Category: Musings

nour·ish: (nûrsh, nr-)

I stood willingly and gladly in the characters of everything – other people, trees, clouds. And this is what I learned, that the world’s otherness is antidote to confusion – that standing within this otherness – the beauty and the mystery of the world, out in the fields or deep inside books – can re-dignify the worst-stung heart.

~Mary Oliver

Hhhmm, I see a pattern here.  I really need to stop overanalyzing these posts before I even write them.  Ah, there you go. First goal for 2014. Don’t think, just write.

Because …

I have been thinking about this post for weeks. I’m not kidding. Weeks.  The different parts have been swirling in my head for some time now but I guess there were too many books to read, feelings to deal with, a mind to put to rest, people to see, gifts to buy, stories to hear, and an emotional corner to reach and turn before I could sit down and write.  I also think it has something to do with wanting to do things differently at the tail end of this year.  Because 2012’s last two ber months were a blur.  By the end of 2012, I could no longer remember where I ended and began and I felt like I didn’t have the time and/or had lost all inclination to reflect, to take stock of the year that went, to think about where I was, what I was grateful for, who I was quickly falling in love with. You know, things normal people do.  I mean I was really happy for so many reasons but I had also reached the dip of the expat cycle. The honeymoon stage was over and I didn’t know it.   When January 1, 2013  hit, I was unhinged, disorientated and wordless. I remember writing to my close friends in Singapore that first day of last year looking for a way to feel the ground underneath my feet.

I swore I would never do that to myself again.

I also remember, spending  the last hours of December 31, 2012 in the middle of Romanceville, polishing a piece I had been working on with my Grade 7 kids, desperately scribbling, typing, revising and editing this poem.   Anything to avoid the profound loneliness I felt just a few weeks into my new relationship.  As usual, my spirit was filled with impatience, restlessness and contradictions.  I thought I was in love. But I had doubts.  I thought I met someone worth the time and energy but some things didn’t add up.  I told myself over and over, I could make what we had right/work/last if I tried hard enough and ended with the thought, What?  Not here again? Damn it, Pau!  I thought I recognized him &  didn’t know until later that I had recognized someone else.  I swore I would never move or fall that fast again.  Even if my heart  healed a long time ago.  Even if he made me really happy for awhile.

Anyway, as much as I have been thinking, I have also been writing bits and pieces of this post for days. In different coffeehouses, park benches, airports and living rooms.  Wrote drafts and parts in a new Moleskine notebook I bought to serve as my writing journal for the coming year.  I really wanted to pay attention. Choose the right words.  And not share them until they were ready. Until my heart was ready.  Until I had my word for 2014.  Until I knew exactly what I thought of the year that came and went. I didn’t want to feel lost again when the new year arrived.   I watched the days of winter break pass me by as I read and rested, hung out with my family, and observed and took pictures instead of blogged.  Four books, pages and pages of redundant notes and drawings in my new notebook,  a sleepless week, decisions and a brain crammed with emotional stuff later, what I intended to be my last post of 2013, has turned into my first one for 2014.    I thought I was too late and then way too early, now I know this post arrived just in time. Here goes …

Before I officially welcome 2014, let me say a proper farewell to a year that wiggled its way into my heart.  Thank you, 2013 (and Haikudeck).  Here’s to you and the 13* things that have made you some kind of wonderful

(* implicitly includes God and my immediate family, of course #justsayin).  

Grateful heart

Grateful heart

13 things in 2013

13 things in 2013

It is about the bike

It is about the bike

I started biking to and from work for many reasons.  One was to make sure I was moving more and incorporating some kind of workout into my day without needing to carve extra time or creating more obstacles to not be more active. Another was I needed to change my morning routine. It reminded me too much of a time when I was really happy and because I didn’t have that routine anymore, it made me sad to carry on status quo.  So a girlfriend and I bought ourselves hybrids, practiced and figured out our routes to and from school, lugged a set of clothes, toiletries and groceries the Monday we were ready and started a new habit that we are still committed to today.  Biking has forced me to sleep earlier, travel lighter, eat and feel better, find more quiet time and leave school earlier.  It’s one decision we made in 2013 that has made a huge difference in my health, well-being and peace of mind.

Music mix the bourgeoisie and the rebel

Music mix the bourgeoisie and the rebel

I love music but I am not like a crazy fan of anyone or any genre really. So many of my closest friends, including my brother, are like music aficionados, complete with blog post series on bands, concert tickets,  old CDs or albums and different playlists they searched for and listened to over and over again.  It defines milestones for them, says something about who they are and what they are going/been through and I love that and admire them for it.  But I don’t think I have that gene.  It’s like a relationship I only understand when I think of my love for books or photography or poetry. Or when I think of films and possible songs that will make up a soundtrack filling the air as the establishing shot begins.  Anyway, for many reasons, finding Spotify this year has been life giving. Playing music  all the time has changed my spaces.  My classroom, my home, my commutes and plane rides have all been  different.  I hardly listen to the old tunes in my iTunes library anymore (which I ripped from my brother, pretty much)  and am slowly developing my own muscle for music.  I love having access to different types of sounds and discovering what I actually like, what defines me and the best part, sharing playlists with favorite people.  I am still no music expert on any single band but I do love walking around with my headphones on curating different soundtracks for different scenes that actually happen to sh*t that’s just playing in my head.

Cities are not people but they have personalities - Neil Gaiman

Cities are not people but they have personalities – Neil Gaiman

It’s been a rich year for traveling, 2013  So I am grateful for that too.  I went home to Manila four times.  Went to Thailand  thrice, then Perth, Sibu and Cambodia for different student trips.  I also got to visit Kuala Lumpur and HongKong to be with close friends and  New York twice to spend time with my sister.  What I rediscovered this year is my love cities.  Everything about them makes me  swoon.  From the diversity, the lights, the culture, the pace and its pulse – I miss the ocean and the mountains but this year was a year for city love.

I heart Cities

I heart Cities



This little boy healed my heart

This little boy healed my heart

This actually deserves its own blog entry but in a nutshell, one of ultimate highlights of 2013 for me was anticipating the arrival of my sister’s first son, Caleb.  It was a treat to have been able to spend time with her during her third trimester in my favorite city on the planet, New York and  to be able to go  back and MEET and spend time with Caleb AND turn 40 in New York City was like the best birthday gift ever…because of this I will never forget you, 2013.

Life begins at 40

Life begins at 40

Which brings me here. This also deserves its own blog entry but right now this is what I have to say about leaving my thirties behind.

Yup.  This is what it looks like.  Me at 40.  Right here. Right now.  And guess what, it’s pretty darn awesome.  I know a little more…more of what really matters anyway.  I also understand that I still don’t really know much and yup, that’s totally okay. I am independent, fulfilled, free and hopeful. I love what I do everyday and am surrounded by amazing people. I live in a beautiful country not too far from my family and can rush to my sister in NYC if she ever needed me.  I do wonder what’s next but most days, I take it all in,  humbled by the open doors and enjoying the freedom that’s in front of me.   At 40, I’ve never felt more grown up but  I’ve also never felt so young and ready for anything. Does that make sense?  There’s so much out there to still learn and embrace and love;  and letting go?  That  becomes easier because I have also become wiser.

Unprecedented Learning, unforgettable people, powerful stories

Unprecedented Learning, unforgettable people, powerful stories


You can read my post on it here.  One word – EPIC.

Thank you for being beautiful, Haikudeck

Thank you for being beautiful, Haikudeck

My love affair with images and words continues.  Music, art, photography, books and writing our own verses and entries- they always, always save the day.  Again, let me  use Mary Oliver’s words – because this is what photography and words help me do.

Instructions for living a life:
Pay attention.
Be astonished.
Tell about it.

You are what you wear

You are what you wear

I wish Singapore had autumn

I wish Singapore had autumn

Don’t laugh. I know. I should have put something more profound um, but I didn’t and I won’t apologize for it today. Because I love that fashion is like art too in many ways.  I know it’s a problematic industry and looks like it shouldn’t be celebrated any more than it needs to be but it feels good sometimes to put something together and let it say something about design and style.

You know who you are

You know who you are

Anyway, I think 2013 would have been treacherous without the love and company of my girlfriends, both old and new.  They have become my family away from my family.

Seriously, you know who you are.

From saving me from myself to catching me when I fall to trusting me with your own secrets, joys and pain, I love you all. Thank you for always being there.

Seriously, I am grateful for this too.

Seriously, I am grateful for this too.

Heartbreak is only hard while it’s happening, I guess.  In the end, because you survive it and come out stronger, it’s all good.  You learn from the crappy bits, remember the good stuff, feel grateful and forgive (and hopefully feel forgiven) and just want what’s healthiest for you and your old partner.  All the rest, you get to just throw away because it doesn’t serve you.  That’s what I did, anyway.

Best part is, I don’t regret, not even  for a minute, putting myself out there with my hopeful heart on my tattooed sleeve. I don’t regret loving fiercely and trusting completely. Can I protect my heart better, sure. But I also know that  I have learned to leave  when I know it  no longer feels right for me.  I didn’t settle or  hang around like I was 23 or 28 or 35.  I left like a wiseR 39 year old and didn’t waste any more time than I needed to.

Note to Self

Note to Self

I heart my tribe/s. You know who you are.  Thank you.

I heart my tribe/s. You know who you are. Thank you.

Ah, I guess, I already have three other posts on the back burner because this too deserves its own entry.  Ideologically and literally, embracing the sadness is really so much better when you have a tribe to do it with.  Sadness comes in different ways, at different times and to carve time today to talk about it and say, ‘I love and accept you whether I get it or not’, has been priceless. Who says you can’t make new real friends as you grow older? It’s just not true.  So to my old Twitter/now new IRL friends who I love, respect and admire to pieces, thank you for making 2013 special.  You know who you are.

I didn't deserve it but you gave it to me. Thank you.

I didn’t deserve it but you gave it to me. Thank you.

Did I say three extra blog posts?  I actually meant four. I wish I could say more about this but I think I will be composing this particular post for awhile. Let’s just say that in the end, 2013’s finish line has been  all  about this. Receiving and accepting it actually more than my extending it.  I take none of it for granted.  I am still humbled by it today.  Thank you.

Hope keeps us alive

Hope keeps us alive

Lastly, my second year at UWCSEA-East is coming to a close and my gosh all the learning can’t measure up against  a trip around the world and back. Twice!  Everyday, I continue to learn something new, consolidating ideas and collaborating with some of the most inspiring, open minded educators on the planet.   I am happy to say that I have signed on for two more years and feel like there is no place I’d rather be except where I am right now in my career.  My heart is full of love for my place of work, this UWCSEA and Singapore family and I am grateful everyday for all the open doors.

And for all the second chances, 2013…thank you.

Welcome 2014

Welcome 2014

Here’s  a little something from Google Zeitgeist, 2013 to end this farewell…

And to the new year, a poem, ‘To the New  Year’ by WS Merwin.  Nice to meet you, 2014. I love you already.

Welcome, 2014!

Welcome, 2014!

To the New Year

With what stillness at last

you appear in the valley

your first sunlight reaching down

to touch the tips of a few

high leaves that do not stir

as though they had not noticed

and did not know you at all

then the voice of a dove calls

from far away in itself

to the hush of the morning

so this is the sound of you

here and now whether or not

anyone hears it this is

where we have come with our age

our knowledge such as it is

and our hopes such as they are

invisible before us

untouched and still possible

Anyway, my word for 2013 was love but now that I think  (and have written) about it, should have been rediscovery which would have been a nice segue from my 2012 word  for that year … which was discovery.   Not that it wasn’t at all about love because it always is, right?

My word for this year is NOURISHwhich includes rest, save, balance,  read, write and paying attention to what needs replenishment and love.  I want to sustain what’s already positive and life-giving while allowing other parts of this amazing life to grow.  I also want to be more giving and be more generous to others so my relationships and people around me are nourished too.  Because I’m convinced that nourishing others will most definitely nourish my soul.

I have been working on a  a set of goals/plans  and projects that I have outlined in my Moleskine journal and  when it’s ready, I will share it.   Just needs to percolate a little bit more.  But this recent article on HuffPost Books is the basic framework for most of my plans this 2014 with a special mention of my friend’s New York Times article, Chris H, which inspired me to no end.  I hope to someday write with the same heart and conviction but with my voice.  Thank you, Chris.

One thing  I did start the year with is a Facebook/Instagram fast. People who know me well will know exactly why (and think it’s silly because they completely understand and accept my documenter gene).  If not, my #embracethesadness tribe and I will surely have a lengthy conversation about it.   I love Instagram but I need some time away from it to discern what’s next with that space. It might change after this fast or it might stay the same but I want to take a step back and reflect on what it has become and what it can be more of.  As for fasting from Facebook – it’s just detox from an addiction that needs to be curbed.  I am a social media cliche, I know.  A  post on how it’s going or how it went coming soon.  In the meantime, I hope to breathe life into this space and this one too.

So, what’s your word for the year?  How do you plan to live 2014 by it? and what was the first thing you did today to mark a new beginning? Drop me a line below to let me know.

And with that, thanks so much for passing by and reaching  the end of my massive post.  I really appreciate it.  Happy New Year!  🙂

grateful slice:  Yearly roundups, reflections and new beginnings

Blog2Learn: Mano a Mano

No better way to meet a person than to meet their mind first. – Clay Burell

It’s really interesting to watch a conversation grow. Especially when you take part in it midway; not at the very beginning or the tail end but right smack in the middle of the complicated, swirly marinade of people’s differing perspectives, questions, assertions, speculation, preconceived notions, hopes and dreams. It has been on the table for a while, the discourse on student blogging. From its value, relevance, usefulness and purpose, the idea of using blogging to learn has received varying responses, both encouraging and dismissive. Out there, die hard believers and skeptics alike roam the same pedagogical hallways, crossing paths as they agree to disagree.

Last Sept 11, UWCSEA had the opportunity to create a space for more people to engage in this exciting conversation mano a mano. With a panel of three made up of UWCSEA East’s Jabiz Raisdana, the renowned Clay Burell from Singapore American School and one of his History students, Hayden, a group of teachers, administrators, students and parents sat together in the Kishore Mahbubani Library at the UWCSEA East Campus and continued the conversation I feel lucky enough to have been part of.

Four generations of white rabbits: Jeff, Clay, Hayden and Jabiz

The hour and a half long discussion was peppered with personal stories, insights, testimonies, admiration for the great work people are doing to push blogging to learn forward and profound responses to thought provoking, and challenging questions from the audience and #blog2learn tweets. Questions about privacy, purpose, value, authenticity, audience, safety, how and where to begin, assessment and systems were some of the few plaguing people’s minds.


In the end, here’s what most of us took away:

1. People’s blogging journeys usually begin with the pursuit of a “white rabbit.”  It’s a kind of indirect mentoring that takes place organically.  A younger Jabiz followed Clay for years before Jabiz learned to trust his own online voice.  Clay acknowledged Jeff Utecht, who was also in the room that day, as his white rabbit. Many people there looked toward Jabiz and thought or tweeted that he was theirs.  Well, you get the picture.  A lot of people I follow now followed someone else through the rabbit hole and have felt the same admiration, vulnerability, motivation and inspiration. And yes, the ripples are multiplying.  It’s an exciting leap of faith that has lead to amazing things happening.

2. Blogging is writing. And that means differently to different people. To Clay, it’s about rigor and preparing his students for university and the future. For Jabiz, it’s about giving his 15 year old self and other young people the space to feel safe to share what means a lot to them. Either way, it has been about a cultivation of voice, a discovering of self, and expression of ideas and creativity to an audience that’s out there. Victoria, a Gr 8 student from UWCSEA-East couldn’t have said it better in her student blog, “Recently I went to conference called “Blog to Learn”, where experienced bloggers would talk to people about how blogging could make education that much better. The conference was immensely interesting, and I felt that I gained a lot of knowledge about blogging. The most important message that I’ve gotten out of it was that to become a better blogger, you actually have to blog. This means, that you shouldn’t keep stalling or getting paranoid that somebody is a tremendously better blogger than you. Instead, you should be working to your upmost potential and possibly use that as motivation.”

3. Finally, the most amazing thing about blogging is the community building it enables. It doesn’t matter if it’s a class of 22 Grade 7 students reading a post on Sharks, a Middle School teacher in Singapore interested in the students’ blogs of a Robotics class in Bangkok, or a young blogger getting 27 comments from all over after posting this, the idea that people can authentically share, get immediate feedback, build relationships and cultivate conviction will keep that authentic conversation going. Discussions in the classroom will never be the same again. I believe when students find a way to carve a home in the online sphere, they expand and break down the four walls of any classroom.

What about you?  What questions are you asking about blogging to learn?  Where are you finding your answers?  Please, feel free to join the conversation.

To blog or not to blog, that is the question

More Student voices:

Blogging is like a giant piece of paper. Imagine. The paper goes on for as far as you can see in all directions, just a plain white sheet of paper. There is only tiny mark on it, right where you are standing. Your name.
In your hand, you realize that you’re holding a paint palette containing paints of every colour of the rainbow, thick and thin brushes, pens and crayons.Then you realize that this paper is yours. All yours. You can draw, paint, write, scribble, colour, decorate and splatter on your paper. You can rip it, stamp on it, stick it, flip it, tear it, poke it, cut it, and scrunch it up. You can get others to judge your paper, support you as you draw, and give you ideas. And the best part is that the paper will never ever run out.

When you look back after years of work on your paper, you realize how you drew what you loved, what you hated, what you wanted, what you felt, what you needed, what you had, where you were, what you were, when you were. You have made one beautiful piece of art that is unique and will always be unique. You have made yourself into art. Hazel, Gr 8

I really enjoy the blogging part of english as I find it my best and most fun way for me to expresses how I feel and what’s going on in my life. I think that all English classes should set up blogs because its just a site. A site that turns in to something immensely amazing and beautiful. But the most important thing about thing about blogs is that it come in an empty space I think. It’s like a sand box. You can build, houses, castle, dungeons, pyramids. You build from your background knowledge, you build from your experiences and you build about yourself that’s why I love blogging. It’s your sand box, let the building begin and so will I! – Kaymin, Gr 7
I love blogging now. I am not even sure if it is related to english. But I am loving it. It is like a journal, where you can share your thoughts, experiences, and ideas. It is a whole new world for me. I think that blogging is going to have a good future for me because later in my life, my teachers, my employers, my kids, will see this. – Dhruv, Gr 7
When I first found out that we were setting up blogs I cringed, I have had really bad experiences with blogging in the past but I realized that if you do it properly blogging isn’t all that bad. I have realized that you can share so many ideas whilst blogging. I have really found that it has helped with my writing, but really we have only scraped the surface of writing and the full extents of blogging. – George, Gr 8
With the introduction of blogs you’re allowed to go to the max and well show off your skills in English but still with some guidelines. With the ability to look at one another’s work you can inspire and share ideas of which could eventually finish the puzzle your work can be. From a good paragraph opener to a good finishing of a story or poem or any sort of English related work we do. As well as the ability of others to look at your work and you to look at others. I am not now just creating work of what seems useless to me besides gaining me a grade level at the end of the year and entertaining my teacher, instead I am creating something of which people around the world can view, family can view, teachers can view and class mates can view. – Blair, Gr 8


Keeping Things Whole

By Mark Strand

In a field
I am the absence
of field.
This is
always the case.
Wherever I am
I am what is missing.
When I walk
I part the air
and always
the air moves in
to fill the spaces
where my body’s been.
We all have reasons
for moving.
I move
to keep things whole.
Mark Strand, “Keeping Things Whole” from Selected Poems. Copyright © 1979, 1980 by Mark Strand.  Used by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., a division of Random House, Inc.  Source: Selected Poems (Alfred A. Knopf, 2002)

Psssst.  So, how have you been? Alls well, I hope.

Erm, I’ve been busy, I guess. Moving. Here are some snaps of what I’ve been up to.

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Anyway, it’s a peaceful Saturday afternoon out here in muggy Singapore and life is pretty good.  My new spaces are happy places and work is extremely fulfilling and inspiring.  I have new friends who feel like old friends. And old friends I am seeing in a fresh light.  I am at peace. My heart is intact and I have my students on my mind.

I know I have managed to neglect this space for awhile now and that’s fine. It happens. These seasons of silence. It doesn’t mean I haven’t been living a life of gratitude.  It also doesn’t mean I haven’t been traversing the grid.   If you’d like to see where I have been spending most of my time online, you can check it out here (Meta).  It’s currently where I hang out these days.  Especially since, a huge part of my classroom involves all of my students blogging themselves.  Make sure you click on some of their sites in my classes’ bundles.  A lot of great ideas are coming out of these young minds. I am extremely thrilled to be part of their writing journeys as they build communities, develop their voices, and hone their convictions.

Like I said, it’s been a great first few months away from home.  I miss certain things about it but that’s a blog post for later.  For now, I need to decide what to do with this old home of mine.  I am thinking of revamping it, perhaps getting my own domain or something like that. I haven’t decided.  It has served me well but just like my geographical move, I am seriously thinking of an online uprooting as well.  Will you follow me to my new space if I move?

I hope you do.

grateful slice:  old and new spaces

Wait for it …

Day 1 of my summer writing workshop:  What kind of writer are you?

It’s true.

I am a collector and I hardly throw anything away.  Not things, vintage clothing, pieces of paper with scribbles on them, memories, letters, pictures, feelings, associations and connections.  I am a big believer of documentation, of writing everything down and  have been accused of compulsive capturing.  This sentimental side, the one that also houses the pack-rat gene, has been there ever since I could speak and then became more pronounced when I learned to write.  At some point, this compulsion to take everything down and remember every single detail of what I see and experience, I attributed to being a writer.  I figured I needed to remember it all, so I could always fill in spaces and gaps in whatever story, character, poem or essay I  come up with. I thought all these things will eventually make it to my future ‘book’ somehow (on what, I still don’t know)  so remembering meant material.  There was comfort in knowing I could retrieve something, anything, from wherever I stored ‘stuff’  because it was torture to forget.

But today, I am thinking that  it’s okay, sometimes, to put the camera down. To let go of the pen or the sticky keyboard and turn the computer off.  It’s okay, sometimes, to document experiences and epiphanies in the little cracks of our consciousness instead of hurriedly and clumsily on the page.  It’s  also okay at times to wait for inspiration, for the best moment, for the mind blowing muse, the worthy snap,  before spilling our guts onto a place where people will see them.  There IS beauty in silence and power in observation and withholding.  I honor that today.

It’s all good  anyway because the silence is temporary and from whatever writing and documentation hiatus, the compulsive capturer always emerges  with a new way of seeing; one that’s not so attached, harassed or desperate.

These past few weeks have been a blur.  I tried, many times, to sit down and write but felt overwhelmed instead. So many things were happening all at the same time.  I never knew where to begin.   I didn’t know how to back track. How to recall and record.

So,I let it go.  Because  I realized not writing something down does not always mean I will forget.

Anyway, amidst the blur of loving gestures, emotional goodbyes, surprise parties and special meals with loved ones, packing and sorting through stuff I never threw away, I found myself agreeing to facilitate a summer writing workshop after a good friend and parent requested I do. People thought I was crazy to agree with everything I still needed to fix and arrange prior to moving.  But I didn’t care. It felt like a gift, actually.  A nice chance to be surrounded by Beacon kids.  I thought it would be a wonderful way to ween and manage the separation anxiety.

pack rat

True enough, this is where I find refuge these days.  Twelve brave souls decided it was worth their time to spend eight two hour sessions with me and if they only knew what a treat it has been. To share and teach something I am passionate about. Without rubrics or TSCs or report card narratives. With nothing but the intention to get them started on their own writing journey. One I hope they will keep alive and nurture even after the eight sessions are over.

young writers at work

We are right smack in the middle of the workshop and so far, things are going well. Kids are excited. They are writing and writing and reading each others’ work. They are attempting interesting writing activities and have been blogging!  I couldn’t be happier.

writing workshop snack


In light of encouraging the twelve to start their own blogs and write and share as often as they can, here is a poem I have been meaning to post for months but never had the guts to.  I wrote it awhile back and showed it to one person (Joey Tandem aka Mr. Lapid) who helped me refine part of my controlling metaphor and one transition.  I felt pleased once we “fixed” it but quietly placed the piece on my desktop thinking there would be a better time to share it.

I guess, now is that time.

Tell me what you think.

die, douche bag (Photo taken by Chris Ramos @ the Morrissey concert)


by Ms. P

It crawled inside her head

and lodged itself



in the deepest cavities

of her cerebral cortex.

She thought she was,

at this juncture,

 impervious to the leech;

didn’t think it would

bother her

ever again.


there it sat

curled up


vicious and


sucking the might

of her confidence

slowly eating away

at her lobes,

without her knowledge.

Nothing prepared her

for the pain

when it dug

its jagged teeth

on the soft tissue

surrounding her decisions

her opinions,

the grey matter of

her insights and


It drank the life out of

everything she believed was

real and important.

Worn out and weary

she wondered why

she could not hold her

heart in her hand,

the usual indicator

that she was in a safe place;

where there were no hidden agendas

or predators  lurking

 in her subconscious.

Until of course,

that very

same thought

alerted the little demon

hiding in her brain

that she finally,










It uncurled and


the little bastard

slithered out

of her ear

moved on to her shoulder

on to her forearm

passed the tiny tiara

and sun tattoo

on her wrist

only to find its

way on her palm

where she


until she could

close her fist

to squash

the little fiend

that tried to eat

a part of who she was


die, douche bag!

Guts squirted

from the gaps

of her tight fist

She watched

the color return to her cheeks

as she unclenched

her pale yellow


And you? What’s your  recent source of inspiration?

grateful slice:  my summer writing workshop and my 12 young writers

Ode Em Gee: The countdown continues

My futurama

So here I am.

One more week to go before school ends, which means my facing the inevitable. It has been real for awhile – this idea that I will leave the life I know to give my dream a real chance. 🙂 But nothing prepares you, not one bit. When that moment arrives where you have one week left before it all changes. Nobody tells you how to deal with that.

So yeah, one more week.

I haven’t been able to fully articulate what all this means; how it’s making me feel, and my goodness, what still needs to be done in terms of packing up my life in Manila to move to Singapore.  I have covered a lot of bases in terms of  contracts, legal documents and such but looking around my pack-rat apartment right now, just surveying my two gargantuan bookshelves bursting with books bought throughout the years (oh, plus my freaking classroom!!!), I have some work cut out for me.

Anyway, even if that’s top of mind (I keep thinking the month of June will be enough to sort all that out), I know I need to stay present in the here and now, to not miss a thing.  I am about to leave not just one family, but two, and I can’t say goodbye without knowing what that means.  I need to acknowledge it today that this is a very big deal. Case in point, last week. I wasn’t ready last Friday, when the school surprised everyone leaving (there are four or five of us)  with a small token and a certificate of appreciation. They asked us to go up on stage one at a time and man, it took everything from me not to weep in front of the entire school (plus some parents.) I remember watching the Middle School students get on their feet to cheer and express what they were feeling, which was also when I went momentarily deaf.  I watched the headmaster mouth words at me in slow motion, words I couldn’t hear.  All I could think of was, ‘why am I wearing shorts today and don’t cry, don’t cry, don’t cry. Whatever you do, don’t cry.’ I smiled uncomfortably for the camera then hopped off the stage. I felt the President of the Board  give me a big bear hug on my way out.  And that did it of course. Once I hit the ground, I was weeping into my scarf.


I have many future entries already brewing  for this drama queen; pieces slowly piling up in my drafts folder devoted to this farewell but they have to wait.  For now, in order to stay present, I have to finish marking papers, reading students’ blog entries, assessing spiels for an Egypt fair, recording numbers and writing reports. (I am already done with all that actually, which is how I am able to finally post this entry).

I have to focus. This is part of getting it right.

Anyway, until then, here is a video, a poem by Neruda and a cover of one of my favorite Smith songs by Death Cab. Special things that have made this working Sunday special.

A lot of people have asked me why I would leave Manila and Beacon when I am  perfectly happy and content where I am.  MM, my good friend and mentor, shared this video on Facebook recently and I think it captures a lot of my why.  Not that staying in Manila, where I was born and raised, or staying in Beacon, where I learned how to become the teacher that I am today, the antithesis of #makingitcount.  I guess, it’s staying put (regardless of sentiment and attachment) when you know you have to move; perhaps that’s the first brick sealed in place that becomes the foundation of a house built on regrets.  I’ve loved and given my all to where I’ve been the past seven years.  I guess making it count means, packing my stuff and finding a new adventure some place else because it’s time.

So here’s the video and a poem by Neruda. They both have been able to capture my response to why.


He who dies (Ode to life)
by Pablo Neruda
Slowly dies he who becomes a slave to habit,
repeating the same journey every day,
he who doesn’t change his march, he who doesn’t risk
and change the color of his clothes, he who doesn’t speak to he whom he doesn’t know.Slowly dies he who makes of the television his guru,
he who avoids a passion dies, he who prefers
black on white and dots on i’s rather than a togetherness of emotions
exactly those that make the eyes shine,
those that make the heart beat
before error and feeling.Slowly dies he who doesn’t overturn the table,
he who is unhappy in his work,
he who doesn’t risk certainty for uncertainty
to follow a dream,
he who doesn’t permit himself at least one time in his life
to flee sensible counsels.Slowly dies he who doesn’t travel, he who doesn’t read,
he who doesn’t listen to music,
he who doesn’t find grace in himself.
he who destroys his own love dies,
he who doesn’t allow himself to be helped.

He who passes his days lamenting
about his own misfortune or the incessant rain dies.
Slowly dies he who abandons a project
before beginning it,
he who doesn’t ask questions about topics he doesn’t know,
he who doesn’t answer when he is asked something that he knows.

Let’s avoid death by small doses,
remembering always that being alive requires a much larger effort
than the simple act of breathing.
Only burning patience will bring within reach a splendid happiness

taken at the MOMA by my bro, April 2010.

And here is Death Cab’s cover of  There is a Light and it Never Goes Out.  Um, warning: the video is a little creepy.  (And nope, Morrissey did not sing this during his concert last week. Boo.  Post on that later. )

Thanks for passing by.

grateful slice: time, reflection and yes, one more week

How I Learned to Love 2011

What’s not to love about 2011?

Well, a lot apparently. From all the natural calamities, world tragedies, economic upheaval, sudden inexplicable deaths, and everyone’s personal ups and downs, sometimes I wonder how people still get up in the morning.  In the end, clenched fist in the air, it was easy to bid such a challenging year goodbye.  Having said that though, even with all of 2011’s warts and boils, it was still a year of unforgettable extremes and profound lessons.  Some of the best years of our lives are built with pillars of deep suffering and joy beyond all understanding.  And this is what this year has been about for me. Extremes. Maximum everything. No holds barred emotional roller coaster ride with the sharp turns, gut wrenching dips, ear piercing shrieks and white knuckles. Admittedly, there are some things I wish didn’t happen this year – people getting hurt unnecessarily, for example – but I believe that everything happens for a reason. So with that, I celebrate it  ALL today (narrowed down to 10 life-giving things). The good, the bad and the ugly. I figure once everything is put into perspective, it all turns to good.  So, thank you, 2011, for these 10 things and what I took away from them.  No matter how bizarre you were, it started and ended with a grateful heart.  Here goes…

I was able to travel quite a bit this year, so I am stoked about that: Here are some links to entries connected to my 2011 adventures.  SagadaIndia (Tamil Nadu)India (Mumbai and Ahmedabad)Boracay (with tFTs), Adelaide, Hong Kong (with family) and most recently, Singapore.


So happy I was freshly pressed twice last year! 🙂

Finally, with that, goodbye, 2011. I am grateful for you but I bid you farewell as you clumsily ride off into the sunset.  Now hello there, 2012. So glad you could make it. Stay awhile and be nice.

How about you? How much did you love 2011?

grateful slice:  learning from a complicated year

Weekly Photo Challenge: Refreshing and P.S. Wish you were here (a deleted addendum)

Nothing more refreshing than a vacation after a vacation, approximately three weeks before school/work begins again.

Last week, my procrastination took me and a good friend, Tara,  to one of my favorite familiar places in the Philippines, Boracay Island.  It’s an abused, over-commercialized, exploited slice of heaven on earth.  The sand is like powdered milk, the fresh fruit shakes to die for, happy hour to live for and even if we were in the middle of Typhoon Falcon, just being near the ocean was a special treat for this workaholic.  Here are some snaps from that week-long trip.  Thanks for passing by. Hope these shots refresh somehow. Wish you were there.

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Ode to the sea by Pablo Neruda

Here surrounding the island,
There΄s sea.
But what sea?
It΄s always overflowing.
Says yes,
Then no,
Then no again,
And no,
Says yes
In blue
In sea spray
Says no
And no again.
It can΄t be still.
It stammers
My name is sea.

It slaps the rocks
And when they aren΄t convinced,
Strokes them
And soaks them
And smothers them with kisses.

With seven green tongues
Of seven green dogs
Or seven green tigers
Or seven green seas,
Beating its chest,
Stammering its name,

Oh Sea,
This is your name.
Oh comrade ocean,
Don΄t waste time
Or water
Getting so upset
Help us instead.
We are meager fishermen,
Men from the shore
Who are hungry and cold
And you΄re our foe.
Don΄t beat so hard,
Don΄t shout so loud,
Open your green coffers,
Place gifts of silver in our hands.
Give us this day our daily fish.

grateful slice:  post scripts about the beach and feeling refreshed by the sea

On Leaving this Maximum City

You get a strange feeling when you’re about to leave a place, like you’ll not only miss the people you love but you’ll miss the person you are now at this time and this place, because you’ll never be this way again. 

Azar Nafisi

Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books

I overheard some of the vendors in Colaba a few days ago talk about the monsoon coming exactly on the tenth of June and well, here it is. Pouring, cooling the earth, clearing the streets and cleaning the air.   I wondered then how they could be so sure, so confident that the rains would come today and be correct.  I see now that this confidence is the same one they have on the streets — where one rick knows that zooming into a small space between two huge trucks won’t mean imminent death.  I mean, the rain has been coming and going for an hour or two for days but nothing like this.  It would tease us sometimes, especially on days we didn’t bring our umbrellas and surprise us with a sudden downpour while in a rickshaw, dressed and on our way to a night out with friends.  Today, as we decide to stay in to pack and just chill before we both leave (me to go back home to Manila and S to NYC to meet her love), the rain is like a gift from the heavens. Even if everything is gray, the awareness of a season ending is also healing in a way. It, of course, does everything to nurture and feed my ennui right now.  Just the thought of leaving Mumbai makes the tears well up in my eyes.  I feel like an open wound exposed to saltwater.  The sting is sharp and almost unbearable but I know the sea will make it all better if I persevere.  And S is spot on…the sadness can only be appeased by the promise of return.  I have no choice but to make sure I come back to this magical place.   S and I burst into laughter every now and then to stop me from crying and from enabling my melodrama.   Maximum feelings for this maximum city.

Suketu Mehta, the author of “Maximum City”  talks about how his currency is stories.  “Stories told for stories revealed…stories from other worlds, carried over the waters in caravans and ships, to be exchanged for this year’s harvest of stories. A hit man’s story to a movie director in exchange for the movie director’s story to the hit man.  The film would and the underworld, the police and the press, the swamis and the sex workers, all live off stories; here in Bombay, I(author) do too.”  I feel like writing about Mumbai (prologue) when am back home will keep me afloat and sane for awhile. Thus, the writer’s delay.  That’s how I will pay. With poetry and photos and stories about my trip, but from a distance.  Photographs have been saving me these days too.  Thank you, decisive moment.   Here are some favorite snaps that reveal some of these maximum emotions.

Ennui from my reluctant subjects: Bandra Fort

Sadness in her eyes: Haji Ali Shrine

The gaze of a hungry traveller

the smile of someone who will definitely come back: Western Railway en route to Mumbai Central

Actually, seeing past the melodrama, S and I already have a plan:  Next time I come back, I will invest in the old cameras that they sell in Colaba.

Old cameras that remind me of my brother

You will be mine, oh yes, you will be mine!

Mumbai: Land of negotiations. This man gave ma big discount for my gift for Mr. Tandem after I hung out and took pictures of his stall for awhile

S and I will visit an Indian village, do more heritage walks and see Juhu during the day.  Then there’s the rest of beautiful, complex and schizophrenic India which I intend to visit, photograph and write about. Perhaps when the sun is not so treacherous. Yes, in the land of NO, this is definitely not goodbye.  Until then, Mumbai, see you in my dreams and my mind’s eye.

I didn’t look back. I couldn’t. Such is life, imaginary or otherwise: a continuous parting of ways, a constant flux of approximation and distanciation, lines of fate intersecting at a point which is no-time, a theoretical crossroads fictitiously “present,” an unstable ice floe forever drifting between was and will be. The Adventure called and I followed with my thumb like a character being written by an intractable author. Which, of course, I was.

– Sol Luckman

grateful slice:  Knowing when you are leaving a place, returning and the currency of images and text, traveling

A Song and A Poem: For Good(bye)

Because I am not sure how to say it in my own way right now, here’s a song to tell it like it is.  For the Grade 8s and Mr. Ritter.  This is a little better than just  goodbye and I will miss you.

Also, here’s a list poem in two languages Joey Tandem and I wrote for Patrick Ritter’s (PR’s) surprise farewell shindig in school yesterday.  I was a little nervous as we read it aloud to everyone in school but it was worth it.  

Action Jackson, Didi and Julio

12 Things We Learned from Patrick Ritter          

a list poem by Pau and Paul

Sandosenang Bagay na Natutunan Namin Mula Kay Patrick RitterIsang Listahan na Tula ni Pau at Paul 
No. 1 It takes a village to raise a child.We’re not sure who said that but it was not Oscar Wilde Isa:Ang  isang bata ay pinalalaki ng isang barangay.Sino nga ba’ng nagsabi nito? Aba, malay!
No. 2 Does it support student learning?, he asks us often.Now every decision we make is guided by this question Dalawa:”Tinutulungan ba nito ang mga bata na matuto?” tanong niya kadalasan.Ngayon ang bawat pasiya ay gabay itong katanungan.
No. 3 Discipline is not a list of punishments for transgressions.  It is a culture with home, history, school, family and self as its composition Tatlo:Ang disiplina ay hindi listahan ng kaparusahan para sa mga pagkakamali.Ito ay kulturang binubuo ng pinanggalingan, kasaysayan, pamilya, at ng sarili.
No. 4 Assessment is not percentile, mode, median or mean.It is a culture of feedback and support, where the road to success can be seen. Apat:Ano ba, Pau? Ang hirap naman tagalugin niyan! ‘Wag na lang.Basta kultura iyan ng pagbibigay-alam at supporta kung saan ang daan sa tagumpay ay nasisilayan.
No. 5 Speaking of culture, he reminds us that we all don’t necessarily have the same.  But that there’s beauty in our differences whether through our beliefs, ethnicity, gender or name Lima:Kultura ba’y kamo? Paalala niya’y hindi tayo laging magkakatulad ng ganyan.Pero may kagandahan sa pagkakaiba kahit pa paniniwala, lahi, kasarian, o pangalan.
No.6 PR says, collaboration is key to make a difference in the world today.  He believes in lifelong learners who listen and also have something important to say Anim:Ika nga ni PR, ang pagtutulungan ay susi sa pagbabago ng mundo natin.Naniniwala siya sa mga taong habangbuhay na natututo, nakikinig, at sinasabi ang saloobin.
No. 7 Inform, inform, inform and keep everyone involved in the loop.  To avoid mishaps, misunderstandings and the fan getting hit by poop Pito:Ipaalam, i-i-ipaalam, i-i-ipaalam, sa mga pangyayari’y sabihan ang lahat.Nang maiwasan ang badtripan, ‘di pagkakaunawaan, at ang alam niyo na sa pagtama sa electric fan.
No. 8 PR taught us to email, text, call and be redundant with no shame.  Our lines of communication will never be the same Walo:Tinuruan tayo ni PR na mag email, text, at tumawag ng paulit-ulit ng walang kahihiyan.Ang ating pakikitungo ay nabago dahil diyan.
No. 9 PR taught us to email, text, call and be redundant with no shame.This is not a recording. If you mind it, he’s to blame. Siyam:Resend, forward, redial.Hindi ito recording, siya po ang may kasalanan.
No. 10 PR says change is inevitable and that it takes time for people to adjust.  But he reminds us to be open, be risk-takers and to have a lot of trust. Sampu:Sabi ni PR, ang pagbabago ay ‘di maiiwasan pero kailangan natin ng panahon para masanay.Ang paalala niya’y maging bukas ang puso’t isipan, huwag matakot sumubok ng bago, at magtiwala ng tunay.
No. 11 He taught us that wisdom begins when we realize just how little we know.  But it’s when we learn from each other that our understanding grows Labing-isa:Itinuro niya na ang simula ng tunay na kaalaman ay kapag alintana mo kung gaano kakaunti ang nalalaman mo.Pero kapag natututo tayo sa isa’t-isa, ang pang-unawa natin ay lalong lumalago.
No. 12 Last but not least, he said, ask when in doubt.  So PR…Can you confeerm all this stuff we’ve been talking about? Labing-dalawa:At panghuli ngunit mahalaga, ang sabi niya, “King hindi ka sigurado, dapat magtanong.”Kaya PR, tama ba lahat ng pinagsasasabi namin ngayon?
To round up this verse, we bid you a most svelte farewell…Thank you for believing in us, PR, it helped us believe in ourselves as well. Para tapusin itong balagtasan, ipinaabot namin itong pagpapaalam na todo sa etlevs, ‘pre.Salamat, PR, sa paniniwala sa aming kakayahan. Tinulungan mo kaming maniwala sa aming mga sarili.

Sigh.  Goodbyes are healthy. But they sure are hard.  And no matter what we do, the pain is the same.

grateful slice:  slow goodbyes and opportunities to express them in various ways.

Collaborashun 101

Let’s Volt In

It became apparent to me yesterday why I was in such a weird place during Holy Week. I initially chalked it up to burn out and apathy, hell, even boredom but it turns out, it wasn’t about that at all. I will try and write about that in a bit. It’s just still so close to my face I don’t have the distance to aptly articulate what the heck is really going on inside of me.

All I know is, it’s going on. Like the redundant swirling of laundry in the washer dryer, emotions and familiar demons are swish-swashing amok and for awhile, undetected. I think I was hypnotized by all of it going round and round and round and round and round, I forgot there was an off button I could press to finally take out the laundry.

Anyway, I tried to tell Joey Tandem about what became clear to me so I could perhaps get it out there and just call it; this allowing me to choose to act and feel differently and quickly about the many things that have been bothering me these past few months. That helped a lot and I know, writing about it will give it a voice and save the day. For now though, I’d rather talk about happy things. Things that keep our hearts beating and minds soaring, even if we have grand pianos for feet. Things that remind us, it is still worth it to wake up in the morning, to reconnect with our breath, and to trust the seasons because they are there for a reason. Things that help us create and collaborate; seal friendships and align visions; Things that remind us of our humanity, who we can trust with our creations, who we can trust (full stop); and how pushing others to fly with their talent and write, paint, draw, shoot, sing, et. al, while not being able to get off the couch because of a severe case of ennui, will be the very thing that will blast your grand piano feet to pieces and help you get up and catch some sun.

A few posts ago, I celebrated a proud moment. Ishha14 and I, along with collaborated and came up with this: : The Weight of an Empty Fist. Text by Anastasia Crespo. Photo by Paula Guinto. I was really so happy to have Ishha14’s poetry out there beyond the classroom, a poetry fest and our school Literary Magazine. Not to diminish getting published that way, not at all. But there’s nothing like being acknowledged and recognized and affirmed by another great artist/poet to know that literature is meant to be read by many, shared and celebrated. That it’s worth it for Ishha14, now that’s an awesome moment to witness for any teacher. I was of course humbled by the fact that I could be part of it in whatever way and really, that was the other worth it thing I did over the Holy Week break which I forgot to mention. The simple act of asking a good friend if we could contribute to her awesome site made all the difference. When she said, “Yes, show me the stuff and see from there.” I was ecstatic. For that alone, it will forever make sense to me why I opened up a new Facebook Account after being on an FB fast for two years.

And I know I’ve said it before, I will say it again, poetry saves lives. Now, match that with photography, good friends (Joey Tandem and @dopamine_junkie), risk takers (Ishha14, Joey Tandem and @dopamine_junkie), a communal and intense love for words and images and creating and sharing, and we move from one glorious post and proud moment ,to these:

Bluesy Mood: Joey Tandem’s words : Modulus. Text by Paul Lapid. Photo by Mark Montalban.

Lock all the windows : Wary of Windows. Photo by Paula Guinto

The end is near, even for paper cranes

I am very honored to have a life surrounded by creative and talented outliers who have artistic integrity, big hearts and extraordinary minds. And having the opportunity to collaborate with some of them, an awesome 21st century treat. Joey Tandem and I are looking forward to future pieces that might make the cut — his words, my images; my verses, his rendering; my rendering…you get the picture. We also asked a few of our other students to get their stuff (and well, parents’ consent) ready so that we can send in their stellar pieces as well. I am especially excited for more of @dopamine_junkie’s words and her sharing the many stories my photos have somehow whispered to her. This is not just how art is created, this is also how friendships are formed and strengthened to last lifetimes. Thank you for this , G.

Anyway, here’s to weird seasons that wipe us out; pushing us down and allowing us to swirl and almost drown underwater where, for moment, we can’t know where the surface is and the deep blue ends; only to make us follow the bubbles upwards, making our drenched heads emerge, back to where the sun shines and the oxygen comes easy for creatures like me.

Today, I woke up feeling and thinking differently, and just like that, the reset button of happy things allowed everything to fall into place and the swirling to stop.

grateful slice: creativity and collaboration

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