Lessons from University Long After Graduation

Amidst the everyday traffic chaos, the pushing and squeezing in the rail transit stations, the general feeling of frustration brought about poor national governance and corruption and other worries and disappointments came messages of hope from the university I graduated from – messages that I used to hear on a daily basis before that gave me so much optimism, but are rarely heard now, save for the occasional homily given by a Jesuit priest. These are the messages that I’ve longed to hear.

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These messages of hope from this evening’s of testimonials entitled “Women Leaders: In the Footsteps of St. Ignatius” which is part of “40 Years Half the Sky: Celebrating Co-Education in Ateneo de Manila”, a campaign celebrating the presence and contribution of women in the university. Ateneo first opened its doors to women in 1973 and now women slightly outnumber the men. The women spoke about how Ignatian values and spirituality are making an impact on their lives.

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Ateneo President Father Jett Villarin gives the Opening Remarks

The women leaders who spoke were CHED Chairperson Dr. Patricia Licuanan, Filinvest Development Corporation President and CEO Josephine Gotianun-Yap ad Rags II Riches Founder and Director Reese Fernandez – Ruiz.

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Dr. Patricia Licuanan, Chair of the Philippine Commission on Higher Education (CHED)

Dr. Licuanan shared lessons on balancing one’s career with a rich and relaxed personal life, balancing leadership, the zest for change and courage with management, systems and prudence and being a voice of hope by finding comfort in advocacies and reforms and even afflicting people’s comfort zones.

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Josephine Gotianun-Yap, Filinvest Development Corporation and Filinvest Land Inc. President and CEO

Josephine Gotianun – Yap shared that in business, having a sense of responsibility and vision trumps power. In business you have to set a moral tone which will guide the mission, vision and general operational direction of the company.

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Reese Fernandez Ruiz, President and Co-Founder, Rags2Riches (with Monch, and Dan and Bem in the photo)

Finally, Reese Fernandez – Ruiz shared that being more reflective or in her words – “disturbed” – has helped in her growth as an individual and how it has helped grow her social enterprise, Rags2Riches. Her testimonial actually hit home because I actually went through what she went through. Like her, I prepared a plan on how to be rich and successful and life, and found myself deviating from the plan after encountering prisoners from Bilibid, having an internship in UNICEF, volunteering for a non-government organization, working for another non-government organization and having the heart for development and business. Her questions struck me and her answers pretty much validated the path I’m taking now. Her parting words to the audience were, “Never stop asking ‘Why?'”.

I’ve actually stopped asking myself that after graduation. From my short healthcare stint post-graduation and in my business and development sector career now, I’ve never really asked. I just kept going, and feeling and knowing it’s the right way to go.

On my way home, I found myself asking myself “Why am I doing what I am doing?”.

And after 7 years of exploring the world through healthcare, education, development and marketing, I now have answer.

2014 Chinese New Year Celebration in Binondo

This year, around eight thousand people celebrated the Chinese New Year in Binondo, Manila – one of the biggest crowds the town ever had. The celebration, which was only limited to residents of the area before, has gotten bigger and bigger thanks to the power of photography, social media and heightened publicity that Chinatown has over the past few years. I’ve been to Binondo a few times, and I celebrated the Chinese New Year for the second time there this year.

We started by visiting the Sta. Cruz Church along Bustos. The Church’s Chinese New Year decor including red paper lanterns, images of horses and a big hand-painted banner that said “Kung Hei Fat Choi!”, reflected the marriage of influences from the Chinese and Spanish that create a distinct part of Filipino culture.

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Right outside Sta. Cruz Church is Carriedo Fountain. Behind it is the Arch of Goodwill, which symbolizes the friendship between the Filipino and Chinese communities.

 

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Our second stop was Escolta. On our way there, I could not help but think of the wonder that it was before. If you’re curious, here’s a photo of what Escolta used to look like.

 

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Escolta isn’t the beautiful, bustling, sophisticated place it once was, but I just have to thank Chinatown’s old guard and their descendants for preserving buildings such as the first Bank of the Philippine Islands building, Regina Building and Natividad Building. The sophistication is gone, but the charm is still there. It helps that there are lot of offices and buildings in Escolta which keeps the place busy.

 

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We turned left on Tomas Pinpin Street and walked towards Muelle Del Banco Nacional to take photos of the Post Office, which was just across Pasig River.

 

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As faster modes of communication are increasing in number, the Post Office – with its grand architectural design – is now losing its significance to people. Thank goodness for institutions like Ateneo de Manila Grade School who take their students on annual field trips to the Post Office to send letters to their parents. I do hope more people see the value of handwritten letters and start writing again to their loved ones whether here or abroad. Sending handwritten letters to loved is a good, heartfelt investment.

We walked back to Escolta and entered Calvo Building, a place we barely noticed on our 2013 Chinese New Year Binondo trip. Its lobby was lined with photos of Manila in the 1800s and early 1900s, thus it  piqued our curiosity. It turned out that the Escolta Museum was housed on its second floor which showcased memorabilia from Manila in the late 1800s to the 1960s.

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What we found was a trove of treasured artifacts.

There were newspapers from the 1800s and newspaper ads from the 1920s. Look – a Ford car used to just cost P795.00 or $18.00!

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Wartime photos serve as a reminder of how much Manila went through in the hands of the Japanese and the Americans.

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There were posters from movies from the 1930s to 1960s.

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Different kinds of bottles were also on display.

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There’s an entrance fee of P50.00 (roughly $1.10). There is no guard or caretaker to pay to – there’s only a small box at the entrance where you drop your payment. Employing the honesty system is in itself, interesting.

After visiting Escolta Museum we headed out to have lunch.

Part of the “Binondo Experience” is to have lunch at one of their hole-in-wall restaurants which serve authentic Chinese cuisine – with no pretentions. Our food joint of choice for lunch was Ying Ying’s on Dasmariñas Street. It has been our choice for the past 3 years.

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As you can see, there is no interior design nor plating for orders. There is no aesthetic nor concept of finesse. It is all about the food and its taste. We ordered fresh steamed shrimps (our favorite), soy chicken, beef, sweet and sour pork and Yang Chow fried rice. Their milk tea tasted slightly bitter and aromatic and better than the other milk tea types that people get from commercial milk tea stores.

That is the more quiet side of Binondo. After lunch, we headed on to Ongpin and Paredes area where all the action was.

On our way there, we saw Sincerity Chicken, one of the other well-loved restaurants of Binondo. We also saw a dragon dance group which was also on its way to Ongpin.

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The first thing we saw on Ongpin Street was a lion dance performance in front of a small liquor store. In Chinese culture, lion and dragon dances are said to drive away evil spirits and invite good luck and prosperity. Part of the dance includes the lion standing up to eat the hong bao (red packet). I guess this is to bring more good luck?

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From Ongpin Street, we headed to Quintin Paredes Street, which was the starting point of the Solidarity Grand Parade. The Solidarity Grand Parade is an annual event that includes Chinese schools, Chinese community groups and Chinese-owned businesses among the participants. Among the participants this year were the following: Philippine Tiong Se Academy, Lorenzo Ruiz Academy, Sun Yat Sen High School, Chiang Kai Shek College, Sun Life Financial, Manila Bulletin, and Universal Robina Corporation.

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From Paredes, we walked back to Ongpin to buy hopia and tikoy from Eng Bee Tin. On our way we saw this drum group entertaining people. Drum groups accompanied firedancers who solicited money from onlookers using hong paos. The more money people gave, the longer the fire dance routine would be.

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We stopped by a shrine to Sto. Cristos de Longos, a cross that is said to have miraculous powers. During the Spanish period, a deaf-mute Sangley discovered an effigy of the crucified Jesus inside a well where the original cross now stands. His senses of hearing and talking were restored immediately after his discovery. You can find the original story here.

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The cross is adorned with sampaguita (Philippine jasmine) garlands and red ribbons. Devotees could offer prayers using long red wax candles or joss sticks, thus infusing Catholicism with a sense of Buddhist culture. The shrine is truly a religious cultural sight to behold and its image will stay with you long after you’ve seen it.

Then we rested for a while and tried milk tea from a shop called The Tea at Mandarin Square. Unfortunately, their drinks tasted like they were made from three-day old ingredients. The only good thing about the store was its interior design which included this cute love notes wall. We consoled ourselves by buying Chinese cup noodles, bottled milk tea, fried rice crackers from the grocery which was also located in Mandarin Square.

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From there, we joined the parade. It was really a memorable parade experience for us as we saw the town mayor  and vice-mayor (Need I say who they are? NO.) and Ms. International 2013, Bea Rose Santiago, got goodies from URC and witnessed not just one, not two but three explosive street firework displays! Finally, we got to the end of Ongpin and walked to Carriedo Fountain which was near where we started, before heading home.

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Here’s a simple compilation of the videos that I took during the celebration. Here you’ll see the lion dance, the crowd at Binondo and a lion and dragon dance with street fireworks.

So that would be it for my Binondo adventure! Thanks for reading my post.

Xin Nian Kuai Le! Kiong Hee Huat Tsai!

Renewing Faith, Saving Our Heritage

Today is a Sunday. And I found it apt to look back at the damage caused by the massive 7.2-magnitude earthquake to a natural wonder and fourteen heritage churches because of how much it tells us Filipinos about our heritage and the Catholic faith, which many of us are part of. Pardon if I haven’t posted something on helping the Boholanos and Cebuanos rise, I have another post especially for them.

Before looking at the photos, allow me to enumerate a few of the lessons I learned from this natural calamity:

  1. The earthquake is a call to us Filipinos to appreciate our heritage and the history that comes along with each artifact. It is a call for us to visit our own historical sites before jetting off to other places. We have always thought that the churches would be there, and that “all of them are the same so why bother visiting?” At the end of the day, hills and churches are made of earth, and they will crumble back to it.

  2. The earthquake is a call to our heritage preservation agencies, the Department of Education, Department of Tourism, the private sector and even the UNESCO to support rebuilding these sites and promoting them to the public through education and local tourism. These sites are meant to be appreciated, by Filipinos and non-Filipinos, Catholics and people of other faiths alike.

  3. Lastly, the earthquake is a call to Filipino Catholics to go beyond attending mass in a physical church and performing rituals. While attending mass and performing rituals are meaningful and us Catholics must understand the meaning of performing them (I have yet to dig deeper on this again), our faith is beyond that. The Christian faith is beyond that, and so we are called to not just attend mass at churches but actually attend to Churches – the Christian communities whom God called us to engage with to praise Him and live out The Word and people in general. As these physical churches will be rebuilt, we must also rebuild ourselves outside of the pews, away from the altar, and from within. And I think engaging God’s Word in written form is a great way to start.

Now on to the photos.

Viewing Deck, Chocolate Hills, Bohol via @tokyodrastic

Viewing Deck, Chocolate Hills, Bohol via @tokyodrastic

Chocolate Hills, Bohol via @tokyodrastic

Chocolate Hills, Bohol via @tokyodrastic

Chocolate Hills, Bohol via @harold_geronimo

Chocolate Hills, Bohol via @harold_geronimo

Nuestra Señora de la Luz Parish Church/Church of the Lady of Light, Loon, Bohol

Nuestra Señora de la Luz Parish Church/Church of the Lady of Light, Loon, Bohol via @tonyocruz

Church of St. Peter the Apostle (San Pedro Apostol), Loboc, Bohol

Iglesia de San Pedro Apostol/Church of St. Peter the Apostle, Loboc, Bohol from NHCPHistoricSites

Nuestra Señora de Inmaculada Concepcion de Baclayon/Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception of Baclayon, Bohol via Wikimedia Commons

Nuestra Señora de Inmaculada Concepcion de Baclayon/Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception of Baclayon, Bohol via Wikimedia Commons

Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción/Church of the Lady of the Assumption, Dauis, Bohol via Wikimedia Commons

Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción/Church of the Lady of the Assumption, Dauis, Bohol via Wikimedia Commons

Iglesia de Santa Cruz/Sta. Cruz Church, Maribojoc, Bohol via @jhigzveloso

Iglesia de Santa Cruz/Sta. Cruz Church, Maribojoc, Bohol via @jhigzveloso

St. Isidore the Farmer Church, Tubigon, Bohol via Wikimedia

St. Isidore the Farmer Church, Tubigon, Bohol via Wikimedia

Iglesia de Santissima Trinidad/Church of the Most Holy Trinity, Loay, Bohol via Turning Boholano

Iglesia de Santissima Trinidad/Church of the Most Holy Trinity, Loay, Bohol via Turning Boholano

Iglesia de San Nicholas/Church of St. Nicholas via Wikipedia Commons

Iglesia de San Nicholas/Church of St. Nicholas, Dimiao, Bohol via Wikipedia Commons

Iglesia de San Pablo Apostol/Church of St. Paul, Inabanga, Bohol via Wikipedia

Iglesia de San Pablo Apostol/Church of St. Paul, Inabanga, Bohol via Wikipedia

Basilica del Minore del Sto. Nino/Minor Basilica of the Child Jesus, Cebu City, Cebu via BjornCebuano

Basilica del Minore del Sto. Nino/Minor Basilica of the Child Jesus, Cebu City, Cebu via BjornCebuano

Cebu Metropolitan Church, Cebu City, Cebu

Cebu Metropolitan Church, Cebu City, Cebu via Wikimedia Commons

Iglesia de Sta. Catalina de Alejandria/Church of St. Catherine of Alexandria, Carcar, Cebu

Iglesia de Sta. Catalina de Alejandria/Church of St. Catherine of Alexandria, Carcar, Cebu via Kabyahe

UPDATE: Photos of five more churches that were partially or totally damaged by the earthquake:

La Iglesia de San Vicente Ferrer/St. Vincent Ferrer Church, Calape, Bohol

La Iglesia de San Vicente Ferrer/St. Vincent Ferrer Church, Calape, Bohol via CDRImagesFilipinas

Iglesia de San Miguel Arcangel/Church of St. Michael the Archangel, Clarin, Bohol

Iglesia de San Miguel Arcangel/Church of St. Michael the Archangel, Clarin, Bohol via Bohol Info

Santo Niño Parish Church, Cortes, Bohol via@ CDRImageFilipinas

Santo Niño Parish Church, Cortes, Bohol via CDRImageFilipinas

Cathedral of St. Joseph the Worker, Tagbilaran, Bohol

Cathedral of St. Joseph the Worker, Tagbilaran, Bohol via Libotero

Iglesia de Nuestra Señora del Santo Rosario/Church of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary, Lila, Bohol via CDRImageFilipinas

Iglesia de Nuestra Señora del Santo Rosario/Church of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary, Lila, Bohol via CDRImageFilipinas

A Life of Discipline, Responsibility and Desire

To live a Christian way of life, is to live a life of discipline, responsibility and desire.

There’s something really remarkable about the current Catholic pope, Pope Francis. For many, his words and actions may seem revolutionary due to the largely elitist history of the Catholic Church. Many people have returned to the Catholic faith because of him. Evangelicals, people from other faiths and even agnostics and atheists have new found respect for Catholics because of him. Jesus Christ is truly working through him and his disciplined and largely responsible way of living.

Living one’s faith is not constrained to the attendance of masses or Sunday services, the recital of certain prayers or complete memorization of the Bible. Praying religiously, attending masses and reading the Bible are important. But what is more important is that we truly understand the meaning of God’s Word, and consciously desire and act on that desire to live out His messages to us, most especially His message of Love, which requires so much discipline and responsibility.

I remember the day that I ceased putting images in my room, and ceased venerating saints. I realized that I had not cultivated a real faith-based spiritual relationship with the God that I worship, but the vessels used to “get to Him”, so I stored them away so I could concentrate on building my relationship with God without them. What remains with me are Bibles.

From then on, I realized that living the Christian faith requires responsibility. It requires constant self-examination, and a constant desire to be the bigger person in all situations by being more understanding and loving toward other people. It ultimately requires one to be humble and admit that he or she is a sinner, and only through Jesus Christ can he or she be strengthened to live beyond sin. For example, it is only through Christ I can find the strength to not judge and accept and love people whose beliefs I strongly disagree with.

Living the Christian faith requires so much discipline as well. To be constantly responsible, one must remain disciplined enough to keep being open and engaged, and not fall back to our old ways and prejudices. To be constantly trusting in God, one must remain disciplined  and patient, and constant in expressing gratitude and their praise, even in times of hardship and seeming hopelessness. The desire to live the Christian faith is fueled by one’s relationship with God, and even before that, the grace that God gave us. Because God loves us, we are driven to be good people to others, as much as He loves us.

I am not in any way active in any ministry, nor a student of Christian and Catholic theology. Rather, what I have written above are based on my reading of the Bible, my reading of the Doctrine of Justification, as well as messages from Catholic leaders like Pope Francis and Jesuits, as I am a graduate of a Jesuit university. I’m a simple liberal Filipino Catholic, and this is my humble belief, which I understand will be disagreed upon by others.

But this is how my eyes see my faith, and this is how I will live it.

Dealing with Negativity (People, Thoughts, Behavior)

I, for one, am a very very critical person when it comes to social issues. Issues like gender inequality, discrimination among religions, oppression of the economically-marginalized, crass elitism/conservatism, corruption and crime among politicians, and lastly, the inability of a government to truly govern rile me up. I want a better society for my fellowmen and women, and a better world. This is why I post my views on these issues on various social networks. This is also why I like it when I hear of news or see images that address these issues – stuff that help me remain hopeful in humanity like these:

Christians Protecting Muslims during Prayer Time in Egypt

Jesse Robredo’s brand of governance continues to inspire after he has gone.

But social issues are not the issue. The issue is more personal in nature. It is negativity per se, driven not by any social ill, but driven by a person or persons’ past experiences, current frustrations and fears of the future. So how do we deal with negative people, negative thoughts and negative behavior?

  • Negative people may be others, or may be us. I admit that I let social issues get to me too personally before, and that I had been hard on myself before. Two experiences this year lead me to become a more positive and better person.  One was my discovery of what is called “The Law of Attraction”, a concept made famous by the book “The Secret”. Thinking abundantly did a lot for me in terms of career and personal life. It lead me to finally rearrange my room and even revive this blog. Second is when I renewed and strengthened my spirituality by basing it on the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification by the Lutheran World Federation and Catholic Church. By affirming Jesus Christ’s saving grace as a Catholic and thereby living out the good, inclusive values taught by the Protestant and Catholic Churches, I have learned to love Jesus Christ and build a closer relationship with Him by constantly thanking Him for everything, even for the challenges in life from which He helps me pull through.  Abundant and gratitude-filled thoughts, gratitude prayers and even a gratitude book helped me become a better, more positive person. All these helped me become a positive person and curb negative thoughts. Having this “attitude of gratitude” has worked for me and so many people – spiritual or not, so you can try it out.

  • The other people I’m talking about range from those who are selfish and want only themselves recognized, to those who do not believe in our capabilities down to those who are downright jealous. There are also people who enjoy talking negatively about others.  Humanity is not perfect, and many of us have been downright judgmental or enjoyed talking and listening to gossip. But there are others who seem to really thrive on speaking badly about others. I’ve learned to deal with these people in two ways, by changing the subject, or by consciously distancing myself from them. Changing the subject worked a lot. By sensing that the conversation has turned positive or productive, the other party or parties involved.  Praying for them also helped me too. For those who deliberately put people down, I’ve learned that being understanding, patient to them and in being direct yet gentle have also helped. In doing so, you can actually focus on improving yourself or maintaining the good that you’ve been getting.

That’s all I can share for now. Share to me your thoughts and experiences on how you are overcoming or overcame negativity.

Thanks for reading my blog!

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