Building Memories

By Karen Galarpe

Looking over the chocolates on the shelves at the supermarket today, I smiled at seeing a bag of local cheap chocolates individually wrapped in white-and-orange stripes. “It’s still alive!” I thought to myself, as I picked up the little bag and added it to my basket. Memories of me in my grade school uniform unwrapping those little chocolates while in the school bus (more like a school jeep) on the way home came to me on the way to the cashier’s counter.

Then other grade school memories flashed: filing past displays of swimming fish at the Manila Aquarium (there was such a thing back in the 70s), eating my classmate’s baon back in Grade 4 (since she lived near our school, she had hot lunch delivered every lunch break, and oftentimes could not finish her meal), running around and going up and down the slide in the playground under the hot noonday sun, swimming with my father in a beach (me in T-shirt and shorts, he in maong pants), going from tomb to tomb at the cemetery with my cousins to collect candle wax on All Saints’ Day and rolling them up in huge hot balls, and traipsing down Session Road in Baguio with my family, all of us bundled up in sweaters and jackets.

Those were the days when we had nary a care in the world about traffic, debts, bad news, sickness, inflation, catastrophes, love life, and what have you. What mattered then was that precise moment, when we just did what we had to do and lived for that moment alone.

A few years ago, I interviewed Heinz Bulos, a money-smart dad and editor of a personal finance magazine, about family finances, and he said something that stuck to my mind: “Spend for experiences rather than stuff,” he said. “As dads, we have a tendency to lavish our kids with material things, partly out of guilt for not spending enough time with them and mostly because we just enjoy seeing the smiles on their faces. But their excitement is gone weeks or even days after getting something they want. So instead of buying more and more stuff, spend for experiences–trips to the zoo, the park, the beach–since memories of happy experiences last much longer than the fleeting enjoyment of toys and gadgets. Plus you get to spend quality time with them. More experiences, less stuff.”

What memories are you building with your children? I hope that someday, even when he is a grown man, my son will remember us going to Manila Zoo and Enchanted Kingdom, swimming in the clear waters of Boracay, eating sushi in Tokyo, watching cars drift in an exhibition game in Greenhills, plunking down on the floor of a bookstore at the mall to read a storybook together, or just sharing a piece of chocolate at home on a lazy summer afternoon.

Online Tutoring: A 21st Century Benefit

By Karen Galarpe

It was a few years ago when I first saw those ads of companies looking for English language online tutors. These tutors were to go over essays written by Korean students, and would have to conduct one-on-one tutorials via the web.

Here was another application of modern information technology – classes and tutorials can be done online, with a student in the comfort of his home abroad going over lessons on English grammar and composition with his teacher across the seas.

I heard that Filipino English language online tutors are quite in demand, given their proficiency in the English. That isn’t surprising.

Online tutorials now are not just limited to English language tutorials. A number of tutorials are now done on the Internet, from web applications courses and college exam review courses to cooking lessons.

Yes, cooking. Senator Panfilo Lacson himself said he learned how to cook during his fugitive days last year, thanks to Google. He could now even bake his own bread!

The beauty of online tutorials is that you can take them at your own pace and at your own time. You don’t have to rush through traffic and spend for transportation to get to the tutorial center or school. And with chat facilities, online tutorials make it easy for students to raise questions and have their tutors answer them immediately. It’s learning without borders, 21st century style.

Thinking of enrolling in an online tutorial course? Here are some tips to help you choose the best one for you:

1.      Research about the company offering the online tutorial course. Is it a reputable company? How long has it been in the business? A stable reputable company may be relied on to offer quality online tutorial courses.

2.      Read up on the teachers’ qualifications. The website should give potential enrollees a brief background on the qualifications of the online tutors.

3.      Look into the details. Will you be able to chat with the tutor to get answers to your questions fast? How soon will you get feedback for tests and homework sent online?

4.      Ask for feedback from other enrollees. Check online forums for feedback about an online tutorial course, or ask family and friends for referrals.

How Parents Really Feel About Those College Entrance Tests

By Karen Galarpe

I craned my neck to scan the crowd for a familiar face. So many high school seniors have been spilling out onto the sidewalk on Taft Avenue in Manila right after they took the De La Salle University College Entrance Test (DLSUCET) last Sunday night. Some of them were smiling, while some looked serious.

Ang hirap naman ng exam! Puro word problems! Mas madali pa ang ACET!” one guy said, talking to someone on his cellphone. (The ACET refers to the Ateneo College Entrance Test.)

Madali lang. Mas mahirap pa ang ACET, pero pinakamahirap ang UPCAT,” said my son when we finally met up. (UPCAT, on the other hand, is the University of the Philippines College Admission Test.)

I found it sweet to see a mom smiling from ear to ear as her daughter was telling her something. And then there was the touching scene where a daughter held on to her dad’s arm, a latte in the other hand, while they walked. She was talking about the exam animatedly, while her dad beamed from ear to ear.

This has been the pattern, more or less, for the past few months as many college hopefuls have started taking those competitive college entrance exams at the country’s top universities. Parents would anxiously wait right outside exam venues, and would be all ears to find out how their children did.

At the University of the Philippines (UP) campus last August, thousands of parents and family members (with some of them even bringing their pet dogs as well) congregated outside UPCAT venues throughout the campus as the examinees went out. The anxiety written on parents’ faces would change to pride and joy as soon as their sons and daughters emerged from the gates.

The same scenario was seen in the next exam, that of the University of Santo Tomas (UST) that same month. Then it was replicated at the Ateneo de Manila University last September and DLSU last Sunday. Before the month is over, UST will have its second UST Entrance Test (USTET) for high school seniors.

If students are nervous about these tests, so are their parents, believe me. Every parent wants only the best for her child, and a good education, they say, is the best legacy a parent can give. Of course, most parents want their children to get the best university education there is, thus the shared anxiety during this season.

Come January next year, expect to see ecstatic status messages on Facebook from parents of college hopefuls as universities start releasing the lists of those who got admitted to their campuses. To see one’s child get into the university of his dreams – that would be a milestone along with the great moments of all time: the day a child made his first step, celebrated his first birthday, went to school for the very first time, attended his first prom, and graduated from high school. Someday, in the far far future, we hope, would be the first relationship, the wedding, and the first grandchild for us. But that seems like light years away. For now, there is college, and so we wait.

Being Thankful

By Karen Galarpe


I overheard someone say our weather these days is bipolar. It can be very very hot in the morning until early afternoon, then rainy from late afternoon to early evening. Four days ago, it was stormy; yesterday was a sunny day, and today promises rain and flood as typhoon Quiel is here.

On social networking sites, particularly Twitter, I read many comments from people all over the world. “Crazy weather,” said one. “The weather  needs to be better informed about our needs. I say we write a petition. No, protest. With signs,” tweeted Vaguery. “Weather today is so confusing. One minute the suns out, next minute a monsoon mixed with tornado-like winds coming down the street. Umph,” posted benthal.

I find it ironic that here we are complaining about the weather when, just a few weeks ago, survivors of 9/11 were recounting their stories on History Channel, Discovery Channel, and CNN. It has been 10 years since September 11, 2001, yet these survivors still choke up when recounting their experiences finding their way out of the North Tower before it collapsed, and running away from the humongous debris cloud when the twin towers collapsed.

I think these survivors wake up each day thanking God just for being alive. Shouldn’t we do the same instead of complaining about the “crazy” weather?

The next time you feel the urge to complain (it’s in our nature, don’t fret), think of something you can be thankful for. It can be the nice orchid blooming in your garden, the bird you hear chirping away outside your window, even the smell of freshly brewed coffee wafting in from the kitchen. It can be the smile on your child’s face in the morning, instead of a grumpy one. Thank God for time to have breakfast, a safe ride to school or work, and the privilege to earn a decent living. It’s a new day after all.

Tutoring Our Children

By Karen Galarpe

Back when my son was in preschool and the early grades, I would try to rush home early, and beg off from after-work activities to make way for “Homework Time.”

That was the time I reserved on weekdays to help my son with his homework, and if there wasn’t any, to make him answer reviewers I would make myself.

As the years went on, I trusted him to study on his own. But there were times when he and I agreed a tutor would help, such as during one summer he spent going twice a week at a tutorial center for high school math stuff.

He also attended a summer tutorial course this year to prepare for college entrance exams.

My friends who are also parents likewise believe in tutoring their children. Most of them take the time to help their kids with homework, and some of them have hired tutors when they couldn’t be there or don’t feel they’re up to the task.

Back when I was a student, tutoring was not the norm. Even parents did not take the time to teach and tutor their children.

Over the years, with more studies done on education, though, and parenting, too, experts have realized that children stand to benefit from tutoring.

One, it can help children keep up with their lessons and understand the subject better, according to the article “How to Know When It’s Time to Get Your Kid a Tutor” on

Two, tutoring can help a child who’s already excelling in the same subject. According to the aforementioned article, a child who already knows the subject matter being tackled in class will become bored and uninterested during class discussions. A tutor can teach him beyond what the class can offer and challenge him to keep on learning.

Tutoring provides that one-on-one mentor-mentee relationship, or at the least, a learning environment with a very small group. A student is free to ask questions and go at the pace he wants and needs.

When my son had that math tutorial a few years ago, he told me that his tutor was still a college student studying chemistry at the University of the Philippines. And though the tutor was not a math major, he knew his algebra and trigonometry and made it so much simpler than my son’s teacher in class did.

Sometimes we need a little help, and a tutor just might be the answer.

Learning Starts With Wanting to Learn

By Karen Galarpe


At a lunch meeting with a school official, talk veered to teaching. I asked the woman I met with if she also teaches there.

“No! I can’t teach these young kids. I tried before, but I just can’t do it again. I can teach adults, but not college kids,” she said.

She then went on to explain how difficult teaching is and moreso when the students are not interested or behaved. I nodded in agreement, as I know what she’s talking about.

Back in 2005, I taught communication subjects at a college nearby, and the yearlong stint has instilled in me an even greater respect for  teachers. You see, I realized how much of a vocation teaching is.

You spend many hours preparing for your classes, then when you are in class, you give all that you’ve got. Teaching exacts much of you, as you give of yourself so your students can learn. But I realized after a time, that even though you pour out your heart teaching, not everyone will learn. Only those who want to learn, who are willing to learn and be taught, and who are teachable will be the ones to benefit. Even the smart guys stand to lose if they are not hungry to learn.

It’s like me when faced with html codes that all look Greek to me. My brain refuses to process it, or refuses to even try, and I give up right away. I don’t even want to learn html because, well, it looks so complicated and I’d rather leave it for others to decipher. But give me something else–history, current events, whatever, and chances are, I’ll lap it up. I want to learn while I still have breath in me. There’s just so much going on in this world and we have so much to learn from each other.

As parents, we should instill in our children a love for learning. How? It starts with us. When we ourselves show amazement at new discoveries, when we make the effort to feed our minds and engage in critical thinking, when we look upon our world with curiosity and ask, what can I do to make this world better–children pick that up.

Love learning. It’s a great way to live!