January Auction for Abot Tala

Abot Tala’s partnership with the country’s premiere auction house, Leon Gallery pushes strong with an online auction this coming January 23 and 24, 2021. Following are pieces that will go under the hammer and part of the proceeds will go to support Abot Tala’s mission of re-envisioning school for teenagers.


The lovely lady depicted in the artwork has a mysterious and enchanting gaze as if contemplating what is happening in today’s confusing world. The artist, Rellie Liwag, painted this a few years ago, a prophetic painting indeed. 

The person seems to be looking beyond the bird like how it’s a challenge for us to look past what is in front of us, to find hope.  The bird could represent the burdens we carry on our shoulders which eventually will fly away and dissipate. The bird looks up as if to say, let us not lose faith.  We shall prevail — a message we need to hear more now.


Artist, Fred Agustin is always inspired by the energy and passion of people in the field of arts (visual artists, musicians, dancers, actors, writers, poets) — how they work and spend hours and years doing what they love to  express, and pursue their creative muse, whatever it may be urging them to do so.  The fire and spontaneity can be seen and felt.  It is something that resides deep in all of us waiting to be unlocked and released.

Fred says, “I try to paint what my eyes cannot see. . . . I’d like to think that when I paint – I paint with my soul.”


Seventeen year old Alexa Yap always felt that art is a conduit of human experiences.  Life may be messy but art has to the ability to contain the dichotomies and contradictions.  What words can’t adequately express such as grief, sorrow and pain, art can.

When she was 15 years old, Alexa painted this work called “Lamentation” during a time in her life when she couldn’t explain why she felt such immense melancholy and apathy.  Despite what some people say disparagingly about choosing art as a career, Alexa is set on pursuing her dream of creating concept art in the entertainment and gaming industry.

Regarding Abot Tala, Alexa says, “Alternative schools are always intimidating to some as there is a stigma of whether it is considered to be a ‘proper’ way of teaching and learning. But learning is at the core of the human condition and it is at that supple and tender age that we should be exploring the world around us.  As a person who adores art, I wish that I had something like Abot Tala.”


When Monica Castillo delivered her speech as the Grand Prix winner in an international art competition in Seoul, South Korea two years ago, she shared what is most important to her as a person in the creative industry: “To see the world through the eyes of a child.”  “The harsh realities of life can easily get any adult to see the world as nothing more than troublesome or uninteresting,” but Monica hopes we never forget to let our inner child take control every now and then.

Her painting of a train suspended in haze shows both forward movement and stasis. Engulfed by nature, sharp edges and clean lines give way to chaotic shapes.  Progress is relentless but nature endures.

A recent graduate of the Tokyo University of the Arts, Monica also taught the teens of Abot Tala last year.  She saw for herself how teens are encouraged to love learning in an environment of curiosity, wonder and acceptance. 


This piece also by Monica Castillo entitled, “Lupang Hinirang at ang Yaman Ng Dagat” was inspired by several elements of the Philippine heritage: the biodiversity of our waters, the depth of our native language known as baybayin and the beauty of the simple ancient art of Pintados.  Monica observes how Filipinos tend to take for granted the richness of our cultural and natural heritage.  She hopes that our love for the treasures that we have been given will be renewed and cherished.

For Monica, unlocking limitless possibilities starts with a point, following it to where it leads with painstaking commitment and love.


Interior Designer, Tessa Alindogan does not plan her paintings.  When she sits in front of the canvas, it is only then that she decides what to do.  “Art is an expression of one’s soul and on that day, my soul decides and my brush just takes the cue.  My brush dances to the dictates of my soul.”  This almost spiritual process can’t be put in words – that feeling of being on a different plane, of enjoying solitude much like when you savor music and unchoreographed dance. 

Tessa’s aesthetic sensibilities infuses her interiors, her art and her life.  She has passionately pursued her interests and that is why Abot Tala’s mission resonates with her since teens have the freedom and flexibility to follow their interests and passions. 


Let’s also celebrate the Filipino artists: Ibarra dela Rosa and Jose D. Castro from Nueva Ecija, Jerry Morada from Paete, Laguna and Japat Guevarra from Taytay, Rizal.

Ibarra’s productive life as an art professor and celebrated artist was cut short at 55 years old in 1998. His Impressionist style, sense of color, and subjects have an enduring appeal.  He had a distinct brush stroke similar to the pointillists though slightly larger and like a comma which he called “wipings”.

Morada’s interest in history expressed itself in nostalgic paintings of a bygone era. His early fascination with old photographs empowered him with a vision that was to be his guiding style. His depiction of the Filipina is true to the classic image of Maria Clara, imbued with character, strength and femininity.

Both Jovito Andres and J.D. Castro depict the beauty of Filipino family ties, the parent-child bond which is a theme that touches everyone.  Both artists capture these fleeting moments of togetherness and care, giving it permanence in our minds.

Through his paintings, Japat transforms machines into powerful storytellers through fantastic automotive hybrids from past centuries. Mechanical and organic at the same time, the imagery sparks realizations about the clockwork universe and transience.


Celebrated nomadic painter and activist from Batanes, Pacita Abad is known for her boldly colorful, vibrant artworks inspired by her extensive travels and continuous exploration of materials.  In 2004, she passed away at the age of 54 leaving behind a legacy of art that not only nourishes the spirit but drew attention to issues that were close to Pacita’s heart: displaced people, refugees, women’s issues and social justice.  While still being treated for cancer, she completed her painting of Singapore’s Alkaff bridge, filling it with her signature circles that continues to bring smiles and joy to pedestrians.


This prized collector’s item, Pablo Neruda’s book of love poems and a song of despair signed by the renowned poet himself will be auctioned on January 24, a day after the art pieces go under the hammer.  The proceeds from this sale will not only partly go to Abot Tala but mostly to sustaining a beautiful library on an islet in Lake Caliraya and other community libraries as part of the Library Renewal Partnership started by Quintin Pastrana. 

While he was studying at Georgetown University, Quintin acquired this opus from a Washington-based Chilean diplomat in the winter of 2007.  Enamored with the Neruda treasure, Quintin had to sublease his apartment for a month to absorb the cost of acquisition.  As part of his diplomatic mission, the Chilean diplomat traveled with Neruda and his entourage. The diplomat eventually retired in Chile during the post-Pinochet era while Quintin eventually returned to Manila and among many other things, launched his continuing love affair with building and stocking community libraries all over the Philippines. 


Check out the auction catalog at the Leon Gallery website.

Check out also the Abot Tala website and Abot Tala YouTube Channel.

Green Dream

This was today’s surprise discovery when I brought Jimmy to Southwoods for a sleepover at his friend’s house.  I ended up quickly going into this mall and finding this mad green dream of an atrium space and the tropical jungle design theme continued inside.   When I find well-thought-off environments like this, I feel grateful to the plant-and-tree-loving designers, architects, landscape artists who envisioned and made this possible.  

Fresh and Playful


We’re proud to present the latest Abot Tala block magazine with the logo designed by one of our talented teen members, Joshua Urgino!  How cool is this new look?  It speaks youthful freshness and playfulness with the rewind button symbol and the Abot Tala colors and font.  Love the quirkiness of the date placement, too.

It’s the perfect harbinger of the content comprised of scriptorium essays, artworks, a restored photo and overviews of what transpired in each class including virtual field trips around the world.

Rewind Block 3 2020 Page 1Rewind Block 3 2020 Page 2Rewind Block 3 2020 Page 3Rewind Block 3 2020 Page 4Rewind Block 3 2020 Page 5Rewind Block 3 2020 Page 6Rewind Block 3 2020 Page 7Rewind Block 3 2020 Page 8Rewind Block 3 2020 Page 9Rewind Block 3 2020 Page 10Rewind Block 3 2020 Page 11Rewind Block 3 2020 Page 12

Thank you, Joshua for giving us this vibrant new logo!


Presenting: The First Abot Tala Newsletter

We’ve been dreaming of having our own newsletter and here it is. Actually, we’ve had this for some time, but it’s only now that I thought of putting it up in my blog.  The second newsletter is ready as well, so I’ll post that tomorrow. In the meantime, enjoy reading about what Abot Tala teens and mentors have been up to from August to September.

Abot Tala is a self-directed learning center for teens ages 12 to 18 and is part of the Liberated Learners network.  

Cover pagePage 2Page 3PAGE 4PAGE 5Page 6Page 7 UPDATEPage 8 UPDATEPage 9 UPDATE

Digital, Global and Noble

In our online business, we have a lot of EX-es – ex-office worker, ex-banker, ex-engineer, ex-construction worker, ex-nurse, ex-flight attendant, ex-truck driver, ex-manager, ex-accountant, ex-waitress, ex-real estate agent . . . . I can go on and on but the message is this:  they were all able to fire their boss because their income was replaced and surpassed by what they earned from being the boss of their own online business.   Not right way, but eventually.  Not easily, but with hard work, commitment and determination.  

Some of them were in debt.  Some had mortgages to pay.  Some were juggling two, three or more jobs.  But everyone was spurred on because of dreams that did not leave their heart.  For them, finding this opportunity was an amazing blessing, an answered prayer, a life-changer.  Aside from being able to do this anytime and anywhere, this is a legitimate venture which needs to be registered and taxes have to be paid.








We all have big dreams for ourselves, for our families, perhaps even dreams for society and our country.  At some points in our life, we probably thought it was foolish to spend time on something that may never be realized.   This business gave me the fresh impetus to dream big again, because I’ve seen how it has happened for others whose goals were realized, one after another, through sheer perseverance. 

I’m proud to be an online business owner like them.

Like them, I was searching for a better and viable option.

Like them, I was searching for a way for my dreams to be realized.

Like them, I took action. 

I am proud to be in the same online business as these inspiring people.  I am proud that they are now part of my story because we belong to one team that’s making a positive impact in people’s lives worldwide.

The reasons for joining may be different for each one but they all fall under the over-arching umbrella of wanting to live life on your own terms. 

I felt hurt and dejected when I lost my job last year. I was fired.  I was at a low point when I saw a post and my curiosity led me to this online opportunity.  If I didn’t lose my job, I wouldn’t have been looking for a business like this.  If I was not actively searching, I wouldn’t have been led to this discovery.  Sometimes, the crisis in our life leads us to a new road that wouldn’t have been considered were it not for that painful, heartbreaking situation.






There are so many questionable stuff online that it’s understandable why people are so cynical already.  It’s only reasonable and expected that we should all be extra-cautious.

When I found out about this online business, the skeptic in me was alerted.  I did my due diligence, researched about it and talked to people to find out more.  After being satisfied with what I saw, I joined and now, I am proud to say that INTEGRITY is truly at the cornerstone of this global business.

Every week, we have masterminds and this is one of my favorite slides.  These are not just empty words but backed up by action. The leaders and members of our community walk the talk.








I’m proud to be part of this business with a heart, this business with integrity.  I’m happy to be in this community of dreamers and action-takers who simply love life. 

If you’d like to see and study if this is something for you, I invite you to our info session.  Sign up for our free webinar here: https://www.joeivillarama.com/



Everyone Has a Story


In our online business, everyone has a story.  This is mine:

I’m Joei, mom of two boys ages 11 and 8. I’ve worked as a writer, designer, program manager, executive assistant, trainer, teacher, consultant and was based in mainland China for 8 years.  I’m now back in the Philippines with my family.

Last year, I lost my job just months after I started a dream non-profit project. I had to support both my family and the project. At that time, I came across a post that made me want to study the option further. Something inside me said ‘YES,’ that this was an answered prayer. I did my due diligence, reviewed the system and began my journey as an online business owner.

Everything happens for a reason. If I did not lose that job, I wouldn’t have considered this business. If I didn’t lose my job, I would still be working for somebody else instead of working for myself.  If I was not deliberately looking, I wouldn’t have found this opportunity that was discovered by thousands like me who wanted change in their lives.

I’d like to introduce some of the online entrepreneurs in our community who continuously inspire me in this journey that is truly transformational.






















It’s never too late to learn something new and build your own online business.  We can help you start up.  To see if this venture is a good fit, you can watch our free information session.  Our webinars have an ever-changing lineup of guest presenters who are actual digital business owners from all over the world who are leveraging the internet and using a proven system to change their lives for the better.  It’s an inspiring and informative 90-minutes, and who knows, it could even bring you the change you’ve been looking for.


Flight of the Beer Bottles

One morning some beer bottles decided to walk out of the house
They said they’ve had it with lying around on the soil and marched on
Across the street to the plastic garbage bins flies heyday, flies payday grim
By the way, who perpetrated this exodus?  They said it was
The one who was imprisoned by the other
Who felt imprisoned by the other, who so ever had the TV control
Who so ever had control of the parking lots and the garden
Gaudy flea market knickknacks strewn sewn sedentary sentinels
Cheap like the emotion they got hitched with in the red of the party regime
Under a ticking biological time bomb, what warfare hatched
Fungus mold white right at the mouth of the beer bottle
Who left their comrades to follow the next day in the silence of morning
When everyone is asleep like that afternoon, the day when something
Shifted underneath because word was let out, not left unspoken
Because what was unsaid exited the mouth, flies flies flies buzzing over
The carcass of that left, right ventricles marching to the drums
Of over and done with, drowning in feces
Holier than water, holier than mollified faces terrified of the sum
Total bent mistakes, well who wanted this, whoever wanted this
Whoever wanted to be lawfully unlawful in stale awfulness
State your awfulness here awesome gods and goddesses of trash heap highness
Cowering in shadow puppets ascertaining that common goals
Mean nothing without the exactness of desire
Whoever thought these beer bottles had a mind of their own and wanted
To be no witness to a desecration of humanity, no household deserves
Tragic comic balsamic cosmic sliding to no therapeutic claims
These words what do they mean to say excuse me for all, for
Everything that transpired through no evil intention but evil itself
Round as the mouths they roll over themselves rushing to meet
The tidal flow of gruesome crime and rude, disrespectful awakenings
Don’t be fooled ever by the niceties of first, second, third impressions because
The hundredth is out to get you tripping over yourself like a lackey
The bottles are dead, empty reeking of beer, unclean, unfeeling
Completely disregarding what regard should be given
You are an insect to be flattened and torched
You have no meaning beyond the uterus
Fleeing is a way to keep sane, momentary, temporary, fleeting
If it is made formally permanent, it risks mocking all that we stood for
The peace that was fought with blood attached to our birth and rebirth.


Life is a Mission, Not an Intermission



Do you have a burning passion or advocacy?  Do you dream of making a difference in the world but you barely have the resources to pursue your vision because you still have to take care of your family’s needs first?  What if I tell you that there is a viable, sustainable and legitimate online business that is not only able to support your family but could also be the means by which your bigger mission could be accomplished?

What if you could harness this proven digital venture for social good?  The possibilities are limitless!  People have used this tried and tested system to pay off their debt, buy their dream home, quit jobs they’ve been wanting to quit, travel extensively, live life on their own terms and give back to the people they want.  What if, aside from serving your loved ones, you’d like to make a greater and lasting social impact?   What if you believe we are called to a purpose beyond satisfying our personal needs.   

Let me introduce you to some of the members of our team, Leader with a Heart and their individual calling:











If you’d like to explore this opportunity further, visit our website and register for a free information workshop.  This 90-minute webinar will introduce you to our online business which people have been using around the world and which has enabled families to hurdle financial challenges, establish a secure future, and go way beyond that.  This is why we are seeking out people who want to make a difference with their passion project, because this online business exceeds just supporting your and your family’s needs.  It could be used as a vehicle to further a cause and fulfill a God-given mission.  

We believe life is a mission, not an intermission.  We invite you to get to know us.  

Sign up for a free 90-minute webinar here: https://www.leaderwithaheart.net/


Stories to Tell

It’s been a while since I blogged because I couldn’t figure out the new WordPress.  It turns out there’s a button that allows you to use the Classic mode.  Their aptly named Happiness Engineer helped me out.

Since my last post, a lot has happened.  One of the major things is getting into an online business with my friend, Pauline from Canada.  If I didn’t lose my job (painful circumstance that is a story in itself for another time), and I wasn’t scrolling at the right time to come across her post, I wouldn’t have started something like this.  Now that I’m in it, however, I see the beauty of this community, the supportive people bent on helping each other’s dreams come to fruition.

I’d like to tell other people’s stories first:


If this is something that interests you and would like to explore further, you can sign up for a free webinar here:


If you’d like to ask me questions about the business or explore my business page on Facebook, you can visit and leave me a message:


The Lengths of Self-Sabotage


During this quarantine, I have been juggling three projects, A, B and C.  A is pretty much running on it’s own now but it occupied most of my time the first three months while I tried to insert B and C even though I knew fully well B and C should be the focus. Since A came easily and naturally while B wasn’t as hard as C, I avoided C the most.  I managed to reverse the tide and am now doing B and more of C, while A runs in the background.  I realized this personal proclivity for avoiding what causes me the most discomfort despite being a preacher of leaving our comfort zone, is a form of self-sabotage.  I constantly need to figure out how to dig myself out of the hole through rescue operations, albeit short-lived.  Nothing is sustainable in the medium to long-term.  Sudden bursts of action would fall flat and lifeless the next day.  How can I be unstoppable like other people I know, like people I listen to on TED Talk and YouTube, like the people I call up for SOS?

I follow a string of clues which, for this particular stretch, starts with Seth Godin when he spoke to me about artists in the broadest sense of the word.  We are all artists of our own lives, but often we don’t let our art come out if we settle being a cog. Seth provokes us by asking, “Are we a cog or a linchpin?”

“Your art is what you do when no one can tell you exactly how to do it. Your art is the act of taking personal responsibility, challenging the status quo, and changing people.”

“An artist is someone who uses bravery, insight, creativity, and boldness to challenge the status quo. Art is a personal gift that changes the recipient. The medium doesn’t matter. The intent does.”

“Art is a personal act of courage, something one human does that creates change in another.”

“What makes someone an artist? I don’t think it has anything to do with a paintbrush. There are painters who follow the numbers, or paint billboards, or work in a small village in China, painting reproductions. These folks, while swell people, aren’t artists. On the other hand, Charlie Chaplin was an artist, beyond a doubt. So is Jonathan Ive, who designed the iPod. You can be an artist who works with oil paints or marble, sure. But there are artists who work with numbers, business models, and customer conversations. Art is about intent and communication, not substances.”

Seth Godin

The next day my friend Boots is also prompted by Seth Godin and the concept of Comfort Zone vs. Safety Zone. Boots wrote: “Seth Godin talked about when the comfort zone does not anymore share the same space as the safety zone.”   Boots continued, “Five months into the pandemic, our safety zones had shrunk significantly to just inside our home or village. We are afraid to venture out there for fear of catching that virus and becoming part of the DOH statistics. And yet we now know that with technology and as long as our internets are working, we could actually go out farther. What is required now is our willingness to go out of our comfort zone and learn additional or new skills, to re-invent ourselves, to take calculated risks, and to venture into new enterprises. We must not allow our limited safety zone at the moment define and limit our comfort zone.”

Indeed, there are more things we can create, learn and update our skills to get us through this and beyond.  I’m a fan of leaving the comfort zone but can’t manage to leave it long enough to get a healthy momentum for C.





I realize I want to have the cool composure of the precariously perched but perfectly balanced cat but I don’t.  I want to be performing at optimal level but I often find myself in the panic zone.  What do I do in panic mode with manic monkeys jumping around in my mind?   I call on people to help me – my mentors, Anda and Pauline.  I get enlightened by a trail of clues left by friends like Boots and Nina.  Diane and Rica also help me get unstuck many times.  The Mastermind series gets me out of the funk and other inspiring YouTube videos.  I’m truly grateful for the friends who coach me, coaxing me out of the darkness.

In his book, V is for Vulnerable, Seth Godin wrote that “Anxiety is experiencing failure in advance.”  That aptly describes my state.  I find myself often in that limbo state between panic and optimum action.  I’m never bored but that nagging anxiety is a Damocles’ sword hovering over my head.  Don’t be embarrassed or too proud to ask for help.

In that same alphabet book for grown-ups, C is for Commitment and D is for Dance.  “Commitment is the only thing  that gets you through the chasm.  Commitment takes you from “that’s a fine idea” to “it’s done.” Commitment is risky, because if you fail, it’s on you.  On the other hand, without commitment, you will fail, because art unshipped isn’t art.”

Why is my commitment to C not enough to pull me out of the quagmire?  I have to go on Dance mode  These postings and blogs are forms of crazy disco-rave.  I am dancing with all my fears like whirling dervishes and lunatics on the dance floor until tears turn to laughter, until demons have been exorcised, the type that plague on my weaknesses and tell me I’m not good enough and taunt me that failure is imminent. At the back of my mind, I know that it is not the truth, that I am enough and failure is fictional.

But failure is not fictional.  I’ve been given the cold shoulder.  I’ve been given “No’s.”  But I’ve gotten “Yes’es,” too so why can’t I be grateful for those and shrug the “No’s” off?  Clearly, I am the only one blocking myself.  I am able to extricate myself from the stranglehold for a while to send off delayed messages and write an overdue letter, but the shadow grips me again.  I want to stop wrestling, especially with an imaginary opponent.

Whatever it is that prevents me is momentary.  Moments are strung together like beads and I have to get over one bead at a time and take baby steps towards my goal.  I want to leap over buildings like Superman and cover distances like Spiderman but all I permit myself are toddler strides.

I’m so wrapped up in my anxiety knowing I need to break through it.  Punch a hole and jump to the other side.  In the panic zone, I picture the worst happening.  In the learning zone, I am focused on the task at hand, oblivious to everything else.  I admire how my friend Nina, gets into the Flow State.




How do I get into the flow state?  What do I have to re-evaluate to get my engines revving up, zooming instead of sputtering?

I’m searching for a picture I can automatically draw up from my mental bank that can save me from temporarily drowning in my own bile.  It’s this picture of a boat and I’m bailing out water with a “tabo” instead of plugging the hole.  I need to find the hole and plug it.  What if there are many holes at opposite ends of the boat and I don’t have enough rubber to plug them?  I close my eyes and see my ship as never having had a hole in the first place and it’s bobbing up and down the ocean, peacefully, calmly.


Plus a reminder from Boots:

“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough troubles of its own.” Matthew 6:34

Check out Brain Pickings’ article about Seth Godin’s alphabet book