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.