Jul 23, 2013

What I've Been Doing Recently

A lot has happened since I published the my last post in this blog. I was rereading that post and I realized that I turned down that job mentioned - to be a trainer of marginalized youth who want to pursue entrepreneurship. It's not that I don't believe in the power of entrepreneurship to change the course of their lives. I supposed that the task might prove to be too frustrating since only close to 1% of entrepreneurs can sustain their startups for more than 5 years. And we're talking about marginalized young people as the main students of the classes here. So, yeah.

Another job that I turned down is a post for a business development coordinator for a consulting firm on social enterprises. I'm not sure why I turned it down as the pioneer of the firm herself was the one who talked to me. Maybe I'm on a career shift phase now. The lack of motivation to continue I'mABosco (now on it's 4th year of operations) and letting go Hundred Saints (for St. Bridget) are signals that maybe it's time to move on.

Speaking of phases, it's the first time that I felt unemployed since I resigned from BDO last January . This feeling has compelled me to check on the FB page of Development Sector Jobs to look for openings every 3 hours, and to turn on again the notifications from JobsDB and JobStreet. As much as possible, I don't want to use the connections of relatives and friends. I'm also looking for a job in the government or an NGO because I've been really hungry for significance. I want to feel excited and alive once more, like when we were still planning for Manila Kid.

This means that I also have a lot of free time, most of which is dedicated to our movement DB DWTL. We just had a retreat last month that left the members of our organization with the feeling of ignited-ness. It's like a fire consuming and propelling us to do these activities that can sustain the "high" of the retreat. From recording our group's first music album, monthly series of talks ala The Feast and expanding the reach to other communities. It's an exciting time that I wish I can just work full time for our org (and get paid, of course).

The activities that you may look forward to include (1) Living the 4th - community mass and talk on July 27, Saturday, at 2pm-4pm in RCBC Chapel, with Fr. Dennis Paez SDB to celebrate mass and give a one-hour talk on Healing our Brokenness; (2) Adoration organized by the High School Student Council Batch 2007 in DBTC Small Chapel on August 2, Friday, from 6pm-7pm; and (3) Launch of our first album on August 16, Friday at 6pm.

Most recently, I got invited to give a talk once again, this time on volunteerism. It will be held in Mapua College at the end of this month from 1pm to 4pm. There are a lot of things to be said between me and volunteerism so I'm not really sure what to talk about. We'll be given 30 to 45 minutes each to talk about our experiences. I remember Steve Jobs' commencement address to the students of Stanford several years ago. He talked for only around 15 minutes but there was so much substance and wisdom packed in every sentence that he gave. I hope I can do the same.

As always, I hope to update this blog more often.

May 15, 2013

Going Full Time

Haven't blogged as often as I wanted to even though I relatively have more time now. The scenario may change in two months in the event that I accept the sort of job offer to be a coach/trainer for an organization promulgating entrepreneurship to underprivileged youth. 

It's always inspiring to hear someone who traded a high paying corporate job to work full time in the developmental sector. Bam Aquino, or should I say Senator Aquino, is the first person that comes to my mind. But actually being in that situation is more difficult that how it sounds.

For one, the salary is lower compared to my work in the bank. Before, there is up to a 16th month salary, clothing & grocery allowance and paid vacation & sick leaves which I avail as often as every other week. The hours are a bit longer in this new job but I guess the pressure is lower - no P5.0M loan releases every other day where my neck is on the line. And hooray for flexi time!

But maybe the main reasons why I'm inclined to go full time on this is because it's aligned with the trends that are starting to shape our country this decade. Filipinos are natural entrepreneurs, we just need an extra boost to scale up our novel ideas. The underprivileged kids will really benefit on the program since even if they don't go as full time entrepreneurs, it will challenge them to see things in a fresh perspective and dare them to dream a little more.

I observed one of their classes earlier and got to know about the students' stories. Quite confidential. Those stories would never be published in Manila Kid a year ago, but nevertheless, are worth hearing. And I hope these stories will have a happily ever after ending. 

May 6, 2013

A Different Kind of Birthday

I'm back in the Philippines. Back in my acrylic stained desk thinking of where to begin the series of blog posts about my 7 week trip in Saigon, Siem Reap and Siam. I'd like to think of it as a trip similar to what Elizabeth Gilbert did to find pleasure, spiritual connection and balance when she went to Italy, India and Indonesia. I feel refreshed. Maybe it's fitting then to start this with my birthday trip in Cambodia. 

It started off with a thirteen hour bus ride from Vietnam going to the heart of Khmer Empire (circa 9th to 13th Century), to Angkor Wat. Survival tip: pop one capsule of Benadryl and you're good to go for long bus rides.

I arrived at around 8pm and was surprised when I saw a Cambodian raising a placard with my misspelled name. It was provided by the bus company (payment not included) so he took me to my hostel and insisted that I take him as my Tuktuk (tricycle in style) for my Angkor Wat tour two days from then.

I rented a bicycle the next day and had a tour around the city. Bought some souvenirs (wrong move as you'll see later), ate some traditional food, and at around 5:00pm, cycled for 7 kilometers to buy an entrance ticket to Angkor Wat. Validity of my pass was from that afternoon up to the next full day.

At 5:30am the next day, my Tuktuk driver picked me up from my hotel to watch the famed sunrise against the silhouette of Angkor's temples. Since it rained the night before, the view wasn't as spectacular as advertised by the brochure. Nevertheless, there was something very enigmatic about the place: two old monks meditating, a lone white horse grazing and the stillness of the place begging to tell it's harrowing story to its busy observers.

Angkor Wat, Bayon, Angkor Thom, Ta Prohm. After around 8 hours of wandering around the ruins - getting lost within the stone skeletons of a once great empire - I asked the Tuktuk driver to take me back to the hotel. I was tired and a bit dehydrated.

I internally freaked out - still poised under pressure - when I learned that the hotel doesn't accept credit cards. I checked my wallet and figured that I have enough money to pay for my room, but not enough to buy food! Solution: I walked for 1.5kms (verified via google maps) to the nearest gas station to buy my birthday dinner.

I was able to return to the hotel just in time to watch the sunset. I drained a can of beer and floated over the pool while watching a flock of birds flying across the orange tainted sky, with the rest of the world drowned as half of my head is submerged in water.

I've had a lot of memorable birthdays - from staying up for the sunset in one of the best beaches in the world, to spending an afternoon in an almost deserted islands. But for now, this will be the most unforgettable. I've made some new friends, had some realizations. Refreshed and inspired, I took a bus at 6:00am to Saigon the next day to continue my Eat, Pray, Love adventure.

Apr 16, 2013

Who Would Have Thought?

I was browsing my Facebook album earlier when I saw a picture I posted last November 18. 

The good thing about my birthday is that it falls on summer and often on Holy Week so we don't have classes / work and we get to go on a long holiday outside the metro. I can recall almost all my birthday cause they're quite memorable, especially the last few years.

I celebrated it on the mountains with my family,

Overnight in the country club in Tagaytay with my closest friends,

Waited for the sunrise in Boracay beach with my college friends,

And just last year, on an isolated island with the family again.

Who would have thought that my status message / wish last November will come true? I spent it alone in Cambodia, stayed in a South-of-France-looking hotel as observed by Kevin, 

Explored the ancient ruins of Angkor,

Had some really good insights about myself and life in general,

Got lost and wished I can just stay there (even longer).

So how do I top that next year? Haha! Maybe Europe. Hopefully! (Fingers crossed)

Apr 15, 2013

Step Out of Border, Vietnam

Several weeks ago, my co-volunteers and I were invited to promote cultural exchanges to college students in Ho Chi Minh City. The name of the event can't be more appropriate - Step Out of Border - of your country and your comfort zone. By joining internships or volunteering in community development programs (like what I do), you can spend at least 6 weeks in a foreign country to learn about their culture and more importantly, learn more about yourself. 

We shared with them interesting things about our countries through performances, mini lectures and through food. Other countries include Holland, Russia, Germany, China. For the first time in my life, I had to sing in front of a major crowd! And I think I broke the stereotype that all Filipinos are good singers. Haha!

So what did I tell them about the Philippines? Following the queue from the Dept.of Tourism's ad campaigns, I told them all things fun about the Philippines - from my point of view - meaning parties, fashion, adventures and (staying true to Manila Kid) the people.

I think everybody had an awesome time. I hope to see one of student from the crowd to visit and volunteer in the Philippines one day! :D

Apr 13, 2013

Thoughts from Cambodia

“I’ll tell you a secret. Something they don’t teach you in your temple.

The Gods envy us.

They envy us because we’re mortal, 

because any moment might be our last.

Everything is more beautiful because we’re doomed.

You will never be lovelier than you are now.

We will never be here again." - Achilles, Troy

I went to Cambodia to pray. The day when I visited Angkor Wat was the same day as my birthday so it was the perfect time to think things through. Rather than arising from logic, this thinking was much fueled by emotions resulting from a place haunted with ironies. You may call it reflection, though I'd avoid the word less run the risk of sounding sentimental. Praying will sound more apt as I'd like to think that there is divinity involved.

I felt the desperation of the Khmer empire to build a lasting legacy. Was it founded on the fear of being forgotten? Angkor Wat was a display of this civilization's power - and even at it's grandest, it still fell ill to the test of times. Yes, the stone temples may continue to stand and it's beauty only improved by the mystery shrouding it, but life has been sucked dry and what remains are skeletons of their traditions and beliefs. It only shows how little we really are in space and time - a spec of dust or a spark in this whole creation. Yet how often do we think too highly of ourselves?

Then I  wondered if the institutions we have now - specifically religions, no matter how solid and true they claim to be - can still exist after a hundred years. We can see the influence of Catholicism and Islam today, but for how long? Egyptian, Greek and Roman religions served as truths millenniums ago, and now we call them myths. What does religions' contingent state tell us? I'd like to think that at the core of these religions are universal truths that are similar, if not related, with one another; values, beliefs and weaknesses that spans across generations and geographic borders that it might only come from a greater being (Western thinking) or from within ourselves and our shared humanity {Eastern thinking).

This time I was able to relate more to the Eastern thought because of the aspirations, fears, hopes and evils that unite us with even people who lived thousands of years ago, from the other side of the world. It's more relatable and comprehensible than Western ideology. Maybe that link we share with the rest of humanity is what drives us to do good towards others, to trust that our brothers won't irrationally hurt us or to believe that there is truth out there and we need to find it. That sense of unity in the face of decay maybe the reason why Achilles audaciously exclaimed that the Gods envy us. Instead of living off for ourselves, and doing anything we want (since we'll all die anyway), most of us decided to follow one's innate goodness, to be more loving instead.

And if ever there is a God, he's more likely to dwell within each one of us; he's someone or something who is bigger than the institutions created by men. A good question to ask right now is where does religion play in this train of thought? Since we have this insight of a being greater than human creation, can't we all just be spiritual?

I remember the question that my Philo teacher posed during my final oral exam with him, "is religion a mutually accepted delusion?" If I can answer him now, I'd still stick with my same affirmative answer. But it's a necessary mutually accepted creation of man in response to our weaknesses so we can fully comprehend that great being together as communities. As with the Khmer people of Angkor, religion serves as a communal response for us to sustain this innate goodness, and in turn, we are called for a personal response guided by the wisdom from the religions, but directed towards a more universal understanding and cooperation with each person.

Cooperation. Action. "Kapag nasabi na ang lahat ng masasabi, ang pinakamahalaga ay hindi masasabi. Magagawa lamang." - Padre Ferriols. 

Apr 5, 2013

Free As a Bird

I was having lunch with Danielle, a co-intern from Holland, when she started sharing her experiences on backpacking. It's an activity that is not often practiced in the Philippines or even generally around Asia. Maybe the majority of us aren't built for these kinds of adventure - where you withdraw yourself from "civilization" and jump out of your comfort zone, into the wild. Or maybe because we have different priorities, like getting a job at once after graduating.

After finishing her degree in college, Danielle started her backpacking trip in Quatar then went to Nepal before staying here in Vietnam. She told me how she barely knew anyone in the countries that she visited, and how fun it was to meet new people on the way. She even crossed paths with some backpackers more than once, all of them surprisingly taking the same route and hostels. 

This is a great feat for a very beautiful, Victoria's Secret level girl. I thought she was very sheltered, but through her stories, I was inspired to backpack on my own. But I guess the first thing I need to learn is how to pack light. Goodbye 20 kg maximum luggage limit!

Free as a bird. You can go anywhere you want without the extra weight of itineraries or tour groups. You leave when you like, eat what you want and set which direction you want to take.

On Saturday, I'll be on a 12 hour long bus ride to Siem Reap to see Angkor Wat. Well you can say that it'll be my first backpacking trip since I'll only carry one backpack while the rest of my stuff will stay first in Vietnam.

I'm also going there cause I want to celebrate my birthday in a place where no one knows that I just turned a year older, when no one knows me at all. Commemorating your birth goes to back to its roots when you were just a clean slate. I think it's more natural and liberating that way. Just for a change.

Mar 24, 2013

English: The Big Deal

I admire the Vietnamese because of their dedication to learn English; it can sometimes turn into a passion. Maybe in the Philippines, learning the language is taken for granted because we've had it ever since our moms told our nannies to talk to us in English, no matter how barok they may sound. Or we know it cause we watch Dexter's Lab or Sesame Street before we go to school back in nursery.

English for them is a big deal that you can find English clubs in different parts of the city. For example, in the condominium compound where I am staying, there are two English centers. Earlier, we visited an English club conducted by an Australian. Well, I got bored since most of the discussions revolved around things we've already mastered in elementary so I just waited outside sipping coffee and reading a philosophy book on traveling. (More on that later.)

Magpapahuli ba ang mga Pilipino? A Filipino family organized an English club in the building next to us. But there's a twist. They use the word of God and stories with values to teach people English. I like that they also use songs in their lecture. 

It's great to have kapit bahays who have the same background as yours. That can be very handy in a foreign place since their presence remind me of where I come from. Maybe that's the reason why even though I already know what they'll teach, I look forward to going to their house as often as I can. It makes me more at home.

So aside from interacting with teacher Remil's family, I was able to meet lots of Vietnamese friends. They even got my number and are trying to add me in Facebook, haha! Benta ako sa kanila. Well I'm looking forward to making closer friends soon and helping them appreciate English.

Mar 21, 2013


Back in fourth year high school, I gave all my 40 classmates retreat letters. My teacher thought I was handing out invitations for my debut because each were finished in some artsy yellow envelope sealed with a purple ribbon.

So when a friend asked me to mail him a postcard, I got excited! He recently started collecting postcards from the different parts of the globe. Since I didn't have a teaching schedule today, I decided to go to the post office in the city center and figure out how this is done.

A short handwritten letter feels more special than a long electronic maybe because more time and effort are dedicated in crafting them. I guess it feels more human that's why the message becomes more sincere. 

In the end, I had so much fun writing in a postcard and licking a stamp that I went back to the souvenir shop to buy more! So if you guys want to receive postcards from Saigon (or maybe from Siem Reap or Bangkok), send me an email or a PM so that I can prepare one!

I already have a dozen of requests that my stamp ran out. Will try to go to the post office again during the weekend! Hope my postcard reaches you!

PS: When you receive it, kindly take a photo of the postcard back to back and post it on my wall:D