Lesson #2 Give without expectation

This season is teaching me not to hold back. It is teaching me to give a part of myself even when I don’t feel like it. It is teaching me to be unselfish. It is teaching me to overcome my sense of entitlement. It is teaching me to be generous in sharing myself to others. It is teaching me to love unconditionally. Love is the one thing that propels me to give beyond what I am inclined to give.

Many times, I tend to deny someone a part of myself because they are not giving a part of themselves. We are more inclined react and reciprocate to those who are giving us something but if we reach out to those who are not offering us anything, that is real generosity.

Most of the time, our actions are dictated by how other people act around us, by how much they give, by how much they say, by how much they do, by how much we receive, by what we think they will think of us. We like people because they like us, we appreciate people because they appreciate us,  we demand from people the same things that we offer. We should learn to move beyond this. We should learn to overcome being reactive and start being proactive. Reach out, give, share,  open yourself to people without demanding the same things from them. Don’t hold back a kind word just because you haven’t received it, don’t hold back a smile just because they won’t smile back, don’t hold back an act of love because they may not give it back. Give because you have something to give. Reach out. You are a gift worth sharing. Give out of love and do not expect anything in return. It is in this form of giving that we learn how to become full by who we are rather than by what we receive.

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A Day Well Spent

Before the chaotic transfer of Operationn Salubong (a volunteer group who welcome Yolanda Survivors as they come off the C-130 plane) to Camp Aguinaldo, a friend and I were already signed up to do the 8am-3pm shift at Villamor as counselors on Friday, Nov. 22, 2013- my birthday. The previous week and the one before that were very toxic and I wanted to make my birthday week as worthy as a thanksgiving offering to the Father and so I planned to do as much volunteer work and prayer that week. My sister, Irhys, and our friend, Gino, were volunteer marshals on Monday that same week. On Thursday evening, Nov. 21, 2013, we received the news that Oplan Salubong was moving back to Villamor and we also read posts about Oplan Hatid (a volunteer transport service for the evacuees of typhoon Yolanda who have fled their homes and are brought to Manila via the military planes) having to reassemble after packing up that same day. I was still in the office that time and my sister was at home preparing to sleep. Gino and I were exchanging messages about our planned volunteer work the following day. We were planning  to volunteer at the Oplan Hatid if the Oplan Salubong didn’t work out since it was still unclear on how DSWD would manage the volunteers for this operation. After a few minutes, Gino suggested we volunteer that night since Oplan Hatid was in need of help.  It was 10:00pm. I said yes. I called my sister and told her to get ready as I was going to pick her up in a few minutes. She was already in bed but she was quick to say yes.

We arrived at Villamor before 11pm and was told to proceed to Gate 5. Around 20 volunteer drivers were already there waiting for DSWD’s go signal for transportation. A few minutes later, we were told to transfer to the parking lot at the grandstand.

At 11:30PM, we got our first passenger, heading to Pasig Palengke. We were not familiar with the place but I was confident that Waze could navigate us where we needed to go. Our passengers were 2 male cousins and the baby daughter of one.

I asked Gino to set the waze app since I was busy driving. As geographically challenged as I was, I missed the exit to Magallanes. Waze recalculated the route and pointed us toward Osmena Highway going to Manila. I asked Gino to check the route again since I believed we were taking the wrong or a very long route. Gino disregarded the Waze and dictated which road to take. After a few minutes, my sister and I were surprised that we were somewhere in Sta Ana. Apparently, Gino took the wrong destination in the GPS map so he was trying to navigate us to a route he was familiar with—which turned out to be really really long. We spent the whole ride teasing Gino until he finally said he will shoulder the gas for this trip. After an hour, we finally reached our destination. My passengers bid their goodbye and their heartfelt birthday greetings then we headed back to Villamor. Another plane just landed when we got there. We were concerned that volunteers were needed at the grandstand so we headed to the volunteer registration booth to sign up as PFAs while waiting for passengers to be deployed. We got our IDs and headed to the grandstand. However, the DSWD didn’t seem to be in need of our help so we headed back to the Oplan Hatid tent. The bidding started. Our next bid was for Dasmarinas Cavite. Three young teenager siblings. Again, waze destination was wrong. Good thing, Gino knew the area. We passed by a road filled with colorful parols and it was enough to reenergize everyone. We got to Waltermart at around 5am and waited until our passenger’s sundo was able to pick them up. We bid our goodbye then we headed back to Villamor to check if they still needed drivers. It was already 6:30am when we got there. The tent was almost empty except for 2 sets of evacuees. The DSWD asked if we can take two passengers and drop them at the bus station. One was going to Apalit, Pampanga and the other one to Cavite. Gino and Irhys needed to go to work that day so we couldn’t take them to their destination but we were willing to drop them off at the bus station. We drove to Victory Liner, Pasay.  I asked my sister to accompany Kuya Rey to the ticket booth and buy him a ticket since no one sponsored his ticket from Oplan Hatid. Our other passenger and I were left in the car chatting about the destruction that Yolanda brought to Tacloban. He said that his mother and aunt did not want to leave Tacloban and opted to stay at the makeshift house that he built before he left. He was going to ask for help from their relatives and return to his family. It was also sad to discover that the violence against women and children at the aftermath of Yolanda were real. He said it was true that a female doctor was raped and killed in Tacloban and that the prisoner’s were at large. A few minutes later, Gino, Irhys and Rey came back with the news that there were no trips to Apalit in that station. Apalit trips were only being carried out by Victory Liner in Caloocan. I checked my watch. It was almost 7am. I didn’t have any work that day so I told Gino and Irhys I could take Kuya Rey to Caloocan. But they were both quick to say they’d go with me all the way. We loaded Kuya Rey’s luggage again and drove off to Taft to drop our other passenger. He said he was familiar with the place and that he could catch the bus going to his Aunt’s house in Cavite. We bid our goodbyes and then drove off to the now busy roads going to Caloocan. I was starting to get groggy. We reached Caloocan by 8:30AM. After buying Kuya Rey a ticket, we headed back to Makati. EDSA was now at its busiest. Gino and Irhys needed to go to work and I had to renew my license since it was going to expire on that day. We got home by 11am. It was a day well spent and the privilege to help others was enough birthday gift. When we share ourselves with others we always, always get more than what we give.

I was able to renew my license in the afternoon which took me less than 15mins, drive back home, take quick nap, attend mass where Father Apacible told about a loving community being embodied in Villamor and I was happy to be a part of it, drive to Greenbelt, have dinner with my sister who has been awake for 36 hours already—we ate at … dyaran! MAX’s (my other sisters were quite surprised that we were not dining at a fancy restaurant. With everything that just happened it just felt inapt to be spending so much money on food)  and to cap it off,  watch the Hunger Games which ended at 12 midnight.

Before Friday, I disabled wall posts on my FB. I wanted to simplify my birthday this year. In our current social media era, it’s so easy to lose track of which friends are mere acquaintances and those who really care. I’ve always preferred a personal greeting, a personal message, a call, a real communication than mere HBD posts on my wall. It was really heartwarming to receive sincere greetings from family and friends, those who really matter, and from the strangers who were a part of that special day.

With only a few hours of sleep, I had to wake up early the next day for a roadtrip to Baler with Aiza — an epic adventure worth another post.

Irhys, Gino and Me in Villamor, waiting for our passengers. With Aiza in Baler -11.23.13

Irhys, Gino and Me in Villamor, waiting for our passengers. With Aiza in Baler -11.23.13

At My Worst

Self worth has been a constant battle for me for a very long time. Until over a month ago, I was sitting in a darkened room surrounded by people in deep prayer that I’ve decided to let go of my battle because Jesus was telling me “You are beautiful”. That was all it took for my tears to spill and overflow. It was finally nice to wake up each morning with peace in my heart because I was loving the person that I was despite my imperfections.

But then with just one stupid mistake, everything I’ve believed about myself POOF! gets thrown out the window. How unfair that beyond my control I’ve become someone else in the eyes of others leaving so little room for self redemption. Just like that I’m back to questioning myself.

WHY? Why did it have to happen? Why now? Why weren’t someone there to stop me from making a stupid mistake?

I could not understand why God allowed it. It took me sometime to realize.

When I thought God had abandoned me, He was there in the face of people who chose to embrace me despite the embarrassing part of myself. It happened probably for me to learn how to accept and love myself at my worst.

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We must learn to embrace those imperfections that are and those that will be.

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Looking Back and Marching Forward

This post is a little bit late. The past two days has just been crazy busy.

It’s 7 mins past midnight. It’s officially the second day of the year. I really need to get some sleep but let me just wrap up 2012 in a few words.

2012 was a quiet year for me, or at least compared to the past two years. It was a year about self reflection, family and friendship I’d like to think that I have made myself better, so much better in so many ways and it was all because of what I’ve endured in 2011.

Great things happened. I achieved my 21k goal, I learned to swim and it became a part of my workout routine, better bones project happened, I’ve closed some projects at work, got reunited with old friend

s and more importantly, I learned to forgive. Our family became closer because of the plight that we were and are still facing. I will always be thankful that I was blessed with a wonderful family. We might be facing a big challenge but knowing that we have each other’s backs is enough to make us feel God’s love.

Sad things happened too. I’ve lost friends in the most unimaginable ways. It was a year of missing other people.

I still pray for patience, courage, wisdom, grace and a steadfast faith for 2013.

Let us face the new year with a hopeful heart. Cheers to new beginnings, to learning new things, to fulfilling our goals, to becoming a better version of ourselves. Cheers to wonderful year ahead! Happy New Year!

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Shoe Boxes

Since I was a kid, I kept shoeboxes of my ‘stuff’. Photos, memorabilia,  letters, small gifts, anything that meant something or made me remember something and things that were too cute to throw away. I always had these shoeboxes. Even when I moved away from home and lived with my sister, I carried with me the shoeboxes. When the shoeboxes got too old, tattered and ugly, I would replace them with newer ones. Sometimes, I would clean up the boxes, throw away things that didn’t mean anything anymore but I always carried them wherever I moved to.

These shoeboxes are a part of me. They hold the memories that gets pushed away through the passing of years. Opening them is like opening a journal that was written years ago. Rereading old letters, going through old photos, browsing through things that were long forgotten would always always make me smile. It reminded me of how silly I used to be and how complicated growing up could be.

The other day, I sat at a cafe with someone who used to be one of my best friends. The hours went by with me trying to hold back tears and spilling tears, hearing words that were like daggers to my heart, and all the while my heart was screaming “No. You are so wrong.” I could not understand how she could think that I betrayed her.  I was still weeping while I drove back to the office. What happened  felt unreal and vague at the same time. I left the cafe knowing that the friendship we had was lost.

That afternoon, I decided to put the morning’s event in a box and I stowed it away. Our emotions are very powerful. A person gripped with anger and grief can easily twist a story into something as ugly as what they are feeling. I realized that everytime I replayed the words that I heard that morning, it burned a different emotion which I recognized could easily turn from defense to anger. I just wanted to forget it so I put it in a box. I could always choose to open the box again but at this point, it won’t do any good. I hope someday that girl in the cafe and I could both open the box and laugh at how ridiculous it was.

I know it would take some time for her to heal. I’m not expecting a reconciliation very soon but I’m not losing hope. For now, it’s enough that I found out her reasons. I hope someday she will realize that I never betrayed her.

We could always choose to revisit a painful memory, replay it over and over until it gets uglier than it really is or choose to put them in a box and stow it away.

“The soul always knows what to do to heal itself. The challenge is how to silence the mind.” – Caroline Myss

Twenty Nine

Let me tell you that turning twenty nine is a milestone. A scary one. Twice scarier when you’re a lady and a million times scarier if you’re single.

I’ll be turning twenty nine in a few days and I can’t begin to tell you how it scares me. Since last month, I lay in bed every night thinking about nearing thirty and freaking out, mentally screaming “Nooooooo!”.

Sixteen is the age where you start becoming a lady. Eighteen is the age you get a driver’s license and start becoming independent. Nineteen is your last year as a teenager. Twenty five is where quarter life crisis sets in or so I think. And twenty nine… well, twenty nine is the year before you turn freaking thirty. Thirty seems sooo uhm old.

Being twenty nine is your last year and last chance of steering your life towards the life you dream of, the life you plan to build, the future you envision. Here I am, turning 29 in a few days, turning 30 in a year and yet, I am still trying to figure life out. This is where your bucket list screams at you and nudges you to take notice and actually do something about them. It’s your last year of having youth as an excuse for being carefree, irresponsible and immature. At thirty you are most definitely expected to act as an adult. Twenty nine still belongs to the twenty-ish and 20s and somehow that still sounds young… younger than thirty at least.

I came across this list a few years ago (30 things a woman should have and know before turning 30 as printed in http://www.hufftingtonpost.com)  and at that time I could barely check a thing on the things I should have and I barely understood what the things I should know really meant.

Going back to the list this time, I only have a few things left unchecked on what I should have. I think I have a better grasp now on the things that I should know. Some are lessons I learned the hard way.

I think being thirty is where you are supposed to make things right. I always thought I would be married by thirty with a kid, a house, a job that I love but I’m nowhere near any of that. I look around at my peers, at my highschool friends, at my college schoolmates and everybody seems to be settling down except me. I can’t help feeling like every ship has sailed and I’m left on shore and this age- thing- growing- older is making it worse.

Right now, the future is just a big blur and being left with a year to round things up is a total pressure. I keep reminding myself not to worry and to enjoy life as it is but that’s what I told myself when I turned 25 and every year after that. Now, I still feel so unaccomplished and feeling quite lost and that’s… well that’s scary.

Borrowed People

“People come into your life for a reason, a season and a lifetime”

It is a ridiculous, sad part of life that there are certain people who are meant to be in our life for only a season. They are the people whom we wish we could keep forever or thought of keeping forever but for some reason: they drifted, walked away, changed or were too far away. And that’s the sad thing about friendship, when people walk away you let them. There’s no holding-on-fighting-for bullcrap that goes on with romantic relationships. When a friend walks away, you let them because you know that it was their decision. Friendship is simple. It’s either you stay or you don’t. There’s no grey area in between. There’s no uncertainty of feelings.

I could count a few people who I thought were going to be lifetime friends and there are those people I met who I wish I could keep as lifetime friends. But … as what I was saying… the universe shifted and well the seasons changed and the season for them to be in my life ended. Some stayed longer than the others, some just for a very short time but all the seasons I spent with them brought extreme joy and happiness.

2000: It was the first few days of my life in college. I sat in my chair, bent over, filling up some form.  “Pareho kayo ng birthday ng bestfriend ko”. a girl declared. I looked up to see her beaming at me. Four years later, we were both standing infront of the panel, wearing our navy blue suits and confidently defending our “so-called” thesis. She was the same girl who drove me every day to the review center, a few months after graduation and the one who sat next to me on my first job hunting exam. She was the same girl I watched get broken, years later. The last thing I expected was for us to be in the state we are now. We have probably lost each other.

2008: It was my last night in Shenzhen. I stood outside some bar bidding goodbye to the people whom I became friends with in the one month that I stayed there. I was crying. Thanks to social networking I didn’t feel alone in a foreign country. In fact, it was one of the happiest months of my life. Two years later, I was back in SZ and my friends were still there. We all changed within those two years but they remained to be my SZ friends. But the season is over. Everybody moved somewhere and created new lives. When I go back to that country, they won’t be there anymore.

2010: It is the year I’ve built new friendships with people in the running community. It’s the year I met awesome friends. And just like the others, the season has ended. Some moved out of the country while some moved to a different community and some changed preference of social hangouts.

I think it’s part of growing up and getting older. It’s part of the losing and gaining scheme of the universe. Some people may have left or walked away but some will surely pass by again. And those who have left, those whose season ended–I’m sure God lent them to someone else so they can be the friend they were to me, so they can share the same joy they’ve showered me.

And just as Isa Garcia wrote, “”But for all its messiness, I think that friendship persists. In a photograph. Or an old story. In memories that can’t be snatched or taken away……..I do believe that our history will always keep us bound. I believe that we will always be able to use it to find our way back to one another when we need; that it will be more than enough to bridge the gap. “