It was the most difficult Christmas.

We stayed at home because our difficulties started on the 23rd.  Because things are not finished yet, I could not divulge the details.  There are still insights to be gained. Events to be carefully prayed for , people to be lifted up and hearts to be mended.

Life is indeed difficult for us.

Everything would remind me of the broken-ness.  My wifey changed the bedsheets and she found me crying as I ran my hands through the very clean and comfortable sheets and pillows.

I let Beans into his dog house and cried again because there are some people who were sleeping that night with much less luxury than the wooden house of my labrador.

We were having a nice and quiet (because we were containing our tears) at Serendra yet I could not fully eat what was in front of me.  Bonifacio High Street was really relaxing because it is a high-end area, yet it was all hollow.  I asked God, how can these beautiful things be hollow?

When there is no peace, even the most beautiful of things become hollow inside.

At almost midnight of Dec 25th, I was doing a conference chat with my 2 sisters ( one is in the Middle east) – and there we were pouring out our hearts as we try to understand and make some sense of what is happening.

I got an email from a yahoogroup formed for my highschool reunion.

A friend I have gotten to know – lost his almost 2-year old son on Christmas day.

Too many heartaches.

Too many tears.

Too many broken families.

Too many hurtful relationships.

I called up my friend.  While my pain was incomprehensible for me, I could only imagine his.

His baby had low blood clotting attribute and the injury he sustained during his fall last monday left no bump or bruises, but it hemorrhaged inside.

His son was taken to the Makati Medical Center and on Christmas morning, was pronounced brain dead.

My friend requested that the machines be left on until the following day.

They scheduled for the machines to be unplugged on December 26th at 9am.  From the hospital, they will proceed straight to the Crematorium.

The past 2 sentences were typed so fast…. but I could only imagine the depths of unimaginable pain that my friend is going through.

December 26th 9am: I offered a quiet prayer for the whole family .

1:30PM – we stopped at Megamall to buy a wedding gift for a very close family friend /almost a brother to us.  As we were having the gift wrapped, I got a text message informing me of the death of a batchmate who attended our highschool reunion last month!

Going through all these events, I don’t know how I still found an even keel to attend that very beautiful and inspiring wedding.  It was such a lovely occasion – but I felt so dead inside as I tried to be happy for couple.

I cannot recall at this time where I got the title of this blog article. Must be in one of my Abuse Counseling books.  There are times when we do not realize how broken we are because we have grown accustomed to what we have. Until we see those broken fragmented parts, made completely manifest in the lives of other people.

We need to see our wholeness – then we can understand the depths of our broken-ness.

And in the image of God, we see our wholeness.

And in the image of God, we understand the depths, the helplessness of our broken-ness apart from Him.

These are trying times and heart-breaking times. But these are hopeful and encouraging times as well.  These are faith-stretching times and times for quietness.  Time to be still not for stillness’ sake.  Time to be still and know that He is Lord – Psalm 46:10

Are you going through the same?

Are tears your constant companion these days?

You are not alone and you will never be.  God can simultaneously handle our broken hearts together!

He sees everyone. He hears every cries. He knows every pain and every injustice ever done to anyone at all time and throughout history.

He knows how broken we are because He has already seen how complete we shall become. – Philippians 1:6

It is almost totally healed but I have been meaning to write about this a couple of days ago.  I also noticed that the articles I wrote about this had seen a spike in hits – meaning that there are people researching the WP blogs for info they can get their hands on regarding the swollen testicles of their precious labrador pets.

Well, 2 weeks ago I noticed Beans’ testicles were red again.  Aaarrggghh I remembered what the vet said “next time it happens, let us cut them off…”

Well, I think my Beans will have to miss out on the mating experience and would just need to remain a virgin if I followed that advice right away.

I immediately gave him antibiotics ( the same one we humans consume) following the advice of the vet previously.  It helped a bit but the swelling was still going on… well any infection needs to run its course eventually but I started applying the antibacterial cream we had from the previous swollen-ness experience.

Beans would not like it at all.

Our neighbor has a guava tree – and here in the Philippines, young guava leaves are used to  help speed up the healing process of circumcision during the summer.  It is what was commonly used as antiseptic and its sap was said to expedite the healing process.    I got some young leaves and boil them for several minutes.  I added salt and let that simmer for awhile.

I would use that (when it is tolerably warm) to bathe his testicles. Make sure that it is not too hot – so maybe you would need to let it cool a bit after boiling.  I would splash his part of the body with that guava mixture and towel him dry.

Trust me… even Beans felt the comfort from that.  I would do that daily or even twice during the day.  After the treatment, he would go back to his house and sleep.

But I also took Beans back to the vet for his proper medical treatment. Once inside the clinic, Beans showed nervousness when he saw the doctor again by hiding his tail behind his legs.  He “remembered” who the doctor was.  That was the first time I saw him act like that.  He would usually be very expressive around other people by clamoring his attention.  But for the first time, he was nervous.

The doctor did not ask me to put the mouth cover on him anymore – but clearly he did not want to approach him either. “He will surely bite if I touch it because that is really painful…”

So I ordered Beans to climb on the chair and when he did, I picked him up and placed him on the vet’s table. Picked him up? You bet and boy, did I really feel those 30Kilos on my lower back!

He got injected twice ( antibiotics and vitamins) and told me to give him antibiotics tablets for 10 days (2x/daily) – I was already giving him cotrimoxazole and he said there is no need to have the antibiotic tablets changed.

I would smash the tablets and mix it in his food. Made sure that he finished his food everytime.

His balls are healed now.

And make sure that during the treatment process that he does not wet that area for a long time. So I stopped throwing balls for several days and just let him stay in his house and I would occasionally let him roam and bark at the stray cats outside the fence.

I asked 2 vets if that will always happen. The 1st one  basically said – “since their balls are exposed… they are most prone to infection caused by bacteria or mosquito bites…”  . The 2nd one (the one who treated the Beans) said that “that is why,  if he is not a stud, why don’t you have them removed?”

Well good thing I could not afford the procedure which would cost  Php 4,500.

Just one of those things that come with taking care of an adult male dog.

Yesterday morning when I checked my phone for any messages that were sent through the night, there was one message sitting there from one of the youth leaders that I have mentored.  His text said “thanks for prayers. Now I can buy a laptop.”

I smiled at the thought because I have told him a couple of times that I had been praying for a laptop to help him with his seminary studies.  At a Board meeting last month, he even suggested that I need to upgrade this laptop I am using and then simply hand this to him.  I thought it would be feasible, but these hard times call on us to be more frugal.  But I kept praying that God would give him the means to buy his own.

And God did.  He will be buying a similar laptop ( Dell, of course.)

Then yesterday afternoon, I checked my email and there was another encouraging email for me from another young man whom I had taken in as my younger brother.

I was really encouraged by what he wrote as a response to a quick email I sent through my cellphone last week. I was walking in Megamall and chanced to see the place where we had our conversation.  This younger brother was at that time, out of work and I was trying to be helpful when I said “why don’t you try working in a cruise ship?”

Well, he has been working on a cruise ship for more than a year now and I have not heard from him in recent months, and last week at that mall, I suddenly remembered how he was when we last talked.

Over a cup of coffee at Seattles Best in Caltex along SLEX, this young man poured out his heart.  The store was about to close but the manager sensing the sensitivity of our conversation, politely told us that we can stay for a couple of minutes more.

But this email I received yesterday was very different from how he felt as we talked last.  He was full of hope and he was beginning to understand how God has been patiently working in his life. He has grown amazed at the love of Jesus and how in his surrender, the Lord is beginning to transform him especially since he is outside his comfort zone.

He even attached several pictures and one of them showed him practicing with a worship band.  He attends Bible Studies and regular worship services.

I had to smile when he said that he would like to help out at our youth camp as soon as he gets home next year.  And he quickly added “we need to talk right away when I get back…”

It was awesome. His email made me smile and made me teary-eyed at the same time.  I was really grateful that God had not given up on him and how God had allowed him to go through some difficult times (like being mugged and beaten on his birthday last year!)

Thank you Lord for keeping him safe as they travel through the different ports.

Thank you Lord for looking after him and allowing him to benefit from the work of his hands.

Lead him away from any temptations and walk with him God through the discouraging times.

When loneliness sets in because of him being away, surround him with people who will affirm your love toward him.

Thank you for allowing us to have a small part in his life. It is a privilege to have shared a part of his journey with him and we look forward to sharing many more with him.

He ended his email with the usual “gotta go but will keep in touch…”

The last line of his email made my heart swell with joy and pride…

” I love you Kuya…”

Thank you Lord for allowing us to invest our lives on others, and in doing so, you have enriched ours a thousand times over.

This afternoon, I found my Broadband internet bill hiding inside my mailbox. I was on my way to take care of a bill so I just nonchalantly tossed this bill when I got into the car.

As soon as I parked at the mall where I was going to make payments, I opened the Broadband bill and was pleasantly surprised that it was a little bit lower by about P70.00

Almost P100 less than the usual subscription rate. I turned to page 2 and to my amazement, the mystery was solved.  My ISP automatically gave me a rebate, OUTAGE REBATE amounting to P58.14!

And now I remember, there was a time when there was no internet for about 8 hours. And when I called up their 24-hr customer service, I was able to talk to their Customer Care officer named Peter who asked me questions detailing the technical difficulties I was going through.  He even gave me a reference number so that I can immediately follow it up.  He assured me that the technician will be sent right away.

Well the following day, an outsourced technical company came representing INNOVE.  It was very prompt. I basically just explained that my internet signal is usually affected when it rains.  All the installations and wires were okay so the man said he will check about the internet programming on my subscription ( whatever that means…I was just glad that someone was going to check up on it..)

I forgot about the whole thing until I saw this bill. This is my second bill from Innove since I changed ISP from SmartBro.

There it was, P58.14 rebate for an OUTAGE that they acknowledged. I remember when I was a subscriber of SMART, we experienced 5 days without any internet connection. I emailed them asking for the rebate since I complained that our payment has been made in full every month, despite their lack of assurance that they can give us 24/7 connection.  I thought they really did well when they gave me a P30 rebate to cover the 5-day outage!  Now look at Globe/Innove, it automatically gave me the rebate even if didn’t ask for it.

Just one of the many reasons why it is SMARTER to switch to GLOBE BROADBAND.

Let me detail here why their services are better:

1. Customer service hotline actually works.  You dial it from your handyphone whether it is a landline or not, it is toll-free.  With SMART, once you dial their landline, you are charged accordingly.  Since I was a Globe user, calling a PLDT number, I would minimally spend more than P100 just waiting for the customer service to get back to me and give me some reasonable answer than the usual “there is an ongoing work in your site…” .

2. The outsourced technical company is located where I live.  These companies have been outsourced by Globe to meet the immediate needs of their clients. With SMART, we would need to go to the Wireless Centers and really try our best to explain to their customer service client what the problem was.  Then they will give us the standard answer “paki hintay na lang po..papupuntahin namin, kasi may on-going work po sa site ninyo eh…” Ongoing work to an unknown site which has affected the internet service… whoaaa that qualifies as a pinhead response don’t you think?

And I remember one time when I lodged my complaint when I was a SMARTBRO subscriber and the answers I got were:

– that depends on the area ( when I said the internet signal was intermittent)

– SmartBro is really separate from PLDT ( when I said it took forever for their technicians to get to my place)…

Since I transferred to GLOBE BROADBAND by INNOVE COMMUNICATIONS, my internet connecton has been reliable. I am paying LESS for a MORE SUPERIOR quality of service with a much bigger bandwidth size compared to what had been promised by SMARTBRO ( up to 384kbps)… I did a speedtest on my connection and it has been consistent:

innove1

I know that in other countries, this speed would look very primitive. But this is what we have here and this is way better than what my previous ISP – SmartBro was able to give me.

Quality service, superior technical handling and excellent customer service.  These are still some of the non-negotiable core values that should never change.

Now I should let my friends who work at Globe read this blog.

They would be very happy to hear from a very pleased client.

I watched again and again the short video capture of the pair of shoes hurled at the outgoing president of the United States.

I am not an American but that scene played over and over again through the news channels and cable news showed two critical realities:

1. The first one is not a strange idea anymore as millions chanted “Change” before November 4th. The image of US has been badly tainted – I don’t need to explain this as CNN and FOx News are better at explaining this.

2. The second reality that the shoe-throwing incident showed was not about the image of the US as seen or perceived by the world.  But the glaring lack of disrespect for the highest position in the United States.

Bear with me please.  Sure the economy is really difficult. Sure there are a lot of things that are going wrong. Sure all these bailouts are difficult. Sure the mess about the Chicago governor is but a symptom of something that has grown endemic ( corruption) esp here in the Philippines.

But what is more sad is that, the throwing of the shoes at the President has been a source of banter, funny antics, joke and even to some, the gesture was even considered heroic.

I will not focus my discussion on that specific man who threw that except that, if it weren’t for the man he threw his shoes at hatefully, he would not even be alive if it was a different Iraqi president. Had it been Saddam Hussein, the video would not be seen at all. And his death and that of his relatives would have been definite for sure.  It was the man he threw at, that fought for the freedom that he is abusing now.

I am saddened by the common reactions in the United States.  If Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (who isn’t well  liked as well in this country due to a lot of irregularities in her administration and business contracts with other countries) was thrown shoes at in one of her international travels, the whole country would be very upset.  Sure, our president is not well-liked, but we will not give other nationalities the “luxury” of insulting her and throwing shoes at her.

After all, George Bush is still the President of the United States. And while President-elect Barrack Obama is doing a lot of conferences now, there is still one president.  And while he may not be liked, there is a call for all americans to still respect the position that such person holds.

The US is growing conscious about its image to the rest of the world.  How about an image where you even “welcome” the idea of your president being “attacked” in foreign soil?  What kind of an image does it send?  How can the other countries respect the US, when it cannot respect its own?  Why should non-americans respect the US, when it cannot even respect its own?

How would the US have reacted if it were Condoleeza Rice?  Or Obama?

If the throwing of the shoes to the President of the most powerful nation on the planet can just be shrugged-off, imagine what they could do the rest of the normal Joe traveling around.  Why will they respect an average american doing their business or on tour groups, when Americans are non-chalant about the attack on their President?  How can americans feel safe everywhere when even their President, when attacked in foreign soil becomes a “laughing” matter?

I know the economy is hard. ( I am from the Philippines… and we define hardship as well over here…)

I know he is an un-popular president that allowed these things to happen during his watch.

I know other nations hate what the US represents.

But it is very, very disconcerting when we cannot give the least amount of respect to the POSITION that this man holds.

You do not need to respect the person perhaps, but we still need to respect the position of the PRESIDENT.

Anything lower than that is not acceptable,  if we want to be better off as human beings.

I was finishing the retreat in Iloilo when I received a series of SMS from Manila concerning a  domestic problem in oneof the families back  home.

It was a case of a young 16 year old being thrown out of the house after a conflict with his grandfather.

As the people were telling me their goodbyes and appreciation for the just concluded retreat, i was on the phone trying to calm this 16 year old boy as he cried while trying to explain to me the incident.

But the family wounds go deep. Much deeper than what I could write here on this blog. He almost retaliated and boxed his grandfather when his grandfather choked him on the neck after some argument over some clothes that were left inside the bathroom.

24 hours later, I was talking to another family who was gracious enough to accommodate this young man’s need for housing.   I could not believe that it came down to this:  this young man who is basically an orphan now, was kicked out of the house mercilessly by his grandfather.

It stung deep when I realized that non-family members could be more gracious, merciful and forgiving sometimes than those who share their same blood in the lineage system.

This young man was already exasperated.  Sent a text message to his mom overseas and told her that he is leaving the house because he could no longer stand it anymore.

The wounds have gone too deep.

I do not know how anyone could start repairing the breach that had taken place, especially when violence has been involved.

But for now, at least this young man, has a place to sleep.  Behind a small vulcanizing shop, he shares a room with a highschool friend.  He may be unloved and orphaned right now – but he is not alone as he has found refuge in the home of some gracious samaritans.

Thank you for these people who did not even ask for the financial arrangement when they took in this young man.

I could hear Jesus telling them…”if you have done it for the least of them… you have done it for me..”

Lord God, be with that young man and encourage him that life does get better. Do not allow him to wallow in self-pity but in your grace, make something out of himself.  Tell him Lord that his past do not necessarily determine his destiny.

Thank you for taking care of him Lord.

December 6th was a stressful day because of the myriad of details that need to be taken care of.10th Wedding Anniversary Portrait

Car needed to be cleaned because it was going to be used a the bridal car. It gave me a good excuse to buy flowers and have it arranged right at the floral shop!

Cake and cupcakes ( made by Wifey) need to be delivered to the venue and then come back for the whole family to attend the wedding which I officiated.

The wedding of Andy and Jorie started at about 30 mins after 3PM.  It was a simple yet very relaxed wedding because I wanted Andy and Jorie to be comfortable by injecting some humorous stuff along the questions I asked them.  Andy was able to get Jorie’s sweet yes 10 years ago, 7 minutes ahead of when I got Sheila’s ‘i love you too…”

I told Andy that we are going to be brothers for life now – since we got engaged on the same day and got married on the same date…(with a gap of 10 years!)

At the end of the reception, my little plan was put into action.  Aron sang “I’ll be” by Edwin McCain as Larry Parane played the guitar as his accompaniment.  I came out from my hiding place and handed the flowers to Sheila as I led her outside to dance as Aron sang that beautiful song…

dance Hans followed with 2 songs (The Way You Look Tonight) or it could be something else, I need to check my details now.  We just quietly danced as some well-meaning friends looked on approvingly.  Pretty soon, all the wedding photographers were there covering our simple anniversary celebration. Hans sang another song…Containing the tears . . .

When it was over, I led her to the laptop and watched on the projector screen the powerpoint presentation I prepared containing the greetings of friends here and abroad.  Even the Chief Justice joined and accommodated my request for a greeting and sent his the day before the anniversary!car

At the end of the presentation, wifey was overwhelmed and turned to me and cried.

It was priceless.

kiss1

Thank you Lord God for this most awesome gift.