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. 🙂