“What would you ask God if you were face to face with Him now?”

I threw the question to an all-female audience of National Book Store staff. It was my little ice breaker during our publishing company’s product presentation to them. Anyone who would come forward to answer the question would win a copy of Philip Yancey’s Where is God When it Hurts?, one of several products we were promoting.

I was being the chirpy presenter who unleashed punch lines incessantly to sustain the audience’s interest. But the mood would change dramatically as some brave ladies shared their questions for God with misty eyes:

“Why did You take my mother away?”

“Why aren’t You granting our desire to have another child? My husband and I want one so bad…”

“Why did my premature baby have to die? If he had been born a day later he would have stood a chance…”

After they shared their very personal stories, many in the audience were dabbing their eyes with tissue. I confess, there was a growing lump in my throat too.

It’s interesting how our questions for God often begin with why. We want explanations, reasons, justifications. We long to understand. And yet, many times there are no clear answers from Him. We don’t hear a booming voice that enumerates the reasons for our circumstances. There’s no bright vision to enlighten us so we can make perfect sense of our pain.

I think of Job’s experience. He wanted answers to his why-am-I-suffering questions. Although God responded to Him audibly, He did not dish out point-blank answers. Instead God drew Job’s attention to His identity and heart, as if to say, “You do not see the whole picture. Even if I explained, you wouldn’t understand. All you need is Me. I am God, and I am with you in your pain.”

Maybe that’s not the answer we want, but the one we need.

prelude to the big c

A Christmas tune played on my shuffled iPod just now. And for the first time this year, I didn’t click to the next song. Never mind if the song was Winter Wonderland. Christmas is in the air!

No goth or gore for me this Halloween. Tonight I’ll create a Christmas playlist (complete with the choral renditions of traditional Filipino Christmas tunes) and book my December flight to Davao.

Pasko na!

bravo, housemate!

One of my housemates is a senior voice major at the UP College of Music. Since Ervin joined us in the apartment a few years ago, I have had to resort to reciting psalms in the shower instead of belting out hymns. Hehe. Ervin is a very gifted singer, but he is more than his powerful and impressive voice; the dude’s a really nice fellow, lighthearted and very humble.

A few weeks ago we all got excited for him as he told about a possible guesting at the Kapuso Network. Turned out he would be singing the finale with Kyla at the launch of GMA’s newest, high-tech studio.

His voice recital had to be re-scheduled to accommodate the guesting. In the midst of juggling preparations for his recital and rehearsals for the TV guesting, Ervin asked me if I would design his recital poster. I was all too glad to help because, well, I am a good housemate—okay, maybe I was also eager to see Zak the MacBook in action with Photoshop. I missed his recital because of my Hong Kong trip, but I heard it went well. Now I wasn’t going to miss his TV debut.

The GMA 7 event, which actually happened last Oct 17, was aired just last night. I poured myself some orange juice (Minute Maid—with real orange pulp!) and waited for the finale. Ervin is in Bacolod for the semestral break, so when his bit finally came on, I just texted him, “Telegenic!” No reply. I’m sure he was flooded with text messages from all his friends (and fans!). Tonight I got a Yahoo message from a mutual friend, with a link to a YouTube upload of Ervin’s number. (Nothing escapes YouTube!) Watching it the second time gave me goosebumps. Here it is. Enjoy!

That’s mah housemate! 😉 I better get his autograph before he becomes more famous 😀 I wonder how it felt to hold Kyla’s hand and have her sing while staring deep into your eyes…


I usually put my iPod on shuffle mode. That’s because I am too lazy to create playlists. Many songs in my music library are not properly labeled—I have dozens of “Track 01’s” and “Track-what-nots,” and quite a number of duplications too. It’s an obsessive-compulsive person’s nightmare (or dream project?).

But even if one day, by some miracle, I find the time and will (or an OC volunteer) to organize my library into neatly-labeled playlists, I think I will still stick to shuffling songs, if only for the surprises that it brings.

Take today, for instance: On the commute to church, a song by Chris Rice found its way to me via shuffle. The song was vaguely familiar, but the honest lyrics caught my attention, especially these lines: I wake to find my soul in fragments / Given to a thousand loves… How can I be so prone to wander / So prone to leave You / So prone to die?

Bullseye. That’s me, a distracted child of God. Daily I am confronted and easily swayed by pursuits other than Him and His glory. And yet God is relentless, His love for me unchanged and undiluted by my shortcomings, abandonment, and immaturity. Like the songwriter and others before him, I wonder in amazement about this love that never lets go, never quits on me.

It’s still more than an hour before the service. But if worship is a recognition of God’s greatness and my smallness; His might and my frailty; His purity and my unworthiness apart from Christ’s work—then my worship time today has begun on that bus ride, with my iPod on shuffle mode.

Curse-reversing day of Jesus
When You finally seize my soul
Freedom from myself will be the
Sweetest rest I’ve ever known

Chris Rice, “Prone to Wander”

in your grief

The pain rends your heart
To near-death
Your soul is torn apart
With each labored breath

All you see are the shadows
Engulfing the lights
And in despair you wallow
Fearing no end to this night

The tears keep streaming
Down your anguished face
Lost in your grieving
You hardly notice the embrace

Of the One who collects
Your tears in a bottle
See, His merciful eyes also reflect
Your sorrow and your struggle


Today I felt like a Spartan warrior. I tackled a mean battalion of backlogged email, courtesy of my weeklong leave from work. After countless mouse swoops and incessant keyboard tapping the 150+ emails did get the attention they required, leaving a weary but fulfilled worker in their wake.

Now I feel sore all over — not from the email battle, but from the two-hour massage I decided to get at day’s end. My calves feel tender, but my back feels great. Hey, even warriors deserve the occasional pampering. I hope I don’t sleep too well and long; I have a morning meeting.

my new macbook is old

So the rumors buzzing in Mac-themed sites are true after all. One month after getting my white MacBook (which I named Zak), Steve Jobs and friends launch new and improved MacBooks!

Swanky aluminum case. Glorious glass screen. Multi-touch (and buttonless!) trackpad. Faster. Better. Cooler. See for yourself here.

Someone needs an extra-strong shot of contentment.

HK musings

10 October 2008
Tai Po, New Territories, Hong Kong SAR.

My brother Arnel and I arrived in Hong Kong last Monday night. It’s our first visit to “Asia’s World City.” As our Cebu Pacific plane descended, Hong Kong’s magnificent lights welcomed us. The yellow glow below us made it appear like we were alighting on gold-sequined land. Commuting from the airport to our hosts’ flat in New Territories area became an instant tour complete with rides in double-decker buses and the MTR. (In no time we were swiping our multi-purpose Octopus cards like pros.)

On Tuesday Kuya Arnel spoke to over 400 kababayans, most of whom are pinays working as domestic helpers in Hong Kong. He delivered an inspired message on the importance of prayer. I pray that the seeds planted in the listeners’ hearts will grow and yield fruits of faithfulness and prayerfulness.

I too have been reminded of the utmost importance of depending on God through prayer – to remain in a position of helplessness so that the Father can demonstrate His might. As I listened, the Spirit revealed to me once again how prone to pride I am and how often I have acted independently of God. It is refreshing to be reminded that the Lord delights in answering the cries of His children, if only they would come. If only I would come.

I came to this trip thinking I could just be a spectator (I’ve already heard the “prayer” messages when Kuya spoke at our company retreat last April). I did not plan for deeper engagement. After all, my main purpose was just to encourage and assist my (travel-aversed) brother through his eight speaking engagements. Of course, I was also excited about being in a new place and experiencing new things. But it is becoming clear to me now that this trip is God’s appointment with me as well.

Away from my routine, there is fresh spiritual air to breathe. There is time to let the Spirit order a cluttered heart. There are moments to glimpse grace in the lives of Filipinos uprooted from home, even as I struggle with a silent outrage towards a government that has so failed its citizens that mothers, sisters, wives have had to be exported to foreign lands to toil as maids.

Like an elaborate Chinese lauriat, this trip is at once invigorating and overwhelming — there are so many experiences, insights, observations to chew on. It’s a blessing in so many ways, and yet I must find time to reflect (digest, if you may) so as to make the most out of it.