Friendships Always Matter


Whether one is suffering from depression or not, friendships — true friendships —  always matter and are a source of support, whether they know about one’s mental illness or not.

I find myself actually “forgetting” or leaving behind my feelings of depression for a while  whenever I am able to “force” myself to get out of the house to accept some meal or get-together invitations. After such events, I find myself feeling somewhat elated and am thankful for being able to accomplish it — it does feel like an accomplishment — a small step forward.

My introversion does make me feel drained after being surrounded for hours by people other than my friends, but that’s par for the course.

It makes me smile reviewing all my photos on Facebook, and this particular photo, taken by my husband two Christmases ago made me want to blog about it. This was a “staged” photo, guided by our friend on the rightmost side, who was into advertising a few years ago. He asked us if we noticed how most print ads show people with “open-mouthed” smiles. We then realized it was true.

So while having that Christmas meal 2 years ago, we tried to make our own “print ad”. We tried so hard not to laugh while the camera was on a 10-second timer. Being a print ad model was harder than we thought!

The people in this photo (save for my husband and me) have been our friends for many years. They all always be friends we will treasure.

Hope you find yourselves with true friendships that will stand the tests of time, like we did.




Skin Diary


I finally got my first tattoo last year, at 48 years old. Another item to tick off my bucket list.

I tagged my husband and sister along on this adventure, in one of the best tattoo shops in KL, which also happened to be within walking distance from her work place – very convenient!

After years of imagining and planning for it (I saved many designs from the web), I decided on this simple heart with “family” written inside. It’s a very common design, but the significance is deep. Family, my immediate family, is my life and inspiration.

The love we have for each other is etched deep in my heart, and now, in my skin. Just like a diary, whenever I look at this tiny tattoo on my arm, I will always remember that day – the excitement, the intimacy of having my husband and sister watching as I smiled through the whole painless (a 2 out of 10 for me — high tolerance for pain) process. It was an adventure we shared as a family.

So this is my first entry in my Skin Diary. I hope to add many more.

Photo credit –” Rex S. Dela Peña (my husband and photography enthusiast)

The feeling of being homeless…



My husband and I have been renting apartments since we got married. Where we live, it is not easy to own a home. The insecurity of being driven out of a place and being homeless has been with me ever since.

Just two weeks ago, we were informed that the apartment we are renting has already been sold and that we need to move out within 2 to 3 weeks. We were stunned and felt very betrayed. Looking for a relatively decent place to move into on a very small budget that allows pets is very difficult. We had to adjust our schedules so we could look at several places to rent at such short notice.

Without the money to advance to landlords (at least 3 months’ worth), we could just look at places but not reserve. We have been to most cities that are not too far from where my husband works and have seen really depressing places. We have been on a rollercoaster of emotions the past two weeks.

The reality that we will be homeless within a few weeks hit us really hard. Without the financial means to rent a place in such a short time drove us deep into depression. I have always been irate at the government for driving illegal settlers away without any relocation plans for them. It is cruel and inhumane. Every human being has the right to a decent place to live. Our society has blatantly ignored this basic right for decades. We are all answerable for this intolerable cruelty.

I know people who also almost lost their homes – and those who actually did. It is downright wrong.

I applaud people who establish shelters for the homeless. There should be more of them and more facilities for the homeless. No one should ever be deprived of this basic human right.

Now I personally know how it feels. I pray to God that we will be given the means to help others in this plight.

It’s time to move out and move on…


Have you ever been living in a place where more bad experiences happen than good? I am not superstitious, but I do believe that some places harbor more bad people than others, and therefore, more bad incidents and unpleasant experiences. I also believe that if the intentions for every action are not pure, then bad things can only follow them.

I just came from walking our two well-behaved dogs, as I do every morning. This particular time was the worst yet. I make sure they do their “business” in areas that are relatively accepted as “business areas”, and not on people’s front yards. If the dogs do have their occasional “accidents”, I do pick up the mess. Without elaborating on it, I had a confrontation with a selfish and boorish man who didn’t even have the right to claim a space that belonged to a school. It was a very unpleasant, to say the least, experience. I can hardly wait to move out! Thankfully, it is just a matter of weeks. This is not a good place for pets.

And this is not the first time. The people in this neighborhood are mostly selfish, boorish and uncouth. Stray dogs abound because the owners just let them be. These dogs chase people and other dogs, bark incessantly, especially at night, and harass our dogs. If not for the many lessons I learned from Cesar Milan, I would have had several anxiety attacks.

This is the place where we experienced the most stress. The noise level is unacceptable. All types of vehicles pass in front of the place (the road has become a bypass road for buses, trucks, loud tricycles and motorcycles, and even heavy equipment!). Smog levels are high.

People still burn their trash regularly here which means our clothes and just about everything else smell like smoke. Our lungs don’t fare well either. People blatantly throw trash on the streets and even right on the driveway. The whole place smells of putrid trash most days of the week, especially before trash pick-up. I literally wake up from the stench in the middle of the night.

Neighbors on the left, right, front and back of this place blare out their bad singing with their videoke machines quite frequently in a month. They don’t care that they keep us awake ‘til the wee hours of the night, as long as they are entertained. There is no care or regard for others anymore.

The neighbors behind us have about six children who scream and play at around 6-7 am – while we are still asleep. We stay up pretty late because it is simply difficult to fall asleep in this place. You can imagine what I’ll say next.

There have been robberies here as well – in this apartment and the next. We have never felt safe here.

And then there are the many unpleasant personal experiences related to this place – the pain, death, loss, betrayal, abuse. Again, if the intentions are not pure, bad things will surely follow. We moved here not of our own volition. And now we are being driven away with very little time to prepare for another move.

Yes, it’s time to go. It was time to go the day we moved here, because we moved very reluctantly from a place we were happy living in for eight years. I always knew this was very temporary, and I’m grateful it is. In fact, I never fully unpacked. This is the first time. I did not place all my magnets on the fridge because I did not want to stay long. The term “I never felt at home here” certainly applies. There are no good associations or memories here – quite the opposite, in fact. I pray this nightmare of a place will end soon. I have been praying this the past two years we stayed here. It is finally answered.

Struggling with grief…

After what seems to be forever, I finally picked up a sharp HB pencil, dusted it off, and with trembling fingers, placed lead on paper. I managed to draw a few curves and lines but couldn’t see what it was I was drawing. It didn’t take the shape I wanted it to and no amount of erasures and retouches could capture the spirit or form of my subject. My vision began to blur as tears gathered in my eyes. I was trying to draw Beans, our beloved six-year old Labrador Retriever who passed away a little over six months ago.

Our sweet, funny and loyal boy passed on after almost a month of suffering from kidney infection. My husband and I panicked and worried about him endlessly and lived several miles from our trusted vet. We had relocated over a year ago and had difficulty finding pet clinics and vets that were up to par. When Beans’ kidneys failed, we took him to a recommended vet who did a very bad job with his surgery and post-surgery care. We will always regret that decision made in a panic. We didn’t know where else to go.

After much prayer and tears, we put our baby Beans to sleep and buried him in a compassionate friend’s backyard. We do not have soil or a garden where we reside in now. My husband stayed up with Beans the whole night and just soothed and comforted him while I fell asleep crying.

It has been years since I last sketched or drew anything. It’s what I had done and known all my life and the inability to get back to it due to depression has ridden me with guilt and anger for many years. I thought that starting over with a picture of Beans would help me and be therapeutic, in a way. It wasn’t. Or maybe it was.

I still couldn’t draw, but crying my heart out again helped. I miss our baby Beans. Hubby and I find it difficult to talk about him without breaking down. But we need to talk about him. We need to look at his pictures – and are we thankful that we took a lot of them! He was a very willing subject. He was willing to do anything to please us.

A good friend gave us our new pup Eloise, a Jack Russell Terrier, two months later. While she brings us much joy and is possibly the most affectionate kisser, the void Beans has left in our hearts refuses to be filled. Our little Peanut (a feisty min pin we’ve had for more than four years now) also continues to be my” little one”, but I will always miss our big boy.

The dark marks on our wall will remain untouched for a while because they were left behind by Beans. Perhaps my sketchbook will remain untouched as well for a few more months. I haven’t recovered. I don’t know when I will, but I’ll give myself permission to grieve some more, and I won’t set any deadlines.

Ignorance is not bliss!

Danger Bad Advice Ahead

Have you ever noticed how many people so readily offer unsolicited advice? This always gets to me. I hope I am not guilty of the same thing — at least, I try to be very aware that I just listen and not give some random and unresearched advice.

As I have posted earlier, I am going through major depression — or a relapse of it. I have already shared this with a group we used to belong to only recently. It  was necessary for me to share this because I can no longer fulfill my responsibilities to the group.

I was half expecting it, yet I dreaded it — that someone in the group would eventually say her piece to try and make me feel better. And then it came. The so-called “advice” was so ridiculous that it reeked of total ignorance of my condition and even the lack of compassion. Why, oh why, did she have to say it?

Why do people love to give their five cents’ worth of advice without first getting their facts straight? Why do people love to talk and sound knowledgeable when they know nothing at all? In our field of ministry, we also encounter a lot of people who love to “counsel” other people but don’t bother to equip themselves with even basic counseling skills. So instead of being a comfort to the troubled person, they unknowingly become a source of discouragement and guilt! But they don’t know this and think that they are simply gifted with the ability to counsel people.

I’m sorry to burst their bubble but ignorance isn’t bliss! With the availability of information over the internet, there is simply no excuse to be ignorant. We need to equip ourselves with knowledge, especially if we have the desire to help others. I especially urge those who have the annoying tendency to play doctor to at least get some much needed facts before even blurting anything out.

The truth is, the more one talks, the more one’s intelligence or ignorance is made evident. I have noticed many times,though, that the more knowledgeable and secure a person is, the less he talks. But the more foolish and insecure a person is, the more he tries to compensate for his lack by blabbering. This is sad.

I pray I will not encounter another faux doctor any time soon. No, I don’t need any advice about my condition. I’ve done my research and I continue to do so. I also have a real doctor to tell me what I need to hear.

The Power of a Mother’s Prayer

PrayingWomanTwo weeks ago, the mother of Philippine democracy, former president Corazon (Cory) Aquino, was laid to rest beside her husband Ninoy. Our nation mourns the loss of a strong, courageous, peaceful and prayerful woman. She was known to pray every single day, several times a day, for her family and for our country. She was quoted as saying:

“So I cannot think of myself as being separate from the good Lord. And my whole day is dedicated to Him. I mean, I say that in the beginning of the day, and at the end of the day, I address myself to the Lord. So I pray that those who do not believe in Him hopefully will be given that grace, to go to Him so that their lives will be that much better, and that they will be able to handle whatever problems or trials come their way.” – Excerpt from her interview with Dr. Shann Ferch, 2007

Much has been said about the power of prayer. I live every moment of my life in constant communication with our Father in heaven and I cannot imagine any other life without it. He is the reason for my being, my hope and purpose for living. Also, my many prayers would have been for naught without our good Lord who answers each and every one of them. And I believe that many of my answered prayers are prayers my mom also said for me and my sister.

I recently had a wonderful conversation with two mothers in one of our larger congregations. I asked them if they believed in the power of their prayers for their families and they both readily agreed. Many times it could feel like God is not answering their prayers for their children when, as teenagers, they struggle to find their identities and establish themselves in their world. They make a lot of mistakes that cause them pain and make them take the rebellion road, but they eventually find their way back and realize who brought them there.

One mother was very grateful that her daughter, whom she prayed for and spent sleepless nights crying over, realized the error of her ways and has dedicated herself to serving her church through her gifts. Only later did this mother realize that she had prayed for this specifically many years ago and had almost forgotten about it until it came to fruition.

The other mom firmly believes that no matter what happens to her children, they will always go back on the right track because God honors all her prayers for them. She is now enjoying the fruit of those prayers as her children remain open with her and also share their faith with their office colleagues and friends. She enjoys a close relationship with them and continues to pray for them.

My mom always prayed for me and my sister. She prayed that God would always look after us, that he would draw us closer to him, that he would protect us from harm, that he would give us good and loving husbands who would also faithfully provide for us, and that God’s purpose for us will be fulfilled. Many violent storms have passed in our lives since our mom went home to our Lord, but we have weathered them all because our Father honored each and every heartfelt prayer. Some storms left us battered and bruised, but we still stand because of God’s goodness and mercy, and his faithfulness to our mom who dedicated her life to him.

I miss my mom. Whenever I begin to wonder if anyone out there is praying for me, I think of her and know that her prayer lives in me and sustains me. I pray that all mothers will realize how special and powerful their prayers are. In the midst of all our worries and fears, our Lord urges us to pray and he promises his blessed peace.
6Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4:6-7 (New International Version)

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