Wednesday, June 29, 2011

JUNE 26: It's Andrew Lloyd Webber Day! :)

I had counted down the days towards the much awaited event on June 26, 2011, Sunday.

For those of you who've dropped in some guesses...

It's not a post independence day celebration.
It's not my graduation day.
No, It's not my birthday.
Someone did not propose to me.
It's not the second coming of Christ. Although I heard that it's near.
Of course, I did not propose to anyone either.

It's AW Day -- The Andrew Lloyd Webber Day!

For those who fancy the breed of art that delights both your visual and auditory senses, this is for you. Broadway.

I was ten years old when I got to watch my first musical. I can still remember the intense mood blanketing the hall.. the heavy percussion beating at the beginning, the chorus adamantly singing "Do you hear the people sing.. singing the songs of angry men..," the little girl pitifully sweeping the floors while wishing for a castle on a cloud. Although I didn't understand Les Miserables then -- since a bulk of the story was sung in songs, it was love at first sight.

Fifteen years later, the fervor hasn't really faded. I got extremely excited when I saw an ad in the newspaper that had featured an all-star cast from Australia that was coming to perform hits of the internationally-acclaimed music icon, Andrew Lloyd Webber. I booked for tickets as soon as I could get my hand on a phone. True enough, it was indeed a great experience enter the world of Andrew Lloyd Webber and enjoy his masterpieces.

The show had started on time and we were 3 minutes late. Boo. Restroom traffic. Because of that, my brother-in-Christ/boyfriend David and I missed the opening of what seemed to be the song my dad used to play in the car. I was quite surprised that they opted for a mellow song, Love Changes Everything, as the opening act.

Maybe The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber wants to make a point that love is the most wonderful, beautiful, moving, catalyst in the world. Maybe they want to show that it is Andrew Lloyd Webber's love of music that has made the event possible... and maybe it is his love for music that has captured hearts of people from various generations... or maybe it's his love for the world that leads him to create music... and maybe inspires us to make a positive change through love..

We got to enter during the energetic beaty song, Jellicle Ball. Hurrying to our seats, I noticed that the stage set-up was simple and very versatile. There were two flat screens, one faced diagonally to the right, the other to the left. They showed titles of the musicals and visuals to color the stage during song numbers. There were also two mobile staircases the cast could tumble, run and dance on.

The costumes were also very simple. The black skimpy dress for the ladies was a staple. The only changes I remember were the cat outfits in Cats, leather jackets for the guys in Whistle Down the Wind and Delia Hannah's white gown in Evita. Despite the simplicity, their superb acting was able to compensate for whatever that's lacking. Even from my seat at the lower box, I could see the depth of emotion in the eyes of Michael Cormick when he was singing The Music of the Night.

Below are the songs performed by the cast of The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber in Manila. I've embedded links of available videos online to give you a feel of the songs.

Love Changes Everything (Aspects of Love)
Take that Look off Your Face (Tell Me on a Sunday)
Don't Cry for Me Argentine (Evita) - The transitions of the Evita songs were seamless. The acting was really good. Even if it was just something as plain as walking, I could see the 'nervousness' Delia was trying to portray in Evita. The way she delivered the song --the facial expressions, the tones-- was also very moving.
One Rock n' Roll Too Many (Starlight Express)
Light at the End of the Tunnel (Starlight Express)
Unexpected Song (Song and Dance)
I Don't Know How to Love Him (Jesus Christ Superstar)
Coney Island Waltz (Love Never Dies) - This musical is a sequel to The Phantom of the Opera. I still prefer the songs from the first musical.
Till I Hear You Sing (Love Never Dies)
All I Ask of You (The Phantom of the Opera)
Memory (Cats)

Heaven on Their Minds (Jesus Christ Superstar) - This musical sees Jesus from the point of view of Judas Iscariot.
I Believe My Heart (The Woman in White) - I love this song! Perfect for weddings. One creepy psychological musical that is a must watch!
Tell Me on a Sunday (Tell Me on a Sunday)
Sunset Boulevard (Sunset Boulevard)
Pie Jesu (Requiem) - this is a musical Andrew Lloyd Webber wrote when his father died.
No Matter What (Whistle Down the Wind) - the quartet delivered it a lot better than Boyzone. Don't get me wrong, I was once a Boyzone fan.
Whistle Down the Wind (Whistle Down the Wind)
The Vaults of Heaven (Whistle Down the Wind)
With One Look (Sunset Boulevard)
The Music of the Night (The Phantom of the Opera) - Great duet. It could be better if there were more props and grander costumes.
Superstar (Jesus Christ Superstar)

Would you believe that there were only eight of them singing, acting and dancing all throughout the show? And yet, they were able to pull the audience off their seats with a standing ovation.

Two thumbs up for The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber... which was four in our case.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

A Bowl of Wisdom: 4-pcs. Siomai

While mom and I were on our way to the grocery, we passed by a number of colorful food stalls. I'm not much of a siomai eater, but at that particular time, my stomach (or perhaps my tongue) was craving for a bitable meat drenched in sweet and spicy sauce. So there I was lining up in front of this 2x2 meter kiosk, named Siomai House, that was selling 4pcs. pork and shrimp Siomai for Php25.
I poked a piece with a toothpick, and took a bite. Surprisingly, there were no irritating tendon-like bits or yucky big fat unchewable pork. The pork and shrimp Siomai was soft and tasty and it blended perfectly with the chili with crispy garlic bits sauce. This reminded me of the Siomai I had tasted some years back when I was still in college and had not been exposed yet to "the real world."

Let me rewind back to the good ol' days when I was still wearing my bell bottom jeans and rubber shoes. I was hanging out with my group of friends, the ego-boosters, at ZZ canteen for lunch. A friend bought a foot-long hotdog in a bun, other friends opted for rice meals, while I was in the mood for Siomai. The Siomai then was a bit smaller and paler. The skin was quite dry and flaky. But I didn't mind. I sat with my group of friends, and took a bite. As my teeth cut through the meat, I stumbled upon an odd pea-sized bit that was difficult to chew. With the help of water, I swallowed it in a gulp.

Despite the odd siomai, I laughed heartily and joined the chorus. We were young with high hopes and big dreams. We were thirsty for new experiences and new lessons. Young and naive as we were, we were filled with joy and excitement, hopes and dreams.

Now, with a better tasting Siomai laid in front of me and a few bowls of wisdom saved in my wisdom bank, I can't help but wonder, where has the young cheery Mitzi gone? Isn't it odd that the older we get, the less joyful we become? Is this part of growing up?

Perhaps growing up does not necessarily lead to an evergreen life. As I devoured each of the four Siomai, I unearthed some great lessons the child within can teach us about life:

1. Hakuna Matata
When I was younger, I could survive without worrying. And this is one of God's commands that I have mastered less and less, as I grow older. I could laugh and play and let my cares be carried off by the wind then. But now, I worry for the upcoming deadlines and financial pressures among others. I do not think it is necessary to worry when our responsibilities increase. It's a waste of energy. The Lion King's Hakuna Matata principle is something you and I have to learn from our younger counterparts.

Some questions we can ask ourselves are: Why worry when God loves us more than the birds that He feeds and the lilies that He clothes? Why worry when the God who has given us life through Jesus Christ, can sustain us through and through? Why worry when He has called us for a reason? Why worry when we can get nothing out of the very act of worrying? Why worry and ignore God's faithfulness in our lives?

The solution is remembering... Remembering His word and remembering His faithfulness in our past.

2. High Hopes
I remember being a girl with big dreams. Great visions colored my mind. However, entering and moving about in the real world isn't as easy as I thought it would be. It was filled with discouraging competitions and disappointing pursuits. Later on, I realize that we can retain high hopes, if and only if, we are participating in God's bigger plan. When we are on His side.

Despite our imperfections, we can have high hopes that God can use us mightily for the glory of His name. We can dream big for the advancement of His Kingdom, since this is God's same desire. Our extraordinary God can work wonders through an ordinary weakling like you and me. On the other hand, if we live our lives outside this purpose, perhaps for our selfish gains, then know by now that God will pop those 'high hopes' bubbles for us sooner or later.

3. Naive Faith
When I had my first job, I remember telling my superior, "If any problem arises, we should pray about it. God could work if we just believe in Him." My boss found it childlike and told me to just do my job well. As we grow older, we tend to depend on our own strength in fulfilling our duties.

The childlike faith is pure and straightforward. When God says He can move mountains, when God says He can make the lame walk, children can believe the word wholeheartedly; while adults will have to evaluate His word based on scientific facts and other empirical data. Our rational 'adult' mind simply cannot comprehend an extraordinary, out-of-the-box, God -- the God of Moses who has parted the red sea; and the God who can move mountains when we just call on to Him in faith.

Let us remember that God is the One who created science. He can work over and above it. Let us go back to this childlike 'naive' faith, and become bolder in living for God. Let us not be content with the certain, comfortable tried and tested ways that completely rob us of experiencing God and the joys that come along with it.

4. Blank Slate
My MA professor debriefed us in our last meeting, "It is best to enter my class in a blank slate -- when you know that you do not know. It is only in this way are you willing and ready to learn." As we grow older, we tend to pride ourselves with the knowledge and the wisdom that we have gained over the years. We think that we know everything there is (that we need) to know.

Many of us who may have read the Bible from cover to cover, or have listened to various preachings, have stopped reading the Bible because we think we know what it has to say. We hinder ourselves from learning and being changed for the better. We shy away from new experiences that would provide rich life lessons. Are we just proud? Or are we too much of a coward to admit that we do not know everything? Let us open our minds in wonder like a child.

As I closed the memories of my younger years, I swallowed the last portion of my tasty Siomai. I threw away the paper plate with the remaining chili sauce and toothpicks... and kept to myself the wisdom from this bitable snack.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

SOS: Still on Stand-by

In trying to find God’s will, I’ve tried different things, learned various skill sets and practiced them out for a time. I’ve ventured into card-making featuring different mechanisms (i.e. pop-up, rotating, etc), baking pies, rice pizzas and banana cakes, making crema de fruita, cooking, gardening, sewing journal books, recycling plastics, recycling papers, recycling junkfood wrappers, designing products, writing about life and weddings and DIY crafts and health and beauty and fashion and make-up. And now, I’m still on stand-by, not knowing where to go.

It’s just so odd that I am predisposed to pursue ALL or NONE of them. Perhaps I am afraid that once I focus on something with passion and ardor, God would just take it away from me as it may become a potential candidate for Mitzi’s Next Idol. Perhaps, I am afraid that God will make “batok” (hit on the head) me when I make a wrong decision, or when I view with a wrong perspective. I had a painful “batok” last 2008, when I got sick. It was when God allowed me to realize that I have to give every room of my life to Him. Perhaps, I'd rather God tell me the direction, than I go wherever I want "just to do something," only to find out that God may just give me another painful "batok" as another life lesson. Or perhaps, I am just waiting for God to give a go signal.. so that I may know He will be pleased with the work of my hands.

Now that everything I have is with Him, my hopes, my dreams, my body, my heart, my mind and my soul, I am hoping that He would just take the lead. I wouldn’t mind if He would let me undergo painful, teary drops, as long as I know He is the hand behind everything. But because this very fact makes me wait for him, and do nothing, I don’t know where to start anymore.

I’ve also prayed a lot about this. I’ve prayed different prayers. Read different books. Studied parts of the bible. I prayed for wisdom, understanding and knowledge, but it seems like I’m just back from where I’ve started. I prayed for a right perspective of God. I prayed for God to test my heart, know my anxious thoughts, and convict me. I’ve prayed for God to give me a burden and a passion that I cannot resist.

If you are feeling left out, lost, or too old to still be on stand-by, You. Are. Not. Alone. God has not forsaken you, and me, yet. It may seem that God has closed His ears and turned His back on us. But, I believe He hasn't.

A few days ago, I was reading Ezekiel and I was amazed. Israelites during that time had proven to be unfaithful – they believed other gods, sought partnerships with other nations, withheld justice and mercy from the poor and depended on their strength. That was why God punished them and allowed an iron fist, Babylon, to destroy and conquer Israel.

It may seem that on the eye-level, God had already given up on His people when they were being devoured by the Babylonians. They were back to their empty lifestyle that focused on surviving, on working for the Babylonians, on achieving, on temporary pleasures, on what the world required/looked up to -- all of which they eventually gave up on their last breath. In short, they lived a life without the God who gives purpose -- this is simply a chase after the wind.

They didn’t know that if they just looked at their circumstances from a higher point of view, from God's view, their Heavenly Father still has a vision for them. Read the last chapters of Ezekiel (start at ch36) and discover that despite the terrible sins of Israel, God still has a plan to redeem them and rebuild their nation.

Like the Israelites, it may seem that God has left us in our SOS helpless state. It may seem that we are on our own now because of the tormenting silence. But I believe, the silence has its reason just as the exile has its reasons. No matter what happens, God also has a vision for you and me, a vision that He will bring to reality. He does not do it because we are deserving -- since like the Israelites, we are just as sinful and unfaithful.

But He will surely do it, for the glory of His name.

“Therefore say to the Israelites, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: It is not for your sake, people of Israel, that I am going to do these things, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you have gone. I will show the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, the name you have profaned among them. Then the nations will know that I am the LORD, declares the Sovereign LORD, when I am proved holy through you before their eyes."

~ Ezekiel 36:22-23

"Focus on your relationship with God. Let the problems around you worry about themselves. God is in control even if all hell breaks loose."

~ David Jan Chan

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Trace Your Face: A Father's Day Special

Our faces aren't as original as they seem. Like anything you see under the sun, they come from something already existent. They are an evolution, an innovation -- a model 2.0 of an older generation, a mix of two entities, or an exact carbon copy of a previous model. Let me tell you where I got my face.

When I was younger, I was told that I looked like one particular man. I was opposite of ecstatic when I heard that news. My grandpa, cousins and friends would tease and call me his junior. I said defiantly, "Of course not! I am not a boy!" Apart from that, he is a couple of decades older than me. He has a big built, while I (knew I was chubby, but I...) wanted to be slimmer. He has a charming boyish smile showing a full set of teeth, mine was the same except that I was lacking a few teeth. There was no way we could be alike. They needed to have their eyes checked, I thought.

Later on, when his black & white teen picture was placed side by side with my childhood pic, I had to change my mind. I saw that my face is just as circular, my eyes are just as wide and un-chinese, and my ears are just as portruding as his. And, like me, he also has a birthmark painted like a map on his right shoulder.

Oddly, our similarities lie more than just skin deep. During my boyband craze years, he also had his own stash of Westlife, Backstreet Boys and Boyzone CDs. He'd rather sing "I'll Never Break Your Heart" and "Fool Again" than the songs of his era. He was a pal who'd watch concerts with me at Araneta Coliseum. We have the same taste in food and even in movies, by the way.

As years rolled by, I got to know him more. I even got to pry on his love life. He told me that he courted his girlfriend for over five years. Despite living two cities away from her, he traveled almost everyday just to see her. That is patience. His patience was worth it, because his first girlfriend soon became his wife. I've seen his patience being exercised during random evenings when he had to drive me home from school. He would wait for me silently and patiently. This guy whom I got my face from is also selfless. He does not withhold anything from his family, whether it is love, time, leisure or life lessons. He gives without reservations -- but not to the point of spoiling them. For he also sees to it that his children are to be disciplined and taught of good values.

I am not sure where, or from whom, you got your looks. I got mine from someone I am very much proud of. Someone who has shared with me great lessons in life. Someone who has protected me from the snares of this world. Someone who has inspired me to love, to care and to give. Someone whose selfless actions have taught me more than words could ever do. Someone whom God has blessed me with. Someone I won't ever trade for the world.

Someone whom I call, Papa.

Happy Father's Day! I love you, Pa!

A man finds room in the few square inches of his face for the traits of all his ancestors; for the expression of all his history, and his wants. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson, Conduct of Life

"Honor your father and your mother"--which is the first commandment with a proise. ~ Ephesians 6:2

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

I'm Called, But He Also Made Me...

This morning I stumbled upon a short conversation between Eric Liddell and his sister Jenny. Eric was trying to explain his calling to her. It went like this:

"I believe God made me for a purpose -- for China." Had he stopped there, most of us would have clearly understood his statement -- he had surrendered to the high calling of missions. That's clearly how Jenny understood him. But Liddell continued. "But He also made me fast. And when I run, I feel His pleasure... To win is to honor Him."(1)

What an eye-opener.

I thought God would be most honored if I were to give up everything, together with my talents and passions, for the advancement of His kingdom-- in the "full-time" kind of sense. And so when I somehow decided to give them up, I was left in a stand still. For some time, I did not know what to do, where to go.

I kept asking God, "Where Lord? Where are you taking me?" I was on my way home from Cebu when I claimed Psalm 25 as my prayer. Like me, King David was hoping God would also lead him to the right "way" or "path." However, seeking or waiting on God is seen as foolish in this very fast paced world. And so the first three verses were just as apt.. what a beautiful promise!

Psalm 25 Of David.

In you, LORD my God, I put my trust.
I trust in you; do not let me be put to shame,
nor let my enemies triumph over me.

No one who hopes in you will ever be put to shame,
but shame will come on those
who are treacherous without cause.
Show me your ways, LORD, teach me your paths.
Guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my Savior,
and my hope is in you all day long.
Remember, LORD, your great mercy and love,
for they are from of old.

Do not remember the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways;
according to your love remember me,
for you, LORD, are good.
Good and upright is the LORD; therefore he instructs sinners in his ways.
He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way.
All the ways of the LORD are loving and faithful
toward those who keep the demands of his covenant.

...Then there was silence. After a couple more days of soul searching, a friend suggested I answer
a discernment exercise. This exercise shows a framework that may guide one to discover one's calling. It comprises three important sets of questions:

PASSIONS: When do you experience deep joy?

BURDENS: What breaks your heart? What needs in the community grabs you the most?

GIFTS: What are you gifted at? What do others think you're gifted at?

... Then I discovered something. I believe God made me for a purpose - for His church. But He also made me creative. And when I create and teach others to create... I feel His pleasure. To create is to honor Him.

So I decided to have crafts time with Fay and Ruby today.

Below is Fay trying to sew strips of junkfood wrappers for her eco-friendly bag.

And Ruby making a vase out of an empty bottle and old newspapers.

That's all folks! This is Fay's final output.

Cheers and good night! :)


(1) Business as Missions by Michael R. Baer

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

How to Deal with Quarter Life Crisis

You have probably leaped from one job to another a couple of hundred times already. Now, your mind is throbbing and your heart is palpitating ever so severely because you are itching to make another jump from your transcription specialist post. You plan to take a jump to who knows where and you might land splat dead. So before that happens, read on! This might be the answer to your quarter life crisis.

First, breathe in… breathe out… Calm your nerves. Call your doctor for a check-up tomorrow. You heard from the radio that too much thinking could tear more ulcer holes in your stomach. Visit the doctor. Doctor says you need to take a leave from work just to rest and relax.

Decide to quit work. Visit your mother who is all alone after your dad had decided to work as a chef in Hongkong. Currently, she is living with your aunt. Wear the brightest yellow top you can find in your closet. Wish that your shirt can do the brightening up for your mother when your mouth cannot curve to a compulsive smile. Her blood pressure may rise when she hears you have just quit your work.

Sleep at your aunt’s place tonight. Wait for five days until you share the news to your mom. The span of five days is the optimum to break it to her gently. On the first day of your stay, you will feel like your savings are depleting while your friends are busily earning their way up the corporate ladder. That is understandable. Don’t feel bad. Eat porridge. It will calm your nerves. Take a walk under the bright round yellow summer sun and absorb the positive energy of the kids on the playground. It may just perk you up incase you do not have a spare yellow shirt.

As you walk, take a journey down memory lane. What were your hobbies as a child? What made you happy? Remember the times when your mom baked banana walnut muffins for your neighbors. You would stealthily visit the fridge every so often until your mom thought there were rats in the fridge and decided to buy a new one.

On the second day, think that you may not be for the corporate world. Ask your mom to teach you how to bake. Learn to bake for the next couple of days. Compile the recipes and start a coffee shop nearby. Your mom says your muffins are as hard as your father’s head, and your sponge cake can pass as a paperweight. Go back to your room. Cry. Call a friend. Cry to that friend. It will calm your nerves.

Your friend says, “try writing.” You have learned a great plenty of words –xerophagia, economy class syndrome, endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography. So on the third day, write an article or two about ulcer. Send a pitch to a local medical magazine. You receive a reply: “Thank you for your query. Sorry, we cannot use your articles because we are only accepting contributions from medical doctors.”

Consider becoming a doctor on the fourth day. Connect those terms to actual practice. Check if you have six years to spare. But if you feel old, like the many others who are undergoing this same crisis, choose a different path. Run along the pace of the clock, maybe read some self-help books on the fifth day. “Finding Your Niche” sounds nice.

The books will say reflect on what you want to do in life. Do not mind what your mom, your friend, the medical magazine editor, or whoever, tells you to do. While you reflect, fix your things. Fix your mom’s things. This will help lessen her blood pressure when you announce the news later.
While you fix your things, survey the trashes. Learn how to recycle. Sew bags out of used plastics; create a business plan out of it. Get ideas from your files five jobs ago, when you worked as sales for a nonprofit organization.

Build up your inventory. Try sewing ten bags per design. Tell your mom the news and hire her as a quality checker. She tells you to go back and find a job. Try again. Maybe create something smaller. A wallet, perhaps. Thank your mom for her help. Give her the first wallet you’ve made. Try making pop-up greeting cards also. Learn from youtube. Give your mom a pop-up “Thank You” card.

Return to your condo and sign up for classes. Work on the skills that you enjoy doing. Find a partner who is of a complementing temperament. “Two heads are better than one” must have come from somewhere. Rest, as the doctor has advised.

When you wake up, go do something. Anything.

*This is a creative fiction piece.