By Jing Lejano
When we started the Smart Super Women blog exactly one year ago, we never thought that we’d play witness to daredevil feats of adventures. We wanted to hear inspiring stories of mothers, daughters, sisters, warriors, peacemakers, intellects, vamps, homemakers, career rats, readers, adventurers, and dreamers who were going through their everyday lives. But we didn’t think that they’d do so with such daring and gumption.
Take the case of Mari-An Santos, a cum laude graduate of the University of the Philippines. We happily read about her trips to Thailand, when she suddenly revealed that she was packing her bags and moving to Romania! She had received a grant to pursue her Master’s degree in that European country. In her latest entry, she writes, “Studying in a foreign land has not only opened my eyes to the reality that I am a citizen of the world, it has made me appreciate my being Filipino all the more. Even as I learn about other peoples, cultures, and places, I have learned to value home even more.”
A collection of personal essays for and by women, the Smart Super Women blog was created to inspire its readers to tackle everyday challenges with courage and to work for the fulfillment of their dreams with conviction.
Most of the contributing writers are working mothers with school-aged children. They discuss such topics as careers and children, literacy and education, family and friends, and the quest for self-improvement. Because the writers contribute on a regular basis, readers have seen them tackle different challenges, resulting in a very interesting read.
There’s newspaper editor Gina Abuyuan, who never got around to traveling alone when she was single, but who finally had the nerve to roam the streets of Chiang Mai all by her lonesome now that she is “older, tougher, not afraid to tell someone off.” Her latest solo trip had her enjoying the sound of waves crashing at a beach side resort in the provinces. Oh, and may we add that she also recently opened a pub together with her life partner and some friends?
Of course, the adventures aren’t always of the adrenaline-pumping kind. Sometimes, we see these women finding epiphany in a cup of coffee shared with friends, in the few hours they sweat it out in the gym, or in the few minutes they spend with their children as they drive them to school.
But whether they’re raising their kids in the Philippines like writer Ruth Floresca, who’s a work-at-home mom to four boys, or juggling their time between career and home in Australia like editor Lyra Pore, who gets up at five in the morning to bring her daughters to the day care center, these women always find creative ways to make every opportunity a learning experience.
Ruth goes on date nights with her sons as a way of catching up with what’s going on in their lives. She writes, “It’s a continuous process, this getting to know one’s children because they grow up so fast and I don’t want to wake up one morning to find out that I don’t know anything about them anymore.”
Lyra Pore Villafana takes swimming lessons as a way of relaxing from the challenges of living an immigrant’s life. “Life overseas is so different to what we’ve all been used to… But doing something for oneself isn’t unique to Asian moms coping with the stresses of building a new life in a different country.”
Maridol Bismark bombards her sons with questions to learn her way in the digital world. She writes, “I work for an online entertainment portal. Every day, I am exposed to words and phrases that are just starting to make sense to me…I feel like a child lost in a newfangled world, groping for a hand to guide me. Fortunately, the hand belongs to the boy who appreciates everything that I’ve done and will still do for him.”
As these women continue on their journey to live, love, and learn in the modern age, Smart Super Women will be right alongside them, watching their every step, hoping to inspire others to live as fearlessly and as brilliantly as they do.
By Ruth Manimtim-Floresca
I am not much of a coffee drinker. And I don’t particularly like spending a lot on signature drinks. Lately though, I’ve been finding myself hanging out with online media friends at various coffee shops after we’ve attended events.
It’s nice when we get to use the gift certificates we’re given during press cons or by clients but, most of the time, we do have to shell out for the stuff we order. Good thing the stores offer non-coffee drinks so I can still buy other kinds of beverages. However, practical person that I am, I still try to limit my spending and just let the others get the regular coffee and pastry fixes they always can’t seem to be without.
Analyzing the situation, I realized that I’m there mainly for the company. I enjoy being with my friends because we always have a great time exchanging stories. We seem not to run out of topics to talk about and I find my mind stimulated by all the interactions which, at times, even give me ideas about new stuff to write about.
True friends are hard to find these days. So I’m taking these pockets of opportunity to bond with them when I do have time to hang out even for just an hour or two once in a while. After all, I don’t know how much longer our schedules would jive and if we’ll still be having coffee together a few weeks or months from now.
I like how we continuously meet individuals whom we could be great friends with in time. It’s amazing how our hearts have the capability to let more people in who will eventually touch our lives in the most meaningful of ways.
So I don’t mind spending for my not-so-cheap, non-coffee drinks every now and then. Ultimately, the friendships, the stories, the laughter, and the good times are worth far more than that.
Photo by Christiana Rivers on Unsplash
By Maridol Rañoa-Bismark
What do you do when you have to rush to work in the morning, beat deadlines in the afternoon, and get home ready to drop at night? Certainly not end the day without checking on your child whether he’s a tyke, a teenager, or a college-age young man like mine.
Sharon Cuneta’s commercial about coming home at night and checking on her sleeping children still strikes a chord in my heart, even if it’s been off the air for quite some time. It’s not that I harbor any illusions of being a Megastar; certainly not. It’s just that it paints the perfect picture of my life these days, so crazy that I can’t even catch my son while he’s awake.
How do I squelch the guilty feelings threatening to kill me with visions of a youth gone wild? By driving my son wherever he needs to be, that’s how.
In the mornings, I drive him to school. On weekends, I repeat the ritual when he has to go to a debate tournament or a required school event.
Trapped in the confines of my trusty vehicle, I strike up a conversation with my son. The poor guy—even if he’s about to nod off to sleep—responds. Never mind if it’s a vague “It’s OK” to my question about how the school fair went. That’s enough for a mom like me who’s anxious to connect with her son.
When I’m lucky, my son’s sentences are longer; his replies more colorful. He lets me into his world—a world where an older cross-enrollee acts like a know-it-all, making everyone snicker, and where teacher jokes rule. I feel like I’m part of a secret society where sorrow and laughter are shared. For a while, looming deadlines recede and the pressure of having to deal with rushed ideas fade. I am in a faraway land with my son—a land where life is simpler and I don’t have to deliver numbers to survive. It’s a breather in my hectic pace, a good rev-up for a brand-new work day.
Now you know why I won’t give up those morning drives for anything in the world except, perhaps, for a big breaking story. Our moments of bonding moments make me more human in the dog-eat-dog world I step into every working day. I remember what life is all about: feeling, sharing, being human.
Thank you, Ben, for making your harassed mom less of a monster and more of a human being through the years.
Featured Photo Courtesy of Cars Website
By Ruth Manimtim-Floresca
A friend of mine shared something on his Facebook wall last night. It’s a link to a story he wrote about his dad. Soon after, other friends, including myself, started sharing our own experiences as sons and daughters.
Most of us acknowledged that our parents are human beings too and are bound to make mistakes like we do. We may have been hurt by some of the things our dads and moms did during our growing up years, but we recognize that we have done stuff that caused them pain as well.
Many of my friends and I have already lost our dads or our moms, or both. Some, many years ago; others, just a few months back. But one thing we expressed is how we all love our parents and respect them.
Me? I remember my Tatay as a strict man who can be quick with the belt when my siblings and I made mistakes while we were still kids. When he and our mom had misunderstandings, he would be gone for days, staying in my Lola’s house before coming back with his sense of humor intact. I loved listening to his corny jokes! I also remember him as a person who people go to when they need help. He was generous to a fault and would even lend his last peso to a friend in need.
He was a good granddad to my kids and my nephew. Up until now, 11 years after he passed away, our relatives and people in our town still talk about him with fondness. I also don’t think anybody has yet broken his record for having the longest line of mourners during the long walk to the cemetery when we brought him to his resting place.
When I get asked about the most precious memories I have of my Tatay, I’ll always recall how he would take my youngest son, barely a year old at the time, every morning for a walk around the town while he chitchats with his many friends. The two of them were a common sight in the area which seems to be still engraved in peoples’ memories. It is gratifying that whenever we visit my mom in Laguna, neighbors and friends would look at Daniel and exclaim how big he has grown from that little baby that my Tatay used to bring everywhere. It always gladdens my heart to hear that.
Nobody is perfect and it will serve us well to look beyond a person’s imperfections to appreciate the goodness within. I’ve long since forgiven and forgotten whatever shortcomings my dad had. What I want to remain are the happy memories he left behind.
Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash
By Julie Javellana-Santos
Without my daughter, the 40-minute commute to work seemed longer than usual this morning. I felt lonely and deserted traversing the kilometers between my home and the school where I work and she studies. Up until last June, however, I had been going to work alone. It was only when she began going to the college where I worked that we “bonded” while commuting.
The long (not that long) train ride was most conducive to chatting about inconsequential and mundane things. Things like the state of her wardrobe, how her blockmates annoyed her, the books she wanted to buy and the fast food she wanted to sample on a daily basis.
Our conversations inevitably turned to more serious matters — how she was getting low scores in Math but which she vowed to make up for with higher scores in English and Literature and how she was enjoying college.
It was during those times that we talked about my health too, and how I felt about my job.
There were also times when nary a word was spoken by either of us. The only sound she made would be the rustling of the innumerable papers she had to read for class.
Midway through the train ride, she would always lean her head on my shoulder to take a short nap and catch up on her sleep. By virtue of her larger size, this sometimes made my back ache, but what the heck, anything for my “baby.”
My “baby” is now living temporarily with my sister, whose house is closer to her college. As school is not far away, she hopefully will have more time to study. And I, I will just have to learn to live with commuting alone, having these conversations in my mind.
Time has flown so fast from when she was a babe in my arms to one stumbling through her first steps. I realize that soon enough I will have to say goodbye on a more permanent basis so this temporary separation is a “dry run.”
Yesterday she dropped by my office because she had forgotten her vitamins at home and it was all I could do to keep myself from hugging her. I now understand why my mother visited me often at my own flat.
My feelings are also silly because she will only be away to study for her final exams next week.
The week after, she will be back home for her semestral vacation. And then the new semester will start, and we will be commuting together again, taking those long train rides together again and chatting about inconsequential things again.