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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Gorgeous pictures from our property in the Philippines

The most beautiful of our property is of course my wife Chona. She is saying WELCOME EVERYONE!

One morning while walking in the back of our farm I took this pic of our horses 

A pic of our butterfly bridge across the blue lagoon

Our gazebo over the koi pond in the Japanese garden. The gym is in the background

An aerial shot of the developed portion from the Cesna I rented in Dec. 2007

Truly breathtaking moments out there every day. Our horses in front of the butterfly bridge

Born with a heart shaped mark on his nose. Our baby colt strolling on the property

A pic of our swing near the blue lagoon. We used to love to sit together on it

Bogonvalglia in the glorious morning light in the Japanese garden

The bridge leading into the Japanese garden in morning light

The reflection of our temple style gym on the koi pond

The bahay kubo near the big swimming pool. We loved to sit in there.

Dear Readers, 

I have to stop here as the emotional pain of missing this beauty is overtaking me now. The place we lived was so incredibly gorgeous. We worked hard to develop it and truly enjoyed it while we were there. We are trying to pick up the pieces now in our lives and find meaning in what happened to us there in the Philippines. God knows ...

I will post more at another time. 

Thanks for visiting. 

Our new reality makes us appreciate even more what we had. God knows ...

Friday, February 24, 2012

Whoever you are in Syria

My daughter woke up screaming again this morning at 2am. after another nightmare. I could  not go back to sleep so once we got her settled I decided to turn on the computer and check the blog.  I spend a lot of time monitoring the blog as I am very interested to see where all the people come from who are viewing my posts.  There is a "stats" page that lets me see the individual countries where the hits are coming from.

As I scanned the list one country in particular struck me deeply...

United States
United Kingdom
United Arab Emirates
As I consider my last blog post that speaks about some of the misery my family is going through having been victimized by extortionists, I was taken back by the views from someone in this one country of Syria. Daily I turn on the T.V. and see Syria in the news, a country that is by all rights already in a civil war.  Images of terrible violence all over and human suffering on a scale that is hard to understand. 

Whoever you are in Syria, my prayers are with you. And thank you for reminding me that our situation is not all that bad. We care.  I try to imagine who you are. An OFW perhaps? A nurse? Or an Govt. employee?  I guess the only thing that really matters is that this connection is made.
The next time I feel sorry for my self and my family I will remember you and pray for you.

There are others too whom view our blog from precarious circumstances. Like Simonette in Bulgaria who has been in the worst snowstorm in a century there. All I can say is we appreciate you following us even in your own hardship.

And to all of you around the world who visit this blog, thank you for your silent support.

Most Sincerely,

David & Chona Graham

Saturday, February 18, 2012

The East West Birthday Dilemma

Today being my Birthday I thought I would write about a funny experience I had in the past. 

A few years ago I was in Cebu for my 40th Birthday and had  been staying with a friend at that time. I remember being excited for my birthday. I had told my friends about my Birthday and let them know I was looking forward to a great celebration.  That was my hint to them that I was expecting them to throw me a huge party. 

The morning of my Birthday arrived and my friend reminded me it was my birthday. But there was no talk of any plan for a party of anything. My friend seemed really upbeat and in a festive mood but I had not noticed any trips to the store to get supplies or any preparation for the party I was expecting. Still my friend was giving every hint in the world a celebration was coming.

The day went on and by the afternoon my friend had started to get a sour face. I was wondering what was going on? Why were they not getting ready to give me the best party of my life?  I too started to get sour and my attitude started to get bad.  I could not believe on my birthday that they would do nothing for me. In America when someone has a birthday, especially a 40th Birthday your friends would get together and throw you a wild bash. I was getting really confused wondering why in the Philippines no one appreciated another persons Birthday??

The night arrived and by that time my friend had started to downright treat me badly. We were not even talking to each other. I could not believe the coldness of my friends not throwing a party for me on my very special 40th Birthday. But they were looking at me as if they were angry to me. What? This kind of treatment was unheard of where I came from on a Birthday!  Bed time rolled around and the attitude of my friend was cold as Ice.  I was down right depressed as I closed my eyes realizing my 40th Birthday came and went without any party or celebration. Likewise my friend seemed to be downright depressed too. It perplexed me, I could not understand it at all?

It wasn't until years later I learned why my 40th Birthday was a disaster. I found out that in the Philippines the Birthday Celebrant is expected to be the one to throw the party for all of his friends.  Completely opposite of that in America where the Birthday Celebrant expects all his friends to throw the party. So that 40th Birthday ended in a disaster for both my friends and I. A total culture misunderstanding!  

Today I laugh about my past experience of the "nightmare 40th Birthday in Cebu" as I understand Filipino culture much better. I think many foreigners have experienced this for their first Birthday's in the Philippines and I imagine many Filipino's in America have appeared exceedingly generous on their own Birthday's offering to pay for everything! 

Isn't life great with a little bit of understanding. Got to love it!! 

By they way, for my Birthday today I was able to "escape" the responsibility to throw a party as our family changed countries again today.  I had everything I could ever ask for today and that is my loving family with me. That makes it a wonderful Birthday no matter what the circumstances.  

I did get a cake though last night. Some friends of ours who are very poor showed up at our hotel room with a cake and some homemade sticky rice! It was so touching. The love and sincerity was so beautiful. They really sacrificed to buy that cake. That would have been three days wages they used to buy it. I am a blessed man when I really think about it. Thank you Lord! You are so good to me! 

Friday, February 3, 2012

Being married to a Filipina is great - Part 2

A pic of us on our honeymoon going to the underground river
Working hard together for our future
Greeting my mom when she arrived in the Philippines

On the road in remote Southern Palawan
A family fishing trip in a tropical paradise
This is part two of "Being married to a Filipina is Great".  I was quite surprised at the warm response we got from the first post on this. It quickly moved to be one of the most popular blog posts we have. I guess many of us are just "helpless romantics" lol

Is it really great?

Being married to a Filipina is truly great. I mean that. I am not promoting some ebook making a profit from that statement or running a FilAm dating site. I am just being honest that in my experience of getting to know the women culture of the Philippines I have found amazing ingredients that make them some of the most beautiful, well balanced and lovable women in the world. Here are a few things I discovered.

The culture of industriousness and productivity (Masipag)

These women are incredibly productive if you really look at them well. When many western husbands marry a Filipina they will wonder why in the world is she up sweeping the house with one arm behind her back at very early hours of the morning. What is all this for? And why does it have to be in the morning? This is instinctive to the Filipina's industrious nature. In the Philippines they call it "masipag". This means "productive" or "industrious". It is not just in sweeping but in everything she does. She does it with zest and power.

My wife is amazing how many balls she can juggle at one time. She can be cooking, cleaning, taking care of me and our children all at the same time. And with no frown, no complaints. It is her cultural instinct to be masipag. A wonderful trait that most Filipina's have. Even at this moment she is at the kitchen sink in front of me, but a second ago she was nursing our son and folding clothes. It takes all my power just to focus on typing this blog, heaven forbid if I had to do two things at once!

This masipag nature of the Filipina is a result of how they are raised. Their mothers in particular teach them how to work hard and be productive. This is second nature to the Filipina. And they love it. It gives them meaning to be able to be busy. What a wonderful trait to have in a partner.

Focus on the family

There is nothing more important to a Filipina than her family.  This is the center of her heart and cultural universe. If I was going to list my wife's priorities as I see them they would be.
God, family, family, family, family and family! This is not joke. I have been totally blown away by the love and commitment I see in my wife for our family. Every word or deed she does seems to support our family unit. I love my family in the states so much, but I had never known the depth of love that one could have for their family until I saw it in action with my wife. How many OFW's (overseas Filipino workers) have I met who give their entire paychecks to support their families to the fourth generation. Incredible for a westerner to see!

The way I see her teach our daughter to love and respect me as her father and how I see her guide her about how important nannie and grandpa are. This is a new level of family appreciation for me. She is prepping them to have the mindset to take care of us when we are older. And they will do the same to their children. This is wonderful, truly truly wonderful. I never knew about it.  

This close bond and affection is not limited to our immediate family but to her brothers, cousins, nieces and nephews. They all have priority and importance in her life. Now a Filipino reading this will say "of course for it is as natural as the blood in our veins to do this". But for a westerner who is new at it, it can actually be a bit overwhelming. Who me, get close to my cousin? No way! Or who me, work hard to support my parents?  No way! lol

Hindi mapapantayan ng anumang ginto at salapi ang pagbubuklod-buklod at pagmamahalan ng pamilya, PAMILYA parin ang mahalaga.  
Basically this says that nothing comes before the love for family. This is a great trait of the Filipina.

God is in everything and I mean EVERYTHING! 

When I first met my wife who was working as a sales lady in a store, I never realized how important her faith was to her until I observed her for several months. The first hint I got was that in every single text I received from her, I mean 100% of them, she had a quote of God's word in it. Then when I found out she was also texting God's word to nearly 200 people a day, including the current President, then I knew how important her faith was. Good thing I took her to a Don Moen concert on our first date. lol

This is a trait I have seen in the majority of Filipina's and one to be understood by the western man who may not have been exposed to that much faith. God is not some abstract character or a once a year Easter visit but He is a daily importance to the Filipina. If you glance at any Filipina dating site or "I'm looking for a husband" publication the number one and first thing they list of what they are looking for in a man is "God fearing".   For those of you new to this word, it does not mean she is looking for a man running around scared of God. She is basically saying she desires a man who is of good moral character, kind, loving and one who together with her will believe in God.

We can thank the Malay's, Chinese, American's and Spaniards for the Filipina

These cultures contributed the most to the cultural "cocktail" that makes up today's Filipina. If we look at it closely we can see very distinct traits that come from each of these cultures. And through many generations of influence this mix has made one of the most loving, industrious and socially adaptable women on the planet. Of course I am referring to my wife!

Next week will be our wedding anniversary and I have a lot of reason to be happy about it. My wife continues to amaze me as I get to know her more each year. We are currently going through what most would describe as "hell" but the incredible thing is we are growing closer and not farther apart because of it.  I am discovering more each day that passes by and I can truly say...

Being married to a Filipina is great!

Our most recent pic taken on Christmas Day 2011