Let us pray that the gift of repentance may come to our leaders, that they will hear the voice of God and follow what God is prodding them to do. Can we squeeze that short sentence in our night prayers? Pleasseeee!

Lastly, let us trust God and focus our eyes on Him. His mighty hand rules over the unrepentant kings of the earth. I believe that God has valid reasons in letting all these things happen. And while it may appear that the President, a mere human being is ridiculing the Lord, I believe that God is making this a perfect avenue to make manifest His love and glory for all to see.

 

God bless the Philippines!

 

Of Hospitals and Hopes

 

I remember in vivid details the day before it all began. It was a holiday and instead of going home in Bulacan, I decided to spend some ‘me’ time in a quaint coffee shop near my dormitory. I will finish the book I’m reading, I said to myself.

I ordered carbonara and an apple & cucumber smoothie, looked for a vacant spot in the shop and took out my book – Rising Strong by Brene Brown. The sun, slowly fading, was shining on my face as I get lost in my own world.

That night, I had an episode of epigastric pain again. It was a familiar pain, the one that sent me to ER in February this year. My mind was rushing as to what caused it, was it the carbonara? or the chicken I had for dinner? probably the ice cream I had after.

I took my meds for acid reflux and waited for it to take effect, but to no avail. The pain got worse. I sent an SMS to a housemate asking for the nearest hospital. When he won’t reply, I climbed up to their room upstairs. In 15 minutes and after uttering our prayers, we were on our way to the hospital.

The hospital we went to is a public hospital where I saw the striking contrast between public and private hospitals. When I was rushed in the hospital earlier this year, the nurse asked me right away to rate my pain to administer meds to me immediately. I was asked to lie down on bed with clean, fresh sheets. The airconditioned room comforted me in my pain.

The public hospital was a different story. The nurse asked a ton of questions and made me fill out forms while I was in pain. In the ER, the doctor asked me to lay on bed #5, when I went there, it was occupied and so I gave him an enquiring look. He repeated himself. Turned out they practice two patients per bed. Que horror!

Inside the horror hospital

Unwillingly, I laid down and felt terrified that I may die sooner than the patient beside me who was howling in pain. The doctor and nurses interviewed me again. I was already crying because of the pain and the stinky, bloodied bed I was in.

While in dextrose, I felt sorry not for myself, but for the millions of Filipinos who receive this kind of health service.

After that night, my life and my thoughts have never been the same.

 

 

It was lurking at my door

My mother then brought me in two hospitals in the following two days. Doctor here, needle sting there. It was tiring.  Lab tests revealed I have an infected and stone in my gallbladder. It was the one causing me pain.

I was wearing my brave front the entire time I was in the doctor’s office. But when I was alone again in my dorm in Cubao, that’s when depression started lurking at my door.

For some, my reaction may look like an exaggeration, but a health issue is something that really tips me off my balance. I mean, I know people who are more careless with their bodies and health than me. I know people who consumed soda (or alcohol, hehe) like it was water, who never impose limitations on their diet and so on. Why me? I asked God, Why this?

You see, my year was going great (except for a heart break which I will soon blog about), I was doing well with my goals. Suddenly, something pulls the mat off my feet sending me on the ground. I felt lost and clueless where I really stand before the Lord.

I also got tired of eating just crackers and fruits. The simplest remarks or jokes from friends hurt me. My acne aggravated the situation because every time I see them on my cheeks, I feel like they are linked to my sickness inside.

It made me think of my emotions and thoughts too. Have I been holding grudge against anyone? Have I done wrong to others? Hay, the thoughts are endless. It was paralyzing. I could not speak about my thoughts and feelings to anyone. I mean, I feel weak to speak to friends. Even until today, I still limit on who to talk to via social media platforms not because I don’t want to but because I don’t have strength at the moment.

Rising strong

a really good read at the most opportune time

Speaking up about this today is part of my rising strong story. Living one day at a time, I am learning to tame my thoughts, gradually welcome back my friends in my space and cling firmer to God and His word.

I look at my accumulated verse wall in my dorm while I was anticipating love to come my way (ooops) and thought, God’s promises are boundless and true in every season.

He surely will, strengthen me, help me and uphold me. He is my hope and my refuge. He will never fail me.

 

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All of us are fighting battles be it in health, career, or relationships. It can be exhausting sometimes. It can leave us clueless as to why we have to engage with such. But as what my best friend told me while everything was a blur, ‘you are stronger that you ever think you are.’

Happy fighting! 😃💪

 

 

PS:

Hours after writing this on June 11, I was in pain again. In tears, I decided to go home in Bulacan where I started and never stopped vomiting until my mother brought me to, guess where – the ER again. I think that and the rest that unfolded deserve to have another blog post – When God doesn’t give you the miracle you ask for.

 

 

Turning and my Three Day Feels on it (aka Brave Goal #1)

 

I turned a year older this week and so I did something special for myself – I traveled alone in the highly urbanized city of Bacolod, the home of the Maskara Festival.

The idea of going there wasn’t planned; I just wanted to take advantage of the seat sale last year. And the act of going there wasn’t well thought-of either; I just packed three sets of clothes, inappropriate clothes to be exact, and went there without a definite itinerary, neither in print nor in mind.

Well, I have searched for places to go, but which one should go first and last, I did not think of. Also, I called my clothes inappropriate because they (plus my hat) basically gave me away to the locals, I mean, it was so obvious that I wasn’t from there. Haha! I think it’s a rule among travelers to always fit in to a place so as not to attract too much attention.

Who would go hiking on a dress? But it did not made the hike harder huh

There were a lot of times though that the locals tried speaking to me in Ilonggo, their native dialect. I wanted to show off a bit by telling, ‘indi ko kabalo mag-Ilonggo’ ( I don’t speak Ilonggo), but I always end up telling them, ‘I’m from Bulacan, Tagalog only.’

My AirBnB host, Ate Rudy helped me a lot with my itinerary and in taking public commutes in the city. She also fetched me from The Ruins on my first night and dropped me off to the jeepney terminal going to Murcia on my second day. She even graciously fed me with desserts. (She bakes great cupcakes. If anyone here is to visit, she has a café at the 888 mall.)

I won’t be detailing here the places I’ve been to or the expenses I made, a lot of other blogs can already give you that. But I will be sharing instead the trove of ideas that went inside my head and why getting lost is the perfect way of finding yourself.

 

Traveling – Day 1 Musings

Traveling alone is my Brave Goal number 1 as written in my Brave Goals which I made two years ago. It made sense then and maybe until now that traveling alone is synonymous to being brave. It will bring you to unfamiliar places with a dialect you can’t comprehend and a different culture.

But I realized that traveling alone is more than being brave. Traveling alone is liberating and redeeming at the same time. It frees you from your tight grip from what is certain, from what imprisons your heart or haunts your soul. It likewise redeems who you really are – the real you who follows the soul and not the crowd or what is expected of you.

It can also remind you, through the kindness of the people around and the falling into place of circumstances that everything will turn out fine. Things might be messy or ugly or confusing or just pointless right now, but you will be okay.

 

Dying – Day 2 Thoughts

Going to Mambukal Resort in Murcia from Bacolod City takes about an hour. As I marvel at the scenic views of the sky, mountain and sugar cane fields on my way, I was also reading a good novel. When I reached the resort, I went right away to the office to get me a guide going to the hike for the seven falls.

 

Harvested sugar cane fields x Green fields x Blue hues

I got Nicko, a 23 year old local as my tour guide slash photographer. The hike started with an easy and manageable trail. I got to see beautiful, huge trees that you can’t fully cover in an embrace, bats and wild flowers. And of course, the breathtaking sight that every waterfall gives is such a wonder.

However, after the third waterfalls and a steep hike, I got a sick feeling and decided to rest for a while. My dizzy feeling was probably illuminated on my face and so Nicko asked if I have a heart condition. I lied and said no (my blood pressure soared two weeks ago with no detailed reason).

When my head got heavy and my vision black and blurry, that’s when I told him I can’t probably go on with the hike. He gave me massages on my fingers and hand until I was feeling okay and I did turn out fine, guys. But when the whole thing was happening, the thought of dying is rushing in my mind.

My last sight if ever I died. Ganda no?

I thought about my parents, of how much heart break I will give them if I died right there; my sister who would probably scold me over and over until the very end; and my soul mate who would perhaps end up searching everywhere but to no avail, I died already. 😀

Today I realized that turning a year older is indeed a celebration of thanksgiving for this beautiful life. Yes, beautiful, no matter how your circumstances right now looks like. If we could only marvel at the beauty of our scars that made us stronger, the beauty of being alone that made us know ourselves better, and the beauty of disappointments that make our faith grow wider – then we’ll see, life is a wonder.

 

Returning – Day 3 Feelings

I woke up in the middle of the night on day 3, probably because of the number of people keeping me in their thoughts on my birthday. Haha!

I thought this whole traveling alone thing is scary, I thought. But going back is what scares me the most now.

Maybe I am just one lazy person who doesn’t want to go back to work anymore or maybe I want a different situation when I come back – something I am still pondering on today.

Anyhow, it takes bravery to return to reality again!

 

I realized that this is quite a read! So let me finish by saying, I tried to wander off and get lost. All I got were wonders and finding, loving myself over again.

*apir!

 

Is it Too Late for a New Year Post?

I gave 2018 a welcoming embrace through a glass mug of wine and a list of what I intend to do this year. Unlike last year’s long list, I chose to have a few items this year – manage my finances well, study the Scripture more, reduce waste and move in to a dormitory near the office. The first goal is for financial freedom, the second one is to be able to hear God’s voice more often, the third goal is to contribute in the preservation of the environment and the last goal will allow me to have more time for my writing, reading and wandering.

Would you believe that I hit the last goal first? With eyes closed, I packed my bags and moved into a dormitory house in Quezon City last week. My new space is just a bus ride away from the office and 30 minute-walk from the chain of malls in Cubao. Well, the 30 minutes estimated time depends if I get distracted by a bookstore or paper store.

Consequently, this goal will push me to hit other back-of-the-mind goals like improving my cooking and doing the laundry. Hahaha! Win-win, I’d say.

The third goal is always a struggle because everything we purchase today is automatically wrapped in plastics! *scream* However, this must be taken one step at a time, or two steps as for me. Step 1 is avoiding the use of straws and Step 2 is bringing of containers whenever I buy takeaway meals. Hahaha! It looks funny but I am proud to do these small things. Hopefully, I can grow more on this goal in other aspects. For the remaining two goals, I badly need help. And I am already onto it. Wish me the best.

 

On top of all these, I decided to have a single word as a theme for this year, especially since my 2017 word had been helpful. My 2017 word was HUSTLE and it made me accept and finish a lot of side-hustles. I also hustled in my travels, both personal and official, that I drop dead by December. (Yeah, the reason I wasn’t able to write for a long time, also the reason why I chilled my way through 2018.) You see, the word is not necessarily a goal but an inspiration to be open and accepting to things that are related to the word.

My 2018 word is SPARKLE, no matter how corny it sounds.

My initial thought is about sparking more creativity in my life because creativity is said to be the most-sought after skill in this fast and rapidly changing world. But then I realized, sparkle is also a good word for my adulting. (Adulting, a noun turned verb which means engaging in activities associated with adulthood, behaving like a responsible adult.)

The word can push me to sparkle in my career, maybe I can finally enroll in further studies this year; it can move me to sparkle in my relationships (there is nothing to elaborate); and it can inspire me to sparkle as a Christian, as in loving my enemies better and influencing others to do the same.

 

Let’s all have a sparkling year ahead! 😉

 

Get Lost

There is  thrill in getting lost – the surprising, unknown landscapes to behold, the hidden part of yourself surfacing, the thoughts you have finally had the courage confronting. From the discreet ‘wow’ for the sceneries that meet the eyes to the inaudible ‘uh oh’ whenever taking the wrong turn, surely, getting lost is one of my most favourite teachers.

Figuratively, getting lost allows me to stop and think to gain better perspective. It makes me pray harder on my knees to hopefully open the right door and go right through it with wholeheartedness.

Literally, getting lost makes me feel panic and excitement at the same time. It creates little conversations in my head and stores wonderful memories in my mind.

Today is about literally getting lost in the safest place I have been to and our birthday celebrator – Singapore!

 

Lost in Bras Basah

In April 2016, I did one of the noblest acts a sibling can do (hahaha!). I accompanied my sister to SG to help her settle in a new house there. (Although she would probably argue that I wasn’t helpful enough.) On our fourth day, while she was fixing documents with the Ministry of Manpower, I decided to see some parts of the city on my own. With map on hand, I hopped on the train and got off in Bras Basah. I intended to go to the National Museum of Singapore. At first, I was confident that I would find it easily on foot. Then after hours of walking and checking out some amazing architecture along the way, I realized I might be lost.

It was a hot day and so I thought of giving up already. I have seen a lot of places anyway – I saw the National Design Center building, St. Joseph Parish and convent along Victoria Street, the National Gallery, and the colourful Old Hill Police Station turned into Ministry of Information, Communication and the Arts (MICA) Building. (I love saying Ministry, it’s like I’m in Harry Potter. The Philippines used to call it Ministry too, I wonder what caused the change.)

 

MICA Building
MICA Building

However, if I go back to our temporary home in Eunos, I felt that I will also be taking with me the badge of defeat. And so I pursued, asked some strangers and walked a little bit mooore. I was ecstatic when I finally found it!

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Such joy to finally find the sign!
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The National Museum facade 🙂

 

My visit was timely for the visiting/four-months-only Treasures of the World Exhibit of the British Museum. The exhibit features objects from 800,000 thousand years ago up to year 2013.  I also learned about the rich history of Singapore from the 14th century where it was first mentioned to have a thriving trading port to being a British colony to Japanese occupation to its merger with Malaysia and to its independence in 1965.

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After touring the entire museum, I faced the challenge of hopping on the right bus number to go home. Haha!

 

Lost in Tiong Bahru

In my second visit in the country, I already prepared an itinerary of the not so usual places I want to see. I even prepared questions to ask should I bump into Singaporean singer-songwriter Corrine May (would you believe, I send her a couple of messages on Instagram and through email to ask her?! Hehe) Believe me, I have rehearsed a lot of details in my mind. 😃

Part of my prepared itinerary is a visit to the quaint neighborhood of Tiong Bahru. I went there while my sister went to her usual day at school. While on the train, I was thinking what awaits me there. I was also thinking if I can find the bookstore I saw on Instagram since I have no phone to search with.

I got off the Tiong Bahru train station and found a mall outside. I instinctively went to the farther side where I think a magical bookstore can be found. On my way, I asked an Aunty if I was on the right direction and she confirmed that I was.

When I reached the street where there are a handful of restaurants and cafés, I felt I was near already. After half an hour of walking around, I could not find what I was looking for. I met a Filipina on the way and asked her about the local bookstore, she told me to go to the mall where I have come from, probably thinking of a different bookstore or place.

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An alley in Tiong Bahru

 

I kept looking at my watch because I was going to meet a dear friend for lunch. And I don’t want to be late to our ‘tagpuan’ (meeting place) because, again I have no phone to send SMS with. I decided to just return to the train station and go straight to Chinatown for our meeting.

When I noticed that I will be quite early, I got off in Little India and stride along the colourful structures in it. Hehehe! Little India does not only offer a lot of sceneries but also several merchandise for shopping enthusiasts. I wish I was hungry enough to grab something Indian to eat, but I don’t want to be full for my lunch date.

 

My friend Minnie and I had lunch in Song Fa Bak Kut Teh where the popular Chinese soup called Bak Kut Teh is being served. The dish’s name literally means ‘meat bone tea.’ It’s unli-sabaw right here 😀

Minnie searched the way to the Tiong Bahru bookstore for me and instructed me which bus to take after lunch. Yes, I never gave up with my search. I photographed the map so as not to get lost again.

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Bak Kuh Teh and chikin feet
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Directions!

 

So, I reached the place again, the same place I visited earlier, only this time, I walked farther and finally found the hall of stores I was looking for. There was a children’s bookstore there which did not allow taking of photographs. There was also a novelty store of everything cute called Strangelets. There was, of course, BooksActually, the indie book store that sells classic and home grown authors. The bookstore also sells vintage trinkets, stationery and postcards, and has cats as part of the team. Cool!

I had the bookstore all by myself for a time and so I browsed through everything. I bought an Alain de Botton book and read it right away at Tiong Bahru Café. The day was such a sweet experience!

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Magical moment! I could live here.
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All by myself
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The book and may pastry take away have the same colors! Reading at Tiong Bahru Cafe

 

Looking back now to these two experiences, I can say that I get braver each time I am lost. I guess that’s what getting lost teaches us – that everything is figureoutable (Forleo, 2016). Getting lost may give us the rush and fear, but it also gives us confidence that we shall find our way soon.

So here’s me ending with, don’t be afraid to explore and get lost!

And yeah, Singapore is a great place to get lost in. 😉

 

 

WORDPLAY : STEADFAST

I have been dragging myself out of bed on mornings these past weeks. Rising up at 4:30 am has been a laborious chore for me. I get to rise at around 5 am or 5:30 am now which is too late already. This will be an ugly confession, but I must admit that this makes me say a little prayer to God in the mornings instead of meditating on the Scripture and writing my devotions. My used to be morning routine, now ruined.

My fight for enthusiasm in the middle of exhaustion brought about by the daily commute and heavy traffic in Metro Manila is becoming harder and harder. Why do I want to win this battle? Because I love my family and I want them to have my best. Because I love my job and I want to give my best for it too. Because I believe a lot more can be done when I am eager, animated, and passionate.

And so I thought that STEADFAST came to me in the most opportune time. You see, I am thinking about the word since last night and maybe who knows, someone or something has implanted the word in me in the past weeks that I barely noticed.

Merriam-Webster defines STEADFAST in this way:

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Our word means not changing devotion or loyalty to a person, cause and belief. Big word if you ask me. It’s one thing to be devoted to one person/cause/belief, but it’s a totally different thing to be devoted in spite of struggles, heartaches or failures.

To stay in the game with a slim chance of winning, to be faithful without seeing, to be firm in love in the middle of chaos, to be loyal no matter what. These are what I think it means to be steadfast.

In the Scripture, the word STEADFAST and its synonyms FIRM, CONSTANT, FAITHFUL, etc. appeared a lot of times. Let us start with a verse within Paul’s letter to the Corinthians.

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This verse is found almost at the end of the Paul’s letter. If we read the entire letter, we will understand why Paul concluded with the verse above.

The Church in Corinth was established by Paul about the year 51 on his second missionary journey (first journey was in Galatia – Acts 13-14). After his mission in Corinth and while in Ephesus, he received disturbing news about Corinth. Factions arose after some people identified themselves exclusively to select Christian leaders and interpreted the Christian teaching as superior wisdom for the initiated few. There were also members who discriminated others, deprived the poor with Christian courtesies and engaged in local conflicts in pagan courts.

In spite of these, a majority of Christians in Corinth remained faithful. Although the letter was written for everyone, I believe that Paul’s letter especially our verse above was dedicated to the faithful.

‘Be firm, steadfast, always fully devoted to the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.’ In here, Paul encourages the faithful to remain faithful to the works of the Lord since anything done for the Lord cannot and will never be wasted.

Translating the verse and situation today, the Lord is telling us through the Scripture to be also steadfast for His plans in our lives.

One might say that my trouble of waking up early and getting exhausted day in, day out is just a small thing compared to people who has the world on their shoulders. However, I say let us not dare to compare our battles. I believe that anything that tries to keep us away from the love and grace of the Lord is a battle we should fight with steadfastness.

What is your battle? Fight and be steadfast.

It would be difficult, I know. But remember that the Lord will never ask us to do what He Himself has never gone through and conquered. He has gone through this all, and with the grace of the Father and His steadfast love for us, He won.

“Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.” – Psalm 90:14

 

 

P. S.    What’s your favorite verse on being steadfast? Share below! 🙂

The Home Maker

I visited my grandparents in their resting place one hot morning. As I was leaving the memorial place, I have recognized him from afar. With his dark skin, curly hair and bright smile, I could not be mistaken.  It was Manong Carlos or Manong to all of us at home. He was working on a mausoleum nearby and smiled even brighter when he saw me. He stopped working and approached me.

“I’ll start working on your house again next week,” he began in Filipino.

“Are you sure? Will you still be able to rest?” I asked knowing that he has customers left and right. He assured me he will return to our house to finish the tiles on the first floor.

We had quite a chat and I remember teasing him not to drink liquor anymore. I was particularly concerned with his health because he just works so hard.

Manong is our ever dependable, talented and coolest carpenter. He works with precision and would never cheat people on working hours, materials and quality of work. I say he’s the coolest because he’s funny and light. He would occasionally make jokes and laugh at his own remarks. Hahaha!

Whenever we needed something built, created or repaired, there’s only one name to call – Manong.

He was the one who built our new simple house and many other houses in our province/town. He was the one who advised me which tile to buy, what size and how many pieces. He was the one who made my bookshelves!

After finishing the second floor, he stopped working at our house because he has been called by a long-time, big-time customer who needed his services for the expansion of his huge green ‘events place’. And also because we had to save funds again for the completion of the house.

The week after our meeting in the cemetery, he truly came back and worked on the tiles and finishing of the house’s exterior. I remember watching him taking naps during lunch break while I thought to myself all the hard labors he did all these years. I observed his calloused hands and feet, his breathing that seemed almost laborious. I thought he was probably tired of having to work seven days a week, with all the pounding of the hammer, sawing of wood, cementing of walls and more.

But you know, whenever he wakes up again, none of his exhaustion will be seen in his face. He would still flash his white teeth with a wide smile.

 

Today while traveling back home from an official trip, my sister popped a message over my mobile phone expressing her sadness over what happened to Manong. Although I knew in my heart what happened, I still asked. My sister just confirmed what I thought and I know we both shed tears while our fingers find the words to honor him through our exchange of messages.

Manong had a heart attack yesterday and it instantly took his life away. Even until in his last breath, he was working, tools on his hands.

 

I would like to honor him today for being the best maker, not only of houses and structures but also the builder, provider and care taker of his own home. I know it was his family that made him smile no matter what. I know that it was his family that made him face each day and work hard.

Praise the Lord for his life and the wonderful works of his hands. May his soul rest in peace and graciously return to Him.

pc

PS

Thank you for reading. My reason for being recklessly emotional in writing this right away is the thought that readers may help me raise funds for Manong’s wake and interment. The chapel where his remains lie has only chairs and mourners, no food and drinks yet. Manong’s burial clothes were only provided by the funeral parlor. Something just moved me to do this and try my luck in helping others help Manong and his family.  Thank you.

Reach me through nerisatorres@gmail.com

#ChooseKind

Lionsgate Movies has recently released the movie trailer of Wonder, author R. J Palacio’s (Raquel Jaramillo) debut novel published in 2012.

I haven’t read the novel yet but I think I have encountered a good review about it in the past. Too bad I never had a chance to buy and read the book then. And so while I am composing these words in my mind, I am also imagining myself rushing to the nearest bookstore on my way home today to buy.

*3 hours later*

Tadah!

 

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Thank you to Powerbooks Trinoma for the very efficient book reservation service 😉

Watching the trailer though gives everyone a clear picture of what the story is all about. If you haven’t watched it yet, don’t worry, I’ll do the narrating for you, but if you have watched the trailer already, be patient with me now. 😀

Wonder is about a 10 year old boy Auggie Pullman and his adventures on his first year at school in 5th grade. Yes, he only came to experience mainstream school at 10 because of the many surgeries he had to endure for having this rare medical facial deformity. His mother had to home school him ever since.

Now, we can watch the movie or read the novel altogether to know the rest of the story. What I want to talk about on this blog is the hashtag that RJ Palacio made popular along with her novel – #ChooseKind.

“When given the choice between being right and being kind, choose kind.”

 

For School and Office Bullies

#ChooseKind is a message for bullies in school (and since I am an adult now trying to make a decent living out of my writing) and in the office.

Getting bullied is terrible. It is something that is forever etched in a bullied person’s mind. And if you have been watching a lot of superhero movies, we can infer and agree that most of the villains were bullied while younger. So yes, bullying may cause external violence and internal conflict to a person.

I remember when a classmate from high school sent me home crying. I wasn’t crying because I got humiliated in front of our other classmates, I was crying because she was mean though I haven’t done her wrong. I can still remember the scenes on that day, the look on her face and the painful silence of my seatmates just watching. Awful memory. Good thing is that getting bullied in high school did not made me plot to steal the moon or conquer the earth.

For the bullies out there, please #choosekind because you will soon reap what you sow. I’m sure we would all want to reap good things in life like gladness and peace and generosity.

I sincerely hope that parents will also serve as good models for their children in choosing to be kind always.

 

For Everyone Reading This

I firmly believe that #ChooseKind is a message for everyone, may it be the bully or the person being bullied, for you who’s reading this, for the difficult person seating across you, for the jerk who broke your heart, FOR EVERYONE.

Sometimes when I look at people’s eyes or situation, I imagine how life can be hard in their shoes. I imagine how hard it is to still work your ass out at 70, I imagine the hard work of sending your younger siblings to school after losing your parents, I imagine getting hungry because there’s no one to bring food on the table.

Living and facing life each day is hard work already. Everyone’s going through something that we don’t know about. And the least we can do to lighten each other’s load is to be kind.

If a person is mean, choose to be kind.

If a person is impatient and grumpy, choose to be kind.

If a person lacked charity and bumped you on the way, choose to be kind.

We never know what they are going through – maybe despair, death, discouragement, or darkness of the soul. Maybe it is something that we would give up on if it happened to us or something that we would never wish to happen even to our enemies.

Be kind always. We never know how wide the ripple of our kindness can go. 😉

 

kindness

 

The Triumph of Easter

My last shared thought on this blog was over a month ago and it was about how I almost missed my flight going to Singapore. I wanted to follow that up with what I did in the city. I wanted to share how I got lost in one of Singapore’s oldest town – Tiong Bahru and how I eventually found its quaint streets, bookstores and amazing bakery. I fancied writing about how disciplined the people and how smooth the public transport are. I wanted to talk about poetry and arts and literature in Singapore. But I can’t seem to put into words my thoughts on it all because I was consumed with one emotion – I never wanted to go home anymore.

 

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Synchronicity. My book and my lemon tart from Tiong Bahru.

 

When I came back to my reality in the Philippines😆 I think I was not the same anymore. I related to a friend that Singapore pushed my reset button. I was willing to forget everything I started (which I guess was not much) and start rebuilding my dreams again there.

This is when I was locked in confusion on what to do and where to go while major changes were also happening outside of me. For one, my #ladyboss finally had a replacement as President and CEO after nine months of waiting. For me, this meant change of work station, office pals, work per se, routine and all. I remember my anxious prayer of surviving this change because I was imagining the worst – that the people whom I’ve been nice to and were also nice to me would change their treatment of me, that the ‘friendships’ I thought I built will crumble into pieces. (Yes, part of my naiveté is expecting that as long as I’m nice and good, people will be the same as well. Hehe. But then, growing up means not giving a damn to what others will think of you.)

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The President’s last day *wink*

 

But the changes outside of me are nothing compared to the battle happening deep inside me which aggravated my confusion. I became impatient of myself that I am taking too long to do things I want to do, that I get easily distracted/sidetracked, that I seemed to be trapped between my calling and obligations. I don’t know if you’ve experienced that feeling before, that you know in your heart what you want but then you are allowing yourself to get distracted by shallow reasons or hindrances which results to you thinking that you don’t know what you want yet. Yeah, my journey can be that confusing.

 

Then Holy Week Came

If I would put all my ways of spending the Holy Week of the past and present in a table, this year would be the lamest. I did not do anything grand, not even join the procession or the Visita Iglesia. The height of my effort was seating in front of the Sacrament on Maundy Thursday and seeking confession on Good Friday.

I got to watch The Bible mini-series which is actually a three four-hour series on TV. It was an amazing film that captured a lot of stories in the Bible though not all. The series likewise got me explaining details and persons to my father while we watch (like Sarah and Elizabeth are different persons with almost the same circumstances. This made me resolve to buy him a Tagalog Bible the soonest!!).

I also got to explain the scenes of carosas of the procession to the six-year old Sai. It was fun, joyful and loving to teach her the life of Jesus.

In the morning of Black Saturday, I woke up with a strange but satisfying feeling. I felt a calming assurance overwhelming me. I felt assured of my future and of my dreams. I felt that everything is figureoutable and will be alright.

Just like how Jesus Christ’s life did not end on the cross on the Calvary, I felt that my life and my dreams won’t stop here, at this ugly, messy, torturous confusion I was having.

As Jesus redeemed my soul from sins, conquered death and resurrected again, I know that my calling and I will also spring back to life again, this time maybe fiercer and bolder.

I realized that the strange feeling of calmness I felt was coming from the triumph of Easter. And Easter reminds us, assures us that agony is turned into glory, sorrow into joy, death into a new life and victory.

Easter does not mean there will be no pain and struggle, it means amidst our pain and struggles, light will shine through our wounds and will conquer darkness. It means Christ has risen from the dead; there is nothing He can’t conquer for you and me. And that is the greatest and sweetest miracle of all.  💛

 

 

O death, where is your victory?

O death, where is your sting?

For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power. But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ.

1 Corinthians 15:55-57