Despite all of
the troubles of the past year and a half, I always remember my commitment to my
children’s growth and development. It is easy to get swept away from the problems
and challenges of everyday life that we forget to also focus on our children
and family. They can serve as a source of strength and support during those low
moments and will be the reason why we get up in the morning to face another
My children are
my number one priority. I make sure that I continue to stay involved in their lives,
spending my free time with them. I shared my thoughts and feelings of what was
happening during the challenges experienced by AHEAD because of the K-12
transition. It is always my hope they get valuable lessons from my stories and
be more knowledgeable if a similar situation happens to them in the future.
When they were
kids, I made it an extra effort to be 1 hour away from where they are.
Sometimes, I would even follow a few kilometers away during their school field
trips. The main office of AHEAD was moved to Katipunan, Quezon City when my
children started going to school in the area. I want them to feel safe and
supported. They can always count on me for help if they needed it.
But I also make
sure not to spoil my kids even if as a mom, I want to give the best to my
children. However, it is more important they learn how to stand up on their own
two feet, and realize that it takes effort to succeed. I want to impart the
skills and knowledge my children will need in the outside world while they are still
in a safe and loving environment. To teach them about responsibility, I assign them
work around the household such as managing the grocery budget. One of my kids
even handled it too well, with me ending up haggling to include milk in the
list because he would say that it was expensive.
I try to set a
good example to inspire them to do their best in achieving their goals. I shared
with them the core values that I practice and they were happy to adopt them as
their own. We have family meetings to talk about our mission, vision and goals
as a team. My heart is happy to see them also passionate about the same
advocacy as me. The advocacy of education for the less fortunate.
Together as a
family, we are launching a monthly training program for school principals under
AHEAD. Investing in the development of principals will create a domino effect
of excellence in the school system. Good principals lead to good teachers; good
teachers will produce good students, and good students will become productive
members of society. It is an amazing feeling to have the whole family working
towards the same goal.
Being a working
mom is a tough job especially when you are experiencing challenges both in
career and health. But it is worth it when we remember the reason why we are
working hard and striving for the best. It is for the happiness and success of
Day, I give honor to all the working moms out there who stay committed despite
the trials. Our love for our children knows no limits, making us stronger. Cheers
to all mothers out there. You can do it!
Written by: Jyska Kuan Ken
Continuing the dream for a better education system
Holding on to the dream of better education for our
The past year
and a half was a test of trust, resilience, and gratitude. AHEAD, the review
and tutorial center I started, almost closed down because of the K-12 shift
mandated by the Department of Education. It was every entrepreneur’s fear
realized. We found ourselves at survival mode— from 4,000 students usually
enrolling in our summer program down to only 300 students. There were a lot of
heartbreaks, wasted opportunities, and sacrifices.
The closure of
the Greenhills branch was probably the hardest. We opened that branch in 1999,
the same year my daughter Darla was born. I always associated the Greenhills
branch with her. Both past and present students also had good memories within
its walls. They would hang out there in their free time, talking and laughing
with whoever is attending the reviews. We tried holding on to the branch but eventually
we had to let it go. It felt like a wave crashing upon us, the boat was
I poured my
savings in the company while selling properties to keep us afloat. I did my
best to hold on to keep my dream and the dreams of countless people alive.
We were more
affected than other tutorial and review centers because AHEAD has a dedicated
training and research team. The department had substantial financial
implications but quality is in our brand promise and I will never compromise on
bringing research-based and systems-backed education services.
The stress and
anxiety also made me sick, adding to the burden. I was diagnosed with
hyperthyroidism which slowed down my body and made me prone to develop other
sicknesses such as diabetes. Sometimes I couldn’t lift my feet despite shouting
orders at them in my head. It was a literal systems slowdown. How would I be
able to run AHEAD now?
Gratefully, it is truly during hard times that show how kind and supportive people can be. When I told the remaining staff to start looking for other opportunities, they stayed and continued to work together in bringing quality services to the few students who enrolled. Franchisees and landlords lent their support to help us weather the challenges. They patiently waited for us to get back on our feet. I am forever grateful for their kindness and friendship. I would like to mention Robinsons Galleria, the owner of the FBR Building, Xanland’s owner, and the franchisees. We were saved through their help.
But the most
crucial person during those trying times was my son Nicolo. He stepped up and
took over some of the operations of Ahead while I was recovering from
hyperthyroidism. He was fresh out of college and dealing with his own physical
condition. It didn’t stop him from quickly learning the ropes and making the
right decisions for the company. He later told me he learned valuable insights
from my stories about Ahead in the past years that guided him to understand
what needed to be done. I readied him for the position without even me knowing.
I was proud of him.
Now we are back, stronger than ever because of the challenges we faced. We are rebuilding what we have lost and working hard to achieve bigger milestones. AHEAD is rebranding and opening back branches. Students are returning to a better AHEAD. I am also finishing writing a book on women entrepreneurship called, “What’s the best business for me? And other common questions entrepreneurs ask.” It is the first book from my book series, SMART SUPERWOMEN.
I am also
reviving this blog to continue to share my story especially to the moms who are
experiencing the same things. I hope that this will inspire you to keep going
and fight for your dreams.
When I was younger, I would
sometimes wish I have a different mother, far from the one I have. I envied my
friends who have a “perfect” mother — prettier, smarter, kinder, and
richer. I remember praying to God before sleeping, asking for a replacement.
But when I wake up, she’s still my mother, and I her daughter.
When I was about five or six years old, I remember
saying that I wish I had my bestfriend’s mother instead of her – straight to
her face. Back then, I did not understand how painful it must been; but I
remember her telling me, “Can you promise not to wish that again?” I did not
know why she told me that, but I know better than to argue. I saw her shed a
tear or two and thought, maybe I did a bad thing.
I did not like her very much when I was growing up.
Sometime she’s so strict and mean; but sometimes she’s so calm and peaceful
like she’s a different person. How can I describe my mom? She has a short
temper and has tendencies to become violent. But, at the same time, she is the
most loving, caring, loyal, honest, helpful, and most importantly, strong woman
I know. Of course, I did not see these good traits of her before; I was too
occupied dreaming about a perfect mother I would never have.
When I was younger, I felt like she finds
satisfaction embarrassing me in front of our family members, my teachers, and
my friends. I felt like she always needs to look out for me, meddle in my life,
decide for me, and save me in every dilemma even if I don’t want or need her to
do so. She does not want to leave me alone and it made me angrier and angrier.
Over the years, our relationship had been tested
countless times. I would cause her pain, she would cause me pain. We would make
one another cry. Sometimes we would cry upfront; sometimes, we would cry behind
each other’s backs, when we think the other one would not notice – and that’s
one of the worst ways to cry.
When I graduated from High School, we were told to
write letters to our parents and tell them what we want to say. I wrote my
letter and gave them to my mother. In that letter, I told her, “I forgive you.”
But, it did not end there. Our fights continued. Things
have worsen, before they got better. But in each and every fight, she will
always tell me, “Someday you will be a mother, and you will finally
As both of us grow up and as more years pass in our
lives, we learned to understand one another. I saw my mother in a completely
different light, or maybe I saw her for who she truly is all this time.
We discovered how we truly and deeply loved one
another all along; we just didn’t know how to show that love. And, we just
didn’t know how to receive one another’s love.
For my mom, her love was about waking up early to
cook breakfast and pack my lunch, skimping so she can buy me decent clothes and
some toys, pretending to be Santa Claus and leaving chocolates in my socks
during Christmas, attending parents-teachers association meetings, never
missing a school activity, selling different stuff to get me to school, and
kissing me when she thinks I’m sleeping.
For me, my love was about studying hard to get good
grades because I know she would be happy to see I excel in class, massaging her
body when she’s tired, not changing the television channel when her favorite
shows are on, helping clean the house, and not eating all the food so she can
have something when she’s hungry.
Little by little, I realized everything my mother
had done for me. When my anger turned to gratitude and joy, I stopped looking
for perfect, because there is nothing greater than what I have in front of me.
I asked my mom a few times if she ever forgave me
for all the pain I caused her. She told me, “There’s nothing to forgive because
she never held a grudge.” I asked her, if she ever regretted me or wished she
had a different daughter. She told me, “I never did. You are my daughter.
Someday you will be a mother, and you will finally understand.”
I may not understand everything, but I know better
We are two women with similarities. We are both
beautiful and smart, passionate and courageous, loving and giving, and strong
We are also two women with differences. We have
different preferences, ways of thinking, opinions, principles, experiences, and
We are two women – both imperfect, but never less.