Sunday, November 20, 2016

What It Means to be a Scholastican

Recently a supposedly influential person accused my alma mater that it was brainwashing and forcing students to take to the streets to protest the burial of the dictator president at Libingan ng mga Bayani. The post was eventually clarified with a message from one of the school administrators. This does not change the fact that our reputation was smeared already with the accusation.

I spent ten years of my life at St. Scholastica's College (Manila) for my primary and secondary education. It's where I learned all the basics. My values, how I think, how I perceive things, how I act was shaped in that institution. My manager always tells me that he is amazed with my discipline. I always tell him that it's because of the education I got from the nuns.

From my job I learned that we must teach students the following skills: communication, critical thinking, collaboration, analyzing information and problem solving. Why? Because we have to prepare students for their future. They will eventually become part of the work force and will be leading the country. Jobs, situations, issues will always be different so they need to be equipped with proper skills to cope. These were the skills I learned from SSC.

I was in fourth grade when the 1986 EDSA Revolution happened. Classes were suspended a lot of times. One of the activities that was assigned to us during that time was to collect newspaper clippings about what was happening. I remember compiling a thick collection of clippings. My teacher returned it to me and said that I needed to give a reflection for each and every article. I went back home and read each and every article and shared my thoughts at the bottom of each page.

We were always made aware of what was happening in our surroundings. Former President Corazon Aquino being a Scholastican visited our campus before the 1986 snap elections. A circular was sent out before that asking our parents permission to join the school event. We always had an option to join or not. I was selected to be one of the flower girls to welcome Mrs. Aquino to the campus. After the EDSA Revolution we participated also in the campaign for the ratification of the 1987 Constitution. In high school when our teachers did a labor protest we were also very much aware of what was happening. Our field trips were always tied to deeper learning like the time we went to do outreach in Pampanga after the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo. And being part of the the REC class we also went to Apelo weekly to teach catechism to kids.

Scholasticans have a different kind of education and it's the same for all of its campuses. We were brought up to think critically and plan proper actions after reviewing correct information. Each of us have a different calling. I am in tech for education. I have classmates who are doctors, lawyers, judges, politicians, marketing gurus, teachers etc., but each of us put a different stamp to our work because we are guided with the basic principle "Ora et Labora" (Prayer and Work). And you could expect that each of our children will be brought up similarly (you could try debating politics with my son).

So to the children who are being accused of being brainwashed, just stick to what you believe in. I was doing exactly what you are doing now 30 years ago. We all have to come together to ensure that we protect the freedom our parents (your lolos and lolas) fought for.

Thank you St. Scho for shaping me to be the person I am today.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016


Years from now I'm going to look back to the year that was 2016. I would probably remember it as a sad year. The year that we failed ourselves as a Filipino people. The year that my friends from another country failed themselves. It was the year that a lot of decisions upset many people. The year that turned the tide to what we all believe would be worse. 

I have so many questions in my mind. What could have we done? What could I have done? Are there things the majority see that I don't understand? Was I programmed differently because I don't think like the majority? Is there anything I could do to put things in order?

Abraham Maslow in his 1943 paper "A Theory of Human Motivation" indicated that there are 5 basic human needs - self-actualization, esteem, love/belonging, safety and physiological. We all yearn to have all of it, perhaps in varying degrees. I consider myself lucky because I have what I need and I am content. So why am I so affected with the events happening around me? I could just simply take a step back, live my life the way I want it to be and not care. 

I care because that's how I was brought up by my parents. My Dad always told us that we are alive because we must serve. We are not here to just fend for ourselves. We are here because we each have a mission. And I realized today that inspite of all the bad things happening around us, it doesn't mean we should allow ourselves to be swallowed by the system. 

So a few years from now when I look back at 2016, aside from remembering the bad stuff, I'd like to remember the good things I did and the good things my friends did to turn the tide back towards the sun. 

Kapit lang friends. 
And pray.

Monday, October 31, 2016

The Yoda Quilted Bag

I learned how to quilt the summer before I started high school. It was my Mom who taught me and I started with just simple squares. I was really proud of my handiwork and used my homemade lunch bag and school bag throughout high school. Surprisingly those two bags are still useful until today.

When I started to spend more time in Singapore I thought of going back to an old hobby. Thought about doing bead work, but it was going to be a pain to transport my collection of beads from Manila to Singapore. Crochet would have been okay, but the projects would have been limited. So I started quilting again late last year. I began with creating small items - a small wallet, laptop sleeves and Jet's Star Wars blanket which took 10 months for me to finish.

Now that I have had more practice I find more fulfillment in making smaller projects that I could complete in 2 weeks. This started when I decided to make a small bag for my friend's daughter which I finished in less than a week.

It would have been better though if I had Minnie Mouse fabric, but I only had Winnie the Pooh available so I just used that. I remember the very first bag I had when I was a child (it had a butterfly on it) and I have since loved using quirky bags. 

I have been collecting Yoda figures for sometime now and my dear friends Shirni and Marcus gave me some Yoda fabric on my birthday. So I made it into a cute Yoda bag.

It's the first big bag I made so I consider this still a prototype and I have to plan cutting the fabric a bit better. I started using it only in the last few days so I hope all the stitches will hold up. I made the bag a bit smaller than the original design since I don't carry around a lot of stuff anyway. It took me almost 3 weeks to work on this since I had to rest my arms for a few days as advised by the doctor.

After the Yoda quilted bag I realized my Mom was coming over for a visit so I decided to make her a small bag. I realized that it gets easier with more practice! It just took me over a week to finish this bag. I also experimented a big and added some lace (my Mom used to add lace to my bag projects) and found a better alternative for the strap from Daiso. 

It's been a year since I started quilting again and I think I'm more confident now with my projects. I've been working on using other shapes too (working on a pinwheel cheddar cheese blanket which will probably take a million years to finish). Some friends have suggested I get a sewing machine already, but then I usually quilt just before going to sleep so I will lose the location flexibility if I use a machine for sewing. I've just been using very basic materials, but I think it's time for me to buy a mini quilting iron to help me with creating the bias. 

If you want to try quilting you just need the following basic materials: needle, thread (ordinary and quilting thread), pins, scissors, ruler, plastic folder (for making templates), pencil, wadding (I've been using the fluffy ones, but it's easier to work with thin wadding), fabric and lining fabric. 

This is my tiny bring it everywhere sewing kit.

*The lady bug is a tiny scissors.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

2013: Repairing a Valve, Haiyan and Starting the Journey with Teachers

I took a whole quarter off in 2013 to have mitral valve surgery. It was just supposed to be a simple open heart surgery to repair a leaky valve, but there were complications and I had Dresler's Syndrome. A few weeks after surgery they had to open me up again to drain the water from my heart and lungs. My doctor only admitted that they got very scared for me a year after the surgery. He said I survived because my will was very strong. I think it's because I am very well loved that's why I survived.

Ederic and May got to visit me while I was on medical leave 
(check out the cool pillow my niece made for me).

Anyway, my new manager, William, was very much concerned and the office called my doctors twice a day to check on me. Dr. Shankar said, "You must have done really well for them to check on you like that. For my other patients they only call once a week." My teammates flew in to check on me and Sebastian even accompanied me to the doctor once. I worked from home for a few weeks into the second quarter and then went back to work since I knew I was needed to help run the programs and meet our targets.

A week after hospital discharge I managed to visit the office with my Mom. 
William, Sebastian, Hadi and Minty were there to welcome me and 
surprised me with videos from colleagues from all over the world. 

Before I came back though I managed to sneak in a quick trip to GenSan to give Nanardz award for winning the mapping challenge hosted by GDG Philippines. From GenSan we travelled almost 2 hours to Lake Sebu to give the award to the school. I was in good hands because we had Doc Remo with us during the trip and they made sure I was okay. It was a very memorable trip because of the warm welcome made by the teachers and students. Last I heard the funds that were donated to the school were used to rebuild their perimeter walls because it was damaged by a typhoon.

When I went back to work full time we feverishly worked on getting GSAs selected and onboarded. We decided to be crazy and combine all the community summits in the region. In June 2013 we brought together the GSA SEA summit, GBG SEA summit, GDG SEA summit and Map Maker summit in one huge event. It was a momentous and very happy occasion. To ensure I survived, I usually slipped out right after dinner so I could rest and rejuvenate for the next day.

With Hadi and Nee Khern.

The Summit team.

With Googlers.

And during that week I had another big achievement -- managed to climb up Borobudur with help from JR and Vanj (JR is a nurse so I wasn't too worried haha) and a lot of moral support from Juned. We reached the summit just a few minutes before the sun broke out of the clouds. It was a spectacular moment for all of us up there that day.


With Marcus and Shirni.

Community Selfie time.

The summit though was just the beginning of more fun things. The GBGs hosted gDayXs and women events, the GSAs had their in-school events, mapUps across the region and I snuck in attending some of the DevFestXs hosted by the GDGs.

gDayX Thailand and DevFestX Bangkok.

DevFestX Davao with Franz, Avel and Andrew.

gDayX Bacolod and DevFestX Bacolod.

I found myself in DevFestX Dhaka too.

Made it to Vietnam!

Chillin' in Bacolod.

One new program though that we introduced was the GEG program. This was an initiative to build a community with our teachers. I bid feverishly to pilot it in one of my countries and the Philippines was selected. It was during the training of the trainers that I met the Gaylas. I arrived late for the training because of meetings and I thought the trainers seemed too serious. When the break came all thoughts about being serious vanished because they were the complete opposite.

We finally had our first workshop for teachers in November in Baguio City. It was the same weekend as the gDayX hosted by GBG Baguio (hello Tito Vince) and the DevFestX by GDG Baguio (hello Reymart!). So I was like a bee hopping from one event to the other during that weekend. What they don't know is I actually took a power nap during day 2 (hehehe) because I got so tired.

The first Google Teachers Workshop in Baguio.

With the communities.

Just keep eating!

gDayX and DevFestX Baguio venue at Azalea.

The early days with PX, Gab, Carolyn and Philip.

LA inspecting the set-up.

I gained so much weight that year.

We were safe up north but we still felt the wrath of Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda). The winds reached Baguio and rattled our hotel windows. I could not sleep that night because I was scared that the windows would break. So on top of running the events doing crisis response became priority. As much as I wanted to stay longer in Baguio I had to quickly travel back to Manila to do crisis response. I remember squeezing every last bit of the network I could get so I could respond to pings and emails when we were on our way down from Baguio. The response work lasted until early 2014.

November was really busy month. I racked up a lot of miles that month. Juggling four communities would definitely drive you crazy.  My second to the last stop that year was Malaysia to meet with the GBG managers across the country. Last stop was one more workshop for teachers in Manila and then I took a break after Christmas. What I didn't expect to happen that year though was having to choose a more focused path for 2014. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

2012: gDays, DevFests and Building GBG

My life changed when I moved to Singapore. I was very much afraid of my new role since I was scared I might not perform well. My scope effectively grew to cover the emerging markets in Asia. I told myself that I had the experience and know-how, I just needed to figure out how to do it in other markets across the region.

One of my MBA professors told us once that the best way to start when you need to do something is to target the three F's. Three F's = family, friends and fools. My family is scattered across the world, but they didn't really know anyone who would be interested in the communities I was tasked to build. I figured that it would be best to start with those who were around me and willing to help - my friends. I started with my brother and sister scouts to help find passionate individuals who were willing to help others.

This is how I find the first set of GBG managers -- Yansen, Vanessa, Marcus and Pom. They led the first GBGs in Indonesia, Philippines, Malaysia and Thailand. Both Ola and I were amazed with the fast growth of GBGs and by May that year we were able to host our very first GBG SEA Summit with representatives from the first four countries plus Bangladesh, Cambodia, Pakistan, Vietnam and Brunei. It was also during this summit that I first met Daniel Franc (he founded the first GDG in the world, just one week ahead of the Philippines).

GBG Jakarta workshop.

Marcus during the first GBG meetup in Malaysia.

The first GBG Philippines meet-up.

After the summit I busied myself with preparing for the gDays. To learn more bout how to run it I was sent to gMaroc in Morocco. I was the only person in the audience that did not speak French or Arabic. Little did I know that Sebastian was talking about me during his keynote. Good thing the participant beside me translated what he was saying (that I was there so I could learn from the event and bring it to Asia). I was supposed to attend the event in Egypt but the embassy did not grant me a visa since they said they were advised by my government not to send any more Filipinos there (I think there was trouble during that time).

It was a daunting task, good thing though that my manager told me to use the best agency we had at that time to help organize the events. With help from Jasmine (Masterplan) and Grace (who I always kidded was the BackUp Plan hehe), we embarked on a journey to reach entrepreneurs and developers through gPhilippines, gMalaysia, gIndonesia and gThailand.

gPhilippines, August 2012, with then Usec. Manolo Quezon as keynote speaker.

gMalaysia, September 2012 with David McLaughlin who came all the way from MTV.

The Indonesian GSAs did a Gangnam Style flash mob at gIndonesia, October 2012.

Thai style Gangnam Style flash mob by the Thai GSAs, October 2012.

And in-between the gDays I run 11 DevFests across the region since I became the caretaker of the GDGs too. 

Day 2 of gPhilippines was DevFest. My then VP, Nelson Mattos, did the keynote.

Day 2 of gIndonesia was DevFest Jakarta.

Day 2 of gMalaysia was DevFest KL.

Day 2 of gThailand was DevFest Bangkok.

I also had the privilege to participate in the first GSA summit as a speaker. I was thrilled to meet so many passionate students at the office. Eventually we took the program under our wing.

My 20% Time

It was in 2012 that I found the right formula for scaling the mapUps. The Map Maker team supported my quest and I was given some funding to run 3 large summits in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao to teach more users how to map. The summits were only made possible with the help of the gems in the community, Lakan (my college buddy who helped for the Baguio summit), Anne (who helped for Bacolod) and Avel (for GenSan). With help from the Department of Tourism the community organized 93 mapUps across the country. I was really amazed with how much people wanted to help.

Luzon summit.

Visayas summit with Donya Ann (haha).

Mindanao summit.

The updated maps really helped a lot in making it easier to pin shelters whenever there was a typhoon. By year-end we made a lot of progress in crisis response. PCDSPO took the lead in publishing crisis response pages whenever there was a typhoon which allowed me to focus more on improving the maps and work on the crisis map whenever it was needed.

The PCDSPO team who I worked with for crisis response.

Looking back I am wondering where all the energy I had came from (haha). My Mom always complained that I was too busy and not getting any rest. The magic though came from the community. They inspired me to do better and to do more. The year also blessed me with many new friends across the globe and I am thankful for all the help that year from colleagues, the community, agencies and the endless support from my family. I really prayed hard that I would do well and be able to fulfill the tasks that were given to me.

By end of the year though I decided that my priority was to have better health so I could have a better quality of life. My body's blood flow had gone down to 30% which meant that I had to get the valve in my heart fixed so I could live longer. My former managers really pushed to move me to Singapore because they knew that I would eventually need surgery. I will forever be grateful to the three J's -- Julian, James and Juergen for saving my life.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Halfway to Ten: Ending the First Part of the Journey

A gazillion things happened in 2011, several launches was done but more importantly it was decided that a local office would be opened. This meant that my mission was complete and I had to find a new role. It was both exhilarating and sad. I was ecstatic that I completed my mission, but I wasn't sure if there was another role I would fit into.

I spent the first half of the year doing a lot of lectures/workshops for businesses, attending GDG events. I was thrilled though when I was invited to attend the first geo community summit in Singapore. I was tasked to present the achievements of the local mapping community together with the top mappers in the Philippines. I was so happy to be in another country together with the top mappers and community leads.

Team Philippines at the Geo Summit. 

Things got more exciting though mid-year as I had to work on some back-end requirements for the planned launches that year. It was one of the most difficult tasks I had to complete and I think I utilized every experience I had from the time I started working to make things work. I also wanted to launch before another Southeast Asian country, so I really worked hard to reach targets. It was all worth it though.

With my Pinoy sisters Rachel and Cathy. 

Photoboothing with my then manager, Julian Persaud, plus Deborah Nga and Ann Lavin.

YouTube World View with President Aquino.

Did you know that the Philippines was the first country in the world that generated #1 market share for Google Chrome? It was essentially through word of mouth that this happened. Chrome just made surfing the internet much faster and so people preferred to use it. Because of this we were included in the first batch of countries that launched the Google Chrome Webstore. This meant we were one of the few countries that had local apps launched (i.e. ABS-CBN, Pinoytuner etc.).

And before the year ended Google Maps was launched. It was over-shadowed though by the other launches, but this essentially completed my to-do list. It was serendipity though that led me to my new role as my manager, James, always looked after my well-being. He met by chance my future manager, Juergen, in Jakarta. Juergen then was looking for a person who could start communities in the region. James knew that doing community development was in my heart and recommended me. He immediately made arrangements for me to speak with Juergen. What I thought was just a conversation was apparently my first interview. After a few more interviews my new role was just waiting for me... in Singapore.

My Pinoy friends, Christine, Cherry, Lalen and Divee.

At the newly opened office when I moved. 

Also got to attend the YouTube Singapore launch.

I moved to Singapore in mid-October and at that time I was in the middle of the launches happening in the Philippines. Juergen though couldn't wait for me to finish my work for the Philippines and insisted I start immediately, so I basically had 2 jobs overlapping for about 2 months (well with all the inquiries I still get until today my original job never really ended). I shuttled back and forth between Manila and Singapore like I would just commute between QC and Paranaque hehe.

No rest though for the weary because by December I launched my first community outside the Philippines -- GBG Jakarta. I was lucky to be a country scout because it meant I had brother and sister scouts in other countries I could get help from for my next projects.

And so ended my first five years in Google. I never had the chance to write about it five years ago because I transitioned so fast to my new role I had no time to sit down and blog. Looking back, my first five years seem like I was all over the place, but it was because I had to establish local relations and prove that there was opportunity in my country. I think I managed it well because it made it easy for the teams coming in to reach out to the right people as the more mature programs were brought in the country.

Christmas party at the museum, we had to come and dress like we were part of the museum. 

It was an awesome first five years. I learned a lot, met a gazillion people, garnered a lot of new skills, but what many people don't know is to this day I'm still overwhelmed with the job. I just always pray and ask help from God to guide me every single day in everything I do.