我们的同情 (Our sympathy)

Today in the Philippines, it is declared a National Day of Mourning.

Yesterday, it’s kind of a bit weird to wake up with two news headlines – Venus Raj bagging the 4th runner up title in Miss Universe pageant and then the hostage drama in Manila which took the lives of 8 tourists.

How should one ordinary Filipino feel about these events?

So many things have been said, almost everyone had expressed their views and opinions. Whilst we Filipinos – those in the Philippines and the rest of us across the globe, have to face the doubts, discrimination, disappointment, mockery and perhaps hatred of some, this is one moment where we can truly show who we truly are as a people and as a nation. Allow me to borrow the words of Kris Aquino in one of her interviews, ‘The brutality of one man does not speak of who we are as a nation.’

Remember that it is every person’s right to condemn what happened in Luneta last Monday, but that is not enough to denounce our country and the rest of our countrymen just because of that.

There are lapses in the way the hostage taking was handled – our government has duly acknowledged and apologized for those shortcomings. There are government officials who were expected to execute their duties in a more appropriate and tactical way than what they have done – our government has already started relieving those responsible from their duties. Our people have shown their sympathies, our people are also hurting.

I have seen in the television the sister of the hostage taker where she asked for forgiveness on behalf of their whole family.

I have seen masses offered for the victims and their families.

I have seen the caskets of the victims draped in white, with flowers and a note from Filipino nation asking for forgiveness.

A high level delegation, headed by no less than the Vice President of the Philippines will be sent to Hongkong and Beijing to personally express our condolences and provide initial reports on what truly happened during that fateful day.

I guess, the bottomline is – we are taking accountability on what happened and I believe that’s what truly matters. We are a nation who knows how to bow down our heads, not because of shame, but because of sincere sympathy.

Today, I went to the Philippine Embassy in London and though I know that it will already be closed by the time I reach their office, I still went. I want to see our Philippine Flag in half-mast, as Philippine embassies all over the world are asked to also observe this day of national mourning.

In the midst of chill and rain, to show my solidarity to everyone back home and all OFWs who might be suffering from silent persecution, I stood in front of our flag and silently offered prayers for the victims, their families, but most of all for my beloved Philippines.

Tuesdays @ FFI – Vermeer

A day after my Monmouth escapade, I promised to meet a 3-week old friend so we can say our goodbyes before he flies back to his mission place.

He spent four weeks vacation in London and one of the last items in his London’s bucket list is to see one of Vermeer’s painting, which is reported to be part of the Royal Collection and is in fact, included in the treasures featured in this years opening of the State Rooms. Buckingham Palace only opens its doors to the public during summer – so call it being at the right place and at the right time, and by virtue of empathy, I sincerely showed interest and started to induce art and culture to my pedestrian consciousness.

Before buying our tickets, we had to ask members of the Buckingham staff whether Vermeer’s painting is indeed included in the things we will see inside. I wish I know something about Vermeer. I wish I could even spell his name as I had to ask my friend to spell it for me.

Forget about the fact that we will be able to walk in the Grand Staircase where footprints of royalties, aristocrats, head of states and diplomats are indelibly found – I had to remind myself that seeing Vermeer’s painting is the most important.

Ignore the fact that I will be able to smell and touch the State Dining table, where each Sevres porcelain are arranged in precision, that the distance between cutleries are measured using rulers and Her Majesty personally checks it before grand occasions such as State dinners – I had to remind myself that finding one of the 34 known paintings of Vermeer will be the highlight of our visit.

It is not so important to see the Throne Room where through centuries, it hosted and continues to host audiences of all nationalities, receive homage, award high honours and perform other royal functions – I had to remind myself that paying homage to Vermeer’s painting is our day’s mission.

Soon as we entered the 55-yard long picture gallery where paintings of Rembrandt, Van Dyke, Rubens and many others are displayed, in a split second, my friend found Vermeer’s painting, called ‘The Music Lesson’. I hurriedly looked at it and quietly exclaimed, ‘Ah, oh-K’.

(The Royal Collection © 2010,
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II
RCIN 405346)

Felt like the smell of paella and curry in the Borough market 24 hours ago made my heart beat faster than seeing one of Royal Collection’s most valued possessions. Thank goodness for the audio guide provided, I quickly pressed the number for Vermeer’s painting and listened to what it is all about. I did not listen to it just once, I listened to it three times until I found myself not just looking at the painting, I found myself reading, feeling and almost tempted to touching the painting. Vermeer is known with his exquisite and masterly treatment and use of light. The audio even said that one could feel the air and space in Vermeer’s paintings. If espresso just gave me less than a minute of pleasure, I made sure that the visual appetite I had during that moment will be rightfully satisfied so I took as much time as I possibly can adoring Vermeer’s work.

I will not profess to have been converted as an art enthusiast after my Vermeer experience but I acknowledge that our life is indeed surrounded by so many things unknown and unfamiliar to us – just like Vermeer and his paintings. Most will sometimes appear nameless, meaningless and even useless – only when we pay attention will we realise the great treasures within our midst.

Monmouth

Today, I walked 3 miles just to have a single shot of espresso.

I am supposed to travel outside the city and grace a house warming invitation of a friend. But, I didn’t go. Instead, I just stayed home and welcomed the idea of doing something random, simple, unplanned and hopefully exciting. I was browsing Facebook and I saw a little ad that says, ‘365 things to do in London’. I clicked the ad and it brought me to a website where it lists places in London that are not usually featured in tourist guides and magazines.

No. 1 in the list – Monmouth. Promoted as having some of the best beans in London. I don’t really have a craving for coffee. The pre-requisite of me having one is either it is shared with a friend over a nice conversation or I am trapped somewhere and have to kill time then I will have a cup while reading a book. But today, I will pretend that I love caffeine.

I checked Monmouth’s website – I read the story behind the coffee beans, about the company’s operations and the more I read, the more I am eager to go to their shop. Each of their coffee beans has a story and I wanted to experience and be part of that story. So, I checked google map to find where it is. It says it is 1.5 miles from where I live and around 30mins walk. Easy peasy. Ready, steady, off I went. It took me almost an hour to reach the place (as I also pretended to be a tourist and tried to stop once in awhile and look around). The Monmouth shop is within the Borough market area so I got distracted because there were so many delicacies from different parts of Europe. There was also a pub across the coffee shop, bursting with people having alcohol – for a moment, I thought, should it be a shot of tequila or a shot of espresso? I recovered quickly and remembered my real purpose why I was there. 😉

I have seen the queue at Starbucks during weekday mornings but I have not seen a coffee shop as busy as this:

They have the usual selections of coffee but as what my Italian friend once said, real proper coffee is espresso. I queued, ordered my coffee and weird as it may sound, I felt extremely excited. The place was so busy that I decided to close my eyes while taking the espresso so I will be able to savour the taste and let my taste receptor cells give an objective verdict. An hour to get there and just less than a minute to enjoy the coffee – but it’s all worth it.

Like an espresso, there are great things that happen in our lives that cannot be enjoyed for long. But, it will leave something within you. Whatever that something is, lock it safely in your memory. After today’s experience, what lies between me and coffee will never be the same as it used to be.

Tuesdays @ FFI – Hijacker

I have been trying to think of what and how to best describe the annoyances and disturbances I come across with every now and then. It comes in different forms, sizes, colours and magnitude.

Take for example last Tuesday, when I tried to start and end the day right. Woke up early, said my morning prayers, had breakfast, looked forward for a productive day and end it with a peaceful mind and grateful heart. That was the plan. Carry out the day from point A to point B.

Everything was going well until mid-day, when during a post meeting conversation, someone just robbed me off of my sanity and calmness, just like an unexpected hijacker, who illegally seized what I have planned for the day and forced it to go to a different destination. The seemingly innate rudeness and arrogance of this Tuesday hijacker made me panic, felt inferior and upset.  I did not end the day with peaceful mind and grateful heart. For a significant period of that day, I did allow the hijacker to be in control.

We are exposed to many forms of hijacking – bad news, bad conversations, bad emails, phone calls or text messages. All these, sadly influence and even change the course of our days, of our lives, and more sadly, it oftentimes leave our hearts bruised.  We cannot prepare enough or shield ourselves enough to prevent the ‘hijacking’ to happen but through interior preparation, we can prime ourselves on how to respond more appropriately.

That Tuesday night, I did pray for guidance so I can respond more appropriately next time it happens. Lo and behold, the gospel last Wednesday (Matthew 18:15-20) talked about how to treat someone like the Tuesday hijacker. Maybe, it is not all about just moving from point A to B – hijackers are necessary because they are invitations for us to take the distance between our knees and the floor and in prayer, sought for God’s protection and ask for our most needed graces.

Dear God,

when withdrawing from a battle

is not an option,

let your angels

of wisdom

and

courage

be my

shield and armour,

Amen.

Adobo

Today, I cooked adobo.

I met a new friend yesterday. We went to a nice restaurant along the River Thames overlooking Tower Bridge. Whilst the place and the menu are excellent, he would, in several instances, mention how he loves Filipino food. If only I know a nice, decent Filipino restaurant in London, I would have probably offered to bring my new Argentinian-cum-Italian-religious-brother-friend there right away.

For more than 5 hours, our conversations travelled across the world. From Vatican to Peru to China – talking about literature, history, languages, theater, food, people and of life in general.  But he did ask me one personal question – ‘Adnelle, do you know how to cook?’.

I answered reluctantly, ‘No, but if and when needed, I can put something together.’ He then told me that he thinks I can cook, I just have to believe that I can.

So today, when I woke up, remembering the challenged I was given by my new friend last night, plus after starving myself the whole week, I decided I will prepare something. The safest dish to try is, what else but every Filipino’s favourite – Adobo.

I think there are 3 important ingredients in discovering what and how well we can do something – 1) a pinch of courage to at least try; 2) a spoonful of enthusiasm to do it with fun and not be afraid of failing; and 3) a cup of openness where you let others either affirm or criticize you.

We agreed to meet again soon, before he flies back to Rome – I will probably offer to cook and offer him a menu of Filipino dishes. We’ll see.