A journal of life's struggles and experiences

Like a Sheep on a Rainy Winter’s Night

I grew up from a family of living standard so to speak. Be that as it may, I am proud to say that we were raised by our parents who were often described as the salt of the earth and the backbone of community. They were not equipped with high formal education but they possessed all the traits we know good parents ought to have – loving, committed to the task of raising their children with high expectations, and a positive sense of self-regard. We were told to study hard and we should not expect any material reward. They often reminded us about standard and values, developing good character and what it meant in the course of one’s life. They taught us how to make and evaluate decisions, when to cut our losses and walk away, and when to stick it out even in the face of adversity. They talked about being and becoming and not just having and getting. My father taught us how to avoid being fooled by others by our principles because he himself was a principled man. This was the only inheritance they could give us. The important things is that they taught us how to be good people and God-conscious though I should say that the rearing practices and the way they disciplined us were somewhat traditional in approach.

We were seven in the family and I am the fourth to the eldest. My father, a former government employee, passed away on the year 1997 while my mother passed away on the year 2009. At present, my elder brothers and sister are devoted parents and they are doing their best to raise their own family.

As fate would have it, my family was afflicted with a great misery when my father was gone to meet his Maker. I lost him three months before my graduation in college. I felt so confused finding the reason why he left me so suddenly. The feeling is hard to describe. A sense of of utter despair and emptiness got on my way. It was really so intense that I actually question the whole purpose and meaning of life. Who do I call when I’m feeling stuck? Who do I celebrate with when I am so successful? Who will be there to prod me, encourage me and remind me of how great I am and that what I am doing is wonderful? In difficult times, who will stand firm beside me and console me in every possible manner?

My hour of sadness was partially relieved by the presence of a couple of friends and close relatives who gave me sincere words of comfort. They even told me that the best way to honor his memory is to carry out all the plans he had for me. My father wanted me to be a lawyer. But this ambition was doomed to failure because nobody else would support me. Having left to tend for my mother and my younger siblings, I was forced to face the challenge of having both ends meet despite always being tired and never having enough time for my self not to mention my professional growth. I was left to face the struggles by myself like a sheep on a rainy winter’s night.

I started to work as a volunteer teacher in one of the prominent schools in town and was so excited about getting started. Without wishing to sound boastful, I got an attractive rating during the screening process. I was told by the school president that I am one of the deserving applicants who will be given top priority for an itemized teaching position. The first one year went so well but then I began to notice that something fishy was going on inside the College. During summer vacation, the items were secretly awarded to those teachers who were close relative of the president. I kept waking up to find that I’ve been drifting with the tide. I was trying just one more time picking myself up off the canvass after being knocked down time and again. I even had to double my effort by getting part time job so I could provide their basic needs. I even thought of going abroad but my mother begged me stay with them. Probably, one thing good in our family is that we stick together no matter what.

Of course, we went through a lot of problems. There were moments of misunderstanding as well as miscommunication. Anyway, I believe every family lives these things. But the point is, we always choose to be together through thick and thin even if sometimes our differences were between North and South. Yet through hard work and cooperation, we survived. Our priority is more on our family relationship, our love for each other above other material rewards that we can get.

My family is a God’s gift to me. It is where I learn to love, care and value myself and others. I grew up in a family that is based on love, cooperation and understanding.

I must accept that everything in the past happened for a purpose. This challenging situation that is causing me pain today has brought me great gift. I have made into the person I am today and it becomes the key to the person of greatness that I am becoming.


Failure is a stepping stone to success

failureThe first time you tried to walk, you fell down. If you’re like me, the first time you tried to swim, you almost drowned. You’ve already failed many times, although you may not remember.

Did you hit a baseball the first time you swung that bat? The best baseball players, the ones with .300 averages, failed 70 percent of the time.

Every baseball fan knows that Babe Ruth hit 714 home runs, but they probably won’t be able to tell that he struck out 1,330 times. R.H. May failed in seven different business endeavors before his store in New York caught on. English Novelist John Creasy got 753 rejection slips before he published his 564 books. Jonas Salk worked for fifteen years before he found vaccine for polio. That was fifteen of continuous failure for one success.

The next time I feel like quitting, I remember this story.

At age 22 he failed in business. At age 23, he ran for state legislature and lost. At age 24 he failed in business again. At age 26, his sweetheart died and he was broken-hearted. At age 27, he had a nervous breakdown; he eventually regained his health running for Congress at age 34, and was defeated. At age 39, he ran for Congress again, and lost gain. At age 46, he ran for senate and lost. His ticket lost when he ran for vice-president at age 47. At age 49, he ran for senate again, and was defeated. At age 51, he ran and was elected to the Office of President of the United States. His name was Abraham Lincoln.

Some of the world’s greatest pioneers – people whose ideas and achievements propelled towards progress and civilization – were failures themselves. Perhaps the most prominent example of our times is Bill Gates, founder of the computer titan Microsoft. Gates, a Harvard dropout, is now among the world’s foremost billionaire and industry leaders.

Just make up your mind that if you try anything worthwhile, you will fail at first. Learn something and try again.

The Prophet Muhammad (saw) was compelled to quit Makkah and stayed at Madinah – the city that took its place in history of the spreading of Islam with lightning speed. Now, look at the benefit to mankind. He had to struggle against tremendous odds for a third of his lifetime. He had difficulty even to convince close family members and friends. He was vilified in Makkah, chased out in Taif, and had to escape to Madinah his enemies wanted to kill him. He lost and won battles, was seriously wounded and was betrayed by some of his own followers. But we know he succeeded. He succeeded because of his tenacity and his patience. He did not just pray for divine help but for 23 long years, he worked hard and when he died as all mortals must die. He had set Islam on such a firm footing that 1.3 billion people still adhere to Islam.

Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal was imprisoned, severely tortured and flogged, yet he emerged triumphant becoming the Imaam of the Sunnah.

Imam ibn Taymiyyah was put into prison; he came out even more accomplished scholar. Imam As-Sarakshi was kept as a prisoner at the bottom of a deserted well and he managed therein to produce twenty volumes on Islamic jurisprudence.

Success and failure have the root – the desire to achieve but avoiding failure is not the same as achieving success. Failure is determined by what you allow to happen, success what you make happen.

There will be a plenty of times when we’ll face the death of our dreams. When failures, disappiontments, and criticisms come, we need the will and faith to keep going. We learn far more from our failures than our successes because failures show what doesn’t work. So failure is just one step closer to ultimate successes.

2008/1429: Another New Year for Another New Resolution

new yearThe start of a fresh new year! This is a wonderful time to take a stock and reflect on the year gone by, the triumphs you achieved, the time you should be with the family and friends, the good choices you made in business.

But in order to grow and develop both personally and professionally, you also have to look back at and acknowledge the things that challenged you, the things that did not go so well.

We all have hopes and dreams for a new year. The slate is wiped clean for all of us as we start afresh. Why not take a few moments in to think about your dreams and goals for 2008/1429? In what areas do you want to grow? What is truly important to you? What challenges do you want to take on? All of us at some stage of our life have set many goals for ourselves called “New Year’s Resolution”.

The reason for setting these goals is mainly because of the media coverage and because it is fashionable to set New Year’s resolution. Furthermore, we do such because we have a feeling that we are lacking in some areas of our life. We know we should change. For example, we set goal to lose weight or earn money. However, we find that we simply do not have the time to carry them out. Another year passes and history repeats itself at the beginning of another year.

Thus, we once gain set out to make a list of “New Year’s resolution or goals that we would like to accomplish in the coming year. But how many of us really accomplish our goals? How many of us really take time to plan our goals? How many of us really know which goals are important? A life without a plan is a plan for failure.

People who do not set goals drift aimlessly in life from ode day to the next not really knowing where they are going and not knowing if they have arrived. Setting goals is important since it gives direction, meaning and purpose to our life. When we plan a long-awaited overseas holiday or even a weekend trips, we usually go through much planning regarding every stage of the trip (e.g. tickets, itinerary, baggage etc.)

However, even though we plan a holiday in such detail, it is ironic that we sometimes don’t’ take time to plan our life or even a journey to the Hereafter. We all know that someday we will die. We all know that there is no escaping death. We all know that our life in this world is but few seconds compared to the life in the grave and in the Hereafter. Yet, we do not take the time to plan for that journey. We live a day in and day out, getting into a rut or a routine where one day is no different from next. Our journey in this world is full of detailed planning and answers. Yet, our main journey, the most important journey of our life is left to chance.

In planning our life and journey, we will try to ask ourselves these vital questions:
Do you know where you are going? (No, it could be Heaven or Hell)
Do you know when you are going? (No, it can be anytime usually sudden)
Do you know when you will be returning? (Never – one way ticket)
Do you know how long you will be gone? (Forever, Eternity)
Do you have the opportunity to say farewell to friends and family before you go? ((No!)
Do you know what currency to take? (Good deeds, but have I saved enough?)
Do you know what provisions to take? (Yes, few meters of white cloth only)
Have I planned adequately for the journey? (I don’t know, I haven’t thought about it much).

My life has taught me some tough lessons

Businessman sitting on concrete steps with head in hands
Businessman sitting on concrete steps with head in hands

The story of my life is a fascinating fabric adventures, episodes of disappointments and frustrations and even mishap that have come together to make ME a unique person.

At some point in my life, I have been visited by grief, frustration and disappointments: the loss of my beloved parents, loved one, a professional career which has grown over many years, finally come to disaster, and my employment which as if it was snatched away from me by a thief in the night. The feeling is hard to describe. A sense of utter despair and emptiness got in my way. It was so intense that I actually question the whole purpose and meaning of life.

Later, I came to realize that as a Muslim, I must expect to be visited by success and failure, pleasure and pain, loss and gain. This is the inseparable duality of life. I believe that we cannot value anything without knowing its opposite. We must accept life as it comes, in the best of times and the worst of times, with equal grace and forbearance.

When I’m down, I think of Prophet Nabi Ayyub (Alaihisalam) who suffered many hardships. His cattle was destroyed, his servants killed by sword, his family crushed under his roof, he was covered with ugly sores from head to foot. But throughout his ordeal, his faith remained rock solid. This inspiring story of Prophet Nabi Ayyub (Alaihisalam) serves as a wonderful example to me.

When I encounter sudden hardship, I should not feel sorry for myself because self-pity leads me nowhere. We should place our complete trust in Allah (swt)that at the end of the dark tunnel, Allah’s (swt) love and mercy will embrace us.

These horrible, painful and disappointing things have brought me great gifts. They have made me into the person I am today and they are the key to the person of greatness that I am becoming. These have been sent to me by Allah (swt) to help me learn something, help me become a better person, expand and grow.

My Recollections as a Humanitarian Development Worker

Some people think the life of a humanitarian development worker is a bed of roses. Some others say development workers are happy because their office is “ww” which means “wallowing wealth”.

Unfortunately, this is not so. And I know whereof I speak because I have been a humanitarian development worker (community development worker) for six years. As a development worker, you are apt to face many problems that go with your position. You will encounter different situations that need your full attention. You are apt to meet people with different characteristics, people of varied values and superiors with different attitudes. You are apt to success and failures but these are just natural.

Your job involves the transfer of information, skills and values to attain individual, community or national goals. You have to coordinate with organizations, both government and private, that possess services, skills and resources that would effectively facilitate effective outcome of your projects. Also, you can be tapped as a resource person to render your extension services through lectures, seminars and demonstrations. You are considered as a leader in community projects.

As a leader, you command respect among the community constituents looked upon as person of authority who can help them bring about functional change in group performance. You have to establish rapport with the client system and the whole community. You have to get the confidence of people. The problem of the entire program lies on your shoulder. However, this is a challenge to everyone who wants to be a development worker. Don’t be discouraged by what you read or hear as to the complexities and difficulties that beset a humanitarian development worker. Life is how we make it so take it as an inspiration and try your best to rise from the ranks. Zeal, industry and dedication are the best weapons that a development worker should possess.

So, are you the one who shuns away from responsibilities? If your response is yes, then you are not suited for the job of a development worker. But if you are daring fellow who takes challenges as inspiration, the humanitarian development worker’s job is waiting for you.

Lost Dream

“Start back in my childhood, singing has been my hidden talent. However, it was disregarded by my family for fear of not finishing my studies. I don’t have any formal training, yet I can sing well. I don’t usually read notes but I could carry a tune.” . . . . . . “When I undergo some problems and difficulties, I can release the pressure on my nerves by indulging myself in singing.” . . . . . .”Through singing, I see the varieties of nature, the flow and murmur of the brook, the enchantment of a moonlight night, the gentle zephyrs that blow against my face, the soft rustle of the leaves, and the brilliance of the stars” .

. . . . .”Singing can make me courageous and brave as military music does with the soldiers” . . . . . .

“I love to sing power ballads and inspirational songs related to my interest and which has personal significance to me. I like to sing the breath-taking inspirational song “Climb Every Mountain” popularized by the Australian Idol Guy Sebastian. Some of my favorite song pieces include: “Go the Distance” and “Lean on Me” from Michel Bolton, “Flying Without Wings “ made famous by the Westlife, Tevin Campell’s rendetion of “Impossible Dream” from the Rhythm of the Games: 1996 Olympic Games Album, “The Road of Our Lives” and “I Dreamed a Dream” from Martin Nievera, “My Way” from Frank Sinatra, “This is the Moment” from Eric Santos, “I Believe I Can Fly” from R. Kelly and more . . .

I am not just a teacher . . .

Since time immemorial, teachers play a multiplicity of roles in the educative process. In my years of experience of teaching as a high school teacher in our province, I learned that various roles that I usually assume. I realized that my role does not revolve around teaching only. Yet, I have to give all the other side of me to promote human development and effect learning atmosphere. This I realized that I am not just a teacher . . .
More or less, I am like a STUDENT who wake up early; prepare myself and go to school on designated days. O do the assigned tasks in t5he form of lesson plans, school register, and others, study the lesson to be taken up the next day and go on learning by pursuing higher studies.

My work is similar to a FARMER. I plant the seed – the seed of knowledge in my students minds, so it may grow, blossom, and bear fruits and multiply a hundredfold.

I am like the DOCTOR who cures the ignorance of man and alleviate illiteracy by giving them prescription of advice to undergo formal education to sustain the natural education they gained through experience.

Like a glib SALESPERSON endowed with much personal relationship skills, I persuade the consumers – the learners to buy the thoughts and ideas presented to them with color and flavor.

Considering myself as Ummah of the Prophet Muhammad (saw), I give inspiring message as well as thought provoking sermons which students could apply in their own lives.

Being an institution of learning, I am the MANAGER, the DIRECTOR of the classroom activities who give seatwork, assignments, and projects to be submitted in due time. At the same time, I am good leader who accept suggestions from my members and an able decision-maker who supervise the group.

I have given some responsibilities to shoulder, thus, I have the sole authority like that of a FATHER in all matters concerning the young ones. I provide knowledge and counsel as food to make the students well-educated and well-cultured individuals.

In addition, I show the burning light of a MOTHER who beckon the students to the right of life and utter the most comforting words they would like to hear when troubles and adversities come.

Once with a click of fingers, I become a SECRETARY who jot down every important memorandum for students, an exhausted amanuensis who fill in forms and records of all sorts.

I am likely an AUDITOR but I compute grades instead of money saved or spent.

As a teacher, I am ready to laugh with them once in a while so that my students will not get nervous when they make mistakes. My role here is that of an ACTOR ready to laugh, cry or show whatever emotion is needed for the right time and place.

Moreover, I help the students make their wishes and dreams come true by acting as an ENGINEER in constructing a well-built base or foundation through education in order to materialize plan.

Finally, I am SCIENTIST who continue my struggle to make favorable changes happen, to create novel ideas and discover new things, and to respond to man’s insatiable thirst for knowledge.

Personal encounter with the reality of life

app-philippines-2010-CagayanDeOro_Mindanao_EvacuationCenterOn the year 2003, I worked in Movimondo, an Italian non-government International organization for the program “Support to Socio-economic Integration in Lanao del Sur (SEI-LDS)“. This was being funded by the European Commission. In my three years there, I was hired as senior micro-enterprise officer and was involved in micro-enterprise development for the war-affected and displaced families in some part of Lanao del Sur. These were the civilians who were heavily affected by the “2000 All-out War” armed conflict between the GRP and MILF. Many civilians displaced from Lanao del Norte moved to Marawi and some part of Lanao delSur for a safer place to live. In Marawi City alone, there were about 500 families were living in the evacuation centers. Many of the displaced families were unable to return to their places of origin because of the unstable security conditions and most of them have been dispossessed of their land and homes.

It was hard and often emotionally draining. Nevertheless, the experience was invaluable. It gave me an opportunity to work with passionate people who wanted to make the world a better place – it was exciting and yet at the same time – humbling.

It was there that I truly opened my eyes to the traumatic experiences that some Bangsamoro ummah were facing. It was there that I came into contact with people who were poor and who afflicted with problems that I have never even conceived of. It was also there that I saw heroic figures striving against almost insurmountable odds.

Once, our office organized a community outreach program for these internally displaced people. Among the activities conducted was the distribution of blankets in the evacuation centers amidst the winter cold and rainy season that struck in some parts of Mindanao including Lanao del Sur which lasted for more than a month.

I walked into center. In have never been in such a place and seen such different people … people who didn’t have adequate clothes, didn’t have food, didn’t even have a table to put on, couldn’t own a house. I had always imagined what homeless people lived like, but on this trip, it finally came into perspective: IT WAS REAL. . .

Noticing dozens of eyes on me, I looked straight forward ahead. I saw men and women, young and old sprawled across the floor, sleeping or leaning against the walls. My stomach felt queasy out of depression. My heart clenched trying its hardest to fight back tears. I had the strong urge to weep, and I could not find anywhere else to hide from the people’s sight. Unshaven men looked upon us with deep eyes. Their eyes seemed to tell the stories of their lives, stories so powerful my eyes could harshly meet theirs.

As I looked around more carefully, I remembered these men and women were people like me. But they weren’t like me. They didn’t have the basic necessities of life. I started to feel out of place wearing expensive clothing. God’s blessing over me contrasted with the surrounding in which I was. I began to realized how blessed I am.

I realized how much we all take for granted, forgetting to thank Allah (swt) for the wonderful we’ve blessed with. Many of us fail to see the blessing of this life and focus the negative aspect of it.  Visiting the evacuation centers reopened my eyes to reality. I remembered how many blessings have been bestowed upon me by Allah (swt). Things finally started to come into perspective.

After leaving the evacuation centers, my outlook on life has changed. One would say, “how can a person change from a mere one trip?’ but in reality it is quite possible. I can hardly put into words what emotions have been going through since I left, but my life has been greatly impacted. Before I say “my life is so hard!” I think back on what I saw at evacuation centers. Alhamdulillah! All praises to God, my life is more that bearable. The Holy Qur’an repeatedly states, “On no soul do We place a burden greater than it can bear”.

Thinking back on everything I saw, I came to realize that whether one is volunteering or being paid for working there, it takes more than just money to get someone to work in a place like that. It takes a heart. It takes strength. Many times we lack this sympathy for others and forget about the world around us.

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