Hope Stronger than Fear

It was odd not to be gripped by the corona obsession and instead be gripped by another fever – campaigning for a cause, finding myself one of the leaders of a ragtag group, trying to overthrow a pair who has ruled for six years.   It’s better than watching any Netflix series because I am already in one.  It consumes my time during the weeks before and after lockdown without missing a beat since everything could be done online.   I had to reduce my workload, though after realizing the frenetic pace was not healthy for family life.

The reason I want to write this all down is I want to describe the fear that comes with the territory.  It’s a fear that was revealed to me by somebody else.  There are people who do not want to rock the boat, who want to stay safe and know as little as possible about what’s going on.  They know something is wrong but they want to stay quiet in the background.   That point of view should be respected but I was also hoping they could be swayed to join the cause.

However, there is a side of me that totally understands that fear because I, too get caught in its web.  I felt it attending the last meeting when I prepared a speech and realized it was totally the wrong time to deliver it.  I feel it thinking about the pair’s angry and scary stare.  I call up one of the people I’m closest to in our ragtag group asking if she has ever feared them.

What is there to be afraid of?   She explains and it clears away the irrational fears that I have.

It’s scary to have an opposing view and express it to a current leadership that is close-minded and messianic.  Yesterday, I found this on Wikipedia:

In terms of the attitude wherein an individual sees themselves as having to save another or a group of poor people, there is the notion that the action inflates their own sense of importance and discounts the skills and abilities of the people they are helping to improve their own lives.

Messiah Complex, Wikipedia

Because they have ruled for six years, they think nobody else could lead the community as well as they do because they have poured an inordinate amount of time and effort into this.  This beautiful residential area we call our home, would simply go to the dogs if other people ran it without the expertise and experience that they have.  Rules would not be implemented because people will just be lax, take things for granted.

However, the pair has angered a good segment of the population going to the other extreme of the spectrum.  They have imposed exorbitant penalties implemented as if they are extorting money from residents who do pay association dues.  Paper accidentally falling from the balcony was fined P10,000.  Parking violation was fined P200,000 while the accidental burning of plastic that did not cause any damage to the unit or building was penalized P100,000.  Meanwhile, cigarette butts get thrown out of windows and in some floors, garbage is not properly thrown into the chute without citation or penalty.

Meanwhile, one-half of the ruling pair violated the following three rules during a Security Committee meeting last year when he started a fight with one of the committee members:

1) Fighting, inflicting or attempting to inflict bodily harm or injury to other people within the residential area

2) Threatening, intimidating, coercing and usage of insulting language,

3) Provoking or instigating a fight.

The aggrieved member wrote to the Board of Trustees about this.  He wrote to the COMELEC requesting to disqualify the council head from running but his letters fell on deaf ears.  Because the council head was not given a citation for his actions, he is still in “good standing” and eligible to run.

Meanwhile, some people who wanted to run for council couldn’t because of a citation over an accident, which were automatically handed without due process.  Some people wanted to run but couldn’t because of a late payment that was already paid before the nomination deadline.

Meanwhile the head of the council gets off scot-free because he was “forgiven” by the council.   There is no forgiveness for those who make a mistake because they are only residents who are part owners of the condominium corporation.  There is forgiveness for the council leader because he has six years of service behind him even if that service has harmed residents, some of whom feel like prisoners in their own home, stripped off their rights.

Some residents have observed that it was so much better “back then.”  Some residents don’t know that any of these are happening and are happy and satisfied with the way things are.  For each segment, what proportion of the pie do they make up?  Are the ones dissatisfied just way noisier than the ones who are? Or is the seemingly rising tide of discontent a substantial matter that should be addressed?

Countries fall into the trap and mistake of electing leaders in place who want to hold onto power after they have tasted how good it is.  They deny that it is a power trip, of course.   Every year, they go through this ritual of saying they don’t want to run anymore but each year, they are convinced to do so “for the people’s good.”

What is the definition of people’s good or what does it mean — for the good of the community?  We all define it individually and there will be so many dissenting and clashing opinions, who’d want to sit and serve in a council, anyway?  Some love the challenge of being part of the solution to a problem.  However, if some are causing more problems than contributing to the solution, but are completely oblivious to the fact, where do we go from there?

This is quite a strange, strange thing to write during the Holy Week when we ought to be reflecting on Jesus’ death and resurrection.  What would Jesus do if he were alive in our midst today?  What would He say about COVID and the quarantine?  If I invited Him to sit during the council meetings, how would he act?  Well, in the first place, he wouldn’t be allowed into council meeting if he wasn’t a member.   If asked, what advice would he give the ragtag and the ruling?  What sort of peace and hope would he bring to the table?







Casting Our Nets into the Sky


The first logo I designed for Abot Tala two years ago had this latin adage: Ad Astra Per Aspera meaning “to the stars through difficulties.”  Through hardships to the stars.  That’s exactly what we are all going through. We have these lofty dreams and ours was a vision for freedom for young people to direct their education and life path with the help and guidance of mentors. We’re still reaching for those bright things in the infinite dark sky and we are still going through rough, rougher and roughest waters, the roughest of which may be this period of uncertainty and waiting.

We refuse to believe that this is the end. Instead we forge on, hoping against hope that stars can be held in the palm of our hands until we throw them back out into the night, only to catch them again and again. They may slip through the holes of our net but these are never impossibilities.

Eight years ago, it was discovered that I was pregnant and had cancer at the same time. Against all odds, despite having chemotherapy while pregnant, my baby was born healthy. He is now 7 years old, a naughty, creative, hyperactive, smart, joyful, malambing boy. This picture makes me think of the dreams we have that are seemingly impossible, that make us want to give up but I remember clearly not wanting to give up this baby. Why is it easy for us to give up other dreams especially if it is our personal dream? I think the dream we can’t give up on, the dream that keeps us going despite the hardships and difficulties are the dreams for our children.  For those who don’t have biological children, it may be something else, a legacy that we hope continues past our physical time on earth.

Abot Tala is like my child but there are times when I want to give up.  I can never do that with my real children.  I know of parents who have given up on their children and children who have given up on their parents.  The tragedy is heartbreaking and I can never imagine it happening to me but it has happened to people close to me.

So what is this business of giving up or wanting to give up on a dream?  When circumstances force us to fold up, do we fold up or fight to keep open?  There will be people who will always be on the side of encouragement and there will be the naysayers who think it’s losing battle.  However, you don’t hear this only outside; the voices are right inside your head swinging like a pendulum or a hatchet about to cut either the rope that holds you captive or slice your body in half.

Since Abot Tala is for teens ages 12 to 18, it is where my own kids could go to should they wish to in the future.  They are only 7 and 10 now so it won’t be after a few more years till they’re eligible to join.  We don’t know if Abot Tala would still be alive by then because we don’t even know if we’ll be able to survive this crippling debacle.

In August last year, we opened Abot Tala Junior which ran for two months before closing it down since it was a threat to the sustainability of the original center for teens.  The program for younger kids ages 7 to 11 was much more complex and we did not have the space nor the staff fit for it.  It was a crushing blow to realize we had to close shop so quickly but it was a painful amputation that had to be done.

The center chugged along while never meeting our target numbers but we all believed it was only a matter of time and we’d reach the tipping point.  Most people may favor the traditional school system but there were outliers, out-of-the-box thinkers and families  who needed this option for their teens.  To counter our bloody red FS, we came up with a fundraising program that we were about to launch when, COVID reared it’s blood-thirsty head.  A crown of thorns descended on a few that soon exploded exponentially.

We were in the process of  starting a fundraiser with the country’s premiere auction house, Leon Gallery.  The country’s equivalent of Sotheby’s was generous enough to support Abot Tala but then who would think about auctioning art work or antiques now unless the funds go to our frontliners in the medical field?  Who would think of sponsoring teens who need an alternative to school, who need an option to following a rigid curriculum when all schools have closed down?

We sit with uncertainty as long and as peaceful as we can because there is little choice but to ride this out.  Abot Tala is offering summer classes but apart from that, we wait with bated breath and sinking budget.

Another thing I was looking forward to is a fragment of another dream.  My 10 year old son, Joshua and I are avid fans of Shark Tank and it’s been my dream to pitch on that popular U.S. TV Program of 11 seasons.  Tinky, one of our Abot Tala board of trustees messaged me about John Aguilar, host and producer of the Filipino version of Shark Tank.  Thanks to serendipity, I ended up attending a talk for start-ups where John and his wife, Monica talked about their experiences and stories as an entrepreneurial couple.  I was able to ambush John after and gave an instant elevator pitch about Abot Tala.

I submitted the online application form and requirements some weeks before the lockdown and a few weeks into the quarantine, got word that Abot Tala is invited to do an online pre-pitch when things go back to normal.  Nobody knows when that will be.

The biggest challenge for me to take on in Abot Tala is approaching people I know for help and support.  It’s easier for me to approach total strangers so I kept attending event after event and now, the possibility of appearing on the Final Pitch gives me that boost to go on with a potential resolution in the horizon.  Imagine if we get a big investor who believes in what Abot Tala stands for and offers full support.

It seems naive to expect a miracle.  A miraculous save.  A rescue swooping from the sky.  A superhero with cape waving in the wind.

But there is too, the preparation for when a miracle should occur.



And not to forget, the other miracle in my life: Joshua who was born when I was 38 and my family was thinking I’d never marry nor have kids.  Proof miracles do happen.  They can even happen every day, often undetected.