Takeaways: 5 things that struck me while reading Malala’s story

This year I want to be more courageous. I started off by reading about people who exhibited this trait. Malala is one of them. She stood up for education and women’s rights when it was dangerous. I never knew what it was like to live in the Middle east where women are restricted to roles set by their culture. I didn’t know that there are still women who cannot have equal rights with men especially in terms of education and profession. I commend her for speaking up even at an early age. It must have took her great courage to begin with. I also commend her dad for encouraging her to be free.

Today I’m going to share five things that struck me the most while reading her story.

1 of 5 reflections on Malala's story jannel serrano wordpress.JPG

Malala came from the middle east where women were not given much importance and yet she made use of every opportunity given to her to share kindness and love to the people around her—her neighbors, the children they saw on the streets and other needy people. She lived under the reign of Talibans where people were suddenly hurt or killed and yet she had the courage to speak.

As a person living in a democratic country where people have freedom to do most of the things that we like, I realized that I am taking a lot of opportunities for granted. I am motivated to speak up now that I can.

I also realized that I should not be contented to live my life as if there are no people in need. God blessed me with abilities, resources, and time so that I can bless others. We may sometimes complain that we do not have enough as of the moment and thought we could share if we can become millionaires one day but I realized that even a small amount could do. As little as we can, we can help a lot! On her 16th birthday, Malala spoke at the United Nations where she mentioned that one book, one pen and one teacher can already make a huge difference. I realized that if we believe in some things, we must have the courage to go all in.

2 of 5 reflections on Malala's story jannel serrano wordpress.JPG

Speaking up when you are oppressed is difficult when you know that your oppressor is more powerful. When Malala’s dad was starting to build his school for girls, there were a lot of problems especially in dealing with the government and the community. Corruption was rampant, and the influential people wanted to close his school. The Taliban saw it as a violation of the Quran. Parents were against him when he invited poor and needy people to sit in a class with the rich kids. His former business partner gave up also when he didn’t see immediate results.

Malala’s dad realized that through speaking up in behalf of schools, he could raise his opinions to those in position. He joined several organizations who stood up for education and girls’ rights. He raised his concern about corruption in the government when schools were having difficulty in getting permits to operate. Through the help of like minded individuals who are concerned about the children, he was able to motivate them towards his vision of giving good education. He also encouraged Malala to speak in their campaigns for girls’ rights.

I realized that we can only do as much when we’re alone. It is as if we’re trying to fight single handedly. But with the help of a community of like minded individuals, we are stronger, our voice is louder, and our hands are bigger. We need not make a difference on our own. We can look for individuals who are also wanting the same.

3 of 5 reflections on Malala's story jannel serrano wordpress.JPG

When Malala’s dad started his school, there were only few students who enrolled. He also had to balance his time to focus on financial concerns, welfare of teachers, academic curriculum of students and cleanliness of the school. They had to sacrifice meals and personal space. Other people would even make fun of him. It took a while for the community to recognize his school’s reputation. After some time, there were already three buildings in the school, a bunch of students who join competitions across their place and teachers. It also took him several years to be able to build his reputation in the organizations he joined. He was even looked up to when there were instances that they must speak up on some issues even though he wasn’t involved politically.

Like the movement that Malala and her dad started in Swat Valley, it will take time to see progress. Changes do not happen in a day especially when we want to see a total turnaround. There will be a lot of challenges too. All of these will not result to nothing.

4 of 5 reflections on Malala's story jannel serrano wordpress

The Taliban hit Malala by the bullet over her head. She believed that the reason the gunned men were forceful was because they were uneducated. They did not know what the words in the Quran mean. They were interpreting their religion as something that it is not. She said that it was supposed to be peaceful because Islam means peace. They wanted to use brute force to show their power. They wanted to use such force because they fear that people will not honor them. Because they do not know the truth, they did so many crazy things just to make people afraid.

Another instance mentioned in the book was when Malala’s dad and his friend was passing through a checkpoint. His friend asked if they will pretend to be somebody else because they were known and were looked after by the Talibans. Her dad never made a second thought of changing their names. He stood for what he believed was the right thing to do.

I realized that when we speak the truth, there’s nothing to worry about. Because we know we are in the right, there will be peace in our hearts. Whatever happens, our conscience is clear. I also realized that it is important to know the truth. And we will know it by reading or learning from other people.

I commend Malala’s dad for being courageous. Both Malala and him motivated me to die a noble death than swallow the words that I said.

5 of 5 reflections on Malala's story jannel serrano wordpress.JPG

Malala was asked a couple of times by reporters whether she felt a grudge towards her perpetrator. She said that she did not even think of the gunned man who tried to kill her. There was no hurt feelings that was left on her. Instead, what remained was more passion to make her new life count to be able to help more people in need of good education and equal rights.

Her parents also supported all sorts of people in need. She told in her story that their house was always full of guests. They feed the children they support before heading school. They also help others whenever they have concerns as much as they can. Both her mom and her dad were activists in some way. They made sure that they do what they can to help.

On the other hand, when they were in need and were in critical situations, people just suddenly appeared to help. When her dad was on his way to the university, he didn’t know where to move in because he lack money and his only relative didn’t have the means to take him in. His fiancé and now wife’s uncle willingly offered his place not knowing his situation.

When Malala was brought to the Birmingham hospital, hundreds and thousands of people sent messages of encouragement to her. There were also several people who helped them finance the operations and recovery.

I realized that when we extend mercy, we receive grace. When we become generous with other people, we tend to get more than we could ever ask for.

When we sincerely want to help others, we will muster the courage we need because we know that our efforts will not be in vain. It is when we volunteer to stand up for others that we will be able to do dangerous things and compromise our security for the good of other people.


Takeaways on Originals by Adam Grant

I never thought that a classroom setting can be so choking and inflexible. I was contended that I get honors and high grades. My sister was the one who is critical of our school systems. She dreams of establishing a school where children can freely play and learn at the same time.

Through several materials and encounters, I now agree with her that there’s something that needs to be done. Schools are usually designed for conformity rather than fostering originality. A lot of our examinations and projects are tailor fitted to make us follow rules and instructions. Something is lacking!

The same situation usually happens at home. Many parents want their children to obey ‘in spite of’ and in all circumstances. Asian parents, in particular, want their children to pursue careers that are ‘safe’ and traditional.

I personally struggle coming out of my own as an original. Until now, I can’t still figure out my skill sets and the things that I like doing. I envy Joy Mendoza’s kids because their mom knows them very well. I wish someone had studied me, my strengths, and weaknesses. But I believe it is not yet too late. Clearly, we need to take time to discover and ask help from other people.

Upon reading the Originals by Adam Grant, here are the seven things that I realized:

#1 of 7.JPG

A wonderful Creator designed us. God made each one of us unique. We are carefully and wonderfully made—each with strengths and weaknesses, passion, and ability to influence. God designed us in a way that would glorify Him in the end. He placed us specifically where we are right now. We are born to be an original. There is no single person here on earth with a similar set of experiences. Therefore, our influence, reach and capabilities are also different.

We are unique and original and yet we need to discover our gifts and talents. We need to discover what sets us apart. We must remember that it takes time to discover these, so we need to actively participate. And we can enhance our creativity and originality by trying out different styles and combinations, trying out different things and the like.

#2 of 7.JPG

Our parents’ priority is to give us our quality education. They want us to be equipped in the future. Sadly, our parents’ minds and thinking are sometimes narrow. They tend to advise us to take the safer route. Take a business course or any other course with a professional license. We end up living in a box environment because of this.

Recently, there is a good amount of acceptance to unconventional jobs like becoming a blogger, stylist, designer, and the likes. But for it to came to a well-known status, there must be many brave souls who spoke out what their passions are. That is true to the vlogger Cassey Ho when she was supposed to take up medicine because her parents said so. She courageously voiced out that she liked designing. For several years, she was not in good terms with her parents because of this. After a while, they have accepted. If not for her courage to speak up, she wouldn’t be the top fitness vlogger on youtube as of date.

Parents should encourage their children to pursue creative activities. They should also encourage them to dream big dreams.

#3 of 7.JPG

When you enter college, there are a lot of stereotypes. There are also norms around the campus that are acceptable because they became valid over time. Even in the workplace especially in the corporate world, rules have been long set. It is difficult to break from it even though it will greatly help the company and its employees.

Speaking up might cost our jobs or grades and even our lives. There were a lot of world changers like Malala who spoke up for women’s rights in Pakistan. They risked their lives because they stood for what they believed is true. They admitted they were scared but they did it anyway. It took courage to speak because if they didn’t, no one will.

This might also mean we should care less of our own welfare and care more about the company, school or community in general. It means we need to care less about promotion and care more about the company’s long term success just like Steve Jobs who was fired because he took risks for the company to grow and be innovative.

#4 of 7.JPG

I want to master a skill as quick as I could, but I am losing the patience and discipline to master along the way.  I feel like it is taking me too long to get a concept, or a way of doing things! Research shows that it will take us 10,000 hours to master one. This year I want to master driving but sometimes I am not confident enough. My dad always gives his lecture whenever I would do something that is not right.

Through several occasions and upon reading this book, I realized that we cannot fake greatness. Fakers cannot continue as fakers and not be found out. It takes time. It takes time to learn how to drive. It takes time to master other new skills. I am amazed of other people who learn quickly but I am more amazed of the people who have already mastered a skill or two because they patiently practiced.

I realized that confidence can be built when we know enough and have done enough. When we practice our craft, we learn through discovery and trial & error. Also, as we master skills, our reputation becomes established as we deliver.

Also, the author stressed the importance of creating despite having mastered an art. He mentioned that there are two kinds of creativity. The first one is that you tend to be creative and yet through time, you repeat your own work because you cannot think of new ideas anymore. You stopped playing even though you mastered your skill. The second is that you start slowly but your creativity produces unique and innovative ideas in different styles. We should strive to have the latter.

#5 of 7.JPG

I believe what the author said about this is true. When we are focused in getting achievements, we tend to pursue a single path and becomes more inflexible. Our vision becomes narrow. Instead of having the willingness to try other things if the plan becomes not feasible, we push through with eagerness. We lessen play time and experiment time. We are too rigid in getting the prize or pleasing others. We are being stubborn in a wrong way.

#6 of 7.JPG

When we hire people in our company or work for others, we see to it that our values are similar with the people and the organization. Because of this, we tend to have a culture of conformity. Many company cultures are drawn to this because it is ingrained in the culture. We need a culture that fosters different perspectives. If we want to become a great company, we need to allow others to be their own personality. We need to take in different perspectives. We should not shut down ideas too quickly. We need to study them. We should not settle with mediocrity and status quo. Always challenge the current practices and try to learn from them.  It will help us become an original. We should also be open with negative criticism. That’s how we’ll grow.

It was also mentioned that we should avoid the words love, hate and like. They have a psychological effect in our thinking that will make us drawn to it unconsciously. This will in turn prohibit us from venturing different ideas and styles which are helpful in becoming originals.

#7 of 7.JPG

One of my favorite books to read in our university library is the 100 innovative ideas book. I even know where it is placed! I loved the book because there are so many ideas to generate ideas. It is fun to read how we can be creative and how we can foster creativity amongst ourselves and other people.

In this book, I learned that the only way to generate great ideas is to generate more ideas. I realized that the reason why business people and creative people are encouraged to bring a notebook and pen always is for them to create more. That is to account for business ideas or ways on how to do business. Generating a lot of ideas allows us to choose the best and viable option given the limitations and other factors on hand.

Overall, I found the book helpful. I realized that there are still a lot to be done with my own habits as well as practices in business and at home. I should foster a habit that allows creativity and play. I also realized that disagreeing is different from disrespecting. We may disagree on some ideas but we should not disrespect. We may voice out our opinions but we should consider others’ feelings as well. After all, our gifts and creativity are meant to help other people and not tear them down.

Takeaways: Option B

We humans often strive to live the American dream but not everyone is living in the ideals—a happy and complete family, a comfortable home and the resources to pursue dreams. Our world isn’t perfect, but we can find joy and gain resilience in the midst of it.

In the book Option B written by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant, this fact is expounded. After the loss of her husband, Sheryl was able to express well how it is to grieve and cope through adversity. The words are well put so much so that I as able to feel what it’s like when hurtful things happen.

Death is often dreaded by a lot of people. I could not imagine also my loved ones passing before me. I am ready to die but I’m not ready for them to leave me. I guess this interdependence between us makes it difficult to let go. We are also often caught unprepared for this despite the fact that we know all of us will die at some point.

Life is never perfect. We live in some form of Option B…we all deal with loss: jobs lost, loves lost, lives lost. The question is not whether these things will happen. They will, and we will have to face them.

Here are my takeaways from the book:

Accept. The first and hardest thing. It is difficult to accept that the people you spend most of the time with will be gone. It is difficult to move on in life when you got used to being with them around you. But according to Adam Grant, the pain that we experience because of unexpected circumstances will decrease over time. There is a time to heal but the first thing that we should do is accept—accept that what happened is God’s will and that it is for your good.

Little girl hugs her mother
photo from the internet

Open up and ask for help. It is when we open up that we are healed. We should let other people know how we feel so that they know how to interact with us. Sheryl shared that she had a difficult time expressing her feelings in the workplace because she was scared that it is inappropriate. But then she realized that the more she hid her feelings, the more the pain stayed. I realized that we should let our feelings flow even in the workplace. I believe that our workmates will be glad to help us cope in the bad situations we are in. When we are only faking that everything is all right, the matters will get worse. We need to discuss it openly to people around us.

Sheryl narrated that during her meetings with Mark Zuckerberg and other Facebook executives, she would go to the comfort room to cry. She also encouraged her kids to do the same.

Journal. Writing is one way of opening up. During the first few weeks after Dave’s death, Adam also asked Sheryl to write down her big wins for the day. Sheryl mentioned that even the things that she does regularly like focusing on a meeting suddenly became difficult. These baby steps enable her to move forward. She said even simple things such as eating meals and doing some chores were included in the list.

“Turning feelings into words can help us process and overcome adversity.”

Choose joy and hope. We cannot choose the situations we are in but we can choose to have hope and persevere. We must choose to have a grateful attitude. In the book, after a few months writing her big wins, Adam suggested Sheryl to write down three things that she is grateful for at the end of the day. During their family dinner, Sheryl also added this to their family conversation.

 “Choose meaning over emptiness.”

For us as Christians, we have a greater Hope and that is the Lord Jesus Christ because we know that He has overcome the world. He is alive and He is coming soon to rule the earth. He is our only hope. I disagree that spirituality is only one way of having hope. I believe that it is the only way to having hope. Jesus alone can give us healing from the pain we have experienced.

Persevere now that we know we have hope. Life is repetitive. Sometimes we get tired of doing the same thing over again. Habits enable us to keep persevering.

After reading the book, I realized that family rules help.  In their family, Dave and Sheryl had written rules for their kids to abide. When Dave died, Sheryl, together with her kids, made a list of new rules. What is interesting is that in all areas, they wrote that they should not be afraid to ask for help. We need other people’s help especially when we are at the lowest point of our lives.

“We all need other people—and I do more than ever.”

Move forward. The feelings of guilt might hinder us from living a meaningful life. I learned that it is difficult to cope with it. As a psychologist, Adam shared that after such loss, we should avoid saying “I’m sorry” or similar statements. Death and other losses may or may not be our fault but God allowed it to happen. God is still sovereign so we should entrust to him these matters beyond our control.

photo from the internet

After a couple of months, Sheryl had a conversation with her mother in law. During the conversation, her mother in law told her that she believed that she will cope with the loss and get married again. Adam also shared to her that she will not only cope but will grow resilient because of it.

Our resilience is enhanced or cultivated when we choose to move forward and not be bitter with what life threw at us. We need to help ourselves. We need to move on and move forward. In the midst of loss, we can remind ourselves that adversity develops our character. Our experience of loss and adversity will not be put to waste. We can help others by telling our stories. We are used to bless others and to make our lives count.

Sheryl also mentioned that her family and friends reminded her that when she’s happy, Dave is happy and is rejoicing with her.

“Joe learned that post-traumatic growth could take five different forms: finding personal strength, gaining appreciation, forming deeper relationships, discovering more meaning in life, and seeing new possibilities.”

Moving forward means paying forward. What can we do for other people?

Be there. Giving sympathy means being there for them. We cannot offer help if we are not there with them.  Say ‘we are going to get through this together’, so that even when you don’t know what to do, the other person that you’re trying to comfort will feel relieved. Don’t forget to mean what you say.

I was amazed how Sheryl’s mom, siblings and other relatives grieved with her. They did not leave her behind. They were with her in every step of the way. Her mom and siblings took care of the funeral stuff. Her in-laws regularly talked with her over the phone. Her friends dropped by her house to check how she’s doing.

Be sincere. When we ask ‘How are you?’, we should mean it. During the time that she opened up, Sheryl was able to express how some people hurt her because she feels that their greetings weren’t sincere. She also shared that some people are openers. People who are openers enable us to express what we feel by asking questions showing that they care. Sheryl discussed that people who naturally experienced the loss are good openers but we can be trained to be one. They can help us accept the situation by being sympathetic. We feel sympathized when others ask us sincerely. When you talk to them, you share what you feel because they honestly want to hear from you. Hurting people long to speak what they feel. Be there to listen.

Be intentional. We know that our days are only limited. We do not know how much time left we have on earth to spend with our loved ones and live a meaningful life. We ought to create memories, lasting and significant ones. It is difficult because we are all busy bodies. We have a lot of things to do. We like to make excuses. What we need is to set aside time intentionally for other people. It might be eating dinner with the family, being there for a friend or volunteering for an outreach program. It also means we set aside time with the Lord. Overall, we need to be intentional with our time.

I realized also after reading Option B that we need to give attention to our family members and to other people. I learned that we have circles of influence. We should not be afraid to seek encouragement from them. We also ought to give encouragement to them.

“We find our humanity—our will to live and our ability to love—in our connections to one another.”

And lastly…

Don’t waste your life. You’re probably tired of hearing this but I want to stress this statement again. I also need to remind myself of this often. Live out your life as if it will be your last. Sheryl wrote that people have many regrets and a greater percentage of this is attributed to the regrets for the things that are not done like not able to spend more time with loved ones, did not accept forgiveness and not able to help in times of need. These regrets are also often relational.

Sheryl narrated that if only she knew that she would only spend eleven years with Dave, she would have not fought with him too often about petty issues and that she would have celebrated his birthday every year instead of every five years.

One way also of living out our lives is by helping others to cope with loss. I commend Mark Zuckerberg for being a good boss. He was understanding when Sheryl wasn’t able to perform well while she was grieving. He and his wife also accompanied her and the kids to a beach to have fun and help them cope.

“Wherever you are in the circle, offer comfort in and seek comfort out.”

I was struck when Sheryl narrated that she didn’t know how to open up in the workplace. We spend most of our time with our workmates and yet we pretend everything’s fine. We seldom ask how they are and what they are going through.

“He said if I wanted others to be more open with me, I needed to be more open with them.”

When she finally posted on facebook timeline how she felt, many of her workmates reached out to her.

We can do more than we can imagine we could do. God has made us unique and special. The pain and adversity that we experience can be turned into something good. We just need to have a vision. Aspire. Dream big—not for us to prosper materially but for us to develop a character that is continually molded into what God wants us to be.  Dream that the people around us will feel unique and special as well.

No matter where we are in life, we need to make it count. Choose joy and persevere. Everything will be okay.

photo from the internet

Takeaways: Reflections on the movie Painted Veil (2006)


Upon stumbling on this movie on youtube a few months back, I was intrigued why the title was termed as such. I didn’t even know and have not read the book. The reflections that I have written are solely based on the movie and my depictions of the movie.

After watching, the movie title was still unclear. Thanks to an interview of the main actor the meaning of the title was unfolded. According to him, it was written as such because the characters in the story have veils that unable them to see other people clearly. In the end, the lead—Walter and Kitty ultimately grew to love each other in the worst of situations.


I also have to include a praise to the movie for having a wonderful cinematography. Every frame is just picture worthy! I cannot tell how many times I have to pause the movie and take a screenshot because the frames are just so beautiful. I don’t know if it has something to do with me being an old soul or it’s just that the director was really brilliant. I will also share with you some of them here as I go through my reflections.

The film was set in the 1920s first in London and later on in China. This was very evident in the way the gatherings were held, hand in marriages was asked and other social norms. I also loved how Kitty dressed. Her outfits were really adorable!


Love can be learned. There was a scene when Walter confronted Kitty after her love affair with Charlie. Kitty confessed honestly to Walter that she doesn’t love him since the day that Walter asked her to marry him. I think Walter felt miserable and rejected but his care for Kitty outweighed this. I also believe that Walter volunteered to cure the cholera outbreak to get away from Shanghai in the hopes of restoring their relationship. More so to start over again and give Kitty a second chance to love him back.

In the midst of the cholera epidemic, Kitty grew to love Walter. It wasn’t gradual but day after day, there were changes. In the same way, we can grow to love other people. Some people are difficult to love—they are the people who might have opposing views from us or people whose values make us cringe. We can grow to love them by faith. How? By entrusting our relationship with them to the Lord. After reading and re-reading Dr. Bill Bright’s transferrable concept, I also prayed and trusted God that I too can genuinely love others by faith. I hope you can too!


Accept people for who they are and envision others for who they can be. During Walter and Kitty’s discussion during the confrontation, Walter mentioned that he knew Kitty was a selfish gal. He knew that she was spoiled by her family and that she wasn’t easy to please. But he also said that he thought that she will change for the better. He hoped that she will be happy in his arms.

Loving other people means accepting them for who they are as a person. We all have flaws and negative attitudes that are unbearable to other people. We should learn to accept them too. Instead of criticizing them for their mistakes, let us uphold them in prayer, trusting that only God can change a person’s character and attitude. Let us also view them as God’s child—precious and cared for. When we envision them for who they can be, we will be more considerate. Be patient and trust God!


Communication is key in every relationship. There were a couple of scenes showing how busy Walter was working on his study regarding bacteria and curing diseases. He was in a noble job—curing hundreds and thousands of people from their illnesses. Ironically, his relationship is suffering. Kitty would often lament how boring it is at home. She would talk to Walter but he wouldn’t answer back. I think Walter was a really good person but his attitude of not responding to Kitty makes it unfair for Kitty being his wife.


When they moved to the province, they were away from a lot of distractions. Still, their relationship wasn’t getting any better. Kitty was bored because she had nothing to do the whole day. In this particular scene, she was making some paper wheels just to pass the time. I noticed that Kitty initiated most of their conversations. She would ask Walter how he was doing but he wouldn’t respond. It took time before a real conversation between them began.

In marriage as it is with other kinds of relationship, communication is key. We need to talk to each other to know and express how each of us feel. I think it was easy for Kitty to talk because of her personality. But for Walter, he had a hard time. I believe that he is melancholic. He personally likes to spend his time alone. I can relate to him. His time is sacred. But either way, we need to allot time for talking to other people. If it means going out in a café, then go by all means. In the same way, we also need to communicate daily with God through prayer. Prayer is talking with Him.


Quality time is key. When we communicate to God and others, we deepen our relationship with them because we spend time with them. In the movie, when Kitty finally opened up how she felt about him, the circumstances changed. Walter’s heart was softened. Kitty told him that she doesn’t like the activities that Walter initiates—going to museums and playing chess. She likes to play ball games because that was the way she was brought up. I think their interests were totally different, but the more important point here is that we should have the right attitude during those “quality times”. Kitty admitted that she didn’t like those activities but she confessed it on the latter part after the activities were already done. If Kitty told Walter that she likes to do other activities, I think Walter will be glad to do it.


Spending quality time is important in every relationship. We need to be there not just physically but also emotionally and mentally. I think it is best to find common interests so that both of you should enjoy what you’re doing. During the latter part of the movie, after they spent the night together, Kitty wanted to walk around. She saw Walter talking to some Chinese and she approached him. Walter then asked her if she wanted to ride on some animals but Kitty refused. They then rode the raft and went to see where the supply of clean water was coming from.


Marriage and singlehood—both have exciting adventures ahead. When Kitty agreed to marry Walter, I didn’t feel the excitement in Kitty’s character. Maybe because she doesn’t really love him. I think when we are definite of God’s calling in our lives—be it marriage or singlehood, we will be thrilled of the great adventure that will transpire. God carefully planned each activity that is about to happen so we need to put our trust in him. When we know that we are living according to God’s will, there will be joy in our lives. The work of our hands will be fruitful as well. Exciting!


We need to trust the person that we will marry. For people who are called in marriage, I think it is important to put our trust in him/her because becoming one in the altar of God asks us to do so. You share the same house, your belongings are his/hers, you are each other’s “partner”. In the movie, when Walter confronted Kitty, he knew that Kitty will choose to be with him because she had no choice. She would end up alone in Shanghai, unsupported and without income. Impliedly, I think Kitty also trusted Walter with his decision. Also, when they were in the midst of the epidemic, Kitty went out of their house and was caught in a middle of a riot. Walter rescued her heroically. I also come to realize that as you spend time together or journey together, your trust is deepened because of the love that is shown. In contrary, trust is broken if we do not keep our word.

Walter was in his death bed. He was later on infected with the cholera disease

Our relationship is tested through the fire. During the confrontation, Kitty reasoned to Walter that he wanted to move to the country side so that the disease would kill her. It was a very difficult time for them as a married couple but I think it was appropriate for them to move out of Shanghai for the sake of their marriage. Their relationship was tested through the difficulties in the disease stricken land. There was no British community. It felt far away from home. Their home was suddenly downgraded. There was no piano to play. There was even no electricity. They could not consume raw meat and vegetables.

I think the “war time mindset”  is essential in this point. When we think of our moment on earth as our last, our actions become totally different. We are urged to make every minute count. We are suddenly extra cautious of our actions and our perceptions toward other things change.


Forgiveness is hard but needed. Both Walter and Kitty have committed mistakes in their relationship as a married couple. Walter did not focus his attention to his wife and her feelings. Kitty, desperate of feeling love, engaged in an illicit relationship with Charlie. Both of them needed grace and mercy in their relationship. Kitty’s relationship with Charlie borne an illegitimate child. I think Walter had already forgiven Kitty even before this scene happened. During the conversation, he accepted the child willingly. I think he felt hurt but he chose to forgive anyway. Forgiving is difficult especially when other people wronged us greatly but let us remember that we too have grieved God. When we lift up this burden to God, He will answer us in a way more than we imagined.


Loneliness makes us more prone to temptations. Kitty stayed at home while Walter worked hard for his wife. She felt useless and alone most of the time. She didn’t have that sense of purpose as a wife. When we have nothing to do, Satan attacks us in such a way that will destroy us. We need to assess where we focus our attention to.


Our purpose should revolve around others. Kitty talked to the head nun in the orphanage and pleaded to help. During her first day, she was accompanied to the nursery. I think she felt awkward because she wasn’t used to caring for a babe. Her facial expressions alone tell that she felt grossed when she was tasked to change the baby’s diapers.


She finally found her place in the orphanage after a nun died because of the cholera disease. She taught the children to dance and sing. She felt happy and had a sense of purpose because she shared her talents to the kids. Kitty’s attitude and perspective in life changed a lot after she spent time doing some outreach with the kids.

In the same way, when we focus too much on ourselves, we tend to miss out the opportunities to serve others. I think our sense of purpose will be evident when we devote our time and energy in helping others. We don’t need to join an outreach program to be able to do this. We can reach out to broken and sick people in different ways. It could be texting a friend whom we know have problems. It could also be helping our neighbor with some of their chores. God calls us to serve the weak and the weary, the widows, orphans and poor people. Are we responding to His call?


Walter and Kitty lived an uneasy and uncomfortable life but in the end they found a healed relationship despite the difficulties. They were able to be happy in the midst of the worsening cholera epidemic. They were able to witness an exciting adventure for which God had called them.

This film is a great reminder to devote our lives to God’s calling—to reach the people that this world cared less about. It also made me realize that no matter where we are, we can find stillness and peace like enjoying this cup of tea.




Field trip: Dangwa Flower district

I often fancied at the flower arrangement in our church. As I sat on the pew, I would normally draw while listening to the sermon.

After a while, I asked our administrator if I can pick some flowers after the service ends. She gladly asked Auntie Vangie.

Later on, Dara and I asked her if we can help in arranging the flowers. She gladly agreed!

After a couple of lessons, we went to Dangwa to buy flowers for our first arrangement. Sir Mark accompanied us since it will be our first time to buy.

I hope this can guide you in the fast approaching heart’s day!

We parked in front of this. There are lots of arranged flowers here but they are more expensive.

But you can also buy a couple of flowers and buy the wrapper separately.

We asked the salesman to arrange the flowers for us. His technique is to arrange the flowers like this:

(Photo taken from the internet)

Flowers in X then cut the excess stems and wrap with tape.

Here are some other pictures that I took during our visit.

Roses in different colors. According to Sir Mark they are mostly from China. These can be found on the other side of the street. We walked across via a small pedestrian crossing to reach this side.

All sorts of leaves in different sizes! They are all looking fresh!

Auntie Vangie’s suki.

More ornamental leaves for arrangements.

More succulents!

My shoes match the overall theme of this photo! Everything’s in autumn!

Women buying flowers. I love her hat!

This looks like a fresh lumpia on the street.

Sir Mark drew a draft of the arrangement that we did before we start looking for flowers and leaves. I learned that we should:

– have a general idea of what the arrangement should look like

– have a certain budget for the arrangement

We set P500 for this particular one but we ended up spending only P240!

– have good haggling skills

As always, I bring my notebook and pen with me!

(Photo by Achi Kim)

Until my next adventure,


Takeaways: Reflections on the movie Bad Genius

There is always a huge discrepancy between the ideal and the real world. Often times we are taught of the proper behaviors in a society and ethics in school but to my distress they are seldom applied in the workplace. The gray areas are often times the pitfalls of our character, reputation and faith. Sometimes we are even trapped by our selfishness which originally came out of our desire to help.

Temptations show us the realities of our hearts. In the movie Bad Genius, the problem aroused when Lynn accepted her friends’ money as payment for the right answers. I believe that she had good intentions to help but the opportunities given to her led to shame and deceit. Gratefully, in the end, she was able to choose what is better.

While watching the movie, I realized that our desire to help can cause us to stumble if we don’t watch and pray. When we take the matters into our own hands, we will fall. When our desire to do good is overpowered by our own selfishness, we will give in to temptations. These temptations in turn will lead us to a series of lies. Until we listen to God’s spirit convicting us of our shortcomings, we will be trapped. There won’t be peace in our hearts and our thoughts will always be preoccupied with the things that we did wrong.

Teach by example. When Lynn was tempted to accept payment in exchange for her brilliance, I believe it wasn’t because they were financially lacking. It was because she learned from the example of the teachers in her new school that accepting payment is valid. She learned from her father that the principal was collecting “tea money” for the teachers’ consumption. She then reasoned that accepting payment in exchange for helping her classmates pass the subject is then acceptable. I am reminded that teaching is a noble profession. Teachers must devote their lives to teach their students not just the concepts but by setting as examples to emulate. Outstanding character is much needed in order for students to be morally upright. In the same way, parents must teach their children the values to live by. I commend Lynn’s dad for having integrity and accepting the cancellation of Lynn’s scholarship after the principal discovered the cheating that had happened. He stood for what he believed is right despite the consequences. He was brave enough to face his daughter’s faults. I believe that it is also because of the values of Lynn’s dad that she ultimately chose to do what is right. Despite his high hopes for her, he doesn’t want her to do it the wrong way.

Love despite of imperfections. The contrast of the love and acceptance of Lynn’s dad and the pressure given by the parents of Lynn’s friends is evident in the movie. Despite the wealth of her friends, they were having trouble in school. They want to please their parents so badly that they resulted to cheating. Their need for validation is partly due to the gifts that their parents promised if they pass the subjects. I realized that pushing kids to excel should be coupled with support and encouragement. Parents should not leave them on their own lest they think they need to be what they are not. Had there been openness between parents and children about their struggles in school, they might not have resulted to violate academic integrity. I believe that parents are called to love despite their children’s imperfections. It is a hard call but God will be the one to enable the love and acceptance. As children, we are also called to love back. For Lynn, it meant listening to her dad’s advice and wisdom. She might have avoided all the trouble if she obeyed him during his first warning when the principal found out that she allowed her classmates to cheat. Authorities are given by God for our own good so we ought to follow them.

Flee from temptations. As mentioned earlier, Lynn was faced with a series of temptations throughout her high school days. Seeing her friends live their lives luxuriously may have caused her to pity her social status. According to Jesus, money is the root of all kinds of evil. This fact is evident in the movie as well. When Lynn was offered a hefty sum of money in exchange for her “services”, her desire to feel accepted and be at par with her friends have strengthened her decision to accept. Fleeing from temptation might have meant that Lynn should look for new friends during her free time or school breaks or transfer to a different section. In real life I believe that this is hard to do. In order to avoid these unnecessary troubles, it is important to ask God to lead us to the right set of friends. I believe that he will honor it because it is His will for us to be in a group of God loving people.

Use our gifts wisely. Lynn was gifted academically. She was able to ace the tests without sweat! God gave her the ability to do so! When she willingly taught her friend, she exercised this gift well. I realized that when we look outward—that is when we prioritize others’ needs, we are more likely to use our gifts wisely. But when we seek our own satisfaction first, our ability to bless others will often decrease. As followers of Christ, we ought to use our abilities for God’s glory. In this light, we need to use it in the right context and in the right manner.

Value clear conscience. Honesty has a high price. This truth is evident in the movie. Lynn and her friends carried a heavy burden for several years. The small whispers to tell the truth and act in the right manner was silenced by their heart’s desire to want more things. For Lynn it meant more money, for her friends it meant higher grades and material stuff as rewards from their parents. We cannot value clear conscience if we do not put God at the center of our lives. When we ask the Holy Spirit to direct our paths, God will enable us to hear His small but definite whispers amidst the loud distractions in this world.

Change for the better. In the last part of the movie, Lynn was suddenly convinced that what she did was wrong. When she came back from Australia after the exam, she confessed the truth to her dad. After a while, Bank, another gifted classmate who went with her to Australia, asked her to visit his newly renovated laundry shop. He used the money he got to improve his parents’ business and made an offer to Lynn to take SAT and do the same thing. Lynn graciously declined Bank’s offer and decided to confess what they did to the authorities. In the earlier part of the movie, Bank was the honest guy. He was the one who reported the cheating that had happened during the class. It was because of him that Lynn’s business got discovered but in the end, he was not able to stand true to his beliefs. Revenge and love for money had taken over him. Merely wanting to do what is right will not sustain us. When we put our faith and trust in God that He will enable us to be changed, that’s when real growth takes place and character changed.

In the end, what good is it to gain the world but forfeit your soul? (Matthew 16:26) I realized that despite the success of the business to which brought Lynn and her friends “freedom”, there was guilt, a heavy burden that they ought to bear for the rest of their lives. If not for Lynn’s courage to tell the truth, their future will be without peace. And the very thing that they thought would give them joy will make them regret for the rest of their lives. This movie gave me much hope that integrity will still win in the end.

Takeaways: Getting Grit + year end reflection 2017

As we close this year, I was reminded of the things that I did and experience.

One of my goals during the last quarter of the year was to read a book every 2 weeks. As a business/inspirational/self help genre kind of a person, it is not so difficult for me. The hard part is applying the lessons that I learned or asking the question, “so what now?”.

Every book or experience that I encounter, I try to ask the following:

  1. What is God telling me?
  2. How should I react?
  3. What should I do now that I know this truth/fact?

Through Caroline Miller’s Getting Grit, I realized that:

1. I am not that strong.

It was my first time to be hospitalized this year. It was unexpected and a part of it was because of my own folly. Everything seems to crumble. I couldn’t think clearly as well. I panicked and gave up easily. I doubted if my decisions were right.

2. Our culture isn’t motivating us to get grittier.

We are used to living a comfortable life. We want other people to make us special. Everything seems easier. We are paying attention to endurance less and less.

This is evident in our food choices (mostly quick & easy food which leads to fast food or restaurant delivery), transportation choices (hello uber/grab) and leisure time (internet 24/7). Sadly these choices lead us also to higher turnover rates in offices and several career shifts in a span of 3 years! A little pain and we want to get out right away!

3. We need to cultivate the right kind of pain.

What I experienced is a stubborn type of pain. The one that I should have avoided have I taken caution.

What we should experience is the right kind of pain. Growth pain is obtained as we strive to push harder. This type of pain will enable us to achieve many things. This type of pain is the kind of pain that athletes obtain when they train for a marathon. It will be the one that will enable us to stretch our limits.

4. We can only cultivate growth pains if we are passionate in what we do.

It all goes back to our purpose/ mission in life. What do we truly care about? Answering the question “What am I here for?” Or “What is my purpose in life?” Will definitely make us ponder.

Without passion, it is too hard to connect with others about the importance of your mission and convince them to help you get on board. – Caroline Miller

When we don’t know which way to go, we are less likely to persevere. We tend to waste more time on leisure and unimportant stuff. We are also less likely to influence other people.

As I’ve shared previously, it is important to seek God and learn His will for our lives. That is always the starting point!

5. We need to make a conscious effort to develop grit.

Now that we know our mission, we need to work hard to guard it! Have a “mastermind group” where you can share your learnings. In turn, they will also share their experiences. Surround yourself with “gritty people”. You want to head in the same direction–and that is you want to grow and become better in your craft and spheres of influence.

Be consistent. This life is not a sprint. We are in a marathon! Develop good and healthy habits!

Success doesn’t come overnight. More so, the world’s kind of success is different to what God says.

I realized that it is difficult to measure progress and yet as I moved along, things seem to get clearer.

Last August, I was challenged to write, share my photographs and thoughts. I started posting articles on this blog despite the imperfection.

I also climbed Mount Pulag for the first time!

I learned that we should be comfortable with being uncomfortable!

I hope as we end this year, we will think of ways on how we can become grittier. We don’t have to do a lot of things to make a difference. We just need to do the right things that are in line with the way God created us.

As we start another year, let us strive to pursue worthwhile goals and make the most of our lives.

Happy New Year’s eve!