Willing to be Illuminated and Pierced

Posts tagged ‘gift’

The Wrong Gift

My eyebrows were twitching with horror as I glared at the huge box before me. By the looks of it, it did not contain the book I had asked for in my Christmas wish list. The moment I ripped open the green, Christmas wrapper around it, I was even more horrified.

I had received a pair of sandals in our office Kriskringle.

“WHAT’S THIS?!” I cried in dismay, my voice ringing around the office. “I DID NOT ASK FOR A PAIR OF SANDALS THIS CHRISTMAS!”

I realized my embarrassment when a bespectacled guy approached me. He was the one who had picked my name. He explained he could not find the one I was wishing for so he looked for anything that’s connected to my interest. He thought the sandals would be good for my hiking trips, but I am sorry they could not help my feet maintain balance on assaults. I’d rather have highly-expensive shoes to ensure footing on such trips.

He offered to replace the gift since I did not like it. 

I meekly and guiltily returned the box to him. Such was the episode of receiving the wrong gift.

But that was not the first time I had received disappointments on such occasions.

For the past two consecutive Christmas parties at another company, I had never – as in, never – had the privilege of receiving any of the three gifts I had listed on our Kriskingle wish list. The guy who had picked up my name gave me disappointing gifts. He explained he had lost the list…and lost it again the next year because he was the same guy who had picked up my name. He seems to be at the habit of losing wish lists.

My friend warned me that men usually don’t take the time and effort to look for what was listed in the wish list of their monito or monita. But I am careful not to do that to keep from ruining the Christmas spirit of my monito or monita.

I took so much time and effort to find what my monita really wanted. It was harrowing and stressful, especially copies of the book she wanted were sold out in the midst of panic buyers. I was ready to give up and resolve to another gift until a text message came to me at the last minute, reserving the book she wanted under my name. 

Praise God for the timing. I guess this is the reason I was not buying another gift or asking an accomplice if she wanted another book of the same author. When she unwrapped the present, she was bursting with glee and she ran away with the most perfect Christmas present she had received in her life.

She was total stranger to me. But deep inside I was glad to make her happy by fulfilling her wish (but hey, I’m no genie). Somehow, that’s my mission. And I want to ensure that the receiver would not be disappointed. 

Somehow, I believe some people would give just anything because tradition obligates them to do so. But giving gifts is not an obligation. It is an act of appreciation, friendship, love, and respect. 

It’s fulfilling when the person receiving your gift smiles because all your effort and sacrifice searching for it has been paid. I would never forget when my monito, a seious guy who would occasionally give charming half smiles, brightened up when he received the pair of boxers he wanted. That smile made me forget the great embarrassment of going to the men’s section to buy a pair of boxers (where I asked my mom to accompany me on buying such a pair because I had no idea about boxers). As much as possible, I follow what’s in a person’s wish list because it’s also an act of valuing that person. In turn, receiving the gift I really wanted gives me the impression that the giver values me well. 

All my disappointment had washed away when my closest friends gave me the most wonderful gifts later that day. I saw they were all attributed to my personality and needs. By what I had received, I could see their effort and the love they had poured into their sleepless search across every mall and specialty store. It’s fun receiving them but it was even more fulfilling to know how much I am loved.

I just hope my Secret Santa next year would value me just as I value my monito or monita. And before this year ends, I’ll make a follow up on my not-so-secret Santa about the right and perfect gift I had been waiting for all my life…

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Receive Much When You Give Much

‎It was a cold and friendly morning, bringing in whisps of that early Christmas sensation once again. As usual, I greeted neighbors on my way to work. I was startled when one of them said:

“Good morning! Cold, isn’t it? It’s gonna be Christmas soon! Why not throw in some gifts to us?”
I only grinned, bluntly said, “Budget’s tight,” and went my way.
I was quite disturbed at that kind of greeting. Do I look like Santa’s daughter? Sorry, I don’t wear red.
Ok, I can pass that out as a joke. But I wonder why it is a common mindset to most of us to ask for a gift this Christmas instead of the other way?
Somehow, her greeting’s a bit off. Maybe because I’m too thrifty (and I admit that), but being generous dosen’t mean you can throw your money to everyone in the world.
Somehow, I can’t help but think that the poverty mindset had made most of us obsessed with the hope of being treated by another well-off person in your neighborhood. It’s a sad thing to use the Christmas season as an excuse for asking “aguinaldo” or gifts for the sake of self-gratification. We have had much of the culture of receiving rather than giving. The worst thing is when we receive we ask for more without ever thinking of giving back.
In the Philippines, parents accompany their children during Christmas to their “ninong” and “ninang” (godfather and godmother). When your inaanak or godchildren dropby your house, you have to give them gifts or money. But my mother taught me differently. Whenever I dropby to my ninong or ninang, I give them a gift. Usually, it’s a chilled refrigirator cake that I made myself (yummy!)
Remember the cliche it’s better to give than to receive. I guarantee you that when you give, it’s equally fulfilling as receiving — much better actually.
But when I give, I think about it. I don’t just throw boxes in the neighboor all around while laughing, “Ho ho ho!” I make sure that my gifts are given to the right people: ones who are good stewards of it and to your generosity, and not the abusive receiver. These are the ones who are always thankful whatever they receive. Much like planting a small seed on good ground.
I guess we have to shift mindsets. It’s time we give for the sake of love. Whenever we do, we receive much more than when we ask to be given.

 

Writing Pains

I woke up at almost 2 o’ clock in the morning just to write my script. In the state of surprise, I rushed to my still open netbook and typed away. Focused and alert, I did not notice how I’ve finished my long script in a jiffy.

Somebody told me I’m a very intelligent person because I write well. Being a student who joined journalism clubs and wrote for school columns, I was a bit popular among my peers. I even once thought that being a writer makes one exclusive. But through the years, I realized that being a writer does not make you the brightest person in the world. Rather, it’s a talent and gift with a purpose, and not made for bragging.

It’s a gift to the one who will use it well and a curse who will use it senselessly. I don’t know why some thought it’s very intelligent to write eloquently without really making a straight point. Just like any other skill, it’s not made for the writer to be famous but as a help to the public. Let me tell you that it can also be a puzzle. It’s challenging to put every information together, while constructing a very clear and concrete point.

Hard to be a writer? Yes. Very much. But no skill can be developed without it being tested on harsh waters. Waking up in the wee hours in the morning is one. But, when furnished, there’s fulfillment. Besides, whatever talent and skill you have, your passion can never die even if it is thrown into the fire. Living the passion just points one to where he should belong. To know one’s gift brings him to his convergence point. This is what everyone should discover in himself, for when we find our assignment, we would know what is our purpose in our generation.

I might not know how big can my script make an impact to the society. All I know is that I should do my job well. Popularity should not be an issue. When the real purpose of one’s skill is forgotten, chances are, the skill can be forgotten, too. When we practice our skills and gifts, may be remember the generation to whom these skills will impact, as we are part of this big world that we take part in rebuilding.

A New Season After the Rebirth

82 or 28? Age doesn't matter. As long as you're loved and you love, that's more than enough :)

82 or 28? Age doesn’t matter. As long as you’re loved and you love, that’s more than enough 🙂

I’m now 28…and excited for the new season in my life.

A lot of people would tell me that I’ve arrived in the marrying age. In this era of instant attraction and microwave relationships, to find someone like me is alien. But I wouldn’t mind. I don’t want to go with the world’s standards. I want to claim my inheritance only found in my Father’s heart.

And my birthday is unlike any other…I spent it alone with my beloved Bridegroom God.

Days ahead, I was very excited. I sensed that this is a new season for me (not minding my age). I kept on nudging God to surprise me. And He did. But it was not as expected.

First, He surprised me with greetings, a day before my actual birth date. Receiving heartfelt greetings is more than receiving a thousand gifts to me (especially when I received text messages and calls from friends on my very birthday). Let me tell you, to be loved is more than gaining the whole earth. That’s why I was even more excited by then.

Next, the Lord brought me to a sanctuary I’ve never been. Unlike in the other prayer mountains I usually go up with friends, I ventured out to this new place — alone. Now, that’s an adventure. I believe it was a prophetic gesture…it’s like declaring that I’m ready to go to this new season that I’ve never been before.

Save for the caretaker (who became my instant friend), I had the whole Prayer House to myself. Now, this is a treat. I can scream and sing at the top of my lungs to the Lord with Habakkuk, my guitar. But that was not the case. I guess for about 63 percent of my stay, I slept.

Ok, so this is a sleeping date, Lord. I wondered why.

Then, I received my ultimate surprise.

I asked for a Word. Scanning in Exodus to look for Moses prayer to asking the Lord to show him His glory, I was led to Exodus 33:13, “If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you…”

Cool prayer! I thought to myself. I did pray it, and just as the Lord had answered Moses in verse 14, I believe He gave me the same answer.

“My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”

The rest of the words in the page became blurred. This one was the shout out in this season. As I reviewed the prayers and the prophecies given to me at the beginning of 2013, the main word was “REST”.

And from the pain, the toil, the struggles I had in the latter part of 2012, the birth pains have ended. I am now in a season of resting in His presence. The conception has been done. I am reborn.

From learning from Romans 5:3-5 (and praying it), I’m now given Exodus 33;13-14 as the word for this season. I believe the Lord wants to teach me to completely abide in Him. To rest also means to abide and to trust in His presence which will stay with me as I walk into a room, or as I stay in my beat, or go to a violent rally, or at the toils of my job. It’s a promise at the same time, and such is the loving promise He gave me that I have to be willing to have my heart and character refined in this time of rest.

I believe this resting period is a preparation to greater things He is preparing for me. I believe this is a short season before I step out of the boat and walk on water.

Such is my surprise. Now, call me alien. The things I’ve received is not as tangible as this physical world but these are more than enough for me. Should I be scared in the coming days? I should never be. The coming days are unsure but I’d rather face it with anticipation for I have received a promise that is more than silver and gold. I’m also very glad to know how much I am loved. To have love from others and to give away love is more fulfilling than gaining fame and power.

Surprise me more, Lord. 🙂

Fixing Up the Culture of Giving

It has been instilled into us the nature of giving. With our Pinoy characteristic of being thoughtful, we take the chance of

The promotion of joy in materialism has left our culture marred with greed...but should we dwell in the false joy it brings?

The promotion of joy in materialism has left our culture marred with greed…but should we dwell in the false joy it brings?

showing our appreciation and love to friends on Christmas. However, the adverse effect of the commerciality of the season caused us to expect…and want even more.

One tradition that has been going on in years is what we call “pamamasko“. Kids would come and visit their ninongs and ninangs (godfathers and godmothers), expecting that they would be given an aguinaldo (gift). So comes the saying, “Christmas is for kids”, as they get most of the treats of the season.

Every 25th of December, you can see families going around visiting houses, not only of their ninongs and ninangs but also of other relatives and friends. It’s a good bonding moment for the parents and their kids, and instills a good memory from a visited godparent or relatives. I remember my niece collecting quite a huge amount of money in a day of her pamamasko when she was about three or four years old. But through the long run, one adverse effect of this tradition is the loss of thoughtfulness for one another.

Children are taught to expect instead of giving to their elderly. Actually, some of their parents complain when they don’t

"Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it." Proverbs 22:6

“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6

find the gifts given to their kids appealing. It’s not only once that I hear such a case whenever I take a public ride in this holiday season, which I believe teaches kids not to be grateful at all.

In turn, their ninongs and ninangs, as well as the other relatives and so-called relatives think of these visiting families as money-grabers. Thus, they lie by laying quiet in the house, pretending no one was there.

It actually causes stress to the one being visited. My mother, though a very generous person, always felt anxious when there’s this usual person who kept on asking if she can come on Christmas Day especially when she needs something. Now, in the Filipino tradition, even if you got nothing to offer, you cannot tell a visitor, “Go back, I have nothing to give you.” But sadly, some people have the tendency to abuse one’s kindness.

The funny thing is that some families not only bring along their kids but also their nieces, nephews, very young siblings, a friend and his kid. Now, most of the mentioned “extra kids” are unfamiliar to the godparents of the kids. It’s very embarassing for a Filipino when these other kids are not given gifts, for some of them had readied gifts only for their godchildren. So, the godparent had to shovel from his savings just to give these other kids an aguinaldo. This happened to me and my mom when one of her inaanak brought a bunch of kids surprisingly at home, and she had to borrow some money from me just to give those who she did not know at all.

When I was younger, my mother taught me when I visit  my ninongs and ninangs, I have to give them something. Usually, I’d bring with us a tray of cream mango cake (made by myself) for each godparent. She taught me never to expect from them, as I should be the one to make them happy by giving back to them. Indeed, there is more joy in giving than receiving. But because my godparents were so fond of me, they can’t help but give me gifts when I visit them (which I would sheepishly accept).

It’s a joy to receive gifts but it’s a bigger joy to give. Usually, there’s a deeper sense of fulfillment when the one you give is grateful for what you have given, no matter how small or affordable it has been. When one says, “It’s the thought that counts”, it’s not only the gift that matters but how the giver remembers you. I hope we change the expectancy of pamamasko into a tradition of giving. I hope we can visit our godparents, relative, and so-called relatives on Christmas Day to give — for this is a good way to remember and honor them. When we do, we are blessed back. The joy and gratefulness we receive back would surely be more fulfilling than the money or toys we get. Besides, you would get out of the notoriety list: from money-grabber, you will be well-remembered as a thoughtful giver. 🙂

And before the day ends, let us remember that we can never take and take as long as we want. The greedy who took more than a day’s supply of the manna given to Moses’ camp were disappointed it got wasted after 24 hours. We are blessed to give away for many other need more than we do.

Merry Christmas everyone! May heaven’s gate be opened over you! 😀

Living out Christ in Christmas

If you could come and visit our house hours before Christmas, you might think of it first as pathetic: no Christmas tree, no nativity scene, not even Santa and his reindeer or a lone snowman adored the house. All we had were a few bells paired with a few shiny garlands that we did not remove from last year.

Unlike most families today, we did not cook much. With the house filled with only two souls, my mom and I, we wouldn’t do much for ourselves.

And yet the holiday music brightens the whole space.

Turning to facebook friends, I tried to greet the world one by one, and hoping I have brought a holiday cheer to those I’ve greeted (and an ounce of remembrance to this little soul).

And yet, I felt satisfied. No decor, no gift, no lavish feast did it. It’s the very love that brought a Savior to this earth. The epitome of heaven’s glory sent down to die in our places. The King who thought of nothing but you and me.

Christmas should never be brought up because of tradition. It was never there from the beginning of earth. But the very reason for its celebration has always celebrated the very existence we are.

I remembered the Christmas parties the past few days. There were a lot of laughter and noise, gifts and raffles, dance and song numbers that made them livelier. And as I now sit quietly in my room, I realized it’s so much different. None of these things were in our house now…but that’s not the reason to moan and covet for a grander party.

Should we be brought back to the moment the Savior was born, it was very dire…even more pathetic than our almost decor-less house. Instead of dining with family and good wine, Jesus came into this earth surrounded with animals. It sure was an unlikely state of being born, but none of them whined. His birth was a joy in itself to his parents and to the world.

The parties are just temporary and sadly are a cover up to the real joy made for us. I’m not against them, but on the moment we depend on them to be our source of celebrating. Taking Christ away from Christmas is never Christmas at all.  The material things that we garner from these parties will fade away. But the Lord and His love for us is steadfast and new forever.

And so I’m glad for the very reason for Christmas. This is one reason we feel joy…Jesus is the joy of the world itself. His coming is an indication of His love for us. And we should always remember how He loved us, though we can never measure it out.

I wouldn’t worry with having no visitors at this point in time. His presence alone is the One Thing we’ve always wanted to be with. It’s more than having ten kings visiting your home to dine at our noche buena. As I wait for my mom to cook our little dinner, I am thankful and hopeful. Christmas never changed. Most of all, Christ never changed. He fills us up. He draws us near to His heart. He shows His love and grace to the two humble souls of this little house.

Crushing A Heritage

After quite a time, we were able to work out-of-town again. For the sake of

Pres. Aquino speaking for the LP-CAR new members’ oathtaking at Benguet State University

covering Pres. Aquino’s Liberal Party convention for its new members in the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR), we set out to Baguio Sunday afternoon.

It’s still the same old place I’ve visited for almost two years ago. Crickets crooned at us when we got at Kennon Road. The crisp cold, pine-scented air dawned upon the atmosphere in the evening. The places near the city proper lay as ever quiet and serene once the stars took over the sky. Even though the media people seemed to be the only ones awake in the town, we kept ourselves almost quiet and low.

The amateur photographer…

I can’t help but observe the place. The pine trees, almost shabby and thin, loomed almost everywhere. But I couldn’t forget my mother’s remarks that these are fewer today compared to her visit 40 years ago. Oh yes, four decades much. She was a young teacher in training at Teacher’s Camp then. To me, the place was far too serene than my world. Not unless you see how much of it has been exploited through commercialism.

For a long time, Baguio has been called the “Summer Capital of the Philippines”.

Behold, Baguio from afar, covered by mist, fog and clouds 🙂

Even in the summer, the air is much colder than Manila. I can vouch with all my heart that I have to shower in ice-cold water if I don’t put on the heater and most of the residents walked around in jackets despite of being in the sun. Because of it’s romantically inclined atmosphere and cool weather, it has been a target of tourists every year. But now, most of these tourists have invaded this place.

My friend from Baguio would tell me how Korean schools thrived like mushrooms in the city. Deep inside my heart, I applaud her and her contemporaries for speaking good English that she had to be willing to teach foreigners. But with this spring of foreign presence comes a spring of commercialization. Who will never forget that horrible earth-balling in a popular mall in Baguio? That same old friend was one of those who protest against it because they were destroying the environment. They did not ask for it to be changed. They were already happy with the view it gives on its rooftop and its open-aired closure. I was supposing these entrepreneurs thought they would be able to gain more by making a major change in the environment. They were not careful about it.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not against foreign presence. Like most Pinoys, I’d love

It’s very common for the locals to take a walk along the mountain sides…it looks quite dangerous for us lowlanders, as my friend would put it, but I’m impressed how they take their walk with grace 🙂

to welcome them as friends. Yet it seems that a lot of entrepreneurs thought of gaining much by changing the place a lot. What they did not know was that the natural beauty of the place was already enough to keep them coming in. But for the sake of selling, they opt to market the place through residences, commercialism, and infrastructure. In order to please a lot of customers, all they need is resources. Commercialism is not evil. But focusing on the wrong strategies can destroy much. Yet, as I observe, this results to cutting of more trees and quarrying of more land just to fill up spaces.

Sorry, I’m quite a bad photographer. You see, the bald part of the mountain I’d like you to see is at the far right. I just couldn’t focus the camera well…but there’s another part that looked worst but we were not able to pass it.

While going back home, I noticed that a part of one of its mountains was being quarried. It looked like a chocolate-covered custard pudding scraped from top to bottom. I can never forget another part of Baguio being quarried; worst than the one we passed by. My friend brought me to this beautiful memorial park built on the side of the mountain in another part of Baguio. Everything around it was an awesome sight, save for the mountain on the opposite side that had a huge chunk of it scraped down, right in the middle. She was as disappointed as I was. It’s a scary sight especially that rains pour regularly in Baguio. Much of the trees were lost.

Commercialization and industrialization through infrastructure can bring a lot of investments in…but focusing too much on it comes with a painful price. Infrastructure is temporal, one work can deteriorate and be out-moded by another. But nature itself can thrive along…unless abused and destroyed. By taking pride in these infrastructures, it won’t last long. We can change a place and shift to another if our changes over it does not last anymore. But to restore a place’s natural beauty, it would take years of genuine compassion and patience – something that we don’t have when we meet the deadlines and financial quota of commercialism.

I just hope that Baguio won’t go worst when I return. If I don’t hear those crickets or smell that pine-scented air, I’d be really disappointed. So will my friends and those who have basked in its deeper beauty long before than I did. Once we lost its beauty, we’d loose more than tourism and money – we’d loose a heritage and probably our lives as we are intertwined with God’s gift of nature.

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