Sunday, 31 March 2013

Holy Week in the Philippines

Sunday. Easter Sunday as Christians of every denomination call it. For some it indicates the end of the long weekend allocated for the said "holiday". But for those in the faith, it meant more than that.

While I have experienced Easter weekend back in the UK, I find it very dull and ordinary. People would be grabbing the chance to take a break from the hustle and bustle of work and will just be chilling at home or at a pub, the children hoping to get lots of eggs (chocolate ones) from their parents and looking forward to eating a hearty lunch perhaps with the whole family, but still there's something missing in there. Why do we celebrate it?

I grew up as a devout/religious daughter who has been asked to keep the tradition yearly by our parents. I remember when I was little, as soon as Maundy Thursday comes we are not allowed to play outside with our neighbors. Good Friday meant no more loud music, no noise of any kind. Why? Because they say "God is dead". For little kids like me and my sisters, that just meant no fun for the whole weekend until the time they say "God is alive" again. Our favorite cartoon programs won't be on TV for 3 days which bums you a lot. Everyone is called to do some 'reflection' and/or penitence. In other words to a child it meant looking sad and feeling sorry for your sins. And that goes on every holy week, year in, year out.

As the Western countries find 3 days off (or sometimes four - Easter Monday slash bank holiday) to be at home or on vacation and take time off from work neglecting the real essence of why we commemorate this time of the year, my countrymen go back to traditions. From simple ones like visiting different churches, attending mass and not eating pork every Friday to the extremes like actually re-enacting the passion and death of Christ that which include slashing your back with thorny whips, carrying a cross where you will also be nailed on for a good few minutes or so, which I totally find morbid and at the same time an outrageous insanity, these are what I grew up on. I thought they were what I need and why I am a Christian.

When I came to know Christ, my view of this season changed. Being able to understand that Jesus did it all for us meant I don't have to do anything else to receive forgiveness of my sins. He died to finish it all off. All He is asking us is to put our trust in Him, have faith in Him. No more sacrifices, no more penitence which indicates no amount of good work can top off what He has done. As in the words of our Lord, "It is finished."

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! - Romans 5:6-10

And that also made me realize that what's done is done. No more repetitions. I cannot out-do him or prove I can also do what He's done 2000 years ago. What I can do is say 'Thank you Lord!'. 

To understand holy week is to first know Christ and what He's done on those gruesome days that ended on Calvary after which He overcame death. And second is to trust Him that He is the only way, the truth and the life. No one can come to the Father except through Him. Not through religious acts nor through anybody's name but Him. And last but definitely not the least, why did Jesus do it? Because He love us.

1 John 4:10 - This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.
May we all understand and experience the true meaning of what holy week is, not by what religion dictates to us but by what God's word tells us. Have a good week everyone!

Friday, 26 October 2012

Series of Fortunate Events part 1

I did promise (to myself at least) to write about what happened while I was in the 'land down under' for two weeks in August but... alas! After that short but sweet stay, real life has taken over and I never got to do it. And probably because I'm procrastinating it slash making excuses of postponing and then telling myself 'yes, I'll write... yes, I'll write... soon'. Well, you get the picture. Soooo.... Here I am. Trying to turn back time (doing my best to remember every bit of detail to say the least) and go back two months ago where it all began.

Play flash back tune please.

Saturday, 4th August 2012
I went to work the previous day but I wasn't feeling well and ended up having a very high fever that night to which I couldn't even manage to get up and eat. Saturday morning, everyone was texting me, 'Kat have a safe trip' or 'Take care Kat! Enjoy your flight' but I couldn't manage to reply though it was really heart-warming to read. Hubby was telling me not to go and call the office that I'm not fit to leave the country on my own. I don't want to disappoint my boss and have the flight postponed just because I'm sick. I kept praying for healing in Jesus' name and have asked people to include me in their prayers as well because I feel really, really ill. I've never been this bad with fever and all. I had to double dose my paracetamol. I was clammy and felt dizzy. But anyways, I still went to the airport accompanied by my parents and loving husband. I have not traveled alone internationally (I have always traveled with someone else) nor when I'm unwell. So this has to be a first for me. I held on to God's promise, 'by His wounds I am healed'. I have 15kg luggage and 7kg hand luggage allowance and 50 (or was it 70?) Australian dollars pocket money plus the thousand something pesos for the travel tax and terminal fee. It did my heading just packing my stuff and making sure it is under 15 kilos. My husband was like, "Fifteen?! You need more than that! What with all your lotions and potions and all!"

So anyway, we got to NAIA about 7-ish and my dad dropped us off at the departure lounge while he waited at the parking area. Vic, Mom and myself went to the pricey cafeteria beside the entrance. She bought me wanton noodles which costs a whooping 100 pesos per bowl and a cup of coffee for Vic (50 pesos?). After eating, because it was raining hard that night and because my flight was 10:55 pm, they had to just let me check in my luggage to make sure I don't have any excess baggage (fingers and toes crossed) and had to go home soon. So that went well. Me, still ill waited in a queue of tons of people going to Darwin via Jetstar Airways. It's kinda like Cebu Pacific but this one sucks more. I'll tell you why in a few. So after checking in, the lady at the counter told me that I needed to pay my travel tax first before she gives me the boarding pass. I told myself, 'wow, that's new.' I did what I was told and came back to the checking area to receive my boarding pass. I had to request for an aisle seat both MNL-DWN and DWN-BNE as I frequent the toilet a lot during flights! I still had a few pesos with me so I sat myself in the departure area and had some porridge before we boarded the plane (at least an hour before we were allowed to go on the plane). We were delayed leaving Manila for like 15-20 minutes because there were some issues with dissipating the weight of the luggage or the aircraft or something.

On the flight, I wasn't really that comfortable considering I am feverish and the seats were not the most lounge-y types to sit on. But still I was hoping and looking forward to buying myself something to eat as I was told I can buy some snacks on board with the pocket money I have been given. So I waited for the food trolleys to be pushed past my seat and even looked at their menu on the magazine to see what's available. But I didn't get to buy anything because the cabin crew told the passengers they only accept debit or credit card as they went past one old man who probably was hungry. Bummer! I muttered to myself. I guess I'll just have to buy something when we get to Darwin airport. Closed my eyes and tried my best to get some sleep all through the night (flight) at least I know I did until an hour or so after while I was trying to keep myself warm with my jacket, two babies (or toddlers) were screaming on board - one on my right and the other further down the back end of the plane. I'm like, 'Wow! Night flight with babies. Really nice!' So I was half-asleep, half-awake all night until Sunday morning when we landed in Darwin. My throat was really sore because I never got to drink anything nor eat anything for 4 hours, fever has come back and I felt light-headed.

I was not sure what time it is because apparently Darwin has a different time zone from Brisbane. When we got off the plane and into the checking counter to present our passports, I had to grab my luggage again and have myself fill in a form regarding the items I am bringing in to Australia. Surprisingly enough they would just ask you what stuff you are carrying, that sort of thing.  I got through quickly enough I think as I don't have anything with me to hold me off like grains, seeds, ethnic items etc. The officer, upon seeing my passport, asked, "How are ya?" I replied, "Good, thanks." And afterwards said with a smile, "Mabuti" (which meant 'good' or 'fine'). That woke me up! The guy knows a little or a few Tagalog words! Coolness. So I headed back towards the luggage checking counter to get my trolley checked-in. To my horror, they were calling out the passengers to check-in their luggage because they will close in 25 mins! And that was the flight I'm going on! So I had a little panic attack inside me. But fortunately managed to duck in one of the lines as there was already a long line for checking in for different flights. Finally after the grueling 30 minutes of being caught up in long queues for foreigners coming in and checking-in drama, I got to the waiting area and tried to search for a seat. None were available, all were taken by the Aussies or their hand luggage are already sat on them. I scanned the shops to check the prices and get myself something to eat but the booming voice of the lady calling for all passengers to be at the gate to depart our flight going to Brisbane stopped me on my tracks. I thought, I'll just get something on board going to Brisbane. They would probably let me buy something considering it is a domestic flight. So again I just waited until I got on the flight, thinking I may be able to have a decent meal since yesterday's encounter.

I sat beside another Filipino guy who was in the middle seat. I remarked (although not intentionally), "I hope nobody sits on the window seat so we have more room." And he just smiled idly back at me. He never said nothing to me at all. Until a handsome Aussie came and we had to let him go pass to sit beside the pinoy. THEN he started chatting up the Aussie the very moment the good looking one sat down! I'm shocked as I hear him introduce himself to the guy and even shook his hand! So I felt like saying, "You cheeky git!" They went chatting all through the flight except when the Aussie had to get some shut eye and took out his eye mask thingy. And when they were bringing the food carts around, I had to ask if I can buy (again) with cash. The cabin crew apologized and replied 'No, I'm sorry'. So I told myself, 'I definitely need to eat as soon as I step out of that airport! Cause I'm hungry!' I can't believe Jetstar wouldn't allow to pay cash on the plane. I mean come on! It's supposed to be a low cost air carrier for crying out loud! And they even had the guts to turn around and 'rent' iPads??? I mean what's that about? People would rather sleep comfortably with a blanket or a pillow or have a nice decent meal than play with iPads. Sheesh! This is why they suck more than Cebu Pacific. At least this low cost airline from the Phils allows people to pay in cash! Because they want to earn a few bucks on their trips, that's why. I hope Jetstar would realize this soon. Otherwise people would rather go on flights with meals included in their tickets than with them. That includes me. As the plane was disembarking on Brisbane, I had to really over hear the fellow pinoy exchange numbers with the Aussie! I was just dying to get off and move away from that scene.

Upon arrival, I got my checked-in luggage and then looked around for a toilet. While waiting to use the loo, (I've just had it with queues for two days) I tried texting our general manager (boss Greg) who is picking me up at 11 am. When I turned my mobile on, it wouldn't get a signal at all. Couldn't get better than that I suppose. I thought it just needed time but apparently it wouldn't turn the roaming on. Found a coffee shop just opposite the baggage carousel and ordered myself a nice hot cup of chocolate. The moment it went down my throat it felt really soothing (and filling to my stomach) considering I'm deaf from the anticipated flu on the way and my sinuses were all blocked up. The weather was nice. It was warm but there was a cool breeze that went past me when I started going through all the exits. Greg said he'll be at the exit doors waiting with my name on a sign to make sure we'll be able to find each other. After 20 minutes or something, I still can't find him. I was already tired of walking around with a heavy backpack and trolley so I tried texting him again and see if my roaming now works. Message failed, twice, thrice. I gave up. I had my back turned from the baggage carousel and was facing the automated doors. I wanted to sit down for a while and just wait if ever I'll see Greg pass by. I turned around and was already muttering to myself, "where is he?" in a weary tone. Until at last, I saw him! He was wearing a dark jumper (I think) or was it polo shirt and shorts and by golly he is very tall! He held up a sign (in a shy manner) with my name on it! It made me smile. I hurriedly walked towards him and (again) to my surprise he shook my hand and hugged me. He asked how I was. I said I'm good but I'm deaf! I think he understood that I have a flu. He apologized as he was directed to the wrong exit/arrival area and then asked if I wanted to ring my loved ones back home. I said I can do that when I get to the apartment or at least chat with them to say I've arrived fine. And he asked me if I wanted to get something to eat so we sat down and I bought myself a sandwich from the shop nearby. I really don't fancy anything on their menu (probably because I was really dead tired from the flight) but I tried to eat something while talking to him. I still haven't finished the hot chocolate drink I bought earlier. It kinda feels awkward really, because I have to be picked up by my boss. You all understand how it feels, don't you? He was shocked when I said they never let us buy food with cash on the plane. He was being apologetic as he never knew anything about it. All along we all thought I can buy food on board as meals weren't automatically included in the price of the plane ticket. I said that's fine. I ate half the chicken sandwich and I just told him I'll finish it when I get to the unit (apartment). While I was sat down with Greg and was telling him my experience coming there, I saw the cheeky pinoy pass us by the deli stand. He was all alone. I assume he doesn't know where he's going as he keeps looking around like a lost creature. Our gaze met but I looked on the opposite direction.

We made our way to the parking lot and Greg helped me by pulling my trolley. He is a real gentleman. :) The trip from the airport to the apartment was about an hour or so but I didn't notice it as Greg was really talkative and I tried my very best to carry a conversation while on deaf mode and sore throat. He asked about the people at work - Beth, Hanz and Cecille. We talked about lots of stuff I cannot even remember them all. I told him that Australia is just like the UK (when I first arrived at Darwin) except they have a different accent. I asked Greg if we can drop by a chemist shop as I needed something for my throat and my flu. So I got some meds and we also went to a garage where we bought something to eat from Nando's. I was like, 'Nando's! UK has Nando's!' Kinda like Max's Restaurant in the Phils that's got chicken as specialty. Greg ate his meal there, I ordered for a take away, I didn't know he wanted to eat there LOL. So I just waited and we talked about how Hanz calls everyone 'sir' and 'ma'am'. He chuckled at that. And he told me Hanz has not called him 'sir' yet. I said it's probably because Anthony asked him to stop calling him 'sir'.

When we finally got to the apartment, we got the keys to the unit and he said good evening to me, he reminded me to ring him if I need anything which was really, really nice of him. I thanked him loads of times. So after he left, I tried sorting my stuff out - clothes, shoes, meds, the tiny netbook I borrowed from Mom. Then again I realized I don't have a plug socket/adaptor. I rung Greg, he said there may be some on the shops around the apartment. So I went down and tried to look for one. I also bought myself some Betadine gargle as I noticed my throat was really that bad. Not got the appetite to eat though when I came back and tried loads of times to find a free wifi hotspot, no luck! Around 6-ish, I got a call from Jodie who was really nice and helpful. Her husband Russell tried to figure out how to enable my roaming service from Globe. Apparently I should be able to connect to Optus which is the provider for Globe in Australia. I didn't get to sort that out because I didn't have internet connection. Jodie volunteered as well to email Vic and Mom and also Beth to tell them I'm not on roaming nor do I have internet access. And Jodie said I can ring her if I need someone to speak to. She's an angel, she is. :) After we've said our good night's, I turned the telly on although I don't really know what's on and had the chicken from Nando's for dinner which I re-heated in the microwave. Had to eat to be able to take my medications. I tucked myself to bed but couldn't sleep at all even though I am sooo tired. This is what Filipinos call 'namamahay'. Something like you're not used to sleeping in another bed or staying in another house other than your own. And of course I don't have my dear darling husband with me to kiss me good night which is sad and actually made me a little teary-eyed. I set my alarm for 6:30 or something so I have time to eat before I go and have a shower. I didn't know how to use the alarm next to my bed yet so I didn't use it. Slept really late I think as I still watched Master Chef Australia All Stars then I forced myself to sleep.

End of Pre-departure and Arrival to Oz.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Disney/Pixar's The Brave - Movie Review 02/09/12

credit: google images

I have not blogged for quite a while now. I know it's not an excuse but RL (real life) sometimes (or most of the time) gets pretty busy for the past months. Anyways, I've already planned on recalling the events that happened the previous month where I had a two-week work-cation (work slash vacation if I may call it that way) in the land down under. I'll write about that later but for now I'd like to share my thoughts on this movie I've seen a week ago with a dear friend.

We weren't intending on watching a movie last Saturday afternoon. Estee and I just wanted to catch up with each other and just chill at the mall, have merienda-all-you-can buffet at Dad's and pass time chatting and laughing our problems and worries away. But since it was still early, after we've wiped our faces with traces of evidence from our hearty (tummy-filling) scrumptious meal, she asked me, "Do you want to watch a movie?" I instantly nodded and said, "Yeah, why not?". I did suggest The Bourne Legacy (which stars my new found favorite actor Jeremy Renner for the sole reason that he kinda looks like one of my colleagues in Australia) but my friend said she's already seen it. Bummer, I told myself. Anyways, another suggestion was a Filipino movie/musical - I do bidoo bidoo which is quite creating a buzz on the internet. We were supposed to watch it but upon reaching the till, it has already started and it's a one time, no repetition kind of movie. So I hurriedly thought of other suggestions and I came across The Brave and quickly asked, "Is this the one from Disney?". The cashier said yes and so I assured my friend it is a good one and it is animated. After paying for our tickets, we rushed to the theater and found our seats. We arrived just under 5 minutes before the short preview started which was a clip called "La Luna". It was very cute and although the characters weren't speaking a lot of dialogues, I loved it.

credit: google images

I'm not the most brilliant writer when it comes to doing a movie review but let me share with you what I have enjoyed in and found really unique in this movie along with the story. The main character is Merida. She is a princess who loves to go on adventures with her trusty horse. She and her family lives in Scotland and they are, as what most Scottish families would be, a little chaotic if I may say so based on how I have observed them. The queen mother is very civilized and poised. She wants Merida to become like her and she is trying her best to prepare her to be the next queen. But the princess has become a some sort of a 'tomboy' who loves to run around and not be prim and proper. She wants to live the life she feels is best for her, ignoring her mom's advice on everything. The king doesn't mind although with the queen's prodding, he sometimes gives in. Merida has three obnoxiously wacky and ultimately annoying brothers who are out of control. They add to the funny bits in every scene.

Clan DunBroch - from left: the Queen Elinor, the King Fergus, Princess Merida, and the triplets -  Hamish, Hubert and Harris
When Merida learned that she was about to choose a suitor for her betrothal, she was completely against it. She hated the idea and wouldn't listen to what her mother has to say. This is where the conflict begins. She finds a witch who has disguised herself as a woodcarver and because of the spur of the moment annoyance towards her mother, she wished her life to be different. She wanted her fate changed. She took home a pasty which her mom ate and afterwards changed her to a bear. Merida was confused but told her mother what happened. So when they went back to search for the witch's hut, nobody was there except a few potions. Merida learned from the witch's reminder (when she dropped the potion in the cauldron) that she needs to mend the bond that was broken because on the second sunrise, the spell will be permanent. 

The princess and her mom (in the form of a bear) learned to adapt to each other and help each other in the process and they were hoping that, when she 'repairs' the tapestry it will restore her mother to her previous self. I believe it wasn't the actual tapestry which Merida ripped apart that was needed mending, it was her relationship with her mother.

The queen always tells Merida, "Legends are lessons". Stories they refer to as legends act as reminders to what we should and should not do and make us aware of what dangers we may face if we don't heed to the 'lessons' learned by the people who have experienced these things first hand. Merida found out a little late what happened to the prince who wished to have the strength of 10,000 men that it will tear their kingdom apart and he ended up becoming a bear that everyone feared.

In the end, Merida realized that her mother was right all along and she asked for forgiveness and expressed her love to her by showing how 'brave' she can be despite all the troubles along the way. They defeated the bear Mor'du who was the prince in the legend her mom used to tell her which proved that their family's bond is stronger than any spell.

I would give this movie a 9/10. Very fast-paced but it explains in detail a background of the story. The setting and the plot are all coherent with each other. The characters are very much Scottish and they are faithful to the traditions/customs of their ancestors. The actors who voiced over the characters were very good. They have made us appreciate the culture of Scotland and what they want to relay to the audiences although they can be a little bit difficult to understand because of their accents. Over all, this movie has made me appreciate my mom and my family because I can relate to Merida's character. This would have been a Mother's day movie blockbuster (if they have shown it in May or Mother's day) which every family would enjoy either on the big screen or on DVD's. It is a must watch film for everyone.

Friday, 27 July 2012

Product reviews

I've always sought for affordable but great products, whether they be food, clothing, gadgets, etc., I'm up for a good bargain. Value for money as what we call them. We Filipinos love these kinds of stuff - from ukay-ukay (2nd hand clothing stores) to cheap eats like street food or those sold in food carts - and that's why our very own countrymen make these things a business endeavor. While some may say that not all items are of good quality, there will also be some bits and pieces on the other end of the spectrum that would impress you. Let me share two of what I have found recommendable.

Chow Pao from Chowking
Tasty treat

My husband and I tried this just out of the blue when we went shopping one pay day. We ordered breakfast and agreed to try the new product which has lots of colorful ads all over the fast food joint. At first I was reluctant, thinking it might be an epic fail and it might not be big enough to satisfy our huge appetite. Clearly I was wrong. It was very tasty. They were made fresh so they're not sitting in one of their steamers waiting to be ordered. The bun is very fluffy and cute. My apologies as this is how I find the bread. It is like a burger but if I'm not mistaken the bun was made from the same dough they use to make their siopao. They weren't too skimpy nor overloaded with filling. Just the right amount of meaty sausage with Chinese siopao-like sauce with freshly chopped veggies (carrots and cabbage) so you'll get to taste every bit of the whole thing. And that "CK" mark on top, that is real and not just a fancy advertising entrapment to entice you to buy it. There are different fillings to choose from - chunky beef, braised chicken, chinese sausage and chinese sausage special. Hubby ordered the braised chicken while I chose Chinese sausage special. I must say I was surprisingly impressed. Certified budget-friendly and would be what one needs when one is hungry. Over all, I would rate this as a 9/10. You should try one before they are gone.

Fruity, minty or sweet
Sealed with a kiss

First time I have ever tried their lip balm was when my sister gave me one as a gift for my birthday. The flavor was peppermint and putting it on my lips reminds me of a certain brand of peppermint-flavored chewing gum. I know that sounds funny but that's what goes on in my head whenever I use this. I enjoyed their product so much that I've asked my sister to buy me one. The second flavor, the one I'm using nowadays, is Wild Berry which tastes kinda like strawberry. Not really sure if they are the same thing but it is nice and smells good too. Keeps your smackers moisturized during any kind of weather. With the price of 65 pesos, this is a keeper, well only until the tube is empty. I probably will try the choco fudge flavor after I've finished this current one I am using. I might end up licking my lips all the time if it's chocolate flavored. Again, a must try for every girl, teen, lady or woman who want all natural ingredients and are open-minded to try yummy types of flavorful treats for your kissers. I would give this product a 9/10 as well.

If I do come across new products which are wallet-friendly and made with good quality ingredients, I would be glad to share them again on here. So everyone will have an idea of things that are classified as cheap but not compromising in their standards. And with all the prices sky rocketing today, we all could use these kinds of items for ourselves. It still enables us to indulge ourselves from time to time without breaking the bank.

Sunday, 22 July 2012


Short but sweet. That's probably how I'll describe the title. For the last *counts with her fingers to be sure* 11 months I have worked for a construction company down under and I must say it wasn't that easy. My colleagues at work will testify to that. Stressful most of the times and demanding even but God is faithful and true to His word. He saw me and my colleagues through.

I simply enjoy good food surrounded by a fun gathering of folks I call friends

I was actually pondering on whether or not to write a 'flashback' and tell the story of how I ended up working for my current boss now or later on. Well I have thought again and my alter ego says to postpone it and just do it before or at least the week of my first year as their employee. I was already contemplating on how to celebrate it on the 8th of August which is the very first day I started to work. A couple of months ago, I think it was in the middle of May, one of our lunch buddies, Errol celebrated his 2nd year in the company. We have all talked it over that it would be a pot luck and bring food and share them together over at lunch like what we normally do when someone celebrates his/her birthday. We had loads of food that day! There was barbecue courtesy of Rommel - the barbecue king, Jessica bought our dessert - cassava cake, Beth, Ces and I chipped in on buying pancit, Rodel bought the drinks and cutlery while Errol bought two tubs of ice cream. Boy that was some lunch! We couldn't even manage to finish it all. That was how I imagined I would celebrate my anniversary next month. Simple lunch with lots of food and great company of friends. But I believe God has a better plan for me.

Surprisingly later that same month, I got the news from my supervisor that I would be sent to a two week trip to Queensland all expenses paid for by my boss. It was really shocking to hear from my superior who we often thought would be just joking around. But it was confirmed by one of the bosses who rang me the following day and told me that as my 1st year anniversary gift, they wanted me to come over and experience being in the actual workplace. I couldn't believe what I was hearing. All I could ever tell him to every sentence he said was 'thank you'. The following week, the owner of the company rang me and told me the same thing. So that's twice the confirmation! I told the good news to my friends at work and they all congratulated me. I have shared to my workmates the two dreams I had about going to Australia. It was not that long time ago, probably mid-February and another one after that. I never would have thought it would come true! The first dream was very vivid to me. I was in the office with my boss and I was in front of a laptop and he was asking me to search for a specific abbreviation which I couldn't find at all. The second dream was the boss was asking me to buy something for his baby which I had to find in the Philippines and bring to him in Australia. It was such a weird dream I saw myself walking literally on the world map like a cartoon-ish map from my home country going down to Queensland. I try not to think about it too much because I know with dreams, it is only God who can interpret our dreams, remember Joseph who interpreted Pharaoh's dreams? Genesis 41:15, 16. So I just shrugged those dreams but now I understand what they were. In short, I was going to be sent there.

This will be the very first time I will be traveling internationally by myself
After the euphoria of the good news, I feel bad I couldn't take my hubby along with me. I shall be missing him for two weeks as he has always been my companion for the last two years when we go traveling in and out of this country. My parents were very happy for me when I broke the news to them, most especially my mom. She was so excited she kept asking on and on during the whole time of the visa application whether the embassy has released the papers yet. The visa application by the way was very different from what I have experienced with the UK embassy. We used an agency to do all the processing and filing of the documents, all we ever did was collate all the requirements and photocopy them and the messenger of the agency picked it up from the office. Thankful that, that is now all over. Whew! That was kind of confusing as well. It actually took less than 10 days to be processed and we got the visa the following week after everything was sent to the embassy courtesy of the agency. Lots of 'y's I know. The visa is just paper, they don't label it on your passport. Don't know why but that's what they said. Plus the downside is they took all my original documents and they wouldn't return it which is a shame. Other than that, all was well. One of the best things I have felt so blessed about is what my boss's PA's daughter, her name is Chanel did for me. Her mom told me, when we were anticipating the news about the visa, Chanel was told to pray for me so that I would be granted the visa. Now, I haven't seen nor met her yet but I appreciate what she did for me. I was almost in tears reading Jodie's email about it. That was very heart warming. It is true that even a little girl, she is only seven years old, God can use her to touch other people's lives and also be a blessing to me. I feel very humbled by what the Lord showed me. God has been so good to me.

When a child prays it is always sincere and very humbling for us who are older than them.

I have always wondered what will happen on my first year. Yes, I'd get my paid time off so I can take a break from work without worrying of how much I would get the following pay day. Also gained a year's experience in case I would like to switch careers which I had also thought about before. Promotions - probably, we don't know. But I will be very honored if I would get it. What else? I think gain more friends and knowledge on the job that I do and more tasks to perform. Other than that I wouldn't have imagined anything else. I thank God everytime I think about this trip. I sometimes ask myself, whether I deserve it or not. Sometimes I feel like I'm not that good enough but I am thankful He loves me the same as everyone else.

Just for today, expressing what I feel and what has happened for the past few months in my job is what made me share a piece of the puzzle called life. It may not be picture perfect but I praise God for what He has done and has planned for in my future. Just as I was in the middle of typing this, my mom had an accident and my dad and I had to rush her to the ER yesterday. We are all believing God for her immediate healing and speedy recovery. Not only that, we hope we can, as a family, come together and help support the financial side of it as well. As the saying goes, "God is bigger than the problems I have." If I may add, one of the verses in the bible that talks about being grateful - 1 Thessalonians 5:18 "Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you who belong to Christ Jesus." (NLT)

 I remember a quote saying "There are no good or bad luck in this world, only blessings and blessings in disguise." God can turn something bad into something beautiful we just have to trust Him and be thankful for all the things that come our way. Not here to preach, but to testify about God's goodness. And for that I am very grateful.

Sunday, 1 July 2012

No weddings, just funerals

My hubby was telling me, while we were hurrying up to get dressed to go to a wake yesterday evening, "Of my one year stay here in this country, I have already been to 3 wakes and they are all from this street where we live in." Another one from our subdivision has kicked the bucket, as some would call it. This is the third time, there were already two previous wakes before this which we have attended. I know it's a bit odd or sometimes people find it scary and they become hesitant on discussing or even thinking about dying but the way I see it, death is inevitable. Nobody can escape death and live forever. Either we die young, die of sickness, accident, ill-fated (murder probably) or die in our old age. That's a fact.

So there I was sitting in my dad's car, with the other neighbors (plus my husband), on our way to the wake which is in the next town, while everyone was chatting about what happened, different things came into my mind. The sad demise of our neighbor shocked everyone including me. People have mixed feelings about it. As we all know, if a person dies of sickness there's always that sympathy vote and everyone else gets conscious of their health and try to know what really happened before this person died. My sister and I (my second sibling who is a nurse) were discussing it Friday night when he (our neighbor) died. I was not close to this man, although I must say I have been to their house a few times, during birthday parties etc. and I have been (along with my sisters) playmates with his sons, the eldest of whom I treated like a younger brother. So I basically know their family. When we arrived, I feel shy going in because there were a lot of people. Most of them are from Meralco, where my dad along with Mr S and a lot of our neighbors have worked for a very long time until they eventually all have retired.

Is saying 'I am sorry for your loss' or being a shoulder to cry on enough?

Going to a wake (or even a funeral), doesn't scare me at all. But it makes me feel shy and a bit awkward towards everyone there especially if I'm not close to the family of the one who died. What would I say? How do you show your condolences? Do you just shake their hand and say 'My deepest condolences' or 'I'm sorry for your loss'? Is that enough? I don't think that's enough. I mean, we all have experienced losing someone we love whether a close family member or a distant relative, nobody is immune from this heart-breaking occurrence. When I saw the eldest son, who up to this very day I still call by his nickname when he was a small boy, I gave him a pat on his shoulder (even though he is now taller than me) and said 'Condolence bro.' and he just nodded his head and shook my hand and my husband's hand as I introduced them to each other. We greeted everyone we know and my dad mingled with basically everyone who were there (I call him Mr. Congeniality as he knows everyone there). We stayed there about a good hour and a half and then went home.

What legacy do we leave behind aside from money and properties?

One of the thoughts that came to me while I was there was what do I want my wake and my funeral to be when I die? What will they be talking about while they are all sitting there during my wake? What snacks or drinks should they be served? What color and type of flowers will I want beside my coffin? What color will my coffin be? Will it be posh or just the normal one? What songs do I want to be played during my funeral - rock, pop rock, jazz blues, serenade? I'm kidding on this one. Who will be the pastor to officiate and pray for my loved ones? Will they be talking about good things or good memories about me or just what happened and how I died? Will they all be crying of sadness or will there be tears of joy? It made me think if I should write my last will (and testament?) now even though I don't have anything to actually leave behind money wise. Not a bad idea. Maybe write down a few things I would like when I 'fall asleep and never wake up'. But before that, what do I want people to remember me for?

What will people say about me at my funeral?

The bible verse that the psalmist wrote tells exactly what he asks of God, "teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom." Psalm 90:12. We always get caught up with all the hustle and bustle of life that we forget we are only here for a 'short time' and that our lives are borrowed from our Maker. I believe the psalmist (David) wants to humble himself and let God teach him how fleeting his life is and what he can do to make it a significant one. This is my prayer as well. That this passage from the bible would always serve as a reminder that I am a mortal. My life has an ending and that one day eventually, I will cease to exist on this planet. What I can do is to make the most out of it and as much as possible, impact other people's lives by helping them as best as I can. I don't want the people at the wake or at the funeral to just talk about how I died and end the conversation there. "Oh she died of this and the doctors couldn't save her anymore. Such a tragedy. She was just [insert age here]." or something like, "She was ran over and there were no witnesses. They are trying to sue this so and so in court... blah...blah... Her husband and children are here. They are torn because of the loss." Who wants to hear only that? Although I know I won't be able to hear any of it, I would prefer the people to tell my family and friends how I have touched their lives through mine. I am not perfect but I know there is always room for improvement and by God's grace He will change me, as I let Him guide me, from glory to glory.

One thing I also learned after attending three consecutive wakes (I never get to go to the funeral because of work schedules), is to love my family and make the most of my time with them. Whether they be my parents and grandma - they are already senior citizens - my siblings, though they are still young, they are not always here at home so we don't get to see each other that much; my husband who describes himself as 'half-way through a century' and also my friends, I do my best to show how I appreciate them and also tell them how much they mean to me. I was itching to ask one of the sons whether or not they have spoken to their dad before the medical procedure he undertook which sadly failed afterwards, but I chickened out. I wish I mustered the courage to do so but I don't want them to feel bad even more if they didn't. I sincerely hope they did speak to him and have at least said how they felt to each other. I will be praying for this family that God will assure them they are loved and they can depend on him through tough times like these.

And about dying, I don't want to sound brave or not afraid at all but what I know is (and what my faith has taught me) when I die I hope I will be prepared to meet my Lord and Saviour and be welcomed in His loving arms and be with Him forever. That is what I can call truly resting in peace.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Ako ay Pilipino (I am Filipino)

I have waited for this month to write a blog about my nationality/race. The title says it all. No fancy words nor catchy phrases. I don't want to use the cliche term "proud to be...". I find that it sounds arrogant and boastful. I guess the best way of putting it is "I am BLESSED to be a Filipino". Why? Let me tell you a few reasons in the form of stories. Hopefully it wouldn't bore you or make you fall asleep but enlighten you about us folks.

A couple of years ago, I had the privilege of studying and working (part-time) in a foreign land. My cousin and I have both enrolled in a college that offered a course in health & social care. I can still remember filling out their student forms and I frowned at the options as there was no "Filipino/Pilipino" or even my home country on the list. We had to write under "Others, please specify" instead. But when the instructor learned that we were Filipinos, she beamed at us and smiled. She obviously has met a lot of carers and students who are like us.

My aunt and her colleagues (all Pinoys) always tell us about how "proud" they are of how we work. In terms of enduring all types of stress and even managing to do part-time odd jobs like babysitting, house cleaning and even selling food in their offices, you bet we can turn night into day or day into night (depending on what work shift you're on). Everyone kept encouraging us that once we get into the routine, it'll be easy peasy.

Me and my cousin worked for a domiciliary care home about 30 minutes away from where my aunt lives. At first it is difficult to absorb every information they are trying to teach you but after 2 weeks, we were surprised we are close to making it a habit. Our bosses (a couple who have worked as carers before) were very appreciative and kind to us. They noticed we learned quickly the daily routine of the clients and have commended us for our dedication in the field. The idea of working hard and earning your keep was instilled in me by my family and even by how our nation viewed "having a job" which I believe helped me in focusing on what makes your boss happy and doing well. As a child, pinoys are taught, among a lot of other things, to trust in God and grow in your faith, respect the elderly, and study hard so you'll have a bright future ahead. This I have embraced and have also seen amongst a lot of Filipinos living abroad.

Life is tough and if you don't 'pull your finger out', you'll starve to death. This is another mindset that we have been brought up to believe in. That's why if you ask a child what he/she would like to be when he/she grows up, a quick reply would probably be somewhere along the lines of, "I want to be an engineer or a doctor or a nurse or a scientist". When asked why, they would simply answer back, "Because I want to help other people or I want to help my family rise up from poverty." While I was in that first world country, a teenager answered these same questions very differently. The girl said, "I want to be a hairdresser so I can color my hair." I couldn't believe what I just heard. Rich countries, I noticed, have all the means to support everyone - the senior citizens, the disabled/sick, the single parents with little to no monthly wages, and even the unemployed. It's like having a fall back in case you don't get any joy from working and you get bored you decided to quit. But for the unfortunate ones in my nation, the government cannot do anything to help alleviate their poor state. So everyone has to work and do something to earn money whether working odd jobs or selling food in the streets. And when given the opportunity (as most of us would love to work and live in a greener pasture), we grab it and do our best to keep on going to provide for our loved ones across the other end of the globe.

Respect is not just for parents or the governing authorities, we were raised to give due respect and be polite to everyone we meet. This trait I am so proud to see in the Filipino families abroad. They have made their children (even in a foreign land) to adapt this cultural heritage from old. I was surprised that the children would "bless" even to me and my cousin (considering we are just in our late 20's back then). The term "bless" is what we use to denote "kissing of the elderly's hand" or "placing the back of the elderly's hand on our foreheads". This has been taught from every generation to the succeeding generation and in the west wherein there is no more obvious respect for the geriatrics or even their own kin, I commend all the Filipino moms and dads who have raised their children as how they were raised by their own parents. Children in the Filipino community would even use "po" and "opo" - two words we add to every sentence and even to phrases when speaking to someone older than you no matter what age they may be.

With regards to faith, our country has embraced the religion imparted by the Spanish when they colonized the Philippines. And in a way, I am grateful because it became the means of placing our lives in a loving and gracious God. This I believe made Filipinos view life in a positive way. That in every trial, God is there. He will never leave you nor forsake you and that He will see you through in every problem you may encounter. I've learned that in western countries, people view depression as a form of illness. They take medications and see specialists to help them cope. On a lighter note, in my country, depression is cured once and for all, as what my alcoholic colleagues would recommend, by beer. After a drinking session with your beer buddies (as what they claim to do), you move on and do things right and forget about it. For the non-alcoholics, you cry, you vent out every painful memory and then get over it. In troubled times, your family and friends would be there to help you out. One for all and all for one, as the three musketeers would say.

People may belittle my race, scrutinize our ancestral lineage or think we're just a mix of different blood lines by mistake, but we are special and we have made our mark and will continue to show everyone (not in a boastful way) that we will set a good example of what a real person should be. I know we are still far from being one of the richest countries but we will get there eventually, by God's grace I know we will. A few years ago, a christian believer helped design and conceptualize the new peso bills. And on these paper bills he stood his ground in putting this verse (written in our native language) from the bible which says, "Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord." ~ Psalm 33:12. This is the promise that I hold on to. That my beloved homeland will be so blessed that we will be a blessing not only in our neighbouring countries in Asia but to every single one around the world.

I am thankful that God made me a Filipino. I am not ashamed to say I am Filipino and even if I had to explain where exactly the Philippines is in the map up to the point where I had to tell stories of our history. I feel honored to share and encourage people to come and visit the 7,100+ islands. I remember the conversation I had with my workmates in the care home about my controversial country of origin. One of the guys said to me, "The first time I saw you, I thought you were Chinese. But when we heard you speak, we thought you were American." So I told him, "I'm neither. I am Filipino." And from then on they got curious as to what our country is like because they saw in me a glimpse of what to expect when working and being with a person from that unknown land somewhere in Asia.

Praise God for another year of being able to celebrate and commemorate our independence as a nation. I will continue to intercede for our nation and bless it not curse it. Blessing means speaking good things for ourselves, the government and the country as a whole. Cursing means degrading (or uttering bad and negative things) every single aspect of your homeland. A lot of famous (and unnamed) heroes have fought bravely to set us free from the tyranny of the conquerors of old. They believed that one day, though they wouldn't be able to see it, we will enjoy the freedom - from oppression, from poverty and all things that held them back from living a fully enjoyable life. And what they all believed in came true! The blood that they shed have paid for the liberty they have longed for and what we are sometimes neglecting now. I honestly believe the only thing we Pinoys can do is to love this country and continue to uphold the values we have been known for as Filipinos. It is what makes us genuinely unique from others.

As requested by a dear friend, here is the song entitled "Ako ay Pilipino" sung by Kuh Ledesma, one of the best singers of our country. It tells us what being a true Filipino is all about. To serve your homeland and put to good use the knowledge and God-given skills we all have.

Ako ay Pilipino
Ang dugo'y maharlika
Likas sa aking puso
Adhikaing kay ganda
Sa Pilipinas na aking bayan
Lantay na Perlas ng Silanganan
Wari'y natipon ang kayamanan ng Maykapal

Bigay sa 'king talino
Sa mabuti lang laan
Sa aki'y katutubo
Ang maging mapagmahal

Ako ay Pilipino,
Ako ay Pilipino
Isang bansa isang diwa
Ang minimithi ko
Sa Bayan ko't Bandila
Laan Buhay ko't Diwa
Ako ay Pilipino,
Pilipinong totoo
Ako ay Pilipino,
Ako ay Pilipino
Taas noo kahit kanino
Ang Pilipino ay Ako!