26 December 2009
I have a close friend who got married recently and she asked for a very weird wedding gift, that is, she asked me to write her vow. I've actually known her before she met the love of her life, so she said it'd be a piece of cake for me to write it. But, vows are supposed to be very personal. Not even the best writer in the world could match the words that actually come straight from the heart. I told her that. But, there was no changing her mind. She told me that it was the only gift she wanted (read: demanded) and she's not going to take no for an answer. Therefore, I had no choice.
I asked her how she felt for her "baby" so that I could just get the feel and attempt to write as if I was actually the one feeling it. Being thousands of miles away didn't exactly help. Or did it? After some meaningful exchanges, I came up with something and she liked it (in her exact words and spelling, she looooved it soooo much!). Despite being a little lengthy, she promised she'd use it. I could just hope the words gave justice and captured how she actually felt. I told her she could change it or maybe shorten it. Well, she did use/read the whole thing. And, I'm actually quite happy that she did.
I asked her if I could share it in my blog and she told me it was okay as long as I don't mention their names. Hehe:) So, if you attended a wedding and heard these words or something very similar to this, you probably were in my friend's wedding.
I loved life. I thought I already had everything. I had success in my career, loving and supportive family and friends; I actually had a life which most people would kill to have. I was the example, the model given by parents to their children whom they want to go far and wide. Heck, I had a perfect life if there actually was one.
Then, one day, all of that changed. I realized that there is so much more to life than success, money and fame. I realized that intelligence and being smart aren't everything. I realized that life is not about being that kind of person whom everybody envies or wants to be like.
The day that changed my life, the day that changed my whole being, was the very day I met you. You made me realize that all the success and know-how in the world cannot compare to the feeling of completely losing yourself in the embrace of just one person's love. I never believed in the power people assigned to love, I was actually arrogant enough to say that I was like Achilles when it comes to this thing called love. I was completely invincible. All those time, I forgot that Achilles had one and only one spot of weakness. You came and I instantly felt that you were it! You were my weakness. You were my downfall. And, yes, I did fall and I fell hard.
But, far different from expectations on falling, it didn't feel bad. If anything, it actually felt really good. It felt like my fall caused me to have hallucinations of brighter and bluer skies, of a world far more fragrant and colorful than I would ever have admitted, of sweeter music, of better tasting food, of beautiful, beautiful things around me. I was in a dream of beauty and wonder. It was so amazingly real and it felt so great I wanted to just shout and sing to the world. The feeling was so new and so powerful that I thought I'd gone crazy. And, yes, some people would say I did. I was completely lost amidst this wonderful dreamy wakefulness. But, I liked being lost. I enjoyed the dream tremendously. For the first time, I could see clearly and feel absolutely at peace with everything and everyone around me.
And, I realized that YOU were all these things. You changed me and caused a complete 360-degree-turn in my life. You are my dream, you are my world, you are my life! To spend the rest of my life with you is to live in that wonderful dream-world, where everything is made nice and beautiful by your mere smile.
Now, I've realized that this dream-world is not a dream at all. The life that I had before this, before you, was actually a dream. Everything about that life, the unhappy, selfish person that I was, is dead and I leave everything behind. All those times, I felt life was exactly the way I wanted it to be, but, in truth, I didn't have a life at all. I wasn't living. Nothing in that life was real. Thanks to you, reality dawned. You are my reality. You showed me what life really is about and its true meaning.
The day that made me whole was the day I met you. The day that I start to live is the day I marry you. Today is that day. Everything ends and starts today. Everything starts and ends with you. Thank you for the gift of life. I love you and I always will.
Yeah, it's weird what some of my friends make me do, but what can I do? They're my friends and they're weird like me. Haha!:)
Again, congratulations! You know who you are. :)
20 December 2009
It's been 4 days since Christmas Break started. What have I been doing? Well, for most of the time, I've been sitting and lazing around at home as I was sick for the first two days. I think it's my body telling me to just slow down because I'm not as young as I used to be. When I was younger, er, younger than I am right now, I was so used to immersing myself completely in things that I needed to work on. I could go for one whole week with only 3.5 hours (that is 30 minutes of sleep every night). I could go on for three straight days without a single minute of sleep. That was the kind of life I led. But, now, it seems like age is taking its toll on me. Fatigue and exhaustion have caught up with me. And, until now, I find it weird and unbelievable that I can't even last 2 straight days of no sleeping without getting sick or sleeping the whole day on the third day. Now, I understand what my seniors used to tell me, savor your youthful strength and do the most out of it while you still have it. Hay.
Third day of the Break was great. My mom, my brother and I went to Ganassi for the Aguam (my mom's father side) Family Reunion. It was so much fun. Although so many Aguams weren't able to come, there were actually quite many of us present. It always feels good to be around family. It always feels good to be home, to be where you really belong. There were some people there whom I met for the first time and all. When one of our uncles discussed our salsila or genealogy, I found it really amazing. I wish everything could be put down on paper so that we, especially the new generation of Aguams, would never forget who we are and how we stand in our place. One cannot claim true knowledge and understanding of oneself without knowing his/her roots and beginnings. And, knowing and understanding of oneself is very important.
Many people were speculating that the reunion actually had something to do with the coming 2010 Elections as some relatives are actually running, not for the first time, for office in different municipalities. Or, they said, the reunion was probably called so that we can decide which political candidates we will support. It's funny how people are now becoming more and more paranoid and crazy, especially in the political arena!
Well, I am proud to say that not a single word about the election or any political candidate was uttered during the whole duration of the reunion. Not even our aunts, uncles and cousins who are running said anything. It was a family reunion in the truest sense. And, a lot of us would have walked out and gone home immediately had the talks geared towards politics. So, all was good. We all came happy and left even happier. No politics, no drama, no hurt feelings!
I don't know, I just hate politics! Seriously! Many members of both my mother's and father's side of the family are involved in politics, even my father was once directly involved in it having run for office himself. He lost and I'm not sad nor sorry about that. I'm even happy about that. Many people tell us that no matter what we do, we cannot run away from politics. Ugh! No matter what I do or however I look at it, I just can't seem to like politics. I cannot get past its being so dirty, filthy and crazy, and the fact that it completely destroys a lot of families. It takes a lot of lives. Many people enter the world of politics with good intentions and plans, but end up being corrupted by the powers that be. Some really good people I know try to venture into politics wanting to make a difference and change things and intending never to be swayed by the dark side of politics and power, but these people are never given the chance! I just don't get it! I really hate politics with a passion!
But, hey, why talk about something I hate when I can talk about something I love, right? Yeah, I just love my family! And, the following photos would simply say more than enough. :)
Six Years and Counting...
Hey, I almost forgot, uhm, I actually did forget and I wouldn't have remembered had I not seen the date on a text message I received just now. Two days ago was this blog's 6th anniversary. I wrote and posted my very first blog entry on December 18, 2003. I don't even exactly remember what I wrote about, well, except that it was mostly about Ala, whom I didn't personally know at that time, because it was through reading her blog that I came to the decision of having one of my own. And, now, after 6 years of blogging, I'd like to say THANK YOU to everyone who became a part of this blog, to every single person out there who reads this blog, and, especially, to Ala for whom I shall always be thankful not just for her blog, but also for this blog's layout. :)
So, six years of swimming in and exploring the OCEAN? I can't believe it's been that long. It feels like it was only yesterday when I started. Has it really been six years? Hehe:) Six years and there are still so many things to explore, know about, think about, write about. And, I'd like to probe into the deeper parts of the ocean. I really hope to spend more time in here. Insha-Allah. :)
Oh, and, if you'd like to read my old(er) entries, please click on Into the Ocean! (the Mermaid icon) on the left sidebar. That will open this blog's archives.
06 December 2009
After 8 days in Thailand, I came back home exactly a week ago. I've been pretty busy making up for lost time, working on some things I missed when I was away and writing the reports I need to submit. And, because of all these things I've had to work on all at the same time, plus my classes, I've come down with a fever and really bad colds and cough. Oh, but despite, feeling under the weather and all, the trip was all worth it and I've learned so much and gained new life-long friendships. And also, I got to see my beloved Thai foster family, with whom I stayed with nine years ago when the Ship for Southeast Asian Youth Program brought me and 300 other youth participants to Thailand. Seeing my Thai family again was one of the reasons why I was so excited to take the trip. All in all, I can say that the whole trip was truly fruitful. It was fun, educational, enriching, unforgettable, relaxing, and really heart-warming for me. It was definitely something I needed. I enjoyed every moment. :)
The Training Workshop
The 2009 Young Asian Muslim Women Leadership Training Workshop was organized and sponsored by the Asian Resource Foundation - Asian Muslim Action Network (ARF-AMAN). It's actually the first time that they have such kind of program, although they have many programs for Muslims from different fields and for various kinds of advocacy. The program we had was very specific in age group and, of course, gender. I guess this also made the program better and easier to handle since we, the participants, could really relate to one another as we were all of the same age and we had common experiences. We basically shared the same view about things going on around us. Very similar situations.
There were 16 participants from 10 Asian countries. There were supposed to be 2 more (from Malaysia), but they couldn't come for some reasons. The countries represented were Indonesia (3 participants), India (2), Burma (2), Thailand (2), Iran (2), Bangladesh (1), Pakistan (1), Cambodia (1), Singapore (1), and the Philippines (1). It was a really good group. The composition was perfect, well, if you ask us. Hehehe:)
Our facilitator, Ms. Zarah Kathleen Alih, is a Filipino based in Thailand, working for ARF-AMAN for two years now. I'm especially proud of her because she is also an MSUan and also from the CSSH. She did a swell job facilitating and moderating. Being a Psychology graduate, she was very good in turning what could be very sensitive and controversial conversations into fun, healthy and objective sharing.
Each participant was tasked to present or share about her country and the status of women and education in the country. It was very interesting to know some trivia about the different countries and it was equally interesting, not surprising though, to find out that we, all, shared the same sentiments basically. There were minor differences, of course, but generally the scenario was the same. I, for one, coming from a Christian dominated country, focused more on the status of Muslim women in the Philippines. And, later, we came up with action plans for the problems and issues concerning women and education in our localities, in our countries and, eventually, in Asia.
We also discussed a concept that is now becoming more and more popular in the Islamic world, i.e. Islamic Feminism. It's not the feminism that seeks for equality with the opposite sex, it's the kind of feminism that is bound within the framework of Islam. That is, women have rights different from that of men and women are men's partners, not subordinate or anything like that. Women have a very important role in the world and this should never be taken for granted or forgotten. Also, women have equal rights with men when it comes to things like education or the seeking of knowledge and improvement/betterment of status in life. This means that it is an inherent right for women to seek education and to work. We have the right to choose which career to pursue, that is, a career outside the home or a career within the confines of the home. It should,of course, be taken into account that the Prophet Muhammad's (s.a.w.) wife, Khadidja, was a business woman. In fact, she was the Holy Prophet's employer at first. Thus, she was a career woman. Also, A'isha (another wife of the Prophet) was active in the war. She fought side by side with men. These are just two of the most important women in Islamic history and both were very active women inside and outside the home.
There was also a discussion and workshop on leadership and networking. It was fun how the workshop was full of games and realizations. We had a great time working with one another towards our goals. This proved to us that so much could actually be done if we all work together and do things right.
We also visited and paid courtesy calls to two major non-government organizations in Bangkok, the Working Group for Justice and Peace (WGJP) and the Committee for Asian Women (CAW). The WGJP is a human rights non-government organization working in the conflict areas in Thailand, with a special focus in the Southern border provinces of Thailand. It was founded by Angkhana Neelaphaijit. Kun Angkhana is actually the wife of human rights-lawyer-activist, Somchai Neelaphaijit, who was picked up by the authorities almost six years ago. Up until this moment, nobody knows where he is or what happened to him. His wife and daughter and some friends decided to continue his work and his case opened the public's eye, not only in Thailand but in the international arena, to the issues that he used to actively fight for. CAW, on the other hand, is another non-government organization. This organization is a regional network which aims to empower women workers to protect, advocate, and advance their rights. Their focus is the Asian migrant woman worker. The lectures we heard from both organizations were really educational. I, for one, couldn't stop myself from crying listening to and watching the WGJP videos.
And, we had the bonding sessions. We shared about our countries' culture and traditions through cultural discussions and exchanges, videos, games, food, songs and dances, etc. It was great that we were the only ones at the venue, that is, all women, because it made us feel more free and comfortable to let down our guard and let go of inhibitions. We also had the late-night chatting. We were like a bunch of high school girls talking about everything from the most mundane things to the most serious issues we're all facing. We were just talking about how we, all, didn't expect that we would actually find that much in common with one another and how we didn't expect to gel automatically and that fast, too. It wasn't just because we were all women. Another major thing, too, was because we were all Muslims. Most of us have been to other international programs, but what distinguished this one from the others is the bond that tied us all automatically the moment we exchanged salaam. We didn't have to explain anything. We didn't have to ask anything. We could all eat the same food, wear the same clothes and use the same things. The understanding was immediate and automatic.
It was great to learn so much from the sharing of experiences and stories. It was really enlightening and enriching. Very helpful to each one of us. Truly eye-opening. And, most especially, it was really good to know that each of us was not alone. There are many of us who share the same predicament and who are actually willing to stand and do something about it. This made us stronger and realize that we can achieve things. We were not alone in our fight and struggle. Together, we can do it.
I really wish that the ARF-AMAN could actually make this program an annual thing. I'd really want more young Muslim women professionals to be able to participate in the program. It could really help a lot of women and a lot of communities since we all feel that it is our job and we owe it to the funders/sponsors to really strive to help educate our people about our issues and to apply what we've learned. I mean, we don't really want the money they spent on us go to waste, do we? I cannot be thankful enough to have been chosen to participate in the program. Words are not enough to explain how great it is for me and other Asian Muslim women.
Homestay with my Thai Family
Like I mentioned earlier, one of the reasons why I was so excited to go to Thailand was because it was a chance for me to see my Thai family again. Back in SSEAYP 2000, I had five different foster families from different countries. We visited 8 countries, but there wasn't homestay for us in 2 of the countries and I wasn't able to go and be with my Indonesian foster family then because I fainted in one of the activities, so the program administrators decided that I stay on in the ship and join the National Leaders group instead, which I really enjoyed by the way.
I had a great time with all five foster families I had. I developed a very close relationship with each family. But, most especially, I had a wonderful time with my Thai family. It was my most unforgettable homestay because I never, not even for a second, felt that I wasn't a real member of the family. We were all together- grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins included- visiting the places we went to. They took us (my Singaporean homestay partner and I) to so many places, like the Night Market, the Floating Market, the Tiger and Elephant Show, the Zoo, and Pattaya (near the beach), and made us try so many new things, like riding the elephant, the took-took, the different kind of food, etc. They showered us with so many gifts.
So, when I got chosen for the YAMWLTW, I immediately contacted my Thai sister and, since I had two extra days to spare before I had to be back to school, I decided to extend my stay in Thailand for that length of time, told her about my extra days. She told me that I definitely had to stay with them. I thanked her profusely and planned my trip.
My God, I cannot begin to tell you how great my Thai family is. Everybody is just so nice. Only my sister, Hassana, and her two cousins, Zarawa and Nachawa, speak English, but it wasn't a barrier to any of us to make plain how excited we all were and how much we all missed one another. Despite the 9 years that passed, it felt like it was only yesterday that we were all together. It was the nicest feeling.
They were kind enough to pick me up at Nong Chok, an hour away from Bangkok, where the training workshop was held. Again, they took me to many places, this time, the places we didn't get to go to 9 years ago or places which weren't existing back then. They took me to the Siam Ocean World, which I enjoyed tremendously since I've never been to an oceanarium before. They also took me to a famous beach-side restaurant called Sailom Bangpoo in Samut Prakan, around an hour away from Bangkok.
It was with them, too, that I celebrated the Eid'l Adha (the Feast of Scarifice). And, it was nice to see how, so much like in my own home, relatives also came together to celebrate the Eid. The whole family got together at Grandmother's house and welcomed many relatives and friends. Asking and giving forgiveness was there. Gifts were given to the children and the young adults. Although I was far away from home, I felt like I was home because we have the same practices being Muslims and all. It was a real nice experience.
The whole family brought me to the airport and, of course, tears flowed. Happy tears because we saw one another again and sad tears because we had to say goodbye and nobody knows when we'll see one another again. Will it be after another 9 years? I sure don't hope so. I hope to see them again sooner than that. I thank God I have them. And, they will always be in my heart.
Okay, back in the home base...
The Maguindanao Massacre
I have been wearing black since Monday (the day I returned to work/school) in condemnation of the gruesome and brutal Maguinadanao massacre. It was while I was in the training workshop that I read about what happened. Reading about it really made me shiver in alarm and anger at the same time. I mean, there we were in the training discussing and coming up with an action plan for the improvement of women's status and recognition of women's role in the society/community in our respective countries and localities, and there in Maguindanao, some women, among others, were being butchered to death just because of politics. It was disheartening and frightening.
It is equally sad and frustrating that these evil acts are associated with Islam by many just because the perpetrators are Muslims or so they say they are. There are so many of us doing our very best to be the best people that we can be not just for ourselves, but also to show and prove that Muslims are not the terrorists or bad people that many people perceive them to be. We do our best to show that we are actually no different from everyone else, that we dream of the same things, that we get hurt and get scared of the same things, etc. Every single day, we struggle to be the best Muslims that we can be because that is our primary jihad. We do our best to live in harmony with people of other faith because that's the right thing to do. Islam, after all, is a religion of peace.
And, what do these people do? They act like they are the only persons in the world, even forgetting that there is a Supreme Being. They act like they have the right to do anything and that they will get away with anything. They show how they do not value other people's lives. They show how disrespectful and inconsiderate they are of other people and the law. No, let me correct that, they act like they are the law. They act like they are God!
These people are not Muslims, if you ask me. What they did was un-Islamic. It is unfair to associate such demonic acts with Islam. The Islam that I know does not permit the killing and hurting of innocent people, especially women. We, Muslims, condemn these acts as much as every other person in the Philippines and the world, and every affected family! Evil acts like this are the last thing we need! I hope that this will be a wake-up call to everyone in Maguindanao. We cannot and should not tolerate this!
I hope and pray that JUSTICE will prevail. God bless us all. Allahu akbar! (God is great!)
Oh, I almost forgot. I have another good news to share. Hehe:) That Maguindanao Massacre really tends to make me forget good and nice things for a while. Hay.
Anyway, I got myself a new HP Mini 110 Pink Chic Notebook/Netbook just before I left for Thailand. My mom was kind enough to lend me the money I needed to buy it. I saw it for the first time when I went to Cagayan de Oro to work on the renewal of my passport. The instant I saw it, I fell in love. I immediately changed my mind about mini notebooks (you know, the small ones) because I used to not like them. My old laptop has been very problematic for some time, so I needed a new one and I was planning to get a new one. Seeing the HP Mini Pink Chic made me decide right then and there that it was exactly the very notebook/laptop I wanted. I had to get one!
For days and nights, I couldn't get my mind off it, I literally couldn't sleep. My mom told me to decide what I wanted to do with my money, use it as pocket money for my Thailand trip or to get a new notebook. I couldn't decide. I was torn. But, luckily, my mom saw it for herself and knew why I was dead set on having it. I felt it was made for me! So, she decided to lend me the money. It was also good that it's not as expensive as other laptops. And, to make the long love story short, I got my new HP Mini 110 Pink Chic!
I named her Arianna. And, as they say, Arianna is love! Happiness! :)