In His Absence, He is Present


It pains me to imagine my family scampering in terror, in the dark, shouting and crying in fear. My 7 year old nephew kept crying and praying aloud not minding the people around him according to my sister. He was so scared but he kept on talking to God in his tears. Calling on God for the fire not to reach our house. He recounted with me how he cried so hard for his grandmother whom he thought was left in the flaming house. Not knowing that her grandmother, barefoot like him was frantically pulling the firemen’s hose to save her newly renovated house. The fire spread so rapidly that they were forced to eventually simply stare from afar, drained, helpless and dying inside. Lolo and lola arrived to get them. Ours was the last house to be burned. The 3-storey structure of the house remained amidst the charred things inside.

The many major losses and storms we went through this past years as a family and this time the burning of our house is something that really shakes me deeply.

As I looked at the debris, still feeling the heat of the charred house, the broken windows and all that was left in the little that my family had I found it so hard to find meaning and yet I know in faith that life moves on amidst the seeming helplessness and all the many darknesses that we went through as a family.

We do not know why things are unfolding this way. The morning I received the call I tried my best not to cry. I have never cried over the phone on hearing  the many bad news that I   received during the past years. Not even the suicide of a brother. I tried my  best all those years to just be present to them as I listened. I would just cry and cry some more  after we hung up.  This time I wasn’t able to contain my own grief. I cried with them. I had to finally let go of the “strong stance” and just be with them as I am. I hung up feeling so powerless  and I found it so hard to believe that here was another storm howling so strongly, when we had not yet recovered from the most recent ones.

I knew I cried with my family this time not just because of the fire but because of the feeling of the seeming endlessness of it all. It has been a long night for us all.

Inspite of losing everything except the car, I am immensely grateful that they were all safe, together with all our neighbors. Their old dog did not make it but Aira, the puppy, survived. Shivering with ashes all over his body. We lost all that connected us to our past as a family. My brother’s children lost also all their family photos that could have somehow remind them as they grow up that  they, too, had a family of their own before their parents separated.

Truly there is a deeper loss beyond the charred things.   A transition as in any other loss in life, a transition so abrupt, so violent, so sad.

My family will begin anew gradually as they gather bits and pieces of their shattered selves. Especially my mother.  Sometimes you get to ask yourself what’s behind all these seeming life’s cruelties. I am  a strong believer though that God does not want any of His children to suffer needlessly.  

Our good Lord has sustained me all these years and will continue to sustain me. The road is quite dark but as Fr. Kieran mentioned in his talk last Thursday,  “It is dark and we cannot see but he is there.” 

In His absence He is most present. The great paradox of our life.



I live with a group of vowed women in an enclosed place known as a monastery.

The pattern of our day-to-day life or community acts has minor variations according to geographical settings and liturgical seasons but the need to balance our being solitaries in a community is  the same in all our monasteries worldwide. 

We strive to be present with each other as members of a community.  But we also highly value our time of solitude.  With our fixed schedule, we also have “alone time” or days of complete solitude.  These are hermit/solitude days when we do not join our regular schedule.

Years ago when I told a  friend that we have monthly recollection and yearly personal and community retreats, she gave me that surprise stare which I read as “Don’t you have more than enough “silent time” already?”

Our solitude day is an essential part of our being solitaries in community. It sustains and helps us balance our energies as monastics.   It helps us reset when the busyness of our daily life (yes, we can be busy also) drains us and makes us out of focus.

We have short (recollection/free day) and long (retreat) solitude days. In those days we pray and eat alone, and have extra time for rest, journaling, reading, or other recharging interests that we might have.

And this is how I daily try to live my life.

People asked why did I choose this life? To say that I chose this on my own sounds untrue. It was more of I was led into this.   I remember my long years of doubt if I truly belonged here.

It is by grace alone that I did not give up and that I was never asked to leave as a young aspirant.  I had several companions in my formation years who had to leave. It was a painful departure for some. Others left on their own.

That God invited me and is sustaining me in this way of life is a pure gift. 



I am done with my 20s, 30s and 40s where I have spent most of my energy grappling with childhood issues. I can say that I know myself better now.

I am passed that stage in my life asking what do I want to be when I grow up. This is already the grown up time. This is the “future” I was thinking of as a child.

Not that I thought of being a nun as a child but I often think then of my “future” life.  The mysterious twist came.  I flowed with it but through the years I was swept now and then by doubts, confusion, guilt, sadness and all sorts of emotions that makes me think that I might have made the wrong decision in choosing this way of life.

We live only once and what if in this one life I made the wrong choice? What if there is another life where I would be happier, more contented and more of my own at ease self?

And yet what if I have chosen the other life and have these exact same questions?

No one really knows. It could be this, it could be that.  I have made a choice, a commitment. If I was married and felt I made the wrong choice would I decide to leave and begin elsewhere?

These are passing thoughts that I have but I notice that through the years they don’t really come to a point of a “crisis” or disturbance that makes me seriously discern to leave.

Maybe even married/partnered people have all these musings now and then asking themselves, “Am I trapped? Did I make the right choice?”



I have been worrying for my sibling for the longest time.

What if I embrace the unknown and simply trust and be confident in God’s provisions for them? What if I let go of the role as the “helper, rescuer, messiah?”

Embracing the unknown is accepting the uncertainties, giving consent to a life which is unfolding in ways that we do not have 100% control of. Embracing is an act of openness, an act of letting go, of letting be. In embracing the unknown we allow ourselves to be present in darkness, in confusion, in in-between modes.

The unknown is a huge threat to our desire to be in control, to be in command, to be in charge. It is scary   when we are powerless, when we are not in control  of what is happening in our lives and the lives of our loved ones.  The unknown is the dark spaces in our lives that we struggle to make sense of.

Spaces that we cannot make sense of makes us suffer, it gives us tremendous pain and fear.

Embracing the unknown is a life of a thousand rise and fall in our effort to entrust our lives and the lives of our loved ones to God. Because what is unknown to us is fully known to him. Embracing the unknown can be scary but what better options do we have.  It’s a choice to surrender, to entrust, to believe that God is in charge – no matter what.

In desiring to embrace the unknown we are simply allowing God to be GOD and believing without a single doubt that we are his beloved ones.  Our journey is in his hands and that “All things shall be well, all manners of things shall be well”  as the mystic Julian of Norwich wrote for our peace of heart.


An on-set of shortness of breath when climbing the stairs, a strange rapid heartbeat with a simple manual task, an experience of chest pain at night ~ all these made me extra anxious last night. In bed, I lingered on memories of people I know who were around my age dying without saying goodbye. Around this time last year, a 49-year-old friend, the husband of a college best-friend suddenly died of an aneurysm.

Last night before sleeping, my prayer was different. I surrendered myself to God in case I don’t get to wake up anymore. I asked forgiveness for all my sins and entrust all to his mercy. I slept less fearful. It was one of those rare moments of complete surrender.

The next thing I remember is hearing my alarm clock. Half-awake I smiled. I thanked God. I am still alive.

Musing on death at 50 when one has these physiological signs is normal. It’s important that I am in touch with my body. If I need to, I will later consult a doctor.

I know death will come and it is something I have no control over although I can also try to eat mindfully to lower my cholesterol! 🙂 Knowing that there is a LIMIT makes me cherish life in a way I never did in my younger years. I feel a stronger nudge to use “wisely” my remaining years on this side of life.  It inspires me to practice concrete loving actions, not to keep resentments, not to hold any prejudice, ill-will, or any other negativities around me. In the light of a limited life-span, what are those toxic energies for?

I will always have  dark/ugly thoughts, words and feelings but in my desire to simplify and live in gratitude and serenity I will keep choosing to re-set by forgiving myself, others, situations (and sometimes even God).

“Be happy. You never know how much time you have left.”

I have no idea how much time I still have but nearing 50 I can say that I already had a long life. I have outlived Eugene twice over. My brother who opted out.

I have been gifted with a long life, solid friendships, peace, contentment, gratitude, self-forgiveness, mercy – in a place, a home, a Community, I have never ever imagined nor expected. I fully believe that God will do the same for them because all of us are HIS BELOVED.

And these are my reflections after worrying of dying in my sleep last night. 


I am still here. Wanting to write but still so unfocused in making this happen. Someday I want to be a writer but then I know there is no someday. Just today.

I am nearing 50 and I am beginning to seriously be afraid about not fulfilling my dream. Daily there is something I need to do that I keep postponing the prescribed writing practice. And most days I question if I can really write and if it’s worth my time. But then the desire never wanes. It is always here. Quietly nudging at me. Write. Write. Write.

What will I write about?


Listening to my 8-year-old niece reciting Maya Angelou’s “Life Doesn’t Frighten Me” poem felt like entering a door inside me.

The ongoing war in Aleppo, Mosul, Yemen and other parts of the Middle East, the genocide in Myanmar, Trump rising, chaos in the government, a plane crashing killing an entire football team and their coaching staff and journalists because of lack of fuel, earthquakes in Italy, Japan, Indonesia and elsewhere, the appalling migrant crisis in Europe, human trafficking and many other tragic news seems to pull me strongly to be scared about life.

This past months fear has crept in heavily on me.  Some are saying its best to skip the news and stay unscathed by horrifying stories around us. Yet this is not how I want to live. I cannot not read simply to protect myself from the pain of knowing.

With the advent of the internet though there is a tsunami of visual bombardment of graphic information. Some are really way beyond what the heart can receive. The other night I deliberately did not look at the video of a teen-ager in Mosul whose body was dragged before a tank. The article said it crushed the boy’s head.

Apparently it came from the very same photo-journalist who posted the iconic picture of a young boy from Syria who sat stunned, bleeding and motionless in an ambulance which captured the hearts of global viewers. If it was the same photo-journalist who participated in the death of an Iraqi teen-ager and in bringing out the iconic photo of a young boy in Syria to blame Assad’s regime then it is truly frightening. The media may not be telling the truth also. I also think of Bana Alabed, the 7-year-old girl mom who kept posting with her mom’s help from the war-torn Syria since September. I also am confused how could they continue to have a Wi-Fi access when everything else was taken from them by the atrocious civil war?  It frightens me to realize that we don’t really know what to believe anymore. Propaganda initiatives is making a fool of all of us if ever even Bana from Twitter is a fictitious character.

Life also frightens me knowing that Trump will very soon take office. It frightens me that there were really people who voted for him. For real.

Life frightens me as I hear news of my mother having  forgetful episodes already. I think of the possibility of her having age-related illnesses such as dementia. I pray it will never happen. I know what ravages Alzheimer’s can do to a person having lived with someone for the past ten years and counting.

Life frightens me when I see an introvert, shy-looking teen-age niece who is studying in a Catholic school, suddenly posting a picture of her almost naked self in a skimpy swim-suit in social media.

Life frightens me when a once bright-eyed, bubbly and highly smart  nine-year old girl daughter of a friend whom I know as a baby  drastically  changed into a  violent, extremely anxious, verbally abusive and depressive person. Her inability to cope after a bullying experience at school and her teacher’s refusal to acknowledge the incident shattered her not even a  decade old spirit. She now  refused to step out of the house for months already and never went back to school. This week she has to be restrained and brought to a psychiatrist.

Life frightens me whenever I am having a chest discomfort. ECG result did not show a need for further test and a doctor told me it could just be an acid reflux. But it still frightens me as I still have the pain now and then.  I read that at times the first sign of a heart illness is death.

Maybe aging is doing this to me. Now I know more clearly that death is real and time here on earth is limited. When your young life seems to be forever.

I don’t know but the truth is it feels good to be able to name all this. To say fully that life frightens me ironically feels freeing at the same time.

I am not ashamed to name how I feel.

Yes, I have fears but here comes Maya saying that there’s another mode of living. She’s not giving a list of assurances of a terror-free existence in her poem. She’s simply saying it doesn’t scare her at all.

And if she can live that way I know I can too.  Maya has Faith in God. She has Faith in herself. She has Faith in LIFE.  Without needing to convince myself the words of Maya Angelou quietly gives me hope and an abiding sense that I am safe and will continue to be safe and need not fear life.

In life and in death I belong to God.


Shadows on the wall

Noises down the hall
Life doesn’t frighten me at all

Bad dogs barking loud
big ghosts in a cloud
Life doesn’t frighten me at all

Mean old Mother Goose

Lions on the loose

they don’t frighten me at all

Dragons breathing flame
on my counterpane
that doesn’t frighten me at all.

I go boo
Make them shoo
I make fun
Way they run
I won’t cry
so they fly
I just smile
they go wild

Life doesn’t frighten me at all.

Tough guys fight

All alone at night
Life doesn’t frighten me at all.

Panthers in the park
Strangers in the dark
No, they don’t frighten me at all.

That new classroom where
Boys all pull my hair
(Kissy little girls
with their hair in curls)
they don’t frighten me at all.

Don’t show me frogs and snakes

And listen for my scream,

If I’m afraid at all
It’s only in my dreams.

I’ve got a magic charm
that I keep up my sleeve
I can walk the ocean floor
and never have to breathe.

Life doesn’t frighten me at all
Not at all
Not at all.

Life doesn’t frighten me at all.

– Maya Angelou





I continue to be still and sit twice a day.   The important thing is I am trying not to read but sit still as I gather “ALL OF ME.” This feels right. This idea of “everything belongs” as Rohr put it. Not rejecting any part of my past. I read a line that went like this, “When was the last time you visited yourself?” When I sit I call it home-visit.

Sitting still is not just really about the self but being with God within me.

The purpose of sitting/meditating/centering/praying is not to go on a peace ride. It is not to feel good, holy or to escape from real life situations. Slowly I am beginning to understand that nothing will really exempt anyone from the “restlessness/big and small sufferings” of life. No meditation can make our lives problem-free but it can help us see things clearly.

According to Pema Chodron in her book, The Places that Scare You, seeing things clearly is one among the four qualities of maître we cultivate as we sit still or practice silent prayer or meditation.  The four qualities are:


Clear seeing

Experiencing our emotional distress

Attention to the present moment

What is MAITRI?

Pema wrote that Maitri means unconditional friendliness or being totally relaxed with ourselves. It is relating with ourselves without moralizing, without harshness, without deception.  All that makes us feel ugly, small and dirty are now seen in a different light. Self-forgiveness begins. Unhealthy choices in the past towards others and the self is seen with a deeper acceptance and understanding. We realized more and more that  everyone is doing the best they can with the inner resources that they had and that includes ourselves.  It is only when we begin to relax with ourselves that  we can let go of harmful patterns in our lives and allow lasting transformation to happen.

Another word I can use for maître is self-compassion. It is a relationship with one’s self where there is nothing to defend or to protect.  This idea of maitri or unconditional acceptance of ourselves embraces all that we are without excuses, without needing to explain, without taking issue with anything or anyone

This stance to life does not fix all our restlessness but it provides a sense of safety and acceptance to be just who we really are. There are  no demands and no conditions. There is no need to control.

We begin to be more patient and understanding with our own self as we continue to sit still (pray.)

Maitri is the spirituality of POPE FRANCIS. It is the essence of his “Who are we to judge?” statement.

Maitri is Mercy. God’s face is MERCY.

All along this is what Pema and all other spiritual teachers are telling us: UNCONDITIONAL LOVE. Jesus told us that we are to love our neighbor as we love others.    This love is a merciful, compassionate love and it starts with our selves.

I often forget this.

Hopefully I can begin again.



What is it that you want to do with the one wild precious thing called your life? ~ Mary Oliver

The year is ending and this quote from Mary Oliver nudged me to visit this place.

What did I do with this one wild precious thing called my life this year?

I failed to write as promised. This thought stood out as I revisited my so-called blog.  Something in me tells me that there’s nothing worthwhile to post. Then I read that The Martian movie was based on a self-published novel by a new writer. I told myself maybe I can write again and post whatever I want to. No one needs to approve of what I am saying and how I say it anyway.

When asked what it is that I want to do with my one, wild, precious thing called your life, my one and only answer is to write. Yet what is it in writing that gives me this profound enthusiasm and at the same time fear?