Dance Festival

A few days ago, I was assigned to cover the 2nd Sibu International Dance Festival (SIDF).  About 11 countries participated in the 5-day event.  As I mentioned it before, stage performances or any other performances photography is a real challenge for me.  But, I love it and every time when I was given the assignment, I knew I’ll have fun.  Opportunity like this does not come very often, especially when it involved cross-cultural performances.  I love those graceful, elegant, fun photos.  I’m not a professional photographer, but I am learning.  These are the photos from the welcoming dinner.  I’m just using my basic Canon 500D camera…well…It’s the only camera I have.  🙂  Been using it for three years.

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Called To Be Extra-Ordinary (Part 1: Knowing The Faith)

Growing up on the streets of New Orlean, Tamara Lowe started taking drugs at the age of 10.  At 12, she became a drug dealer and never get into the eighth grade.  For another few years, she went from one drug-induced high to the next.  She did it until the age of 17, when someone gave her a Bible as a Christmas gift.  Life changed after that.  From the first day she read it, she could not put it down and finished the New Testament in about three weeks.  It was not religion that changed her, but a personal encounter with Jesus.  Today, she is one of the world’s most successful motivator speakers and consultants.  She had trained more than two million people in 70 countries.  She is now a respected author, educator, and businesswoman, co-founder and executive vice president of Get Motivated Seminars.

The Stringfellow family named their dog Faith because they had faith in her.  It was the name given to her to bless her with hope and determination.  They had faith that she would walk again because she was only born with two working legs.  When the family adopted Faith, they believed that the disabled pupply would have a chance to have a normal life.  It took about six months for the miracle to happen.  They put her on a skateboard to show her how movement feels.  They watched her learn to roll from side to side at five weeks old to running full sprints now at seven months.  Today, faith story had inspired many because she showed what can be achieved against the odd.

These are the stories that moved us and inspired us in one way or another.  There are many such stories in which you can read from books, articles or even watch them on the net or television.  Stories about faith.  Not faith the dog, but ‘Faith’.  A very simple word, but such a powerful thing.  So what is faith?  So many people are talking about it, and yet all we got is a very vague term of it.    It involves something that we cannot see, but is given freely to those who seek it.  So what is it anyways?  Catechism of the Catholic Church explains that “Faith is man’s response to God, who reveals himself and gives himself to man, at the same time bringing man a superabundant light as he searches for the ultimate meaning of his life” 

I was born and raised a Catholic, but I never understood what faith is.  Going to Sunday class as a kid, I was told that faith is a gift, it is a mystery.  So, when I believe in something, I believe that there is a God, that He is a creator, because I was given that gift from God.  That was the only thing that I understood.  But, life was simpler then and as a kid, everything was good; the future was good.  Except for homework  and nagging from parents, life was pretty good.  Prayer was one of the things I looked forward to.  I felt connected, I felt the blessing even it wasn’t there.  As I grew older, life started to change and it seems that I always look for something more.  Something that people always asked ‘What is my life purpose?’  I turned to stories about passions, determinations, hope, struggles, love, and faith, hoping to get some clues what was in me.  Those stories inspired my life, and I began to make an effort to see my life in a different way.  ‘Since these people can do it, I can too’, or ‘What is there for me to complain when these people suffered while I’m here, having everything I need’.  I thought all that stories would be real transformation for me.  It didn’t do anything, except changing the way I think.  I knew that unless I could find something meaningful, something deeper, my life could not be transformed.  In short, I began to see life in a different way, but again, I was still the same old person, wishing that life could be more than this.

For the past few years, I began to search for a deeper meaning of life.  I have to be honest, I have dreams, I have goals I wanted to achieve, but when I look at my life, I kept asking myself ‘Is that it? I don’t seem to get anywhere’.  There were ups and downs.  I love my job, but sometimes it would get very frustrated.  When grandma came, I was never happy, I was depressed all the time.  I tried so hard to feel the connection again.  At some point, I probably forgot about all that, and just move on with my life. Ordinary and boring life.  My true conversion happened, just a few weeks ago.

It happened with one simple word.  I guess you already know it by now.  FAITH – ordinary word that packs with extraordinary power.  Nothing big happened in my life.  It began with a realization that God is in my life.  ALWAYS.  And that realization is enough for me to see that there is a great meaning in my life, that my life really matters.  Bishop Don Hying put it this way “Faith is our response to God loving us.  Faith is our response to God breaking into the ordinary-ness of our life, and inviting us into a relationship with him.”  If you love someone, you want that person to respond to that love in order to have the relationship.  It is the same thing with God.

By blood, I am Albanian. By citizenship, an Indian. By faith, I am a Catholic nun. As to my calling, I belong to the world. As to my heart, I belong entirely to the Heart of Jesus. – Mother Teresa.

I began looking for Faith because I was at the point of my life where I felt that my life was going no where.  The dreams that I had and the goal that I wanted to achieve seem to be just there, but no way achievable.  And life was just…that.  I felt I was beginning to drift away from my faith.  Prayer became an effort.  When I’m in the church, my mind and heart seemed to be elsewhere.  Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI made this year as a ‘Year of Faith’ hoping to help Catholics appreciate the gift of faith, deepen their relationship with God and strengthen their commitment to share faith with others.

I’m a Catholic, and shamefully, I didn’t really care about this theme. Our bishop encouraged us to study the bible, parish priests wanted us to read the Catechism and to understand what Faith is.  Only then, our eyes could be opened and see, then grow with it.  I did none of that…well…until recently.  Not the bible, I started to read the Catechism.  I didn’t really do it on purpose.  One night I was sitting in front of my computer screen, it was probably almost 11pm, Catechism of the Catholic church just crossed my mind and I just got up from the chair and read it.  I opened my heart to read articles about faith, watching the explanation of faith in Youtube.  I listened to stories of creation and its significance.  Everyone in this planet is part of the beauty in this universe that God created.  Everyday, the moment I opened my eyes, and breathing the air, I say a ‘Thank You’ to God for keeping me alive for another day.  And then as i walked my dog, I looked around me and just be thankful for everything.  I did all these with my heart.  For weeks, I kept reminding myself why am I here, I did my work at my very best; just live day to day, and enjoy the beauty of nature.

 Then I felt it. God is here.