10 Moments I Love When Pope Francis Visited the Philippines

I have always said that I am not a devout Catholic. I am guilty of doing things for “compliance”. I was already in college when World Youth Day was held in the Philippines in 1995. I was in Manila and in my youth but I did not attend any gathering. I was that type of Catholic. I cannot remember what I did during those times while my friends braved the crowd in Manila. All I remembered was I stayed in the dormitory. When I learned about Pope Francis visiting Philippines, I was thrilled but I was not as thrilled as some of my friends who went out of their way to go to Tacloban.

My friends, Maureen and Lestrel, was already in Tacloban airport the night before Pope Francis arrived.

My friends, Maureen and Lestrel, were already in Tacloban airport the night before Pope Francis arrived. I felt I was there because my friends were there.

When I told Maureen I used her photo, she said she has a better photo. The raincoat she was wearing already ripped. She said she was soaked in the rain for 7 hours without raincoat, not counting that she was already drenched the night before. Yet, she survived. Look at them! They are still high in spirits despite the storm!


As for me, January 15 was a regular day for me. I ran errands. I was in BIR (yes, of all places). I was waiting for my turn. They were showing the live feeds of people gathering for the arrival of the Pope. Suddenly, I wanted the transaction to finish immediately so that I can go home and concentrate on watching his arrival in the comforts of my living room.

I worked in front of the TV for 4 days to watch the coverage of the Papal Visit.

I worked in front of the TV for 4 days to watch the coverage of the Papal Visit.

While waiting for his arrival, I quickly search for his schedule in the Philippines so that I can watch him on TV. I scheduled my errands and work around his schedule. Sometimes, I surprise myself.

I try to think about what I am going to reflect on his visit but I find myself in a loss for words.  There are so many wonderful moments of his visit and these are 10 things that affected me most.

1. When he peered though the airplane window, I wanted to cry.  It was the first sign that he was finally in my country.

This is the photo I found on Rappler.com

This is the photo I found on Rappler.com

2. He chooses a non-bulletproof pope mobile. He rides on vehicles with open windows. He does this to get close to people. He looks at people in the eye and he has the warmest smile.

3. He quoted Jesus telling Peter, “Do you love me?” For which the mass goers composed of  bishops, priests and nuns replied, “Yes!” It was a light moment. He was amused and said “Thank you.” and clarified that he was reading Jesus’ words.

4. He is happy to be with children. He would stop the convoy to bless children.  He had an unscheduled visit to an orphanage. What a lovely human being!

Photo by: Osservatore Romano/Reuters

Photo by Osservatore Romano/Reuters

5. I love how he gave spontaneous speeches. He ditched his prepared speeches to speak on how he felt at that moment.

6. He went to Tacloban even if there was a typhoon and it was signal number 2.




7. On the way to Palo to meet disaster survivors, he stopped to bless a family living in a shanty.

8. He does not pretend to know all the answers.

I thank you Jun for talking about your experience so bravely. As I said, the heart of your question has no reply. Only when we too can cry about the things you said can we come close to answering that question. Why do children suffer so much? Why do children suffer? When the heart is able to ask itself and weep, then we can understand something. – Pope Francis to the UST crowd

So many of you have lost everything. I don’t know what to say to you. But the Lord does know what to say to you.  - Pope Francis to the Yolanda survivors
9.  He honored the life of Kristel Pasadas, who died  after the Tacloban mass when a scaffolding blown by a strong wind fell on her. He met with her grieving father to console him
Yesterday, as Mass was about to start, a piece of scaffolding fell and, upon falling, hit a young woman who was working in the area and she died. Her name is Kristel. She worked for the organization preparing for that Mass. She was 27 years old, young like yourselves. She worked for Catholic Relief Services as a volunteer. I would like all of you who are young like her to pray for a moment in silence with me and then we will pray to Our Mother in Heaven.

10. He always asks us to pray for him. There is really power in prayer. God hears our prayers.

Oh, I would add one more… he acknowledges the voices of women.

There’s only a very small representation of girls among you. Too little. Women have much to tell us in today’s society. Sometimes we are too “machistas” and we don’t allow enough space to women. But women can see things from a different angle to us, with a different eye. Women are able to pose questions we men are unable to understand. Look out for this fact: she is the only one who has put a question for which there is no answer. She couldn’t put it into words but expressed it with tears. So when the next pope comes to Manila, please let there be more girls.

As I finished this post, the pope has already left. I am proud of the Filipino people for giving him a warm welcome. I love how organized the people are in lining up to see the pope. Congratulations to the organizers for this successful five-day visit.

Here are few words from Pope Francis when he visited the Philippines:

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2. When you lose this capacity to dream, you lose the capacity to love, and this energy to love is lost.

3. Rest is so necessary for the health of our minds and bodies, and often so difficult to achieve due to the many demands placed on us. But rest is also essential for our spiritual health, so that we can hear God’s voice and understand what he asks of us.

4. You must make time each day for prayer. Prayer is resting in God.

5. Faith does not remove us from the world, but draws us more deeply into it. It’s very important. We must go deeply in the world, but with the force of prayer. Each of us, in fact, has a special role in preparing for the coming of God’s kingdom in our world.

6. We have a high priest who is capable of symphatizing with our weaknesses but one who is similarly been tested in every way yet without sin. Jesus is like us. Jesus lived like us. Jesus is the same with us in every respect except sin. Because Jesus was not a sinner. But to be more like us, He assumed our condition and our sin. He made himself unto sin. This is what Saint Paul tells us. Jesus always goes before us. And when we pass and experience a cross, He passed there before us.And if today we find ourselves 14 months after, 14 months precisely after the typhoon Yolanda hit, it is because we have the security of knowing that we are not going to weaken in our faith, because Jesus has been there before us. In His passion, He assumed all our pain.

7. This is what comes from my heart and forgive me if I have no other words to express this: But please know, Jesus never lets you down. Please know that the love and tenderness of Mother Mary never lets you down. And holding on to her mantle and with the power that comes from Jesus love on the cross, let us move forward, always forward, and walk together as brothers and sisters in the Lord forward.

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9. When the heart is able to ask itself and weep, then we can understand something. There is a worldly compassion which is useless. You expressed something like this. It’s a compassion that makes us put our hands in our pockets and give something to the poor.

10. What you think, you must feel and put into effect. Your information comes down to your heart and you put it into practice. Harmoniously. What you think, you feel and you do. Feel what you think and feel what you do. Do what you think and what you feel.

11. Real love is about loving and letting yourself be loved. It’s harder to let yourself be loved than to love. That is why it is so difficult to come to the perfect love of God. We can love Him but we must let ourselves be loved by Him. Real love is being open to the love that comes to you. The love that surprises us. If you only have information you are not surprised. Love surprises because it opens a dialogue of loving and being loved. God is a God of surprise because He loved us first. God awaits us to surprise us. Let us allow ourselves to be surprised by God.

12.  Become a beggar. This is what you still lack. Learn how to beg. This isn’t easy to understand. To learn how to beg. To learn how to receive with humility. To learn to be evangelized by the poor, by those we help, the sick, orphans, they have so much to give us.

13. Reality is superior to ideas.

14. In the Gospel, Jesus welcomes children, he embraces them and blesses them (Mk 10:16).  We too need to protect, guide and encourage our young people, helping them to build a society worthy of their great spiritual and cultural heritage.  Specifically, we need to see each child as a gift to be welcomed, cherished and protected.  And we need to care for our young people, not allowing them to be robbed of hope and condemned to life on the streets.

15.  Now, at the end of my visit to the Philippines, I commend you to him, to Jesus who came among us as a child.  May he enable all the beloved people of this country to work together, protecting one another, beginning with your families and communities, in building a world of justice, integrity and peace.

Pope Francis left us a challenge.


Pope Francis is an inspiration. Thank you, God, for Pope Francis!

Cheers to Friendship!

In the previous post, I wrote about my plans for the year. On the first week of the year, I think I have done two of the plans: make time of  people I love and nurture friendship.  With this blogpost, I would be able to “show appreciation more”.

On January 1, my friend Shirly and I agreed to go for an early morning walk and visit that breakfast place near Gaisano. However, later in the day, we got a message from Ernelyn inviting us for breakfast in her house. Our friend, Marvin, would be leaving that evening and it was the only time he was free for a get-together. It was a morning of good food, good friends and a lot of singing. Marvin is an accomplished singer and voice teacher.


In the afternoon of January 2, I met up with my high school friends, Chin and Jonah with their super cute daughter, Livie.


In the evening, I had dinner with my friends, Shirly, Dinah and Wilbert.  We had coffee and foot massage after.

On January 3, I met up with my travel friends.We visited our friend, Ayet, at her hotel room because we learned that she got an ear infection. Good thing, she was already better and we were able to chitchat over junk food. We went out for coffee, too.


On the same night, I proceeded to another resto to meet up with friends. Three of them were leaving the next day.


By January 4, my body called for a rest. I was in bed most of the day nursing a headache.

Everyone was back to the grind by January 5. The freelancer that I am, also needed to get things done. I edited the wedding photos I took on December 30.

On January 6, I was on Facebook early in the morning when I saw January’s status stating that she was traveling to Butuan. January blogs at photosbyjanuary.com, deliciouslyspicy.com and www.janzcrystalz.info. I immediately arranged for us to meet up. Good thing she was free that afternoon. I brought her to Margie’s and we chitchatted like old friends. Since we read each other’s blog, we never ran out of topic to talk about. Thank you for meeting me, Janz!


Later in the evening, I had dinner with good friends, Shirly, Ernelyn, Mitzi and Dinah.


Shirly spent the night at  my house for a much-needed catching up. We pushed through with our plan to walk to the the breakfast place I wanted to try.


On January 8, my cousins, Arvin and Tweetty, and their friends, Goy and Lyn, went to try the new shrimp place. It was celebration that I finished editing the photos. Hehe! Lyn’s brother was the groom at the wedding.


And you think, I was done with the get together?  Yesterday, my aunts, uncle  and cousins went to the house of a family friend for an afternoon gathering.


Thank you, God, for good friends.

Let me take this opportunity to thank my thoughtful friends. I got all these gifts for Christmas.


I did not even ask for these gifts. I am blessed. I feel loved.  I love you all! No, I do not love them because I got gifts. I love them because  they never fail to show me how wonderful it is to have friends and be loved. With friends like these, who needs a love life?  Kidding! Thank you, friends.

So what did I get for my friends? Some of them became guinea pigs for my artwork.  Hehe! Yes, I made artworks for friends. I still have pending requests to accomplish.  (Am I such a cheapskate for not spending a lot for gifts? LOL!)

These are the artworks I have made.


Cheers to friendship!

The 25 Things I Plan to Do in 2015

My Moleskine planner arrived yesterday. Thanks to my friend, Grace! The package from Dubai came with a handwritten note and a lucky charm from Japan. Sweet!


I have doodled (I am bad at it!) on one of the pages to express my plans for the year. This is my vision board.

1. Open an online watercolor art store. My friend, Grace, told me to open an Etsy store. I am still thinking about it. I am inclined to just start a Facebook page. Whatever it is I will finally decide on, I need to plan my painting time. I also need original paintings done. Most of my watercolor artworks are copies of existing ones.

2. Offer watercolor painting workshop. Another friend messaged me if I can teach her kids watercolor art. For this to push through, I need to plan on how to go about this one. I need to recall how my high school teacher taught us art.  Plus, I can only teach what I know. That means painting subjects like flowers, food and animals.

3. Learn lettering and calligraphy. I am fascinated with beautiful penmanship. I am a fan of Fozzy Castro-Dayrit. She does an amazing calligraphy work. I have yet to buy my first set of nibs and other tools for calligraphy. For now, I will try to just use these calligraphy pens to practice.


4. Blog regularly. I am trying to do this better. I write long posts so I really need to allot time for this one. Plus, I am picky with photos. It takes me hours to finish a blog post.  Hopefully, I will find away around this problem.

5. Share blog posts in social media. A friend of mine asked, “How do I read your blog?” She knows I have one but she does not know where to find it because I do not share my posts except among my BCBlogger friends and other blogging network.  I feel that I share too much on social media that sharing my writing feels like oversharing. I still feel uncomfortable letting my friends read my thoughts.  There is also that fear of embarrassing myself with grammar mistakes.

6. Invest. My friend invested on a mutual fund. I will follow suit this year. I just need to look through my finances and find sources where I can get myself enough budget to explore this option.

7. Take small risks. I want to learn about trading stocks. There are risks so I still need to read more about it.

8. Live with intent and purpose. My friends and I finished reading Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life last August and, at the end of the 40-day reading  period, I still have not figured out my purpose. For now, I think my purpose is making time for people- being there for people when my presence and attention are needed.

9. Read more. Oh, I did not read a lot of books in 2014. I need to change that. I am currently reading this one. I know. It is an easy read but it is a start.


10. Show appreciation more. I am not very much of a verbal person. (Although some of my friends would argue that I am talkative.) It is easy to express what is on my mind but not how I feel. I just need to show appreciation to people who made my life easier. I know I am loved by God. There are people He send my way who have shown me kindness, given me trust and offered help. I do not think I have thanked these people enough.

11. Make time for people I love. At the start new year, I was in a number of get-together with friends. I had to take advantage of the time that they were still here. A number of them flew back to where they work. I hope to become that person who makes time for things that matter and people I cared for.

12. Work with passion. I try to bring my heart and soul to the work that I do. I try to give it my best shot at all times. Kinakarir ang lahat ng bagay. (I treat everything like a career, like I was paid to do it.) Work, for me, does not have to be paid work. Work can be projects I do on the side just because I like doing them.

13. Work smart. This means I also need to manage my time and achieve a work-life balance.

14. Pray more. I always say that I am not a deeply religious Catholic. I sometimes sleep without praying. Bad, I know. However, I am amazed how God works in my life that I feel that if I talk to Him more, I will be more equipped to face whatever challenges that come my way.

15. Create. 

16. Innovate. I am inspired by many kickstarter projects. I often find myself saying, “Why didn’t I think of that?”  I hope I can start my own project. I wish for some spark of inspiration.

17.  Be healthy, exercise more. Three of my friends are into fitness and it is inspiring to see them transform into their fitter selves.  I have trimmed 2 inches off my waistline through regular exercise and eating smaller portions.  But I gained the inches back over the Christmas vacation. Next week, I will start this 21-day challenge posted by my friend, Grace.


18. Keep things in order. I started cleaning my room last year but my closet is still full, the other room still needs to be organized and I still have a lot of laundry to do. I wish I can be like Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs who would wear the same type of clothes everyday so I can trim down my closet to a few pieces. I am no clotheshorse nor a fashionista but I still want variety in what I wear.  I just need to weed out my closet of clothes I no longer wear often.

19. Invest in experience. I am always excited to explore new places and try new things. I will continue to do so this year.

20. Nurture friendship. I try to accommodate as many people in my life as possible. Although I call my travel friends as Team Laagan and some of my close friends, The Core Group,  anyone can join in this circle of friends. I never grew up with a best friend or a barkada. I hang out with different people and I keep in touch with a lot of friends. I never join clubs and associations because of their exclusivity. I function well when I develop friendship with a person (individually not a group).

21. Write more. I am not really a writer. You know, the type who can create sentences that sound like a lullabye. I write the way I talk. I just translate my Bisaya into English. However, writing has been my bread and butter since 2012 and it has brought me places, fed me and clothe me. I am still not good at it. I try to. They say one needs to write 1000 words a day to develop their writing skills. I hope to do that this year.

22. Learn paper flower craft. Look how gorgeous these are.

23.  Learn how to create bento meals. I follow bentobykat on instagram. I want to try these, too! So creative!


24. More photography. I enjoy this hobby. I have a lot to learn. Good thing I have appreciative friends and a patient cousin who teaches me photography tricks.

25. Continue to be grateful.  I am blessed in many ways. Thank you, God, for never abandoning me even when I am not worthy of your love.

31 Things I am Thankful for in December 2014

Happy New Year!

I had 365 days of being grateful in 2014. Having a grateful heart (even if there are days I have to force myself to be grateful)  does a lot of wonders.

December is the most wonderful month of the year for me and a fitting culmination of a blessed year.  It is a month filled with joy, hope and love. I hope you had a wonderful December as well.

Here are 31 things I am grateful for this December:

1. Christmas spirit. Butuan lit up and I forgot about it until I heard the fireworks. I would have wanted to shoot (take pictures of) fireworks.


Photo credit: Jakem Jakem III

2. Comforting treat. I nagged my cousin to treat me somewhere when he received his 13th month pay. It had been raining. I craved batchoy so off we went for my treat.


3. Two-inch loss. I was regularly exercising and watching what I eat using an app called myfitnesspal. I lost 2 inches off my waistline. Do not ask for the weight. It seemed it only budged a little.

4. Preparation for Ruby. Knowing how typhoons can wreck havoc on anything on its path, I was glad I saw the city really preparing for the possible entry of the Typhoon Ruby. Classes and work suspensions were announced in advance.

5. Ruby passed without incident in the city. It looked like a regular day.  Thank you, Universe.

6. Nice read. This article spoke to me. This line is a challenge and I have slowly expressed how people meant to me:  ”You ruin your life by desensitizing yourself. We are all afraid to say too much, to feel too deeply, to let people know what they mean to us. “

7.  Knowing how to take a better selfie.  Taking selfies takes a lot of bad rap because some people overdo it. (I can be guilty of that!) It does make me a little narcissistic.  To justify my selfie shot, I am going to share how to take a clear one.  Take a selfie early in the morning near a window. The warm light will illuminate your face. Of course, since it is early and you might have just woken up, don’t forget to wash you face and dab a little powder. If you want to apply lipstick, go ahead. Prop the smartphone or tablet on the table.  Set it on a timer. Take the shot.


8. Photo tricks. My cousin took awesome photos using his ipad and he shared how he was able to come up with good photos. For now, it would be our little secret.

9. Time for errands. I checked the schedule and there are a lot of holidays this month. This meant that banks and offices would be closed and I need to settle my bills early so I would not be doing this in the middle of Christmas rush.

10. Good news from cousin. Cousin messaged me that she might be visiting us in 2015! I hope it pushes through.

11. Good news from my aunt.  We are on a roll here. Because of this good news, she treated us to ice cream. It is really hard for me to say no to ice cream.

12.  Shopping for tops. There is a dress store near our place and whenever we pass by the store, different outfits are being worn by the mannequin. Although the clothes are affordable, I have resisted buying anything because I have not cleaned my closet. I wish I can be like Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg where I can wear the same type and color of clothes every single day.  One day, I will try that for a year and let us see how much I would save in money and in time.

13.  Catching up with friends. With the holidays coming up, we have been exchanging messages of our plans for the long vacation.

14. Motivation. I realized that I have exercised for 7 straight days.

15. My friend’s internet is back. Connectivity has been a must in this modern world. My friend has been quiet on viber and it turned out that her internet was down.

16. Working with friends. I had documentation work the following day and I was glad to find out that I would be working with friends.  Work would be a lot easier.

17.  Fun work. It was a light workshop with a fellowship in the evening. My friend and I had a chance encounter. She was invited to the party.


18. Report done. I was feeling productive that day.

19. Finished what I have planned to do for the day. It helped that I wrote them down and I crossed each item when it was done.

20. Confirmed details of the get-together. My friend has a friend who knows the owner of the venue we have chosen. We were trying to book the place in the background and when we got the confirmation, we immediately sent Facebook invitation to friends.

21.  Umbrella found. My friend gave me an umbrella a year ago and I love that umbrella because of its nice shape.  Plus, it is sturdy. It is still working after a year.  hehehe I brought it to church but I was already home when I found out that I left it in one of the pews.  I quickly went back to church to find my umbrella. I was disappointed when I reached the church I did not see my umbrella. A churchgoer saw me pacing back and forth looking for it that he called me and he asked me what I was looking for. It turned out that he kept my umbrella for safekeeping from other prying eyes.

22.  Marathon painting done. My friend would be coming home and I promised to give her some of my paintings but I wanted to surprise her a bit by giving something I have not posted on Facebook.  (These were posted on instagram.)


23. Final arrangement for the get-together was done. I accompanied my friend to make reservations for the food and other necessary arrangements.

24. Christmas preparation! It was a simple celebration so it was a no sweat thing for me.

25. Time with Adriane. They say that Christmas is for kids so off we braved the mall crowds to make the little one happy.

26. Get-together with friends. It is a nice reunion with friends I have not seen for a long time. It is nice that I still get to be friends with these people even if I went to a different high school than them. I am an outsider but I did not really feel like I was an outcast.


27. Field trip with travel friends. My friend, Ayet, is in town and we took this opportunity to meet up and check out a new resort. It was a memorable trip since we did not know that the resort does not serve food. We had to go the market to buy food and have it cooked for us.


28. Time to rest. I was in bed all day. Except for the time I went to church and ate my meals. When night time came, I tested some photography tricks that my cousin taught me. It did turn out the way I wanted to but I posted it anyway… on instagram (less critics than Facebook! hehehe)


29. We survived the storm. It was classified as Tropical Depression Seniang with 55kph winds. Honestly, we were not prepared. There was no sense of urgency in the news, even from PAGASA. We were dead wrong. When we woke up in the morning, winds were howling. It was scary. By noon, we were flooded. It was sad but we were okay. We were not prepared but we were not hurt. We had food. We had each other.

30. Lights were back on. We were clueless of what was going on the whole day. We were busy with the clean up though. In the morning, I had photography duties. My cousin’s friend needed a photographer for her brother’s wedding. This is just one of my shots of my output.


31. Water slowly trickled back. I have not showered for two days. We have cleaned the house from all the muddy residue just in time for New Year.

Hello, 2015!

Christmas 2014

How was your Christmas? I wrote about my plans for Christmas in this blog post and here’s how I actually celebrated it.

We had a simple noche buena. We had ham, spaghetti, grapes, coke and mango float. What we lacked in the food department, we made up for it in the presentation. What we wanted was a leftover-free Christmas preparation.  Preparing just enough is the key. And oh, after 3.5 months, I drank coke. It is my reward for this season. I’ll abstain again on January 2.



I also got to spend time with my nephew. We braved the crowded mall for arcade games and Jollibee.


I partied with friends.


I also explored a nearby resort with my travel friends.


Right now, we are under signal number 1 as tropical depression Seniang tries to make a landfall tomorrow in Tandag which is 180 kms from us. I am in my bed indulging this aircon weather. This is the kind of ‘me time’ I wanted to reward myself.  However, as much as I enjoy this cold weather, I hope the heavy rains will do no harm so we can celebrate the rest of the holiday season meaningfully.

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