Archive for the ‘Lifelong learning’ category

Conceiving a Book

July 20, 2014

desiderata 6

desiderata 2Today I started  writing a book. Why? Because life is one continuous narrative and having worked for 44 years, I have something good to share. How does one start? Begin reviewing one’s body of work.

A body of work has a head and heart. Feel the  pulse of stories by tapping ones’ head and heart which  grow synapse trees. Each synapse tree can remember a time and place where people worked with you, then write without thinking of any form. Listen and  let the hands write manually. Fill up three pages every morning without editing.

After eight weeks, use a laptop and encode what you wrote. As images rise, talk to these images and create the stories.  Another month,make doodles until the  stories come alive. After four months of tapping one’s head and heart, a  book is born.

That is how we  conceive a  book. Short and sweet. No caesarean surgery needed.

Nanay’s Vignettes

January 24, 2014

ImageFlotilda Nieva Collantes Villariba aka NENE

Nene’s Diet :Nene grew up as a girl in Atimonan, Quezon. Her daily menu consisted of food and seafood. She enjoyed fried pork with soy sauce and Ginataang Súsô, fresh shrimps, and mountain ferns or pakô. Her parents, Mariano and Beatriz Collantes, cooked good food. Mariano’s favorite dish was Prihil with grated papaya. Prihil is dinuguang manok. During her stint in Liliw, Laguna as a student, Nene ate bread pudding and learned how to cook/bake it with old bread.

Nene’s Menu as a young wife and mother :When Nene started teaching in Tongho Institute, she served fish and vegetables. I remember four vegetables that were served daily on our table.

  • Upong Bulanglang or Upo with some shredded meat
  • Tortang Talong  or Inihaw na Talong
  • Patola with miki noodles
  • Kalabasang Ginataan

We also had special Chami and the Sotanghon dish that Ate Fedy served which was Tatay’s favorite food.

Nene as Home Economics student :Home Economics classes ( H.E. 1950-1953) withMrs. Catalina Vicuńa as teacher.  Under Mrs. Vicuńa, Nene mastered the following :

  • Menu planning
  • Balanced diet
  • Deboning Bangus
  • Bangus relleno
  • Spaghetti
  • Baking cakes

Nene as a crafts and arts learner : Earlier in 1947, as a young teacher fresh from college Nene taught in Plaridel town locally known as Shain. She learned to sew and make dresses from her landlady. As early in grade six, she could already sew, embroider and make flower arrangements. Weaving and beadwork are Nene’s other skills and she learned it from asking weavers and bead-seamstress how they do it.  Macrame weaving and beading became a passion for Nene. We remember our cousins Ellen and Isabel Valonzo learning from Nene how to make beautiful macramé bags and beaded purses. I learned how to string beads and make floor rugs from Nanay. We had lovely beaded cocktail dresses made by Nene . My black cocktail dress Nene made has survived up to this decade of 2014.

 Nene’s Beauty tips  : Washing with care our “flower” and douching with a spoonful of vinegar in a can of water, changing panties before they smell, and washing these panties instantly while bathing. Her underwear due for laundery  were fragrant . I wondered how Nene kept herself smelling good after working the whole day  While I could smell myself going the way of “anghit or maasim” after a day in school. Liwayway Gawgaw .We learned  how to starch (almirol) our uniforms and iron them, especially the collar and sleeves, from Nene. We would let our skirts stand on the table to check how well we starched them.

When we began menstruating, Nene taught me to use “pasador”, those soft flour canvas cloth that are folded in rectangles. I remember our cousins Ellen and Isabel Valonzo  going to the river with me to wash our napkins. With so much  blood stains, we used our feet to squeeze  and wash  the napkins. I remember our relief  when commercial cotton napkins came to the stores that saved us from washing blood-stained pasadors  but these products  would clog the environment with non-biodegradable napkins.

Nene as a Womb Mentor : I saw my mother through 6 birthings – from Jojie who was born at home to us in Zamora street, to Melo, Ceres, Heidi, Caloy, and Mina. The last three siblings’ birthing, Deeda, Phey, and Paul were assisted  by our aunts and cousins in the hospital. Nene birthing was fast and easy and would go to the doctor by herself then send notice to us to inform Tatay where she was confined. She would stay for a day or two, then come home with a new baby. After a week in the hospital, she would return to work in Tongho and let the baby be cared for by a big household of relatives who were our parents’ scholars. We always had cousins, close and distant kin, who lived with us to get an education from high school to college. As a result of her managerial acumen, the babies had ample attention and we never were left alone to fend for ourselves. We always had our “Ate” and “Kuya” to bring us to the park ( there were no malls then) and play. I remember Nene teaching each “Ate” to bath a baby and take care for he/she when she was at school. From hindsight, Nene trained many family caregivers and house managers who became good in it when they graduated from college.

When it was my turn to give birth to Ayen, my mother called but couldn’t fly in time to be present on the day Ayen came. But after several months, Nene flew in to Holland to help me care for Ayen. She bought us many gifts but the most precious one was –  knowing she would always be present for us all. She went to mass daily and dedicated her days and nights thinking, thanking God of the growing harvest of grandbabies in her time.

 A Real Accomplishment : Giving birth to thirteen (13) babies, then harvesting 44 apos, 6 great grandchildren or apo sa tuhod.

Nene ‘s mission : from Womb to Tomb “We are not human beings on a spiritual journey. We are spiritual beings on a human journey.”

 –Stephen Covey

PagpapaHesus : the rites of pagtatawid or crossing over

Nene is a much-sought after “magtatawid”, a guide through the “final boarding phase” as my Tatay would describe a person’s life in its  final moments. She would administrate “PagpapaHesus” to the dying and supervise the process of insuring a peaceful and graceful internment. In one of many services I witnessed, Nene gave Tita Cecilia Patron, her best friend, a very lovely wake and internment. She chose what picture to display, the menu to be served during the wake, and all the prayers that need to be recited each day.

I began to go with Nene to wakes when I graduated from college but it was only when Nene couldn’t attend wakes in Metro Manila  that she asked me to stand for her and Tatay.Initially  I paid my respects the way I saw it  . I didn’t know how to pray for the deceased in Nene’s style and it was only when Nene came to fetch me one day to find a cousin, Rorie Salvanera – Mercader, whom she sensed were in her final moments. We didn’t know her exact home address and got Phey to drive us. With Nene’s determination, somewhat like a spiritual GPS, we found Rorie in state of dying alone with only one daughter present. Nene gave her the “PagpapaHesus” as I cried profusely. There was a moment of recognition by Rorie and she followed Nene’s prayers. When we got the rest of the family to prepare Rorie, we bid goodbye and promised to offer masses for her peaceful journey. That was my first on-the-job-training. Since then, we have been giving succour to the dying and learned Nene’s pagtatawid.

 It was understood tacitly by the family that I would be Nene’s proxy in wakes where she cannot attend due to her physical state. I would  call her whenever a friend, a relative, a friend of a friend would ask for prayers in the final boarding phase. When I reached fifty, I already had Nene’s  tacit blessings  to carry on the services that she willingly gave to the final departees. Thus, I am now the family magtatawid.

Nene learned pagpapaHesus  from her mother, Beatriz Nieva Collantes. It is simple. The dying person is asked to repeat these lines in Tagalog or the dialect she is familiar with.

“I love Jesus, Jesus loves me. I love Mary, Mary loves me. I love Joseph, Joseph loves me. I commend my soul to Jesus, Mary, Joseph.” This is what I recite  as a  prayer when assisting a departee cross to the after life.

Secrets to a Happy Life

October 24, 2013

“Life is short, the path of art long, a moment ephemeral,experience deceptive judgment difficult.”Hippocrates, born before Christ in 460. Today I will write my art lessons each day as my gift to my daughters Ayen and Minette, and to friends who want to live fully as women.

We grow with 4000 eggs already in our  mother’s womb.When our mothers release us  into the light, these eggs start to prepare the art of kindling the fire of humankind. Every lovemaking is a gift because it opens the channel to our womb making powers. But every menstruation signs off  the end of one egg becoming a human being.  As we bleed each month for many many decades, the number of babies we give birth decrease until  the full stop, the menopausal punctuation in every woman .

So my daughters, your bodies are intimate galaxies and treat them as you value gravity ,water and food.

In my career as a daughter, a sibling, a lover, a wife, a mother I have many planets orbiting around my solar womb. Today let me bring you to a small planet, the Klitoris. This part of our geography is the most sensitive, with 8000 firing lines called synapses and brings women to the nearest solar system. Get to know it because it will bring you where you find your most delightful moments . You will discover  the secret thousands of women knew long before modern science and world religions could tag it as sinful and insignificant in the war to dominate womenkind.

So study this planet and let the heavens blossom.

Electric circuits in our brains: how to be smart, happy and active

May 24, 2013

Our own bodies ,especially our brains have electric circuits.Every energy inside us has a bio-electric element.I have friends who make televisions and electronic gadgets go haywire when they touch these gadgets.

I downloaded Dr. Andres Lozano demonstration in  TED Talks and studied his work in curing destonia, depression and brain issues by deep brain stimulation. He has a theory of brain electric circuits; that by stimulating these circuits, moods, movement and brain functions can be affirmed, added and altered ( our three As in learning).

Though his theory is somewhat risky in curing deteriorating brain functions, am not sure i want to support all his methods of implanting electrodes in the brain and stimulating the person with a switch. Is it possible to consider non-invasive approaches to healing people with depression ? Can children with destonia recover their movement with music and dance? Can people with  mood disorders be assisted with good diets and loving care?

Many surgeons advise people to undertake operations and it is always a risky procedure. I accept many people take these decisions, eg. Angelina Jolie, but I prefer exploring less risky and doable ways of making our brains work in correcting challenges. There are various meditation disciplines and some monks have been documented to alter their body temperatures in freezing rooms. There are  health protocols such as bodytalk systems, reiki, pranic healing, cranium massage, yoga, etc. that seek to release healing energies .

Imagination, as many scientists prove, is superior to knowledge and with our brains, stimulate  the best circuit in being human. Switch on!

If I were to solve Poverty as a newly elected Senator

May 22, 2013

 Brief Background :2013 marks our 21st year as ELF in sustaining learning partnerships with the grassroots,eg. the Aetas, our first indigenous people in the archipelago. Remembering and reflecting on our work as an ngo, Education for Life Foundation (ELF) has led me to focus on five insights that the new and young Senators should consider in solving our poverty issues:

1. Learning is not always a product of teaching by educated people or specialists. Those who work as educators-citizens must accept humility in teaching, that their knowledge and skills are needed by our citizens but the learning that happens may not always be the product of their efforts.

2. Knowledge can be shared and organized in many settings but the language and the culture where we share it must be the major features of the context of learning. When we use a language that is foreign to learners, eg. English or the dominant Tagalog vocabulary, learning will not succeed.

3. Learning  in actual life, learning from life is far more better than teaching  from books, from publications or videos.

4. Relationships matter in teaching and learning. Ken Robinson said “Education is a human system.” We cannot rely to learn mainly from educational systems that do not enhance human relationships. Computers and technologies can provide material for e-learning but human experiences are far superior to nurturing the need to learn.

5. The mind has two systems of thinking and remembering. Thinking and learning can happen in many instances,from being curious constantly to going into deep reflection and meditation. The science of thinking is still a vast frontier and developing philosophies of learning is a necessary task of educators.

Now if i were a senator, i will think and reflect regularly on current issues and memes. I will learn to articulate the micro, meso and macro needs of our citizens in order to legislate and lead our people to rise above poverty?

Having focused on these five lessons, i am challenging my colleagues, especially the newly elected women senators to think and learn how hunger can end and food security be realized in our lifetime. Our people deserve better .

Mater Dolorosa, Museums and Mothers

March 29, 2013

Mater Dolorosa, Museums and Mothers

Angela and I pause to admire the icon of Mother of Sorrows inside the San Augustine Museum. Holy Thursday was spent visiting churches and walking inside the Augustinian monastery to learn about its 450 years of mission work. I wonder how our development advocacy for our citizens can sustain even 100 years. As we enter the rooms, we notice three things that the Augustinians did :
one, they wrote,translated, published and circulated many spiritual books in the dialects, from Ilokano to Hiligaynun; second, they built and rebuilt churches in various islands until all these churches became sites for the faithful for 4 centuries; third, their missionaries were willing to be tortured, burned, crucified, disembowelled by the natives they wished to convert and save. The first, our ML activists have done but not sufficiently. The second, building permanent structures , on the dream table . The third, thousands have been detained,disappeared, tortured, died and are still on the path but never achieving enough recognition, not even acknowledgement as heroes.

As a mother now, I pray that the Catholic Church led by Pope Francis and its cardinals will really work harder and serve better. I pray that as women of perpetual sorrows, we will be given the freedom and resources to provide succour to all. Salve Regina, Mater Misericordia,Oh Pia, O Dulcis Virgio Maria.

Enjoying life each day by remembering and reflection.

January 4, 2013

An epiphany came to me today. With our two minds, the experiencing self needs its partner- the remembering self to be in synch. Many people suffer from lost memories like my father Cesar, 90 years old, doesnt remember my mother passed on last March 2012 but remembered her during his final month in December. My aunt Zenaida, his sister, doesnt remember how to contact her siblings. But not only old people forget. My daughter Ayen,23 years old, keep losing her chargers and usb, cannot remember where she left them. My husband Ed also has to ask me where our favorite books are shelved and if he cannot find them, will buy new copies like those of Stephen Covey and  Nassim Taleb.

Why do we forget ? There are always short memories, medium term and lifelong term memories.

What we experience is not always stored in our memory cells. What allows us to remember are those experiences we find

meaningful and makeTatay Iba pics1056953_10151543850283450_1967033705_n us feel deeply . Memorizing by rote can only help for a period but those that stay on are the reflections that we do frequently.

So if one is at risk of senility, Alzheimer, dementia , then it is necessary to reserve each day an hour of reflection for what you did . The memories of yesterday are assisted by faces, by people who take time to engage you. Faces, especially those gentle faces with smiles, will lift you from a fog of forgetfulness. Even aromas, have a usefulness in making you remember – the scent of cooking, the fragrance of a garden or a bouquet can help transport you into a state of joy vivre. So keep remembering, reflecting and life will blossom into a  fragrant moment. Such moments will fill a garden and your daily life will keep you joyful.


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