Lady sea captain rides the storm

Capt. Maria Kristina ‘Che’ Javellana has come a long way from the slums of Silay City to a place she can call her own in Cavite.


Water always played a big role in Capt. Maria Kristina ‘Che’ Javellana’s life. She grew up in a slum area in Silay City, Negros  Occidental, which went underwater whenever a typhoon struck.

The family had to rescue the pigs and chicken they raised and hurriedly take them to the rooftop.

Even back then, the future captain saw opportunity in adversity.

She and her friends treated their flooded home as a swimming pool where they spent happy days frolicking and trading stories and jokes.

Little did she know that playing in that make-believe pool will teach her to look at the bright side when things go wrong.

She didn’t know that climbing their home’s rooftop amidst heavy rain will teach her grit.

Little did she know that playing with fellow squatters’ children – some of whom were drug addicts and petty thieves – will teach her to get along with anyone, even wayward ones.

Fortunately, her young misguided friends didn’t force  Javellana to be one of them. They were happy just playing all sorts of games with her.

Most of these friends were boys whom she played  baril-barilan  with using found items like bamboo and old newspapers, out there in the wide open playground that is the streets.

Again, little did Javellana know that a happy childhood spent playing games in the streets prepared her to get along with anyone she meets on board. She grew up feeling comfortable in groups and blending with the crowd.

Mingling with boys and playing games with them  made it easy for her to feel comfortable in a ship where males outnumber females.

“I  don’t wear stilettos.  I must come  in men’s shoes,” she smiles.

This knack for getting along allowed her to oversee sea personnel, recruitment and training programs with the confidence of someone who loves interacting with all kinds of people.

Meanwhile, frequenting her neighbor’s homes to chat or share a meal made Javellana wise beyond her years.  Javellana – the product of a broken home – found solace and guidance in her neighbors’ words of wisdom.

They encouraged her to pursue her dreams.  And their colorful stories taught Javellana to smile even if she, like them, live in the not-so-comfortable part of town.

When she reached college age, it was time to bid her childhood home a temporary good-bye. Javellana studied at  Maritime Academy of Asia and the Pacific (MAAP) in Bataan from 2001 to 2005.

It was here where she developed the patience and the discipline of waiting to get what she wants. She learned to wait until the next vacation  – like Christmas  break – to reunite with her family.

Instead of whining, Javellana did the next best thing.  She grabbed the chance to form a new, bigger family on board.

“It was such a great opportunity that I became a Kamaya Pointer (MAAP is located in Kamaya Point, Bgy. Alas-asin, Mariveles, Bataan). I had brothers and sisters while we are studying. The bond and camaraderie are way beyond that of friends,” she recalls.

Today, the 33-year-old master mariner treats each challenge, not as a burden, but a temporary bump on the road.  She gladly took on the role of family breadwinner – sending her siblings and a niece to school – because a seafarer’s salary allows her to save.

Thanks to her, the family left the slums of Silay long ago and now live in a house they call their own in Imus, Cavite.

After all, family is everything to her.

“They’re my source of strength. When all else fails, – family will always be there,” Javellana explains.

For them, she can look fear in the eye and treat it as “something you inflict on your mind to make you insecure and less confident.”

Javellana can’t ask for more.

She’s blessed with a happy family.  Her career allows her to provide for her loved ones.  But it’s not all pesos and centavos.

Fulfillment is just as important.  And for her, it comes “whenever you finish your contract safely.”

She’s happy when people and cargo entrusted under her care reach their destination in the best shape possible.

The journey may be tough, especially when Javellana signed on the dotted line as a Master for the first time. But  she took the challenges as a learning experience, the way she did as a little girl who turned the flooded area around her home into a ‘swimming pool’ that spelled hours of fun for her and her playmates.

This never-say-die spirit is the stuff captains like her are made of  – With Aido Sepeda.




Art as investment

Two boys with fish by Paco Gorospe from Transwing Art Gallery

Good art, like wine, appreciates with time.

Oliver Phil Quingco II, long-time curator of Transwing Art Gallery and managing editor of says works by painter-printmaker Romulo Olazo and the late Mauro Malang Santos or simply  Malang  are bound to double, even triple in price as time passes.

“Needless to say, a dead artist’s works always increase in value by reason of limited supply,” he adds.

Those who can’t afford an Olazo or  Malang need not lose hope, however.  Quingco says an upwardly mobile millennial  who wants to invest in art needs at least only P5,000 to start his collection.  He can check out affordable art fairs such as Art in the Park every April in Makati,  ManilArt every October at SM Aura,  every April and October at World Trade Center, ManilaFame every April at World Trade Center, Artwalk at the fifth level of  SM Megamall at least once a month.

Entrance  to these art fairs is free, or at most, a reasonable P50 to P100 per person.

The art collector can also check out competitions open to the public  like Metrobank’s annual art awards  for young painters, sculptors, architects and interior designers.

Bank of the Philippines, as part of the Ayala Group of companies, has a respectable collection of works by Filipino masters and contemporary artists.

Far East Bank and Trust Company’s donation of long-lost Juan Luna paintings are displayed at the National Museum of the Philippines.

Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas has quite a large collection of artworks.

Oliver points out that these financial institutions’ dedication to art shows how valuable it is, not only in terms of historical and social importance, but as an asset which may be quantifiable in peso value.

Oliver shares  a few tips on collecting art:

  1. Since art is subjective, start off your collection by buying that which interests you (always within your budget).
  2. If it’s a contemporary work, keep tabs on the artist to see how he progresses and grows as in his craft.
  3. When buying art, get a certificate of authentication signed by the artist as much as possible. You will appreciate this in the future when the artist is no longer around and the certificate is the only way to prove it’s authentic.
  4. Take good care of your art collection. Keep it in a well-ventilated space, away from direct sunlight and moisture. Works on canvas are sturdier while works on paper are fragile. Works on paper should be mounted on acid-free matting, chemically treated frames and framed in anti-UV glass for longer life. Unless specifically made for outdoors, treat sculptures in the same way you would paintings.
  5. Visiting galleries, museums and art fairs will expand your knowledge and refine your taste.
  6. As your art collection grows, make a catalogue where all the photos, certificates and information about each piece and artist is filed. You’ll have the papers you need should you decide to sell or give away all or a part of your collection.

If you make the right choices, you can turn your art collection into a priceless investment that will see you through uncertain times.

And it doesn’t matter whether you’re a millennial or a baby boomer. It’s never too early or too late to invest in art. After all, like most good things, art  transcends boundaries of age, time and space.




Surviving Maritime Academy

Maritime academies are designed with semi-regimented or military training

By Bea del Rio

The maritime industry in the Philippines is sailing—pun intended. Several maritime academies offer scholarships for applicants who pass their admission test, fitness and medical test, and interview. Usually sponsored by shipping companies and agencies, government and unions, these academies give cadets or midshipmen sure employment after graduation. It is thus understandable how more and more of our countrymen want to enter the industry.

Third Engineer Sergio O. Ramos III, graduate of Maritime Academy of Asia and the Pacific (MAAP) Class of 2015 Cum Laude and Fleet Commander of their class, shares his insights on surviving—and excelling—in any maritime academy.

Prepare your body

Most academies require a physical test. This includes fitness and medical tests. Doing simple exercises such as jogging and push-ups regularly before the test will greatly help.  It is also important to know that maritime academies are designed with semi-regimented training or military training. So aside from hierarchy and ranks, expect it to have rigorous physical training. The first stage—the plebehood—is, as they say the hardest. You will have to adapt to the tough training; to things like waking up at 4 in the morning, doing daily exercise, and following strict formation that will test your endurance. So it’s highly advantageous to be physically prepared.

Prepare your mind

According to Ramos, one of the main challenges he encountered upon entering MAAP was adjusting to the transformation from  civilian to  military/cadet life. The main difference between the military and civilian life is  lack of freedom. This means that as a cadet, you have to follow a strict set of rules. You have to do a given set of things at a given time, and execute them exactly as demanded.

“Yes, it’s hard. I’ve seen it with my own eyes,”  Ramos shares. “During our fourth class year,there were a lot who weren’t able to make it because they thought it wasn’t for them; that they couldn’t do it. But no. Most of the time, it’s not really about the body, but about the mind. When it

comes to physical training, always remember that what the mind can conceive, the body can achieve.”

Know  your “Why”

Whether it be for greener pastures,  passion,  family, or for country, always keep in mind why you’re there in the first place.

Ramos states, “Based on my experience and observations, majority of those who enter the maritime academy don’t really want to be a marine. It’s not because they want to be captains or chief engineers. Some enter because of financial problems, or for a  brighter future because it is said that seamen earn more, or because they were pressured by their parents. Whatever it is, be sure you know what you really want before you enter. Because that’s your purpose. It will help you survive.”

Self-Discipline and Time management.

Although the physical training is important, it is first and foremost an academy, so keep in mind that academics are just as significant. Aside from not being able to keep up physically, a lot of people fail due to academic reasons, or more accurately, because they can’t find the balance between physical and academic training.

For the consistent dean’s lister and member of the prestigious Honor Board committee, Silent Drill Company, and Marathon Fleet Squad, the key to overcoming this is not much of a secret:

“Just have self-discipline and manage your time wisely. First step is to identify the set of things you have to do, and then do them, as competently as possible, and without excuses. It’s as simple as that.”

Take it one step at a time

Ramos tells us that “Although there are some whose body are really ready for strenuous exercises, I assure you that the majority of the fourth class is actually not physically prepared. That means you are there to train, not to be tested.”

He explains further that this means you are there to continuously improve; to push yourself and test your limits. It is normal to feel weak or frustrated at first. The important thing is to keep going.

“Just don’t quit. Take one day at a time. At the start of the day, be grateful that you are given the chance to train and improve. And at the end of the day, be grateful that you survived.”

Be friendly.

The people you will meet upon entering the academy will most probably be those who will stick with you through thick and thin, or at least until the end of your days there. So do not isolate yourself. Be friendly and get to know the people around you. You’ll learn a lot from them. It will also help you enjoy your maritime life. Having worked in Oil/Chemical Tankers,  Ramos says this is also crucial when you’re already working aboard ships. You will learn that camaraderie is the most important thing when you’re stuck at sea with the same set of people for a long time.

Observe, especially during fourth class or your first year in the academy.

Although obeying rules is essential, it doesn’t mean you’re just going to do things automatically without thinking. Be mindful of your surroundings, the situation, and the people around you. Be sure to always be present at the moment, and learn to think on your feet. You’ll find that doing so will make things a lot easier for you.

Contrary to what you may think, your time at a maritime academy isn’t just about the physical and academic hardships, though it may seem like it at first.

As Ramos said, “Maritime academy is a journey. Strive to learn the lessons little by little. Use that time to strengthen your belief, whatever it may be. Despite the many challenges, you’ll learn to appreciate your academy life—and even enjoy it.”



Magsaysay scholar gives back

Lawyer Zharmai Garcia sees herself still volunteering for the program while fighting  courtroom battles in years to come.

Whether she’s in a courtroom litigating or on the ground doing the leg work for her cases, feisty yet soft-spoken lawyer Zharmai Garcia  seizes every opportunity to give back to the marginalized.

This fellow at the Center for International Law (CENTERLAW), a firm that handles public interest cases and libel defense, among others, has the brains and the heart of someone who identifies with the needy.  Continue reading “Magsaysay scholar gives back”

Three trips and a learning journey: My Anvaya Cove Story

I’ve been to Anvaya Cove  thrice. And those trips are all meaningful on different levels.

First one is  socially meaningful: To celebrate deep friendships and fraternal  ties

LesMiz82 @Anvaya 2012
This photo was taken 30 years since we,  as energetic  and  purpose-driven lads, each randomly decided to accept an invitation to join an exclusive all-boys “network”.  

While that  memento may not  exactly reflect an image of the World’s Who’s Who, it  would be enough for each of us to be proud of  each other’s personal and professional achievements.

Continue reading “Three trips and a learning journey: My Anvaya Cove Story”

Why Formative Assessment Makes You Learn Faster

Recent studies in education highlights the impact of formative assessment on students’ learning.

Formative assessment is “a process that takes place continuously during the course of teaching and learning to provide teachers and students with feedback to close the gap between current learning and desired goals” (Heritage, 2010, p. 10).

When implemented in teaching, it begins when the learner and teacher understands the target of the learning. The present performance of the student is determined in relation to the goal. The students and  teacher then take action to move the learner closer towards the goal bringing about progress in their learning. Continue reading “Why Formative Assessment Makes You Learn Faster”

Fighting loneliness at sea


Source: Pexels

By Maridol Ranoa-Bismark

There’s something about the vast blue sea that makes seasoned mariners suddenly feel like a solitary bird flying alone in the sky.  The silence is deafening; the endless expanse of blue so alienating you feel like plunging headlong into the waters and swimming right back home to your family.

Life coach-psychotherapist Dr. Randy Dellosa explains why the sea and the ocean tend to drown us in that I’m-alone-in-this-world feeling.

“The seas and oceans can be associated with family beach vacations. Hence, it can make the seafarer homesick.  Also, the thrill and enjoyment of seeing and being in the ocean fades and becomes a monotonous sight because of the constant exposure,” he says.

No wonder the phrase “feeling blue” is equated to loneliness, that feeling of being left out with no one to turn to.    It’s also linked to sadness.

If it’s any consolation, most seafarers share this feeling.  Dellosa explains that they’re away from loved ones and/or friends. Yes, they have company on board.  But not all of them are people they’re comfortable with.

Work-related stress which they can’t take a break from, adjusting to workmates of different nationalities, and diversions on board, like alcohol can make things worse.

So these seafarers still feel lonely, even in a crowd. Yes, Dellosa says.  They can have fun,  be happy even.  But loneliness creeps in again once the lights are out, they’re  alone on their bed, and everybody has called it a day.

“Lonely people feel a decrease in energy , motivation, focus, and self-confidence.  Their appetite may suffer and they may experience shallow, unrestful sleep.  Not only do they feel sad. They may also feel irritable, anxious, or more stressed.  They have a tendency to ruminate on worrisome thoughts,” observes Dellosa.

He warns that intense loneliness can spiral out of control and cause clinical depression which requires medical and psychological treatment.

It becomes terribly harder on special occasions like a loved one’s birthday, anniversaries, Valentine’s Day, Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve.

How do you fight loneliness?  Dr. Dellosa’s tips:

  • The most important thing to remember is not to wallow in loneliness. Feel the loneliness so as not to suppress it. After a few seconds of feeling it, imagine breathing the loneliness out of your system. Then focus on work and other distractions.
  • Interact and engage with people on board. Nothing increases loneliness than isolating yourself. Male seafarers must keep clear of boundaries with females to prevent infidelity.
  • Spirituality helps people understand their difficult situations from a higher perspective. On board, people can maintain a personal schedule for prayer and Bible study time.
  • Connect with friends and loved ones through social media or other means whenever internet signals are available.

Smart’s Marino All Aboard SIM

 The good news is that Smart Communications Inc. came up with a way to fight crushing loneliness among Filipino seafarers around the world.   It’s called the Marino All Abroad SIM.

The leader in mobile teamed up with Magsaysay Maritime Corp. to give its seafarers  the most affordable, dependable means to stay connected with loved ones.

The Smart All Abroad SIM, a new prepaid roaming SIM for seafarers, has a downloadable dialer that lets you call, text or send email to the Philippines and other countries at reasonable rates.

All you have to do is download the All Abroad app from the Apple App Store or Google Play Store. Then fill out the registration form by entering your complete name and a confirmation number you’ll get via SMS. Remember to turn on your phone’s data roaming and mobile data services to avail of the program.

The All Abroad SIM is automatically set to ‘roam’ at no cost to the user. A regular SMS or email with a maximum of 100,000 characters starts at  PHP2 only, while calls cost only PHP8 per minute.

You may also subscribe to Smart’s P300 call or text buckets, which provides SMS at only PHP1 per message and PHP3 per minute of calls for Smart, TnT and Sun.

And once the All Abroad SIM is loaded, you can ‘convert’ the regular load to All Abroad Load.

Now who says seafarers can’t beat that monster called loneliness?

Check out the Smart Marino FB page.


What’s your learning style?

Do you learn best with the radio on?

Do you switch from a book to your favorite TV program while studying for an exam the next day?

Are you the type who picks up a colored highlighter now and then to underline an important part of a book or notebook?

Are you into lots of note taking  and hands-on experiments?

Or do you remember more if you pace the room or go out for a walk  now and then?

Not all of us learn the same way.  It’s different strokes for different folks, even when it comes to learning.

This is because people have different learning styles.   They may be  aural, visual, tactile and kinesthetic.


Source:   Pics4Learning

Visual learners love highlighting important parts of a text in color.  They like to make bullet lists  and  learn more when descriptive words are used.  Pie charts, infographics and diagrams work well with them.  Around 60 per cent of students fall under this category.

They remember faces but not names.

Auditory learners are the types who listen to music when studying. They thrive on everything verbal — reciting information out loud again and again, group discussions,  listening to recordings, spoken instructions, etc. They remember names but not faces.

So let them sing along, play a musical instrument, record voices, etc.  They’ll learn more in no time at all!

Tactile learners love feeling things — a pen, pieces of paper, the subject of an experiment.  Let them take down lots of notes, doodle, and be hands-on in projects, demos and lab experiments.  Let them handle puzzles, Lego blocks and soft clay or play dough, and solve Rubik’s Cubes.   Allow them to tinker with engines, get down and dirty fixing pipes and others.

The key is to let them touch things to make them learn faster.

Finally, kinesthetic learners are the ones who love to get physical and stay active. They have so much energy,  long lectures bore them.  Give them lots of opportunities to exercise, dance, walk and move around.  Physical games are great for these kinds of people. Their place of study must not be cramped with tables, chairs and other pieces of furniture.  Light bean bags which they can move around are best for these types of learners.

Now, which of these four are you?



Let your children play outside the classroom

This is a repost from David Evans

Every year, a child lives 8,760 hours (that’s 24 hours times 365 days). Let’s say she sleeps 9 hours a night. That leaves 5,475 hours awake. How many of those does she spend in school?

Official compulsory instructional time for primary school ranges from under 600 hours (Russia) to nearly 1,200 hours (Costa Rica) in the OECD database. Actual days may be significantly fewer with school closures and teacher absenteeism. In many low- and middle-income countries, school days are at the low end of that due to short school days. That means that only between 10 and 20 percent of children’s waking hours are spent in school [1].

At the same time, the World Development Report 2018 argues convincingly that there is a global learning crisis, with too many children failing to learn foundational skills – like functional reading – in school [2]. Clearly there is a need to improve the quality of schooling. But at the same time, why not leverage those other 80 to 90 percent of waking hours?

One way that parents try to use those extra hours is by paying for out-of-school tutoring. This is prevalent in many countries. But because parents pay for private tutoring, it creates a particular burden on the poorest children and their families. And some evidence suggests that it may create disincentives to teach during the school day (since teachers themselves are often tutors), as in Jayachandran (2014).

Save the Children has developed an approach – “life-wide learning” – which seeks to leverage those extra hours with out-of-school literacy activities. The program is called Literacy Boost. Friedlander and Goldenberg (2016) recently published the  results of a randomized controlled trial (RCT) of Literacy Boost in Rwanda, focusing on the early grades of primary education. In the past, Dowd et al. have published non-experimental analysis showing sizeable gains of LB participants relative to comparators in various countries.

Literacy Boost has two main components: teacher training, including training in formative assessment (let’s improve the quality of the time that children are in school) and community action (let’s make literacy activities accessible outside of school). The RCT assigns some students to just the teacher training (TT), others to teacher training plus community action (TT+CA), and others continue with business-as-usual schooling.

What do you mean by teacher training?

The teacher training consists of 6-9 sessions over the course of the school year, carried out on Saturdays or Sundays. The sessions covered topics like “Vocabulary” and “Effective use and management of storybooks in the classroom. Teachers received a travel allowance for participating, since the training took place at one school within a cluster. Literacy Boost would visit teachers in their schools between sessions to help them implement what they had learned, and each training session began with a period of reflection in which teachers brought up challenges they faced since the last session. Training that includes these elements of repeated training combined with coaching has the best chance of success, according to synthesis work that I’ve done in the past (with Popova and Arancibia).

What are these community activities?

Paid community facilitators working with a local NGO (Umuhuza) provided families of students with a 7-session training on “reading awareness,” which includes encouragement and guidance on reading together as well as stimulating oral language skills. They invited volunteers to run Reading Clubs, where children came together read storybooks aloud and play word games. They also organized Reading Buddies, pairing up a competent reader with a struggling reader and letting them borrow books to read together. (This didn’t work so well when organized through schools, since buddies might not live together, so they later revised it to be organized through the Reading Clubs.) The facilitators also put together Reading Festivals, where Reading Clubs would practice reading storybooks and then compete. A donor-funded project provided age-appropriate storybooks.

So, what did Literacy Boost do?

Both the TT and the TT+CA improved reading skills, and TT+CA improved reading by more than TT alone.

Source: Friedlander and Goldenberg (2016)

But it’s still not enough: by the end of the study, more than 30 percent of participating students still didn’t pass a basic literacy threshold. This may not be surprising given that just 20 percent of households participated in the workshops (and only one-third reported being aware of the workshops). Classrooms in both TT and TT+CA sectors had more print materials on their walls. Teachers in those schools scored higher on evaluations of their knowledge, belief, and practices about reading instruction.

Source: Friedlander and Goldenberg (2016)

Students in the TT+CA group had more reading habits and interactions, more reading materials, and more child interest and engagement in reading.

Take away

Literacy Boost hits on the crucial point that children spend relatively little of their time in school, and so if we really care about literacy, it makes sense to leverage those additional hours. The program improves children’s literacy. Whether it’s a cost effective package of interventions relative to other interventions, however, remains to be researched.



The Gruta Rules: My Thoughts on Lifelong Learning

As I sat through my graduation at Annapolis, I could not wait for the ceremony to end on that bright May morning despite the pomp of the occasion and the prestige of the guest speaker, Admiral William Crowe, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. I was eager to throw my hat up in the air as tradition dictated with my 1,012 classmates signifying the end of four years of grueling academics, sports, and military training which I can describe as living on a “war footing.” One of the few things I remember from Admiral Crowe was when he quoted Newton Baker who said, “The man who graduates today and stops learning tomorrow is an uneducated man the day after.”

If anything had an impact on me that day, it was probably that statement. While the US Navy has no shortage of schools to send you to prepare you for a job, I had made it a practice to take advantage of schools while in the government and industry, especially when tuition is covered by the employer. To be competitive, I saw going to class as “rearming and retooling” to possess the initiative when opportunities knock at my door. In fact my youngest daughter asked my wife, “Mom, why don’t you go to school in your spare time like Dad.” As a joke (I hope), my wife answered, “That’s because your Dad is still trying to figure things out…while Mommy already knows everything.”

As after hours education sometimes exacted a heavy toll on life experiences, I have placed a new emphasis on maximizing learning from the best school, experience, whether it’s your own or someone else’s. Books and the classroom are not ends to themselves, but rather supplements to what we learn from our environment, whether it be personal or professional. I often use them in counseling sessions and for self-examination. The following principles are some pearls of wisdom that I list today and will expound upon in future postings. I refer to them as the Gruta Rules:

  1.  It’s all about the execution.
  2.  A great Filipino Party or any party is a source of making  friends with someone.
  3.  Who’s you Daddy, Padrino, etc.
  4.  By all means, use your culture’s strengths to take you to your destination, but neither should you let its weaknesses keep you from it.
  5.  You may not change a situation or some one to favor you, but don’t pass up the opportunity to change your tactics.
  6.  Don’t let induced emotions dominate you. Get ahead.
  7.  Don’t pass up the opportunities to learn from your setbacks, as long as you live.
  8. Evaluate your plans and actions from the perspective of ends, ways and means.

My thanks to the Asian Lifelong Learner for this opportunity to share my thoughts! Meanwhile until my next post, keep your eyes open and your ears to the ground! There’s a lot to gain out there!

– Image by Ash Carter