Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Mark's Survival Story

"Seawater coming in from the windows, not the door; all seeping in to the house that there's not a single moment available to grab a few things. All are being drowned. And my instinct was to save myself and my housemates."

The Hit
The news about the typhoon was not unusual. From the moment I set foot on my area as a medical representative, Tacloban City, typhoons have been introduced as part of my normal daily life. I've experienced floods and got some of my things soaked, but that's it. After drying them all, things were back to normal. I personally never thought that this "super typhoon" really means the superlative used in its name. 

Haiyan or Yolanda from space as it approaches PH.
Photo courtesy of washingtonpost.com
November 8 was just an ordinary rainy morning. News said that the storm surge might occur but the word "storm surge" was not explained in a way that normal people can easily digest. During the wee hours, the wind began to blow hard as if there were people walking on the roof. This woke me up at around 5am. Although it's still too early, I decided not to sleep anymore and have a feel of what's happening. A couple of hours later, things started to become denser. At around 7am, I decided to check on my car that was parked several meters from our door and it seemed fine, at that moment. The instance I walked back to the house, things were submerged in water already. It has rose in a very fast pacemy things all wet. The water was not seeping from the floor like the usual flood; they were entering through the windows as if someone was intentionally pushing it inside. In a few minutes the depth of water was more than what we can bare, pass my height and even going higher. This made me and my housemates go to a more secured place, the ceiling. I went there first and pulled my house mates one by one. When we thought all was okay, I fell back to the raging water. Good thing they were able to get hold of me. There I lost my mobile phone, the only way to let my family in Manila know that I am surviving, that I was okay. But survival is more important. My housemates pulled me up. Bruised, wounded, soaked and worried, all I can do is stare and witness the water engulf my things—the television, my clothes, my office promotional materials, my personal things. For hours, I waited in the ceiling, praying that the water will subside. For three hours I uncomfortably sit in the ceiling floor, waiting for the noise created by the super typhoon to mellow down, waiting for the water not to continue rising and go back to the sea. The agony was too long that I never thought it was only three hours, because it felt so much longer.   

This is the amateur video taken by my friend: 

When water was out, my housemates and I went out of the house and shock came to me. My car sat on top of my house mate's car and the surrounding was a total mess. I thought it was only in movies that I would be able to see a total devastation like that but I am seeing reality right before my very eyes. I am one of the few walking on the street, seeing all houses crumbled down to the earth, looking at others who were as shocked as I am. Dead bodies under debris were like a normal scenario in the place where I normally see family members happily talking to each other. Nothing was left standing; all has kissed and embraced the earth where it belongs.

The Survival
In a different compound where our friends who are also medical representatives are staying was the place we targeted to go to, to check on them. No vehicle, no anything. We were on foot for one hour. The walk could have been lesser if there was not much blockages on the way, and not much emotions brought by cries, confusion and death around me. 

On our way, I saw a noodle container van that has fallen open. On devastation like that, food is needed for survival. I acted easily. I squeezed myself in the container van, as what the people already there are doing, grab a good number of noodles and brought it to our neighbour’s house. They needed it. And from there, I continued to walk to our friend's place. Our friends were fortunate to have survived like us. That same night, news has spread that there will be a tsunami. As a way of survival, we walked to the mountains for about half an hour. It's literally climbing to the muddy soil until we reached the top of the mountain. We made sure it was too high a place for the water not to hit. Stayed there for couple of hours and started walking back down around midnight when we realized that the tsunami won't even occur.

We stayed in that house, all 13 of us, for four days. Four days that would mean our lives. Our days were filled with challenges to survive. Our group were divided with assigned tasks for what we should do daily. I volunteered to loot from different container vans—noodles, canned goods and stuffswe can use to survive. I got bruises and more scratches but who cares if this is the only way I can help to supply our needs? At night, we guard the house from robbers because they would literally sneak on our roofs to get stuffs to eat. Some would really pick a fight just to have foods. That's how hard it was to survive. No fresh clothes, less food, more need to protect myself from other people who were scavenging for foods and to protect the 12 other people I was with. Four days was way too exhausting. Each day that came would give me more wounds that can't be treated at that very instant, the streets will be filled with stronger smell of decaying human flesh and people around have increased anxiety of almost helplessness in the whole town.

If you can't loot, you won't have food. If you won't guard your house, prisoners who have fled from the wrecked prison can take all your survival goods from you. If you will stay shocked, you will die soon. Each day I needed to wake up in the wee hours of the morning to start looking for food. Days where I have to be as alert as I can be and be ready to flight to a place especially if the flight means stepping closer to being out of that devastated city.

The Flight
Although network is down, news spread in the area like fire. November 11, Monday, we have heard from other (medical) representatives that we can ride in C130 and be brought out of Tacloban. We walked for one hour, with just our clothes sticking to our body. I can't help but still be shocked with more deaths around me. And their smell will really make one sick. But we have to move on.

Upon reaching the airport, we told people there that our respective companies will help us. This does not have much bearing since there are a lot of people lined, waiting for that chance to be transported using the C130, same goal as ours, just to get out of there the fastest way possible. It was a blessing that one of our friends is a family of a retired Major. This made things easier and in the afternoon, we are on our way to Cebu, leaving behind the tragedy that almost brought us to our graves.

The New Life
Monday night, my foot landed on Cebu with a feeling of freedom and relief from the incident that almost engulfed me to death. I was there without anything but myself and the clothes I have worn for several days already. The Cebu medical representative, Carlo Ramirez, picked me up from the airport, brought me to Chong Hua Hospital and I was checked and injected with tetanus toxoid. The scratches in my body were treated at last. Sir Ryan Miro brought me his clothes so that I can change; they (Carlo, Joseph and Ryan) brought me to a restaurant to eat. At around 10pm, I get to talk to my boss, Sir Charles Guansing and Sir Mike Escobar and even to our General Manager Stephane Langevin. I even get to hear my family and friends and assure them that I am alright. I was so relieved. That same night, I got a real bath and get to put on borrowed but clean clothes, I get to eat a complete dinner and I get to lie down on a comfortable bed. That was the end of the tragic event.

From L to R: Carlo, Joseph, Mark, Ryan
Photo courtesy of Ryan Miro.
Tuesday, November 12, I had a meeting with the Cebu team and my counterparts on how we should handle these things that happened to me. Sir Gene discussed to me how Abbott can give me financial assistance. Then in the afternoon, I get to buy fresh clothes for myself. Sir Ryan accompanied me.

On my two days of staying in the hotel and waiting for my IDs to be processed by HRD, and my plane tickets to be released, I still can't get those things out of my head. I can't sleep well. I am happy that I have survived but I shed tears to people who I once talked to but were already dead and some could have not been identified. I cried while watching the news, seeing previous neighbours looking for relatives. I still woke up at 3am, because my body clock is telling me that I should start to hunt for food, even if I really don't have to do it. It was as if those four days was stretched to one whole year of pain and hardship. But the thought I would never forget is that I was blessed. Blessed to be alive and breathing, blessed to be back to the arms of my family, blessed to be being taken care of Abbott with a continuous job.

Wednesday, November 13, I flew back to Manila. Sir Ryan and Carlo brought me to Cebu airport while Sir Gene Bituin picked me up from the NAIA airport and brought me to the main office. My boss gets to personally check on me: Sir Mike Escobar, Miss Mel Tan, HRD and GM Stephane Langevin. After that, I was even brought home, back to my family. At last, I am home.

From L to R: Mark's dad, Mark and his nephew, his Mom, sister &Tita
Photo courtesy of Cris Molina.
That was a phase of my life that made me stronger, making me value things more. This is a reminder that I was made for a purpose. Life goes on as I continue to be the Mark Anthony Lagran that gives my service to people and give my life all to God.

Note: I wrote this as narrated by the survivor and my friend, Mark Lagran.

Monday, July 1, 2013

The Peanut Butter and The Cookie Butter

It’s been almost two months already since I saw from a friend's post on a peanut butter that seems to be gaining too much spotlight. Its looks like a peanut butter but it's called Speculoos Cookie Butter. Isn't it a peanut butter? When you look at it, you won't really see the difference. I'm wondering, how will they differ if they look like each other?

One day, I saw a post from my Facebook friend that she sells this cookie butter thing. My curiosity was stirred because many people from the same company I work for keeps on commenting for reservations. Hmmm, there could be something 'distinctive' about it that makes others run after it. So I decided to PM this friend and ask for the price (since I'm several weeks from a major vacation for the year, I have to see if this is within my budget). And she gave details and with lots of encouragement from blogs and posts I saw on the internet, I placed my order. Just one bottle. Even if it's out of budget *bleh*

There were too many days before I get hold of it. I thought I'm not going to have it at all. After a week and a half, it sat on my bag and waited to be tasted :)

Peanut Butter Lover

I so love peanut butter. I don't know why. I prefer it the creamy style (I don't like too many crunches) and spread thickly on top of my bread after a layer of butter. 
Sometimes I add another fruit jam on top. I can take peanut butter as is, on a spoon, as a dessert or snack. And monthly, it should be present on my grocery list. Honestly I prefer Peter Pan over the rest of the peanut butter in the market. I sometimes shift to Skippy, but it's just the two of them. I don't really patronize much locally made (sorry, sorry, I cant blame my taste buds!). With too much adoration (I'm exaggerating) to peanut butter, how will I welcome the cookie butter? The one they say "better" than my favorite?

The Cookie Butter

Available in CRUNCHY variety.
 I like CREAMY though  Ü
Hmm. First and foremost, it smells yummy. And it still looks as a peanut butter to me. Since it's mine, my sister who removed the freshness foil, gave me the honour to taste it first. It was like a slow-motion. Ha-ha! It's so smooth, and creamy but light, and all the taste of butter cookies paraded in my taste buds like it's the feast of St. Patrick!
It's like Nagaraya that says once you pop; it's really hard to stop. That’s what happened when I started eating my Speculoos Cookie butter. I just have to remind myself whenever I want to get a teaspoon after the other that it is expensive. That makes me somehow stop and reserve more for the next few days it will stay in my cupboard *wink*.

Peanut butter is one of my most favourite things in the world but it has met an equal product to share its place in my heart, cookie butter. There might be some other spreads out there that can really beat the taste of my two favourites. I can try them, they might be a good competitor to my taste buds' best friends but nothing can still beat the originals. :)

Message Loud and Clear

Depending on the VOHS (Voice of the Holy Spirit) calendar, there will be around one to two LSS (Life in the Spirit Seminar) held in a year. 

VOHS is my Catholic charismatic prayer community for more than three years now. The lay people call communities like this as "Alive, Alive" because people who attend these groups raise their hands, dance and usually sing the song "Alive, alive, alive forevermore" thus the name "Alive, Alive". But for me, it is not offending at all because in there, we are really alive in the Word of the Lord and in the Spirit of God. 

LSS is the activity we do to fish men, to share to them the care other people gave us, those people who invited us to know God deeper and actively serve Him. We intend to share with them how bountiful and real God's love is. 

Last June 22 and 23 was the first LSS for the year held in Manila (we also do LSS in Cavite and Marinduque). Thought the week has been really toxic for me because of gazillion jobs I attended to after a 4-day leave, still I have to do my part on the LSS, to do the talk on God's Love. (I wont give the details on this blog though. I want you to experience it by yourself. You may contact me for details)

Anyway, my talk went well through the guidance of the Lord. He put the proper words into my mouth to be able to share to the group He has called how loving He is. How true His words are, how deep his affection is for each of His people. 

God's called people in the St. Filomena and Padre Pio Chapel 
I knew God has used me well when I saw the eyes of my brothers and sisters with tears building, then falling. Initially they were looking at me and later on they looked where they should be looking, the Cross. Then I felt they are already talking to God, to Jesus. Then I lead them in prayer. 

After this, I just smiled and praised God. I am just an instrument, a mouthpiece. All that happens is His will, His plan. I am excited to do this again and again and again. 

Many times I have attended the LSS but this is the first time God gave me this message of truth and assurance that I am His child. I am His Stacy.

"Nothing you confess can make me love you less" ~God's Love

"I gave up the love of my son for your Love" ~Salvation 

"I came so that you may have life, life in all its fullness" ~New Life

"I will listen to your songs of praise forever" ~Praise and Worship

"The gift I have given is for the purpose you were made for" ~Receiving God's Gift

"Receive the Holy Spirit and be renewed" ~Baptism of the Holy Spirit

"You are a seed thrown in good soil" ~Growth

"Your heart of stone is now a heart of flesh" ~Transformation

May you always feel and be filled with the Love of God. This is my prayer through Jesus Christ, Amen. 

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Daniel's Gloves

This is a usual working day until I checked my personal e-mail and find a message from my elder in the Charismatic community where I belong. Because time allows, I read on the short story and I didn't expect it would give much impact! And I am sharing it with you so that you can feel the wonderful feeling I felt :)

Daniel's Gloves

I sat, with two friends, in the picture window of a quaint restaurant just off the corner of the town-square. The food and the company were both especially good that day.

As we talked, my attention was drawn outside, across the street. There, walking into town, was a man who appeared to be carrying all his worldly goods on his back. He was carrying, a well-worn sign that read, 'I will work for food.' My heart sank.

I brought him to the attention of my friends and noticed that others around us had stopped eating to focus on him.. Heads moved in a mixture of sadness and disbelief.

We continued with our meal, but his image lingered in my mind. We finished our meal and went our separate ways. I had errands to do and quickly set out to accomplish them. I glanced toward the town square, looking somewhat halfheartedly for the strange visitor. I was fearful, knowing that seeing him again would call some response. I drove through town and saw nothing of him. I made some purchases at
a store and got back in my car.

Deep within me, the Spirit of God kept speaking to me: 'Don't go back to the office until you've at least driven once more around the square.'

Then with some hesitancy, I headed back into town. As I turned the square's third corner, I saw him. He was standing on the steps of the church, going through his sack.

I stopped and looked; feeling both compelled to speak to him, yet wanting to drive on. The empty parking space on the corner seemed to be a sign from God: an invitation to park. I pulled in, got out and approached the town's newest visitor.

'Looking for the pastor?' I asked.

'Not really,' he replied, 'just resting.'

'Have you eaten today?'

'Oh, I ate something early this morning.'

'Would you like to have lunch with me?'

'Do you have some work I could do for you?'

'No work,' I replied 'I commute here to work from the city, but I would like to take you to lunch.'

'Sure,' he replied with a smile.

As he began to gather his things, I asked some surface questions. Where you headed?'

St. Louis '

'Where you from?'

'Oh, all over;

mostly Florida ..'

'How long you been walking?'

'Fourteen years,' came the reply.

I knew I had met someone unusual. We sat across from each other in the same restaurant I had left earlier. His face was weathered slightly beyond his 38 years. His eyes were dark yet clear, and he spoke with an eloquence and articulation that was startling He removed his jacket to reveal a bright red T-shirt that said, 'Jesus is The Never Ending Story.'

Then Daniel's story began to unfold. He had seen rough times early in life. He'd made some wrong choices and reaped the consequences. Fourteen years earlier, while backpacking across the country, he had stopped on the beach in Daytona... He tried to hire on with some men who were putting up a large tent and some equipment. A concert, he thought.

He was hired, but the tent would not house a concert but revival services, and in those services he saw life more clearly. He gave his life over to God

'Nothing's been the same since,' he said, 'I felt the Lord telling me to keep walking, and so I did, some 14 years now.'

'Ever think of stopping?' I asked.

'Oh, once in a while, when it seems to get the best of me But God has given me this calling. I give out Bibles, That's what's in my sack. I work to buy food and Bibles, and I give them out when His Spirit leads.'

I sat amazed. My homeless friend was not homeless. He was on a mission and lived this way by choice. The question burned inside for a moment and then I asked: 'What's it like?'


'To walk into a town carrying all your things on your back and to show your sign?'

'Oh, it was humiliating at first. People would stare and make comments. Once someone tossed a piece of half-eaten bread and made a gesture that certainly didn't make me feel welcome. But then it became humbling to realize that God was using me to touch lives and change people's concepts of other folks like me.'

My concept was changing, too. We finished our dessert and gathered his things. Just outside the door, he paused He turned to me and said, 'Come Ye blessed of my Father and inherit the kingdom I've prepared for you. For when I was hungry you gave me food, when I was thirsty you gave me drink, a stranger and you took me in.'

I felt as if we were on holy ground. 'Could you use another Bible?' I asked.

He said he preferred a certain translation. It traveled well and was not too heavy. It was also his personal favorite.. 'I've read through it 14 times,' he said.

'I'm not sure we've got one of those, but let's stop by our church and see' I was able to find my new friend a Bible that would do well, and he seemed very grateful.

'Where are you headed from here?' I asked.

'Well, I found this little map on the back of this amusement park coupon.'

'Are you hoping to hire on there for a while?'

'No, I just figure I should go there. I figure someone under that star right there needs a Bible, so that's where I'm going next.'

He smiled, and the warmth of his spirit radiated the sincerity of his mission. I drove him back to the town-square where we'd met two hours earlier, and as we drove, it started raining. We parked and unloaded his things.

'Would you sign my autograph book?' he asked... 'I like to keep messages from folks I meet.'

I wrote in his little book that his commitment to his calling had touched my life. I encouraged him to stay strong. And I left him with a verse of scripture from Jeremiah, 'I know the plans I have for you, declared the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you; Plans to give you a future and a hope.'

'Thanks, man,' he said. 'I know we just met and we're really just strangers, but I love you.'

'I know,' I said, 'I love you, too.' 'The Lord is good!'

'Yes, He is. How long has it been since someone hugged you?' I asked.

A long time,' he replied

And so on the busy street corner in the drizzling rain, my new friend and I embraced, and I felt deep inside that I had been changed. He put his things on his back, smiled his winning smile and said, 'See you in the New Jerusalem.'

'I'll be there!' was my reply.

He began his journey again. He headed away with his sign dangling from his bedroll and pack of Bibles. He stopped, turned and said, 'When you see something that makes you think of me, will you pray for me?'

'You bet,' I shouted back, 'God bless.'

'God bless.' And that was the last I saw of him.

Late that evening as I left my office, the wind blew strong. The cold front had settled hard upon the town. I bundled up and hurried to my car. As I sat back and reached for the emergency brake, I saw them... a pair of well-worn brown work gloves neatly laid over the length of the handle. I picked them up and thought of my friend and wondered if his hands would stay warm that night without them.

Then I remembered his words: 'If you see something that makes you think of me, will you pray for me?'

Today his gloves lie on my desk in my office.. They help me to see the world and its people in a new way, and they help me remember those two hours with my unique friend and to pray for his ministry. 'See you in the New Jerusalem,' he said. Yes, Daniel, I know I will...

'I shall pass this way but once. Therefore, any good that I can do or any kindness that I can show, let me do it now, for I shall not pass this way again.'

I know you will share this to others too! Not because I tell you to do so but because you want to inspire others as how this story inspires you. :) God bless you!


Tuesday, April 16, 2013

In HIS Time

Dear Stacy,
All things will work for your good. Messes. Pain. Accidents. Hurts.  Sickness. Failures. Mishaps. Even your sins of the past. Because when I say “All things”, I mean ALL THINGS.


P.S. Watch how, Stacy. Watch and be mesmerized!

If a message like this will come from God, then why should I worry of failures? 
Why should I be bothered of heart aches? Why  should I make mishaps a big deal?

All things has reason. Everything happens for a reason. And everything has a time. 
As said in Ecclesiastes 3, Everything that happens in this world happens at the time God chooses:

  a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
    a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,

    a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,

    a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,

    a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,

    a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,

    a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace.

So savor the pain, feel the heartache, embrace the hurt and breathe in that mess. 

For God is brewing something "all for you" -- a promotion, a vacation, winning a raffle, a new gadget! 

Or it could be a reconciliation to a long lost love, a peace of mind, contentment of the heart. Or you might feel Him hugging you or hear His voice in a way you never hear Him before. 

Just Trust. He knows Best.

Patiently Trusting Him, 

Disclaimer: Photo is not owned by the blogger. 

To The Symphony of my life...

Dear Father, 

In awe and reverence I bow down to You
The faithful shepherd who found me when I was lost.
In the darkness where I cannot see
You are the light that guided me.

When trouble comes, I called and I’m saved
When I raise my hand in prayer, I’m blessed
My soul will feast and be satisfied
And will sing glad songs of praise to You.

The world will break my heart
But You will stitch it anew
My songs will be out of tune
But Your melody will continue

Use me as Your mouthpiece, I willingly abide
Guide me in leading your people to Your side.
May prosperity last as long as a new day shines
and every time I praise and lift Your name on High.
Listen Lord as I shout with mighty roar
As I proclaim who You are in me.

God, my symphony
Yes Father, You are my symphony
Lord, You are The Symphony
You bring symphony to my life.

Father, make me worthy to be Your servant
Cleanse me and make me as white as snow
Make me a vessel of Your immeasurable love
I am yours my Majesty, my King, my God.

And when the day comes that my time is up
Bring me to the place where the language is LOVE
The end goal of life, but an eternal beginning
A place once a dream but with You it is real.

Father hold my hand, never let me go. 
Fiat Voluntas Tua, Your will be done on me
That is my prayer to You my Lord
I am Yours, I am only for You, I trust You and I love You.

Your Servant, Your Friend, Your Child, 

Artist: Amalia Suruceanu Art