Saturday, October 31, 2009

Say what?

Today, I woke up quite abruptly upon hugging a cold soaking wet pillow that I retrieved from the floor after half-consciously becoming aware that it landed there sometime during the wee hours of the morning. After rubbing away the sleep from my eyes, it dawned on me that the tiled floor in my and my sister's room was covered with water that flowed from outside through the very thin space under the door. For the first time since typhoon Ondoy [Ketsana] and Pepeng [Parma], the strong winds drove tons of heavy rainfall to the second floor of our house (composed of just our room), which couldn't be kept at bay by cloth rags.

Oh well. What's a few wet things (clothes, a sofa, pillow, blanket, etc.) and mopping the floor? There were much more terrible aftermaths of typhoon Santi [Mirinae] in many parts of the Southern Tagalog region.

To end the month on a happier note, though, I am excited to find out the words most often used in my blog as of today. Thanks, Wordle. :D

Wordle is a toy for generating “word clouds” from text that you provide. The clouds give greater prominence to words that appear more frequently in the source text. You can tweak your clouds with different fonts, layouts, and color schemes. The images you create with Wordle are yours to use however you like. You can print them out, or save them to the Wordle gallery to share with your friends.

"...For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks."
- Matthew 12:34

Sunday, October 25, 2009

To eat or not to eat

I started going to the gym last October 5 in an attempt to be more pro-active in my health and well-being.

Although I walk a lot in the morning and afternoon during my commute to work and on my way back home, it feels more like the obligatory physical movement that it is and on most days it's a distress. Don't get me wrong though - it is wonderful to be always on the move. However, being cramped in a vehicle like sardines with total strangers on a daily basis can get really uncomfortable and pretty alarming. I can't say I'm used to the commute but I've pretty much accepted it as a reality, a fact of life (my life at least).

Anyway, when my co-teachers told me they were planning to enroll in the nearby gym for about three months, I got interested. My ears perked up all the more when I heard, 'dance class'. I used to participate in a lot of dances in elementary and high school: modern, hip hop, ballroom, etc. I have no intentions of becoming a pro dancer or anything. I just miss the adrenaline rush of pure energetic body movement timed to the beat of a song. I dance for dance's sake. Besides, it is an enjoyable physical form of art and it is a good workout for the heart.

I have been attending the hip hop dance class and (recently) the aerokickboxing class at least once a week for about three weeks now and I am very happy about it. :)

When I found out that my weight is about seven pounds above the ideal weight for my frame and height, I was very thankful that I'm not obsessing over the fact that I need to shed some pounds. I know I'll lose it eventually because: {1} I perspire easily and {2} my schedule is getting filled with activities to do and appointments to keep. Sure, it would be nice to lose some weight and get a more toned physique [those are added bonuses!] but knowing that my body mass index and body fat count (or something, I forget what it's called) is normal is more important for me personally. Besides, if my heart feels right about my exercise, I believe the rest will follow...

I have also become more conscious of what, when, where, why and how I eat. Earlier into the year, I have added more fruits and vegetables (food by God) in my "to eat" list. :)

Just to share, here are some of the things I do in order to regulate my weight and eating habits:

1. Be on the move! I take the stairs whenever I can and I walk a lot during the day. I stretch whenever I find myself sitting too long. Physical activity shouldn't be just exercise - it should be all the little movements you do everyday. Although exercise is good for the body, it's not everything. (Read more: "Why Exercise Won't Make You Thin" by John Cloud, Time Magazine August 2009.)

2. Eat on a small plate and use small utensils. If there isn't a lot of space to put food on, then I don't eat a lot of food in one sitting.

3. Eat slowly. I read somewhere and heard several times that the brain takes a while to process information on how full you are. So the slower I eat, the less food I take in. And it works! I'll feel full even if I ate only a seemingly small serving.

4. If I crave for something, I do not deprive myself of it. I eat a very small portion of the food to satisfy my craving instead of losing my peace of mind always wondering, "what if?". No matter how small the portion, the important thing is I tell my brain that I now know what the food tasted like and I'm happy I tried it. Of course, I have to be aware of my cravings, too. It's not healthy to have a 'craving' every ten minutes.

5. Eat small but eat often. For me, eating snacks is actually good especially when my stomach is already sending me "I'm hungry, feed me!" signals. Eating small amounts of food several times a day in regular intervals works better for me than strictly sticking to the three square meals a day. It's not good to let your tummy growl and say, "Be quiet, it's not lunchtime yet. You have to wait."

I feel wonderful having the chance to realize a lot of things for myself in the wellness arena and actually having the opportunity to act upon those realizations. As the saying goes: "The biggest room in the world is the room for improvement." Hmmm.. My next agenda will probably have to be cramming... :P

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Penniless yet Priceless

Poverty has been in the world even before the time of Jesus Christ. There are plenty of stories in the Bible of beggars on the streets, lame and blind people asking for alms, and lepers dying isolated from the rest of society.

More than 2000 years later, many people from all over the world still continue to live in dire conditions. In the Philippines alone, the entire national population consists of what is called CLASS E or majority poor - of which, most even live below the poverty line: "Mahirap pa sa mahirap" (Poorer than poor). I often find myself thinking such conditions, sadly, do not merit the term living but mere existence instead.

There are several causes of poverty: macroeconomic issues, population explosion, agriculture problems, unemployment, poor governance, corruption, armed conflict, disability, limited access, and so on. Although the terms sound depressing, I know that there are many efforts to address such concerns not just on a local level but on a global scale. One such effort is an awareness campaign celebrated today:

The International Day for the Eradication of Poverty is celebrated every year on October 17 throughout the world. It was officially recognised by the United Nations in 1992, but the first commemoration of the event took place in Paris, France, in 1987 when 100,000 people gathered on the Human Rights and Liberties Plaza at the Trocadéro to honour victims of poverty, hunger, violence and fear.

Living in a third world country, I could not emphasize more the need for us to share our blessings with the less fortunate... and beyond the need, I give more importance to our want, our desire, to help others.

The poor may be penniless but they are priceless. They are also created in the image and likeness of God just like us. When Jesus died on the cross to save mankind, that means no one is exempted.

While we have the physical and socio-economic concerns of the anawims of society in mind, I more strongly believe that we should also have their spiritual growth on the priority list. For even though we have helped them live this life, there is a much more important eternal life that we have to prepare them for.

I dislike to be the one to burst the bubble but I am aware that total eradication of poverty in this fallen world is an ideal. It is not going to happen. We can strive to alleviate the conditions of brothers and sisters in need but we can never truly make poverty history until the Lord comes back to bring with Him a new world.

Until then, onwards, Christian soldier.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Hello and Goodbye

"Be kind,
for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle."
Greek author & philosopher in Athens (427 BC - 347 BC)

There have been some chapters in my life when I've said goodbye to people just as quickly as I've said hello. While the paths have crossed so quickly, there's no guarantee that farewells would come easily.

Several times I have asked the question, "Where's the good in goodbye?", because goodbyes are usually associated with uncertainty, separation, hurt, and sorrow.

More often than not I find myself saying "See you tomorrow", "Until then", or "'Til next time" when the moment of parting ways has come because it somehow lessens the impact of something's coming-to-an-end. It is a sort-of denial of the moment of truth when each one must go his or her own way.

Celine Dion's song "Goodbye's (The Saddest Word)" is about a mother leaving her child, perhaps even pertaining to the mother's passing away, which is one of the hardest goodbyes of all. Listening to it always brings tears to my eyes.

Goodbye's the saddest word I'll ever hear
Goodbye's the last time I will hold you near
Someday you'll say that word and I will cry
It'll break my heart to hear you say goodbye

'Till we meet again...
Until then...

Still, where is the good in goodbye?

Today is one of those days when I ask the question once, twice, three times because I had had to say goodbye to this precious little boy who has seemingly taught me more than I have taught him. It was difficult to see him go and accept the fact that that moment might be last time we will ever see each other, especially when I know I could have done something more to help him.

Out of the blanket of sadness, a friend's voice popped in my head. He shared to me an initially trivial information about 'goodbye' and just to make sure I remember it right, I searched the world wide web for it:

good-bye XVI. Early forms God be wy you, God buy'ye, God b'uy, Godbuy, contr. of phr. God be with you or ye, with later substitution of good for God, after good day (XIII), good night (XIV).

T. F. HOAD. "good-bye." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. 1996. Retrieved October 18, 2009 from

That's right. Goodbye is derived from God be with you. When I first heard it, I was almost skeptical but it totally blew me away.

So where is the good in goodbye?

It is in believing that God is with those kindred souls whose lives have been touched by that meeting of theirs even though they eventually have to part.

Now that I understand this more clearly, I have to keep it in mind and eventually in my heart, no matter how much it hurts sometimes.

God be with you.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Kudos, Teachers!

Bloggers Unite and yours truly, together with the rest of the world, celebrate World Teachers' Day 2009.

5 October is a day to celebrate teachers and the central role they play in guiding children, youths & adults through the life-long learning process. This year, World Teachers’ Day will focus on the role of teachers within the context of the global financial and economic crisis and the need to invest in teachers now as a means to secure post-crisis regeneration.

It is critical, during these difficult times, to seek mechanisms that protect the teaching profession. It is also crucial, despite the crisis, to ensure that investment in teachers is sufficient and proportionate to the demands made upon them. It is the teaching force with its knowledge, experience and foresight which can bring new insights to global solutions. Join us in celebrating this!

To my co-teachers at A Child Can Foundation, Inc., I salute each and every one of you for your hard work, patience, compassion and dedication in transforming the lives of kids with special needs, all of whom have equally touched our lives. Cheers to the many years of helping each child achieve his fullest potential to the best of your abilities. The contribution you give to each family and society is truly invaluable.

I bid each and every one of you padayon, from a local Filipino dialect, which means "to continue" or "to go on". Remembering words from Leland's website: As a wise man once said, "It matters not how slowly you go, so long as you do not move backwards."

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Feed the Need

The aftermath of typhoon Ondoy led to various relief operations by both government and private sectors. The severity of the damage caused by the heavy rainfall last weekend still prevails today even with typhoon Pepeng (Parma) and typhoon Quedan (Melor) already within Philippine territory.

Calls for volunteers to help repack relief goods like canned food, instant noodles, rice, blankets, clothes, medicines, and bottled water were abundant to which many people wholeheartedly acted upon.

Yesterday, I met with friends from UST at TriNoMa between 10:30-11:00 am to help out in distributing relief goods to victims of typhoon Ondoy in the area of Pasig.

I was still undecided whether or not to join come the day itself. By nine o'clock in the morning, I began preparing for the relief operations albeit I knew it subconsciously because half of me wanted so badly to help out and half of me wanted to stay home as advised by my dad since typhoon Pepeng was reported to be hitting land by late Friday.

At fifteen minutes to ten o'clock, I left our condo unit all geared up for the mission ahead while the voice of the news reporter and other sounds from the television lingered in my ears. I rode a taxi going to Magallanes station of the MRT to make up for lost time but unfortunately, I was still met by heavy traffic along Chino Roces Avenue (Pasong Tamo Extension). I wasn't usually late for appointments. In fact, I don't like being late. However, the tug-o-war within me was simply taking a toll on my decision-making but, apparently, an inner calling prevailed.

There wasn't a single drop of regret when I have forsaken the safety of home to the risk of possibly endangering my life under such circumstances. It was a day I'll never forget.

The experience of riding inside a cargo truck on top of hundreds of relief goods on our way to Pasig was truly a concrete way of "putting oneself in other people's shoes" or as Vanessa Williams' song Colors of the Wind goes, "If you walk the footsteps of a stranger, you'll learn things you never knew, you never knew."

As the saying goes, 'Mahirap maging mahirap' (It is difficult to be poor). And how hard it must be! To see those people - young and old, men and women alike - struggling, no, begging for food will break one's heart to a million little pieces. They did not chose to be poor. Most of them were born poor... but a lot of times I wonder why majority of them chose to remain poor.

You might be thinking, "Surely you're not asking why. You know already know the answer/s to that question." Perhaps. But do I really? I can't say that I know what it's like to live in poverty because I haven't been there. On the other hand, I can say I do know why and refer to all the studies and resources supporting my claims. Technically speaking, there's a scientific/economic explanation for such queries. But then moments after, Ubuntu in African spirituality suddenly came to mind: "I am because of who we all are."

The truth is - the majority poor of our country is both part and product of the society we all belong to. They are who they are because of who I am, who the rest of us are.

Unsurprisingly, the outreach that day to 'feed the need' went both ways: the flood victims' physical needs were met while the volunteers' psychological/philosophical hunger was fed. The encounter with those people who were affected by the heavy floods gave me fraction of understanding, a glimpse into the dynamics of their lives, that I hope will push me more to be a better part of the whole.


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