Happy New Year

I was in the middle of doing my last 5K run for this year when I was stopped by this glorious sight. I will borrow my brother’s very long hashtag, #the-first-sunset-of-the-last-day-of-the-year. You see, New Zealand will be one of the first countries in the world to bid 2015 goodbye and the first to welcome 2016.

I stared at this sunset, and remembered what someone told me few months ago, ‘Continue to love the people whom your Papa and Mama love.’ With the two towering trees on the hill, I prayed, ‘Papa, Mama – I am where I am right now because I continue to love and be with the people whom you love the most.’

I stared at this sunset, and remembered what a friend told me several months ago, ‘My prayer is for God to remove blinders from your eyes.’ With the whole panoramic sunset view, I prayed, ‘Thank you, God, for the countless of times that you removed not only blinders from my eyes but also stubbornness of my heart.’

I stared at this sunset, and felt the deep connection between my soul and the cool wind. I remembered all the wonderful people who came my way this year and those who remained part of my life all through these years. In silence, I prayed, ‘Thank you, God, for blessing me with friends. They are my joy, my inspiration, my anchor.’

I stared at this sunset, and remembered the thousands of miles I traveled this year, including the many heartaches and headaches which caused me to age a decade. With deep gratitude, I prayed, ‘Thank you, God, for all the opportunities, for keeping me safe and for healing my brokenness and sinfulness.’

I stared at this sunset, and all I felt was calmness, forgiveness and gratefulness.

I guess, New Year or not, we look at every sunset as an opportunity to feel loved, to give thanks, and to allow ourselves to be embraced by stillness and peacefulness.

May our gracious God bless all of us a blissful 2016, Amen.968773_10153769153982660_8401545549918903_n

The Teacup and the Fruitcake

12347849_10153726994042660_2191772761779297866_nIn 1999, my Papa and Mama went to Thailand. My Papa’s ‘pasalubong’ for me was a single set of tea cup and a saucer. I remember Mama saying that Papa handled it with utmost care all throughout their trip back to Manila. To date, this is the only piece of porcelain I own that moved with me whenever I transfered residence and it was never used, not once.

One of Mama’s favourite was fruitcake. I remember that for five Christmases, from 2007-2011, fruitcake would always be one of my pasalubongs for her from London. She would always have the sweetest smile everytime I would say, ‘Mama, fruitcake…’

Today, a friend gave me a fruitcake as pasalubong and told me that when I get home, I should drink tea and eat the fruitcake. It didn’t sound like a suggestion. There was power on the voice. I felt that it was a directive.

So when I got home, I was going to drink tea and eat fruitcake just because my friend said so. Until I noticed the tea cup that Papa gave me and felt that today is the time. For almost 17 years, today seemed to be the perfect time to use it.

Yes, it may just be drinking tea and having a slice of fruitcake and I should not give so much drama on it.

But hey! Parents – whether they are still around or have gone ahead of us, would always know and feel when their children needed them the most. Tonight, because of the tea cup and the fruitcake, time and again, Papa and Mama made their most loving presence felt.

Today, the Third Sunday of Advent, the Gaudete Sunday, I rejoice for the simple joy that the tea cup and the fruitcake brought to my heart. I rejoice for angels on earth called friends (some gives fruitcakes 😜). I rejoice for friends who became family, who treated me like part of their family. I rejoice for being blessed with opportunities. I rejoice for being cared for by many.

Today, I rejoice.

Laying Tracks

12366206_10153724404482660_3293175925292895767_nI am reading a book of Shonda Rhimes. She is the writer of the two most successful TV series worldwide -Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal.

On the first chapter of her book, she described something called ‘laying tracks’. She said that ‘writing for television is like laying a track for an oncoming speeding train’.

‘The story is the track and you gotta keep laying it down because of the train. The train is production. You keep writing, you keep laying track down, no matter what, because the train of production is coming toward you – no matter what’. Every eight days she needs to have a story. Every eight days they need to find locations, build sets, design costumes, find props, film a new episode. Every eight days. And that’s how she said she learned to lay track quickly. Artfully. Creatively. As fast as freaking lightning.

I have finished several chapters of the book but that image of laying tracks and speeding train never left my mind.

I look at the calendar and see it is only 13 days before Christmas.

I see parents posting photos of their children saying do not grow up too fast.

I hear people working hard saving money for something very important in their lives.

I know how sickness can trigger panic button and when the clock starts ticking, we try to catch up on lost opportunities.

I feel the tremendous amount of pressure when one has to make a life-changing decision.

These are all laying tracks. Whether we like it or not, we have to lay tracks in order for the speeding train not to derail. And even when life seems to be at a stand still, we have to continue laying tracks, as we have to be prepared for what is to come.

The irony of life is when we try all our might to run after something or someone. Only to find out, when we look behind, we are also being chased by something or someone.

I guess it is not just about laying tracks. It is also about where these tracks are leading us or has led us so far.

India

Few days ago, I posted a couple of photos on Instagram with my suitcase and myself boarded on a plane. One friend asked where I was going. I replied , To 18.9750 N, 72.8258 E. He is a geek so he figured out the coordinates. Then one of my cousins asked the same question and I replied, ‘To one of the countries in the film Eat. Pray. Love.’
I went to India. I visited two places: Mumbai and Pune, to where I had meetings and personally met with people I only interacted on emails and conference calls for the last two years. Between all these colleagues, there are two whom I closely work with. BR is based in Mumbai and MG is based in Pune. There was a competition. They gave me a challenge. That at the end of my 3-day trip, I will have to choose which of the two cities is better.
Knowing that I will only get to see glimpses of the cities as most of my time will be spent inside meeting rooms, I told them that I will give my verdict on the day I leave and I may have to give a higher preference to whoever can bring me to a Starbucks shop where I could buy a mug with Mumbai or India inscription.
In Mumbai, I went to see the Gate of India, saw one of the most expensive houses in the world, had dinner in an authentic Indian restaurant called Jewel of India, saw simultaneous wedding ceremonies, learned significant information about mosques, sareehs, bridges, bay areas, etc. Despite finding a Starbucks shop near the famous Taj hotel, there was no mug.
In Pune, I was welcomed by a cooler weather. I got to taste authentic samosa, had Indian ice cream, delicious barbeque and Thums Up. I played Carram and totally enjoyed it. MG fell short of his promise that I will not leave Pune without a Starbucks mug. All attempts remained futile.
This morning, as I was being escorted by one of the hotel staff to the car that will bring me to the airport, I made one final attempt to ask, ‘Is there a Starbucks at the airport?’ My eyes glittered when he said there is one. Only that it is a bit far from the Departure area. He gave me directions.
I didn’t have much time to spare. My flight was in 1.5hrs. Soon as I arrived at the airport, I literally ran and looked for Starbucks. My heart sank as I entered the shop and didn’t see any mugs. I was ready to turn back and leave when I mustered some courage to ask the lady at the till, ‘Do you have a mug that has Mumbai written on it?’ She said, ‘No, Ma’am. But we have one with India on it!’ Wow. Imagine the smile on my face. My heart was giggling.
Before boarding, I sent a message to BR and MG saying, Mission Accomplished (together with the photo of the mug). MG replied, ‘Now I believe… If u wish for something from your heart… U get it…😃😃’
I write this as the plane takes off from the runway of Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport. I happily leave with a Starbucks mug that has ‘India’ inscription. But more importantly, of all the countries I was fortunate enough to visit, India will probably be the one with the most special inscription in my heart. Though I have only seen glimpses of India’s people and culture, it opened enough window for me to appreciate and be grateful about life.
I guess, the book has to be re-written. You don’t need to visit three countries to Eat. Pray. Love. In India, you Eat, you Pray and you find Love in the most ordinary of ways.