Saturday, November 29, 2008


We were a day late in Manila, but it was still Thanksgiving in America yesterday, and so my son and I celebrated Thanksgiving last night. Nothing fancy, just a simple dinner, but with the holiday staple turkey as he requested.

He has always asked for turkey around this time. Two years ago, I just bought some KFC chicken and mashed potato (still an American dinner, I reasoned), but he said you’re supposed to have turkey on Thanksgiving. And so last year, I started turkey hunting in the weeks leading to Thanksgiving.

As my friends know, I’d rather eat out than buy something and cook it. Turkey seemed demanding, and so I didn’t get a whole one and attempt to roast it. Alas, only the big hotels seemed to serve turkey for Thanksgiving. Budget was tight last year, so I just bought 400 grams of turkey breast and a jar of cranberry jelly at Santi’s Delicatessen on Timog Avenue. I also went for a big order of mashed potato from KFC, and surfed the Net frantically for tips on how to cook turkey breast.

I ended up applying a salt-pepper-and-whatever-herb-on-the-pantry rub on the turkey breast steaks last year then pan-fried it in olive oil. Surprisingly, it was good.

This year, I went to TGI Friday’s expecting it to have a turkey dish I can just take home and serve at dinner. Did you know that they don’t have a single dish with turkey? I ended up ordering chicken fingers instead.

And so it was back to Santi’s for 400 grams of turkey breast and a bottle of cranberry jelly again. I applied a salt-pepper-basil rub on the turkey steak for 30 minutes, then pan-fried it in olive oil. Good thing my sister’s balikbayan boxes arrived yesterday, and so I was able to use the turkey gravy I found in one of the boxes. Perfect.

With or without turkey, I think the Philippines should have a holiday such as Thanksgiving too. There is so much to be thankful for, yet so much busyness around us that we need a reminder to stop and count our blessings. In my case alone, I have so much to thank God for: a peaceful life, a wonderful son, supportive parents, caring siblings, and nephews and nieces who make me smile and who love to discover new restaurants like I do. I thank God for letting me write and edit for a living, which is what I really want to do, after trying to obey my dad to pursue a career in finance (for the sake of the CPA title).

About that last bit, my college classmates, husband and wife Orlie and Mylene, pointed that out yesterday when I bumped into them at Friday’s. They knew I was writing, and commented that that was what I wanted to do even way back in high school (Mylene was a high school batchmate too). My other high school classmate Gezelee said the same thing when she was in town from the US a few months ago. She said, “Wow, Karen, congratulations! You did it!” She said she knew I wanted to write since back in high school and is happy I have pursued writing as a career.

Back to Orlie and Mylene. We had a good laugh after we realized we were all doing something far different from accounting, our course in college. Mylene is taking her MA in Library Science now, while Orlie just finished Nursing and is waiting to take the NCLEX. Lesson for the day: Let your kids choose their own college course, something they really want. I think it is such a blessing to be given the privilege to do what you want to do for the rest of your life.

Still there is much to be thankful for: the opportunity to work from home and be with my son more, the privilege of being with my parents at their old age (Mommy will be 78 next year and Daddy will be 80!), our hardworking helper Rose, our talkative mynah Garci (who can not only talk but beep like a car, bark like a dog, cackle like a rooster, and whistle like my sister’s driver), and our army of dogs who keep us company and scare the pusakals or pusang kalye: Joker, Jaya, Brownie, Pretty, and Pacquiao. I thank God for this home I grew up in, which, even after I lived elsewhere, is still home to me. And I thank God for the other home he’s preparing for me, the one in heaven.

Thanksgiving—have you stopped and counted your blessings?

VERSE OF THE WEEK: Give thanks to the LORD for he is good; his love endures forever. Psalm 118:1

BOOK OF THE WEEK: My high school batchmate Analyn “Anne” Arce just recently launched her romantic novel The Caped Charmer, published by Fox Literary House. What started out as an accident with coffee with a Superman-like hunk turned into a kilig love story. Not at all cheesy, but cute and engaging. Happy thoughts!

Monday, October 20, 2008

A quiet weekend at the beach

This was just what I needed, I thought to myself as I spent most of the day looking at the quiet waves lapping the shores of Natipuan, Nasugbu, Batangas. It was a weekend to celebrate my nephew's 24th birthday, and while he and his friends frolicked in the waters the whole day, I was content to be where I was, in the resthouse's terrace, reading, but mostly taking in the view.

When was the last time I went to the beach to chill and relax? Probably in 2004, to Matabungkay for my dad's birthday. Realizing how refreshing it is to not do anything but look at the waters and feel sand on my feet, I made a mental note to myself to go to the beach once a year at least.

It used to be that I was a beach bum. Back when I was about 8 or 9, my parents bought a parcel of land at San Diego Beach in Lian, Batangas. We would be there often, and I'd spend the whole day out in the sun, swimming with rubber lifesavers and building sandcastles with my nephew Jewel (see photo above; that's us at San Diego Beach!). Those were pre-Coppertone days, and I got so dark that just a year or two ago, my mom's old friend who hasn't seen me for decades could not believe it was me she was seeing. "Maitim ka di ba? (You are dark, right?)" And I answered politely, "Ah baka yun po yung time na lagi kaming nasa beach (Oh that was probably the time we were always at the beach)."

My parents even celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary at that beach in 1975, with two busloads of relatives and friends as guests, and we always joked that Boyet de Leon and Nora Aunor just copied them and had a beach wedding too.

Over the years, the trips to San Diego Beach became few and far between since the developer was not able to fully develop the area. The roads became increasingly less smooth, the beach became pebbly, and underneath the waters were more corals and rocky formations that hurt the feet.

But I remember other memorable beach trips after that: to Nasugbu, Batangas for a church youth camp when I was 16, to Balayan, Batangas for the summer workshops for The Varsitarian staff in college, to Montemar for an outing of reporters of BusinessWorld when I was working there, to Subic for a company outing when I was working as internal auditor, to Boracay with the family (where I braved a banana boat ride after being assured by my son's classmate in grade 1 that it was safe), to Santa Monica Beach in California with three college friends, etc.

And each time I would come back to the city refreshed.

Nowadays I don't like to stay out in the sun for long (keeping wrinkles and skin cancer at bay) and prefer to read quietly in a corner with a view of the beach. But I'll still come to the beach. There's nothing like seeing how beautiful God made this corner of the world, where the mountains kiss the sea and the sun rises and sets peacefully over calm waters.

VERSE OF THE WEEK: And God said, "Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear." And it was so. God called the dry ground "land," and the gathered waters he called "seas." And God saw that it was good. Genesis 1:9-10

Monday, October 13, 2008


I got depressed just looking at the papers today. All over the world, everyone is on edge waiting to see what else will happen with the world economy on the downturn.

We see the signs of tough times: more crowds at the MRT and less people at McDonald's on a Sunday lunch time. I have friends who have cancelled their newspaper subscriptions and just read the news online. That's a P600 savings per month right there.

I am normally a matipid person, but times call for just a little more peso-pinching.

Here are some of my own saving tactics:

1. Look for a beauty salon that charges less. The old salon I used to go to charges P2K++ per coloring. Now I go to another salon nearer to my place, and I pay only about P1,400 for the same service. I know I could save some more if I take up my friend Jenny's suggestion to use the all-natural Healthy Options Tints of Nature and just color my hair on my own. I just might do that soon.

2. Plan trips. If I'm going to Makati, for instance, I do everything I can there: If I'm attending a press conference or having an interview there, I might as well meet a friend, pick up a check, and shop in the area.

3. Eat more at home. Years ago, my friend Meg got horrified at learning I would eat out for breakfast almost every day after I drop off my son in school. It was my alone time, and I enjoyed doing it. However, she was worried about all that transfat getting into my system. Meg need not worry anymore since I eat more often at home.

4. Use up freebies. I try those sample moisturizers that come with the magazine I read, use the ketchup that goes with the take-out, and make a note to myself to use the gift certificates I receive well before their expiry.

5. Try cheaper alternatives.
Sure, Figaro and Starbucks are a lot better than Country Style brewed coffee, but when the caffeine urge gets to me, I settle for Country Style. That's P38 per cup as against about P85 and up for the gourmet coffee.

6. Pay attention to items on sale. At Book Sale Greenhills, I got books that still look like new -- perfect for Christmas gifts! At Landmark, I got a jacket for my son that's P500 off the regular price.

7. Go local. When shopping for clothes, I prefer patronizing Filipino owned companies. Saves you money and lets you do your bit in helping uplift the local economy.

BOOK OF THE WEEK: The Return to Zion by Bodie Thoene is Book Three of The Zion Chronicles. It is a fiction story set during the founding of Israel as a nation in 1948, when Jews were streaming back to the Promised Land after the Holocaust. Interesting.

: Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun. Psalm 37:5-6

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

I breathe, therefore I shred (Or what I have in common with Anderson Cooper)

I caught a rerun of Ellen recently, and Anderson Cooper, that clean-cut CNN anchor with the bluest blue eyes, was a guest.

Whenever I see him on CNN (my 13-year-old son's favorite channel, by the way), I can't help but really look at him. He seems to smell so good all the time, so yummily delicious even when he's talking about the financial crisis or the war in Iraq.

Anyway, during that four-minute guesting on Ellen, he talked about unwinding by watching trash TV (shows like Hey Paula). He said that the Tivo is one great technological innovation. That, and the shredder.

Well, well, well -- we do have something in common, AC and I. Aside from being journalists, we both love the shredder. He said, "The shredder makes you feel important, like you have secret documents... You don't want important documents to fall into the wrong hands." Hmmm, my kind of guy. Except that there's talk that he's gay. Not sure if that's true though.

I've been shredding documents every month since last year. Since I don't do it every day, I make it a point to do some shredding duty monthly. What do I shred? Bank statements, deposit slips, cancelled checks from more than three years ago; courier receipts with my signature on it--basically anything with my signature that has lost its meaning and purpose in life.

I started shredding early last year, and since I don't do it often, I still have some documents to shred to this day. One time my son helped me out but grew tired and refused to do it again. "You need a shredder," he said.

Last year, when we were in the US and found ourselves in Staples, the office supply store, he saw a shredder and said, "Mom! Look! A shredder for you!" I just smiled. Why spend so much on a shredder when I can shred documents on my own? Besides, it makes me feel productive doing some shredding while watching ER or Ugly Betty.

Anyway, in case you missed that Ellen episode, here's a link:

I breathe, therefore I shred. It's one of those quirky things you probably didn't know about me. :-)

VERSE OF THE WEEK: "But blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit." Jeremiah 17: 7-8

BOOK OF THE WEEK: I'm reading The Family Code of the Philippines. No kidding. Read it and be informed.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Money tips

Here’s the link to an article written by Ellen Sanchez about my talk on money last Saturday, Sept. 20, 2008 at Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, Greenbelt 3:


BOOK OF THE WEEK: 9 Things a Leader Must Do by Dr. Henry Cloud. Great leaders seem to share common qualities, such as pursuing their passion, focusing on the positive, looking at the big picture, going the extra mile, etc. Dr. Cloud uses different terms such as yanking the diseased tooth in place of focusing on the positive, but his insights are still worth reading. Distributed locally by OMF Literature, Inc.

VERSE OF THE WEEK: This is what the LORD says: “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, and ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.” Jeremiah 6:16

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Yes, I can cook

"So how do you like the chicken teriyaki I cooked? I asked my son over lunch today.

"You didn't cook this! You can't cook something this good," he replied.

And so I turned to my only witness and ally, our helper. "Di ba ako ang nagluto niyan?" I asked.

And she said, "Oo. Marunong mommy mo."

And so I reminded my son of the chicken salpicao, beef salpicao, beef teriyaki, and creamy tuna pasta he had recently. They were good, weren't they?

Well I guess this is my reward for not cooking more often over the years. Back when my son was a baby until he was almost three, I would cook more often, from kangkong in bagoong to chicken afritada, nilagang baka and beef steak. Then when we moved back to my parents' house, I stopped cooking. Why cook when there's always someone to cook?

That's why when we were in the US last year and I told my 12-year-old son I made breakfast, he refused to believe me. Oh yeah, I challenged? Let's cook tomorrow. So the next day I taught him how to boil frankfurters for breakfast. Then he said, "But I thought you didn't know how to cook! How come when I wanted hot dog before you didn't make them?" I replied via a cough/mumbled reply. Hmm. I can't remember. I must have been either busy or I just didn't want him to have so much processed food.

Anyway, so it's true, I've been cooking. I think it has to do with the number of people asking me lately as soon as they find out I'm doing some copy editing for a couple of food magazines. They ask, "So you must be a good cook!" Even my niece, seeing my monthly stash of food magazines said, "Eh di tita, magaling ka magluto?" (It was a question since she probably can't recall any dish I cooked). My sister beat me by replying right away, "Hindi (laughs). Gusto lang niyang magbasa. Di naman siya nagluluto (laughs.)"

So I'm glad to say that those days are over! I don't cook every day, but whip up something twice or thrice a week, mostly food for my son. (Secret: I rely on cookbooks and recipes in magazines.) He's getting tired of my mom's nilaga-sinigang-beefsteak routine and prefers my pasta dishes and out-of-the-ordinary fare. Besides, I can't help checking out if the "easy" recipes I'm editing are really "easy" for a newbie cook like me.

At the recent Linggo ng Wika party in school, he brought humba which I cooked myself (with help from our helper who sliced the ingredients and watched the whole thing boil). But the timpla is mine.

Maybe next time I should make sure my son sees me cooking so he'll believe his mom can cook--just not like Giada De Laurentiis. Yet.

BOOK OF THE WEEK. I've been intrigued by the book Epicenter by Joel Rosenberg ever since our pastor mentioned it, and my d-group mate Joy raved about it. So I bought a hardbound copy (couldn't wait for the paperback) when I saw one at St. Francis Bookstore. The author seems to have a gift. Before 9/11 happened, he wrote a novel describing a scene where airplanes were used to attack an American city. The book was still not printed at the time 9/11 happened. There were other instances. Anyway, in Epicenter, Rosenberg analyzes the current events happening in the Middle East in the light of Ezekiel 38 and 39 in the Bible. You better read this.

VERSE OF THE WEEK: But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. Luke 5:16

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Two hours

It's a Wednesday afternoon and I'm about to resume tackling the day's editing tasks. I sometimes call it my labada ("Dami kong labada ngayon ah"), but it's not really a complaint. I love what I do, editing and writing from home.

This morning, I finished writing two articles, and as soon as I sent the second one out by e-mail, I grabbed my bag and hopped in the car. It's time for my weekly meeting with a bunch of women, most of them moms, some still single, but all interested to take time out for two hours to study God's word.

We do it right in the middle of the week, in the middle of the day. It's a great reminder that in the midst of a busy week and a busy day, we need to be quiet and find out what lessons we can learn from the Bible and apply in our lives. I love that we all come from different backgrounds, but are brought together by a common interest. We learn from each other, pray for each other, hug each other. We share food, parenting tips, marriage advice, beauty tips, even tricks to sleep better. And yes, we share lots of laughter, and sometimes tears too. Recipes? Hmm, maybe soon.

Two hours later, I rush out yet refreshed deep within, ready to go back to work again. Can't wait for next Wednesday.

BOOK OF THE WEEK: Right now I'm reading Bad Girls of the Bible and What We Can Learn from Them by Liz Curtis Higgs. I've only read the first chapter so far, which is about Eve, but I can tell that this book is worth reading. We can truly learn from these Bible characters.

VERSE OF THE WEEK: Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:25

Monday, June 30, 2008


In English, it means friend. To us who belong to this tight-knit bunch of alumni of The Varsitarian, the official student paper of the University of Santo Tomas, katoto means a friend from way way back, 20 years or so. Katoto also happens to be the title of the debut album of my friends Paul Val Pena and Vim Nadera, also staffers with me then at The V.

Paul and Vim have been known to collaborate on original songs since we were together in college. Vim, now an award-winning creative writer, would write the lyrics. Paul, who has been touring the Olongapo folk houses since he was in his teens, would put them to music. Paul has since migrated to San Diego, California, doing time-motion studies for a big gaming company in southern California.

Admittedly, some of their music would be kuwentong lasing to me, but some are real gems, such as If and When, and Ang Dating Tipanan. We V staffers still remember how two of our co-staffers interpreted the latter song with hands swaying, which somehow distracted the audience from the song. hehe

So here we are 20 years later. Vim and Paul just uploaded their album Katoto in full on the Internet, which you can download for free. Why for free? Well, the bighearted men want you to enjoy the music, and if you feel you'd like to share your blessings, you are encouraged to donate to their favorite charities, listed on the website.

Tomorrow, July 1, Paul will sing the songs in their album at Conspiracy Garden Cafe, 7 p.m. onwards. It will be likewise a celebration of our being katoto these past two decades.

: I thoroughly enjoyed Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson. A mountaineer, Mortenson attempted to climb K2, one of the challenging mountains in Pakistan. Failing to reach the summit, he went down with his guide and buddy, but got disoriented and lost along the way. He found himself in a little community where he was nursed back to health by the village head's family. In the process he got to know their lifestyle and saw the sorry state of their education. This man showed that it can be done. Now there are over 61 schools educating young children in Pakistan and Afghanistan, thanks to him.

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

Monday, May 05, 2008

Tech and my life as a freelance journalist

When I was starting out in professional journalism almost two decades ago, I remember walking the length of Ayala Avenue (our Wall Street) and trying to sniff out news and do interviews to meet my two-stories-a-day quota for the business paper I was working for then. A pen, a notebook, and a dependable microcasette recorder were all I needed, with a dash of kapalmuks (confidence, in other words).

By 3 p.m, I would board the bus back to Greenhills and be on my desk by 4 p.m. Then I would type away my stories using Wordstar on the desktop running on MSDOS. I'd save my stories on a floppy disk then hand over the disk to my editor. The floppy disk would go to another editor after her, after which my story is included in the page layout for the next day. Copy editors and proofreaders will go over the proofs.

Now that it's 2008, my life has definitely become easier. Requests for interviews are done by e-mail, mostly. Some interviewees prefer e-mail interviews, so that makes it even easier.

In the magazine I edit, I assign stories to our contributing writers by e-mail. I do the same to our contributing photographers, attaching pegs that would give them an idea of the kind of photos we want. Then the writers submit their articles by e-mail (using Word). Some photographers e-mail me their photos if it's just one to two photos I need. Others give me a photo CD.

After editing the articles and choosing the photos, I can e-mail everything to the art director, or send him/her the photo CD via courier. The art director then does the layouts and sends me the files by e-mail. I go over them, send him/her my corrections, and the final proofs are done. The files now go to production for color separation and printing.

Just the other day, one of my editors uploaded the videos of a mentoring session I have to write about. I downloaded the files yesterday at Mediafire, then downloaded a VLC media player so my PC can play the mp4 files. Today I will take notes as I watch the videos, write my story, then e-mail it to my editor. She will then edit it then have it published.

Technology has certainly made things easier for journalists. It is now possible to really work from home or the coffee shop as long as you have access to the Internet.

I'm still not as high tech as other journalists though. I still work on my desktop PC with DSL connection, have no digital camera, and still use a microcassette recorder. But that's already a good start, isn't it?

BOOK OF THE WEEK: Footprints of a Pilgrim features the poems of Ruth Bell Graham, wife of the evangelist Billy Graham. I was struck with how gentle and loving yet strong this woman was. Her poems are full of hope and faith. She was indeed a Proverbs 31 woman.

VERSE OF THE WEEK: The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me. Psalm 138: 8

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Beep! Beep!

My brother, who lives in Tokyo with his Japanese wife, drives to work every day. At work, he drives around a lot too.

Then when he was here just a couple of months ago, he found himself being driven around by the driver, or by my dad or me. Although he wanted to drive around by himself, my mom and my sister-in-law would protest loudly.

One night, though, we had dinner at Serye Cafe Filipino at Quezon City Circle. As we approached the car, he got the keys and said he'd drive. It was a short drive home, so we all let him. And once behind the wheel and out on the Elliptical Road, he beeped at the hay naku drivers. "Ahh, ang tagal tagal ko nang gustong bumusina!" he said, a grin on his face.

Filipino drivers--well most of them--love to honk their horns. At the traffic stop, they nudge you with a loud honk as soon as the light turns green. Just this afternoon, as I was driving on the middle lane on the northbound EDSA-Cubao underpass, this red SUV behind me kept on honking. He wanted to overtake, but all the lanes were not open. Did I let him pass? Nope. Well I couldn't even if I wanted to.

When I was in my teens and learning how to drive one summer at Socialite's Driving School near Sto. Domingo Church in Quezon City, my instructor told me to honk the horn every time I would overtake. I followed that to the letter until a guy friend told me years later not to do it; it's not required.

And I found out since then that you don't need to honk your horn at every instance possible. Unless you want to annoy everyone.

But to a lot of Filipino drivers, honking seems to be a requirement. Bus and jeepney drivers honk at would-be passengers from across the street. Taxi drivers honk at traffic intersections. Even the garbage truck driver honks a minimum of 20 times on our street alone.

Maybe it's just part of the Filipino culture. The honk, come to think of it, is like saying, "Hoy!"

BOOK OF THE WEEK: I'm currently reading Slow Food: Philippine Culinary Traditions edited by Erlinda Enriquez Panlilio and Felice Prudente Sta. Maria. It's a nostalgic collection of essays on the food we all grew up with -- slow cooked sinigang, pochero, and binagoongan, among others. Mouthwatering, this book is good for the body and soul. Wonderfully illustrated by Manuel Baldemor and published by Anvil.

VERSE OF THE WEEK: When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise. Proverbs 10:19

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Getting ahem, more curves

Ugh, I'm getting bigger. Just a few weeks ago, my good friend Mel and I met for lunch/coffee at Delifrance near Paseo de Roxas in Makati. It was a late lunch for her, and coffee time for me since I just came from a lunch meeting at Atrium. And she greeted me the way Filipinos normally do when they meet up: "Ang taba mo na! Ang laki ng hips mo!"

Ugh. As if I couldn't tell. Just last week, I tried on three pairs of slacks I had in my closet, and they all don't fit. My son teased me, saying, "Haha, you're getting fat!"

So I told my dad last Saturday that I won't eat anymore (joke lang). And he and the rest of my family protested saying, "'Wag! Bagay sa 'yo mataba."

Come to think of it, when I was reed thin with a size 26 waistline and tipping the scales at less than a hundred pounds, no one said I looked good. The usual comments were: "You look tired, haggard, sick. Do you work too hard?" I, on the other hand, enjoyed my size small frame then because it was easy to pick clothes at the store.

Speaking of that, just last Thursday, I bought a size 32 pair of slacks at Bench in Trinoma. 32!!! Well the truth is, I did fit into a size 30 but if I eat a hefty lunch, I know I would look like suman. And so I went for a size 32. If only for this, I won't patronize Bench anymore. Their sizes are small, so psychologically, people feel big if they're getting bigger sizes than usual.

The same is the case for Bayo. Hmmp! My size medium black slacks don't fit me anymore! I'll go back to Ensembles instead, where I'm still a size small! And there's the cutie Mia Bella clothes shop at Serendra, where, as of last Sunday, I still fit in a size small skirt! Yay! (Well, that's because they start their sizes at extra small. hehe)

Anyway, going back to what I was saying, I'm getting bigger. Must be all that soft drinks and coffee I've been drinking much lately. Time to love mineral water again from morning to night.

But I guess that will have to wait until my overseas-based siblings go back to their home countries. That's because we've been eating out every day, as we are like normal Filipinos who bond over good food. We've been visiting old favorites and discovering new restaurants lately, and we just all love it.

And today's not any different--we're going out again to bond and eat. Ah, good food with good company--it's simply one of life's pleasures. Saka na ang diet.

BOOK OF THE WEEK: Two years ago, my good friends Dennis and Meg gave me the book Pray God's Will in 365 Days by Jay Duque. It has Bible readings every day and prayers too. I wasn't able to finish it before, so I started again this year. Very comforting.

VERSE OF THE WEEK: And this verse seems so apt given all the words exchanged over the ZTE-NBN scandal: "An honest answer is like a kiss on the lips." Proverbs 24:26

Friday, February 15, 2008

It pays to know the flags

As I was watching the finale of Amazing Race Asia 2 last night, I couldn't help but be as frustrated as Mark Nelson of the Philippine team. There he was in Sentosa Island hoping against hope that his partner Rovilson Fernandez will correctly queue up the right flags (representing the countries they went to on the race, in order) so they won't waste their lead over the other two teams. Mark knew his flags; Rovilson didn't. Oh dear.

Lo and behold, the third team to arrive, Collin Low and Adrian Yap from Singapore, made it in the first attempt, so they were able to get the last clue and head to the pit stop. And they won the grand prize of US$100,000.

It turns out that Adrian's mother gave him a book of flags when he was a child. So he breezed through that challenge.

Lesson learned: It pays to know the flags of the world. You'll never know when you would need that knowledge. :-)

BOOK OF THE WEEK: I'm leafing through Anne Graham Lotz's bestseller Just Give Me Jesus, which I got as a token at a presscon I attended. When you really think about it, Jesus is really all we need to soothe our fears, quiet our anxieties, heal our diseases, provide for our needs, and give us rest from all our troubles.

VERSE OF THE WEEK: Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord. Acts 3:19

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Chill, be still

About three years ago, I hurt my back. During one of those days Maynilad was repairing the water pipes and there was no drop of H2O coming out of the faucets, I lifted a pail full of water in the bathroom.

Then my back hurt for the next two weeks, and though for a while I thought I just slept in the wrong position, it became clear that it was something else. I couldn't sit down or stand up as fast as I used to. I couldn't walk as fast too. When I became like an old grandma clutching my lower back as I slowly painfully tried to sit on a chair, I knew it was time to go to the doctor. Worse, whenever I took a step on my left foot, the pain shot up to my left butt.

My rehab med doctor told me I had sciatica. An MRI showed that one of my disks in my spine dried up. Disk degeneration. I asked the doctor what caused it and she said stress or trauma. The lifting of the pail must have caused the trauma, but prior to that, my stressful lifestyle also had a hand in my condition.

Aside from the dry disk, one of the nerves was being pinned down by a disk, thus the sciatica.

A series of physical therapy sessions which included spinal traction followed. I also had to take lots of medicines. And I had to rest. That was the hardest part for me. I was used to being busy always as a journalist, with deadlines every week (or several times a week). There was always a story to pursue, an article to write or edit, a photo shoot to do, a presscon to attend, an editorial meeting to join, etcetera.

To make the story short, I complied with my treatment program. Over the months and years since then, my back became stronger. But sometimes my back acts up again when I get busy.

So when I came across a recent article posted in Today's Christian Woman entitled "Rx:Relax" (, I knew I have to slow down again. Chill, be still, said one of the women who commented on the article. It may not mean I have to stop working, but that I should relish the downtimes and just practice the art of doing nothing at the end of a working day or on weekends.

Chill, be still. Makes sense.

BOOK OF THE WEEK: Finishing Well by Bob Buford is a small book about "Life II." That's life after 40, when we've accomplished some stuff already and are now asking, "Now what?" Buford doesn't go the preachy mode but instead takes us to lunch with successful people he calls pathfinders, who have made the second half of their life count. Among these people are management expert Peter Drucker, PepsiCo chairman Steve Reinemund, and Ken and Margie Blanchard, coauthors of the One Minute Manager. When you're looking for something more, read this. It's distributed locally by OMF Literature Inc.

VERSE OF THE WEEK: "Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth." Psalm 46:10

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Busyness: the great temptation

“What is the greatest temptation facing women today?” someone asked Anne Graham Lotz this question yesterday at a press conference I attended for Lotz’ Just Give Me Jesus crusade slated this Saturday at the Araneta Coliseum.

“Busyness,” she answered. It is ironic, she pointed out, that the things that are supposed to help make life convenient (examples: text messaging, e-mail, and the like) are the ones making us busier. And with women having homes, children, and jobs to attend to, a lot of us neglect the most important thing—our relationship with God.

There’s not much time to pray and read the Bible. Or if we do, we hurry and can’t really concentrate, thinking of the many things we have to do.

“Establish a vibrant, growing relationship with God,” said Anne, daughter of the late evangelist Billy Graham. “Life is so hard; we have to have some help.” And that help she’s talking about is help from Jesus.

BOOK OF THE WEEK: The Five Love Languages of Teenagers by Gary Chapman. What worked before when your kids were very young may not work with them now that they are teenagers. That’s because teenagers seek individuality and independence and have their own mind. Find out what love language would work for your own teen.

VERSE OF THE WEEK: Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you…Let not your heart be troubled. John 14:27