Wednesday, December 17, 2008


I first heard this song on the first night of Simbang Gabi (novena evening masses) here in Geneva and I was moved. In this season of advent, we are called to rejoice, give joy to others and help those that need it. But it doesn't have to end with advent because Christmas is supposed to be everyday. I hope that the reason for the season will continue to shine brightly in our lives and that we will live a life of service to other men just as the Great Sacrifice did.


D Bm Em A7
We are made for service to care for all men
D Bm Em A7
We are made for love both time and again
G A7 D Bm
A love that will live through sorrow and pain
Em A7 D A7
A love that will never die with strain.

God sent His son to show us the way
One who shares His love every minute of the day
One who gave His life that we might live
And His Spirit to help us through the years.

Life can be so lonely when nobody cares
Life can be so empty when nobody shares
But if man gives himself to help other men
The happiness of Christ will live within.

Prayers ...

These are some nice prayers taken from the Parish Mass Book:


Prayer to Our Lord

Lord Jesus,
I give you my hands to do your work.
I give you my feet to go your way.
I give you my eyes to see as you do.
I give you my tongue to speak your words.
I give you my mind that you may think in me.
I give you my spirit that you may pray in me.
Above all,
I give you my heart that you may love in me,
your Father, and all mankind.
I give you my whole self that you may grow in me,
so that it is you, Lord Jesus,
who live and work and pray in me.


Prayer to God the Father

God be in my head, and in my understanding;
God be in my eyes, and in my looking;
God be in my mouth, and in my speaking;
God be in my heart, and in my thinking;
God be at mine end, and at my departing.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Lessons learned on the Milan/Verona trip

1. Travel light - c/o Chas. She was forced to not take any more than she needed to and she travelled lightly and peacefully. I, on the other hand, had a few extras which I didn't use. :) And I had difficulty with my bag which almost begged to be carried by two people.

2. Travel with good company - c/o Chas, Anna, Ethel. Yes, travelling with people you don't like will just be a guaranteed flop. So, thank God, I had my children instead ... love you three! Mwah!

3. Travel with a light hand bag - c/o Ethel. A very practical advice! I have been lightening my bag eversince! Ethel suggested that I take out things that I didn't use throughout the day and so I did. According to her, very poetically said "Not only will you feel better, you will be lighter, not just in your life, but in everything". And she even added something like ... and you will become a better worker ... I forgot. Please excuse my age. ahahaha.

4. Travel with a smile - c/o Anna. Anna is trigger-happy with the camera and tends to take pictures at will. So, for those unguarded moments, always wear a smile, because as the saying goes "You never know who's falling in love with your smile!" :) And so that you don't come out with a frown on your undeveloped digital pics! :)

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Peace begins with a smile ...

That's what my mom tells me ...

So, when I feel out of sorts sometimes and I feel there is an earthquake in my heart or in my soul, I smile ... I did that today and it felt good.

Have you noticed too that when you smile at people it becomes infectious?

So pass on that peace ... pass on that smile ... you never know ... you might be making a difference in someone's life.

Plus it's hard to argue when you're smiling ... :)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The sacrifice ...

I was greeted with this video this morning from a friend of long time ago ... Thanks Vanessa for sharing this ...

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Quote from Yeats

"Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire."
William Butler Yeats

Storytelling ...

"The sum of our stories are our collective unconscious ... of who we are ... as human beings ..." - Isabel Allende

I believe that everybody has a story to tell.

I remember listening to my grandfather who used to tell us stories when we were children, of how his own father, in his youth, carried him across the river because he had no slippers, so he could go to school. He would recount his love story of the woman he loved from high school, the kind and wise, Lola Cristina, who willingly gave up her scholarship, though she was the top of the class to my Lolo, so he could finish his studies to become a good provider. He would talk of the Japanese war and the death it had caused, even at his own hands.

My grandfather came from a family of intellectuals and musicians, who were traditionally poor because of their craft. They would sit around talking for hours on end and chew on the stories that each one gave. Our last name was originally "Per" as my mother tells us but because my kinsfolk were known for their talent in entertainment, it would soon become "Princesa" because we were known throughout the village as the musicians, storytellers, entertainers of that time.

And Lolo would quip up his stories during family gatherings. Even if it was repeated more than once, I never tired of listening. I liked looking at the animated face of my Lolo and I liked looking at the equally animated faces of my cousins as the imaginary dog with sagging breasts, "Tapik tapik" would come running down a deserted street and bare its teeth to the horror of the younger children and then screaming would ensue. We would gather round Lolo and just listen. And he would oblige us and tell us how beautiful and handsome we were, us, from his loins, to his children's, we were his wonderful progeny.

He would tell us the stories of the characters in his own Ranao-Ranao in the now-city of Ligao. And he would sing the songs about him and Lola that the villagers sang. Of the songs, sung about my Lola about her parents. Their love song.

I love stories ... not just Lolo's but everybody's. I am a word junkie and even more a story junkie. I love listening to old people tell their stories of how it was in their time. I love hearing of people's stories now, of their triumph, of overcoming struggle, of living life, of love, of death, of everything.

Sometimes, I am hooked to a telenovela because I like to follow the story from beginning to end. So, I don't start one lest I don't have the intention of finishing because that is also another penchant of mine - finishing what I started and making sure that I end things in the proper way, never abruptly and never in the middle. It would feel like a cliffhanger and I would never be able to rest in peace if that were so.

When I read a book, I can feel the characters come alive and until now I can see Ms. Marchmont from Charlotte Bronte's Villette sitting up in her bed, whispering her last spirited words to her maiden as she realizes that her sorrowful life had been wasted in fret and that she had just to accept the will of God to embrace the love that she had once had when Frank was taken from her. That in her old age and 30 years of loneliness and sorrow, death was now her consolation to be reunited with him. And alas, as the wind blew its screams that night which had envigoured the body of the once beautiful Ms. Marchmont, the following day, the same wind from her life was taken.

I watched today the Spirit of Storytelling - a special by CNN hosted by Becky Anderson. It related how the ancient art of storytelling has never ceased to exist because as Nobel Peace Prize winner, Nadine Gordimer said "we project ourselves as a way of exploring ourselves" to the people, to the character in our stories, those people that may be mainstays in our lives and of those that were just passing but made an impression on our lives. Paulo Coelho, Allende, Doris Lessing and Gordimer share their stories and our stories as they echo that which has been known, there are universal truths in our lives, our stories resemble one another. Coelho said there are four stories to tell: (1) Of two people and their love; (2) Of three people and their love; (3) Politics; and (4) a journey.

Gordimer quotes William Butler Yeats "What do we know but that we face one another in this place?"

And that is a story worth telling ...

Friday, November 14, 2008

Response versus reaction

This was one of the talks during our General Teaching nights. It was about having joy in our hearts at all times and knowing when to feel sorrow too.

Feelings are neither good nor bad. We hear that all the time. It's what you do after having a feeling that makes it good or bad.

That's when response and reaction comes in. When we touch a hot stove, we immediately pull our hands away. That's a reaction. When we pull our hand and decide to stop touching the hot stove, that's a response. See the difference? The latter is a conscious choice.

The same is true for joy and sorrow. Joy is not just a feeling ... it's a state of being. It's a decision to be happy in whatever situation one finds himself/herself in. One of the stories mentioned during the talk was how St. Francis defined "perfect joy". He had been on his way to one of the monasteries with his brothers when it rained. It left them muddy, unrecognizable and dirty. He told his brother that even despite all our muddiness, our unrecognizableness and our dirtiness and we still manage to reach the monastery and they don't recognize us and we suffer yet knowing the truth, that is perfect joy.

'And now hear the conclusion, Brother Leo. Above all the graces and gifts of the Holy Spirit which Christ gives to His friends is that of conquering oneself and willingly enduring sufferings, insults, humiliations, and hardships for the love of Christ. For we cannot glory in all those other marvelous gifts of God, as they are not ours but God's, as the Apostle says: 'What have you that you have not received?' But we can glory in the cross of tribulations and afflictions, because that is ours, and so the Apostle says: 'I will not glory save in the Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ.'"

To whom be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.

from The Little Flowers of St Francis, The "Fioretti"

When I heard this, I couldn't help but get teary eyed. There's so much to be thankful for in life - that includes the many challenges we continue to face on this earthly life. The same challenges that mold us to become the perfect images of Christ - bearing our crosses with no regret, with no sorrow, with only joy.

There's a time to feel sorrow too. When there's a death, when there's a wrongdoing, when there's something to be sad about. But one musn't stop at sorrow.

The talk emphasized that we could be joyful in everything we do and we can find that source of joy in knowing God. And that joy is something we choose to be and not something we just feel when we're happy. We can be joyful in everything that we do, because God is there leading us.

We can choose to respond with joy at all times.

the heart doesn't count the days ...

that's an original from my mamu ...

and it inspired me to write this ...


so many times, in unexpected places and in unexpected times,
my heart flutters to find its love.
it doesn't say wait ... it doesn't stay stop ... it's like lightning that strikes.

so, when you're in doubt, could this be true love?
let your heart speak and let the doubt dissipate
for it's not in the days that you come to know a person
it's in the heart that understands

no time, no day, no moment appointed
just the heart that says it's time
care ...
love ...

the heart doesn't count the days ...
it only counts the ways ...
that love can be realized ...
in every possible way ...


bow. :)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Handling a household

There was nothing scarier than the thought of being responsible for souls. I used to not be able to sleep teaching catechism, all the more, leading a small group of single women in growing in the faith. But they say when it comes to God, the only answer is "yes" and so I took the plunge in 2006 and led a group of young ladies.

It was a totally different experience for me. I had to sing and I had to lead the worship. I had to prepare the food. But these weren't the important things, it was the pastoral formation that I was concerned about. Would I be a fitting leader? Could I lead by example? Would they respect me, follow me? Or would they be hard-headed and the like? It proved to be a challenge but it was also rewarding. It was through servant-leadership and by dying to my own fears that I was able to get out of myself and let God lead me in doing His work.

When you let him have the helm, everything falls into place. You finish a household meeting thinking, was that me? How did I do that? It was God's Spirit. Indeed, where two or three are gathered in His name - there He is in our midst. The Spirit leads and we follow. And the household is blessed.

I could never forget what my best friend said when I asked her for advice regarding leading a group. She said ... "God doesn't choose who serves Him as long as you serve Him." And from there, as God used my best friend, Jam, to deliver His message, I became comfortable being in such a humbling position as a leader of a household. But leading is not so much teaching but learning from all the members. Everyone brings their own story and as a leader, you grow from the membership as you would like to share also pieces of your life and hopefully make a difference in theirs.

Handling a group taught me that I had a lot to learn. It taught me to love unconditionally. It taught me to be patient, to be kind, to not be judgemental and most of all to love. I learned to listen and I learned to give priority to other people's needs. It's not easy as I was very self-absorbed. I lessened my complaining and as I was regarded as a pillar of strength, it made me draw on God's strength even more because I am only human and no physical strength could withstand the challenges of facing life where good and evil interplay.

I continue to be humbled because as I grow in service and handle a group, I know that I may not be doing enough. I know that anything I do can be misinterpreted. But I have faith in God that He will use me in whatever way He can to glorify Him and to bring the souls I share the faith journey with closer to Him.

Planning ... SFC in retrospect

"For I know well the plans I have in mind for you, says the LORD, plans for your welfare, not for woe! plans to give you a future full of hope" - Jeremiah 29:11

God is a God of good order. He likes to make sense of our lives. But we have to do our part too. For God helps those that help themselves.

Last January, we had a very blessed planning session for the Singles for Christ in Geneva. Not one but four mission volunteers came to help us. Kuya Jerry Rivera (UK), Tessa Sarmiento, Chicong Laput, Raynard (Vienna) blessed us with their presence so that we could identify our SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats).

The two-day planning session was a time for worship and fellowship and coming before the Lord and offering all our plans for the upcoming year. Indeed, God proved to be a God of good order as we were able to undertake most of our activities and on time.

It was a memorable experience because we were not too dependent on our coordinators for planning our events but that we had a say too in what would happen to our ministry. It was a year of many firsts - we had our own SFC General Assembly, our own Covenant Orientation and our own Household Leaders' Training tailored and given by SFCs. It was an exercise in independence as well as empowerment. We had grown wings and it was up to us to do our part to make the changes necessary and to be the pillars of strength for our members. It was our turn to fly and test our wings.

And so a year has passed and many Christian Life Programmes after, we are thriving. We may not have achieved the Vision we set out to do which was 150 active SFCs in Central Europe but it is enough to know that the members here have taken new responsibilities and that old members have gone out of their comfort zones to plunge into the active life of SFC. It is thanks to God who has promised that our future is secure in Him as long as we serve Him faithfully.

We lift up our coming year as we embrace our service and face the new challenges ahead.

I claim the promise of God in Jeremiah, for indeed God's ways are not our ways and if we leave our plans in His hands, it will blossom into the marvelous future that He has prepared for us. It may not come in the package we asked it to be, but surely, it will be the best for us. For God is the best planner there is.

I pray that SFC Geneva will continue to grow in number, in service, in faith and in God.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Pauwi Na by Noel Cabangon

Kinilabutan ako habang pinanood ko ito. My heart goes out to all of us OFWs especially those that are so far away from their families. I join him in singing "pagsaluhan natin ang baong pag-asa" (Let us feast on our hope). For there is always hope ...

Friday, October 31, 2008

'... limit yourself but don't let others do it for you ... ' of gracie and obama

this line came from the movie "gracie". it's a movie about a girl who wanted to play soccer for the boy's team and had to fight for it even though no rules said she couldn't. it was breaking down the gender stereotypes. there was something similar in the movie "the pursuit of happyness" about not letting anybody say that you can't dream.

sometimes, it's all too easy to ride on the negativities of people and accept them as truths about ourselves. the discouraging "you can't do it" was just turned into a resounding anti-cry by obama's "yes, we can". it was and still is the american battle cry. and for that i admire the americans because they always believe in themselves that indeed they can do it. it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

watching obama give his victory speech brought tears to my eyes. i was also so touched and moved that i sat shaking in my seat. i was hoping the same would happen to the philippines. that change will come to us and that we will have a mind set of hope and that with collective action, we can improve our country. i hope the statement "nothing ever changes" will be removed from our vocabulary.

but the statement is true not only for our country but also for ourselves. in those moments of doubt and the times that we are all too willing to become victims and resign ourselves to the places people have accorded us - let us stand up and say "yes, we can!" for we truly can. it's one thing to know your limitations but it's also as the quote from gracie ... it's another to let someone else do it for you. do you want to be a victim or do you want to say "yes, i can"?

and also we should not perpetuate the negativity in other people. it's one thing to offer a suggestion for improvement. it's another to destroy someone because of over criticism. building up people to who they can be makes a difference. everybody is insecure, even the most confident of people. even a tower built on rocks when chipped away at the base collapses to ruins.

i was just speaking to a friend and she brought up the topic of unexpected affirmation and that we are so keen to notice the bad things in a person and yet neglect to recognize the good qualities in them. we are marred by the spots yet the whole person is beautiful. it's like having a driftwood and just seeing it for its deadness ... last night i saw a driftwood with the last supper etched on it. i was so amazed. who would have thought to give it a second look even more carve it into a masterpiece? it's amazing what a seemingly unproductive thing turns into a beautiful thing. and that's something even dead. what about a live human being? there's so many possibilities ... there's room for growth, chipping, changing and metamorphosing into that beautiful person every body is and has the potential to be.


Thursday, October 30, 2008

Wall-E's heart

Love must be so potent that even a machine can feel it! Does it really matter if we have a human heart or an idea of a heart or just a concept of love?

Watching Wall-E made my heart swell. I felt the "kilig" feeling even if it was two machines falling in love. Love can even turn machines into loving beings ... some people have become machines in a sense. I don't know if that was the thrust of the movie as it tackled many issues - for one, ecological sustainability.

Wall-E is a robot with a "directive" to clean up the earth by compacting trash into manageable blocks and stacked to clear up the clutter. Meanwhile on the Axiom, a spaceship, the people of the earth had been "externally" displaced for 700 years because of an inhabitable earth. Another story of exodus and exile!

The earth had become a universe of garbage and the toxicity levels had reached critical height that life was no longer sustainable. Sounds familiar? Kyoto Protocol and global warming aside, look at the world you live in? Are you doing your part to throw that little piece of garbage? Do you recycle? Do you turn off the faucet when you brush your teeth? Do you care about the environment?

We are all responsible somehow for our environment. We don't live in a bubble thus our actions have ripple effects. I was so happy when I saw the sign (hehe ... like Ace of Base) in Manila "Munting basura, ibulsa muna" (Little piece of garbage, put it in your pocket). I was always so irritated by passengers on a jeep, people on the street and drivers who threw away their candy wrappers on the street yet sweep their front yards and get angry at people who throw things in their yard. We all have to do our part even if it's keeping that little piece of garbage in your pocket. Would it kill one to keep that garbage on one's person until one sees a garbage can? Because if you multiply that candy wrapper by the number of people that do it, it adds up, to a mountain of garbage.

I once went to a landfill and the stench was horrible. I also saw the mutation it caused on the animals around. What more for the humans!

Going back to Wall-E, he was a machine with a penchant for all that is human. He watched dances, tried to do them and also collected human artefacts like Ariel in Little Mermaid. And it was on earth that he met Eve, another robot with a "directive" to find a living thing to prove that once more the earth sustained life. When she finally sees the plant that Wall-E gives her, she shuts down and waits for the ship to get her to return on the Axiom. Wall-E wouldn't let her go that easily. It was so sweet. It could almost be a human love story. So he braves the galaxies to find Eve and he does and loses his life fighting for her directive. She then realizes the value of Wall-E and falls "in love" with him while at the same time becoming a fugitive of law and releasing the "misfits" of machines. It doesn't seem different from a modern-day drama!!!

So the whole Axiom is jeopardized as the autopilot mutinies! The captain learns of earth and decides to return at all costs. And then they land and start life anew on earth. And they lived happily ever after. :)

Going back to love and ecological sustainability. Wall-E and Eve shared a love for their purpose. They both accomplished it while the love growing between them blossomed. They helped each other achieve their purpose. This could be referenced in today's world too. We are called to help one another and to care for the environment that we live in. Not just the ecological environment but the environment of people we meet every day.

We not only face the material garbage but the many emotional dumping we subject ourselves too. Oftentimes, we are blinded, just like the people on Axiom by the things that appear to be the "norm" and never really looking beyond a certain "reality". But like Wall-E, I hope that something will cause each one of us to look beyond our comfort zones and to see what's really out there and to ask ourselves, what can we do to help maintain all that comprises our environment?

Wall-E in his human clumsiness awakened the senses of some humans on Axiom and this made them realize how beautiful life really is. I thought that was very moving. Life is beautiful. There's so much to love and enjoy. There's so many opportunities to destroy life as well as to help build and sustain it.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

What would you do with 100 million pounds?

I watched the movie "Flawless" today. I didn't know how the story was going to shape up. It was almost a mixture of suspense and thriller but in the end, it was a story with a moral lesson.

Given all the money you could possibly have, what would you do with it?

As the film asked in the end: Will you be a taker or a giver?

A story about the London Diamond Corporation, the sole buyer of diamonds in that era (60s), it was the best target to steal the world-craved diamonds. But it wasn't for money that the robbery was carried out ... it was to achieve freedom. I encourage everyone to watch it because at the end of it all ... what can we do with money? What should we do with money?

My mom told me that we should not invest in things but in people because when the money is gone, the things cannot love you back, it's the people that do. That was wise advice especially because I was considered a miser in my family - I was the modern-day Scrooge until a few years back. I would cry over giving money. But now, I just give and I use it with joy in my heart. Yes, I try to invest for the future but I am also living for the present. I try as much as I can to share that little that I have because I can't take my money with me. It's best to share it with others so that the joy is multiplied.

In one of the CFC teachings on financial stewardship, it reminds me that we are indeed stewards and not owners. And what better use to give your money than to help people.

I was touched by an officemate who I think is terribly misplaced in our work. I think she should be a development worker because I never see her so passionate as when I saw her last week handing out letters and pictures, asking for donations for the poor AIDS-stricken children of a hospital in South Africa. Day in and day out my colleague would complain about work but once she spoke about her South Africa and the children, she would melt and you could see that her passion lay with those children - with the orphans, with the children who were abused by their fathers, brothers, relatives - girls, especially, even as young as months old. It's a sickening thought but witch doctors perpetuate rape because it is believed that having sex with a virgin will cure AIDS.

It was also very moving that our other colleagues did not economize but gave of themselves. My colleague was asking on behalf of the nurse that handled these children - they were asking for four TVs and plastic chairs to hold up babies after feeding so they wouldn't vomit because there weren't enough nurses to carry them.

My colleague was able to collect more than a thousand francs. It was enough to buy all the TVs and the chairs. I can just imagine the look on the children's faces, the look on the nurses' face, the world is not devoid of love. We can all give love and we can all give the tangible support of money.

In Flawless, when Laura Quinn, a senior negotiator was passed over for promotion after 15 years of service because she was a woman, she decided to quit. She left her ambition to become managing director and she lived life. Burdened by the ranson given for the diamonds, she soon found life outside of herself, she donated to all the causes that she could find and she lived her life in service and in giving to others.

Although the message was crammed in the end, it was the catharsis that I was hoping for. Succinct and salient! Direct to the point - in this life, will you be a giver or a taker?

Sunday, October 26, 2008


You shall not molest or oppress an alien,
for you were once aliens yourselves in the land of Egypt. (Ex 22:20)

I remember the first time when my mother left us to work abroad. I was young then and we were left in the care of our minders. It was temporary and only lasted a month. When it happened again when I was 15, I still couldn't comprehend how a mother could leave her children in search of money. It lasted almost two years. In my youth, I reasoned that I didn't need the money but her presence. I spent many nights crying and hating the fact that we had to be in that kind of situation.

I am only one of millions who experienced this. The Philippines has 1 in 8 people who go abroad. That's 10 million people and if multiplied by the families it affects, it could reach 50 million people. There are families who have been separated for more than 25 years.

But due to economic reasons, it has become almost a national strategy to send out people so that the Filipinos could search for greener pastures abroad. The remittances of the Overseas Filipino Workers or OFWs has kept the Philippine economy afloat that they have been called the country's "new heroes".

But what do the OFWs go through when they're abroad? I have been witness to the attempted suicides, abortions and predicaments of the OFWs when I was in Abu Dhabi. I remember the blood stains of an abortion on the carpet that I spent hours trying to scrub off. I saw a bloodied wrist as it was getting bandaged after a suicide attempt. I heard the many horror stories and saw the lashes in the women's prison when a young Filipina (almost my age 15) was hit on her bare back 100 times with a reed leaving red blood marks on her skin because she had killed the man that raped her. Rape was common and yet the women kept it to themselves because they had to send money back home for their families. I saw the cramped quarters of the takas or runaways whose employers had abused them.

I am now in Switzerland and I am still privy to the many stories of broken homes, mistresses, depression and wayward children back home because of lack of adult supervision. It haunts me that families have to be apart because parents seek to provide a better future for their children, a brighter tomorrow that they couldn't have imagined if they had stayed back home.

But I understand now, I am an OFW myself. I am sending home money to my family and I am far away with only friends to call family. It is difficult and it is still painful but I have learned to live with the situation because as a migrant here, I am treated with respect and dignity.

I reflect on the reading for today in Exodus. It is not the first time that people have left their countries of origin in search of better tomorrows. To reiterate Dr. Manuel Dayrit's talk during the Workshop on Migration and Development a few weeks ago, we weren't the first to migrate, it was the Jews, then the Africans and the massive exodus of all the nations. And migration had a spiritual aspect.

And in those times, migrants were treated unkindly and unjustly, oftentimes becoming slaves. These days, there's the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and what Atty. Cej Jimenez calls for is that migrants' rights be included in the basic human rights. Everybody needs to be treated with dignity and that migration is not dealing in commodities but in human persons.

There are three different types of aliens or strangers.

1. One is to be feared - those that are deemed to be dangerous and are a threat to society.
2. One that needs to be taken cared of - like the victim in the story of the Good Samaritan.
3. One to be respected - like the Good Samaritan.

This is the line of thought of the Couples for Christ thrust to build the Church of the Pilgrim. When the Jews were slaves, they not only brought themselves but also their faith. Each pilgrim or migrant brings with himself his culture and his belief system. Thus, migration does not only have an economic or political value but also a spiritual face. It is in those times that introduction to the one God - Yahweh - began. And from then on, whenever a believer travels, he spreads the Good News or spreads his belief. And because migration is rampant, there is a need to build a Church for the Pilgrim and to take care of the spiritual needs of the migrants.

Since we are all pilgrims on this earth, one way or another, we should not forget to remember that we should treat strangers and aliens with the utmost respect befitting a human person and a person who is created by God in His image. In today's Gospel, we are reminded that the greatest commandment is to love God with all your heart, mind and strength and also to love our neighbour as God has loved us.

This call brings us the challenge of loving every person in need and not to oppress anybody because if we were in their shoes, we wouldn't want to be taken advantage of or to be subjected to ill-treatment. We would like to be respected and to be treated as human beings worthy of living with our dignity in tact.

Tomorrow marks the day of a week-long forum on migration and development. Many nation States will come to Manila for the Global Forum on Migration and Development and will deal with issues relating to the many migrants who have made the world a smaller place because boundaries are blurred. Let us continue to pray that migration will become a migration out of choice and not out of need. And that if we are faced with becoming migrants that people will treat us with dignity and if we meet migrants that we will answer the call to love our neighbours as God has loved us.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

collective energies

i am a product of collective energies - a sum of all the parts that define me. a friend of mine asked me once - where do i get the time and energy to do what i do, to write and to have insights ... it's primarily God - he's the oil that keeps me running smoothly. but it's also everything around me - the people i meet, the situations i am in, the places i go to and the "sunshine" that enters into my life. i simply digest all that is given me and give out the product.

some people say i am an intense person. i think they say that because i am sometimes very animated and enthusiastic about people and things. i get that way with everything because every thing has meaning for me. i get that way even with people i've only met for the first time. sometimes, i can't help myself like i'm on autopilot.

i believe things happen for a reason. i don't try to analyse every situation as to what the particular purpose may be but i cherish the moment that leads me to discovery. i take pleasure in each step of the journey. i stop to smell the flowers, observe the dirt, kick the stone, take mental images, sing, think, walk, run, reflect, bask in the sun or moon.

i used to be a maniacal multitasker. i get restless and i start moving around in circles. i didn't like quiet time because i thought that it wasted energy. why did i need to sleep when i could be doing so many other things? but i now know that i need it because this is the time that all the energies that i've collected in my life is processed to make a product or byproducts and to produce more energy.

oftentimes, i get sick when my mind has outrun its body. and that's when i stop to think, why am i doing all these things and i start reprioritizing and looking for energies to rejuvenate me. God is always an ample source so he's the first pit stop. next are the people that give me much love and make me feel special. i like to bask in their light because it refreshes me. when i've soaked enough, then i start producing my own light and then try to give of that energy. then it becomes a myriad of energy fields touching one another so that energy is never depleted.

if i ran on my own energy pack, i think i would have burnt out a long time ago.

i am grateful for all the energies that have touched me ... especially the love that multiplies itself in me ... i am a product ... of all your energies. thank you for sharing your energy with me.

serendipity at lunch

have you ever felt sometimes that when you meet someone, it's like looking into a mirror? you share the same spirit, the same visions, the same journey? i think i met a fellow wanderer today and someone who shares the same passion for life.

it was such a light meeting and we exchanged hearty smiles over lunch and just spoke of life. it was as we both used the word many times, "beautiful".

it was great to talk to someone who understood what it's like to give and to give freely. to have the same passion of giving of one's self not because it's asked of you, but because you're happy to give of yourself - no questions asked. there were no pretentions, no ifs and or buts. if i had a tape recorder, i would have recorded the whole conversation so i could recapture the moment here ... in this blog.

she spoke with much passion for her former profession as teacher. she loved seeing the children open up and to discover things. but most importantly she said that it was important to pass on the "passion" for teaching to teachers as much as to teach the children. it isn't enough just to teach mechanically, you need the passion to serve as she called it. she likes to serve and to give of herself because it's what makes her happy. she spoke that her life's mission was not just to "be" but to "inspire". i said she inspired me. it was an inspirational meeting for me.

i felt light to talk to someone who had dreams she wasn't afraid to pursue and to appreciate and be grateful for every moment because it served a purpose. it was time to move away from the "standing water" of life. and she made her resolve to move forward. i pray that she will achieve and attain her heart's desires as she embarks on a new journey in her life.

she said that at 7 or 8 years old, she felt the need to write her experiences for future's sake. i understand how she feels as i cannot live without writing. i need to share my thoughts if not just to let them out of my self so that i can examine each thought, each feeling, each situation as it is reflected in the written words.

she mentioned "flower" and that a "seed" was planted. i said i liked her analogy as i onced asked a question while i was still in iraq and was working there ... as to how some documents had come to be. i am now part of the team that makes those documents. after some years, i had gotten my answer. indeed, there is a perfect time for everything and every question is answered in due time.

i had a tear in my eye when i ended lunch. i was happy and light.

so i am grateful and i feel blessed to have met such a person today. i now call her friend. she is a friend. thank you for inspiring me and thank you for being you.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

emotional baggage

i've been meaning to write about this topic for a while now as i keep remembering it every time i bike up the hill with my backpack. it does get easier but most of the time, i'm left panting and out of breath because i have a heavy load on my back. it's much easier when i bike uphill with nothing on my back but even then i'm still a little out of breath when i reach the top.

so, i wanted to talk about not just physical baggage, luggage or something you can actually carry. i'm talking about the baggages of life. life is a wellspring of pain, of joy, sorrow, suffering ... in short, of emotions. some emotions have a way of etching themselves into our physical memory, i.e. pain. one shudders at the thought of it. it can also ingraine in us certain reactions like a coping mechanism. when we're in a certain situation we've been in before, we tend to react the same way every time just to avoid it.

one of the former priests at john xxiii said, to avoid conflict, pain, sorrow, is the beginning of madness. when we steer clear of these feelings, we try to rationalize them and we even go to a therapist to find a "solution", we just never really face up to the problem. so instead of experiencing one pain and chucking it out after you've drained every feeling out of it, there's the mountain of pain that accumulates like the unpacked luggage, like the heap of emotions that pile up because there's always another time to "deal" with it.

but after years and years of putting off that "sorting", you've learned to live with the load. you've learned to move around it and to take care not to topple it lest it all falls on you all at the same time. you've learned to cherish the feeling of heaviness. at times, you've become jaded. you snap at anyone trying to get at your heap to lighten your load. it's become your security blanket.

then it's time to move on ... and you find that it's difficult because you have so many luggages to carry - the pain, the sorrow, the insecurities, the pain, the sorrow, the insecurities ... by now, you have double of everything and it comes in different sizes. you think why am i carrying all of these? wouldn't it be easier just to let go ... yes ... it's easier to let go but it's not as easy as that, so you chuck one piece at a time until you get to the last piece. but then your heap starts again, thus begins a new mountain. and the whole cycle begins again.

it's only a thorough cleaning, self-examination and constant chucking of unwanted emotional luggages that you can keep a minimal heap, a bearable load. i always remember what my friend luige told me: the best solution to solving a problem is removing the problem. he is wise.

so the next time you stop at an emotional station in your life, don't forget to offload all the unnecessary ones.

Monday, October 20, 2008

temporary blindness

i saw the notice for almost a week before it happened. they were going to cut the electricity today, between 7 to 8 a.m. when i woke up this morning, it was just 6.45 and still managed to turn on the light. when i finally got up at 7.20, the light was still operational. when i got into the shower, in the middle or shampooing my hair, the lights were cut. my bathroom didn't have windows. the only source of natural light was a little strip at the bottom of the door, allowing air to pass. it's autumn now and sunrise comes nearer 8 a.m. it was pitch black.

i remembered saying to myself that if i had a disability, i would prefer being deaf or mute over being blind. for me, deafness would be a blessing. since, i feel that sometimes i have "bionic" ears and can hear through walls and whispers, i would rather not hear the words people say to avoid gossip or to hear any negative thing. i'd rather be mute, so i couldn't say anything hurtful or perpetuate gossip. i'd often succeeded in exercising my sharp tongue to my own detriment. but blindness ... that was something i would have to really grapple with. on the positive side, i couldn't use my eyes to judge if i was blind.

i have a habit of memorizing the placement of things so that even if i was in the dark, i could "feel" my way around a certain area. so, that's what i did. i used the mental images of where things were placed so that i could grab the rest of the toiletries i needed to finish my morning rituals. i had to carefully get out of the tub too. thank God i wasn't a paraplegic either ... i waved my hand in front of me so that i knew there was nothing i would hit. i opened the mirror with much care and swerved when i thought it could hit me in the face. i found it funny. i managed not to get hit. i couldn't get out to get a candle in the middle of the shower so i just continued until i made it out. then, the lights turned on and off.

i realized it's difficult to live in the dark but there was something challenging and at the same time exciting. but of course, i wouldn't wish to have this impairment. i could just imagine walking on the street and even if there are vision-impaired traffic lights, it was still difficult to get through the day with a walking stick and trying to manage around. i'm amazed at people who successfully get on and off the bus and find their way around town.

i see such a man on my street. sometimes, i want to help him but that might cause him embarrassment, so i just let him be as "normal" as any person can be, as he is guided by his walking stick.

God is good. i heard that people with disabilities are gifted with other talents to make up for their lack in the other areas of sensory perception. i'm glad for that.

so, for those few minutes of my life, i couldn't see any perceptible image even with the almost non-existing light emanating from the door slit. what if life was like that? just darkness ... not just physical darkness, but the darkness that envelops a person. a darkness that is foreboding. a darkness that despite the glaring sun, one is trapped in the non-existence of light. i think i would prefer physical blindness over that.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Get out of yourselves!!!

Thanks Sarah for sharing this to us. I'd like to share it too.


Lifted from Another Girl At Play.


Please go out there and do. Live. Don't be the same as yesterday. Don't live vicariously online. Don't use language that has no meaning or talk ideas you don't really live. Don't hide. Don't copy others or live their ideas or life. Don't fear doing your thing. Don't fear doing. Instead of reading a decorating magazine, paint that room. Instead of thinking of baking, do up a cake. Run, walk, bike. Put that self help book down and pick up yourself.

Let go of the snark, your worries, your anger and fear and give into possibility, action, joy and life. Do. Do some more. Stop thinking about you. Stop blogging about just you and your kid and your pet. There's a world out there to connect to, really connect to and email doesn't count. Being of use is more important than being popular. Think about the lady down the street, the person at the drive through, the man fallen in the street, about politics, the environment, healthcare, another country and then do something about it. Never stop at thinking.

Dream big, work harder. Have lots of fun, lift a finger, do something for someone else. Cheer your friends on. Cheer yourself up. Celebrate as much as possible. Enjoy everything. Right now. It's OK to want more and do more but be present with where you are or who you are with. Don't rush the situation - even if it's bad. Move on when you can. Don't settle. Try everything you can and get over everything holding you back.

Go outside. Go outside yourself. Make a difference, make some change. Don't complain about someone unless you're talking to that someone. Don't complain about a situation you're not willing to make better. They don't have it better and you don't have it worse. Don't make excuses. You'll never see possibility if you do. And you're smart and worth more than settling for a life of complaining and limitation.

Hope. Hope more. Give someone else hope. Get healthy and contribute to a healthy environment. Think about everything you do, you buy, you say. Only be lazy on Sunday and even then, be conscious. Rest is useful, giving up is not.

Live with a light heart. Play more. Remember what it's like to be seven. Remember to listen to a seven year old because you just have more words and life experience, not necessarily more wisdom. Have more questions than answers and don't put everything into words. Sometimes just feel things and be. Be quiet more often, listen harder, talk exactly as you mean to.

Strive for your best and not what you think someone elses' best is. Follow through. Don't let others down. Don't let yourself down. You are better than your circumstances. Ask for what you're worth. Make magic happen don't wish for it. Don't envy others' lives, envy yours. Live it fully. Teach by example how to live well, how to be treated, how to be kind, how to be alive.

Do. I can't stress that one enough. Take action on your life. Make the change. No more sulking, waiting, thinking, reading, talking about. It's time. You're ready.

Terry's composition about God

After mass last night, Terry approached Missy's guitar, which I was holding. I asked him if he played and he started strumming away as he took the guitar from me. And he said "yes, I play". He started showing off to my delight of course ... I had my private concert. He's our new youth coordinator and he had just moved here a few weeks ago. He's also recently married to a wonderful lady named Barbara. He said that he was thinking of setting up a "praise and worship" session. I said that would be really exciting. I love praise and worship. Even if I don't sing as well as others, I love to sing about God. I love to feel the music and I love to pour out my heart, my tears and just let go and let the music embrace me. Afterall, singing is praying twice.

Terry shared his moment of doubt about his faith and came up with this composition as if God spoke to say: I am your Father, you are my child. You are not a child of darkness, but a child of day. Thanks Terry for this inspiring piece of music. I look forward to our praise and worship sessions at John XXIII.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

jamie's culinary wisdom translate into life's lessons

i was at dinner last night with the amazing chef, jamie viray, my cousin!!! missy, her and i were in the assembly line of dish washing. i was soaping the dishes, missy was rinsing them and she was drying them.

we started talking about her uncanny ability to create sumptuous meals while handling cutlery, the plates and noticing what missy was saying about my dish washing ability. missy said and i quote "i would do it a totally different way". jamie jumps in with "you're so OC, ate, and that's why you're cooking is not improving". uh-oh. what did she just say? before that statement was another conversation about missy faithfully following her cheesecake recipe as compared to jamie's wild passion for throwing food together and coming up with a masterpiece. we had some of her samples last night - stuffed mushrooms with improvised hot dog filling (i think it's way better than if she had stuck with the original ham stuffing) and her braised fig dessert topped with mangoes, sesame seed and honey.

but what she said about following the recipe struck me ... she said sometimes, you just have to step out of bounds. you just have to not follow the recipe. of course, she was only referring to cooking but i was translating it in life. how many times have relationships, religion or just anything we do become legalistic because we are simply following the "norm"? or the prescribed way of doing things?

she was right ... to add spice to life was to step out of our comfort zones and to do something new. i am not calling for anarchy here ... i'm just talking about being different and not being a cookie-cutter-mold type of person.

it takes much to be different. if you see jamie with her artistic outfits, you can see that she redefines beauty and she is not afraid of wearing shocking colours or wearing ensembles that may not "work" for some people. she carries herself well and she knows when to exercise her uniqueness.

so, little cuz ... thanks for that realization. i look forward to your cooking and i look forward to the many lessons you will teach me as you now embark on your journey to self-discovery. God bless always. Love you!

Ode to Missy, her cheesecake and her music

(here missy ha ... i'm writing about you ... hehe ... )

it was one evening in april 2004. i had just arrived in geneva and didn't have any friends yet. mama would drag me everywhere including all the filipino community events and prayer meetings we could attend. we were at a birthday party of my mom's friend (which was providential because that's the same friend that helped me get my first stint at the ILO. i guess i could say it was a blessed night.)

that's where i met missy, who was wearing a white top with her hair all over her face, i thought she was sleeping. i don't remember if she told me she was bored or i told her that i was but we started talking amidst the loud prophecy video that the rest of the party was listening to. and we got on to the topic of her changing universities and that she was writing an essay. i said i had finished journalism and that maybe i could help her draft it. (she already had a draft. :)) so i said, just come over anytime. and you know what? she did! the following day. (we had a photoshoot too that same day. hehe. my first ever in geneva.) this is the part where i should say ... and the rest is history ...

but it's more than that ... it's been four years. she's been my longest friend here in geneva. we've been through each others highs and lows and we're still close friends, as ever. at first, we didn't see each other much. she was hanging out with my neighbour more often. they had the same name. she had a boyfriend, i had someone too. we would just see each other occasionally.

then before we knew it, our friendship was going beyond the trivial and going to the spiritual. she was always a pillar of strength in terms of faith. she gave me inspirational verses in my lowest moments. she brought me to her young christian group meetings. she tried to involve me in a lot of christian activities. i came when i could but then i was also getting busy with my own church.

i was going through some rough patches with my relationship which eventually ended in heartbreak and missy was there - with her cheesecake. she brought me cheesecake at work to try to cheer me up. she would bring me little things that she made herself. my gifts from her have always been well-thought out and well-made (if she made them). she remembers (even at times, she doesn't remember other things hehe) those things that are important to me. for my last birthday, she gave me a bag hanger because she knew i didn't like to put my bag on the floor. we are both OC. hehe. she with washing the dishes. hehe. peace missy. so, her cheesecake. one time, i was feeling low again and she had brought me cheesecake and she concluded that that was her special medicine for me. her cure-all cheesecake. she makes lovely cheesecake and i requested her to make it for my last birtday, which she faithfully did.

speaking of my last birthday ... being her OC self and my need for assistance, she didn't even ask but decided to arrange my balcony post-haste before my guests arrived. by now, she was no longer a guest. haha! she also cleaned up the balcony and arranged the tables to look as if we were in her favourite cafe, fleurs de maries (which used to be near my previous apartment).

missy is not just a wonderful cook, organizer and overall beauty (inside and out), prayer partner and all the other things i could say but she might tell me to stop now ... but i would like to mention that she is a wonderful musician. when i first met her, she took me to her place and she jammed with our other friend, jowan. she was just starting to master the guitar and she already took years of piano. so, i was really overly amazed at her passion for music. it now translates into her service at church.

i told her today after mass that she played wonderfully. although her cantor and her seemed to be less coordinated than usual, her music carried whatever uncoordination there was.

but most of all, it's not missy's ability to cook a "forget-your-name" cheesecake or her wonderful music that makes me stand in awe of her, it's her magnanimous show of faith and her strong conviction to answer the call of God. i don't know if i can share it here ... but let's just say that God asked her to do something that required her to sacrifice all that she has come to know, to bear many burdens and still she chose to answer His call. i honour her. through her faith journey, i always told her that i was so amazed because i don't know if i could do the same. i was glad to be part of her faith journey ... and will forever be part of it. diba missy? hehe ...

she has proven to me that the best way to say "i love you" is to show it in the many ways that a person can.

so, missy, thank you for teaching me to show my love ...

(missy is also summa cum laude! did i forget to mention that? haha - ok, missy, i will stop na!)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Poverty of life and spirit

It was early morning and I had just gotten out of the metro station and took a jeepney to get to my next destination when I passed through the streets of Pasay in the Philippines. I saw a little boy naked on the sidewalk curb defecating into a plastic bag held by someone old enough to be his grandmother.

Coming from a third world country, it wasn't unusual to see poverty, suffering or the lack of facilities. But seeing that boy made me realize how difficult it really is for people to live in extreme poverty.

What is poverty? In economic terms, it's living on less than a dollar a day. But poverty doesn't only refer to income. It refers to the lack of basic needs such as food, safe drinking water, sanitation facilities, health, shelter, education and information. The Copenhagen Declaration, a product of the UN World Summit on Social Development, said that if these basic needs are not met, one is experiencing poverty regardless of income. Poverty cannot be reduced to numbers because it has a human face.

The world is experiencing a multitude of poverty right now. If we're just talking about economic poverty, half of the world's population is living under $2.50 a day (World Bank Development Indicators 2008). The poor continue to become poorer and the gap between the wealthy and the poor continues to grow.

There's a problem of malnutrition in Africa, the financial crisis has rendered many homeless in the United States, banks are closing. But what does this mean for the common man? It means that more and more people are living without the basic needs necessary to lead a dignified life.

The most affected are the children. According to UNICEF, 26,500-30,000 children die each year due to poverty. Due to poverty, economic migrants leave their homelands in the hope of giving their children a better tomorrow. The social costs of migration has been high as families have become broken. Some children without proper adult supervision have resorted to drugs, alcohol and petty criminality to fill the void in their lives wrought by the lack of a mother or a father.

When one is lacking, it dehumanizes. It makes one resort to begging, to thievery, to all sorts of activities that may not be in accordance with the moral values of the person because it boils down to need. One cannot eat principles.

Everybody needs to eat, drink, have a home and be healthy. Education becomes secondary. The reasoning behind it is that when one doesn't have anything to eat or drink, then they may not be healthy enough to go to school, to work, to look after their needs.

I know people who live in squatters. I experienced having to go to the toilet without flushing water. I walked amongst the canals, the stench and the garbage strewn on the streets. I saw the tin roofs held down by old car tires, the octopus-like electrical wiring, the stored water in drums. But there are also parts that are clean, organized and safe. IT doesn't have to be this way.

We can all do our part to help humanity get out of its poverty.

I recently attended a recollection on Gawad Kalinga. It spoke about loving until it hurts. As Christians, we believe that we should love God as well as our neighbours. We are called to exercise love until it hurts.

GK's aim is to bring glad tidings to the poor. It's a multisectoral approach to not only addressing poverty by building homes, but also creating the environment that teaches people to provide for themselves and to take responsibility for their lives. GK believes that it's not enough just to give a person a home, it's also about being there for others.

The GK culture is built on:

1. Giving not taking
2. Encouraging not blaming
3. Inclusion not exclusion
4. Humility not arrogance
5. Cooperation not competition

It embraces the "less for self, more for others, enough for all" mentality so that truly we can contribute to the eradication of poverty by not focusing on our own needs. We all have something to give.

I was moved by a video shown during a recollection when a poor man gave his little piece of land, all that he owned, to build houses for 80 other families.

We need to grow a heart for the poor, to go out of our comfort zones and to stop looking inward only towards ourselves. We have a responsibility to our neighbours. We can't just keep praying because faith without action is dead. The adage says "true richness is in the following of the hidden Christ who is always among the poor".

Because we have the means to help, we should help the poor rise from death. Not just physical death but the death that overcomes someone who has lost all hope in life and in humanity. We should be a living hope!

If we are children of God, we should respond to the call of lifting our brothers and sisters out of poverty. But poverty also has a spiritual dimension. The richest of the richest also experiences lack ... lack of love, lack of appreciation, insecurities, depression, losing the will to live, etc. Things that paralyzes man because of a broken self-image. We are not only called to give from our pockets but also give that which as been given to us freely and abundantly - the gift of love. Be there for others.

I was talking to a friend today who when immersed in far-flung communities teaches her exasperated students that even if it seems that they're not making a difference, tells them that it's not the teaching of students per se that makes a difference but it's the thought of someone caring.

I read a forwarded message quoted from Bo Sanchez that said it's not the grand show of giving material gifts to a loved that matters, it's being there that matters.

When you have all the riches in the world yet you live and die unloved and unwanted - Mother Teresa said this is the greatest poverty. Even in her own spiritual poverty as she felt the 40 years of silence between her and God, she never ceased to show all the love that she could muster. She didn't look at her own suffering, but those of the others.

Let us do the same to help not only the materially poor but those who are also in need of that life-giving love.


Energy bursts in all direction
Consuming me
My mind cannot contain it

My body tries to understand
The emotions
The thought
The moment

There is something in me
Trying to get out
An energy
Propelling me

Like an explosion
Whose remnants pierce my soul
I am a mere spectator
Of what's within

My head pulsates
My heart palpitates
My veins electrified
With unused energy

I sigh
I close my eyes
I cover my ears

I explode.

So frustrated

I lost yet another article, that's two!, an article I spent hours and poured mental sweat over. Now, it's lost in the emptiness of cyberspace. I should've listened to my friend to draft my works in WordPad or NotePad. I hate the feeling of losing something that I've worked so hard on. But I guess that's the lesson I'm learning - take care of those things that are important to you. Listen to good advice. On the other hand, I could just reinvent the wheel! Waah!

I have always had a thing for writing on materials that's at least nice to look at or smooth.
When I went to high school in Abu Dhabi and our supplies were given by the school, I asked the registrar if I could have another set, not the one with the Teenage Mutant Turtles. I wouldn't be able to concentrate and to write on them. I spent all afternoon arguing. I was so feisty but I met a wall. My brother, bless his kindness, agreed to exchange with me just to get me out of the registrar's office.

Nowadays, I write on anything I can - even restaurant napkins! But I still had that old mentality when I write on my blog. It's like having nice paper to look and to type on. So, I would draft my works there, oblivious to the fact that it's happened before, I've lost my entries while drafting on my Multiply site. So, now, I'm typing this on a WordPad document with its rudimentary look. I guess I should just be thankful for the fact that I could write on something. Sigh. Yes, Lord, the simple things ...

So, I'm back to my mental drawing board. Grrr!!!

But thank God for the opportunity to restart.

Let me be

I feel like I'm moving too much again
Like a chicken with its head cut off
running in circles with no direction

I need to take a break,
I need to breathe,
I need to find my centre,
God, I need you.

Let me not let the world
consume me
Let me not lose you
as my focus.

Let me be at peace
Let me be with you
Let me find you
In my life.

Let me be.

Monday, October 13, 2008

intellectualizing love

we were four women seated around a little round table, sipping our caramel machiattos and white mocca cafe and talking about the most pressing thing that could ever be talked about - love! as each of us opened up on the topic, it wasn't something that was utterly cerebral but mostly heartfelt statements that emanated from the core of love - the heart.

one of us even cried as she remembered a love past and how she would go on in the present and move on to the future. we had among us a married woman who offered us practical advice and lessons learned on embarking on relationships that are bound to last a lifetime. what to look for? what to expect? she gave this salient advice: you have to be on the same page and share the same dreams or goals because you need to move in one direction. otherwise, it would just be unnecessary tugging.

i cherished that moment when the four of us sat there baring our souls. laughing, crying and giving advice.

later that evening, i spoke to another friend. and that's when i realized that you cannot intellectualize love. there is no amount of discussion or analysis that could quantify, qualify or detail in a report a love worth a lifetime. sometimes to even put reasoning to love becomes illogical in itself because the mind sometimes cannot fathom love. only the heart understands.

i watched vicky christina barcelona last saturday and i remember the line of the leading man, juan antonio, when he spoke about his father's poetry not being pubished: it's a form of rebellion to produce great works and to withhold it to the public because after thousands of years, man still has not learned to love.

love sometimes happens at the most unexpected moments like lightning striking. to try to understand it with the mind would become futile if the heart is not giving a prodding. one must try to comprehend love in the unit that it is measured: love.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

living for the living

it was an early autumn saturday morning, golden yellow leaves were strewn on the streets. i had just run from the park and made my way to petit-saconnex, passing through another forest-like park and going towards petit-saconnex when i saw a middle-aged woman having difficulty with her groceries ... it seemed she had just come from the nearby grocery. she stopped a few metres in front of me and she reposititioned herself to carry the two heavy bags. i was mulling over the idea of offering help ... but decided to keep running and i kept looking back at her as she tried to manage her load. i was on my way to the cemetery (again) because i was in the area and i thought i'd say hi to the dead and share their peace. but as soon as i got in, made the sign of the cross, i stopped dead in my tracks. i made a u-turn and tried to run after the lady.

the thought hit me ... i keep praying to God to give me opportunities to help, yet i didn't take this one. so i ran as fast as i could, reached her as she lay her groceries once again on the ground ... i asked her in french "would you like some help? it seems that you're having a difficult time with your bags." she said, "it's nice of you but my husband is just coming." just then i saw her husband making his way to her. i bid her farewell and that i hoped she would have a good day. she smiled.

then i ran as fast as i could trying to erase the sorrow that i felt. i didn't help soon enough! how many times, in our lives have we put off trying to help someone because we hesitated and to find out that when we finally take the courage, it's too late.

i kept thinking as i ran trying to outjog my disappointment in myself. i didn't return to the cemetery but continued to pour over the thought - our lives are meant for the living, to be with the living, to love the living, to help the living, to be alive in every sense of the word and to really be there for others when they need us.

the rest of saturday was about being there for others. i had gone with a friend to cressy to inquire about the spa and massage facilities. it was a lovely trip albeit far, i still was in the frame of mind of living for the living and being there for others. after inquiring and knowing that they didn't have any available place, we decided to take merienda of tea and shared apple pastry. we talked about life and writing. when it was time to go, i was debating whether i should go to the forum on migration and development or just go with my friend and accompany him as he does his groceries. i decided to go to the forum.

at the forum, the topics of social costs of migration, optimizing the diaspora for development and surviving in geneva as a migrant were discussed. here again, as a migrant and part of the diaspora ... i thought, how could we help? i had arrived late and just caught the last part of dr. manuel dayrit's presentation and listened intently to the next speaker, elizabeth warn of the international organization for migration. i was glad that she had discussed practical tips on how the diaspora, the migrants abroad, could link up with their home communities and to give back to the country not just on a hometown basis but on a national scope. she mentioned the colombia experience where a web portal (redes) was established to match needs of the country of origin with those that can be given by the diaspora. i asked her about this after the talk.

it was not only a forum but a workshop. i joined the second group which was about optimizing the diaspora. i wanted to see the practical applications of how we can really help. i think i will delve on the topic on a separate entry.

i'm citing these examples because again, we are here to help those that can still benefit from our help. those that are still living.

this morning, at mass, i was so moved as two parishioners held hands to say the "our father". the male parishioner, who had just recovered from a kidney transplant and still had his hospital ID tag on his wrist took the hand of another female parishioner in a wheelchair, who seemed to be recovering from a stroke. they both seemed to be in their 60s. what caught my attention was the eagerness of the male parishioner and the show of affection and love for someone else other than himself. i was close to tears when i saw it. i began thinking again, how many times we've failed or i've failed to be generous with my affection to someone i didn't know or even someone i do know because of fear of rejection. here is a man who could've lost his life on the operating table giving what care he could in his living life.

later today, i attended a recollection for Gawad Kalinga. it's the first ever held here in geneva. it was an eye opener as well as another avenue to live for the living by helping the poor. (i will probably write a separate entry.) it forced us to reflect on how best we can help the poor, what was the right frame of mind - but overall, it was just how to help those that are less fortunate than us.

i often hear that God only creates opportunities for us, never really answering our prayers as we like them to be, handed to us on a silver platter. so, sometimes when opportunities come up to help and i came short ... i feel like a failure. but i will not dwell on it. i will just try harder to be there when i'm needed. to die to my own needs and to put other's needs ahead of myself. it's difficult but life is short. every opportunity is worth taking because we live for the living and not for the dead. Jesus says "let the dead bury their dead."

let's celebrate life and let's make it in the service of God and others.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

our true mirrors ...

yes, i'm on the topic again ... it seemed to be the theme of the night. my friend and i went out to celebrate his birthday and couldn't watch what he wanted "bangkok encounter" ... so we settled with watching "mirrors". subconsciously, although we didn't intend to, we were again on the topic of mirrors. i even forgot that we were watching mirrors. we were so engrossed in our talk that we almost missed the movie. we came in just minutes before the opening credits. we were laughing.

but before we came in, we had arrived 45 minutes early and he had taken that opportunity to talk to some of his friends on the phone from his native land and i sat munching on the popcorn while seated in the cinema chairs in the lobby. we listened to the "elevator music" while watching trailers that didn't match the music. hehe. so, after his phone call, we got to talking about my writing. he said "are you ready to be criticized?". i said "yes". he said "it's when you can defend your thoughts that you are a writer". i think i already see a future critique - the good type ... not the bad kind. :)

then he asked me "would you change if your friends told you to?" i stopped to think to myself ... "would i?" i answered "no." i will not try to please people just because they want me to be someone they want me to be. he said "what about if two or three people say it? would you change?" i said "it depends on who's saying it and what they're saying ..." he said that these people who only mean good of course who try to "change" us are our true mirrors ...

then i was reminded of the johari window. it's a psychological tool used to explain the areas known to a person, known to only others and not to the person, an area known to both and a blind spot - where no one knows. how do we truly know ourselves? he was right ... by mirroring.

we rely on information we know about ourselves and confirm them by the validation of others. as the area of the known (to the person) and the known (to the other) mesh into the known to both ... then we begin to see a clearer picture of who we are.

i was also talking to another friend earlier about defining relationships. we, in tandem with others, find a sort of collective meaning by eliminating that blind spot. therefore, we open the window of ourselves to reveal the real us. that when we look in the mirror, it's not some distorted image of what others think we are, or what we think we are but a uniform image of who we are based on what we know and what others know of us.

isn't it nice to live in the light? with a big blind spot, there's a lot of feeling in the darkness. there's a lot of searching. but through time, through our friends, family and our true mirrors who take courage to correct our image for our own sakes and not for the world's then we can begin to reflect our true selves.

have you looked in the mirror lately? what did you see?

opaque realities

i just got home from watching a film called "mirrors" by alex aja, with kiefer sutherland as leading man. it was one of the rare moments where i'd appreciated a good scare because the movie had such a wonderful twist. think back "sixth sense". i don't want to spoil the plot for everybody though ...

but here's some realizations:

1. we paint our own realities
2. we can be trapped in them
3. there's nothing more important than family
4. dying to one's self is really the way to love
5. we don't always see the same things even if they look the same
6. demons are real
7. evil exists
8. the good prevails

maybe i'll expound later when the film is a bit older.

i encourage everyone to watch it as it gives insight as to how we paint our realities, how life is short and that if we don't clear up the picture of our lives and see what's important, then we're just living in an opaque reality.

if you just want a good scare ... it's nice to watch too.

turbulent flow

did you ever wonder why sometimes when you turn on the tap, the water gushes out and sometimes, it flows smoothly?

in physics, when the water flow is smooth, it's called laminar flow. when it gushes out in all directions, it's called turbulent flow. i have to thank tatay (oca) for introducing me to the world of turbulent flow. the first time i heard it, he was speaking about his mentor, dr. amador muriel. he's a physicist who is developing a "novel" way of studying turbulent flow.

i was very excited when i heard about it while on our way to the Singles for Christ Conference in milan because it was a provoking thought. why did it gush out? why was it smooth? we were four in the car and we had plenty of time to talk. we suddenly got to the topic of dr. muriel's turbulent flow.

when i think of it, i just don't think about water, i think about life. why is it that sometimes, it seems that our life is flowing smoothly like the water in hotel rooms which seem so serene that you might think it was really designed to please the eyes of the guest; and at times it seems to gush out like an uncontrollable geyser. is it because there's somebody controlling the tap of our life? is God that invisible hand that turns our life on and off, gushing, pouring at times and sometimes, as dry as the desert with only trickles that pour from it?

i think there is a hand that controls everything but the water has a mind of its own too. again, here comes free will. we can turn on our own taps, with our magic hands. in what kind of situations? our mouths ... we can control whatever comes out of it. i heard once that's why our ears are open so we can understand all the more and that's why the mouth has a tongue, teeth and lips to make sure that if it has to open it would have passed the 3 lines of defence from uttering unkind and hurtful words. we can also control our actions. non-verbal communication plays a bigger part than uttered words.

but that's the part we can control, what about the other invisible hands that control your tap? the situations around you, the people, everything that isn't in your control. in those times, we can't help but flow like a geyser. we wait until the gush becomes controllable or we cut the main pipe. we take time to reflect, collect ourselves. keep those feelings inside and let out ourselves. we can let it out smoothly or like a gush at one go.

i learned from researching laminar flow that the water must be parallel to the stationary plate travelling at zero or more as in the case of a pipe surrounding the water so that it remains smooth. in short, everything is moving in one direction, at the same speed in relation to the stationary plate before layering and reaching the moving plate. because somehow even water has layers. it could be like flowing with the plan of God. everything flows smoothly when we're with Him. since flow is characterized by resistence, then when we go against the grain, does it become turbulent.

the key word is resistence. how much do we want to resist so that the water flow becomes as turbulent as it can get. would we need 10 firefighters to hold our flow?

what about those times when we're drying up at the well? where then does the flow come from? if we plan carefully and dig our well above a water reserve, then we will have ample water supply. wasn't it Jesus who said to the Pharisees, "Whoever believes in me, as scripture says: 'Rivers of living water will flow from within him.'" (Jn 7:38). And Jesus said to the Samaritan woman at the well, "Jesus answered and said to her, 'Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again; but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.'" (Jn. 4:13-14)

there's our ample water source: Jesus! let Him flow through you and let God be your stationary plate. if the tough gets going, let the Holy Spirit be your moving plate so that at whatever speed our life is moving, it can even out at some point because we are in the pipe of God's love.

so how do you want your life to be a laminar or turbulent flow?

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

able-bodied disability

as i was walking home yesterday, i saw the usual football (soccer) practices at the varembe stadium near my house. i saw children aged 10 or 11 with their football shoes, one with neon spikes! as i watched the little boys, i also saw a little girl. she was wearing a loose maroon shirt and baggy shorts, with her long curly auburn hair tied back over her broad shoulders. she watched the two little boys and had the look of beckoning in her eyes as if to say "can i play with you?" she also looked a little masculine. whether that masculinity will stay till adolescence well into adulthood, only time can tell.

when i had deposited my things at home i went for a longer walk/jog (more walk than jog) before going to a friend's house. from far off, i saw a little girl being pushed by a carer (maybe her mother) in her colourful wheelchair. i vaguely remember whether it was her wearing the colours or that her wheelchair had colourful wheels with kaleidoscopic designs on them. all i remember is seeing the colours from about 100 metres away and seeing the little girl. she seemed happy.

then i thought to myself ... look at that girl, enjoying her "walk" and seeing life. then i thought about our blind translator here who comes in to translate day in and day out.

what do all these three have in common? disabilities.

the first girl is disabled by societal norms. she is not "normal" as she is a little girl playing soccer with the boys. the second and third are physical disabilities.

i once asked a priest, if disabled people have crutches, hearing aids, etc., then what do gay people have? he couldn't answer me. i often think that to myself ... what is a gay person's crutch? if God made us the way we are supposed to be, gay people included, then maybe we are supposed to make the most of what we have and have a sort of positive "crutch" to help us live as normally as possible.

not everybody would say that a girl playing with a ball was bad but some also would. girls "should" be playing with dolls. aha! so, no more girl engineers who like to play with tools! and no boys around the sewing table! i just found out last night that a guy friend sews! i was amazed and felt frustrated again as i want to sew my curtains! it's only a straight line after all! but that's another story.

see, there's a lot of should's and shouldn'ts in this world. the social sciences would like to call it all "social constructs". in the Bible in Genesis, it's said: He created man in His image, Man and Woman, He created them. one colleague told me: the literal interpretation would be the anatomical man and woman. but God is infinite in His ways: we are all made with more or less testosterone or estrogen in both species. thus, you have effeminate men and muscular women.

i got to talking to my colleague about "insecurities" which i think is an able-bodied disability. it's similar to my concept of "prisoners of our minds". we are only restricted by the confines of our minds. if we are constricted by the confines of our bodies, there are ways to go around that disability. but what do we do when the disability lies in ourselves? what is our crutch? who should we call?

repeat these words to yourselves: I AM BEAUTIFUL, I AM LOVED, I AM FORGIVEN BY THE MERCY OF GOD. (something i learned from my mom who got the mantra from the Dominican Sisters of Regina Rosarii.)

you are beautiful, you are loved, you are forgiven by the mercy of God. who can argue with that?

a blessing to many ...

she was born into a hindu family but her faith journey of 33 years took her to the foot of the Cross. from india, to the middle east, to switzerland, it has been a journey to God - living the Gospel's giving up everything - even leaving the family she loves. this year, she was received into the universal catholic church and her story doesn't end there ... every day she gives praise to God. she offers her life. she says to me "i cannot make one step without God".

she has had three deaths in her family in the last year and just recently her sister. she is consumed by pain yet she feels light. she knows that God will take care of her.

i am blessed to have her as my friend. to receive warm hugs from a person that even through her own sorrow would say that she loves me and hug me tight. i feel the love that Christ has given her that has left her whole despite all the brokenness of this world.

we talked last night and she told me that once she starts talking about her life, people are touched. i believe her. i myself is teary eyed as i remember her life, as i write about it. she is such a blessing. all she wants is to speak of God. she is discerning whether God is calling her to be in His service as a nun.

not a day passes when she doesn't go to Mass. she sits in the same place and it was my mom who got to know her. (they even have the same birthday.) they were "classmates" at daily Mass. even though a hindu, she went to Mass and didn't receive communion. my mom never asked her why. she only told me yesterday that after her conversion, my mom commented "ah. now i know why you didn't receive communion". she considers my mom as her mom too so that makes us sisters. i'm blessed to have her as a sister because i am an only girl with four brothers. i look up to her strength of faith, her character, her total surrender to His Will ... to a life lived in testimony of God's love.

she repeated it many times during our conversation last night. love. love. love. yes, we are all called to love and to love God with all our hearts, mind and soul, she emphasized.

she asked me to write her story and i am honoured. i hope that i will give justice and legacy to a life that has inspired so many. a life that even though life's struggle has beaten her physical body, her spirit is whole and in the tender loving care of God the Father, cradled in the arms of God the Son and breathed with zeal for God's work by the Holy Spirit.

God bless you, Ate Jenny. I love you very much.

triumph of life

everyday that death doesn't consume us is a triumph over life.

today is the "pasyam" (ninth day) of the death of ate jenny's sister, reva (eternal rest grant unto her O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon her. may she rest in peace). yesterday, i went to the cemetery in petit-saconnex. i always wanted to go inside ever since i discovered it on one of my walks. it was beautiful from the outside which beckoned me and it was even more beautiful when i came in. it was a park where the living could be with the dead. french-shaped pine trees, resting places dotted with brightly coloured flowers, a well-manicured lawn and a soft wind - indeed, it is a place to rest - both for the living and the dead. i walked around and was at peace with the dead. i spoke to some, read some of the head stones: beloved father, beloved mother ... i wanted to clean some of the places that seemed to have been neglected or are not remembered but it might not be my place to do so ... there was a caretaker but i didn't see him/her.

we experience certain types of death. there's the physical death which is the separation of body and soul. there's spiritual death which is the death of our spirit while the body lives. there's also the living dead. those who walk around as if there's nothing worth living for. then there's the sacrificial death to ourselves in order to give life to another. that's what Jesus did for us. He didn't do it figuratively, but in reality. we are called to do it figuratively so that we not focus on our own needs but on the needs of those that need our love and care.

one of my friends on one of the first days of the nine days of prayer said: God takes you when you have fulfilled your purpose in your life. in the Old Testament, death was a curse. it was something that God instituted to punish us. But since the New Testament and the coming of Christ, God has become a loving God, not full of wrath and promises us eternal life. although we are citizens of heaven, we still have a temporal home.

we live in an ephemeral world. we tend to look at our life on earth as the only life we have. and for that, we should celebrate every second that God gives us to do something worthwhile as we tread the path of life.

"that you would be pleased to have mercy on those of whom no special remembrance is made on earth."

that phrase is taken from the book of prayers for the dead. it has been tugging at me that i should write about it because i was concerned about those people that aren't remembered much. (at my own death, i think of it.) i'm sure that they were loved by their families but were not famous and without big monuments erected in their honour. or maybe they were orphans of life - those that seem to have taken on life's cruelty in their life. i would like to pray for them because i believe that we can impact each other's lives in the simplest way. an encounter in the street, just a mere look, a mere smile. just by being there. (i have been touched by people that i don't know ... just by seeing them on the street, observing them being themselves ... they didn't need to say anything ... but i remember all of them.)

i asked a friend how she was yesterday. she said "enjoying every second of my life". i was amazed and thankful for her answer. it was a blessing to be alive. it is a blessing to wake up each day to a new morning when we can continue to be the labourers in the vineyard of God.

i hope that you will also celebrate every second of your earthly life and live a life that is worth remembering ... not by the masses but by the ones you love and the people that need your love.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

misty cataracts?

(a poem dedicated to my officemates who find laughter in every situation ... this morning it was this scenario ... a misty morning looking out into the non-visible lake covered with haze)

was it rain, was it dew?
was it mist, was it age?
was it our eyes?
am i going blind?
one woman asked.

"no", said one,
said i "cataract?"
the mist in the air
in the early morn.

laugh us at "cataract"
in the eyes of old
but mist it was
a morning blague
shared by the young-old us!

"concentrated charm of the east"

that's what TJ (name changed) said to the coffe girls this morning. he himself was a cupful of charm. :) it even seemed that he thought about it as he made his way to the line to buy coffee and back to us, to stop at our table and to smile and to say ... "at this table is the concentrated charm of the east" (we were all filipinos who sometimes would fill the little cafeteria with our boisterous laughter to the delight of some and the horror of many ... or so i think) ... there's nothing like word play that would make me smile. of course ... he's almost a septuagenerian so don't be getting any ideas!

i like him because he takes time to appreciate life. i can see it in his face. he has a lovely smile and the look of one who has lived his life to the full. it is unmistaken too that he was a handsome young man because he still looks like a handsom old man. hehe. he approached me once to introduce himself. and i likewise. he asked what made me smile a lot ... i said because life is a blessing. he said "that's a good way of looking at it". i look forward to seeing him just because he smiles as often as me. he's not like the other people in my workplace who look down to avoid greeting one another. maybe they're just shy ... but still i can't help feeling hurt when it's so noticeable. i respect them ... so let them be. :)

going back to TJ, he seemed surprised that i was taking a sandwich at tea time in the afternoon. he asked "are you just eating lunch?" i said "this is a snack". he said, "how do you stay so slim?" he answered his own question, "it must be all that smiling." i told him, "that's something i wouldn't mind expending energy on". he smiled back and said "more people should put their energy in that too".

i'd like to be like him when i get older. he seems to be full of wisdom and i want to pick his brain sometimes. but i hope that he wouldn't get the wrong idea. because i've had "older" men trying to be friends with me but it just felt uncomfortable.

for now, i will enjoy his charm and what he said to us ... we the concentrated charm of the east of the office. :)