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

Riding in Cars with Boys

Riding in Cars with Boys

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

A Student in a Foreign Land

A Student in a Foreign Land

By Mari-An Santos

I was sitting at a popular restaurant in Bucharest, having lunch with a Romanian friend, and taking in the beautiful surroundings. There were blondes. There were brunettes. There were so many foreigners—and then it dawned on me, I am the foreigner. With my brown skin, small eyes, and jet black hair, I stood out like a sore thumb in a sea of Caucasians.

I’ve lived in the Philippines all my life. And because I’ve only traveled to nearby Asian countries, “looking different” had never been an issue for me. Now that I’m living in a European city that is not quite cosmopolitan, I find myself “looking different.” There are only a handful of Asians at the student dormitory where I live. I’ve seen a couple of Chinese and Japanese citizens, but that’s about it. The Filipino population here, not counting me and my schoolmate, is a measly 11.

On any given day, it’s not unusual to be gawked at on the street. I’ll be walking down the street and get stared at by my fellow pedestrians. I’ll be riding my bike to class and be greeted by “Ni hao” or “Sayonara.”

The other day, I was asking a shop owner about their products when she tells me that some of the soaps she makes contain Chinese teas. I politely tell her that it’s nice to know and that I am not Chinese. She apologizes and asks where I’m from.

At first, I was appalled by such occurrences, especially after someone told me that we Asians look alike. I explained to him that I could actually tell the Koreans from the Japanese, the Chinese from the Filipino. But eventually, I began to see things his way. From where I’m standing, I wouldn’t be able  to tell the Europeans apart either.

And that’s perfectly fine.

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.

Photo by Kyle Gregory Devaras on Unsplash

The Accidental “Athlete”

The Accidental “Athlete”

By Paula Bianca Abiog

I say “athlete” because I don’t think I am one in its strictest sense. I don’t follow a really strict training routine, or compete in tournaments. I’m not even excelling in a particular sport. But my friends say I’m an “athlete” because I’m into tennis and running. And I’ve tried (and loved) boxing. Now I’m learning to swim.

I never thought I’d end up an “athlete.” I wasn’t a very active kid. Sure, I was able to try volleyball, softball, and a host of other games and sports during my PE classes in grade school and high school. But outside of PE, I pretty much just sat in a corner and read books. I started tennis lessons when I was 13, and I loved it, even if I only got to play in the summer. My only other hobby that involved movement was dancing, and I didn’t even do that often enough.

Things changed, though, when I started working. The long hours spent researching, interviewing, transcribing, and writing articles, and fast food lunches and takeout coffees that had more sugar than actual caffeine, have taken their toll on my body. Ballooning to almost 170 lbs wasn’t pretty, and I had to do something about it. So I signed up at a gym.

At first, I hated it. I couldn’t lift weights properly. I was exhausted after five minutes on the treadmill. I got cramps when I first tried the cardio martial arts class. But as months passed, as I got stronger and my endurance improved, I began to love gym more. I looked forward to attending group classes, even on weekends. After about a year of going to the gym, I went on the tennis courts again. And shortly after that, a friend introduced me to boxing.

I was enjoying my newfound love for sports, that I didn’t even notice the pounds slowly melting away. I just started feeling more confident and more content in my own skin. What started as a way to shed the pounds has led me to discover how I loved being active. It also gave me enough encouragement to try running (which I originally didn’t like, as I didn’t see the point of running just for the sake of running, and not because I’m trying to escape from criminals or zombies), and then swimming.

Sure, I still don’t have that 24-inch waistline (given my body type, I’m not sure it’s possible at all) and there’s still (lots of) room for improvement with muscle tone. But I’m proud of the 30 lbs or so that I’ve lost so far. I’m even prouder of myself because I learned that I can last seven rounds in the boxing ring with my sparring coach, that I can finish a 10K run in less than 90 minutes, and that I can hit pretty decent forehands and backhands.

Being the accidental “athlete” has led me to a new passion; one that I never thought I’d be able to, or have the guts to do. For a very long time, I was branded the “chubby nerd” and “the inert one.” Discovering that I can do sports now, in my 20s, made me realize that you’re never too old to try something new, or discover an aspect of your personality that you never thought existed.

Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

Before the New Year Begins

Before the New Year Begins

By Ruth Manimtim-Floresca

We often hear people say they want to leave behind stuff that needs to stay in the past year before turning on a new leaf when the New Year comes. I believe this is actually good practice because the end of a year is a good time to clean the slate, start anew, and forget anything undesirable that happened for the past 12 months. So, here’s sharing several suggestions on what we can do before, or immediately after, the calendar reads January 1:

* Write down specific goals you want to achieve for the next 12 months. It would be better if you also list the essential steps you have to do to accomplish those targets then start with step one. Print everything on paper and post it where you can often see it.

* Gather the family for a “conference.”  This is an ideal time to share your resolutions with each other so you can cheer on one another and provide helpful suggestions on how everyone could reach their goals faster. Young children, most especially, would be motivated to reach simple goals with the guidance of their parents.

* Fill up a new calendar or planner with important dates and events such as family and close friends’ birthdays and anniversaries as well as scheduled doctor visits, if any.

* Catch up on miscellaneous stuff. Clean up your e-mail inboxes, finish the pile of laundry in the basket, arrange your closet and take out stuff you can donate or sell to give way for the new things you bought or received during the Christmas season, check if you still have unpaid bills, etc.

* End the current year on a positive note. Make a list of things you are thankful for that happened the past year. Highlight the best ones that made a big impact in your life. These will remind you that there are more good things in store in the coming year. Refer to this list as often as possible in the coming days to be inspired and further encouraged to keep on going.

Photo by Chris Gilbert on Unsplash