Tuesday, February 28, 2006

As We Wait for Justice

Ignorantia legis non excusat. This is one of a handful of Latin maxims that I can still remember, and it means that ignorance of the law excuses no one [from compliance therewith].

This principle is applied when determining the culpability or liability of a person. The words "I didn't know that what I was doing was wrong" cannot exempt anyone from being liable for the consequences of his or her actions.

If this is the case, then we could say that we have higher expectations of people who are well-versed with the law than those who might have not heard about it, much less studied it.

For government lawyers, therefore, who had any part in the preparation and implementation of Proclamation No. 1017, which on its face is a mockery of Constitutional Law and Criminal Law as we know it, we could find nothing that could justify their actions. They are accountable to us, the Filipino people, and not to the few people who are welcome, and still loyal, to the Palace.

Furthermore, if these lawyers, got their degree from Malcolm Hall, where we were supposedly taught the law "in a grand manner" to "make great lawyers", our utter disappointment with them is perfectly justifiable.

Since cases have been filed questioning the legality of Proclamation 1017, we have the Supreme Court to count on now, as the final arbiter in saying what the law is, and to declare as invalid and unconstitutional this convtroversial proclamation. Let us trust that the standards that the justices would use would be nothing less than what we ordinary Filipinos would expect from them.

I was buying ensaladang talong from one of our favorite carinderias this noon when I made small talk with the Manang who was measuring the eight cups of rice that we ordered for our office, it being Fat Tuesday for us (the day before Ash Wednesday, the start of the Lenten season, when we fast). My officemate and I were choosing from the turo-turo window when Manang asked us if Cuaresma had set in. I said, "Bukas pa po, Manang".

She replied, "Hay naku, kuwaresma na, dapat magsisi na iyang si Gloria at magtika para sa lahat ng mga kasalanan niya."

My heart went out to Manang who was voicing out her sentiments at the sight of palpable injustice that has been permeating our country for a long time now, but who probably did not know exactly what laws were violated by this administration, especially in the last four days. Or maybe I'm complicating where she's coming from, given my own sentiments at the current crisis that we are going through.

We may twist the laws of man and get away with it, but the Lord sees everything. Ultimately, the masterminds and plotters of Proclamation 1017 are accountable to God, who is after the sincerity of hearts.

As we wait for the outcome of the petitions filed in the SC, we hope that our justices would say this prayer, from words that came from our Lord Jesus:

"I cannot do anything on my own; I judge as I hear, and my judgment is just, because I do not seek my own will but the will of the one who sent me." - John 5:30 (RSV)

May each justice seek neither his own interests nor that of the directly appointing power, but may his decision be guided by the laws of the land in his mind, the voice of the people in his heart, and the laws of God in his conscience.

Now Playing: I Love the LORD

I didn't know I had this song in three albums - Bukas Palad's "God of Silence", Himig Heswita's "O Bayan ng Diyos", and Cenacle's "Prayers from the Upper Room".

I really love this song now.

I Love the LORD

I love the Lord, He is filled with compassion.
He turned to me on the day that I called.
From the snares of the dark, O, Lord, save my life,
be my strength.

Gracious is the Lord, and just.
Our God is mercy, rest to the weary.
Return my soul to the Lord our God who bids tears away.
I love the Lord. (REFRAIN)

How can I repay the Lord for all the goodness He has shown me?
I will raise the cup of salvation and call on His name.
I love the Lord. (REFRAIN)

I shall live my vows to You before Your people,
I am Your servant.
I will offer You my sacrifice of praise and of pray'r.
I love the Lord. (REFRAIN)

Monday, February 27, 2006

It Ain't Over Til It's Over

It Ain’t Over Til It’s Over

MalacaƱang would like us to believe that it’s over and that we need to focus on our economy. Furthermore, because the administration believes that negative news reports do not help our image in the international scene, we do not have the right to know everything that is going on.

There was no apology this time, and no admission of lapse in judgment. As if the arrests and shutdowns since Friday were not enough, the administration threatened a more serious response – to what exactly, we need to know – but promised there would not be martial law.

A rose by any other name is still a rose.

We developed migraines last Friday after everything that happened, yet could not turn off our TV sets. We wanted to know every bit of detail regarding what was happening in our country. During the past weekend, there were little to no updates from the media and we felt a strange sense of withdrawal. It was an eerie silence, for we knew that the country was still under a state of emergency, and the bits and pieces we gathered from different sources showed that a lot of things were going on, but being mere ordinary citizens, we were not privy to the truth, the whole truth.

The ABS-CBN News Channel (ANC) on cable and local TV started reporting interesting news at 3 p.m., but it was painful to watch. In the middle of conversations, they would cut the speaker off. Warnings from the NTC and Sec. Saludo against airing information that might incite to sedition or rebellion or insinuate withdrawal by the military from the chain of command took its toll on the media.

In our house, we were singing Bayan Ko. Lights were turned off around Fort Bonifacio, where politicians and civil society groups rallied around Col. Querubin following the controversial removal of Gen. Miranda. Because it was too dark, reporters could not see how many people were present and on the way. Former Pres. Cory Aquino was almost prevented from entering Fort Bonifacio. We could not believe what was happening.

So many questions and we citizens remain in the dark.

For my part, I locked myself in my room, lit a candle, prayed the rosary, and interceded like I had never done before for my country. I wanted to be able to trust Somebody. I wanted to be assured that violence would not erupt, and that our people were protected by Someone more powerful than all the forces combined in the camps.

There are many principles and agendas involved in this crisis. There are those who adhere to the chain of command. There are those who protect the Constitution. There are those who protect their friends. There are those who have simply had enough and are willing to wait until the President steps down.

All of us Filipinos need a loyalty check as to who we worship, whom we follow, and whom we listen to. We may have noble aspirations but if the means we are taking to achieve those ends are not justifiable in the eyes of our God, then we should take a step back. We should never allow the enemy to take advantage of our confusion in order to cause us to be part of suffering for others, or to aggravate already tense and complicated situations.

There is a Somebody who can protect, guard, save and guide us. Let us turn to God more deeply and bend our knees in prayer.

We are all in the dark as to what will happen, but Jesus is our light and our salvation. Let us hold on to that. For this crisis is far from over. People have to answer for a lot of things. We need to understand, and we need to know the truth. Once we know the truth, we need to act based upon it.

In all these, let us pray without ceasing.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Speaking Out

I never intended for this blog to be about politics. I thought I could take my slice of the cake while neatly removing the things that are bad for me - the fattening whipped cream with its overdose of sugar, the preserved fruits that do not do justice to the original taste of the freshly-picked ones, even the nuts that are too tough to crack.

But just as there cannot be a schizophrenic Christian (as Fr. Steve put it), there cannot be a schizophrenic Filipino. I cannot monitor events for almost an entire day with visions reminiscent of the First Quarter Storm and then pretend the next day like nothing happened, that February 24, 2006 was just a nightmare that would go away. I could go to the mall later, but my indignation stays.

I cannot regard the Arroyo administration with apathy and indifference anymore, because the day that they manipulated the provisions of our Constitution to protect their own interests by writing a patently invalid proclamation, and then proceeded to act based on such an unconstitutional law, to arrest people who had dared speak openly against them (or should I say, "her") and closed down a newspaper (The Daily Tribune, my father's favorite pro-Erap publication) in blatant disregard of the constitutionally-enshrined freedom of the press, it was the day that I realized I had to think about this. I had to use my education, my conscience, and my voice.

Try closing down the Internet, Mrs. Arroyo, because we are free to speak out here. We respect your position, our Constitution, and the Filipino people. This may be what Gen. Senga and the rest of the military mean when they say they respect the "chain-of-command". It's not personal, and could never be. We don't have to personally like you and blindly accept the atrocities that your administration is committing on our people, on the very anniversary of the re-birth of our freedom at that! To say that the situation is ironic is an understatement.

In the first reading today, we are exhorted, "Is anyone among you suffering? He should pray" (James 5:13a, NAB). We are suffering, and we are praying, Mrs. Arroyo.

But we are also watching, studying, and arming ourselves, not to reclaim our freedoms and rights through violence, but through the use of our minds and the guidance of our hearts.

You cannot play around with our laws and expect us to thank you for it. The nation was not in a state of emergency yesterday, even if your administration was. There was no way that the Constitution would allow you to single-handedly crackdown on every potentially subversive person or publication. You have to respect the requirements of the law - have you truly met the conditions that would allow you, as you and your advisers claim - to exercise the powers that you have taken by force? Have you forgotten that you are just a branch of the government, and that the judicial and legislative arms have, or should have, equal and supreme powers in their own sphere, in order to check your actions and give the appropriate consequences to them?

Are you not a mother who should be after unity, not anarchy, in her family? When your opponents give you no peace, and when the truths they expose are enough to disturb our peace as well, should you not listen to the voice of our grandmother, and make the supreme sacrifice of resigning?

I have objected to several statements and actions of Atty. Rene Saguisag in the past, but once more we are in agreement in this one. We are baffled, Madame President. You have invented the term "state of national emergency" and invoked the Constitution as your shield.

The Constitution, however verbose it may be at present, is not your shield, Mrs. Arroyo. It is the Filipino people's. And it does not grant you supreme powers. It does not make you queen of this country.

Those who want to be first must be last. We claim to be Catholics, you and I, Mrs. Arroyo. Well, Jesus, the man we both follow, has taught us that servanthood is the essence of leadership. We should be washing the feet of those whom we serve. We do not get sticks and beat those feet up when they try to stand up to voice out what is in their hearts and to question the actions that our cohorts have concocted in the dark.

This nightmare that you started cannot last forever. God will not allow it. We will definitely pray against it.

Friday, February 24, 2006


I strongly agree with the statement issued by the FREE LEGAL ASSISTANCE GROUP (FLAG) regarding the declaration of a state of national emergency by the Arroyo administration. Please click on the following link:


My thoughts exactly!!!

The Uncertainties Surrounding Juan dela Cruz

Juan dela Cruz* is most likely confused at this time. It is easy to get lost in translation when explaining the legal grounds and implications of President Arroyo’s Proclamation No. 1017, declaring a state of national emergency. (See the full text on inq7.net).

The country woke up to the news that military officers were held under custody for “illegal acts”. We encountered terms like “double red alert” and “hanging coup”. Classes were suspended in Metro Manila at all levels.

With nothing to do but watch TV, the nation waited as events unfolded. Different groups who gathered and marched – for different reasons – were formed in Timog, U.P. Diliman, Quezon City Circle, EDSA shrine, and People Power monument.

Bishop Yniguez and a group of nuns with him were prevented from celebrating mass at People Power monument, as it was allegedly declared as a no-rally zone.

Presidential Chief of Staff Mike Defensor and AFP Chief of Staff Generoso Senga granted interviews that only increased the anxiety of the people.

We waited for several hours for the President’s announcement. By mid-day, she declared a state of national emergency.

Press conferences were held with her cabinet members answering very direct and pointed questions with inconsistent explanations. There, we encountered more confusion than enlightenment. Constitutional provisions got mixed up and legal opinions in reaction to the text of the proclamation itself and declarations made by Defensor, DOJ Secretary Raul Gonzalez, and Presidential Legal Adviser Antonio Nachura elicited several reactions from the press.

The public needs to know what the basis of the grant is and what its extent is.

The legal world needs to respond to this; should we find anything unconstitutional, we should file the proper petitions in court as soon as possible.

I saw how Prof. Randy David and company were arrested. He was leading a group of rallyists from U.P. who were on their way to EDSA.

The questions of the press directed at the cabinet were telling of the sentiments. Upon the act of one military officer, where is the basis to declare state of emergency? What “confirmed reports” were Gen. Senga referring to?

How can the Filipinos be assured that their rights are intact, and that there will be no violence?

All celebrations commemorating the 20th anniversary of EDSA People Power have been cancelled. We are waiting for what will happen, as Senate President Franklin Drilon and former Pres. Corazon Aquino have sent word that they would continue with attending the wreath-laying at Ayala Avenue, at the monument of slain Sen. Benigno Aquino, Jr.

Crowds are being dispersed on TV. Arrests are being made.

All laws, proclamations, executive orders, even ordinances, must stand the test of constitutionality. Whatever specific provisions were used by those who drafted the proclamation did not seem to reach those who were implementing the proclamation.

There are more issues and events that are ongoing and we cannot monitor them all. However, we are lost and confused. For while we are being assured that everything is under control, in the same breath threats are being made by the authorities that arrests could be made further and worse, the media fears the provisions in the proclamation regarding the transfer to the government of certain utilities under Art. XII, Sec. 17 of the Constitution.

We cannot help but ask more questions during this time. Who are our true protectors? Who can we turn to, whose noble ideas are worth imbibing, and whose leadership is worth following?

Let us pray for our country. We deserve justice, truth, peace, and progress. Let us pray that the Lord will protect us against further violence. Let us pray that the Constitution be upheld and that it would not be too costly to do so.

If I may add to what I wrote earlier, let us pray for Juan dela Cruz, that he may one day wake up to better news that make sense and are given by people who truly care for his welfare, and not just their own.

* Representing the ordinary Filipino citizen

Thursday, February 23, 2006

What EDSA Means to Me

When the Philippine Daily Inquirer asked for contributors to share their experience of EDSA I People Power to commemorate the 20th anniversary of this four-day revolution that happened on February 22-25, 1986, I thought my share in the event that put our country on the pages of world history was too insignificant to write about.

This week, PDI has been featuring stories from prominent people who indeed played pivotal roles in toppling the Marcos dictatorship. The newspaper itself shares its roots with the Pinoy peaceful revolution, as I remember that it was born at around the same time as the 1986 Snap Elections and the events that ensued. My family has subscribed to the Inquirer ever since.

Reading other people’s stories led me to a bit of reminiscing as well, and since nothing is too insignificant for this blog, I will share about my small part in Philippine history. I know you have your own EDSA I stories, and I invite you to share about them too. Remembrance of things past is good. History teaches us lessons. Our own memories can guide us to our ideals and teach us how to reach our dreams.

I was eleven years old then, in fifth grade, when Ferdinand Marcos called for snap presidential elections in order to prove that he was still the choice of the Filipino people. That was his response to the vocal opposition to his dictatorship fired by the assasination of his arch-rival, UP Law fraternity brod Ninoy Aquino, in 1983.

I was studying in a school that was friendly to political detainees then. Yellow was the color favored by the SFIC nuns who ran our school and we had demonstrations on campus. I was awakened to the issues of that time through Ibon Ekono-comics, movies such as “Sister Stella L.”, and campaign materials about Cory and the late Doy Laurel.

We had Cory fever in school. Our neckties were decked with yellow punk buttons and we wore yellow ribbons on our hair. We had yellow bells planted all over the school grounds and memorized the song “Tie a Yellow Ribbon”.

As I shared before, my family was living in Pureza St., Sta. Mesa, Manila in 1986, walking distance from Nagtahan Bridge and Mendiola, and one jeepney ride away from MalacaƱang Palace. Classes were suspended due to the people power movement taking place along EDSA.

On February 23, Mama was preparing our dinner when she and Papa were inspired to join in the outpouring of support for the soldiers who protected the people at EDSA. Our family cooked guiniling, one of my kuya Dan’s favorite dishes, which is a simple meat dish made of ground pork, potatoes, garbanzos, and carrots, and colored with achuete. We likewise cooked rice. Then we placed them separately in several one-kilo plastic bags. Then, my parents took us all to EDSA, and we had to walk long and hard to find the gate of the camp where they were accepting food donations. I remember thinking how little our contribution was compared to the truckloads of food that were coming in for the soldiers and the other people who kept vigil. But it was an activity that I shared with my family that turned out to be something I would become proud of in my later years.

We stayed in EDSA for a while. I saw several nuns and priests among the common people. I saw rich people and poor people. I saw Filipinos united, and it was something I would miss seeing later in life. We joined the recitation of the rosary and then we went home. The next day, we woke up early, all excited to go back to EDSA. On the road, cars honked at each other to signal their unity with People Power. I was lucky enough to have been standing at the very spot where the soldiers passed that day. Everyone was looking for Gringo Honasan, but I didn’t see him. The crowd parted to let the men-in-fatigue pass, and people gave them flowers. The atmosphere was emotional. There was love of country and hope in God. Devotees to Mama Mary kept on praying the rosary. It was an unprecedented event and nobody knew what would happen next, but we had a feeling then that we were making history.

Channel 4, the government TV channel, was taken over by the opposition. Maan Hontiveros, without makeup, showed up. So did Mitch Valdez, the Apo Hiking Society, and several other singers and actors who had a conscience. Maan Hontiveros came back the next day wearing makeup, and delivering "the real news" about what was going on in EDSA. To our surprise, the world noticed. And the world watched with us.

So the whole world cheered with us when Marcos fled. It was victory for a praying people, and we thought then that at last we were free. At last we had our country's riches to ourselves. At last we would have good leaders and good laws.

And so Malacanang was looted. We were shocked at the discoveries - 3,000 pairs of shoes (to which Imelda Marcos would forever be infamous for); giant bottles of French perfumes; paintings of Malakas and Maganda that made us want to throw up; and other signs of ostentatious living. We considered them atrocities amidst the economic crisis that we were experiencing.

We sang Magkaisa and Handog ng Pilipino sa Mundo. And yes Cory and Doy took over the country’s leadership. Everywhere I looked, I saw people who were proud to be Filipino! I don’t remember which awards show it was, but I know I watched an American show on TV where the presenters greeted the Philippines with the Laban sign, which stood for PDP-Laban, Cory’s party, and the known sign of support and encouragement for her to keep up the fight, for she was not alone. Cory, hindi ka nag-iisa, we said.

We thought we had the country back in our hands. And we said that we would never allow a dictatorship to imprison us again.

Twenty years later, however, there are now a million things to say about how we forgot the ideals of EDSA and how we prostituted the gains of EDSA. As PDI columnist Conrado de Quiros implied, what happened during Cory’s term (and the birth of Kris' showbiz career - aside mine) is a whole other story. For me, focusing on the negative now, which by the way, we have learned to be experts on when it comes to our country's ills, would just douse our idealism and water down the symbolism of EDSA. During the succeeding presidential terms of Ramos, Erap (however short-lived), and now GMA, we had lost our pride for "People Power", which was a peaceful revolution and the Filipino nation's gift to the world. But we have the rest of the year to talk about all that.

For this week, the true spirit of EDSA for us Filipinos lives. Even if our current President is afraid of it. Even if the government refuses to give this anniversary its proper celebration. Even if we still suffer from calamities and tragedies.

Some of our countrymen have closed off EDSA again. I have not joined them. I don't think an EDSA revolt will ever happen again in the same manner, so let's stop trying. Just look at the product of our second effort! Yes, I was there at EDSA II in 2001, and all grown-up. I slept for a couple of hours at the Perpetual Adoration Chapel of The EDSA Shrine then out of sheer exhaustion. I was there to make a stand for morality, not to put another leader of the same ilk that we had been unfortunately prone to.

What I know is that we Filipinos all believe in God, whether we are Catholics, Protestants, Muslims, or otherwise. Maybe we should stop taking matters into our own hands, and let God be God. We have been confused by our own freedom, and have grown impatient in claiming our victory. Why don't we wait a while to find out how we could recover from our own seflishness, greed, and pride? I simply believe that the answer is not in violence; neither is it in revenge, which only leads to us doing the very things that our "enemies" did, with the only justification being that we have the right to inflict injustice, after suffering much injustice. I think we should, this time, try doing things God's way, whatever our individual concept may be of God.

Lessons are repeated until learned. The lesson of EDSA is not to do another EDSA, but it should cause us to open our eyes, use our heads and search our hearts. People Power was good, but perhaps now it should give way to the Father's Power.

"Justice and justice alone shall be your aim, that you may have life and may possess the land which the LORD, your God, is giving you." (Deut. 16:20 [NAB]).

Sasha's Winning Form in the Short Program Posted by Picasa

Michelle Kwan a year ago: she soars on the ice! Posted by Picasa

Sasha Finds Her Wings

There are few things that could glue me in front of the TV, as I don't watch it regularly, and if ever I do, I only tune in to movie, lifestyle, and news channels.

Friends since childhood have encouraged me to take up badminton, but my utter lack of athletic ability, and seeing my friend's injuries, had convinced me that I should stick to things that I had some talent for. Sports isn't one of them.

Therefore, very seldom do I watch sports on TV, but just like any woman, I get hooked on the Winter Olympics, especially in women's figure skating. It's the marriage between athletic and artistic ability that mesmerizes me.

I was therefore happy to watch on
CNN that Sasha Cohen placed first in the short program of the Winter Olympics being held in Turin, Italy. I saw a replay of her interview with Jay Leno only last night and realized how pretty this girl has grown up to be. It was one frustration in my US trip that I failed to watch a live figure skating show. That's another reason to go back someday (but only after I've visited Europe... Lord, I know You're listening!).

The unfair question on everyone's mind is whether Sasha would have dazzled had Michelle Kwan, the star US figure skater, been present. Michelle backed out from the US winter olympics team at the last minute due to an injury. I was sad to learn about that.

I'm as guilty as the rest. I've always thought of Sasha as a lesser skater, compared to Michelle, who uses the ice as her canvas and splashes color, texture, passion and emotion through her skating.

But I guess Sasha is like the rest of us, after training and waiting, we are given our golden chance. And then at the right time, we shine as well, not in a similar way as others have shone, but sending off our own imprint into the sky, in our own shape, using our own style.

Now I'm rooting for Sasha. I hope she gets the gold. And I pray that Michelle would heal soon. May she find strength in this experience of waiting.

I tried to upload photos but Blogger isn't cooperating. I will try Hello by Picasa in a while.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Things Take Time

This is a homily by the late Fr. Jim Donelan, SJ from "God's Crooked Lines", a compilation of his homilies published by Tahanan Books in 1998. This was probably written before the age of cellphones and digital cameras, but as it is, it's already a good read for those of us who have problems with waiting. :)

Things Take Time

It is not easy for us these days to respect time, to be patient. We travel by jet and rocket. We speak by satellite. We cook by microwave. We use instant film and instant coffee. We can process more information in one minute using a computer than previously, working 260 years!

We are led to believe that we can transcend time, that we can find instant wisdom, instant maturity. We think one night in a singles' bar can establish a lasting relationship.

But if we look at the rest of God's creation, we find there are things that can't be rushed.

A good wine is to be aged. Rivers flow at their own pace. You cannot hasten the dawn, or hold back the sunset. The great ocean tides can't be hurried. The salmon know exactly when to swim upstream. The rose and the blade of grass know when to come forth. We cannot change the seasons.

And anniversaries can't be rushed, they have to be waited for, worked for. That's why they are precious: silver, gold, diamond.

For what is true of nature is true of us, we are pilgrims and wayfarers in time's current. We cannot rush it.

Look at how long it takes to develop human skills to become an Olympic champion, a concert pianist, a prima ballerina, a painter. These are long, lonely journeys. They take time.

If when each of us was born, a seedling had been planted near our house, we could measure the growth of our lives. Trees can't be rushed. They show how the winds blow. They stand tall in the sun, tall at midnight.

They teach us that the seasons of our lives cannot be manipulated. Not every story can be a digest. The seasons of our heart need time and careful tending.

All this is true of faith. It takes time to grow. It does not bring immediate answers to problems, nor instant comfort. Faith is not an aspirin.

For the most part, religious experience, faith, follows the pattern of the rest of human life. It requires fidelity to the commonplace, a daily response to what is ordinary. It needs to be nurtured by God's Word, the seed of the sower, and strengthened in prayer. At times it must be celebrated and affirmed in the community of God's people. It needs to be carried courageously into those parts of ourselves and those activities of our lives that are still closed off by fear or selfishness, which still can't stand faith's scrutiny. We must open ourselves to God at ever-deepening levels.

Faith grows quietly because it is God's gift, and it unfolds in the end in God's good time. All we have to do is to keep our mouth closed and our ears and hearts open. We have to have the courage to let go of all the illusory props and forms of security, to let go of the trapeze and allow God to take me in His everlasting arms and reshape my life and heart.

Will get back to work na.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Family Picture

Lingkod QT's flock Birthday Girl Gay. Counterclockwise from left: Ted, Gay, Ella, Imee, Nenen, Tina, Arlene, Bambi, Ria, Rommel, Vlad, Mercy, and Darleth Posted by Picasa

Birthday Bash

Today, Feb. 21, is the birthday of our QC Branch Women's Moderator, Atty. Gay Ordenes. We gave her a surprise party last night at Don Henrico's in Morato. In photo, Gay, distracted from blowing the candles by Doc Jun (DJ's) rendition of "Happy, Happy Birthday/ Maligayang Bati" a la Germspecial/ GMA Supershow; seated, Tina; standing, Arlene. Posted by Picasa

Monday, February 20, 2006

Cleanliness is Possible to One Who Believes

After observing life in another country for almost seven weeks and thinking about my own life halfway across the globe, I found out that I needed to pay more attention to the cobwebs – in our house, in the car, and in my heart. Before, I used to let others do the cleaning for all of the above. Now that every peso counts, however, I have realized that I could save a lot if I just learned to maximize the gifts that I already have.

One of my decisions for 2006 then was to do away with the dust collectors – even if they have sentimental value – and to do more frequent cleaning. This meant I would have to consciously create space in my schedule for this.

Ashamed though I am to admit it, I have never, in my five years of custody of my father’s car, used a vacuum cleaner to clean it myself. Not until today. I used to go to a shop that did this and paid a minimum of a hundred pesos every other week. Now, PhP100.00 is equivalent to two lunches at nearby Aling Rose’s canteen, which my officemates and I frequent. After much complaining from my mother– “Ella, you either have to stop buying sampaguita and ilangilang from the kids around the chapel, or you have to clean the petals in this car everyday!” - I finally decided to look for the CarVac in our garage. I had to clear away the dust in order to see the instructions on the box and understand how the thing works. I’m happy to report that I managed to clean the car floor and upholstery with it, and felt a long-overdue sense of accomplishment that accompanied doing something productive all by yourself.

I likewise found six containers of Shell Helix Plus, which must have oil enough to last me two quarters this year. I never paid attention to where the leftover oil went after each change oil/tune up session. Now that I have to be resourceful even in car maintenance, this is a welcome discovery. I'm not going to ask about the shelf life of Shell Helix. This has to be usable!

This girl needs to get a life, you must be thinking. Well, I had been so focused on my spiritual struggles- reading, counseling, serving, listening, and directing, that I’ve neglected the cobwebs and the dust that gather everyday in the clutter that I surround myself with. It’s like life in reverse – now it’s time to clean the external self in order to reflect internal peace. If indeed there is peace.

Since necessity is the mother of invention, a tight budget is the road to more reasonable living. Car vacuuming now joins my list of do-it-yourself discoveries that make use of the appliances/tools/gifts that we have lying around the house, and which lead to greater savings. Others in the list include: (a) my own foot spa (a gift from my brother 2 years ago) – I used to spend a ridiculous amount of money on this service despite owning a Homedics unit myself, but not anymore; (b) hair and makeup by yours truly for special occasions (I unearthed several hair dryers, a battery-operated curlash, and a well-stocked makeup kit in my room, all purchased during my shopaholic days); and (c) a hip-hop exercise video, which now allows me to dance away like nobody’s watching – because, let me see, nobody is watching, unlike in the gym when I felt under-dressed without a Nike Dance outfit or Adidas gear designed by Stella McCartney.

I have much to learn in life and whenever I achieve an inch of progress, I am thankful.

What actually led me to these reflections was reading this verse from my prayer time this morning:

Reading I
Jas 3:13-18

Who among you is wise and understanding?
Let him show his works by a good life in the humility that comes from wisdom.
But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts,
do not boast and be false to the truth.
Wisdom of this kind does not come down from above
but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic.
For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist,
there is disorder and every foul practice.
But the wisdom from above is first of all pure,
then peaceable, gentle, compliant,
full of mercy and good fruits,
without inconstancy or insincerity.
And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace
for those who cultivate peace.

I know I need to get rid of bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in my heart in order to inherit “wisdom from above” – wisdom that is pure, peaceable, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, without inconstancy or insincerity. With all the cobwebs and dust that have accumulated in my heart, it would take more than one round of Black & Decker’s Spiritual CarVac to clean it up. As my favorite line from the song “One More Gift” goes, “For the confusions around are mere reflections of what’s within me”.

I doubt sometimes that I can be healed and cleaned of all worldly tendencies. But I look at the miracle from today’s Gospel, and I find a powerful prayer:

Mark 9:21-25 (NAB)

21 Then he questioned his father, "How long has this been happening to him?" He replied, "Since childhood.

22 It has often thrown him into fire and into water to kill him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us."

23 Jesus said to him, " 'If you can!' Everything is possible to one who has faith."

24 Then the boy's father cried out, "I do believe, help my unbelief!"

25 Jesus, on seeing a crowd rapidly gathering, rebuked the unclean spirit and said to it, "Mute and deaf spirit, I command you: come out of him and never enter him again!"

Rebuke the unclean aspects of me that have been tormenting me since childhood, Lord. I do believe, help my unbelief.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

For the Landslide Victims

We pause from dwelling on our mundane problems and pray for the victims of the landslide that occurred last Friday at St. Bernard in Guinsaugon, Southern Leyte.

This landslide buried an estimated 1,400 people following the collapse of a side of a mountain. Rescue efforts have been made difficult because of rains. The village, now erased from the map and covered in deep mud, is like quicksand, making it useless for even the most high-tech equipment sent by our friends from other governments to save lives. They are recovering bodies at a very slow pace. The dead cannot all be identified at once because there were half-bodies recovered from the site. Hope has become dim that rescuers would find survivors.

It is depressing news, but one that Filipinos have been exposed to. This is not the first landslide to occur in recent history.
There are those who have blamed the government for neglecting landslide precautions.

During tragedies like this, we link arms and send what we can offer through the different foundations and volunteer groups that collect donations and distribute them to the evacuees. Foreign aid always comes pouring in. The spirit of volunteerism that is shown is inspiring.

But a voice inside us cries out, asking once more how we can prevent disasters from happening. We are a country and a people knocked down by opponents such as poverty and corruption. We are resilient, true, and we get by from the worst blows through our sense of humor, but on dark days like this we do not find anything to laugh about.

Last Friday, we read, "For just as a body without a spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead (
James 2:26)".

We grieve, but we stand up and believe again. May our prayers be translated into action. May our actions, in turn, be motivated by faith. Finger-pointing has long been proven ineffective in preventing and even mitigating disaster.

If we will open our eyes, the Lord can do something new in us (Isaiah 43:19a). He can erase our past that has paralyzed us and then bring us into genuine conversion and healing, just as he healed the paralytic in today's Gospel.

And so we kneel down and pray and ask what are we being called to do in the face of such frequent tragedies around us. We ask the Lord to enlarge our hearts, open our eyes, and give us the wings of courage to become that which we were meant to be in order to make this world a better place to live in.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Close to You

On its second day of showing, I watched Close to You starring John Lloyd Cruz, Bea Alonzo, and introducing Sam Milby.

This is the same girl who wrote all those reflections yesterday.

I drove to Cavite earlier today with my parents. Since our car plate number ends with an “8”, it’s banned from the Metro Manila streets until 7 p.m. so we whiled away the time at SM Shoemart Bacoor. We considered our options and chose this movie because we wanted to watch something light and entertaining. Also, Papa insisted that we should see more Filipino movies. We agreed.

It was the first movie I saw since coming back from the U.S. last January. It was the first Filipino movie that I saw in a very long time.

After watching the trailer on TV, I could already predict the ending. This was a prolonged Close-Up commercial that was built around kilig theme songs, stars with a regular following, and a newcomer from the first Pinoy Big Brother. The latter, with my apologies to the fans, was a TV show that I could not stand five minutes of so the significance of watching Sam Milby’s first big picture was lost on me.

The one actor who held the movie together was John Lloyd Cruz. I didn’t know that he had uncanny comic timing. He managed to look forlorn without being too intense. He balanced Bea’s self-conscious, saccharin-sweet acting with his no-nonsense delivery of his lines – using just the right amount of sadness, longing, and playfulness in his eyes, as called for by each scene.

For those who do not live in Manila, the movie is about childhood best friends and how they realized that they were made for each other. If I had to watch another Filipina romantic-comedy heroine with a flower shop business, I’d write a letter of complaint on a national broadsheet. Please, screenwriters, I do believe that Filipinas have proven themselves successful in other equally-creative fields. I realize it is a cool business to appear to run but it has already been used repeatedly in recent films.

The other actors, headed by Nova Villa, Melanie Marquez, and Buboy Garuvillo turned in cardboard performances. I was surprised to see Techie Agbayani in the role of a mother, and was delighted to watch how she fared in it.

I’ve been to all the places that the actors visited in the film – Dumaguete, Bohol, Davao and Singapore, so I felt like I was traveling with them.

I watched the film in SM Bacoor so just imagine all the shrieking and screaming during the Close-Up moments. My parents and I endured all the racket, after all, we were killing time until we could drive back to Quezon City. The movie ended at around 7:30 p.m. We stood up, gathered our belongings, said to ourselves it wasn’t as bad as we expected, and headed home.

Another best friend movie came and went. There was a girl behind me who commented, “Sobrang realistic ng movie. As in nangyayari yan sa totoong buhay.”

I don’t know. Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t. But if we’re spending time on earth anyway, might as well do so in worthwhile relationships, even those that don’t give us the happy endings that we see on the big screen.

Afterwards, we can always stand up, pick up our bags, start walking, and find our way home.

The Love Worth Waiting For

I was writing my reflections for Wednesday’s readings when I realized that I had more reflections for the other day’s Gospel. The other day was dated February 14, 2006. While I was typing away here about romantic love, in my prayer journal I was communicating to God about the kind of love that He had been patiently trying to teach me: agape.

The Gospel yesterday was taken from Mk 8:14-21, which reads in part:

Do you not yet understand or comprehend? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes and not see, ears and not hear? And do you not remember, when I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many wicker baskets full of fragments you picked up?” They answered him, “Twelve.” “When I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand,how many full baskets of fragments did you pick up?” They answered him, “Seven.” He said to them, “Do you still not understand?”

I read it in the morning and then heard it during mass at night. I was struck by the same lines, which I highlighted above. Jesus’ frustration at his very own disciples was apparent. Here were the men who listened to his teachings first-hand; who received his full explanations about the parables; who saw his miracles with their naked eye; and who were supposed to understand, more than the crowd ever could, what He was doing and what He was teaching. And yet, since it was difficult to see who or what Jesus was really about during their time, the disciples habitually turned to their own limited understanding to explain what was going on around Jesus.

Jesus patiently reminded them of his just-concluded miracles, wherein he broke five loaves of bread for 5,000 and then seven loaves for 4,000, with several baskets leftover. The second miracle even occurred on the first part of the same chapter (Mark 8:1-9).

Spiritual amnesia is not unique to the disciples. Neither is spiritual blindness a thing of the past. Our hearts, to this day, are still hardened towards God, and this makes it virtually impossible for us to see, hear, and understand Him. Our eyes do not see. Our ears do not hear.

The story continues. In last Wednesday’s Gospel (Mk 8:22-26), Jesus healed the blind man, but not instantaneously. At first all that the man could see were “people looking like trees walking”. Jesus laid his hands on the man a second time before the latter could “see everything distinctly”.

Our own conversion, in much the same way, is not instantaneous. For the past couple of weeks I had a long litany of “why’s” to God, because of the people and things that I loved –country, community, friends, and family. There were many things that defy explanation, but I wanted so hard to understand. Pain was not something I took lightly, and I asked Jesus why there was so much suffering in me and around me.

Then I remembered a lesson we took up in the Joy of Discovery, from 1 Corinthians 13:1-13. It is timely because this chapter is not really about eros, but about agape. It’s not only for Valentine’s week, but for Christians’ every day. It is often read during weddings, a few lines lifted from an entire chapter so powerful it blew my mind and my heart away when I joined a Bible study on it.

1 Corinthians 13:1-13

1 1 If I speak in human and angelic tongues 2 but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal.

2 And if I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith so as to move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing.

3 If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing.

4 3 Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, (love) is not pompous, it is not inflated,

5 it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury,

6 it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.

7 It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

8 4 Love never fails. If there are prophecies, they will be brought to nothing; if tongues, they will cease; if knowledge, it will be brought to nothing.

9 For we know partially and we prophesy partially,

10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.

11 When I was a child, I used to talk as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I put aside childish things.

12 At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. At present I know partially; then I shall know fully, as I am fully known.

13 5 So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

My group was assigned to the last verses, 8-13. In JOD, we look at dictionary meanings of words, then Bible dictionaries, and cross-references to the verses, historical accounts, other reference materials, and finally, commentaries. Our group’s reflections on these verses led us to cry our hearts out at the goodness of the Lord. My group-mates, by the way, were two religion teachers and a businesswoman/mother. We “discovered”, joyfully, I may add, that a reflection in a mirror is not really complete. Hence now we see dimly, but one day clearly. Different Bible translations use “imperfect” rather than “partial”. Both mean that on this earth, we have neither a complete view nor a perfect understanding of God. When God is finally revealed to us, face to face, then we shall see perfectly.

We also discovered a cross-reference to 1 John 3:2 that explains v. 12:

Beloved, we are God's children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed. We do know that when it is revealed 2 we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.

After our “intellectual” reports of our discoveries, we were asked by our teachers to come up with a creative expression of what we learned. So the next day, our brilliant group leader came up with a complete presentation – we recited the chapter on love using sign language, pausing in between some verses to :1.) give a personal testimony; 2.) sing a song; and 3.) present a painting of Jesus on the Cross. We all ended up crying while we were presenting our report (and yes I was with more mature, much older people), and it must have made an impact on the whole class, as we were asked to present again during Closing Lunch to the whole group, with students from the other classes that were held that week at Scripture Ventures.

Personalizing it now (the last step in JOD), I believe that the Lord is reminding me as well that giftedness without love is nothing. Speech, prophecy, wisdom, faith, charity, and even voluntary martyrdom, as shown in the verses above, amount to noise, or worse, rubbish, without love. But time and again I ask how to love. It is not easy to be patient, kind, truthful, forbearing, or hopeful all the time. These characteristics of love are the very things we lack, and which cause our problems. Envy, jealousy, pride, arrogance, irritability, resentfulness, untruthfulness, and impatience –these are prevalent in this world.

Through prayer and meditation I ask for the grace to do the most loving thing, even in the toughest of situations. Oh, but it’s not easy. Right at this moment there are a few people I would rather not be patient or forbearing with, or whom I have given up hope on. One day, if ever I make it to heaven, I might understand. I might be able to love like that. For now, I will imitate love. I will imitate Christ. He is showing me the way. And that is what I am waiting for. That is what we all wait for.

All the longings of our hearts just point to a deeper longing for God. It makes me cringe every time I see people who supposedly are following the Lord but instead focus their waiting on temporal things. Moreover, I take exception to the allegations that all single women wait 24/7 for a man, and once that man is found, they live happily ever after (even though in reality some women do act as if their life would be complete once The One sent by God comes along—and may the spirit of blindness be cast out!). As those of you who are married could attest to, not even the intimacy of marriage could replace the yearning in each of our hearts for a connection to, a relationship with, and an understanding of God.

From Psalm 130:5-6

I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope. My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning.

I hope this restless night was productive. In writing this I wait in agony for the Lord. All my lessons in waiting teach me to wait for my God. I never get to be good at waiting, but I have no choice. Everything amounts to nothing without His love. All these little triumphs and struggles we have, these too shall pass. For, say it with me, faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

More Myth than Fact

I'll never be able to confirm to whom the alleged St. Valentine sent his love letter, as his identity is surrounded more by myth than fact.

Research yielded, in addition, that he was removed from the Church calendar because his origin was deemed to be purely legendary. See what Wikipedia has to say. I also consulted the Catholic Encyclopedia. And then there's Fact Monster.

Well, we can't stop love from being celebrated anyway. Just thought we should be more aware of why.

Don't get me started on Halloween.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Here's What I Really Think

Naks.  Kaka- ride on sa Valentine’s Day chuva, napagkamalan tuloy akong in-love.  

P., all I posted here were works of fiction taken from an ancient baul of memories because they sound good and because I now have the freedom to revisit them.  They do not in any way reflect my present state of mind.  

Valentine’s Day has really been milked dry by retailers in order to sell their stocks that were left over from Christmas.  This “occasion” is not even observed in other countries.  

I don’t understand what the big deal is.  St. Valentine, from what I’ve gathered, was a priest who was saintly, of course, and holy, but he sent flowers to his jailer’s wife, with a note that said “From your Valentine”!  It’s being celebrated because it’s a romantic gesture, but I don’t think the circumstances are ideal and worth imitating.

I agree though that love should be celebrated. There’s no doubt about that.  In whatever state we are, whether happily single or blissfully married, we have love all around us.  For that, I am deeply thankful.

Pag-ibig sa Tinubuang Wika

Hitting three birds in one stone here - posting about love in the form of a song that was written and recorded by Filipinos, which speaks of the agony of being separated from the one whom you love deeply.

Favorite itong kantahin ni Ate Lani, tinutugtog ko, pinapakinggan ni Papa. Nakakaiyak, lalo na nung sabi ng kaibigan ko naaalala naman niya rito yung yumao niyang ina.

Joey Albert
(Louie Ocampo & Joey Albert)

Sa bawat pag-ikot ng ating buhay
May oras kailangan na maghiwalay
Puso’y lumaban man walang magagawa
Saan ka?
Kailan ka muling mahahagkan?

Magkulang man sa atin itong sandali
Alam ko na tayo’y magkikitang muli
Hangga’t may umaga pa na haharapin
Ikaw lang ang mamahalin

Puso’y lumaban man walang magagawa
Saan ka?
Kailan ka muling mahahagkan?

Magkulang man sa atin itong sandali
Alam ko na tayo’y magkikitang muli
Hangga’t may umaga pa na haharapin
Ikaw lang ang mamahalin.

Kaiba talaga ang haplos ng Tagalog, lalo na kapag tungkol sa pait at sakit ng pag-ibig ang pag-uusapan.

Hmmm, isa na lang. High school pa lang ako, alam ko nang mahusay magsulat ng titik si Ogie Alcasid. Nagasgas namin ni Glecy ang side B ng tape na ito. Nandito rin sa album na ito yung unang sumikat niyang kanta, "Nandito Ako", pero hindi siya ang sumulat nun.

Sa Kanya
ni Ogie Alcasid

Namulat ako at ngayo'y nag-iisa
Pagkatapos ng ulan
Bagama't nakalipas na ang mga sandali
Ay nagmumuni kung ako'y nagwagi
Pinipilit mang sabihin na ito'y wala sa akin
Ngunit bakit hanggang ngayon, nagdurugo pa rin


Sa kanya pa rin babalik sigaw, ng damdamin
Sa kanya pa rin sasaya bulong ng puso ko
Kung buhay pa ang alaala ng ating nakaraan
Ang pagmamahal at panahon alay pa rin sa kanya

At sa hatinggabi ay nag-iisa na lang
Ay minamasdan ang larawan mo
At ngayo'y bumalik nang siya'y kapiling pa
Alaala ng buong magdamag
Kung sakali man isipin na ito'y wala sa akin
Sana'y dinggin ang tinig kong nag-iisa pa rin

Repeat Chorus:


Ang pagmamahal at panahon alay pa rin
Sa kanya.

O, tama na. Hindi maganda yung masyadong maraming naaalala. Hindi bagay sa akin.

We'll go back to regular programming tomorrow.

Unwrapping a Memory

Poetry, movies, and now a short story. I’m celebrating love with all of you! I think about it with fondness, as in a memory neatly folded and filed in my brain.

I first read this story in 1997, sent by a friend through e-mail. I would have wanted to write something like this.

Nine years later, it doesn’t have the same impact on me. I’ve grown older and more forgetful, I guess. But some of you may find this inspiring. Or entertaining.

From the Archives of my brain (or my heart):

Long Walk to Forever
by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
(I read an email before that he denied writing this; but couldn’t verify. I googled it but search results weren’t helpful.)

They had grown up next door to each other, on the fringe of a city, near fields and woods and orchards, within sight of a lovely bell tower that belonged to a school for the blind.

Now they were twenty, had not seen each other for nearly a year. There had always been playful, comfortable warmth between them, but never any talk of love.

His name was Newt. Her name was Catherine. In the early afternoon, Newt knocked on Catherine's front door. Catherine came to the door. She was carrying a fat, glossy magazine she had been reading. The magazine was devoted entirely to brides. "Newt!" she said. She was surprised to see him.

"Could you come for a walk?" he said. He was a shy person, even with Catherine. He covered his shyness by speaking absently, as though what really concerned him were far away -- as though he were a secret agent pausing briefly on a mission between beautiful, distant, and sinister points. This manner of speaking had always been Newt's style, even in matters that concerned him desperately.

"A walk?" said Catherine.

"One foot in front of the other," said Newt, "through leaves, over bridges--"

"I had no idea you were in town," she said.

"Just this minute, I got in," he said.

"Still in the Army, I see," she said.

"Seven more months to go," he said. He was a private first class in the Artillery. His uniform was rumpled. His shoes were dusty. He needed a shave. He held his hand out for the magazine. "Let's see the pretty book," he said.

She gave it to him. "I'm getting married, Newt," she said.

"I know," he said. "Let's go for a walk."

"I'm awfully busy, Newt," she said. "The wedding is only a week away."

"If we go for a walk," he said, "it will make you rosy. It will make you a rosy bride." He turned the pages of the magazine. "A rosy bride like her -- like her -- like her," he said, showing her rosy brides.

Catherine turned rosy, thinking about rosy brides.

"That will be my present to Henry Stewart Chasens," said Newt. "By taking you for a walk, I'll be giving him a rosy bride."

"You know his name?" said Catherine.

"Mother wrote," he said. "From Pittsburgh?"

"Yes," she said. "You'd like him."

"Maybe," he said.

"Can -- can you come to the wedding, Newt?" she said.

"That I doubt," he said.

"Your furlough isn't for long enough?" she said.

"Furlough?" said Newt. He was studying a two-page ad for flat silver. "I'm not on furlough," he said.

"Oh?" she said.

"I'm what they call A.W.O.L.," said Newt.

"Oh, Newt! You're not!" she said.

"Sure I am," he said, still looking at the magazine.

"Why, Newt?" she said.

"I had to find out what your silver pattern is," he said. He read names of silver patterns from the magazine. "Albernarle? Heather?" he said. "Legend? Rambler Rose?" He looked up, smiled. "I plan to give you and your husband a spoon," he said.

"Newt, Newt -- tell me really," she said.

"I want to go for a walk," he said.

She wrung her hands in sisterly anguish. "Oh, Newt -- you're fooling me about being A.W.O.L.," she said.

Newt imitated a police siren softly, raised his eyebrows.

"Where -- where from?" she said.

"Fort Bragg," he said.

"North Carolina?" she said.

"That's right," he said. "Near Fayetteville -- where Scarlett O'Hara went to school."

"How did you get here, Newt?" she said.

He raised his thumb, jerked it in a hitchhike gesture. "Two days," he said.

"Does your mother know?" she said.

"I didn't come to see my mother," he told her.

"Who did you come to see?" she said.

"You," he said.

"Why me?" she said.

"Because I love you," he said. "Now can we take a walk?" he said. "One foot in front of the other -- through leaves, over bridges --"

They were taking the walk now, were in a woods with a brown-leaf floor.

Catherine was angry and rattled, close to tears. "Newt," she said, "this is absolutely crazy."

"How so?" he said.

"What a crazy time to tell me you love me," she said. "You never talked that way before." She stopped walking.

"Let's keep walking," he said.

"No," she said. "So far, no farther. I shouldn't have come with you at all, " she said.

"You did," he said.

"To get you out of the house," she said. "If somebody walked in and heard you talking to me that way, a week before the wedding --"

"What would they think?" he said.

"They'd think you were crazy," she said."

"Why?" he said.

Catherine took a deep breath, made a speech. "Let me say that I'm deeply honored by this crazy thing you've done," she said. "I can't believe you're really A.W.O.L., but maybe you are. I can't believe you really love me, but maybe you do. But --"

"I do," said Newt.

"Well, I'm deeply honored," said Catherine, "and I'm very fond of you as a friend, Newt, extremely fond -- but it's just too late." She took a step away from him. "You've never even kissed me," she said, and she protected herself with her hands. "I don't mean you should do it now. I just mean this is all so unexpected. I haven't got the remotest idea of how to respond."

"Just walk some more," he said. "Have a nice time."

They started walking again.

"How did you expect me to react?" she said.

"How would I know what to expect?" he said. "I've never done anything like this before."

"Did you think I would throw myself into your arms?" she said.

"Maybe," he said.

"I'm sorry to disappoint you," she said.

"I'm disappointed," he said. "I wasn't counting on it. This is very nice, just walking."

Catherine stopped again. "You know what happens next?" she said.

"Nope," he said.

"We shake hands," she said. "We shake hands and part friends," she said.
"That's what happens next."

Newt nodded. "All right," he said. "Remember me from time to time. Remember how much I loved you."

Involuntarily, Catherine burst into tears. She turned her back to Newt, looked into the infinite colonnade of the woods.

"What does that mean?" said Newt.

"Rage!" said Catherine. She clenched her hands. "You've no right --"

"I had to find out," he said.

"If I'd loved you," she said. "I would have let you know before now."

"You would?" he said.

"Yes," she said. She faced him, looked up at him, her face quite red. "You would have known," she said.

"How?" he said.

"You would have seen it," she said. "Women aren't very clever at hiding it."

Newt looked closely at Catherine's face now. To her consternation, she realized that what she had said was true, that a woman couldn't hide love.

Newt was seeing love now.

And he did what he had to do. He kissed her.

"You're hell to get along with!" she said when Newt let her go.

"I am?" said Newt.

"You shouldn't have done that," she said.

"You didn't like it?" he said.

"What did you expect," she said, "wild, abandoned passion?"

"I keep telling you," he said. "I never know what's going to happen next."

"We say goodbye," she said.

He frowned slightly. "All right," he said.

She made another speech. "I'm not sorry we kissed," she said. "That was sweet. We should have kissed, we've been so close. "I'll always remember you, Newt, and good luck."

"You too," he said.

"Thank you, Newt," she said.

"Thirty days," he said.

"What?" she said.

"Thirty days in the stockade," he said. "That's what one kiss will cost me."

"I -- I'm sorry," she said, "but I didn't ask you to go A.W.O.L."

"I know," he said.

"You certainly don't deserve any hero's reward for doing something as foolish as that," she said.

"Must be nice to be a hero," said Newt. "Is Henry Stewart Chasens a hero?"

"He might be, if he got the chance," said Catherine. She noted uneasily that they had begun to walk again. The farewell had been forgotten.

"You really love him?" he said.

"Certainly I love him!" she said hotly. "I wouldn't marry him if I didn't love him!"

"What's good about him?" said Newt.

"Honestly!" she cried, stopping again. "Do you have any idea how offensive you're being? Many, many, many things are good about Henry! Yes," she said, "and many, many, many things are probably bad too. But that isn't any of your business. I love Henry, and I don't have to argue his merits with you!"

"Sorry," said Newt.

"Honestly!" said Catherine.

Newt kissed her again. He kissed her again because she wanted him to.

They were now in a large orchard.

"How did we got so far from home, Newt?" said Catherine.

"One foot in front of the other -- through leaves, over bridges," said Newt.

"They add up -- these steps," she said.

Bells rang in the tower of the school for the blind nearby.

"School for the blind," said Newt.

"School for the blind," said Catherine. She shook her head in drowsy wonder. "I've got to go back now," she said.

"Say goodbye," said Newt.

"Every time I do, "said Catherine, "I seem to get kissed."

Newt sat down on the close-cropped grass under an apple tree. "Sit down," he said.

"No," she said.

"I won't touch you," he said.

"I don't believe you," she said.

She sat down under another tree, twenty feet away from him. She closed her eyes.

"Dream of Henry Stewart Chasens," he said.

"What?" she said.

"Dream of your wonderful husband-to-be," he said.

"All right, I will," she said. She closed her eyes tighter, caught glimpses of her husband-to-be.

Newt yawned.

The bees were humming in the trees, and Catherine almost fell asleep. When she opened her eyes she saw that Newt really was asleep.

He began to snore softly.

Catherine let Newt sleep for an hour, and while he slept she adored him with all her heart.

The shadows of the apple tree grew to the west. The bells in the tower of the school for the blind rang again.

"Chik-a dee-dee-dee," went a chickadee.

Somewhere far away, an automobile starter nagged and failed, nagged and failed, fell still.

Catherine came out from under her tree and knelt by Newt.

"Newt?" she said.

"Hmm?" he said. He opened his eyes.

"Late," she said.

"Hello, Catherine," he said.

"Hello, Newt," she said.

"I love you," he said.

"I know," she said.

"Too late," he said.

"Too late," she said.

He stood, stretched groaningly. "A very nice walk," he said.

"I thought so," she said.

"Part company here?" he said.

"Where will you go?" she said.

"Hitch into town, turn myself in," he said.

"Good luck," she said.

"You, too," he said. "Marry me, Catherine?"

"No," she said.

He smiled, stared at her hard for a moment, then walked away quickly.

Catherine watched him grow smaller in the long perspective of shadows and trees, knew that if he stopped and turned now, if he called to her, she would run to him. She would have no choice.

Newt did stop. He did turn. He did call. "Catherine," he called.

She ran to him, put her arms around him, could not speak.

(The End)

A fine work of fiction, if I may say so. It doesn’t only happen in the movies, folks. It first happened in books. And sometimes, it happens in real life.

Monday, February 13, 2006

More Poetry on Monday the 13th

It's Monday the 13th. I don't think I've ever watched this many movies at the same time. SkyCable served the mush right up on all its movie channels. I surfed between When Harry Met Sally (the best among the best friend movies ever made); Wimbledon (I couldn't relate to the tennis but the rest of the film was interesting enough); How To Lose a Guy in 10 Days (the worldliest of them all); and now Seven Days, Seven Nights (uninteresting enough to let me write this while it's showing on the background). I've seen all these films before.

When it comes to impact, however, I think Hollywood cannot compete with Poetry. The latter simply immortalizes love in all its forms with more depth, mystery, and rhythm.

Let me count some of the ways that women poets have tried to measure this hidden treasure.

If You Were Coming In The Fall
Emily Dickinson

If you were coming in the fall
I'd brush the summer by
With half a smile and half a spurn
As housewives do a fly.

If I could see you in a year
I'd wind the months in balls
And put them into separate drawers
Until their time befalls.

If only centuries delayed
I'd count them on my hand
Subtracting 'till my fingers dropped
Into Van Diemen's land

If certain when this life was out
That yours and mine should be
I'd toss life yonder like a rind
And taste eternity.

But now all ignorant of length,
Of times uncertain wing,
It goads me like the goblin bee
That will not state its sting!

Sonnets from the Portuguese, XIV

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

If thou must love me, let it be for nought
Except for love's sake only. Do not say
'I love her for her smile--her look--her way
Of speaking gently,--for a trick of thought
That falls in well with mine, and certes brought
A sense of pleasant ease on such a day
For these things in themselves, Beloved, may
Be changed, or change for thee,--and love, so wrought,
May be unwrought so. Neither love me for
Thine own dear pity's wiping my cheeks dry,
A creature might forget to weep, who bore
Thy comfort long, and lose thy love, thereby!
But love me for love's sake, that evermore
Thou mayst love on, through love's eternity.

How Do I Love Thee?

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.

I love thee to the level of everyday's
Most quiet need, by sun and candlelight.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.

I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints,--I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life!--and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

Not In A Silver Casket Cool With Pearls

Edna St. Vincent Millay

Not in a silver casket cool with pearls
Or rich with red corundum or with blue,
Locked, and the key withheld, as other girls
Have given their loves, I give my love to you;

Not in a lovers'-knot, not in a ring
Worked in such fashion, and the legend plain—
Semper fidelis, where a secret spring
Kennels a drop of mischief for the brain:

Love in the open hand, no thing but that,
Ungemmed, unhidden, wishing not to hurt,
As one should bring you cowslips in a hat
Swung from the hand, or apples in her skirt,
I bring you, calling out as children do:
"Look what I have!—And these are all for you."

I wanted to add my own verses here but decided against it. I should let the experts deal with this one. Happy Valentine's Day, everyone.

On Love

When it comes to love, sometimes it is better to borrow words. Today I would like to share with you what The Prophet, written by Kahlil Gibran, said about Love.

Then said Almitra, "Speak to us of Love."

And he raised his head and looked upon the people, and there fell a stillness upon them. And with a great voice he said:

When love beckons to you follow him,

Though his ways are hard and steep.

And when his wings enfold you yield to him,

Though the sword hidden among his pinions may wound you.

And when he speaks to you believe in him,

Though his voice may shatter your dreams as the north wind lays waste the garden.

For even as love crowns you so shall he crucify you. Even as he is for your growth so is he for your pruning.

Even as he ascends to your height and caresses your tenderest branches that quiver in the sun,

So shall he descend to your roots and shake them in their clinging to the earth.

Like sheaves of corn he gathers you unto himself.

He threshes you to make you naked.

He sifts you to free you from your husks.

He grinds you to whiteness.

He kneads you until you are pliant;

And then he assigns you to his sacred fire, that you may become sacred bread for God's sacred feast.

All these things shall love do unto you that you may know the secrets of your heart, and in that knowledge become a fragment of Life's heart.

But if in your fear you would seek only love's peace and love's pleasure,

Then it is better for you that you cover your nakedness and pass out of love's threshing-floor,

Into the seasonless world where you shall laugh, but not all of your laughter, and weep, but not all of your tears.

Love gives naught but itself and takes naught but from itself.

Love possesses not nor would it be possessed;

For love is sufficient unto love.

When you love you should not say, "God is in my heart," but rather, I am in the heart of God."

And think not you can direct the course of love, for love, if it finds you worthy, directs your course.

Love has no other desire but to fulfil itself.

But if you love and must needs have desires, let these be your desires:

To melt and be like a running brook that sings its melody to the night.

To know the pain of too much tenderness.

To be wounded by your own understanding of love;

And to bleed willingly and joyfully.

To wake at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks for another day of loving;

To rest at the noon hour and meditate love's ecstasy;

To return home at eventide with gratitude;

And then to sleep with a prayer for the beloved in your heart and a song of praise upon your lips.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Be the Best of Whatever You Are


If you can't be a pine on the top of the hill,
Be a scrub in the valley - But be
The best little scrub by the side of the hill.
Be a bush if you can't be a tree.

If you can't be a bush - be a bit of the grass,
Some highway happier make;
If you can't be a muskie, then just be a bass-
But the livliest bass in the lake.

We can't all be captains, we've got to be crew.
There's something for all of us here,
There's big work to do, and there's lesser to do.
And the task we must do is the near.

If you can't be a highway, then just be a trail.
If you can't be the sun, be a star.
It isn't by size that you win or you fail-
Be the best of whatever you are!

© Douglas Malloch

I shared this poem with the graduating students of the Ateneo who attended the Purpose Driven Life Basic Course given by Lingkod Greenhills, Makati and QC. It was one of my favorite poems as a a child. I couldn't believe that they hadn't heard it before. It was the closing of the topic assigned to me - Ministry, Shaped for Serving God. It was a very fulfilling experience to connect to the students and to the Lingkod brothers and sisters at the same time.

For now, I have to rest. It has been an exhausting week with because of work, sleepless nights due to quasi-insomnia (or maybe I just can't stop thinking at night), preparing for the talk, and celebrating Mama's party. Immediately after Mass at the seminar, I had to go with my parents to Las Pinas for the wake of my aunt who passed away yesterday.

It seems like I'm going to have a good night's sleep. I have a headache and a cough that's telling me I'm coming down with something.

I loved every minute spent in all those activities, however. It has been a good week.