From Iligan City to Metro Manila; From Dependence to Independence.

I was an unusual twenty-two year old young man.

Or atleast I feel like one when compared to my peers.

I flew immediately from my beloved Iligan City up far to the capital of Metro Manila to live solo independently, seeking for a challenge, with nothing but a hopelessly romantic dream inside my soul.

A dream.

A hope.

An experience.

I could have lived more comfortably by staying with my parents, or by moving to much familiar places, or even by living with some relative.

But my eyes were set on to something else.
Something bigger.
Something farther.

The road looked perilous, but my hopes were set.

It’s been 1 year or so. I have learned a gigantuous amount of things: From making my own food, to paying my own bills, to learning to take hold of the strain of solo-living. With this 1-year experience, I hope to blaze a trail of knowledge for my fellow people who might benefit from this experience.

Before I start, do know that these will be highly biased since these speak of my personal experiences. And experience will vary from person to person, as persons vary from their personalities, background, aspirations, skills, and many more.

With that out of the way, shall we start?

I. Career and Employment: The Promise of Learning

I came from one of the best, if not the best, school in our area, MSU-IIT. Though even with the status of my university, it’s unfortunate to say that my school is not that well-known in Manila’s IT industry.

I was absorbed by a company which, from my own observation, is mostly accepting only graduates from the schools of Ateneo, LaSalle, UP, etc. The management commented that I’m the first MSU graduate that was accepted. Considering my unspectacular academic grades (being the lazy, choosy college student that I am), I was only taken in because of my aptitude score and my somewhat interesting resume. Despite of this unfortunate discovery that my school is not that well known as I originally thought it is, I am thankful for my alma matter since if it’s only one thing that it does very well is this: Teaching people how to learn how to learn things. And it has been a very invaluable asset.

As a graduate from a school that is unfamiliar (atleast to them), and a multimedia IT graduate that’s working in a position mainly designed for Computer-Science graduates, I am alive to say that I had not been ax-ed so far. And did I mention that I got a prestigious corporate award (though undeserved) in my first months?

II. Financial Management: You Get To Learn How To Manage Your Finances

I have not asked a single centavo from my parents the moment I started to live under my own roof. This may mainly be due to my immensely stubborn and proud personality. I admit that learning how to manage finances has been a serious anxiety-causing nerve-wracking challenge for me, especially if you’re paying for your own roof, your own water, you’re own electricity, your food (which is needed for survival by the way), and everything else. If you’re trying to save money, you’re at a distinct disadvantage from those who are living with their parents because of the expense from bills..

But money-saving-capabilities and spending-power is not the only measurement of value; intangible assets such as experience, wisdom, and character are far more valuable. I think this experience has taught me a lot of these — expense management, being responsible towards bills, non-extravagant living, etc — things which I feel I could not have learned fast elsewhere.

III. Mindanao VS Luzon: Language and Discrimination?

I think that the top two reasons why my own people would hesitate to be here in Metro Manila are these. First, the use of the Tagalog language. Second, the possibility of discrimination.

These two reasons are reasonable. Conversing using a language that you are not fluent at is daunting. And being discriminated isn’t really nice. But how did it go with me? Did I experience difficulty with the language? Did I experience discrimination?

First, the language. Conversational Tagalog is quite difficult to master, but good news, you can speak English, and you’re probably better at it than most. When I was still learning the ropes of conversational Tagalog, I just used my English. If I truly cannot speak out a thought that I want to speak out using Tagalog, I just speak it in English. Simple. Chances are, you’ll be successful in your conversations. Plus, there’s also a chance that the person you’re talking to will be intimidated.

Secondly, the issue of discrimination. I’m not even sure if this issue is a myth or not. I think this thing boils deep down to personal self-assurance. Of my year in living here, I have not felt that I am being in any way inferior to any of the people here. I did notice, at the early months, some very few persons who blatantly tried. To their dismay, I know I am not inferior to Mark Zuckerberg or to Elon Musk in the same way that a speck of dust is not inferior to another speck of dust. And so are you.

IV. Independence: Sink or Swim!

Imagine playing a video game on the “hard” difficulty setting, voluntarily, except that the game is Life itself, and it has serious repercussions if ever you’ll fail.

I feel that’s an appropriate analogy.

It’s the first months of independent living that are the most ruthless.
Homesickness.
Adapting to new things.
Getting to know yourself more deeply.
Missing the people, activities, and things you grew up with.
It’s home-sickening, and of which the apex of this feeling is Christmas time.

But the pain is bearable. And when you get past that, the experience becomes a significant strength. A distinct strength that I feel cannot be gained elsewhere.

I’d like to think that through these I have become quite stronger (emotionally, mentally, and physically). To name a few, I learned that I can be independently responsible in life, that I can grow to extents I have not experienced yet, and that I have family and friends who I can lean on whenever all of my strengths depletes itself.

By having experienced what it feels like how to sink, I have learned how to swim. And when I look back, I feel nothing but gratitude for the gained strength.

Conclusion

What conclusion does this deserve? All I can say is, I have absorbed a tremendous amount of things in a short period of time, things that my written words fails to do justice.

Some of my friends have called me brave. But may the world know that it is not my own strength that holds me together, but it is the goodness of the sovereign Lord and His people, and His steadfast love that holds me, assures me, challenges me, and compels me altogether.

Your Best Life Later

Let Me Paint You A Story

A little girl was asked to wait inside a room with nothing but a chair and a big white marshmallow on a table. The teacher told her that she can either eat the marshmallow right away or wait until the teacher gets back so she can have another marshmallow. The teacher then left the room.

 

Eat the marshmallow right away, or wait until the teacher comes back for two marshmallows.

 

The little girl sat down. She looked at the marshmallow in front of her. She smelled it. She touched it. She wanted to taste it, but she waited.

 

Tick tock. Tick tock. 5 minutes has passed. No teacher yet. She stared laser-focused at the juicy marshmallow. She wanted to eat it so bad. But she waited.

 

Tick tock. Tick tock. 8 minutes has passed. The teacher still isn’t back. She took the marshmallow. She opened her mouth to take a bite. But then she didn’t. She put down the marshmallow. She decided to wait a little more.

 

Tick tock. Tick tock. 12 minutes has passed. No sign of the teacher yet. Finally, she took it again, made frequent small bites of it, until the marshmallow was no more.

 

This is an actual study that is now famously called the “Stanford Marshmallow Experiment.” In this study, a child was offered a choice between one small reward provided immediately, or two small rewards if they waited for a short period of time. In the follow-up studies, the researchers found that the children who were able to wait longer for the rewards tended to have better life outcomes, better scores, better educational attainment, and was more successful overall. This concept is also commonly called as “DelayedGratification“, the delaying of present gratification for the hope of greater future rewards.

 

This now begs to us the question: “Why should we care?

 

First, several studies have concluded that the ability to delay gratification is critical for success in life. Don’t believe me? Google it and find it out yourself. If you want success in life, then the experts said: Learn to delay gratification.

 

Second, the ability to delay gratification is like a muscle. You can choose to flex it or not. It’s never too late to work out. It’s never too late to practice delaying gratification.

 

Third, you can learn to delay gratification in a number of ways. You can train your willpower by using several methods: physical exercise, doing breathing-meditation, taking enough sleep, having a healthy diet, or you can trick your mind by using strategies, like the DistractionStrategy.

 

I have only skimmed the surface of this very interesting topic, but if I have caught your interest, then I have succeeded in my attempt to do so.

Let Me Tell You Something True

We all have this monster inside of us. I know I have this monster inside of me. Whenever I’m late and I’m caught in heavy traffic, this monster inside of me screams. Whenever my alarm goes off early in the dawn and I’m still sleepy, this monster argues to me that I need to sleep a little more. Whenever someone praises me or when I achieve something, this monster flatters me and gives me gifts called “Pride”. Whenever I’m hungry and my patience is being tested near to depletion, this monsters claws at me from my stomach to my head.

 

But then I decided. I want to tame this monster. Until I learned how to. And it’s an everyday battle.

 

We can live the good life now. We can gratify ourselves instantly and almost everyday. Or we can face suffering, learn to wait, and hope for greater future rewards.

 

We can have a good life now, or we can have our best life later.

 

This choice is mine to take.

 

This choice is ours to make.


A Letter To A Person Called Love

Oh Love, what have you on me? I do not deserve you, yet you said that nothing could ever take me away from you.

Oh Love, is your memory poor? Can you not remember how I emptied your heart dry? How I stole it away. How I took it with my two hands. And how I ripped it to shreds. I was selfish. I didn’t mean to do it. Or probably I did mean it, because I still do do it, even though I don’t want to. Or probably my human heart does. I really don’t know.

Oh Love, I do not deserve you. How you want me does not make sense at all. You are the embodiment of absolute perfection. I am the personification of perfect imperfection. How could you still say that your love is for me?

Oh Love, do know that I am but a jolly beggar sitting at your feet. You are a person of infinite beauty. I am a fatally flawed creature wired to fail. You are of infinite richness. I am but a symbol of poor finiteness.

Oh Love, I do not even deserve to write about you, nor even think about you. As far as the east is from the west , so is the distance between the difference of our qualities. My words do not do you justice. All the words in the world cannot do you justice. Yet, you still allow me to think, talk, and write about you. Oh Love, how kind could you be?

Oh Love, if I’d be a fool to die for you, then please let me be called a fool for life. Truly, what else can I do? Where else can I run? You are my only hope.

My 2016 Reading Review

2016 is a year of new things to me: New places. New people. New feelings. New ideas.

And new books.

It was in this year that I set out to challenge myself to explore different genres of books. And to my surprise, that I did achieve. From leadership books, to fantasy novels, to psychology books, to reference books, to philosophy books, to Church history, theology, and apologetic books. Aside from my surprise that I successfully stomped-down this challenge, I’m also quite surprised as to how my interest further branched out, especially since I didn’t expect myself to be interested in Church history and in towards deeper theology.

Here are the books which helped shaped my 2016. These are some of my teachers who have challenged my thinking, and some of the leaders who have added to the molding of my heart.

Not all of these books are good (I’d say some of them are pretty challenging to finish), yet I enjoyed almost all of these:

  1. Innovators – Walter Isaacson
  2. Startup Nation – D. Senor and S. Singer
  3. Carnage and Culture – V.D. Hanson
  4. How To Win Friends And Influence People – Dale Carnegie
  5. How To Read A Book – M. Adler (as ironic as it sounds, yes, there’s a book like this existing)
  6. The Fine Art of Small Talk – D. Fine
  7. Your Career Roadmap – Nelson Dy
  8. Stock Smarts – R.Geronimo
  9. Beyond Talent – John Maxwell
  10. 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth – John Maxwell
  11. Effective Immediately – E. Bennington and S. Lineberg
  12. The 8th Habit – Stephen Covey
  13. Mindset – C. Dweck
  14. Tipping Point – Malcolm Gladwell
  15. The 4 Hour Work Week – Tim Ferris
  16. Now, Discover Your Strengths – Marcus Buckingham
  17. Eleven Rings – Phil Jackson
  18. Entrepreneur: Guide To Raising Money – J. Wiley
  19. Clean Code – R. Martin
  20. Patterns of Enterprise Application Architecture – M. Fowler
  21. Merlin’s Blade – Treskillard
  22. Ender’s Game – O.S. Card
  23. The Silmarillion – J.R.R. Tolkien
  24. The Chronicles Of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe – C.S. Lewis
  25. The Chronicles Of Narnia: Prince Caspian- C.S. Lewis
  26. The Chronicles Of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader- C.S. Lewis
  27. The Chronicles Of Narnia: The Silver Chair- C.S. Lewis
  28. The Chronicles Of Narnia: The Horse and His Boy – C.S. Lewis
  29. The Chronicles Of Narnia: The Magician’s Nephew- C.S. Lewis
  30. The Chronicles Of Narnia: The Last Battle- C.S. Lewis
  31. Mere Christianity – C.S. Lewis
  32. The Weight of Glory – C.S. Lewis
  33. The Conviction To Lead – Albert Mohler
  34. Stop Dating The Church – Joshua Harris
  35. Walking With God Through Pain and Suffering – T. Keller
  36. The 40 Most Influential Christians – Daryl Aaron
  37. 30 Events That Shaped The Church – Alton Gansky
  38. Worship – John MacArthur
  39. Slave – John MacArthur
  40. The Attributes of God: Volume One – A.W. Tozer
  41. Follow Me – David Platt

Although I failed to hit my additional 2016 challenge of reading-one-book-a-week (I’m seven books short), yet I am contented with the variety of books that I read this year.

Thank you, 2016, for being crazy amazing and for being adventure-filled. Thank you friends, who suggested me good books to read, and for voluntarily lending me your personal copies of your books.

Cheers to 2017. Cheers to more reading.

A Letter To The End of 2016

Dear 2016,

You are a crazy amazing year.

Before you were just starting, I had a mission. I tasked myself to move to a distant foreign land, whose language and culture I am not fluent at, to apply for work, to live independently, and to grow as much as I could. All of these are just a means to an ends. And if you’d ask what the ends are, the ends are manifold: To pursue an idealistic childhood dream, to obtain maturity and wisdom, to learn independence and necessary life-skills, to pit myself against an uncomfortable and new environment, to take-advantage of strategic opportunities not available elsewhere, to learn the world, and to (hopefully) hasten the growth of any sleepy potential that is hiding inside of me. Considering the serious life-threatening risks that this mission entails, I realize this is a suicide mission.

And now, it’s the ending of December. You are now dying, and a new year is about to be born. Let’s see, how did you, 2016, go?

If I had to describe you in one word, I’d have to use the overused word: Amazing (and this word will be overused throughout this post.)

The reason why this is is because:

Firstly, I was, unexpectedly, absorbed by a company with an amazing culture, tasked with an amazing job, and with me working with amazing officemates.

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Skyscrapers in Makati. I took this photo not really sure if this is our office building.

 

Secondly, I was put into a team where I found myself as a perfect, if not very perfect, fit. I met some very super-caring, smart, and talented intellectual people in my team. Some in particular are persons who have challenged my thought in a very craft-ful way, and for that I am grateful. Considering my choosy personality, I find it amazing how they learned that this is a team that would be perfect for me: a small team of promising people who are committed to excellence. Aside from my team, I also consider it an unexpected blessing to have met some very dedicated Christians who are committed to the learning, the studying, and the sharing of the absolute Truth.

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Just the team that my team is a part of.

 

Thirdly, I joined Toastmasters. And I was elected as an officer, though I believe that the great reason for this happening is because of our initial lack of manpower. Toastmasters has delivered me not only great learning opportunities, but also strategic ones.

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I realize that being a master of toast is not only funny, but weird.

 

Fourthly, I joined my first hackathon and we won as finalists (not the real winner, only finalists). I met some new smart friends who were willing to join me in my crazy adventures, and who I hope will continue to join me in my next ones. Because after all, we are Vertex, and we connect the present to the future!

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After a long, arduous walking and map-pointing, we finally arrived at our long-sought venue for the final round of the hackathon!

Fifthly, at my first nine months in the company, I was awarded with the Above & Beyond recognition. This is a company award that is given only to 5% of the population per division: A very prestigious award, they’d call it. And being a newcomer to the company, and a newcomer to corporate work, I can’t help but feel very grateful for this. But the glory is not mine. I thank my leads and supervisors for all the belief and the trust and the pushing and the caring, and for my teammates for being amazing. I take my hats off to you.

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Though I’m still not at home with the Infinity, but as Buzz Lightyear often says, “To infinity, and beyond!”

 


 

So to conclude, how truly amazing is 2016?

2016 is not only amazing, but crazy amazing.

2016 is amazing not because of me, but because of all the amazing people who loved me, and because of a very God who never ceases to amaze me. I am still alive and breathing mainly because of the help of amazing family and friends, which I am intensely grateful, and beyond that, I am intensely and madly grateful to the sovereign, super-loving, and super-caring God that we have. If not for Him, my steadfast loving Savior, I can only think of myself as a hopeless and dead speck of dust.

To end, my final short words for you dear 2016 are these:

Thank you! And goodbye.

And dear 2017, I’m coming for you.

 

Sincerely,
A hopeful speck of dust

 

Why Do Bad Things Exist If There’s A Good God?

Think With Me For A Second

If there is an all-mighty, all-powerful, and an all-good God, why is the world that we live in so frail and weak and so full of bad and broken things?
Why did the studious college student who just had an intense and unfair breakup with his lover, went up high to the overpass to jump down headfirst into the car-filled streets?
And why did the ministry-serving young couple who for years fervently prayed for a baby to finally be added to their just-starting-up family, received a baby with special needs?
And why did the innocent girl who was born into an uneducated and poor family that can’t seem to make ends meet, was also born without limbs?
And if you would dig deeper with me, why do we, with our rational minds and our tugging conscience, question these seemingly unfair and evil phenomena?
Pain, injustice, suffering — why do these things exist? If bad and evil things exist in our world, wouldn’t that prove that there’s no God at all? Or if there is one, then surely He’s not a good God. Or probably, and a more terrifying thought, that He’s a God that doesn’t care at all.
 

Walk With Me For A Minute

Instead of the hasty conclusions presented above, I would think that it is because of the very fact that we acknowledge the existence of the presence of this uncomfortable thing — this universal thing called pain, this evil, this darkness, this suffering — that proves the very existence of something good, or even possibly, the existence of Someone who’s the very source of the idea of good. For example, we know it when a performing singer goes out of tune with the song she’s singing simply because we know it first when she’s in tune. We also know it when we see that our favorite shopping store is in a season of sale simply because we know it when it is not in a season of sale. In the same way, we know that there are things that are good simply because we know that there are things that are not good.
I would surmise that it is impossible for us to realize this fact — the fact that there are “good things” — unless there’s the presence of something that would prove the existence of those “good things” — in our case, this something would be the “bad things.” It is because we know that there are bad things — things that are not good — that we come to realize that there are also good things. To quote a favorite poet of mine, “The shadow proves the sunshine.”
And to add to this subject, I would like to entertain the idea of the great possibility that the existence of these “good things” might also prove that this concept of “good and bad” is universal. As I have learned from C.S. Lewis, he presented an interesting case where he concluded that each and every one of us apparently has this so-called “universal inner moral compass” that is common to all, and it is because of this “universal inner moral compass” that causes us to know justice from injustice. According to him, it is this compass that gives to life our natural ability to identify the good from bad. It is the source of our knowledge, gut-feeling, intuition, whatever-you-want-to-call-it, regarding the concept of justice. And he also presented that it seemed to him that it looked like there’s a Someone who intentionally put that “inner moral compass” inside of us, for some reason that that Someone has.

See With Me For Eternity

Now we have learned, I hope, that firstly, the existence of these so called “bad things” do not disprove a good God, but rather it serves as a proof that a good God exists. And secondly, I have introduced the proposition that there are things that are universally “good” and things that are universally “bad” simply because of the “universal inner moral compass” that is apparently inside each one of us. And thirdly, I briefly touched the concept that all of these might be just the natural result of the doings of a Someone, a God, who deliberately designed this so called concept of “good and bad” for some reason that He has.
These then must be a reason why we desire to have those things that seem good to us, and on the opposite end, why we question pain and injustice.
It is my deepest desire for all of us to strive forward to the things of good. But we cannot do that alone, for doing that would be self-centered and very foolish.
Instead, what I would suggest is for us cling to the God who is the Source of the very idea of goodness itself.
To learn from Him. And to know Him. And also to be in deep love with Him (which I believe is just a natural by-product of getting to know Him a little). Then to finally see Him, with a smile.
Who knows, at the end of our days, He might even answer all of our other wildest questions.

Ocean Of Justice

Take my life and make it Your own
Take my lips and make it Your song
Make me warm and heal my coldness
Make me just and bring me boldness

Take the empty silence of my heart
Take the depravity of my mind
Throw me straight into Your arms
Throw me deeper into eternal spring

Take my love and give it Your own
Take my burdens and remind me a throne
Carve into my skin my Master’s name
Carve into my soul my Father’s claim

Take both of my hands and wrap them
Take all my years to count more of them
Create in me a pure and clean heart
Create in me a broken and contrite spirit

Break the wholeness of my being
Break the seas and air of my lungs
Breathe life into this broken city
Breathe life into every dead man

Take my wandering feet and call them
Take every heartbeat and colour them
Let it be flooded with a ruling sky of truth
Let it be flooded with an endless ocean of justice

All That I Have Found

I was looking for meaning behind sadness
Instead I found unread books of boldness
I was looking for warmth and gladness
Instead I found that I’m healed from blindness

I was looking for love round and round
Instead I found the original love chasing me
I was looking to sing just like the stars have
Instead I found the Sun crashing on me

I was looking for loyalty that can’t be bought
Instead I found a Master who bought me
I was looking for hearty mindfulness
Instead I found an inseparable kindness

I was looking for truth amidst the darkness
Instead I found a lofty binary system
I was looking for a figure of hopeful justice
Instead I found inside a new heart of justness

I was looking to wear away all imperfections
Instead I found all my shame taken away
I was looking to win with my skills of reason
Instead I found myself won by salvation

I was looking for a cause to live for
Instead I found a news to live and die for
I was looking to break an old, tyrant army
Instead I found an arrogant religion broken

I was looking for widespread acclaim
Instead I found myself claimed by a King
I was looking for ventures beyond unseen
Instead I found a richer kingdom to be seen

I was looking for a place that I can call home
Instead I found gates that sing to my bones
I was looking for tied familial feelings
Instead I found myself co-heirs of a throne

I was looking for ghosts to chase hard for
Instead I found new eyes to be waited for
I was looking for all madness to be bound
Instead I found I was given all that I have found

My Broken Men

Theres a child screaming inside me
Demanding perfection for every town
And breaks his heart for every crack
That he can’t fix nor bring up for play;

Theres an old man inside me
Yelling at every rash illogical move
And breaks his heart for every point
That he cant solve nor argue to prove;

Theres a lonely lover inside me
Writing of glory and of courageous honors
And breaks his heart for every white flower
That he cant pick up nor grow nor pay;

Theres a righteous Ghost above me
Striking in beauty and of elder magic
And breaks His heart for every blood
That my broken men has spilled and sprayed;

Then theres a new heart inside me
Filled with new pages, shapes, and faces
Which mended its old beaten self for every gift
That old King’s magic has made and graced and paid

Dreamed Bright Eyes

My soul cries for selflessness

My heart breaks like a wax of mess

Even in my days I am breathless

Even in my dreams I am restless;

My eyes blink at the yesterdays

My mind leaps at her dreamed bright eyes

But even in my plans I am faithless

Even in my love I am loveless;

My spirit looks ahead at the coming days

His hand proves strong at carving ways

Even to the death He always delivers

Even to the life He will uphold her;

He sings on water and on oil alike

His shadow casts like the fortress above

Even when questioned He never bends

Even when visions fail His plans never will;

So shall I worry, run, or cower down?

Shall my bones tremble and my air be overrun?

Walls of raging seas may come in between

Yet my trust shall be above time and be within these dreams of mine.