Sunday, September 5, 2010

Merry Christmas Philippines!!!

hello Christmas!

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Saturday, August 14, 2010

Suroy2x sa Mindanao

Studying language versus using language.

From elementary to high school to college we learn these over and over: subject-verb agreement, pronoun-antecedent agreement, dangling modifiers, misplaced modifiers, simple present tense, present progressive tense, past perfect tense, and so on. One sentence at a time. Or one paragraph at a time.

Not very useful when outside the classroom we have to write multiparagraph compositions in the form of emails, cover letters to resumes, letters to the editor, love letters and responses, auto/biographical essays and so on.

Student talk versus teacher talk.

Same thing. I've watched classes where during the entire period teachers ask all the questions and students respond with "Yes" and "No." There's no prodding, no analysis, no reflection. No small group work and pair work where students have 'real' conversations.

So you can imagine how happy I am to be part of a team that tries to shift teachers' paradigms: From teaching how language works. To teaching how to use language to carry out tasks. AUTHENTIC TASKS. (Not fill in the blanks with the correct verb that agrees with the subject. Or identifying the correct preposition from the list of choices. Or the craziest of all: labeling nouns. Is this a common noun? A pronoun? A count noun? A mass noun?)

A big part of the job is designing the curriculum and always finding better ways to reword it so that teachers can easily see the connection between the Students Books, the Teacher's Notes, the Workbooks, the independent studies, the discussion to the independent studies, the interview practice and the teacher/student reading/listening/writing/speaking assessments.

Six schools down. Seven more to go in October. Four in May 2011. And maybe 8 in October 2011. From Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat, Cagayan, Iligan, Marawi, Bukidnon, Misamis Oriental, and Davao. All trained to use the Oxford and Cambridge instructional materials using communicative language teaching methods.

I love my job.

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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

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Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Soccer Coach from Ireland

Stephen O. is a big, black and bubbly VSO volunteer from Ireland. He's originally from Nigeria and speaks English with what I suppose is a Nigerian accent. He's now in Davao City to do volunteer work in Tambayan as soccer coach of the streetkids. We're just his host family for 10 days.

On the first day of work, Stephen said he sang and danced for the kids. He also mentioned meeting a tomboy and was shocked she was so masculine. Stephen: "She really looks like a man!" So he lectured her about why it's better to go through life as a woman. And she (miraculously) had a change of heart.

I don't know if Stephen seriously thinks that pep talk really 'cured' the girl. Gullible to think so. I didn't have the energy to tell Stephen there's nothing wrong with being a homosexual. What held me back was that there are African countries where overt homosexuality is still a sin and people can be imprisoned for that. So sige nalang, I let the urge pass.

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Sunday, February 28, 2010

Sometimes shit happens

I was damn frank last week. Bumped into a former colleague who was wondering where I'm working now and why I didn't join the get togethers. Have they offended me in some way she asked? (Nalain ba ko sa ila.) Me: I've been busy with the house construction. But come to think of it, you did offend me in many ways when we were working together. So I gave her the specifics and ended with: In your next job be kind to your colleagues. (I'd rather not elaborate. Point is she was probably blown away by me ticking off all the things I didn't like about what she did.)

Same thing happened several years ago when I was still a new teacher. I had a super close colleague who I regularly went out dancing with. Suddenly she stopped talking to me. Just like that. After several attempts to try to get her to explain what was the matter, I gave up. Much later something she did made me so angry that I forced a confrontation. We sat down and I gave her a piece of my mind. That was great. Now she's about to give birth. Everything's forgiven but not forgotten.

Sometimes friends just need to be told shit.

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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

New Job

"Urgent Requirement Curriculum Development Assistant." That's the ad Mike saw in the Philippine Daily Inquirer last February 7. I grabbed the paper and read the position's with the Job Enabling English Proficiency (JEEP) Project of a USAID program with headquarters in Davao City.

JEEP is an intensive two year course to help improve English proficiency of college students in schools all over Mindanao. It aims to sufficiently prepare students studying to become nurses, sailors, those wanting to join the travel and tourism industry, business process outsourcing, or those who simply want pass IELTS that's the usual requirement for work in an English speaking country.

The job as Curriculum Development Assistant seemed very exciting and challenging. I'd have to develop curricula, instructional materials, tests for monitoring and evaluation. A bit like teaching but not having to face students every day and never having to check compositions. Being able to directly influence what gets to go on inside the classrooms of tertiary schools is the kind of influence I have always wanted as an educator. Power to change people's lives.

So I set to work on my application letter. For two days I wrote, edited and rewrote till I felt I had said what I wanted to say in the best possible way. Catchy and convincing and appearing enthusiastic, driven and very qualified. The letter had to stand out. I attached 2 sample lesson plans and 2 commentaries on teaching. For good measure.

I e-mailed the documents to the address in the ad and personally delivered the hard copies to the office. Then called the Administrative Assistant who confirmed she got them. The next day, I got an email from the Curriculum Development Specialist herself asking for an interview the next week. I had 5 days to prepare. So I got out all my books from my graduate school days and started skimming like crazy. I wasn't sure what I'd be asked. I had to be ready.

The day of the interview came. I wore my painful but sophisticated platforms and some lipstick to look good. The questions were so practical that I almost felt foolish for over-reading content material. They just wanted to know what i thought my strengths and weaknesses were as an educator; how I make classroom activities communicative; my experience with materials design; my masters' thesis on grammar teaching, and so on. I was able to answer everything but wasn't too sure. That was Friday.

Monday, the Curriculum Development Specialist called to say the big boss wanted to talk to me about my application. I was in a meeting so we agreed on lunch time. Over pasta, chicken, a salad and a sandwich, Michael, Deb and Donna, informed me: "We like you. You're our unanimous choice over 240 applicants." I couldn't believe my ears. "And by the way, we changed your terms of reference Maya. You're to be the new Curriculum Development Associate."

New house, new work, new life. :-)

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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

My very own lunga

After months of canvassing, trips to buy cement, marble, wood, and so on, deliberating with masons, carpenters, plumbers, electricians, architects, engineers, arguing with the family about every little detail, I'm almost ready to move in!

Looking forward to being self-sufficient - paying for the water and electricity, going to Bankerohan and haggling with the vendors, experimenting with salads, pastas, hutsepots, miskipops, poetry reading with candles and incense, film viewing on a projector screen, doing the laundry with a high-tech washing machine, listening to funky, mellow, jazz, reggae and so on music coming from the speakers around the house, blogging without disturbance, friends visiting and sleeping over. These are the joys of a homeowner. Correction: of Maya the brandnew homeowner.

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Friday, February 12, 2010


Several women i know have asked me for an explanation of Marketing. Perhaps the following analogies will help clarify what is Marketing.

You see a handsome guy at a party. You go up to him and say: "I'm fantastic in bed."

You're at a party with a bunch of friends and see a handsome guy. One of your friends goes up to him and pointing at you says: "She's fantastic in bed."

You see a handsome guy at a party. You go up to him and get his telephone number. The next day you call and say: "Hi, I'm fantastic in bed."

You're at a party and see a handsome guy. You get up and straighten your dress. You walk up to him and pour him a drink. You say: "May I," and reach up to straighten his tie brushing your breast lightly against his arm, and then say, "By the way, I'm fantastic in bed."

You're at a party and see a handsome guy. He walks up to you and says, "I hear you're fantastic in bed."

You're at a party and see a handsome guy. You talk him into going home with your friend.
- That's a SALES REP.

Your friend can't satisfy him so he calls you.

Someone approaches the handsome guy and tells him she's fantastic in bed, but he points to you after seeing you and tells her "she's fantastic in bed."

(source: an email someone sent me)

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Tuesday, February 9, 2010


QUESTION: What is the height of globalization?
ANSWER: Princess Diana's death.

QUESTION: How come?
ANSWER: An English princess with an Egyptian boyfriend crashes in a French tunnel, driving a German car with a Dutch engine, driven by a Belgian who was high on Scottish whiskey, followed closely by Italian paparazzi, on Japanese motorcyles, treated by an American doctor using Brazilian medicines! And this is sent to you by a Filipino using Bill Gates' technology which he stole from the Japanese. And you are probably reading this on one of the IBM clones that use Philippine-made chips, and Korean-made monitors, assembled by Bangladeshi workers in a Singapore plant, transported by lorries driven by Indians, hijacked by Indonesians and finally sold to you by a Chinese!

That's globalization!

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Monday, February 8, 2010

Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Cambodian, Indian, Vietnamese, and Filipino

1. You got have fish sauh wi every meal.
2. You spen so mut time in top-leh, bikini coffee shop an in "Qua'n Nha^. u (Vietnamee bar)...!
3. If you don get "Pho*~", you die soon or lattah.
4. You an you famly care about Educasha an at leat you guy try do something about it.
5. Someone in you famly is Nail/ha! ir/Taxi/Fishing businee or in cloth businee.
6. You drie bran new Lexu, Honda o Acura or Toyota 4Runnah.
7. You carry big bok of instan noodoe in you car trung.
8. You shop at 99c store, flea mahket, K-Mar, Costco, Rohh an Mashall.
9. You have banana, chili o all kind veggie in you backyar.
10. You ahh moe room to rent fo ektra ing-come.
11. You favrite bee Heinekee.
12. You favrite speaker a JBL an Boe.
13. Mose you guy half Karaoke sytem an big creen Sony in you famly room.
14. You nevah thing o travel on Fir Clahh in you life.
15. You Mom has specia taye about jewlry & real tate.
16. Someone in you famly on some kine o welfeh.
17. You prefer use cash rather than check or credit car.
18. You care about politic buh do nothing about it.
19. You haye being mix wi otha Asian guy.
20. You don lie otha Vietnamee guy eitha.
22. you are not fraid of black peepoe or anykine p! eepoe.
23. You can make moe monee wi less tie an effor than otha Asian Guy.

1. Yer unc-kelle ish shome kaind of Dak-terre.
2. Yer bro-therres en you er shome kaind ef Com-puterre Engi-neerre.
3. Yer Mom en Pop own a mo-telle, Se-ven EE-leven or Gash Station.
4. Ye hette to spend money, my friend!

1. You famly ha Donut shop.
2. You eat smelly perished cat.
3. You know well about some sort invisible spirit an powah.
4. you are good cursing people to make them sick o die.

1. You smoe an drin too much.
2. You die instanly if you stop dring Soju an! eat Kimchi.
3. You spenmoe tie in bar than at home.
4. You eitha d! rie Hyundai o Mercedee.
5. You play piano.
6. You actual sorry that Mah-gret Cho sitcom cancel. (whatever)
7. You fraid black peepoe.
8. You only condut businee wi locah Korea businee.
9. You speak Korea in 99.98 of time on socia occasion.
10. You have least one relative who owe a liquo stoe.
11. You thing you superia to all Asian.

1. You obsed wi you haih, you cah, an you cloe.
2. You wan marry Korea American o Chinee American womah (males); or you wan marry white gai (females)
3. You extreme polite an act innocent.
4. You feet look funny in way you walk.
5. You fraid black peepoe.
6. You thing you superia to all Asian.

1. You thing you smartest peepoe in wald.
2. You haf pager and cell phoe wi you all time.
3. When you an 2 other guy talk, peepoe thing you fai-ting.
4. Today steam rye tomorrow fry rye.
5. Dim Sum you breakfah.
6. Noodle you din-nah.
7. You don lye eat FISH.
8. Most member in you fam-ly wear denture at young ade.
9. You mose favrite collah RED.
10. you fraid black peepoe.
11. You thing you superia to all Asian.

1. You wan tu bi a dansir, a singir, or an aktore, ibin dough you hab dayjob as a nars, a siyo guard, a dis wasir, a witir/witris or an accountant.
2. Yu kp tilling ebriwan dat a mimbir op yur pamili back home is a politisyan or a mobi-estar.
3. Yu brot lots ob dried pises when coming back prom bikisyon in Pilipinas.
4. Yu like wearing GOLD on yur iir, nick, hans an pinggers.
5. At leas one mimbir ob yur pamili is a nars.
6. Yur sister or daughter marries a U.S. miliatry serviceman, hay naku!
7. Der ar 20 pipol sharing roms in yur home.
8. Yu hab at leas 2 PULL-TIME jobs.
9. Yu ar nat aprid ob egots; in pact, yu wis yu wir black.
10. Yu don't care ip yu ar superyor to all ader Asians.

(source: somebody emailed it to me a long time ago.)

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Saturday, February 6, 2010

Maya's concoctions

Today, I'm officially starting blogging about my food adventures.

Last night was my third attempt at baking with the Breadmaker and I'm so happy with the result that I'm posting pictures for posterity. Here's how to:

First, pour some olive oil on the non-stick blades. (To make it easier for the bread to come off when it's done later.)

Then, add the following ingredients in the bread pan (in this order):

350 ml of water
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons salt
2 cups white flour and 2 2/3 cups whole wheat (brown) flour

Puncture a hole at the top of the flour and pour 3 teaspoons yeast. (The yeast should NEVER touch the water.)

Then put the bread pan in the breadmaker and push START. After 3 hours and 30 minutes the bread will be ready. Turn off the machine and let it cool. Remove the bread and serve.

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Wednesday, February 3, 2010

A Taste of Astanah The Royal House of Wellness

Ma and pa tried to give my brother and me a real Filipino childhood – starting with giving us Filipino names – Bayani and Maya – and then relocating the family to San Jose, Antique, where we spoke Cebuano, Kiniray-a, Ilonggo and Tagalog all at the same time. We slept on a banig, played sungka, ins-ins, maro-maro, patintero on the unpaved street in front of our house and sat in front of our neighbor’s television set watching Bong Revilla, Anjanette Abajari and Rene Requistas with the rest of our neighborhood pals. Every afternoon, with towels draped over our shoulders, we’d walk to the sea and swim to our hearts content pausing only to count down the beautiful setting of the sun.

Our Filipino upbringing involved having to drink kalamansi juice and eat saging every day. We were encouraged to read books about Jose Rizal, Andres Bonifacio, Gabriela Silang, Juan Luna and other Filipino heroes that included real and fictional Muslim and lumad princes, princesses and datus. My parents’ efforts paid off as Bayani and I became more and more Filipino and less Belgian. That meant patronizing Jollibee, not McDonalds; sepak takraw, not soccer; rattan and bamboo bags, not plastic or leather bags; bracelets and earrings made of seeds, stones and wood, not gold; the list goes on.

So last week, when my friend Hannah Saavedra Straver offered me a free spa treatment fit for a Sulu princess, I couldn’t resist something as truly Filipino as that. I had passed her spa, Astanah The Royal House of Wellness several times on my way downtown and wondered whether it really had anything new to offer. As a self-proclaimed spa connoisseur, I’ve sampled Thai massage, Swedish massage, hot stone massage, foot massage, acupuncture, acupressure (hilot), sauna, steam baths, facial, manicure, pedicure, and so on, all in the pursuit of finding the most relaxing and satisfying body pampering treatment. So yeah, Astanah, bring it on.

That Sunday I took an especially long bath and with some Veet, removed unwanted hairs on my underarms and legs so as not to injure the hands of Astanah’s masseuse when she rubs me down. I arrived promptly at 5 o’clock and waited in the lounge area pleasantly surprised by the wonderful ambiance of Astanah. The soft glow from wall lamps decorated with the typical curlicues of the Sulu Sultanate houses of long ago; the Tausug patterns on the ceiling, cloths, pillows; and the framed wall pictures of a real pretty Muslim princess add to the exotic Sulu feel of Astanah. Most importantly, the place smells fresh, the aircon isn’t freezing over, the staff speak respectfully in whispers, and the soft sound of waves crashing are perfect mood lifters. There is even a buffet table where guests can sample for free the delicious Tausug sweets and brewed coffee from Basilan!

Hannah proudly gave me the grand tour: The rooms to the left are for men. The rooms on the right are for women. Separating them is an open area with lounge chairs for those wanting hair, face, hand, and feet pampering. There’s a more spacious VIP room and a couples room housing two mobile thermal saunas. Small but extremely hot I later discovered. Astanah has even a well with warm water to replicate the bathing experience of Tausug women from the royal family.

Astanah’s uses coconut shells instead of porcelain, glass or plastic containers, and coconut bark instead of the usual metal file. Floating stones and banana leaves. Oatmeal, brown sugar and kalamansi. Olive oil, coconut oil and lipah (a combination of turmeric and leaves and roots of plants from Sulu). It’s true; there’s not one artificial, chemical concoction in Astanah. (Oatmeal is obviously an innovation but still natural.)

Co-owned by childhood friends Hannah Saavedra Straver and Sitti Djalia Turabin-Hataman, Astanah The Royal House of Wellness is located across Matina Town Square in the same building as Dimsum Diner and Coffee for Peace. Astanah is a Tausug word referring to the Royal House of the Sultan of Sulu and I was delighted to learn that Sitti is a descendant.

Two years ago I had the luck to fly to Jolo, Sulu and visit the Sulu Museum where I was spellbound by the displays on the Sulu Sultanate. I read one story after another recounting how the people of Sulu (Tausugs) were so fiercely protective of their Islamic roots that even when the rest of the islands in the Philippine archipelago succumbed to the Spanish colonizers and later the Americans, the Sulu Sultanate continued to resist. Artifacts, maps, pictures and drawings showed the Sulu Sultanate fighting to retain the Bangsamoro political system and government influence over their vast territories covering Tawi-Tawi, Basilan, Sulu, the Mindanao mainland, Panay, and Palawan. They fought to stay free and self-sufficient and continue engaging in international trade (barter) with the neighboring kingdoms of Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia. Disappointed with my history teachers for glossing over this important piece of Philippine history, I nevertheless felt lucky to be in Jolo, Sulu where the powerful Sulu Sultanate once thrived.

For Hannah and Sitti, putting up Astanah The Royal House of Wellness is a way of remembering and paying tribute to their ancestors in Sulu and share a bit of Tausug culture with the rest of the world. Sitti, I’m told, grew up watching her Tausug grandmother and aunts use their powerful non-invasive all natural beauty treatments. Hannah explains, “When you go to Bali, you’re offered unique Balinese body pampering; there’s even Thai massage, Swedish massage, but nothing truly Filipino!” That got me all pumped up and ready to strip and be Astanah-ized. Hannah left and my uniquely Tausug beauty ritual began.

Took a 5-minute shower, 15-minute sauna, then lay down in the VIP room draped in nothing but a towel. I was relieved. Total nudity, even with the lights off, is not my style especially since my masseuse, Shyne, was dressed like a Singaporean airline flight attendant. She showed me the oatmeal and brown sugar concoction placed in a coconut shell and proceeded to methodically rub it all over me. Masakit na masarap. The intense sauna I had taken earlier helped in making the dead skin fall off easily. Shyne used a brush to remove the chunks and spread on a skin moisturizer made of coconut oil and lipah. I had to soak it up for 15 minutes and then wash it off at the well. My skin looked and felt ravishing.

Next up was Astanah massage, Astanah aromatherapy, Astanah volcanic stone massage, volcanic stone massage only, or Astanah head and shoulder massage. I chose Astanah massage with olive oil. Shyne gave me a beautiful violet malong to wear and I dozed off as she expertly used pressure and touch following the direction of the blood vessels and stroked and kneaded my muscles. I felt rejuvenated, not heavy or sluggish like I usually do after a massage. (I’m definitely coming back!)

Back in the reclining chair with my clothes on this time, Aileen cleaned my face and Mhaya cleaned and painted tiny hearts and flowers on my toenails and fingernails. Interesting was the facial cleanser consisting of grated young coconut and lemon. This was then removed with a sponge and replaced with the lipah mud pack, a mixture of soaked rice, turmeric and depending on the desired effect, may contain either coffee beans, bark of lansones or durian, papaya, leaves and roots of other plants and herbs found in the forests of Sulu. All are sun-dried, mixed, grinded and sifted by some 30 women from Sulu who have been organized by Sitti’s aunt, Princess Carol for this purpose.

It was past 10 o’clock when I finally left Astanah happy with the Tausug beauty treatment that’s so soothing because it’s non-invasive, non-chemical, all natural (I can’t emphasize this more), and helps the women of Sulu earn a living. Refreshing to have something like this in Davao City of all places. Now if only somebody would also start a vegetarian, pesticide-free Filipino coffee-bar-restaurant, my enchanted Filipino life would be perfect indeed.

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Monday, February 1, 2010

Reminiscing LGSPA

My LGSPA stint began on April 1, 2008.

Lady luck was on my side as I was immediately thrust into work, never having to experience the separation anxiety from my comfort zone - Ateneo. I simply didn't have time to miss teaching.

On the very first working day, I joined my bosses for a planning meeting in LGSPA's Cotabato office where I listened and took notes as the women conversed in confusing LGSPA lingo full of acronyms like LRP, CDP-ELA, MRL, LGRC, PCIA, BDP, MMAA, CSO, and so on. It was the most confusing meeting ever.

To remedy the communication gap, I began the tedious selection of documents about LGSPA, ARMM, Mindanao, and Canada that would shed some light on this complex LGSPA constellation that my planet would now be part of for at least a year.

Read the Program Implementation Plan (PIP), the Annual Work Plans (AWPs), and Project Profiles and Results Reports (PPRR). Read books on the creation of ARMM, the Sultanates, the MILF, the MNLF, and so on. Read news stories on ARMM and imagined my poor brains overheating as my already bad memory tried to sort and store the information overload.

(to be continued...)

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