Friday, December 28, 2007
Community Mourns Death of Teen
Santa for Seniors
Olio Bello d’Olivo.
Sticky Chicken and Ribs.
For more details, go to The Brentwood Press.
Sunday, December 09, 2007
From a nun who runs a boarding school for abducted and raped girls in Uganda, to a dentist who gives free treatment in Kenya for a 60,000 people ratio, to a Cambodian ex-prostitute who no spends her life rescuing young girls sold to brothels, to a 10-year old boy with leukemia who goes around the USA, collecting swabs of DNA for a bone marrow bank, to a Cuban woman who organized a dignified living for the poor collecting garbage, thus producing the most efficient organic garden from proper segregation--so many ordinary people doing extraordinary things to better the world.
Only a year after he was diagnosed with leukemia, 12-year-old Pat Pedraja began a one-kid mission to change the makeup of the nation's bone marrow registry. He persuaded his family to get a bus and drive cross-country to encourage minorities like himself to become marrow donors.
In just three months, Pedraja raised more than $100,000 and helped sign up more than 5,000 people to the registry. He plans to tour next summer, too.
"People don't know that it's such a big issue," he said. "People are dying each day, and people aren't informed about that, and I want to change that."
Visit the link here and view the whole list of the most extraordinary people who will remind us that there is a hero in each of us, too.
Wednesday, December 05, 2007
From its extraction through sale, use and disposal, all the stuff in our lives affects communities at home and abroad, yet most of this is hidden from view. The Story of Stuff is a 20-minute, fast-paced, fact-filled look at the underside of our production and consumption patterns. The Story of Stuff exposes the connections between a huge number of environmental and social issues, and calls us together to create a more sustainable and just world. It'll teach you something, it'll make you laugh, and it just may change the way you look at all the stuff in your life forever.
Creator Annie Leonard says, "You cannot run a linear system of stuff on a finite planet."
Find out why inspite of a deluge of consumer goods, we are still unhappy.
Enjoy the straightforward documentary with simple animation but a most powerful message. Watch the Story of Stuff here.
Look around for better alternatives. Get involved.
Friday, November 16, 2007
I have interviewed a couple of people who sent out notes asking for no more gifts this year, stressing that "we have everything we need and want." Instead, they encourage their friends and family to choose their favorite charitable institution and make a donation on their behalf.
I have been an advocate of this kind of gift-giving early on. I have checked out Global Girlfriends.com and bought hip accessories for my friends from them. I am also glad that the proceeds go back to women artisans in third-world countries who are ensured fair trade and wages.
Kiva.org is an organization that helps us make small loans out (as small as $25) to start-up micro-businesses like selling charcoal, helping a seamstress buy a sewing machine, or seed money for a crafting or knitting group.
My mom donates to a children's hospital that helps out sick children. World Vision sponsors orphaned children for $35 a month.
There are also earth-friendly gifts you might want to consider, like Your Own Bags.Com. Giving these as gifts will encourage your friends and family to use reusable bags and save landfill space and keep our marine life safer.
We can also look into out local communities and help out struggling non-profits with our donations/gifts on behalf of our gift list. We can also organize collection points or encourage our community towards a donating project. One Warm Coat.org asks only for warm winter coats and sweaters for adults and children. Our local contact is Jaime Pearson at (925) 997-8117. She will collect used coats all throughout November.
I don't many winter coats, in fact I only have at a time. Since I am ready to buy a new one, my 10-year old black wool coat will now have a good place to go. With many more warm years on her, I am sure she will keep someone else warm for a couple more years.
Monday, November 12, 2007
I saw it first-hand with the candy drive of Laurie Restani in partnership with Kids Helping Kids' director Laura Page. Laurie and Laura thought of donating Halloween left-over candy to the troops in Iraq to sweeten their Christmas care packages. She called out for left-over candy collection points in 5 schools in Discovery Bay, Byron, and Brentwood.
What happened next is the miracle. Kids gave so much candy, collection had to be made daily. Last November 9, they filled 2 cars and 1 van with candy and transported them for packing in Excelsior Middle School, where about 100 students and parent-volunteers were waiting to help out.
"I have never seen so much candy," said Laurie. They collected about 1000 pounds of candy.
Local business came out to help out with their generous candy and supply donations. Kids Helping Kids provided pizza and soda for the packing groups.
6270 bags of candy, along with homemade greeting cards with support messages for the troops, were packed and delivered to the Blue Star Moms of Danville, who will ship out the candy bags.
What an amazing opportunity to see divine forces at work. Everyone and everything just came together. How people just came out to help, how the kids seized this opportunity to make a difference, how the Blue Star Moms will take the next leg to ship the candy, how the troops' spirits will be lifted by these thoughtful tokens, how the whole project snowballed into a success bigger than anyone expected.
"I was expecting to collect only about 500 bags of candy," said Laura. "I am humbled and overwhelmed by the community support and generosity."
Saturday, November 03, 2007
Friday, October 26, 2007
Though plastic bags are convenient and cheap, they do not biodegrade; they only photodegrade. That process, in which sunlight breaks down plastic into smaller and smaller pieces, can take up to a thousand years.
Plastic bags use up natural resources, consume petroleum in order to be manufactured, create litter, choke marine life and add to landfill waste.
Paper bags, though biodegradable, take more than four times as much energy to manufacture (which in turn produces greenhouse gases) than plastic bags. In 1999, 14 million trees were cut down to produce the 10 billion paper grocery bags used by Americans in that year alone.
Nations such as Australia, Ireland, Italy, South Africa, Taiwan, India and Bangladesh have banned plastic bags or have imposed taxes on them in an effort to clean up their environment.
San Francisco is the first city in the United States to ban the use of plastic bags. The ordinance was passed last March and will take effect soon. In place of plastic bags, the city is advocating reusable, biodegradable bags.
I have taken to using re-usable bags to the grocery. Most of the time, I still forget them but it was just a matter of getting used to. Now I pack my groceries with pride, knowing I am keeping plastic bags away from the landfill. Many people come to ask me where I got them. I just point them to the right direction as every grocery store here sells them for 99 cents each, with a credit of 6 cents when you use them in-store.
Check out the whole article at The Antioch Press. See you there!
Sunday, October 21, 2007
The kids are most eager, lining up early, for the story-telling sessions, and of course, to browse the many colored picture books:
I will try to find out how we can send them more books for their library.
Friday, October 19, 2007
I personally like bagels since my friend, M, taught me how to eat it with cream cheese and orange juice for breakfast when we were young and poor and New York. Since then, I have dreamed of opening a bakery in Tagaytay, Philippines when I retire. I have tried to make bagels twice in my life and to say that I was not successful means that the onion and garlic bagels that I so tenderly kneaded came out like rocks (but softer on the inside) and only my husband was kind enough to eat them!
I was blown away by the bagel showcase at Willy's: Plain. Blueberry. Sesame. Egg. Garlic. Whole Wheat. Poppy. Onion. Cinnamon Raisin. Salt. Jalapeno. Sourdough. Chocolate Chip. New York. Of course there was the Everything Bagel sprinkled with poppy, sesame, and sunflower seeds.
Their bagels are bigger and heftier, dough-y and specially made for sandwiches, but will definitely stand alone anytime, but better with their shmears (flavored cream cheeses) all the time.
There are also other goodies like danish and cookies and fresh-fruit smoothies.
The coffee is a special house-blend, roasted just for Willy's. They boast of a full range of coffee blends--from espressos to white chocolate mochas. And their prices are way more affordable than coffee chains.
I put their brewed house-blend to the test to fully investigate its flavors and undertones. Their coffee is mild and smooth and none of the acidic-sour taste of bigger chains. I enjoyed that cup of coffee a lot, and with my Homemade Chicken Salad on an Asiago Bagel sandwich for lunch, I was very happy.
There's something for everyone at Willy's. I saw a couple of kids enjoy their Chocolate Chip Bagels with cream cheese and chocolate milk. There were a couple of ladies who were lunching out.
A true family-owned and operated business, dad Ron said that everyone can "do everything." That means, each of them can bake, can sell, can clean, or run the stores. I could feel their tight bond as a family, where the children actually take a genuine interest in their parents' business and work ethics.
They are very much involved with the Brentwood community, raising funds for scholarships, hosting events, and even providing on-the-job-training for youth with special needs.
Visit their new branch at 390 West Country Club Drive, Brentwood or call (925) 308-7534.
Thursday, October 04, 2007
First, as a child, it seems like the entire world is there for you and you rush to drink from its every cup, sometimes wondering to yourself how anything could ever be more fun.
Then, as you grow older, if you're observant, you realize much of what you enjoy was made possible by the contributions, work, and labor of those who came before you, and you're taken aback, disappointed even , because with maturity you can now see cracks in the façades, imperfections in the details, and 10,000 ways it could have all been done better.
At which point, folks typically choose one of two paths: Spend a lifetime lamenting how far from perfect things are. Or, to one degree or another, roll up their sleeves and pitch in.
And should they choose the latter with gusto, dear Minotte, they will come to know, to the core of their sacred being, that the differences they might make in the world cannot be made by another. And then they will discover the answer to their often-wondered childhood question.... That the most fun one can have in time and space comes from making such a difference, and that the joy derived from serving is 10,000 times that of being served.
Monday, October 01, 2007
It was a sunny day on July 18 when members of the South Upi Project Management Team (PMT) went to Cotabato City to receive a back-to-school present from Candlelight Books, USA. The drive from South Upi to Cotabato took 4 hours of travel on rough terrain but the trip was well worth it for 250 colorful and nearly-brand-new storybooks were waiting for new homes in the municipality’s elementary schools. The books were a gift from Candlelight Books, an initiative run by Ms. Minotte Cuenca from California, USA, to bring storybooks and learning materials to needy communities in the Philippines.
Colored story and picture books from Antioch, California donors and neighbors.
The members of the PMT were very pleased when the big balikabayan box revealed an assortment of books, pictures and even toys for storytelling. They were very excited especially since the need for such materials was raised to Synergeia during the teachers’ training held in April. Synergeia informed the group that unlike the first shipment of books, all Candlelight Books donations were sent to one municipality for this batch - to achieve scale and wider impact.
Children reading their local mimeographed textbooks.
The PMT held a meeting to discuss the mechanics of the storybook distribution. They decided to prioritize schools that already have existing mini-libraries to ensure that the books will be utilized and be maintained properly. Timaan Central School received 114 books while Pandan Elementary School received 130 books.
Students were very happy when the books were brought to class for reading sessions. Their eyes were bright with wonder upon seeing brightly colored pictures and reading about stories from other lands. Teachers expressed their deepest thanks to Candlelight Books and Synergeia, for providing them with these materials.
Existing library at South Upi School in Mindanao--mimeographed, old and uninteresting reading material
The PMT looks forward to helping the rest of the 31 elementary schools in South Upi to put up their own reading corners and libraries, with the support of partners.
- Alvin Palao, Site Coordinator, South Upi, Maguindanao
South Upi, a fourth class municipality in the province of Maguindanao, is one of the newly opened programs of Synergeia in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). There are 1,312 grade one pupils in the municipality participating in a Synergeia reading program, which is supported by Telengtan Foundation. Half of the town is located along the coastal areas while the other half are locate in upland communities. Because of this topography, children have to travel several kilometers everyday to go to school. 90% of classes are multi-grade, meaning students from grades 1 to 3 are grouped in one class, as with grades 4 to 6. In an assessment examination, 9 out of 10 pupils can only read 3 out of 10 words correctly.
Sunday, September 30, 2007
Jewish, Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, were only some of the religious organizations that came out to show support for the recent "hate-crimes" in the county. The Muslim mosque was burned down and vandalized, an African-American family's home was ransacked and a deaf man was attacked.
It was poignant to see the community get together in support. Many walked side-by-side, making new friends, expanding their horizons. Many have said, "An attack of one faith is an attack of all faiths." Check out the article here and don't forget to check out the slide show. Photos by my friend , Richard Wisdom.
Tolerating diversity is one thing. But truly ridding our hearts of prejudice is another.
I remember getting into the way of a road rager. He called me a "dumb ass." I shouted back "pig" because he was fat. (But my husband is well, kinda overweight). And that lady in the grocery store, who scolded me, without even asking for an explanation. When I tried to explain, she told me "talk to the hand." I called her "Ugly" among other things in Tagalog and challenged her to take the fight outside in the parking lot. And the gay person who put me down so he could take the credit at work? Well, you can imagine what I called him. . .And yet, one of my closest friends is gay.
And I realized, we all have our own prejudices. Really, we do. Search deep down and you will find it--appearance, weight, race, religion, adoption, second wives, sexual preference, intellectual capacity, and even employment status can be used against you.
So I'm thinking, getting along with the diverse people in America is still a veneer. From the outside, we are polite, tolerant, even kind. But when they step on our rights or insult us, don't we fight back with racist or prejudiced comments all at once?
Senator Tom Torlakson was right when, at the rally, he said, we are taught these prejudices. We have to show our children to treat each other equally, with respect and love.
Even when they put you down or insult you. . .
Sign up anonymously and tell me your prejudices.
Saturday, September 22, 2007
A couple of hate crimes have happened in the East County. The Muslim mosque was deliberately set on fire and a family in Brentwood found their home ransacked and spray-painted with hate messages. Lately, a group of deaf teens were attacked.
As a response to all these, the East County United Group and the Interfaith Peace Project got together to stage a rally on September 23, to promote peace and tolerance.
Read the article here.
As Interfatih Peace Project representative June Kirk said, "I think peace begins at home. We need to come together as a community in love and support and tolerance for one another.
If you believe in peace, join the rally tomorrow. See the article for details.
Monday, September 17, 2007
Have you read The Secret yet?
I have read it cover to cover last month and now, I am reading it again. Sometimes, I read a book many times, finding that every time I read it, I find something else.
The Secret taught me about the Law of Attraction--that you attract into your life what you think about, positively or negatively. If you think that you will never make it, you won't. If you think you will not become rich with the work you do, you won't.
So we writers say, "No one gets rich writing." Is it a shock that I am not rich now?
We should always think about the things we like to attract them like a magnet.
"Thoughts become things. Choose the good ones. . ."
I am examining my life. I reflect about everything I have right now and The Secret could be right.
When I was young, I wanted to be a teacher (done that), a stewardess (done that) and to have my own family (doing that). I wished with all my heart that I could have happy, healthy, loving children that I will prioritize over a career (done that). And so, though sometimes, being married and raising 5 of them is hard, I make decisions everyday to reinforce my dream family.
And I am having it now. I am grateful and on my knees that I have what is important to me right now, walang labis, kulang ng konti in the financial side.
At this point, I see myself retiring in Tagaytay. I knew that when it took me 3 years to pay for a small lot there. Where we will get the money to build, I don't know. But then again, I didn't know where the money came for the lot either. But the money came.
The Law of Attraction says that the money came because I thought of retiring there and worked towards it. The Universe opens the windows of opportunity for all of us to get what we want. Kinda like in the movie, the Matrix-- guiding Neo away from the agents. So when they say you are in the right place at the right time, the law is in action. The Universe shows you the way, gives you the resources, and the introduces you to the right people to guide you towards your path.
In our last day-off, my friend, N, and I discussed The Secret. We know that there is One Source that always was, always will be. And it makes sense that this Source is abundant and generous, that it shouldn't be a shame to ask.
And though we kinda know the theories behind the new mindset, living them out is another story.
We realize that there are many things to unlearn. For my part, I should unlearn to avoid richness and saying that I have money because somehow, when I was young, I learned that being too rich is bad, specially if you did not work hard for it. So when I had money, I hid it (still do).
I have to learn that money is good, specially if you could use it to share or serve. . .
I have to unlearn that being the best you can be is not being boastful or arrogant. You can do your best and still remain humble. I have to accept that I have the potential to make a lot of money and go for it.
Though I am very blessed, I find that it is quite difficult to unlearn the things I am afraid of. And these fears limit me.
Let me try to wish for a cruise for me and my kids. I didn't dare wish for it because other people might think it is frivolous. I want to learn who the "other people" are. They are the faceless critics I hear in my head--sometimes it's an aunt, sometimes a grandmother, sometimes a bad experience with a rich classmate in high school. I am also sure that if good and abundant things come to me, they will not feel bad. It is all in my head!
I also didn't dare wish for the cruise because it might come true. I realize that I was afraid of it. Until I heard the story of a family who went on a cruise and gained memories to last a lifetime.
What are your thoughts? Have they become things?
Monday, September 03, 2007
In 1997, at a colleague’s invitation, electrical engineer Dave Irvine-Halliday spent his sabbatical leave from Canada’s University of Calgary in Nepal, helping the University of Tribhuvan in Kathmandu launch its electrical engineering degree.
While there, he took a side trip into the heart of the Himalayas, on a trek along the Annapurna Circuit. Along the way, he visited a small village where he noticed that children were forced to study in the dark—or more likely, were not able to study at all—after the sun went down because there was no electricity.
Irvine-Halliday saw the light in his mission. If you were his wife, would you allow him to pour your family’s entire life savings, and the maximum limit on three credit cards into an organization that would Light Up the World?
Yes! Apparently, you would!
Working from his lab at the University of Calgary, he devised a plan for bringing low-cost lighting to villages without any reliable power supply: He would create energy with a pedal-powered generator, a hydro generator, or solar panels, then run lines into homes and connect them to low-energy (LED)lamps. In 1999, Irvine-Halliday went back to Nepal with his wife and one of his two grown sons to try out his idea. It worked.
By the end of 2001, Irvine-Halliday’s rechargeable, battery-powered, white LED cluster lamps were illuminating more than 700 homes, schools and other community buildings in remote villages in Nepal, India and Sri Lanka.
Today’s high-brilliance, white LED lamps can light a Nepalese village of 60 households consuming the same amount of energy as a single 100-watt light bulb in a Canadian home.
Light Up The World is not only donating light to the very poorest, but is also promoting job creation and assuring long-term viability for the project.Irvine-Halliday founded, financed, and turned-over Pico Power Nepal, a LED manufacturing firm, to Nepalese locals to ensure its sustainability and to generate employment and income in the area.
The average "one-time" cost of equipping a home with lighting is set to fall below $40. Not to mention the environmental benefits the system has versus the 300 million batteries discarded in Nepal each year, makes for truly a brighter alternative.
Light from kerosene lamps is poor, inefficient and unsafe. Toxic fumes inhaled because of close proximity to the lamp cause respiratory illness. Kerosene lamps also cause many fire catastrophes, burning both homes and bodies.
Check out the countries Light Up the World Foundation has impacted here.
Irvine-Halliday defines his success in his interview:
"I suppose success is when the 2 billion people in the world presently without any electricity of any sort actually have some form of safe, healthy, and affordable lighting. . .Light the Wolrd has refocused my life. I am turning 60 and this, without a doubt, is the next chapter in my life."
How can we change the world today?
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
Lest many think that Manila is just about squatters, take a look at the better impressions I got. There are actually so many, I will start with one or two, as I have pressing deadlines for the paper.
I browsed Market!Market! at the boundary of Makati and Taguig. Don't forget to grab your many arts and crafts for souvenirs at their tiangge. Their mall area has all the local and international boutiques that you will like to explore.
What caught my eye and heart was the very special place for carts bearing different delicacies from around the Philippines. Dried mangoes and broas from Cebu, tawilis and salinas tuyo from Batangas, everything you can do with Pili Nuts from Bicol, pastillas from Bulacan, Peanut Brittle, Ube, and Strawberry Jam from Baguio, and every kakanin you can conceive of!
The dancing fountain is their respite for the hot summer (albeit typhoon) months.
Make sure you get your fill at Market! Market! next time you are in Manila.
Friday, August 24, 2007
Theirs seem to be a model partnership, with 3 healthy and bright children, reasonable career paths and most of the comforts of life. I was excited to resonate with my kuya, who felt that there is something out there that needs to fulfill his life. He is working towards a business, with extreme care and commitment. This business he treats as his legacy to his kids and to the world--his path to giving back according to his gifts.
With my cousins, I have found a common ground: We all want to serve. And we are all testing our directions. I admire my cousin for his endurance and faith in these times of uncertainty for him. With a solid corporate background for many years in Finance, entrepreneurship must be quite an adjustment for him.
I look around all the gifts I have and I am truly grateful. And because I am overwhelmed at having everything I actually dreamed of, I too, am compelled to give back. There is that nagging feeling that I must do more. I keep postponing it for "when the kids are grown."
Though my biggest mission is to raise my kids to the best of my ability remains to be my main mission, I realized that I must discern my bigger "give back" mission to serve NOW. All my kids will never be actually truly grown, with my youngest now only 4 years old. I realized I might run out of time. But wait, Cory Aquino claimed her destiny to be Philippine president at age 50 or so, and my idol Cheche Lazaro started her broadcasting career at about the same age.
Meanwhile, check out Oprah's What Do You Really Do With Your Life? for some inspiration. Women of all career paths and ages took leaps of faith, many times, not knowing where. And yet, by doing so, they found themselves nearer their joy and their true life's calling.
Do you know yet the person you were meant to be?
Thursday, August 23, 2007
The squatters ran the river's edge. Here, you can see why aside from their being illegal residents, their lack of reverence for the environment causes big problems:
The MMDA trucks came in full force and there was resistance from the squatters. The trucks dredged that thick mud-like mound from the sewers from under the bridge.
The squatters started throwing big rocks, protesting that they were not "mga hayop na ipinagtatabuyan." But then they did not act after the warning and did not take advantage of the proposed relocation to Taguig.
I salute the MMDA for giving the squatters another week to take their shanties down and find a legal place to live. If the residents took their homes down themselves, they get to keep the building materials with them. Whatever MMDA sees by next week, they will demolish.
It was kind of strange to see through the squatters' homes from above--almost like doll-houses, but in a sad and viscious state. It was quite astonishing how so many of them can live in such a small space:
So, here again are the residents taking their shanties apart. My biggest concern is that they were throwing all their garbage into the river again, for the MMDA to clean up. It was very sad to see the river. . .
Indeed a deep-rooted problem, the demolition just spurred the squatters to move to the next-door empty lot:
What do you feel about squatter demolitions?