Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Red Marbles (author unknown)

This was forwarded to me by an old high school classmate. It moved me deeply as it speaks of values and truths that we all strive to live by.

I forwarded the story of the Red Marbles to my own friends and received appreciative responses from almost everyone. I was inspired to post the story here to share with everyone who chances by this blog.

I just hope that I am not breaking any copyright laws here.

During the waning years of the depression in a small Idaho community, I used to stop by Mr. Miller's roadside stand for farm fresh produce as the season made it available. Food and money were still extremely scarce and bartering was used extensively.

One day Mr. Miller was bagging some early potatoes for me. I noticed a small boy, delicate of bone and feature, ragged but clean, hungrily appraising a basket of freshly picked green peas.

I paid for my potatoes but was also drawn to the display of fresh green peas. I am a pushover for creamed peas and new potatoes. Pondering the peas, I couldn't help overhearing the conversation between Mr. Miller and the ragged boy next to me.

"Hello Barry, how are you today?"

"H'lo, Mr. Miller. Fine, thank ya. Jus' admirin' them peas ... sure look good."

"They are good, Barry. How's your Ma?"

"Fine. Gittin' stronger alla' time."

"Good. Anything I can help you with?"

"No, Sir. Jus' admirin' them peas."

"Would you like to take some home?"

"No, Sir. Got nuthin' to pay for 'em with."

"Well, what have you to trade me for some of those peas?"

"All I got's my prize marble here."

"Is that right? Let me see it."

"Here 'tis. She's a dandy."

"I can see that. Hmmmmm, only thing is this one is blue and I sort of go for red. Do you have a red one like this at home?"

"Not zackley ... but almost."

"Tell you what. Take this sack of peas home with you and next trip this way let me look at that red marble."

"Sure will. Thanks Mr. Miller."

Mrs. Miller, who had been standing nearby, came over to help me. With a smile she said, "There are two other boys like him in our community, all three are in very poor circumstances. Jim just loves to bargain with them for peas, apples, tomatoes, or whatever. When they come back with their red marbles, and they always do, he decides he doesn't like red after all and he sends them home with a bag of produce for a green marble or an orange one, perhaps."

I left the stand smiling to myself, impressed with this man. A short time later I moved to Colorado but I never forgot the story of this man, the boys, and their bartering.

Several years went by, each more rapid than the previous one. Just recently I had the occasion to visit some old friends in that Idaho community and while I was there I learned that Mr. Miller had died. They were having his viewing that evening and knowing my friends wanted to go, I agreed to accompany them.

Upon arrival at the mortuary we fell into line to meet the relatives of the deceased and to offer whatever words of comfort we could. Ahead of us in line were three young men. One was in an army uniform and the other two wore nice haircuts, dark suits and white shirts ... all very professional looking.

They approached Mrs. Miller, standing composed and smiling by her husband's casket. Each of the young men hugged her, kissed her on the cheek, spoke briefly with her and moved on to the casket. Her misty light blue eyes followed them as, one by one, each young man stopped briefly and placed his own warm hand over the cold pale hand in the casket. Each left the mortuary awkwardly, wiping his eyes.

Our turn came to meet Mrs. Miller. I told her who I was and mentioned the story she had told me about the marbles. With her eyes glistening, she took my hand and led me to the casket.

"Those three young men who just left were the boys I told you about. They just told me how they appreciated the things Jim "traded" them. Now, at last, when Jim could not change his mind about color or size ... they came to pay their debt."

"We've never had a great deal of the wealth of this world," she confided, "but right now, Jim would consider himself the richest man in Idaho."

With loving gentleness she lifted the lifeless fingers of her deceased husband. Resting underneath were three exquisitely shined red marbles.

MORAL: We will not be remembered by our words... but by our kind deeds.

Today, I wish you a day of ordinary miracles...
A fresh pot of coffee you didn't make yourself...
An unexpected phone call from an old friend...
Green traffic lights on your way to work...
The fastest line at the grocery store...
A good sing-along song on the radio...
Your keys right where you left them.

Life is not measured by the breaths we take,
but by the moments that take our breath away.

Courtesy of

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Abby turned 7!!!

Abby had a simple birthday celebration with all the children in Southdale Integrated School. I just prepared a birthday cake and baked spaghetti, threw in sliced bread, 4 gallons of ice cream and juice, and lo! we had a party!

The children gathered around the table. I would like to believe that they were admiring the cake I made for Abby, ha ha ha! Why not? Look at where their eyes seemed focused on ... I'm tickled pink!

The ice cream was a big success! It became an eat-all-the-ice-cream-you-can-eat day! Teachers, staff, yayas, even the security guard, joined in the fun!

Cody, Dom, Jeina, Abby, Micole and Carla with Jollibee and Hetty

We originally planned two parties: one party in Southdale with Abby's schoolmates and another one with family and friends and selected close buddies from school.

But as Abby began warming up to the idea, the list of friends she wanted in her party kept growing longer. I tried to limit the number of guests not only for obvious reasons, but also because the venue might no longer be able to accomodate a bigger crowd. But my brat exclaimed, "But Ma, it's my birthday...!" Who could argue with that logic? I gave up and told her ok - invite everyone you'd like to be in your party.

Behold the leaping Abby! I love this picture. It speaks millions of the fun and enjoyment she was having! Oh, to be a child again ...

I consider the gift of childhood among the most important we could give to our children. It can only be had once in their lifetime ... there is no getting it back. We owe it to them to let them enjoy it as much, and for as long, as they can!

There was pandemonium everywhere!

The Moms and Dads looked like they had fun too!

Who could wrap the mummy the fastest? The girls won this round. Abby took over hosting duties when she grabbed the mic from the Jollibee host.

Cousins Micole and Kelly with Tita Camille

One of the most fun events in any party ... scrambling over the goodies from the piñata!

Christmas onboard the Libra J

Some of the officers and crew of M/V Libra J posing for the camera during their Christmas dinner party.

Some of them probably had nothing better to do so they horsed around .... errr.... reindeered around!

Nonoy and the ship cook everyone calls Cookie, the amazing man behind the party. He singlehandedly prepared all that food, did the backdrop, made the reindeer head cuttings & candy canes, hang the balloons, and apparently, still found himself with more free time in his hands, so he proceeded to decorate the ceiling.

I commented to my husband that their Chrsitmas dinner looked like a cross between a children's party and a JS prom!

He told me that I was just envious! Oh yeah, he was right. I was green with envy. Wish I could whip up a banquet like Cookie.

Cookie showing off his obra maestra. I turned green again! Those are flower and bird carvings made from fruits and vegetables! And look at the swans carved out of ice! How I wish I could do those too!

Cookie made Libra J's Christmas Party look like a reception in some 5-star hotel that night.

Yes, they had lechon too! Not as pretty as the ones we can buy from the "professional" lechon people though! A few years ago, the cook from another ship forgot to take the frozen pig out of the freezer ... they only got to eat the crispy skin!

Grown men playing parlor games. From the looks of it, they had fun too!

Filipino seamen live a lonely life amidst hard and dangerous work. This must have been a welcome break from their daily grind.

Happy Birthday Papa!

happy birthday papa from abby & mama& powpee

Birthday greetings Abby typed herself for Papa who celebrated his birthday yesterday, Philippine time. But he's somewhere near Venezuela right now, so it's actually still February 23 back where he is.

The crew of M/V Libra J had this sumptuous feast last Christmas!

More on the Rondalla Festival

Precious Southdale babies outside the Oriental Negros Convention Center right before the matinee started. (Teacher Merle, Gabby, Raffy, Abby, Nicole, Carla, and Dom)

The Russian Quartet Phoenix

Sheer passion for their art! They played with an intensity and emotion never before seen in Dumaguete. It was not merely a case of the artist playing a musical instrument. It was a passionate fusion of the man and the instrument creating beautiful music as one.

The audience was awestruck! No polite applause here. Our hands ached all throughout their performance.

Wish we could have more of these cultural shows here, like move the entire Cultural Center of Philippines to Dumaguete or something ...

Singapore Rondalla

Don't bother to look for artistry here. By their own admission, they are a fledgling group started 5 months ago - but they promised to be famous in two years' time.

Their really, really charming musical director played a game with us ... they played a few notes and made us guess what it was ... to our surprise, it was DANDANSOY!!! - a beautifully haunting 100% Filipino folksong.

By the way, I was the one who guessed it! Yes, thank you, thank you ... I was great back there, ha ha ha! They should have made me take a bow at the stage!

Their playing was tentative, the arrangements the simplest there are, but by gosh, they charmed us out of our seats! They played Bahay Kubo and another Filipino folk song. What Filipino could resist that? If there would be any voting on the most likable group, they'd win hands down.

La Rondalla Magisterial Procrea (Mexico)

Latin machos. Pure entertainment value. No magic there. But it was fun. Until the policitians went onstage and danced La Bamba with them ... I could puke!

I finally realized it's election season once again! Now I'm really puking!

Thursday, February 22, 2007

2nd International Rondalla Festival

The Celso Espejo Rondalla

Solo performance by an Iranian artist

Unknown to most Filipinos, and even to some Dumagueteños, the 2nd International Rondalla Festival is presently being held here in Dumaguete. Eleven countries are participating, including of course, the Philippines. Among the participants are Japan, Thailand, Myanmar, Iran, Russia, Mexico, Israel and many others.

I just came home from watching the concert, featuring artists from Iran, Myanmar, and our very own, the Celso Espejo Rondalla. Last night, I also watched performances by Thailand and Japan and another group from Cainta (Rizal, I suppose) composed of high school students.

What can I say? I actually got so much that I want to say that I cannot decide right now where or how to begin.

OK, let me start with this: I appreciate music. I like light classics. I love musicals - Les Miserables, Cats, Phantom of the Opera, and Miss Saigon are my all-time favorites. I can't take hip-hop but I enjoy pop and light rock. I love Josh Groban, Barbara Streisand, Andrea Bocelli, the Three Tenors, Queen, Lea Salonga ,,,, I'm sure there are more artist I like listening to, but just can't think of any of them right now. And oh yes! I love the oldies but goodies .... "sad movies, always make me cry!" ... that just popped into my head! I keep hearing that song over the radio on lazy Sunday mornings.

I became interested in the Rondalla festival, actually not because of my appreciation for music, but only because I was a member of a rondalla when I was in high school. I used to play the banduria, can you believe that? I find it hard to believe myself. Honest! It seemed a hundred years ago ... 27 BIG years (just counted that!) ... can you believe that??? I AM OLD! That can't be argued anymore. (sigh)

I am seriously digressing here ...

So, last night, I went with my aunt and uncle, Tito Carl and Tita Nini Cabrera to the Oriental Negros Convention Center to watch the concert, courtesy of another aunt, Tita Carman Cabrera who gave us free tickets! Bless Tita Carmen! I could not have afforded the P300.00 tickets for the show. I have another free ticket with me right now for tomorrow's concert, featuring a Russian quartet. I am really looking forward to that! Bless Tita Carman again! It's my 3rd FREE ticket!

Where was I? Oh yes, I was interested so when Abby's teacher asked me if I would allow her to watch the matinee on Friday, Feb. 23 with the rest of the students in her school, I said yes, and also bought another ticket for myself. I never thought of watching the nightly concerts because the tickets were expensive. But out of the blue, Tita Carmen asked if I wanted to watch ... free tickets!!!! ... ever saw that famous cheshire cat smile in Alice in Wonderland? That was how huge my grin must have been!

Last night, for the first time ever, I came to understand the following terms, and by that, I meant really, truly understood: "diversity of culture", "unique culture", "rich cultural heritage", etc. I also realized, for the first time ever, how different we Filipinos are from our Asian neighbors, and finally, my observation which I shared with David Atwood, a British friend whom I occasionally chat online with: "I never realized how fascinating we Asians are!!!" To which he replied: "that's why I'm here." I am actually looking at us Asians with new eyes! No wonder people from western cultures find us very interesting!

I am digressing again ...

I saw the Thai performance last night and I was mesmerized. The music was strange to my ears thus, I was not really able to appreciate it well enough, but I was dazzled by their rich costumes (the Filipino baro at saya seem boring and uninspired next to theirs) and I fell in love with their dancers. Their arm movements, down to their fingertips, were pure unadulterated poetry in motion! I was awed by the grace and elegance that they so effortlessly displayed. Pure beauty! I kept sighing with contentment as I watched the visual delight before me. Pity I didn't bring my camera last night.

The group from Japan were professional artists. They entered the stage acting and looking like ... the Japanese that we see in the movies, ha ha ha! what else? I thought of the samurai warriors with their ramrod straight backs ... all the musicians needed were swords to complete the picture. Strange music again. I am not going to put on some airs here, or pretend that I'm some cultured sophisticate with an innate understanding and appreciation for anything that cultured sophisticates are supposed to like .... I am just a small town housewife who just got exposed to different cultures and liking it a lot. (obviously, my previous travels abroad had not done that for me.) I liked the exposure, but I have to be honest, their 14th century music bore me to death. And their dancers! Oh my golly!!! Ok, let me put it this way ... as far as entertainment value is concerned, absolutely zero. BUt if you look at it as an artform ... it was exquisite! I am not gifted enough to be able to express here how it was, so just believe me, it was a revelation! I developed tremendous respect for those artists. I can just imagine the years of training and discipline they must have poured into that performance, for it to come out that way. They seemed to glide like ghosts on the stage. No individual or separate movement could be discerned, each motion flowed like fluid, a seemingly endless flow - motion without end or beginning. As I said, it was exquisite.

I had this stray thought entering my head as we were watching: if this particular performance is a typical traditional Japanese form of entertainment, no wonder the Japayukis became very successful in there!

The Japanese were followed by a Philippine group which showed a fiesta scene complete with maglalatik dancers. After witnessing living art in motion, the Filipino performers struck me as crude, clumsy, and shallow. I wondered: is this how we are as a people?

Tonight, artists from Iran and Myanmar performed. They were, again, strange. I appreciated having seen them perform, not because I particularly enjoyed their perfomances, but because it gave me a glimpse of how they are as a people.

The Philippine's Celso Espejo Rondalla got a standing ovation tonight. They gave us a world-class performance. After playing a medley of folk songs, which the audience truly enjoyed, they dazzled us with a very powerful rendition of the William Tell overture. I was amazed at how a classical music written with violin and other western instruments in mind could be reproduced with such beauty by guitars, bandurias, drums and a base guitar. It was spectacular. And the audience knew it! Believe me, we've had enough exposure to other rondallas giving mediocre to good performances! We knew immediately that we had a gem right before us.

Elegant and graceful Thais ... somber, disciplined, controlled Japanese ... festive and joyous Filipinos ... we are all so different from each other, each one unique, each one of us beautiful, even us pinoys - shallow and crude we may seem - but hey! what's wrong with that? We are a fun-loving people - just listen to our music! - and that makes us beautiful in our own unique way!

Sad, Sad Day

This picture was taken during Abby's birthday party. It was a happy day for Mommy Tosay (center) - a day of joyful anticipation of a future that still held the promise of a wish fulfilled.

But yesterday was a sad, sad day for all of us. Early dawn, LB started spotting. By mid-morning, her period started relentlessly. There was no fooling ourselves anymore. She was not pregnant. I knew how crushed she was, having travelled that road myself countless times before. If only her husband D2 could be with her at that time, it would have been easier for both of them, but he was not.

What can one do to lift a dear friend up? Nothing much really, except spend time with her, make her feel that she was not alone. I could not bear the thought of LB locking herself up in her bedroom with only her unhappy thoughts for company.

I brought her Chow King's fried chicken (that's how we started becoming friends more than 15 years ago - we discovered our common love for chicken!) - hoping our most favorite activity together - EATING!!! - would make her forget even for a few minutes.

LB is naturally a happy person. That smile you see in her face? - it's not only for the camera. That's how she really is. What you see in the picture, that's LB all through and through!

Seeing her yesterday, I knew that nothing could really keep her down for long. She is not the type who would wallow in a pool of misery for an indeterminate period of time. I am reminded of a text message that I received from a friend, and which I have kept and saved in my inbox. It goes this way: "if the sun shines in your soul, does it matter if it rains outside? Happiness within overlooks the sadness that any event may bring."

That's my dear friend ... she is crushed, she is dissappointed - in the simplest word there is - yes, she is very, very sad right now. But I just know that she will pick herself up soon and get on with life for I know that she is blessed with eternal sunshine from within.

Isn't she great? Dont' you think that a person like her deserves a shot at motherhood? Any child with a mother like her is truly blessed! If only one can lobby before God ....

I, too, have been asking God for another child. But I've always added LB in my prayers, and asked HIM to grace LB and D2 first. After all, we've been blessed with Abby already ... but then again, I would always add, but if it is Your will that Nonoy and I be given another baby as well ... can't it be possible for LB and I to have babies at the same year?

And now that I have come to know of Marci and Rob ... please Lord, count them in, and don't forget Pau as well .....

As I mentioned in my previous post, LB and I have a similar condition: PCOS (Polycystic Ovaries Syndrome). An online friend, Pau, told me that she also has PCOS.

This condition is actually treatable. Women with PCOS can still have babies with the aid of modern science. Abby is the living proof of this.

LB's case should not dampen the hopes of anybody who is also having difficulty conceiving. In the first place, she has not undergone any intensive fertility treatment yet. The cost is quite prohibitive. The most she's had was Clomyd - which is supposed to induce ovulation. It has not worked for her so far - so she obviously needs stronger drugs.

When she and her husband started talking about adoption before, I told them that talk like that is like waving the white flag already. Surrender only after you have tried everything that is within your means to attempt. For instance, why not go for intensive fertility treatment? We already have a fertility doctor here in Dumaguete! I urged them to go for Artificial Insemination! It is not that expensive. Who knows? It might work for them. I've had two attempts at AI last year but both failed. Maybe LB and D2 would get lucky! It would be great if they could also try IVF, but I heard it would cost half a million pesos per round of treatment.

So far, LB and D2 mostly hoped that she would conceive through natural means. But their present set-up is not helping them at all. D2 works in Cebu and comes home only during weekends. I wonder how many opportunities have been lost when LB could have ovulated (women with PCOS could still ovulate but not regularly) but failed to conceive simply because her husband was away.

This was the point that I wanted to impress upon them when they talked about giving up. They have not tried everything yet. GIVE UP ONLY AFTER EVERY POSSIBLE MEANS HAVE FAILED!!!! Get intensive treatment; get D2 to arrange his schedule so he could be home during her fertile periods; get artificial insemination for heaven's sake! Sell one of your excess properties and go to Manila and try IVF!!! (a child is worth more than any land title, if you ask me!) If Nonoy and I only had that P500t, we would have gone off to Manila even abroad! and went hunting for whoever can perform IVF for us!

Yes, I believe in God. I also believe with all my heart that everything comes from Him, that to have a baby or not is a grace that comes out from His will, thus ....

.... success in any endeavour can come about only with His blessings ....

That is why I also believe in the necessity of helping ourselves. After all, didn't Jesus say something about knocking and about the door being opened to us?

Monday, February 19, 2007

Mommy Tosay

That's my friend LB Abby is clinging to. Behind them is another friend, As In. Abby calls LB Mommy Tosay. She has been my friend for almost 15 years, one of the bestest I've ever had.

Mommy Tosay and Pops D2 have been married 10 years but no baby yet. Like me, LB has Polycystic Ovaries Syndrome. Like every childless couple, LB and D2 have been praying and hoping for that elusive bundle of joy. When she missed her period, LB started hoping. I hoped and prayed along and we could hardly wait for Sunday to come - the 14th day of her missed period - to do the pregnancy test. I texted her as soon as I woke up this morning - and got a dissappointing news ... it came out negative.

I felt as crushed as LB and D2 might have been. But then I remembered that it was the same with Abby. The test also came out negative initially. The doctor advised us to wait another week to do the test. Nonoy bought a load of pregnancy test kits and we tested every day for another week before we got a definite positive. I told all these to LB and D2. I hope they were encouraged by this. As I kept telling them, hope is not lost as long as LB's menses would not come.

It is ironic how we seem to be in the opposite sides of the poles nowadays. I am as ecstatic as they are dejected. I almost feel guilty for having so much while they have none of the joys a child in the family could bring!

Oh how I pray that God would finally bless them with a child of their own. I also pray the same for my cousin Joy's friends, Marci and Rob - may the sun that shines in my soul be theirs as well.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Happy (almost) 7th Mother's Day to Me!

Around this time exactly 7 years ago, I was in my OB-Gyne's examination table, legs spread wide like a dissected frog, and having my insides poked and probed for what felt like an eternity ... while my husband stood anxiously by my side, holding my hand, and probably trying hard not to think of a beached whale or something, or worst, A LECHON! - while eyeing his wife in that definitely-not-very-enticing position.

Oh gosh! I can't help but laugh at that image of myself in my mind. I looked horrible, but I loved every inch of me at that time! If you ask me, I was in my most beautiful self during my pregnancy - bulging tummy, pimples, dark neck and even darker armpits, swollen feet and ankles, and the best! Quadruple chins! ha ha ha!!! (I'm seriously thinking of Star War's Jabba the Hun right now.)

Forgive me for being so happy here, but I simply am very happy right now. Tomorrow, my beloved brat will celebrate her 7th birthday! The baking pans have been prepared, waiting for me in the kitchen. After posting this, I will make her a three-tiered cake with a princess on top! She's going to go ga-ga over it!

Going back to the examination table, my doc announced that I was already 2-3 cm dilated and should have myself admitted already. Later that day, Nonoy and I moved to SUMC with our bags and all our joy, anticipation and hopes for a complete and happy family just hours away with the coming of our screaming bundle of poo and pee.

I did not give birth until the following day, around 7pm of February 19. I caught a glimpse of a glistening, tomato-faced figure that seemed to stiffen as it wailed like a banshee and my first thought was: OH MY, WHAT BIG EYES SHE'S GOT!!! .... but wait! "she"? we have a girl? but the ultrasound showed us a boy!!??

And that folks, was how Abby got her nickname!

"Abi" in the Visayan dialect, roughly translates to "we thought" or more accurately, it connotes a thought based on a mistaken belief over something, like ... "but we thought you were coming tomorrow instead of today ... !"

We kept talking to our baby girl, then constantly surrounded by blue (blue blankets, blue pillows, blue booties, that blue thingy we used to cover her hands with - cant remember the name right now - etc., etc., ) during her entire infancy, ha ha ha! (that may account for her being such a tomboy now) ...

... and told her "abi namo boy, girl diay!" - in English, it went like this: "we thought you were a boy, and you were a girl the whole time!!!" Abi stuck. We just revised the spelling - and that's how Noelle Marie became Abby.

Advance happy 7th birthday to my Langga!


There’s this little girl named Kate I’ve written about on several occasions last year. At 1 year and 3 months, she is only as small as an 8-month old baby. Kate has Down’s Syndrome and in need of urgent surgery to correct her congenital heart defects.

An open-heart surgery is very expensive here in the Philippines, even for charity patients. Angels have come forward, donating money for Kate’s cause, but still, the amount raised so far is barely enough.

Last December, Dinnah (Kate’s Mom) and I had an inspiration. We wrote to every politician and governmental agency we could think of. We have had very positive responses. For instance, Senator Gordon’s office called up Dinnah and pledged around P60t. The Office of the President and several other senators, even the Department of Health itself, wrote back informing Dinnah that they have referred her plea to the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes, which in turn, responded with a guarantee letter pledging P100t for Kate’s operation.

Kate’s future kept becoming brighter with each coming day, but the news that really filled her life with dazzling rays of hope was a call from the Department of Social Welfare & Development (DSWD) informing Dinnah that they have referred her to the Philippine Airlines (PAL) Foundation, which in turn, will refer Kate to Mending Kids International.

Mending Kids International is a non-denominational organization based in California whose goal is to save lives and bring donated medical care to needy children worldwide. They also “airlift” any child whose condition may be too complex to treat during a brief medical trip and has to be taken to the United States for extended treatment or multiple surgeries. The MKI brochure states:

“To date, children from over sixty countries have traveled to America for
donated medical care. Thousands of foreign children continue to benefit from
modern medical facilities and quality care that is simply unavailable in the
Presently, all the documents needed have been submitted and we are awaiting word that Kate’s application has been approved. We trust in God completely and we know that Kate will be going to America for her surgery.

PAL Foundation is actively involved in this process. PAL will be flying Kate and her Mom to LA for free this year. I just know that!!!

We were informed that there will be housing for Dinnah once Kate is in the hospital. However, if Dinnah herself could find a family who is willing to volunteer as foster care family for Kate during their stay in the US, it would hasten the processing of her application considerably.

For this, another classmate of Dinnah, LilyAnne Nichols, and I have decided to combine our efforts in finding that foster family. We are tapping the resources of the Silliman Alumni Association in California – this is a very active group and have been known to host visiting Sillimanians who are in the US for a concert tour, for instance. Surely, they wouldn’t mind providing a roof to a needy child and her mother?

Whoever’s reading this, please help pray for our success and more importantly, for a brighter, healthier future for our sick baby.

About Mending Kids International ....


Imagine if your child were born with a congenital heart defect, cleft palate or lip, missing a limb, or any number of life-threatening ailments. Suppose your child was injured or became seriously ill. What would you do? If you lived in the United States, chances are you would rush your child into a clean, sterile hospital for immediate treatment. But what if you lived in a country where the nearest clinic was miles away and hopelessly outdated?

At Mending Kids International we believe that children from all parts of the world are entitled to the quality care that is available here in the United States. When we send volunteer medical teams halfway around the globe to perform surgeries or to supply medicine to an ill or dying child, we are rewarded with the knowledge that we've literally provided that child with a new lease on life. Our volunteers are not only improving, but are saving precious lives every day, in all parts of the world.

Between 1994 and 2005, we operated under the name, Healing The Children California. In 2005, we became Mending Kids International. But our goal has always been the same: to save lives and bring donated medical care to needy children worldwide. We accomplish this through the generosity of volunteers - surgeons, pediatricians, nurses, host families, office and administrative staff - who recognize that healthy children are our future. We donate time, skills, money, resources, and above all, love, to ensure that every child has a chance for a better life.


Recognizing that God is the Great Healer and Maker of all Miracles, and that both individuals and organizations have the privilege and opportunity to become His hands, Mending Kids International endeavors to act as His vessel to bring healing to the sick and injured children of this world.

Mending Kids International is a 501(c) (3), non-denominational organization. Our children are served without regard to race, religion, creed, or national origin.


Medical Trips

Childhood diseases and afflictions don't discriminate, and neither do we at Mending Kids International. Our reach extends to highly populated cities as well as secluded shantytowns. Our volunteer network serves urban cities and remote community - anywhere in the world where children lack acceptable medical care. On our trips abroad our goal is to identify and treat the greatest number of children possible. Over the years our medical teams have brought hope to the poorest communities, and continue to touch children from all walks of life. If, for instance, we get a call from a doctor in Guatemala who reports a population of children who need help, we will do our best to send a team of doctors to that area, regardless of how remote.

Whenever possible we try to assist in establishing medical programs in the foreign countries we visit. If facilities or time constraints prohibit us from performing a complicated surgery, we do our best to have the child airlifted to an American hospital.

Foreign Children Airlifted

When a foreign child has a condition that is too complex to treat during a brief medical trip, he or she may be "airlifted" to the United States for extended treatment or multiple surgeries. To date, children from over sixty countries have traveled to America for donated medical care. Thousands of foreign children continue to benefit from modern medical facilities and quality care that is simply unavailable in the homelands.


When surgeons scrub up for a surgery on one of MKI 's children, the only pay they receive is a sweet child's smile. As many of the children we treat have life-threatening heart problems the cost for these intricate surgeries can skyrocket to close to one hundred thousand dollars. Motivated by their inner drive to heal, our doctors donate not only their skills but have also been known to spend the night at the bedside of a child who is having a particularly difficult time.

When medical personnel participate on a medical trip, they absorb the loss of income and often forego vacation time. Beyond money and time, the trips involve the personal sacrifices of leaving spouses and families for extended periods. As one doctor said, "The results are our reward." Dr. Ferry, pediatric cardiologist at Cedars-Sinai Hospital adds, "I think this is nothing short of a miracle."

Service Groups
The generous donations from various service and civic groups such as Rotary, Maydayers, Airline Ambassadors or The Fraternal Order of Shriners, have made it possible for Mending Kids International to continue its efforts to save lives all over the world.

Clearly, health care reform is one of the most pivotal issues of our time. But despite rising health care costs, hospitals in the U.S. have managed to make room for needy MKI children from all over the world. We are constantly encouraged by the generosity of American hospitals and their staffs. In addition to donating hospital rooms and equipment, hospital administrators and staff continue to demonstrate a genuine concern for the welfare of children who are terrified and often in pain when they arrive for surgeries and other treatment. These individuals have gone out of their way to provide top-quality care and life saving support, despite the fact that their efforts go unpaid. Unpaid but not unrewarded.

Host Families
Offering the warmth and nurturing of a loving home, the licensed host families of Mending Kids International support the child through the ordeal of their surgeries. The host families, despite considerable economic and emotional sacrifices, open their hearts and homes to complete strangers, often for months at a time. But the sacrifice is small compared to the joy of sending home a healthy child. In their own words, our host parents tell us, "You just can't help but fall in love with these kids."

In addition to supplying food, clothes and incidentals, host families act as surrogate families, giving the children emotional and moral support in and out of the hospital. Our host families come from all walks of life, but they have one thing in common-they would not turn away from a child in need.

Probably the most difficult part of being a host family is when the time comes to say good-bye. They take comfort in the knowledge that these children have families who love them and anxiously await their return. How strong a parent's love must be to send their child off to a foreign place, to unknown people in the hopes of a better life. How strong a host family's love must be to endure the process of a child's surgery, the doctor's visits, the healing, the growing to love this little person, only to say good-bye. Good-bye to a child with a long healthy future ahead.

Without volunteers, Mending Kids International could not exist. Fortunately, the volunteers of Mending Kids International are the heart that keeps this organization running. Our team loves children and our spirit is infectious. The beauty of Mending Kids International is that everyone can make a difference. While doctors, nurses and other medical professionals donate their valuable skills, hospitals, administrators, travel coordinators and other volunteers handle logistical details and paperwork.

Donations of time, services and money are the life-blood of any non-profit organization. At Mending Kids International we survive on donations. Medical equipment considered outdated in the United States can be a life-saving instrument to a poor, developing nation. Sutures, antibiotics and syringes, all common place pharmaceutical goods can be hard-to-find commodities in foreign countries. Perhaps our greatest challenge is obtaining funds, which are used to send medical teams to lesser- developed countries or to bring children to this country for life saving surgeries.


Mending Kids International is made up of people like you. People who care enough to ask, "What can I do?" There are many ways that individuals, as well as companies, can assist the volunteers of MKI.

Of course, Mending Kids International needs money. The number of children we can help is in direct proportion to the funds we receive. Any monetary donation is helpful, whether a small personal donation or a corporate grant. Given the volunteer structure of our organization, your dollars are directly available for the children and their medical needs.

We need volunteers who are willing to become licensed foster care families for the children who come to the United States for medical treatment. Almost every child has different needs and it takes a special family to care for a child who is sick, frightened and unfortunately does not speak English. Although the families do not receive any money, Mending Kids International serves as a support network to help with the emotions and logistics involved with hosting a child.

We need medical professionals, such as doctors, nurses, medical technicians, and others willing to donate space and staff time, as well as surplus and used equipment. We need hospitals willing to open their doors to children who have no chance in their own world.

We need airline personnel willing to use their off-duty time to escort children to and from their country. We need donated frequent-flyer tickets, used for both children and medical/staff transportation.

We need civic and church groups as well as individual volunteers to sponsor children or join our fundraising efforts. Many times a small donation of time, service or products to our fundraising events can make a tremendous difference in their success.

We need volunteer office staff to help keep the paperwork generated by our work flowing and efficient.

Above all else, we need your prayers for our children. Through the power of prayer we experience both big and little miracles everyday.

24961 The Old Road, Suite 104
Stevenson Ranch, CA 91381
Phone: 661-288-1957
Fax: 661-288-2070

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Who is boss here, anyway?

Find whoever holds the TV remote control and you'll find the boss of the house! Oh how so true! Pint-sized Mini Me has dethroned me as queen of the house ever since she was old enough to sit up and train her baby eyes on the TV screen!

Western babies do not sleep with their parents unlike their Filipino counterparts who are kept closed at all times. I've heard of our practice being criticized by westerners on more than one occasion. Oh well, we sleep better with our precious ones within an arm's reach - what's wrong with that?

Believe me, for some of us, it is not for lack of rooms in the house. My daughter Abby has her own bedroom, thank you!

Friends R and M's children Kique and Igo sleep on their own mattresses on the floor next to their Papy and Mama's bed. Papy R grew up in this set-up too. He and his 3 siblings slept on the floor in their parents' room. Their father would not hear of them sleeping somewhere else! Their house has around ten bedrooms.

Gabby, Raffy and Cody also sleep in mattresses on the floor of Mommy and Daddy's room. Of course, they each have their own bedrooms.

Even a certain relative's four teen-aged children sleep in their parents' room. Ever seen an evacuation center during calamities like for instance, the eruption of Mt. Mayon? Well, that was how they appeared like in that tiny room. Two beds have swallowed up the entire room, you can barely catch any glimpse of the floor! One practically has to walk sideways to get from one point to another. What were these girls' bedrooms for? For studying their lessons, I learned later. Come sleeping time, and all roads led to Mommy's side.

The point is this: although most Filipinos are forced by circumstances to share crammed space like sardines in a can, those bestowed with the privilege of choice still choose to gather their children as close to them as possible.

Why? Maybe because we were brought up that way, and so, we are bringing up our children the same way. And as I already mentioned, we sleep better knowing our little ones are safe and sound close by.

Sharing the bedroom with my Mini Me has it's obvious perks. With my husband away most of the time, her company is gold. Plus I get to watch over her with eagle-sharp eyes. The downside is having a rival to the TV's remote control who would fight me over it with hands, feet, and teeth!

My husband and I tried to remedy the situation by sending her to her room during TV time. One can only take so much of Nickelodeon and Disney Channel, you know. But we started missing her after two days, so we brought her back. We did the next best thing - brought in another TV into our bedroom. That would have solved the situation, if not for the fact that we had to start fighting over the volume! "Mama, I can't hear!!!!!!" ... came the constant whine. (sigh!)

You would have guessed that our monumental problems would have been solved by then ... somewhat. Oh no! Mine just doubled. Instead of just gnashing my teeth through Spongebob Squarepants or Totally Spies ... under the new arrangement, I found myself gnashing through, not only Patrick and Clover, but through all the basketball games and boxing matches TV could show in an entire evening!!! Argh! How about my CSI trio, American Idol, House, Lost, etc? I seriously considered bringing in a third set. Can you just imagine the pandemonium? That was out of the question. I went on without my beloved shows.

When my husband left for another contract abroad, I claimed "his" TV and got reunited with Horatio and company. Relative calm settled over us until "my" TV broke and Abby started trying to hide the remote control from me, ha ha ha!

I put my foot down and declared CSI and American Idol time as Mama's TV time!

After all, I am still the titular head around here. That should amount to something, shouldn't it?

Swashbuckling Pirates, Anyone?

The Somali pirates in their small boat carrying rocket launcher, left, off Somalia, Saturday Nov. 5, 2005. There had been 23 reported attacks off the Somalian coast since March, including attacks on two United Nations ships carrying relief supplies. On Saturday, two boats full of pirates approached the Seabourn Spirit about 100 miles (160 kilometers) off the coast of Somalia and fired rocket-propelled grenades and assault rifles.

The words pirates or piracy either calls to mind the swashbuckling charcoal-eyed Captain Jack Sparrow of the Pirates of the Caribbean or evoke the image of cheap CDs and DVDs every Dumagueteño knows exactly where to get.

But to the hundreds of thousands of Filipino seafarers and their families, pirates hold none of that romantic glamour. Rather, the name itself holds a decidedly menacing significance.

Piracy is orbbery committed at sea, or sometimes on the shore, by an agent without a commission from a sovereign nation. Seaborne piracy against transport vessels is a very significant issue in the world of international commerce (with estimated worldwide losses of US$13 to $16 billion per year), particularly in the waters between the Pacific and the Indian Oceans, off the Coast of Somalia, and in the Strait of Malacca and Singapore.

One-third of the world’s trade and half of the world’s oil supply are carried through the Strait of Malacca by some 60,000 vessels every year. The strait connects the Pacific and Indian oceans and is the shortest sea route to Asian countries. This being one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes, it is of little wonder this narrow strait bordered by Malaysia and Indonesia became the most pirate-infested channel of the world.

But unlike the unforgettable Captain Jack Sparrow who brandished nothing but his sword and single-shot pistol, 21st century pirates now wield rocket-propelled grenades and AK-47s and chase gigantic but slow-moving merchant ships onboard speedboats with an audacity we’d normally see only in the movies.

The threat posed by these modern-day pirates is nothing to be laughed at. The International Maritime Bureau (IMB) identified Somalia, Malacca Strait, Indonesia, Bangladesh, West Africa, and Nigeria as piracy hotspots. It reported 127 assaults on ships during the first half of 2006. These assaults included 74 instances where ships were actually boarded, 11 were hijacked, 156 seafarers taken hostage, 13 kidnapped and 6 killed. Pirates killed 30 crewmembers in 2004, and 21 a year earlier.

The recent kidnapping of 24 Filipino seafarers off the coast of Nigeria prompted me to write about this topic today. My husband being a seafarer himself, I think of their families and I feel their anguish as they face each day not knowing if they would ever see their loved ones again.

If this fear seems overrated, take this incident for instance: in late November 1998, fishermen in Shantou, China dredged up a find that would go down in the annals of modern maritime history. But their find was nothing anybody in a boat would hope to repeat, ever again. In their net, they found a corpse, its mouth taped shut and bound to a metal weight. Over the course of several days, fishermen in the area would bring up several more — all crew members of the Hong Kong-owned, Panama-flagged cargo ship, the Cheung Son, that had been reported missing weeks before.

Police later determined the 17,000-ton freighter was hijacked by pirates en route from Shanghai to Malaysia. The pirates boarded and took over the ship by posing as customs officials. They killed all of the ship's 23 crewmembers, threw the bodies overboard, and sold the cargo and the ship itself.

They might have gotten away with the crime, had Chinese authorities not discovered some photographs while investigating a suspect. The pictures showed pirates partying among the dead on the Cheung Son. If I am not mistaken, there were Filipino crewmembers onboard that ship.

In 1991, pirates boarded the Nagasaki Spirit, removed its captain from command, set the ship on autopilot, and left with the ship's master for a ransom, leaving the ship going at full speed with no one at the wheel. The Nagasaki Spirit collided with the Ocean Blessing in the Strait of Malacca. The collision and resulting fire took the lives of 51 seamen. There were only 3 survivors between the two ships. The fire on the Nagasaki Spirit lasted for six days; the fire aboard the Ocean Blessing burned for six weeks.

Most attacks though, are rarely as brutal or as spectacular. The majority are basically muggings at sea. A bunch of hooligans pull up alongside a ship, point a rocket-propelled grenade at the hull, and demand a payoff. Others are plain robbery where the pirates would scramble up the sides of the ship with grappling hooks, demand for the ship’s cash and then steal everything of value that isn’t bolted down.

Other attacks are intended to kidnap the crew in the hopes of a hefty ransom. Late last year, the crew of a South Korean fishing vessel was held by Somali pirates for 117 days and released only after an US$800,000.00-ransom was paid.

It is only in attacks like the one on the Cheung Son — where the pirates planned to steal all the cargo, as well as the ship itself - that the crew's lives are immediately at stake. In past attacks of this nature, pirates have set the crewmen adrift in small boats.

The international maritime industry, of course, undertook measures to reduce if not totally eliminate this threat. For instance, they stepped up the patrols conducted by coalition navies in the Malacca Strait to deter any more attacks in that region.

There were several other significant moves carried out by the UN’s International Maritime Organization and other bodies overseeing the maritime industry. But this is not our thrust in this column today.

What I have in mind is this question: how about the merchant ships? How do these ships protect themselves against these assaults?

Unlike cruise ships that have at most 20 armed personnel onboard, cargo ships like those under my husband’s command are not allowed to arm themselves. If they come under attack, the most they have are flare guns originally intended for search and rescue situations. Beyond that, they have nothing but axes and knives, water cannons, plain wits, clever use of navigational skills, and their ardent prayers that the cavalry would soon come to their rescue.

The cruise ship Seabourne Spirit was able to fend off that highly publicized attack last year by out-navigating pirates chasing the ship in a speedboat and by using a parabolic audio device, a "boom box" that emits an ear-splitting sound, to ward off the attackers. Cargo ships are not equipped with this device.

My daughter and I spent two months on board my husband’s ship in 2004, the M/V P&O Nedlloyd Malindi. We traveled through the Strait of Malacca and even passed Somalia on several occasions. The ship goes on high alert in these areas.

Somalia, though, did not pose as much concern as the ship simply gave it a wide berth, about 200 miles – a distance generally believed to be beyond the range of the pirates’ boats.

But the Strait of Malacca was a different concern altogether. As mentioned, this narrow strip crawls with pirates and there is no evading them. They could be anybody. Even the most innocuous fishing boat could be suspect if it sails too close to the ship.

Hours before approaching the Strait, we used to clear my husband’s cabin of any hint of our presence onboard. (When pirates board a ship, they would immediately head for the ship bridge and the captain’s cabin – where they know the cash-rich safe could be found.)

During night crossings at the Strait, my husband would take us to the deepest bowels of the ship where we’d attempt to sleep practically next to gigantic engines going full throttle. The noise was horrendous and the phrase “I could not hear myself think” became my reality.

Nonoy would stay up all night maintaining constant radio contact with his officers and crew on duty. “All clear” reports were very comforting. It meant that no other sea vessel has moved suspiciously closed to the Malindi.

If a fishing boat or worst, a high-powered speedboat is spotted on radar or by some lookout becoming dangerously close to Malindi, the off-duty crew would be roused and ordered to man their pirate stations. Their orders are to protect their ship by preventing pirates from boarding it. An alert would also be sent out to the authorities.

The aft deck (rear end) of the ship is the most vulnerable spot. This is the lowest point in any cargo ship, thus the pirates’ preferred spot for gaining entry. For the pirates to attempt to board the ship elsewhere would require the skills of an accomplished climber trying to scale at least 4-storys of smooth metal wall amidst the rolling and pitching of the ship.

The crew relies solely on high-pressure water cannons to combat the pirates. Malindi had stationary pumps on each end of the aft deck to prevent pirates from climbing up, and movable hoses that could be trained towards a pirate vessel in the hope of tossing them out into the sea even before they could get closed enough to board the ship.

Anyone who’s seen videos of demonstrators being dispersed by the police with water cannons will get the idea.

To the reader, this column today may only seem like an informative piece that opened up an unknown world or a world represented by mere news items that held no personal significance to the viewer.

But the pirates with their M-16s, AK-47s and grenade launchers and the multi-million dollar ships with their multi-million dollar cargo under the care of 18 or so souls with only their radios, water cannons and flare guns for protection are realities being lived on a daily basis by thousands of Filipino seamen all over the world.

Indeed, the romantic Captain Jack Sparrow could exist only in our imagination. The nitty-gritty reality is that modern-day pirates are as vicious as their predecessors. Unless some definitive move is made to curb their nefarious activities, Filipino seamen in their slow-moving behemoths all over the world will remain sitting ducks, helpless pawns in a world where human life holds not much value next to booties as trivial as mobile phones and palm oil.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

A Prayer of Thanks

This prayer was forwarded to me a while ago. I'd like to share this with everyone out there!


I want to thank You for what you have already done.
I am not going to wait until I see results or receive rewards;
I am thanking you right now.

I am not going to wait until I feel better or things look better;
I am thanking you right now.

I am not going to wait until people say they are sorry or until theystop talking about me;
I am thanking you right now.

I am not going to wait until the pain in my body disappears;
I am thanking you right now.

I am not going to wait until my financial situation improves;
I am going to thank you right now.

I am not going to wait until the children are asleep and the house is quiet;
I am going to thank you right now.

I am not going to wait until I get promoted at work or until I get the job;
I am going to thank you right now.

I am not going to wait until I understand every experience in my life that has caused me pain or grief;
I am thanking you right now.

I am not going to wait until the journey gets easier or the challenges are removed;
I am thanking you right now.

I am thanking you because I am alive.

I am thanking you because I made it through the day's difficulties.

I am thanking you because I have walked around the obstacles. I am thanking you because I have the ability and the opportunity to do more and do better.

I'm thanking You because FATHER,
YOU haven't given up on me