“Culture of Life: King Tut Festival 2015 in Hayward” in this week’s issue of the MANILA MAIL (Aug. 26-Sept. 1, 2015; page A5)

Pilipinasblitz Forever
A column by Bles Carmona

For the week of Aug. 26-Sept. 1, 2015

Culture of Life: King Tut Festival 2015 in Hayward

The most that can be said about King Tutankhamun of Egypt, at one point, was that he lived, reigned young, and died. It was the aftermath of his dying, the discovery in November 26, 1922 of his pristine and undisturbed tomb full of treasures by British archaeologist/adventurer Howard Carter and his rich backer, Lord Carnarvon, which reignited worldwide interest in this ancient and proud civilization. Certainly, with all the Egyptian methods of mummification for the preservation of the dead and their pyramid-building to house the earthly remains of their royalty, you would think that Egyptians seem to have this morbid preoccupation about death. Actually, everything that had been done for their dearly departed was a bountiful celebration of life.
And what a celebration of life it continues to be! For three days last week (Aug. 21-23), the secular Coptic Youth Center sponsored the 26th annual King Tut Festival http://kingtutfestival.com/.

It was held on the common ground between the youth center and the St. Antonius Coptic Orthodox Church. I had the delight of enjoying the Egyptian experience. Since I already ate lunch before I got there, I passed on the falafel, kabob, shawarma, kofta, and the other entrees. I wanted to try the hibiscus juice because I’ve never had it before, and like I said in my Facebook post last week, it was mildly sweet and very tangy. I listened to a lady onstage as she played the “oud,” pronounced “ood,” an octavina-like guitar. Later, when I was able to talk with her after her set, I learned that her name was Hayam and that oud-playing is her hobby. Her young daughter’s eyes are big, framed with thick curling lashes, part-blue, part-green; the child looked so beautiful. However, the main draw for a bargain souvenir-hunter like me was “Cleopatra’s Bazaar,” housed in the gym/multipurpose room of the Coptic Youth Center itself. There are dresses, shirts, elaborate jewelry pieces (earrings, bracelets, rings, and necklaces), knick-knacks like miniature glass pyramids, King Tuts, wine bottle openers, keychains, paintings on papyrus-like material… geez, you name it, there really IS something for everyone. I forgot her name, but I’ll call her “Cleopatra,” was an older lady who obviously owned the enterprise. She was so accommodating such that she told me to feel free to look around and ask her any questions. Her assistant was also very helpful to me when I wanted to try on a blue ankle-length dress with prints of Tutankhamun on it. I ended up buying the blue dress, a red beaded bracelet and a 4-inch gold-plated bust of Cleopatra – all for under $30. I didn’t ask for a discount but I noticed that they’re willing to shave off some $3 off the price of a single item once they see you expressing an interest in it. Of course they want to make a sale, but there is also a dignity here that sends the message that with them, buyers do not need to haggle. What a lesson in grace I learned from “Cleopatra” and her bazaar colleagues.

Another thing I noticed about the Egyptian-Americans is that they truly believe in the importance of the family. Of course, you say, everyone values the family. But with them, it’s not just about saying it but also putting it into action. It’s very important during every year of the festival that there be a play and recreation area for the children. I think this is my first time to see a gym climber in any celebration and the artificial boulder was intended for the kids to climb up and down on. In fact, one of the goals of the Coptic Youth Center is to encourage physical activity through sports in order to decrease obesity and type 2 diabetes among their youth.

Additionally, in terms of rites and traditions, they start them young, too. There was a procession of mini-King Tuts and other royal personages, average age of five years old, in ornate headdresses and white gowns as they “walked like an Egyptian,” their arms bent at the elbow with their hands raised as if in offering. If we have our Santacruzan and Flores de Mayo, then our Egyptian-American brethren have this King Tut procession.
I looked at the roster of the Board of Directors of the Coptic Youth Center. Their bios are very impressive: a priest, a cardiologist, engineers (civil, mechanical, etc.), high-ranking information communication, and technology (ICT), sales, and other global leadership positions in reputable companies. When I look back on a community college course I took, RELS 64-“The Nature of Islam,” taught by Prof. Hafiz Siddiqi, I remembered that he made us watch a PBS documentary about the contributions of Islam to the entire civilization of humankind. It’s still relevant in our discussion here because 90% of the Egyptian population is Muslim (2006 census). In Egypt, Muslims and Christians live as neighbors, they share a common history and national identity, and they also share the same ethnicity, race, culture, and language (“Egypt, International Religious Freedom Report 2008, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor. September 19, 2008). My point is that regardless of religion, the seeds of greatness, above-average intelligence, and kindness seem to be inherent in those of Egyptian descent, honing most of them to be benevolent achievers who have the drive to give back unselfishly to their community.

I remember several years ago when I visited the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum in San Jose, CA. The dimly lit hallways, mummies, artifacts, and a mock-up burial chamber inspired a hushed awe in me at the seeming “familiarity” of it all. The eerie quietness did not unnerve me; it soothed me. It was not that Egyptians were so hung up on death – it’s that they fervently believed in the afterlife and so believed that the best way for a mortal to cross over is for the living to prepare the deceased for embalming/mummification. Nefertiti, Cleopatra, Bast, Isis, Hathor, all these powerful women-goddesses… and of course Sekhmet, the Egyptian lion-goddess that started the museum, were all represented in my favorite part of the museum, the gift shop. In short, whatever Egyptian-inspired dreams I may have had when I was still in the Philippines were given life when I visited this museum ten years ago now. I think I am overdue for a revisit. I was thinking these thoughts as I sat under a tent with tables and chairs for those who need a spot for eating their late lunch.

I was quietly observing the people around the tent area when I saw an older lady wearing a long orange dress accidentally spill her drink on herself. The teenagers on the other table, four or five of them, jumped up so quickly like lightning to start helping the lady by mopping up the mess with paper napkins and bigger paper towels. They didn’t need to be told what to do. They used their common sense and willingness to help and acted swiftly as soon as the situation required it. This scene touched my heart because I look at it as the youth’s sensitivity to the needs of the elderly, a caring attitude that seems sadly on the wane nowadays.

Next week, following through on this train of thought, I would like to offer for your perusal a piece that I would like to call, “pagtanaw ng utang na loob,” or gratefulness. For what should we be grateful? To whom shall we be grateful? Can we connect the dots so that we can persuade the younger generation to be grateful to the older generation and to act on that gratitude in simple yet sustained ways? Abangan.


“May is the month of flowers and mental health awareness” in this week’s issue of the MANILA MAIL (May 13-19, 2015; page A5)

Pilipinasblitz Forever
A column by Bles Carmona

For the week of May 13-19, 2015

May is the month of flowers and mental health awareness

When I was young, I remember being excited once school was out during April and May. I remember looking forward to the month of May because it seemed that many special events were happening in our community. The pomp and pageantry of the Flores de Mayo and Santacruzan processions come to mind. I remember being in awe of all those beautiful young women wearing makeup and shiny-with-sequins gowns, their handsome escorts in barong Tagalog, and the decorative arches that tower over each pair.

“Flores de Mayo” (flowers of May in Spanish) is held as a Catholic devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary by offering flowers and prayers in her honor for the entire month. On the last day of Flores de Mayo, the “Santacruzan” (procession of the holy cross) pageant is held in honor of Reyna Elena and her young son, Emperador Constantino, for finding the true cross in Jerusalem. In the Santacruzan procession, many Biblical figures are represented, among whom are Methuselah, Ruth and Naomi, and Queens representing Faith, Hope, and Charity (Reynas Fe, Esperanza, and Caridad, respectively). The various titles of Mary based on a litany are personified by young women bearing symbols of what they represent, for example: Reyna Justicia (“mirror of justice”) who carries a weighing scale and a sword, or Reyna del Cielo (“queen of heaven”) who carries a flower and accompanied by two little “angels.” But don’t worry, if the symbolism gets lost on you, you can always read the young lady’s title across her “arko” or arch which looks like a rainbow banner over each maiden and carried on each side by a couple of strapping youths.

All in all, the Flores de Mayo, and especially the final salvo, the Santacruzan, could be one long procession indeed, complete with a marching band. However, you know what we Filipinos say: “Pagkahaba-haba man ng prusisyon, sa simbahan din ang tuloy.” (No matter how long the procession is, it still winds up in church.) This could be taken to mean that even a longstanding courtship still ends up in a church wedding, or that a long-standing matter will be resolved in the best way possible, or that patience and perseverance will be rewarded with God’s blessings. These traditions held during the month of May have been handed down through the Spanish Catholic branch of our Filipino heritage in our birth country.

Closer to our current home and much more recently in history, May 2015 has been declared by President Barack Obama as National Mental Health Awareness Month (https://www.whitehouse.gov/…/presidential-proclamation-nat…/). It begins thus: “This year, approximately one in five American adults — our friends, colleagues, and loved ones — will experience a diagnosable mental health condition like depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, or post-traumatic stress, and many others will be troubled by significant emotional and psychological distress, especially in times of difficulty.

For most of these people, treatment can be effective and recovery is possible. Yet today, millions of Americans still do not receive the care they need. This month, we stand with those who live with mental illness, and we recommit to ensuring all Americans have access to quality, affordable care.” The proclamation proceeds to mention that the Affordable Care Act has extended benefits to over 60 million Americans with mental health and substance abuse issues. The statistics from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) still says that one in five Americans between 13-18 will have a severe mental disorder in a given year, and that mood disorders are the third leading cause of hospitalization among the 18-44 age bracket. We have been bombarded with media packets, articles, and websites aimed at helping us detect depression. I don’t have any argument with that and I truly recommend being familiar with the signs and symptoms of depression, especially if we are dealing with a loved one with a mental health disorder. Please do check out http://www.nami.org for additional resources.

Personally, I check three things as part of my mental health hygiene: my mood, appetite, and number of hours of sleep. It’s my sleep time which is the first to be affected when I notice myself about to slip into a mood change, and this means I need to see my doctor right away. A lot of our resources have rightly been allocated toward facing the aftermath of severe depression, in terms of consultation hours, medications, and other interventions which may reach crisis proportions.

However, I do think that we should also turn part of our focus toward the prevention of depression. What can we do to help ourselves? What definite strategies can we use to lift our mood?

I found a promising article (http://southtahoenow.com/…/spring-wellness-promoting-positi…) by Betsy Glass, MSW in the South Tahoe Now online news.
1. Practice relaxation skills: You can try guided imagery, meditation, or what I do sometimes, which is to tense then relax my muscles starting from my feet, then my legs, then my thighs, going up… they call it progressive muscle relaxation for short.
2. Socialize: Seek out a family member or friend. Volunteer or join a group.
3. Strive for growth: Challenge yourself by actually following your heart’s desire in your choice of jobs or activities.
4. Balanced diet: Make sure you get nourished properly with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and proteins, which are all full of mood-energizing nutrients.
5. Try something new and creative: Adding something new to your routine has been shown to be a mood booster.
6. Exercise regularly with others: You can walk, do aerobics or other activities with your friends!
7. Practice gratitude: If it were up to me, this should be a daily habit. Appreciate yourself, what you have, and the presence of others in your life.
8. Aim for at least 7-8 hours of sleep: Anything less, like I said, affects mood adversely. Develop a sleep routine that does not involve caffeine or the glare of TV screens.
9. Recognize when you evaluate yourself or others. Review the Serenity Prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971): “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
10. Do one thing at a time with your undivided attention: Let go of distractions, whether they be thoughts, feelings, or actions, then gently guide your focus back to your task.
11. Surround yourself with nature: Find a quiet place where you can take in the sun for a while. Plant or place flowers in your work and leisure spaces. Maybe take off your shoes and stand safely on some grassy piece of earth. This is very grounding when you notice that you’re living too much in your head.

Wherever we are this month, my hope is that we will reflect upon our experiences and be all the better persons for it. Enjoy the flowery, mentally healthy month of May!


“HOW TO FIND YOUR SPIRIT ANIMAL” in this week’s issue of the MANILA MAIL (January 14-20, 2015, page A7) (Photo credits: www.fabricandart.com)

Pilipinasblitz Forever
A column by Bles Carmona
For the week of January 14-20, 2015


Have you ever wondered about the spiritual world of our Native American brethren? There are 562 federally recognized tribal governments in the United States (America.gov) – have you ever wondered what beliefs may be shared among them?

Since Native American religion is partly Earth-centered (especially before the arrival of Christianity), part of their cosmology is the belief in spirit animals. How do we find our spirit animal and how can we be open to what our spirit animal is teaching us?

At http://www.spiritanimal.info (site editor Elena Harris), you will find a plethora of information on spirit animals. For instance, there are many ways to find your spirit animal: through meditation, going in nature and observing, calling the animal, process of self-inquiry, writing about it in your journal, imagination, and journeying with sound. Animals are everywhere in our lives, whether as pets or as free agents, and yet we fail to grasp their symbolic nature. In effect, we miss what they’re trying to teach us and thus we miss the opportunity to improve our lives. In the world of spirit animals, they can symbolize: aspects of your personality, skills or traits that you have cultivated successfully or have yet to develop, a situation or an emotion that has recently arisen. Spirit animals can also offer guidance and intuitive understanding.

When we bond with an animal spirit guide, we are encouraged to: discover ourselves by getting a felt sense of our strengths and weaknesses, the skills we have developed, and our potential; loosen up our personality and habits and open up to transformation; open up to new perspectives on our relationship with nature and the Earth as a whole; feel the power of the animal and be inspired by its qualities; and call on the animal spirit to get support and guidance. For those with ears that listen, our spirit animals can provide guidance on: an aspect of yourself that is already strongly developed or needs to be explored more; a situation or environment in your everyday life that has a strong emotional impact; and a life direction you could consider or reflect on (www.spiritanimal.info). In the website, there are quizzes you can take to determine your animal totem, and I got “Bear,” which apparently stands for strength, confidence, taking action, healing, solitude, and grounding – among other meanings. Don’t worry, because when you get your result, the website will explain what your spirit animal means. There is another quiz for discovering your “inner animal,” and another one for finding out your “social animal.” For my inner animal, my result was that I was either an Owl or a Hummingbird, and for my social animal, I was either a Bear (again?!) or a Butterfly. I guess it may take a while for me to be equated with a less hefty spirit animal (grin). I’m not complaining, though. I like what my Bear is teaching me.

Now let’s compare the above system with these “Native American Zodiac Signs via Algonquin wisdom” written by Avia Venefica, a symbolist, metaphysician, part-Native American, and self-proclaimed heretic, always questioning, discovering, and learning. Avia maintains several websites, but this piece on “Native American Zodiac Signs” was retrieved from http://www.tokenrock.com. I suggest that you visit the website to view the complete descriptions.

Hawk (Mar 21-Apr 20)
You have expansive vision, and your ability to see beyond what common reality holds is extraordinary. As a visionary with an intrepid streak in tackling new adventures – people look to you as a natural leader. Part of your life lesson is knowing when others are plucking your feathers for their selfish gain. Spreading your wings and shining more radiantly is the solution. In this way, you uplift through example.

Moose (Apr 21-May 20)
You are a gentle giant among your tribe. Your heart has a massive capacity for love and provision, particularly concerning matters of home and family. You know your own power, but often elect to keep that power on reserve and in-check. Creature comforts, family, friends, sharing and tender moments of simplicity nurture your soul. All these heartwarming and endearing tendencies of yours vanish if you feel anything you value is threatened. If you perceive harm against your herd, you will strike with chilling vengeance. Part of your life lesson is to learn flexibility in your perception and to better discern which battles to pick and which to avoid.

Owl (May 21-Jun 21)
Your tribal kin have a hard time following you, in spite of your phenomenal ability to intelligently communicate your thoughts to them. It has to do with a higher level of knowing which is your set-point. Part of your life lesson is to utilize your ability to see people from all angles and have patience with those who have trouble keeping up with you in the skies you fly.

Sturgeon (June 22-July 22)
You have an incredible lineage for intuitive knowing (typically passed from your mother), and the waves of your intuitive perception are best expressed through artistic manifestations. Poetry, art, music are all effective tools for you to convey the world you see. This is why you are typically the storyteller of the tribe, because you reach deep within your emotional whirlpools to access incredible ancient knowing. Your lesson is to use your fluctuating moods and intensely sensitive/emotional nature work to your advantage as well as the advantage of the community.

Mountain Lion (July 23-Aug 22)
As a mountain dweller, you are fueled by the realms of the sun, and easily attain high levels of success. Your tribal kin would call you lucky because they observe things always working out for your best interest. You would say you are extremely skilled, highly observant, and you know how to strategize or work the system to your best advantage. This is true. Nevertheless, people look up to you upon your mountain and view you as the tribal hero/heroine. Part of your life lesson is to funnel your assertiveness as a means to guide and effectively lead without manipulating or crushing the vulnerable spirits of the souls placed in your charge.

Deer (Aug 23-Sep 23)
You are extraordinarily attuned to your environment – having a ‘sixth sense’ about how things should be, and instantaneously knowing when something is ‘out of place.’ Fortunately, you are incredibly deft at putting things back into order. The disparagement between classes often leaves you fleeing from mainstream society. Your lesson is to learn how to meet your clansmen on their level without stooping below your own.

Eagle (Sept 24-Oct 22)
You are the equalizer of your tribal community. You have an inherent ability to focus your awareness in two directions which gives you the gift of foresight and hindsight simultaneously. Your clansmen look to you to settle disputes and arguments because of your advanced skills at discernment. You also have an evolved sense of equality. Your life lessons will typically revolve around themes of balance. In fact, you may manifest this balance in staggering ways by balancing unconventional with conventional having a ‘public’ life and a ‘secret’ life.

Beaver (Oct 23-Nov 22)
You swim in rivers of vast potential and wonder where reality and dreams comingle with ease. When the outside world does not comply with your perception of what it should be – you simply construct worlds of your own unique design and live there quite contently. Tribal members will seek you to interpret their dreams because you are so familiar with the constructs of parallel worlds. Part of your life lesson is to be mindful other people in your reconstructive/transformative behaviors as the actions you take can sometimes cause emotional blockages for others.

Red Fox (Nov 23-Dec 21)
You incorporate a sense of play into the tribal community that is vital. Without your levity, and high energy your clansmen would be left deflated. When properly motivated, you have the ability to drive sharp intellect into the heart of grand philosophical concepts – piercing core issues with the gift of honed insight. Your lesson is to know your own limits and to recognize your potential through focus and self-grounding.

Black Bear (Dec 22-Jan 20)
You often find yourself in a position of tribal elder in your community because you represent a foundational cornerstone within the tribe. In reality, you have a unique ability to see several steps ahead and know how to incorporate practical measures to bring about solid results to any endeavor. You recognize the value of hard work in order to obtain a goal. More importantly, you have a quality of patience that is remarkable. Part of your life lesson is to recognize that even though your ways are proven reliable, they are not always they right ways for everyone (particularly the tribal youths).

Wolf (Jan 21-Feb 19)
You have a gift of specialized wisdom and even the skill of prophecy. You are infinitely generous to those within your clan and can be incredibly protective over your assets. But your sense of loyalty to the whole of your community is legendary. Your unique knowing and perspective leads you to contribute incredible insights, inventions and evolutionary ideas to the your community. Part of your life lesson is to develop communication skills that convey your ideas more clearly with a goal for communal acceptance.

Grey Whale (Feb 20-Mar 20)
You will likely find yourself living on the outskirts of the tribe – not because you do not wish for fellowship, but because living in isolation affords you the luxury of gathering your internal resources for the great spiritual work you are called to do, usually in the form of healing. The members of your clan will seek you out as their tribal healer. Even those outside of your tribe will travel great distances to receive insight, cleansing, and healing from you. Your life lessons revolve around keeping your individuality while serving the community. Also, you must learn to respect your unique needs for self-nurturing, relaxation and seclusion when you need it.
I hope you have fun discovering your spirit animal and through your meditative explorations, be open to what your animal, in its wisdom, says about one or more of these things: 1. An aspect of yourself that you either need to develop more or is already over-emphasized, 2. A situation in your life right now that is having a strong emotional impact on you, or 3. A life direction you are being urged to consider or reflect upon.

Whether your spirit animal dwells over the land, above in the sky, or in the depths of the sea, there is no need to hunt it down, for lo! It is already right there resting beneath your feet. Ask for its wisdom and wisdom you shall receive.

Photo by Mary Gow-2015. 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

“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
“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
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.

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


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!

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

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


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.)

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