Summer Readings

Summer in the Philippines is here!!! We will have long break from work next week due to observance of the Holy Week, a Christian tradition.

I going home to the province, and these books will accompany me during waiting at the airport, land trip, beach frolick, and free time at home.

You, what are your summer readings?

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#33

I just turned 33 last weekend. Like most of my previous birthdays, I skip big celebrations and blowout to friends and colleagues at work.

I’d rather spend my time quietly, without the noise of partying, singing and merry-making. Without funfare and heavy drinking where you don’t know what happen when you wake up the following morning. Not to mention nursing a hangover, in most cases.

But those are when you’re in your twenties. Birthday celebration in your thirties is more simple–because you know better, wiser.

When you disentangle your self from material possessions as definition of happiness, then life becomes enjoyable. That is what I am embracing. In fact, I did not think of anything to gift my self with prior to my birthday. I was just happy and contented with my life.

There’s just so many things to be thankful about, and I have come to that point where I could not ask for more because I’ve been blessed enough.

Thank you for another year of wonderful things. Here’s to more years of expressing happiness.

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Now what?

The Oscars is done. It is time to go back to reading fiction, and continue with the unfinished business of books scattered in my bedside. I haven’t open a single book since December, and it was akin to committing a serious crime. That’s how it feels for someone who reads a lot of fiction. I miss the smell of paper, and the sound of pages as you turn a page.

I am currently reading 3 books at the same time, 2 fiction and 1 semi-autobiography. Oh well, its my comeuppance for being inactive for a long time. But I am not complaining.

For a bookworm, that’s a joy.

A beautiful weekend in Tacloban

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It was my first time to be in Tacloban, Leyte and how ironic to note that I went there not to enjoy the scenery of the place or appreciate the architecture of San Juanico Bridge, but as Guruji says, to pour forth into action the inner joy to serve.

I went on a sunny Friday weekend from Manila, together with several BeST teachers who happen to be my work colleagues. I kept my expectations low of the place, because the footage I got from the news  is that the place is still in disarray and there’s still so much things to do in terms of relief and needs.

This is the worst place I have seen after a typhoon, to think that it’s been three weeks since Yolanda struck the city. The air in some area still stench of dead animals and unaccounted humans. Garbage and wastes littered the streets. There’s a semblance of normalcy in the city because local residents are doing what they can to move on—busy with cleaning and sweeping the streets, fixing roofs, laughing from their different experiences. But the fact remains that the trauma from what happened still lingers.

I am a volunteer for Art of Living Philippines, an international NGO dealing with stress elimination and inner peace. We were sent there to do Breath & Sound Therapy (BeST) for Yolanda survivors. It is a sound and breathing technique for kids and adults that can help them cope with trauma, so they can go on with their lives normally.

We were divided into 3 groups so we can maximize coverage of the area. My first BeST salvo was in the morning of Saturday, November 30. We went to Barangay Anibong, a seaside community that was heavily affected by the typhoon. Residents were temporarily housed in a school. We went there around 10AM, and a group of volunteers from a local hospital is doing a medical mission. They are using the stage of the school so we have to make use of the flat ground fronting the stage for the BeST session. With sun shining brightly, and no shelter to cover from, we have to make use of the tiny shade from the stage so we can start with the games first. Initially, I started the program with 8 kids joining, but when the Tree Pose game started (a balance game, like mountain pose but standing with one leg), more kids joined. They were smiling and enjoying the fun, even if some of them are in direct sunlight. The best thing about this group is that they are very easy to follow instructions. When I say that they will close their eyes while saying OM, they follow.  Very well behaved.

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My second lead of the BeST was in the afternoon in Redemptorist Church. Most of the evacuees were sent home when we got there, so we have to make do with the remaining kids who are still there. We did our BeST inside the church. I have to keep my tone a little lower because some adults are praying inside. I started with exercises and stretching, telling them that this is just the same as what they do prior to flag ceremony in school (maybe, some of them missed going to school now). It’s good to know that most of them are laughing while doing it, a reassuring sight for a teacher to see.

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I am reminded that to give without expecting anything in return is the true nature of divine love which we all should aspire. The unexplainable feeling of happiness that I felt from seeing kids laughing while they are doing the activities, and thanking us when we are to leave, is a momentous treasure that I will keep for the rest of my life. Teaching BeST connects me to these kids, and makes them a part of me. This connectivity dissolves barriers that separate our happiness from their happiness.

I commit myself to doing more of this in the future, amidst busy routines, because it breaks my boundary of what love truly is; that loving every human being unconditionally is our true Self.

My perspective of things gets deeper as I practice seva regularly. As the famous saying said, we come to realize that the true measure of our lives is not how much we have gained for ourselves, but how much we have given to others.

What to eat?

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I refrain from eating meat since the start of November. For the first week, I was adjusting because I’m a useless homo sapien in the kitchen. In short, I don’t cook.

I have to use a lifeline, ie. call my mother how to cook this and that. She was laughing hard because one time, I have to ask her how will to boil banana (saba). Ok, ok, don’t give me that eyeball roll.

Lately, I’ve been devouring lots of fruits and veggies. I don’t even crave meat. A good thing.

I expect to lose weight in a month or two just by changing this diet. To think that I even run on the sides.

Below are some of my dishes.

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Why my reading backlogs are piling up.

I read one book per week. Okay, that’s a little slow versus hardcore readers out there. But for someone who has a work daily from Monday to Saturday, and who only finds the time to read in between meals and at night, one book a week is somewhat acceptable.

But the past 3 weeks, I have been shutting my eyes from browsing through pages of pulp fiction. The culprit? TV series. I know, lame. How can a reader prefer the boob-tube over books!

TV series, at least in the UK and US, has been very nice for the past several years. They are like mini-movies in terms of cinematography and production design. I don’t watch local Pinoy telenovelas.

Aside from my usual staples of TV series that I enjoy for several seasons like Game of Thrones, Mad Men, Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead, The Killing, Homeland, The Good Wife, and Dexter there are also newly released TV shows that looks promising.

My evenings are spent on these new shows. You may also like them.

1. Orphan Black (BBC America). This is a Canadian production, and the first season (with 10 episodes) was pick by BBC America for US audience. It tells the cautionary tale of cloning humans in the modern world. It’s fast-paced, gripping and the lead star, Tatiana Maslany, is a believable character doing different roles.

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2. The Bridge (AMC). After Breaking Bad ended, I was kinda looking for a TV series with the same setting—desert, drug cartel, and the like. I think that I find that association in The Bridge, the US version of a Swede tv series (UK/French has its own version titled The Tunnel). It is about a killer within the El Paso (Texas) and Juarez (Mexico) border. The first season has just ended, and I suggest you watch it.

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I am currently watching Under The Dome (CBS), but these two new series are far more superior in terms of storyline. I don’t know if I will go back to reading after I finish this, but two series are lining up! The Fall and Top of the Lake.

Well, I guess I have to balance the two. Reading and watching TV series can co-exist in my busy schedule.