Monday, March 26, 2007

Shanghai Surprise!

I'm now in Beijing and have done nothing but rest this whole day after an exhausting five days in Shanghai.

DiscoverPh.Com participated in World Travel Fair 2007 and we had a blast touring the world in four days, what with tourism authorities from all over the globe besting one another in cultural presentations, artistic backdrops, and interesting giveaways in order to attract the Shanghai outbound tourist market.

We were there with Philippine Airlines and despite our miniscule budget compared to the other countries, visitors still flocked to our booth.

Our Chinese host explained that it doesn't matter how colorful the other brochures are, what matters is the beauty of the Philippines. Some visitors could not help commenting on the beauty of the Filipina, as well.

Oh, guilty on both counts, aren't we?

Photos top to bottom:

  1. I saw an Egyptian passing by and asked to have my picture with me. It was like Disneyland, people gamely posed with strangers from different countries. Some people also found my height, skin and eyes exotic (read: strange) and had their picture taken with me.
  2. We tried an authentic Chinese restaurant, one where we could not understand anything, and managed to order noodles. They were freshly cooked, right before our eyes. We thought their teapot was unclean, until we realized it contained soy sauce, hence the blackened spout.
  3. We saw this villa everyday on our way to and from the Shanghai Exhibition Center and decided to stop to take a picture.
  4. Last photo - we went to church last Sunday at the Xujiahui Catholic Cathedral a.k.a. Cathedral of St. Ignatio. It was first built in the 22nd year of Qing Emperor Guanxu, in 1896.

It's difficult to manage blogger in Chinese so I'll post a full travel blog next time.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Away Message

I will be gone a few days. I will attend the World Travel Fair 2007 in Shanghai. Of course you'll hear from me when I get back. Maybe even earlier, if I find a way to blog from there.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Some Webby Updates

Since my yahoo account closed on me (long story, but apparently one can lose one's decade-old yahoo profile just like that), I had missed out on several important email messages. I used that account as my default e-mail for most of the websites I signed up in. The yahoo! password retrieval system didn't work for me, as the zip code, country and birthday I provided did not match their records. This left me frustrated for two whole days! I've finally let go and decided to move on. I created a new yahoo ID and said goodbye to the photos, emails, and contacts from the last one. C'est la vie!

I found out from a person who visited my blog that Pinoy Top Blogs is back. Yup. And I have a total of ONE hit this month - and I'm sure it came from me. So I encourage you to exercise your right to vote once more, friends. Just click on the orange button at the left column of this page, that is, if you believe this blog is worthy to be up there in the Pinoy Top Blogs. Grazie!

Also, Blogger finally found a way to collect all the photos we've uploaded (at least, since December), and created our very own Picasa-Google accounts using our Google user information. I wonder if they would eventually include all the photos we've uploaded from the very start in neat little albums. They're definitely doing a Flickr on this one, and with their tie up with Blogger, it's going to be slightly different and a bit more interesting that way.

If I Had a Column...

Lessons in Waiting

My brain is fried now, I gotta turn in. I'm experiencing diminishing marginal returns in my writing. Work would still be here tomorrow anyway.

Monday, March 12, 2007

The Healing of Naaman

I could relate with this story from today's First Reading. This is about the healing of "Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Syria". He "was a great man with his master and in high favor, because by him the Lord had given victory to Syria. He was a mighty man of valor, but he was a leper." (2 Ki 5:1)

Here's the rest of the story:

2Ki 5:9-15 (ESV)

(9) So Naaman came with his horses and chariots and stood at the door of Elisha's house.

(10) And Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, "Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored, and you shall be clean."

(11) But Naaman was angry and went away, saying, "Behold, I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call upon the name of the LORD his God, and wave his hand over the place and cure the leper.

(12) Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?" So he turned and went away in a rage.

(13) But his servants came near and said to him, "My father, it is a great word the prophet has spoken to you; will you not do it? Has he actually said to you, 'Wash, and be clean'?"

(14) So he went down and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God, and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.

(15) Then he returned to the man of God, he and all his company, and he came and stood before him. And he said, "Behold, I know that there is no God in all the earth but in Israel; so accept now a present from your servant."

This story spoke to me because like Naaman, I want to be healed by God through extraordinary means (v. 11). Sometimes, I don't accept the answers to my problems because they seem too simple. So I unwittingly hold on to the problems and refuse to be helped by God and His messengers. God knows how stubborn, proud and impatient I am, and just like Naaman He directs me to go through a healing process now that would require me to obey Him and wait on Him.

Washing seven times in the Jordan seemed foolish in Naaman's eyes, moreso because he found nothing special in that particular river
and thought there were far superior waters elsewhere. His pride blinded him to God's powers. It was a blessing that his servants saw the wisdom in Elisha's prescription and encouraged him to try it out. They knew him well and knew how to convince him to get healing.

Not that I'm calling them servants (call me "Mistress" from now on, sisters, hehe), but my Women's Group is doing the same thing by pointing out my options that could very well spell out my healing process. I shared with them a recurring struggle that I had and they listened patiently. To their every suggestion, my reply was, "I've already tried that and it didn't work". This morning, when I read again about Naaman's healing, I felt God showing me that He could heal me if I would just cooperate, and His solution is not as grand or big or far off as I expected.

I pray that I continue to be transformed so that one day I could be healed from this leprosy I've been suffering from for a very long time.

Flick Photos

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Sunday, March 11, 2007

Memories of Mayflower-YA First Retreat

Before work started for the retreat team, we had a few minutes of photo ops in Tagaytay. This picture was taken early morning Friday, March 9, on our way to Angels' Hills Retreat House.

So what actually happened during the retreat for Mayflower Academy conducted by the Youth Alive! Core Group led by Fr. Brian Steele, mgl for 1 1/2 days?

Plenty! The kids walked the grounds and searched for an object that symbolized God's love to them. Then they shared about it in their respective groups.

We taught them action songs and their favorites were "Mandolo Mandole" and "Dip-Dip". Those two songs were crawling out of our ears even hours after leaving the retreat venue on Saturday. They loved to dance to those songs so much and kept requesting for them.

They built towers from marshmallows and spaghetti. Some teams just enjoyed the marshmallows and did not bother to compete for the "Tallest and Strongest" structure. They've already had their reward. Even the teachers and facilitators had one team each. Fr. Brian was the judge and he had great fun poking at the marshmallow buildings.

The accommodations that were given to us were superior. We were a pampered team.

There were many more activities - talks, sharings, meals, etc. The theme for the retreat was taken from Romans 8 and the students learned that nothing could separate them from God's love. We closed with a celebration of Holy Mass where they served as readers, lectors, and sacristans.

It was altogether a wonderful first retreat, both for Mayflower Academy and Youth Alive! We pray for the kids everyday now. The other four text me that they miss the children so much. Good thing there's text, email, and Friendster these days. Moonwalk and Commonwealth don't seem that far away from each other anymore.

Taal Lake Photos

We gave a retreat to graduating grade schoolers last weekend in Tagaytay. Before going to the retreat house, we posed for this souvenir photo. From left, Fr. Brian, Adam, Ella, Julie Ann and Jason.

This photo was taken behind Leslie's Restaurant. Taal Volcano and Taal Lake are in the background.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Rome Wasn't Built in a Day

According to a French proverb, Rome was not built all in one day. I was reminded of this in my prayer time this morning.

I try my best to pray the Lauds or Morning Prayers of the Liturgy of the Hours everyday. A lot of times, the prayers, psalms, readings, responsories, and intercessions strike a chord in my heart, expressing what I am thinking or feeling at the moment that I recite them. This happened again this morning. A very simple prayer spoke to me.
"Grant that we may receive good things from your hands with gratitude
and accept the bad things with patience." (R: Lord, give us your Holy Spirit.)
What usually happens is the opposite - I receive good things with ingratitude and face bad things with impatience! Last year, amidst all of my troubles, I was impatient with myself; impatient at the world; impatient at my circumstances; and impatient with God! I ignored the fact that bad things happen to His servants in order to test our faith and make us stronger.

Now, I have received good things but the attitude of gratitude still escapes me. I have a writing project that allows me to travel, earn and write. When I tell people about what I'm doing now, they're all ecstatic and say I have a good life. Do I feel it? Naturally, no. I tense up to meet my self-imposed deadlines. I panic at the overwhelming amount of work that needs to be done. I criticize myself for all my mistakes. I focus on the negative. I need to de-stress, definitely!

So in my prayer time, I asked for the help of the Holy Spirit to grow more in gratitude and patience. I felt God asking me if workers who build a Cathedral get impatient with themselves that the building is not finished in one day. Surely, I realized, they report at the cathedral-building site to work on a window one day, a door the next, or a wall a couple of days later. They do not carry the weight of the enormous job on a daily basis. They earn their keep for a particular day and go home to be with their family and to rest.

Such basic lessons, even if already deeply ingrained in my memory, still have to be re-learned apparently. I'm not just waiting for the best lawyer job for me; I'm building a Cathedral. I'm not just writing to earn a living; I'm building a Cathedral. I'm just not juggling family, career, community, parish, friends, health, and recreation; I'm building a Cathedral. My life is a Cathedral, where God will be glorified, by the help of the Holy Spirit!

I end on a somewhat secular note. There's this song that's playing in my head now. I heard this from the soundtrack of Bounce way back when I played cassette tapes in the car from my collection of movie soundtracks. It's not applicable on all fours, but the closest theme song I could have at this time.

Rome Wasn't Built in a Day
Artist: Morcheeba

You and me we're meant to be
Walking free in harmony
One fine day we'll fly away
Don't you know that Rome wasn't built in a day

In this day and age it's so easy to stress
'Cause people are strange and you can never second guess
In order to love, Child, we got to be strong
I'm caught in the crossfire why can't we get along?

'Cause you and me we're meant to be
Walking free in harmony
One fine day we'll fly away
Don't you know that Rome wasn't built in a day

I'm having a daydream, we're getting somewhere
I'm kissing your lips and running fingers through your hair
I'm as nervous as you 'bout making it right
Though we know we were wrong, we can't give up the fight
Oh no

'Cause you and me we're meant to be
Walking free in harmony
One fine day we'll run away
Don't you know that Rome wasn't built in a day

You and me we're meant to be
Walking free in harmony
One fine day we'll fly away
Don't you know that Rome wasn't built in a day

You and me (you and me) we're meant to be (meant to be)
Walking free (walking free) in harmony (in harmony)
One fine day (one fine day) we' ll run away (we gonna run away, we gonna run away)
Don't you know that Rome wasn't built in a day

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Out of the Mouth of Babes

Sometimes it happens that I hang out with my nephews and they get inspired to analyze my life and even offer advice. They're growing up so fast!

Luigi, 9: Tita Ella, you need to get married. (Don't ask me how this conversation started, please, but I swear I'm innocent.)

Miko, 7: No, Tita Ella is a Church Person! Church People DON'T get married, duh!

Luigi: No, no! Not all church people don't get married. Only PRIESTS don't get married! Tita Ella can get married if someone asks her to.

As I watched their conversation like an intense tennis match, I felt the beginnings of a splitting headache. But I wasn't prepared for what came next...

Miko: Tita Ella, if nobody asks you to marry them, you should ask someone.

If it were an aunt and uncle in this conversation, I would have resented it and given a witty remark, but since the boys were so cute, I was able to laugh it off and think they just loved me too much.

Last Friday, I attended a walking tour of Casa Manila, a replica of a 19th century house in Intramuros, and I was reminded that in those days, the setup was that the unmarried member of the family - whether an aunt or sister, the "old maid" or "matandang dalaga" - occupied a room below the spacious and ostentatious living room, which was located at the third or top floor of the house. It was a concrete illustration of the position that spinsters had in the family hierarchy back then.

These days, the "matandang dalaga" or old maid can buy her own condo and drive the latest car. I don't have either... yet. I'm not that old anyway!

Needless to say, this has been another enjoyable Sunday with my family.