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Malaysia, Truly Asia

Early this year, I went to Malaysia alone – not that I wanted to be alone, but my friend who was supposed to be on the trip with me had to cancel because of unforeseen circumstances. I didn’t want to waste the opportunity so I still pushed through with the trip. Anyway, a former officemate who worked in Kuala Lumpur offered to be my tour guide during my stay there. (Thank you, Ochie, for being such a great host!)

Here are some photos from my trip:

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I loved the food and architecture in Malaysia! I didn’t have enough time to visit all the famous tourist spots but someday I will go back and explore the countryside, the islands and the beautiful beaches.

Kota Kinabalu, I will see you in May. 🙂

Love,

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Lessons from a Little Girl Named Jaja

My wristwatch told me it was 11:00pm. I had been at the Florida bus station since 9 in the evening, afraid I might miss the bus because of the terrible traffic along Quezon Avenue. My bus finally arrived so I climbed up and took my seat. It was the last seat on the extra bus that day. If it were not for that last seat, I would have waited until midnight or the next day  just so I could go home and be with my family for the Holy Week.

I was glad to be seated at the second row. Most of the time, I travel alone when I go home to the province. I wondered who my seat mate would be that night and I prayed it wouldn’t be a guy who might turn out to be a maniac. That’s when I met her.

“What’s your name?” I asked her.
“Jaja,” she replied.
“Hi, Chacha!” I happily welcomed her.
“It’s not Chacha. It’s Jaja,” she blurted out.
“Oh, sorry. Hi there, Jaja!” I repeated my greeting. And that started our interesting conversation.

Jaja is 6. In fact, she told me it was her birthday that day. “Happy birthday!” I greeted her. “Thank you po,” she shyly replied.

She was with her Tita Bing and her girl friend, and just like me, they were bound for Laoag for the Holy Week.

“Naku! Lagot ka diyan kay Jaja, sobrang daldal niyan,” her aunt warned me of Jaja’s talkativeness. I told her I didn’t mind although when I travel, I usually don’t talk to my seatmates. My iPod and books are my constant travel companions. That night, I turned off the iPod and closed my book and decided to talk to Jaja. It turned out to be one of my best encounters with God.

Jaja was really talkative, just as her tita warned. She kept telling me stories about her toys, her playmates, her relatives. In between, she asked me numerous questions like where I was going and what I was going to do when I got home. Sometimes, I didn’t know how to answer her questions so I just smiled and nodded to her.

Out of nowhere, I asked her if she was going to miss her mom during her vacation. Nonchalantly, she told me her mom was already gone. Jaja said she was named after her mother – Juanita Antonia – because she died after giving birth to her. I was speechless for an entire minute. I didn’t know what to say and I stupidly stammered, “Do you know how she looked like?” She told me her father used to show her her mom’s picture which he kept in his wallet. I asked Jaja if she’s going to miss her dad. Her reply shocked me to my core. “Patay na po si Papa. Naaksidente po siya  sa motor,” she announced, as if her father’s death did not bother her…but I know it did and she was hiding her sadness in the way she smiled. She became silent for a while. At that moment, all I wanted was to be in my room and release the tears that had been threatening to fall from my eyes. I gathered up the courage to comfort her, “Okay lang yun, andiyan naman si Tita Bing mo. Siya na lang magiging mama at papa mo.” It was a stupid statement, and she told me, “Hindi ko naman po siya mama.” I never dared to reply back. Then, there was that awkward silence again.

Her Tita Bing saved me when she told Jaja to sleep since it was almost 1am. I seconded her. I told Jaja we’d better sleep because everyone at the bus was already asleep except for the two of us. Her tita handed her her teddy bear. Jaja told me she couldn’t sleep without it. I asked her if she ever prayed at night. She told me she didn’t. I told her we we’re going to pray before we slept, and that she only needed to repeat after me. I closed my eyes and travelled back to my childhood, recalling back the prayer that I prayed every night then.

Angel of God, my Guardian dear, to whom His love commits me here, ever this day be at my side, to light and guard, to rule and guide. Amen.

Jaja stammered the words after me, but she was smiling when I opened my eyes. After that, we said our good nights.

The bus had become icy cold, and I asked Jaja if she felt cold since she was only wearing her favorite pink jumper dress. She said she was, and asked her tita for her jacket. However, they found out that Jaja’s jacket was left behind. She gave Jaja a large t-shirt instead. I knew that this would not keep her warm. I, myself, was already shivering. She kept stirring in her seat. She was holding her teddy bear like I would hug my mom when i was cold. So I decided to share my sarong with her, hoping it would make her feel warm and more comfortable. “Thank you po,” she said with eyes half-closed.

I smiled at her but I quickly turned to look out the window into the dark, cloudy night. I cried. I couldn’t hold back the tears anymore. I cried for a while. I couldn’t sleep. The entire conversation with Jaja slowly sank in. I remembered my mom and dad. I realized how lucky I was that I still have my parents with me… that they are still alive, though getting older. I felt really blessed knowing that I had a mother and father who took care of me as I was growing up, who saw to my needs, and who were there during all the birthdays and milestones in my life.

I used to feel so afraid just thinking about my mom and dad and other loved ones passing away. I could not even try to imagine my life without them. I always prayed to God not to take them away from me too soon. That night, I suddenly felt a coward compared to 6-year old Jaja beside me.

Jaja is a brave and strong girl. Young as she is, she has already experienced far greater trials that I had in my entire 28 years of existence. Before I finally convinced myself to sleep, I prayed for that little girl sleeping soundly beside me. I prayed that she would grow up healthy and strong. I prayed that God will give her good people who will guide her well. I prayed that she will understand all the things that happened in her life as part of God’s wonderful plan for her. I prayed hard for the best for Jaja.

When I got home that day, I rushed to hug my mom and dad, silently thanking God that I still have them with me.

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