a mother’s hymn

Be not dismayed whate’er betide
God will take care of you
Beneath His wings of love abide
God will take care of you


It’s the first Sunday evening of year 2005, and the last night of my two-week vacation with family in Davao City. The church congregation is singing, God Will Take Care of You.

I blink back tears as the woman standing beside me grips my right hand. Her soprano soars effortlessly above the other voices: God will take care of you through every day, o’er all the way; He will take care of you; God will take care of you…

She is singing to me, her youngest child. I try to sing along but the growing lump in my throat does not allow me to. My mother, unabashed about her tears, tightens her grip on my hand. And continues singing.

Her song tonight is different from the lullabies of my early boyhood. Back then, she would hum in order to lull to sleep a restless young tot who detested siesta. Tonight she sings to send off a young man—still restless—on his journey of discovery.

_______________________

Based on scribbles on my handheld while at the pre-departure lounge of the Davao International Airport.


the "a" word

Stayed home today. Miserable. When arthritis waves its whimsical wand of pain, my world stands still. Slept for most part of the day to take my mind off the pain. It’s a tricky thing managing arthritic pain: you have to move the rebellious joint just enough to not let it get the upper hand, but not too much or it might swell. And you definitely don’t want swelling.

I had to reschedule a lunch meeting for the nth time. Good thing there is the trusty landline that allowed me to at least settle a major issue that was supposed to be discussed in the meeting. With that out of the way, i just needed to find something to amuse me. I found my amusement in an e-book stored in my trusty PDA: Grisham’s The Last Juror. (Thanks to Bespren for supplying me with all the techie stuff i “need.” Hehe…)

Being the master storyteller that he is, Grisham had me scrolling down faster and faster. I noticed his short, crisp sentences; the way he presents information just at the right time, and with just enough details; and who could miss his delightful peppering of saracastic humor that elicits a loud “Haha.” I’ve always wondered if i could write fiction. It looks like it demands too much research work, a keen understanding of human behavior, and the gut feel of a storyteller. Oh well, i’ll stick with essays for now. Hehe. One step at a time, my dear impatient writer.

The pain has now finally relented. It usually does later in the day, after rest and pain killers. I think of all the work that has piled up on my desk at the office. Breathe. Looks like Saturday is work day for me. But for now, Nicole Kidman awaits. Tonight’s DVD feature: The Stepford Wives.

blogging and too much ‘christianity’

Call me an addict because maybe i am already. One of the things i look forward to doing at the end of the day is blogging. When the weary feet finally kick off the leather shoes and slip into rubber slippers, and the work clothes are traded for comfy shorts and cotton T-shirt, i’m ready to tap dance! I’m not sure how long this little obsession will last. Maybe a week or a year, there’s no telling.

Now that i think of it, blogging has helped put a semblance of order in my chaotic thought life. I don’t know about other minds–I haven’t tried any brain other than mine–but the one i got is hopelessly distracted. Unless i deliberately pull the reins on it, which i find i seldom do, it just wanders. But when i write, the wanderer that holds residence in my skull is forced to halt and take a certain direction. Sometimes it takes a little coaxing to make the fidgety mind focus and eventually get down to commanding the fingers to tap something meaningful.

* * *
The following is a pre-blog piece i found buried in my computer files, filed in a folder called “My Life in Print,” filename “Christian.”
“Hey, pare, I met Marvin last week. You won’t believe how much he’s changed. He’s some sort of a born again now, very religious. And very humble, too! I invited him for some drinks and chicks—like old times—but he turned me down! Imagine that!”
No, I wasn’t eavesdropping. I was in a pizza place having a catching-up dinner with friends from college. The speaker, seated at the next table, was just so animated and loud. Anyone within earshot would not have missed a word. I couldn’t help but overhear—and smile knowingly. After all, I’m “some sort of a born again” myself (but not the “very humble” kind yet).
Being a Christian and working in a Christian organization has somewhat shrunken my world to a small Christian dome. I live with Christian guys in an apartment, work with Christian people in a Christian publishing house, go out to have fun with Christian friends. I hardly ever spend time with someone who’s not a Christian! Of course, my Christian parents—miles away in Davao City—would predictably breathe a sigh of relief at all this “Christianity” surrounding me.  But I sense a growing discomfort at all this insulation.
What is wrong with this picture?

 

crazy

I was embarrassingly out of my mind today. Plain crazy. After six at the office, i just lost it. And there was an eyewitness to my madness. ( I can still hear her piercing laughter… “Hahaha… Hihihihi… Heehe…” Hey, from the sound of it, she could be crazy, too.) I’m too tired to plot her murder tonight so i guess i’ll let her live. For now. Or until my next crazy feat.

So, just how crazy was i? I sang Groban songs at the top of my lungs. Broken Vow and She’s Out of My Life. The high notes didn’t scare me one bit. Hah! Who cares about flats?! I pressed on with the courage of a gladiator. I’ll letchu goooooooo… I’ll letchu flaay… (choke)

I spoke gibberish in my best contrived American accent. Funny-sounding. And crazy. I banged my fist against the white board. Nothing really violent and melodramatic. Just crazy.

I “prayed” outloud. “Loooord! Give me a girlfriend! It’s so unfair, *toot* has one! Aaaagh!” (Eyewitness enjoyed this bit and giggled no end.) And then I remembered my interview for a US Visa in two weeks. “Looooord! I heard *toot*–(this one’s not the same *toot* as the first)– just got a Visa. Waaaaah! I would really feel bad if i didn’t!” As if God owed me anything. Tsk, bad theology. I know. But i was crazy, right?

The cure to my sudden lapse into loonyville was gastronomic indulgence. A hot plate of sisig (crunchy!), a bowl of steamed rice (would have wanted more), and bottomless iced tea (too sweet, but ok) at Lamesa ni Grasya. After the hearty meal with Eyewitness, I thought of capping my self-prescribed “treatment” with a movie, but decided against it. Instead, i opted for Snickers, extra-big bar. One for me. One for Eyewitness, partly to buy her silence about this crazy episode of mine. Hehehe…

Now, hours later, I’m home tapping away on my computer. Not crazy anymore, and trying to figure out when the screws started to get loose. What could have triggered this craziness? Could it have been the Pepsi Twist and Pringles that i gobbled right after lunch? Nah. Maybe frustration with the long-overdue newsletter i was editing? Could be.

Eyewitness theorized that it’s stress-related. I have to agree. But, i have to confess: I enjoyed being crazy and irrational, at least for that bit of time. I’m pretty sure Eyewitness found it amusing too. Sheer entertainment for her at no cost. Hehe… Now i’ll just have to make sure I’m around when it’s her turn to go loony. Judging from the stacks of paper on her desk, i have a hunch it won’t be far ahead.

Mwahahaha!

stripping

An editor friend texted me over the weekend to ask what my blog URL is. Uh-oh… Gulp. “Dont worry, i’ll read it as a friend not as an editor.” Great, now she can read minds too. Hehe.

I remember talking to her several days before about the blogging phenomenon (ABC News has named bloggers “People of the Year”). I casually mentioned that i keep a blog, and that i would like to get semi-serious about writing in it.

Her text after i gave her my blogsite address: “I liken blogging to stripping….” My reply: “Stripping? Quite apt 🙂 there is a profound liberty in vulnerability.”

And then she, the editor par excellence, said she liked that last line. Ahem *pat on the neophyte writer’s back* But, i must admit, i’m new to this “stripping” trade. I haven’t warmed enough to the “liberty” and “vulnerability” of blogging yet. I still get bothered by the thought that these words–chips of my very heart and soul–are out there for anyone to read. Inevitably, they will make judgments about me based on my entries. Am i ready for the impressions i could be making? (Okay, maybe i’m overreacting; it’s not like I get a lot of hits. I’ve only invited a handful to come peek at my blog.) At the same time, i also feel delighted that some people, most of them coerced by friendship or intrigued by this hermit’s coming out, do take time to read. Some kind souls even drop encouraging messages!

I keep a more “naked” journal that is securely stashed inside my forest of a closet, ably protected by three-year-old settlements of dust, mildew, and other asthma-inducing elements. (Mind you, my clothes are in another closet.) So until any one of my housemates starts showing signs of extreme allergy, i wouldn’t even suspect a breach. There are emotions and thoughts in my journal that i pray would never be read by anyone. And yet i still wrote them. Most of them are prayers, anguished cries to God. Most times the writing is legible. But sometimes the strokes are heavy and wayward, betraying the writer’s stormy soul at that moment. To my knowledge, only God and I have read these “naked” chronicles. And i want to keep it that way.

Tell-the-world blog or I-will-kill-anyone-who-snoops journal, I guess all written words long to be read. What good would they be if no eyes ever passed them meaningfully; if they never caused a mind to ponder; and if they never tugged at a heart? My “naked” journal will remain for my eyes and God’s eyes only. But this blog, a speck in the vast cyber universe, is my humble attempt at connecting with myself. And with you.

It’s a pleasure stripping for you.

P.S. Would love to read your blogs, too. Still working on setting up links. Would be great if you could leave your URL at the tag-board and let me take a peek at your “strip show.” (Hehe, my use of this metaphor is starting to cross the line.)

last monday

When i’m 80 and nostalgic, i wonder which days of my life will stand out in my memory.

Last Monday, exactly a week ago, was quite special in its own way. I say so now because it stands in stark contrast with my usual Mondays, this one included. Most Monday mornings find me panicky and cranky, mainly because I would be running late for work. But not last Monday.

By some miracle, I woke up a lot earlier than usual. Boiled a kettle of water-a mugful to make coffee (and the rest to tame the unbelievably cold water for my bath). Ahhh… the day was young, still dark. The silence was refreshing. (Noisy old lady nextdoor still asleep.) Indian squat on the soft sofa, I warmed my palms with the coffee mug. And I prayed.

No agenda. No urgent petitions to the Father. Just telling Him, “Lord, I’m here at the start of the day, with You.” I don’t recall the conversation with God. There were only a few words. Mostly pauses.

Things look different early in the morning when you’re not rushing. Life looks different. You see things you would otherwise miss while you’re soaked in the activities and demands of the day. A sense of God’s presence overwhelms you, naturally. Not because God has chosen to be present only now, but because you have chosen to be still only now. There is a stepping out of yourself so you can examine your life and how you are living it. And what you see saddens you: wasted time on godless pursuits, missed opportunities for service, misplaced affections. You expect to be depressed at this sight, but amazingly you are not. Hope overpowers despair. For how can you despair, when just outside your window the sun rises – nature’s beautiful demonstration of Hope?

You think, maybe this is what people mean when they say they felt the embrace of God. You find yourself struggling to capture the moment. But, could it be that such a moment is meant to be fleeting, so you would come morning after morning to experience it anew?

one of those personality tests

You Have A Type A- Personality
You are one of the most balanced people around

Motivated and focused, you are good at getting what you want

You rule at success, but success doesn’t rule you.

When it’s playtime, you really know how to kick back

Whether it’s hanging out with friends or doing something you love!

You live life to the fullest – encorporating the best of both worlds


Hmmm… these personality tests bother me a bit. Because they reveal how little i know about myself. Or, maybe, how warped i am, so much so that i defy categorization. Then again, maybe most people feel this way. I think God has created us too intricately and meticulously that we could each never fall perfectly under a type.

Not sure if my friends would agree with the above result. Hey, I’m not even sure if my friends are reading my blog. Haha! I have questions about my Type. Is there someone i can email? A shrink perhaps?

Thanks to turkangel79 for the link to blogthings.

sick

I hate breathing. At least for now. When i inhale, i hear an annoying whistle. (There’s another “W” word that’s more apt–whoozing, whizzing…aaargh, i can’t remember.) Each “whistle” summons childhood memories, mostly unwanted. The tossing and turning in bed, senseless intermittent dreams, aching neck and head propped against stacked pillows, the smell of rubbing alcohol, and–ah, like light at the end of a dark tunnel–the smile and soothing presence of Mama. Go ahead, call me a baby. This six-footer misses his Ma sorely.

Today, by my estimate, i coughed–more like barked… really terrible sound–at least a hundred times. When I wasn’t coughing, I sneezed like a 300-lb wrestler. Officemates eventually got tired of “Bless you”ing me. (Hey, i was awfully tired of achooing, too. But could i help it?). In the process, I have spread millions of pathogenic microorganisms, all of them programmed to inhabit a suitable host. Poor officemates. Pity the friends i ate dinner with. Woe to the passengers of the bus I took coming home. I’m a criminal!

Two coughs and a sniffle. Ahem. Make that two sniffles. Guess that’s my cue to stop typing and blow this now-rudolph nose yet again.

life dancing 101

“And when you get the chance to sit it out or dance,
I hope you dance…”

I am one who’s comfortable dipping his finger into a variety of art forms: music (i can carry a tune and play the piano), visual art (i draw and do powerpoint… hehe), literature (i love writing and people say it’s decent enough to read– most of the time, that is), humor (hey, this is art, believe me.) But there is one realm i haven’t quite stepped into. That mysterious place where feet are used for effects other than walking or running.
Dancing. Not that I have never danced in this life. Just now, several bits of dance memory from my teenaged years come to mind. (Interestingly, most of them can be filed under “Embarrassing. Priority for Deletion from Memory Bank”.) There’s the awkward waltz-ala-folkdance at the high school prom (Why was i hearing muffled snickers from the teachers? Somebody bring him bamboo poles!). Oh yes, that hilarious swing at an awards night. (All i remember now is the artificially arched eyebrow of the choreographer raised in utter dismay at my lack of grace.) And, oh, how could i forget the embarrassing sway-snap-sway at a college choral competition (It’s even on video–me consistently swaying to the wrong directions; the snaps were all right, thank heavens)!
Dancing just isn’t my cup of tea. And growing up Baptist didn’t help at all in teaching these now-arthritic limbs to jig. (Haha!) But, i don’t really mind. Most times, I’m more than happy watching gifted creatures do their stuff on the dance floor or onstage. And the more they defy skeletal limitations–splits, pirouettes, high-kicks–the more cheers and applause they get from me! Gracefully limber people never cease to amaze me, mostly because i have always been respectfully admiring of those who can do things i know i can never do well, like dancing (and, yes, cooking too, but that’s an all together different topic.)
So why, all of a sudden, am i thinking (and now writing) a lot about dancing? Because i suspect that this activity that has eluded my participation actually holds valuable life lessons that i would definitely not want to miss. These feet might never learn to pleasantly and gracefully go with a beat, but i would still want to learn to dance–but the kind of a rather abstract nature.
It seems to a non-dancer such as myself that dancing inherently involves abandon, a shedding of inhibitions. Dancing is a form of expression that engages the whole of the body, mind, and spirit. There is, i suspect, an inexplicable delight known only to dancers when they move their beautifully unrestrained bodies. And although the dancers take their cue from the music and are meticulously aware of the beat, they never appear constrained by it.
If i could only learn to apply these in my life–the abandon, the complete engagement, the passionate commitment to a structure without being constrained by it… If i could only learn to see life as a dance and get this body–this being– moving to its beat, and not just sit it out at the sides… then i will have taken a grand step towards living a life the way the great Creator had designed it.
Why do i have the feeling that in order to learn to do the abstract life dance i inevitably need to try my hand…er, feet… at literal dancing?
So, any patient dance instructors out there?

tim da nephew

THIS IS TIM, the youngest of my pamangkins. He is four (or five? Hmm… this no-good uncle is uncertain). This picture of Tim was taken on Christmas day, minutes before he and his siblings–Ate Sheki (6) and Kuya Pol (11)– would open their Christmas presents. Tim’s eyes are sad because it has been merely minutes since his appeal–made to the all-wise Daddy and Mama–to open the gifts earlier was rejected outright. And so he waits, little hands itching to rip through wrapping paper and cardboard. Meantime, a momentary glance to the right to strike a pose for Tito (Tim loves the camera), but otherwise glued to Cartoon Network–the global pacifier of kids disappointed by life and its delays.

P.S. My Ma says Tim looks a lot like me when i was his age. Why not.