Tuesday, December 25, 2012

When "Piccolo" Is More Than Just A Wind Instrument

I am not talking about a character from the anime "Dragon Ball Z" either. 

I am talking about a firecracker that has been the hazardous toy of kids during the Christmas season. Despite the warnings sent by the Department of Health every year, many kids (and grownups) still do not heed. And lo! They get injuries of all sorts.

So much for the weird title, though.

Anyway, when most people were staying up late to greet Christmas day, my family and I slept early. What is more important to us than staying up late and playing with dangerous firecrackers is the Holy Mass on Christmas Day.

The abundance of food and the expensive gifts do not make Christmas special. This day is special because it is Jesus Christ's birthday. He as God came into the world in man's image in order to save us. 

For many Filipinos, Christmas is a time of giving, sharing, and loving. The song "Give Love On Christmas Day" is not just a cliche. It is true. My Aunt, Uncle, and cousins dropped by to give their gifts, and we invited them for some snacks because they would not stay for lunch. They had their own agenda too. But the highlight of our gathering was inviting a poor neighbor, the son of my godmother.

He had been staying in the mountain for long to study, and he only goes down the mountain to the city during vacation days. For the rest of the year, he and his mother would only be eating vegetables and fish. When they have no money at all, he would go out of his way to look for meager jobs in order to earn money to get by. My mother used to say that when my neighbor was in his early years of high school, he would catch some spiders to sell. That's how poor his life has been. For us, inviting him for a Christmas lunch will make it memorable for him, that, at least, even just a few days in a year, he could feel love and he could feel comfort.

I don't mind receiving gifts and stuffing my mouth with lots of food anymore. Just seeing him with a smile and contented with our simple meal is a great accomplishment already.

Another great accomplishment for me is cooking a Korean dish called tteokbokki. I had been wanting to cook this for the longest time, and finally, I made it! ^_^

Christmas tteokbokki ^_^

메리 크리스마스입니다!!!!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Mag Love

It had been years, and I forgot how it all began. I think it was during the day when my sister and I found an old copy of a March 1996 edition of a Reader's Digest magazine. We were enthralled with the stories in it, most especially the death-defying, heart-stopping, jaw-dropping, and very inspiring story of a surgeon who performed tube thoracostomy on a woman who was injured in a motorcycle accident ("Emergency on Flight BA 032," by John Dyson, March 1996). However, take note, the procedure was done inside the airplane! And utilizing improvised materials at that! Who would have thought that one can use cognac to sterilize materials?

After reading that story, I got hooked.

My reading life revolved around reading Reader's Digest. Of course, I read school books, but I had fallen in love with Reader's Digest that I was thrilled when my father bought two more copies. Soon, my aunt from the United States, when sending items from there to here, also included a lot of the magazines inside the balikbayan box.

When I became patient enough to read novels, such as the Twilight Series, I began to read them. But I am mostly impatient with novels, and you may say I am not really a wide reader. Between novels and Reader's Digest, I prefer the latter.

There were a lot of fine stories that I loved that were published in Reader's Digest. The stories were very inspiring because these gave me insights and realization about the world. Here are some of the stories that were noteworthy.

* "They Never Came Home" (by Per Ola and Emily D'Aulaire, March 1996) is an account of different teenagers who died from car accidents. There were different reasons why their trips ended up in tragedy, and it got me thinking to always pray before I leave the house. This also made me realize that such accidents can be prevented, but sadly, still happened many times.

* "For The Love Of Music" (by Linda DeLibero, August 1998) is about the impossible shot to the moon done by the pianist, Jon Nakamatsu, and the wings that took him there, his piano teacher, Marina Derryberry. Indeed, if you have a dream and pursue it, you will get what you want. This is a story that shows that dreams can come true.

* "The Family That Never Forgot" (by Joseph A. Reaves, August 1998) tells us that no boundaries, not even the war between North and South Korea, could tear down the hearts and minds of a separated family, with the hope that they will be reunited one day. This story tells me that, in the end, everybody will find their hope.

* "A Mother's Love" (by Joseph A. Reaves, July 1998) is a story of how a mother's love can defy every impossible thing just to save the life of her offspring with thalassemia. Erma Mata did not have the means to pay for the medical bills of her sick son, Caesar. She and her family, who were residing in the Bicol region, did all means possible to earn money for the treatment though they were poor. They were told that the best option was to fly to the United States. The hopeful mother looked up at her hopes to the then President Ronald Reagan, Cheche Lazaro, and other good Samaritans who reached out in order to give back the life of her son. Indeed, a mother's love is a strong force that can make the impossible possible.

* "Finding My Way Back" (by Ekaterina Gordeeva, March 1997) is a beautiful and romantic story about how two single skaters, Ekaterina Gordeeva and Sergei Mikhailovich Grinkov, got paired up, and how they fell in love with each other. This is like a fairy tale to me, so wonderful, fantastic, but yet so sad. In the end, Sergei died of a heart attack, and all that was left of Ekaterina was her skating ability and their daughter Daria. Even in death, love still conquers all. 

There are book sections and featured stories that got me hooked, and no matter how many times I read them, they still mesmerize me. Here are some of those.

* "Nothing This Family Can't Do" (by Yvonne S. Thornton, M.D., March 1996) is a story depicting the power of dreams. The Thorntons were poor African-Americans. Their father, Donald Thornton, though poor, believed in the dream that his five daughters will grow up to be doctors. Though not being able to achieve the dream, all his daughters, including their sixth, an adopted daughter, became successful professionals. This story reminded me of the Japanese manga, "Dragon Zakura." Just be amazed at how powerful dreams can be.

* "The Seeing Glass" (by Jacquelin Gorman, July 1997) recounts the terrifying experience that Jacquelin Gorman had when she got blind one day, and how a tea-colored glass that her autistic brother used to use while catching crabs got back her sight. The best line I read in this story so far is that one can imagine his perfect age.

Even some published short entries also showed how a mundane life can be made special, like how some things so ordinary can be made so memorable. Here are some of the short selections that had captivated my heart and soul--and even my interest.

* "The Loves We Leave Behind" (by Lisa Bain, August 1998) tells us how some unexpected twists of fate or incidences of our lives turn out to be blessings in disguise. Sometimes, we dwell in the "what if's" and the "what could have been's" of life, and we can see that our lives are better than if we had ever been in the "what if."

* "Unforgettable James Michener" (by Lawrence Grobel, August 1998) tells us of how a renowned author put encouragement to a young girl, and allowed her to dream and write like he did.

* "God's In My Basket" (by Christopher de Vinck, March 1997) is a story about a student who was tasked by his teacher to write about an elderly person. This story teaches us that even the sick and the old still can give us some lessons to ponder and to live by.

* "What A Coincidence!" (by Sylvia Fraser, October 1998) is about the weirdness of things and how things unrelated can be connected by some occurrence we call 'coincidence.' Many have known about that tragic incident that happened to the so-called unsinkable ship Titanic that sank after colliding with an iceberg on its maiden voyage in April 1912. But does anyone have an idea that years prior to the incident, in 1898, an author, Morgan Robertson, wrote about the demise of the so-called unsinkable ship that sank after colliding with an iceberg on its April maiden voyage? Title of the book is, "Futility: or The Wreck of the Titan."

Who would not forget about some funny anecdotes? There has never been a dull moment with "Laughter, The Best Medicine," "Life's Like That," "Campus Comedy," "Humor In Uniform," "All In A Day's Work", and "Quotable Quotes." Get to improve your vocabulary by trying your brains with "Word Power Made Easy." Another entry that I love, but mostly found in the Asian RD version, is any entry by Nury Vittachi. I commend his wit when he writes. Just when I thought he was being serious, he inserted some punchlines that could elicit laughter. For example, do you believe that the world wide web is produced by a really large spider? Or that his father never came home for four months because he was a perfect description of a workaholic? It is his serious writing with some (or many) insertions of exaggerations that I really, really enjoy.

There are a lot of Reader's Digest magazines at home that were just hand-me-downs, but there are those that I received as Christmas gifts. Other people opted for new shoes, new bags, new gadgets, or even new boyfriends (if there is such a Christmas wish as that). I preferred Reader's Digest. If someone will ask me what Christmas gift I will want to receive every year, it will be this magazine. I like to buy mine rather than read the mag online, but if someone will give me a gift, Reader's Digest will always be the best.

The first Reader's Digest I received as a gift was back in 2009 while I was shopping in a grocery store. I saw this December copy, and I was thrilled to see Diether Ocampo on the cover. And why not? Diether is one of my showbiz crushes! Another thing that got me thrilled is due to the fact that a Filipino icon had been featured in my favorite magazine. Now, how cool is that?

Part of the 2009 pack was a December 2008 copy with Manny Pacquiao on the front cover. I am not a fan of Pacquiao, but I admire his discipline. Anyway, enough of Pacquiao. This copy was a freebie that came along with the December 2009 issue. I cannot forget this gift because my board mate gave this to me.

I received this foodie issue last December of 2010, and my manager gave it to me. He was thinking that I was the other employee, but I was really thankful that he gave me this as a gift. Do you know how happy I was to receive this? You can say I am greedy and a sucker for this magazine, but I really do enjoy this one. A lot. A lot. A lot.

Ehem.... Who would not fall in love with the Younghusband brothers? I like Phil, and my sister likes James. (But honestly, my favorite Philippine Azkal player is Chieffy Caligdong, the sly soldier on the soccer field). This gift was given to me by an officemate December of last year, 2011. I had twice the reason to rejoice because I also received a copy of Edith Hamilton's "Mythology." While my officemates enjoyed dipping into the pool, me and my thoughts (and my annoying cold) flew away to Neverland while reading my favorite magazine. The simplest way to whisk me away to travel is to hand me this magazine. As simple as that.

I am not advertising or anything. Anyway, if you want to read Reader's Digest online, you can visit their site at http://www.rd.com/. If you want the Asian edition, you can visit their site at http://www.rdasia.com/. If I am online, I find time to read my fave magazine, but I will still wish to have a hard copy of Reader's Digest to accompany me when I am alone or bored, or when I am waiting for something, or when I am falling in line, or just to cover my eyes before I take a nap.

Indeed, nothing can replace the joy of being together with this magazine. It is the most inexpensive way for me to travel around the world, to outer space, and even to realms unknown to mankind.

좋은 하루 되세요!