Psalm 113:2-4

“Blessed be the Name of the LORD from this time on and for evermore. From the rising of the sun to its setting, the Name of the LORD is to be praised. The LORD is high above all nations, and His Glory above the heavens.” — Psalm 113:2-4

Streaks of rain on the window pane

cannot dim the glow

of the fading sun slowly sinking

beneath the purple skies…

— teachmarich

Psalm 147:8

“He covers the heavens with clouds, prepares rain for the earth, makes grass grow on the hills.” — Psalm 147:8

Rain clouds
the first drops of rain…
early September rain clouds…

As Psalm 147:8 says that God put clouds in the heavens to make way for rain to water the earth and make the grass grow on the hills, so does He also allow difficulties and challenges to cloud our lives, not because He wants us to suffer. Rather, it is His loving way of preparing us for the rains of blessings to come and make us grow into the best person He wants us to be. To be the beautiful person we are meant to be, in and out.

Psalm 34:17-19

When the righteous cry for help, the LORD hears, and rescues them from all troubles. The LORD is near the brokenhearted, and saves the crushed spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD rescues them from them all.

One recent morning, I spotted a lone pigeon on the rooftop of the building next to ours. I was so used to seeing almost every day a group of them, either resting or flying around in circles.

But today this little bird looked forlorn and sad and a bit confused.  Where are they, my dear companions?

My heart filled with pity and wondered too about his usual companions. Have they been caught and served as a meal? And oh, why wouldn’t he fly away despite the soft rain? In the drizzle, he kept still, seemingly awaiting his friends. I waved my hands and opened, closed the window shutters in hope of catching his attention. Alas!

Lonely pigeon
All alone in the drizzle…

Purple Sunset Skies

“The mighty one, GOD the LORD, speaks and summons the earth from the rising of the sun to its setting. Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, GOD shines forth.” — Psalm 50:1-2

Purple sunset skies with a patch of bright golden orange forming like a halo over a tall unfinished structure. For almost six months, this building under construction went totally dark devoid of any activity. Thus, it gladdens me to see it springing back to life with lights on until curfew time because it means it is back to work for the building laborers who had lost their daily wages during the past months of more restricted community quarantine…

Bright orange halo forming around the tall structure, symbolizing hope amid trouble times

Purple sunset sky

 

Glow of a New Day

“By the tender mercy of our GOD, the dawn from on high will break upon us.” — Luke 1:78

Just before the first light of day
distant tall buildings in the business center
A slightly different angle
the golden sky serving as perfect backdrop for those commercial edifices…

To the Woman Who First Loved Me, My Mother

Today, on Mama Mary’s birthday,🌸 my copies of the printed version of the book on Moms — “To the First Woman Who Loved Me” — a book I co-authored with 40+ other authors and the eBook version of which we launched online on Mother’s Day last May, finally arrived. What a blessed coincidence💙
I just feel happy, motivated and grateful that God has granted me this opportunity to honor my Mom through a book article📖 and for making one of my dreams come true.👌💯
My copy of the printed book before an image of the Mother of Perpetual Help and my white rosary…
Front cover of the printed book
Front page of the Book on Moms

 

Reflecting on Life’s Paradoxes One Rainy August Sunday in Lockdown

Today is Sunday and it is the 155th day of our country’s lockdown. It is a rainy August Sunday.

And soon my mind starts to ponder on what has been happening since the beginning of this year, starting with the Taal Volcano eruption, in Tagaytay. Ashfall descended even upon parts of Metro Manila, and that was the first time many Filipinos had been made aware of the need to wear facial mask.

Phreatic volcano explosion of Taal Volcano, 12 January 2020

Image Source: By Exec8 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=85840004

Many of our countrymen living around the lake and depending on it for their livelihood were displaced and rendered homeless; many businesses around the area had to close shop. Because of this, a round of donation and fund drives began in many communities, including in my place, to extend help to our displaced, suffering brothers and sisters.

Just when life was slowly getting back to normal, the Coronavirus pandemic unleashed its fangs all around the globe. No escaping from the scary reality of it. And soon our lives have been far from what it used to be.

The NEW NORMAL is upon us all.

On one hand, I, just like many others, also regard this pandemic as blessing in disguise; a call for humanity to mend our ways, be more compassionate and caring, and for Mother Earth to heal. The reduced number of vehicles and factories polluting the air, not to mention the daily curfew imposed, adds to the much needed time for our environment to breathe and recoup.

The past few months have been a time of self-improvement and personal growth.

Many of us are learning to appreciate in a new way the more valuable things in life, especially,

  • Spending more time with our families and living life more simply;
  • Learning new skills and being more creative and productive;
  • Going back to the basics and finding more time with God in silent meditation and prayers, and
  • Continuing to be of help to our less fortunate brethren in whatever way we can.

Yet, as I reflect on what humanity has achieved so far, I also realize we are not much better than our forebears, as these hard realities show.

Life indeed is full of paradoxes.

  • We are supposed to have marched 2 decades into the new millennium. Yet, it seems we have retrogressed into the dark ages.
  • The more advanced civilization is, the more backwards humanity has become.
  • Hatred/hate speech, violence, brutality, lies/fake news, and divisiveness — all these are slowly eroding the human spirit.
  • I find it more heart-warming to watch videos or read about domestic animals – dogs, cats, birds, and even wild beasts, such as lions, bears, and apes, displaying human emotions.

Just watch this moving video:

Then you read almost daily in the news stories of how some humans are acting more like beasts. The capacity of humans to intentionally hurt or destroy fellow human beings is so heartbreaking and beyond me.

Not all is lost. I believe there is more goodness than evil in this world; more good people than the bad. Yet if we are not vigilant, the good among us will be devoured by the evil around us.

Reflecting further, I think of today’s most essential tools for making life easier. I couldn’t help but notice the irony of it all.

The Internet

Life before the internet was simpler, more peaceful. Internet was envisioned to make the sharing of ideas and information much easier and access to knowledge open for everyone.

But somehow along the way, information overload has overburdened our capacity for discernment, humility, and simplicity. As well as to be in Silence and Awe of the One from whom all things and beings come.

The less we know, the better for our ego.

Social Media

 Social media is meant to bring people closer to one another.  Yet, in this volatile, politicized world, social media clearly rips people apart.

Social media is meant to be a level playing field for all voices to be heard. Yet, social media has become a platform to drown out voices that differ from or oppose those of the powerful and the influential.

Social media is a communication tool for humans to use for their ends. Yet, social media seems to have used humans for its ends.

Even families and loved ones are not spared. Real conversations, face to face dialogues, or more meaningful interactions are being sacrificed in favor of too much attachment to our electronic gadgets.

While social media has succeeded in bringing out the best in us, it has also brought out the worst in us.

Technology

Technology ought to bring down social-economic barriers. Sadly, technology continues to put up barriers between the “haves” and the “have-nots” in this world.

For example, many poor people especially in far-flung areas cannot access the internet, much less own mobile phones or computers. But due to the precautions against COVID-19, schools are going online for their classes.

Plus so many other life’s hard realities.

How to deal with life’s challenges

I believe that when the going gets tough, we just need to be tough to get going. When I feel overburdened with my concerns and discomfort, I keep repeating this to myself, like a mantra. Be tough!

When fear overcomes, overcome fear with prayers and optimism.

Trust in God. In God, we put our trust.

These are just some of my random thoughts one rainy August Sunday in lockdown.

 

Dad, Mom and Me: It Wasn’t Always What You Think

This is my first time ever to write something like this, especially as it is about my beloved parents. I’m going out of my comfort zone as it isn’t easy to be writing from a deep, dark, wounded part of my soul. This piece is to be a blog post for the meantime, but I intend to include it in my “legacy writing” some day.

I’ve written several posts about my mother and one about my father. I have even contributed one article about Mom for a book project, which we launched last Mother’s Day. And in these articles, I have described almost an ideal loving relationship among the three of us.

But, let me break that myth for you. It wasn’t always what you think it was!

Ours was at times a Clash of Wills. Don’t get me wrong, though. I loved Mom and Dad so dearly and they loved me more than I could ever repay them that love.

You see, we three were first-born. Each three of us had our own unique, distinct personality and temperament, like chalk and cheese. I cannot even claim to be a blend of their best traits.

Yet, I assure you they raised me well and good and I have imbibed the best of their characters. Most of all, they loved me to a fault.

“You always want to have the last say, always!” That was Mom. Dad, silently approving.

Just in my late childhood, I remember being scolded for some wrongdoing – quarreling with my younger siblings – who to my sensitive heart were more bullish than me — for not doing my assigned chores right away or well enough.

“Okay so you know everything now, huh?!”  Mom again. Dad was often silent, but with a face like thunder.

“No, it isn’t like that, po!” I painfully defended myself.  Then I’d go off  like a loose canon, giving off steam.

 “Stop!” “STOP, I say!” Mom and Dad in unison – and even years later back into their home, I found myself arguing with them – often on little incidents that would flare up in the end. Nay, for me it was only rationalizing. To them, it was answering back.

Hot tears flowed, stinging my tongue with its bitterness. At times, my fists clenched to beat my chest so hard that it left me breathing hard.

I hated each scene. I hated myself even more. I was angry with Mom and Dad. Yet, I couldn’t hate them.

During such confrontations, I wasn’t my very best. Pride often overtook me.

Being the silent, aggrieved party riled me so. “Why does Mom have to see it her way?”  “Why can’t we just talk?” I groped for answers.

“Let me finish first,” Mom often would order me. The thing is, she sometimes drew a mistaken assessment of the situation. Hurting, accusing words would stream from her mouth.

So, my ears would flinch. My mind would rush to my defense.

And like any beaten animal, I felt like beating them in turn. Hurt for hurt.

Worse still was when Mom would recycle old issues. I felt like the worst person in the world.

All I had at such point was to reclaim my wounded honor, dignity, and pride, or to restore a sense of justice.

I failed to appreciate that what I felt was so much true for both of them, even more. They needed to restore their sense of parental authority. How I wish now I could have just embraced them and soothed their broken hearts.

But I guess in any family, in emotional struggles like these, compassion is hard to give no matter how much you love your parents or your siblings or your children. You only see things from where you are.

Sometimes, I thought Mom was just being childish. In that aspect, I thought we were alike.

Perhaps our ugly battles ensued when the Parent in me would clash with the Child in each of them.

Yes, I see now that was how we transacted with each other during our verbal fights.

If we transacted such that it was my Child addressing to the Parent in them, or vice versa, the result depended on circumstances. Sometimes good, sometimes bad.

Everything was fine, however, when we interacted with each other on the same level: Child-Child or Parent-Parent or Adult-Adult. For then, we understood one another. We were in harmony.

Mom hated the drama of reconciliation – so did I. But I – like the rest – needed to utter the magic words, “I’m sorry po,” whenever we erred. No silent treatment from us. No giving of excuses, too. They never wanted that.

Mom and Dad just wanted everyone to cool off – and be back to our normal, happy, loving selves. Sometimes, that was easy. On other occasions, it took a little while.

Our family’s saving grace during ugly scenes was my Dad. A paragon of patience he truly was. He’d come to comfort me after each clash, advising me to learn to let go and let Mom have the upper hand.

Humility wasn’t my best trait.

Fast forward to each of my parents’ waning years – specifically – on their death throes, their dying was in a way my own saving grace.

It gave me a chance to give back and care for them as they did when I was still an infant in their arms.

I cannot get over this striking realization: Mom’s hands were the first that held my tiny hands at birth – and in the first few seconds after her death, my hands were those that held hers. 

Photo by Liv Bruce on Unsplash

My Dad’s passing was even more grace-laden because God blessed me with the opportunity to be a co-caregiver with my sister even for a few months. Tearful goodbyes, expressing our filial love, humbling ourselves, and asking for forgiveness marked his last week of life.

Today, my heart still grieves for them. The grieving will remain for long, for grief never truly leaves. Yet, recalling their last days on earth helps me to soldier on — and to forgive myself, little by little, for the countless aches I caused them.

Photo by Emma on Unsplash

Moral Lesson: Treasure your parents while you still have them around. They may not be perfect — no one else is — but they are the only ones you’ve got. Life is short, so spend quality time with them as much as you can. Give them your understanding. Treat them with compassion and patience. Be easy with their shortcomings. Make their remaining years happy and fulfilled. Hug and kiss them, and say the words, “I love you, Mom. I love you, Dad.” Most importantly, when you’ve hurt them, or they cause you pain — for this happens in any family — ask to be forgiven and to forgive them as well.

For when they are gone, no amount of tears will ever bring them back.

Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land which the Lord your God gives you.4  —   (Ex 20:12)

 

 

 

Envision Your Dreams to Make Them Come True

“If you can imagine it and you visualize it, you can create it.” — Anonymous

So here’s a page from my Vision Board. Well, who knows?

My Silver Kitchen Vision Board consisting of some of my own home-cooked dishes which are a hit with my family.