It was Mahatma Gandhi who said ““Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” This quote resonated on the day a million people marched to Luneta. Okay, it was not exactly one million but that is not the point. The message was tweeted or re-shared a million times.

You might ask “Why do you think thousands responded to the call to march to Luneta that was sent out via social media?”

command center singing

It was simply outrage that our government officials are pocketing their hard-earned money. Each one of us are taxpayers whether we pay it in one form of the other such as income tax or VAT. We expect government to use our money for the purposes it was intended. Citizens expect our money will be used for the benefit of the Filipino people and not for the privileged few. Facebook event went viral because it is the nature of social media. This is Generation C, the connected Citizen . We are not only connected but greatly informed and empowered. I didn’t see the original post. I first learned of the event because it was shared by my friend Jane who normally does not attend rallies. One (the original poster) shared a compelling wall post that connects with people and connects those people with other people. The message was passed on and it resonated with our respective communities .

coa findings on PDAF

And the message, Enough is enough. 1)Scrap Pork 2)Account for All Spent Pork 3)Probe/punish Abusers of Pork.

Once I accepted the invite in Facebook, the rest of my friends chimed in and so with their friends and their respective friends. I felt it was my responsibility to ensure that my friends who accepted the invite felt safe to join. This is the main reason why I answered the call to volunteer.

command center

I did not expect to take charge of the Command Center but I was ready to be flexible. The truth is I wanted to be where the action was , to be with the people and to share my views on why the pork barrel needed to be abolished. Being stuck in a Command Center just blew all my plans away. To top it all, I will miss taking photos of the various banners and gimmicks.

I managed to take this meaningful “Kawatan” video of Jograd de la Torre though.

I know I missed many photo opportunities but I am thankful that my friends were all part of the change they wanted to see.

at the command center

After the Million People March, the next question is “what next”? It is the time to engage with friends on what you know about the pork barrel and continue to push the message “Scrap the Pork Barrel”.

1. Know what the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) is.

what is PDAF
Click to enlarge
2. Let us remain vigilant and continue the march. We can push for the Full Disclosure Act that demands full transparency from the agencies of government. Rally once more and maybe if Congress hears the deafening cries of every Filipino (there’s almost 98 million of us now) they might just pass the Freedom of Information Bill (FOI) once and for all. We can also knock on Malacañang’s door, or at PNoy‘s residence to remind him of his promise three years ago to pass the bill.

My personal goal is to continue engaging with the legislators on twitter using the hashtag #PDAFKalampag, attend the Senate Blue Ribbon Hearings on the Pork Barrel Scam every Thursday and lastly, to share articles about good governance through Blog Watch.

Change starts today. Now na! That is why you must be the change you wish to see in the world.

“We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future” Franklin D. Roosevelt

international youth dayHappy International Youth Day. The 2013 theme is “Youth Migration: Moving Development Forward .”

My daughter is one of the many young people who make up a significant share of the global number of international migrants. With easy access to opportunities that are open online, it is inevitable that one of them chose to study and work in a foreign land. While I am aware that opportunities may be invaluable, I worry about her safety. Young migrants face risks that may lead to unfavorable situations including discrimination and exploitation. Nothing is lost when our children leave. When they return home, these young migrants may apply their skills and knowledge to enhance development in their respective countries.

“The 2013 observance of International Youth Day will raise awareness of the opportunities and risks associated with youth migration, share knowledge and information stemming from recent research and analysis on this topic, and engage young people in discussions on their migration experiences.”

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon say it is ” important to emphasize the positive contribution young migrants make to societies of origin, transit and destination – economically and by enriching the social and cultural fabric. Most work hard to earn a living and improve their circumstances. The remittances they send to support families in their home countries are a major contributor to economies worldwide.” The 2013 World Youth Report (WYR) on Youth Migration and Development will be launched today. The Report will offer a multidimensional perspective of the life experiences of youth migrants, as well as some insights on the role of youth participation in migration-development policymaking and practice.


The call by the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is that stakeholders like the tertiary education sector should do their bit to promote the rights of all young migrants and to maximize the development potential of youth migration.

The youth should be be aware about their rights while academic institutions should maximize the development potential of youth migration.

““Education will need to play a significant role in finding the answers.” How we educate our communities “to participate effectively in the economies of the 21st century and at the same time educate an increasingly diverse society to feel some kind of cultural identity will surely be a hallmark of educational performance”.

Parents can start in their own homes.

One of your children may one day go abroad to study or work. It is important to impart resiliency , the ability to cope and adapt to change. Resiliency is the number one skill they need to learn. Being resilient allows children and youth to overcome difficulties in their lives. What can we do to help prepare our children for the road ahead? I wrote more about it Resiliency is a no. 1 Life skill where I talk about powerful thinking tools to equip them to face adversity:

1.Tell them there is always a choice
2. Teach gratitude
3. Teach them to master a skill

Parents play a significant role in the development of their children. The hand that rocks the cradle may not rule the world, but it certainly makes it a better place, at least for our children. They will be our future leaders one day.


Oprah Winfrey says she recently became a victim of racism “when a shop assistant in Switzerland refused to show her a £24,477 handbag saying it would be “too expensive” for her.”

When Winfrey insisted again, the woman replied: “No, no you don’t want to see that one, you want to see this one because that one will cost too much. You will not be able to afford that.”

One can only feel like a victim when you allow such to happen. Perhaps Oprah felt she was victimized. Whether real or imagined. she is entitled to her feelings of disappointment. The thing is that as a shopper, it is just darn annoying when shop assistants refuse to show you an item you are interested to buy or consider. It has happened to me once in Hongkong. I truly wanted to buy jewelry because I was told it is more affordable in Hongkong. Unfortunately, this shop owner didn’t want to bring it out of the glass case. She just wanted me to examine it from a distance. My first thought was “does she think I will steal it?” No, I didn’t think so because she bolted the door. Then I thought , perhaps she thinks I just want to look and not buy. It is a risk that shops need to take. I could have been a sale but her snobby attitude was just a turn-off. I left. She was just glad to show me the door. What a snob.

What is the use of putting an item on display? If shop owners don’t want it to be touched, then just hide it or put a sign “For display only. Not to be handled.” . Shops should have brand new stock in the inventory since potential customers will want to hold or feel the item.

Too bad, the shop may have a lost a sale. “Wouldn’t it be nice if the only thing salespeople focused on in stores is providing good service and the green of your money?”
Lesson learned.

Perhaps, shop owners should re-think their snobbish or “(insert here)” attitude . They can learn a thing or two from Robert Scoble.

“In Silicon Valley I learned a different lesson: always treat people in t-shirts, worn jeans, and flip flops like billionaires. To many of my competitors those people looked poor and not worth taking the time to deal with.

“When I worked at a consumer electronics store in the 1980s that’s just what I did and time after time I won sales that my competitors lost because they assumed those people were poor. I remember one guy who parked his supercar around the corner when he first came in just to see if he’d get good service without anyone knowing he had big bucks (I later got to drive that car, after winning his confidence, which was a big thrill).

“I don’t understand people who work retail who don’t want to show someone something. What harm is there in letting someone poor touch a $40,000 handbag anyway? Even if they were poor, you are helping them dream and they’ll remember you if they ever are rich.

“Plus, everyone knows someone poor, even the hyper rich. Maybe they influence someone who has the money.

“Racist or not, it’s just poor business to assume someone can’t afford what you are showing.

“I guess that’s why I keep pushing Rackspace Hosting to give free cloud computing to startup entrepreneurs as part of our startup program at . Yeah, many of them won’t be able to afford a lot, but you never know who will start the next YouTube (which was hosted on Rackspace before it sold to Google).”

A child will always remember their yaya

Children will always remember with fondness their caregiver as much as they remember the love and warmth of their parents. One of my daughters told me they still remember their yaya (nanny) . Their yaya also remembers them especially during holidays. They still visit us at home and even bring gifts to my now-adult children. I am glad their yayas are financially independent. One even has her own restaurant with some dishes learnt from her more than 10 years with us. Though the restaurant is not that fancy, it gives her an income that is more than a maid’s salary. I recall also the yaya of my beloved Luijoe. When she left our household, she would call every year to greet my little boy. Then in July 13, 2000, she called once again only to her the devastating news that our Luijoe was gone. She wept.

There is no denial that there is a love that exists between the yaya and their ward. It is also one reason, I never had domestic helper issues because I recognize that bond. They stayed long enough to watch them grow or they made sure that they left a kapalit in case they had to leave.

auntie terry of Ilo Ilo

Ilo Ilo the Movie inspired by the real Auntie Terry

It is no wonder that Singaporean director Anthony Chen’s ILO ILO (which won the Caméra d’Or at this year’s Cannes Film Festival ) based his story from the domestic helper of his childhood days whom he and his two younger brothers called Auntie Terry. She worked with the Chen family for eight years from 1989 until the Asian financial crisis. The movie “Ilo Ilo,” “explores the lives of Singapore’s workaholic, ambitious middle classes and the domestic help on which they depend”.

Set in Singapore, ILO ILO chronicles the relationship between a family of three and their newly arrived Filipino maid, Teresa, who has come like many other Filipino women in search of a better life.

The entire family needs to adapt to the presence of this stranger, which further threatens their already strained relationship. Still, Teresa and Jiale, the young and troublesome boy she cares for, soon form a bond. Their unique connection continues to develop and soon she becomes an unspoken part of the family.

But this is 1997 and the Asian Financial Crisis is starting to be felt in all the region…

ilo ilo the movie 1

There is a poignant scene where the mother puts Auntie Terry in her place. “I am his mother, not you”. Of course, the child will always feel close to their nanny. It is natural mothers feel that tinge of jealousy when their ward gets close to the nanny. I did too but I would rather that my yayas love my children like a mother would do than be indifferent. I brush those pangs of jealousy and make sure that I have my own mommy time with my children.

ilo ilo the movie

I found it touching that Anthony Chen still remembers their Auntie Terry. He soon searched for the real Auntie Terry known as Teresita Sojonia. “The successful search for Auntie Terry” did not take long and soon a radio reporter went to visit her.

After 16 years of separation, Anthony and his youngest brother Christopher visited the village of San Miguel in Iloilo Province on July 23 to be reunited with their Auntie Terry.

reunion with auntie terry

Auntie Terry raised them well too

It was an emotional meeting for Anthony and Christopher as they hugged their Auntie Terry. Who wouldn’t be touched by this scene? As I read the account of their reunion, in the Ilo Ilo Facebook page, I could not help but tear.

Netizens who read the account were just as emotional and touched by the brothers’ visit. Lovee Gomez thanked them ” for loving Auntie Terry as a family member. May God bless you with more success in life because of your loving hearts!” .

The plight of the OFWs

ofw in singapore

Charles J Tan felt sad that ” they gave their years to raise our children but end up giving up a future of their own. this does not make sense. there has to be a better way to make it sustainable for domestic helpers who come from the Philippines and Indonesia. ” Even Luke Matthew teared ” realizing the sad fate of our OFW working hard to provide a bright future to their family at the expense of losing their own”.

Estilofil Abagatnan says it so well . She opines that “there are so many auntie Terry in our country, work so hard in a foreign land, no family and bundles of friends, only faith. Faith that their hard work will bring comfort and success for the family back home,its their inspiration, that’s their priority, and they forget their own self. But there are few who succeed in the end of the day. Mostly are those whose family value everything, and set the same goal to help each other. Teresita Sajonia sowed seeds of love to her family and the Chen. So sad that her harvest from her own land was not enough to support her for 16 yrs. but her love to the Chen family give her value that better than gold. as she was remembered and never forgotten.
Blessed are those who give love in return.”

Ilo Ilo movie

There is a story behind the movie which brings us to carefully study the plight of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) when they return home to the Philippines. There is a story of love and devotion. Distance may have separated them but the love of their caregiver will always remain in their heart. Hopefully, the movie will open the eyes of the OFWs to save enough for their retirement and for the government to provide initiatives for the OFWs to invest their hard-earned money.

The movie has such a lovely and touching theme. I can hardly wait for the movie to be shown in the Philippines. Meantime, watch the Ilo Ilo trailer

Here is the complete story from Facebook page of Ilo Ilo the movie, Lianhe Zaobao , the Chinese-language newspaper of Singapore, covered the story and here is the translation.

Singaporean director Anthony Chen’s ILO ILO, which won the Caméra d’Or at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, is inspired by the domestic helper from his childhood whom he and his two younger brothers called Auntie Terry. After the film won the Caméra d’Or, Ilonggas (Iloilo locals) began a search for the real Auntie Terry, and it did not take long for them to find her. After 16 years of separation, Anthony and his youngest brother Christopher recently visited the village of San Miguel in Iloilo Province to be reunited with her.

Sometimes, even after years of separation, there are those who are destined to meet again. On Sunday 23rd July, in a small hut in the village of San Miguel in Iloilo Province, Anthony and Christopher were reunited with the real Auntie Terry after a 16-year separation. Words were unnecessary as they embraced. It was an emotional moment for all who were present.

The woman whom the Chen boys called ““Auntie Terry” is Teresita D. Sajonia. She’s only 56, but looks a lot older. Her clothes are ragged, her hair greying and her face is full wrinkles. What happened to her in the last 16 years? Why was she living in poverty, in a run-down hut filled with the foul odour of animal excrement? Why was she afraid to talk, when she used to speak fluent English? Anthony was looking for answers to those questions when Auntie Terry was found, because the Auntie Terry from his memory was a cultured, young, and beautiful lady who loved to dress up and listen to cassette tapes of ““Evita” and ““Miss Saigon”.

What happened to Auntie Terry may very well be a very common example of domestic helpers from the Philippines or Indonesia – They work hard to send their money home, and neglect to look after their own future. Teresita’s older brother has a house nearby, with electricity and television, but her own house is probably the most dilapidated in the village. One might as well call it a chicken shack.

Her house is roughly the size of a regular HDB room, but built with wooden planks and bamboo, with no proper walls. There is no door; the floor is muddy, and the gaps between the bamboo are filled with spider webs. The kitchen shares the same space as the living room, and there stands only a wooden table and a bench. There is no fridge, cabinet or gas. Her bedroom is raised on a small platform above the floor, and the bed is also built with wood and bamboo. There is no mattress, only a ragged pillow, some blankets and a mosquito net. The space between the house and the floor is used to raise chickens, which explains the foul odour permeating the house.

The entire house is lit with only a small light bulb. The TV has been broken for three years but she cannot afford a new one, and an old radio is the only electronic appliance in the house. The ““toilet” is a short distance away, and she must walk through an unsheltered, muddy path to reach. There is no modern flushing system or electricity. The drinking water she consumes every day is not filtered pipe water, but well water from the ground.

16 years ago, at age 40, Teresita decided to return home due to health issues. Initially she stayed with her sister in the city. But the house became too crowded and Teresita decided to return to the village. During the ten years she worked in Singapore, she sent home majority of her salary, and only had 80,000 pesos (roughly SGD2300) set aside for herself. After building a cabin and buying some livestock, she has little money left. She wakes up at six in the morning every day to work. But as she has little food to eat and her rice bucket is often empty, she has no extra money to use to take care of her crops. ““Sometimes I only have two meals a day, only bread,” she says.

She takes her chickens to the market to sell, but she’s really bartering her chickens for fish and this is the only way she gets to eat fish. She has no refrigerator so fish cannot be kept for too long. She refers to two old rattan baskets hanging on the ceiling as her fridge. The baskets are actually used to store the only food she has, otherwise the chickens and ducks will eat them. The land she lives on was left to her by her parents, but the land given to her elder brother is much better. But she says she has never regretted helping her family with the money she earned by being a maid.

Living in such conditions, instead of making a life in the city reflects Teresita’s helplessness and lack of confidence. She had stopped speaking English for a long time, and thus was very shy and reluctant to speak to visitors in English. She tells us she is in poor health, and she’s not sure what she can do in the city. She planned to be a nurse-midwife before she went to Singapore, but did not end up taking the exam. Even after she returned home, she could not fulfill her dream as the nephews whose studies she sponsored offered her no financial help. Living in poverty, she has not seen a doctor in 16 years, and turned to traditional herbal treatments whenever she fell sick. On this trip, the Chen brothers gave her some money, as well as vitamin supplements, to help with her health, if only for a small part.

Teresita and her partner Mr. Jhunie have suffered from myopia and long-sightedness for many years, but they couldn’t afford glasses. When the Chens brought them to The SM Store – the biggest shopping centre in Iloilo city – she wished for a pair of glasses. That was also the first time they have visited the shopping centre. Other than glasses, the Chens also bought them some clothes, t-shirts, jeans and shoes. When introducing her partner Mr. Jhunie, Teresita told us he was her neighbour and she got to know him after she returned from Singapore. Mr. Jhunie’s wife left him a long time ago, but he could never afford to get a divorce.

Teresita did not start working for the Chens through an agency. She was working for a family nearby for two years. Her work permit was expiring soon and she heard that the Chens were looking for a domestic helper to take care of the three boys (Anthony’s mother had just delivered the youngest son but planned to return to work after a month.) Accompanied by a friend, Teresita knocked on the door of the Chens for an interview. After hearing favourable comments from their neighbours, the Chens hired her. “It was really fate that brought her to our family,” says Anthony.

After working for the Chens for eight years, Teresita returned to Iloilo, and the Chens have not hired a domestic helper ever since. After she returned to her village, Teresita missed the three boys very much. She didn’t marry and has no children. Up till today, she still carries photos of the three boys with her, as if they were her own children. She wrote to the Chens once, but the family moved to a different address and they lost contact.

Anthony is the eldest in the family. The second, Justin, could not take time from work for the visit. The youngest, Christopher, was closest with Teresita. “We were sharing a bunk bed, and every night she would pat me on my back until I fell sleep,” he recalls.

Christopher recently graduated from the University of British Columbia and will be returning to Vancouver for work in August. When he knew that Aunty Terry had been found, he insisted on coming with Anthony to visit her. After this visit, he is very concerned about her living conditions. When she gets older, it will be even harder. “There are many domestic helpers working in Singapore. We thought when they return home, they’ll be able to afford a big house, or run a small business. But the truth is that’s not always the case,” says Anthony.

Mr. Charles L. Lim, head of Selrahco Management, was inspired to find the real Auntie Terry after hearing about ILO ILO. With his help, including getting sponsorship from an airline company, both Aunty Terry and Mr. Jhunie will be attending the Singapore premiere of ILO ILO. This will be the first time she is visiting a foreign country after 16 years, and to watch a movie in a cinema.

Photos from the Ilo Ilo facebook page.

Don’t walk behind me; I may not lead. Don’t walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.
– Albert Camus


Of course you know one of my advocacy is The Compassionate Friends (TCF). Woe me , I should really be more careful when I promote TCF. Maybe in my eagerness to reach out, I readily gave out my cellphone number without thinking of the repercussions. Perhaps the word “The Compassionate Friends” caught the fancy of lonely hearts. I can’t help but shake my head over this text message

Gud pm p0, gus2 q0 p0 sna mging friend, ng PASIONTE FRIEND…

meaning “Good afternoon. I would like to be a friend of the PASSIONATE FRIEND”

I receive countless text messages screaming “Can I be your friend?” I am not talking of a few text messages. I am talking of hundreds like these. Oh dear, it goes to show how friendship is important.

In high school, I overlooked the value of friendship. Maybe because I was too shy. I let my high school insecurities get into me to the point I avoided the “popular girls”. I know better now.

I value my friendships. Old and new friends.

The adult friendships can be a good place for us to learn to have fun and appreciate how much fun we can have with a friend. Often our choice of friends will reflect the issues we’re working on. My friends these days are healthy individuals who share a common bond with me and vice-versa . Giving and receiving support help both of us grow.

Some of my friendships go through cycles throughout the years.

Some friendships trail off when one friend outgrows us. There are trials and tests in friendships but some friendships will last a lifetime.

Today, I will reach out to a friend. I will let myself enjoy the comfort, joys and enduring quality of my friendships.

paranoid “Are you paranoid , mom?”.

One of my daughters noticed the red and green colored fire extinguishers I placed in every room of the house. I ignored her question as I pointed to the fire exits in their respective bedrooms and gave a quick lecture on how to use the fire extinguishers.

One daughter asked, “if we’re gonna die, we’re gonna die”

I merely nodded.

One effect of losing a child , particularly if death is sudden and unexpected , is that we become newly aware of the fragility of life. If this tragedy can befall us, what next? We can become fearful, almost paranoid.

I became “slightly” paranoid after Luijoe’s death but I just kept that to myself in the early days of my grief journey.

When my girls used to live with me, I could not bear it if the girls didn’t send me text messages on their whereabouts. “Text me where you are. Call me if you’re on the way. Make sure the driver was not drinking .” are text messages that constantly barrage their cellphones. Thank goodness, these girls humor me all the time by reassuring me they are fine.

Yet I believe that I am not overdoing it as I still allow them to go out and have fun.

So to answer that question. Am I paranoid?

I really don’t want to give an impression to my daughters that I am afflicted with paranoia. But lately, TV reports on fire accidents have been bothering me. A few months ago, a bereaved mother advised me to install smoke alarms on the ceilings. She lost her daughter through a fire accident. It happens even to the best homes. Remember Gina de Venecia’s daughter who got trapped in her bedroom because of heavy steel grills in her windows? or those 3 family members that died of suffocation in their Corinthian Gardens’ home? I couldn’t find smoke alarms in hardware stores or I just didn’t know where to find it. So the next logical step was a thorough electrical wiring inspection and fire prevention means like the fire extinguishers and fire exits.

The news about crime in major television shows are just alarming. All I can do is pray for the safety of everyone.

In answer to the question of my daughter. “I am just being careful, dear.”

And that ended the discussion.

Image via