The Triumph of Fortitude

The Triumph of Fortitude

By Lyra P. Villafana

I used to edit a two-volume publication on legal costs. Referred to by practising lawyers in Australia, it was one of the most difficult to understand among all the products in my department’s list.

The first time I spoke to the author, she asked:  “Are you legally qualified?”

“No,” I said.  “I have a bachelor degree in Communication and my background is publishing, not law.”

“I can’t imagine how you can edit this kind of publication.”

Notwithstanding my lack of formal legal education, I forged a productive relationship with the author.  I gave her all the support she needed to be able to perform well as an author. In return, she delivered her manuscript on time, picked up the phone and talked to subscribers when I asked her to, and helped me with my product research. The question about the law degree never came up again.

All these years that I’ve worked in legal publishing in Australia, my education in the Philippines has served me in good stead. My training at the Ateneo de Manila University Graduate School of Business has helped me develop commercial acumen, a skill that is becoming valuable among editors these days.

Editors are not just wordsmiths anymore. Rather, we are the commercial owners responsible for the profit and loss of our publications.  Even when I was editor-in-chief of Entrepreneur magazine in Manila, I looked at the title in terms of market wants and needs. I managed the editorial process so we could go to press on time—the earlier we could supply the magazine to distributors, the more money we would make on newsstand sales.

I’ve reaped dividends too from my UP Communication degree.

The ability to read and analyze difficult text? My grasp of grammar and punctuation? The confidence to believe that I can learn and engage in meaningful discourse? UP nurtured me in all of these.

There are many other overseas Filipinos like me who have established themselves in their chosen careers. Nurses. Engineers. Accountants. IT professionals. The two things we all have in common: the fortitude to finish our studies and the tenacity to get every job done.

Photo by Daniel Chekalov on Unsplash

A Good Education

A Good Education

By Paige de Guzman

There’s a love and hate relationship between me and college. One minute I was loving it, then hating it the next. I love vacations. I love lazy days and happy mornings when I don’t have to wake up early to go to school. I love it when I don’t have to sit in the bus in the middle of traffic and end up late for class.

Nevertheless, I did my best. I woke up early, finished my assignments, studied my readings, and aced my classes. Sometimes, I would complain, but always, I tried to do my best. At the time, I always thought of what my parents told me: “It’s for your future.”

And oh, how right they were!

Of course, the realization did not come right away. When I graduated, I went job-hunting, taking tests and doing interviews. At first, it was frustrating. But because I knew exactly what I wanted, I did not lose hope. Today,  I am working full time as a publishing specialist while doing part-time work as a writer.

But reaping the rewards of a good education does not stop with getting a good job. A good education reflects on the quality of your work. It shows on how you handle pressure. Aren’t exams, graded recitations, and project deadlines stressful? Well, I’ve realized that they’re almost the same—deadlines in school and deadlines at work. The difference is that you get paid with the latter. That’s when I tell myself, “Thank God, I did my best in school!”

A good education also reflects on how well you relate to people. It shapes into the kind of person that you are. Before college, I was a  socially awkward girl who stammered a little bit in class. I suppose, all those graded recitation sessions fixed that.

I might have hated school at one time or another, but looking back, I’m glad I did my best. I know that I wouldn’t be here now if I hadn’t burned the midnight oil.

Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

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.

Confessions of a Reluctant Atenean

Confessions of a Reluctant Atenean

By Leslie G. Lee

When I started my senior year in high school, I smugly thought I had my life all mapped out. I was now at the top of the so-called food chain; I had been promoted to editor-in-chief of our school paper from my previous post as features editor; and, like my older sister before me, I planned to study in De La Salle University, majoring in LIA-COM, a fusion of Liberal Arts and Business degrees.

But as usual, life threw me in for a spin when it was time for the college entrance exams.

I was not expecting to be accepted by the Ateneo. Never. At all. My mind was so set on DLSU that it didn’t occur to me that I actually had a fighting chance for a spot in that prestigious university. When I got my admission letters from the two universities, my parents and I had a huge row. I was adamant about La Salle: almost all my friends would be going there, it was only an hour away from home, I’d be receiving a partial scholarship for English, I’d be graduating with a double degree of sorts, et cetera ad infinitum. But my parents were equally firm about the Ateneo—especially my dad, the entrepreneur who wasn’t able to obtain a college degree and wanted his second daughter, his second child, to attend a university that offered a “higher” quality of education.

It took about a month and plenty of parental bribes before I finally caved in and was reluctantly chaperoned and dragged off to pay my confirmation fee at the Ateneo de Manila University.

Now I wonder why I had been so against the idea in the first place.

It’s been more than a decade since I became an Atenean alumni, and it never fails to amaze and astound me each time I remember how much I’d thrived—not just survived—in those four years.

In Ateneo, I was plucked out of my Chinese comfort zone, learned to interact and adapt to true-blue Pinoys, and was exposed to other Filipino traditions. I learned how to drop my Chinese accent, talk Tagalog properly, and speak better English. I was introduced to fascinating topics such as the Holocaust, subjects like Philosophy and Film Theory, and the “science” of deciphering the Bible. I grew to appreciate fabulous short stories such as “The Lottery” and “Beheading of the Heads” and film classics such as Rear Window and Il Postino. And I don’t know if this will seem superficial and shallow to others, but I appreciate the image and reputation that the Ateneo has established, as they have given me access to respectable companies here and abroad.

To continue my litany of praises (and bragging rights) for being an Atenean would take far too much time and space, so let me just say that I will forever be grateful for being “coerced” to study in Ateneo. I love and am proud of being a product of the Ateneo.

Because, you see, I don’t think of education or studying as merely something you do by the book—it’s a way of life. With the right kind of education, you’re taught to deal with people from all walks of life. You study subjects and explore topics that trigger your brain synapses. You discover how you are as a person, your working style and ethics (based on group projects), and how to navigate your way once you’ve left the confines of school and entered the real world.

Good education prepares you for these things, and being a good—if not excellent—student brings you good karma, so to speak. Isn’t it any wonder that almost all companies require a copy of one’s TOR (Transcript of Records) for each application?

Featured Photo Courtesy of ABS-CBN News

My Boxing Life

My Boxing Life

By Tet Defensor

There is something about the sound of boxing gloves hitting the punching bag in steady rhythm; even more exciting is throwing a strong jab or hook that lands right smack on your coach’s training mitts. Tiring? Not at all! Despite the strenuous physical movements, a boxer magically feels stronger after every hit. The adrenaline rush is endless; there is no stopping the fist from hitting the target. A boxer only feels tired when everything stops.

Boxing is the perfect sport for working mothers. The movements are strong and heavy. And five minutes into the sport, you are sweating like crazy. It is also the best way to unleash pent up frustrations.

I started boxing when I was working for a public relations agency. Those of you with agency experience know that there is truly no end to the task at hand. I think the whole idea of multi-tasking came to be because that was the only way to survive in such a competitive work zone.

Without my regular boxing routine, I probably would have hated all my colleagues. But since I was able to release my stress, every day was a renewed opportunity. I may leave the office angry, but once I start punching away, all feelings of anger and frustration are thrown out the window. Of course, I feel tired after a two-hour workout, but I also feel refreshed and energized. The next day, I am eager to go to work and finish my tasks.

I’ve been boxing twice a week for more than five years now. It has become so much a part of me that I am beginning to enjoy the boxing fights of Pacman Manny Pacquio. I’ve been so religious with my routine that my coach even asked me if I wanted to take part in a friendly match. As much as I was thrilled with the idea, I decided to pass. Nope, I am not interested in boxing in public. Training with a coach regularly is one thing, but getting hit in public is another. Besides I don’t think my father’s heart will be able to take the sight of me being hit by a stranger.

Like any fitness routine, I started boxing because I wanted to lose weight. Surprisingly, I began enjoying the sport. I even managed to maintain a healthy physique. I think I have reached a plateau, however, and have started alternating my jabs and hook  with running and brisk walking. More than losing weight, I wish to live longer and enjoy a good quality of life in my old age.

Of course, there are days when I am too lazy to get out of bed, much less wear my trainers.  On such days, I imagine the energizing feeling I get after a workout and that springs me out of immobility.

Although I am basically a cheerful person, I attribute my bright and positive outlook to my active routine. We all know that exercise releases seratonin, triggering off feelings of happiness. On occasions when I detect signs of some kind of hormonal imbalance, I cling to the possibility of bliss, and run off to the boxing gym.

Photo by Vinicius “amnx” Amano on Unsplash