Friday, December 8, 2017

Still You

There is...
a sense of security when I come to You, Lord.

I know that Presence - that caring, accepting, and peaceful Presence I drenched myself in when I felt alone in the convent. I would look at You, and You would look at me as if I'm the only person in the universe.

You created everything, but You looked at me as if I was much more loved. Much more beautiful.

I came to You in my dirtiest clothes, and you welcomed me.

I did come to You in my I-haven't-taken-a-bath-yet state, and you welcomed me.

I approached You without make-up nor with the hair of my legs shaved, and you welcomed me.

I ran to You in my worst - dry, angry, depressed - and you welcomed me.

I've already stepped out of the nunnery.
And still here You are, alive with that Presence.

Everything has changed. Everyone did.
But You, Lord, have not.

You are still who You are.

And You still love me.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Reaching Infinity


Here in the car, I look at the clouds.
And think of You.

I can't remember the last time I felt near You like I used to.
By that, I mean, me being so-much drawn to You.
I can't remember.

I shut myself in a cave for reasons I have not spelled out yet. And somehow, I felt like my awe in You has been translated into the colors I poured into papers, sheets of sketched faces, and paintings on my room's walls.

They say it is a form of idealism, of me trying to make alive a world I created in my head.
Or maybe it's me trying to reach infinity, trying to reach You.

You and me.
Me and You.

Because we is really the only world I know,
the only space I would willingly fall into.

Here in the car, I look at the clouds.
And I feel like I am back to we,
that I never really got that far from You...
because You were never far from me.

I think of You, and feel that it's not so bad to create chimerical worlds,
but it is time to give them breath.

It is time to live, not merely dipping myself in colors and ink.
But to live, truly reaching for You.
Always reaching for Infinity.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Somewhere Not Here


This morning, I sat on the chair by my desk to meditate.

But before I closed my eyes, I let the picture of the shore get into me, and inadvertently brought it with me in the darkness.

And it painted the darkness.

I want to go somewhere where nature is, some place where I could sit before the ocean and stare at the horizon. Or perhaps, somewhere with cool breeze and mountains reaching the velvety sky. 

Somewhere, somewhere away from this city.

There, I would sit by the shore and inhale the morning air. Then I would meditate and safely fall into nothingness.

There, I would find words, string them together, and write them.

There, I would be free. And be myself. Just myself. See who I am, see what I want, see my potential. There, I would see me in my raw form.

I do not know why I cannot get enough of silence when I have a room at home where I could be alone and quiet. But maybe I need a new environment, some new place, some fresh space.

I have to be somewhere I could think more then come out new, at peace, and strong.

Or just some place.

Some space where I could be in utter Vastness.

And find direction.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Transience


When you know that things go in and out of existence,
That time passes
And the sun sleeps
The mood hides
Clouds dissipate
Flowers decay
The ice melts
And the breath of life evaporates
What do you do?
How do you capture
A brief moment's beauty
That once fades
Will never be seen again?

Monday, October 23, 2017

Drawn to Freedom


I cup my hands over you, 
O floating light,
And keep you safe,
keep you in my heart.
I wish to have a whit, a speck,
A touch of your sliver,
Bury me in your dust 
Until I own it,
Yes, own it forever!

O freedom,
I like your pleasant face.
I envy your mirth,
How you're loafing, 
Smiling at the sun
And let your dress flutter 
When you run.

O freedom,
How you spread your arms before the sky!
You walk this earth barefooted,
And in the grass, you lie
Embracing and soaking,
Soaking in its sweet scent.

Freedom,
I like your verity,
You strip off clothes of hypocrisy.
You face the world unmasked,
Trudging hills and bushes,
Scathed by torns and branches.
You are brave, very brave.

Freedom,
In the night, your mind wanders,
Dabbing, staining papers with paint
And then threading words,
Creating worlds that don't exist
Yet live through pens and paintbrushes.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Three Things Women Don't Want to Forget


You, woman, remember.
Three things.

One, you are beautiful.
You might see flaws in the mirror,
but none of those define your beauty.
What matters isn't those that fade and change.
It's about who you are and what you make people feel.

Two, you are worthy.
Your worth is more than glinting diamonds and bars of gold.
You are far more than any material thing in the world,
for your heart is capable of loving deeply
and your mind runs beyond the longest mile.

Three, you deserve a great man.
You're for a man who will love you everyday,
and adore your strengths and weaknesses combined,
and respect you from head to toe.
You might be wrong in other things,
but it doesn't mean you're for a wrong man.

You, woman, remember.
Cherish yourself.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

When God Stares


I lay awake in bed with You in my head.

It was a fine morning. 

The sun was gently shining, 
the temperature cool.

And I felt like You were staring at me,
staring with soft eyes.

Lovingly.

Adoringly.

Unflinching.

I felt like You were telling me 
that You were with me.

That I was never alone.

That I was protected, guided and cared for.

That I was loved.

I lingered on Your stare,
basked in it.

Minutes passed.

A few more minutes.

I felt Your presence soaking my skin,
then my muscles 
then my bones.

You are with me, Lord.

Then I sat,
and then stood.

And I lived the day.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Joyful Blur


Sometimes, life doesn't make sense.

All you know is everything's bright, warm, and beautiful.

Things amble in front of you, and you just let things.

You float along the water's ripples, and you trust the water.

Life is good.

Nothing is sure, save that the time is right.

You feel Jesus's hand gripping yours,
and when you look back, you see clear traces of your footsteps.

Sometimes, life doesn't make sense.

All you remember is that one day, you gave up trying to control things.

And now, when you walk, 
you walk with Him.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

God's Surprises


One day you wake up and your arid days are over. 
You smile at the sun, you eat well, and you bounce when you walk.
You're all too happy that you can't find words for it or for anything.
It feels like life's wheel just turned, and you're on top.
And there, in that transition, you realize what can really make you happy.

You get to know that you're not the type who gets ecstatic with promotion or any career success,
that you're not proud of being known by quite a multitude of people,
that compliments no longer get into your head.

There, you get to see what's empty and what's not.
You define what it really means to be on top.
You rename dreams, find new goals, and envision a new life.

Things suddenly become surprising as if spotting a huge shell on the shore,
or suddenly feeling cool with the May air,
or taking hold of a book you thought you wouldn't find in the Philippines' bookstore.

And what's more surprising is, whatever made that has always been within your grasp.
Relationships.
Love.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Homeless


I don't know if you're fond of dogs. 

I am.

I pray for every street dog I see, especially when it's crossing the street.
"Lord, take care of that dog. Oh please, protect it from getting hit by a vehicle."
My eyes then follow the dog until it safely gets on to the other side of the road. I do that, as if staring helps.

My heart breaks for them, you see. I believe that dogs are good by nature. It's how they are created - loyal, loving and even sweet, sometimes. And I think they are adorable no matter how messy they look. They do not deserve the dirt and cruelty of the street.

But they're homeless.

And I hate that somebody deprived them of the warmth of home, of a family. 

One midday, I was looking out from the jeepney I was riding. I saw a street dog, and said a prayer for it like I always did. The jeep continued to run as it should, but as it did, I saw a street child. My eyes fell on the muck in his cheek, the tattered clothes, bare legs and tanned, dirty skin. I reckoned, he was about three or four years old.

I don't know if you're fond of children.

I am.

But I don't always pray for every street child I see in the street.

You see, I am a preschool teacher. I teach kids how to read and write. I love it when we fall during ring-around-the-rosie. I greet them with a hug, assist them when they change clothes after gym, and fix the girls' hair when tousled. Children are pure, good and happy by nature.

I don't know why it's always blame that comes to my mind first.
"This happened to him because his parents are lazy and indifferent!"
But I realized, it doesn't change the fact that this street child is not one of the kids I teach in school, that he's not learning how to read and write, and that he doesn't play ring-around-the-rosie safely. 

I don't know how many hugs he receives each day, or if somebody assists him nicely when changing clothes, or when somebody even bothers to comb his hair.

I thought, this street child does not deserve the dank, angry road.

But look.

He's homeless.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Forgotten Present


I am sorry, Present.
You're a gift I've been taking for granted.
I keep thinking about Past and Future,
When all I ever have for sure...is you.
So at this moment, allow me to remember
Who you are.

You are sacred
For you are the space in time where God and I meet,
Where God's words are spoken the loudest,
Where His presence is the warmest,
And where God is just being Himself.

You are the reality
For you're the world where there is real breeze,
Real heat and real coldness,
Real sunrise and real sunset,
Real skin and real breath.

You are beautiful.
You are the detail I always miss,
The splendor of heaven 
Revealed in tiny things.
You are both God and man's triumph.

You are mine.
Past has already died.
Future has never been born.
But you, Present,
You live.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Ghosts in My Closet


Tonight, 
I opened my oldest, dustiest closet.
And liberated myself.
I pulled it open and ghosts flew out of the door.
I realized, I had a collection of rotten things.
Old colorful arts and crafts.
Heaps of old and long letters.
Tattered notebooks messed up to the last page.
And lots of photos.
Everything looked well-preserved,
but smelled of rat's pee.
I grabbed all those that came from him,
and reluctantly remembered.
I ripped every memory - 
teared every word,
every face, every drawing,
 until it felt good.
I then pushed the pieces 
down the plastic bag with my foot,
pushed them until it almost burst,
then tied it with a rope twice.
There.
It's ready for the garbage truck.
No more ghosts.
No more rotten things.
No more traces of him.
And there's now space
for something new
and way better.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

While You're Single, Set Direction in Your Heart

I know you want to be loved. In a romantic way.

Perhaps, you sometimes imagine yourself ambling along the sea shore. While you cherish the sea breeze grazing your faces, you and your lover leave a trail of your footsteps in the sand. Your hands lace together. Sweet.

How about this. One morning, you wake up at the sound of your cellphone's alarm but it didn't annoy you. Instead, you touched the envelope on your screen, revealing your sweetheart's message:

Good morning. I'll see you later. :) 

You smiled and immediately, prepared for later - taking a bath, brushing your teeth, wearing your best clothes. In your heart, you know that whatever the day has for you, it'll be beautiful because you'll spend time with your sweetheart.

I may not know what other scenes you have in your imagination, but I get it. I know why you want to be loved in a romantic way. Either you've been there or not, you're quite sure it'll give you something to smile about, something to look forward to, or perhaps, a reason for waking up in the morning. You may not feel ecstatic about it every day or in the following years, but the love itself will certainly give inspiration. Romantic love is so beautiful. But you see, there's a potential that your life will revolve around it.

Now, I believe that while you (and I) are not there yet isn't the pressing question. Whenever I'm in the waiting process, I always remember that I am still being transformed in the desert. God sees something about me that should be improved, added, or nourished - things that will make me ready for that thing. And being ready means being at my best state of heart, best frame of mind, or best situation fitting for that thing. Probably, every single day we don't have what we want yet, God saves us from disaster.

Here's one way to prepare: develop singleness of heart. I've read about this from Fr. Green's Opening to God. He said that humans have conflicting desires. He suggested a way not to align them or make them accorded, but to be free from them. He said, "We can have many loves in our lives, but only one center, one sun around which all our other loves are satellites." So yes, there may be other loves but those are just (and must be) means to love more that one in the center. If the other loves conflict with loving the center, it isn't true love.

I know some people who, for some reason, cannot fuse the love of God and love of boyfriend/girlfriend/spouse. I tried to explain it in my mind, asked them if they feel like they're doing something wrong or if they have beliefs different from their lover which make them confused, things like that. There is an apparent reason for a "yes" answer, you see. Otherwise, it could either be because they don't know yet who or what their Sun is or they don't truly love the Sun yet. It is a process, anyway. A slow, painstaking process.

I think it doesn't just apply to loving a person. I, for example, have fondness for many things - teaching, arts, writing, spirituality, music etc., and sometimes, I love them deeply that it preoccupies me that I suddenly get snapped from reverie wondering why again do I desire it that much. There's always a question of "Why am I doing this again?" Always going back to the reason, to the core.

The question for everyone is this: Who is that One center, that One sun of your life?
We decide. I want it to be God. I bet you want it to be God too. You see, it is also about vocations.
Fr. Green also said: "Rosemary Haughton said...the married person comes to the love of God through the love of a spouse, while the celibate comes to the love of people through the love of God."

So while we're waiting for romantic love, for realized dreams, for purpose (for whatever that is) to arrive, I guess it's better that we set direction in our hearts. Have that singleness of heart, and let everything we do be for the love of our Sun, our Center - God.

I hope that made sense.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

The Importance of Truth in Writing

In a Place of Truth


I watched this movie entitled Midnight in Paris.

The story's about a writer/novelist who went to Paris with his fiance. One night, he strolled the cobbled streets on his own, and was hailed in a vintage car by revelers - two of them introduced themselves as Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda Sayre.

So yeah, the fortunate man was brought back to the old days where famous writers and artists walked like typical people. One of the remarkable lines uttered by the movie's Ernest Hemingway was this:

"No subject is terrible if the story is true, if the prose is clean and honest, and if it affirms courage and grace under pressure."


Truth. How important is truth in writing?

Audie Gemora, a renowned thespian, said that though acting is called "acting," it's one thing actors/actresses shouldn't do. They have to see it, feel it, experience it - make it exist right in front of them! Otherwise, the act won't look real. It'll only look like acting.

It's the same thing with writing. You see, the best pieces are written in a place of truth. If writers want to make the readers fully experience what's happening in the book, they themselves have to be in the experience - they have to know its truth. How does it feel to be here? What would one think when he/she is in this kind of situation? How would this kind of person react in this situation? Otherwise, the story might look dull and superficial.

Note: They say, people learn best from experience. Let your readers have it through your book.

What is Memoir?


I believe, this makes most memoirs genuine, vivid and beautiful. Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert is a memoir. Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom is a memoir too, I think. One of the best I've read is the autobiography of St. Therese of Lisieux, The Story of a Soul. These books are famous for touching millions of lives.

When I typed memoir on Google, it defined it this way:

A historical account or biography written from personal knowledge or special sources. 


That's the beauty of memoir. The plot is already written by Life for you, and you only have to live the experiences again and write. The memoir's reader then walks into the mind of the author and sees things as the author remembers. I agree that fiction writers have the wildest imagination because they have to distort realities - they themselves plan the plot, build the characters, and everything else in the story - and present their truth in that form.

Your truth is worth telling.


I thought mine was, and it has now reached hundreds of people. If you're aspiring to write a book, why not write about your truth? I believe you have a story worth telling. It could be just a portion of your childhood, your love life or a journey you once ventured. Share your experience generously. Begin with recalling each thought, each tear, each smile. And once you know you're in a place of truth, write.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

My List of Inspirational Movies

I can't find words for an article lately.

I'm not that okay, honestly. It's my first time to see myself this unmotivated - parched for maybe months - to write anything. Bad days, they call it. Others say it's a transition, which is way better.

So I prayed and searched for, perhaps, muse in other things like 1) painting and sketching,
2) playing the piano, 3) buying my own ukulele and playing it, and 4) watching movies. And yes, these things inspired me, but not to write. Because I got into doing solely these in my free time instead! I couldn't imagine myself abandoning what I sharpened for (I hope) almost 10,000 hours, so I figured I should write about my newly-found hobbies to break the boulder.

Alright, so I start here and get you straight to the point. Among the old and not-too-old movies I've watched recently, here are the five which I found most inspirational:

1. Silence


I put this on number 1 because I've been wanting to share about this since Lent. So yes, I've seen this a long time ago but I'm still putting it here because it's unforgettable. It's about two Jesuit priests (where one was Andrew Garfield, the Spiderman) who went to Japan to find their missing priest/mentor, and found God's silence in Christian persecution instead. If you want to try it, prepare your heart and mind because you'll go swimming in its spiritual depth. And oh, it has a book.

2. The Encounter


I'm putting this on number 2 because I was surprised that a movie called The Encounter was inspirational and not horror. This one's a feel-good movie with an aching twist. Imagine a night with rain pouring angrily, and you found yourself trapped in a remote roadside resto called the Last Chance Diner with four other strangers and - my goodness - a waiter/resto owner named Jesus. The movie was simple yet meaningful. I also think Bruce Marchiano was perfect for the role.

3. The Shack



Spoiler Alert: In the first three movies listed here, the name Jesus will be mentioned.

If you're into inspirational/spiritual movies, I'm sure you have watched The Shack. I read the book years before I saw my imagined scenes on the screen - my laptop's screen. I was delighted to see Mack and Missy come alive. For me, the casting was superb because the characters looked almost the same as I imagined them! This story answers why God allowed our loved ones to die, and many other things that a father would ask when he meets God in the shack where his youngest daughter was murdered. Get tissue rolls.

4. Collateral Beauty




Movies on 4 and 5 won't talk too much about spiritual stuff. This one talks about the collateral beauty one can find in loss.

Everybody knows Will Smith's awesomeness. But look at that, there's also Kate Winslet, Keira Knightly and Helen Mirren in it plus other skilled actors and actresses! OK, it's not just about the casting, but the concept of the story is unique enough to catch attention. This is about a successful and enthusiastic man (Will Smith) whose world crumbled when he lost his only child, and went snail-mailing his rants to Love, Time and Death. Now, it's Love, Time and Death's turn to answer him and defend themselves. Or not. How I wish this also has a book!

5. Into the Wild



This movie's last but not the least.

I put this on 5 because it was the last old movie I watched, and I want you to remember it. Into the Wild is based on a true story, a biography written by Jon Krakauer. It's about Christopher Johnson McCandless (a.k.a Alexander Supertramp) who, after graduating from Emory University, abandoned everything and hitchhiked to Alaska to live in the wild. I actually do not know what to feel about the whole story. Chris might be arrogant, foolish, and whatever, but his detachment to the things of the world and his brave search for real happiness struck me as inspiring. I love the words in this movie too. Aaand I'm reading the book now.

Soooo, there it is! I just wrote an article! I cracked the writer's block, but more than that, I hope this list helped you in anyway. Happy watching!

P.S: I wrote this book entitled Finding You, and perhaps you can grab a copy and read it once you've watched all (or some) of this and feel more like reading. It's inspirational too, by the way! ;)

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Why Do I Write Again?

I had forgotten why.

I ignored the muse many times this month because I could not find time for writing. It was painful. I let my pen and paper be squeezed at the bottom of my workload, and it took me some pulling out, whittling down and sickness before I got to them again. To my surprise, when I finally got hold of them, I felt like I no longer know how to write.

My writing skills seemed to have deteriorated. Every day I would be in a room full of space, and have a desk waiting. There, I would sit and write. But not write at all. Not a single word appealed to me and whenever any did, it won't be of beauty. It was a huge writer's block. In those barren days, I saw my writing skills molting before me. And it was because I neglected it, left it in a corner, and forgot about it for a long time.

Or perhaps, it wasn't really about my writing skills.

The black ink resembled my mood. Empty papers felt familiar. And the drear blinks of the cursor resounded the rhythm of my week. Man, it was me all along. I wanted words, but they weren't coming because I was pulling them out from a void or an empty cavern. I was the one deteriorating, the one molting, the one who was empty.

Why do I write again? was the question.

I turned to God for answers. Then I talked to people. Then I rested. Then read books. And read books. And read more books. Then finally, I remembered what I have forgotten.

I forgot the joy of expressing myself with art, of creating a world and bringing my readers in it, of listening to people and immortalizing their stories in paper.

I forgot love.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

When the Breeze Blew the Poppies

I had a busy day, running with time in the city.

Something was wrong with our office's management, and all we could do was work, floating along the waves created by their huge hands. My brows furrowed almost every single day without my command. Every night, I yearned for peace. For solitude. For an escape. Until that night came when I had to just sleep all the exhaustion away.

Four hours.

Six hours.

Eight.

I opened my eyes. Such a bright sky. Birds from afar were singing while clouds ambled over me, looking pure and fluffy as usual. I lifted my hand and traced one cloud with my finger. I formed a dolphin. I giggled.

Wait.

I flapped my arms, as if making a snow angel. I realized, I was lying, not in my bed, but in a meadow - cool, sweet-scented meadow. How did I get here?

I sat bolt upright, and looked around me. I was a dot in a huge space of meadow embellished with chamomile. That part from afar had colorful poppies sticking out, though.

Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful.

I was dumbfounded, awestruck for quite a long while. Not blinking. Unflinching at the peace that was welling in me. I just could not believe I was there. I looked up again to see the sky's splendor, and noticed the rays of the sun peeking out of a cloud.

That was holy and grand.

I lingered at this some more, mouth agape and rarely moving.

Then came the breeze.

And woke me up.

Drifted

I've been walking for two hours now.

No, I've been shuffling. The sky is dark. The streets are messy as always. Cars whiz past beside me with their exhaust puffing out black, dirty - disgustingly dirty - smoke. But I do not care.

I look straight ahead, but my mind's falling - a listless body that surrenders to gravity - in his world. I have found it hard to enter his world, his new world.

For 8 years, we had known every inch of each other. We knew each other's thoughts even before we spoke them. We talked through stares and gestures only we could understand. But things changed as soon as our feet landed on the bigger world, the real world. In our school and university, we would always cross paths even when we didn't like it. But when we finally had the choice, when we started moving in a much larger space and be with a multitude of people, we began losing each other. He began working, and I too. From then on, we drifted apart, slowly vanishing behind the walls of his hospital and my office.

You see, I've never really known his world. And I will never. So perhaps, my mind isn't exactly in his world at this moment. It is in the possibilities. And this path has more thorns.

And It hurts more.

Monday, June 26, 2017

The Story Isn't Ready Yet


Is your story ready to be written?

I realized, there are stories that aren't ready to be written yet. This means that the blame shouldn't always be placed upon the writer (or better not to blame anything or anyone at all).

Some writers aren't publishing a book yet not because they're sluggish or undisciplined or uninspired. In fact, they might be regularly sitting on clouds, talking face-to-face with the muse about their dreams. Their fingers are itchy, their body bursting with eagerness to spend hungry afternoons and sleepless nights for writing, and their head - their head brims with beautiful words which occasionally spill out but! The words are rather empty. No form. No sense. A beautiful waste. The thing is, these writers could already be carrying a story in their head - a baby in their womb - and it's not coming out yet because it isn't ready yet. Stories undergo gestation too, and it usually is painful.

After Finding You (chance to plug!), I found myself coming in and out of the messiest folder in my laptop which I named Book, and flicking through the less-than-half- to half-full pages of my MS Word files. In it are snippets, drafts and outlines of book ideas which were once exciting and sparkling, but now look corny and banal. You see, I have been spending time squeezing my brain and creative juices out for a second book only to come up with a useless material. Well, not at all useless. These could be pieces of what's coming.

Actually, the idea of Finding You was formed, bit by bit, through my prior book ideas. I entitled one book as Haven in my Pocket. I intended it to be handy and its words, to have an air of peace. It was supposed to be written for busy men and women in the city, but I failed to convince myself that I could pull it off. Another was a novel about a monastery where when one enters, one cannot leave (creepy, isn't it?). Another was about a man who taught a street child how to read and write, and which eventually led to building a foundation for street children (it's my dream!). Well, I guess all books are like Voltes V, having a head, trunk, and limbs controlled by five different humans with different stories.

So yeah, be patient. Let the desire nest in your heart then live more. Practice more. Stew ideas more! In Ecclesiastes, it was said that there is an appointed time for everything - and it includes your book! But you know what? I believe, it's already there. It's just that...the story isn't ready to be written yet.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Are you a bit unhappy?


I wonder why everything feels bleak these past few days.

Looking at 'me' from the top view, life seems to be going nicely. No huge problem, whatsoever. No enemies. I get tired and my tooth aches occasionally, but yeah. Just that. It's a mystery how, for some reason, I catch myself frowning at nothing in particular. My mind cannot help but succumb to plain dullness, and every night, I flinch at a pang of yearning for something I cannot identify yet.

Oh, why? Why am I so unhappy?

After praying, I always go to my books for answers. Just this afternoon, I pulled a couple of them from my shelf - one tells a love story, another's about prayer, and the thick one's about creativity. Funny how I just left them all lying pell mell on my study table afterwards then grabbed the broom instead, and swept the floor. I realized, the presence of books told me that I wasn't ready for them because my mind was still messy.

Sweeping was effective. I decided to resolve by listing things that remind me how to be happy. After I collected our house's trash and dusts, I reckoned that humans tend to forget. All the time.
Some of what I put here are from Jason Silva's Shots of Awe. Maaan, this philosopher guy's amazing! You have to subscribe, so you'll get to pick some of his brain.


1. Be in awe. 

You don't wait for 'awe,' you find it. Where? It's in the tiniest details of things. You have to spot that fine detail that reveals a spectacular complexity that lives and makes things operate - such beauty that creates a world of its own. And once you're submerged in it, revering it...you have found 'awe.' (Bonus: Remember that God made it for someone - you.)

2. Remember gratitude.

Do you know who you are? Or where you are in space and time? You are this dot that form the universe. Without that dot, which is you, the universe would be different. And this universe you're standing on is full of life. It cradles in itself 'life' of different hues, forms, mystery, wonder and intelligence. Whoa! Look around you. See, it's a good life.

3. Do something novel.

Jason Silva said that when you're chasing happiness, you're actually chasing novelty. When you say you want to be happy, you're actually saying you want something new or more. New things make life exciting. It's a new streak, a new color, a new word on your notebook or canvas. New things make a difference, and for us, difference may mean progress or chance or power because it narrows our options. Good news: most of the time, novelty is in your hands.

4. Initiate acts of kindness.


It's innate. You feel good about yourself when you do something good. Why? Because it's who you are. You are created by a good God, so you are good by nature. That's why it's who you peacefully accept you are. Do compliments sound sweeter than criticisms? Praises are better than insults, of course. But setting words-as-a-reward aside, an act of kindness itself refreshes the heart.

Lastly, I think, is to see a picture of you where you look happy. Like really happy. Mine's this. I still remember every bit of this moment's peace and bliss.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Why She Cried When He Died


I opened my eyes to mornings, knowing you'll be around - probably beside me, still sleeping. Or somewhere in the living room or kitchen, starting your day.

It had just been the two of us, with no child to think about - God's mystery - but at least, with a foster daughter whom your sister sometimes brought to our care. Years made me grow so familiar with every inch of you. You and me. Your skin and my skin. Your clothes and my clothes. Your school of fish in the aquarium and the dishes I cooked which you liked - and of course, our house where many family reunions turned into a blast.

But here you are now, lying behind this glass, in a barong you didn't know we bought you. You're seemingly smiling - even seemingly peaceful - but for me, you have just become beyond reach in all sense. Your body which I've known for years is now solely a vessel, an object that remains still, wilting, turning into ashes. This glass seems to draw an end to us - no more hugs, no more kisses, no more scent that only your body owns.

I am asking, how will I face the following days? Of waking up beside an empty space on our bed, of eating with an empty chair, of keeping empty clothes that would no longer need some washing.

Things will change.

Things have to change.

And life will be new not only for me...
but also for you.

*For my aunt who grieves, and for my uncle, her husband, who reads this from heaven.*

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Your Hands Are Smaller

When I was young, my hands were small and I wasn't realizing that.

I would compare my father's hands to mine and think that they were basically the same. I did not know why I couldn't wring the clothes, wash plates, and arrange things as easily as his hands did.

"Papa, why can't I do what your hands can? I have ten fingers, you have ten fingers. I have palms, you have palms. We even have almost the same creases! But why can't things fit in my hands as nicely as into yours?" I asked.

Papa laughed then spread his hand over mine. "Because your hands are smaller, Elaine."

My hands were smaller.

I have grown older now. I have bigger hands. I can wring clothes, wash plates, and arrange things almost as easily as my father's (now) old hands can. But I think, when it comes to other things, I haven't totally outgrown the idea...

My hands are smaller than God's, and I do not realize it.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Get it Written

I have writer friends who got a fantastic story happening in their head. Their characters are alive, breathing, and moving with strong limbs. Scenes run, gripping a hand. The whole thing heaves a message that can stir many hearts.

And it's not yet written.

The beautiful story stays invisible. The characters live, but do not exist. They know in their hearts that only words can let the story out, finally unfettered.

I'm writing this for you, if you're one of them. I am no expert in writing. I took online courses, attended writing workshops, and practiced everyday to make myself at least better at it. But may God be praised, my first ever book, Finding You, has been published! And I can only tell you how I did it.

Let me share with you five things I found essential in writing a book. I assume that knowing these things can make you think that writing a book isn't scary at all. The process is fun, I tell you! So once you're on it, I hope you can apply this.

1) Pray.

Everything is grace.

I have named the muse Grace. Remember that in the beginning, God's Word made the world possible. "Let there be light!" And there was light. As a writer, you should know where to get the words when you don't have them. Ask, and He'll give it to you! After all, you're working for Him, right?

2) Set the atmosphere.

This is applicable in all forms of art, I believe. Before I paint the windows of our classroom, I would decide first on what atmosphere I want to set. How do I like the students or anyone who enters the room to feel? Cozy? Make it vintage. Paint woods. Peaceful? Use calm colors.

It's the same thing with writing. What's the atmosphere do you want your book to carry? What do you want your readers to feel? What kind of world are you letting them in, and what do you want them to see in that world? Once you're mind is set in it, the words will follow.

3) Plan each chapter.

Your story is one huge chunk, and it has to be sliced into yummy pieces. One step at a time. What I did was I wrote phrases/words under the name Chapter 11 (for example) saying what the reader will find there. Make it messy, it's okay! Once you start writing it, you'll feel the growing satisfaction of having it cleaned and organized, and finally, seeing it end up as a beautiful and sparkling piece!

4) Be in the shoes of the reader. 

I realized that being in the shoes of the reader can either make you too empathetic or too egotistic. If you're too empathetic, the tendency is you'll give everything the reader has to know - spoon-feeding. The piece will be stuffed with adjectives or detailed sentences, which can burden the reader.

Reader: Yes, I know! You don't have to tell me!

If you're too egotistic, you'll keep many things from the reader, giving him/her the task of figuring things out herself/himself. Bear in mind that not all readers think the same way as you do, so this can cause confusion.

Reader: Ahh... Wait, what?

The key is to find the middle. It's best if both the writer and reader make the effort of piecing the scenes together. Collaboration. Allow the reader to make it his/her own. Strike out the unnecessary. Describe those that are rarely put into words - usually these are important.

5) Use metaphors.

Our minds aren't always willing to make an effort that's why minds love patterns. This is what makes a metaphor beautiful. It offers both effort and ease - effort to see a connection, and ease in recognizing the natural pattern. Instead of seeing it as a burden, it becomes a challenge the reader willingly takes since it gives the fulfillment of relating two things; hence, enriching the reading experience. Metaphor can also provoke both the reader's thought and feeling at once.

For example: His eyes carry a glint of the sun.

Believe that the universe is made out of things helping each other. Find them.

That's it! I hope this article helped you in any way. My friend, write your story. If you won't, who else will? Will you permit it not to be told? Never written? Your readers are waiting for you. God is waiting.

Just. Get. It. Written.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Rotten

What is selfishness?

It can be like this.

You work for Someone. You produce, He guides. Since He owns the company, He handles everything - the market, the complaints, and the delays. He provides. He makes a way. He takes over.

And then there is you.

You get the coins the company earns, and keeps them in your pocket. You take the praises, the love, and the benefits all for yourself. You own the credit.

The thing about selfishness is it is never grateful. It can never be satisfied.

Now, you can't help but have more and more and more. And you see yourself shrinking and swimming in it. Bad news is things rot by nature. Everything you have will rot. And it might stink. And it will, with you.

Selfishness is pointless.

Die to yourself. Kill selfishness. Make it a point to be grateful.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

In Your Presence


(Audible sigh)

At last! Rest.

I like being here.

It's peaceful.

Here, I am safe.
No one will judge me.
Or think ill about me.
Or talk behind my back.

Here, it's okay to not do anything.
To relax my limbs,
To just stare at Your eyes.
And listen.

Here, it's just You and me.

You, who know me more than anyone does.
You, who accept me,
and trust me,
and love me.

It's peaceful here.
And I like how I can be here anytime.

Yes, anytime.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Swimming in Pajamas



The sun woke up, and the wind was like its big yawn across the sea.
It was the 1st of December, 2013.

My parents had a work in Baybay, and they brought me with them. The humble hostel we stayed in was near the sea, and surrounding it were coconut trees with long branches swaying and slapping each other.

I decided to walk along the shore immediately upon getting up in bed. I was on my pajamas and slippers, my ankles bending sideways as I sauntered over huge, wet, and lopsided stones.

Psssshhhhhhh!

The sea said, as if reminding me to remain quiet and still so I won't wake up whatever it is that was sleeping. I chuckled to myself, thinking it must be still itself. That it must have been what woke the sun up.

Pssshhhh!

I stopped, and turned to it. To the limitless sea. To the endlessness that kissed the unreachable sun. It was beautiful, especially with the strong rippling of water beneath it.

Psssshhhh!

Then it dawned on me that the sea was not telling me to keep quiet. Its sound that grew gentler and gentler in my ear was an invitation. It called me to come, to make it feel me and I, it.

I walked toward it. Closer and closer. Until I felt its sandy wave caressing my feet.

That day, I jumped into the sea with my pajamas and slippers on.

Swimming.

No towel.
No extra clothes.
Nothing.

That day, I saw how it was to answer a 'call'.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Who is The Real Thing?

I can almost touch it.

This, the reverse blade of the sword he wields. I am -- entranced by the X scar drawn upon his cheek. He used to be a manslayer - that legendary man who bears the name of Battosai Himura. Leaving his bloody past behind, he treads Japan with the goal of peace, of a new era! And retains the name of Kenshin Himura. The heart of sword.

Okay. Enough of that.

These past few days, I've been watching over and over again the three live action movies of Samurai X - Rurouni Kenshin, Kyoto Inferno and the Legend Ends. It's quite brutal, you see - amazing sword fights, fisticuffs, lots of blood. Well it really is brutal, but I know it isn't real. Aside from the whole thing looking so close to its anime counterpart, the story isn't only about fighting. It inspires mastery of craft, humility, and love in different forms! I loved it!


Actually I loved it so much, I got addicted to it. Each day, I allow myself to be in awe of the beautiful lines, fighting scenes, and basically, just the whole thing, that I fail to do stuff other than watch the movie. I feel helpless, finding in me this overwhelming fondness time and time again. It is such kind of beauty that makes me want to surrender.

And so I brought it to God.

"Lord, I'm so fond of this movie... I like how Kenshin..." I told every little thing to Him, spelling out every inch of awe I have for the movie.

What kind of world do you want to see, Elaine? What is your purpose?

God seemed to ask.

I thought why these are the questions I got from my prayers. Probably, it's because Kenshin Himura mastered sword fighting with the burning goal to bring a new era to Japan. He wants a world of peace, where people will no longer live in fear or feel the need to kill to save somebody. He longs to breathe the air of freedom and cherish the richness of life - something that he, himself, once deprived from many people. With much regret.

So God's question seems, how about you, Elaine?

I don't know, exactly.

Kenshin is a samurai. I'm a teacher. Also a writer. Perhaps, I can work on these facts.

Then I remembered something.

It is a fiction.

Samurai X, Rurouni Kenshin, Kenshin Himura - it's just somebody's imagination! I searched about the manga writer and found that Kenshin Himura is Nobuhiro Watsuki's masterpiece!

Then I thought of the real thing - the Legend, whose Name was written in history.

That one Person of great wisdom and authority who once walked the earth, and made it entirely new. Him, who destroyed darkness with his glorious light.
Him, who selflessly loved and still loves.

He, who lives.

Jesus.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Happy New Day


The new year strode through my windows like sunlight.

As all other days did.

I decided to sleep the noisy 31st day away, and let New Year pass through our door. Imperceptibly. 

And so when I woke up in the morning, it was all around me.

People were saying that everything's as fresh as new. It seemed like the year looked like a blank canvass set in front of us, prepared to receive the messy streaks of paint - or such that usually comes with a new journal with empty lines to write on.

But it did not feel that way to me.

For me, 2017 is just next to 2016 - just as 2 is next to 1. We've been doing the count down from 1 to 30 or 31 over and over the whole year. For 24 years, for me.

So if you want to do something big, new, or courageous, why wait for the day after Dec. 31?

It's a new year.

And it's just another day.

Each day, everything's as fresh as new. Each day is a blank canvass set in front of us, prepared to receive the messy streaks of paint. Each day is a new page with empty lines to write on.

And all yesterdays disintegrate to nothing everyday.

I don't want to ruin the fun.

But I tell you, this will help in the middle of the year.

It's New Year everyday.