Bilingual Message

“Please send the manuscript of your Sunday message for Cagayan de Oro,” Lynnie, Marketing Specialist of OMFLit (Viz-Min) messaged me. “That same message will be for two services.”

I found it odd that she needed it two weeks in advance.  But a dutiful soldier does not question why—Lynnie never makes unreasonable requests.

That Sunday came and as soon as I set foot in church, the pastor met me and explained that I would be speaking in two languages—one in English for the first service, and the other in Chinese for the second service.

“But I can’t speak Chinese!” I panicked. 

“No worries,” he replied, your message has already been translated to Chinese. Simply read your manuscript in English. Then he introduced me to the translator—a scholarly, formidable-looking lady who double-checked with me my Bible verses.

Ah so. That was why my manuscript had to be sent in advance. 

The English message for the first service was as I prepared it—to the minute and to the letter. Now, what about the second service? My speaking time would be doubled with the translation.

“Would it be okay if I skipped some parts?” I hesitated to ask, but asked anyway. 

“Okay,” she said, “I know your message by heart; I will adjust.” 


I began my talk with an adlib, “My husband sends his greetings. He's the guy who speaks fluent Fookien. Unfortunately, I am the author. He is simply the wings behind the author.”

The translator picked it up and when she paused, there was loud laughter. 

Such are the blessings that enrich an author’s journey. No two book tours are ever alike. Every single experience is a rich source of grace that keeps the writing more exciting and challenging—book after book after book. 


Empty Jars, Empty Net

If I had wondered about Jesus’ first miracle on earth, I wondered even more about His last miracle before He ascended to heaven.

Why would his last act be about an empty fishnet?

It was the same question I asked about the first miracle: Why would the first act be about empty wine jars?

From the pulpit last Sunday, two weeks after Resurrection Day, I heard our pastor say, “Both are about emptiness. Nothingness.”
Silently I added, They are like our bookends that keep us in place and upright. 

"The details in the Gospels, particularly in these two miracles, are actually about the details of our own lives," he explained.

There are times, many times, when we feel like our life has run dry, empty like those jars and fishnet.  I could not count the times I grieved over the loss of a loved one, or when I felt betrayed by someone I had trusted, or when I was distressed over some sudden, unexpected turn of events.

These are the points when God’s grace comes and fills us up again. From total emptiness in the beginning of our time—“The earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep waters.” Genesis 1:2 (NLT)—God showed us Who He is and what He can do. 

All through the pages of the Bible, He demonstrates how He fills up people’s empty lives. And then on Resurrection Day, at the rising of the sun, we read about the rising of the Son, leaving the cross empty: the ultimate symbol of a new life and new beginnings.

“Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy; then they said among the nations, “The LORD has done great things for them.” Psalm 126:2 (ESV)

Top photo credit 


First Breakfast

While preparing to share in the Passover, Jesus washed the feet of His disciples. By this humble act, He showed them how to love one another. (Aside: it’s unthinkable, by any stretch of the imagination, how any head of anything today could do the same for his people.)

Then at the dining table with His disciples, He said, "I have been very eager to eat this Passover meal with you before my suffering begins. For I tell you now that I won't eat this meal again until its meaning is fulfilled in the Kingdom of God." (Luke 22:15-16, NLT)

That was His last supper with them before His crucifixion. It was a highly symbolic act—His body broken (bread) and His blood shed (wine)—to prepare them for His departure. 

To His disciples, it was a sad farewell. They would never have a meal with Him again, not on this earth. 

But just two weeks after His resurrection, Jesus appeared on the shore waiting for them, coming back from a long dark night of fishing, but catching nothing. (John 21:1-19)

Jesus told them to cast their nets again and they caught such a large number of fish they had a hard time hauling all in! It was the break of dawn, a fresh, new day.
By this time, Jesus had done another humble act. He made a fire of burning coals with fish on it, and some bread. Their breakfast!

He said, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught . . . Come and have breakfast.” Jesus took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish.

“Come.” It is hope within easy reach.

Anyone does not have to end with the last supper; we are invited to begin anew with the first breakfast.  The meaning of the last super “has been fulfilled in the kingdom of God.”

And the resurrection of Jesus is our new beginning, the dawn of our new day, our first breakfast—so  we can leave our old sinful selves and live again.

Can grace be any grander?


The Best Parenting Book

"This is where the parenting seminar will be held tomorrow afternoon," said the pastor of the school sponsoring the event.

What I saw was a gym with many chairs, arranged facing the stage. And that intimidating podium! "No podium for me," I stressed. "I am more comfortable walking around."

But with almost 300 parents with some millennials and GenZ'ers from different churches, I was prevailed upon to go up the stage. Walking around just wouldn't work.

One hour into the seminar, I divided the crowd into 10 groups for the workshop, a must-do in all the seminars I facilitate.     

All groups were active, complete with discussions, questions, some arguments, and agreements. The reporting by the leaders earned us more knowledge about the topic: Understanding Your Millennial and Gen Z Child (based on my book "Present!" written for millennials).

From the post evaluation, I think we all came out of the seminar more aware of how the young generation today and the generation after it differ from their parents.  “When I was your age . . ." doesn’t work anymore; their brains are wired differently!

We went back to Scripture, to what it says about understanding and bringing up the children God entrusted us with.

In sum, our net take away was: we are swamped with parenting books today. But we must always go back to Scripture. It is the best parenting book ever written, with the same truth yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

And it begins with, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it."  Proverbs 22:6 (ESV)


Post-seminar fun:  



Purple Rain

There are many kinds of orchids, but the one that holds special meaning to me and my siblings is called Sanggumay (Dendrobium anosmum Lindley 1845, of family Orchidaceae), Purple Rain in English. 
Sanggumay is how we call it in our country. This epiphytic growing orchid is native to Thailand, Malaysia, Laos, Vietnam, Indonesia, New Guinea, and the Philippines. Its flowers, each measuring 8 cm with mauve to purple petals, are borne on leafless stems. It is fragrant, with raspberry-like scent.

My sister, Aie, who now lives in our ancestral home, says Sanggumay was planted in our backyard by our late mom years ago. She loved the color purple, which was probably why she took a liking to this beautiful flower.

But even now that mom’s gone, the Sanggumay continues to bloom every year—the flowers are at their best on her death anniversary.

Mom’s death anniversary is moveable. She died on a Good Friday (April 18) 15 years ago, but my siblings and I decided to commemorate her last day with us every Easter, whatever date it may fall on.

And this is what’s amazing about Mom’s Sanggumay—it blooms in full splendor every Easter, as though celebrating with us the risen Lord and our Mom’s life that now flourishes without end in His holy presence.

Easter celebration is often symbolized by colorful eggs, food, and fellowship in churches all over the country.  Yes, we had all those, too, but in our heart of hearts, Easter is about the resurrection of the perfect Man who died for our sins so that we, too, may have the privilege of rising up to  heaven when our life on earth ends.

What better time to remember our mom, who served God all her life in various roles, than on Resurrection Day?

And what grace can we ever ask for, other than to see and smell the Sanggumay on Easter in gay profusion, like refreshing drops of purple rain?         


Five Stars

Excellence is symbolized by five stars in the hotel industry.      
A five-star rating means, services across all areas are offered to satisfy all of the guests' needs: a range of facilities, and more importantly, personalized service.

I used this five-star symbol as a metaphor to underscore what it takes to serve children. The event, organized to coincide with a book tour in Cagayan de Oro (CDO), Mindanao, brought together Sunday school teachers and youth pastors from various churches.

“We must desire to develop into a five-star worker, consistently raising the bar in our job,” I flashed on screen.

Tough call. How could we offer excellent personalized service with limited time and resources?

“It begins with a change of mindset—our time and resources are unlimited. This is who we are in Scripture: ‘. . . anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him . . . So we are Christ’s ambassadors . . .’ 2 Corinthians 5:17-20 

“As Christ's envoys, we represent Him. Therefore, we can’t be less than a five-star worker, nurturing children with our riches. He has appointed us to share our time and talents, and be generous with His resources.”

After extensive discussions based on the above, we parted ways knowing this truth, "For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich."  2 Corinthians 8:9


CDO: The Second Time Around

It was past midnight when I finally settled in my bed at Grand Central Suites, Cagayan De Oro (CDO). My first trip to CDO was in 2013 and in five years, changes have rendered the landscape unfamiliar, including the new airport, which was now a one-hour drive to the city.

God's grace of sleep came instantly, preparing us for the 8 AM first event. 
Oro Christian Grace School is a huge Chinese school—in structure and population. I was privileged to meet every single one of the officers, teachers, and staff before the storytelling of Dump Truck in My Heart.      
The kids screeched and applauded when I entered the library and the delightfully raucous and riotous affair began.

The children were vocal; they asked questions and volunteered comments.      

As in all of my book tours, it is during the book signing that I get to know my readers up close.  I could write another book with all the things they tell me! 

Next stop in the afternoon, after a lunch treat by the school pastor/chaplain and his wife, was Corpus Christi School, another humongous campus that teemed with teachers and students.  There were more questions, and I had to fish out from my reply reservoir some quips that would bring on more of their endearing titters and giggles.   

In both affairs, I earned maybe a thousand new friends whose names my brain will not remember, but whose warmth my heart will never forget. It was all worth the late night sleep and early morning rise.

When I first traveled to CDO for Compassion International, I thought I'd never pass that way again. I erred.  To borrow the lyrics of a song, “It is lovelier the second time around.”   


The Joy of Waiting

My brother Dave, who works in American Samoa, likes to surprise us. He never announces his visits to the Philippines. He says he doesn’t want anybody waiting for him—“When I’m here, I’m here.” Because his visits are unpredictable, we usually aren’t’ ready to spend as much time with him as we wish.

Dave’s unannounced visits, in a way, make me think about the second coming of Jesus. Over the years, there have been so many predictions about it. Religious groups have preached repentance to their flocks because their leaders have said that Jesus is coming back on such and such a date.

Not one of those predictions has come true. We are all still waiting.

Nobody truly knows when Jesus is coming again. The Bible tells us that it will be when we least expect it. “For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night (I Thessalonians 5: 2).” It may be today, or tonight, or tomorrow morning, or 15 years from now.

The exact time of His coming again shouldn’t really bother us. What we should be asking ourselves is, “Will we be ready when that day comes?”

There’s a world of difference between thinking He WILL come today and He MAY come today. “May” is a motivation for us to be ready as though the exact time is now.

Dear Jesus, You may come today or anytime. I want to be ready when that happens. Help me to keep trying. Amen.

(This is an excerpt from Grace Found Me, available at OMF Lit and Passages Bookshops, PCBS, National Bookstore, and OMF’s online bookstore.) 

Above: These four photos were uploaded to FB by my FB friends. I took the liberty of  borrowing them for this post. Thank you for taking time to read and pose with Grace Found Me. Below: Grabbed from the the website of omflit.com 



Of Last Days and Last Flights

Last days in book tours are rushed affairs: pack, check-out, eat a hurried breakfast, then head to the first event.     

  Above: Living Arrows School 
Gold School (from left, Lynnie of OMF Lit, Me, and school owners) 
After that, a quick lunch is all you can afford, because the next event awaits. (Photo ops, however, are non-negotiable They have to be squeezed in.)  

By this time you'll be panting. Then in a taxi to the airport, you wish the driver would go faster because your flight (the last out of Iloilo) is less than an hour away. Ugh, traffic snarl.

Airport, finally. There are a few minutes left to buy the expected pasalubong.  Suddenly the PA system blares your name: “Grace Chong, please proceed to Gate 4 for boarding."  This is repeated a few times, the next more urgent than the last. You run as fast your flogged body and bad toes could manage.  

As you limp into the plane, people gawk as though seeing someone from Saturn. Blushing, you strap your seat belt on and whisper, Whew!  You close your eyes, take a deep breath, and thank your Enabler for making you catch your flight and for all the etceteras and etceteras of the four-day book saga, focused on proclaiming His grace.    

Up in the firmament, after being allowed to recline your seat, you turn on your cellphone, click on Gallery, and as you scroll down, down, down, you smile at each shot, and say under your breath, Memories are made of this.  

Then your soothed body and mind bring you back to why you are there and Who brought you there.

"I will meditate on your majestic, glorious splendor and your wonderful miracles. Your awe-inspiring deeds will be on every tongue; I will proclaim your greatness. Everyone will share the story of your wonderful goodness; they will sing with joy about your righteousness." Psalm 145:4-7 (NLT)



After delivering the Word at church—two services in a row in Iloilo city—I badly needed to drink a glass of water to wash down choked nerves. (I confess, despite having spoken before different audiences in many places for years, I never got over the jitters, and probably never will.) 

Not only was I given a glass of water, I was served authentic Chinese food in a restaurant by 20 women of WOW—Women of the Word—of Calvary Chapel. Straightaway, I felt like I was one of them, not a guest from out of town. The encounter was free and easy, just bits and pieces of this and that, our ministries, how we began and how we want to go on.

We shared snapshots of our lives, our failures, our successes, our common faith and of the enormous grace that comes with it. 

The evening was so relaxing, with plenty of banter and laughter, we didn’t realize we had exceeded our allotted time. And so we said our goodbyes.   

I realized I may never see them again—not in this life. But definitely, we will continue our conversations, which will no longer be time bound, in a place reserved for all of us, where goodbyes shall be no more. 

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” John 13:34 (NIV)


Bigger Fonts

The majestic and imposing church, built beginning in 1949 in Iloilo City, loomed large before me. 

My stomach churned.

I have spoken in many churches before, but not in one as huge as this. My slides were not for a gymnasium-sized venue and I was now anxious they could not be read. I did not dwell on my worries too long, though; the ushers welcomed me warmly and ushered me inside the church.

It was, as expected, commodious indoors. The ceiling reached the heavens and although there were several projectors for every area, the endless rows of pews were overwhelming.

Contemplative yet contemporary would be how I’d describe the service—similar to my home church’s. The choir's angelic voices, together with the praise and worship team's edgy vocals (combining organ and modern band instruments) felt like I was in the music section of heaven—and the Lord's presence was in and with me.

"Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence?" Psalm 139:7 (NLT)

Behind the pulpit, I clicked on my first slide, "What it takes to be a winner." Then my next slides seemed so miniscule, unreadable from the speaker's monitor. I winged it all the way and prayed that the audience would follow me through.

They must have. After the service, many thanked me for sharing my journey as a writer on God's grace.

Over lunch with the senior pastor, he said, "For the next service this PM, try to increase your font size to a minimum of 60, so you won't have a hard time reading the monitor." He noticed!

Back in the hotel, I rushed to revise my slides. And for the next service, I was faithful to my script, finishing on time to enjoy the music of Dr. Aaron Alfred Lee, world-famous keyboardist/pianist/composer.

As a teacher in communications, I always remind my students to do a venue check before finalizing their presentation slides. I broke my own rule, taking for granted I knew all about church sizes.

Baptist Center Church, according its website, is probably one of the biggest places of worship (protestant) in the Philippines—and the oldest, too. It was a blessing for me to have stepped inside it and speak behind its pulpit.

Photo credit: BCC facade


Eight: A Miracle Number

From now, I will hold the number eight in high esteem. It created a miracle.

How it began

Our university president (to whom I could never say “no”) requested me to be The Bridge's (student publication) adviser for the third year in a row.  The qualifying exam reaped tons of entries, but I handpicked only the best 12. Two more volunteered to be photographers, bringing the number to 14.

Passion for campus journalism was palpable during our first meeting; there were sparks in the students’ eyes.       

Then the work piled up, got complicated, and the deadline neared. One quit. Then another followed . . . and another . . . and another. (Once upon a time, commitment was a virtue. People never quit, unless they were dead or dying.) Before I could blink, only eight was left.

How it continued

More than a challenge it was, like actually acting out our theme, "Breaking Borders." The remaining eight decided on a magazine, instead of the usual newspaper. They conducted a poll. They worked out exchange deals with suppliers. They secured copyright permits. (Yes, millennials couldn’t be boxed in.) And the edition was to be the university’s special 20th anniversary issue, for launching at a certain date. Too close for comfort.

Grace needed here.

Under ordinary circumstances, among lesser mortals, this would be panic time. But the eight pressed on: writing, editing, interviewing, lay-outing, coordinating, etc. And how about the photo shoot and press work?

More grace needed here.

Timely help and morale boost came from the angels at the Office of Student Affairs. They and our president wrote us encouraging notes. 

Still grace needed here.

At crunch time, ironically on Valentine’s Day, one editor volunteered to be at the press. She was trapped there from morn till eve.

One day later, the press gave an ultimatum, “A person of authority has to sign the proofs so we could  beat the deadline.” That had to be me.

Grace came beyond measure: Our president, her heart made of gold, threw in her full support by keeping me company, bringing along our IT to see to details.
How it ended 

It was celebration of our 20th year as an institution that has been breaking borders since day one! A flood of individual and collective appreciation swirled in from the student body. The Bridge is their voice; they are in it; they own it. 

Behind it all are the enduring eight editorial board members (future leaders, no doubt) who broke borders to make it happen. Their first names: Rafayel, Fatima, Shiandra, Allie, Kat,  Sonia, Paolo, and Pau. Their middle name: commitment
If that isn’t a miracle, what is?


No Gadgets (Part 2)

These scenes—in malls, coffee shops, and homes—are oh-too-familiar today:   

They are, it seems, a reflection of the behavior of their parents, who are just as hooked on gadgets.

Many government agencies are now issuing precautions about the side effects of handheld devices. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the Canadian Society of Pediatrics both state that infants (0-2 years) should not be exposed to handheld technology gadgets. Children aged 3-5 years should be limited to just one hour per day of gadget use, while 6-8 years should be restricted to 2 hours per day.

However, parents insist on giving their tots gadgets because they are a sure-fire way of pacifying  demanding kids.

Continuing from yesterday’s post, here are more dangers, as culled from research, spawned by early use of gadgets:

Mental Diseases - Technology overuse (gaming consoles, mobile phones, tablets, etc.) will always be a risk factor for child depression, anxiety, attachment disorder, attention deficit, autism, bipolar issues, psychosis and other problematic behaviors. Gadgets restrict the child’s mind and physical movement which delays his mental and physical development.

Violence - Kids learn to be aggressive—as exhibited in tantrums. As they grow older, they are more likely to confront and disobey their elders and authorities. 

Radiation Exposure - The World Health Organization (2011) reported that “cellphones and other wireless devices are considered category 2B risk because of their radiation emission,” harmful to health and are classified as “possible carcinogens.”

Lack of communication Skills - Reduced socializing breeds kids who cannot express themselves clearly and politely—and don’t know how to listen or empathize. 

Sleep Deficiency - Because of the thrill kids experience from electronic games and tablets, they prefer to stay up and miss out on their needed rest.

No Exposure to Nature - Instead of going out and learning the ways of the world, appreciating God’s creation—animals, plants, lakes, sky, mountains, and beaches—kids stay cocooned in their own digital world.   

Damaged Eyesight - Ophthalmologists say that good eyesight depends upon staring at things of varying distances, spaces, movements, and shapes. 

Addiction - New research now reveal that gadget addiction is even more dangerous than drug addiction. Although gadget addiction is not recognized as an official disorder by medical classification, many therapists today treat gadget-addicted patients with the same methods they would use to treat other addictions.

“It’s worse than alcohol or drug abuse because it’s much more engaging and there’s no stigma behind it,” said Nathan Driskell, a therapist in the US. 

I am no longer parenting young children, but as an author of children’s books, and one who grew up reading the printed page (e-books were not invented yet), I agree with this research result (abridged):

“Screens and e-readers interfere with two important aspects of navigating texts: 1) serendipity;   2) a sense of control.” 

I enjoy flipping to a previous page when a sentence brings back a memory. Often I skim ahead or read the ending and imagine how the author filled up the in-betweens. 

My Bibles have marginal notes and I underline the word grace, grateful for where it is taking me. And, don’t laugh, I have the opportunity to lovingly cover my books with plastic as though they were pricey gems.

Well, they are. 


No Gadgets (Part 1)

I will celebrate if all you remember from this seminar is this: No gadgets for kids who could not yet read.

This was to encourage the parents of millennials and Gen Z (in Cagayan de Oro, an hour flight away from home) in the audience to read books to their young children, so they will learn to love reading and prefer books over gadgets when they are ready to read the printed page.   

According to child development experts, kids who are reared on handheld gadgets are passive participants—being fed with other people's ideas. But children who read books enter a world of creativity, unbounded by time and space.  The phrase “critical thinking skills” required of adults is really about imagination, developed at an early age through reading.

Like a mean joke, this scenario met me on my flight home. My seatmates were a young tot and his smartly dressed mom. As soon as she strapped her kid to his seat, she gave him a smart phone.

Then she got busy with her own. Despite the repeated announcement for passengers to turn off all electronics, mother and son kept at theirs, raptly immersed in their own cyber world.

The boy squeaked, "Awk!" (He still could not talk and had his feeding bottle beside him).

His mother immediately replied, knowing exactly what he wanted, "No internet, son, so no You Tube."

I was devastated, remembering the just-concluded successful seminar.

When the mother looked up from her gadget, I chirped with the friendliest voice I could muster, "He's so young and already he could manipulate a phone so deftly."

Proudly she replied, "Oh, yes, we started him on it before he turned two. Children are different these days!"

These days, gadgets are the new yaya (baby sitter). They could do what a human being could never manage:  make even the brattiest of kids sit still. It’s a pacifier, stopping kids from whining or acting up.   

Research results on how gadgets have affected kids are alarming: they have changed the stages of natural growing-up; they have replaced toys, playgrounds, storybooks, exercises, and communication. 

Here are some specific dangers (abridged from various findings) among children: 

Drastic Brain Development - The brain’s size triples at toddler stage and develops until a child’s adult years. Gadgets may negatively interfere with this natural growth. 

Obesity - Kids inertly playing with gadgets don’t burn calories, which may lead to obesity that could cause complications such as diabetes, heart attack, and stroke.

Grace deprivation - God’s grace is in the little and big things that are strewn in a myriad of places and people which must touch a kid’s life. Gadgets limit his time and space, depriving him of this wondrous gift from above.

To be continued . . .


Crying Lady

We cry for different reasons. One would be over regrets. Had we been braver, more daring, more rash, we think we could have gone to the place where our heart was set on going.

This was exactly what a little old lady, her eyes moist, told me.  
She was one of the 400+ people in the audience when I spoke about “What it takes to be a winner.” I narrated how much I had always dreamed of being a writer, but the snags and detours I took were far too many, till I got here late in life.

“Eighteen years later, today,” I stressed, “I have written 54 books—with 15 awards and 15 rejected manuscripts. One rejection letter said, ‘Do not attempt to rewrite and re-submit.’ I have failed over and over again in my life. And that is why I keep writing.”

She waited to talk to me, sitting alone with her teen-aged grandson watching her from a distance. She rose to hug me, very tightly, and whispered, “That was beautiful.  I, too, had always dreamed of being a writer but never got published.”

“It isn’t too late,” I assured her. “Send me one of your manuscripts and I’ll see what I can do.” I was thinking of publishing it online—on my blogsite—right away.

“But they are all handwritten, and they are all the copies I have.”

“You can ask your grandson to either photocopy one or type it and send to me via e-mail,”

“What is e-mail?” she wrinkled her ash-gray brows.

Dreams can be overtaken by time and technology. And only if we let them remain in the past can we be content with where we are.  I had unwittingly unearthed a passion she had kept in her heart all these years; I did not mean to.

“Being published isn’t the be-all and end-all of writers,” I explained. "We write because we love to and enjoy it. Other people need not read the words from our heart. But you could leave those pieces as a legacy to your grandchildren.”

We hugged one more time, and as she walked slowly away, I remembered Moses. He expected to step into the Promised Land, but the Lord thwarted that thought, “Because you did not trust me enough to demonstrate my holiness to the people of Israel, you will not lead them into the land I am giving them!” (Numbers 20:12)

I am not drawing a parallelism between the old lady and Moses.  I simply mean, we don’t know why some dreams are fulfilled and some aren’t, even if we work hard toward achieving them.  And it is not wise to question “why?”

We just need to keep the faith and lean on His grace.


Do We Know How to Love?

February, the heart month, ends today. 

I had wanted to blog about love on the 14th, but Valentine's Day sneaked out on me while I was onto other pursuits.

These verses always leave me in agony:

“We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.” 1 John 19:21 (NIV)

The love we have for others, especially for those who have wronged us, is nothing compared to how he demonstrated His love by laying down His life for every single one who wronged Him. Would we do the same even for those whom we claim we love?

Hatred is so palpable with the advent of technology. Many cyber messages are greatly appalling—the tirades, the rants, the outbursts, the sarcasm, the curses, etc. How can hatred be on such a grand scale?

Flowers, chocolates and love notes went around this month as well. But those do not compare with the extreme sacrifice made on the cross.

So do we really know how to love?  Do we really love God as we profess?

Loving others is a hard, extremely hard, climb. It takes effort to try . . . and try . . . and try.

And it is in the trying where we need grace . . . and grace . . . and grace.


Face-off: Parents vs. Children

My book tour in Iloilo was more daunting than I feared.

After three schools for Dump Truck in My Heart on the first day, I came face-to-face with parents and their Gen-Y and Gen-Z kids the next day to discuss my book, Present! The secret to being in the here and now.   

It turned out to be a face-off: parents vs. children. Not the kind where one side is bruised and the other, fallen, but the kind where the result is more than a draw. 

“I am not your ideal parent who is an authority in parenting,” I began my talk. “I was a flawed mom, too busy with my career. It was grace that took my place and made me feel like I did something right.”

The audience laughed. Now, how was I to straddle between two polar views?
Taking off from Present!, I explained why I wrote it for millennial readers after thorough research on this puzzling generation. While I was summarizing the characteristics of Gen-Y, the millennials in the audience, as well as the few Gen-Z’s, nodded their heads vigorously; their parents knitted their brows.

In the workshop, each group was tasked to have a consensus on what is the best parenting principle. And in the sharing, the line was drawn.

The young ones expressed what they thought about parenting—how it should understand the new generations because they are different from those who never had the word “digital” in their vocabulary. The parents expressed their frustration over said technological “bad” influences, to which they have no control. 

We went back to Scripture, where the Lord outlined parenting principles, starting from the basic, "Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it.” Proverbs 22:6 (NLT)

To the early Israelites the Lord said, “So commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these words of mine. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. Teach them to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up.” Deuteronomy 11:18-19

In over two hours, the close to 100 people in the seminar had a meeting of minds, bound tightly by the Word. Daunting it might have been in the process, but the result was surprisingly of a different kind. More than a draw, we collectively came out with this net take-away:

Parenting books abound today. But in the end, the only parenting book that matters is the Word—then, now, and forever.  


Iloilo: Double Deja Vu

Coming home from a book tour in Iloilo almost seven years ago, I began my blog with, “Iloilo is now a bustling metropolis, which was a pleasant surprise for me.”

I’d write these same words now and they’d still be true, and doubly so. The bustling Metropolis is even more bustling. The old airport where I arrived and departed has transformed into a modern complex—parks, buildings, restos, and art galleries.  The farms that edged new buildings have morphed into hotels, boutiques, and other global enterprises one finds in Manila.

Only one thing has not changed—the people. Warm, wholehearted, welcoming—exactly the way I remember them. In every event where I was invited, I got the same uplifting treatment, doubled even.

Book tours like this are mounted by my publisher, OMF Literature. They’re junctures for me to meet my readers and for them to put a face on the words that I write.  This time around, the tour was for "Dump Truck in My Heart" (kids) and Present! (Gen Y and their parents). The schedule is packed to the brim, the better to reach as many readers as possible. 

OMF sent me an angel (again!) from Cebu named Lynnie, who has five heads, a dozen hands, and a heart as big as Earth to see to all the details, without missing a beat. She, too, had an angel (again!) named Christine, Iloilo-based, who brought along her adorable, four-month-old cherub, Matthew, to one of our brief breaks.  What could be a better team!

My four-day trip took us to children in five schools, and to adults via a seminar, two church messages, and a women’s fellowship. All told, in nine events, I met close to two thousand new friends.

One blog post can’t begin to describe the overwhelming grace that swamped and seeped through all the places where we needed it.

A few of our first-day photos . . .  

First stop: Iloilo Integrated School (IIS)

Second stop: Precious Gems Christian Academy (PGCA)

 Third stop: Central Philippine University (CPU) 

The photo below capped our long but wondrous day with some of the most affectionate children of Iloilo. Book lovers all! 
“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Colossians 3:17 (ESV)


Shopping Binges

Just when I am agonizing over a recent malady that stopped my walking exercise at dawn, I read this post by my dear friend Manny on my FB wall. Oh, those foolish, wondrous “that’s nice” days!

“No one but no one could hold a candle to the shopping duo of Grace and Amor*! Those two would tag-team amid a flutter of classy English, the un-pretentious kolehiya kind and I witnessed this somewhat weird ballet, this mad dash from the clothes racks to the fitting rooms & back again, first hand during a lull at a TVC shoot. The production house told us to leave for a while as the next set up would take at least three hours.

“’I could think of a million things to do in three hours," said Amor. "Me too! Manny come with us,’ Grace piped in.

“We arrived at Rustan's and I could see their eyes twinkling as they imagined the possibilities. Inside Amor would be her critique about which scarf goes with which blouse, while Grace, with her patented "that's nice," would quickly agree at Amor's choice.

“It really depended on how Grace said this two-syllable phrase. If she said "that's nice" with her eyes opening wider than usual, coupled with a bigger than usual smile, then buy the darn thing.
If she said it with panic in her eyes, her smile frozen midway, that was bad. You  must quickly banish that sordid thing or hand it over to dis crass, new money hag with a 'this would look good on you' marching order.

“As usual I would be sitting on a couch. Unlike today, shops then cared about tired, unwilling husbands chained by the wrists, taken as prisoners and made to wait as Lady Godiva attacks the marketplace with nothing on but her wit and uncanny ability to mix n' match clothing!

"Which of course I wasn't like those husbands. I enjoyed watching them—in fact, their thought and selection process—that before you knew it we had been there for over five hours and they were far from finished with their shopping!

“Good thing in those days, before cellphones and iPads. I brought a paperback novel, the 300+ pages kind.”

Ahhh, the many seasons of grace!

“For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven . . . God has made everything beautiful for its own time.”  Ecclesiastes 3: 1, 11 (NLT)

*my boss