Wednesday, August 31, 2005
The Sky's the Langit
By Ella del Rosario
“I just think that management has to cut me some slacks.”
Lydia was not sure if it was the noise at Sbarro in Megamall that impaired her hearing, or if she heard Engr. Roy dela Peña, with whom she was having a lunch meeting, correctly. She was tempted to comment that he looked good in jeans so why bother with the slacks, but was afraid that the joke would be lost on him. After all, he seemed to be unaware that what he said did not make sense as far as the English language that Lydia grew up with was concerned. He did carry his Levi’s well, though, she realized woefully.
She thought to herself, “What am I doing checking him out? He’s my client! And he’s definitely not my type.”
She had been corresponding with him for the past couple of weeks as she, a freelance trainer and consultant, was hired to teach the engineers-turned-salesmen of Roy’s company some communication skills to improve their sales performance. Roy was proving to be a challenge for Lydia as he seemed to be disinterested in remembering the rules on syntax, grammar, diction, and even spelling. She was sure that if she cut-and-paste his e-mails to her Word editor, they would be underlined in red by pages, with overlapping green marks due to grammar. “Oh, wherefore art the renaissance men?” she asked herself. His writing was the worst of the lot, and prior to meeting him in person, she imagined that he looked disheveled, with unkempt hair and crumpled shirts. To her surprise, he happened to have some resemblance to Benjamin Bratt. A minor distraction, she convinced herself.
She remembered that she was working and she had to take the spirit of his statement and not the presentation, so she responded based on her understanding of what he was trying to say. “Roy, I’m sure you are doing a wonderful job and they just want you to perform better. They’re stingy with compliments because they want to keep you on your toes, for you to be constantly driven to do your best. Don’t take it personally.”
Roy resented being sent to “grammar school”, as he put it. Lydia thought it was understandable, for how could an engineer who graduated magna cum laude stand being tutored this way? Still, she went to work and showed him his errors in the essay she asked him to write. She pushed all unprofessional thoughts at the back of her head. In the subject of language, her brain and training reigned supreme, and he should just live with that if he wanted to impress his bosses.
He invited her for coffee afterwards but she declined, saying she had to buy something for her niece who had been begging her for the new Harry Potter book. He offered to go with her to Powerbooks, and mentioned that he was not able to finish Book One of that series. “Another reason why I should not have coffee with you”, she thought. “I prefer men who adore Dumbledore as much as I do.” Instead she said, “I can find Powerbooks by myself, silly. Really, I’m ok. Thanks and see you next week!”
She turned to walk away but was able to notice the look in his eyes, where a mixture of disappointment and fascination was mirrored. She was glad she wore a skirt today, because she could feel his eyes on her, and so she deliberately walked slowly to give him a better view.
When she got to her car, it refused to start. She had just recently traded in her old second-hand car for a new second-hand fully powered and automatic Toyota Altis and she was still unfamiliar with what the lights, aside from those for water and gasoline, were for. She took out the manual from her glove compartment but it had a thousand and one reasons for why the car would not start. Besides, it did not make sense to her. She wanted to edit the darn thing.
Somebody knocked on her window. It was Roy. She opened the car door, because the power window wouldn’t budge without the power. “Is everything okay? I thought you left already,” he said, with a look of concern.
She gave her sweetest smile and said, “The car wouldn’t start.”
He said, “I believe, my lady, that I could help you with that. IF you ask for help, that is. Can you say it, Lyd? Repeat after me… ‘I… need… your…help, Roy’.”
He said it in straight English, but at that point that wasn’t what Lydia was thinking of.
“You stalker, how come you found me here? Did you follow me to my car?” Deep in her heart, however, she knew that it was something else, fate maybe, that brought him there at that precise time to rescue her.
“It’s not my fault that I parked near your car and that I have a knack for memorizing plate numbers. I’m good with numbers. Now if you don’t need help, I’ll be on my way, Miss.”
“Wait!” She stepped out of her car.
“Yes?” he asked expectantly.
She said softly, “I need your help, please.”
Jumper cables, mocha frappuccinos, and several hours later, Lydia discovered that English was not the only language in her world. She could speak Filipino, too. Roy could speak Whale*. It all made sense. Like a blessing in the sky.
* Please watch "Finding Nemo" if you haven't yet. Wonderful movie. Otherwise my short story would not make too much sense to you. You don't have to like Benjamin Bratt as much as I do, especially if you are a guy, but you've got to hear Dory speaking Whale, in Humpback or whatever other dialect it was. Hilarious. Endearing to a clown fish as well. Now that's another happy ending!
I hear my song on a guitar playing to a girl's magnetic smile.
I wrote the soft verses being whispered there under a sparkling sky
to her ear studded with a perfect pearl.
I see a hand shyly reaching for another,
which is delicate, which is shining.
I almost feel young lips brushing tentatively on
I smell the blooms picked gently for their pale colors,
to match her dress.
She is carried, for she is light, and their feet are bare.
Their breaths now in unison,
They are alone on this quiet night --
the world respecting the beam in their eyes;
the rush of their blood;
the truth in their souls.
Violins sway while the trumpets flare
and more promises are made to her
who is The One, for she was born dainty.
I write to dream about him, for I am strong.
-- by Ella, May 1999
I actually wrote this based on my imagination, only to find out years later that 'tis true. 'Tis true. Perhaps I should now write something that has a happy ending. My happy ending.
1 Samuel 16:7 "The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart."
Monday, August 29, 2005
I guess the concept of "Retreat" is not palatable to the world today because it implies having to step back. It means having to relinquish control. It means being forced to give up a portion, say, a weekend, out of a fast-paced, highly efficient, usually stressful, busy life. These could then lead to being "left behind", and consequently, losing, in the world's eys. Whatever it is that could be lost out of that retreat depends on a person's notion of what kind of battle he's fighting. Retreat is as anathema to success as waiting is, if you ask the young and active people of today. That's generally speaking. Some people at different points in their lives search, long, and yearn for God, and end up going to their own retreats. It is my prayer that my college friend, and all of my friends, would find this path sometime.
I went on a weekend retreat once more. I think it was my fifth retreat for the year. Since I've had this kind of schedule for so long, I thought my parents would have gotten used to it by now. Apparently I'm still the strangest child in the family. My Ate who's based in Sydney called up last night. I overheard my father talking to her, saying, "Itong si Ella galing na naman sa retreat! Hindi kaya makulitan na ang Diyos sa kanya? Retreat nang retreat, hindi umaasenso." He was smiling as he said this but I could sense a tone of concern from his voice.
Like most fathers, Papa has great dreams for me. He wants me to have a successful career that would assure me of a safe future. He provided me two degrees so that I could become the best person I could be. Every week, he goes to either Quiapo or Baclaran to pray that his daughters would get married so that he could enjoy grandchildren, and for other reasons that could be in a father's mind when they ask this petition. The path which I am currently taking seemed to him to be the opposite of what normal daughters choose . He and Mama taught us to set our priorities, and they're both probably wondering now what got into my head that caused me to take their lessons to the radical extreme. My heart goes out to them, for all the headaches I have caused and continue to cause.
I closed my eyes, prayed for guidance, and tried to explain once more after the overseas call ended. I told my parents that not all the retreats I go to are the same. I go to retreats with my action group, which at the beginning of this year involved fellow Lingkod women leaders from Luzon. I go to retreats with my community, so last Lent we organized one for brothers and sisters from Lingkod-QC. I go to my own personal, directed, silent retreats, usually at the Cenacle, once and at most twice a year, aside from regular visits for spiritual direction. I get invited to give talks or serve during retreats, and so last February I went to the Crossroads retreat, which five of my lawyer and law student friends attended. Sometimes, retreats are incorporated in other activities I attend. Last July, I attended Scripture Ventures, and my course was the Joy of Discovery in Bible Study, but we were on retreat the whole time. In October, there will be a retreat during the National Leaders Training Conference of Lingkod, and this will be separate for men and women. Last weekend, I was invited to a retreat by my parent community, Ang Ligaya ng Panginoon. I was encouraged to go to learn more about the community. There is bound to be an Advent retreat in my calendar as well.
Since we've had that conversation before, I think my parents tuned out. To them, it all sounded the same. I was frustrated afterwards at myself for failing to explain what I do properly, even though it brings me so much joy to get invited to serve and participate in different kinds of retreats. One of my parish priests said that in their congregation, they are encouraged to go on retreat monthly, and to go through the 8-day retreat yearly. It is my dream to go on an eight-day retreat as well. In my parents' book, that could be the final tell-tale sign that I'm going to be a nun. To me, it's just my way of wanting to be more intimate with Jesus.
Maybe I don't need to do a lot of explaining if I were a holier person to live with. Maybe they don't see the fruits of my retreats - I'm still masungit, that they wonder who's ageing gracefully at our house - they, the senior citizens, or me the singleton; noisy, especially when with my nephews (our latest craze is Monopoly, but my heart can't take it when I have to charge them $600 rent for my two houses at Boardwalk, that I ended up buying Luigi's "Get Out of Jail" card for $300!); lazy (Anak, when do you plan to claim our PLDT directory? Ahh, when I wake up po, which is anytime this year); and hot-tempered, like last week when I was seething with anger when a close friend hurt me unintentionally, but deeply . Or maybe the fruit they're looking for is for me, after at least one of them retreats, to change my mind about my recent decisions and work towards being properly married (with daughters) and properly employed (as a lawyer), and thus be normal.
It's a struggle because I love them and wish I could share everything that I'm passionate about with them. They say we could only understand them when we ourselves become parents. In my case I have to live with this struggle for some more time, then. I guess I need to go on retreats often because otherwise, I would be a much harder person to live with.
To parents - who love us, their children, the best way they know how - may God be their source of wisdom, peace, comfort and hope, that their children are in good hands. :) To retreats - may more people hunger for them and see them as the only way to grow into mature Christians, even if it involves taking one step back from the world's demands.
Saturday, August 27, 2005
Bagamat hindi pa rin pink ang mundo ko ngayon (advertisement yata ng alak yun, pero may winning cheer kami dati sa NLTC Iloilo dahil sa ad na iyon, naging wholesome siya), at least hindi ko na masyadong dinidibdib ang mga bagay na wala naman akong magagawa sa ngayon. Mahirap din naman kasi ang masyadong kulay-rosas ang tingin ko sa kapaligiran, dun ako natitisod at nadadapa. Masarap ngang maging hunghang, pero pag nagising ka naman sa katotohanan, makikita mong malapit ka na palang pulutin sa kangkungan.
Si Henri Nouwen may sinulat na nagpaalala sa akin kung ano ang talagang pinaniniwalaan ko eh, kung wala akong hormonal imbalance, tinik sa dibdib, at matinding isyu sa buhay. Sabi niya (sorry di ko maisalin sa Tagalog, patawad po Gat Jose Rizal at Pres. Quezon, ang ama ng wikang Pilipino):
Love and the Pain of Leaving
"Every time we make the decision to love someone, we open ourselves to great suffering, because those we most love cause us not only great joy but also great pain. The greatest pain comes from leaving. When the child leaves home, when the husband or wife leaves for a long period of time or for good, when the beloved friend departs to another country or dies ... the pain of the leaving can tear us apart.
"Still, if we want to avoid the suffering of leaving, we will never experience the joy of loving. And love is stronger than fear, life stronger than death, hope stronger than despair. We have to trust that the risk of loving is always worth taking."
Hay totoo ka diyan Fr. Henri. Kakatakot, kakapagod, pero ang magmahal naman talaga ang pinakaimportanteng utos ng Diyos. Kung kaya't kahit na mahirap, siya siya. Magmamahal pa rin. Bagay naman sa akin talaga ang pink e.
Thursday, August 25, 2005
Pag Linggo naman, ang lagi kong tanong, bakit kailangang magtulakan sa pagpila sa communion??????? tapos sasabihin natin "Amen" sa "Body and Blood of Christ". Kontradiksyon talaga at pati akong nasisiksik at natutulak sa pila, nacha-challenge na wag magkasala sa mismong oras na iyon na tatanggap ako ng komunyon.
Dapat isalin sa Tagalog ang Hope for the Flowers.
Wednesday, August 24, 2005
This day is not a total zero, as I had a good lunch at Teriyaki Boy with former officemates; a good working day with free ube cake at the office; a movie date with Mama, "Must Love Dogs" - not evenly paced, something I would have enjoyed watching on DVD na lang; and in fact, a whole chunk of time this morning to myself sorting out things that had been bugging me since Friday.
The day is almost over and I'm still virus-prone, still un-figured out, and still heavily bugged. I'm too tired to finish all the work I brought home and too lazy to edit this post. Perhaps last weekend's wedding, plus the Lingkod Christian Sexuality Course I attended last Sunday, and the gatherings with friends that I've been to recently, all added complications to the questions whirling in my head.
Of all the questions, all I can write here is this: Why is it that despite the knowledge of the importance of protecting my computer from virus attack, and after 74% of the waiting done, it just freezes and I am prevented once more from installing it and I have to start over again?
Aww, shut up Windows Security Alert. I know I'm in trouble. Stop nagging me, world. If the virus comes while I'm still vulnerable then I would just crash. The hard disk, I mean. It's not that I haven't been trying to download and install the convoluted thing. It just wouldn't cooperate with me, through no fault of my own.
No one, no one, no one ever is to blame. I'll just sing that song and look silly. That should release some of this tension. Don't know where it's coming from but it sure is overstaying. Go away. Shoo fly don't bother me. I belong to Somebody.
Tuesday, August 23, 2005
Monday, August 22, 2005
They brought me home but just before I got down from their van, they handed me a pasalubong, a title that bookworm Mirac said isn't available in the Philippines - "You're Late Again, Lord! The Impatient Woman's Guide to God's Timing" I asked them whatever gave them an idea that I'm impatient, and we all laughed, for they have been my friends for many years now. Imagine their patience, because they listened to me for three hours talking about waiting - mine and theirs - and they didn't give me the gift until going home time. They saved the best for last. I promised to be patient while reading this book and not rush to finish it immediately. They also asked me to share with them whatever I would learn from the book to help them with their own waiting time as well.
The Introduction to the book goes, " I have to be, without a doubt, one of the most impatient people our Lord ever put on this earth. Perhaps you're a close second, or Heaven forbid, even worse." My dear author Karon Phillips Goodman, Heaven forbid but I have to be, without a doubt, worse than you. When the word "impatient" arises in any Lingkod talk, brothers and sisters would almost always surreptitiously look at my direction as if motioning for me to listen more closely to the speaker, or just checking my reaction to whatever words might be said that could refer to me. Yes I am notoriously impatient. Good thing that the Lord meets us where we are, and He gives me Lessons in Waiting everyday, and twice on Sundays.
This reminds me of a movie I should have seen, "The Terminal". Everyone said I would learn from it. Didn't catch it on the big screen and now my kuya and his wife who used to be my supplier of DVDs are in faraway Munich and I can't bring myself to buy a DVD. So if any of you my friends have a copy of that film, do me a favor please by lending it to me.
I can't wait to read this book about waiting. Oops. Here I go again.
Sunday, August 21, 2005
We sang this song for the processional. It's a song from the heart, and while I was singing my part I was thinking of Jesus and offering it to Him. Every word is true. May chords pa ito. Though I wthink we took it from A lang, not G.
Song of a Servant
Words and Music by Robert E. Filoramo
(Play G or A)
G Gsus G Gsus G-Gsus-G-Gsus
I now declare my allegiance to you, O Lord
G Gsus-G Gsus G-Gsus-G-Gsus
My life and my will at your service my God
C D C G
Where you go I will go and You’ll lead the way
G Gsus G Gsus G-Gsus-G-Gsus
My God, I will live and die for You
Should it be the last breath I take O Lord?
I will use to sing a song of praise to you
Should it be my last drop of blood? I will shed it for You.
My God, I will live and die for You (Refrain)
Show me where to live O Lord and I’ll live.
Show me where to die O Lord and I’ll die.
Show me what to do and I’ll do it by Your side;
My God, I will live and die for You (Refrain)
At the sound of Your voice Master, I will obey.
I will watch every motion You make w/ open eyes
May my ears be clear to hear Your command;
My God, I will live and die for You (Refrain)
G Gsus G Gsus C – D
My God, I will live and die for You
For you are my God
Thursday, August 18, 2005
On another note, I read another woman's book last night, read it from cover to cover in one sitting. I liked her writing style and began to dislike mine.
On still another note, I got a surprise corner in life today. A development I neither planned for nor expected happened. I was invited to a commitment that I feel soo not ready for. I had little time to discern and so asked the people who were within reach if they thought I should give this a shot. They all encouraged me to go. One man discouraged me to do this a few weeks ago but I could not get in touch with him today. I wonder what he would think. What's important, really, is where the Lord is taking me with this. I have a feeling He's the one responsible for this invitation at this time. I hope that I don't make a mess out of this decision, as I've always prepared for big things in life. Sigh. Let go and relax. Breathe. All shall be well. The world would continue to turn beautifully even if you don't over-analyze everything.
That's why I can't wait to see again "Love, Actually". I can't find the screening schedule yet. It's movies, and books, and music, that distract me from too much thinking.
Tuesday, August 16, 2005
When I was young I used to be so conscious of my age and grade level. Somehow the girls who were even just one grade higher than I seemed superior to me, and naturally those girls in the lower grade leves were inferior to me. With my classmates, however, I have always maintained a strong bond. I made it through much of my student life because of my classmates. I wanted to be around them a lot so we could together figure out our lessons, pour out frustrations, and share our dreams. Our house in Pureza, Sta. Mesa, was open to all my classmates.
It was easiest in grade school. The goals were simpler, in my young eyes - to get good grades, to read as much books as I could that were not on my father's assigned reading list for me, to get into the coolest clubs (dance, journalism, even bible study for a schoolyear), to have my own barkada and to name such barkada. I actually belonged to a group called "Catsup Sisters", after a Punky Brewster episode, if I remember correctly. Then I formed the "Kisses" before I graduated. I had some heartaches at a young age which involved a medal, a presidency, and a crush, but those three formed me early on in life and gave me the values I still hold up to now about priorities in life. Ironically, I lost contact with most of my grade school barkada, but through the years I have developed close friendships with people from grade school who belonged then to different groups. We were the ones who had the same personalities and the friendship was not forced or fabricated, it just happened by natural selection, I guess.
In high school, although I learned to have fun like I never had before (mostly wholesome fun - but this is a past life, so... I digress), I also encountered some complications that were not around in grade school. It was considered cool, at the Manila Science High School, to have the best imported rubber shoes for P.E. class (Tretorn, K-Swiss, Nike Air), to be at the top three sections, to excel in Science and Math (we had two to three math and science subjects each every school year), to have a boyfriend-girlfriend relationship, to win competitions for the school - and to get first place all the time, and of course to be part of a group. I don't remember owning the rubber shoes of my dreams in high school. Although I was in the top sections, I was not as much of a scientist or a mathematician as my classmates were. I did not have a relationship then, definitely, and I had only one first place to my name (Science Reporting at the journalism competitions) as opposed to dozens for the favorite students. It was my greatest blessing that I formed good friendships at MaSci with women, who used to be called "The Phinx", whom I consider to be my best friends up to this day. I passed Biology, Trigonometry, Linear Algebra, Analytic Geometry (barely!), and World History with these girls.
We were inseparable up until college. MaSci '91 had a tambayan at U.P. Diliman as there were nearly a hundred from our batch of 318 who entered that campus. As a result, most of us refused to join campus organizations, which was a major requirement for freshmen in order to belong. I felt separation anxiety in sophomore year because then we were forced to part ways most of the time, as we had different majors. I was a Business Economics major and had limited common subjects with my barkada. I did make new friends at the School of Economics Student Council, and other college-based and campus-based organizations, however. They made Econ 131 and Econ 199 bearable. I cannot remember the conclusions we made in our undergraduate thesis, for it was my partner who did all the econometrics stuff while I concentrated on the research and writing, but I remember the friendships, some of which I have kept to this day.
Immediately after graduation, I entered law school, where I was part of A '99, the block that made the most number of case digests and subject reviewers. The requirements for a happy law student life were the hardest to meet of all - one has to study 12 hours a day, memorize laws, read all the cases, wear all the latest fashion trends, get invited to parties, and, this was new for me - befriend all the celebrities' and politicians' children who entered Malcolm Hall year after year. There were other "must-haves" like a fraternity for men, a sorority/organization for women, an ability to consume large amounts of caffein, nicotine and alcohol, a semester or more as a member of the prestigious Order of the Purple Feather (the honor society of law school where harry potter's order must have been patterned from, hehe), a slot in the Top Twenty or at least the first two pages of the graduates' list (this is where the top law firms get their associates), etc. I barely survived law school alive. It was through prayer that I managed to graduate. I neither had the discipline nor the interest to study Latin in order to impress my future clients. I preferred to serve in the student government than to study criminal law, much to the chagrin of my professor who chose to humiliate me in front of class as a result. My classmates gave me hope, for they believed in me through and through. They made me edit and layout 90% of our reviewers, because it brought me so much joy and because I was the most obsessive-compulsive and perfectionist when it came to such things. They helped me through recitations, supported my student government projects, taught me the rules of drinking (the how-to's and the what-not-to-do's), and tried to inspire me to want to be the best law student I could be. If not for my classmates, I would probably have had a miserable time at Malcolm Hall. They were God's encouragers for me.
I fell back big time from my law school classmates when most of them passed the 1999 bar and I didn't. I was majorly disoriented because I was having periods of darkness and depression while they were celebrating their entry into the legal profession with one party after another. They felt for me and did what they could to support me through my second take, but I would never know the taste of passing the bar after your first take. That sets me apart from them.
When you're a normal student, it is easy to know who your classmates are, who to get support from, who to ask about the rules and requirements of the school you're in. Now that I have graduated from the university, I no longer have formal classmates. I am still not alone - with friends, family, community and officemates around, but the lessons we take are all different now. There is no one to share the latest "Sweet Dreams" novel regularly with, unlike in grade school. There is no one to copy scientific formulas and Egyptian characters' names from, unlike in high school. There is no one to prepare for me the parts of the thesis that I hated, unlike in college. There is no one to get "radyo" from during recitations, unlike in law school. Life is not as neat, orderly, and predictable.
Yet I know that I am not alone. I have classmates in learning, classmates in hoping, and classmates in discovering. Our classes may not last beyond one hour, for Scripture lessons; one weekend, for retreats; or one week, for conferences, but I do find classmates still. I have teachers up to this day - a father confessor, a spiritual directress, a service leader, a national director, a women's moderator, a family counselor, among other things, but I don't get grades or honors or awards anymore. I don't get conditional "4's", "incompletes" or even red failing marks from them, but how life turns out seems to show me how I did with the lessons they imparted to me.
Most of the time, however, I find that I am physically alone, with a prayer in my head and a song in my heart, and a pen or a computer in my hands. This classroom called earth can be intimidating at times. I long for moments I could spend with my Dumbledores. I wait for glimpses of Aslan to keep me going. I search for hidden treasure, within me and in the world around me. A lot of the time, I find that I am waiting. Perhaps the readers of this blog are my classmates in waiting.
Sometimes we have such conversations with God. In our prayer time we complain, "Lord, I am an active member of a community that used to be bursting with members, how come scandals have affected us and we are now smaller in number?" or "Lord, I have been serving you for a long time, why did you allow misfortunes to happen to my family left and right?" or this, from me, "Father, if the Philippines is the only Catholic and Christian country in Asia, how come we are in a constant political and economic crisis? When will poverty, pollution and corruption end?" Sometimes, God's reply is not to send some other hero or leader to use his magic wand or staff to bring about a miraculous change in our situation. No, we have seen how God would sometimes ask us to be part of the solution. In our community, workplace, family, parish, or country, God looks for people who question, because they are the ones who care the most. We know that man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart. Therefore God has made some famous choices of people who are most unlikely to serve him - Abraham, who was old and childless; David who was young and prone to fits of passion; Gideon, who was least in his family and who came from the weakest clan; Mary, who was a virgin and who was about to marry Joseph.
God clearly explained His ways through His Son Jesus - the most unlikely choice of all to be the Messiah, as He was born to a carpenter, refused to take part in the political issues of his time and thus in the eyes of the Jews, He could not be the Savior they were waiting for. Yes, Jesus was the Ultimate Example of what we read in today's gospel reading. Peter asked Jesus what was in store for the disciples like him who left everything to follow Him. While reading the text during my morning prayers, I strained to see how Jesus worded His reply, for I asked the same question from my heart. Jesus said that all who left parents, children, fields (that is, work or profession, ahem) for His name's sake have a place in heaven, but He also emphasized and reiterated that "the first shall be last and the last shall be first". Those who are considered insignificant and unworthy in the world are the ones whom God would raise up with His Son Jesus at the end of time, to heaven, where there would be no more crying or pain or hunger evermore.
Until then, I like Gideon have a tendency to complain. It is not easy being last. What helps me snap out of moments of doubt, anxiety, loneliness and depression are prayer, Scriptures, sacraments, service, and community. These spokes of the Holy Spirit remind me that in order to claim my heavenly inheritance, I have to follow the example of characters in the Bible, most especially Jesus who is my Lord.
Monday, August 15, 2005
I worked in that law firm as an associate even before I passed the bar. One time, the Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company (PLDT) gave a free seminar to our office secretaries on phone etiquette. The Personnel Partner required me to attend the seminar and joked that I should be there so that if I didn't pass the bar, I could get a job as a legal secretary. Fat chance, I thought, as I didn't know how to do short-hand. Then the world turned upside down because I did flunk that particular bar (1999, there was a scandal that year and I was a victim of one of the lowest passing percentages ever, but that's water under the bridge now). Instead of applying as a secretary, I filed my resignation because I could not face the humiliation. This is subject of a thousand sharings already so I won't write the details here. A year after and armed with an official membership to the bar, I re-applied as a legal associate and resumed having someone to type, photocopy, and file for me, among other things.
The life of a corporate lawyer-wannabe that I used to tread seems ages ago. Now I go to my office in a T-shirt, jeans and sandals, taking the jeep and getting wet whenever the raindrops exceed the capacity of my pink fold-up umbrella. When I see legal dramas on TV and watch actresses wearing suits and pearls and carrying leather briefcases, I still feel something, a tug in my heart that asks why I could not find happiness and fulfillment when I was actually on the road to achieving that look, a legal eagle from my lifelong dreams. If people are shocked that I set aside all that for now to do what I'm doing at Lingkod Office, the details of which deserve the next paragraph, I do not blame them for I find myself weird, too, sometimes.
For a little more than a week now, I have made a career out of answering phones, making my own photocopies, and typing minutes of meetings. The lady lawyer who joked about my future as a secretary had some premonition that there was something more to my extraordinary typing skills than meets the eye. Something tells me now that I have always had the penchant for this kind of work, and true to form I find that I could be passionate about it. I am sure that my former secretaries earn so much more than what I'm getting nowadays. From the world's point of view, and from a part of me that is still of the world, it could be argued that I am suffering from a momentary lapse of good judgment.
It is a strange feeling, to be content and free. It is a strange life that I lead now, full of uncertainties as to what tomorrow would bring, lacking in financial security and career opportunities as my world has defined them all these years, yet within this paradox I wake up every morning with peace, joy, and anticipation for what the new day would bring. A lot of my friends and relatives simply stared at me as if I had lost my mind or suddenly sprouted long ears, because they too shared in my dreams, first to be a rich corporate lawyer with all the benefits attendant thereto, and then to be a radical, passionate court attorney fighting graft and corruption at Sandiganbayan, so that by this recent decision I have had to constantly contend with a barrage of cross-examination questions from people who could not understand how my heart could not embrace what everyone should be hoping for given my age, status and educational attainment. I find, however, that a life without pretensions and pressure is radically different, for it is pure bliss!
Being so new at this and still feeling my way around the office, I do still ask if I am doing what I'm supposed to do. As one well-meaning relative asked me, "Why don't you leave that volunteer/missionary work for those who are not lawyers? Shouldn't you be serving God using your profession?" Even if my heart is already leaping and dancing with all the time I have now to read and to write and to sing and to play music, I still do ask what in the world came over me, and if this is just me. "How much of this has just been brought about by burnout from your two previous hectic jobs?", asked one of the respected leaders of our community.
I found some affirmations to my current sources of joy as well as answers to the above-mentioned questions during last night's Lord's Day Celebration with Lingkod Quezon City. We gathered at sundown at the house of one of the sisters to pray the blessing of the wine and the bread and to share a beautiful meal. We listened to some sharings from our members who have felt joy in living for Christ, and I was struck by two Bible characters who were mentioned by our brothers who led us last night. In exhorting us to celebrate the Lord's Day, Paul told us that the basis of what we were doing came from the book of Nehemiah, an Old Testament character who, prior to his service in the restoration of Jerusalem, served as cup-bearer to the king. Nehemiah was so close to the king, though, that his service was not as ordinary as it may seem. Later on he had a great part in the history of God's people. At the closing part of the night, Ted mentioned the New Testament character and first martyr Stephen, who, prior to being martyred to death, served as a "waiter" to the disciples, so that the latter could go about with their mission. He who was last became first, true to Scripture, as it is written in the book of Acts that St. Stephen was a man filled with the Holy Spirit who glorified God even when his enemies surrounded him.
I was struck by these two characters who had to fulfill menial tasks and who had no idea how God was planning to use them so significantly. Going about their work for the Lord and not merely for man, they were found faithful in the little things and were thus given more service precisely because they had served the Lord well. Those two are now shining examples for me. I may not be able to have the expected answer to people's questions such as, "So Ella, where are you connected now? What do you do?" because I work for a little-known (at least, in the world) office with duties that I did not need to go to the University for, and yet I am certain that I am where my God wants me to be and that this is part of His plan for me. There is no doubt that I am being molded, purified, and polished even as I wash dishes and assist others in their particular services, having no major assignment of my own. Sometimes I have out-of-office assignments that are reminiscent of my old life as a BWM, organizing recollections, giving talks, etc., but most of the time I am just in the office. But when I'm there I forget the time, spending every minute looking around and finding something to do that brings out the best in me and gives me joy.
I am beginning to see what it means to surrender my life to the Lord. It is one thing to sing "I Offer My Life", "Take and Receive", "Sa 'Yo Lamang" and "Here I am, Lord" during Mass. It is another thing to be asked to live it out. It has caused me to lose my mind. My only hope is to gain my soul in the process. :)
Friday, August 12, 2005
All around me things seem to be falling apart, breaking down, or just simply behaving unnaturally. I joined Lingkod office more than a week ago and all of a sudden, the LAN had problems, one printer ran out of ink, another printer gave up on life altogether, the cordless phone forgot how to charge itself when placed on its cradle, some light bulbs (three, as of last count) refused to work, and the radio would not turn on. My brothers/sisters/officemates said that it is simply the equipment's way of welcoming me to my new job. But these things do not hinder me from going to work excitedly every morning and smiling the whole day. What are a few machine breakdowns to me who is finally home? I am learning to dance around the problems and after a few days, they are one by one responding to me positively. The equipment, I mean. The people, well I'm working with really passionate, dedicated, selfless and beautiful people so I don't feel bothered much by the challenges. Of course, since we are using old computers and gadgets, these things are bound to happen. Perhaps I could help find the solution by praying for, and actually procuring through God's providence, new and better equipment! I wish.
At the home front our two cars are still acting up. I have been getting to know our other car who welcomed me with a flat tire, a dead battery, and a busted alternator, and so far things are looking up. Our other car which is scheduled for sale soon is also letting me know that it doesn't approve of my favoritism, for it used to be my companion day and night before I was given custody of the automatic car. The dear Lancer's aircon got busted last week and it triggered other problems which forced me to have it serviced to the max. Normally car problems give me headaches, but thanks to my brother's help and a growing detachment from driving (as much by circumstance as by choice), I am not as bothered as I used to be.
So now I'm using the computer at the office that cooperates with me - meaning it allows me to access the Internet (whereas the other two simply refuse to budge when I try to open Explorer or Chikka) - and I took some time to update my blog which has been neglected for a few days. I thought only people reacted negatively to change. Now I have seen how consistently our surroundings also reflect the confusion that change brings about. Still I am hopeful about the future and thankful about the present. I'm learning a lot from having to work around things that are way below optimal in terms of efficiency. As my sister would say, what doesn't kill you would only make you stronger.
I still pray that our hard disks at home are intact, though. Wish me the best!
Tuesday, August 09, 2005
Lovely Lunch at Chinoz, at the G/F of Petronas, for my birthday. We enjoyed fine dining and I forgot about my blues. Pano ba naman, my roaming arrived at 11 a.m. Imagine the millions of text messages that I missed (as if!) because Globe was late in processing my application. Na-high blood ako buti tinulungan ako ni Rocky.
At the Sunway Pyramid, hawak ko ang goatee para sa iyo Tita Mel!!! Feeling nasa Egypt.
Monday, August 08, 2005
Reaching out for gold bars at the store inside the KL airport. We bought pasalubong chocolates for my nephews here.
Btw, I've seen the movie "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" and it wasn't what I expected. It was a Burtonized (read: darker) version of the book I liked so much. Willy Wonka seemed suspiciously too white-faced and high-pitched to be normal, though he resembled a famous celebrity who loved kids and who had kiddie rides in his property as well. That got us thinking. Hmm.
Actually, I was more enticed to eat chocolate after seeing Johnny Depp's previous movie, "Chocolat". The company I was with last Saturday was worth it, however, as I saw it with the Posh LSS kids, Prince Ali, and Bro. Daniel who's now off to World Youth Day. The kids put too much salt in our popcorn, even if I warned them against it. We suffered through either having to wipe off the excess salt from every piece, for those of us who had the inclination, or biting into its white saltiness, for those of us who were too engrossed in the movie to care.
One writer who writes about chocolate well is J. K. Rowling. My sister sent me some chocolate frogs before inspired by Book One of H.P., along with real Bertie Bott's beans. Speaking of H.P., I haven't read book six! The opportunity to read it will come tonight though, when Ted hands me his extra copy. I can't wait!
1. What are the things you enjoy doing when there's no one around you?
This list keeps growing as I grow older. These are the things I enjoy doing alone regularly, in no particular order - extra long prayer times in the morning - I call this being with God to my heart's content, without having to rush off to stress over the day; contemplating amidst flowers and fountains, however small; taking walks, preferably without much pollution; reading books (siyempre, mahirap magbasa ng may kasama, hello); practicing Joy of Discovery in Bible Study (though I miss my Antioch groupmates); cooking/baking, although ok lang may assistant (tagahiwa, taga-do the dishes), too many cooks spoil the broth for me; playing the piano (for obvious reasons, though duets work after much practice, I've been playing alone ever since I could remember); blogging and writing (needs no explanation); watching TV to look for good movies or lifestyle shows; sleeping; shopping (more efficient when nobody's waiting for you, though an occasional fashionista/bargain hunter companion is most welcome); going to daily Mass - I find I'm more focused when I have no one to have a running commentary with, but offering the Eucharist with holy men and women (not necessarily the religious) is also a great experience; dining alone - and when I do this, I eat a full meal from appetizer to dessert and savor every bite - and I used to do this more when I lived on a lawyer's salary, hehe, haven't tried this with my missionary's allowance, pero I'm sure enjoy pa rin.
2. What lowers your stress/blood pressure/anxiety level?
Talking to my friends, sometimes just seeing my loved ones makes me happy already, or remembering their smiles, hugs, and affectionate words. Playing with my nephews Luigi and Miko! I love going out for coffee just to process things with like-minded individuals. Music soothes my soul. God's Word gives me confidence, instruction, and affirmation. Sharing a meal with people I love is always a stress-buster. Attending a prayer meeting with Lingkod brothers and sisters keeps me in spiritual shape, especially worship, where I can sing, dance and proclaim God's word as if I were in heaven already, although I know that nothing compares to the joy of the real thing that I hope to enjoy someday! :)
3. tag three (I modified this to three from five, hehe) friends and post it in theirs.
Hmmm Ted, Daisy (that's two tags for you both already, from Joni and me), and Marlon the pogi.
At KL, Pauline and Roelle picked us up to give us a few hours' sleep. First thing the next morning, we took the bus, together with Pau this time, to Singapore. First Coach, the bus we took, was classier than the airplane we rode in! They even gave us cookies and water for free. We arrived at Singapore, bought stored value cards at their high-tech MRT, and got down at a station near our hotel. With our backpacks, we walked to the hotel which was quite a distance, under the extreme heat of the Singapore sun. At the hotel, I just had time for a quick drink before we went off again to see the sights as we had very limited time.
We took the river boat cruise and learned a bit of history. I saw the merlion, the Esplanade Theater, the museum featuring a Vatican collection, and historic sites.
This was taken inside the river boat with the merlion in the background.
After that we had dinner at a hawker's restaurant, the prices of which were 1/3 cheaper than the restaurants along Clark Quaye. Then, we took the MRT and bus to the Night Safari, where we road the tram for a guided tour to see some rare animals. So from car, bus, airplane, car, bus, MRT, boat, bus, MRT and tram, motion sickness and fatigue took over and I almost fainted at the night safari! I didn't have a the full chance to enjoy the flying cheetahs and other exotic animals because I had a splitting headache that no Ponstan could heal. I prayed that the sickness would not hinder me from seeing the sights of Singapore. The next day, I felt better at Sentosa and Orchard Road. We took the bus back to Malaysia and when we got there at night, I found myself with fever.
But did I rest the next day? Of course not, it was my birthday and the reason why I got the trip as a gift in the first place! We went to Menara, Petronas, and the Sunway Pyramid. I had the time of my life. I also found out that Salamat means Welcome in Malaysia! Here in the Philippines it means Thank You.
With Peeya and Mama at the Menara KL Tower, the fourth tallest telecoms tower in the world. I know because they showed us the measurements of all the other top towers. :)
Thank you in Malaysia is "Terima kasih". I think.
Sunday, August 07, 2005
I had a pleasant surprise today - a birthday honoring, albeit a week late, from some brothers and sisters of QC who traveled from Makati where they attended a required course just to bring a delicious cake, sing the HBD song, and offer their honorings once more. I was delighted to see them, the brothers and sisters I grew up with! I had to leave early to go to Mass but my love tank was refilled already. While walking home I realized what a perfect ending to the week the little party was, a gentle reminder that all things do end well for those who love and serve the Lord, no matter how many challenges arose the past week. It erased all the tears and frustrations that I felt midweek and showed me the reality of the hope that I have, that nothing is impossible for God. Oh yes, I almost broke down this week simply because all the things that trigger my irritations and insecurities cropped up one by one as if attempting to hinder me from starting my official service for Lingkod. Well my God is bigger and stronger than those puny irritants that the enemy tried to put my way, and I have lived to tell the tale.
Looking at photos and videos from my trip last weekend also reminded me that God is present and active in my life, no matter how I feel. I was not worthy to receive Jesus but at His Word, I was healed. I felt like St. Paul all of a sudden when I recalled the past week - I was bedridden, stranded, and rejected - and yet like the apostle I was able to stand up, walk, and find new courage.
So the journey begins.
Monday, August 01, 2005
Singapore and Malaysia in four days deserves several entries here, unfortunately, I woke up with a headache, slight fever, and flu, so I will postpone once more the real blogging. I might separate the writeups into different topics, not necessarily in chronological order; like, "Lost in Translation", "Lost in Conversion", "Land, Sea and Air: 3 Countries in 24 Hours", "Mind over Matter: My Battle Against Vertigo", etc. There are too many blessings to pack in one blog entry.
As I have to take bed rest today, let me just post these photos for now and update you guys on what I've been up to the past five days. By the way, thanks to all those who remembered me last Saturday. It was an unforgettable day.
This was taken on July 30. No camera tricks were used at all! Our friends Roelle and Pauline (of Punsalan Bed, Breakfast and Tours which I shall blog about soon, watch out for it) made us stand at the steps leading to the Petronas Twin Towers in KL, Malaysia and then this pose was the easiest thing to do. I felt like I was Samson or Hercules.
The meds I took are kicking in once more. Off to bed I go. Later.