Saturday, January 28, 2012

Twinkling Hope

In the serenity of winter, when the snowflakes danced in the air and the night was illuminated by the glorious whiteness that blanketed the land,  a soft whisper hovered close to my ears. It seemed to come from an uncharted depth of space. It's that distinctive voice of a fellow alien who I'd thought had been sucked by a blackhole. 

The voice intimated that she had been trapped in an unknown distant planet, but she heard my call that crept its way across the dark recesses of space to where she is. My messages in the darkest night reached her through the stars that twinkled in that planet's night sky. And pools of tears formed in her eyes.

My alien buddy still lives out there, though a million lightyears away. She  hasn't forgotten at all. She still keeps all her treasured memories of the past. She still believes in the promise of a wonderful future, still holds on to the beautiful memories of our friendship. 

She's trying to reach out ... to keep alive ... to survive. Someday, I know, she'll come out of that planet that trapped her. She will mount up to the space and travel past the stars. She will come to meet me.

We will have a wonderful tryst among the stars. Once again, we will forge ahead with our unfinished intergalactic odysseys. This time, I hope, the journey will be unruffled and will last forever.

For the moment,  I'll keep bidding the stars to twinkle for her, reassuring her that my silent calls in the night will always echo toward her, to strengthen her and inspire her to fight harder until she triumphantly frees herself out of that cosmic tangle that held her captive.

May all the stars keep twinkling their eternal messages of hope.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Bedazzled by Pyrotechnics

Their sparks have faded away. They have brightened up the night. They have beautified the air with their colorful brilliance and out-of-this-world  designs. They have delighted millions of spectators, with their eyes glued to them while their hearts brimmed with awe.

Video recordings went frenetic. Cameras clicked.

I cherish such moments of firework shows. I love being enthralled by their beauty, their colors, their patterns, their luminosity. 

I love photographing them too, though I'm not well-equipped to take spectacular shots that I have been wishing to have.  But I shot anyway, and got humble results. I wanted to capture firework clusters in one shot, but in our locality, they just popped out sporadically, from every corner, making it impossible to watch them all, let alone shooting them. At least, I have these here:

Some prominent videos from different countries also dominated the online news, which I enjoyed watching. The London fireworks got me really awestruck. The whole procedure was worth 18 million Swedish kronor. I'm posting the video here for my own collection. It's a little lengthy but it's worth the time to watch it.

Wouldn't it be wonderful if we were like those fireworks that illuminate in this world's darkness? Or in the hearts of people who have lost their hope and given in to the clutches  of pitch blackness? Through our fine deeds, we can give off lights that brighten up the shadowy places. Each little act of kindness that we do for individuals will accumulate into bursts of sparks that shoot up into the air and form breathtaking fireworks whose singular beauty will be etched in the minds and hearts of those who look up to them. 

Mankind will be illuminated ...inspired ... and live life to the full.

"Let YOUR light shine before men, that they may see YOUR fine works and give glory to YOUR Father who is in the heavens." 

(Matthew 5:16)

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Capturing the 2011 Winter Solstice

We left Sweden in  late autumn when the days were dark and frosty.  I mentioned previously that I had seen the first snow that heralded the approach of winter right before our flight. The snowfall lasted for only a few minutes. After that, when the thin layer of snow melted, the frosts took over again.

It was a time of piercing cold and dreadful darkness, an ideal time to fly away to the sun. I still love winter, regardless of how cold and dark it is, I love to see its opening and the succeeding snowfalls that would ensue, but this time, I wasn't there to savor the experience. We were scheduled to travel to my homeland that time. We left the place sans snow, and in gloom.

After about 30 hours of flying (from Umeå to Manila, including stop-overs - Stockholm, London and Hongkong), we finally arrived at a warm and bright place in the tropics.

When the three-week vacation was over, which slid away so fast, we came back here. It was already dark when our plane circled over Umeå before landing, though it was only in the mid-afternoon. First thing I noticed as I peered through the window was the ground covered all over with snow. So it had already snowed in our city. That was December 14, and tons of snow had been piled up on the roadsides.

Back here, I heard some say that there might not be much snow this winter.  Looking at the landscapes around, I almost believed it. The grass started to emerge as the snow gradually melted. Successive rain showers turned the snow into ice, making the walkways slippery. Would this season turn out to be a snowless winter?

The winter solstice in December 22 gave me a glimmer of hope. I was fortunate to be assigned to a job in a newly constructed apartment building along the river. And even more fortunate to work at a higher floor with a stunning view of the river. I just took my lunch and was preparing for work at 1:00 p.m. when a glint from the veranda caught my eyes. The sun shone brightly over the horizon, its brilliance reflected on the water that wasn't frozen yet. I fished my camera from my backpack, rushed out to the veranda and took lots of pictures. I was freezing and yet ecstatic. For two consecutive years, I was able to witness the sun in its full splendor exactly during the winter solstice.

To me, the splendor of this winter solstice is a promise of a  season that's filled with marvels. Already, heaven has showered myriads and myriads of snowflakes that blanket the ground with glorious whiteness that attests to the grandeur of the One who designed each sparkling snowflake.

It snowed and snowed.

And it still keeps snowing and snowing and snowing...


Sunday, January 1, 2012

2012 Opens

Here I am again, standing at the portal of 2012. The past year has marched swiftly to its finish. A year that seems like days only. So short, but certainly not empty. Much has been put into it. So much that I wasn't able to store them all in my cyber treasure chest. 

I keep lagging behind. I should start this year with this blog, but I needed to post the previous one before it loses its sentimental strength. In fact, I'm still keeping many blog drafts from last year that I haven't completed, most of which are bare titles. But I still need to put them here even though they are quite late. I'm one who loves to keep pleasant memories and derive joy and strength from them by just going over them anytime I feel the debilitating effects of this cruel "present system of things". Such memories also remind me of the blessings that our Creator bestowed upon me, thus helping me to keep my heartfelt eternal gratitude to Him for his love and care.

Since I came here, over two years ago, I had been counting the years from the day I came, that is November 27. Hence, my circle of a year ended by November 26. And that's when I reviewed my year's activities. But this past year, I was away during that date and could not blog where I was, so I might start counting the year from January 1.

So this is a new beginning. I will again start filling this year with beautiful and worthwhile things, to make others happy, to comfort the depressed and lonely, to inspire the hopeless, to keep doing the will of our Creator more fully.

Let the year roll on....

First Homecoming

I've been silent for quite a time, over a month actually. My heart had been aching to jot down thoughts and memories, to post pictures that I have heartily taken. But, alas!, time and circumstances conspired to hinder me from accomplishing such things that I so enjoy doing.

Foremost reason is that of my three-week visit to my homeland. After two years of staying here in the north pole, I finally found my opportunity to visit my country of origin, the tropical islands of the Philippines. I was accompanied by my hubby and a Swedish acquaintance who had been wishing to see Asia. It was supposed to be an exciting and relaxing vacation, since it was my first homecoming ever, but then, some things happened that marred its supposed joyousness.

Arriving at NAIA, we were greeted by the cacophony of transport vehicles and the thick crowd welcoming their families and relatives who just arrived from abroad. I felt that familiar sweaty and sticky feeling in my body, which used to annoy me whenever I was in the lowland, particularly in Manila. I searched for my brother and my sister-in-law who took their time off their work  to meet us at the airport. Seeing them brought a flood of joy and comfort to me.

We drove straight to Quezon City, where my brother and his wife work voluntarily as translators in the Philippine Watchtower branch office. We slept one night in one of the guest rooms in the residential buildings.

The following day, November 24, we showed our companion some parts of Manila, particularly where one can see distinctly the contrast between the affluent part and the impoverished part of the Metropolis, like the Ayala Avenue in Makati and the squatter areas surrounding it where many poor people live in shanties all their lives. In a way, I felt proud of our own "skyscrapers" there, but sorry for the shanty-people. ( I only took pictures of the tall buildings but forgot to capture the squatter areas)

In the afternoon, we went to Divisoria, where one can buy cheap items made in China. They have everything there, from clothes to electronics, toys, shoes, craft materials, jewelries, etc.

In November 25, we took the 8-hour trip to the mountain city of Baguio where our house is located. Oh, what a joyful moment to see my mother and sister again as they happily welcomed us home! Actually, the best part of this vacation was being with my family, relatives and old friends.

While in Baguio, we re-explored some parts of the city. Much has changed, sadly, for the worse. The former peaceful and refreshing city that I used to know has transformed into an unbearably overcrowded place, where people from all over the country and from Korea had been attracted by its good location and climate, and took residency there. But the Koreans stay there to learn the English language, where it's much cheaper for them than in other English-speaking countries. Everywhere one goes in the city center, he must squeeze himself through the excessively thick crowd. The traffic jams and the amalgam of unpleasant noises from every corner have become too much. The place has become unattracted to me. I couldn't find any delightful sights anymore except the mountains that surround the city and the colorful flowers, which had become scanty. 

After a week of being there, we received the grievous news that my uncle in Bolinao (my mother's youngest brother) had passed away. Those were difficult moments for us, as he was one of our relatives that are closest to our hearts. 

I, my hubby and our companion were scheduled to revisit the Ilocos region, specifically Vigan and Pagudpud, but on account of this tragic happening, we had to change our itinerary. The two of them would proceed to Ilocos, while my mother, my sister and I would go to the funeral and comfort the bereaved family of my uncle and reunite with our other relatives. 

And so my hubby and his companion traveled to the northernmost part of the country and stayed there for over 3 days. I'm glad they enjoyed the serenity and the natural beauty of the places they visited. Here are some pictures my hubby took.


Meanwhile, we had a comforting reunion with our relatives in Bolinao, my town of birth. Although the occasion that brought us there was a sad one, we were able to impart joy and strength to one another, which made our reunion a pleasant one. While in Bolinao, I took some pictures of one beach right in the heart of the town. Actually, there was no beach in this part before, but they are making one right now by clearing away the stones and rocks and hauling in tons of golden sands from another beach in one "village". Here are some pictures of that artificial beach in the making and the hotel alongside it.

Here are also some rural scenes where the funeral took place, and the flowers that my aunts planted around the house, and some fruits in the town.

I also passed by some flowers along the streets and took pictures of them.

Some other creatures, corals and seashells.

We went back to Baguio on the fourth day in synchronization with my hubby. But my mother and sister went to Bolinao again after two days to attend the burial. 

My stay in Baguio wouldn't be complete without taking pictures, so as usual, I took lots of them. 

Burnham Park and some flowers there.

SM, the most frequented shopping mall.

Views from the window of our house.

Flowers in my mother's flower pots.

My mother's night-blooming cereus had two buds when we arrived, and they bloomed out while we were there. Since they would be open only for a few hours, I picked one of them and macro-photograped it in different angles.

December 13 would be our return flight, and so we went back to Manila the day before. It was time to leave Baguio again and part from my mother and my sister. They accompanied us to the bus terminal to Manila, and there, we said goodbye. And yes, it was hard parting from one another again. But then, life must go on. I will see them again, hopefully sooner. 

I took these drive-by shots while in the bus to Manila. 

We slept one night there before our flight. The next day was another parting day with my brother, my sister-in-law and my aunt who also works there. 

Was I glad to leave my home country again? Strangely, yes, though it was hard to leave my loved ones, especially in their difficult financial and physical conditions. I wished I could take them with me right then and there so we could live here together in peace and comfort.

There's so much more to say than this mere narrative of random events there. Some thoughts and feelings that I had while being there. This homecoming  has also changed my impressions and perspectives. It put a seal on how I truly feel about which is real home for me, Philippines or Sweden. I will write about these things in my future blogs.

It's good to be back!