Category Archives: Stories

Lola at Midnight (A Case Study)

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There have been so many deaths – too many deaths – in my community recently. It seems like we were just recovering from news of someone’s death when we hear of another dreaded event.

It is because of this, and for other personal reasons, that I am so interested and invested in my Eschatology class. One of our tasks is to come up with a case study, and lead the class in a discussion. This week, it was our group’s turn.

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LOLA AT MIDNIGHT

1998. Eight year old Mary trudges behind her mother as men carry the make-shift coffin up the hill to the Catholic cemetery. They had just had the funeral service at the Catholic church. Everyone is wearing white shirts and tops, including the ten children who joined the procession. Before the coffin is laid to rest, the adults carry the children over the coffin.

white-lady-csb

When the funeral ends, Mary walks back home with her family, purposely looking straight ahead and resisting the urge to look back, just as her parents taught her. Do that, and her lola will visit her. She also resists the urge to pick the flowers and leaves along the way. Do that, and someone else in the family might prematurely die. So she walks resolutely forward. Back home, she proceeds to change out of her clothes.

“All clothes in one pile on the floor immediately,” mother reminds the family, just as Mary throws her clothes on top of the bed. When mother sees this, she scolds Mary. “Do you want your lola to visit you?”

Two weeks later. It is the 9th day after the burial, and Mary sleeps with her sisters. Suddenly, Mary jerks awake. Her eyes instantly shoot to the clock positioned above the door. It is past midnight.

The door then opens, and Mary waits, expecting her tita to enter. “Maybe she’d just gone to the toilet,” Mary thinks.

But a white, translucent figure enters in. The first thing Mary notices is the face of this white figure, and she recognizes it. It is her lola! It is unmistakably her lola, with her short hair, and wearing the same clothes they had buried her in. And she is hovering about ten inches above the floor.

Lola proceeds to the couch near the bed, and Mary realizes that her tita is on the couch, sleeping soundly. The figure leans over her tita, and Mary finally shuts her eyes. The next thing Mary knows it that it is morning.

Two days later, the same thing happens to her cousin.

Seven years later, Mary becomes a Christian. She never experiences the same thing. She still cannot interpret these events, and now that she is in IGSL, she hopes that more light would be shed on this matter.

What would you tell Mary? How would you explain the presence or appearances of the “soul” of the dead persons that can still be seen by their loved ones?

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The Choice Every Mother Makes

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This short story was two years in the making. I dedicate in now to my mother, who chose four times.

So pleased was the Lord with His creation, which he called Man, that He bestowed upon him gifts of the most wondrous kinds. He gave this special creature one other Gift He himself had only known, and valued as well – dominion, authority under every other living creature on the Earth.

When Woman was created, the Lord wanted to give her a Gift as well.

“We have given man everything,” the Lord thought. “What shall we give her in addition to what we have already given man?”

And then the most wondrous thought occurred to the Lord. “We have bestowed Man with one of our greatest pleasures. Why, we must allow Woman to experience yet another of ours!”

The Lord remembered the joy of fashioning life with His hands, the thrill of bringing life to existence, and gave this same gift to the Woman.

“You will play a very important role to our plans and experience joy beyond compare, as I have. As I have felt life fashioned beneath my hands, so will you experience life form beneath yours. Rejoice! For we have imparted to you mysteries known only to you.”

The Woman received this gift with great joy. She and Man lived happily, as two parts of a whole, made exactly for each other.

But the Enemy, who hated all good and despised all beauty, was bent on destroying their Paradise.

And Woman, who once sang and danced with a sweet beauty that was enrapturing, now shuddered with dread and guilt – emotions once foreign to her. Man, who once praised her and sought to please her every moment, was now blaming her.

Woman lay prostrate on the ground, with Man beside her. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw the Serpent slinking away, bearing the curses the Lord had just pronounced.

The Lord’s punishments were severe.  He took Woman’s gift away, as well as Man’s.

Man, shaking with utter fear and shame, kept silent, prostrate on the ground where he had dropped in an effort to hide from the Lord’s searing gaze. Beside him, Woman was trembling, miserable as well.

Unlike Man, however, Woman did not keep silent – she could not help it. Heavy sobs rose to her chest and broke the silence after the Lord’s Voice pronounced His judgment. She knew He was angry, and she was frightened. She had never known anger before. That she was an object of anger of such magnitude – it was too much! The novelty of it all added to her fear.

Dare she speak to Him? But she did. With a silent, halting, quivering voice, she did.

“My great Lord, I am ruined! But I implore you, mighty God, take everything away, but not the Gift. Might not I know what it is first? Oh Lord, Man has known his gift, why not I? Have mercy, Oh God!”

It was insolence, for sure, yet she could not help it. For although Woman had not known exactly what her Gift was, she had sensed that it was to be extremely valuable. She sensed it in the very fibres of her being.

The Lord had mercy on her and consulted among Themselves. “She does not know. Perhaps if we tell her, she will refuse to have it back.”

Woman lay with her chest heaving, awaiting the judgement.

“I may return it to you, but it is now cursed. Your disobedience has brought it to its state.”

If more anguish could be borne, surely it was added to what Woman can bear. How could she have disappointed her Life Giver, her Creator, her God?

“You were to bring life into this world, to bring your own kind into being, to feel life slowly fashion itself beneath your hands, feel it within you. You were to bring life with joy, with singing… with ease. Without pain, or fear, or death.”

She caught her breath.

“It is tainted now. If you wish to still receive it, if you wish to bring life to this world, you must be willing to trade your life for it.”

And so it was that every Woman who chose to be a mother always made great sacrifices.

For nine months, her body is not her own.

When she finally gives birth, she faces extreme torment and pain, sometimes, even the prospect of death.

Still, after months of pain and discomfort, with the child already in her arms, she knows her life will never be hers. She will continue giving of herself, knowing that this precious child will bring her joy and love and laughter, but also pain and grief.

In choosing to give life to another, she chooses to give up her own.

My mother and I way back in '92. The first time she chose.

My mother and I way back in ’92. The first time she chose.

 

 

Death and Peace

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 [Missionartist’s Note: I am privileged to write this amazing true story of my colleague and fellow missionary, Katrinna. As can be observed, I wrote it in the first person in an effort to stay true to Katrinna’s voice.]

I started dreaming of death when I was fifteen.

death

It happened several times a week… I would drift off to sleep, and then the screaming would begin. Women screaming. I would feel someone, or something pulling my legs… someone, or something strangling my neck. And all around me I could see evil spirits, phantoms of huge ominous shapes.

No fifteen year-old should have to fear going to bed, but I did. For years, I experienced these nightmares and sensations.

I tried to tell my mom about this, but when she replied, “Oh, you’re just tired. Drink more water. Sleep earlier”, I realized telling her would not help.

So I tried to help myself.

I tried to muster all the powers on earth available to me by praying hard to my gods. I learned certain enchantments, oral mantras I was instructed to chant before bed. I wore an amulet  and kept it with me everywhere I went. I acquired a written charm from a friend and put it under my pillow, hoping against hope that it would help me sleep.

None of these worked.

It was one of those nights – I was so tired, my body inevitably exhausted from the psychological trauma and the lack of sleep. My mind desperately tried to grab on to any happy, peaceful memory I had, and a single memory from my earlier childhood flickered.

It was a memory from my happier days as a child, almost seemingly random. I was in grade school, and we were singing a song…

A song! It was a simple tune, and as I recalled it, I realized I still had the lyrics memorized.

“As the deer panteth for the waters, so my soul longeth after Thee.

You alone are my heart’s desire and I long to worship Thee.”

THEN the most amazing thing happened — I fell asleep.

Without any nightmares, with no hint of death. No women screaming, no strangling. Just sweet, restful sleep. And I was aware of a great steady peace embracing me. I felt secure, as if someone almighty and trustworthy was giving the peace I so coveted.

heavenly light

I wondered then about this song. That songs and chants are written and dedicated to gods, I knew as much. All I knew about this song was that it was written and dedicated to the Christian God.

Then I went to college.

It was in my first year in UKM when I met a senior who happened to be a Christian. Because of my previous experience with the song, I listened intently when she shared to me about this God, and about this God’s love and salvation.

For three months, I struggled with the concept of other gods. See, I believed in a lot of things, like incarnation and karma—concepts obviously incompatible with Christianity.

I researched and compared – this Christian God seemed insufficient compared to all my other gods combined. Why should I give them up?

Still, I kept one foot in Christianity because I had experienced, first hand, the power of their God. When I mentioned the name “Jesus”, I felt peace; His name literally was the source of my peace.

And so my curiosity of this God kept growing and nagging at me that I was forced to look back at Christianity and this time, really look. What I found out astounded me… And finally, I decided to trust this Jesus Christ and let Him take control of my life.

After receiving Christ, a great, wonderful, peace came over me.

This peace was slightly familiar – I had a taste of it when I first sang the song, but this? This was at a whole new level, as if a banquet was now opened to me, whereas I was only allowed a spoonful of it before. It was the most satisfying thing in the world.

I have never regretted my decision since.

And to this day, none of these spiritual attacks have happened again.

Billboard Beauty

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[Guest post! This is written by my good friend and fellow missionary Melinda Karla Ramo. She is an amazing person whose resilience and joyful, pleasing demeanor belies her rather small stature.]

Lumaki ako sa paniniwalang hindi ako maganda. At alam kong hindi ako nag-iisa. Sa tuwing titingin ako sa salamin, nakikita ko ang isang dalagang pinaunat ang buhok, pinudpod ng pampaputi ang balat, kinalyo ng high heels ang talampakan, pinapayat ng diyetang nagpapaliit ng tiyan. Kabilang ako sa nakararami. At habang hindi ko pa nagiging kamukha ang hinahangaang artista, hindi ako makukuntento.

Malungkot kong aalisin ang tingin ko sa salamin, lalabas ako ng bahay at titingalain na lang ang mga naggagandahang babae sa mga billboard. Tititigan nila ako pabalik na tila sinasabing, “Pwede mo rin kaming maging kamukha.” Mapapangiti ako sa ideyang maaaring tama nga iyon.

 

 

Nagsimula ang lahat noong ako ay bata pa. Bilang madalas na pinakamaliit sa klase, tampulan ako ng tukso noong elementarya. Bukod kasi sa aking taas (o ang kawalan nito), madalas ko maramdaman na ako ay “pangit”. Titingin ako sa salamin at makikita ko ang rason: magulo at sabog ang kulot kong buhok, maitim ang aking balat at pango ang aking ilong.

Noong high school ako, mas lalo pang tumindi ang hikayat ng pagpapaganda.Sa isang kapaligiran kung saan ang kagandahan ay nasusukat sa dami ng iyong manliligaw o sa kung ano ang sasabihin tungkol sa iyo ng ibang tao, mahirap magpahuli.Naniwala akong mataba ako kahit noong mga panahong iyon ay wala pa akong 50 kilos.Sinubukan ko magpapayat.
Pagdating ko ng kolehiyo, mas sinubukan ko pa ang pagpapapayat. Sinasadya kong hindi kumain ng tanghalian. Hanggang sa mabilis na bumaba ang timbang ko. Napansin ko na lang na parang may mali nang magsimula nang magtaka ang mga tao sa paligid ko. “Ano nangyari sa iyo?” “May sakit ka ba?” “Umamin ka, may cancer ka ano?” Ipinagtataka ko ang mga komento ng ibang tao.

 

Titingin na lang ako sa salamin at tatayo sa timbangan, malalaman ko na ang rason. Mula sa halos 50 kilos noong high school, bumaba ang timbang ko sa kulang kulang na 40 kilos na lamang.

4th year higschool vs. 4th year college

4th year higschool vs. 4th year college

 

Hindi lang ang timbang ko ang pilit kong binago noon, pati ang kulay ng aking kutis, ang kulot kong buhok at ang aking kaliitan. Bilang solusyon, nagpaunat ako ng buhok, nagpaputi ng kutis, at uminom ng pampatangkad (na hindi epektibo sa akin).  Lahat ng ito sa ngalan ng “kagandahan”.

Batid kong hindi na bago ang ganitong kaisipan. Marami ang may ganitong pag-iisip tungkol sa kanilang sarili. Ito ang nanghikayat sa aking magtanong, mag-interview at magsiyasat. Pakiramdam ko ako ay si Boy Abunda (girl version).

Bubukas ang ilaw. Ihahanda ang camera. Sisigaw ang direktor ng “Action!” Magsisimula ang palabas at papasok ako sa studio at sasabihin ang kaniyang tanyag na linyang,Kaibigan,usap tayo.” 

Makikita ko ang aking sarili, nakaupo sa magarang sofa, kaharap ang isang kaibigan.

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Lights.Camera. Action!”

Nasa entablado ako kasama ang kaibigang si Alliana*: “Sa tingin mo ba ikaw ay maganda?”Isang iling ang nakuha kong sagot—iling na tila ikinakahiya ang sariling itsura. At kung tatanungin kung bakit, tila pareho kami ng tugon:Kulot kasi ang buhok ko, mataba at maitim dahil laging nasa labas.Hindi ko kapareho ang mga nasa ads sa TV at sa billboards.”

Tatango ang mga tagapanood. Maging sila ay ganoon din ang nasa isip.

 

Isa-isa silang magsasalita: “Pakiramdam ko ay hindi ako maganda,” sasabihin ng isang nanay, “dahil hindi na ako mukhang bata. Maghahanap na ng iba ang mister ko.” Muling tatango ang audience. Isang batang babae ang magtataas ng kamay:“Hindi ako maganda…” tatahimik ang audience, “…dahil hindi ko kamukha si Barbie. Walang ‘Ken’ ang lalapit sa akin paglaki ko.”

Bilang host ng programa, mapapangiti ako sa sinabi ng isang bata ngunit malulungkot ako dahil nakikita ko ang sarili ko sa kaniya. Kaya bago pa bumugso ang mga damdamin, magtatawag ako ng commercial break. “Cut!” sasabihin ng direktor.

Manatili ka sa telebisyon at makikita mo ang mga patalastas ng iyong paboritong telenovela. Ang mga bidang hinahangaan mo, halos iisa ang itsura: makinis ang mala-porselanang kutis, matangkad at maganda ang hubog ng katawan. Magtataka ka kung bakit karamihan sa mga modelo at artista ay may lahi o ‘half-half’ kung tawagin. Ilan na lang ba sa nakikita mo ang mukhang Pilipino talaga? Kakaunti na lang ang may morena o kayumanggi ang kutis. Bihirang-bihira ang mga maliliit o pango ang ilong. Kung may ganito man ay hinihikayat magpa-bleach, magsuot ng sapatos na mataas ang takong at magparetoke.Kung hindi naman, sa mga katulad nila napupunta ang mga karakter ng kontrabida, mga komedyante, o mga extra.

Kasunod nito, isusubo naman sa iyo ang mga produktong nanghahalina. Maputi at kumikinang na ngipin ang alok ng isang toothpaste. Mapapansin ka na sa wakas ng crush mo mo kapag ginamit mo ang “whitening, age-defying, skin smoothening” lotion na ito. Dagdag ganda-points daw kapag sinubukan mo ang isang pabango na ginagamit din ng paborito mong leading lady. Iisa ang nakukuha mong mensahe: Gusto mo maging katulad nila? Ayusin mo ang sarili mo. Gamitin mo ang produktong ito!

Lights. Camera. Action!”

Balik na tayo sa palabas. Nakaupo naman ako ngayon sa parehong magarang sofa, kaharap ang isang kaibigan sa midya, si Kira*.

 

Magsisimula ako ng linya. “Narinig natin kanina ang audience. Pakiramdam nila ay hindi raw sila maganda. Bakit? Hindi unat ang kanilang buhok. Hindi na sila mukhang bata. Hindi maputi ang kanilang kutis. Hindi nila kamukha ang hinahangaan. Alam mo bang malaki ang epekto dito ng industriyang kinabibilangan mo?” Tatango si Kira. Alam niyang malaki ang papel ng midya sa paniniwala ng mga tao ukol sa kanilang kagandahan.

Magsisimula siyang sumagot,“Kasi unang-una, iniimpose sa kanila kung ano ang maganda.Kapag hindi ka maputi, pangit ka. May mali sa iyo. Dapat magpaputi ka. O kapag mataba ka, pangit ka, magpapayat ka dapat. Ayos lang sana kung health ang concern, pero hindi eh. Ang nangyayari, iyong consumer, bibili ng product na iyon hindi para sa health niya kundi para magkaroon ng confidence or ma-attain iyong standard na imposed sa kanila ng media.”

Dove Campaign for Real Beauty

Dove Campaign for Real Beauty

 

Sari-saring reaksyon ang manggagaling sa studio audience. Maging sila ay nahikayat din ng midya sa iba-ibang paraan.

 

Babalikan ko ang pakikipanayam kay Kira.“Pamilyar ka ba sa kampanya ng Dove noong 2004? ‘Campaign forReal Beauty’ ang ibinansag nila dito.” Tatango siya. Mananahimik ang audience. Ipapakita ang istadistika sa screen at muli kong babasahin ang script. “Alam niyo ba na sa lahat ng lumahok sa kampanyang ito sa buong mundo, 2% lamang ang nagsasabing sila ay maganda?” sambit ko nang may kalungkutan sa tinig (para madrama). “Gayunpaman, 81% ang naniniwalang hindi makatotohanan ang pamantayan ng kagandahang ipinapakita sa midya. At 75% ang nagnanais ng pagbabago sa paraan ng pagpapakita ng midya ng kagandahan.” 

 

Papalakpak at hihiyaw ang audience sa pagsang-ayon.

Ibabaling ko ulit ang atensiyon kay Kira.“Ano ang maipapayo mo sa mga manonood tungkol dito?” Aayusin niya ang mikropono at sasabihing, “Huwag kayong magpapauto sa sinasabi ng media. Maganda kayo. Hindi niyo lang nakikita iyon kasi kung anu-anong konsepto ng kagandahan ang ipinapasok sa inyo ng mundo. Hindi ninyo makikita iyong kagandahan na iyon kung hindi niyo matututunang mahalin muna ang sarili ninyo.“

Papalakpak ang audience. Ngingiti si Kira sa camera. Kakamayan ko siya. Sisigaw ng “Cut!”si Direk. Titigil ang camera. Papatayin ang ilaw. Tapos na ang programa.

Tapos na rin ang ilusyon.
_____________________________________

 

 

Totoo ang mga panayam ko kanila Alliana at Kira (hindi nila tunay na pangalan). Hindi nga lang ako sigurado sa reaksyon ng audience tungkol sa mga sinabi nila. Palakpakan at hiyawan ba ng pagsang-ayon ang itutugon nila? Hindi ko masasabi.

Nakita ko kung gaano kalawak ang kahulugan ng kagandahan. Naisip kong ang konsepto ko ng ‘maganda’ ay nakabase sa kung anong depinisyon nito ang papaniwalaan ko. Naisip ko lang, kung ang depinisyon ng midya ang susundan ko, dadalhin ako nito sa walang katapusang giyera laban sa sarili kong itsura. Mapanlinlang at masyadong mataas ang pamantayan nito at isang bahagi lamang ng realidad ang ipinapakita: isang pantasyang ang pisikal na katangian ay perpekto at laging nasa ayos. 

Sa paghahanap ko, nakita ko ang sagot sa Bibliya:“Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” (1Peter3:3-4).

Madali tayong pinapaniwala ng midya na ang katawan ng tao ay isang proyekto na dapat gawing perpekto at ang sinumang hindi papasa sa pamantayan nito ay dapat gumawa ng paraan. Makapangyarihan ang midya at alam nila ito. Kaya naman, ginagamit nila ang kapangyarihan nilang makapanghikayat upang ibenta sa atin ang isang pantasya ng kagandahan at ang mga ‘paraan’ upang makamit natin ito. Dapat maging mulat tayo na hindi lahat ng nakikita natin sa midya ay ang mukha ng realidad.

 

Ngunit sa kabila nito, nakakalungkot isipin na ang mga kalalakihan at kababaihan ay naniniwala sa pantasyang inihahain ng makapangyarihang industriyang ito. Hinuhusgahan nila ang kanilang sarili base sa pamantayang idinidikta nito sa kanila.

Iyon ang kinalakihan kong paniniwala. Alam kong hindi ako nag-iisa. Sa tuwing titingin ako sa salamin, nakikita ko ang isang dalagang pinaunat ang buhok, pinudpod ng pampaputi ang balat, kinalyo ng high heels ang talampakan, pinapayat ng diyetang nagpapaliit ng tiyan. Kabilang ako sa nakararami.

Malungkot kong aalisin ang tingin ko sa salamin, lalabas ako ng bahay at titingalain na ang mga naggagandahang babae sa mga billboard. Tititigan ko sila ngunit hindi na nila ako titignan pabalik. Mapapaisip na lang ako na sila na nasa billboard ay hindi buhay. Mga pantasya lamang sila na iginuhit ng isang makapangyarihang industriya. Doon ko na lang maiisip na sana ay hindi na lang ako naniwala sa sinabi nila.

Kaya naman, sa halip na sila ang tingalain, titingala na lang ako sa langit at tatandaan ang nabasa ko sa salita ng Diyos at doon ko sasabihing, “Oo nga. Ako nga ay maganda.”

At hindi ko na kailangan humanay sa mga babae sa billboard para patunayan iyon.

 

 

"The next time you worry about how long your lashes are or how manicured your nails look, remember that He took LASHES for your lashes and NAILS for your nails. He made you in His image. You are beautiful." -Anonymous <3

“The next time you worry about how long your lashes are or how manicured your nails look, remember that He took LASHES for your lashes and NAILS for your nails. He made you in His image. You are beautiful.” -Anonymous ❤

 

 

 

 

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

“Beautyand the Body Image in Media.” MediaAwareness Network.http://www.media-awareness.ca/english/issues/stereotyping/women_and_girls/women_beauty.cpm

Revis,Layla. “Beauty and the (Media) Beast.” HuffPost Style. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/

layla-revis/beauty-and-the-media-beas_b_82908.html

“TheMedia Effects on Eating Disorders Around the World.” LouisianaState University.http://www.lsu.edu/faculty/jwither/Essays/Health/Anonymous1_Essay.html

*wriiten for PanPil 19, March 2012