When movie or tv stars, athletes, politicians, royalty, or whatever kind of celebrity brought to fame by the limelight descend upon and join the commoners in festivity or any gathering, we bestow upon them the VIP treatment.

With ex-Senator Juan Flavier and his warm and wonderful wife, we were caught off guard.  They treated us VIP by being their ordinary selves.  Mrs. Flavier proudly showed the photographs of their grandchildren embedded on a simple brag bag.  The witty old senator, when told I am a fan! responded with Are you voting age already?

How ordinary can that get?  Makes one believe that not all those with power are as sinister as their names spell.  Once upon a time there was a Juan Flavier who gave hope amidst adversity.  He was just conversing with us, in a polo shirt sprinkled with zonrox.  Mrs. Flavier pointed that out.  Nobody would have otherwise noticed.

Pizza Time

The age of one piece chicken, spaghetti and french fries on the side is done.  The current craving now is for pizza, thick crust with lots of mozarella cheese, any pasta or hot soup with croutons on the side.

Expensive?  Absolutely!

Delivery?  Once in a while.  The parlor is more conducive for dining.  The pizza is served oven-hot!

Pentecost Sunday

Fr. Evan, our most unassuming parish vicar from the Visayas, delivered a realistic homily for Pentecost Sunday.  He said:

Today we celebrate the solemnity of the Pentecost, not a historical event but a celebration of transformation.  Jesus has transformed humanity into His own image. By His resurrection Jesus has transformed humanity into the image of the Trinity.  By the Holy Spirit we become part of the Trinity.

When we speak of transformation we mean coming from a sinful nature.  Jesus has redeemed us into a new creation.  Sin has alienated us from God.  By the grace of the Holy Spirit we had been redeemed.

Our sins had made us sick, more than the swine flu virus.  Lustful thoughts, sins of the flesh, cravings for wealth and power, the pride in us – the worldly pleasures drew us away from the desire of God.

Look at the streets during night time.  Sexy bars, stealing, cheating, extra-judicial killings, abortion – name all kinds of sins and we have it here in Manila.  In fact, all throughout the country.  And we are known as the only Christian nation in Asia.

Evil has once again tormented Christ’s body, the Church.  Satan has once again revealed its presence.  First letter of Peter says evil is everywhere.  Solidify your faith.  The only thing that conquers evil is faith through deep prayer.

Evil has deformed man’s conscience.  Once again, the ship, which is the church entrusted by Jesus to Peter is rocked by the waves of worldly chaos.  We must remember what Jesus said It is I, do not be afraid.

Three times Jesus asked Peter Do you love me? Then he said Feed my lambs, tend my sheep. And today Jesus revealed to us that ou advocate is the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit will guide us and protect us.  The Holy Spirit is Jesus Himself.

The Lord has loved every person.  He knew each one by name.  The book of Psalms tells us that God loved us even before we were born.  That is why we have the sacraments as God’s gifts – to heal us and reconcile us back to Him, to mend us back to His own.

Sad to say a lot of people do not believe now in confession.  Why?  For them it is a waste of time.  Because after confession they will still commit sin.  Yes, the Lord knew that we will commit sin again but what is important is the effort to try our best to go back to Him.  By the grace of the sacraments God’s forgiveness becomes endless.  All we need to do is to renew ourselves by availing of the grace of forgiveness through the sacrament.  Then we avoid the occasions of sin.  God does not count the number of times we fall but the number of times we rise from the each fall.

Brothers and sisters, as we celebrate today Pentecost Sunday, let us ask the Holy Spirit to heal us once again and renew our country.  May our bodies be transormed into His own.

Showers From Above

What started as a bright sunny day yesterday became dark and rainy in the afternoon.  I was about to text my college classmate Winnie if by chance she was postponing the blessing of her new house.  After all, the streets on two kilometer radius from my place of residence was already flooded.  And there was no sign that the mighty sun would likely have a second show.  Shucks, knowing Winnie, if you don’t get a message from her first, everything proceeds as planned.   Thus, I followed the old edict , rain or shine, the road to a friend’s house is never long.

With my two girls in tow, I cruised the elliptical road and fetched Maimai at ABS-CBN.  Our other gal pal Nomie couldn’t attend the house blessing because of program shooting.  But she sent her unica hija Maimai.  She had grown svelte and composed, nothing like a chip off the old block, ha ha!

Winnie’s house was easy to find, just a straight ride through Commonwealth Avenue, right on Winston, and wella, we entered the wrong gate.  There was a couple of pretty houses but Winnie’s was behind the two, a gravel path in the midlle of the two compounds led to Winnie’s threshold.   A little like the Bennet’s home in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, the grandeur concealed a bit by gigantic trees.

Despite the rain the invited guests came.  Mostly family, a few friends from the  senate office headed by ex-boss and ex-senator Dr. Juan Flavier and his wife, the residents of the two pretty houses and now new neighbors, and us.  Daddy Nick was busy.  He concocted the real good pasta called chicken pesto.  Yet as always, he was as calm and cool as ever.  Son Patrick was another bee, first as caregiver to the miniature monsters who invaded and made his room a cyber nest,  second as an all-around host serving peanuts and fishflakes, and third as troubleshooter to frightened Lixie and Tootsie, the canines desperately defending their home from more than a handful of strangers.

Among Raul came late but nevertheless conducted a very warm house blessing.  He related King David’s dream from the Old Testament, whereby two brothers met at point where they just want to share each blessings with the other, and David deemed that that was the point where he would build God’s home.

Now, in the Arcilla’s abode, where Nick and Winnie’s, and son Patrick’s,  family and friends met on a rainy afternoon, God also descended upon and made this house His home.

We lingered longer than we should have.  I saw Winnie’s resolve to fight the tiredness, and Nick’s as well, but the children, now huge as adults, chose this time to update their websites side by side.  I hated to break the camaraderie, especially when it took them years to bond again.  So Nick’s elegant receiving room turned into an internet space sala.

Maimai texted later on Never quite had a most enjoyable time in a long while.  Hope to be with you again soon.

Shindig Galore

We have received another invitation for a debut.   This time the party will be held at the Manila Hotel, attire strictly formal,  gowns  or evening dress for women and coat and tie for men.

The children are turning 18.  A time for scouting the formal wear section for a decent attire and hunting appropriate gifts for the debutantes.  Easy?  Not at all.  There’s a variety of options.  One chooses according to taste. The style, the design, the color – all these are taken into consideration.  The budget matters, too.  The fashionable clothes with real good quality will give one a run for the money.  Since it could only be worn once, it is advisable to settle for the less expensive but equally elegant off the rack designer’s dress.

The purchasing of the gift also requires mental processes.  Will the debutante like it?  Does it suit her personality?  What shade goes with her invitation motif?  The deliberation sounds  like a conversation in a legal conference.  The trip to the wrapping counter seems like eternity.

But there is joy in knowing that the children have passed the awkward years.  It’s time now to powder the nose and apply a little lip shiner.  Oh what the heck, put the mascara, too!  Oops!  That is how they do it in the olden days.  The in-thing now is a reservation for a two-hour make-over at a favorite salon.

But this is actually an amusing phase in the children’s lives.  They get to express themselves socially.  The inhibitions are finally shelved in the walk-in closet.  They assert their personalities with the friends they choose to be with.  A tinge of maturity.  The children have finally grown up.

Fr. Joseph Galdon, My Mentor

Graduate School isn’t fun when the reading list does not allow one to have a life.  The Greek tragedians are an awful lot to read, leaves one with a heavy heart each time even if the plots are great.  Likewise with Shakespeare.  Romeo and Juliet is entertaining but I’d reread The Taming of the Shrew and Midsummer Night’s Dream anytime.

That is only for the drama.  For the novel, one can begin with To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.  I think this is John F. Kennedy’s handbook for the presidency.  And yes, even a fifth grader can understand the writing if one has an aptitude for social issues.  Les Miserables is a personal favorite, about the only book that made me cry while reading, sobbed through the pages, blew my nose and wiped my tears, literally.

But no matter the volume of the reading, plus the literary criticism that goes hand in hand with the literary work, my post-graduate studies was made exciting by a Jesuit priest called Fr. Joseph Galdon, classroom teacher and Bob Hope’s long lost twin.  The similarity was not just in the sense of humor but also in the facial features.  Some cantankerous classmates drew caricatures of Fr. G. as B. Hope on some of the tear-jerking pages of the world’s literary classics.  Vandalism, no doubt, but the chuckle was more comforting, pending an exam.

Fr. G. was tall and lanky, could even pass for a hunk, but he never made anyone feel so small.  Not physically nor intellectually.  He  begun the lessons  on the Mediterranean works with En to anomati, kai ti ieu, kai to agiu, numati, Amen. That is Greek for In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. Then he would call on somebody to come to the blackboard map and ask him to plot  how Agammemnon launched the thousand ships.  He would call on another one to counter the Greeks and help Hector devise a tactical maneuver for the Trojans.  Learning Homer was never at its best.

Fr. G. was from New Jersey.   Through the decades that his priestly duties required him to stay put at the Ateneo, he had imparted to his students not only the great minds of the literary world, but more importantly, the great things that emerge from littlest of things.  Like a mustard seed.

Fr. G. actually had a column called Mustard Seed. In this column he wrote voluminously about how to be a teacher.  One story is that of a boy who colored his artwork purple.  His grade 1 teacher belittled his drawing by saying that violet is the color of grief and gloom.  The boy ceased drawing.  When he was in grade 2, another art teacher asked the pupils to draw anything they like.  The boy did not draw anything.  When the teacher approached his desk, his heart skipped a beat.  Then the teacher looked at his blank sheet and exclaimed Wow, that’s snow, isn’t it, pure white and immaculate! The boy drew again.

To my teacher, Fr. G., wherever you are, I’m here, very much Galdonized! Your mustard seed have grown huge – a really large tree now, providing shade for the little ones.

My Senior Year Final Exams in English

I have always loved Literature.  I remember being a fifth grade transferee from St. Joseph’s School, Olongapo City to St. Scholastica’s Academy Marikina.  I was given a book called Vistas in my new school.  My elder sister Grace, a sixth grader was given Cavalcades.  Both books were anthologies of American Literature.  I was amazed to discover so many stories about foreign lands, especially The Legend of the Moor’s Legacy. Since then I read on and on, from Evangeline A Tale of Acadie to The Prince and the Pauper. I have fallen in love with King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table and Alibaba and the Forty Thieves. In my imaginary world I was also a damsel in distress.  And of course I was never captured nor taken hostage by a thief.

Later on I was filling up my library card with Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys, Mills and Boon and Harlequinn Romances, and whatever novel I could borrow, including Irving Wallace’ pornographic stories.  James Michener had become my favorite, especially his Centennial and the other sagas.  But I related so much to Anne Frank’s entries in her diary about Peter.

My teachers though insisted that we study as much poetry as we can.  They required us to memorize O Captain My Captain by Walt Whitman, Stopping By the Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost, A Psalm of Life by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Flower in a Crannied Wall by (ooops! I had forgotten), and many more.

In my senior year, our teacher Miss Rebucas asked us to deliver any poem we like for our final exams.  My classmates made reservations on The Raven, Anabelle Lee, and poems that have so many stanzas.  I tried to search for a poem I could deliver sincerely without sounding mushy as in Browning’s How Do I Love Thee.  Fortunately I found one in the archives of great writing.  It was however penned anonymous.

Through this toilsome world alas,

Once and only once I pass,

If a kindness I may show,

If a good deed I may do,

To a suffering fellow man,

Let me do it while I can,

No delay for it is plain,

I shall not pass this way again.

I received the highest grade.

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