No Cheesy Goodbyes




Fearless Trailblazer

Losing a Star

Gone Too Soon

I’m sure she’ll think the titles cheesy and bonk me on the head.  We only met a total of three times but enough to make an impact in my life.  Imagine those who have been with her for much longer.

School and pub-owner — no hesitation, no conflict.  She is what she is.  No wake and no funeral, just a party at Fred’s Revolucion.

If Blended Learning Center was nearby, I’d want my kids to go there.  If I had loads of capital or won the lotto (like what my friend, Rachael plans), I’d find a way to bring Blended Learning Center to BGC.  BLC at BGC.

Her passing made me think of her boldness and how we are sometimes too shy to run after our dreams, how our confidence fails us.  But not Gina.




Read more about the Blended Learning Center here.

Read more about Abot Tala here.


Ikigai and the Challenge of Convergence


May had lunch here yesterday and how did our conversation lead to ikigai?  Like conversations with old friends inevitably lead to what are we doing with our lives.  I told May she’s getting to her ikigai while I’m still pushing the circles to connect.



I wish the circles didn’t dangle like a wrecked participle.  I wish they intersected and held themselves in balance.

It made me think of the ikigai of Abot Tala and our wish for a convergence of finding space and members.  Maybe the space hasn’t come to us because we need to find more supporters and participants.  We were aiming for space in Taguig, Makati or Pasig but we’ve looked further afield in Quezon City and Paranaque because we wanted to be open to more possibilities.   We’d like to be in BGC but every time I look at spaces there with astronomical rent, it felt like we didn’t have the right to exist in the area.  But didn’t we dream of pitching the idea to the bigwigs of BGC?  Maybe we need to put that into action.  If they are true to what they say, there’s space for this in the “home of passionate minds.”

On the other hand, maybe we HAVE found the space we want but in my mind, it’s not as big as I had hoped for and it’s not located in the premiere part of the city that I preferred.  However, it’s a good starting point where proof of concept can be nurtured and honed.  It’s a humble beginning that could grow and in time, we could move to a more prime spot that we deserve every right to occupy.

Throughout these months of searching for people who support what Abot Tala stands for, there are basically three types: 1) those who are simply not interested, 2) those who profess interest and say they want to help but don’t follow through with their initial enthusiasm, and 3) those who buy into the concept, put their words into action and contribute concretely.   We need to keep meeting more of those from the third group, and refrain from being sad about those from number two.  The convergence among people in group three will eventually happen; it’s just a matter of time.


Find out more about Abot Tala





Between Doubt and Belief


My friend, Rachael and I were discussing by the poolside while watching the kids swim.  I asked her, “What would you do if your kids reached that age when you don’t have to look after them as much?”  Rachael said she would write poetry.  We recalled what we did before we had kids that were shelved temporarily because time and mommy duties did not permit us.  Or is it a case of allowing circumstances not to allow us?  I joined open mics and weekend mountain climbs before whereas  I couldn’t imagine myself doing those now with a 9 year old and a 6 year old waiting for bedtime stories.  In the future, if I could carve up the time, I’d love to participate in the improvisation workshop offered by SPIT after office hours once a week because it might work better than any other therapy I’ve had.

Today, another friend, Justine demonstrated that it is possible to make extraordinary combinations, not merely juggling acts but being in the flow zone of creativity.  Justine is a homeschooling mom of two kids (both under 11), runs a business, does freelance work and continues to write poetry, books and takes one Coursera course after another.  I peeked into her design projects online and read her poems.  Superwoman envy.   Wonder woman inspiration.

Claiming Alexandria: Poems About Life

I’ve always wanted to take advantage of MOOCs but never had.  I have another friend, Boots who also collects Coursera course certificates not as a display trophies but just like Justine, they’re simply both lovers of learning.   I’ve always wanted to write more poems so as a step towards that direction, I grouped the ones I have written since this blog began into a new category, Poetry.   Mostly quite bleak but I hope there will be some brighter ones down the road.

Reading Justine’s poems made me think of stretching time like putty in my hand — that if I wanted it enough, I’d make time for whatever it was I wanted.

I had a difficult conversation one night ago about dreams and much as the person  supported me in my dreams, he still delivered the blow that its scale (perhaps impact) is small.  It’s just going to help a tiny group of people.  It’s not like a real business that could be scaled up and reach masses of people.  There is a level of truth to what he said. What we’re setting up is probably going to help around twenty to thirty young people, and sixty or more if we get to expand.  We’ll be making (barely) enough just to be able to run the model but not much after operational expenses.  Making a difference in the life of one person ought to be enough but the person I was talking to made me feel it wasn’t enough.  But why should I be affected when it is a non-profit venture from the start?

Because we were also discussing this in the context of other dreams not yet attained and other things too complicated, too conflicting, too muddled in my mind to write about at 1:43 in the morning.

When I wake up I remember this video about an 18 year old girl, Maggie Doyne who realizes she doesn’t know herself and decides to travel.  She ends up spending her life savings earned mostly from baby sitting, on buying land in Nepal to build a home for orphans. She placed her own money on the land and raised funds for the building.   Watching the video is an encouraging reminder that what I’m doing may look crazy, insane, impractical to some people: I’m not 18 anymore and I have a family to support.  Blowing savings on a dream may not seem wise but there is also that risk of not risking that may even be a bigger blow.

The video is also a stark reminder that you can’t do anything alone.  You have to galvanize other people who believe in the cause and who share the dream.  That’s what I wish the person armed with both belief and doubt, can understand.  What’s the use of telling your children “Anything is possible as long as you put your heart and mind into it,” when you don’t live it yourself?


Maggie Doyne: You Can Do Anything


Pop Up Update


I may not be blogging as much about Abot Tala as before but I’m doing more things for Abot Tala than ever before.    The biggest challenge is still finding the space.  Promising spaces turn out like some love stories — sadly but simply not-meant-to-be.  Some are way out as in interstellar way out of budget and the ones within the budget, you’d understand why.  The ideal is still to find a super-ally-supporter-believer who has property or connections to those with property to share for this cause.  We’ve looked at co-working spaces, houses, offices, old, new, bare and ready-to-move-in, but still no match because it’s probably still being made in heaven.  Ordered already but the delivery is taking the roundabout route.  It’s still brewing and being perfected for us so that when we step in, that convergence of a-ha’s happens and we would know why it took us this length of time to find it.

I’d like to list down all the people I’ve met in this journey, how the links were made like a web forming itself gracefully, organically, one introduction leading to another leading to another, amazing people who do what they say and not just say something without follow through.  Grateful for the growing constellation but there are days when I fail to see the big picture and the narrowness of vision drowns out the good that is already being built.  Doubts and frustrations creep in but they need to be set aside for productivity’s sake but productivity is not enough.  You go back to the “why” that gave you the strength in the first place, the “why” that often gets lost amidst the “doing.”  Thank goodness for souls who remind us of those whys.

When the rhetorical “Why am I doing this?” gets crowded out by “You’re not good enough to do this,” it’s time to dig deeper and fish out something from the depths that got covered in slime and muck.  You have to extend your whole arm to get at it when it wants half your body submerged.  No, not even.  Your whole body needs to dive in.  Please lend me another metaphor.

The sweat metaphor.  I’ve been going to the gym but cheating and doing only fifteen minutes at a time.  Quickie because I’m ADHD in the gym.  The gym coach said it’s not going to work that way because I’m not sweating.  You have to sweat, he said.  I thought, is that a metaphor for the Abot Tala?  I haven’t sweated enough, I haven’t gone out of my comfort zone enough?  I tell somebody this metaphor and maybe, she said, that’s not necessarily the case.

Going back to the why.  There are people in my family I think would have benefited from something like Abot Tala if it had existed back then when I felt powerless, clueless, “skill-less” to help.  I could imagine all the people who could be helped by this.  And that’s good enough to keep me going, not to mention having team mates with superpowers and strengths different from those I possess.  Team effort makes up for whatever self-limiting beliefs cripple you at the moment.


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Mental Health Fair @ Warehouse 8


My niece, Gianna did these beautiful art works above.  My sister sent them to our family Viber group and not long after, I landed on the Mental Health Fair and saw art works that I wish Gianna was there with me to ogle and enjoy the explosion of creativity.  Artists painted on notebooks, bookmarks, postcards, had their works printed on bags. There were a lot of stickers which I wanted to purchase but didn’t know where I’d place them but it would be great to have, so never mind if their only use would be to remind me of one day at an art fair meeting people with interesting stories to tell.

I lingered the longest and most repeatedly at the table of an artist couple – Marius Black and Guada Funtilar.  I got a wordless story booklet by Ica Felipe because the girl in the book reminded me of Gianna.  I found a postcard by Micah Sulit that’s perfect for Abot Tala because it said, “Your path doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s,” plus much needed encouragement that proclaimed, “Watch what happens when you don’t give up.” Issel de Leon’s illustrations came with a mini-story at the back.

People from the Philippine Mental Health Association explained to me that they’re not a government agency but a non-profit organization that has been operating for many years helping people sort out their issues.  People from the Youth for Mental Health Coalition also spoke about their advocacy.

My happy loot from the Mental Health Fair at Warehouse 8 (September 29, 2018):

Artist and teacher Denden, drew my niece, Gianna on the spot after I showed her Gianna’s photo on Viber.  I always thought washi tapes were these overpriced cutesy non-essentials that are oh so lovely to look at and covet, but I never knew how they’re used specifically except for crafts in general.  I watched Denden cut the colorfully patterned, glorified scotch tapes into the clothes of people she drew.




Reaching Jack Ma



I googled how to reach Jack Ma to invite him to speak in Manila.  Long shot — you don’t have to tell me and he’s been here but I’d like him to open Abot Tala.  So I sent emails and messages to the great ether out there to see if anyone would answer back.  So far none but keeping fingers crossed and hopes up because some days you subsist on that alone.

The search for space for Abot Tala continues.  The search for people who might have space to offer Abot Tala continues.  Hurdling a problem of a potential space still continues.

Last month, I met up with Carl and Samantha in Tianjin.  Partners in Hero’s Journey camp, we planned and mapped out what we want to happen during the Spring Festival holiday next year.  Inevitably, the conversation wanders into our dreams of alternative education, creating our dream school or “unschool” or “worldschool,” and it further wanders into the territory of how the heck can we reach Jack Ma because he’s the one who can probably make this happen in China.

Donna and I always imagined that it’s harder to put up an alternative to school in China than in the Philippines because of the gaokao.  Carl, Samantha and I were also stumped when it came to the gaokao.  What can you do when up against a monolithic system like the gaokao?  Well-off Chinese families have the privilege and ready option of sending their children to study abroad and escape the scourge of gaokao but what about those without the means to do so?

If Jack Ma was on board, would he have the clout to make a dent in the system?  He may be able to finance alternative education centers in China and even in other countries (hopefully the Philippines and ahem, Abot Tala), but what happens when the child needs to go the university and there’s the gaokao?  Anyway, Carl, Samantha and I throw ideas around on how we could possibly reach Jack Ma.  We laugh at our silliness and revert back to talking about our English immersion camp for Chinese students visiting the Philippines.

Back in Manila, the dream in my heart does not allow me to remain still.  I’m thinking bringing Jack Ma would attract not only the public but Jack Ma himself could invest in a network of self-directed centers in the city.

Yeah, right!  Dream on!


Samantha was pregnant with Xavier in these photos and now Xavier is out!  What’s in store for this family who dreams of worldschooling and rocking the education world? Will Jack Ma ever be in the picture?


Jack Ma: If we do not change the way we teach . . . .

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On Turning 9


Yesterday, Joshua turned nine.  I wished it wasn’t a holiday and I could just do the shortcut birthday celebration of bringing a cake to his classroom, but it was the second Monday in a row that was declared no school.  So we had to do an almost impromptu celebration which gave me all sorts of mixed feelings inside — vowing this is the last party of this kind because it’s too much work at the same time realizing that he’s nine and the kiddie party would soon transition away from loot bags and games with prizes.  He’s a big boy with a mind of his own.  He knows what level of festivity he wants.  Mommy has to step back and let him decide.

A day before his birthday, Joshua attended the party of their neighbor and playmate, Kianna.  He loved winning the newspaper dance and making slime, but for his own party he whispered to teacher Hazel that he didn’t want games.  When we did do a quickie set of games because there were prizes that Joshua had chosen (super bargain fidget spinners), Joshua was happy.  I wouldn’t have been able to pull off his party without the enormous loving help of Hazel.

Joshua, Jimmy and I cleaned up after the party and when they were tucked in bed, I went down to gaze at the baby and toddler photos of Joshua on the wall. (He didn’t want to have any naked baby photos displayed.)  I felt like the sentimental momma who will soon prepare for the kids’ launch into succeeding phases of increasing independence and the baby-toddler-kiddie phase would just be memorialized in photos and our hearts.  But they cannot be re-captured nor re-lived.

This guy’s up next but I have a few more years to go with this one.

P.S.  It’s two days after the party and I haven’t taken down the baby and toddler photos.  I keep staring at them thinking, where’s that baby gone?  They morph into different beings with no memory of when they were babies and you just have pictures to prove they were this small once.  And they’ll morph again into teenagers and all you can do is hug them tighter hoping to reach the baby hidden inside.