Category Archives: wOrK = pLaY

Stepping forward

To be at peace is to be able to look at chaos calmly, seeing beyond the ‘what is’ the beautiful ‘what can be’ when we synergize to make things better through The Almighty.

To be great is to be able to forgive others, keeping in mind our own countless moments of weakness that The Most Merciful forgives repeatedly.

To be faithful is to walk with courage in the dark, knowing The Guide will lead us to where we’ve always wanted to be, right where we’re meant to be.




Posted by on May 21, 2017 in I + You = WE, reach UP, wOrK = pLaY


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21st flash_first rule

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Posted by on April 20, 2014 in reach UP, wOrK = pLaY


rewind: Survivors, Clark Kents, and Mind Shapers

(A 2011 note i wrote, of which i am reminded so much today…)

At the end of the day, i realize…there will always be “downers”: a person, an event, a task.

It’s just a matter of having the right attitude and the courage to sing in the rain while waiting for the sun to shine.

It indeed is just a question of FAITH, of keeping the faith…even when faith seems to have gone somewhere else.


A quote I came up with a few years back to help me stay hopeful despite the challenges in life.  A quote which I couldn’t help but remember after reflecting on the things I learned and re-learned at the recent events I attended, not to forget the sad news typhoon Pedring brought.

Survivors, NOT Victims

I must admit, I still tend to use the term “victim” to refer to those in need of psychosocial processing after a stressful life experience when in fact, the appropriate term is “survivor”.

Survivor…it does sound waaaay better. I survived. I am surviving.  I will survive.  Isn’t it wonderful how tough our Creator made us? Alhamdulillahi Rabbi’l Alamin (Praise be to God, Lord of all creations).

Survivor…just using the term can unconsciously give us a better view of our interaction with them.  No, we are not there to pity them. No, we are not simply there to ease their burdens…we are there to walk with them and learn much from them. Reflect, relate, re-learn, in sha ALLAH (God willing).

Are you a victim…or a survivor?

Who’s taking care of you?

For a moment, when our speaker-facilitator shared that question, I felt a need to laugh and sigh at the same time.  It’s the question most psychologists or caregivers probably hate to answer when they’re near burnout (or probably already are).

Had I been asked this question a couple of months back (or, say, for the most part of 2008), I probably would’ve cried much, too.  Who’s taking care of you?  Who’s there to listen–like really, really listen–when it’s your turn to exhale?  And I don’t mean I am forgetting The Almighty here…just stating the simple fact that in this world–in this temporary world, we all need some support (which honestly gives everyone the opportunity to be a real blessing to others, too).

We’re no superheroes, really.  And when I say superheroes here, I mean the unconscious assumption (or stereotype, if you may) that we can handle everything and process ourselves on our own always.  It’s quite tragic.  People fail to step out of themselves that they can’t see one simple fact–the reason for the other’s ability to understand and help is the fact that the other is not really different from anyone. The other also smiles and laughs like everyone. The supposed superhero also gets hurt or feels pain like everyone.  And unless people suspend being concerned with oneself too much, the world will always be divided into people who have someones taking care of them and the someones who have no one.

Reach out. Recharge. Reach UP. In shaa ALLAH.

Thoughts = YOU

Whether we like to admit it or not, how we think and what we think of are influenced by the society (starting from our immediate family) in which we find ourselves.  We don’t live in a vacuum, after all.  Practices, beliefs, values, and even dreams are socialized until we find ourselves thinking of them as the only way for the world to work, for people to have a truly meaningful life.  How I wish I could tell you this influence is always positive.  Look around you and you’ll see a lot of realities telling you otherwise.

However, we are not passive individuals. We have the power to change the way we think of ourselves, of our situation, of others, of the world.  In fact, I still like to believe we are the best shapers of our own minds, and consequently, our lives. Are you a victim…or a survivor?

And, i guess thinking about what and how we think helps us change for the better, for real.  When you finally find what you have to change, you now make a move.  And if you truly wanted to make a move, you’ll find endless options to actualize the change in you that you need.  It may take much effort, but it is possible…difficult in the beginning, but once you get the hang of it, you find yourself automatically conversing with yourself–or better yet, you find your heart conversing with The Almighty.

Challenge your thoughts. Create positivity. Change for the better, for the best. We can, and with HIM, we will. In shaa ALLAH.

At the end of the day, i realize…there will always be “downers”: a person, an event, a task.

It’s just a matter of having the right attitude and the courage to sing in the rain while waiting for the sun to shine.

It indeed is just a question of FAITH, of keeping the faith…even when faith seems to have gone somewhere else.


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Posted by on January 21, 2014 in reach UP, wOrK = pLaY


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It’s pretty much like getting our grownup dreams. We don’t get all the pieces we want all at once. Often, we just make the best of what we have at the moment…making adjustments once we get better blocks. Piece by piece, block by block…unknowingly making us more creative, more appreciative, more patient.
Whatever dream it is we’re building, may we always ‘LEGO’—Live & Entrust to God our Opus.
In shaa ALLAH.

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Posted by on July 31, 2013 in wOrK = pLaY


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Sometimes, when we least expect it, the world turns our lives upside down.  And, for a moment (and moment here could actually be months or longer), it feels like we’ll never be able to make sense of it all.  Like a jigsaw puzzle, there are just too many missing pieces.

Talk to someone who’s experienced losing loved ones in a natural calamity or in their conflict-ridden town and you’ll find yourself wanting to take a deep breath.  You suddenly get a glimpse of what it means to have the world crumble. You realize those work deadlines, domestic problems, and getting stuck in traffic are truly nothing compared to what a survivor has gone and is going through.

Survivor.  I must admit that I often used the term victim, especially during my undergraduate years.  Then we were taught as psychosocial workers not to.  Survivor—it sounds more positive, doesn’t it?  Someone who’s been through unimaginably tough times…but is still here, Alhamdulillah (Praise be to God).

Ironically, while people see me in the helping profession, as someone who allows survivors to take a pause and unload their burdens, I can’t help but see myself as the one being helped, too.  Each encounter with them can be, yes, emotionally draining; but in the end, it always is inspiring.  They’ve made me ponder on a lot of things.  For instance, I found myself pausing when a young six-year detainee mistaken for an Abu Sayyaf, who has not seen any family member since he was ‘abducted’ by armed men, tells me that he has greater freedom than those outside who’ve been imprisoned by their worldly desires—a new cellphone, a car, a promotion, and the like.  He even explained to me that we had to be patient with the justice system because we must understand, after all, that there are just too many papers to process and there are not enough people to work on them.  Freedom and patience—I can’t recall such concepts being discussed in my psychology or philosophy classes this way.

Then there’s that struggle to fight back my tears as I engage in a testimonial therapy session with a teenager who is still hoping deep inside that one day he’d be reunited with his father.  While I wondered if closure was really possible, I found it inspiring how this young man found the strength to face life one day at a time…how he could compare himself to clouds that join the setting sun in creating a breathtakingly beautiful sky which tells everyone, we made it through another day. Another day…thankful that The Most Gracious gave him another day.  Imagine that.

Survivors from the Sendong flash floods last December 2011 are no exception.  Hearing both adult and children’s stories, you can’t help but wonder how they’ll ever recover.  But, I have faith they will.  I am reminded of an Australian friend’s remark: “Just being around Pinoys make you feel light already.  They always find something to smile about—and there’s always room for merienda and videoke.”  And she’s right.  Working with Sendong survivors for more than a week, I got to see them smile even as tears flowed. While some confessed that they still can’t make sense of the things that happened, their belief that God always has a reason for allowing things to happen helps them take one step forward.

They may have different extreme life experiences—natural or man-made—but something I find similar among survivors is their humility to admit that they are having a tough time and their faith that they will make it with God’s help.  It indeed makes you change your way of viewing your world that I am not surprised to find that it’s not just Pinoys who I find coming back to extend much-needed support.  Where else can you find resilience personified, after all?

Survivors.  I would never be able to thank them enough for allowing me to journey with them and for (unknowingly) helping me grow much—especially the children who always, always have given me the toughest of times to fight back tears (yes, I admit, I am a softie when it comes to kids).  I’ve re-learned the value of each moment and cherishing each person in our lives.  Through them, I’ve realized even more that love’s strength is seen not only in the hanging on but also in the letting go.  Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi rajioon (To ALLAH we belong and to HIM we shall return).

Yes, life may be tough, but our Creator indeed made us tougher, subhanALLAH (Glory be to God).

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Posted by on June 1, 2013 in reach UP, wOrK = pLaY


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And I say that life is indeed darkness save when there is urge,
And all urge is blind save when there is knowledge,
And all knowledge is vain save when there is work,
And all work is empty save when there is love;
And when you work with love you bind yourself to yourself, and to one another, and to God.

Kahlil Gibran on Work, “The Prophet”

And I say that …

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Posted by on February 28, 2013 in wOrK = pLaY


Seven P’s for Public Speaking

It’s usually during the second term that I get asked by students for some tips for their upcoming presentations and/or facilitation activities.  I must say, if you intend to be a psychology student at my alma mater (the University of Perpetual Help in Laguna), that would mean lots and lots of training in public speaking, group dynamics and eventology in general.  It’s scary at first–but you’ll love it, in shaa Allah (God willing).

Anyway, here’s a list of (seven) P’s I shared with students once in one of my presentations.  Just my thoughts.  Feel free to add some more–and please share them with me.  Let’s help each other learn more and grow more, in shaa Allah (God willing).

Obviously, this is about choosing a topic. Before you’re even asked to give talks or facilitate workshops, come up with your personal list of topics–arrange them from those you like most to those you prefer the least. Pick topics that are closest to your heart because it’s something you’ve personally experienced or you strongly believe in.  When you do, you’ll find that speaking to a group, even if you’re an introvert, can actually still give you that “at home” feeling–ideas and examples flow, and before you know it, you have an engaged crowd.

Yes, we can’t always get the topic we want because more often than not, we could just be invited to give a speech. However, being invited does not necessarily mean automatically accepting. If you know you’re not the best person for the job given your current knowledge or circumstance, it’s your responsibility to respectfully decline–recommend someone you know would do great, if you wish.
Picking a topic, if we reflect on it, requires two H’s–honesty and humility.  Be honest with yourself in identifying the topics you know you love and you can handle, including those youwish to handle in the near future (the wishlist would provide you an opportunity to keep growing and improving, with God’s grace).  And, be humble enough to admit what you can’t handle at the moment–it’s a responsibility to yourself and to your prospective audience.

Once you have a topic, you now need to ask yourself:

  • who is your target audience and how big is the crowd? (are they students, professionals, housewives, out-of-school youth, and the like?)
  • what is the time allotment and what time are you speaking? (everybody knows people have this tendency to fall asleep after lunch or at around 8pm onwards, so either keep it brief or packed with simple but interesting activities)
  • what are the essentials of the topic which you hope to discuss for this particular event? (a topic can actually be so broad that some speakers would have a lecture series on it. You’re lucky if you can have a series of lectures.  However, if it’s a one-time stint, ask yourself–what essentials would you want to pass on to others?)
  • where will the event be and what audiovisual equipment would be made available? (you wouldn’t want to make the mistake of preparing a slideshow only to find out later on they don’t have a projector available or that the event will be under the sun)
  • how are you going to present it? (this one becomes easy to answer when you’ve answered the questions previously mentioned.  remember? communication is not just about what to say but also how to say it.)

So you’ve pondered on the important questions (you can add some more to the list, by the way)…the next step is to prepare your talking points and/or PowerPoint presentation. No matter how long you’ve been in the public speaking arena, it always helps to have a list of the things you want to share. If a podium is available, those numbered index cards or post-it’s can come in really handy.  Just have key points written on them which would serve as your guide all throughout your speech. Just having key words there would also make your talk more engaging because you’ll avoid reading everything, hence, you’ll be connecting more with your audience.

For some, their PowerPoint presentation itself serves as their guide. Keep each slide light on text–just the essentials.  A quote or a photo or one word driving your point, for example, would do.  Teachers know this much: the heavier with text your presentation is, the higher the tendency for students to just copy and not listen.  So, keep it light yet followed by interesting questions and explanations. And, oh, those impromptu speeches?  Those speakers may not have physical talking points with them, but they do have a mental rundown of what to say.  With the very few minutes given to them to prepare, believe me when I say they try their best to organize their thoughts as fast as they can, and as calmly as they can.

Did you know practice is not just speaking but also writing?

Speeches are simply essays delivered orally in the same way songs are poems voiced out melodiously.  Your talking points are actually the skeleton of your essay. Give flesh and life to them by writing down your thoughts per talking point: if you have to define or describe something, do it.  Follow it up with short explanations. Give examples–even use jokes if you deem it best. Write. Review. Revise. Finalize.
After writing, read.  Silently at first, if you wish. Then, out loud. Share it with a close friend–have him listen to you deliver it. Be open to suggestions.

And yes, be open to learning from others, too: watch other speakers in action, be it in person or online through their youtubed or streamed talks, and try to see which techniques you might want to practice for yourself.

Now, don’t laugh at this, but practice in front of a mirror. Make yourself enjoy talking to yourself.  Take a video of yourself even, and be your own critique.

Oh, by the way, you need not memorize your essay. Stick to the talking points.  Writing the essay was just part of the practice in organizing and presenting your thoughts (after all, there are moments when an idea seems so clear in your head but so vague once you deliver it…so writing helps you check and correct yourself).

And I mean present.  Let’s use the word play because all work should be play, really–that is, enjoy what you’re doing. Enjoy presenting.  No, your audience is not out there to bury you alive or to grind you.  They’re there to learn something from you and you from them. It’s a win-win situation, really: they like you presentation, Alhamdulillah (praise GOD) right there because your efforts obviously paid off; they didn’t quite like it, Alhamdulillah as well because you’ve just been given an opportunity to challenge yourself to do better.

So, play with all of your heart; and remember: no kid played a game perfectly the first, second, third or even the tenth time…but they find joy in playing until they get better and better.

Major reminder: Never begin your talk with an apology, but with positivity.  If you have to ask for pardon, ask for it in the end. If things start off not quite as expected–a major delay, for example, apologizing in the beginning does not necessarily help as it will only remind them of the sad situation and might even make you unintentionally give excuses.  I personally find saying something like “Thank you for being here and may I be given the chance to make the most of my time with you as we learn from each other, with God’s grace” more uplifting.

Before ending, also ask for pardon for any wrong or inaccurate information you delivered.  Don’t let pride get the better of you.  Remember: anything good we are able to impart is from The All-Wise; anything incorrect is of our own shortcomings.

And yes, allow your heart to pardon anyone from the audience who made speaking difficult for you. Pray for the person and think of the situation as a test of patience for you–will you pass the test?

From the very beginning until the very end, pray.  Pray for guidance–that HE allows you to be of service.  More importantly, pray as a sign of gratefulness for the opportunity being given to you to grow and to pass on to others what HE has allowed you to learn or gain in life.
Pray and turn public speaking into a form of prayer, in shaa ALLAH.

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Posted by on February 13, 2013 in wOrK = pLaY