Saturday, April 22, 2017

Of Clouds and Silver Linings

Foreword: This is the transcript of the speech I gave on the occasion of Optimal Academy's 2017 Commencement and Completion Exercises where Kevin was also conferred as a graduate.

Speaking in public in not always easy, more so when it is about a topic that is so close to my heart and triggers memories that is sure to make me teary-eyed.  In the process of writing my speech, I edited and rewrote it several times. I had to remind myself that this is not about me.  

This is in honor of a son who, every single day, had to struggle fitting in into a world that doesn't make sense to him. This is the story of his journey and the Divinely Orchestrated coincidences that steered us to paths we have taken as a family.

*****

Good afternoon to all! It is an honor to share with you the highlights of Kevin's journey leading to this blessed day.  

Let me tell you a bit about myself and our family.  I am a Chemical engineer and I work as the Supply Chain/Operations Manager in a multinational corporation.  My children grew up with my workplace as a constant, significant part of their lives.  In fact, the people I work with know Kevin and Kyla very well.   But, end of the day I am simply “Mommy Armie” to Kevin and Kyla, and the better half of whom all of you know so well as Daddy Alvin 

Kyla is our younger daughter and she grew up taking over the role of an elder sister for Kevin.  You will see her in Optimal Academy whenever she doesn’t have classes and she likes helping around.  She promised that she will continue to take care of Kevin when her father and I grow old, and while we cannot beholden her to that promise, I of course silently pray that she will continue to be the loving sister for Kevin, wherever life takes her.

Today is a very meaningful day for Kevin.   This day is the culmination of those colorful, sometimes difficult but surprisingly wonderful journeys that he had to take in his life.

11 years ago, it was Kyla’s moving up day in toddler school.  When the preparatory class entered for the graduation march, I stood there watching and I couldn’t hold back the tears.  I kept thinking that our son, Kevin, should have been there with them and we didn’t know if the time will ever come for him to march in his own graduation. 

Kevin attended Early Intervention program for nearly 3 years, and one day we were told by the Developmental Pediatrician that Kevin’s chance of being able to talk and join regular school will be very slim-- that we should consider just having him stay at home and use picture exchange communication system (PECS), and instead save the huge expenses for speech therapies and SPED.  We still followed the doctor and adopted PECS for Kevin.  But we also continued with the therapies even though it was evident that Kevin did not like it.  More importantly, it forced us to evaluate what does he need, what is most impactful to his development and where do you find that help?

The blessings came and our questions were answered.   Kevin was accepted into Kyla’s pre-school class three times weekly for socialization, music, art and PE class.  He was the oldest and tallest kid there.  Kyla’s classmates adore him, took care of him and they all call him Kuya Kevin too.  This created a world of difference to Kevin -- he enjoyed going to school, he gladly performed in the school programs, which he used to not like.  He learned from the school kids by imitating proper social behaviors.

In 2010, Kevin marched for his first graduation day in pre-school.  Everyone applauded for him when he went on stage to receive his award.  They all knew, he had come a long way.  Indeed, when a door closes, a window opens You have to also trust what your child really, truly needs.  Kevin taught us that being in a community where he is loved, accepted and where he can be happy is a powerful life-changer.

While these were all happening for Kevin, my husband and I had to make a very important decision.  My husband Alvin left his career at San Miguel Corporation and dedicated his time to be with Kevin.  It was a tough call but in the end, we both understood that it was over and beyond our individual aspirations in life.  I cannot forget what he told me, he said, “I can live with letting go of a career and what-might-have-been, but I cannot live with not doing everything that I can to help Kevin.”

Through Alvin, we learned to understand Kevin better- like why he acts or responds a certain way.  Alvin followed through at home the programs from school.   Kevin’s focus and attention span improved!   Alvin continued to provide significant inputs in shaping up Kevin’s learning program over the years.

Looking back, I strongly believe that the events in our life were part of divinely orchestrated coincidences.  In late 2010, our family moved to Singapore because of my job.  By that time, Kevin was more prepared to live outside of the Philippines because of the improvements in his adaptation.  Kevin took up Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) and after exactly seven days, one morning Kevin surprised us because he was able to finally communicate with us verbally!  Since then, he began to express his needs and say simple phrases… “I want to eat”, “I want to sleep”, “I want toilet”.  This validated my belief that our relocation to Singapore happened for a special reason.  

We came back to Philippines in 2013.  Kevin was already in his teens and it felt like starting all over again.  One afternoon, we visited Teacher Weng of Trails Center.  While waiting for her, I saw this yellow brochure of a SPED school.  Alvin and I thought that this seem to match what Kevin needed.  So we went there—to Optimal Academy (author's note: this is Kevin's current DepEd accredited school for special education).   Initially we were hoping that he will be able to say the ABCs but after a few months, Kevin learned to read, learned to use the laptop and copy-type and he expanded his vocabulary.  The rest as they say is history.

Now that Kevin had become a young man, we are again, in a new learning curve.  We have learned to see his individuality, understand his changing moods.  We learned when to impose authority and when to back off and just let him be. 

Kevin gave us the inspiration to never give up and that in this world, our love and acceptance is all that mattered.  We are grateful to the Lord who gave us the strength to push on, to always look forward to better days.  For giving us Kevin and Kyla, who made us better persons.

We are also thankful for the Angels around us- the teachers and educators, who have selflessly given Kevin their patience and encouragement in ways that made his life richer and meaningful.   They too, have given us hope to cling on to, during the days when the skies look overcast.

To end, I would like to share my favorite quote from a fellow parent-writer (Pinky Cuaycong) : “When the clouds are forever hiding the sun, you learn to squint your eyes and look hard for the silver lining.  And true enough, by God’s mercy, they are always there.”

From the bottom of my heart… congratulations to all of you, dear students and graduates --  PJ, Stefi and Kevin.  Congratulations to my fellow parents for reaching this wonderful milestone!   May God continue to bless us all!

Good day and thank you for listening!

The honor of giving Kevin his graduation medal belongs to his Dad.
This is his milestone too, in many ways.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

No Apologies (Ruminations of an Introvert)

Nobody believes me when I tell them – or more appropriately, when they learn – that I am an introvert. In my job, I interact with people all the time and being an introvert, it is very taxing to one’s energy.  On Monday mornings, after the daily feet on floor time at the production floor, I kid my team that it already felt like an entire week has passed after all that talking.  But all too well, I am not actually kidding.

In my daily work routine, I always needed a few minutes of time over a cup of coffee – alone – which is a critical element for recharging an introvert’s mental battery; or if I have to sit with a bunch of folks, I endeavor not to talk much; else I defeat my purpose of recharging.  This then would mean that oftentimes I am mistaken for a snob or a very serious person.

Introverts have been mistakenly equated for being shy, anti-social, docile and quiet--  a person who does not like to talk much or a wallflower in a social gathering.   I grew up thinking I was an introvert because I don’t like speaking in front of a crowd.  I am not good at small talk and would rather read a book.  I like carving out times for me to be alone and be able to do the things I like to do in solitude -   like writing a poem or a short article, talking a walk around the village or listening to my favorite song.

That doesn’t mean I don’t need friends, people to confide to, or that I shun human presence in general.  It doesn’t mean I am not a team player, in fact, I believe I am the kind who plays my role well in a team while the rest, talk and talk and talk.

Much later, when I was assessed for the Myers-Briggs Personality Test, I learned that introversion is a personality trait characterized by focus on internal feelings and how our energies are best recharged, rather than on external sources of stimulation and social exposure.

Understanding the fine line between introversion and extroversion was liberating. It made me comfortable over the choices I made instead of struggling to be this 'someone else'.  As a mother, I endeavor to also understand and respect my daughter’s personality instead of pressuring her to be someone she is not.  

End of the day, there are no apologies for being true to oneself.



Sunday, April 9, 2017

Festival of Tulips at the Gardens by the Bay

I have seen the Marina Bay Gardens in its early days, having lived in Singapore for 2+ years.   I have never been inside any of its two garden domes though.   When Kyla and I spent a week-long vacation in Singapore, we decided (at the drop of a hat, mind you) to go and have a look... Kyla's best buddy Tintin accompanied us to MBS.  Kyla and I stayed over at Tin and her mom Vi's home at the west coast of Singapore for the early part of the week.

There are two garden domes - the Flower dome and the Cloud Forrest dome.  She told us that this time of the year, tulips are showcased at the central area of the Flower dome.  And since I adore tulips, it was our chosen attraction for the day. Had we arrived a few days earlier, it would have been Cherry Blossoms.

I never knew there could be so much species of tulips that existed! It was indeed a visual feast to see those colorful beauties.

Note that in the multi-level deck of the dome, plants and trees from different parts of the globe are also on display.

Scroll below to see more pictures from the Flower Dome....

By the time we visited Gardens by the Bay, they started to take
down the dinosaur displays around the Supertrees.
We were still able to catch T-Rex in one piece.

Besties bonding day

Rembrant's portrait in its floral glory

Lots of bright colored tulips!

I didn't know such exists!

This for real?

Ah... so innocent and pure-looking beauty

A tribute to Julia

Lovely streaks of spring... or spryng

The red and yellow blooms make a stunning contrasts

Young buds 

This made me think of the book, The Little Prince

These white and fuchsia tulips are my personal favorites

Add caption

Grand Perfection: in my mind, I call them tiger tulips

Orange blooms

Side by side with Barcelona Beauty

A tribute to its host country

2nd personal favorite.


Yep. We wore flip flops for sheer comfort.
Lesson learned: if you are about to embark on a
> 10,000 steps a day adventure, better have flip flops!

Reminded me of orchids....
Van Gogh's Starry Night. In tulips.

Glad to have a week-long mom and babes bonding.

Perfect dark pink blooms

Taking a breather...

There is also a wide display of succulents around the dome

...more succulents at the upper deck of the dome

A giant succulent ?

Kyla was not happy to see her most-hated plant.

Ants at work on display. Really big ones.

View of the MBS from the Gardens
Special thanks to Kyla's BFF Tin for gamely joining our unplanned adventure to the city!


Saturday, March 11, 2017

Meeting Miss Daphne


I recently attended a corporate event in line with celebrating the International Women's Day.  I am thankful to be a part of the global company that champions diversity and inclusion, and within this umbrella - the commitment to develop women leaders to be able to perform at their peak.

Every year, the P&G Philippines' Women Network team organize a symposium for women managers from its three sites.  The 2017 event theme was #NoLimits and had external and internal speakers share their story about taking risks, chasing one's passion outside of work and being their best.

I must say, THE highlight of my day was the opportunity to meet one of the women I admire up close and personal.  I was a newly-wed and newly-pregnant young wife and mom when I started following Daphne Osena in her 15-minutes or so segment called "Video Postcards," then followed by F and much later, Guide to Urban Living and Proudly Filipina.  I am also a follower of her earlier blog called "Live Journal" until the blog evolved to her self-titled blog "Daphne."

Upon finding myself a follower of her live journal, the inspiration took over that led me to creating this blog as well and ultimately, finding that voice.  You will find a link to her blog in this humble cyber-corner of mine.

Up close and personal with the inspiration behind how I started my own blog
and found my voice.

Daphne spoke about how she evolved and reinvented herself through the years,
finding her passion and living life in her own terms. 

Fan girl moment.
Daphne embodies chic and classiness.
How she maintain her lean form is too die for!

My own Chic book signed by Daphne

I came ready to be inspired.
Indeed, I truly was! 

The PH women's symposium gave me new ideas which I will endeavor to write about in this blog in the coming days. Maybe months.

I came to the event ready to be inspired by the universe and it did not disappoint!  Last quarter, I made a very important decision and I feel good about it after having sought Divine Wisdom to guide my actions.  There is a sense of liberty in being able to move on, move forward and embrace what life has to offer next.  I apologize if this sounded vague for now.  One day, I'll get to write about it too in this blog.


Monday, May 9, 2016

Countryside Sanctuary : Bellevue Bohol Hotel and Resort

Call me biased, but I will always favor Bohol than any other famous beach in the country.

This is my second time to visit Bellevue Hotel and Resort (BHR) in Panglao Island, Bohol.  My first trip was a company-sponsored event and there was very limited time to enjoy the place so I made a mental note to visit again with my family.  I knew my daughter will love it there.  We also had a summer vacation in Bohol many years ago and I’ve always thought that the beaches of Panglao Island are among the most beautiful in the country. I’m glad that the pristine beaches continue to be unspoiled by commercialization, at least, this side of Panglao.



Quite a sight to behold! I knew we'd be back for this!
Unlike our first family vacation in Bohol, we stayed bit longer and skip the country side tour packages, mainly just enjoy the place and have an endless time for relaxation before going back to the daily grind.

After 40-minutes or so of shuttle service from Tagbilaran airport to Bellevue Hotel and Resort, porters at the front fa├žade will greet you with a welcome garland (was actually a local handicraft necklace). Checking-in was swift and efficient. I requested for two adjoining rooms and while this was not what were initially booked for us, the lady at the reception/check-in was able to find us the two connecting de luxe units at the ground floor, with a small patio that opens up to the pool area. Cool!  And yes, rooms have Wi-Fi and cable TV.

De luxe room with two twin bed set up

Bellevue Bohol at night. No filter. 


 Around the Resort
 
Beachfront with a view of the hotel and dining pavilions
 
Bellevue has a vast infinity pool that overlooks the beach. I love that the pool has been divided into areas for toddlers/young children to frolic, a modest 4-feet section for non-serious swimmers like me and a 12-feet dive pool.  There is a generous array of outdoor loungers/divans in front of the swimming pool and the beach, I spent one afternoon there in lazy splendor and toasting under the hot summer sun.  The platform at the center of the pool is ideal for those who love bikini-clad selfies with a dramatic view of the sea while draped on a lounger. Yes, you get the drift. But no, I didn't attempt to do one.

This platform is in the middle of the pool,
must be wonderful for after dark drinks and partying too!

The beach was something else. We spent one morning burning breakfast calories off via a 30-minutes of kayak.  Like most resorts, there are water sports and adventures to choose from like parasailing, catamaran ride, speed boat and the likes. The beach on this side of Panglao is littered with corals though hence people favor the pool better than swim at the beach.

Food and Dining

Bellevue Bohol boasts of two major dining facilities. The Lamian world cuisine is the air-conditioned dining hall where buffet breakfast is served daily.  The breakfast spread is 5 out of 5 for me, with wide variety of food choices as if you are in a metropolitan hotel’s breakfast buffet and that is a great way to jumpstart mornings. And I love their brewed coffee-- this is a make or break for me. During our stay, there were successions of corporate events at BHR and Lamian restaurant has been exclusively booked during lunch and dinner.

Alternatively, Marea offers al fresco dining experience and a wonderful view of the beach and the pool area, with live music entertainment even during week nights. The menu extensively covers local and international favorites, the taste, presentation and service definitely world-class. BHR can also set-up special themed-dinner buffet for company events like during our stay, there was a Luau-themed party at the beach front and another 80s themed dinner party with live band crooning to popular 80s dance music.

One ought to try their (gigantic bowl of) halo-halo and Pork Humba Boholano style.

Al fresco dining at Marea while a live band serenades with pop music
Other Activities at Bellevue Resort

I booked for a relaxing massage at the Azure Spa. They can also provide an in-room massage service if you so desire. Aside from spa and different types of massages, they also do facials and traditional hilot.  It was soooo soothing that I almost fell asleep while soft music and light scent of verbena drifts in the air! You are also treated to a strong brew of ginger tea after the massage.

I appreciate that BHR also offer a hosts of activities throughout the day like Koi-feeding, arts and crafts, Zumba, outdoor sports like volleyball or badminton, indoor facility for table tennis and other games – keeps boredom at bay especially for kids who might be looking for other ways to spend their energy other than in the pool!

Should you want to have a countryside tour or dolphin-watching with island-hopping, there is a DOT-accredited tour desk that can attend to you and cater for these arrangements. I decided to forego this time to have a stress-free holiday.

Bellevue Hotel and Resort truly lives up to its promise of Luxury of Sanctuary for travelers looking for a five star pampering, stress-free holiday at the countrysides! The staff are most wonderful, very professional, courteous and responsive to our special requests for Kevin's needs. 
 
Infinity pool overlooks the beach

The 2-ft section of the pool

If you consider doing some serious baking under the sun....

Early morning Kayak before the sun is out

View of the Marea restaurant and pavilion from our room's patio

This short boardwalk connects our room to the pool area
The busy Lamian restaurant during breakfast


Thanks to all the staff of Bellevue Hotel and Resort Bohol
for making this a wonderful vacation!