“AN ANGEL CARD READING WITH MS. MARIA SAN JUAN, THE HEALING DIVA” in this week’s issue of the MANILA MAIL (Dec. 3-9, 2014, page A7)

Pilipinasblitz Forever
A column by Bles Carmona
For the week of Dec. 3-9, 2014
AN ANGEL CARD READING WITH MS. MARIA SAN JUAN, THE HEALING DIVA
“Admit the truth to yourself and act accordingly.”

Drawn from the Archangel Michael Oracle Deck, that’s the title of the final card picked for me by Ms. Maria San Juan, the Healing Diva. It was supposed to be the final takeaway message for me from the angelic realms. It happened one rainy Saturday afternoon. What led to that message from Archangel Michael, the things that transpired during the hour-long angel card reading, and the strength and encouragement I gained through my encounter with Ms. Maria, I may not be able to share all, preferring to keep some things to myself. But let’s work up to the finale by starting somewhere from the beginning.

I was referred to Ms. Maria San Juan by Ms. Helena Mazzariello (www.spiritinjoy.com), who conducts angel fairs, psychic readings, aura cleansings, and classes at the Angel Light Books In Berkeley. Ms. Helena thought it might be cool, she said, since “Maria” is also a Filipina like me, so Ms. Helena gave me Maria’s card. As soon as I was able, I visited Maria’s website, http://www.thehealingdiva.com, consuming everything with eagerness and excitement about finally having the chance to connect with a fellow Filipina-American who was also into the metaphysical. When I read her blog, I remember crying as I was reading a couple of separate entries about messages from specific angels like Archangels Michael and Raphael. With such a visceral (read: gut) reaction to her writings, I decided to go ahead and make an appointment with Ms. Maria. I must admit that I was a bit intimidated by her title, “The Healing Diva,” such that I was having this vision of someone who was so full of herself because she knows the extent of whatever psychic powers and angelic connections she claims to have. How wrong I was, as it turns out. I was wrong to make blanket assumptions like that. You can never meet a woman as down-to-earth, friendly, no-frills, and approachable as her.

Her brand-new ecru business card with a photo of an upturned left hand with a globe of light emanating from it has the following information:
The Healing Diva-Channeling messages and healing energy from the angelic realm
Maria San Juan, Psychic Medium & Angel Reiki Master
650-720-3248
healingdva@gmail.com (Please take note that there is no “i” in “dva.”)
http://www.thehealingdiva.com (This is Ms. Maria’s website where you can find information about the services she offers, her fee schedule, what to expect, and the Frequent Buyer Program. You can also read testimonials, her “Maria’s Mind Blogs,” and how to contact her.)

Please allow Ms. Maria San Juan to describe herself to you in her own words (from her website): Hello everyone! My name is Maria San Juan. I was born and raised in Salinas, California. However, I have made the Bay Area, specifically the East Bay, my home for the last 2 decades. I also refer to Malolos, Bulacan, Philippines as “my 2nd home” because when I’m not in the Bay Area, you can definitely find me there. Looking back at my life, I’ve always felt different. I can say that my gifts can be traced as far back as my childhood years. I believe I was 6 years old when I had my first “awakening” and felt the protective presence of Angels surrounding me. I always knew I was protected because my guardian angels were the ones who also guided me back to my parents whenever I thought I was lost, so I NEVER GOT LOST. Despite this feeling of security, I never told anyone about my guardian angels. Besides, I didn’t have anyone to encourage or mentor me and having guardian angels, as benevolent as they are, was not accepted in society during that time. Then, in my teen years, my gifts of clairvoyance and manifestation were blossoming. I was seeing images and event that had not happen yet play like a movie through my 3rd eye. Then, before I knew it the situation either changed or manifested as needed. My teen instincts were on point each time I told my friends, “we shouldn’t go to that party or drive down that road” – we almost always seem to avoid some catastrophe because we followed my instinct. I didn’t realize my gift for what it was at that time because I thought this was normal that everyone had this. So eventually, I manifested a layer or rather layers of protection binding my powers until they were ready to come back. This was manifested by convincing myself that there was no such thing as magic, angels and the spirit world. Through the years, I’ve been told countless times that I have healing hands and that my words were healings in itself–people always seem to find comfort in my hugs and conversations. Then, my gifts were triggered by a tragic loss of a loved one a few years ago. One day, I came into Angel Light Books in Berkeley, California, and felt the loving energy there like I’ve returned home after a very long trip. I began my “re-awakening” there as an Angel Reader and an Angel Reiki Practitioner under the direction of Diana Dorell. I have also studied under the direction of Dr. Doreen Virtue, the “Angel Lady”, known to give instructions on the Angelic Realm. Both Dr. Virtue and Ms. Dorell have instructed me on cultivating my God-given Psychic and Healing gifts. I am also a blogger and a writer; I write for self-healing, release and to let others know that they are not alone on their journey. Writing ultimately is my salvation, there I can express myself uncensored, unfiltered and escape to another realm.

Hence, I came into my calling as a “Powerful Lightworker” in the last few years and I revel in this journey. With this Journey of Life, I perform a balancing feat as: a Writer, a Certified Angel Card Reader® and a Certified Angel Reiki™ I, II and III/Master Teacher (certified by Diana Dorell, Reiki Master Teacher). I have been conducting Angel Readings since 2009; and I’ve been an Angel Reiki Practitioner since 2010. Life is grand, I enjoy living in the moment and I can only look forward to what God/Goddess has in store for me and YOU!!! I look forward to hearing from You and meeting with You. Please check periodically for my blogs and updates on my novel publication(s). THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR VISITING MY PAGE! AS ALWAYS, LOVE, LIGHT & COMPASSION TO YOU.

I had an hour-long angel card reading with Ms. Maria so that I could tell your firsthand how it was. Ms. Maria will tell you that each reading is as unique as each seeker she serves. No two readings are the same. There is at least one constant factor, and that is what she calls her “Diva Spread” of seven cards representing different phases like the past, the present, the issue or block, the past as it affects the present, advice to heal the block, immediate action to take, and the projected outcome. Ms. Maria’s entire angel card reading for me, along with channeled messages from the Archangels, angels, and one ancestor of mine, and a “temporary” aura tune-up – all these experiences were ones of illumination, assistance, and deep healing. The long and short of it is that I highly recommend Ms. Maria San Juan, The Healing Diva, for those of you who would like angelic guidance through an Angel Card Reading or a session of Angel Reiki, which is a combination of “hands-on energy work” combined with channeled messages from the angels. Maria San Juan is one of us, a kababayan who speaks Tagalog as well as she speaks English. I am proud and honored to be able to bring her to the forefront of your collective consciousness. I am sure that we will be hearing about Maria San Juan more often soon enough.

Now let’s return to the final card turned up for me, a message from Archangel Michael, which was apparently how Ms. Maria always concludes her readings. St. Michael says to me: “Admit the truth to yourself and act accordingly.” Here is the accompanying prayer that Ms. Maria asked me to address to Archangel Michael in a regular manner for 10 days or more, as needed: “I appreciate your support in helping me face my feelings with grace and acceptance so that I can be lovingly honest with myself and others. Thank you, Archangel Michael, for giving me courage and strength.”

A-men. A-women.

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Find advisor Blesilda44 at KEEN.com, 1-800-ASK-KEEN (1-800-275-5336), extension 05226567 either by phone or chat: Mon-Fri 7-10 pm, Sat-Sun 7-11 pm Pacific. I speak English, Tagalog, and some Spanish. For personal readings (fee required), email me here: blessingsandlight725@gmail.com

“GIVING THANKS EACH CHANCE WE GET” in this week’s issue of the MANILA MAIL (Nov. 26-Dec. 2, 2014, page A7)

Pilipinasblitz Forever
A column by Bles Carmona
For the week of Nov. 26-Dec. 2, 2014

GIVING THANKS EACH CHANCE WE GET

Happy Thanksgiving Week to everyone! I know that once we settled here, we Filipino-Americans did as the Americans have done such that we have learned to adopt Thanksgiving as our own holiday, too, although the historical reasons for celebrating it are largely North American in nature. The so-called first Thanksgiving was a romanticized account of how the colonists and the Native Americans shared a meal. According to History.com, “In 1621, the Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag Indians shared an autumn harvest feast that is acknowledged today as one of the first Thanksgiving celebrations in the colonies. For more than two centuries, days of thanksgiving were celebrated by individual colonies and states.” For the record, we are neither ignoring the bad blood between the two camps nor overlooking the violence and injustice perpetrated by the “white man” against the Native Americans. Instead, during this season we just choose to focus on the many ways we are giving thanks for all the blessings we receive, and yes, even for the trials, from a God/Goddess who does not discriminate based on skin color and other markers of our differences. Personally, I believe that we are all united by love and compassion, which in my book are the only true religions. But then, that’s just me.

I have kept a gratitude journal for several years now. I do admit that there were periods when my entries were sporadic and uninspired. During those times, I may have been feeling depressed or frustrated. Perhaps during 50% of those “dry spells,” I remember trying very hard to write at least a couple of entries like, “I am grateful for a room of my own” or “I thank God for my comfortable, lived-in slippers.” I try to notice every single thing, every little thing, which normally I’d be taking for granted when I’m being thankful for the big things, the exuberant feelings, the dramatic events. Therefore, throughout the years, I have come to a personal conclusion: it is when I’m going through a dark night of the soul that I must try harder to find things, people, and events in my life to be thankful for, because you know what? Any which one of those could be taken away from me at any time. In short, what I’m trying to say is I’d like to exhort you to appreciate the people and things in your life and to be thankful for them. A wise woman told me lately that there is a difference between appreciation and gratitude, and I think I’m beginning to understand now. Appreciation is when we have a sensitive awareness of people and things just because they are there, while gratitude or thankfulness is usually our reaction when we asked for a favor and it was granted.

One of my adult learners, Benjamin, is also doing a gratitude journal and sometimes we read out our entries to each other during our tutoring sessions. Aside from being a springboard to correct any grammatical or spelling errors (if any), his handwritten journal gives me a precious insight into how he thinks and feels. There was one statement he wrote that I couldn’t forget because it had a profound impact on me: “I thank God that the earth is round with four corners. Even if people are different, they are all the same.” Benjamin even accompanied his entry with a crayon-drawn quasi-realistic globe with the continents mapped in and a cross in the middle of the globe to signify the four major directions. He really got into it.

Browsing through my latest gratitude journal, here are some things that I have thanked God and Goddess for:
1. I am thankful for the few friends that I have. They may not be that many but I have experienced their love, support, and loyalty. I am also thankful for my wonderful family.
2. I am thankful for my ability to read. This ability alone expands my world, influences my point of view, and spurs me into action.
3. I am thankful for my comfortable clothes and shoes that keep me warm even in the coldest weather.
4. I am thankful to be able to ride AC Transit Bus #22 (my main transportation to and from Chabot College where I go to school).
5. I am thankful that I went out on a date with him today (whomever “him” is at the moment).

And so on and so forth. The idea for me here was to give thanks every chance I got lest I just let the moment pass and take all those bountiful blessings and seemingly inconsequential things for granted. Our Great Father and Great Mother have been good to me. I have even come to terms with my disability, bipolar disorder, and somehow turned it into a wellspring of inspiration for meeting people with disabilities like me, as well as healers of the mind, body, and spirit, and other very interesting people. If not for my illness, I wouldn’t have had the privilege, 14 years ago, of founding the Biopsychosocial Support and Interaction Group (BISIG) which was the first support group for people with mental disorders in the entire Philippines at the time. If not for my illness, I wouldn’t have met my wonderful members, most of whom are living drama-free productive lives these days. I am thankful that after much trial and error, I have learned not to be ashamed of my mental illness anymore and to do my best to live as normal a life as possible given my limitations.

Now just this past Sunday, I happened to be at the Angel Light Books in Berkeley again for their Thanksgiving Psychic Fair. As a “thank you” to all the loyal customers who have frequented the shop, store owner Ms. Valencia Chan asked us to join her for complimentary hors d’ oeuvres, pumpkin pie, and ginger peach tea. All of us who were in the store that day received a free gemstone heart which we picked with our eyes closed from her elegant black velvet pouch. I got a red jasper which Ms. Valencia said is supposed to energize the blood and increase one’s stamina. Goodness knows, with finals week coming up soon, I need all the help I can get. There were readers there for Chinese Fortune Telling, Tarot, Palm Reading, and African Shell Reading available for $20 for each type for 15 minutes, as usual. Of course, I haven’t experienced an African Shell Reading yet so that’s what I went for. Ms. Khadijah Grant, dressed in traditional African garb, was my reader. There was an invocation to my ancestors since according to Ms. Khadijah, they are always available to help. She asked me to move my right hand three times among the shells, coins, stones, etc., heaped over a circular symbol on her table mat. The long and short of it is that I need to get more grounded and that I am being urged to use more of my gifts for the benefit of others. She asked me to do a “mineral meditation” since minerals stand for memories – part of my grounding work, acknowledgement of my ancestors, and a call for guidance from the Earth itself where I am to do my future work.

As I am wont to say to myself as I feel my beating heart, “It is well with my soul.” It truly is. It is well with my soul. Happy Thanksgiving to you all!

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Find advisor Blesilda44 at KEEN.com, 1-800-ASK-KEEN (1-800-275-5336), extension 05226567 either by phone or chat: Mon-Fri 7-10 pm, Sat-Sun 7-11 pm Pacific. I speak English, Tagalog, and some Spanish. For personal readings (fee required), email me here: blessingsandlight725@gmail.com

“ADVENTURING AGAIN AT ANGEL LIGHT BOOKS” in this week’s issue of the MANILA MAIL (Nov. 19-25, 2014)

Pilipinasblitz Forever
A column by Bles Carmona
For the week of Nov. 19-25, 2014
ADVENTURING AGAIN AT ANGEL LIGHT BOOKS

It was the third Sunday of November. Per Angel Light Books and Gifts Store tradition, the third Sunday of the month is when the Angel Light Metaphysical Fair is held. The Angel Light Store, located in Berkeley, is “your one stop store for all your Metaphysical needs,” like their business card states. I would have to agree. The Angellightstore.com business card has a color picture of the Archangel Chamuel (the archangel of peaceful relationships/love), as well as the important data like the address: 3347 MLK Jr. Way, Berkeley, CA 94703; the phone number: (510) 985-1600; and the email: info@angellightstore.com. I think that when you read further, at one point you will feel the urge to at least check out their online store, or maybe even the Angel Light School of Metaphysics which offers certifications and courses in the psychic and healing arts in-house or online. If you’re curious, please check it out: http://www.angellightschool.com

I already wrote a column about this book store in the May 28-June 3, 2014 issue of the Manila Mail, but here’s an update. Let’s go back to the Angel Light Metaphysical Fair to which I recently went and which regularly happens on the third Sunday of the month. There were a couple of readers present: Ms. Eloise Hill and Ms. Helena Mazzariello, as well as a Reiki Master, Ms. Catherine Walters who gives free Reiki sessions. During these fairs, a 15-minute reading only costs $20 which I think is very reasonable considering that these effective and experienced professionals charge a much higher price during regular individual sessions with them. You can check out all their offerings on their respective websites: Candle Stone Tarot (www.eloisehill.net), http://www.spiritinjoy.com (Ms. Helena Mazzariello), and http://www.guidedchange.com (Ms. Catherine Walters).

This is my first time to go to one of this store’s fairs and I guess I was a bit overwhelmed. There were times during the sessions that I felt I’ve spaced out and missed hearing some important points that these readers wanted to get across to me, but as Ms. Cathy told me later, “It doesn’t matter. What your conscious mind may miss, your subconscious mind retains.”

My first 15-minute session was with Ms. Eloise Hill. She is a writer, psychic (clairaudient/clairvoyant/clairsentient), and tarot reader. She was an acute-care nurse for a number of years before deciding to write and nurture her more intuitive side. She is the author of a couple of the Eileen McGrath Tarot Series of mystery books, “Eight of Pentacles” and “The Queen of the Barley Moon,” now available at Amazon. She also teaches individual classes and courses on Thoth Tarot 101, Divination 101 (rune-casting, tea-leaf reading, and palm reading), Wicca 101, Chakras 101, and Astral Projection. She hosts the Psychic/Tarot Faire at Angel Light every first Saturday of the month. For my reading, I chose for her to do a tarot reading for me. Ms. Eloise uses the Thoth deck so I’m not quite familiar with the imagery since I work with the traditional Rider-Waite deck myself. But hey, I was there with a mindset to learn new things and expand my grasp of the metaphysical, after all. The points I would like to share with you from Ms. Eloise’s sessions are: 1. It looks like the next 3-6 years would be more favorable for me. 2. I must learn not to “over-give,” but to balance giving and receiving. 3. I will be reconnecting with my strengths, and will have the strength to let go of habits or mindsets that do not serve me anymore. (Quitting smoking, anyone? More exercise and less food intake, maybe? Charging for my readings instead of giving them away for free most of the time?)

Next, I had a psychic reading and aura cleansing with Ms. Helena Mazzariello. She is an artist, clairvoyant, healer, and teacher. Among the readings she offers are: clairvoyant, past life, aura/chakra, Ascended Master, pet, house healings, Akashic records, plus female energy tune-ups, substance addiction healings and deprogrammings. She told me that the aura around me is a distinct shade of blue (she didn’t know it was my favorite color) with a bit of red thrown in, which is good for action and assertiveness. She taught me how to ground myself from the very top of my head (crown chakra), down to my feet, and way, way down below the earth where I must let go of these certain brown-colored “depressed” energy that’s not even my own. Upon reflection, I do admit that in the course of my listening with compassion to other people like my tarot clients or my friends, sometimes I tend to feel their pain too much and end up feeling depleted and sad myself. Now Ms. Helena tells me that there is a way to shield ourselves from other people’s energy, to establish some boundaries, and to ground ourselves. She asked me, “Do you meditate?” I answered honestly: no. Ever the optimistic one, she told me of one very simple and effective type of meditation: the shower meditation. Yes, take a shower! The water sluices down from the top of your head and the water, carrying all the negative energy, goes down the drain and deep into the earth. Cleanse your aura, take a showah, right? (Grin.)

Finally, I sampled the free Reiki session offered by Ms. Catherine Walters. Ms. Cathy, aside from being a Reiki Master, is also a clinical hypnotherapist. She began the session by giving me an orientation about what Reiki is, especially what it means: “rei” means universal, and “ki” means energy (also called “chi”). In effect, Reiki is the universal energy all around us, and Ms. Cathy is quick to qualify that she is just the conduit. During the actual session itself, I was seated in a swivel chair with Ms. Cathy standing behind me with her hands on my shoulders, explaining that although the hands can be placed anywhere, she chose the shoulders for their proximity to the heart. She began to speak about energy and healing while her hands were on my shoulders. Later on, I told her honestly that at some point I must have spaced out because although I was hearing her voice, I couldn’t understand what was being said. That prompted her remark about our subconscious catching it anyway if our conscious mind ever missed anything. We discussed gratitude and appreciation (there is a difference, she said) and how to make my crown chakra (masculine) work with my throat and heart chakras (feminine). They must work together, not just one or the other, and she said that I would reach a lot of like-minded people through the written word.

As for the owner of Angel Light, Ms. Valencia Chan, here’s her bio from the Instructors tab of the School website: “Valencia has owned and operated Angel Light Books and Gifts since 1989. An avid metaphysician, she has studied in depth topics including astrology, tarot, crystals, and feng shui. She received her certification in astrology in 1987 from Experience Astrology in San Francisco and for Feng Shui in 1996 from Feng Shui Design in Grass Valley. Being Chinese, feng shui has always been an integral part of her culture. Her knowledge of crystals includes attending workshops from various teachers, studying from an extensive library of books and most of all from her personal experience of selling and giving away thousands of stones over the years. “I’m always amazed at how the perfect stone will find its way to the person who would most benefit from its power.” Valencia teaches How to Read the Rider Waite Tarot Cards, Astrology 101, Feng Shui 101, Crystal Awareness, Stones Awareness, and Chakra Awareness.” There are more classes, fairs, and special events scheduled in the near future. The store’s website is quite updated so please check it out for the details, and the gracious Ms. Valencia is always just a phone call away. I definitely had a great time at the Fair and will come again one of these days! (pilipinasblitz@gmail.com)

“Educating Myself on Islam: The Beginning” in this week’s issue of the MANILA MAIL (Oct. 8-14, 2014) (Image courtesy of nocompulsion.com)

Pilipinasblitz Forever
A column by Bles Carmona
For the week of Oct. 8-14, 2014

EDUCATING MYSELF ON ISLAM: THE BEGINNING

I am currently taking a class called “The Nature of Islam” at Chabot College because I wanted to gain knowledge about this widely misunderstood culture. There are several requirements for the course. One of them was to watch a PBS documentary called “Islam: Empire of Faith.”

The religion and people of Islam have had a bad rap since 9/11. Islam’s reputation took a nosedive, becoming “evil.” In my mind, I compared this negative reaction to Muslims to an event centuries ago as described in the documentary. When Al-Hakim (described by a scholar in the film as “a madman”) ordered the burning of the Christian church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem in the year 1009, immediately the backlash was the impression that Muslims are intolerant, mad, heretics. By year 1095 there was a widespread anti-Muslim sentiment in Europe, and in my mind, this sentiment was what contributed to the massive downplaying of Islamic contributions to the culture of Europe, Asia, and Africa.

In “Empire of Faith,” Islam was portrayed in a positive light by showing Muslim developments and inventions in the second part of the documentary. This period of high achievement even predates the European Renaissance by hundreds of years. Starting with the concept of trade as an instrument for transmission of beliefs, Islam was shown to spread from Mecca to Europe and China. The film tackles Baghdad, a city of wealth rivaled only by ancient Athens or Rome, being made the best city in the world at that time by the presence of scholars. These scholars came from all over the world: Muslims, Christians, and Jewish alike, all searching for answers to some of the most daunting problems of the community at that time. Muslim scholars recognized the need for science and thus came up with the scientific method to solve problems in engineering, public hygiene, and commerce, among others.

Among the Islamic inventions and concepts mentioned in the film were Arabic numerals; algebra, engineering, and astronomy; germ theory to explain disease; separating patients with different diagnoses into different wards; a system of human anatomy; optics; treating cataracts using the needle; paper; and of course the exquisite architecture in Baghdad and Cordoba used for their mosques, hospitals, libraries, and parks. The film talked about Alhambra as the most famous example of Islamic architecture, and it was truly a wonderful sight to see!

Honestly, my reaction to the recounting of Muslim inventions was one of surprise. I have been “brain-washed” to believe that all the good inventions came from Europe. I grew up in the Philippines and even in my own country, we Catholics and Christians tended to look askance at Muslims. Since I was small, my impression of Muslims, based on a few neighbors and acquaintances, was that Muslims were hard to deal with, easily angered, and could “run amok” at any time. These are, of course, unfair generalizations on my part.

Since 9/11, Muslims have been portrayed in a negative light, lumped together as if they were not unique individuals. It is the negative slant of the media that makes unfair assumptions. For example, journalists are quick to label “Islamic extremists” as such but if those from other religions are the perpetrators, we don’t see them identified as “Catholic extremists” or “white fundamentalists.” Is the media’s use of certain words to describe Islam and Muslims a deliberate attempt to demonize this specific religion and culture?

Last week, I was invited to share lunch with my good friend Ahmed and his wife Aisha (not their real names) who graciously welcomed me to their modest home. Since Aisha knew only some English, Ahmed had to translate between his wife and me. She cooked some wonderful authentic Afghan cuisine items which Ahmed complemented with “Afghan wine,” which is actually an in-joke to describe yogurt milk due to its tendency to make a person drowsy after a meal. The couple also showed me their beautiful, healthy, and well-behaved almost 2-month old baby daughter Samirah. Their pride in that little bundle of joy is justified.

Last week, too, Muslims all over the world were celebrating the Eid al-Adha or the Festival of the Sacrifice. I think that we as non-Muslims are more familiar with the Eid al-Fitr (Lesser Eid) at the end of Ramadan, and together with the Eid al-Adha (Greater Eid), they comprise the two official holidays in Islam. Eid al-Adha occurs around 2.5 months after Eid al-Fitr, coming at the end of the pilgrimage to Mecca. Muslims commemorate God’s mercy to Abraham, allowing the patriarch to substitute an animal instead of his son for sacrifice. In honor of this, Muslims worldwide sacrifice goats, cows, and lambs on the Greater Eid and distribute the meat among family, friends, neighbors, and the poor.

Here is a paragraph from the book “American Muslims: A Journalist’s Guide to Understanding Islam and Muslims” issued by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR): “Journalists can use these celebrations and holy days to showcase the positive aspects of Muslim life. For instance, journalists can write about Ramadan dinners in the mosque or interfaith events, Muslims feeding the hungry, Muslims distributing meat to the poor, Muslims celebrating Eid, Muslim family life during Ramadan, how different cultures break the fast, or children praying and fasting despite intense school schedules (p. 31).”

In one of our professor’s early lectures, we learned that the first commandment of Islam is for people to educate themselves. Its aim is to produce individuals who have faith and knowledge, one sustaining the other. Knowledge without faith is not only partial knowledge but can be a kind of new ignorance. Acknowledging that wisdom is the fruit of true knowledge, Islamic education insists on the fact that piety and faith must be recognized as integrated parts of the educational system. (Prof. H. Siddiqi’s lecture, 8/27/14)

There is no compulsion in religion (Qur’an 2/256) and indeed, Muslims have been taught to coexist peacefully with people from other religions. Man always has free will and freedom of choice. “If it had been your Lord’s will, all who are in the earth would have believed together. Will you then compel humankind against their will to believe?” (Qur’an 10/99).

Let’s educate ourselves about Islam before being overcome by the stereotypes we foist on it. Interacting with Muslim individuals, families, and communities may just open your mind. Did you know that the literal meaning of the Arabic word “Islam” means “to be safe and secure, to submit and surrender, and peace?” Assalamu Alaikum (Peace be upon you.)

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Find advisor Blesilda44 at KEEN.com, 1-800-ASK-KEEN (1-800-275-5336), extension 05226567 either by phone or chat: Mon-Fri 7-10 pm, Sat-Sun 7-11 pm Pacific. I speak English, Tagalog, and some Spanish. For personal readings, email me here: pilipinasblitz@gmail.com

“Visiting the California School of the Deaf in Fremont” in this week’s issue of the MANILA MAIL (Oct. 1-7, 2014)

Pilipinasblitz Forever
A column by Bles Carmona
For the week of October 1-7, 2014

VISITING THE CALIFORNIA SCHOOL OF THE DEAF IN FREMONT

Almost a year ago, I went to the open house of the California School of the Deaf (CSD) in Fremont, CA. It was one of the requirements for one of my classes at Chabot College at that time, American Sign Language (ASL) 64, the most basic level. The following was the reaction paper I wrote after my visit.

“I am writing this on Nov. 11, 2013 (Monday, Veterans Day), the same day that I attended the CSD Open House in the Fremont campus. I wanted to put it down on paper at once, while the experience is still fresh in my mind, and before I get deluged by other requirements from my other subjects towards the end of the semester.

The first thing I did was just to circle the grounds, looking at the numbered buildings, trying to get a sense of the size of the campus. Except for speaking people here and there, it was mostly quiet, which at first disoriented me. From similar previous events that I’ve attended, my experience had been that loud music would be blaring, and that speaking people would almost be shouting at each other to be heard above the other noises in the gathering. I could see a lot of people confidently signing away. Man, they sign sooo fast! I’m just watching from the sidelines but it’s hard for me to keep up with what’s being said. I was especially touched when I observed some children who already have the ability to express themselves in sign language. I tried to put myself in their shoes, but I failed miserably because I couldn’t imagine myself without the power of hearing and speech from a young age. As I observed these children, my admiration for them grew in proportion to what I perceive to be the “difficulties” of being deaf in a mostly hearing and speaking world. It’s a good thing, therefore, that there are schools like CSD that serve these students, instilling confidence and life skills so that they can navigate the world around them.

After circling the perimeters of the campus, I decided to buy some hot chocolate from the Early Childhood Education stand. Since I forgot how to sign “hot chocolate,” I just pointed at their written signboard. When the lady signed “hot chocolate,” I quickly imitated her and nodded my head. When she handed me my cup, I was able to sign: “Toilet, where?” (That much I remembered.) She answered me with hand gestures which I understood.

Next, I went to the library where there was a book fair and art exhibit going on. I took a couple of photos of artworks that I liked. One photo shows “It’s Raining Audists Outside” by student Yordi Morales which strongly resembles a specific series of paintings by my favorite Surrealist, the Belgian-born René Magritte. Another photo shows “Deaf Identity Shattered” by Jasmine Sanchez on the left and “a World of Language is in Our Hands” by LiAn Jackson on the right. Apparently there is an art movement called DeVIA art (Deaf View/Image Art) which expresses Deaf perspectives, experience, and insights. Art teacher David Call is a well-known DeVIA artist. From an early age, I have always appreciated various forms of art, so I am glad that the students of CSD have a venue for self-expression. I did notice that hands and eyes seem to figure a lot in many of the works of art that I saw in the exhibit. I assume that this is logical, since the Deaf and hard of hearing do use their hands and eyes/facial expressions in their regular communications. I also assume that these young artists felt compelled to depict hands and eyes since these are within the realm of their everyday experiences. In the same way that aspiring writers are advised to “write from what they know,” I would think that these gifted artists were given a similar advice in what to portray in their artworks. Based on what I saw in the exhibit, the student-artists of CSD are a very talented group indeed!

Then from 11:45 am to 12:10 pm, I decided to join the Campus Life Tour which started at the High School Activity Center #15. There was a man who gave an orientation in ASL and a woman who interpreted via speech for him. At the same time, there was another man who interpreted in Spanish for a Latina student in the group. I must confess that had it not been due to the lady interpreter, I would not have caught up with what the man was signing. Then our big group was split into two and we toured a couple of cottages, one for boys and another for girls, which are part of their Independent Living Skills (ILS) program, a stay-in high school program with provision for after-school activities, counseling, and training in ILS.

Finally, I went over to the gym where CSD is having its Deaf Services Faire. There were a lot of vendors, from those selling their handmade arts and crafts to a couple of booths offering mobile communication options for the Deaf, like the “ntouch Mobile” with the SVRS* smart phone app (*Sorenson Video Relay Service). But the one that drew my attention most was the Bay Area Asian Deaf Association (BAADA) booth. I greeted the lady and wrote on a piece of paper: “Do you have Filipino members?” She wrote back: “Yes, our BAADA President is from the Philippines.” Then she showed me one of their organization’s newsletters and pointed out the photo of the current Filipina president, Ms. Maria Tanya Guzman-Viera. Then I asked her in ASL what her name was, and she signed: “Michelle Y.” When I got home, I took a look at their website (www.baada.us) and learned that I was actually talking to Ms. Michelle Yook who is a Board Member of BAADA.

In summary, my experience of attending the CSD Open House has been very enriching. It gave me a glimpse of a different world. I did not feel nervous about communicating and I was glad to use the basic ASL that I knew to ask questions and sustain mini-conversations. Personally, I have always been a seeker of solitude and silence, but the Deaf community takes silence to a whole new level. I could never totally say that I know what a Deaf person goes through, although now I have a better idea. From what I have seen today, there is a strong Deaf community around us which is very supportive in encouraging the education, self-expression, and independence of its members.”

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Find advisor Blesilda44 at KEEN.com, 1-800-ASK-KEEN (1-800-275-5336), extension 05226567 either by phone or chat: Mon-Fri 7-10 pm, Sat-Sun 7-11 pm Pacific. I speak English, Tagalog, and some Spanish. For personal readings, email me here: pilipinasblitz@gmail.com