Posted in friendship, Lifestyle, relationships

The Road To Hell is Paved With Good Intentions

If there’s one lesson that I learned the hard way in 2017 its that not everyone will understand or appreciate your help, especially if its unsolicited, therefore sometimes the best thing to do is to mind your own business.

I used to be really good friends with a girl from work, until I took it upon myself to resolve a situation on her behalf when apparently, all she was doing was airing out her feelings. She didn’t really want nor did she expect me to do anything about it.

Unfortunately I am (or at least, I was) the kind of friend who will feel the need to defend and fight battles when I feel like my friends are being unfairly treated, especially if they don’t feel like they can speak up for themselves whereas I might be in the position to do something about it.

In hindsight, maybe I should have kept in mind that not everyone is as comfortable rocking the boat as I am. For some, its easier to be mad and to simmer for a day or two (or you know, whinge about it until the end of time) than to go through the longer and perhaps more difficult process of really doing something to change how things are.

I also should have kept in mind that no matter how well-intentioned my assistance is, at the end of the day I’m not personally involved in the situation and, again, it really is none of my business. I do not need to be at the forefront of a battle that no one wants to fight.

These days, as much as it pains me to be passive, I only offer help when people ask for it. I realise that, in a way, its a way of showing respect for the other person’s freedom to make his or her own choices, even if I feel like they’re digging themselves a hole that would be difficult to get out of. Its none. of. my. business.

I realised that I don’t have to take on other people’s problems on my shoulders; I’ve got enough of my own thank you very much. Learning this lesson allowed me to be more patient and to realise that sometimes what the other person really needs is simply a sounding board. Sometimes you help just by being there and by really listening to what they’re saying.

It can be hard to listen when you’re already formulating an action plan in your head about what they should be doing to solve the problem. That’s not always what they want from you. Sometimes they just need you to listen and to let them talk. I always have to consciously remind myself nowadays to let other people talk for at least 15 minutes straight before I even think of butting in with my own two cents. I’m sure it comes as a surprise to no one if I say that I tend to forget that other people need to talk too.

Its hard to find the balance between giving a helping hand and just being an annoying, interfering busybody. I don’t know what it is about human beings that we always think we’re so superior as to assume we know better than other people. We don’t. And even if we do, its none of our freakin’ business unless they explicitly ask.

That’s not to say I don’t occasionally intervene, but only in dire times and only with people who are obligated to love me despite my meddling, like my sister for example. And never without telling her or asking her first whether she needed (or wanted) my help or not.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that my own experience is a cautionary tale against putting your nose in other people’s business. Leave them be. As unfair as it may seem, there is a road to hell that is lined with all our good intentions and sometimes its just not worth it.

As someone who’s been on both ends of this argument, believe me when I say that discretion is often the better part of valour…or something like that. Simply put, life is too short to be stressed all the time let alone to be stressed about other people’s affairs. At the end of the day, we each have a life to live and a choice on how we live it. Mind you own damned business, you’ll be much happier for it.

Posted in bloggers

Oooops!

Just a quick note to say I’ve completely screwed up and showed myself to be a total noob despite having used WordPress for almost 6 months now. This is a cautionary tale that you should just leave well enough alone.

I don’t know what it is I did but I somehow managed to erase all the media on my previous posts so I’ve had to take those down, revert them to draft and I will re-publish them once I’m happy that they’re once again presentable.

I may be mass publishing one of these days but it won’t be all new content, I’m just reposting the posts I’ve fixed. Mea culpa. Lesson learned! Hahaha dear followers, please have patience I’m still getting the hang of this thing.

Cheers! Xx

Posted in dating, relationships

Cruel To Be Kind

I am not the type to play games. I consider myself to be a straightforward person in most aspects of my life, but especially when it comes to dating (or not dating, as the case may be).

The thing is, I’ve been on the other end of the equation far too many times to ever be cavalier about another person’s feelings. I’ve been strung along and lured into believing there’s something there when there isn’t; I’ve been on the receiving end of too many “non-rejections” because the other person was too afraid of hurting my feelings to be honest with me.

I think sometimes the hardest part is not knowing. Its like waiting for any test results, its the waiting itself that’s agonising; you really just want to know if you’ve passed or failed so that you can move on with your life one way or another. I think people, more than anything, just want certainty.

I get it though. Any conversation where there’s a chance of hurting the other person’s feelings is bound to be awkward. There is no kind way of saying, actually, I can’t see this working out between us. People, myself included, resort to tactics like simply ignoring texts (“ghosting” as one of my other dates called it), giving off “friend vibes” during dates (such as refusing to hold their hand during a long movie; note to self – do not ever watch any instalment of LOTR or The Hobbit unless you’re really sure of your bloody date) or just simply going off the other person’s radar.

I read a blog once that said that our generation, The Tinder Generation, tend to see dates as disposable. Its apparently so easy to get dates these days – as easy as swiping right with your index finger – that dating itself has lost much of its value. Just like everything else in the 21st century, we’ve found a way to make something that used to take so much work and effort into a fast, efficient and effective (for some anyway) machine.

While I disagree with the whole dating is easy thing (even with Tinder I struggle), I can’t deny that I’ve absorbed just a little the mentality of “oh if it doesn’t work out, you can always swipe right for the next guy“. I’d like to think I put in an effort for every date, but is it easier to date because you know there’s a safety net of an app that has already lined up a plethora of other choices for you?

I’m ashamed to say there was a time when I resorted to ghosting someone who had gotten too intense too soon. And then I read that article and I was filled with so much remorse because if I put myself in that other person’s shoes, that’s not how I want to be treated. So as painful as it was to have an honest conversation with the guy, I managed to get through it.

I was honest about having second thoughts and why I was having them; I was magnanimous enough to say I’m happy to try a second date but that I though our basic incompatibility was just too big a hurdle to overcome. I don’t think he was very pleased with that decision, but he appreciated the honesty and I slept better at night for having had the guts to just say ‘not interested’.

If I have one wish, its that we need not go through so much overanalyses when it comes to dating. I mean, maybe the uncertainty is part of the allure for some. But all the misconstruing just leads to unnecessary stress and heartache; a lot of our problems can be avoided if we just say what we mean and mean what we say. Its not rocket science people. You like someone, you say it. You don’t like someone, don’t date them.

I personally don’t subscribe to this whole giving-them-a-chance nonsense. I think you know straight out of the gate if there’s potential or not. And I’m now at that age where I don’t want to waste my time with someone (and potentially lead them on) all in the name of kindness. If I’ve been on a date, especially if its gone past the first date, its because I’ve wanted to be there.

I go with my gut instinct most of the time, and its never failed me. Yes I’m still single, but I’m also not stuck in an unhappy relationship just because I was in love with the idea of one (or just because I was pressured by society!). I think the worst thing to be is to find yourself in a hole of your own making just because you didn’t have the guts to be alone and hold out for the right guy.

I guess I’m just writing this to reaffirm some of my personal dating credo. I know scruples and principles don’t mean much anymore, but my conscience simply won’t allow me to date without them.

Don’t lead them on.

Say what you mean, mean what you say.

Don’t force yourself to feel what you don’t feel.

If its right, its easy.

Don’t think yourself shallow just because you need to be attracted to whoever you’re dating. If it works out, you’re potentially going to wake up seeing that mug every morning. That’s a huge decision to make!

A little sense of humour goes a long way.

If he doesn’t understand sarcasm, run the other way. Lol

And always, always, be honest.

Be honest about what you want and what you don’t want.Kindness is very subjective, but I think we can all agree that its kinder to reject than to string along; its kinder to rip off the band-aid with the truth, than to leave a wound to fester underneath. Its kinder to say no right now than to say no later down the road when you’ve already invested real emotions.

And really, you’re being kinder to yourself if you allow yourself to be happy in your own company while you wait for the right person, than to subject yourself to the agony of “settling”. And whatever lies you tell yourself, bowing to the dictates of others and making a decision you wouldn’t normally make just because you feel pressured and you want to be “kind” is settling.

Like the old saying goes, sometimes you just have to be cruel (even to yourself) in order to be kind.

Posted in dating, Feminism, Filipino, relationships, Self-Discovery

Where’s Your Boyfriend?

Every time I come for a visit to the Philippines – and especially as I reach that age where everyone you know is either a wife or a mother – there’s just that little bit of anxiety and a touch of resentment mixed in with the all the excitement.

You see, I come from a culture where its more or less expected, nay, required for a woman to be either in a serious relationship if not married by the age of 25. For a long long time I bought into the whole Stepford wife illusion of white picket fences, loving husband and 2.5 babies. That to me was THE goal.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, moving to London saved my life.

The Giving Tree

I once volunteered to help less fortunate children to read and one of the books we read was The Giving Tree. I must have been 27 at the time and I remember trying my best to keep it together and to keep my emotions in check so that I wouldn’t blubber like a nutter in front of all those kids who had so much more to worry about than my love life.

I was in a very self-destructive, unhealthy and pathetically one-sided relationship in college that gave new meaning to the word friend zone. I lost myself completely in my misguided quest to make another person love me. I was stupid enough to believe, just like that bloody giving tree, that if you give of yourself enough that other person will love you back.

It took me about 8 years to realise that love doesn’t work that way. You shouldn’t have to work so hard to make someone else love you. You don’t need to lose yourself in a relationship. Even as you become partners in all things, its still healthy to retain that sense of individuality, and the sense of who you are as a person outside of the relationship. In short, to be able to truly give yourself to someone, you have to be whole, and you have to know and love yourself first.

This was not an easy lesson for me to learn and in a way, I’m probably still in the process of learning it. Its hard for me not to be a giver (I probably always will be) and it was so hard for me to gain back my self-esteem and my self-respect.

That’s one of the main reasons why I’ve remained single for a long long time. I date, sure, but at the back of my mind I know that my head wasn’t in the right place for me to even think about starting anything serious. I had so much to discover about myself, so much lost time to make up for, so many things that I still need to do and a boyfriend would just get in the way.

I’ve probably been a bit self-absorbed for the last 6 years or so – about the length of time that I’ve lived and worked in London. It was all about what I want to do, what I need to learn, where I need to go. I enjoyed the freedom of having no one to think about apart from myself. If I make mistakes no one else needs to suffer from it.

And to be honest that was probably a good thing. My experimental forays into trying things that are outside my comfort zone have gained me new skills, new friends and new experiences that cannot be bought by any kind of money. I have a job I love even as it often gives me stress, a side job that pays me to do one of the things I enjoy most, a blog that keeps me sane, a comfortable flat, and the kind of life that if I really think about it, brings me happiness. I’m one application (and 2 thousand pounds) away from being British. I’m so damn proud of all my achievements and I’ve never had any reason to doubt myself and my life choices. Until I come home to the Philippines of course.

I’m Alone…But Not Lonely

Look, I date okay. Not that I need to explain myself to anyone, but I do in fact go on several dates a year. The quality of those dates are sometimes suspect and none of them have panned out yet, but I’ve yet to lose hope that I’ll meet that someone and I’ll just know it was worth waiting and holding out for something more meaningful than a one-night stand.

I know, I know, I turned 30 and I’m losing fertile eggs as we speak. But seriously, the notion that being a wife or a mother is the measure of how successful a woman is is really outdated. I came home this year and people start to look at me funny because I don’t have a man by my side or an infant in my arms. No one wants to hear about every thing else I’ve done or what I have achieved, they just want to look at my finger to see if anyone’s put a ring on it.

I admit, I had my moment of panic when I turned 30. For maybe a day. And then I gave myself a kick in the arse and reminded myself that first of all, its not a race to the finish and second of all, 30 isn’t exactly ancient. I’ve had dates that never would have taken me as seriously at 27 as they do now. My life isn’t over, its not quite time for me to think about adopting cats yet.

The Measure of Success

It drives me mad to think that there are people who think I’m somehow less just because I’m “still” single. I have all the admiration in the world for mothers and for women who have chosen to start a family even at the expense of having a career – I think those women should be celebrated (sainted, really). But equally, credit should be given to those women who chose the other fork in the road and have fought to build a career despite the challenges and yes, despite being alone for most of it.

And its not like motherhood is not part of the plan. I, for one, would like to see my genes propagated (is that the right word?), but I’m not sitting around twiddling my thumbs while waiting for the future Mr. Angela. Its part of my bigger plan, its not my only plan. So yes, I do want to get married eventually and this is the first time that I can honestly say I’m ready for it (cue Taylor Swift music) so the answer to that question is a “not yet” rather than a hard “no”.

I hate having to defend my life choices to other people, I promised myself that I would rise above the weight of society’s expectations (I absolutely knew this was coming). It sickens me to think that I can still be affected by other people’s small minds and narrow world-views. I sometimes want to scream in frustration that there is a world out there bigger than the very small circle in which your lives revolve, but I don’t want to seem like I’m belittling anyone’s life or the choices they have made. I just wish they’d exercise the same caution when they choose to judge mine.

Where’s Your Boyfriend?

I don’t know. I don’t know where my boyfriend is. Twice in the past 6 years I thought I’ve found him but it turned out I haven’t. I haven’t met him yet, but I can feel myself getting closer. I’m enjoying the roundabout journey I’m taking to find him. It might take me a little longer, but when I meet him he can be sure that I’m whole, I’m ready, and I’m excited to share my passions, my dreams, and my life with him and to have him share his with me in turn.

Like I said, there’s a great big world out there for me to see. Life is one very exciting adventure and it would sure be grand to be holding someone’s hand as I live through it.

So for all you women out there who get asked the same questions from well-meaning and sometimes not so well-meaning friends and family: DO NOT GIVE IN. DO NOT SETTLE. And absolutely DO NOT let it be a factor in your decisions. You will come to it in your own damn time, and in your own way. Be strong.

Posted in Books, family, relationships, Reviews, romance

Book Review: The Tattooist of Auschwitz – Heather Morris

I will try my best for this review to do justice to this beautiful story of courage, hope and the power of love to endure all things, but I just don’t think I’m a good enough writer to express how much this book has touched me.

My sister has always wondered why I’m so morbidly fascinated with everything related to the Holocaust. She looked at me with horror when I suggested we watch Schindler’s List for Christmas morning last year (okay, that may have been too depressing a choice for what’s supposed to be a joyous occasion) or when I spent the entire holiday reading The Final Solution by David Cesarani the year before that.

For me it all started with a visit to Anne Frank’s house in Amsterdam. I was well-versed with the history of the holocaust and the events of World War II of course, but in an almost detached kind of way. Like it was something I knew had happened but it never really touched me in a personal way – until I arrived at 263 Prinsengracht. While there, I was compelled to read the diary of a young girl and was able to see those events through her eyes and that, THAT made it personal.

You see, at 14 I was in high school; I did well academically, I had a huge circle of friends, a family who loved me and the exhilarating knowledge that life was only just beginning for me; I had dreams, and I knew I could go anywhere and be whoever I want to be if I only work hard enough for it. The world was my oyster. At 14, Anne Frank was desperately trying to survive, hidden in the secret annexe and praying to God that she will live to see another day.

I’ve visited a lot of memorials, have read a lot of book related to the holocaust – both fiction and non-fiction – and its always the accounts of the ordinary people who lived through that nightmare that always struck me to the core. This book is one of those accounts; it tells the extraordinary story of Lale Sokolov, who worked as the tattooist for Auschwitz during the war. He marked men and women, young and old alike, and inadvertently helped to decide their inevitable fate.

Lale made a promise to himself upon entering Auschwitz that he would survive the dreaded death camp; not only that, but he will bloody well live his life to the fullest even amidst such horror. But even he faltered at times when faced with the utterly senseless waste of life that he saw during his three years of imprisonment. He also could not help but feel like a Nazi collaborator because of what he allowed himself to do in order to survive. For Lale had friends and contacts in higher places, and he used a combination of charm, wiles, cunning and sometimes just plain dumb luck to cheat death over and over again.

Of course Lale had a very strong motive for wanting to stay alive: during his time in Auschwitz he fell in love with a young woman from Block 29 named Gita. Now I am usually not a fan of insta-love, but under those circumstances it was not only understandable but somehow appropriate that two people would grab at the chance for love where they can. I challenge any world-weary cynic who has stopped believing in the power of love to read this and not believe in love again.

This book is incredibly uplifting. Apart from the obvious love story, its mainly a story of hope. One of Lale’s favourite things to say was that “If you wake up in the morning, its a good day”. He, and Gita along with him, got through those horrible years by always putting one foot in front of the other (literally and figuratively) and by always believing that there will come a time when they will be free to be together, “to make love whenever and wherever they want”. Simple freedoms that we take for granted during our everyday lives.

This book also about the startling glimpses of human kindness in a place where you don’t expect kindness to exist anymore. I think its meant to tell you that there is hope for mankind if one prisoner can still manage to willingly share his meagre extra rations so that his block mates can also have a tiny piece of sausage or chocolate.

I won’t deny that this book had me in tears for most of it. Its the little things that got me: how earlier in the book, Lale’s mum – not knowing where he was headed and if they’ll ever see each other again – packed her favourite books in his suitcase instead of clothes so that they’d give him comfort when she no longer can; its how prisoners mourned the loss of suitcase and personal belongings as soon as they entered the camp, not for any materialistic reason, but because of the memories those belongings held, the sentimental value of some of the items, and perhaps because they know that that loss is a metaphor for what they will soon lose: their identities, their individuality, heck, their very humanity will soon be taken from them as they become just another  number in Auschwitz.

Through it all Heather Morris wrote with such simplicity so as not to take away anything from the story that she was writing. Her words were clear, plain and straightforward. The narrative flowed and was easy to follow. It delivered on so many levels, and was such a page-turner that I finished this book within a day.

I still struggle to understand how anyone could have allowed murder and carnage on such a large scale to happen on their watch. I still can’t find any discernible reason for that huge wave of anti-semitism and for why a single group was targeted for genocide. I expressed all that and more when I reviewed The Final Solution on my Goodreads account, and I still stand by everything that I said. We should never forget the events of the holocaust. It makes me wonder how many more lives have to be lost and how many more wars need to be fought before we understand that – even though we’re divided by race, religion and culture – we are all simply human beings. As naive as it sounds, why can’t we just live and let live?

These men and women, these survivors, they weren’t at the battle front. They didn’t help to win the war, I don’t think they fired a single gun shot nor did they contribute to any strategic sessions; all they did was live each day hoping that they will still live to see the next. To me, that makes them heroes. Thank you Lale Sokolov, for sharing your incredible story with the world. I hope you’re happy and at peace with your Gita, I could not think of two people who deserve it more.

Overall: 5 stars. You can get a good deal for this book on Amazon when you click on the image below.

Happy Sunday everyone! xx

Posted in Books, Reviews, romance

Book Review: Outlander – Diana Gabaldon

I have been deceived.

I was deceived into thinking this was simply a romantic time-travel novel between a woman who finds herself magically transported to 17th century Scotland and a young Scots warrior.

I was deceived into thinking this had just a little bit of angst and that the biggest conflict would be whether Claire chooses Frank in the future or Jamie in the past.

I was bloody well deceived into thinking that this would have a relatively happy ending all things considered.

I should have known by the heft of this book that not everything is as it seems.

Warning: THERE WILL BE SPOILERS

The book started out innocuously enough. I enjoyed reading about how people lived life in Scotland during that time period. I really liked how the relationship between Claire and Jamie developed. I even understood that scene where he “punished” her as befitted the norm of that time when a woman is basically considered a man’s property. That I can handle.

I understood why some women were outraged about it because reading something like that in this day and age is like taking two steps back for feminism but I thought to myself, hey get a grip guys, consider it from the historical context in which its intended to be placed.

I was not as sanguine during the later half of the book.

I think they can hear my scream of rage all the way to the Scottish Highlands as I skimmed through the last 300 pages of this f**k**g book.

In a way, the innocence and purity of the love between Claire and Jamie made what happened in the end worse for me. To take something so good (and so freakin’ rare!) and use it as an instrument to torture a man to the point that he would prefer death is just unacceptable. Unacceptable. UNACCEPTABLE! There are a lot of things I can stomach when reading a book, but brutal rape is not one of them.

Was that really necessary Diana Gabaldon?!?

Was the violation and complete destruction of Jamie Fraser’s soul really an integral part of the plot? Would the story not have progressed to its inevitable conclusion without it? I know you’re fond of having your female lead play Florence Nightingale but other plot devices SURELY would have served just as well. Have him suffer an infection or heck, have him shot in the leg with her having to amputate him to save his life. Anything but that.

And to have Jamie recount what happened in bits and pieces, with increasing detail, finally culminating in the revelation that his torturer used Claire to finally “rouse” him – that was just the final straw.

I could not read any more after that.

I’m sure there are people who will think that I should be more open-minded about this and I tried, I really tried to understand where the author was coming from and I told myself this whole thing served to strengthen the bond between Jamie and Claire.

But there are just some things I cannot stomach, I’m sorry. That does not take away from the fact that this book is well written (if a bit too detailed), the plot is good and the characters are engaging. I am almost ashamed that I do not have the stomach to read the rest of the series. But its just not for me.

I refuse to watch the series either. I do not need the visual to go with what I have just read. I honestly feel like I have been violated alongside Jamie and I would like Diana Gabaldon to take that as a compliment. I fully concede that those scenes were so powerful that it affected me on a visceral level. I now feel like I need to scrub my mind with a good old-fashioned regency romance that will not throw curveballs like this just when I thought we were nearing happily-ever-after.

If I wanted death and violence I’d read a crime novel. I do not need it in my romance novels, thank you very much.

I’d love to hear what y’all think even if you feel the need to criticise my opinions because you disagree. Just, you know, be gentle with the comments.

Also, if you want to buy the book click on the Amazon link below and help me earn some money. Lol. Cheers!

Posted in Filipino, Religion, Travel

Sinulog: An Argument For Religion

One of the hardest questions I’ve ever had to answer (apart from, obviously, where’s your boyfriend haha), is when someone asks me ‘Do you still believe in God?‘.

I get asked that every time I happen to mention regularly attending church on Sundays, or if I have to excuse myself early from Sunday brunch to hear mass or if someone sees me take out the rosary during a flight where there’s really bad turbulence.

I got into an argument once with a colleague (who’s pretty well-known for being rude so I really shouldn’t have stooped to his level) because he said that religion is for the weak. At the time, I couldn’t really articulate everything that was in my head because I have to admit that this topic always confuses me.

I grew up strictly Catholic and in a very Catholic country. My mum still goes to church every day and makes regular donations to support our local parish. Its very hard to undo nearly 30 years of tradition even though sometimes I probably do them out of habit. And because if I skip mass I can practically hear mum’s voice in my head nagging me to distraction. Sometimes its not just in my head: she will FaceTime me to make sure that I’m not skipping church. Its actually quite funny and endearing; she probably fears for my eternal soul living in London.

However, I have friends who make a good solid case about why they don’t practice their religion anymore. For them, Catholicism is outdated, judgmental and overly rigorous. It demands too much from its members and its out of touch with today’s reality. It gets in the way of progress, and the current state of the world begs the question that if there is a God where is He during these troubled times?

No one really talks about faith and religion in London, not in my experience anyway. Even Filipinos living abroad find it hard to counter some of the more sensible arguments from those who see religion as a crutch; its hard to defend religion when others see it as the root cause of all the hate crimes and terrorist attacks that regularly plague European cities. Its a shame that the acts of a few extremists brings censure on the sect as a whole.

So no one really talks about being religious or professes their faith in everyday conversations. We just get on with the daily grind, blearily getting into our (scrub) suits for another day in the office. My default answer when asked if I still believe in God is to say, well I don’t know but I believe in SOMETHING.

Cebu and the Sto. Niño

I am not going to recount the history and long relationship Cebu has with the blessed niño, the patron saint of our beautiful city. All I can say is that you’ll be hard-pressed to find a celebration more beautiful and more inspiring than this 9-day celebration in January, culminating in a grand procession every 3rd Sunday of the same month. Yes, even if you’re an atheist this will still amaze you. Scorn it if you like, but to see it and to witness it is an experience.

People come out in droves to the pilgrim center of the Basilica (and the streets beyond) every day for 9 days to attend the novena mass. There’s a novena mass every hour and every hour attendance is always at full-capacity. Every hour.Every day for 9 days. Rain or shine, hell or high water.

Its crowded as all get go, and even when its raining its so bloody humid and you will feel really sticky. You have to rub elbows with the crowd and if you want to have a seat, you might as well forget it. The Basilica is in a part of the city that’s known for pickpockets; you can’t bring a car because the streets are closed to accommodate more mass-goers. Public transportation will only get you as far as maybe three to four blocks away and even then you’ll have to take a ridiculously circuitous route to find the entrance.

9 days.

It seems like a lifetime for some. And I know some people reading this will think its a waste of time. But for the people of Cebu, this is an integral part of their lives. I remember teaching Nursing in my alma mater from 2009 to 2011, and our college would sponsor one of the novena masses every year. During our sponsored mass day, class schedules are rearranged so that students and clinical instructors alike can go to church. One of my close friends in the Nursing faculty wasn’t even Catholic and even he wanted to attend just to experience what it was like.

People make time for the Niño. For some its because there’s a legend that if you complete the 9-day novena you get to make a wish or something, but I doubt something like that is the basis for the sheer devotion that you can feel coming out of the pilgrim centre. One of the most beautiful moments of the mass is the Batobalani Sa Gugma (literally translated it means “Magnet of Love”) where people raise their hands in prayer, waving them to and fro as if being controlled by, wait for it, a magnet.

Moving Forward

I attended one of the novena masses yesterday for the first time in 3 years. And when the choir started singing the opening hymn, I got this pang in my chest and I felt my eyes start to sting with tears. Its like you held on to your emotions for so long and you try to be strong because you have to be in order to survive in another country. And I haven’t turned to anyone or anything for a long long time, and especially not my faith.

I suddenly realised that its been a long year, 2017 I mean. It was probably one of the most difficult – personally and professionally. But I got through it. And I guess I suddenly let myself think about that during mass yesterday for some reason, and I just got really emotional. I was in tears by the middle of the song, people were starting to look at me like I was a nutcase.

The traditional homily was a sign that the Catholic church (in Cebu at least) is ready to enter the 21st century. The surprisingly savvy and hip officiating priest talked about needing followers who go to concerts, drink alcohol and have a regular following on Instagram. They need the millennials who take a million selfies and whose burning desire is to travel the world (while taking selfies! Lol). He said some things that made me think that the church is finally willing to admit that some of its long-held beliefs may be just a touch antiquated. Its arguing for tolerance and acceptance for the first time in a long long while.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again. I cannot stand behind a church that will persecute its members for being different. If the Catholic church is telling me that my best friend and his gay husband will burn in hell for loving each other then I will renounce my faith in a heartbeat. But its not doing that. For the first time I can feel the church make an effort to understand. And to accept. That is the kind of church I can get behind.

I think that people will always need religion. We all need something; we need to believe in a higher power especially during difficult times. I mean they say you should rely on yourself. But if I allow myself to believe that there’s only little ole me during a crisis and no one else, I will go insane. I need to believe that there’s someone looking out for me. If that makes me weak then yes I’m weak.

Do You Still Believe?

Like I said. I’m reluctant to answer that question because I don’t want to be a hypocrite. But I think the answer to that question, strange as it seems, is yes. I believe in the power of religion to unite people even if its just for an hour every day. I believe in the capacity of people to do good because of their faith. I believe in something that is not within my remit nor capacity to explain. And for now, that is enough to get me through the day.

Viva Pit Senyor, Cebuanos!