Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year!

May the year 2010 lead us along the road to recovery, open its doors to a new hope, good health, gratitude, love and peace as 2009 closes the gates to failures, greed, ingratitude and sufferings.

A blessed New Year to you and to all in your home... Cheers to 2010!!!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Best Gift He Ever Had

In one of my early posts, I wrote about my friend Ron, who just retired from work and few days later he was diagnosed of having esophageal cancer. Guess what? in less than a year later, after going through series of chemotherapy and radiation and surgery last August, he finally gained his health back. And just two days before Christmas, he got the most wonderful gift he'd ever wanted. His latest PET and CT scans and all three doctors confirmed the good report— he is  free of cancer! That's just barely four months after his surgery. Isn't it amazing? God really works in many wonderful ways. In our conversation this morning, he could not thank God enough for giving him his life back. He said that he was never a religious person but what he went through really made him realized how God really works and how He listens to prayers. Ron said that he had never prayed more than he did when he was going through his ordeal. Everyday he is a witness to how God works miracles through his doctors, friends and all who care about him.

I was weeping with gratitude and overcome with every emotion imaginable as I was listening to Ron talk about his plan for his second life. I cannot describe the happiness he feels for the gift of life.

He still has to have his hormone dosage tested in a few weeks, and twice a year check-ups to make sure the cancer hasn’t returned. It's by no means over and there are no guarantees in life. But he chooses to look at all of this is good and if the statistics are right, then things are in his favor that he will stay cancer free for years to come. He's grateful to taste the food again, smell the tree, feel the warmth of the fire, and see the new year as the time he conquers this disease!

One day at a time, one step at a time, I am so thankful for Ron to be alive...
Merry Christmas & all things wonderful in 2010 to all!

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Gift Of Forgiveness

Last night, I read a quote that made me pause for a while and inspired me to write this post:

"Bitterness and an unforgiving spirit can be likened to you taking poison and expecting that someone else would die from the effect. Forgiveness is about setting the prisoner in your heart free only to discover that all along, you had been the real prisoner." I realized I need to do a better job of letting go and just forgive. After all, I have not been good at forgiving others, not very well.

Since early childhood I've been taught not to bear grudges against my fellow men; that I should always be willing to forgive those who had caused me pain cause this is what God commanded us, as Christians. The first quote I memorized by heart and mind from grade school is "To err is human, to forgive is Divine." Later in life did I learn that it is easily said than done.

And how do you forgive someone who doesn't bother to ask forgiveness and the worst part is, the person doesn't even care that he hurt you and you spent many sleepless nights feeling upset, wandering how some people could be so insensitive and not realize the extent of their action. It's hard to forgive somebody who caused you pain, so much more to give it to someone who is not asking for it.

So I read the quote again. Then I realized that all those times that I was stubborn and not willing to forgive, I had been the real prisoner. It was I who was trapped, I wasn't hurting anyone else by not getting past the situation that occurred long ago. And I thought about why I hadn't forgiven sooner.

And it came down to courage. I'm not as fearless as I thought I was. I have so many excuses. All the things I mentioned don't make me strong inside, it's all external junk that I really don't need. I need to be strong, and just forgive, no Ifs no Buts. I need to have the courage to get rid of all the excuses and move forward, just forgive and forget.

That's what I wish for you this holiday season. I hope you'll take some time and give yourself a gift of forgiveness. Whatever is holding you back from forgiving, remember, you are the prisoner, and not the person you have not forgiven. The key to your freedom is in your hand...

Thursday, December 17, 2009

For The Love Of Golf

AFTER a long MEDIA SPOTLIGHT that’s made coverage of other big scandals this year look like a town council meeting, Tiger Woods finally issued a statement on Friday saying, “I have decided to take an indefinite break from professional golf.”
“I am deeply aware of the disappointment and hurt that my infidelity has caused many people, most of all my wife and children,” Tiger said at his Web site. “What’s most important now is that my family has the time, privacy, and safe haven we will need for personal healing.”

The reason for an “indefinite break as,” Tiger said, “I need to focus my attention on being a better husband, father, and person.”

Definitely, Tiger’s latest statement and the circumstances surrounding it will be examined and debated in the days and weeks ahead with great zeal. An infinite theories will be hatched and debunked. And the media  frenzy will rage on. I would imagine more people who wants to take a 60 seconds to fame will take advantage of the situation and strike while the iron is hot.

As a very avid golf fan, I have a simple response to Tiger’s statement and his desire to call a timeout: OK.

Tiger is my favorite golfer. I don't watch golf tournament on tv unless Tiger is playing. I am so frustrated to know about his infidelity but it has nothing to do with the sport he played so well and dominated that made me love and admire him so much. Besides I understand the pressures he must have to overcome being  as successful as he is.

I am his big fan and I will forever admire him as a transformative figure in golf. I will definitely root for him now, as well as his wife, Elin, and their children. I root for marriages. They’re not easy for anyone and harder for many. I also root for families, especially children, who have the most to lose when moms and dads fracture.

And I will root for golf.

I'm sure it's still a long road to travel for Tiger Woods. But like any other scandals of the rich & famous in the past, this too will come to pass. He does need sometime or however long it takes to get something worked out. He shouldn't worry about bouncing all the way back (as an endorsement force), as sociologist Dr. Harry Edwards said. "The one thing we know is that when a ball drops from 15 feet when it bounces back up, it's only going to rise to 12 feet."

It's been said that while golf will never be the same in the Tiger era—especially since the Tiger golf economy may implode like the U.S. financial system did a year ago—it will survive as a game and professional sport. Golf made Tiger; he didn’t make golf. He just made it thrilling, heroic and much, much richer.

The luster may be gone, the money may dry up, the TV ratings may tank—which is all very sad and detrimental to the livelihoods of many people—but the game that made Tiger is still a great game. This scandal, and any future scandals, can’t change that.

My love & passion for golf will always be the same...

Monday, December 14, 2009

A Letter From A Brave Filipina

Dear Kababayan, after reading the text below which was sent to me by a friend, I could not help but decide to share it with you. This is a beautifully, candidly and eloquently written letter from an ordinary citizen of our country that has seen the reality of life there. Many of us who are abroad may not know everything that is happening there and even though most of us are no longer Filipino citizens, many of us still have hearts that bleed for our countrymen that are suffering from the country’s vermin leaders. This text below is being presented to you as received, nothing deleted. This text is obviously written from the heart and nails the country’s problems right on the head. I greatly applaud to high heavens the bravery of this Filipina for speaking out. Please share this message to as many of our kababayans especially now that the election is forthcoming. Let us pray that the Filipino people are enlightened to vote for the right candidates to lead our beloved country; leaders that are honest and dedicated for the good of the people and our country.

Many thanks for taking the time to read. It is a bit lengthy but wholesome, indeed. I am sure you will not stop reading until you reach the end and would even want for more information. This letter is truly heavier than the weight in gold. Here it goes:

To all Filipinos:

I used to think that corruption and criminality in the Philippines were caused by poverty. But recent events tell me this isn't true. It is one thing to see people turn into drug addicts, prostitutes, thieves and murderers because of hunger and poverty, but what excuse do these rich, educated people have that could possibly explain their bizarre behavior? And to think I was always so relieved when petty snatchers got caught and locked away in jail because I never fully realized that the big time thieves were out there, making the laws and running our country. Can it get any worse than this?

Every night, I come home and am compelled to turn on my tv to watch the latest turn of events. I am mesmerized by these characters. They are not men. They are caricatures of men - too unreal to be believable and too bad to be real. To see these "honorable" crooks lambast each other, call each one names, look each other in the eye and accuse the other of committing the very same crimes that they themselves are guilty of, is so comical and apalling that I don't know whether to laugh or cry. It is entertainment at its worst!

I have never seen so many criminals roaming around unfettered and looking smug until now. These criminals wear suits and barongs, strut around with the confidence of the rich and famous, inspire fear and awe from the very citizens who voted them to power, bear titles like "Honorable", "Senator", "Justice", "General" and worse, "President". Ironically, these lawless individuals practice law, make our laws, enforce the law. And we wonder why our policemen act the way they do! These are their leaders, and the leaders of this nation – Robin Hoodlum and his band of moneymen. Their motto? "Rob the poor, moderate the greed of the rich."

It makes me wonder where on earth these people came from, and what kind of upbringing they had to make them act the way they do for all the world to see. It makes me wonder what kind of schools they went to, what kind of teachers they had, what kind of environment would produce such creatures who can lie, cheat and steal from an already indebted country and from the impoverished people they had vowed to serve. It makes me wonder what their children and grandchildren think of them, and if they are breeding a whole new generation of improved Filipino crooks and liars with maybe a tad more style but equally negligible conscience. Heaven forbid!

I am an ordinary citizen and taxpayer. I am blessed to have a job that pays for my needs and those of my family's, even though 30% of my earnings go to the nation's coffers. Just like others in my lot, I have complained time and again because our government could not provide enough of the basic services that I expect and deserve. Rutty roads, poor educational system, poor social services, poor health services, poor everything. But I have always thought that was what all third world countries were all about, and my complaints never amounted to anything more.
And then this. Scandalous government deals. Plundering presidents pointing fingers. Senators associated with crooks. Congressmen who accept bribes. Big time lawyers on the side of injustice. De Venecia ratting on his boss only after his interminable term has ended, Enrile inquiring about someone's morality! The already filthy rich Abalos and Arroyo wanting more money than they or their great grandchildren could ever spend in a lifetime. Joker making a joke of his own "pag bad ka, lagot ka!" slogan.. Defensor rendered defenseless. Gen. Razon involved in kidnapping.
Security men providing anything but a sense of security. And it's all about money, money, money that the average Juan de la Cruz could not even imagine in his dreams. Is it any wonder why our few remaining decent and hardworking citizens are leaving to go work in other countries?
And worst of all, we are once again saddled with a power-hungry president whose addiction has her clinging on to it like barnacle on a rusty ship. "Love (of power) is blind" takes a whole new meaning when PGMA time and again turns a blind eye on her husband's financial deals. And still blinded with all that is happening, she opts to traipse around the world with her cohorts in tow while her country is in shambles.

They say the few stupid ones like me who remain in the Philippines are no longer capable of showing disgust. I don't agree. Many like me feel anger at the brazenness of men we call our leaders, embarrassment to share the same nationality with them, frustration for our nation and helplessness at my own ineffectuality. It is not that I won't make a stand. It is just that I am afraid my actions would only be futile. After all, these monsters are capable of anything. They can hurt me and my family. They already have, though I may not yet feel it..

But I am writing this because I need to do something concrete. I need to let others know that ordinary citizens like me do not remain lukewarm to issues that would later affect me and my children. I want to make it known that there are also Filipinos who dream of something better for the Philippines. I want them to know that my country is not filled with scalawags and crooks in every corner, and that there are citizens left who believe in decency, fairness, a right to speak, a right to voice out ideas, a right to tell the people we have trusted to lead us that they have abused their power and that it is time for them to step down. I refuse to let this country go to hell because it is the only country I call mine and it is my responsibility to make sure I have done what I could for it.

Those of us who do not have the wealth, power or position it needs to battle the evil crime lords in the government can summon the power of good. We can pray. We can do this with our families every night. We can offer petitions every time we celebrate mass. We can ask others to pray, too, including relatives and friends here and overseas. And we can offer sacrifices along with our petitions, just so we get the message to Him of our desperation in ridding our nation of these vermin. After all, they cannot be more powerful than God!

I implore mothers out there to raise your children the best way you can. Do not smother, pamper, or lavish them with too much of the material comforts of life even if you can well afford them. Teach them that there are more important things in this world. I beg all fathers to spend time with their children, to teach them the virtues of hard work, honesty, fair play, sharing, dignity and compassion – right from the sandbox till they are old enough to go on their own. Not just in your homes, but at work, in school, everywhere you go. Be good role models. Be shining examples for your children so they will learn to be responsible adults who will carry and pass on your family name with pride and honor.

I call on educators and teachers – we always underestimate the power of your influence on the minds of our youth. Encourage them to be aware of what is happening in their surroundings. Instill in them a love of their country, inculcate in them the value of perseverance in order to gain real, worthwhile knowledge, help us mold our children into honorable men and women. Encourage our graduates, our best and brightest, to do what they can to lift this country from the mire our traditional politicians have sunk us into. The youth is our future – and it would be largely because of you, our educators, that we will be able to repopulate the seats of power with good leaders, presidents, senators, congressmen, justices, lawmakers, law enforcers and lawful citizens.

I ask all students, young people and young professionals everywhere to look around and get involved in what is happening. Do not let your youth be an excuse for failure to concern yourselves with the harsh realities you see. But neither let this make you cynical, because we need your idealism and fresh perspective just as you need the wisdom of your elders. YOUR COUNTRY NEEDS YOU! Let your voices be heard. Do what you can for this land that gave you your ancestors and your heritage. Use technology and all available resources at hand to spread good. Text meaningful messages to awaken social conscience. Try your best to fight moral decay because I promise you will not regret it when you become parents yourselves. You will look back at your past misdeeds and pray that your children will do better than you did.

Remember that there are a few handful who are capable of running this country.. You can join their ranks and make their numbers greater. We are tired of the old trapos. We need brave idealistic leaders who will think of the greater good before anything else. Do your utmost to excel in your chosen field.. Be good lawyers, civil servants, accountants, computer techs, engineers, doctors, military men so that when you are called to serve in government, you will have credibility and a record that can speak for itself.

For love of this country, for the future of our children, for the many who have sacrificed and died to uphold our rights and ideals, I urge you to do what you can. As ordinary citizens, we can do much more for the Philippines than sit around and let crooks lead us to perdition. We owe ourselves this. And we owe our country even more.

Remedios C. Paningbatan
Administrative Officer
Office of the General Counsel
Asian Development Bank
Tel (632) 632-4248

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Sleepless In Manassas

It's past midnight now and yet, here I am still wide awake. Everything is okay but sleep won't come easy tonight...

Actually I was frustrated with something this afternoon. And I guess that's what triggers me to feel a little bit down. But life is like that. Sometimes we have great days, we feel like we are on top of the world. But there are times that it's not easy to smile even if there is nothing wrong with your life. That's the reason why I have this blog. Every now and then I just want to unweave and pour out my emotion. This is my place to paint my thoughts and feelings.

It's past 1:00AM, I am starting to get sleepy...

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Christmas Away From Home

Couple of weeks from now, Christmas will be here. Everywhere you go nowadays, you see a lot of Christmas decorations, the Christmas songs are playing everywhere, and the shops are filled with Christmas shoppers. I've got my Christmas tree up today, decorated with Christmas balls and lights, the presents are all wrapped up and are sitting comfortably under the tree. We've been looking forward to seeing another white Christmas minus the snow shovels and snow storms. Yet, despite all the merry decorations and great looking lights, I miss Christmas in the Philippines.

For us Filipinos, there's nothing like Christmas in the Philippines. You actually hear Christmas songs played on radio & malls as early as first week of September, but officially our Christmas season starts on December 16. It usually ends on the first Sunday of January. Christmas in the Philippines has been described as the longest Christmas celebration in the world. Okay, what usually happens on December 16? That's when the "Simbang Gabi" officialy starts all over the Philippines. People of all ages, old or young, whether you're rich or poor, everyone looks forward to Simbang Gabi. Some people never miss a single Simbang Gabi at all, most people believe that if you complete December 16 to December 24 yes, all those 9 Christmas morning masses, your wish will be granted. I had perfect attendance on my last four years that I was in the Philippines. The Mass is usually very early (some churches start as early as 3:30 AM and some start at 4 or 4:30 AM). Lovers walk hand-in-hand, whole families walk to church together and some drive, but it's more fun if you walk since there are lots of people walking and you get to eat all the Christmas goodies being sold in the streets. Groups of friends or what we call them as barkadas, all walk together, giggling and teasing each other. Churches are jam-packed, most people can't get in the church so they end up just sitting or standing right outside. As soon as the Holy Mass is over, everyone scrambles to the street stalls for freshly cooked goodies. (note: you're going to drool over the smell). Bibingka, kutsinta, puto bumbong, salabat, arroz caldo, lugaw, hot cocoa and hot coffee are all being served to hungry churchgoers by these street food peddlers. From where I came from the weather is usually cooler in December (in the early morning hours, it sometimes get down to as low as 60 degrees F).

I can clearly remember how my family celebrates on Christmas. We have a huge family gathering on Christmas Eve. All the kids (pamangkins & apos) would wait until midnight (we usually go to the Christmas Eve Holy Mass at 8:00 pm). Sometimes we would eat right before midnight, so that we can open our Christmas presents at exactly 12 midnight. The dining table at my house would be filled with tons of Filipino-style Christmas food, like Christmas ham, queso de bola, Filipino spaghetti, lumpia, fruit salad, bread, pancit, lechon and different fruits. After feasting on our Christmas dinner, every family would then exchange gifts and we'd all open them at the same time. The girsl and their friends and cousins would stay awake all night talking; the elders (including me) will spend the rest of the night karaoke singing. Around 5am, everyone would be tired and sleepy but very happy. The next day, we all wake up early around 7 or 7:30am, because there would be kids (also from the neighborhood) knocking at the doors, asking for some Christmas money. Sometimes there would be kids (usually my god kids) that go to my house (together with their parents, who are usually my friends) and I'd give them their Christmas gifts and we'd serve up some left over ham and a bit of fruit cake and queso de bola. This would go on and on until afternoon.

Then on New Year's Eve, we celebrate the same way, wait till midnight and all sorts of firecrackers in the neighborhood would fill the air with noise. And after all the noise, We would go and eat a big feast again, but this time, there would be no exchanging of gifts. There would usually be loud music, some dancing and singing, and fireworks all over the city when the clock strikes at 12:00 midnight.

Christmas is absolutely unique in the Philippines. This will be the second year that we would not be spending Christmas there. But I always celebrate it in the Pinoy ways and traditions. I am proud of my culture and traditions and I intend to celebrate the holiday season Pinoy style wherever I go.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Winter And Christmas

Today is again cloudy and very cold. The sun has already risen, but it is still dark and gloomy outside. The first winter storm of this winter is approaching and Friday night there might be a mix of snow and rain and sleet which will make travel on the roads quite difficult and dangerous on Saturday. I used to hope for days like that because the girls and I were excited to see snow...But I don't want to go through winter again because in bad weather I usually end up being stuck in the house and most of the time I just sleep and eat. Last year I gained 10 lbs in just 3 months...huh!!!!

Yes, it is now so in the east coast it gets dark at 4:30 in the afternoon and the sun doesn't come up until 7:30 in the morning. Holiday cheer is beginning to fill the air and soon there will be rounds of Christmas parties to attend. I miss Christmas in the Philippines. My mind conjures up images of how we celebrate Christmas. It starts with me and my daughters attending Simbang Gabi. Back home in Gensan starting December 15 we would go to bed early so that we could wake up at 3 o'clock in the morning of December 16 and won't be late for the 1st Misa de Gallo Mass (usually starts at 4:00AM). I imagine the huge chandeliers ( 6 of them if my memory serves me right ) of the OLPGV Parish that are only all lighted up during this season. After the Mass, the parish serves coffee, pandesal or bibingka. Outside the church street food peddlers will be selling freshly cooked goodies of kutsinta, puto bumbong, arroz caldo, etc.These are delicacies specially prepared during the Christmas season.

This year I will miss spending Christmas in the Philippines but there is consolation in the feeling that this time at least I will not spend it alone, and I still have my girls to share that special feeling of being with family. And in spirit, I know my family and friends back home will be spending it with me. I can only imagine this coming  Christmas as filled with love and celebration for the many blessings but also an opportunity to share the joy and happiness this season brings.

Merry Christmas to all of you!!!