Wednesday, January 24, 2007


I have a clear picture of my retirement years. We will build a house in Tagaytay. I will tend to an organic vegetable garden and small crochet shop, selling yarns, patterns and hooks. I also dream to put up a small bakery. There I will train marginalized housewives of Cavite to make artisan bread and bagels to supply most of Tagaytay. And then, we will share the profits.

I found inspiration in an Oakland bakery called Arizmendi Coop Bakery.

I have been looking for bread recipes and I have found some. I just have no luck with churning out good bread. Twice na ako palpak.

Well, try and try again. . .

Monday, January 15, 2007

Ask and you shall receive

Sometimes, all you have to do is ask.

Looking back from last year, I know we would not have survived without the Grace of God. People sent us clothes for the winter, toys for Christmas. I asked for a coat, I got so many resources to retire my 10-year-old coat with shoulder pads. I found a work-from-home job, just as I asked for. Two jobs, in fact! How's that for a bonus?

I sent out a plea for Bears for Bicol, expecting a trickle from the few Fil-Ams I knew--just to piggy-back on my friend's cause. That plea snowballed into bears that filled our living room. And they were all in good condition--clean and cuddly. We would come home from mass and find bears and books at our front door. I would get calls from people to pick up bears here and there. Now I am dealing with a deluge of bears that will be sent out to Bicol.

Realizing all these resources and potential,I have been wanting to send the books to Philippine elementary schools in remote provinces where access is not easy. Inspired by Books for the Barrios, I knew that these books would need a guardian angel to be forwarded to Philippines, taken by boat, then by banca, then by truck or bus to a school that is only accessed by foot.

Praying for a connection, I chanced a show on ANC and found group that laid down the foundation for encouraging Philippine local government units
to take responsibility,along with the community, in upgrading the basic education standards of their provice. In the show, Synergeia program coordinator Trissa Manalastas talked of teacher and parent training programs and how (because of synergy and cooperation with the LGU and DepEd) (PHP)P550 a YEAR can sponsor a child in remote Tawi-tawi, torn and displaced by war, to learn better reading and math skills.

I called Trissa and asked if she could bring books that I will send them to the schools. How wonderful that they had the access to move the books from Manila to the farthest province you can imagine, by air, by boat, by banca, and by truck, and then carried by 3 people up to the hilltops.

I am packing the books today. Books from friends, books I got in thrift stores or by standing outside of the county library when they do a clean-out. I realized the quality of these books when I know that many kids in the barrios have scarce reading materials--mostly on newsprint paper, mimeographed badly. These books I am packing are hard-bound, on white paper, with vivid colors, with dust covers. I am excited as I can actually feel the joy of the kids who will read these. I have come to meet with the UFAA (United Filipino Americans in Antioch) donated story books, chapter books, picture books.

When it is a win-win sitution, there is hardly any effort at all: connections are just made like miracles, the books will save landfill (and closet) space, and most of all, the books will be used by Filipino kids that badly need them. I can imagine the child examining the book cover, caressing the white pages, reading about other places, looking at big and colored pictures. . .

I am led to call my project: Candlelight Books, simply because there was a close-out sale on address labels with a candle design, that I can attach to all the books. Plus, the idea of the kids reading by candlelight, signifying how remote they are, is endearing to me. It remind me of hope and finding a way when we thought there was none.

You know it is God's gift when the timing is perfect, the people are generous and are so willing to cooperate, the end goal is simple but truthful and useful.

Candlelight Books is surely a gift from Him.

Maybe tomorrow, I will ask for a carpet for our living room because the floors are cold in the winter. And maybe 2 chairs for the sala, and maybe lamps. But really, I must not forget to ask for a new job or business for Ricky--may he find fulfillment and confidence in his work life. May this door that shut lead to a window of abundant possibilities.

(Hi to my mom and tita Evelyn, who read me all the time!)

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Oprah's Dream Come True

It started as a wish for a first-class school that would nurture, educate, and turn gifted young South African girls from impoverished backgrounds into the country's future leaders. Last summer it was time for Oprah to eagle-eye the final details, choose the uniforms and handpick the first 75 students. Click here
to take a look at the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy.

"The idea of a school strikes the deepest chord in Oprah. "My own success has come from a strong background in reading and learning. The greatest gift you can give is the gift of learning,' she said.

The Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls, set to open next week, accepted 152 applicants, out of 3,500, to attend the 22-acre, 28-building campus 40 miles from Johannesburg. Amenities include a salon, a yoga studio, fancy cotton sheets, state-of-the art classrooms with airconditioning and heat and plenty of fireplaces and plush seating.

Leave it to Oprah to inspire the young girls with beauty, almost luxury, towards a better future. What started as a $10 million-dollar donation to build the academy has ballooned into a mega $40 million facility to behold.

"When you have a beautiful environment," she says, "it inspires beauty in you. That's what I want to do with these girls." She has also commissioned artwork by both renowned and emerging artists from all over South Africa so that the girls can live in appreciation and celebration of their heritage.

The Academy can't help but attract (good and critical) attention. Why all black? Why all girls? Why a school abroad? Why 200-count percale sheets? Newsweek has questioned the lavishness of Oprah's academy, in a country where poverty and AIDS are widespread.

It may be a bit overboard from the outset. The girls may be overwhelmed or distracted. They may even lose the tenacity that poverty taught them. But then, who's to say? It may be a piece of heaven on earth, that the girls are privileged to, and will continue to strive for. And maybe the critics in us have to do an abundance check and mull about why we are to judge who is deserving or not.

"Oprah says she decided to build her own school because she was tired of charity from a distance. 'When I first started making a lot of money,' she says, 'I really became frustrated with the fact that all I did was write check after check to this or that charity without really feeling like it was a part of me.'

Newsweek said: "To a certain degree, she is building this school for herself: the plucky girl who became one of the most successful women in the world yet still feels that pain of rape and poverty. If she can save these girls, perhaps she can rescue that child, too."