Friday, April 27, 2007

Learning to Say No

Last week started out fine, but slowly I felt an erosion of my energy. It must be the heat, I told myself. I experienced migraine attacks for a couple of days. Or it must be the overload of activities that I suddenly found on my lap.

I remembered Fr. Geoffrey had warned me last year that I had to watch out for myself, for no one else would. People tend to believe I'm fine when I say that I am. I cannot hope that they would look beyond my standard response and see the tiredness in my eyes or hear the hoarseness in my voice. That was what I get for not saying No enough, especially to people who mattered to me.

So I ran to the Lord, admitting I overbooked myself and asking Him to fix everything. I was in over my head in one project; in another involvement I was suffering from the consequences of change. I accepted a project in the country's premiere legal research company. I withdrew my application from a leading Catholic magazine as I realized I did not have the time required to manage it. I failed to attend a meeting for trainers in a pastoral training institute and wondered if I had missed out my chance. I had several other roles and found my tasks accumulating in my head, hence, the headaches.

As I gazed at the Risen Lord at mass, I asked Him how I could let go of my burdens, for I knew that I was not doing things right because I was getting tired all the time. I realized I was letting other people's comments get to me again. It was a call for me to fix my eyes on Jesus alone, and desire nothing but to please Him, my Audience of One.

During the weekend, I recognized my limitations and took time off with my family. I served during the morning charismatic Mass and then went with my mom to my brother's house, where my nephews were waiting for me to swim with them at their small, garage-size inflatable pool. Then we all had halo-halo for merienda, before surprise-fetching my father from his MCLE (for lawyers) seminar at the QC Sports Club. Various people called and texted me throughout the day, but I was able to monitor the commitments I got myself into and to protect my schedule.

Monday came and there was a lot of time to work on them. Because I was recharged, I was better able to write contracts and type minutes. Then I went to my women's group meeting where I was able to ask for prayers, especially for my never-ending career decisions and my overlapping service assignments.

I don't feel so burdened now, for the Lord and His messengers of love are with me.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Sessions of Sweet Silent Thought

I grope for words these days largely because my brain is preoccupied by too many things and I hardly have time to compose anything coherent. There should be a sharing somewhere in my head but it has not been released yet.

Rather than squeeze my brain dry trying to express that which has not been processed, I would just borrow words from the Bard who seemed to go have gone through something akin to one of my recent experiences when he wrote the following sonnet.

William Shakespeare

When to the sessions of sweet silent thought
I summon up remembrance of things past,
I sigh the lack of many a thing I sought,
And with old woes new wail my dear time's waste:
Then can I drown an eye, unused to flow,
For precious friends hid in death's dateless night,
And weep afresh love's long since cancell'd woe,
And moan the expense of many a vanish'd sight:
Then can I grieve at grievances foregone,
And heavily from woe to woe tell o'er
The sad account of fore-bemoaned moan,
Which I new pay as if not paid before.
But if the while I think on thee, dear friend,
All losses are restored and sorrows end.

Something like that. Past, sigh, waste, dateless; friends, losses, grievances, sorrows -these words tell the tale I want to weave. I'm not sure if I have the same ending. I wish this stage would end! Oh, I shall stop grieving over foregone grievances and accounting fore-bemoaned moans. May my losses be restored and these sorrows end. Perhaps when I find one such dear friend. That would be sweet.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Kababayan Trekking Packages!

Good news! DiscoverPH offers friendly rates for our kababayan:

1. Taal Volcano Trek - May 2, 2007 -

  • In partnership with GALA Unlimited Professional Tour Services Company
  • Includes car hire, boat ride to Taal Volcano, tourism fee, trek guide and lunch.
  • P9,000 for 1 pax; P6,000 each for 2 pax.

2. Banaue Trekking Tour - May 3-6, 2007

  • Join our Travel Expert Felix Baguilat (DiscoverPH Expedition Guide who hails from Kiangan, Ifugao) for a Banaue Trekking Tour
  • For only Php15,000 (1 person) or P10,000 each for 2 pax
  • Includes ALL fees, transpo, food and lodging.
  • Route barangays: Pula, Cambulo, Batad, and Banaue
  • All pristine terraces villages and treks galore.
This is a special Pinoy discounted rate. Confirm now! Deadline is Friday, April 27, 2007.
Text Ella 0917-5204832. Or email me at


Monday, April 23, 2007

This is As Good as it Gets!

One of my most favorite movie scripts is from "As Good as It Gets". I think I've blogged about it somewhere before and even used some quotes in one of my talks. Usually I get Melvin's lines when he talks to Carol, because the two greatest compliments I've heard in my life came from that obsessive-compulsive man.

Today I'm recalling that scene where Carol the waitress learns that his son won't suffer from asthma anymore, and she tries to write Melvin a long "thank-you" note for helping her out. Her mom is frustrated because she refuses to accept the fact that she's finally free to enjoy her life, that she should stop worrying. The last line from Carol and her mom's reply are classic about how I relate to God: me, always tearful, asking Him what He wants from me, and Him with loving eyes looking at His daughter and saying, I want you to have some rest.

Well, just picture the scene, or get a copy of that film and locate it! I'd like to thank the Internet Movie Script Database (IMSDb) for originally posting the script.


by Mard Andrus And James L. Brooks

Story by Mark Andrus

You're not still writing that
thank-you note?

I'm on the last page. How do you
spell conscience?

C-o-n-s-c-i-e-n-c-e. I got Sean
from the bakery to baby-sit so
let's go out.

I still don't feel safe leaving
Spencer with someone. How do you
spell it again?

Spencer is okay. You'd better
start finding something else to do
with your free time. If you can't
feel good about this break and
step out a little...
(struts and pumps
her arms)
You ought to get Mr. Udall to send
you over a psychiatrist.

(more emotionally
than she intended)
I don't need one 'cause I know
what's really going on here. I
have to finish this letter or
I'll go nuts.
(looking at paper;
This can't be right -- con-

Carol breathes heavily -- gets control, stopping herself
on the brink of crying.

Carol. What?

I don't know... It's very strange
not feeling that stupid panic
thing inside you all the time.
Without that you just start
thinking about yourself -- and
what does that ever get anybody.
Today, on the bus there was this
adorable couple and I felt myself
giving them a dirty look -- I had
no idea everything was...

Go ahead.

(great, forceful
hand gestures)
... moving in the wrong
direction... Away from when I
even remembered what it was like
to have a man to... anything...
hold *** -- sorry -- hands
with, *****. I was
feeling like really bad that Dr.
Bettes is married.
(this next one's
Which is probably why I make poor
Spencer hug me more than he wants
to... Like the poor kid doesn't
have enough problems. ****
(weeps at her
Oh, boy. Who needs these

Spencer's doing fine. So what are
you saying, that you're frustr...

Leave me be! Why are you doing
this? Why are you picking at my
sores... What is it that you
want?... You want what? What's
with you? I hope getting me
thinking of everything that's
wrong when all I want is to not
do this has some purpose.
(puffy; red;
What is it, Mom? No kidding.

Slumped, fought out -- Carol gets out one last, naked
husky voiced question.

What is it you want? What?

I want us to go out.

A beat, then.


(***** Asterisks Ella's.)

Ok, then. Enough drama. Let's go out!

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Now Playing: No One is to Blame

Howard Jones

You can look at the menu but you just can't eat
You can feel the cushions but you can't have a seat
You can dip your foot in the pool but you can't have a swim
You can feel the punishment but you can't commit the sin

And you want her and she wants you
We want everyone
And you want her and she wants you
No one, no one, no one ever is to blame

You can build a mansion but you just can't live in it
You're the fastest runner but you're not allowed to win
Some break the rules
And live to count the cost
The insecurity is the thing that won't get lost

And you want her and she wants you
We want everyone
And you want her and she wants you
No one, no one, no one ever is to blame

You can see the summit but you can't reach it
It's the last piece of the puzzle but you just can't make it fit
Doctor says you're cured but you still feel the pain
Aspirations in the clouds but your hopes go down the drain

And you want her and she wants you
We want everyone
And you want her and she wants you
No one, no one, no one ever is to blame

No one ever is to blame
No one ever is to blame.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Disasters and the Christian Response

This won't be long as I don't have much time. I'm writing to try to catch my breath and gather strength and energy for what lies ahead.

I'm in the middle of a nightmare and I refuse to give in to panic. I don't know where to start. A voice inside is telling me to sit down, make a To Do list, and go through them one by one without being emotional about it. Another part of me just wants to go crazy.

This state is exactly how the speaker during Friday's Lingkod-Ligaya joint Easter Celebration/ Seder Meal described a living nightmare. I remember listening to him and saying to myself, I don't want to go through another such nightmare. Lord, please give me a few years of abundance/ plenty after the past five years of drought and disasters. Lord, spare me. The speaker described vividly how he learned that his best friend died. He was still in high school then, so it was decades ago, but he could still remember the details of that painful day.

Nobody died on me; thank God, but a disaster happened to one of my best friends last Saturday. While she, her family, and our barkada were all in Canyonwoods for business planning, their house caught fire. She learned about it at 3 a.m. and by the time she and her family arrived, the fire was already out but 60% of the house got burned.

What was worse, however, was that 100% - as in everything - of our office files were burned as well, for they were located in their den, as we were planning to move them into our new office by May 1. We lost our permits, contracts, receipts, files, documents, etc. We lost computers and external drives and other equipment. Tears streamed down my friend's face as I hugged her. I couldn't cry. I just stood there, staring at the broken windows, melted switches, and blackened floors.

I do not have the strength or the wisdom at this point to say why this happened. All I know is that it is Easter, and our Lord protected my friend and her family from worse disaster (imagine if her children were there when the fire broke out). We are doing things one step at a time. For really, at this point I can only take baby steps without breaking down. It doesn't show when you look at me. I'm writing how it really is inside, however.

If I were not a Christian, despair would permeate me, not only because of the vicarious disaster that happened to my best friend, but also because of its effects on me, my work, schedule, etc. On top of all these, in a span of 24 hours, the mom of another good friend passed away, another friend sprained her neck and is bedridden, and still another friend suffered an asthma attack.

Tomorrow morning I will talk to the youth about being a Christian at the kickoff of our summer youth program. I will tell them that Christianity does not make your life perfect, but it allows you to have hope amidst the imperfections of this world.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

A Chapter in Life's Book of Waiting

There was a question I dreaded to be asked while I was still at the peak of burnout and bewilderment, it was "What are you going to do next, Ella?" I'd asked myself that countless times. I'd bugged God about it morning, noon and night time. I still didn't have a proper answer, so to be faced with such uncertainty was torture for me then.

It was largely my fault, for I'd heralded every little twist in my journey in this blog, on email, and in person, so that my friends naturally started to expect that I had a short and sure answer to that question after I resigned from Lingkod. Surely, my God and I, who had weathered the storms of the bar nightmares, career decisions, service "crucifixions" (some services were personal hell but my God & I endured them all), recurring heartaches, and similar catastrophes, would take no time in moving on from that point of uncertainty. So what if I was giving up something I had prayed and fought for with blood, sweat and tears? It must mean a better place just around the corner.

But I moved at a snail's pace. There were days when I hardly wanted to move at all. Outwardly, I was filling out applications, showing up for interviews, and registering for online job matches. I was just going through the motions so that I could tell God, or the world, or myself, that I was doing something about my life. Inwardly, however, I just wanted to pause and reflect. What happened, why was I there, and where was God taking me?

It was only after reaching a clear dead end that I decided to do what I should have done in the first place - LET GO. I let go of my dreams. I let go of my plans. I let go of my fears. I let go of my wants. It was time I started being a human being and not a human doing. These were not new lessons, and I had even shared them with others before in my talks. I saw first hand how I could not relinquish control of my life to God one day and take it back full force the next! I had to listen to my heart, which was tired, unhappy, and distressed.

It was at that time that I learned to trust everything that I had learned - from my parents, teachers, mentors, and spiritual directors. They said, I seemed to remember, that I would never run out of options in life, that God gave me so much that I would never run on empty. I doubted myself at some point, reached depression and faced all my insecurities once more. I felt like I was good for nothing and almost forgot that I was God's daughter - chosen and precious - meant for His Kingdom. I forgot that all that I had came from Him; that He who created me knew where to place me and make me bloom. Him - The Potter, The Vinedresser, The Shepherd, The Father; Me - The Clay, The Branch, The Sheep, The Daughter. Truly, when darkness surrounded me, the truth of God's Word revealed in His Son was my only anchor of hope. I'm thankful for that.

What happened? Did I wake up one day to a perfect world? I still did not. Slowly, however, I started to pick up the pieces of my life and see the gems that had always been there. I saw what I valued and recognized what I treasured. I said "yes" to God one day at a time, consulting Him in every decision, and accepting opportunities to rest and recharge.

That was when I found myself at an almost unbelievable job (albeit temporary) - helping one of my best friends in high school set up a travel website and agency. It was a welcome opportunity, and just what I needed. It came at the right time. It was not yet the final thing I felt God was calling me to do, but for the time being, it was something that made use of my brains and talents and gave me chances to travel and earn while doing what I did best - writing from the heart and relating to people. As DiscoverPH's Business Development Manager, legal consultant, and travel writer, I was able to go around Bohol, China, and even Old Manila. I worked for a very good friend whom I respected and admired. Somebody commented, "That's not a job, that's a paid vacation!" It IS Easter, and I WILL recognize that blessing. :) My God fully paid for it, not me.

Now I have to pause when asked what I'm doing now, for really, there is not one thing that defines where God has taken me. I pause not out of lack of things to say, but due to uncertainty as to which blessing to share first. There's the travel sideline, the parish council, the youth ministry (which might involve serving as choir master, if I gather enough guts), the covenanted community (still investigating), and the former Lingkod branch full of supportive friends. I might take two trainers' training courses - one for work, as a trainer for customer service specialists; another for service, at the Institute for Pastoral Development, where the best of both worlds, Ligaya and St. Benedict's, just might meet in my heart, mind and soul.

I am serving different communities by giving talks and retreats, which is true to my call as I clearly heard the Lord many years ago. I have a meeting with one of my mentors, a lawyer, for a possible project or employment in her company next week (please intercede, it's the nth time that they've offered me something and this might be it). I'm still waiting for the government to lift the hiring ban after the elections to see if I made it to that agency I want to work for (not the one I wrote about early this year, that took a veerry slow turn that allowed me to re-assess if I wanted to work there, but will see after June).

Do I have a simple, one-sentence reply to "Where are you connected now?", something brothers and sisters ask one another every now and then? No, all I can do is smile and give a non-responsive but nevertheless honest reply - that I know that Easter has come. I celebrate Christ's victory in my life this Easter because I saw a brutal, personal Good Friday. I understand more how Christ was able to rise again: it was because first, He allowed Himself to suffer and die.

I can better appreciate my life's "resurrection" because I went through a long period of suffering with my share of little deaths. Good thing I have a Redeemer who took on everything on my behalf, so that when I join my heart to Him in prayer everyday, I receive enough grace to realize more that I have been saved already. It IS Easter. I may be a long way from heaven, but here on earth, I shall not be depressed anymore.

"And as I wait
I'll rise up like an eagle
And I will soar with You,
Your Spirit leads me on,
by the power of Your love."

Friday, April 13, 2007


What is YASP? Is it a gasp? Is it a whispered "Yeah" (in Tagalog, "pigil" pero "gigil")? Or is it a new term that kids aged 14-25 could relate to this summer?

Y.A.S.P. actually stands for Youth Alive Summer Program, which will be held at St. Benedict's Parish inside Don Antonio Heights, Quezon City. The sessions start on April 17, 2007 at 9:00 a.m. Youth Alive! is the youth ministry of the Missionaries of God's Love in Manila and is headed by Fr. Brian Steele, mgl. Fr. Steve Tynan, our parish priest and Fr. Geoffrey Coombe, our assistant parish priest, are resource speakers, along with young volunteers from different communities and ministries in and around the parish.

Each session is packed with songs, presentations, movies, snacks, and discussions. We'll talk about topics for Christian youth - God's love, Jesus Christ's life and mission , the power of the Holy Spirit, and the new life that is ours for the taking. We'll learn to pray, dance, and sing. We'll also have picnics, games, and outings.

If you are within that age group (14-25) and live near Don Antonio Heights, do drop by on Tuesday April 17. We'll meet every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, 9 a.m. to 12 noon, until May 31. The sessions build on one another so you are encouraged to attend them all.

We're also looking for generous sponsors. If you are moved to donate light snacks for approximately 60-80 people, kindly get in touch with me at ASAP.

Thank you. See you at the YASP '07!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Shameless Plug: DiscoverPH Summer Treks (Revised)

Summer is the best time to discover the beauty and wonder of our own islands.

DiscoverPH is pleased to announce two package tours. Grab them now, limited slots only!

1.) Trek to Taal Volcano in Tagaytay - May 2, Day trip. Don't just view Taal Volcano from a distance! Have a guided tour of Taal Lake, take the boat ride, and go on an exciting trek to this interesting volcano, which is not as small as it seems. We've teamed up with GALA Unlimited Professional Tour Services Company for an unforgettable, DiscoverPH experience!

2.) Adventure Trekking to Ifugao Rice Terraces - May 2 (evening) - May 6 (evening). For the active adventurers out there, this is your chance to have a close up and personal guided trek literally through our famous rice terraces. Bring your backpacks and sleeping bags and prepare to rough it up hiking around select indigenous World Heritage Banaue Rice Terraces Towns namely Batad, Cambullo and Pula. En route to the Banaue viewpoint is the market center where cultural crafts, wood carvings and Ifugao garments are on sale. Sunday Mass goers will get a chance to see the local Cathedral at the capitol of the province in Lagawe. There is a modest Tappiyah water falls in Batad terraces (about 100 feet) to cool the summer heat. Get a chance to walk through and touch from different, magnificent angles the UNESCO declared World Heritage Site, locally known as the eighth wonder of the world. You will also have direct contact with the indigenous peoples of the Ifugao communities. No need to bring camping tents as most communities will house the travelers under the native Ifugao House. We've teamed up with the best local mountain guides to ensure an exhilarating yet safe expedition for you.

Rates vary depending on number of people. If you're interested, do e-mail us at on or before April 22, 2007.


The DiscoverPH Team

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Alleluia! Christ is Risen!

I join all the bells, voices, and hearts of Christians all over the world who sing with gladness today! IT IS EASTER!!! There is no room for pain or sorrow, mourning or crying. Our Lord Jesus Christ conquered death and sin. He rose to save us and is truly victorious! He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. He is the source of all joy, hope and love.

Easter the Resurrection of Jesus

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Do I Abide in Him, and Him in me?

I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. (Joh 15:5)

This Holy Week I wanted to examine my conscience simply by looking at Jesus and seeing how I am faring as His follower.

Do I abide in Jesus, meaning, do I dwell in Him 24/7 and not just during prayer time or mass time?

Do I reflect Jesus' love, compassion and mercy when I relate to people around me?

Do I bear fruit that will last, meaning do I do my share in bringing others closer to Him and to the heavenly kingdom??

Do I work, serve, and relate as if Jesus were in me, or do I operate apart from Jesus?

The answers to these questions point me to where I could seek improvement as a disciple. For I still forget to call on Jesus and I still take control of my life. I still lack love, compassion and mercy for others, always putting my own interests first. I waste my time on things of this world, of things and food and clothing that won't last, instead of spending my time doing what my heart tells me I must do - be a worker in His vineyard.

I am not disheartened because I know that I can ask forgiveness from Him whom I have hurt, ignored and disobeyed tonight through the sacrament of confession. I know He gives me and other sinners like me infinite second chances, and every time I seek Him, He reveals more of Himself to me.

This is how hope grows within my heart, through my ever-expanding knowledge of the character of Jesus. I may not see Him face to face now and I may not understand fully His teachings with my limited capacity, but it is good to know that I don't have to. That each day, each hour, is a step closer to Him, no matter how far away I have strayed.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Quitting my Whining

After watching Bruce Almighty on a huge screen underneath the moon and the stars, I felt sad. It was not my first time to see that film and I was not simply taking it too seriously. It was something more. I texted a friend and she said that the Jennifer Aniston praying/crying scene always made her sad.

I recalled that scene and realized it was not what caused my sadness. I connected more to Bruce himself and all his questions at God, ashamed though I am to admit it. When I first saw that film I disliked the way Bruce abused his thin slice of God's omnipotence. Tonight I saw myself in Bruce.

He had a job and someone wonderful who loved him very much, but he could not sit still and enjoy what he had. He wanted something more from God, all the time. Whenever he did not get what he wanted, he blamed God, and he had mean words to say.

I did not use similar accusatory language against God but whenever I whined and complained, I came close. I could relate to Bruce looking up, putting on imaginary gloves, and provoking God to smite him. I could relate to Bruce saying God is not doing his job because He was not fixing his life, something he accused God of being able to do in five minutes, if he wanted to.

I was no better than Bruce Almighty at creating my own pity parties and forgetting my blessings. I sat down to talk to God and say sorry for all the times I doubted Him. The picture painted in my head of how I looked every time I complained was unbearable and so un-Christ-like, yet I knew I was guilty of that.

At the back of my mind I was still waiting impatiently for God to answer all the questions I had about my life and my future. I was still holding my breath for the day when I would see the sun shining brightly. I might have been busy with many things the past few weeks but I just set aside the battles that had wounded me before. The wounds won't heal by being ignored, I know. If there was a better way, I hope I could find out soon.

I don't want to be ungrateful for God's love. I do believe in it even through these clouds. I know that by the end of this week, and on Easter, my heart shall rise with my Savior, and what seems dark shall become bright once again.

Youth Alive Lenten Movie Review

This Holy Week, we are encouraged to walk with our Lord Jesus in His passion and death. Adults take to Scripture reading and purposeful fasting. Bible study, confession, and recollection are done more this week than any other time of the year.

For the youth, we have to come up with activities that speak the message of God's love and still cater to their energetic spirit. The youth program of the Missionaries of God's Love, Youth Alive!, based in our parish, has a summer course outlined already, starting off with a Lenten Movie Review.

Every night after the 6 p.m. mass, from Palm Sunday to Holy Wednesday, Youth Alive! will have a free movie screening at the driveway of St. Benedict's Parish, Don Antonio Heights, Quezon City.

Last night, we watched The Prince of Egypt. The movie is free; snacks are for sale at affordable prices.

During the film, the children asked so many questions and I encouraged them to read more from the Book of Exodus to find out the story of God's people. They also remembered their lessons in World History when they saw Rameses, the sphinx, the pharaohs, and other characters from the movie. It was both educational and inspirational. Many of them had seen the film before, but in the context of Holy Week and watching it from the parish, they were motivated to seek more what the message is.

Tonight we will watch Bruce Almighty. Everyone is invited to join!