Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Food, Parks & Celebrities: Post Christmas in Singapore

My family decided to spend the rest of the holidays in Singapore with my brother and sister in law.  So we woke up at 3am yesterday to catch a 6:30am flight. (Note to self: never take a 6:30am or an earlier flight again.) I was groggy the whole morning until my dad pointed out "John Lloyd" in the boarding area of MIAA. Not that I'm a fan or anything like that.  But I just remembered John Lloyd being my philosophy professor's celebrity crush.  She gushed in front of the class as to how good-looking he was. 

He wore a black jacket, shades and a cap.. the usual celebrity stealthy get-up..which ironically made him look even more like a celebrity.  He had a very fair complexion, smooth skin, and a little bit chubby structure.  Then I also saw Shaina who was pretty in her flowy pants and sleeveless printed top.  She had her make-up on which made me think, she probably didn't get much sleep the other night.  They were with a large group, probably J.L.'s family.  There were kids, teens, and middle aged people with them.

So as an evidence, here's our picture together.  (My mom mustered up the courage to ask for their photos.)

We arrived in Singapore at around 10:50am.  The Cebu Pacific plane was really full.  I felt quite sorry for John Lloyd and Shaina Magdayao because all eyes were on them.  I caught a great number of eyes following the couple (my parents included) as well as whispers and giggles from the plane to the baggage counter in Singapore.  There was no special VIP treatment when they arrived.  The last time I saw them was when they took off in a double deck bus.  Anyway, enough about them.  It's time for some food tripping!

Lunch, 12:00: Sushi Tei

My brother who has been a resident in Singapore for more than five years highly recommends Sushi Tei for Japanese food enthusiasts.  We tried the Sushi Tei branch along the beach in East Coast.

I ordered Nabeyaki Udon.  The tempura was normal for me.  I couldn't taste the difference.  But there were some chicken chunks, soft mushrooms and fish cakes that added texture to the dish. The thick udon was chewy which was, to my taste, good.  The soup was savory and not overpoweringly sweet.  Overall an okay-okay dish.

 I first tried a big piece of tempting futomaki.  One of my criteria for a good maki is an obedient seaweed covering that is soft and easy to bite on.  This maki passed with a high mark.  I could also taste the freshness of each ingredient wrapped in Japanese rice.  When I was ready to take my second piece, the makis were I guess very well appreciated, that there was only one other futomaki left.

Yummy Zaru Soba for my dad -- my dad's personal fave.  He orders this in almost every Japanese restaurant we go to.  An evidence of how much my dad liked it, he said, "I still can't forget the Japanese restaurant we went to yesterday."  

It's milk tea for dessert! I love the teh tahrik (SGD $2) being served in East Coast.  Edivita introduced it to me last January.  It was love at first sip.  I prefer it a lot over the pearl milk teas we have in the Philippines.  I guess probably because it's the real thing.

Dinner, 18:00: Akopo's (Grandfather's sister) residence

We ate in the balcony of their house where the wind was blowing freely through the wooden railings.  It was a lovely & refreshing ambience for a family gathering.  Felt like I was in a picnic.

Here's a classic Singaporean-Chinese dinner spread.  There's misua, spicy fish curry, fried tempura, fried chicken, sticky rice with Chinese longganisa and bittermelon soup among others.

Merry Christmas la from Singapore!

Cheers! Yes, this is their way of digesting after a heavy meal.  And this is also the Singaporeans' (as well as Chinese's) way of bonding and catching up.

One thing I love about Singapore is that playgrounds are abundant!  Children can freely go out of their house, ride on the swings, and then go home for dinner.  In our case, we walked around after a full meal.  This is a park 10 steps outside Akopo's house.

I was surprised when an auntie told me that these logs were for the biceps.

Seems to me that this can also be a playground for adults!  What a healthy & engaging place.

They also have a trail for joggers and a stadium probably for aerobics and other exercises.

The picture below shows the second playground near their place. 

It's such a blessing to be able to walk leisurely, look around and enjoy the clean surrounding in Singapore.  I won't have this much liberty when I get back home. But I read somewhere recently that if the surrounding is not as pleasing, look up.  The sky, glorious and magnificent, is the same everywhere.

So this is how we spent December 26, 2011.

How are you spending the Christmas holidays? :)

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas: Associations and Reflections

For the past decades, I've associated Christmas with a number of random things.  There was this pair of white school socks I would hang at the head of my bed on Christmas eve, as I waited for Santa Clause to fly through our window (we didn't have a chimney).

Then there was also the 8ft. Christmas tree with golden balls and golden-winged angel ornaments we would put up together on one relaxing October or November day. I get a warm giddy feeling every time I turn on the twinkling yellow lights.  Then of course there are the Santa Clause dolls around the house.  One hanging on our door post, another standing by the Christmas tree, and also there's one sitting on  our dining room TV.

Sometimes, I would also associate Christmas with the activities or festivities.

Plus singing and dancing to the fun upbeat Christmas music.

There's the kris kringle where we act like "mommy"/ "daddy" and give gifts to our "babies."  There are also Christmas concerts, musicals or plays.  And in the recent years, Starbucks Christmas drinks also come to mind.

And I also associate Christmas with certain concepts or thoughts.. like Christmas being a time with family.. or a time to remember the birth of Christ... and of course happiness.  That's why based on observation, a lot of people experience self-pity (one even died of heart attack because of loneliness according to TV Patrol today) if they don't have their families around, gifts received, fun parties to attend and other associations present.

Then last night, on the eve of Christmas, it dawned on me that since Christmas symbolizes Jesus' birthday more than anything else, (1) my associations were not directed primarily on Jesus and, (2) I have already prepared gifts for most family and friends, but I still don't have a gift for him!

What a shame, I was more focused on work, festivities and other visitors, than on the birthday celebrant Himself.  Then I asked myself a very difficult question.  What can you give Jesus who already has the whole world in His hands?

We may have different answers.  After much thought, I realized I would like to give Jesus a heart of worship. A heart that realizes Christmas is not a time for frivolities but for moments enjoyed with Jesus.  (God has made a way for us to be with Him so why don't we make the most of this gift?)  But in order that we may have a meaningful time with Jesus we must let go of a few things.  We need to erase anger, bitterness, hopelessness, envy, greed, pride, etc. by the blood of Jesus and be filled instead with thanksgiving and praise (I realized it's nearly impossible to worship when we're harboring such sins). A heart that gives more room to Jesus, and less room to me.

Many of you may ask, "Shouldn't we have a heart of worship everyday?" Exactly!  Since Christ has saved us, our lives are not for our own selfish gain anymore ("To live is Christ.." Phil. 1:21).

But isn't it ironic that when Christmas comes, we get so tied up with all the busy-ness of the season (whether in business or ministries or parties) and other associations, that we have less time, energy and passion in worshiping God?

What things do you associate Christmas with?

How do you plan to make the birthday celebrant feel special?

What gift would you like to give Jesus today?

Monday, December 12, 2011

A Prayer Doodle: Ideal and Status Quo

(This is a drawing of a man hanging on a thread of his ideals, trying to pull someone from the status quo.  Two other people in the status quo are disliking the act, while the rest are happy in their current situation.  This doodle is scanned from Mitzi's journal.)

Sometimes when I pray, God encourages me and/or teaches me through images.  This is one of them.

I had been quite down recently when I realized how the church has been different from what the Bible says it should be.  Whenever I read the Bible, how God's people should be on earth becomes clearer and clearer each day.  And as I voice it out, many times I just get shut out.  Like for example, I've shared with some church leaders how the focus must be moved from the technicals (church building, church car, equipments) to the fundamentals (missions, discipleship).. and guess what they've told me.  "Mitzi, you're being too idealistic."

I did not know what to do.  If I talk more, I might be labeled as a rebel or a mere ingredient for disunity.  If I remain silent, I don't know how long I can manage to keep the burden from exploding.

Then last night, I prayed to God about it.  I told God, I can do nothing to help His church because it's just tiring and depressing and utterly frustrating.  Then deep within me, I felt recharged and renewed.  I felt like God was telling me, "No Mitzi.. you're not causing disunity.  You're simply obeying me."

God made me to realize that it's better to aspire for the ideals -- as to what the Bible clearly teaches and be labeled as a rebel, than to remain in a meaningless, united status quo.

May all of us walk on this narrow road (which can sometimes feel like a string) and depend on God's love and mercy.

The world needs idealistic people. They keep the standards from falling. -David Jan Chan

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Discover Hope This Christmas

I remember how dramatic (or haunted might be a more apt word) the last few days of my maternal grandfather were.  His nurse would tell me that he couldn't sleep at night out of fear.  Sometimes he would lift both his arms and wave them like he was shooing invisible swarms of flies away.  He'd point to the holes of the exhaust and murmur some intelligible words of panic.  He was seeing some things.  "Dark shadows," he said, pulling him off his hospital bed.

Then, last night, during the Joint Cellgroup Christmas party, Rev. Eugene Hao was also sharing that his 82-year-old ahma (grandmother) couldn't sleep for nights because of those ugly black forms trying to get hold of her.  "Wow, those things are really real," I told my friend.  He told me his grandfather also experienced the same things.

So one day, at an unholy hour of 12 midnight, Rev. Eugene was asked to go to his ahma's room.  He found her seated at the edge of her bed sweating profusely.  When she saw him, she signaled him to cover over quickly and then asked him to pray for her.  "Really ahma? But you don't believe in Jesus naman e," he lovingly kidded his ahma.  "Stop joking around!" she snapped, "Come on."  He then prayed for her and bid her goodnight.  The next day, he found her smiling with such a big smile that would almost reach the ear.  "I've never slept soundly all my life!" the octogenarian lady told him.  "That's great!" Rev. Eugene said.  "So now, I pray to Kuanima, and you pray to Jesus for me, okay?" his ahma replied.

So what happened to ahma?

This ahma had a bestfriend of the same age.  Both had probably played mahjong together, gone wet-market shopping together and prayed in temples together.  This friend of hers knocked at her doors one day and divulged a big news to her, "I'm already a believer of Jesus!"  "What?!" ahma shouted in disbelief, "you've believed in Kuanima all your life, and now you're just letting her go? Letting me go?" Ahma felt betrayed.  Then this friend told her, "You know, I've never felt so much peace in my life until I found Jesus."  That day, ahma also accepted Jesus Christ in her life.  Now, she's probably feasting with Abraham and Peter and Paul, or resting in her lavishly prepared room in heaven.

There is hope.

Dark shadows and other things that resemble "death" have become a taboo to most people older than me.  Like, when I was telling an older relative about this story, she grew quiet and then said, "hmm.. maybe I shouldn't use sky or clouds as my log-in name."

Many busy themselves here by studying to earn some money, having a family then making even more money to sustain this new family.  Then what?  What's the point of all these when the ending would just be an infinite number of years DEAD?  This is the life and the mindset with no hope.  There's nothing to look forward to.  There is no point in living.

Christmas reminds us that life can be meaningful and beautiful, that life can be filled with hope.

Once upon a time in an island oceans away, a baby was born in a humble manger meant for sheep and goats.   He grew to be a very wise child, asking questions and conversing with teachers and religious leaders at the temple courts.  Later on, he put on several hats, such as that of a doctor, a teacher, a pastor, an evangelist and a spirit quester (I'm not sure how you call the person casting out spirits).  He did all these not for his own benefit, but for the benefit of the people and for the glory of the Father.

He lived out the purpose set above.   His kind of lifestyle may seem like a waste of time (since he was more often doing stuff for people).  But I guess he lived this way because he knew that life on earth is just a dot in eternity.  There's so much more to look forward to.  There is being with God, the Father, in Heaven.  There is bringing people like you and me there with Him too.  His life has proven that death is not the final ending..  that dark shadows can be overcome.

Jesus is the only way, the truth and the life.  I guess, it's not your nurse, or your spouse, or your money that can save you.  Don't waste your expectations on them.  Hope in Jesus.

In which area of your life are you losing hope in?