Thursday, August 21, 2014

Remembering Ninoy

Today is the day that former Senator Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino was shot at the tarmac of then Manila International Airport (now named Ninoy Aquino International Airport). I was only 7 years old when this happened, but my parents made sure I was aware about what was happening. This is what we would discuss during dinner. As far as I understood back then, government was doing bad things and that things should change and the death of Ninoy was going to speed up the process of change.

My parents brought me to the exhibit that displayed the clothes Ninoy was wearing when he was killed. President Cory Aquino and Kris Aquino where there when we went. That day is embedded in my memory and I realize now that Ninoy changed the course of Philippine history in a big way. I do not think we'd all be enjoying the freedom we have now if not for him and the countless other people who helped in the struggle against the dictatorship.

One of the things I admire about Ninoy is his bottomless optimism. Reading and watching documentaries on what he's been through has shaped me to be forever hopeful, forever helpful (in my own little way). In the few videos I've watched Ninoy speak I never saw him waver in his optimism that the Filipino people can do things as long as they put their minds into it.

In the last few years I've been able to visit other countries and I've seen the huge difference between living in a democratic country and a non-democratic one. We Filipinos enjoy speaking our minds anytime without fear of being jailed. Sometimes it's too much (haha) and in my humble opinion I think we can each use that energy (and brain cells) to help and improve our country instead of complaining left and right. My friends in other countries always tell me they are envious about our freedom and how things seem to be improving faster in our country.

Again, as I wrote six years ago, there is still much to be done. Don't just sit there, let's all do something to contribute to build our nation.

Saturday, August 16, 2014


The other day at a meetup teachers shared how long they were in service, how they learned how to use a computer and how they started to use technology in the classroom. I had to get up myself and tell my story.

I told them that I was the youngest in the whole group when it came to academic teaching. I had taught a term in my alma mater. I was tasked to teach OrgCom. I had 2 major tasks: (1) Re-do the syllabus from scratch; and (2) test how to use Google Apps for Edu in the classroom. It was a herculean task for me since it was my first time to teach an actual class. The only other teaching experience I had then was substituting at my friend's nursery school and doing trainings at work. I realized then how hard it is to be a teacher since (1) you have to be at least 2 steps ahead of your students; (2) you have to study non-stop; and (3) you need to manage your time to a tee. Boy, it was really hard especially since I also had a full-time job.

It was my brother who taught me how to use a computer. I think I was about 9 years old then. He eventually enrolled me in logo programming class and gave me his old desktops as hand me downs. I was already in college when my parents got me my own desktop. I've been through the green-screen monitor and floppy disks. Hard drives were not available yet back then so you had to make sure you have at least 2 drives so you can run MS-DOS then replace it with the app and then use the other drive to share your files. Eventually my brother handed me down another computer so I had a monochrome screen which was later on replaced with a colored monitor (it cost a whooping PhP17K!!!). I learned how to use a Mac when I was doing a freelance job at Shell when I was still in college.

I was lucky my alma mater was the first school to get connected to the internet so that's where I learned. It wasn't really taught in class, but I learned mostly through trial and error and by asking questions from friends. I guess it was really curiosity that really helped me get through my second task when I ended up in the academe. And I found kindred spirits at the teacher meetup when they shared how they learned how to use the computer and how they eventually found a way to use technology in the classroom.

Spending a lot of time with teachers in the last year made me admire teachers more. It's a profession that's purely motivated by passion to serve others. It's also a huge responsibility to be tasked to shape the minds of students.

Hopefully someday I'd be able to teach in the academe again :)

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Achievement Unlocked: Mambukal

So it's my birthday/work anniversary month once again. I celebrated the last day of July by having this delicious cake at Calea -

August snuck up on me since I was in Bacolod for work when it rolled-in. I ended up spending most of the day indoors working and I realized that I hadn't recovered from the trip to Iloilo just a few days before heading to Bacolod, so spending time alone was a rare treat (would've been better if connectivity was better). I had a nice lunch by myself where I got to read since the rains affected connecting to the internet (perennial telco problem). Anyway I enjoyed being disconnected for awhile since I haven't had any me time for a long time.

The next day I had a #yolo moment and went to Mambukal with my colleagues. Mambukal is a popular tourist destination an hour away from Bacolod City. It boasts of 7 waterfalls (they say there's an eight but it's high up the mountains). Franz said that his grandparents managed to get around waterfalls 1-6 with no problem, so I thought it would be okay since I had been doing a lot of walking in Singapore.

I forgot about my 5 Ps.
*Proper planning prevents poor performance

I should've read more about Mambukal. I didn't know that it was a a huge park that required hiking. I told myself I would just take a look at the first and second waterfall and then head down so I don't push my body too hard. The guides though reversed the route and started with waterfall #7 (I didn't have a clue). Two minutes heading up the mountain the whole team already had left me behind so I ended up huffing and puffing up the trail with the guide and Jerome. The guide eventually relented and found a shortcut for me so we rode a habal habal to reach the area of the seventh waterfall and that's where we caught up with the rest of the group.

They only had stairs from #1 and #2.

It had rained the previous day so the trail was slippery and I saw a number of colleagues had already slipped. I'm flat footed so that meant I had to be extra careful. My guide though was an angel and made sure I was okay throughout the trek especially when we had to cross the river. I was really nervous, but I still managed to appreciate the beautiful falls. Waterfall #6 as really interesting since it had a cliff where you can jump to take a dip in the pool (sorry I didn't jump). People took turns to jump so it was quite fun cheering them on.

The dipping pool at waterfall #6.

Part of #6, make sure to try out the yummy cassava by Manang.

On the way down to the fifth waterfall we encountered a huge beehive. There were a gazillion bees in the area. My guide made me walk faster so we would avoid getting bitten. A colleague got bitten and 2 kids walking behind me got bitten. It was scary having to rush down the area but the reward was seeing another beautiful waterfall.

It was an amazing day. It was a huge achievement for me to survive the trek. I missed out enjoying the company of my companions since I couldn't keep up with them, but I realized since the trek up Borubodur last year very few people understand what it means to have my condition. I still couldn't walk properly and it's been 5 days since the trek, but I'm happy to say that the adventure did not affect my heart. Lesson learned though, do more research before doing a #yolo moment coz it will save you a lot of muscle pain.

Good thing my guide liked taking photos! GoPro is a bit hard to figure out though.

Special thanks to my guide (I was too shy to ask his name) and Kuya Raul for making sure I made it back (and to Jerjer for being there on the way up)!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Hello from California

It’s been almost 7 years since I’ve last been to California. In the last few years my team’s hub was in Europe so I never had the chance to come back to the US. I am marking my 8th year in Google on my birthday this year (yup my work anniv is also my birthday!). I always tell my friends, “Tumanda na ako sa Google!”. 

People always ask me how I got my job. I got it because I took the chance (even though the job description was really intimidating) and applied online. I never expected I’d get a call from the recruiter. I actually almost back out of the final interview because my Mom was in the hospital. My parents pushed me to go through the interview. And during the final-final interview I was also very sick with a 41’C fever. I just remember they asked about stats that day. I must’ve rambled the right numbers despite my frying brain coz shortly after that they said I was in.

The last 8 years of my life has certainly been very eventful. I learned a lot and have been stretching myself beyond my limits. I never imagined that I’d be able to do the things I’ve been doing and I’m still in awe of the opportunities given to me. I still remember that manghuhula at the Ad Congress in Cebu in 2005 who said, “You have a big star in your right hand. You will have bigger responsibilities and will be known for your work.” I told him, “I just got promoted maybe that’s it.” I never expected what was in my future.

I look back fondly in my last trip to the US. I was certainly at the crossroads when it came to my love life during that time. I was praying hard to find the right one because my September 2007 deadline was near. I told God back then that if I didn’t find the right one by September 30, 2007 it was a sign that I should dedicate my life to service. I was already planning to take my doctorate back then. 

But lo and behold, as I was being shown the coastline of San Francisco by a friend, Jay (who was in Manila) kept SMS-ing me and saying that he missed me a lot. My friend was so pissed because my head was down reading messages throughout the stretch of the coastline. Ay sorry naman. When I got home, through my jet lagged brain Jay and I became a couple on Yahoo messenger (yes! Yahoo! Hahaha). And the rest of our love story is history. 

I feel this trip truly marks a new chapter of my life. I have a year old heart still ticking (sometimes noisily with the ring attached to the valve). There are a lot of challenges, but with my family, friends and colleagues, everything should be alright. 


*Wrote this on the plane to SFO.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Tito Ben

Being the youngest in our clan I grew up dotted on by my Mom’s brothers and sisters. I was the cute little thing passed from one uncle and aunt to cousins during our Christmas reunions. I have many photos of this and notedly photos with my uncles carrying me. 

I particularly had three very different uncles (my Mom’s brothers). Tito Tony, the noisiest one who loved doing pranks and joke around. He was the most malambing of all and I remember always hugging him because he had a big belly. He would always send pistachio from Saudi Arabia when he worked there and I remember creating a Christmas tree for him using pistachio nuts (yeah I used to be very creative!). He believed on living on the edge and still drank Coke even when his leg already got amputated due to diabetes. I learned from him that you have to live life to the fullest and always keep your family close.

Tito Mon was the uncle with the moustache. He brooded a lot but also laughed a lot. He gave me a lot of advise and was a powerhouse marketing man back in the day. He lived with us off and on for many years and he would regale us with stories during meals. He suffered a lot being away from his family for more than 2 decades, but received forgiveness and reconciliation just before he passed away. I learned from him that even though you make mistakes you have to rise up and make up for it. 

The third uncle is my Tito Ben. My godfather twice over, in baptism and in our wedding. He was the quiet one and was part of the military. I was always in awe of him because he always stood tall. He looked a lot like my grandfather who I didn’t meet. He was was always concerned about my safety since I travel a lot and scolded me each every time we saw each other in the last 5 years for traveling by land in a part in the Philippines which he deemed unsafe. 

My Tito Ben, my second dad passed away last week. 

The last time I visited him in the hospital he was very jolly despite the pain he was probably experiencing having his lungs drained (I know I’ve been through that too). He finally explained to me why he was concerned for my safety. I didn’t know that was the last time I would see him alive. He hugged me and said he loved me. 

Tito Ben went through a lot of hardships for his family, but he faced all the challenges head on. I never heard him complain, he just always found ways to make things work. He is also only the second person I know who’s remained faithful to his marriage of more than 50 years (first one is my Dad!). And oh, I also just found out that Tito Ben loves to write and is great with communication and PR. (I always thought I got my love for writing just from my Dad, it really runs pala in the family!).

My Tito Ben was given full military honours last Saturday. I believe he truly deserved it since lived an honourable life serving God, his country, and most especially, his family. 

Farewell Tito Ben, now I know you’re with Dad, Tito Tony and Tito Mon. It was really strange dreaming about that a few months back. It was probably their way of warning me that you’d soon be gone too. Please watch over us from up there. Don’t worry about Tita Ming, Titay and Mom, they will be loved and cared for by the whole family. 

Sunday, June 15, 2014

For my Dads

I was certainly a handful when I was growing up and I spent a lot of time with my Dad. I noticed I actually have more photos with my Dad when I was a baby. Here's one at the beach where I ran away with his slippers.

He eventually caught me, but I still wouldn't let go of his slippers (haha).

I remember when I was small we'd go on weekly noodle-siopao dates at Luk Yuen in Glorietta (when Glorietta wasn't one big mall yet). He'd eat noodles and I'd eat the siopao balat (I know people say it's dirty but I love that part). When I was in second grade I loved Menudo so much he accompanied me to watch amidst all the screaming teenagers (I never became a fan-girl after that).

My Dad was very strict and I made many wrong decisions along the day, but he was just there patiently waiting for me to do things right. When he had a first bout of cancer I prayed really hard that he'd stay until I manage to settle down. He did. I guess he was also praying that I eventually find the right person because when he gave Sweetie a copy of his book he wrote, "For my FSIL". During that time Jay and I were just a few months into our relationship and were baffled about my Dad's cryptic message. Eventually when Jay and I were engaged my Dad explained that "FSIL" was "Future son-in-law". He liked Jay and had given his "seal of approval" (probably because he's Atenean too!).

A few months after Jay and I got married Dad's health deteriorated fast. He kept saying that his mission was done and that it was time for him to go back to his creator. Two months after the doctor told us that he had stage 4 cancer he was gone. It's been three years and a half since that fateful day Dad left us, but it still feels very much like yesterday everyday.

Happy Father's day Dad. I know you are watching over us from up there. Miss you!

And, of course, to the other daddies in my life:

Sweetie, I particularly selected this picture coz he was wearing a barong. For being Miguel's Dad. I know we're both a handful! Haha. 

My other daddies, Tito Ben, Tito Tony, Tito Mon and Tito Louie. Being the clan bunso has it's privileges. 

And, of course, my FIL. I certainly enjoy all the questions you ask every time we meet-up, no wonder Sweetie asks a lot of questions too. Haha. 

And happy father's day to the rest of my family, friends and colleagues who are daddies. 

And to all single moms out there, happy father's day too! I was a dad too for about 15 years!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Pilipino Ako

Noong bata ako sobrang kulit ko. Gusto ko man maglaro sa kalye kasama ibang mga bata pero di ako pinapayagan ng magulang ko. Delikado daw kasi. Nung minsan sinubukan ko mag-ober da bakod, ayun sumabit yung paborito kong daster sa gate at napunit. Nakapaglaro ako sandali kasama mga bata sa labas pero nahuli ako agad. Siyempre napagalitan ako. Di nako umulit kasi nakadampot ako ng ipot - napunit ang paborito kong daster!!!

So ang naging mga kalaro ko ay ang aming mga kasambahay at ang yaya ko. Bata palang ako hindi na ako mahilig sa habulan. Minsan lang ako naglaro ng cops and robbers. Mas hilig ko maglaro ng piko at chinese garter. Ibang usapan rin ang patintero. Minsan lang kung mabait ang mga kalaro (haha). Madalas naglalaro ako ng mga bigay na manyika sa akin at bahay-bahayan. Kung minsan pinapayagan ako ng magulang ko makipaglaro sa bahay ng Ninang ko na may kubo. Mas masaya mag-bahay-bahayan dun.

Bata palang ako nakahiligan ko nang magturo. Hindi ako mahilig matulog after lunch. Di na rin ako pinipilit kasi nakikipagtitigan lang ako sa yaya ko. Kaya kapag hapon ang laro ko ay "teacher-teacher-an". Tinuturuan ko yaya ko magsulat at magbasa. Strikto ako, kelangan gawin nila yung mga exercises at homework. Mabuti na lang mabait yaya ko at sumusunod naman siya.

Isa yun sa mga pinaka-masaya kong alaala. Nung bata ako gusto ko sana maging arkitekto. Kaso walang hilig sa akin ang pagdra-drawing. Ang alam ko lang i-drawing eh mansanas, puno ng niyog, bundok, ang Mayon Volcano, at ang araw. Wala talaga ako pag-asa sa pag-dra-drawing. Dahil dun hindi ko talaga alam kung ano kukunin ko pagdating sa college.

Nakatapos ako ng dalawang degree nung college at nag-MBA, pero kahit anong trabaho ko bumabalik at bumabalik pa rin sa pagtuturo. Isang beses lang ako pormal na nagturo sa school pero lahat ng naging trabaho ko lagi ako nagtuturo. Doon ako masaya kahit na madalas nahihiya pa rin ako magsalita sa harap ng maraming tao.

Naisip ko ikwento ito sa ating Independence Day. Wala naman koneksyon pero naisip ko kung hindi tayo nakalaya noon siguro ibang iba ang pamumuhay natin ngayon. Hindi ko ma-imagine na hanggang ngayon eh lahat ng Pinoy maging indio pa rin. Kung siguro nangyari yun lahat ng ginagawa ko ngayon ay hindi ko magagawa.

Pinagmamalaki ko na isa akong Pilipino at lagi ko ito sinasabi kapag nasa ibang bansa ako. Madalas kasi hindi ako napagkakamalang Pinoy. Mukha daw akong lokal kahit saan ako pumunta (kahit sa Bangladesh, pramis!). Pero madalas nahuhuli nila lahi ko dahil sa aking "thick Filipino accent". Ayoko kasi mag-slang-slang dahil hindi ko naman kinalakihan yun.

Pilipino ako. Sa isip, sa salita at sa gawa. :)

(Siguro kung sipagin ako mamya, i-translate ko ito).