Haiyan/Yolanda 002: The offering of Thread&Vine

After a long and busy day, there will be no real sleep tonight. In just a few hours I will be on the first flight to Roxas City, Capiz. Capiz was among the areas hit by the super typhoon Yolanda/Haiyan in November. Though Capiz was not hit with the same devastation as others and was spared of grievous bloodshed, the island survives but completely altered. According to this report, 95% of the province has suffered damage to agriculture, infrastructure and livelihood.

In October, my mom and I launched a pilot livelihood program for mothers in need. With the Christmas season then fast approaching, and knowing a few mothers seriously in need of a source of income, we launched Thread & Vine.

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During my childhood in the 90’s, my mom ran a great business for the handmade hair accessories. Not only did this provide for our family’s day to day needs, but the business gave work to many mothers from the slums near our home. The business thrived for many years, producing beautiful headbands, scrunchies and clips designed by my mom, and made by the women workers right in our home. These products sold well in large department stores in Metro Manila, until we could no longer compete with the rise of factory-made, mass-produced plastic merchandise.

Fast forward to 2013 and Thread & Vine.

Taking cues from our family’s love for social businesses, we launched a pilot season with a simple objective: Give fair employment to moms-in-need. Make beautiful, handmade Christmas decor. Sell to friends. Share Christmas joy! 10% of the proceeds would go to the Buhay Makulay Children’s Project Inc.

With a small seed capital, we bought materials from Divisoria and Quiapo, and my mom reopened her beloved workshop (our large kitchen counter) to begin the design process. My mom and I love this stuff! Give us ribbons, beads and string, and we’d be happy all day.

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A few weeks later, while Thread &Vine’s humble production and sales were underway, the Philippines was hit by one of the most brutal storms it has ever experienced. We soon decided that all proceeds from our pilot season would be given to victims of the super typhoon. With our family’s close ties to dear friends in Capiz, and the news that despite the post-storm ruin, aid was slow to arrive –  we determined Capiz as the best recipient for our small gift.

And that is what the upcoming two-day trip is all about! We’ll be contributing to the rebuilding of homes and even running the quickest Buhay Makulay Children’s Fair that we have ever planned. (It may also be the biggest. Our initial number of 100 kids rose to 115. Then earlier today, jumped to 122!)

More in a few hours.

Truth Thursdays: Today I Leave Behind

Today I leave behind light.

Not because I will walk ahead without it, but because in my own journey forward, my path has been made bright by the lights that others have left behind. These gifts of illumination have made my own path full of joy, encouragement, challenge, inspiration and purpose.

So I too leave behind a glowing trail. Though shifting in its luminescence and never perfect in direction, I leave it nonetheless. There are moments of blazing fire and others of just barely glowing coal. This trail may light the path of many or none at all. Or for a heartbeat, bring company to a single lone traveler.

There is enough darkness in this world. Real, tangible, destructive darkness. It weeps only wretchedness. It is ferocious and deceitful. It eats away at the good stuff in this world.

But it quivers in the light.

And in the presence of light, the darkness is a coward.

And still,

there are those who can walk in the company of darkness,

unafraid and unhesitating because light also lives within. 

Today I leave behind light, not because there is no more light to lead forward, nor because I set my lantern down to walk into the dim. It is Light itself that I follow. Radiance that is not of me.

The embers that persist in my wake may one day lead someone Home.

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No light for miles around. Just friends and a bonfire on a beach. San Francisco coast. March 2013.

More about Truth Thursdays? Or more about this prompt.

Thank you, 2012! You will be remembered.

2012 was an incredible year. It was a big year of  endings and new beginnings. Of fighting hard in order to finish strong, and working faithfully to begin things right. This was also the year I was blown away by God and His grace, over and over again.

I’m going to take some time to look back. I read 2011’s year in review according to me, and it made me even more excited to reflect on this year that has just passed. As I write, I am only left grateful. Here we go:

In January, I returned to Wheaton College in Massachusetts for my final semester of undergraduate career. I took only three classes for the semester- an art history class called Castles and Cathedrals, a Poetry class that opened up my writing again, and my senior seminar in Studio Art.

Just a few weeks after returning, in February, I performed in my final TRYBE gala,  aptly titled The End of the World. Couldn’t leave without a bang! [TRYBE is Wheaton’s hiphop and multicultural dance group.  I served two years on the Executive Board and had my choreography featured every year in each show – including variations to the Filipino tinikling and singkil. One of my pieces to Boom Boom Pow in my sophomore year, became a crowd favorite and our most performed dance that year.] Also in February, I agreed to helping my friend out with his short film (click to see it!), Floating in Space, for which I danced. It was later screened during our senior art show in April and won the department’s pick for best work in the show.

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In March, I spent spring break with my good friend Kenya. We enjoyed two great weekends of partying in New York, but  traveled for the week to San Francisco  [Her first visit ever, and my first since my family visited in the Christmas of 1990! How proud we were to have survived the nine days without tiff or argument. She also got to meet my mom’s side of my family.] Later that month, Kenya and I collaborated on a line for the student fashion show. We named the collection Yana and had our friends model for us on the runway, aka the aisle of our famous chapel. In the same month, I performed at my only iSpeak show at Wheaton, a spoken word piece called “Sold.” Brought a bit of the grit from home into the comforts of a college campus.

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In April, I became an aunt. My first niece, Hannah was born in Manila – earlier than expected, so Mom didn’t have to miss her birth to come visit me! I had my first appearance in an art gallery. Our senior art show of studio art majors opened on the 24th, entitled Ars Long Vita Brevis. It was the product of our class’ senior seminar that semester, but I had been working on drawing dancers since the spring of 2011. There were nineteen of us, each with our own medium and our own story. I was so grateful to have scored half of the front wall for the exhibition for my large drawings on canvas (each about 5×6′).

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In May, I received a surprise award at Honors convocation, the Lillian Hellman Prize in Theater and Dance Studies. I performed at Weber Theater for the last time, in my final Dance Company show, called Sincerely. My senior solo involved a beautiful “homemade” swing, made just for me (Thank you Jeff Grapko for building it and Clinton O’Dell for all the scrap fabric you supplied me with!) and accompanied by some of my favorite cello music. (I danced my strongest in that show. I will never forget what it felt like to perform those last few nights and how during my senior solo, all I wanted to was pour all the gratitude I felt out of my heart. I wanted to stop the music, turn on the house lights and just shout thank you thank you thank you over and over again. In the audience each night were some of the most important people of my Wheaton life. Friends, professors and for the first time ever – my mom!) I was so privileged to have been co-captain of the Dance Company for two straight  years and to have had choreography in seven out of eight of my shows.

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In May I also turned 23. Mom cooked a Filipino birthday dinner so I could celebrate with my friends. This is the first birthday I’ve celebrated with her since I turned 17. Mom also got to meet some of the most important people in my life at college. In May, the awful goodbyes also commenced. But on a sunny day in that same month, I also graduated magna cum laude from Wheaton College, and barefoot too!

In June, I enjoyed a slow summer. I traveled around the east coast, taking my time to say goodbye but also meeting my friend’s families. I slept in a new bed every couple of days, none of them my very own. When I wasn’t traveling, I sat a house with my good friend Erin, who was to be married just days before I flew out of the country. I ran regularly, in short spurts, and did yoga in the living room. I also sold my art for the first time, to a man who bought one of my senior pieces for his young daughter, also a dancer. I wrote lots of letters and mailed them, thank-you’s and goodbyes.

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In July, I became a licensed Zumba instructor. I finished up my great summer of traveling that took me  across the states of Massachusetts, Pennsylvania  Rhode Island, Maine, New York and New Jersey. Specifically Providence, Swarthmore, Brunswick, Bath, Woolwich, Cumberland, New Brunswick, Wildswood, Revere, Carver, Newport, Naragansett, Harlem, Manhattan, Plymouth, Harvard Square, Cranes Beach, Brookline, Martha’s Vineyard, Sagamore Beach, and yes, good ol’ Norton, among other places. [Again, a HUGE thank you to everyone who opened their home to me, who drove me from here to there, who joined me for a meal, or shared a story with me. How rich you made my summer!] My dad got really sick while I was traveling, roughly a week before I left for home. A very very close call. Also that month, my student visa in the US officially expired and I moved back to the Philippines for the foreseeable future.

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In August, I got hired at the Paper Project Inc. My brother got married and I gained a new sister! I also left  behind my old loved and treasured blog, and began this new one. This month too, I felt the weight of transitioning to a familiar but changed place, as an older and also changed me.

In September, we organized Buhay Makulay’s 6th annual children’s fair at San Lazaro Hospital Manila. It was a beautiful day with the children! I also began writing again, and took time to send poems to friends for critique. I revamped the room in the house that I’ve been using as a makeshift dance studio. I repainted the walls, moved all my art materials in there, but kept the floor for dancing too. I also began teaching 4th grade Sunday School!

September

In October, I missed autumn. Dad had a BIG NUMBER birthday and the big sister came for a visit. I choreographed and performed at UCM’s Got Talent. I taught Zumba at my biggest event yet – over 300 people!

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In November, I performed spoken word at the International Justice Mission’s annual prayer gathering. I collaborated on a sermon on the grace of giving and got to dance during all three services at church. I began playing piano again and discovered that I could compose music, a little bit. Buhay Makulay hosted its first Young Women’s Fair at a local government shelter for girls. We collaborated with a corporate group for the first time too. This month I also took running more seriously.

November

In December, I ran a special two week advent program for our ladies at work. I felt in my element.  I also made my way back into the dance studio by way of the dance classes at PlanaForma! I put up the Christmas tree, almost completely on my own and for the first time ever, I did all the lights too (used to be the brother’s job!) It was our first Christmas without the older sister, but our first Christmas with baby Hannah. Our house finally got a new tree, and also new Christmas stockings! For everyone including baby Ellie, whom we still patiently await to be born.

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Thank you, 2012 for teaching me many, many lessons. You challenged me, in more ways than expected – in my integrity, my loyalty, my faith, my leadership, my perseverance and the quality of my work. You have also challenged my artistry, my creativity, my writing, my dancing, my athleticism, my confidence.  This year, though at times I have felt sad, lost, weak or simply like I was floating along, I choose  to give greater value to the many times in which I felt loved, respected, cared for, acknowledged, rewarded, encouraged, honored and remembered. Thankfully, many were those moments. I’ve also had my share of mistakes and setbacks, but  I know I have learned from each one. And I am learning still.

2012 has brought into my heart so many lovely people – too many that I have had to leave, but so many whom I continue to cherish in my heart. 2012 has also brought me home to my family. Quite significantly this year, God has showed me how He is so graciously and lovingly writing my story. In the past twelve months, I have been overwhelmed by the abundance of opportunity that has come my way – despite my stubbornness and despite my weaknesses. I have been carried through another great year. Couldn’t have done it without You, God!  Thank you 2012, you will most certainly be remembered. You’re going to be a tough one to beat, but 2013 sure is going to try!