Thursday, February 11, 2016

All Return to Dust

Miguel and I almost figured in an accident yesterday. The traffic light had turned green so the taxi driver started to move the car forward. We were already accelerating when a white car just suddenly crossed right in front of us. Our taxi (who had the right of way) almost hit the car if not for uncle's quick reflexes on hitting the brakes. I felt things slow down as uncle was hitting the brakes and I raised my arm to hold onto the front seat since my seatbelt wasn't working. Strangely though I wasn't pulled forward by the force of the brakes. It felt like someone hugged me from being thrown forward. I know it was my guardian angel protecting me as always (thanks H*!).

We were on our way to church yesterday to hear mass because it was Ash Wednesday. The priest opened his homily with "Without God you are nothing" to highlight what Ash Wednesday is about. Ash Wednesday is a very good reminder for us that, "All go to one place. All are from dust, and to dust all return." (Ecclesiastes 3:20). I felt a different calm yesterday after the incident. It must be because I've been working on being more prayerful and trusting that God would take care of me. The past 3 years since I had heart surgery felt like I've been trying so hard to prove that I'm still alive and working hard to ensure that my family will be okay even when I'm gone. Now I'd like to understand better why God saved me and what is my mission.

I have lost so many loved ones in the last 6 years, my Dad, all my loving uncles and recently my Titay. My Mom has been really strong throughout these ordeals. When we lost Dad she said, "That's just how life is." I could not understand then why she was so matter of fact. I now realize that being the Mom you really have to be strong for everyone. My Mom though is a hero, she's not only been strong as a Mom, but also as a sister and as an aunt. She is the last one standing among her siblings.

We are all just on borrowed time. I know this, but I have not been really good at managing this time and working on what is essential. So this Lent this is what I'd like to work on. Pope Francis quoted "I desire for mercy, and not sacrifice" (Mt 9:13) for Lent. He said Lent isn't about sacrificing your favorite things (i.e. milk tea!), but about showing mercy and compassion. That's actually harder to do versus not having or doing your favorite things (i.e. shopping!). So for this Lent that's what I'll try to do and I'll try my best to go out of my comfortable hole to reach out to others who may need me.

What about you? What are your plans for this Lenten Season?

*Many years ago before I went to sleep I asked my guardian angel to let me know what his name was. I dreamt of the letter H. A few years back during a visit to the La Salle museum in Bacolod I found out that H stood for "Hamaliel". Try it asking the name of your angel =)

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Mapping the Philippines and More

It's been seven years since I started my 20% project of advocating to get more communities to help map the Philippines. I'm not ashamed to admit that I flunked my Philippine map exam back in fourth grade and this has left a huge hole in my brain. I did much better in the Asian map exam in high school and I realized that you can make up for things even if it takes awhile. I still have a very bad sense of direction though (thank God for Google Maps!).

All star mappers, Wayne, Mang Dante and Doc Leonel.

In late 2008 Google Map Maker was launched in the Philippines. I was amazed with this platform because it allows users to contribute their local knowledge to a map. One of the ten things I listed on my "to do at Google" in 2006 was to find a way to improve the Philippine map on Google Maps. I had no idea then how to go about it so when Google Map Maker was launched I was ecstatic. In 2009 during a typhoon the mapping party kit was launched. It was also the first time I was tasked to speak with press around (eeek!) and so I had to really think how to make users do mapping parties (now called mapUps).

One of the first mapUps was hosted in GenSan.

I almost drowned during Typhoon Ondoy and I lost majority of my material possessions (coz I lived in the basement at that time). I only managed to save my desktop (priorities!!!). Maps played a big role in crisis response and the Red Cross gave feedback that they used Google Maps to rescue people. I realized though that we really needed to get more info mapped especially for disasters. A few months later I started to get communities to do mapUps.

Mapping Bangladesh.

It was in 2010 though that I worked on a project to get precincts mapped. With the reduction of precincts from 280K to less than 80K (I hope my stats are correct) I thought that this would create confusion for voters. With the help of my good friend Dan Delima we created the "Find Your Precinct" app. One big realization we had though was the fact that a lot of areas in the Philippines were not mapped yet and so several communities (like GBG GenSan) took the task of mapping their localities. "Find Your Precinct" made a comeback in 2013 and by 2013 more areas were mapped so communities (GBGs, GDGs and GSAs) made a huge dent on mapping precincts.

With Lalit who created Google Map Maker and mappers from across Asia. 

Projects take years to incubate. It was only in 2012 that I finally figured out how to ramp up and scale what I was doing in the Philippines. With help from communities across the country we reached more users who wanted to help map their areas and more than a hundred mapUps were hosted across the country in 2012 (yay!). And because of that I was told to help organize mapUps in other Asian countries too (that or I don't get any funding for the Philippines!).

It's been 7 years since I've been working on getting the Philippines mapped. It was just an idea back in 2006 and I had no idea there would be so many people who'd want to help. I must admit that I only know the basics in mapping and moderating, but I think my role is to just be the logistics person in getting help to map our country. Since I am physically unable to help during disasters this is how I help in my own little way and I'd like to thank the countless communities and volunteers who continue to map (please pray I can still do more mapping seasons!).

MapUp Schedule for this Year:


February 12, Friday, Pangasinan MapUp by GEG Dagupan
February 13, Saturday, Bohol MapUp by GEG Bohol
February 16, Tuesday, Guimaras MapUp by GEG Guimaras
February 17, Wednesday, Zamboanga MapUp by GDG Zamboanga
February 20, Saturday, Baguio MapUp by Women Techmakers Baguio
February 20, Saturday, La Union MapUp by GEG La Union
February 20, Saturday, Cagayan de Oro MapUp by GBG CDO*
February 22, Monday, Iligan MapUp by GEG Iligan
February 23, Tuesday, Quezon City MapUp by GBG Quezon City
February 28, Sunday, Bohol MapUp by GEG Bohol
March 5, Saturday, Nueva Ecija MapUp by GEG Nueva Ecija
March 5, Saturday, Baguio MapUp by GBG Baguio
March 5, Saturday, Cagayan de Oro MapUp by GDG CDO
TBD, Cebu MapUp by GEG Mandaue and GEG Cebu (moved)


February 16, Tuesday, Dhaka North MapUp by GEG Dhaka North
February 20, Saturday, Dhaka South MapUp by GEG Dhaka South


March 5, Saturday, Phnom Penh MapUp by GBG Phnom Penh


February 20, Saturday, Kuala Lumpur MapUp by GBG Kuala Lumpur

*This post is dedicated to Mang Dante

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

How I Became a Fairy Godmother

I was born odd. My brother was already 13 years old when I was born and most of the kids in our neighborhood were older than me too. So I never really belonged to an "age group". I was everyone's baby and my introversion probably held me back from being the regular kid who plays outside. My Mom had to organize play dates to force me to play with other kids. I oftentimes preferred to play with my Barbie dolls, Lego and sew in my Mom's garden during summers. Things changed though when I became active in church organizations. I always wanted to be with my friends, but then I was still older than my friends. I told you, I was born to be odd haha.

I must have also been born with an old soul because people naturally gravitate to me for advise. In university my fellow writers and artists from our student publications called me Mamasan. It was the time when everyone had a lot of angst and since I already had Miguel then my friends probably thought I had wisdom. All I did was listen and emphatise.

My being old school probably contributed to this mama image haha. You get that growing up with very traditional parents and studying in a school run by nuns. It only occurred to me that I have this image recently because all my students call me "Mommy Aileen". I ain't complaining since I only have one big boy.

In 2013 I run a project that required me to work with trainers. As we traveled across the country I got to know the group better. I was dismayed though when they encountered unfair treatment despite the great work they were doing. I took the risk of delaying delivery of my targets to move the fairies to a better place. We completed the project as one team and as much as I don't see them often now I'm happy that each of them have grown and continue to hone their skills. I want them to have the best and be the best and I pray for this every day.

Photo by Kuya Rekz. (We're incomplete here though.)

So on my birthday I got the biggest surprise. At some point of the program the girls came out bearing a crown, a wand, wings, a blouse and a huge skirt. They then formed a circle around me and started to dress me up. I felt like Cinderella being dolled up by fairies (see first photo). So that's how I became a fairy godmother hehe. [I love you girls!].

*Fairy photo also by Kuya Rekz; that's me with my high school lab partner, Rica Arevalo (she's now a multi-awarded film director).

Monday, February 8, 2016


Earlier today I read an article about a young copy writer from another country who passed away after working overtime for 3 straight days. The article also featured her tweets about how often she did this and oftentimes drank vodka and Red Bull while doing overtime to keep her going. My heart broke.

One of my earlier jobs required me to render overtime often. We'd always have evening events and were required to attend. My Mom would always stay up to wait for me and remind me that I should rest. When I shifted jobs and became a product manager I was required to travel and give trainings across the country. My Mom then told me that I was working too hard and I should rest. My work just eventually got busier and busier and my Mom just kept reminding me to relax and rest.

As I aged my body changed too, but one of then things I made sure I did not do was render overtime. I was a single Mom until Miguel was 15 years old and I made it a point to always be home. There were times I'd still have to be out late, but I tried not to do this often. As I was growing up my parents were both always home before the sun set. I didn't understand why back then, but now I know that they wanted to be home early for family time.

Discipline. When I started working at home back in 2006 I disciplined myself to follow regular work hours. Much as it was tempting to wake up later it just messed up my day. I scheduled my work week so that when I had to go out I'd be home before Miguel arrived from school. I also pointedly do not respond to emails after I log out from work. To manage my stress I also do not check work email outside of my regular work hours.

Work-life balance. It's one of the things that's highlighted at work and as manager I have to remind my team about it (it's just seriously so hard working with millenials!). Must be a generation thing, but I prefer to compartmentalize and make it a point that I'm able to relax outside of work hours. I'm pretty much reachable (many people can attest to this), but just don't make me work outside of my regular work hours (I become grumpy).

Week-ends are sacred. I've had more lieus than vacation leaves in the last 5 years, but I never get around to taking a day off in exchange for the weekends I've worked. Working with community requires you most of them time to work on weekends. I don't mind since I love community work. Since my surgery though my body requires more rest so I've had to re-work how I work and his year one of the things I have to do is drastically lessen traveling. #SignsofOldAge

Anyway, it's really entirely up to you how you work, but don't complain if you end up rendering overtime and losing your social life. It's a choice and your responsibility to push back when things are too much. Don't ever forget that work should just be a means and not your life.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Love and Waiting

“Don't rush into love. You'll find the person meant for you when you least expect it.” 
 ― Franzie Gubatina

It's the week before Valentine's. Yesterday one of my friends posted an announcement from their school instructing students to wear the appropriate shirt color based on their "love status". Married? Wear green. Single and available? Wear white. Bitter? Wear violet. And the list went on.

I remember the struggle I always had during Valentine's before. There were years I didn't have a boyfriend and there were years I had a bf but they were not really the best at romancing (bad boyfriends RIP). And let's not even go the loveless Christmases I had.

The struggle was real and it came to a point where I prayed to Papa God that if by September 30, 2007 I wasn't in a relationship I would accept the fact that I was destined for single blessedness. I planned that if by then I didn't have a boyfriend I would enroll for my doctorate already. (Remember if one has a goal, one must have deadlines.) My prayer was for God to finally write my love story.

I had been having a recurring dream since I was in my teens. I'd dream I was walking down the aisle, but I never saw the groom. The only time I saw the "groom" was three months after I met Jay. I woke up confused since at that time our friendship was just blossoming. It did cross my mind though that he was a really nice guy and ideal. I shared this dream with Jonas and he counselled that I should just set it aside and not tell Jay about the dream. So I did.

My friendship with Jay blossomed. He was courting another girl at that time and I was flirting with other boys (hahaha). Apparently Jay's best friend, Kasuy, had already been pointing out to him that he liked me and that the girl he was courting wasn't the one. I was at that time "dating" someone else, but I was secretly hoping that maybe my friendship with Jay would blossom to something else since we just simply clicked. This thought I would always set aside since he was my guy best friend.

But lo and behold when I went to the US Jay kept messaging me. He was apparently feeling jealous over a guy and when I got home he proposed. And that's how God wrote my love story.

So it isn't really about meeting someone, getting swept off your feet. It's about developing into a relationship and having God guide you through it.

Doctorate? What doctorate? Hahaha. (Shhh please don't tell Maggie the plan has been shelved for now.)

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Writing an Awesome Resume

I think clinching the job I have in the most awesome company on earth was mainly because I had a well-written resume. When I applied my self-esteem was down in the dumps. I had a boss who battered me at work. Her continued evil ways eventually eroded who I was and I came to a point I questioned my skills and abilities. I then sought the help of my Kuya to re-write my resume. He didn't spoon feed me instead he gave me a thick book on how to write a resume. The book would walk you through point by point (sorry I don't remember the title, I just remember it was a red book).

I think the recruiter was so amazed with my resume she emailed me back within 24 hours after I sent in my application (she was based in New York). The day I applied I was so angry with my boss because she had shamed me again. I had seen the opening 3-4 months before I actually applied and when I saw it I thought it was such a tall order for me. I mustered enough courage to apply only because I felt I needed to get out of that company.

That was ten years ago, February 2006.

So how does one write an awesome resume? The key is to make it clear, concise and it should highlight your best achievement. I learned from the book it should have the following parts:

Career Summary - the career summary should describe in 2-3 sentences what your skills and competencies are. If you are a business person, define your competencies using business language, i.e. skilled in developing and implementing marketing communication and strategic business plans. (I now realize I have to re-work my resume since I'm more focused on program management already).

Education - identify the school you graduated from, your degree/s, your awards and key courses that support your career.

Business Experience - start with the most recent or your present work. Identify the company, your position, the years you've worked there. Then have 1-2 sentences which summarize your key work responsibilities. After that have about 3 bullet points that define specific responsibilities. It helps a lot when you include some stats like achievements on what you were able to increase or numbers where you surpassed targets. If you've had a gazillion other jobs (like me), just highlight the ones that support the role you are applying for and just mention the other companies in the next segment. So just highlight about 3 significant jobs here.

Previous Business Experience - if you were an intern for a company and have joined a gazillion other companies this is where you put it. You can also highlight any significant events you've worked on here. Keep it to a maximum of 5 sentences.

Extra Curricular Activities - when I was younger and didn't have enough business experience this part came in very handy to attract recruiters. My Ate told me when I was in university that it was important that I become active in school because that's one thing recruiters look at. She was right and I learned a lot of tricks in the orgs/publications I was part of. I could honestly say that the skills I picked up from being part of our student publications helped me in churning out awesome newsletters/reports at work. So don't just study, be active in school!

Personal Background - this is where you divulge your birthday, the languages you are fluent at and identify the technologies you are proficient in (I am sure Pagemarker 5.0 is totally unacceptable nowadays LOL). And then you can share as well your interests like blogging, writing, quilting (don't include sleeping as it would probably not give a good impression). If you've attended seminars/workshops, have published works, research, references you can just add a sentence to say that these are available (you'd need to have it on a separate sheet).

Generally keep you resume to just 2 pages. I do a lot of interviews and I honestly just look at the first two pages and I appreciate more when resumes are concisely constructed.

I hope this simple guide can help you find an awesome job!

Friday, February 5, 2016

Organized Chaos

My desk is cluttered.

My room is even a bigger clutter of things.

But I'd like to believe it's organized chaos.

I can just imagine my Mom rolling her eyes at me whenever I try to justify the mess that was my room. I never changed. If you look at our room you'd know instantly which side is Jay's and which side is mine. Mind you I do know where most of my things are. As I said, organized chaos.

I'd like to believe though that I am a much better organizer when it comes to immaterial things like organizing events, working on projects and well being a program manager. Honestly I used to be very forgetful and I got scolded a lot for leaving my school ID at home. In our school the guard won't let you in if you don't have your ID. I usually realize that I don't have my ID in the schoolbus so I normally get off the bus, go to the bakery to call home and they'd bring my ID to the bakery. My Mom stressed a lot of times that I should always be prepared. As the girl scout motto goes, "Laging handa!"

The scolding worked on me. I also saw how my Mom always prepared for church projects. I was always hanging around the elders when they were planning to build the church in our neighborhood. It was a big audacious project. They had to raise funds to build the big church and I was always in tow during meetings (I was the "pet" and I still am until today haha).

That's why I've made the 5Ps my mantra -- "Proper planning prevents poor performance!" I read this from a tweet so I don't really know who coined it, but I've been following this both for work and life in general. I know it drives my family crazy, but I have to manage my stress levels (bad for the heart!).

One of the things I'm trying to teach bagets is project management. He's more like his Lolo so it's been a huge challenge. Here's what I usually tell him.

1. Define your goal/target.
2. Meet your deadlines by creating a step-by-step list how to get there.
3. Define the completion timeline.
4. Give yourself a treat everytime you complete something. (I spoil myself LOL, but I have not been able to buy myself red shoes because another team is holding up my timelines!).
5. When something goes wrong, iterate fast and repeat from #1.

And my mantra for organizing materials things? Organize stuff by theme and please don't mess it up by re-organizing because I won't be able to find anything.

Remember. 5Ps.