The Pie that Broke the Camel


Donna, my friend from China called me up last night via WeChat.   She said she had a dream about me and in that dream, I was very tired.  I was exhausted making pie all by myself to the point that I was not there for my kids.

It was exactly what is happening with me now.  Even with the COVID and community quarantine, I have a full workload that keeps me up late at night and waking up very early in the morning, I get up, open my laptop and start the engine full throttle.

I’ve been trying to stop like a drug addict who knows it’s bad for me, bad for my family but I got into the habit too deep to stop.  I’ve been telling people I work with that I have to take a break and they tell me, yes, you need to rest, you need respite but the next day, it’s the same.  I do all the work online and offline, it’s on my mind like an indelible stamp.

What is this that has occupied my mind like a beerus?   I think I’ve had this beerus all my life.  I get obsessed with something and it possesses me like a demon.  Oh, I’ve learned to let go and I have struck a somewhat healthy balance every now and then because I have a variety of interests and outlets.

Maybe that’s why it’s harder this time.  This quarantine has isolated me as it has all of us, but in my case, I can still do one type of work but don’t have the other pre-occupations like meeting with friends that I could juggle it with.  The usual day for me is juggling all these balls of responsibilities and hobbies, but now we have a lot less balls to juggle because we need to restrict our movements.  However, that’s not even the sad waterloo.  My weakness as a parent is — it’s easier for me to focus on my work than my kids especially when it’s a choice between finishing something with a deadline – made-up or real.

Why am I this way?  Why can’t I just stop and release myself from this stranglehold?

I realized I desperately need a win.  I still desperately want to succeed at something because I am standing on heaps upon heaps of failures.  The endeavor I started last year is on the brink of collapse and it may not live to see the light past COVID.  If this quarantine continues indefinitely and eat up not just one or two months, we’ll be forced to close shop.  This may be true for small and medium businesses and start-ups with no buffer, no deep pocket, no strong foundation.  Like a house of cards, what we built up can fall like somebody blew it with a gust of air from his lungs.

On the other hand, the endeavor I am involved now for about a month has a deadline on May 2.  I can work myself up to a tizzy from now till then knowing there is a foreseeable goal and defined future.  I can lead and push it to the finish line.  Of course, if our group wins, that’s a whole new ballgame.  If our group loses, it’s not a total loss because we just switch to Plan B or C.

Why must I be so desperate to win and to succeed?  Staring at all the failures right in front of my face — recent and historical — makes me grasp for straws, makes me fall for illusions.  I am neither my failure nor my success.  Everyone should operate on the assumption that everything is temporary as each and every one of us is on this earth passing through, so these pre-occupations that capture us shouldn’t kill us.  Winning and success can motivate us but it should not control us.  It is not our true purpose.

Our true purpose may be and should be more apparent with this lockdown but here I am still not recognizing it, still grasping for straws.   I cannot stop when I should.  Probably, there should be a Workaholics Anonymous for us reaching for the unattainable when everything we need is right here, right now and nowhere in the past and future.

I’ve stood at the edge of the abyss many times and I have chosen many times to jump knowing that I will be safe and I will be saved because that all-knowing power in the universe got my back.  I can jump off the edge again and again and make the landing, soft or hard.  I close my eyes and it turns out that it’s the next ledge and not all that high as I feared.

Meanwhile, I do need a rest and a break. When I return, the work will still be there whatever form or shape it takes.  But my kids are only 10 and 7 once.

Why is it easier for me to ignore my kids and tell them, “Later, let me finish this,” when I know I should not, when I know what is the right thing to do?  It may be built into my genetic make-up.  I come from a long line of workaholics – family members who cannot stop to get off the hamster wheel to greet a daughter whom she has not seen for a week because she is busy with a phone call or having a staff meeting.  If others ignore us, why do we choose to ignore those we should not just because we hurt ourselves from being ignored by others?   We must be made of stronger stuff than that, because when you think about it, we are actually never ever ignored.  We are cared for by someone divine each and every second of the day, for eternity.  And so should we.  When somebody presents themselves to us who needs our full attention, we should give them our undivided attention.

It’s easy for me to operate with a divided mind.  I’ve been wanting to be more mindful with paltry results.  I have to thank my friend, Donna who called me up with such urgency all the way from China — for giving me a powerful reminder that I can use to bring myself back – that image of sacrificing family time for a silly pumpkin pie.

Everything is pie that can keep me from my true purpose.  Pie is like a low-hanging fruit, easier to pick so easier to think it’s what should be picked.  Like junk food and not exercising  and other things that keep me blind and deaf.

I’d still eat Cheetos, though.

Photos from our family quarantine area in Subic.  We haven’t been able to bike around anymore. The playgrounds have been closed and the area where we can walk is limited but grateful for every step out in the sunshine, grateful for the trees and sky.  We can still dig a hole in the backyard to bury food waste and I’ve never seen Jason so happy doing DIY projects at home.


This just in from my Dad in response to my blog today:

“There are no losers in life. There are only movers and those who never tried to become different and to improve mankind.”

Wanting to Defy the Odds


Maybe we shouldn’t have started this.  Maybe we should’ve given up earlier.  Maybe we should’ve sought enough funding first.  Even if odds were stacked against us, we bulldozed our way to the starting line and ran away with it until we sputtered, and chutzpah, courage and good intentions were not enough fuel to last a long marathon.

When somebody tells you to stop this madness, when somebody tells you, “You can’t be doing this for your children,” you continue to believe in your heart otherwise.  Yes, one of my reasons for starting a “school” is for my kids but my kids are not yet of age to attend high school.  Somebody close to me said, that is the wrong reason to do something where you gamble a considerable amount of capital.  Another friend told me, “You cannot mix family and business that way.”  However, I know of moms who started schools for precisely the same reason.  They wanted to create a more positive learning environment for their children.  It so happened that they went on to become successful.  One school grew from a garage at home to a school with many buildings.  One stay-at-home mom parlayed her small school into one that spanned kinder to college. Another mom started out the same time as me and was able to secure angel investment.

So please don’t tell me this is wrong.

“Maybe it’s not the time for this.  The Filipinos are not ready for something as revolutionary as this,” somebody countered in deep pity at the hardships and birthing pains we were going through.  Tell that to the families who are served by this alternative to traditional school.  Tell that to the families who have been looking for a community as open and accepting as this.  Tell that to the young people who have benefited from finding joy in learning with peers and mentors.

I still refuse to believe in my heart that this is a mistake, that we are better off not having risked so much only to stand at the edge of the abyss.  The abyss before us is the invisible enemy many worldwide are facing.  It is the unseen, microscopic ball of crown that silently invades bodies and threatens economies.

If our country was agile and rich enough to declare all businesses can be rent-free, tax-free and food would be subsidized during this period, then a small operation like ours could stand a chance at survival. Our hospitals are heaving under the weight of this pandemic and salaried employees across industries are shaking with insecurity.  People who need a ride to work find themselves stranded, luckily or unluckily depending on how much they like their job.  In the first place, except for medical personnel and skeletal crews, everyone should just simply stay at home.

How do businesses, tiny, medium and big, propose to surf this unfortunate tsunami?  How creative and resourceful you must be to contemplate solutions to address this conundrum.  I may not be there yet.  Give me time to think and brainstorm with my partners in this endeavor.  I am stumped at the moment but I shall regain my composure in a while.

My heart cannot bear to write the descriptions for these photos so I shall let the pictures from January to March 2020 speak for themselves.  Since school has been canceled, Abot Tala has been holding classes online.  I’m happy to say the students who were choosing to attend very few classes before are now joining more.  Perhaps we have to thank the community quarantine for pushing people against the boredom wall enough for them to retaliate with a vengeance and seek engagement any way it appears.

We may be looking at online operations to pass this hurdle, though we still have the responsibility to honor our lease contract, pay for utilities, internet, salaries and taxes.  In a few days, April will roll by and our good government does not recognize companies in the red and what was already red will become even bloodier.  Scarred and bloodied from war, we have to be grateful for staying alive, complete with the ability to dance as crazy as John Travolta.

Dance like nobody is watching.