brave little soldier

img_8740[Warning: Spoiler ahead]

Sometimes, the biggest sacrifice comes from those people think of so little.

Ever since “The Great Wall” was announced more than a year ago, I was already looking forward to seeing it. I admit that it was due to Lu Han’s inclusion that made me interested in the movie. Though I know his role won’t be that big, I knew I just have to see him in it.

I was curious what character Lu Han would play. The story was set during one of China’s dynasties and it was a story about war. What could he possibly play? Then they said that he would be a soldier and I laughed at the ludicrousness of the idea. How could a sweet, boyish young man become a soldier during the said era? Then they said that he would be a soldier who was weak and cowardly. Again, I laughed. That character would indeed suit him.

I know it’s mean of me to think of him in such a way, but I just couldn’t help but be realistic.

So the time finally come to watch the movie. I don’t know what I was expecting. I know Lu Han had a small role and yet his name and face is all over the movie poster – out-billing the two Hollywood actors who have more scenes in the film. I just don’t want the reason to be marketing (no one can argue that he’s one of the most bankable Chinese celebrities).

Anyway, as expected, Lu Han only had few scenes and even fewer lines. Just like what Matt Damon said in his interviews when asked about Lu Han, the boy acted with his face and eyes really well. Upon seeing the movie, I understood what he meant. Without much dialogues, everything the Lu Han’s character has to say was conveyed on his face – the shame, embarrassment and frustration.

It might sound biased but Lu Han’s character has more dynamics than the rest (probably aside from Matt Damon’s). In the span of 1 hour and 55 minutes, Lu Han’s character evolved (not drastically but just right) from being a cowardly soldier into a brave one. He didn’t become a soldier who suddenly knew how to fight just because he faced his fears – that won’t be realistic. However, he became a soldier who gained enough courage to help fight the war (thanks to the few encouraging words from Matt’s character that he didn’t understand).

So, Lu Han’s fate in the movie was actually really noteworthy. I even felt bad for him. But at the same time, I was proud of his character. The brave little soldier.

how i came back home

img_7589Last week, I wrote about how I grew apart from God…now, it’s time for the story on how I ran back to Him.

Towards the end of college, I suddenly thought of going back to church – the kind of church that I knew when I was a kid. This was going to be easy because two of my friends are active church-goers. Coincidentally, I needed someone who works in TV stations (for our thesis) and they said that they know one and he goes to their church.

Sadly, this just went on for a month. After getting what I needed for our thesis, I stopped attending again. My friends didn’t bother to drag me to church, they just let me focus on “important” things that needed my time.

I felt bad because I really wanted to go to church. I hated myself that I wasn’t committed enough to it.

I kept the plan in the back of my head. I told myself that I’m going to revisit the idea again when I’m finally really ready.

I graduated from college in 2009. Got my first job a couple of months after then left that job in 2011. After that, it was one unsatisfactory job after another until the end of that year. During these times, I even abandoned my thinking that I should just believe and pray to God.

However, out of desperation to have a stable job by the coming 2012, I called on Him again. I laid out what I wanted for 2012 before Him – I said I want a job where I could jumpstart my life as a young professional, a job where I would stay for some time. I prayed about that repeatedly all December of 2011 and it worked! After the New Year, I got a job interview and I started my new job the following week.

I stayed in that job for three years. During these years, I didn’t talk to God again (well, there are occasional times when I did like when I asked Him to please allow me to watch my favorite artist in Seoul).

It was only in 2015 when I did again. I asked for almost the same thing I did back in December 2011 – a new job, a job where I can stay for a very long time. Like before, He gave me what I prayed for.

However, it seemed that from 2012, God had been planning for my return. In that year, He put a girl in my life. I didn’t know who she was at first. It was a friendship that really took time to develop. I laid my eyes on her towards the end of 2012 and only managed to establish an easygoing kind of friendship during 2014.

This girl turned to God when she broke up with her boyfriend in November 2015. She became a Christian. In the middle of 2016, she asked me if we could have a deeper and closer friendship – something I don’t really offer too anyone (a story for another time). I agreed and it was chaos right after that.

Opening up caused me to feel insecure, anxious and depressed. I blamed her for all those emotions. Yet, she repeatedly told me to turn to God. To really believe in God. However, despite doing what she told me right away, I was compelled more to not do it. I was feeling pressured and it wasn’t right. I told myself that if I’m going to reach out to God in totality this time, I’m going to do it because I was doing it on my own free will not because my friend was urging me to do it.

So, I asked for some space. During the distance and time the two of us were not talking much, that’s when I started doing devotions again. I didn’t tell her this. I kept it to myself for some time. I want to get used to everything without her looming over me. Fortunately, it worked.

Now, I’m doing three devotions, reading articles about God, praying a lot, going to cell groups and accepting invitations to attend church. I have never felt more alive than now.

how i got lost

img_8648Sometimes, I wonder what happened to me.

I know I had a strong relationship with God when I was a kid (as strong as it can be for a kid, at least). As young as I was back then, I easily accepted that there’s someone who I don’t see who loves me, looks after me and cares for me. Never once did I wonder where is He, being told that He is in heaven was enough for me.

Even when I was being bullied by my classmates, I knew He consoled me every single day that I cried. Though I would get pissed at the people who were hurting me, I would only get pissed but never too angry at them to the point that I would hate them. He kept my heart pure and soft.

John 3:16 was the very first Bible verse I ever memorized. I was in 1st grade back then in a Born Again Christian school (I’m thankful that my parents sent me there). I think it was perfect that a kid of 5 years old of age learned this passage before anything else. Any kid deserves to know from the beginning that someone loves him or her fiercely and that he or she is meant to have a great life.

But growing up can really be a pain.

Towards the end of my grade school years, I was itching for something new, something big. The small Born Again Christian school had become too small for me. I wanted to meet new people. I wanted to be in a new environment, a different world. I wanted huge things for myself and I came to the conclusion that staying where I was wouldn’t help me get them.

Transferring to an all-girls school was probably the best and the worst decision I ever made in my life.

I love my high school. I met a lot of awesome people there – cool teachers and great friends. It smashed my shell and turned my shyness and meekness into confidence and fierceness. Despite girls being ruthless on their own, I wasn’t made fun of. I was also pushed up to my limits academically and hardened my endurance for tough and stressful school moments.

However, I grew apart from God. Being in an all-girls school managed by nuns meant that I had to embrace a religion that was entirely new to me. Yes, maybe I was baptized as a Catholic (my certificate of baptismal can attest to that) but I wasn’t raised in that. I don’t even have that much memory of going to a Catholic church to attend mass when I was a kid (the only time I stepped near the church in our area was when I played with other kids every summer afternoons).

Religion classes were a pain. I rejected the doctrines being taught to us. I disliked my religion textbooks. I shook my head every gospel reading because it only focused on four books of the Bible. I groaned every Advent season because it meant that we had to pray the rosary every class. I didn’t understand praying the rosary because I was taught to only pray to God and Jesus not Mary. Feasts days of the saints left me dumbfounded because I never really knew who they were.

It was complicated. I wondered if following God was really that hard. I hated everything that they’re shoving down my throat to the point that I asked if there was a God at all because I didn’t want to waste my time in all of those things if there was going to be none. Thankfully, I had a friend who kept me in line and told me that it’s better to believe in God and to find out there’s none than to believe there’s not only to find out there’s one.

So, yes, I kept my belief that there’s God. But I told myself that I’m not going to embrace the religion that I was being surrounded by.

I wanted to go back to the time when I was in grade school wherein we would do devotions everyday at morning assembly (I didn’t know it was called devotion back then), wherein Christian Living classes meant that we’re only studying one Bible verse for almost an hour, wherein we would do praise and worship once a week with loud singing and interpretative dancing, wherein we’re free to pray for things we need to pray for every class.

I yearned for those because that was when I felt God. But I know I had to move on and maybe find a place that will be exactly like where I came from. However, for some reason, I couldn’t bring myself to look for it. So I lived with my own kind of religion. I settled on just believing in God. I didn’t pick up the Bible. I just made myself that knowing God and praying to Him will make things alright.

 

and i’m alive

img_8518I was sliding. There was nothing to hold onto. The rocks were smooth and wet. No rough edges could stop me from going straight down. I already pictured what would happen. Then, I silently and loudly called, “Lord!” Just then, everything stopped.

My friends from work went for a climb at Mt. Balagbag (Rodriguez, Rizal) yesterday. It was an easy climb. It was more of a trek actually. Still, it was tiring. Walking up a hill isn’t easy anyway if you didn’t grow up in such a place.

After the climb, we went to one of the nearby waterfalls. I think it was called “Otso-Otso.” There were a lot of people in the front so we headed up to look for a spot where we could relax.

I took pictures of the falls with one of my friends while the others are already dipping in the water. Then, we called them to swim where the falls is so that it would be more fun. The water was cold but refreshing. We took pictures with someone’s GoPro (I put my phone aside with my friend’s so that it won’t fall on the water) and joked around.

Then, it was time to go.

I climbed back up from the water. I was wet all over. I put on my slippers and picked up my phone along with my friend’s phone and watch. Then, I headed carefully to where my stuff is with my hands were both occupied – my left hand was holding a monopod where my phone was attached and my right hand was holding my friend’s phone and watch. Then, it happened.

I slipped. On the rocks. By the edge of the waterfalls.

My butt landed on a rock and I felt myself sliding down. The rocks were very smooth and there were no rough edges to stop my fall. My head was filled visions of the next chain of events – I would roll down along the rocks, bump my head against them and land on the shallow cold water. I didn’t reach the part of how I would look like after all that. I just immediately called on the one being that could possibly help me – God.

My heart called for Him. Upon the first cry, it was like the time froze. I wasn’t sliding anymore. I was shocked in disbelief.

A friend of mine rushed to my side. She clung onto my right arm, hoping and trying to keep me in place. However, there was no need for that anymore. I was already safe. Everyone was shouting something, but I just told them to calm down. I felt like I would really fall if they kept on their loud voices.

Stupidly, my first concern was the stuff in my hands. I looked on my left where my phone was. It got detached from my monopod, but luckily it was still plugged into the cord. It was hanging there on the edge. I immediately handed it over to my friend who was beside me as well as the other phone and watch in my other hand.

Free from everything, I got up on my feet. On my own.

The back of my ankles were hurting and so was my butt. However, I was all fine. No wounds or even scratches. I was alive.

Usually, such incidents would leave me high on adrenaline. I’m a thrill seeker and that should’ve been a perfect thrill. However, I was scared. For the first time, the thing that would usually excite me scared me. Scared me so much that I called on God.

I couldn’t help but be amazed. God heard me and He was really there. He was the one who kept me in place when I should’ve went straight to my end. He was also the one who told me to stand up. He saved me – literally – and it was overwhelming.

reuniting with matilda

img_8244One of my favorite movies as a child was “Matilda.” I remember my mom bringing home a copy of it on a VHS so that we don’t have to rent it from the stores. I watched it a lot to the point I memorized the dialogues. But despite all that, I still suck as a fan because I didn’t know it was a book – a children’s book – by Roald Dahl until a couple of years back. I suck as a fan.

Last year, Mara Wilson (better known as Matilda to us who grew up with that movie) released a book. An autobiography. Upon the announcement, I knew I had to have her book. I remember going to bookstores in Stratford when I was in London looking for it. I was so excited because the UK release coincided with my stay there. However, it seems that book releases don’t work that easily even in the UK, so I came home empty handed. Good thing, my colleague offered to buy it for me online and I got it.

“Where Am I Now?” is the first book I read this year. I am still in a state of utter speechlessness. I didn’t even wrote a review on my Goodreads because I don’t know how to put all the feels I got from the book on coherent writing.

All I know is that I loved reading the book. Mara’s a really good writer. She’s engaging and funny. I felt everything she put down on paper. Which was why, reading the book was also hard for me.

I knew it was about her life since it was an autobiography. So, I knew I’d finally learn where she had been after leaving Hollywood. However, It wasn’t just your typical narration and I was caught off guard. I was shocked, confused, heartbroken, relieved, etc.

She didn’t just talk about her career and life after Hollywood, she talked about sex (how she learned about it and how she struggled with her thoughts about it), death and religion (which really got my brain working), mental health (this got me on my feet), relationships, breaking up with Hollywood, being in a choir, losing her mother, NYU, Robin Williams, and her present.

I wasn’t ready for the book. I knew it upon reading the first few pages.

It left me bothered, especially on the part when she let go of her belief in God. That really got me thinking. It’s not because I’m against atheism. I’m a very open-minded person and I respect each and everyone’s beliefs. I just couldn’t figure out how she just let it go so easily. Well, she struggled at first, but I guess I was looking for a specific huge life-changing event (like something tragic) that could’ve altered her perception about God. Anyway, my friend told me we have our own unique journeys when it comes to God.

I was also left worried when she discussed her OCD. Because of what I’ve been through last year, I wondered if I have some mental health issues of my own. I have put the thoughts aside towards the end of the year but this book brought them back and it brought them really strong. Thank goodness I have a friend who knows how to calm me down when I worry too much. Now, I’m all good once again.

Nothing could’ve prepared me for this book. I didn’t read any detailed reviews. I just knew it was a good book. Mara Wilson is that good. So aside from the confusion, I was left inspired. I learned a lot and I hope she’ll release another book soon. This time I know what I am up against.

me + business = ?

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Things that have to do with money (finance, business, banking, etc) are very abstract to me. Much more abstract than real abstract things like love and pain. I can’t seem to fathom these things even if they are explained to me very carefully in the most basic way.

It’s the reason why I didn’t take up accountancy even if I have a fairly acceptable math skills. It’s the reason why I avoided any business courses in every university I applied to. It’s the reason why I clung into history, arts and literature.

Then, last year, I landed a job at an Australian accounting firm. However, I don’t work with accounting people. Confusing? There’s a very complicated explanation behind that. The simplest way to put it is the accounting firm is also an offshoring company. They lease staff to other companies.

So, basically, I work for a promotional products company based in UK and my work doesn’t have anything to do with numbers. I write copies on our website, articles on our newsletter, and tweets on our SNS. That’s all. Though sometimes the money side squeezes itself onto my realm, I don’t have to worry about it that much.

In 2nd of January of this year, while I was eating dinner with my friend, I found myself getting into something I never thought I would get involved with in my whole life.

This friend of mine is driven and passionate when it comes to things she finds interesting and worth it. That includes money stuff (she and my mom hit it off when they discussed insurance stuff while I just ate chicken between them). She has always told me that she wanted to have a business of her own so that she can handle her own time. I always don’t know what to say to this because business is not really my kind of thing.

Then, she asked, “Is there already a…?”

“No,” I answered.

The idea clicked and she was like, “That’s it!”

It was an interesting idea actually and I found myself giving suggestions on how she can make it happen. Suddenly, her idea became OUR idea. Her business became OUR business.

I wanted to talk myself out of it. I tried to tell her I’m not into business stuff (which she already knows). However, she told me that she can’t put it up on her own because some of her weaknesses happen to be my strengths. She even assured me that I won’t have to deal with the things I don’t want to deal with like the legal stuff. So, I agreed.

However, there’s nothing to get excited about yet. We only have an idea as of now. We have no capital or anything at all. Still, it’s something we’re starting to work on now. We’re reading business books, looking at ideas that could work with the business we have in mind, etc.

To be honest, there’s also a part of me that wants to be in this. The business falls under one of my interests, so I know that I could make myself patient with it. Still, I’m still doubtful if the two of us will be able to work long enough to make it happen or this is just some byproduct of the New Year’s high.

Nevertheless, it won’t hurt to learn new things.

in and out of the gray

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A year ago, I was very enthusiastic about 2016. I guess it was because 2015 had been a fantastic year for me. Towards the end of 2015, I found myself watching videos after videos about journaling – bullet journaling, smashbooking, etc. I was eager to make them the coming 2016, kind of like a personal project.

Then, in the middle of the year, everything sort of came crashing down.

I don’t know what really happened. Everything was going perfectly fine during the first half of 2016. I was keeping up with my goals. I was reading books after books. I was writing chapters after chapter of my online story. All of the sudden, I lost my drive to do these things. Everything felt like a burden. I couldn’t even listen to my playlist because I felt that I didn’t like all the songs I had despite them being my favorites. For whatever reason, I felt utterly lonely and hopeless.

I didn’t know what to do. It felt like there was no way out. Even though I had a trip to London (the place that I had been dreaming to see since I was a kid), it seemed that the sadness was endless. Then the jetlag from that trip added to my anxiety. I couldn’t do my job. I was lashing out at my closest friend. That’s when I knew I had to put everything to a stop…even though I don’t know how.

Thankfully, I met new people – workmates who entered our company in 2016. I’m a kind of person who doesn’t open up to people, but I realized that at that point I couldn’t keep everything to myself. I knew I needed someone else to share my burdens. So, I opened up to some of these people. They listened. They understood. They gave help.

Slowly, things started going back to normal. I was happy again. Work became bearable and I had the best time when I had my December trip to Seoul.

Just like how the slip to depression started, I also couldn’t pinpoint how things began to pick up again. Did listening to the words of the people around me do that? Did doing what they told me to changed things? It was amazing.

For some reason, I have to say, it was a joyful experience. Now, in this new year, I feel better. Despite knowing that I will have the tendency to go back to that rough patch again, I know I’ll be okay.