The Lonely Commute

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.

My Precarious Year

By Romelda C. Ascutia


A little over a year ago, I took the biggest risk of my career: I decided to quit the corporate world and work on my own terms—as a freelance editor.

I wish I could say that it was a calculated risk, born of long planning and preparation. Truth is, it was a precipitous leap of faith during one of the lowest points in my life. I decided to leave a job I loved because after four years, it had turned into a nightmare parade of unending deadlines, long work hours, and nasty office politics.

The thought of diving immediately into a full-blown search for another full-time job filled me with aversion. So I gave myself a few months to scope out the freelance job market. If nothing happened, I could always look for a regular job again.

I was confident of my chances of finding project-based work quickly. Modesty aside, my credentials weren’t too shabby. Over the years I had held senior editor positions, such as managing editor or editor in chief, at a number of magazines. I also worked as a section editor at newspapers and as a content manager for a website. I wrote and edited books, columns, and various print materials.

But to my dismay, the projects didn’t come rushing my way—like a dog bounding to her mistress the minute she steps through the door—as I thought they would. Openings for home-based work posted on job search sites almost always entailed long hours at starvation rates. I snagged a regular monthly gig and some accounts here and there, but they weren’t enough to raise a family on.

As the months passed, my anxiety mounted. If the work inflow remained at a trickle, my savings would dry up! Fortunately, with fervent prayers and a fresh new year came a welcome change of pace.

Suddenly all my self-promotion efforts began paying off, and the projects came one after the other. A publisher asked me to manage her newly launched website. She then referred me to her former officemate, an overseas-based editorial manager looking for a freelance business writer (I knew nothing about world finance but somehow I passed the writing test). The sister of another colleague introduced me to a publisher who needed an editor for one of their school magazines.

I look back in amazement at the heart-stopping journey I made and where it has led me. Just last year I was clinging to a precipice, blindsided, struggling to climb back up or plunge into an abyss. Now I have found a work style that allowed me to practice my craft again, but without the pressures of office life.

What I’ve learned from my career crisis? Setbacks may knock you down, but a good work ethic, perseverance, and helping hands from Someone up there and friends who believe in you, will help you overcome. The trials that land you on your butt may be opportunities to start anew in disguise.



Proud of Paolo

Proud of Paolo

By Rossana Llenado

It was a terribly busy day filled with all sorts of stress and get-it-done drama when I received some great news. My son Paolo has been accepted at Mensa Philippines after taking the qualifying exams at the University of the Philippines.

When I read the letter from Mensa Philippines, which was addressed to Paolo, my eyes watered up immediately. It stated: “Your equivalent IQ is 134 which ranks you at the 98th percentile. Since this is within the upper two percent on a recognized intelligence test, this means you qualify for membership in MENSA.”

Mensa is a society comprised of people with IQs belonging to the top 2 percent of the population. One of Mensa’s goals is to promote intellectual opportunities for its members, which I hope that Paolo would take advantage of so that he can reach his full potential.

I am just so proud of Paolo!

When he was younger, I already had an inkling of his exceptional intelligence. When he was in grade 5, he took a test at the Ateneo, which found out that his capacity to learn math was that of someone who had already finished high school.

This is why I’ve always encouraged him, as well as my three other children, to pursue his interests. If there was a book that stimulated his mind, I got it for him immediately.

Paolo’s eyes are also as sharp as an eagle’s. He’s our master proofreader. Last summer, I asked him to proofread AHEAD’s reference materials. These materials were produced by 20 honor graduates from the University of the Philippines, Ateneo, and La Salle. I told Paolo that I’ll give him P50 for every typographical error that he identifies. I ended up paying him P16,000 that summer!

But apart from being smart, I am prouder of the fact that Paolo has always been a kind and considerate child, sensitive to the needs of his brother and sisters. He is also very responsible when it comes to his duties at school and at home while being gentle to those around him. Paolo is everything that a mom could wish for in a son, and for this I am very grateful!


Mommy Moments

By Tina Arceo-Dumlao

The realization that I was truly and absolutely responsible for someone else’s life came without warning one quiet morning in 1996, a few days after my son, Miggy, was born.

My mother had left that day for work and left me home alone with my two brothers with the firm instruction that we should give Miggy – who was a little over a week old at that time – a nice, relaxing bath as soon as he woke up from his early morning nap.

She neglected, however, to tell us exactly how to do just that.

Because I delivered via caesarian section, it was my mother who had been giving Miggy a bath since we came home from the hospital, and I did not see for myself how she transformed the little life form into a sweet smelling baby since I was mostly in bed recovering from my operation. My husband, Jerome, who was an executive at that time in an office in Makati City, was not around to help because he had left early for work.

And so there we were, three siblings without any idea how to give a fragile, crying baby a refreshing bath.

We argued over options: Should we just put him in the tub? But he might drown! Do we just put him on the bath mat? But we might miss some spots! Should we use a sponge or a small towel? But it might hurt him. How much pressure do we apply? Will he get scratched?

There were too many questions and just us three loudly arguing over what is the right thing to do.

In the end, I took over and made the final decision. I was the mother after all and the call was mine and mine alone to make. Talk about responsibility on a young and first time mother’s shoulders.

And so I told my Kuya to carefully hold him over the bathtub while my younger brother and I took turns soaping then rinsing him.

Of course, it was the wrong and inefficient way to do it, but he did end up smelling like only newborns can – a faint mix of milk, baby powder, and baby soap. I came out feeling oh so proud of myself because I, who was 24 years old when my son was born on Feb. 2, 1996, had made my first major decision for the good of my son. I had become a mommy!

Armando Miguel Arceo Dumlao is 15 years old now and in his final year in high school at La Salle Green Hills, and it has been one decision after another since that time I gave him a bath for the first time.

Some do not require much brain activity: Mom, can I go to the party? No. Mom, can I stay overnight at a friend’s house? No. Mom, can I get a new pair of shoes? No. Others you have to agonize over: Mom, can I ask somebody to be my date to the prom? Ummm….Yes (Sigh). Mom, can I start driving soon? I’ll think about it.

But through everything, I was guided by the same overriding, singular thought that crowded my head that time that I was splashing water on my baby’s tiny, wriggling body: What is the best for my son?

My decisions are not right all the time, but I rest easy knowing that right or wrong, I tried to do what is best for him – always for him, not about myself.  And that sacrifice, that heroic act of putting my son’s interest before my own (even if it kills me) is, for me, what motherhood is all about.

Tina Arceo Dumlao is a multi-awarded journalist and desk editor of the Philippine Daily Inquirer. She has a Journalism degree from the University of the Philippines.

Separation Anxiety?!

By Catherine Deen


Like most first-time parents, my husband and I were extremely protective of our firstborn. During his first three years of life, he slept with us in the master bedroom. From a crib, he graduated to our bed, then later on, to a small fold-out bed of his own. While he had a room of his own, which housed his toys, books, clothes, and other items, his bed was stored and used in our room.

Although not uncommon, this is a less-than-ideal sleeping arrangement for many families. Yes, we may have saved on electric bills since we only needed to use one air conditioner, but it did not create an independent spirit in our son. This sleeping arrangement also resulted in our personal loss of privacy and couple time. As you can imagine, neither my husband nor I appreciated this.

When our son turned three, my husband and I discussed how to transition him into sleeping in his own room. We were very concerned about separation anxiety and thought carefully about how to implement the transition. Ultimately, we decided to turn the experience into a “surprise,” hoping that the “fun factor” would assist in the transition process.

First, we cleaned his room. Second, we secured his bed prominently in his room, strategically placing some of his favorite toys on the bed. Third, we put up educational posters—numbers, letters, good manners, parts of the body, and others—around his room. When the room was finally ready, we called him up and nervously announced, “Son, welcome to your room!”

We were busy preparing a surprise but the surprise was on us! Imagine our amazement when our son responded, “Oh my! I had been dreaming of having my own room!” He then proceeded to enter and OWN his room!

My husband and I looked at each other, dumbfounded. The whole time, we thought our son would have a hard time, but as it turned out, he had been ready and waiting for it for a long time.

That evening, our son slept in his room all by himself and without supervision. There was no need to even stay with him to lull him to sleep. Our little man was ready to be by himself. Throughout the night, we found ourselves a bit lonely in our room without our son. Laughable as it may seem, we found ourselves going back and forth from our bedroom to his to check on him several times that evening.

In this scenario, who had separation anxiety?! Ironically, it was not the son but the parents!

This significant parenting experience taught me one of the greatest lessons in parenting that I still practice today. Indeed, our primary role as parents is to prepare our children to face life on their own and not to overprotect them. Many times, we fear for our children’s safety and security. But, can we truly guarantee that? No. Cliché as it sounds, parenting is truly like a slightly open palm—not too tight to become stifling overprotection, yet not too loose to develop irresponsible freedom.