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.
Let’s face it. A normal day at work can be very hectic and stressful especially if your work has busy periods throughout a year. Your day schedule may be full and you may be running a lot of errands probably causing you to feel anxious and all over the place. Such instances are unavoidable with such a heavy workload — but don’t fret! There are very effective ways to cope with and manage the busy day ahead.
- Get enough sleep the night before.
Before starting a busy day, gear yourself up by aiming for 6-8 hours of sleep in order for your body to recover and heal. You’ll find yourself feeling refreshed the morning after and maybe even find yourself enjoying a good cup of coffee!
- Mind what you eat.
To prepare and gear yourself up for the day, it’s important to make better food choices. While it may be tempting to munch on that bag of chips and stress-eat, your productivity will lessen by eating such food. By making better food choices, you’ll be able to maintain an even blood sugar level to keep you focused and energized. Spread out small meals evenly within the day and you won’t find yourself immediately burning out and getting irritable.
- Get moving.
If you find yourself sitting in front of your screen for too long then maybe it’s time to get up and do some stretching. Stretching a little can help reduce some tension in your body caused by stress. You may also opt to walk around during your lunch break for 10-15 minutes to stimulate your senses and get yourself motivated.
- Set micro-goals.
This is a smart way to get things done within a day. Setting realistic goals will reduce your chances of feeling overwhelmed and anxious over the heavy workload. You need to be careful not to spread yourself out too thinly so as to not compromise the quality of your output.
- Squeeze in some quiet or ‘me’ time
Around the end of your busy day, allot around 5-10 minutes to do something you enjoy, whether it be taking a short nap, solving puzzles or playing a game on your phone, it always helps to unwind for a bit and then bounce back. Take the time to reflect on your day, what worked or what didn’t as means of self-assessment.
Nowadays, where people are living in the fast life, many forget or are unable to manage themselves properly to the detriment of their health and performance. With these five strategies that you can follow, your busy schedule won’t feel as dragging and you’ll find yourself accomplishing tasks successfully throughout the day.
Wilding, Melody. “5 Coping Strategies for When You're Feeling Anxious at Work.”
Kren, Derek. “How to Manage Stress At Work During a Busy Period.” Huffingtonpost.com, 13
May 2016, www.huffingtonpost.com/derek-kren/how-to-manage-stress-at-work-during-a-busy-period_b_9957652.html.
Women of today are very active in various industries. They play a huge part in the working class as well. Meanwhile, there are also those who choose to become housewives and take care of their growing children. These types of women lead very busy lives; and of course, they deserve some fun and enjoyment every once in a while. What better way to do so by finding a new hobby?
We have a prepared list of hobbies geared for the adventurous and explorative woman!
This hobby requires you to have your own road bike but even so, it’s a great investment! It allows you to explore your neighborhood and at the same time you can get some exercise. Try this with your family, special someone or with your friends! Bike around your neighborhood or as far as your bike can go. It will guarantee your adventurous soul a lot of fun!
This hobby can be done during your free weekends and vacations. Join a hiking group or form your own and go back to see the beauty of Mother Nature! You’ll get to discover a lot of things and what better way to end your hiking experience with a nice sunset right?
Who says that being adventurous is only limited to the outdoors? If you’ve always had the talent or the passion for acting and currently missing it, it’s never too late! There are available adult acting classes that cater your busy schedule. Besides improving your acting skills, it will surely give you a boost at your communication skills and confidence.
No, you won’t be needing an expensive DSLR camera to shoot great photos. Be it your next trip, a craft you made or something you’ve eaten, surely someone will appreciate them! With the apparent rise of social media, specifically Instagram, you can share with your followers your adventures and give them the taste of what it feels like.
- Cooking or Baking
Explore your kitchen! Whether you’re good at cooking or you simply love to eat, this hobby is perfect. If you’re already good at cooking, why not try learning a new cuisine? Put a twist to a basic recipe or better yet, create your own.
So there’s hiking in the list but of course, why not go the extra mile by spending overnight in a campsite? Experience the use of survival skills like making a campfire and enjoy some peace and quiet, far from the busy environment of the city.
- Wine Tasting
Sounds fancy and sophisticated but if your taste buds are in for an adventure of some good wine then it’s nice to indulge once in a while with the company some good friends. Join a local wine club and look for wine tasting events in stores and hotels near you. You can learn about different varieties and how each are made. Who knows, you might be hosting your own wine tasting session in the future!
- Wall Climbing
This is another whole body exercise that can greatly strengthen your core but at the same time, strengthens your mental abilities. As you climb, you calculate what your next steps will be to get you faster up to the top without wasting too much energy. There are several indoor wall climbing facilities now in the city where you get tutorials on the basics for a minimal fee.
If you were born with a green thumb, a love for plants and some space at your place then decorate it with a variety of potted plants, flowers or even vegetables! Not only will it provide your home will clean air and some color but the hobby is said to be very therapeutic. You can take pride in being able to skillfully grow healthy plants.
- Volunteering for Charity
While volunteering is not merely just a hobby, it is something definitely worth starting. Various places are in need of volunteer work especially places that were hit by calamities. Being able to commit your time for the betterment of other people’s welfare is a very fulfilling experience.
It is never too late to start something new. As many say, life is a continuous learning experience. For women whose souls are in want of adventure, give these hobbies a try! Reward yourself once in a while, ask a friends or two to join and lastly, don’t forget to enjoy!
Davenport, Barrie. “40 Hobbies For Women To Strengthen Your Brain And Body.” Liveboldandbloom.com, liveboldandbloom.com/09/self-improvement/hobbies-for-women.
Moffat, Nichola. “35 Hobbies For Women.” Herinterest.com, 14 Apr. 2014, www.herinterest.com/hobbies-for-women/.
“30 Hobbies for Women to Help You Relax and Have Fun.” Ritely.com, ritely.com/hobbies-for-women/.
Sometimes many of us have to admit that socializing with others can become tiring. This is true even for non-introverts who greatly enjoy the company of others as they go out in different places to have fun. When you get overwhelmed and you feel like your energy is being sucked out by the stress you feel or maybe a plan with your friends suddenly gets cancelled, then having some good ‘ol alone time even in the busy cities won’t hurt.
For that quick self-boosting fix, here we have a list of places around Metro Manila where you can peacefully have some “Me time.”
When you want to sit down and just chill.
Theo’s Baked + Brewed
106-C Maginhawa, Diliman, Lungsod Quezon, Kalakhang Maynila
We all know that Maginhawa Street is a great hub for foodies, families and friends who love to eat but that doesn’t mean that the street doesn’t cater to those who want to go solo and be productive at the same time. Theo’s Baked + Brewed offers just that! While their current place isn’t as big as some cafes, it’s cozy, air-conditioned and yes, the place has free wifi. They serve a variety of dishes like rice meals and pasta as well as sandwiches, desserts and of course, coffee.
Book and Borders Cafe
281 Tomas Morato Avenue, Sacred Heart, Tomas Morato, Quezon City
The cafe’s name is a sure giveaway. If you want to spend your alone time reading books and enjoying a nice cup of coffee or a great meal then this place is for you! It’s a great hub for booklovers and coffee addicts and the place is big enough to house over 600 books, perfect for your binge reading! Some of their menu items are breakfast meals, buffalo wings, pasta, smoothies and beer.
Art Circle Cafe
Ground Floor, Ang Bahay Ng Alumni, R. Magsaysay Street, Diliman, Quezon City
You might not be Picasso but if you have a great appreciation for art and the artists, go to Art Circle Cafe. The home-vibed cafe is hidden inside the Bahay ng Alumni in the University of the Philippines Diliman. Feed your stomach with their All Day Breakfast meals, sandwiches, soups, salads and drinks as your eyes enjoy quite the feast!
When you want to get some entertainment.
Director’s Club Cinema
SM Megamall, SM Aura, SM Mall of Asia, SM City BF Paranaque, S Maison
Going to the regular cinema in any mall is an option but if you have a little more cash to spare and want to experience a more laid-back and comfy movie-watching experience then the Director’s Club Cinema can answer to that. With its large reclining seats, you won’t have to worry about bumping elbows with someone and another plus, the seats come with a button for staff service. Cool right?
Conspiracy Garden Cafe
59 Visayas Avenue, Quezon City
Don’t let the name fool you because this place is not your typical cafe. For all the music lovers out there, Conspiracy Garden Cafe has live musical performances by local artists. Great to go on a Friday night, you don’t have to worry about sitting alone as you sip down some ice cold beer and vibe with the music.
When you want to increase your knowledge.
Padre Burgos Avenue, Ermita, Manila
10:00AM-5:00PM (Tuesdays – Fridays)
Show your love for your country by getting to know more about its history! The museum has a vast array of artworks by local Filipino artists and artifacts used from the different time periods experienced by the Filipinos. It is currently still be filled with more sights to see but thankfully, you won’t be spending anything during your visit as the National Museum is now has permanently free admission!
Makati Avenue corner De La Rosa street, Makati City
The Museum built on the year 1967, the museum features historical collections part of Philippine
History. One redeeming sight in this museum is their boat gallery showing how the Philippine
Trade and Economy was back then. The museum will make you really appreciate the local culture
And give you a feel of travelling back in time.
Many create the stigma of being seen alone but that shouldn’t stop you from treating yourself to at least a day of peace and relaxation. Everyone deserves a break and are free to choose how they want to do it. You deserve you hardworking gal!
Dacanay, Aimee. “Places In Manila For Going Solo.” Spot.ph, 5 Oct. 2016, www.spot.ph/things-to-do/the-latest-things-to-do/67931/perfect-places-flying-solo-a00001-20161005-lfrm. Accessed 7 Sept. 2017.
De Leon, Tynne. “8 Metro Manila Places for When You Want To Be Alone.” Windowseat.ph, 2 Dec. 2016, windowseat.ph/quiet-places-alone-time-metro-manila/. Accessed 7 Sept. 2017.
Ong, Wincy Aquino. “8 Makati Spots Where Introverts Can Be Left Alone.” 8list.Ph, 22 Oct. 2014, 8list.ph/makati-for-introverts/. Accessed 7 Sept. 2017.
By Rossana Llenado as told to Excel V. Dyquiangco
“I wanted to be so many things growing up – a lawyer, a CPA , an architect, an engineer, even a nun but never a teacher. It’s because I had believed that teachers are perfect and I am not – they have to inspire and be a model for students. I had, however, had this dream of putting up a foundation for educators since I was 18 years of age.”
At that time living beside a school, I saw that its students didn’t have anywhere to go for tutorials. More importantly, I was looking for a business that would let me stay with my then infant twin boys. I wanted to take care of them myself and see their every milestone; thus a tutorial and review business would do the job. This would allow me to take care of them while doing something worthwhile, something that would make a difference in other people’s lives. Unfortunately this didn’t happen because clients kept referring others and I couldn’t turn them down.
The first few days on the job were not easy. The children didn’t want to be tutored. They saw tutorials as an extra work after a tiring day at school. (Until now we have students who are reluctant to take tutorials. Just a few days ago, I was convincing a 16- year-old that our program is for him and his future.) But after a while, the students won’t even leave our tutorial centers. It was really fulfilling seeing our first few students get perfect scores in their tests. I remember tutoring twin girls now models Klaire and Klaudine Yapyuco, and their mom, Karel wanted to see how it goes. I became rattled and did a very poor job. I thought she would ask for her money back. Instead, she recommended me to three other parents. Later she even brought the twins back for their college entrance test review.
The difference with Ahead
One of the most challenging tasks for me is people management. Although Ahead is composed of the best people in the land, sometimes they don’t see the urgency or the importance of our activities. Sometimes they don’t want to follow my advice on what to do and would insist on doing things their own way. Leading, motivating, and inspiring people are an ongoing challenge. But even with this, I love my job. I love innovating and creating. And since this is my company, I have a say on what we can create or change or improve.
So why do people root for Ahead? We have identified at least several ways our programs are different from and superior to all others. We have a solid foundation of nearly 17 years. We learn patterned after the actual exams (for test preparation or review programs); calibrated after the curriculum of the best schools (for tutorials). Unique programs are available for each type of academic requirement. Speed reading is integrated into the tutorial and review courses to enhance comprehension skills. Mind mapping is integrated in the tutorial and review courses to improve memory and critical thinking. And there are refresher courses available. We also employ the top best teachers.
With such unique programs and curriculum, Ahead strives to be different. More so in general the students and the teachers appreciate what Ahead can do for them. They even hang around until our closing time and really enjoy their sessions with our tutors. And so the response of our students, teachers, and parents had been very encouraging. On our first year, people were already asking if I would like to franchise our services. But I took my time before expanding. I wanted to make sure that we were always giving the best service. For me, every day is a challenge and an opportunity. I never ever rested on my laurels. I always find ways to be ahead of myself.
My life lessons
There are many lessons I have learned upon establishing my company. First, people pay for quality; second, kids are very distracted these days; and third, the most successful students have very good parents who devote their time and attention to their children – not necessarily teach them themselves (sometimes this is not good too) but carefully choose which tutorial and review center to go to.
Because of these lessons, running a tutorial center has also shaped me to become a better person. I’ve learned to conduct myself more formally because I am always around students, parents, and teachers. Now that we are also dealing with other companies and their top executives, I have to dress differently as well. Otherwise, I think I am still the same old dreamer, hoping to change lives for the better – one learner at a time.
My ongoing plan right now is that I am striving to make Ahead a global company that will serve students and professionals outside the country but would give jobs and opportunities to Filipinos in the Philippines. As for myself, I plan to continue being the best mom, boss, mentor, and person I can be. In the next five to 10 years, I hope to have transformed my company into a major player in the global education industry. Others may think this is a far-fetched dream but I always dreamed and tell everyone my dream. Some would think I am hallucinating already. But I am bored by simple and easy-to reach dreams and challenged by dreams that are super hard to reach. I also believe in our potential for international success. We have world-class teachers and we already have a proven system and program. We are ready to compete according to global standards.
So who or what contributed to the success of Ahead? The constant need for each person to be successful is what fuels the success of my company. Like me, everyone has his own goals and dreams. They need someone to help them and we are here.
MY MONEY LESSONS
Lasting For Decades
Rossana Llenado started ahead with a dream. Now more than two decades later she has developed one of the best tutorial and review centers in the country. Here’s how she did it.
Find what you love to do.
- It may not be what you want in the first place but just like Llenado, if you see the need, work on that and then develop on it.
Keep delivering high-quality services/ products.
- Remember that when you do a good job, you won’t be looking for clients or customers anymore. They will be coming to you.
Find a niche market and work at “delighting” these clients with your offerings.
- Be flexible with your products and services – always find out what market wants and needs, and then work on what you have learned.