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‘JUST ONE MORE’ by Malu E. Gacuma , June 20, 2017

For what could be the hardest battle to win but that which we fight against our own selves? Yesterday, JUNE 20, I had celebrated my 3rd year (!)  of being nicotine-free and caffeine-free!


During those 26 years of enslavement, I was fully aware of the dangers of smoking cigarettes. In those days, the late 1980s, cigarette boxes did not display gruesome photos of  the harmful effects nicotine causes to the human body. Vapor cigarettes they call ‘e-cig’ were not in style then. I never patronized tar guards, too.  A lighter in my pocket was just as vital then as money in my purse.They had to be together all the time. I couldn’t last long in a house that had no ash tray and whose owner scowls at smokers.

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1993- At age 27,while vacationing in Fabrica,Sagay City at my late grandfather’s house where I grew up. Holding my pet puppy,Coo-coo, a silent witness to the two vices I had in my left hand.


How did I learn such vice? Environmental influence,definitely. It seemed everyone around me smoked.Then came the brokenhearted days, when tears were not enough. So,what could be the best of friend to have, in my solitude, but a pack of those sticks to burn so I could  puff my heartaches away? I always believed then that  next to a dog, it should be a cigarette, not a diamond, that should be man’s other  best friend. So, I never allowed being left without it.

When I started working as a broadcast journalist in 1989, it was when I started chain-smoking back-to-back with coffee-drinking. While immersed with work, I must be fully-equipped with the tools of both vices: a mug filled to the brim with creamed coffee, a lighter, an ash tray and my brand of cigarettes. Without them, I got restless. Very restless. Unknowingly, it was addiction setting in.

My habitual nicotine-and-caffeine routine  became the usual butt of jokes among my work colleagues. A naughty anchorman even called me ‘Robo-Cup’, an off-shoot term from the famous Robo-Cop film in those days.Eventually, I was often remembered as ‘someone who drank her coffee like water and whose fingers always held a lighted cigarette’.

The man I married also smoked, so it was more convenient for us  both ways. We seemed to be comfortable smelling like ash trays to each other.  I only stopped –not quit– smoking voluntarily during each of the three pregnancies I had. Thank Heavens the craving dropped to a nil whenever I was infanticipating and  it lasted until I gave birth. Then the cravings returned with vengeance.

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My late husband, when I met  him in 1993.

The more I was dragged to a quicksand when times became tough and I was struggling as a solo parent. The vices seemed like a moment of respite from each long and tiring day.


How did I quit? I must admit that I owe it to a spiritual conversion. Born a Catholic, I had later on converted to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. However, I never took the bread and water on Sundays considering my unworthiness.Then I started  having a deep,unwavering desire to enter the LDS Temple in Cebu City. Among its spiritual preparations is a vice-free lifestyle to give due respect to the body. It took me  years struggling to be just that, vice-free.

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March 2015: The Cebu Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints ( Thanks to my 2nd daughter, Christienne Marie G. Gancayco for this photo.)

I became an expert in trying to quit a hundred times before, and repeatedly failed. There was always a good reason to backslide: stress, bills,a good meal, skipped meals, a bad memory, a nostalgic moment,people I was with. Name it. It was called ‘alibi’, per se.

For the first step away from both vices, I ended up extremely dehydrated, with unexplainable permanent headaches and my vision started to get slightly impaired. I  had to be hospitalized  for a week, first in June then on December, in 2014 . It was on June 20 that year that I  resolved never to allow both vices to overcome me.

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June 25, 2014 -During my 5th day of hospitalization at Bacolod Doctors’ Hospital.


Nicotine and caffeine never did me anything good except giving me false adrenalin shots, a fake sense of relief and an insatiable craving for ‘just one more’. Just one more light.Just one more sip. In actuality, one more just kept going on. It was very deceiving! I had been fooled for so long! When talking about vices, ‘just one more’ actually meant ‘just one…then more.’


So, I vowed to start giving due respect to my body. To respect its  purpose. To take care of it. I persevered and went organic. I also avoided sweets. Noticeably, the very first thing that tasted so refreshing was WATER! (You see, I hardly drank water before because it usually killed my craving for cigarettes.) I started drinking water regularly especially after waking up and before sleeping (the Japanese way, as they said) . My perspiration reeked with the smell of cigarette. This lasted for about 2  months from quit time. My hair became brittle,too. Later on, my skin started becoming lighter and my hair regained its luster.

It was alarming that I had temporarily lost my voice. Whenever I spoke, it became a squeak! No modulation at all, just a thin voice escaping my throat!  I had to write most of the things I wanted to tell my children. It seemed whenever I wanted to speak, there was not enough air to breathe and my lungs felt like bursting. I knew I was ‘oxygen-deficient’ in some way, so I must let my burnt lungs heal fast! I must get out of the house and gasp more of the morning’s cool breeze! Water therapy  also helped a lot!

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PRUSSIAN SALAD : The very 1st heavy meal I took  (4 days since I checked out of the hospital  on June  26, 2014) Taken at Shakey’s  Pizza at Robinson’s Main,Bacolod City.



Each morning was  a test of discipline, to pursue  a routine of exercises as early as 5 am. The first 3 days were trying moments. I could hardly walk beyond 15 minutes and both knees wobbled. My lungs were grasping for air—not cigarette smoke anymore– and  I really wanted them to heal fast. In the succeeding days,the walking turned to half-jogging then to full-jogging. The next month, I was running for more than 30 minutes. Appetite increased. And wonders, I could carry a 5-gallon water-filled container with ease! Stamina was finally back!

 

 

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July 12,2014 – During one of my 5am jogging routine.


From a usual 90 lbs. frame, I bloated to 170 lbs after 6 months! To regulate this back to 130 lbs., I had to get attuned to the word ‘diet‘.

 

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2016 – Visiting our mangrove-planting area in Tuburan, E.B. Magalona, Negros Occ. Me at 170 lbs.

In-between, I kept myself busy day in and day out  by home-making, pursuing hobbies, writing on my journal,serving others (specifically the less-privileged children thru humanitarian projects I had organized), doing environmental  and Church activities, finding time to join my daughters’ invitations,then end the day by reading the Scriptures.

 

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Volunteering during a Church activity.

 

Being preoccupied with worthwhile tasks takes away the mind’s attention from  the immediate desire to give way  to the vices and redirect  the mind  to the task at hand instead .
Most importantly, the cravings just disappeared, for good. They died a natural death.That was how I believed it  and it worked! Until now.
From ‘Just one more’, the mindset finally boiled down to ‘No more’!
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(NOTE: The writer also runs a column titled ” The Diarist: On Love and Life” published over Negros Daily Bulletin.)

‘Toughened Guts and Headless Images’ by Malu E. Gacuma , May 26, 2017 (Friday, 9:06 p.m.)

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One of my daughters complained to me today that she felt ‘traumatized’ after viewing a video posted by a page called “GGWP” showing 2 masked men, behead with a knife,a young man whom they tied and made to kneel at first. It was evil, gruesome, beastly. No ideology on that!

Alarmed by the video’s impact on her, I shared with her a similar experience:

It was 1990, when I was working with DYWB (AM) Bombo Radyo Bacolod as an Anchorwoman/Newscaster. It was sign-off time, and our Police reporter had gone home, when a local police report came in past 11 p.m. that needed our media coverage.

With our patrol-on-duty, I temporarily took over and we rushed to a secluded ‘sitio‘ in Silay City. There, local residents milled around a headless torso lying upward. It was shirtless and draped in blood.

Few meters away, I saw a chubby, dark-skinned man, in his early 20s, sitting on a tree stump. It was the suspect. He looked dazed and stared at nothing.

In his right hand, he held a blood-stained bludgeon. In his left hand, he held the head that belonged to the torso that was his own uncle.

At first, it appeared that the suspect was the aggressor. But further investigation proved that the suspect was the once-a-good- natured- and-quiet-and-hardworking victim who eventually snapped!

Reportedly , his uncle had been taunting their family for years, and allegedly killed his father. As the young man grew up alone, he worked as a meat butcher in a nearby market. His alcoholic uncle was released from prison and began taunting and threatening him every day. That night, the quiet, young man decided to seal his fate and his uncle’s, for good. With a bludgeon he once used at work.

I told my late father then: I can stand looking at a headless torso, but I had to struggle shaking off the image from my young mind then , of a torso-less head, with the victim’s dead eyes open!

Dad listened intently. Then gave me a hug, patted my back and in an assuring tone, told me the same words I passed on to my daughter today:

“At least, now your guts are toughened up! Brace yourself, kid.

This world is not a sweet-coated candy to relish dreamily. It is a tough nut to chew, with its shell still intact. Choose to remember only what makes you stronger.”

Dad was right. It does not take an ideology to keep that in one’s head.

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1991- (As an Anchorwoman / Newscaster of DYWB  Bombo Radyo-Bacolod )  During an investigative journalism mission assigned to me by the President / CEO of Bombo Radyo,Phils.

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1990 , in Apiay, border of Silay and Talisay cities,Negros Occidental – (As an Anchorwoman/ Newscaster of DYWB Bombo Radyo Bacolod) during an investigative mission. Here posing with co-anchor/Newscaster John Elmer Ubaldo (standing) , Police beat reporter Nonie Flores (in white shirt) and our patrol driver. I was pointing actually at sugarcane stalks riddled with Armalite bullets from an ambush incident the night before we arrived.

‘No News Is Good News, Good News Is No News’ by Malu E.Gacuma, May 23, 2017 (Tuesday, 10:56 p.m.)

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I had delivered the news on-air over the radio, yesterday and today, and the news centered on nothing but corruption and on lives lost due to bomb explosions or due to illegal drugs’ involvement.

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May 22,2017,Monday – Delivering the 6:00-6:30 pm newscast over DYEZ Aksyon Radyo 684 kHz (AM)-Bacolod under Manila Broadcasting Company .

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“No news is good news”. That’s the unspoken universal rule when we don’t hear a word about something we expect. However,in the ‘dog-eats-dog‘ , competitive world of media, the lines seemed to have evolved to “Good news is no news”.

Perhaps this is the reason behind all the sensational,gory-detailed, controversial, heartbreaking, mind-boggling, nerve-racking news we eat for breakfast, chew for lunch and munch for supper. You think so? I do.

“Good news is no news” actually reads: “If it’s good,it’s over.So let the bad news roll in,so people would feast on the news.Once they do, pour in commercials. see your profit spike ,then laugh your way to the bank.”  (You just read the behind-the-scene thoughts of a successful network or publication owner out there,whoever that may be.)

Dominantly,as it was before and still it is now, headline news always grab your attention, keep you glued, break your heart, and let you resume your life with a changed perspective about this world.

Nonetheless, let me keep my hopes high about this world and about humanity, to persistently keep looking at the good side of everything.Call it optimism Call it obstinacy.

No act of terrorism, greed or manipulated perception can ever beat that!

l choose to live in peace, not to  rest in pieces.

That’s a genuinely off-air,off-cam piece of good news!

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(Credits to photo owner)

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‘SHOTGUN MARRIAGE: A Myth Born Out of Some Men’s Alibi’ ( by Malu E.Gacuma, April 9,2017 Saturday @ 11:00 am)

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I remember having met a couple in Iloilo City before, in the mid-’90s, where the husband was dashing and handsome in his 40s,while the wife was the opposite in physiological terms, not to mention that she was more than 10 years his senior.

Not for anything but the woman showed a very possessive, nagging and inconsiderate attitude towards her good-natured husband. At one point of our meeting, this husband confided that he was only forced to marry his wife when, out of a drunken stupor, he bedded her and became the first man who did.She told her parents and this led to their ‘untimely’ marriage.I heard these lines too often.

Shotgun Marriage. That’s how our culture terms it. In this odd scenario, it is always believed that the woman ends up hugging victory! She got the man she wanted or she is obsessed with! Forget how.Just think she did,at all cost!

By those two words, one’s imagination would play up seeing a trembling man beside his grinning wife as they wed, and behind them is a father-in-law with a double-barrelled shotgun pointed at the guy! One false move and the unwilling groom wouldn’t make it to the door!

During my media days with DYWB Bombo Radyo Bacolod, in a program I had anchored (a 5-hour-program then called ‘Good Morning,Philippines’,) this topic had been raised. During the last 15-minute part of the program’s Interview portion, I struck the question “Nagapati bala kamo nga may Shotgun Marriage okon wala?  (“Do you believe that Shotgun Marriage exists or not?”) It was so amusing how the influx of calls came from men,all amenable and always with a regretful tone! “Ginpilit lang ako!” (“I was just forced into it!“)- the ruing gentlemen lamented on the phone.

Marriage is a choice and a major decision in anyone’s life. When confronted by a question whether he wants to get married or not, a sensible man needs to choose between two answers: yes or no.There  is no gray area compelling him to say ‘Yes,but..” .Remember, it is a choice. We all have freedom of choices.

For a man to profess that he was just forced into the marriage ,well, that’s the lamest alibi that can exist ! (Strike 1.)

Worst, their declaration is always preceded by another common alibi:” I was drunk and accidentally bedded her!” (Strike 2.)

Failure to make the right choice often leads to that need for an alibi, to justify the failure done ( whether wittingly or unwittingly).

Ergo, ‘shotgun marriage‘ was born out of collective alibi of men who refuse to admit they failed to make the right choice of their wives. It paints a picture of a woman as a scheming villainess who is out to build her coven with an unwilling husband as her first prey. It paints another picture of that unwilling husband as a submissive man bound for eternal martyrdom.( Let her be damned? Blessed he be? )

I always have high respect for the moral hierarchy of a man in a family structure that is brick-layed by a sacred and God-centered marriage. I’m talking about a man who is embodied with character values making him worthy to be vested with his ‘Pillar of the Home’ title.

It is the worst alibi of weak men who made a mistake, refused to accept that mistake and choose to live a lie for the rest of their lives, blaming it on their wives rather than repairing themselves.

Personally, I do not believe in ‘shotgun marriage’ or anything close to its definition.With all the aforementioned, I have all the sensible reasons NOT to believe.

Without any shotgun behind you, would you?

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Credits to photo owner

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‘Lifeglass’ by Malu E. Gacuma (written on October 30,2014)

“Meditation is the soul’s perspective glass.”

~(Owen Feltham)~

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We are often living our lives as if we’re trapped in a glass cocoon; that while we see the world beyond where we are, and allow ourselves to be seen in return , it is only to a certain extent.

Inside our lifeglass is either the best or worst of who we are that we can show the world. Insodoing, we must be prepared to risk  being eventually accepted or not.

Only acceptance can break the glass and set us free.

And that seems to scare us even more.
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Note: (Glass Sculptures by Andy Paiko.Credits to photo owner. )

A MOTHER’S NATURE

by   Malu E.Gacuma

May 11,2012 (Friday) @ 530 am

( artwork credits to owners.))

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” The hand that rocks the cradle, rules the world.”

What more can best describe a mother?  She,whose role in this world can be magnified close to divinity. She – who is considered a ‘primary nurturer” of her children. Her ties bind us beyond the biological aspect of Life.

Yes , ‘motherhood‘ is indeed the highest and holiest calling to be assumed by mankind. In as far as selfless devotion and service are concerned, any mother is placed “next to the angels” by respect.

No wonder ,there are countless men and women who helped shape our world history,who admitted that they were greatly influenced  by their mothers.

Who would not be grateful to a woman who chooses to render her moral duty as a mother and a homemaker– to bear, to nourish, to nurture, to care and love, to train and discipline?

Her hard ,yet ,often unheralded work is challenged only by one thing: fatigue.She still continues to assume both joys and pains of her children.Such devotion!

We can show our deepest gratitude to her  not merely by words, but by actions to make life easier for her. Her smiles and her songs would lighten up her home and radiate beyond its walls.

Maybe it is for this reason that Mother’s Day is perceived to be our modern-day calendar’s most meaningful date, next to Christmas,which  also subtly  depicts motherhood.

Unnoticeably, there is also one mother who still yearns to be appreciated, cared for, loved, respected and protected.

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She has almost all the attributes of our biological mothers : patience, endurance, productivity, self-reliance, gentleness,etc.

She also nurtures us and provides for us from the bounty of her bosom, from the abundance of her  coffers, from the  purity of her wealth, from the yields of her own produce.

Like any of our mothers, she also manifests her own tantrums ,at times even her unpredictable wrath. It is best not to provoke her.

She is almost human, by her very nature. She is  not. However, she plays a pivotal,crucial role in our lives. We cannot live nor survive without breathing her, feeling her, touching her,hearing her. She is always with us–‘from womb to tomb.’

Her name is Mother Nature.

Isn’t it about time we must see her in a more meaningful way?

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EARTH DAY, 2012:  A young volunteering mother (Mrs.Grace del Castillo) from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints during our ESP  treeplanting event.I overheard her telling her son :”Someday,we will come back here and this will  be a very big tree,while you will be a big,young man.” Very heartwarming!

What we take from her coffers, we must oblige ourselves to replace more than once- just like when we pay the bills to free our mothers from worries?

What we find lacking in her, we must  willingly work on to improve or enhance – just like when we treat our mothers to a relaxing day in a beauty salon or spa?

Whatever talent, resources or skills we have  we can use sensibly, such as encouraging more volunteers  to her advantage–just like when we invite our friends to help or entertain our mothers?

What we have abundantly and yet often misuse (that which we call Time ), we can offer her as our gift –just like when we choose to stay at home and bond with our mothers?

Most of all , we may use words to change her world.But it is our actions that would make her world turn better.

Only when we all share and experience this so-called ‘paradigm shift‘ ( or simply put : a change of mindset or attitude) , only by then do we  begin experiencing her gentle breeze embracing us, her whispered lullaby in the soft rustles of leaves, her graceful dance by the swaying of grasses and trees…..that is the unspoken  language of Mother Nature .

For every mother, it would be best to share this mindset to her children. The hand that rocks the cradle may not only rule the world.

It  also plants a tree.

As a signature. As a legacy.

Such is the very nature of a Mother.

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EARTH DAY,2012: With my 3 girls (L-R) Christienne Marie, Christa Lou and Christiana Claudia during our ESP Treeplanting ,Medical/Dental Mission & Outreach event in Barangay Alangilan, Bacolod City.