Please PM Me


If you are interested in this talk, please send me an email or message me on Facebook. Just putting this out here for anyone who might want to join.  This is still next year (around July – August) but one can’t start too early on these type of events.

A Seminar-Workshop on Self-Directed Education

For purposes of this introduction, the terms self-directed education and democratic education are used interchangeably.  In the Philippine setting, the term self-directed learning is more acceptable and attractive because the word “democracy” is too political, even corrupted to an extent.  The word does not connote the sense of empowerment that it should.   On the other hand, self-directed is a neutral term which conveys the meaning clearly and cannot be confused with anything else.

Self-Directed Education

The term self-directed education (SDE) refers to the concept and practice of children and adolescents being-in-charge of their own education. In other words, they are acquiring knowledge, values, and skills that are conducive to a satisfying and meaningful life through activities of their own choosing.

Such activities need not include any formal schooling, curriculum, or textbooks. Often the activity of self-directed learners is more aptly described as play. In fact, much of the power of SDE comes from the innate drive to play, which nature and evolution have selected as the most efficient way for animals (especially mammals) to learn and develop their capacities.

When children are not being directed by others, their natural curiosity leads them to explore their environment and emulate the behavior of their elders. When children are immersed in a culture of partnership — where power is expressed through connection and cooperation rather than control and domination — their innate sociality leads them to engage and play with others in ways that develop greater social intelligence and collaborative skills.

Democratic Education

There is no monolithic definition of democratic education or democratic schools. But what we mean here is “education in which young people have the freedom to organize their daily activities, and in which there is equality and democratic decision-making among young people and adults.” From the Directory of Democratic Education – Alternative Resource Education Organization.  These schools and programs take many forms and include public and private alternatives and homeschool resource centers.

Yaacov Hecht

Yaacov Hecht is an internationally distinguished leader and visionary in democratic education, learning theory, and societal change. In 1987, Hecht founded the Democratic School in Hadera, Israel.  Due to the school’s success, Hecht helped to establish a network of democratic schools all over Israel. In 1993, he convened the first International Democratic Education Conference (IDEC), an annual conference that continues to connect educators, schools, and organizations. He founded the Institute for Democratic Education in Israel (IDE), which focuses on making change in the public schools system through democratic education principals. Most recently, in 2010, Hecht co-founded “Education Cities-the Art of Collaborations,” an organization which focuses on turning educational systems into a central growth instrument for the cities in which they exist. Hecht continues to be a sought after speaker and consultant, and plays an essential role in the movement for democratic education in Israel and around the world.

Simon Robinson

Simon is from England and has lived in Japan since 1997 and is a teacher at the Okinawa Sudbury School. He has worked extensively in education in Japan and England, and believes that Sudbury-model education provides the best start in life for young people.  He is passionate about the democratic meeting process, developing and maintaining a culture of mutually-respectful discussion to solve problems.  He is interested in developing a school culture that celebrates free play and creativity, which are some of the highest expressions of the human spirit.  People of all ages are at their best when they experience what they are doing as play, entering a state of flow and forgetting even themselves.  Simon has reached a stage in practicing democratic education where he wants to share something of value not just within his school but outside in the wider community and the world.


The workshop will be an open discussion with Yaacov and Simon about the following:

  • What are the possibilities for a self-directed school or a self-directed type of education in the Philippines?
  • How can ideas of self-directed education be practiced within existing schools in the Philippines?
  • How can a self-directed school or learning center be started in the Philippines?

For more information, check out the following websites:

Yaacov Hecht’s Book: Democratic Education

The Alliance for Self-Directed Learning

Macomber Center for Self-Directed Learning









Today, I woke up with the same horribly ugly feeling in the pit of my stomach that I had since yesterday, one of the darkest hours in Philippine history.  I can’t shake it off – the disbelief, disgust, disappointment, despair.  I can’t close my eyes and go about the day’s necessities silent.  Even if I’m in another country where I can easily sweep it under the rug, forget and let it be, I cannot.  We fought for democracy as a people.  We stumbled through the years after and continued to put questionable people in power as if we could not, could never learn our lesson, as if each election trapped us in a comic time loop.

The Supreme Court decision hurts the core of our being.  I am not speaking for all but I speak for many.  There are some who can go about their lives because it doesn’t matter that we have rewritten history.  They may have their own reasons and should be respected even though I cannot understand how healing and moving on can start with an abominable act.  I cannot expect one person to undo damage with a damaged mind but I expected more from nine people to see the light.  It’s still too much to expect.  Should we have rallied at each of their doorsteps begging for justice that belonged not to one person but to an entire population?

Some weeks ago, I was trying to organize a seminar on democratic education together with my Chinese friend.  The plan came after attending the Asia Pacific Democratic Education Conference in Taiwan where after meeting like-minded people who have dedicated their lives to self-directed learning, my friends and I were encouraged to set up a school someday in the future.  However, if we were to promote this sort of education in the Philippines, it was wiser not to use the word democratic.   The word “democracy” is a corrupted term associated with meaningless politics and our debauched form of governance so the word does not connote the sense of empowerment that it should.   Across the ocean where my partner in this dream comes from, in mainland China, democracy is also a tricky word that can’t be used casually as it raises alarm bells among the sensitive.  What’s in a word anyway if a rose by any name is still a rose.  We decided to go around semantics and use the much clearer, apolitical and neutral term, self-directed.

Yesterday further proves the futility and hollowness of the D word.

Where do we go from here as a country?  We are honoring a man, his family, his name with a burial alongside heroes.  We have already allowed the return of his family to power.  We almost voted his son to the second highest position in the land so we might as well bury the father as promised by a president who obviously values personal ties over anything.  Right?  There are no words to describe how trampled people feel but images of vomiting would suffice.

Listing the crimes, offenses, names of people killed, loot plundered does not seem enough to raise an eyebrow nowadays for some people.  Maybe there are those who have become immune to the litany of abuses because many others come and continue to rape the country and its coffers.  Maybe because there are people who rise against the wrong who are mired deep in the dark side themselves.  I am desperately trying to understand where the silent are coming from.  I am trying to grapple with how this could have happened.

Not all, but many weep.

I want to understand how you cannot weep for this.

You and Your Writing Prompts


Have you ever feared your dreams because they are not coming true the way you envisioned in your mind and you try desperately to steer and grab the control from the driver behind the wheel and feel frustrated because you are obviously not the one in command?  You are a piddling second.  You have to stay in your seat, be a dutiful passenger and put on the safety belt.  The only thing left is to enjoy the ride, appreciate the view, point out the stops and request for a pee break.  Dreams are funny, unfunny things in our lives.  I can never forget that expression on my friend’s face when my friend blurted out half in pity and half some other indescribable emotion that my dream is not turning out as planned like somebody yanked the carpet from underneath, like somebody robbed me of my birthright.  But life is not a fairy tale or it’s a misconception that fairy tales are lovely, pretty conconctions, when they can actually be dark and grim.   It takes all kinds of stories to make an epic life.  My friend blurts out truth like writing prompts begging, forcing me to spit, spew and foam in the mouth like a rabid dog.  What of being the captain of your own proverbial ship as each one of us is, ought to be, in theory and practice?   What powers lie beneath our passenger hands that sends us beyond the illusion of sailing our own vessel.  The things we can be masters over still span a breadth much, much more than the width and length of a car.  It spans forests and jungles, mountains and rivers, continents and oceans.  It runs the gamut of your creativity and proactivity, infinite and not as tarnished as you thought because you tend to sell yourself short.  Choose your battles well and you can soar over distances.  Each day may not seem to be the clean slate we want it to be or was promised us, but it is, if you look intently, intentionally enough.  You don’t need a microscope to see.  It’s as fresh and innocent as the day Adam and Eve stepped into Eden.  To paraphrase generations in my family, we march into the paradise and hells of our own making.  If we have lost our way somehow, the directions will arrive at the time we are ready to be found.


The odd ramblings were ticked off by the usual writing-prompt-like, probing expressions of my friend though not in a deliberate attempt to eke out an essay.  They somehow also spilled right after a psychedelic trip of a movie made even trippier in 4D — Doctor Strange.  Yes, 4D.  Not just 3D.  Not smell-o-vision.  The chairs shook and jerked every fight scene. Snow blasted when the Ancient One teleported Stephen Strange to the top of the Himalayas. Mist spewed and beside me, Jimmy squealed, “Water!”  Wind blew as the world was coming to an end.   The experience somehow opened a sorcerer’s portal in my mind and triggered a response to the already strange promptings before the movie which I originally did not want to watch in 4D because I thought it would be corny.  I’m happy to have been proven wrong because the effects added to the drama and the extra-sensory input fit the film’s magical, mystical mood.  What a hoot to boot for all of us kids!




Instantly Home


We felt at home instantly the minute we walked out of the airport into the balmy, tropical night.  A Didi (one of the Uber-like servers in China) car drove up immediately and whisked us, not to a hotel or guest house but our very own monthly-rented apartment complete with amenities that you wouldn’t think you’re anywhere but home.  I was always impressed by the lushness of Singapore but Xishuangbanna is equally lush, yet more untamed than manicured, less maintained and wilder looking but the roughness is part of the attraction.

One expat website labeled it a poor man’s Thailand and there may be truth to that since things can be relative to how much you make and spend.  However, for us who have been stuck in the industrial, drab, flat north, the green land and blue sky expanse is more than welcome as well as its affordability.  The imperfections make it a real city like any other struggling to survive the ups and downs of humanity and the economy.

Case in point is the water park located by the river that runs through Jinghong city.  It has the simplest, most basic facilities.  The pools aren’t even lined with tiles but with plastic that doesn’t try to hide the bumpy surface, however the whole place offers the most fun any kid and kid at heart can have with water, soap bubbles, slides, floating seesaws and extra slippery inflatable challenges.  I spent an hour laughing at myself trying to get over straddling a tube and another hour stuck too afraid to take the plunge.  I thought this might be a metaphor for life — how fear holds us back from doing what we know we ought to do.    I admired the bravery of my husband and my sons who took on the adventure courses way, way faster than I could.  They had no fear.

I always dreamed of participating in those TV game shows where you go through a series of obstacles, avoid falling into the water, practice your balance and show-off physical strength and prowess.  I thought I’d nail those type of activities but boy was I ever so wrong.  I’d nail laughing at myself, hauling my overweight body and refusing to let go of hugging a big plastic tube for dear life.

Aside from the trees, flowers and plants, I’ve been going crazy over the rice noodles.  From between 7 to 10 RMB, you can get a scrumptious bowl of fresh goodness.  I’d need to spend triple that amount in the Philippines for half the quality.  For the space we are renting here, we’d be spending quadruple, quintuple for the same size unit in Manila.

The other great advantage of Xishuangbanna is Hudou with the booming and hearty laugh. He’s my husband’s friend who knew us as a couple before we got married and is now helping Jason get a business off the ground.  Creative and artistic, Hudou also loves kids so Joshua and Jimmy felt right at home with him.  He’s lived quite an exciting life following wherever his dreams took him from Tianjin to Chengdu, from Nepal to Lijiang and in the future, who knows.  It may be Sri Lanka or Kenya where the trail of tea might lead him.


I didn’t realize how long I haven’t checked TED Talks.  When I was teaching at the university, I regularly scoured the choices from their website to find inspiration to share with my students.  Today, I remembered and found Isaac Lidsky’s talk so appropriate for my “don’t fear taking the plunge” situation.  Lidsky said:

Your fears distort your reality. Under the warped logic of fear, anything is better than the uncertain. Fear fills the void at all costs, passing off what you dread for what you know,offering up the worst in place of the ambiguous, substituting assumption for reason. Psychologists have a great term for it: awfulizing.

Fear replaces the unknown with the awful. Now, fear is self-realizing. When you face the greatest need to look outside yourself and think critically, fear beats a retreat deep inside your mind, shrinking and distorting your view, drowning your capacity for critical thought with a flood of disruptive emotions. When you face a compelling opportunity to take action, fear lulls you into inaction, enticing you to passively watch its prophecies fulfill themselves.

Isaac Lidsky’s TED Talk: What reality are you creating for yourself?


Escaping China Without Leaving the Country


From warm and sunny Manila to gray, wintry Tianjin and straight into the tropical arms of Xishuangbanna, I finally figured out how to escape China without leaving the country. Eight years living in the mainland’s more polluted north has taken it’s toll and I longed for change.  I did not have to look further afield.  Hopping on a plane to the edge already feels like another country.  I can hardly understand the Mandarin that they speak and that I had slowly, painfully nurtured learning through the years.  Banna feels and tastes a lot like Thailand and Vietnam without losing my husband’s direct connection to the motherland. Best of all, the lush vegetation, the extreme greenery makes it an Eden without the price tag of the big cities or more popular tourist destinations like Dali.