Ella’s Bookshelf

   I’ve been chatting with my Nursing school college friends on Facebook messenger group chat, when I just suddenly told them to read a book which is highly recommended by Ella’s Bookshelf. I just coined the term without giving any thought about it. My friend seemed to find the name a bit catchy and told me why not start a blog and name it Ella’s Bookshelf. I quickly waved it off and thought that I don’t even have enough time to read much less to blog. I mean, I do have THIS blog, which I rarely visit. How can I even start a new one? Although it’s a really nice idea. Then my friend talked about writing a review about the books I’ve read and they will just visit my blog to see which books are highly recommended by me. Then another friend replied and she seemed excited about the idea of a new blog. 

Ella’s Bookshelf. I do have a lot in mind on what to write.  Now I’m thinking about it. It makes a lot of sense to write a review on every book that I read. I’m not after the viewers, the stats, or the number of visitors who leave a comment. I’m a very, very private person. I just want to write my thoughts whenever I feel like it. 

Now my problem is, how do I start?

Trying to Stay Positive in a Negative Environment

I’ve been diligently reading books and articles about positive thinking, being happy, and watching videos or listening to positive affirmations over and over. I’ve been doing this on and off ever since I can remember.

But it’s so easy to forget everything I’ve learned once I get overwhelmed at work. I work as a Registered Nurse in a hospital, in an Emergency Room. Imagine how stressful that place is. I don’t think I need to give you a mental picture. I know you can imagine how full of negative energy the atmosphere is. 

I often arrive home from work exhausted, upset from being shouted at by patients, patient’s relatives or friends, doctors, other nurses, not to mention the overwhelming workload from being understaffed and trying to juggle one patient to another. I often find myself shouting back, defending myself and feeling that I had enough. I almost want to quit.

But I’m not a quitter. Whenever I go home and try to do some meditation or listen to audiobooks regarding positive affirmations and positive thinking, I often wonder if I’m on the right place. Do I really like my job? Am I happy and contented in my chosen career? And in my heart, there was a faint feeling of hesitancy. 

I may read all the books about positive thinking. I may meditate often. But if I’m not happy with where I am, I don’t think it’ll work. I know what I just said is negative. But I also learned that, to be able to be happy, you must love what you do.

That’s the conflict I’m in right now. How do I stay positive in a very negative place? It’s like trying to go in an exit or trying to go out in an entrance. People will block your way. It’s like trying to defy gravity. Gravity always wins. Then you stop struggling and just go with the flow.

Now this is my challenge. For 60 days, I will try to listen to positive affirmations until it’s embedded in my subconciousness. I will not give up. I want to see if I can remain like a lotus flower. I will rise and bloom amidst the murky water.

Living in a Muslim Country

I’ve been living in a Muslim country for more than 5 years now. The first time I came here, I was woken up by the prayer in a mosque nearby. I thought I was dreaming. For a while there, I felt lost and confused as to where I am at that moment. I hear the Muslim prayer everywhere: in the bus, in the supermarket, even in the ringtones of some Muslims. I got used to it eventually. Even if I don’t understand it, it felt sacred and peaceful.

Everywhere around, you can see a mosque. Muslims pray 5 times each day called salah. I admire their faith and dedication. Almost everyone greets you Assalamualaikum (peace be upon you). Everyone calls each other brother or sister. It makes me think that Muslim people are peace-loving people in general. But it makes me confused as to why there is war in the Middle Eastern countries.

I was able to embrace the Muslim culture. I have a very high respect for the Muslim community. I have learned some Arabic words like Bismillah (in the name of Allah/God), Masha’allah (in God’s will, or something as an expression of appreciation), Insha’allah (God-willing), and some other positive or good Arabic words that use to praise or greet a Muslim.

I still preserve my Christianity though. I was born and raised a Catholic and I still observe the Catholic traditions. I am very thankful for this country for allowing other people to practice their religion. I was taught in Catholic school to respect other religions as well, because we all pray to one God.

I am not purely religious though. Religion doesn’t dictate my faith. My faith is between God and me; respect in humanity, in all living things, and the world we live in.

Being in a Muslim country has taught me the true meaning of Faith. It taught me that we are all brothers and sisters regardless of race and religion. I still don’t understand why there is war though. But one thing I’ve learned is that, being a Muslim doesn’t associate one as being a terrorist.

I love my Muslim brothers and sisters. Peace be upon you. Assalamualaikum.


Morning Has Broken

I diligently programmed myself yesterday to start waking up early everyday at 4 o’clock in the morning. Early mornings, right when everyone else lies peacefully sleeping in their beds, are the most peaceful and the most valuable moments to start off your day right, as Robin Sharma points out in his book. This is the golden time where you can think clearly and appreciate everything in your life. Starting your day right means programming yourself that no matter what happens during the entire day, you will end the day still feeling great about yourself.

I started off by writing down 5 short term goals in the night, unplugging the technologies that offers distraction, and spending quality time with my husband. Right before sleep, I vowed on self-discipline to be able to reach my short term goals.

And so, my alarm went on at 4 o’clock in the morning, did some yoga exercise for 15 minutes, ab workout for another 15 minutes (eherm…um, yeah), and studied my ACLS manual.

At 5:45 am, I went to the kitchen to fix some breakfast and finish just in time as my husband woke up. Then we had breakfast together before he went for work.

It feels refreshing and invigorating to do a lot of things in such a short period of time. When you program yourself everyday to think that today is your last day on earth makes you do things that you feel happy doing. It just feels great.

I wish everyone to be at their best everyday. Live as if it’s your last.


Ever since I started reading the books of Robin Sharma, watched his videos on Youtube while preparing for work, I began feeling less stressed.

There are too many distractions to keep you from finding your inner self. Most of our time are taken away by technology, by our problems, and other things that are bugging our minds. It’s so easy to complain and stay in our comfort zone. We fail to realize that once life gets harder, it means you’re leveling up, and when you surpass that level, it feels great. Achieving something takes hard work. Nothing comes easy. We must learn to see hardships not as an obstacle, but as an opportunity to grow and learn more about life.

Life is beautiful. In all sense of the word, I have finally realized what it means. In order to see it’s beauty, avoid all the unnecessary clutter in your life and try to focus on what’s more important. We must live in simplicity. Too many choices can deplete your mind. Did you ever experience buying something and when you get to the store, you are faced with so many choices that you spend so much time choosing what you really want?

We must practice self-discipline. We must learn to master our thoughts. And in order to achieve that, we must eliminate all the unnecessary clutter that distract us.

Have a nice day.

A Cluttered Mind

My mind is restless. I have so many things to do today that I ended up doing nothing. Then I tried to list down the things I needed to do to stay focused and organized but the list just sat listlessly on the table.

Let me share how cluttered my mind is, right now. Here’s a glimpse:

Yesterday, my husband and I went to my best friend’s daughter’s 7th birthday party. After the party, I stayed in my best friend’s flat while waiting for my husband, who excused himself in the middle of the party, to attend an orientation for Architecture class. I was surprised. He never mentioned it to me before. But I’m so glad that he finally decided on something that will upgrade his degree.

While waiting for my husband, I watched my best friend’s daughter, who was so excited opening all of her gifts. When she was holding my gift, I warned her not to cry if she ended up not liking it. It will break my heart, I said to her. So she opened it carefully while I was watching her expression. I didn’t give her a book this time. She pulled a pink package and read, “My secret diary.” Her eyes lit up, hugged the gift and told me, “How did you know I love writing?” How did I know? Most readers are (closet) writers. I just smiled at her and told her, “I’m glad you liked it this time.”

I asked her a question, “why did you cry last time when I gave you books?” I know the answer, I just want to hear how she would answer my question. Then she whispered in my ear, “I only read books when no one is watching.”

I laughed. I remember when I was in first grade (I didn’t attend any kindergarten class). Mom bought a phonetics book and Aesop’s Fables for me from a man on the street who sells different kinds of books. I looked at it and it didn’t look interesting at all. It came with a cassette tape. Mom would play the tape on our cassette player and I would listen to it. I memorized the stories on Aesop’s Fables effortlessly, including the phonetics. Then, once they are not around, I would sit quietly in one corner, and begin reading until I get lost in my own world.

I got the chance to talk to my best friend’s youngest brother (same age as me). He’s been married for 5 years and still childless. His wife also talked about being depressed and being asked a couple of times why they don’t have a baby yet. Her husband suffered from self-pity that he ended up going to a Psychiatrist for help. They are both so stressed that the only thing that makes them feel good is shopping. They have an endless loan in the bank with no savings or investment. Her husband even got to the point of telling her to ask another man to get her pregnant because he’s useless.

Stories like that makes me think about my own life. You choose your path when faced with adversity. How many times did I want to give up?

I called Mom today. I told her all the good things that are coming our way and she’s very happy for me. I listened to her advice and reflected on it. Hardships play an important part in our life. For without it, how can we learn?

I am thankful. I am grateful. I am blessed.


I need to vent. Not the whining kind of vent, it’s not. It’s just that, everything is happening all at once, I need to clear my thoughts.

With the whole church wedding preparations, my US application which is finally taking place, my stressful work situation, down to my pending transfer to another hospital, all of this makes my thinking brain chaotic.

1. I finally managed to submit all of the updated documents to my agency for this US application. I’m just waiting to be shortlisted for the interview.

Things running on my mind: this is not the time to be thinking about having a baby. If I need to go, I need to go right away. I’ve waited almost 7 years for this.

2. Stressful work situation.

If I can’t change the situation, I need to find a way not to stress myself. This is my struggle: keeping myself from being stressed. Stress from work affects everything else. This is also not a good time for having a baby. Well, even if I don’t think about it, stress seems to prevent me from having it. So I guess it’s not a problem. I just need to work things out and learn to deal with stress in a good way.

3. Change of work environment.

Things are getting a little out of hand. My stressful work situation stems from understaffing, more overtime work with less pay, clash with a doctor, and too much politics when it comes to positions. This is where I decide whether to go or not. It took me a long time and finally, I have accepted the offer to another hospital. They were kind enough to wait for me until after my church wedding. It scares me to leave and start in a new environment but this is for my own good.

4. Church wedding

We’ve waited 2 years to get married in church. Now that we have the means, it’s finally taking place. It’s very taxing to choose a venue, a caterer, a photographer and videographer, wedding gown, flowers, name it, I’ve spent like, most of my idle time browsing on the internet. After a month or two, I have finally chosen the venue, the hotel and the official wedding photographer/videographer. Now my sister is pressuring me to make up my mind and send her the final photo of which wedding gown I choose to wear. I’m going crazy spending so much time on this thing alone that I finally decided to clean our room.

Yes. I will definitely feel much better after I clean our room. So, my sister needs to wait. Just hearing her talk on Skype about the things I need to do and the deadlines I need to meet makes me crazy that I just want to run away from it all.

Writing it all down and having a clean room clears my mind.

And oh, I cannot get pregnant, or even think about getting pregnant at all. It’ll have to wait until after the church wedding. Or wait until I settle down in the US. I don’t care about what other people say. I’ve had enough of this pregnancy issue. It’ll come at the right time. But for now, I need to live on the present and enjoy all the blessings that are coming me way.

A Farewell to an Angel

They finally decided to bring home their son’s body. Yesterday was his 9th day. We had 9 days of prayer offered to him. He remained in the morgue until his parents have arranged all the papers needed to take him home.

At first, they have decided to cremate him for practical purposes. Bringing home a dead body is expensive. But friends and relatives spoke with the couple that they will help with the expenses just so they can bring the boy’s body home in the Philippines.

They haven’t been home for 7 years. The boy hasn’t seen the Philippines since he was born. Now, he will be buried in a home country he had never known.

I haven’t seen him since he passed away. I’d like to keep a memory of him smiling with his parents. His sufferings have finally ended. I know he’s happy wherever he is right now.

May God bless his soul. May God bless his parents.

Growing Up

I think of how our parents reared us when we were kids and see us now, I can say that they’ve done a great job. But it wasn’t easy growing up in a small town in the Northern province of Isabela in the Philippines.

My Mom’s family is well off, I think. She’s the youngest of 2 siblings. Her older brother migrated in the US and worked as a Doctor. I haven’t seen him in my growing years. My Mom is a CPA. They both studied and graduated in the University of Santo Tomas. My Mom’s parents were both teachers. My Lola (grandma) is a pure Ilocano. She can’t speak Tagalog that much but she’s very fluent in english. My Lolo (grandpa), is a pure Tagalog from the province of Nueva Ecija. I remember my Lolo having this weird long face that doesn’t smile, walks funny (looks like he’s always running), always drooling, and when he’s sitting and wants to stand, he will call one of us to help him up. He died when I was 6. When I grew up, I have learned that my Lolo had Parkinson’s disease.

Mom’s family owns a vast rice field (vast because I was always tired walking from one field to the other and then we would drive to another place and walk another long way). I remember spending summer in the rice field during harvest time. We’d eat in the field with the farmers. Then they will come to our house with the sacks of rice stacked in our bodega (store room). In the morning, a group of farmers will open up the sacks of rice to let it dry in a cemented pavement in front of our house until it’s ready to sell.

Dad’s family, on the other hand, lives in the city in the Northern part of Isabela. Whenever we go visit them, we have to travel far. It’s a bit crowded in their place. The houses are very near each other. Unlike in our place, the houses are far away from each other, surrounded by ricefields. There are tricycles and jeepneys everywhere. But I love visiting my Dad’s parents. They’re a funny bunch of people. They’re always happy and they make me laugh. Unlike my Lola, Mom’s mother, who is very strict and doesn’t smile. That’s all I remember about them. They both died when I was young.

Even if we have a vast ricefield, I cannot say that we are rich. We are 6 children in the family. Mom works in a local bank, while Dad works as a teacher in a school in the nearby town. Our house is a bungalow type of house with 4 bedrooms. I used to sleep in my parents room until I got transferred to Lola’s room. When Lola migrated to the US, my aunt occupied her room. I remember sleeping in our parents room together with my 3 other younger sisters. My older sister and older brother had their own rooms. When they went to college, Mom let us occupy our older sister’s bedroom.

It was tough growing up. We all experienced being hit by a belt or a stick whenever someone did something wrong. I remember my younger sister being sacked, literally. We didn’t always get what we want. Mom always says, if you want something, you should work hard for it. She taught us how to save. I even got my own piggy bank and passbook. But we weren’t deprived. We did experience good things. During summer, we’d go somewhere to relax and enjoy. On Christmas, we’d have a blast. We’d hang 6 empty socks on the wall and find it the next day filled with candies and money. The Christmas tree is filled with gifts. We’d have new toys, new clothes and shoes. On our birthdays, we’d have party. On weekends, we’d play outside or play video games, watch cartoons from morning till night.

Mom wasn’t always there to guide us in our studies because she was always busy with work. But we all excelled in school and brought home ribbons and medals. My parents were able to send us all to college, graduated and got degrees, passed the local board exams and obtained a professional license.

I see families now and how they rear their children, and see how those children have become makes me wonder. My older brother gives his sons everything he says he was deprived of when he was a kid. Like the toys he wants so badly that my parents refuses to give him, or doing every homework for his son because our parents weren’t there to help us, things like that. Now I see my brother’s sons not mindful of how hard their Dad works for them. They see punishment as a form of hate, not love.

I think the kind of rearing most parents does today, is the kind of rearing they wish they had when they were kids. They don’t want their children to experience the bad things they have experienced growing up. Then the comparison comes between kids today from kids before. Well, I’d say, my parents did a great job.

There is no book you can find that teaches you on how to become a good parent. And I think, there is no parent out there who can claim that they are a good parent as well. There will be times that disciplining your child makes you feel guilty. Rearing a child is tough. Whatever the child becomes in the future, we easily think of the parent who reared them.

Each parents have their own style of parenting and we are not to judge. If you are having a tough time as a parent, just think of how you grew up and how you turned out to be.

Sprained Ankle and Hot Chocolate

Once when we were little kids, my brother used to play basketball with me in front of our house. He had set up a basketball ring attached to the wooden frame of our store’s roof. I would run after him, chasing the ball, not bothering to dribble it, and go straight to aim a shoot at the ring. Then I sprained my ankle.

I remember it very clearly like it was yesterday. Mom and Dad took us to this farm. We walked a long way, with me limping behind. My siblings all came to join me. I didn’t even have any idea what we were doing there. Then we reached this small Nipa hut. An old man came to greet us. Mom and Dad talked to him briefly, then we all went inside. The old man approached me and examined my sprained ankle.

I didn’t know what happened next. Everything went so fast and the next thing I knew, I was crying in pain. He manipulated my ankle so quickly, I didn’t have time to react. I just felt a terrible pain, and after that it was gone. He asked me to walk and the limp disappeared.

The man went to the kitchen with my Mom and Dad, while my siblings and I, went out to the rice field and played. After a while, Mom and Dad called us. The old man gave us each a cup of this delicious hot chocolate made in heaven. It was perfect. I can still remember the taste. I always associate this hot chocolate with my sprained ankle. I have never tasted a hot chocolate that good.

When I was in College, my younger sister and I tried this coffee shop in Manila called, Tsoko Nut Batirol. We ordered their specialty, the Tsokolate Ah. As soon as I tasted this hot chocolate served in an old fashioned mug, it brought childhood memories of my sprained ankle and the delicious hot chocolate. It was not as delicious as the one served to us by that old man in the Nipa hut who healed my sprained ankle. But it was the next best thing.

My sister and I went back to that coffee house with my other sisters to try it, but to our dismay, the coffee shop was already gone and replaced by another coffee shop.

I still dream of that delicious hot chocolate. No other hot chocolate could ever replace it. I think this is the Tablea Tsokolate. Though I don’t know to do it in the traditional Filipino way. If only I could taste that heavenly hot chocolate again.


Photo courtesy of Tsoko Nut Batirol.