Until we meet again

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It’s not the first time that I lost someone I know. I remember when I was young, my uncle Salvador whom we usually call “Kuya Bading” died after suffering from lung sickness. I was there when he had his last breath. Being young, I still didn’t realize the pain of losing someone. I watched my mom cried. I watched members of my family grieved over him. I was young. I didn’t know how to react.

I am 40 now. I have loved. I knew pain. That evening, when my sister called me that my father was in critical condition, I broke down to tears. He will not recover from the heart surgery. My dad was still fine just a few days ago. He was still making faces in his selfies. Dawn came, his blood pressure was dropping. I know that he will not make it in the morning. I am not there with him at the hospital. I am living abroad. I have to prepare myself for what’s to come inevitably- death.

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I felt helpless. Wanting to be beside him. I called my sister again, my mom, my aunt..no answer. Finally, my call got through my uncle. His voice was trembling. He couldn’t find the words to say. I asked if he can put the phone on speaker near my dad. He’s a Catholic. As a Muslim, I was taught that a person who is near death must be able to say “La Ilaha Ilalah” (There is no God but Allah).  I wanted him to be saved. I wished that God will forgive him. With my voice trembling as I tried to stop myself from crying, I told him that I love him. I told him not worry that God will be there for him. I repeatedly asked if he can say “La Ilaha Ilalah” even with his mind. I hoped he heard me. Please God have mercy on him.

My sister said he passed away after hearing the voices of my mom and my siblings. Three of us were not there. We were on mobile speaker. That early morning, I really knew pain. There was no pain greater than that of losing someone you loved. Deep inside I know that God is fair. That He will pass judgement with fairness, kindness and justice.  I was only human. I cried for my dad. I know I will truly miss him.

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Qadr Allah. God had a plan for me. He laid out my way. He had helped me to find Islam last April. He had helped me to fast during the month of Ramadan. He used people to guide me. The Zayed House of Islamic Culture taught me the basics of Islam. In the Islamic course, I was taught that life is temporary and short compared to the afterlife. I was taught that all of us will taste death. Then after death, angels will come to ask us three questions: What is your religion? Who is your God? Who is your prophet? This is the trial of the grave.  Then the soul will be brought to barzaa- a place where all souls await the Day of Judgement. The dead cannot come back to the land of the living. But of course, in the end, only God has the knowledge of the unseen. He do what He wills.

I came to realize that God prepared me for death- the death of my beloved father. God also gave me a chance to say goodbye to him last May after my vacation. I had never seen my dad cried so much when I bid him goodbye. I run back to him and hugged him and assured him that I will come back so don’t be sad. I didn’t know that it was the last hug and kiss that his eldest child will give to him. God really gave me this mercy.

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I am strong. I will not cry knowing what I know about death. Always, when I came back home for vacation, I will often see my dad at our living room or at the dining area prepping up ingredients of what he wants to cook. Now, there I was walking with heavy feet.  As I approached his casket set up at my aunt’s house, my strength left me. I burst to tears. I lost him. He’s gone. It’s a painful realization that I will not see him smiling, joking around or cooking up a feast. I love my dad so much.

Being a Muslim in a Catholic funeral is quite a challenge. A lot of staring and asking why there’s a Muslim there really amazes me. I am the first Muslim in our family. I explained to our guests what to do when a Muslim dies. In Islam, the dead must be buried before sunset or immediately if he dies in the evening. He is washed and wrapped in several layers of white cloth. No fancy clothing. No material things to put with the dead like money, jewelry or the favorite stuff of the dead person. The prayer is also simple. There are no expensive coffins and funeral services. The burial ground is free. During the 3-day mourning period after the burial, the family is comforted by other people as well as relatives. There is no drinking alcohol or gambling. In Islam, any Muslim can take care of the burial of his fellow Muslim. Honestly, Muslims have more respect for the dead. It was something that I wanted for myself when I die even before I became a Muslim.

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I didn’t join the prayers and ceremonies done by the Catholics, Christians and people from the El Shaddai, another Christian sect. I prayed for my father as a Muslim would pray. I read to him some chapters of the Quran- Al Faatiha, Al Ikhlaas, Al Falaq and An Naas. When your parents die, you should not stop praying for them. Candles and flowers will not help them. Only your prayers will. Ask for their forgiveness that they might be saved from the punishment of hell. Ask for God’s mercy on their souls, so that He may lead them to heaven. Continue their charitable activities on their behalf. God bless their souls even in the afterlife.

There are a lot of things that I will remember about my dad. He usually wakes me up tickling my feet or pulling my nose while calling me “panget” (ugly). He also called his grandchildren the same. He always asked me what I want to eat when I come back there for vacation. He was quite an adventurous cook. He’s also travelled most of the Philippine and brought back home the recipes which he happily cooks for us. Food was our family’s bond. My dad was also generous especially to his kin. At the funeral, I was surprised to see a lot of people visiting him. Even some of our neighbors cried for him. He was loved and he will be truly missed.

Manuel-Cabrera

The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said that Muslims should visit the graves. He wanted us to realize that death was unavoidable and that the believers should prepare for death. There’s no repentance for the soul after it leaves the body.

As a final note, I want to share with you these realities:

  1. All of us will die and we will not know when. Death is like thief.
  2. Do not wait for the dead person’s eulogy to tell them how great they are or how important they are in your life. Tell them now. Time is not in your hand.
  3. Your parents spent their lives giving you what you need. It’s your turn to give them what they need. Treat them generously.
  4. If you have a long time grudge against your loved ones, end it quickly. Swallow your pride. It does not matter who was wrong when you can make it right.
  5. Love your family. Show them you care. Give each other respect.

There is no goodbye even with death. It is the beginning of eternity. Dad, I will see you again soon. Until we meet again.

Papang

 

 

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My Path Revealed

I made the title this way because my life changed after I uttered, while hanging clothes at my terrace, “Lord, please show me how to worship you. Guide me.” That did it for me. On the dawn of the 12th of April, after a month-long period of soul searching, God has showed me the way. His straight path.

I recited the Shahada (profession of faith) while watching Yusuf Estes, an American Muslim scholar on Youtube reciting the Shahada with an American lady. Tears running down my cheeks. I suddenly felt free. It’s something I cannot describe. Peace came upon me.

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I professed my faith by saying “Ashadu anla ilaha ilallah, wa ashadu anna Muhammadan rasululah” I bear witness that there is no other God but Allah and I bear witness that Muhammad is His messenger.”

If you have asked me a year ago, I will tell you firmly “No, I will not betray Jesus.” It has been 10 years since I came to work in the United Arab Emirates. I was already wearing a veil (hijab) before “for protection” against men who purposely teases you. I really didn’t imagine that I will be a Muslim someday.

I was overwhelmed by the ecstatic welcome (saying “Allahu Akhbar” God is the greatest) given to me by my fellow Muslims at the office after they found out that I reverted to Islam. They don’t call it conversion. They said all of us are born Muslims.

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One of our managers and his Imam (Muslim leader) friend helped me to get a Certificate of Conversion to Islam at the Shariah (Islamic) court. They also took me to the Zayed House for Islamic Culture. In this institution, the new Muslims are given a series of lectures about the basics of Islam. They also teach Arabic and the Qu’ran (Last Testament). I was handed a bag of books about Islam and some gifts. Learning at the Zayed House was free and it was subsidized by the government. They even provided free transportation and refreshments in class. I have never experienced such a warm welcome in my 42 years of being a Catholic.

I developed a hunger for knowledge. Seeking knowledge is an obligation of every Muslim. I first learned how to pray (salah) since I wanted to be able to pray when I am back home at my country. I prayed 5 times a day- before sunrise (Fajr), mid-day (Dhuhr), mid-afternoon (Asr), after sunset (Maghrib) and during the evening (Isha). You can only pray these obligatory prayers in Arabic. I don’t speak Arabic but God (Allah) made it easy for me. I memorized the prayers but kept in mind the meaning of it which I understand. Translations were available in several languages.

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Coming back to the Emirates, I was excited to start my Islamic Course at the Zayed House. I already did some research while I was on vacation. Learning it firsthand from those who really know about Islam like the Islam scholars is the best way. My favorite Muslim scholars that time were Ahmed Deedat and Yusuf Estes. There were also a lot of videos and write-ups available online that are not authentic Islam. Towards the end of August, I will finish the course and level up to learning Arabic.

This new life that I took wasn’t all smooth sailing especially since most of my family and friends are Catholics. I am the first Muslim in our clan so I may say. Most of the people I know who are Catholics, Christians, or Hindus ask me the same question- “Why?”

Why? Here’s the course of my path towards Islam:

  • I wanted to read the Bible from beginning to end. Until I came across the story of Lot (Peace be upon him), I was shocked! The Bible was supposed to be a Holy Book and here’s a story talking about incest. I stopped. This was more than 3 years ago.
  • It was Holy Week last March 2016, I decided to pray the rosary. After that, out of the blue, I decided to search about the Catholic Church. I was shocked! I watched several documentaries about the roots of Catholicism- sun worship, idolatry, paganism. I felt betrayed. This was all I know. I found myself lost & now without a religion then I cried.
  • I asked God to guide me. I asked Him how do I worship you. Then it all began.
  • Since then, I only typed in the Youtube search bar “Truth about …” Unintentionally, I found myself watching babies crying then stopping upon hearing the Quran. I watched several debates about Christianity & Islam. I watched about priests and nuns converting to Islam. Hearing their stories and how the Christian leaders failed to defend their arguments opened up my mind. And everything started to make sense to me. The truth was unfolding.
  • I came to realize that Islam is a beautiful religion. A religion of peace. A religion that teaches how to submit fully to the will of God (Allah). It was not about terrorism or extremism like how they were always portrayed in the media. Unfortunately, by some agenda, the press only pinpoints “Muslim-related incidents”.
  • Then on the early morning of April 12, I professed my faith. I became a Muslim.

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There is something that you need to know. Islam does not force anyone to be a Muslim. It has to come from your heart. Full submission requires faith and sincerity. I never found it hard to pray at 4 AM because I wanted to. I never found it hard to memorize the verses of the Quran in Arabic because I wanted to. I never found fasting, for one month during Ramadan, hard because by the will of God (Allah), you can do anything.  Allah guides whom He wills.

Are you feeling lost? Incomplete? Unhappy? Dissatisfied with life? Pray to God & seek His guidance. You will be surprised that what can make you feel complete, what can make you feel peace, what can satisfy you and make you happy is only God. “Ihdina  alssirata almustaqeem” Guide us to the straight path. (Al Fatihah, verse 6)

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I turned 40 so what?

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I forgot to post this. Enjoy…I’m 41 now 🙂

“Life begins at 40” and so it says but I know a lot of people who dreaded the big 4-0 but not me. I turned 40 this May and frankly I still feel that I’m still the old me. Although I grew older, my state of mind remains young and vibrant. So what if you are forty? It only means that you had 40 years of life experiences both good and bad. Honestly, of all the bad things that happened in my life at least I got some good out of it.  I learned.

Instead of worrying about numbers and lines appearing on your face, let us ponder on life and share the things that we have learned along the way.  Life lessons are best shared by people who experienced them first-hand.

Here goes:

  • If you want to learn to cook, start with the recipes of the food that you love to eat.
  • You cannot force your child to do anything, you can only influence & guide them.
  • You cannot be really angry with your child even whatever they do. A mother’s heart is eternally forgiving.
  • You feel a different kind of freedom when you learn to let go of things that you are attached with or keeping for a long time. You will realize how easy to let go of material things once you decide to.
  • We sometimes worry too much when the problem is just simple.
  • I see myself ageing but the child inside me remains. It’s the true fountain of youth.
  • Most of the time, if you want things done, do it yourself.
  • If you can do something about it, do it. Complaining is more stressful.
  • You can always feel when you are about to do something wrong. It’s your conscience.
  • Do not waste time, money and energy to look pretty. Be beautiful from the inside.
  • Feel good by giving to those who need and extend your help when you can.
  • Smile! Wrinkles develops more when you frown.
  • Be contented. This is the secret to happiness.
  • Grey hair? Color it and have fun doing it.
  • Dress and act your age.
  • Be responsible in everything you say or do.

This list will go on and on. The best thing to do with your life is make everything worthwhile. Do not worry and stay happy.

I am forty, now more mature than when I was twenty. And so my adventure begins…

Office bullies- what to do?

  

I may not be an expert on this subject but I have seen a fair share of bullies. Whether you are young or old, bullies come in different shapes and sizes.

How to identify them?

The bully always makes his presence known. He lacks attention and seeks it from others. He is usually conceited and wants all the spotlight to himself. 

A bully is typically arrogant and wants to show off. He has nothing good to say about you. “You’re fat! What did you do? Or Urghh that dress is ugly!” He loves talking about himself. Me, myself & I is usually the beginning of his sentence. He basks in his own glory and being.

Bullies do not inspire you to do a better job. They often dig for your mistakes and make it known to others. An office bully usually scolds the employee in front of other employees or wait for other people just to show off. Bullies do not listen nor accept their mistakes. They usually cover their insecurities with arrogance and ill- nature. They are not capable of productivity and team work.

Bullies are liers! I didn’t do that!” “I didn’t say that!” are their famous lines. They hide behind the truth and puts another person in trouble.

How to deal with bullies at the office?

  1. Take away their power by ignoring them. Bullies are exultant specially when they see that you are defeated. Do not give them this pleasure.  Walk away. You don’t need his stupid nonsense inside your head.
  2. Fight back! Show that you are stronger and tougher. In the jungle, the predators prey on the weak. Bullies are the same. Do not show any sign of weakness. You have to stand your ground.
  3. Prove them wrong! Your only weapon is the truth. Be strong and state the facts. 

Bullies are here to stay whether we like it or not. You just have to deal with it because that’s life. Just be the better person.

  

Something Free

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Funny how today I dream about people getting some things for free.

In my dream, the people were hurrying and got small pots of cactus plants and as I approach the area, I saw that the plants were not good. Flowers that’s were pretty but wilted and without scent and some other weird looking plants. I didn’t take any.

As I turned around, the area became a small shop and the caretaker said that the owner was closing shop and wants to give all the items for free. I was ecstatic. I started to choose things for my kids. A basketball ring with stand for my son. Some nice stuff for my daughters. I saw some roller blades and knee pads and thought of trying to learn how to use them. I hurried out the store to tell my family but left the stuff. I didn’t take any.

This morning, I received a call. They even know my name. “You won AED 200,000 in Etisalat’s Lucky Draw” I was stunned. “Call back this number and we’ll tell you how to claim your prize” Then reality comes back. I didn’t call. Instead, I reported the number to Etisalat. It’s believe its a SCAM. A colleague told me that once you call the number that they gave you with your mobile, you will loose your load.

Then I remembered my dream. It’s the cacti and free goods that I didn’t take.

In this life, something that is free is hard to believe.  You will receive hundreds of emails or even SMS telling you that you won millions.  That you need to send money in order to claim the money. A lot of people have been victimized hoping to get this big prize. Because they need it. Because they want it.

Don’t  be a victim.  People like this prey on people’s hopes and dreams.

Earn your keep.  BE SCAM SMART. Help others by reporting these schemes to the authorities. Blog about it. You can save other people from making a terrible mistake.

 

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Addicted to TV

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I’m an addict.

I don’t use to be and there’s no rehabilitation for this kind of addiction. I used to say TV was such a waste of time until I went on vacation this year. I was caught unaware. I didn’t expect to love it.

Sitting with my family in our living room, we often spend hours chit chatting. More often during dinner time, there was a monogamous use of the television. It was the same channel everyday and the same line-up of TV series. At first, I use to go up to my room to avoid the drama happening downstairs when these series starts to air.  Anyway, I got bored and decided to join the family. I was curious to know why they usually hurry home just to catch these TV series. I told them they can just watch it online anyway. They were fanatics. I was curious to know why.

My curiosity was my undoing now that I’m hooked. I guess here are some reasons why we become addicted to television:

1. People are bored and want to be entertained. TV provides a variety of programs. If you are tired with your computer, the next easiest option is to watch TV.

2. People are curious. Like me, I really was curious why even my 7-year old son can tell me in full detail what happened in the last episode. Also, we are always very eager to know what happens next.

3.  People are naturally emotional. TV series are always successful in stirring one’s emotions- love, hate, sorrow, fear, happiness.

You can add more to my list but there’s only one thing we all hate in television- COMMERCIALS!

Enjoy watching!

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Growing up

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Once upon a time there was a boy named Peter Pan, who decided not to grow up.

My boy often cries when we talks about growing up. He turned seven last April. He often said “I don’t want to grow up, I want to stay this way” I never really understood why. This was his explanation. He never wanted to grow up because he didn’t want me to grow older as well. He wants me to stay the same. It made me smile and I gave him a warm bear hug.

Everyone does grow older even though growing up is at a slower pace. Honestly, I still feel like a child inside. I didn’t feel my age. I understand now what older people really meant about staying young within.  For me, growing up is when we become aware of our self, our being, our responsibilities and our role in life. Growing up means that you have attained a certain level of maturity. I don’t mind if I grow older but what’s important is if I grew up more everyday -emotionally, mentally and spiritually. This is what growing up means.

Don’t worry about getting those wrinkles. Don’t worry about the gray hair showing up. Worrying takes your time. Use that time to appreciate life. Share happiness with other people. Grow old together with your loved ones and friends. Talk about the naughty things you did when you were younger.  Look back and see where you were before and where are you now in this stage in your life. Ask yourself. Have I grown up?

Twenty years from now I will be older. I will begin from this day onward until twenty more years of my life to build up great memories. So that when I look back, I will not talk about the older me but the one who has grown up.

Tinkerbell