Wednesday, December 31, 2008

My New Year is Resolved

To simplify my life I follow this simple rule: To those who know me, no explanation is necessary, to those who doesn't know me, no explanation is enough. So when I went off the edge 8 months ago and lost all my senses and sensibilities to Arnel Pineda, eyebrows were raised but who cares? I hopped on the looney jet and took off. Then I came back to earth and I swear I tried to be sensible and reasonable again. But really, why apologize for something that made me giddy?

So to start the new year, I went to YouTube and looked for My Arnel. And here's what I found.
I am not sure that I like him singing with other entertainers and I have my reasons for that, except to some extent it's ok.

And I just love this, where everyone is dressed to the nines but My Arnel is dressed in "I'm a rock star, who are you?" suit. He could have wrapped himself in Armani, but he chose to stay true to himself - and he outdressed them all.
That gives me the confidence that he will not be influenced by the company that he keeps. I like Lani Misalucha, but I just can't have My Arnel sculpted, scalpel'd or *Belo'd. If you know what I mean.

*Vicky Belo-cosmetic surgeon in Manila

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

If Not Now, When?

First they came for the Communists, but I was not a Communist so I did not speak out. Then they came for the Socialists and the Trade Unionists, but I was neither, so I did not speak out. Then they came for the Jews, but I was not a Jew so I did not speak out. And when they came for me, there was no one left to speak out for me.” -Dietrich Bonhoeffer

I try not to write about politics and politicians in the Philippines because they make my blood turn to tofu. Because I have yet to develop the skills to where I can write objectively, fairly and not seeth in anger. But my friends keep telling me I should do what I can, after all, we have the technology and we can expose the ills and evils of the Philippines one blog at a time.
Here's a start:

Friday, December 26, 2008

Rub His Belly?

John and Chat left for Laguna Seca this morning. John will be in race car driving school for a week and Chat said she will be enjoying the beach view for a week. Me, I'm stuck with their stupid cat. I didn't ask for this assignment but Chat knows how to work me and appeal to my conscience; She was teary eyed talking about Tigger being left in the cat hotel while they're gone. "Tigger will be traumatized being put in that cage and he will be more depressed when we get back." I tried to avoid eye contact when she said that, but I said, "That stupid cat is depressed? Why didn't you leave him at Petco?, why did you have to take him home?"

Chat and I don't have the typical mother-daughter relationship (though she acts more like the mother at times) we're just crazy buddies. "Mom, I'll take Tigger back to Petco on our way to take you to the nursing home." With that comment, I agreed quick to babysit Tigger.
She gave me written instructions on what to do: he gets canned tuna every other day, he only likes to play with his toy bird, he needs to be brushed and wiped with this lavender smelling wipes. I thought this is crazy because we have this cat in Cebu that I kept throwing over the fence hoping he'd get lost, and now I have to do this for Chat's cat like I'm a spa worker?

I am not maternal, I know. But if I thought that was too much, her instructions only got more wild. Rub his belly, he really likes that. I don't even rub Buddha's belly, and it's supposed to bring you good luck.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

How Soon Do We Forget

Freely you have received, freely give - Matthew 10:8

It was only 2 years ago that Jordan was unable to read or write and now he is trying to manage my affairs in Cebu. At least he thinks he is anyway. About 8 years ago, Don and I stopped buying Christmas gifts for each other but instead we started adopting a family in Cebu for Christmas. We started with 3 families in Jordan's neighborhood then it grew to 7 and now 19. After Don died Chat has picked up the tab to continue the practice. My niece who used to facilititate this for us is now in Europe so I tried to set it up while I was there last month.

I explained to Jordan that I adopted him (though not legally) because God loves him and God is using me to show His love for him, and that God would want him to show kindness to people with the same kindness that he has been given. I also wanted him to feel like he's a part of this effort so I asked him to write down the names of the people and the kind of food they might want to eat that we can put in the food basket.

When I called the other day to ask Jordan for the names, I noticed that Arlene's name was not on the list. Arlene used to be my helper, she's not married but has a child. "Why is Arlene not on the list?" Jordan had a quick answer : "She sent away her son to Botyok the father, she can share what we give to her brother." I said, " I don't want her to feel left out, she always gets one every year, so go ahead put her back on the list."

My requirements for a family to be on the list are 1) with small children and struggling 2) Or old couple with no foods for Christmas at all. Jordan was unmoved. "She has no child, she gets no food." I started to raise my voice at him: "Jordan she is struggling, put her back on the list." Jordan has come a long way and I know he was sticking to the rules and not because he has a mean bone in him but I wanted to make sure he does not forget where he came from. After a few minutes of emotional wrangling with him, he agreed and I realized how glad I am that God is not man, or we won't get anything but punishment - and exacted even at Christmas.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Signs of Christmas Blues

1. Loneliness is sitting in your patio drinking coffee looking at the red firetruck and ambulance who came for your neighbor. And instead of worrying about your neighbor, your only thought was, "Ooh, the first sign of Christmas - the color red." And the husky paramedic.

2. When You shop for gifts for yourself.

3. When You eyed the pajamas and sheepskin house shoes for him then realized you already lost him 2 years ago.

3. When You tell your friends you can't attend their parties because you're going to another party. Your own pity-party.

4. When You start missing the not- fat guy in red - the Salvation Army volunteer standing in front of the grocery store. Like you, they long for company - even for a moment.

5. When You start googling the organization that gives free hugs.

6. When You suddendly wished you are short and small so you can sit on Santa's lap at the mall.
Or just anybody's lap really. Beard or no beard.

7. When You just came home from a laughter filled party with your friends saying "You're just so funny" then you go to bed and cry all night long. Because really, that's what loneliness is.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Where Do I Sign?

I just signed another year's lease on my apartment here in Dallas and I hate to sign my name on anything that makes me committed. I have several other choices of living accomodations that would be cheaper (if not free, like living with Chat) but I pay premium price for my personal freedom.

After I signed the lease, I felt sad because I realized that I am stuck for another year. I thought I really should be a vagabond especially now that I am feeling more like Lord Byron in one of his dark moods, feeling indifferent to life : " It is that very indifference which makes me so uncertain and apparently capricious. It is not eagerness of new pursuits, but that nothing impresses me sufficiently to fix, neither do I feel disgusted, but simply indifferent to almost all excitements." Lord Byron can afford to be crazy because he had royalties from writing about his craziness, while I can only afford to read about it.

When I told Chat that I may not sign another lease so I can go try vagabonding once more, she became quiet. And it's not good when Chat is quiet. She pulled from her purse a gift card (have you seen what merchants have done to rev up the US economy? -the card's border has Christmas holly and bells and a picture of her and John in the middle - it is so cool) handed it to me and she said the amount will pay for one year of psychotherapy. For me.
Don't you just hate it when your kid has more money than you? Especially when it seems only yesterday that I bribed her with extra 3dollars to her school allowance if she stopped watching wrestling?

I promised her I will be a "real vagabond" this time, that I won't be calling her again from the Four Seasons hotel asking for her credit card number. It's really not good when Chat is quiet. "Mom, you know why John and I just opted to have a cat and not a dog or a child?" I was smart not to want to know the answer. Right Tygger?

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah

How odd of God to choose the Jews, But odder still are those who choose The Jewish God but hate the Jews-

Because of Don's heritage and orientation, I have learned a great deal about Jewish and Christian history. One day in 1995, I got tired of just listening to what people told me about the bible, so I started reading it myself.

I came to know about salvation and got saved through my readings; I read the whole 66 books of the bible and I still read it for my daily devotion. I do not have a "religion" and I do not follow a church dogma - I follow the leading of the Holy Spirit and I have a personal relationship with Christ. I am a Christian and I attend a Christian bible believing church. Now that we got that out, let's talk about Christmas.

December 25 is not Jesus birthday. No one knows the day or the month, except that is was cold.
The early church celebrated the biblical feasts established by God in the Torah but Constantine not only divorced the church from Judaism, he married the church into paganism. The paganization of Christianity under Constantine replaced the biblical feasts with a new set of holidays, one of which is Christmas.*

Before the time of Constantine, early Christians never celebrated Christ's birthday. But the pagan Romans had long celebrated December 25 as the birthday of Mithras (the Persian Sun-god) which the Emperor Aurelian (year 274) had actually designated as an official Roman holiday.

Also known as Saturnalia, Mithras birthday was one of the Romans favorite festivals, a time for good cheer and gift giving. On that one day, masters would serve their slaves and Romans would give food to the children of the poor. Constantine claimed to be a Christian but did not seem to understand who Jesus was, but he was a devoted follower of Mithras. One day he saw the vision of the cross in the sky next to the sun, he apparently assumed that Jesus was a manifestation of Mithras. So Saturnalia was declared a Christian holiday...Christmas -the birthday of Jesus.

I love both holidays; Christmas, to remind us of the birth of Christ who is the Light of the world and Hanukkah, the feast of lights. But remember, without the resurrection, Yshua's birth would just be like any baby's birth. Resurrection is the capstone of Christianity and without it we are still in our sins. Enjoy Christmas because Jesus said " I have come to set the captives free."

Page 47-48 Dr. Robert Heidler -Messianic Church Arising

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Christmas Again?

The father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. - 2 Corinthians 1:4

Five months after Don died was my first Christmas without him and I did not want to spend Christmas with anybody - not even with Chat and John. I was trying to learn to live life alone. I was holed up at the Manila Peninsula for Christmas eve and Christmas day.

After I checked in, the concierge asked me if I was going to have Christmas eve dinner at one of their restaurants. I told him no, that I will be going out with friends. I did not want to give the impression that I was alone and lonely. But The Pen hospitality is amazing; around 8pm that night someone knocked at my door with a light dinner and a bag of chocolates and one almost 8" chocolate santa. How did they know I was alone and lonely after all? The gesture made me feel good. But I was still lonely.

The next day I went out and amidst the crowds and noise at Glorietta, I could hear my own heartbeat throbbing in my chest. I was having panic attacks so I started to head back to the hotel, then a woman sitting alone on a bench caught my attention. She was watching the people merrily going in and out of the mall - she was looking but not seeing. Her eyes were so sad and empty I felt like I saw myself in her. I started to feel my own tears, I wanted to just sob and wail maybe, but I controlled myself until I was back alone in my hotel room. The crying made me feel good. But I was still lonely.

That night I ate alone again in my hotel room and that night I also made a discovery: The heart of the problem is the problem of the heart. People, places and things will not comfort a lonely heart. In fact, sometimes it only aggravates the wound. Who can best fix the problem if anything is broken? Of course, we consult the manual or call on the Maker of the product.

On the way to the airport, the driver started talking to me. I did not realize the hotel gave me the same hotel car and driver who picked me up 2 days earlier. "Ma'm don't be sad anymore. But even if you look sad, you're still beautiful." I've only heard of only one person in my life who called me beautiful, and that was Don. How does he know I'm sad? In America when someone compliments you, you say 'Thank You,' but in the Philippines when someone compliments you, you tell them to shut up (or something like that). I didn't know how to respond, I just kind of looked at him cross-eyed. I was still lonely. But he made me feel good.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Ang Kabaw ug Ang Langaw (Carabao and The Fly)

I was reading a thread going on at the Arnel Pineda website that talks about life and things and growing up poor in the Philippines. And one Ladydragon, mentioned the carabao (water buffalo). Her story made me laugh so hard; you know, the kind where you cry at the same time because actually the story is not funny but more bittersweet.

My parents were farmers who worked for a very rich and also very cruel family in Cebu. I worked for them too until God gave me a job with Penrod Drilling, a Dallas- based company. My job was supervising the movements of materials and the expatriate crew coming in and out of the Philippines. They hated it when I quit them, more so because I was now making more money and living in Makati.

One day, I was at the Intercon Hotel lobby and the matriarch Mrs. M.O. was there too. I did not acknowledge her not because I was being snotty but because I was afraid of her because she made everyone feel like the scum of the earth. She thought I ignored her. When she got back to Cebu, she sent for my father and screamed at him, waving her finger at my old father's face : "You tell your daughter, that just because she is on top of the carabao doesn't mean she's a carabao, she's still a fly and she will always be a fly."

That was over 20 years ago but I still think that she made a very good analogy, don't you think? And boy, am I glad she's not good at prophesy.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Chat's Cat

From day one Chat has hounded John to buy her a dog and I had to keep reminding John what his life would be like if he gave in. John would be taking care of the dog: Feed it and groom it, take it out in the freezing cold at 530 a.m before he goes to work when he could be snoozing comfortably in bed or risk waking up with a smelly pile on his carpet. Because Chat's role would only be to play with the dog - nothing else. John agreed and held out. Until 2 weeks ago.

When Chat was young (elementary and high school) on days when we were home, Don would stand by the window watching for Chat coming home from school. Then I would see Don rush out the door yelling; "Here comes Chat with them animals again." Chat would pick up stray dogs and cats and brought them home and sometimes even our neighbors' dogs and cats would end up in our house for a few days until Don found their owners to return them to. Don kept telling her to stop dragging animals to our house because we didn't want them but Chat found a way to keep them. Outside her bedroom window were thick green landscape shrubs where she would drop down plates of food from her window without us noticing. Until of course Don found them.

So when Chat called me while I was still in Cebu to tell me that they have bought a cat, I was afraid she was not joking so I had her put John on the phone, I said: "John what happened? Did you really agree to buy a cat for Chat? OMG, I won't be visiting your house anymore. I would have hairs all over my clothes when I come visit you, not to mention the smell. Did you really agree?" John just laughed.

Last week, when they came to pick me up at the airport, I had to see Johns face, make sure Chat didn't talk him into this tragic decision. "Why John? Did you really agree?" One thing endearing about John, he doesn't know how to lie. " I don't have to walk it."

I used to be the screen saver on Chat's Blackberry and John on her Iphone. It's now Tygger on both.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Convenient Inconvenience

How little it takes to make life unbearable: a pebble in the shoe, a cockroach in the spaghetti, a woman's laugh. - H.L. Mencken

Sitting at my desk at work yesterday, I asked myself: Is this what I want to do for the rest of my life? Four years ago, a friend of mine who is a physician told me why she divorced her husband, "No adult should make less than 15 dollars an hour, he won't look for another job, so he's got to go." Yes, I have shallow friends. And yes, what she said struck a cord with me because 4 years ago when she said it I was already an adult and making less than 11. I asked her, "Well, can I be excused because I'm a woman?" She said "no." We're still friends though.

So today, I remembered her subtle rebuke and am reminded that unless I convert my pay to pesos, it does not make anyone feel good. Unless you're 12 and this is your first job. But God in His providence has protected my money and stretched it when necessary, reason why I am able to do what I do without being financed by plastics.

But because I am struggling with the worse jet lag I have ever experienced, It's very hard to see the positive in my life right now. I have laid awake for the last 4 hours, praying, tossing and turning. And eating at 3 a.m. and now blogging when I should be preparing to go to my un-adult paying job. I realize there's so much to be thankful for like- this laptop still works while my desktop has crashed, I complain about eating at 3a.m, but at least I have food - not Korean Airline food or hospital food. So let me go so I can stuff my face again. And stop complaining.