Ironically today is also the #InternationalDayofPeace and apt occasion for us to go back to the history of the #Philippines at the time we were ruled by Marcos, his family and his cronies. I was… More
When I took the job for Gaza in the occupied Palestinian Territories, I didn’t know I will have the grandest pilgrimage I will have in my life.
Although I lived in Gaza most of the time, I had at least 2 weekends in a month to enjoy the old city and visit all nooks and cranny inside it. Reliving the stories I read in the bible at the same time understand the plight of my Palestinian friends against the oppression they were dealt with in this modern times.
I arrived in Israel in early February of 2016 and settled-in first in Jerusalem while waiting for my papers allowing me to enter into Gaza. The Christian world was preparing for the Lenten season. It took a while before I was able to appreciate where I was until I get to visit around town and inside the old city. I was happy to have made acquaintances with other Catholics from Spain and Mexico who’s been living in Jerusalem for over a year and are well versed with the happenings in and around town and of course the Passion of Jesus Christ.
The feeling while in the old city at this time – at Lent was overwhelming. Like all other Christians, being in the place where Jesus lived, walking in the path he walked on meeting his disciples, and while carrying the crossed for our sins humbled me.
For a while I forget why I was in Palestine, all I can think of at that time was the Passion of Christ Jesus, relieving in my head his stories, the stories of his apostles and of Mary and the persecution they received in the hands of those who claim to be high and mighty. It’s hard not to remember your catechism and you can only do that when you are faced with it in real-time.
I was so happy, no words can explain my feelings when I was there and all the time I was there until I have to leave Israel.
To appreciate the Old City, the Holy Land, one has to be in the moment and feel the spirit of the city speaks to you and bring you back to the time when you become part of the bible history.
Until the celebration of Easter, of His resurrection. Giving hope to the people that all our sins are forgiven and were given opportunities to become a better person for others year after year.
It was a fitting introduction to the challenges I am set to tackle accepting the job in Gaza. It was an opportunity for me to know the places and the people according to history and to the experience, I had with them daily. The chance to work with my now Palestinian friends, to help them overcome the consequences of their situation and of the people they helped make me realize that religion knows no boundaries.
It is not enough to just say been there-done that without bringing with you the spiritual high that you experience while in the holiest of the land, the land that is full of history that had been told for centruries on.
In Palestine, my being Catholic is no issue. Between my coordinator, also a Catholic and me, all our staffs and the people I met in the community to help and to mingle are all Muslim but it was never an issue. The Palestinians in Gaza and in the West Bank are the most progressive thinkers I met, but unfortunately, their situation is one of the world’s greatest irony – the oppressed become the oppressor.
Their experience since 1948 up to now is a product of hatred and self-entitlement of those that persecute them. And I continuously pray that the history written in the holy book, the Bible, in the new testament and that of the Quoran will eventually come to reality in the present time and we can achieve the peace we all dream of.
Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. — Matthew 22:35-40
I wouldn’t trade this experience with anything. This may not be the best mission for me (work wise), but I can say this is the best experience I had working and living in the Middle East.
Let us continue to pray for peace and freedom to the Holy Land!
When I was younger, I had no concept of domestic abuse or abuse in general. I didn’t know I was in an abusive relationship until after I learned about it as I grew in my chosen career. The abuse became a byword in the meetings I attended, and it became very real when I witnessed for myself what it can do to women and families.
It was in late 2000 when I entered into a relationship with someone I met in the country where I was working then. He’s from my country and being new in that place, getting that much attention from men, I felt very special. But this one particular person had pursued me until I said yes.
We were inseparable. He became constant in my daily life – from waking up to sleeping. I thought it was cute, sweet and very loving. Every day I get sweet messages in my email, and at some point, I was looking forward to it and felt terrible when there was no new email from him. Every hour I get a phone calls just asking me where and how I am, that was also sweet until it was not anymore. He would show up in my office if I am working in the headquarters bringing food or inviting me out or any gifts he fancies giving me.
I live in another town, so I go home to the capital every 2-weeks to spend a weekend break and work in the HQ before I go back again, so we only see each other every 2-weeks. He didn’t like it. He wants me to travel every weekend and spend time together. I found it again sweet, thinking he cannot live without me. But going for 6 hours on rough roads twice every week was not only tiresome but also costly for the organization and dangerous for my driver and me.
I get to travel when there’s approval from my coordinator, and I have to time it with something to do in the city to not waste both time and fuel, that time back then fuel was difficult to source and very expensive in the black market because of the embargo.
He was not happy with the arrangement that’s why when I am in the capital city, he never lets me out of his sight especially after work or during the weekend. He would pick me up from my house, and we would spend the whole weekend together to the point that I moved in with him because that’s what he wanted. He was so possessive he doesn’t want me to mingle with other people when I am in town – wants me all to himself. Sweet until it became too much and when I protested, without physically hurting me, I felt beaten.
Slowly I lost touch with the friends I met there. Social media was non-existent, and SMS was a luxury we don’t have. I was not allowed to mingle with my colleagues, and he doesn’t want to join me when I invite him because he doesn’t like to hang out with other people except me. If we will accept an invitation, it was from his friends, and I cannot say no because he will get angry, so I always tag along. He would also host dinners and karaoke with people I don’t know, men with their wives and gf but we never go to their houses when they invite us.
In short, he controlled my life. He showered me with gifts and sweet messages. He provided me with luxury my organization cannot provide us because we’re supposed to be frugal and not showing off – I mean we cannot afford 24/7 generator to light the house or even to use aircon during summer. He brought me to nice restaurants and decided my life for me.
We had several fights, but I never win. We had big fights out of nothing. He will accuse me of wanting other men than him if I admire a car parked by the beach with a cute driver. Or when I was in an official party and laughing with some male guest, he thinks I was flirting with them. He almost drove off the cliff when we decided to have a romantic dinner in one of the few beautiful and expensive restaurants in the city, and we found there some of my friends from where I live that was also in town having their breaks and relaxing. He accused me of agreeing to his invitation because I knew my boyfriends (yes that’s how he called my friends) are there. When I stopped talking to him, he will woo me and say sorry, and everything will be okay until it happens again.
It didn’t help that the country where we were at that time have both development and peacekeeping action. When you’re based in the center of the country and surrounded by bushes, you’re bound to meet people from different military and country contingent with a mix of other humanitarian aid workers, and you immediately become part of the group. You form a bond because you rely on each other in case a problem arises or just to keep the boredom at bay you make impromptu events and own places to be the “place to be” (like a gasoline station because they have fuel became an impromptu bar to keep beers cold and have light) because that’s just how it was in the bush and that is what my then boyfriend didn’t understand. For him, it’s flirting, and that was a pure evil accusation.
Despite that, I stayed in the relationship. Eventually, he moved to another country but before he did that he offered marriage but with a catch! I am to become a stay-at-home mother to the family that we will raise. He converted to Islam when he was stationed in the Middle East for seven years, and he started quoting the Qoran on why I should submit to him being a woman.
I remember vividly the answer I gave him. I said
my parents worked hard to send my siblings and me to school, to good private Catholic schools so we can pursue our dreams and be better in life. Now that I am enjoying the fruits of that, why stop now to raise a family? Because I know I can be a career woman at the same time a good mother and a wife if you choose to find a family mission
He didn’t like my answer, and he didn’t like working in countries with no action. He’s one of those adrenaline junkies who like working in countries where there is always a danger of getting killed or just in the midst of it. He didn’t repeat the proposal.
I moved out of the first country myself. My contract finished, and I moved to another difficult country. We continued the long-distance relationship and spent a lot of money talking to each other over the phone even though we knew we would not end up together until we called it quit three years after we started the relationship.
We drifted apart, and myself had grown to be my own person more and more. I started to see myself as someone that can be alone, that I don’t need a man to complete me. I reached a point in my life where I stopped altogether dreaming of getting married and having kids especially when you know that by the time my kids start walking I will need an assistive device to follow them around. Not fair to them and not very healthy for me but I am sure many will disagree, and that’s fine.
On hindsight, I already survived my vicious cycle of abuse and came out victorious. I still slip up from time to time, still finding the wrong men for me to hang out with but I have no more illusions and when I feel trap I know I can always open the door and leave and stop being the victim of my stupidity.
But my relationships are not always negative, I guess in my 40ish life I’ve met the men I can say “love of my life” and could have ended up with them, but they all got away.
The first one from my country left me to marry the woman he got pregnant and had a son before I met him because the woman stalked me and threatened my life, use the kid as a pawn to guilt trip my boyfriend then. The one from Canada was diagnosed with hepatitis C, and because he loves me so much, he let go of me even though I told him I would be with him until the end. He said it was not fair to me to look after him while I am still young, I can find someone healthy and can provide for my needs – it was noble and I kept his letters. I have no information whether he survived or already moved to the next realm, and I tried to search online but no luck. And the last person I said “I love you” to was taken from me by the bad guys in 2016; he was ambushed trying to fight off criminality in El Salvador the first day he returned to work from a month-long holiday in the US. Maybe it was time for him to leave all of us he loves.
Writing this post I realized no one is insulated from abuse, but what is important is how one rise above it. I am incredibly grateful to the stories I’ve read in World Pulse it enlightened me and made me feel that my experience in relationships made me the strong woman I am today!
I believe and you should too that WE ARE STRONGER TOGETHER!
I had the operation.
Tomorrow will be the second week since I had it done and I feel very good. Now, I can see with both eyes, no need to cover my right eye to read the fine prints. The next time I see my doctor that is to confirm the final prescription I will need for my reading glasses.
The last post Do Not Wait Too Long was all about my right eye that is 90 percent blind. When I went to the ophthalmologist in Izmir, in Turkey, to have new glasses prescribed the doctor discovered I have something in my eyes the translator cannot translate in English, and I didn’t press on. The specialist just told me I am 60 percent blind and he can correct it very easy. That was in April 2017.
A little over a year, I felt I completely lost my eyesight because all I can see are bright lights behind a smoke screen. The moment I become mobility independent, I decided to do something about it.
A day at the beach
As I promised my niece, we will go and have a vacation at the beach before classes start in July, I confirmed we will go the weekend after my surgery.
30th June, I was sitting in the verandah of my friends resort in Saryaya, Quezon Province, 2.5 hours away from my dad’s place in San Pedro, Laguna. Tomorrow will begin the second half of 2018 and I am officially back to my old self and can say my disability journey is complete.
Is it really, how?
Aside from my physical injury and temporary disability I also had a visual impairment that I chose to ignore until it cannot be ignored anymore and finally decided do something about it.
I noticed that my right eye cannot see anything anymore, even as close as an inch into my face. All I can see are the lights behind a smoke screen. In spite of that, I still took my sweet time to seek medical help. Part of it was my injury, and the other part was fear.
Early June I sucked it up and went to seek professional help and was told that my vision could be restored. But was told what I have is the type of cataract well beyond my age – it was for those over the age of 70.
I breath easy!
For years I was able to fool myself that I have good vision and the changes in grade were associated with age, which is a normal progression of life. I wore fancy looking glasses and life went its merry way.
Last year was no different. I knew I have a problem, but I still didn’t do anything to change my situation. I wanted it done in the Philippines, and I convinced myself that we have better treatment procedures and I was not wrong except the timing.
The father of telescope.
A fitting name for the center that took care of my eye surgery, aided with the latest technology to make the operation and healing as painless as possible with very little to no inconvenience, getting you back on your own as soon as possible.
They correct the windows to the soul and restore them to its former glory.
My sister was the one who told me about the center. She was the only person that knew I have such problem. The Salesian nuns used Galileo’s services and had nothing but good words to say on the quality of care they do including the doctors.
I also found out from my orthopedic doctor that they are one of the oldest eye centers around, he knows because his wife is an ophthalmologist but specializes in glaucoma management.
Right place wrong age
When I visited the center, I was greeted pleasantly by their staff and made comfortable as I wait for my turn to be seen by the consultant. The streams of people coming in the center peaked at mid-day for consult and follow-up, but all of them are way over the age of 60, I felt out of place.
I chatted one of them that had the surgery the week before and was there for follow-up. She was gushing to tell me how clear her vision is and it’s getting better every day. She asked me back and was surprised that I am a patient and that I may have a cataract, but despite that, she assured me that I am in good hands – the doctor, the services, and the outcome and wished me well.
That conversation boosted my confidence until I was called to be seen by the doctor, I was ready to accept whatever the outcome is. It was confirmed, I have a cataract, but it’s the type commonly seen in older patients, those over the age of 70.
It was really hard to tell how I got cataract at this age but he attributed it to the kind of work I do and nothing on the lifestyle I maintain. I was assured that it can be reversed and will have my vision restored immediately after the surgery and they were not kidding.
All it took was fifteen minutes
That was the case from the moment they numbed my eyes, extracted the cataract and inserted the IOL it was done in a quarter of an hour.
The preparation was like delivering a baby – they waited for my pupil to dilate which needed four drops before they ushered me to the ER. It took longer than the actual operation.
I was seated in what looks like a dental chair and hooked up to different monitoring machines and oxygen.
Once done, headphones with music were placed over my ears to relax me until I heard the doctors shuffling, talking over my head giving information on what they are doing in my eye. All of that while I continue to relax with gospel music first, followed by instrumental music which was more the kind I like.
The fifteen minutes began after they cleaned my eyes and anesthesia was administered. I tensed up when I started hearing a buzzing sound on top of the music playing in my ear. My fingers started playing air piano, and the nurse holds my hand until the operation was done.
While they work on my eye, I keep seeing two red squares in front of me. The red squares after a few minutes started to have a yellow hue around it and I started to see my doctor from my peripheral vision and was told the damaged lens was out.
The moment of truth followed – my doctor was talking while he inserted the plastic IOL and as it happens, the red square with some shades of yellow suddenly had defined dots inside the box. It was like looking at a beehive, and it was so bright. I felt good and relaxed because I knew then that my vision was restored. And that was it!
I just needed to wait for the anesthesia to wear off, and I am good as new.
Like nothing happened
I went back to my hotel and slept the anesthesia off. I have to wear protective glasses but no more eye patch. If you didn’t know you will not think I had eye surgery. I slept for the rest of the day and worked up as if nothing happened. Felt no pain, it felt good.
Couldn’t believe that just hours earlier I cannot see when I close my left eye, so I kept trying to close it to make sure that the right eye can see. There was no reason for me to skip my friends “concert” because there were no complications.
The first thing I asked my doctor after he gave me post-op care is whether I can watch concerts and he said yes. I was told that I could do everything from using computers, watching TV and using mobile phones but no washing of the eyes for a week and no swimming for a month.
I ended the night feeling happy I watched my friends concert, and as soon as I woke up I declared I can see NOW!
I invite you to click the photo and listen to Side A band, the only local band I like back in the days.
Fear is only powerful in darkness. When you bring your fears to My light, they lose their fangs.
Be strong, do not fear; I will come to save you.
I Am your Light,
I recently had confirmation about my impending surgery in the coming days.
It will be a minor procedure that shouldn’t take 30 minutes from prep to post-op, but I am still worried, this will be the second surgical procedure I will have in less than 6 months. But I surrender everything to God, he will take away my fear and replace it with courage so I can go through with this new challenge and come out victorious.
THE problem I have was old news. It was discovered back when I was in Turkey during a random check. I was not alarmed because I didn’t feel any different. I thought I can wing it until I am ready to face it. When the doctor asked me if I want something done to it immediately, I said I’ll wait until I go home to the Philippines. In my mind, I will feel more comfortable talking to someone in my vernacular and to not discuss details of “the” problem with translators.
I went home for a short break and back to Turkey in June last year, but I didn’t do anything, thinking that it was not serious. I tried to convince myself that I can do something about it once I return in March of this year. But as you already know, I went home in January with a cast on my left leg and was not ambulatory until around early May.
Despite that, I could have gone to have “the” problem checked out sooner, but I experienced some emotional problem during my recovery from my physical injuries. When I was sure, I am stable, after attending a workshop and meeting new people I decided to have “the” problem properly checked by the specialist exactly a year I was supposed to.
Relieved but not out the woods yet!
From my own perspective, the problem deteriorated after realizing that my health and age is catching up with me.😁 I guess the injury magnified every aches, pain and everything else in my life. But I was still calm about it, although at the back of my mind I was preparing for the worst and was relieved when the specialist said “the” problem is reversible.
I guess it’s ironic that I work in the health field and I am very stubborn to act when something like this comes up. I do have my regular health check and follow doctors advise when it comes to maintaining them, but there are issues I ignore deliberately for reasons even I don’t know.
From the time it was discovered, work and life situations have changed. And because it doesn’t bother me as if I don’t have “the” problem I went on with life and continue what I normally do. But now it cannot be ignored, something has to be done, and I took the first step to make it happen.
Anchor to God
I attribute the result of the consult as a sign from God. I thank Him and all the saints that intervened on my behalf every day and will continue to do it for the rest of my life.
That my deliberate stubbornness didn’t put my life in jeopardy and render it permanently altered. But I am not out of the woods yet. I still have to undergo the actual operation to resolve “the” problem, and until then I cannot rest easy.
Every time I go to my therapy I pass by the chapel to give praise and thank God for everything. On my way in and out of the main hall, I passed by the statue to Padre Pio and decided I will pray to him for all what I want to happen to my life.
With the results, I received from the doctor, I can’t help but be thankful that some of my prayers were answered. So I like to share with you the simple prayers I say in front of his statue when I am in the chapel and when I am alone in my room.