Friday, April 28, 2006

Recognizing Christ's Rising

I was laying on the blue cloth over our dining-slash-conference table, the one that we only use during special meetings to cover our checkered tablecloth at the office, when it hit me:  I was happy.

As I smoothed out the edges and checked with Regine if all the sides were “pantay” (sorry for the Taglish, I couldn’t find an exact translation), I recognized the joy in my heart.  I was looking forward to the staff meeting that we were going to have because I had a preview of the topic and could see how useful and timely it was for the call of Lingkod at this particular time.  I thoroughly enjoyed assisting Nerry, our National Women’s Moderator, with some parts of the HR/training/career-tracking work that she did for us, as I knew it would be helpful to the branches, especially the leaders, in very practical ways.  

I was reminded today of how God answered my prayers, which I bombarded him with for almost a year, to give me opportunities to serve Him with all my time, my mind, my heart, and my soul.  I could whine and complain about some difficulties I had with the adjustment; I could wonder and ponder if I should be doing more lawyerly, or corporate, work; and I could question all the little “sacrifices” that I have had to make (which tonight seem all insignificant compared to God’s work to Christify the workplace and single people and to develop leaders that would lead God’s people( the thrust of Lingkod), but the bottom line is this:  I am living out a dream, my heart’s desire, an answered prayer!

Easter has come, slowly but surely.  I had been caught up with leftover Good Friday tears, like Mary of Magdala, because I thought my Lord Jesus had been taken away, that I failed to recognize Him (John 20).  I had been confused by the news of His Resurrection, and like Peter, been tempted to “go back fishing” (in my case, go back “lawyering”/ “shopping”/ achieving), but of course those efforts, to one who had been called to a mission, proved futile, and what a blessing that Jesus Himself instructed Peter where to cast his net to get an abundant catch, and what a greater blessing that Jesus Himself prepared breakfast for His disciples and gave Peter three opportunities to declare his love and loyalty to Christ, to erase the three denials that were made, as He had predicted (John 21).  

I was able to have these Easter reflections as my assignment for our Action Group meeting last Tuesday.  Finally!  After almost nine months of not having an AG, I was able to join the frat sisters again.  It was a joyful comeback, one that came at the right time.  I shared my prayer, for me to be able to recognize Jesus when He calls me by name, and for me to be able to obey His voice when He tells me where to go, even though I sometimes felt little tugs to explore other paths that were not consistent with the one mission that I had been called to do, at least for the next couple of years.

Nothing major happened today, but it’s good to be where I am, doing what I do, serving with my co-servants, and working towards the goal that I felt passion for.  Happiness, as they say, is not having everything that I love, but loving everything that I have.  And today, I do.

Monday, April 24, 2006

A Decision Out of Faith

I made a decision today, and I want to remember it by blogging about it, although I cannot write all the details here.

One of my dreams was offered to me, on a silver platter, but I could not accept it.  Not now.  I had previously said “No” to this offer, but on all those occasions both the offerors and I were not sure if we were serious about our respective decisions.

Today, they asked me to reconsider and enumerated the reasons why I should accept their offer.  One, the opportunity might never come again.  Two, it was a beautiful chance to live out one of my lifelong dreams.  Because they seemed to mean business this time, I came before God to ask if it was time for this dream to be realized.

First, I had to come to terms with the reality that part of me wanted to accept the offer.  However, such a decision would adversely affect my commitments to Lingkod Office and would thus run counter to my calling, which I had discerned and prayed for, to work there for at least two years.  

Then, I asked the Lord to confirm what I felt in my heart.  I believed that with God, opportunities could knock more than once.  I had given my all to Him and that included surrendering major decisions to Him.  Without His blessing, this dream could turn out to be a nightmare.  

I opened my Bible to the Scripture readings for the Second Sunday of Easter.  The First Reading showed me that the early believers did not lack anything, for they pooled their resources and thus had enough.  It reminded me that I need not subscribe to the anxiety of the world, for I would be provided for by God.  The Gospel reading, about Thomas who only believed that Jesus had risen after seeing Him and touching His wounds, taught me about faith all over again.  

Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me?Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” (John 20:29, NAB)

I had to make a decision in faith, even if I could not see what God had in store for me.  I had to trust that His plans were better than the opportunities I was giving up in order to follow His call (for this was not the first offer that I have had to decline).

I felt peace, the same peace that Jesus had given His frightened disciples at the Upper Room, after my decision.  I heard Him speaking to me that I made the right decision in putting all my hopes in Him.  

The tiny part of me that wondered if I was losing my mind for declining such a tempting offer was silenced after my prayer time.  I was given another opportunity to prove how powerful my God is, that even if the world would claim otherwise, He could perform miracles in my life, so I should not make decisions out of fear or anxiety.  He could easily give me the desires of my heart, those which are in accordance to His plan.  

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Luigiboy and Mikolet

After two hours with his friends at TimeZone, Miko had a kiddie party at Max's, with Kuya as the most enthusiastic participant in all the games. Posted by Picasa

The Miko Pout

He's been posing like this ever since I could remember. Posted by Picasa

Birthday Boy with His 2 Grandmas

Lola, Miko and Owa Posted by Picasa

Miko Mosaic

Daddy and Mommy made this mosaic, using over 500 baby pictures of Miguel and all the members of the family from Daddy and Mommy's respective sides. Posted by Picasa

Miko Turns 7! Posted by Picasa

Friday, April 21, 2006

Caylabne Views 6: Class Picture

Lingkod Staff on Holiday (standing, from left): Ate My, Regine, Bheng, Manny, Joseph, and Jobaqs. (Seated, fr. left): Kuya Mon, Vannie, Bangge, and Ella. Posted by Picasa

Caylabne Views 5: Thanks, Kuya Mon!

Our National Director, Bro. Mon Samson, who showed us around Caylabne. Posted by Picasa

Caylabne Views 4: Lingkod Staff with the XNWM

Goofing around (fr. left): Manny, Ate My, Beng, Byong, Vannie, Jopeng and Bangge Posted by Picasa

Caylabne Views 3: Maria Gets a Call

Unfortunately, Ate Sha's call to Maria got intercepted by a Sun Cellular User. [These are photos taken during the Lingkod Staff Outing at Caylabne. Models: Vannie Siloterio and Ruben "Jojo/Jobaqs" Baquiano] Posted by Picasa

Caylabne Views 2: Happy to Be Here

Caylabne Views 2: Here she is, trying to turnover the ad to new model Maricel Soriano [please see View 1 :P] Posted by Picasa

Caylabne Views 1: With God, Anything is Possible

Lingkod Staff Outing at Caylabne, site of the famous Globe commercial Feat. Sharon Cuneta Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

This Easter, Let's Choose Life, not Death.

I must admit that my focus on current national issues last February in this blog exhausted me. I realized afterwards that I did not know how to be distantly cool anymore, or perhaps I never learned to, when fighting for what I believed in. That was probably why I preferred to desist from being an advocate for clients, even for worthwhile causes, although those comprised my idea, when I was growing up, of what a lawyer should do.

Too much of anything is not a good thing. The prince asked Danielle, Drew Barrymore's character from the movie "Ever After", if she ever got tired from having too much passion. My Sikat na Sisters (who used to live in Sikatuna BLISS) said that Danielle reminded them of me as I tended to be passionate about everything I got my little head into.

There was one cause which I took up personally a few years ago, when I was a graduating law student. Considering the news that broke on the night of Easter Vigil, I was brought back to a particular time in my life when everything revolved around the laws of the land for me. These days I prefer to study God's laws and pour my heart, mind, soul and strength into living them out. Somehow there must be a connection between the two in the following topic.

The year was 1999, when the state executed Leo Echegaray, the first person to die under Rep. Act No. 7659, the act that restored the death penalty after it was conditionally removed by the 1987 Constitution. I was supposed to write my Supervised Legal Research paper, together with my law school bosom buddies Karreen and Jig, about an entirely different topic, which I cannot remember anymore, but which was suggested by our adviser as it was quite the rage in the legal circles at that time (unlike the death penalty, that topic must have lost its staying power, for me to forget about it. Or maybe I'm just getting more and more forgetful with age).

After watching the debates which divided the country at that time, however, we could not in all good conscience write about anything else other than a real alternative to capital punishment. Our adviser specifically told us that he could not recommend our paper for an award, as we chose an old and recycled topic, allegedly, despite our insistence that we were coming up with an alternative solution and not merely writing about what had already been said about the death penalty.

In the middle of the semester, therefore, and just a couple of months before our scheduled graduation, we changed topics and concentrated our research and writing skills on an issue we felt passionate about. Of course, the fact that we were law interns being supervised by Atty. Theodore Te, the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) lawyer of Echegaray, gave us access to several documents from FLAG and Amnesty International.

I dropped an elective, Special Topics in Remedial Law under a good professor, Atty. Mario Ongkiko of the Hubert Webb case fame, just to concentrate on our SLR paper. It was not about winning an award but about studying the topic and making a difference, as idealistic law students. We scoured the internet, using dialup connections at a snail's speed, for more materials than what the UP law library provided. We read what the Church had to say, what other countries were doing - which mostly was to abolish their equivalent death penalty laws, how crime victims felt, and how politics played a major part in the presence of capital punishment in a particular country.

We studied constitutional, criminal, and remedial law to offer an alternative to capital punishment, as much as our limited law students' knowledge could muster, and we came up with "life imprisonment without good conduct time allowance and/or with productive labor". I won't discuss our conclusions here, as the paper was published in the Philippine Law Journal, Vol. 73, No. 3, March 1999.

When I passed the bar, I helped FLAG with one death penalty case filed with the Supreme Court. I prayed hard for the victim of the crime for which the accused I was "defending" was convicted, but still I did not believe that the offender's death was the solution, as it only perpetrated the cycle of violence, and in most cases did not even meet the desired closure for crime victims and their families.

Now that Pres. Arroyo, the woman I wrote an emotional open letter to last February following her Proclamation No. 1017, commuted the sentence of over 1,000 convicts, debates would spark once again about this issue that always polarizes any nation that re-examines it. As a pro-abolitionist, I'm very happy with this news. It is politics that played a major role in this exercise of presidential prerogative, most certainly, but as I've said earlier, politicians can't help seeking the public opinion on this matter, and worse, using it to promote their own agenda.

But as a cause, a principle, and an ideal, I can clearly see the Easter message in this matter. My heart goes out to the crime victims who are crying for justice and whose desired solution is death. I am praying for them, to a God who exacts vengeance to defend His people, and in whose hands we are assured of justice, beyond what our eyes could see and our hearts could yearn for.

It is Easter. Christ is Risen. May we choose life in Him, even for our enemies, and trust that He knows best and He will be our Savior, at all times.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Little Wrestlers

My nephews' current byword is wrestling, from watching the World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) on cable. They visit its website ("Tita Ella don't look kasi they will kiss, o!"), play with toy wrestling arenas, practice some moves, wear a WWE henna tattoo, and collect action figures. They received an Easter package from Ninang Lani and Uncle Danny who are based in Sydney, and here they are proudly displaying their newest John Cena t-shirts.

I have a desire to teach someone the songs from Annie, Aladdin, and Mulan, among others. I have goddaughters, but still I pray for a niece to play dress-up with!

But Miko and Luigi are adorable. Miko's Easter gift to me is a drawing he made of Legolas. Luigi promised to do Aragorn for me. They all make for a happier Easter for Tita Ella. Posted by Picasa

Now Playing: In My Heart

I was going through my files last night when a copy of the lyrics of this song fell into my lap. I read it and remembered that this song was written by Fr. Manoling while reflecting about how Mary Magdalene must have felt after seeing the Risen Christ. When I attended the Ligaya Easter Vigil last night, two sisters sang this beautifully. I thus claimed it to be one of my Easter songs.

In My Heart
By Fr. Manoling Francisco, SJ
Performed by Bukas Palad Music Ministry

In my heart I know my Savior lives
I can hear Him calling tenderly my name
Over sin and death He has prevailed
In His glory, in His new life we partake

I know He lives as He has promised
For me He's risen that from fear I may be free
Not even death can separate me
From Him whose love and might remain in me (REFRAIN)

For I have seen and touched Him risen
To all the world will I proclaim His majesty
With joy I sing to tell His story
That in our hearts may live His memory (REFRAIN)

And all the earth shall bow before Him
His blessed name all will adore on bended knee
His truth shall reign, so shall His justice
In Christ, my Savior, let all glory be (REFRAIN)


In my heart I know my Savior lives
In His glory, in His new life we partake

The tomb is empty! Christ is risen! No longer are we enslaved by sin, or frightened by death – for He conquered both in order to bring us to a new life. I long to see my Lord face to face in Heaven, and so I am thankful for the joy of Easter, after the silence of Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and most of Holy Saturday, because the outburst of Hallelujahs last night, above the ringing of the bells we brought and the clanging of our tambourines, gave me a foretaste of what heavenly worship is about. We Christians have much to celebrate, for by Jesus’ rising from the dead, He fulfilled the greatest promise that has ever been made, and we have seen a victorious Christ!

Happy Easter to everyone! May the joy of the Resurrection resonate in our lives and bring us hope forevermore.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Good Friday Reflections

Prior to the Celebration of the Lord's Passion this Good Friday afternoon, the Ligaya ng Panginoon community had a recollection. I was there because Lingkod and CYA usually joined them, as partners-in-mission, every Easter Triduum. Together we pondered and meditated on Jesus' seven last words, which was presented in different media, all aimed at leading us into deeper reflection on the Lord's passion.

It seemed to me that I was seated on the middle seat of the theater, and I was standing directly under the Cross. I thus came face to face with Christ, and while listening to His words, they echoed in my heart. I did not know what to say. Really, I did not. I could not find the words. I felt my words could diminish the meaning of His act of love. I did not know what to think. There was so much I did not know, and so much I could not understand - His suffering, His love, and all for my salvation? Who was I to deserve it? I rested from thinking and just dwelled in His presence, letting His Spirit in me bring my prayers to Him, with sighs too deep for words.

I did not know how to act. I was thankful that there was a stage, and that I was a spectator. Yet a response was called for. My heart was moved. My mind was challenged. My soul was stirred. I sang when we were asked to sing. I wrote down questions - those that led me to ask "My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?" I jotted down concrete ways in answering Jesus' thirst - through helping the least of my brothers and sisters. I prayed for those who had not yet turned to the Lord, who went on with life ignoring His love, and asked how I could be an instrument to bring them closer to that love. I listened to a sharing of a man whose past life was so worldly his wife almost gave up on him, and how the thought of losing his son brought him back to his senses, and led to his conversion. I prayed for more stories like that, of families reunited and lives transformed. For poverty, I had seen and known, was not only manifested in physical hunger. Even those who were rich in material possessions suffered of poverty of love, of joy, and of peace, in their homes. And their suffering was no less painful.

Fr. Vic Salanga, SJ, in his homily on the Lord's passion, said that with the benefit of time, a revisit of the message of the film "The Passion of the Christ" was possible. He said that one major criticism of that movie was its over-fascination with the sufferings of Christ - through the instruments of torture, the gushing of blood, and other graphic depictions of pain. He said that Christ did suffer much, but he suffered out of love. If we would listen to the gospel today, taken from John 18:1—19:42, and compared how it was depicted on film, we would see a difference in treatment. Fr. Vic said that a movie should be made with emphasis on Christ's passion in loving.

For the Easter Triduum I was assigned by my confessor to read and study Paul's Letter to the Romans. I guess that was where it started, the feeling that I knew so little, and could respond with so little. Yet as I carefully went through the chapters, I heard Jesus asking simply what I could understand, and what response I could give. He did not expect a scholarly approach to my study, in fact, Paul's letter was about salvation not through the law but through faith in Jesus Christ.

I heard many people saying they did not want anything to do with Christ's suffering, as it was all in the past anyway, He had already risen, and they could no longer identify with it anymore, given the way their lives were going. In fact, they most likely chose not to be identified with His suffering. I prayed for them tonight, that they might eventually come into a personal relationship with Christ, as someone who could save them - from sin and death - and who expressed His great love on the Cross.

Like all humans, I simply do not want to suffer. As much as possible, I try to avoid any form of pain and suffering, as if there was any other way to be transformed! A timely reminder came through my penance. Of all the sixteen (16) chapters of Romans, I was struck by Romans 5:3-5 (NAB), which says:

"Not only that, but we even boast of our afflictions, knowing that affliction produces endurance, and endurance, proven character, and proven character, hope, and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the holy Spirit that has been given to us."

Only through Christ could I say after reading the passage above that it is possible to rejoice in my suffering. There is redemptive value, if I join it with Christ's, and I see to what end I suffer. The realization also was that after laying down my suffering at His feet, the burden was eased, although the causes still existed.

I do not know what to think, say, or do apart from what Christ has revealed to me, done for me and, inspired me to do. As I kissed Jesus' feet during the Veneration of the Cross earlier today, I became aware of deep love, flowing from His heart, to mine. And for that moment, nothing else mattered.

I sometimes want to accomplish too much, but thank God for this moment to pause and reflect, to be reminded that I cannot give what I do not have. The Jesus I can share to others is only as real as the Jesus in my heart.

The First Question

"Mah nish-tah-na hah-laila-ha-zeh me-kol hah leilot?
(Why is this night different from all other nights?)"

I first encountered this question, when I read it from the subtitle of the movie “The Passion of the Christ” (no need to insert link here; I presume all of you have either watched or heard about this moving film by Mel Gibson). It was from the scene when Mama Mary and Mary Magdalene sensed that the Lord Jesus was already betrayed by Judas and was handed over to be captured by the soldiers.

I read afterwards that it was suggested to be added by the Jewish actress who played Mama Mary, and it was part of the Four Questions which were asked by the youngest child present at the beginning of the Seder ceremony, during the Feast of the Passover celebrated by the Jews every year. This triggers the response, the Haggadah, which is the retelling of the story of the exodus from Egypt. The Hebrew word “pesach” means "skipping over”, which was how the Israelites were spared by God on the night He struck the land of Egypt, as told in Exodus 12:1-8, 11-14, which is also the First Reading for tonight, during the Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper.

I had the opportunity to attend a Christian home celebration of a Seder meal last year, on Holy Thursday, prior to the evening mass. To explain how and why this became a Christian tradition, I researched and got this from

Celebrating Our Heritage

In the Christian tradition the Passover Seder is also believed to be when Jesus instituted the Eucharist. Gathered around the supper table with his disciples, Jesus told them, "I have longed to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; because, I tell you, I shall not eat it again until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.

Then, taking a cup, he gave thanks and said, 'Take this and share it among you, because from now on, I tell you, I shall not drink wine until the kingdom of God comes'.

Then he took some bread, and when he had given thanks, broke it and gave it to them, saying, 'This is my body which will be given for you; do this as a memorial of me'. He did the same with the cup after supper, and said, 'This cup is the new covenant in my blood which will be poured out for you.'" (Luke 22:15-20)

This Christian observance of this ritual meal celebrates not only our tradition of Christ's last supper but our own Jewish heritage which provided the context for Jesus' institution at the last supper.

The Seder meal was a very memorable experience for me. We ate haroset, marror, and matzah. The table was set beautifully. We read the words of the celebration and I was immediately struck by the familiar first question, “Why is this night different from all other nights?"

I remember vividly where my heart was last year when I heard that question. I was at the tail-end of my discernment. I had left everything just to follow the Lord. At that point, however, it was not clear where I was going, just that I was called. The service that I was asked to consider turned out to be meant for someone far more suited to do it, and I thought I was ok with that as it merely confirmed what I felt in the first place. Yet, as I tasted the bitter herbs, my tears couldn’t stop streaming down my cheeks. The night felt different for me as well, as I had offered my life as a sacrifice yet I did not know where I was going. I was scared and anxious.

I had left my job. I had left my profession. I had also “left” my family by challenging our upbringing because I turned my back on my education (albeit temporarily), and caused my parents anxiety about what future there could be for a voluntary missionary or staff worker of Lingkod. I had left my friends, those with whom it became increasingly difficult to journey through life with, as I continued down one path and they chose another. I had left my dreams, hopes, and plans.

Thus I cried throughout that Seder meal, because I felt close to God and I knew He could hear my sufferings. Surely my suffering was nothing compared to His agony that night, but I shared an intimate moment with Him during the meal, and remembered His goodness. Oh, how difficult it was to focus on His promise, on His grace and mercy, when my heart was bleeding with all the emotions that were burdening me at that time.

Earlier tonight as I knelt before the Eucharist, I thanked God for seeing me through, from that point to this point. I am now living out the consequences of that decision. I have come to accept my cross and even embrace it. I am no longer in the dark about my calling. Just to hear His voice, as a sister put it, is sheer joy. To belong to this Someone is the greatest realization of my life.

As I went home, I realized how, every Holy Thursday for the past few years, the Lord had been speaking to me clearly. In 2001, I prayed about my family and began a journey of healing that continues up to now. And then through visions and words in 2002, God revealed to me that He was calling me to serve His people in Lingkod QC as Branch Women’s Moderator. I did not understand Him at that time, because that was not the desire of my heart. I wanted to live out my dreams, not to serve for two years. Honestly, that was how I felt so I resisted His teaching me to wash the feet of those whom I served. In 2003, I felt my own words as Peter refused to let Jesus wash his feet, and then over-eagerly asking that his head and hands be washed as well. Peter was so passionate and foolish at the same time, just like me!

This was taken from the Gospel tonight (John 13:2b-10, NAB):

“So, during supper, fully aware that the Father had put everything into his power and that he had come from God and was returning to God, he rose from supper and took off his outer garments.

He took a towel and tied it around his waist.Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and dry them with the towel around his waist.

He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Master, are you going to wash my feet?”Jesus answered and said to him,“What I am doing, you do not understand now,but you will understand later.”

Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.”Jesus answered him, “Unless I wash you, you will have no inheritance with me.”Simon Peter said to him, “Master, then not only my feet, but my hands and head as well.”

Jesus said to him, "Whoever has bathed has no need except to have his feet washed, for he is clean all over; so you are clean, but not all."

I have learned that even though I hear something repeatedly, like the Scripture readings at mass, it could take on a much deeper meaning if I personalize them, situate them to my context at the time I hear them again, and ask the Spirit to reveal to me the message that He wants me to get from it. Jesus speaks in a voice loud and clear.

This time around I was no longer burdened by last year’s worries, but I was faced by new challenges and needed to tell the Lord what was in my heart. I was led to make an offering of my life once more, no matter how little I could offer, and how broken, weak, and sinful I was. I offered my heart to Jesus, and asked that He take my life in His hands, and those dreams and hopes that I had not yet fully surrendered to Him, I gave to Him tonight.

There was freedom, joy, and hope after making that offering in prayer. With such love coming from Jesus, I believed I would gain so much more than what I had given up. God loves me, and I am His. What more indeed could I ask for?

Tomorrow, the love story continues and I would attend a Good Friday recollection for the first time. This makes for a more beautiful Easter in my heart. This is why I trust God, because He has made Himself known not just to me but to my ancestors, and His love is unchanging through all generations. Tonight is different from all other nights. I would drink from the cup of hope and freedom.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

To Love Like God is to be Vulnerable

I attended mass at 6:30 in the morning on Passion Sunday. Given my sleeping habits, one could easily tell that there must have been a special occasion for me to be all showered and made up to hear the chirping of the earliest birds.

I heard Mass with Lingkod QC at the Sacred Heart Novitiate, together with the Jesuit community and other retreatants/ participants who were at the venue for the weekend. The priest focused his homily on the love that God had for us, enough to suffer for us, because he chose to be vulnerable. He chose to love us even though we ignored, mocked and disobeyed him. He chose to save us from our sins so that we could live a fuller life. Love could be the only reason why He chose to be nailed on a cross, and so now we could say that He knows our pain and our misery, for He once walked among us.

That was also the essence of my individual consultation last night with Sr. Perry. I shared with her some difficulties I’ve had in loving when people didn’t love me back the way that I thought they would, which had caused me to hold back on my love for them, and she said that Someone knew exactly how I felt. In Isaiah 43:1-7, I would hear God telling me that He would walk with me. She said, “Sabihin mo sa Panginoon na nasaktan ka dahil sa sobrang pagmamahal. At pakinggan mo ang sagot niya: Ako rin.

Yet the Lord continued to love. So when we were asked at the conclusion of our retreat to come up with a symbol or a phrase to remind us of what we learned from this weekend, when we were Called to be Bearers of Love, I meditated on my favorite bench under my favorite tree, and realized that I would take this with me: “To love like God is to be vulnerable.

The psalm was sung by a Jesuit scholastic. It became my meditation prayer during my individual time of reflection this morning after the mass:

Psalm 116 (RSV)

1: I love the LORD, because he has heard my voice and my supplications. 2: Because he inclined his ear to me, therefore I will call on him as long as I live.

3: The snares of death encompassed me; the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me; I suffered distress and anguish. 4: Then I called on the name of the LORD: "O LORD, I beseech thee, save my life!" 5: Gracious is the LORD, and righteous; our God is merciful. 6: The LORD preserves the simple; when I was brought low, he saved me. 7: Return, O my soul, to your rest; for the LORD has dealt bountifully with you. 8: For thou hast delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling;

9: I walk before the LORD in the land of the living.

10: I kept my faith, even when I said, "I am greatly afflicted"; 11: I said in my consternation, "Men are all a vain hope." 12: What shall I render to the LORD for all his bounty to me?

13: I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD, 14: I will pay my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people.

15: Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints. 16: O LORD, I am thy servant; I am thy servant, the son of thy handmaid. Thou hast loosed my bonds. 17: I will offer to thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of the LORD. 18: I will pay my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people, 19: in the courts of the house of the LORD, in your midst, O Jerusalem. Praise the LORD!

Verses 10-12 became my call. So what if I had been hurt, it shouldn’t stop me from keeping my faith. I was still called, like Jesus, to pay my vows to the LORD for all his bounty to me, in the presence of all his people.

We were asked to bring coffee mugs to the retreat, and it was used as a symbol for our hearts. At the beginning of the retreat, we emptied it of everything that hindered us from loving God. Towards the end, we were asked to write short notes to our brothers and sisters, as many as we wanted, and to put them inside their mugs. Then, we were given 30 minutes just to drink in the little notes full of love.

Our cups overflowed. I thanked God for this community. Last night, we had Holy Hour before the Blessed Sacrament. During our prayer service, we sang praises to God and offered our prayers. I felt Jesus’ presence and did not want to be anywhere else in the world than to be there, with Him, and to be with people who loved Him in the same way that I did.

This morning we had a short time of worship again to offer our day to the Lord. I sang and danced to “Our Hearts Will Rise” and “Song of Patrick” and again had that joyful feeling of not wanting to be anywhere else than to be in that prayer room with those people I had been walking this journey of faith with for six years now.

After going over the notes inside my cup, I walked around in the sprawling gardens of the SHN and saw pictures of love among my brothers and sisters. I saw a sister pushing the swing for another sister. I saw a brother laughing with another brother over something I could not hear, but the image made me smile. I also saw a brother and a sister walking the tree-lined road, talking and smiling, back towards the dining area. I smiled. I had been hurt in this community, yet it taught me to love people who were difficult to love. I had also hurt a lot of them, and yet they continued to love me despite my weaknesses. There was tenderness in my heart, for there it was, a concrete manifestation of how being vulnerable in love bore lasting and genuine fruit.

Agape love, that is the goal, and so I prayed for the grace to be selfless in my loving. It was easy to do in the atmosphere of retreat. The real world was another question. Leah and I discussed the feeling that the apostles expressed during Jesus’ Transfiguration, for just like them, neither of us wanted to go down from that mountaintop experience where there was so much love, order, and peace.

We were on a silent retreat but something broke my silence. When I entered the chapel this morning, I saw TV cameras being manned by Caucasians. The camera in front of me was focused on a man, wearing glasses, who was probably the star of the show. Seated to his right was Mhel Reyes, then Jay, Marlon, and Luis. Yes, I witnessed the launching of the British career of some QT’s. The girl in front of me left a bunch of papers on her seat, and I happened to read what was written : Ginger Productions presents “Crucify Me”. I saw other QT’s behind the lady’s camera as well and wondered if we would ever get to see that show featuring QT’s in various pious positions.

After the mass, I approached the new stars and I told them what I witnessed. It turned out that they were aware of the camera focused on them, and Marlon did try to look his best while singing the “Ama Namin”. It was in Tagalog so the camerawoman shifted focus to Marlon, as the British man obviously could not sing along with the congregation. When we reached the dining hall, we were all laughing about the experience, and then we were reminded that we were still on retreat.

It was not as silent as the Lenten retreat we had last year, but it was as fruitful. It was just what we needed to hear as individuals and as a community.

This Holy Week, Fr. Mon, SJ said in his homily that we shouldn’t mourn, but we should be glad and thankful, for the Lord’s passion is all about His great love for us. It is the greatest love story ever told.

11 "I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete.
12 This is my commandment: love one another as I love you.
13 No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends.
14 You are my friends if you do what I command you.
15 I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father.
16 It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you.
17 This I command you: love one another.
-- John 15:11-17 NAB

Ok, Lord. I will try to lay down my life once more for those whom I love. I have never been good at this, so please help me. I desire to love like You do.

Never Alone

This was shared to us during our Lenten retreat by Sr. Perry, rc.  I’ve tried to look for its author but couldn’t find it on the Internet.  I was deeply struck by this, especially the title.  It speaks to me of how much God loves me.

Never Alone
[Author Unknown to me]
Based on Psalm 139  

Lord, you see right through me,
     and know me utterly.
You understand what I’m thinking,
     long before I understand myself.
You are with me on the crowded street;
     beside me when I go alone to bed.
Everything I do, you recognize;
     my tongue never wags without you hearing.
I find you in my yesterdays and tomorrows,
     your love firmly around me.
All this is too much for me;
     it is beyond my understanding.

Where could I evade you?
     where could I escape from your presence?
If I live high with the jet set, you are there.
     If I make my bed on a park bench, you are there.
If I could take off at the speed of light
     and travel the freeways of outer space,
Even there your hand would touch me,
     your right hand would hold me.
If I fear something awful will happen,
     like being swallowed by darkness,
My darkness will begin to shine like the day;
     for with you darkness becomes light.

How precious are your plans for me, Lord;
     they add up to a fantastic number.
If I tried to count them
     they would outnumber the sand.
Whenever I wake up to what’s happening
     I find I’m still with you!
Lord, take a hard look at me;
     untangle my untidy motives.
Sort me out with your relentless mercy;
     weigh up all my ideas.
Tear away what is unloving in me,
     and lead me to your never-ending future.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

The Condition

I wrote this on October 9, 2003. Never got published, never got sent anywhere except to my friends. Real writers get to see their work in print. I'm just glad there's push-button publishing now. I'm too scared to pursue this dream of writing. Another Palanca deadline is fast approaching... Oh well, maybe before I die.

Guide question: What was the real condition that was behind the story?

The Condition
by Laura C.H. del Rosario

Puff, the magic dragon, living by the sea…”

As Arthur sipped his coffee, he had to endure once again his secretary’s taste in music. Quite advanced in age but still as efficient as she was when she first worked for Arthur’s father, Emily deserved her little pleasures in life, Arthur thought. At least she was not listening to the AM news this time, as the crackling and breaking sound of her favorite station sometimes caused him migraines.

He looked outside his office window along Ayala Ave. Protesters have lined the streets again and some cooperative buildings have been showering the business district with colorful confetti. He was not really aware what the demonstrations were for this time. The scene, however, reminded him of his early days as a student activist in the state university. Back then he never would have imagined he would become the youngest Senior Associate in one of the country’s top law firms. For three years in college, he preferred to get his education from the streets. Then his father died, leaving them in mountains of debt, and Arthur had to forego his principles and join the corporate world right after college.

His mother, a housewife up until her husband passed away, did not want Arthur to give up the family dream of him inheriting his father’s law practice. To please his mother and the late memory of his father, he struggled for five years as a working law student. Then he worked hard to support his only brother’s education. Arnold thus grew up idolizing Arthur and consulted him for his every decision.

A buzz from Emily snapped Arthur out of his reverie. “A visitor for you, APS. It’s Arnold.”

Speaking of the…Arthur thought, but before he could finish his sentence, the door to his office burst open and in tumbled Arnold, with two huge black bags strapped across his shoulders, arms outstretched and waiting for a big hug and shouting in a voice the whole office could hear, “Kuyaaaa!!!”

Although younger by eight years, Arnold towered over his brother. He did not have the firm muscles that Arthur achieved after years of discipline in the gym. Arnold loved food as much as he loved life, and it showed. If not for their strikingly similar handsome faces, no one would have guessed that the two men were even remotely related.

Arthur returned the hug but closed the door firmly to the curious glances from the secretaries of the other associate lawyers. They must be enjoying this rare display of affection, he said wryly to himself.

“O, how was Boracay?” Arthur asked. As a graduation present, he had arranged for a vacation for Arnold and his friends in a resort owned by one of his clients.

“Fantastic, Kuya!” came Arnold’s reply as he disentangled himself from his bags and helped himself to the nuts on Arthur’s coffee table. “We tried spear-fishing and I was addicted. Imagine I was able to wake upearly for five days after serious partying every night.”

“I’m glad you enjoyed your trip. You must be exhausted. How come you went straight to my office from the airport?” Arthur asked as he noticed how bright his brother’s Hawaiian polo and shorts looked against the dark wood paneling of his office. “Did you run out of money?”

“Kuya, hello! What do you think I am? Thinking of you? Change me. Ibahin mo ako!” Arnold laughed at the linear thinking of his brother. Boy, is he in for a surprise. “Dat’s not why I’m here. And I’m not telling you until you treat me to lunch. My only meal today has been junk
food given by the airline. I want sustenance! Outback tayo?” He asked hopefully, knowing that his Kuya could not say no to him.

Over at the restaurant from Down Under, Arthur could not wait for Arnold to say what he was supposed to say, but Arnold was taking his sweet time and was attacking his steak with gusto. “Arnold,” Arthur began, “I have a meeting in an hour. I would love to stay and listen to your stories but Ihave to—“

Before Arthur could finish his sentence, Arnold raised his right hand to signal he was going to say something, swallowed what he was chewing, gulped his iced tea, and said, “Ok, ok, I don’t want to kill you with the suspense. Gosh, bro, cut back on the caffeine, you might suffer a heart attack just like Daddy. Patience is a virtue, remember?”

“It is a virtue that I did not inherit. Now, will you tell me what’s up with you or shall I wait patiently for it later when I get home?” Arthur very rarely lost his temper on Arnold but he really had an important meeting that could not wait.

“Here’s the thing, Kuya. You’ve been to Boracay, right? Wait, don’t answer, I know you’re familiar with that beautiful island as your clients run a huge chunk of it. We-ell, then you must know of the breath-taking sunsets there, the kind that splashes across the sky with bursts of yellow and orange and reflects on the water like Swarovski crystals on a bridal gown…”

Arthur nodded his head with a puzzled expression on his face as, being a lawyer, he tried to figure out where his brother was taking this conversation.

“You know of the beauty of the Boracay nighttime sky, with the stars glittering and the laughter…”

“Arnold, you could write about the beauty of Boracay and I would be proud to endorse it to some publisher. But please can I go back to the office now?”

“What I’m trying to say is, Kuya, that spending a week in paradise with my friends, especially Nica, has reminded me of the important things in life. One night as I held hands with Nica on the fine white sandy shore of the beach, I could not help but be aware of how much I loved her and I told her so. She then gave me the most glowing smile I have ever seen and my heart stopped, Kuya. My heart took over my mind and before I knew it, I was asking her to marry me.”

“Without a ring???” Of the thousand and one thoughts that ran simultaneously through his head, that was the first thing that Arthur could blurt out.

“Well, what matters is that she said Yes! We’re getting married, Kuya! I promised to buy her a beautiful ring and to ask her parents for her hand in marriage, formally, when we get back to Manila. Oh, I’m so happy!!!”

“Arnold, Arnold, what are you telling me? You HAVE gone out of your mind. You are barely out of college and you promised me that you would consider going to law school. You’ve only known Nica, what, a few years—“

“Fourteen years, Kuya. Monica and I were childhood sweethearts.”

“What would Mama say?”

“I already called her in the US and she said she would send me money for the wedding and even look for sponsors from our relatives there to help me out. She’s being wonderful about this.”

“But you are too young! Marriage is not just about holding hands before glorious sunsets. It’s about commitment, about responsibility, which you could only prepare for by years of experience. It’s also a huge financial obligation that you have to save up for!”

“Is that why you’ve made Marianne wait all these years? You are still gaining experience and saving up?”

“Now don’t involve my life in this. This is about you and your mindless decision-making.”

Still smiling but obviously bent on making his point, Arnold looked his brother in the eye and said, “I have made up my mind and will patiently wait until you could accept my decision. Of all my job offers, I’ve decided to accept the bank management trainee position. I called them from Boracay to tell them that I will report for work on Monday. Take your time digesting this, Kuya. Nica is right now planning the details of our wedding and I believe Marianne has offered to help her with all the contacts she has made all these years in the weddings she has attended. You are the last to know because I believed you would not take this sitting down. You did not leave your seat while listening to me but you sure made known your strong objections. O, go to your meeting na. And thanks!”

Arthur realized he ran out of words. Things were moving and he was not consulted. He was simply being informed. His mother supported this! And Marianne? How come she did not mention anything the night before when they had dinner? He wanted to explode but knew he did not have the luxury to consider these things as Emily already texted him to remind him of the legal staff meeting.

He was distracted the whole afternoon. He texted Marianne “Why didn’t you tell me about Arnold and Nica???” but she did not respond.

He felt like the world had gone insane. Arnold was being reckless and the usually wise and sane women surrounding them were foolishly fanning the flames of his recklessness. He could not wait for the meeting to end so he could go to the gym and vent all his frustrations by lifting real weights.

Marianne arrived late for dinner; good thing Arthur did not have much of an appetite. The waiter must have passed by seven times before Marianne showed up. She told Arthur that she accompanied Nica to her couturier-best friend and they lost track of time while designing the gowns for the whole entourage.

“Oh, honey, Nica would make a lovely little bride!”

“Her parents don’t even know about it yet and you went shopping for gowns?” Arthur said, not bothering to hide his irritation.

“As a matter of fact, they do already. We’ll just have to schedule a pamanhikan, whenever you are available, to formalize everything. And we haven’t bought anything yet, we just brainstormed for possibilities. I am one of the bridesmaids!”

“This must be the fifth time that you would be a bridesmaid and you’re still excited about it?”

Marianne’s good humor dissipated at this last comment from Arthur. She expected to hear him rant about this but he was testier than she thought he would be.

“All right, Arturo, spill it. Which part of this whole grand plan don’t you approve of, exactly?”

“Why do I have to spell it out? Am I the only who has some sense left here? Does Arnold have a job?”

“He starts Monday.” Marianne supplied the answer Arthur predicted she would give.

“Does this lovely couple have any idea how much a wedding costs these days? Where does the groom expect to get the money to buy a diamond engagement ring? Where do they expect to live? Marianne, I’m surprised at you! The mere thought of what Arnold got himself into this time infuriates me.”

“You speak of Arnold as if he has not been the ideal student, son, brother and boyfriend he truly is. He graduated on top of his class so you would be proud of him. One day he grew up and you’re mad that he didn’t ask for your permission first?”

“Tell me why I should be happy about any of these.” Arthur lowered his voice as he massaged his aching temples.

“Honey, the kids are in love. What greater reason is there to get married? Nica is not pregnant, and if the possibility that she is ever crossed your mind, then you don’t know your brother at all. They are young and healthy; they could easily reach their dreams together if that’s what they want….”

“You said it, Ms. Witness. I nailed you right there. They… are… just…kids!” Arthur could feel his blood pressure shooting up. He downed a glass of water and took several deep breaths.

“Ang puso mo.” Marianne said, aware of the folly of pushing this conversation any further. But she had to.

“Arthur, nobody wants to go through with this without your blessing. But if you will be stubborn until the end, then we will be forced to arrange things without your knowledge. They only want a simple wedding. Oh, you should see them together now. They seem to be floating and not touching ground,” Marianne said with a dreamy, look, as if reminded of romantic moments from long ago.

“That’s because they are on Cloud Nine. I just know that when those feet land on solid ground, they would realize how right I am about this.”

“You haven’t given it much thought yet, hon.” Marianne touched Arthur’s hand that was resting on the table, hoping her suggestions would pass through the walls of reasoning he had built around him.

“I have given marriage much thought, honey.” Marianne’s lowered head shot up at this statement. She looked at Arthur’s eyes to confirm if what she thought he meant was correct. He just stared back at her.

“Then I suggest you allow your heart to speak to you this time. Love defies logic, that’s a rule. What the heart is capable of desiring, the mind is not always capable of accepting. Think about it tonight and tomorrow morning, I hope you would give us all the good news of your approval.”

Marianne brought her car so Arthur drove home alone. All this talk about love defying logic had him puzzled, coming from Marianne who had always seemed to him to be a reasonable woman. While they were in law school, he told her he could not make a commitment yet as he had to juggle work and studies at the same time. After graduation, several of their friends decided to tie the knot but Marianne agreed with him that they both needed to establish their careers first before venturing into greater responsibilities.

She had always supported his decisions. Born to a well-to-do family, Marianne is now handling their businesses full time, making full use of her business and law background. This woman of wisdom is now the number one champion of his brother, the Boracay beach lover. His headache was getting worse.

The relentless ringing of the telephone woke him up at 3:00 a.m. It was his mother, calling from overseas.

“Hijo, Arnold told me that you had lunch today. My baby is getting married!” Arthur wasn’t sure if she was crying or laughing. He sometimes could not tell from the sound of her voice.

Shaking all grogginess from his head, he replied, “Ma, he said you promised to send him the money for the wedding. That’s the beginning of a commitment from you to send him money for everything. Soon you’d be sending him money for appliances, for doctors’ fees, for diapers…”

“Oh my dear sensible child, you’re always thinking ahead. This time, though, I agree with you, BUT I look forward to having a son who needs to buy diapers, because that means I would have grandchildren before I die!”

Arthur was reminded again where Arnold got his flair for the dramatics. His mother had been badgering him into giving him “apos” ever since he passed the bar. She had previously bordered on the hysterical after Arthur’s younger cousin in the States gave birth to twins.

“You’ve always wanted me to go home, anak. Well one permanent reason for me to stay in the Philippines would be to take care of my grandchildren.”

“Ma, Ma, you are getting sidetracked when the main issue here is whether or not Arnold is ready for the responsibilities of marriage. In my well-considered opinion, he is not.”

“We are not in court so spare me your lawyer’s language. You’re sounding like your father again, bless his soul. I want you, my children to be happy. If Arnie wants to get married then let him do so. Nica is such a sweet child, I’m sure they would be happy together.”

“Dad knew he loved you for like a decade before he asked you to marry him. And you both came from a generation and a province where the marrying age was 16! Dad always said that a father should be a good provider…”

“You forget that he mortgaged our house and accepted too many pro bono cases in his lifetime that he left us with nothing in the end. I loved your father but maybe you are taking his lectures on responsibility the wrong way. He was a man whose heart was bigger than his pockets too, my son.”

“Then that’s all the more reason why I take my responsibilities more seriously and consistently!”

“And meanwhile Marianne’s body clock is ticking…”

“Here we go again. How many times have I told you that Marianne and I have an understanding about this…”

“Oh? When was the last time you seriously checked how she’s been doing? I phoned her a few weeks ago only to find out that she had been to the doctor. Her OB-GYN says that if she does not have a baby soon, she might not be able to bear children at all. It’s a complicated condition that I don’t expect you’d bother to attempt to understand.”

“Mama, I’m sure Marianne would have mentioned something to that effect to me.”

“Are you saying I’m lying? You take after your father, with your double meanings!” Now she seemed to be truly crying and Arthur felt worse than he did the whole day combined.

“Ma, please don’t cry. I’m sorry. I promise to talk to Marianne first thing tomorrow morning about this. Now I need to get some sleep as I have a hearing.”

“Ok go to sleep then. You tell Marianne to call me. And send Arnie my love.” She was sniffling as she put down the phone. Arthur wondered why he was the bad guy in all his recent conversations. He had trouble sleeping afterwards.

The judge was late and Arthur’s boss decided to make small talk while waiting for their case to be called. “Was that your younger brother who came to visit you yesterday? The secretaries said he looked just like your father.”

“Yes, DRC. I’m sorry I wasn’t able to introduce you. We were kind of in a rush. He had some news to tell me.”

“What news?” DRC, or Darwin R. Collado, asked conversationally. Lawyers were addressed by their initials in their firm.

“He said he proposed to his girlfriend after watching the sunset in Boracay,” Arthur replied in a tone of surrender. Contrary to Marianne’s prediction, sleep did not improve his attitude towards the impending wedding. Oh boy, have to call up Marianne…

“UUNAHAN KA PA?” DRC’s voice boomed and all the other lawyers waiting for the judge turned their heads to Arthur. DRC laughed but Arthur was stunned. What did his boss say? What was he pointing out?

“Well, not if I could help it, sir.”

“Ah, you mean you and Marianne are getting married first?” DRC was on a roll. The fact that he was Arthur’s supervising partner prevented him from punching his jolly face right then and there. Where was that confounded judge?

“No, sir, what I meant was I do not approve of the wedding. They are too young…”
Before Arthur could launch his marriage-is-a-huge-responsibility speech, he heard the bailiff say, “All rise.” The judge had arrived.

On their way back to the office, DRC let his driver go and rode with Arthur, obviously to have the last say in their conversation.

“Your brother looked pretty young to me indeed. You, on the other hand, are not getting any younger. What are you waiting for? You think Marianne has the patience of Job?" Arthur didn't like where this was leading but had no energy to say anything. "I want you to strive hard to be partner, but as a family man let me tell you that there is nothing more rewarding than having a warm kitchen to go home to after a full day’s work. There is nothing like the sound of your children greeting you as you open the door, clamoring for their pasalubong, to wipe away all tiredness. Go get married, son, and do it as soon as you can!”

DRC indeed had the last say in that conversation. Arthur was rendered speechless for the second straight day. He who had the highest scores in moot court could not summon a single word to express how he felt.

How did he feel? He wasn’t sure anymore. These past couple of days his priorities have been questioned. His lovedones were causing him emotional upheavals which he had always resisted, for he had always won every argument with them. Why were they ganging up on him now? He locked himself in his office that afternoon and did some soul-searching while staring outside his window.

After several hours, he saw the sun set on Makati. His mind made up, he apologized to Marianne through text and asked her to dinner again to make up for last night’s disaster. She replied that she was in a bridal fair with Nica and asked him to meet her there. Tired of losing his arguments, Arthur relented.

He found Marianne standing beside a display of a strapless bridal gown dotted with Swarovski crystals. She did not see him as she was concentrating on comparing two invitations she was holding. Her eyeglasses were perched on top of her nose and her hair needed combing.
But to him, she looked perfect, as gracious, generous and gregarious as she has always been.

He approached her quietly and continued staring at her until she acknowledged his presence. “How come, without looking up, you can always tell when I’m staring at you?” he asked her, probably influenced by the music from the strings quartet hired by the bridal fair.

“It’s because my heart can feel what my eyes do not see.” She replied with a smile, fixing her glasses and running her fingers through her hair self-consciously.

It was her standard reply to this question which he began asking her way back in law school, when he would waste precious study time just staring at her while she neatly classified her reviewers and labeled them with her multicolored pens.

“Where’s Nica?” He asked to break the silence.

“Her mother came to pick her up. She says hi and she’s hoping that you’re feeling better.”

“Actually, I’m feeling a bit better. What’s that you’re holding?”

“She couldn’t decide between these two invitation layouts and left it up to me.”

Putting his right hand on her shoulder, he guided her out of the bridal fair. “Let’s get you out of here before you have too many ideas of your own,” he said with a teasing smile that somehow did not merit an immediate retort from his girlfriend.

As they walked to their favorite restaurant, Arthur felt the cool November breeze. He looked up and saw the full moon, nature’s excuse for doing foolish things. He asked Marianne a question.

“If I give a conditional blessing to this wedding, would it be fair enough for everyone involved? I promise not to give all of you a hard time anymore, if my condition is met.”

“Atty. Salve, is this an attempt at a compromise? I cannot commit yet because I have to consult my clients first. You might impose an impossible condition...”

“It IS a very possible condition, I assure you, Atty. Cosco. It is one thing I am sure you would encourage your clients to accept as you have a personal stake in it, too.”

“I try to separate my personal life from my professional life, Atty. Salve." Marianne said, and then she stopped walking. "Arthur, I’m not good at surprises. What are you driving at?” Marianne asked but she was smiling, despite herself. She had no idea why but Arthur’s mood was infectious. She just knew that the man she loved with all her heart was up to something good.

“You see, I’ve given this some thought, but with wheels turning all around me I had very little time to go through my usual thinking processes. I followed your advice and listened to what my heart was telling me. Deep inside I want my brother to be happy, I want my mother to have grandkids, I want to support your career as a bridesmaid, BUT,” he added, knowing
Marianne wanted to interrupt him already, “I cannot just consent to this marriage absolutely. My stand is still that Arnold needs to work for at least a year and have decent savings of his own. More importantly, and this is THE condition that I know would be popularly accepted by everyone involved, I cannot allow my YOUNGER brother to get married ahead of me.”

The night air was stilled by this declaration.

“Arthur,” Marianne began, but Arthur interrupted him. “My younger brother Arnie claims that he is a patient man. All your arguments about love and logic told me that I am the one missing out on happiness because I have been putting it off for one reason after another. Then I conclude that Arnie could put off his wedding plans because there really is no urgency in their situation.”

“Is there an urgency in ours?” Marianne asked softly, afraid to say anything that would break the desirable course of their conversation.

“You know, honey, when you decide you want to spend the rest of your life with someone, you want the rest of your life to start right away!” He smiled innocently and paused, waiting for Marianne’s reaction which he was able to predict anyway.

Marianne’s eyes widened as she realized, “That’s not original! That’s a line from the movie When Harry Met Sally! Ar-thur!!!” She punched him, he ran, she followed, and then he stopped.

He got down on one knee. They were in front of their favorite restaurant already. The strings quartet, Were they from the bridal fair? Marianne wondered, was waiting for them and played as if on cue upon seeing Arthur getting down on one knee.

Marianne was out of breath, she wasn’t sure if it was because of the running.

Then Arthur spoke, “I bought this ring from my first salary, Mari-anne.” He called her Mari-anne when he wanted to emphasize something. This night the emphasis was on love.

Music, a full moon, and a diamond ring. Marianne’s heart seemed ready to burst, but she realized he hadn’t asked her the question yet —

“Mari-anne, honey, will you give me the honor of being my lawfully-wedded wife?”

Marianne stared at Arthur who still had one knee on the cobblestone road. She had a playful look in her eyes, then she said, “I’m not sure, Arthur. As you know, the Family Code states that ‘marriage is a special contract of permanent union…” but before she could finish her recitation of Article One of the Family Code, Arthur got up and kissed her. She laughingly broke away from him and said, “Ok, alright, before you give that ring to Arnold to give to Nica, my answer is, “Yes, yes, a thousand times yes!”

“Hey from what movie is that?”

“Honey, it’s from a book, not a movie.”

“But which one? I can’t remember!”

“Go ahead and think about it, hon. I have a phone call to make.”

She dialed a number on her cellphone and Arthur heard him say,

“Arnold? YES!!! IT WORKED!!! I’m wearing the ring now. It’s bigger than you described it to be. Is Nica with you? Hug her for me. Would you both be darlings and please call Mama in the States? Please tell her I’ve picked out her gown already….”

Arthur stared at Marianne in complete shock and amazement.

“Wh-what was that all about? Did you say ‘it worked???”

Smiling, Marianne responded, “Honey, this should teach the world never to underestimate the wisdom of a woman lawyer. Now let’s go in, I’m starving. I have to start my bridal diet tomorrow….”

-- The End --

Monday, April 03, 2006

What I Learned from Multivitamins

“I will be much nicer to Mercury Drug pharmacists starting today!”

Such was my realization yesterday, when I was assigned at the pharmacy of Lingkod QC’s first Medical-Surgical Mission at the He Cares Village in Montalban.

The literal shedding of blood, sweat and tears by the Works of Mercy- Med Mission Team led by Imee Sioco and Doc Jun “DJ” Sobremisana was blessed abundantly by the Lord. We had overflowing food for the volunteers and medicines for the patients. Doctors and nurses volunteered to help us; so did brothers and sisters from Lingkod Alabang, Makati and Greenhills (our heroic genuine pharmacist Ethel, who helped us decipher the doctors’ handwriting and the often-unwritten dosage in each prescription).

I worked at the makeshift pharmacy and was given all the boxes of meds with generic names starting with “L” and “M”. “Loperamide”, “lagundi”, these were not as fast-moving as the “M” goods like “mefenamic acid” and “multivitamins”. The latter two kept me on my toes and I really felt like a harassed Mercury Drug employee, as all the kids whom the doctors saw were prescribed multivitamins, so I was paired with almost every prescription of “carbocisteine”, “ambroxol”, etc. I was made to realize that for the children “not enough vitamins = not enough life”, as a famous advertising jingle went.

I know that my work yesterday was benign compared to the actual operations at the Surgery room and the heavy influx of people at the Consultation room. All of the volunteers would have probably reached for “ibuprofen-paracetamol” tablets due to their body aches and pains at the end of the day, but instead we turned to the Lord in prayer, to thank Him for everything.

It was inspiring to serve while Gay and Mirac composed a theme song of each quasi-pharmacist: for Juanda (fr. Sound of Music's I am Sixteen"), "Carbocisteine, going on 17..."; for Tess (Healing), "Cause Your love is Amoxicillin", for new lawyer El , (the "Name Game"), "Let's do Salbutamol!", and for me (to the tune of "Bawal na Gamot"), "Merienda ko'y di makain, dahil sa multivitamins". It was a joy to serve with my smiling, though tired, teammates composed of Loli (team head), Ethel (expat from Greenhills, med mission specialist), Jack and Julius from other branches, and Sphene, our chemistry expert who translated for us the symbols on the prescriptions. I heard that over at the other rooms, those assisting the medical professionals also entertained themselves while singing. There was a general spirit of joy despite the challenges of doing everything for the first time.

A brother told me that the tiredness we felt was comparable to that we experienced during the 2004 Unity Games and the 2005 Easter Celebration, which our branch hosted for Lingkod in the region, however, the depth of fulfillment after a medical-surgical mission was more memorable, as our energies were used up to help others who needed them most.

As I was dispensing the multivitamins, I wondered how long a 60ml bottle would last, at one teaspoon a day for the children. The answer hung in the air, as I was helpless to do something about it at that exact moment. I just prayed for each person whom we met yesterday, as I’m sure was done by the other volunteers, for their health to be protected throughout the year, and for us to be given more opportunities to serve them, in ways that would be most beneficial in the long run.

Another personal learning for me was this: the next time that I would stand in front of a Mercury Drug counter, I would be more considerate of the mental, physical and emotional toll on their pharmacists, and would patiently wait my turn to be served my medicines. We all do our best to make this planet a better place to live in. We do need to be in other people’s shoes sometimes in order to see the world from their perspective, and thus relate to them in the most loving manner.

“Anong meron ang taong happy?” goes another ad for a popular multivitamin. “More energy, mas happy”, goes its reply. I wish to add something, that people who use their energy for good works are happier, even if physical energy gets used up temporarily, for that could easily be replenished after due care.

Let us continue to pray for the families at the He Cares village. May they continue to live under Jesus’ care, everyday, and to be blessed by His energy, and to experience happiness through it.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

An Annual Reminder

The bar results came out a few days ago. I have friends who passed (Attorneys all - Aison, Nep, El and Karen G., mabuhay kayo!), as well as friends who did not make it.

The lives of all the 5000+ students who took the examinations last September 2005 would forever be altered. I should know. The new lawyers would alternate between heaving a sigh of relief and partying like there was no tomorrow, whereas those who remained to be underbar candidates would have a wound they might perpetually try to be healed of. Passing the bar on their second, or third (up to fifth- the maximum allowed) take might not even bring about the necessary healing. It could just cost them more - six months of review is expensive, especially if they are from the provinces. My heart goes out to them.

I believe in miracles; I believe this could cease to be a big deal for me one day. But for now, it's still there. A source of confusion, a break in an otherwise predictable and logical life that I had plotted. Yes, I had given up control of life to my God and am all the happier for it. Once in a while, though, like on nights that bar results come out, when dreams and failures abound in the legal community of which I am still at the periphery, I come face to face with my own questions.

If I had passed the first time, would I be a happy corporate lawyer now? Or would I have given in to the call to attempt a career at the judiciary? Would I be more confident of myself as a lawyer? Would I be more passionate about it, and be able to sustain an interest in it, enough to make a living of and thus be of service to others as a practicing lawyer?

I pray that each year, I would come close to an answer. I know my journey had been used by the Lord countless times to reach out to others who had undergone similar struggles. I do not doubt His wisdom; I count on this as part of His plan. However, I beg to be entitled to my recurring questions, as it guides me to gems of truth, which I discover a little of each year.

I was told that the Lord blesses and breaks us before we are "given away", like He did to the bread, like what Jesus went through. I had been blessed in life, true, but the matter of my being a lawyer that is my breaking continues to be a source of bewilderment and, at times, pain. I doubt if this poking around the wound is helping at all. Maybe not.

I send my congratulations to the 2005 bar passers. Job well done! And to those who have to wait a little while longer for their dreams, plans and goals to be realized, you have my prayers. You have my support. It is a difficult world you have been plunged into, but it is worth the journey. Give in to emotions, but put a cap to them. Decide on a day when you will stand up, pick up the pieces, and try again.

Pain is God's megaphone. He may be calling you to a deeper relationship with Him, and this is the only way to make you listen. It may take a lifetime, but someday, you and I will hear the music He is playing in our lives. He loves us just as much.

Hope From the Psalms

Ang ganda ng Psalm for today (actually kahapon, March 31)! From Psalm 34:

When the just cry out, the LORD hears and rescues them from all distress.
The LORD is close to the brokenhearted, saves those whose spirit is crushed.
Many are the troubles of the just, but the LORD delivers from them all.
God watches over all their bones; not a one shall be broken.
The LORD redeems loyal servants; no one is condemned whose refuge is God.

Yun naman pala e. This is a very comforting reminder. Swak talaga mga psalms kung minsan. Sana lang, counted ako dun sa “the just”, “loyal servants”, tsaka “whose refuge is God”. Assuming that I am counted, then I am assured that I will be rescued, delivered, protected and redeemed by God from all these.

Parang natuwa ako kasi naiintindihan ng psalmist natin ngayon na marami nga akong pinagdadaanan, mga kung anu-ano. “Many are the troubles of the just, but the LORD delivers from them all”. I believe so. Lilipas din ito. Ika nga, my God is bigger than all my problems. Atsaka sino ba ang walang problema?

Yung mga nakalipas na prayer time ko, parang napaka-helpless ko na. God, bakit hindi ako nagbabago? Isyu ko pa rin itong mga lumang isyu na ito? Nakakahiya na sa Inyo. Nakakasawa na rin. Parang dapat hindi ko na pinagdadaanan ito. Atsaka, Lord, pagod na ako.

Today after reading this psalm and hearing it during the sisters’ prayer meeting, I realized, God knows my heart and He hears and rescues me from my distress. My problems are not that earth-shaking, but still they have caused me sleepless nights and tension headaches. They may be worthless concerns compared to the world’s ills, but to my God they matter, and He can easily deliver me from this again.

So, yun, kaya wala akong maisulat these past few weeks. Parang mas gusto ko munang magbasa. Makinig. Maghintay. Hindi man na-solve sa isang iglap ang mga ito, napaalala sa akin na Mayroon akong hinihintay.

Pasensiya na kung Taglish, umaga na eh. [It’s 4:25 a.m.]

Poetry by Pablo Neruda

Wala lang. Hindi ko rin alam kung bakit, o paano, o kailan. Basta, darating din siya.

(beautifully read by actress Miranda Richardson in the soundtrack of the movie Il Postino, The Postman)

And it was at that age...Poetry arrived in search of me.
I don΄t know,
I don΄t know where it came from, from winter or a river.
I don΄t know how or when,
no, they were not voices,
they were not words, nor silence,
but from a street I was summoned,
from the branches of night,
abruptly from the others,
among violent fires or returning alone,
there I was without a face
and it touched me.

I did not know what to say,
my mouth had no way with names
my eyes were blind,
and something started in my soul,
fever or forgotten wings,
and I made my own way,
deciphering that fire
and I wrote the first faint line,
faint, without substance, pure nonsense,
pure wisdom
of someone who knows nothing,
and suddenly I saw the heavens unfastened
and open planets, palpitating plantations,
shadow perforated, riddled with arrows,
fire and flowers,
the winding night, the universe.

And I, infinitesimal being,
drunk with the great starry void,
likeness, image of mystery,
I felt myself a pure part of the abyss.
I wheeled with the stars;
my heart broke loose on the open sky.

Sino ulit yung kinasal?

Closeup this time: Cherry De Pedro nee Onia; Ryan de Pedro (bro ang ngiti mo halatang halata); and Father Jboy, ang kanilang stage father. Posted by Picasa

Mga Pagpo-project Before the Wedding

"Ha?!" Happy Birthday, Ted (sa April 3)! Yes, he is a wedding singer and choir member during his free time. [What free time?]

In this fun photo: Ted and Paul in barong, Manny Matinix on keyboards, Nenen as usual being herself, this time posing as a backup singer. Posted by Picasa