AN ORDINARY FILIPINO’S NEW YEAR’S WISH LIST

We, Pinoys, are known for being tolerant, long-suffering, and resilient. We have already experienced and gone through so much as a nation and yet, here we are, still very much alive and kicking.

But, now, our country is heavily encumbered by numerous and, often, complicated problems and issues that have accumulated over the years. All these, having been left unattended and unsolved for a considerably long time, are now about to reach their tipping point.

And we, the Filipino people, the end of our tethers.

I don’t think that even Santa Claus, or the Fairy Godmother, or the Tooth Fairy can do anything for any of the following wishes, but the gullible and naïve child in me will always keep on believing. And hoping. And dreaming.

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Poverty. I wish that, through government intervention, wealth would be distributed equitably among its citizens. Would it not be terrific to live in a country where all its people have decent jobs, decent homes, decent food on the table, and decent clothes on their backs? Where people no longer have to live in filthy and unsafe communities? Where everyone has access to their basic needs? Where every person can wear his dignity like a badge? And where dreams are not only far-fetched ideas but promising possibilities?

Health. I wish for a quality health care that is free for all, a respectable health center at even the most remote parts of the country, and a public medical service given without making the recipient feel belittled or humiliated. I have always dreamed of a time when no one has to be sent away from a private hospital due to failure to pay the advance payment or of someone dying because his family can’t afford the costly medicines. Focus should also be given to intensified health education among young students. The entire nation will largely benefit from having citizens that start practicing healthy living much earlier on.

Politics. I wish that our politicians will come to realize that public service is a sacrifice that one bears for his love of his country, and not for money, power, or prestige. I wish that all their decisions and choices, statements and policies, will be carefully made with the country’s interest in mind. Nothing else.

Population. I wish that couples will have the initiative to control the size of their families based on their capacity to provide for all the needs of their kids. If they cannot be an asset to the country, they should, at least, try not to be a liability. Instead of relying heavily on the government or on the destinies determined by the Fates, we should be responsible for our children’s future. We should also support the full implementation of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health law.

Unemployment and OFWs. I wish that the government can pave the way to create ample, good-paying jobs for all able-bodied Filipinos. We do not deserve to be uprooted from our homes and from everything and everyone that we hold dear. We do not deserve to be separated from our families. We do not deserve to be treated as second-class citizens in foreign lands. Philippines is our country. This is where we belong.

Agriculture. I wish that the government will effect genuine reforms and provide substantial and sustainable assistance to our farmers. Government officials should put a stop to using this neglected sector to pocket public money.

Education. I wish for a substantial increase in the salary of our teachers to motivate them to help in changing the world, one child at a time. A higher budget for public schools, including those that offer technical and vocational courses, should be allocated. Children should be encouraged to develop and maximize their potential to be well-rounded individuals.

Discipline. I wish that discipline, along with nationalism, will be rigidly inculcated in our kids as soon as they are old enough to enter school. The lack of these values in our citizens is the root of all our present problems.

Religion. I wish that people, regardless of their religious beliefs, preference, and affiliation, will learn to accept and respect each other. Committing criminal acts in the name of one’s religion is nothing but a bunch of baloney.

Traffic. I wish that the government will provide more bike lanes and footpaths so that commuters will be encouraged to leave their cars behind. (In the Netherlands, 99.1% of the people are cyclists.  27% of all trips and 25% of trips to work are made by bike.) Car sales and old motor vehicles should be strictly monitored and regulated. Public transportation networks should be upgraded. And the discipline of both the driving and riding public should be improved.

Tax. I wish for lower taxes imposed on the middle class and lower-income citizens, more stringent penalties for tax frauds and tax evaders, and a dexterous system of ensuring transparency and accountability among the custodians of the public coffers.

Nature. I wish that people will realize that our planet is our only home and, as such, should be conscientiously cared for and tenderly nurtured. It will always provide for all our needs but it will never be enough for even one man’s greed. We need someone who has the political will to enforce a total ban on plastic production and use, and to strictly impose logging, mining, quarrying, hunting, and fishing bans on already compromised areas. Reforestation projects and other programs to combat global warming should be heavily funded and put into place. Each one of us should make it our responsibility to act as our home’s guardian, protector, and nurturer.

Peace (national). I wish that all Filipinos will stop bickering, complaining, fighting, finger-pointing, and fault-finding and, instead, will start on collectively working towards the sustainable betterment of our country.

Peace (international). I wish for a genuine world peace. A world where terrorism, discrimination, and indifference do not exist. A world where all the countries work hand in hand in making this planet a better place for the coming generations. A world with no boundaries.

Future. I wish that the country we will leave behind for our children and our children’s children is much better than the one we presently have. And this can happen only if all of us will make the effort to make it so. Right now.

Finally, I wish that all our children will soon find themselves becoming significant parts of the solution to our country’s many deep-rooted and, mostly, chronic problems. Hopefully, all the values we instilled in them through all their growing-up years will be enough to fully prepare them in forming intellectual opinions, in making smart choices, and in facing the big world out there.

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THE YEAR THAT WAS (The Mom on a Mission’s 2018)

My 2018 had been a perfect combination of courage amid intimidation, and triumph amid adversity.

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23 years after I left college, I was able to muster the courage to go back and take the last subject that kept me from my elusive diploma. When I eventually graduated alongside my two cum laude children, I gathered the courage to face the members of the press who found our story inspiring enough to deserve a space in their platforms. (We even landed on the cover of the Philippine Daily Inquirer and were invited for a live interview in GMA 7’s Unang Hirit!)

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As parents, we were able to call forth the courage to see two of our three children leave the safety of our home to face new challenges on their own — Emar (who earned the title “Engineer” after passing the board exams for Chemical Engineering last November) as an employee of a Japan-founded global engineering firm, and Lala as a student of Medicine (who could barely come home even during special family occasions).

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Just recently, I along with the entire UP community, courageously rallied behind the UP Men’s Basketball Team. They made history by managing the monumental feat of taking UP back to the finals after 32 long years. They were also able to unite a community that has been beset with discord for far too long.

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I had the courage to make a stand and to continue fighting the atrocities of this administration –both online and out on the streets–, and to boldly write about my convictions and advocacies. We have yet to see our country restored to its former glory, but we will get there someday. I know, we will.

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I found the courage to meet and show my support for the people persecuted by the madman in Malacañang and his minions. There were Sen. De Lima, VP Leni, Sr. Patricia Fox, PAB blogger Jover Laurio, CJ Sereno, and Sen. Trillanes. These men and women, along with many others who fearlessly hold the line despite constant threats, are recognized both locally and internationally for their indomitable resolve in making the Philippines a better place for us, Filipinos.

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I managed to draw the courage to throw my all-out support for my no. 1 senatorial bet, Atty. Pilo Hilbay, along with the other candidates from the opposition coalition. The outcome of the midterm elections next year is crucial as it will decide whether we will still have the same Constitution and form of government that we have right now, or if we will adopt our Congressmen’s self-serving version of the Constitution. Hopefully, this time around, we will choose the candidates who will best serve the interests of the Filipino people.

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Finally, just a month ago, after managing to build the necessary courage, I actively participated in Liberal Party’s Project Makinig by going house-to-house to listen to my fellow Maloleños’ daily struggles, experiences, observations, expectations and aspirations. My humble contribution, along with that of the other volunteers, will hopefully be instrumental in addressing more effectively the ordinary citizens’ issues and concerns through the policies and solutions that the LP officials, both current and future, will formulate and implement.

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The fight in the many arenas of my life is not yet over, though. As long as I live, I know that there is something that I should be fighting for. Fearlessly. Relentlessly. Courageously.

Thank you, 2018!

Bring it on, 2019!

LORENA’S BIGGEST BULLY

“After each verbal attack, I can’t look my own children in the eye. I can’t even face myself in the mirror, for crying out loud! I feel too degraded, too ashamed, too humiliated. And then, for the millionth time, I’d ask myself. “Why do you allow yourself to be treated that way, Lorena? Don’t you have an iota of respect left for yourself?””

Lorena is a college graduate from a reputable university. She used to be a girl full of ambition, drive, and passion. She always thought that she’d be somebody someday — that the world would be at her feet.

But, she got pregnant just right after college and had to get married at the age of 20.

She didn’t experience having to struggle with the combination of excitement and dread during a job interview. She didn’t have the confidence that one acquires from years of power-dressing every morning, having intellectual discourses with clients and colleagues alike, and the adrenaline rush and the ensuing sense of accomplishment after beating a deadline. She didn’t experience the joy and sheer pride of getting her first paycheck, of traveling with friends, of splurging on bags and shoes, or even of treating her family to a meal at a decent restaurant.

She missed on all that because, when babies started to come along, she had to stay home to personally take care of them.

And she learned firsthand that all those talk that overly romantisize parenthood is nothing more than a pile of lies and bulls**t.

During the early years of her marriage, when couples normally spend their moments together honeymooning, going out on dates, snuggling on the bed or adoringly gazing at each other all day, Lorena had her hands full running the household while her husband was out proving his worth to the company he worked for. While she was busy attending to the needs of three demanding toddlers, her husband was preoccupied with earnest efforts of climbing the corporate ladder. While she was up to her neck with household chores and errands, her husband was living the life she once imagined for herself.

Soon, they found themselves drifting apart.

She’d tell herself that she might be the one to blame. After all, what man in his right mind would find a woman desirable when he sees her in nothing but sweats the whole day? When her wiry hair is in eternal disarray? When she talks of nothing else but children, expenses, and nanny issues?

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Image owned by getwelltoday.net

 

Disillusioned and wallowing in self-pity, Lorena became whiny and clingy. She became jealous, insecure, and paranoid. But, instead of getting the spousal support and peptalk that she was in dire need for, her behavior would be dealt with with indifference, estrangement, disgust, or hostility.

Soon after, she became her husband’s emotional punching bag. “He was just stressed out and pressured at work,” she would try to weakly reason out to herself.

But the outbursts became more frequent, more demeaning, more indefensible, more unforgivable.

He never hurts her physically but the emotional wounds and scars that those verbal lashings she experiences in the hands of the person who promised to love and cherish her for the rest of their lives together, are more hurtful and cruel. Those words often uttered in wild anger always leave Lorena with a pain that lingers on long after her husband is back to his more tolerable self. When he is sweeter and more generous than usual. When he is down on his knees asking for forgiveness and promising that things between them will be better.

And she would forgive him. For the sake of their children. For the sake of the many years that they have been together. For the sake of the marital vows they made before God. For the sake of their reputation.

But for how long she can keep on doing that, Lorena has no idea.

THEIR FAMILY’S SILENT KILLER

Her lips are constantly stretched into a smile, and there’s a hearty laughter always ready to burst out of her belly at someone’s hilarious story. She seems to enjoy hugging, chatting, clinking glasses, swaying to the rhythm of the music. Funny and full of energy, people tend to gravitate towards her.

She is the proverbial life of the party.

But when the music stops, when the lights are dimmed, when people start to take their leave – she is left alone.

Alone with her thoughts.

Her very dark thoughts.

In the deafening silence, her mind instantly turns into an abyss of fears, worries, doubts, and guilt. She becomes trapped in a quicksand of emotions, and, the more she struggles, the faster she sinks. She feels lost and drowning.

Then, as fast as lightning, the screaming loneliness is gone and, on its stead, is a sense of hollowness. Her confusion turns into numbness.  She becomes an unfeeling, uncaring, non-functioning zombie. An empty shell. She is, once again, trapped – this time, in a prison of apathy and indifference.

Feeling detached and disconnected from the world around her, she then realizes that her life is inconsequential. Anger starts to boil inside her until her entire being is consumed by it. She hates her situation, she hates her thoughts, she hates herself. She is both hopeless and helpless. Trapped in isolation and despair, she figures that the best way to escape from it all is to simply stop. To endure defeat, knowing that she is fighting a battle that she can never win.

To accept the fact that she doesn’t deserve to live.

 

A Warrior Named Zena

Zena Bernardo has a mental health condition that is sweeping the world at an alarming rate. She has what professionals call “clinical depression.”

Unlike the kind of depression or severe sadness that one finds himself suffering from due to a loss (especially of a loved one), a major setback (like failing the bar exam), or a medical condition (such as a thyroid disorder), clinical depression is the lingering, persistent, or chronic loneliness and hollowness that plague a person for extended periods of time. It is the kind of depression that one cannot easily snap out of despite earnest attempts and great efforts. Worse, it can take complete control over one’s life, debilitating or paralyzing it.

Like a ticking time bomb, the depression can go off anytime without any prior warning. And once it recurs, Zena feels like she is living in her personal hell, haunted and tortured by her personal demons.

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The First Generation of Bernardos

Zena’s father, Mang Romy, was the ideal family man. He was a loving son to his parents, a sweet and supportive kuya to his five younger siblings, a dedicated husband to his wife, and a nurturing Tatay to his children.

They were not financially well-off, but he and his wife made sure that their children would have a good childhood.

He exposed them to different kinds of people, acquainted them with various visual and classical arts, treated them to out-of-town trips, taught them how to ride horses, and brought them to picnics in the park. On better days, he would cook them steak, his culinary specialty.

He raised his children with science and the arts, wisdom and kindness. He let them experience life.

A liberal and patriot, he was Ka Romy to his comrades and fellow activists who knew him for his kindness and generosity. He became friends with like-minded personalities such as Butz Aquino, Fr. Joe Dizon, Lino Brocka, Behn Servantes, Maita Gomez, Nelia Sancho, Nathaniel Santiago, Lean Alejandro, and many others. Those who are still around speak fondly and very highly of him.

Tatay Romy was an engineer and, in 1966, he worked in Vietnam for five years to support his growing family. When he eventually decided to stay in the country, he opened a dental equipment manufacturing plant after his wife, Zena Sr., started a business operating a dental laboratory in Manila. He was refurbishing and servicing imported dental equipment in established dental clinics (even the clinic in Malacaňang) until he ventured in designing and manufacturing his own line. Mang Romy’s business was doing quite well for a time. However, while he was a genius as an engineer and inventor, he was not a good businessman. After he was later awarded the contract to supply the dental equipment in the UP College of Dentistry and secured a bank loan to finance the said project, and the government delayed the payments it owed to Tatay Romy’s company, the latter’s business suffered a serious and irrevocable blow. With the decision to terminate the operations of the laboratory to concentrate on equipment manufacturing, it had been difficult financially for the family.

So in 1985, his wife was forced to leave his family behind to work for a government hospital in the Middle East as a member of the administrative staff.

The business back home was barely surviving to make both ends meet; it was practically bankrupt. Coupled with his apparent feeling of inadequacy as the family’s provider, his friend Lean Alejandro’s death in 1987, and his sneaking suspicion that Zena, his then-19-year-old bunso, was pregnant, had taken their toll on Tatay Romy.

In December 22, 1988, just three days before Christmas, Tatay Romy committed suicide.

His family had always known that Tatay Romy was suffering from depression. However, as he was his siblings’ “one-man support system,” they didn’t think that he would, one day, succumb to the same silent killer that was taking his brothers and sisters one by one.

Yes, before his death, three of his other siblings who also had depression had likewise died of suicide. Less than two months after his death, another one followed suit. The lone surviving sibling has been on medication for more than three decades now.

 

The Second Generation of Bernardos

When Zena and her two siblings were younger, their parents would try to shield them from the harsh realities of depression. And since, during that time, it was a taboo subject for most people, nobody really talked openly about it. But whenever they would hear that a relative had committed suicide due to depression, or when their own father would break or throw things one minute then hole up in his room for days the next, it became increasingly difficult to ignore.

Pretending that everything was normal became impossible.

When her mother left them to work abroad and her siblings became preoccupied with either studies or friends, Zena, who was inherently a homebody, came to be her father’s constant companion and confidant. She heard about all his frustrations, and bore witness to all his episodes of depression. Fixing was also intrinsic to her so she was inclined to bridge existing gaps and to mend whatever was broken.

She became the family’s shock absorber.

She had many insecurities growing up, and she became a victim of bullying, sexual harassment, and physical abuse. She got pregnant at 19, and was blamed by everybody as the reason behind her father’s suicide. She was forced to drop out of college due to her delicate condition. Her marital life soon became problematic and toxic, so an abusive relationship and four children after, she decided to separate with her husband.

Through it all, she was silently suffering from and battling depression and Bipolar condition. To make matters worse, she felt that she had nowhere to turn to for help when she left her husband. Working overseas, her mother was not made aware of her condition, while her two siblings were also fighting the same illness that plagued the Bernardos.

She tried everything to single-handedly support her children –from running a sari-sari store and selling virtually anything she could put her hands on, to direct selling, networking, tutoring and, later on, working for a call center. However, she realized that she could not possibly get a decent-paying job without a college diploma. So, when her two oldest kids were in high school, Zena saw an opportunity to go back to college and finish her education.

After she graduated (as the class valedictorian, no less!), she worked for various companies and foundations, and actively supported countless advocacies. She can only work for short-term projects and on short-term employments, though, as she tends to get overwhelmed when she has to stay long in a single place or be deeply immersed in the same kind of work. But once she starts, she is unstoppable — pretty much like the Energizer bunny that just keeps on moving and moving and moving.

She can also be brutally frank. One of her friends said that “she speaks her mind regardless of how weak or how powerful the enemy is, and would fight to the death if she has to.” She is passionate, empowered, strong, fearless, patriotic, and fiercely loyal. She has a heart for the oppressed, the poor, and the downtrodden.

However, like many others who have depression (even the high-functioning type), she faces each day as if she is walking in a landmine. She has to tread carefully by guarding her thoughts every single minute of every single day. On the outside, she may seem happy, ecstatic even. But, on the inside, she is a shivering child scared of her own thoughts and of where those thoughts will take her.

For the countless of people that Zena was able to help and empower, for the people she was able to stand and speak for, and for the people she was able to inspire and motivate with her story of strength, grit and courage, she will always be their hero. Or an angel in disguise.

But, more than that, Zena is a warrior – a warrior who has to incessantly fight her inner demons to survive.

 

The Third Generation of Bernardos

Mox is one of Zena’s four children and is her only son. Like his mother and father, and most of his relatives from both sides of their family, he has a mental health condition, too. He was likewise diagnosed with clinical depression.

Asked how it is like when he has an episode of depression, this is what he had to say.

“I don’t know with others, but with me, I don’t think there’s a trigger, or if there is, it’s something I am not aware of. Most of the time, it just comes from nowhere. I can feel it, though, — there are signs when it’s about to hit. I lose my appetite, my interest in almost all things, generally I start to feel bored. Then, when it’s finally there, that’s when I kind of shut off from the world. I have no interest in talking with people, going out (even just outside my room), I watch movies over and over again, just a single movie several times a day. I don’t sleep as much, I think I’ve been awake for about 3 days during one of my episodes. I call it severe boredom. I am bored with life itself, like everything is overrated, and you can’t fathom the thought of still existing the next day. I just want to disappear. I didn’t want to die, not at first, I just want my body to dissipate into thin air or merge with the wall or get buried in the ground. I just want to not exist anymore. That lasts for two weeks, then everything goes back to normal again, like nothing happened.”

Mox is now living on his own. He cannot live under one roof with his mother or his sisters as they all trigger each other’s depressive episodes.

Yes, all his sisters are also suffering from variations of “ups and downs”, their family’s silent killer.

To those who are suffering from depression right now, Mox has these pieces of valuable advice. “Seek professional help. Listen to and love yourself more. Those who know and have survived through those moments have a special responsibility to help others who suffer the same condition. We’ve been through the void, we know how to help people endure nothingness. To families and friends, we’re not f*****g sad; we don’t need uplifting words. (What we need) is help in getting through each day, one task at a time. It doesn’t help when people try to comfort us and force us to speak about our pain.”

Love, understanding and kindness — these are the things that every person battling mental illness needs from us. Not judgment, not pity and, definitely, not cruelty.

IS THE FILIPINO REALLY WORTH DYING FOR?

“I have asked myself many times: Is the Filipino worth suffering, or even dying, for? Is he not a coward who would readily yield to any colonizer, be he foreign or homegrown? Is a Filipino more comfortable under an authoritarian leader because he does not want to be burdened with the freedom of choice? Is he unprepared, or worse, ill-suited for presidential or parliamentary democracy?

I have carefully weighed the virtues and the faults of the Filipino, and I have come to the conclusion that he is worth dying for…..” –Ninoy Aquino

August 21, 1983: Ninoy’s Homecoming and Death

He didn’t know exactly what awaited him in the Philippines once he gets home.

There was the possibility of his plane getting ordered to turn around. Or house/hospital arrest. Or imprisonment. Or even death. Yet, fully aware of the potential danger that his decision entailed, and against the advice of relatives, friends, and well-meaning political colleagues, he still returned to the Philippines — the only country he considered home. He used to tell his wife, Cory, that he had “always wanted to die for our country,” so if the government would have him killed, “that’s the best thing that would happen to me.”

Ferdinand Marcos was seriously ill, the economy was in shambles, insurgency was becoming a major problem, and the cronies were fighting among themselves like ravenous vultures. Moreover, the opposition was fragmented. Ninoy Aquino, the Wonder Boy of Philippine politics, felt the urgent need to go back home after three years of self-exile in the US. Fearing that a military takeover or armed conflict would ensue should the strongman die or rendered incapacitated by his illness, Ninoy wanted to talk to Marcos, believing that he could somehow convince the latter to restore democracy in the country. (Marcos already ended Martial Law two years prior, but according to Ninoy, ”Without dismantling the apparatus of dictatorship, the lifting of martial law is [just] a cruel deception.”)

Ninoy was warned countless times — by government emissaries, by Gen. Fabian Ver, and by Imelda Marcos herself — that there were intelligence reports of assassination plots against him. Thinking that it was just a desperate ploy to dissuade him from returning to his beloved homeland, he went on with his plan.

I could have opted to seek political asylum in America, but I feel it is my duty, as it is the duty of every Filipino, to suffer with his people especially in time of crisis,” he was quoted as saying. He added, “I will never be able to forgive myself if I have to live with the knowledge that I could have done something and I did not do anything.”

Fraternity brothers, Ninoy and Marcos were longtime political opponents, archrivals, bitter foes. Ninoy was the bane of Marcos’ existence, the thorn in his side, his political nemesis, and the greatest threat to his insatiable greed for power. Fearlessly outspoken, Ninoy was known for his legendary charisma, the gifts of gab and eloquence, his brilliance, and his indomitable spirit. Since he became Senator in 1967, he would grab every available opportunity to speak out against Marcos’ authoritarian rule. He was relentless in exposing the Marcoses’ plunder of government coffers, their lavish lifestyle, and their numerous excesses and abuses. He was the most dauntless, staunchest, and most vocal critic of the Marcoses and their cronies.

When Marcos declared Martial Law in 1972, in an apparent effort to suppress the growing opposition and to legitimize his extended rule, Ninoy was among the first personalities that he ordered arrested and jailed. He was sentenced to death by the military tribunal based on trumped-up charges of illegal possession of firearms, murder, and subversion.  In 1980, after 7 years and 7 months of imprisonment, he was allowed to fly to the US to undergo triple-bypass heart surgery. After a successful operation, he proceeded on attacking the Marcos administration, delivering speeches across the country, and serving as one of the most prominent overseas front fighters for Philippine democracy.

When he landed on Philippine soil on that fateful day of August 21, 1983, Ninoy was assassinated.

His death, which triggered a series of civil disobedience campaigns that eventually culminated in the 1986 revolution, proved that a dead Ninoy could be a more formidable opponent to the Marcoses than the fearless, fast-talking, hard-hitting political leader that the latter was when he was still alive. Ninoy’s death inspired and empowered the masses to go out to the streets and shout, “Sobra na! Tama na! Palitan na!” It resulted to public outrage that eventually put an end to Marcos’ 21-year oppressive rule.

It changed our country’s history.

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photo credit: Inquirer.net

 

August 21, 2018: 35 Years After Ninoy’s Death

Anyone in his right mind would have thought that, considering everything that we, as a nation, had to suffer, had to sacrifice, and had to fight for even with our very lives just to win back our freedom, we would have already learned our lesson. We would have thought that from then on, we, Filipinos, will do everything and anything just to ensure that history will never repeat itself. We would have thought that we now have all the more reason to prove to everyone that we are, indeed, worth dying for.

But look around you.

Holding the highest office in the land is an incompetent, quick-tempered, vindictive, treasonous, misogynistic, narcissistic, tyrannical, foul-mouthed, bigoted psychopath.

More than 25,000 Filipinos, mostly poor and innocent, and all without the benefit of due process, have already been killed in the name of this administration’s War on Drugs. And the war is “far from over,” according to the butcher in Malacañang. “It will be as relentless and chilling as on the day it began.”

In a blatant disregard of the Hague tribunal’s ruling on the Philippines-China dispute over the West Philippine Sea, our islands are now generously given to China – and on a silver platter, no less. The ass-licker in Malacañang continues to kowtow to China despite the bully-nation being the source of tons of illegal drugs, smuggled goods, illegal Chinese workers, blacklisted contractors, and casinos that are granted easy access into the country, and of “friendly” loans that are potentially part of China’s debt-trap diplomacy.

Ferdinand Marcos, the late dictator who made our countrymen’s lives a living hell during his dictatorial reign, and whose economic sabotage left us with an external debt that we are all still paying for until the year 2025, is now buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani – no thanks to the dictator-wanna-be in Malacañang who thinks that Marcos is the best president our country has ever had.

Marawi, once a thriving city, was transformed into a virtual ghost town when it became the battleground between IS militants and government troops, where countless soldiers and civilians perished. This happened after a loose cannon in Malacañang dared the Maute Group to attack Marawi. The firefight prompted Duterte to declare Martial Law, not just in Marawi but in the entire Mindanao, and despite the conflict eventually being resolved in October of last year, ML has been extended twice. It will take effect until the end of this year.

This administration continues to aggressively campaign for federalism through constitutional amendment amid its apparent unpopularity, the citizens’ disapproval, and the warning of their own economic managers that the shift could have “dire consequences” and could “wreak havoc on the economy.” In an effort to get Filipinos talk about federalism, Asec. Mocha came up with a jingle video popularly known as Pepedederalismo. She got the Filipinos talking, all right.

Sen. Leila de Lima is languishing in solitary pre-trial detention for exactly 544 days now. For fearlessly launching a Senate inquiry into the spate of killings happening under the guise of a drug war, the Fentanyl-addict in Malacañang vilified and demonized her in an attempt to break and silence the unbreakable Senator.

For the adversarial positions she held against the various policies of this administration, Maria Lourdes Sereno was ousted as the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Her colleagues at the SC acted on the quo warranto petition filed by SolGen Jose Calida – a petition that was not only baseless but, more so, unconstitutional. The entire proceeding was believed to be part of an effort to undermine the independence of the judiciary.

Instead of improving tax collection measures (In 2015, only 25 of the top 50 richest Filipinos are on the list of top 500 taxpayers.), the TRAIN Law was passed and implemented regardless of its debilitating impact on the poorest of the poor – our most vulnerable socio-economic class. The poor are “made to pay for the government’s failure to collect from the wealthy.” That’s the TRAIN Law, in a nutshell, according to former Solicitor General Florin Hilbay.

Oligarchs, in cahoots with political dynasts, continue to control and run the country despite Duterte’s promise that he would “destroy oligarchs embedded in government.” Our current DPWH Secretary and Duterte appointee, Mark Villar, is a perfect example of an oligarch, while members of political dynasties include the likes of Cayetanos, Arroyos, Marcoses, Estradas, and, yes, Dutertes.

The government appointees of “the best president in the solar system” are “only the best and the brightest.” Take, for instance, Mocha and Andanar of PCOO, Cesar Montano and Wanda Teo of DOT, Bong Go (the national photo bomber), Vit Aguirre (Jack Lam extorsion and his plan to make Janet Lim Napoles a state witness), Nicanor Faeldon formerly of Bureau of Customs, and so on. This should be expected when people are appointed out of “utang na loob” instead of their merit. “Even a whiff, or a whisper, of corruption and you’re out,” Duterte warned. Government officials sacked due to corruption should not worry, though. Under this administration, terminated appointees can still be recycled.

P6.4B worth of drugs actually smuggled in Oct. 2017 and another P6.8B “speculatively” smuggled this month. On both occasions, what were most conspicuous and interesting are the President’s deafening silence and utter lack of interest. When will his “relentless and chilling” War on Drugs come in?

Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is now out of the Veterans Memorial Medical Center and, miraculously, out of her neck brace and wheelchair, too! She is now the Speaker of the House of Representatives after she overthrew Bebot Alvarez as a result of the most brilliant and totally unexpected political machinations. She could also be our next Prime Minister under the Federal form of government. By the same token, Jinggoy Estrada is out of detention and will “most probably run in next year’s mid-term elections to reclaim his Senate seat.”

Sr. Patricia Fox, a 71-year-old Australian missionary who has been staying in the country for 27 years now, was ordered by the Bureau of Immigration to leave the country. Davao’s most-feared thug in Malacañang claimed that Sr. Patricia is an undesirable alien and that her presence “poses a risk to public interest.”

The bully in Malacañang has been attacking and threatening the media because of their critical reporting on the relentless killings that his brutal war on drugs both entail and incite. He also tried to curtail press freedom by advising them to tone down their reporting.

According to the Commission on Human Rights, the ancestral lands of indigenous peoples such as the Lumads are considered sacred. However, the real estate agent in Malacañang said that, to help the Lumads generate wealth, he would personally invite investors to develop the ancestral domain areas in Mindanao. Under this administration, 30 Lumads had already been killed and at least 30,000 were forcibly evacuated “due to aerial bombings to pave way for the entry of foreign corporations and big local businesses.”

The CPP rejected the guidelines of the peace talks proposed by the government. Duterte, the habitual promise-breaker in Malacañang, “has been responsible for repeatedly terminating peace negotiations,” according to CPP founder and NDFP political adviser, Joma Sison. “We can no longer negotiate with an administration headed by Duterte,” he added.

The favorite punching bag these days of the blasphemous tenant in Malacañang is the Roman Catholic Church, along with its leaders, its Bible, and its God. The worst attack he has made, so far, was when he called our God “stupid.”

Duterte is notorious for making sexist, chauvinistic, misogynistic and even racist remarks and insults, and for acting vindictively against his female critics. Among the most notable victims of the filthy-mouthed wimp in Malacañang are Sen. De Lima, CJ Sereno, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales, Sen. Risa Hontiveros, VP Leni, UN Special Rapporteur Agnes Callamard, ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde, Fil-Am philanthropist Loida Nicolas-Lewis, Australian missionary Sr. Patricia Fox, and Rappler’s Maria Ressa and Pia Ranada.

Under this administration, we are now experiencing a rising inflation, rising unemployment, rising debt, rising power rate, rising prices of basic commodities, rising fuel costs, and rising interest rates. And all these are not mere fake news being fabricated by the babbling liar in Malacañang.

Our democratic institutions are being demolished. “Congress is a rubberstamp, the Senate is a circus, our legislators carry on with their political plays as if the EJKs are not a thick red line that takes everything off the table. Both the Supreme Court and the Ombudsman are embattled, and the CHR’s existence is jeopardized by the specter of a new constitution.”

Finally, look at what Duterte has spawned in this country: historical revisionism and/or historical amnesia, widespread apathy, aggressive ignorance, unspeakable cruelty, smug complacency, misplaced nationalism, pervasive hopelessness, crippling fear, wretched ungratefulness, and pure, unadulterated stupidity.

All these could not have happened if we did not put someone like Duterte in Malacanang.

So, if Ninoy were alive today, do you think he would still consider the Filipino worth dying for?

WHAT AN AWFUL BOSS LOOKS LIKE

A boss plays a vital role in any organization. With a good boss, a difficult or unpleasant job can be tolerable. Conversely, with a bad boss, an otherwise gratifying job can be miserable — a nightmare, even.

The following are the telltale signs that you are extremely unfortunate, as you have ended up with an awful boss.

Poor you.

1. Your boss applies a double standard in dealing with people. He/She is known to play favorites, is selective in dishing out disciplinary action to erring employees, or is unfair in granting perks and privileges. He/She seldom shares valuable and beneficial information with his/her subordinates who fail to get on his/her good side. He/She may even go as far as creating a new position just to accommodate the promotion of a favored employee. Yes, you now have a social media specialist in the construction site, and she’s the one whiling away precious hours in the boss’ air-conditioned room while cozily “interacting with cybercitizens.”

2. Your boss inspires fear in his/her subordinates. He/She takes pleasure in knowing that they tremble and shudder whenever he/she is around. Having a tendency to be a yeller, he/she believes that congeniality in the workplace equates to likely neglect of duties, which thus adversely affects productivity. Okay, hush now. Here comes The Boss.

3. Your boss hates to see you and your colleagues shine. He/She underrates your accomplishments and contributions to the organization and tends to grab credit that rightfully belongs to his/her subordinates. When his/her own boss gets impressed with an innovative design that you just presented, he/she is quick to claim that it was actually his/her idea – not yours. Hey, I know you’re flabbergasted by his/her audacity, but will you please shut your mouth? As in, literally. It’s been hanging open for a while now.

4. Your boss has unrealistic demands and unreasonable expectations from his/her subordinates. As a modern-day slave driver, he/she seems to think that your life should revolve around your work, and your work alone. Work-life balance is an alien concept to him/her. Huh, work-life balance? What’s that?!!!

5. Your boss is apathetic about your situation. He/She regards you more like a robot rather than a breathing, feeling human being who is also susceptible to emotions, frailties and physical limitations. He/She is annoyed that you’re not your usual jolly and witty self when you were made, despite your protestations, to take on the emcee role for an event. Hey, boss, give that poor guy a break. His 10-year-old cat just died!

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photo credit: headhunterconfesses.wordpress.com

6. Your boss has a strong natural tendency to bully you and your colleagues. This constant display of A-hole quality is a clear manifestation of his/her personal insecurities. He/She is often on a power trip to boost his stature or feelings of self-worth. He/She gets a kick out of humiliating you or wielding his/her power over you, particularly in front of others.

7. Your boss is so self-righteous and self-centered that he/she thinks he/she is above everyone else. A certified narcissist, he/she is arrogant and thinks that he/she has a monopoly to great ideas. Also, he/she never apologizes even after realizing that he/she commits a mistake. It’s always about him/her, not the team he/she manages. So, better keep your suggestions and comments to yourself, pal. Or, better yet, stop thinking altogether.

8. Your boss lacks integrity. He/She has a propensity to cut corners, to kowtow to his bosses (and is a notorious ass-kisser!), to lie and manipulate people, to break promises, and to promote personal interests no matter the cost. Cunning and easily corruptible, and with “the end always justifies the means” as his personal mantra, his idol is Niccolo Machiavelli. No surprise there.

9. Your boss is an advocate of the blame game. With virtually no sense of personal accountability, he/she points an accusing finger at everyone else except him/herself when something goes wrong. Make sure, then, that your presentation before the board would be impeccable. Otherwise, you would surely be left high and dry by your boss.

10. Your boss does not exhibit flexibility. Being a stickler for the rules, he/she has difficulty adjusting to particular situations or the individual circumstances of his/her subordinates. That deadline, for instance, won’t be extended just because your house happens to be submerged in floodwater for three days now. So, c’mon, go up to your roof and start working on that report. Asap!

An awesome boss, on the other hand, is someone who is a great mentor to his/her subordinates.  He/She is a motivator, an enabler, a problem-solver, and a team player rolled into one admirable package that people want to emulate or, at the very least, work with. As a true leader, he/she incites inspiration, builds trust and confidence among his/her direct reports, develops a safe and enjoyable working environment, and creates opportunities for growth for each and every member of his/her team.

If you’re in your office right now, look around you. Are the people you see working grudgingly, unhappily, or nervously? You might just be under the thumb of an awful boss.

Or you, yourself, might actually be that awful boss.

DE-VILIFYING SEN. LEILA DE LIMA

Imagine this.

You were an academic achiever as a student, consistently finishing each school year at the top of your class. You took up Law and managed to graduate as the class salutatorian. You ranked 8th in the bar exam. You became a professor of Law. As one of the most prominent election lawyers in the country, you handled and won high-profile cases for candidates such as Koko Pimentel, Alan Peter Cayetano, Grace Padaca, and Ed Panlilio, among others.

When you were appointed Commission on Human Rights chief, you fearlessly investigated extra-judicial killings, abductions, and human rights violations perpetrated by security forces, like Jovito Palparan, and by government officials, like then Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte. As Justice Secretary, you were at the frontline in bringing those who were involved in the multibillion-peso PDAF scandal to justice. You filed cases that led to the arrest of prominent personalities such as former Pres. Gloria Arroyo and sitting Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Bong Revilla. You filed a 5-billion peso smuggling case against Phoenix Petroleum, a syndicated estafa case against Globe Asiatique, and a murder case against then Palawan Gov. Joel Reyes. You probed the Ampatuan Massacre, the Atimonan blood bath, and the alleged INC abductions. You were the first DOJ Sec. who dared to raid the New Bilibid Prison to dismantle the perks accorded to the high-profile inmates there. In doing so, you single-handedly disrupted the operation of their lucrative drug business that was apparently operational inside the supposed maximum-security facility of the said penitentiary. You were part of the government’s legal team that received the favorable ruling over the country’s case against China’s WPS maritime claims from the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague. As head of the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking, it was under your watch that the Philippines was removed from the US Human Trafficking Watchlist, which paved the way for our upgrade to Tier 1 status. As a newbie Senator, you were one of the most productive legislators with a total of 90 bills and 108 resolutions filed. You also fearlessly launched an inquiry into the spate of killings happening under the guise of a drug war.

But this administration had a special way of honoring people like you.

You became its favorite punching bag and target of character assassination and slut-shaming, and of its supporters’ scorn and ridicule. You have been vilified and demonized for being Pres. Duterte’s most vocal, most fearless, and staunchest critic. On February 24, 2017, you were arrested and jailed.

The case against you? Violation of the Dangerous Drugs Act for allegedly extorting money from the Bilibid inmates who traded and trafficked drugs inside the prison!

Not an ounce of illegal drug was found in your possession, not a trail of the purported drug money was established, and not a single witness of unquestionable reputation and motive was presented, yet for more than 17 months now, you’ve been languishing in solitary pre-trial detention.

The world is watching, though.

They have seen that, even behind bars, you continue to perform your legislative duties largely through the capable hands of your staff. Via your hand-written statements, the Dispatches from Crame, you continue to share your voice and speak truth to power. You remain steadfast in your commitment to freedom, justice and the rule of law. You stay vigilant and fearless in expressing your dissent and condemnation over the countless killings, the wanton violations of human rights, and the culture of impunity and travesty of our democratic institutions, religious faith, cultural and moral values, legal processes, and constitutional sovereignty.

They have witnessed that, instead of allowing this wicked regime to break and silence you and to weaken your spirit, you have used your incarceration to find your inner strength in asserting and fighting for what is right and just amid the formidable odds. And the grace with which you accepted this “detour” in your life’s journey just solidified their conviction that, indeed, all this is nothing more than a work of a deranged and vindictive president who uses all his power and influence and all the government machineries at his disposal to fabricate lies, fake news, and black propaganda about and against you, and feed them to his gullible supporters and paid army of trolls.

Since you were thrown into prison, and for your exceptional contribution to the advancement of human rights in the Philippines, you’ve been reaping international recognition left and right — and from prestigious award-giving bodies, no less. You are also being referred to as a Prisoner of Conscience.

In 2017, you received the following accolades: Time Magazine, World’s 100 Most Influential People; Amnesty International, One of the Most Notable Human Rights Defenders Under Threat; and Foreign Policy, 100 Leading Global Thinkers.

In 2018, you were conferred with the following distinctions: Fortune Magazine, World’s 50 Greatest Leaders; The Asian Correspondent, 5 Power Women of Southeast Asia; Amnesty International, Most Distinguished Human Rights Defender; Amnesty International, first ever Ignite Awards for Human Rights; The Diplomat, Woman to Watch in Southeast Asia; and just recently, Liberal International, Prize for Freedom.

The members of the international community recognize political persecution when they see one. How I wish I could say the same for our countrymen.

 

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Image from VICE News

PERSONAL ENCOUNTER WITH SEN. LEILA

When I went to the PNP Custodial Center in Camp Crame last July 15 to visit Sen. De Lima, I had virtually no idea what to expect. I was just asked if I’d be available on that day from 9 am until 12 noon. When I excitedly said “Yes!,” I was told that there would be six of us from the #BabaeAko Movement, that I should wear comfortable clothes because it could get very hot inside, and that it was okay to bring food. That was it. Oh, and a message that said, “Excited daw si Sen. Leila to meet you!

That made me so nervous I wanted to throw up.

Bearing a pot of flowers that I picked up from Dangwa on our way to Camp Crame, and a box of pastillas and two packs of chicharon I brought from Malolos, I was among the first to get to the appointed meeting place. After signing on the logbook, surrendering our mobile phones, having our bags checked, and being thoroughly frisked twice, we were ushered into a small room with around twenty monoblock chairs neatly arranged to face the small table at the front. There were three stand fans scattered around the room, and an abaniko atop each chair. Good thing it was drizzling outside so the temperature didn’t bother us as much.

In no time, the little room became packed with around thirty people. Some, like Sen. Leila’s family, spiritual advisers, and friends, were obviously “regulars,” while others like me were first-timers.

Someone carefully laid a white cloth over the table, and positioned my pot of flowers at the center, and a standing crucifix, a candle, and sacred vessels beside it. The room was transformed into a chapel.

When Sen. Leila waltzed into the room with a beaming smile, sparkling eyes, and arms outstretched in warm welcome, everyone’s attention inevitably turned to her. She was like an instant ray of sunshine on that gloomy day. Dressed in a comfy sleeveless blouse, a pair of leggings, and her trademark scarf, she was a perfect vision of excellent health, a mind at peace, and a joyful heart. I could not help but notice the glow in her cheeks, the lilt in her laughter, and the bounce in her every step. According to one of her spiritual advisers, Sen. Leila’s solitary detention has allowed her to reflect more intensely on herself, her soul, and her mission. That should explain her serene and pleasant demeanor.

She greeted each of us with a hug, a beso-beso, and brief yet friendly pleasantries. The holy mass was about to start.

Three priests — Fr. Robert Reyes, Fr. Albert Alejo, and Fr. Flavie Villanueva — officiated the mass. After the homily, all the first-timers and latecomers were, one by one, asked to stand at the front, face the crowd, and share something inspiring. I was the first to be called (ugh!), with about ten others who followed suit. The last to speak was Sen. Leila’s 34-year-old son, Israel, who gave a short but extremely sweet and innocent speech. Israel is one of Sen. Leila’s angels and sources of strength and inspiration (the other one is Brandon, her 11-year-old grandson. Like Israel, Brandon has autism, too.). Sen. Leila’s own reflection on the gospel immediately came after.

The mass lasted for two and a half hours.

While the group dispersed into smaller groups, there were people (Sen. Leila’s family and staff members, I assumed) who set up a buffet table at the back of the room. From a place of prayer and worship, the room is yet again transformed — this time, into a dining hall.

I was fortunate enough to be seated at the only dining table in the room. With me were a fellow activist from BabaeAko, Fr. Albert, a husband-and-wife tandem (who, I heard, would like to refer to themselves as the writing couple), and our gracious host, Sen. Leila.

It was during this interesting lunch-cum-discussion interaction (they did all the talking/speculating/bantering while I, all the listening/observing/absorbing) and the ensuing interviews I conducted with her and some of the people who know her best that I learned a great deal about the good Senator — pieces of information that ranged from amusing and entertaining to fascinating, enticing and intriguing.

TIDBITS ABOUT SEN. LEILA

Recalling her life outside of detention, I learned that she has always been a keen and voracious reader –the proverbial bookworm. Like you and me, she also loved to watch TV series and movies. To de-stress during weekends, she used to drive around (sans her bodyguards), go to the wet market, do her own shopping, buy her own groceries, and play host to her family that she invites for either Sunday lunch or dinner. She knows her way around the kitchen and can cook a mean Bicol express and laing. Her sotanghon guisado is also something that her family always looks forward to.

Sen. Leila loves to dance; she is particularly good at ballroom dancing. She plays volleyball, a sport that she was active in even way back in high school. She co-founded the Lambda Rho Sigma Sorority at the San Beda College of Law. And she has 13 dogs at home – labradors, jack russels, chihuahuas, and dachshunds. Her favorite, though, is Coco, a Japanese Spitz.

She regularly went to Manaoag to attend the Sunday mass. It was part of her panata, as was joining the 5-km Good Friday procession in her hometown in Bicol. It’s also her family’s tradition to celebrate Christmas by giving gifts to indigenous peoples in the province – a practice that was started by her late father.

Growing up, her father, former Comelec commissioner Vicente de Lima, was her confidante and guiding light, especially when it comes to making major decisions. He was the one who raised her to be studious, focused, and principled. However, it was her mother who “balanced her out” by exposing her to regular activities girls grew up with in their town. Just before her father died in 2012, he warned her against joining politics.

Now, she knows why.

Going into public office, let alone dipping her toes into the murky waters of politics, was actually never in the senator’s radar. When she was younger, she only dreamt of becoming a lawyer like her father. But, then, duty called. However, she never imagined herself being criminally charged and/or jailed, as “being dirty and corrupt is not in (her) DNA.”

After she had been judicially annulled with her former husband, Atty. Plaridel Bohol, she promised herself never to marry again. Asked what she looks for in a man, she said that it is neither the looks nor the intellect. It’s not his bank account, either. Attitude is what’s most important for her.

She is a workaholic by nature, which, she says, accounted for her shortcomings as a mother to her two sons. She thus considers herself immensely blessed for having understanding children who love her despite her flaws.

She is very protective of her ailing 84-year-old mother. In her want to shelter her from the painful truth, she and her three other siblings concocted the story that she is in the US for an extended study leave.

Sen. Leila’s daily routine nowadays starts at around 5:00 in the morning by praying and reading her daily Bible devotionals. Then, she does some exercises, cleans her room, and takes a bath (using timba and tabo). Between 8:00-8:30 a.m., she takes her breakfast while reading the newspapers. Then more reading, this time around, though, it’s of work-related papers and drafts from her staff. To let her eyes have their much-needed rest, she gets a 20-30 minute shut-eye. Then, back to her reading. She takes a late lunch before she goes back to her reading.  Between 3:00-5:00 p.m. (on weekdays), she receives visitors. (She calls her three spiritual advisers, her most frequent visitors, her very own Oscar Romeros.) After that, she is all alone in her quarters with only her pet stray cats to keep her company. Her evenings usually consist of more reading, dinner, prayers and Bible reading. She hits the proverbial sack at around 10 p.m.

After much reflection, Sen. Leila views her incarceration as both a blessing and a curse. According to her, there’s actually beauty in solitude. She says, she has become more prayerful, a little tamer, and less judgmental as a result of her incarceration. She has also become less of a perfectionist. Now that she is in jail, she sleeps more soundly at night but “loneliness comes like a thief in the night, from time to time, which causes tears to fall just before I close my eyes.”

 

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Image from gt.foreignpolicy.com

LESSONS LEARNED FROM SEN. LEILA

There are people whose lives could be a rich source of valuable lessons. Sen. Leila is definitely one of those.

According to her, nothing worth doing is ever easy. From her words and actions, she taught me to always stand by my convictions without fear or favor. If I am doing what I think is right, I should have neither regrets in life nor fear of death. She said that righteous anger and indignation is also a virtue.

The fighter in her has also taught me to always hope for the best yet be ready for the worst – to not show my enemies any weakness that could be used to kick me even when I’m already down on my knees. But I also learned that I should not allow anyone or any situation rob me of hope because, sometimes, that is all that is left to us.

I learned that I should forgive myself as nobody is perfect. Hatred, for her, is an energy-draining exercise; it is best to not let it consume yourself.

I learned that I should love my work but I should not let it be the center of my life. My relationship with my family, friends, and God should always be at the top of my priorities.

Finally, I learned from her that when there’s nothing or no one else to cling on to, there is God. Always.