Aww-moments with my Ging-ging

Just want to share kasi super natuwa naman ako.

I went home feeling really crappy: my throat feels like it’s being scrubbed by a steel brush every time I swallow, my nose was clogged, my head was pounding and my whole body feels really heavy and achy all over, yung parang tatrangkasuhin ka? After eating, I laid on the bare mattress on our room’s floor to rest for a little while before washing the dishes. I’ve been squatting on the floor ever since Ging had a bout of head lice during summer and we started sleeping on separate beds para di magkahawahan. Eventually she just got used sleeping on the big bed alone and, save for a few times, she prefers having the bed all to herself. Plus she likes to sleep with the fan on full blast, even in the middle of the cold December and January nights. E lamigin ako so, off to the floor I go.

Ging was preparing to go to sleep and she noticed me almost comatose on the floor. I asked her to sit with me for a few minutes and talk about school. I must admit, most nights, in our tiredness or both distracted by chores, TV or other stuff, we neglect to really talk. That’s what I’m working on improving in our relationship.

I asked her about several projects she’s working on, when’s the presentation and all that stuff. She mentioned her partner on one project is in Malaysia right now. We talked about the countries we want to visit next (I said Malaysia, she Japan and Paris) and then our talk ventured to books. Because of her fascination in anime and my favor for Japanese food, our convo went back to Japan. Sabi ko mahal kasi dun pero we do want to go there and see some cherry blossoms, haha! I mentioned one of my fave books, “Memoirs of a Geisha” and explained the plot a little. I told her she might enjoy reading it sometime.

She moved towards our bookshelf and started perusing some of the titles there. I made a move to stand up and look for the Memoirs book and you know what she said? “Ops, ops Mommy, Mommy. Stop. Go back,” she berated me and pointed me back to my bed. “Ang hot hot mo o. Dapat magpapawis ka ng sobra-sobra Mommy kahit ayaw mo na para mawala lagnat mo. Ganun ginawa ko e,” she added matter-of-factly. Suddenly I was the pasaway sick kid and she was the sensible mother.

Shortly after,Ging started to prepare for bed. She kissed me goodnight; I got out of the room to do my chores and was the dishes.

When I came back later, I found my mattress covered with the fitted bed sheet, all smooth and made up, my pillows arranged, blanket spread out neatly, and an extra neck pillow and my pair of sleeping socks laid neatly on top a my pillow. My thoughtful little angel – who had to be coerced every morning to please, please make up her own bed – was already burrowed under the comforter, fast asleep.

Haaaay. Ang sarap naman nun. 🙂

The Cost of Free Will

“How do you make someone love you without affecting free will?”

This was Bruce’s (Jim Carrey) question to God (Morgan Freeman).

And God replied, “Heh, welcome to my world, son.”

I caught Bruce Almighty couple nights ago while ironing my daughter’s school uniforms. I’ve watched this before and although it might seems offensive, even blasphemous to some, Bruce was an apt depiction of how most of us perceive God, whether in the past or even up to now.

Bruce asked God this question when his girlfriend Grace (Jennifer Aniston) dumps him after playing God has gone into his head. Frustrated, he realizes that there is more to God than just parting a red sea of tomato soup or making his dog pee in the toilet like a human. 

Freeman’s character’s reply made me go, oo nga no? God created the heavens and earth and humans; he can do everything. He can even make us all subservient, robotic servants if He wanted to. I mean, HE IS GOD. But despite all these, God still gave us FREE WILL. He gave us the freedom to choose whether we would love or follow Him. We disobeyed him and lived sinful lives that His Son had to die the lowest form of death at that time – on the cross – to purchase our salvation. Wow, free will surely ain’t free, right? 

Free will, huh? In the movie, Bruce reflected how most of us live:  we want to play God in our lives. God gave Bruce His powers to prove that He’s doing His work right. Aren’t we like Bruce sometimes? When struck with misfortunes and struggles, don’t we berate God for “not doing His job?” We want to do things our way, succeed on our own capabilities for our own glory. We resent God when His will for us contradicts what we want for our own lives. 

When I invite friends to church or try to share with them, I usually get a refusal with a somewhat apologetic smile. “Saka na ko lalapit kay God pag ready na ko. Aayusin ko muna buhay ko.” I used to say this too. Masyado pa kong madaming atraso kay God, nakakahiya naman lumapit, was what I reasoned. In fact, there was a time I was really angry with God, and I thought, why would He listen to me if He knows I was mad at Him and what He’s doing to my loved ones? 

But He found a way to chase me relentlessly until He finally caught up with me.  I came to know Him more and forged a relationship with Him and realized, when we are down and broken and fearful and shamed, that’s the best time to go to Him. The Bible has so many verses depicting God’s favor for the weak and the broken hearted. Here are some of the promises we can hold on to:

“The way of the Lord is a stronghold to the blameless.” -Proverbs 10:29

“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed spirit.” – Proverbs 34:18

“But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.'” – Matthew 14:27

It doesn’t matter what your past is or where you are at in your life right now. If you are genuinely repentant and want to know God, He will be there for you.

“For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks, it will be opened.” -Luke 11:10

One of my first and favorite verses was God’s first Word to me when I started walking with Him: “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” -James 4:8

My favorite scene in the movie was when Bruce breaks down upon seeing Grace praying so hard for him and her heart. He cried in the middle of the street, “You win. I’m done. Please, I don’t wanna do this anymore. I don’t wanna be God! I want You to decide what’s right for me! I SURRENDER TO YOUR WILL!” Then he gets slammed in the face by a ten-wheeler.

My prayer us we all have this I-surrender-to-Your-will moment in our lives. Question is, are we going to wait until we get hit by a truck before we do it?

Cross My Heart and Hope to Drive

I renewed my driver’s license at LTO Calamba this morning. It was pretty uneventful but not difficult since the way the center is set up and run makes it’s easier to go to the designated areas and windows. First stop was the drug test and medical; I was glad for the several glasses of iced tea I chugged down before leaving the house. I got my first license in the Pila office six years ago and the cramped spaces made for an unpleasant and smelly experience. 

There was something new though, that I didn’t do when I renewed here three years ago. Before the application can be processed (after the drug and medical tests), we had to stand in front of the waiting area, facing a TV monitor. With right hands raised, we read off a pledge to obey traffic rules and all those stuff we took in the driver’s ed written exam. This is apparently what many drivers have promptly forgotten (or chose to ignore)once they got those little plastic cards in their hands.

After every statement (“Titingin sa kaliwa, kanna, kaliw ulit bago lumiko,”Susunod sa tamang bilis ng pagpapatakbo,” or something to that effect), we would say, “Dahil dito nakaksalalay ang aking buhay at ito ang nararapat.”

I don’t know about you, but half of the maniacs behind the wheels of those huge, hulking masses of rubber and metal on our streets and highways certainly do not drive like their (and other people’s) lives depend on it and that it is how it should be.

Maybe they ought to videotapes these little swearing-in shows, file it away somewhere, then show it to the offender once he breaks any of “his promises” then… Oh yeah, then what? 

* kuliglig *

*photo from Google

Rewind: 7 Party Looks to Cringe Back On

Last night was our annual office holiday party. Save for the first one (which was held in the office parking lot in 2007 and which I missed; and an early kick-off event in the NBC Tent back in 2008), the shindigs were held at the World Trade Center every January. This year’s party was dubbed “Rewind,” which looked back on all our company’s years of growth, and how we are looking forward to all the new challenges and changes after. There were a lot of murmurs that this would be the “last hurrah” before “we all go our separate ways (or buildings?).” Hmn…

Looking at the pictures, I could hardly believe it was already a year since the last one! My process’ group was quite small last night, which was a bit sad, but still, last night’s festivities and antics also showed how close our little family has gotten. And we’re still the same camera-hungry, dance-floor-hogging party revelers and merry drinkers year in and year out! 
So for fun (I don’t know if you’ll think likewise, but I certainly had fun looking back at my own chakaness from the recent past haha!), I went back and found pictures of me during the previous parties I have attended. Most (if not all) were definitely cringe-worthy, what-was-I-thinking evidence of bad make-up, dress/color choice, lighting, smile and alarming weight-loss that made me wonder if I changed genders sometime in the last few years?
 Happy okraying!
Glam Nation, 2007. My dress was designed by my late friend Janno Farrales when he was just starting out (he designed Judy Ann Santos’ yellow pleather dress on a Preview cover that same year). I had Morticia Addams-inspired black hair was because, after months learning how to dye my own hair, it turned a bright, horrifying shade of orange-brown so I covered it all up with some permanent black goo.

Discovolution, 2008. We did retro 60’s to 80’s so I decided on some metallic gray dress that I bought just a couple of hours before the party. It did nothing for my skin tone whatsoever. And what’s with the pandesal-bouffant hair?
Kick-Off Party, 2009. I forgot what the theme was. Apparently, it looks like I forgot to eat for the most part of that year, too. This was my skinniest look ever. Mukha kong lalaking scary! Bad romance can do that. Ewww. I loved my lace black dress, though, although with my too-thin frame and dark complexion, black was not flattering at all. Same goes for my Rihanna-wannabe ‘do, but I kinda want this pixie cut again!

2010. Again, I forgot what the theme was, but it looks like I haven’t forgotten my penchant for shiny dresses; this time I think I did a bit better than the silver number from a couple years back. I liked the color and how it complemented my skin, and the knitted fabric made it easy to wear and did not reveal too much. This was also my chubbiest (aside from when I was preggo) but I was growing out my hair and bangs, hence the outdated ponytail. But gosh, I wanna be this healthy again hihi!

Black Party, 2011. I tried curling my hair and I ended up with wet-looking, stringy curls. I had my dress made but the seamstress didn’t really get my idea so my envisioned matte-black, mesh-backed dress ended up as a nondescript, star-satiny blah dress. Hay. Saved by my uber-red lips na lang. Also, I forgot half of this night due to extreme intoxication. But I did remember getting up onstage for some game SamY, one of the hosts, ran, but I forgot to get my prize (apparently I won but was too drunk to claim it). Never again. 🙂

Vegas Party, 2012. My first time to party sober! I was just six days into my month-long, self-imposed alcohol embargo (see here why I didn’t drink that night). Back then, people can’t believe I was NOT drinking and kept shoving alcohol under my nose. I wore a sleeveless sequined top my mom gave me for Christmas and a navy bandage micro-mini. I had ruler-straight hair with bangs. I spent most of the night sipping iced tea in a dark corner and running from the free-flowing beer taps so not many decent pics of me haha!
Rewind, 2013. I wore a white, long-sleeved lace dress I got from Cotton On in HK, same grey pumps from last year and pulled up my bob into a pony and clamped some curly hair-extensions. I did not know how to style my hair, but looking back now, I wish I had worn my hair short kasi lagi na pala kolong hair. Plus, better undies and a stronger lip color. Fail ang smoky eyes and nude lippie haha! And my unforgiving dress keeps revealing my newly-acquired pooch stomach (which was pumped full of iced tea; no drinks for this lady again this year). 🙂
Oh, well, there’s still next year. Or, is there?!

Books I Read: Emo-Emo-Miney-Moe

Now this book was my former team’s birthday gift to me earlier this month. I have been with them for almost a year, some for more than three years dating back from our old process, so I can say they are also some of my closest friends. And oh, how they know me so well. 

I was quite surprised to receive a book. Our team gifts normally consist of sweets, funny exercise equipments, kinky underwear and the likes. I mean how far can you go with 240 pesos? But I like this team tradition of contributing 20 pesos each every time somebody celebrates their birthday. But it was a pleasant kind of surprise, and I felt blessed to find out it was Leni who chose the book. Remind me to lend it to you as soon as I finish the last few pages. You could definitely benefit from this! J
“Making Your Emotions Work For You: Coping with Stress, Avoiding Burnout, Overcoming Fear… and More” by Harold J. Sala
These days being emotional has a negative connotation. “Emo ka na naman!” means you’re so caught up in your own drama, you’re starting to look pathetic. Not just one person has told me that my being emotional is both my strength and weakness. The ease with which I get along with other people by connecting to them right away, can also be difficult when the time comes that I have to let go. Sometimes I don’t just get attached, I latch!
Anyway, I won’t elaborate more, lest someone heckles me again, “Emo! Taong-grasa moves!” (Inside joke within my team hehe!) I choose to take both praise and criticism in this particular trait of mine with a grain of salt. If I can’t change my overly emotional nature, I can certainly learn to make my emotions work to my advantage. I can make friends with my emotions.
Enter this book. I think that mouthful of a title makes no mistake of what the author wants to get out there. The back blurb describes the author, Harold J. Sala as a PhD holder in English Bible, a well-known speaker and Bible teacher. No surprise then that the book is filled with references from God’s Word and practical approach to daily living and decision-making.
One of the book’s key principles is that our emotions are affected by our own assessment of our self-worth. Do we think we’re worth the bother? Are we insecure? How do think others see us? But it should boil down to how God sees us. If we see the way God created us and intended us to be, we will definitely have a healthier and stronger self-image. In Genesis 1:27, it said “God created human beings in his own image.” This should be our guiding mind-set whenever we think of self-image and self-worth.
The rest of the book talks about how we can control these emotions and not let it control us. We are human and we cannot NOT have emotions. God designed us this way, to have the capabilities to have strong feelings.  He discusses a Scripture-based approach on how we can deal with life’s problems, heartaches, disappointments, stress and worry with the help of our emotions, not by getting ruled or overwhelmed by it.
Now that is such good news for an emotera like me, right?

Books I Read: Let’s Talk Love…

I started reading two books simultaneously this month. I finished one and am half-way through the other. Thank God for some idle time at work I can catch up on my reading, plus I don’t fall asleep on my desk, since my station is set apart from my team’s inner pod. I highly recommend reading – and re-reading and Stabilo Boss-ing portions and taking copious notes from – these two books. Here’s the first one…
“The Five Love Languages: Singles Edition” by Gary Chapman
I got mine at Fully Booked in MOA for about PHP 280, but it’s also available in Powerbooks and National Bookstore. From the book’s back blurb, Gary Chapman is a New York Times bestselling author, radio host and prolific conference speaker on marriage and relationships. His original book catered mainly for married couples, but after it became a hit, he was inspired to write one targeting singles. I actually saw versions for teenagers and children as well.
His basic premise is that every human has an innate emotional need to love and be loved. And I totally agree on that! Furthermore, if we know how to love others effectively (and others can do the same for us) it would drastically change how we relate to each other – for the better.  
Enter the five love languages, namely: Words of Affirmation, Gifts, Acts of Service, Quality Tie and Physical Touch. Chapman discusses how each of us – while we may all “speak” or demonstrate all five in or relationships – have a primary (sometimes even secondary) love language. This is the language that we often manifest to people we love or care about, and usually is also the kind of love language we respond to most successfully when spoken to us. By discovering our own love language and of our loved ones, we can show them love in the language they speak and would respond to more effectively.
For example, if my primary language is Physical Touch, I like to hug, kiss or be close to people who are special to me. Likewise, if a loved one touches me, I feel more loved and taken cared of.  A person’s love language can also be discerned not only on what he positively shows, but through his complaints as well. If you shower your girlfriend with gifts but are rarely around her and she complains about not seeing you enough, chances are her love language is Quality Time. Constantly berating a child whose love language is Words of Affirmation will likely have a more hurtful impact.
I cannot do justice to the book by just a few statements. It’s definitely worth reading. The book also contains dozens of stories about the many singles and couples Chapman has counseled through the years using the five love languages. But what I love most about it is ultimately, it discusses love in the way God intended it to be. It doesn’t only tackle romantic, “kilig” love but also genuine love between parent and child, friends, families and even coworkers. In the same way that you would want to learn the language or dialect of a foreign country where you’re at, in order to be able to understand its people and live harmoniously with them, then it makes sense to learn the love language of people you care about. 
There are references to Scripture verses that are apt in our daily living and relationships. At the end, there is also a profile quiz to see what your love language/s is/are. Some people can actually be “bilingual” and have two primary love languages. I suggest taking the quiz first before reading it so there will be no bias or “manipulation” of answers. I actually had an idea what mine was (primary and secondary) but it was still fun to actually confirm it haha! I had some of my office mates take the quiz too. 
I found an online version of the quiz in the book, so if you’re up to it, click here. You can take one for yourself, or for your child, whether you are single or married. It’s fun! 🙂

30 Before 30

Last year began with so much optimism and energy. It was full not only of renewed faith, hope, and happy memories, but also lessons, mistakes and pain. I lost some, but I believe, I gained more. I fell so many times, but got up twice as much. Oh, 2012, I’m so glad the world didn’t end with you. Actually, in so many ways, I felt like my life just got a restarted.

I set out to do some stuff for the first time. Some, I just stumbled  on along the way. I guess some people set out to find a cure for some disease or go to some far-flung exotic countries; ako, mababaw lang kaligayahan ko e. You might laugh or make fun of some of the silly things I did, but for me, each and every one of these items has a special meaning, a genuine lesson or an unforgettable impact in my life

Thirty big and small reasons last year rocked, and why I’m so looking forward to this year: a new year, a new decade and a whole new bunch of great things just waiting to happen. 

#30. Go one month without alcohol. 

Here’s this month’s battle cry: Alcohol-Free This January. And a battle it will be indeed, as this month is chock-full of reasons to drink myself senseless: my, Ging’s and Mama’s birthdays, the company’s annual holiday party, post-Christmas party/reunion/Sau Paolo barrio fiesta soiree with college orgmates, (possible) Katy Perry concert and then Zambales beach getaway with the team. Plus, there’s still some hangover euphoria from my Performance Coach assignment and all the positive vibes a new year can bring.

Hopefully this will accomplish several things, one of them to control my compulsive-drinker tendencies (one who cannot resist and control how much alcohol she consumes, according to an article in last month’s Cosmo). Two, I’ll see who my “true friends” are. Good friends will not drink in my presence, but great friends can and will still drink even when I’m around, but will not goad me to do the same. I did not do it to project some holier-than-thou image, but if drinking turns me into someone who reflects a bad example (especially to my daughter), then that’s a good reason as any reason to stop, right?
* I posted this as a Facebook status exactly a year ago, at the strike of midnight on January 5, with minor editions. 


#29.  Get saved

I attended a service at an office mate’s church, frankly, at first, out of curiosity. I was piqued at this person’s positive attitude and utmost trust and faith in the Lord. I mean, I know God; I’m not an atheist, but I never thought I would see and know Him in a different way that day. It was the first time I would visit a church other than a Catholic one. We’ve never been an overly religious family, so I guess I grew up thinking that while I am aware that God exists and Jesus Christ is His Son, I have always regarded them as just Someone I see or hear about on Sundays. I went to church because it was expected, or only because I had something to pray for or needed or because an occasion calls for it. I guess I’ve never had what you call a personal relationship with the Lord.

When I came in the worship tent, I noticed just a simple cross below SBCC’s emblem and an open Bible. There was a bandstand on the right and an OVH projector screen on the left. When the service started, I was taken aback by the loud and fast music and everyone was heartily clapping and raising their hands; some were almost dancing. The song leader was belting out the song like those gospel singers I see in movies, eyes closed and hand raised in worship. Concert ba to? I was used to the solemn songs and apathetic singing of parishioners.

Then the Pastor came on stage to speak. He was dressed casually, spoke candidly and kept the audience enraptured with the Word, emphasizing his points with “Amen?” and the crowd would enthusiastically answer back. One of the verse that day was from Hebrews 10:19-22:”Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.” I don’t need any “middle man” or good deed or false idols to get me to heaven; it is only through Jesus that I can get to the Father.

Today, I came expecting to be a mere spectator. The first few questions I answered were guarded: I felt as if I was being quizzed on being a believer. But then their sincerity and genuine concern to connect with me and help me understand pricked something in me. I didn’t realize that by keeping an open mind to the faith of others, it would open doors I thought I had already closed or would never dare enter again. Or that if I went even with a hardened heart, Jesus would find a way to touch and open it. And He did. He just spoke to me that day. It all starts with the first and best step.

“Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.” (James 4:8 ESV)
* Written February 26.


#28. Read “The Purpose Driven Life.” 

I guess you could call this my second baby step. I thank Him for using a lovely, kind woman (Tita Nory, Pastor Dave’s wife) who helped me better understand the Gospel and also sensed my need to seek. She gave me the book to read and also prayed and encouraged me to seek God, and to accept Jesus as my personal Lord and Savior. The book is divided into 40 parts, corresponding to one day each. I read one everyday, and it was a joy to read and find out God’s five purposes for me in this world. There were over a thousand Bible verses that helped me better understand the messages, as well as one for each day and a question to ponder on. A must-read, especially for someone who is just starting to walk with Him. 
* Written in April.

#27. Try Thai food.

There’s this authentic, little Thai eskinita-resto in Elbi that’s been around for ages, Nhing’s Thai. I decided to try it after hearing great reviews about their food. We ordered the Pad Thai (sour stir-fried noodles with meat, bean sprouts and cilantro), Yom Gagai (red curry in coconut milk) and a ground pork dish I forgot the name. I also had their Cha-yen, which is some sort of orangey-brown milk tea. It was a different kind of experience and although I liked the Pad Thai, the others were too spicy for my unadventurous tongue. I think I’ll stick to wasabe-free Californiamakis. 
* Written in March.

#26. Get my first, own Bible.

And start being transformed by the truth! “If you continue in my word, then you are my disciples indeed: and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:31-32 [KJV]). Much love and thanks to new friends at the Philippine Bible Society (Thanks Tita Vi and Kuya Jeff!) for the generous discount! I read that if I read through the Bible just fifteen minutes a day, I will read completely through it once a year.
* Written in March.

#25. Play “tour guide” in my hometown.

Born and raised in the land of buko pie, Mer-Nel’s, the infamous Fertility tree and the fresh air and expanses of green grass…  there’s no place like my home, Elbi! Never really “toured” someone and I actually am not familiar with half of the new establishments sprouting around Grove and Umali Subdivision. So I played safe and took him to lunch at Bonito’s, dinner at Nhing’s Thai (see #27), hanged out at Freedom Park, Main Lib, Vet Med, took pictures with Pegaraw, Mariang Banag, Baker Hall, Fertility Tree, the Carillon and rode a pedicab to get fresh milk at DTRI, all the while providing some bits of trivia and urban legends.  In fairness, mahirap pala maging tour guide! 
* Written in March.


#24. Be part of a Victory Group.

What better way to experience fellowship with other believers, start getting involved in my church and get to know God’s Word more through sharing and learn from more spiritually mature people than me. And my “ladies” are some of the friendliest, most refreshingly candid and kulit girls I’ve met. And they’re sober too, of course.

Special mention to Maan, who was my first friend in Victory, and who took me in her VG as well. Funny story how we – should I say – re-met? My first time to attend a Victory Sunday service, I was alone and very hesitant. I was sitting at the back row, surrounded by groups of people who obviously know each other well. On the stage, there was a huge signage that said, “Intrusion,” which apparently was their topic for that service. Boy, did I feel like an intruder. I was telling Him, Lord, five minutes then aalis na ko, OP ako dito. I was about to do just that, when a lady with a warm, welcoming smile approached me and asked me if I was alone and if this was my first time. I took a second look and realized it was Maan, a girl I went to elementary school with and haven’t seen since then. We were among the tallest in class so we were always at the end of the line, doing mischief we would rather not elaborate on. But then, just as I was about to bolt, God sent me a familiar face to hold my hand and walk with me in this unfamiliar, new but exciting path I was taking. And through her, I also met and got reaquainted with new and familiar faces who make my Sunday afternoons quite different now! 
* Written in July

#23. Go on a 24-hour Facebook/BBM/text detox. 

An entire day not to think about what to say and what others are saying. Definitely cleared my mind. Not such an easy feat though, given my tendency to think of FB as an extension of my thoughts and words, and propensity towards over-sharing every minute detail of my life.
* Written in May.

#22. Try one trend: animal print.

Yeah I’m that unadventurous when it comes to trends. Rode the animal-print bandwagon and took a walk in the wild side – gauzy leopard-print blouse at work. Rawr. 


Broke two of my age-old rules on dating: #21.Never date someone from work; and #20. Do not go out with a younger guy. It was only much later when I realized why rules should neverbe broken. 

#19. Start daily devotion.

A friend gave me a copy of Our Daily Bread, and my quiet time with Him really helped guide me through the day, brought me closer to Him, and make God’s Word more accessible to my every day living. At the start of the last quarter, I got another devotional guide, “Enter His Gates” by Charles Stanley. 
#18.  Book a flight as a surprise. 
I decided to tag along to Team Jown’s teambuilding in Camarines Sur and kept it a secret for 3 months! With the a little inside help, they didn’t have a clue (okay just a hint, thanks to RA’s big mouth!) until I showed up at their meeting place in Jollibee. We took the Penafrancia bus, which had uber-comfy Lazy Boy-like chairs and it’s own restroom (which was a real challenge to use). We tried authentic Bicolana fare like the kinalas (a noodle soup), laing, Bicol express. We played in the lake with large inflatable playground, tried (wake)knee-boarding the next day, since the beginner’s area was closed so we couldn’t stand up. The rain poured but it didn’t dampen our mood and the bonding that we had. Even with delayed flights, we had so much fun taking star-struck pictures with former Senator Zubiri and Sponge Cola at the airport. I actually rode with them celebs to Manila, since I booked a different flight back. For the full post see, CamSur na Sure Mauulit Ito!

#17. Get a perm. 

I got “half-cooked” beachy waves because I was afraid I’d end up with Santo Niño-ish kinky hair. Just a change from the usual flat, straight hair I got. It’s this or a short pixie cut which I already did, and I must admit, the curls made me feel girly-er and kikayer than never before, hihi…


#16. Get baptized. 

Declare! “But from there you will seek the Lord your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul.” (Deut 4: 29 ESV) Not really to erase any “original sin” nor is it some good deed we’re required to do to gain God’s favor, but as act of obedience to God, and a proud declaration that we choose to follow Jesus and are part of his invisible body – the church. I am a new creation. 
* Written August 25 

#15. Check out how green is the grass on other side…

After seven years  at my current job, a lot of factors pushed me to finally say, what the heck, let’s at least give it a try. At least, whether I make the cut or not, this is one “what if?” I can cross off. And I learned, as what Joyce Meyer said, “Patience is not the ability to wait. Waiting is a fact of life. Patience is the ability to keep a good attitude while waiting.”

#14. Cut my hair short again. 

I did not get a pixie cut though, just a chin-length, Victoria Beckham-inspired style. Though I sometimes miss my long, curly waves, life’s a bit easier with less hair to worry about. For full post, see The Long and Short of It.

 #13. Get a passport. 

After years of planning and procrastinating, I finally scheduled an appointment for Ging and me. We did it online and the process was efficient and took us just a couple of hours or so. It was delivered after 7 days (I ordered rush) and is now ready to roll! First stamp: Hongkong!
#12. Coach and mentor my peers.
After handling the Complaints work stream for several months after getting one of the three Performance Coach posts, I was assigned in the Kept Pool program and handle half of it. It was nerve-racking to actually coach another collector- especially since my own Kept rate was tanking in the last few months. But yes, what they call a blessing in disguise, I actually became a decent and credible enough coach (haha!) and what do you know, my own kept even improved. I was privileged enough to work with reps who are very open to feedback, managers who are all-out in their support and fellow PC’s to compare notes with. Our team also performed well, and with a new set of reps, we’re setting our aim high in the next few weeks! Woohoo!
#11. Go out of the country. To Hongkong! 

We booked the trip months in advance, and this is also first out-of –country trip for Ging – and us together as a family. It was also to celebrate Tatay Lito’s 41st birthday, and his and Ate Joy’s 12th wedding anniversary. We flew out from Clark, Pamanga via Tiger Airways. We stayed at Taisan guesthouse run by a Pinay, on Nathan Roadat the Kowloon side, then on our last day at another house owned by a grumpy old Korean man. Hongkong’s a little like Manila, except it is cleaner and more organized, especially their public transportation. Even the parks and public restrooms are clean! Everyone walks around waving their gadgets in the air, seemingly unafraid of snatchers and pickpockets (our host told us people here are scared of stricter sanctions for stealing). Food and drinks were a bit more expensive though and after the first couple of Chinese meals, I was desperate for a cheeseburger. Luckily, there were also a lot of familiar restaurants like McDo and KFc and shops too.

The trip was mostly for the kids, so we did the whole tourist bit: The Peak, Madame Tussaud’s, Disneyland, Ocean Park, Avenue of the Stars, light show at the Queen’s Harbor. It involved a lot of walking and I was glad I brought shorts and comfy Flip Flops (but I did wear boots though!). It was just like in the Philippinesbut not as humid. We also shopped a couple of outlet stores (Bossini, Giordano, Vans, Cotton On) but we did not have enough time or energy anymore for the night market or even Macau. But it was still super fun and worth it, because we bonded over food, rides, pictures and getting a bit lost around the city. What I loved most about HK was the double-decker buses and the efficient prepaid and reloadable Octopus card that we used for the subway, and can be used even to purchase goods at most stores. More pics here: Hongkong Day 1.

#10. Bring Ging to Victory. 

Although it created some, uhm friction at home, I did manage to have Ging attend services at Victory. She now goes to the Kid’s Church whenever she can. A smart kid, she was the one who proposed a sort of compromise for the meantime: she goes with me and then with her grandmother to the other church every other Sunday.

#9. Go to Paco Park.

Sometime this year, I got it in my head that I want to go to Paco Park. Chalk it up to part curiosity, part-kilig by JL-Bea scenes shot her in “Miss You Like Crazy,” nyaha! It might not seem like a big deal to some, but I’ve meaning to do some city sightseeing and visiting parks like these tops my list. It was a great and peaceful afternoon to just sit back and think, plus I made met a couple of photography guys who made for some pleasant small talk to while away the time. Unfortunately, I forgot their names, oops. For the full scoop of my visit, see Let’s Nail This Paco Park Thingie.

#8. Have an encounter with Him.

I was invited back to my office mate’s church, this time to attend one of their activities, the Women’s Encounter. It was a two-day activity held at their center, and what an awesome two days I had! I met a lot of godly ladies, and was privileged to hear them share their stories of struggles and victories in their walk with God. There were women who have been Christians all their lives, new believers, ladies of various ministries and careers, married and even single mothers like me, teachers, students and many more. The experience was eye-opening and deeply encouraging. I was very blessed to have all these freed and victorious women praying for and with me, and to know that I am not alone going through my new life. Indeed, my prayer is to become a “fruitful vine.”
* Written in June


#7. Do One2One.

My VG leader Maan started my One2One session, and it could not have come at a better time in my life. I was going through a rough patch that month, and constantly being fed by the Word and godly counsel helped me get through super down moments. It was an amazing avenue for me to get to know God more, thank and praise Him even during my lowest points. What a great reminder of God’s love and purpose in my life.


#6. Set up a Twitter account.

I finally gave in to “peer pressure” from my Victory Group-mates. Plus, I really want to follow some great people and organizations (Rica Peralejo-Bonifacio, Yeng Constantino and Victory_LB were the first few I followed upon creating my account). This way I can also maximize my plan’s unlimited surfing features, since my bill’s always kinda high and I couldn’t figure out exactly how that happens every month! Follow me @jazvarca.
* Written December 10

#5. Play “turista” at UP Diliman.

Living inside UP campus all my life, I’ve never actually visited UPD. I might have passed it once or twice. Two colleagues, though, always harp on the merits of going there back in college: how serene the campus were, how fresh the air is (I was unimpressed; I live in UPLB, hehe!), how laid-back the atmosphere is they kept going there during “hahanapin-ko-ang-sarili-ko” moments even when they have already graduated.

So one day, we made like giggly school-kids playing hooky, took the half day off work and rode the ofice shuttle to QC. We rode the Ikot jeeps, ate the bestseller tapsilog at Rodic’s, browsed the UP merchandise at SC, ate more than a hundred peso worth of isaw and other animal innards at Mang Raul’s, photo-ops everywhere, hung out at the Sunken Garden and of course, said goodbye to Oble, who was then basking in glorious pre-Christmas lights and decor. It was a tiring (all that walking and food/laugh trip and reminiscing for my three companions; I was the only one who didn’t attend UPD) but relaxing too, since there were less people around as classes were officially over. Next up: UPLD campus tour naman! For more pics of our UP gala, see Campus Tour: Isko and Iska Edition.

#4. Go to the “happiest place on earth” – Disneyland!

Day 2 at Hongkong was spent at Disneyland! It was a day full of walking, rides, music and watching characters from my beloved childhood stories and movies come to life. Mostly the kids had the time of their lives because of the rides. Best by far was the RC Car in Toy Story Land! It was a bit different because Buzz and Mickey and the rest of them were speaking in Chinese instead of English. To cap the night was the fire works display behind the castle. Just like the one they show before every Disney movie, yihee. For more pics, check out my album Hongkong Day 2.

#3. Lead a Victory Group session.

I got a text message from my VG leader about a week before, asking me if I could lead that Sunday’s VG. I was surprised but also happy and excited that she deemed me ready to speak and share the Word our group. Granted, there were only about 3-5 ladies in our group, and sessions normally just last about an hour. But still, I was like, what can I possibly say to these ladies, who have been Christians far longer –some even since childhood – than I have. Then I remembered the verse from last week’s preaching, which would also be the Word for our session: “Luke 1:38”

Okay, I said to myself, I’ll be like Mary. Iba rin naman magbigay ng encouragement si God, right? It was as if he was also telling me, believe, Jaz! Even if you don’t know everything, believe me as I guide you. And thankfully, I was able to lead the session though his grace. Ever the OC-OC, I even made some crude, last minute flashcards and made copious notes. We all learned a lot from the message that day, and were even able to share encouragement as we go through different seasons in our lives.

#2. Invite a “K-list member” to church.

During the Encounter, in encouraging us to live the Great Commission, one of the speakers asked us to think about our “K-list.” She said we all have these –kamag-anak, kaibigan, kaopisina, kaklase, kasakay sa bus, kapamilya, kapuso, kapatid, heck, even kaaway! These are the people who we are all praying for to be saved as well. To share to them and invite them to invite Jesus in their lives is one of the five missions God set out for us.

I invited my high school best friend to come to attend service with me today. Okay, so I used my charms and little bit of manipulation (plus 16 years worth of bestfriendship) when I invited her today. Also I used my upcoming birthday as leverage. “Early birthday gift mo na sakin to.” How could she refuse me, right?

She made it just in time for the Word and the preaching. I praise God for his timely message today. We were both blessed by Pastor Jon’s sermon. One of the first things Chrys told me after the service was, “Uy naka-relate ako dun ha.” Afterwards at dinner, in between reminiscing about high school, sharing anecdotes about our day to day life and gobbling down down salads and coffee at Mi Bonito’s, she even shared some of her views and struggles about her own faith. What a blessing! Again, baby steps.

“God has given us the privilege of urging everyone to come into his favor and be reconciled to him.” ~2 Corinthians 5:18 

#1. Welcome my 30th birthday with a sisters’ night out.

I don’t think we’ve ever gone out, just the three of us sisters, so I was so happy and excited that I get to ring in my birthday with two of the most important ladies in my life. We did the stuff I (and yeah they too) love: browse bookstores and clothes and shoes at the mall, stay in a hotel, Japanese food, tea and coffee at CBTL and breakfast buffet. Yeah!

Though we don’t get to spend a lot of alone time together, what with families, work and the distance, they’re there for me when it matters the most. Even when I’m not aware, my sisters have stood by me, defended me, protected me, loved me even at my worst. If last year has taught me to love my friends like family, it has also showed me the importance of being friends with my family. Blood is indeed thicker than water. Cheers to my two, fat, ugly sisters, Ate Joy and Ate Jean! Just cause it’s my birthday, I get to be the prettiest today (and yes last night pa)! Pictures galore here: #TheBigThreeOhAlbum.

I want to end with some lines from one of my favorite songs, just because I want to:

So take these words and sing out loud
‘Cause everyone is forgiven now
‘Cause tonight’s the night the world begins again. 

~Better Days, Goo Goo Dolls

Better days are coming, my dearies. 🙂