Decade Review Part I: What You’re Proud Of | A Review of my 2010s

Thanks to Marie Forleo for the Decade Review guide questions! One decade, gone! Can you believe it? We’re not only saying goodbye to 2019, we’re seeing 2010s off.

What You’re Proud Of : Over the past 10 years, what have you done that you’re proud of? 

  I am proud of myself for not giving up and for always being with God all these years. Some people say I focused too hard on my grades, but the more I look at it, the more I realized that it’s because God has revealed himself to me more in my education journey.  He used my education to bless people, to bless and provide for my parents and family. Yes, I was using my scholarship to feed my family. However, I hope that He will reveal himself in another field in the next decade. (Lablaif Lord, Lab laif, heeheh!)

Year Accomplishments with God
2010 I won the National Oration champion. I remember I failed a month before when I competed in another oration competition. I thought that ended my oration journey, but God had another plan. I was wrong for exactly after a month of defeat, a new competition opportunity came.

During another competition I even told God, I wouldn’t do much, if it’s for me it’s for me. But I won, I got motivated so I practiced again until I reached the regional contest then the nationals. During the nationals, I remember being so aloof. My skirt’s back zipper snapped out. Everything was not working for me that day. I remember telling myself, just go home without regrets. It was so quiet, deafening silence while I was speaking on stage in that UP Diliman auditorium (I forgot the name). That’s what I loved when I am orating, I’m in this bubble of deep silence where I could freely talk about the issues that matter to me.

While they’re announcing the winner, I was praying hard. And then I asked Jesus, who are you going to listen to as I saw most of us bowing our heads. All 16 of us were praying for the same title. And when they called six, my number. I cried so hard, cos it’s another revelation for me. I felt God’s eyes looking at me, smiling and telling me, “I listened to you; I chose you”.

And that ended my oration journey.

2011 2011 was when I was awarded summa cum laude and the Notre Dame award. I was also the graduation speaker. Having the award was everything to me cos I really envisioned myself getting it, speaking before the crowd and bagging the title. Before the Notre Dame Award, there was St. Marcellin Champagnat, but they changed the title that year. In other words, it’s not really the first cos it’s just a change in title. But I think they gave that award 10 years before… so I was hoping for Notre Dame award more than the summa cum laude. I remembered one of the strictest Marist brothers telling me  “they said they finally found the person after all these years”. God was again smiling at me 🙂 He chose me for that award again after 10-12 years?

Then came the end of 2011 when I was pushed to the ground again. I did not top the board. I threw tantrums (I’m sorry if I sound like a toff), my mom even pick me up from uni cos she knew how important the title was for me. But it didn’t work out. I failed betrayed, I felt God didn’t listen to me.


2012 But  in March 2012 I competed for Your Big Year. That year, I represented the Philippines abroad. I didn’t win, I was silent. I felt God abandoned me… But I also realized, it’s not the life I wanted. God showed me the world, so I understand myself better. I thought I wanted to be a politician after having served as a leader all my life since elementary. But that Your Big year completely changed my outlook. Well, hey I got to see UK for free and my lola Annie!!! And for me, that was the end of my political fantasy — sad to say it was also the start of not caring too much of changing the world (but the fact that I’m thinking about the pains of people while typing this may be a sign that I’ve not given up on it)

In the same year, I started my first teaching as an English teacher at the newly built San Pedro College-Basic Education in Davao. It’s my first teaching. God brought me to SPC. I thought I wouldn’t like it there, but I was so wrong… The transfer led me to Gemma, Sir Nap, Ma’am Julli and the friends I still communicate with from time to time.
I also started my MA. As usual, I was a silent kid… I got good grades all 1’s, but I wasn’t the smartest. I thought God forgot about me… but I was enjoying my time as an English teacher. Everything was silent…This year I also began my Zumba journey. I would walk around the Victoria plaza and then dance every day!!! These simple mundane activities are really memorable for me. I want to do it again.

I thought I was living a simple life, but during my early morning walks I would still imagine myself being somewhere else…to the university I’ve always dreamed of.

2013 2013 was a silent year. I cried a lot this year. I was still dreaming, hoping… I would, as I always did, write my goals and dreams and put it on the wall to remind me. But no matter how much I tried to console and empower myself, I still sobbed every evening. However, I enjoyed my first university teaching at SPC as a speech instructor.This year was also the start of my anger management therapy. Silence was so deadly I admit I scarred other people by my words. I regret it a lot! We couldn’t really run away from who we were. I was so immature, I wanted to lash out and say what I always think as I always did—but life’s no longer that for me. Of course a teacher cannot say “you’re so stupid” which came so easy for me while I was still studying–maybe that caused the pent up anger. As I look back at it now, I realized God was busy working on my character. Thank you God. However, no matter how much we change the people we hurt, the people in our past can only look at us with the same eyes.No smile, no assurance, no care can ever take away the pain we caused them. Maybe that’s the reason why I can relate so much with Kenshin Himura.

Admittedly, I started volunteering at Sta. Ana Parish as a reader to find my heart and peace again.


2014 Then 2014 came. I was busy with my thesis. From being a silent student, I instantly received good remarks from my ADDU professors. I left another impression.

While moving on, another pain thrust my me again: receiving the news that I got rejected from Fulbright MA scholarship, and was offered the Fulbright Foreign Language Teachign Assistantship instead. I admit that I was hurt, I felt I was disposable, that I’m not enough. But I still said yes…

Like everyone else trying their best at life, I continued to enjoy my time with my kids… I was not the perfect teacher, but I did my best. Eventually I left to start another journey in my teaching career at ADDU while preparing for my US journey.


2015 Then the Fulbright Journey began! Woop woop! I am thankful to God for giving me the opportunity to travel to New York, Chicago, Michigan, Maryland, Washington, California… It was a gift and a bit of a break from the hustle and bustle. I admit I started to feel small when I was there. I thought I was displaced, that I shouldn’t be there. However, I enjoyed my trips to Barnes and Nobles every day where I read all the books I wanted and lazed around at StarBucks while chugging my Salted Caramel latte and enjoying their cheesecake. I could stay there forever!!! It’s also the year when I started my Orator site. It didn’t work, but it gave me hope at the time.

All the books I read this year built my character, so I realized life is really like this — we need the silence to recuperate and build our character because God is more interested in our character than our dreams.

2016 While in the US, I got accolades from my professors cos of my work and my public speaking, but I still felt small. And eventually I went back to the Philippines. I was unemployed for a few months. I remember it to be the worst days of my life — I had no money that I couldn’t even eat my favorite G*** lasagna or go to the cinema. I only had 1500 to spend each week. I remember Danzelle and I were crying while we’re in that sad place in our life, in that stinky but comforting room on top of a run-down house.

Until I was finally hired by CHED, which I also left after a day (and reading and summarizing all the university’s budget proposals) I was questioning God why. Why I felt I don’t belong there. I thought I wanted to be a commissioner or an Education leader, but God know me more than I know myself. He sent me there so I become more aware of what I truly want. (The same with the UK experience). I looked at the supervisors ( the two highest officials know me and took care of me) but I was thinking, I do not want their life.

Then Appen came. It was an unknown company to me. To be honest at first I was ashamed of leaving my position for the industry… I couldn’t understand God! From being small in the US (despite of the travels), then it seemed like God wanted to slap me again. But soon I began to love my work: the regular expressions, the excitement whenever I get a new project with new conventions. I LEARNED A LOT FROM APPEN!

2017 I continue to build my skills on programming and project management while saving money and enjoying and being happy. Then I decided to apply to Australia Awards. The process was long, I thought I wouldn’t get in. I even thought I bombed the interview because I felt they were not satisfied especially Will, the hot Australian-Chinese DFAT representative. I really bawled my eyes out until I received the email from them the next day!!!!


2018 I began my journey to ANU. Before, I was told I might not have a chance at ANU. But God again told me, nope. Apply! I did and I made it! I was crying when I received the response from ANU! I couldn’t believe it. I am finally going to study in a top university. At the time, I was just contented. While working for Appen and submitting my papers, I realized how God did not give up on me. I was taking my PhD at ADDU that time, I even forgot about my previous dream. I just wanted to have a degree, but God had a different plan. God was looking at me, and he was faithful to His promise. God did not leave me. If I finished that PhD, it would have been over for me.

When I forgot who I was and what I really wanted, God did not. He opened the gates so I could freely walk through it. Aaah, I can’t narrate all the miracles He had done this year: from getting the highest score in the hardest exam (according to the professor), to getting invited by a professor to be his supervisee… I couldn’t believe everything.

If I hadn’t been at ANU, will I ever know I am not disposable? That I would make it there? Nope. But God DID NOT GIVE UP ON MY DREAMS EVEN WHEN I DID!!! God did not give up on my dreams. I was preparing for a different path, but he opened the gates!

Remember when I said I didn’t understand why God put me at Appen, the linguistic Australian company? At first, I really thought I brought it upon myself… for being too picky, for being not enough. But this year, I finally understood. God prepared me- Was preparing me for Australia when he placed me in Appen. I got to work with them remotely even after getting the scholarship, so I got paid a lot for an hour which helped me saved a lot for my mother and for our trip!!!

GOD knew I would need Appen. So now why should I worry right? God already knew what’s next. I may not see it now, but he’s up to something. I’m sure about it. I have faith in You, God.

2019 I finished my master’s degree this year, and I’m proud of getting the uinversity medal. To be honest, I wasn’t really expecting it. But I did dream about it. I remember when Flora mentioned this award for the first time, I suddenly felt some excitement and I couldn’t understand why cos I thought I was not even qualified.

If God did not guide me through, I wouldn’t have finished my degree this way. I almost did not apply for the advanced version because I was discouraged by my scholarship and some people. However, I felt this tagging again. I finally decided to take a leap of faith when my coordinator told me I can do it. During my thesis writing stage, I was crying a lot! I was so confused and my friend Lois was a witness to it all. I had to learn modelling for the first time, I had to understand concepts quickly. I was literally swimming in the ocean. But God assured me, “I am the Lord, your redeemer, I will teach you what’s for your good and lead you on the way you should go”.

That became my strength! But at times I still felt it wasn’t going well. But he kept on telling me, “I will help you!” there came a stage where I had to stand up independently for myself… My editor failed me, I had two days to edit my own work! Imagine, of course I would cry! Just look at how I write in my blog! I have bad grammar, I am not a good writer – I always just get away because of the content.

But then the Holy Spirit encouraged me. I told myself that night (after eating Dominos with Lois), I am not giving up. I still have that sheet of paper which I plastered on my wall. I wrote “Even when people gave up on you, I will not. With God, I can”. So I edited my thesis with God. And I did it! With God, indeed!

This year too, I am proud to say I achieved another dream of mine to tour my mom. With my Appen salary, I was able to bring my mom to Australia in January then to Korea in July. I spent a lot, but it’s all worth it! It’s a dream come true!

A week before my graduation, out of pride, I resigned from Appen. My manager accepted my resignation. I was crying because I really did love my work. It’s the kind of work I love, but they didn’t have a full-time job for me. At first, I thought I was to be blamed for being too emotional and for sending that resignation email right away.

But because of that, I was able to apply for Cambly. I was cashing in a lot!! LIke a lot! Every week is enough to sustain us. In fact, I could fulfill my remote life fantasy and become a Hikikomori. What’s also amazing is that I get to practice my profession again: helping people, becoming aware that this is my talent especially when people would book a lesson with me again after the call. It’s a rewarding job, but I want something fixed to be honest. While I can earn 18k a week (God, I can’t imagine how hard that’d be), I had to really force myself and motivate myself. There were times I only earned 3000 pesos a week because I was lazy.

Being someone who thrives in productivity, this relax environment is killing me so while teaching, I was also learning advanced stats and modelling and python programming and machine learning on the side. (So yes, I was not only watching Korean dramas).

And exactly in December, God opened a path I was not expecting-a path I was willing to take next year, but it’s been done. I’m excited for the next year… I can’t share it yet, but it’s definitely what I have been dreaming all my life.

By writing this decade summary, I have faith that God is preparing something again! The same God who brought me victories will be with me in the next decade. I just wish He will reveal himself to me in other areas of my life as I hopefully bid goodbye to my education (after this PhD).

Thank you God in advance for your gift of the decade! What a journey! Thank you for being with me all these years God!


Your Kimkim

Next: Part 2: What I will leave behind!

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Stuck in a Rut

Voice: What do you do when you feel you’re stuck in a rut? Do you stop and let it be? Do you allow it, and pitch camps? Do you want to go forward?

Me:I think moving forward is the best way.

Voice: Why are you scared to accept where you are now? It is far from what you want to be?

Me: Yes, it’s not what I envision myself to be. Everything has become silent. IT’s deafening. The more I push the wall in front of me, the more I get hurt, scratch my palms, the more I understand that I do not power over the wall. I canno

Voice: Yes, so what do you do if there’s a wall? You go around it!  You don’t push it, you are yourself. You just go around it or climb over it. You don’t have to push it, climb over it! You don’t have to expect a sudden change, you slowly put your right foot in the wall, and place your left hand on a sturdy rock on the wall. It’s gonna be difficult, it may be long, but soon enough you’ll get past through that wall. Again, you feel satisfied, but remember you have to go down, to humble yourself and accept that whatever accomplishment you may feel on top at the moment is not exactly the reason why you started climbing the wall.

Rest, but you have to go down and start a new liberating journey. You don’t have to push the wall, it’s going to be difficult. Stop pointing everything wrong in your life. Instead, choose to choose the best way you think you could move past that hurdle. No need for bantering, no need for overthinking. Just do something, a little something is better than doing a big act you can’t even maintain. You can use a ladder or leverage other people. Anything. As long as you do something. Instead of looking at the wall and saying, “That’s a huge wall”. Does thinking day in and day out change the wall or lift you up? Nope. At some point, you gotta do something about it. Climb over it or go around it! There’s always that small step that you can take. Don’t pitch camps there. Don’t. That’s the reason why you get stuck at present.

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You asked why I turned down the Phil Sci Academic Writing teacher’s position, and chose to work for a this private company.

Here’s why:


iles of emails and mounds of meetings

xtroverted introvert environment, and the

R ight to control rest in the midst of busyness

But that’s not it.

I t is the job’s sometimes rapid-snailed and other times steady-flicked pace

Its rather systematic-creative approach, and the breadth and width of potential learning available, mostly strewn and presented in fixed  formulae

In other words,

It’s the

O xymorons that

D azzle me. Period.


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In the Hospital of 2001: Memoir Part 2

They took me to Marbel Doctor’s Hospital one afternoon. I remember barely seeing anything except the blurry vision of my mama and papa as they held me tight. The high fever started a week ago, but the rashes only occurred in the morning. On our way, I vomited into a red bag in Uncle Renat’s van twice already and to a 10-year-old high spirited kid, it was horrible. I wanted to go back home and watch Voltes V on the TV with my siblings, play paper dolls – those sailormoon drawings made of paper which you can dress up using paper-made dresses, and make up stories in my head while I hold the two paper dolls together.

Arriving at the hospital was harder, I couldn’t move my head because a slight flip would make me dizzy again and vomit afterwards. Thankfully, none of that happened as they put me into the wheelchair and pulled me to the Emergency Room.

As I lay there, I noticed my mama crying. I remember her asking me what type of room I want to have, and what food I want to eat. None of that mattered. I knew something was wrong. I heard my papa leaving when I began to drift, and I recalled them talking they need Uncle Robert’s blood. I might not have understood the processes, but I was perfectly well aware I need blood. And needing blood transfusion, the way I usually see in telenovelas, mean my life is about to end.

To add to that, the nurses struggled finding my veins to start putting on the dextrose because my hands were flabby. It must took them an hour, or maybe I overestimated time because 5 minutes in that room felt like the quadruple of the reality. When they’re finished, I was rested in a suite room on the new building.

I did not know a hospital could be a happy place.

It had restroom, cabinet, fridge and tv (yaaay).

At that age though, I remembered praying for the first time on my own without my parents’ constant badgering. “I-save ko Kuya Jesus if you’re real. Maging buot ko nga bata, Promise. (Save me Jesus if you’re real. I’d be a good kid. Promise)”

Although my feeling did not get better the next day, my situation did. My platelet count became stable, so they wouldn’t need to transfuse blood.

The announcement made my mama cry again.

Only after two days that my feeling got better, it was then I knew God answered my prayer.

My sister once told me even if my eyes were closed off I would tell her, “Binli niyo ko pagkaon. (Leave me some food)” Even at such excruciating situation, I couldn’t get my mind off food. Dr. Feliprada, my physican, would often do her rounds daily and find me either sitting on my bed or on the chair watching TV while eating- always eating. They’re food that I couldn’t still consume, but my mama would often say I found my refuge in food, no matter what it was. I was certain I looked forward to mama coming to the hospital at 5:30 from work because she always brought chicken barbecue or Jollibee (now Jollibee becomes a food).

Aside from food, I found solace in TV. We did not have many channels yet at home, so we depended on GMA and ABS for fun. The stay in the hospital allowed me to watch animes from AXN and from other channels for long hours without mama or papa yelling at the background.

I never thought the hospital could be a happy place, or maybe it became one because of my first encounter with God.


I shared this because it was my first answered prayer and the beginning of my growing faith and our budding relationship. Whenever people ask me why I believe in God, I would often say it isn’t much about what the bible says, what the church teaches, what my parents preach but it has always been experiencing Him in my life.

Our relationship with God can be likened to our relationship with a restaurant.

Seeing a restaurant and hear people appreciate how great the customer service is, or how different and delicious their food is cannot make the restaurant a personal reality for a person. It’s for this reason that people want to try that new Japanese restaurant and check if their Teriyaki is really different, or visit a new Italian café to fully understand why people go crazy over their grilled chicken pasta. It’s only when you experience that you 100 percent believe and love it without having to explain it.

Did I end up being true to my promise? H*** no. I bragged, made my parents cry, insulted people, hurt (physically, verbally) people, yelled at God, cursed God, cursed people. I was a beast. With my bipolar personality, I struggled all my life. I got better eventually, but I still get up every day hoping I woudn’t be the same awful person.

But this story isn’t about me, it’s about God’s faithfulness amidst my unfaithfulness.

And based on my experience with Him, He isn’t like any other. He does not retaliate, does not curse, does not hate. He always stays true to His promise. I’m certain it’s only God that doesn’t change.

If God continued to love me amidst my imperfections, then you could be pretty certain he would embrace you totally.

Trust Him, not the people who constantly judge you.

Trust His heart, not the leaders and preachers whose priorities  and personalities change.

Trust His care, not even your parents who will leave you someday.

*More Miracle Stories to Come*

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Just Another Creepy Story

Side note: Never thought I still have these really old poems (I am not even sure if I patterned these after other poems I fancied back in 2005). I still cringe whenever I read them, but I guess reading them once in awhile can retrain me that the possibilities with words are infinite; so penning every thought without concern for a public audience can count more than a writer’s perfectionism, pride and paranoia that so often create the most sacred pieces.

Yep, not that perfectionist writer, so… hahahahahahahaha!

This is cringy, funny, bizarre in a way, so I’d appreciate if you read it through the end.



She was the Heart of the Night

 She was the heart of the night.

She wore a glistening green dress that made the men woo in delight.

Her menacing mien captivated them especially Sherwin Shun.

Sherwin Shun whom she liked least and loved last among her classmates for

He was stout, skunk, snob and strange!


“She was the heart of the night.”- Sherwin held alone in his deepest

Recesses. He asked her to dance on such bright evening for prime hearts.

She replied with dazzling smile, “Screwed, Sherwin Shun. Shun me please. Hate to see

Your big belly and hate to feel your bizarre brashness.

You are stout, skunk, snob and strange!”


She was the heart of the night.

She believed. And so she turned down an awful man with delight.

Poor Sherwin Shun shunned by such lovely lass.

He walked away and stood at the side of the dancing and prancing hall.

Anger enamoured him when he saw her swaying with another man.


She was the heart of the night.

Sherwin Shun continued to think. Deep wanting to feel and touch her innermost.

He waited and waited for hours to see such moment come.

He saw her coming with her glistening green dress that made him woo in delight.

He approached her lovely beauty and offered her a ride. To this she said yes.


She was the heart of the night.

Everyone rumoured. That made all women desire no more to come to that

Evening of prime hearts. Her body was bruised and battered. Her innermost battered.

Indeed she was the heart of the night.

Everyone thought but never thought it could be Sherwin Shun…


Revelations of Sherwin Shun

By Xenon

 She was the heart of the night.

She wore a glistening green dress that made the men woo in delight.

Her menacing mien captivated them especially me,

Sherwin Shun whom she liked least and loved last among her classmates for

I was stout, skunk, snob and strange!


I can never be the heart of the night.

Though I was the one who held the knife and slashed their heart of the night.

How lovely it was been to be soaked with blood in the evening of heart.

Now, I knew I was not only stout, skunk, snob and strange

But I was also mad…mad…and mad…



It was only I who kept the secret behind the lie

It was only I who know the truth and so I lie

How lovely it was to feel that nobody thought I can be him

Now, I knew people can be deceived easily

For they are all fools…fools and fools…


Would you listen and care to hear the truth behind?

Or would you rather bury the tragedy and keep everything fine?

Nevertheless, I’ll tell you how and why

How lovely it was been to be soaked with blood of the heart of the night.

Now, I knew I enjoy much

So prepare for I’ll come…come and come


Hold your breath and listen closely as I narrate everything so you’ll see;

I tore her glistening green dress in our ride to the city crest

And so while the evening was at its peak in the middle of the evergreen

I grabbed the opportune time and relished her, her every part

Woo, I wooed in delight.

While she screamed…screamed and screamed.


I slapped her as hard as I could to stop such awful creek;

After a minute or two, she halted as I continued.

I thought I was satisfied but I was not;

An inner voice kept urging me to hold the knife and slash her with might

Which I did with delight that made me woo.

While she pleaded…pleaded and pleaded.



I yelled at her and continued with might;

Her innermost battered, destroyed which I enjoyed.

Woo, I wooed in delight;

Thus brought satisfaction and light.

I was not contented and so I looked for another bigger knife;

And chopped…chopped and chopped.


Like a pig I butchered her with might that brought me delight;

“You are the heart of the night, you say?” I reminded with resentment.

I left with light that brought life.

Life is given once and once it’s taken;

You can never take it back.

So prepare…prepare and prepare.


Underestimation, avoid such for if you do you’ll suffer thus

I might be stout, skunk, snob and strange

But what she suffered was worst

For her words brought her fate as thus

Like a butchered pig she became thus-

Stout, skunk, snob and strange.


But as I enjoyed my light away from the night

I started to cry when my wristwatch I no longer can find;

The only evidence that brought me in this trial night.

Prepare… Prepare and Prepare

For this is not the end, I swear.



_taken from the message of Sherwin Shun during the trial_



poor language, but well – something you don’t always get a taste of. Hahaha!
























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The Article I Thought It Could Have Been

When your A**** world only involves doing qualification and managing productivity for some projects, and onboarding processes for **** tasks, seeing random characters together like :%s/apple/banana/gc on a black screen seems a dive into a cliff.

As you are introduced to the new world of the L*** R****, you find out that those random characters aren’t random, but are precisely pieced together to mean “change all ‘apple’ to ‘banana’”, which they call a Regular Expression (RegEx), run in the terminal to change all words (apple) to banana in the extract.

And as you move deeper, you realize that the process is really— well, a dive.

To make the dive a little less daunting for a C***** ******* Task supervisor, who needs the magic of regular expressions and scripts –those commands that end in .py (autocorrect.py, filterlex.py, etc) – in order to make project-specific tasks efficient, a week-long RegEx and Script Training was conducted by ******.

The training kicked off January 09  and continued through January 13, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. with the main aim of sharing the L**** R****’ script and regEx knowledge to J***, a ** supervisor.

Although K*** S***, a new **** for ** *******, and I reserved a week before to learn Regexes and script, we decided to attend this new training to hone our skills and learn new regexes. However for J****, the experience was new, challenging and different. She even shared, “It was indeed complicated and difficult; especially that it was totally different with what I do with Content Relevance.”

We’re given separate tasks for Scripts and RegEx to work on, interspersed between short lectures that clarified the purpose of each .py script and formed as practice in creating our own regexes for certain situations. This made J**** say, “I believe this would also impact great result since it would lessen grammar- related issue or typos that judges were not able to capture.”

Knowing how to achieve a particular task by creating expressions from a pool of complicated choices of characters; understanding how all python scripts work; and tailoring the processes according to our project are not an easy stroll around the park. During tasks, I’m sure somehow we hoped drinking hot or iced coffee and nimbling biscuits while staring at the screen of regex and script tasks for long could help us figure our way out, and that laughing during breaks would clear the confusion. Yes, the training only affirmed that learning these can be a stroll, a jog or a sprint depending on what is required, but it also reminded us that the process can, in fact, be fun.

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Sliding Windows: My Memoir Part 1

It wasn’t really a good idea to stay overnight at Lolo Caloy and Lola Estella’s house, a quaint two-storey Filipino colonial-style house. Its sliding wood-panelled windows and decaying walls have been home to termites. To a thief, it’s the last of the last resorts for stealing because it has always been famous as a haunted house.

When my mama dropped me and my siblings off at their ancestral house that night, there was a surge of excitement for a mystery-seeker like me. I remember wearing only a shirt, pajamas and a pair of muddy slippers that was also my companion when I sneaked out three hours earlier to go to another derelict nipa hut about two kilometers away from the back of our concrete bungalow. I remember because that’s the reason why we arrived late at lolo’s house and though excited, my eyes were red and huge teardrops were flowing to the floor because my mama berated me and pinched me hard on the arm.

As soon as a tall burly old man opened the door, his inflated tummy sticking out of his white shirt, I started sniffing to indicate that I was crying as if my swollen eyes were not evidence enough. Noticing my exaggeration, my lolo bent over, stroke my hair and gave me soothing words I can’t remember what.

Upon entering, I could already smell Nanay Cunsit’s aromatic pork Humba: a sweet pork dish with catsup, brown sugar and salted black beans and banana blossoms resembling the more famous pork Adobo. Cooking Humba signaled an important occasion, so our presence could be a significant visit for them.

Nanay Cunsit, a scrawny elderly wearing a stained plain daster, flashed her yellowish teeth and greeted my mother while circling the ladle in her cooking pot. I squinted my eyes to show her I still hated her for making my last summer miserable at Lolo’s house. Suddenly, another plump old woman emerged from the door connecting the kitchen to the dining room. It was my lola Estella. She noticed my muddy slippers so while the rest entered the huge dining room with a long rectangular narra table at the center, my lola brought me to the bathroom where she cleaned my feet several times before offering a pair of clean giant slippers.

I proceeded to my place in the dining table. In lolo’s house, each of us has our own seat. While the old ones chattered, my sister Kathleen a slender kid with short hair and bangs started rolling her eyes and pouting her lips to show her impatience. She was seated directly in front of me in the long table. In response, I started raising my eyebrows several times smirking indicating my agreement. The two of us understood each other by mere facial expressions.

After 30 minutes of eager wait, two huge bowls of Pork Humba, a platter of Kinilaw, raw fish salad, and two bowls of rice were laid on the table. Then an hour passed, my mama bid her goodbye while the two of us with Ate Karen -the eldest among us, who grew up at Lolo’s, more refined and always wore a dress – ran upstairs. The stairs were situated directly across the dining room. Each careful step produced a creaking noise, so imagine running through it. Nanay Cunsit yammered from below while the three of us just laughed boisterously. We stopped when we reached the last step up because it was creepily murky. Only a yellow chandelier “adorned” with cobwebs lit a sprawling bare space upstairs. There were four rooms. The first room from the stairs was Nanay Cunsit’s, the second I haven’t opened and checked, the third was my lolo and lola’s and the last was my Ate Karen’s room.

Three expansive sliding windows bedecked the bare space supposed to be a living room.

We hurried to Ate Karen’s room, threw our bags and as free kids, started jumping on her pillow-filled bed. After a while of jumping and playing “Langit Lupa”, Lola Caloy came in giggling elated to see us in high spirits, bringing a pitcher of water, a cup, and an anerola, a pail for pee. He stopped us though and ushered us to sleep. Because we’re there, he decided to stay with the three of us. He positioned himself at the left side of the bed. I lay beside him while my sister Kath sprawled herself next to me, and my ate Karen slept at the far right side. Two windows were slightly opened, allowing a gush of wind to seep through- its gentle cold breeze ventilating us- and the moon and the eerily silent sky as the backdrop. I couldn’t sleep, my ate Karen too, so my lolo started humming a lullaby.

“Lolo, we’re not babies anymore”, squeaked Ate Karen. But the old man continued. As his eyes were closed humming the tune familiar to him, I faced him and noticed streaks of tears. Puzzled, I questioned, “Are you crying lolo?” He opened his right eye, and gazed at me, smiling. I bugged him to tell us why. Then out of the blue, he started sobbing like a kid. Ate Karen sat down worried, while Ate Kath was already in dreamland. My surge of excitement waned as I listened to a once strong old man’s vulnerable sobs. By that time, Ate Karen stood up and took a cup of water and gave it to lolo.

Lolo sat down, wiped his tears and beckoned us to sit in front of him.

Only the two of us were there as my sister Kath was asleep with mouth opened. Lolo, turned to me and said, “No matter what, love each other. One day you’ll be separated from each other. Di gid ninyo kalimtan nga magutod kamo. (Never forget that you’re siblings)”.

At a very young age of 8, I barely understood what he meant.

Parehas gid kami ninyo dati pero wala gid kami subong naghirupay bisan gisakripisyo ko akon nga pamilya para sa ila” (We were once like you but now it seems that we don’t know each other, I sacrificed even my own family for them).

I was a mere spectator in that mournful monologue. He wiped his tears and poured out, “Gipalangga ko sila. Nagpaningkamot ko para sa ila”. (I loved them. I labored for them).

For the first time in my life, I peeked through the window of this hardworking grandfather’s past.

Sometimes we close these windows terrified that a gnawing memory would haunt us, at times we slide it open, allowing the gentle breeze of the past to seep through. Now, I fully understood what he meant:

The mundane things we did together as siblings became my most memorable windows.

Side note: I seriously miss these moments.

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On Depression

You sit alone in your room, gazing into space while your mind wanders around a spate of negative thoughts… “You are dumb. freak. hopeless.useless…” Actually, you already forget the time when you felt optimistic and passionate. You bawled your eyes out the night before and you wish tonight’s going to be the same – tears dripping, you falling asleep then waking up in the morning, following the same old routine. Tonight’s different though – your eyes are frozen and the time is, too. You search for that one hopeful thought to keep you going, but you can’t and so, a far more dreadful train of thoughts enters and slowly drowns you – “Better end this. I should stop this. There’s no point. When I die, nobody’s gonna cry! My death would make them happy!” You want to stop them from drowning you. Still, you are rummaging through your memories for that glimmer of hope that could stop you from taking your life. Today you are successful, but tomorrow might be different, who knows.

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Observations in a Restaurant

His color is darker than mine and her color is a shade brighter than mine, yet in the first meeting at a restaurant where we sit in a round table, we don’t ask each other where we come from. He introduces himself, asks my name. After answering, he inquires if I watch the latest basketball match. I smile and drawl, ‘of course’. We surely exchange conversations, I can’t remember it though. The lady inquires how’s my mindfulness meditation going. I reply, “It’s awesome”. As she shares her meditation experience, I slowly begin to focus my attention elsewhere. A burly man sitting at the opposite table stands up and turns the TV on. Successful environmental projects and social enterprises flood the news. They seem to be conventional to all. I can’t help but notice each table and each interaction. Everyone seems calm, focused, gazing each other’s eyes. Two young white women at the table on my right are joined by a laughing black guy with a confident mien. Three of them seem to be conversing about the social projects they are doing. Hearing her loud squeal, I turn my gaze towards a girl with a black lanky hair on my left, she seems too excited about starting something for her neighborhood; I reckon a sports match? I tilt my head to the left as I fix my gaze on the service crew who are all smiling. While I am the only one guilty of inattention, there’s a sense of calm, focus, and deep joy emanating from each person.Where am I?

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On Industrial Revolution and the Knights of Labor

The Industrial Revolution was the socioeconomic and technological period that was characterized by the rise of mechanization and automation of production resulting to the replacement of animal and human effort seen in the agriculture-based economies. It opened jobs to the market which also attracted several ethnic groups to come to America.

Before the industrial revolution, businesses exemplified the Jeffersonian ideals of Life, Liberty, the right to own one’s labor and private property, and the right to own a productive piece of land to safeguard one’s life in the form of artisan-apprentice partnership.

Because the apprentices were trained in the whole process of creating the product, they were eventually expected to create their own businesses, necessary for them to engage in competition. Individualism (self-reliance) and competition were not only for a select few. This crumbled when the industrial period came as the mutual apprentice-artisan relation was substituted with a corporate model where businesses no longer established this close relationship with its workers; where workers were not anymore trained of the whole process of production, thus deskilling them and reducing their worth in the production process; where individualism was defined not in terms of the right to engage in competition and being self-reliant but in terms of the right to agree to a contract of work offered by the big bosses; where competition was no longer made possible for others as goods produced by factories became cheaper than the products delivered by artisans; where private property was defined as productive property afforded only to the economic elite and thus where progress was viewed as made possible because of innovation and expansion of industries of a select economic elite; and where government’s role was reduced to only protecting productive property to allow progress.

These redefinitions adversely affected how laborers were treated in the industries. Since they only contributed to only a small part of the production process, their wage was lower. Because they did not have access to machines that mass produced goods resulting to cheaper prices, they were stuck in the poor working conditions of industries in order to survive. In the garment town of Lawrence, Massachusetts for example, the average male earned 500 dollars a year which was under the poverty line of 700 dollars. In order to be at least along the the poverty line, women had to work, violating the old american mind of separate spheres. At that time, the willingness of the new immigrants to work for a little also contributed to the abuse of power by the economic elite. Thus, speaking up and complaining (becoming self-reliant) on their own during the industrial revolution could not attain the system they all wanted.

In 1873, when the first economic crisis affected America, railroad workers’ wage fell by one-third. This was the time when the workers might have thought “enough is enough”. Because of the low wages and poor working conditions, added with the cuts, the workers in Baltimore and Ohio left their posts on July 16, 1877, inspiring other workers based in Chicago, Buffalo and St. Louis to take similar act of protest, known in History as the Great Strike of 1877.  The effect on national transportation was immense that President Rutherford Hayes had to send two thousand federal troops to support 45,000 state militiamen against strikers. In Baltimore and Pittsburg, they opened fire against strikers that took the lives of 20 and 30 strikes. Hearing the news, strikers in Pittsburg destroyed 2200 railroad cars and burned 80 buildings. After the riots, 80 people were killed and there was 80 million dollars worth of damage to railroad company property. The strikes showed the whole country that railroad workers were not satisfied with their working conditions. Most importantly, it exemplified that a collective effort of all workers could handicap the system. Seeing the immense impact, they were left with another choice: organize themselves and plan courses of action that could influence the decision of the economic elite and the government.

The event gave rise to the Knights of Labor, a radical labor union, that organized both skilled and unskilled workers, men and 60,000 women and all races including African-american workers. They viewed society in terms of class and not on race and gender, knowing that the real conflicts were not based on gender and racial issues anymore. They continually advanced the replacement of the wage system with a cooperative model of shared ownership of productive property, and that ownership of public utilities such as railroad, telegraph and telephone should be owned by the government so that no people should be at the mercy of the industry owners. Their sheer size and aggressive rhetoric began to threaten the big bosses and the conservative industrial system. By organizing themselves under one union, the Knights of Labor reinforced collectivism in the countercultural american mind. Collectivism was further seen in their desire to establish a cooperative economic model that also challenged the conservative american belief on private property. By welcoming all genders and races in the union, they introduced gender and racial equalities in the progressive industrial mind that challenged the old american beliefs of binary race relations and separate spheres. By advancing the formation of a government that acts in unison with the unions and that owns public utilities and mitigator in economic relations, they infused the concept of Big Government.

The Knights of Labor became antecedent to the formation of racial equality, gender equality, collectivism, dissent and big government in the Progressive Industrial American Mind.

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