Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Can You Eat with One Chopstick?

When I first heard the book Eating with One Chopstick, I wondered what the book is all about. Will it teach a new way of eating Chinese food? Even then, I sensed that the book must be about something that’s not right or something that’s missing. My hunch was confirmed when I finally read the subtitle: Growing Up in a Single-Parent Home.

Media practitioner and author LJ Salceda says so in her Preface that eating with one chopstick is “arduous and unimaginable” and “the experience is incomplete”. That’s what single parenting and growing up in a single-parent home is like. One may think that the book has a sad implication, but reading it till the last page gives one a sense of hope.

The author shares her frustrations, struggles, heartaches, and challenges of growing up in a single-parent home and how she overcame them. She also provides practical information on issues affecting single parents and their children, like FAQ sections with a professional counselor and a lawyer, plus a briefing on R.A. 8972: Solo Parents’ Welfare Act and the Solo Parents’ ID which I didn’t know exist in this country.

People who’ve eaten with one chopstick would say it’s ridiculous, almost impossible, to eat satisfactorily with one chopstick. But Ms. Salceda tries to show her readers that it is possible with God’s help for someone from a single-parent home to have a better life than that of his or her family origin. Her life is an example and her bravery in sharing her life is admirable.

Eating with One Chopstick: Growing Up in a Single-Parent Home is published by CSM Publishing. Copies are available at CSM Bookstore, PCBS and National Bookstore.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

I Like Iloilo!

Some places you’ll visit will impress you for any one or several of these reasons: the people, historical landmarks, natural beauty of the place, recreational activities, and of course, food.

Other than its centuries-old churches, I liked Iloilo for its food and pasalubong, the delicacies you can bring home with you to give to your loved ones. When I visited Iloilo City, I knew I should eat the real La Paz Batchoy—by real I mean not just the instant noodles sold in supermarkets and sari-sari store. This was my chance to savor the popular noodle and soup dish where it originated—right here in La Paz, Iloilo.

Our host first treated us to a hot bowl of La Paz Batchoy at Ted’s Oldtimer La Paz Batchoy. It was there that I learned that La Paz Batchoy takes on different forms—noodles actually. You can have it served with your choice of noodles—meke, miswa, sotanghon or bihon. I ordered meke batchoy and my senses had a feast! The aroma of kaldo--the shrimp and chicken broth flavored by garlic--wafted throughout the restaurant making me drool with hunger. The colorful display of yellow round noodles swimming in shrimp and chicken stock, garnished with pork organs (liver, kidneys), crushed pork cracklings, green onion spring, brown toasted garlic, and strips of beef loin made the dish look more palatable. And true enough, its salty-sweet, flavor-rich hot soup made my first day in Iloilo a treat.

Before leaving Iloilo, we tried batchoy again for breakfast, this time, at Deco’s Original La Paz Batchoy. I tried miswa batchoy with another local pride—pre-war pandesal. The pre-war pandesal is a petite bread and the shop’s cashier said it’s so called because that’s how bread in the area looked like before the war. The bowl of batchoy and pre-war pandesal satisfied once again my stomach and senses.

Within the same building is the Deco’s Pasalubong Shop where you can buy a wide range of sweets and other delicacies—piaya, butterscotch, biscocho, barquillos, broas, polvoron, and even dried fish, chili sauce and mango catsup. What’s nice about Deco’s is that they have a complimentary box to pack your goodies. This is especially helpful for travelers like us who will bring home the pasalubong to our loved ones back home.

One of the joys of traveling is savoring the local cuisine and bringing a part of it back home. In Iloilo, you’ll always enjoy food, and buy delicacies for your loved ones back home.

“That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil—this is the gift of God.” Ecclesiastes 3:13

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A Happy Hairdresser

I came early to the parlor to avoid the influx of customers wanting to be served and pampered. True enough, I was instantly accommodated by one of the parlor’s hairdressers. He was big, but his bulky body was cloaked in blue blazer. His one-length hair flowed down to his nape, and yes it was colored too. His face was covered with foundation, and his lips painted in red.

When I told him how I want my hair to be done, he quickly nodded and asked no question. I doubted at first if he was really listening, but then I figured he must be an expert already after trimming thousands of tresses.

We didn’t talk much at first. Well, I’m not much of a talker really when I’m in a parlor, but I try to say something to be polite to the hairdresser. So when he and the other hairdressers chattered about Manny Pacquiao’s coming fight with Margarito, I took that opportunity to make a comment and strike a conversation with him. He then asked about my children and I obliged. He said he’d like to shape my eyebrows, but I refused (I don’t shave nor pluck my eyebrows). Later though, I changed my mind and let him mow my brow.

When he finished cutting my hair, I honestly like the way it turned out. So I said, “You did a good job! I like my hair.”

I saw him blushed, obviously surprised at the compliment. For a second, he was speechless and his eyes turned a bit red. Then he murmured something like “I’m not really good.” I know he was embarrassed by the comment, like many people are, when they are complimented. Maybe they couldn’t believe they were really good because they rarely hear it from the people that matter.

According to Maslow, one of man’s needs is the need for self-esteem--the need to be a unique individual with self-respect and to enjoy general esteem from others. How many hairdressers, taxi drivers, bank tellers, customer service agents, janitors, vendors and other people who serve us have we appreciated, much less greeted? These people who help us, who make life easier and happier for us, especially those who do well, also seek our affirmation.

I went out of the parlor satisfied with my new hairstyle (and shaved eyebrows). But I knew I left one happy hairdresser back there.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Beautiful Blessings

As soon as I woke up that morning, I immediately went to the mirror and checked on my eyebags. I slept early the night before so I could avoid having deep circles under my eyes. But the orbital horror remains. They looked even bigger. No matter how early I sleep or what cream I apply, the bags sag. But just as I was about to sink deep into frustration, a thought perked me up: You still have eyes that make you see, read, and gaze at God’s creation. Shouldn’t you be thankful?

I realized it was a reminder from God. Sometimes I focus on the ugly and the negative that I fail to see the beautiful and the positive. So that morning, instead of dwelling on the sagging bags, I thanked God for my useful eyes. It’s often difficult, but I realize it’s possible to choose to thank God for His beautiful blessings and for the positive things that come along our way.

What do we thank God for? I made here a simple list. Try to fill in the details for every item on the list. Hopefully, by the time we finish our list, we all end up realizing how blessed we are and how good God is.

Thank God for:

1. People and things you already have and enjoy.

2. Things you don’t have, like a disease or a debt (if you don’t have any debt, you have much to be thankful for!).

3. Past events in your life, especially those that brought good memories. But thank God also for the lessons learned even from mistakes and unpleasant trials.

4. His good plans for your life. This may take a while for most of us to accept. It’s easier for us to fear the future or to doubt God’s good intentions. But a loving God promised this: “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11) God promised to carry these good plans to those who would dare trust and wait on Him.

"God gave you a gift of 86,400 seconds today. Have you used one to say "thank you?"

-William A. Ward

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

God Calls Teachers

My son is a senior in high school. It had not occurred to me to check the schedule of the college entrance examination in my son’s university because I thought it would still be early next year.

But by God’s providence, this morning I paid my son’s tuition fee for the second quarter even when it’s still weeks before the deadline. Before leaving the campus, I “accidentally” saw an acquaintance who teaches in the same university. He inquired why I was at the campus. “I paid my son’s tuition,” I answered. Knowing my son is a senior, he then inquired what course he plans to take up in college.

“He wants to take up music, but we told him to consider taking another one,” I said. There is no music course being offered in the universities near our place, so my son is setting his eyes on taking it in the state university in the country’s capital.

Eventually, I learned from my instructor-friend that my son’s university is already accepting application for college entrance exams. Grateful for this information, I inquired from the admissions office. As I scanned the list of college offerings, I could think of two possible courses for my son—engineering--and the closest to music, secondary education major in MAPEH (Music, Arts, Physical Education and Health).

Why education and why major in MAPEH? Because my son wants to take up music; he is also passionate about chess, and well, judging from his school projects, he seems to have a good sense of color coordination. I also recognize that we are a family of teachers.

But honestly, I hesitate at the thought of my son taking up education. Not too many male students are keen about taking up education. In fact, my son’s male cousins are taking up engineering. And it’s no secret, teaching is not a lucrative job.

These thoughts were still lingering in my mind when I opened my Facebook. As usual, I get to read my friends’ status. One of my FB friends, Daniel, posted this status: “I would like to give a shout out to my parents Dionisio and Luz, who spent a good part of their years as teachers and mentors to many high school students in the Philippines. What is important? Investing your lives in others.”

Scrolling down, I read that a few other friends praised and greeted their teachers as well. Then it dawned on me that today, October 5, is World Teachers’ Day! Today, the world honors the teachers who unselfishly and patiently teach their students. These mentors not only pass on information, but more importantly, they influence our lives and encourage us to dream (oh yes, a few do terrorize fearful students, or at least we think they do). I guess the exceptional ones impress us so much we secretly want to be like them. Can you remember a teacher who has impressed you so much? Teachers invest their lives into ours so that what we are today is partly, maybe even largely, because of their influence.

I will not insist that my son take up education in college but probably, I will suggest education as an option. Most importantly, I will pray that God would give him the desire and impress upon him His direction regarding his college course and future career. For after all, it is God who calls us to a line of work, or vocation—be it in teaching, engineering or writing.

Happy Teachers Day to all the wonderful teachers!

Monday, August 2, 2010

He Will Hold Your Hand

I set my eyes on the door of the bank, eager to step in before other clients so I can finish my bank transaction for the day right away. But then I saw a silver-haired man, wobbling and slowly reaching for the single, slender trunk of an ornamental plant outside the bank. He was obviously looking for something firm to hold on to as he makes his way slowly and unsteadily towards the bank.

I rushed to the old man and extended my right hand. He beamed, pleasantly surprised at the gesture. Then he muttered, "This arthritis... I couldn't move because of this."

As I held his wrinkled hand to support him, I felt his thick, hard palm and fingers. He continued to explain how difficult it is for him to move around, and was even apologetic for being elderly. Before entering the bank, he repeatedly thanked me, grateful for the sudden but much needed help.

I tried to imagine how that grandfather must have felt while staggering his way to the bank. Was he afraid of tripping and hurting his fragile self? Did he pity himself for being weak and alone, without a family member to support him?

It will be some more years before all my hair turn to gray and before my knees shake. But sometimes, like that old man, I also stagger, hindered by fear, worry and condemnation. I question present realities and wish for another life. Then, God extends His big hands to me, wraps me in His arms and comforts me with His reassuring love. Fear disappears in the presence of my comforting, loving God.

For I am the Lord your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, "Do not fear; I will help you." Isaiah 41:13.

Are you afraid of someone or something? Do you spend sleepless nights worrying about things which might not even happen? Is your outlook about the future bleak and hopeless? Don't be afraid; God is reaching out His hands to you. He will be with you to help you.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Magsaysay Fruit Market in Davao City

Davao Delight

Davao City is home to Mt. Apo, the Philippines' tallest peak, as well as the Philippine Eagle Nature Center, and other mountain and beach resorts. Though my companion and I wanted to explore these spots, we couldn't because we were there briefly for official work and little time for recreation. But surprisingly, Davao City still gave me some reasons for a delightful short stay.

For a start, the city is a No Smoking Zone. The stewardess reminded us early about this before disembarking from the plane. A city ordinance prohibits smoking in public establishments, and for someone who's exposed to second-hand smoke, this is a great relief indeed.

It surprised me that roads in Davao City are wide, and the common mode of transportation is the taxi. We were pleased that taxi drivers are courteous, and returned our change, even if it's just a few coins.

After a day's seminar, I walked around the block of our hotel and noticed a number of restaurants serving grilled chicken. People here seem to have a fascination for this kind of chicken! But what excited me was the discovery of a small fruit shake stand near People's Park. I heard from my friend Raissa from Davao, that durian shake tastes great. So immediately, I refreshed myself with a medium glass of durian-apple-mango shake--for only P20!

Speaking of durian, we couldn't leave Davao without tasting this celebrated king of the fruits. At Magsaysay Fruit Market, my companion and I, together with friends from The Master's Link Travel and Tours ( were initiated into the rites of eating durian. Although I've warned about its unpleasant odor, I wasn't really bothered by the smell. I even liked the sweet taste and creamy texture of the native durian. But instead of eating it with our bare hands, we opted to eat it with our hands wrapped in plastic so the odor won't stick to our fingers. (But, it still did!)

Another must-visit for us of course, is the Aldevinco Shopping Center at the junction of Claro M. Recto and Manuel Roxas Avenues. Aldevinco is the place to go to for shopping souvenirs like batik and Davao products. The colorful display of shawls, bags, slippers, dusters, table cloths and other souvenirs is truly a visual feast. Any shopaholic will find Aldevinco a haven!

Because of Aldevinco, durian, and the other reasons mentioned--Davao City, I would say, has been a delight. I would love to come back soon.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Majestic Mayon

For fifteen years, I lived in a valley where I had a view of the distant mountain ranges. Now, in the province where my family and I currently live, I see hills and mountains whenever I move around. I enjoy the view of the mountains and it's a blessing that I see them most of the time, even from afar. Yet, I've only climbed hills perhaps twice or thrice in my life.

My fascination for mountains was reflected even in my childhood drawings. I would draw two mountains, with the sun rising from the twin slopes. I would color them green and blue, but it puzzled me as to why mountains look blue from afar. Up to now, I still don't know why.

My experiences with mountains were not always pleasant. There was one embarrassing and frustrating experience I had back when I was in Grade 4. We were supposed to make a diorama, I think, for a Science project and I chose to make a miniature mountain out of dirt. On the day of submission, my mountain collapsed. I crumbled to pieces, and tears washed away my hopes for earning a good grade. I didn't know how to make a mountain.

That is why when I saw Mayon Volcano when our plane passed by before landing at the Legazpi Airport in Albay, I was speechless and frozen. I've seen Mayon Volcano in postcards but I never thought I would have the chance to see it face-to-face. The world's perfect cone and the Philippines' most active volcano has captured my heart.

After landing at the airport, I gazed at Mt. Mayon standing almost 8,000 ft from the ground. Clouds drifted by its side and tip, as smoke came out of its mouth. It stood majestically, unmoved and visible for all to see.

When darkness fell over the city, we climbed the nearby Lingnon Hill Nature Park to have a night view of Legazpi and its neighboring municipalities. After enjoying the view of the city lights, my companions and I set our sights once again to Mt. Mayon. Though it was dark, Mt. Mayon's silhouette was still clear. Glowing red cinders burst out of its crest. We kept muttering how beautiful the volcano is, how majestic it is, and how great its Creator is. For a moment, we stood still, basking in the quiet statement of the mountain: God created this beautiful mound, and it is a reflection of His power and grand design; He molded it by His own hands.

I don't know how to make a mountain, and I can never make a mountain. But I know God created this beautiful mountain.

For the Lord is the great God, the great King above all gods. In His hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to Him. The sea is His, for He made it, and His hands formed the dry lands. Psalm 95:1-3

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Countdown to May 10 Election

On May 10, 2010, the Philippines will hold its first automated election for national and local positions including president, vice-president, senator, party list, house representative, governor, vice-governor, provincial board member, mayor, vice-mayor, and councilor.
This year, 50 million Filipinos are anticipated to vote, including the registered OFWs (Overseas Filipino Workers) scattered around the world. They will be voting in Philippine embassies in their host countries.
This election is crucial as issues of corruption continue to hound the present administration and it is this same issue that some presidential candidates promise they would put an end to once elected into office. Despite being called "the only Christian nation in Asia", the Philippines is now considered as one of the most corrupt countries around the world and one of the dangerous places for journalists.
This election is also interesting because an evangelist and pastor of one of the biggest Christian churches in the Philippines, Bro. Eddie Villanueva, is running for president. He also ran in 2004 but lost in an election that was marred by cheating as implied in the "Hello Garci" scandal. "Hello Garci" refers to the alleged wiretapped conversation about votes rigging between then sitting President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Comelec Commissioner Virgilio Garcellano.
As the election approaches, let us pray for the following:
  • That the Filipino voters will seek and listen to God's direction regarding whom to vote and that they will vote according to their enlightened conscience and not be swayed merely by surveys or popular opinion.
  • That the PCOS (Precinct Count Optical Scan) machines which will be used for the counting, transmittal, and canvassing of election results will function normally.
  • That there will be no power outages during the elections and tranmittal of election returns. These past few months, parts of Metro Manila and Mindanao have been affected by brownouts.
  • That the voting public will be properly educated as to the new automated electoral process.
  • That any form of cheating will be thwarted.
  • That the candidates who were chosen by God and duly elected by the people will be proclaimed as winners by June 30, 2010.

For more information on the forthcoming election, visit

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Monday, January 4, 2010

Clean Up the Clutter

I never thought I had so much clutter under my kitchen sink. At the start of the new year, I decided to do a general cleaning of the cabinet under the sink. In the end, I had to throw out rusty screw drivers and dried-up paints, worn out rugs and damp plastic bags plus others. After about an hour of cleaning up, the clutter in my cabinet was packaged into two sacks full of garbage.

How could I have made so much mess in my kitchen closet? For one, the tools were kept there, rarely used and left unchecked if they're still useful. It's also a shame to admit that I was too lazy to just dump the used plastic bags one on top of the other until they formed a mountain over time. I even dumped boxes into the cabinet hoping I could use it somehow but I never did.

My encounter with the kitchen mess made me ask myself: Do I also have clutter in my life that I need to quickly clean up? What are the things that I keep stuffing that not only eats up space but also invites cockroaches into the storage of my heart? Resentment? Unforgiveness? Little offenses that piled up?

Perhaps it's time to clean our closets and have a clean slate this year. Don't you think so?