Today is the third day of mourning for the families who lost their loved ones in the Glorietta 2 bombing. Some of those of who died may be buried tomorrow. And I can't imagine the extreme pain of those who lost their loved ones as their dead slowly descend 6 feet below the ground. Such loss is just too abrupt and inexplicable. Of the many people who could possibly be there in that particular spot and time of the bombing, why their loved ones?

Losses even when they are justifiable can already pain us. How much more when they are incomprehensible? Why these innocent people? Why now? Why such a gruesome death? There seem to be no acceptable answers to these questions. It's so easy to say that all these pain and losses are bearable when seen under the light of faith. But I guess before one dives with an act of faith, he must jump from a steady spring board of reality. The reality of experiencing the pain from a sudden loss of a significant person.

Grieving is the process of washing away, literally with one's tears, the pain of loss. Only after then can one accept and embrace with faith the painful and harsh reality that the people we dearly love can be taken away from us anytime and sometimes with no apparent reasons.

I remember being told by my sister that the pastor who officiated the burial of my uncle last year told the people present not to shed tears as my uncle is being buried because it is "un-christian" to cry for someone who will go to heaven. According to him, people must be happy that their loved ones will be re-united with their Creator. It was so inhuman of him to tell people that. I was so infuriated hearing that story. Didn't he know that Christ himself wept when he learned that his friend Lazarus died?

Let us pray, not only for the souls of the innocent victims of the Glorietta bombing, but also for their kin who will have to grieve for the coming months or years. God have mercy on us.

I'm back...again

I'm back again with blogging after more than a month of silence and hibernation. This time around, I will try to be more concise in my blogging. To all my friends asking me for an update on my blog, I really appreciate your patience.

The past weeks have been filled with lots of insights not only about myself but with other aspects of life in general. Inspiring books have been my companion lately. In the coming days, I will attempt to share those thoughts with you dear friends.

In the meantime, one of the things that has made me less of a pessimist was the thought that people at my age of 35 yrs old can still look forward to, at least, 25 years ahead of optimism, meaning and productivity. This thought has enabled me to enthusiastically plan ahead and to realize that though things may not always happen as I planned them to be, God's love never fails to show me that there is more to life. And in the last 35 years of my life, after connecting the dots, things almost always turned out for the better though it may have been peppered with some frustrations and disappointments.

Dear friends, hold on to God. He never fails. His love is enduring.

Song Writing

To be a professional song writer was once my dream. It remains a dream if not a fantasy. I may not be a professional song writer but I can somehow write songs occasionally.

I started writing a song in second year high school. I wrote my first song in about 2 hours. And in the same day I finished writing it, I joined a summer camp singing contest and sang that song. That was how confident I was with my song writing despite my not-so-high confidence in my singing skills. Haha! And when it was my turn to sing in that contest, I had 6 takes to finish my song. Yes, SIX gutsy takes! I guess everyone watching was amused with my guts. ("Kapal ng mukha" in Filipino)

But I can still recall that my self-esteem was undiminished despite of that seemingly embarassing moment. Deep inside me, I felt I had the gift. I continued writing songs and personally enjoyed it and until eventually a good number of people took notice.

I was fortunate enough that I had superiors and friends then who encouraged me to develop that talent. In my senior year, our Principal, who was incidentally my spiritual director, encouraged me or should I say ordered me to develop my talent in song writing. He tasked me to write songs for community programs such as the Annual Welcome Program for freshmen, Intramurals, Parents' day, Graduation and other important community events. But did my peers really liked those songs I have written? That would be another story! (I hope they did. Else, I pity them for being "used" by someone who wanted to develop his song writing skills.)

Contemporary songwriters such as Ogie Alcasid, Jamie Rivera, Jimmy Antiporda, Tots Faustino, APO, Odette Quesada, Jose Marie Chan and Ryan Cayabyab, to mention a few, really inspired me. I never missed watching Ryan-Ryan Musikahan then. It was very inspiring.

I really wanted to enroll in UP Conservatory of Music. But the thought of the possibility of not being able to financially support a family by being a professional musician scared me then. My family's financial crisis at that time aggravated that fear further.

So I just put this talent to a better use. Aside from composing songs for school occasions, I also wrote and recorded songs for women I intended to court. Unfortunately, I always had a broken heart after giving them my songs. I sounded like a hopeless romantic with my songs. Believe it or not, but up to now I have this sort of belief that my love songs had some kind of curse on me. So far, women for whom I write love songs, for some reason or another, usually get disconnected with me - emotionally and pyhsically - after some time. It's one reason(or excuse) why I am bit scared to write a song for my wife. (Strangely it does not scare her...hahaha!) An exception, of course, were my friends who asked me to write a song for their girlfriends. Two out of two of them are happily married now with the women to whom they gave my song. This is where my songs strike a luck. Any single man out there wants to try my lucky songs? (Hmmm...why not make a business out of this?)

I remember joining a songwriting contest in my high school senior year. I knew I had a very good composition then. Quite many of my friends and superiors liked my song entry. Unfortunately, the contest was cancelled after I have submitted my entry. I also attempted to join the Metro-Pop songwriting contest. I admittedly procarastinated at that time.

But just recently my song was adjudged in the top ten of the Kerygma Family songwriting contest (I hope there were more than 10 song entries submitted). It will be included in the album production of Shepherd's Voice Praise and Worship Songs. It feels good and very encouraging. It has almost been 12 years when I started to write songs again this year. I thought I've lost it but thank God it's still there.

I hope I can further enhance this gift to inspire and bless others - either with inspiring songs or with songs that give them a better idea of how NOT to write a song.

My Number 2 is Number 1, too

"The first shall be last and the last shall be the first." These words remind us that he who exalts himself shall be humbled; and he who humbles himself in God's eyes shall be exalted. Better yet, those words exhort us that if we are more privileged or gifted than a good number of our brothers, we must all the more seek to serve them. But on the lighter side, these words may mean that between two people or parties in competition not a few of us will often tend to go for the underdog.

In any group of people, there seems to be, by natural order, people who will be more privileged or gifted than others. The family is not an exception to this. I have four gifted kids but I cannot say that one among them is less privileged or gifted. Most parents will agree with me that every child is endowed with unique gifts and each of them is special in his own way. They all have their unique strengths coupled with corresponding weaknesses. A more introvert child tend to be more focused hence can be more imaginative and creative in playing by himself but may find it more challenging to socialize with other kids than his more extrovert siblings. Being a parent, the uniqueness of each child never fails to amaze me. We "manufacture" children under the same "condition, procedure and formula", targeting the same "specs" for every human being but the "output" is expectedly not constant but constantly unique. And that, I guess, is how nature works.

But human as we are, we have a tendency to see and do things unnaturally, sometimes linearly. We arrange things from smallest to biggest, from left to right, from top to bottom, from first to last, etc. Having a big family with four kids, it is imperative to manage them well. We have order and sequence in doing things. At this time, the kids have learned how to wait for their turn. I am confident that it will serve them well to be good citizens of society. But lately, I have realized that this thing has some limitations. It may work well for the "first and the last". The eldest child usually takes the first turn , and the youngest takes the last. And at certain point, I do the opposite. But what about the second child? He takes the 2nd turn most of the time. This kind of "stability" tend to make him less adventurous in going out of his comfort zone. He may think that whatever happens around him, he will always be 2nd in the natural order of things. And I think my son, Zach, is getting quite unnaturally comfortable with this. Since he seldom makes noise, as he has already accepted his fate to always take the 2nd turn, we somehow felt comfortable and overlook that every child must feel the need to be number one in his parents' eyes. How can a person really feel he is loved if he is always number two?(and in the child's logic, he is less prioritized) And I will not be surprised if one day, he may compulsively strive to be and see himself as number one.

So yesterday, my wife and I went out only with Zach, the eldest between the twins and the second among the boys, and brought him to the mall, eat good food, buy a toy of his choice, pick for him a balloon, and watch a movie (He's more excited with the cola and nachos than the movie! Hehe). We tried to make him feel very special. We plan to bring out our children individually these coming weekends. But this time, Zach takes the first turn. Of course, Igi, my eldest child asked why he was not the first one to take his turn. I politely told him that sometimes, Zach can be number one. And in life, people cannot always be in-between--not first, not last. I hope someday Zach can read this blog and understand that he can be more happy than just being stable and comfortable taking the second turn. Every child is number one in his parents' eyes.

Breakdowns and Breakthroughs

A friend-priest (a priest-friend, whatever suits him or you) blogged about "Growing Strong at Broken Places" ( It's a long but worthy read. I would like to quote some lines from that piece.

"In my experience as a counselor, I have increasingly grown convinced of – at least for me – an emerging paradox. Sometimes, in order for one to get a breakthrough, ironically all he needs is a breakdown. A breakthrough happens when one’s defenses collapse and one hits rock bottom. But before it can happen, one literally needs to allow that breakdown and collapse to happen. One allows oneself to be wounded all over again, at least temporarily, to revisit a past event, relive it with all its concomitant pain and misery, in order to rewrite that same painful memory and set out on the difficult path of writing new life scripts"

"Weaknesses and sins are not our real enemy. Our real enemy is what classical spiritual writers call “acedia.” Modern authors call it the “noontime devil.” And it is most operative when people lose verve and vitality to grow, - no, not despite our weaknesses, not because of our weaknesses, but beyond our weaknesses."

We usually get struck by things that are meaningful to us depending on the context we are in. When we are hungry, almost all food we see are delicious. But when our gall bladders are full, no food may seem palatable to us. And when we are hungry and thirsty for love, we have this tendency to believe that people (or our addictions) can fill such hunger and thirst. Those quotes above are meaningful to me now because they point to what I am going through.

We die when we resist to grow; but we need to die(temporarily) to grow. Being aware and embracing our weaknesses and broken places is a way of dying to ourselves. And growing beyond them is living!

In recent years, with the help of reliable and caring friends, I have become more aware of my issues. And it feels liberating to understand some , if not most, of them. I am starting to appreciate the reality that insights to our issues is not even half of the work needed to become better persons. It is the daily grind of living, not despite of, not because of, but beyond our weaknesses. Putting this to action excites me (and still scares me sometimes…hahaha).

In the past several months, my issues have glaringly resurfaced and I have been tested. I am not quite sure whether I have handled it well or not. It may take some more time to better comprehend it. But I am quite sure that there are new insights and perspectives I have learned from my recent experience. I have experienced a breakdown (fortunately not a total breakdown…hehehe) and the thought that in due time I may get a breakthrough excites me. I may be feeling better now but I am trying to convince myself that feeling better does not guarantee that I am getting better. (Conversely, feeling bad does not necessarily mean that I am bad or things are less hopeful). There is a lot of hard work to be done.

KerygmaFamily Forum

Today, the 6th of August, marked my 6th month in the Kerygma Family Forum. Time flies! I joined KerygmaFamily because I found Bo's audio/video teachings in the website very inspiring. Well, I used to subscribe to Kerygma Magazine around 10 years ago. I would occasionally buy a copy of some of Bo's books and audio tapes. I cannot be qualified as a fanatic nor an admirer but Bo's preaching never failed to touch my heart.

It was my first time to join an online forum; I was quite shy posting a comment in the forum much as I am a shy guy in person. I did not expect to meet friends online. I never thought it was possible (friends in the real sense of the word). I never had an experience chatting online. Browsing through the different threads in the forum, I was inspired to encourage(or give advice to those who seek it) people who are discouraged, upset, frustrated or depressed in their current life. Besides, helping people online complimented my know-how in the basic counseling course I was taking up then. It was(and is still) something very fulfilling to do.

Looking back, I never thought I'd experience the friendship I have now with the people in the forum. I have close friends(around the globe) in the Kerygma Family Forum. Of course, online friendships have its limitations compared to real time and space relationships. It may be far from ideal but good things can start from it. One of the activities that we have is our weekly prayer partner. To date, we have about 36 members participating in this activity. We pray for our weekly prayer partners, bond with them and offer them moral and spiritual support. Knowing that others have their own struggles is already an encouragement in itself to live our lives courageously and carry our daily crosses cheerfully.

I had the chance to meet some of online friends about 3 weeks ago in person and I truly felt the warmth of their friendship. How I wish I can deepen my friendship with all of them not only online but in the real world.

Family Visit

Mama and my siblings arrived here yesterday for a one week visit as my sister wanted to celebrate her birthday (Aug. 10) in Singapore. They love to see my kids (not me perhaps...hahaha). Papa cannot make it since he will be flying to Saudi Arabia to oversee a project there for about 4 months. You just cannot stop Papa from working. I miss him.

Family occasions like this are very rare for us now. Before my family moved here to Singapore, we would usually have a family get together for about twice a month. Mama and Papa always wanted to see my children and play with them. Of course, it was also the time for me and my siblings to catch up with one another and with Mama and Papa. It was an occasion I really enjoyed much and which I badly miss now in Singapore.

Mama and Papa are in their mid-60's and they are not as healthy as they used to be. My mom had a stroke 7 years ago and half of her body was paralyzed. Though this was unfortunate, I could say that it was an answered prayer that she survived that stroke. My Uncle(her youngest brother) died in his first stroke. I recall that day when I received a call from my sister telling me that they were in the ambulance with my mom who just had a stroke. I immediately excused myself from an office meeting then and rushed to Manila to check on my mom. My wife accompanied me and we recited the Rosary on our way to the hospital. I begged God to give my mom some more years to live so that she could still enjoy the company of her grandson (Luigi), who was barely 2-months old then. She survived that stroke and now enjoys playing with her four grandchildren now. Sometimes I feel guilty that I decided to move here to Singapore because my parents are now far from their grandchildren(and from me of course…hahaha). But that's life. I just hope that she can fully enjoy her week stay here in Singapore with us now.

I do pray that God continue to keep Mama and Papa healthy. They are in the sunset of their lives and I am trying my best to be more expressive of my love for them in my own simple ways. Mama and I attended together the 10:30 Mass today. During the offering of the sign of peace, I hugged and kissed Mama. It was something that I rarely do in years. It just felt so natural. I wish I did it more often then (That will be for another blog). After the Mass, I treated Mama and my siblings to a lunch buffet and we really had quality time. We all enjoyed the food and each other's company. I felt my Mama was very delighted with the food (and of course with me! Hahaha).

Lord, please let Mama and Papa enjoy more the life that they truly deserve.