Monday, October 5, 2009

God in the midst of Suffering

Calamities one after the other. People dying. Suffering and Poverty. Man's inhumanity against man.

These have become part of our regular diet. These are not made-up stories in a horror flick, or magazine photos from faraway places. These are the grit and pain of life, upclose and very personal.

My teen-age kids are asking: Where is God in the midst of all these? If He had the power to instantly stop that typhoon or earthquake that claimed thousands of lives, why did He turn his back? If He loved his people, why didn't He spare them from suffering?

To such young minds, these are very unsettling questions. It is hard for them to reconcile the image of a loving God versus a God who allows his people to suffer. Why would, indeed, a loving God allow such horrible things to happen?

I don't want to wrap everything into a neat theological package and simply dismiss those questions as invalid. But I do know that our limited minds cannot possibly fathom the infinite wisdom of the Creator behind the universe. His thoughts are higher than ours, even if we're the most intelligent creature that ever roamed the planet. He knows the past, the present and the future.

Take note that I used the word "allow". God is not the author of all these horrible things. We are. The free will that God has given us included the possibility of sin within its own meaning. We live in a fallen world and whatever is happening around us is the consequence of our disobedience to God. We are greedy, stubborn and we are simply reaping the consequences of our action. We are self-destructing, to say the least.

But the good news is that God is sovereign and he is in control of everything, even if, on the surface, it doesn't appear that way. These "signs" as prophesied in the Bible, will come to pass. He will reclaim the earth and restore it to its full glory.

Truly, his wisdom vastly exceeds ours. All we have to do is simply trust that He knows best.

Sunday, September 27, 2009


I woke up to a chilling news today. Typhoon (Ondoy) hit my home country (Philippines) in such rage and fury unequalled for the last several years. As of this writing, death toll is continually rising as rescuers began to reach submerged places, thousands more were rendered homeless and injured.

The images on tv and you tube were truly heart-wrenching: a couple whisked away by a sudden gush of water, a man desperately holding on to a coconut branch hanging loose from the trunk, cars tumbling against each other in the midst of the flood, rescuers braving the cold and the rains to bring people stranded in a roof down to a safer area, a mother and child walking from roof to roof, trying to maintain their balance lest they tumble towards the neck-deep waters below.

As I started watching the searing images, my vision started to blur and my lips became numb in anguish. My sister and her family live in Marikina – the city that was hardest hit by the typhoon. Fatalities continue to be reported round the clock. Since her place is located right in the middle of the city – I knew they could be right into the center of the flood. What if ......what if?

It is so debilitating to watch something happening right before your eyes but you are helpless to do anything about it. The feeling was beyond description –the knowledge that they are out there in the flood – helpless, hungry, cold – and there’s nothing I can do about it.

As usual, I had to turn to my greatest SOURCE of comfort, my greatest HELP in moments like this.

But even as I said my word of prayer, I wished I could go back to sleep and realize that this was all but a DREAM.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Just Another Disposable Commodity

In Canada, if you're not satisfied with the product that you bought or the service that you received, you have money-back guarantee subject to certain conditions. For instance, you can return a party dress you wore the night before to a party (provided you keep the tags), claiming that it didn't fit you right. (I know a lot of people doing this sooo shamelessly!) Or you can claim for the current week's sale price of an item you bought at regular price the week before provided your receipts are intact.

The overriding principle behind all of these, is that the buyer has the right to demand value for his money. And rightfully so. You pay for the services that you think you deserve and the products that give you quality.

Sadly though, this same mindset about "value for money, quality-consciousness" has been stretched to the point that it now transcends the value given to relationships, specifically marriage.

A couple enters into marriage with the same "contract" or "rights entitlement" mentality. They wed with certain expectations from each other. And when, in the course of the relationship, the expectations are not met, they have an easy solution.

Terminate the contract, otherwise termed as divorce.

Marriage is seen only as one of those disposable commodities.

"I'll scratch your back, and you scratch mine. Now that you can't scratch mine anymore, what's the point of continuing the relationship?"

"What we have is simply a legal contract, with each party having clear expectations from each other.

Easy way out. No strings attached. No need to work things out. No need to try harder or one more time.

Marriage is not seen as a covenant. God is out of the equation.

No wonder the children end up rebelling. Or drifting without a purpose. Or committing crimes at an early age. Or being left to the care of foster families. Or turning to drugs and crime. Or committing suicide.


P.s. I am not condoning abusive relationships, especially in cases where women are on the losing end. What I am referring to here are ordinary cases of incompatibility and individual differences.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Goodbye 2

After a week of back-breaking strut with the broom, vacuum cleaner, shampooer and every available cleaning gadget to clean-up our apartment, we officially turned-over our home for the last 18 months to our landlord last Monday, August 31.

As we walked away from the apartment, a surprising twinge of sadness clutched my heart. I looked back and surveyed the place for the last time, lingering my gaze in the patio and I recognized the feeling for what it was. We were parting with something that had become so much a part of ourselves.

Our stay in the apartment was rather brief, but it was laden with the best memories that characterized our first year of living as immigrants in this country that welcomed us with open arms. After all, the apartment was our first home in Canada, a silent witness to our early days of struggle and coping. Its bare walls had seen days of extreme emotions in a gamut - from euphoria to excitement to anticipation to frustration to doubt to hope then back to the cycle again.

If it could speak, it would tell a beautiful story that blends courage, hope and faith amidst adversity, uncertainty, and worry. If it could write, it would fashion an amazing narration of events and milestones that would prove that we are exactly in the place where we ought to be.

But like a book whose chapters have ended, we have to close the book and move on. It's time to read a new book.

Friday, July 31, 2009


Although I no longer reside in the Philippines and have considered Canada my new home now, I continue to be in touched with the events in the Philippines. I scan the daily papers for the latest news, thanks to the internet. I still cringe when I hear corruption in the government, crimes committed in broad daylight, politicking in unimaginable places, poverty-stricken families. I monitor the latest about the business honchos and showbiz personalities. I keep in touch with relatives and friends and officemates who will always be a part of who I am now.

Yes, Virginia – I will always be a Filipino at heart.

Today, I join the rest of the Filipino nation as it mourns the loss of former President Corazon Aquino, considered an icon of democracy, for sweeping away a dictator with a “people power” revolt. As if that was not enough, she sustained democracy by fighting off seven coup attempts in six years of her rule.

While I have not always agreed with her political leadership, I have the highest respect for this woman who changed the course of our nation's history. I was a college freshman – an age characterized by idealism and rebellion - when she was catapulted to office. For the generation I belonged with at that time, she represented hope in a country rocked by hopelessness and apathy. She helped restore our faith in the democratic institutions.

Come to think of it, our deepest dreams and aspirations for a better tomorrow somehow became intricately intertwined with her destiny.

As it turned out, she struggled in office to meet high public expectations, including our generation’s. Consider her land redistribution program which fell short of ending economic domination by the landed elite, including her own family. Add to this her indecisive leadership, especially in social and economic reforms which did not really trickle down to the benefit of the “masa”. And it was probably because she lacked the political experience and the self-confidence to take up the fight to restore democracy on her own.

But if there’s anything that she should be credited for, it was her resoluteness to remove all vestiges of an entrenched dictatorship. She gave us back what was taken from us – the freedom and the voice to determine the course of the nation the way we wanted it to. She may not have been the ideal president, but who is? Even today, can we really find a much better alternative to her?

Goodbye, Tita Cory. Where you are today, I know you are at peace – with yourself and with your Creator, for not turning your back to the destiny that God had designed for you.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Of infidelity and dirty linens

From thoughts about faith, now my mind is preoccupied with thoughts about faithfulness or the lack of it. Especially in the context of marriage.

Of course, I'm not toying about the idea of being infidel to my husband. That's farthest from my mind. I have no reason to be unfaithful to him in the first place. I am blessed to have him as my lifetime partner. And assuming that I do have reasons, it is against my character and values to be so. And by this, I'm not trying to cast aspersion on those who at one point in their marriage, have been unfaithful to their partners. I am not in a position to judge anybody. Only God is.

And I know my husband is not going to cheat on me either (some ladies out there will say "i don't hold his mind so how can i be sure?). We have been together for the last 16 years and I know and I know and I know in my heart that he will not do it, period. After all, he has everything to lose and nothing to gain, except a misdefined machismo taken to a new level. He knows that if cheats on me, I would not be mad. I would not get even but I would be hurt so badly.

I've been worried not about our marriage but about news of a broken marriage due to unfaithfulness. I have only been affected a bit when Mel Gibson recently divorced his wife of 28 years, Robyn due to a third party. Who's next - Brad Pitt and Angeline Jolie? Your guess is as good as mine. The point is that this thing about separation and divorce seems so ordinary and frequent to showbiz couples as changing their underwears so when news hit the papers, it didn't come as a surprise to me anymore.

But it was a different feeling when I heard that Jon and Kate Gosselin who both star in Jon & Kate Plus 8, a reality tv show about family, are in the verge of separation due to infidelity. And to think that they are such a sweet and ideal couple! Jon was seen out on the towm with a woman not Kate, and Kate and her bodyguard are rumoured to have more than just employee-employer relationship.

Man, how I felt so betrayed! And to think that I don't even know them personally. Perhaps because they represented hope in a world rocked by separation and divorce and marital infidelity every now and then. I thought the couple was different, after all they embodied the ideal marriage both in and out of television set.

The tragedy is that they are now washing their dirty linens in public and their eight children are now being dragged into the endless swirl of accusations and counter accusations and competing headlines.
Their marriage is disintegrating and they are further adding up to the indignity of it all by the way they behave (or misbehave) towards each other in public.

I wished I hadn't come to love their show. But it's too late to undo that now.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

When Things Don't Make Sense

I’ve been thinking about faith lately.

Sounds too profound and complicated? Yes it is. But I’ll try to simplify it as much as possible.

When I was younger and have not encountered crisis situations in my life, I believed then that life would always be happy and carefree. Having lived for more than 3 decades now and having had my share of pains and sorrows and difficulties, I am beginning to see life from a different perspective.

I admit that there were moments in my life before when I struggled with the most troubling question that every human has ever asked: “Why? Why did these things happen to me? If God was truly a caring God, why did he not do something about my situation?”

God did not answer my “why” questions right away then. But as days and years went by, the pieces of the puzzle began to fit together. I still don’t have answers to all of my questions (perhaps, I never will), but the message that I got translates to this very simple understanding:

“trials happen so I can exercise my faith"

The bible defines faith as believing that which has no absolute proof. It is holding on to what I believe even when the circumstances are in opposition to my belief. It is deciding to trust him even when things do not make sense.

The solution to my struggle was really simple. I must never forget that He is God. He wants me to believe and trust in him despite the things I don’t understand. I don’t have to comprehend what he is doing (much as I try, I could not because I am finite in my thoughts) but I just have to learn to TRUST him.

Of course, there's nothing wrong with trying to understand, but I discovered that it is much easier not to lean on my ability to comprehend. My intellect has posed questions after questions that I cannot answer. It dawned on me then that it would be wise to remember His words:

“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts”.

Only when I learned to trust did I find comfort in my approach to life. Finally, I was relieved of the responsibility of trying to figure things out. It is enough to acknowledge that God makes sense even when things around me don’t make sense.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Way to Go!

Moms out there will agree with me that our greatest legacy is to be able to raise responsible, godly children. Sure, we are proud of them when they excel in academics, sports, hobbies or whatever they set their hands into. But our greatest joy is to see them imbibing the values that we taught them, to see them blossom into the kind of persons we want them to be.

The other day, my daughters and I had our usual night bonding in bed - teasing and cajoling each other, playing wrestling and pillow fight - when Danee the youngest, suddenly blurted out:

"Mom, my schoolmate always teases me. She says embarrassing things about me, and tells me she's mad at me", was her opening statment.

"How did this start? What names does she call you with? Are you sure you didn't start it?", was my reply.

"I haven't done anything bad to her. She just says she doesn't want to see me. She makes me uncomfortable", she explained.

I could tell that Danee is worried about the matter as she was almost in the verge of tears. Suddenly, I felt the urge to protect my kid. I looked intently into her eyes and told her very emphatically that the kid wasn't just teasing, she was BULLYING her and that she doesn't have to put up with her.

"I don't want you to be abused by other people. Tell her that if she doesn't stop bullying you, you're going to tell the teacher about it", I ordered her.

"But she's not bullying me!", she retorted.

"Yes she is. If you don't do it, I'll go to your teacher myself". I angrily remarked, a bit frustrated that she can still find it in her heart to defend the girl.

That was the end of our conversation and I thought that settled it, but a little while later, Danee approached me.

"Mom, I'm not doing what you told me. I don't want to make a big deal out of it". She sounded so convinced of herself now.

"And why not?", was my curious remark.

With a smile on her face, she blurted out: "Because I'm different. Because I'm a CHRISTIAN!". And she proceeded on to remind me that in the first place, it was me who taught her to always behave that way.

Whoa! I felt myself melting before my daughter's eyes. What a way to learn from a 9-year old!

And yeah, she was right. I've been teaching her all along about the virtues of kindness, politeness or simply walking in love. These are the things that will make her a beautiful person, I would always say. And here was a situation that called for the application of the very same values that I teach her. Unfortunately, I failed. Fortunately, she passed.

I can always justify that it was a natural reaction for any mother who wants to protect her child. But no matter what I say, one thing is clear: at that moment, I was like a child learning from an adult.

But I am proud of my daughter. She is truly becoming a beautiful person.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009


It was a hot hot Sunday afternoon when we went out for our usual house hunting. Conscious of the scorching heat, I put sunblock on my face and grabbed my favourite over-sized hat. I reminded the kids to bring their anti-heat paraphernalias as well but before I could even finish my sentence, they were already out rushing to the car, unmindful of my instructions.

When we were about to get off the car, I kept looking for my hat but couldn’t find it. Then I saw Danee who was already out of the car, wearing it on her head, with a big smile on her face.

“Hey, Danee, that’s my hat! I told you to bring yours, ” I said.

“But mommy, don’t you know the concept of sharing?” she replied.

“Don’t you know the concept of responsibility? How many times have I told you to always bring your hat when the sun is high? Give it to me” I countered.

“Very well, then, but mommies are supposed to be more patient, more of a giver than a taker to their kids”, she retorted.

“Danee, have you heard about mom abuse? If you haven’t, you’re seeing one right now”, I shot back.

“Sorry mommy, it’s not mom abuse. I just thought that you wouldn’t mind me using your hat”, was the answer.

This is just a snapshot of how I and my youngest deal with each other on a day to day basis. My husband is amused everytime he hears the two of us arguing, and would often tease me “Nakahanap ka ng katapat mo” (you’ve found your match). He says Danee is very much like me.

Lest I be misinterpreted, I’m not at all offended by Danee’s tirades. In fact, I love it when she goes like that, as it tells me that I’m dealing with an assertive, no nonsense kid here. My husband is probably right, this is just her own personality shining out.

But deep down, I’d like to believe she’s imbibed my teachings about sharing and loving and is actually figuring out how to apply them in real life.

If only for this, I’d like to give myself a pat in the back, for being a good teacher, and Danee a big hug, for being a good student.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009


This early, my youngest daughter Louise is starting to show her lawyering potentials.

For several months now, she's been bugging me to allow her to sleep in the masterbedroom, much to the chagrin of her dad. Each night, sending her to her bedroom is a never-ending tug of war between us. She never runs out of reasons NOT to stay in her bedroom. I think that she has mastered the art of emotional manipulation, the kind that makes her look like a pitiful victim and me an unfeeling cold-hearted mother that I have no choice but to give in to her caprices.

I can't exactly recall how she successfully negotiated with me to allow her to sleep in our bedroom every weekend (friday, saturday and sunday). The next thing I knew was that she was presenting me and her dad a piece of paper and asking me to sign it. I thought it was something about school so imagine how flabbergasted I was when I saw this:

Posted by Picasa

Oh well, it seems like there's no reneging the promise now. She has the contract to back her up in case of dispute (LOL).

On Thursday last week, I found her sleeping in our bed. Aha! The contract maker has violated her own contract. When told about it however, she sheepishly pointed to the clock that read 12:00 midnight and said: "Mom, it's Friday already, therefore, I have every right to sleep in your bedroom."

Lessons for mom: Before signing a contract with your kid, be sure to define what weekend means.(LOL)

Monday, April 20, 2009


saw this here, and found it interesting, so i played along too....

here are the rules: bold the things you’ve done and post on your blog!

1. started your own blog
2. slept under the stars
3. played in a band
4. visited hawaii
5. watched a meteor shower
6. given more than you can afford to charity
7. been to disneyland
8. climbed a mountain
9. held a praying mantis
10. sang a solo
11. bungee jumped
12. visited paris
13. watched a lightning storm at sea
14. taught yourself an art from scratch
15. adopted a child
16. had food poisoning
17. walked to the top of the statue of liberty
18. grown your own vegetables
19. seen the mona lisa in france
20. slept on an overnight train
21. had a pillow fight
22. hitch hiked
23. taken a sick day when you’re not ill
24. built a snow fort
25. held a lamb
26. gone skinny dipping
27. run a marathon
28. ridden in a gondola in venice
29. seen a total eclipse
30. watched a sunrise or sunset
31. hit a home run
32. been on a cruise
33. seen niagara falls in person
34. visited the birthplace of your ancestors
35. seen an amish community
36. taught yourself a new language
37. had enough money to be truly satisfied
38. seen the leaning tower of pisa in person
39. gone rock climbing
40. seen michelangelo’s david
41. sung karaoke
42. seen old faithful geyser erupt
43. bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant
44. visited africa
45. walked on a beach by moonlight
46. been transported in an ambulance
47. had your portrait painted
48. gone deep sea fishing
49. seen the sistine chapel in person
50. been to the top of the eiffel tower in paris
51. gone scuba diving or snorkeling
52. kissed in the rain
53. played in the mud
54. gone to a drive-in theater
55. been in a movie
56. visited the great wall of china
57. started a business
58. taken a martial arts class
59. visited Russia
60. served at a soup kitchen
61. sold girl scout cookies
62. gone whale watching
63. got flowers for no reason
64.donated blood, platelets or plasma
65. gone sky diving
66. visited a nazi concentration camp
67. bounced a check
68. flown in a helicopter
69. saved a favorite childhood toy
70. visited the lincoln memorial
71. eaten caviar
72. pieced a quilt
73. stood in times square
74. toured the everglades
75. been fired from a job
76. seen the changing of the guards in london
77. broken a bone
78. been on a speeding motorcycle
79. seen the grand canyon in person
80. published a book
81. visited the Vatican
82. bought a brand new car
83. walked in Jerusalem
84. had your picture in the newspaper
85. kissed a stranger at midnight on new year’s eve
86. visited the white house
87. killed and prepared an animal for eating
88. had chickenpox
89. saved someone’s life
90. sat on a jury
91. met someone famous
92. joined a book club
93. lost a loved one
94. had a baby
95. seen the Alamo in person
96. swam in the great salt lake
97. been involved in a law suit
98. owned a cell phone
99. been stung by a bee

hmmmm... got only a 40 out of 99. which suggests i gotta do more...

Tuesday, April 7, 2009


This Saturday, April 11, is a big day for my highschool class. All roads lead to SNHS grounds as former classmates and friends and other alumni troop to join our alma mater's annual homecoming and reunion, this time being hosted by our class, the silver jubilarians.

The preparations for this activity started early last year, thanks to our dedicated classmates who cared enough to make the affair truly meaningful. Although I and the rest of my classmates who are based abroad, am several continents away from them, we were able to keep tab with the preparations and the developments, thanks to Marissa who initiated the opening of the e-group account for the batch.

As I write this, I can only imagine the excitement and frenzy building up as my classmates prepare for the big event. Menchie wrote in her blog how she and the rest of the locally-based classmates had been trying so hard to dance gracefully with the rhythm, conquering two left feet and stiff joints and arthritis, just to give justice to the production number. I am excited to see Nena, with all her towering height, pull it off and the rest of the girls who were not really into dancing during highschool.

They will also have a musical number to be participated in by the kids. Ali and Marissa are in charge of the rehearsals. I can just visualize how the kids will turn out to be as they belt out the lyrics of "Tomorrow" that used to be our class' unofficial theme song.

And of course, the Family Day exclusive to the class is the biggest treat of all. This is the highlight of the celebration, where friends and classmates will gather together in some warm, cozy and summery beach and talk about everything and nothing, reminisce the good old days, tease and cajole each other, share laughters and memories, and just have fun, probably up to the wee hours of the morning.

They will have so much fun. They will find each other again. They will celebrate old and newfound friendships. And when the day is over, they will experience the fullness of heart that will pave the way to tears. A few of them will cry a little but smile a lot.

They and only they, because I am unable to home to attend the celebration. Arrgh!

Since I graduated from highschool, I never had the chance to attend the alumni homecoming even though I was based in Manila then. I promised myself then that I will never miss out on our silver jubilee, but a year ago today, we migrated to Canada which makes travelling back home at this time of the year impractical and uncalled for.

But on our golden, I don't see any reason why I should miss it. And who knows, I don't really have to wait that long. A caring soul may want to organize an exclusive homecoming on our thirtieth year!

But for now, all I can do is wish my classmates good luck and pray for a successful homecoming celebration.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009


The first time I saw her last summer - an old, frail-looking woman walking so slowly with a cane to brace her steps - my heart instantly went out to her. I thought to myself a woman this age should not be left alone. She had difficulty walking, each stride carefully taken else she would lose her balance. If it were not for her cane, she would definitely trip off.

I had to resist my initial reaction to help her. Something told me she was different. She was limping, and was literally dragging herself when she walked. But I also saw determination in every step she took. From the way she moved, she seemed to have gone through a heart stroke, which probably rendered half of her body paralyzed.

Every morning since then, she had become a familiar sight to all of us. We would see her garbed in her sweaters with matching toque and scarf, rounding off the corners of the walkway in our apartment complex, all by herself.

I tried to imagine myself in her shoes.

"Oh, it is utterly helpless to be trapped in a body that will not let me do what I want to do, or to be dependent on a piece of wood to keep me standing. It is so tiring to physically drag myself from the comfort of my bed just to brace the early morning creepy chill, just to fulfill this hateful walking regimen. Oh, this entire thing is so pathetic, and so hopeless. When will I see the end of it?"

I had to correct myslef - does she really think that way?

"Oh, now, I no longer have to drag myself from bed just to get up. Thank God I have this most reliable cane to bear me out. It is cold outside but the sunshine would feel good on my skin, and maybe I can complete 10 corner rounds instead of the usual 8 this time. Oh, how good it is to feel that I am improving everyday. How it gives me hope that I am making progress day by day".

Yesterday, my daughter and I saw her walking down the pathway again. She still had the cane in her right hand, but her steps are faster this time, more resolute, more assured, more determined. She has definitely gone a long way compared to the first time I saw her.

My daughter said she pitied the woman. I told her no, she did not need pity. She is to be admired and modeled for her courageous spirit. She's made a choice to overcome her circumstances, and I know she will.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

One Year

One year and two days ago today, my family left the Philippines to settle in Winnipeg, Canada for good. Admittedly, I and husband never envisioned ourselves living abroad before. But although we had an enjoyable lifestyle in the Philippines, we also had to think about the future of our children. With the way the country was going, we saw very limited opportunities for them there. So off we joined the fray of young and adult professionals seeking for a better life abroad.

When we got to Winnipeg, we just loved the quiet ambiance and felt at home instantly. Winnipeg is such a small city that one can actually explore its nook and corner in a day’s time. There are no expressways or subways and complicated fly-overs and overpass that characterize the bigger metropolitan cities. In Winnipeg, one can get to the downtown area using the bus in 15 minutes, or go to the biggest mall in 7 minutes.

It is such a simple laid-back city with very friendly people. People here greet you as if you’ve known each other for a long time. Filipinos also abound in Winnipeg (we constitute 10% of total population and belong to the top 5 immigrants). I see their familiar faces popping up everywhere –whether in the church, school, library, grocery store, bank and buses.

It also helped that our apartment is strategically located near all the major conveniences – Filipino foodmart and bakery (where I can buy Mang Tomas lechon sauce, Mama Sita seasoning mix, ube halaya and pandesal) just behind us, Filipino evangelical church and library right across our building, playground and garden two blocks away, and a major department store right next to our apartment complex.

Days after our arrival in Winnipeg, we visited our relatives in Toronto. Everything seemed to be so massive and grand scale there. While the place was so modern and very sophisticated, it was also very intimidating. When we toured the downtown area, I felt like a helpless child being drowned in an endless sea of humanity that seemed to care only for themselves. People appeared snobbish and seldom laughed. I only saw a handful of Filipinos around. Instantly, we decided we did not belong there.

Like most Filipinos here, we also had our share of “coping stage” characterized by fears, apprehensions, insecurities and shock.

Taking the bus for the first time was such an intimidating task. They come on schedule and right on time, and they’re not about to wait for you when you’re late. People are “cashless” – they don’t carry them in their pockets as transactions are usually made through debit and credit cards. Appointments are a must for almost all major transactions with the government or service entities – you cannot just pop into somebody’s office, even your friend’s office, and expect to be attended to right away. In the Philippines, this is quite unimaginable. You always have time to spare to your friends, even on unannounced visits. Office transactions are almost paperless, maximizing the use of technology.

My children suddenly had to mature and become independent so soon. No more maids at their heck and beck, no driver to transport them to school. They had no choice but to learn to cook, do laundry, clean the house and commute to school by bus.

Winter can be harsh, what with the chill creeping all over your body. Before you can go out, you need to bundle yourself up in layers of clothing, or you’ll freeze to death. The snow blocking the driveway needed to be shoveled too, and driving under extreme weather can be dangerous, what with poor visibility and undesirable road conditions.

Life in Canada is quiet and even boring. People stick to their routines mostly. They go to work in the mornings on weekdays; buy their groceries on weekends; and do their holiday shopping when the season is around. This is so much unlike the Philippines where many go out on "gimiks" with their friends on Saturday nights. Metro Manila's malls -- such as Robinson's and SM -- are also bigger and offer more malling activities than Toronto's.

But taking these things aside, life in Winnipeg is good. Although everything did not come to us in a silver platter, we consider ourselves blessed in every imaginable way. We did not have to go through the financial and physical hardships that most immigrants do. One of our greatest blessings is having been connected to a community of fellow Christians who welcomed us into their homes, and treated us like family.

But as always, we cherish our good old days in the Philippines - Friday night movies with friends, the monthly spa, hanging out in the malls, long chats with friends, and the regular trips to fine restaurants! This early, we’re planning our homecoming trip to the Philippines very soon.

And yeah, despite the fact that life in Canada does have its benefits, the Philippines will always be our first home.


Monday, February 23, 2009

Life's Roads

Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church and author of the famous "Purpose-Driven Life" book that raked in millions and instantly made him wealthy, is one of the few persons who affected my faith in a most profound way.

A few days ago, I learned that his wife, Kay is dying of cancer. Although they did not know me personally, my heart went out to them in this most trying moment of their life. But I need not worry, because Rick knows just what to do in times like this - becoming steadfast in his faith in God, both in living and in dying.

Here is a transcript of the absolutely incredible short interview by Paul Bradshaw with this man of great faith. After reading it, I realized how amateur and small my faith is compared to his. His is a mountain, mine is a mustard seed.

"People ask me, What is the purpose of life? And I respond: In a nutshell, life is preparation for eternity. We were not made to last forever, and God wants us to be with Him in Heaven.

One day my heart is going to stop, and that will be the end of my body--but not the end of me.

I may live 60 to 100 years on earth, but I am going to spend trillions of years in eternity.. This is the warm-up act - the dress rehearsal. God wants us to practice on earth what we will do forever in eternity.

We were made by God and for God, and until you figure that out, life isn't going to make sense.

Life is a series of problems: Either you are in one now, you're just coming out of one, or you're getting ready to go into another one.

The reason for this is that God is more interested in your character than your comfort.

God is more interested in making your life holy than He is in making your life happy.

We can be reasonably happy here on earth, but that's not the goal of life.

The goal is to grow in character, in Christ likeness.

This past year has been the greatest year of my life but also the toughest, with my wife, Kay, getting cancer.

I used to think that life was hills and valleys - you go through a dark time, then you go to the mountaintop, back and forth. I don't believe that anymore.

Rather than life being hills and valleys, I believe that it's kind of like two rails on a railroad track, and at all times you have something good and something bad in your life.

No matter how good things are in your life, there is always something bad that needs to be worked on.

And no matter how bad things are in your life, there is always something good you can thank God for.

You can focus on your purposes, or you can focus on your problems.

If you focus on your problems, you're going into self-centeredness,'which is my problem, my issues, my pain.' But one of the easiest ways to get rid of pain is to get your focus off yourself and onto God and others.

We discovered quickly that in spite of the prayers of hundreds of thousands of people, God was not going to heal Kay or make it easy for her.

It has been very difficult for her, and yet God has strengthened her character, given her a ministry of helping other people, given her a testimony, drawn her closer to Him and to people.

You have to learn to deal with both the good and the bad of life.

Actually, sometimes learning to deal with the good is harder. For instance, this past year, all of a sudden, when the book sold 15 million copies, it made me instantly very wealthy.

It also brought a lot of notoriety that I had never had to deal with before. I don't think God gives you money or notoriety for your own ego or for you to live a life of ease.

So I began to ask God what He wanted me to do with this money, notoriety and influence. He gave me two different passages that helped me decide what to do, II Corinthians 9 and Psalm 72

First, in spite of all the money coming in, we would not change our lifestyle one bit. We made no major purchases.

Second, about midway through last year, I stopped taking a salary from the Church.

Third, we set up foundations to fund an initiative we call The Peace Plan to plant churches, equip leaders, assist the poor, care for the sick, and educate the next generation.

Fourth, I added up all that the church had paid me in the 24 years since I started the church, and I gave it all back. It was liberating to be able to serve God for free.

We need to ask ourselves: Am I going to live for possessions? Popularity?

Am I going to be driven by pressures? Guilt? Bitterness? Materialism? Or am I going to be driven by God's purposes (for my life)?

When I get up in the morning, I sit on the side of my bed and say, God, if I don't get anything else done today, I want to know You more and love You better. God didn't put me on earth just to fulfill a to-do list. He's more interested in what I am than what I do.

That's why we're called human beings, not human doings.

Happy moments, PRAISE GOD.
Difficult moments, SEEK GOD.
Quiet moments, WORSHIP GOD.
Painful moments, TRUST GOD.

Every moment, THANK GOD."

Monday, January 19, 2009


I felt something different when I walked into the office last Monday morning. The usual “hi, how are you” greetings and morning chuckles from my officemates were conspicuously absent. Over in the corner of the room, I saw the HR director in a close huddle with two other managers, intently talking to each other in hushed tones.

In the hallway, I met two colleagues who seemed so self-absorbed that they didn’t even bother to return my hello. I think I also saw something in their eyes – was it grief or sadness – I wasn’t exactly sure.

Did I do something wrong – I asked myself. My mind raced back to the events last Friday. To the best of my recollection, I could not think of anything I have done that could have caused their indifference.

A few minutes later, I was able to put the pieces of the puzzle together. I understood. They were grieving for the loss of a dearly-beloved colleague of 15 years who succumbed to death due to heart attack right inside the Office at 5:00 PM last Friday.

His name was Bryan and he was in his 50s, a father of two teen-age daughters and a faithful husband. I didn’t know him personally, but from what I’ve heard, he seemed to be a very jolly person, putting a smile in everybody’s face with his wacky humor. He was a health buff, they say, hitting the gym everyday and forever conscious of his diet.

And so for the entire day last Monday, the world seemed to have stood still for the employees of MPI as everybody mourned the passing of Bryan.

Every time I hear stories of death or witness the death of somebody, my heart goes out to the family of the departed. I know how it feels. I’ve been there. But one doesn’t have to go through this painful experience to feel the pain of losing a loved one. Death permanently cuts off our physical and emotional ties with our loved ones, without any hope of being able to see them again, talk to them, touch them, embrace them. And this is quite hard to accept.

The only consolation, the only source of strength and comfort for the grieving, is the belief that somebody, she or he will be reunited with his loved one in eternity. In a different realm where there is no longer pain and suffering and death. Where there is only pure love and pure joy.

That is, if the grieving person believes.

If he doesn’t believe, death will never make sense.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Sixteen years, and counting

January 9, 1993. I made a decision that would change my life forever. I married my ex-boyfriend now husband and best buddy.

For the last sixteen years, we have managed to stick together without killing each other (lol) save for body bruises and sprains here and there (courtesy of me, lol).

Kidding aside, today is the time to count the many ways why it was easy for me to overlook his shortcomings and to acknowledge how blessed I am to have him as my lifetime partner:

• He has been faithful to me all these years (at least as far as my knowledge goes lol). I completely trust him in the company of girls (although not completely in the company of boys lol again).

• He trusts me with family finances. He never asks for accounting. He is more concerned with the time I spend on shopping than with the amount of money I spend. What is funny is that the more he trusts me, the more I become conscientious about spending.

• He is not very expressive of his feelings for me. But what he lacks in words he compensates in action. His language of love is time and service. He does things in the house like laundering, cooking, dish washing, house cleaning and runs errands for me that I’m tempted to call him my runner (lol).

• He easily learns his lessons and takes it to heart. For instance, during our first years of marriage, he wreaked the hood of our car because of drunkenness (thank God he wasn’t hurt). He never drunk again since then.

• He covers up for me especially when I am overboard. He invents excuses and alibi so as not to put me in bad light before the eyes of other people.

• When our babies were born, he would get up late in the night to feed the baby or change diapers so I don’t have to lose my sleep.

• He snores so loud in sleep (imagine the sound of a helicopter lol). As a considerate act, he ensures that I get to sleep first before he sleeps.

And the list is endless.

Best of all, he taught me that marriage is a good excuse to grow up and think less of myself.

Of course, we also had our share of fights and struggles. But what I learned over the years is that fighting is healthy in any relationship provided you know how to do it. There is also no such thing as a perfect relationship precisely because the persons who compose it are imperfect. When things go wrong - when his ugly side looms large – I always go back to my list of reasons why I am blessed to have him. And when I do, the ugly side shrinks so small in comparison to the reasons why I love him.

If I can bring back the hands of time and be given the chance to choose the man I would marry, I would choose him over and over again.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Post-New Year Reflections

My favorite John Lennon sound track was playing: ♪♪♪"And so this is Christmas, and what have you done? Another year over, and a new one just begun.”♪♪♪

As I listened to the song, it brought me into serious thinking “what have I done” so far. After all, the dawning of a new year is as good a time as any to do an inventory of what we have done during the past year.

Of course, I haven’t done anything spectacular or grandiose for 2008 that would consign me to the pages of history, nor do I intend to do anything of historical proportions for the next year. I don’t intend to climb Mt Everest, be a world changer, or do something extra-ordinarily heroic that would land me to the top pages of a newspaper. What I learned over the years is that with maturity comes the awareness of what I can and cannot do, and finding peace in the knowledge that I am whole and complete despite my limitations.

But what I think I have done, in my little corner of this world, is that throughout 2008, I have tried to be the best person I could ever be. I have sown kindness to the people around me and I am now reaping the harvest. I have remained true to the values and ideals I hold dear in my heart, although not without great pain and struggles. Best of all, I have given as much love as I could and tried to make life easier and meaningful to the people I care about.

These may not consign me to the pages of history, but these have definitely made a mark in the hearts of the souls that I have touched. I love them and I strongly suspect they love me too.

With the passing of every year, I have come to the realization that it really has nothing to do with how hard or how much we work. Sometimes we can delude ourselves into thinking that we have done so much but in reality, we are simply convincing ourselves.

Because by the end of the day, what really matters is that we have brought a smile in the faces of those we love just by our simple act of caring. And here is the thing that I have long realized: there is no substitute for doing that.

As I contemplate 2009, I think of how far I still have to go in this mission of loving and caring and giving.

But I expect to see all of us there, down the road.