Thursday, December 21, 2006

Happy Birthday, Star!


Back in the home front. Today, Star turns 8. Our baby is another year older. I miss the days when I can carry her like a huggy bear. She's always been on the heavy side and so very cuddly indeed. Oh, how time flies! It was election time when I found out I was gonna have another baby, and how it sparked controversy in my former office. Ano, buntis ka na naman?" People would ask me, as if it was hard to imagine a married woman getting pregnant for the third time. And I wasn't even the "top baby maker" in the office.

Among the reporters though, I was the highest pointer, so to speak. Knowing I always had difficult pregnancies (all three kids were premature), my bosses probably foresee I'd be gone again for another 48 years. And true enough, shortly after covering Erap's inagauration at Rizal Park, I experienced bleeding and had to be confined for three days.

Because the previous two pregnancies were between 27 to 32 weeks, the doctor advised me to go on complete bed rest until after the second trimester.

Finally, Star came out this time 8 years ago -- a heavy weight at 4.4 kilos. And to think she came out a month before her due date. Her dad was with me to welcome Star. And how she cried! UHA-UHA-UHA! She had the biggest voice in the world!

We already called her Star even when she was still in my tummy. Her Kuya would talk to her, telling her how excited he and Ate were to play with her. He would tell her stories and tickle my tummy.

Shortly after I gave birth to Star, I tried to apply Kuya Ben and Ate Pia at UP's Child Development Center. But as fate would have it, they didn't get the much sought after slots, instead Star got in.

So it was, Star started going to school by June of 1999. She was barely six months when she was admitted at the Infant Development Program of UP-CDC. Practically, all her life, Star has been in school. Yet, she didn't seem to tire. She has always been enthusiastic about school.

We see her growing up to be a conscientious and strong-willed child, yet obedient and God-fearing. She's so passionate about things. As her teachers say, she lives up to her name -- she is a star. She loves it when I repeatedly tell her she's the prettiest girl "in the whole wide hand of God." (It's her terminology. "Hand of God is bigger than the universe," she tells me. She's right!)

We are so blessed to have Star in our lives. While we weren't really prepared to have another baby, I always tell her I can't imagine life without her. We've learned so many lessons from Star. She is like the child Jesus describes in the Bible -- pure in heart.

Happy birthday to our favorite bunso!

Turning fear into better disaster response

It may take a long time for Bicolanos to shake off the trauma caused by super typhoon Reming. With so many lives lost and destruction so immense, it may be considered the worst disaster in the Philippines. May we all learn from Reming and turn the situation around for the better. Here's an article I wrote for the Inquirer...

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By Andrea Trinidad-Echavez
Inquirer
Last updated 02:37am (Mla time) 12/21/2006

Published on Page A17 of the December 21, 2006 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer

“TATAKBO na naman ba tayo,’Nay? (Are we going to run again, Mother?)” Inday Surapas’ 10-year-old son asks every time rain starts to fall.

“Takot na takot na kami tuwing umuulan (We have become very scared every time it rains),” said the 34-year-old mother of six, who lost one of her brothers when Supertyphoon “Reming” wrought havoc in Albay several weeks ago.

“We had already been warned,” Surapas admitted in Filipino. “But we didn’t expect the rains to be that bad. It never flooded before, not even during Typhoon ‘Milenyo.’”

And so on the fateful morning of Dec. 1, Surapas went on with her regular routine of selling vegetables at the public market in Daraga town, confident that “Reming” would just be like the other typhoons. (Read full story)

Monday, December 18, 2006

A thousand bears and more


It's such a joy to see a seemingly impossible task turn into a reality before your very eyes. Early today (it's just 4am as I'm writing this), I received a happy news from my friend Cathy, who started Thousand Bears for Bicol two weeks ago -- we have reached the thousand mark! Thank you everyone, who prayed with us and supported us in this endeavor. For those who want to help, contributions are still accepted. :-)

On Dec. 21, we'll be distributing the bears and their furry friends in different evacuation centers in Bicol. This is just be the beginning of a big work. Operation Compassion will soon start trauma debriefing in areas mostly affected by "Reming."

Still on TBB, an article came out in Manila Times yesterday:

A thousand bears for Bicol

By Andrea Lopez-Vito

IT ALL started as a personal crusade. But barely 10 days after making an appeal for support on her blog (www.nancydrewandme.blogspot.com), Cathy Babao-Guballa’s “Thousand Bears for Bicol (TBB)” campaign has almost reached its target—to gather at least 1,000 teddy bears and other “furry friends” for the children staying in typhoon-ravaged Bicol’s evacuation centers.

A grief counselor who lost a son a few years ago, Guballa got struck by a front-page photo taken by award-winning photographer Edwin Bacasmas. It showed a distraught father hugging his little child. They were standing in the midst of debris left by super typhoon “Reming,” presumably where their house used to be. Ironically, behind them majestically sits Mount Mayon—the cause of the massive destruction and loss of lives in Albay.

“One can only imagine the horrors of what the other families went through in those two days when the world seemed to be coming to a close. Bicolanos are staunch veterans of typhoons but this time around they have been badly battered and beaten,” Guballa notes in her December 3 blog entry.

“What does tomorrow hold for father and son?” she continues. “With all material possessions gone, they only have each other, and for now, that is all that matters.”

Guballa says that adults and children alike who lived through this kind of tragedy will definitely go through months of nightmares and post-traumatic stress disorder.

But in tragedies such as that wrought by super typhoon Reming, children are naturally the most affected. How will they ever feel safe again?

“Play and toys have been very effective tools in helping children heal from trauma and tragedy,” explains Guballa, who teaches at the Ateneo de Manila. “Stuffed toys have been known to be effective comfort givers in times of extreme stress and fear. To children, stuffed animals are more than toys, they’re imaginary friends who are always ready to give comfort or play. They provide a certain amount of security in a sometimes scary world.”

Taking off from this, Guballa appealed to her readers to help her raise at least a thousand bears, which she targets to distribute to children before Christmas. Amazingly, within three days, the first 100 bears came in mostly from friends and regular readers of her blog. The wonders of the net paved way for Guballa’s campaign to spread like wildfire. Friends and friends of friends either forwarded Guballa’s appeal or posted it in their own blogs. Support have since deluged with bears and other stuff toys of various colors continuously coming in. As of this writing, TBB has collected close to 600 not counting those in the drop-in centers.

In addition to the stuffed toys, fast-food chain KFC sent 500 care-bear pillows and 15 sacks of small cereal packs (100 pieces a sack).

Guballa then partnered with her home church, the Greenhills Christian Fellowship, and Operation Compassion, a Christian organization involved in relief and rehabilitation work. Operation Compassion has already distributed the first batch of bears in its medical mission in Legaspi City earlier this week.

More than relief work, however, Guballa envisions TBB to be “an exercise in watching the way God’s hand works and seeing how wonderful and awesome He is in His kindness and faithfulness toward all of us.”

“God cares for all the little children and is especially loving of widows and orphans. I know that through you, He cares for His children in Bicol,” Cathy adds in her blog.

How God put things together amazes Guballa no end. When word about TBB spread, friends far and near offered help. Filipino associations in Manitoba, Canada, and Sacramento, California, pledged to send over some bears. The Philippine Air Force through Col. Mike Asperin likewise volunteered to fly the toys and other stuff to Legaspi.

“I am amazed at the power of His hand when it moves the hearts of people everywhere,” says Cathy.

By December 21, she along with her husband Hector and several friends, will join Operation Compassion in distributing the toys to various evacuation centers in Legaspi, Daraga and Guinobatan. They also hope to raise funds to be able to throw a Christmas party for at least 1,000 kids.

The distribution of toys is part of the psychosocial therapy being conducted by Operation Compassion in partnership with the Ministerial Fellowship of Albay. Operation Compassion’s Rev. Dong Cucio says psychosocial therapy in disaster areas is inherent in its rehabilitation work.

The group has also been involved in rehabilitation work in Gen. Nakar and Infanta in Quezon, several areas in Aurora, Mindoro and Sorsogon provinces and Guinsaugon in Southern Leyte.

Indeed, TBB has yet become another testimony of the innate kindness of Filipinos.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Christmas is for the little children of Albay, too

Bright day ahead. Surely, resiliency will enable Bicolanos to rise above the gloom. But a little help would make the load much lighter. This photo was taken at a relocation center in Daraga.

I just arrived from Albay this morning and I am still overwhelmed with what I saw. The devastation is far more than we can imagine, not to mention the depth of pain super typhoon Reming caused to the Bicolanos.

We went around the evacuation centers in Daraga and Legaspi and my heart bleeds especially for the children who can hardly comprehend what struck them. I've interviewed several mothers and most of them shared that every time it starts to rain (after super typhoon Reming), their kids would ask "Tatakbo na naman ba tayo?"

One mother in Daraga who lost 12 members of her family (children, mother, sister, brothers, grandchildren, daughter-in- law) said her 16 year old son is still dazed up to now. I could only cry as Manang Gloria narrated her story.

"We were warned," Manang Gloria admitted, in Filipino. "But we never imagined it would be as hard as that."

And despite the warning, she went ahead to sell vegetables at the market that fateful Dec. 1 morning. She reasoned out: "What will I feed my children if I don't go out and make a living?"

By 9am (Dec. 1), it started to rain heavily. It was so hard one could no longer see anything five feet ahead. Manang Gloria had no choice but wait for the rains to stop. By the time it ended around 3pm, she hurriedly went home only to find out that it was no longer there, her family included.

Providentially, Manang Gloria earlier left four of her 8 children with her husband's relatives in another part of the town and so the they survived the tragedy.

"Hindi ko kayang isipin kung lahat sila iniwan ko sa bahay. Siguro hindi ko kakayanin," Manang Gloria told us. (I can't imagine if I left all of them in our home. I wouldn't have survived at all.)

Really, I haven't seen destruction so widespread as what I've just seen in Albay. I could only cry along with the people I interviewed. My God! Even the very able head of PDCC (Provl Disaster Coord Council) couldn't hold back his tears when he narrated to us what happened on that fateful day.

"The rain was just too much. When we could no longer see beyond 5 feet, I knew there would be casualties. At that point, we just gathered and pray. There was nothing else we could do..." Cedric Daet, chair of the PDCC told us.

True enough, after the water subsided, hundreds and hundreds have died. More than 200,000 families are left homeless. Hundreds of millions worth of crops and properties damaged.

Obviously, Christmas will never be the same this year for the people of Albay. This must be the saddest Christmas especially for the kids. I am just so glad Cathy started TBB (Thousand Bears for Bicol). How I wish we'll be able to give bears and a simple Christmas party for all the kids.

To date, the TBB campaign has passed the 500-mark (not including the uncollected ones at the drop off points) -- praise God for all the people He touched. But the more bears and toys, the more kids we bring joy. The distribution of toys is actually part of the trauma debriefing to be conducted by Operation Compassion.

In behalf of Cathy and Operation Compassion, I am appealing for help for this endeavor. Let's make the little children of Albay smile again especially this Christmas.

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What do we need?

Teddy Bears - new or clean and in good condition OR friendly looking and cuddly stuffed toys that can be hugged by the children

Art materials - notebooks, pens, pencils and crayons that we can pack and give to the children. In addition to play therapy, art therapy is also a proven effective tool in helping heal the children.

Where can you drop off the materials?

Quezon City -- 41 Milkyway Drive, Blue Ridge, Quezon City contact - 0918-906-8852

Makati -- The Room Upstairs, 2nd floor, LRI Building, Nicanor Garcia (formerly Reposo), Makati City tel no. 899-9318

Alabang - Room 306, Medical Arts Building, Asian Hospital (clinic of Dr. Noemi Guloy)

Can we have the bears picked-up?

Some companies and schools are doing "bear drives" so yes, we can pick up a minimum of 30 bears from your school or office.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Please support Thousand Bears for Bicol


TBBlogo2_lores
Originally uploaded by cathyguballa.
My friend Cathy Babao-Guballa, a grief counselor (who lost her son Migi a few years ago) is spearheading a campaign called THOUSAND BEARS FOR BICOL (TBB). This campaign is aimed at raising at least a thousand bears before Christmas so we can distribute them to children in Bicol areas badly-hit by supertyphoon Reming like Guinobatan and Daraga.

There is no telling on the pain the super typhoon caused to thousands of children in Bicol and their families. We know that it will take long for the kids to recover from the trauma they suffered. But we are hoping that through the TBB campaign, the grief will somehow be eased.


We at Operation Compassion, a relief and rehabilitation organization, are so blessed that Cathy has partnered with us in this endeavor. Cathy and I (along with our families and friends) will personally oversee the distribution of the bears (and other gifts we hope to be able to raise too) on Dec. 21.

I hope you will prayerfully consider helping us in this endeavor. Please see Cathy's blog for more info: Thousand Bears for Bicol

Monday, November 27, 2006

Of sorrows and joys

Blessed are those whose strength is in you...As they pass through the Valley of Baca, they make it a place of springs. -- Psalm 84:5-6

Comfort, according to L.B. Cowman, is not given to us when we are lighthearted and cheerful. It comes after we travel the depths of emotion. Comfort, along with peace, I must say, are God's most precious gifts.

Here's an inspiring poem from L.B. Cowman's Streams in the Desert.

I have been through the valley of weeping,
The valley of sorrow and pain;
But the "God of all comfort" was with me,
At hand to uphold and sustain.

As the earth needs the clouds and sunshine,
Our souls need both sorrow and joy;
So He places as oft in the furnace,
The dross from the gold to destroy.

When he leads us through some valley of trouble,
His omnipotent hand we trace;
For the trials and sorrows He sends us,
Are part of His lessons in grace.

Oft we run from the purging and pruning,
Forgetting the Gardener knows
That the deeper the cutting and trimming,
The richer the cluster that grows.

Well He knows that affliction is needed;
He has a wise purpose in view,
And in the dark valley He whispers,
"Soon you'll understand what I do."

As we travel through life's shadowed valley,
Fresh springs of His love ever rise;
And we learn that our sorrows and losses,
Are blessings just sent in disguise.

So we'll follow wherever He leads us,
Let the path be dreary or bright;
For we've proved that our God can give comfort;
Our God can give songs in the night.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Our healing journey and more...

"Do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed." -- 1 Peter 4:12-13

It's been a while since my last posting. Since Star and I got back from Hongkong, I had to catch up on work. What can I say? It's been such a wonderful, wonderful time for us. Not the illness part, but experiencing God's faithfulness once again. While the kids are not yet fully well, we continue to be overwhelmed by how God has been walking us through.

One important lesson I've learned in our experience is to never, never disregard the power of prayer. To many of us, prayer comes as the "last resort." When we can still do something about the situation, we do what we can. Then, we turn to God when all else fail.

But to us this time, the challenges were just too great. My husband and I could do nothing but to still ourselves before the Lord and pray. And then we stayed back and let Him move for us. There is no telling how amazed we are by how things turned out.

Ben recovered quickly. While he stayed in the hospital for 13 days, the extent of infection in his lungs would have required longer confinement. Star, on the other hand, had a smooth work-up in Hongkong. As a bonus, we both enjoyed our trip. Since we came back, Star has far lesser nosebleeding episodes.

We cannot thank God enough for how He walked us through our trial, for the outpouring support of friends and for the abundant provisions. God used so many people to bless us in so many ways. What can we say? We did not deserve it. We are overjoyed. As always, God is good all the time.

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Saturday, November 04, 2006

Rejoice in the Lord always!

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!...Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.--Philippians 4:4

Tomorrow will be the first full week since Ben's confinement in the hospital. Star and I would have left for Hongkong already for her medical workups at Queen Mary Hospital but my husband and I decided we postpone the trip a few more days. (We're leaving instead on Nov. 8, 8.15am flight.)

These are difficult times for us. In fact, I've told some friends I'm torn with our situation right now. On one hand, Star already needs to be diagnosed and given proper medical attention. On the other hand, how can we leave Ben in a delicate situation?

Six days in the hospital is not easy. Ben's fever is still on and off (but "on" most of the time). Thankfully, it's lower now than the first three days. Last night, we freaked out when were told he has fluids in the lungs and that Ben might need to undergo an OR procedure to remove the water. Under these circumstances, what parents would not?

But early this morning, when the pulmonologist came and explained to us Ben's situation, my heart jumped for joy! Looking at the x-ray plates and not seeing the patient, he said, he would have imagined the patient to be in a miserable state. Ben's lungs are full of water. His heart slightly enlarged.

Yet, when he saw Ben, rosy cheeks, chubby, smiling and all, it just doesn't jive. "I would have imagined a patient hardly breathing, losing so much weight..." the doctor told us. WOW! As in WOW! Only a miracle-working God can make Ben defy what the clinical evaluation otherwise say. Truly, He is a God of miracles.

God's amazing grace is sustaining Ben. He hears the prayers of His people. So many people have been praying for us and the way things are turning out, we are sustained only by God's mercy.

God is good in all of His ways! What can I say? PRAISES BE TO GOD!

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The Joy of Waiting - Promise No. 2


Boat, ocean, and a sunset
Originally uploaded by Miguel Jette.
"I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry" (Psalm 40:1, NIV).



I didn't intend to blog today. You see, our son Ben is in the hospital. We were advised to have him confined after his fever wouldn't go down. The doctor said he has pneumonia and blood infection, worsened by his primary complex.

The past weeks have been quite hard for us, admittedly. On one hand, we trust that God has already apportioned healing for Ben and Star. Yet, when it doesn't come right away, what can we do? Not much, except to keep on praying and waiting.

These past few weeks, God keeps on reminding me, "Be still and know that I am God." Truly, it is so easy to fret. But what can fretting do? Nothing, except to make us more exhausted. So might as well just let go and let God! Yet, despite that knowledge, sometimes it can be difficult not to worry especially when it involves your kids. But God, in His never-ending patience -- keeps on reminding us through different ways. Sometimes, it comes through your mailbox. The moral lesson? Always open your mailbox! LOL!

As I read this article forwarded by my friend Cathy, I can't help but post this. It's so inspiring. Read on....

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Waiting
by Elisabeth Elliot
Taken from Keep A Quiet Heart


The tests of our willingness to wait patiently for the Lord come almost daily for most of us, I suppose. Probably I am among the Lord's most impatient servants, so the lesson has to be renewed again and again. A tough test came when my daughter's family (of ten) was searching for a house. Southern California is not a place where one would wish to conduct that search. It's a long story, but at last, all other possibilities having been exhausted, a house was found, an offer made. That night word came that two other offers, of unknown amounts, had also been made. Dark pictures filled my mind: the others would surely get the house, the Shepards would be reduced to renting and we'd been told that rentals start at about $2000 per month (imagine an owner willing to rent to a family with eight children!).

"Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord" (Psalm 27:14, NIV).

I lay awake in the wee hours ("when all life's molehills become mountains" as Amy Carmichael said), repeating Scripture about God's faithfulness, trusting, casting all cares, waiting. I had to keep offering up my worries and my impatience. At four I was up reading the story of Abraham and Isaac. Abraham called the place where he had offered up Isaac "The Lord Will Provide." I took that as the Lord's word to me that morning.

Before nine o'clock, my son-in-law Walt called to say "Offer accepted. Other offers, both higher, turned down." No explanation. It was the Lord's doing.

Waiting requires patience--a willingness calmly to accept what we have or have not, where we are or where we wish we were, whomever we live or work with.

To want what we don't have is impatience, for one thing, and it is to mistrust God. Is He not in complete control of all circumstances, events, and conditions? If some are beyond His control, He is not God.

A spirit of resistance cannot wait on God. I believe it is this spirit which is the reason for some of our greatest sufferings. Opposing the workings of the Lord in and through our "problems" only exacerbates them. It is here and now that we must win our victories or suffer defeats. Spiritual victories are won in the quiet acceptance of ordinary events, which are God's "bright servants," standing all around us.

Restlessness and impatience change nothing except our peace and joy. Peace does not dwell in outward things, but in the heart prepared to wait trustfully and quietly on Him who has all things safely in His hands. "Peace I leave with you; I do not give to you as the world gives" (John 14:27, NEB). What sort of peace has He to give us? A peace which was constant in the midst of ceaseless work (with few visible results), frequent interruptions, impatient demands, few physical comforts; a peace which was not destroyed by the arguments, the faithlessness, and hatred of the people. Jesus had perfect confidence in His Father, whose will He had come to accomplish. Nothing touched Him without His Father's permission. Nothing touches me without my Father's permission. Can I not then wait patiently? He will show the way.

If I am willing to be still in my Master's hand, can I not then be still in everything? He's got the whole world in His hands! Never mind whether things come from God Himself or from people-- everything comes by His ordination or permission. If I mean to be obedient and submissive to the Lord because He is my Lord, I must not forget that whatever He allows to happen becomes, for me, His will at that moment. Perhaps it is someone else's sinful action, but if God allows it to affect me, He wills it for my learning. The need to wait is, for me, a form of chastening. God has to calm me down, make me shut up and look to Him for the outcome.

His message to me every day
Is wait, be still, trust, and obey.

And this brings me to the matter of counseling. Upon our return from a trip to England I found a pile of mail, so many letters asking me what to do about things, for example: a wife's critical spirit, unemployment, a wife who has abandoned husband and children, a single mother doing a job she hates, an unfaithful husband, a woman (who tells me she is Spirit-filled) having an affair with her pastor, a farmer who'd like a wife, a mother-in-law who is nasty to her daughter-in-law, a stepson who is angry because "we don't spend enough money on his children," a wife who snaps at her husband each time he tries to snuggle up, and a husband who "drinks like a fish, curses like a sailor, and says he loves God."

I wish I could write the same letter to everybody: Wait patiently for the Lord. He will turn to you and hear your cry. It is amazing how clear things become when we are still before Him, not complaining, not insisting on quick answers, only seeking to hear His word in the stillness, and to see things in His light. Few are willing to receive that sort of reply. "Too simplistic" is the objection. One listener to my radio program, Gateway to Joy, wrote, "I got so upset at what you were saying I ripped the earphones out and aid, 'I'll do what I want to do!'" But there are those who can say, "This is the Lord; we have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation" (Isaiah 25:9, KJV). Here are two testimonies:

"I've lost my mother, my brother, my husband, and my baby. My song is More Love to Thee, O Christ."

"God picked up the scraps and pieces and made us whole--a whole woman, a whole man, a whole marriage."

Friday, October 27, 2006

40 days of God's promise - Day 1

God has written hundreds and hundreds of promises in the Bible. Sometimes, they are for a specific person. Other times, they are for a specific group of people like the Israelites. But God's promises, based on the Living Word, can also be true for every believer. I just wana remember one promise everyday and be inspired by the truth that God is good all the time.

TODAY'S PROMISE: Need I say more? :-) Each one of us is unique and special before God. Therefore, what He plans for me is always different from what He plans for others. And so with you, dear friend. Think about it.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Enjoying the roller coaster ride


The Descent
Originally uploaded by gwENvision.

A wise person is one who at least survives and at most enjoys it. -- anonymous

If I updated my blog yesterday, I would have written a completely different thing. I would probably have started with a question: How do you survive a roller coaster ride? By that of course, I meant the proverbial roller coaster of life.

I am just plain tired. Physically and emotionally. Workload has been crazy. The health of our kids have not been too good. There is no medical facility in this country that can diagnose the strange nosebleeding of our little girl... Blah-blah-blah...blah-blah-blah... I can rant and rant.

But then again, is life really that miserable? How miserable can it get when people you don't even know suddenly calls out of nowhere to say they are praying for you or your family? Or angels disguised as either friends, family or total strangers sending in help of different kinds?

Isn't it just too myopic to see beyond the here and now?

Everything is about points of view, Pastor Ed Lapiz tells our Bible class this morning.

Try looking at another direction and you'll see a different view. A sailing ship may look smaller and smaller to the sight of a man on the wharf. But to those on the other side of the ocean, the ship gets bigger and bigger.

And so also with the challenges in life. You can either fight the tide and be miserable, or flow with it and enjoy every moment. I would rather chose the latter.

Why does God bring you to difficult situations? Surely, it is not to punish you. God is a loving God and He never desires for you to suffer. In fact, it grieves Him to see His children suffer.

But why? Maybe because He knows you are most likely to do something to turn your situation around. Or maybe because He wants to show you once again that He is the God of your lives. He is in control of everything. He is the source of all things. In Him and through Him, all things are possible.

For indeed, how can you see the good things when you don't see the bad? How can you experience His miracle when you still have something to cling on? How can you experience healing when you are not sick? How can you bask in His grace when you don't feel any need? How can you rely on His strength when you are not weak?

As the Wise Man once said, "there is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven..."

Really and truly, this too, will pass. In the meantime, enjoy the ride.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Please pray for Star


.
Praises be to God, from whom all good things come from! Since we started an email brigade for our 7-year-old Star, help has been pouring in from near and far, even from people we don't personally know.

We give thanks and glory to God for them. May they be blessed a thousandfold.

God willing, Star and I will be able to leave for Hongkong end of the month or first week of November at the latest. This week, Star (and her Kuya and Ate) has periodical exams and so I will only be able to bring her to the Department of Foreign Affairs to apply for passport next week. We also decided to have her further blood tests done by next week so she can concentrate on her test and doesn't get disturbed by all the trips to the hospital.

We'd like to ask you to partner with us in prayers.
* for Star's nosebleeding to stop
* for provisions that we can leave for Hongkong by 1st week of November at the latest
* for the doctors to clear her of von Willebrand disease
* for complete healing of whatever causes the nosebleeding
* for strength for Star, that in all these she's experiencing, she will only remember the love of Jesus through people around her and not the pain and inconvenience this nosebleeding brings her
* for us, her parents and siblings, that we will be able to shower her with all support, understanding, love and care

We know God has great plans for Star. She has been our family's prayer warrior since she was very young. She may not completely understand what she's going through right now, but we know when she grows older, she will praise God for what He has done in her life.

Monday, October 16, 2006

As sure as the sun rises


Sicilian sunrise 3.
Originally uploaded by Patrick Lavin.
Faith is being sure of what you hope for and certain of things you do not see. - Hebrews 11:1

Our church has just started a series called "Hall of Faith," a very timely topic indeed. As we go through one trial after another the past months, I've been asking God -- am I true to myself? Why am I so confident amidst all that we're facing? Is my confidence for real?

With all sincerity, I can say yes. God has performed just too many miracles in our lives for me to doubt His faithfulness. I used to live a life apart from Him and what a catastrophe it was! But when I entrusted my life to Him and completely relied in His goodness no matter what the circumstances are, I see His beauty unfold before my very eyes.

Faith doesn't come easy. Sometimes God brings us through a dark valley, says one of my favorite authors Bob Sorge. But it is always THROUGH, not IN. God doesn't leave us in the valley to suffer but brings us through it, to learn.

God has promised us that He will never leave us nor forsake us.1 So we can say with confidence, "The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid."2

Sunday, October 15, 2006

About Star

Few weeks ago, I wrote about my daughter Star's nosebleeding episode. It's been over a month now that she's nosebleeding almost daily, sometimes up to three times a day. At the time I wrote that entry, we were still waiting for the results of her bloodtests. When we finally got the results, the hematologist said there was nothing to worry about. While a bit anemic, her blood seemed to be okey. What a relief!

But our relief, it turned out was shortlived. When the bleeding continued, we decided to seek another opinion. We felt that even though the ENT and the first hematologist both said there was nothing to worry about, daily episodes of bleeding for a month by now is not normal. Star's pediatrician also thought so and so she asked us to see another hematologist -- Dr. Mary Chua, the founder of the Hemophilia Association of the Philippines.


Earlier on, as I mentioned, I already had apprehensions about the nosebleeding. My mother died of profuse bleeding while undergoing operation for mayoma, an otherwise common condition. We were told she had infantile genes that made it difficult to stop her bleeding. She died on the operating table. She was 51 at the time of her death, leaving us all six siblings in our teens and early 20s motherless.

My eldest sister had profuse bleeding during her first childbirth and almost died. My other older sister has very heavy menstrual bleeding since adolescence. Our uncle (my mother's brother) almost died of bleeding while undergoing tonsilectomy. In my father's side, one of my nephews (by my first cousin) has hemophilia. This bleeding problem in our family, I now figured out, could also explain why all my three kids were born prematurely.


All these factors, it turned out, make Star a candidate for von Willebrand disease. While a common kind of blood disorder with about the same prevalence as hemophilia, it occurs to only about 1% to 3% of the population. Most of the time, it is hereditary. Unfortunately, were told, there is no hospital or medical facility yet in the country capable of detecting this. The doctor advised us to bring Star to Hongkong or Singapore so she can be properly diagnosed and given the right intervention.


In our bible study group, I shared with my cellmates what I always tell God when I encounter difficulties. After I pray, I say, "God, it's not my problem anymore. It's Your problem now." Then, I sit back and just wait upon Him.

And truly, when we wait in confidence for Him to work things out for us, we will be amazed by what He does.

I really don't know why we are going through this now. But one thing is for sure, all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to His purpose.

POSTSCRIPT: A-DOLLAR-FOR-STAR
Upon the suggestion of a friend, we started an email brigade for Star, urging help of any form -- foremost for prayers, then referrals, spare dollars, etc. For instance, we learned that Mabuhay Miles can be given away. Or for those who have a spare dollar or, they can probably send it. We are just so overwhelmed with the response. Love, prayers and help have been pouring in since the first hour that I sent the email, even from people we don't personally know. Friends of friends (who got forwarded emails from friends) texted and emailed to ask how they could send help for Star. God is truly amazing! May God bless them a thousandfold.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Tranquility amidst the storm


Tranquillity*
Originally uploaded by imapix.
Ni hao! Life has been so crazy the past two weeks. Too many things seemed to happen at the same time. Good and bad. There was Milenyo's grand albeit unwelcome visit which turned out to be real eye-opener for most of us. Then there was the AIDS convention in Davao City which I got so busy with the past month.


By God's amazing grace, the convention (especially the UN part) went well and I will share some insights another time. I got high with the successful launching of UNICEF's Unite for Children, Unite against AIDS campaign Friday. Hats off to the Davao City AIDS Council for their active involvement in raising public awareness on the HIV and AIDS pandemic. Dr. Nick Alipui, UNICEF's country representative (our boss), who flew in for the convention was pleased and it made everyone in the HIV/AIDS programme team breathe with relief.

I started Saturday on a high note though so tired physically from all the preparations. Middle of the day, my husband texted that one of my friends from GMA7, Dan Campilan, died of car accident. Dan and I covered Edsa II together (he was still with RPN 9 and I was with Inquirer). Later on, as GMA 7 reporter, he would cover Bro. Eddie and so we would have long chats. May this year, I invited him to visit Santa Ana, Cagayan, where the husband of my friend P is mayor. Dan enjoyed the trip so much that he and his crew extended their stay. He said he just loved the place and thanked me no end. But my friend and her husband were more grateful -- Santa Ana got featured in GMA 7 at least four times -- no mean feat for a small town.

I felt sad upon hearing Dan's passing on. He was one of the few reporters who remained grounded despite their perceived "fame." Because we were both Cebuanos, we naturally clicked right away. Moreso when we found out we had common friends and we used to attend the same church.

Dan was the third friend in media who passed on to the next world. September 2004, my daughter's ninong -- Boyet Aravilla (of Philippine Star), succumbed to cardiac arrest. Boyet was such a dear. Two months ago, it was Hazel Recheta. And now Dan. Sad, really sad.

Then another gush came Saturday evening, this time in our home. My husband told me Ben (our son) has Primary Koch's Infection. He has been complaining of backpains so we had him x-rayed. And we are not yet done with our daughter Star's bleeding problem.

Far away from my kids, some of my colleagues tried to comfort me. One said it's alright to tell my kids that I worried about their health. Another told me to go through healing session for the whole family. Thank God for friends and colleagues. How doubly difficult life would be without them!

We've gone through so many storms in life. Ben is one living proof of how we survived a tough one. (Read the Birthing of Ben). I still get worried at times, but only for a moment. So many times I have said how I've seen God's faithfulness up close and personal. If God made Ben survive cardiac arrest and woke him up from coma, then there's no reason why He can't heal Ben from his infection or Star from her nosebleeding.

I believe the literal storm in Milenyo, and the proverbial storms of different forms, carry messages from Above. They hit us where we are most vulnerable. And so, it opens our eyes to our weaknesses. When we realize that (what our weaknesses are), then we are able to decide -- to do or not to do?

Storms are difficult. We get shaken. But only when we get shaken do we really get to appreciate God's role in our lives. As God said, "My power is made perfect in weakness."1 It may sound weird to some, but truly now, I learned to thank God when I go through difficulties. Because as always, after the storm is the rainbow -- the promise of a new beginnning.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Star for all seasons

"Be still, and know that I am God..."1

I've been pondering on this verse for an article I needed to work on. But my thoughts are far, far away. Be still and know that He is God! Hello, me!

Indeed, He is God! He is in control of everything. He has always been. I've seen over and over again His faithfulness. One million times and one. Gazillion times, if you will. Why then, am I bothered?

You see, our dear little Star (the cute little girl in the photo) has been nose bleeding the past two weeks almost daily. Three times last Friday. Thank God, it has stopped the past two days. No more bleeding yesterday and today. (And thanks to all our family members and friends who've prayed for Star.)

I wasn't bothered by the nose bleeding the first week. We had grown used to it, Star especially. She has had episodes ever since she was a baby, usually when she has colds or when the temperature suddenly changes. Some of the episodes happen in school. Because she sort of "grew up" with it, she knows very well now how to handle it. She knows she has to bow her head (and not tilt it) and just pinch her nose/nostrils for a few minutes.2 After a while, it's gone.

Sometimes, Star no longer tells us when it happens. But the other week, on the third day that she had it in a row, she finally told me. "It's now the third day, mom," she calmly tells me. She probably realized it was no longer "normal" like her previous episodes.

I called up our family doctor. She advised us to bring Star to a hematologist just to be sure. Have her blood checked, she said. This doctor-friend has been Star's doctor since birth and she knows that our "baby" had anemia. She recommended a specialist at a Manila hospital but I don't like that hospital so I texted my friend Cathy instead, and asked for a referral. Cathy used to edit a medical magazine so I surmised she must know a hematogist. (Thank God for friends like her who knows the experts!) Turned out, Cathy's daughter P also has a similar thing. She adviced me to see P's ENT first. And so off to the ENT we go. It was a relief when the doctor said it was nothing. The culprit could just be some allergins. He gave Star Claritin, to be taken for a week.

When the bleeding didn't stop after the Claritin medication, we finally decided to bring Star to a hematologist. The hema recommended a blood test that included PT and PTT, whatever those are. Star was reluctant to go to the laboratory, knowing too well what it meant. Among our three kids, she's the "suki" of St. Lukes and the Children's Medical Center. Up until she was five, Star would be confined at least three times a year mostly for lung problems.

As we were waiting for her turn, she goes, "Mom, I'll just think happy thoughts so I won't be scared." Yeah, that's a very good idea, I said. This girl is really so cool. Her words of wisdom amazes me no end. When everybody else ran out of things to say, she would always go, "I know, I know" and blurt out words that mostly make us laugh.

When her turn came, she dutifully sat at the extraction chair. She wanted to sit on me like she used to when she was younger and smaller (and so was I.) But now that she's grown, we couldn't fit into the chair anymore. I sat a few feet away instead, watching her closely. Star was so quiet and would smile back at the medtech everytime she smiled at her. Then on the third round of extraction, tears started to flow from her eyes. I knew then she was already in pain, but she was so composed. Oh my baby, she's really still a baby.

While we were visiting the hematologist earlier that day, she asked me Star's history. Like her kuya and ate, Star was born prematurely.... she had anemia... was in and out of hospital mostly because of weak lungs (like most pre-term babies)... had her first nose bleeding episode when she was less than a month old...I went on and on...

When it came to family history, I enumerated all that normal families have -- asthma, highblood, heart problem, diabetes...Suddenly, it struck me. My mama died of bleeding. Yes, in fact, she died on the operating table. Her brother almost died of bleeding too while being operated on...Oh uh...

Having that realization and seeing Star's blood test results later jolted me. She has low platelet count, low hemoglobin or hematocrit (I'm not so sure anymore) and low in others I can't exactly remember now. Friday, she had three nose bleeding episodes.

I felt a tinge in my heart...Oh our baby, how can this be happening to her?

I learned that she woke up at 4:15am Friday. "I thought it was just my sipon so I went to the bathroom. But it was sticky and then I saw it was blood," she would tell me while dressing up for school that day. My husband was awaken by the rush of water at the bathroom and suspected that Star was nose bleeding again. And indeed, when he checked out, blood was still coming out of her nose. She had another episode two hours later and then another one late afternoon.

I felt so sad for my daugther. At such a young age, she has to go through this. But more than feeling sad for her, I realized I was beginning to be shaken. Sometimes, it's easier to deal with other "big" problems than problems of health especially of those those close to us. When it comes to our kids' health, I easily freak out.

I have yet to go back to Star's hematologist for the interpretation of the results. But God has gently reminded me in my quite time and as I read His words that He is always in control. Nothing is impossible with Him. No sickness too grave for Him to heal. We just need to ask Him. Whatever we are facing, whatever we are going through, we can always "command" Him to do it for us.

I like how L.B. Cowman said it, "What a distinction there is between this attitude (of knowing that we can 'command' God) and the hesitancy and uncertainty of our prayers of unbelief, to which we become so accustomed! The constant repetition of our prayers has also caused them to lose their sharp cutting edge."

Like Star, I can "think happy thoughts" knowing that I can always ask God even for what may seemingly be impossible. Yes, I will be still and know He is God.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Losing a baby


For HORIZON
Originally uploaded by gwilmore.

I lost a baby. Not a physical one though, thank God! But a project I've nurtured since last year.

We conceived this "baby" last year amidst the growing political unrest that wrought a great divide to this nation. Growing up in a political family, I've always have a heart for the betterment of our beloved Philippines. I never stopped believing in the greatness of the Filipinos. Given opportunities, like many, I try to inject social relevance in whatever I do, even in my "commercial" endeavors.

So when we were given the opportunity to re-launch a product last year, we pitched for a never-been-done kind -- one that would bring communities together bayanihan style. Not saying, of course, that we are God's gift to humanity. It is more about making Filipinos appreciate the good values we have. (I say in the present tense because it is an on-going thing.)

Thank God for all the favors, He opened doors for us to make the project so successful in many ways.

But I understand the realities the client has to face -- business has not been so good this part of the planet. Some sacfices have to be made.

I was part of the big team that conceptualized the whole thing -- from the name to the participants to how the campaign would be done. Only for that, I felt sad. It's like being deprived of nurturing one's baby into maturity.

But in a way, I'm also relieved. Waiting can sometimes be hard. (Although at times, I welcome it.) Because of this "baby," I couldn't commit to doing other long-term things in anticipation of the responsibilities that come along with it. It's like when you're infanticipating. You can't conceive another baby when you are already pregnant.

Having finally been told that I will no longer be part of the project ended whatever expectations I had. I harbor no ill-feelings at all for the client. They are so nice. And I will surely miss them.

Thank God, I've learned by heart that truly all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to His purpose. I don't look at projects just for the rewards. Naturally, if it is for a commercial purpose, I have to make a living. But money is not the ultimate. Rather, I look more on the purpose why God has placed me in it. I try to do the best I can, more for the testimony rather than the gratification. (I still haven't perfected it, but I'm trying my very best.)

While doing the project last year, I had the opportunity to pray for some mayors I met and encourage them in their God-given positions. Some are my good friends now.

I praise God that while doing the project, I got encouraged myself. I've seen how the bayanihan spirit is still much alive in Filipinos. Communities came together if only to beat others in the "game." Even political foes set aside their differences for the sake of making their town or city the best.

There is still so much hope for this nation. Despite all the bickerings, so many public servants still live up to their calling -- to serve their constituents, and not lord over them.

But there is always an end to everything. I know my partners fought tooth and nail for me, so to speak. But at the end of the day, it's always the client who decides.

I'm sure God has greater plans for me. He closes doors. Then He opens the ceiling. Now that the waiting game's over for the old "baby", another waiting has began. I'm excited as I anticipate for the the new "baby" God has in store for me.

In the meantime, life goes on...

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Learning from a child



Originally uploaded by nascity.

Faith is believing what we do not see, and the reward for this kind of faith is to see what we believe. Saint Augustine

My husband and I were crossing a curved street with our 7-year-old daughter when suddenly a tricycle came rushing so fast in our direction. I signalled to the driver to slow down but he didn't seem to care a bit. I can feel blood rising in me as fast as the gush of wind of the passing tricycle. Grrrrrrr!

As we safely reached the other side, my husband and I stopped to gather back our senses. I can't believe how some drivers can be so rude! And to think he saw we had a little girl with us. Sensing our annoyance, my daughter looked at me. "Why, mom?" she asked, oblivious to what just happened.

She was so secured as her dad and I held each of her tiny hand that she didn't feel threatened at all. Oh, if we can only be like little children! Nothing at all will move us, not even the gushing storms in our lives.

After I resigned from my full-time job a few years ago, I learned so many lessons in life as I spend more time with our children. It moves me so much how they love and trust us, their parents, no matter what. Their faith and humility amazes me. Indeed, I came to understand deeper what the Lord Jesus meant when He said we cannot enter the kingdom of heaven unless we change and become like little children.1

I have learned not to ask the Lord to increase my faith. I ask Him instead to make me feel more and more of HIS presence in my life. To draw me closer and closer to Him that I may be like a little child always dependent on her parents. I pray to the Lord that He always hold me in His Hands and never let me go. Only then, when I am completely dependent on Him will I have real faith.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Survival of the fittest?


Andes Mountains
Originally uploaded by So Cal Metro.
I was so disturbed by an article I read in Reader's Digest (September Issue) yesterday. It's about the 1972 plane crash in the Andes Mountains where 32 people survived, including Uruguay's top rugby team.

For the first time, one survivor came out in the open to give a testimony on their harrowing 72 days at the unfriendly terrains of the Andes. It was a shocking revelation of how they survived, but that's going ahead of the story.

The article, written as told by Nando Parrado, talked about courage, teamwork and determination to survive against all odds, no matter what it takes. (Read here)

Indeed, it is truly amazing how one can survive at 12,000 feet on a snow-packed glacier with no help in sight for over two months.

What will you do when your food supply ran out and you know that help is no longer coming? When you are left with nothing but dead bodies and your determination to live? This was the grim reality the group had to face weeks after rescuers failed to find them.

I admit I was shocked as I was reading the story. Seeing it in a movie is one thing. But reading the account of a survivor admitting that they actually agreed to eat frozen flesh of their fellow passengers is something else.

But I'm not making any judgements on whether or not it was ethical. It's an issue between them and God.

The initial shock though made me realize how we sort of "eat" other people's "flesh" in order to save ourselves when we feel pushed beyond our limits. How different are we from the plane survivors? Indeed, it is easier to think of ourselves first when situations get out of hand.

The good news though is that we have a choice. We can choose to "eat other people's flesh" or rely on God to save us.

We have a mighty God who is in control of everything. No matter how difficult the situation may be -- whether we face mountains as gigantic as the Everest or we are seemingly surrounded by killer whales in the deep blue sea -- we can be assured that if we put our trust in Him, we will emerge victorious.

God works for the good of those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose.1 This is one of my favorite verses which always lifts me up when I'm faced with difficult situations.

Indeed, we are more than conquerors. Things may always not turn out the way we want it, but we can be assured that in the end, God will turn the situation around for good.

It's amazing how God works when we learn to let go of our own abilities and just let Him be God.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Endless sufferings...a letter to a friend


Lone Fisherman
Originally uploaded by indigo2brown.
Few days ago, I got an email from a friend asking for prayers for her and her beleaguered husband, a mayor of a town up north. The couple has been through a lot. They used to live quite a comfortable life in Manila until the hubby accepted his town's call of duty and gave up an otherwise well-paying and stable job. The wife, my friend P, supported her husband's decision. In contrast to many mayors I know, the couple live a very simple lifestyle and I truly admired them for that.

In a country where corruption of many kinds is so entrenched, people who remain humble despite their high positions are truly gems. I can see that my friend's husband is driven by nothing but his earnest desire to serve their town. He had a choice to earn more in Manila and give a better life to his family. (Considering they have eight kids!) Yet, he chose to serve his town. Earlier this year, I've helped the couple promote their town. Gratis et amore, for the love of God and country. Truly, when you see the place, you can only praise God and His magnificient work! It's a paradise waiting to be discovered.

I am not the kind who shares personal letters but my friend P distributed my letter to "kingdom come" so I might as well share it with the rest of the world. I pray that whoever reads this will also be encouraged.

For as long as we are in this world, sufferings can always be expected. But may we be encouraged with the examples set by those ahead of us and rest assured that we have a great God who loves us dearly.

Dear Mayora,

I just wana share this with you. (Reflections) I wrote this a long time ago when I was going through a lot. I know how you are suffering because of what others are doing to you and Mayor V. But may you always remember that God works for the good of those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose. Mahal ka ng Dyos, day. (God loves you, sister.) He doesn't give us anything we can't bear. It's hard, I know. But think about the great men in the Bible -- Joseph the dreamer, Job, David and of course, Jesus, among many others.

Joseph was sold by his own brothers because they envied him. But later on, Joseph rose to become the "side-kick" of Egypt's Pharaoh. Because of his position, God used him to save Israel from famine. Joseph told his brothers later, "you meant it for evil but God meant it for good."

Think about Job. He loved God with all of his heart. In the whole of Israel, there was none like Job. Yet, God allowed all bad things to happen to him and was able to test the heart of Job. No matter what happened to him, Job loved God. But Job did question God. Hindi naman bawal to question God. But we should not keep our eyes off Him, who created everything. In the end, God blessed Job more. Job became more richer and more influential. But all because he endured the test.

David is my favorite man of God. He fell into sin many times. Yet, he always wanted to please God and truly repented everytime he sinned. God tested David many times and even punished David for his sins. But in the end, God saw that David loved Him. God even called David "a man after My own heart." David's reward is ever lasting. Jesus' humanity (Mama Mary) came from the house of David. Wagi ang Lolo David, our Savior came from his descendants. All because David loved and trusted God.

Jesus is the Son of God. He could have done whatever He wished because He is God. Yet, He suffered every human pain possible to set an example for us.

I always pray for you and Mayor V. You are in a position to change the lives of your kababayans for good. God placed you there for a reason. May God's strength and wisdom be upon you and Mayor V always.

Ayan, seryoso din naman ang lolah mo minsan. Basta always remember, favorite ka ni God that's why He's giving you trials. Kaya mo yan. Just keep your eyes on Him.


your beautiful friend (wag ka nang kumuntra ),

Andrea

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Remembering 9/11


Ground Zero 4
Originally uploaded by Abode of Chaos.

"...deliver them who through fear of death were all their lives subject to bondage" Hebrews 2:15

I spent my whole afternoon in Davao airport yesterday. Flew there early morning for a meeting. The meeting ended early but my return flight was not until 6:45pm. So I tried to rebook for an earlier schedule. But because my ticket was bought on a discounted rate, I had to pay additional charges of over a thousand. I opted to stay and wait for my original schedule.

It was a welcome wait though. I've learned waiting could also be good, literally and figuratively. It gives me time to just slow down and silently talk to God.

Yesterday was 5th anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy. I still remember the live coverage on TV. It was like seeing an action movie. Only, the reporter was frantically mumbling her report on the verge of tears.

What happened to the World Trade Center was just unthinkable. Who would have ever imagined such attacks could happen to America? Suddenly, the superpower, the giant, became so vulnerable and weak in the face of the world.

It made me think about our own vulnerabilities. Sometimes we feel so strong, so in control...

But think about taking plane rides. We are all just passengers, far from being in control of our fates. Surely, those passengers of the ill-fated planes maneuvered by terrorists never imagined they would end-up in another destination -- eternity, that is.

I used to be so afraid of taking plane rides, or more aptly, dying in a plane crash. Close family friends died in plane crashes. Early on in my career as reporter, I've covered two or three plane crashes. I've interviewed families of victims and not one of them were prepared for the suddenness of the deaths of their loved ones, not even the victims themselves.

But God does find ways of reassuring us that we can truly rest in Him. And what better way He takes away our fears than making us conquer the very things we fear, death included. One day when I was still a reporter, I had to take a 4-seater Cesna plane with my photographer partner so we could take a closer view of a controversial island I was to write about. And I thought taking an Asian Spirit plane earlier that week was already the worse thing I had to face!

Our newspaper sent us to the Visayas to write on a brewing controversy that time. To my consternation, I found out that we could not cross to the island by boat because the waves were just too big. We had no other recourse but take a small plane. (Only a few days earlier, the governor of Palawan died of crash and you guessed it right, he was on a Cesna plane.)

There was no way I would back out from an assignment. Not when I was already so close to the story. But all through out the ride, I was silently praying, wrestling with God like Jacob. I was telling Him, "God, surely You have great plans for me. You will not let me perish in this small plane." Then I remembered how Abraham negotiated with God to spare Lot and his family from the imminent punishment of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Abraham's conversations with God kept on ringing in my mind. "If you find 100 righteous people in Sodom and Gomorrah, will you spare it?"1 Abraham asks God. And God assured Abraham, "If only for those 100 people, I will not destroy Sodom and Gomorrah." Then the number went smaller and smaller until it reached just 10.

It makes me laugh everytime I remember my own conversations with God that time. I know I wasn't righteous, I still am not. But I know God loves me and I am special to Him. So I claimed His promise in Jeremiah 29:11, "For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future."2

Surely, God has great plans for me. I just know that the moment I read that passage. I have claimed it ever since. That's the best thing about being a child of God. My Father is rich beyond imagination, and so is my inheritance.

After a few shots and circles around the island, we headed on to Manila. It was the longest one-hour in my life. The ride was bumpy because small planes can't go up too high. I found out that winds are stronger on the lower altitude. But the moment I set my foot on Manila's domestic terminal, I was forever changed.

I became so sure that when it is not yet your time, no matter what happens, God will spare you.

It's good to be vulnerable to some extent. God makes us realize our vulnerabilities so that we will always depend on Him, the Pilot of our lives.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Tribute to Teachers


Teacher
Originally uploaded by Obi-Akpere, ObiAkpere.
A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops. Henry Adams


Last Saturday, over 15,000 teachers (or more) from all over the country converged at Araneta Coliseum in what may be the biggest ever gathering of teachers. Inspirational speakers -- world renown Denis Waitley, Francis Kong, Butch Jimenez, Sandy Prieto and Roselle Ambubuyog took turns in paying tribute to the faceless, nameless unsung heroes of this country -- our teachers.

There are no great men and women in this world without great teachers, says Francis. Denis, on the other hand, encourages teachers to "plant seeds of greatness."

He shares the story of this little girl who was banished in a dungeon, believed by doctors to be a hopeless case. Everybody gave up on her. Except for one nurse, who day by day, showed the girl that she cared. Until one day, the girl became well enough to go back to school. Years later, the girl who everyone thought was hopeless, became the mentor of another seemingly hopeless girl -- Helen Keller -- who's life touched millions across the globe. Helen's advocacy for the blind changed the fate of the visually-challenged of this world. But if not for the seed that that unnamed nurse planted in Anne Sullivan, the world would not have known a Helen Keller. What a wonderful reminder!

Sandy Prieto-Romualdez, president of the country's most-read newspaper, paid tribute to three of her teachers including one "tormentor mentor" (I like that!), who pushed her to give her best. While she was a so-so student, Sandy can now be considered one of the most influential women in this country -- thanks to her teachers who challenged her to excel.

But the most heartwarming of all in that afternoon's event was the testimony of Roselle Ambubuyog, the first blind summa cum laude graduate of Ateneo. Roselle's success, like Anne Sullivan's or Helen Keller's, is one very inspiring proof why we -- teacher or not -- must never give up hope.

Kudos to Bato Balani Foundation for the noble advocacy of paying tribute to teachers. And congratulations to Ardy & Tingting Roberto and the rest of the Salt & Light Ventures team for never stopping to inspire us.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

In my Father's arms


In daddy's arms
Originally uploaded by laura.bullock.
This is the day that the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it! Today (Sept. 10) is my 30 somethingth birthday. What can I say? I am overwhelmed. I am at a loss for words. My gratefulness to the Lord is just beyond description.

All these years, I feel like a baby always in my Father's arms. I love to tell people I am my Father's favorite daughter. Truly, I love to boast what the Lord has done in my life. I am a sinner, yet like a baby everytime she falls, my Father patiently holds my hand and brings me back to my feet again. Patiently, lovingly, He holds my hand.

How amazing is the Father's love for each one of us...Let me share this song that has touched me so much.

Amazing Love
by Hillsong

I’m forgiven, because you were forsaken
I’m accepted, you were condemned
I’m alive and well, you’re spirit is within me
Because you died and rose again
I’m forgiven, because you were forsaken
I’m accepted, you were
condemned
I’m alive and well,
you’re spirit is within me
Because you died and rose again
Amazing love, how can it be that you my king would die for me
Amazing love, I know it’s true
It’s my joy to honor you
Amazing love, how can it be
that you My king would die
for me
Amazing love, I know it’s true
It’s my joy to honor you
In all i do i honor you
I’m forgiven, because you were forsaken
I’m accepted, you were
condemned
I’m alive and well, you’re spirit is within me
Because you died and rose again

Friday, September 08, 2006

My destiny

In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will...Ephesians 1:11


What on earth am I here for?

Long before Rick Warren came out with the book that "disturbed" so many lives, that question had been ringing in my mind. By nature, people are so selfish. Egocentric. We always think about three persons important to us -- I, me and myself.

But how ironic that the more we think about ourselves, the more we are not contented. So many rich and successful people lived their lives miserably because they didn't care about others!

God has predestined each one of us according to His plans. Even before we were born, He already know exactly what will happen to us. All the blunders included. Yet, He gives us the liberty to do what we want in our lives. But when we cry out to Him, He is also merciful to take us out of the quagmire we ourselves have chosen to fall into.

About two years before I "moved on" from my previous job, that question on the meaning of life so bothered me. To be a reporter of the biggest newspaper in the country had always been my dream. Yet, at the height of my journalism career, here I was feeling so bad about how I felt. Confusing?

Let me explain. Influence can be intoxicating. This I realized when my stories started to affect the lives of others. How easy indeed it is to feel proud when you are in a position to influence others. Not that I was that influential. I was not even close to the feat of the journalists I admired.

Yet, I felt that pride had crept in my heart. God was no longer my priority. More so my family. It struck me how easy it was for me to leave my sick baby in the hospital because I had to cover a story that would surely put my name in the front page. If I couldn't even care for the children who came out of my womb, how much more for a God who I couldn't see? (to be continued)

Monday, September 04, 2006

Amazing Grace


( OH ) Zone
Originally uploaded by | HD |.

Words by John Newton 1779

Amazing Grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found
Was blind, but now I see.

'Twas Grace that taught my heart to fear,
And Grace my fears relieved.
How precious did that Grace appear
The hour I first believed.

Through many dangers, toils, and snares
I have already come.
'Tis Grace hath brought me safe thus far
And Grace will lead me home.

The Lord has promised good to me.
His Word my hope secures.
He will my shield and portion be
As long as life endures.



How I love this song. Amazing indeed is the grace the Lord gives to His children. We do not deserve anything good from Him. Yet He does not withhold blessings from us.

I never stopped getting amazed by how the Lord moves especially at times when everything just gets crazy. The past week had been a very busy one for me (and the days to come). It's the kind that you'll only survive by God's amazing grace. But truly God works in mysterious ways. He grants favors you never imagined if you just entrust everything to Him.

PRAISE REPORT:

Glory and thanks be to God who answers prayers of His people. My friend, Kaka, who was confined for a heart ailment was released from the hospital last Monday. Thank you for all your prayers. By Wednesday, he was back to work, leading us in planning for the formal launch of the P.E.A.C.E. Plan in the country. I will be sharing it with you soon. We are all excited to see how God will move in rebuilding our nation through His people. As Rick Warren says, the Christian organization is the single biggest organization in the world and by mobilizing Christians to help others, there is no doubt we will soon see a transformed world.

Praises be to God for the safe operation of my friend Cathy. God miraculously saved her from complications of an ectopic pregnancy. I am so amazed how God has been moving in Cathy's life. Indeed she is another testimony of God's amazing grace.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Kindness


Butterfly Crazy #9
Originally uploaded by BennyPost.
I got this in my mailbox today. It's so touching. Read on...

Twenty years ago, I drove a cab for a living.

When I arrived at 2:30 a.m. to pick up a passenger, the building was dark except for a single light in a ground floor window. Under these circumstances, many drivers would just honk once or twice, wait a minute, then drive away.

But, I had seen too many impoverished people who depended on taxis as their only means of transportation. Unless a situation smelled of danger, I always went to the door. This passenger might be someone who needs my assistance, I reasoned to myself.

So I walked to the door and knocked. "Just a minute", answered a frail, elderly voice. I could hear something being dragged across the floor.

After a long pause, the door opened. A small woman in her 80's stood before me. She was wearing a print dress and a pillbox hat with a veil pinned on it, like somebody out of a 1940s movie.

By her side was a small nylon suitcase. The apartment looked as if no one had lived in it for years. All the furniture was covered with sheets. There were no clocks on the walls, no knickknacks or utensils on the counters. In the corner was a cardboard box filled with photos and glassware.

"Would you carry my bag out to the car?" she said. I took the suitcase to the cab, then returned to assist the woman.

She took my arm and we walked slowly toward the curb. She kept thanking me for my kindness.

"It's nothing", I told her. "I just try to treat my passengers the way I would want my mother treated."

"Oh, you're such a good boy", she said.

When we got in the cab, she gave me an address, then asked, "Could you drive through downtown?"

"It's not the shortest way," I answered quickly.

"Oh, I don't mind," she said. "I'm in no hurry. I'm on my way to a hospice".

I looked in the rear-view mirror. Her eyes were glistening.

"I don't have any family left," she continued. "The doctor says I don't have very long."

I quietly reached over and shut off the meter. "What route would you like me to take?" I asked.

For the next two hours, we drove through the city. She showed me the building where she had once worked as an elevator operator.

We drove through the neighborhood where she and her husband had lived when they were newlyweds. She had me pull up in front of a furniture warehouse that had once been a ballroom where she had gone dancing as a girl.

Sometimes she'd ask me to slow in front of a particular building or corner and would sit staring into the darkness, saying nothing.

As the first hint of sun was creasing the horizon, she suddenly said, "I'm tired Let's go now."

We drove in silence to the address she had given me. It was a low building, like a small convalescent home, with a driveway that passed under a portico. Two orderlies came out to the cab as soon as we pulled up. They were solicitous and intent, watching her every move. They must have been expecting her.

I opened the trunk and took the small suitcase to the door..

The woman was already seated in a wheelchair.

"How much do I owe you?" she asked, reaching into her purse.

"Nothing," I said.

"You have to make a living," she answered.

"There are other passengers," I responded.

Almost without thinking, I bent and gave her a hug. She held onto me
tightly.

"You gave an old woman a little moment of joy," she said. "Thank you."

I squeezed her hand, then walked into the dim morning light. Behind me, a door shut. It was the sound of the closing of a life.

I didn't pick up any more passengers that shift. I drove aimlessly lost in thought. For the rest of that day, I could hardly talk.

What if that woman had gotten an angry driver, or one who was impatient to end his shift? What if I had refused to take the run, or had honked once, then driven away? On a quick review, I don't think that I have done anything more important in my life.

We're conditioned to think that our lives revolve around great moments. But great moments often catch us unaware-beautifully wrapped in what others may consider a small one.

PEOPLE MAY NOT REMEMBER EXACTLY WHAT 'YOU DID, OR WHAT YOU SAID, BUT THEY WILL ALWAYS REMEMBER HOW YOU MADE THEM FEEL!

You won't get any big surprise in 10 days if you don't send this to ten people.

But, you might help make the world a little kinder and more compassionate by sending it on.

Thank you, my friend.....

POSTSCRIPT FROM ME: About two weeks ago, a former colleague and dear sister in the LORD died in a freak accident. Hazel Recheta, news reporter of TV station ABC 5 and her crew just came from a coverage in Mt. Mayon. Days before the accident, I bumped into Hazel who covered the visit of popular author Rick Warren. I was part of the organizing team that brought Rick in the Philippines.

When I was still a reporter of the Inquirer, I always bumped into Hazel in news coverages. She was a very warm and amiable person and through time, we got quite close, moreso, since we found out we were attending the same church.

My last encounter with her was quite brief but we promised each other we would have coffee very soon. I promised to give her The Purpose Driven Life. "I need that," she would tell me. I knew then that she was desiring to have a deeper walk with the Lord.

But pressures at work and home got in the way. Finally, I was set to see her by Monday. Sadly, it was not meant to be. Sunday afternoon, I got a text from my former boss that Hazel perished along with her two crew members on their way back to Manila.

Learning of Hazel's death brought so much agony to me. Regrets, regrets. I couldn't even get myself to visit her wake. Why did I not see at once? She even called me that same afternoon we met reminding me about the book. Now, how can I show an act of kindness to a dear friend?

I am just comforted by the fact that Hazel is now with our Creator, her one true Friend who will never disappoint her. Hazel's death has taught me a very hard lesson.

Proud to be a blogging chick or chicken? whatever... LOL



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Friday, August 25, 2006

Please pray for a friend


The Road Less Traveled
Originally uploaded by BooBear.



"The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, shining ever brighter till the full light of day..."
Proverbs 4:18


God has been moving in truly amazing ways in my life the past two years. I've probably never faced too many challenges in my life than in these past two years. Yet, it is also during these times that I've come to a deeper understanding of God and His plans for my life.

Amidst my brokenness, God showed me His grace and mercies. I will share some of them in the future but one of the greatest blessings I truly treasure is working with great men and women of God. People whose lives speak so strongly of the Gospel because you can truly see Jesus in them. One such particular person I'm working with now is Kaka Constantino, whose 180 degree turn-around is a testament to how God can change hearts of stone. Truly nothing is impossible with God.

You see, Kaka is no ordinary convert. A former communist leader, he was involved in the "purging" of the Communist Party of the Philippines in the '80s. Hundreds, if not thousands, died in that so-called cleansing process. Kaka is such an idealist. He always have been. That is probably why he was easily convinced to join the underground movement. But God has other plans for him, greater plans to use him in our country. His story came out in the Inquirer not too long ago so I will no longer write about it.

Now an elder at the Greenhills Christian Fellowship-South Metro, Kaka has been asked to head the local initiatives of the PEACE Plan, a global movement started by another great man of God, Rick Warren. Only the other day, Kaka confided that he is inclined to accept the challenge on a full-time basis. That would mean leaving his job as COO of an engineering company. Whew! Great leap of faith, indeed.

But when God assigns great tasks to people, you can always expect the enemy to lurk nearby. Last night, Kaka was rushed to the hospital for a heart condition. Doctors also found fluids in his lungs. I'd like to ask each one to pray for Kaka's fast recovery. Also pray for God's divine comfort and encouragement upon him. Pray, too, that God will bless the PEACE Plan and use it in transforming this nation into a great nation of God. And please don't forget to tell others to pray for Kaka, too.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

New beginning


olam haba
Originally uploaded by nice+smooth ultramedia.


"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come." - 2Corinthians 5:17


"Mom, I know God now!" My daughter excitedly announced over dinner last night. Really? Tell me, I said. She starts, "God the father is beyond the galaxy. He holds the galaxies in His hand. He is bigger than the universe. He's so so far away. Jesus is His Son. The one who is in our heart is the Holy Spirit."

That's cool! Now you're getting it, baby, I encouraged her. But deep inside, I felt encouraged too. As parents, our children should be our first ministry. It's our foremost responsibility to bring them closer to God. They may not completely comprehend everything, but we just have to trust God that He will let that little seed planted in our children's hearts to grow.

My daughter's reply though left me thinking. Indeed, at some points in our lives we may feel that God is so so far away. Like He's beyond the universe, comfortably "sitting" in His thrown, unmindful of what is happening in our lives.

Isaiah 59:1-2 says, "Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save, nor His ear too dull to hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear."

Truth is, our separation from Him is a "moral separation," as what theologians call it. We are separated from Him because of our sins. To paraphrase the words of Pastor Steve Murell -- God is holy, but we are not. Good is good, we are not. God is just, we are not. For all of us have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).

God is holy, righteous, and just. God's justice demands a sacrifice for all of our sins. But God is also a loving and compassionate God. He did not want us to be eternally separated from Him. He did not want us to go to hell. So His solution was to send His Son, Jesus, to bear our sins. Jesus became our "substitute." Jesus paid the penalty for our sin.

If we receive Jesus as the Lord and Saviour of our lives, then we are saved. You may ask, is it that simple? Yes. It is that simple. The Bible says, we are saved by grace through faith -- not from ourselves, it is a gift of God -- not by our works so that no one of us can boast.

Just for your thoughts:
* Have you stopped trusting in yourself and started trusting in
Christ alone for salvation?
* Have you turned away from all known sin?
* Have you confessed Jesus as the Lord and master of your life?
* Are you willing to follow and obey Him for the rest of your life?

Jesus is just a prayer away. Talk to Him now like you talk to a friend. He is our friend who is always there for us. He is not so so far away.