That Obligatory Vacation-Narrative Post (a.k.a., Wake me up when December 2014 comes)

Today, vacation is officially over.

17 days that felt more like 17 weeks. Sa sobrang OA sa dami kasing nangyari, feeling ko talaga nag-vacation of a lifetime ako sa Pilipinas. It was indeed a wise decision to come home for the Christmas season.

But more than the amount of events that took place, it was a vacation of “firsts”, a collection of hilarious moments, a rekindling of relationships, and an excessive filling of tummy. Hindi enough ang post na ito to give justice to this blissful vacation, but I’ll try my best to come close anyway. So here we go, the top 25

highlights of my 2013 Christmas Vacation!

(1) First time I’ve experienced the insane Christmas Rush in Duty Free mall, highlighted by a surprise performance of Anne Curtis (Just for me. Wow). “Magaling ba siya kumanta? Sobrang entertaining. So magaling nga siya? Ang ganda niya sa personal. Kthnxbye.”

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(2) Naging techie bigla sila mama and papa. Dinaig ako ni papa nang mag-selfie in front of the giant Christmas Tree sa SM Sucat. Naiinis daw siya dati sa mga gumagawa nun, ngayon galak na galak na siya.

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(3) Reminisced good ol’ times with HP friends. For some reason never kami naubusan ng pagkukwentuhan kahit antagal hindi nagkita

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(4) First time kong nag-out of Luzon local adventure when we visited Negros! Sad, I know. But now I can proudly say na nakalabas na ako ng Luzon (and stop my delusion that I’ve visited Visayas when we went to Bicol).

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(5)  First time ko nakita and nakarga si Baby Bien. Di obvious sa picture how excited I was.

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(6) First time ko naligo sa ilog. At kumain, at maghugas na rin ng kamay at plato – all at the same time. Define convenient!

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(7) First time ko ma-encounter ang Multi-cab. Minsan ko siyang tinawag na Supercab at Combicab. Sa tingin ko mas bagay pa rin ang SuperCab…

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(8) First time I’ve tasted an authentic Inasal na Manok. Pati na rin makakita ng “Tina-e” sa menu. Nakakatuwa rin na sinisigaw siya sa restaurant so casually. “Kuya, isang tina-e pa”. O kaya “Sir, isang tina-e ka po?” Wow.
Btw – Tina-e is also known as Isaw.

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(9) I’ve met new and amazing friends na hindi napagod kahit 2 days kaming kuracha mode kakapasyal. I also think half ng Negros friends na namin. 🙂 Thanks, friends!

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(10) First time kong nag-ninong sa binyag na may conscious and vivid awareness ako. Nung first time kasi ako mag-ninong, 5 years old lang ako. (seryoso)

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(11) First time ko makatikim ng Batchoy (sa SM Sucat nga lang).

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(12) Spending Christmas and New Year with my family (kahit naka-Skype lang si ate) after 3 years – PRICELESS!

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(13) Yung sweet-sweetan sila mama and papa… Medyo pinilit lang ni papa to para raw cute sa picture.

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(14) First time I’ve met Arlan’s (my housemate and good friend) family and very cute niece, Umi.

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(15) Joy Ride! Akalain mo namang napakalapit lang ng Molino, uber bitin. Buti di na ako nagbaon ng snacks and pocket books.

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(16) First time I’ve attended a friend’s wedding. The only other wedding I’ve been to was my tito’s. And I was his Best Man at 14 y/o. I think mas madami na siyang friends ngayon. 🙂
Note: wedding photo courtesy of Kel

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(17) Sobrang sayang Videoke and Ribs day with Sydney and Negros/Manila friends… Nabitin ako masyado. =(

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(18) Feeling ko mas close na kami ni lola ngayon, lagi ko kasi siya binibigyan ng butterscotch habang nanunuod siya ng Bakekang sa Fox Filipino. Alam na rin niya ang definition ng selfie.

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(19) Close na rin kami lalo ni Ate Lai… I don’t think I’ve spent enough time with her, but I hope she realizes how much I appreciate her loyalty and tireless help to my family (for more than a decade now). At alam niya na rin kung ano ang selfie ngayon.

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(20) I bought papa a new pair of Sunnies (yung mura lang naman) kasi yung bigay ko sa kaniya nung Christmas, masyado raw pam-bagets. Wow, judgmental. Bumili na rin ako ng bagong shades, uso na kasi ang colored sunnies ngayon (says me).

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(21) Got reunited with my DSP friends and DSPod! One of those truly rare occasions.

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(22) First time I’ve visited Victory Church in Ortigas. Buti na lang pinush to ni Virns.

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(23) Tasted the spiciest Spaghetti in the world! Hindi naman ako nawarningan, sana nagbaon ako ng Yakult.

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(24) Caught up with my high school bestfriends over dinner (where food was served ~1 hour after we ordered, just saying)…

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(25) Got introduced to a whole bunch of relatives from my mom and dad’s sides. Akalain mong napakarami ko palang pinsan, titos and titas who were once unknown to me. I give thanks to God that I was given the chance to finally meet them. /cue MMK music/

Hindi na ako magde-deny na malungkot akong babalik na ng Sydney, but at the same time I’m delighted to know that my backpack of memories is once again full. Hopefully, sakto na ito until I come back for my next vacation of a lifetime… Until then I’ve got plenty of reminiscing to do.

Until we meet again, Philippines! Once again, I will miss you.

Above all, I sing praises to God for this wonderful vacation.

“You crown the year with Your goodness, and Your paths drip with abundance”. -Psalm 65:11

In 2013, God Promised…

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1. That His plans for me are for good and not for disaster, to give me a future and a hope (Jer 9:11)

This year, apart from being exciting and full of fun, has been a year of absolute peace and protection. That’s not to say that nothing bad ever happened, in fact there were several nights when I struggled just to get to sleep, mostly out of worry and fear. The worst perhaps was when we were asked to leave our apartment in the first half of the year. With only five weeks to find a new place, it looked like a disaster in the making. How it ended though was far from bad – we found a far better townhouse, and is now living with two more housemates whom we now see as brothers.

That’s just only one of the many events that turned out for the good. In retrospect, I see a year embellished with a beautifully crafted plan that had not only resulted in goodness, but also one that had provided me with a clear perspective of the future – full of hope and heightened courage.

2. That He has given me a gift – peace of mind and heart (John 14:27)

It is not a secret that I had another relationship that didn’t go so well this year, but this entry is not meant to tell its story. What God has done though was not simply to mend what was broken, but to bring peace that is not able to be explained by anyone. With this peace I was able to see the beauty of what had happened, and looked forward to the abundance that is yet to be revealed in His time.

3. That if I honor my father and mother, we may all live long in the land that God has given us. (Exo 20:12)

2013 has seen the arrival of my sister in Australia, for good. This was such a big blessing as I’ve always prayed that all of us may live in the same country. This year, too, my parents have visited us for a good three months; such togetherness is not something that comes often and I thank God that He continues to let us live together in this country that I now proudly call home (alongside Philippines).

4. That He will revive the Spirit of the lowly, and revive the heart of the contrite.(Isa 57:15)

The first ever Hillsong Conference that I attended was not short of ground-breaking. I’d like to take that literally and say that the spiritual ground that I used to stand has been shattered and replaced by an elevated place, which God continues to lift higher and higher everyday. This definitely marked Revival in my life.

5. That I will soar with wings like eagles (Isa 40:31)

This year I was struck deeply by this old saying:

“A bird sitting on a tree is never afraid of the branch breaking, because its trust is not on the branch, but on its wings”

I have seen this come to life when I moved from one company to another in the last quarter of the year. Staying with my previous company for three years had resulted to more than just a good tenure, but also a sense of security. That’s why in the early days of being a rookie in my new company, I felt incredibly uneasy as a child feels upon moving to a new school. Thankfully, God’s promise shone through in the situation and indeed proved that my wings, which He graciously promised me with, are as strong as an eagle’s. And that even if I landed on a different branch, my security lies in these wings. Putting modesty aside and giving back all the glory to God, I gained two awards in a matter of three months into my new role.

6. That weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning. (Psalm 30:5)

It is with extreme sadness to recall that one of my best and closest friends had passed away this year. Tears have dropped, emotions have burst. But God had shown His might in the midst of it all and revealed to me how she is now in a much, much better place. One that I should look forward to in my lifetime. I still cannot explain why God has decided to take her away so quickly, but I rest in His promise that His ways are higher than mine.

7. That He would crown the year with His goodness, and His paths drip with abundance (Psalm 65:11)

I have spent three Christmas seasons away from my family, but this year He has made a way for me to be reunited with them to celebrate this wonderful time of the year. With families, friends, and relatives with whom I was able to share all my blessings this year, He has definitely crowned this year with His goodness, and shown me His divine abundance.

At the beginning of the year, He revealed to me that 2013 was going to be a Year of Breakthroughs. I am now a witness of how His revelation had come to be fulfilled.

Faith ___ Action

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It is not uncommon that I encounter people (through blogs or personal statements) who take such a hard stand on the debate between faith and action – on which of the two is needed to be saved and gain eternal life. I, too, once questioned myself whether I was on the right side or not. But in recent times I have come to realize that such argument is futile and even contradicts itself to its core. Is faith really in opposition to action, and is action totally separate from faith?

Let us begin with what faith is.

“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” -Hebrews 11:1

In the context of Christian faith, this is knowing that Jesus Christ is our ultimate Hope for salvation and provides us an assurance that eternal life is awaiting us because of what He has done at the Cross, even though we have not seen Him nor the Salvation that He promises.

Now let’s look at what action is.

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ -Matthew 25:37-40

Thus action is anything we do out of our own comfort that alleviates pain from other people, or frees them from any kind of suffering – whether that be physical, emotional, or spiritual.

So what causes the contradiction? it may be these two scriptures that seem to suggest opposite things.

  • “You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.” – James 2:24
  • “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not by works so no one can boast.” -Ephesians 2:8-9

The confusion starts when we start limiting these two scriptures based on our own human understanding. Thus we may even end up questioning ourselves…

  • If I only have faith, does that mean I can ignore my brothers and sisters who are in need of my help?
  • If I only have actions, does that mean I can count on myself to gain eternal life and, effectively, any other person who does good is also on their way to the Kingdom of God, regardless if they believe the Gospel of Christ?
  • And if I do both, then doesn’t that undermine Jesus’ perfect redemption at Calvary because the Bible says Jesus’ work has already sanctified me once for all time? (By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. -Heb 10:10)

When we end up with such questions, more often than not we panic. We get shaken. We fear that our own beliefs are logically incorrect, thus may not be true. And in time we see our faith dwindle. Definitely not a good sign.

But do we stop there? As Christians, the Bible has always taught us to persevere in all circumstances.

“Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!” -Psalms 27:14

Because if we go further into reading the scriptures…

  • “You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone. As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.” – James 2:24-25
  • “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not by works so no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” -Ephesians 2:8-10

When we look beyond our human effort and seek God’s Words instead, we end up with answers that hopefully pacify our logical nature.

  1. Faith without Action is Dead. Dead Faith is not Faith at all. Thus true Faith naturally commands Actions. It is an automatic process, you cannot say you have faith when your hands are tied up selfishly to serve your own interests.
  2. When we have such True Faith, we believe that we are all God’s masterpieces who have been designed to do His will, through Christ. Anyone who has faith will feel the natural inclination to be charitable, joyful, peace-loving, patient, kind, generous, gentle, modest… all of which are fruits of the Holy Spirit that seals us when we TRULY believe in the good news of Jesus Christ. They’re neither forced nor imposed, because they flow naturally as His Spirit moves through us, giving us no reason to boast.

 “And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.” -Ephesians 1:13-14

Thus my friend, when we talk about Faith separate from Action, we are not talking about the kind of Faith that Jesus is asking from us. Because Faith that, by itself, saves us comes along with power to do good deeds. All for His glory.

So in the end, is it truly “Faith vs Action”? No, because my heart and spirit say it should be “Faith In Action”. It is alive, active, and life-bringing.

Things Unspoken are Heard Loudly by God

Lately I’ve been winning battles left and right
But even winners can get wounded in the fight
People say that I’m amazing
I’m strong beyond my years
But they don’t see inside of me
I’m hiding all the tears

They don’t know that I come running home when I fall down
They don’t know who picks me up when no one is around
I drop my sword and cry for just a while

‘Coz deep inside this armor
The warrior is a child

Unafraid because His arrow is the best
But even soldiers need a quiet place to rest
People say that I’m amazing
I never face retreat, oh no
But they don’t see the enemies
That lay me at His feet

They don’t know that I come running home when I fall down
They don’t know who picks me up when no one is around
I drop my sword and cry for just a while

‘Coz deep inside this armor
The warrior is a child

They don’t know that I come running home when I fall down
They don’t know who picks me up when no one is around

I drop my sword and cry for just a while
‘Coz deep inside this armor
The warrior is a child

I am first His Son

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I am a friend, a brother, a son, an employee, and a student.

Day by day I fulfill the duties that my various roles demand. When I’m at work, I’m an employee; when I’m at home or on the phone, I’m a friend; when I’m on Skype, I’m a son and a brother; and when I’m at bible college, I am a student. But at the end of every day, just before I go to bed, as I utter my evening prayer, I am reminded that I am God’s son.

Being His son, more than anything, should encourage me to seek His kingdom in the different dimensions of my life. Because it is my inheritance – an inheritance made possible by Jesus Himself, not by my own deeds. But in the middle of my pursuit, I often get lost and entangled by the exceeding demands of the world. For instance, at work, I get drowned by deadlines, meetings, and race for achievement. And when they get over my head, fear creeps in. What if tomorrow I won’t hold a good enough meeting, or if later I’ll find that my document is insufficient? Or as a friend, I get scared that my friends won’t accept me for my actions, or that they’ll abandon me when I don’t fit in with them anymore. Or as a student I fear that I’ll fail my test, or that I’ll take too many absences from class. It’s crazy when these thoughts take over. When they happen I feel like just wrapping myself up in a corner and watch how the world will mock me. And then in the darkest second of my despair, a small, still voice whispers…

14 For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. 15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship.[a] And by him we cry, “Abba,[b] Father.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. -Romans 8:14-17

Then suddenly I am reminded that I am first God’s son, above everything else. And as His son, I am entitled to a life free of fear, condemnation, and anxiety. And that all the things that the world throws at me is actually sharing in Jesus’ suffering – in order to also share in His glory.

There’s no greater feeling in the world than to be assured that a God so big, so mighty, so loving, and so unexplainably powerful, is your very own Father. When such feeling takes over, fear simply has no space to creep in. And then you’re sure that you can do anything! The world suddenly looks smaller, and your giants begin to shrink in size and number. How awesome is Our Lord.

Never Get Tired

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As I remember Jesus’ heart-breaking journey to Calvary while carrying the very cross on which He would be crucified to, I am reminded never to get tired for the right reasons.

It is natural human behavior uto whine and say that we’re exhausted. But it is divine to breathe deeply and say that even though we’re tired, we’ll keep on going because we’re driven by something that’s worth going the extra mile.

In Jesus’ case, this cause was our salvation. He had us in His mind when He was being scourged, He had us in His mind when He was thirsty and famished, He had us in His mind when He was feeling nauseous, in so much pain, and incredibly weak. And so He took a deep breath and pushed on – looking at the joy that was awaiting Him; the joy to be with us for eternity, out of His genuine and most sublime love.

God never said the journey would be easy, but He did say that it was always going to be worth it. Because when exhaustion starts to take over, love does an even better job of covering it entirely to the point of joyful refreshment.

Friends, you never get tired when you do things out of love.

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
-Hebrews 12:2