IT WAS one of those nights when the lights suddenly went out and I was scooping up the last morsels of my dinner. Whew! Just in time. Out came emergency lights and candles, and a frenzy of activities followed. I

swallowed the last spoonful of rice, gobbled down my fruit, and had my slice of camembert. Table and kitchen counters were cleared; doors were locked and my dog Scarlet was let in so she could claim her part of my

bed. Everything was done hurriedly although there was nowhere to go.

For Mama, the natural way to enjoy an early night was in bed. But for me and the maid, our routine was always to watch TV after dinner and whatever needed to be done -making lists, ironing, writing; reading the Book

of the Week- could and must be done in front of the television. But not on that particularly dull and dark Saturday evening when the moon went sulking behind a cloud and the stars refused to come out and play in the

sky. I was in the kitchen when Mama called as she was informed by our maid that there I was.

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So Mama entered the kitchen unaware that I was hiding in the darkness eager to pounce on her. And when I did...boy! was she scared out of her skin.

Hahahahaha! She was so frightened that she dropped the flashlight. She scolded me and told me that she almost had a heart attack. Killjoy! Now, when was the last time I pulled a prank on my mother? Never, I

believe, in my childhood for I was more afraid of her than of God. A prank like that would have me off to the gallows. Well, if it hadn't been for the power outage, I would have missed out on that childish trick and forever

wonder how it feels to frighten my mother. hehehe...satisfying!

When electric power resumed, it seems like the world stops spinning and life is suspended. Modern man had become so dependent on electricity that he just wouldn't know how to live in a world without plugs and

sockets.

Gone are the days when a grandmother would gather the children and tell stories to them. Or, parlor games were played to liven up after-dinner moments. Or to stay on at the dinner table, and really get to know each

other as a family. Gone, too, are the days when the family would gather for evening prayers. Our homes are losing out on opportunities to bond with each other and with God. With a television in every room,

cellphones, ipods and what nots, God has a stiff competition from this world.

When I was a kid we'd spend weekends at our home where we didn't have television. When nighttime fell, I would join the helpers who were gathered "round the transistor radio" and listen with wide-eyed wonder to

Mundo Mistico. It was a creepy nightly program featuring mythical creatures from our local folklore.

Since it was all-audio, the listeners had to use their imagination... and what imagination we had! Hair-raising indeed were the stories in Mundo Mistico. Going to bed was not pleasant either. In the darkness, every howl

from our dogs and the rustle of leaves of the trees outside my bedroom and window made me jump and unable to sleep deeply. This beat watching a horror movie. Now, horror movies are scarier than ever, for a reason.

Amusement parks make us forget the pain du jour. The malls invite us to shop more for having more things make us feel better. The mask that we hide behind to make us, who we are, not to impress other people,

doesn't make us feel good about ourselves; it only bolsters our phoniness and loneliness.

If one compares the many forms of entertainment with those years ago, movies, books, magazines, and television shows are more thrilling, daring, and exciting. It's natural for humans to crave more excitement and

seek new thrills when the novelty of something wears off. Why do we need noise and hype? Is it to fill in the lull of the hour? Is it to keep loneliness at bay? Are we afraid of the company of our selves that we need

noise to distract us from what is inside us?

Quiet and solitude are good for the soul. In silence, do our bodies and spirits repair themselves and in prayer and meditation, can we seek peace. Pull the plug on television and other distracting thingamajigs. What's

wrong with spending a lazy afternoon curled up with a good book? Or go to a park and enjoy the sunlight filtering through the trees? How about getting to know our parents, the grandparents, children, siblings and

friends? (After all we are part of them). These are free and healthy ways to enjoy the moment. Remember, the best things in life are free.

May the New Year be less complicated and more true. May life be simpler and more satisfying! May we know God our creator and ourselves as His divine creations. May our lives have purpose and meaning. May you

all have a fruitful New Year!