Care to Gaze at The Cross and at The Empty Tomb with Me?

She was covered with cuts running deep into her soul. Her face was smeared with disgrace, she reeked of vileness and impurity, and she had been bearing the weight of the “good girl” mask for too long. She couldn’t see where her life was heading, she didn’t know if anything was worth it at all.

But there He was. Hanging on that tree. Gazing at her lovingly, steadily. He had ugly gashes all over his body, too. 39 and more marring His bloody back; uncountable ones scattered all around His head where thorns from His mock crown had dug in deep; two big piercings — one for each hand; and deep, deep punctures on His feet, where nails had been driven to hold Him steadily — yet agonizingly — in place.

The smell of raw flesh wafted around her nostrils, but a stench far greater than that overtook her — the awful odour of sin. All coming from a Man who she thought had never fallen, never ever sinned.

His breathing came in raspy gasps and she knew He wouldn’t hold up for much longer. She had thought she knew the suffocating pain of breathing. But she realized all the times she had felt overwhelmed by the mere act of inhaling and exhaling were nothing compared to what He seemed to be going through.

Suddenly, He breathed His last. A few words tumbled out His mouth — she didn’t quite catch it yet — and the earth rumbled when He died.

Her hope departed along with Him.

A soldier pierced His side, making blood and water come gushing out.

He must have died of a broken heart.

For who? She thought. For me? No. He couldn’t possibly.

But she couldn’t understand why hot tears flowed down her cheeks, healing places where cuts once were, slowly ridding her of her putrid smell.

* * *

She stood face to face with a tomb. But the stone was rolled to its side. Her breath caught, not daring to believe what it all meant.

And then a Gardener approached her. He was smiling kindly, His manners were friendly, and He was looking at her with a sparkle in His eyes. She realized she knew that look. She had seen it before, in a dream, perhaps in a distant memory.

It was almost the same as the look given to her by the Man on the Cross, but the Gardener’s had a hint of victory.

Then the words she had heard the Man say suddenly came creeping back at her. They resonated in her heart and for a moment, she thought she understood. He had said, “It is finished.” Was it?

The Gardener approached her, showing her the scars in His hands.

She heard Him utter the same thing and, this time, her heart was able to grasp it more firmly.

“It is finished.”

Every cut she once had disappeared, every smear vanished, and a new fragrance took over her being. Her mask fell off, hope filled her being and suddenly she knew —

It was worth it all.

What if Saturday: First Lady

Julieta, Julieta, wherefore art thou, Julieta? Check thy watch and refuse to be late — arggg.

Where is she?

Where oh where has my little sis gone? Oh where oh where could she be?

She said she’d meet me here for her lunch break. Things must be pretty busy at the health centre for her to be this late.

Gosh, I wish she’d hurry up. I’ve got crazy weird news to tell her, you see.

Come on, Julie. Show up already. Or else I’m going to burst like a can of pop that has been all shook up.

Tap, tap, tap, tap. Ugh. This isn’t doing me any good.

Fine, I’ll let it out already.

Here goes —

I’m married.

To the president. Of the Philippines.



It’s so unbelievable, right? I’m not even sure how it happened. All I know is that a strange person dropped by my house this morning, introducing herself as the president’s PA. She showed me a marriage contract — one that has apparently materialized out of nowhere, since I have no recollection of having gotten married to anyone — proving that I was the president’s — gasp — first lady.

I told her she had the wrong person, but there it was in black and white. The contract had my full name — Aleksandra Elisabeth Salarson de Guzman — down to all the eccentric spelling nuances. It had my undecipherable signature as well.

So what did it all mean? What did it all imply? I asked the PA those questions and all she said was that I had to be in Malacañang that evening.

That’s seven hours away. Oh, I hope Julieta would get here soon. She’s always been the sane and level-headed one. She’d tell me what to do.

Suppose this was all real? Suppose I had perhaps gotten a bit tipsy and had maybe flung myself into a Vegas-like ceremony with the most powerful man in the Pearl of the Orient? Suppose I’m not dreaming up this wacky, far-fetched nightmare?

Suppose —

Well, I suppose I should get my act together, then. Would it take a lot of work to become a president’s wife? He’ll need me for support. He’ll need me to give him nuggets of wisdom, too, from time to time, I guess. He’ll need me to flutter like a social butterfly during classy engagements, to be the people’s lady during community events, to be a witty speaker during press conferences. He’ll need me to stand forever by his side.

Gosh, I don’t know if I’m up for it.

Julieta, please get here fast.

I need all the words of wisdom and encouragement that I can get.



Post a Week: Tears

We cry for lots of reasons: sadness, pain, fear . . . and happiness. When was the last time you shed tears of joy?

November 2012. A script, a notebook, a hot pink phone. Frustrated tears roll down my chin as I struggle to verbalize the turmoil of emotions that have been welling up inside my chest for the past few months or so.

I laugh at myself, feeling like a telesalesperson with that sheet of muddled up writings in front of me. You laugh too, telling me you won’t let me live this down.

Struggles. Questions. Misunderstandings. I let my awkward words stumble and tumble out.

Kind words. Apologies. Resolutions and affirmations. The pain subsides and I find myself smiling through a new set of tears.

Tears of relief. Tears of new found joy.

Let’s make this fun, you say. Yeah.

Let’s. :)



Thoughts on 13 Years in America

13 years - goodreads

13 Years in America
Melanie Steele
Genre: Memoir, Autobiography
Purchase: Smashwords (free)

Summary:  After moving to the United States from Canada in 1998, a free-spirited young woman rejects the status quo and embarks on a journey to discover what it means to be truly happy and fulfilled in the Land of Opportunity.

Her 13-year search spans half a dozen states, a bunch of fearless adventures, and ever-increasing crises, divisions, turmoil, and discontent. Through it all, she holds on to her fearless pursuit of happiness and fulfilment against ever-decreasing odds.

13 Years in America is a moving personal journey and a sharp, hard look at the American Dream.

– via

* * *

13 Years in America. I wonder. Would I be able to write something like this, too, like 4 Years (plus) in Malaysia? Or perhaps 2 Years in Australia? Or 25- 6 Years in La Islas Filipinas?

I didn’t expect this book to be so thought-provoking. Reading through the first few chapters simply gave me a glimpse of a life of a girl who fell in love, got married, left the country she grew up in, came face to face with the realities struggling young couples face, and so on and so forth. It wasn’t until I got to the latter chapters that questions about happiness, fulfilment, and conforming to the system that we live in as a whole started nagging me.

What is happiness? Is it found in the end point or in the journey itself? Where do we find our fulfilment? Do we find it in reaching our goals or in loving and making a difference in the lives of others? And are we content in living in the prevalent system in this world? Working our butts off, making some decent money, getting stressed, getting tired, saying hello to our loved ones every now and then, repeating this cycle over and over again? Is this the way life is supposed to be?

I highlighted some of my favourite passages from the book, but it appears as if my e-reader lost all but one. Still, I can share this passage here as a penny for our thoughts:

After a few minutes, we rise and keep going. This time I fall behind, and I start thinking about how the beauty and wonder of this mountain aren’t just at the top; they’re here, right now, around me. Have an open mind on the way up. That’s where the experience is. My whole focus for years and years now has been on a goal, on reaching and achieving. And that goal, no matter how hard I work or how far I go, is always further on. It’s almost like the goal is a mirage, always on the horizon, just out of reach.

Have an open mind on the way up. That’s where the experience is.

13 Years in America ended, of course, with Melanie Steele’s 13th year there. But for me it didn’t really “end”. It’s not that there wasn’t any closure — there was — but it wasn’t the closure I was expecting.

But I guess that’s just the way life is. It’s continuous, it goes on and on, and — a lot of times — the chapters don’t end in the way that we want them to.

So let’s just make the most of the ride. Let’s enjoy life and drink in the beauty, savour every word and phrase before the pages of our books are through. :)

What if Saturday: Revisited

Dr. Gonzales seems to be so stressed out today. I pity him. Two death sentences in a row, huh? And that’s just for this morning. He’s still got a couple of patients lined up for this afternoon.

I’m grateful for my lunch break. True, I love working at the health centre. But there are days when things simply get too disheartening. I’m thankful for any form of escape.

My sister says she wants to meet up for lunch at the deli. She’s got some big news or something. I’m sure it can wait until tonight, but she tells me its urgent. I get a rain check from Dr. G. He gives me a nod and so I’m off.

The deli’s a ten-minute walk away from this block. I clomp through the street in my white clogs, white stockings, white dress suit, white cap… People could mistake me for a white lady but thankfully my rainbow umbrella gives just the right amount of colour to confirm my humanity.

Two little kids — a boy wearing a maroon waistcoat and a girl wearing a frilly navy dress (both were donning bunny ears by the way) — zip past me, causing me to dive umbrella-first into the dusty side walk.

Splotches of red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet dance before my eyes. It takes a while before my sight goes back to normal again.

When it does, I realize that I’m not in the street going to the deli any more.

Oh no. Not again. I wonder how long this time travel thing will last this time. I decide to just enjoy the ride until I can get back to my sister and to Dr. G.

I’m at my old elementary school. The yellow concrete walls, the moss shillings, and the wide grey staircases are all too familiar. I half expect the witch-like face of my first grade teacher to peer at me from one of the dust-tinted windows.

Walking on, I see the seven-year-old version of my best friend crying at the corner. She’s in that spot near the staircase, where we (and another friend) would eat our packed lunches. I’ve done some time travelling before — I know they can’t see me — so I draw nearer. I kinda want to know what is going on.

“He died last night. I’m not even sure if we have any money for the funeral. Mama says I can take the week off school. But I already miss him. I already miss Papa a lot.”

“That’s so sadddd… Come here, let’s have a group hug.”


“Feel better? There, there. Don’t worry! When I grow up, I’m going to be a doctor! That way, I can keep all the people you love from dying!”

“Really? Yeah! I’m going to be a doctor, too! Or a nurse! Then we’ll all save lives together!”

“Yeah! Let’s!”

The rainbow splotches return and, in an instant, I’m back on the curb, my colourful umbrella splayed before me.

Well. That was quick. But profound, nonetheless. That was the day my best friend and I decided to get into medicine. That was the day we decided what path our lives were going to take.

I shake my head, remembering the lives of the two people that Dr. G and I were unable to save that day. But as I dust off the gravel from my uniform, I realize one thing.

We may not have been able to save their lives, but we still have the opportunity to save more.

I glance at my watch. Sissy is probably already waiting for me inside the deli shop.



Post a Week: O Best Beloved

What was your favorite book as a child? Did it influence the person you are now?

The Elephant’s Child. How the Camel Got His Hump. How the Rhinoceros Got His Skin.

Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling.

For my eight (or was it seventh?) birthday, I got what I believed was the best present ever. We had just gotten home from the beach (our “clan” travels from the mountains down to the sea every Araw ng Kagitingan because it’s a holiday and all) and there was a thick birthday gift waiting for me. I couldn’t wait to open it.

I don’t remember if I opened the package carefully or if I ripped it to shreds. But I can imagine how I must have ooh-ed and ahh-ed, seeing the thick volume with the green and yellow hardbound cover peeking out from under the wrapper.

I loved that book. I loved the stories inside, far-fetched as they were. Did you know that elephants have trunks because the Elephant’s Child had a nasty tug-of-war with the crocodile by the Limpopo River? Did you know that camels’ humps were originally called humphs but the name was changed so as not to hurt the camels bearing them? And did you know that the rhino’s skin is all wrinkly because a naughty Parsee put cake crumbs in it while the poor soul was bathing (without his skin) near the beach of an Altogether Uninhabited Island?

I know, I know. The stories aren’t real, O Best Beloved.

But they taught me to look at the world with wonder. They taught me to believe in the unbelievable. And they taught me to keep careful watch of my clothes whenever I’m out swimming or bathing.



Thoughts on The Likes of Us

The sweet musical cartel that is The Likes of Us began as a long distance collaboration between Oklahoma native Benj Heard and Colorado songbird Katrina Stone. As the story goes, the pair stumbled upon an affinity for writing 1940’s inspired duets through the process of sending tracks back and forth over the course of a year. Without truly recognizing the depth of the sonic landscape they had created, The Likes of Us was formed as charmingly as the harmonies and lyrics that waltz through the valleys of their debut album.


The Likes of Us‘ self-titled album has been murdering my playlist this past week. The album features 10 jazzy tracks, each of which makes me feel like I’m walking through an open field framed by floating vintage coloured balloons. It’s perfect chill-out music, the one you listen to when you’ve had a long day and you just want to daydream the night away.


I can’t seem to find the lyrics to their songs anywhere in the web — perhaps my Googling powers have dwindled. No matter. I’d probably memorize all the songs by the time this month is over. I’ll put up the lyrics somewhere, if I’m diligent enough.

A word of warning: the songs in this album will make you want to fall in love. The tracks include the following titles: No Cure for Love; Astronomy; More than Friends; Dream a Little Dream of Me; Love Like This; Smooth Movin’; Charity; You Found Me; Lovesick; and My Oh My. The titles speak loudly enough — if you decide to fall in love, you’ll find that there’s no cure for it and, at the end, you’ll be telling your heart, “My Oh My.”

But falling in love is a beautiful, beautiful thing, is it not? My favourite tracks are More than Friends and Love Like This. *Sigh*

Well, here’s a YT vid for you all to enjoy. And they do have those balloons I’ve been conjuring up in my imagination!


No to Hangdog Skulking

Wasn’t able to write a paraphrase today. But I shall share to you some scripture anyway. For those who find themselves hangdong skulking.

Psalm 25 (The Message)

A David Psalm

25 1-2 My head is high, God, held high;
I’m looking to you, God;
No hangdog skulking for me.
3 I’ve thrown in my lot with you;
You won’t embarrass me, will you?
Or let my enemies get the best of me?
Don’t embarrass any of us
Who went out on a limb for you.
It’s the traitors who should be humiliated.
4 Show me how you work, God;
School me in your ways.
5 Take me by the hand;
Lead me down the path of truth.
You are my Savior, aren’t you?
6 Mark the milestones of your mercy and love, God;
Rebuild the ancient landmarks!
7 Forget that I sowed wild oats;
Mark me with your sign of love.
Plan only the best for me, God!
8 God is fair and just;
He corrects the misdirected,
Sends them in the right direction.
9 He gives the rejects his hand,
And leads them step-by-step.
10 From now on every road you travel
Will take you to God.
Follow the Covenant signs;
Read the charted directions.
11 Keep up your reputation, God;
Forgive my bad life;
It’s been a very bad life.
12 My question: What are God-worshipers like?
Your answer: Arrows aimed at God’s bull’s-eye.
13 They settle down in a promising place;
Their kids inherit a prosperous farm.
14 God-friendship is for God-worshipers;
They are the ones he confides in.
15 If I keep my eyes on God,
I won’t trip over my own feet.
16 Look at me and help me!
I’m all alone and in big trouble.
17 My heart and kidneys are fighting each other;
Call a truce to this civil war.
18 Take a hard look at my life of hard labor,
Then lift this ton of sin.
19 Do you see how many people
Have it in for me?
How viciously they hate me?
20 Keep watch over me and keep me out of trouble;
Don’t let me down when I run to you.
21 Use all your skill to put me together;
I wait to see your finished product.
22 God, give your people a break
From this run of bad luck.

I just love the translation from The Message, don’t you? Here’s to a skulkingless week!