Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Feast of Christmas Prayer

This beautiful prayer reminds us what Christmas is all about. A Child is born, but He is no ordinary child; He is the Lord of all, Jesus Christ, Whose kingdom will have no end. And we, if we follow Him and grow in holiness, will live in that kingdom eternally.

We pray this prayer after arriving home from Midnight Mass, or on Christmas morning, before opening presents. You can also pray it as part of your table grace before Christmas dinner. And, of course, any prayer for Christmas can be prayed every day up through the Feast of Epiphany (January 6). There is no need even to change the words "this day": The celebration of the feast continues through the Twelve Days of Christmas, as if it were a single day.

Prayer for the Feast of Christmas

Ant. A light shall shine upon us this day: for our Lord is born to us; and He shall be called Wonderful, God, the Prince of peace, the Father of the world to come, of Whose kingdom there shall be no end.

V. A child is born to us.

R. And to us a Son is given.

Let us pray.

Grant, we call on you, O Lord our God, that we who rejoice in celebrating the birthday of our Lord Jesus Christ may deserve by holiness of life to attain unto fellowship with Him. Who lives and reigns forever and ever. Amen.

May we all have a Joyous Christmas and a Peaceful Year ahead!

Monday, December 14, 2009

"Simbang Gabi"

I should apologize for having gone away a long while...things have been too tough for me at work... i had to meet a lot of "delivery dates" (this is what i call "deadlines")and what a great move i did! i've written 5 articles in 2 weeks and words just flooded my brain. i got so overwhelmed , it was just too much, and gently...i had to take care of my Self...spent time in blissful solitude...allowing peace and tranquility to set in, until...now...

Tonight begins a wonderful Christmas tradition in the Philippines! It's called "Simbang Gabi". It literally translates 'Night Mass'. This traces itself to 400 years of Spanish colonization in the Phil. when Christianity found a home in these islands. It was originally the Catholic Holy Mass celebrated at dawn, around 3 or 4am when farmers would be rising early to celebrate the Eucharist first before working in the fields. Today, it is still celebrated at dawn in some churches, but some have introduced changes in time, and hence, the anticipated masses on the night before. It runs for nine days, and so, it is sometimes called the Christmas Novena Masses. It ends on the eve of Dec 25, that's 12 midnight of Dec. 24...

i remember when i was a little girl, i loved "simbang gabi" (oh don't ever think i was that pious little Catholic bred girl who would love praying for hours and hours!). what i really loved then (and until now...) were the goodies sold outside the church! there were all kinds of sweet stuff that satisfied my sweet tooth and craving tummy...there was "Bibingka", a kind of rice cake cooked in an improvised oven made of a shallow clay pan filled with burning charcoal, the cake batter in the middle and hot coals on top of the batter (i hope you can imagine the idea of the batter being "baked" with both sources of heat on top and at the bottom. if not, below is a photo of a woman cooking bibingka) that's how ingenious Filipinos can be-our very own "bibingka oven". Another winner is "Puto Bumbong" that is glutinous rice with purple yams, cooked by steaming an improvised steaming set-up of tins, bamboo and charcoal. both bibingka and puto bumbong go well with fresh grated coconut! They can be very starchy though, so, sugar level will surely rise!

This is how "bibingka" is "baked"...(it is typical to sell bibingka also in front of houses especially during "simbang gabi" hours, and throughout the Christmas season, catering to customers who walk to church.) Now, here's a photo of "bibingka" which can also be enriched with white cottage cheese, butter and slices of salted eggs (watch that cholesterol!). See that "snow" on top? That's the grated fresh coconut...

It's the third week of Advent...we anticipate Christ's coming...we continue to hope!
(I'll share more traditions next blog...see you all!)

go gently through life...

Friday, December 4, 2009

It's Here!

Christmas is almost here, and advent is the time for waiting...see our advent wreath? beautiful reminder, it truly is. Gazing at this reminder makes it a powerful symbol...a symbol of Love...a symbol of Hope...yes, hope is more than a word, a state of being. it's a firm belief that even if you don't know when, God will come through and better days are ahead...

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Inspirational Lotus Pond

to be truly inspired throughout the day - that's how i wish you would be...enjoy, relish, delight in being inspired...and treasure it for life...

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Of Airports, Storytelling and Food for the Soul

"There are depths within me I would like to touch;
and there are depths of the Great Presence I would like to experience.
Surrender within me, O Great Presence these new depths
as I give myself up in loving abandon
to your holy creativity..."

Just as I thought I could get things done on my way to Malaybalay, Bukidnon* - last minute finishing touches on my module for a workshop - I met Minnie. The air was chilly, passengers were relaxed waiting for domestic flights. Mine was the 9:45. I took out my non-fiction James Conlon book. Snug as I was, waiting for the last youth-participant to this National Youth Peace Camp organized by an NGO I am networking with, my peripheral view saw Minnie quietly reaching into her bag. And then the scent. It was a relaxing one. My eyes met hers, she smiled and as if she knew exactly what I wanted to ask, readily answered, " It's tiger balm, the white one. It's good. Nice scent too. " Yes, I really liked the scent. I love these chinese instant medicines. They're a cure-all. That led to a friendly conversation with Minnie. One story after the other.

I don't really know what's with me, but, when I get into "peopled" places such as airports, malls, bus terminals and ladies rooms, I seem to be a great target for story-telling. Most of them elderly people, or, I would discover later, people suffering from a certain illness. Some people exude a welcoming spirit that attracts other people who might need help. And this 'help' isn't the trivial 'picking up a fallen handkerchief' thing, but can be as serious as helping someone who has "fallen" into spiritual depths. Ever experienced the spiritual depths? It's that never-ending, keeps-coming-back, feels-like-a-roller-coaster-ride-minus-the thrill feeling. I'm lost for words to describe it. Some artists call it the 'dry spells'. Poets call it "a blank page'. Others call it 'depression'.

My early arrival seemed to gather a sacred purpose. I had more than three hours to wait for boarding time. And my book read, " ...interiority means we each have a personality that is our own, a spontaneous energy that creates relationships." Spontaneous it really was. It was a surprise. Have you ever felt like some time in the past, you've met this person you're talking to? Your feeling seems to be so light with this person that everything else around becomes unbearable. It was like I went to the airport just for this purpose. As she opened up her story, I began to feel something deep opened up within me and it was good.

As we talked about the Chinese medication, I discovered her eyes seemed to be exhausted. Her voice was so soft I had to ask her to repeat what she said almost everytime. Then it came, I don't know how, I can't remember. Tears welled up as she talked and I heard her mumble about her father's death. It was four years ago. I still miss him. I am "daddy's girl". He was so gentle, loving, the kindest dad in the world. These were very much impressed into my memory. I can't forget the help-me-i-can't-understand-why look. She was grieving. After four years she never had a chance for real good grieving time. I was struck by this new reality. I had a connection with her story.

I, too, am grieving, not only for my own father's loss last year,but for so many things i have to let go in so many instances in my life. Letting go. That's the issue. Does that sound familiar? How much of our lives have been spent in "letting go"(s)? Parents, I know you can relate to this. But there is an all-familiar experience in each of us. We have had experiences of giving up things, losing friends and loved ones, yielding to unexpected situations, and actions that call for decisions so urgent, you just have to give something up for the benefit of the other. I realized that in my forty-eight years roaming about this planet called Earth, my heart aches for so much losses I've had. Finally, I decided this is what I needed to face. A real encounter with my losses. To tell my story of pain. How grim, you might say, but wait, that's exactly what I found out about facing your loss - the fact is, you can only appreciate the light, when you have been in the dark. Victory comes after the fall. What matters is, the insights and wisdom learned in the process. I remember a gold mine I found from Thomas Moore:

This 'minotaur' of my labyrinth
- my soul - this suffering, this beast
that stirs in the core of my being
is also the Asterion - the star - of my
interior life, my innermost nature.
I have to give time
to care for this suffering with
extreme reverence so that
in my fear and anger at this beast,
I do not overlook the star - the beauty
of my soul -
I have fallen into ignorance
and confusion, so that now I can see this
as an opportunity to discover that this beast
residing at the center of
my interior life is also an angel...
(from Care of the Soul, T. Moore)

And this angel is bringer of good news - that it is possible to begin again, to hope for the best, because better days are coming. Indeed, we think this journey we are taking now seems dark and dreary, but passing through raging waters and braving the strongest storms is challenge for the human spirit. Minnie talked about the things she learned from her father's passing away, and it seemed like it was endless. It was a beautiful symphony. The love she felt from friends, the care of her also-grieving mother; just as she was talking to me everything seemed so significant now. Until that time in the airport, she never felt the need to remember and tell her story. Getting down into the depths is sometimes necessary for the spirit within to quiet down, be still and know, trust and let go (Ps. 46:`10). Most of the time it is the conflict within us that is more difficult to come to terms with than all the battles in the history of the world. As I told Minnie to befriend this pain within her, my heart was full of compassion. I couldn't give her anything except cry with her, hold her hand and assure her of God's faithfulness.

What ever happened to my new-found friend? We exchanged mobile numbers before we said goodbye (yes, just as the last participant arrived, we were done with our sharing), exchanged kisses, hugs, "be safe"s and "take care"s. Up to this moment in time, we are good friends and will remain so as long as life breathes. This is food for the soul...nourishing, nurturing...go gently through life...

(thanks for photos from friends everywhere...)

*Bukidnon is a landlocked plateau province of the Philippines located in the Northern Mindanao region. Its capital is Malaybalay City. The province borders, clockwise starting from the north, Misamis Oriental, Agusan del Sur, Davao del Norte, Cotabato, Lanao del Sur, and Lanao del Norte.

Bukidnon is considered by Filipinos to be the food basket of Mindanao. It is the major producer of rice and corn in the region. Plantations in the province also produce pineapples, bananas and sugarcane.

It has two important landmarks, Mt. Kitanglad and Pulangi River. Mt. Kitanglad is 2,955 meters above sea level. Pulangi River, on the other hand, traverses through the northeastern and southern part of the province towards the Rio Grande of Mindanao.
The province's total land area is 829,378 hectares (8, 293.78 square kilometers). It accounts for 59 percent (59%) of Northern Mindanao.

Friday, October 23, 2009

hope prevails

i know i've been away for quite a while...

and yes a new typhoon is brewing in the north
people there have been evacuated.
i just can't imagine what else is going to happen.
my best friend, joanne, from dagupan, pangasinan,
one of the hardest hit, with 15 ft. of flood waters,
remains hopeful despite the situation.

oh, so much for that...hope abounds, yes it does. one of the good signs is this...

may i share with you a favorite song...

if all the people around the world
they have a mind like yours
we'd have no fighting and no wars
there would be lasting peace on earth

if all the kings and all the leaders
could see you here this way
they would hold the earth in their arms
they would learn to watch and play...

Oh my sleeping child,
the world's so wild
but you've built
your own paradise
that's the reason why
i'll cover you sleeping child

(jascha richter)

the sleep of a baby
undeniably a vivid image
we envy the serenity
the tranquility

in the stillness of the night
they put across a message
the day is over
the sun will be out again tomorrow

in silence, they convey the thought
that we must not look at what has been \
with anger,
nor should we fear the morrow.
how do they get into
deep slumber?
not by being uncaring or indifferent
but the fruit of a heart that
trusts enough
leads to spirit serene

let us be at peace in the loving arms of the
Father and be free from the yoke
of our daily restlessness.
for since the time we were
in our mother's womb,
the Father knew us, and
formed us, fashioned us
in His image and likeness...
"before you were conceived i wanted you,
before you were born, i loved you,
before you were an hour i would die for you,
this is the miracle of life...
(Maureen Hawkins)

go gently through life...

Thursday, October 8, 2009

earth and moon...we are connected

i feel this is interesting...and decided to post it here for you... (you can get the code and post it on your blog.) this is real time earth and moon phase. it's so beautiful to discover how close we are...what an awesome relationship...moon and earth...how much we are affected by movements in nature...how awesome the Creator, the Artist...

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


"aslagan" is a kapampangan word for sunrise/sunshine. wonderful! i love sunrises and sunshine and sunsets...it's time for looking at the brighter side of life...i'm sure you'll agree...i am not from pampanga (a province of great cooks and writers and artists in central luzon) but my friend malu gueco is. she is my diabetic friend who survived without amputating her foot.

yes, i was relating to you her story in a previous blog (see my july blogs...). i really thought she lost her foot, but when i visited her 2 weekends ago, lo and behold! both legs greeted me at the door. it was really a miracle, seeing how pale to almost ashen her face and whole body was during that sorry time in the hospital.

it's just wonder-full accompanying her in her healing, in body, mind and spirit. that's what i like in malu, she's got a lot of soul in her...she continues to write in her column "aslagan" in their community paper in pampanga. and while recovering, (this is really great) she began drawing visual representations of her inner lifework...whatever gave her inspiration just moved her to creating and creating and creating...i wish i could post her artpieces here, hopefully i could get photos soon...

by the way, did you know the reason for malu's opting not to have her foot amputated (which is really a brave thing to do...such courage!)? she is on natural healing therapy which i really loved the moment i learned about it! i don't know if i can announce the therapy here. allow me first to get permission. i do believe in natural healing if at all possible. sometimes, integrative medicine is an option. it's a combination of western and eastern medicine. (i'll talk about this in another post...)

i grew up with women in the family who have been herbalists. my maternal grandmother was really good in mixing herbs, as with all other mothers of her time. she was also a natural botanist. she never learned the profession, but she had a natural skill to plant; and anything she planted, grew! she used to encourage my mom when they were kids, to bring viable seeds with them when on an out-of-town trip. and would ask to spread the seeds outdoors....i wonder...those seeds might be those great big trees along the highway going up north today...

oh well...the sun is bursting its beauty out on the horizon...another day is almost over...the sun sets only to rise again...yes, we know it will indeed rise again tomorrow...for the millions who suffered in the storm, the sun will rise tomorrow...there is hope...

embrace tomorrow with faith, hope, love, and peace...
(many thanks for photos from everywhere...)


Monday, September 28, 2009

ketsana's fury in photos...

uncertain steps...you'll never
know what's ahead...

holding on to dear life...

all that's left of my things...

cars afloat in front of a university building...

manggahan floodway had to be destroyed
to give way to enormous volume
of rainwater...

stranded in the airport...

the aftermath...trash and broken fences

...he probably didn't get home on time...

...how did that car get there?...

uh oh...no, they're not matchbox cars...
and no one's playing...they're for real...

in a relief center...cell phones are charging..
how much of their lives will be "re-charged"?

oh no, not even a big, beautiful house
was spared...

saving lives on a rubber boat...

they used a banca to save what's left
of possessions...

"salamat kuya!" (thank you my big brother!)...

saturday is a working day for
some of us. september 26,2009 will
never be forgotten..all were
rushing home...(see the traffic
farther down? some reached home
the next day)

holding on to each other amidst
the typhoon's wrath...

even expensive cars were not spared...

these trash came from everywhere brought by the floods...a backlash
because of humans' indifference to nature...

eroded earth...mud, silt and sand...
where do we start? where do we go from here?

this boy, collects from what's left...
mud, plastic bags, trash...

the nameless...faceless...may she
rest in the peace of God...

i light a candle...for the dead who hope to rest in peace...
and for the living who continue to hope for
a new beginning...

thank you for visiting this blog. please offer 5 minutes of silence in your workplace...homes...wherever you are for us here and send your positive thoughts,
prayers, energy...we need you now...

here is a flower for you in return...peace...may peace reign in our hearts...

(thanks very much to the heroes behind the lens for these photos...)