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 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 Rossana L. Llenado
I’m a believer in making schedules and lists. It’s one of the best ways to stay organized. If I didn’t have a schedule mapped out, I wouldn’t be able to keep track of all my appointments and obligations. That’s why I need my planner and why I write out the day, week, month, and year.
Every day, I wake up then head off to work within an hour. I spend the day in meetings, making business decisions, troubleshooting, making plans, and networking. By 6 p.m., I am wrapping up my day and I’m at home by 7 p.m. to spend time with my kids. When they’re off to bed, I’m back catching up on what I was unable to do during the day such as checking my e-mails and so forth. I’m asleep after midnight to be ready for the daily grind the following day. Weekends aren’t spared from a structured schedule. As much as I try to set aside time to spend with my kids, there are days when I still need to go to seminars or other events that require my presence.
Even as a young child, I’ve already set a schedule for myself, not only for my day to day activities, but for my life in general. Early on, I knew that I wanted to be successful and I dreamed up all the things that I wanted to achieve and the time it would take for me to get there.
In school, I set my classes in such a way that I would be able to work in the afternoon so I could make extra money. I had so many things going on, the only way I could keep my head above the water was to schedule and prioritize things. If I were any less organized, I would have turned cross-eyed by now.
For example, I determined that after graduating from college, I would have my own business. Back then, I really thought I would have my own restaurant! By the time I was 25, I planned that I would be married. Then I would have kids spaced two to three years apart.
Things didn’t necessarily turn out that way. I was off by a year getting married. I certainly wasn’t able to put up that restaurant. Instead, I ended up establishing an entirely different type of business. When I put up my business, I never thought it would grow into what it is today.
As much as you organize things, life still manages to wreck havoc on the best laid plans. There are just some things you can’t plan for such as death, accidents, surprises, and other tragedies. I never guessed that I would have four children, with twins to boot! And I certainly never imagined myself in the field of education. Having a tutorial and review business is certainly a big difference from having a restaurant to call my own.
There is only so much that I can schedule in my life. I can’t account for the weather, nor can I be responsible for other people’s reactions. I can try to prepare for things as much as I can, but in the end, you can’t always stick to a schedule.
I have found that sometimes, it is the unscheduled things in life that are the most rewarding. Surprises such as a sudden hug from my oldest child after a long day, or when my youngest turns to me to tell me she loves me, are things that cannot be written in. Getting a call or e-mail from a long lost friend, or having to clear my afternoon so I can attend my son’s awarding ceremony at school are other unexpected and unscheduled turns, although pleasant ones. Other major milestones such as getting your first kiss, falling in love or even out of it are events that you can’t plan for or chart.
Setting goals and realistic time lines are ways to keep track of endeavors and to make sure that a proper course is set. I may not always meet it but at least I know it’s something that I am working on. I have several projects that are already delayed, but I don’t let that stress me. I know that some things take longer than others, and there are just some things beyond my control.
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 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.