BATU, Indonesia. Photo by Jes Aznar

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Our Sunset Cruise on the Rhine

Germany is a memory of the crimson sun slowly fading beneath the pale blue horizon as the hulking white catamaran gently crawls on the Rhine.

It is a crisp June afternoon in Bonn and Jes and I are standing on the deck of the boat, savoring this part of Europe.

Age-old castles line both sides of the river. And fancy restaurants, too. There are young boys and little girls in pig tails racing by the shore.

There is a broken bridge from a forgotten war; Medieval churches nestled on green-covered hilltops; Birds flocking from one branch to another; there are other boats, too and million-dollar yachts with lovers locked in each other's arms.

We sip on our champagne to fight off the biting breeze but we are already in a stupor from the boat ride alone, enthralled in this bearable lightness of being.

Traveling is about discovering the foreign and the unfamiliar; of getting lost and taking everything in; of freezing the time and passing it; of painting with light and weaving stories; and of dreaming of Einstein's dreams.

Cruising the Rhine is all these and more.

It is a plate of flying hors d'oeuvres; of fresh green lettuce, cherry tomatoes and feta cheese; of bottles of ice cold Becks beer and the froth on our pursed lips. 

It is the warmth of the brown spring coat while holding hands. It is high-heeled shoes and brown boots; of hundreds of sweaty bodies dancing on stage. It is jam-packed, drenched-in-booze all-night partying.

It is about strangers dropping by tables; fake backdrops of photographs; of endless giggling.

It is about sharing Winston lights on the deck while freezing in the cold. It is waiting for the sun to set at 10 in the evening and waiting for the yellow moon from years ago.

Germany is a memory of a cruise one afternoon of June on a river called Rhine, with the love, dreams and the warm embrace backlighted by the setting sun. 

Wednesday, August 29, 2012


Filipina journalist Angelica Carballo invites everyone to Padede, her photo exhibit on breastfeeding, which will run from September 1 to 6 at the Senate of the Philippines.  Let this be an inspiration and a great reminder to all mothers that breastfeeding -- a stark and telling metaphor for how motherhood works-- is a lifetime gift we can give to our children. 

Below is the statement from Angel on her upcoming exhibit:

A photo documentary work on breastfeeding entitled Padede will be exhibited at the Senate of the Philippines Building, Roxas Boulevard, Pasay City on September 3-6, 2011, in partnership with the Office of Senator Pia Cayetano, Medela Moms Inc., and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).

Padede is a self-initiated, self-funded, non-profit work of photographer, writer, and mother Angelica Carballo that seeks to raise awareness about breastfeeding and create an inspiration for women that their body is enough to give her child the best start in life. At the same time, the project will also show the predicaments and hindrances that women encounter when breastfeeding her child, and how these social, economic, aesthetic, and personal factors make her lose her trust and confidence in her breast, and what she can do to counter these.

Padede is a visual argument on the positive effects of breastfeeding. It also aims to reopen the topic of breastfeeding among mothers, expectant mothers, and policy makers , particularly its benefits for mothers and children. The exhibit also seeks to remind our good legislators to support and promote breastfeeding through appropriate legislation.

Padede is a reminder that breastfeeding is best for babies and their mothers; safe and cost effective; empowers women; and ensures a healthy, intelligent, and stable new generation for our country. The work will exhibit the beauty of breastfeeding and will show that breastfeeding is part of women empowerment; contrary to the belief that breastfeeding will tie women to their homes.

Carballo started the project as a requirement to the Masterclass in Documentary Photography (MCDP) under the tutelage of documentary photographer and professor Alex Baluyut, where she was enrolled three months after giving birth to her youngest son. Carballo decided to pursue the topic after experiencing the joys of breastfeeding her children, Anna Katrina Leica, three years old, and Napoleon Boris, one year old.

 At present, Carballo is a freelance writer and photographer who writes and documents stories on women’s rights, public health, education, and persons with disabilities (PWDs). She is a member of TALA Photo Collective, a group of Filipina women photojournalists; AKP Images, a group of young documentary photographers; and the Freelance Writers Guild of the Philippines (FWGP). 

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Raising a New Breed of Businessmen, Innovators

Below is my piece on the First Robotics Learning Center as published on The Philippine Star's Business As Usual section. I thought of sharing it with my invisible readers as my small contribution to the parenting world. 

Raising a New Breed of Businessmen, Innovators
By Iris C. Gonzales (The Philippine Star) Updated August 27, 2012 12:00 AM 

Manila, Philippines -  There are a hundred and one ways to teach children on how to go about their daily lives. Teaching them the basics of dressing up, eating, studying, taking a bath or simply surviving is easy.But it is never easy to teach children how to become the next generation of businessmen, entrepreneurs, problem solvers, innovators or simply great thinkers.

Equipping them with tools that they need when they become society’s future leaders is tricky.
One way to do this is to expose children in science and mathematics in a fun and learning way so that they may appreciate the amazing wonders of the two disciplines. These two disciplines, after all, have been proven necessary for any leader to have in nation building or to simply make a difference in a society such as the Philippines.

The First Robotics Learning Center strives to provide an environment where children can learn and enjoy science and technology using robotics.
Established only in June, First Robotics uses the STEM or the science, technology, engineering and math educational approach.

Located on the ground floor of Gold Hill Tower in Greenhills, San Juan, First Robotics has four IDEA (invention, discover, explore and aspire) rooms and a play area for the different courses it offers.

At present, the center has three courses, taught by educators with science and mathematics academic backgrounds.

The Our World of Adventures and Inventions course is for children age five and up.
Here, “children explore ways in which people and things move – for example, how animal and human bodies bend and jump, and how machines lift or spin. Children will learn about simple machines in the home and local community as well as design and build their own models.”

In the Our World of Science and Technology course, children age seven and up, will learn about information and control technology and math by making their models come to life using basic sensors, mechanical parts and drag-and-drop software commands with a computer.

The third course is the Our World of Robotics course for children age nine and up. Here students will learn and start designing more advanced models by deepening their understanding of different science concepts such as forces, motion and energy. Students will also start planning and designing their own program to control robot functions or behavior.

First Robotics Director Bailey Policarpio said the inspiration to put up the school came from his children.

In Malaysia, Policarpio’s children really enjoyed the experience in a similar learning center.
“Our children really enjoy it,” said Policarpio.

He and a group of like-minded investor friends, some of whom are engineers, decided to put up the center in the Philippines.

The idea is to teach children the practical application of math, science and technology.

 “Normally in school, they’re taught science, math and technology but here we are teaching the practical application so they will have a better understanding of what is taught in their schools and they can appreciate it better,” Policarpio told The STAR.

Some of the concepts kids can learn from the center include motion, force, energy and problem solving. The values that may be picked up include perseverance, analytical thinking, problem solving, critical thinking and teamwork.

Policarpio invites parents including the country’s business leaders and entrepreneurs to check out the center for themselves for their children. Trial classes are available, too.

(Information on the First Robotics Learning Center is available at and 

Photos by Iris Gonzales

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

In the End

The man must have wondered in that fraction of a second where it all started; whether he had done enough with his life which is just about to end or whether he had done what he had to. Or how his wife would take the news. And the children, too.

Or did he? 

Could we ever think about our life at that exact and brief moment when it is about to end? Is it true that our life flashes before us when faced with death? Do we remember the bliss or do we see only the scars -- those black marks that never disappear? Do we remember the sunset cruise on the Rhine River with the beloved and the many other perfect moments? Or only the screams hurled against each other in the dead of night?
Not far from my tiny shack, there is a woman who is counting the days she has left. She has been sick  and the man she shares with another no longer visits. 

There is a mother who wishes to be dead. Her children have not been with her in a long time. The man she loves has long been dead. There is a father, a brilliant man, who watches his time go by in the emptiness of his bed's unwashed sheets. His two sons are waiting for money to be able to take their school exams.

There is a man who has not been able to bring food to his children for years now. He has not seen a beloved since last year. There is always tomorrow, anyway.

But the day will come when the story ends, the curtains will fall.  There will be no suitcases to unpack, just caskets to close. There will be no children to feed, just their anger to live with.

There will be no food on the table. Just empty bottles of beer and ashtrays filled with heaps of cigarette butts from months ago. There will be no dishes to wash because there will be nobody to cook food for.

There will be nothing in the tattered shelter but the solitary voice of Eva Cassidy, blaring from the speakers to drown the unbearable pain of emptiness.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Anais Nin: A Life Illustrated

Who doesn't know French-Cuban writer Anais Nin? I am a big fan of her wisdom, courage and strength as depicted in her writings. Now, artist-illustrator Lisa Congdon puts the great Nin's words into illustrations and as Maria Popova says, the results are breathtaking. Enjoy:

and my favorite is this:

Portrait of Anais Nin from Wikipedia

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Kindermusik and The Learning Basket

I am a proud and happy Kindermusik mom. My little rockstar has been enrolled as early as two years old, starting from Our Time class under Teacher Suzette-Kho. We both have been under the magic of Kindermusik ever since and as most KM parents would attest, the magic is for real. She developed not just a passion for music but a love for learning and creativity as well.

In her current class, the Young Child, I discovered Teacher Mariel and her magical space, The Learning Basket. For several nights now, I have been clicking on her site and through it, found other sites as well. I especially like the activities found on the which little A and I have been doing the past few days.

Thank you Teacher Mariel for sharing. It does make the journey more magical than it already is.

Here's a glimpse of The Learning Basket:

"Hello! Welcome to the Learning Basket. I am Mariel, author of this blog, mother of Little T (three years old) and Baby Boy (less than a year old), and wife to Wonderful G. 

Motherhood unleashed the obsessive-compulsive in me and ignited my passion for early childhood development. It even led me to become a U.S.-licensed Kindermusik educator!

Join us in our journey of simple, creative, spontaneous, and mostly electronic media-free learning at home during our children's preschool years. I would love to hear from you so please feel free to email me at thelearningbasket at gmail dot com or leave a comment. Happy reading! 

      Why we are keeping our preschooler at home to learn and discover the world by our side

      Describes what The Learning Basket is and what is in it

      The what and why of the learning program that serves as the foundation of our Learning Basket

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Justice and Healing in the Philippines

My latest blog on The New Internationalist:

For 13 long years she endured the beatings. It wasn’t so rough at first, she says, and every time it happened she hoped with fingers crossed that it would be the last.

One morning, she woke up and realized that finally, she wanted to end her troubled marriage, to stop the beatings and everything else.

Her name is Winnie Penaredondo. She calls herself a survivor and an advocate against violence against women.

I met her one afternoon at the launch of a project for justice and healing aimed at survivors of gender-based violence and organized by the Women’s Feature Service, a news service for women.

Winnie skips the details of her life as a ‘battered wife’. What she stresses is that women who experience violence should realize that they could get out of their situation.

As a survivor-advocate, Winnie is involved in the Justice and Healing Project, which aims to ‘educate and capacitate the various components of judicial systems to be able to deliver rights based and gender sensitive services’, in cases of violence against women.

Under the two-year project, there are various activities ranging from barangay (local government) forums to workshops and training for the judiciary and legal practitioners.

One objective is to educate all genders in the community about violence against women and how to address it together. Most importantly, the project aims to facilitate legal and psychosocial assistance to women victims and survivors, in order to facilitate faster recovery and reintegration.

Winnie recalls that one difficult part of being a battered wife is the feeling of shame and isolation. This, she laments, is what prevents victims from speaking out and seeking help.

In the Philippines, violence against women remains rampant.

According to the 2008 National Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS) conducted by the government’s statistics office, women aged 15 to 49 have experienced all forms of violence including physical, sexual, emotional and economic. Specifically, one in five women in this age group has experienced physical violence since age 15.

‘14.4 per cent of married women have experienced physical abuse from their husbands and more than one-third or 37 per cent of separated or widowed women have experienced physical violence, implying that domestic violence could be the reason for separation or annulment,’ the survey said.

For women like Winnie, the fight isn’t over. She says part of her healing is to help others get out of their situation.

And that is what she will keep doing until she is able to help as many victims as she can.

Indeed, violence against women is a story that needs to be told and re-told over and over; not something to be ignored or tucked beneath the quiet sheets of matrimonial beds. It needs to be written about until no woman anywhere in the world shall experience the might of the fist ever again.