Sunday, December 20, 2009

Home for the Holidays and other things...

Greetings world!

I know it has been ages since this blog has been updated. I apologize for the delinquency, but you all know how life goes at times right? How about a little mercy ;-)

Here is a little update since I told you that Cay and I got engaged:

1) We are now in engagement bliss-time. There is no greater time I believe than this time. But then again, what time is ever better than the present moment? I never thought I could love Cay more, but it is true - I do. I love her more now than I ever have before. And even though we have had some tiffs during this time, they pass very quickly, and we are quick to reconcile. Amazing.

2) We are concurrently in wedding prep stress-time. Yes, that is true we are both in bliss and in stress. Look, the two are not mutually exclusive. You can be blissful and still be a little overwhelmed; especially, with something as large-scale as a wedding to prepare for. And... it is in little bit over seven months away! But here is what we have down so far:

- Our entourage (30 people... yes, I said 30 people)
- Our colors (midnight blue, light silver, and light pink... it looks super cool and classy)
- Our WEDDING COORDINATOR (we got to have one :-)
- Our engagement pictures:
- Cay's Wedding Dress Designer
- And a whole bunch of ideas

Pray for us and for Erika, our wedding coordinator.

3) I am finished with another batch of students and am eagerly awaiting for another one. The Fall 2009 class was a blast. It was certainly a challenge, but they pushed me to grow and develop in so many ways; particularly in the areas of compassion and patience. God bless you Fall 2009 class.

As we speak I am on holiday, and let me say it feels so good to not have to think about work, and just to be around the love of my life and my future mom and dad. They have been so great to me, all of them. But I would like to point out that we all need a place to go home to. Vienna, has become that new home for me - at least, until Cay and I make our new home in Gaming. The people have made it so very special for me. I feel that even if Cay and I end up in who-knows-where-in-the-world, we will always call Vienna home. It is where we fell in love, it is where we grew in love, and it is where most of the people (but not all of them) who matter the most of us are.

This will be my last Christmas as a single man, and let me say...

It feels so good. I cannot wait to be married and celebrate it with my future wife.

No one should be alone on Christmas. I would even venture to say that no one should be alone on Christmas, and not be with the person that they love the most.

God bless you all on the remainder of this Advent Season, and if I don't greet you before it comes - Merry Christmas!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Our Engagement! (Vince's version) - Long Version :-)

Greetings all :-)

As you know it has been a while since you have heard from us. How can you blame us? We did just get engaged. But now that things are beginning to settle down, we realized that some of you are probably dying to hear how this event happened? Well I'll tell you. Currently, my beautiful fiancee is tied up in Paris for Singles for Christ planning, so I have this weekend to get some things done for our wedding. Since with that said, here is the story of our engagement through my eyes.

You see, I have been planning this engagement for some time now; actually, since the moment Cay and I started dating I was certain that I was going to marry her. The question was about when would I be able to get over my insecurities and shortcomings and "man up." I had a beast to conquer, and that beast was my will. With the grace of God, through the love of my beloved Cay I came to realize that I could not waste another moment of this life without her in it. Beast conquered. Next - the timing. When would be the best time?

Last year in February, when my parents told me that they were coming to see me and go on the school's pilgrimage to Rome and Assisi, I began to formulate how Cay and her family could meet mine. Also at that time I started to research the engagement ring for Cay. From February onwards, I had been fervently asking the Lord for the perfect time for me to propose to Cay. Then it hit me like a ton of bricks. I had to propose in Rome, because that was when both of our families could be together and we could have a formal "pamanhikan." I had to notify my parents of the plan, so when my parents and I talked a couple weeks before their arrival I informed them of the event that was to ensue. It was perfect because they were bringing the engagement ring that I had ordered from the US.

My parents arrived in Vienna on November 4th, which was the same day as my love's birthday. I woke up at 4am that morning, and drove to her house in Vienna and made her breakfast before she woke. I called her on my very stealthily called her from my cell phone from the next room over to wake her up and wish her a happy birthday. I then suprised her by opening her bedroom door and serenading her with "Your Song" by Elton John on my guitar. Good stuff :-) We had breakfast, she went to work, and then I suprised her again by leaving a dozen roses on her bed, a new running jersey, and bottle of wine from our favorite place in the world, Cinque Terre. She came home after lunch to the suprise, and we kissed for a little bit. Then we jumped in the car and picked up my parents.

We had dinner, and then crashed at Cay's house. My parents and I then left for Gaming early the next morning and then immediately started getting ready for the trip to Rome and Assisi. I checked out the ring and was amazed at the rock on it. Gentlemen, I highly recommend Blue Nile for your diamond needs. I kept that ring on careful watch from the moment my parents gave it to me until I put it on Cay's finger in Rome. I hate carrying around expensive things, it makes me nervous. I have a tendency of misplacing things.

My parents and I boarded the bus for Rome on Friday night. After a grueling 15 hours we arrived to a very sunny Rome. It was glorious. Cay and her parents left several hours before our arrival via plane. In the end, we all arrived at the hotel around the same time on Saturday morning. We got off the bus, went up to the room and I stuck that ring in the safe :-) Cay and her parents got in a little bit later. It was so good to be with the love of my life in Rome. So romantic. I highly suggest going to Rome with someone you are in love with.

As soon as we arrived in Rome, I immediately knew where we were to have the engagement dinner. It would be at the "Il Papalino" right down the street from the Vatican. It was quaint, quiet, and fairly reasonable in price. After dinner on Saturday night, I made the move to get the ball rolling for the engagement by asking the Santayanas to have the "Pamanhikan" (formal engagement dinner in which both families would be present). But I knew I wanted to make it a little more personal, so I had another plan. I mean, I love our customs and traditions, but I wanted our engagement to also have a little more meaning being that we were in the home of our Church. I wanted to ask the love of my life to marry me in front of the most memorable scene possible.

The next day was it! Sunday, November 8th. Both of our families woke up early and had breakfast around 7:30am. We had to leave for the Vatican via taxi to get to Mass in time. Mass was beautiful, with the processions of priests, bishops, cardinals, and other officals of the Church. You can't help but stand in awe when you are at Mass in St. Peter's Basilica. As soon as we exited Mass, I knew it was the moment. We all walked towards the water fountain in the middle of the square. Both of our families moved to take pictures, and I silently pulled Cay aside in front of the Obelisk in the middle of the square.

I said I needed to talk with her about something, so we were able to get away from our parents.

We moved away, and I took both of her hands and said, "I love you."

She said, "Is this really happening?" And had a look of wonder and excitement, mixed with tears and other emotions.

I got down on my knee and told her that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her. But the most important thing I said (or asked rather) was:

"Will you marry me?"

(side note: I had no ring at this point, because I had to wait for the formal engagement which was to take place later that night at Il Papalino)

She said "Yes!"

Thank you Lord! We were both in tears. At last, the step towards our lives together has been taken. We kissed and embraced in that perfect moment in the sunlight in front of St. Peter's. I told her that we should wait to tell our parents until tonight's formal engagement, but said that it would be alright to text Rebby (the Matron of Honor). The day lasted a long time. It was a quiet, yet anticipatory excitement till the evening engagement.

When we finally left for dinner at around 7:30 that evening, all of us were slightly tired from all the walking around Rome, but all of us knew what was to happen. Both families prepared themselves for the biggest decision to be made in both of their children's life thus far. We arrived at the restaurant, and ordered the food (which was quite a task since our waiter spoke limited English). My father began the engagement by leading us all in prayer. I sat next to Cay and clenched her hand. He then began to talk about Cay and how much of beautiful woman and blessing she has been to them so far, and that he is looking forward to both of our futures together. Tito Rene (Cay's father), responded positively and gave his blessing, it was at this moment that we all knew that the permission was given to me to formally propose to Cay. I got down on my knee (for the second time today), with the ring in my hand, and confessed my love to her in front of both of our families. I told her that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her, and asked her to be my wife. I kissed her and then showed her the ring. She freaked out. She said yes, and put the ring on her ring finger.

That is the climax of the evening. The rest of the details can be spared, except for the fact that almost immediately after I proposed we began to share about each others lives up until the present moment and how we look forward to all of our futures together. We also began to talk about wedding plans and such. This is our story so far. I asked the woman of my dreams to marry me in front of both of our families. I could not be happier or more complete. I have now to look forward to the day in which Cay and I take vows before our friends, family, and the Lord God Almighty to love and serve each for as long as we shall live. I am the happiest man alive. I have found the one my heart has been waiting for. The woman I have prayed for as long as I can remember is now my fiancee and my heart has found rest.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Happy Birthday My Love...

A tribute...

You are beautiful. Correction, you are the most beautiful woman in the world to me. You radiate. You are the most caring person I have ever met. You are the most giving person I have ever met. You are merciful and forgiving to those who have harmed you. You always put yourself second to others. You are elegant and you glide when you walk. I love everything about you. I even love how you argue, even though it is tough for me to sit through at times. I love the way you laugh. I love when you laugh because of me. I am amazed at how many friends you have. Well... not really, you are pretty amazing, so how could you not have so many people in your life that love you.

You have changed me. You have blessed me. You have loved me like no one ever has. I learn from you every day. You make me want to be better. I feel like I am more when I am with you.

I thank the Lord that He placed you on this earth, and I thank Him even more for bringing you into my life.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

God is LOVE... U & I are made by God out of love... & we are meant to love

In my prayer lately, I have been asking God to refine my heart. That He make me a better daughter of His. I have been more critical of myself lately, seeing that I still have many faults, many hangups, etc. And I have been desiring to be a better person, and God knows, and the people closest to me, who need to deal with me day in and day out, know that I have a lot of things to change. Don't get me wrong, I am not saying I have an awful personality, yet I acknowledge that I need refining. I need cutting off of some rough edges.

Rough edges that need to be cut:
1) Be more loving in how I react to conflict
2) Not be late
3) Put more order in my personal things
4) Have a more loving, giving and open heart
5) Be less insecure

I am sure there are more things to be refined in me, but these are the things that I wish to change as of now. And mind you, they are pretty difficult things to do.

From the 5, I would say I have been making improvements with #1. For the dear readers to understand how I, Cay, handles conflict, let me tell share. If I come into an argument, or if there is something wrong, these are my following reactions:
1) I turn quiet
2) I begin to ignore the person I am upset with
3) My being upset keeps replaying in my mind... and the ignoring continues
if you are my Mom, Dad or Vince - let us then proceed to #4
4) Once its all bottled up and it is about to pop, I blurt out my thoughts... and I do it in a very unloving way. I may start to raise my voice, and shout.
5) Then I argue, argue, argue and argue... I will defend my point as long as I can (there are times I think that I should have studied law, coz of the way I defend myself lol)

Anyway, these past weeks, but especially these ast days I have made improvements. They may be small, and they may not apply to all situations yet, but they are changing.

My biggest victory yet was on Sunday. I was upset about something... and I was tempted to start ignoring Vince. BUT I caught myself just at the right time... and I decided to not ignore him. What did I do:
1) I calmly opened the topic and told him what bothered me...

AND oh my did that do me good =) Notice how there was just one step and nothing else followed... coz of that ONE step... "calmly opened the topic of what bothered me", that one step led to a good conversation, which ended up, us affirming each other and allowing us to talk about the issues.

It is soooo humbling to just blurt out, in a loving way, the thing that bothers you. But you see, it is important to do so, because the other does not have super powers and cannot read your mind, like Parkman does in the series "Heroes". You may have to admit to the most lame things that bother you... but it doesn't matter... it needs to be said. And then, you get affirmed that what you are thinking is wrong... and you don't waste your time consuming your mind with the thing that bothers you.

Be sure to build up an open communication. If you do, then you have more opportunities to love! God is love... and you and I are made by God out of love. So our very essence is to be beings who love.

"There are men who would quickly love each other if once they were speak to each other; for when they spoke they would discover that their souls had only separated by phantoms and delusions." -Ernest Hello

Monday, October 19, 2009

Faith in Prayer... and Apple Pie

Greetings world,

As I am writing this I am listening to a lecture on Vatican II. Boring. Just kidding, please, if their are any bishops who were present at the ecumenical council of Vatican II that are readers of this blog, please excuse the comment. However, I must say that when you write documents you should try to use less words. It's taking me forever to read through these freaking documents.

Anyways... I was in prayer today, which was very interesting. I made the mistake of having espresso and tea all within 3 hours of my prayer time. I felt like an 8 year old who just had 5 Twix bars. I was off the wall in the chapel. I think I had enough energy to power a small house. However, I was able to get something out of prayer that was actually quite profound.

Let me ask you folks to break out your Bibles. Yes, it is a good thing. To use my current class that I am taking, Dei Verbum writes that we are to frequent Scripture in order to come to a "greater knowledge" of Jesus Christ; for "ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ." (Dei Verbum, 25.).

In other words, know your Bible if you want to know Jesus.

So the Lord told me through Scripture today that we need to be people of faith. When we pray we have to believe that it is going to come true, granted that we are praying for something that is good. (Wishing for a billion dollars, although a cool idea, may not be the best thing for us in the long run - see Matthew 19:24). Like when we pray for things like jobs, or vocations, or for our family members who are dying, we need to pray with the belief that the Lord is going to deliver!

Check it... Mark 11: 22-24
Jesus said to them in reply, "Have faith in God.
Amen, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, 'Be lifted up and thrown into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it shall be done for him.
Therefore I tell you, all that you ask for in prayer, believe that you will receive it and it shall be your
I think that sometimes we pray for things just for lip service. Maybe we think its like a pipe dream or that the Lord might hear us, but chances are He doesn't really care or whatever. I think we need to wake up and realize that we have a God that loves us immensely and unconditionally. He hears our prayers (even when we are vamped up on caffeine and fidgeting around in the pew) and answers them!

Ok... part 2 of my post.

Over the break I came up with an amazing invention. It's called Vince's Granola Apple Pie. I am using Nelia Santayana (my lovely girlfriends lovely mother as our guide). I helped Tita Nel bake her first pie this past week and it turned out fantastically.

Vince Granado's Granola Apple Pie:

Pie Crust:
2 cups of sifted flour
2/3 cup of vegetable oil
1/3 cup of butter milk
pinch of salt

Pie Filling:
5 apples (preferably Granny Smith or any other tart apple), peeled, cored, and sliced thinly
1/2 cup of brown sugar
1/2 tsp of vanilla extract
2 tsp of ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp of nutmeg
1/2 of salt
1 tbls of lemon juice
2 1/2 tsp of cornstarch

Pie Crust:
2 3/4 cups of rolled oats
1/2 cup of flour
3/4 stick of unsalted butter
1 tsp of cinnamon
1 cup of brown sugar
1/2 cup of diced walnuts
pinch of salt

1) Preheat the oven to 190 Celsius (370 F). Make the crust by mixing the flour and salt in a large bowl. Then add the oil and buttermilk to the mixture. Cover with plastic wrap and chill the dough for 20-30 minutes in the freezer. Remove from freezer and work the dough into a pie pan. I like to use a 9inch by 1 1/4inch pan (23 cm by 3.1 cm). Make sure it covers the pan evenly and that you get some to cover the top edge of the pan. I like to use a fork to get ridges at the top edge of the pan. Set the pie crust aside in the fridge.

2) Take your apples and place them into another large bowl. Add your lemon juice, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, salt, nutmeg. Now mix. Lastly, add your cornstarch. Do not overmix this, just make sure the apples are evenly covered. Set aside on the counter.

3) In another bowl, combine the oats, flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, salt. Cut in the butter and then proceed to mix with your hands. Mix until it resembles a clump, but do not overmix or the butter will melt in your hands and ruin the topping.

4) Add the apple filling to the crust.

5) Take the oat topping and distribute evenly across the top of the pie. Lightly press it down if you desire.

6) Bake pie for about 30-45 minutes.

7) Remove from oven and cool.

8) Serve warm with vanilla bean ice cream. Yum.

9) Pay respect to the name of the pie: "Vince Granado's Granola Apple Pie." The Lord is watching you :-)

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Hotel Guest Vince Granado

Good evening people of God,

I am one tired mess. I haven't gotten a lot of sleep these past days. And who is to blame? HEROES! (The television show). However, I am not here to whine and complain.

As you have read in our last blog, Vince spent his 10 day break here in Vienna, in Hotel Santayana. And you know what? It was just amazing to have him here each day. I hardly spent time with him because I would be at work for like 10hours per day, and so we would just have a few hours left, but it didn't matter. It was still perfect! I am just thankful for these breaks that he has, because it is rare that I get to see him day after day.

My favourite things we got to do this week:
1) Cook and eat splendiferous food
2) Spend time with JD, Anness & KC
3) Watch Heroes
4) Adoration
5) Have dinner with my parents
6) Watch Heroes
7) Have SFC household
8) Eat
9) Have dinner with Maria & Tom
10) Watch Heroes
11) Celebrate Gaele's bday
12) Play billards for the 1st time
13) Pray the rosary together
14) Talk about life and other important things
15) Watch Heroes

and there were so many other things we wanted to do but didn't get to:

1) Visit the Precilla's
2) Go to the movies
3) Wash my car

Oh well...

Lord, thank you for this time together. I cherish it so much, since it is not something we get to do much, spend an entire week together. Thank you God! We may not have had the amount of time we wanted to spend together and we may not have gotten to do all the things we wanted, nontheless, it has been a perfect 10 day break for Vince and for me.

Family & friends, cherish each moment given to you by the Lord to do the things you love! It's a blessing and a privelege. Never take things for granted! Enjoy, savour and be thankful for the things, people and experiences the Lord gives us.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Vacation at Hotel Santayana - Day 1

Greetings world,

I am never sure what to think about vacations. When I was young, vacations meant that we pack everything we could and then listen to my family complain about things. Ok, it wasn't exactly like that the entire time, but I felt that by the end of the vacation I wanted everything but to be on vacation anymore. Even later, I found vacations to be filled with too many activities (snorkeling, hiking, surfing, going here and there, etc.). Too much stuff to do and very little time to actually rest! But more recently I have had the opportunities to be on vacations where I actually got lots of opportunity to sleep. I have discovered that my favorite activity to do on a vacation is sleep. Why? Because I never get enough of it.

Currently, I have one week of vacation, and I have made it a point to get at least 8 hours of sleep every night. I am staying at the Santayana's residence in Vienna and it has been a treat!

Here is what I did today:

1) I slept for 11.5 hours last night
  • I went to bed at around 12:30am
  • I was woken up by my boss at around 9am, but then fell back asleep
  • When I woke up I felt like I was a completely new man. I also felt a little dizzy.
2) I woke up and had coffee, and then started working on my Master's papers
  • Nothing beats having coffee first thing in the morning, er, afternoon.
  • Tita Nel started making lunch and it smelled amazing.
  • I love writing about Theology, but I hate having to set aside time. It's one of the difficulties of my life, trying to fit in time to do things. I know that everyone has the same hours in a day, but don't you ever wish you had like 3 extra hours?
3) I went running
  • I was energized off the coffee and feeling good. Oh yeah.
  • I love running, also something that I have had a hard time scheduling in my life recently
  • I pumped some good tunes through my Ipod (Beach Boys, Black-eyed Peas, Jason Mraz)
  • I though of the delicious lunch that was awaiting me
4) Had lunch and then started baking an apple pie
  • Lunch was fantabulous. Shrimp pasta with basil and oregano with a Rucola salad. Life is good.
  • I made an apple pie. I love baking and cooking. To me that is therapy. Some people like painting, and some like shopping. Me, I like cooking and baking.
5) I went to Mass, Confession, and Adoration
  • Could my day get any better? Three pillars of my spiritual life. Getting to go to Mass, confess my sins, and then sit with the Lord. What more could I ask for?
6) Met up with my lovely girlfriend and some friends for dinner.
  • After adoration we met up at Stephansplatz in downtown Vienna. We headed to a restaurant called Fresco Grill. It is like a Qdoba or Chipotle. It made me miss the USA. I even had a Dr. Pepper (which is difficult to find here in Europe). The burrito I had was excellent, and I'll probably be working it off for the next week.
  • After dinner we venture the cold weather in hopes to reach this Austrian restaurant for beer, however the public transportation was having technical problems and we settled for TGI Friday's instead. I had the Oreo Madness and a hot chocolate. Like I said again - Life is good.
  • From Friday's we walked back to Stephansplatz and headed home. Cay fell asleep in the car. It was cute.
It was an extremely productive day despite me waking up at noon. What is the moral of the story? Don't wake up until noon everyday. No I am kidding.

But seriously, when you have the opportunity to get lots of sleep. Do it. You will be so much more productive. I think.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Beauty in it's Purest sense...

Dear family & friends,

I sit here at the dining table, waiting for dinner to be ready. And I have finally taken the time to write my next entry. It has been a quite delayed entry, I just really couldn't find the time to write. I have though, "written" my entry in my mind. I would find myself thinking of the things I would say in the blog.

My entry will take us back to October 2-5, 2009, to one of my favorite places in the world, Gaming in lower Austria. I try to get-away from the city life during weekends and go to a peaceful place. And that is what Gaming offers, it is my peaceful weekend get-away. I will never tire from bragging about Gaming, it just is really a perfect place to experience God, His beauty in creation and His beauty in the people He created.

This weekend in Gaming, I spent Saturday early afternoon accompanying Vince and one of the Franciscan students for a hospital trip. Many of the Franciscan students have been falling ill these past weeks and Vince has made numerous trips to the hospital in the next larger town, Scheibbs. So this trip was I believe, his 6th or 7th of that week. And by the nth number of trips to the hospital, the nurse at the reception already knew Vince :-)

Just to side track, the hospital was nice. All the staff we encountered there were really nice and accommodating. They all spoke English, which was great for a sick student who already felt like crap.

Anyway, my blog is not really about the hospital trip, rather it is about the trip from the hospital back to Gaming. Vince was driving, the student was quiet in the back seat, and me, Cay, in the front passenger seat. What I like doing when driving towards Gaming or from Gaming, basically the time between Scheibbs and Gaming (15mins), I try to enjoy the beauty of God's creation. And on that Saturday afternoon sitting in the front passenger seat with quiet car mates, I was doing that very thing, laying my eyes on God's trees, mountains and skies. I allowed my eyes get lost in the beauty of nature, and thus my thoughts too. I sat there, gazing into the vast greenery, and said to myself, "These mountains are beautiful. The sky looks heavenly. And look at those beautiful, healthy, green trees. Gosh, they have grown to be so beautiful!"

That very thought led me to the next one, "There is no "gardener", who looks after these trees. They simply grow on their own, no one in charge of watering them, trimming them, etc."

Then I thought, "These trees don't have to worry about looking good. They don't need to add something to them in order for them to be beautiful. They don't even worry about what they should eat, or what they should do for the day. And still, they are so wonderful to eyes of man!"

After deducting all this, I began to think, "Why then do we humans worry so much? We worry about what we will eat, how much money we will have, what to wear so we look good. Basically we worry about this and that... and the worrying never ends.

My dear family and friends, we have a heavenly Father who cares for us. He will never abandon us. Look at the mountains, they just look majestic without them having to make themselves look majestic. Our Father allows them to be amazingly beautiful. His creation can be beautiful in its purest sense... no artificial substances, make-up, fashionable clothes, no need for them to change themselves to be accepted... they can just BE beautiful! It is the loving Father who makes all things beautiful!

Our business in this world is to make ourselves, our hearts, souls and minds beautiful for the Lord. If that is our goal then be assured, you will be taken cared of and you will radiate beauty in its purest sense. The beauty that God laid into your very heart will be the one radiating from your soul. And it will be the beauty that cannot be made beautiful through the worldly ways, but it is simply BEAUTIFUL, because it springs from the The most beautiful among us... OUR GOD!

Friday, October 2, 2009

The trip to Poland (part 3)

Hello again,

This is my second post tonight. But I wanted to post something that showed the beauty of Poland and the vibrant things that are happening nowadays. With the Nazis and Communists behind her, Poland is striving to move forward and rebuild. We were able to spend some time in Krakow last weekend, which was incredible! The city is beautiful. It has an old world charm, with a young twist. I think the twist is due to the very active University located in the central part of the Old Town. The city is literally busting out of the seams with young students. It is the hope of the nation; we just need to pray that the youth have learned from the past and are making advances in their academics that will benefit the society by bringing about a fair and free leadership.

To the right are pictures of Perogis. I think this might be my favorite Polish food. So good! We found this posh little Polish restaurant off the main street in the Old Town. The cool thing is that the place is open 24 hours. Gotta love that especially in Europe where 24 hour places are a rare find.

The second place I went to eat was on Sunday after Mass at the Cathedral. The name of the restaurant was called Stare Mury. Fantastic food! I had a nice cup of coffee, eggs, and what else but, Perogis! However, I must say that the place I went to previous had better Perogis.

Okay, so you might be asking, where are the rest of the pictures. I am sorry, but I must confess I am a man lead by my stomach. I know it's sad, but I love food! To me food is the most important part of a culture. I think you can tell A LOT about a culture based on it's cuisine.

The trip to Poland (part 2)

Greetings world,

I am writing this blog entry as a follow up to the previous blog on my recent Poland trip. I want to show you some of the pictures of some of the things I saw. I'll add a little commentary to help you understand a little more about the trip. Here we go...

To the left is a picture of Our Lady of Czestochowa. This image of Mary is one of the most venerated images in all of Europe. Every morning at 6am, the image is unveiled. But it is not just a normal unveiling; there are trumpets and singing and the works. It is such a beautiful ceremony, and a sign of the devotion that the people of Poland have for the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Here is a picture of the main street in Czestochowa. This city is one of the most visited Marian Pilgrim areas in Europe.
Here is an action shot of our beloved Father Brad celebrating Mass in front of the image. Very cool.

Here is a shot of Auschwitz. Perhaps one of the most haunting images in my mind from the camp. The sign reads: "Arbeit Macht Frei" - Work Makes you Free. I can't even begin to imagine what it was like for the prisoners to read this sign as they entered into this place of death.

This is the second time I have seen this quote from George Santayana. It rings truth, and the inscription needs no commentary.

In what the Nazis called Auschwitz II, located in Birkenau, some 100,000 prisoners were confined into horse stables. The stables were meant to hold 15 horses. The Nazis squeezed 400 men and women into these compartments. Here is a shot of the bunk beds that would be used by the prisoners.

Monday, September 28, 2009

The trip to Poland (part 1)

Greetings world,

This blog entry is part one of an entry. I am currently writing from Cay's house in Vienna. It's good to be away from work, and it's good to have some time to reflect on the things that happened this past weekend.

I wrote in a previous blog that I have been working tirelessly to plan a University trip to Poland. Well the trip happened, and thank the Lord it was a success. We stuck very close to the schedule and everyone made it back in good condition, which is a huge accomplishment with 160 college students.

The trip brought us from Czestohowa to the concentration camp of Auschwitz. We then made our way to Krakow and then to Wadowice, the birth place of John Paul II.

The place that probably caught your eye was Auschwitz. This weekend was my second time to make it to that place, and it still rattles the core of my being. From my experience at Auschwitz this past weekend, I had two major realizations:

1) The Mystery of Evil

There have been six million reported deaths from the holocaust in World War II. Many of the deaths took place in Auschwitz. These were not simple deaths; these deaths usually occurred in the extremes of starvation, hanging, shooting, and suffocation through deadly gasses. Six million people were eradicated in these fashions. I ask myself how could this happen???

Furthermore, how could a good and loving God allow this to happen? If this God is really a Father that loves the world so much, how could He have let six million people suffer such gruesome deaths, and let alone allow millions more to survive to tell the tale? Where is the love in this?

As I walked from the train station that brought hundreds and thousands of Jews to this concentration camp back to our charter busses I realized something very profound. Some evil just can't be explained. There is no logical explanation for the kind of horrors that happened throughout history and continue today.

There is a mystery in evil, and the only answer to this mystery is another mystery that is far greater in comparison. The mystery that triumphs that of evil is the mystery of love. this brings me to my next point.

2) The mystery of love

I hear the cliche term that love is a mystery at least several times a year. But what does that mean? I think we can best understand this mystery in the context of God, who is love in it's fullest definition. I would like to say that God and love are synonomous.

I said earlier that evil is a mystery, but a far greater mystery is love. Why? Because in the end, it is not evil that triumphs, but love. I came to this conclusion when I thought of the person of Saint Maximillian Kolbe. St. Kolbe was a Franciscan priest who was sent to the concentration camp in Auschwitz. Priests, during the holocaust, were targets for the SS because of their definance to the Nazi party and their aid to the Jewish people during their persecutions. Priests were often given a pink triangular patch on their clothes in the campus. This was to be a patch of ridicule and were treated more severely that normal prisoners in the camp. During an attempted escape, one of the prisoners was caught and then sentenced to death. The man cried out that he had a family to take care of, thus Father Maximillian Kolbe asked the guards if he could take the place of the man trying to escape. He sacrificed his life for the another. Kolbe was sent to an underground holding cell where he was starved for 2 weeks. He would not die, and instead he sang songs to the Lord and lead others in the accompanying cells in prayer and song.

St. Kolbe's example shows me what it means to love in the face of such great evil. It is a mystery to how Kolbe could do what he did. The mystery of love overcame the mystery of evil. What an amazing feat.

Sometimes in life we don't need explanations, because no explanation is possible. Sometimes what we need is not an answer, but an example. St. Kolbe shows us the example of how to overcome the hardships of life. Thank you for that St. Maximillian Kolbe. Pray for us.

Friday, September 25, 2009

God Blessed the Broken Road...

V&C are away this weekend. We are off to nourish our souls! =)

We are not travelling together. Vince is in Poland since early morning Friday, on the Uni trip/pilgrimage. And I am off to visit the Queen early Saturday morning ;-) I will be attending a SFC Sisters Teaching: "Princess Diaries" (inspired by the book Captivating), in London.

I am excited what this weekend will bring Vince and myself. Last semester, Vince was so moved from his experience in Poland. I can't wait to hear his stories and realizations.

I am just as excited to see what the Lord has in store for me this weekend. I am really looking forward to the "Princess Diaries" teaching. It will be a time for me to understand womanhood and how God intended women to be.

I am so thankful that the Lord is working on me and on Vince. He allows us both to be part of weekends like this. Weekends where He allows us to come to Him. We, Vince and I, are two souls who need God! We both know God brought us together. He prepared us, worked on us individually, and then He let our paths cross. And now He is at work on us together... preparing us for a future with Him. The life we both lead, is led by God... both our lives are testimonies of it.

There is this song Vince let me listen to... and it is OUR love story. When I mean OUR, I do not just mean Vince and me. OUR love story, being God, Vince & I, because it is God who blessed the broken road that led us to each other.

"Bless The Broken Road"

I set out on a narrow way many years ago
Hoping I would find true love along the broken road
But I got lost a time or two
Wiped my brow and kept pushing through
I couldn't see how every sign pointed straight to you

Every long lost dream led me to where you are
Others who broke my heart they were like Northern stars
Pointing me on my way into your loving arms
This much I know is true
That God blessed the broken road
That led me straight to you

I think about the years I spent just passing through
I'd like to have the time I lost and give it back to you
But you just smile and take my hand
You've been there you understand
It's all part of a grander plan that is coming true


Now I'm just rolling home
Into my lover's arms
This much I know is true
That God blessed the broken road
That led me straight to you

That God blessed the broken road
That led me straight to you.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

A promise is a promise...

Dear readers,

I made a promise to blog, and I want to stay true to that promise. Especially with Vince being away (he is on a bus travelling to Poland with 200plus other Franciscan students, faculty, TOR), I want to make him proud that I stuck to my word. Now, the content of the blog is another thing. The promise was to blog... and so I am writing a blog. It may not be profound, but I am writing as promised. Hahaha.

And I don't think I should be trusted to blog at 2am, because I may just write nonsense. If you check out my wall post in Facebook on Maria Contessa Sarmiento's wall, there were already signs of my weird thinking. Let me paste a Facebook wall post conversation between Rebby and me:

Ana Santayana: maam, ilan na sausages kaufst du fuer sher und fuer phil? para ich weis wieviel ich noch dazu kaufen soll.

JericoRebby Precilla:
hahahahaha!! love that taggerlish going on in here! LOL!ilan na sausages kaufst du ..wahahhaha...cracking up here! para ich weis...wahahaha.....can imagine tessa rolling her eyes to ur message! LOL!..
and yes....u can crown me queen stalker now! LOL!

Now, talk about consistency in a sentence! I mixed English, Filipino and German in one sentence. Aside from that, Rebby and I just got off the phone talking about wrapping a gift, and I was coming up with weird ideas! We couldn't stop laughing because I serisous with my suggestions, until I gave it a few minutes thought, and realized they were NONSENSE!

Basically, all of you (and Vince most especially) may just be thankful that I didn't write a proper blog tonight. I may have just spared you all from wasted time reading a nonsensical blog.

And so I sign off, and lay my crazy mind at rest. Hoping that the new day will bring brighter and more consistent ideas! =)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Struggle...

Today was a rough day for me.

I have those once in a while, and I know all of you do as well. Let me give you a little background. One part of my amazing job is to coordinate student excursions to different parts of Europe. Right now the excursion I am coordinating is a Pilgrimage to Poland. It is a very intense and beautiful trip, however the prep work for it is extremely detailed. You have to keep in mind the transportation, meals, Mass times, tour times, hotel check-in and check-out, and countless other things. On top of all that, the size of the group is around 200. That's right - 200 students. Anyways, I am finalizing the final details of this trip, but yet there are so many things left to do, and on top of that the other aspects of my job (such as disciplining and monitoring the student body) also has been taking a lot of my time. What all this means is that I have had no time for anything else :-P I am now finished complaining, and I will not do so for the rest of this blog. I say this, because I am greatful to the Lord that I can have a job like this. The Lord has blessed me so much this past year so I really should take these things with more grace.

Lord help me to do so.

But this is life, and this is the life of ministry. It is a life dedicated to service. I remember watching this movie. It was called, A Peaceful Warrior. In this movie a young, cocky, Olympian hopeful is taking an evening job and he runs across this guy working at the local gas station. The guy at the gas station begins to ask this young athlete a lot of questions that make him feel very insecure. "Why are you doing what you are doing?" "What good is it to make it to the Olympics?" "Isn't there more to life than just sports?" The young man asks, "Why do you work at a gas station if you are so wise?" The gas station worker responds, "I provide a service for people. There is no greater calling than that."

I always want to live my life in service. Most of all, I want to serve the Lord, and secondly, I want to serve mankind. There can be no greater calling in my life. Whenever I sit down to pray, I always ask the Lord the same question: "What do you want of me Lord?"

And His response is always the same: Serve me.

Just because I know the answer to what I am supposed to do with my life, in no way makes my life easier. It just means I have a goal. And with anything with a goal worth pursuing comes the struggle towards that goal. Furthermore, it is in the struggle that two things happen. The struggle becomes beautiful, in a way. For it is in the struggle of daily living in pursuit towards something greater that character is built. What is character you ask? It is that thing that you are when no one else is watching you. I love the definition of character in this way: You are what you are in the worst of situations and nothing more. The other thing that struggle does is that it helps you to appreciate the goal more. Struggle without a goal is unnecessary suffering. Struggle with a goal produces saints. I want that. Thank you Lord for today. Thank you Lord for the struggle. I praise you in this pain, for I know that You are my goal and my prize.

I want to leave you with a quote from Padre Pio:

"The life of a Christian is nothing but a perpetual struggle against self; there is no flowering of the soul to the beauty of its perfection except at the price of pain."

Monday, September 21, 2009

My piece of Heaven on earth: Gaming!

Greetings from beautiful Gaming!

I sit here in my favorite town, Gaming, Austria. You may think it is my favorite town because Vince lives here, well yes of course it is a factor. If it weren't for him, then I would have never traveled to Gaming. Ask Austrians, and not many would even know where Gaming is, or that it even exists. So why would I ever think of sitting in a car or train and travel to Gaming????

Aside from this being the town Vince lives in, I love Gaming for its beauty, the kindness of people, and most of all its peacefulness. I truly find peace and joy here. And I thank God that He has created a place where I can find this peace and joy. Each time I come here, and each time I enter the Church, Maria Thron, I thank God that I am here. It overwhelms me each time. I have come here so many times now, yet I am still overwhelmed at what God lets me experience in Gaming. I am in awe of His creation, this special place made for me, and for every person who experiences peace and joy in this little town!

This weekend I had 3 goals:
1) Share Gaming to my best friend and her family
2) Spend time with God (adoration and mass)
3) Spend time in His creation doing outdoor activities

This time around, the trip to Gaming was special, because I was able to bring my best friend, Rebby Precilla, and her hubby Jerico Precilla and their two kids, my Godson Coby and Isabella to Gaming. I have had many opportunities to share my favorite town to many people who are dear to me; my parents, friends, Singles for Christ (the community I am part of), Youth for Christ Mission Volunteers (voluntary part-time missionaries for the community I am part of), uncle's and aunt's. However, my best friend Rebby has not been here yet, and finally we were able to make arrangements where all of us could make it to Gaming at the same time.

It was so amazing that I could share this wonderful place with my best friend. She has finally experienced Gaming the way I keep on sharing it to her. And I am so happy that she loved it here, and also Jerico. Jerico has been wanting to be outdoors and to hike, and he finally got to. A well deserved weekend for Rebby and Jerico!

First day we got here, Vince prepared a delicious Mexican lunch... my special request: Fajitas! Afterwards we rested a bit and then we went to the Nature Park. We walked uphill with the entire family, including the baby carriages/strollers! YES, you read right, we pushed two baby carriages/strollers uphill. Thank God for the most part the path was cemented, but as we were "hiking" we had to laugh that we were doing this with two strollers. You know, it was worth it. It was beautiful company, and once we got to the top, it was worth the muscle aches, the sweat and losses of breath. I LOVED IT! Then we had dinner, cooked by myself =) We had one of the students over for dinner, Paul. I love that guy, and so does Coby. He went straight to Paul, he never does that.

Second day, I went to Vienna to do Jesus Time (Sunday school at the Filipino Parish), while the rest stayed here in Gaming. I am one crazy woman I know, but I committed to do Jesus Time, so I traveled to Vienna for Jesus Time and then drove back again right after. I do not regret having done it, because I was able to share about God to 21-23 children! Seeing them sing a worship song to God at the end of mass, put a smile on my face.

I got back to Gaming and Vince and Jerico hiked to the waterfall while Rebby and I took the kids for a walk around Gaming. It was nice being able to be with Rebby, because it has been hard to find time where the both of us could peacefully talk. We didn't have to think about time, nor rushing to finish because we had to be somewhere else. God gave us quality time. THANK YOU GOD! Then we had dinner at the restaurant care of the Precilla's.

Mass was at 8PM. Vince and Tina (a student) did the music for mass... it was BEAUTIFUL! =) And I loved mass, as always. Then we ended the evening with coffee and dessert at the restaurant. Some students were there too, so we got to meet tons of students. Then the rest of the evening was spent chilling in Vince's apartment.

Third day was spent preparing the Precilla's for their trip back to Vienna. They left 12:20PM, and honestly I missed them right away. I kind of felt lost for a moment. I was so used to having them around =(

But God gave me the rest of the day to spend with Him. When the Precilla's left, Vince and I went to mass. I got to talk to Sister Monica!!!! I missed her! And I got to chat a bit with some of the kindest people I have ever met, Maros, Michele, Tom, Maria, Niki, Mark, and Fr. Brad... there are many others, but this time around I didn't get to see them. Then I took a nap =) That was amazing! Hehehe. I started to clean up Vince's apartment then went for Holy hour!

It was so beautiful to have adoration after a long time!!!!!! I missed being with Jesus! I was in tears because I just really missed my time with Jesus. Since I began working at the U.N., my whole prayer life came to a halt. I wasn't able to go to adoration anymore or to daily mass. I would try having my prayer time at home, and it worked a few times, but it was not enough. Being in Jesus' presence this afternoon was so wonderful. I missed Him and I missed my time with Him. It's amazing how I could miss it. I have been praying to God that He helps me find the time to go to daily adoration again and mass. And He gave it to me today!

After adoration I went for a run!!!! THANK YOU LORD! It was so nice to run again after a long time. And I got to do it in the midst of God's wonderful creation! Right after running I went into the Church, because I had to thank God for just blessing me so abundantly! He let me experience everything I have been longing for! God is so good, so amazing, so loving!

Thank you Lord for this perfect long weekend spent with some of the dearest people to me, in the most beautiful, peaceful and joyous place... Gaming! May this towm continue to be a vessel of love, peace and joy to the many travelers! AMEN!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

My realizations...

I would like to share with you all something that happened to me a few days ago. I made this new commitment this past fall to spend more time in silent prayer everyday. This means that everyday I will spend one hour in our tiny chapel here in Gaming. To be completely honest there have been a few days when I enter the chapel I would have liked to be somewhere else, but after a few minutes when I realize that I am in the presence of a God that is so powerful and amazing I thank Him for allowing me to have this time to be with Him.

There have been some realizations that I have had over these past few weeks in this chapel. Some have been big. Some have been small, but they have all been significant to my relationship to the most important person in my life: Jesus Christ.

The realization that I had in prayer a few days ago has probably been the most profound that I have had in a while. What I came to realize in prayer that day was two-part. The first was that the forgiveness of the Lord is unfathomable. I have done things in my life that I have not been proud of. Any one that knows me well can attest to the fact that I have had a profound change in my way of living from when I was younger. I have hurt many people in my life because of bad mistakes. When I came to the Lord in 2000, I came to Him broken and on my knees. I was sobbing the day I handed my life over to the Lord, because I could not understand the love that God had for a sinner like me.

The conclusion that I have come to over these past nine years is that the Lord has loved me since the moment I was conceived. He loved me in my sin, and He loved me the day I gave my life to Him. There has never been a time that He has not loved me, and there will never be a time when He ceases to love me; even when I see myself as unloveable. He loves me regardless of whatever it is I think. How amazing our Lord is. I know that I could never love that way (unless He gave me to ability through His grace to do so.)

On top of Him loving me so immensely is that with this unfathomable love comes a willingness to forgive that is equally as immense. I am reminded of the prodigal son as I write this, with the Father waiting anxiously for the lost son to come home. The Father, at the sight of His lost son, runs to him first (even before the son can react) with open arms. The Father is not concerned with the wrongdoing of the son, but instead joyful and excited to have the son home. When I fall (as I do everyday) through my sin, it is not the sin the Lord sees when I come back to Him asking for forgiveness. He only sees my heart that longs to be back with His. The Lord sees not our sins. He sees us as we are intended to be- His sons and daughters. How amazing.

I know this is long, but the funny thing is that I heard this message preached to me twice in one day. Once at noon mass in our Church, and the second time I read it in the scripture during my daily prayer time. The third time I heard it was when I was sitting on my couch reading the book Brothers Karamazov, Dostoyevsky (my current read). It was so suprising to me, because I would have never expected to hear it through a book on Russian literature ☺ But this is what I read:

(This is between the Elder Zosima and a woman who tried to kill her husband...I know... weird.)

“Be not afraid, and never be afraid, and do not be in misery. Just as long as repentance does not grow scarce within you – then God will forgive anything. And indeed there is and can be no sin upon all the earth that the Lord will not forgive the truly repentant. And there is no sin that man could commit so great as would ever exhaust God’s infinite love.”

Wow. Thank you Dostoyevsky confirming God’s word to me.

There is no sin a repentant person can commit that the Lord will not forgive. Thank you Lord for loving us that much.

The second thing I realized in the chapel that day was this.
Walking the narrow road to Christ is difficult. No scratch that. It is impossible. It is only made possible, because Christ has walked it before and He gives us the grace to follow. But it has been done before. Actually it has been done many many many times by people like you and me. Men, women, child, elder, Jew, Greek, black, white, disabled, strong, weak, slave, master, etc. All these people have walked the road and are now in divine reality of heaven. They have run the race and completed the course, and their victory and reward is eternal life with God. These people have made it and done well. These people are the saints. They know our struggles, because they have faced them and overcome. We cannot lose hope brothers and sisters in our journey towards the Lord. I know at times our faults and shortcomings may seem greater than the love and mercy of Christ, but when this happen we must look to the men and women who have faced the same challenges and ask them for their prayers and supplications.

The Lord is good brothers and sisters and He loves us more than we can ever imagine. Let’s take some time to be joyful in that ☺

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

These are a Few of my (Italian) Favorite Things! (Sound of Music has nothing to do with Italy, i know)

Buona sera,

I am unfortunately 1 day late with my blog. Sorry to those of you who follow our blog, and especially sorry to my blog partner, Vince! I was just so tired last night and fell asleep as I was writing my entry. At least give me credit for attempting to write my blog?

Even if it has been 3 days since our Italian holiday, I would still like to share with you "...a few of my favourite things...", to be exact let me share my top 5 favourite Italian things.

Numero Uno: Gelato!!! Especially Nutella & Tiramisu flavored gelato! You cannot leave Italian soil without enjoying a cono of gelato! I am in general an ice-cream lover, so I know the ice-cream business. Hahaha. Let me give you some facts about gelato.
Gelato is Italian ice-cream that is creamy, dense, and rich in flavor.
Real gelato is
- produced by Italian hands!
- consists of milk, instead of cream
- has 4-7% fat vs. American ice-cream 10% fat
- has 25-30% air vs. American ice-cream has 50% air

And since it consists of less fat, the flavor comes out more. And it is creamier and firm because less air has been mixed into the ice-cream.

Vince and I were looking for the best gelato in Lignano. We passed by this one place, the gelato looked creamy! It was not tightly packed in those metal containers, but it had this twirly form making it look creamy. I was so certain that this was the best gelato, but Vince was not convinced. Instead he chose a place where the gelato was tightly packed in the metal containers, and visibly it did not seem creamy. But guess what, Vince was right! It was the creamier gelato. LESSON? Do not be fooled with what you see. Looks can deceive!

Numero Due: Vince and I would walk around Lignano, and my eyes were attracted not to Italian men, but vintage bikes! Yes bikes, not Italian men! I was astonished to see that almost everyone was riding holland bikes or real vintage Italian bikes, like Atala. They were beautiful! I fell in love with this one white vintage Atala bike. It was a bit rusty, it had a basket in the front, and you could just see that it had character! Too bad I didn't take a picture. But instead I have a picture of a red one... still very beautiful!
LESSON? Vintage bikes are like wine, they grow finer with age! It's not about having the newest thing, it's about having something that has matured, has meaning, has history.

Numero Tre: La Botte! Thanks to my uncle and aunt (Tito Gene (meaning uncle Gene) and Tita Mohnie (auntie Mohnie)) who were the ones who introduced La Botte to my parents, and who in turn introduced La Botte to me and Vince. This restaurant was one of the highlights for this trip. The ambiance was nice, service was good, food was astounding, prices were heavenly!
Prosciutto con Melone: The melon was riped to perfection. Not too sweet and not too soft nor too hard. The prosciutto was fresh and had the perfect taste.

Spaghetti Frutti de Mare: I had to have Frutti de Mare, because in Vienna you cannot get fresh seafood pasta anywhere. So this pasta was a MUST! The pasta was al dente, which is always important for the pasta in Italian dishes. The seafood in the pasta were fresh. There were generous portions of scampi, mussels and vongole (type of clam).

Pizza with Brie, zucchini & prosciutto: I need to second Vince on that, it was one of the best pizza's I've had in my 30years of life! The combination of ingredients was just perfect. The brie & prosciutto gave the pizza this richness in taste but the zucchini balanced it, for it not to be too overwhelming. And for me to consider pizza good, I rate the crust! It had the perfect crust!!! Crispy, not soggy and the thickness was just right! LESSON? Lignano (5and1/2 hrs drive) is not too far to just go eat at La Botte! Hahaha.

Numero Quattro: If you talk to me about Italian men, I would only say negative things. I have been to Italy often, since it was one of my mission areas when I was a missionary. The many times I was there, I never had good experiences with Italian men. But this trip proved me wrong. Vince, Mark, Nikki, Grace Ann, Brittney, Ryan, James, the 2 boys (Ari and Dominik) and I went to Sunday mass. Vince and I stood at the back along with some Italians. Suddenly, during the beginning of mass an Italian gentleman offered me his seat!!! I was shocked. I was so thankful for his gesture, not because I wanted to sit down, but thankful to know that there are still true gentlemen in this world. God bless him! And I said a prayer for him during mass!
LESSON? Be hopeful and don't generalize! There are real good gentlemen out there.

Numero Cinque: Traveling with Vince! Yes Vince is a Filipino-American, but deep inside he is European (a mix of French-Italian-Spanish). Hahaha. So he still falls under my top 5 favorite ITALIAN things. Like Vince said in his 1st blog here, we both love to travel. I am blessed to be with a man who enjoys the same things that I enjoy! Being able to share new experiences, adventures, cultures, food and delicacies is beautiful. God knew what He was doing when He joined our paths. LESSON? Vince said: "Let us enjoy every holiday we share as a couple, even our dates, because who knows how long we can do this as a couple"

I hope I gave you a different insight of V&C's Italian Holiday! Buona Notte!!!