GRATEFUL (STILL) FOR 2016!

Bidding farewell to the old year to give way to the new one is always a bittersweet moment for me. It prods me to pause for a while, take stock of my life, and reflect on the many blessings I received during the last twelve months.

2016 has been a tumultuous year, but it brought with it many lessons and reasons to be thankful for.

People all over the world died and are dying due to a myriad of reasons — senseless wars, natural disasters, accidents, famine, crimes and diseases. I am thankful for each day that I find myself surrounded by my family and enveloped in the warmth of their love. Life is the most precious gift that we should never take for granted.

There are people who grow old not really knowing their passion and mission in life. There are also those who can’t act on them because of the fear of embarking on uncharted territory, or the fear of being judged, or some other more pressing limitation. I am just thankful that I was able to discover my passion for writing and my mission to hone, use and share that talent to inspire, entertain, empower, and educate others. I will continue to aim to be the voice of the voiceless.

Many of us, when faced with adversity and challenges, or when presented with seemingly tempting choices, tend to lose sight of and drift away from our most fundamental values and beliefs — as conscientious Christians, as law-abiding citizens, and as peace-loving individuals. I am thankful that, despite the frustrations and pent-up anger of a great number of Filipinos, and their ensuing clamor for change, I managed to maintain a tight grip to my moral compass, to stand firmly by my personal values, convictions and principles, and to remain faithful to my most basic beliefs.  Without that compass to carry around, one’s identity may forever be lost.

At a time when we are overwhelmed by a multitude of seemingly more urgent and important concerns, it is quite easy to put health-related issues on the proverbial back burner. I could only be thankful that my surgery last June was successful and virtually painless, that my father who suffered from two consecutive major strokes four years ago is now doing great, that my 66-year-old mother still has the stamina of an ox, that all my children, siblings, in-laws, and other relatives are physically well, and that my husband continues to enjoy splendid health two years after his kidney transplant. Health is wealth, indeed.

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Before the elections back in May, I actively campaigned against then presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte. I am thankful that, when he won the presidency (by a landslide, no less), I was able to graciously accept my defeat. I managed to move forward from what I then perceived to be my countrymen’s betrayal. I overcame my feelings of disappointment, hurt and anger. However, I vowed to remain vigilant, fearless, resolute and involved in guarding against those who would pose as threats to our nation and everything that it stands for, and at the same time, to keep an open mind to the new president’s not-so-conventional ways. I vowed to continue to be respectful of the Office of the President and to help in whatever capacity, but to not be blind to abuses of power, to never allow tyranny, and to help protect the country’s Constitution at all costs — even if the greatest threat to our democracy would come in the form of the President himself.

In the wake of the most engaging and divisive election that our country has ever witnessed, my respect for many of my friends, relatives and acquaintances crumbled. My relationships with them cracked and, eventually, shattered. For me, it is not a simple case of differing opinions. Rather, it is the kind of people that they chose to support, and the kind of people they have become as a result, that I find mind-boggling and disturbing. I am thankful though that, because of that same election, I was able to develop friendships and bonds based on mutual respect, and shared beliefs and aspirations. Friendships forged between and among people who adhere to the same principles and advocacies, I have come to realize, tend to be healthier, stronger and more productive and enduring.

Ever since the new administration took office, the country has been rocked unabatedly by many controversies, issues and tragedies — the dismissal of cases against former PGMA and her eventual release from hospital arrest; the historical revisionism perpetrated by the Marcoses and their minions; the staggering number of casualties as a consequence of the government’s continuing war on drugs; the severing of ties with the country’s long-time allied nations and trading partners; the death of decency, compassion and other values that used to be inherent in every peace-loving Filipino; the burial of a despicable dictator in the hallowed grounds of the Libingan Ng Mga Bayani; the impending return of another Marcos in Malacanang. The list appears to be endless. I am just thankful that all these developments galvanized us, Filipinos, to revisit our history, to rouse from our slumber of apathy and complacency, and to take to the streets our collective resistance and protest against all these injustices. The flames of vigilance, activism and patriotism have now been rekindled.

In the face of my struggles –– both personal and political —, I am thankful that my faith in the Lord has remained complete, absolute and unwavering. I trust that everything that happens to me, to my family, to my country, and to my planet is designed for a higher purpose — to be revealed to me in His own perfect time. I believe that He will not bring me any burden that I cannot carry. Finally, I am optimistic that the coming days will usher in genuine hope, and positive and concrete solutions to all our problems.

Thank you and goodbye, 2016!

Hello and welcome, 2017!

MOM ON A MISSION’S 2015, IN A NUTSHELL

Every new year, I was told, is God’s way of giving us an opportunity to start anew – with a clean slate, a fresh page, a blank chapter. It is our chance to make amends for our past misgivings and to live out the lessons we have learned from our past mistakes. That is probably the reason behind the tradition of coming up with New Year’s resolutions.

But, since I’m not really good at keeping resolutions, I decided to usher in 2016 with my personal reflection on the year that was. To take stock of my life. To find hidden lessons in every test, reasons in every occurrence, silver linings in every cloud, and blessings in disguise. To, somehow, prepare myself for everything and anything that the coming year has in store for me.

Thinking back now to my 2015, I realize that it has been exceptionally good and kind to Filipinos in general, and to me and my family in particular. It was filled with divine favors and graces that, in hindsight, I am not sure we completely deserved.

After eleven days of hospital confinement following Roel’s successful kidney transplant in December 22 of 2014, we were discharged on the eve of New Year. My personal battle cry then was “New year, New kidney, New life!”

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Our first family picture for 2015

In mid-January, I was one with the entire nation in celebrating the arrival of Pope Francis in the country for a four-day state and pastoral visit. With his messages of mercy and compassion, the Supreme Pontiff created ripples of positive energy that lingered on even after his departure. For days, we were gripped by what we dubbed as the “Pope Francis fever”.

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photo credit: pinoyambisyoso.com

On March 15, my Baldonado family celebrated our father’s 70th birthday. After suffering two major strokes two years prior that left him partially paralyzed, we were blessed to have that day to show Tatay how important he really was to all of us by gathering relatives and friends from near and far – even those he hasn’t seen for decades – for a surprise party.

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photo credit: Jhon Arellano

On April 06, right after the Holy Week, my husband got his back-to-work clearance from his nephrologist. Under strict orders, though – no unnecessary stress and no strenuous activities; no exposure to possible sources of germs, bacteria and viruses; and no missing of medicines, diagnostic tests and medical appointments. His bosses, fully understanding his condition and temporary limitations, pulled him out of his field assignment and gave him an office-based position as a member of the division’s Training department team.

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photo credit: Ashley Kaye Lim

Our children – Emar, MD and Lala – continue to display diligence in their studies. In fact, a few years from now, we are expecting to have a chemical engineer, a pharmacist and a doctor in the family! (*insert photo here)

On August 05, my husband and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary. 20 years! We spent the whole day together and capped it off with a romantic treehouse dinner date that is every woman’s secret dream – flower centerpiece, a litter of rose petals, candles, white draperies, a five-course meal, the works! The attentive hunk by my side only made the night perfect for me.

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In mid-September, I decided to act on my long-time dream of becoming a blogger by launching my blog, Mom On A Mission. Just two days after that, I received an offer from Filipino Migrant News, a community newspaper in New Zealand, to have my first article published. Countless private messages between the owners and myself and seven articles later, I am now the paper’s Manila correspondent! Still couldn’t wipe this silly grin off my face.

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On November 08, our family celebrated the 20th birthday of our firstborn, Emar. That day also marked our 20th year as parents – 20 years of putting someone else’s happiness and well-being ahead of our own, 20 years of doubting whether we’re doing the right things or not, 20 years of fears and worries, excitement and pride, and heartaches and joy. 20 years that we will never trade for anything else.

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On December 21, I rejoiced with the entire nation when Miss Philippines, Pia Wurtzbach, bagged the most coveted Miss Universe title. She was able to end the country’s 42-year Miss Universe drought. The closest the Philippines got to winning the crown was in 1999 and 2012, when Miriam Quiambao and Janine Tugonon respectively secured a 1st runner-up place. In a very controversial turn of events that night, Pia was able to show the whole world her grace under pressure, in defeat and in victory. One proud moment there for all of us, Filipinos, especially for a beauty pageant fan like me!

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photo credit: usmagazine.com

A day after that, on December 22, I posted this on Facebook in remembrance of the successful kidney transplant that my husband underwent exactly a year ago.

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Our family spent the remaining days of 2015 in the warm and comforting company of our loved ones. We had our Christmas in Bataan with the Baldonado and Del Rosario clans, our annual get-together with our long-time Chinoy friends and their families, and our New Year in Caloocan with the Aquinos and Manalaysays.

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with the Baldonados on Christmas eve

Undeniably, 2015 was also filled with adversities. The world, our country and our family were bombarded with various challenges that tested our individual and collective strengths and our faith both in humanity and in the Almighty. I just choose to dwell on the positive things that happened because they far outweigh the negative ones.

Let me leave you with these beautiful words from a certain Allen Klein.

“Your attitude is like a box of crayons that color your world. Constantly color your picture gray, and your picture will always be bleak. Try adding some bright colors to the picture, and your picture begins to lighten up.”

Let us all welcome the year with renewed faith, steadfast optimism and rejuvenated strength.

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Have a blessed 2016, everyone! 🙂