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a heart across the ocean

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Happy 12th

September is a very special month for me and my husband as it marks our wedding “monthsary.” This year is our 12th and we both could not believe it. It seems like only yesterday when we said our “I dos” in our most cherished beach wedding in Florida in 2009.

Since then, we have made it a tradition to commemorate our sweet union on the beach to remind ourselves of our forever promise to love each other for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, till death do us part. I guess by now you can tell that we are both members of the hopeless romantic club – no doubt about it.

Since we are currently slow traveling in Algarve, we decided to celebrate our Happy 12th on Praia de Faro (Faro Beach) located in Faro, the capital of the Algarve.

Connected by a single lane bridge from the mainland, Praia de Faro is considered a popular alternative holiday destination both for locals and tourists who are searching for a relaxed and easy-going atmosphere.

The low-rise hotels, bars, and restaurants are in the center of the beach. Unlike other beaches we visited in the Algarve, Praia de Faro is not as hectic and crowded. On the contrary, the main activities on the beach include getting a tan, chilling at bars and restaurants, or simply enjoying its spectacular quiet scenery (minus the roar of a ferocious Atlantic surf) with a good book.

What we found remarkable about this beach was its glorious sugary albeit golden sands that extended for 5km along the coast of Faro Island. Its ambiance very much reminded us of Sunset Beach in Florida with one notable exception, the Gulf of Mexico’s inviting bathtub temps. Unfortunately, the sea water of Praia de Faro is not for a wimpy swimmer like me. Its sea temperature is shockingly cold. It feels frigid! Yes, even in summer. However, if you are into surfing in a toasty wetsuit, then you are definitely at the right place. Its waves are strong enough for your kind of fun.

The highlight of our anniversary celebration was, of course, our simple dinner date on the beach.

My husband, the king of little gestures of endearment, made it extra special by making an advanced reservation at Amare Beach Club to guarantee a table for us. One thing I liked about this restaurant, besides the good food, was its amazing interior and beach view. No wonder it was one of the busiest dining places on the beach.

Our server sat us on the terrace overlooking the beach. This gave us the opportunity to watch a captivating sunset. The dropping of the sun was like a giant ball of fire descending  into the ocean and disappearing below the horizon. There was no word to describe it but simply magical. 

My husband and I were finishing up our last bite and getting ready to pick up the check when – guess what – our server came out with a surprise. Pyrotechnics with some bubbly. “What!” I marveled in amazement. At first, I did not know what was going on. I only realized that this dramatic production was intended for us when our server came to our table greeting us a happy anniversary.

My husband and I were both totally caught off guard and in awe that I almost missed capturing the amazing gesture digitally. Thankfully my husband hastily reminded me to hurry up and snap a photo for a souvenir shot (not to mention an iron clad FB moment) before it all ended. Oh, that was a near miss!

Like anything unexpected or not planned, this little element of surprise from our server made our Happy 12th even more memorable. What a sweet gesture.

The best things happen unexpectedly.”

To many more years together of matrimonial bliss and great adventures, cheers!

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Teaching Literacy During Pandemic

Like many educational institutions in different parts of the world, our schools here in the United States, from preschool to higher education, have grappled with the transition from the traditional classroom instruction to virtual teaching and learning when the global pandemic struck.  At our college alone, when Covid-19 made its debut to our city in March 2020, our Department of Education made the drastic announcement of moving all our face-to-face classes online with very little notice and limited time to ramp up. I remember, that was certainly a very challenging time – our hair was on fire. With no experience teaching online, some of our faculty members had to traverse the online learning tools at the speed of a bullet. Then as we metaphorically described it, we built the plane while flying it.

However, it was not only the teachers who wrestled with the transition. Our students had also their share of challenges. As a matter of fact, while I was preparing my material for this webinar, I encountered an interesting article titled Literacy in Lockdown: Learning and Teaching During Covid-19 School Closures. It was published in November 2020 by The Reading Teacher. According to the study, “Students responded and reacted to their new instructional experiences by crafting new and hybrid literacy practices adopted within their new communicative space.”

I think this is what we call human resilience. People have the intuitive capability to rise above the occasion by facing difficulties head-on and using strategies to adapt well to overcome adversity.

However, given our diverse and unique situations from each other, I imagine that our learning and teaching experiences during this pandemic varies. In the article “How Do We Teach Literacy During a Pandemic…” by Peter Dewitt, a former K-12 school principal turned author said, and I quote, “For most people in school communities around the world, we entered the pandemic age of education, and although many educators, leaders, parents, and students worked really hard, still it was not the best academic learning experiences.” And, this statement, I assume resonates with some, if not with many of us. 

And this reminds me of my niece’s experience. She just graduated from elementary school in a public school in the Philippines, and to apply for Grade 7 in her preferred school, she took an entrance exam. But, to her dismay, she did not meet the cut off score, and therefore her application was denied. She explained that the reading part was tough. So, while she was a little bit brokenhearted, she acknowledged the validity of her test results. She admitted that using modular instruction for the whole school year, without the familiar interactions from her teachers, classmates, and course materials, did not help her to get ready for her middle school entrance exam. Unfortunately, her reading and reading comprehension suffered.

So, focusing on our today’s topic, the question is how do we teach literacy during the pandemic? 

When I told my husband that the theme of my talk was teaching literacy during the pandemic, he showed immediate puzzlement. He knows that I teach ESOL in college, and most of my students are already college graduates, some even have their post graduate degrees. That being said, there is no question that my students are already literate in their first language. Hence, it is understandable why my husband raised eyebrows when he keyed in on the word “literacy.”

So, let us start by defining what literacy is.

It is a common knowledge to everyone that literacy refers to the ability of a person to read and write. And, to some people who are not in the field of education, they may assume that literacy skills are mostly focused on language arts classes. While that is very much true, literacy skills are equally necessary for other academic subjects. Educators are cognizant that students who cannot understand material in a textbook – it does not matter what course it is – may fall behind in class. The student’s ability to absorb and understand the content of assigned reading material is a vital skill for every student, in every class. And therefore, it is crucial that literacy skills are incorporated in every course, should it be in math, science, music, or other coursework.

But how did we teach literacy skills during this pandemic when we ourselves, educators, were baffled on how to navigate the steep learning curve of teaching remotely?  

I am sure this was also a burning question for most of you when you transitioned to virtual teaching during the start of the school year.

Teaching for higher education was no different from teaching lower level classes. Like I said, when I received the college-wide email notifying faculty that starting immediately all our courses would be transferred online due to Covid 19, I mildly panicked.  How could I transfer six classes online in just a few days? That would be a miracle.

So, following the announcement, I was glued in front of my computer for the next 3-4 days attending online workshops from our e-Learning team who guided us (the Canvas Calvary as our Dean would refer to us) through the transition. Opportunities, consideration, patience and flexibility were highly emphasized, especially in the context of virtual teaching, course expectations, course evaluations, and alternative grading options.

Once I got caught up with my materials, the reality bites. Evidently, remote teaching raised important questions and challenges more than I imagined. Questions such as: Did my students have internet at home? If they had internet, did they know how to navigate the online technology platforms such as Zoom and Canvas, which were sponsored by the college? How could I bridge our language gap when all my students could see was my face in a small box? How would I curb and stop DWL or Driving While Learning using their phones, which is a big no no and an absolute driving hazard?

It was tough! But like anything else, after a very rough Spring Term 2020, I learned to adapt and overcome. So here are some of the lessons I have learned in teaching literacy skills during pandemic.

  • Building a community of learning

Since I’ve started teaching remotely, I’ve encouraged my students to create a Whats App group in each of my classes, where my students can build a community of learning and interact freely with their classmates even outside our virtual environment. Texting is a form of communication. So, with this app, not only my students get to practice their written English, but they also get to take advantage of its functions to share materials/information with their classmates, collaborate for their group assignments/projects, and I also use it to follow up on attendance.

  • Enhancing vocabulary

Since using technology is a crucial component in teaching remotely, I find it also very important to use different methodologies to present my instructional materials to my students. This is to serve both my students who have the capability to attend our Zoom meetings, as well as those who cannot participate due to some technological or personal reasons.

Even before the pandemic, I had already been a big advocate for teaching vocabulary to build one’s language skills in all my ESOL classes – it does not matter if it’s a grammar class or an ESP class. For me vocabulary must be the centerpiece. I stress and acknowledge the important role of vocabulary in reading comprehension. You cannot understand a text if you don’t know the word. In the same way, it is hard to communicate orally or in written if you don’t have the words. Thus, vocabulary building is always included in my instructional materials.

However, if before the pandemic presenting vocabulary words in our discussion would  be sufficient for me, this time in the pandemic era, besides providing my students the text copy of the vocabulary words, I also provide them a recorded copy of my voice reading the vocabulary words and their definitions. This serves a dual purpose. One is to give opportunity for my second language learners who are not able to attend our live meetings to gain access to learning at their convenience. And second, my methodology also supports my students who wish to review the lesson maybe even repeatedly, especially the pronunciation, which is very important in speaking as we all know.

  • Translating Speech to the Written Word- Discussion Boards

By providing my students with discussion boards, they are also able to express a concept in their own words. For instance, in my ESP class on Personal Finance, I offer opportunities to my students to express their thoughts in writing – sharing their perspective on the importance of money management or banking, for example. This writing exercise encourages logical thinking and communicating ideas which are important facets in developing writing skills.   

  • Instilling love for literacy

As a teacher, I believe that we have an important role in serving as a model for our students. Thus, one of our goals should be to develop and instill a love of literacy in our students. We should not limit our lecture materials to the academic curriculum at hand. We can pick up something fun yet related to and meaningful to their learning. We can also assign them to read something that appeals to their interest where they can pick and choose freely. It doesn’t really matter if it’s a comic book or a magazine.

I remember, in some of my writing classes, I assigned my students to read a book of their preference and write a book report. There was always a big sigh accompanied by multiple moaners when I told them about the assignment. Some of my students resisted the idea with eyes rolling. However, after completing the assignment, many of them noted that they were pleasantly surprised with the experience. They did not realize that reading something in a book length format could be enjoyable until they tried it. So, as their teachers, it is important that we take that lead role.

Before the pandemic, I would usually bring my students to the library to pick a book that interest them. The key to literacy, in my view, is to instill that love for reading so that they can and will unlock that door to lifelong learning. After all, it just takes a spark to make a flame.

So, with that, let us not forget, pandemic or no pandemic, we are teachers. And, as Scott Hayden beautifully put it, “Teachers have three loves: love of learning, love of learners, and the love of bringing the first two loves together.”


Our Great Escape Between Two Paradises

After adhering to our self-imposed quarantine in Florida for 15 months to protect ourselves from the unrelenting Covid-19, my husband and I decided that it is time for us to escape its human induced roller-coaster and never-ending upsurge. We have seen a lot of people, some close to us, who got sick and or lost a family member from the virus. This made us realize how fleeting life can be. Life is precious, and we thought that it was a time-wasting endeavor just to hunker down inside the four walls of our home, albeit beautiful, while we wait for this pandemic to end or take us out. With so much divisiveness going around the U.S., we were not even sure what political driven or life-threatening thing was going to confront us next. So, we decided to take our chances to SAFELY slow travel, explore other parts of the world whose Covid response was safer and realistic, and create new adventures while time was still on our side.

Early this year we started our serious research and formed our actions. Like anything else, we encountered many uncertainties during the planning stage, some of which ignited our hair and left us frizzled and frazzled. The suspense was almost unbearable. But God is good. After a couple of months of waiting anxiously for our visa approval, we received the most awaited good news. Immediately we tied up all the loose ends in our packing, storing items, and dealing with legal matters to get ready for our departure. While the tasks were quite daunting, we could care less. The thought of traveling made our hearts dance with joy and overflow with excitement.

“You are breaking like a dawn. It’s a new day. Become, become, become…” -John Roedel

Welcome to Portugal!

Our plane landed in Lisbon on July 31st. While our original plan was to stay in the city for a few days to visit some of its attractions, we decided to scratch that plan for another time when we felt more settled and rested. Also, we thought that it would be best to wait when Lisbon was not exploding with Covid Delta variant cases.

The very next day, we headed on our way. The first leg of our slow travel was the Algarve.

Named after Gharb Al-Andalus, Algarve is the southernmost region in Portugal. Famous for its warm climate and beautiful Atlantic beaches and golf resorts, it is also known as a fabulous vacation destination in Europe.

Algarve has a total of 16 municipalities or concelhos. One of which is Portimao, the second largest city in the Algarve. It is where we decided to rent an apartment to serve as our launching pad.

As slow travelers, our goal is far from keeping with the trends of fast and furious tours and changing locations every 2-3 days. We absolutely have no desire nor energy for that. Hopefully, our intention in our slow travel is to connect and find an authentic experience from its people, cultures, foods, and way of life.

For our first month, we wasted no time scratching the surface and exploring some of the famous attractions in Portimao and its neighboring regions.

Old Town

History tells that long before Algarve became a tourist destination, residents of Portimao made a living from fishing and canning. This part of history you can still catch sight of at the Museo de Portimao where a lot of its equipment from the factory have been preserved.

From the museum, you can stroll up the riverside esplanade at the side of the town’s old docks. The riverside has now been totally transformed. Currently, it has a long row of palm trees and benches where we found a perfect place to take 5 and soak in the view. While there is barely a trace of the past, you can imagine that this riverside was probably a picture of bursting energy a century ago.

From the riverside, my husband and I took a short taxi drive to Igreja Matriz de Portimao. Founded in 1476, this Portuguese Gothic styled religious structure is considered the most important church in the town.

Before leaving the town, my husband and I passed by a restaurant called Largo for a take-away dinner. I went for one of the most famous dishes in Portugal. It is called the bocalhau a bras, a delicious twist of the chips and fish recipe with salted cod. Surely it was delightful!

On our next visit, we strolled further inland. Here, we found other interesting things to see in the old town of Portimao. An example was the beautiful Azulejo tile paintings in the Jardim 1 de Dezembro which depict the history of Portugal.

It was also hard to miss its pretty shopping streets, the relaxed atmosphere at all the restaurants and  small pastelerias, and, of course, the cobblestones and apartment blocks that have a tired and worn out appearance yet still magical.

Marina de Portimao

Located in the Arade river estuary, Marina de Portimao is framed by the historical forts of Santa Catarina and Sao Joao. With excellent facilities, it is known as a preferential super-yacht destination.

Situated within the marina is also a luxury condominium oasis that includes its exclusive beach, restaurants, shops and bars, providing a big draw to both locals and tourists visiting.

Praia de Rocha

Two kilometers south of Portimao is the popular beach resort called Praia de Rocha which means “rocky beach.” It is such a lovely beach that offers an exciting atmosphere that includes great water activities for the whole family, impressive golden cliffs, sugary sand, and variety of restaurants offering good food to choose from and enjoy.

Since Portimao is known for its sardines, during our visit I decided to order them. I remember my American husband begged me not to eat the heads. He jokingly said “have mercy!”   



Alvor is a seaside resort and small fishing village 10 to 15 minutes away from Portimao. It is a lovely town with, not surprisingly, a remarkably Portuguese ambiance. It is said that a holiday to Alvor is often focused around the beach, and I can understand why. Its beach has a clean pristine appearance and is encased in spectacular sandstone cliffs that are almost jaw-dropping when one is up close and personal.

Alvor Harbour

Also one of the most visited places in Alvor is the Alvor Harbour. Our taxi driver was spot on with his description: it is a village that has remarkably retained its original charm. I must admit, I was taken aback by its traditional white washed houses, narrow cobbled streets, restaurants serving delicious seafood dishes, and, of course, the river which we are sure provides a spectacular sunset view at night

Alvor Harbour reminded us a lot of New Symerna Beach and the Cape Canaveral in Florida. Indeed, an interesting place to see in the Algarve.

Thanks for reading!

“Dare to live the life you’ve always wanted.”

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The Joys & Benefits of Working From Home

Despite some drawbacks that are associated with remote work, I find that in terms of the freedom and time management, working from home provides a great deal of advantages. To demonstrate it, here is a snapshot on a day in my life as an instructor teaching online during this pandemic.

No morning rush

My schedule of classes has never really changed since I have started working at the college: my first class begins at 9:00 A.M.

Before the pandemic, my day would begin at 6:30 A.M. bright and early no fail. I would often find myself crawling out of bed even before the morning light came streaming in our bedroom windows. The hardest times for me were during cold days (I know I am a Florida wimp) when I needed to coax and prod and ultimately wrestle with my pleasure center telling me to avoid pain and drag myself for an early morning shower. Despite resistance from my inner child, there was no time for me to dilly dally. Every minute counted. My husband and I needed to head out the door for work before 8 A.M. to dodge the customary morning heavy traffic, which we often did thankfully.

Of course, that routine has temporarily changed after I have started conducting my classes online. With my workstation just next door to our bedroom, I can leisurely get out of bed at 8 in the morning, dress up for my classes, have an enjoyable breakfast, and sometimes even straightened up the house before Zooming in to my first class.

Always on time

With no traffic to contend with, I am usually online 15 minutes before my class starts. I go over my materials and get my Canvas and PowerPoint slides ready while my students slowly trickle in. I often keep my video and mic muted before our class time to give my students the space to chat and interact. This, in my observation, helps them to create a meaningful classroom community, albeit done virtually.

Meanwhile, I cannot say, however, that my nonchalant online experience resonates the same way for all my students. I still have learners who will show up to class late. This happens for various reasons. The most common explanations I receive are due to challenging technical issues and unavoidable personal concerns. For the latter, I have seen students creatively multitasking while attending our classes. The most frequent examples of these are students listening to our synchronous online class lectures and discussions while: 1. tending to their children, 2. driving to or from work, and or 3. traveling to another city. While they may not be the most ideal learning conditions, in my opinion, it has also served some net positives for students. For one, given the stringent requirements for the face-to-face learning mode, I am sure some of my students will now be able to survive the term due to these online flexibilities. Whereas, in a more rigid environment like face to face, their attendance or lack thereof will surely sink their grade to the bottom.

Productive breaks

As an instructor who has been regularly assigned split schedules, distant learning has afforded me the chance to be more organized. It also gives me the ability to spend my down time more productively. While waiting for my next classes to zoom in, regardless if it is just a 15 minute break or five hour wait, I can always find something constructive to do. For instance, on days when I only teach a couple of hours in the morning, I can do a short stretch exercise to reinvigorate or take a long walk in the park while waiting for my next class to commence.

Likewise, I can also multitask while doing my remote work. For instance, doing my laundry while quietly doing my lesson plans or checking students’ written assignments. And, if household activities do not appeal to me, I can always choose something leisurely to do. I will usually sit on our patio with my husband, enjoy the nature around us, and get the most needed Vitamin D from the Mother sun as much as she will share.

Evidently, working from home has provided me the time and opportunity to undertake my work responsibilities in an unhurried fashion. Being calm and relaxed. In my view, this lack of stress has added a rippled effect. This placidity translates even more to the already positive demeanor in my classes. As the facilitator, I set the classroom tone, and, therefore, anything positive coming from my end will always resonate to my students. Thus, giving them an added learning advantage.

No late night drives

Before the pandemic, I would finish my evening classes around 8:45 P.M. Although driving home at night may not be the biggest challenge, it was arriving home late that I have considered not the most ideal situation. My husband, before picking me up at night, would often prepare a ready dinner for me – a bag of sandwich or a bowl of salad – that I could munch on our way home. I must admit, after being on my feet for hours, all I could think of was to get ready and hit the sack.

Remote instruction has changed all of that, of course. While I still get tired from straight hours of teaching – especially my posterior (from sitting) and voice box (from talking) in particular, at least now, when the clock strikes signifying end of class, I know that I am done. I have no driving to worry about, and I can start my chicken dance to de stress.

Undeniably, this pandemic has thrown me some lemons, but at least, there is some lemonade to drink. Like many instructors, in the beginning I struggled and buttressed myself to climb the learning curve posed by online instruction. But, in hindsight, given my personal experience, after a year of working remotely, I can say that it has also provided me some positive benefits that are numerous enough to counter anything it differs or lacks in comparison with the in-class instruction. So, with that I say, Zoom me in!

“Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see the shadow.” – Helen Keller

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Life in Quarantine

I thought after the arrival of 2020, there would be a new order of sublimity, a year of coolness so to speak. After all, look at its numbers so round and all, a resemblance of a sleek European sports car. I was expecting that it would be the beginning of a new decade and great new adventure. There were all signs of endless possibilities with all merriment and revelries in Time Square ringing in the New Year and then came Valentine. In early March I even had the opportunity to return to Tampa after years of being away to present at BARTesol’s Tech Day. Everything was splendid until, without much warming, suddenly the world went spinning out of control with the arrival of Corona virus infamously known as Covid-19. As we know, it is a vicious one spreading like fire and immediately filling hospitals with infected patients and the numbers of the loss of loved ones are a staggering statistic. There was serious widespread panic. A pandemic was declared, and immediately almost every border was forced to lockdown and people quarantined.

Since then my husband and I have been living our new normal…

Lockdown 1

Hello world!


Remote Teaching

I can vividly remember the day Covid-19 entered Florida. Immediately our college, together with other schools all over the country,  made the drastic move to transfer all our traditional classroom teaching to remote instruction. Our hair was on fire! Many of us were in the same predicament. We were not prepared for online teaching considering the very little time we were given to prepare. But alas, this is teaching in 2020, health and safety have to take precedence.

A day after the college’s announcement, I was glued in front of my computer to attend a series of teacher training to help me transfer all my six classes online. I felt like I was in a marathon, challenging myself in crossing the digital divide, facing a steep learning curve  navigating the unchartered waters of remote instruction. I have learned how to use Zoom for my virtual meetings with my students and maximized the benefits of Canvas to build a digital home base for my courses. Despite some fears, trepidation, and self-doubt at first, I courageously jumped in and stepped up to the plate. I took it one day at a time, proving that there is nothing impossible or improbable to a willing spirit.

It has been five months since then. I sailed through the strait of Spring term and Fall term mastering the Summer term without losing my faith, optimism, and sense of humor. We in the college will continue to conduct our remote instruction in the Fall term as the corona virus remains to be a threat to many people’s health and safety here in our county. While this may mean possibly spending another four months in my fortress of solitude (without the obligatory cape), which I call my situation room or colloquially AKA home office, I have seen myself slowly yet steadily learning to adapt and overcome in my new 2020 normal.

Lockdown 2

Welcome to my fortress of solitude


Teacher training

Before Covid-19’s eruption, my participation in teacher training was mostly swayed by in-service compliance or at times self-serving motivators that prompt my appearance. You see, glorious financial incentives were my Achilles heel (as the college usually pays us for attending personal development training programs), or resume enhancement spurred  my desire to continuously grow in my field. However, with the compulsory creation of the  2020 new normal, being able to adjust and acclimate to the new way and concept of doing things is not just expanding one’s horizons and advantageous for educators, but I would say also righteous necessity.

Since Covid-19 erupted in the first quarter, I have clocked at least 16 of teacher training hours. While it has some pluses, let me be the first one to say that sitting for 3-4 ZOOMING hours training is something I find more arduous than driving to the brick-and- mortar and getting jiggy. Of course, this has been my personal experience, and it could just be me.

I never realized how exhausting it could be until I attended my first training for 3 straight hours via Zoom. Eventually my eyes were twitching from staring at my computer while I continuously listened to a talking head. Do not get me wrong, the presenter was brilliant. However, the fact remains that the experience could be isolating as many of my colleagues could attest, who like me, were nowhere to be seen behind dark boxes with our cameras off and microphones muted. Needless to say, as time passed by my glutinous maximus also began  to go numb along with my brain. And, it did not take long before my head began spinning and searching for an excuse to move around and escape from my imposed Zoom lockdown.

I have got better since then. Like anything else, the more I attend different training, the better I get in adapting and coping with the situation we find ourselves in the new 2020 normal.


Living with Less

With the continuous escalation of Covid-19 cases here in our county, wearing a mask has become our new normal every time we need to venture out. Our outdoor activities have been limited to trips just around the neighborhood or nearby parks to add grease to our creaky bones and get some sun and fresh air. All our travel plans this year have been deferred and supplanted by simply feeling content in bracing the beautiful nature we are surrounded by here at home. We have also learned to be satisfied with our home cooked meals avoiding the perils of restaurant visits and dining. Even our groceries and shopping have all been done online and home delivered, hoping that all these efforts will minimize our exposure to the virulent 2020 contagion.

Difficult? Sure, it is.

Like many people, we miss close human interactions. The freedom to move around without social distancing. The certitude of a steady job and good health.

Because of the difficulty of getting in close contact with other people without fear of getting infected, my husband and I have relied and depended a lot more on each other. On days I do not have to work early in the morning, we start our day by sitting on our porch with my husband sipping his favorite (Columbian) brew of coffee while I eat my breakfast. We soak in the beautiful landscape that behold our eyes (never mind the Florida alligators under the water), enjoy the noisy conversations of our feather friends passing by, and simply embrace the warm summer 2020 breezes.

locdown 3

Our morning routine

It has been our routine to talk about mundane things, usually morning headlines that, of course, never escape the meticulous eye of my political junkie-husband. There are days when our conversations turn to the irony of which is a real political story, and which is a Saturday Night Live skit. There are also days when our preference or our version of reality leans toward the apparent doppelganger or the comedy side of it all in 2020.


Living with a Grateful Heart

Whatever limitations Covid-19 have brought us, we faced them with a grateful heart.  I remember the morning my husband came to me begging for a haircut. The truth was he already attempted to do it on his own but had fouled it up, and now he was at my mercy. It was my first time to use a hair clipper, which I was a little bit skeptical to even hold at first. I have not been an expert in cutting anything, so much more cutting hair, so you could imagine the pressure I felt. The good thing was my husband was ready for the worst. So, I took the plunge. I cut his hair while watching a You Tube tutorial in-between.  You could picture how it turned out. I will not even brag about the finished haircut. Let us just say, it was beginner’s luck that my husband got up from his chair without a drop of blood spilled.

Since then he has come up to me for his regular haircut proclaiming the $ we saved has paid for “My Clippers” not his mine. He does this either because he has no choice, or he is slowly getting comfortable with his “anything goes wild & crazy” hairstyle. Whatever it is, it has made me discover another hidden crazy bone I never thought even existed in me. You are right, I am one fearless woman (wink, wink), or is it just 2020 lockdown lunacy? Who knows…

Last week my husband and I also had our first taste of telehealth, or as my sophisticated husband likes to call it a virtual visit. If that does not sound familiar, it is the new way of meeting your doctor or health practitioner via teleconferencing. While it was not the most ideal annual check-up that we are used to, it was the most viable option we have right now. So, we took the chance and plunged in. Thankfully, I have not had a lot of urgent health concerns which permitted me zooming in and out of my doctor’s computer screen with little concern. The consultation only took me 30-minutes. Of course, it does not mean that my husband and I are discharged from our regular lab work. We surely need to complete them. However, until we feel comfortable to undergo all our medical routines, I guess we just have to take care of ourselves right now and stay healthy.

I have also never been in-touched with so many of my old friends and former classmates until this 2020 quarantined period.  One by one they have showed up in my social media saying hello. Mind you, some of these people I have not seen nor heard from for decades except on what they have posted on their social media page, so you can envision my excitement when some of them eventually decided to meet through video conferencing to revisit our friendship and catch up. It is funny how quickly I recognized the friends for which I have planted deep connections with because we clicked instantaneously like we have not been separated by time and distance one whit.

I must say, catching up with family and old friends via online has become a way for me to compensate for the close human interaction that I miss during this pandemic. And, at times when I feel the need for my own personal “me-time,” I revel in the quietness of the day while I read a book (I’m on my last few chapters of M. Obama’s Becoming), play with my brushes and watercolors, and or watch a feel good TV show (my recent favorite is 1960’s Leave It to Beaver & Disney’s streaming of Hamilton with subtitles for rap deciphering) that fill my heart with optimism and surely add up to my happy vessel.  Yes, I realized through it all, or should I say I was pleasantly reminded in 2020, that we humans are adaptive and resilient if we are nothing at all.

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“When we learn how to become resilient, we learn how to embrace the beautifully broad spectrum of the human experience.” – Jaeda Dewalt


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Ten in Ten

It was 2009 when I first moved here in the United States. I must admit, while I was oblivious to the things God had in stored for me, I had no fear nor doubt in my heart. I knew that I was marrying the man I prayed for, and I was confident that everything would be fine – or even lovely.

Fast forward, 2019 quickly flew by marking my ten years here in the US official. As I look back at how the last decade had shaped me, I couldn’t help feeling truly grateful for the many blessings and challenges that made me the person I am right now. So, for my first blog in 2020, let me recount my ten achievements in ten years.

1. Got married to my loving husband;
2. Got my US Driver’s License (not my expertise);
3. Completed several teacher courses and passed the state’s teacher licensure examination making me credentialed to teach ESOL here in the US;
4. Became a US citizen;
5. Graduated from my master’s degree program in TESOL;
6. Achieved my ultimate goal and dream job to become a college instructor;
7. Presented in TESOL conferences both locally and abroad;
8. Got published in a TESOL publication/book;
9. Selected as an English Language Fellow, a project by the US State Department; and,
10. Travelled with my husband to different cities both locally and abroad, checking off some items on our bucket list.

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Despite some hurdles along the way, it was a great 10 years. I owe an honorable mention to my husband who has been a great lover, friend, supporter, and travel companion. He often calls us the perpetual honeymooners, and so I acquiesce for that’s what we are.

Going forward, I pray for more decades of joy and marvelment as we travel life’s journey together. God bless us all and Happy New Year to everyone!

“And suddenly you know… It’s time to start something new and trust the magic of beginnings.” – M. Eckhart

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I consider 2019 quite a special year as it marks a lot of milestones for me and my better  half. To sum it up in a nutshell, there is no other way describing it but to compare it to a rollercoaster ride filled with constant thrills of ups and downs that has made it not only exciting but also memorable. So, here’s a peek on our 2019 adventures:

First Quarter: Foggy Winter

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Call me a dreamer. I dream BIG. Sometimes bigger than myself that it scares the hades out of me. But nonetheless, I continue to dream just naturally as I breathe each day.

If you read my blog from early this year, I hinted about an application to a program I applied sometime in autumn 2018. It was my application for the US State Department English Language Programs (ELP) Fellowship. I intentionally did not elaborate what my application was in my blog because of its stiff competition and the rigorous selection process involved. I was not sure if I would be selected, and I didn’t want to get ahead of myself.

Despite keeping my application a secret to the whole world, however, I pressed on. After my successful interview with an ELP representative from Georgetown University, I was placed in a pool of applicants for possible projects. While I tried to keep my optimism intact, I must admit, there were days I struggled with self-doubt. I knew that it was a long shot application, and with hundreds of experienced TESOL instructors nationwide who also applied (500 plus to be exact), I had my days when my skepticism and my “no way” voice won.

Months quickly passed by – January, February, March. No word. There was deafening silence. It felt queasy inside – I was starting to lose hope…


Second Quarter: Spring Time

Came April. Buds began to sprout, and like blossoming trees in spring, hope sprung eternal and so did my application. I received an email from the Georgetown University that I was selected as a Fellow for an ELP project in the East Asia Pacific region. To say I was delighted was understated. I was over the moon – and so as my husband.

Springing Time

While we were both overjoyed by my fellowship selection with high fives all around; nonetheless, there was no time to really bask in and relish in the feeling of excitement. We did not realize that the preparation for the assignment would be more involved than what we initially anticipated. There were lots of paperwork associated; complex process with external forces challenging us at every turn, and, of course, they were mostly beyond our control. Sometimes they could be overwhelming, but despite it all, we persisted. Like stubborn orchid bulbs making their way up the cool soil in the spring time, we rolled with each setback.  Thank goodness, eventually our perseverance paid off. We completed the requirements in July just in time for the program’s scheduled pre-departure orientation in Washington DC. What a relief it was! (plop plop fizz fizz)


Third Quarter: A Magical Summer

Then came the moment of truth…

Summer is known as having the hottest weather among all seasons, yet it is also considered as fun, vacation time, and most exciting one. Just reflecting on what we had experienced this summer, I must say, the word “interesting” just perfectly fits the bill.

Believe it or not we flew a total of 15 flights to 4 major destinations this summer (Washington DC, China, Vietnam, and the Philippines). I can’t believe it either. The flying part I found quite daunting, and I would skip it if I had a choice. However, come to think of it, those combined long and short flights may have served a good purpose after all. It was during those humdrum air travel miles that I had moments of epiphany about so many things about life in general. I must say, if there was one thing that I value the most in those trips, I supposed it was those realizations.


Travelling to attend my Fellowship in China made my heart full. There was no other way to describe it but an experience of a lifetime. I’ll let some of my favorite photos speak for themselves and you be the judge.

I will be forever grateful for this fellowship opportunity not only for the experience, but most importantly for one of the greatest lessons it has taught me: “Sometimes our smallest actions can lead us to our greatest victories.”

While I had my moments of uncertainties and fears during my application, thankfully, I did not allow them to stop me from at least trying, or I would have never experienced the joy of serving as a Fellow. That brings me to the realization that it is “we who define our path by the strength of our character.” If we can just continue trusting our capabilities and true worth, then indeed we can be assured that “Our only limitation is our imagination.”

Big Ten: Our 10th Wedding Anniversary

It is no big secret to many of my trusted friends that I considered my marriage to my husband synonymous with hitting the jackpot. I am one lucky wife for having the best husband in the world. He is my fortress of solitude, my port from stormy seasons, my joy on gloomy days, and simply the love of my life.

When we got married on the beach called Honeymoon Island in 2009, it has become a tradition for us to celebrate our anniversary on the beach every year (except on our 6th when we moved to a new city*).
1st wedding anniversary – Venice Beach, Florida
2nd wedding anniversary – Boracay, Philippines
3rd wedding anniversary – St. Pete Beach, Florida
4th wedding anniversary – Paradise Island, Bahamas
5th wedding anniversary – Ana Maria Island, Florida
6th wedding anniversary – Celebration, Florida*
7th wedding anniversary – Cocoa Beach, Florida
8th wedding anniversary – Waikiki Beach, Hawaii
9th wedding anniversary – Cape Canaveral National Seashore Park Beach, Florida

Since this year marks our Big 10, my husband and I had planned to celebrate it a little bit different. I even brought my wedding dress all the way from the US for the occasion. However, I believe there is truth to the saying, “Our life is not our decision; sometimes it’s up to the Higher Power.” And, that was exactly our greatest life’s lesson on our 10th wedding anniversary.

To cut the chase, we landed at Da Nang Airport in Vietnam just in time for our Happy 10th. We were on transit and working from another game plan. You see, while it was not our initial plan to be in Da Nang, it turned out, however, to be everything we wanted for our special day: another simple yet romantic and memorable time on the beach together.

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So, I guess, this was a reminder for all of us that when life doesn’t turn out the way we planned, we shouldn’t immediately go ballistic. Calm down. Take a deep breath and hold on for the ride. God may have a better idea, and going through some bumpy roads may be exactly what we need to arrive to beautiful places. That describes our situation to a T.


Fourth Quarter: A Blessed Autumn

My Golden Year: 50th Birthday

I can’t believe I am now a member of the golden club. Imagine, fifty trips around the sun – Oh man! It is funny though that I don’t really feel that old. Perhaps because I don’t really pay attention to my age, or maybe because I am just surrounded by people (like my husband) who often look at the bright side of life, which I believe helps tremendously.

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As I look back on how my life has been, I feel grateful on how God has taken control of my life. Surely, I have had my share of trials and tribulations. I don’t think God plays favoritism with His children. As a matter of fact, just this year life has thrown me some wild curveballs and fastballs that they almost beaned me. Thankfully, they just merely brushed me back from the plate, and here I am ready to hit another Home Run.

Life is dynamic. We win some, we lose some. Simple. But I suppose when we believe in a Higher Power, there is something that supersedes our fear, pain, insecurities, and failures. My life has never been perfect, but I’m truly grateful for God’s many wonderful blessings: loving parents, happy childhood, great education, satisfying career, blissful marriage, good health, and little treats along the way in life. How much more can one person ask for?

As I look forward to the future, I can only wish for more meaningful years to come according to God’s will. I know that sometimes He has other plans and they are not what I want, but I pray that I can be an obedient child and learn to live my destiny with a joyful and grateful heart.

So, to another 50 years and more – cheers!

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My greatest birthday blessing this year was getting the opportunity to visit and spend time with my family in the Philippines. It was precious! 

The End of a Broken Promise: Completing my Certificate in Instructional Design

I am wrapping up this year with the completion of my Certificate Program in Instructional Design. It was one of those things I didn’t plan but was probably meant to happen. Thanks to my stubbornness and continued pressing from my husband. After chasing 15 credits and piling up 5 semesters, I’m finally crossing the finish line.  Oh man, it feels really good!

Despite starting the year with some uncertainties, it looks like my husband and I will end our 2019 adventure on a high note. And, for that, we are forever grateful.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday!


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A Day in My Life

Hi there!

Three months later, and here I am back from blogging. How have you been, guys? I hope each one of you is doing great!

My class in my Instructional Design program started in January, and that what keeps my hands full. This term I am taking EDF 2170: Adult Learner, which is indeed remarkable. For this week we discussed about Embodied and Spirituality in Learning, and one of our tasks was to keep a diary for a day. Jotting down any physical feelings or responses that accompany our thinking as we go through the day. I haven’t done it before, and I was surprised at how much my body was “talking” to me, once I started listening to it. So, I thought of sharing it with you, and I hope you enjoy it.

Diary: Thursday, March 28, 2019

6:21 a.m.:  Good morning! – It’s time to get ready for work, but I couldn’t keep my eyes open. My body was craving for more sleeping time, so I gave in.

6:32 a.m.:  Tried it again – I pulled away the soft blanket wrapping my body and keeping me warm. Oh man, I couldn’t believe the cold air was like ice! My body shivered in surprise.

7:05 a.m.: Shower time –The lukewarm water hit my skin. Oh, what a pleasant experience. It felt soothing not only for my body but also for my soul. Soooo relaxing!


8:23 a.m.: Hitting my launching pad – It was 66 degrees when I arrived at work. I got out of the car, and immediately I was welcomed by a cold morning breeze. I could feel the cold air blasting my bare legs. This was not an ideal day for a pair of cropped pants. Wrong outfit! I walked faster and faster, almost running.

10:00 a.m.: In action – My students were working on their writing activity attentively. I couldn’t help smiling. My heart was full seeing how much they progressed since we have started this term. I walked around the classroom to check how they were doing, making sure everyone was on-task. Then I stood at the back of the room where sunlight was streaming through glass windows. It hit my back, and it felt so calming. It reminded me how much I love the sun especially when on the beach. Wishful thinking.

11:30 a.m.: Comfort break – It was my second class, and I could hear my plumbing whispering to me. I know, I haven’t been to the restroom since I left the house, so I excused myself discreetly before the waterworks were unbearable. I know this is over sharing, but a diary is a diary. Ah, what a relief!

12:00 noon: Tummy talk – Lunch was calling. I heard my tummy growling like a baby lion. However, it’s 45 more minutes before my class would end. I pacified the hungry cub in me with a biscuit. Thanks Heaven for written exercises. My students were oblivious to my hunger attack!

1:20 p.m.: Back home – The moment I stepped inside the house, my barking feet yelped for freedom. I was on my feet for four straight hours teaching. I think the reaction was understandable. I took my shoes off, and walked freely on my barefoot. Ahhh lovely!

2:30 p.m. – Shhh, nap time!

5:15 p.m.: Round two. Back to work (split shift, oh yeah!)On Scene: After a short walk around the campus (health conscious), my husband and I were ready to head back to my assigned building. I was ready to drive the car when something distracted me in the parking lot. Instead of putting my foot on the brake, I unintentionally moved the gear lever to Park, and the engine immediately responded with a jerk. What was I thinking? I panicked. I felt my heart suddenly race from combined surprise and fear. Thankfully it didn’t last long.

9:20 p.m.: Three hours and more later – After another exciting lecture and time spent with my students, I was back to where I started – my bed. I heard (you know, body talk) my back and legs complaining from a little bit of pain, but they were more grateful for the rest after another accomplished day. My heart was full of love and satisfaction. Before I knew it, I was dozing and off to La La land.

You may ask what was my takeaway from the experience of keeping a diary for a day. Well, the answer is simple. I have never really imagined how much fun I had in a day until I put my experience (feelings and reactions) down in black and white. This exercise made me realize how important mindfulness is to fully experience life in its truest form. Now, I understand why meditation, reflection, and journal writing are all important part of every day living. So, go ahead. Give it a try and keep me posted.

Have a nice day. Thanks for dropping by.

‘The best way to capture moments is to pay attention…” – J.K. Zinn

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It’s a Wrap for 2018

Time goes by so fast. I can’t believe that it’s the end of another year!

Looking back, I consider 2018 a year of creating possibilities – at least, for me. Early this year, despite being content with my college teaching job,  I got an itchy feet and broke a promise I made to myself to study no more, given the grind of obtaining my last MA degree a couple of years ago. I decided to temporarily forgo or suspend that tenet and return to school to further improve my acumen as it pertains to my chosen field, Instructional Design. While I had some wins in the process, I had to give up my fantasy of endless idle time to keep up with the course requirements: reading textbooks, writing papers, doing projects, and taking exams. I must admit, it wasn’t easy! Nonetheless, although the coursework may had challenged me at times, the thought of advancing my knowledge base was enough to make me feel gratified.

This year I also welcomed the challenge of painting as a hobby. Playing with watercolor and my paint brushes has unleashed my curiosity of what kind of art I can create and what not. My ambitious attempt immediately made me realized I am no Salvador Dali. Surreal, yes. Artistically blessed, absolutely not! Let me explain. While I was drawn to expansive depictions of all forms, conversely, I discovered I have little patience working with the minute and detailed attention essential when creating an intricate landscape, for example. Painting is more than just being creative, I found out. It requires a huge amount of patience and perseverance that I found for me is still a work in process. Despite my shortcomings, however, I have continued to play with my paint brushes every opportunity I have. If there is something I love about painting, it is savoring the peace and tranquility it always affords me. And, that is enough for me for now.

blog 2018

In April this year I also declared a victory when for the first time I saw a piece of my written work in print as a contributor published in a TESOL book. Although it wasn’t  monumental as it may sound, for me it was a defining moment. Receiving an actual copy of the book made it more real and tangible compared to the acceptance letter sent to me by the book editors last year. It was indeed a humbling experience, and I embraced it with combined joy and deep gratitude.

My husband and I also did a little bit of travelling this year and checked off a few items on our bucket list. In spring, we had the opportunity to have a close encounter with the NASA’s (retired) Space Shuttle Atlantis which is majestically displayed at the Space Kennedy Center. In summer, we headed to New York City and visited the iconic Statue of Liberty, the Freedom Tower, the 911 Memorial honoring our fallen brothers and sisters, and the Strawberry Fields/Imagine Memorial which is NYC’s tribute to John Lennon’s life. In celebration of our happy 9th wedding anniversary in September, we also visited the Cape Canaveral National Seashore which is listed as one of the 50 national parks in the US. If you are interested, you can check out the stories of these trips on my other blogs.

Finally, in early fall I also explored the opportunity to apply for a US government project. I wish I could tell you more about it, but it is still in a holding pattern, circling somewhere in the universe, so just stay tuned. I must admit, I can’t wait for 2019 to come and reveal what it has in store for me and my family. I have a feeling that 2019 is going to be another meaningful, empowering and exciting year. So, let’s see. Fingers crossed.

Thank you 2018. Happy New Year, everyone!

“2019: More laughter. Less stress. Improved finances. Healing. Lots of love. Miracles,” – borrowed online

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Our Happy 9th at New Symrna Beach

This blog is way behind, I apologize. As much as I want to keep this site updated, like many times my demanding schedule at work and school just throws me off balance. I guess this is something I have to live with for now as I juggle work and my Instructional Design course. Thankfully, the term is slowly winding down, and hopefully, that will give me more free time.

Anyway, in mid-September this year, my husband and I paid a visit to New Smyrna Beach (NSB) to celebrate our Happy 9th Wedding Anniversary. NSB is located just 60 or so miles away from where we live. Our fun and quick drive brought us to this charming white sandy beach rooted in local culture and abundant in old Florida nature.

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Upon our arrival, immediately our attention was captivated by its eclectic boutiques, one-of-a-kind eateries, and intriguing coastal architecture and personality.

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From our hotel, we took a leisure walk around downtown and was drawn by its laidback community feel reminiscent of Key West. Of course, NSB was teeming with interesting sceneries to behold.

During our trip, we also visited the Canaveral National Seashore (CNS) located between NSB and Titusville. As a national park, it is known as a recreational paradise to visitors interested in camping, canoeing, kayaking, fishing, swimming, boating, bird watching, and or simply enjoying nature. Besides its natural beauty, it is also known for its shuttle launch facility. Unfortunately, however, the access to the seashore can be restricted during launch-related activities at the space center. For us, we were lucky that there was no launch that day, and we sailed past the gate after showing our free pass.

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My husband and I drove the 24-miles of beaches which is said to be the longest stretch of undeveloped beach on the east coast of Florida. From Playalinda Beach in the southern part, we headed to Apollo Beach on the northern side, which I’ve heard has some “interesting” beach activities.

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CNS’ beaches were just amazing. Its sights and sounds were just paradise in comparison to our daily grind. I just wish that it was not blistering hot during our beach day, 94 degrees, or we could have enjoyed staying longer. Nonetheless, it was a great trip that we will always remember for the rest of our lives.

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Thanks for stopping by!

Life is short. Have fun. Fall in love. Appreciate what you have.

Live life to the fullest!