Sunday, January 9, 2011

Thanks for the Precious Moments

January 4th- MANILA
As many people are going back to work today, I sit in the most soothing garden I know in Manila. At the Cenacle retreat house, I sit and space out watching the butterflies flap their delicate wings.  I listen to the birds, out chirp each other.  I feel the warmth of the sun on my back.  Above me is the bluest sky littered with white soft, fluffy, cotton candy clouds.  I am home.  It is a silence I have been craving for a long time.

There is life all around me.  My soul too is alive.

After being in the frenzy of Hong Kong, I got off the treadmill of the busy cosmopolitan city on December 24th. I landed in Manila and plunged straight into the holiday festivities.  Two days ago, I still felt immersed in the merry making cloud.  It was like a lasting a hangover with the non-stop deluge of activities with my family and friends.  It is what a priest describes as “wasting time with your loved ones.”

My "Always Jolly" Nephew Alex and I on the way to the beach

Play time!

Santa's Little Elf

Precious Little Precious Moment Baby!

Lost in the giggles, adorable antics, and innocence of my ten-month-old nephew visiting from the US, time went by in a flash.  As I dove into a stack of chocolate chip pancakes with my friend Isabel on January 2nd, she described the holidays in the Philippines, “It is like taking marijuana.  You arrive before Christmas and leave on January 2nd wondering where all the time went.” With no experience in this department, I'll take her word for it. 

Instead of flying out to Hong Kong in my ‘drugged’ holiday state, I rescheduled to leave a whole week later.  I pondered many things including a question a wise spiritual friend asked at a dinner party on New Year’s Day , “A new decade has just ended and a new one is beginning.  What are the milestones of the past decade for you?”   On New Year’s Day in the midst of my happy and gay friends, I conveniently ducked her question saying it was cheesy. But deep down it was something I had been pondering for many days now.  What is meaningful to me? What has 2010 been for me?

Initially, the flood of memories surging back to me was my accomplishments in the past year. There was the joy of Six Degrees being the first book sold in all Starbucks stores in Singapore (Thanks, Starbucks for supporting your daily Cappuccino writer patron). I smiled back remembering how the Charice article I wrote made it to the cover of Reader’s Digest Asia, hitting the Philippine entertainment news.  I marveled at the half-page feature on me in the Philippine Star and the lengthy TV interview on ANC, plus the book launch in the Manila. Happy thoughts fill me looking at photos of trips to Northern Thailand and Redang, Malaysia.

Despite the holiday frenzy, one profound realization came to me at 11pm, as I was on babysitting duty watching my little nephew Alex sleep, while his parents were in a party.  I discovered that gazing at a baby sleep in his crib is a meditation.  His little butt sticking out, his gentle body relaxed, as he breathes in and out.  A peaceful energy oozes out from this tiny human being. Without uttering a word, Alex reminded me what mattered in life. It is not the accomplishments, the salary, or the position you have at work.  They are not yours to keep. Rather, it is the precious moments that matter in life.

While I may have met and interviewed big shots like Mitch Albom , author of Tuesday with Morrie; chef celebrities Ferran Adria and Thomas Keller, singers Charice and Corinne Bailey Rae, philanthropists John Wood and Barton Brooks. It is not the big grand gestures that matter but the little ones. It is a friend in Singapore insisting that we Skype at 8am (despite his bad hangover) because he is worried I haven’t been answering my emails for weeks in Hong Kong. It is a Sunday night conversation with a guy, punctuated by many gaps of silence, as he gingerly opens up about how difficult 2010 has been for him. It is receiving an email from an American I met in the Orient Express two years ago.  She reconnects telling me how her life has been since recovering from a lost love. She kept up with me on the blog, and kindly opens the door in her home should I choose to visit Oregon.  It is the letters from readers who took time to send me an email saying how much they enjoyed the book. It is seeing my mom and dad seated next to each other on the ledge looking out to the beach, giggling like young lovers.  It is seeing a dear friend stand with her dignity intact, her spirit no longer crushed. She now manages a genuine smile, a year after discovering her husband’s unfaithfulness.  It is witnessing a loved one’s resilience. She can once again laugh and be strong, now recovered from the loss of loved one almost a year later. It is laughing uncontrollably at midnight while a friend, reminisces how her late mother lovingly offered her half-slip to keep her warm in their last holiday together in California.  It is meeting up for coffee with a friend.  Despite losing his job, he is genuinely filled with joy for my new career opportunity in another country.  It is a friend promising to pray with me for the health of my loved ones.  It is hearing a dear friend who has spiritually journeyed with me for the past twelve years, burst into contagious laughter at my spontaneous irreverent comments.  It is surprising a friend on a Saturday morning that I’ve landed in Manila, coaxing him away from his high-pressure job, for a simple meal overlooking Manila Bay.  It is seeing the fireworks in Disneyland reflected in my sister’s eyes, reminding her to once again believe in the magic of life.

It is the Chinese shopkeepers where I buy fruits or stationary attempting to converse with warmth, despite the language barrier.  It is a sibling flying in to meet you in the airport, at a yet another city, to help you once again relocate and start anew. It is receiving your dad’s compliments on how you perfectly cooked the Sea Bass, as you pass him the dish for his second serving.  It is the twinkle on my brother's eye when he saw the wedding cake I made for him and his bride.  It is enjoying the ferry on Hong Kong’s harbor, thanks to a youthful friend who has endeared himself as a little brother to me.  Friends from afar who thoughtfully offered their friends to connect with as I move to a new city.  Acquaintances with wide open arms, caring to make my load lighter in a trying situations. 

My little nephew and godson Alex looks just like a Precious Moment character. His hair is wispy and long, uncut until he reaches his first birthday next month. His puffy cheeks are rosy. His eyes are wide-eyed, and filled with innocence.  He is a peaceful angel that brought the meaning of Christmas into our family’s home this year.  His adorable looks and positive presence reminded me that life is about precious moments. In 2010, I took many photos of the food before I eat them. In 2011, I resolve to be more mindful of taking more photos of precious moments in my heart.

To all the people who have kindly taken time to entrust me with the most intimate stirrings of their heart, who have made me laugh, giggle or simply soak up the sun, Thank You!  Thank you for filling my life with precious moments. I wish for your 2011 be abundantly blessed with awe, joy, and gratitude for these details that matter.


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