The Year of Living Brilliantly

The Year of Living Brilliantly

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.

Old School Study Habits

Old School Study Habits

By Carmie Dulguime

As a student over 20 years ago, we didn’t need the Internet and all those sophisticated gadgets that children have today. We can proudly tell them that we passed with flying colors without going online for research or having a laptop to use for our reports. We didn’t have tablet PCs that can store our notes, and e-books for references. We also didn’t have the luxury of using online tutorial services to help us advance in our studies.

We used our brains for analyzing skills and memorizing, our hands for writing, our eyes for observing, and our ears for listening. Whatever kids today are doing with their digital aids, we did 10 times more with just our physical senses. We can argue that we were more creative and resourceful since we didn’t have the advantage of having an electronic study partner. But if you look at it, our old school study habits can actually work with today’s technology.

Early birds win: We are calmer, more focused, and more alert when we sleep early and wake up early before an exam. Kids today will argue that they have a lot to cover, so they need to stay up late. You can tell them how we used to do it: we study days before the exam so we have time for more sleep every night. Then we wake up very early to study again since our minds are fresh and alert to absorb more. This is even more useful for those accessing the Internet for studying since connection speed is usually faster early in the morning.

Flash cards for all ages: Kids, especially the older ones, might laugh at the idea, but flash cards will work forever. It’s more fun for studying that requires memorization. It also works better with a study partner. This is easier since there are now Powerpoint slides, Photoshop, or any other program that kids use to make the images for the flash cards. They don’t even have to print them out – just show them straight from the computer, mobile phone, or tablet PC screen.

Remembering the library: Kids probably don’t visit the library as much as we used to because of e-books and the Internet’s own library of millions of resources. But there is nothing like a good book as reference that assures you of credibility and reliability of source. The library is also a great place to study since everyone there is supposed to be quiet. There are computers and Internet access there as well, so there really is no excuse for not choosing the library as a study sanctuary.

Having a break: Getting sleepy, getting a headache, or feeling tired during study is an indication that the body has had enough. That’s the time we stand up, walk outside to get some air, or take a short nap. About 30 minutes to an hour should be good; longer than two hours might lead to distraction. The mobile phone is a good help here as an alarm when it’s time to go back to studying.

Photo by Marten Bjork on Unsplash

Surviving the Internet Age

Surviving the Internet Age

By Maridol Bismark

How does someone born at a time when computers were still unheard of survive in this techy world?  Bombard your child with questions, that’s how.

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: URL, landing page, sites, chatting, etc. I even get my pay through a system that at first, I couldn’t make heads or tails of: sending a vendor summary form through the magic of Excel.

So I holler at my son, not once, but many times over, and ask him to take a look-see, fast! He looks up reluctantly from his books, rolls his eyes, and does as he is told. It helps that he’s still in school and relies on me for his tuition and daily allowance. In other words, he has no choice.  LOL (That’s laugh out loud!)

“Mom, just check what you see on the screen!” He tells me, half-pleading, half-incredulous.

I point to the button that says, “Do not click this Web site.” He clicks it while I watch with bated breath. Voila! The screen starts to respond!

Next, I point to YM (Yahoo messenger) and wail that I can’t see my previous messages. He clicks on the “show recent messages” part and everything appears right  before my eyes. I could have kissed his hands right then and there except that he’ll find it corny and laugh his head off.

Why, I can’t even get my pay if  not for his know-how of Excel!

Ah, the  joys and pay-offs of motherhood!

I hear the same story over and over again from classmates caught in the same situation. This doesn’t only apply to computers but to cellphones as well.

My editor sends me a text: “What’s the model of your cellphone?”

I text back: “Let me ask my son when he comes home from school.”

She replies, “I do that, too!”

I look at my son straight in the eye and say, “What will I do without you?”

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.

So let the new jargon come, full blast. I will not be afraid. I have my son’s hand to hold when the going gets tough.

Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

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.

Hip to Be H-A-C-K

By Rossana Llenado


People don’t go online because they like to read.  They go online because they need the latest information fast, snappy, and brief. They don’t have time for details.  They detest long text.

This couldn’t be emphasized enough during the recent International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) convention I attended in San Diego, California last week. One of the convention’s more than 80 speakers, Steve Cresenzo summed up internet writing principles in four letters, H-A-C-K.

Headline. Whether you’re writing a blog or updating a portion of your website, you have to have a catchy headline. It should be so encompassing that readers immediately “get” the idea and have no choice but to read the rest of the story. On your headline, use only key words. Make every word count.

Abstract. In a sentence, capture the essence of your story.  Assume that this will be all that your readers would read. Let them know all they need to know. Try focusing on one persona that will represent your story’s point.  According to research, readers are drawn in by striking character profiles rather than statistics. A reader is more likely to read the story of an earthquake survivor than an impersonal rundown of the number of calamity victims.

Content. Now apply your storytelling skills.  Make your main “character” as human as possible.  Include one or two quotations from an expert to give credibility to your account.  Use conversational language. With different wordings, state your main point at the beginning, middle, and end of your piece as many of your readers would just be scanning your story. Through carefully chosen details, you should be able to give the reader a grasp of the bigger picture and lead him to where you want him to go.

Killer Content. Here comes the tricky part where you aim at three-way communication.  Make the reader react to your story by leaving room for him to comment. Give examples and the examples of others so that the reader would be enticed to share his own. Be straightforward about how you’d like your audience to react:

(1) Like you/your organization on Facebook

(2) Share your story on their wall

(3) Join the discussion

(4) Comment. Comment. Comment.

Go forth and HACK!