Category Archives: life learning

I Did Come Along to Batolusong  

Credit to Dhan for this stunning, award-winning photo! 🙂

I really love the sky

But I don’t want to fly 

I want to climb a mountain 

But to think of it makes me sigh


I want to feel so high

But the fear of heights makes me cry 

The irony of it all

Simply makes me ask “Why?”


But real friends make me strong

And help me address what’s wrong 

They help me see nature

In ways that will make me mature 


Hiking up a mountain

Taught me to fight 

To walk and climb 

With all my might 


To carry the littlest burdens 

Make the travel light 

Enjoy the journey 

Breathe in the sight

 

No matter how scary

Is the mountain’s height 

The birds all learn 

To enjoy the flight

 

The sun will continue 

to shine bright 

No matter how many times

Day turns to night

 

Friendships are strengthened 

As we reached Mt. Batolusong’s height

Our perspectives widened

Our horizons broadened


Friends, nature, and life 

See their beauty altogether 

Put your heart into your travel 

Decide to wander, wonder, and ponder

*****

This post is reminiscent of two challenges that I overcame with the help of my favorite people in the world. First, I got to write a poem (which I last did way back in high school) for a travel photo contest (when I never really take pictures when I travel). Second, as the title of this post stated: I did come along with friends to Mt. Batolusong, Tanay, Rizal. Cheers to my first real mountain hike! I did not imagine that I would be able to fulfill my dream of mountain climbing. Despite all my hesitations, my closest of friends succeeded in hiking all the way to the very peak with me. What a heavy baggage I must have been! Haha.

Really, I’m grateful to God for friends who challenged me to go out of my comfort zone, and never left me behind when I thought I couldn’t make it. I had a recent realization that I am not as nice as I thought I was. But, these crazy friends never gave up on me but were compassionate toward me and highly motivated enough to inspire me during the low points of my life. They don’t tolerate me but always bring me closer to the Lord so that I may change and be the person He wanted me to be. Indeed, making dreams come true is so much better when you’ve got real friends to do it with you. ❤

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“Friends come and friends go, but a true friend sticks by you like family.” Proverbs 18:24 (MSG)

A Tale as Old as Time

It is understandable that many people (majority of them girls) would love the classic film from the 90’s. I personally do, too. But to give away two IMAX tickets with a Krispy Kreme treat included as prize for a Beauty-and-the-Beast-themed essay contest is definitely out of the ordinary. This friend of mine has this passion that is amusing and inspiring at the same time. There is something with the way she deeply loved Beauty and the Beast that triggered my imagination. Maybe that’s how they say passion is contagious. So, to give due recognition of my friend’s love for the tale that’s as old as time, let me write my share of the essay — no matter how past the deadline it would be. 

If you were the beast, how are you going to change to unleash the princess in you and why? Discuss your motivation for change. 

Many times we relate with Belle — being adventurous, almost perfect, admired by all, and with some person needing our love and compassion. It is one question we ask ourselves only when we are forced to give an answer: can I possibly love someone who is beastly on the outside but tender on the inside? Often, we see ourselves as one who gives understanding, never the one who needs changing. Always the Beauty, never the Beast.

But as one of my writer friends wrote, there is a beast in every heart. Inside each of us is someone as irritating as she is irritable, self-centered, arrogant, lazy, and undeserving of love. The moment we realize this, the long-loved movie begins to take on a different perspective. So, if I were the beast, how do I break the curse and unleash the prince within me? Let me first share a few of my musings on the movie:

1. Recognize love when you see it.

The unexpected arrival of Maurice at the castle appeared as intrusion, which angered the Beast. But when Belle volunteered to be a substitute for her father out of love, the Beast recognized it. It is something unheard of in the castle for years, something both familiar and new at the same time. Something heartwarming. And he decided to welcome it home. And so, the journey to transformation began.

 
2. Let love have its way.

Having Belle in the castle changed the way things were done. Suddenly there was someone in the house with a positive vibe, and the house staff seemed to favor and imitate her disposition. The Beast had to adjust. He learned to warm up, open up, be kinder, and be considerate. He learned to look beyond his selfish needs. It felt as if the song was playing in the background, “Bittersweet and strange… Finding you can change…  Learning you were wrong…” The Beast learned to let love have its way in him, and it changed him on the inside. Maybe that is how change takes place sometimes. It must first happen on the inside

3. Let love take its place. 

After some time, Belle learned to love the castle. The staff (aka living kitchenware) were expectant that the curse would be broken. So did the Beast. But, more importantly, he was looking forward to forever with Belle. But when Belle had to attend to her father’s terrible condition, the Beast decided to send her home — even if that means letting go of the chance to break the curse, and letting go of the chance at forever. The Beast learned to let love take control of his destiny, and counted the cost for it. The same love gave way for Gaston to attack and kill him. But the same love finally broke the curse and set the stage for a love that, as fairy taletellers write, would live happily ever after. 

The moral of the story resonates with me in the sense that it highlights how love changes a person. And I think that could best answer the question of how to unleash the royalty within each person. Love makes you brave, yet kind; strong, and at the same time tender. It enables you to make the toughest decisions and offer the greatest sacrifices.

The song says, “Certain as the sun, rising in the east. Tale as old as time, Song as old as rhyme…” This love story has been around for as long as one could remember. The story of an unlovable beast receiving undeserved love and attention goes way back… to the cross. “While we were still sinners Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8). Love came to save us and change us. Change happens when love takes over. What is the greatest motivation for change? Love. And the greatest love one can ever have? God’s love. “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13). If one needs changing, he should come to God. Does your situation in life needs changing? Seek God. You will find that He will not just change your situation, but He will first change you and unleash the royalty within you. 

I didn’t get to win Franny’s contest, but I did get to watch Beauty and the Beast with my siblings. Thanks, Cherry Mobile family!! ❤

Why am I Still… 

A few days ago I turned 26. My mother got married at the age of 26. I did not intend to sound pressured or bitter at all with this statement. Well, maybe a little in between the lines. There has never been a point in my life where my family pushed me to have a boyfriend. Not until this Christmas vacation. (Just kidding!) But the two questions that my longtime family friends and relatives kept throwing to me this past holiday season were:

  1. How old are you now? 
  2. When will you get married?

The lack for an answer to number 2 made it harder to answer number 1. I couldn’t even start with number 1, knowing that the number 2 question would surely follow! Then I remember one line from the Doulos Devotion that I read weeks ago. It read something like this: “After many years, Jacob’s desire has been met because he could have a child with the woman he loved. He had loved her so much that he committed to work seven more years in order to marry her” (Castellanos, 2016). We all knew Jacob’s side of the story. But what about Rachel? How was she able to endure seven years of waiting? Did it also seem like a few days for her because she loved him? Did she love him in the first place to wait for him seven years?

While these questions surely do take a lot of time in research, God brings me to the topic of waiting as I thought about this thing in the past weeks:

1. To wait means to be better. 

Waiting is often pictured as sitting on a chair staring at the ceiling as time wastes away. It should mean more than just that. When Jacob met Rachel she was taking care of the sheep. When the servant of Isaac’s father saw Rebekah, she was doing her task to draw water. You don’t just sit and look pretty when you wait; you work, and you get the work done. You work til you become better. Waiting is a journey. This is a no-nonsense perspective, because even determining the right lifetime partner is a journey. Marrying the right person is a journey. Everything is a journey toward perfection, until the day Jesus comes to make us perfect. It is the journey that makes the destination or outcome more fulfilling.


2. To wait means to believe in the promise.

You wait because the One who promised is faithful. He called you and chose you. He redeemed you from the past, renewed your mindset, and gave you a new heart. He restored everything you lost during the times you acted foolish. He gave you everything you need for life and godliness. He equips you to accomplish His purpose (2 Peter 1:3). He gave His Son for your salvation; surely He will graciously give you all things through Christ (Romans 8:32). It is His will for you to raise a generation that loves Him. Surely, He will provide a way for it. 

You wait because what He has in store is good, even far more wonderful than what you imagined. You wait because you know that it would be worth the wait. That this person would be worth the wait. It’s not like marriage (or a love relationship at the least) is something anyone can have as soon as he wants to. Maybe the reason it does not come around yet is that God is still preparing you for the big reveal. So, learn, learn, learn. Explore and discover. Always aim to be at your best, knowing that those who wait on the Lord and trust Him will never be put to shame (Romans 10:11). 

Patiently waiting… for the bus. ❤
One of the best gifts ever from Mam Leah. Let’s enjoy the wait, one day at a time. 😉

So, yes. I’m learning to enjoy waiting. With a God Whose love never fails, how can one dare to complain? I know God won’t fail me; so, I won’t fail Him. Everything falls in their proper places at the right time. For my part, I will keep on basking in the light of God’s love and letting people know of this: He is the source of love. In fact, He is love. (1 John 4:7-12)

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“Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.” Psalm 27:14

Abandon

My closest of friends have a pet peeve for the mainstream. They don’t root for songs so popular they can replace the national anthem, extremely trendy fashion fads, and “crush ng bayan” guys who bask in the limelight. They are not fans of cliches and generic wordings. That is why there is this hesitation for me to blog about something that everyone used to talk about. But if it is too good to be kept secret, then it would be worthwhile to be shared, right?

Light and funny movies that are a must-watch for the whole family can be blog material too, as I find out. But really, little did I know that in a super funny zombie movie such as Train to Busan I would find realizations that will resonate in days or even months — lessons marked so true in our lives today.

Here are a few:

While Train to Busan is generally a social commentary on what it truly means to be human, it can be seen as a tribute to all men who are ready to fight for the ones they love, even if it costs them their lives. This is crucial given the status quo where women are treated as sex objects and families are left to the sole leadership of mothers. The irresponsibility of many boys who refuse to grow up as men stain the reputation of those who aim hard to be good husbands and fathers. In the words of father-to-be Sang Hwa in the movie, “Dads always get the bad rap and none of the praise.”

This insight is further emphasized when placed side by side with the story of a man who also loves, but selfishly. It is easily irritating to watch how the selfish businessman Yong Suk puts everyone else in danger because of his personal agenda. Later on in the movie the audience realizes that his end desire is to be reunited with his mother. Nevertheless, getting to your goal while putting others in jeopardy ends in destruction.

Another truth exemplified: everyone can be a hero. Father-to-be Sang Hwa, Su An’s father, Seok Woo, and the crazy stranger who lived until near the end just to save Su An and the pregnant woman Sung Gyeong from a crowd of zombies. Men from different backgrounds, each one a hero. If men would just realize. A normal student. A boy next door. A simple engineer. An “ordinary” dad, or househusband perhaps.  Just. Anyone. Can. Be. A. Hero.

One more learning that really struck me deep came hours after watching the movie, when I wondered who the real protagonists were — Suan and Sung Gyeong, or Seok Woo and San Hwa? If Suan and Sung Gyeong are the main characters, why is it that the sacrifices of both fathers resonate much longer? I heard it said that main characters are supposed to live until the end.  But maybe the best way for them to embody the theme is to die. As San Hwa hinted near the climax of the movie, “It’s all about sacrifice.”

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This truth is reflected in real life. We are who we now are because of someone else. We have what we’re having because of somebody giving way for us or helping us obtain it. It’s never a one-man team. Many times, we have what we have not because of our skills or efforts, but because someone else made a sacrifice for us. But oftentimes we act as selfish brats, claiming all of the rights and none of the responsibilities.

So while the end of the movie gave me a huge relief from a tireless attack of mad zombies, it forces me to rethink the word sacrifice. And I realize, sacrifices are oftentimes made out of necessity and not heroism. Then I think, How many people have sacrificed their time and resources for me? Who are those who have shed countless sacrifices out of love for me? And finally, how have I responded in return?

 

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“For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps,” — 1 Peter 2:21

Keep You Proud

I used to think tears would keep falling every time the 22nd of August comes around. But then I realize, what is there to keep grieving for? It’s not the number of years that matter after all. A life that had been worth living is a life worth celebrating. Even if it has been cut quite too short, it nevertheless leaves an impact on people who had been a part of it. So, in remembrance of Mama, despite some sadness and deep longing, I give emphasis on high esteem and due recognition.

I have always admired you for being strong and passionate, Ma. You have stood firm beside Papa. You had always been his solid support. You could have been the best pastor’s wife. It is my prayer to be as loving, dedicated, and goal-driven as you are — as a mentor, a teacher, a wife, and a mother. Thank you for investing in my education, for making me the kind of person that I am. I’ll always be proud of inheriting your wit and your genes. I will always keep on making you proud.

Letter to a Dear Friend

Everyone desires to give himself completely to someone else that he loves. I am wondering if this is something you have already done and failed, or if it is too great a feat that you still keep searching for the “one” most deserving of your love. With much concern, I hope it is the latter.

“We only receive the love we think we deserve,” is one common saying. And another is that “you can only give what you have.” I know, deep inside of you, that you have the capacity to endow any person you choose with a love that lasts forever. I know you have the ability to build a good family. I know you have a big chance at saying goodbye to a lifetime of loneliness. I know you can because you want to. But the thing is, you should know.You should know that you deserve this: to love and be loved. To be vulnerable toward someone you love but secure that she will love you back no matter what.To give of yourself for someone else and be fulfilled because of it. You should know that no one is too bad that love can’t change him. No one is beyond forgiveness.

I am no expert in love, but this I am sure of: no other person can complete you. Only God can, because everything begins and ends in Him. I pray that as you think about these things you’ll come to realize that it is God’s love and forgiveness that you should first seek. Getting right with God will remove all the guilt and replace it with hope. Hope that says, “It is not yet too late for love.”

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There is something amazing in literally waking up in the morning and having the right words for the “write” time. Maybe I should keep a notepad and pen always on the bedside.

A takeaway quote:

“How strange and backwards the world can be sometimes. So many people just give up on love, even though love is the best thing that can happen to them.”

 — James Patterson, Sam’s Letters to Jennifer

Not Another Heartbreak 

On an outsider perspective, I believe people who manage to get through heartbreaks are amazing. I’ve watched it in movies, read it in books, and saw it in some of my friends. I can only imagine how painful it could be, and how much courage it takes to accept reality and move on. I think I will not make it if I would have to go through it. At some point, I believe no one really has to.

While I was reading for the 90 Days Challenge, I came across love stories in the Bible. Adam called Eve the bone of his bones and flesh of his flesh, and she became her most suitable helper. Abraham loved Sarah, no matter how long it took her to bear him a child. Isaac loved Rebekah and married her; she comforted him through his mother’s death. Jacob worked 14 years for Rachel, but to him it seemed only days, because he loved her. As I pondered upon these stories of old, I realize that God must have been the Author of the best love stories ever told. I know He still is in the business of doing so today. And if so, He must be busy hands on with mine.

There are days when I can’t help but think about the person He is preparing for me. What does he look like? How does his laugh sound like? How would it feel to be his one and only? Ever since I was young, I’ve been dreaming to meet the person I’ll be spending the rest of my life with — my better half, my beloved. Through the years the dream lingers within. It feels like a destiny waiting to be fulfilled.

Life goal: to be as elated as Papa and Mama on their wedding day ^.^

But as my mind wanders about such things, I’m always being brought back to the starting point: God. He is the originator of it all — the Author of life, the Author of love. Without Him, there is no life, no love, no love life. The moment we realize that perfect love comes only from God, it fills us and changes us. Then it overflows to others. That’s why we can love unconditionally — because Christ has shown the example by loving us even when we were undeserving.

That is why I can love. Because He first loved me, I am healed. I am whole. I am set free. And so, I can love unconditionally. No matter what challenge or shortcoming or failure, I can forgive. I can overcome. There is no need to fear, to reason to be insecure. No reason for my heart to be shattered in pieces. Because He shows me what true love is, I’ll know it when I see it coming. Because His is the standard, I’ll know when a love is worth keeping and when it should be let go.

For these reasons, I choose to place my heart in God’s hands. Because if it is God who holds my heart, I can rest assured that He will only entrust it to the man who has His heart, who will value me like He does and will love me til the end like He would. I am assured that when I give my heart, it will not be just another heartbreak.

Until That Day Comes

In terms of love and distance, I prefer to believe that “distance makes the heart grow fonder.” There is something liberating in going to places other than where I’ve grown — exploring life, meeting new people. But going back at the beginning of everything brings back memories of love, joy, and laughter. Going down memory lane to things I used to love makes me remember the journey with all its triumphs and struggles. It just, well, makes my heart fonder of the years past.

Trips or short vacations to my hometown are such a refresher, because embracing the daily grind of achieving to be the better self brings the tendency to forget one’s roots. The changes are unending! But some few things don’t really change. I am thankful that our leaders at church teach us every single time to remember who we are and where we belong.

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One of the few and treasured extended-family photos! ❤ ❤

When I spent the holiday vacation with people from the earlier decades of my life, God brought me back to my previous life lessons. What resurfaced are realizations that I think must be worth keeping. Some of the significant ones are the following:

1. I am the success of my parents.

I can never thank God enough for my wonderful parents. There are still times when I miss them and wish they were still around. I see that sentiment in the eyes of my aunts and uncles whenever they see us (all the more when they see me, the carbon copy of Mama). It saddens me not to have them in each milestone of my life since 14. But then God reminds me, “That is why you are here, Keren. You are the legacy of your parents. You are their success. And every success you make is theirs, too.”

2. My This life is God’s legacy.

Looking back, it was not really my skills or my talents that saw me through trials and difficulties. We were not even well off financially. But while we lack in wealth we abound in grace. I was swimming in God’s grace since childhood up until today. My breakthroughs, the wonderful people in my life, my amazing siblings. They are all marks of God’s work in my life. I can love unconditionally, because He first loved me.

But His grace doesn’t end there. While I enjoy His favor, the people around me also get the benefit. As He blesses me, He uses me as a channel to others — to bless them, inspire them, lead them, love them. This life story that He writes — it becomes worth telling. It becomes worth living, because day by day it turns out to be His legacy.

3. This lady is a masterpiece in progress.

As I revisit the past years, God shows me how He mightily coursed me through the ups and downs of life. He shows how He molded me to be better, be like Him. But even more, He shows me that there is SO MUCH more to be done. There is more growing, learning, pruning, and letting go to do. There are more training and struggles to overcome in order for more victories to be won. I need to keep reaching for the next level not just for me but for others — because as I overcome limitations, others see that they can, too. As I move on beyond losses, others realize that they are strong enough to do it too.

And then, together, we recognize that the best is yet to come. That the current doesn’t have to be the permanent. For some, today sure is painful, but “joy comes in the morning.” Today can be good, but it surely will get better. And while perfection comes closer through perseverance, we just have to persist even more. Persist until the Author of our hope, He who began the good work in us, comes to carry perfection unto completion.

So until that day comes, Cheers to becoming better and better! Cheers to conquests upon conquests! 🙂

Of Love and Bravery

They say a real friend can sing a song back to you when you have forgotten the words. I say, a true li’l bro can quote a movie back to you when you’ve forgotten the title. I really love the fact that I can last a day just chatting or running movie marathons with my younger brother. He is amazing like that. And more. So when he pushed me to watch Edge of Tomorrow starring Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt, I know there would be some treasure in that movie. I could never be more right.
Here are some of the gems that I got from this movie:

1. “Try and try until you succeed” doesn’t mean doing the same thing again and again.

When Major Bill Cage (Cruise) tried to outdo the tragic end of the battle, he relived the moment more than a hundred times, with each moment working out a different tactic. He tried every single tactic combination to get through the situation and have both him and his love interest come out alive.

In life, things don’t always go as we wanted. Life is tough as it is. But we can always choose to be tougher, and persevere. Wisely.

2. You only get one life.

The problem that Cage faced was complex because it was unfamiliar. But figuring it out and planning to defeat it was easy because he can keep on repeating the scenario from the top by “dying”. He can just keep on “dying” til he gets the answer. But the moment that new blood was transfused into him and dying no longer meant restart from the top, he became more conscious of his steps and definite with his sacrifices.

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This life is the latter. It is a one-take shot with no cuts or repeat from the top. We can’t just “die” when we feel like giving up, and start all over again. One shot is all we got, and we have to make it matter. No matter how pissed off or stressed or worn out or broken we are, we need to learn to let go and move on.

3. Courage comes from knowing what you’re fighting for.

Cage was a coward, and he counted the cost of staying that way. But when he met Rita and got a deeper understanding of the global situation, his motives changed. From barely surviving, he trained and fought to defeat the powerful enemy — and save Rita the entire time. He learned to fight not just for the sake of self, but for a significant other. He did not care then about the world at first. But he cared deeply for Rita.

Rita, on the other hand, was the hero. The angel of Verdun, she endured the battles in place of her brother whom she loved dearly. She was fighting for family. She also took a vow to protect her bigger family from an extraterrestrial enemy. This bigger family is the world.

Some people find courage in defending a cause that scales multitudes of people and impacts the whole world. This is amazing. But some people draw their greatest courage when faced with a challenge that concerns one single person that matters most to them — a friend, family, or a loved one. Whatever the underlying force, the principle remains: courage is not fighting blindly without fear. It is what happens when you value something so great it overpowers whatever stands in the way.

Courage, they say, is not the absence of fear but the mastery of it. I say, courage is the proof of a powerful love winning over fear.

What makes you brave? Whom are you fighting for?

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“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” 1 John 4:18