Through the Looking-Glass

Yesterday, I caught myself wondering if literature made any sense. Don’t get me wrong — I adore literature. Especially children’s lit. My favorite books include Winnie The Pooh, Just So Stories, The Chronicles of Narnia, and — though I am just a quarter into reading Lewis Carrol’s Through the Looking-Glass — I will shamelessly admit that I am quickly falling in love with Alice in Wonderland‘s sequel too.

“I’m sure I’ll take you with pleasure!’ the Queen said. ‘Twopence a week, and jam every other day.’

Alice couldn’t help laughing, as she said, ‘I don’t want you to hire ME—and I don’t care for jam.’

‘It’s very good jam,’ said the Queen.

‘Well, I don’t want any TO-DAY, at any rate.’

‘You couldn’t have it if you DID want it,’ the Queen said. ‘The rule is, jam to-morrow and jam yesterday—but never jam to-day.’

‘It MUST come sometimes to “jam to-day,”‘ Alice objected.

‘No, it can’t,’ said the Queen. ‘It’s jam every OTHER day: to-day isn’t any OTHER day, you know.”

Excerpt From: Carroll, Lewis. “Through the Looking-Glass.”

The book is full of logical nonsense but I love it. I’m not too sure whether it would be everyone’s cup of tea though.

A couple of months ago, some people caught me reading Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories. It’s one of those books I could read over and over again, Best Beloved, no matter how nonsensical the stories get. I was currently lost in the tale of how the whale got its throat (he swallowed a man who in turn lodged a raft in his mouth pipe using suspenders — which you mustn’t forget — so that he won’t be able to eat normal-sized creatures in the future) and proceeded to relay to them that narrative when they asked what my e-book was about.

Imagine how low my heart dropped when they just laughed and said that it was — excuse my French — bs. I should read more — what was their term? “Sensible books”, I think.

Well, who said Rudyard Kipling was sensible? What about Roald Dahl? C.S. Lewis? Tolkien? J.K. Rowling? Who calls humans muggles anyway?

But what kind of world would we live in if all people read were sensible books? True, I devour inspirational and motivational books with a passion. And I owned several copies of Sir E.A. Albacea’s computer science series, too. But a world without Wonderland, without Narnia, without Middle Earth, without the Hundred Acre Woods, without Neverland… I can not even —

Come on, we all have to look at the world with childlike wonder from time to time, right?

Besides, there’s power in great literature. Just look at Jose Rizal’s Noli me Tangere and El Filibusterismo. Who knows how much longer we would have stayed under Spain’s regime if those books were never written.

And what about Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin? Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables and The Hunchback of Notre-Dame? Tell me if these book didn’t affect society or alter history in one way or another.

So ends my literary rant. I will continue to read on. I will continue to write on too, though some say literature is a dying art.

Because we all need to go to that world of pure imagination. And words can still make a difference. Mine will. I am believing they truly, truly will.


I Want to Shake Things Up

drop of center
A photo taken from an activity at a drop off centre late 2011.

I miss this.

I miss asking kids to draw out their dreams. I miss singing nursery rhymes in awkward Tagalog and in even more awkward Bahasa Melayu. I miss seeing how few small acts of kindness can make big, big differences children’s lives.

I  miss talking to little ones without any other agenda than to show them love and be loved in return.

I have to do something to shake things up.

7 Swans-a-Swimming: 7 Books I’ve Read and Loved

On the 7th day of Christmas my true love gave to me… 7 swans-a-swimming!

Or — in my case — seven books-a-swimming, drifting, sailing all around my literary inclined faculties.

It has been a great year, in terms of book reading and literature devouring. I’ve finally caught up with the many years of reading I had lost because of lack of time and resourcefulness (yep, you read that right — resourcefulness not resources). This year, thanks to e-books and excess books, I was able to grab hold of many worthy reads, reads which have long been on my list but I have never gotten round to ticking off.

Now, I must choose seven which will serve as my seven swans-a-swimming. So without further ado, let me introduce those swans to you:

1. Winnie-the-Pooh by A. A. Milne


“If you happen to have read another book about Christopher Robin, you may remember that he once had a swan (or the swan had Christopher Robin, I don’t know which) and he used to call this swan Pooh. That was a long time ago, and when we said good-bye, we took the name with us, as we didn’t think the swan would want it any more.” (Introduction, Winnie-the-Pooh)

See. One swan-a-swimming. But that would be the last you would read about swans because, upon poring over the rest of the book’s pages, you’ll find out that this children’s tale won’t make mention of any more fowls but would proceed to elaborate about the adventures (and misadventures) of the much loved Edward Bear (or Winnie-the-Pooh, as we all know him now), Christopher Robin, and their friends at the Hundred Acre Woods.

I bought this book at BookXcess at a super low price (RM5). You can not believe what joy it gave me when I found the little orange book peeping at me from the shop’s bargain tray. I’ve been wanting to read this book since forever — my mom used to read it as a bedtime story to me and my brother back when we were kids, you see. Now, at 24, I still find every childlike page magical. Who could beat silly-old-bear and his unassuming antics? This is a must read if you just want something fun and amusing to make you chuckle and shake your head in wonder.

2. Monkey Bridges by Lan Cao


Another book I bought at BookXcess. I really like books set in non-US countries. They give me glimpses of other cultures. Other ways of thinking. This book was written by a Vietnamese woman and tells a story of a young Vietnamse girl and her mom who were forced to migrate to the US because of the Vietnam War. The summary’s paragraph reads: “Like navigating a monkey bridge — a bridge, built of spindly bamboo, used by peasants for centuries — Lan Cao’s narrative traverses perilously between worlds past and present, East and West, in telling two interlocked stories. One of these stories is the Vietnamese version of the classic immigrant experience in America, told by a young girl; and the second, a dark tale of betrayal, political intrigue, family secrets and revenge — her mother’s tale.”

I traversed through the monkey bridges during the early part of this year, when I still commuted to work using buses and trains. It was easy to get lost in the narrative, easy to forget I was in the train to bound for Putrajaya, easy to think I was in Saigon, Little Saigon, Ba Xuyen, and Farmington instead.

I loved it.

3. Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones


This one I bought at National Bookstore last year while I was on “Christmas Break”. 90% of the book is set in Papua New Guinea and the protagonist here is a young girl who finds herself absorbed in the tale of Pip in Dickens’ Great Expectations. It gets a bit morbid around 80% into the tale but the rest of the book shows the profound effect of literature on the life of people young and old, on men and women dark and white. I was shaken when I got to the end. Shaken in a good way.

4. The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins


I bought The Moonstone at MPH because it was thick and cost only RM10. Did I say it was thick? It was thick. It’s a classic and was one of the first detective stories during its time. At first, I couldn’t find myself finding the story in the thread of narratives told by varying characters. But once the plot eventually unfolded, I couldn’t put the book down. I even brought it with me during my “Midyear Break” in the Philippines. Trust Mari to lug a bulky book like that around.

5. The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis

This could actually stand as the seven swans on its own because the set consists of seven books. But I shall count the sevenology (is there even such a word???) as one. And yes, I, the book buff, have only read this series just this year. I feel so ashamed. I guess I was just too stingy to shell out cash for the collection.

Well, this year, I managed to grab hold of an e-book containing ALL the seven books: The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe; Prince Caspian; The Voyage of the Dawn Treader; The Silver Chair; The Horse and his Boy; The Magician’s Nephew; and The Last Battle.

C. S. Lewis is a genius. I still feel a bit sad about Susan though. Oh but the spoilers will end there. But I love how the stories leak out Christian truths in an adventure-filled and magical way.

6. Strictly Business by O. Henry

Strictly Business is a collection of short stories by O. Henry. Mr. O (not his real name — and O. Henry is just the guy’s pen name) is quickly becoming one of my favourite short story authors (well, I still have many more short story authors to discover). But it’s crazy how his stories suddenly take uncanny twists in the end. You may know him from one of his more famous works, The Gift of the Magi

I have yet to grab a physical copy of his collections. I read Strictly Business in the Project Gutenberg repository and put up with online reading because I found the New York tales so amusing. My favourite shorts there would include The Thing’s the Play and Proof of the Pudding. READ THEM.

7. Uprising by E. R. McManus


And a non-fiction inspirational book makes it to the list. I LOVE MCMANUS. The back portion of Uprising warns readers: “This book is dangerous! It is only for those who are ready to join the uprising — a revolution of the soul that will change and ordinary life into an extraordinary one. It is only for those who want something more out of life, who desire to tap into the divine potential that was placed in them at their creation.”

I like how McManus breaks it into “Quests” instead of the usual “Chapters”. In his book, you go from your Point of Origin on a Quest for Honour, a Quest for Nobility, and a Quest for Enlightenment until you get to your Final Destination. 

Read this book and be changed. And while you’re at it, read McManus’ other books as well.

* * *

Well, this entry turned out to be one of my longer pieces. I decided not to break it into parts but I hope it still worked out well with you all, dear readers.

So how about you? What books did you read and love this year? They might just make it to my next year’s reading list. ;)


Nothing beats "real" books.
Nothing beats “real” books.

Stressed Much?

(Day 28 — What stresses you out?)

Long lines, heavy traffic, commuters pressing in left and right — Mari is patient, Mari is kind. Hard to solve computer and web-related issues, tight deadlines — Mari is so patient, Mari is so kind. Confusing people, confusing situations, confusing — MARI IS SO VERY PATIENT AND MARI IS SO VERY KIND.

Thank You, Lord, for good music. Thank You, Lord, for friends who’ll laugh with you, listen and rant along with you, and even sing along to crazy karaoke songs with you.

Thank You, Lord, for every good stress busters that there are.


I’m going to stop right here before this entry also stresses you out.


Buffy on Shuffle

(Day 17- Put your iPod on shuffle, first 10 songs.)

So I don’t have an iPod. I do have an external hard drive named Buffy (The Vampire Slayer)* though and, to comply with the “30 day” writing challenge, I decided to put her on shuffle this morning. She’s still shuffling as of the time of writing, generating random songs, giving music to this very random Wednesday.

So. First ten songs. You’ll laugh at the randomness – but hopefully smile at the mari-ness – of them all.

Please excuse my beautiful handwriting.

1. Simon Says (1910 Fruitgum Company – why does it say 1920 in my files???)

I had no idea I had this song in my hard drive. I probably got it from one of Ate Mian’s old CDs. Okay. Let’s go retro.

2. Miss Invisible (Marié Digby)

Napangiti naman daw ako noong narinig ko ‘to. Someone sent me a copy of this song back in 2008 but I didn’t have much of an idea who Marié Digby was back then. Listened to the song, got hooked, and now I’m pretty much what you would call a Digbyholic. Miss Digby is Miss Invisible no more.

3. Sure Looks Good to Me (Alicia Keys)

Yes, I do have Miss Keys in my playlist. :D

4. Love Shack (The B-52s)

Oh groovy! This one made me laugh. I seem to have many old school songs in my HD.

5. Eagle’s Wings (Hillsong)

This one is old school too – old school worship. Oh, but oldies are goodies. Truly.

6. Ordinary World (Duran Duran)

May Duran Duran pala ako??? Anong song ito??? <– My reaction when Buffy played this song out.

7. Call to Worship (Mercy Me)

Contemporary Christian. I love this genre. You know. Switchfoot, Mercy Me, Jars of Clay. David Crowder. Those bands.

8. Change (Taylor Swift)

And Miss T Swizzle makes it to the list. Hey, I like Taylor Swift. I like John Mayer too, but I don’t think they’re in particularly good terms right now.

9. Bless Me Lord (Bishop John Francis)

From the “This is Gospel 2” album. Old school gospel music. Oh yeah. I like gospel.

(But I can’t find a youtube vid. Tsk.)

10. We Win! (David Crowder* Band)

I. Love. David Crowder. And I love this song: We’re gonna shout loud, loud/ Until the walls come down/ Shout loud, loud until the walls come down/ Loud, until the walls come down / Cause we’ve already won and you don’t have a chance/ Yeah we’ve already won and no, you don’t have a chance/ Yeah it’s already done and you don’t have a chance/ Because we’ve already won/ We have already won!

O-ha. So. There’s my music. My musical taste is very diverse. And judging from the rest of the folders in Buffy’s directory, it gets even more assorted still.

I hope you enjoyed the music. And I hope this random Wednesday found you well.

*Her name’s Buffy because her box says she was manufactured by Buffalo Technologies. :D

Dear Caleb

(A break from the writing challenge. Will get back to that soon enough. But first, a post dedicated to my newest friend and companion. :D )

Thisizit pansit. From this point on, it’s just you and me, my dearest darling C.

So. How do we go about this?

Let me tell you first off that I’m not good at traffic lights. Red lights scare me. Hitting the brakes is not my problem though. Shifting from neutral to gear one and getting the right clutch-accelerator mix is. I find it especially nervewracking when there are cars following us. I panic at the thought of pressure. Yes, the thought of pressure. So you better help me out on that. Be comforting enough so that I’ll be able to keep my cool. Divert me well enough so that all destructive thoughts will disappear.

I’m not so good with touch-n-go machines either. I’m afraid of getting too close thus I end up going so far away instead. Let me know what the right distance is. Let me know how to get close enough so I can reach out without struggle, so I can get by without fear or uneasy thoughts.

Keep up with my turtle-like speed. I don’t want to go too fast. The fastest I can go on the freeway is 90kph for now. Well, 100kph is also okay. But we’ll have to stick to the slow lane. We’ll get to the fast lane soon enough.

Forgive my poor parking skills. I still have to adjust to you. You, after all are not one of ‘em small Kancils. I have yet to know how your steering wheel works. How far you’ll move if I turn a little bit to the right, what will happen if I turn a bit to the left.

Oh, but I can change gears almost seamlessly now. I don’t have to keep looking at the gear stick every time, unlike before.

I know I still have a lot of things to work on. Well, you do too. But I promise to take care of you. Sorry for your baptizing scrape. I’ll try my best not to let it happen again.

I’ll keep you fed; I’ll make sure you’re maintained well. As long as you work with me, you know very well I’ll work with you. You are a blessing from heaven. An answered prayer. Your name means, “faithful companion” and you’re one of those things that will keep me “fearless in the face of overwhelming odds” ( ).

So, Caleb. Are you ready to roll?

This will be the start of something new. :)

Cooking Rice

The water is boiling. But the rice is still cooking.

It’s agonizing, really. My hungry tummy wants to get its fill of fluffy white rice, but it must wait a couple minutes more.

Maybe five minutes. Or six. Or seven. Or eight.

I pace back and forth. What to do, what to do, what to do?

Fry an egg, that’s what I’ll do. A radiant sunny-side up would surely brighten up this rainy evening.

Rain. Thank God it finally rained. The past days have been dreadful (weather-wise) with the thick humidity and the air of laziness hanging about.

The egg is done. The rice still isn’t. What’s taking the rice so long?

Tap, tap, tap. I should probably wash the frying pan. That would kill some time. And, after dinner, that would be one less utensil for me to wash.

Utensils. Is a frying pan a utensil? Isn’t it some sort of cutlery or something? Whatever. I’d ask Flynn Rider and he’d say that it’s a deadly weapon. But this frying pan won’t get into any tangled mess – it’s going to stay here in the kitchen where it belongs.

Frying pan’s done. The rice still isn’t. What is up with that?

Well, it’s almost done. But it still needs to sit out a few minutes more.

I turn off the gas range.

If I head off to my room and sing a couple of songs, would the rice be okay by the time I’m through?


Hungry I come to You for I know You satisfy… We are hungry, we are hungry, we are hungry for more of You.

Wow. Excellent choice of songs, Mari.

Sigh. Why must the rice take so long? Along with so many other stuff?

What do I do here in the waiting? What do I do with my unsatisfied heart?

Unsatisfied is right. I’m so ready to eat dinner. I’m so ready to take on that project. I’m so ready to do my VIVA (wait, am I?). And I’m so ready to take on that dream job (again – wait, am I?). I’m so ready to march up that stage and receive that diploma, but right now…

I. Must. Wait. Still.

So what do I do here in the waiting?

Get closer to God, I know.  (Doing so, doing so…)

Well, the rice should be cooked by now.

Kain. :)

Fluffy white rice.

I Dare You to Move

song's stuck in my head -- and playlist

Welcome to the planet, welcome to existence
Everyone’s here, everyone’s here
Everybody’s watching you now
Everybody waits for you now
What happens next?
What happens next?

–          I Dare You to Move (Switchfoot)




One of the songs that used to kill my CD player way back in high school was Switchfoot’s I Dare You to Move from the A Walk to Remember OST. I remember playing the song (and the soundtrack) over and over until forever and ever. No wonder, years later, my karaoke picks would always include Mandy Moore’s Cry, It’s Gonna be Love, Only Hope and New Radical’s Someday We’ll Know. If a karaoke/videoke machine had Switchfoot’s I Dare You to Move and Learning to Breathe I’d have sung those songs too.

I have five of the American Rock Band’s albums stored inside good ol’ Acer here and two of those have I Dare You to Move in their track lists (it’s just Dare You to Move in The Beautiful Letdown).

Would it surprise you if I said that the song’s been murdering my playlist again lately?

Why? No particular reason. It just is.

Hmm. Or maybe it’s because it reminds me of that long-gone saccharine-filled A Walk to Remember OST.

I’m not going to write about sugar and all that jazz in this blogpost though. I’m dying to, but let’s just wait and see.

So instead of writing about all the mushiness that this world has to offer, I’m going to write about – wait for it – MY THESIS. Big surprise there. It’s like it’s the only thing that I ever talk/write about these days. And it’s so funny because I stumbled upon this post from phdcomics the other weekend:



Well, my thesis is almost over. I’m contemplating on asking God to add an additional three days to February this year and make it end on the 31st instead of the 28th. Really. How do I finish all that I’m supposed to finish in those mere twenty eight days???

I believe it’s possible though. With God, nothing is impossible (Luke 1:37).

I honestly believe that.

And so, as I finish this thesis off, I’ll just brace and prepare myself for all the new things (as if my January hasn’t been filled with new things already!) that are still to come.

I’m excited for all the doors opening up ahead.  : )


new things
Doors opening up ahead.