Friday, November 28, 2008

It's my turn

I am reading through the Book of Acts in the New Testament these days. I have read it many times before in different English versions. Now I'm reading from The Message which uses contemporary language. It appeals and speaks to me in a fresh way.

Lately, I've been finding myself crying as I read the lives of these first century Christians.

I cry as I read about the early disciples and apostles. I thank God for them and the nameless others from that period who endured severe persecution and gave their lives for the love of Christ. So now we have the Gospels, Acts, Epistles, Revelations... Plus the books of the Old Testament.

I cry as I imagine the many men and women who through the centuries remained faithful at all cost to follow Christ and keep God's Word. I don't think there's any other book that has withstood as much opposition as the Bible. It's still being opposed today, burnt, confiscated, declared illegal, accused of hate crimes, prevented from being taught even in so-called free countries. But people still die for it.

I cry as I remember the missionaries who, following Christ's Great Commission to "go into all the world", laboured and gave up life's comforts, even their lives, to take the gospel to unknown foreign lands including my own.

I cry because I am grateful. Eternally grateful.

It must have taken thousands of faithful people to bring me to a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. I never saw them or knew them but I hope to personally thank them in heaven some day.

And then there are the ones whom God brought to my path from a young age who directly or indirectly drew me a step closer to knowing Him...

...the college students who went to my high school to mount a concert where I first heard a gospel presentation.

...the Crossroad singers from abroad who performed at that concert. They went as volunteers, raising their own support, spent many months or years preparing.

...a student boarder at our house who owned the first Holy Bible I ever touched in my life.

...my father who, intentionally or unintentionally, promoted Bible reading to me when he started taking trips and staying at hotels from where he took home Gideon's New Testaments. I took a pocket New Testament from his room and started reading it in secret. I quickly got hooked.

...the Certain Sounds Singers who visited my campus like the Crossroads Singers did 3 years earlier. This is where I finally invited Jesus into my life.

...each diligent Bible study leader and fellow student, many just a little older than myself, in the university who took time to guide me through the Word of God and answer many difficult questions.

...many preachers and teachers, often working with meager pay and difficult circumstances, who faithfully built me up and helped me grow in my walk as a Christian even when I wasn't always teachable.

I cry as I think of the countless people whom God used to prepare my path long before I was born and brought into my life so that I may know Him. It's like He orchestrated this huge production to get through to me.

I still have those people in my life today, co-travelers in this faith journey.

Thank you all you faithful people.

Now it's my turn. I don't mean now now. From the time I made a decision to give my life to Christ, it's been my turn.

It's my turn to be faithful.

It's my turn to observe and preserve His Word.

It's my turn to pass it on.

It's my turn to make my own sacrifices, to endure the insults and mockery and criticism from people and institutions which sometimes scare me silent...

To be honest, it's not easy to follow Christ. Jesus said it Himself, "You must take up your cross..." I can't do it on my own. God help me!

But having Christ in my life in a very real and personal way makes any sacrifice a small thing. And it will be fully rewarded, by leaps and bounds.

I found this video on GodTube. It's a song by Steve Green (shown here) that has resonated in my heart since the first time I heard it, perhaps in the late 80s or early 90s. I remember singing it with a small group at our church. I'm not sure if I already had kids then, but they were certainly in my mind. Because in the end, all I want my boys to remember about me is that Mom was faithful. And it's only because God is.


Steve Green singing Find Us Faithful

Monday, November 24, 2008

Hummmm

I learned an easy stress relief tip this morning as I was perusing Dr. Oz's website RealAge. According to a Dr. Amy Wechsler, "humming has has been scientifically proved to boost nitric oxide (NO), a nifty little body gas that, in small doses, has a stress-reducing effect."

I like that. I'm a natural hummer. I've blogged about it before. I hum a lot especially while I'm working.

"Mom, do you know what you are humming?" Gino asked me the other night while I was making chicken pot pie.

"It's from James and the Giant Peach," Gabriel, who was playing computer games nearby, replied.

"Why are you humming that?" Gino wondered what made me remember an old tune, which I can't remember now, from the movie that we loved to watch when they were very young. I don't know. I didn't even realize I was humming--again.

According to the article, "humming affects the airflow between the sinuses and the nasal cavity in a way that creates more NO, a gas that promotes wound healing, new collagen formation, and better blood flow in the skin." It further says NO is produced in our respiratory tract and most notably in the sinuses.

It's good to know that there's another stress relief method that won't cost you a penny. It never ceases to amaze me how our body works, and how a simple thing like humming does it good. And I'm already in the habit of doing it!

Friday, November 21, 2008

"The more we learn...

...the less we know."

Isn't this the truth? It seems that with knowledge comes ignorance. You realize that, hey, you are not as smart as you thought.

The other day, I was talking about car maintenance with a female colleague who's only a year older than my eldest son.

"When I graduated from university, I thought I knew everything. And then I found out I really didn't know anything. How sad!" she said. "I didn't even know how to make fried rice."

I can relate. I felt that way too. I still do sometimes.

But I think that is good. For one, it keeps you humble. And it makes you teachable. And you become more eager to learn about things you don't know or you thought you had figured out.

It's been decades since I finished school but I am still studying. But this time it's more about acquiring skills and gaining more wisdom to deal with my day-to-day challenges. It's never ending.

Oh, I have so much more to learn.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

CyberMom

One Saturday morning, while I was still in bed, I went online on our laptop to check what my boys were doing on the PC. I knew they were already awake and either Gabriel or Markus would be playing Maple Story. I decided to play a little prank.

"is dis markus?" I initiated a chat. My boys did not know that I could access both our PC and laptop from any computer connected to the Internet as if I was in front of the monitor myself.

"yeah... who's dis?"

"mom... don't chat with strangers..."

The chat went on and Markus was wondering how we can both see the same desktop except that I wasn't physically beside him. I played with the cursor. Pressed CTRL-ALT-DEL and other buttons that showed up on his monitor.

"come, check what i'm doing," I said. I was getting a kick out of it. A little later Markus went to my bedroom and watched me as I operated the PC from the laptop. He was fascinated. It was Gabriel's turn to play on the PC. Markus suggested that I mess with Gabriel's game.

"Mom, that would be funny!" Markus said.

"If you're the one playing, will that be funny?" I asked. Gabriel could see an extra arrow going all over the desktop.

"Mom, you froze my game," he complained.

Later that day, Markus was back on the PC in the living room, and I was cooking in the kitchen.

"Markus, don't chat with strangers online," I repeated.

"But it was you, Mom," he replied.

"Yeah, but you didn't know that. It could be a stalker. Just ignore it. Or we should have a code like, I know you have a mole on your face," I said.

"Mom, a stalker would know that," Markus answered. I decided to humour him.

"What about, you don't brush your teeth everyday... Or, you drool on the couch..." Markus was being a good sport.

"A stalker would know that. Something like how many extra toes do I have?" he replied. "Or something emotional like, who's my best friend?"

"That's not emotional," I said.

"Or what time was I born?"

Gabriel butted it in. "Even you don't know what time you were born."

Finally, we set some codes between ourselves.

I monitor my boys' Internet use. I don't trust the Internet. I have parental controls on our computers at home. I keep the login password and change it almost daily. Because Gabriel and Markus come home from school earlier than I do from work, they have to call me for the password after they have done homework and housechores.

Now I don't even have to be home or in the same room with them to see what they are doing online if I wanted to. I won't be doing this a lot. It's just another protective measure.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Election fever, part 2

Here's what happened next...

There I was, standing outside a beerhouse on a main road in San Pablo City. Nervous on the inside, calm and collected on the outside. I was damsel in distress, where's my knight in shining armour?

With two options--to spend the night outside a closed MacDonald's, or, to ride home with a jeepload of men, all total strangers--I chose what I thought to be less risky, the second. After all, the men had a drink but weren't drunk. No slurred speech or unsteady walk. They looked decent and friendly. They were respectful and kept a safe distance.

In my 10 years of doing fieldwork in the rural areas, I had found men from the provinces to be generally nicer and more respectful towards women compared to their Manila counterparts. I was also emboldened by the fact that they were known to the policeman who gave me over to their care.

But as a precaution, I sat closest to the back of jeepney, near the exit. I kept my eyes and ears open throughout the trip especially when we passed through dark and winding isolated sections of the provincial road, in between vast coconut plantations.

If this jeepney slowed down to stop, I thought, I will jump out, throw away my bag and folder of questionnaires, and run into the dark.

Finally, we reached the next town. The streets were better lighted. There were more houses on the roadside. But at the junction, the jeepney parked in front of a house which had a carinderia or small eatery in front.

"Mag-pansit muna tayo "(Let's have Chinese noodles), somebody said. I respectfully declined and said I would stay in the vehicle. But they insisted that I join them in their midnight snack. When I saw there was a woman inside, I decided to go in. This was probably safer than staying outside by myself as it was almost 12 midnight.

The drivers seemed to know the owner of the eatery. She must be related to one them. I made small talk with the men and the owner of the place while eating, and dropped names of relatives in Los Banos just in case they knew anyone. It was also my way of saying, Hey, my roots are from this province. We could even be related.

I might have spoken with their accent too because that was one technique I often used during my field assignments to win the locals' sympathy and get them to accommodate me for an interview. It often worked. Locals seemed to appreciate the fact that I was trying hard to be one of them, never mind if I looked or sounded awkward.

Finally, we were done eating and back on the road. There was one more town and then I was home. My aunt's place served as my base for this period. I heaved a sigh of relief when we got there. It was already around 1 am. Thank you, guys, for taking me home safely. Thank you, Lord! I learned my lesson.

Indeed, I learned valuable lessons from this misadventure, foremost of which was to avoid unnecessary risks. My work in itself, when I had to do field interviews, involved dangers, I did not have to go looking for more. Watching an election campaign was not as important as watching my little boys--then only Gino and Mickey--grow up. I was already a young Mom. I needed to be more cautious. I had to go home in one piece.

I think this field experience, and that presidential race, was one of my most memorable one. I have other adventures and misadventures during my younger years that I could blog about. Even my boys will be surprised. It's like Mom had another life. Why, of course, there is more to me than cleaning and cooking!!!

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Election fever

Finally, the US presidential election is over. Let's start praying for Barack Obama. He will need lots of prayers.

Here in Canada, we had elections last October and Stephen Harper got to keep his post as Prime Minister. The campaign period was short, and compared to that of the US, it was much tamer. I find the election process here quick and simple. It is relatively easy to choose who to vote for. You base it on party platform more than personality or looks or patronage.

In the Philippines, it is very different. Each election season is marred with mudslinging, violence, vote-buying, cheating, murder... I can't remember it ever being peaceful. Party platforms are not very clear. Candidates change parties. Balimbing! (Like the starfruit) Election day itself is so chaotic at the polls. Even the dead vote. Flying voters are bussed to polling places. These are all allegations with sufficient evidence.

The counting process takes a long time. Ballot boxes are stolen. Election returns are doctored. In the end, you don't really know who won fair and square. I'm not sure if things have improved.

But the campaign period in the Philippines is festive. You will hear various jingles on the airwaves or blaring from vehicles going from place to place from early in the morning till evening. Posters and buntings are everywhere.

There is one Philippine presidential election that stands out in my memory. The year was 1992. The main candidates were Ramos and Santiago.

During one of my fieldwork assignments in the province of Laguna, I learned that Santiago was going to hold a rally in San Pablo City on the same day I would be in the area. I thought it was a good opportunity to hear a presidential candidate in person. When else could I have that opportunity? So I decided to stay and wait for the rally scheduled early in the evening.

6 pm. People started arriving. Soon there was a huge crowd and the roads were closed. 7 pm. still no Santiago. Someone announced that Santiago and her party would be late in coming from another rally in a different town.

I had waited anyway, I decided to stay. Finally, Santiago's party arrived and the crowd started cheering. Several people spoke and finally Santiago herself delivered her crowd-rousing speech.The rally ended past 10 pm.

As people left the area, I realized that there were no more public transportation plying the road. I was stranded in a strange place where I did not know anyone. What to do???

I walked and walked looking for the bus terminal. No bus. No jeepneys. Should I spend the night here? Where? There was a McDonald's in the town square and although it was closed, it was lighted and there were chairs outside. I could sit there, chat with a homeless and wait for dawn. What if I fell asleep? Nah, not safe.

I walked around looking for someone I might be able to approach for assistance. I saw a policeman standing by the road but I was hesitant to approach him. During those days, policemen had a bad reputation. You couldn't tell if they were on your side or they were goons in uniform. But what choice did I have? I took my chance and approached him.

"May motel ho bang malapit dito?" (Is there a motel nearby?") I asked. I didn't see a hotel in the area, but a small motel or hostel might be available.

"Nag-iisa ka? Huwag, delikado," (Are you alone? No, it's not safe.) he replied. He looked concerned. This was an honest policeman, I thought. Travel tip: A lone female checking into a B-class motel in the city outskirts could be perceived as a hooker or an easy target of thieves, rapists or voyeurs. He did not want me to take that risk.

When the policeman asked me where I was staying, I told him I was staying with an aunt in Los Banos, a town about 30 minute-drive away. He said there was a group of jeepney drivers who were headed to that town. They were having an association meeting in a nearby beerhouse. He could ask them to give me a ride.

At around 11 pm, several men started going out of the beerhouse. The policemen approached someone and told him about me. They seemed to know each other. I could tell they all had a drink, and I was going to ride with these guys? At midnight???

To be continued...