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#Blog Dear Readers, sharing my November 2018 VIA Times Column:

Be the Noise

One of my favorite pre-bedtime rituals especially at the end of a grueling day is reading poetry. Poetry could ground you to what’s essential, reminding you of what’s most important to you, thus bringing you back to yourself. And that, in the midst of a world full of distractions and illusions, anchors me, thereby relaxing me. Moreover, poetry could be a form of prayer. And what better way to pray when one’s spirit is exhausted than to turn to a master of the human soul to provide the words of spirit for us?

One of my go-to poets in this regard is Rumi. Recently, I came across this verse of his:

There is a community of the spirit.
Join it, and feel the delight
of walking in the noisy street,
and being the noise.
(“A Community of the Spirit” by Rumi, page 3, The Essential Rumi: New Expanded Edition, Coleman Banks [Trans.], Harper Collins, 2004)

This recalled for me the numerous resistance marches and protests staged by Americans since the inception of the Trump administration, expressing grave concern with the seriously retrogressive direction toward which the current President and his followers appear to be taking the country on almost all aspects of social, political, economic, security, and environmental issues. If you haven’t experienced a protest march, demonstration, or street rally to express and signify your united stand with like-minded human beings on the most important issues of our time, I highly recommend joining one. It could be life affirming and life changing both for you and your fellow human being who’s marching side by side with you. The atmosphere is nothing short of electric, for it’s a heady feeling one gets being in the midst of all that delightful noise and, like Rumi urged, BEING yourself the noise—the thunderous noise of change a-coming, of being one with the rest of humanity advocating for what the spirit moves us to fight for. Contrary to what cynics say that nothing real or practical is achieved by engaging in such activity, it is very empowering. And when one feels empowered, one is motivated to engage in further actions in support of the desired objectives. Multiply such actions by the thousands, expanded into millions, into the tens of millions, and you can see how this process becomes a chain reaction that could lead to real change—to revolutions, even. One could imagine how the French Revolution might have started with the simple act of some peasant farmer deciding one day to use his pick fork—not to farm, but to rattle against the gilded gates of Versailles and to demand, not cake, but simple, hearty bread.

On this eve of the 2018 U.S. midterm elections, let’s hope that all that noise in the streets of America in the past two years will resound through the ballot page and culminate into real, roaring change in Washington D.C. and the whole country thereafter.

(All rights reserved. Copyright ©2018 by Victoria G. Smith. For updates on her author events & publications, go to "Like" her on Facebook at Author Victoria G. Smith. "Follow" her on Twitter @AuthorVGSmith)
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2 weeks ago

Author Victoria G. Smith

#Feature1 So gratifying to find out my local bookstore on the island carries my book and wants to talk about an author event for me next spring! ... See MoreSee Less


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Yesss!! 😊👌


Thank you, dear Sis Vicky Anupol and Danilo Iyo Lanceta Billanes! 😘😘

#Blog Question everything and everyone. Especially yourself. Your thoughts, opinions, beliefs. Your doubts and questions are as legitimate as all the answers ever proposed by anyone in all the world from the beginning of time. Do not leave any stone unturned in your search for truth, especially about yourself. Be fierce in facing your demons. Those monsters jealously guard their most precious secrets in the deep, dark places of their black hearts. Aim your lance straight at the target. Now you see what once was impossible is now possible. What once was sacred is fodder for exploration. And learning. Break everything. Then create something new out of the old. Accept that mending does not necessarily mean going back to the way things were. Just because the pieces don’t fit perfectly along their jagged edges doesn’t mean they can no longer be useful. Wood is that way. The glue you use to repair a piece of wooden furniture makes the broken part stronger than its former self. ... See MoreSee Less

#Blog Dear Readers & Friends, thank you for your thoughtfulness and greetings on my recent birthday. Here's sharing my birthday month October 2018 VIA Times column:

When You Are Old

I’m writing this column on the eve of my 57th birthday. And my God, I do feel old! How fitting then to seek solace in Yeats’ poem:

When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;

How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;

And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.
(W.B. Yeats, 1893)

I must admit I rediscovered this poem by simply googling “poems about aging” (yes, this is a confession of the deficiencies of my literary memory!), compelled by an urgent need for inspiration that could help me see the good from getting old. For what, if not this terrible state of senescence, is symptomized by increasing joint pains, forgetfulness of where I’d put things away or why I’m even in a particular room in my house, and—the surest sign of obsolescence: my alarming expanding ignorance of who apparently are otherwise considered famous pop stars and celebrities?

I was struck that Yeats had used the phrase, “pilgrim soul” because, oddly enough, the title of my first poetry collection is, “Warrior Heart, Pilgrim Soul: An Immigrant’s Journey”. When I decided to entitle my poetry collection as such, I swear I wasn’t remembering Yeats’ poem, or at least I wasn’t consciously thinking of it (I’d read the poem in high school, which since receded to the fuzzy folds of my brain), and perhaps I’d accessed what Jung called, “the Collective Unconscious”. Wikipedia defines this as “a term coined by Carl Jung (that) refers to structures of the unconscious mind which are shared among beings of the same species”. How flattering to think I’m a “being of the same species” as the great master poet! And how shamelessly vain of me to even consider that Yeats anticipated someone like me when he wrote his poem, until of course I realized he was likely thinking of his muse—the beautiful actress, Maud Gonne, who’d declined his many marriage proposals yet remained a lifelong friend to him.

I believe we are all pilgrim souls, and that is why the poem resonates in many of us. Such designation suggests pilgrimage, reminding me that for all the triteness of the saying, life is indeed a journey and aging is only another stage of our adventure. Belonging to an older generation need not mean degeneration or irrelevance. In our society’s forever-young bias, however, it’s hard not to feel irrelevant sometimes.

Let’s remember though that “relevance” is a relational term. In other words, relevant to whom? The young may not think much of the old, but only the old could make themselves feel old and irrelevant to themselves. And this happens, I suspect, when one loses one’s childlike innocence and enthusiasm, against which the La Dolce Vita Sylvia-channeling character, Katherine, often warns Diane Lane’s heroine, Frances, in one of my favorite books-turned-into-movies, “Under the Tuscan Sun”.

I chanced upon the film while aimlessly and listlessly channel-surfing during my recent annual pre-birthday descent into depression. And wasn’t this just the pick-me-upper that I needed? I literally sobbed myself into cheerfulness! To me, the movie’s most sobering scene came in this exchange between Sandra Oh’s hilarious character, Patti, with her best friend, Frances:

“Patti: I think you're in danger.

Frances: Of?

Patti: Of never recovering. You know when you come across one of those empty-shell people? And you think, ‘What the hell happened to you?’ Well, there came a time in each one of those lives where they were at a crossroads.

Frances: Crossroads. God, that is so ‘Oprah.’

Patti: Someplace where they had to decide to turn left or right. This is no time to be a chickenshit, Frances.”

So now, when I notice a new wrinkle on my face or another grey strand on my head, or my left knee fails me and I can’t get up for an embarrassing eternal moment, or I’m asking what else is left for me in life, I tell myself, “This is no time to be a chickenshit, Victoria!” It also occurs to me that the lover in Yeats’ poem that declares, “But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you, /And loved the sorrows of your changing face….” should be none other than we to ourselves. What does it matter how many still love us when we’re old, if we continue to love ourselves despite our changing faces and bodies? Perhaps this is what is meant by growing old gracefully.

Happy birthday, indeed, to me!

(All rights reserved. Copyright ©2018 by Victoria G. Smith. For updates on her author events & publications, go to "Like" her on Facebook at Author Victoria G. Smith. "Follow" her on Twitter @AuthorVGSmith)
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Happy Birthday dear Victoria 💕

Belated Happy Bday Vicky !!! I won't make any excuses why my Bday greetings for you was this late. But I can assure you that I always remember the Oct babies in my list, esp my special friends, & you're one of 'em ! Celebrated my special day while in Spain & Italy, in Amalfi Coast to be exact... That was Nikki & Doc Brian's bday treat for Mom !!! Needless to say, that was my best bday ever having "a time of my life" w/ my family. What makes it super memorable were all the spectacular places we visited like Ravello, Positano, Sorrento, Amalfi in the Amalfi Coast & Seville, Madrid in Spain. The kids generously paid for all the 1st class accomodations, good Michelin rated restaurants ( had 3 in the Amalfi Coast ), including airfares.... Feeling blessed, thankful, & grateful !!! Btw, I was posting this using my Zenaida Zapanta acct, & yet the new profile showing was the Zeny Z acct w/c became Dan's acct. Please send replies to Zenaida Z acct to make sure I can read your replies... Thank you & warm regards to you & yours....❤️💙💛💜💚❤️zz

#Blog Dear Readers and Friends, sharing my September 2018 VIA Times column:

How Social Media Technology Sets Us Up to Be Pseudo-Gods

Now and then, I experience misgivings about my social media life that compel me to revisit that constantly nagging question whether I should close my personal Facebook and Instagram accounts in order to reclaim full authenticity and sanity in my world. I observe how a significant number of my so-called “friends” around the world over the years had used Facebook to ask me for money; questioned and doubted my friendship when I was not accessible to them at their convenience; and acted distant, even resentful, if I’d displayed a less than current and complete knowledge of, or keen interest in what was going on in their lives, or failed to register my “like” to their posts. It reminded me of what I’d learned about God in my religion class at the Catholic high school for girls I’d attended.

Our very strict German Benedictine nun religion teacher said that God has three absolute attributes—short of which, God is not god. They are the three big “O’s”: omnipotence (all-powerful); omnipresence (present everywhere); and omniscience (knows everything). King David, filled with wonder and awe of these mighty traits of God, was so inspired that he burst into a song called Psalm 139:

You have searched me, Lord, and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely.
(Psalm 139:1-4)

Guess what? Technology, by enabling us to know practically anything and everything with a click of a finger, and by making everyone accessible and knowable to anyone and everybody in the world, has now effectively given us such god-like powers and along with them, the expected responsibilities. Thus, I can understand why some of my friends have high expectations of me. They see pictures of me living a good, almost seemingly perfect life (as I am not in the habit of washing my very human dirty laundry in public), and they hope to have a share of the bounty—a likewise very human aspiration. They perceive me as having plentiful resources, which means having much power. Thus, some of the requests for material, if not downright financial aid. They know whenever I’m online or have seen their posts or read their messages, and they expect a prompt reaction—aggravated by the present availability of a hierarchy of emoji responses: a mere “thumbs up” is no longer enough; we have to use the “heart” emoji in addition to posting an obsequious reply. The situation almost invariably evolves into a competition of who could post the most eloquently fawning response that then gets to be rewarded by the original post-er with the “besties” award label before all the other “friends”. It’s social media’s version of Brownie points. It tests even a poet’s capacity to come up with the right words. God forbid we be found lacking in our compliments, lest we be dealt with the silent treatment. Being ignored on social media is equivalent to digital death.

It occurs to me that were it not for social media and the smart phone, we might still be friends and family with some of those who’ve “un-friended” or “blocked-contact” us, and vice-versa. Due to the many misunderstandings and miscommunications, in addition to all the unreasonable expectations of us promoted by social media, many of us feel more isolated and alienated from each other than connected. How I yearn for the good old days when all that was required of us to maintain good, long-distance friendships were the seasonal holiday and birthday cards and the occasional brief calls. They had to be brief, lest we be charged with a hefty long-distance or overseas call fee—the perfect excuse! Gone is that excuse now with free Internet calling. Ah, those were the days when we were free to live a full, normal life apart from our friends!

But no—not today. We seem to be expected to be accessible and available 24/7, different time zones notwithstanding. In the first few years of my digital life, I especially felt the responsibility of meeting the expectations of family and friends, who, multiplied into the hundreds by social media, converted that into the burden of being expected to be everything to everyone, everytime. In other words, to be like God. I was especially sensitive to those who were vulnerable to low self-esteem or feelings of insecurity. I wanted to be exactly what they needed me to be, when they needed it. Alas, I fell short—many times. I felt guilt, disappointment in myself. Compassion overload was not an acceptable defense. Until I remembered I’m only human, and that it’s not humane to expect a human to be like a god to everyone in her life. These necessitated a change in me: I literally had to learn how to be “not so nice”—which was very difficult for me, being by nature a people pleaser. It was hard work, but I finally learned to say “no”, to temper my instinct for generosity, to withstand failure in the eyes of others without diminishing my self-worth. This empowered me to limit the use of social media for the tool it merely is: a convenient, cost-effective way to share photos and important information with family and friends across the globe.

Recently, I heard the old song, “You’re Nobody Till Somebody Loves You” as if for the first time. It struck me how wrong that message is. This is exactly how social media preys upon the weak. It tells you that you are only as good as the number of your “followers” or the frequency of “likes” on your posts. And its message is worse than that old song’s, for it is ultimately saying you’re only somebody if everybody loves you. The need to be popular has never been more urgent or critical.

But I say you only need to love yourself to be somebody. Then and only then could you truly love others like yourself. Oh, wait. Didn’t someone else already say that? God, for instance?

(All rights reserved. Copyright ©2018 by Victoria G. Smith. For updates on her author events & publications, go to "Like" her on Facebook at Author Victoria G. Smith. "Follow" her on Twitter @AuthorVGSmith)
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#Blog Dear Readers, sharing my August 2018 VIA Times column:

Lost Opportunity

When Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s statement calling “God” “stupid” earlier this year was followed by the expected litany of religious accusations and protestations of blasphemy and by Presidential spokesman Harry Roque’s excusing the president’s remarks as personal opinion arising from Duterte’s alleged suffering of sexual molestation as a child by a Catholic priest, a precious opportunity was lost: the opportunity to have a real, intelligent, philosophical conversation on the matter of God, religion, and the separation of Church and State.

For once, I almost lauded Duterte’s act. Never mind the utter absence of tact, grace, or diplomacy. We already know he is incapable of all that. But at last, I saw potential brilliance in the President’s move. He was challenging the very foundation of the Catholic Church’s power over the minds and hearts of the Filipino people. This was nothing if not revolutionary, just as Philippine national hero Jose Rizal’s masterpiece novels, “Noli Me Tangere” and “El Filibusterismo”, challenged the Spanish colonial Catholic Church’s spiritual hypocrisy and political control over Las Islas Filipinas! And Duterte’s statements’ potential for enlarging and enlightening the mind of a whole nation held nothing less than the power of Nietzsche’s “God is dead” declaration in the history of philosophy. But the power of that moment was diminished by Duterte’s uncouthness as a messenger (that only prevented the messenger’s message from being heard) and by the President allowing his spokesman to excuse his statements as coming from “damaged goods”—meaning, someone who only has an axe to grind, a mere personal grudge against the Catholic Church—thus tainting and depriving Duterte’s argument of its otherwise inherent philosophical value. The Church was thus only too happy to exploit such weakness by wielding the staff of its doctrinal stand to herd its sheep back into the corral of its ancient territory: one does not call God stupid and survive politically.

But so far, Duterte is attempting to prove the Church wrong even in this. For Duterte’s cult of personality is one drug to which many Filipino voters are addicted past reason (the irony here is fully intended, as the Duterte administration continues its zero tolerance policy for drug addicts and dealers). So is religion, which Marx bravely and rightly called the opiate of the masses. The situation is no more than the case of the pot of one power structure calling the kettle of another power structure “black”. Neither one has moral or intellectual superiority over the other to redefine the awfully blurry boundaries of the separation of Church and State in the Philippines. On the one hand, Duterte failed to successfully carry the logic of his otherwise potentially sound argumentation toward disenchanting the religious faithful of the Church’s stranglehold over their voting minds; and the Church so far has failed to overthrow the irreverent political leader in the name of God. I call this a tie—a tie that happens to tragically continue to bind the Filipino nation to its age-old problems.

(All rights reserved. Copyright ©2018 by Victoria G. Smith. For updates on her author events & publications, go to "Like" her on Facebook at Author Victoria G. Smith. "Follow" her on Twitter @AuthorVGSmith)
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SMITHs & SMITH! My precious lunch with my fellow Orcas Island part-time resident who’s a Pulitzer Prize winning NYT journalist and author and Emmy-award winning producer & documentarian: Hedrick Smith—and his equally talented artist wife, Susan Zox Smith! ... See MoreSee Less

SMITHs & SMITH! My precious lunch with my fellow Orcas Island part-time resident who’s a Pulitzer Prize winning NYT journalist and author and Emmy-award winning producer & documentarian: Hedrick Smith—and his equally talented artist wife, Susan Zox Smith!


A Disturbing Philippine Déjà Vu: Development—For Whom?

I noticed it during my first Philippine homecoming in 2008, fourteen years after I’d immigrated to the U.S.: a building frenzy everywhere, with no apparent rhyme or reason, as it was impossible to deduce any sort of rational urban planning standards enforced from the way shanties coexisted side by side with decrepit-looking albeit new structures, held up only, it seemed, by omnipresent Gordian knots of electric, cable, and telephone wires that banded streets likewise choked by Gordian knots of vehicular traffic in all urban centers. I’d barely recognized my own hometown, Angeles City, two hours north of Manila. I remember how I wept then as I wept now—mourning the passing of the beauty of the cities I’d loved in my youth, for what I’d seen during my Philippine visit in the last couple of months is nothing compared to what had struck me sullen in 2008. I was overcome by grief that inspired this recent blog post on my author Facebook page:

“GHOSTS OF MANILA PAST. I feel like Rip Van Winkle, awakened after a hundred years in the city of my youth, only to find the old playgrounds and playmates are gone, and in their place lie strange dominions manned by the new guard—a millennial people who’ve taken the art of worldly shopping to otherworldly heights, reframed the art of living by the windows of cars forever stalled in traffic, and I have thus become, like the ghosts of my past, a multo that haunts the soul of this city crying, ‘Where have you gone, my Love?’”

For there’s an even bigger building frenzy now, pushed on by the Duterte administration’s simplistic economic plan summed up by posters all over Metro Manila that screamed, “Build! Build! Build!”, as if competing for attention with the noise and chaos of gigantic billboards, honking horns, and wailing sirens. And this—in the grim wake of the recent forced closure of the whole island of Boracay due to dangerous levels of water and land contamination—so much so that swimming in the waters off of Boracay’s otherwise enviable powder-white beaches could be a death sentence. It appeared that in all the years Filipinos celebrated and partook of Boracay’s investiture among the most beautiful islands and beaches of the world, the Philippine government and private sector alike had allowed the island to be literally used as one giant toilet for the tourist industry. Sewage was shamelessly drained straight into the ocean or into the ground, thus polluting not only the sea but also well water. I felt ashamed in remembering how our family had gone twice to Boracay in previous Philippine visits—and therefore, complicit in bringing about this environmental disaster. But how could we have known? In a civilized and modern society, one must be able to assume environmental standards were followed in developing beach resorts. The lawyer in me asked what happened to all those strict environmental law and regulations that our professors made us memorize in law school. The political science student in me replied with the usual, “What do you expect from a typical corrupt Third World Country?”

But was the Philippines still really a typical “Third World” country? One wouldn’t think so—what with the almost diabolical sizes and number of shopping malls that have proliferated not only in the country’s capital, but also in other urban centers all over the country. In an age when shopping malls and brick and mortar stores are a dying breed in the U.S., shopping malls are not only alive and well in the Philippines, but thriving! They’re building many more of them—and these aren’t the run-of-the mill shopping malls of America either. They’re as luxurious as any First World metropolis could build them, carrying the most upscale world-renowned designer brands; enough for any First World economy to salivate over.

To walk within these mansions of luxury shopping, one was bound to ask, “But who could possibly afford to buy such things?” I—a Filipino American with American dollars the value of which rose daily against the Philippine peso while I was there—was embarrassed to discover that I, too, could not afford them! There was certainly no bargain for luxury goods here —they came as pricey as they came in the shopping Meccas of America! A Cartier, Alexander McQueen, or Jimmy Choo was priced same as it was on Rodeo Drive.

A local friend suggested that luxury brand stores weren’t really there to sell their wares, that they were mere marketing outlets—the equivalent of advertising pages in a glossy magazine. Or, in other words, a business presence in the form of a billboard pretending to be a store; a very beneficial corporate tax deduction, thus. This made sense to me. But it still didn’t account for the number of people who flocked to the malls in the thousands—and not only on weekends. A Tuesday night required a reservation in popular mall restaurants. That was my first clue. It led me to realize that what most people actually bought in the malls was food, food, and more food! There’s been a foodie explosion in recent years that’s still popping on the Philippine gastronomic scene. This was generally good news for culinary entrepreneurs. If your food isn’t good enough to the exacting Filipino palate, your restaurant or food stall was dead on opening day. You knew at once, which enabled you to cut your losses. On the other hand, if you succeeded, you succeeded big time. Eating out and eating well with family and friends were absolutely an expense item Filipinos were always willing to splurge upon, even beyond their budgets, helped on by the increased availability of plastic financing to most income earners. I wondered whether the Philippines wasn’t already on the list of credit card bubble economies that would sooner than later implode. But that’s not the whole story, though, because global food chains—not necessarily gourmet class, but easier on the budget—do very well, too. A McDonald’s can hold its own side by side with a Jollibee. And even if it were only for the price of a Starbucks coffee, people went to the malls. Which led me to the ultimate realization: Filipinos frequented the malls as a necessary respite from the tropical heat and humidity outside. Who knew that the malls of Manila were thriving because of global warming?

Filipinos swear summers are getting warmer and longer; typhoons stronger and more frequent; and daily life inconceivable without air-conditioning, both at work and home. This made me even more thankful that in my U.S. Pacific Northwest island home, we didn’t need air-conditioning. In fact, most homes had none—which definitely played a role in our decision to move away from California, which has been experiencing more droughts and wildfires in recent years. I shivered in the Philippine heat imagining what would happen to masses of Filipinos in case of a power failure. Who could possibly sustainably live and work in THAT heat?

This in turn led me to ask how the Philippines was planning to energize all that “Build! Build! Build!” economic thrust. More buildings meant radical significant increases in the need for electrical power for air-conditioning, elevators, lights, technology, and machines. I knew that the Philippines has always been a big hydroelectric and geothermal power user—but I doubted there were significantly more sources for such energy since twenty-five years ago, unless the country was planning to go nuclear at last. A friend who happened to be in the know as regards the power grid revealed the sad truth: The Philippines, following China’s development design, likewise has turned to the same energy source fueling China’s economy: coal. The Philippines was in fact building more coal-powered plants, according to a lawyer friend overseeing some of the contracts. Now I knew the prime suspect for the cause of that tickle in my throat that refused to go away and made me cough during the entire two months I stayed in the Philippines. And I’m sure it was no coincidence the symptoms went away once I returned to the U.S.. I shivered again thinking how long before this all changed in the U.S. now that Trump pledged to bring back coal big time.

All these recalled to me the big question we university students asked the dictatorial Marcos regime as regards its development policy back in the 70’s and 80’s: “Development—for whom?” Bigger economies and bigger cities weren’t always better; quality of life has to be considered—most especially, the question of quality of life for whom. The Philippine building boom is all well and good for the Ayalas’, Lopez’s, Robinson’s, and SM real estate development companies—in other words, the traditional Spanish-Filipino and Chinese-Filipino ruling economic oligarchy. In contrast, it’s the poor that’s going to carry the brunt of that kind of development’s cost—not only in terms of higher living costs, but more critically, health risks due to environmental pollution. This is a déjà vu that is deeply troubling. The years have not brought us real progress—we just have more concrete in the cities and even worse traffic than before! The ordinary Filipino who goes to the mall to enjoy a few hours of air-conditioning is definitely paying for such simple comfort in much more than the price of a Starbucks cup of coffee, just as surely as Trump is costing Americans and America much more than the monthly fee of cable network reality TV.

Wordsworth’s poem, “The World is Too Much”, remains as relevant today as it was during the Industrial Age that inspired it:

“The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers:
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!”
(William Wordsworth, Poems in Two Volumes, 1807)

(All rights reserved. Copyright ©2018 by Victoria G. Smith. For updates on her author events & publications, go to "Like" her on Facebook at Author Victoria G. Smith. "Follow" her on Twitter @AuthorVGSmith)
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#Blog Dear Readers and Friends, sharing with you my June 2018 VIA Times “Notes From the Sound” column:

“A Psalm For All Seasons; The Root of My Reasons

Last month, I wrote this column from my native country, the Philippines. I had attended a college reunion, and read, sold, and signed my books at my Manila debut book launch. Today, I am incredibly still where I was then. It feels like a lifetime ago when I was ensconced in the peace, quiet, and beauty of my Puget Sound island home. I find myself wandering in, and in wonder of the daily hustle and bustle of this maze of a concrete jungle I used to call home—now, a stranger to me. There is a strange beauty in all of this.

I’ve had to extend my stay a couple of times for a few reasons, mostly family-related. But I also feel something else is keeping me here—something that is not completely clear to me, yet is as compelling as the palpable reasons I tell myself and everyone on why I’m still here.

This atmosphere is familiar to me. And I don’t only mean the air—hot, humid, and I suspect, filled with allergens and pollutants that tickle my throat daily and make me cough and wheeze like I’ve not done in decades. Yet I breathe it hungrily.

I’ve been here before. Yes of course I have—but I don’t mean this in a physical, logistical sense. I mean, I’ve been HERE before: the mixed feelings of perturbation and excitement all at the same time; my inexplainable sense of security in the midst of uncertainty—the not knowing how this develops and ends.

All I can say for sure is that I’m meant to be exactly where I am—right here, right now. And I feel the pull of the same steady hand that guided me through a similar tunnel twenty-six years ago—now pulling me back to where I came from. I only have to trust it again, and I do. I don’t know where each day will take me. I just truly live for the moment, and somehow this brings me to where I’m supposed to be.

I’m reminded of my favorite poem from the Bible that I used to recite as a mantra during those dark, uncertain last years before I left for America. Yes—a poem. Many people don’t know that biblical psalms are actually poems. And here’s my favorite biblical poem: Psalm 23.

“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.” (King James Version)

A couple of days ago, I was watching a local TV channel. A character in a show declared a saying in my native language that states, “Ang hindi marunong tumingin sa pinangalingan ay hindi makakarating sa paroroonan.” Translated, it means: One who fails to look back on one’s roots cannot hope to reach where she is going. I think I got my message: I’m here to rediscover my native country’s people, history, and culture—to see them with new eyes and feel them with a renewed heart, for it is with these new seeing eyes and renewed heart that I could write in a more powerful way. I’m here to become an eternal witness to my native country’s and people’s profound beauty and struggle.

(All rights reserved. Copyright ©2018 by Victoria G. Smith. For updates on her author events & publications, go to "Like" her on Facebook at Author Victoria G. Smith. "Follow" her on Twitter @AuthorVGSmith)”
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I love that free yet discerning spirit in you, Sis! Go where life takes you! 😊😍

#Blog Dear Readers and Friends, sharing my May 2018 VIA Times column:

Coming Full Circle

As of this writing, I’m in the Philippines attending my 40th University of the Philippines batch reunion. I’m also slated to have my Philippine debut book launch of my prize-winning novella, “Faith Healer” and my critically acclaimed poetry collection, “Warrior Heart, Pilgrim Soul: An Immigrant’s Journey.” Such important events are naturally wrought with emotion—both good and bad, apart from the logistical physical challenges of navigating a city that has grown beyond familiarity, and along with this maze of physical paths—taking on the tricky trek of social relationships that have become murky from years of neglect or quagmired in the same old vicious cycles of adolescent style politics.

But I have never felt more confident or sure of myself in the midst of all of these otherwise doubt-provoking land mines buried in this landscape. I have been ready for some time now. It’s like coming full circle for me. I feel mostly gratitude for this privilege of being able to enjoy again the company of friends from my youth and likewise be able to introduce them to the world of imagination and reflection I have come to inhabit as a writer—a world that could challenge some of them to reimagine their own worlds and blaze new trails in their lives.

“I am the captain of my soul; I am the master of my fate” says the famous line from Walt Whitman’s “O Captain, My Captain”. I remember those lines well—for I memorized and performed that poem at ten years old and won as prize my first dictionary. I’d treasured and used that dictionary until its pages had shred into brittle fragments. I tried to learn a new word every day until that dictionary ran out of words to teach me. All my life, words came easy to me. But how to use the right word at the right time—that took some time to learn. I’d seen how a careless or angry word could reduce someone into an empty, bitter shell. Words have power. Words have magic. Words could save or destroy. Tomorrow, I will show my friends how I’ve learned to master my words so that others might be inspired to become masters of their own souls and fates.

You see, my words have the power to build bridges that otherwise had been burned decades ago, as my poem below alludes to. This was a homecoming whose time had come.


Come back with me to where
cicadas smother the dusk
with their mating song, rousing
Dama de Noche from sleep to soak
the night air with her seduction.

There, the stars shine like watchful
eyes in labyrinthine onyx sky,
and the warm breeze caresses
like a lover’s fevered hands.

Do you remember how
we listened to the ocean
inside Neptune’s ears?

How I long to see the moon—a gold
medallion etched with Madonna and
Child, rising to jubilant arms of
coconut trees waving and singing,
“Hallelujah! Hallelujah!”

There, I remember how the Goddess paints
a ribbon of magic upon gentle tides, paving
the shimmering path for sweethearts’ bancas
to kiss the waters with prayers of adoration.

I can hear the gitaras strumming
the melancholy notes of the haranas,
haunting the evening with serenades
of suitors forever yearning for lost loves.

How long before the exile returns
to the Birthland? Shall I live
the salmon’s fate—banished
to foreign waters, until death calls?

Alas, only time sweetened
by love’s memory has power
to build bridges burned
back to life.

(All rights reserved. Copyright ©2018 by Victoria G. Smith. For updates on her author events & publications, go to "Like" her on Facebook at Author Victoria G. Smith. "Follow" her on Twitter @AuthorVGSmith)
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6 months ago

Author Victoria G. Smith

A meeting of minds and hearts: Two award-winning authors (National Book Awardee Filipino Author Felice Prudente Santa Maria and Filipino American Author Victoria Grageda-Smith) and their friend (Atty. Teresa R. Tam-Yap)! ... See MoreSee Less

6 months ago

Author Victoria G. Smith

#Blog GHOSTS OF MANILA PAST. I feel like Rip Van Winkle, awakened after a hundred years in the city of my youth, only to find the old playgrounds and playmates are gone, and in their place lie strange dominions manned by the new guard—a millennial people who’ve taken the art of worldly shopping to otherworldly heights, reframed the art of living by the windows of cars forever stalled in traffic, and I have thus become, like the ghosts of my past, a multo that haunts the soul of this city crying, “Where have you gone, my Love?” ... See MoreSee Less

#Blog GHOSTS OF MANILA PAST. I feel like Rip Van Winkle, awakened after a hundred years in the city of my youth, only to find the old playgrounds and playmates are gone, and in their place lie strange dominions manned by the new guard—a millennial people who’ve taken the art of worldly shopping to otherworldly heights, reframed the art of living by the windows of cars forever stalled in traffic, and I have thus become, like the ghosts of my past, a multo that haunts the soul of this city crying, “Where have you gone, my Love?”Image attachmentImage attachment


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Reminded me of Thomas Wolfe's 'You Can't Go Home Again'


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#Blog Dear Readers and Friends, sharing my April 2018 VIA Times column, "Notes from the Sound":

Of Gods and Humans

One could say that the goal of religion is to find, and be united with God. In this connection, some of the holiest days of humankind have recently been celebrated—Easter for Christians, the Passover for Jews. (If I’ve missed mentioning other religious celebrations, apologies, for this was not meant as a comprehensive list.) The Christian Easter message particularly preaches the hope that human beings could achieve resurrection, like Christ did, by believing in Jesus Christ as one’s Lord and Savior, and thereby be united with God in the afterlife. In my personal spiritual faith journey, however, I’ve evolved into the belief of the yogi that God is already inside each of us, and that any belief of separation between God and his creation, especially sentient beings like humans, is a false belief; thus, the path to salvation could be found in spiritual practices (like yoga and concentration through meditation) that help clear our minds and souls of this false belief, thereby learning the truth that God is truly in us, indeed, is none other than we—the Atman, also known as the underlying Reality or the Real Self. It is in experiencing this Reality, our Real Self, that we thereby experience union with God.

April being National Poetry Month, it is fitting to cite the following relevant poem of the great Hindu saint, Kabir:

I laugh when I hear the fish
in the water is thirsty.
You wander restlessly from forest
to forest while the Reality
is within your own dwelling.
The truth is here! Go where you will—
to Benares or Mathura;
until you have found God
in your own soul, the whole world
will seem meaningless to you.

To me, the message of above poem is no different from that of Christ in the following Biblical passage: “And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, ‘The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.’” (Luke 17: 20-21).

But what causes our false belief in our separation from God? The yogi believes that this is caused by our false identification with our ego-sense (our mind and senses). And that it is this false identification with our minds and senses that creates the “I” who is separate from God, which is the cause of all humankind’s misery. Therefore, the yogi’s goal is to unlearn this false identification of the ego-sense by mastering his or her mind and senses—to calm the mind by controlling one’s thought waves, and to free the senses by freeing one’s self of desire through the practice of detachment and non-attachment. It is in the state of perfect yoga—when we’ve stilled our thought waves and our minds are completely clear, that we come to know we are none other than the Atman, and it is in liberating ourselves completely of desire that we free ourselves of pain and of the compulsion of the senses to be driven toward the painful cycle of birth, death, and rebirth—the desire to return and plunge once more into the sense-experience. When we’ve achieved this complete liberation of the mind and senses, we thus enter into the eternal, unchanging peace and happiness of the Atman.

That all sounds very good, doesn’t it? Yes. But as humans—guess what? We have the freedom to choose to achieve or not achieve the state of perfect yoga. At this stage of my mortal life, I acknowledge I am not yet ready to completely liberate myself of all desire and passion. Why? Because I believe that my desires and passions, or more accurately, my compassion, are what motivate and energize me to continue fighting against the injustices of this world—to help make a better world for my fellow human beings through my power of creativity, so that they may be positioned, if they wished, to achieve their own perfect state of yoga and thus be freed from pain and suffering. While I know this kind of concentration without non-attachment on my part will fail to completely liberate me, thus retaining me in partial ignorance that will continue to bring me pain and suffering, I am consoled that such pain and suffering will also necessarily come with intervals of their opposing forces of ecstasy and joy—in other words, keep me completely human! And I confess I am intrigued and fascinated by the possibility that such a condition of intense concentration without detachment, as the Hindus believe, could bring one into the state of a “disincarnate god” and/or become merged with the forces of Nature, thereby making one a “ruler” of parts of the universe (page 47, “How to Know God: The Yoga Aphorisms of Patanjali” by Swami Prabhavananda and Christopher Isherwood, Vedanta Press, 1981).

I think I could be content to live in such a state for a while. After all, I’ve already been called a “force of nature” a few times, and they certainly don’t call me “the Queen V” for nothing. (Hashtag “tongue-in-cheek” grin emoji.) Nirvana can wait.

(All rights reserved. Copyright ©2018 by Victoria G. Smith. For updates on her author events & publications, go to "Like" her on Facebook at Author Victoria G. Smith. "Follow" her on Twitter @AuthorVGSmith)
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Reading good thoughts on a night when sleep eludes me.

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding." - Proverbs 3:5

8 months ago

Author Victoria G. Smith

#Feature3 MY DOUBLE DELIGHT: Honorable Mention PLUS the only poet featured twice! This is what happens when your works compete with each other: the editors could NOT resist publishing both! I’d long found it a useful maxim to compete only with myself. Why? It saves you “writer envy” (indeed from any kind of envy for others’ success!) and it pushes you to do better than you last did, thus resulting in ever increasing quality of your works. May some of you likewise benefit from this personal wisdom, dear readers and friends! I thank the Universe everyday for blessing my creations... ... See MoreSee Less


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Congratulations Sis!!!


Congratulations again, dear Sis Victoria Smith! So proud of you! 👏👏👏❤️

Thank you, Sisters Bing Famoso Tac-an, Karen Ivy DV-Figueroa, and Vicky Anupol 😘😘😘

Victoria Smith, I've just read both of your beautiful poems. It is no wonder...the outcome the publisher decided upon. Solved their dilemna with pure level-headed logic! Are you doing a reading anywhere in Des Moines area in April?


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9 months ago

Author Victoria G. Smith

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Gorgeous as always!

Breath taking

Thank you, dear Sis Vicky Anupol and Keli Kilpatrick! You’re both very kind...☺️😘😘

9 months ago

Author Victoria G. Smith

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9 months ago

Author Victoria G. Smith

#Feature4 NEW MILLENNIUM POETRY AWARD FINALIST! I finally received my complimentary copy of New Millennium Writings that features my poem, “Mother of Exiles”, a 2017 poetry award finalist! Another much appreciated feather on my literary cap; another inspiration to keep writing; another homage to my beloved native country (Philippines) and people (Filipinos)! ... See MoreSee Less


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Lovely poem, Victoria! Congratulations!

Congratulations 👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼


Congratulations, my dear Victoria Smith

Congratulations Victoria Smith.

Congrats Victoria! So proud to have the chance to listen to your reading of your poetry here at university of makati. Great works from a great Filipna mind !

Another congratulations from me!


Congratulations !👏

Just beautiful!

Congratulations as always very proud of you.

Another achievement, congrats Tugay!

Congratulations 🎊🎉

Congratulations Sis Victoria Smith... you always make the Sorority very proud of your achievements..In All Endeavours, The Mark of EXCELLENCE😘

Thank you, All, for you generous greetings and comments!!!

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#Blog Dear readers and friends, sharing my February 2018 "Notes From the Sound" Via Times column:

Life Maps

Have you experienced being in a situation where you felt continuously challenged by feelings of unease, despite having made the best decision you could have made under the circumstances you were in? Then you began to question whether you made the right decision? I’ve had a few of these in my life. And I’ve been in one recently. I have to tell you: If you’re in one of these situations right now, don’t quit! You’re merely going through the challenges that come with adapting to change—but change that’s meant to be, that’s necessary in your life. You’re outside your comfort zone. And that’s a good thing. Because that means you’re evolving—as you should.

It’s easy to get confused in a case like this. We’re often told to go with our gut, to let our instinct guide us when making an important decision. What they don’t tell you is that such “gut” and “instinct” are in fact informed more by facts than feelings—specifically, by life experiences that have shaped or transformed you. That’s why Ed Sheeran’s hit song, “I’m in Love With the Shape of You” means so much more to me than its obvious sexual undertones.

Don’t we all wish that life came with a map to lead us where we’re supposed to be? To show us where we’re going and what pitfalls to avoid? To avoid costly detours, and inversely, costly short cuts? To know what true happiness means, and therefore, to claim it? This is why I read great literature: they are my life maps. I explained this in the Preface to the First Edition of my poetry collection, “Warrior Heart, Pilgrim Soul: An Immigrant’s Journey”, as follows:

“All over the world, people in all walks of life continue to struggle to make sense of their lives—that age-old challenge—especially those driven from their homes and native countries in search of a better life. Having lost the anchor of their homeland and, along with that, much of what is familiar and dear to them, immigrants struggle to re-create and redefine their individual and social identities in their new environments, sometimes in the face of much persecution and discrimination. Their struggle is compounded by the immediate material necessity of establishing viable means of livelihood to provide for themselves and their families—literally to keep body and soul together. It is in the midst of such great suffering that many might question the purpose of their struggle, until they are reminded of the soulful aspect of their exile: their desire to support their loved ones, many of whom are still back home in the motherland, desperately relying on them for their most basic necessities. It is in moments similar to these dark nights of the soul that I rediscover the potent—and thus necessary!—power of poetry to soothe, heal, and enlighten. The literary masterpieces I enjoy most in this regard are those of writers and poets who seem to have succeeded in decoding some aspect of the great mystery of life and left their work as maps to help us navigate a meaningful path to a way of living and being that aims far beyond mere existence.”

Thus, whenever I’m tempted to bemoan the cold rains and strong winds of a Puget Sound winter, I remind myself: spring is just around the corner. I know—because Shelley said so!

“O Wind,
If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?”
(from the poem, “Ode to the West Wind”, by Percy Bysshe Shelley, 1792-1822)

(All rights reserved. Copyright ©2018 by Victoria G. Smith. For updates on her author events & publications, go to "Like" her on Facebook at Author Victoria G. Smith. "Follow" her on Twitter @AuthorVGSmith)
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Very helpful advice. Thank you Victoria.

#Blog Dear readers and friends, sharing the maiden publication of my new VIA Times monthly column (January 2018):

Notes From the Sound
By Maria Victoria A. Grageda-Smith

New Year, New Home, New Column

Welcome to the maiden edition of my new VIA Times column! Its name, “Notes From the Sound”, was inspired by my and my family’s recent move to a beautiful island in the Puget Sound, off the coast of Washington State. Our daughter organized a family vacation here last spring. Being an avid mountain hiker, she likewise organized a hike for us up Mt. Constitution in Moran State Park, which introduced us to some of the most gorgeous natural sceneries we’ve ever seen. Walking through lush pine and Madrona forests, our steps cushioned by pillow-soft moss, we passed small yet picturesque waterfalls trailed by bubbling brooks and shallow streams. I immediately imagined our family picnicking by the idyllic banks of those hospitable waters. Our hike culminated in magical views of the layered San Juan Islands peeking out of the calm, silvery-blue waters of the Puget Sound, which looked like a lake that wove around the islands, but was none other than the Pacific Ocean. In the background, majestic views of snow-capped Mt. Baker, Mt. Rainier, and the Olympic Mountains framed this surreal setting. Need I say more to explain how our whole family became so enchanted as to immediately decide we were all moving to the area?

For myself, apart from the most joyful feeling I’ve ever experienced in hiking up that mystical mountain with my children and husband, I knew this was where I could write some of my best literary works. It also occurred to me what a great spot it was to write my love letters to you, dear readers! Yes—this, in a nutshell, is what this column is about: a monthly love letter that reflects upon our shared journey as human beings, inspired by beautiful nature and great literature.

While I am grateful for your kind reception these past six years of my old poetry column, “Warrior Heart, Pilgrim Soul”, I’ve been feeling in the last couple of years an urge—a call, you might even say, to evolve my column into its next life, just as I sensed the Puget Sound was the place where my final evolution as a human being might take place. I felt as if all my life was a pilgrimage toward arriving here. It’s quite a bit like coming home. Perhaps this is because the natural beauty of this place reminds me of the natural beauty of my native land. As many of you know, my beloved Philippines and people inspire much of my writing. Take this excerpt from my award-winning novella, “Faith Healer”. It describes a scene from Mt. Banahaw:

“They entered the mountain trail through Pintong Lihim—the Secret Door, past gigantic, moss-covered boulders and rows of ancient trees twisted and bent low, as if kneeling before goddess Mother Earth herself. Victor saw in the shadows the vigilant eyes and serene countenances of sages, the tormented faces of restless souls, and the monsters that forever bedeviled them. They followed him in the façade of rocks and stones that jutted out of the mountainside or peeked above the foliage of flirty ferns, swaying palms, pliant bamboo, and slithering vines. He heard the songs of nymphs in the flowing crystal waters of the mineral springs, whispering their secrets to him as he and his companions satisfied their thirst from the pebbled banks and washed themselves off of the prickly heat and humidity. He heard the cries of crows and maya birds call out to him, “Be worthy! Be worthy!” Then, at the crest of Santong Durungawan—the Holy Window—Victor felt he’d glimpsed heaven itself through the view of clear, blue, open sky. There, the air was cool and refreshing at last, as though one had reached a different clime altogether.”

Re-reading above paragraph of Chapter 8 of my novella, it was as if I was also describing my new home! No wonder I felt moving here was like coming home: it reminded me of my childhood land. I’m coming full circle in my life, as I’m arriving at my beginning.

(All rights reserved. Copyright ©2018 by Victoria G. Smith. For updates on her author events & publications, go to "Like" her on Facebook at Author Victoria G. Smith. "Follow" her on Twitter @AuthorVGSmith)
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9 months ago

Author Victoria G. Smith

Writing in my House of the Rising Moon.... ... See MoreSee Less

Writing in my House of the Rising Moon....

9 months ago

Author Victoria G. Smith

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9 months ago

Author Victoria G. Smith

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