Tuesday, January 21, 2014

A Joy Made Double

The German Philosopher, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe said, “A joy shared is a joy doubled”. Joy is never full until you share it with somebody. Anchoring on this principle we, the PNULHS Batch 1998 decided to make the Annual Alumni Homecoming truly a joyful celebration. 

Being the host for the 2013 reunion, we wanted everyone to have a great time. Our planning started 3 years before. We brainstormed on themes, activities, and ideas on how we were going to finance it. By December 2012, we came up with a theme that would be fun at the same time  meaningful to us: “NEONINETY8: Light Up the Night!” We prepared a video teaser for everyone to get excited for the reunion. Indeed, excitement took over!

A series of meetings started Batch 98’s year. We were getting ready to turn up the hype. By November, we would be covering the city with tarps and whatnots inviting every one for the reunion. The event planner we consulted already scheduled a site visit.

And then, Yolanda came. 

The tarps never got to the printers. The site visit never happened. Excitement was replaced with an overcoming desire to address the urgent: Hunger, homelessness and worst, hopelessness. 

Batch 98 pulled together the resources that were available. In cooperation with Bangon Cadiznon, whose founder by the way is Chris Ryan MontaƱo our classmate, we distributed food packs, old clothes, and even school supplies. We also helped our Alma Mater, PNU, by reconstructing the fence that was damaged by the typhoon. We took every opportunity to be of help. Each was trying to get help either from a friend or a company just to be able to fill a need that was pressing that time. We also rounded up other batches who gladly extended their help too. I wrote an article at Cadiz-city.com about one of our operations. Collectively, it was the PNULHS Alumni that was at work. And if I am not mistaken, it was the first time that we worked together representing the Alumni (which is up to now, not an institutionalized group). 

Charity is not new to our batch. By the grace of God, we have been reaching out to kids for the last 5 years. Every December, when we get pledges for the annual gathering, we make sure that a big portion of that goes to our Gift-giving activity. We give out toys, school supplies and let the kids enjoy a Christmas party. Every year, more than our fellowship, this is what most of us look forward to. 

In the aftermath of Yolanda, our impulse was to change plans. A high percentage of the city’s population was affected. There was no electricity for weeks. The whole country was mourning. Companies and groups of people cancelled their parties and donated the funds to the victims instead. We knew spending a lot of money for the NEONINETY8 party we planned for was very impractical…and insensitive. 

And so, we opted for a grand gift-giving activity and just a simple Thanksgiving Celebration with the teachers. Thus, renaming the activity “Light Up a Life”. When we presented this plan to the administration of PNU, they couldn’t agree more. It was exactly what the school wanted to embody – an attitude of helpfulness. 

I am tempted to write down all the criticisms we received because of this decision. But, I will skip that. Instead, let me paraphrase what Winston Churchill said; if you have enemies, it means that you have stood up for something in your life. We were glad to have stood up for a cause that was beyond us. 

The gift-giving was fulfilling. Other batches came to join us, too. Some brought gift packs, tubs of ice cream and even hygiene kits. It was a joy to see the kids (and the adults, too) have fun and enjoy the food. They all received gifts wrapped in Christmas paper. To many of them, that was the only gift they would ever receive that Christmas. 

I am posting the photos below to share with you the joy that we had experienced. Had we pushed through with the party, the only thing we would have gained would be a bad hangover. But this, it has doubled our joy knowing we have made an imprint in the lives of these kids. Hopefully, they will cherish the memory they had on that day and when an opportunity like this comes to them where they would be on the giving end, they would share their joy too. 

Acts 20:35 "In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ 

Our Class. PNULHS Class of 1998. (Some were absent though)

Enjoying good food. Spaghetti, sandwich, and hotdogs!

Paul, my classmate scooping the ice cream for the kids.

The smiles that made our day!

These are bosses in their companies. But here, they were tasked to hang the balloons. haaaa!


A mother and Child. Happy!

Representatives from other batches who helped us. Thanks guys!

I drink juice like a boss! hahaha!

Even the mothers enjoyed the bounty!

The smiles after receiving their gifts.

No bad day that ice cream can not cure. :)

Future Chess Champion!

Us with two of our High school Teachers.

Fely Grace and I leading the singing


With our teachers during the Thanksgiving Lunch

Photo Credits: Eugene Lacuesta, my favorite photographer (who happens to be my clasmate too )

Monday, January 6, 2014

Without a Bang!

To many of us, our 2014 started out with a Bang! To some, literally.  For most, just that high expectant spirit that brings in the positivity.

Mine didn’t. At least for my family. An uncle, my father’s cousin, died on the 31st of December. A huge cloud of sadness ushered us into the new year. To add to that, we were all tired from the days before. My father celebrated his retirement and we prepared a party for him. I, had just concluded ‘Light Up A Life’, an event that was 2 years in the making. I will write about that in the next post.

The bed was the only comfort I felt that time. No prayers were said. No ecstatic “Happy New Year” exchanges. I didn’t even pick up my phone. Sleep was the only momentary relief from the sorrow and our aching bodies.

I didn’t wake up with a Eureka moment either. Not like Christmas morning. Not like the January firsts I used to have. I didn’t plan for a personal retreat. I didn’t go , sit and plan for the year. It was an ordinary day. I am big on Moments. And As a personal tradition, I make sure I will have something to remember about the First day of the year. This however, was just plain rising of the sun and setting.

And so was the next. And the next.

But January 4th came and I was reminded of a breakthrough in my life on that same date, seven years ago. So I decided, THIS has to be special. I went to my favourite place in the campus ( Dr. R.Kole’s garden, where else?) and plopped down my Bible, my planner, and 4 other journals. Laugh at me I have four different journals; one for my spiritual walk, one for my bible readings, one for my future husband (What??!) and one for my prayer lists that I only write on every January 1st.

The Lord is sweet. My bible reading that day fell on 1 Chronicles 16. It was David’s Psalm of Thanks. I wrote down verses 8-36 on my journal. David’s thanksgiving is very humbling. This man who has everything, he has the stature that Kings tremble at,  and the favour of God and man. He was even called ‘A man after God’s own heart. Out of the abundance the mouth speaks. He spoke none about himself.

The Lord exposed my heart. More than ever, every day since that day, the Lord has been showing me how wicked my heart is.  Every good deed was in question. Every kind word was scrutinized. Every loving act was dissected. As if God was asking me: “Are you REALLY doing this for me?”

I crumble at the thought that most of those things I claim to be ‘good’ are actually good only for the pile. Nothing. Filth.

But, as I made my list of “Thanksgiving” for 2013, a certain joy grew inside me. Yes, the joy of having been graced-out! Undeserving but blessed anyway! I spent a good few hours just having that alone moment with God and just poured out my heart to him. Its funny how candid we can get with God when he weeds away all our pretensions.
I closed all my journals with a resolve that God is TRUTH. And, in this world where the human heart is ridden with lies (including mine), I can trust Him who is true.

(If I had not mentioned, I started the year nursing a spat with a very close friend. Lies can break hearts. And my heart was in pieces. It was only today, when another friend talked about forgiveness that I was fully convinced to let go.)

I am reminded of the part of the Christmas story that is often not discussed at length, nor played out in Christmas pageants. That of the gloominess of Bethlehem when Herod had all the young boys, 2 years old and below, killed to prevent the Messiah from fulfilling his purpose. There were no fireworks but weeping and wailing. Equally noisy. But, in the heavens, there was an excitement, and uproar of praise, an unending dancing of the angels knowing that God’s plans are coming along just as he had penned them.

The fireworks only lasted for a few minutes. The sparks, seconds. Not enough to light up the cloud that descended upon us. Not enough to warm my heart that have gronw cold to human relationships. But having that moment on the 4th has planted a joy in my heart knowing that there is a glorious plan already laid out for me. A plan for a ‘hope and a future’.

So bring it on, Lord!