Today, I’m Grateful for


Thanksgiving Contest - What Are You Thankful For?

“Just in case you were wondering what to be thankful for, just feel your pulse.”

Got up this morning and automatically went through my routine. Stretch. Bend. Touch  toes. Reach. Flex. Yawn. Shake. Bathroom. Shower. Toothbrush. Shave-splash. Socks-shorts-shirt. Trousers-tie. Coat. Shoes. Briefcase. Phone. Car. Keys. Drive. Office.

“Good morning folks,” I greeted a group of co-workers as I passed them by the coffee station. “Don’t drink it all; leave some for me.”

“Mornin’. It’s Monday. What are you so happy about?” one of the women feigned a snide remark.

“Good to be alive!” I shouted back hurrying to my work station.

Reaching my cubicle, I plopped my case on the counter, turned on my PC, hung up my coat and reached for my coffee mug. “Thank you Lord for helping me through today’s morning commute,” I prayed underneath my breath as I proceeded to the coffee station.

The beverage station emptied quickly. The group had already gone back to their Call Center stations. The morning shift change was underway. I filled up my mug. The strong, steaming, delicious aroma of freshly brewed coffee overwhelmed my nostrils. I took in a deep breath. “Ummmm… now that, is coffee.”

hot-coffee

Nothing like a fresh hot cup of Java in the morning…

For the first time in a very long time I paused in the middle of an exhale excursion. A strong sense of gratitude ran over me and I felt the urge to pray. “Thank you God for coffee beans… for my cup of Java. Bless those who grow them, those who harvest them, those who process and grind them, and those who package them into those coffee cans they stack up in the stores for us to buy. Lord I am grateful for this cup of fresh coffee this morning. What a blessing and I thank you.”

Man, that felt good. I should do this more often, you know, express my gratitude for blessings received. It is the right thing to do.

Typhoon “Lawin” Damage

1 Comment

convent02

Convent Roof Compromised

If my memory serves me right, the last typhoon that flooded Tagudin and outlying areas, tore up buildings and homes happened earlier this year or sometime late last year. That storm brought rains that made the river waters rise, overflowing its banks, inundating its tributaries with tons of water-borne mud, rocks, and debris that came raging downstream. Barangays like Sawat were cut off and the emergency response units had to ferry folks and their livestock to higher ground on make shift rubber rafts and other motorized water craft.

Another typhoon came by recently, only this time it didn’t spare the town proper. It directly hit the Sister’s convent. The hurricane-force winds tore up the convent roof made up largely of nailed corrugated tin sheets. Once the tiny swirls of dervishes (tornadoes) whirling along the fringes

convent07

Ceiling slats couldn’t keep the rain off of convent furnishings

of the major gusts found the exposed seams of the corrugated tin sheets, it was only a matter of time until the entire roof was ripped off of its sub-roof foundations and underlayment.

With the roof compromised, the convent became a veritable open vessel for the torrential downpour. You can just imagine the devastating effect of the unchecked water pouring freely on exposed furniture, books, filing cabinets, chapel statuary, beds, linens, and other household items.

convent03

Mayor Jun Verzosa inspecting the damage to the Sisters Convent

Headed by Mayor Jun Verzosa, local government officials inspected the damage to assess the repair costs. The ICM Sisters sent out requests for financial help to the alumni at large. SAS Batch 1958, headed by Mr & Mrs Niceto and Delia Batac of San Diego, CA., along with Engr Apolonio and Emilie Villanueva, Mr & Mrs Sam and Lolita Hassan, Mr & Mrs Fred and Margarita Lasmarias to name a few, immediately collected contributions and sent the amount to Sr. Nida

aftercentennialmass

SAS Class 1958 at the SAS Centennial

Buyuccan, ICM and Sr. Connie Gacutan, ICM.

We ask all fellow Augustinians to please take a few moments to make a generous donation toward the repair of the badly damaged Sister’s Convent. Thank you.

“Learn to Concentrate…”


cropped-presidentjulscholarscrpd1.jpg

Our SAS Ai scholars pose for a group photo during a quarterly scheduled meeting

“You must learn to concentrate,” the home room teacher, Mrs Salve Lascota advised one of her brighter students. “There are just too many distractions out there. You cannot let your mind wander.”

drinks-halohalo04

Heavily distracted

Young Cristina nodded her head. “Thanks Ma’am Bing,” she replied, somewhat embarrassed for having been caught daydreaming. She redirected her gaze from the window back to her desktop. She even shook her head lightly – as if to clear the cobwebs that seemed to cover her brain. It was two o’clock in the afternoon and she felt drowsy. She and her buddies had generous servings of Halo-Halo topped with ice cream – a deadly combination of high sugar and fat.

drinks-halohalo

Halo-Halo with Ice Cream

She seemed to take in the advice. But… then she thought, “Concentrate on what? What could Ma’am Bing be talking about?” Cristina is no slouch by any stretch of the imagination. She is a bright young lady, serious and motivated, who dreams of being a dental hygienist someday. But man, it’s hard to stay awake in class in the afternoon, in the oppressive heat, in the asphyxiating humidity. Add to that Mrs Lascota’s sing-song-y presentations that’s so soothing it can lull, even an ornery Tasmanian devil, to sleep.

drinks-halohalo02

Infatuation can be distracting

Truth be told, Cristina is distracted. Big time. And she knows it. It’s that Aglosolos boy from Libtong. Yes, he is a bit rough around the edges, sometimes rude and often ill-mannered but he is a solid young man with a great personality. Charming, crafty, and clever as the asp that long ago coiled around the apple tree in the garden of Eden and seduced Mother Eve into eating the forbidden fruit. So Cristina drifts into dreamland every now and then, thinking about that Aglosolos boy who haunts her every waking moment.

Thinking man

Concentration

Ah… the perils of puppy love. Infatuation. First awakenings. And in high school, things can morph into a wilderness scenario so very easily. Fortunately, we have teachers like Mrs Salve Lascota who, out of love for their craft, their students, exert influence over them, encouraging them to channel their attention to their studies, to focus on their goals, and to concentrate on things that are relevant and important.

No Place Like Home


San Esteban

South China Sea coast of long ago

At thirteen I convinced myself I had already earned my doctorate degree, all done with school, done with education. I saw myself standing, resplendent in my purple toga, proud as can be towering way above the crowd of high school kids all clamoring for recess. I had my Walter Mitty moments and daydreamed a lot. Why, the propeller sounds of a Pan

DaklisTampugo2crpd

Far away places with strange-sounding names

American airliner flying overhead from Hong Kong to Manila could make me imagine “far away places with strange-sounding names.”

 

Yes, and only in my mind was I a PhD having earned it at the University of Hard Knocks.

I couldn’t wait to leave home to explore the world. School was a drag. Earning one’s keep was so unnecessary. Looking back now, I tell myself, “What a fool. How could you leave paradise? The willowy coconut trees, the pristine waters of the South China Sea, deserted beaches stretching for miles, the wind in your face and a carefree lifestyle away from an industrialized world.”

Carabao

This carabao is wise beyond his age

The wise elders used to admonish us kids: “The grass is always greener on the other side.” I was intrigued. And it’s true. Come to think of it, why does the grass always look greener on the other side? Is that why the carabao always wants to move to another field to graze disregarding the lush zacate grass upon which it stands?

I remember I had on a pair of Elpo rubber shoes. I hated them. What I wanted was a pair of Converse All Star shoes. From America. Made in USA. For some reason the Converse shoes were all the rage and I wanted to wear that which was in vogue so I could be in. Thinking about it now, my pair of locally manufactured black and gray Elpo rubber shoes were just as good and fine. They protected my feet walking to and from school. They did their job.

PhilippineRiceFields00

Rice Fields in Ambalayat

Can I ever go back home again? Not according to the wise sage. Because you see, home is no longer as it was when I was young and growing up. The place has changed and what I expect to see is no longer there. Even the familiar faces – friends, relatives – they are no longer there. Home is a now an entirely different place.

Am I longing for the past? Maybe. There is a saying about leaving part of your heart someplace specially if the pleasure of the stay is so intense it gets seared in the mind. Perhaps that was it. I loved my childhood spent back in Farola… the little fishing enclave by the South China Sea.

Reverie


There were mornings I didn’t want to get up from bed. This was one of those mornings.

rainynightsummer

Night Rain

It rained during the night. I fell asleep to the soft, intricate maracas-like sounds of raindrops falling on the co-goon grass roof of our small and humble cottage. The rhythmic sounds were further made into tight percussion riffs by the crickets and night crawlers chirping, by the tiny fruit bats with their syncopated chomping on “kapas-sanglay” fruit, and by the herd of cicadas playing their inebriating kazoo music from the stand of acacia trees.

rainynightsummergardenia

Gardenia – Rosal

I woke up to the familiar, musky, animal dropping laced smell of freshly soaked ground – a parched patch of earth that once stood arid and dry for many weeks. The ground percolated and came alive with the rich water infusion, loosening small boulders and clods into mud, awakening the docile earthworms already on the job, laboriously digging, burrowing, all the while leaving round, marble-shaped mud mounds in their wake.

The pervasive scent of flora came from the gardenia, its white blossoms giving out that sweet, unadulterated perfume. Then there were the sweet-sop trees, their branches sagging under the weight of ripening fruit. The guavas, pomelo trees, and goose berries added to the

rainynightsummeratis

Atis – SweetSop

overall garden aroma, accented only by the blooming orchids hanging in their coconut husk nests.

From my cot bed I filled my lungs with healthful rain-cleansed morning air. The spectacular sunrise burst out in splendor lighting up the morning firmament; I wasn’t moved. I just wanted to linger and lounge on my cot bed, wax the grateful dead, oblivious

rainynightsummerpandesal

Pan de Sal

to life itself and remaining zombie-like.

And so I tarried, half-asleep, but enjoying the smell of freshly brewing roasted-rice coffee. I heard the familiar cry, “Pan de Sal,”… “Pan de Sal,”… the Doppler effect taking over the sound fading into the distance.

Divine Intervention


“Her father will not recognize her as his daughter,” the distraught woman lamented. “He threw us out of his life like used rags. We haven’t received any remittances from him for years.”

Mother Superior sat there motionless. She listened, occasionally nodding her head in sympathy. She’s heard it all before. “Go on,” she would say. “How can we help you this time?”

maidnannyserving2

Now middle-aged Remedios

The middle-aged woman, we will call her Remedios (not her real name), was close to tears as she spilled her guts out to the Mother Superior of the school her daughter attended. She was there to plead her case of dire poverty, requesting that her daughter be allowed to take the finals even though she can’t come up with the tuition balance.

This wasn’t the first time Remedios had to grovel before the school administrator pleading for mercy and understanding. She did it when her daughter was a freshman in high school. Now, her daughter – who is a gifted child – is halfway thru her junior year.

As a young woman fresh out of high school, Remedios worked in Singapore as an OFW. She

maidnannyserving

A Young Remedios

was young, highly energetic, and engaging with unbounded curiosity. She loved to dance and socialize. She loved to meet new people and make new friends. Wide-eyed and eager to see the world she gladly took on domestic employment overseas. New to a universe bustling with highly driven people, young and impressionable, she soon found herself entangled in a doomed, superficial relationship with a married man.

maidnannyserving4

Filising – a gifted child – in grade school

She bore him a child out-of-wedlock, a daughter, whom they named Filising (a combination of Filipiniana-Singaporianense). That was years ago.

Returning to the Philippines upon the non-renewal of her domestic contract, Remedios and Filising went to live with her eldest son, Sotero, in their small home with his family of four. As her son’s family grew bigger with the addition of a new baby, Remedios felt like she had to go to the big city to try her luck once again for overseas employment. Of course, Sotero and Filising protested. Sotero respectfully reminded his mother, “Besides, you can help us out by babysitting the new baby. We need you Mom. Don’t go. Stay.”

One day, without so much as a goodbye, Remedios left. Just like that. She left no address, no word as to where she was going. She just took off.

maidnannyserving3

Filising (left) with a friend

Filising felt the sting of complete abandonment in her heart. Not only did her biological father disown her, now her mother has left her. She felt utter worthlessness. Her grades began to slip. She lost her appetite. Her beautiful, flowing, black tresses began to fall off. She was withering away in broad daylight.

Sotero was at a loss; he didn’t know what to do. He had no resources to take Filising to see a doctor. Why, Sotero was so penniless he couldn’t even summon the local quack-doctor-herbolario for some superstitious quackery; this local shaman charged too much for his services.

At school, Filising’s teachers noticed the change in their star pupil. Alarmed, they informed Mother Superior of what was going on. It was out of pure concern for her welfare that Mother Superior had Filising brought in to the office one afternoon for an informal chat. Divine intervention was at work. Mother Superior took it upon herself to use her own personal money to help Filising finish her junior year. Additionally, she gave Filising a job at the convent, helping in the library and in the sacerdotal vestments upkeep, and giving her board and lodging.

Filising graduated high school class valedictorian. She never reconnected with her mother Remedios, who walked out on her… long ago.

 

Generosity Killer


Unkind-famous

“When we do a random act of kindness, we do it without seeking recompense.”

Hatred kills generosity.

Hateful words deriding another person for their acts of charity, only serve to diminish the sympathy for others felt by the recipient of such unkind commentary.

In the end, the once charitable person, mocked and ridiculed for their acts of kindness becomes unwilling to give. Their once kind hearts, numbed by the senseless verbal attacks leveled at them, turn to stone.

Who suffers? The needy person; the intended recipient of the charity.

Such a story circulates in social media today, about a very bitter person’s reaction to another person’s charitable contributions to some needy kids.

“I can’t believe she actually gave money to this cause,” the poster wrote, reacting to a story posted in social media about a woman who donated to a charitable cause. The poster claimed familiarity with this generous person described in the story. Seems they were married at one time.

“She yelled at me whenever I put money in the collection plate on Sunday,” his commentary continued.

“She never allowed me to give money to my ailing parents either. Or give me money to bet at the cockfights. She was so tightfisted she squeaked when she walked. And now she gives to charitable causes? Hypocrite! How bogus. How fake. Making herself look good outside. Rotten inside. Can you believe it?” The poster continued with his unkind commentary.

A firestorm of posts erupted. Commenters from all corners dove in to the fray. The scene turned ugly.

“Hoy, you better stop posting… your comments are not true. You lying,” one poster wrote.

Someone who apparently knew them when they were a couple left this post: “If you do not stop commenting I will reveal all your stinky secrets. And the whole world will know just how rotten you were as a husband. Lazy and dumb. No work because no one will hire you. You are nothing but a freeloader.”

Still, another poster wrote, “Please think twice before you post. You are embarrassing yourself. Big time.”

Whoa. Time out. Let’s come up for air. What about the generous person described in the story – the original object of the disgruntled poster’s ire? How was she impacted by all this trash talk?

Unkind-Words

When hateful words kill a person’s generosity, the recipient of the charity suffers.

Sadly, the unkind posts impacted her negatively. She regretted ever having given to the cause of the needy kids. She vowed never to donate to such charitable causes. She faded into social networking obscurity. Vanished – never to be heard from again.

Ultimately, who lost in this brew-ha-ha? The disgruntled ex-husband you think? Not hardly.

The ex-wife? Nope.

The needy kids? You bet.