Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Kudos to DFA's Passport Application System!

This is for Ysa, who kept me company through text while I was waiting in line at the Department of Foreign Affairs to renew my passport, and who has been waiting for my sharing about that experience.

I'm flying tomorrow to Malaysia thanks to God who gave me the following blessings:

1. My mother's generosity, which extends all the way to Singapore for this five-day trip;
2. My sister-in-law's surfing skills in getting us the cheapest and best deal for this trip (Peeya, you are now my official travel agent);
3. My sister-in-law's sister's (Pauline, that's you!) hospitality, because she will host us there in Malaysia and accompany us to Singapore as our personal tour guide;
4. Budget airfares to Asia - indeed, "Now Everyone Can Fly!"; and
5. The efficiency of DFA-Manila. Mabuhay kayo!

Ysa is waiting for the latter's contribution to my joy. I must be getting old because despite knowing I would fly sometime July, I forgot that my passport was expiring on the first week of August. I belatedly attempted to have it renewed, first, through the courtesy lane for government employees, while I was still at Sandiganbayan. Unfortunately, my officemate who volunteered to renew my passport for me got seriously ill, and I was delayed for two weeks in getting back my passport from her. By the time I tried to avail of the courier service, it was too late, as they needed several more working days than I could afford. I tried my trusted travel agency, Silverglobe, but alas, they said they needed two weeks to process my passport renewal. Cramming does not pay! I had to pay extra in terms of stress.

So I found myself one day armed with a map to DFA to try my luck once more in a government office. I braced myself for the worst in terms of red tape and fixers (see my blog on the LTO experience). I was grouchy all the way to the DFA as I thought I would meet the same fate, that of lining up for six precious hours just because I refused to deal with fixers.

I downloaded the application form and filled it up at home, complete with my passport photo, which I had to re-take because the Kodak center nearest our house didn't cut the pictures properly, and my thumbmarks.

I prayed "Hail Mary full of grace, please give me a parking space". Her intercession worked, as I got a good parking space.

There were several people crowding the gate, and two women accosted me to ask what I would do inside the DFA.

"Ma'am, renewal po? Patingin nga po ng form niyo." I showed them my printout inside a clear plastic folder. As one they said, "Naku ma'am kung galing sa internet kailangan pa pong tatakan ng number iyan".

Since I drove through Manila traffic and was already grouchy in the first place, I looked the ladies with suspicious eyes. They pushed me to a store across the street, which I noticed was not part of the DFA, where a man took one look at my computer printout-application form and said, "Luma na po iyan! Kailangan niyo po ng form, may binebenta kami. Atsaka ang picture niyo po, maling size!"

I couldn't believe what he was saying. I double-checked the size of my photos and was pretty sure that a form downloaded a few hours before could not be outdated. I also was not in the mood to believe them. I said I was going inside. They tried to stop me, saying, "Ganun din po ang sasabihin nila sa inyo sa loob! Magpapicture na kayo sa amin at mag-fill up na ng bagong form." I said I'll believe them if the DFA employees tell me so.

I went inside the gates, showed my documents, and was led by the DFA employees to where I should wait. In just four steps, I was able to file my application. It took me less than an hour!!! Kudos to the DFA team for their efficiency. They checked the lines to make sure people were lining up properly. There were still fixers all around - I could smell them from a distance due to my LTO experience. They were people who lined up near closing time with thick bunches of forms that belonged to people who did not want to line up, and they were not from travel agencies, either. Anyway there is no need for them!

I went home so happy and thankful. I was even able to pass by for my father at his office in Makati before proceeding to Quezon City. I could not believe the gall of those people - the ladies at the gate who said internet forms needed a number (what a total lie!), the man at the store who insisted I got the wrong form and picture so he could disposses me of some cash, and all their cohorts. I don't know how they could sleep at night with all those lies that came out of their mouths so smoothly! I pitied the many people they conned everyday. I'm writing this post to warn others who might encounter them.

To my countrymen, the cheapest way to renew your passport is to apply for it yourself. The quickest way is to download the form from the Internet and prepare the passport photos from a reputable studio beforehand. You don't need any help outside the gates of the DFA. It only takes an hour at most, and then you can ask the courier to deliver your passport right at your doorstep. Fixers and their ilk would disappear if the Filipino people would STOP going to them for shortcuts. Let's rid this country of corruption on all levels of government.

There it is, Ysa, my DFA story. Thank you for encouraging me to be patient, sis.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Divine Word Seminary Garden

Nung one day na hindi umulan, nakalabas ako at nakalibot sa garden. Nung mga ibang araw, sa kwarto at oratorio na lang ako nakapag-prayer time kasi malakas ang ulan. Ang sarap ng tahimik. Naninibago ako sa ingay ng Commonwealth Ave.

Konti lang shots ko ng mga tao using my phone eh. Natuwa kasi ako sa garden nila kaya kinunan ko. Or mahilig lang ako sa garden, pero hindi sa gardening. Hehe. Sana maayos na rin ang garden namin dito sa bahay at malagyan ng fountains!

Garden of My Meditation

Scripture Ventures pa rin. I had goosebumps last Friday at the side chapel where we had our Mass. Four priests, all SV participants like me, concelebrated it. An Austrian, Fr. Elia Schneider (we have same-sounding names & rumor has it that he's a lawyer too, but he left before I could interview him), was the homilist for that day and I had a deeper appreciation of Mary Magdalene's love for Jesus because of him.

Just a summary of that reflection - in the law of evidence we have an exception to the hearsay rule, that is, if an utterance is made during or after a startling or shocking event, it is admissible in evidence as part of the res gestae. I think Mary Magdalene's utterance of Rabbouni!, which is Aramaic for "teacher", is part of the res gestae and explains how much she loves Jesus... as a teacher. I could go on and on about this. May God have mercy on the dirty minds who put so much meaning into their relationship. Of course there is love - Jesus, according to Fr. Elia, loved Mary Magdalene because he loved everyone. Mary Magdalene, human though she was, grew in her love for Jesus but he was her teacher, first and foremost. If she had other things in mind, she would have gushed out to Jesus with words other than "teacher" upon seeing him whom she thought was already dead. People can't lie when in shock. She was in shock because Jesus rose from the dead!

That particular Mass was so special to me, not just because of my reflections on human love for the divine. Having so intimate a Eucharistic Celebration reminded me of what heaven is said to be like in Scripture. I felt Jesus' presence so strongly that Friday evening, together with religious and lay leaders of this country.

Finally, here's a view of the gardens outside the chapel at the Divine Word Seminary. It was quite a walk from where our rooms were but I loved meditating with these surroundings.

Cultural Night

Wala lang I just wanted to post this picture of two of the wonderful people that I had gotten to know more during Scripture Ventures. Tita Daisy is a beautiful woman inside and out. I'm so happy we were groupmates in Antioch, for Joy of Discovery, and in the Cultural Night presentation.

Trifon, singer/dancer/energizer/writer/painter with a Ph.D. in Religious Education, is also a father of four. I'm proud to have met such wonderful and inspiring people once more.

Scripture Ventures Shots

Tinatamad pa akong magsulat ng reflections. Pictures na lang muna from the Cultural Night, the Graduation Rites and the Garden of the Divine Word Seminary in Tagaytay City.

This is me with my gorgeous facilitators at the JoD, Sheila and Michelle. I have a certificate to prove that I have found the Joy of Discovery! :)

Prayer for the State of the Nation

For 15 years, my family lived in Pureza St. near Mendiola, the road that leads to the Malacanang Palace. Back in the time of People Power I and coup d' etat, demonstrations and rallies were a normal occurrence for me and my family. Last 1998, we moved to Don Antonio Heights, walking distance from Commonwealth, the road that leads to Batasan/Congress. Because of the Sandiganbayan and Congress, our road has become the favorite of rallyists and demonstrators as well. I can hear their voices on the megaphone as I type this blog.

I was awakened to idealism and a new hope in 1986. My parents brought us five kids to EDSA for the historic people power revolution that toppled the Marcos dictatorship. A year after that, we went to celebrate and commemorate the first anniversary of the Edsa Revolt. In 2001, I trooped to EDSA once more with the Lingkod QC brothers and sisters. I believed it was my stand against immorality in the leadership. This time, I did not take to the streets. I no longer work for the government. I'm taking a break from this country's problems. I was in Tagaytay the past week finding joy in discovering Scriptures. When I came home, this is what welcomed me - a country once more divided, and a state of the nation address that did not address much.

I turn to prayer. Today I arranged an altar in our spare room in the house. It's very simple. I just put a bible on a bible stand, a blessed candle, and some rosaries. It's my response to God's command for me to build an altar. Then I went to mass and said extra prayers for the Filipinos.

I know that the only thing that could change our country is prayer. If we change from within, our country would change for sure. I feel so betrayed by the government officials. May God's justice be upon us all.

It's my birthday on Saturday. If there's one more gift I'd ask of you Lord it would be peace on this side of the earth.

One More Gift
(Bukas Palad)

If there's one more gift I'd ask of you Lord
It would be peace, here on Earth
As gentle as Your children's laughter,
All around, all around

Your people have grown weary
Of living in confusion
When will we realize
That neither heaven is at peace
When we live not in peace (refrain)

Grant me serenity, within
For the confusions around
Are mere reflections of
What's within, what's within me. (refrain)

Monday, July 18, 2005

Two Weeks to Go

My so-called vacation will soon be over. The next two weeks would just whizz by because I'm spending five days in Tagaytay for Scripture Ventures. Finally I can attend the Joy of Discovery (NOT the Discovery Weekend... yet! Hehe) where I could study Scripture closely. I've always wanted to attend this seminar given by the Institute for Pastoral Development (IPD) and now I'll get that chance. At least this might give me the courage to serve more boldly because it would teach me the skills on how to study scripture. Until I could take up formal classes at the LST, this would definitely do! As I told Gay, I don't know anybody who would be there except for God who called me. I was supposed to be the worship leader for the Lingkod-GMMACQ sisters' prayer meeting this Friday but I had to beg off when I learned about JoD. I'm glad my leaders allowed me to go to JoD, anyway the women would have the very gifted sister, Nerry the Queen, to lead them in worship.

I hope it doesn't rain too much in Tagaytay so I could enjoy the magnificent view. Since I will be with new people, it's time to make new friends, I guess. This feels like my first Star Scout weekend camping. I was so afraid to stay at a strange place with total strangers! But I went home with the red star anyway. For Scripture Ventures, I think there won't be any red stars. All I'm hoping to bring home with me is the training that I need for future service.

Next week I have another five-day trip, but it will be pure vacation. I'm going to Singapore and Malaysia with my mom, sister-in-law, and the latter's sister who is based in Malaysia. I'll turn a year older there. I'm still thinking if I would apply for roaming services from Globe. I might get text messages and phone calls. I won't answer my dear friends, because it's expensive to text back and even to answer phone calls while on roaming, but it would be good to know that they remembered me. ;)

Within the coming days I still have a long list of errands involving banks, visas, IDs, and other things that could be obtained from government offices. I'll definitely post about my DFA experience soon. I also have ever-evolving plans for our house, especially my room in order to maximize what little space we have. My friend, to whom I lent a backpack-full of stuff for World Youth Day, expressed amazement at how all those things could fit into our little house, because I do seem to have an answer for every need - whether it be an extra Swiss knife, travel pillow, cosmetic case, etc. I said life in the del Rosario house has always been like that. We may not have expensive and branded possessions but we do make it a point to have everything we need on hand, and if given the opportunity, we love to share them with our close friends.

What I'm excited about in the near future are Mama's plans to improve our garden when we get back from our trip. I shall get my fountain and prayer corner at last!

I look back at my vacation month and I'm thankful that it had been productive. I was able to go on retreat, attend a choir convention, meet up with old friends, say my goodbyes, establish new friendships, serve in a parish LSS (for the first time), organize my room, and most importantly, sleep and write to my heart's content!

I won't ever know if I'm ready for the future so I'm trying not to obsess about it anymore. In today's first reading, the Israelites complained a lot but Moses reminded them that all they had to do was be still because God Himself will act. Then the LORD told Moses that the Israelites should go forward. So even with all my doubts and apprehensions, I'm going forward. It is said that the red sea parted AFTER the Israelites stepped on the water. After prayer time and again at mass, I committed to quit complaining to God about my hardships after leaving Egypt and to joyfully anticipate my Promised Land.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Now Playing: Greatest American Hero Theme Song

Look at what's happened to me,
I can't believe it myself.
Suddenly I'm up on top of the world,
It should've been somebody else.

Believe it or not,
I'm walking on air.
I never thought I could feel so free eee eee.
Flying away on a wing and a prayer.
Who could it be?
Believe it or not it's just me.

It's like a light of a new day,
It came from out of the blue.
Breaking me out of the spell I was in,
Making all of my wishes come true ue ue.

Believe it or not,
I'm walking on air.
I never thought I could feel so free eee eee.
Flying away on a wing and a prayer.
Who could it be?
Believe it or not it's just me.

Reconnecting to the Teenager Within

I wrote in a previous post about my experience serving the youth of a particular course in a particular campus, and how much I hated it. Just when I was about to write off the youth as an unappreciative audience, I found myself serving in a Life in the Spirit Seminar because I couldn't say no to my parish priests. Even though I highly doubted my capacity to connect to teenagers and to even be remotely helpful, let alone inspiring, I had to go every Sunday at 7 p.m. to be with them.

On the third Sunday when I had to give a talk in Tagalog and English and to help a seminarian to translate his sharing into Tagalog, a group of teenagers from a chapel located at the other side of Commonwealth Ave. made their first visit to the LSS at Don Antonio. We were assigned to lead that discussion group. I was way out of my comfort zone as I was no longer used to mixed girls/boys in a DG. I also had to adjust to an LSS team and audience that was so diverse in age (14 to 55 years old!), race (Filipino, Australian and African), occupation and social status, but soon after that night I realized that we all had one thing in common and that was enough - the love of Jesus Christ. It was an opening for me to an area of Christian service outside of Lingkod which basically catered to single young professionals. It was not part of my plan to serve outside my comfort zone but God, as always, saw something more and wanted to reveal more of Himself to me.

After spending time with the kids I realized how much teenagers are looking for role models. They express love and appreciation to me now so openly, but come to think of it, all I ever did for them after that LSS talk was to treat them to some pizza. They said they told their classmates and friends about me, that I'm a lawyer to whom they could talk to about God, and that I'm a Catholic lawyer, which they have made to sound like an oxymoron. This shouldn't be. There are a lot of good lawyers out there, like the handsome and good looking members of the Christian Lawyers Association, to which I partly belong. Perhaps the kids just don't have much access to them.

Even though I'm no longer practicing my profession, it still marks and labels me. I'm still adjusting how to handle it now. People still consult me for legal advice and I help them out of a sense of duty rather than a certainty that I know what I'm doing. The thing with free legal advice coming from a missionary, from my point of view, is that I no longer have to pretend as if I knew the law like the back of my hand. I could tell people that I'm not too sure about recent case law anymore and that I can't represent them in their cases so they should consult somebody else. And then I'm free. That shouldn't give me the title "attorney" anymore. I know hundreds of people who deserve to be given that label, but not me. I wonder why people insist on using that still. Maybe I still have remnants of the Legally Blonde/Ally McBeal look. Haha. Don't get me started on the six months when I went blonde! Well, it was light brown. ;)

These four teenagers have also reminded me of how I was when I was their age, and all my vows then to never grow up. When I graduated from high school, I cried so hard that I couldn't sing the graduation song properly. In college, I stayed in the tambayan of my high school batch, which was really encroaching upon the tambayan of an org and a fraternity, for two whole years before choosing to stay in the School of Economics during my free time. I never wanted to let go of my high school life. I thought I would be a MaScian through and through.

Something happened somewhere. I committed the inconceivable crime of growing up, to some extent. The Laura of my teenage years gradually transformed into Ella, the law student, and then lawyer, and then Lingkod active member, and then BWM. All those transformations were for my own good, I know, but still there was a part of me that seemed to have been left behind. I have been told that I look freer, prettier, and happier now. But still I have to ask: How did I become so serious about life all of a sudden? What happened to the girl who made jeepney drivers turn off their radios because she, together with her equally gregarious barkada, could out-talk and out-sing the radio programs? What happened to the girl in uniform who could sit anywhere - at the city hall, at SM City - and not be conscious? What happened to the student who could write formal themes in straight Filipino and get high marks for them?

It's July, my month of rebirth, so maybe I'm just reconnecting with significant parts of me in order to become the best person I could be when I do enter Lingkod Office full-time this coming August. I know my desire is to live life to the full, and if it means singing Broadway musicals and Disney soundtracks once more, dancing "Chocolate" and "Following the Leader" at Greenwich with gusto, and laughing at impersonations while recalling my own CCP Teen Theater days, then I'm thankful for this chance. Growing up and moving on does not have to mean growing old and becoming boring.

As the posh (pasaway) kids would say, Ajah!

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Pizza Night at Greenwich, when I wished I were 16 again. I realized that was 15 years ago!!! :(( There's no reason not to feel like I'm 16 sometimes. :) Posted by Picasa

Mga Posh-away! The kids in our discussion group at the Youth on Fire LSS at Don Antonio Parish. Patrick, who can do the Ethel Walk; Hivy, who sings like an angel; Joseph, the singing-dancing-host; and Jobelle, the best supporting actress. Pizza never tasted this good as when I shared it with them. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, July 14, 2005

TOYS Awardee, Not Me :)

Yesterday, Luigi and Miko received several new toys because it was Luigi's 8th birthday. Today, TOYS stands for "Tito Ric is an Outstanding Young Scientist" awardee. The boys are so proud of their Tito.

Not in the picture are the three Daddies - Papa, Kuya Dan, and Tito Maning. Of course, Celeste (Ric's wife), Ate Lani and Jeb are in different parts of the world. Still, it's photo ops time for the family. We all trooped to the Manila Hotel for the awarding ceremonies.

Dr. Ric del Rosario, receiving the award from the National Academy of Science and Technology. He was an awardee for the NAST-Dupont Talent Search for Young Scientists a few years ago, and this year he got the next award. Looking on is the Secretary of the Dept. of Science and Technology. Posted by Picasa

Happy Birthday Luigi!!! My nephew turned 8 years old on July 13, 2005. That means I'm turning a year older soon, too. This was a candid shot, obviously. I'm there at the far right. Well, half of me is. Posted by Picasa

Ang mag-kumpadre, nag-chikahan sa lobby ng Manila Hotel. Posted by Picasa

Papa and Kuya Dan Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, July 12, 2005


Matagal-tagal ko na ring di nasakyan ang MRT. Galing Quezon Ave. station, bumaba ako sa Ayala. Hindi naman rush hour pero wala pa ring upuan. Tumayo ako sa favorite spot ko, yung may bilog na umiikot sa gitna ng cars, at kahit may vertigo ako ay naglalaro ako pag andun sa slight twisting and turning ng MRT flooring. Puro lalaki yung nakaupo sa harap ko. Hindi sila nag-o-offer ng upuan pero di rin makatingin sa akin. Naalala kong ganun nga pala ang sistema ngayon sa MRT, chivalry is dead. Sa Lingkod ko na lang nae-experience ang pagsilbihan ng mga brothers. Sa totoong buhay, kailangan kong tumayo sa sariling paa at mag-enjoy sa tanawin.

Maganda naman talaga ang EDSA mula sa bintana ng MRT. Tuwing makikita ko ang pila ng mga sasakyan sa EDSA, nagpapasalamat ako at hindi ako kasama sa mga driver na nangangalay sa first gear at nagkaka-back pain sa kabagalan ng traffic. Sarap din tumingin sa mga billboard at ma-update sa mga usong damit, inumin, credit card, kotse, vitamins, instant pancit canton, relo, boutique, etc. May mga puno pa rin pala sa Metro Manila, naisip ko, nung mapadaan kami sa may Crame.

Pagdating sa Shaw station, maraming bumaba. Eto pa ang isang unwritten rule sa MRT. Pag may bakanteng upuan, ibibigay sa babae. May isang mama tinawag ako para maupo dun sa nabakanteng upuan sa tapat niya. Hindi niya kinuha. Naalala ko na nga ang ganung sistema. Kaya nung mabakante yung katabi ko, tinawag ko yung babae three hand rests away para paupuin siya at di-neadma ko yung mga lalaki sa tapat ko. Nagbigay-daan naman sila dun sa miss. Pag nakaupo na sila, di sila tatayo. Pero pag pareho kayong nakatayo, tiyak papaupuin ka nila. Hiya na lang nila makipag-unahan. Pag dalawang babae, kung sino mas matanda siyang papaupuing una. Kung may dalaga at merong aleng may buhat na bata, siyempre papaupuin ang may bitbit na baby. Ganun ang hierarchy ng buhay MRT.

Nung nakaupo, wala na akong view ng EDSA. Nag-reminisce na lang ako ng MRT days ko nung 2001, nung nagtrabaho ako sandali sa malapit sa Greenbelt. Sobrang siksikan pag papasok sa umaga, sari-saring experience ang dinadanas ng commuters araw-araw. May mapapanuod kang mga yuppie na may high-tech toys tulad ng laptop, cellphone, mp3 player, at PDAs. May mga naka-corporate attire at siguradong ngawit na ngawit ang mga babaeng naka-high heels. Dati, wala pang escalator sa Q.Av station, naalala ko umiinit ulo ko kasi siksikan at singitan tuwing umaga sa maliit na elevator dun.

May isang time, sa sobrang dikit ko sa mga katabi ko, nakapagbasa ako ng diyaryo na binabasa nung mama sa harapan ko. Close kami eh.

Ang kawawa yung isang mama na katabi ko. Naka-white shirt siya, di ko malilimutan. Uso pa nun ang red lipstick, hindi tulad ngayon puro pink ang shade ng lipstick ko. Soobrang sikip kaya nung maraming nagbabaan sa Cubao station, naipit ako. Nung lumuwag na, napansin ko yung T-shirt ng mama. May kiss mark siya!!! Galing sakin. Oops. Pano kaya niya pinaliwanag yun sa mga nakakita. Di ko naman sinasadya.

Meron akong stored value card ngayon. Mukha pa ni Gloria kasi last week ko binili, pero nabubura na ang mukha dahil sa kagasgasan at kalumaan ng card. Sabi ng katulong namin, kanina raw nagsulputan ulit ang Erap cards sa MRT. Grabe naman yun, di pa man ay excited na sila.

Pero matibay ang MRT. Kahit sinong presidente andun siya, dadalhin ako mula sa Q.C. hanggang Makati, and beyond. Dati may kasama ako sumakay, ngayon mag-isa na lang. Noon hindi pa ako abogado pero naka-suit ako na may lining tuwing sasakay dun. Ngayon namang abogado na ako, T-shirt, maong at rubber shoes ang suot ko pag sumasakay. Ang pinakamagandang kaibahan, pink na lipstick ko palagi. Pag may nadikit ulit sa akin, hindi na halata ang mark. Walang ebidensiya. Haha.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Another Flat Tire

I thought I was too tired to write anything but I have a sharing that is too good to miss. I’ve had another first-hand experience of God’s being my personal, 24/7 Savior. Sometimes, God uses real-life heroes to answer our call.

I went on the smoothest trip ever to Los BaƱos yesterday to attend the NLTC raffle draw together with NLTC National Conference Manager Dex, who was generous enough to drive. It was my first out of town trip with this car (not the Lancer, which is for sale) that my father bought from my brother, so I was a bit apprehensive at first to bring it. The trip was perfect – no traffic! – despite demonstrations that sprouted along EDSA soon after Cory asked GMA to resign. We reached LB one hour before the prayer meeting. The brothers and sisters from NLTC are inspiring. They exceeded their targets for the fundraising. We were warmly received, fed, and sheltered by the branch. I texted Gay how thankful I am for having this job because it didn’t feel like work at all. We drove back without a glitch. Remembering my Kuya’s reminder, I had the tires checked for air at the Shell station along Buendia. I even asked Dex to take out the spare tire to have it checked as well. I didn’t realize that it would get the brother’s hands so dirty, and it was only later when he was looking for alcohol that I realized what a huge favor I had just asked without blinking. Then I went on to meet Leah to watch Fantastic Four with the rest of the brothers and sisters from QC and GMMACQ. I have an official crush on the Human Torch, who acts without thinking (as opposed to Reed Richards, Mr. Fantastic himself, who they say just thinks and never acts), but that’s beside the point, and he’s not the real hero in this story.

After the movie, I was rushing to the Makati anniv with the QT’s and we were about to take my father’s car when we noticed a familiar (at least to me) scenario – a flat tire. I could not believe it! I’m almost afraid to stop for air at Shell stations because this was the umpteenth time that just when I thought I was doing my tires a favor, I got rewarded with a flat tire. Ted and Luis were dressed in their Sunday clothes so I didn’t have the heart to accept their offer to change the tires right then and there. So we went to Makati in Ted’s car and enjoyed celebrating their anniversary with our brothers and sisters. Abby had an allergic reaction to the shrimp so Doc Leah gave her some medicine, however, it made her so drowsy so we decided to leave the party before the dancing started, and headed back to Robinson’s Pioneer where Abby’s car and my car-with-the-flat-tire were parked.

And then our Branch Leader, the lawyer, the brother, the friend, the teacher, the mentor, the writer, the Atty. Theodore O. Te, TOYM awardee – changed my flat tire. It was extremely difficult because I didn’t have complete tools and for a moment there we all helplessly watched him get down on his knees and do the dirty work. Daniel and the manong guard assisted him. I have pictures to prove this actually happened, maybe to remind myself when I would doubt how accident-prone I am and how God rescues me through angels every single time.

I know the Lingkod brothers would go, “Car trouble and Ella, so what’s new”? I’ve had experiences like this happening to me quite often now, like I posted before in this blog, with them rescuing me from owner jeepneys landing on the hood of my car from the opposite lane, to my car battery just conking out and being revived by Matinix’s super tools, to flat tires (lots of them) and being saved by Ryan’s heavy-duty jack after the prayer meeting, to of course the stupidity of texting while driving and hitting the car in front of me, etc. etc., that I should be immune by now. I should be more patient and just let go of the situation but each time, I get stressed out and frustrated. I don’t know how to thank the people I have obliged with their time and energy, except to write here that Gay, Abby, Dex, Leah, Ted, Daniel, and Luis are the real heroes, the fantastic people whom God sent me tonight to disabuse me of the notion that I don’t need help. I always need help, I know that now.

They say one’s driving reflects one’s personality. Before I started driving, I used to have all sorts of minor accidents in life – falling off a jeepney in the middle of Quiapo, being trapped near the door of the LRT (at a time when the MRT was just a dream for us), and many other mishaps – and it seems that I’ve just transferred the propensity for those things into my driving. I’m of the mind to quit driving and/or bringing a car altogether. Maybe it’s the lesson.

Or maybe the lesson is just to ask for help. I’m not sure! It’s a mystery. Right now I will just sit still and be thankful for God’s love through brothers and sisters, and let the lessons sink in slowly.

Friday, July 08, 2005

The Buffet

The camera settings were wrong for this shot, but I'm posting it because it shows the buffet table. I corrected the settings after I took this picture. I'm having problems with Blogger Image Uploader.

This is a shot taken inside the famous, at least for our chamber, Cabana - famous because we know how much Justice worked on it. I finally saw it!


The boss threw a seafood festival-despedida for outgoing stenographer Alma, who is migrating to Canada, and for me.

Almost all of my officemates were there, except for Jenny Mae, whose schedule as a working law student deprives her of such luxuries as driving all the way to Paranaque on a weekday. :)

Thursday, July 07, 2005

The Gospel Today

The Gospel for today is Matthew's account of Jesus' commission to His apostles. I cited the one from the evangelist Luke in my previous post as Jesus' commission for me. This one spells it out more clearly.

Mt 10:7-15

Jesus said to his Apostles:
"As you go, make this proclamation:
‘The Kingdom of heaven is at hand.'
Cure the sick, raise the dead,
cleanse the lepers, drive out demons.
Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give.
Do not take gold or silver or copper for your belts;
no sack for the journey, or a second tunic,
or sandals, or walking stick.
The laborer deserves his keep.
Whatever town or village you enter, look for a worthy person in it,
and stay there until you leave.
As you enter a house, wish it peace.
If the house is worthy,
let your peace come upon it;
if not, let your peace return to you.
Whoever will not receive you or listen to your words—
go outside that house or town and shake the dust from your feet.
Amen, I say to you, it will be more tolerable
for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment
than for that town."

I need not add my own reflection to what was already written at the Scripture Meditation, the Word Among Us, today. May I learn to do all these joyfully.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Gotta Get Me One of Those!

"I gotta get me one of those!" - this was what Commissioner Gordon, before he got promoted, said to himself after seeing the Batmobile. His wish was partly granted when later on in the movie, Batman let him drive.

I've always been vocal about one wish of mine - to own a laptop computer. I like to write, email and blog, so with such a lightweight beauty I could indulge in my passions anywhere. During my six-month bar review my sister lent me one so I could type my personal reviewers. A couple of months ago, my Ninang gave me a hand-me-down, working laptop! I was giddily happy until I discovered that it was 110v only, had missing hardware, and being a 1999 model, was too heavy to lug around. When my mom asked if she could use it instead for her piano students' records at her school, I gladly gave it to her. I had a pending prayer request for a laptop and I knew God could grant it anytime he wanted.

This Friday could be my chance. Lingkod LB, hosts of this year's NLTC, is raffling off a brand new IBM laptop and other cool gadgets. I'm personally going to be there at the raffle. The problem is, I have only one ticket. I'm contemplating whether it's worth it to buy more tickets, considering that I have a tight budget.

Should I stick with my one ticket and claim that nothing is impossible with God?

Pretty please, Lord, you know I would use it to serve You. I would prepare talks, manuals, e-mails, articles and sharings using it. I would be able to communicate better with it. We have an unbelievable staffer-to-computer ratio at the Lingkod Office. I won't argue my way to this one, Lord. I just beg for your grace and mercy! I claim victory.

Sigh. If I'm not meant to win it, I think I could settle with the IPod Mini. I just have a shorter list of how to use it for service. ;)

Paper Weight

I'm taking a break from sorting out all the documents that I have accumulated since I moved into my own room in 2001. The amount of clutter I have amassed would not surprise my friend Marc Laki who worked with me way back 1996 at the fundraising project for Bar Ops '96, "Beyond Limits". He said, "Ella, ikaw ang pinakamapapel na taong nakilala ko." I'm sure he meant that I was environmentally unfriendly because I had to write things down all the time, and not the negative meaning of "mapapel". After all, I mentioned earlier that ML, as we fondly called him then, is my friend. I wonder where he is right now.

Amazing how my mind could wander after encountering little bits of my past. That's why I'm still trying to clean up my room after two weeks. It takes me so long to decide which goes where. I like looking at receipts and remembering the restaurants from which I got them, the food that I ordered, and the people I ate with. There are certain piles that I dread having to sort through, simply because I am not interested in them at this point, and yet they occupy a huge space on my floor and I have to get them out of the way if I want to see my floor sometime soon. I am on vacation and a little bit in denial, maybe, but I'm putting off having to face the lawyer stuff. Basta.

Everyday though, I plow through my dumpsite and get little things done. I have a pile for things to be repaired, a pile for things to be donated to
He Cares, a pile for things that have to be filed properly, and a pile for things to be disposed of finally! Back when I was a student, I used to be able to do spring cleaning every summer vacation and semestral breaks. Ever since I started working, however, I have never had the luxury of taking my time to go through my possessions as thoroughly as I am doing now.

My motivation for getting this done once and for all is God's word for me during the NLTC last October:

Monday (10/18/2005): "The harvest is plentiful... Pray the Lord to send out laborers into his harvest"

Scripture: Luke 10:1-9 (RSV)

1 After this the Lord appointed seventy others, and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to come. 2 And he said to them, "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. 3 Go your way; behold, I send you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. 4 Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and salute no one on the road. 5 Whatever house you enter, first say, `Peace be to this house!' 6 And if a son of peace is there, your peace shall rest upon him; but if not, it shall return to you. 7 And remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the laborer deserves his wages; do not go from house to house. 8 Whenever you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before you; 9 heal the sick in it and say to them, `The kingdom of God has come near to you.'

As I am being sent, I have to "carry no purse, no bag, no sandals". There is no way for me to travel lightly if I have all this clutter burdening me. It's part of letting go of attachments - to purses, bags and sandals, literally - and to papers and all that they have signified for me in the past. I will be knocking at houses in different towns and places where my Lord Jesus is about to come.

It is not easy, this business of letting go and learning to pack light, but when my instructions come from a certainty in my mind and heart that this is what God wants me to do at this time, I know that I can get through this metamorphosis.

Have to go now. A crate full of memories from a chapter of my life is waiting to be inspected, sorted out, and distributed. I am taking my own sweet time.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Template Blues

Hirap talaga maging html-challenged. Gusto ko nang palitan ang template ng blog ko pero sa mga exisitng options ng blogger, wala akong mapili. Buti pa si Marlon, pogi na, magaling pa mag-layout ng blog. Kaya tuloy wagi ang anniv at lingkod QC blogs eh, dahil sa brother na ito. Siyempre Comp Sci major naman siya at ako hamak na business-econ-law graduate - mga course na walang silbi sa akin ngayong gigil na akong mag-improve ng blog. I'm sure pagkabasa ng kapatid ko nito, si Mel, maaawa siya sa akin at tutulungan niya ako ulit! Hehehe. Thanks Mel!

Weniwey, di pala nabura ng blogger ang dati kong blog, buhay pa siya! My Process of Yielding, a.k.a. ""is still up with my old template and name. Ang haba kasi kaya pinalitan ko to my name para may product recall. Tsaka nag-yield naman na ako eh. Waiting na lang. Forever waiting.

Welcome to My Month

This is proving to be another month-long celebration for me. Just as my home branch, Lingkod QC, has been having month-long celebrations of its anniversary, the Lord has allowed me some memorable Julys in the past that always culminates in my birthday at the end of the month. I wrote about it extensively in a previous post which I sent to all my friends way back 2002.

It's the fourth of July and already I can feel my blessings in torrents. It started with a Friday brunch with my good friend and sister Shane who helped me face my target budget for my new life. This allowed me to count my blessings and see how God has provided for me so well that I do not have to worry, even if a part of me does, about the future. Friday night was Mass with Lingkod QC and a chance to give my sharing to the community, "Joy in Living for Christ", as part of our theme for 2005, "Joyfully We Proclaim God's Glory!" I tried to give the QT's a blow-by-blow account of how God led me to this new mission in life.

Last Saturday, as I wrote about in my last post, I spent the day at the Bukas Palad Choir Convention and learned how to serve God better through music. I even enjoyed fellowship at McDonald's afterwards, for several people from the convention, including Fr. JBoy, were there, and it felt like the energy from the Ateneo High School Covered Courts was transferred there.

Sunday was spent with the family. My kuya endorsed to me my father's automatic car and I finally said goodbye to the stick shift! It was like driving a toy car. The steering wheel is so light. It signaled the end of half of my driving-related stress. God is good!

Last night, I got to know some teenagers from nearby Batasan, for they attended the Life in the Spirit Seminar where I gave a talk about The New Life that the power of the Holy Spirit brings. It was fulfilling to serve in this particular parish-based LSS and to make new friends in my literal community, aside from our MGL-parish priests. I was also inspired to witness God's work in the life of the seminarian-brother who shared. Still, I know this is not a call for me to enter the religious life. It's the whole living-for-Christ-is-the-only-source-of-joy theme that permeated the night that made me so joyful. In my night prayers, I was full of gratitude to God and thanked him for new friends, brothers, sisters, and services.

Today is a new day. Just the fact that I'm free to spend it any way I deem productive is joy enough for me. For the whole month of July, I am on vacation in order to catch up on all the chores, errands, favors and duties that I have neglected the past few years while I was busy with lingkod QC and court attorney work. I am also taking enough rest, exercise and recreation. I know this is just a foretaste of heaven and life is not supposed to be one big vacation, so I will savor every minute of every day.

As I turn another year older soon, I face it with greater joy and confidence than when I faced my 30th birthday last year. :) This passage from Ecclesiastes 3 comes to mind, and oh, 'tis true, 'tis true indeed.

1 For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: 2 a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; 3 a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; 4 a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; 5 a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; 6 a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; 7 a time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; 8 a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace. 9 What gain has the worker from his toil? 10 I have seen the business that God has given to the sons of men to be busy with.

11 He has made everything beautiful in its time; also he has put eternity into man's mind, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. 12 I know that there is nothing better for them than to be happy and enjoy themselves as long as they live; 13 also that it is God's gift to man that every one should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil. 14 I know that whatever God does endures for ever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it; God has made it so, in order that men should fear before him. (Ecc 3:1-14, RSV)

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Bukas Palad Music Minister

I just got home from the Bukas Palad Choir Convention and I had a fabulous time. It was 10 hours of sharing my passion for liturgical music with over 1000 people from all over the country. I knew it was special when one of the BP members, Sheerin, told me at the registration table that we were schoolmates in grade school. She said that I look much more beautiful now. God bless her beautiful soul. :) I then told her that I used to watch her perform weekly at Tia Maria's, ages ago, in my past life. We had a good laugh at that one.

I didn't know about the Choir Convention until my friends at the parish made me sign up, and somebody paid for my registration and was so kind enough to process the pre-registration himself. He signed me up under his community, however, so I felt a bit sheepish about that because I later found out that the Lingkod QC music ministry was attending, and I was signed up under a different choir. Well we all sat together during the whole thing and it turned out for the best, as I made new friends in my new, temporary, parish-based "community".

The talks were informative. Since my mindset was not the same as those in charge of church music, I had some free time when they separated into groups to talk about choir issues. My friends and I absolutely enjoyed the numbers from Hangad, Hail Mary Choir (I should get their name correctly - they were absolutely fantastic and deserved the Choir Olympics award that they won! And they are just little children!), Noel Cabangon (THE man), and of course Bukas Palad! I appreciated Fr. Manoling's talk about liturgical music as it made a lot of sense, and I wish our parish choirs were represented there. I picked up several things that I would share with the Lingkod QC Music Min as well. The mass was special because we applied what we learned. It was not a charismatic mass but I could not help raising my hands in praise and worship at the sheer beauty of the music that we made for God. It was repeatedly emphasized that music during mass should just support the offering of the Eucharist. Music ministers should never draw attention to themselves. I was in awe of the gift of music that God gave His people so we could worship Him more fully.

It was a humid day, and that was the only downside! It was a well-planned event, and for a minimal registration fee, we all went home with so much more than we expected to get from it. I am thankful to have been part of it. Although music is not my primary service at this time, it always has a special place in my heart. I'm not discounting the possibility that God might have plans of using me in this area in the future. I am thankful that the Bukas Palad members so generously shared with us so many tips and tools that they had gained from experience. As I also attended the Hillsong/United music workshop a month ago, I feel so blessed now to see the Filipino and Catholic way of glorifying God through music.

I bought a BP shirt and wore it immediately. An hour after the concert, people at Mc Donald's mistook me for a BP member. It was a short-lived honor! Well, I can understand now more than ever why people want to be part of BP, and why it is THE mother of all church choirs. It is sometimes good to dream of being one of those who could sing that way about God. All in God's time, I know.

I would go to sleep in a while with more hope, faith, joy, and love. I picked those up as a music minister, who is practicing probably for a heavenly choir. In this world I would always be limited by my being my worst critic as a musician. But coming from a convention and concert like that, I was able to let go of my fears and anxieties, and to appreciate music as an integral part of a people's relationship with the Lord.

Tomorrow, or should I say, later, I would face my fears again as I would give an LSS talk for the first time. I've been helping to give the CLP ever since I met the Lord in 1993, but the LSS is a whole new language. There's always a new way to serve the Lord. May the participants gain something, because this instrument needs a lot of tuning. Times like this, I know that it is the sheer power of the Holy Spirit who could touch hearts, return souls and transform lives. I hope to be part of that once more.

With the right music to listen to as I prepare today, I'm going to make it through until the talk tonight. Perhaps I should listen to Offertory songs, for this talk is an offering and another step in faith. It is my way of responding to the call "to sing forever of God's love", and to do my talk version of "humayo't ihayag". Thank you, Bukas Palad, for inspiring me through your music. That in all things God may be glorified.

Friday, July 01, 2005

I Can Do Magic... Sing!

Nung isang gabi, pinangatawanan ko ang pagiging bum. Walang magandang palabas sa TV, nananahimik ako sa e-mail, nagtitipid sa text, at wala nang Lingkod meetings (isang buwan lang naman). What to do, what to do? Dyaraan. Naalala ko ang Magic Sing namin sa bahay.

Ayos, naisip ko, magpa-praktis ako para pag may bisita, papasikatan ko sila sa aking voice quality at walang puknat na perfect score. Patulan daw ba ang scoring! So hinanap ko ang songbook at nag-highlight ng aking favorite songs. Ella's Top Twenty, kung baga.

Habang namamalantsa si Jane at nag-Free Cell si Mama, nag-concert ako. Nung una, enjoy lang ako kumanta ng OPM - mga Joey Albert, Jam Morales, Lea Salonga at siyempre Mega Sharon Cuneta hits. Mga pang-anim na kanta na ng lumabas si Papa at nagtanong, "Anak, ano ang average score mo?" Dun ko lang nahalata na hanggang 96 lang inabot ko!

Challenge ito. Dati naman naka-100 na ako ah, nung nag-contest kami ng pamangkin kong si Luigi. Maraming nakaka-100 dito so di ako pwedeng olats. Chi-nek ko pa kung naka-professional or amateur lang ang setting. Amateur naman, bakit kaya mababa ang score ko?

Sinubukan kong sundang maigi ang kulay blue na nagtuturo kung nasan na ako sa lyrics. Eh kung minsan mali! So kinakanta ko pa rin yung sa tingin ko ang tama. Ayun, baka yon ang dahilan bakit di ako maka-score nang maayos. Minsan 91, 92, 94, 89. Line of 8!

Desperate times call for desperate measures. Lumipat ako sa foreign songs. Uminom muna ako ng isang basong tubig katulad ng ginagawa ni Lea sa concert stage. Tapos sabi ko, "Welcome to my second set."

Hmmm, Carpenters, mababa lang iyong boses ni Karen at kayang-kaya ko iyon. Naka-tatlong Carpenters na ako pero wala pa rin! Sabi ko ito na talaga, "Crazy for You". Grade Four pa lang memorized ko na iyon. Pambehera, hindi pa rin!

Sabi ko, "Diyos ko, maga-alas diyes na at kawawa na ang kapitbahay". Inilabas ko na ang aking huling alas - sapagkat sinong Pinay ang hindi makakakanta ng The Greatest Love of All? Eh mas magagaling pa tayo kumanta kay Whitney Houston! So birit ang Ella, last set ko na.

Ang aking score! "96! What a excellent singer!" sabi ng screen ng Magic Mic. Kainiiiis. By this time nasa kwarto na ang mga magulang ko. Pumasok akong bigo. Yun pala pinag-uusapan nila ako. Only daughter kasi, dahil sa iba-ibang parte na ng mundo nakatira yung apat kong kapatid (Germany, Sydney, Arizona, at New Manila), kaya ako na lang napag-uusapan nila. Paglapit ko ang sabi ni Papa, "Anak, kelan ka magco-concert ulit? Mag-imbita tayo ng mga tao." Sabay tawa silang dalawa! Ang sabi ko , "Tsaka na po! Pag puro 100 na ang score ko."

Malat ako nung gabing iyon eh. May pesteng ahem. Sa susunod pang-boyz II men na lang kakantahin ko, baka sakaling maka-100.

Amateur ka talaga, Ella. Amateur!!!