This knocked me off my feet

Sometime around 2005 I realized that Final Fantasy does not have a monopoly to thought-provoking and emotionally charged stories in video games. Just now, my wife and I are enjoying Persona 3 – this is immersive-RPG-experience-outside-of-Final-Fantasy #2 for us. #1 was two years ago when we played Shadow Hearts: Covenant.

This scene in particular staggered me. Karin’s pronouncement came as a total surprise following Yuri’s expression of his resolve despite the personal crisis he faced.

Sometimes it’s just enough to say it out. When the situation doesn’t provide for any other possibility and you face a dead end, with no other option but to turn around, sometimes the hopelessness can be alleviated by simply expressing how you feel without any expectations. Just say your piece and then move on.

I can wait forever… but I’d rather not

What is that one one thing that is common to all people of all classes, ages, denominations, nationalities, ethnic groups and races?Â

We all like to eat.

There is one thing, however, that we all hate to eat. Our own words. In the human psychological make-up, the revulsion to swallowing one’s pride and retracting on self-imposed dogmatic principle is basic and elemental.

(Why am I talking like a college textbook publisher? I don’t know, must be bcos of teh sexy gal in dat pic :p )

This morning someone called me about a job opening in an ABS-CBN-owned company. ABS-CBN.  I told my wife about it and she started laughing. Why wouldn’t she? My intense dislike for that TV station is almost legendary owing to the sheer inanity of many… no… MOST of its programs (Kokey, anyone?). But hey, I shouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth. A job prospect is always a blessing and an opportunity. Even if it is with a company that we dislike for whatever personal reasons we have. In this case, if it does come to a point when circumstances dictate that I work in ABS-CBN, what the hell else could I do?

For one thing, I could laugh. At myself. After all the times I bad-mouthed said broadcasting company, I’d end up working there after all. Wahaha. My wife is still laughing – it’s not often she sees me eating my own words. Which is fine, humiliating but fine. So what? It’s not gonna kill me. Who knows, this prospect might just lead to better things for us.

So yeah, I guess that’s the point I’m driving at. Pride notwithstanding, if you know retracting a sweeping statement that you previously declared dogma would result in things getting better, don’t hesitate. It won’t kill you. I’ve met a lot of people who won’t budge in their adherence to principles that they know had been leading them away from better opportunities just because they don’t have the balls to swallow their pride. Traditionalists. Cultured music aficionado wannabes who wouldn’t admit that they like alternative rock. “I can only work with this kind of people” pseudo-professionals. Subscribers to the people-in-a-relationship-should-stick-with-it-come-hell-or-high-water thought school.

Sometimes the opportunity one allows to pass just because of some pointless principle that really doesn’t serve any purpose other than give someone a false sense of “I’m a man of my word” honor is so huge that the waste is almost categorically criminal. Like shredding a 1000-peso note.

I’m posting this knowing full well that to practice what I’m preaching, I have to welcome the prospect of working in an ABS-CBN company. I still don’t like the idea, but now I’m keeping an open mind, lest my wife starts cackling like a hyena all over again. No big deal, really. It only hurts a little. Kind of like birthing pains. Or breaking a few eggs to make an omelet. Or winning a Fear Factor contest. None of which would kill me, to say the least

Good morning, heartache

WEEEEE!

One of the perks of being on “extended” vacation is being able to do something I’ve always wanted to do – drive around town early in the morning just to enjoy the morning sun and closely pay attention to and observe the things that you normally pass by obliviously in the blur of your everyday trek to work. It’s quite enlightening, really.

– McDo at Quezon Avenue, at the same intersection where you could find National Bookstore, Jollibee and Mercury Drug (I could never remember the street name) is jam-packed during breakfast. Yes, much more than McDo El Pueblo. Which is a little surprising since the locale isn’t exactly the bustling commercial spot-type that Ortigas Center is.

– You could really only enjoy an eat-all-you-can breakfast buffet when you don’t have anything else to do for the rest of the day. This is so true at least for me because I tend to get my money’s worth on buffets (is why I try to limit my binges to a max of twice every six months). This case particularly I’m talking about the breakfast buffet at Grills & Sizzles at the corner of Times and Examiner. Which is good, but not as good as that breakfast buffet served by Something Fishy over at Eastwood City (you get to try a lot of breakfast treats when your work routinely takes you to the wee hours of the morning, like mine did).

– You know what fitness gurus say about warming up first before going back to your workout regimen if you’re coming back from a long lull (in my case, two months). It is true – don’t ever see it as nothing more than popular fitness blabber for selling Men’s Health magazines – if you don’t, it WILL hurt in the morning, and in the following two mornings at the least. Well, that’s exactly what I had in mind when, before hitting the boxing gym again I decided to loosen up first on my Orbitrek cross-trainer. Lesson learned: just because it’s a home exercise equipment doesn’t mean it’s light enough for loosening up after an extended sedentary hiatus. Hell no. My legs hurt like hell the next day, and my ribs were strained to near-fracture point. Next time (though I hope there won’t be a next time), I’ll settle for the simpler push-up.

– Even after all these years, there are still a good number of pasaway drivers who think they could get away with ignoring the number-coding rule (trivia: the Philippine road rule on number-coding was once listed in some website as among the stupidest government laws enacted).

– It pays to be a morning person, I discovered. I think I’ll start calling it in much earlier so I could enjoy more eventful mornings like these before I eventually go back to work (which I suspect is approaching real fast).

Good morning, everyone

Scarred to death

I discovered this morning that sometimes you do know when you’re talking in your sleep. It was probably because I was already half-awake that I remembered this dream I had. About my ex, Grace, and how we bumped into each other at an East Bay town situated about an hour away from San Francisco. We become sort of friends again. Then one day I was looking for her at her house and couldn’t find her. When I ran into her later that day she said she went to drive a “friend” of hers (a Chinese-Fil-Am who had been flirting with her) to the airport, and then saw a movie. Knowing her, alarm signals immediately went off in my head, which was confirmed when I saw that Chinese-Fil-Am guy still later that day – turns out they never went to the airport. She said she saw a movie alone to account for the hours she was gone. I said “I don’t buy it” after which she gave me a treatment of her patented guilty silence.

Here’s where I knew I was talking in my sleep, when I told her “Eto ka na naman. After all these years hindi pa rin natatapos ‘yang kalokohan mo. Bahala ka na nga. Buhay mo naman saka pamilya mo ang sinisira mo. Siguro kaya hindi tayo nagkatuluyan para hindi ako ang mamroblema sa ‘yo.”

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Disclaimer: the above were all just a dream. Grace and I didn’t end up with each other because she two-timed me. Three times (yeah, making me one of the dumbest guys on the planet, I know). But I haven’t heard from her in two years so I really don’t know where she is or what she’s been doing with her life. No idea whatsoever.

The point is this: it’s been years and I still sporadically find myself thinking or having dreams about her, particularly about her unfaithfulness. The issue of a girl’s infidelity delivers a particularly staggering impact because of the hard times I’ve had to go through brought about by her repeated two-timing (I suspect at least 4 guys she had slept with in the 6 years we were together – one of the 4 is confirmed. That was how dumb I was then).

So, does this mean I still love her? Or I still have feelings for her of some sort? Or I’m still hurting?

Nope. If any of the above were true, I wouldn’t be able to speak openly about this in a medium where my wife could see. I wouldn’t be able to speak openly about this to her at all. But I could, and I do. So no, no leftover feelings, no leftover hurt.

But “it left a scar”, so said Sara Milas, Eva Mendes‘ character in the movie Hitch.

Yeah. Sometimes the wound cuts so deep that although you’ve already healed, it still leaves a scar. The painful experience becomes something that you will always remember for the rest of your life.

Is it a bad thing? No, not necessarily. Scars of past “war wounds” only become a bad thing when we misinterpret in entirely. Case in point: a friend of mine, when speaking about his ex, always wonders if maybe he still loves her. I wouldn’t know for sure, but all indications tell me that it’s a scar he’s mistaking for something else.

A scar is nothing more than a mark where a serious injury used to be. We should never play the romantic by seeing it as something else – as some sort of a link in the past that maybe we should never have left behind, and that maybe we should at least catch up with. Some hurts are so serious that you never forget. Remembering the boy and remembering the feelings are two different things (Joey Albert, wahahaha ), and we should learn to discern which is which in order for us to get on with our lives.

So it’s okay to remember, really. Just don’t misconstrue it as “having something left over”. You can breathe a sigh of relief now because it’s done. Kaput. Finished. You just have a scar. You’re fine. No problem.

There is no such thing as fire-proof paper

1) For some reason I’m reminded again of this nursing student friend I had some years ago. Young, pretty, but with a streak of rebellion in her. For a while she was able to get her act together after joining a group of people dedicated to serving the Lord through music. Got very active in the ministry, read her bible almost everyday, attended weekly devotions and even undertook voice training in an effort to serve better.

But then, there came a period when she had to spend a lot of time with her friends at school for a group project. Went on a lot of out-of-town trips that were partly business and partly pleasure. Ever vigilant, her friends at church gave her some precautionary talk about not spending any more time with this group than is necessary, or something like that. “I can handle it,” she answered. She was clearly having the time of her life, which was probably natural since she’s young and probably enjoying all kinds of new experiences with her new group of friends.

One day, over YM, she blurted at my wife “PUTANG-INA MO!!!”

2) Another friend, a pastor’s wife. Also totally dedicated to the Lord and her family. She was also very intelligent, headstrong, and an overachiever, the type that wouldn’t let go of an anything without doing something substantial first. A woman who values her career almost as much as she does her family, she excelled at her job and made a lot of important friends in the business. Invested a lot of herself, time and effort into her career and met all sorts of people. At the same time, she tried to spare some time for the ministry as well.

But things hadn’t been easy. She tried to serve two masters. Believed in her inherent ability to juggle two different worlds, both of which demanded a lot from her. But she clearly became immersed with only one, and she wound up pouring her heart to her career more than she probably should have.

Next thing I know, she was having an affair with a coworker.

3) Another story about a pastor. No details. Simply that this pastor thought that socializing and spending time with some of his female friends poses no danger since he’s confident with his spirituality. He ended up having an affair with one of them just the same.

4) Jimmy Swaggart. Nuff said.

All of the above happened a pretty long time ago. All of the people I mentioned had repented since then and become straight with God again.

But how many people did they cause to stumble before repenting? How many people did they hurt in the process?

Two verses come to mind:

“Do not be misled: ‘Bad company corrupts good character.’ ” (1 Corinthians 15:33)

“So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” (1 Corinthians 10:12)

I don’t care how much you claim that you still attend regular devotions and bible studies. As long as you continue to expose yourselves to situations where you could fall, you will fall. This has already been proven by hundreds of Christians who thought they could deal with precarious situations and then find out when it’s too late that they couldn’t.  Take the hint already.

Parting Shot: Here’s a rather amusing story I read from Reader’s Digest:

A man put out an ad for a chauffeur at a local newspaper. Three experienced drivers responded to the ad. During the screening, the man asked two of the applicants to wait outside the room, and then asked the one applicant in the room a question.

“When driving on a road near a cliff, how far away from the ledge could you drive without falling off?”

“Five inches.” Proudly declared the first applicant.

The man then asked him to go out and tell the second applicant to come in. He then asked the second applicant the same question.

“Two inches.” He answered, grinning with cockiness.

As with the first, he told the second applicant to go out and call the third applicant. The man asked the same question.

“I’d stay as far away from the ledge as possible.” said the third applicant.

He got the job.

Another one bites the dust

“But I know the rage that drives you. That impossible anger strangling the grief, until the memory of your loved one is just… poison in your veins. And one day, you catch yourself wishing the person you loved had never existed so you’d be spared your pain.”

Henri Ducard (Liam Neeson), Batman Begins, 2005

After my brother died (car crash), my mom introduced me to one of her colleagues at work, a woman who was a little bit older than her. Then my mom told me about that colleague of hers, particularly her decision to be emotionally detached from her children. Why? So that she didn’t have to suffer from the intense grief as my mom (and dad) did as a result of my brother’s death.

Sounds kinda practical. Don’t let yourself get emotionally attached to anything and anyone so you’d suffer less pain if you lose them — and you will lose them. Squall Leonhart of Final Fantasy VIII had the same idea. “I don’t want friends who won’t be around tomorrow”, he said. If you don’t plan to stick around, I might as well keep you at arms length.

My mom disagrees. Yes, she hurt like hell when she lost her son. But according to her, the hurt is still worth it. She’d rather go through the painful consequences of loving than to play safe and, in the process, lead a life devoid of the joys of loving.

But you know, sometimes I’m with my mom’s colleague. And Squall.

The sting of losing someone is just not worth it.

“Credit” this to experience

Back in California, I had 10 credit cards. Ten. Four of them are unactivated, owing to my peculiar habit of sending credit card applications just for the heck of it (which falls under the same category of test-driving cars when I have no plans of buying – but that’s a story for another day). I used six – and as a result found myself deep into debt that for the life of me, I didn’t quite know how to settle.

Fortunately, that’s all behind me now. I’m back home, no credit cards, and I couldn’t be happier. Still, the temptation to apply still arises from time to time, especially when friends try to entice me to or when I walk into work and find bank representatives at the lobby of the building trying to sweet-talk me into availing of great deals, like no interest payment for 2 years and similar lures to taste “the good life.” I would then tell my wife about it, to which she would respond with a lecturing look while saying in her usual sweet manner, “Hon, do we really need it?”

We don’t. From the start, my wife and I promised that we would lead a simple life. We have a home, food on the table, and even a car to get around with, even if it’s not my dream Nissan Skyline GT-R. So again, wifey will prove right, and I would snap back to the plan.

There’s a reason for this, actually. If you think living simply and wisely is just the simpleton’s lame attempt to chicken out of the real world, take a gander at this:

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Question: “What does the Bible say about a Christian going into debt?”Answer: Paul’s charge to us to owe nothing but love in Romans 13:8 is a powerful reminder of God’s distaste for all forms of debt that are not being paid in a timely manner (see also Psalms 37:21). Usually we think of debt in terms of a monetary obligation. But in light of the context of this entire passage (Romans 13:1-10), Paul seems to have a broader view of debt in mind (Romans 13:7). Not only does he speak of taxes, tolls, and tariffs that are imposed on us by our government, but also the respect, honor and praise we owe to those in high authority. All of us are debtors to God’s grace. As He has shown us love, we need to extend love to those around us with whom we live and work – even those who tax and govern us.

Some people question the charging of any interest on loans, but several times in the Bible we see that a fair interest rate is expected to be received on borrowed money (Proverbs 28:8, Matthew 25:27). In ancient Israel the Law did prohibit charging interest on one category of loans – those made to the poor (Leviticus 25:35-38). This law had many social, financial, and spiritual implications, but two are especially worth mentioning. First, the law genuinely helped the poor by not making their situation worse. It was bad enough to have fallen into poverty, and it could be humiliating to have to seek assistance. But if in addition to repaying the loan a poor person had to make crushing interest payments, the obligation would be more hurtful than helpful.

Secondly, the law taught an important spiritual lesson. For a lender to forego interest on a loan to a poor person would be an act of mercy. He would be losing the use of that money while it was loaned out. Yet that would be a tangible way of expressing gratitude to God for His mercy in not charging His people “interest” for the grace He has extended to them. Just as God had mercifully brought the Israelites out of Egypt when they were nothing but penniless slaves, and had given them a land of their own (Leviticus 25:38), so He expected them to do a similar kindness to their own poor citizens.

Christians are in a parallel situation. The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus has paid our sin debt to God. Now, as we have opportunity, we can help others in need, particularly fellow believers, with loans that do not escalate their troubles. Jesus even gave a parable along these lines about two creditors and their attitude toward forgiveness (Matthew 18:23-35). He also instructs His followers: “Freely you have received, freely give” (Matthew 10:8).

The Bible neither expressly forbids or allows the borrowing of money. The wisdom of the Bible teaches us that it is usually not a good idea to go into debt. Debts essentially makes us a slave to the one we owe. At the same time, in some situations going into debt is a “necessary evil.” As long as money is being handled in a wise way, and the debt payments are manageable – a Christian can take on the burden of financial debt if it is necessary.

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Not a rub against anyone, but maybe more of a friendly reminder. Having credit cards and taking out loans for whatever purpose you may have, it’s your call and I would never dream of encroaching into your freedom to do what you want. But as someone who used to be deep in debt and had learned a lesson from it, you might just want to take my counsel (more of my wife’s, really) and take the time to ask yourself first if you really need this something you’re getting yourself into debt for. Stopping to think might reveal a thing or two that might give you a pleasant surprise. Who knows, right?