The year of the Earth Pig

If you’re born in the year of the pig, this is not going to be your year.

More often than not, the bad news is that it’s usually a “challenging” year for those born in the animal year of the lunar calendar.

A bit of history

According to mythology, the Jade Emperor had invited 12 animals to his feast. The pig overslept and was the last to arrive at the banquet. That is why he was (and is) the last among the zodiac animals in the Chinese calendar.

If there is one tradition that Filipinos observe, it is the Chinese Lunar New Year.

Here’s a bit of trivia

Unlike the Roman Calendar, the Chinese calendar is lunisolar – meaning, the years, months and days follow an astronomical observation based on the sun’s longitude and the moon’s phases. Days begin and end at midnight. Months begin on the day of the new moon (hence the term Lunar Calendar). Years begin on the second (or third) new moon after the winter solstice.

A common year has 12 months (353 to 355 days) while a leap year is 13 months (383 to 385 days) in the Chinese calendar.

There are two components to the Chinese Zodiac. Because the Chinese calendar does not count years in an infinite sequence, every year is assigned a name with two components that run over a 60-year cycle. The first component is called a celestial stem: Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, Water. The second component is a terrestrial branch. Here is where the names of the animals in the zodiac cycle appear (in the following order): Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, Pig. Each of both components are used sequentially. For example, the first year of the 60 year cycle is Jia-Zi or the wood rat, the second is Yi-Chou or the timber/wood ox, etc. One starts from the beginning when the end of a component is reached. And the cycle begins once more. The 60th year in a cycle is always called Gui-Hai or the year of the water pig.

The pig is the Yin (the dark swirl) in the Yin-Yang balance. The Yin is the dark, negative and feminine side of that balance. In Chinese culture, obesity or being fat is a symbol of wealth. Hence, the pig being regarded as a symbol of prosperity and wealth. The big ears of the pig are a symbol of long life as well.

The good news and the bad

As a general rule 2019 will be an auspicious year, because the Pig attracts success in all spheres of life. It will be a year of friendship, love and joy for all the zodiac signs.

Those that are considered to have good fortune this year include: the rat, the rabbit, ox and a recovery for the dog from their tumultuous 2018. (I can’t wait for February 05!).

Those where the year of the Pig will be challenging include those born in the year of the Pig, Tiger, Dragon, and the Snake.

The other animals will have a year under the influence of chance.

We all want to have lady luck on our side. We look forward to predictions in the hope that our future turns around for the better. I always tell my friends that the various “predictions and horoscopes” provides a general overview on how you can manage the coming year with fortitude.

Life, after all, is how we make it.

You can ask the universe for all the signs you want, but ultimately, we see what we want to see when we’re ready to see it.

The winters of our life

The heady December air is double bladed. While it has a festive side, it also reminds us the onset of a bitter, dark, and cold season.

While tropical countries like the Philippines get to enjoy two seasons – wet and dry – whole year round, the four seasons in other parts of the world are symbolic of the cycle of life.

With winter comes longer nights and colder days. Nature has its way of teaching us that everything in life has a time to shut down. The end of each day alone is a winter phase in our life. A time to rest. To recover. To recharge.

Winter is the end of a cycle. Some will die, while some will survive into the coming spring. As we age, the cycle of the winter metaphors of our life seem to come more frequently. It’s a sad yet lonely reality.

As I hold my cup of warm coffee on a gloomy December dawn listening to the chirping birds amidst the lighted up Christmas tree, I cannot help but think of those whose christmases will not be merry and bright. Those who mourn the passing of a loved on, missing a family because they are thousands of miles away and working this long holiday, watching over a sick relative fighting for their lives, having to care for the frail loved ones who cannot even recognize them anymore…

From where I view the ornaments on the tree and the gifts beautifully wrapped underneath it, there is a feeling of loneliness, of missing a loved one, that this Christmas not everyone will be here to share that joy. The ambivalence is ironic, yet real.

We all have stories on the winters of our lives…

It is a reminder that the other seasons of our life should be harnessed and cherished. They are footprints that guide us through the winters of our life.

The stories of our life

Everyone has a story.

There will always be drama and comedy, poignancy and fairytales, love and fantasy in each of our stories. After all, only we write them.

In life’s twist and turns, the outcomes may be in our favor and considerably be rewarding. Other times, life is unfair.

We are all bad stories in other people’s life. Some people won’t own up to reality and issues that they create. No matter how laid back and cool one is, there will always be that one person who doesn’t like you for no reason.

I write this to remind everyone that we should also have understanding and empathy and sympathy with our fellow men. After all, we are all actors in this life. And each of us have a version of life’s story.

In the local mini series Maalaala Mo Kaya (Can you Remember), the stories of our lives are weaved, remembered and recreated. This mini series is a beautiful reminder that we make our own stories in our lives.

Appreciate where you are in your journey even if it’s not where you want to be. Every season serves a purpose.

In the end, only three things matter: how much you loved, how gently you lived, how gracefully you let go of things not meant for you.

Let’s make sure we write it well. Edit often. And celebrate it!

Living without regrets

Many of us live life with over a hundred regrets. As a child we’re filled with a million dreams. As we grow older, some of these become fulfilled…others are left as dreams, or fantasies.

Then comes a point in our lives where we make bucket lists. Hurrying up to make up for lost time with the “what if” moments.

The list above is not exhaustive. After all, what is said and done is forever gone. There are decisions made or deeds done that cannot be recovered.

We often wish we could have made amends while the person we care for is still alive. But time was not on their side. One day they are with us. Tomorrow, they’re not. How we wish that if we could just have had one more day to spend with them, we’d be willing to trade anything just to have that moment back.

As you’re reading this blog entry today, take 60 seconds and think of how you’d like to live a life without regrets.

Remember – in the end, we only regret the chances we didn’t take, relationships we were afraid to have, and the decisions we were too afraid to make.

Stay happy. Life is about moments. Don’t wait for them. Create them.

November 1

All roads lead to the cemetery. This year, it’s a very long weekend.

In the Philippines, I remember that during the growing up years, All Saints and All Souls Days are a mini reunion at the cemeteries. Family members would gather in droves, staying overnight, bringing food, mahjong tables, books, tents, and other recreational stuff. We would walk the whole cemetery reading epitaphs of other people, say a little prayer for our deceased relatives, and spend the day(s) binging on food and stories.

As we grew older, the number of family members going to the cemetery. A few were too busy with work and began chasing careers. The others had passed away and the cemetery eventually became their home. Others migrated and never came home again. I guess the changes in life has changed the way we celebrate the way we commemorate the day of the dead.

While people move on, there is a part of us that will never forget how important some memories are. Some day, we will all meet our maker. In the meantime, life goes on.

We’re all going to die

…but what you do before that happens is what matters most.

I am writing this for a friend whose mother was diagnosed to have cancer. The family wanted her to undergo surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. After two cups of tea and a cup of tears, she asked my opinion.

I told her I had none.

I was sad. And wouldn’t want the same kind of situation where one would have to decide on matters where the heart and the mind collide.

As healers we want what is best for our patients. We offer the best treatment options, health care and assurance. Medicine, after all, is not a perfect science. We work with odds, weighing benefits over risk. We work against odds, with scarce resources and that will to survive.

I told my friend if she had asked her mother, what her wishes are. After all, her mother is educated and should be informed at the options available to her. Unlike many Filipinos, their family does not need to hurdle the financial obstacle. Cancer therapy today has made strides in not only minimizing side effects, but in improving survival rate as well. Cutting edge technology in medical science has altered the landscape on how we address diseases today.

She told me that her brothers and sisters wanted the best care and that the doctors had explained to them the outcome. In spite of the poor prognosis, her mother would probably have 6-12 months more. Or longer. The outcomes were unpredictable and based on various variables. She would have to contend with some side effects with treatment. Without treatment, the outcome was grim. But the children wanted their mother to receive the best treatment. And to be given that chance to battle her disease.

It would be another day before I saw the family. It was a somber meeting. Because I was the pediatrician of all her kids, her mother wanted to hear my opinion.

I told her I wasn’t sure of what to say except echo what the doctors already confirmed. Held her hand and asked her, what would you like to happen?

She smiled back and told me, she was ready.

The quality of life would be intolerable. She was tired. And she had seen other members of the family go through cancer treatment. She told me that she would just be procrastinating the inevitable. There would be time. To make amends. To enjoy life as life should be. To be able to finally fulfill her bucket list. To go with dignity and peace. Then she asked me, “if you were in my shoes, would you still pursue the treatment options”?

I smiled. Held her hands. Then hugged her. And she knew my answer.

That was a year ago. Without any treatment she lived another year. Battling pain and living life. They buried her a week ago. A celebration of life, love, and the choice to live …and die with dignity.

You see, we’re all going to die. But what you do before that, matters most.

Dear self

There are days that you have no one but yourself to depend on. Not even your parent(s) or relative(s) or better half will understand. Those days when opening your mouth or providing an opinion can hurt someone you love. There are just those days when you need to be alone. Go somewhere far. Escape the madness of life. Only to be whole again.

I’m sure you all know what I’m talking about. It’s one of those days when you really just want to sit at the window and look at the sunrise holding a cup of coffee in one hand and just watch the day go by. Or curl up with a bag of chips, a good book and stare at the sunset. Or listen to sad songs and cry.

There is nothing wrong with taking a break from everything and concentrating on yourself.

You are not responsible for fixing everything that’s broken.

You don’t always have to try making everyone else happy. Make your own happiness and peace of mind a priority.

And it’s not being selfish when you deprive someone your attention when you need to find some moments of sanity.

Sometimes, when you get too embroiled in other people’s lives or stressed at making ends meet…you get to miss yourself. Taking a personal day off from the humdrum of life is being kind to oneself. We can, after all, only heal when our weary body and soul rests from all the pain.

Dear self. It’s just you and I today. Let’s make this the best day of our life. Reset. Recharge. Rewind. Repeat.

Love songs always make me cry

They say that music is a piece of art that goes in the ears and straight to the heart.

Music is poetic justice at its finest. It’s a beautiful expression of sadness, loss, beauty, courage, anger, frustration, patriotism, happiness, fear. In all these situations, there is one message it brings – it talks about love.

Of all the ways love is shared music serves as the universal language of understanding the virtue of love.

Music calms my soul and takes me to a place away from my problems and anxieties. It’s therapeutic to the weary heart and soul. It is where we sometimes find an escape from all the worries and cares of the world.

A lullaby. A ballad. Rock. Sonata. Opera. Pop. Soul. Whichever genre we choose, there will always be a song that will be your story.

Music no matter how sad or happy will always bring us home to the miracle and magic of our life journeys.

Sometimes it feels like the lyrics to a song you’re listening to were written just for you.

The song. The lyrics. The melody. The mood. Love songs will always make me cry.

Because in my life, I have lived kindly and loved without regrets.

Even sad birds sing

Everyone’s life has a story.

It begins the day we’re born. More often than not, it’s the most joyous occasion to our parents.

Childhood are usually the best years of ones life. Carefree. Dependent. Wanting. Until we’re ready for school. And that’s when the first chapter begins.

School isn’t what it used to be. These days, you see the kids taking on so much assignments that you’d think your 4th grade son is taking a Master’s degree. You can hardly talk to them anymore. Maybe because we’re also too busy chasing our future or providing a roof over everyone’s head. Whatever the circumstances are, it’s not difficult to observe that a dysfunctional family has become a norm rather than an exception to the rule.

It’s because “life’s like that”.

But it isn’t.

Because there are pitstops in every journey of our life. Time to reflect o how we have lived, loved, laughed, cried. Being there for one another, not only during celebrations and victories, but during disappointments and sorrows will always be part of our stories.

Notice how quickly time has passed us by. How our children have quickly grown. How it’s impossible to turn back the hands of time. How many “what if’s” we’ve regretted.

Like autumn’s colors, our days take on a different hue. We wilt. We prepare for the cold of winter. Alone. Dreary.

For many of us, autumn is the second to our final pit stop in life. Nothing is too late. To live. To love. To laugh. To cry. To change. Because as long as we live, no dream is too late to change. No reconciliations too late to amend.

Only we can write the final chapter on how this story ends.

For even sad birds sing…

What if?

What if a drug or an app or a seer could tell where, when, and how we would die, would we live our lives differently?

Where would the challenges in life be if we lived each day laden with anxiety and regrets? It’s probably the reason why there’s no such things as being able to see the future.

We can, however, prepare for it. To live and love each day without regrets. After all, preparing to die is painful to live. But living each day as if it were your last makes you ready for the worst without regrets.

God always brings in the storm of our lives so that we can enjoy the sunshine afterwards.

God’s hand is upon us today and everyday. Good or bad. Sunshine and rain.

– touching our life with joy

– blessing our heart with love

– comforting our soul with peace

What if I can wipe away the tears in your eyes? I will. But I can’t take you back to yesterday. Nor help you see your future. Or prepare you for the storms or sunshines of our lives. So I’m writing this for you… because only we can live the ‘what ifs’ of our lives.

Too busy to remember and enjoy life? Have you hugged lately the ones you will miss most when you or they are gone?