Monday, April 23


My mother opened the issue up a few days ago saying, “…it’s quite embarrassing that you’re still the one giving even on your birthday.” I told her I changed my philosophy during the last few years, pledging to my family I’ll be the one to give presents, thereby reversing the process. That was supposed to be a joke intended for my wife and kids, which turned out to be the regular occurrence in the last few years, which turned out to be the preferred arrangement by everyone, which is fine with me. Well, I wouldn’t say giving is exactly better than receiving, having even personal doubts about it from time to time, especially during times of financial distress, when my wallet starts screaming for a refill, which happens most of the time. But it is definitely an alternative, which I suppose could benefit someone who’s really “maturing” (read: aging) all these years, at least in terms of introspection.

I turned 43 today, and I intend to continue this newly-discovered family tradition. I already gave my wife and kids their presents as promised: small, trivial things which are not much really, and promised them of another family tour in the summer. These may not be much, but they serve to ensure the spirit of giving stays with me. Reckon it could even provide a good example for my kids, charity begins at home anyway.

I may not be giving much, and I know that most of the time it’s for my wife and kids. Even though, I still feel a kind of high everytime I do it. It gives a sense of fulfillment, even achievement. And I find inspiration in stories I read. Most notable is the story of selflessness of a Japanese boy during the time when tsunami struck his country more than a year ago. The story goes like this:

In the aftermath of the tsunami, when throngs of people start congregating at relief centers, a Japanese cop of Vietnamese origin saw a young Japanese boy at the end of a long queue of weary and hungry people waiting for their turn in the food ration. The community volunteers by then are preparing the food from various NGOs, starting to divide them as there’s not enough for the number of people waiting in the queue. The cop walked to the boy and started a conversation with him. He found out that the boy lost his family in the disaster, and has nowhere to go until he was rescued and brought to the center. The boy’s story cut deep into the cop’s emotions, and as he looks into the hungry child, he started opening his small satchel, offering his food ration to the boy, thinking he already had a light snack a few hours back anyway. What happened next surprised him. The boy, after accepting the food from the cop, walked to the beginning of the queue and placed the food onto the table. The cop, bewildered by the boy’s action, asked why he did that. The boy’s answer made him burst into tears.

The boy said: ‘If I eat the food by myself, I will be the only one who’ll benefit. But if I place it there (on the table), then it will be shared with everyone and more can partake of it.’ 

This act of selflessness in times of hopelessness and adversity never fails to move me everytime I read it. And I keep saying to myself: if a young boy can sacrifice and practice the gift of giving, why wouldn’t I?

I guess I just need to sacrifice a bit more and expand it.   

Monday, March 19

A handy reference for Moodle migration

About three weeks ago, I got the chance to get hold of the book by Alex Buchner, “Moodle 2 Administration” (Packt Publishing, 2011). (You can check the Packt website here: It’s an opportune time as I am currently migrating the college Moodle server from v1.9 to v2.2. From then onwards, the book became a handy reference to me, giving me good guidance on general Moodle system administration I have to get back to, as well as providing me with very good introduction on some of the new features of Moodle v2.x that differentiate it with the old v1.9. Following are some of the topics discussed in the book which I found very useful for my work so far:

Moodle setup: As the college had already decided (from experience) that the best Moodle environment based on its operation is LAMP, Buchner’s book allowed me to review the best environment possible by providing recommendations and possible scenarios with different hardware and software requirements. The book also provided an introduction on Moodle CLI which I found handy from time to time. This does not mean that the book is useful for Linux/Unix enthusiasts only. Moodle 2 Administration also provided a comprehensive setup discussion for those who favor the Windows platform, and even for those whose preference is Mac OS X.

User Roles: The book helped me a lot in setting and evaluating possibilities in creating custom roles in Moodle. As our Moodle user architecture requires the provisioning of ‘e-Learning Coordinators’ from each academic department and other custom roles to ensure smooth and effective utilization of the system from staff and students, the clear discussions and procedures I got from the book allowed to implement custom roles easily and effectively.

Moodle Plugins: I also got very good information from the book regarding Moodle plugins, particularly the one regarding plagiarism prevention. As our English Language Centre starts using Moodle for their students, I believe that one of the most important new features of Moodle v2.x is the anti-plagiarism plugin, and the book gave me a very good introduction about it.  

I am still not fully complete with migrating our Moodle platform from v1.9 to v2.2, and there are still many more work and tweaking to be done. I know I will go back to Buchner’s book many more time in the next few weeks.

Tuesday, January 10


Dalawampu't dalawang oras.

Sinasabing ito na ang pinakamahabang prusisyon sa kasaysayan ng kapistahan ng Poong Nazareno sa Quiapo kahapon, ika-9 ng Enero. Ito rin ang sinasabing pinakamalaki, na dinaluhan ng 8 hanggang 9 na milyong deboto.

Ano ang nasa likod ng pagkahaba-haba at pagkatagal-tagal na prusisyon ng Poong Nazareno?

Ang kapistahan ng Poong Nazareno ay ginaganap tuwing ika-9 ng Enero. Ang itim na Nazareno ang patron ng Quiapo. Ang Poon ay galing sa bansang Mehiko, at itinuturing na milagroso sa kadahilanang bago pa man makarating sa bansa ang barkong magdadala sa Poon, nasunog ito at ang Poon lang ang nakaligtas. Pinaniniwalaang umitim ang balat ng Nazareno dahil sa sunog na nangyari. Bukod rito, marami pang istorya ng mga himala ng Itim na Poong Nazareno ang madalas ikwento ng mga deboto.

Hindi ko maiwasang maging emosyonal tuwing mapapanood ko ang prusisyon ng Itim na Nazareno sa Quiapo. Naging deboto rin ang aking mga magulang ng itim na Poon, at meron din akong mga rekoleksyon ng pagsimba sa Quiapo noong aking kabataan. Higit pa rito, naging saksi rin ako ng ilang prusisyon ng Nazareno noong ako'y nasa kolehiyo. Dahil taga probinsya at nabibilang sa "low middle class", tumira ako sa aking isang lola sa Quiapo sa buong panahon ng aking pagko-kolehiyo. Ang "boarding house" na tinirahan namin ng aking mga pinsan (inuupahan ng aking lola) ay malapit lang sa isa sa mga kalye na dinadaanan ng prusisyon, at dahil doon ay ilang taon din akong naging saksi sa prusisyon ng Poon. Kahit hindi talaga deboto, masasabi kong magkahalong mga emosyon ang aking nararamdaman sa tuwing dadaan ang prusisyon.

Hindi naman kalayuan ang dinadaanan ng prusisyon ng Nazareno, hindi hihigit sa 4 na kilometro sa aking tantya. Nagtatagal lang talaga dahil sa usad-pagong na lakad ng milyun-milyong namamanata. Bukod pa rito, sadyang napakahaba ng prusisyon. Bukod sa milyun-milyong deboto na kasama sa prusisyon, daan-daang mga banda ng mga musikero at iba't ibang grupo ang ipinadadala ng mga deboto para sumama sa prusisyon. Dahil me kasikipan ang mga kalye sa Quiapo, mas bumabagal pa ang prusisyon dahil sa mga taong nasa gilid ng kalsada na matiyagang nagbabantay sa pagdaan ng Poon.

Mahirap ipaliwanag, subalit napakaraming namamanata sa iba't ibang kadahilanan. Nariyang merong gumaling na mahal sa buhay, binigyan ng anak, pinagbigyan ang kahilingan... sa lahat ng ito, isa lang ang aking nakikita - ang pananampalataya ng pinoy ay buhay at walang pinipili: mayaman, mahirap, matanda, bata, lalaki, babae... kahit sino, lahat ay nagkakaisa. Yun marahil ang "moving", ika nga, sa tuwing makikita ko ang prusisyon ng itim na Poon.

Kahapon, nakita na naman  mundo ang debosyon ng pinoy. Kung ganito rin sana sa pulitika at sa ibang paraan ng pag-unlad...

Monday, January 9

Worry-free travel

The family will be traveling again in a few days, our first international travel in 2012. Lately, Alice and I decided it's much better, and we're enjoying more peace of mind if we have travel insurance, to make sure we're cover for contingencies, just in case (especially during travels to Europe).

Having travel insurance will ensure you will be covered when something unexpected happens during your travel break. This may be delays or cancellation of flights due to bad weather, loss of luggage, health or medical costs during your travel, or even cancellation of trip due to problems with your travel agent. Travel insurance comes in many forms such as single or multiple trip coverage, and the cost considers many factors such as age, number of days traveling, and pre-existing medical conditions.

Normally, we get our travel insurance either from the airline company itself during booking, or from our travel agent. For 'normal' coverage I usually pay about USD125 (for European trips) to cover the five members of the family. For our latest trip, I haven't purchased the travel insurance yet, as I did not find that option while booking online. I plan to go to the local agent of our airline to purchase our travel insurance in a few days.

The point here is, we better be prepared for all contingencies so that we could enjoy our travel fully.

Thursday, December 29

Quite a Year

'Twas a fantastic year, to say the least. We as family had a great time this 2011, upping levels of expectations in various activities, especially in education, social and spiritual aspects.

In  homeschool, the kids had a very productive year: revalidas for all of them were essentially better than last year's (that's according to their teacher-coordinators themselves), and their activities (and outputs) were way better this year. This may have something to do with the fact that the previous school year was the second in our homeschooling activities, and that kinks in the initial year of homeschooling were ironed out (and perfected?) in the 2011 edition of our homeschool. Aside from the kids having more outputs in their portfolio, we were also able to connect more family activities in homeschool. The kids also showed improved skills in studying, as well as preparing for their periodical interviews.

Still in homeschool, more 'social' activities were incorporated for kids' studies: they attended several art classes (basic drawing, ceramic painting, etc) and also attended cooking, baking and other food lessons. These enable them to mingle with children of different nationalities and allowed them to get more socialization time which was lacking in the previous year's study.

It was an amazingly fantastic year for the family's travel activities as well.

Our first venture to Europe (as a family) happened in the summer of 2011, and even though we have to endure high temperatures in some areas, we still were able to achieve that family bonding that can only be attained by being together and doing family activities day in and day out. And we've successfully done it for more than two weeks!

The family enjoyed the sights and attractions (and sometimes even the nice summer weather) of Paris and Versailles in France, the Vatican City, and the cities of Rome, Florence and Pisa in Italy. We visited and climbed the Tour Eiffel, the Notre Dame Cathedral, the Saint Chapelle, and cruised along the River Seine; we explored the Colosseum and the Romano Foro, visited Castel Sant Angelo, the Pantheon and Fontana de Trevi; we sat along the Spanish Steps (as most tourists do); and most importantly, we marveled at the grandness of Basilica San Pietro and the square in front of it, and had a serene experience, while gawking at the marvelous works of art inside the Sistine Chapel. The experience we had, and the spiritual renewal that went with it, while visiting basilicas, cathedrals and churches - Saint Germain de Prez, Santa Maria Maggiore, Santa Croce, Florence's Duomo, the Pisa Cathedral to name a few, was a memory the family will keep for a long time. Our visits to numerous parks provided welcome relief to our aching feet (from walking here and there), as well as time for light banter when the family starts getting grumpy for hours of walking. Exploring new places, understanding new culture, and learning new things become more meaningful when you do it with your loved ones.

And our adventures in traveling continued in 2011.

On the local front, we visited, and took a more in-depth look, at previously visited places: forts and castles, mosques and water fronts, ridges and mountain tops. We also had a short off-road activity (after two years of not doing it) and climbed the highest peak in the Arab region, the Grand Canyon of Arabia. Of course, we did not forget to visit our favorite park and spend some lazy afternoons there.

Towards the end of the year, we decided to head back to Europe to experience 'real' autumn. Munich and the Bavarian countryside were sights to behold. We had a grand time roaming around the Marienplatz area, as well as other notable areas such as the Stachus, Karlsplatz, the Nymphenburg, the Olympic Area and the English Garden. Ludwig II's castles in Neuschwanstein and Linderhof are grand and of course, fairytale-like, and the German countryside (through the town of Oberammergau) on the foot of the Alps gave us a feel of rural Europe which we loved.

Our short visit to Austria (Salzburg) and its thousands-year old structures was also both educational and entertaining to the family.

And of course, there is again, the visit to several churches, most notable of which was in St. Peter's (and the climb to the top, which will show you arguably the best view of 'real' Europe, in my opinion).

We also made strides in deepening our faith.

Aside from our 'panata' of attending the Filipino mass every 1st and 3rd Sundays, we also did a month-long Advent preparation activity in December. This enabled us to renew our faith more, and for the kids to re-visit theirs, by reading more scriptures. I hope this will continue to a deeper understanding of our religion and our faith, and more family activities towards this end.

'Twas a great year. We're looking forward to another great year ahead.