Dramatic December

I am very thankful to be allowed to come home for a month-long and spend this Christmas with my family in the Philippines.

All possible opportunities knocked on my door: the favorable permission from my IIE/Humphrey Fellowship program and Maxwell campus coordinators; the 50% roundtrip airfare discount from Cathay Pacific; the university apartment rental fee waiver (which I used to augment my airfare); and the compelling need to conduct additional fieldwork research and clarify some data for my Humphrey Fellowship work in the US. I was also able to consult with my Philippine panel (Ehem anticorruption group) on the direction of my research on anticorruption and citizenship.

Nobody knew I was coming home, not even my wife and kids. I went together with my sister-in-law and her family. The goal was to surprise everyone, and make this vacation a meaningful one. Thanks to my NY-based sister-in-law and her husband -- Ate Rissa and Bong Asuelo, for the gleeful conspiracy.

It was a very dramatic and romantic arrival in the Philippines. My family and friends were at the airport to pick up my sister-in-law and her family. That was the cover; it was previously planned out that everyone had to be at the airport for the pick-up.

Then I was the last person out of the plane! Everybody was stunned and surprised when I got out and entered the Arrival Area. All of them couldn't move. My wife and kids cried; They all cried when they saw me. All were shouting inside the airport. My son kept hugging and smelling me. I was in tears!

It was indeed a blessing to be allowed home to get the much-needed rest and break the cycle of homesickness.

I think I was also sent home just to be around when, in the middle of this month, my mother was rushed to the hospital for her mild heart attack (for the first time) triggered by stress and infections. And just a few days before Christmas, my son was also confined briefly due to some gastro-infection and threat of dehydration. These were all scary and humbling episodes this December.

I could not imagine and fathom the combined effects of homesickness and the intervening events at home had I stayed in the US!

Thank you, Dear Lord for the great opportunity and humbling experience this Christmas. I just pray deeply that You strengthen each one of us to be able to hold and keep on and not fall apart, and stabilize us so that we will be able to help our family and those who are in need in times like these.

Thank you for the renewed energy and fresh outlook as I go back to the US. Coming home, I was able to see and assess my Fellowship at the Maxwell School from a distance. Coming home, I was able to see and feel my own flaws and limitations nearby. This December revealed, challenged, tried and shaped my mortal character! We surrender totally, because we are never in full control.

Thank you very much for my wife and kids! I have never deeply felt before how important they are to me and how they give meaning and strength to my life.

As we thank You for all the blessings in our family, it is our fervent prayer to allow us the good chance to face and hurdle our life's challenges and trials. I offer you my Fellowship, and the future that it holds for me and my family.

In Proverbs 3:5-6 we take refuge:"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and he will make your paths straight!"