How serendipitous things have ended up lately from what seems to be just ordinary and routinary things to do! Okay, what I’m trying say is…how can decluttering your closet to simply have more space and buying our supply of coffee beans teach about sharing, recycling, and saving the earth?  Well, that’s exactly what just happened to me and Kayla, our youngest daughter.

A few weeks back, Kayla told me that she wanted to and will clean her closet because she has quite a lot of clothes already that she doesn’t use anymore and are just occupying much space in her closet.  So, she was able to declutter and I suggested that she price-tagged them at cheap prices so she can sell them and have extra money.  Which is what she did.  She then packed them in a box and a few bags and set them aside.

Then, when we heard mass last Palm Sunday, we made a quick stop at Uniqlo  (a favorite clothes shop of ours) and I noticed that they had a bin by the entrance and a poster behind it saying that they accept old clothes to be donated to refugees.  I showed it to Kayla and she quickly decided that she would rather donate them than sell them. I was expecting that actually, knowing that she really has always had a giving heart and always willing and ready to share.  Then, I told her that it could be a good way to celebrate her upcoming 16th birthday (April 25)!

So, that stuck in her mind and made sure that she removed the price tags she stuck on each piece of her clothing with masking tape and repacked them in paper bags. All ready to go and be handed over to Uniqlo! She really took the time to do this and even asked me when we could drop off the bags at a Uniqlo branch.

Last Tuesday (April 18), she was really excited to go to Uniqlo after going to the driving range and I knew that it meant much to her.  She was really happy to have donated her clothes to those who would need them more.

 

After Uniqlo, she wanted to buy one or two pair of shorts.  Well, more of needed than wanted. So, we went to H&M since that seems to be one of the very few shops which has bottoms (shorts, in this case) that can comfortably and decently fit her. And it was during this ordinary hunt for a good pair of shorts that we found out for ourselves (after a friend commented on my post about Kayla donating at Uniqlo) that H&M also accepts old clothes and even gives 15% discount for the next purchase as a way of saying “Thank You”. I wanted to know more about this campaign of H&M since we literally just handed over Kayla’s bags of clothes to a staff in Uniqlo and he just received them, thanked us, and told us that he will be bringing the bags to their lower level where their collecting bin is located. The staff of H&M was very receptive to my inquiry and explained to us that they do accept old garments and (home) textiles and they use a technology to recycle the old fabric/fiber and make them into new clothes again.  He even stepped out from his station at the cash counter to get a few samples of clothes from their racks and show us how those recycled clothes look like with the green tags on them and a sample of a skirt now for sale from this recycling campaign of theirs.  Wow! Kayla and I were very happy to learn about these projects of Uniqlo and H&M and felt very inspired to donate more in the future, now knowing where to bring our clothes that are of no use to us anymore!

 

 

 

 

Now, on to my coffee beans. I bought a bag of coffee beans at an organic shop in the south a couple of weeks ago and I had to open it up already for our daily coffee consumption at home. Which means I need to buy another bag soon as stock replenishment. I didn’t know that the bag I bought had something else (and very important, at that!) written at the back, aside from the usual product description which I usually just read in passing. The back side of this bag of coffee beans, however, caught my attention because it said: Be part of the #SipandReforest campaign, for every bag of Hineleban Coffee purchase, the foundation plants one forest tree for you.  Name your tree by registering the sticker’s GPS tree ID coordinates on www.hinelebancoffee.com.

 

So, I went to the website and registered my tree from the very first bag I had bought.  In the registration, I was able to give my tree a name and after the short process, it then showed me where it will be planted (in Bukidnon, Mindanao) and its tree type. I named my first tree, by the way, LUNTIAN and added a short message: To bring back the green on earth.

The bag of beans costs more than the what I’ve seen in the groceries and markets. It’s P675 per 500 grams! But I purposely went out of my way today to buy another bag of Hineleban Arabica Coffee at Healthy Options, even if it was going to be more expensive, because I wanted to join their project. I just felt that I may be paying a few hundred pesos more but I know that the extra hundred pesos is my contribution to a reforestration, tree-planting program that my country so needs.

 

When I arrived home, I immediately went to Hineleban Coffee’s website and registered my second tree! I named it BERDE this time. I was very happy to see how the two trees I registered for planting looked like!

 

To remind me of this extra meaning of my coffee beans, I stuck the two sticker IDs from the coffee bean bags on my planner on April 21 (Friday) since I had already written on the space for April 20 (Thursday) which was today.  Then, I was reminded and remembered. Isn’t Earth Day celebrated in April? And true enough, after a quick search on the internet, Earth Day is yearly celebrated on April 22.  Now those coffee beans just had more meaning and purpose. I get to buy good coffee and plant a tree with each bag at the same time!

 

 

It is on ordinary occasions like these that make our homeschooling and lifestyle more intentional. Decision-making process and choices become more deliberate and purposeful, which I think, is a very good way in teaching social responsibility and eventually helping our children make right decisions in their lives.

What lessons have you learned from an ordinary moment lately?

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

As of this writing, it’s been 20 days since super typhoon Yolanda (International name: Haiyan) wreaked havoc on the towns, cities, and islands of Eastern Visayas of the Philippines. My family and I were, as usual, in Manila that Friday, November 8, for our weekend activities when Yolanda came.  As early as November 5, I already knew about this super typhoon because posts on weather updates and call for prayers started to trickle in my Facebook feed.  But that Friday evening, we were comfortably tucked in my dad’s condo unit in Alabang.  The howling wind was a lot stronger and creepier than the typhoons in the past which kept me awake most of the night, for I was fearing that our windows and sliding doors would break!  It was really a blessing that we were kept safe by our Lord and guardian angels when Yolanda made herself felt in Manila.  

We have no tv in Alabang and our source of news was and is always Facebook and Twitter. A BIG THANKS to social media! We went about our schedules that weekend (sewing class, Kayla’s golf training, and an orientation for our family, as first-timers, on Make A Wish Philippines Foundation and its upcoming Wish Grant event scheduled on the next weekend). We heard about the extensive damage Yolanda caused in the Visayas, particularly, Tacloban and Samar.  However, little did we know that this super typhoon was probably the strongest typhoon ever recorded in history and our poor country was its victim.  

By Monday, November 11, we were back home in Batangas and it was only then that we were able to watch news on tv and see the destruction, the wiped out barangays, towns, cities, islands brought about by Yolanda.  The images we saw were simply UNIMAGINABLE! 

From then on, I was glued on Facebook as I await news about the real condition of the Visayas region.  I have to say that this was the calamity where I found myself mostly affected and which really moved me to be more involved and to actively spread news and updates in Facebook.  I told myself that this is the perfect time to stay longer in front  of my desktop, check my Instagram often, and use my social media tools responsibly.  I just couldn’t do my normal routines and duties! Only to find out, too, that I wasn’t alone.  Fellow moms and female friends in Facebook were feeling the same and before I knew it, relief operations and donation drives started to be organized with everyone so ready to join and volunteer.  It then began to hit me that it was really time to stop whatever we were doing and start giving help to our fellow kababayans (countrymen).  It was an interruption to our work, to our busy schedules, to our deadlines, but that only brings me to Lesson #1 of this unexpected interruption we all experienced.

Lesson #1:  INTERRUPTIONS AND STANDSTILLS ARE BLESSINGS

Oftentimes, I consider interruptions just as that.  Major disturbance!  With Yolanda, I learned that interruptions can be blessings.  The interruption itself is the blessing!  To be able to stop and give ourselves a break from our clockwork routine.  

LESSON #2: INTERRUPTIONS AND STANDSTILLS ARE OPPORTUNITIES TO ASSESS AND EVALUATE

Sure, our homeschool schedules were disrupted but the stops and standstills of this tragedy allowed us to make an assessment of where we are in our lives, what we have and are currently enjoying.  It is an opportunity to say “I am blessed and have so many blessings!”

As news started pouring in, with international news channels and correspondents delivering updates on the aftermath of super typhoon Yolanda, my family and I continued to live our normal homeschooling life but only found ourselves refocusing our energies on what we could do to help those stricken by the calamity.  

LESSON #3: INTERRUPTIONS AND STANDSTILLS CAN ACTUALLY ENERGIZE YOU INSTEAD OF ZAP YOU OF YOUR STRENGTH and ENERGY! 

Our sewing class’s initial plan of joining a pre-Christmas bazaar soon became a bazaar for a cause. Our plan of donating a big portion of the sales to the earthquake victims that hit also the Visayas region just last October then included the victims of Yolanda.  It all the more motivated the kids, tweens and teens of Sew Easy and everyone was ready to spend extra hours sewing out of their normal class schedules to sew more headbands, bags, and hair bow ties, all out of scrap fabric! What an opportune time to recycle and make something beautiful out of scrap or what may be considered as trash!  

LESSON #4:  INTERRUPTIONS AND STANDSTILLS GIVE YOU FOCUS and TEACH YOU TO RE-FOCUS on WHAT IS IMPORTANT and NECESSARY.

The Sew Easy kids were all aware of the national calamity that our country was faced with, and we all wanted to help in a way where our collective efforts would work best, and that was to sew with what we have, which were ALL SCRAP fabric.  Everything (the sewing machines, scraps, spools of thread, elastics, cords) was ready and everyone became busy with their hands.

(With God’s grace, we were able to sew more than what we thought we would be able to do and our sales was over our target!  The two-day bazaar was a success!)

Using our hands to be a blessing to others!

 

These are just some of the kids who are pure blessings!

These are just some of the kids
who are pure blessings!

 

Read our shirt: Never underestimate the power of a woman with a sewing machine

Read our shirt: Never underestimate the power of
a woman with a sewing machine

 

 

While we were occupied within the confines of our homeschool activities, relief efforts by different groups have already started. My family and I were becoming more and more aware of how urgently the people from Ormoc, Samar, Tacloban, Cebu, and many different places need help. After Kayla’s Confirmation in BF Homes, Paranaque, we, in no time, brought a donation from a friend and classmate in sewing to Angel Brigade whose relief operations were at that time, in Fort Bonifacio, Makati.  Even if it was just one large bag of tent, blanket, mat, and old tarpaulins from another sewing classmate, we felt it had to be given IMMEDIATELY.

Angels are real blessings! 🙂

 

These can keep a family warm.

 

Over 4,000 bags packed by Angels
last Nov. 16;
These are just about a third of a fourth of the bags they’ve packed.

 

With everybody else donating and repacking food, water, clothes, I started to wonder about the victims’ need for temporary shelter.  I took my chance and started tweeting on Twitter, tagging IKEA and ShelterBox, after I’ve seen posts on IKEA’s modular refugee shelter and ShelterBox’s emergency shelter and lifesaving supplies, and heard Ormoc’s 4th District Representative Lucy Torres appeal for help, specifically for tarpaulins that could serve as temporary shelter.  Not only did I tag Oprah and Martha Stewart in my tweets as a desperate and urgent call for help, but I also emailed the foundation of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie (as suggested by a college friend)!  I didn’t care! All I knew was our countrymen need help…FAST! 

(A deep and heartfelt gratitude and appreciation to my batchmates who helped in spreading the word about the need for temporary shelter and for their donations.  Most of them are overseas and yet, the distance was not a hindrance to give what they can give and extend assistance in the quickest way possible!) 

By November 20, we’ve signed up as volunteers at Villamor Air Base.  Signing up online was not easy and I didn’t even know if we were counted in because there were changes made in the system a day or two after we signed up.  But that didn’t stop us from volunteering.  We headed for Villamor Air Base that Wednesday and by 1:30 p.m., we were able to sign up again at the base and enlisted ourselves (the girls and I) as volunteers at the clothing section and Mike as a marshal.  We were there until about 9:30 p.m. which gave us a whole 8 hours of community service!

This was where I was stationed last Nov. 20…clothing section for kids
from 1 to 12 months old.

 

Where Arielle and Kayla were  stationed...clothing section from 13 months and up (adults)

Where Arielle and Kayla were stationed…clothing section from 13 months and up (adults)

 

Mike as one of the marshals (He's the one wearing a grey shirt and a white visor)

Mike as one of the marshals
(He’s the one wearing a grey shirt and a white visor)

 

Algebra, Chemistry, Ibong Adarna, Noli Me Tangere, and all other academic subjects were set aside to give way to more important lessons that our girls need to learn.  That of service to others, volunteerism, giving without asking for anything in return.

As a final lesson…

LESSON #5:  INTERRUPTIONS AND STANDSTILLS SHOULD DRIVE US TO MOVE ON AND TO MOVE FORWARD.

What Yolanda did to our country may feel like we will never be able get out of this pit or dark tunnel, but we shouldn’t let this setback and all the problems we have to hurdle now cripple or stunt us.  Instead, we should slowly and eventually learn to pick up the pieces and get back on our feet.  I may not have lost a home or a loved one because of Yolanda, and I know that it is easier said than done.  But I am reminded of the saying:  When you’re down, there’s no other way to go but up.  With the resiliency spirit that the Filipinos are known for, the interruption that this natural calamity befell upon our country should not break the spirits of both victims and volunteers alike. It can all look hopeless and a hard uphill climb, but together, we can do it.  

  • Kaya natin mag-BAYANihan! (We all can do communal effort).  
  • Ang bawa’t isa sa atin ay kayang makipag-BAYANIhan (Each of us can contribute to communal effort and all be heroes (BAYANI) ).

LESSON #6:  INTERRUPTIONS AND STANDSTILLS ARE TEACHERS.

The Philippine government and our very own people were not ready for Yolanda’s wrath.   Its strength and the magnitude of its destruction were just way beyond our country’s capability and resources.  Admittedly, the government units, officials, the different sectors of society were not totally prepared from the time the warning was given on the path that Yolanda will take to the time when we all first saw the extent of the damages and started to call for S.O.S,  and up to now, where relief efforts and rebuilding projects have not ceased.  We see pointing of fingers, blaming, ranting, a display of pride and arrogance, and a lot of suggestions and recommendations on what we should do to avoid finding ourselves in this same predicament when another calamity strikes.  Let Yolanda be a lesson to us all.  Let her be our teacher on life, on service leadership, on gratitude, on appreciation for our blessings and for one another, on giving, and on living as one nation and as one with the other countries.

I am praying for my country.  I am praying for our leaders.  I am praying for the Filipino people, most especially the victims of the earthquake and Yolanda.  There are too many bad news we hear everyday and I only pray that we will all start to learn how to be a blessing to everyone.  That we will all come out from this interruption as wiser and more compassionate individuals. 

How did this natural calamity affect you?  What life lessons and blessings did you learn from it?


 

As you and the whole world already know by now, the Philippines has recently been stricken by tragedies one after the other. First, it was the 7.1 magnitude earthquake in Bohol and Cebu which literally brought structures down to the ground and into pieces. Then, just last Friday, we were hit by supertyphoon Yolanda (international name “Haiyan”) which again devastated towns, especially in Leyte.  These affected areas are all nearby each other in the Visayas and the earthquake victims haven’t even recovered yet from their tragedy and then, came,  I would say, an even more destructive force of nature.  See map here (for the earthquake) and here (for the supertyphoon).

Even before these natural calamities came, Sew Easy For Kids was already planning and preparing for their upcoming bazaar on Nov. 23-24 by Woodrose School.  We were all excited and looking forward to this fun and new, learning experience for the kids.  After all, all we needed was SCRAP FABRIC and extra time to sew! A first for many, if not all of us.  When the earthquake happened, we then collectively decided to donate proceeds of our sales to the earthquake victims.  A BIG portion of it!  

The kids have been extra busy SEWING MORE and MORE so that we could GIVE MORE! Not only to the earthquake victims but now, to the supertyphoon victims, too!  Needless to say, the kids have been SEWING with their HANDS and HEARTS!  

We are grateful and blessed to have been given this opportunity to share whatever and however we can to our fellow Filipinos in dire need.  If you think that you cannot help much or don’t know how to help, think again.  YOU CAN HELP!  YOU CAN!  

Sewing with their hands and hearts!

Sewing with their hands and hearts!

 

Sewing with our hands and hearts

Photo courtesy of
Anne del Rosario of
Sew Easy For Kids

 

Sewing with our hands and hearts

Photo courtesy of
Anne del Rosario of
Sew Easy For Kids Manila

 

Sewing with our hands and hearts



I’ve always wanted my family, especially our girls, to get involved in some outreach program or service.  I actually have been praying really hard for it.  Well, we haven’t really found a place to serve.  I’d like to think God is still preparing our hearts, spirits, and the people or community we would get involved in. Truly, the Lord has a way of answering our prayers and it usually comes as a surprise or in a manner not of our expectations.

This December, my dear friend and her two kids from Virginia, USA will be spending Christmas in Manila for the first time.  They’ve been coming over quite often to visit her aging aunt and my friend feels she needs to spend time with her aunt before she loses the opportunity.  Since it will be a first-time for her and her kids to experience Christmas here (Well, my friend’s last Christmas in the Philippines was when we were 2nd or 3rd year high school!), we decided to name this particular trip of theirs “Project Paskong Pinoy” .

As we did our usual emailing to each other, the topic on Christmas-giving came up.  Our youngest, Kayla, reminded me that she still has her savings (all coins!) and we haven’t done anything about it, and so I shared that to my friend.  At first, Kayla and I were thinking of buying grocery items to put in brown paper bags and distribute them to street people in Manila.  Mike and I used to do that with a group of friends just before Christmas when we were with Singles for Christ in Makati.  I realized that with her savings amounting to P1,060, we won’t really be able to buy that much to fill a hungry stomach and it won’t be able to feed as many mouths.  Then, ideas started to flow!!!

How about buying Jollibee chicken meals instead?  My friend liked the idea for her kids to experience Christmas differently from the way they have it over in the US. She then thought of us all doing this project by cooking rice and chicken nuggets at their place and packing them. She said that their place in Manila has a lot of squatters nearby and that all we need to do is have some control of the crowd who will be coming in to their house, which was going to be manageable since they have helpers and security guard. I also learned that my friend’s aunt used to do something like this before and it would make her happy to see kids in her house again.  What a perfect set-up!  So, after giving it some more thought, we finally decided that my family will buy some treats from the grocery while my friends’ kids will bring over their old toys to give away.  We would put them in brown paper bags and even design them.  My friend’s kids were really really excited that they made a prototype of the bag with the design that they will be making on each brown bag!  Our emails became more exciting that we also wanted a name for this.  First name I came up with was Operation Little Hands, Big Hearts.  How about Operation Puso’t Kamay (Make it Taglish since our kids are Filipinos and Americans)?  My friend’s daughter suggested that we change the name from Operation to Project since Operation sounded like a spy mission!  She has a point!  So, we continued to think.  Project Help Manila.  Project Christmas Miracle.  Project _________?   Final choice …  Project Hearts and Hands (to make Little Hands, Big Hearts shorter)! 

All our kids are really excited about this whole thing and we are all looking forward to doing it on the 26th of December! I can’t wait to post pictures of Project Hearts and Hands! 🙂

In the meantime, while waiting for Christmas Day and December 26, another opportunity to share came our way.  Unfortunately, it’s a tragic one.  The provinces of Dumaguete in the Visayas, Iligan, and Cagayon de Oro in northern Mindanao were terribly hit by typhoon “Sendong”.  Thousands were dead;  many are now homeless, orphans,  and still searching for their family members and relatives who  drowned while asleep during the night Sendong creeped in or who were washed away by the flood.  

The social networking sites, Facebook for instance, have been very active after the tragedy struck and it’s very heartwarming to see people use these sites to seek help, respond to the appeal, and post whatever service they can offer.  

Seeing how much food we have here in the house now that it’s Christmas time and friends have been giving all sorts of food as gifts and feeling how blessed we really are with not only the basics but even with luxuries, we made that little more sacrifice to give to the Sendong victims.  If only we could send the food gifts we’ve been receiving to Mindanao…but they’re perishables, which I felt would not be a very practical thing to do.  So, as a way to help, we gave a monetary donation to, at least, give the different volunteer groups a means to buy what they really really need at the moment for the victims.  

As I’ve said earlier, God works in His unexpected ways.  In our case, these two opportunities to share and give were His timely ways to help me teach the character traits I earlier on assigned for this quarter:  humility and compassion. Isn’t God’s timing perfect? Not that I wanted the calamity in northern Mindanao to happen (of course not!), but indeed, the Lord orchestrates everything and knows how to put the pieces of the big picture together.  He lets things happen to different people for different reasons.  

I pray for the victims of Sendong…that they may have the strength, comfort, the Pinoy spirit of resilence and strong faith in God to be able to overcome the pain and difficulties that they are faced with now.  I pray for us Filipinos who were fortunate enough and blessed to be not among the  typhoon victims.  May we take this opportunity to unite ourselves and to commit to be more responsible stewards of the environment and all the resources around us.  May we also be moved to combine all our efforts just like the “bayanihan” to be able to do something more effective and efficient in disaster management and in improving our country as one people.  

I also pray that these real-life experiences will enrich our girls and teach them to think less of themselves, be grateful, and help others in whatever way they can, not only during calamities but even during ordinary moments.  Everyday is an opportunity to do a random act of kindness and to pay it forward; an opportunity to live out our Christian faith by loving our neighbor.  ❤