Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The One with the Bomb and the Brownout

Sometimes I just need to write as a form of breather from all that's been happening.

Yesterday, after years of not going there, my mom and I went to Fairview Center Mall to do grocery-shopping, away from the madding crowd. I was dazed from dysmenorrhea so I stayed in the car while Mama finished up paying. Then we made several stops to buy merienda for the Banal na Puso Choir who were going to sing carols at our house last night. We learned from the different stores that the brownout in our area was to last for twelve (12) hours, from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

The show must go on, so we did receive the carolers and they sang by candlelight. It was more dramatic that way, and I loved the scents of my seldom-used candles. They weren't able to appreciate the last-minute decorating that we did for the house, but that's fine. They didn't notice the rest of the mess either, so that's a blessing in disguise. Papa requested his favorite, "Payapang Daigdig" and the carolers didn't disappoint him. The MGLs were there as well - I know, in this busy season for priests, what a blessing huh- and made the night more special by singing carols along with everyone else. We all spent time talking, not minding the brownout.

Power returned barely an hour after they left. Then we saw the newsflash: "Two grenades found under parked vehicle in Fairview Center Mall". I suddenly mouthed a prayer of thanksgiving - for God is with us! He kept us safe from harm and we did not even know about what was going on around us. So focused were we on the business at hand, that in this case, ignorance truly is bliss.

I was led to deeper reflection and offered more prayers in gratitude to God's goodness.

Without much preparation, Advent arrived with its message of hope, peace, joy and love. I wanted to focus on it and not the external activities that Filipinos like to cram December with, but how could I not be swept by the goings-on around me?

Telltale signs that the air has changed include the presence of more beggars (I cannot stop poverty or hunger, but when a child asks for food after I hand him a coin it just breaks my heart!), the mushrooming of road repairs (some people need to justify their budget and/or report some work done within their districts), and don't get me started on the traffic jams caused by the endless shopping, partying, caroling and homecoming. I have been experiencing a constant headache for the past couple of weeks because of the traffic in Metro Manila.

There are some beautiful changes as well - the metropolis is brighter with all the Christmas lights adorning the streets and buildings; the songs fill the air, at first with sadness at all the memories and longings that fill our hearts, but then with hints of things to come that work to shift our focus to better days ahead; the reunions, parties, weddings and baptisms make each day special for all of us. Neighbors bring food, friends send wrapped packages, and strangers smile at each other. It is a festive season, and it's not even Christmas yet.

Simbang Gabi and Christmas caroling with Lingkod QC have ruined my sleep, that's true, but they're great reasons to stay awake for. I love the smells and sounds of Simbang Gabi, with my body now a bit used to hearing homilies, several times piercing my heart with their challenges and questions, at dawn. If I had been a photographer I would have an album now of all the pictures that I see - of a child standing beside the Christmas tree made of red and green lanterns at our parish car park; of the blue cross perched atop our parish silently announcing hope at dawn; of the children flocking to kiss the hand of the priest after mass. I live to write about them as I don't own a camera good enough to capture those beautiful moments.

This week we shall visit houses of Lingkod families to share the good news that Jesus came to save us all. It is an exciting week.

It will also be a busy week, as I have three more days here in Lingkod Office to finish all the work I could manage and turnover properly. I committed myself to give a talk on Decision - Making to graduating seniors on Friday, not knowing how to convincingly speak of discernment when I myself, more than a decade after graduation, am still in that process. Or maybe that's why I was meant to give this talk, to show them that discernment is a way of life for disciples.

I attended my last prayer meeting at Lingkod Quezon City last week. I'm pretty sure it will take some time before it all sinks in. Almost seven years well spent, and now it's time to move on. Move on to where, I'm always asked. Without job and community, what shall I be doing now?

I walk on with less fear and more hope now. Without control of the situation, I am led in faith to believe that God has a plan for my life, and His plan is for my welfare and not for woe. Jeremiah 29:11-13 has become a mantra that I read over and over. It is how I see Jesus coming in my life, and I say yes to Him even if I don't understand. Nor did I want things to turn out this way. He makes all things new, that I'm certain of. So nothing, no bomb, no brownout, could separate me from His love. I experienced a beautiful day yesterday, surrounded by friends and family, on what was literally a dark day. What more the rest of my life, where God can make miracles, for with Him nothing is impossible.

All that remains now, as always, is the waiting.

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