Archives for December 2015

Number Our Days

Edric spoke on numbering our days during the Sunday Service two days ago. It was an inspiring message that challenged the audience to consider how we use the time we have.

Psalm 90:12 says, So teach us to number our days that we may present to You (God) a heart of wisdom.

Life is short. Our friend, Steve Reed, passed away at 30. Another friend of the family, Jay Lucas, died of cancer shortly after it relapsed. And my grandfather (Angkong) departed at 96. None of us know the length of our days on this earth. It can be a few years or many, but in the end, it’s merely a dash between the year we are born and the year we die. 

Therefore, Edric challenged us to adopt the perspective of Kerry and Chris Shook in their book, “One Month to Live.” Edric read this back in 2008, but it tied in perfectly with his New Year’s challenge for us. 

If each of us had only one month to live, what would we do differently? Why aren’t we doing these things now? 

He pulled out three points from their book: Live passionately, love completely, and learn humbly. 

Live passionately for the Lord. This is about building God’s kingdom and not our own. Do we look to meet the spiritual needs of those around us and minister to them? Or, are we too busy pursuing the temporal things — money, fame, power?

Personally, I need to improve on sharing the gospel with people in a one-on-one context. I talk about Jesus on my site, the gospel story is in my book, and I insert the gospel message when I speak in front of audiences, but sometimes, I am too preoccupied to strike up a conversation with a sales lady, clerk, beautician, massage therapist, etc, and I forget that these are missed opportunities to tell them that they are infinitely loved by God, that He wants to have a personal relationship with them. Instead, I am thinking about whether they are serving me the way they ought to, or if I am getting my goals accomplished. People become a means to an end. But God wants me to consider their end. My mom, who talks about Jesus as often as she can, says, “When we don’t share the gospel, it’s like telling people to go to hell.” 

Very recently, I read Ezekiel again, and I highlighted the passage that speaks about how we are accountable to tell people the truth. Whether they receive it isn’t our problem, but if we don’t declare God’s Word He will hold us responsible as His “watchmen.”

“”Son of man, I have appointed you a watchman to the house of Israel; whenever you hear a word from My mouth, warn them from Me. When I say to the wicked, ‘You will surely die,’ and you do not warn him or speak out to warn the wicked from his wicked way that he may live, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand.” Ezekiel‬ ‭3:17-18‬ ‭

Living passionately for the Lord is also about being contagious Christians. Do we do our best at work, home, ministry? Do we use our talents, gifts and abilities to glorify God? If people were to examine our lives closely, would they be able to conclude with absolute certainty that we are followers of Christ? Would they be attracted to the joy, peace and love they see, and desire the same for themselves? 

“Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew‬ ‭5:16‬ ‭

Love completely is about forgiving and unconditionally accepting the people in our lives. If we were to number our days, knowing that life is too short to squander on anger and bitterness, would we choose to end our days with unresolved conflicts or issues in our marriages, with our children, siblings or others? 
“So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.‭‭” Colossians‬ ‭3:12-14‬ ‭

Learn humbly involves the willingness to change, to listen and receive correction and criticism, or to seek to grow and mature in areas of weakness. 

  God gave Edric and me the perfect opportunity to apply all three aspects of numbering our days. We traveled to the beach with the kids without yayas. Catalina is two so I am trying to help her become more independent. But it’s never simple to travel with five kids. It’s a lot of fun but it requires Edric and me to be hands-on at all times. Thankfully, our older sons are a big blessing. They give us breaks and take over when they can. Yet like I said, family vacations can be a good test of living passionately, loving completely and learning humbly. 

  Just today, on the way home from the beach, we nearly lost Catalina who walked off to go exploring in the hotel. Edric panicked and raised his voice at Elijah, whom he assumed was tasked to babysit her because she was last seen with him. Elijah darted off in tears, looking for Catalina, feeling terrible. The other kids said, “Why did dad shout?”

I glared at Edric for losing his cool in front of the children and went hunting for Catalina. She wasn’t lost at all. I found her playing with her cousin in the dining area, unaware of the distress her momentary disappearance had caused everyone. 

In the car, there was an icy silence as Edric and I anticipated who would apologize first. He began by identifying who was to blame and commanded me to say sorry to everyone for being the main person responsible for Catalina. After I did, I retorted, “You need to apologize, too, for shouting at Elijah. Shouting doesn’t help anyone solve a problem. You simply agitated everyone with your response. It wasn’t right.” 

I usually keep quiet and let the Holy Spirit convict him, but I was so annoyed that I let the words roll off my tongue without restraint. He didn’t appreciate this at all, but he did ask for our forgiveness to be a good example. Neither of us were satisfied with each other’s apology. We sense the lingering frustration and anger between us. (It’s only by God’s grace that we are able to recover from these situations.)
When both ended up re-doing our apologies with sincerity and we also chose to forgive one another and let go of the resentment. We applied the principle of “numbering our days.”

First, we were un-Christlike examples to our kids. And living passionately for the Lord must be evident to our most sensitive audience first — our children. Edric spoke to Elijah and really humbled himself before all of us. I also asked for forgiveness for being disrespectful towards Edric. 

Second, loving completely means I needed to forgive Edric as he needed to forgive me. We didn’t feel like it. AT ALL. We were thoroughly aggravated with one another for the mistakes we made. But God asks us to forgive, just as He has forgiven us. After we did so, the anger dissipated. 

Third, we learned humbly by acknowledging our wrongs to one another. When Edric was correcting me and criticizing me for neglecting Catalina, I wanted to defend myself and list down the many ways I took care of her during the trip. I felt like he took that one moment and gave me a rating of “F” for my mother skills. But I apologized because it only takes one accident or careless instance to lose a child and I did mess up. I did not keep a diligent eye on her and assumed that Elijah was entertaining her with an educational game. Furthermore, I made Edric look badly in front of the kids with my tone and words when I could have spoke to him in private about raising his voice. This was wrong. 

I praise God that by the end of our journey all was resolved and our relationships were restored.
We all need to number our days, to consider how we want to spend the time God has gifted us with. Are we living passionately for Him, loving others completely (especially our spouse and children), and learning humbly by choosing to become more like Christ? 

God will hold us accountable for the manner in which we invest each moment, each hour, each day, each year, and each lifetime. May He find us faithful and wise, people who understand the brevity of life and make choices that please Him! 

  
““The master was full of praise. ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together! ’” Matthew‬ ‭25:21‬ ‭

The Best Birthday Gift

BaguioChristmas2015-7087I am married to a romantic guy who likes to surprise me for special occasions and holidays throughout the year. His gimmicks range from elaborate to simple and sweet. Some of his more notable accomplishments as a creative gift-giver are the following:

  • Cooking up a feast wearing a chef’s hat when he doesn’t cook at all! (He and the boys crushed graham crackers on our dining table to make a cheesecake for me.)
  • Hiring artists to paint and draw my portrait.
  • Wrapping himself in a large refrigerator box and jumping out holding  a stuffed teddy bear.
  • Leaving a set of pajamas for me in the mailbox.

I could go on and on but the best gifts he has presented to me are his letters, which he faithfully writes every birthday, anniversary, and mother’s day since we got married. They often make me cry, which is the effect he hopes for!

This is the first time I decided to show the content of one of his letters (with his permission and with the omission of some private parts). I hope it won’t sound like I’m tooting my own horn by posting what he wrote to me. But I thought of how meaningful it is when a husband takes the time to appreciate his wife. (Maybe it will encourage all the husbands out there to do the same. Women like letters that tell us we are appreciated, right, ladies?! And wives, we can do the same for our husbands!)

I felt like I lived two years in 2015. And the one highlight (besides the faithfulness of God and my wonderful kids) has been walking alongside the love of my life, whom I have every intention of growing old with and celebrating every birthday with until the Lord calls me home. Here’s a little peak into his heart and why I feel very blessed and thankful to God that I belong to him…

 

December 23, 2015

My Dearest Joy,

I want to thank you for being the best wife and mother in the world. I really don’t know what I would do without you in my life. I think of the countless ways you serve me and the children, many times unnoticed, and often even under-appreciated by me because of my selfishness. But I see how you remain faithful anyway, preparing meals even in the wee hours of the night or morning, especially through my crazy (OMITTED) stint, waking up to deal with Catalina’s mood swings, dealing with the kids’ quirks as you homeschool them, addressing the drama that —by God’s grace— was quelled amongst the yayas and the driver, learning to deal with construction workers and electricians and all these people whom I know are not within your comfort zone, especially with what happened to you in the past. You are a faithful wife, my dear.

And I know what you’re probably thinking right now, “I’m not really that faithful. I have so much to improve on.” But you know what? That’s what’s even more amazing, is that through all this, you have a desire to continue to improve. So please, allow me to pay you this compliment without you having to downplay it. Instead, put on the other Joy response, “Oh really? You think I’m faithful? Praise God!” (otherwise known as your “showbiz” response hehe).

Seriously, I recently did a look back at 2015 and this was a tough year. I think this is the year I made the most mistakes in my life. By God’s grace, I can still say this was the best year ever, overall. But really, I committed a LOT of BIG mistakes, in my opinion. But what blesses me is that you have been right by my side, through it all, loving and supporting, rarely condemning (if at all). I love especially how you got my attention to the neglect I was doing towards the kids. If it weren’t for you, I would be spiralling further downward with the (OMITTED) hectic sched. I think about the walks and the talks we have, even as we’re stuck in traffic, and how you listen and laugh with me, and comfort me with promises of prayer, and even practical advice. Thank you, baby.

And as I look at the kids, our wonderful God-send miracles, kids we don’t deserve, I think about how you have been a HUGE factor in their turn-out thus far, by God’s grace. I see your signature JOY infused in all of them, even in our “masungs” Catalina. Even if each one has their quirk —Elijah’s frustration levels, Edan’s OC nature, Titus’ slack, Tiana’s logic lapses, they have a marked JOY. They are such a delight, and have a grounded-ness about them, one that is clearly from a relationship with Jesus, a fragrance of the Holy Spirit, but again, by God’s grace, one that they see in you. Elijah cited it recently, in fact, much to my personal chagrin, “Mom, you are my benchmark for godliness” (or something to that effect…you know my accuracy issues hehe). So it is so true, babes, that our kids have an innate JOY because you are a model of JOY. Praise God!!

I also thank God that this is the year He FINALLY allowed you to launch your book. This is a BIG deal, babes, and one that gives me deep delight, not just as your husband, but as your brother-in-Christ, because I know this is a BIG WIN for Jesus!! This early on, the 4,000 copies or so are being used to spread Christ’s gospel to countless others through the stories and shares and other permutations thereof. Go, go, go wifey Joy!! I am behind you 1000% baby. And don’t let any other person claim that they are your biggest fan, because that slot is reserved for me. Oh, and I am also the financier, coach, (OMITTED), and all the other stuff no one else can claim 😉

My prayer for you my darling wifey, is that God would continue to sustain you, and that you would allow Him to do so. I pray that you would not grow weary, and keep on remaining faithful as a Wife, Mom, and writer (and discipler, though I have not touched on that, and will improve in this area myself come 2016, so you can do the same). I pray that where people will fail you, including myself, you will continue on. Because I know that the devil is stepping-up his game, and wants to destroy the work you are doing for Him in these areas, so He will attack your soft-spots: your external beauty, your pride, your external beauty (did I mention this already?). Be strong and courageous, darling. Strengthen your defenses, by maintaining your spiritual disciplines, and guarding your eyes from the social media and other juju you might expose yourself to, especially in those late nights when you desire to “unwind”.

My continued commitment to you is that I will be right by your side, to love and guide you, and to provide everything you need to keep going, as the Lord provides. Of course, my ultimate prayer is that God would find us both faithful to the very end, holding hands with one set, and serving and doing God’s work with the other, until He literally —Lord-willing— calls us home to Heaven together.

In the meantime, what an amazing ride God has allowed thus far, huh? I love you with all my heart, my darling JOY, the JOY of my life (next to Jesus), the JOY of the kids’ lives (next to Jesus), and a JOY to countless others.

You are a wife I truly do not deserve, but am privileged and blessed to have.

Unto eternity, I remain yours, Edric.

Last Minute Christmas Tags

For those of you who need Christmas tags for your last minute presents, I am posting printable ones for you to download.  I designed these with the help of one of my favorite apps: Typorama. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to do this post earlier because I took a break from my blog and social media for a week. But I am back!

  

  

  


  
  

  






 
  
Get out your white cardstock paper and print as many as you need! 

What Does My Heart Look Like This Christmas?

Edan, my second son, is the kind of child whose expressions and actions have to be observed closely because he isn’t a talker. When I ask him what he’s thinking or feeling, he needs time to reflect before churning out an answer.

His two brothers are very different. Elijah likes to dialogue about his thoughts and feelings. Titus will simply say, “I’m not thinking anything.” (He’s a very uncomplicated fellow.) Edan, on the other hand, needs to be pried open cautiously. He doesn’t respond to confrontation, nor does he appreciate being badgered into giving an answer to people’s queries about himself. So I’ve learned to be patient as a mother and wait for him to unfold in his own way.

Every once in a while, however, I will catch him doing something that speaks loudly about the kind of person he is. And I latch on to these occasions and treasure them because they reveal what’s going on inside his heart.

Today, at church, a friend of mine whom I hadn’t seen in a while handed each of my kids money for Christmas. (She is ninang to my daughter, Tiana, but she generously gave my other kids money, too.) All of them were thrilled. Naturally, I expected them to think of buying something for themselves.

As the service went on, I noticed that Edan pulled out a tithing envelope. He carefully tucked his bills inside them. He held on to the envelope for a while and then turned around to whisper to me, “Mom, can you put this in the tithing box for me?

Surprised, I asked him why he wanted to tithe the money he just received. True to his nature, he didn’t give me an immediate answer. But shortly after, he managed to explain, “I want to give my money to Jesus.” When I prodded him further, he added, “I can’t explain it, I just like giving to Jesus.”

At first I thought, Whose kid is this?! Is this my 9 year old, Edan?!

Edan is better known in our family as a keeper of money rather than a giver of it. When we play board games, he likes to hoard the cash and pile it up. That’s his default strategy to beat everyone. It doesn’t always work but he, of all our kids, seems to have this bent towards business-mindedness. I suppose this is why it surprised me to see how willingly he parted with his money. His actions appeared incongruent with his personality and he got my attention. God used Edan’s example of a giving heart to teach me three important Christmas lessons.

First, Edric and I have come to recognize that anytime our children make the right choices it isn’t because we are such great parents or because our children are extra special. We can only go so far and do so much as parents to influence our kids towards Christ-centeredness. We are fallen persons, a mix of flaws that must be surrendered to the Lord daily. Furthermore, each of our kids is unique and fragile in their own way, with weaknesses and character issues that need supernatural fixing. So the miraculous transformation that we witness in them is a testament to the way God makes something beautiful out of our mess-ups, mistakes, and missed opportunities. While I would like to take credit and say, “Yep, that’s my kid,” I am more convicted to say, “He’s your child, Lord. That’s your handprint in his heart and life. That’s Christ in him. Please complete the work you have begun in him and make him into the man you want him to grow up to be, not for me, not for Edric, but for you and your glory.”

Second, everything we have been given is grace. Edan wasn’t an “official godchild” of my friend. Yet she handed him some money anyway, because she loves him as she does all my other kids. Similarly, God loves you and He loves me. He bestows upon us certain gifts, talents and abilities that speak more of who he is as a loving heavenly Father rather than how deserving we are. All of my kids had the opportunity to do something with their monetary presents, but they didn’t make the same choice Edan did. In the same way, all of us have the liberty to spend our gifts, talents and abilities as we choose. Will we keep these for ourselves or will we say, as Edan did, “Lord I give what I have to you?”

Third, the ability and desire to give what we have to God comes when we realize what He has given to us. Beyond the gifts, talents, and abilities, God sent us His Son, Jesus. Years ago, as a younger boy, Edan received Jesus into his life by faith. He understood that he was sinful and needed a Savior, and he believed in what Jesus did on the cross for him. Shortly after, it felt like Edric and I had a new child. Edan was vastly different from the previous version of himself, whom we knew to be grumpy, uncooperative, and temperamental. He became kind and tender-hearted and he developed a genuine love for the Lord.

At about the same time five years ago, Edan sang the song “Mary, did you know” before he went to bed one evening, with my younger sister, Carolyn, as his witness. They shared a room during our Christmas vacation because we were a growing family and couldn’t fit in one room with all our kids. Carolyn told me the song came to Edan spontaneously, as she turned off the lights so he could go to sleep. As she tucked him in, he said, “You know, Aunty Carolyn, I really love Jesus. He is my best friend.”

 I remembered this story as I thought about Edan holding on to the tithing envelope with his little hands. When he said he wanted to give everything that he had to Jesus it came from a deep gratitude he could not articulate, one which overflowed from experiencing the gift that is Jesus Christ.

This Christmas I pray we will spend time pondering upon God’s generosity to us. May the gift of His Son compel us to present to Him the gift of a giving heart – a heart transformed by Jesus that delights to offer everything to Him in return for who He is and what He has done.

 

 

Peanuts and an Apology

  
My husband, Edric, and I invite our children to correct us and tell us how to improve. We don’t always recognize character areas where we are weak so it helps to have our children identify these areas. They watch our examples closely and they have tender consciences, too. So we benefit from their input. It isn’t always easy to receive their correction but when we do they appreciate our humility, and it teaches them to do the same. 
  
Two days ago, Edric and I hosted a yayas and drivers party in our home. We were running late for it because we came from another engagement. Strangely, when we entered our village, the guard stopped us. He didn’t let us through because he failed to see our sticker. Edric rolled down his window, annoyed, and said, “We have a sticker!” (Translated from Tagalog.) 

His tone conveyed irritation and he pointed his finger at the sticker like, yo dude, do you know who I am?! Of course he didn’t say that, but the kids latched on to his tone. The guard embarrassingly lifted the barricade.

The car atmosphere turned quiet for a bit and then our two oldest sons, Elijah blurted out, “Dad, you sounded entitled when you said that,” followed by Edan, “Yah, it wasn’t very nice.”

I could see the tension in Edric’s face. On the one hand, he wanted to acknowledge what the kids were saying but on the other hand, he didn’t appreciate the inconvenience the guard caused him when he was rushing to our place. But I praise God that he let the Holy Spirit convict his heart and he replied, “Oh really? It really sounded like that? I am sorry, kids.” The kids forgave him and we proceeded home.

Unbeknownst to them, Edric returned to the guard later on and apologized to him. He also brought him peanuts to make up for his haughtiness. I didn’t find out till the evening when he told me, while the kids found out the next day.

He explained how he drove to the guard house to ask for forgiveness and how the guard politely accepted his apology and gladly took the peanuts! The kids’ eyes lit up with relief. It mattered to them that he humbled himself. In Elijah’s words, “I knew dad was wrong so when I found out he said sorry to the guard I felt better. It was the right thing to do.”

Edric and I have our failings and our kids are well aware of our imperfections. But I praise God for softening Edric’s heart so he could show the kids and me an example of love and humility.

Our children hunger to see an authentic faith. They are allergic to hypocrisy. Although they don’t expect us to be without fault, they do hope that what we do is consistent with the things we teach them. So if Edric and I talk about loving God, we need to demonstrate this with our actions. If we fail to, we need to right our wrongs as best as we can so we don’t harden our children’s hearts towards following Christ.

A lot of times it is the manner in which we treat people who serve us, such as waiters, salespersons, janitors, guards, drivers, yayas and the like that tell our children what being a follower of Jesus is all about. Do we respect them? Do we regard them with dignity? Do we show them love? Or, do we act entitled, demanding, unappreciative, and basically like the world revolves around us?

Let’s model to our children what it means to love people the way God does. There are no degrees of importance to him when it comes to people. The same should be true for us so it can be true for our children.

“For though the LORD is exalted, Yet He regards the lowly, But the haughty He knows from afar.” Psalms‬ ‭138:6‬ ‭

Stinky Clothes No More

  My husband, Edric, has very sensitive olfactories. He can smell cockroaches and a host of things that normal people can’t.

On the one hand this ability can be a hero-like power. But sometimes this also means that he can’t deal with odors that are too fragrant. For example, he prefers that I don’t wear perfume.

One thing he especially abhors is the scent of clothing that stinks like it wasn’t dried properly. This drives him crazy. He will sniff around like a dog, making comments like, “Do you smell that? Something stinks. Oh man, it’s my jeans. I knew it! Can you please do something about this.” 

One time, I decided to boil the items that kept smelling badly, you know, to kill the bacteria from his sweat. Well, it was only a short-term fix and didn’t work in the long run.

I tried different kinds of detergents, too, until I discovered the products of Perwoll. At the time, my mom-in-law was using them for my father-in-law. (According to Edric, papa is also sensitive to odors.) 

Amazingly, some months later, our family was asked to do a commercial for Vernel, the fabric softener under the Perwoll brand! The ad agency interviewed us about our laundry experiences and was particularly amused by the boiling story. So they built the story board around the concept of “boiling clothes” to give an authentic portrayal of how the product works and has worked for our family. 

  
Watch the commercial here: Vernel Fabric Softener Presents the Mendoza Family

We have been using Vernel for a while now and Edric recently remarked, “My clothes are so soft and they smell great, babe!” Of course I beamed! Yeah! Whenever Edric praises me for managing the home well, it matters a lot. And being able to solve a problem like funky smelling clothes was a big deal for our household.   Thankfully, Vernel has been an effective solution to the bacteria that gets trapped in Edric’s sweaty clothes, towels, etc. I learned that most detergents and softeners with overpowering scents are usually the harshest on clothing and the skin. Apparently clothes start to fade when chemicals pull the threads apart in order to clean them. Imagine what their residue does to the skin! With Vernel (and other Perwoll products), color is preserved and bacteria is killed without ruining fabrics. Plus, it’s less toxic for our family. But the best bonus of all is that Edric’s hyper-sensitive nose is happy and that makes me happy! 

 

Forever Spring


  We buried my angkong today. It was a tearful goodbye but the joy of knowing he entered into eternity with the Lord superseded the sorrow of his parting.

“He is in heaven with Jesus,” Catalina said after I explained to her that it was merely his body that we were looking at inside the casket. He also lived to be 96 years old and passed rather peacefully, dying of old age rather than sickness. What more could we have asked for? God was gracious to him.


   Furthermore, he spent the last six years living with my parents after the calamitous flooding of Typhoon Ondoy struck, which gave our side of the family special time with him. My parents diligently cared for him. They also interacted with him daily, took him traveling, brought him to worship services, family gatherings, and events.

Dad believed in honoring his father this way. I remember my dad quoting angkong, who told his children, “Be kind and do good to us (your parents) while we are alive, and don’t do things like build a mausoleum for us when we are dead, when it won’t matter.” My dad took this to heart. He didn’t want to live with regret. More importantly, he respected his parents very much.

When I found out that angkong died last Sunday, I grieved his departure. Although he deteriorated significantly in the last year and I knew he would probably go soon, his death still saddened me. It’s never easy to lose a family member. And I know it was sobering for my parents. Seeing them cry wasn’t easy.

To honor angkong, I decided to write a memoir that can be passed on to my children. I want them to remember the man he was and the legacy he left behind. Piecing together information from my aunt who flew in from Canada (the oldest sibling), my dad, and eulogies given by relatives during the wake services, I highlighted the salient details of his life.

Angkong, formally known to others as Ernesto Tan-Chi Sr., was born in the year 1919, in Fujian province in China. He grew up in a town, YongChun, which means “Forever Spring.”


Forever spring. What a fitting phrase to describe my angkong — a man who exuded life and positivity. Angkong radiated confidence and he captivated people, strangers included, with his charm and friendliness.

In the early 1940s he met my grandmather, Luisa, whose family was from Fujian as well. Ama, as we called her, studied at a prestigious university in Shanghai but grew up in Manila. She was born into a traditional Chinese family. I discovered that her mother (my great grandmother) had incredibly tiny feet because they were bound when she was younger. According to my aunt, the smaller the feet the more desirable. Apparently, rich families practiced feet binding. (Thank God that painful practice stopped with my great grandmother!)

Angkong and ama found each other in the Philippines. Angkong migrated to the Philippines and first worked as a caragador. Then he got a break as a salesman in Divisoria, selling fabric. His beginnings were humble, but he was intelligent, hard working, and gifted with business acumen. Some years later, he began his own trading company, where he was exposed to importing cotton. This opened the door to a bigger venture, a textile corporation that he named Riverside Mills.

Riverside Mills controlled the importation of cotton sourced from Egypt and California. Angkong built the first fully integrated textile company with factories spanning an area so large you couldn’t walk around it in a single day. The facilities operated machines that separated seeds from cotton, combed it, stretched it into thread, wove it, and turned it into fabric, plain or printed. Afterwards, the mills could also manufacture clothing and other goods. It was an end-to-end operation. Eventually, Riverside Mills also opened a polyester plant.

At the height of his business success, angkong was a tycoon, playing golf with high ranking public officials, traveling the world, holding office in the 34th floor of the Empire State building in New York City, and cultivating friendships with world famous people like the Rockefellers. An article in Reader’s Digest in the 1960’s included him in the list of Who’s Who In Asia.

When I was a young girl, my earliest memories of Riverside Mills included Judo lessons. My brothers and I went there weekly, wearing our white gis. I never cared too much for the sport but it was certainly a fun adventure entering the sprawling facility that housed the mills.

Some years into the government administration during the 1970s, the business underwent a hostile take-over. Furthermore, a series of bad decisions led to its demise, coupled by smuggling issues that gave competitors an unfair advantage.

In the end, angkong’s textile empire collapsed and my dad, who ran operations for the polyster company was fired by a man connected with one of the former presidents of the Philippines, a man who used to be his comrade and golfing buddy. Looking back, my dad saw this as God’s divinely appointed way of removing him from a world that would’ve corrupted him spiritually. Although my dad came to know Jesus as a young man, it was the humbling experience of losing his family’s wealth and power that changed the trajectory of his life for the better.

From the pinnacle of worldly success, angkong and his children found themselves trying to salvage whatever remained of his investments and smaller companies. The Tan-Chi name was defamed and mocked for the heights from which it had fallen. And yet there’s more to be told of the story, the more glorious part that speaks of an enduring heritage, of success beyond money, power, and prestige.

If there is anything I hope my children will remember, it is the man who was a father, husband, grandfather, and great grandfather. Beyond the history of his success to the eventual end of his textile business, angkong’s greater heritage was his character.

Live simply. Even though angkong was incredibly wealthy, he didn’t buy luxury goods. Although my ama had an eye for jewelry, she and angkong were sensible spenders. For angkong, paying a ridiculous amount of money for branded products was like assigning false value to items that were made to project an image. His background as a hard working salesman, exposure to trading, and his ownership of a textile company gave him an eye for the true value of goods. So he bought what he was willing to pay for, what he needed. He preferred to invest in land, stocks, travel, and business opportunities. Therefore, when he lost so much of his wealth, it wasn’t difficult to adjust to less. He didn’t develop an appetite for over-priced material things. Thankfully, his children inherited the same mindset. Till this day, my dad doesn’t wear branded clothing, watches, or shoes. He and my mom never raised us to desire those things either.

Love people. Angkong made friends everywhere he went. He was genuinely interested in people. He cared for their well-being. According to my dad, he always tried to help his relatives out financially. But even more important was his concern for others on a deeply personal level.

During one of the trips that my brother, Paul, took with angkong to his hometown in China, angkong kept asking Paul to share the gospel with people. Whether it was people angkong and Paul met for the first time or family and old friends, angkong would tell them, “My grandson has something good to share with you.” And Paul would look at them, unable to fully articulate himself in Mandarin, and proceed to share whatever he could of the good news of Jesus’ salvation because angkong would insist.

Some years prior, angkong had also given his life to Jesus. Although he believed in the teachings of Confucius in the past, and proudly called him “older than Jesus Christ,” he prayed to accept Jesus as His Lord and Savior after a conversation with Dr. Bill Bright, the founder of Campus Crusade for Christ.

Be disciplined. Every morning, angkong would wake up early and encourage his own children to do the same. Some of them appreciated it and other did not, but today, my dad and his siblings are wired the same way. They all go to bed early and wake up early. They have routines and schedules.

Angkong also lived by the mantra, “everything in moderation,” so he never overate. In fact, he measured fullness by percentages. “Angkong, do you want some more food?” He would reply, “I’m okay. I’m 80% or 90% full.” He also exercised daily, whether it was golf or walking around outdoors, angkong found ways to stay fit and healthy.

Relax, don’t worry. Angkong never hurried or rushed through an activity. He liked to take his time, to revel in the moment. When my dad traveled with him, he would get anxious about making it to the boarding gate of a flight they had to catch. But angkong would tell him to relax and not worry. He was such an easy-going guy, never harried or stressed out. He enjoyed hanging out, observing people, and taking in the sites of places he visited. Maybe this is also why he lived to a ripe, old age without many health complications! He didn’t sweat the small stuff and he knew how to enjoy himself.

Don’t criticize and don’t harbor anger. When angkong lost Riverside Mills, he never blamed it on others. He didn’t hold a grudge against people who betrayed him or turned against him, nor did he speak ill of them. He thought the best of people and circumstances, too. His positivity was remarkable. My dad said he never heard his father slander others or belittle them.

Be faithful to your spouse. For eighteen years of her life my ama (grandmother) was debilitated. For the last years of her life she was practically a vegetable. She suffered complications from multiple strokes and type 2 diabetes. But angkong didn’t womanize. He took care of her and honored her. That was God’s grace! His example demonstrated to us what commitment to one’s spouse ought to be like.

Angkong has passed from this earth, but his legacy lives on. Someday, I hope my children will realize how privileged they were to have a great grandfather who modeled noble character. More precious than the money he could have left behind or the businesses he could have bequeathed to his sons and daughters, he gave our clan a good example to follow. His Christ-likeness was his great inheritance to us. So thank you, angkong, for the choices you made – the attitudes, perspectives, and deeds that defined you as amazing to me. You will be missed but I thank God that this isn’t the end. I will see you again where it is eternally and forever spring…

Despedida de Soltera

The despedida de soltera is a beautiful tradition. It seems to have evolved into our version of a rehearsal dinner, although I personally feel that it is much more meaningful. Beyond the symbolism of a woman’s farewell to the single life, it is an act to show that the parents of the bride approve of the groom — that the couple have their blessing. 

Having grown up in a family where my parents counseled many couples before and after their marriages, I knew firsthand the importance of receiving the blessing of your parents before getting married. Most of the relationships who ended up in bad shape were those who didn’t seek the approval of their parents for their marriage. This shouldn’t surprise us because the Bible says, “HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER (which is the first commandment with a promise), SO THAT IT MAY BE WELL WITH YOU, AND THAT YOU MAY LIVE LONG ON THE EARTH.” Ephesians‬ ‭6:2-3‬ ‭

The decision to get married involves aspects beyond saying yes to the person you love most in this life. It’s a union that fuses families, cultures, traditions, and beliefs. Every soon-to-be or want-to-be-married person needs to consider the gravity of this choice. After the high of a wedding ceremony and the interlude of the honeymoon stage, reality is the ever after. Two worlds collided. Two histories. Two people with values, character traits, and perspectives that were predominantly shaped by the homes they came from. Will they complement or frustrate each other? 

When Edric and I were dating, I spent a lot of meaningful time with his family and he did the same with mine. We learned about each other’s backgrounds and sought to honor each other’s parents. Thankfully, we grew up in similar contexts, too. We had the same answers to questions such as, What is the foundation of marriage, What roles should a husband and wife fulfill, How will we raise our children, What will our spending habits be like, and so on. This minimized the conflicts we had as a couple. 

The majority of our issues at the beginning of our marriage revolved around personality differences and selfishness, but I thank God they were not fundamental problems, namely spiritual incompatibilities. We both came from families who loved and honored God, and sought to obey him. The added bonus is that today, we enjoy the company of each other’s families. I praise God that our families continue to represent and encourage the values and important traditions that we treasure ourselves. It’s all by God’s grace that this is so.

As I witnessed my sister-in-law’s Despedida de Soltera two weeks ago, the intimate affair reminded me that the family you marry into can be a blessing or a curse. There was an atmosphere of joy and harmony during the gathering between two families that night. I especially liked what Vince’s parents said about my sister-in-law, Danie…that they already loved her and treated her like a daughter. How affirming it must be for a future daughter in law to hear that. And now she belongs to a family that has wholeheartedly embraced her for who she is. What a blessing!

Photos of the Despedida de Soltera, styled by my creative friend, Maja, of Passion Cooks Catering (photos courtesy of Starfish Media):

   

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

        
 

For those of us who are already married and failed to start off our marriages by honoring our parents or in-laws, let us not  lose heart. God is a redeemer. He is an expert at fixing our mistakes. He is also a restorer. He can heal what is broken in our relationships with our parents or in-laws. The key is humility — humility before Him and others — prayer for reconciliation, and seeking after Him.

May these passages minister to you:

“You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE. Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.”1 Peter‬ ‭5:5-7‬ ‭

“FOR THE EYES OF THE LORD ARE TOWARD THE RIGHTEOUS, AND HIS EARS ATTEND TO THEIR PRAYER, BUT THE FACE OF THE LORD IS AGAINST THOSE WHO DO EVIL.” ‭‭1 Peter‬ ‭3:12‬ ‭