Thursday, December 21, 2006

Kids in heaven

"Why do they say it's a tragedy if the father outlives the son?" my son asked me a few weeks ago. I put down the paper, took a deep breath, and told him it's because children usually outlive their parents. Sometimes it doesn't happen though, and parents are left mourning and grieving the loss of their son or daughter.

This year, my friends Gina, Lizette and Vim mourned the loss of their children. Gina lost Trisha, 13, to leukemia; Lizette lost Lauren, 8, to brain tumor; and Vim just lost his son Awit, 4, to pneumonia last week. Of all the wakes I have gone to, these three wakes were the most painful to go to. As a mom, I feel their pain.

I was talking to Gina, my former officemate at Lifestyle Asia, at the wake when Trisha's classmates came in single file to the church chapel. Gina hurried out--I thought it was to meet them. She told me later that she had to cry and take a moment to compose herself. When she felt better, she went back in to meet Trisha's classmates and bravely told them how Trisha put her arms out as if to embrace someone just before she died. "I believe she saw Jesus," Gina said, as Trisha's classmates were in tears. "She was ready."

Lizette was my classmate back in high school. Lauren was her only daughter. At the wake, everything was white, from the casket to the flowers, even the whole chapel was white. Lizette told me how brave Lauren was enduring her chemotherapy sessions, and how they would go to the mall right after a chemo session, just the two of them. As a stay-at-home mom, she spent much time with Lauren. And it was all worth it. At her deathbed, Lizette told Lauren to go ahead, don't worry, it's ok, and she'll meet Lauren in heaven some day.

I've known Vim since college when we were both part of The Varsitarian, the school paper. After college, we'd bump into each other in reunions, art exhibits, and book launchings. I found it cute that he named his children uniquely: Psalma (after Psalms), Wika (after Proverbs), Awit (after Song of Solomon) and Sulat (after Epistles). Of all his kids, it was Awit who looked most like him. At the wake, Vim showed us a video of Awit's photos, saying, "Gusto naming ipakilala sa inyo si Awit." Aside from the video, there were Awit's favorite toys around. There were also pabitins and balloons. From the first night of the wake (Saturday) until last night (Wednesday), there were "parties" at 7pm: Ony Carcamo the ventriloquist held the stage one night, and the Alitaptap storytellers took over the other nights. "It's Awit's last party," the SMS message said. Today, as I write this, his remains are being cremated. "Vim and I have committed Awit to God," said Ellay, Vim's wife.

It's so close to Christmas, so why am I writing about this? When you really think about it, Christmas is about giving up one's son. "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16)

Amidst the partying, feasting, shopping, and merrymaking, may we take time to thank God for giving up His Son Jesus. And may we all take that gift of eternal life that comes by just believing He paid the price for all our sins. That's really all it takes. "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God--not by works, so that no one can boast." (Ephesians 2:8-9)

May you all have a meaningful and blessed Christmas.

BOOK OF THE WEEK: Faith That Goes the Distance by Jud Wilhite. What does it mean to have faith? It's not enough that you believe that God is near. Using the heroes in Hebrews 11 as examples, the author encourages us to go for the faith that rides tides, leaves a legacy, walks with God, obeys God, follows God's vision, chooses God's will, transforms, and goes the distance. "Live far above mediocrity and experience God's ultimate best--a life of extraordinary faith."

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

35 and counting

That’s the number of volunteers (including core group members) who have committed to work on the Christian bimonthly magazine we’re putting up: TURN. We have editors, writers, artists, photographers, stylists, advertising and marketing people, circulation staff, admin staff, finance staff, web developers and scriptwriters on board, all with a burden to serve God this way. When you hear their stories, you’ll be blessed and be amazed at how God works. Prior to this ministry, we didn’t know each other. But when we started meeting, we were so surprised at how each one’s strength complements that of the other.

TURN. Know where you’re going. A Christian lifestyle magazine. Out in newsstands in January 2007.

P.S. That’s me on the front row, in white top.

VERSE OF THE WEEK: Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen. 1 Peter 4:10-11

BOOK OF THE WEEK: Voices of the Faithful by Beth Moore and Friends was first recommended to me by Gigi, my high school classmate and my son’s pedia. It’s a great collection of stories from missionaries spread across the globe. You’ll be touched by their firsthand experiences dealing with people, such as that story about an abused 7-year-old who asked for pills that would give her hope.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Down but not out

It’s 1:15 p.m. as I write this. I just came back from some time alone. I had lunch at the Red Ribbon outlet nearest me and had the Palabok Petite Meal. Not bad for 74 pesos. It came with a slice of cake (my choice: Coffee Crunch) and a small Coke (bad for the body, but something I consider a treat once a week). Then I spent 30 minutes browsing at National Bookstore, weaving in and out of book aisles and magazine stands.

Every time I enter a bookstore, I feel like a kid in toyland. “You’re such a bookworm,” my son told me earlier this week. “Writers have to be readers,” I told him. I think I’m not just a bookworm. I’m a voracious mother-of-all bookworms.

I’m the type who can go out without lipstick but cannot go out without a book in hand. I panic at the thought of not having anything to read while waiting at a coffee shop, at the bank, even at a stoplight. And since I have to multitask throughout the day, I find that I have to lug around several books with me in a bag every day. Today, I brought with me six books: Healthy Aging by Dr. Andrew Weil (my nonfiction fix for the day), The Citibank Guide to Building Personal Wealth (needed for an article I’m doing), Experiencing God Day-By-Day devotional by Henry and Richard Blackaby (a reminder for me to stop, take a moment and pray), The Torrents of Spring by Ernest Hemingway (my fiction fix for the day), Parenting Gifted Kids by James Delisle, Ph.D. (for insights on how to raise my son), and Your Best Life Now by Joel Osteen (my rah-rah book to lift my spirits). Every day, I try to read a chapter from my book haul.

The last book by Osteen couldn’t have come at a better time. I’ve been feeling down the past weeks. My consultancy contract ended last summer and since then, I’ve just been relying on my freelance writing and editing jobs. It’s been hard to make ends meet. And with my savings gone due to medical bills since last year, it has been doubly challenging.

My friend Meg encouraged me to read this book, which incidentally was her gift to me a few months ago. And it’s been a blessing to me. I’ve been reminded to get rid of my negative thoughts and know that God’s favor rests on me because I am God’s child by His grace. “See yourself as God sees you—as a winner, an overcomer,” Osteen writes. “God wants to do a new thing in your life. But you’ve got to do your part and get outside that little box. Start thinking big!”

“May you enlarge her vision,” Meg prayed for me one time. Can’t wait to see what God has in store for me.

VERSE OF THE WEEK: “Consecrate yourself, for tomorrow, the Lord will do amazing things among you.” Joshua 3:5

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Sometimes I think I'm not in my thirties

"Mom, are you watching?" my son asked me again last night as I drifted off to sleep while watching Gundam Seed Destiny with him. "You have to watch!" Ok, I mumbled. Bleary-eyed, I tried my best to follow along.

As I watched the cartoon on Cartoon Network, I couldn't help thinking I'm getting too old for this. To me, everyone looks the same. I could not tell if that was Kira or Athrun, or Mir or Lacus. They all have the same big wide eyes typical of Japanese anime. Their hairstyles are all the same, all layered and cut blunt. Even the gundam suits look all the same to me. It's a far cry from the days when I could tell Voltes V from Mazinger Z and Daimos.

Ever since he learned I watched Voltes V as a kid back in the 70s, my son made it his project to get me in on his favorite anime. He excitedly lent me his Gundam Seed manga comicbooks and checked on me if I'm moving along in my reading. I'm now in the last book, number 5. Eight thirty p.m. is also a big event five days a week as it is time for Gundam Seed Destiny. Many times, I referred to it only as Gundam Seed, and he would always correct me, saying, "It's Gundam Seed Destiny!"

Obviously, my fascination with anime ended with Voltes V. But I couldn't pass up on the chance to connect with my son, who will be entering his teenage years in two years. Nowadays I have the answers when he asks, "Who would you want to be: a Natural or a Coordinator?" or, "What is your favorite gundam?" Sometimes I think I'm not in my thirties.

Sometimes I also catch myself singing "Soaring, flying..." or "We're all in this together..." Yes, I confess, I watched High School Musical three times this month on Disney Channel. My son hates it, and there I found my weapon. Whenever he has to do homework and refuses to do it, I sing the first few bars of either song and he does his homework pronto just so I'll stop. Sometimes it's good not to act like I'm in my thirties. :-)

BOOK OF THE WEEK: These days, I'm reading Healthy Aging by Dr. Andrew Weil. It's a book on wellness and aging gracefully. I'm particularly interested on healthy eating and stress management. I've been told that stress had a lot to do with my bad back. I'd like to look young as the years go by, without resorting to face lifts, Botox and liposuction.

VERSE OF THE WEEK: My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, for they will prolong your life many years and bring you prosperity. Proverbs 3:1-2

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Oprah, this is how 30-something women live in Manila

This morning, I caught a rerun of Oprah at 9 a.m. on Star World. Featured were 30-something women in different parts of the globe: Kuwait, Iraq, Rwanda, Mexico, France, London, Malaysia, etc.

Did you know that in Kuwait, everybody is rich? With no taxes, free education up to college, and even a wedding cash gift from the government, women can shop all they want--well almost. :) In Iraq, although Saddam Hussein's regime is no more, women are not that free. In fact, they spend most of their time indoors to protect themselves from crime on the streets. In Mexico, women dress nicely and in high heels since they don't have to work that hard. They still have siesta on top of their two-hour lunches, like the Kuwaitis. The French may not eat that much calorie-rich food, but they do drink wine every day.

Anyway, that got me wondering why Filipinas weren't mentioned. Well Oprah, if you want to know how 30-something women live in this part of the globe, let me introduce you to some of my friends.

There's J, a single mom with four kids who commutes daily from Las Pinas to Ortigas to make sure the mag she edits gets to readers on the first of every month. She can work until the wee hours of the morning and still bond with her kids over popcorn and movies.

N is married with four kids, who has given up a promising production career in a TV network to be part of the academe (and spend more time with her kids). After years of having yayas and helpers leave after a short time, she and her husband have decided to go maidless and raise the kids on their own while pursuing their careers. When you see her, you won't even think she's worrying about the labada; she's so put together.

R is the big boss of her company. Almost every week, she travels to the provinces or abroad for meetings and client calls. In spite of her busy schedule, she makes time to bring her daughter to school, attend PTA meetings, go to church, and have coffee with me (sometimes). :)

C is happily single, also the boss of her own company. She squeezes in spa appointments in the middle of a busy week chasing printing deadlines.

E is also happily single, and is my foodie partner. We'd meet for lunch or coffee often and just talk about life when we're not talking about teaching writing to college students and checking papers.

M is a dear friend since my grad school days. She's married, with two kids and manages to bake wonderfully great breads while meeting insurance sales quotas, reviewing the kids for their exams, and praying for me. :)

In a nutshell, 30-something women in Manila do a great job balancing work, family, friends, and other stuff, and have fun in the process. Superwomen! :)

BOOK OF THE WEEK: Tikim: Essays on Philippine Food and Culture by Doreen Fernandez is a wonderful read. Through her writing, you can almost taste every morsel of a dish she describes, whether it's adobo, kinilaw or balut. Like food? Read this.

VERSE OF THE WEEK: A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity. Proverbs 17:17

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Four dogs and a mynah

Every morning, the minute my mom stands by her bedroom window, four dogs run as fast as they can to the patch of grass right below the window. There’s Jaya, formerly known as Jada (my mom kept calling her Jaya, and the name stuck), Pretty, her three-legged daughter, and Brownie, Jaya’s months-old son. Jaya, Pretty and Brownie are brown mini-pinschers. The fourth dog jostling for space is Joker, a six-month-old yellow Labrador retriever. All four of them wait expectantly for whatever my mom would throw out the window at them: morsels of bread, chips, popcorn, doughnuts, peanuts. My mom once said, “These dogs eat anything. Even stale popcorn.”

It’s not like they’re not being fed well. Just this morning, my dad asked me for P200 (he didn’t have smaller change) for the dogs’ supply of dog food. Aside from their dog food, they also are given leftovers from the dinner table: chicken, beef, whatever. Joker even has an egg included in his daily diet. Good for the hair, my dad said.

Last week, my dad got so mad at the helpers for putting the bird food on a low shelf where Joker could get them. And yes, he finished a whole bag. That’s P300+ worth of bird food for Garci, our mynah, finished off in a day. Told you our dogs eat anything. Well, Joker’s still alive and is still his usual happy perky self, so I guess bird food is good for dogs too.

Let’s talk about Garci. My dad got him at the height of the Gloriagate Senate investigation last year. He’s been hoping Garci (the mynah) would one day say, “Hello, Garci!” while my son has been trying to talk Garci (the mynah) into saying, “So will I still win by one million?” But so far, all Garci wants to say are: Jaya, Joker, Rose, Roy, Alec, hahaha, buzzer sounds, and the sound of the car horn. But his favorite word is Jaya. Garci can say it in many ways: “Ja-ya…” in a soft singsong like way, “Jaya?” in an inquiring tone,” and “JAYA!” in an angry manner.

Jaya’s “husband” is Oakwood, who was born during the Oakwood mutiny. My dad bought him for P7,000 from someone in Taguig. Oakwood is a black mini-pinscher, and bullied everyone he can. He got Jaya pregnant twice, with five puppies born the first time, and two puppies born the second time. Since there are just a few of us living in this home, the dogs outnumbered us, and it didn’t make sense. Soon the dogs were sold one by one, save for Jaya, Pretty and Brownie now. Joker was a gift to my dad.

Sometimes when my son is bored, he would go play fetch with Joker. Once in a while I try to pet Jaya. But when Joker sees it, he gets so jealous, he’d come bounding wanting to be cuddled too. So I would run back to the house and just watch him through the window. I don’t know, I just can’t cuddle a dog heavier than me.

But the dogs are nice to have around. Whenever anyone of us comes home and gets down from the car, all the dogs are right outside the car door, forming a welcoming committee. They wag their tails, and sniff and sniff, as if saying, “Welcome home.” Then as we enter the house, Garci would let out a shrill voice. Wonder when he’ll get to say, “Hello!”

BOOK OF THE WEEK: At Books for Less, I saw Love, Desire, Children, Etc.: Reflections of a young wife by Rica Bolipata-Santos. I know Rica. She wrote for Smart Parenting magazine a few years ago and I bumped into her once in my son’s school. This book she wrote is a collection of personal essays delving on motherhood, marriage, childhood crushes, sexuality, and more. Her writing is honest and engaging. Read it on a quiet afternoon while sipping a hot cup of coffee.

VERSE OF THE WEEK: When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? Psalm 8:3-4

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

My gifted child

Last week, we found out that we have a wonder child in our midst. My son, who's 10 turning 11 next month, was diagnosed as gifted with a mental age of 15 years on the average, and 17 years in the language/verbal area. Of course the little girl inside me did cartwheels and shouted a cheer. It was nice to hear this good news while living with my back pains.

I've always had a gut feeling that he was different. When he was four months old, while he was in his playpen, he blurted out, "Yaya! Dede!" His dad, our yaya, and I laughed. He was always curious, and before he was two, he knew the alphabet and all the animal sounds. He talked early. At three, he began reading words. And at four, I remember he almost cried tears of joy at realizing he can read the sentences in the story book we had in our hands by himself. At five, he would take his favorite Lego story book and read the story to people around him.

When he was six, he had to wipe away tears of happiness when he got as a birthday gift from his lolo and lola a hardbound book on the presidents of the US. He was into almanacs and atlases thereafter. At seven, when 9-11 happened, he would read the tickler fast when we tuned in to CNN. At eight, we read together In the Presence of My Enemies, the book written by Gracia Burnham, who was kidnapped with her husband by the Abu Sayaf.

He's into politics, history, and military stuff. When the Gloriagate Senate hearings were being shown on TV last year, he would watch it on ANC and write down notes to create a timeline of the whole event. Oh yes, he had an opinion on everything that was happening in current events. When my dad's Time subscription copy would be delivered, he'd shout a "Yay!" then read it first in our room. Last year, we had to buy teach-yourself German and Japanese books because he wanted to learn those languages.

Sometimes he would ask me things I do not know the answer to, or do not know how to answer. How many square miles is Texas? What are the top ten military airplanes? What is oral sex? Can I have a brother?

He would beg to be allowed to stay up late to watch Jeopardy. Today, his last day in school, he went home early and was able to watch Game K N B and had so much fun answering his questions. He told his lolo to enter him as a contestant if they come up with a kiddie version.

His dad said he's smarter than either of us. I agree. I wonder what God has in plan for Him. I pray that He will use his mind for His purpose and to help other people.

In the meantime, I'll try to answer his questions as best I could. If I can't, we'll Ask Jeeves.

BOOK OF THE WEEK: Night by Elie Wiesel is a sad thin book about his heart-wrenching experience in concentration camps during the Holocaust. Wiesel won a Nobel Peace Prize. His writing is clear and touching. Read it at least once, like you'd watch Schindler's List the movie at least once. It will keep you grateful for the life we have now.

VERSE OF THE WEEK: Sons are a heritage from the LORD, children a reward from him. Psalm 127:3

Monday, February 06, 2006


While cleaning out my files recently, I came across this old essay I wrote about my mom. It was written on October 23, 1998, almost eight years ago, but it still made me smile. At 74, my mom is still a mall rat to this day.

My mother

Every day at the stroke of nine in the morning, she pretties herself up, putting on lipstick and touching up her hair, before carefully choosing her wardrobe for the day. It's time for her daily exercise, and my mother's going to the mall.

Since she experienced all those pains due to a slipped disk years ago requiring her to see a physical therapist, my mother has made it a point to walk the whole length of SM City North EDSA every day. She'd start from where the supermarket is, pause and sip coffee at Dunkin' Donuts, walk again, go up the second level and have a slice of pizza at Greenwich or munch on a burger at Burger King, then go down and end up at the other end, where Goldilocks is.

The daily walks have made her a perfect walking SM Info Center. Ask her where the nearest restroom is and she'll tell you where in an instant. She knows which store is located where, and what they offer. She knows where the ATMs are. She's up to date with what's on sale at SM Department Store, and until when that sale will be. And for me, best of all, she gives the best food reviews in town.

She told me once, for instance, that she had soy chicken with rice at Chopstix Express on the second floor, and found it too salty [Note: this resto is now closed.]. She told me, too, that Racks, also on the second level, had budget-sized pork ribs value meal, and at P45 with rice and softdrinks, was the best deal they ever had [Note: This Racks is now gone too.]. She advised me to be at Kenny Rogers no later than 11 am if I wanted to have a seat for lunch. The best coffee in the mall is served by Dunkin' Donuts and St. Cinnamon [St. Cinnamon vanished already.]. The best ensaimadas are sold by Red Ribbon. Sarciadong isda (sweet and sour fish) is tops at Goldilocks. And forget the Food Court at the basement, she said, since most of the time they only serve reheated food.

Coming from the mall, she'd go home and tell Alec what toys are on sale. Her eyes would light up, as Alec's would, too, as she would recount the latest Mega Bloks and Lego exhibits on display. She would also buy Alec a Happy Meal or a Jollibee Kiddie Meal, for the free toy. Then she would rave about the rest of the free toys in the meal series for the month, with a promise to buy another Happy/Kiddie Meal for Alec.

It was my mother who warned me against parking in the carpark building, for several kidnappings and robberies happened there. The best place to park, she said, would be in the wide open area fronting Goldilocks, where everyone can see you and you can see everyone [This parking lot is no more, and a Hypermart is being built on it.].

My mother is 67, and still as strong as can be. When I was hospitalized a month ago and had surgery to remove an inflammed appendix, she sat up by my bed at the ward waiting for me until midnight when I was wheeled in from the recovery room. The next day, she assisted me as I took one painful step after another for my required exercise. To this day she would go out every day, and feel invigorated each time she came back.

Sometime in the future, I'd probably find myself doing the same things she is doing now. I would pretty myself up at 10 am each day, saunter off to the mall, and come back with tales of new toys for my little grandchild. She hasn't said it, but I've learned from her that life is worth living each day.

BOOK OF THE WEEK: I've had Confessions of a Q.C. House-husband and Other Privacies by Alfed "Krip" Yuson for so many years now, but it's only this week that I found time to read it. His writing is brilliant, but he shines more when he writes about his "privacies." Telephone cords, doorknobs, palengkes -- these may seem like ordinary stuff, but stuff that good writing can be made of, in Yuson's hands.

VERSE OF THE WEEK: For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor; no good thing does He withhold from those whose walk is blameless. Psalm 84:11

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

A year before life begins

So this is how it feels to be 39. Eeeks, just saying 39 gives me the goosebumps. 39 seems so ... ancient, not like 38, which sounds a bit younger. But if Demi Moore and Madonna can still look gorgeous beyond the big Four Oh, then, 39 may not be so bad after all.

The early days of January are usually hectic for me, and this year was not exception. After the New Year festivities, my birthday celebrations start. That's celebrations with an "s" since I have lots of mini-parties, from coffee with friends to dinner with family. I like it better that way. I'm not much of a big party person.

So there I was pigging out with Erli at Old Spaghetti House on the 2nd, eating Cello's Donuts with the faculty on the 4th (my birthday), feasting on take-out chicken honey from Serye for dinner that night, taking a break from work with Mel at Figaro on the 5th (with my fave kapeng barako), digging into a KFC bucket on the night of the 7th with the family, and watching Narnia with Alec on the 8th. Tomorrow, Friday, I'll be meeting up with some members of the Smart Parenting e-group (our loyal readers) for coffee at Bo's. They're calling it a Karen Birthday EB, isn't that sweet? Now if only I have enough cash to treat them all. :)

They say life begins at 40. So what does that make of the earlier years? But life for me has begun a long time ago, and I can say I'm rich with family, friends, love, joy, and peace -- the things that matter. It's been a good 39 years. Can't wait to see what's in store for me in the next 39 years or more.

BOOK OF THE WEEK: Of course, after following Professor Murphy's pursuits in Babylon Rising, I just had to buy the next one in the series, The Secret of Ararat. This time, he's looking for Noah's Ark up in the mountains of Turkey.

VERSE OF THE WEEK: Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things. Philippians 4:8