Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015: Grateful for a year of personal gains

Photo credit: Gratitude: Daily Vitamin C 
If my 2013 was about fitness, my 2014 an introduction to Cultural Intelligence, then my 2015 was a year of wonderful personal gains. However, (my family and) I also suffered a significant loss so how can I daresay that this year was all gains? In 2015, I was finally able to go back to school to continue my Masters. A goal that I have waited 14 years to re-start after emigration. Coincidentally, this was also the year that I have been naturalized as an American citizen. Other gifts for which I am grateful: securing Les Mills fitness format certifications*; expanding my friends circle; and albeit brief, the opportunity to spend time with my mom and my family in Los Angeles. This year, I also found an opportunity to impact a few animal welfare causes in the Philippines. Truly, it was a very good year. *finding time to teach fitness is a different story... In the Summer, though, I have been dealt with a heartbreaking loss -- that of my stepfather.  While my biological father was around most of the time as I was growing up, my stepfather really took on the role with genuine concern and fatherly love (I personally believe that dedicated, loving stepfathers do not get the credit they deserve and that should change.) While this loss was painful, I have gained invaluable collective learning out of this tragedy. This learning now sets me up for dealing with the new year and onward. I would like to share it with you: 

1. The loss made me internalize how really brief life is, and to genuinely appreciate the time we have on earth. To stay away even more from the trivial and mundane; to consider carefully how we choose to spend our time. If an activity does not add value to my life, why should I bother doing it?

2. I appreciate now, more than ever, the true importance of taking care of ourselves — of our health — not just for us but for those who value us. We all have others who think the world of us; those who want us to be around.
3. To really appreciate our parents while they are still around. And I don’t mean appreciate just through constant contact, but more importantly (at least to me), in the consideration we give to them when we make immediate and long term plans. Are they part of it? Or our plans always just about us?
4. I also have a stronger appreciation for a few select College friends, who went to the wake to personally extend sympathies to my mother and sister, even when I wasn't there. To think that we have not seen each other in years. It is really never about the quantity, but the quality. True friends are rare and they are absolutely a blessing. 

So, in the end, even this loss has become a personal gain.
On this start of the new year, I look back with absolute gratitude on 2015, and look forward with a sense of optimism and courage, for all that is to come. May we all have a wonderful 2016!

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Today, I Become an American Citizen

TODAY is bittersweet for me.

I take my oath as a full fledged American citizen.
I swear to protect this country that has been my home for over a decade.
A country that is truly good to me and all its citizens.  A country that truly cares for its people -- exists for its people, governed by its people, and created by its people. A country that generates much admiration and draws criticism at the same time. After all, "no one ever kicks a dead dog" per Dale Carnegie (unless you are sick in the head!).

However,  I will never forget my roots -- my Filipino citizenship
.  I will always be involved and concerned with the state of affairs in the Philippines, its people -- my people.  
I will be a dual citizen, so help me God.  

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Introspection to Re-orient Yourself

Wallpaper image by  iqitutoriales-d4wtykx
If you have a personal Facebook account...Today, will you do what I just did after viewing photos of mine and those of my so-called Facebook friends?Take a step back and recognize where you are today in your life, who you are, and how you got there.How far have you come?Take a trip down memory lane and fast forward to NOW.  Isn't it amazing how you never knew, just those few or so many years ago, where you would be today?Are you happy? Happiness comes from contentment and acceptance. I hope these are what you find in your heart when you are done with this exercise. I wish you peace and love. xoxo

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Food for Thanksgiving Thought (and After)

The essence of America is diversity. 

We were all of different heritage who have come to this land and made greatness of it. Today, this diversity lives on. I hope that in your own celebration, in your moments of thankfulness, in your prayers of gratitude, that you reflect upon how rich our nation is, because of the cultural differences that make it so. May there be less intolerance. More open mindedness. More genuine inclusion. Happy Thanksgiving!

(posted originally on MFHA)

Sunday, March 8, 2015

On My Birthday: "Wherever You Are, There You Are"

My 2008 Birthday
I woke up today, on my birthday, to a slew of private messages, texts, multimedia greetings. My HEART IS FULL from all my friends' wishes. Every year on this day, the feeling is bittersweet for me. I miss my friends. I miss the genuine connections. Uprooting is never easy; no matter what others say.  I have uprooted two times now.

Truthfully, my heart aches over the wonderful memories I have with loved ones (family & friends) and the reality that wanting to be with most of them takes more effort & resources now. Yet, I am also happy for my life today for I made fully conscious choices to be here and believe God has led me to it. So, I sincerely thank everyone for being a part of my 30-something years on earth (shush). 

I am grateful for who I have become, for what I have, even though I am human and can be unappreciative sometimes; for the memories, for digital technology even though it will never be as good as real presence...mostly, thankful for waking up everyday and having a chance to make new memories with those whom I know today. 

I am here now and I will make the most of it.  For yes, "wherever you are, there you are."

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Why I Am Fighting for Admission into MBA

I will never, ever  sell myself short. I will never feel too desperate as to succumb. I will never put too much importance on other people's opinions that come from uninformed assumptions of who I am. No one knows me but ME. In my darkest times of self-doubt, I stood my ground and triumphed.

Is this a humble brag piece? Yes. Because I need to do this right now...
Image courtesy of

I received dispiriting feedback on my MBA application last week. After waiting nearly a month for response post-submission of all requirements, and doing my own follow up, I was told I am not accepted because my cumulative average in College did not meet the minimum grade requirement. Wait...what?

There it was, in one short email. All 2-3 sentences, coming from an impersonal email address.  I had been waiting anxiously for weeks. I started 2015 with goals; this being one of them. So hopeful! I started to arrange my personal schedule around anticipating class schedule. At that moment, I felt like someone has done the "Ice Bucket Challenge" on me.

First off, I graduated in 1989. That was a long time ago. While I did not receive all A's, I was no slop, either. I earned As and B+s on subjects that mattered -- major subjects toward my double degrees in Communications and Marketing Management. Not just in academics, I was also active in extracurricular activities, heading a few Clubs and a duly-elected Officer of the Student Council. I was one of the more visible students.  While I was not a Cum Laude grad, I had the privilege of delivering our Commencement Welcome Address.  That was a feat! Other than the Cum Laude who delivered the Commencement Message, I bested others who were graduating with more distinction.

Second, I have a fruitful career and have grown much as a professional since then.  My work, reputation and network, both in the Philippines and now in the US, speak for my qualifications. Eleven years after graduating, I started my MBA in Manila, paying my own tuition, and earned grades no lower than B+.  I was one of the top 10 in the qualifying GPA exam prior to starting.  Career-wise, I was then Asst. Vice President for a medium-sized IT VAR. A year later, I left for the US and have been looking for an opportunity to finish my MBA since finally re-establishing myself professionally.

Fast-forward to 2015 and I now have an opportunity to do so. Why an MBA? Why now when it does not seem like I have anything to prove?  Well, I do. As an immigrant, it is my first opportunity to study in a US institution. I believe earning this MBA proves to myself, foremost, that I have what it takes to break the perception of not being good enough or at par with my peers.  I want to break the proverbial "bamboo ceiling".  I want to add another layer of credibility to my professional accomplishments. Truthfully, it may also help me break though the salary barrier.

The most important part is this MBA is part of my employment benefits.  I am technically an employee of this university as I head a department of their non-profit.  Thus, the studies are nearly free.  I will not have this opportunity elsewhere. I can never afford it. I know that now after working here for 12 years.

This MBA degree is a part of my life goal.  If I had a shortlist of 5 before I kick the bucket, this is ONE of them.

I am appealing this feedback. My credentials need to be re-evaluated as a whole and not for its parts.  The students of this MBA program are mostly fresh graduates.  They may have A's but I certainly have a lot of value to bring to the table. I know the decision was not personal; the Admissions person just went through the motions. Yet, what of the post-grad Transcript? What of my references from Presidents of US businesses, no less? What of my Statement of Purpose? What of my own job performance in my current role?  I simply feel that I was not evaluated on the entire qualifications set.

I have always been proud of my attitude towards learning.  I spend for short courses, register for certificate courses online, attend free work seminars on personal and leadership development; anything that will help me sharpen the saw. I have a hunger for learning.

Last night, I saw a 2008 documentary entitled:  "Pressure Cooker". In it,  students of Philadelphia's Frankford High School compete in a city-wide culinary competition to gain scholarship to pursue College. Every single one of the students is deserving. Every single one has a strong reason to go to College.  I, however, identified with the African immigrant, Fatoumata Dembele.  In the competition interview she was asked how she compares school life at Frankford with that in Africa. Getting a bit choked up, she shares that in Frankford, she enjoys bus tokens, fee lunch food and good education. Why would she not make the best of these privileges she did not get in Africa?

I feel the same way. In my job, I get this special privilege, this benefit that comes from my employment. This benefit that enables me to fulfill one of my life goals. Why would I waste it? I will probably earn it more than most of the students getting into the program.

So help me God.