“Happy Birthday… Baby Jesus” – A short story

Jesus Child - Drawn by Perfecto Balleras

Running, walking, a simple-dressed uptight man, late twenties, carrying gifts bought with hard-earned money planned a pleasant and enjoyable Noche Buena.

I’ve got to move fast or else the market would be closed and I don’t have time to buy coconut and malagkit (rice cake). Alicia requested me to buy this stuff before going home, ” Isaias murmured remembering what his wife ordered as he passed by Sta. Cruz church at exactly six hours before Christmas.

Isaias is an artist in a printing press in one of the business firms in Binondo. He receives a measly monthly compensation for every printing job that he makes… Christmas cards, memorabilias, gift items that need to be enticed with famous quotations. This time the Chinese owner promised to give Christmas bonus to all his laborers. Isaias was fortunate. His works were impressive and marvelously crafted. So most customers acquire his service.

By this time, he caught up with heavy human traffic in Avenida. So called last minute shoppers, they all crammed to get the choicest gifts in department stores money could buy. Carriedo was flourishing with vendors selling anything ranging from small figurines to imitation leather bags. He had to reach Quinta Market so he turned to a small callejon to reach his destination.

My family is already waiting for me. My kids would surely what I brought for them,” he sighed as he looked as his small bag loaded with plastic toys and other kidstuff.

Little did he know that someone was following him. Not too far but trying to get his attention. Shoe lace turned loose. He paused for a moment to fix it when suddenly he felt a poke at his back.

Mama, Meri Krismas! (Sir, Merry Christmas!),” a three or four year old, dark-skinned child, clad in t-shirt covering his whole body stretching his left hand begging for alms. Knowing a typical mendicant, Isaias did not bother to pry upon the lad’s family demise.

He dug deep in his pocket to look for small coins. “Well, this is a season for kids, so they say,” he got a few peso coins, immediately placed it in the lad’s hand and started to trek the road.

Salamat po, Mang Isaias (Thank you Mr. Isaias)!” the boy uttered. Upon hearing that, the man was stunned! Never did he mention his name to the boy. Isaias is not a common Filipino name. He never heard of any popular movie star with that screen name. Pausing for a deep breath, he looked back at the boy’s direction. Alas, the kid was gone!

He was sorely frightened. “How could he have known my name?” He then decided to look for him. But his efforts proved futile. The child he met was already drowned in a river of people in that busy street. going back to what he was supposed to accomplish, he directed his eyes on the road. Still, flashes of the boy’s face appeared in his mind.

Oh, well. Maybe my ears need to be cleaned,” he shrugged.

All of a sudden, “Looking for me, Mang Isaias?” The man was startled! That small boy suddenly reappeared from nowhere! “Who are you? How did you know my name? Why…..?“, questions crisscrossing his mind, eager to receive an answer.

I’m just a small boy, Mang Isaias. I should not be concerned about other people. But I feel so neglected and lonely.” His innocent face frowned as if the world is in his hands.

Why did you say that?“, he asked enthused as he kneeled down to get a good look at his face. “This is Christmas! You still have time to beg for other people’s money. Where is your family?

Come now, Mang Isaias. People have been so engrossed and busy with what to buy for others, what to get from their friend, what to decorate their houses with, what to wear during mass. Their so call Christmas spirit stinks. They don’t have time to think about me.“, the poor boy replied.

Look at you. Have you thought about me? All you want is to spend your time with your family. You prepare for your midnight feast. You go to mass only to yawn loudly without shame and sometimes sleep during the sermon. You’re busy for yourself,” the boy’s seemingly all-knowing voice asserted.

He was aghast at his last words. Questions popped his mind. “I thought Jesus said, if we love our neighbors, it means that we’re also loving Him?

Yes, I did say that. But have you thought about why I had to be born in this world? That I had to suffer and die so that you will be free?“, he said authoritatively.

Before he knew it, he felt fidgety. “Am I talking to him or to Him?” Mang Isaias was awestruck by the lad’s strong utterances.

Mang Isaias, try at least to greet me. It’s my birthday anyway,” he pleaded. He turned his back. And then He was gone, engulfed by the dark shadows of the alley.

Mang Isaias reached home with his mind full of thoughts about what he experienced. He bought what he needed and the whole family gathered at the table and prayed. He heard the message loud and clear. He pictured the faithful and joyous event that took place more than 2000 years ago to his kids and how wonderful this Perfect Child came into this world. That is, to win the people back to God.

Before Noche Buena, he asked his whole family to praise, “Happy Birthday, Baby Jesus!

The reason why? Only he knows…

Note: I wrote this story during my college days. It was published on the Christmas Magazine Edition of The Featinean, the Official Student Publication of Feati University. I was then a member of the Editorial Staff and became its first News Editor.

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On Celebrating Christmas

Christmas Around the World
Christmas Around the World

What’s going on in your homes during the Yuletide season? Are you having some parties or reunions? Are there some careless Christmas spending? Binge eating? Drinking a sip or the whole bottle?

How about some headaches, stomachaches, wallet aches? Or tears, tension or temper tantrums?

Most “holiday depressions” tend to dominate our holiday celebration more than the usual things. The release from routine duties and obligations that comes at Christmas can create a problem for some of us. To the odd mixture of traditional observance that makes up our Christmas, we have added the typical American ingredients of commercialism and competition. After commemorating the demise of our loved ones during November, the Christmas countdown begins. You can hear most radio announcers saying over the airwaves, “Only 20 more shopping days before Christmas… Only 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2 and heaven help us!

We make our Christmas list and beat the onrush shoppers. You begin to feel that you are nearing the greatest embarrassment of your life if you do not hurry up and purchase needed Christmas items. Shopping does not end the pressures imposed on us. We must decorate, have a delicious and festive Noche Buena, exchange gifts and renew family ties – whether we like it or not.

Depression frequently follows a loss of self-esteem. We aren’t happy because we can’t live up to our own expectations. We feel that we are failing to meet the standards of a perfect Filipino Christmas. We must do the things in order to meet the demands most people have set for themselves.

The Christmas rule most frequently broken is the commandment to “be happy“. For one reason or another, many f us are miserable because we tend to overdo in every Christmas we celebrate. The Lord Jesus Christ told us that it is more blessed to give than to receive. But when we talk about “exchange gifts“, we are expecting a better one to be given to us in return.

Maybe you’re not rich or beautiful. Maybe you wake up late in time for Misa de Gallo. You can’t find the right gift for your loved ones, you forgot the important ingredients for Noche Buena. But you have to think that perfection is seldom achieved by normal people and things are not always the way they thought them to be.

Here are some simple ways that may help you get rid of the depression that may ruin your Christmas.

  1. Don’t expect a miracle to happen. Most of us are disappointed because we expect remarkable results from Christmas spirit. You must not feel that something more exciting will happen this time. Chances are you would be depressed if this doesn’t materialize.
  2. Don’t feel guilty if you are not happy. You’re likely to feel better if you stop worrying because you think you ought to be happy.
  3. Don’t force yourself to keep up with the Joneses. You must keep your spending well within your income, or else you will regret it after the season is over. Remember that the greatest gift you can present to yourself is happy self, not the one frightened by excessive spending.
  4. Don’t let others rule your Christmas. Instead of looking outside to see how the neighbors are celebrating, look into your own family, its tastes and needs. Now is the time to strengthen your family relationship.
  5. Don’t expect too much from yourself and others. At Christmas, we celebrate the birth of the Perfect Child and we pay homage to the highest ideals of love and generosity. You perhaps are not as loving, generous or perfect as you think you should be. But try to accept your limitations and do the best you can.

Remember, a memorable Christmas is a happy one. Have a Joyous Christmas, everyone!!

Yay! First 25,000 Visits!

Yehey! My first 25,000 visitors! Congratulations to me again! hehehe

After I started blogging actively on April 26, 2008, I was able to accumulate a total of 113 blog posts including 15 MCCID owned vlog (video logs), 16 categories, 219 comments and 134 average daily visits. There are already more than 30 blog posts/web sites linking here. My blog has also attracted more foreign visitors (nearly 3/4) than Filipinos.

I may not be able reach out to all disabled people in my country although I have been doing that lately. But at least in our school, we have included subjects about laws and issues on disabilities and rights of disabled people in order to equip the deaf students with the knowledge.

Internet is a highly effective information disseminating tool. I am capitalizing that by blogging. My blog is just a simple outlet of my advocacy. It is my humble way of telling the world that hey, there are successful deaf people in here! Even without government or anybody’s assistance, they are living a better life, even better than most able bodied people out there. All they asked from us are respect, equal treatment, recognition and following the rule of law.

I know that these are but a tiny speck of the bigger picture. I am but an insignificant person working for the disabled sector. However, I believe these small things can make life a little bit easier for deaf people in the Philippines. 🙂

So to all my faithful blog readers, thank you very much for reading my post. After this, I will start congratulating myself after every 5,000 visits. 🙂

Isabela Governor Grace Padaca, Famous Disabled Filipino

Isabela Gov. Grace Padaca
Isabela Gov. Grace Padaca

In my WordPress Dashboard, I often find surfers land in my blog after searching for “Famous Disabled Filipino”. So, today I will write about one. Her name is Isabela Governor Ma. Gracia Cielo “Grace” Magno Padaca. No, she is not deaf. She is orthopedically impaired. But she was the one who strengthened the programs for the deaf community in her province and continually support the operations of Isabela School for the Deaf (ISD). She is the highest government official who is never ashamed of being a PWD. So, Gov. Grace is my most Famous Disabled Filipino! 🙂

I don’t know her personally. But I was able to meet her during our celebration of United Nation’s Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability (UN-CRPD) Philippine entry into force last May. She was our special guest of honor. She was very cordial, always smiling and greets everybody as if she knows all of them. I was there interpreting for our deaf representative from Zamboanga City. To my surprise, she practically knew the deaf! She remembered seeing her once during a workshop on women with disability sometime ago.

Gov. Grace with Pilar, a deaf leader from Zamboanga
Gov. Grace with Pilar, a deaf leader from Zamboanga

She also promised me that if I have some concerns regarding the deaf community in Isabela, I shouldn’t hesitate to visit her office at Ilagan and approach her. And I did! Although I did not personally went to her office, I sent her a letter asking for on-the-job training assistance for our deaf trainee Edmond Guzman Jr. who graduated at ISD. She immediately acted on it and accepted him. Last thing I heard, Gov. Grace’s office absorbed Edmond and now works as one of her staff.

Let my humble blog be a fitting testament of the many good works she did to her provincemates and to the Filipino disabled people, both as a role model and as an action oriented government official. Kudos and God bless you, Gov. Grace! We fully support you! 🙂

Here is an excerpt of a news item about Gov. Grace receiving the 2008 Ramon Magsaysay Award last August:

R. Magsaysay 2008 Awardees
R. Magsaysay 2008 Awardees

ISABELA GOVERNOR IS 2008 RAMON MAGSAYSAY AWARDEE

Mabuhay ang Pilipinong May Kapansanan! Padaca asks Filipinos: Replicate democratic victories

MANILA, Philippines — Breakthroughs and victories against “oppressive political structures” need to be encouraged and supported to be replicated, said Isabela governor and Ramon Magsaysay awardee for government service, Grace Magno Padaca on Sunday.

In accepting her award at the Cultural Center of the Philippines, Padaca also said political victories were “fragile” and asked for continued support.

“Victories are fragile and they need to be supported and encouraged,” she said. “Please continue encouraging and supporting me.”

The Ramon Magsaysay Awards, recognized as Asia’s Nobel Peace Prize, celebrated its 50th anniversary today with Padaca as one of the recipients.

Padaca broke the Dy family’s grip on Isabela in the 2004 gubernatorial elections by raking in 55 percent of the votes, making headlines for toppling a political dynasty that spanned 30 years. Now on her second term as governor, she rose to fame for her campaign for democratic elections. She also said that the “political victory” she achieved in her province must be replicated nationally.

“What we dared to do is to make democracy work especially in electing our leaders,” she said. “In less than two years, we will be electing
our leaders and are going to the polls. We need to continue succeeding after raining hopes on our people.”

Update on Cebu Pacific discrimination on deaf passengers: Court case filed and policy changes

Cebu Pacific not accepting disabled persons
Here are the updates of the recent Cebu Pacific incident of not accepting deaf passengers:

  • Last December 6, Mr. Nonoy Concha, another disabled passenger, after attending a seminar here in Manila, was asked to disembark the plane to Cebu for refusing to sign an outdated waiver. What was amiss was that from Cebu Airport Terminal he was not asked to sign the document which he finds as ancient as Wright Brothers.
  • A group of Filipino PWDs led by Mr. Jesus Jose Docot, Vice Chairman of Alyansa ng mga May Kapansanang Pinoy (AKAP-Pinoy) are planning to stage a simultaneous mass rally in Manila, Cebu and Davao seeking to address their grievance against the discrimination they experienced in boarding Cebu Pacific. The group also want people to stop patronizing Cebu Pacific unless they recognize the basic human rights of every passenger, disabled or not. They encourage everyone who sympathize with them to come and join in this activity.
  • Ms. Katrina Segundo, a blind and crippled passenger, together with her parents, filed a formal complaint to the Hall of Justice in Dumaguete City against Cebu Pacific Airlines for Discrimination Against a Person With Disability last November 17, 2008. She was assisted by the Provincial Head of the Commission on Human Rights. Her complaint was about the incident where the company refused her to board their plane in October 26 last year.
  • For their part, Ms. Jocelyn Bonilla of Voluntary Service Overseas Philippines will do the following: They will send a letter of complaint to Cebu Pacific, publicize in the VSOPH and VSO web pages their discontent of this situation and will not patronize Cebu Pacific’s services indefinitely.
  • Dr. Liza Martinez of Philippine Deaf Resource Center sent this update through the This_abled_phils Yahoo group. She said that after three letters to Cebu Pacific CEO Lance Gokongwei in a span of seven months, they made a revision of their Operations Manual that Deaf passengers (of an unlimited number) shall be allowed carriage on their flights. They have also made recommendations for a change in policy with the Air Transportation Office (as of June). She has not received confirmation from them that this has actually taken place. Dr. Martinez’ group are also still hammering away at them trying to get reimbursement on the deductions from their refund (totalling about P4,000). She sent the most recent letter last month and have not heard back.

Let us remain vigilant in our fight against discrimination. 🙂

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