Family, Relationships

At the end of each day….

I appreciate the devotions that our church puts out daily, and though I don’t get to join them regularly, there’s so much to gain from it. There’s the Word, the encouraging stories, the sense of community, the prayer time. Then there are also gems from the sharers.

Yesterday the focus was Psalm 90:12 —Teach us to number our days,
that we may gain a heart of wisdom. What struck me was one of the things that Ptr Carlo said. At the end of the day, he would ask himself if he spent quality time with his son, if he had their heart to heart talk.

What wisdom. How many of us actually think about how we spent our day, before we go to bed? How many of us actually recount the events of the day in terms of quality time spent with our family, especially in this pandemic where everyone is home all. the. time.?

It’s quite easy to think that since we are all home, we are spending quantity AND quality time with one another. On the contrary, we become less intentional about doing things together because we feel we are in close proximity to each other. We become complacent. We talk less. Or we settle for small talk. We fill our days with activities, work so we can feel productive, connect with others online, but we miss out on our personal connections at home.

We must know that one can still feel alone, despite the presence of family around. We must know that our physical presence is good, but it is not enough. We must be emotionally and mentally present. Parents to children, children to parents, siblings to siblings, spouse to spouse. We must engage. Be interested. Eye contact. Listen with our hearts.

At the end of each day, let’s not just look at what we have accomplished. Let’s ask ourselves the more important questions. Did I really spend time with my loved one/s today? Did I have meaningful conversations with them? Did I laugh with them? Did I help them when they needed me? Did I make them feel loved? Did I speak life? Did I listen? Did I pray for or with them?

Lord, teach us to number our days. Teach us to be wise with the use of our time everyday. Help us not to neglect our families. We feel the stress that this pandemic brings, but grant us the extra extra extra grace we need to nurture our most precious relationships, while also caring for our own needs and fulfilling our duties at home, at work, and in ministry. 🙏❤️

Family

Tito Panser, the beloved!

Tito Panser. I dont know anyone else named Panser, or Fruspambliser for that matter. So when people say his name, I automatically know who they mean. He was someone everyone knew and someone everybody was fond of. Maybe it was his charisma, maybe his consistent smile. Maybe it was his gusto, or his singing, or his ahoo! He was always the life of the party. Danae said this as well when she learned that Wowo Panser was heading to heaven soon. She said our family parties won’t be the same. How painfully true. He brought that joy and light to all our gatherings, and it isn’t a surprise that he was the same in church and everywhere else.

To me though, he was Tito Panser who loved me. You see, I grew up with his daughters. I’m the only girl in my family and I’m so blessed to have my cousins, Ate Sol, Mai, and Dee, as my sisters. I would sleep over in their home often, and he, and Tita Monette of course, always welcomed me. It was like I wasn’t a visitor, as I was privy to some things, like his hair hehehe. And in the times that I could not sleep and had to go home in the middle of the night, I did not hear any complaint or reprimand, only laughter. Like it wasn’t new. Because it happened a few times hahaha. A tad inconvenient, but no biggie since we live only a couple of blocks away.

As a kid, I didn’t really like going to church, much less wake up early for it, but I knew that if I slept over on a Saturday in their home, Sunday morning would mean church. That was a non-negotiable. They were consistent. They were the family I respected and looked up to when it came to Christianity. Not perfect, but consistent and committed in serving the Lord. And when I reached a phase in my life that wasn’t ideal or pleasant (to put it mildly), they remained loving and accepting towards me. They let me stay an entire summer, the ultimate sleepover, in their home, to help my parents deal with me. They never made me feel like I was a bad seed. Now I understand how Jesus enabled them to do that, despite my being….me. I am certain they prayed for me and my family, and that they believed in the power of the Lord to change what needed to be changed….which was of course, me. 😂

Fast forward to my twenties when I started following Christ, I got engaged, and it was a no brainer to ask him and tita to be one of our prinicipal sponsors. I’d seen plenty of them as a married couple — they loved God, they served in church together. I love what Kuya Nando said in his eulogy, that wisdom was in Tito Panser’s counsel. In his and tita Monette’s. They helped many people in their marriages, in their family life, and in their walk with God. I also saw how they took care of each other, and how tito Panser pampered tita Monette and the girls. I knew him as a man who was strict with the budget, but always included pampering in the budget! He loooooved his family. He was a sweet husband, and also a super sweet dad to the girls — as in the kissing, hugging and the hand-holding kind of dad even to his adult daughters. ❤️

👩‍❤️‍👨

When the grandchildren came, he was the loving grandpa to Ate Sol’s boys and wowo Panser to my girls. He showered us with hugs and kisses when we saw each other. My childhood friends, the Tumangans included of course, and I hold a Happy Birthday Jesus Party for our kids every December. There was this one year that we could not have it at home because I’d just given birth and my mom was recovering from a stroke, so the next best venue was the Tumangans’! And tito Panser was never one to just sit back. He got involved. He and tita welcomed us all in their home, ate with us, laughed with us, watched us play games. He even shared about Jesus and our value as God’s children that evening.

❤️

And of course, he did his usual — he made all the kids line up so he could give them Christmas money. Another thing that was consistent about him. He did this every Christmas since I was young. It only stopped I think when I started having kids hahaha. The Christmas money started going to them.

❤️

Noelle said that Wowo Panser lived a good life, and that he was generous. Isn’t that the truth. I remember last Christmas, when the church staff held a party for our EGSI team (our helpers in church), Tito Panser showed up. Of course he did! And he made all of them line up with their kids, to give them their Christmas love gifts. I was a bit surprised but also not that surprised. That’s just how he was. He blessed people and was always ready to help. His generosity extended to others, not just to family.

These are my personal photos, still in my phone actually. Dec 2019.
I didn’t know I would need it for this post.
I guess that just really shows how I admired and appreciated Tito Panser for what he did. ❤️

But like I said, he was a man who always worked with a budget. Which means he was always intentional about his generosity. He did not do it on a whim, but he joyfully and lovingly planned and set aside finances for it. I love what Ptr A said about him being a kingdom-minded guy. I believe the way he gave truly showed that. The way he lived showed it too — always to the glory of the Lord.

❤️

The Word shared in the memorial service was very comforting and just plain beautiful. Psalm 116:15 Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints (or faithful servants, in another version). Indeed, tito Panser was one of God’s faithful servants. He lived fully here on earth, worshipping God and telling everyone he could about Jesus, and God gladly, giddily, happily welcomed him home. This gives me much joy, especially when Mai told me that the vision she received was of her dad dancing before the Lord. What an awesome picture! ❤️

You will always be remembered, our beloved Tito Panser! Even Gianna asked me for your photos so she won’t forget. I have many, old and new. From our yearly vacations together in Batangas and in Baguio, to family parties, and church events. She still prays that you will be safe in heaven, which of course you are. 😂 It just goes to show the impact you made even in a young child. Since my dad, their wowo, passed away before Danae turned two, you were the wowo (here in the South) who was a consistent figure in the girls’ lives. Thank you for your love and generosity, and your example of faith. We love you! We love your whole family! ❤️

🙏❤️

Family, Just My Thoughts

Remembering God’s Providence

We had our couples victory group meeting last week, online of course, and King asked us, as a warm-up for our discussion, about our favorite memory before the pandemic. Funny that I didn’t know he would ask that question and that he would give his answer. But he was absolutely right. Our favorite memory before the pandemic was our trip to Baguio!!!

In February, a childhood friend of my mom’s based in the US came to visit, and we planned to bring her somewhere special. We needed to work around everybody’s schedules, including hers, so plans could not be finalized right away. Barely three weeks before her flight back home, I read an article about nice vacation homes in Baguio. One of the homes belonged to an old friend of ours, and the pictures were lovely!!! I thought it perfect for a short get-away. I immediately ran this by King and my mom. With their approval and having pinpointed the only dates good for all of us (kids had important school activities, and ballet rehearsals and their recital), I checked the available dates on airbnb. Would you believe that all the dates in the first half of March were booked solid, except for the dates that we needed??? I tried booking online, and I tried bugging King at work so he could book ASAP, but King was busy and I, having limited tech skills, could not successfully do it. I had to directly contact our friend! Hahaha. He was so kind and gracious. We got the booking!

We stayed in the guest suite,
below the main house.
Entrance through the porch on the left side. Click here for more info. 😊
The porch, overlooking the fire pit. 😊
Tiny living never looked this good! My friends are talented — woodwork and design, plus use of actual wood of the old house! 👏 👏 👏
Blessed indeed! 💛
Smores and hotdogs at the fire pit!
Erly, the awesome caretaker, made us a fire.
Iron bbq skewers were provided too! 🥖🔥

It was my mom’s first time to go back to Baguio since 2006, when my dad was still with us. My mom’s friend’s last time there was probably way back in the 80s. Fortunately for us, we’d visited in 2018 with friends, but that was also our first since 2006.

A dessert place in John Hay, 2018. 🍰

There were news reports about the Corona Virus in Manila already, there was shortage of alcohol in stores in Manila, they cancelled the Panagbenga festival in Baguio, but for some reason we were not fazed. We were already pretty vigilant (well I was, at least) with washing hands and making sure the kids did too, and trigger-spraying alchohol on our hands after each time we touched anything. We just made sure we did the same while in Baguio. We also bought our stock of alcohol bottles, since there seemed to be no shortage there. Masks were not yet compulsory then, but we spent most of our time outdoors anyway. There were few people out, we thought it was great! Even Burnham Park wasn’t that crowded. It was either there weren’t a lot of tourists or people were opting to stay indoors because of the virus. We didn’t really know for sure.

We went biking in burnham park! I actually wanted to do the boating thing but the kids preferred this. 🚲
We were the only customers in tree top adventure. In fact, the guy we talked to
told us that it’s a good thing we came so they could keep it open. They were already closed by the time we exited. What timing!
The little one was too little for the “ride” so she and daddy hiked together. 🤗
This was after they went roller skating
(well the two younger ones tried 😂),
still in Burnham Park. They like climbing trees. 😊
At Baguio Botanical Garden 🐘
At Baguio Botanical 🌻
Lunch at Lemon & Olives
before heading down to Manila. 🍋

One of our kids, to be honest, was concerned about school clearance week, so when they announced that classes were suspended, I think on Tuesday, March 10th, I saw it as a favor. She didn’t have to worry about not completing her clearance, though in my opinion, she really had nothing to worry about. Little did we know that Community Quarantine would be announced shortly after.

We got back to Manila late Wednesday evening. That was the last time the kids were out of the house because minors and seniors were instructed to stay home. Well, you know the story. We are still in quarantine today, after 4 long months.

At Jollibee somewhere on TPLEX. Last meal outside our home, nearly 5 months ago 😱

Which is why I really thank the Lord that He allowed us to have that 3-day, 2-night trip to Baguio. Perhaps we were wishful thinking that the virus would not spread as much as it has in the Philippines or in denial that the problem would last as long as it has in the whole world. But who knew?! Who knew how much impact it would make in our lives? Who knew that it would usher us into a new normal? Who knew that it would challenge our habits and way of living?

Who knew that three Sundays before our trip was the last time we’d attend an actual Sunday service as a family because the two Sundays before our trip were spent on the girls’ ballet general rehearsal and recital? Who knew that Noelle’s birthday in January was our last time to go up to Tagaytay (due to Taal’s activity AND the quarantine)? Who knew that our trip to Baguio would be the last time we’d go out, eat out as a family? Last time to explore new places? Last time to sit at Jollibee and enjoy some chicken joy and burger steak? Last time to ride the car as a family??? Who knew that that would be the last vacation we’d be taking this year? It’s only half the year, I know, but Covid is too close and too real. No trips for the rest of 2020.

But I saw the providence of God. The timing of it all — our available dates, our accommodations, home the day covid was declared a pandemic, home before the quarantine. We got to build precious memories with the family, precious memories in a beautiful house in a beautiful city, and everybody stayed healthy. My tita even got to fly back home to the US, days later, without a hitch. (Well, almost. There’s a funny story attached to that, but one that might be better kept among ourselves.) All by the hand of God, I truly believe.

This week, I and a bunch of friends were supposed to go on a trip outside the country — my very first without family. While it is sad that it didn’t push through (I’d already bought my tickets), it was wise to cancel it even months before we knew we would still be in quarantine (modified enhanced community quarantine at that) today. Once again, the providence of God.

In a season of tremendous uncertainty, unexpected happenings, difficult transitions, and heavy losses, it’s good to remember the better times, our better times. To listen to other people’s stories and see God’s faithfulness in their lives too. To look back at what God has done before, so we can endure, remain grateful and trust in what He is doing now, and look forward to what He will do again. Remembering keeps our hope alive.

I imagine all of us around a bonfire, sharing stories, singing songs, lifting each other up, being there for one another. My prayer is that each one of us receive and recognize the abundant grace of God at work in our day-to-day. He is in the details, as well as in the big picture. My prayer is that we carry each other through prayer and encouragement, and rejoice together when we overcome. God is never not in control and He always takes care of His children. ❤️

The Lord is righteous in all his ways
and faithful in all he does. Psalm 145:17

Family, Just My Thoughts

What are you grateful for?

It’s been more than a hundred days of quarantine! How have you been? King asked us the other night what we were thankful for, being home now for more than 3 months. Common answers from the kids were bonding and food. I guess they know their priorities. 😂 Thought I’d share my answers too.

First, I’m grateful that we have not gone crazy and killed each other, being home together 24/7 all this time. We had a good laugh about this, but all agreed. I believe it helps that everyone has his or her own space to retreat to. Well, except maybe me, because Gianna seems to have a homing device set to always find mommy. I guess it’s a good thing she’s not sick of me yet. Unless of course I go outside and do my weeding. When I ask her to help, she does the opposite and stays away 😂. I should go do that again this week 😉. A space in the back to see some green, gaze up at the sky, and to get some fresh air, is very much a blessing as well.

We were recording outside for VBC 🙂

I also believe that our connection to the outside world helps keep us all sane. Thank God for technology and a techie husband! The kids are able to talk to their friends online. King and I are able to talk to (and laugh with) our friends. We may be stuck in one place physically, but we are able to enjoy staying home, and somewhat enjoy our friends. The older girls even watch shows or movies online with their friends. So gen z, don’t you think?

But it also goes to show we genuinely enjoy one another. There are disagreements and certain issues, needless to say, but we are a close knit family. King and I are deliberate in bringing our family together, but I think we gravitate to one another anyway. It’s either I bug them in their room to give/get hugs or just goof around, or they come into my room to snuggle or tell me random stuff. About anime or a favorite band or a favorite character or whatever. I joke that my new name is Momluk, because everyday, one or two or all three call me to look at whatever they want to show me. “Mom, look!!!” Yes, at the same time sometimes. And sometimes, “Mom, look! Mom, look! Mom, look!” I keep telling them that it’s torture what they do to me. 😂😂😂

Second, I’m grateful to be living a less hurried life. No rush to get out the door and bring the kids wherever, or get to a meeting, or juggle my schedule to accomodate their needs and mine. I’m able to rest. I’m able to spend more time reading my Bible, praying and journaling, without as much distraction as before. I’m able to cook dishes, read, draw and make art with Gianna, hang with the girls, watch some shows (though I’ve only finished one and a half seasons of one show on netflix), have devotions with the family, continue decluttering, play, dance, write.

Less hurried but still having busy days. In May, I had Mom Talk, where I shared, along with 2 other moms, about Faith and Journaling online. It was my first time to do something like that ever. Another faith-stretching, character-building experience for me. Noelle continued ballet classes online. King also had Me and My Dad Camp (at home) that month with Gianna. It was her first time to participate. We all also spent some days recording and editing stuff for Vacation Bible Camp. The girls had an online math enhancement program provided by their school for two weeks last month, and we got a taste of what it will be like in the coming school year. It will be another adjustment for all of us, but hey, we were built to adapt. God’s grace is abundant. 🙏

They were in a tent at the backyard for Me and My Dad camp, while we were having a movie date. 🙂

Each of our girls finished the program for their level 🙂

Third, I’m grateful that church and discipleship did not stop. It’s amazing how the church quickly adapted to the change. Livestreaming for Sunday services and daily devotions were set up. Leadership convergences and trainings, marriage talks, youth services and others were put up online. Our church community is alive! Our meetings with our leaders continue via zoom. Our meetings with our own couples discipleship group continue via zoom. In fact, the young professionals group I was supposed to start with two ladies in April pushed through in June, but now with five ladies. 

Monthly meeting with the Pastors’ wives 🙂

Bi-monthly meeting with the wives of our couples group 🙂

Even Kids Church could not be stopped. There is kids church online every Sunday. Me and My Dad Camp, which is usually held in camping grounds in Tagaytay or Rizal, was held in the participants’ homes. And there were at least 70 families who signed up and joined! And VBC! We started meeting for this in January, and the praise dance team started meeting for practices in February. We thought that because we were unable to gather due to the lockdown, VBC would be pushed to next year. But the Kids Ministry team and volunteers made a way for this to happen online! What a privilege for the praise dance team to still be part of it. And would you believe we had nearly 200 participants??? Gianna was a first time participant too! Amazing what God has been doing. ❤️

Danae and Gianna with some of the praise dancers for VBC at Home!

Opportunity. This is what was presented to us in the last 3 months. Did we find it? Have we used it? I hope that instead of complaining about how the quarantine is limiting us, we find the opportunities in our situation. The opportunity to spend time with our loved ones. The opportunity to bless our frontliners. The opportunity to contribute to the livelihood of others by buying local and buying from our friends. The opportunity to connect with people, whether at home or online with people we haven’t spoken to for some time. The opportunity to mend relationships. The opportunity to read. To learn something new. To be creative. To teach somebody. To hone our skill by sharing it to others. To start a business. To write music or poetry. To slow down, refocus, realign, recalibrate. To serve. To pray. To use our platform to encourage and to impart faith.  

There is always opportunity to be grateful. I pray most of all that this is what we have learned in quarantine — to find the silver lining and make the choice to be grateful. ❤️🙏❤️

 I will give thanks to you, LORD, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds. Psalm 9:1

Family, Just My Thoughts

(not so) Happy Easter

Thirteen years ago. April 8. Easter Sunday. But instead of celebrating the resurrection of Jesus, we were mourning the death of my dad. He passed away on Easter Sunday of the year 2007. His death surprised us. His death saddened us. His death hurt us. But there was grace and there was hope. And it is exactly the resurrection of Jesus that gave me that hope.

The hope that my dads death is not the end. The hope of my dad enjoying eternal life with Jesus in heaven. The hope of reuniting with him when it is our time to go.

I am assured of this because he grew up with parents who loved Jesus and prayed for their children (and grandchildren — I believe I am a fruit of their prayers). They were faithful and active church-goers. And big Bible readers. My lola would make it a point to grab one of her apos to share bible verses with us while she sat in her rocking chair. I honestly disliked the interruption to our playtime. I dreaded being chosen haha. I believe she was the one who taught us and got us to memorize Psalm 23. So if she sowed prayers for me and seeds of faith in me, that are, by the grace of God, bearing fruit to this day, she definitely sowed the same seeds in my dad. I know this too because some time between his passing and Giannas birth, I found a certificate saying he led the youth of Church of the Risen Lord for a year or two. Faith in action right there.

I am also assured because though my dad seemed to have lost his way, he told me during one of what would have been our last visits in the hospital, that he needed to keep his faith up. I don’t remember praying with him, but I know King and some of our friends did, and I made sure to let him know that we, including his one and only favorite grandchild at that time, Danae, were constantly praying for him. I know he was seeking, praying, and going back to God at that time. And I believe the Lord showed up and led him back. He and my mom experienced the love of Jesus through family who donated their platelets, but also through the church — people they did not know personally and who did not know them personally, but gave of themselves to help my dad. They knew as well that so many were praying for his healing.

My dad is gone. That Easter Sunday was not such a happy one. But that does not at all diminish the true meaning and significance of Easter or my gratitude for it. Thank you Jesus for taking our place on the cross and, being the only One qualified, dying to pay for all our sins once and for all…to redeem us, so we can have a way back to the Father. Thank you Jesus for conquering death, and rising again on the third day. Because of your resurrection, we too can enjoy life after death, with You in heaven. Thank You for giving that gift to my dad. Thank You for offering that gift to each one of us as well.

I pray that whoever reads this, receives this gift of salvation. By faith, which the Lord Himself will supply you with. Especially in this current health crisis, with so much uncertainty about the future.

Would you pray with me?

Heavenly Father…. I am tired. I am sick. I am worn down. I am burnt out. I feel lost. I feel empty. I feel hopeless. I feel alone. I feel rejected and unloved. I am overwhelmed. I am confused. I am afraid. I don’t know what to do anymore. I acknowledge that I need You. I acknowledge that I don’t have the answers. You know better than I. I don’t have the power or the control. You do. I acknowledge that it is my sin that has caused my separation from You. I thank You that though I am a sinner, You love me anyway, so much so that You sent Your Son, Jesus, to pay the penalty for my sin. I believe that He died on the cross for me. I believe that You raised Him from the dead. I am sorry for my sins. Please forgive and cleanse me. I surrender. I want to turn away from everything that is not right in Your eyes, and I receive Jesus as my Lord, Master, and Savior. I receive the gift of salvation. Thank You for taking my burden from me and setting me free! Help me to love, serve, and obey You, for the rest of my life. In Jesusname, Amen. ❤️

This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! 2 Corinthians 5:17

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. Ephesians 2:8-9

 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. Romans 5:6-11

 

Please feel free to message me or email me if you have prayed this prayer and want to talk about this more. Or you may get connected to our leaders at the Victory Alabang Facebook Page. God bless you!

Family, Motherhood

Mother and Daughter

I think it was last week when Danae stayed with me in the supermarket after dinner, while King brought the two younger girls home. I appreciated the company, especially because she’s not anymore the toddler that she was, who would get her own cart and stash sanitary napkins and other things in it. I also appreciate one on one time with my girls. It’s more peaceful because no one is competing against the other for talk time and attention. Just picture 3 talkative girls coming at you all at the same time. Hahaha.

I like to goof around with my kids, and Danae, even at her age, still likes to goof around with me. She’s not too cool for me yet, though sometimes she begs me to stop hahaha. At the cashier, while waiting for our turn, we were laughing about something. Danae suddenly mused that she wished she was still the only child. Awwww. I told her that was really sweet AND really mean at the same time.

I love that she enjoys spending time with me and just me. She enjoys going on solo dates with her dad as well. What a boost to know that for somebody who loves being with her friends so much, she still needs her time with mommy. Although it was mean of her to say that she prefers to be without her sisters, it also warmed my heart. It wasn’t even a date date. We weren’t doing anything special. We weren’t at a place she really really wanted to go to. It was simply quality alone time between mother and daughter.

When it was our turn at the cashier, Danae suddenly sang and danced Grease Lightning. I mumbled and danced along with her haha. The cashier lady commented, “ang cool nyong mag-ina.” That made me smile. I always want to be the mom my kids can count on when the going gets rough, the mom who teaches the tough lessons of life, but also the mom who laughs hard, plays around and is unafraid to be silly with them. ❤

Thankful for the privilege of being a mother. ❤ 

Children are a heritage from the Lord,
    offspring a reward from him.
Like arrows in the hands of a warrior
    are children born in one’s youth.
Blessed is the man
    whose quiver is full of them.
They will not be put to shame
    when they contend with their opponents in court. Psalm 127:3-5

Family, My Kids

Noelle Speaks

When we got home from the hospital, Noelle surprised her sister (and us) with a video. She doesn’t want the video shared, but she gave me permission to share what she said in written form. 🙂

I am really inspired by my sister that she really is…..love. Even though she doesn’t hug me and she doesn’t even kiss me, I still love her. She’s part of my heart. Well, I want her to hear this because I love her so much (about to cry so she stopped the video).

Ate, you are a loving, kind sister. Whenever someone hurts you, I defend you. And even though you don’t defend me, you’re still here (puts her hand on her chest). You’re still my big sis. I pray that you were well when you had your surgery. I’m sorry for all the things that I have done to you, for all the bad things I’ve done to you. Um, if you’re listening, I want to say this. You..are…my….you are a part of my heart. I love you so much ate. Please forgive me for all bad things I’ve done to you and I pray for you that you were okay when you did your surgery, and….. thank you for being my big sister and for always caring for me. And like that time when you were going to (sniff) share the candy with me…. I was like, no it’s fine but you still gave me (sniff, holding back tears). I think you don’t remember this because it was a long long time ago. Sigh. I wanna say this again, you are part of my heart. You are my big sis. I love you and…. makes a heart shape with her hands.  Blows a kiss….I love you. Hugs and kisses by me (flips hair)! I relly really really want to show you that I love you even though I make mistakes and I hit you, I’m sorry. Well I hope it’s not too late to say sorry…….

And I wanna keep on saying this again and again. I love you, you’re a part of my heart. And whenever you you get hurt by someone, I’m like, just come with me. And whenever she cries, I cry. You also inspire me to do like good things, and also you…. when I say to you ate “does this look nice?” and then you’re like you have to change. That’s fine….. because you know, you’re older than me. Whenever you say you’re the boss of me, I don’t like it. But you are older than me, so I don’t consider you as a boss. I consider you as a big sister. I love you. Blows a kiss.

What a sweetheart, my Noelle. She has always had a soft spot for her sisters. God bless her heart. And we continue to pray that she, Danae, and Gianna will have an extraordinary bond as sisters. ❤

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

Family, My Kids

Mommy Writes

Mommy’s turn!

The first time I encountered “it” was when Danae was around 2 years old. She wasn’t in any pain. She was actually just singing her heart out in the shower. I immediately called my aunt, who is a pediatrician, and she confirmed my fears. “It” was a hernia. I instantaneously cried over the phone, knowing that surgery was the only way to fix it. I did not want my baby to have to go through something like that.

But because it never gave her any problems — no pain, no changes in her bodily functions — and because I guess we were foolishly hoping it would resolve on its own, it took us 8 years to finally consult a pedia surgeon. The birth defect (not an injury) needed to be closed so that she could safely do gymnastics and other activities. Though it was not an emergency situation, we wanted it done a.s.a.p.

They humored her request! We joked that we are in the business of making dreams come true. She said, yay! Tomorrow, another dream is coming true. My surgery will be done! 🙂

 

I believe in the Lord’s timing, and I believe that though it seems late, Danae’s surgery was done at the right time. She’s more mature now, and she understands why it was necessary. She has always been brave, but God supplied her with so much courage and grace to endure this. I had to put a brave face on for her the whole time because I am not brave! With so many thoughts entering my head and fears threatening to disable me, I enlisted our family and a lot of friends to pray for and with us. That, and the peace of God that transcends understanding, certainly kept me standing.

There was no question that I would be the one staying with Danae in the hospital, and King would be shuttling back and forth to hospital and home. I’m so thankful that when it comes to family matters like this, it’s never hard for King to ask for a leave. It became a time of bonding for me and Danae. She got to have mommy (and daddy at certain hours) all to herself. I was happy to serve and help her. The two younger ones were safe at home with my mom during the day and with King in the evening.

When it was time to have her IV inserted, she was afraid. My outgoing, brave, confident, independent young lady became a timid, nervous, needy baby who wanted mommy to hug and hold her as they put the needle in. She cried in pain. She cried also through the pesky skin test. I wanted to cry too haha, but I was the adult. I needed to be strong for her. I just kept comforting her, encouraging her. It was late, but when she asked for TV, I obliged. As my mom advised, I helped keep her spirits up.

In the morning, while waiting, the anesthesiologist came in. All this time (I even signed papers to consent to it), we thought she would be given General Anesthesia. They could, but because of the asthma factor, it was more risky having a tube in her throat. Apparently that’s how GA is administered. They put you to sleep and then insert a tube in your throat for the gas to go through. When the anesthesiologist suggested spinal anesthesia, since she is physically big enough for it (he said that she’s big for her age — he should see a lot of her taller friends haha), I was not able to hide my apprehension. That was the same anesthesia I received, giving birth to Gianna. Could my Danae handle that? But the doctor assured us that they would do what we were most comfortable with. Thank God we had time to decide. Thank God King was there. I would never want to make major decisions like that on my own. We agreed that spinal anesthesia was safest for Danae.

About to be wheeled down to the surgery unit. Nervous but still smiling. 🙂

 

As she was being wheeled from her room to the surgery unit, she kept calling me, making sure I was right with her. She wanted me to be the one in the waiting area with her, and in the recovery room afterwards. I asked the anesthesiologist if he could sedate her while still in the waiting area, and he was kind enough to do it. He understood that Danae was nervous about being wheeled into the OR without me. He even agreed with me in prayer when I prayed for Danae while he was putting the sedative in her IV.

About an hour and a half later, surgery was done. I was right outside the door when they called for Lucero. The surgeon met me inside, told me that it took longer than expected because her hernia was so small. She said that small hernias are more dangerous because intestines are more likely to get trapped. God’s grace right there! Nothing of the sort happened to Danae all these years! The surgeon was happy also to say that Danae didn’t even flinch when the spinal anesthesia was given to her. She did great!

When I saw Danae, however, I saw her eyes closed but wet with tears. She kept talking but tears kept running down her cheek. I knew she wasn’t in pain, but I guess she was feeling overwhelmed. She couldn’t stop her tears from falling. I encouraged her to sleep, but she didn’t want to in the first hour. She needed to lay flat on her back for 6 hours. We also needed to wait for the anesthesia to wear off. She was hungry, but she eventually slept. She kept repeating that she was hungry when she would wake up. I would fall in and out of sleep too. At times I’d read. I’d pray for the others who were there in the recovery room. 6 hours is a looooong time to wait on a monobloc chair. But I thank God that because Danae’s a child, she was allowed company.

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My facebook post 🙂

 

Back in her room, she said she was happy that the surgery is over. Whew, me too!!!! We thanked God for everything. None of it would have been possible without Him. I was happy that the operation was a success, that her vitals were stable the entire time, that there are no complications, and that SHE’S ALIVE. Today, she is recovering very well. Praise God. 🙂

Through the 3 short days, my daughter learned to be more grateful. She thanked me each time I helped her ❤ ❤ ❤ . I don’t think I’ve ever received so many sincere thank yous that are not because of something material. On the way home, during a moment of quiet inside the car, she said “Thank You Lord.” That was probably the most sincere and meaningful prayer of thanks I ever heard her say. Indeed, our whole family thanks You, Lord. ❤

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First steps at home, with Wowa’s walker. 🙂

 

Thank you so much, family and friends, for standing with us in prayer. Thank you for checking on us as well. God bless each of you.

Click here and here for Danae’s take on her experience. 🙂

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7

Don’t be afraid, for I am with you.
    Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you.
    I will hold you up with my victorious right hand. Isaiah 41:10

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good!
His faithful love endures forever. PSalm 136:1

But I will restore you to health

and heal your wounds,’

declares the Lord, Jeremiah 30:17a

Family, TRAVEL

Our Apo Island Adventure (Persistence Pays Off! 2)

After our super fun and satisfying day in Manjuyod, we were scheduled to go to Apo Island the following day. When we woke up, it was raining. Staying at Bethel Guest House, we could usually see the Boulevard and the sea clearly. But because of the rain, the sea seemed foggy and the sky was dark and gloomy. King then asked the dreaded question — is it safe to go?

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View from our room in Bethel Guest House, on a nice sunny day.

I thought for a minute and also asked my mom. But before she answered, I already thought about a few boat rides we’d already experienced that were worse, also due to rough seas. I mean we got through okay. We didnt capsize or fall into the water or lose our things. So King and I both said that yeah, it’s fine. Persist we must, haha. Besides, we were assured by our tour operator that the waters going to Apo Island are more calm than in Manjuyod at this time of year.

We were picked up by our van around 7am and we got to the port maybe an hour later. We passed through a market to get there. It was a Wednesday so it was market day. They sold all kinds of stuff including different kinds of dried fish and even lechon, which of course my mom did not hesitate to buy. It was actually good. We also saw the area where the locals auction off their animals (cows, pigs, goats, chickens).

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On our way to our boat. Light rain and loud waves.

We were required to wear life vests as soon as we got off the van, and Gianna had to endure wearing hers haha. It was too big. Our tour guide, who was actually quite nice, told us that it was going to be rough out there but it was normal because of the Amihan (cool northeast wind). My mind immediately went to her words about it being more calm. But no matter. We were excited to see the turtles!

True enough, the boat ride was rough. Our things were secure underneath the boat floor. I was warned about my camera getting wet so I made sure it was safe as well. But it sure was rough enough to make Noelle cry. I had to cross over from where I was seated, to where she and my mom were. On that side, it felt like we were being lifted off our seats. It was like a wet and wild roller coaster ride! But really, it was fine. Thank God all it took was a prayer and mommy holding her. And thank God it took only 30-40 minutes to get to the island. Danae had no issues. Gianna was quiet, covering her face, while King held her.

 

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my view from apo island 

Apo Island is beautiful! Only 14 families, if I recall correctly, live there. There are only a couple of resorts. Power is only via generator. They have worked to protect the beautiful sea turtles, so now it is a conservation area. To watch and swim with the turtles, snorkelers are guided by the locals within a roped area. Like the whale sharks in Oslob, the turtles must not be touched. There are gear for rent and if you don’t have companions to watch your stuff, you can also rent a cottage. I was able to go with King and the girls while Gianna was with my mom and our tour guide, yay! It was actually also Noelle’s first time to snorkel!

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“marine turtle area”

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it’s dude crush!!! the picture does not depict its actual size.

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King and Danae witnessed this turtle swim!!! Noelle and I only saw the other one which was huge!

The guides lead a group of 2-3 to the turtles using a rubber tube, which you can hang on to when you’re tired or are a poor swimmer. There were a lot of sea cucumbers, tiny neon blue fish, and light blue starfish (too bad I have no picture!!!). We would have loved to see more turtles and swim with them, but Noelle and I only saw one, while King and Danae saw two. One of the guides said it was because the tide was low and so the turtles were out in the deeper parts. Still, it was one of the coolest experiences.

When we were done, we proceeded to the other side of the island so we could have lunch. It was nothing like our fresh sea food in Manjuyod, but it was okay. Our table was set in Apo Island Beach Resort, where the kids enjoyed the beach. Just be wary of foreigners who sunbathe in the nude, haha. My girls were baffled as to why some people do that in public.

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beautiful rock formations 🙂

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we went up a short set of stairs, to this….

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….and then, paradise!

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beautiful 🙂 

We left Apo island around 2pm because we didn’t want to risk travelling through stronger and bigger waves. Halfway through the boat ride however, we noticed the boat suddenly slowed down. The boat men said something broke. King thought it was the anchor or something inconsequential, but to me it seemed like they were talking about the rudder. I understand some Visayan, but unfortunately not the Visayan for rudder hehe. Everyone was relaxed, while I was observing the boatmen handle the situation. They dropped the anchor enough to create a drag I suppose. I heard a tiny hint of panic in the boatmen’s voices but they followed the instructions of the boat driver. I didn’t understand a word they said. Too deep for me, I guess. I also saw their interaction with the boatman of another pump boat that passed us. I was thinking that it would be good to have a boat near us just in case something bad happened. But our tour guide said nothing. Our boat driver seemed calm and confident. Noelle fell asleep on me even, no crying.

When we got to the port, they “parked” in the area that was a bit far from the shore. The tide had risen and the waves were strong, so it was difficult to get down. When our tour guide asked if we could move, they said they couldn’t because the rudder broke. I knew it!!!    Thank God our boatmen did not just say, “Um the boat is broken. Sorry. We’re basically sitting ducks here until help arrives.” Imagine the horror! But they kept going. They persisted. And they got us to safety. They got skillz, haha. Whoo! What an adventure!

Indeed, persistence pays off! Especially when it’s a matter of life and death. And indeed, the Lord is good. He protects and He saves. 🙂

 

TIPS:

Wear aqua shoes. The “sand” is rocky and painful to walk on barefoot. They have those for rent on the island as you pay for the sanctuary fees, but it’s always better to bring your own. We as well will invest on our own, especially the kids’, life vests.

Bring some cash. Some manangs (ladies) sell magnets, shirts, sarongs, and dresses in the island.

Go on a Wednesday, so you can experience Market Day before you board your boat to Apo Island. They end at 2pm so you’ll miss it if you wait ’til after.

Family, Marriage

Golden!

My in-laws recently celebrated their golden wedding anniversary. First of all, 50 years together? Wow! What an amazing milestone!

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Growing up, I attended the golden wedding anniversary celebrations of my grandparents on both sides. I think I may even have played the piano at one of them. I love that my children will also remember celebrating their grandparents’ anniversary with family and a few friends. They will remember that they got to witness their Dad officiate his parents’ renewal of vows. They will remember the love and appreciation they the grandkids and others expressed for their grandparents. They will remember how their aunts and uncles honored their mom and dad with their messages. They will remember how loved we all made their Wowo Jun and Wowa Remy feel that night. They will remember their grandparents’ legacy of love, a strong marriage, strong family ties, and a committed relationship with God.

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10 grandkids! They sang I WILL as Wowo and Wowa had their anniversary dance. 3rd eldest granddaughter Yelly created and edited a video for them too. 🙂 

 

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With their 5th child and 3rd son King — pastor, officiant, DJ extraordinaire!

 

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My sister-in-law in the US, Leris, with her husband Diego, sent an audio of her message to honor their parents. Each of their children honored them with much love, touching words, and some tears. ❤ 

 

King and his siblings expressed some time last year that they wanted to do something nice for their parents this year. They kind of wanted a repeat of what King organized for their parents 3 years ago, which I was supportive of but absent for, due to a very difficult first trimester of pregnancy. Somebody also suggested a renewal of vows ceremony. To make the long story short, the idea was not at all forgotten, but we were all lacking in the planning department haha. Thank God King and I had some alone time one morning, on our way to a wake, and we had the opportunity to finally talk about the anniversary. It was literally a week away! Things moved pretty quickly from there. King suggested Neil’s Kitchen, we had lunch there and inquired right away. Our first choice, January 21 was booked, so we settled for the next best thing, January 22, a Sunday. We ran it by the siblings, two of whom were in California at that time, and they gave us the go signal. I basically became the very willing coordinator of the party. I guess the hosting skills naturally kicked in haha. Guest list, food, attire, motif were quickly decided. My sister-in-law residing in the US sent teddy bears and candies for our giveaways, through their eldest brother Ronald, who came home the Friday before the event. Thank God for internet. Communication and coordination would have been impossible without it. Good thing I’m married to the officiant too, haha.

 

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Function room of Neil’s Kitchen. By no means was it a grand celebration in terms of scale and cost, but it was a joyous, intimate gathering of family and a few friends, with lots of love, laughter, and encouraging words, good food and cool music.

 

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Prayers for Mommy and Daddy ❤

 

It’s funny because King kept telling me that he wanted a simple party. He didn’t want me to add anything to what was part of the package, basically because he didn’t want me to work and get stressed. Sweet, but no. I needed to personalize it, of course! And what I do is always minimal and always simple anyway, never over the top. But he does know how I lose sleep working on the little details, hehehe. But I insisted. My other sister-in-law also said she was making cut-outs of their parents’ initials. She and her husband are excellent in making decor and props like that.

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I cut out 50s using gold crepe paper and stuck them on the little chalk boards I had at home. I covered my votives with the same paper and tied jute string around them. I put ribbons on the base of little easels. And I bought boxes from a bakers’ supply store and cut the gold covers for the Bible verse print-outs.

 

 

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My other sister-in-law Lanie made the J and R! 🙂

 

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I placed couple shots of daddy and mommy through the years in each table, along with the teddy bear and candy giveaways.

 

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I propped the Bible verses up on the little easels. I put the candy giveaways in the votives. I asked some early bird family members to help cut out hearts from the gold box covers, write thank yous, and tie them around the teddy bears’ necks with jute string. We added some baby’s breath flowers as well. 

 

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The cake! Not the usual, formal anniversary cake, but delicious nonetheless. Can’t go wrong with Mango Bravo. 🙂 

 

To me, it became so much more meaningful when I realized this was something I would not be able to do for my own parents because my dad is no longer with us. My mom and dad can’t celebrate their golden anniversary anymore, though I am certain that they would be if he were alive today. My kids didn’t have the chance to see firsthand my parents’ marriage, how they love and take care of each other. I don’t have the privilege to do something for their 50th. This was my only other opportunity, and I’m so grateful.

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The children, from left to right. Ronald, the eldest. Rammil with his wife Lei on his right. Lanie and her husband Larry on her right. Jay, the youngest and tallest, with wife Weng (not in picture). King with me. Leris and husband Diego (also not in picture).

 

I’m grateful that my in-laws are alive AND are still together after 50 years! I’m grateful that we — especially me, my family, and all of King’s siblings and their families — did not miss or waste this opportunity to thank, honor, and rejoice with them. We all worked together to make the celebration possible. I’m grateful for everyone who tried to come and for those who actually came! Some came from as far as Bulacan. We made Daddy Jun and Mommy Remy very happy! So happy that Mommy Remy was overcome with emotion that she could not say what she wanted to say. She told me yesterday that there are so many stories behind their 50 years, and that one day she will tell them to me. I will wait for that day. King has told me amazing stories about his experiences and about his family. I have no doubt that when my parents-in-law share their stories with me, I will be amazed at God’s faithfulness in their lives.

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FAMILY ❤ 

 

Happy golden wedding anniversary Daddy and Mommy! Thank you for setting the bar high, for inspiring us to have strong, God-honoring marriages, for teaching us to love and prioritize our families. Thank you also for showing us that when we get to your age, we husbands and wives can still serve the Lord together. God bless you both so much. We love you! ❤

 

“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you. Exodus 20:12

Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed. Romans 13:7