Friday, April 6, 2018

full circle

5 April 2018
68th Graduation Ceremonies
Sta. Monica Academy 
La Consolacion College, Baao,
Camarines Sur

Two weeks ago, a week before Holy Week, the busiest week of the year for me, my Alma Mater sent me a message via Messenger thru The Principal, Azalia Peyra, and requested that I be the Graduation Guest Speaker and give an inspirational speech during the graduation rites of its Grade School Department.

Odd. Strange. Surprising. (I never get invited to speak in my own hometown. Bwahahaha!)

Last week, I made a self-assessment and determined I do not need more training or experience in public speaking.  Hhhmmm!  What is the difference between this one speaking engagement than the one I did in Kathmandu, Nepal, when I talked about agriculture to the South Asian women? Or the women entrepreneurs of the APEC nations in Hue, Vietnam?  This is easy!  Bwahahaha!  But as this day neared, I began to have panic attacks.  What can I say to you, grade six students? And to you parents of these students?  I was thinking, this is different.  But, I take comfort in my belief that the universe will conspire to get you what you want, when you want it.  I want you to hear my story, as I, some years ago, oh my! I was one just like you.  I was Grade 6 Class Valedictorian of 1976, here in this school, the Sta. Monica Academy, now known as La Consolacion College.  Ok, do the math!  Bwahahaha!

Beloved Head of School, Sr. Angelita Baraero, OSA and members of her administrative staff, Members of the faculty, proud parents, and above all, the graduates.  My congratulations!

I imagine that you are excited at graduating, a little scared of going to Highschool, sad about saying goodbye to friends and crushes, teachers and tutors, and excited about the summer.  I also felt the same way when I was twelve.

Looking at your faces, at this school, at the teachers, I realize that everything has changed.  And nothing has changed.

But let me tell you, tomorrow will be the beginning of one of the most wonderful, memorable, exciting part of your lives.

So let me speak to you now as someone speaking to another who is starting on the most wonderful journey.  But you have to listen, and you have to listen hard, bcause I am going to tell you some of the secrets to success.

They are: Growth, Generosity, Gratitude and love of God.  You can call them the 4G's.  And they are the secrets to success.

The first is Growth.  

This is not physical growth.  Physical growth comes naturally.  But this growth I am talking about, you have to decide to effect it.

Let me tell you about growth by telling you about Mulan.  You all know Mulan's story.  She wanted to defeat the Huns but she was a girl  who did not know how to fight.  She could not even carry a weapon!  But she did not let that stop her.  She practiced until she got so tired she could not practice anymore.  The next day, she got up and practiced, she got beat up but she practiced, left hanging on a pole but practiced, got buried in snow but practiced. Before she knew it, she was China's hero.

What am I trying to say?  The next years of your life will determine your future.  Make the next years one of growth.  Embrace growth.  Find out what you are good at, find out what you like to do, your passion.  And then grow.  Practice.  Practice some more.  because here is another secret, if you practice, you can be anything you want to be.  So do not be afraid!  While you are at it, do not be afraid to fail.

Let me also tell you more about failure because it is important in growing.  You all know about Michael Jordan, right?  Or do you?  Bwahahaha! He is the greatest basketball player of all time.  Michael Jordan missed more than 9000 shots in his career, lost almost 300 games and missed 26 winning shots. He failed over and over and over again.  But that is why he is the greatest basketball player in the world.

The second is Generosity.

You have to be generous, even overly generous, because here is the secret - if you give more, you will have more.  We are all familiar with the sayings:  it is better to give than to receive, or God loves a cheerful giver.  You know they are all clues - clues to great riches, both material and spiritual, and they are all true.  Because when you give, you release a powerful blessing and it embraces you.

The third is Gratitude.

We say it every day: "Thank you".  But we do not know how much power Thank You has.  When you appreciate people and events and the things you have in your life, the whole universe jumps up and down and what it wants to do is to give you more.  Try it.  Say thank you more often, say it with every step, say it with your every prayer.  You will be amazed at the wonderful surprises it will give you.

While we are at it, thank you for having me.  It is really my great privilege to be in your presence today.

The last  G is for God.

God the power and source of all things.  He is the reason why we are all here.  He is your stronghold here in the present and in the future.  He is great! and He loves you more than you know.

So let me end with my wish for all of you.  In your life, may you have people who will listen and spend time with you, encourage you and believe in you.  May you embrace growth and excellence, may you be generous, may you say thank you often, may God watch over you.  With this blessing, may you go forth and do wonderful things, and I am pretty sure:  You are ready to face Life's Challenges. Again, my congratulations!

Life is good!

Friday, October 14, 2016

dear me

dear self and me,
really, it is going to be okay. you are going to be okay.
do you remember when you were sixteen with that ridiculous hair, and how you thought that by the time you get to here, to now, it was going to be good, everything would be good.
that by now, you would know in the very marrow of your bones what it is like to really live loved. that you would be known, fully known and wholly embraced.
that the big dream would happen, that the peace and the purpose and the big point would be under your skin, 
that the awkward would be gone and that you would finally fit and that your life makes a real difference, you would make a real mark and you really matter.
you do not have to worry, you will get to make at least one unforgettable mark. 
and everyday, with every word, you get to decide: do you mar the world or mark the world?
it is always the smallest strokes that add up to the greatest masterpiece. because the thing is: do you even really know which mark you make that will matter most?
and though you are weary and tired, you keep getting out of bed and believing that you will never leave the world until you leave your most beautiful mark.
so just for today, keep going, keep believing that it is all working out okay. and that you are not alone in your story.
you are going to be okay and you will laugh and sing and dance a bit today. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2016


i grieve for never having found the one, or if i did, for letting go.  and yet, walking my dog in the woods, i feel this way about the forest: the forest is my beloved. 

Monday, March 28, 2016

the raya school of naga

19 march 2016
st. jude orchard clubhouse
naga city
school heads, teachers, parents, my dear graduates, good afternoon!
i do not have words to describe my reaction when teacher bel told me she was inviting me to do this task of speaking here before you, young graduates, and you parents of these cuties.  i have never been invited to do a task as, shall i say, delicate, as this. i have been speaker to numerous engagements and talked myriad topics, but never to kids as young as you are.  i have often wondered what it is or how it is to have a child, how to rear a child.  i can only guess.  at first, i was hesitant to do this, after much thought and prayers, yes, prayers, i accepted.
i mentioned earlier that this is a delicate task. it is because i am pretty much aware that a kid's mind is like a sponge and can absorb anything and everything that comes its way.  what i will say now, will hopefully remain in your minds and hearts.

graduates, i am talking to you as a farmer, an artist, an environmentalist, a social entrepreneur and a citizen of the universe. big words. you will understand what those words mean, later. maybe even later in life.  so many hats i wear. and i wear them all at the same time, all the time.

your school, the raya school of naga, has provided you with the atmosphere and environment that honed and sharpened your potentials to be all those.

your parents have the open minds and hearts to see the sights beyond the much-used box.  they have not only opened a window for you where you can see the world, but also have paved and are still paving your paths with the hope and conviction that you be constructive citizens, balanced individuals, humane, productive, democratic, moral and creative, and a student of integrity.  this is not just a special thrust in education. this is a crucial and most needed thrust in education in this country of ours.   if i were the deped secretary, i will go for this! sadly, i am not.
listen to these words i will yel you now:

never lose your sense of country. be proud filipinos. we are a great race! do not give up your citizenship, who knows, someday, you would be running for the highest in the land?

be proud of the colour of your skin! don't you know that this colour of skin gives us the lowest risk of skin cancer?

grow wings and fly high, aim for the stars!

let your imagination go wild! who would have thought we could fly to the moon and back?

nurture your creative spiriy. our country's ills can only be cured by a creative leader. you are our country's future.
i go to a lot of schools, both public and private and in every visit, i can only cry in dismay and helplessness.  the quality or the lack of it, in our educational system, makes me cry.  but i never lose hope.  being here with you now, gives me a new sense of hope.  a different light shines at the end of a long dark tunnel.

before i end my speech, i would like to share with you an experience:  in july of 2014, my farm in baao was devastated by typhoon glenda.  after years of nurturing my trees, my plants, after years of planting  and grooming my forest of dreams, an overnight lashing from an angry mother nature brought most of my trees down.  the morning after was the most dreaded morning! the sight of my farm brought me to tears and down on my knees.  it took weeks with a crew of seven, to clear and clean the area.  after the cleaning and clearing up acticvities, i was left with a heap of broken branches and broken twigs.  i didn't want to use them as just fuel, i had to wear the hats i mentioned earlier, all at the same time.

as a farmer, i had to replant and use branches to fence my farm,
as an artist, i hand-painted the wooden discs i asked my farm help to make for me,
as an environmentalist, i do not burn leaves, instead make compost for fertilizing and mulching to protect the roots of the trees,
as a social entrepreneur, i commissioned local artists to paint on more wooden discs and provide them with a simple livelihood, hired some artisans to make organic fashion accessories, (am wearing one now)
and as a citizen of the universe, i planted more trees and in doing so, provide more oxygen for everyone.
let life's circumstances bring out the best in you. life's storms may break your trees'branches, but do not let the storms break your spirit!

as gifts, i would like to give each of you a hand-painted wooden disc magnet and one blank wooden disc magnet that you can paint on and make you remember the day you met me and the day you recieved your diploma from the raya school of naga.

thank you!

Thursday, December 31, 2015

i crave simple

after a week of parties, get-togethers and reunions, i head to my sanctuary to dip my brushes and do some splashes. i need to work off my pent-up  creative juices from all the sugars and the cholesterols. bwahahaha! not to mention the stress from occasional traffic congestion in the nearby city where i frequently get my dose of caffeine.
as i approach the new year, some hours from now, i bring myself to a reflective mood, here in my forest of dreams.
in the midst of the highly stimulated exterior world, i try to discover, or perhaps, the better way to put it is: rediscover, my interior world. how am getting rid of my soul's clutter that i no longer need? what would a de-clutttered soul feel like? maybe, just maybe, i would have:
more courage to move towards others in love, without a complicated agenda.
wisdom to begin to give up what i no longer need, like fear of the future or regret over the past.
willingness to face my silence within and not worry so much what i may or may not hear.

energy to be fully myself in the presence of others without fear, pretense, or defensiveness.
i do not know if it is realistic or even possible to live in constant state of simplicity. afterall, i am a complex creature - nervous system, circulatory system, digestive system, not to mention relationships, dreams, hurts and desires.  all these are parts of my human existence and not one of them is simple! bwahahaha! well, complex has its place, am sure.
but my soul is filled with clutter, what is meant to be complex and awe-inspiring can become complicated and exhausting. when that happens, i crave simple! 
life is good in its complexity! bwahahaha!

happy new year!

Saturday, December 26, 2015

after christmas thoughts

the night air snaps cold, some stray raindrop's kiss irreverent and heaven pushes close. . .i feel i can almost touch them, all these hiding stars. 
being alone is just a state of mind. hhhmmm, also being loved!
merry christmas to the person who loved me the most, state of mind or otherwise.

Monday, August 17, 2015

because life is never still

because life is never still: 
bidibidi's cups and saucers
tito valiente
business mirror 11 august 2015
it has been only a few months since i wrote bernadette de los santos's trees and flowers. the artist is known by her nom d'amour "bidibidi". the name, with due respect to that choice, cannot contain the passion that the artist exhibits with her work. she has a heart for artists and, one day, i requested that she share her thoughts on the creative process with my graduate students on art criticism and critical thinking. the course title is a mouthful and i know how artists - true artists - really dread articulating on art and the processes that go with that endeavor and enterprise.
still, bidibidi granted my request. she was joined by the other bikol artists whose works i have reviewed for this page: boyet abrenica and nuns bancaso. the venue was "que pasa?", a restaurant that as become a gathering of artists in the area.
bidibidi was there because she was finishing up a project: to paint on the archivaults of "que pasa?". she was assigned the mexican writer laura esquivel, who is noted for "like water for chocolate". we cannot speak of how tricky this task can be. to paint with the texts and ouvre of a particular literary figure in mind cannot be merely illustrative. one must be able to recall the persuasion of that work and her representative works, if there are any.
that evening, bidibidi showed me on the lower portion of a curvilinear space flowers rich in color but with no remembrance of lust and desire. lovely blooms they were in the soft tone of that modifier.
as i turned around, on the wall where the escutcheon of "que pasa?" was displayed were small, unframed paintings. from afar, they were all about cups and saucers. they were engaging to the eye because of the soft hues. whose were these?
they were bidibidi's paintings. and they were quite unlike the mystical trees and forests that i had written about earlier. 
for students of art, the still-life painting is the most accessible of academic exercises. bidibidi however, once more "problematizes" the label as she gives us cups ans saucers and glasses graceful in their unwashed stages. the pieces are about colors and tonalities. but the title is not about the entire tone washing the canvas but certain objects that stand out because of their placement. the pieces show the technical grasp of bidibidi with regard to the medium and the message. the translucence of certain glasses are achieved. the weight of cups placed over each other is sheer vision of gravity and a sly work on physics.
the artist, as with her other works, is never scared of color.  she mixes them, turns glasses and cups into crayola green and red. all of these accoutrements are situated on tables with backdrops that are textured and lighted by unseen source. the direction of the lighting doesn't promise thranscendence. the artist has no plans to evoke sentimentality or any kind of emotion. that is what i prize about this collection. however muted the colors and the bjects, one is made to think of the persons absent from the frame. but we know the humans behind the colors, the hands that placed the cups and saucers, the mind that left those objects in such skewed placement. that is where the feeling of the pieces evoke. these emotions that are so ordinary in that they are of the everyday.
in the works of bidibidi, the quotidian, as that line from a poem states, will have its day. the cups become objects of sensation; the drinking glasses of different colors are there for contemplation. art starts from these techniques and we are grateful for bidibidi that, if in the past she allowed us into her forests and flowers, she now ushers us into walls and tables, with utensils that are magnified beyond utilization and into first lines of verses.  
the apples and the pears are all there like friends to the ordinary persona of these things we use to drink water, milk and chocolate. now, that is a wonderful feeling, nothing extraordinary but special anyway because of the rediscovery of the power of color and ordinary objects.

Sunday, June 28, 2015


my fave colour has always been blue, not that i do not like the other hues, oh my, i love the entire palette.  but again, i must say, my fave colour has always been blue.
for this weekend, i have these thoughts on blue:
may the blues of clear skies appear to meet me in the morn, from the pale salt of the eastern sea to the cerulean depths of the western night.

may i not be afraid to dive into the deep cold waters of not knowing. when the initial stun feels like too much, may i soon adjust to the change and be enlivened with oomphn and hope!

may i see the blues of summer as a necessary detail to the learnings am willing to take.  

may i be willing to take all.