Friday, December 11, 2015

Keeping Christ in Christmas

A few weeks ago, I watched Christmas with the Kranks, a film adaptation of John Grisham's novel Skipping Christmas. The protagonist is Luther, a middle-aged married accountant. Each year, he and his wife spend lots of money for Christmas: dresses for the office party and the one at home, food, the obligatory Christmas cards and the annual donations to fund raisers.

He is fed up with it all--the bills and the stress. Just this once, he vowed, he wants a break. Their grown-up daughter is abroad anyway, so why not skip Christmas altogether? No tree, no party, no donations equals no stress.  None of the mad rush to buy presents, look for the best ham or the best wine or putting up the snowman on the rooftop. No bills to pay for another dress too.

Just Luther and his wife, spending the holidays on a beautiful tropical island.
Christmas is around the corner. We begin our shopping for presents and things needed for the celebrations. We start organising the parties, making sure everything will run smoothly. In all the stress, we get caught up and we dash to get the things we forgot to buy. We feel like throwing the towel in when you call the baker and he says sheepishly that the cake cannot be delivered on time for one reason or another. Or the person assigned to put the sound system together forgot about it.  Organising a party is not easy job.

In all the haste, in all the rush, take a breath or two. Let us remember that there is more to the twinkling lights shaped to look like a perfect reindeer sleigh, or the most mouth-watering Christmas ham. It is more than just the perfect parties we throw or attend. It is more than the presents we give or receive. Yes, some glitches dampen the mood. But those mishaps should not overshadow the real cause of the celebration. They should not be a ground for a miserable Merry Christmas.

The event is called Christmas for a purpose. It is about Christ and His gift of salvation. A way of bailing us out from the eternal barbecue grill, as my friend put it. That is what Christmas is all about: salvation. 

That being said, we should call the celebration the way it is named: Christmas. It is not merely a holiday. It is about Christ. A chance to reflect on His gift: to accept or not to accept--that is the question. Come to think of it, without Christ, we would not be celebrating something on the 25th of December. There would be no Christmas. 

A few days more and celebrations will be in full swing. Whether you will be throwing a party or attending one, have fun.  Above all, remember to keep Christ in Christmas. 

Have a blessed Christmas and a wonderful New Year. 

Saturday, November 14, 2015

La Ville de L'amour: Thinking of Paris

Dear Chief,

I slept soundly and woke up to another bright day. Thank you for the gift of rest and for the energy to face the day ahead. I know that You are with me whatever this day will throw at me.

The internet left me gaping. Terrorists attacked Paris. The gunmen mercilessly sprayed bullets on people, tinting the ground crimson. Hostages were taken, and there was a two-hour standoff. The City of love became the City of Chaos as the concert was unceremoniously interrupted by unwanted guests. What was supposed to be a fun-filled evening turned to the worst nightmare for many. Music was supposed to mingle with the Friday night noise; instead, it was wailing and terror. The devastation is beyond what I could imagine.

In these trying times, may Your hand be with the people of Paris and of France. May You extend Your healing to them. Despite this tragedy, may our French brothers and sisters hold tight to their faith in You and never let go. For those who lost their spouse, parents, children, siblings, and friends—may they find comfort in your embrace and solace in Your words. Please help them bounce back from the disaster that has befallen them. Help the authorities keep their people safe.

In the middle of it all, may France know that You have not left them. May they remember that in this time of great distress, they are not alone: they have You.

Writing from across the globe,
The Scribbler

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Chiron's Message

“Wake up, please. Please.”

“Quiet Annabeth.”

“She needs to…”

The voices seemed distant. My eyes fluttered open. A face was inches from mine, gray eyes full of concern.

“Oh,” the blond girl said. She sat on the chair on my left.

“Annabeth,” I croaked. My voice didn’t sound like mine. I sounded like a defective CD being played.

I squinted at the boy standing behind her. “Uh, Percy?”

“Yeah. Sure glad you’re awake, sis,” he said. We hugged and he sat on my bed.

“My glasses,” I said, trying to reach my side table. My left shoulder groaned. For the first time, I noticed that my left arm was on a cast.

Percy helped me back to my pillows. “Take it easy, you know. And you use contacts, not glasses.” He fished a box from the drawer.

“I’ll put them on, Seaweed Brain,” Annabeth said, taking the small box from Percy. “You might hurt your sister’s eyes.” She put a surgical glove on. “Okay. I’m gonna hold your left eye and put the lens in. Just look at the ceiling and stay still.”

I blinked as soon as Annabeth’s fingers came close. She glared at me in frustration.

“Okay, I’ll try not to blink,” I said. I gripped my sheets and willed my eyes to stay open as Annabeth’s fingers came near. I thought of the ocean and the nice sea breeze. I imagined the waves obeying me. I heard the roar in my ears.

“Done,” Annabeth took the glove off.

“Look out!” Percy said.

Before either of us could process what he said, Annabeth gasped as water hit her smack dab in the face. The glass on the table was empty.

Jeez, I’m sorry, I thought.

S’okay, Percy replied in my mind.

Everything was much clearer now. The infirmary was empty except for us. The wind sent a cool breeze into the room. Percy had a wide grin and his eyes gleamed; Annabeth’s face was dripping wet.  
“What were you thinking doing that?” she demanded, wiping her face with a hankie.

“Sorry Annabeth. I thought of the ocean while you put my contacts in. Had no idea the water in the glass would obey. And thanks for putting my lenses.”

Her semi-angry face broke into a smile. “No problem. I’m glad you’re alive. I bet Dr. Thorn isn’t so smug right now.”

“Whoa. Dr. Thorn? You mean—”

I was cut short as Chiron clip-clopped into the infirmary. He was wearing a T-shirt that read PROFESSOR CENTAUR.  

“Hello, child,” he said. His face was obviously relieved, “I’m glad you’re awake at last. How are you?”

“Hi Chiron. I’m sore.” It came out worse than I meant to and he raised an eyebrow.

Oops, someone’s got a bitter tone, Percy thought playfully.

The old centaur smiled faintly, which made me feel guilty.

“You’d better start your cabin inspection, my boy,” Chiron pointedly told Percy. “You have enough time for that. Archery won’t start until after lunch.” His tone made it clear that no wasn’t an answer.

“Oh, right,” my brother said, “um, see you, sis.” I’ll fill you in on our quest later. He winked and left.

Annabeth stood up too. “I should really get going. I’ll see if my siblings cleaned the cabin. Later, Nami.”

"Hey!" Annabeth stuck her tongue out. Nami is short for Tsunami, much like Percy is Seaweed Brain.

Chiron knelt on his front legs so we were almost level. At least he didn’t tower over me.

“Chiron,” I started, “Annabeth said something about Dr. Thorn.”

Then I remembered something. “The exams at my school… jeez, my teacher will have my head soon.” How in the name of Poseidon will I explain why I was gone for a month?

“Hush, child. Everything is sorted out. I spoke to your teacher, and he has agreed to let you take another exam.”

“You did that? And he bought it? Just like that?”

Chiron’s eyes twinkled. “I merely told Chris that you were called by your brother and cousin due to a family emergency.” He smiled, “I will teach you how to manipulate the Mist when the time is right.”

I stared at him. “Wow. You manipulated the Mist… I can take the exam... and you’re on first name terms with him? What did you say your name was?”

“Chiron Brunner. He was surprised a little, but he got over it.”

“He didn’t ask why I was called all the way up here?”

“Not when he knows that you are in a life-or-death situation.”

“You told him—”

Chiron laughed, “No, child. All Chris knows is that you have an important family matter to attend to.”

“Annabeth said something about Dr. Thorn,” I went on.

Chiron glanced at the door nervously. “Let’s talk about the monster later.” He cleared his throat, “Your teacher also mentioned a few things. Something about linguistics?”

I groaned. Chris Esguerra is this teacher at the school I attend. He’s nuts about me learning Filipino. “It is your language,” he constantly said.

“It’s just… I dunno. I find English easier than Filipino,” I confessed. Chiron stroked his beard. “I understand. “You were exposed to English books and stuff, but he has a point. You should learn your language.”

I stared at him; I couldn’t believe he was telling me to do something that gave me frustration and trouble. “I find it difficult, Chiron. I mean, it’s not like learning Greek. At least Annabeth didn’t teach me curses and nobody laughed at me when I misused words. When I use Filipino, I get into trouble so often. So I just use English when I speak and keep Filipino to a minimum.”

“Filipino is the language of your country. It is who you are.”

 “Right,” I muttered.

“You should still learn the language, Ivy. It is like Greek. It’s part of you.”

“No way I’m gonna do it, Chiron,” I said stubbornly. “My first Filipino word was really bad, and I dearly paid for that. I’m not in for another misadventure. Plus, words swim off the page and I lose patience to learn.”

“English words float off pages too, don’t they? But you are doing very well,” Chiron pointed out.
I couldn’t answer. Chiron had nailed me. It was real hard to hide anything from a guy who has been teaching for three thousand years.

He thought for a moment. “Tell me, does Chris bore you with his lectures?” he asked.

I smiled, “No, he’s cool. I mean, he doesn’t stare at us like ‘I am the boss in this class.’ You guys are alike; he tells jokes and tones down the formality aura of the classroom.”

“Then what’s the problem?”

 “With Filipino, I fight constantly with my fear of saying wrong words at the wrong time. I… there’s this battle in my mind. Is this correct or wrong? Will I offend this person or not? I’m not sure if the constant dilemma is a part I want. But he hits me constantly with it. Hints in class, stuff. Right now, I don’t feel like learning the language. ”

Chiron gave a faint smile. “The sea doesn't want to be restrained.” He laughed, “You are really your father’s daughter. But seriously, child, do learn Filipino. It will be good for you, and Chris apparently is convinced so. I know when a teacher is trying.”

“I don’t want any more trouble at school,” I said flatly, “people reprimand me because they don’t understand me. I already told him that; the guy just won’t take a hint.”

Chiron face turned so serious. I thought he’d chew me out, but he merely took a deep breath. “You know why I still teach today?” he asked. “It gives me fulfillment in seeing those I train bring the hopes of humankind to the level of the gods.”

“What d’you mean?”

“You constantly battle evil. You stay human…. As your trainer, it is my responsibility to ensure that you get the best education you can have.”

“And you never leave us alone until we see your point and do exactly what you say,” I muttered.

“Because you are not merely half-bloods-in-training to me. Camp is my family. I care about every half-blood who I train, and I exert every effort to ensure that everyone isn’t… led astray. However, it is you who decides for yourself. You can get all the training camp has to offer, but at the end of the day, it is your call. I have no power over you.”

Once a teacher, always a teacher, I thought. Chiron’s words sounded eerily close to the sentiments of my teacher in school. I stared at him, “Uh, Chiron, what are you um… getting at?”

“Maybe Chris has more on his mind than the lessons he teaches you. Maybe he looks at the bigger picture…outside the confines of the classroom…. Teachers instruct you. Here at camp, I train and educate you. But as I said, it is still the trainees’ choice.” He sighed, “And sometimes those choices aren't so good.”

“Chiron, what—”

Chiron looked me in the eye, and I looked into those sad brown eyes. I could see thousands of years of teaching, of watching half-bloods come and go. A tear trickled down his face and I realized—shocked—that he was actually crying. I’d never seen him like this; the old guy was always upbeat. I could only surmise he was thinking about Luke and the other campers who’d gone over to the Titans. I wondered if he considered it his failure. Chiron’s eyes were so intense I was scared to ask.

I wondered too, if my teacher back home considered me a failure. A question ran through my mind: Will I be like Luke? Will I choose what is wrong too? The thought sent a shiver down my spine. Chiron’s words were like electric shock.

I don’t know if I would learn to love something that gave me trouble. Only time will tell. The linguistic wounds are still there, and all I know is I despise the thing my teacher wants me to do. Then again, it isn't everyday that I find a staff in the bookstore who doesn't scratch her head when I ask for assistance, in English. And I can’t ride a cab without the driver stammering. Or do the grocery without the sales people staring at me scrambling for words. So maybe I could learn Filipino, for practical reasons.

“You should hear him comment about this,” I muttered. “My teacher, I mean. The fact that it takes—how does he say it—a Westerner to knock some sense into me. He’d probably gun me down with words and dramatic stuff.”

Chiron smiled, “The reward I get from teaching half-bloods is fulfillment with what you do. You constantly fight for what is good. And I know that you will do what is right.”

He looked me in the eye again. His gaze felt like laser. I silently prayed I could bring myself to do what I have to.

A conch horn sounded. “Good-bye for now, dear. Archery will start soon.” He fished out a small bottle from his pouch and poured the contents into the glass. “Take this. For a dreamless sleep. You’ll need all the rest you can get.”

“Thanks Chiron.”

It seemed like ten seconds when I heard voices again. Percy and Annabeth were back.

“Wake up, please. Please.”


“Annabeth?” I asked groggily.

“Annabeth who? I’m Glai. Wake up, come on.”

My cousin Abner and his wife Glai stood before me, their young son in her arms.

“The air conditioner did its job,” Abner remarked. “You feel better?”

“Yeah,” I said. I sat up.

“We’re going to the airport in an hour,” Glai said, “hit the showers fast.”

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

A Letter to Gran

Dear Gran,

Albus Dumbledore once said: To the well-organised mind, death is but the next great adventure.

It’s been a year since you graduated. I’ve got on with my life—we all have, I think—but the void created by your absence haunts me sometimes. Yet I am happy and comforted by the thought that you work at Headquarters. Who would’ve thought that your graduation would be a double-edged sword?  

Okay, this is another letter that cannot and would not be mailed. I know, I know. I’m waiting for the
Muse. She sent you; now my pen does prose. I do not know whether to be amused or confused. The vacuum suddenly turns into a spring from which words pour forth. No complains, only gratitude.

Life has been kind: this year has been chaotic as ever but I survive—no, thrive in it. Headaches plague me now and again, but it won’t stop me from reading. Just like you didn’t drop the needle and thread because your eyes dimmed.

At your commencement ceremony, the speaker said that all the hindrances disappear as soon as your crossed the threshold of the School of Life and are now at Headquarters. You can actually sing songs with lyrics, not just hum the melodies. What voice are you in the eternal choir? I wish I could hear you sing. I always wondered how it would be like: you singing a song with lyrics that capture the heart and lift up the soul, and on top of that, with a voice that puts the morning lark to shame.

It is the rainy season back here. Be it a light drizzle or even if the heavenly tears flood the roads, my thoughts turn to you. As liquid diamonds hit the pavement, I hear you hum. The song of the rain is a tune I hear no more, and yet it reaches my ears when roofs are pounded on and windows are slashed. It’s the new “Rhythm of the Rain.”

What’s in a name? Shakespeare’s Juliet wonders aloud. That which we call a rose by any other word would smell as sweet. That is generally true. But not for me. You alone gave me a name, and it has been a special connection—a bond if you will—between us. The family may call me by that name, but it will not be the same as when you address me. I am never weaned from you. I fear though that people would not understand. Ah, but who cares what they think? They are not your grandchildren; they would not understand the silence that longs for your humming.

You have been a mother for all seasons, and you gave me a long lasting legacy. We never bonded over King Arthur’s adventures during the nights you tucked me in, but you hummed tunes until I was fully embraced by sleep’s warm arms. What kid needs a music box if you’re there? Sure beats Brahms’s lullaby. More than that, you showed me the respect you have for my parents’ authority and their way of raising a child. I did not grow up spoiled, hence, thank you for not playing Court of Appeals with me.

I want to live a life like yours and leave a nice legacy too—not only in the legal sense of the word. When the grandkids come…I will dote on them like you did to me, but not cross the line. Maybe I’d hum the song of the rain too. And tell them the story of a silver-haired granny who loved the colour of royalty.

I know you faced the Chief Justice of the Eternal Supreme Court with your head high and He welcomed you with a wide grin. I’m still young, but when Headquarters comes calling, I want to report for duty the way you did: ready and at peace. When I finally get my promotion, I want to stand before the Chief and be confident enough to say, “To God be the glory for a life well-lived.”

Your departure drove a point home. I heard it lots of times, but your graduation drilled it into my head. Thanks for telling me that at death, we don’t leave home; we go home. One day, I will smile widely as I echo the words of Romeo Montague: Come death and welcome.

Thank you for the legacy and for the gift of being called your grandchild.

Happy first birthday!



El Ciudad de los Pinos
25 November 2014
12:05 a.m.


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Be With Me

Be with me in this site, I pray,
Flick your hand, take the pain away.
Give the word, fire the carpenters,
Take the nails, stop their hammers.

Be with me at this time, I plead,
Censor my speech and my deed.
Subdue my will, and make me numb,
That into temptation I won’t succumb.

Hear my cry for help, I pray,
Grant the wish I make today.
Give me strength when I do groan,
To trust, to rest, in You alone