2018 Christmas Letter

The ornament of a house is the friends who frequent it.

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

2018 is a surprisingly busy year for Matthew and myself.

We are grateful to Sr. Sonia, who encourages and inspires us in our spiritual journey. Through her,  we met two wonderful people, Ricky and Corito, who have become endeared friends. We are grateful for their love and friendship. In the words of Matthew, “I am always energized by the visits of Ricky and Corito.”

We are also thankful to Sr. Marijo who, in spite of her busy schedule, makes it a point to visit us at least once a month for fellowship, prayer and sharing. Her constant presence in our lives has been always a source of support and joy. We are always happy to see her.

Through the efforts of Sr. Marijo, our parish priest, Fr. Edgar Lumanlang, visited us on Matthew’s birthday when he turned 60! He prayed for us and gave communion to Matthew. The best gift ever is to receive Jesus through the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist!

The year began with Matthew’s delightful and unexpected reunion with Jun who came with Sr. Marijo. It has been 40 years since they last saw each other. Sr. Marijo introduced Jun and Matthew and a small group of students to Zen meditation. They had a wonderful time of catching up with each others’  almost a lifetime of spiritual journey.

After Jun left my sister Cristy went up to Baguio. We had fun sharing stories and taking photos of each other.  After Cristy’s visit, Luth, who is based in the US and whom I have not seen in decades, went up to Baguio for an overnight trip just to see me. I am deeply touched by her gesture of taking time to be with me. We spent a full day catching up on our lives.

As soon as Luth left, I met up with my dear friend Wawi and her family who also went up to Baguio for a visit.  We enjoyed our time together during breakfast at Chocolate de Batirol in Camp John Hay and bought some pasalubongs in Good Shepherd. Not to be missed is Wawi’s favorite, the raisin bread from Palaganas Bakery!

We were happy to see members of the Sacred Heart Community, who dropped by on April 1 to celebrate Bro. Paul Aguas’ – Matthew’s Dad – birthday! This enjoyable bunch of happy brothers and sisters is so much fun to be with.

Still in April, I went down to Manila to be with my best friend, Natalie and her family, because of the passing of her Dad. It was also an opportune time to meet up with my siblings whom I have not seen in a while.

Matthew was delighted to reunite with members of Sacred Heart Community in the 1970’s – Pia, Jean, Flor, and Helen. Everyone had fun reminiscing the good old days! Since then, we have now reconnected through Facebook.

June was a special month for us. Besides celebrating Matthew’s 60th birthday and our 16th year wedding anniversary, we were happy to meet up with Binky’s parents. I have happy memories of them when Binky and I were still office mates and I would go up to Baguio for a visit. They have big hearts and have always made me feel loved and welcome. It was sad though, because that was the last time we were going to see Tita Rose.  A month after, she passed on.

September was a stressful month for us because I had to rush Matthew to the hospital where he was confined. He had an allergic reaction to a diabetes medicine that was prescribed to him. But we thank God, he was able to recover albeit slowly. We were happy to see Gie and Mel, who also dropped by the house.

Come October, I had breakfast with Candy and Riley who went up to Baguio for a quick visit. After they left, my cousin from the US, Ate Ely came to the house with Ate Genie and Bobbie Malay (Ate Ely’s good friend). I was excited to spend time with her since I have not seen her in more than 10 years. Her company brought happy memories of my childhood.

Beth was a high school chum whom I have not seen since 1977 when we both graduated from High School. We met up because she was vacationing in Baguio.  It was so much fun and it seemed like we didn’t run out of stories.  She had to postpone an appointment two times because we could not seem to get enough of each other!

At the same time that Beth and I were together, Matthew was spending time with Leo at home. We always look forward to Leo’s visits because his pleasing personality makes him great company!

Finally, we cannot end this letter without mentioning our blog. Now on its tenth year, we have grown to have 350+  followers and have reached an astonishing 497,000+ hits! We are amazed and delighted because people from around the world are visiting our blog, liking our posts and our cyber community continues to grow.

From our family to yours, Merry Christmas and blessings for the New Year.”

~ Matthew and Jojang

 

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2017 Christmas Letter

When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand.

–Henri Nouwen

It was a delightful year of rekindling friendships for both Matthew and myself.

I was able to attend our 40th high school reunion to celebrate our 40th Ruby Year Anniversary. With lots of laughter and sometimes sentimental moments, I had a great time reminiscing about our wonderful high school years and meeting my high school chums.

When I got home from my short stint in Manila, it was Matthew’s turn to have his own wonderful reunion experience. Sr. Sonia came to the house for a visit. He was overjoyed to meet her, having not seen her for almost 20 years! Sr. Sonia is Matthew’s Zen meditation teacher, who played a major and transformative role in his life. Her guidance and encouragement has opened up new vistas, making him realize that there are possibilities in the spiritual life he never dreamed of.

Sometime middle of the year, we met up with Mel and Gie whom we’ve not seen in almost 10 years! We enjoyed catching up with what was happening in our own lives.

Another happy reunion for me was meeting up with Lolit, whom I have not seen in more than 15 years. After spending hours together having dinner and dessert, we both felt that time was not enough. How we both wish we had more time together!

Matthew had a celebration of sorts when he was again able to sit in meditation with a group of old friends after more than 15 years — something he loved to do. For many years, he was only able to meditate by himself. Thanks to the encouragement of endeared friends – Sr. Marijo, Flor, Nena and John, who made all this possible! Looking forward to more “sits in meditation” with you in 2018!

We capped off the year with an 80th-year birthday celebration of our godfather and dearest Tito Peter in a beautiful resort in Asin. It’s the first time I ever saw Matthew get sun burned. Needless, to say we enjoyed ourselves and the food was delish!

Of course, we cannot end this letter without mentioning our blog. Now on its ninth year, we have grown to have 333 followers and have reached an exciting 450,800+ hits! We are happy because people are visiting our blog, liking our posts and our cyber community continues to grow.

May this holiday season sparkle and shine. May all of your wishes and dreams come true. And may you feel God’s presence in your life all year round.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all!

–Matthew & Jojang

2016 Christmas Letter

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I have only one desire, and that is the desire for solitude—to disappear into God, to be submerged in His peace, to be lost in the secret of His Face.

~ Thomas Merton

“Matthew, can I visit you?” Sr. Marijo was on the other end of the line.

“Sure, Sister! I would love that.”

A flood of wonderful memories crossed through Matthew’s mind as he told me that we were going to have a visitor. He remembered this verse from Thomas Merton who has largely influenced his life.

Sr. Marijo introduced Zen to Matthew almost 40 years ago. With a small group of friends, they would regularly visit her and sit in meditation together. Needless to say, it was a life changing experience for them. Since then, Matthew shares to me how Zen has helped him deepen his Christian faith and how it has helped him cope with the challenges of life.

I really enjoyed listening to their animated conversation and as Matthew describes it, “It’s as if the conversation just stopped for a while and we took off from where we left off.”  I guess these are just the stuff that real friendships are made of.

This year, Matthew and I were quite busy.  We became godparents to the highly energetic and lovable  son of Alex and Robe Ann.  We were also able to attend the 50th Golden Anniversary of our godparents, Tito Peter and Tita Dory. It was so much fun to meet and catch up with many people we’ve not seen in a long time.

Also, this year, our endeared godparent Tito Tony passed away. We are saddened by the loss of one of the most generous persons that we have ever known. Thank you, Tito Tony for everything.

Of course, we cannot end this letter without mentioning our blog. Now on its eighth year, we have grown to have 319 followers and have reached a whooping 404,265+ hits! We are happy because people are  visiting our blog, liking our posts and our cyber community continues to grow.

May the Blessings of Christmas be with you, May the Christ Child light your way, May God’s holy angels guide you, and keep you safe each day.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all.

Matthew and Jojang

CHRISTMAS LETTER 2015

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It has been a tumultuous year for Matthew and myself. We had a roller coaster ride of highs and lows which felt like it would never end. You see, for the past two years we were carrying a burden which seemed unsolvable. Suffice it to say that we tried everything we can to find solutions, but we always end up sad, stressed and frustrated. Quite recently, in the most unexpected way, our prayer was answered miraculously.

God is good indeed.

Like how our life has been for the past 13 years since we’ve been married, the Lord has never failed to reassure us that our life is indeed in His hands. Each time He reassures us that our seemingly insurmountable challenges are actually faith building experiences that brings us from glory to glory.

God is good indeed.

Of course, we cannot end this letter without mentioning our blog. Now on its seventh year, we have grown to have 283 followers and have reached 300,258+ hits. It’s edifying to know that many people appreciate our posts, and our cyber community has grown.

2016 is a new beginning for us. As God leads us, we trust that He will continue to be with us every step of the way.

May the forgiving spirit of Him to whom we dedicate this season prevail again on earth.
May hunger disappear and terrorists cease their senseless acts.
May people live in freedom, worshiping as they see fit, loving others.
May the sanctity of the home be ever preserved.
May peace, everlasting peace, reign supreme.

We pray that Christ will be alive for you this Christmas and all throughout the New Year ahead.

–Matthew and Jojang

Christmas Letter 2014

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Waiting is a mystery, a natural sacrament of life. There is a meaning hidden in all the times we have to wait. It must be an important mystery because there is so much waiting in our lives.

~ Fr. James F. Donelan, SJ
“Mama, please help me find a spot in the house where I can pray?” Matthew asked me one morning.
Surprised, I said, “Okay.”
The request was music to my ears because it was a healthy sign that Matthew is well enough to be able to practice what he loves most. Meditation and Contemplative prayer.
Gone are the days when our days, weeks and months are measured by the number of times he is rushed to the hospital. Gone are the days when a foul smell is enough to trigger an asthma attack.
Indeed, waiting is a sacrament because the last time Matthew was able to sit, meditate and pray was twelve years ago…
Thank you, Lord. You are so good!
Although Matthew has not fully regained his old health back, nowadays when he is not feeling well, we already know what to do and shortly after he is able to recover and bounce back. Of course we still need to be careful and avoid situations and places that may trigger him. But we have gone a long way off from before. Slowly but surely, we hope that he becomes even stronger than when he was before.
We would like to thank Dra. Chona who patiently and lovingly take care of us throughout all these years. You are God’s angel for us.
Lastly, we cannot end this letter without mentioning our blog. Now on it’s sixth year, we have 240+ followers and have reached 252,400+ hits. A wonderful reaffirmation that we must be doing something god and are far reaching out to so many people. We appreciate our cyber friends who regularly keep in touch. And even those that drop by once in a while.
Let me end this letter with a Christmas Prayer (not my own). It echoes what we have in our hearts….
Christmas Prayer

Meister Eckhart once said: ‘What good is it that Christ was born 2,000 years ago if he is not born now in your heart?
Lord, we do far too much celebrating your actual coming into our hearts. I believe in God, but do I believe in God-in-me? I believe in God in heaven, but do I believe in God-on-earth? I believe in God out there, but do I believe in God-with-us?
Lord, be born in my heart. Come alive in me this Christmas! Amen.

We pray that Christ will be alive for you this Christmas and all throughout the New Year ahead.
~  Matthew and Jojang

Let It Go

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An oft repeated song the past months is from Disney’s movie, Frozen, the song “Let it go”.

I know it’s not easy but if only we could have an attitude of “Let go and let God” I believe our lives will be much easier (I’m preaching to myself as well here).

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. ” Proverbs 3:5-6

When I was single, I often prayed (or begged) that the Lord will give me a lifetime partner. Frustrated was a mild word to describe how I felt, because age was catching up and all my friends were getting married, except me. When I reached 40 years old, I sort of thrown in the towel. I gave up my “dream” of marrying and flew off to the US to live a happy, single life at the Big Apple. After a while, I felt in my heart that this was not “the life” that I wanted so I came back home and went back to work where I used to. There, I rekindled a friendship with an old chum which blossomed to a love affair. Shortly after, we got married, and the rest is history.

God is in control.

Oftentimes, we make plans but they fail and we get hurt and frustrated. Later on, we realize that it wasn’t meant to be in the first place. Life is a journey of letting go.

“Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” Luke 22 :42

Lent is a beautiful season of grace. During this time, we are encouraged to pray and reflect about our life’s pilgrimage and hope that in the end, we shall have eternal joy with God.

 ~ Marisa

2013 Christmas Letter

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“How lovely on the mountains are the feet of Him who brings good news, who announces peace and brings good news of happiness, who announces salvation, and says to Zion, “Your God reigns!”

~ Isaiah 52:7

This verse keeps repeating in my mind as I contemplate on the lovely Cordillera mountain from where I sit at a coffee shop situated on the top floor of a mall here in Baguio City.

Where does this serenity in the midst of turbulence come from?

You see, the past year has been a tumultuous year for Matthew and I. We were faced with so much stress that it has taken its toll on our health.  Twice, Matthew had to be confined in the hospital, while I suffered some setbacks as well (weakened by my hospitalization around this time last year).

However, although unpleasant, this difficulty we recently faced turned out to be a faith building exercise for us. We stand witness to God’s faithfulness as big and small miracles happened… before we knew it, our concerns were being addressed… issues resolved and very slowly but surely problems solved.

To say that we are awed and humbled is an understatement … Thank you, Lord!

I would like to take this opportunity to thank our doctors who patiently and lovingly take care of us. In spite of Matthew’s stress related hospitalization, he recovers much faster now than before — a marked improvement.  I, on the other hand, am grateful for my home based work wherein I do what I immensely enjoy doing.

I cannot end this letter without mentioning my blog with my husband which is a source of joy for us (please refer to this link:  http://mattandjojang.wordpress.com/2013/12/16/christmas-letter-2013/) .  As of this writing, we have 135 followers and have reached 193,542 hits. All in a span of 5 years. Never in our wildest dreams did we ever imagine that we will be able to reach out to so many people through this blog. It excites us that we have developed friendships on cyberspace too.  We got to meet like minded individuals who share our beliefs, convictions and interests. A wonderful blessing!

Let me end this Christmas letter with a quote from one of Matthew’s favourite authors:

“If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, “thank you,” that would suffice.

~ Meister Eckhart

And we say, “Thank you, Lord” … Indeed, you are good!

Here’s wishing you a meaningful Christmas and a grace filled New Year ahead.

Matthew and Jojang

Questions

Photo: Google

Photo: Google

…have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.

Rainier Maria Rilke

CNN Statement About The Filipino People

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Thank you, CNN, for honoring the Filipino people during these difficult and trying times. Thank you, too, for setting up this website: Impact Your World – to help…

The Slow Work of God

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I have to admit that more often than not, I’m impatient with myself, others, God and life in general. I already want to arrive without going through the painful process of the journey. No one wants pain, especially me who have such little tolerance for it. But with so much that I have gone through, I have learned that more than the results, the pilgrimage is more important. At the end of the day, I have to learn to trust because my life is not in my hands… it is in His hands.

~ Marisa

The Slow Work of God

Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are quite naturally impatient in everything
to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way to something
unknown, something new.

And yet it is the law of all progress
that it is made by passing through
some stages of instability—
and that it may take a very long time.

And so I think it is with you;
your ideas mature gradually—let them grow,
let them shape themselves, without undue haste.

Don’t try to force them on,
as though you could be today what time
(that is to say, grace and circumstances
acting on your own good will)
will make of you tomorrow.

Only God could say what this new spirit
gradually forming within you will be.

Give Our Lord the benefit of believing
that his hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
in suspense and incomplete.

—Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, SJ