My Angel Friend

“And there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.” Prov. 17:17 is a famous bible verse for friendship and I am highlighting a very common feature of the theme Friend. But, I wonder how many people would feature their best friends? I guess not so many except if they went up for that heavenly trip up there.

In our lives, people come and go. They say, you met them for a very certain reason. Reasons that sometimes we cannot understand or worse we cannot accept. But, whatever and wherever your friendship ends, they will always remain a part of you.

God called my best friend home about 8 months ago and the situation turned me upside down. Things have changed and they will never be the same again. However, these are all temporary. I am looking forward to that blessed hope when I will meet her again in that sweet Beulah Land. One thing that I would always be thankful for was that I was able to sat with her, laughed with her, prayed with her, supported her and took care of her during those times of her pain and agony. Those were the times that won’t be replaced by anything. I am blessed for having such a wonderful friend. I miss her so much.

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BON VOYAGE 2016

2016 is almost at its end of trail and before I reach the final trail, I want to look back at how this year has been for me.  Some people may have prospered a lot in 2016 – all praises to God for His providence. Others may have stayed the same and wasn’t able to find what they wanted in their lives – keep searching, doors may open soon.  But, for me, 2016 has been a diverse year.

At the first quarter of the year, God blessed me with unexpected blessings.  I was given an unexpected favor at work.  I advanced to a higher position in my workplace.  I must admit, it felt good having been recognized as a good example among other foreign teachers.  I did my job well.  On top of that, I was given a salary raise.  It was not that much but it made me happy.

Then, I was able to travel with my family.  One dream accomplished, although, I am looking forward to more travels with them.  We went to the place where my best friend, ate Dexie, and I planned to go.  So I let her come along with us.  Must I say, two dreams accomplished in a row.  I am thankful to God for allowing us to experience beautiful things while we still can.

Unfortunately, it didn’t go well on the third month.  Ate Dexie got sick and became very ill.  I had to bring her to the hospital.  Thailand hospitals were never a good experience for me. I felt repulsive at some staff and doctors where communication was always the problem.  At an emergency room of one of the famous public hospitals in Pathumthani would never accept patients without fever, cut or bruise.  It was disappointing when you cannot explain what you really need to explain.  And with my little knowledge in speaking Thai, did not help explaining to them that Ate Dexie needs immediate aid because according to them her vital signs were all normal.  Goodness!  That time, she haven’t had eaten for a day and you call it normal!  To hell with vital signs – the person was not at all in her USUAL state!  Excuse the language.  So, I decided to bring her to an expensive hospital.  One night stay was worth a lot and we had to borrow money so she could be checked and be taken cared of.  They did endoscopy and biopsy altogether.  After seven days of waiting for the final results, the doctor only confirmed that she had cancer and it was malignant but he didn’t know what stage and what to do next.  She was recommended to see another doctor.  And then again, I was disappointed.  Doctors are supposed to be life savers but it was not like that at that time.   So, I had to encourage her to go home and do further check-ups in the Philippines where communication was never a problem.  We were thankful to our church pastors; Pastor Gutlay, Pastor Pran and members of Grace Baptist Church, Suanprigthai, Pathumthani for being an encouragement at that time and also for giving out financial support to her.

It did not end there, though.  I had encountered a lot following that.  After knowing her real condition, which was gastric cancer (stage 4), I had to do something to help her.  I had to sell our important things and I had to raise some funds to help her in her medication.  Doing it alone was not easy.  I asked help from my, her and her sister’s friends’ list in Facebook but few have responded.  I cannot complain because it was a matter between life and death.  All I knew was to do what I can do to help her.  Few months before the third quarter ended, I decided to go home and visited her.  I wanted to tell her that I would always be there for her.  I wanted to show her what it’s like to have a real friend – wondering what it would be like when it’s my turn to be on my deathbed.

Entering the fourth quarter was the hardest.   I had lost one of the best people in my life to cancer.  I lost one precious stone that cannot be replaced.  I will always treasure her as one best part of my existence.  This experience has changed many perspectives in my life.  How am I right now?  I would always say, “I’ll be fine,” but, seriously, I have to overcome the greatest fear I have – losing people in my life.  I am not fine but I will be – in time!

Unexpected things happen and it is not easy to accept these unexpected changes whether it is good or bad.  I may leave the footprints of 2016 behind but I am hoping I could immediately let go of the crucial things that happened to me this year. I am sad of losing my best friend but I know that we will meet someday in Heaven.  I just have to learn to accept this lonely stage of life.  I am blessed I still have my family and praying that God will grant our wishes as a family.  I expect more challenges in 2017 as I place in my heart the happy and hurtful things in 2016.  I hope God will give me more courage and strength to face my life’s battles fearlessly and fiercely as I say BON VOYAGE 2016.

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looking forward to a Prosperous 2017 (Kanchanaburi-Dec2016)

A TESTIMONY OF FAITH AND HOPE

NOVEMBER 7.  It was not a regular day for me.  I was fairly tired from my daily routine.  After work, I wanted to cancel my tutorial class but decided not to.  I was really exhausted after that class and just wanted to rest.  But before I did, I opened my Facebook account first to check for updates as there was a typhoon entering the Philippine’s area of responsibility two days before Yolanda, with international name Haiyan, smashed my beloved city – Tacloban and other parts of Eastern Visayas.  I saw some posts praying for Leyte and Samar when PAGASA lifted the storm signal on that same day; from a normal yet strong number 3 to number 4 which was rather unfamiliar to me.  I slightly panicked and tried to check if my mother was on my chat list.  I was glad when I saw her online and talked to her over Skype.  I asked them how they were and she told me that the weather was still fine and that they were at my sister’s place in Cogon, San Jose.  My father and a church member, was at our house in V and G to safeguard our things from flood.  On that Skype conversation, I asked them if they were prepared and my mother only replied, “Mag-pray gud la kita (let’s just pray).”  I told her that I always pray for them.  I felt relieved by her calmness and told my mother that I wanted to rest and will talk to her the next day.

After praying for my family and the country’s safety, I slept peacefully that night but I was awakened by an unknown force.  It was already dawn of NOVEMBER 8.  Something strong struck my attention and forced me to wake up.  On impulse, I took my phone and quickly rummaged for any updates of super typhoon Yolanda.  Horror mirrored, worry and fear shadowed me while I was browsing for updates.  Yolanda, the strongest typhoon ever recorded in history, already made her first landfall in Guiuan and was on her second landfall in Tacloban City – the hardest hit by the super typhoon.  I sent SMS to my mother and was hoping to get any reply from her.  I tried to be calm for the next few minutes and prepared for work.  It was 7:00, Thailand time (8:00 Philippine time, being an hour difference), I was already shaking from the news and posts I read on Facebook.  I tried calling my family but their phones were only ringing and nobody was answering my calls.  At 8:00, my stomach started grumbling.  I was tensed, frightened and anxious to know what was happening to my family, to Tacloban City and its nearby towns.  I went back to my room, just few steps away from the school where I work and once again prayed for them and the rest of the people that will be affected at the onslaught of Yolanda.  I fervently prayed and somehow gathered the strength I needed to work for the rest of the day.

NOVEMBER 8 was never anticipated.  I wish it was only a dream but it was not!  It was real.  More so, if it was a dream, it was really frightening.  I was glued on Facebook the whole afternoon asking for updates from friends I have never even chatted before.  All I could get was zero communication from ground zero Tacloban.  The city tried to hide its pain from the world for several hours.  She first kept to herself the moments of the aftermath of Yolanda – the cry, the fear, the terror her people faced on this fateful day.  She faced it alone when the whole world was looking for answers.

Zero visibility.  No news updates.  Just silence.  It almost ended that way.  But after 12 long hours of nothing, a light of hope emitted when one of the country’s TV station got its first and immediate information from ground zero Palo, the closest town to Tacloban City.  I must say, it was first-hand information but I felt sabotaged when the news anchor or the station itself decided to stop the reporter to give way to some unimportant shows.  I was angered by that uncalled-for action and was already ranting because I only watch the news online and it is uploaded 2 hours late than the usual airing time.   I cannot pretend anymore because I wanted to know the real score – how Tacloban City managed to survive a 300 kph wind and came along with it, the storm surge, which made survival inevitable.  I cannot calm myself anymore because I wanted to know the situation of my family.  I wanted to know if they survived or not, if they were in pain, if I will ever see them again on my next vacation.   I regret the day when I felt so tired to even talk to my mother, when I lazily chatted over Skype few hours before the storm started.  I had a twinge of guilt when the day ended with full of questions and worries.

NOVEMBER 9.  As expected, it was no better than the other days when everything else were out of ordinary.  I communicated with my brother in Abu Dhabi.  We do not communicate much but those were the days when we shared the same fear – the fear of loss.  It was in the news that San Jose and downtown areas were seriously damaged when Yolanda struck the city.  We both joined a group in Facebook which aimed at getting information about Yolanda’s victims.  We could not imagine how the search would start and how we would go about it when we found out that they were in serious condition.  We watched the news from time to time and talked with every friend from Tacloban we saw online, maybe we could get reliable information.   I even listed my mother’s name in one of the pages that sought help in looking for family members.  I did not miss any posts concerning Yolanda and its victims.

Later this day, my brother was asking for my sister’s home address.  He requested his friend, who will be going to Tacloban, to include checking my sister’s place.  Unfortunately, both of us do not know their address.  I looked for my sister’s letters but she used her office address.  It was really depressing that we could do nothing immediate for them, that all we could do at that moment was only sit and wait until something popped in.  I felt helpless and so I cried, I grieved, but most importantly, I prayed.  I prayed until my prayers became redundant.  There were moments when I stared at nothing but my heart was purely seeking for God’s loving hands to reach out to my family.  I told God, I was not yet ready to lose any of them.  I pleaded Him for His mercy, protection, love and grace to abound with them wherever they were in whatever situation they were facing.

The hours continued ticking and still no word from them.  Before I knew it, I and my roommate were at our Pastor’s place in Rangsit.  I was happy to be with people who showed concern for my family.  Their encouragements gave me extra strength to continue and never lose hope.  Their prayers gave me the courage to hold on and have faith.  I needed rest so I slept for a little while.  Then, midnight came and I found myself crying again thinking about my family.  I am just blessed enough to have a roommate who was there to comfort me during those dark times.  After I cried, I would try to go back to sleep which was really hard.  Since day one, after the super typhoon marred Eastern Visayas, I always hummed in my mind one favorite song we usually sang during “Family Night” special number in the church were we all grew up.  “When peace like a river, attendeth my way, When sorrows like sea billows roll; Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, It is well, It is well, with my soul.  (Cho.) It is well, with my soul, It is well, It is well, with my soul.”  When I felt exhausted from all the chaos and confusion, I would rest in His arms by repeating this song over and over in my mind until I would be comforted and I could be able to finally sleep again.

NOVEMBER 10.  At about 3:00 early morn, I was awakened by a dream.  It was a dream I held on from all the queries I had in my mind.  My mother was calling my name.  Her voice was so soft, so calm and so real.  She was whispering, “Tine, Tine, okay la kami (Tine, we are all okay).” And then, my phone suddenly rang.  As short as it was, I felt the connection.  Instinct told me that my mother was also saying her little prayers.  I heard her still small voice to let me know they were really okay.  I was already framing in my mind that my brother-in-law was just taking pictures, my sister was busy cleaning their rumbled house, my two nieces were playing, and my parents were just draining the water that went inside our house and were doing some chores.  I kept all these in my mind.

Time hopped so fast and I had to get up to prepare for church.  I languidly jumped out of bed and did my usual routine.  I kept praying between conversations over breakfast.  At church, just when the pianist started playing the piano, I started crying.  I was already shaking so I went in to a room, knelt down and prayed for my family’s survival.  God was really good for giving me the strength I needed without passing out.  I asked the church to pray for the safety of my family.  I was thankful for the sermon that day.  It encouraged me more to be strong and be at peace with God.  It taught me how to be calm amidst trouble and testing.  It cheered my already disheartened heart.  I left the church with the courage to fight and to win over monster Yolanda because I have a great God, bigger than any monstrous disasters.  He assured me that He will never leave nor forsake His children until Yolanda and its effects elapsed.

NOVEMBER 11.  Four days after the typhoon and still not a single word from my family.  I had every right to mourn.  Posts in Facebook came in late November 10, thanking and praising God for keeping their families safe.  Some posted that their families left Tacloban.  They had to leave because survival was all they had.

I had to live normally like it was before the typhoon.  I still went to work even when my mind and body were tired from what had happened.  I did my responsibilities at work even when half of my concentration was not there.  I tried my best to be very strong while I was loaded with things back home.  Some parents at school asked me how my family was and I told them no news yet.  The owner of the school also showed sympathy and asked me if I wanted help.  I said, “I would NOT refuse it.”  I will never forget those people who empathized at the situation me and my family were in.

At exactly 12:38 (Philippine time), just right after my class, I received a text message in my roaming phone.  I was nervous from who the message was and what was in that message.  I opened it quickly and read the best message I had in my entire life. “All are safe.  Pray for survival.  Relay to all. – Jordan Madjus” It was from my brother-in-law.  Tears were flowing as I kept reading the message.  I read it many times to make sure that I carefully understood the message relayed to me.  Those were the only words I needed to know from them.  I thanked God for keeping them safe.  That was all that matters.

NOVEMBER 18.  I flew back home to meet my family in Manila.  I did not face them with tears anymore.  I faced them with strength and courage that we, as a family, will be in this battle together.  I told them, we will celebrate the second life God has given them.  We will place in our hearts the importance of family bonding even when we are physically separated because of work.  We have to treasure each other while we still have the time because everything in this world is uncertain.  Most importantly, I had with me the financial assistance from my work and from my church in Thailand.  I will be forever grateful to those people who willingly extended their help not just to my family but to the other victims of Yolanda.

In my life, I had encountered many hurtful tragedies brought by nature but super typhoon Yolanda was the most heartbreaking one.  It destroyed my once peaceful hometown.  It harmed my family.  It ruined the many memories I had as a child.  It left the city with nothing but only ruins from the calamity.  It deprived its people from the simple yet happy life they used to have.  It shattered the progress it worked so hard to achieve.  It caused thousands of lives, some are still missing and most who have survived are still trying to move on.  In some way, we, the Waray people may never forget what this tragedy brought into our lives but we will rise from this catastrophe.  We will get up and gather all the broken pieces, put it up together and will be healed from all these pain the nature has given us.  We will make new memories.  We will regain the simple life that was taken from us.  We will work together until we accomplish the progress we once had.  To those whose lives were not spared, we will not forget all of you.  We will face these giants by entrusting everything into the hands of our Almighty God.  He will help us prosper.  The NEW TACLOBAN, the rise of OTHER WARAY TOWNS and REGIONS will transpire.  We just have to keep the faith and believe that we will surpass the greatest challenge that was given to us.  We will make these happen!!!

Under The Juniper Tree

Clouds of inspiration caressed me while I was listening to a Sunday morning sermon.  And while my pastor was confiding his message on the subject, “Alone but Not Alone,” I got very interested when he talked about an exceptional tree that gave impact in the life of Elijah (1 Kings 19:1-14 KJV).  I started scribbling down particular thoughts that he mentioned.

Elijah was a great character in the Bible.  He did many great things in his time, however, he was not excused from the failures, fears and discouragements we experience in this present time.  In the passage (v.4), he asked for death to end his agony because he sensed that his life was in shambles.  Just like any of us, we forget to acknowledge that all things will work together for good (Romans 8:28 KJV) despite the misery we bumped into.  And while we’re at this point, we fail to look above and allow God to hold us in our most difficult time.

The Juniper’s Presence:

On his way to Beersheba, he got very tired and laid himself under a juniper tree (v.5).  A juniper tree is not just any normal tree.  Its leaves are scaly and prickly that no one would even want to touch it.  Its height is just about 7 feet.  Do you really think sleeping under it is a comfort?  But what choice has Elijah got? He was in the wilderness.  Everything was tough and he had to appreciate what was available for him.  So, he slept.

The worst thing may only be the best thing we needed.  Elijah’s comfort was far etched but God’s presence was formed in the image of the Juniper Tree.  Be comforted that whatever happens, He will never leave us nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5c KJV).

The Juniper’s Protection:

In the sermon, it was emphasized that no snake could ever get close to a juniper tree.  Can you imagine how Elijah was protected from harm while he was sound asleep? How I wish I could find one juniper tree and plant it beside my doorstep so that no snake will ever get near my place!

Same is true with God, when we face troubles in our lives and we don’t know where to hide, run to God and let Him be the Juniper Tree that will protect us and will shield us in the face of destruction.  His arms are always open to receive us and we will be secured.  Always remember that God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble (Psalms 46:1 KJV).

The Juniper’s Provision:

While he was yet fast asleep, an angel touched him and asked him to get up and eat (v.5).  He found a cake freshly baked and a cruse of water over his head (v.6).  God provided what Elijah needed while he was yet to prepare himself for a greater task.  Consider that before Elijah even asked for food, it was already set before him.  And consider again, a baked cake freshly made in the desert? Think twice, but, do not forget that even the sparrows are in His care, too (Luke 12:6 KJV).   So, when we don’t have anything, turn to God and hide in the shelter of the Juniper Tree.  We will be provided with everything.

Only one tree helped Elijah surpass the difficulties he was in.  We do not need to run away from our troubles because we are already safe under the branches of the Juniper Tree.  God helped Elijah before and He will do the same for us now and the next day.  He will not fail us because He is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8 KJV).

Bloomed in Saraburi

This is my first contest article.  The theme was about “Your Amazing Place in Thailand.”

Why I chose Saraburi (knowing that it is not one of the tourist places in Thailand) because it is where God has planted me.  So far, I have learned many things from its people, its culture and its language.

Bloomed in Saraburi

http://www.tatnews.org/christine-grace-g-arceno/

When the school had some Thai artists for a visitor

When the school had some Thai artists for a visitor

Two years ago, I embarked onto the island of Thailand with no specific place to go.  I did not know anything about the country.  All I knew is that, it is a part of the continent of Asia, close to my beloved country – the Philippines.

I only knew one person then.  I had no choice but to stay where she lives.  Days went by, I had learned to accept that things will not change the way I wanted them to be.  I had to deal with them.  I had to find a good job in the area and grow with it.  And I did!

Being a novice, it took me three weeks to land in a teaching job.  I am blessed with how God’s power was manifested in the wide search of jobs and places.  One thing is for sure, He provided the right place for me.

With just about two hours away from Bangkok and still being a part of the central provinces of Thailand, a renowned locality, and the town that had served significant role in the country’s history, I have established myself in the City of Saraburi.

I cannot find anything good or exceptional in this place during my first few months.  I had a thought then that Saraburi is only a boring, sleeping city with nothing to do but work and just stay at home.  All the while, it’s been silent, until months passed on that it could not contain itself from silence.  It flared up to me with a great sense of calmness and pride that a quiet city compared to a spot light will shine its best when given the privilege.  I had no other option but to see what the city has to offer.  And I was amazed at what I had found out.  It gave me what I had sought for.

At the outset of God’s outpouring blessings is a teaching job in Anuban Ratsami School, a growing Kindergarten and Primary school in the midst of Amphur Mueang, Saraburi. And also, a place where I can stay that is provided by the school.  Though, it is not as spacious as others may have but I have called it home.  God is so good for making things available for me.  It has really proven beyond question that He will supply everything according to your needs.  We just have to ask.  And what is more surprising is that the pouring did not just stop right there.

yam, a Thai salad it's yum if it's not spicy!

yam, a Thai salad
it’s yum if it’s not spicy!

Saraburi, also, has aroused my enthusiasm to learn new things.  Because of its minor demands in life, the city has helped me to be more conscious of the people around me, to be more sincere with what I do and with what I say, to be more familiar with the things in the environment, to be more cautious with my actions, to understand the culture that Thai people have embraced all their lives, to at least try to speak the language so I might be able to communicate even if I have to say it in a snake’s tongue, and most especially to ‘chim’ everything I would not even dare to eat.  More than anything else, to teach what Thai people need to learn for them to expand their horizons so that they will be more competent in the fast pace of life.

What really moved me is how I have bloomed in the span of two years.  Staying in a less pressured environment and working hand in hand with the people I could hardly communicate with, has turned me into a different person – a person of worth, a person who gained more faith and a person with diligence and integrity.  I have attained all these in the place where God has planted me.  Given another chance to work in another place, I would always look back at where I have started while I keep in my thoughts the things that I have learned.   It would always be a great joy to look back at the pride calmness of Saraburi, the place in Thailand that inspired me the most.