Wednesday, August 12, 2009

27 Things I Learned Before I Turned 27 Today

I was inspired to make my own list after I recently read the blog post of a friend about the 29 lessons he learned before his 29th birthday. This list is not only a review on the things I have learned – and still learning – but a reminder during the times I forget.

1) Life is beautiful if you allow it to be.

2) Laughter may not always be the best medicine, but it certainly is one of the best.

3) Your mother was right when she said you have to sleep early and long to grow tall.

4) Family and friends are arguably the best gifts – and teachers (witting or unwitting) – the world can give you. =)

5) Vegetables are really good for you.

6) Chocolate can be good for a woman’s heart – especially if it’s dark chocolate. =)

7) Money is not the root of evil. The love of money – and the fear of losing or not having enough money – is.

8) Planning and preparing for the future is good, but don’t exchange the present moment for it.

9) Pleasure and excitement are not synonymous to joy. When choosing between what gives you pleasure and excitement and what gives you joy, choose the latter. Of course, having all would be nice. =)

10) Sometimes you have to choose between being right and being happy. The second choice is always more fun and easy on the mind. =)

11) In learning, give more importance to the principle over the method. Methods may change or become outdated, but principles are timeless.

12) The most dangerous obstacles to your dreams are not other people or circumstances but your own excuses or stories you believe as absolute truth.

13) Sometimes who you are is more important than what you do. Your very presence can touch people more than your actions.

14) Clarity equals power. The clearer you are, the more powerful your words and actions.

15) You can never change another person, well-meaning you may be. You can try anything from the sweetest suggestion to emotional blackmail or outright threat, all to no avail. The best you can do is show the possibilities to that person and then give him/her space and support. Trust in that person’s process.

16) The only person you can really save is yourself. But it’s funny and amazing that when you do, some people realize that they can save themselves too. (I still need to remind myself about this whenever my Messianic complex kicks in ^_^).

17) Suffering is an option. So is happiness.

18) Nothing or no one can truly hurt you unless you allow it. (A lesson I’m still having difficulty with many times).

19) When you stop worrying and controlling and just trust and let go, amazing things happen.

20) The line between opposites can be paper-thin. Be mindful whether you are loving or manipulating, being trusting or ignorant, acting from intuition or delusion.

21) Don’t be so hard on yourself when you find yourself backsliding on something you decided to change. Just keep trying. Sometimes it is more difficult to un-learn than to learn.

22) Actually, sometimes the lessons you need to learn – or un-learn – are a bit “advanced” for your present state of mind that it’s natural you don’t get them immediately. If you’re frustrated, you are like an elementary student frustrated he/she is not in college yet. ^_^ (Something I need to remind myself over and over again. Hehehe.)

23) All paths eventually lead to God / enlightenment / the divine / whatever you feel like calling it. Some paths may take longer, some may appear to lead to “destruction” at first, but they all lead to one destination.

24) Corollary to the above, to insist that your path is the only right or valid path can actually harm your own journey.

25) There can be many voices trying to tell you what to do and messages that look equally true. To know the truth, go into that deep, quiet part of you and listen.

26) Related to the above – ALL principles and wisdom are actually true, even when some appear to be conflicting. The trick is to know which wisdom to apply in a particular situation.

27) You are always being guided by a higher power. Always.

To the people and situations who taught me these sometimes painful and difficult lessons, I am forever grateful. =)

Friday, August 7, 2009

Magic Moment

I was restless. I was on my way to the weekly gathering of my spiritual community but my mind was already on the things I needed to do after and the deadline I needed to meet. Even walking for the past 10 minutes or so did not ease my worry.

The cold and grey afternoon did not help lift my mood. It had been raining throughout the day, though thankfully it had now stopped. I passed by Greenbelt Park as I walked, and the park, normally bustling with activity, looked desolate. No people passed by the bridge over the pond. The white ducks, which are normally a delight to watch in, were absent.

I saw no one except for a man, perhaps in his fifties or sixties, leaning on the bridge's railing and feeding birds. I stopped walking and looked at him for a moment. He was earnestly throwing food at the birds and looked perfectly happy and content amid the dreary afternoon.

I walked to the bridge and leaned beside him on the railing. I really felt no urge to talk – I just asked him what he was feeding the mayas. He gestured to the rice grains on his palm. I looked at the tiny brown birds eagerly pecking at the rice grains and drinking from the pools of rainwater on the rock crevices. A sudden wave of peace and assurance washed over me. At that very moment I felt – yes, I did not look – the man leave. I continued looking at the birds.

After a few minutes, I looked around me, and the park was suddenly alive with activity. People were walking around. I could hear laughter and lively conversation. A few feet away, two smiling women were posing for a photo. A few people joined me to look at the birds. One eager little girl kept pointing at the birds and saying, “Look, o, birds!” She later had her photo taken with them.

I basked in the scenery and energy, marveling at the perfection of it all. At the back of my mind, though, I knew that the moment would be more complete if there were ducks. Whenever I pass by this park, I never tire of staring at the ducks, usually swimming around without a care in the world. Because of the day’s heavy rains I did not really expect to see them, though.

Amazingly, the moment I thought this, I saw two white ducks walking on the path near the bridge. I was even able to get close to one without him – or her – being scared away, which is quite something since the ducks I usually encountered in this park move away when I start getting closer.

I watched them walk around until they finally settled on the rocks by the pond. At that moment, I was struck by a revelation. That man feeding the birds was an angel. Whether he was an earthly angel who is as human as I am, a spirit, or pure energy, it did not matter. I knew with full certainty and clarity that he was an angel.

Feeling lighter and extremely blessed, I continued my walk.

The mayas. I was so in the moment that I did not think of taking a photo until there were a few of them left.

The two ducks that appeared as though by magic

Why do I get the feeling that this duck is as curious about me as I am about him/her?

They have found their place.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Remembering VJ

He was small, with a shaved head and an ever-present serene smile on his face. He spoke with the most gentle, soothing voice that can arguably cool off or tone down any hot temper. Occasionally I think he must have been a monk in his past life. And in our school paper, the Collegian, where I was privileged to be with him for three years, some fondly called him Sto. NiƱo.

He was an accomplished and respected Kultura writer then editor in our paper. But it was his poetry, fiction and creative prose which caught my attention. Before college, my idea of poetry in Filipino was limited to balagtasan and the like. He was one of the writers I read - and met - in college who showed that poetry in Filipino can be very real and present, resonating with people's experiences today.

And he did it beautifully. Maybe because he was always open and honest about his feelings, without apology. I sometimes had the impression that he wore his heart on his sleeve and he was feeling too much. But his heartbreak, suffering and joys were his raw material to write the most beautiful prose and verse, with both form and feeling.

Though we were not very close, I was at ease with him enough to confide in him from time to time. It was he who encouraged me to write poetry in Filipino. I was a News staffer then, and while I was starting to deeply appreciate poetry in our native tongue, I was still reluctant in writing it. But he persisted and told me I could do it. Had it not been for him, I would probably not have taken that first step and written my first poem. And he was very diplomatic in critiquing that first poem, in a way only a "monk" with the perpetually gentle voice could. =)

We lost communication after graduation but I always had fond memories of him.

The news of his death came as a shock. At first we all thought he was just missing. Death was far from my mind. But when his body was found last Tuesday, it seemed like a dream. Preliminary investigation showed that he was strangled to death, and possibly robbed, as the money in his wallet was missing. So far, it appeared to be a random incident, with no political motivation on the part of the killers.

I have family, friends and acquaintances who died of illnesses. A close family friend was murdered with political motivations. While they were painful, I could explain them away logically. But how to comprehend a murder that happened just because my friend happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time?

I cannot understand his death right now and I am sad to know that there are many things he could still do that I will never know. But one thing I do know is that he tried and was somehow able to do the things he could do in his short time here. He embraced his life, feelings and experiences. He is one of the people I remember when I read this quote from novelist Wei Hui: "Suck dry the juice of life like a leech, including its secret happiness and hurt, spontaneous passion and eternal longing."

He also left a valuable legacy - he was a dear friend, mentor and teacher to many. I could see in the outpouring of support and condolences from people that he had touched many lives.

VJ, thank you for your life.


Police investigation on Vincent Jan Rubio's case is still ongoing as of this writing.

One of VJ's old works: Could not find other works online.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

I Love Cats!

They are cute, furry and cuddly. They are independent, intelligent, and can pretty much look after themselves. They can be aloof at first, but when you earn their trust, they can be fiercely loyal. They make great companions and friends. Being the sensitive lot they are – not only to their surroundings but also to people – they know just how to comfort you when you need it.

Sometimes they can be charmingly manipulative – being extra nice to you when they want extra food!

I love them now even more when a good friend recommended me a cat website of cute, funny and witty cat photos. Some of my favorites (The images may take a while to load, though):

funny pictures of cats with captions

funny pictures of cats with captions

funny pictures of cats with captions

funny pictures of cats with captions

funny pictures of cats with captions

funny pictures of cats with captions


For cat lovers out there, the website is:

Friday, January 16, 2009

Two rituals of letting go

On the first week of this new year I stood by my friend as she performed two rituals that can change her life. At sunrise, on a small field with a playground, she carefully burned pieces of paper where she painstakingly wrote all the things she wanted to let go of – anger, doubt, and all other kinds of negativity. She then placed the ashes inside a box, along with objects symbolizing other things she wanted to let go of as well. I helped her bury the box.

At sunset on the same field on the same day, I accompanied her as she tied her life’s wishes to the strings of red, blue and white balloons. Earlier, she had easily chosen blue and red – her favorite colors – in the balloon shop and had also automatically chosen white, though she had not exactly known why.

Her choice of colors later proved to be a good match to her wishes – red was for her soulmate, blue was for her personal growth (“This color is me,” she says) and white was for her spiritual growth.

Slowly, she read aloud each wish before letting go of the balloons one by one. I sat beside her in support and murmured my affirmations whenever she finished with a request.

There was, however, an extra blue balloon with no wish tied to it. I call it the “possibilities” balloon, as my friend was asking for and opening herself up to blessings yet unknown from the universe.

Preparing for the ritual

We watched the balloons fly and disappear into the clouds. “Nasa langit na sila” (My wishes are already in heaven). I smiled at how my friend said it so lightly yet so certainly.

She had wanted to do these two rituals for so long already – several years, in fact, but could not somehow find the right opportunity. Now appeared to be a good time, as she had just undergone a situation that abruptly shifted her life’s course – being separated from the man she was going to spend the rest of her life with.

The rituals were also powerful and fitting for the new year – letting go of negative baggage to make room for blessings and new opportunities, especially room for fulfillment of life’s wishes. At the same time, letting go of those wishes for the universe to have a free hand on them.

I felt honored to be with my friend at such an important moment for her. I would like to believe that my energy and support added power to her rituals. We had some bloopers and “adventures” along the way, like having a difficult time digging the “grave” for the box (My friend only brought a spoon! I had to get something close to a shovel) and searching the village and the yellow pages for shops that sell flying balloons, as balloons on sticks are the safe standard in shops today. Also, she had intended to do both rituals at sunrise, but because of the difficulty finding balloons, we had to postpone the balloon part for sunset.

All these, though, I knew, only made the rituals all the more powerful. We had taken effort to make them happen.

Now all we had to do was believe.

Not wanting to miss out on the fun, however, I got my own purple, yellow and orange balloons and let them fly away one by one after my friend had finished, though with no specific wishes. I had already made my wishes before; this gesture was simply an affirmation. God – the universe – already knows my heart’s desires.

Friday, January 2, 2009

First Morning

Yesterday I woke up early and got on a bike to greet the first sunrise of the new year.

It was a cold morning slightly reminiscent of Baguio, with a thin layer of fog shrouding houses in the distance. I felt warmed, though, with the first heat of the sun – and I believe, also warmed with the energy and expectation of everyone dreaming and waking up to this day.

Most were still dreaming, though; the lights were still on in many of the houses I passed. The roads were deserted save for some street sweepers busily sweeping the remains of last night’s noisemaking and festivities. I was even able to ride my bike on the middle of the road without fear. Occasionally I passed a jogger or biker who probably had the same idea of greeting the new year as me - or were probably keeping to their morning routine without fail.

Almost every person I passed greeted me a happy new year. I felt their greetings were also for themselves as much as they were for me. Some smiled at me in understanding, as though we were sharing a secret in being one of the few to experience that morning while the rest of the world still slept.

As the sun came up and rays broke through thick clouds, I saw more and more houses with their lights turned off and an occasional person sweeping the yard of her home. I moved to the side of the road to give way to passing vehicles. I received more new year greetings.

While the sun steadily rose and gave more warmth, the clouds gathered and sprinkled us with a drizzle. People sweeping outside their homes and people jogging carried on, as though receiving blessings from the first morning shower. I welcomed the raindrops on my face.

I saw a jogger at rest and looking up, as though basking in both the sun and rain.

That morning, anything was possible. It was the first page of a notebook, clean and ready for the writer’s first words.

I wrote.