A Christmas Story

When the wish fits the pure heart of the child…

Why am I not surprised when, at five years past 40, my mental age is just 16! Well, according to yourmentalage.com, anyway… Not that I fully subscribe to its “findings”,  but I somewhat agree.

Call it the perpetual child in me.

You see, one of the most evident traits that I have continuously nourished is my “childlike” attitude toward life. It goes down from my childhood, I guess. I am sort of the eldest in a brood of five back then. Christmas was not much an occasion for us because we really did not have more than enough, and my mother did not want to make it as a marked event in our young hearts, for she knew we can never have the things most children have. My father was working and studying at the same time and we were just getting by with whatever was left of his earnings. One thing though that my mother never failed to do was to tell us that Christmas was really a celebration of thanksgiving. Thanksgiving for the food on our table, for the shelter over our heads and the clothing on our backs, for a loving family and, most especially, for our Mother and Father.

1469810_675095172513038_635903336_nI have never really questioned why we never had what other kids had. What got stuck on my mind was that we were thankful. But as I was growing older and became more accustomed to being with friends, which at an early age seemed to be very natural for me, a name became an obsession: SANTA CLAUS!!!

My schoolmates talked about him as if he’s real. Whenever our teacher at school showed his picture on a card or sang those Santa songs, I did not dare ask my mother whether it’s true or not, because somehow, someway, she might just convince me that he is not real. I wanted so much to believe that there is a Santa Claus; simply because, the child in me wanted to believe that if you are good and nice, Santa will give you the gift you ask for.

But Santa Claus became real only through my being him to my siblings. I could still remember vividly when Kimmy was three and I, together with Kuya Texx, Bing-Bing, Bulilit and Balot, bought her a walkie-talkie (we pooled our savings from our daily allowances) with just one unit wrapped — the other used by us interchangeably, play-acting Santa and the elves. Boy, that was really fun! I could just go over and over that moment and still laugh-cry at the thought.

I am too old now to be believing in a fat, bearded man in a red suit; yet, deep down in me, the belief that Santa DOES exist was never extinguished. Every now and then, I would play around with the thought that one day, if I do good — if I really, really behaved — I would make it in the Nice List and Santa Claus will come and whisper in my ears that my gift — the one I have always asked for — will be there on Christmas day.

However, my wishes changed every year. I waited for them to come true but to no avail. Maybe, I had Santa confused as to what I really wanted.

But for quite sometime now, one wish persisted in my adult life though.

I have always prayed for someone to grow old with. Someone whom I can pour my deepest emotions with. Someone who can make me laugh aloud and do silly things and not feel embarassed. Someone who will support my love for work, and more importantly, my love for adventure! A woman who has also experienced life, had tried living outside the box — who can cry at her mistakes and triumphs, someone who can stand on her own and be her own. Say her own piece… and make things happen. Someone to whom I can tell my stories, my exploits and bloopers, my escapades — good and bad.

And for me to live life to the fullest without thinking of rules or limits, I can only do so much. I wanted someone who can live life for me… someone who can create an albumful of tales and anecdotes — all painted through words and snapshots.

Hush now… let me tell you a secret that was just recently revealed to me. A Santa Claus DOES exist! In fact, he already gave me what I have always asked for SEVEN years ago… and it took me that long to realize that what I have always wanted I already have!

Truly, when the wish fits the pure heart of the child, his perfect gift will come. Mine was wrapped in shrieks of laughter and giggles, of sweet whispers and tiny arms that wrapped me in warm hugs, and sweet lips caressing my rough cheeks with feather kisses.

She may not understand yet my rants against the world, but she has been patient in steering clear from me when I’m angry at something. She has displayed moments of strength when required, saying her own piece and standing her ground.

I cannot pour out my deepest emotions to her yet but she has shown willingness and excitement in listening to my stories, my exploits and bloopers, my escapades — good and bad. She has already proven herself to make me laugh aloud and do silly things and not feel embarassed!

She is only beginning to discover life but we have already created tons of beautiful memories together… and will be creating more.

She is, indeed, all that I need in my life now and for the years to come.

Now, all I need to do every Christmas is tell her how lucky I am to have received the perfect gift — the gift of fatherhood.

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… on Oscar Wilde’s De Profundis

Oscar Wilde. Taken away from humanity too soon…

Oscar Wilde died on this day in 1900 after being imprisoned for being gay. I know, sucks to be gay in those days.

To pay homage to Oscar Wilde — the literary genius, the poet, the romantic — let me share this thoughts anew…

via … on Oscar Wilde’s De Profundis

Personal ‘Life Hacks’ That Kept Me Sane Over The Years…

“There is, I have heard, a little thing called sunrise, in which the sun reverses the process we all viewed the night before. You might assume such a thing as mythical as those beasts that guard the corners of the earth, but I have it on the finest authority, and have, indeed, from time to time, regarded it with my own eyes.” ― Lauren Willig, The Garden Intrigue

“There is, I have heard, a little thing called sunrise, in which the sun reverses the process we all viewed the night before. You might assume such a thing as mythical as those beasts that guard the corners of the earth, but I have it on the finest authority, and have, indeed, from time to time, regarded it with my own eyes.” ― Lauren Willig, The Garden Intrigue

Today, I turn 45.

Looking back at the year I had, I have nary a complaint. Yes, I had my ups and downs — and have done things that I am not proud of — yet, the year-that-was was a good year for me still.

And here, I share with you some ‘philosophies’ that have kept me going through the years…

1. Put some S.A.L.T. (Spend special Attention to the Little Things) in everything you do.

Negativity should have no place in our daily lives. But since we do not live in a utopian society, negativism, almost always, finds its way into our day-to-day routines. So, before negative thoughts and emotions creep its way into our psyche and cripple us emotionally, psychologically, and yes, even physically, we’ve gotta purge ’em out of our system!

A good cure to keep negative vibes away is: SALT WATER — Sweat. Tears. The sea.

Feeling lazy and bored? Try running, jogging, trekking. Sweat it out.

Someone broke your heart? Cry yourself an ocean. Wash the grief away with tears.

Stressed from too much work? Let the salty sea breeze caress your face.

2. Just D.O. I.T. (Dare to do Original Ideas Totally)

We are faced with many uncertainties in life. You’ve been through these things millions of times, I’m sure. But how many of those times have you truly taken that advice, and gave something new and different the old college try? It can be as simple as dyeing your hair blonde or it can be something more daring, like sky diving. Whatever you choose to do, don’t ever let the words “I can’t…” escape your lips without actually trying it out first.

Fear can cripple you and prevent you from living the life you shoulda-coulda-woulda lived. Most of the time, these shoulda, coulda, wouldas are generally followed by still wantas.

“Fear, is every problem’s bottom line, and you can’t be afraid to start at the bottom if you want to solve your problems.” — I Would If I Could and I Can, James H. Hoke

3. Do not be S.A.D. (Spending the day in Abject Disillusionment). L.O.L.! (Live Out Loud!)

Today, I choose NOT to be… S.A.D.; instead, I will be here to… L.O.L.

Finally, some "me" time

Finally, some “me” time

Martha Washington declares, “I am determined to be cheerful and happy in whatever situation I may find myself. For I have learned that the greater part of our misery or unhappiness is determined not by our circumstance but by our disposition.”

I’m gonna do the same.

Maybe, these lines from The Mighty, Mighty Bosstones will clarify my point further:

Have you ever had the odds stacked up so high
You need a strength most don’t possess?
Or has it ever come down to do or die
You’ve got to rise above the rest?

No? Well…
I never had to knock on wood
But I know someone who has
Which makes me wonder if I could
It makes me wonder if
I never had to knock on wood
And I’m glad I haven’t yet
Because I’m sure it isn’t good
That’s the impression that I get.

4. Don’t talk, just K.I.S.S. (Keep It Short and Simple)

brev·i·ty, noun \ˈbre-və-tē\
: the use of few words to say something

Why do we always say that short and simple is good?

Because simplicity is not just about minimalism or the absence of clutter, it is a measure of one’s understanding. Y’see, to be truly simple, you have to go really, really deep into complexity. You have to thoroughly understand the essence of something in order to be able to get rid of the parts that are not essential. Saying “less is more”.

Courtesy of George Orwell, here’s a quick cheat sheet to become more practical as possible:

Always use:

A word instead of phrase
A phrase instead of a sentence
A sentence instead of paragraph
A paragraph instead of a page…

5.  I always W.I.N.G. it (Write Incessantly, Never Giving up)

I seize each day, each opportunity to write. Anything. Everything. The consistency. The monotony. The certainty. All foolish notions and affectations are covered by this daily re-occurrence. After all, you don’t go to a well once but every day, and sleep comes to you each day, so do the muses–Calliope, Euterpe or Erato.

“How do you write? You write, man, you write, that’s how, and you do it the way the old English walnut tree puts forth leaf and fruit every year by the thousands. . . . If you practice an art faithfully, it will make you wise, and most writers can use a little wising up.” — William Saroyan, 1981

… and of course — today, and everyday — I always choose to PRAY:

O Divine Master, Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

AMEN.

Pink: The Color of Peace and Harmony

Masjid Dimaukom

The Pink Mosque of Maguindanao — constructed in December 2012 and formally opened to devotees in June 2014 — is a gift to the people of Datu Saudi Ampatuan from its mayor, Samsudin Utto Dimaukom, Al-Hadj.

Pink, Mayor Dimaukom revealed, is his favorite color; in fact, it is also the color of choice for the town’s municipal hall and other government structures.

Ni-research namin ‘yan kung ano ang ibig sabihin ng pink, [it means] peaceful, pagmamahal, iba-iba naman ‘yan, pwedeng pagmamahal kay Allah, pagmamahal sa taumbayan, at pagmamahal sa bayan.

Masjid Dimaukom, as the mosque is now called, stands on the Dimaukom family property and has come to symbolize peace and love.

 

To Get There

The national highway that connects Cotabato City and Isulan, Sultan Kudarat passes by Datu Saudi Ampatuan. There are vans coming from Cotabato City bound for Tacurong City (also in Sultan Kudarat) or Isulan and vice versa. If coming from Isulan, ride a Cotabato City-bound jeepney stationed at the Isulan “roundball” or rotonda. First trip leaves around 7AM and every 30mins, thereafter, depending on the volume of passengers. Advise the driver that you’ll get off at Datu Saudi (to avoid any confusion as there is another town called Ampatuan); or, you can simply tell the driver that you’re going to the Pink Mosque. It is now a popular landmark in Maguindanao known to many locals. The  mosque is just a short walk from the main highway and fronting the municipal hall.

The Taong Putik Festival of Aliaga, Nueve Ecija

Forget colorful costumes. Forget fancy dance routines. No streetdancing. No drums. No parties. This is one somber festival.

Devotees burn candles as offering to St John the Baptist.

Devotees burn candles as offering to St John the Baptist.

The Taong Putik Festival is an annual event held in Brgy. Bibiclat in Aliaga, Nueve Ecija. Celebrated every 24th day of June — on the feast of St. John the Baptist, who is also the barangay’s patron saint — the Taong Putik Festival commemorates an event, which if wasn’t averted, would’ve been one of the bloodiest massacres in the annals of World War II.

As early as 3AM, devotees flock to nearby ricefields to bathe in the freezing waters and rub their faces, arms, legs and body with mud. Now draped in mud-soaked dried banana leaves or water hyacinths fashioned into cloaks — usually hiding their faces — the “taong putik” (loosely translated as “mud people”) go from house to house to receive donations of money and candles which they would offer during the mass.

The solemn celebration culminates in a procession around the small community, where the image of St. John the Baptist is paraded. In the afternoon of the 24th, the fiesta atmosphere begins, highlighted by a carabao race and other games.

Nature’s wrath or Divine intervention?

The Taong Putik Festival commemorates an event, which if wasn’t averted, would’ve been one of the bloodiest massacres in the annals of World War II.

The Taong Putik Festival commemorates an event, which if wasn’t averted, would’ve been one of the bloodiest massacres in the annals of World War II.

1944. In retaliation for the killing of their soldiers by Filipino guerrilla fighters, the Japanese Army gathered all adult males in the village of Bibiclat for execution. Held in a small chapel, the men, fearful for their lives, began praying to their patron saint, St. John the Baptist, pleading for deliverance.

Before noon, the scheduled time for their execution, the men were led to the plaza where they were arranged in a single line, ready for the firing squad. As the executioners took their positions, a crowd of women and children gathered to witness the carnage. And as their lamentations and cries of woe echoed throughout the village, torrential rains blotted out the midday sun and drenched everyone in attendance. To the Japanese, this phenomenon indicated that even their gods did not approve of the massacre; thus, called off the firing squad, saving the men from certain death.

The people of Bibiclat erupted into jubilation, thanking St. John for causing the rain and saving the men.

And so began the “Taong Putik” tradition.

The Phoenix of Palo

Palo Cathedral, or the Metropolitan Cathedral of Our Lord’s Transfiguration, was built in 1596 by the Jesuits and served as their home, until 1768, after being ordered to leave the Philippines, as an aftermath of political wranglings in Europe. They were replaced in Leyte by the Augustinians who in 1834 eventually ceded the northeastern parishes to the Franciscans.

Repairs–after it was hit by a fire and typhoon which caused its roof to be ripped off, and its convent to be destroyed–and construction of its two symmetrical towers began in 1850.

The cathedral was converted into an evacuation hospital from October 1944 to March 1945 by the American Liberation Forces. -- photo from kadetrosada.wordpress.com

The cathedral was converted into an evacuation hospital from October 1944 to March 1945 by the American Liberation Forces. — photo from kadetrosada.wordpress.com

The church became a cathedral on March 25, 1938, with Monsignor Manuel Mascariñas serving as its first bishop. During World War II, the cathedral was converted into an evacuation hospital by American Liberation Forces, and was used as refuge of civilians.

-- photo from inquirer.newsinfo

— photo from inquirer.newsinfo

Palo Cathedral was badly damaged by supertyphoon Yolanda (International name: Haiyan) in November 2013. DSC_0308Hurricane-like winds stripped this beautiful infrastructure of its roofs and windows. Yolanda left it almost wiped out. After Yolanda’s devastation, a memorial service for the typhoon’s casualties was held in the cathedral. Bodies were then buried in the cathedral’s grave site.

But like the mythological Phoenix, the Palo Metropolitan Cathedral rose from the “ashes”, signifying renewal and rebirth. In 17 January 2015, Pope Francis held mass here and met with families of survivors of superyyphoon Yolanda.

Today, through the major efforts of private institutions and the people of Palo, the cathedral has been fully restored and once again stand, in all its glory and grandeur.

Post Script

Red Beach in Brgy. Candahug brought Palo to the pages of world history. It is where Gen. Douglas McArthur first landed to liberate the Philippines from the Japanese occupation on October 20, 1944.

Red Beach immortalized Palo in the pages of world history. It was where Gen. Douglas McArthur first landed to liberate the Philippines from the Japanese occupation.

The celebrated town of Palo, Leyte has also played vital roles in our country’s history and religiosity.

Red Beach in Brgy. Candahug was where Gen. Douglas McArthur fulfilled his promise: I shall return, in 20 October 1944. Bringing with him the full might of the Allied forces, the massive landing in Palo signaled the end of Japanese occupation in the country during World War II.

 

A Reflection

Photo taken at "Nanay" Rock Masungi Georeserve and Nature Park Tanay, Rizal

Photo taken at
“Nanay” Rock
Masungi Georeserve and Nature Park
Tanay, Rizal

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