Heart Problem

By the time I finish writing this, there are about a thousand aborted babies, a thousand children who have no supper, a thousand crimes committed and unsolved. And to write my personal crisis as if it is a national issue is one of the most insensitive things to do. If I were a TV star, that would be worth sharing. Well, I’m not. But I believe one troubled soul contributes to the health of the universe. This is how I interpret Indian philosophy on “Brahman”, universal soul. The infinite number of souls are in one universal soul. It is a very difficult concept to digest. To expand the idea, let me share a text from Elizabeth Gilbert’s memoir, Eat Pray Love.

Dear God,
Please intervene and help this divorce. My husband and I have failed at our marriage and now we are failing at our Divorce. This poisonous process is bringing suffering to us and to everyone who cares about us

I recognise that you are busy with wars and tragedies and much larger conflicts than the ongoing dispute of one dysfunctional couple. But it is my understanding that the health of the planet is affected by the health of every individual on it. As long as even two souls are locked in conflict, the whole of the world is contaminated by it. Similarly, if even one or two souls can be free from discord, this will increase the general health of the whole world, the way a few healthy cells in a body can increase the general health of that body.

It is my humble request, that you help us end this conflict so that two more people can have the chance to become free and healthy, and so there will be just a little bit less animosity and bitterness in a world that is already far too troubled by suffering.

I thank you for your kind attention.
Elizabeth M. Gilbert”

I sometimes rant about how poor education in the Philippines is, how discrimination continues to exist, how mass media redefine beauty, how pop culture affects our values. I talk these things passionately to my friends and I come up with a conclusion that I don’t have real problems at all. I pay attention and think deeply on things that have no direct effect on me, things I have no control. Perhaps, it is a middle class way of thinking. Because when you have no food, your main problem is not the main problem of the world. Your main problem is how to earn money to buy food. You have no time to worry about the other injustices happening in the world.

I go back to the beauty queen question: “What is the greatest problem of the world?” Poverty? Inequality? The list goes on. But no beauty queen will say, “It’s a heart problem.”

Problems are most of the time, man-made, not destined. We choose our battles. Sometimes, we create our own demons. The greatest battles in the world do not happen in the streets. They happen in our heads. This is probably the most egocentric view of suffering yet this view explains how we inflict pain to ourselves, how we are responsible for our feelings, how we cope with life casualties. The real crises we experience most are the ones that tire us to sleep. The last few thoughts that linger on our heads. A problem is conceived first in the mind. The worst criminals in the world have their own unsettled problems. Like all villains in comic strips they all begin with desperation, greed . They have personal issues within themselves before they become problems of the society.

Our own disasters and failures in life may appear infinitesimal to what the world has to say. But the best stories and the greatest tragedies happen in small scale. They happen in our homes. They happen in our bedroom. We experience them alone.

The epic musical drama, Les Misérables is memorable and loved  not because it is about French revolution but because of Fantine’s failed dreams, because of Éponine’s unrequited love, because Jean Valjean never had a peaceful life.

Hence, it is valid to say that the greatest problem of the world is a heart problem. For this, I will never be crowned as Ms. Universe but this is how I see myself in relation with the universe. If it does not hit your chest, it is not a crisis. We don’t cry because we are hungry. We don’t cry because we have no money. We cry because there is a painful thought within a life event.  When we feel violated, victimized, underprivileged we suffer. The feeling of hopelessness, helplessness, is a response of many principles we keep.  It may be love, faith, dignity, respect. Why should we receive less in life when we are good laborers? Why we did not succeed even if we were determined and hardworking? Why did people do wrong to us when we were good to them?  We question the law of karma and other moral code. When you have a heart problem, it’s worse than solving the miseries of the world.


One of my favorite songs from Les Misérables is A Little Fall of Rain. In this scene, Éponine was dying in arms of Marius while the rain started pouring.


Just today, I realize how symbolic the last line is…

“And rain will make the flowers grow…”

Side Effect of Death

“I’m a eulogist.” – Brod Pete


There’s something about death that makes me wiser,  more articulate, and more profound. I like literature about death. I have written a lot about death and two of my blog posts here have been read in funeral service. I’m a crying lady. I cry in funerals even if the person who died is not related to me. You can throw insults to me and I will try not to drop a tear. But when I see someone grieving for the loss of loved one, I cannot help but be affected and infected with someone’s watery eyes. Perhaps, when you experience almost facing death or when you witness someone’s death, death is no longer abstract, something far from you. It is when you realize death is a possibility.

At times, I find death fascinating and intriguing. There is much to talk about death including endless debate on life after death, immortality and souls, ghosts and angels. Will I go to heaven? Who will remember me and what will they remember?

This year, two of my college professors died of cancer. I am not an exceptional student who will never forget teachers for praising my ability or giving me high grades. But I can honestly say that they are the few good ones. Today I’m thinking that the only remembrance I have are the grades they marked in my transcript of records. They may not be around but they will forever haunt me in my diploma. It’s funny how figures outlived human life. That’s how human life works. When we are alive, we are objects, tangible. We are matter, consuming space and time. We matter in commerce and trade. But when we die, we are nothing more but ideas, figures, and stories. My teacher could hold a pen that could fail or  pass a student. I could hear her react when I said something. But now the human figure is only a numeric figure in my transcript of records.

I wish  we can keep people alive in our memories. Two days ago, I saw a little girl running around the church. I remembered her grandmother who died a month ago. I remembered how well she sang in church. I wish you can bring someone’s life back by remembering. Even if you remember a person every day and every night, recall every minute detail about her, you can never have a perfect memory of her. And you know that even in your thoughts, you can never immortalize someone. What you have are only fragments.

Once in a while, it’s healthy to think about death. Because when you know death, that’s when you know the value of life. If we live every day not thinking about death, we live like machines. Our actions largely depend on consequence. Our goals are long-term. We always  think life as an infinite spectrum rather than life in its millisecond.

To people who have lost a loved one, we are blessed to have such wisdom on life and pain. We, who have experienced tragedy, have smaller problems than those who have not. When I already lost a loved one and saw people dying,  I just could not grieve over ambitions, hate, and disgust. They are just so petty when compared to death.

To everyone, never say “Magpapakamatay na lang ako” (I want to kill myself). I used to say this line in vain and in jokes. But when you see cancer patients fighting for life, it is such a shame.  We have to be  grateful of our existence. Life may be unfair and people may be harsh to you but you just have to survive.   The little suffering you get makes your existence. Life is progressing, not regressing. You have to walk with its speed. Like the brightness of the sun, we are blinded by the beauty of life. Take time to think that death is a possibility and maybe life can be beautiful.

Happy Life!

Happy End of the World!

My Uncle Sam

Sometimes sorrow teaches us the best things in life and brings out the best in us. My most viewed blog post is a piece written for my Uncle Sam (also found in a community blog, Definitelyfilipino.com). Last weekend, we went to San Felipe, a small town in Cotobato to have a reunion and to remember Uncle Sam’s death anniversary. In memory of my Uncle’s Sam, here’s an article by a local writer in Union County Advocate. To have a better look, click the scanned photos.