“Suspended” Books: A Brain Food Charity Idea

I woke up to this early this morning in my Facebook news feed. It was originally shared by one of my high school friends, and having found it a powerful and moving testament to the hunger for knowledge in impoverished kids in this country, I shared it with my other friends and got so many wonderful responses from them.

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Photo from YouScoop, by R. Sedricke Lapuz

It all started with this picture posted Monday on the YouScoop Facebook page. The picture, taken and submitted by Ralph Sedrick Lapuz, was taken inside the Booksale branch in Pedro Gil Street, Manila. This is the YouScoop caption posted with it:Bibili lamang si YouScooper Sedricke Lapuz ng aklat nang makita niyang nagbabasa sa loob ng isang Booksale sa Pedro Gil, Maynila ang isang batang pulubi. Kitang-kita sa mukha ng bata ang saya habang nagbabasa nang malakas at tumitingin sa mga larawan. Nilapitan ni Sedricke ang bata at tinanong kung marunong ba siyang magbasa. “Kaunti lamang po,” sagot ng bata.

Ikinatuwa ni Sedricke na may mga batang salat man sa yaman, nais pa ring matuto. Matapos nilang mag-usap, naisip niyang bilhin ang alinmang librong magustuhan ng bata. Hiling niya, nawa’y matulungan ang bata.

UPDATE: Kuha ito mula sa Booksale, Pedro Gil. Para sa mga gustong tumulong sa kanya, i-PM po sa amin ang inyong pangalan at contact details upang mabalitaan namin kayo. Maraming salamat, YouScoopers!

This post generated a lot of interest in the young boy, whom we later found out is named MJ, with offers to send him more books and help for education pouring in even days after the initial posting. I felt compelled to chime in the thread, so strong was the message that this single picture left me: That in this country where the poor live and die every day with little hope to rise above their poverty, we can only count on education to make this dream possible.

I certainly laud the attention this young boy is receiving, but then again, I can’t help but feel that perhaps, more can be done for kids like him. There are more MJs out there, many more like him who hunger for knowledge. But go to any bookstore in town and you will see that books are expensive and often out of their reach. Grinding poverty has deprived them of the opportunity to read, much more own, even just a single book.

Hand holding a book

“A book is a gift you can open again and again.”
~Garrison Keillor

And this is where my thinking has led me- to the idea of a suspended book, much like the concept of suspended coffees* that started in Naples and has slowly moved across the globe.

Someone can come in, say, to a Booksale branch, buy a book and leave it there, to be given to a child who can’t afford to buy his own book. An inspiring note slipped inside the book will make it more personal. The branch can monitor pick-ups by having the kids sign in for a book if they can write or dictate their name if they can’t. Maybe they can even take a picture of the child with the book. A child can come it at least once a week for a free book, if he really wants to. I don’t know how this will work in practical terms but it sounds simple enough, provided Booksale agrees to it. Also, it would be better to identify which branches of Booksale has a larger walk-in market for children like MJ so anonymous book donors will be sure their contributions reach their target recipients. At the same time, Booksale can help guide donors to get books that children really like and read.

Lest we forget, we must mention our gratitude to Booksale for their kindness. Not many businesses will allow barefoot, ill-dressed children in their premises for fear of turning off their paying customers. This particular branch has more conscience than most and we commend them for it.

As I went further through the thread, I found another link to a picture (see below) taken by a Facebook user named Joseph T. Gonzales. This one was taken in the sidewalks of a National Bookstore branch in Recto Ave., Manila. I’m glad Booksale isn’t the only one with a heart. There is hope for us, after all. 🙂

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Photo by Joseph T. Gonzales, from Facebook

Kindness, I believe, is part of the Filipino soul. Giving a book to a child is a kindness that will reap its own reward someday. With the gift of a book, we open our hearts and give new hope to our nation’s future. Every little bit helps. 🙂


*Suspended coffee- a cup of coffee paid for in advance as an anonymous act of charity (source: Wikipedia)


I am “aBook” Lover

Thought I’d share this wonderful picture I saw on Facebook. It comes from an equally wonderful cartoon site called Wrong Hands by John Atkinson. I’m adding his site to my favorite links because all of his cartoons are funny and witty. Here’s one that speaks to me.

I am eBook convert but I will always be “aBook” lover. 🙂


Zombie Apocalypse

Not one to like chick lit (I.e., the way the genre is defined now, with shallow, deceitful women who obsess about appearance and consumerism), I read the first Shopaholic book and promised myself NEVER ever to read another of Kinsella’s books again. To be fair, I gave it a chance. I did finish the book and I had every intention of putting out an objective review. At the end of those sorry pages, however, my neurons were screaming in anguish and pain, making every second of the hour I gave up for it seem like endless masochism. I won’t pretend I don’t like the occasional light reading every now and then, but give me Baby Blues anytime. Wanda and Darryl kick Becky Bloomwood’s behind any day of the week (and twice on Sundays, as my husband likes to say).

Now if I were looking for some fun, mindless droll, I’d much rather read this:


If you’re really into zombies, however, how about you go for these two as required reading? The television series “The Walking Dead” may have tested your gore stamina but good old-fashioned book knowledge may spell the difference between survival and annihilation in a zombified world.



Think you can make a run for it? I’d hate for this to happen to you…


(This is another iPad test post, courtesy of Kittymama.)

Kindling My Book Desires

The weekend  is almost over in this part of the world but I feel tired as ever. I’ve been coughing and hacking all weekend, unable to get even a stretch of decent sleep. This nasty bug just seems to get worse each day. Hot liquids down my itchy throat only help for a while and I really do not want to take anything stronger than lagundi syrup (an herbal medicine extracted from the plant of the same name, Vitex Negundo L.) for now. I hate colds but I hate coughs even more. I feel my neck straining each time I cough. So aside from the discomfort in my throat, I also worry about the pain in my neck, which feels much like I’ve slept on one side much too long when I’ve hardly slept at all.

Last night, I stayed up half the night tending to this cough and, to keep my sanity, reading in bed. I am halfway through The Dragon Keeper by Robin Hobb and I am absolutely hooked. Of course there were times when sleep seemed ready to take over my tired mind, but this blasted coughing kept me awake. Good thing I didn’t drop the Kindle in my face again, like I did the other night. You know how you’re reading in bed and you can doze off and drop the book in your face? Well, that happened to me twice already and I do have a small bruise in my forehead to show for it.  

The Dragon Keeper is the  first in the Rain Wild Chronicles (Dragon Haven is the second, released in March 2010 this year). There’s a summary on Wikipedia in case you’re interested, but nowhere does the summary make up for the breathtaking way the book takes you in its journey among the lives of its characters. I really love how Ms. Hobb fleshes out her characters; her words make my imagination soar. Even as I am not yet finished, I have already set my eye on Dragon Haven (USD14.99) at Amazon’s Kindle store.

I’ve only just begun to like e-Books, thanks to my husband’s understanding and appreciation of my personal tastes in books. (What can I say? He really does know me.) If you’ve ever been inside my house, you’ll find this to be true- as much as Hello Kitty rules my domain and Sylvanian Families threaten to take over, my house is literally split in the seams with REAL books. There are books under the bed, on top of tables and dressers, on the floor, inside the china cabinets (oh, no, I don’t collect fine china, just books), inside luggage and old bags, and just about anywhere we can put them. The basement library, after almost 19 years of marriage, is still in shambles, as I put more books than the shelves can carry. I also have books in storage, in Alphonse’s schoolhouse, waiting for space. And even as I seem to simply shift them around the house in an effort to control their dominion over our living space, I buy more books on a weekly basis. My books are loved and appreciated and read and reread. Thus, the Kindle was an unexpected gift I didn’t expect to take a liking to but I did.

Oh, I’ve heard and read all the arguments in favor of e-Book devices but have never been actually convinced they were the future of reading.  Portable, handy, space-saving and all the virtues of modern technology aside, they seemed so artificial to me at first. The truth is I’m really more of a paper kind of a girl. I love the smell of paper- the mustiness of old, yellowed pages and the clean, crisp smell of new ones. I love the texture of paper- the smoothness of new sheets and the fine aged crinkles of old ones. I’d be the last person in the world to give up my books. But I do have to admit that I have taken a complete turnabout on this one, convinced as I am of the Kindle’s ease of use, the amazing interface quality that allows for hour and hours of reading without eye strain, and the accessibility of thousands of books via Amazon’s online store at any one time without ever leaving the comforts of my home.

 But you know what really clinched the deal for me? The Kindle makes for good company when Alphonse is around. Alphonse (you already know him by his supervillain alter-ego, Havoc) destroys books and paper on sight, like a nuclear warhead locked straight on its target. Camouflaging my stacks of books has always stressed me tremendously. Just a few weeks ago, having caught a glimpse of Max Brooks’ World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War peeking under my pillows, he destroyed the cover page with ferocious speed and strength. Then he had John Grogan’s Marley and Me in his grip even before I could take another breath, splitting the book into two equal parts. I no longer strut out my books in his presence, taking them out only when he is fast asleep and making sure I have them under tight cover before he wakes up. With the Kindle, I can breathe easy for a while, enjoying a book even as Alphonse keeps me company.

For old fogies like me, it’s not always easy to like new things. Some things may seem superfluous in this already material-addicted world. But the Kindle is one thing I am glad I do have. It won’t ever replace my books, but I think it’ll become my second best friend for a long time. 🙂

150 The Ateneo Way

Originally published in BusinessWorld Weekender, August 27-28, 2009

ateneo-book-early-eagle-flyer-updated2-230x300FOR MOST of my life, there has always been an Atenean (or two, or three) in the family. My brothers went to the Ateneo Grade School and High School, and one of them went on to Ateneo College and law school. Add to them a younger sister, cousins, and even in-laws, and so when it comes to UAAP games, it’s easy enough to decide which color shirt we’re all sporting. Me? I was partial to green, that being the uniform of the girls across the creek, or brown (my distinctive high school skirt), or even maroon (my university colors), but I married into blue, anyway. My husband, like his paternal grandfather before him, is an Atenean, and like life going full circle, we have a son who wears the blue and white proudly like second skin.

So, imagine, if you can, opening a book filled with pictures and accounts 150 way 01from a time long gone and finding that despite the 100 or more years that separate you from the beginnings of this shared history, you can actually still feel a kinship with them. It’s almost like coming home.

150: The Ateneo Way is a rare coffee-table book that goes beyond mere illustrations and superfluous conversation. As most books of the genre go, it has close to 300 pages of photographs and paintings culled from university archives and carefully preserved collections of Ateneo alumni. But unlike ordinary picture books, 150: The Ateneo Way tells a compelling story, beginning with 10 Jesuit missionaries who braved the harsh oceans and battled high winds to find their way back to the Philippines. Theirs was meant to be a mission of evangelization — to preach the Gospel and convert the heathen in the wild mountains of Mindanao. And yet, this same vision became the foundation of a different kind of life’s work — the education of young minds — and one which will endure 150 years of history and change.

Fr. Jose Arcilla, professor at the Department of History of the Ateneo de Manila University and archivist of the Philippine Province of the Society of Jesus, whittles down more than a century of Jesuit history in the country into a montage of pictures and well-written narrative. His writing, though muted and circumspect, evokes a vividness to the events that transformed society. From the Jesuits’ return to the country in 1859 after almost a century of exile, to their establishment of the Escuela Municipal de Manila borne from the humble Escuela Pia, through wars and strife, transitions and relocations, and innovation and change, Fr. Arcilla deftly threads the history of Ateneo de Manila with the Spirit that fuels the institution.

150 way 02The illustrations, in photographs and paintings, are truly riveting. Readers are most likely to linger on the ones in sepia or black and white as their clarity and sharpness are amazing for pictures of their age. Additional treatment, like isolated color tints over monochromes, enhances the drama and focus of the pictures. From stunning panoramic views of the campuses and their surroundings to up-close-and-personal photographs of generations of men and boys whose lives became the cornerstone of the institution’s history, each and every photograph tells a story unique to its time and age. There is much of history’s painful moments to see within these pages as there is also much joy and celebration found within it, bound, most importantly, with the call to His service.

The book is a product of three years’ labor and collaboration by Fr. Arcilla and editors Alfred A. Yuson and Alya B. Honasan, with a foreword from the President of the Ateneo de Manila, Fr. Ben Nebres. Published by the Ateneo de Manila University and Media Wise Communications, Inc. in honor of Ateneo’s sesquicentennial year, this is perhaps one of the most enduring commemorative legacies of the celebration, one that will carry on long after our own memories have faded away.

A Common Journey

It was my sister who first put the words “autism” and “Alphonse” together in one sentence. She mentioned it before anyone else, before even my son’s pediatrician.

when autism came 01

Alphonse at 18 months old

She was still in medical school then. She had been playing with her nephew for a few hours that day when she stopped and looked at me. “Ate, I think there’s something different about Alphonse,” she said slowly, weighing her words carefully.

My reactions, as expected, were instinctive, a mother grizzly defending her cub. When you have an absolutely gorgeous fourteen-month-old child, you’re loath to believe anything can be wrong with him. “There’s absolutely nothing different with him,” I brushed her off, hoping the tone of my voice would be enough to dissuade her.

“But, ah, ehm, have you heard of autism?” she persisted, her voice quivering. “Well, you see, we just had a lecture on it and, uhm, I have my Nelson here and…” (Nelson is the Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics.)

“Yes, I have, but what does it have to do with Alphonse?” I distinctly remember feeling hot and faint at that moment. My voice was slowly turning shrill, as hysteria and anger started setting in.

“Well, I think he has it. He might be high-functioning, you know…” I didn’t give her time to continue as I scooped Alphonse in my arms, glared at her malevolently, and left the room. How dare she! My very own sister!

In the weeks that followed, however, her words gave me the impetus to observe and look at my son with a more clinical and objectivwhen autism came 02e eye. Alphonse was adorable and chubby and cute and everything infants and toddlers were. It was gut-wrenching to acknowledge the things he did as anything other than “normal.” Flapping. Toe-walking. Spinning. Walking in circles. Loss of eye contact. Loss of language. By then, it simply was too difficult to deny anymore.

We all have taken those steps toward the realization that our children are different from their peers. Mine started that way, on one seemingly innocent afternoon that changed the entire course of our lives. In Valerie Paradiz’ and son Elijah Wapner’s lives, things were more turbulent, even more frightening, as Elijah, then only two, was afflicted with seizures. As terrifying as the idea of a child retreating into his own world is, even more frightening to parents is the prospect of watching helplessly as their child battles the demons of his own body.


Valerie Paradiz and son Elijah

Valerie and Elijah’s journey is as unique as Alphonse’s and mine, and as that of any other parent and child with a diagnosis on the spectrum. But I am in awe of their story, of their struggle and growth, and of their love and acceptance, as their journey marked not only milestones for their family, but for the larger community of individuals with autism all over the world. In Valerie’s quest to help her son, she finds a way to help others as well. How she translated her life’s work as teacher and writer into a vocation of reaching out to individuals with autism through appropriate education and self-empowerment is truly amazing.

Ms. Paradiz is one of four major speakers at Autism Society Philippines 11th National Conference this year. She will also conduct a day-long seminar on Integrated Planning and Teaching Menus on October 26 as follow-up to the conference. As pioneer of innovative educational programs for individuals in the spectrum, she will impart with us her experiences and knowledge in encouraging learning in our children. Specifically intended to parents and professionals, she speaks not only as a teacher and parent, but also as one with Asperger’s Syndrome herself. Her insights are valuable as she treads between our world and our children’s, with the hope of making them one.

This year, the theme “Autism Beyond Borders” is particularly apt in light of our efforts to cross cultures, languages, and, with hearts full of hope, prejudices and biases. Indeed, autism is no longer a single experience limited to those who live with it. Today, autism is all over the globe, reaching many families from all walks of life. Mine is one of them, Valerie Paradiz’ another. I embrace her as a fellow sister in our common journey.


Recommended Reading: Elijah’s Cup: A Family’s Journey Into The elijah's cupCommunity And Culture Of High-Functioning Autism And Asperger’s Syndrome by Valerie Paradiz

Autism Beyond Borders (where HOPE prevails), Autism Society Philippines 11th National Conference will be on October 24 and 25, 2009 at the SMX. A two-day post-conference lecture series (whole day sessions with Ms. Valerie Paradiz and Mr. Toshihiro Ogimura) follows on October 26 and 27, 2009 at the Skydome, SM North EDSA. Register now to avail of early bird fees, now until September 30 only. 

On My Bookshelf (Part 2)

As of January 29, 2008

I finally cleared my shelf off of books from January 8, except for the last one, Mao by Jung Chang and Jon Halliday. I picked up a few more books since then, including a crochet instructions book called The Happy Hooker. I’ve been meaning to pick up on my crocheting again as it is definitely kinder on my eyes than cross-stitching, my favorite craft. In between pages of Mao and trebles of crochet, I read a chapter or two of the late David Gemmell’s Troy: Lord of the Silver Bow. Oh, my, wish every day was a day like this.