Seasons

ponderings of a wandering soul as he journeys through life..

A Love Letter…

About a week ago, I received a text message from a friend that captivated me. Any other person would have found no special significance to it, but for some reason I was hooked. Those who have some familiarity with me could perhaps confirm that I have terrible texting habits. Either by grace of God (because of detachment to my phone) or sheer negligence (construing it as disrespect), I tend to reply to text messages a day or two later, sometimes even longer. I don’t celebrate this at all! No attempt at making excuses, either! In sharing reality with you, I strive to focus on persons who are present in front of me, and then I simply… forget. Anyway, two days later, in the midst of life firing in all cylinders, I found myself daydreaming again about the text. I pulled out my phone, browsed through a mixed bag of messages until I found just the one I was looking for; that same one that had unexpectedly captured my imagination.

It consisted of nineteen words and three symbols, two of which formed a dumbfounding smiley face. I stared at every word and each punctuation mark. And then again. And again. After a thorough analysis, I was still left arrested. What does it mean? What’s the message? Is it what I think it is? Maybe I should just ask. Or maybe I should just shut up, ’cause in all likelihood I’m just over thinking it – as always.

At risk of angering you because of the blatant plot shift, the short tale above shall remain unresolved because we will jump to the heart of this blog post – my whole purpose and intent for sharing with you to begin with. Would it be unreasonable for me to think that I am not alone in obsessing over messages from friends, loved ones, or foes, just like this? Maybe your medium is different – Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. – but they’re all the same. And have we ever paused to think,

“Do I pay attention to God’s messages with just as much energy, intensity, and attentiveness of mind and heart, as I do to the messages I receive through text, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and other social media?”

Perhaps we should.

Text messages from family, friends, loved ones, all seem to have a special way of capturing our attention. Do we pay attention to God's messages in the same way?

Text messages from family, friends, loved ones, all seem to have a special way of capturing our attention. Do we pay attention to God’s messages in the same way?

Below you will find a “Love Letter To You From God” which I encountered during one of our Nathanael sessions. I pray that you might dwell in peace and hear God’s voice through this love letter. May you receive God’s grace of a docile heart and mind, giving attention to each word with wholeness of presence, with and through the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Lastly, I pray that you might accept God’s tenderness in the depths of your soul and know in your heart of hearts that he loves you oh so very much. I pray this especially of those whose hearts are troubled. We ask this through Christ, our Lord, AMEN.

 

C.

Dear Friend,

I love you! (Jn 15:4)
I have called you by name (Is 43:1).
You are mine. Before I formed you, I knew you. And before you were born, I consecrated you (Jer 1:15).
You did not choose me, I have chosen you (Jn 15:16).

Because you are precious to me and honoured, I love you (Is 43:4).
I have loved you with an everlasting love, so I continue to show you my constant love (Jer 31:3).
How can I abandon you? My love for you is too strong (Hos 11:8).

Can a woman forget her own baby and not love the child she bore? Yet, even should she forget, I will never forget you. I can never forget you. See, I have carved you on the palm of my hand (Is 49:15-16).

For I, the Lord your God, am holding you by the right hand (Is 41:13).
Do not be afraid, I have redeemed you (Is 43:1).
I am with you (Is 43:5).
And be sure of this, I am with you always until the end of the world (Mt 28:20).
Do not let your heart be troubled. Trust in me (Jn 14:1).
I will help you (Is 41:14).
When you pass through deep waters, I will be with you. Your troubles will not overwhelm you. The hard trial that comes will not hurt you (Is 43:2).

Do not worry (Lk 12:9).
Even the hairs of your head have been numbered, so there is no need to be afraid of anything (Mt 10:30).
The mountains may depart, and the hills will be shaken, but my steadfast love for you will never end (Is 54:10).

Come, I will lead you into solitude and there, I will speak tenderly to your heart. I will be true and faithful, I will show you constant love, and make you mine forever. I will keep my promise… and you will really know me then as never before (Hos 1:14; 19-20).
I am who I am (Ex 3:14).
I am the Lord, your God (Hos 13, 14)…
The Faithful God! (Hos 11:12)

 

It Is Right and Just

This is really quite interesting. For the past few days I have been entertaining old habits, that of keeping my eyes open until the wee hours of the morning. No, this probably isn’t your typical late night. One o’clock, two, three, four – we’ve all done those. This is the sort of thing where I say “good morning” to my friends as they get ready and head out for work, and then I sleep. Whether this is voluntary or not, I haven’t decided. Is it because of caffeine? Perhaps. Stress? Oh, I’m not sure. Something weighing on your heart? Hmmm. That’s more like it. It’s almost as if an old shadow has revisited me, tempting the peace that God has given.

Perhaps it was out of desperation that I resorted to another old habit: writing. I haven’t done this in a while. I opened up this blog which had largely been neglected, and in the drafts section came across some comforting words that I had written two years ago, almost to the day. Well, in my standards, it is to the day, because so far as I’m concerned, until I fall asleep and wake up it’s still the 16th of February. Oh, by the way, happy birthday Jewelry! Great friend. Old friend :) In any case, I’ll just continue the thoughts that began a couple of years ago. They are found below, unaltered, in purple.

To those whose hearts have been broken, never forget that you are not alone. You are not the first person to leap, and all those who have done so before you are awaiting on the other side, waiting to catch you. You will never fall; it is impossible for you to: because we will make sure it doesn’t happen. Never fear, we will always be here for you. Always.

To those who endure suffering and yet carry their crosses with beautiful dignity, thank you. You inspire many people and in spirit help carry the burdens of those who, like you, are suffering. To those who are lost and broken, we see you, we hear you, we feel you. Our hearts are with you. You have sisters and brothers who have gone through what you’re going through, and when they hear your story they won’t laugh. Instead, they will shed a tear, because they know how difficult it is for you to carry on. There is hope and there is love. Don’t forget that. Also, know that change begins with you. We may look for greener pastures elsewhere, and think that if only we lived in a bigger city or if we were born to a different family things will be better – but this is a hopeless and baseless battle. You can have the peace that you long for, wherever you are, right here and right now. Thank you to the many mentors that we’ve had over the years! Wow, so many come to mind! Thank you for sharing your garnered wisdom, and thank you for the patience you exercised with us. You know what, thanks goes out to you too, me of two years ago! Much appreciated :) The words above give great comfort, and I am truly grateful.

Finally, by way of thanks, let me just share this. In the canon of the Mass, we, in a great dialogue, hear these words uttered by our Catholic priests, “Let us give thanks to the Lord, our God” and respond with “it is right and just.” Have you ever listened to the words that follow? Well, I could repeat them here, but let’s just leave that for homework ;) We give our thanks to God, wherever we are, because it is only in gratitude that we begin to respond to the salvation freely given to us. Our peace begins with gratitude! The Lord Jesus Christ, our brother and saviour, caresses our hearts tenderly, and he never leaves our side. Look at Jesus’ face. Stare at his eyes filled with tender love. You are loved. We are loved. We are the beloved. No matter what we’re going through, and especially when our crosses are at their heaviest, we can be assured that Jesus is near. He says to us unceasingly, “do not be afraid.” Indeed – do not be afraid! Together, let us express our resounding thanks to Jesus!

Pope Francis' Tweet
So, friends, good morning (and good night for me!), take care and God bless you all. All is well. God provides. He never leaves us. Thank you Lord! And as for me – well, I will now go to sleep with a lighter heart :)

C.

Mists of the Earth

This post was inspired by a challenge that the members of our Youth Ministry at Church are doing. We are challenged to think about such an enormous platform for wisdom, that of the inevitability of death. We are asked to take a few silent moments in our busy lives to ponder over these things; but we all know I can’t do just “a few silent moments.” Haha. So, I have undertaken this enormous topic in the only way I know how.

In the same way that most countries celebrate an “Independence Day,” or “Remembrance Day,” or “Armistice Day,” I have noted a particular day of personal liberation. It was on April 7, 2009 that I understood, to a great extent, how limited and unlimited our lives are. I wrote a note in commemoration of this momentous occasion, titled, “The first lesson that should be taught to a human being.”

It’s a frustrating thing that our world has tainted the notion of death and has given it a perilous face. It has been characterized in a scary way: a harsh black cloak smelling of decay, covering all except a gaunt, white face, with never-ending pools of black nothingness for eyes, and scaly hands with rotting nails. This death character wields an all-powerful scythe that severs life at will and without a care.

Death is nothing of this scary sort. We are so obsessed with judging things for being good or bad, or right or wrong. Death is simply – death. It is a fact as inevitable as breathing air.  Death is beyond our control. When this thought settled in my mind, I was liberated. I was no longer fearful of death. I really found a segment of peace that day.

I truly believe that that moment of clarity was given to me by God. Whenever we have these, it really feels like a wind just sweeps over our entire being, and all of the thoughts settle in our minds. We are at ease, and we are at home. One day, out of nowhere, this thought came to bear, “The wind of God is peace.” During these sacred moments, it really feels like we are exactly where we’re supposed to be, safely sheltered in our Creator’s palm, as he blows his wind of tenderness and love. Simultaneously, during these moments of infinite wisdom, we are presented, in optimum clarity, with the question: What should I do with my life?

The beauty of life and the love of God are infinite. So much so that He gave us freedom of will. While He knows exactly what he wants for us, and that he wants us to be happy, he left it as our choice to decide how to expend our lives. What a God, eh? And so as the death fact became evident, so did I come to realize that time is of the essence. Every single moment of our lives could be our last, and we don’t know when we will be taking our last breath. The only thing we have absolute control over is how we will spend the “now.” Do I want to contribute, instead of being dead-weight? If so, what can I do right now. Do I want to be known as a loving person? Then, I have to love now. Do I want to be a good friend? A good son? A good teacher? A good citizen? Then right now, I can start by choosing to act out of love, be a good friend, be a loving son, share my truth and experience, be of service. This is a truth more powerful than a gun, and no one can take this away from me.

I have to say that I have not always acted out of this understanding. It’s because of this crucial point: understanding and doing are completely different things. It requires every ounce of our strength and moral character to be absolute ambassadors of love, because life is unpredictable at the best of times. We will continue to face challenges, in form of a person who is showering us with hate, or the tragic death of a loved-one. We equally have no control over both of these things. I do not intend to minimize the gravity of these challenges, and in fact I honour them all for what they are. But even during these times of tumult, our capacity to make the choices and act in the now do not leave us.

At this point in time, I am pledging one thing, and one thing only. Realizing that we are only “mists” that leave this earth at a time unbeknownst to us, I want to affirm to you my commitment to love. If I fail to carry out this mission, even in the most minute form, I invite you to inform me. The thing is, I realize that I’m not alone in life. In fact, today I became acutely aware of how much I need people – you! – and how much people make me happy. In turn, I will strive to honour your truth, and at the same time act out of love toward you. Finally, I choose to use my life as a testament of my gratitude to God, for endowing me with… everything.

Friends, just a tid bit, below’s a picture of the statue of Christ the Redeemer, in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, where we’ll be going in 2013.

For now, I wish you all the best, and implore you to open your mind and heart, so that you could find your own moment of peace in God’s palm, and join all of us who have been there in our journey to spread love.

Sincerely,

C.

The statue of Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Children and their Parents

This is a recollection of a 21-year-old. I don’t claim to know anything about parenthood since I’ve yet to become one. If it counts for anything, I realized at an early age that no honour is higher, no task more trying, than that which a parent faces in the birth of a child. Why did I start pondering about parenthood in the middle of vacation? Because of my stick. Yes, a stick.

Suzanne (friend) had  randomly picked up a plant stem from the side of the road, of approximately a hand’s length, then proceeded to poke me with it. Her point, of course, was to illicit some sort of a response from me, but I disappointed her by showing none. With much skill, I took the stem from her hand with the intent of keeping it away from her, forever and ever.

Half an hour had passed when I realized that I still held the stem in my hand. I decided to keep it. Another hour had gone by when I wondered, “why the heck am I still hanging on to this twig?” At first I had thought I would just see if I can keep it until the end of the day. This was at about 10 in the morning, and we still had about 6 hours left of the day that was to be spent in an amusement park. Through the rollercoasters, rides and everything else that could be done at Disney World, I challenged myself to see if I can keep the stem safe. Soon, I grew attached to the stem. Parenthood crossed my mind.

I realized, this is quite similar to parenthood. Why do our parents love us? Issues of obligation aside, the conceptions of which vary greatly from a sociological perspective, could you think of a logical explanation as to why your specific parents give you love and care?  If you think about it, there are plenty of people in the world who are capable of giving care. I thought that there really was no reason. The love that a parent gives is so boundless and unconditional that, indeed, it almost seems illogical. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you’re capable of. It doesn’t matter if you can sing, dance or neither. Your parent loves you, even if you’re blind, mute, deaf, obese, with a disability, dyslexic, lesbian, gay, or twig! The love of a parent for a child is boundless and unconditional. As in this experience, there was no reason for me to grow attached to this twig, no reason why I should care and keep it safe; yet I did so regardless, just ’cause.

Here’s the harder part. The best of parents have as their highest purpose keeping the welfare of their children. Likewise, I intended to give the same thing to my child (the stem). I kept it close to me, giving it as much security as possible. Indeed I would have gone to war for my child! Yet in order for it to grow, I had to let it go. I decided, despite the attachment that I had begun to acquire for it, that as the time comes, I would release it from my care. Inasmuch as I wanted to keep the stem forever, I was only going to hang on to it for as long as it wanted to stay with me. I still guarded it fiercely, but at some point I knew it will leave me. I made peace with the idea. Sure enough, we parted, and I “lost” the twig. It made me quite sad, but I also felt resigned to my purpose as a “parent.” I was content.

I wish the stem all the best, and I thank it for the invaluable lesson it has taught me.

Bursting in Glory

At winter’s darkest, coldest hour
the world is a sea of white.
Remnants of life and delight shattered
by the blinding rays of Heaven’s light.

The spine shivers to its core
the soul bequeathed by an enduring agony.
The Father wails through bitter wind
in pain of His child’s self-damned story.

With great intent and opportunity
the hooded figure glares at The Dream with sincerity.
Yet amidst the Quarrel of the Wills
the spirit soars triumphant.

The morning dawns and with it brings
humanity’s hope in fate and faith;
since given one last hope in victory
to battle he goes without fear.

The air is ripe for dew to seep
Despite autumn’s lashing of leaf and bark.
But should death rise with great frustration
the dew yet fights with incessant conviction.

The result bears witnessing, nothing short of a miracle.
All stand in awe and majesty.
The trees painted by angels’ wings,
the streets a forest in Wonderland.

Though sleep and despair dost struggle to claim
the soul sings triumphant with joy -
because through the troubles of it all
the dew stands victorious.

At winter’s darkest, coldest hour
the world is a sea of white.
As the soul stares at demise, in the eyes
never forget that the dew stands bursting in glory.

Person of the Week – 2 – 2011

St. Edward the Confessor Church

St. Edward’s Church is one my “homes.” Moving to Canada was one of the most life-changing events in my life. We had to start over from scratch in all respects. We don’t have any relatives here, and so my family literally had known no one in Winnipeg. My brother and I were particularly culture-shocked, because, to make it simple, we expected everything to be “better” in Canada. What were we to expect? What other reasons could children think of as reasons for the momentous changes that our parents seemed to have wanted for us? As we arrived in Canada, I felt so many things, yet disappointed would have been an understatement. I mean come on: we had maids, we had a nice house, our family life was flourishing, and in the middle of it all, we simply went away. It seems fitting, then, that we, especially my mom and I, fell through dark times. We just didn’t want to deal with it anymore. We wanted to go home, and home was in the Philippines.

My brother and I eventually attended Daniel McIntyre Collegiate. I was also invited to become part of St. Edward’s Youth Ministry. I met new friends in both places, and I quickly found myself loving the new lifestyle. Instead of dreading the changes that had occurred in our lives, I learned to adapt to life in Canada. I reveled in all the activities that I became involved in; the more I took part on, the better! Eventually, it became a distinct possibility that I might just learn to consider Winnipeg my home. Eventually I became President of the Student Council at Daniel McIntyre Collegiate Institute, and today I am the Director of St. Edward’s Youth Ministry.

This was a veeeery short, summarised version of our experience moving to Canada, but I’m sure I’ll have plenty of opportunity in the future to elaborate on that. As well, DMCI played such a huge role in my life that I need a separate blog post for it. Today, I’ll focus on St. Edward’s Church.

The more things I learn, the more it becomes clear to me that God exists. Such magnificence, such complexity, such profoundness of life can only have been conceived of and created by such a great, omnipotent being. I remember going to Church on monday for a meeting, while there was no activity going on, and only the caretakers were left in the massive space of the Church sanctuary. As I went downstairs, I was met again by a wall of space and the deafening silence, filled by but one soul – tita Molet’s. She was talking to me about her life and experiences. Then, it hit me: there were so many things I was involved in, so many things I considered important, yet as I was listening to tita Molet’s stories, which truly bore no significance nor contribution to any of my life’s activities, I felt so stable and at peace. I realized right at that time that it was the Church that gave me that stillness. I felt like I was where I needed to be, and all the buzz in my life were unnecessary consequences of a distraught world. Church, particularly St. Edward’s, made me feel safe. It made me want to be good.

Upon further pondering, it became equally as clear that it wasn’t just the Church that gave me all of these feelings. Moreover, it was the people that comprised the Church. After all, “We are the body of Christ,” right? I’ve met so many awesome people in the Church, the foremost of which is the subject of today’s post: Fr. Rainerio Sarce.

He’s just so darned cool! He’s awesome, and you will never meet a more accepting and patient person in the world. He is father to his thousands of parishioners, and we had a conversation where I quickly got the sense that he truly took his responsibilities to heart. If you think I’m busy with all the things I’m involved in, I’ve got nothing on Fr.  Sarce. He literally needs to run around the parish (I’m serious, literally running, like… 1, 2, go run!) in order to get to all of his appointments. The thing is, he never says no. From his perspective, he simply can’t, after all, he is a “servant” of the Lord. Although this seems straightforward and unremarkable, how many people do we know who actually take their vows seriously nowadays? How many public servants’ words do we actually trust? I, for one, would not hesitate to trust Fr. Sarce’s words.

One day, I was holding a meeting at Church when Fr. Sarce passed by. He looked quite exhausted, as he was on his way to his nth commitment on that day. I stood up from my chair so I could talk and respectfully acknowledge his presence. What I really wanted to do was to comfort him, and ask him to slow down. I was genuinely worried. Instead of succumbing to complaining about his hectic schedule, as I’m sure I would have done if I had been in his shoes, he told me, “Christian, don’t hesitate to call me if you ever need anything. I am here for you.” It truly touched me. To this day, he serves as one of my greatest role models. Through his example, he has instilled in me the virtue of serving others, and what an honour it truly is.

One note about Fr. Sarce is that, as I’ve briefly mentioned earlier, he never complains. At the end of the day, after being in the throes of the public, being bombarded by all of their problems and truly living Christ’s “carrying of the cross,” he has never sought recognition, nor comfort.  Yet, we all need comfort! One of the most profound moments of my life was when we had just finished conducting a fundraiser at Church. Father Sarce helped us out as much as he could. My friends and I had enthusiastically talked about our lunch plans, and as food tends to do, we got very excited. All that time Father Sarce had been watching us, and so he casually inquired about the restaurant we had mentioned. Right before we left, he had asked with sincerity and yearning, “Would you take me there?” I was so moved. I was moved, mainly because the reality of Father’s situation smacked me right in the face. In his life here in Winnipeg, he has been alone. For all the things that he continually does for his flock, he never asks for anything in return, and simply walks back to the rectory by himself. Despite their faith in God, on the most human level, the life of a priest must be a lonely one. Yet there we were, going about with our lives, and our priest just asked for our presence. Without hesitation, we had all said yes, and a good lunch with meaningful conversations was had. That experience put things in perspective for me. He embodied what it meant to “serve.”

For the future, I truly intend to be a good friend to Father Sarce. I scheduled a dinner with him, along with the Youth Ministry members, two weeks from now, to which he responded with excitement. He continually inspires me, and I could only wish to have a fraction of his goodness and patience. Much like my family as we arrived in Canada, Father Sarce had to start from scratch, and yet where I have a family to go home to at the end of the day, he has none. This was the life he had signed up for. For my part, I will strive to be there for him, as I’m sure my friends would rise up to do as well. He, on the other hand, would continue to serve , perhaps even for the rest of his life.

A great man. Father Rainerio Sarce.

 

 

 

 

Person of the Week – 1 – 2011

This is something that I’ve wanted to do for a long time. I actually came up with the idea about four months ago, and I stifled the urge to do it because it would have come without a context and people might not have understood the point of it all.

As many of you may know, I love writing. I write long and elaborate pieces, and every word I use has a piece of my heart and soul attached to it. Writing is an escape, a joy, my preferred choice for catharsis. It seemed fitting to finally relinquish to my desires and make it a regular part of my regimen. The choice was clear then: for this year, I wanted to celebrate the people that I love, respect or simply find fascinating, and I will be writing about them.

There’s no specific criteria about who I will be picking. This person could be a famous personality, a friend, or perhaps even someone whom I’d simply pass by while driving. I could name the person or not. I could write a novel about the person or simply drop a sentence about him or her. The only standard that I’d like to keep is that the piece should be a celebration of the person, and must convey a lesson of sorts that I’d find significant, for one reason or another, during that week.

For this week, I would like to talk about one of the closest friends I have. I’ve known this person for close to six years. I had met him while I was in grade ten, and at that time we found out that we were both experiencing some pretty crazy difficult things. His parents were very wealthy, and he had everything, yet he felt so misunderstood. He was a rebel. He rolled with a troublesome bunch. It would have been a surprise, then, for someone in his disposition to have come across this studious guy with the sturdiest pole up his bum.

For almost a year he must have spent almost every night at my house. We would do all the things that friends usually do, but we also talked. He was a great conversationalist. It would not be an exaggeration to say that he helped me grow up, and I him. We matured together. He was a troubled guy, and I was as austere as it got. We brought out the best in each other. If ever there was a person who understood me the best, it might have been him.

There came a time, however, when his dad had to move for business. He now lives in London, England. Man, that was such a change for me. From spending time with him almost every day, I lost him abruptly. That was a difficult time. In any case, I miss him. I still keep in touch with this friend. I wish him all the best, and I look forward to spending time with my friend again.

Thank you C. H.

A letter to my son

It only feels like yesterday, when in fact years and years have come and gone, moving ever so silently at warp speed. I held you as an infant, and now when we stand up straight you look at me straight in the eye. Oh, as they say, time moves by so damn fast! It brings tears to my eyes whenever I think about how much of a man you’ve become. I just can’t be prouder. You show wisdom with everything you say. There’s no other truth, since wisdom is something that cannot be replicated nor imitated. You’ve grown to be confident, you laugh so carelessly, you are polite, impossibly intelligent and always helpful. You are kind. You are bold yet gentle – how is that even possible? For all of these, you are respected, and for only having lived half of my years, I am not even half the person you are.

I want to let you know that for whatever storms you might be experiencing right now, you are never alone. Of all the problems that human beings bear, nothing, and I mean nothing, seems heavier than those brought about by love. You could be broke as a joke, in excruciating pain or lashed by enduring chains of your happenstance inferior social circumstance, but none of these would affect you more than the troubles of love. As well, you could be the richest man in the world, be in life’s constant cradle of pleasure and blessed with all the advantages of your happenstance superior social circumstance, yet none would still matter more than the troubles of love.

She is indeed a treat. I have gotten to know her, and I actually even love her. Before I go on, I must point out that love is a word that I never use lightly. I implore you to believe that although it might seem in your eyes like she is a perfect person, no one is. It’s no secret how I feel towards “you and her,” but I have decided long since not to interfere; for what kind of a parent would I be if I don’t let you learn by yourself the errors of your ways? After all, there is no better teacher than a mistake. This is not to say that the actors involved in the play of your life have deliberately decided to ruin you or cause you pain. People are constantly manipulated by their emotions, and not all – in fact only a rare few – are capable of controlling them. I’m not convinced that the pages of her book were entirely turned. I’m not even sure they’ve all been read. Yet she proceeded on with a union with you, enamoured by your merits.

To the matter of this outsider, who never really was an outsider: I know that he evokes anger in you. By his very sight or even by the casual mention of his name, your blood boils. You are not to blame for this. He lives by the motto, “All is fair in love and war,” and is too much of a dunce to realize. He does intrude, and he never possessed enough sense in his soul to learn of his own stupidity. He is a crazy, disillusioned idiot. The troublesome part is that crazy people don’t know they’re crazy, disillusioned people don’t see that they’re disillusioned, and idiots don’t think they’re idiots. So many times I’ve wanted to lay down the law and cause this person’s ruin, yet my feeling of duty to help you grow as a stronger, better person always triumphs.

There comes a point, however, when a devoted father simply cannot help but rush to his child’s side. In spirit of letting you grow as a person, I have always committed to letting the natural laws of human nature take its course. But if the thug deliberately causes you pain, disregards your humanity and is so blatantly arrogant about it; if he laughs as though he did nothing wrong or opens his mouth in his usual routine of idiotic verbal diarrhea; if he marches around victoriously around your fallen spirit and dances in the midst of your anguish, I promise to all the guardians of heaven that he will learn his lessons. Thunderously sing the hymns of war, fire a thousand cannons, point the rifle, shoot. My cavalry shall march. My cavalry shall wreak havoc. I will ingrain in him the value of respect, the virtue of goodness and the true beauty of love. It will always be etched in his soul, forever and ever, the meaning of selflessness.

Lastly, let me tell you that all will be well. This is always the case with the truly righteous, with no exceptions. I am always here for you. Be happy, my son, and rest assured that life has nothing to throw at you that you can’t handle, of this I can’t be surer. I know you. Your head is strong, and your soul will always soar like an eagle in the endless sky. In the worst of circumstances, at the very least, you can count on the fact that I am but a short reach away. Just call and I’m there. Say the word and I’ll run.

Believe these always and always,

Dad

Toronto Trip 2010: Days 2 to 4

Because of sheer exhaustion, I couldn’t do blog posts for days 2 and 3. One thing I learned from the first day is that if you’re too tired to even open your eyes, you won’t have fun, and I didn’t want to miss out on the experiences just because I stayed up too late. In any case, for the rest of my Toronto entries, I will focus less on the (boring) details of our trip and instead write about the interesting observations I had. For example, for day 2, there were so many peculiar things I noted about the people of Toronto.

Day 2

No matter how fast you set your pace, someone will always walk past you – well, it was more like push and shove, but that’s minutia. The people of Toronto (or at least the ones you encounter while walking on the street or while using the subway) always have a destination, and they will get there, on time, if they have to blow up a mountain along the way.

For this day, we intended to go to Canada’s Wonderland despite the sporadic mild showers. We looked up the address and it was blah blah JANE STREET. We looked at our subway map and sure enough, there’s a Jane street there! So with the few successes we’ve had with the public transit system, we felt confident enough to get on the trains and somehow just.. find Canada’s Wonderland (?). When we got to Jane Street, it rained a little bit harder and so we decided to stop for a bit and grab lunch at Asa Sushi. As it turned out, it was good sushi for an even better price. Ten dollar rolls would have about 14 to 16 pieces, which means huge! After lunch, we tried to find Wonderland but as we looked at the iPhone GPS, learned that although Canada’s Wonderland indeed is on Jane Street, it was also in Vaughan, Ontario. It would have taken four hours to walk there, 90 minutes to bus and half an hour to car. Rides were not to be for this day.

Instead we headed for the Royal Ontario Museum. We walked down Bloor Street (Bloor, by the way, along with Dundas, are my favourite streets. I love saying BLOOOOOR and DUNDAAAAS and savour every millisecond of saying it. I randomly say Bloor and Dundas every now and then, and my friends have gone quite annoyed with it haha.) to get there, getting face-to-face with Toronto’s downtown for the first time. The hussle and bussle is great, and the architecture is amazing. Royal Ontario Museum is an amalgamation of old and new, and its architecture completely represents this. The wonderful, old, palace-like building is blended with the Michael Lee-Chin Crystal structure, which is the essence of modernity with tall and wide walls jutting out in sharp angles into the sidewalk in all directions. Yes it sounds kind of confusing, but somehow it works. Google the ROM and you’ll see what I’m talking about. The museum was fascinating, and my favourite, I’d have to say, was the Asian section, particularly the Buddhist artifacts and the descriptions of their various levels of Buddhahood. After the museum,we went to the Eaton Centre to do some shopping. At the end of it all, I was so proud of myself because I did not spend a single cent to shop.

Since we had already purchased the City Pass (admission to 6 attractions), we thought we should go to the CN Tower this evening because we might not have time to visit it later. It was completely dark outside. The views were amazing! I had never been to a higher structure in my life. We paid the extra fee to go to the sky pod, which was 33 storeys higher than the regular, albeit already so darned high, viewing platform. We all know that at the CN Tower there’s an area where there’s glass flooring right? Well, we had been expecting it, but none could have prepared us for the view. I am not scared of heights, but I hesitated walking along the glass flooring. I eventually got my grip and actually tried to figure out ways to get an even better straight-to-the-ground view. With a little bit of puke in my mouth, I enjoyed the exhilaration. We took our time and gandered to the open-air part of the sky pod. We enjoyed the sights and just tried to take it all in. Altogether it was a wonderful and unforgettable experience.

We grabbed a quick dinner at Pizza Pizza (since it was already very late into the evening) and cabbed to the hotel. Ate Charmie’s feet couldn’t take it any longer!

Day 3

I have done quite a bit of travelling in the past couple of years. I think that it is apt that the slogan for our province be “Friendly Manitoba”, since we Manitobans, indeed, are friendly. I am proud and never forget about this when travelling. Within an hour, we were yelled at three times. First, upon boarding a street car, second because of my video camera, and thirdly because of Linger’s camera. Whereas a Winnipegger, say, would calmly and mildly tell you that taking pictures is not allowed in a certain area, a Torontonian would ragingly bang on their booth’s glass window, point and then yell at you to stop. This is exactly what we experienced, and gladly we’re confident enough people not to be daunted by this. We just gave the Shrek-looking lady a glare as accusatory as we could muster and went on our way. Now imagine if she had done that with another Torontonian – there would have been a gunfight.

Having checked the weather forecast the night prior, we found out that the previous forecast of “thundershowers” for the whole day was changed to “mostly sunny”. We knew that we had to take advantage of this good fortune, and so we were faced with a dilemma: go to Canada’s Wonderland or Niagara Falls? We chose the former.

It was a lot of fun. The rides were amazing, especially the Behemoth! I’d have to say that it’s the best ride I’ve ever been on. It was the appropriate mix of exhilaration and speed, but through the wild turns and ups and downs, it was still very smooth. Charlotte and I – I have decided, by the way, that Charlotte is my favourite amusement park buddy. She would go on any ride with you, and she shares the same philosophy with me about amusement parks: have fun, just do it. – went on the Behemoth a total of three times, and Psyclone three times as well.

To the Toronto trip people, I have a confession to make! From CW, remember we were late for our 5 o’clock bus, reason why we couldn’t go back to the hotel to change? It was because Charlotte and I, in a bout of childishness, rode on the Psyclone another time right after the Behemoth. On our way back to the meeting place, we passed by Psyclone. We looked at each other. She asked me what time it was, and at that time it was about 8 to 5. I knew what she had been getting at. We smiled… and then we were late for the bus. Sorry!

A few other Wonderland highlights were the girls getting henna tattoos and lorenz getting a caricature. He posted a twitpic of the caricature – pretty wicked. As well we found out that there had been an earthquake in GTA, the buildings were shaking (from a work email coming from head office, giving updates), but as we were out of Toronto city proper, we didn’t feel a thing.

We headed for Eaton Centre to do a little bit more shopping, then went to Hard Rock Cafe for dinner. It was also a good experience. Glaiza and Greene, Lorenz’s friends from the Philippines, had dinner with us. They were pleasant company.

We then spent quite a while in Dundas Square (Toronto’s Times Square), really cool place, took a lot of pictures then walked home.

Day 4

Quick recap of today’s events: we headed for Eaton Centre to grab lunch and then went to Casa Loma (a really pretty castle) for sightseeing. I liked the castle immensely, and moreover enjoyed learning the history of the place. We walked to Waterfront and the Toronto Harbour to relax and enjoy the water. We then went back to the hotel to pick up our luggage (amid the loud city-wide strike of hotel labourers) and then headed home.

Final day. I learned something from Dong: excitement is something that you experience less and less when you see things for what they are, accept your situation and live in the present. It’s a part of the Buddhist philosophy – distinct from religion – that he subscribes in. Excitement is almost always there whenever we are about to embark on an anticipated journey or if you know that something good is about to happen. Trust me, I enjoyed this trip immensely, but the feeling of exhilaration was lost to me for the entire duration we were in Toronto. I tried to enjoy the moments I had with my friends and take in as much of my surroundings as possible. I also took the time to thank God for allowing such a thing to happen. But I am well aware that there will be more trips in the future; that this isn’t the last time I will see Toronto; that whatever I may have missed, I shall be able to experience at some point in my life. And so I was in no way overjoyed by the experience, nor the least bit sad when it was over. Besides, at the end of the day, it was the company of my friends that made the trip special – and I will bring them home with me to Winnipeg.

Well, here I am, thousands of feet above the ground, writing these entries. This is a happy time. I bid you adieu for now, and thanks for reading!

Toronto Trip 2010: Day 1

As per tradition, I will be blogging about our adventures, this time around in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. I will try my best to be faithful, i.e. I will try to blog every day, and recall as much of the details of our encounters as possible. It began in Winnipeg.

Although I knew that not having enough sleep would haunt me later in the day, I couldn’t help but postpone my shut-eye out of sheer excitement. About four hours in two days was all I got, and surely enough it first bit my butt as  we landed in Toronto and got out of the plane. I guess you could consider this our first adventure. We didn’t know where to go! We had done research about the directions to our hotel – we know which bus to take to the train station, which station to get off at then walk to our hotel. Where in the friggin’ huge airport would we catch the bus though, how do we get to the platform where we’d get into our train, and where do we turn to get to the street that would lead to our hotel? My brain was fried, so I just shrugged, and we got stuck in the airport for what must’ve been at least an hour.

Well despite our manly stubbornness and inclination not to ask for directions, we eventually talked to this nice old lady who helped us with directions. We were then finally on track. As we got off at Union Station to begin our 10-minute walk to the hotel, we were simultaneously in awe and daunted by our surroundings. It’s so beautiful! Everything’s bigger and flashier, and the people just emanated confidence (and cockiness, really). At the same time, how would we ever figure our way around this mighty city, the 5th largest in North America? I was eager to get to our hotel just to reassure myself that we’re at least still able to get to places and so, without mind, I walked faster than the group. Upon realizing that I was too far ahead, I stopped and looked behind at them, and there it was… the CN Tower stood majestic before my eyes. We didn’t realize it when we got out of Union Station. It soared into the sky, confident like the millions of people surrounding it. I pointed at the CN Tower, and the group looked and were immediately stunned as I was. It finally hit: we were in Toronto!

We arrived at our hotel and I was pleasantly surprised. Hotel Novotel Toronto Centre. It was in the middle of downtown and from its entrance you could see the CN Tower. It’s surrounded by tall buildings that just seemed shinier than the ones in Winnipeg (haha). We checked in, dropped our things off and went to grab lunch. Jefferneil insisted that it be a bigger meal. We ate at Houston Steak and Ribs. It’s a high end restaurant that (seemingly) business-savvy people frequent. I’m glad that this ostentatious-at-first-glance restaurant actually had friendly servers and the meals were served pretty timely. We went back to our hotel to nap. Oh man, we really needed it.

Two hours later, we woke up to get ready. We headed for Yorkdale Mall, one of Toronto’s many malls, and this had many of the famous and ridiculously expensive brands such as Dolce and Gabbana, Holt Renfrew, Louis Vuitton etc. I’m sorry Jefferneil, but you’re out of your mind to even consider buying a $1500.00 sweater. That’s ONE FREAKIN’ SWEATER!

I was proud of myself for not having bought one, single item, despite the many temptations. We headed to China Town via the TTC street car, and ate at some authentic-looking Chinese restaurant that seemed most crowded out of all. The food was great. After this we walked around China Town, and yes, it did seem like we were in China. Including the scents. Umm, let’s just say it stunk. Despite this, China Town is one of those places that gives a city like Toronto a vibrant culture. I could see this place filled with people and energy, and I’m glad we visited it. We walked to the CN Tower and throughout the route we must have encountered 100 policemen at the very least, without exaggeration, and this is due to the upcoming G20 Summit. Well at least we felt safe, walking in some obscure route at some city foreign to us, not knowing anyone but the people in our group.

Despite the long walk, the sight of the CN Tower, getting taller and taller by the moment, was encouraging. We were finally at its base, and… wow. Just wow. We will be visiting it tomorrow, and hopefully the sky clears up enough to make the view as awesome as possible. Should we eat at the CN Tower, half a kilometre up the sky, or not? We’ll see. Now to head back to Novotel.

To end, this was a very productive day. We got a good glimpse of Toronto, and I believe we experienced several of its attractions that are essential to visit. We’ve gotten to know its Transit System (all three kinds, the bus, train and street car) and are now comfortable using it. We shall now catch up on some well-needed Z’s, and tomorrow promises to be just as good a day if not better.

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