Monday, October 14, 2013

Reigniting Passions at TEDx Diliman - "Things that Matter"

TED videos  were a source of writing inspiration in my former job. To those who don't know, TED Talks are short (around 18-20 minutes) recorded speeches from TEDx events that revolve around the general theme of "ideas worth spreading".  TEDxDiliman is just one of many independently organized TEDx events around the world. Today, TED has become a global movement of changemakers and thinkers who are passionate about the things they do and think about.

I never thought that one day, I'd actually attend a TEDx event and listen firsthand to these brilliant minds. The topic for last night's TEDxDiliman was "Things that Matter".  I signed up for it after a friend encouraged me to apply, and after I saw that the subtopics (music, art, books, reason, etc.) were things I'm deeply passionate about. Knowing that only 1 out of 3 people are selected to be part of the audience, I was really happy to have received a positive response!

Another huge surprise came when I saw on the email that my sister was also part of the event. If there's anyone who I'd love to be with during this type of gathering, it would be my sister.

Happy to attend TEDxDiliman with my sister! 
Organized by Gigo Alampay of CANVAS (Center for Art, New Ventures, and Sustainable Development), TEDxDiliman brought together speakers who are pursuing their passions and loving every moment of it. Some speakers brought tears and laughter to the audience. Some challenged long-held beliefs and gave us fresh ways of looking at things. What was evident though was that each is a source of inspiration.

Here are some of my favorite takeaways from each speaker:

Joey Ayala and his rendition of Lupang Hinirang in a different time signature

The reward for us is the experience we give you - Gigo Alampay, TEDxDiliman organizer

To be authentic, embrace change - Joey Ayala (musician, cultural artist) on Indigenous Music

Our job is to read and demand good books - Rica Bolipata-Santos (Literature professor and Philippine Star columnist) on Books

Shadows matter because they develop our creativity rather than our fears - Don Sulabayba (from Anino Shadowplay Collective) on Shadowplays

Commenting on Borges' short story On Exactitude in Science: The best map of the world is the world itself. The perfectly accurate map is useless - Popo Lotilla (UP professor and antique map collector) on Maps

Adopting a child won't change the world, but for that child, the world would change - Marina Cruz-Garcia  (visual artist and adoptive mother) on Adoptions

We need lawyers who understand that law is not a career but a profession.  Law is a passion. - Marvic Leonen (Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the Philippines) on Lawyers

The real competition is found in the rehearsal room where one is striving to be better, knowing that each one is relying on one another to make beautiful music. - Mark Anthony Carpio (Choral conductor and choirmaster of the Philippine Madrigal Singers) on Music

I learned that behind something unpredictable, there's actually a process, an order. - Reinabelle Reyes (Filipino Astrophysicist who proved Einstein's Theory of General Relativity) on Science

History is two things: data and interpretation - Paul Alexander Morales, Ballet Philippines artistic director

Why rely on "diskarte" [winging it] when you can prepare for it? - Jonathan Yabut (Apprentice Asia Season 1 winner) on Passion

TEDx freebies: where I took notes.

I was on TED high after the event, and I could say that a lot of the speakers either changed my perspective or affirmed my passions. For me, the biggest transformation was that my world suddenly expanded again.  I was in a cubicle for two years while trying to live out my passions on the side when work was done. I don't regret it, since I felt that God called me there for that time and I met great people. But now, God is telling me to get a move on.  The things that matter to me are books, education, volunteer work, creativity, music, faith, family, relationships, and God.  These are the things I love and value, and I want to focus on them.

Forgive me if I seem to romanticize TEDx and make it about me, but I truly realize how blessed I am to have been given the desires and strengths I have.  Now, the possibilities are before me, and I have an awesome opportunity to do what I love to do. I'm just happy I trusted in God's timing on this.  TEDxDiliman is just one confirmation of my God-given purpose to focus on my strengths, so I can be a blessing to others. Undoubtedly, this event is one of the highlights of my year and a fitting end to my cubicle life.

Thank you TEDxDiliman for the inspiration! You guys are awesome!

To receive updates from TEDxDiliman and view quality photos of the event, visit TEDxDiliman on Facebook.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Doors (a short story)

The door closed him. Pushed out of the room, he didn't know where to go. After a few moments of confusion, he decided to just walk away and look at what was ahead. The day was bright and there was a light breeze. For the first time in months, he breathed in clear air. In the small room he had gotten used to, it was often dank and damp.  Slowly, the sadness gave way to a feeling of freedom. He was free.  There was doubt and a little bit of fear, but he couldn't help but also feel the first stirrings of what seemed like joy. With a little smile, he decided to walk on.

Pretty soon, he found himself before a stream.  He didn't know exactly where it led, but the water seemed cool and inviting. Cupping the coolness in his hands, he drank from the stream and was instantly refreshed. The slight wind tousled his hair, and he just felt a deep, deep peace.  He allowed himself a laugh. Immediately, he was overcome by the feeling that he had to go barefoot and follow the trail of water. There was no better way; he was sure of this. And he had time...lots of time to spare. The water was so clear, he could see small fish darting around. They went this way and that, enjoying the gurgling water. But he could also see that the steady current compelled them to move forward, to see what was at the end of the trail.

After a few minutes of easy trekking, he finally knew he had reached his destination.  In front of him, were rows and rows of doors. They stretched before him far into the horizon. Some were round like those in a hobbit hole. Some were small, he didn't know if he would fit.  The colors were varied - a sea of blue, a verdant green, a splash of yellow, and some colors he didn't even have the words for. What was sure though was that each door was just waiting to be unlocked.

The stream had brought him to what seemed to be infinite possibilities. Which to choose? What to pick?  He closed his eyes and remembered the soothing sound of the waters and the gentle whisper of the wind on his face while he walked.  Then and there, he knew exactly which door to open.

It's been a while since I've written anything that comes close to a short story. This draft was inspired by possibilities and is dedicated to everyone experiencing changes and facing crossroads in their lives.

Monday, September 16, 2013

One night in a coffee shop

I was helping a friend set up her Facebook page and business blog one night at a coffee shop in Mandaluyong.  Since our meeting was also a bonding session, we stayed up quite late. As we were finishing up, two men probably in their mid-twenties sat down on the table next to us. They didn't order anything except for one regular cup of coffee. I wasn't minding them until I noticed that they both kept staring at me. Once in a while, they would chat, but most of the time, they would look at me. I started getting uncomfortable, and since I didn't want to think weird thoughts, I thought that maybe they wanted to use the outlet where my netbook was plugged.  The strange thing was, there were two sockets and the one I wasn't using was still available.

At this point, I started getting increasingly queasy.  I was the only one in the coffee shop with a netbook. The rest of the customers were just chatting with their companions or eating. While packing up, I decided to give the two men the benefit of the doubt, but I couldn't shake off the feeling that they would follow us.  We went down to the coffee shop's first floor where I stopped by the counter to get a drink of water. I was also waiting for them to go down. If they didn't, then my fears could be laid to rest. My fears proved me right, however; the two of them went down and looked like they were ready to leave too. Perhaps they thought that they had given us enough time to go out, so they could follow us. I was still hopeful though that I was just thinking negatively. However, when they saw that I was still in the counter drinking water, one of them also stopped and told his companion that he was going to get a drink of water. It was pretty obvious to me by this time that they wanted us to leave the coffee shop first! But why? I didn't want to think about it anymore and decided to follow my hunch.  Never mind that my netbook wasn't even the expensive kind. The point is, I was the only one with a gadget they had seen.

My friend and I left the coffee shop slowly. I took her aside while we were walking and whispered to her that I had a bad feeling about the two men behind us. She told me that she noticed them staring at me too and also found this strange.  I was wondering what to do.  I didn't want to walk along the highway at that late hour with the possibility of two men mugging me.  I had experienced a similar incident before (read: How my cellphone got stolen again) and needless to say, I was scared out of my wits that it would happen again.

So what we did was to try to get inside the mall, but the guard wouldn't let us in since it was already late. I didn't know what to do. Going ahead seemed so unwise with the two men still slowly following us trying not to look obvious.  Then I remembered that there was still another coffee shop nearby. I told my friend that we should stop over for a while until the two men were safely out of sight.  So that's what we did.  I also made it obvious to the two men that I had noticed them following us.   I looked at them before going inside the other coffee shop.  Thankfully, our strategy worked. The two men didn't follow us anymore and went ahead. After a few minutes, my friend and I felt safe enough to go outside.

I didn't take the bus that night like I used to. I was too shaken up to walk along a dark street. Instead, I went up the more well-lit MRT station and took the train where I could be sure that the two men wouldn't be able to follow me in the girl's section. I breathed a sigh of relief when I finally got home.

This incident was a lesson to me to be wiser in spending late nights in coffee shops when I had my netbook with me. I hope that you'll also be warned by my experience. I also couldn't shake the feeling that it was a miracle I wasn't mugged that night.  I am usually unaware of my surroundings especially when I'm busy (you can ask my closest friends about this). In fact, I once got almost hit by a bus because of this tendency of my mind to wander. But that's another story :P   I am just grateful that the Holy Spirit warned me that night and guided me on what to do. Alone, I would either have been insensitive or very indecisive.  Thank you God, because you kept us safe.

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever ~ John 14:16