Sunday, September 14, 2014

It's storm season once again

“I don’t like the weather in the Philippines,” a foreign student of mine blurted out one day. When I asked why, she replied, “It’s scorching hot in the morning, becomes windy at noon, and rains like mad in the afternoon.”

I could only nod in reply. We only have two seasons in the Philippines, dry and wet, and yet, we’ve had too much of both in recent years.  

Weather reports of floods in some parts of India last week reminded me of the many times we also experienced the wrath of nature. Most recent was typhoon Yolanda (International name Haiyan) last year which ravaged many parts of the country. The damage to both life and property were so bad it made it to CNN news.

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Today, we are bracing for another storm. Though it doesn’t look as bad as Yolanda last year, I’ve already seen some facebook posts reminding everyone to stay safe and pray that the storm path changes so that we may be spared of its angry fury.

I have no qualms with prayer. But to pray for the storm path to change does not seem right to me.  What happens if our prayers are heeded, where will the storm go then - to another town, another city, another country? Is it right to pray for one’s safety at the cost of another’s?

As I watch the rain pour endlessly from my window, I am grateful that I have a roof over my head, that the place where I live has never been flooded despite the many strong typhoons our country has faced, and that I have never lacked food or warm shelter during these moments of great unpredictability. Does that have anything to do with my position on praying for a miracle in times like these? Perhaps, but I also think that the more we try to avoid something, the harder it becomes for us to resolve it.

I remember the many conversations I had with a student before who complained about everything that happened to her. On one of our last conversations before she graduated, I asked her, “Don’t you see a pattern in everything that’s happening to you?” Surprised, she looked at me and said, “That’s exactly what I thought! I feel like a mouse trapped in a maze and I can’t seem to find the way out.” It didn’t take very long after that for her to realize that skirting her issues was the actual problem, and that by avoiding these issues, she never learned the lesson that would help her resolve them.

Things happen, sometimes, for a reason; other times, for no reason at all. But whatever the case, they happen to tell us something.

Storms are no different, I feel, whether they are the forces of nature that ruin our homes or the unfortunate events we experience in life. In both cases, I don’t think it is right to pray for the events to change. That only helps us avoid it. What happens when the next storm comes? Do we pray again that it changes course? And do we keep doing the same thing for the next storm and the storm after that?

I pray because I have faith. But this faith does not fool me into thinking that I can control what happens to me, or that I can get rid of that cancer that ails my sister, or that I can prevent the death of a friend, or that I can stop the storm from putting so many lives in danger.

No. My prayer rather is that I may have the strength to endure what happens and the courage to live it through. 

A priest friend of my husband says it well...“The Spirit doesn’t change life or make everything in it a source of happiness. Rather, the Spirit enables us to see beyond the present sorrow or pain or disturbance and to anticipate the peace and the joy that await us beyond.”

Rainbows, people say, come after the rain. Surely there’s one that awaits us after this...

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Family Reunions

I was in a family reunion of sorts this weekend and an old aunt whom my siblings and I haven't seen in ages was there. We went down memory lane as she recounted story after story after story of how things were before, how she lived in the Ivory Coast for two years to take care of her grandchildren, how despite her humble beginnings, she managed to give her children a decent education and a more promising future, her recollections of my aunts and uncles and their peculiar characters and lots of other stories that kept us laughing in stitches till the end.

As we said our goodbyes, I couldn't help but look at her with much admiration. While some people age counting their many regrets in life and a few others grumble all the way to their grave, this old aunt of mine was a picture of peace and contentment. I whispered a prayer that I age just as gracefully, perhaps with regrets, but grateful for the life I've lived and happy at the little offering my life has been.

Family reunions like these remind me that though life is short, each of us is given a chance to fill it with our own special mark. It doesn't matter how much we have in possession or how far reaching our impact is or even if we are someone to the world. Today, I learned just how much more important it is to be the world to someone. And in a way, that is what really matters. 

And to Malou, a friend of mine who is now struggling with her own battle, we can be a part of her world by doing whatever way we can to help. 

Please help me spread the word. 

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Picture Perfect

My husband gifted me with an oven on our last anniversary. Unlike some women, I never took cooking or baking lessons when I was younger. So getting an oven for a gift was either a gentle request to cook something new or a light reminder of one of my New Years’ resolutions.

For some weeks now, I’ve been trying various kinds of recipes; pizza, brownies, baked salmon, cream dory in white sauce... Most times, it’s a hit or miss but that’s okay, my husband says, nobody gets it perfect at the first try anyway.

Today, I thought I’d prepare lasagne for lunch with some fresh vegetable salad on the side. I’m not exactly an expert in the kitchen but I try.

After two hours of mixing, stirring, boiling, baking; but mostly watching through the glass door of the oven at my handiwork, I pulled out the dish that just about held my attention the whole morning...

Well, it looked like lasagne. But more importantly, it tasted like lasagne!

I snapped a photo of the dish before we dived in to a hearty lunch.  Not exactly picture perfect, I thought.

Then again, nothing in life is picture perfect. We just do our best, the best way we can and hopefully, there’s time to try again. 

I know I’ll be trying...

Monday, August 25, 2014

I'm Back!

Surprise, surprise! I'm back!

It's been ten months since I last posted here. There were times when I asked myself whether I should take down my blog since I wasn't posting anything anyway. But somehow, I knew in my heart that I'd want to go back to it at some point. I just didn't know exactly when. The bigger and perhaps more important reason, however, was that it was just too painful to take it down. The blog contained reflections, short stories and poems I'd written during a quiet yet tumultuous period in my life. Had I taken it down, I would have felt stripped of something important, almost like stealing candy from a child.

Many things happened since October last year (that was when I last posted) that took me away from here - work, responsibilities, relationships, and so on. Like some people say, life happened. But mostly because, I felt there wasn't anything worthy to write about. To put it simply, I lost the passion to write.

What changed now?


I changed.

I'll talk about that some other time. For now, it's nice to be home. I'm happy to be back and be able to write again.

I apologize for my absence, dear readers. Hope you'll give me another chance. 

Are you still all on board?

Friday, October 04, 2013

Not just another history lesson

A visit to the 9/11 museum three years ago aroused my professional curiosity. While I empathized with those who lost loved ones on that fateful day, my feelings were divorced from any human anguish. This is not to say I didn’t feel for people’s loss. It just means that no matter how hard I try, there is no way I could imagine or even fully understand their pain.

I went around the museum three years ago, browsing through the varied memorabilia like I read World War 2 accounts in history books. To me, it was all part of history and as a history teacher, I felt it was my responsibility to use these materials to give life to my lessons. I needed to make these people real to my students - as real as they were to those who loved them.

Fast forward to 2013, I had another chance to visit New York City. Needless to say, a visit to the One World Trade Center (also known as Freedom Tower) was at the top of my list. Again, I had to feed the same curiosity I had three years ago.

Getting off the subway at Chambers Street, the building made of glass, steel, and stone loomed in the distance. The sun shone brightly that day illuminating the majestic height of the tower even more. 

Entering the memorial, the mood was sombre. There was a hushed silence despite the number of people that crowded both north and south pools. Set in the footprints of the original Twin Towers; the pools, from where a thirty-foot waterfall cascaded into a center void, had a low protective wall or railing where the names of the victims were inscribed.  

As I clicked away at my camera, I couldn’t help but notice lone figures here and there with their bowed heads in quiet reflection, or a couple or two with their hands stretched out on the bronze stone, as if softly caressing the person whose  name was etched on it for all eternity. Many times, in between clicks of my camera, I whispered a prayer, and asked for peace for those whose lives were indiscriminately cut off and comfort for those who still mourned for them.

Three years ago, my visit to the 9/11 museum was greatly motivated by my desire to make my history lessons as inspiring as I could. This time, I hated to admit even to myself, that I simply wanted to earn some bragging rights for getting to visit a place that held much significance. Shortly after though, the realization left a bad taste in my mouth. I felt I desperately needed something to save me from such selfish motives.

And someone did. From underneath the cascading waters that flowed into the void of nothingness, he came to my rescue.

He was Ronald L. Gamboa. Born on April 30, 1968 in the Philippines, he had since lived in Los Angeles, California. He was a passenger of Flight 175. Like many others, he too died on that fateful day.

I never knew or ever met Mr. Gamboa. But he was from the Philippines as I am. We spoke the same language, lived and breathe the same culture, probably even shopped or visited the same places in Manila at one point or another. Looking at his smiling face on the Name Finder that was made available for visitors at the memorial, I suddenly knew my visit wasn't just another history lesson. It certainly did not earn me bragging rights.

9/11, twelve years later and three years since my first visit, was not just real. It had become painful too.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Follow Fest

Welcome to Melissa's Follow Fest Day 3, a platform building opportunity for writers of all kinds.

Anne Organista

Fiction or nonfiction?

What genres do you write? 
I write mostly romance, women's fiction, literary fiction, and poetry.

Are you published?
Some of my articles have been published in magazines, both online and print. Last May, a short story (flash fiction actually) I wrote was included in an ebook entitled Flash 500 compiled by Nicole Pyles and Carrie Sorensen.

Do you do anything in addition to writing?
I teach part-time and am a freelance writer. I am also an educational consultant and part of that means facilitating seminar-workshops on teacher training.

Where can people connect with you?
My blog would be a good place to start:
Due to some hacking problems, I don't use twitter or facebook too much but you can find me over at:

Is there anything else you'd like us to know?
You may want to check out Flash 500 where two of my stories are included.
If you're interested in reading some stuff on education, you can also find some of my articles here.
I also participate in Denise Covey's Write...Edit...Publish Blog Hop every month.

Thanks for visiting!

Friday, September 20, 2013

Moving on

There was a time when Erin met Jack and he held her hand that made Erin feel warm and fuzzy all over.  Her heart skipped a beat as she shyly held her hand out to him. It fitted right in like a hand to a glove, or maybe she thought that because it was the only way to think.

                “I’ve never met anyone like you. I’m feeling something kind of different.”
                “I think I am too. Do you know what this is?”

There was a time when Erin thought she loved Jack and couldn’t live without him. Then, she thought his presence completed her life; and that everything was just right.

                “I love you with all my heart. My dear Erin, will you marry me?”
                “Of course I’ll marry you! I cannot imagine a life without you.”

There was time when she thought the days were better because of him. Then, she thought that sharing the fun and the tears was all that mattered to make their love strong. Deep in her heart, she wanted so much to believe that nothing could ever come between them.

                “I promise to love you from this day forward; until death do us part.”
                “I love you Jack. I am yours forever.” 

Living with Jack however was not what Erin imagined it would be. Still, she loved him and remembered the promise she made to be his forever. Each day, across the green meadows and yellow lilies, she patiently waited for him.  The cool night breeze whispered in her ear to lay her head and rest. No, she said, waiting like this only brought him closer to me.

                “Forget it, Erin, he’s not coming. He’s been gone for days!”
                “A few hours more... I want to be ready for him when he comes.”

Things went downhill as fast as they came. Funny, she thought, the days seemed brighter when Jack stayed away. She enjoyed working and reading; and working some more. Equally so, there was a peaceful calm on the nights he didn’t stay.

                “Look at yourself! Isn’t this fun?”
                “Yes, it is. But wouldn’t it be more fun if he was here?”

Erin started to count the days when Jack didn’t come home. They outnumbered now the days when he did. Like a warrior before a fight, she tried to be strong. But the pain tugged at her heart and threw her like a wrecking ball. It was just no use. She knew she couldn’t hide it anymore.

                “How did this happen? Where did I go wrong?”  
                “Oh honey, don’t punish yourself. None of this is your fault.”

 Happiness does not last forever, Erin realized. Some women find the men of their dreams; others don’t. It’s as simple as that. But letting go isn’t as simple when it meant coming to terms with reality, admitting her mistake, shedding off what used to be a part of herself.

                “When you love someone, it’s never really over.”
“But Jack has sailed off in another ship.  Doesn’t that mean you should also sail off in yours?”

Erin packed her bags, took one last look at the house she once called home, and went away. There were many memories there, she cried, though she knew this was the right thing to do. Lots of things can be fixed. But relationships can’t be fixed, not when one doesn’t see the need for it. She knew that now.

                “Try not to look back, Erin. Put the past behind you and start over.”
                “Letting go is hard, but it still is one small step. Starting over is what I’m scared of.”

For months, Erin mourned.  She mourned so much she didn’t even know if she grieved for Jack or for the life she thought she had with him. Then, she imagined herself waiting for him one day. Maybe if she waited long enough, he’d come and take her away. But he never did; and through her tears, she suddenly knew she grieved for the woman she had become.

                “Life moves on, Erin, so should we.”
                “But I don’t know how...”

The air is crisp and dry now; the leaves have turned a bright orange. Erin blew a smoke as she gathered the ends of her coat closer together. It’s strange, she smiled.  There was a time when she thought she couldn’t live without Jack. Apparently, she realized now that she could.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Going a step further

I've often heard that writers are born, not made. It's either you have what it takes to be a writer or you don't. Well, I don't know which one is true except that if one wants to be something, a doctor, lawyer, teacher, engineer, or whatever it is people wish to be; I think one needs some sort of preparation. 

I haven't exactly practiced what I just said. I want to be a writer; well I am, in some sort of way. I've written some stuff for magazines, both online and print, but I haven't found the time to take any formal course on writing. Despite that, I still dream of writing a book that people would like to curl up with and read. After all, why write if nobody read your book, right?

As some of you already know, I've made my blog the stage for some of my written works, both poetry and short stories. I wanted to test the waters and see how people would react. But I do know that at some point, I need to take it a step further. 

This is why I got pretty excited when I heard about Story Cartel's offer of five scholarships to the Story Cartel Course. It was pretty exciting for five reasons:

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1. Maybe if I get lucky with this, I can make "that step further" I was talking about earlier.

2. Maybe the course can help me get over the humps I've experienced before.

3. I'd be pretty lucky to get this because I can never afford the course without it.

4. I'm in dire need of a mentor.

5. I'd like to be part of a community of writers with the same dreams, hopes, and interests as I do. It would be a bonus if that same community can give me some encouragement and critique as I forge my way into this exciting but intimidating world of writing.

Some of you may also be interested in the course. Hop on to this link (deadline is on September 17). Who knows, you might get one of those scholarships. And if you do, you heard it from me. 


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