One day in Bahay Aruga: a simple performance that made a difference

I have been to several outreach events that mostly consist in sending donations and spending time with the orphans through games and social bonds. This is, however, my first time to attend an outreach program other than the ones organized by the church community and the special education center I am part of, and to participate in an outreach activity catered to child cancer patients.

During my performance. Photo taken by my cousin.

My cousin invited me to perform in her organized outreach activity as part of her last year’s birthday celebration. I accepted the invitation for I had not performed for a long time, realizing that this would be an opportunity to perform once again. I was asked to prepare for two performance pieces that would eventually make the child patients enjoy the event and chose to sing “Jeepney Love Story” by Yeng Constantino and “Style” by Taylor Swift. Videos are uploaded and taken from my official YouTube account genvietheofficial.

I also had the opportunity to see the beautiful artworks and small crafted objects made by the children, some of which I bought as part of my proceeds. The event as a whole made me thank God for the given opportunities to share my musical talents and to entertain the child patients and their families and for empowering my cousin to reach out to these young angels through donations and her organized outreach gathering.  I was equally thankful that God used Bahay Aruga founders as His instruments to provide pediatric cancer patients a heavenly home and to Him alone for warming all our hearts that made us extend our help to those in need.

Bahay Aruga offers free accomodation to pediatric cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy in Philippine General Hospital. It is located in Ermita, Manila.

For more information, please visit their Facebook page (Bahay Aruga). 

Photo and videos used are credited to their respective sources throughout the entry.

Camp L.I.F.E. 2017: From being a junior to senior facilitator

It has been five years since I joined camp. I was first trained as a junior facilitator whose responsibilities involved monitoring the room cleanliness, serving meals, taking care of co-camper buddies and being a role model and was later promoted to apprentice facilitator whose responsibility involved co-facilitating in some workshops and activities in addition to junior facilitator tasks that I still needed to perform. Two years ago, I graduated from being a camper to one of the coaches, otherwise known as facilitators (junior and apprentice facilitators are still known as campers yet with responsibilities.). However, I was known back then as a volunteer facilitator, who was trained to be one of the future senior facilitators (otherwise known as the highest rank of facilitators or coaches).

I was surprised to learn that I was finally one of the senior facilitators. I barely felt any difference between my volunteer and senior facilitator days in terms of responsibilities, and I did not facilitate any workshop but rather assisted my co-facilitators in preparing the materials, took pictures of the activities and workshops for documentation purposes and looked after my own camper buddies (who also happened to be my longtime friends since my good old camper days) and the ones endorsed by the other coaches. Prior to camp, my tasks were to pour my creative juices and make the most of my artistic and technical skills onto creating both camper and facilitator kits and certificates. Despite the slight difference in responsibilities, there are still new things I have learned (I would rather keep them personal, sorry to say).

I have also experienced lots of highs in my third year as a coach. Two of these ‘highs’ are the facilitators’ team building activities that involve knowing the co-facilitators personally and deep enough to be able to work well with them and the post-camp meeting where the co-facilitators were encouraged to share about their highs and lows. The newly introduced activities are what made the camp more enticing, and I personally loved guitar and songwriting workshop to the point that I was tempted to join. My ability to balance work, leisure and personal care times is my most highlighted high, as this used to be my difficulty in my first two facilitator years. I am glad to have the opportunities to respectively express my musical talent in my performances with friends during the bonfire, Myth Night and Sunday Program and my artistic talent in pillow art making and in painting an animal representing my tribe (water) in cubist form.

Meeting new friends and spending time with the old ones have always been my traditional highs. Although I admit missing my friends who did not join this year’s camp, I am still glad to have friends I can be with for a week.

“Thank you for always doing your best in performing your tasks/responsibilities while managing to still have fun with both campers and facis.”

Such are the touching words I received from my mentors. I am once again thankful for the opportunities to grow in camp as a camper-turned-coach and also as a person. I am now looking forward to apply what I have learned in camp in five years, both in next summer camps and outside camp.

My camp certificates (2012-2017)

Further readings

“CAMP L.I.F.E. 2015: Yesterday a camper, now a coach”

“CAMP L.I.F.E 2014: The Daily Blog of an Apprentice Facilitator”

#FlashbackFriday to my first camp: Why Camp L.I.F.E. is worth your summer 🙂

SENIA Advocacy Awards 2017: “One day I want to honestly say I made it.”

I would like to thank the SENIA committee for making this event possible. It was truly an honor to be recognized as one of the nominees and to receive a certificate on hand in front of special education professionals, advocates and interventionists. I would like to thank my childhood teachers turned lifetime mentors for helping me who I am now, as well as my family and friends for their overwhelming love, care, patience, understanding and support. I would equally like to thank God for making me whom I am called to be. There is indeed a purpose why I was brought to be differently-abled (being diagnosed with ASD or rather HFA as a child and formerly having problems with reading comprehension, writing, social and life skills), for this has allowed me to be a healing hand to individuals sharing the same struggles. My personal challenges have turned me into a stronger person that I hardly expect to become, and as much I can stand up for my own capabilities despite my learning and social needs, I am also able to provide the same amount of love, understanding and support that I received from my mentors and loved ones to individuals with exceptional needs.

I may not have reached my final destination yet, but I still have hopes in reaching the stars by improving my existing talents, learning new things, boosting my self-worth and sense of accomplishment, doing what I love and continuously being a friend and a mentor. “Life’s as good as you make it and today we make it good.

Receiving my certificate as a SENIA Advocate nominee on February 11, 2016 in Yokohama International School, Japan
With fellow nominee, honorary award recipients and winner

For more information about SENIA, please visit their official website as well as its Manila chapter’s (SENIA Manila). Originally founded by a group of international school teachers in China in 2002, SENIA (Special Education Network In Asia) is a group of professionals and interventionists that aims to raise awareness, support and advocate for individuals with special education needs. The network has expanded across all Asia.

A Day in Care, Inc: a small bond that makes a huge difference

The real adventure began as we – my life coaching and social skills friends and I – bought school supplies and self care materials for donations. We equally bought a packed food for 30 persons, and repacked the donation goods while divided in two groups. Then we headed to Care Inc., a caring center for male youth in Las Piñas City, Philippines. It is indeed endearing to be the sunshine of these young people lives and it is touching to see that the youth appreciated our gifts. Not forgetting to mention that we enjoyed the short bond over Jenga games and socializing.

This particular outreach activity is also where we applied our skills in money management and decision making that we learned in class. Kudos to the coaches for such a life-learning and charitable experience and I am way looking forward to more activities such as these.

With current friends (Life Coaching and Social Skills co-mentees) and newly-found friends (Care Inc children and teens)

For more photos of the event, kindly check Candent Learning Haus’s Outreach Activity 2016 at Care Center, Las Piñas album and Instagram

Further reading

#CLHPamilyaParaSaBata2016: Care, Love, Help and MORE FUN

Xtraordinary Talents, Xceptional People: an Xcellent Dinner Concert Xperience in tribute to Candent’s 10th Anniversary

Thank you for providing us the opportunity to show our existing musical talents and releasing our inner musicians through stage performances. I am personally thankful for the combined well-paid efforts to organize an outstanding dinner concert, and for the artistic and musical efforts I have poured into the souvenir programs and song performances. I am equally glad that I finally have a chance to see and interact with friends I have not seen for long. And since the concert is in commemoration to Candent’s 10 glorious years, I would love to highlight about my overall experience in the place I consider my second home.

I discovered Candent back when I was a teen, when I visited my childhood teachers (who happened to be the center’s main pioneers) while on vacation from abroad. It was not until 2012, few months after I moved back to the Philippines for good, that I became fully involved in Candent, starting from being a junior facilitator in camp to being a now assistant and camp’s volunteer facilitator. I also attended Life Coaching sessions and became one of the vocalists of the student band. From then until now, I cannot help but reminisce the good memories Candent and I shared together. I am happy that it has given me an opportunity to maximize my strengths (talents in arts, music and writing), to improve my weaknesses (dealing with stressful and problematic situations) and low self esteem, to discover a skill that I never thought I had (leadership and advocacy) and to meet friends I consider family.

Thank you Candent for being a beacon of hope to differently-abled individuals like myself and for providing us a community with so much sense of belonging and that gives us a chance to learn different sets of skills that are home, work, community, school, social interaction and leisure related. Wishing you all the success in the future years!

My biggest congratulations once again to Candent for another successful concert! It was indeed a blast.

img_0475

 “Xtraordinary Talents, Xceptional People” Dinner Concert and Awards Night is organized to celebrate Candent’s 10th anniversary. Please visit Candent’s official website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages. 

Related readings

What it takes to be a Filipino

“I am a Filipino. And when all else fails, I am not and will never be ashamed of what I am.”

Being a Filipino is just no joke. I was born and raised in the Philippines as a child and went back to my home country as I reached adulthood. In between these times, I lived in a foreign country yet would still be raised under Filipino values – showing love, care and compassion towards others, being family oriented, respecting the elders, strong dedication to tasks and responsibilities given to me and having strong moral courage. Not forgetting to mention that I spoke Tagalog at home with my family, ate Filipino dishes, watched Filipino shows online, listened to Filipino songs and had Filipino family friends back during my days overseas.

I have tan skin. My hair is naturally black (I love to dye my hair as part of my style so it changes colors for your information) and my eyes are dark brown. My parents are pure Filipino and I have no trace of foreign ethnicity. I am not as tall as Western women my age. I speak Tagalog, know certain aspects of Filipino culture like its national anthem “Lupang Hinirang” and have been to certain places in the Philippines other than Metro Manila. I am a full pledged Filipino in terms of nationality and I am a registered voter in the Philippines. But what truly makes me a Filipino?

Being a Filipino is more than just an identity. It is more than being born and raised in the Philippines, as well as being familiar with every Filipino cultural aspect. It is more than acquiring the citizenship, the values and the physical attributes of a typical Filipino, and knowing the language. It is more than being raised in a Filipino family as well as appreciating the food, the places, the music, the movies, the shows and other positive aspects found in the Philippines. Being a Filipino will always remain in my heart, mind and spirit. No matter where I go, I will always be proud of being a Filipino.

Mabuhay ang Pilipinas (Long live the Philippines)!

HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY!

#FlashbackFriday to my first camp: Why Camp L.I.F.E. is worth your summer :)

I remember my first camp as a junior facilitator. Now I’m one of the coaches. It was truly an amazing memorable experience despite being the only twenty-something in a youth summer camp (I was 23 when I joined Camp L.I.F.E. 2012 through invitation by my former teacher.) as it was just as useful in adulthood and I could learn a lot from its offered workshops such as arts and crafts, comic book, writing, storytelling, dance and music jam. It was also where I met friends I could relate to and whom I considered for lifetime keeps. The camp equally shaped me into a better leader and trained me to assume responsibilities given that I was trained to lead the rest of the campers and to assist the coaches.

These are my six main reasons why I appreciated Camp L.I.F.E. Even now as a coach, I cannot help but reminisce the great times I’ve had during my camper/junior facilitator days.

1/ I LEARNED HOW TO LIVE INDEPENDENTLY.

One of the main purposes of the camp is to teach children and teenagers how to live independently. I’ve always wanted to live on my own as a teen yet only fulfilled my wish as I stayed away from home and spent my week with the campers and coaches. I then had to fix my own bed and proper belongings, to pack my plate after each meal, to wash and hang my dirty clothes, and to keep myself groomed without being told. A particular activity named Nutroplex Survivor Challenge taught all of us how to read directions using the compass, map symbols and maps, to build fire, to do first-aid without band aids and other usual wound medicines, and to cook rice with bamboo and clay pot (in fact, the rice tasted better when cooked with those despite that it usually took time to cook using them). These may not be as crucially needed when practically living on our own (for instance, when we have our own apartment), but I still found it interesting to discover tribal methods of survival.

576513_184267778360249_447448217_n
Learning to read the map – crucially needed when commuting and driving (soon!)

2/ I LEARNED A LOT OF NEW THINGS. 

I discovered many more things that I had not discovered before that included planning for script and designing a character in Comic Books Workshop. In friendship workshops, I learned that I was once in other campers’ shoes while the band camp motivated me further to improve more in my singing, guitar and piano skills. The latter also helped me in coordinating well with the band.

531208_184271781693182_558589178_n
During one of the workshops where cooking pot is one survival tip I learned

3/ IT HELPED ME ENHANCE MY TALENTS. 

The offered workshops gave me an opportunity to exploit my talent in singing, writing and drawing and develop my creativity, imagination and fast-thinking skills. In addition, I was given a chance to release my inner dancer when I unintentionally joined the dance workshop, yet I considered myself more as a band person than a dancer.

403464_10150735693564752_539244722_n
Featuring my character description in Comic Books Workshop – the character turns out to be French!
538744_184264258360601_995899675_n
Showcasing my singing talent during band camp sessions

4/ I LEARNED TO TAKE RESPONSIBILITIES. 

A junior facilitator is a camper who leads the rest of the campers and assists the senior facilitators, otherwise known as the coaches. This means that my responsibilities involved others and not just myself, and my tasks back then were to monitor whether the girls’ bedroom was fixed and the bathrooms were clean, to distribute snacks when it was time for snacks and to ensure that the campers of the tribe (campers are divided into three tribes known as their teams) was complete through head-count. I took this as an opportunity to train myself in becoming a better leader and I realized that I could be one while I had always known myself as a follower. Besides, I even felt more than proud that the campers admired and looked up to me as their older sister figure.

528681_183373368449690_9093315_n
About to distribute snacks – one of my junior facilitator duties

5/ IT HELPED ME BUILD NEW FRIENDSHIPS.

The primary goals in camp are to form new friends and replenish old ones, and as a first-time camper, building new friendships was what camp had in store for me. I found it easier to make friends in camp as it was easy to find someone I could relate to and who shared similar interests as me there despite the fact that many were far from my age. The camp was also where I met my close friends and band mates.

380679_10150742747924752_700344945_n
With co-junior facilitator and friend made in camp

6/ I LEARNED HOW TO BE CONSIDERATE OF OTHER PEOPLE AND MY SURROUNDINGS AND NOT ON MY OWN SELF. 

Last but not the least, being considerate to other people was what I learned most in camp. The camp is aimed at both neurotypical and individuals with special needs, and it made me realize how blessed I was despite being diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) as a child and growing up with personal struggles and insecurities. Thus, I took these as an opportunity to share my blessings by being a helping hand to individuals with special needs. My experiences helped me understand them better and the camp was an occasion for me, well us, to embrace our differences and to feel that we had our potentials and a chance to develop them further.

576597_10150763676664752_324103462_n
With the Camp L.I.F.E. gang

I became an apprentice facilitator in my second camp (CAMP L.I.F.E 2014: The Daily Blog of an Apprentice Facilitator) and then a coach in last year’s camp (CAMP L.I.F.E. 2015: Yesterday a camper, now a coach). I am thankful for such opportunity given the unforgettable memories and experiences I have made there, and I find it endearing to work with special needs individuals and to bring sunshine in their lives. One does not stop from learning despite the level up. I am way looking forward to what next camp has to offer and it is indeed a fun learning experience.

535185_10150735693409752_692572381_n
Finally had my junior facilitator certificate on hand!

And now…

Me
A first time coach in Camp L.I.F.E. 2015

NB. For some unknown reason, the original entry of Camp L.I.F.E. 2012 experience (CAMP L.I.F.E 2012: Reasons why this camp is worth your summer experience 🙂) was taken down while I was looking for it to promote the camp. One reason I wrote this throwback entry.

Check Candent Learning Haus’s official website and Facebook page for teasers and countdowns. Most photos taken from Candent Learning Haus Facebook page. 

#CLHPamilyaParaSaBata2016: Care, Love, Help and MORE FUN

I was impressed with the warm and harmonious ambiance that Family Day Outreach sought to provide. It was an event where students and their families extended their helping hands through donations to young people from caring homes named Care Inc. and Pequeña Casa de Nazareth, and bonded with them on the event proper during activities and games (each family was given a child to host). It was my first time going to an outreach family day as I had always attended family days that are sport fest themed back in elementary school. I attended CLH’s for the first time in 2014, yet it only consisted of gatherings over bowling, billiards and karaoke sessions.

This particular event reminded me of my first camp. While I took my chance as a camper and junior facilitator to have fun and extend my hand to the youth with special needs, the Family Day Outreach gave me an opportunity to do the same to my assigned adoptee (while also fulfilling my marshall duties), bonding with him as a friend and an older sister. He further mentioned that he enjoyed the activities marking the garter race as his favorite, and that he would pray for me, the people he met and the CLH as a whole. Looking forward to events such as these and may Family Day Outreach be the start of extending love, help, care, concern and support.

With two children from caring homes

For more photos of the event, kindly check Candent Learning Haus’s Facebook  under Family Day Outreach 2016 album. 

#carelovehelp
#CLH2016PamilyaParaSaBata
#clhfamilydayoutreach2016

CAMP L.I.F.E. 2015: Yesterday a camper, now a coach

Remembering my good ‘ole’ camper days as the campers’ Ate (ie. older sister). I was invited to become a junior facilitator in my first camp and reminisced how I enjoyed every moment in my ability to pursue my passions through joined workshops and activities, develop my talents, learn new skills, make new friends and spend my happiest moments with them, while facing the responsibilities of being a role model to campers, monitoring the cleanliness of rooms, taking care of buddies and serving food during meals. It was indeed worth my summer to the point that I ended up writing an excellent feedback on camp as a blog entry. I explained my reasons why the camp was indeed an enjoyable life-learning experience, while remaining contact with my newly-made friends back then.

I was then promoted to become an apprentice facilitator two years later. I was still known as the campers’ Ate  yet with much more responsibilities on hand to the point that I was starting to have less time for breaks and social interactions. Most of my known tasks required so much sweat and blood that obliged me to work during the campers’ regular break and my new assignments were to co-facilitate in certain activities and workshops such as morning exercises, social skills workshop and Superhero Team Quest as room marshal. I could already feel the ‘pain’ of being a coach at that moment. It turns out that I was right when I have finally become part of the facilitator’s circle in this year’s camp, providing a more leveled-up experience than my previously attended camps.

Being a volunteer coach is not an easy job. It requires so much heavier workload and responsibilities to the point that I am having a hard time knowing when to take grooming and self-care breaks (the only breaks facilitators can have during the day which can be even less than enough), which tasks to do first and when to finish a certain task when other tasks are piling up while I am still on the process on doing the current. I am also having a hard time following instructions especially when they are explained abruptly, yet I am still expected to understand them like they are already clear. Having eyes on camper buddies and being a role model to campers (though I have less difficulties in these) are twice as expected in a senior and volunteer facilitators compared to being a junior and an apprentice facilitators. Rules expected in a camper to follow are twice as expected in a coach to live with, as much as self-control (controlling emotions – esp. negative, adapting appropriate behavior, dealing with pressure, being responsible for own actions..) is twice as vital.

There are times when I miss being a camper and want to go back from where I started. There are times when I am so easily carried away by pressure to the point that I almost ‘cried’ (yet I thankfully did not. Anyways sorry though..). But being a coach is part of my continuous life-learning experience from what I learned as a camper (especially now that I am already an adult), the main reason of which I did not regret choosing this path especially that being a coach has been part of my dreams. I learned to be independent and responsible not only in my daily living tasks (packing my plates, fixing my bed and proper belongings, grooming myself) but also in performing the assigned tasks and taking initiatives (though I am still learning honestly speaking). I have managed to pour my creative juices onto the campers’ kit, certificate, button pin design and the camp video presentation I made and the tasks themselves have further enhanced my creativity that I can use for both work and leisure. I have also managed to handle the pressure no matter how hard it is, as well as unbearable circumstances I have no control over. Last but not the least, I have found time for FUN. Seeing the campers performing on stage, playing games, doing morning exercises (to be honest, there was a time when I asked myself if I could join the campers’ in their morning jog, yet I realized later on that I was no longer one of them so I did not join) and participating in the activities and workshops of their choice makes me relive those good ole experiences as a camper and I have still managed to build new friendships and interact with old friends (especially after the program) despite having little time for socialization. Looking back at the photos and videos I took had also made me relive those moments in camp.

And meanwhile..my life as a volunteer facilitator..

photo5

As much as the campers have seen the coaches as their role models, I have also honestly considered my co-facilitators as role models in working individually and as a team. They have inspired me to be a team player both in and outside camp.

IMG_0525
The team behind the enjoyable life-learning camp. Kudos to all!

Further reading

“CAMP L.I.F.E 2014: The Daily Blog of an Apprentice Facilitator”

#FlashbackFriday to my first camp: Why Camp L.I.F.E. is worth your summer 🙂

Photos are all taken by me.

Up ↑