Lessons from Pain

I still remember one night when I was a kid when my father went home from work and gave me a printed copy of Bill Gates’ commencement speech in one high school in the US. He talked about some lessons he learned in life and one lesson particularly got stuck in my head: “Life’s unfair, get used to it.”

There’s one particular aspect of my life right now where these words resonate with great power, so strong that I might implode anytime with anger and sadness. You see, it turns out that no matter how good and pure your intentions may be, there are instances when Life will still give you sh*t in return. And because Life is so generous it will even bundle that sh*t with some goddamn, freakin’ pain. The kind of pain that tells you to just stay in bed in the morning or just cry at night. The kind that wants you to go back in time and do things differently. The kind of pain that makes you question if it was right to share your time and energy with such a person.

But at the end of the day, no matter how much you whine, it still boils down to one fact: “Life’s unfair, get used to it.” So you decide to cope with pain, instead of fighting it. You learn to acknowledge it instead of running away. You learn to face it every day, feel every bit of it, instead of denying its existence. You make a deal with pain that it’s welcome to stay for a while as long as it pays its dues by providing lessons. Luckily, pain has been diligent in paying its dues. Here’s what it gave me so far:

  1. Guard your heart. And I don’t mean this in a romantic way, I mean this in every freakin’ way possible. At work, with friends, with family, etc. Protect your heart because if you allow anyone to hurt it, it’s gonna be hell. Stand up for it if you need to. Never sacrifice your dignity for any worldly thing (e.g. reputation, degree, etc.). I saw how it destroyed people and how those people shatter others along the way. So take extra care in guarding your heart. It’s the seat of your values and dignity. Don’t let anyone meddle with it. Ever.
  2. Trust your instincts.  Trust your gut. Sometimes the heart is filled with emotions that it fails to see danger along the way. But your gut can sense this. Unfortunately, gut has such a small voice! So listen carefully and trust it!
  3. Never aim to “fix” other people. It’s not your job. Period. Besides, people are not things that need to be “fixed.” Give advice, support, or whatever, but never with the intent of “fixing” another person.
  4. Serve/help/share with others willingly without expecting anything good in return. Also, be prepared from time to time to even get something negative in return. It happens! When it does, just smile, say a couple of curses or cry if you want, then move forward. They are not worth your time anymore. Let them have the bad karma, not you.
  5. The people you spend time with is vital. Choose very, very, wisely.
  6. It sucks to feel discarded. Work extra harder never to let another person feel this.
  7. Challenges are good “people filters.” Those who are true to you stay. They stick around no matter what. Treasure these people and don’t ever run after those who leave. The fact that they left when things got rough tells something more about them than you.
  8. Life’s unfair only for a short time. Why? Because there’s always karma that balances everything out at the end of the day. So weather the storm for now while keeping close guard of your values and let karma do its thing at the right time. If you look around, you’ll find that you’re still greatly blessed. Smile and be grateful. :)

There you go. The dues that pain paid for staying with me for a few months now. Not bad, yes? I think it’s gonna stay for a little more time, but I have a feeling that it’s starting to grow tired because something else is sucking its energy out: love. Love from people around me and love I have for myself and the person who hurt me. It’s been quite a journey, welcoming pain, but I think it was worth it because its friend–healing– never comes before it.


On Lessons


“I live my life with love in my heart for all creation.”

This mantra brought me out of near depression as I recited it at least 108 times every single day, using my mala beads as guide.

“I live my life with love in my heart for all creation.”

Sometimes, the most hurtful words come not from our enemies, but from our friends.

“I live my life with love in my heart for all creation.”

It’s necessary to leave home in order for us to grow. But there will definitely be no place like home.

“I live my life with love in my heart for all creation.”

It takes courage to give love. It takes courage to receive love. Sometimes the latter is more difficult.

“I live my life with love in my heart for all creation.”

There is power in silence.

“I live my life with love in my heart for all creation.”

If someone tries to change who you are to suit their liking, move away. Fast. Do not ever lose yourself. Not with work. Not with friends. Not with love. Always be yourself.

“I live my life with love in my heart for all creation.”

Live your life in your own terms. No man or woman should ever make you feel insufficient.

“I live my life with love in my heart for all creation.”

You are enough. You are not at the mercy of any person. You should never be.

“I live my life with love in my heart for all creation.”

Make friends because you want to, not because you need to.

“I live my life with love in my heart for all creation.”

Forgive. But do not ever forget, else you lose all the lessons.

“I live my life with love in my heart for all creation.”

Smile. No matter what.




I stumbled upon the short passage below in my drafts folder. I no longer remember why I didn’t publish it. Anyway, it seems like a good reminder. Hope you find some use of it, too. :)

“We are limited, but we are gifted. 
We are strong because we are not alone.
We are joyful because we know how to accept everything that life has to offer.
We are living because we are dying.”

St. Iggy’s Day!

To the saint whose teachings had a positive impact in my life, Happy Feast Day! :)

st iggy

Lord, teach me to be generous.
Teach me to serve You as You deserve;
to give and not to count the cost,
to fight and not to heed the wounds,
to toil and not to seek for rest,
to labor and not to ask for reward,
save that of knowing that I do Your will.

St. Ignatius of Loyola,
pray for us.

*Photo and quote taken from the Jesuit Communications FB Page

Movements of the Heart

Sometimes you hear a song for the first time and it seems to take you back to some life that is different from this one. You stop doing everything and just start trying to remember.

Something happened before that made you feel the way this song makes you feel now. The funny thing is that you know that whatever happened before didn’t happen in this life.

But does it matter, knowing how you lived before? You have a life now.

What if it does matter just as how studying history matters in order to understand the present and prepare for the future?

This is probably the first time I seriously considered having a “past” life. It is starting to make sense now, I think.

Links to Mindfulness

A friend invited me on Facebook to join “Go As a River: Day of Mindfulness” to be held at the La Mesa Eco Park on November 23, Sunday, 9AM-3PM. It has been ages since I joined a meditation retreat, so I thought I’d grab this chance, especially that the venue is just in Quezon City (much nearer than Manila from our place!). You can find out more about the event here.

Go as a river

Meanwhile, below are some links I encountered as I read through the Facebook Page of Plum Village, Philippines. Feel free to share more links about mindfulness practice, or Buddhism in general, in the comments section. :)

  1. About Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh – the link will bring you to the Plum Village website where you can find more resources about mindfulness practice
  2. Chopra Center Meditation Resources Library – free meditation resources
  3. Lion’s Roar: Buddhist Wisdom for our Time – I haven’t fully explored this site yet, but it looks so interesting!


Enjoy your weekend! Omitofo! _/\_

I Held Her Hand

Four years has now passed. It was my closest encounter with death and no words could ever explain how terrifying it felt, seeing and feeling death snatch someone you love right in front of you. It was the time in my life that I felt so helpless. Nevertheless, I believe it takes a lot of love to let someone go without questioning Him why it had to happen. Uwa, my late grandmother, gave me such love the day she left.

“I’ll look as if I’m dead, and that won’t be true.” – The Little Prince

Yes, I believe that you merely left your human shell that day, Uwa. Your spirit lives on, perhaps in another dimension that people call heaven. Wherever you are, I know that you are happy and at peace. :)


Below is the story of what happened that day. I wrote it 39 days after Uwa’s death- a day before we transferred her ashes to the ossuary. One of the things I learned from that experience is to respect the power of life, death and, ultimately, love. I am sharing this story as a reminder for us to start living each moment because, really, we never know when our time here in this world will run out.

Thank you in advance for reading it. Keep smiling and live on. :)


7 July 2010

I woke up around 8:30am. Mama entered the room and greeted me a good morning. She looked a little troubled. She sat on the bed and finally said, “Sabi ni Allan nanghihina daw si Uwa.” We thought of bringing her to the hospital that day. Mama decided that she would buy Uwa some food then go to her house to check her condition. I do not recall exactly what time mama left.

I started doing my homework at 10am. Around 10:30, I received a call from papa. He asked me if we knew that Uwa was feeling weak. He said that Allan, Uwa’s gardener, called Tito Gigo about Uwa’s condition. Having heard the news from mama, I said that we knew of it and mama was on her way to Uwa. I was wondering if Uwa’s condition was that bad that Allan had to call Tito Gigo who was living in Malabon. But I reckoned that Allan could not call us because our landline was not working that time.

10:45am. I just finished doing my homework when I heard someone knocking wildly at our gate. I think it was Allan’s brother-in-law. Ate Jo opened the gate and they talked for a while. After that, I was informed that Uwa collapsed and needed to be brought to the hospital. I was shocked. I immediately called papa using my cell phone and told him about it. Mama was not back yet. I could not call her because she did not have any cell phone. Papa said that Tito Gigo already called an ambulance.

After talking with papa, I changed my clothes very quickly. I was walking around the house, tensed, waiting for mama to arrive. I was beginning to feel nervous. Finally, mama arrived and I quickly grabbed my bag and ran outside. Papa called again, telling us to ask someone to wait for the ambulance outside our gate to give directions going to Uwa’s house. Allan waited for the ambulance.

Mama, manong, and I rushed to Uwa’s place. I ran into the house and the sight shocked me. Uwa was sitting on her rocking chair, head slightly tilted on one side, eyes open, mouth open, she was staring blankly at a distance. Allan’s wife and daughter were there, fanning Uwa. I took the fan (pamaypay), pulled a chair, sat beside Uwa, held her head gently, and started fanning her. I called her name. She did not respond. I told her that the ambulance was on its way. I do not know if she could hear me. I kept fanning and whispering, “It’s ok, it’s ok…” Whether I was whispering those words to comfort Uwa or myself, I do not know.

Mama ran to the master’s bedroom to get Uwa some clothes she could use when we bring her to the hospital. I can hear her yelling, “Nasaan ba mga damit niya?” I passed the fan to Allan’s wife again and I went to help mama. While I was walking to the room, I covered my mouth with one hand to stop myself from crying. But tears flowed anyway. It was my first time to see Uwa that way. I was crying when I reached the room and I saw that mama was about to cry as well. She handed me some of Uwa’s clothes and asked me to put them in a paper/plastic bag. I went to the storage room where Uwa kept all her plastic bags. It probably took me more than 2 minutes to find a bag (which was really just right in front of me the whole time). My mind was cluttered. Panic was starting to creep in. Finally, my hand got hold of the plastic bag. I stuffed all the clothes inside and went back to where Uwa was.

Manong was inside now and he was the one supporting Uwa’s head and fanning her. Mama was beside the rocking chair, crying, holding Uwa’s hand, and assuring her that the ambulance was on the way. I do not recall if it was I who called papa, or papa who called, but I was speaking to him, crying. I told him that Uwa was no longer responding but was still breathing. Then all of a sudden mama yelled horrified, “Mommy! No, no! Pumikit na siya! Pumikit na siya!” I was in the kitchen then talking to papa. I ran to the rocking chair and I saw mama shaking Uwa, trying to wake her up. It was like a scene in a movie. But I was a part of that terrible moment in the movie. I embraced mama and pulled her away from Uwa. We were both on the floor. Mama can hardly breathe and this scared me. I kept saying, “Shh, please mama… be strong… be strong… Shh…” After she calmed down, I called papa. My crying turned into sobbing when I said, “Papa, pumikit na siya… pumikit na siya…” Papa asked me to check her pulse. I knelt beside the rocking chair and held Uwa’s wrist to check her pulse. At first, I could not feel anything. Then my fingers felt something. It was weak, but there was a pulse.

I called my brother. I was sobbing, “Yads… pumunta ka na dito… pumunta ka na dito… si Uwa, si Uwa…” My brother immediately became worried, “Nasaan ka? Nasaan ka? Anong nangyari kay Uwa?” I told him what happened. Then the ambulance called Uwa’s landline and I answered it. The girl said that they were near. The only thing I remember telling the girl was, “bilisan niyo po… pumikit na po kasi siya…”

Mama was now sitting on the sofa. I knelt beside Uwa and felt her pulse again. I held on to her wrist gently, as if that could keep the pulse from stopping. My chin was at the armrest of the rocking chair and I was just looking at Uwa. I do not understand what I felt at that point. Tears just flowed continuously. I held her hand.

Finally the ambulance arrived. The medic checked her pulse. I was still holding her hand when I asked the medic, “Meron pa po [pulso]? Meron pa kanina…” He kept checking and did not answer me. The medic checked Uwa’s blood pressure. Another medic asked if there was breathing. “Negative”, he said. I still held Uwa’s hand. They got the cardiac monitor and mama saw that it was a flat line. No more pulse. More tears flowed, but I was still holding her hand.

Mama was talking to Tita Lelia when the ambulance arrived. When mama saw the flat line and the medic said, “sorry po”, I heard mama shout to tita, “…Mommy’s gone!” then the words that followed were inaudible. Mama passed the phone to me and I was the one who broke the news to Tita Lelia, Papa, Tito Gigo, and Yads. The medics, together with manong and Allan, transferred Uwa to Tito Louie’s bed. I remember the scene that followed: the front door of the house was open, straight ahead was the ambulance. The ambulance was leaving…leaving… then it was gone. We were supposed to be in that ambulance with Uwa. Instead, we were left in the house. Papa told me to call Dra. Regalado—our family doctor who also lives in Antipolo. Only a doctor can declare someone’s death. So I called the doctor and told her what happened. Manong left to fetch her.

After mama, Allan, and I have calmed down, I remembered Uwa’s green box. She showed me all the pictures she kept inside the box during Father’s day. That was my last conversation with her. I told her that I’d come back to scan all the pictures in her green box, but I’m afraid I did not return soon enough. After escaping from my thoughts, I went to Uwa’s room to get the box. Then, I sat on the floor beside the bed where Uwa was lying. I curled up, hugging my knees, the box supported between my chest and legs. I was alone in the room. I talked to Uwa, I talked to God, and I talked to Lolo and Tito Louie. Tears were still flowing, but I was smiling. I could imagine her very happy now. Uwa and Lolo Nelson, they love each other so much. They love each other so much that Uwa left us two days before their wedding anniversary- July 7.

The doctor arrived and instructed us on what we had to do. She told us to light a candle in the room, then she and mama talked in the dining room about the funeral plans. I stayed in the room with Uwa until papa and Yads arrived. When the four of us were all there, the doctor advised that we clean Uwa with a bimpo and change her clothes because according to her (and rightly so) Uwa would not want to be picked up by the funeral service people in her pajamas and with her hair messed up. So we cleaned her. Mama wiped Uwa’s whole body with bimpo soaked in water, while papa assisted her. I helped mama change Uwa’s clothes. Yads assisted me in lifting Uwa’s head as I combed her hair and tied it in a ponytail. Dra. Regalado finished it off with a spray of perfume. And there she was, lying on the bed with decent clothes, clean, and fresh. It looked as if she was just sleeping. She looked beautiful, as always.


I miss you. I love you, Uwa! :)