Junior is Here!


We thought it would take another year before we could open Abot Tala for younger kids.  It took us more than a year (14 months) to give birth to Abot Tala for teens so we surmised we needed time for the junior’s gestation period.  However, circumstances conspired to bring us to where we are now: ready to open the doors of Abot Tala for children 6 to 11 years old!

We ran a two-week experiment last June to see if the kids and teens could co-exist in one place and we concluded that if we had a much bigger space, it could be done.  But since the space for teens was limited as it was, a separate area for kids was necessary.  We also had to quickly assemble a team like Avengers and it was no easy feat.  Things eluded us.  There were moments when we thought this dream was impossible to pull off this year and we could just wait till next year or when the universe grants us the consenting environment.   Surprisingly, it did and tomorrow, August 12, we expand the age group and the physical space.

Abot Tala for teens promotes self-directed learning while Abot Tala for the kids is interest-led.  Activities cater to all multiple intelligences and learning styles.  The teacher follows the interests of the children while giving ample importance to basic academic skills.

Just like Abot Tala for Teens, Abot Tala Junior is not a school.  The children who join us are either homeschooling already or intend to homeschool.  Abot Tala Junior is an alternative to mainstream school.  If the children want to transition to regular school or go to university in the future, they can opt to take the PEP Test at DepEd and/or get a homeschool provider.

Families can choose whether their kids attend Abot Tala Junior once, twice, thrice or four times a week.  There are no grades, report cards or certificates.  Every two or three months, there will be a presentation of the children’s works.  To learn more about this program, visit https://abottala.com/junior/

abot tala junior logo

poster - teens & juniors 7

poster - teens & juniors 8





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





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.


Check out https://abottala.com/