Friday, July 20, 2018

Leptospirosis took a freshman's life

By Karen Galarpe

More than 20 years ago, I found myself walking with someone toward a yard with a huge tree somewhere in a barangay near the yet-to-be developed Bonifacio Global City. It was a cloudy afternoon, and the skies, with its dark clouds soon to bring rain, seemed to be mourning.

Outside a simple house were a few chairs, and we were met by a woman with a sad look on her face. She was the mother of the young girl in a coffin inside the house.

Entering the house, she gestured toward the simple white coffin, and "introduced" us to the young girl. "Anak ko," she said.

We barely said a word, and proceeded to view the body. She was a lovely girl, so young and full of promise.

Her mother then bade us to sit, then told us about her.

She was a freshman at Centro Escolar University in Manila studying dentistry. One day it rained so hard, and she had no choice but wade through calf-deep floodwaters somewhere on her way home from Mendiola to Fort Bonifacio.

Then she became ill with fever and malaise. "Akala namin, trangkaso lang," the mother said. But the young woman got worse as the days went on, complaining of headache and body ache. Then she turned yellow.

They brought her to a doctor but by then the leptospirosis had already caused kidney failure. She died a few days after.

We didn't know what to say. What made it worse was that only after the girl died did my companion find out that she was his sister from a different mother.

This is a true story. It's what made me want to reach out to my own brother from a different mother.

Leptospirosis can strike innocent youth as well as otherwise healthy adults. This rainy season, please do take the necessary precautions and avoid wading through floodwaters.

And reach out to your family. Before it's too late.

READ: Even simple skin abrasion can lead to leptospirosis --doctor

READ: Infographic: What is leptospirosis?

BOOK OF THE WEEK: I am currently finishing the Left Behind: The Kids series by Jerry B. Jenkins and Tim LaHaye with Chris Fabry after I was able to order the books missing from our collection. Yes, I read young adult fiction. :) The Kids series is the young adult version of the Left Behind series. It's Christian fiction that's hard to put down.

VERSE OF THE WEEK: "There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens." Ecclesiastes 3:1

Friday, June 08, 2018

Thank you, and thank you again

I wrote this back in 2012, and found it my email today. Sharing because it is still a good reminder to be grateful. 🙂

Thank you, and thank you again

What are some of the first few words and phrases we teach children? It could be "please" or "mama" or "papa". Or even "yaya." After a child masters these words, don't we teach him or her to say "thank you" too?

Yet be honest with me. How many times have you said thank you today to someone or for something? Maybe less than what we hope to have done.

Don't worry; don't be guilty. I, too, need more practice in that department.

Have you ever wondered why it's not easy or it's not a default mode for adults to be thankful--even if this is one of the first things they are taught?

Maybe we have been busy. Or skeptical, or jaded, or cynical. And that is a sad thing.

Toward the end of the little book of 1 Thessalonians (I say little because you can finish it in one sitting; go ahead and try it) is one phrase--it's not even a sentence--that God wants us to do.

It says "give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus" (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

If you paraphrase it, it will be something like this: Thank God for whatever happens to you because He wants you to go through it now that you are one with Christ.

When I read that, I am struck by when we are supposed to be grateful. It says "in all circumstances." Are we supposed to thank God even for the circumstances which are not pleasant, example: financial difficulty?

Yes, because the Bible says "give thanks in all circumstances" -- that means both the pleasant and unpleasant circumstances.

Now when you have only P500 left in your wallet, it might be hard and even illogical to thank God.

Or when your child or sibling or parent gets really sick, it is hard to say, "Thank you Lord," isn't it?

But God has a plan for each one of us, since this verse says God wills it that certain events happen in our lives.

So I think it's all a matter of trust. 

Let's look at what the Bible has to day further:

Psalm 34:1: I will extol the LORD at all times; his praise will always be on my lips.

Daniel 6:10: Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees  and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before.

Ephesians 5:20: always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The words "at all times", "as he had done before", and "always" appear in these verses, making it clear to us when we should give thanks--in both the good and hard times because God is in control.

I can be at peace knowing that God has a plan for me, and nothing happens to me without His permission. Although some things may happen that we don't like, God must have a purpose why such events happen, thus we should trust Him and be thankful that He is in control.

Aren't you glad God is in control? And because He is, we can just rest secure in His love, no matter what happens.

To summarize, let us have this mindset: thank God for everything, for both the pleasant and seemingly unpleasant events in my life. Trust Him that He is in control of everything and you are safe in His loving arms.

BOOK OF THE WEEK: I'm just in the first three chapters of "French Women Don't Get Fat" by Mireille Guiliano but so far I like what I have read so far. To lose weight, go for quality over quantity (a little piece of dark chocolate twice a week for instance instead of Snickers bars), never be hungry, have yogurt (hurray!), and have a little pack of nuts as emergency food. This looks to be one diet book that doesn't make you feel deprived.

VERSE OF THE WEEK: The Sovereign LORD is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights. ~ Habakkuk 3:19

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Happy happy hormones

by Karen Galarpe

Let's see... that's two Happys (by Pharrell Williams), two Septembers (Earth, Wind and Fire), two Boogie Wonderlands (Earth, Wind and Fire), one more Happy, and to catch my breath, one Can't Take My Eyes Off You (Frankie Valli).

Those were for my 30-minute workout today at home, which I am happy to report, I finished. Yay! Never mind the awkward moves (it's true, I have two left feet) but if I can stretch and move and do so without blacking out, then that's good enough for me.

I've been trying to have a healthier lifestyle since last year, and although I think I am more fit now than I was a couple of years ago, I wish I could be more consistent in working out. My mission: 30 minutes a day at least, or on most days. My vision: a flatter tummy, slimmer arms, or, if those two are unreachable, then just a body that's more fit today than yesterday.

And so I cheered myself on as I rose from the comfy armchair I usually plop into when I get home from work. C'mon, Karen, you can do it, I told myself as I set the alarm for 30 minutes afterward on my phone.

So yeah, I did those aerobic/Zumba moves or what passed for those, and although midway I was contemplating ditching the workout and just resort to singing instead (mas kaya yata), I soldiered on, lunges, grapevine steps, and all.

Soon, the alarm rang. But wait, I want one more Happy! And so, one more Happy then. Thirty-four minutes workout today as a result. Happy happy hormones!

Have you done some exercise today? Lately? This year? Go and do something, and if you need some music to groove to, try two Happys, two Septembers, two Boogie Wonderlands, one Can't Take My Eyes Off You, and another dose of Happy. Have a great workout!

BOOK OF THE WEEKI learned so many things about myself and other introverts in this book "Quiet" by Susan Cain. "The same person who would never raise his hand in a lecture hall of two hundred people might blog to two thousand, or two million, without thinking twice." Ha! Is she talking about me? 😂 

VERSE OF THE WEEKAs you do not know the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in a mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the Maker of all things. Ecclesiastes 11:5

Friday, April 06, 2018

Christians on social media: How to be the light online

How many hours do you spend a day in social media? If you're like me, surfing on the Internet and checking what's up with friends on social media -- whether that's Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram -- is a daily thing. 

But while there are a lot of good stuff online, there are negative stuff too. Such content discourage rather than encourage, bring despair rather than build up.

The Chronicle Ministry of Christ's Commission Fellowship-Commonwealth will be conducting a social media workshop for Christians on Saturday, April 7, 2018, 9 am-12nn at CCF Commonwealth, Berkeley Square, Commonwealth Avenue near cor. Tandang Sora, Quezon City. The workshop aims to help Christians be more of a blessing to others on social media. Let's lessen the negative stuff online and spread the good news instead.

I had the opportunity to interview our speaker Lyqa Maravilla, a YouTube influencer herself, via e-mail, and here's what we talked about:

Q: Please tell us something about yourself.

A: I just turned 30 a few weeks ago. I finished the Basic Bible Course from FEBIAS College of Bible and got my degree in Psychology, magna cum laude, from Messiah College. I’m also a registered psychometrician. In 2013, God gave me the gift of getting the top spot in the Civil Service Exam. I didn’t know it then, but that was God’s giant blinking detour sign for my life. The past four years after that has been an adventure. God led me away from the corporate lifestyle that I’ve always wanted to pursue and towards the unconventional path of being a YouTube creator, online educator, and social media influencer. 

Q: How did you get into YouTube vlogging?

A: When I was in college, I was part of a non-profit organization called Sound Check Ministry. We travelled around the country helping local churches establish and strengthen their worship ministries. I was in charge of teaching people how to play the drums. We could only stay and teach for a few days at a time and it wasn’t enough for my students to learn all they needed. That was the primary reason why I started my first YouTube channel. I’d record lessons and drum covers of praise and worship songs so that my students can keep learning.

A little more than three years ago, I started making educational videos to help people pass aptitude tests like the Civil Service Exam. It all started with one video. When people from all over the country started reaching out to ask for more lessons, God showed me how important these tests are to others. They can determine which school or university they can attend, which job they can get, and whether or not they’ll be promoted to a better position. After some time, my first viewers created a Facebook page which helped us build a community of learners from all over the world. With their encouragement, I developed my own review program and reviewers. I also hold review events and teach all over the country.

Q: Please talk briefly about your ministry -- what do you do, and why do you do it.

A: I consider making YouTube videos and teaching through social media as my primary ministry. Through this platform, I can teach and reach people from all over the world and share God’s hope with them. Bible verses are integrated into my lessons and I pray really hard to represent Christ to them. I also started a personal Facebook page where I share encouraging verses and motivational quotes. After people started reaching out with their personal problems, it became a great way for me to share a Christian perspective and offer Bible-based advice to people who are looking for it.

Aside from those, I also volunteer as a writer and editor for our church’s weekly publication, CCF’s Chronicle. Being surrounded by volunteers who love God and want to give back through writing helps keep me grounded. I love how the printed content doesn’t show the name of the people who worked on it. It doesn’t matter who we are or what we do. The goal is to get God’s message across and we work as a team to accomplish that. After more than a decade of being onstage with the music ministry and as a speaker, working behind the scenes gave me a better appreciation of how the body of Christ functions. 

Q: In a nutshell, how should Christians use social media?

A: Social media is a tool. Like any other tool, you can use it to do good. But, in the hands of someone who doesn’t know how to use it properly, it can be very dangerous. The key is, as with anything else in this world, moderation. We must filter everything we read or see online through God’s word. We must be aware of how much we use social media. And, even before we create an online profile, we must ask, “What is your purpose for using social media?” Too many people are focused on getting more followers that they forget God’s call to help others become Christ-followers.

I know Christians who chose to stay away from social media entirely and I see the wisdom in that, but I also think that we need more godly people who speak God’s truth online. The reality is that most people, especially the younger generations, spend more time online than in the “real world”. Sometimes, the only way to reach them is through social media. Think of it as doing missions work. In the same way that we go to different places and learn a different language to reach people and share God’s word, we must meet people where they are to tell them about Christ. If they’re online, we should be, too.

Q: What can we expect from your talk on Saturday?

A: "Declare" is divided into two parts. In the first hour, we’ll talk about the Dos and Don’ts of Using Social Media. I’m going to share some of the things I learned or had to learn the bad way. We’ll set simple goals and guidelines to help us maximize the power of social media and keep it from overpowering us. The second part is a workshop on Content Creation. It’s a guided course to help potential creators gather ideas, produce content, build a brand, and, maybe, earn money through social media. I’m looking forward to sharing what I’ve learned and learn from everyone in the group on Saturday.

Interested to hear Lyqa's talk? Just come over to CCF Commonwealth on Saturday, April 7, 2018, 9 am at Berkeley Square, Commonwealth Avenue, Quezon City! Open to all.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Childhood revisited

I just finished reading the memoir "An American Childhood" by Annie Dillard and wow, what a lovely read!

I enjoyed reading about the author's days spent as a young girl growing up in Pittsburgh in the 50s, throwing ice balls, reading books, spending summers with her Scottish-Irish grandparents, and collecting and identifying rocks, among others. There were hours spent learning to dance, hours spent praying in church (but checking if others were praying too), and vacations which called for diving into the cool waters and boating with her dad.

Her stories hint of a privileged childhood, but you don't get the feeling that the author was showing off. Instead, I felt like she was a best friend telling me about her life while we sit drinking iced tea and giggling over funny anecdotes while outside the hot summer sun is preparing for sunset across the beach we're in.

I have always loved reading, for books take me places I can't physically go to. Books let me meet people I wouldn't otherwise bump into on the streets of Manila.

Reading also makes me introspective. This book, for instance, brought memories of my own childhood -- times spent climbing the guava tree in the backyard, waiting for the neighbor's santol fruits to drop on our side of the fence when someone climbs their tree and shakes it so the ripe fruits fall, following with my eyes the little colorful fishes as they go round and round in the little aquarium my sister and brother-in-law bought.

I also remember going up on the roof and just sitting there mid-afternoon because there's nothing to do and the view up there seemed different.

I remember piano lessons in school with Miss Arceo, and more piano lessons at home with teachers I can't bear coz they either seemed to be bored or frustrated with me that I got a slight slap on my hands whenever I made mistakes.

There was Snoopy, our white (or make that off-white) poodle who one day ran out of our gate. I was so heartbroken, our neighbor volunteered to help me look for him at the city dog pound and a nearby barangay.

I remember I had a birthday party at home and we kids danced to the hottest tune then -- "El Bimbo". To this day I remember that dance step.

And how can I forget playing bahay-bahayan with my cousins at our bahay kubo in the backyard? We dressed our dolls, pretended we were cooking, and swept the floor to keep house.

I hope we can all find time to read books -- not just social media posts and news articles, but real books to widen our world and inspire us to journey on this life with a spring in our step and hope for the future.

BOOK OF THE WEEK: Tonight I started reading "Silver Linings" by Cathy S. Babao, a collection of her heartwarming posts on Facebook. Cathy writes from the heart.

VERSE OF THE WEEK: "And may you have the power to understand, as all God's people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is." Ephesians 3:18

Sunday, October 01, 2017

Grieving takes time

By Karen Galarpe

Today, we went to the wake for the mother of a college friend, and I was struck by what my friend said. "Nu'ng nagpo-post ka tungkol sa Mommy mo, naisip ko nu'n, 'Kaya ko kaya pag dumating na sa point na 'yon?' Tapos ngayon, eto na."

It's been two and a half years since my mom passed away. Still, I think of her every day. I remember her when I see the flowers in the garden, and the near empty ref (my mom always shopped at the supermarket so our ref was always full). I think of her when I put night cream on my face -- her brand was more expensive -- and when I see her black and white photo in my dad's room. In that photo, she was smiling so warmly looking down at someone -- who turned out to be me as a baby.

In short, I still think of her, and I don't want to stop thinking about her.

The thought came to mind that God chose our mothers well. He picked the best mothers  for everyone. And I thank God for choosing my mom for me.

Six months after my mom passed away, I wrote the following on my Facebook wall. I read it again today and thought it may be somehow helpful to my college friend and all those who are grieving.

Here goes...

Last night, I had a dream wherein I hugged my mom. I can't remember now the context of that dream but I do remember the hug. :) And that's enough to put a smile on my face, and soothe my grieving heart.

It's been six months since my mom passed away, and someone just asked me last week, how are you coping with your grief?

Here's how:

1. I allow myself to grieve. Let go. There were -- and will be -- moments when I suddenly get reminded of my mom by the simplest of things: an empty Olay bottle, a J. Co donut, the Recipes restaurant sign, a pretty shawl. So I allow myself time to remember her and cry when I need to cry.

2. Daily, I ask God to tell my mom I love her, to hold her hand, and hug her for me.

3. I put a stop to the "If onlys." "If only I spent more time with her," "if only I made it to the hospital in time," "if only I took a leave from work." I can't bring back time so it's useless to dwell on the "if onlys."

4. I think about the times we've shared to replace the "If onlys." Times we went to the salon together, the times she would carry my son when he was still a baby, the times we would ride the Love Bus going to Cubao to shop for clothes when I was small, etc. And be thankful for those times.

5. Most importantly, I rely on God to see me through. The first two months were hard, and especially the first two weeks, but when you just ask God to sustain you each day, He does so. There were days when the most I could utter in prayer were: "Help me. Heal me. Comfort me." And He does. "The LORD is close to the brokenhearted, and he saves those whose spirits have been crushed." (Psalm 34:18)

When my mom died, someone told me to be strong. I didn't want to be strong. And I don't have the capacity to be strong. Nakakapagod yon. But I've found that He gives enough strength to see me through each day.

6. I remind myself to allow time for healing. It was only two months after my mom died when I realized I stopped writing for six months. That was when my mom's health became more fragile and she started talking about dying.

Now for a writer, six months of no writing is like six months of not existing. Two months after my mom died, I started writing again, and once again experienced the exhilarating joy of finishing a personal essay or a feature story. My life coach asked me, "So what does that mean?" I replied, "I've started to heal."

A few months ago too, when I was contemplating on my career's future, my boss told me to my face, "You're grieving!" It was a sharp reminder to hold off making major decisions while my grief was still raw and fresh.

7. I stepped out only when I felt ready. I didn't want to go out much after my mom died. I had no energy after work, and just wanted peace and quiet. And so I was honest enough to tell friends who have been inviting me to events and parties and reunions that I just needed space. And I'm grateful they understood.

8. I remember that I don't have to grieve like others do. A few months ago, someone asked me at what stage of grieving I was in already -- denial, anger, acceptance? I said I'm not conscious of the process; I just allow myself to be.

9. I express myself. And this is why I post status messages like this. :) Or why I post photos of things that remind me of my mom. Or why I document our Sunday bonding moments at the cemetery. A friend told me months ago, "I see that you're still grieving based on your FB posts." Yes, I am, and this is me. I can't hurry up my grieving or pretend it's not there. You can always hide me from your wall if you'd rather not see what I post. :)

10. I share and reach out to someone. Only this year have I learned that there are people around me who have been carrying their grief or have not allowed themselves time to grieve for years. YEARS! Madugo yan. And so I take the time to listen, hold their hand, share what I've learned.

Grieve if you must grieve. It's the first step to healing.

(September 13, 2015 Facebook post)

BOOK OF THE WEEK: I'm in the last chapter already of "Work Worth Doing Well" by Dr. Grace Koo (published by Church Strengthening Ministry, 2017). It's a good read and helps one take a look at his/her work -- does it make sense? Are you bored? Stressed? Are you happy? Healthy? Is it honest work? Dr Koo, with her educational psychology background, delves into the issue of work and gives expert tips to help one find meaning in one's work. It's worth reading!

VERSE OF THE WEEK: "May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us." Psalm 90:17

Friday, September 08, 2017

Sunday afternoon with Juan Luna and other artists

Inspired by my friend's recent road trips, I had this urge to go and see some art last Sunday. As in, right that day itself, whether or not someone could go with me.

I am that type of person who enjoys going to museums rather than shopping malls, to my late mother's frustration. "Ayoko sa museum!" she said when we were in LA many years ago and were thinking of where to go. Whereas we could drop her off at the mall in the morning and pick her up at the end of the day, I was the person who would gladly spend a day at the museum while travel buddies snap up good buys at shopping areas.

So after attending the second worship service at church last Sunday, I drove all the way to the National Museum of the Philippines on P. Burgos Street near the Manila City Hall. Never mind if I just had an hour to spare to go around before I had to do the groceries. I just had to go, no matter what.

Sundays, I found out, is the best time to go to the National Museum since there is hardly any traffic, save for a slowdown near the Quiapo Church area.

Entrance to the museum is now free. Visitors have to register first and sign the logbook, then deposit their belongings (save for wallet and cellphone) at the security desk.

That Sunday, there were quite a number of people visiting, mostly families or couples on dates. I was one of the few who went solo. Well, this was me-time and I was looking forward to it.

With just a little over an hour to spare, I focused on my favorite old paintings at the National Museum of Fine Arts at the old Legislative Building. 

Entering the museum, the first huge painting I saw was the Spoliarium by Juan Luna. I have seen this before a number of times but it still left me in awe. Such mastery and skill. There was beauty in the pain depicted. I could spend an hour just looking at it. 

Opposite it was Felix Resurreccion Hidalgo's The Assassination of Governor Bustamante, another huge oil painting done in the 1800s.

In the same hall was Guillermo Tolentino's sculpture Diwata, so perfect in its beauty.

In another hall, I found more of Juan Luna's iconic paintings, to my delight.

A post shared by Karen Galarpe (@kgalarpe) on

Juan Luna and Felix Resurreccion Hidalgo were buddies, and the museum had a large reproduction made of National Hero Jose Rizal's sketch of them.

At a room dedicated to Jose Rizal, I found this small terra-cotta sculpture our national hero did back in 1893.

A copy of the book The Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis given by Rizal to his wife Josephine Bracken was also on exhibit, together with the dedication.

In the hallway, I found this gem of a sculpture by Isabelo Tampinco.

There were many other paintings that struck a chord in me, such as those depicting the Battle of Manila, and the artworks of Fernando Amorsolo. There's indeed so much talent, so much beauty, in the Philippines.

Go spend a day (or an hour) at the museum. It's a great way to feed your heart and soul.

BOOK OF THE WEEK: Someone gave me the book Agueda: A Ballad of Stone and Wind by Anna Maria "Bambi" Harper sometime ago but I only got to read it this year. Harper's writing is exquisite as she takes us to the world of an orphan who came of age during the transition from the Spanish colonial times to the American occupation. The book gives readers an idea of how women were regarded back then, and what life was like for both the upper class and the poor when the country had yet to experience real independence.

VERSE OF THE WEEK: Be still and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10