Sunday, April 05, 2020

In Search of Lessons: A Deep Introspection

In my previous article, I explicated how this pandemic would bring out the best and worst of people. Although my point purported to focus on the objectivity of it, I knew that the classification was probably more on the perspective of subjectivity rather than objectivity.

This Sunday, I am gifting myself with deep retrospection in search of lessons amidst chaos, suffering, and desensitized hearts.

Politics divide. The very nature is explicitly defined as, “the debate or conflict among individuals or parties having or hoping to achieve power.”

One of the most significant time in shaping my political principle started in college when I was chosen as a member of the Debate Team. It was an honor and also a huge responsibility. In hindsight, that was a defining moment learning how to build a strong proposition using substance of truth and evidence as the foundation of argument. The process was very structured and we were taught sensibly on how to use authoritative sources versus general understanding. Then I was elected as President of the Debate Society which further shaped my belief. Writing the Articles of Organization and By Laws often reminded me how we were bound by rules of law or else we would be transported back to the primitive world where the sword decided the law.

What cemented my principles on politics happened during my days as a student of Doctor of Jurisprudence. It could be summed up as upholding what’s true, just and fair based on the fundamentals of the laws of the land.

Politics is not always true, just and fair but its existence is governed by laws, no matter how ill-timed sometimes. Look at the division it caused to friends and families around the world. Social media is toxic because it was not designed for politics but for personal connection. Nobody acts as interlocutor and helps people lay argument which is based on logical consistency and factual accuracy. Everything is an opinion which makes it a perfect breeding ground for expression of ‘general understanding’ based on fake news, propaganda, and malicious intent. The result? Character attack when the other side could not engage in an intellectual discourse.

I came from a family with 11 children. When we were all studying, life was hard. My father was clear about it, “I have nothing to leave you as a legacy except education.” The words were deeply embedded that I made sure to toil day and night to finish my studies. My Master’s Degree in Education is not a chip in my shoulder that I carry but an honor that I treasure. It is the fruit of hard work and personal sacrifices of my parents and older siblings.

One of the slums in Metro Manila depicting helplessness amidst poverty. 

In one of the documentaries I watched, poverty is convenient for politics. I am not going to delve on this further (you may watch the videos here), except to say that where I came from, quality education is a privilege not a right. The effect is seen with the abundance of propagation of ignorance and chaos.

“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

Politics gives you power. The sad thing about this, politics is based on a very old system. If you like watching the Game of Thrones, it is a mirror that reflects the true nature of politics and power. Idealists comes in with high hopes and promises only to be corrupted later on. Those who come out with unscathed principles are rare.

Yesterday, I was attacked personally and cursed for engaging on a post which I thought was a logical discourse. The comment embellished with hatred capitalized on the fact that; I commented in English, and I live in United States. I guess, if you are a Filipino and you speak in English AND you live in United States, you should be ashamed of it? The logic is incomprehensible. I was asked, “Who the ‘f (obscene word) are you?’ and, “You are dumb.” I could have opted to tell him that I have almost 300 awards on my name, educated kids around the world and taught them critical thinking skills and comprehension, and enumerate my educational qualifications. But, I chose not to reply.

My silence is not a sign of lack of knowledge but of wisdom to know when to speak. It was a humble time to remind myself that spreading positivity is a choice. My reply might be full of logical truth and substance of facts but by feeding his hatred, I would be forgetting the most essential thing in life and that is to spread positivity. The world is chaotic enough and the spirit of positivity is the best choice that I could embrace. It is a good thing to remember that, “Silence at the proper season is wisdom, and better than any speech.”

Politics divide. Power corrupts. Poverty is (usually) convenient for politics. However, it is imperative to remember, there’s power in positivity amidst the poverty of sound spirit and mind. Kindness is free. Compassion is a choice. 

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Five Important Thoughts to Ponder on the Corona Virus Pandemic

“Ad meliora.” Toward better things.

The whole world is a massive Titanic ghastly sinking with the unprecedented spread of the virus infecting thousands of people. Even in the movie where everything is usually ostentatious, most Titanic passengers fend for themselves except for the violinists who continued playing amidst chaos and fight for survival. I am sure, majority of the people are feeling the same thing right now-fighting for survival.

The situation is overwhelming and even the information could be suffocating especially if you are one of those forced to “stay home to stay safe”. Amidst this chaos, it is important to remind ourselves that Coronavirus pandemic will be over. It is not a question of ‘if’, but “when”.

This is indeed a scary time but my faith has not faltered at all. I am staying positive that this unforeseen events that we found ourselves are temporal and soon we would be back to normal (Although we might have a different perspective what’s normal when that time comes).


Pandemic brings out the best and worst of people. The sudden closures of schools left so many families with dilemma how and when to get their next meals. Thankfully, officials jumped in and filled the needs of the community. When everything is falling and failing, kindness matters. Think about the first responders who are putting others before themselves. The world would be so lost without them to save us from this chaos. Then, there's the worst side of humanity- hoarding food, discrimination to people from Asian descent, and of course endless blaming as to whose fault it is. How are we coping up with the best and the worst of humanity? When this is all over, are we going to appreciate more our health providers? Are we going to be kinder on how we deal with workers at the grocery stores? Are we going to be more empathetic to other people from the other side of the world and be concern when things like this happen?


Happiness is usually equated with money and fame. To be catapulted in a situation where we did not have control was quite scary. Health and family are usually set aside to deal with the usual hustle and bustle of the daily lives- work, bills, travel, gadgets, and more bills. It took a virus to realign everything in our lives. Suddenly, we are thrown into oblivion without the movie theaters, restaurants, sports stadiums, and in some places even playgrounds were closed. We are forced to talk more to our friends, to our families, and to focus our energies on things which used not to matter. When this is all over, would there be a shift with the paradigm of where we focus our priorities?


This morning, David and I went out to get some groceries for a relative whose husband is sick and been dealing with chemo. The hardest thing was dropping off the stuff and not being able to give each other a hug. Without a doubt, this pandemic separated families because of variety of reasons. Some health providers had to stay in a different place to protect their families. Some people had to work more hours to meet the demand of a panicking society. The saddest reality is the loss of thousands of families who would not even have the time to grieve. No man is an island. We need each other to survive. Relationship is a link that connects each of us. When this is all over, are we going to value more each member of our family and take each day as if it were the last?


Suffrage is a right but it is also a responsibility. When this is all over, we need to discern the important obligation bestowed upon us to choose the leaders of the society. When you are told to stay home, the whole responsibility of your survival is put on their shoulders. It is an important realization that we need leaders who care and leaders who have compassion to ordinary members of the society.


To feel like you’re suddenly drowning is a normal feeling. Cry if you must but never give up. Human kind has been in existence for millions of years. No virus would defeat us. Remember, when Pandora opened a jar left in her care containing sickness, death and many other unspecified evils which were then released into the world, one thing was left behind- HOPE. Let us use the power of HOPE to look at the future with positivity. When this is all over, let us always remember the power of positivity and how it sees as through.

This, too, shall pass. Ad meliora. Toward better things.

Friday, April 19, 2019

An Expat’s Guide to One Day in Singapore

ne of the most difficult part of my experience being an expat was processing or renewing the work visa. International schools in Indonesia only trust agencies in Singapore so that means going on a two-hour flight. During my stay in Jakarta as an expat teacher, I flew to Singapore about ten times for varied reasons. The first time of course was the most challenging one. 

Singapore is a first world country in Asia. Through the years, it has maintained its reputation as the best airport in the world. It was a bit intimidating the first time I stepped on the airport because it’s so huge. The title of being the best in the world is not without merit though, I remember an employee approaching me and guiding me everywhere that I wanted to go. She explained that there were instances when passengers missed their flights because they could not find their way so there are employees like her to offer help. 

So, what can you do in one day in Singapore? In most of my travels in Singapore just for the sole purpose of processing visa, I was there for one day only. Thankfully, the transportation service in the country is top in the world so you have enough time to go to different places in just one day. Generally speaking, taxi services are way better in Singapore than other countries but it’s too expensive. The first time I rode a taxi, I paid almost 26 dollars from the airport to the location of the agency! I did not know that you could pay 10 dollars for an EZ link tourist pass for one day. The best way to get around in Singapore is via its MRT subway system. It is very efficient, clean and affordable. The underground network has lines that stretch across the entire city. MRT also operates bus routes that can get you just about anywhere on the island.

Just a reminder though, Singapore is considered to be one of the most expensive city in the world to live in. Things are not cheap but it’s all worth it. It is bursting to the seams with impressive attractions (as seen in the movie- Crazy Rich Asians). Here are the top places that you can visit in just one day:

1. The Merlion at Marina Bay Sands and Singapore Flyer- This is the city’s symbol and gives you such a beautiful panoramic view of everything beautiful in Singapore including the 5.5 billion Marina Bay Sands complex. It is the focal point of the bay and it is definitely not a cheap place to stay gauging from its worth. Even if you won’t be able to watch its spectacular light show at 8:00 P.M., it is still worth visiting.

2. Chinatown- this place is known for gastronomic delights but I used to go there not to indulge in Chinese cuisines but to shop. They have varied selection of clothes and shoes. In fact, I still have a pair that I was able to bring here in the U.S. and I still wear up to this day.

3. Gardens by the Bay- This is a huge, futuristic park in the bay area of Singapore. Again, the movie Crazy Rich Asians showed this in many scenes. There are hundreds of trees and plants and the place also offers an impressive skywalk over the gardens.

4. Orchard Road- If you love shopping, this is the place to go. It is the epicenter of shopping and similar to Oxford Street or Hong Kong’s Nathan Road. If you are a Filipino, this is where you will find the best mall for authentic Filipino products- Lucky Plaza. Jollibee- known to be the best of the Philippines is located in this mall and draws both foreigners and Filipinos.

5. Changi Airport- If you are scared of missing your flight, staying in the airport is a treat in itself. Being the best in the world, it offers various activities that would keep you occupied the whole day. It has world class shopping, free computer used, pools, garden, and other amazing features that no other airports offer. 

Singapore is a prime location for tourist activities. One day is not enough to experience its beauty. 

“Don’t listen to what they say. Go see.” 

Singapore, an island city-state off southern Malaysia, is a global financial center with a tropical climate and multicultural population. The city is bursting in seams with different attractions and boosts the best airport in the world.

Monday, April 08, 2019

Fly to Makassar and Spice Your Life with Picturesque Sceneries and Distinct Gastronomic Delight

My experience as an expat in Jakarta, Indonesia was filled with nostalgic memories beyond the confines of the classrooms. I was blessed to indulge myself in various travels that helped me to totally immersed to the country’s culture and traditions. Conversely, it also opened the opportunity for me to taste the best gastronomic delights that Indonesia is famously known for. Flying to Makassar was one of the best travels that I had wandering in the quaint city and delicious cuisines. 

End of the school year means very stressful days of processing papers of the students so the travel came as a way to alleviate it. The trip was a generous gift from the parent of one of our students. Our student’s mom booked our flights and the hotel where we stayed. Her family also ensured that we got to visit all the tourist spots that Makassar's known for. The airport was really impressive and could compete with the most known tourist destination- Bali.

We stayed in a new hotel located right in the city and we have beautiful view from our bedroom. I remember waking up in the morning and just looking down at the city. 

Makassar is a maelstrom of diverse ethnic group. It is the largest city in eastern Indonesia and the capital city of South Sulawesi. Remnants of the Dutch colonization was evident with the historical sites all over the city. There’s the 17th Century Fort Rotterdam where you would find Museum Negeri La Galigo. It was one of the first places that we visited. As expected, it was full of beautiful stories dating back the time of Dutch colonization.

Our trip was a lavish decadent with plethora of culinary treats. My student’s mom made sure that in every meal, she introduced us to at least one famous dish in Indonesia.

The feast did not end with filling our bellies, there were also very relaxing walks along the boardwalk waterfront, architectural landmarks, and a trip to an island.

The island hopping was my favourite. We spent the whole day lazing at the white sand beach, snorkelling, and again pampering ourselves with delicious foods. The sand was so fine but the water was a bit scary when one of the divers emerged with bloody foot. He stepped on one of the sharp corals while swimming. My student’s mom made rented one of the floppy beach slippers so we could swim without worrying.

Another part of the trip that I truly deemed unforgettable was the visit to Bantimurung Park with meandering river that feeds the majestic waterfall. Beautiful hordes of colourful butterflies surrounded us while listening to the sound of cascading waterfalls. The park also offers the 200-old caves in the entire Bantimurung Karst system. You could also go on hiking. The park has an entrance fee and foreigners need to pay more.

Makassar was absolutely the authentic poetic definition of nature. There were no words needed because its picturesque sceneries elucidated the rhythm itself. We also enjoyed the magical sunrise and sunset. It was so beautiful and meaningful. 

When we had our last meal in one of the best restaurants, it was a feast of wide array of cuisines that are the best I have ever had. 

More than the experience, I was at awe with the generosity that was shown to us during our travel. Indonesians are the kindest people I have ever known. In every place we visited, I was reminded why moving as an expat there was the best decision I have ever done in my whole life. Leaving Makassar was sad but then, it gave me special memories to reminisce in a lifetime. 

Makassar, also known as Ujung Padang, is a port city on eastern Indonesia’s Sulawesi island. Inside its 17th-century Dutch colonial Fort Rotterdam is the Museum Negeri La Galigo, housing local exhibits. A promenade along Losari Beach is known for its seafood restaurants. Traditional pinisi sailing ships pack the harbor of Pelabuhan Paotere. Offshore, snorkeling is possible on the coral reefs of Samalona Island. -Source: Wikipedia

“Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that’s okay. The journey changes you; it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you. Hopefully, you leave something good behind.” – Anthony Bourdain


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