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Archive for the ‘nature’ Category

In 2009, when typhoon Ondoy devastated cities and towns (including mine) with unprecedented number of deaths in Metro Manila, I thought I already saw the worst—and then came typhoon Yolanda.

Super typhoon Yolanda (International Name: Haiyan) was declared as an “Extremely Catastrophic Super Typhoon” by the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) a few days before it made its landfall in Central Philippines on November 8, 2013. At its peak wind gusting up to 380kph (235mph), it registered as a Category 5 Hurricane in the Saffir-Simpson Scale and was declared the fourth most intense tropical storm ever recorded and the strongest to ever hit land.

As we watched from a distance here in Manila how the affected families rose above the situation—with an estimated death toll of 5,632 (as of this writing and climbing), damage to properties and agriculture amounting to PHP 30.8 billion, many missing members of families, children’s education standing at a halt, people sleeping on the streets after losing their homes with no food and water for many days—we cannot help but reach out to find ways on where we can extend assistance and provide support and comfort, even from afar.

I had the privilege of volunteering for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in their effort to donate 10,000 personal hygiene kits and 10,000 food kits from Manila to the survivors of the calamity a couple of days after the typhoon hit.  A total of 1,500 volunteers from different ages, races, and backgrounds came to the Aurora and Quirino meetinghouses to repack goods which were afterward picked up by Alagang Kapatid Foundation and the Philippine Navy for distribution to different parts of Leyte.

I also had the opportunity to assist in the interview of the first batch of missionary survivors who were evacuated from Tacloban to Manila and to listen in as they shared their individual stories that helped increase my faith in God and in the goodness of the human race.

Despite the bitter pain and trauma that most of the survivors experienced, they were extremely grateful that they survived the ordeal and that their lives were miraculously spared. Most of them lost all of their material possessions, but they were still very thankful that the most important of all their possessions were still with them—their families.

In this season of Thanksgiving, may we remember the things that matter most in our lives and have the heart to share some of ourselves—be it our time or material possessions—to those who are in need. Many lives have been lost and even more lives have been changed by this recent calamity. We are in a position to help lift heads that hang down and provide comfort to those who are in need of comfort. May we find time to reach out and offer a helping hand. As we do so, I know we will find joy in our hearts that no amount of money can buy and appropriately express our thanksgiving for all the blessings that we have.

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A snorkelling trip last weekend left invaluable impressions in my mind.


It was a good day to travel. We had clear, blue skies and we were on a convoy with family members in the short two-hour trip. My sister was very excited to snorkel and to just spend some serious time with the fishes. 🙂 Well, at least that was her ultimate goal for this vacation.   


But when we got to the place, other fun activities caught our attention and we spent a lot of time enjoying them. There was this very long slide (about 3-storey high) that brought us down to a funnel that twirled us around several times before it dropped us onto a small pool. Wheeee!!! 🙂 Then, there was this regular 2-storey high slide that made us splash onto a regular pool. There was also a large pool that created waves mimicking the ocean. And of course, there was the beach where kayaking and jet skiing were available. It was already mid-afternoon when we decided we still wanted to go snorkelling.


By this time, the wind was already blowing hard and the tide was up. Our two boat guides discouraged us from pursuing our snorkelling goal, but the group insisted. They said we won’t be able to see the fishes any longer and that the waves and the winds will make it a bit more dangerous to snorkel as anybody can easily get adrift. But the group was determined to do it. So we sailed.  


Amidst the waves and strong winds, our guides brought us somewhere in the middle part of the beach where there were interesting rock formations. One of them had to swim to where the rocks were to tie the boat up so it won’t float away. My 14-yr-old son, who probably was very excited to see what was underneath, jumped from the boat without warning. When the guide who tied the boat saw this from where he was standing, he waved frantically to my son asking him to get back into the boat. We later found out that this area had a lot of large sea urchins beneath that could sting divers fatally. My son was stung by one of them after he jumped, but fortunately not too deep because he was able to heed the guide’s warning right away.


I find this incident very similar to our life here on earth. We are here on “vacation” as this is not our permanent home. We came with a purpose, but we sometimes get distracted by a lot of fun activities that we forget what we came here for. As we navigate the waters with strong winds and waves, we sometimes plunge into it right away without first asking for instructions, not knowing that what lies beneath can spiritually kill us. We sometimes get stung because of these choices, but our Guide will always be there to frantically wave to us and lead us back to safety.


It was a fun weekend that brought me relaxation and happiness. Above all, I am grateful for the lessons I’ve learned out of it. It’s good to be able to commune with nature and bask at the beauty of God’s creations while at the same time be reminded of the love of our ultimate Guide who will do everything to lead us safely back to shore.


Enjoy the rest of the week everybody! 🙂

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People all around the world were moved by the recent catastrophe that hit Japan. I watched in the news a rescued man speaking about his survival experience and although he spoke in Japanese, I could feel and understand the sadness and trauma that he underwent after his ordeal. An old woman clung to a tree the entire evening for dear life and was rescued the following day. Buildings and homes were destroyed beyond anything anyone has ever imagined. The wrath and power of nature was only to be endured with utmost acquiescence and without question.


Through my years of existence, I learned that no matter what race we come from, whatever language we speak, whosoever we worship, we have similar innate characteristics that prove to me that we all come from the same source and are undeniably all connected as an entire human race.


In the midst of this calamity, tensions had been set aside for a moment among countries. Nations sent all they could to support and assist Japan in their current needs. The resilience of people was remarkable and it was touching to see the overflow of human kindness during this time of grief and loss.


Yet no matter how negative this experience was for many people, a lot of us also learned numerous positive things that will remain in our hearts for a long time. This experience taught me that even strong nations and seemingly independent, affluent countries still appreciate offers of assistance coming from their neighbors in times of trials and adversity. Similarly, our fellowmen who seem strong and independent will appreciate our support and encouragement in times of trials in their lives.


It was also admirable to see how the Japanese people remained calm and focused in spite of the overwhelming devastation that gripped their country. Collectively, they had the determination to rebuild their homes and individually extended help to those who needed it. Survivors orderly lined up and waited for whatever basic relief commodities were distributed to them. A spirit of unity was prevalent across the land.


In our times of trial, we can learn from their example by being still and enduring the tribulation with patience and faith and being grateful for the moral support of our friends and family and the Divine help that is always extended to those who seek it.


It may take a few months or a few years before Japan can get its nation back to where it was before the earthquake, but the lessons we’ve learned should very well not be forgotten.

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(Photograph by Roxanne Juele-Montojo)


I accidentally watched the final part of a beautiful sunset today inside the car while my friend and I were stuck in heavy traffic on our way to the grocery. I didn’t move the car until I couldn’t see the orange part of the sun anymore. I guess the driver of the car behind me was just as fascinated with the view because I didn’t hear any honks as I enjoyed the moment—or perhaps I just zoned out and time stood still. It felt at that time as if it was just me and the setting sun.


Anyway, earlier in the day, her dog gave her a dead bird “offering” which she found a little bit gross. But I related to her a story I once heard about a cat offering its owner a mouse in exchange for his kindness. In its unique feline world, bringing a dead mouse as a gift must be the grandest and ultimate thing he could do to express his gratitude to his owner for giving him all that he had.


How similar our offerings are to our Creator! He who owns everything in this world does not need anything we can ever offer. But He appreciates all that we do offer Him and asks for no more than a humble heart and a contrite spirit. And when we finally give whatever it is that He had asked of us, He blesses us even more!!


How can we ever repay Him and His goodness? Our offerings must be like the dead bird or mouse. Yet He continues to paint rainbows in the sky and gives us breathtaking sunsets. We are eternally indebted to Him for everything that we have and are, and yet as a parent myself, I know that our Father in Heaven doesn’t need any of our offerings for Him to continue loving us unconditionally and unequivocally. He simply does.

 

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Someone once said: “I don’t believe in miracles, I depend on them.” I thought that was an interesting line and it applies to me as well.


My whole life is full of miracles, great and small. Beginning from the circumstances under which I was born and raised, to surviving many life-threatening situations and challenges. Through it all and until this very moment, I have seen how the hands of God have delivered me in many, many instances and for that my heart is overflowing with gratitude.


Last night during dinner with some of my colleagues, I wasn’t surprised when someone exclaimed, “It’s a good thing you’re still here.” And I feel the same way! 🙂 It’s good to still be here, alive and facing all the challenges and enjoying all the wonderful blessings of this experience called life.


And despite the unending battles we are all facing; it is good to know that we are not alone. That as children of a divine nature, we are entitled to divine assistance if we only look up, reach out and ask.  


I know that faith precedes miracles. Even faith as small as a tiny seed of mustard can make the Red Sea part, raise a person from the dead, free an entire nation from bondage, or make all of our heavy burdens seem light. These things have happened before and they can happen again—even in a very personal way for each of us.


The promise was once given: “And I will also ease the burdens which are put upon your shoulders, that even you cannot feel them upon your backs…; and this will I do that ye may stand as witnesses for me hereafter, and that ye may know of a surety that I, the Lord God, do visit my people in their afflictions” (Mosiah 24:14).


As I sat on the shore of a beach listening to the sound of the rushing waves this past weekend, I couldn’t help but admire the beauty and magnificence of God’s creations and I couldn’t even begin to comprehend the miracle of it all! But I am definitely most grateful to be in and part of it because I don’t just believe in miracles, I depend on them every single day. 🙂

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(Photograph by Gary Erickson)

Summer vacation is almost over for most students in the country. My daughter spent some of her vacation time doing on-the-job training to satisfy her school requirement. I saw how she has grown much from this relatively short experience. She has gained a personal knowledge of how it is like to work in the corporate world and consequently broadened her horizon in terms of some temporal aspects in life.

There are things that we can only learn first-hand. We cannot comprehend the kind of love a mother or a father has for their child, unless we become a parent. We’ll never know the happiness that comes from being selfless until we serve or give something without expecting anything in return. We cannot describe the grandeur of a sunrise or the serenity of a sunset if we don’t make time to watch them. We will not know the thrill of success and the strength we can gain from failure if we do not even attempt to try. 


Each of us is in the middle of our “on-the-job training” here on earth. We learn things by experiencing them. Some opt to learn every single detail by being diligent, while some choose to sit back and simply watch as life passes them by. It’s always good to remember that this will also be a relatively short experience and we need to learn everything we can so that when our “summer vacation” is over we may have enough knowledge to bring with us back to our heavenly home. No moment should be wasted, every minute counts.  


As we do so, may we be grateful and strong in the face of life’s many surprises; keeping in mind that when we get a downpour during our summer, it is a welcome break from the scorching heat, a time to walk under the rain, enjoy the sound of the trickling raindrops, and take pleasure in the cool breeze on our face.

Here’s wishing you the best that the summer brings! 🙂

 

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A very good friend took me to a morning trip out of town yesterday where the scenic road leading to a tranquil secret garden up on the hill was foggy and damp. To my pleasant surprise, it was raining!!! 🙂 It’s been dry and humid the past few weeks so it was refreshing that we had the wiper on as we drove up to that beautiful place! She joked that she really “ordered” for some rain to surprise me ‘coz she knew that I just love it! True enough, I not only enjoyed the trickling sound of the rain but also the scenic view of fascinating trees and multi-colored flowers along the way!! The fog eventually cleared up later in the day enough for us to take a breathtaking view of the famous volcano on the lake! It felt like being in the middle of a rainforest as we ate our breakfast surrounded by a quaint garden! It was an amazing, calming experience for me. 🙂 A much needed break from the hustle and bustle of work and the city.


There are times when we have to stop and make time to recharge so we could start with a clean slate and take on life’s challenges with a fresh perspective. One cannot drink from an empty cup. Sometimes we lose our balance from all the negative influences and exposure we get from the world that drag us down, and just like computers we need to reboot. Even our Father rested after the creation of our world: “And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made” (Gen. 2:2).


I am very grateful for dear friends who make time to help me clear my head, put me back on track, and assist me in rebooting my system. I’m very blessed to have them in my life. I feel rejuvenated after yesterday’s trip, ready and better equipped to take on whatever it is that is up ahead.


I wish that you may all take time out of your busy schedules and reboot your systems from time to time as well. It doesn’t have to be an out of town trip. It may be a visit to the salon or your favorite spa, or a swim in the pool, or a walk in the park. Do whatever works for you! 🙂 But just go out there, pamper yourselves, and take some time off to relax and have some fun! 🙂 Enjoy!!! 🙂

 

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