In the middle of hardcourt


At eight in the morning, the sun is already stifling. And there I am, being boiled--literally. Beads of sweat are trickling on my face and arms that I have to wipe them with my muddied shirt every so often.

I am a player in the hardcourt.

The Trainer motions me to come near. "Hit from the baseline. I want to see the form. Look at the ball. Don't hit too hard. Just stroke it." I hear the words like a faint whisper. In my mind, I silently repeat them as I grip the racket tightly as if my life depended on it.

I squint at the approaching yellow ball. I twist my body, bend my knees a bit, with my right foot slightly forward, to hit the ball with a proper forehand. Tok. The ball hits my racket and moves on to the other side--a little off target, but it's considered in. I think I did well. For now, at least.

I see a smile on the Trainer's face. Is it of approval? I'm really not so sure, until he says, "Good."

For a while there, I forget the throbbing pain in my right wrist and the aching in my arms and the fact that I look like toasted bread after hours of sunlight exposure. Tennis has never been this fun.

Jeepney rides

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Before the last passenger boarded the jeep, the driver had already turned on the engine, something that made our cramped, humid bodies vibrate. It had just rained: the road outside was wet with dew, the afternoon sky was bleak, save for the remaining orange sprays of the setting sun.

"Bayad." A twenty-something, dressed in tucked in polo and black slacks, motioned me to get his seven-peso worth of fare, to hand it to the driver who was seated on the right end.

I, too, grabbed my purse, a handmade black-and-white piece of fabric a friend brought from Sagada, to get my coins which amounted only to 6.50. I was short of 50 cents. That moment remembered my father who used to tell me a million will never amount to a million if a peso is missing. There was nothing else--I looked in my pockets, my bags, even the pages of my book--but all I had was a 500 peso bill my brother had lent me earlier.

I took the chance of being reprimanded by the driver. Shame on me. I passed the bill with quivering hands. When it finally reached him, he shouted, "Kanino 'tong limandaan?!" He returned it back, with added expletives, a sign that he was furious for he had no change for such big an amount.

In my seat, I closed my eyes and prayed. "Lord I don't know what to do. But I know You have something good planned for this."

When I opened my eyes, I saw a lady beaming at me and looking at me straight in the eyes. She probably saw me with the coins. She asked, "Magkano ang kulang?" ("How much do you lack?")

"Fifty cents," I said.

She gave me a five peso coin; I felt like I had just won a million. With a heartfelt smile, I said, "Thank you so much." Good people still walk on this earth.

When the jeep passed by my dorm, I motioned the driver to stop. It was already dark; night had come. I jumped out, my heart thankful to my Lord who has never once failed to provide for my needs.

Forty years

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Forty years.

How could two people not get sick of each other's presence after living in one roof together for that long? Doesn't familiarity breed contempt? Marriage has always baffled me.

Forty years, when I think of it, is about twice the length of time I've lived on earth. But Kuya Dave and Ate June have been married for that time span, and they still look like they've just been to a honeymoon in the Bahamas.

For starters, Kuya Dave is Welsh; his accent is a hybrid between those of Sean Connery and Aragorn, Son of Arathorn. He's a tall, white-haired guy who can start a meaningful conversation with anybody. If you've talked to him, he should have told you that he used to be neighbors with Catherine Zeta-Jones, that lovely actress, in Wales, and even went to the same school as she did.

Ate June is English and is the closest person I could find who fits the Proverbs 31 description of a wife. Her accent never fails to melt my heart; she reminds me of characters in movies like Pride and Prejudice and, well, Harry Potter, for lack of a better example. She speaks gently--very motherly in a way-- and her voice is so soothing you can listen to it for weeks non-stop. Her English trifle, a dessert of custard and something that tastes like cherry, is one of my favorite food in the world.

They're missionaries who were once based in Japan and were married there. Now, Kuya Dave is our resident pastor, elder, and--as we lovingly call him--our infallible guide in Yakal Christian Fellowship (YCF). Ate June ministers to a Japanese church in Metro Manila.

Their wedding was forty years ago. It was simple, they say: Ate June even had to ask her friend from the UK to send her a wedding dress because she couldn't afford to buy one.

Tonight, in celebration of their 40th wedding anniversary, they reenacted what happened in Japan years ago. The event was held at the Yakal front lawn. Everything was improvised: Luther stood as Ate June's father; Sir Felipe Jocano, my anthropology professor and DCF adviser, was the officiating minister; and Razel, the wedding singer.

Because the event was evangelistic, Kuya Dave and Ate June related marriage to the Gospel. I pray the message has been planted in the hearts of people who have yet to know Christ as their personal Lord and Savior.

I thank the Lord for the privilege of knowing Kuya Dave and Ate June. Their cross-centered lives have been instrumental in reminding me to live for God's glory.

And now, as I think about what has just happened tonight, I'm beginning to understand, albeit gradually, how two people who love God and each other can never get sick of one another's presence.

Even for as long as forty years.

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John Dasmariñas

I've never known of anyone who talks of childhood experiences in a way that is remotely comparable to Kuya John's: complete with the minutest of details, lavished with tongue-in-cheek humor, and, more often than not, a load of morals.

While eating clams, he told me he doesn't eat the unopened ones because it's like barging in on their privacy. It was a light-bulb moment, for then I knew that the creatures of the sea we normally cook with stew have notions of public-private life dichotomy.

He cooks really well, speaks at least three local languages like a native, and writes like a Palanca laureate. My brother Ralph wrote secret details about him--and I agree with the fifth one.

I thank the Lord for the privilege of knowing Kuya John. Twenty-two years old? Now that's old.

Now I'm playin'


Other than the prospect of hanging out with my university friends after a break that seemed like eternity, the one thing that makes me expectant around this time of the year is called the Wimbledon tournament.

Unless you've been stranded in Bonga-Bonga island off the Pacific Coast, you'd know that it's all about tennis. It grips me. I could hardly control my bladder as I watch the players in court. It can get so exciting sometimes that I'd feel like a pregnant woman whose water just broke.

Sadly there's no cable tv in the dorm where I live, proof that in Yakal, people would rather immerse themselves in books rather than watch whatever junk the local channels are showing. I'm being ironic, of course. But a consequence of this is that I haven't been able to watch the games closely. I rely on websites like Tennis.com for my dose of updates.

Recently I learned that Kino, a blockmate, is just like me--or perhaps, even worse. A certified tennis fanatic, she's had pictures taken with Andy Roddick, has gone to Wimbledon--and beat this: she gets furious and frustrated whenever she forgets the name of the 51st player, or the 101st for that matter, in the ATP rankings.

Tennis does this to people. And this Wednesday Saturday, thanks to my friend Wegs' invite, I'm about to unleash my power in court. I enrolled in a tennis class. I'm hoping the racket isn't too heavy.

Maghanda na si Federer sa akin.

Sharing

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You stand in front of your weekly dorm fellowship, read 1 Thessalonians 5:18 ("in everything give thanks for this is the will of God in you"), and say your piece.

The exhortation which you had prepared after your quiet time this morning lasts for five minutes. "As Christians we shouldn't hesitate to share. It glorifies God..." Then comes your final statement: "So who'd like to share first?"

Five seconds. Ten seconds. No hand is raised, so you say, "Come on, don't be shy. Who'd like to share?"

Still no response, except for bowed heads--as if gravity had sudddenly become stronger--or rolling eyes that look elsewhere, careful to avoid your friendly gaze.



It's almost always like this in fellowships. During sharing time, people become extraordinarily hushed. Or worse, disinterested. It's disheartening. Surely the Lord has done wonders for the past week. The earth would run short of paper if each person writes his praise items.

The ideal scenario would be that of excitement: people raising their hands quickly, hoping they'd be called because if they don't get to share about how the Lord has been good to them for the past week, they'd explode. This part is hyperbole, of course, but sharing is more than just telling. It is a way of encouragement. It is a way of spurring others to pray. It is a way of thanksgiving. It is a way of giving God the glory that He alone deserves.

So who'd like to share first?

The week in photos: last week of June 2007

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Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket I ate Gerber because the bottles were needed for an experiment. Weirdly, I actually liked the taste. Maybe I'm still just a baby in the body of a twenty year-old.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket While waiting for lunch after the MBBS Tambayan clean-up, Arielle showed us her moves. I could do just the same. In dreams.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket Pastor Oscar talked on Christians being the salt and light of the earth during the special youth fellowship. In the middle of his peaching, he grabbed a bottle of salt from his pocket to illustrate his point.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket We were given gold coins with chocolate inside them as prize for reciting memory verses (during the same youth fellowship). Sadly, I mistook Romans 3:23 for Romans 8:28. I should get that right next time.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket Sean celebrated his seventeenth birthday. He's getting old, and I'm getting older. All in all, I praise the Lord for a most wonderful week.