Thursday, December 30, 2010

A Bowl of Wisdom for the Family

If you happen to tune in to 89.9 a few years ago, you probably know him. This guy is the warm and soothing voice behind Love Notes. Joe D'Mango started off as a regular disc jockey at 19, with no background in radio whatsoever. He was a simple computer science student, who with much courage, joined a dj search. Fortunately, he won first place! From then, he worked as a dj for 13 years and later on managed three different stations. When I asked him, "How did Love Notes start?" He said with a smile, "I just suggested the new concept to my boss and he agreed to give it a try. Little did we know that it was there to stay."

You may be curious as to how I met him. No, I didn't work as a radio dj like him. No, I didn't pitch in a song. And definitely no, I didn't try calling the station to request for a song. He is (believe it or not) now an interior designer! I went with my mom one time to consult him. Just by seeing the spark in his eyes for the project, he indeed has a passion for innovation. He enjoys working with challenging spaces and turning them into beautiful works of art. He loves designing; that's why this is where he is now.

I was very curious at how he was able to achieve anything that his eyes aimed at successfully. He answered me, "All I can say is that I'm really blessed." Indeed, God has been good to him. He has been given a fulfilling career, one that is neither too stressful nor hectic. Unlike other designers that enjoy hoarding as many clients as possible and earning as much fees as possible, he is the type that does one project at a time. He customizes every set-up and makes every house and every condo unit unique and worthy of a "wow." He handpaints the walls, leaves his own artwork or two. I realized that he is blessed possibly because he is not driven by profit. He is simply pursuing the passion that God has embedded in his heart.

One time, my mom and I went to check out the interior in his house. It was mostly white with bold streaks of lines, minimalist in style, with cozy shades of browns. Many of the details were finalized with creativity and wit. One example is they placed some secret doors, one leading to his very own version of dexter's laboratory (where he keeps his techie robotic stuff), another one to keep their household tools, and still another one to keep the family's medical supplies.

The first room I stepped into was that of his daughter Anj. The walls inside were also painted white; one of the walls showcased five colorful guitars hanging side by side. "She loves music and she sings," Joe smiled like a proud father. And so I asked for a sample and she smiled shyly, held one of her guitars and said "I'm a little bit sick, but okay, I'll try."

Her father played a cd she had recorded while we were walking through the sala to the dining area. "One of the songs there is an OST of a movie that entered the Metro Manila Film Festival," Joe shared. Cool! I thought. Later I learned that she had never taken any voice lessons. Although she enjoys music, she doesn't plan to do it full-time. Instead, Anj took a one year course in ISCAHM and now works in the kitchen of a very prominent hotel. I wondered how her parents allowed her to take a one year course, because as far as I know, most parents would have their children enroll in the usual 4-year bachelor's degree which has a safer back-up plan. She replied with no hesitation, "my parents are very supportive." True! Her mom and dad encouraged their daughter to "go and try singing", "go and try recording", "go and submit your songs", and even confirmed her gift, "you are good in it! Keep it up!"

I also got to talk to Bing, Joe's wife, that afternoon. Bing told me that their family (Joe, Bing & 4 daughers) is very closed with each other. Their daughters would open up freely, they would gladly talk about their boyfriends, about their plans, their joys and their pains. They would talk about anything and everything under the sun. The secret is she tells her daughters that she and Joe are always open to hear them out. If they are unhappy towards something Joe or Bing did, they are open to hear the girls out with no bitter feelings. By listening to the girls, and getting to know them one by one, the girls have learned to enjoy each other's company and developed a healthy esteem. Believe it or not, it is possible to have 0 sibling rivalry in a family of 6!

As I walked into their indoor garden where their big fat persian cat had hidden, I realized that this is the type of family that many of us can emulate when we become parents. They try to make the communication lines open as much as possible. For them, the lack or missed communication can cause unnecessary strife and hard feelings. That's why they make an effort to listen to their children. They put value in each and every individual in the family. It can already be seen in the design of their house. For example, the original work station of Joe was replaced with an in-house TV theatre because the girls had suggested it. It's not that they are spoiled. Joe just realized more people in the family would be able to enjoy the new room. The parents see their children as important and included their voice in the important decision makings. (The new theatre room has become the family bonding room.)

They also help discover and develop the God-given gifts that rest in each child. They appear to be the most excited motivators for the girls. Joe, for example, shared Anj' songs to his friends in the radio station. Bing allowed the eldest to have a whole make-up set and table with lights in her room. I don't think all budding make-up artists have that in their rooms.

I realized, if and when I become a mother myself, I'd want to help develop my children's gifts as well. Gifts are God-given and they play a big role in fulfilling God's purpose in their lives. Who am I to ignore their gifts and push them to do whatever I want? Lord willingly, I would be able to mold my children based on who the Lord has purposed them to be, and of course, in a fun and fulfilling way. I want them to become like Joe, who is able to pursue his passion victoriously for the Lord's glory.

This is a photo taken in their dining area. Behind us is the indoor garden.
L-R: Joe D'Mango, Anj, Me, Bing

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Christmas Eve Special: Come to Jesus

On December 24, 2010, at exactly 5 in the afternoon, the lights in the church were dimmed and the cold mist from the fog machine filled the air. People flocked in, one family after another. They searched for empty pews to sit on. In a few minutes' time, the whole church was filled and the triumphant sound of "Joy to the World" entered with a blast.

The presentation this year was in no way you're-ordinary-Christmas-eve-celebration where the scene of belen was reenacted nor was it a simple concert of Christmas jingles. It was the story of Jesus' birth in the eyes of popular and not so popular Biblical characters. Each stood on a mini-stage strategically set-up around the church.

Mary, the mother of Jesus, stood under the cold dark winter night as she carried the baby in her tummy, looking for a place for rest, and possibly to give birth.

Joseph, the carpenter, sat at his work station with a few lumber cut in blocks and pieces in the background. He spoke of the time when he planned to divorce Mary upon learning that she was pregnant when they were already engaged. But the angel of the Lord prevented him doing so, this angel told him that "what is conceived in her is from the the Holy Spirit." It's so ironic that the King of kings was born out of a weak teenage woman who had no place to stay and a simple carpenter who probably couldn't afford the finest things in life. God does indeed choose the ordinary to do the extraordinary.

The three wise men, magi as they called themselves, walked across the aisle on their way home from handing their gifts to Jesus. Isn't it awesome that the wise (probably the wisest) men on earth knew about his coming - the exact date, time and place? Isn't it awesome that they worshipped a baby born in a stable where animals had lived? Isn't it awesome that this humble birth caused a stir during Herod's reign?

Anna, the prophetess, stood at the temple and told her story. For 60 years, she waited for the coming of the Messiah. She spent it fasting and praying, ministering to the people. And when the time has finally come, when she has finally seen the baby Jesus, her eyes swelled with tears as she joyfully proclaimed to the world that the Messiah child has finally come! "The redemption of Jerusalem is here!" I believed that many people in the congregation cried along with her.

And last but not the least, the innkeeper. Nothing much is said about the innkeeper in the Bible. This lady told Mary and Joseph that there was no room in her inn to accommodate them that night. However, she allowed them to stay in a stable outside (where she kept her animals) for a fraction of a price. This could keep them safe from thieves and warm them in the chilly night . Later, when she learned that the Savior was born in a humble place, specifically, in her stable, she regretted not giving them her room, the Master's Room.

I loved how the innkeeper's monologue led us to reflect: Do you have room for the Savior? Are you willing to give Him the Master's Room of your life? Are you willing to make him your Master? I guess, this is the best birthday gift we can ever gift to the One who's birthday is on the CHRISTmas day.

If you would like to witness this memorable evening yourself, good news!
The Christmas Eve Special: Come to Jesus will have its 2nd and 3rd repeats on:
Date: January 3, 2011
Time: 7pm and 9pm
Venue: Jubilee Evangelical Church

Do invite your family and friends. Come and let's celebrate!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Goodbye, Desserts. :(

Who says stress makes you sick? It is mostly true for me if stress is turned upside down or right side up. What I mean is, when STRESSED is spelled the other way around, that's when I get sick. When you get DESSERTS.

I remember when I was still working in Jollibee, a fast-paced quick service restaurant company, my team would handle several projects simultaneously. Sometimes we would work long hours on weekdays and even on the weekends. I remember getting sick once. I missed that one day of work not because I lacked sleep nor because I got too tired, but it was because of the bowl of Hershey Kisses wrapped in silver foil and luscious beads of grapes lying untouched in front of me and my boss. I took one, and another one, and another one until my throat got painful. Colds started coming. My voice became like that of Fran in the Nanny. And the temperature starting rising. My mom took me to Ong Sian, a Chinese Herbal doctor in Manila who gave me some leaves, twigs, grasses and insects to brew. I know it's eww.

Then, there was this one Sunday afternoon when my mom, aunties and I went to the Fort to try out this new doughnut place called Krispy Kreme. I bit on their classic honey-glazed doughnut. Surprisingly, it did not have the bread texture. It was very soft and moist that I felt it was already melting in my mouth. I knew that one doughnut had approximately 360 calories. But because it was very light to eat, too smooth to chew and to swallow, I took another half. Then my throat started to feel the tingling sensation again. Guess what happened next? Of course, I had to visit (nobody other than) Ong Sian again.

Just last Sunday, we had a reunion in my grandma's place. My grandma prepared her famous lumpia (a healthy Chinese appetizer that has a mix of shredded carrots, tofu and meat wrapped in a very thin flour covering), sotanghon (vermicelli), lechon (tender pork meat) and plates and bowls full of fruits to welcome the bountiful Christmas and new year. I took a bite on each but kept a portion of my stomach for the dessert.

I ate the gift someone gave to my grandma. I saw the box with green and red stripes behind the dining table. Inside it were chocolate brownies with sprinkles of mini molded hearts and Christmas trees on top. I opened the box and the dark brown rectangles became all the more alluring. They resembled the healthy-and-not-so-sweet dark chocolate bars. They had dark brown (almost black) glaze on top that was too tempting to resist. And so, I took a bite. The glaze was very rich and smooth. It wasn't that sweet at all. The body was puffy like a sponge cake and it wasn't crumbly like the brownies hastily sold elsewhere. I told myself I'd just eat half (mind you, it was a big bar of 2"x5"). But my sweet tooth, couldn't resist. I ate ONE AND A HALF PIECES! Leaving the other half saved me some guilt.

What happened next? Nothing much, I just got sick again. Throat hurt again. Voice became hoarse again and visited the dreaded Chinese doctor again. Writing this entry is my way of reminding myself (and you who are empathizing with me) to be a better steward of the body. Don't give in to your sweet tooth! There are other ways of dealing with stress, boredom or simple cravings. Binging only gives temporary relief. It will lead you to Ong Sian, to several dialyses, to an endocrinologist, or worse, to your death bed.

Bye for now, I have a thesis proposal to finish. No more desserts for the stressed. Oh well, who needs extra calories and unwanted pounds anyway when you have a cup of Ong Sian's greenish-brown earthy juice. Cheers!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Out-of-the-Box Speaking 3 : The Black Comb

It was an ordinary day in our newly renovated house. The staircase was newly refurnished. It had turned from brown to wengge, which the interior designer said was the "in" color of today. The second floor was airy and bright. It was painted in white and it beautifully reflected the warm sunlight brought in by the new glass windows.

As I was climbing up the stairs, I saw a black comb falling down. It was swaying to the left, to the right and to the left again. It seemed like it was dancing in the air. I forgot what I intended to get (or do) upstairs and thought I should get that black comb and put it back in place. Which place? I didn't know. It wasn't a familiar comb. Mine was a beige brush with white bristles. My mom used brushes too. My dad used combs, but his were the white ones.

I searched for it around the house. I went to our library and found two guests arguing, fighting over something. There was the comb behind them near the curtain. Then it disappeared. I walked to the sala and saw more people crying and fighting. I saw the comb again. Then I went to the kitchen, another group of people were arguing there. Lo and behold, the black comb was resting on the kitchen counter. If it only had a face, I felt it was smiling, happy and content seeing people in confusion and disdain.

* * *

When I woke up, I realized upon taking my first breath that the black comb was Satan. This was a dream I had more than 2 months ago. During that time, I was so in-love with God that I simply shrugged this dream away, I thought "Satan can't fool me." Dummy me, I was too idealistic and prideful that I thought I could fight Satan head on.

I thought because I have God, I don't need to care about Satan anymore. Who is he to come near me anyway? I had completely forgotten that God does allow Satan to test His people. Remember the story of Job? That was the start of my two months of depression. During that time, I learned a whole lot about Satan. And I'm more than willing to share them with you. This is a MUST READ. Satan is just around the corner, creeping & lingering. If you are left unaware, he might just eat you up.

I learned that:

1. Satan condemns us... again and again and again. He rides in our insecurities and tell us, "You're no good. Becky is still better than you. Look at her achievements." He dims your hope and future, making you fill you are worthless. As I said, it is again and again and again. It happens every waking day, until you acknowledge it as a contaminating thought from Satan.

2. Satan holds us incapacitated. He makes us immobile. Believe it or not, there was a time in the past two months that I did not want to get up from bed anymore. When Satan dims your hope and tells you that you have no future, you can't hardly move. True enough, I would rather sink deep into my thoughts where I could run freely and let time pass than be awake when I could do nothing.

3. Satan uses a soothing voice to encourage us to think, to say and to act something that is unpleasant to God but pleasant to our sinful nature. He can even rationalize with us, saying "It's okay be be angry with your dad. He doesn't deserve your forgiveness with all that he has done to you" or "Go ahead and spend everything you have, life is short. Eat, drink and be merry!"

In my case, Satan told me "It's okay to be silent. Don't share your problems. People won't understand and they have their own share of problems." That's what I did. He wants people to follow their own desires until God for them becomes a mere thought in the cloud.

* * *

More than anybody else in this world, Satan loves to see us in misery. He ignites us to anger. He wants to ruin relationships. He throws gentle whispers to condemn us and bring us to a point of utter hopelessness. He confuses our mind with unnecessary "if''s and what if's" until we worry enough to become immobile. He wants us to quit our ministries, to quit on our family, and to quit life altogether. He is Satan, the master deceiver.

Some Action Points:

1. Be sensitive to Satan's attacks. Discern if thoughts are Biblical or not. This is why it is VERY important to meditate His word day and night. It's a matter of equipping ourselves to be ready in the battlefield because Satan is literally out there to attack. When Satan attacks, it can hurt. It can damage our relationship with others. It can make us callous towards God.

Cast Satan away and counter him with God's truths and promises! I've tried it and it worked!

2. Turn to God for freedom. Unlike God the Father who teaches and disciplines, Satan condemns. Unlike God who cleanses and purifies us, Satan makes us sink deeper in despair. He makes us feel guilty until we have no face left to seek God or to meet people. He tells us "It's because you were wrong! You foolish woman!" May we remember that our guilt has been washed away by Jesus' blood in the cross. Turn to Him for forgiveness and freedom.

3. Acknowledge that we are weak and He is strong. My time of healing started when I was able to acknowledge three things: 1. the presence of Satan, 2. my weakness and 3. my need for God. I was weak to counter him. I was ready to give up. But then God reminded me that it is okay to be weak. He intended to choose and save the weak. "But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong." (1 Corinthians 1:27)

I realized that when God says that He loves me, He loves every bit of me including the weaknesses that I disliked in myself. Nothing in all creation can hinder me from His love. He has accepted me for who I am. He has chosen me... for a purpose. In God's eyes, because of Jesus, I am now worthy. Satan cannot belittle this truth anymore.

4. Embrace our strengths and weaknesses. Satan is out there to tell us that we should be like Becky, smart, go-getter, people-person & plain perfect. I am a Sanguine Choleric and Satan made me want to trade my temperaments with a melancholic who could surely do well in the management research class I was struggling to pass. I wanted to be a melancholic who is patient enough to research and master each and every topic I was interested in. I wanted to throw my restless self away.

But God created me with the perfect combination of temperaments and characteristics. It's because of sin that these traits sometimes deviate from their original & beautiful purpose. God created me to be me. He honed me to be creative, to think of endless ideas, to be original. He has given me gifts that I should explore and cultivate. I cannot think of myself as worthless just because I couldn't do what others do well. God created me to be unique & unlike any other. Same with you! So, tell Satan to back off if he compares you with others.

5. God loves us for our being, not doing. Satan created the wrong, worldly, priorities where worth is based on achievements or our "doing". He deceived the world that we should "do good" for the Lord so that He will love us more. But truth be told, there's nothing we can or cannot do that will make God love us any more or any less. He just loves us, period. And this is what unconditional love means. He differs from our earthly parents who may love those who are smarter, give more attention to those who are younger.

Last September, I started to fast. I sacrificed meat from my diet and days of facebooking. And yet come October and November, when Satan came and attacked, I wasn't able to please God with my life anymore. I lost hope in Him. I became calloused, I wasn't sensitive to His leading. I couldn't feel the Holy Spirit.

When I got to Isaiah 1, God reminded me that my sacrifices amounted to nothing if I were to entertain ungodly thoughts and actions. God cares more about my relationship with him and how I am delighting in His presence, than my sacrifices to Him. He has everything in heaven and on earth in his fingertips, what would a kilo of beef do for Him?

Friday, December 10, 2010


Dig. Dig. Dig. The house was in the process of transformation. And the process entailed me to wake up facing a wreck. My princess bed was placed in the hall way; the foam topper for my bed was in the guest room; my empty cabinets and bookshelves were located at the terrace and I found all my books in boxes and all my art materials in black garbage bags at the guest’s bathroom. Everything was in disarray.

I was seated in the kitchen table as workers were banging the ceiling and the walls surrounding me. Arranged in front of me were bowls of steamed white rice and adobong kangkong with fried garlic topping and clear lapu-lapu soup. I wanted to eat alone.

I stabbed my fork in the bowl of kangkong as I veered away from the noise and the unpleasant sight. I learned to appreciate the fresh crispy green kangkong one evening twenty years ago. I was seated beside my mother at the same brown wooden table in the same country home kitchen. It was a few minutes after seven and I was already yawning and my eyes were heavy and closing. Inside my mouth was a mushy spoonful of rice with shredded chicken that I had been chewing for the past five minutes. It had turned into a homogenous mixture that I wanted to spit out so badly. Suddenly, I heard a crunch in my left ear. It was my mom whispering to me -- the exciting sound of eating, the surprising oomph that came with every bite. My mom told me it was kangkong. It was that icky green thing in the middle the table that I never thought of getting. I hated vegetables. Then another crunch.

“Aren’t vegetables fantastic?” She held up her fork with kangkong leaves and shoved it in my slightly opened and hesitant mouth. Crunch. Crunch. Crunch. The sound burst from my tongue, passed through my small palette, and reverberated in my ears. My ears told my brain, you should like vegetables. I had another bite and realized it was not as awful as it looked; another bite and I decided it was going to be my one and only favorite vegetable; another bite and I whispered the sweet nothings to my mom.

She taught me to enjoy eating vegetables. She told me to take the fats off the adobong baboy and it would still taste as yummy. She influenced me to love eating onions in the corned beef. She took me along with her as we spend joyous afternoons in the mall window shopping and eating ice cream together. She enjoyed making me pretty. She loved to buy me blouses with ruffles, tops with beads and little trinkets and pants that fit my chubby thighs. She taught me my abcs. She had me take piano lessons. She poured her precious time to make arts and crafts with me.

Art was our common passion. During summer, while she painted cherry blossoms with peacock on her several meters long white canvas, I would draw Mickey Mouse and Kero Keroppi on my 5”x8” sketch pad. After each drawing, she would say “Wow!” with a huge smile beaming on her face. It made me want to draw more.

She also enrolled me in piano classes. Every Sunday morning at 8, we would go to one small house in Quezon Avenue and I would play my Hannon and A Dozen a Day books. I would spend one tedious hour in front of the piano counting down the minutes until my mom and I would reunite and walk to the nearby bookstore where she’d buy me a Sweet Valley Kid pocket book. In gradeschool when I started liking boybands, I would ask her to buy some cassette tapes for me. She'd tell me she’d do so as long as I take voice lessons. But I was shy then and told her “It’s okay, no need.”

She would also give me diaries on summer breaks so I would be able to write whatever experiences I had on the days I was free of school work. I would write about our trips to the mall and the cute products I had seen. Once I found a twenty peso bill on the floor while I was biking near the CCP complex, I tried to get it but I fell and hurt my thumb. That was also written in my diary. I learned to write poems. I learned that the last words of some of the verses rhyme. When I read the poems to her, she would tell me “good job.”

As years rolled by, I developed new habits and interests. My piano-playing lessened. My liking for writing daily matters such as where I went, who I was with, what I did, how much I spent decreased. My time for drawing has been used elsewhere. I took more time playing the computer than talking to my family. I watched youtube to learn about crafts. I made my own cards, notebooks, box containers and the like. The shopping days with mom were exchanged with time spent with friends. She said I was turning into a different person. I told her, “This is the same me, but I just know what I want now.”

When I entered college, she told me to be very careful with boys. They were people who would take advantage of me. “Some guys might sprinkle mysterious dust in your drink, make you unconscious and then rape you and kill you.” When I asked her if I could go out with a guy, she almost always replied with a “no”. Studies first, she said. When I asked if I could go out just to have some fresh air, she said no, it’s dangerous outside. I felt that she was already controlling my life. I had no room to explore. I felt I was left with little opportunities to learn, to fail and to succeed.

I tried to flee away from her grasp. I did things that she did not know of. I kept secrets. It was my way of being independent. There were times when I would sneak to their refrigerator and grab a bite of chocolate. I wouldn’t want her to catch me and say, “I thought you’re on a diet?” or “Hey, I told you it’s not good to eat sweets at night, you’ll get a sore throat again!”

Oh, I’m craving for chocolates again. I know there are still some funsize Snickers bars left in the ref. A couple of days ago, we went to Duty Free Philippines for a tax-free shopping spree. We were in my favorite section -- the sweets corner! Just the bright and bold colors of M&Ms plus the swirl of the red and white striped candy canes already lightened up my mood. It was like a glimpse of heaven for my spoiled sweet tooth. I scanned the aisles, passed through the Hershey kisses, saw the Hershey dark chocolate bars, told my mom that antioxidants in this type of chocolate is good for her. Hinting that she should buy one and we, or rather I, could enjoy it at home. Walked past the Cadburry station with all its milk and fruit & nuts variants, skipped a few aisles and reached my favorite brand of chocolates, Snickers. I picked up a funsize pack and turned it around, lo and behold, it costed $6.80. I put it back and told my mom how expensive chocolates have become.

Our walk made both of us hungry. Mom told me to grab anything I liked. I shook my head. My tummy could wait, and besides the prices were more expensive than the last time and they were not good for the teeth. She said it was okay, she was also getting hungry. I held up a cheaper snack. She said okay. But after a while she suggested maybe we should grab a pack of Snickers instead. Although I didn’t tell her about me and my love (Snickers), she somehow sensed that it was my favorite from the whole chocolate troop. Probably it was a “mother’s instinct.” And she told me to go get that instead. I retorted saying it’s quite expensive and I won’t be able to finish it anyway. She insisted that it was okay and promised that she’d take one.

I realized that the phrase “mom knows best” is oh-so-true. Just by looking at her child, a mom would, most often than not, already know what the child’s eyes are saying and what the child’s words are implying. I made other stops too, held other packs too. But my mom knew what I wanted. And I also realized that mothers do not really intend to withhold life & vigor or fun & play from us children, when they say “no”. They have a reason behind locking the chocolates away from us. Deep in their hearts, they want us to be happy and be full of life. They tuck unhealthy things away and shield us from danger’s snare because all they want is for us to be joyful, healthy and alive.

Okay, so maybe I’ll get a piece of snickers after I finish this other thing. The hot steaming lapu-lapu soup was not among my top ten food hit list. And yet, it was calling me. I could already hear my mom say, “Eat it, it’s good for your health.”

The bowl of clear soup reminded me of the time I got sick two years ago. It was a dark moment in my life when I found an odd mass growing inside my stomach. It made me look like a pregnant lady carrying a four month old baby. At first I thought I was just getting fat, until I consulted a churchmate who happened to be a doctor. She told me to undergo an ultrasound as soon as possible.

When my mom took me to the doctor, he advised me that I should already prepare for an operation within three days. Mom kept me calm and told me it was going to be okay. The night before the operation, she sat beside me and prayed with me. I felt a deep peace that God was with me through it all. My mom was with me the whole time. Day and night. Before and after the operation. She was like a God-sent angel that would stay by my side no matter what.

After the operation, even when my mom was busy with all the household chores, she would cook this lapu-lapu soup for me everyday for a whole month. She said “It’s to heal your wound much faster. It’s what your grandma cooked for me after I got pregnant with you.”

As I took more sips of the lapu-lapu soup, I realized that the love of a mother is really different. A mother’s love for a child is incomparable to any other love that has ever been shared (except the unfathomable love of God). She only wants the best for her child. So even if a lapu-lapu would cost her time, money, effort and a bit of rejection from me (sorry mom!), she’d scale it and cook it, just to give the healthiest food to her child.

Even if I said “no” to her countless times whenever she fed me vegetables, she would think of creative ways to make me like it without coercing me. Even if I answered back whenever I felt constricted, she would forgive me and let things pass. That is a mother’s love -- forgiving, enduring, unconditional.

Crunch. Crunch. I munched on more kangkong leaves. I almost finished the whole bowl when my mother walked in the kitchen.

“Have you eaten, mom?” I asked.

“No, you go ahead.” She busily washed the pile of dishes in the dirty kitchen.

“You must be stressed with the renovation. Let me cook for you this time, mom.” I stood up, grabbed a kilo of beef sliced into chunks, crispy lettuce and saba.

Mom smiled.

I served my mom one of her specialties -- pochero. That’s a different story altogether.