Friday, January 18, 2019

2018 in retrospect.


I used to write annual retrospective blogs before. Until I stopped blogging. Now it’s high time to get my feet wet and start writing again.

I always think of a word as a theme to set the brand-new year on a very good note.

2016 was Courage.
2017 was Passion.

For 2018, I chose Excellence.

I remember when I was writing those 3 words using a cheap watercolor set at the beginning of 2017.


But for some reason, all three words were perfect for each year.

At the beginning of 2018, I instantly agreed with my 2017 self to go along and use “Excellence.” I had no idea back then how I was going to do it, but I decided I should just trust myself.

And of course, to trust God as well.

But quite frankly, I wasn’t feeling very optimistic at all in the beginning. I was only a little over 2 months into my new job as a research officer in a background checking company, but I was not really that happy with my work. I felt that my performance was always mediocre, or even a bit lower than that. It was obvious that the job was not for me, but I was too stubborn to see it back then because I had resigned from a very cushy part-time job where I had stayed for 7 years.

I was feeling very complacent with everything for the first couple of months of the year, just waiting for things to happen.


A Mother Mary monologue.

By March, like the year before, I was being called to serve again as an actor for the Holy Week retreat. If in 2017, I performed a monologue as Mary Magdalene, for that year, I had to perform a brand new monologue, this time as Mother Mary. In Filipino. Apparently, since the talk for Good Friday was about prayer languages, we had to perform in different languages. One actor had to perform in English, I got the Filipino piece, and another had to do it in sign language.


It was a more challenging performance compared to the year before in so many levels. First, the whole stage setup was facing the entire audience of SM MOA Arena, while the year before was a theater-in-the-round where I was only facing one side. Second, the character was more emotionally challenging. Every time I read the piece, I couldn’t help but burst out crying. Thanks to the guidance of Kuya Paolo as our director and the support of my fellow servant-actors, I managed to control myself. And again, just like the year before, I requested to have the teleprompter turned off because seeing the script always makes me nervous. I was nervous enough already standing on my own in front of the enormous crowd. But I knew that I wasn’t really alone onstage. I knew the Holy Spirit was there with me.





As I always do for every performance, I offered that piece to the late Bro. Ceci Hojilla, a La Salle brother who asked me many years ago as to when he would see me onstage.

I thought there was nothing that could top the Mary Magdalene performance. But Someone knew I could do better. The Mother Mary performance proved it to me.


Teaching English.

In the meantime, my performance at work was quite the opposite. I wasn’t enjoying what I was doing, and I even dreaded sleeping early on Sunday nights, because it would make Monday come sooner. It came to the point that I wanted to contract a really serious illness, or run into an accident, because I wanted to have a valid excuse to not go to work. Yes, it was that bad.

I had confided in a few select people about how I felt, and they agreed that the job was not aligned with my strengths. I already knew it when it was only my third month with them and I was already searching for a new job online.

After 8 months into my job at that time, I attempted to talk to my superior, and it took a week of convincing, but I was already rendering for my final month, as I found another line of work that I thought I could enjoy.


At the beginning of the second half of 2018, I resigned from a job that I realized I could not handle, and found myself in an ESL (English as a Second Language) company. And right from the beginning, I already knew that I was going to enjoy myself in something I love doing. I love the English language, and I love communicating and connecting with people. Yes, I finally found something I really love.


A couple of changes came along at that very same time.


Chorus head.

First, because our chorus head, Zach, got promoted to music ministry head alongside the existing head, Rex, he needed to appoint a new chorus head or two. And I was one of the people he chose. I was content with being a service coordinator all this time, probably because I was used to the same tasks when I had the same coordinator position in the Gateway program of Feast Bay Area’s Music Ministry. He first appointed Dennis and me as co-heads of the chorus, and by then I was already questioning myself if I really do have the capacity of being a leader.



What’s more, a month after being appointed, Dennis had decided to look for work in the Middle East, leaving me to find someone to replace him. It was quite a challenge, but after some careful selection and discernment, I finally found a co-head in Nat, who really proved himself when he least expected it.



I had some very big shoes to fill, becoming Zach’s successor. He had instilled a culture of family in the chorus, and he was a very kind and lenient leader. Being raised to be a stickler for rules, I had a different attitude. When he was still the chorus head and I was the active service coordinator, we played good cop, bad cop. Obviously, he was the good cop, and I was the bad cop. I was the one who pointed out certain things, and he had to cascade it to everyone in a kinder way. I was always the discipline officer to Zach’s guidance counselor. I didn’t know what to do with the herd he just handed down to me. I never saw myself as a leader, and there I was, being called to lead a big group of people who wanted to sing and worship the Lord in the way they knew how. Even until now, I have so many shortcomings as a co-head. I had to ask for prayers, but I knew I already had the answer in the core team where we were raising our leaders.


A mass singer.

What happened alongside stepping up as the chorus head was stepping up as well in service. I experienced immersion as a mass singer once back in late 2017, and by the middle of 2018, we were finally assigned to respective teams as their designated mass singers. I got assigned to Kuya Mond’s team, the same team I had my immersion with. Right from the start of service with them, they were the most welcoming and supportive group, and they treated us newbies like family. I felt so blessed to serve with them every month. I know I still have a long way to go when it comes to my singing, but I know I will grow even more in service because of them.




Retreat, reconvene, reset.

Just when I thought things were pretty smooth sailing, I had challenges with certain relationships. And one of them happened to be a good confidant, one of my closest, if not the best, friends in our ministry. I honestly didn’t know how to deal with my own emotions, and there were times when I would be either out of control, or I would just burst into tears. I always find it difficult when a very close friendship gets strained.

But I guess one of the best things that helped us was honesty, clarity, and honesty. It took some time to retreat, then after a little more time, we reconvened, and after talking, we did a complete reset. Hey, I like that. Retreat, reconvene, and reset. But anyway, I was glad we were pretty honest with each other. I can pretty much say that what happened was one of my biggest lessons of 2018, because there are some things I cannot control, but only learn how to deal with. And that helps you to grow as a person.



Spending my birthday in service.

Fast forward to the last quarter of the year. I had previously mentioned that there are things that I cannot control, and once I heard the lyrics of “Have Your Way”, a new song by Feast Worship that came out last year, I knew that that song was speaking to me in more ways than one. In fact, the song also summed up what I went through in terms of the relationship with the aforementioned confidante.

"Take away what’s not from You
Empty my heart and make it new
When there are things I can’t control
Help me trust in the unknown

Take what’s not for me to hold
Empty my heart and make it whole
Lead me to where I should be
Show me things that I can’t see

Oh my King whose voice the stars obey
Let Your will be done, Lord, have your way..."

Feast Worship songs were being used constantly ever since the album came out. One birthday wish I had was for that particular song to be included in the mass lineup during my service in December, my birthday month. Wish granted, it really was included. And to think that it was my actual birthday on the Sunday of my service as mass singer. But rehearsal day came, and I was afraid that if I was given a solo for the song, I might not be able to give it justice. I cracked under the pressure I gave myself. But I was still happy enough to get to sing part of the song that I wanted to sing on my birthday.


So I celebrated my 37th birthday by serving with the music ministry at the Feast. It was really a birthday to remember. Again, I still have a long way to go in terms of my singing ability. But it was truly a birthday blessing for me to listen and sing a song that spoke to me so much, alongside a very talented and supportive worship team and chorus team, regardless of how scared and insecure I was about my singing. They all inspire me to do my best in all that I do in service.

After the Feast, there was a Christmas party for the Feast Mall of Asia servants. There was a part in the program when Bro Didoy had us choose a partner and share our answer to one question.

“When was the time that you felt loved at the Feast?”

I couldn’t help but feel emotional because that day was pretty appropriate for that question. Maybe it was just because it was my birthday, but I felt really loved that day. I felt the warmth and support of the music ministry, from the chorus up to the worship team. I felt very self-conscious every time they would start up a round of the “Happy Birthday” song, though.


What more, a couple of groups of friends threw their own little birthday surprises for me. These groups are very close to my heart, and they made the efforts to make my day a little extra.



During a fellowship with my best confidants at the end of the year, we talked about what were our biggest lessons and blessings of 2018. I can honestly say that everything I wrote here are the biggest lessons and blessings that I received in my year of excellence.

2018 wasn’t a year of excellence entirely. Not all my actions to excel were deliberate, almost always hesitant. But I guess what made it excellent was that every little thing that happened all throughout the year were all stepping stones to that excellence.



This 2019, I welcome a brand new year of opportunities, blessings, and everything else that is yet to come my way. With a passionate heart, I enter 2019 with tenacity.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Interact. On my first inspirational talk.


I was invited by my LoveLife batchmate, Ree, to come as a speaker to her event last January 7th. Her event was called "How To Be a Better Single Woman for 2017." She wanted me to speak about how meeting and interacting with people helped in pursuing my dreams. Without any hesitation, I said yes. Then after a day, I suddenly realized what I had gotten myself into.

May I first share that even after so many years of working in theatre, I actually have stage fright? Well, I have no problem performing in front of an audience as a character from a play. But when it comes to speaking in front of a group people as myself, that's what scares me. That's why it seems so ironic that I had been asked to speak at an event about interacting with people.

Then I got this Bible verse from my phone's daily devotional app. 

Exodus 4:1 says, "But Moses protested again, "What if they won't believe me or listen to me? What if they say, 'The Lord never appeared to you'?"

Moses was stressed about speaking about God to the Israelites. And hey, a little trivia about Moses was that he had a stutter, which could be another reason to doubt himself. But he had faith.

And with that same faith, I realized that God does not ask us to do things we cannot handle. He will go before us and make way for courage, confidence, and peace if we trust Him. So I brought all that with me as I spoke in front of the number of attendees.



One more irony about my talk that day, given the topic of my experiences in pushing my dreams, is that sometimes, or even most of the time, I feel as if I haven't accomplished much in my life.

I turned 35 in December of 2016.

Half the women my age are ideally married with children, and possibly have their dream jobs as well. I, on the other hand, am still single and living with my parents.

And still finding that one big thing that I can say I am proud to have done.

Maybe because I keep changing my path. Still finding that core gift, and that one big major dream.

But upon certain realizations that this past year and a half had showed me, I noticed that I don't really mind that it's still taking me this long.

"It's not the destination that's important. It's the journey that matters."

Cliche, but true.

While still looking for that one big thing, I noticed that I've been enjoying the journey much more because I keep growing. The learning never stops.

Growing up, I was a very shy kid. I was afraid to talk to people. But because of that, I tend to get pushed around. No one knew what I had to say. So I had to learn to speak up. And I'm so glad I did.

I'm what some people call a "jack of all trades, master of none." I realized that I've done so many things since college, and it has been quite the adventure.

I've been a blogger since 2001.

I was a technical theater major in college, and I've become a stage manager, production assistant, usher, and front-of-house head in different theater companies.

Okay, I also did a bit of acting every once in a while. But mostly just in thesis productions and workshop recitals.

I then needed a consistent source of income, so I became a call center agent. (I still work as one part-time.)

After years of fascination and one summer class, I took a leap of faith, resigned from 2 theater projects, and decided to become a ballroom dancer.

Upon becoming a dance scholar, I then trained to become a dance fitness teacher.

When my mentor noticed I had good command of the English language, she made me our dance fitness company's corporate communications specialist.

When I stopped dancing, a friend encouraged me to join her company's roster of talents, and so I learned how to be a children's storyteller and party host.

Looking at all these things that I had become, I noticed that all of these had something in common. As it turned out, one of my core gifts was somewhere along the lines of communication. It never occurred to me that interacting with people would be something I'd be actually be good at.

With all those experiences, I'd like to share with you 5 things I've learned on interacting that helped me pursue whatever dreams I had, or will still have.

1. STEP OUT

Step out of your comfort zone. Try a little, or a lot. It's up to you. What matters is that you have to try.

I mentioned that I was a shy kid before. Back then, it was my best friend who was in the Dramatics club in our school. I was in the Library club. Yes, I'm serious. I can be such a geek. Anyway, in 7th grade, this best friend of mine literally pushed and pulled me into the music room for my very first audition for our school's musical production. She ended up quitting by sneaking out of the first rehearsal, and I stayed. And I actually enjoyed it. I had no choice but to interact with all the kids in the play, from the ones in junior prep to the high school seniors.

I was afraid of choreography when I was already in theater, but out of sheer fascination about ballroom dancing, I tried it. It became the foundation of how I became a one-time dance fitness teacher. I was afraid to teach, but with encouragement, I was able to pass our certification exam. In time, I was able to face my students with confidence and talk to them with ease.

When my mentor put me in charge of communications and discovered my weird case of stage fright, she made me practice speaking to different clients so that I could overcome it.

If you go into your courage zone, that's already one big step.

2. MENTOR

Find a mentor. Sure, you may see a mentor in people such as John Maxwell or Bo Sanchez, especially through their books, but I definitely recommend that you get a mentor that you can actually talk to in person. Don't be afraid to ask for advice from your mentor, because they may have already gone through what you are going through right now. Also, be teachable and always be open to constructive criticism. Your mentor may tell you certain things that you need to hear other than the things you just want to hear.

I have a mentor in theater, a mentor in dance, and a mentor in character development. All of them keep encouraging what is best for me, and tell me bluntly about the things I need to improve on. There are times when my mentors may be a little tough on me, but I'm actually grateful that they were because that's how I was able to grow.

3. INTERACT

Yes, you actually interact. Spend time with people. Make friends.

Spend time with people who have the same interests you do. They'll be the ones who will encourage you no matter how crazy your dream may be. They'll support you, and the ones who are more experienced may help and guide you.

Also spend time with people who have different interests from you. Who knows, if you haven't found that one big thing, they'll actually be the ones who will lead you to it.

4. LEARN

As I had said earlier, the learning never stops. Keep trying, even if you're not good at it. If you come to realize that that thing isn't really your core gift, at least you've learned something new.

When I was acting in workshops years ago, I thought I would never be as good as the ones I was taking the classes with. So I tried another path and pursued dancing. I found myself among people who learned how to dance as soon as they had learned to walk, and there I was, at age 30, and a big standout as a novice. There were some hip movements in Latin ballroom that I cannot execute as gracefully as they could because they had been doing it for years, and my body was still trying to adjust to all those new movements. I may not be as good as they are (despite all their coaching and possible frustration in me), but the things I can be proud of from that experience was that I finally learned how to dance, and teach dance fitness as well.

When I decided to take another acting workshop after that, I simply said I just wanted to see if I can still act. And hey, I can still do it, and maybe a little better now than before.

I realized that there were some things then that I was taught but I couldn't really understand yet due to experience. When I left and came back, I had a better view of things with a more open mind, and finally understood what those lessons were trying to teach me.

Another piece of advice. Don't be afraid of any rejections that you may get along the way. It may actually just be God's redirections. I had taken so many detours, but it's all part of the learning.

5. ENGAGE

This is the best part of today's generation. There's easy access of social media. Use it to your advantage. Find groups online that may help you support your interests. Millennials have it so easy because of Facebook. Maximize it to your potential.

Instead of posting rants and unnecessary viral stuff, why not post and share inspiring messages? People may read it while randomly scrolling through, take it to heart, and thank you. You may actually be blessing others with that simple online gesture.

You can also promote yourself online. If you enjoy writing and own a blog, write passionately and share your posts. An aspiring photographer? Post your best photos on Facebook and Instagram. It's possible that you may the one people are looking for.

With these 5 things I had just shared, here's one more important thing.

S-tep out
M-entor
I-nteract
L-earn
E-ngage

S-M-I-L-E.

Yes. Smile. It's very simple but important about interacting. Because as some people have said, "The first connection between two strangers is a smile." Brighten someone's day with a simple smile.

Shortly after my birthday, someone had asked me, "How does it feel to be 35? What have you accomplished that you're proud of?"

I honestly don't know.

Do you have to feel a particular way when you're a certain age?

But what I am most proud of about myself is that I keep trying and learning no matter how old I get.

If you still haven't found your purpose at a certain age, don't rush it. Hey, when I turned 30 years old, I went back to square one and started over. I took a big leap.

God's timing is always perfect, so don't worry. And He'll bring you to the right people who will help you push through with your dreams.



Thank you so much to my amazing sister in Christ, Ree Bringuelo, for inviting me as a speaker at your event. I cannot thank you enough for being so encouraging, as it was my first time to give a talk. It was a very empowering experience for me.



Friday, September 30, 2016

A third quarter update. Blessings of victory.

I currently subscribe to this site called The Universe Talks, and every weekday I get inspirational emails from them. One of my favorite messages was:

"One of my favorite things about time and space, Christine, is that absolutely NOTHING can ever happen there that can't be seen as a blessing in some wonderful way."

Once, over dinner with a good friend, we realized that ever since we started serving in the ministry, we grow to have a deeper and broader outlook on life. I myself was surprised to see this realization, as I now view setbacks as mere re-directions instead of the usual rejections.

Every day, no matter how crappy that day may be, I always try to find something good in it. One of my favorite quotes is "Every day may not be good, but there's something good in every day."

So let me share some exceptional blessings that came during this quarter of the year.

Livelife retreat.

One blessing would be attending another retreat. Late last month, I attended the Livelife retreat, which was this year's reunion of all Lovelife graduates of the Feast Bay Area. If I had said that the Lovelife retreat was the best weekend I had so far this year, the Livelife ranks a close second. It was great to see my batchmates, both the ones I see often and even some of the ones that I hardly even get to see.




If I could sum up that retreat in one word, it would be INTENSE. Everything defined that, from the worship, to the talks, to the sharing. And it was a great opportunity as well to mingle with people from other batches. I get to see so many of these random faces at the Feast, especially during the SYNC sessions, but I only got to interact with them then. It's nice to finally put names to these faces, and to at least get to say hi to them.

I have to say, other than being intense, that weekend was very refreshing, and recharged me for the days to come. So much good came out of that retreat, and I just didn't realize it until later.

Yes to service.

Last year, I remember something that Brother George said in prayer before our rehearsal for the Kerygma Conference's opening production number. We were called to serve, not because we are the best, but we may be the best choice to help deliver God's message. I was really struck by what he said. There are some instances before that I may question what He wants for me, but this year, I've learned that once you've been called, just saying yes would open up so much blessings than you've ever expected.




So imagine my surprise when I got called to be one of the new service coordinators for FBA music ministry's Gateway program. In all honesty, I didn't expect to be considered. I just wanted to sing as my service to the Audience of One. Alright, I have to admit, I was actually afraid of the responsibility. It was something similar to work I had left last year, which caused my burnout. I was actually all set to say no, but then during a nap, I could hear someone (or Someone) in my head saying "You're not alone." I shrugged it off until I got to listen to an old worship song I last heard 15 years ago. The lyrics of "For The Sake of The Call" struck me so much, I suddenly started crying by the time I had reached the first chorus. After the song, I immediately sent a message and said yes to serving as a coordinator.

The words "reckless abandon" actually struck me the most in the song. I guess this is what this is.

"Nobody stood and applauded them,
So they knew from the start
This road would not lead to fame..."

"Not for the sake of a creed or a cause,
Not for a dream or a promise,
Simple because it is Jesus who called
And if we believe, we'll obey..."

("For The Sake of The Call" by Steven Curtis Chapman)

History repeats itself, for good reasons.

Ever since last year, I always believe that God always brings back similar situations that I had already encountered before. I realized that this usually happens when I never learned the lessons from that certain situation, and God has presented these again to test me.

Sure, the people involved may be different, certain circumstances may have changed, but the actual situation is still there. It's like He's challenging me again, telling me, "You haven't learned the last time. Maybe this time, you'll do the right thing."

If I were the same person as I was before, without a strong faith, I would've been the same psycho and do the same as I had done the last time. In hindsight, I was a stubborn control freak. I wanted things done a certain way because that's what I really wanted to happen, with no consideration or adjustment.

For almost 2 years now, I now noticed how much I've changed and grown, and learned how to deal with these things more differently. If I was a control freak back then, I now let God take control. It's like my go-with-the-flow nature, but only with stronger trust and faith. So even with these hurdles, I still see these challenges as blessings.

"I know I've found the way,
I've finally found the way to let things go,
The past is there to teach you,
Mistakes provide the pain that helps you grow.
So I have healed and I have grown,
At some point I guess you have to
But I don't want to face the world on my own..."

("Ready To Be Loved" from Edges: A Song Cycle, by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul)



These are only a few of the blessings that have come my way these past few months. I know a lot of people say that I'm a very optimistic person, and yes, I do believe I am, because there's really nothing to lose if you look at the positive side of things.

So what if something goes wrong? Look at it another way, and you'll find a solution. It's like those repeat challenges that God keeps on giving me. If I had handled it the same way when I was still a control freak, would that be an improvement? I don't think so.

Looking at it from another angle, by being a little more patient, and by letting God take control, that's what helped me grow.

And that change is what I call a blessing of victory.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Losing inhibitions for the Audience of One.

It's been over 3 weeks since our Gathering in God (GIG), but I still can't help but feel a high every time I think about how I felt when I served as part of the worship team for that event.



Singing has never been one of my strong points. Don't get me wrong. I love singing ever since I was a kid, but ever since I joined my first musical theater class, I started thinking if it was really for me. I guessed it wasn't. Come every summer, I always push to enroll in a musical theater workshop class, but when my classmates start singing, I clam up. I quietly accepted the fact that I will never be able to sing as well as they can, and I just got contented in cavorting with the rest of the chorus for every musical showcase that we did.

Even when my college friends and I went out for videoke nights, I just sat there watching, never volunteering for a song.

When I started taking summer theater workshops again, I took the basic acting classes, no musicals involved, and kept saying that musicals weren't really my forte despite that one summer of Acting in Musical Theater class.

I just kept all my singing to myself. I closed the door of my bedroom and shyly sang to Broadway karaoke tunes on my computer.

This year changed it all. Like my uncertainty before about dancing, I took a leap and tried out for the Feast Bay Area Music Ministry. I found myself enjoying it, singing in the morning mass sessions every other Sunday.

Our Lovelife batch also formed our own group of musicians and singers upon discovering we had a whole bunch of talented people in the batch. Most of us were mostly composed of fellow batchmates from the music ministry. It felt like a welcome change that no one judged my voice despite its different sound quality compared to theirs. I felt more comfortable singing around them, be it for rehearsals for events (such as our batch's 2-month reunion), or even just random videoke sessions.

Ever since I started admiring those amazing people who led worship during the Feast, I kept wondering what it would feel like to be like them, even just for a small event.

And then suddenly, that opportunity came when I least expected it. Our Lovelife batch, along with Batch 6, had been tasked to organize the monthly GIG for June. We were tasked to get speakers for the assigned topic, market and advertise the event, and all that jazz. And of course, as the event had an opening and closing worship, we needed a worship team. So our batch heads rounded up those of us who served in the music ministry plus a couple more who are musically inclined to from the worship team.

Despite some hurdles along the way, like a speaker having a last minute change of plans, the GIG being moved to a later date, to the new date resulting in the unavailability of certain people, to resorting to an acoustic setup instead of the expected full band setup, somehow things still fell into place, and we still merrily rolled along.

Now, the thing is, even with my active service in the music ministry, I'm still not all that confident with my voice. And there I was, rehearsing to sing in front of a possibly large crowd. I was struggling with certain notes, to the point that when I couldn't reach a certain harmony, I would immediately revert to the simple melody. I was very conscious of myself (and possibly afraid) every time I couldn't get it right.

As we kept rehearsing, my confidence grew, thanks to the encouragement of my friends in the group. But I felt that I was only confident just singing with them.

So many thoughts kept running in my mind before the day of the GIG. What if I went out of tune? What if I did it too loudly on the mic that people would notice how bad it was? What would people say when they hear that? Then so many people will then think of me as the girl who was tone-deaf and was singing all over the place.

Then I stopped. I pushed these thoughts far back in my mind. Don't mind it, I told myself. I am not singing for the audience, no matter how big or small a crowd there will be. I am singing to the Audience of One. Isn't that what this is all about? I reminded myself yet again of Jaya's words during this year's Grand Easter Feast:

"We don't sing because we want applause. We sing because we want Him to be applauded."

On the actual day of the GIG, with that in mind, I felt more relaxed. We met up with Tony, who was to be our worship leader, about an hour earlier than the agreed-upon call time so we could rehearse the songs with him for the first time. I was actually glad that it was Tony who would be leading the worship. I knew that his energy would be so high and contagious.

The sound check got me a little anxious, but I brushed it aside. I mean, nerves are natural, right? And hey, I'm not really used to holding a microphone. So I just hyped myself up instead.

When the event finally kicked off and we were called onstage, it felt different. The nerves were all gone. When I first saw the huge crowd from where I was standing onstage, that did it. The energy from our worship leader, our musicians, my fellow singers, combined with the energy of all the attendees in the room gave me such a rush. I immediately stopped feeling self-conscious about how I sounded and let myself go.



So that was how it felt like. It felt different from all my other onstage performances. Usually, in those performances, I would always consciously think about what the people would think and say about what I was doing. Was I doing it right? Do they like me and what I was doing? Did they know I made a mistake? Will they like me enough to applaud? But during the GIG's worship, none of these thoughts crossed my mind when I was already out there. All I felt was the delight of so many people singing and praising God, and that indescribable feeling of just being out there and doing all that for Him.

The experience gave me the biggest rush I had never felt before. When I first wanted this, it felt like petty vanity. I just wanted to be seen. Then when I was actually out up there onstage, that didn't matter anymore. All I cared about before was forgotten. I was lost in the music, and got swept in His mercy and love. It felt more amazing than any applause I had ever received, because all those shouts and cheers of praise were for that Audience of One.

In hindsight, I realized that I felt more comfortable singing for Him than singing for my desire to be recognized and applauded. I guess this is one of the lessons He wanted to teach me. It was a truly humbling experience for someone who used to feel so invisible and had a crazy desire to be seen, only to learn that you don't really have to perform and be recognized.


"The fear of man strangles us, because we can never please everybody; but the fear of the Lord frees us, because it challenges us to live and serve for an audience of One." - Paul Chappell


Photos courtesy of Cris Legaspi.

A book had encouraged me to write.

I remember when I was younger, I wanted to write a book. But I had no idea what to write about.

As a kid, I remembered rewriting a story of part of a cartoon I had watched, and extended the plot even more with whatever I could embellish the story with. I gathered the handwritten pages and glued them together to form a book, covering it with some basket-weave cloth to make it look like a real bound book.

When I was part of the school library club at 10 years old (yes, I was a nerd), I learned how to make comic books out of our favorite stories. (I can still remember that mine was about a Bobbsey Twins mystery.)

In college, when I started online blogging, there was a time when I want to print all my entries and compile them into a book. But then I thought, who would be interested in all these boring posts about my daily rants and raves about college life?

I remember reading one of Brother Bo Sanchez's books for the first time in college. It was a delightful read. Brother Bo, in writing, was inspiring, brilliant, and witty all at the same time.

I got hooked on reading his books a couple of years ago, when my mentor lent us her copies of his books. When I started attending the Feast in PICC, I noticed that Brother Bo sounded exactly the same as he did in his books.

It wasn't until last year when I had read another book published by Shepherd's Voice that I got inspired to write again, as I had completely stopped for quite a long while. As I read my copy of Cherry Camille Depano's #Hugot, the author sounded like she was a friend that you were just sitting next to, talking over coffee. She sounded like someone that you were just confiding in, and who was ready to deck you so you will come to your senses (because of your flighty and dramatic thoughts on unrequited love), but also ready to comfort you when you're about to lose it.

I then thought to myself, "Hey, I want to write like that. Maybe I could write like that."

Then that thought was immediately pushed back in the dark corners of my mind, dismissed.

Just recently, the same thoughts started crawling back to resurface again.

I used to write in my blog just for myself, to document things that had happened in my life. I didn't even care whether I had an audience or not. I was just using the blog as an outlet for my thoughts. It was therapeutic for me.

I hadn't blogged in months, and as I got inspired to write my last recent entry (from last month) before this, I thought of writing differently. I wanted to write to inspire.

But once again, who the heck am I anyway? I'm not an accomplished person. I'm not that interesting. I may even be boring. I'm not as smart as the others, as experienced as most inspiring people are.

Then again, what if that's what people need? Someone simple, someone relatable.

Whenever I share with my friends the insights brought about by my past experiences, I realized I was sharing things I had learned, be it from my mentors, or from the experiences themselves.

It felt good to share these things with others because it inspired them to do better. They learn as I had from my mistakes and my experiences. But I'm not at all confident in speaking as myself to a crowd. Unlike some people, I wasn't born with the gift of gab. But I do enjoy writing though. I love the written word.

That's when I started thinking again. Should I at least try to write a book about all of this? I once shared this thought to my friend Meg. She kept trying to encourage me, but I still feel so hesitant.

Maybe I'll just write a few anecdotes here and there. A collection of learnings that I have scribbled in so many different notebooks and scraps of paper that I had lost track of where I wrote about what.

We'll see how this writing thing goes.

We'll see.

For now, I'm just exercising my writing skills again. Getting my feet wet.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Stop hurrying and enjoy the view.

I have this weird affinity for sunsets. I love the bursts of color it makes in the sky. The fiery reds and oranges, sometimes golds and pinks and the occasional lavender. I remember telling a young colleague a few days ago that I used to chase sunsets during afternoon bike rides in our village, and much prefer them to sunrises.

This past Sunday morning, while I was on a shuttle ride to PICC, I was in such a rush. Due to downpour of rain in our area, I thought I may not make it in time for our service's call time. "Great," I told myself. "It's been a while since I last served in the music ministry, and I'll be late." While this thought kept running in my head, something made me stop as the shuttle coasted into the highway.

Amidst the dark clouds, there in the distance was the golden yellow glow or the sunrise. I just stopped thinking about all my negative thoughts about being late, and just stared in awe because it looked so beautiful. I didn't even bother to bring out my phone to snap a photo of it, and just enjoyed the view. Magical would be the best way to describe it. It looked like in the distance, at the end of Coastal Road, I was heading off to a happy beautiful and magical place that resembled Narnia. Well, I guess I was right about heading to happy place because I was going to PICC for The Feast.

That simple view of the sky at sunrise was a mere simple joy that seemed like a gentle reminder. It reminded me that every once in a while, despite all the hurrying and rush in our lives, we should also stop and appreciate God's beautiful creations. Especially those we take for granted.

And then, surprise, surprise. I make it to the PICC Plenary Hall at exactly 6:44 AM, one minute before call time. The entire ride only took me exactly 22 minutes... And I was the first one to arrive.

Simple joys like this always lift me up no matter what mood I'm in.

Don't rush. Stop every once in a while, enjoy the moment, wait a little, and things you don't even expect will come to you.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Midlife Christ-sis.

If I called 2015 a year of passion, 2016 is about entering my courage zone.

Yes, I'm blogging again, haha. Now let's move forward, shall we?

I will be turning 35 (yes, believe it or not) at the end of this year, so I guess I can say I'm having this midlife crisis ever since my 30s began. Knowing myself, I should be panicking right now, thinking that I'm in my mid-30s and haven't accomplished much in my life. But after all the things I went through since last year, I realized that I don't need to worry about that.

So I may not have direction before. Maybe I still don't have much direction, but now I know I had paved a brand new way. As I keep hearing from so many different people, "The journey is more important than the destination."

There were so many things I wanted to happen before, and what I learned from that is I had put in so much time and effort on things I shouldn't even be focusing on.

I wanted to make money quickly. I got burned out.
I was sick of being single and rushed into psuedo-relationships with guys that weren't right for me. I got my heart burned.

All that changed this year. When I learned to focus on God first, my goodness, so many things were revealed to me. I hadn't noticed these things before, but they were there all along. I was just too distracted with all the things I wanted, that I never noticed the things He knew I needed.

Things started changing drastically after attending Project Courage Zone and the LoveLife retreat early this year.

As I focused on God more, I learned that I'm not alone in this journey. I have friends who are there every step of the way. God directed me to the right people I needed to be with, and drove me away from the toxic ones I kept coming back to. These people made me realize that it's all right to be myself, that I can simply be comfortable in my own skin, especially with them. And with them also came so many amazing lessons.

I learned how to take certain risks, not just for my self-improvement, but to take risks I was once too afraid or too shy or too inhibited to do for His glory.

I was afraid to start over, and I re-learned so much from things that I've already heard before.
I was afraid to sing in public, and I joined the music ministry.
I was afraid of facing an audition, and I performed.
I was always intrigued with gossip, and I shut my mouth and filtered what I say and hear.
I hated being pressured and ridiculed about my single life at this age, and I went with people who embraced who I am regardless of my relationship status.
I was always concerned about pleasing everyone, and I stopped wasting time and effort once I had done my best and not let it affect me.

One of my take-aways from Project Courage Zone was this:
"Do not underestimate yourself by comparing yourself with others. It is our differences that make us unique and beautiful."

I can't believe how simple decisions such as saying yes and going into your courage zone can make a huge difference.

Today, I feel much more comfortable as an individual. I'm an active member of my LoveLife batch. I take pride in serving in The Feast Bay Area's music ministry, but I don't sing to get applause. I sing because I want Him to be applauded.

As I still wander about in this crazy life of mine, I may not have gone as far as I had expected, but that's okay. What matters is that my story has changed, so I can live courageously.

It may not look like it, but I can proudly say that I'm in my mid-30s.

Midlife crisis?

I prefer to call it midlife CHRIST-sis.

As I focus on Him more, that's when the breakthroughs come.

"I shovel out, and God shovels in, but He has a bigger shovel than I do."