Tuesday, February 14, 2017

A Thank You Letter on Valentine’s Day

Dear HM,

I am writing this on the morning of Valentine's Day. You may be wondering how in the world can I remain "chillax" despite being unattached yet well-aware of how the day transformed the world to “hearts and flowers”. You'd probably want to ask me the usual question "hindi ka ba naiinggit?" or how come I don't get green with envy for not getting the usual flowers and chocolates when everyone today has either of them in their hands.

Well, my answer that question is No, I don't. I guess I've been so used to it.  I can assure you that I’m fine and I can exactly tell you why.

Months ago, I heard these words from someone as I was having my morning coffee in the office."Sometimes, the man in your heart is not the man in your dreams." Those words were that strong (but not stingy, okay) I kept it written in paper and in my head – enough to remind me of you. It's funny how "spot on" those words could be at the least expected moment.

Forgive me for being (brutally) honest. When our paths first crossed years ago, I never saw you to be "the dream guy" – maybe you are for a lot of girls out there but not for me. But then, years would pass between the two of us only for me to realize that something else is true: that God gives you not the person that you want but instead, He gives you the person He thinks you need.

I am a work in progress and I chances are I always will be. Whether your reason for being here is to be a lesson or a blessing is something I yet to know. But maybe, God was right in deciding that instead of sending someone else, it was you that I needed and He allowed to occupy a part of my life today. For little by little, I come to realize how you could be someone's alter ego to me— disciplinarian, cheerleader and mentor all rolled into one. You may be impatient with traffic but you were the exact opposite when it comes to enlightening me with the things that you deem necessary that I should know. Over time, our conversations enabled me to have a different perception in life, about people and of the world. You've somehow shown me that despite of my usual view of people living in your world, they too could be different – in a positive way at that. While we both landed in challenging (not to mention stressful) careers, maybe, the Universe designed it to be that way so that we can be able to complement each other (from triumphs, defeats, stresses and all). 

You taught me to appreciate people and things while I still have them around.

More importantly, you helped me transform into a better version of me –someone I have always thought I could never become. Unknowingly, while I encouraged you to believe that everything is possible, you too were returning me the same favor. And from encouraging me to take a leap of faith at a worthy endeavor to knowing how to say the right words (vicious or otherwise) when the moment calls for it, your words never fail to inject sense of maturity back into my head when I tend to be stubborn and irrational with my reasons and rants. 

Even if I decided to write this today, I still believe that expressing affection, even gratitude is not just reserved to be shown on Valentine's Day. Nor does it need to be cheesy romantic. To convey love isn't limited to material things like roses, candlelit dinners or chocolates. It's just a matter of seeing things with a content and grateful heart. No one may have given me roses nor chocolates. But then, I've been more than lucky blessed to receive one of the best gifts in the form of love languages-- WORDS OF AFFIRMATION, ACTS OF SERVICE (for me and for other people) and QUALITY TIME from someone who I may not have dreamed of but God was more than generous to grant me with.

And for that, I couldn't be anything but thankful.  

To more cakes and koalas,

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Achievement Unlocked: Simbang Gabi 2016

Next to the Christmas parties and the holiday festivities in the office, one of the things I look forward to every December is the Simbang Gabi. It is a an activity I have tried (and succeeded) completing a number of times. I first started this when I was 19 years old, not to test if a wish comes true when you complete the 9 novena masses but more of challenging myself in completing an activity.

There are two mass celebrations of the Simbang Gabi offered in our parish in Angono Rizal. The anticipated Simbang Gabi from December 15 to 23 at 8:00 pm and the traditional Misa de Gallo which is held from December 16 to 24 at 4:00 am. Since I leave early in the morning to report to work, I have always opted to attend the anticipated Simbang Gabi.

I really planned to complete the 9 evening masses this time because I failed to pursue the activity last year after Papa got hospitalized unexpectedly on the first evening of the Simbang Gabi combined with the strong, nonstop rains. 

Completing the nine evenings is a challenge given that I have a day job and traffic in the metro tends to get heavy especially during the Christmas holidays. Thankfully though, the traffic situation improved the during my last week at the office so I was able to leave the office on time in the afternoon.

There may not be rainy evenings but the workload became busy on the final week in the office; and the stress of work and holiday parties I attended on the last couple of weeks caused me to feel under the weather. But it did not stop me from continuously going to the evening masses until the I reached the finish line. Completing the endeavor despite all the fears of experiencing things that could hinder me from making it possible never felt this good. With all that has happened and given to me the whole year, I realized making this short-term sacrifice is the least that I can do to be grateful.

I know you'd ask me what was it I wished for upon completing the Simbang Gabi. I used to have one big wish for myself. But for this time, I had to set that aside and allow my own wish to just be secondary in exchange to a "priority wish". Instead of asking God to finally send The One my way, I asked if God could finally grant the wish of my friend for his mom's healing and recovery. While it may sound wonderful to have a special someone to hold hands, hug and talk with, I realize how important it is for him to see his mom healthy and well to be with him again. I realized I have been waiting for the fulfilment of my wish for almost eight years and it won't mean any difference if it will mean having to wait again. I can have my personal petition later anyway. And while doctors may have been giving findings based on what they know and learn scientifically, I believe there are things that cannot be explained by science -- the reason why God created the presence of miracles. And it's one thing I am hoping for -- another miracle. 

God has granted one of my prayers for her earlier this year and I hope in God's time, the other will be given. 

Monday, December 12, 2016

Second Time is the Charm (and Tips on How I Did It)

One of the things that kept me occupied this year next to my job is embarking on a number of challenges and accomplishing items on my bucket list. One of them was challenging myself to retake the Civil Service Professional Exam. Just a short background, there are four difficult examinations in the Philippines (at least in my opinion): The UPCAT (the college entrance exam of the University of the Philippines), The Bar Exams, PLE (Physician Licensure Exam) and the Civil Service Exam. 

Of the four, I've experienced taking two: the UPCAT when I was 16 and the Civil Service Exam when I graduated from college at 20. Sadly, while I took the challenge, I failed. 

Going for a retake of the Civil Service Exam was far from my plans -- at least 11 years after I failed on my first attempt. However, I suddenly had a change of heart early this year. I realized, I have been working in the judiciary (only in the international setting) which is also a branch of the government. I was not really eyeing to work for the government before but given the nature of my job, I thought the credentials of passing the exam would be a good plus. So after some moments of contemplation, I filed my application last June.

11 years can really make a huge difference. When I first took the exam in 2005, I thought of it as the usual multiple choice test in school so I did not prepare much for it -- which was a wrong move. So this time, I made a few changes to my usual habits. And by changes, most of them had to be major ones.

Preparing for the test for the second time was a painstaking process. But I was determined to make it this time so I really took it seriously. I was that serious even my colleagues at work and my family would tell me so. 

Now you might ask me, what did I do in order to pass the test. I would like to say you have to brace yourself to make a number of those. In my case, I observed five steps:

Prepare as early as you can. While my exam was scheduled in October, I started preparing (read: studying) in May -- even before I submitted my application to the Civil Service Commission Regional Office. Take note of the scope of the exams; those are mentioned on posted announcements on the Civil Service Commission website.

Invest in reviewers. Since I have a day job, attending review classes is not possible. But I utilized reviewers for the usual subjects and for those topics covering the law (Civil Service Act, Universal  Declaration of Human Rights and the 1987 Constitution), I bought a separate reading material and used the Internet. It doesn't have to be expensive. It's more on how you will utilize them to practice answering and conditioning your mind for the big day.

Have a support system. It really made a difference that my family colleagues were supportive of me even from the start when they found out about my plan of retaking the Civil Service exam. My officemates and relatives were helping me out particularly when I was reviewing for the numerical area of the test which is admittedly my Achilles Heel.

Be able to give up (of not minimize) social activities -- for a time being. In my case, it was four months' worth of declining dates, gimmicks and nightlife during Friday nights and weekends. I thought, this will just be a little sacrifice for a very meaningful result anyway so why not give it up for some time. But of course, I get to have "cheat hours" or "me time" by watching a good movie.

Pray and have faith. This is a powerful tool -- the most powerful at that. But of course, this has to be combined with all the hard work too.

They say good things come to those who wait. After the three-hour exam was over, we were told that the results will be released in 41 days. I wasn't really putting too much expectations on passing the test even if part of me that is telling me that I will make it. I was thinking the results to be annouced before Christmas or by next year. But the 41 days came to an end when I received the screenshot above on the evening of December 3 from my friend Januver. At first I was in disbelief but after checking three different websites (including that of the Civil Service Commission), it was then I realized the whole thing is real. However, the two of us decided to keep the thing unannounced for a week.

Now that the results have been released and I made it to the list, I just have to sign and file a few papers in order to obtain my Certificate of Eligibility from the Civil Service Commission which I plan do do next year.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Belated Birthday Post

I turned 32 last Saturday.

There. I said it. Plain. Simple. Straightforward.

How I spent my birthday weekend was rather unconventional. Far from the typical "party hard" type, mine was in a simpler, quieter tone. I guess that's the effect of getting older. When you're young, a birthday won't be complete unless you are able to party to your heart's content, indulging in booze all night (until all day) long. The exact opposite when your birthday arrives and you are more aware of the fact that you're not young anymore -- that's when you appreciate simplicity, solemnity and silence all the more.

The folks at work gave me an advanced birthday party a day before I went on a vacation leave. This has become somewhat a tradition to our team given that with all the things we would go through day-to-day in performing our duties, andito at buo pa rin kami-- and still strong at that. Years ago, it was my heart's wish to experience celebrating my birthday at work -- literally in the office. And that has been the scenario for five times now. But as soon as the big day arrived, I decided to welcome it in a quiet, practical way I know -- unplanned, simple, ordinary. 

While I was not on my office desk on a workday, I still traveled to Quezon City but to visit St. Pio Chapel. I have been devoting a part of my time every Friday going to this place since this year had started. Upon waking up on the morning of my birthday, I spent an extra hour in bed just lying there savoring a new morning (anyway, it's a weekend and such extra time in bed doing nothing already is a luxury). I just had a quick brunch and headed straight to Quezon City again, but this time in order to go to St. John Paul II Parish for the 12:15 pm Thanksgiving Mass.

It might be ironic but I guess, I was just being content despite not having everything -- even that one thing I hoped to receive for my birthday. I turned off the "writings on the wall" on my Facebook account and I believe it was beneficial to my yearning for silence. It showed that whoever would want to remember will really find a way to do so. I may not have gotten a lot of those birthday wishes, but the ones I got proved to be the genuine ones.  When I had to make a wish before blowing the birthday candle, I found it hard to put it into words despite knowing that I do have one. It may seem odd but more than just wishing something for myself, I find it easier to pray for something for other people.

On the other hand, I may be old by the numbers, but I still am the girl that I was years ago -- only a bit improved in a way that I have learned to let go of some things, to be patient with people (and still working on it), to look with value and appreciate what I have at present, to make time for what and who is important, but most of all, to realize that the real purpose of my life and my existence in this world is to be there for someone else -- things I have learned from the circumstances I have to face as well as from the people I meet and from that one person who has been slowly occupying a space in my heart.

Monday, October 24, 2016

The OC Project: St. Jerome Parish Morong, Rizal

Three months. That's how long it's been since I visited  and wrote about the second church for The OC Project series. But over the weekend and thanks to the Civil Service Examinations, I had the chance to finally update this sort of "lakwatsaserye" on my blog. Next to making an ocular visit to the school where I was assigned for the exams, I got to include visiting the town's church, St Jerome Parish in my itinerary.

Completed in 1620, and given its barouque-style architecture, St Jerome Parish, is among the favorite subjects of photographers and photography enthusiasts and there's no need to ask why. The moment I reached the place on a Saturday afternoon, I can't help but be fascinated too. The church's facade is already enough for me to consider this place of worship postcard-worthy. I never thought history could be this beautiful -- and just like what a friend's hashtag in his posts would say, old but gold.

This is how the interior of the church looks like.The altar may have gone through rennovations but history is still visible from the other religious materials found in the church such as the paintings of the 14 Stations of the Cross found on the walls.  My mom was able to attend the 6 am mass in this church yesterday while I was taking the exam. And just like me, she also couldn't help but marvel at the church -- particularly the fact that history was preserved in this place -- and how solemn the morning mass was held free from the usual distractions of crying kids and distracting gadgets. She even mentioned that the place is an ideal backdrop for one's travel and event journals.

St. Jerome Parish Church
Gov. Martinez St.
Morong, Rizal

Monday, October 17, 2016

A Day at Lopez Museum and Library

Over the past week, as I was browsing through my Facebook News feed, I came across a post from the Lopez Museum and Library about the Free Museum Day  last October 15. I am familiar about the museum because we featured the place for an art and culture themed issue of the magazine where I wrote for some years ago.

I did not give the event and second thought and given that the event happened on a weekend, I decided to give it a shot. I am not really good with art appreciation, however, I simply wanted to explore the place and what I could see there.

The museum houses pieces from maps, books to original paintings of Filipino artists such as Felix Resurreccion Hidalgo and Juan Luna.

While I have never been to the National Museum to see the Spoliarium, it was in that weekend trip to the Lopez Museum that I had a first-time encounter with an original Juan Luna painting. Of those that I saw, this one, the Spanish Girl, caught my attention.

There was also a separate room that housed paintings by Spanish artist Juvenal Sansó. Incidentally, an ongoing exhibit entitled Two Halves of a Whole which featured some of his works was happening on the day I visited.

I was only in the museum for about an hour and a half but the visit proved to be worth it and it was a refreshing diversion to recharge my mind from a stress-filled week at work. It also an opportunity for me to be acquainted with the works of some known names in the field of arts given that I have a sibling who was once an art enthusiast himself (who even became a semi-finalist in a collegiate art competition) and simply because I reside in a place dubbed as the Art Capital of the Philippines. 

Lopez Museum and Library
Ground Floor Benpres Bldg.
Exchange Rd. cor Meralco Ave.
Ortigas Center Pasig

Museum Hours:
Monday - Saturday
8:00 am - 5:00 pm 

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Book Fair Find: 13th Prayer

Most of us fear if not abhor the number 13. To a lot of people, this number is often associated with one thing: bad luck. But in this book by Kim Derla (who goes by the name Lee Miyaki on Wattpad), she used this often feared number to count and give optimistic light to a word: PRAYER.

When sutil girl meets the seminarista. 13th Prayer tells the story of a girl named Eiffel, who despite being born to religious parents, is cynical about God and the power of Divine Intervention through prayers and how an accidental meeting with a seminarian named Jem and a seemingly simple writing activity in the catechism class would transform her once skeptical life into a meaningful journey of faith. 

While this may seem to be a big shift, given a change in genre (from the love stories in Wattpad going to inspirational light reading), but Ms. Derla's book was able to give a lighthearted approach for readers to understand a meaningful aspect of Catholic faith: Prayer. While the story ended with a different twist, she was able to discuss the topic of religion in a way that it was worth-reading and could still be easily understood by using common scenarios in the story as well as the inclusions of Bible verses and a prayer at the end of every chapter -- prayers which were also written by the author herself .

Given the personality of the characters in the story, I would recommend this book to those in search of a light reading material on the subject of faith and to the youth as the book also teaches a thing about patience, obedience, gratitude and compassion. Who knows, you might just be inspired to write your own 13 Prayers just like I did.