79th at Bunting Farm


Yesterday was simply a celebration of family, friendship, nature, food, art, design, architecture, trees, blue skies, abundance, harvest, humor, generosity, gratitude, generations, shared jokes over witchcraft plus 79 years of Tito Manny, the role model whose dreams for the country never fade.   What amazing things a united brotherhood, sisterhood, a united brood can produce!  Thank you for the labor of love!

Zee Question


Z asked me, “What are the benefits of going to a self-directed learning center?

I posed the question on the Liberated Learners google group and Maria immediately answered, “The benefits are unique for each individual.  However, in the experience of people from Liberated Learning centers, when teens or kids are given the power to make their own decisions about their life and education, it changes something fundamental within them.  Beyond feeling empowered, after a while, they are able to see things more clearly.  They are able to think about their life differently.”

One parent of a teen attending North Star wrote, “I just wanted to tell you how thrilled we have been as a family that our son is attending North Star.  He is such a happy guy, his stress has disappeared and his love of learning languages is being nourished and supported.  It is such a pleasure everyday to drop him off.  Thank you for providing such a wonderful program.”

Another parent emailed, “Our days and nights have changed for the better.  My son and I are closer and share more with one another and everyday he comes up with new things he wants to explore.”

The students are equally pleased saying, “The approach to education has always felt right for me and the social scene is welcoming.  I spent more time doing what I enjoy, less time being bored and less time fretting that I was falling behind. Through the classes, tutorials and assistance from my adviser, I was able to focus my energy on topics that interest me and fun things like rock climbing, hiking and socializing.”

Another member recounted, “It felt good to finally feel like I was allowed to be myself and to be surrounded by others who were being themselves, too.  I joined Band and Theater, things I had never dared to do before, and I had the time of my life learning and performing.”

Teachers and mentors feel the benefits of being in a learning environment that has none of the constrictions of traditional school.  One teacher wrote, “Through engaging with the students at North Star, I have found that building relationships with others through honest conversation is more valuable and impactful to people’s overall learning.  Each week I facilitate a class titled Solutions for a Sustainable Future.  This course has taken on the form of a discussion space for students to share their ideas and ask questions with regard to environmental, economic and social justice issues.  Within this space, I have encouraged students to investigate the correlations that exist between the condition of our human society and the well-being of the planet we share.”

For more stories and testimonials, check out: http://www.northstarteens.org/liberated-learners-newsletter


Abot Tala is part of the Liberated Learners (LL) network of centers based on the North Star Self-Directed Learning for Teens, a model started by Ken Danford more than twenty years ago in Massachusetts.  Each LL center has it’s own name and Ken always emphasizes how each center must respond to the unique local conditions and culture.

Abot Tala is opening soon on April 1 at the Commune, Poblacion, Makati — our temporary home for two months.

abot tala - game changer in education


To learn more about the program and meet the people behind Abot Tala, please feel free to join any of these gatherings.  We’d love to meet you!

  • March 16 Saturday 3:30 – 5:30 pm Commune Café, Polaris St., Poblacion, Makati
  • March 19 Tuesday 5:00 to 7:00 pm   Bo’s Coffee, High Street, BGC
  • March 20 Wednesday 2:00 to 4:00 pm  Tim Horton’s, Glorietta 4, Makati
  • March 21 Thursday   6:00 to 8:00 pm  Starbucks, Grace Mall, Cayetano Blvd., Taguig

See you there!

Other Links:

Launching a Game Changer

If Not Those, What Is It Then?

School is Optional

Teacher Liberation





The Free Forest School is Here!


The Free Forest School is here in Manila!  Not everyday but at least on weekends, families who want their kids to hang out in nature have a community that values this time with the trees and the earth.  In other countries, they hold these excursions in actual forests but the Manila chapter had to make do with what’s available nearby — the U.P. Diliman sunken garden with a dried up but still pretty lagoon.  On weekends, you celebrate communing with nature with others practicing a theater performance, choir singing, martial arts, taichi, having a picnic, but there’s space for everyone in this beautiful park with roads around it closed to vehicular traffic so there are also bikers enjoying the rare perk.  Ah, if it could be like this even on weekdays.  If we could allocate space in each part of the city where ROI is not the prevailing priority but the feeding of the human soul.

The Free Forest School is an international network of communities promoting more play time in nature.

Research shows nature play benefits children’s health, supporting social-emotional, physical, and cognitive development and wellness. Yet time spent outdoors in unstructured play is at an all-time low and many children face significant barriers to playing in nature.

We believe all children deserve to play and explore in nature. We pursue equitable access to nature play for all children by mobilizing grassroots leaders and partnering with school districts, cities and community organizations.

Most of their activities may be limited to the weekends but it’s still a much a needed break from regular urban life.  I hope someday there could be a real Forest School that’s open every day like the Forest Kindergartens in other countries but not just limited to pre-school.  Wishful thinking again but still extremely grateful to the organizers who initiated the Free Forest School in the Philippines.

Many homeschooling families are probably searching for this kind of alternative and any family is welcome to join.  Check out their the Forest School Metro Manila group.  There’s also a group over at Zambales and they hike the Pamulaklakin trail.

The effect of growing up near green spaces

The importance of nature play in child development

Why on earth do we trap school children inside four walls to learn?


For Filipiniana Fanatics


For Filipiniana fanatics, researchers, history buffs, Mario Feir’s library is a godsend.  And I have Tinky to thank for taking me there, which is how most people find their way to this secret trove — by word of mouth.  People invite friends to meet a one-of-a-kind guy in a metropolis sorely, painfully lacking in libraries.  Mario started collecting Filipiniana tomes when he was living in the States.  For 45 years, he amassed an enviable collection  — thousands of books, stamps, postcards and when he came back to the Philippines, he decided to open his accumulated treasures to anyone who wanted to study and pore over the stacks.  His calling card says it all: