I Was Supposed to Say Goodbye

Cliche as it sounds, we learn the most valuable lessons in times of difficulty.

The past two years, most specifically the past few months, were the hardest times for me.

Ticking off a few from the checklist of life’s dagok (strikes) are (in no particular order):

  • Heartbreak
  • Finished the rigorous medical school training (sleep-deprived, food-deprived, pressure to excel, some difficult people to deal with)
  • Presented a paper for an international medical schools conference
  • Volunteered for an NGO, got a pretty good case of how it is to be culture-shocked
  • Gave my all for Milk Matters and various service activities (pawis, luha, dugo) (blood, sweat and tears)
  • Contracted a debilitating pulmonary tuberculosis
  • Got me a good scolding from the parents for not taking better care of my health
  • Struggle to support myself financially
  • Letting go of some relationships
  • Pre-residency in UP PGH Pediatrics (repeat pattern of sleep deprivation and skipped meals)

Come to think of it, what I thought were strike outs– heartbreak, rigorous medical milestones for a student becoming a doctor, an infectious disease– were, in reality, God’s blessings. Looking at some of my difficult experiences, I realized that blessings and burdens are actually two sides of the same coin.

I was a bit baffled as I was listing the experiences above ,realizing I cannot set a definite demarcation between blessings and burdens. That I cannot just compartmentalize burdens to just that: a purely negative experience. No, they’re not. Burdens are actually blessings waiting to be learned from.

I can only say this in retrospect. I needed time and the grace to be changed for the better to see and believe.

As an imperfect human being (thank God for this realization), I wish I could say I’ve learned this blessing-in-a-disguise-of-burden as I was undergoing the dark phases of my life. Looking back, if I hadn’t really held on to God, hindi ko alam kung saan ako pupulutin ni Lord. And if I had let go of His Hand, as I was tempted to and did let go several times, He still held me.

What a faithful Being.

I was supposed to say goodbye to some of God’s gifts to me: my sorority sisters, my precious relationships with friends (brothers and sisters), my community…

The severity of the pain was blinding. I was tempted to let go and just leave the people who love me.

But God stayed. God wouldn’t let me go. And that gave me the safe and secure space to hold on to Him as well. I was safe and secure in His love for me.

I was supposed to say goodbye. But God has other plans for me. Better plans for me.

I would hold on to His promises. For I know the plans for you says the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

PS. By saying goodbye, I do not mean to end my life. It was a way of staying away from some relationships.

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Pulling up by the bootstraps

I am in transition.

There are a lot of changes as I enter this new chapter of my life:

  • A new job (Pediatrics residency)
  • A new set of people to work with
  • A new environment with a familiar culture
  • A new condo unit with new roomies
  • A new district in Ligaya (a Catholic community) *
  • A new set of friendships to discover
  • A new way of lifestyle, particularly in taking care of my health (I have TB, ongoing treatment)

And, most importantly, a stronger and refreshed Gela whose identity in the Lord has been renewed after undergoing a formidable challenge.

In a lot of ways this feels like an early New Year for me. The kind when I look forward to a future brimming with hope and suffused with dreams. And, inevitably, I look back to the recent past that is pockmarked by hurts here and there, and mistakes that, if given another chance, I would best think twice before doing.

Buti nalang may Diyos na mapagpatawad, kahit hirap ako dun. (It’s a good thing the Lord is forgiving, despite my struggle in that area.)

Truth is, as I look back, instead of inwardly punishing myself like before, I am now more hopeful. More hopeful that I change for the better. I am trying to change for the better. And by changing for the better I mean:

  • Learning to receive and live the love that I have come to know in depth because of the Lord
  • Learning to love myself more by being rooted in God’s identity for me
  • Taking good care of the relationships God has given me and will give me (this is one of the most important!)
  • Being a good and kind friend to myself and to others
  • Showing my family how much I love them
  • Accepting my weaknesses and limitations, repent of my sins
  • Accepting the realities of life that sometimes, what we hoped for wouldn’t turn out the way we expected it to be
  • Accepting the reality that good friendships can be lost, and in the hopelessness of trying to reconcile again, just surrender it to God (this is why bullet #3 is important)
  • Forgiving and letting go. That way I am doing myself a big favor by allowing more room for love.
  • New goals for myself! I am very inspired to be accepted in my top (and only) choice for residency training. I am aiming for research, acing exams, honing my communication skills and being a compassionate Pediatrician
  • I am hopeful for my renewed desire to commit to Ligaya and further investigate its way of life
  • To train my eyes to see the good in people and in circumstances (and thank the Lord for them)

Overall, the goal is to continue having a heart being transformed by God into the woman I am made to be in whatever role I currently take on.

One night as I lay in bed, I counted these new changes and felt overwhelmed. I was on the verge of crying. Not tears of joy, but of anxiety. In my mind I saw myself jumping off a cliff’s edge, trusting I would land on solid ground that I did not see. It was scary.

But thanks to the grace of being able to stand in the strength of the Lord. These changes are for my good. They are His best plans. Though I do not yet see the whole map, I am willing to take the first few steps to wherever these changes are leading me. That entails having the Lord as my sole source of stability and strength.

Here’s to pulling myself up by the bootstraps!

I pray for spiritual and emotional maturity. Please pray for me. 🙂

*A good friend told me these changes are not sure yet. But, I am including it just because it is a potential change.

Unsettling

Famished. I am famished for the Lord. Every day’s gospel, daily reflection, thoughts and messages of hope and reassurance fill my heart and replenish my soul.

But it’s not enough. I want more of the Lord.

Especially now that I am on the verge of opening new chapters of my life: PGH Pediatrics residency and whether or not to continue with the Ligaya ng Panginoon community.

Especially now that I am coming to terms with my personal issues and finding the grace to accept and love myself the way God made me.

Now more than ever, in these unsettling times, my seeking of God climbed with a sense of deep need and desperation. I need to hear His voice so that I know I am still following Him. So that I know, what I know to be the right thing is His thing.

I want to change and accept for the better. Lord, I just want to be healed, and experience the full glory of living the way I am truly created to live.

I am writing this because I ought to move in to my new place tomorrow for pre-residency, but I feel I am not yet ready to leave my home. I need more heart. I need more time with the Lord. It’s okay to get scared sometimes, as long as the Lord is with me.

Love is (blind) dating

It felt like eons ago since I last saw my two best friends from high school. Coincidentally, we call each other “Mars” for “Mare”, amiga or close friends, the same way my closest friends in Medicine school call each other.

April, Tere and I have been good friends for 15 years now, through thick and thin, good and bad times. April is an aspiring lawyer and currently works for the government. Tere is a mother of three and belongs to the HR personnel in SM Puerto Princesa City.

It was catch-up time with all the people we knew, yet it never felt like there was ever any gap among the three of us.

We have grown, assuming the new roles we have chosen, trying to manage our priorities, lead our personal lives, achieving our dreams. Though I personally have to allot more time for them, they never really questioned the friendship. We have taken good care of each other for fifteen years and counting. I could never be more grateful for such true friends.

Being two of my closest friends, my lovelife (or its absence thereof) has been one of the hot topics of the dinner conversation.

“Hanapan niyo naman ako ng date,” I quipped.

A few rounds of kilig shrieks after, they rummaged through their facebook accounts, searched for possible and eligible men, called up their good male friends and went on to pile a list of names in their heads as to who would be my dates.

That is what you call supportive friends.

It was such a fun time with them compiling names, racking up their brains suddenly making an inventory of their male friends for a date with me.

Nakakatawa. I am excited how this date for me would turn out. *fingers crossed*

 

Talk of the Town

I am a public speaker. And here are my discoveries about my blossoming relationship with the craft of public speech.

Though I already did have quite a number of talks for experience, and some of them were big talks with big audiences, I cannot say for sure exactly how many talks should I make still in order to be an official, legitimate speaker. I  had no formal training except for the times my mom made me join the declamations/orations/elocution contests during grade school until high school. I am not even sure if one can count that as formal training. From there on, all I had was the continuous flow of opportunities to speak. The talk proper became my precious practice as well.

Preparing for my big talk in the Ten Accomplished Youth Organizations (TAYO) which happened last September 2 in Landbank Plaza, Manila, was an eye opener in the way I have been loving this craft.

I call it a craft, because public speaking is an art. The speaker is the canvas. The message is the inherent value. The way it is delivered– the words, the non verbal gestures, the pauses, the emphasis on some ideas– is the different strokes and varying colors.

The way it is delivered depends largely on personality. How a speaker concocts her talk, how she prepares for it, how she delivers it, what words or style she uses, depends on the uniqueness of her personality. One can see the quirks here: the jokes, the wit, the seriousness, the profundity, the ease, the energy. Each talk is bound to be different from one another despite trying to communicate the same message, because each person is unique. Each one has her own experience. Each one has her own way of understanding the message and communicating it across the audience.

Although the fun and entertaining trait of the talk can be found in the different strokes and varying colors, alone it cannot suffice for the worth of the message. I am not impressed by speakers who are highly entertaining and makes the audience laugh, takes off splendidly but fails to land the points of her message to the audience. She was in there for theatrics and performance, not for communicating value.

I think the most important responsibility a speaker must be able to do is to communicate the inherent value of the message. And to try to communicate it wholly as to how she understands the message. Why is the message important to her? And why should the audience know its importance? The inherent value of the message is the big rock of any talk. Failing to communicate the “why” of the message empties the whole talk. It becomes flimsy and forgettable.

The speaker is the canvas. It is in her mind that she forms the words. It is in her heart that she derives her passion. It is in the lens of her experiences that she sees through the value of her message. She is not a tabula rasa. Everything she says is pre-formed by previous experiences, tainted by the hopes of her dreams and influenced by the maturity of her character. Her thoughts, ideals, dreams even the broken ones are there to substantiate and make whole the message. She makes her own self the moving canvas: to paint on and to paint with.

When the speaker, the message and the way it is delivered harmonize into one to form the talk, that is creation. The speaker unites herself to the message, becomes one with it in the process of preparing for it and actually delivering it. The pain of the preparation, the laboriousness of thinking, writing and practicing, are likened to the pangs of birth. Once the message is formed, the words into place, with the right pauses and emphasis on some parts, the talk stands to become a living entity of art pronounced to life by the speaker. Its spikes of fire in the hearts of the listening audience is its manifestation of being alive.

I am glad of this newfound perspective. I hope to still learn a lot from these. I pray for more speaking engagements to come.

 

I Keep Coming Back to Manila

Two days ago I went back to Manila because of a speaking engagement.

It was for the Ten Accomplished Youth Organizations (TAYO) by the National Youth Commission, Office of Senator Bam Aquino and Office of Senator Kiko Pangilinan called the TAYO Talks. It was a TED Talks style youth conference wherein we talk about the best practices of running a youth org, how to sustain youth projects and the ingredients of an inspired youth leader. (separate article for this)

Since I only brought two lightweight travel bags with me, I opted to commute from the airport to my apartment in QC to dodge expenses. Riding a public transport bus, a jeep an FX and a tricycle, plus heavy traffic to boot, I was tired and hungry when I arrived in Philcoa.

I walked over to the tricycle bay clutching my travel bags and a takeout bag from Jollibee. As I was descending the stairs that connected the sidewalk from the main avenue, a big slab of concrete step suddenly crumbled.

I slipped, fell down on my butt hard, and only managed to flatten my takeout foodie bag as I used it for support. The spaghetti spilled over a muddied puddle. For a few seconds the impact of the intense pain in my butt froze me. My first thought was, I hoped my vertebrae was not broken. I couldn’t afford to have back pain due to fracture.

I could hear the vendors’ voices, “Ay, yung babae!” An old blind dog was sitting on the concreted steps, and I fell beside him. He barked at the immediate thud and my audible gasp of surprise and pain.

A few seconds later, there was a chorus of laughter.

People were passing by, but no one came to help.

I stood up, brushed the dust off my butt, and continued walking.

Welcome to Manila, whose community’s mindset is each to his own. A stark contrast to the people of the province.

 

Parallel Experiences

I can’t help but think, as I am experiencing my uninspired moments in Christ’s Youth in Action staff, that these moments are going to recur when I proceed to Pediatrics residency.

Contrary to popular perception, staff work is actually toxic. It is so different compared to what the students apparently see. There are a lot of stretching of the self, a lot of dying, a lot of breaking, a lot of pruning, a lot of feedback (for me, because I am stubborn) that happen in the background and away from the prying eyes of the university students. A good shattering of expectations leads me to realize romanticizing staff work is not going to work if I want to stay.

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Christ’s Youth in Action Staffers doing a Rurouni Kenshin pose in honor of Flo. Cute namin!

Not that the shattering is a bad thing. It’s part of the process. And in staff, I’m experiencing what it really is like to be a disciple of Christ. And I feel I am not even closer to the woman He has created me to be. The disciplining of the leaders in CYA staff is probably one of the most strict, yet most loving, that I’ve signed up for.

I also cannot help but think, during this seemingly lack of enthusiasm in what I do, that I’ve dealt with similar moments before.

Cases in point: Phi Lambda Delta Sorority and my internship in UP College of Medicine.

Gela with Phi Surgery
I cannot count how many little boys I circumcised. Organizing a tuli mission is one of my main jobs when I was a leader in Phi.

No need to bore you with details, but these two big decisions of my life contained my most uninspiring moments. But look what came out of it: during my term as Phi’s Sister Caritas, Milk Matters was born. Then, I was able to graduate from UP College of Medicine with awards for leadership, service and meritorious performance. I passed the Physician Licensure Exam! Goodness abound.

So as I try to find ways on how to deal with this demoted spirit in staff work, especially since BUSIER days are coming, I have three lenses I can look at that can present me rich strategies I can be creative to use: to look back and be grateful; to look forward and be ready; and to experience the present– find joy in what I do and do the things that bring me joy. (Read Colossians 3:23 Whatever you do, do it for the Lord and not for men.)

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CYA Medicine just launched out! Here I am taking a two-hour teaching off my doctor work to cater to my brothers and sister in Medicine schools. (PLM and UP Med) High yield ito ang saya! No regrets doing it kahit sobrang pagod ako after this.

I am just afraid of completely missing out on what the Lord is trying to teach me in these moments of dry inspiration. I need grace for a good sense of detachment. Another strong motivation is I just do not want to go back to the old me. Not anymore. I want to learn Your ways, Lord.

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Just because I am radiantly beautiful and happy to be here. Where I am right now. Though I know not the road ahead of me, I trust in the Lord that He will carry me through, victoriously!

Grant me faith for the future. Grant me a grateful heart. Open my eyes to see your work in me and in others.

What are You teaching me? Teach me to persevere and find joy in things that I do, even if I don’t see its fruits.

Thank you Letter Easter

Jodie. Thank you for inspiring change among 55 graduating IE students to think and step up in becoming future business leaders.

UST CYA, last April 2, 7 and on May 2 recently spearheaded Launch Out!, a series of talks about personal leadership that equips the students to think and decide to become the future’s successful business leaders.

But more than being successful, Launch Out! has driven the main point that a good and fulfilling life consists of becoming a person of significance, regardless of titles and positions of power.

“After listening to the talks, it just made me want to become a significant person who lives for others, not for myself,” says Berns, one of the graduating UST IE students.

This 3-talk series happens every Tuesday, 2-4pm in the Engineering Building. Speakers are Mr. Harvey Campos, Mr. Raoul Roncal and Mr. Jerome Quiring.

One Seed Grows

MM WDC

This is the photo of my sorority sister, Ja Verceles, as she represents Milk Matters in an annual convention in Washington, DC. Milk Matters has been selected to participate through poster presentation and in the conference for global health.

I am so proud. I cannot help but thank the Lord for the grace to actually see this happen. I am thankful, that as I look at the photo I see two blessed things: 1. To see what Milk Matters has become, that I treasure it like a child borne out of my heart, and though I have become detached from it, my love for it has been stable, steady; 2. To see that my sorority sisters are growing out of themselves and becoming a better version of themselves through service.

Six years of intensely immersing myself in service taught me to focus on the latter blessing. To invest on people. To add value to their growth by helping them maximize their strengths and work on their core passion. That, in fervent hope, as they work tirelessly and relentlessly, a change of heart happens.

That is how I show my love– through service. Amazing how it gels together, when before the Milk Matters team only set our sights on just one milk drive and see how it goes from there. The Lord makes me see His work bloom right in front of my very eyes three years after its conception. I am but His servant.

It is great to see women with such big potentials who dedicate their efforts to help the poor and the sick Filipinos.

*This is the second international conference participated in by Milk Matters. The other one is an international award and representation in China. That is aside from the many accolades it has received in University of the Philippines College of Medicine and at regional and national levels.