Flunking and Still Going

I recall my first article for the year:

CAUTION: 2010 is Very Hot and Exciting.

Indeed it is. It’s like a dish of hot Thai noodle soup with a hint of chili on the side and mixed with fishballs, ground beef and kenchai. The first sip stings, but the taste satisfifes. As you consume and enjoy its delightful tastes, you experience “small stings” due to the chili and the temperature of the dish. Eventually, you get to enjoy and “bear the pain” of the stings, and when you take that list sip and gorge down that last piece of beef, you are satisified. In fact you enjoyed so much you ask for more.

For the past 4 months I have been experiencing “small stings” due to the problems, tests and temptations that come my way. I hate to admit it, but I’ve flunked already. I get discouraged at times and think that if I keep on committing the same mistake, how could I ever emerge victorious? Sometimes I feel like there’s no hope for me to improve because I fall time and time again.

Then I went to camp. April 6-8, 2010 were by far my best days of the year. Daddy met me in my awful state, whispered, “I love you with an unfailing love”, and lifted me up. Thinking again about Him and our relationship was productive. Until I left camp and returned to my “world” in Manila.

The following day, I was still doing fine. Well, sort of. I was not “sinning” as much as I used to. Then come Saturday.

I do not want to elaborate on the details, but I did something pretty nasty. So nasty that one of the people closest to my heart cried. My heart broke, I cried a river and I thought that this person had finally decided to give up on me after knowing each other for a very, very long time. But this amazing person did not. Moments of silence filled the gaps during our heartbreaking and heartwarming conversation that early Sunday morning. Moments that gave us time to think and think again. And it was ll worth it.

Whenever I fail and get discouraged, I am reminded of my Savior’s love through the song “By Your Side” by Tenth Avenue North. I recommend that you listen to it as soon as possible. Many times I try to win His favor, and everytime I do, He constantly reminds me, “Don’t try. You are already favored.” I can never earn His grace because He freely gave it.

With all the flunking I did for the past 4 months, am I still looking forward to an exciting year? Of course! I may be in the midst of a “small sting,” but I’ll always end it with a final gorge of my personal beef and joyful smile on my face. 😀

What If?

What If?

What if He said when man ate the fruit,

“I shall let him bear his sin alone”?

What if He chose comfort over death,

And said, “Let every man to hell be thrown”?

What if He disowned that disciple

Who denied he knew about Him thrice?

What if He fought back His accusers

Or justified Himself when enticed?

What if He treaded not that hill

Where He would be crushed—soul and vein?

What if He summoned Heaven’s angels

So they that voiced “Crucify” are slain?

What if He withheld His love and grace

So we may work our way through Heaven’s gates?

We will never stand on Judgment Day

And enjoy life in the Eternal State.

He would rather suffer in Hell alone

Than reside in Heaven without you.

He gladly chose the nails you deserve

‘Cause that was all He needed to do.

There’s nothing you can add to His Work

Only you receive it as a gift.

For rejection will only bring pain,

Broken hopes and a wishful, “What If.”

The Sun Never Sets on High School

March 24, 2010. 0930 hours.

This was the day I would either hate the most or love the most. This is a moment so trying, nerve-wracking and spine-tingling that only five people are allowed to witness and be part of it inside a hollow, warm room. Only the fittest  and the strongest shall survive and surpass the nostalgic stage.

This was the moment of truth. The declaration of the top 3 honors  for the graduating batch of school year 2009-2010.

Okay, maybe I was exaggerating a little, but to tell you the truth, this was how I partly felt. The other part of me was scared and relaxed altogether because I know that things can change by just a small factor of one decimal point. The healthy competition I had with my other two competitors, Deuel and Abby, (who happened to be my two bestest friends in our batch) was a really tight, exciting one. Our scores and averages were so close that 8 or more teachers are required to meet together, calculate and decide who receives which. Although it was quite obvious that Deo (Deuel’s nickname) would be our class valedictorian, double, triple, and quadruple calculations and ‘checkings’ are required to avoid biases, miscalculations and other mishaps. To tell you the truth, it seemed like the competition was just between me and Abby. Not that we did not strive for the first, but our averages compared to Deo’s were as far as the distance a person travels by car from Makati to Ortigas on a Friday night. It’s possible, but it would take a heck a lot of patience, determination, diligence and perspiration. For that reason, I only had my hope on the second place.

So there we were–the three of us–inside our memorable room together with our adviser, Ms. Abarca, and  another high school teacher, Mrs. Cayanan. After a word of prayer, Deo, Abby, Mrs. Cayanan and I sat on our unusually cold and plastic armchairs while Ms. Abarca remained standing. She explained how the deliberation process took place yesterday evening and a past session with all our subject teachers. They made sure that all the papers and grades were quadruple checked and calculated. She pointed our attention to the set of grades she wrote on the whiteboard earlier. Our final grades were written, but our names weren’t. This added tension. Ms. Abarca then wrote our names on the board. As expected, Deuel ranked first. The question now is, who’s second and who’s third?

It was an unexpected result. Abby and I tied. Our averages were exactly the same. To the very last decimal point.

If our ranking would be based on our scholastic grades alone, then our batch would have two salutatorians. Thus our school created a system for ranking graduating honor students. The 70% would be our academics, 20% extra-curricular activities and 10% character (since our school is a Christian institution). As for the extra-curricular activities, Abby ranked 1st, Deo 2nd and I third. As for charater, Deo ranked 1st, I ranked 2nd and Abby ranked third.

The question is not who ranked first since it was quite obvious that Deo aced the competition. The question is, who will be called the salutatorian?

Ms. Abarca did a mathematical evaluation with each of the three parts of our grades (academics, extra-curricular, character) to arrive at the weighted rank. The person with the lowest number is the 1st and the person with the highest number is the 3rd. (This is because our final averages were multiplied according to the factor indicated. Our final grades in academics were multiplied by 7 [70%], extra-curricular by 2 and character by 1)

Deo had 12 points. Abby had 19 points. I had 22.

As I saw those numbers, my world nearly crashed down. I thought I would emerge victorious. I thought I would land at a “Heavenly place.” Sa Tagalog, masayado akong nag-akala. Nakalimutan ko na lahat ng akala mali. Sobrang mali.

I can feel the tears about to rush out of my tear ducts and pour profusely down my face. I chose to reserve those tears for my alone time with God. I kept a firm yet happy countenance as we opened the dividers and let our other batch mates in.

We proceeded downstairs to head to our school-church’s auditorium. I wore my black, filtering shades because I realized I could not hide the tears any longer. I chose a path not-so-distanced from my classmates to avoid empathetic questions. I only had one question and it’s directed to God and myself. Why?

I took my iPod and wished I had the song “Just Once” so I could sing to the first verse and relate. I sung it in my head.

“I did my best, but I guess my best wasn’t good enough. ‘Cause here I am back where I was before….”

Here I am again, back at #3.

Later that evening, as I knelt down in prayer, I burst into tears, the tears I have been trying so hard to control. This time, I can cry all I want and the Person I was gonna cry to would never push me aside nor be judgmental towards me. Once again, God humbled me. He made me realize that I had even more potential and diligence to pour on my education; I wasn’t just seeing it yet. It was not impossible, but it’s certainly difficult. I would rather win third in the most challenging and difficult race in the world than first in the race I know I would ace so easily. When I read the Bible that day, I was encouraged and amazed by the strong and courageous leader, Joshua. An astonishing and seemingly impossible story about him and the Israelites could be found in the 10th chapter of his book. After hearing how Joshua and the Israelites defeated the kings of Jericho and Ai and how the Gibeonites made a peace treaty with them, five Amorite kings conspired against the Gibeonites and attacked them. By doing so, they actually planned their own tragic demise. God used Joshua and the Israelites to help the Gibeonites defeat the evil kings because the Gibeonites were the only foreigners kind enough to God’s chosen nation. As the battle waged, Joshua did an astonishing thing. He commanded, in the presence of God and Israel, the sun to stand still and the moon to stop moving. As a result, “the sun stopped in t he middle of the day and delayed going down about a full day!”

Scientifically, that is impossible! To me, it is very astonishing and amazing! I am also encouraged by the story and Joshua because I know what kind of God I am serving and entrusting my whole life to. Not because we’re sinful, He no longer listens to us. In fact, He delights in answering our prayers, as long as they are aligned to His will.

I may have landed third place in high school, but that is not the end of everything. In fact, it’s just a taste to what the real competition looks like: COLLEGE. I thank God because He never bases His love and acceptance and my worth on medals and other earthly achievement. As long as I performed the best way He wanted me to, I know He’s proud of me. I can see Him smiling.

The sun has not set over my time yet. It’s only beginning to rise.

Purity, Purity! Wherefore art thou, O Purity?

Local news reports are brimming with bad news. Murders here, fires there, corruption on the left, economic breakdown the right. But you know what bad news hurts me the most? The fact that the Department of Health is constantly encouraging people, especially the youth, to purchase condoms or other form of contraceptive. They are so persistent to the extent that they bring the “urgent news” to Grade 5 kids! I have a brother on the same level and I can’t imagine him learning how to use a condom. Why should he know? Why should kids know? Besides, who has the right to teach kids (including teenagers) these things? The government has trespassed parental border.

Why does the DOH insist on the entire Philippines using condoms? They believe these “things” help decrease cases of STDs as well as the spread of the HIV virus which causes AIDS, or the total destroying of the immune system. Research shows that the use of contraceptives do not eliminate the risks of acquiring these diseases completely. It’s still a risky thing to do.

What will completely eliminate this problem, then? I believe the answer lies on the inner heart of man.  Purity , and purity alone, is the  key to eliminate such diseases. King Solomon was right when he said that there is a generation who thinks they are pure, but in reality they are not washed away from their own filthiness. (Proverbs 30:12) People always want the easy way out so they choose condoms over purity. Purity is a lifelong trait that ought to be maintained, but it’s sure worth the maintenance.

This I say out of the things I have learned from the Bible as well as my desire to see a ‘purity movement’ in this nation. I myself can stumble at some points because purity is not just about not having sex. It’s everything in you–your words, actions and thoughts. We can’t do this on our own; we need God’s Word and Spirit to guide and lead us. The question now is, what are we going to do about it? Before leaving this page, please leave a comment saying how you can help revive purity in a sin-contaminated world. Jesus wants to return and see His bride clean and pure, eagerly awaiting for His appearance. Let us encourage others, especially fellow teens (if you’re still part of that bracket) to do the same. Share other insights God has revealed to you.

“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.” I Timothy 4:12 (emphasis added)

Twice Rejected

“God opposes the proud, but He gives grace to the humble.”

– o – o – o – o – o – o – o – o – o –

When a student steps in his senior year of high school, he usually hears 2 prominent questions being thrown at him:

  1. “Where are you going to study for college? &
  2. “What course are you going to take?”

I am no exception. Whenever people ask me these questions, my answers are ready and “overscratched” like old CDs.

“UP Diliman or Ateneo de Manila. Course? BroadCom [Broadcast Communication] in UP, AB Com in ADMU.”

Sometimes I would include “UA&P, course Integrated Marketing and Communications.” I rarely verbalize La Salle. Not that I find it bad, but not as good as the former three. (In spite of my bias, I hold great respect for all current and former students of La Salle, especially my friends and relatives.)

With a heart set for what its master wants, I applied for all four schools and took all four tests. Ranking it from 1-4, 4 being the hardest, I would say: La Salle, UA&P, UP, ADMU. Because of my “personal rank,” (which I realized later on was soo foolish of me to do) I was quite confident I would pass all four. Not to mention I indicated quota courses in all schools.

The months pass, the good times roll. I was doing great in school (I was 2nd honor last quarter–first ever in my entire life!), ministry, family, and friends. Christmas was awesome, vacation was awesome, I got lots of money. Then the new year kicked in. News of entrance exam results spread like wildfire. Students flock computers and websites take ages to load (or maybe it was just Ateneo! :D). The first two weeks of January were still okay because DLSU and UA&P results came in early. In fact, UA&P sent me a personal letter on Christmas Eve. I passed both schools! Yes, praise God indeed! But I was not too ecstatic. I begin to get nervous. I was still awaiting the two heavier, better universities.

The Ateneo Admissions Office released the ACET results at exactly 1 PM last Saturday, January 16, 2010. I nervously typed my 4-worded name. Thanks to the busy server, I had ample time to inhale all the air and exhale all the anxiety.


“Sorry, your name is not on the list…….”

I refreshed the page. To check if this was indeed the 2010 result, I typed my classmate’s name. Then….boom.

He passed.

Did I tell you I was fasting that day? By God’s grace and constant reminder, I did not harbor jealousy against this close classmate of mine who also happens to be my best friend in school since second grade. I can say, with a smile on my face, that I was genuinely happy for him. He deserves it.

But since I did not pass, I felt differently. Suddenly I realized the gravity of the test results. Questions race in my mind. “Does that mean I’m not that smart than people say I am? Did I go bonkers on my essay?” Unfortunately, answers were unavailable. I could only take a deep breath, let it go, and accept the hard facts. My hopes for passing the UPCAT waned. And just as any non-“passee” would think, I thought of facts that would justify my failure to pass. “Malayo naman ang Ateneo at UP. Ayaw ni mommy na mag-commute ako ng ganun kalayo. Mangangapa ako sa kaka-commute. Mas mabuti nang sa UA&P kahit mahal, o sa La Salle kahit….hindi ko gusto.” 😦

Then another week passes. This time, more results. More bad news.

My name was not on the UPCAT passers too.

Thankfully I’m not the other desperate and dedicated seniors who really mope over the “destruction of their lifelong dreams,” but I was just as sad. I can remember my dad, coming home from work, excited to view the results. I can also imagine the gloom that covered his face. Although he didn’t mope (none of us did!), I can tell they were sad. Somehow, as the eldest daughter whose known for making her parents proud, I felt I let them down. I felt sorry for my dad. He patiently and lovingly accompanied me to all the 4 schools when I took the test, skipped work just so I can apply, and even treated me to a delicious meal afterwards. He wanted me to go to Ateneo. I did my best to hide my sadness that day by laughing constantly and watching other more intelligent kids play their instruments. :)))) (Bio channel–world’s greatest musical prodigies)

The following day after the not-so-shocking revelation of me not passsing UP, I cried out to the LORD. I cried not because I didn’t get into my dream school or that He didn’t let me in. I cried because I realized how awful the stench of my character really is. God opposed my pride. He opened my eyes by closing the doors I believe to be opportunity. People always tell me, “Kaya mo yan! Mapapasa mo yan.” Not that I blame them, but this statement led me to believe I can actually pass all four tests without working up a sweat. I mean, I did not attend review classes (even if I knew I should) and I did not take reviewing seriously. And again, I was mistaken. No pain, No gain.

In spite of all the failures and mistakes I’ve committed, I praise my Savior, Jesus. I can hear Him telling me, “I don’t want to oppose you! I want to give you as much grace as you need, but you won’t let Me. You know that your pride and I don’t get along.” I thank Him for sparing me from the more painful chastenings I can undergo have I not realized my mistakes early on.

Lord Jesus, thank You. Right now, I still got problems. I like UA&P over DLSU, but not as much as ADMU or UP. I have two reasonable reasons:

1. UA&P is 5 times more expensive than my present school. That’s the annual fee. Multiply that by 5 again, and add thousands of pesoses. That’s my entire college fee.

2. I’ve never really dreamed to go to La Salle. Reasonable enough. 😀

So now I’ve got a new prayer. Lord, if you want me to go to UA&P, please provide the finances we need, and please teach me to be content with whatsoever I have. If you want me to go to La Salle, please give me a heart to see your grace and hand in it. Even if mine are not so in to it. And of course, give my parents wisdom and understanding.”

Farewell Ateneo. Farewell UP. Guess we’re not meant for each other.