photo courtesy of http://wn.com/commonwealth_of_the_philippines
photo courtesy of MonteMayor via Flickr
On the first day of the New Year, 2012, my wife received an invitation from a family friend up in Antipolo, to come over for lunch. I happened to have just attended Mass at St. Peter's Parish (which will soon become a Shrine) when I learned of the news. Since it was great news for the kids, I happily consented. We were a large group of 7 adults and 7 kids (including a 2-months old baby). It was a trip taken at the spur of the moment – which comes with both advantages and disadvantages. Still, the majority relished at the thought of going to Antipolo, much more, have lunch for free, since it was the first time for some to go up to the home of Hinulugang Taktak. The group trekked to the jeepney terminal at the back of Commonwealth Market to get to Antipolo via Sta. Lucia East, Cainta. As a family, we usually take another route: from Farmers' Cubao, there's an FX terminal going to Antipolo. It was a welcome trip to take this route from Commonwealth Market – and it was much shorter than our trip from Cubao, and cheaper too. Upon arrival at Sta. Lucia East (near the overpass), we took another jeep plying the Antipolo – Simbahan route. Along the way, we occupied ourselves in colorful banter, as the kids dozed off one by one. Once in Antipolo, we hailed two tricycles to Barangay San Roque, in one of its posh subdivisions. True enough, our first-timers in Antipolo heaved ooohs and ahhhs at the picturesque setting, the greens and mountains overlooking the stately homes and elegant sights. By the time we arrived at our host's residence, it was past one o'clock. We were treated to salads, crabs, pork liempo, chicken, and unlimited pitchers of juice and San Mig Light. It was quite some time since our family had our last visit so we didn't notice it was past five when we decided to say goodbye. The trip back home was quite the opposite of our lunch ride: it took long for us to get a jeep that will take us to Sta. Lucia east. There were only a handful of PUJs going to Cubao and Sta. Lucia. When we did get one, we didn't expect riding a bullet train. What is it with young drivers these days? Is it the need for speed? the high? Even at the expense of unsuspecting passengers? One of the passengers, an elderly lady, told the driver to slow down, because we were traveling dangerously fast. Then, bog! Our PUJ hit a SUV. Instead of slowing down, the driver made a run for it, intending to elude the SUV. But the other car proved to be faster and blocked our path. Our PUJ was forced to stop. It was a scene waiting to happen: a reckless driver, unmindful of the risk and danger to life, hitting another car by accident. Most of those who haven't paid yet, went out to flag another PUJ. We asked for a refund of the remaining trip to Sta. Lucia East. What made matters worse was, the jeepney conductor was too arrogant and callous to apologize and admit that the driver was reckless, endangering the lives of his passengers, almost half of whom are kids and toddlers. So, if you intend to go to Antipolo, make sure the PUJ's plate number is not PYE 841. Unless you're looking for danger, or the need for speed.
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Waking up on a Sunday takes a lot of effort and willpower, especially when your job requires you to report for work even on Saturdays. It would have been easy if you're not enrolled in a university for an MA degree. How does it feel waking up early every Saturday so you don't get late for your 7:30 AM class, then take a quick snack later before your 10 AM class which ends at 1 PM? Then off you go to the office by 2 PM to report for work until 9, or even 10 PM? Tsk, tsk.
But Sunday of February 8, 2009 begged to be different. The night before, my wife asked me to wake her up early because she has to teach piano lessons to her student in San Juan City. So, I thought I'll wake up early too so I can go to Mass at Sto. Domingo Parish. I used to attend Mass either in the afternoon or in the evening. Blame me for being slow, I missed the First Reading, but I was able to reach half of the Second Reading. The Gospel reading spoke of Jesus entering the house of Simon and Andrew. Simon's mother-in-law lay ill with a fever. Jesus went over to her and grasped her hand and helped her up, and the fever left her. She immediately began to wait on them.
The Gospel then recounts how Jesus healed the sick who were brought to Him and also those possessed by demons. Rising early the next morning, He went off to a lonely place in the desert: there He was absorbed in prayer. Later, when Simon and his companions managed to track Him down, He said to them: "Let us move on to the neighboring villages so that I may proclaim the good news there also. That is what I have come to do." (Mark 1:29-39)
Looking back to the Gospel, Jesus practically gives us a "template" to a perfect day – ministry or work + prayer = mission. Most of us, myself included, work ourselves to death. We barely pause for awhile, and pray. Worse, we plod on day in, day out, carried away by life's burdens, with no clear purpose what we are living for. Mark's Gospel puts us back to God's orbit.
The priest began his homily by saying what the words "savior", "salvation", "save" mean for us Catholics. It forms part of the basic tenets of our Christian Faith. Just as the Dominicans pledge to be faithful to their mission of salvation of souls, Christ wants us to follow His footsteps of saving others. There's talk within the Church about being saved. Before, it was often heard that "outside the Church, there is no salvation." Today, Church authorities would rather say that, outside the Church, one may be saved to a lesser or greater, degree. Why? Today, there are more non-Catholics who are better witnesses of Christ's teachings. The Dalai Lama, for one, inspires people from all walks of life to follow the path of peace and non-violence.
For us, Catholics, in the Philippines, it is no longer relevant to boast of our country as the only Christian country in Southeast Asia. How true have we been to the teachings of Jesus our Savior, in terms of salvation for all? If we have been faithful to Christ's teachings, then why are we branded as a "corrupt" country? Why are there many children in the streets knocking on car windows begging for alms? Why do we have children dying of hunger? Why do we have senseless crimes? Why are we forced to borrow money abroad and condemn our future generation to a debt-ridden life?
"Savior" not only means saving souls: it also means healing the body (the sick, hungry, etc.) and the mind (of ignorance, injustice, etc.). Jesus wants us to be saviors. If the people of Hong Kong, Taiwan, Kuala Lumpur, or Thailand rose to progress, let us rise up to the challenge that the Filipino can! Change we can!
I was checking out this website which featured well-known female actresses with brains (http://www.topsocialite.com/beauties-with-big-brains/). Though the actresses featured are from Hollywood (and the UK), I must say that the Philippines prides itself with several stars who also have both beauty and brains. Just recently (April 26, 2008), Paula Peralejo, former actress of Tabing Ilog fame, graduated magna cum laude in U.P. Diliman, Quezon City. She took up B.A. Philosophy, Minor in Tourism. She's no longer in showbiz but the fact that she graduated magna cum laude is a feat that not all actresses can achieve. There's also Marian Rivera, who graduated in De La Salle University-Dasmariñas with a degree in A.B. Psychology. She rose to #24 in FHM Philippines' 100 Sexiest in 2007. That's beauty with brains! Of course, many Filipinos are familiar with KC Concepcion, daughter of megastar Sharon Cuneta. This lovely girl who's more into modelling before getting into showbiz, took up her BA in International Corporate Communications with a minor in Theatre Arts in the American University of Paris, where she graduated last April 2007. That's smart and sexy! Who doesn't know Lea Salonga? Lea rose to international acclaim for her lead role as Kim in Miss Saigon. She is also famous for her voice credits in Walt Disney's Aladdin as Princess Jasmine and Mulan (1 and 2). She studied at the Operation Brotherhood Montessori School in Greenhills, Metro Manila, where she was a Bergamo 1 Student and an active participant in school productions. She also attended the University of the Philippines College of Music's extension program aimed at training musically talented children in music and stage movement. She was a college freshman at the Ateneo de Manila University when she auditioned for Miss Saigon and attended Fordham University when she was in New York.
My back and shoulders still hurt from sunburn yesterday but I relish the fun time and bonding I had with my son and my officemates. It was our company outing last May 1-2, 2008 at Sigayan Bay Beach Resort. It's about a 5-hr drive from Quezon City to Laiya, San Juan,Batangas. Our bus left the office at about 9:30 AM and we were in Laiya by 2 PM. As we were checking in our rooms, the bus got stuck in a waterhole so some of us, guys, had to go back to the bus and help the driver pull the bus out of the muck. No chance. We had to leave it to the tow truck to fix the problem (the bus was pulled out early the next morning).
Cedric, my son, can't wait to get wet. Good thing my wife included Cedric's life jacket and "salbabida" in his backpack. If not, I don't know how I will keep my son from nagging me for 2 days. The experience was long-overdue. Most of my officemates needed that break, with all the pressure and stress we face every day at work. As for my son, I wanted to give him this opportunity to breathe in the sea breeze and frolic in the water and the sun (he's never had time to be exposed to the sun for long). My son has Primary Complex (tuberculosis). We got to spend most of the time together. I taught him how to build a sand castle near the shore. I also showed him how to make a flat stone "jump" on the water. I tried to teach him how to paddle his feet but he was more interested doing the water thing on his own. He would prefer riding on my shoulders to get to the deeper side of the water, where most of the kids with life preservers stayed on. On the whole, he kept himself busy – dashing to the sand like in a race, or keeping himself afloat on his "salbabida", or examining the fishing boat moored at the shore. Then, he would show me pieces of coral that he collected along the shore and he would make a pile of them near the rising tide. When it was time to eat or change for dinner, he would remonstrate with me – saying he doesn't want to go yet. After dinner, I hang around with those singing at the karaoke joint. Cedric can't wait for me to sing. He busied himself plowing a plastic chair making an imaginary path on the sand path. After a couple of songs, I took Cedric for a walk and thought of the bus which might still be stuck. It was still stuck that night, and the driver can't turn off the engine because it would damage the tail-end of the bus. I don't know where the driver slept that night – most probably inside the bus. At about ten, Cedric and I went back to our room to sleep.
The next day, I was up early (about 4:30 AM). Actually, I needed to go to the toilet because I was not used to drinking several shots of brandy. But I take pride in not even feeling tipsy or drunk the other night. Cedric slept beside me. I tried not to wake him when I was getting out of bed, but he woke up anyway. So, he said he'd wait for me outside the comfort room. When I told him if he wanted to join me outside to go to the beach, he thought it was still nighttime. Then my boss got out to have breakfast. She saw us and gave me some food to eat which I couldn't refuse (I was too hungry to accept). It pays to be an early riser. Cedric ate the sotanghon by himself, along with puto (boy! Is he hungry too!). I took some coffee and puto and after that, we were off to the beach. By then, several officemates were already awake and headed to the beach.
As Cedric busied himself along the shallow coastline, I ventured toward the bellbuouys farther out. I got so enticed by the sand bottom that, when my feet brushed against some rocks, I didn't know there were sea urchins clinging by. Several spines stuck on my right toe, causing me to limp back to shore. Luckily, many people were around by that time. One of the locals suggested getting calamansi to apply to my toe. Ramcel volunteered fetching calamansi as Paul took photos of my spine-riddled toe. I was to learn later that the calamansi should be heated before applying to the injured organ. Which I did much later after breakfast. Anyhow, I don't feel any pain after that. I even went back to swim after breakfast. As for Cedric, he looked on, asked me how it felt, and went back to the inviting water.
I spent the morning swimming, watching over Cedric, watching schools of fish swim between me and my officemates, watching another fish pecking at a dead fish, acting as umpire for a volleyball match, and playing volleyball much later that morning.
In all, it was a refreshing experience. Next time, I'll be ready for Boracay (I hope).