eastwind journals18 Dec 2014 06:39 am

SUNSET GIRL a christmas story

SUNSET GIRL a christmas story
The Tycoon and the Teenager
eastwind journals 145


By Bernie V. Lopez


An outfit in Sidney, Australia, wants to expand this copyrighted screenplay and make it into a movie. A Pilipino version is being considered by a Philippine outfit.  Perhaps some of you have read this from a previous post. It is our fourth and final Christmas story. It is an excerpt from an upcoming book entitled Ten Wisdoms of the Lord Prayer.


imagine a mouse leading a lion
an elephant submitting to an ant
a sage learning from a child
a general using the battle plan of a private
a nerd inspiring a visionary
a goon sanctifying a bishop
a tycoon listening to a teenager
irony of ironies
Terence is a self-made tycoon. From rags to riches. He is called by newspapers as “The Octopus,” head of a multi-billion conglomerate which has his tentacles on almost everything from utilities to telecommunications, computers to cars, shampoo to ice cream. You name it, he owns it. He is in his late sixties, gray-haired, quick-tempered, bossy, and vicious. He is called covertly in the office as ‘Hitler”. Everyone is scared of him.


His office is as big as half a basketball court, with a glass wall-window having a panoramic view of the sunset on the west side of Midtown Manhattan. His desk is as large as a pool table, glass and chrome, with only one folder and six cellphones on top, nothing else. He starts his day at 7 a.m. As the sun turns red-orange across the Hudson River, he drops everything and begins to relax. There is a knock at the door. Just like in the story of Ebenezer Scrooge, it is the day before Christmas.


TERENCE – Yes. Come in Lisa. I know its you.
LISA – (Nervously). Sir, this is Therese, the new hire you requested.
TERENCE – Hi Therese. Welcome. Sit down. That will be all, Lisa. Thank you. (Lisa leaves. Therese sits without a word).
TERENCE – I have a bad name of being vicious. Deep inside, I am really vicious. It’s my nature. Don’t be afraid.
THERESE – I am not afraid. That’s a beautiful sunset.
TERENCE – You seem to be at home right away. I like that. Nobody is at home in this office when I am around. I am normally addressed as sir.
THERESE – Would you like a little exception?
TERENCE – (A bit shocked). Whoow. That’s good for a starter. And for what reason?
THERESE – It may be a good change of air for you. I mean, don’t you get tired of people at your feet? It’s about time you meet an equal.
TERENCE – Whoow. An equal. Wow. I could fire you right this minute for insolence. 
THERESE – (Calmly and with a smile). Go ahead. I can take it. You want me to go?
TERENCE – Whoow. This is getting better and better. You are interesting. How old are you?
THERESE – Nineteen. Believe me, it’s good to talk to an equal for a change.
TERENCE – And what is your position in this office?
THERESE – I was told I am the assistant to the third assistant Secretary. It’s my first day. I was told you hired me because you wanted a “sunset girl” to help you relax when the day is done. That’s an easy job. I like it. I have a talent in relaxing people. And I hate office work. That’s the reason I took this job.
TERENCE – And you call us equals?
THERESE – Yes. The only difference between us is you’re rich and I am not. That’s to your advantage. But your are old and I am young. That’s to my advantage. Pretty even, wouldn’t you say? We will both die one day. I might even die before you.
TERENCE – And what is your secret in relaxing people.
THERESE – (Shrugging her shoulders). Oh, I don’t know. My smile, the way I talk. I’m just me.
TERENCE – (Leafing through her biodata). Hmmm. Summa cum laude, Boston U. Top of the class. Marine biology. You’re actually way off the mark, do you know that?
THERESE – Not really. I minored in Banking and Finance. You could use me. Aside from sunset duty, I am a genius in finance. Wanna try me?
TERENCE – I have a dozen senior analysts who can do finance while sleeping.
THERESE – Then let’s stick to the sunset.
TERENCE – I hired you because, first you’re at the top of your class, second, your personality test shows you’re an intellectual rebel, and third, you have no experience. Good mix. I want a young bright kid I can talk to at the end of the day.
THERESE – About what precisely?
TERENCE – Oh I don’t know, anything – corporate, business or even philosophy. I also need someone who is out-of-the-box, a non-corporate person, a tabula rasa. You know what tabula rasa means?
THERESE -Terence, may I call you Terence?
TERENCE – You already did.
THERESE – Terence, don’t insult me please. We just met. You said I was a summa, right? Why ask a stupid question. Tabula rasa. You want someone who is pure of heart, not tinted, not biased, no scars, a blank piece of paper, right?
TERENCE – Bulls eye.
THERESE – You want an intellectual rebel. You’re tired of half of your VPs being intellectually subservient. You are basically surrounded by yes people, bright ones and not-so-bright ones.
TERENCE – There are a few brains here and there, but you’re right, most are a bunch of yes-men. Your first task is to tell me your first impression of me.
THERESE – I don’t think you are really an ass-hole. You’re just pretending to be. You’re not really vicious. But for me, you’re pretense is a miserable failure. Maybe you’re just insecure deep inside, which no one seems to have discerned.
TERENCE – Have you discerned it?
THERESE – I’m not sure. I feel your soft spot though. You try hard to hide it for fear it would be discovered. And that would make you feel naked. You did not mind my insolence. That’s the first soft spot. You are in despair to talk to someone who is an equal. That’s the second soft spot. You’re lonely as an emperor. But then again maybe you are afraid of equals. It’s a complex mix. You are threatened by me when I said we are equals, and yet you welcome it.
TERENCE – Wait, you’re putting me on the defensive.
THERESE – Then don’t be. I think you sort of wanted a “sunset girl” with no scars for a good reason. You see, you know I’m not like your other secretaries and assistant secretaries because I don’t care. You have no hold on me. That’s a nice feeling for me, and for you also, isn’t it? You want me to defy you, I mean, for a change.
TERENCE – Do you feel my despair?
THERESE – Obvious from the minute I entered the room. So let me be your “sunset girl” for a week. If you don’t like it, fire me. If I don’t like it I resign.


Therese stands up, goes to the wall, pushes a button, and a mini-bar appears. She puts brandy on two goblets and gets two glasses of iced water, puts them on a tray, and places them on Terence’s table. She turns to him.


THERESE – May I join you.
TERENCE – Stupid question. You brought two glasses.
THERESE – Ooops. Sorry. Brandy. Iced water on the side.
TERENCE – Lisa told you?
THERESE – She is a good girl. Meticulous to your needs. Cheers. For the Christmas season.


Glasses clink. They both approach the window and look at lesser skyscrapers silhouetted against the now-deep-red horizon. Terence hands a pair of binoculars to Therese. He gulps his brandy in one shot. Therese sips hers. They watch a seagull against the sunset.


THERESE – You don’t gulp brandy. You sip it. I think I struck a bad chord in you.



TERENCE – Yup, you did. Without showing you finance and market data, do you think I should buy Daily Globe? Let’s see what your tabula rasa summa cum laude brain will say.
THERESE – What for? You have everything. It’s just to satisfy your greed. Oops, I don’t mean to be rude. I mean your ego. Oops, I mean your …. your …. (Pause). What the heck. Let’s not call a spade a clover. Let’s not be polite. Let’s lay our cards on the table. It’s your ego and greed, Terence. I am sorry to say. I mean, what do you want a newspaper for, to project your image? Power? Fame? Your image is over-projected already. I mean you were on the cover of Time Magazine three months ago, and Fortune Magazine four months before that. You’ve been on the covers, what, six times in the last what, four years?
TERENCE – Seven times. (Laughs uncontrollably). Now I feel good.
THERESE – You feel good being stripped bare by a teenager from nowhere? Bare naked truth? I feel good myself.
TERENCE – Yeah, feels good. I was right getting a sunset girl. So what do I do?
THERESE – Do you have to do anything? I mean can’t you stop? Stop acquiring. Stop merging. Stop this obsession for your empire. You’re busy but you’re bored. It has excited you all your life, but not anymore. You are addicted to it, like morphine to a cancer patient. You need to detoxify. You need to go cold turkey.
TERENCE – If I drop everything, I will get bored.
THERESE – Not really, if you have some imagination.
TERENCE – You know we have been talking for 30 minutes and for the first time, you’re changing me, my life.
THERESE – Sunset girls do that.
TERENCE – This has been bothering me for a long time.
THERESE – I know. I read so many articles about you as soon as I got accepted here. I can see through you. You are naked to me, Terence. You better believe it. All this velvet under your feet is nothing to you.
TERENCE – I have seen three shrinks in the last two months.


Terence breaks down without shame, the Octopus, the Hitler sheds tears for the first time in a long long while. Therese gets the bottle of brandy and fills the two goblets to the brim.


THERESE – Yup, that’s the first step. Tears. Very medicinal.
TERENCE – This is not the way to drink brandy, Therese.
THERESE – Sorry. I’m getting carried away. Okay okay. (She goes to the bar and pours tequila into two small glasses. They gulp it instantly). Shrinks can’t help you, Terence. You are opaque to these guys because they do not understand what makes you tick. They go through the motions of knowing you, but they don’t. They just want your money.
TERENCE – And you know what makes me tick.
THERESE – Yeah, I do. I felt it in my bones the moment I came in. That is why you don’t scare me. Now, maybe I scare you.
TERENCE – So what do I do, Therese. C’mon “sunset girl.”
THERESE – You won’t like what I will tell you.
TERENCE – For heaven’s sake.
THERESE – Okay. Can I put it straight.
TERENCE – Wait. More tequila.
THERESE – Now you’re talking.


She takes the bottle of tequila and fills the glasses. They are emptied instantly. She pours again. But just as Terence is about to have a second gulp, Therese pulls the glass away.


THERESE – Wait wait wait. Here me out first.
TERENCE – Okay. What?
THERESE – Get rid of your empire. Give it away. That’s the only way you get out of your rut.
TERENCE –My empire a rut? You’re kidding.
THERESE – Yes, your empire a rut and you’re drowning in it. (There is silence. Terence yanks the glass from Therese and both down the tequila). I mean your sixty eight, right? You’re in the pre-departure area,right. Tell me, have you ever thought you would die soon?
TERENCE – That’s what I have been telling these shrinks. And they would argue against it and I would hate them for being hypocrites. They just wanted to be paid. This has been haunting me for the last four years, the thought of death.
THERESE – What good is your empire when you can’t take it with you. Sell half of it. Give it way to whomever. Do you believe in God?
TERENCE – I do. I do.
THERESE – You should, if you’re in the pre-departure area. You know there is this Jesuit saint, Francis Xavier, who said, “What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world, but suffers the loss of his immortal soul?”
TERENCE – I was thinking of that actually, burning my empire, but I would not dare. I’m no Nero. And what would I do after?
THERESE – Two key words, Terence  – ‘profit’ and ‘immortal’. St. Francis puts it in corporate jargon, profit. And he compares your puny finite empire to the infinity of your immortal soul. Compared to empires of history, yours is a grain of sand in the Sahara.
TERENCE – Coming from my “sunset girl,” I have just made a decision. Thank you, Therese. Maybe I can put up a foundation to rescue the homeless, give them back their mortgaged houses, how about that? (Therese pours more tequila. They down it in two seconds.)
THERESE – Anything, as long as it’s not for you. It has to be for others. That’s the secret. Are you up to saying a prayer with me? (Without a word, the tycoon falls to his knees in all humility, facing the sunset.) No, no. Don’t kneel. Slouch in your chair and swing it to the sunset. Relax. (Terence does so obediently.) Okay, now, I will pray for both of us. Just sit there and listen. (Long silence.) Lord, teach us, Terence and me, how to give to others. Especially Terence, Lord, since he has so much to give. (Long silence.)
TERENCE – Go on, go on.
THERESE – Done. Finished. You don’t have to elaborate. He knows. I have to go. It’s late, and I feel whoozy.
TERENCE – Can I take you home? It’s almost Christmas. Aren’t you going to be with family?
THERESE – No, no. I live three blocks away. I live alone.
TERENCE – But you feel whoozy.
THERESE – (Pouring more tequila). I want to walk home after this nice talk with you. I enjoyed it terribly. For the road? (They empty the glasses.)
TERENCE – I will see you tomorrow at sunset?
THERESE – It’s Christmas eve tomorrow. Who are you, Ebenezer Scrooge?


They both laugh until they are in tears.


THERESE – I don’t know. You don’t need me anymore. I gave you your sunset, right?
TERENCE – But you have to help me plan to give my empire away.
THERESE – He will help you. He’s good at that. Just don’t forget to ask Him. I am not good at that. Bye. (She heads for the door.)
TERENCE – Wait, wait. Just in case you don’t come back, here take this.


Terence has a hard time writing the cheque. He had to tear the cheques the first two tries. Finally, he hands a crumpled cheque to Therese. Therese pockets the cheque without looking.


TERENCE – Read the cheque, damn it.
THERESE – (Stops at the door and reads it). You’re kidding. I can’t take this.
TERENCE – You’re doing me a favor. Take the damn cheque. Merry Christmas.
THERESE – (Sobs and leaves). Merry Christmas. I won’t be back.
TERENCE – Hell, drop in sometime?
THERESE – Maybe. Hey, Scrooge. I’m your ghost of Christmas future, ain’t I?
TERENCE – Yeah, you have inspired me. I will see Tiny Tim tomorrow.
THERESE – Great. I’m glad.


The sub-zero wind outside was strong. Therese opens her coat to let the cold in and deaden her drunk state. With the money, Therese bought a modest beach house in Long Island and a second-hand Benz. She bought a second house for her sister to take care of their sick mother in Cape Cod, where she grew up. Terence was envious and bought a nearby beach house in Long Island. Terence drops by Therese’s beach house.


THERESE – Are you following me?
TERENCE – Nope. I’m following Him.
THERESE – Oh. How nice. So we’re both headed His way.


Of course, their houses were facing west. They would watch the sunset together often, especially every Christmas eve, the tycoon and the teenager. Slowly, the corporate empire shrunk, and a new empire loomed at the horizon, bigger and more awesome than the first. Therese died at the age of 22, and Terence had to stay behind as there was a lot to give away. He died at the age of 89. His employees were amazed how Terence was no longer a Hitler. He became gentle and soft-spoken, never lost his temper.


The opposite of pride is humility. Humility, like forgiveness, heals. Pride, like hate, consumes. Therese was a humbling experience for Terence. All his pride, arrogance, and viciousness melted at the hands of the teenage genius. Therese was the cool breeze in Terence’s desert empire, the ghost of Christmas future, the sunset girl, who came like a lightning bolt and then vanished in the blink of an eye. It was a repeat of the Christmas Story of Scrooge, except that Terence was a thousand times richer. Every path of tycoons or teenagers, leads to the Lord.


should my heart not be humble
should my eyes fail to see
should my feet sometimes stumble
on the way, stay with me
like a lamb that in springtime
wandered far from the fold
comes the darkness and the frost
 i get lost, i grow cold
i grow cold, i grow weary
and i know i have sinned
and i go seeking shelter
and i cry in the wind
though i grope and i blunder
and i’m weak and i’m wrong
though the road buckles under
where I walk, walk alone
‘til i find to my wonder
every path leads to Thee
all i can do is pray
stay with me, stay with me
Theme from the movie The Cardinal


For healing, visit www.sisterraquel.com


eastwind journals14 Dec 2014 05:03 am

amazing filipino sailors in europe – true stories of adventure

True Stories of Adventure


eastwind journals 144


By Bernie V. Lopez


fear is the enemy
you must seek danger
for danger will save you
from danger and from fear itself


between reality and imagination
between relevance and absurdity
between ecstasy and agony
between pleasure and pain
between stratospheric highs and subterranean lows
is a lonely, dangerous, exciting road called adventure



At the age of 26, I left New York to embark on an adventure of a lifetime that I dubbed eastwind, hitchhiking 25,000 kilometers for 3 long years, drifting through 18 countries in Europe and North Africa. This was in the mid-70s.


Everywhere I went, I met the amazing daring Filipino sailors in major Atlantic ports – Piraeus, Bremen, Hamburg, Copenhagen, Rotterdam, Amsterdam, you name it. Where the big ports were, the colorful Filipino sailors converged, seeking the razor’s edge. They were at once gentle and violent, lovable and feared. The true stories below are excerpts from a book I subsequently wrote, Wings and Wanderlust – the Art of Discovering Your Inner Self. (send the book as a Christmas gift to friends anywhere in the Philipines, Php450 all postal charges included, received via JRS in 2 to 3 days, no credit card needed. Email request to eastwindreplyctr@gmail.com).


eastwind memoirs 01
This is the true story of two Filipino sailors. The first is a second-officer from a Panamanian ship who invited thousands of Filipinos he did not know to his birthday party in Athens, squandering 5 years of savings in a single night. The second is a US Navy sailor who earned as much money from smuggling contraband as from his salary.




eastwind memoirs 09
This is the story of how a bunch of Filipino sailors smuggled an entertainment girl aboard their ship for thousands of miles, for several months, through dozens of Atlantic ports, without the ship’s captain knowing about it. It is also the story of a sailor who faked his engineering license for 20 years and got away with it. Finally, it tells why Capetown bar girls prefer Filipinos from Japanese or Korean sailors, triggering violent brawls.




eastwind journals11 Dec 2014 07:29 pm

lessons from ruby – ATHENS AT YULE a christmas story

eastwind journals 144


By Bernie Lopez
Permission is granted to re-publish with credits and notification.
Disclaimer – the views in this article are those of the author’s alone.


I make you poor so I can enrich you
I burn your home so you can seek My shelter
I make you sick so you can find My healing
I bring darkness so you can see My light


  • Typhoons, no matter how powerful, are affected by other weather systems. The Northeast Monsoon (local name amihan) pushed Ruby southward, assuring Metro-Manila would not be hit directly. It headed instead for Romblon, then Mindoro.
  • Typhoons which are ‘slow’ or hesitant or stationary are very dangerous because they dump a lot of rain in a particular area, inducing floods, and their winds batter the same area continuously until they move on. The amihan weakened the maximum winds of Ruby from 190 kilometers per hour (kph) to 180. It also slowed down its speed from 16 kilometers kph to 10, or almost half, that is why it lingered longer along its path, bringing more floods and winds. It took longer to go through Romblon and Mindoro. This happened once before right after the Ondoy deluge. Two typhoons affected each other, making their paths unpredictable, but fortunately weakening each other. In a sudden twist of fate, one typhoon weakened into a tropical depression and the other suddenly veered northward towards Japan, sparing Northern Luzon.
  • There were conflicting reports from weather forecasters worldwide. The Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC) in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, an undertaking of the US Navy and Air Force, measured maximum winds reaching up to a staggering 305 to 370 kph when it would hit landfall on Saturday morning, a super-typhoon greater than Yolanda. It predicted Ruby would hit Metro-Manila directly, even showing it in a map. It was good Filipinos read PAGASA data rather than foreign forecasts, because if they read the JTWC bulletin, it would sow instant panic. From the onset, PAGASA denied Ruby was a super-typhoon at 190 kph maximum winds, saying super-typhoons start at 220 kph and above, which discouraged panic. From the onset, the PAGASA map showed Ruby’s path would head for Mindoro, which was what happened.
  • The Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) had the same high estimates – maximum winds of 212 to 370 kph. It also predicted Ruby would move northwest to hit Metro-Manila directly. The Hongkong Observatory (HKO) had a saner estimate of 205 to 220 kph. PAGASA had it at 190 to 205 kph, closer to reality. Forecasters theorize that perhaps, because JTWC records wind speeds every minute, whereas others every 10 minutes, its predictions tended to be higher for some unknown technical reasons. Some observers suspected that JWTC had ‘geopolitical motives’ in intentionally overstating forecasts, which is highly unlikely. The lesson from Ruby is to stick to our local PAGASA, which gives more accurate and more dependable forecasts, even if their equipment is less sophisticated than that at JTWC. After all, PAGASA has been predicting an average of 20 to 25 typhoons every year. They are veterans in weather forecasts and can do their work even in their sleep.
  • These two weather phenomenon makes us ask the question if the Lord is able to change His mind to send us disaster or not based on our prayers. He can perhaps do so by ‘manipulating’ typhoon strength and path through natural weather principles. Did the Lord move Ruby away from Metro-Manila because of our prayers? Did the twin typhoons after Ondoy miss Northern Luzon because of our prayers? Perhaps we will never know, but we can give the benefit of the doubt that prayers indeed can avert disasters.
  • We were not prepared for the power Yolanda wrought on us. But we learned our lessons. We were prepared for Ruby to the hilt. In fact, we were ‘over-prepared’. Metro-Manila had 3,000 people mandatorily placed in refugee centers. The military was on full alert. But the storm never came to Metro-Manila. Ruby’s lesson is two-fold – 1) always be prepared, whether we are spared or not; 2) make prayers always a reflex when we hear typhoon signals. eastwindreplyctr@gmail.com


I arrived in Athens, named after Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom and warfare. I hitched from Bari in Italy, to Dubrovnik in Yugoslavia by boat, slept in the snow (my sleeping bag can take arctic weather) in Skopje, which would later be immersed in the bloody Serbian wars, then down to Athens. Athens is one of the oldest cities in the world, born 11 BC, 3,400 years old. It is the seat of the ancient Greek renaissance, which would influence the next 5 millennia of Man’s history to this very day. It is the melting pot of Jews, Arabs, North Africans, you name it. When I arrived in Athens as a drifting backpacker, I knew all this. But theoretical wisdom is different from experiential wisdom. This story is an excerpt from the book Wings and Wanderlust.



Christmas was around the corner. Last winter, I spent Christmas in the warmth of home in New York because I went back from Madrid to attend the wedding of my younger sister. In Athens, my second winter on the road, it would be my first Christmas away from home. I did not like the prospect. Weeks before Christmas, I knew I would get homesick. I was preparing myself mentally for it. I was thinking I would get drunk with the Arabs so I could forget my loneliness. Or I was thinking I would look for some Filipino seamen in Piraeus where they all were. I didn’t mind spending Christmas on a ship. At least Filipinos around would probably help me get over this feeling.


It was Christmas eve and I was feeling terrible. I nor­mally spent Christmas eve hearing an evening Mass and having a sumptuous merienda cena with the family. Christ­mas was for the family, for the warmth of home. I knew no other kind of Christmas.


I collected money from the Arabs at the hostel, announc­ing a midnight drinking party. Everyone agreed, includ­ing the Jewish girl. The Greeks had this terrible cheap wine called retsina, which smelled like aviation gas. But being Christmas, on top of retsina, I also bought some vodka and gin and mixed them all up for a terrible bash. Arabs and Jews normally did not cel­ebrate Christ­mas but the holiday feeling was in the air in Athens, so we had this grand party at the hostel. Arabs also normally did not drink. Not this bunch.


At eleven o’clock in the evening, we were all pretty drunk. I was depressed and homesick and the Arabs and the lone Jewish girl could see it. They were trying to comfort me. After all, I was the only Christian in the group. I was surrounded by Islamism and Judaism. At half past eleven, I stood up, wobbled a bit, and quietly sneaked out, thinking they would not notice my short absence.


I did not tell them I wanted to go to a church for the midnight Mass, something I had done my entire life on Christ­mas. I walked along in the streets towards the church. I felt guilty that I was going to church drunk but I thought it was better than not going at all. It was my refuge from my loneli­ness, the warmth of church with many people singing carols. The momentary silence of the late evening in the streets after leaving the noise of the party stabilized me. All of a sudden, there was solemnity.


The church was crowded and to hide my being drunk, I simply stayed outside the church beyond the huge front doors. I stayed behind the crowd which was spilling over outside the church. I wanted to receive communion but decide against it. Not in my state of inebriation. It would be irrever­ent. I just prayed and sang ‘O Little Town of Bethlehem’ with the crowd. Bethlehem was just a stone’s throw away. I felt better.


Almost at the end of the mass, someone elbowed me. It was the whole gang. They followed me to church. They wrapped the vodka and gin in paper bags to hide it. They giggled when I saw them. Instinctively, I felt embar­rassed as church goers might see this bunch of drunken Arabs and a Jew. But then again, I was touched. Friends who did not believe in Christmas believed in friendship. They came to Mass to share themselves with me on this precious day. I was almost in tears. That was the greatest Christmas gift on the road.


I was late for Mass anyway, so it ended soon. We left and were rowdy in the streets, shouting and singing, as we went back to the hostel. They sang strange Arab songs. My loneli­ness disappeared.


“Hey, guys, thanks. I really appreciate it,” I said.


“We’re all in the same boat, Bernie, remember,” the Jewish girl answered. “We’re all away from home. We have to stick together. Especially in our moments of being alone. We are family.”


“Thanks. I guess this is home away from home for all of us,” I embraced her and the guys hooted, pushing us to each other.


I asked for an attendance report. Everyone shouted his/her origin – Tel Aviv, Khartoum, Marrekesh, Manila, Cairo, Dakar, Tunis, I forget the others. Come to think of it, they were more Muslim North Africans rather than Arabs, descendants of Bedouins and Berbers converted to Islam. They were mostly escaping the physical poverty of their North African homelands, looking for jobs in Athens, or going north to Paris or London or Copenhagen. I and the Jewish girl were escaping the spiritual poverty of the affluent societies. Whereas the North Africans were looking for jobs, the Jewish girl and I were looking for ourselves.


We slept at about three in the morning only because there were no more to drink and the stores were closed. Everybody filed back to their rooms. My first Christmas away from home was not bad, only because of friends who were not even Chris­tians. I would never forget that Christmas, this melting pot of religion and culture. That is my Christmas story. eastwindreplyctr@gmail.com


albatrosses like eagles do not flock
you find them one at a time
they embark on long journeys in solitude
migrating from pole to pole with ease
sleeping for hours as they glide effortlessly


occasionally, high up in the stratosphere
there is a chance encounter
two albatrosses glide together
for a brief moment in time
wingtip to wingtip
viewing the earth below
then other albatrosses from nowhere join in


in a sudden thunderstorm
they dive into a tailspin
holding on to each other’s spirit
until turbulent winds taper


on occasions, they spot a green oasis
in the middle of the vast desert
they descend quickly for a precious drink
then they fly up again effortlessly in spirals
catching violent warm updrafts
attaining a thousand meters in 5 minutes
back into the comfort of the stratosphere


then they suddenly part ways without plan
back to solitude
until the next chance encounter
sometime somehow somewhere
when wingtips meet once more
in some forgotten cloud




eastwind memoirs07 Dec 2014 05:15 am

PILGRIMAGE TO FATIMA a Christmas story

PILGRIMAGE TO FATIMA a Christmas story
By Bernie V. Lopez
During Pope Francis’ visit to the Philippines in January 2015, he will be asked to bless ten thousand rosaries to be given to the survivors of disasters in Samar, Leyte, Cebu, and Bohol. This sends a message that prayer can avert future disasters. If you will attend the papal Mass, either in Luneta, Palo, or elsewhere, even on television, bring your rosaries and hold it up for papal blessing, which will be a reminder that your rosary was blessed personally by the Vicar of Christ. Papal blessing gives a special spiritual value to your rosary, but only if you pray it, not just keep it. The Pope is visiting disaster areas for an obvious reason.
As a young man back in 1976, tired of the Big Apple, which I called a ‘spiritual desert’, I embarked on an adventure of lifetime, drifting for three long years in Europe and North Africa. I dubbed my adventure as eastwind. Out of sheer boredom, looking desperately for meaning, I dared to drift indefinitely, searching for spirituality. I know of no Filipino who has tried this. There were brothers Bert and Raffy, but they did only 6 months, somewhere between Switzerland to Sweden. The four maps showing my route are mind-boggling, 25,000 kilometers through 18 countries. (see maps – http://www.sisterraquel.com/2014/12/4-maps). I wrote a book on it called Wings and Wanderlust (the Art of Discovering Your Inner Self), more on the meaning of life rather than just a mere travelogue. This is an excerpt from the book.


The Pilgrimage


to be idle is not evil
you must be empty
so you can be filled
in the principle of yoga meditation
nothingness complements fullness
they are cosmic partners
like yin and yang
like light and darkness
yielding shadows and shapes
After six months of winter hitchhiking moving south from Brussels to Canary Islands on a frenzied pace, I headed north for spring, hitting Lisbon like a lightning bolt. It was time to stop soaring and to start gliding gently. I embarked on a pilgrimage to Our Lady of Fatima, a 7-day 80-kilometer hike from Lisbon. This was the time of meditation and soul searching, to pray that I could “find myself” somehow, to pray for light in an era of darkness. After the spiri­tual desert of New York, I wandered aimlessly, looking for an oasis somewhere in the vastness.


I left half of my things in Lisbon, keeping my backpack weight to 1.5 kilos for the long distance hike on beach san­dals. I had a sleeping bag, no tent (my guardian angel made sure it would not rain, except a drizzle on day 4, and for a reason), extra pants and shirt, matches and candle (no flashlight), a map, no cooking gear, and uncooked food of bread, fruits, sausages, and wine or milk on a skin bag.


I took the bus to the outskirts of Lisbon. As I walked north, the city gradually faded; the traffic vanished; the noise dwindled. I was tired at the end of day 1, but it was good for the soul. After dinner, I slept early. I slept in the open air most of the time, anywhere convenient in the farm fields. In the early morning of day 2, I was in the purity and magic of the Portuguese country­side. All of a sudden, there were quaint villages. The road narrowed but never ended.


I prayed the rosary about 4 times a day. I did about 2 kilo­meters per hour, or one kilometer in 20 to 30 minutes. I walked about 10 kilometers a day for about 5 to 6 hours, minus rest and lunch, from 7 am to 5 pm. I hiked the 80 kilometers to Fatima in seven days.


In the morning of day 2, I brushed my teeth in a quaint village fountain at the cen­tral plaza, as if it were my hotel suite. I awoke at six o’clock and did not have breakfast until nine. I bought provisions in small village stores. I pre­ferred milk from wine in my skin bag during this gruel­ling work out.


On day 3, entering a small village, a bunch of children ran to greet me. They were all shouting “Peregrino, peregrino” (pilgrim). They crowded each other, giggling and staring at me. They suddenly dis­persed into a nearby orchard, and came back with 2 kilos of peaches. I could only take half a kilo. An old woman came out of a house, shouting at the children. They stole the peaches, I surmised. I waved and smiled at her. Her anger dissipated into a smile. I had to eat them right away because they were getting heavy. The children followed me to the edge of the village. They were singing and shouting and I felt embarrassed because people would come out of their houses and stare. After the village, the silence screamed at me.


On day 4, my Christmas story began.


it was not a dream that drove me
to take wings but a nightmare
now I prayed to Him to guide me
through the cruel world out there
as I did not know the ‘way’
on the fourth day, there was a slight drizzle
so I asked a farmer
if I could sleep in his sheep’s shed
the shed had a certain sheep odor
that was a bit offensive
all of a sudden, the birth of Jesus
came to me in a flash
the drizzle was perhaps sent by the Lord
to give Light that I was asking for
I suddenly realized how it defies the imagination
that the Creator of the universe
was humble enough to permit Himself
to be born in a crib meant for new-born sheep
in a sheep shed which smelled
the hay of such a crib is itchy on the skin
the swaddling cloth helps
but still the God who made all of us
did not stay in a three star inn
but a no-star sheep shed
His power must be awesome and limitless
to be able to do this
the omnipotent God
in total humility born in a manger
at whose side powerful kings
and winged angels knelt in adoration
He set an example
on that first Christmas 2,000 years ago
to be able to save all of us
that is my short and simple Christmas story
On day 5, I spent the night under an olive tree on top of a knoll. I could see the panorama of the valley below, olive trees all around, reminding me of Gethsemani. There was a stone fence down below twisting and turning, vanishing into the bluish mist. It looked like a paint­ing. I heard the faint peal of sheep bells. I wondered if the bells were tolling for me, not for the end but for the beginning of my life.


It was here that Our Lady of Fatima gave me the gift of inner peace. It was overwhelming. I was almost in tears. It was my ‘reward’ from Our Lady, her way of showing her pres­ence. The moment was intense and magical. I can never forget that feeling because it was so clear, so overpowering, and so rare in a lifetime full of schedules and tasks and storms and whirlwinds. It was the gift of inner peace. In hind sight, I would be a journalist, and I would write many articles on Our Lady of Fatima and her messages of salvation and disaster.
inner peace may not always be a gift
you may have to earn it
when you finally find it
you will discover it was built into your soul
long before you were born
when you were crafted in a super-nova
billions of years ago
you just have to make it come out
somewhere sometime somehow
otherwise life is absurd
whe you finally find it
keep it and do not lose it
because it is a treasure of your life time


On day 6, my pace was faster to make it to Fatima by day 7. There it was at a distance, the gothic spires reaching up to the heavens. I reached Fatima at night, and ended up sleeping outside the giant portals of the church. Every hour, until dawn, the huge bells rang and echoed in my soul. I could hardly sleep.


At the crack of dawn of day 7, I was up, afraid the early church goers might see me sprawled at the door step of the church. Everything was grey and misty. At a dis­tance, I dis­cerned a crowd. It was an early out­door Mass near where they had a spring of the miraculous water that had cured thousands of people in the last few decades. After Mass, I put some water from the spring on my forehead. That was the end of the pil­grimage. I was not expecting any miracles. After the pilgrimage, I was no longer worried about “finding myself”. I somehow knew it would come in its own time, this self-discovery. After the pilgrimage, I knew eastwind would end in a nice way. I lost my angst at Fatima.


It was strange. I could go from total dark­ness to blinding light without flinching. It was as if I was longing for it and was expecting it. It was like the ice-water shower after half an hour in the steam room at Amsterdam’s Melkeweg. Life on the road was a pendulum swing, from the chaos of Las Palmas to the serenity of the Papagayo cave, from passion with Vicky to prayer at Fatima, from total solitude in Madrid to total immer­sion in Andorra. I took the bus back to Lisbon, picked up my stuff, and hitched north with my guitar towards Coimbra and Santander and the mystique of the Basque people. I was sporting a brand-new soul. eastwindreplyctr@gmail.com



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