The Journey Continues

“But take care, as you value your lives! Do not forget the things which you yourselves have seen, or let them slip from your heart as long as you live; teach them, rather, to your children and to your children’s children.” Deuteronomy 4:9

On February 27 of this year, our Christian Life Seminar was finally over. The “travelling angels” from Riyadh in Saudi Arabia and from San Diego in California, USA noted that it was the longest CLS in the history of CFC-FFL.

Tito Cris and his wife, Tita Poochie began with the first talk in March 2014. They went home to the Philippines in summer. Thereafter, they encountered difficulties in securing visas to enter Bahrain. So that it was only in early November that we were able to meet again. In February of this year, we were introduced to Tito Froy who was temporarily assigned to Bahrain. And before our dedication, came his wife, Tita Belle. During the Feb Fridays that we gather in Jesus’ name, Guadalupe, a two month old baby girl, together her parents Bro Seneth and Sis Joy, joined our family, Bhoy, Megan, Miguel, and Mac in our praise and thanksgiving to God. And so our CFC-FFL family was complete, just as the CLS was completed.

That was the chronology of the CLS events as I recalled- one year summed up in one paragraph. Yet the substance of each single moment that we have shared together in the love of God is so profound that it will take a lifetime for me to share. It is pure joy to know God and love God. It is divine to share His love.

As the purpose of the CLS is evangelisation and spiritual renewal, it is now our life’s purpose to fulfill the will of God.

We will be forever grateful to our “travelling angels”, Tito Cris, Tita Poochie, Tito Froy and Tita Belle, for their valuable time, perseverance and effort to enable us know God and love God better. May the Lord continue to shower his blessings upon them.

Our CLS may have come to an end, but the journey continues. We, who are called, together with Bro Seneth and Sis Joy, have a lot to do. May we not be weakened by the world’s distractions. But rather, call upon the Holy Spirit day by day for the constant renewal of our faith, while we carry our own crosses together with our Savior, Jesus Christ, on the path towards the eternal kingdom of God.

 

 

 


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Bloom Where You Are Re-planted

“Nevertheless, each person should live as a believer in whatever situation the Lord has assigned to them, just as God has called them…” 1 Corinthians 7:17

I just celebrated my 48th birthday a few weeks back. As part of my annual sentimental “look-back” at what have been, I realized that there is one constant that dominates the story of my life- and that is MOVING.

Before I finished my studies, I lived at 5 different houses and went to 8 different schools. from the time i got married until now, I lived at 9 houses and worked in a commercial establishment, a government agency, a bank, 2 schools and a hospital. That does not include where I live and work now.

Sometimes I wonder what my life could have been if there wasn’t too much action. How stress-free it could have been if i work at the same office table until i retire. And how comforting to live in just one house until my last breath. But who really knows?

So S also wondered how it could have been if I was stuck in only one corner of the same office and worked consistently on the same assignment everyday. by now I would have probably mastered the grooves and accomplish all without batting my short lashes, but how bored to death I would be now.

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I also wondered how many places I would not have the privilege to visit if it was my destiny to normally age within the four corners of the same house i was born to. How I would have missed the rapid beating of my heart whenever i experience the rising of the sun and its setting from different perspectives, the changing of the seasons under a different view of the sky, the genuine tastes and sounds of various societies.

And yes, I wondered how many people I would not have met… and known… and loved, if I was just bounded by the walls of my immediate family. I would not have known people from other nations who are as diverse in our culture and tradition, yet so similar in our humanity.

Moving is actually a joyful adventure for me rather than a futile exercise; like a flowering plant that is constantly being pulled from where it has grown its roots and re-planted to a new and strange spot. It may be a new pot or a beautiful garden. It doesn’t matter where, only its purpose is to bloom.

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I believe I am God’s little flower. And I am repeatedly being uprooted and re-planted to serve my purpose. I am in the here and now because God planned this from the beginning.

When it is time for that little flower in me to move again, I will no longer wonder. because all I need to do is bloom.

Simplify

“I will praise Thee, for Thou hast heard me, and art become my salvation”. Psalms 118:21

Been wanting to do this for quite some time now, but just didn’t have the time. The passion is always there.  Just didn’t have the time.

Same dilemma most of us face each passing day. Just didn’t have the time to do the things that make us come alive.  Instead, we commit ourselves everyday to that safe corner in the same seat doing the same things that we really hate to do, yet we find it safe to deny. and just bear the pain of  living a life that we actually hate… And worst, never even realize it.  just because we didn’t have enough time.  or rather we tend to complicate everything, it takes more time than necessary.

Now i finally found a way to make time for what matters to me.  SIMPLIFY!  That by keeping things simple, we can make the most of our time.  I’m positive that with determination and a bit of creativity plus a lot of humor, I can do it.

God help me 🙂 Hope you can too!

life is a sentence

“Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life.  Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.” John 11:25

today is supposed to be my dear friend roobee’s 45th birthday.  but we all stopped counting at 43, because she died almost two years ago after a fatal seizure.  last week my nephew Banjo, who is in his early twenties, passed on due to a lingering illness.  and just this week, my son’s former schoolmate and good friend, Kent, suddenly died in iligan because of a car accident.  he was still in his teens. 

in daddy’s case when he battled the big C,  he was given an estimated time when he was expected to die.  but nobody could really tell. he too, could have figured in an accident long before that.  then the doctors’ estimate would have been a gross mistake. and our family, unprepared and devastated. or there could have been a miracle, when the mistake would be most welcomed.

it is unbelievable when death cheats his way and no one else is looking.  it leaves everyone stunned and numb. unable to comprehend what is going on.  long after we moved on, the sadness lingers. 

at school, we were taught that “a sentence is a group of words that expresses a complete idea and includes a subject and a verb“.  in life we learn that it is. 

life is a sentence.

life is sentence whose subject is us.  and the verb, what we do with “us”.

 “a sentence begins with a capital letter and ends with a punctuation mark.”

our life begins with a loud cry.  and when it ends, only God knows.   but certainly, it will.

life usually ends with a period.  this is when life ends how and when most expects it to end – live a full life, die naturally and happily at old age.

life sometimes end with a question mark.  when someone who is young and full of dreams gets sick and die, we often ask what if and what could have been.

life, on rare occasions, end with a punctuation mark. we all get this shock and disbelief when one dies from an accident, a crime or a suicide.

in between, we may pause with a comma or a semi-colon, to give order to our compound or complex lives.

and when we finally reunite with our Creator, our sentences end with a . . .

for with the Lord is unending joy and love.

but for us who are still under construction, let us always be thankful for all the other sentences that we connect with, whether the past, present or future tense.

together and in harmony, we could create a paragraph or a novel even.  a love story that would highlight God’s glory in all our lives. and punctuate it with  : )

when the time is now

“Do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.” 2 Peter 3:8

we’re now ten days into 2011, and i still don’t have a list of new year’s resolutions.  not that i even plan on having one, but it has been tradition that before the old year ends, the list should have been done and must be followed from Day 1 onwards.  but since it’s a bit late already, maybe my new year’s resolution is to not have any new year’s resolution at all.

before Christmas, Megan was giving slight hints here and there about what gift she really wanted-a canon 550d camera.  since it is quite expensive and we don’t have the money to buy one just yet, i told her that patience is a virtue. wittingly she responded that time is goldhaha!  that camera might as well be gold!

aah youth! –  carefree, always in a hurry as if there’s no tomorrow.  but only with age will they realize that time is just a passing fancy.  and i sure finally did. in fact, as i grow older, i perceive time as a curse.  especially when life is defined by the years, months, days, hours, minutes, seconds, nanoseconds… 

when i was younger, i used to believe that time is really gold because our culture dictates our life in terms of the years that we live.  like when at 12, one has to finish grade school.  one can vote or date at age 18.  by 20, one has to finish college.  by 30, one has to have established a career already, earned his 1st million and settled down.  between 30 to 40, one should already have a family, built a house for them, sent kids to school…

between 40 to 50, one would be preoccupied with advancing with that career, take care of seeping health issues and playing on retirement plans.  at age 60 onwards, one should then enjoy the fruits of retirement, then eventually die of natural causes or old age.

imagine the frustration when one doesn’t catch up with the hands of time.  i won’t be surprised if that expensive rolex, that cheap wall clock or that annoying alarm clock can be as deadly as a butcher’s knife.  these timepieces may actually be the number one cause of stress.  and stress as we all know is the number one cause of any illness, or the reason some diseases get even worse  for that matter.

 it’s been two months since my surgery, and i’m still stuck here in my room. since i felt stronger, i think that i should be elsewhere doing something else, which “culture” expects of me.  but God put me exactly at this spot at this very moment. just as He planned.  building up my patience, strengthening my faith and bolstering my confidence in what He has in store for me.

we should be defined by the moments we live. not the hours we spend catching up with the future.  not the minutes fighting off the ghosts of the past.  we are in the here and now. and whatever we think or do now, will shape up our tomorrow .  or change how we look at our yesterday.

if you want a taste of hell, go ahead.  stare at that clock as it excruciatingly tick-tocks your life away.  waiting for that something that may just happen only after a century, or worse, may not happen at all.  do whatever you can wherever you are-NOW.

remember that in heaven, there are no clocks.  no calendars.  no new year’s resolutions. only moments of everlasting joy and infinite bliss with our Lord.  so savor each moment like you’re already in heaven.

the naked truth

“And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return; the LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.”  Job 1:21

funny how the word “naked” always evokes that extra interest.  basic instinct maybe?  but come to think of it.  our nakedness is basic in our humanity.  we were born naked.  and would pass on the same way too.  no matter how we would eventually be clothed in the end.

i remember when my cousin khan passed away.  she was in her early 20s.  initially, she wore our aunt’s conservative barong terno especially made for a wedding ceremony.  everyone noticed how khan’s face looked so unhappy.  you see, khan was a fashionista.  it was really awkward to see her that young and dead.  but wear that terno and that short hair? eeewww!  like she was forced by death to look 30 years older.  and we could almost hear her scream, “get me out of here!!!”  in reference to her outfit. not her coffin.

so my sister and younger cousins decided to buy her a more suitable lavender spaghetti strapped dress with a matching see-through  shawl to cover her shoulder.  the ensemble showed how pretty and young she was, yet still retained that statuesque dignity only khan could get away with.  we can always argue about this.  but believe it or not, from then on, her face glowed in serene approval and it was like she smiled all the way to her grave.

the truth is, we didn’t really care how we were dressed up when we were born.  likewise, it wouldn’t matter too when we pass on.  our life is a personal relationship with our Creator.  it will always be between ourselves and Him.  nothing more. nothing less.  whatever we had after we were born – family, clothing, shelter, riches – these are just add ons to our journey that we are trusted to enrich our lives with.  we don’t take them beyond our destination.  because in the end, our accountability is what have we done with our life.  with or without the add-ons. 

remember the story of Job.  he was an upright man who feared God and shunned evil.  he was prosperous and God blessed him with seven sons and three daughters.  but Satan was allowed to test his faith. everything he had was taken away.  even his family.  his whole body was smitten by Satan with dreadful boils.  still he persevered in his faith.  when his wife prompted him to curse God and die, Job replied “You speak as the one of the foolish speaks.  Moreover, shall we receive good from God and not receive evil?”

in the end, Job got well again, regain his possessions and had ten more children living to see the fourth generation and died in peace at the old age of 140. 

when we lose someone or something we hold dear – loved ones, job, home, money, health etc. –  let us remember that all are God’s blessings to us.  He has the power to give, yet take away in His time.  we must be resigned to all sufferings, as much as we delight in all the blessings.  not because He is God and we are just His creations.  but because we trust that God knows what is best for us.  though His mysterious ways leave us often confused and puzzled; so that we tend to ask why, and expect the answer right away.

“there is nothing permanent in this world.  not even our troubles.”  Charlie Chaplin once said.  today may be your bad day.  but from my experience,  from these bad days, the best of mine always follow. 

we may be stripped of anything and everything, but in all our humble nakedness, our Creator clothes us with the assurance that he would take care of everything.  and if we sincerely believe, we could actually feel that warmth of his love.

that’s the naked truth.

never alone

“For we walk by faith, not by sight.” 2 Corinthians 5:7

yesterday i experienced the scariest and weirdest moment ever. 

you see, there is no company transport provided for us,  so i have to go with bhoy every morning.  that means i am always an hour and a half early for work.  that also means that it is my duty to unlock the office main door and switch on the lights. it also means that i could enjoy some peace and quiet before each stressful day.  there’s time for me to pray the rosary, retouch make-up, clean my desk, read the news and update my facebook status, even before everyone else arrives. 

except for some familiar sounds that come from the kitchen, which by this time i’ve already gotten used to, nothing unusual happens.  not until yesterday morning.

as i placed my bag and packed lunch on my desk and was about to take a seat, a loud banging on the glass part of the wall divider behind me swallowed the silence that i’ve grown to love now. BANG! BANG! BANG! as i turned to look at where the eerie noise was coming from, my heartbeat raced really fast that i felt it was out of the building within a sec.  but then, the rest of my body froze in my seat.  I WAS REALLY, REALLY TERRIFIED!!!  (thanks to my love affair with horror movies, my imagination became gory and gruesome OMG! )

the first thing that i could think of was a remote possibility that there maybe somebody locked inside the office the day before.  the second thing was oh well!  i could not think of anything more other than how scared i already was. as i sat motionless for like an eternity, i just prayed “Oh God, please don’t leave me. I’m all alone.”  minutes were transformed to forever.  you can just imagine my relief when my officemate and friend, mila, eventually arrived.  it was then that i got my heart back to its rightful place…my frightened heart that seemed to have taken a flight back home to laguna.

of course there may be spirits or souls that roam around, whose energy may have caused that really loud banging. and so, i was really wrong when i thought i was all alone.  in fact, i realized now that indeed, i was never alone. and never will be.  to quote Pope Benedict XVI during Sunday’s Angelus prayer, he stressed: “Every time we recite Our Father, our voice becomes entwined with that of the Church, because those who pray are never alone.” http://www.catholic.org/international/international_story.php?id=37525

in connection to my weird experience yesterday, this legend about the cherokee indian youth’s rite of passage was sent to my email this morning. here goes:

his father takes him into the forest, blindfolds him and leaves him alone.  he is required to sit on a stump the whole night and not remove the blindfold until the rays of the morning sun shine through it. 

he cannot cry out for help to anyone.  once he survives the night, he is a MAN.  he cannot tell the other boys of this experience, because each lad must come into manhood on his own.

the boy is naturally terrified.  he can hear all kinds of noises.  wild beasts must surely be all around him.  maybe even some humans might do him harm.  the wind blew on the grass and the earth, and shook his stump, but he sat stoically, never removing his blindfold.  it would be the only way he could become a man!

finally after the horrific night, the sun appeared and he removed his blindfold.  it was then that he discovered his father sitting on the stump next to him.  he had been at watch the entire night, protecting his son from harm.

we too, are never alone.  even when we don’t know it, God is watching over us, sitting on the stump beside us.  when trouble comes, all we have to do is reach out to Him.

Moral of the story:  Just because you can’t see God, doesn’t mean He’s not there.

oh yes God is always with me.  but question is, am i with him? or will i rather be elsewhere? how many times did i go astray and got lost along the way? do i sometimes get ahead of Him who is supposed to lead me instead? 

next time any sound breaks that precious silence again,  my prayer is that the presence of God would build up my courage and strengthen my faith.  let it be a resounding assurance that He will never ever leave me, even when most of the time i am not worthy.

missing Daddy

“Even when I walk through a dark valley, I fear no harm for you are at my side; your rod and staff give me courage.” Psalm 24:4

Daddy

bhoy was packing his diapers and wipes.  we were told he needed them more than the usual pasalubong of his favorite chocolate bars and chocolate drink.

but we were a day too late.  Daddy passed away on the 21st of december 2009.  suddenly, the holiday season we were supposed to come home to and celebrate with the family, was never the same again.

Daddy was eagerly waiting for us.  i was told he was staring at each face as if he was trying to see if we finally arrived.  he wanted to stay on, but he was already too much in pain.  in fact, he was already too weak to even wait for one more day.  and as mommy left for just a minute to go to the comfort room, and ella dozed off for almost the same time, the angel of death sneaked in, and took Daddy away…forever.

no words can ever describe the overwhelming fusion of emotions.  no amount of tears can ever wash away the pain. no length of time can ever make me forget.  and not even death can take away the love we have for Daddy.

last family picture taken complete with Daddy in 2008

i know i have never said this to him, though i really wish i could have.  but i love him very much. more than he’ll ever know.  

as we take the flight back to khobar, and as the lights in the plane were turned off,  the tears rolled on my cheeks as the memories of my whole life unfold.  i realized i am me because of Daddy.  and i will never be the same again without him.

it’s going to be a lonely journey from hereon. but i believe that God knows what’s best for all of us, and that my fervent prayer will always be that by God’s grace and mercy, Daddy rests in His loving embrace free from all the pain and suffering of this world.

thank you Daddy.

for my life, for your love, and the fish flower plates…

There is Gold in Saudi Arabia

“For though I be absent in the flesh, yet I am with you in the spirit, joying and beholding your order, and the steadfastness of your faith in Christ.”  Colossians 2:5

He was simple, cheerful and selfless.  His name was Boeing.


Our first meeting was vague.  It was years ago at the old duty-free shop in paranaque.  I could barely recall how he looked like then.

The second time we met was along King Khalid St. here in Al-Khobar.  He was shopping for gifts to take home to his family in Pasig. 

The third time was during his farewell party at Bangkok Restaurant.  He welcomed each lady so  graciously with a long-stemmed rose.  That was what I vividly remember, because I barely knew the guests at that time, though most of them were from the same company where Boeing and my husband Bhoy worked.

The next day, I texted him to thank him for the sumptous dinner and the great time I had. prayed for his safe trip back to the Philippines and likewise, expressed sadness that we wouldn’t have the chance to know each other more intimately, because he had to leave Saudi Arabia when I just came two months prior. 

I was wrong…  Boeing came back after a few months to work  in another company.  And our friendship was born.  Thereafter, Bhoy and I began to spend Thursday nights with him and other close friends from ACEC.  Here in Saudi, that was one of the safest way to keep one’s sanity and avoid endless, lonely homesick nights.  We were then later called “Thursday group”. 

The “group” decided what special dishes would be prepared and where we would ‘devour’ them.  Aside from food and drinks, we shared stories about our families back home, work-related experiences and our hopes and dreams after life in saudi.  Sometimes, we even had videoke sessions, no matter if  we sometimes sounded like lost frogs in the desert. 


But some good things never last.  One after the other, some of those very good friends went towards different paths.  Then miguel, our son, came to live with us and study in Andalus. Thursday nights were never the same again.  The “Thursday group” was dissolved even before we could even think of a less corny name.  But the friendship remained…  and so did Boeing.

He advised me to apply for a job in the UK-based company he transferred to, but told me I had to wait.  That time, I already had two other prospects but I  trusted him to call me soon.
But a month passed.  And another.  Until finally, my patience ran out and went to be interviewed in a nearby hospital just a couple of blocks from our flat.  The offer was good enough. And I was ready to accept it.  So I called Boeing and told him about my plans.  But he insisted that I wait.

So I took the chance and waited.  But this time not for long.  He called me and took me to their office.  He was very confident that I would get a better offer.  And I did.  He was really glad that we would work together.  And for a year, we worked together… until that fateful Eid holiday.


He was first confined in Almana hospital on September 25.  From then on, he was in and out of the hospital until he finally took his last flight out of Saudi Arabia in November.  We were optimistic that he would get well before the end of his medical leave.  But at dawn on December 7, Boeing passed away.

I realized now that true friendship is never measured by moments, or months,  or years.  It cannot be described by words, nor phrases, nor eulogies.  The same profound friendship that Boeing and I shared.  He may be physically gone.  But I will always see him in every desert sand, in every date palm tree, in every bacoco fish.  And whenever I look up to see the vast Arabian sky, it is Boeing that I will see… smiling back at me.

I was told there is too much gold in Saudi.  It is true.  But I found the purest and most priceless of all.  His name is Boeing.

no limits

  “Six days do your work, but on the seventh day do not work, so that your ox and your donkey may rest and the slave born in your household, and the alien as well, may be refreshed”.  Exodus 23:12  

last saturday, my intense resolve to go to work was not able to overcome the weakness that i began to experience the night before.  i felt dizzy and whoozy.  and just too lame to even stand up for long, much more walk around.  you see, last thursday and friday, being weekend, i was up and about doing this and that at home. and friday night, i spent more than two hours ironing a week’s set of clothing for three.  no big deal really.  well maybe, when i was younger.  but since i turned forty almost three years ago, there were changes that most of the time, catch me by surprise.

busy bees
busy bees

like last weekend.  one moment, i was okey.  the next, totally incapacitated.  o darn! i know these are signs of ageing. but combine it with hypertension, obesity and pre-menopausal symptoms (ha-ha!), how worst can it possibly get?  whereas before i read about beauty and fashion, lifestyle and entertainment, now tops on my must-read list are about health and well-being, alternative medicines, exercise and diet.

there are times that i feel bothered not to be able to do things that i need to, simply because of my physical limitations.  especially those that i was used to.  like moving cabinets and furniture around the house, lifting heavy boxes way beyond my own weight, not to mention iron clothes for more than two hours.  sometimes, i get frustrated that these are now past tense.  and the sooner i learn to accept it, the better for me to live in the present tense.  and better yet to move on towards future tense (ha-ha again!)

but come to think of it, even superheroes have their own weaknesses and limitations.  remember superman and kryptonite.  spiderman and his dark side.  achilles and his heel.  how about darna minus her bato (stone)?

darna

so consider this.  i’m no superhero.  nor even a hero at all.  i’m just plain old me going through the motions of time, watching  my fountain of youth dry up by the minute.  the sooner i learn to accept that, the better i can see the wonders of old age.  besides, it is probably God’s way of telling me to stop, look and listen.

stop… to rest, recharge, rejuvenate, refresh.

look…to see the beauty of the world around me and be thankful for all i that i have, and maybe perhaps even those that i don’t.

listen… to that  voice from within;  God’s gentle voice which speaks to us moment to moment.  the same voice which soothes us… heals us… strengthens us…

but we are oftentimes deaf by choice.   we refuse to listen.  not even to our bodies which already beg us to stop, because it can no longer go on one more step further.  too busy with the dictates of our worldly clock that we burn out before we even know it. 

 i am now at my prime and i won’t let the hands of time keep me from doing what i still can.  because whenever i need to stop, i will.  and i will look and listen to what really matters.  and i know it does not always necessitate physical strength and stamina which is bounded by our humanity.  what we really need is love to share and time to do it.  how we do it is up to our imagination.  and that, my friend, knows no limits.