Category Archives: reach UP

Passenger Seat (Ride Four)

(Looking back, 2012 was one crazy adventure for this ‘nene’ that helped me find inner peace even more. And, oh, here in Turkey now, I still look like one to everyone though i’m in my late 30s.)

Nene. That’s the Filipino term for small girl. And sometimes, it is even shortened to ‘ne.  Personally, it is a term I have learned to live with as a commuter, because often, it is what jeepney, bus or cab drivers (and conductors) would use to refer to me—imagine, a 31-year-old nene! :-s

Admittedly, on some days (when my faith is low and life’s challenges are getting to me), it can be quite annoying—don’t they know how much time it took me to dress up like a “Miss”?!, my evil-commanding soul would tell me, harhar!  But thankfully, I never really found the need to actually correct them.  Interestingly and more often, being a nene in their eyes has also led me to great reflections on this on-going journey, Alhamdulillah…

Rainy ride home
When I lost all my valuables at a peace event in Manila last summer, I was so emotionally vulnerable and penniless that my brother and sis-in-law agreed that I should just get a cab to take me all the way to their place in Cavite.  Of all the cab drivers I would meet, however, it just had to be one past 60 years old who’s had passengers who actually took off without paying him once they got to their respective destinations.  And, it didn’t help that he also had bad impressions of Muslim communities.

I thought he’d stop asking questions when I told him he could just drop me off at Waltermart (so no worries on his part of being ‘in danger’ in a Muslim community).  But, it got to a point when I just had to tell him my unfortunate experience to make him understand why it would be my brother who’d pay when we arrive in Cavite. Then, of all the most unexpected things that could happen, he went into his ‘father’ mode and started to reprimand me! “O ayan, leksyon ‘yan sa’yo. Magtatanda ka na n’yan. Naku, ‘ne, masyado ka kasing magtiwala sa tao. Delikado ang mundong ‘to, hindi ka dapat nagtitiwala.” (That’s a lesson for you. You trust people too much. The world is a dangerous place, you shouldn’t trust people.)

It makes me laugh now when I recall how I started to cry like a kid when he did that and how I started to explain things to him so he’d understand.  The frustrating way I lost my valuables, the fact that he just gave me a glimpse of how my protective parents could probably react, my mind stubbornly telling myself it’s still okay to trust, and the rain—perfect combination indeed to get me sobbing…which finally got manong Roger to empathize.  “Ne, wag ka ng umiyak. May mga tao lang talagang ganun siguro…” (Stop crying. Maybe some people are just really like that.)

It got really better.  He started sharing his happy experiences with other passengers and his happy encounters with Muslims in Mindanao when he was still in the military service.  I smiled when he finally said people can really vary—some good, some bad.  So I guess it’s his way of telling me the world isn’t really that bad, right?

Manong Roger even volunteered that I use his mobile phone so I can tell my brother we were still on the road and we’d be arriving past 7pm given the heavy rain.  I even ended up reading some of his messages for him, which were from his son.  Oh, yeah, it turned out he has a daughter, too, and when he finally learned how old I was, he apologetically told me he thought I was just around her age.  So now we know why he got into his ‘father’ mode back there!

Thankfully, we finally got to Waltermart where my brother waited for us.  Mang Roger drove us to my brother’s place and kuya did pay the fare. It wasn’t raining that hard anymore when we finally arrived. Alhamdulillah. 🙂

Hindi Estudyante
A  nene is also often viewed as a student.  So it sounds a bit funny for some passengers to hear me at times say, “Bayad po, hindi estudyante.”   But one fun ride home with two soul sisters, we realized there wasn’t really any rule that bus conductors could only ask one question (their “saan?” or where?).  After one of us said “estudyante”, this particular conductor automatically computed fare for three students.  Hence, I had to tell him I wasn’t a student.

“Bakit hindi ka estudyante?” (why are you not a student?)

All three of us were caught off guard.  Here was someone who broke the routine!  Philosophically, maybe I should have said “I am a student but not a student”—but maybe that would’ve confused him.  After all, I think he wasn’t really thinking of a student of life, but a student in our society’s educational system.

It took me a few seconds before I ended up saying I stopped already.  Maybe it wasn’t the best answer for I believe he misunderstood it and probably pitied me.  After giving my friends their student discount, he also decided to give me at least a Php5.00 discount, which I said was not needed but he insisted while moving away.  Hence, I couldn’t help but just joke, “Ano ‘to? Pang-senior citizen?” before thanking him. :-))

Interesting, don’t you think?  An act of charity right there…when I least expected it…when it was not even required.  It was a priceless five-peso surprise that reminded me how we can break free from our mechanical lives and do more than what is typically expected of us in a society of faceless people.  InshaALLAH.

Patience, little one
This one was a nene passenger experience I will not forget…perhaps, due to the timing back then.

Some JAM Bus Liner drivers and conductors knew that for a time, I took the bus to go to DLSU.  One night, I was so sleepy after an event that instead of waiting for another bus at the terminal, I decided to just sit on the aisle near the driver (they had cushions for those situations, so don’t worry).  I didn’t know he remembered me until he just suddenly asked,

“Nene, tapos ka na ba?” (Have you finished [studying]?)

I grinned and admitted, “hindi pa po eh.”

“Aba, tapusin mo na ‘yan!  Sayang mga araw mo.” (Finish it! Your days are getting wasted.)

I smiled—was it a broken one?  I honestly can’t remember.  Did he mistake me for an undergrad?  I honestly don’t know.  All I know was that ride was during a particularly challenging year for me.  I ended up saying, “Ang hirap pong pagsabayin eh…pagod na rin sa trabaho.” (It’s difficult to do things simultaneously…also tired from work.”)

He gave me a second look before pausing for awhile.  Then he said, “makakaraos din…tiyaga lang yan, ‘ne.”  (You’ll make it…it just takes patience.)

I didn’t answer, but we did smile at each other and that was one of the most peaceful rides home I’ve ever had.  Was he a working student once?  I don’t really know.  But, he did remind me that we don’t really have to know another person’s name or be friends with a person for a long time to be able to offer kind words.  Alhamdulillah for everything.

“Verily, along with every hardship is relief.” (Holy Qur’an 94:6)

The passenger seat.  Alhamdulillah for getting to be in one often for such opportunities have always provided great learning and re-learning experiences.  Being in one also reminds us that we actually do have the capacity to trust—trust like a small girl or boy…trust that life’s a great ride…trust that the driver will get us to where we need to be.  Wait, let me correct that…I should not have used often:

The passenger seat.  Alhamdulillah for getting to be in one every day, every hour, every moment of our lives, with HIM as The Driver.  May we be able to trust The Driver and allow HIM to take us to where there is eternal happiness, love, and peace. Ameen.

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Posted by on November 7, 2018 in I + You = WE, reach UP


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Passenger Seat (Ride Two)

(This was seven years ago, but I can still remember that day. I really pray these fellow passengers are having a beautifully meaningful life.)


End of the first semester, Alhamdulillah.  It’s extra memorable because t’was my first term to be coming home to my own place, too, Alhamdulillah.  It was an adjustment for a commuter like me  (since I have to leave home earlier) but the jeepney rides to and from work ever since I moved have almost always given me opportunities to reflect on life.  And, as I look back on the semester that was, one particular jeepney ride home seems to surface again and again…

They looked young enough to be first or second-year college students, but the three girls who happily rode the jeepney that evening were excited not because they got accepted in a university. They couldn’t contain themselves and had us smiling as they laughed and congratulated each other because they got hired in a ‘semicon’ (semiconductor company) at one of the technoparks in Laguna.

It really didn’t matter to them that we all heard how their ‘nosebleed’ interview went.  It honestly felt like we were all welcome to eavesdrop.  I couldn’t help it, really, considering they were just across me.  We smiled when one of them quipped that the tiring no-lunch waits and worried-that-i’m-running-out-of-printed-CVs were all worth it.

I have to admit, however, that I tried to hide my Puregold bag full of groceries when they started to compute how much they had to save in a day for the small room they’ll share, the bills, and their meals.  Yes, I know some of you would say it’s wrong to feel sorry for others (since they’re blessed enough to be that strong to take that kind of challenge), but I did feel sorry and I hoped they wouldn’t see the bag of groceries ‘coz I wouldn’t want them to feel sorry for themselves either in that area of their life at that very moment.

Yes, it is indeed cheaper and safer to cook, but the problem? They had no fridge.  They went on discussing factors to consider and finally decided to just share expenses for coffee, sugar and pan de sal  for breakfast, and rice and canned goods for the other meals. The initial excitement was already turning into a serious exchange.

Finally, one of them offered to bring extra pillows.  She told her friends she was able to buy them–along with a TV and a DVD player–out of her savings from her last job at another factory. She was beaming when she added, “Meron pa nga akong isang set na punda at yung parang kumot pero may manipis na foam na nakadikit sa loob. Dalhin ko rin yun.”  (a set of pillowcases and a comforter) The girl was, however, having second thoughts about bringing the DVD player because while her parents did not use it, they seemed to really like having it in their home in Quezon and would always tell their guests that it was their daughter who bought it.

I couldn’t help but smile.  To her parents, I bet that DVD player was not just any DVD player.

“Nakakatuwa, ‘no?  Sana maging pro-b tayo.” (Isn’t it really nice? I hope we get to become “probationary’ –a status of an employee in the Philippines after the contractual period…a status that gives hope that they will become regular employees one day, not having to worry where to apply next after the contract…a status that also means more employee benefits)

“Nyek! Mangagarap ka na rin lang, bisor na!” (If you’re going to dream, dream of becoming a ‘supervisor’)

“Oo nga! Taasan mo na!” (Yeah! Dream high!)


The ‘seasoned’ factory worker explained that she didn’t want to be a supervisor because that meant more responsibilities and could even cost her her job if her group doesn’t perform well.  She even gave examples in the company where she previously worked.  The other two nodded, yet one of them still couldn’t help but add,

“Pero masaya pa rin kung maging bisor.” (But it’s still nice if we can become supervisors)

They laughed, and the other two started to tease her–

“Kung bisor ka na, mage-english ka pa ba ‘pag nag-interview?!” (If you’re already a supervisor, will you be speaking in English in interviews?)

“Wag na! Kita mo naman kung gaano kahirap eh, di ba?” (Forget it! You experienced how hard it is, right?)


I finally reached my stop.  They smiled at me as I went down. We didn’t know each other yet they inspired me. They still do whenever I think of them. They remind me to smile after a tiring day.  They remind me how blessed we all are to have HIM hold the future for us. They remind me that we are different yet the same.

Yes, we may be different but we are all the same in that we all have dreams. Neither big nor small. Dreams that serve as stepping stones for other dreams. Or dreams that finally make us feel at home. Dreams we share and dreams our hearts call our own.

Yes, we all have them; and, it would be a lie to tell others that getting precious dreams will always be easy. Truth is, the more important the dream is for us, I think, the more effort it would take…more patience…more pauses and probably tears, but more smiles and laughter in the end, too…more faith.  That’s how it is, I guess, because The Almighty wants to see us grow…and nothing would make us believe more, do more, give more, and have faith more except chasing and getting our precious dreams while we still have the chance, according to His will.

Dreams.  What are yours?  Recognize them. (Let’s use recognize, because the truth is, they’ve always been there–just blurred by life’s non-essentials)  And when you finally recognize them, go get them…with faith.

It may be difficult, but with HIM, it always is possible.

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Posted by on November 2, 2018 in reach UP


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If words were all we had to make others understand, then we’d best choose the ones that capture who we are and what’s inside our hearts.  After all, while it is true that actions speak louder than words, sometimes the situation makes it impossible to see what we actually do; hence, the other is left with no choice but to rely on what we say.  John Mayer singing in my head, say what you need to say.

If indifference were a “zero”, then it would be the only one with a negative sign.  Experiences can make us feel numb. We might think it’s cool…we might seem unaffected…but deep inside, we are affected. And, the more we allow ourselves to get stuck here, the more we deny ourselves a chance to fully live.

If we believe that people have lost the capacity to change, then we can’t say we’re truly giving it our best when we try to engage them in a genuine dialogue.  Admit it or not, that seemingly small belief at the back of our mind leads us to judge them—“they won’t listen to us, they just won’t”…some resistance and we abandon the dialogue, rationalizing what happened.  Self-fulfilling prophecy personified right there.

If everything was spelled out for us, then we’d never really learn to move out of our comfort zones.  We’d never learn what it means to risk…and, unfortunately, we’d never really reach our fullest potential.

If we don’t learn to let go of anger, we’ll end up feeling and looking a lot older than we look.  It’s draining to be angry.  But for us to let it go, we need to have the strength to accept it first…after all, how can we let go of something we never acknowledged we had?

If we fail to put others before ourselves, we’ll never learn what it means to love.  We’ll never get to appreciate that which is both a responsibility and a fulfillment of who we are.  To love…to be sensitive to their needs, without being told…after all, to care for them is to care for ourselves.  Their happiness…our happiness.

If we always bail out when things get rough, we’d never understand what patience means.  We’d never really get to see how far we can go and how much we can endure.  But, similarly, if we mistake pride for patience, we’d end up arriving at the wrong destination.  We did get somewhere…only to realize that it’s not where we truly want to be.

If life was made up of only one chance to do the things that matter to us most, we’d probably do our best not to allow things to fall apart…but life’s made up of chances, which is good in a way because it gives us the opportunity to make things better.  Then again, we take life for granted, realizing things only when it is too late.

If we’re too afraid to let some chapters end, then we’d never get to live the ever after HE wonderfully prepared for us.  It reminds me of a friend’s story…how can the master give his pet a steak when it doesn’t want to let go of the bone?  If we learn to spend days faithfully letting go, wishing that day comes, we’ll wake up one day no longer just wishing…we already have.

If our faith has weakened, then we’d be spending too much time thinking of the best strategy to get a big boulder out of the road…forgetting that God never said we’d have to be the one to make it move…all He wanted was for us to try with all our might while believing with all our heart that He will move it for us.

Live with all of your heart…always for The Most Loving.

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Posted by on October 31, 2018 in I + You = WE, reach UP


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Stepping forward

To be at peace is to be able to look at chaos calmly, seeing beyond the ‘what is’ the beautiful ‘what can be’ when we synergize to make things better through The Almighty.

To be great is to be able to forgive others, keeping in mind our own countless moments of weakness that The Most Merciful forgives repeatedly.

To be faithful is to walk with courage in the dark, knowing The Guide will lead us to where we’ve always wanted to be, right where we’re meant to be.




Posted by on May 21, 2017 in I + You = WE, reach UP, wOrK = pLaY


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Step One

Bismillahi Rahmani Rahim
(In the Name of ALLAH, The Most Gracious, The Most Merciful)
How do I begin?
As I pondered on how to start this new entry, I realized my question was something that has actually been posed several times in dialogues I’ve been blessed enough to have.
How do I begin?
Perhaps, it sounds absurd for some—even a ‘no-brainer’, so they say. However, admit it or not, there indeed comes a point in our lives when we feel paralyzed by unexpected situations or overwhelming expectations. It could be that sudden loss of something or someone so valuable that we are left wondering how we can possibly take another step, let alone another breath. Or, it could be the realization that we’ve committed a major mistake that has now caused significant people in our lives so much pain—thus, hurting ourselves as well. Or, it could be finding ourselves being given that opportunity to get our biggest dreams yet it also feels like the whole world’s breathing down our necks, telling us we cannot afford to make a mistake. SubhanALLAH (Glory be to Allah), three scenarios that are different yet are also quite the same. Why don’t we ponder on them a bit?
Loss. It never is easy to lose hold of those we’ve come to consider as life essentials. Yes, maybe we all know that sooner or later losing them was bound to happen (after all, nothing in this world is permanent). But, let’s admit this: as we get attached even more to this world, we unconsciously forget that loss is inevitable and it is something that we can and will experience. We forget this basic truth that when it finally does happen, we often feel devastated—how can something so wonderful end just like that? And, how can others expect us to begin anew? Speak to an old lady whose better half for almost 50 years passed away and you’ll realize how difficult beginning could be: first morning without him…first breakfast, first step out of the house, first trip to that familiar supermart to do the groceries, first chat with old friends…first of everything once again—without him. And we suddenly grasp why lines like “you can do it” or “you’ll be ok” can sound so meaningless for the bereaved. How do we begin, so they wonder…but…inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi rajioon, remember? To ALLAH we belong and to HIM is our return.
Mistake. It’s easy to demand or expect our loved ones to make amends immediately when they hurt us. Yet, when it’s the other way around, especially when we realize the gravity of our mistakes, the acts we know we should do to make things right become difficult. How do we begin to say sorry? How do we take away the pain they feel? How can we expect them to forgive us after the things we’ve done? The simple is suddenly blurred by the complex and exaggerated thoughts of what would happen next. And, before we know it, selective amnesia sets in—we remember so well what we’ve done wrong but we’ve forgotten the timeless essentials that would help make things better. We’ll expound on this some more in a separate article. For now, suffice it to say that the i-am-beyond-redemption mindset makes us forget that it is actually possible to tread on the path towards a brand new start. La taqnatoo min rahmati Allah, remember? “…despair not of the mercy of ALLAH.” (see Holy Qur’an 39:53 for complete verse)
Risk. It’s quite ironic how we pray so hard that The Most Gracious gives us our hearts’ desire yet when an opportunity to turn those dreams into reality is presented, we freeze. What are we going to do next? What step must we take? What if things go wrong? What if we fail our loved ones? What if we fail ourselves? Imagine that. We’ve been brought this close to our dreams by The All-Powerful One yet we now forget to trust that HE will continue to guide us in our next steps. Hasbiyallaahu laa ‘ilaaha ‘illaa Huwa ‘alayhi tawakkaltu wa Huwa Rabbul-’Arshil-’Adheem, remember? Allah is sufficient for me. There is none worthy of worship but Him. I have placed my trust in Him, He is Lord of the Majestic Throne.
There…three different life events that make us ask how to begin. Events that reveal our fears—fear of getting attached too much only to lose, fear of never being forgiven, and fear of failing to reach much-wanted goals. And, if we ponder on them some more, fears tell us how afraid we are of experiencing pain. After all, it is painful to lose something or someone we’ve considered an extension of ourselves. It is painful to realize it is our own selves who’ve caused the very ones we love pain. And, it is painful to not get those much-wanted dreams in life. Fear and pain. Indeed, different scenarios yet the same—always a test of faith. Fear reveals how strong our faith is in The Best Planner, The All-Wise. And, pain can actually be a blessing in disguise; a way to remind us of the purpose of our existence.
How do I begin?
Others quite often say, you just do it…just begin. It may sound absurd, but then again, think of it. Each moment of our lives is a beginning. I mean, who would’ve thought we’d make it to the next moment? Had HE willed, this could be our last breath, subhanALLAH. But, we’re still here, Alhamdulillah (praise be to Allah). In fact, wherever you are right now, if you’re still reading this, then that’s more than enough to say, “Alhamdulillah.” (And we’re not yet even reflecting deeply on the air, the sun, the electricity, the computer you’re using, the sense of sight, and all the what-have-you’s that we often take for granted) Some of us may not have wanted to still be breathing right now because of how tragic life seems to them, but hey, we’re still here. Alhamdulillah. And, whether we like it or not, life goes on as long as HE wills it.
Hence, if each moment is a beginning which HE lovingly gives, then we are left with only two options: to either begin by giving it the best we have or to begin by letting our fears and all the negativities get in the way. Reflect. If you wake up and you tell yourself “It’s too difficult” or “It’s no use” or “I won’t make it”, then that’s already how you chose to begin your life at that very moment—and seriously, it’s going to affect the next moments you may be given unless you decide to change. So, which option is it going to be?
Still finding it hard? Perhaps, it’ll help if we modify the question:
How do I want to begin this moment of my life?
There. We’re not even talking about the rest of our lives; just this very important moment given to us—the here and now; the (gift of the) present. One moment at a time. One step at a time. Step one. And what matters is the kind of step one we make out of the moment HE lovingly gives, in shaa ALLAH (God willing).
Difficult? Perhaps—when faith wanes…but may we remember that with HIM, it always is possible. And, truthfully, may we pray that each of us decide to begin each moment with our lips, our minds, and our hearts saying,
Bismillah. In the Name of Allah.
In the Name of Allah. In the Name of The One Who’s lovingly created you and me. In the Name of The One Who never tires. In the Name of The One Who Hears even our hearts’ unspoken prayers. In the Name of The One Who gives peace and light. In The Name of The One Who bestows more than what we can ever imagine.
Bismillah. In the Name of Allah.
Don’t you just love how that sounds? I honestly hope we find our hearts smiling much, in shaa ALLAH.
“Bismillah is the start of all things good.” – Bediuzzaman Said Nursi
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Posted by on April 21, 2017 in reach UP


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This is not an original. I often hear this way back college during our recollections and retreats. I just summarized and added some. Read on…


1. Allow ALLAH The Most Loving Teacher to guide you as you write your story.

2. Your capacity to leave a mark comes from within.

3. Sharpening may be painful, but it brings out the best in you.

4. Mistakes are a part of life. Be humble enough to use your eraser.

5. Your eraser’s quite small and it will one day run out. Remember that there are things you won’t be able to erase, and you’d have to live with them forever.

6. There will always be someone who seems to be better than you…but why make comparisons or concern yourself too much with what they write? Focus on YOUR story. Focus on making YOUR mark. No one can do that for you except yourself.

7. Your lead one day will all be consumed. Make the most of it & remember that though you’ll never run out of opportunities to leave a mark while you’re still here, you do have limited time & opportunities to touch the same exact sheets of paper and make your mark there.

Be a blessed PENCIL! 🙂

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Posted by on January 22, 2017 in I + You = WE, reach UP


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Forget not

Interestingly, FB memories remind me how my Decembers have been for the past five years…all about psychosocial support. More interestingly, however–and one i pray i never forget–is the fact that in the process of providing such support, in the face of such raw and honest interhuman encounters, i find that it is i who has been awakened, who has been touched and inspired, who has learned so, so much. Alhamdulillah.



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Posted by on December 3, 2016 in I + You = WE, reach UP


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