Monday, December 31, 2018

Prayer as We Enter the New Year

A Prayer as We Enter the New Year:

God of all time,
help us enter the New Year quietly,
thoughtful of who we are to ourselves and to others, mindful that our steps make an impact
and our words carry power.

May we walk gently.
May we speak only after we have listened well.

Creator of all life,
help us enter the New Year reverently,
aware that you have endowed
every creature and plant, every person and habitat with beauty and purpose.

May we regard the world with tenderness.
May we honor rather than destroy.

Lover of all souls,
help us enter the New Year joyfully,
willing to laugh and dance and dream,
remembering our many gifts with thanks
and looking forward to blessings yet to come.

May we welcome your lavish love.

May we cast off the small, vindictive god our fears have made.

May the grace and peace of Christ bless you now and in the days ahead.

By Vinita Hampton Wright

Sunday, December 30, 2018

2018 In Review: Author Visits and Book Launched at the MIBF 2018

2018 was also a productive year for me as an author. I was invited to do author talks and visited two schools of different backgrounds and grade levels.

In November, I had an Author Visit in Domuschola International School for their Middle Years and Diploma Program students. I was surprised that my book, A Tale of Two Dreams (Lampara) was chosen as a reading material in the Filipino A class. Meeting a former student from Xavier School was another pleasant surprise. The following month, I gave an Author Visit at Gan Etz Ha Haim where I told stories and read aloud my K-3 books to their preschoolers. One of the highlights of the visit for me was seeing the synagogue of the Jewish community, the only one in Metro in Manila.

In the middle of 2018, the article I wrote for Book Watch, the official magazine of the National Book Development Board saw publication. My writing featured the growing reading organisations in the regions as well as storytelling groups outside Metro Manila. To date, one of the featured groups, the Pilar Reading Center in Masbate has been recognised by Malacanang as a literacy advocacy group run by a public school teacher with support from the DepEd and Local Government Unit.

Lastly, as it is my goal every year, I have a book launched at the Manila International Book Fair. Read the back story of  Ino the Invincible and highlights of the launching at the MIBF.

So, as I bid thee goodbye to 2018, I look forward to a fruitful and productive 2019!

Friday, December 28, 2018

The Lighthouse Diary Entry 12: In Retrospect of 2018

Here now are posts I made about work and my librarian adventures at the Beacon Academy. I started the Lighthouse Diary in 2017 and so far, I am keeping the lighthouse lit as much as I can.

In this entry, I wrote about research and what it is as a concept. Needless to say, research is thinking and cognition. In April, I curated my entries and I realized how involved I am in the systems of thinking and teaching skills in the Academy. I often see myself as falling short of the expectations, but a closer look at the work I do as school librarian reveals how involved I am. In this post, I reflect on the library orientation and skills teaching I conducted at the beginning of the school year.

Now I figured that what is missing is a follow through and a regular meeting with students either in formal or informal instructional spaces. Aha. This is something I can work on for academic year 2019!

In September, I wrote about the Dr. Maris Diokno's talk and Pinoy Ako Blog's visit in the Academy. IT was a feel good experience for me as I saw how important librarians and archivists are in this age of  fake news and alternative facts. Finally, the McCann Youth study helped me gain perspective. If teachers are constantly challenged to student centered teaching, then school librarians are needed to support teachers on this challenge. Furthermore, the services and programs in school libraries have to be centered at the learners, adults included.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Metro Manila Film Festival Memories: Saving Sally (5 of 5)

Note: A repost, because I miss a really good Metro Manila Film Festival with a good and fair selection of movies.

Saving Sally
Director: Avid Liongoren
Rocketsheep Studio, 2016

When I first saw the movie teaser for Saving Sally over on Facebook, I immediately tagged my teen aged kids. They were excited to watch the movie. They have been planning on spending their Christmas money to watch it weeks before the Metro Manila Film Fest. On December 25th, we were lining up for tickets.

This very simple love story is so charming and pure that, I am recommending this for families with teenagers to watch and see together despite the phallic symbols that represent one of the characters. Spewing a few more of it when he speaks. This was done in context and one that my teen aged kids fully understood both as cinematic interpretation as well as a metaphor for people who are so full of themselves. Don't we meet those kind in real life? Like Marty, we see them as monsters and, yes, dickheads.

Which brings me now to enumerate what I enjoyed about the movie.

It doesn't lie. Totoo siya. Its agenda is not to offer amusement, shallow humor or an escapist joy. Funny because, the movie is a combination of animation and live action and yet, it shows how things really are. It is overflowing with monsters, fictional characters from comic books, robots from a long gone TV show of my childhood but its speaks of truths that are lasting. Good is good. Bad is bad. And then, there are the gray areas in between that we all need to deal with at some point in our lives.

Marty struggles to find a voice for his feelings for Sally.  His mom tells him that such issues can't be forced. Marty's dad lent advice and support at an arm's length. No wonder Marty turned out the way he is, the nice geeky guy whom you can always count on. Apparently, Marty needed a lot of growing up to do and in its wake, is heartbreak and a lot of adulting. Sally, for all her smarts and intrepid inventions, could not break free from the confines and cruelty of her surrogate parents. A victim of circumstance, she fell prey into the hands of Nick, the dickhead boyfriend, who took advantage of her vulnerability. See how valuable is the role of family in shaping one's identity? 

This only goes to show that Saving Sally has a lot to offer. Love takes time and if it is real, it finds a way. Courage is found in the depths of our fears. Redemption begins from a desire to save one's self. In the end, the geek gets the girl. Then again, in the beginning of the movie, it was the smart, artistic and weird girl who saved the geek. YAY! 

How Marty saved Sally is a feast for the senses. The visual metaphors are brilliantly done. I liked the floating sketches surrounding Marty and Sally. It pushed the plot forward. Their relationship is in suspended animation. They are neither friends nor lovers. The colors and lighting looked old, a lot of sepia and shades of brown in the back ground but this added texture  and a warmth enunciating the themes of the movie. Monsters drawn in black, white and graying hues emphasizing Marty's perspective and world view.The robots that Sally created and the city where she and Marty lives in are rendered in steampunk. This makes me want to give steampunk another try.

Watch out for the easter eggs. If you're from UP Diliman, you will appreciate and understand Zorro's appearance. There are designs of buildings that are reminiscent of old haunts in the campus. I have my comic book faves and it is such a delight to see its covers in the movie too. The names and labels of stores, commercial establishments and places in the city are identified with Pinoy wit and humor. Even the sound track is cool and tender, comforting and heart wrenching the next.

I hope the movie gets an extended run and distributed in more movie houses. With eight wonderful films this season of the Metro Manila Film Festival, we all need to pick the ones we want to watch and the ones we need to give a chance. This year, it is worth to spend 200 - 300 pesos for three to five movies in the roster. But if you can afford it, go watch all!

2018 In Review: Books Reviewed

As 2018 winds down to its last days, I continue writing my blog's year in reviews. This one is about the books I have read and posted a review on the blog.

Fiction and Non-Fiction Book Review   of High School Hacks is a DIY-survival Guide for students enrolled in the IB Program. Plus, it has a short review on Lian Hearn's The Storyteller's Daughters. One of the more memorable read I have this 2018 is the Sycthe Series by Neal Shusterman. Read my review of book 2, Thunderhead in this link.

The Holiday Season is a time when I also catch up on my reading. So, to recall, here are links to
Christmas romcom books and more Christmas romance books I read over the holiday break in 2017 but posted reviews in January 2018. I also received advance reader copies of ebooks. I reviewed ARC of Cora Seton's A Seal's Purpose, a contemporary romance series and a college preparatory guidebook ACT Prep.

Since 2016, I followed through two young adult series by Alwyn Hamilton, the Rebel in Sand series and Sabaa Tahir's Ember in the Ashes series. Hamilton's final installment to Rebel, Hero at the Fall was a satisfying closure to the series. Tahir's Reaper at the Gates is the deep breathe before the end and conclusion to Elias and Leia's adventure.

Sadly, I am only able to post two reviews of books by Filipino authors in the blog. Read Eric Ramos, Author of Productivong Librarianship and Emiliana Kampilan's Dead Balagtas. The later won a National Book Award last month. The hype over this book is real. But, I am still seated on my chair on this one as I have read books and graphic novels of this kind before.

And then, there are book reviews I posted in the blog from books I picked from our library. Dialogue and Humble InquiryHow Psychology WorksThe Demon Haunted World and Other BooksFormative Five are all good reads I shared with the Beacon Academy community as well as readers of the blog.

It's been a good reading year, judging from this list of book reviews. To think that I have not posted fiction I read during the second half of 2018 is saying a lot about the concerns and the work that kept me busy. Lined up for 2019 are Candy Gourlay's Bone Talk, Hello, Universe,  Still Me by Jojo Moyes, and From the Library of CS Lewis.

Happy sigh. I am giving myself a pat on the back.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Metro Manila Film Festival Memories: Ang Larawan (4 of 5)

Note: A repost, because I miss a really good Metro Manila Film Festival with a good and fair selection of movies.

Ang Larawan
Produced by Culturtain and Musicat
Direction by Loy Arcenas
Libretto by Rolando Tinio
Music by Ryan Cayabyab
From the original three act play of Nick Joaquin

I will try to keep this sweet and short since the movie, Ang Larawan, won Best Picture in the 2017 Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF) Gabi ng Parangal already. What is another rave review when all that is amazing and awe inspiring things have been said about the movie? But I want to put this on record. It was the ONLY movie I intended to watch in the MMFF this season.

I have had my fill of romcoms every MMFF. Vic Sotto and Vice Ganda are on TV five days of the week and social media is littered with news and features of young stars from GMA and ABS-CBN. I decided to be good to may heart and to take extra care for my soul. It had to be Nick Joaquin, Rolando Tinio, Ryan Cayabuab and Celeste Legaspi. When can I get this once in a lifetime chance of engaging with these artists in the most accessible art form but during the MMFF?

So, here are five things I love about Ang Larawan.

1. Bagay na bagay ang mga awitin sa bawat characters ng pelikula. I don't know which came first. Selecting the cast and giving them songs that fit their range and personalities, or arranging the songs for each actor's range and style? Pinag-isipan talaga! The production team obviously love their actors and Mr. C has great respect for all of them to be given such challenging and meaningful songs to sing.

2. The cast gave polished performances! There was no upstaging of actor 1 and actor 2. Each had their shinning moment. Rayver Cruz was not OP. Keribels ni Paulo Avelino ang song and dance number! Nag-enjoy ako sa cameo ni Ogie Alcasid. He looked very serious as a policeman, but his presence was comic relief, at least to me, in that particular scene where Candida is about to have her epic breakdown. Finally, nakapanood rin ako ng Pinoy movie na may ensemble cast na nag-gel lahat ng energies, dynamics, talents and artistic skills.

3. Ang ganda ng libretto ni Rolando Tinio. My favorite part was Don Perico's where he sang about life, like art, is intricate. Ang ganda sa Tagalog!

Hindi simple ang buhay katulad ng sining. 
May puwersang humuhubog sa ating landasin. 
Hindi tayo’ng may hawak sa kinabukasan. 
Nagmimiron ka lamang sa ‘yong kapalaran.”

4. The close up shots of each character were all very intriguing. Looking at the portrait that was never fully shown but was described differently by the one viewing it suggest mystery, and for the audience, voyeurism!

Needless to say, one's interpretation of art differs from another.

5. The film stayed true to the original material and although Tinio's translation have lost some of Joaquin's meaning and poetry in the process, Ang Larawan moved me to look inward and discover new insights about myself and the world.

I read the play in college and identified more with Candida. I saw the play on stage in the early 90s (at the International School Manila, of all places!) and I was disturbed by the nostalgia, especially the melancholic narration of Bitoy Camacho. Twenty and three years after, Paula sings about making decisions. Emancipation. Detachment. I know what she means. I understand it too well. I feel it too!


Photo source:

Monday, December 24, 2018

Metro Manila Film Festival Memories: English Only Please (3 of 5)

Note: A repost, because I miss a really good Metro Manila Film Festival with a good and fair selection of movies.

English Only, Please
Director: Dan Villegas
Story and Screenplay: Dan Villegas
Antoinette Jafaone and Anjeli Pessumal

Yes. I jumped on the bandwagon and I was not disappointed at all.

What worked

1. Derek Ramsay and Jennylyn Mercado. It was my first time to see a movie starred by these two actors. I confess, I had no idea how good an actor Jennylyn Mercado is. In the movie, she plays a simple girl but her presence screams star appeal. She lights up the screen like a 24 karat diamond ring. No wonder she's the one chosen as the Starstruck grand winner.

Her portrayal of Tere Madlansacay is very accessible. Tere is your everyday girl and Mercado essayed the role effortlessly. She's your BFF and go-to-girl. She's the loyal and hardworking daughter. She gives, so much, until it hurts.  In the end, she looks at herself and decides she has not given enough. This is her only flaw and one that can be easily forgiven, if not, tolerated at least. I find myself rooting for her to end up with that nice Fil-Am guy, Julian Parker.

Derek Ramsay as Julian Parker, the brooding, angry, broken hearted Fil-Am who went out on a limb to avenge his pride is just WOW. For once, Ramasay's character is not bent on seducing a vulnerable woman. His quiet and tempered portrayal of a man who found love in a hopeless place is way sexier. Like Tere, his only fault is to fall in love and have his heart broken all over again. So I wish the same thing for Julian: to find the girl he deserves.

Since this is a romantic comedy, they did find each other and a chance at happily ever after. Together, Derek and Jennylyn make a formidable couple. So charming is their chemistry that I am praying for a sequel.

EOP FP Page:
2. The script. I like the slow moments in the movie. Good rom-coms have this element. It allows the viewer to listen to conversations and to look at the non-verbal language that transpire between characters. Luckily, the casting director picked the right actors because, Ramsay and Mercado are opposites who are so good to look at. You put two different characters together and you start to understand what the message of the movie is all about. Language is never a barrier between people who truly love each other. Things may be lost in translation, but it is in speaking the truth from the depths of the heart that we find clarity and freedom. Plus, there is enough external and internal tension between the two that kept me through the finish line. That ending where Julian and Tere jumped into the bus leaving for Manila holds a lot of promise for a part two. How much will they give and go for love? What challenges and conflicts will they face in the next stage of their relationship?

Sadly, one of the producers who happen to be a former co-teacher and FB friend confirmed there won't be any sequel.

3. Love and Language. I enjoyed the movie's play on language and how, in some way, it was like an invisible character that brought Julian and Tere together. The scriptwriters are smart in putting in that vocabulary spiels in between scenes. It was humorous and done with enough wit. No crying spells and dramatics. Humor will always save the day. Just when Cai Cortez was about to cry over Jennilyn's lot, she sucks in juice from her balut and with it is an acceptance of things as they are.

The many forms and ways of loving were also depicted with care and humor. Those numerous "Motmot" scenes, single motherhood, family dynamics are springboard conversations about love, sex and relationships that can be taken up with among young people of today.

What did not work

I just wish there were more scenes that showed Derek Ramsay immersing and appreciating the Filipino culture to fully justify his line: Fil-Am ako (or was it laki ako sa US), pero pusongFilipino.

Overall, English Only, Please is a well thought out film. Its actors were well chosen too. At last, here is a movie in this year's Metro Manila Filmfest that doesn't dumb down its paying audience. Thank you to its producers, scriptwriters and director for empowering us to think, to feel and to laugh with you!

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Metro Manila Film Festival Memories: #WalangForever (2 of 5)

Note: A repost, because I miss a really good Metro Manila Film Festival with a good and fair selection of movies.

Director: Dan Villegas
Producers: Quantum Films, MJM Productions, Tuko Films, Buchi Boy Films

Our film of choice this Metro Manila Film Festival season is #WalangForever. It is too bad we didn't catch Honor They Father, but, who knows. I am hopeful to see the movie before the season officially ends. Now, for my review.

With celebs: Gab Valenciano, Dr. Fely Pado and Jericho Rosales
#WalangForever is a story of love lost and found. Mia, played by Jennylyn Mercado, and Ethan, portrayed by Jericho Rosales, are former lovers once engaged. Personal problems, priorities in life and career put their relationship to the test. It was one test they both failed. Thus, the experience made them bitter, jaded and scorned. Mia, a successful screenwriter coasts through life penning the greatest love of her life into her movies while Ethan, manages a thriving business, until a life changing event made him decide to leave the country and live with his mother abroad. Thanks to friends, a timely barkada reunion put them back together again.

Love is lovelier the second time around? Not really.

What worked

When Mia and Ethan were back in each others' arms, it was not the sweet moment of love's second chance. After all, a painful break up would elicit more complications. With Ethan's diminishing health, Mia made the choice to love again. Despite the past and the pain of loss, Mia went after her man and took the risk of being hurt all over again.

For what? And why? Well, to love. Forever.

This is where the conceit of forever comes in. It is in fact the questions, may forever ba? Ano nga ba ang forever? which the movie presented at the beginning by showing people and couples defining what forever is, is the whole point of the movie. It is a philosophical challenge, actually, but, with humor and comedic touches by Dan Villegas' direction, this idea of infinity and the struggle to establish the constants in our lives make the journey of finding a forever lighthearted at the same time, life affirming. In the end, the movie audience is made to find his or her own forever and its relative, if not elusive, definition. #WalangForever does not only make you laugh or cry, it makes you think of the what is and the now.

I find the script and storytelling smart and sensitive. I particularly loved the quiet, awkward moments and the hidden contexts between characters like Ethan and Aldus, Tita Betchay and Tonipet, Ethan's mom and her foreigner husband. The ensemble cast of supporting actors are a delight to watch. They are given enough back story to represent who they are in the lives of Mia and Ethan and the relevant roles they push the plot forward toward a happy ever after. Their roles, though small for some, like Sasha, Ethan's kinakapatid, emphasize the yearning or desire of this constant, this idea of forever. Despite Ethan's death, everyone remains hopeful. Life goes on. Love endures. The ending where Mia's latest film about her life and Ethan's is lived out for all to see and witness. Such is the story of love, where one's immense pain is a source of great joy.

Using film to amplify this concept and to tell a story in this medium is reflective of the passion and dedication that Villegas and the rest of the production team have on their craft. They make movies yes, but they also love. They love their art. They love their craft. They love to share a good story.

Hurrah to Jennylyn Mercado and Jericho Rosales. Their chemistry is amazing. Jennylyn Mercado's star quality never dims. Her light shines in the movie from start to finish. Jericho Rosales is still Mr. Pogi and though the lines on his forehead reveal that he is not as young as he used to be, he remains the dramatic actor I loved watching in Pangako Sayo (yes, I used to watch teleseryes).

What didn't work

Sid Lucero. That cameo. It is so small for his acting chops. Can someone please give him a lead role in a romcom?!

Rating: 3.5 / 5

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Metro Manila Film Festival Memories: RPG Metanoia (1 of 5)

Note: A repost, because I miss a really good Metro Manila Film Festival with a good and fair selection of movies.

RPG Metanoia, 2011

Re-posting because the Metro Manila Film Festival is just around the corner 

What worked

The story and the script - The story is about an eleven year old boy named Nico who is addicted with online computer games, particularly RPG Metanoia. He and his friends frequent an internet cafe where they play online. For Nico,  a computer at home that hangs every now and then could not satiate his addiction for the game. Soon an online tournament will take place and he and his friends are all eager to participate. Having discovered the Helmet of Destiny, an item that would lead them to victory, Nico and his friends were confident at winning the tournament. During the tournament, he failed to heed his friends' advice losing the game in the process.

Just when I thought I've seen this one coming, the plot takes a turn for the better. Nico's story arc was surprisingly good and well crafted. From a self  centered only child, sheltered and fearful, he transformed into the story's hero that everyone will cheer for.

The supporting characters - Thanks to endearing and interesting characters in the movie! Nico has parents, who, despite their limitations, try their best to fill gaps in Nico's life. He also has friends who, despite himself will tell him the truth and can accept him, faults and all. If not for them, Nico would have turned out like the villain, Sargo.

Among Nico's friends, it is May, the girl next door, who showed him what he's been missing all along - real games played in the streets or in Filipino, larong kalye. With his boy barkada (gang) they spent the remaining summer days playing patinetero, piko (hop scotch), taguan (hide and seek), and tumbang preso. It is in playing these games where in Nico learned life lessons. Being good at virtual games does not equal to the vicarious experiences learned through play. Besides, Nico was able to overcome his own    insecurities. In the end, he became better at computer games because he established a healthy relationship with his friends thus, strengthening his character.

The visual metaphors and avatars - The band aid straps on Nico's leg; the first rain drop on Mark's knee;   the avatars of Nico and his friends are some of the reasons why the movie has lasting impressions. And yes, they are all good ones. Life is filled with growing pains. You get bumped and bruised, hurt and wounded. But hey, that's what it is to live and grow. Seasons come and go but true friends are forever. The Filipino has a very unique and diverse culture. Be proud that you're Pinoy!

The depiction of the modern Filipino child - It is the handling and depiction of the modern Pinoy child that I find most effective in RPG Metanoia. Nico is current and relevant. One may counter  that his character is too ideal or stereotypical, but to me, it is just but right to give him a good set of middle class parents and supportive friends. Put these all together and the movie is a certified Philippine Children's Literature material. Children have RIGHTS and the adults who take care of them is responsible to ensure that these rights are expressed and exercised.

As far as the 3D animation is concerned, I can say that it's a good start. Then again, I always go for content and the storytelling rendition. In many ways, the creators and producers of RPG Metanoia have succeeded in making it a movie that can be enjoyed by kids and kids at heart.

What did not work

I was looking for a solid closure on Sargo/Cel at the end. I'm not satisfied seeing him attend May's birthday party. Other than that, I have no more complains.

Congratulations to the creators of RPG Metanoia! Here's hoping that they continue creating satisfying stories rendered in relevant and meaningful medium in the future!

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Author Visit at Gan Etz Ha Haim

Who would have thought that there is a synagogue in the busy, commercial community of Makati? Well, there really is and it is maintained and managed by the Jewish Association of the Philippines (JAP).  Nestled in the Salcedo enclave, the JAP complex houses a social hall and a preschool, the Gan Etz Ha Haim preschool. 

I paid them visit yesterday where I talked about my writing life and read aloud stories. The kids particularly loved My Daddy, My One and Only and the The Day Max Flew Away. There I met Teacher Daryl and Teacher
Paz, and their small community of preschool staff. After my talk and read aloud sessions, I had book signing with the kids, chatted with the Jewsish staff and some parents.

Before I left, Teacher Daryl and Teacher Paz gave me a tour of Bachrach Hall, the library and the synagogue. It was my first time to enter a synagogue. It was my first time too to see books read and used for worship by the Jewish people. Nothing but respect to the Jewish community as they have a language, culture and faith as old as time itself. As in every visit and every talk I do, I was the one who learned so much from my host. I left the JAP complex informed and appreciative of the Jewish people in our midst.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Movie Review: Spiderman Into the Spiderverse

I learn many things from my children. One of them is listening to their advise when making decisions on what movie to watch. Because they are both Marvel fans, they recommend I watch Spiderman Into the Spiderverse. So, I did.

Now I wish the cinemas get to show the animated movie after the Metro Manila Film Festival. I wish to see it one more time.

Here are five reasons why.

1. Peter Parker remains an endearing character even after all these years. In this filmic interpretation, he is a mentor and a guide to Miles Morales. He is not the perfect teacher but his heroics, almost messianic turn as hero, is kept intact. However, the Peter Parkers in this movie is more aware now of the cost and the risk of being a super hero. At the end ofthe  day, the hero is your average guy who couldn’t save everyone, especially people he loves.

2. Miles Morales is the Spiderman worth rooting for! He keeps making mistakes and never gives up until he finds his footing. This is the same trait I see in Tom Holland’s rendition of Spidey so, thanks to the creators of the movie for staying true to this story arc.

3. The art! Oh, the art! 

4. The soundtrack! I am a gen Xer, but damn — I enjoyed the music, especially Sunflower.

5. Like the comic books, this movie provides a satisfying end to Miles Morales’ journey and origin story but the what ifs are uneding! 

My rating: 4 stars out of 5. 

Friday, December 14, 2018

UAAP Season 2018: The Battle of Katipunan

Original work by "the" Arnold Arre, 2018
By now the Battle of Katipunan has ended. The dust have settled. Bonfires extinguished. As a basketball fan, I follow the UAAP's games and news on TV, social media and once upon a time, watched the games. I have long gave up on the Philippine Basketball Association though and that is another story. I digress.

Back to this season's UAAP. It is a memorable and historic run by the University of the Philippines' Fighting Maroons. From zero to hero, the Iskolars ng Bayan showed grit, perseverance and diligence in a sport dominated by the well trained, systematic and scientific Blue Eagles of the Ateneo de Manila University. Suffice it to say that this season's UAAP had a lot of inspiring stories that will keep us hoping in a time of darkness and divisiveness.

I have chosen and curated news and articles that show this inspiration and hope in the competitive sport of basketball.

Jijil Jimenez tells us the fighting spirit of Paul Desiderio, team captain of the Men's Basketball Team and how alumni rallied and banded together to help raise the team that we all saw fight during the finals of the UAAP.

Nikko Ramos and Recah Trinidad recalls the highlights and memorable moments of the season, comparing the Ateneo to UP teams, how different in status quo and socio-economic backgrounds these two schools are, but all the more the same in charism, spirit and devotion to God and country. In the end, it is the camaraderie of these learning communities that radiated and made this basketball season one for the books.

To end, an Atenean, Eriko C. Dela Cruz wrote an endearing and sincere letter to the UP Community. Proof that the Battle of Katipunan is a competition between friends who, different as they are, are one in ideals and dreams of building a better Philippines.

Monday, December 10, 2018

2018 In Review: The DepEd Story Writing Project 2 of 2

With NLP People and Participants from CDO DepEd and Libraries
In June, at that month's last week, I found myself in the company of librarian friends from the National Library of the Philippines (NLP). Fresh from the controversy of the #NationalNonLibrarian, Ed Quiros, Dolly Carungui, Melai Ramirez and their band of silent workers from the NLP were in full force in Cagayan De Oro to conduct another Story Book Writing and Storytelling Workshop.

And yes, I was the facilitator for the writing workshop.

What made this experience interesting are two things: 1) I met the #NationalNonLibrarian up close and personal, and 2) I did a writing in the mother tongue workshop when in fact, I neither speak Bisaya nor Cebuano.

For an introduction of NLP's project, read the blog post, NLP is on the move. I realized this is an unfinished post, so I will catch up on this before the year ends. Long story short, the NLP is doing its job to connect with the LGUs and the DepEd in the regions, donating books and shedding light to what seemed a hopeless case of public library development in the country. The current library director is a Human Resource Manager and his appointment caused a great divide in Philippine Librarianship. But, given the status of  the profession and some technicalities to the nature of the NLP as a government office, Dir. Gilbert Adriano will have to perform his duties and the Filipino Librarians who are adverse to his assignment must simply accept things as they are. For now.

Good news from the NLP recently: LGUs are taking a more active role in public library development. We will explre and find out more of this next year! So rejoice in this good news.

Now, how did my workshop in creating books in the mother tongue go?

Kamusta Ka in Cebuano
I started with a Filipino song and have the participants translate it in Cebuano. This was a planned activity of course, but, the response of the public school teachers present in the workshop were automatic. They jumped into the exercise. Proud to speak their mother tongue and to sing it out loud as a community made the session more meaningful. The rest of the day was spent on writing their own stories, reading them aloud and giving feedback.

This prepared them for Day 2 of the workshop which is the use of an app for creating story books. The books they made are accessible through the NLP and in cooperation with the DepEd and the Cagayan De Oro public library. My takeaway from this experience is this: we need each other to work collaboratively to ensure that our children would have the materials needed to teach them how to read, create their own stories and eventually, grow a genuine love for books (of all types).

For my work on mother tongue based instruction, both as librarian, teacher and writer, go to this blog post on My Musings on Mother Tongue Based Education.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

2018 In Review: The DepEd Story Writing Project 1 of 2

A teacher shares her book review
It is already December and with the busyness of the Christmas season biting on our heels, here I am making a long list of wonderful things that have happened to me in 2018. It is not an easy year, in all aspects of my life, the country and the world. But, in times like this, I channel into Uncle Iroh's teaching: hope is something you give yourself. A Jesuit once told me, give up hope and you might as well give up on life.

And so, I persist.

I rage against the dying of the light.

In my own way, I light a candle in this gathering dark. I have my wand ready and my patronus charm memorized by heart to drive away the Dementors when they come to steal away any form of happiness I know and cherish.

So, this entire month of December, I will be posting happy thoughts and ideas conjured, planned and implemented including events, activities, projects and not so happy stuff happening at work that lead to possibilities. Anything to illustrate that, in the age of Duterte and Donald Trump, hope floats.

Let's begin with stories and storytelling.

I have had the amazing experience of visiting Mindoro, Cagayan De Oro and Antipolo this year for the conduct of workshops in storytelling, writing stories for children and school library development. I have blogged about my experience in Mindoro through a guest post by Joy Solina, Bernadette Solina Wolf's sister who was with us the entire time as "media staff". Read her article on the workshop through this link.

Mini-book Making Activity 
In Mindoro, I met wonderful people. Alice "Peanuts" Panares, art educator and the epitome of everything positive and radiant in this world. Literacy Advocate, Ana Bacudio who is building a reading and writing center in Mindoro. Alvin Delen, the division librarian of the DepEd there who is working so diligently in creating learning materials and resources for the Learning Resources Materials Development Services (LRMDS). Teacher Annie Lee Masongsong who learned the language of the Mangyan so that she can understand them and teach them well. Last I heard, Teacher Annie has won an award in recognition of her works with the Mangyan.

The three day workshop helped teachers in Mindoro to clarify their purpose for writing and creating storybooks. The impetus for this is to win in the regional and national contests run by the DepEd. But, I know, the three faciltators, Peanuts, Bernadette and myself imparted in them the long term values of the art of story telling, writing and book making.

We hope to go back to Mindoro in 2019 with more friends who can further improve the ideas and concepts we shared with the K-3 teachers in Calapan. What's amazing for me is that, I always learn from the teachers of my workshops. Much respect and admiration to the tremendous job they do in the classroom. And there they were, willing to face another challenge of writing, telling and creating story books, not just to win in a contest, but to construct meaning and knowledge from their cultural and social experiences.

Monday, December 3, 2018

DepEd Antipolo Teachers Make Mini-Books

Teachers love big books!

Big Books are perfect for read aloud sessions because it can hold the attention of a class of forty to sixty students. They are easy to make by a group of teachers who are working on instructional materials for the classroom. The process is a collaborative experience. This makes book making a lot of fun!

Mini-books, on the other hand are easier to do, as they are small. It can be a collaborative project also, but its nature is more personal in process and in the sharing of it. For K-3 teachers, mini-books are not only for instructional purposes, but also a student centered approach to teaching and learning how to create stories and construct knowledge.

When I received the invitation by the DepEd Antipolo to run a workshop on story writing, I turned to mini-book making as a final activity.

How easy it was for teachers to create their own mini-books! How proud they were! Their stories ranged from childhood memories of bullying, conquering one's fears, fleeing a land of conflict, eating nutritious food to folk stories in Antipolo.

Using the same materials as I have when I run Zine making workshops, teachers were able to write 2-3 mini-books. Here's hoping that they can carry the learning they gained from this activity to the classroom and in contests which the DepEd runs for regional story book making.

Friday, November 30, 2018

Judging the 2018 National Book Week Essay Writing Contest 2 of 2

To cap off this month's blog posts, here is part 2 of the post on the National Book Week 2018 Essay Writing Contest where I continue sharing tips for writing coaches and mentors of students.

Here are my top five tips.

1. Know the rules. And consequently, ways of breaking them. When you follow rules to the book, where is room for creativity? In contests, contestants and participants can challenge the organisers and the status quo by showing a new insight, perspective or a way of doing things. It is a risk but one that is worth taking.

2. Know your purpose for joining in the contest and in coaching the student. Are you doing this to win or to teach and mentor? Which comes first, winning or mentoring? Your priority will define the future of your student and yours as well as teacher and mentor.

3. Do your research. Research on everything - past entries and winners of previous contests, issues relevant to the theme, new trends in writing styles and formats of contests.

4. Know your student, his or her skills, competencies and attitude towards the contest. It would help if you can also do a reading skills inventory with your student since reading and writing skills are sparing partners.

5. Know what essay to write and one that is applicable or suitable to the theme. A narrative and descriptive essay may be too personal and may miss out important points of the theme. A persuasive essay may need a lot of research. An opinion piece must show informed decisions that is well researched.

PLUS one more: Guide our student as he or she go through the writing process. Better if you and your student have designed a model of the writing process to follow.

Lastly, here are sources for teachers who are coaching mentoring students in their writing journey.

Teaching High School Students to Write - this is your toolkit for teaching, mentoring and coaching writing to high school students. The guide is produced and published by the Institute of Education Sciences (2016) and it has plenty of strategies and recommendations!

Time for Writing: The Essay - this is an online course for students and teachers who wish to attack learning writing as a process.

Becoming a Writing Coach - I am big believer of research-into-practice approach so here is a study on how teachers became better at teaching writing to middle school and high school students.

So, happy reading! Happy writing! It can be cognitive torture, but the benefits when the struggles are overcome are many and long term!

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Bibliotherapy: Come! Weave With Us!

My talk on Bibliotherapy at the Benitez Hall, College of Education in UP Diliman last November 8, 2018 turned out to be an inspiring and life affirming session. I was with friends from the UP READING Department, kindred spirits and partners in the advocacy for literacy development. Years ago, our battle cry was to instill a genuine love for books and reading. Today, while this aim remains true, we are in agreement on the power of stories and children’s literature to heal and to build empathy. 

There has been a lot of talk going on about books for children dealing with sensitive topics. By this I mean the following issues that have not been fully explored in years past. Incest. Child abuse. Gender issue and biases. Extra Judicial Killings. Child pornography. Dynsfynctional family. Same sex marriage. Sexuality ans sexual preferences. HIV infection. We are living in exciting and dangerous times indeed! These events, trends and movements in literature and the changing times give us reason to improve teaching strategies and the delivery of effective library services and programs for children. We teach skills for comprehension, yes. But we also need to select, evaluate and offer books and stories that show care and compassion.

Comments from the participants were aplenty. How concerned they were of access to books in areas where libraries and bookstore are few and far between. Why isn’t there any national guideline on reading? While there are many localised efforts to advocate literacy and its many benefits, resources and teaching materials are still scarce. That is reason enough to keep reading, writing and teaching! It was a comfort to know from Teacher Hazel Preclaro how the department reaches out to communities in Quezon City for book donation initiatives, tutorials, read aloud sessions and storytelling enounters. It should be clear by now that, in education, one’s job and contribution to the country is unending. 

Then, we need to inspire and mentor more teachers and librarians to believe in the magic of stories. Come! Weave with us! 

Monday, November 26, 2018

Pilgrim's Pit Stop: Living in the Now

Of the many things I learned in my years of being active in Magis Deo, it is the acknowledgement that God is present in my life. Thanks to the teachings during Community Celebrations and the offerings of recollections and Ignatian Retreats by Magis Deo, what seemed to be an abstract and surreal is made real by praying the Examen every day, journaling, reflection and attendance to prayer workshops. These formation activities deepened my relationship with God. What gives me comfort and grace in prayer is always the discovery of living in the now with God beside me.

This recognition of God as my constant companion, caring and forgiving, humorous and kind eases my worries. I worried a lot back in the day. But with this newfound image and relationship with Him, I learned to worry less. I learned to pray on my worries.

And amazingly, God replies in more ways than one. A call or private message (PM) from dear friends who read one of my cryptic social media post. A good news from the eldest who lives away in college. The sun shining in the morning after days of heavy rain. The tree frog that rests languidly on a branch of our avocado tree. The butterflies that circle the white flowers growing in our front yard. Even the sun setting and spraying the sky colors of pink and indigo is God's way of saying, rest now Zarah, for tomorrow, we battle on together.

Once, my boss had the kindness and humility to make me an espresso during "hell" week in school. She knows coffee would calm me down. God was there at that moment when she handed me the cup of hot espresso. It was God telling me to chill and that the line dividing supervisor and subordinate is a man-made law. In the end of all the deadlines and deliverables, we are all hard working people who need a break. I see God in my daughter who takes candid pictures of me when I am in a pensive mood. I am assured. There is someone who will constantly keep an eye out for me. When BCGG prayer companions patiently listen to my reflections and recurring struggles, God is there listening too. Even in the spats and quarrels I have with my husband, petty or serious it may be, God is there shaking, disturbing and awakening us.

At times when I feel He is far away, too distant to be reached and felt, or missing in the little and simple events of daily life, I go back to this memory I have of God as a warm energy embracing me. This happened in a silent retreat I had with the help of a lay formator from the Center for Ignatian Spirituality at San Jose Seminary. That was a powerful experience!

This was five years ago and the feeling remains clear in my mind. This I know. God is here. God is in the now.

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