Author Archives: Julie Fuertes-Custodio

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Taking mobile photos like a pro (well, almost)

Wednesday, 6 April 2016 | Written by
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In the culture of sharing photos and status updates on Social Media sites, one of the most important gadgets to be had these days is a good quality mobile phone camera. For some however, a good quality mobile phone camera just doesn’t make the cut: the camera has to be of superior quality so that none or minimal editing need to be done to the photos intended for online publishing.

Almost gone are the days that people bring with them their compact point-and-shoot cameras or their bulky DSLR cameras for daily photo taking tasks. Not only does it take a lot of effort to transfer files from their cameras to upload online, it is also a hassle to get the cameras out of the bags when opportunities needing photographic skills present themselves unexpectedly. With mobile cameras that are sleek, easy to use and compact with  wifi/3G/LTE capabilities, taking photos and photo sharing has never been as easy as before.

Quality mobile camera

What comprises a good quality mobile camera?

  1. Ease of use. A mobile camera should be easy to use for instances of stealth and agility in taking photos of, for example, a celebrity spotted at the mall, a bird perched on a window sill or the sun setting on the horizon at the beach.
  2. Photo quality. Mobile cameras are now equipped with double-digit megabytes. These megabytes, more often than not, mean clearer photos.
  3. Storage capability. These double-digit megabytes take a lot of memory size so it is best that the mobile camera is equipped with expandable memory or online photo storage to avoid running out of memory space.
  4. Other features: panorama shots, white balance features, macro shot/sports/night and low light features, filters, clear front camera, superior video capacity and quality, slow-motion and time-lapse capabilities.
  5. Affordability. High-end mobile cameras are more expensive than the mid-range mobile cameras. However, a cheaper camera does not necessarily take lower-quality pictures, especially when proper usage is done and its features are utilized well and maximized.

Remember the saying: it is not the “pana” or arrow but the Indian. In short, sometimes, it doesn’t matter if the mobile camera is the most expensive among the lot. If the  user doesn’t know how to use the mobile camera properly, then the photos be short of the expected outcome.

Here are a few tips in taking good mobile photos:

Don’t just point and shoot. Try these handy tips:

* Angle your camera and take photos at an unlikely angle to make your photo unique.

* If you are taking photos of people sitting down, it is best to put the mobile phone above the heads of the sitting people. This way, the bulging middles, which is a big concern, are minimized.

* Avoid taking photos of people where the camera is lower than the head to avoid getting facial “double chins” in the photos.

* To emphasize height, take photos from a lower angle.

* To see the entirety of a place, take panoramic shots.

* If you like to take photos of details, use the macro shot capability of your mobile camera. If there’s none, try to put the mobile camera near the object’s details you want to take photos of and take your shot when the details can be seen clearly on the screen.

* To take clear photos, tap the screen of your mobile camera until the desired clarity is achieved. If it is not possible, try to press lightly on the shutter button until the details are clear.

Crop your photos. Cropping out parts of the photo you’d rather not show or people who are not supposed to be in the photos are just two reasons cropping is essential. Mobile cameras have a few basic functions like cropping and use of filters, among others. Utilize these features. You can also use mobile camera photography apps to help you with the use of cropping tools and filters.

Use natural light. Taking photos outdoors always give clear and crisp photos. If doing a photo shoot at different locations, choose someplace where there is natural light. Mornings give muted colors, noons give crisp natural light while afternoon sun gives shadows and depth to the photos.

julie 4 natural light

Avoid shadows. If you plan to take photos of your food under overhead lights or using natural light, be sure to avoid including your shadow holding your mobile camera included in the photo. Crop that part if it can be done. Or better yet, change the position of the food on the table.

 

Use filters but only minimally so as not to change the overall presentation of the photo.

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Accessorize. Instead of just featuring your cup of coffee latte art, include your ebook gadget or your real book or journal and pen to make it look like you are not just reading a book or writing on your journal, but you are enjoying your cuppa too. Don’t put too many accessories to avoid too much clutter.

Use a plain background like red, black or white. Doing so will make the photos look crisp and uncluttered. The colors will also be more vibrant.

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Go minimal. Minimalist photos will give your photos a little bit of mystery. For example, instead of showing the whole facade of a structure like a church where people are standing in front having their photos taken, focus on the steeple or the belfry or even the closed doors with its intricate design. Take your photo from another angle This way, you won’t be irritated about having objects you’d rather not have show in your photos.

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Look at the background where you will take your photos. You don’t want a wall-mounted deer’s horns protruding out of your dad’s head, nor tree branches looking like these are coming out of someone’s ears, right? Choose an area that is clear of these things. If unavoidable, crop the photo.

Learn your mobile camera’s functions for optimal quality. In short: read and understand the instruction manual. Watch videos on how to utilize your mobile camera’s functions. Experiment. Choose the best photo among your photos for sharing and uploading on your Social Media accounts. You can always delete the photos that are below your standard.

Use a tripod. Now you don’t need to get a tripod for mobile cameras just yet because there are lots of DIY videos that will teach you how to make your own tripod without spending a cent. Try one that fits your mobile camera.

Lastly: HOLD YOUR BREATH when you take a photo. Now, this last tip is what I personally do whenever I take photos, I take a deep breath and hold it in whenever I press the shutter button. Breathing out will make the hands move thus blurring the photo you take. Try it.

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Photo credits: Julie Custodio-Fuertes

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Things to do this summer in places near NCR

Thursday, 10 March 2016 | Written by
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As of today, it has not been officially declared that summer has arrived. And yet, the past few weeks have been so hot  that people are already planning their weekend summer getaways to escape the heat or temporarily forget it even existed.

For the few families who cannot afford to take long vacations to faraway places that they have listed in their bucket list because of the shift in the academic years, fret not, there are places near the National Capital Region that are close enough to visit for a quick weekend getaway. For those who want to have a change of scenery but have difficulty getting away for more than a weekend, there are appropriate places just waiting to be explored.

A brief note: The purpose of this article to is to list down different fun things to do this summer and where these can possibly be done. Very few specific recommendations will be mentioned. It will be up to the readers to use the key words provided (activity plus place) to research online to find exactly what they are looking for.

SWIMMING

First agenda as fun summer activity is swimming. People from the NCR need not go to great lengths to be able to find a venue for swimming. Laguna has a wide array of warm water pools that can be rented privately. Rizal province also has private pools for swimming. Bulacan has many wave pools and pools ala-theme park with slides and other gimmicks. For the beachgoers, Batangas, Bataan, Pangasinan and Zambales have shorelines that have various resorts to choose from. Laguna boasts of several lakes and waterfalls that allow swimming. All these require travel time from an hour up to four hours by land.

MUSEUMS

 

Rizal province has several museums that can offer respite and inspiration for those devoted to art. In some places, pottery, weaving, painting and other classes can be had to further one’s talents and art appreciation.

 

HISTORICAL SITES

Have you ever been to Jose Rizal’s home in Laguna? What about Emilio Aguinaldo’s house in Cavite? Have you ever seen Barasoain Church in Bulacan? These are places where history can be traced back and remembered. In Bataan, there are different places to visit that show how life was during World War 2. Summer is a good time to revisit these historical sites.

 

 

FUN FARMS, ADVENTURE CAMPS and ZOOS

There are fun farms in Laguna and in Bulacan where children can experience horse-back riding, riding on carts being pulled by carabaos, fishing, zip lining, goat milking, and other fun activities. Adventure Camps can be found in Tagaytay and Antipolo. Even corporate team-building activities can be held there because the programs are not just for children. Zoos can be found in Rizal, Cavite and Pampanga. These kid-friendly zoos have petting areas where children can interact with animals by feeding them. The Nayong Filipino has transferred from the NCR to Pampanga and it is where one can see replicas of places to visit in the Philippines. Pampanga also offers adventure places for those who like wake-boarding and being suspended on air.

TRAIL HIKING

Rizal, Laguna, Quezon, Batangas and Bulacan have trails that can be hiked. These are mountain trails, river trails or trails near the beach. The areas near Mount Pinatubo have trails that can be reached by heavy duty vehicles available on a daily basis. Nueva Ecija has a national park where visitors can hike to see a river.

SPELUNKING

Bulacan, Rizal, and Cavite have good spots to go spelunking. Spelunking is not for the faint of heart though and caution should be done at all times if this is the chosen activity.

FIESTA

Summer is the perfect time to visit nearby provinces for the colorful and fun fiesta celebrations. Not only do the visitors get to see the best products that these provinces can offer, they also learn about the history, culture and traditions of these places, meet new friends and experience Filipino hospitality.

CHURCH VISITS

Church visits or Visita Iglesia need not be confined to Holy Week. One can have a road trip visiting churches on a Sunday. The historical churches are wonderful to photograph and see up close. Laguna, Rizal, Quezon, Batangas, Bulacan and Pampanga boast of several of these churches which stood the test of time and serve as silent witnesses to the different changes happening in Philippine townships.

FOOD TRIP

A food trip road trip is a delicious way to spend summer weekends. Pampanga is best known for its cuisine while the other provinces are not far behind in making their food specialties known among tourists.

CAMPING TRIPS

In Rizal and Laguna are several places where people can go camping. The beaches in the provinces mentioned above are also good venues to pitch a tent and rough it out with nature.

Important reminders:

Though these suggestions require only a few hours of travel on land, you will do well to fully prepare before embarking on these weekend trips:

1. Plan ahead by studying the easiest routes, if you are bringing your own car. Make sure that your vehicle is in excellent condition. Bring a paper map in case you can’t connect to the Internet for your GPS and digital street maps. Plan ahead by making reservations in case you are staying somewhere overnight.
2. If you are commuting, research the time that the public utility vehicles arrive and leave. Being stranded someplace remote is not something one would want a fun day to end with.
3. Bring enough food and water. You don’t need too many clothes if you are commuting but only those that you will be needing.
4. Charge your gadgets before traveling or bring a powerbank with you. Leave other valuables behind that are not needed for the trip.
5. Let other people know your schedule and itinerary just in case you get lost.
6. Try not to complain about accommodations or the lack of it because if you have planned your trip well, you should know what to expect.
7. Be respectful of the people you meet along the way. Be respectful of the nature around you.
8. Have fun. And as they say: leave nothing but footprints, take nothing but pictures and bring nothing but memories.

Have a happy summer!

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Best Christmas gift ever

Monday, 28 December 2015 | Written by
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There is a little-known Christmas song that goes: “When Christmas time is over and presents put away, don’t be sad. There’ll be so much to treasure about this Christmas day and the fun we had.” This song touches the heart with the message there is more to Christmas than just the giving and receiving of gifts.

For the believers, Christmas is not just the time to remember that Jesus Christ was sent by God the Father as His representative on earth to save the people from sin. It is the time when people, believers and non-believers, grow in hope and look for miracles. It is that time of year when people are more loving, generous and understanding.

Christmas is a time for peace to reign among those who have differences. Christmas is also a time for reflection, a time to look back on the year that was and plan for the year ahead.

Christmas these days is mostly synonymous to gift-giving and feasts of scrumptious food. There is nothing wrong with these two things because these two happenings mean that there are family reunions and get-together of friends that happen only once a year and mostly during the Christmas season. Christmas is not just a time when people give and receive gifts; it is that time when people reconnect with each other and catch up on each others’ lives face to face rather than through their social media accounts.

Gift-giving is a tradition that makes people panic and flock to malls before Christmas Day. People give gifts on Christmas to remember the gift of Jesus Christ’s birth. People give gifts on Christmas to remember that the Magi or Three Kings carried offerings to the child Jesus when they went to visit Him in the manger. Children believe in Santa Claus, St. Nicholas, Father Christmas, Befana, and Christkind, the bringer of gifts during Christmas to children who have been nice throughout the year.

“What was the best Christmas gift that you have ever received?” – I asked a few friends across all ages to get insights of what we value most in material and non-material gifts.

Here’s how they responded.

JLE, 38: I lost my parents this year. Celebrating Christmas is the farthest thing from my mind but I had to carry on because life goes on. For me, the best Christmas gift that I have ever received is having my own family this year. The birth of my son a month before Christmas is one of the best things that happened to me.

TP, 17: The best Christmas gift I have ever received is making it to the college entrance test tomy dream university. I know I worked hard to achieve this, nagreview talaga akong mabuti, and to get confirmation that I passed the tests before Christmas is an added bonus.

CJ, 12: The best Christmas gift ever is my new Lego set. Yey! I am soooo happy!

BRP, 65: The best Christmas gift for me is the gift of family. I couldn’t ask for more. I have a loving wife, two lovely daughters and a beautiful grandchild. I retired this year and have plans to travel and visit relatives I have not seen in decades.

KD, 23: Mommy and daddy came home from their overseas work to celebrate Christmas with us. We have been celebrating Christmas together via video conferencing for the last six years. To have them at home, yung ma-hug and kiss sila and kasama sila sa mga lakad, that is something that I will treasure and remember for a long time.

PL, 6: My new toys! I can’t wait to play with them.

YVC, 35: The best Christmas gift I got was when I was given the chance to travel with my loved ones. The opportunity came a few weeks before Christmas and we were really ecstatic to have this chance to spend more time together.

FS, 29: The best Christmas gift that I have given myself is this new place I now live in. I will be spending my first Christmas at my condo and I have invited my family to celebrate this special day with me.

RK, 14: The best Christmas gift ever is this new gadget I got from my parents. I am sure I will be enjoying using this for my games. Yes!

HST, 49: The best Christmas gift ever for me is the gift of health, the gift of life. Our daughter got sick this year. Ang hirap pag merong may sakit at mabuti na lang naging ok siya. We feel bad seeing her struggles. We have resolved to be more vigilant with our health and be more conscious of our lifestyle and eating habits.

WG, 74: For me, the best gift, not just for Christmas but for the remaining years of my life, is to see my children settle their differences. Masakit para sa isang ina na makitang may differences at issues sa mga anak at hindi sila nagkakasundo. I really hope and pray before I draw my last breath, there will be reconciliation among them.

These different answers show how differently people perceive the gifts, the unexpected blessings, the miracles and the fruits of their hard work. We may celebrate Christmas in various ways but the common thread that binds us all is the yearning for the same things that can’t be wrapped by tinsel and foil nor does it come in fancy boxes and envelopes: we all yearn for love, peace, happiness and joy.

The end of the song mentioned at the beginning of the article sums up what Christmas means and it goes like this:

“Christmas means the spirit of giving, Peace and joy to you, The goodness of loving, The gladness of living; These are Christmas too.”

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Journaling amidst the digital din

Monday, 14 December 2015 | Written by
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My name is Julie, a teacher and a blogger. TeacherJulie.com became my digital journal where I shared my thoughts and experiences as a mom of three and as a Special Education teacher. It was through this blog and, later, three Social Media sites that I came to be known by the handle Teacher Julie.

I used to be keep journals back when I was single. It was a venue for pouring out my thoughts, insights and experiences and sometimes recording the appointments I need to remember. I fancy notebooks and pens for journaling. My writing style was like my blog posts, made up of well-constructed, well thought-out sentences and paragraphs.

Until Social Media sites came along. I was then reduced to writing 140 characters, short status updates, and sharing of photos.

A few months ago, I discovered that I can be an amateur artist and I started dabbling in drawing. It was then I began to yearn to go back to journal-writing, old-fashioned style.

Why so? Why now?

Perhaps, I am feeling the need for the peace and quiet I used to enjoy when I was alone with my thoughts. The need to speak out without fear of alienating readers with opposite points of view. The need to be creative. Most of all, the need to be away from the digital din, the “ping” of a notification that constantly beckons me to tap, scroll, click, read and watch things that do not necessarily make me a better person.

Starting a journal can be easy enough as long as one knows what purpose the journal will be for. The big questions usually are: ‘Why journal?” and “What kind of journal will I start with?”

Why journal? Journaling encourages one to write down reflections as well as encourages mental, emotional and personal growth. One tries to reach one’s usually hidden thoughts and process these in writing. Journaling makes the writer gain more knowledge about herself further along the way. She may like what she is seeing within herself; if not, there is always room for change.

Here are a few tips on what kind of journals you can start with and their purposes:

Create a journal for the soul. This journal will enable the writer to write down reflections, feelings, life lessons and journey of a budding (or full) faith. Questions can be safely written in this journal as well as answers that may either be the right ones or the options to be considered.

Create a journal for channeling creative juices. This journal will be a medium where the imagination can run wild and free. Snapshots, drawings, colors, words written in calligraphy, magazine cuttings and scrapbook knick-knacks can be used in this journal. This journal will be colorful, inspiring and a proof that creatives can use just about any materials that, when put together, look great.

Create a journal for the innermost thoughts and hidden desires. This journal will be like a window to the journal writer’s core being. It takes writing to a deeper level of consciousness and may answer life’s biggest questions: the WHY questions with answers that evade the thoughts unless one is attuned to herself and ready to face headlong the issues that need to addressed.

Create a gratitude journal. Perhaps the easiest journal to write is online casino a gratitude journal. This is a journal that identifies with gratitude the big things as well as the little things that matter and make life better. Finding blessings in the little details among the daily hustle and bustle is something that is in itself, worth being thankful for.

Create a journal for finding peace. There are ideas that confuse the mind and affect one’s day-to-day existence. A journal for finding peace is a one where the writer can write reasons why she believes and supports certain ideas and concepts. This journal is about the struggles and conflicting viewpoints and how she can resolve these with or without help..

Create a journal for mind-mapping of goals. For those who have a goal but has no idea how this can be reached, a journal for mind-mapping of goals is perfect. Steps needed to be done to achieve a particular goal, the mistakes committed, the lessons learned and the alternative steps can be written in this journal. It will help the writer keep her focus on her goal and whatever other goals may arise along the way.

Materials for starting a journal:

• A notebook, lined or unlined
• Pens, multicolored or just plain black or blue
• Snapshots or magazine cuttings for visual stimulation
• Scrapbook knick-knacks
• Bookmarks
• Box or drawer with a lock because one does not just leave journals lying around

Writing a journal regularly is an exercise in self-expression. There are no grammar rules to follow nor critics who will scrutinize the creative expressions used in the journal. Journaling is a highly personal experience.

Journaling amidst the complexities of life, amidst the digital din and the deluge of so many things that attack the senses will bring peace and quiet. A journal is a place where one can converse with one’s self, ask questions and seek answers. A journal is a medium for recording events that are personally important, life-changing, uplifting, and ideas that challenge one’s belief system.

A journal is like a garden where seeds of ideas, beliefs, thoughts, problems and solutions are recorded. Growth comes in becoming better persons amidst struggles and joys, having learned to listen to the mind and soul during solitary times with the self.

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Unsung heroes in our neighborhood: They’re there if you look hard enough

Tuesday, 1 December 2015 | Written by
darna

darnaHero-worship is a human tendency. From children who love superheroes and heroines, to adolescents who feel giddy about their “idols” from the showbiz, music and social media industries to grown-ups who admire the qualities of good leaders, hero-worship is something that spans ages and generations.

We often encounter the word “idol” — persons admired for characteristics that may include physical looks, talent, goodness of heart, kind and heroic deeds.

The word “hero” is usually reserved for people who have helped changed the lives of people around them or even those who look at them from afar. These people may have done feats like saving someone from a fire, flood or other calamities or teaching children to read and write without seeking reward or helping the community they belong to in ways big and small.

There are those who are heroes in a bigger and grander scale of things: those who have started foundations benefitting sick children, jumpstarting projects for clean waters in communities, funding cancer and rare disease research, building housing communities and/or schools and/or hospitals and teaching communities sustainable living over the long term.

Surely if people can admire idols, they can also be impressed by lesser known heroes around them, including those who they see and meet on a regular basis.

Curiosity got the better of me when I posted this question to friends: “Who is your neighborhood hero?” A little introspection made me realize that although I admire several people that I haven’t personally met because I only ever read about them, I can not think of someone who lives close by that I hold in high esteem. This thought left me in a quandary and I hoped that by reading through the submitted responses, I will be inspired enough to look for my own neighborhood hero.

Heroes need not be doing spectacular work to be admired. They need not broadcast their good works and bask in the limelight. True heroes work quietly away from the spotlight. They tirelessly do good deeds in line with the beliefs they uphold.

Here are some of the reasons why we also need to focus on our everyday neighborhood heroes:

RT. “My neighborhood hero is literally a neighbor who lives next door. She is a widow who lives alone because her children have their own families. Her home is like a cat shelter. She has around six stray cats she takes care of. Some of those cats have been given to the homes and families who would take care of them. She is self-less and she is the best human the cats can ever have this side of town.”

HK. “Pastor Rob is my neighborhood hero. He is a pastor at the nearby church. He not only tends to the ‘flock” from his church but also tirelessly works with the youth in our neighborhood to keep them focused on their studies while learning how to live their lives the way God wants them to: as stewards and disciples. I should know because I was one of those who he helped live a better life.”

GD: “Idol ko si Ate Kris. Tinuruan niya kami ng healthy living, kung paano maghanda ng pagkaing masustansiya at hindi mahal. Ngayon, bukod sa container gardening sa mga bahay namin, nagtulong-tulong kaming magkakapitbahay na taniman ang bakanteng lote sa kabilang kanto ng mga gulay na pwede naming ibenta or kainin. Sana lang huwag munang magpatayo ng bahay ang may-ari ng lote, hehe.”

JB: “My neighborhood idol is Tita Em. Single mom siya with three kids. All of them are college graduates. Si Kuya Jason, engineer. Si Ate Tess, teacher. Si Kay, supervisor sa call center. What is admirable about her eh hindi naman malaki ang kita niya as a public school teacher pero nakapagpatapos siya ng tatlong anak. Very admirable talaga siya. She is now a retired teacher. Pag hapon, may mga bata pumupunta sa bahay nila; tinuturuan niya sila at di siya nagpapabayad.”

BR: “Bilib ako kay Mang Jo. Since nagretire siya, active siya sa mga ministries sa simbahan. Every 6am mass nandun siya kasama ang mga kaibigang retirees pero hindi doon natatapos ang involvement niya. He heads Christmas fund-raising committee every year at siya din ang contact person kapag may medical mission dahil sa kanyang work dati sa isang hospital. Dahil sa kanya nagkakaroon ng murang consultation at package for medical checkup sa mga hindi maka-afford sa hospital charges. Every three months ginagawa yun. Idol talaga.”

Hero-worship is something that can inspire people to be better persons. They may not be able to replicate what their heroes are doing but in their own little ways, they do things that in turn benefit others and make them feel good about themselves too.

There are of course instances where the heroes fail to come up with the expectations set by their admirers. When this happens, it is best to understand their present situation and find out if this time around they are the ones who need help. Like us, they can feel tired and worn out and need breaks to recharge.

I guess I, too, have found my neighborhood hero after much thinking and looking around. That would have to be Manang Salve, who has a young grandson to take care of. Nobody seems to know how old she is but I am guessing she is anywhere between 60 to 70 years old. She tirelessly prowls the neighborhood in her bicycle that has a small storage on the side for her “kalakal.” We worry when a week passes by and she doesn’t show up to ask what she could do for us. I call her heroic because she doesn’t rely on dole-outs but instead likes to earn money for services rendered. This is how she keeps body and soul together. Hats off, Manang Salve!

Photo from:  http://magandafilipino.com

Amor propio: Improper for Filipinos?

Thursday, 29 October 2015 | Written by

 

Amor propio is about self-worth and self-respect which stem from loving one’s self. When other people do and say things deemed offensive, the amor propio is hurt. Relationship problems may then arise.

Meanwhile, the offender is made to feel shame from what he said or did and is expected to apologize or retract. If he does not, he becomes a “persona non grata.” Favors previously granted will be withheld. It often takes a long time for the incident to be forgotten.

Remember how some foreigners who visited the Philippines wrote about Manila’s “gates of hell?” Remember how the Pinoys bristled, went up in arms and declared these tourists unwelcome, even if deep in their hearts, they complain of the same things.

Amor propio has been so deeply ingrained in the Philippine culture that even members of the younger generation brought up in the modern ways of parenting have adopted this tendency.

Filipinos are not a confrontational people. They are sensitive to their feelings and those of other people. They believe that in the other person’s place, they would not want to bear the shame of being chided or ridiculed. However, social media sites have made it possible for people to hide behind virtual personas. Thus, the rise of offensive and out-of-context trial by social media outrage, with videos and screen caps being shared virally.

Most Filipinos seem passive when it comes to facing issues and, more often than not, will rely on third parties to help settle disputes. This is one of the main jobs of barangay officials: to mediate between parties looking for an equal and peaceful resolution to issues to interpersonal conflicts.

It is probably amor propio that makes us want to be polite and tactful when dealing with other people especially in public places because we put premium on face value. By being polite, we implicitly say we expect the same courteous treatment, too.

Amor propio and the feeling of “hiya” or shame affect Filipinos in different ways.

Amor Propio makes way for pride. Pinoys would rather suffer in silence than admit they need help. Someone who lacks money to enrol her child on time for school would rather get a loan from a friend than from a family member because of amor propio. It is amor propio that prevents Pinoys from telling a friend about the snot on his shirt or the mote on his eye. Pinoys do not want to be the one to initiate opening up something perceived as bringing shame.

Amor Propio prevents people from apologizing for their mistakes. They would rather play “deadma” – that is, feign ignorance — than admit they fell short of good behavior.Worse, they may even play the “snob.” Even when caught red-handed in something illegal or improper, Pinoys would often deny responsibility “to the death.” Thus, the tendency to make “palusot.”

Pinoys who work overseas will try to send everyone back home a little something during special occasions because of amor propio. He does not want to be called thoughtless or, worse, “kuripot.” These same OFWs are averse to directly confront family members about how they spent the money they sent. For who would want their relatives put under a shadow of doubt?

Pinoys who have lent money to friends are often reluctant to collect the debt even if they need the money for themselves because doing so may offend or shame the debtor.

When amor propio has been violated, Pinoys tend to sulk or make “tampo.” The offended party avoids seeing or stops talking to the person who trampled upon his/her amor propio.

In some parts of the country, a wounded amor propio is reason enough for violence. What often comes next is retaliation, triggering an unending cycle of violence, until a third party steps in.

It is also perhaps amor propio that accounts for Filipinos’ love of cosmetics, especially skin-whitening products. There are those who wear dental braces that were not even prescribed by dentists just so they look unique, even if it means their dental health is being sacrificed in the name of vanity. And is it amor propio, too, that led to Pinoys to the top of the selfie-taking world?

Amor propio is one of our ways to save face. We would rather avoid confrontation by submitting to what the elders tell us to do even if we do not completely agree.

Amor propio can also be interpreted as personal pride, which prevents us from giving out and accepting constructive criticism. However positive our reason for pointing out someone’s fault, this could be misunderstood and lead to relationship kinks. Because we want to avoid this, we keep our mouths shut.

Seen at its most positive, amor propio can lubricate relationships and make the home or work venue a pleasant place for everyone in it. As with anything good, beware it is not carried too far, lest it become an instrument for needless self-immolation.

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The Pinoy romance book and its enduring appeal

Wednesday, 30 September 2015 | Written by
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pocketbooks

In the world of literary pieces, Filipino fiction novels, published in pocketbook format are slowly being recognized by the mass market. Back in the 80’s and the early 90’s, these pocketbooks were relegated to a part of bookstores far away from strategic areas because the Pinoy readers have not cultivated a love for them.

Personally, I have to admit, ever since I started reading paperbacks back in high school till the time I amassed a collection that tumble over shelves in our library at home, I have not read a single pocketbook written by a Pinoy writer. I still haven’t read one even if nowadays there are hundreds of thousands of books in electronic format that can be downloaded and read conveniently on IPads.

My daughters and their friends though have been reading the books, albeit in electronic book format. They have even watched the movie version of one of the books when it was made into a movie.

The appeal of Pinoy pocketbooks to Pinoys

Pinoy pocketbooks, though they differ setting and character, have a central theme: love. Filipino readers have lived through different stages and circumstances in their love life: the first kiss, puppy love, true love, unrequited love, love found and lost. Through these pocketbooks, the readers have experienced joy, thrills, pain, passion, even sadness, heartbreak and agony.

There really is nothing new with this theme, as all other books written in the love and romance genre have the same formula: a male and a female protagonist who may have knowingly or unknowingly fallen in love but have yet to stand up to the test of time and other trials. Most often, at the end of the story, they survive the challenges and end up being stronger persons and building an even stronger relationship.

Through the years, these books have slowly integrated themselves into the Pinoy literary mainstream. Pinoy readers have somehow discovered a parallelism between themselves and the stories they are reading. As the story unfolds, they see themselves in the characters and imagine themselves in the familiar places and scenes described.

More often, these stories are not about a high profile CEO, a foreign prince, a business magnate, a brilliant but shy physicist or a movie diva. Rather they are about ordinary people, characters that can either be a representation of the readers themselves or people they know: the student who struggles to overcome her shyness, an officemate or a friend who is ever on the quest for the “right one,” the cousin who has been forever promising to diet and shed off excess weight,or the preschool teacher who has to juggle limited time between work and graduate school.

The readers are quite familiar with the settings and scenes where the stories happen : a barbershop, at the beach, in Divisoria, at the mall arcade, the patron saint feast day Caracol or even the Holy Week procession. They can easily relate to what’s happening because they know the “vibes” coming from these places and situations. Readers can understand the cultural and Pinoy innuendos, humor, inside jokes and context clues. It feels as if they are reading what could be about their own lives right out of the story itself. They are won over by the kilig factor. They cry with the lead protagonist as she experiences betrayal, feel her outrage and pain, and heave a sigh of relief when she finds redemption or vindication.

There are times when a reader’s mood depends on the pocketbook story’s happenings. Work (and even studies) are sometimes affected too.

From pocketbooks to other media

Precious Hearts Romance, for example, have penetrated other media outside the printed form. These stories have been made into weekly series for television featuring popular stars.

There are stories too that have been posted online, many that have been translated into e-books, others made into movies – evidences that Pinoy romance stories are here to say.

The future of Pinoy pocketbooks.

These Pinoy pocketbooks are now prominently displayed in local bookstores. They no longer occupy an obscure corner but rather can easily be seen by the readers.

Who knows that in the near future these books would not be translated in foreign languages and sold in other countries.

The Pinoy romance genre may start positioning itself to being globally competitive, especially in the advent of the Asean economic integration.

Photos by the author

coloring 3

A practical guide to starting the (adult) coloring hobby

Wednesday, 23 September 2015 | Written by
coloring 3

I first learned about adult coloring books back when I went crazy more than a year ago over Zentangles and tried to draw these to fill the time between schedules of teaching students with special needs and managing a household.

Back then, there were only so few such books available at local bookstores that one needed to reserve copies in advance. Not anymore, of course.

These days, adult coloring books are almost everyone’s way to de-stress and relax away from the glare of electronic gadgets and the hustle and bustle of their daily lives. These books sell as though everyone’s survival depends upon having one or two in their possessions Not really an exaggeration! If you want to join the fray and happen to espy copies in a bookstore, do not hesitate to grab one because they won’t be there when you come back after a day or two. If you want variety on the illustrations, you can just print these from the available downloadable and free pages in the internet.

One of the most frequently asked questions by those who are new to coloring is: “What is the proper way to color?”

For most adults, particularly Filipinos who were brought up in traditional schools where instructions on coloring are about using the “right colors” and coloring within the lines, bringing colors to adult coloring pages can be a big challenge. After all, who among us over 20, except artists or preschool teachers, have done any book coloring in recent memory?

How to color

One of the first fears for people who will be working on adult coloring books for the first time is that they are not artistic enough. They also worry  over which color combinations work well. There are no incorrect ways to do coloring and if one is undecided which colors look good together, there are available color spectrum guides that can be consulted.

To make coloring simple and enjoyable (remember the activity is supposed to de-stress and relax us, right?), here are a few tips:

1. Close your eyes and pick a color. Put that aside once you are done and pick another one.
2. Be spontaneous in choosing the colors. Be creative and let your imagination run wild. Use vivid colors to make the pages stand out.
3. Use a color palette generator or find similar images and get inspirations for coloring these pages.
4. Go with a rainbow spectrum. Nothing can go wrong with a rainbow spectrum.

Remember that there would be no art teacher looking over your shoulders telling you that tree leaves should be just green or that flowers can’t be blue. You are on your own and whatever colors you should be what you will put on the sheets.

Materials to use

Adult coloring books have small and intricate details. Wax crayons just don’t work well with these pages because these would be too fat to fill in small spaces.

Here are a few suggestions for coloring materials:

1. Colored pencils. Like the coloring page pictured below, coloring pencils can be used to fill up small spaces which can add more details to the whole picture. You can also blend these together.
coloring 3
2. Markers and fine liners. Markers and fine liners are good to use because these are bright in color and can create vivid images. Make sure that the coloring page paper is thick enough to absorb the markers’ ink to prevent it from bleeding on the next coloring page. It is best to put a paper underneath that which is being colored to avoid getting ink on the next page. For those who are sensitive though, the sound of markers on paper can cause shivers and goosebumps on the skin and may not be the best coloring material to use.
coloring 23. Gel pens. Gel pens are smooth to use but users should be careful to allow the ink to dry first to prevent it from sticking on the hand and spreading on other areas of the coloring page.

4. Oil pastel. For bigger spaces, oil pastels are great to use especially for blending colors. These need careful handling though to avoid breakages of the oil pastel itself or getting some colors on areas where these are not needed.
coloring 15. Watercolor pencils. Water color pencils are a bit challenging to use but look wonderful on coloring pages. If one is unfamiliar with the use of watercolor pencils, it is best to watch video tutorials first and practice before using the materials on coloring pages. Once a degree of proficiency has been achieved, watercolor pencils are good to use on coloring pages.

coloring 4
Whatever coloring materials one decides to use in adult coloring pages depends on the drawing, the coloring capabilities and, of course,the budget. It is important to enjoy these artistic pursuits and not stress on not being able to purchase a set of coloring materials that are not locally available. There are a lot of coloring materials to choose from without making a dent in one’s budget.

The most important thing to remember is that this activity is meant to make people relax and destress the hobbyist while she is feeling creative. Being able to make even just a coloring page come to life with beautiful colors is an accomplishment in itself.

Note: All artworks and coloring tasks were done by the author who dabbles in illustrating coloring pages for friends.

art mandala

Art attack: New forms of relaxation through art

Friday, 28 August 2015 | Written by
art mandala

 

art housesUnless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve seen these almost everywhere: at the bookstores, on Social Media posts, on your officemate’s desk and maybe even in your sister’s room. If you guessed that what “these” are being referred to as coloring books, then yes, you are right. Coloring books are what people are going crazy about these days.

To be precise, these coloring books are called adult coloring books. The designs of these adult coloring books vary, from botanicals, flower gardens, under-the-sea creatures, and even cities all over the world. Unlike when you were still in school and there were “right and wrong” ways to color things, this time, you can let your imagination run wild and you get to choose the colors you fancy.

Materials: coloring books or pages, colored pencils, colored pens.

There are other activities we can indulge in to bring out the artist in us.

Doodling
Doodling seems like a mindless task but it isn’t so. To doodle is to draw while doing another task like listening to a lecture or music. Although doodles are usually simpler versions of objects, they may be as creative as other artistic pursuits. Doodle designs are used as wall paper and gift wrap designs among others. Doodle books are also popular as coloring books.

Materials: sketch pad or sheets of paper, pens or pencils.

art-PHand-drawing
Artists who draw are content providers for those who love to color. Drawing by hand gives the artist a purpose, a vision and an outlet for creative energy. Hand-drawing requires concentration, creativity and imagination to be able to present ideas in images that will be understood by others.

Materials: sketch pad, a variety of pens for different strokes, colored pencils or pens

Zentangling
Zentangling is not like doodling because it has specific styles and structured patterns. Zentangles are easy-to-learn, fun and relaxing. This art form was founded by Rick Roberts and Maria Thomas.

Materials: sketch pad, pens, Zentangle book for reference

Paper-cutting
Paper cutting is one of the more difficult art forms to master because it needs precision and control especially when using the sharp blades of cutters and scalpels. This art, though a bit difficult, can be rewarding too. The wonderful images and messages being cut are awesome to behold.

Materials: Cutting mat, metal ruler, pencil, scalpel, blades, tracing paper, backing material

Painting
Painting is an artistic pursuit that may be  difficult for some. This entails a considerable amount of concentration, planning and organization of ideas. It is worth the time and effort, however, when one is able to execute a masterpiece or two.

Materials: easel, chair, canvas, brushes, oil paints, acrylic, watercolor, mixing disn

Chalk art
Chalk art is writing on dark surfaces or at times, on streets and outdoors. These days, newer restaurants and cafes have their special menu for the day written on a small blackboard that the clients can easily see.

Materials: blackboard, different colors of chalk

Mandala
A mandala is a word derived from the classical Indian language of Sanskrit. Translated to mean “circle,” this is more than a simple shape with intricate designs stemming out from one focal point.

art mandala

Mandalas represent wholeness and is illustrated as a model for the organizational structure of life itself showing our relation to the infinite beyond our bodies and minds. In various religious beliefs a mandala symbolizes different things: timekeeping, visions, beliefs and religious expressions as well as meditation.

There are several coloring books featuring the mandalas which are deemed therapeutic to draw and color. Many attest it relaxes the mind.

Materials: sketch pad, pencils, pens, ruler, pencil compass

Art stamping
Stamps are fun because these have already been crafted and ready to be put together to create a vision. Stamps can be made up of letters, words and things. There are artists who make their own stamps using rubbers erasers where they carve their designs. These can be incorporated in different art forms like calligraphy, journaling,and drawing.

Materials: pre-made rubber stamps, ink, paper, colored pens, pens.

Calligraphy
Calligraphy is the art of decorative handwriting. Mostly used to write quotations, these can be interspersed with drawings. Hand-written invitations are usually made using calligraphy.

Materials: calligraphy pens, ink, papers or sketch pad, pencils, erasers, ruler, calligraphy books as reference.

Journaling or journal-writing
Journaling is akin to diary writing, only better. Journaling is like a visual board where dreams and goals can be put in written perspective. One doesn’t have to write in these journals daily, but regularly updating is a must.

Materials: a good journal notebook, stamps, colored pens, fabric tapes, colored papers, stickers

It is apparent that people these days want a break from digital stimulation and would rather work using their hands while at the same time honing their imagination and creativity. They are also able to relax and meditate while doing so.

Benefits of relaxation
When people are relaxing and de-stressing, they tend to have the following physical and mental characteristics:

1. Slower heart rate
2. Lower blood pressure
3. Reduced stress hormones activity
4. Reduced muscle tension and chronic pain
5. Lowered fatigue (unless one spends way too many hours on these supposedly therapeutic pursuits)
6. Improved concentration
7. Relaxed mood
8. Improved general well-being
9. Feeling of accomplishments which further boosts self-confidence.

arttools

Word of caution: before you go out and buy these fancy stuff from the bookstores and the arts and crafts stores, it is best to do the following first:

• Read about the different artistic pursuits that you might want to concentrate on.
• Watch available video tutorials
• Look for downloadable and printable samples of coloring pages to choose from.

These artistic activities are by no means inexpensive especially for the over-eager amateur hobbyist who might buy everything that might help achieve maximum results without assessing if there are enough skills to begin with. Weigh your options and be true to yourself about what you possibly can do and what might prove to be too much of a challenge.

Look for postings of workshops you are interested in and sign up to attend these. Be warned though that for a day or less, training will cost you around Php3,000 or more.

Above all else, enjoy whatever artistic pursuit you have set your sight on. It might feel like you are just mindlessly coloring a page or just doodling on your sketch pad but as long as you love what you are doing, then you’ve made the right decision. Relaxing and de-stressing while putting to good use your creative energies are new ways to be a better you.

Photos: By the author, some rights reserved

baby pictures

‘Sharenting': Are we overexposing our babies on social media?

Friday, 21 August 2015 | Written by
baby pictures

baby pictures

Our little ones are a bottomless wellspring of delight, no doubt. “A baby is a blessing. A gift from heaven above, a precious little angel to cherish and to love.”

To some they are like angels sent from above to bring joy and laughter; while to others, they are promises of immortality who will carry on the family’s name. Still to some, they are perceived to give purpose and direction to an otherwise meaningless life.

Adults marvel how babies manage to sleep peacefully, hence people say “Let him sleep, for when he wakes up, he will move mountains.” And really, there nothing more adorable than a baby sleeping … well … like a baby. CLICK!

“There’s nothing really quite so sweet like tiny little baby feet.” Tiny, pink and chubby toes are so cute one can play “This little pig…” rhymes while holding these toes one by one. CLICK!

Babies are a wonder because in just a year, as they celebrate their monthly birthdays, they grow from closed-eyed and needy infants to toddlers taking one step at a time while babbling their favorite syllables. CLICK!

“Babies smile in their sleep because they are listening to the whispering of angels.” Don’t we gush when a baby smiles while sleeping and even more so when she is awake and looking into our eyes? CLICK!

From just milk to nourish them all day long, they start to be given nutritious and delicious food. They even try to feed themselves and really, parents don’t mind the mess because their babies are growing up to be independent! CLICK!

Toothless smiles are really precious but when there’s a tooth or two, they even look cuter.. CLICK!

New clothes, toys, baby gadgets and other thingamajigs from thoughtful friends and relatives? CLICK!

A baby’s “firsts” are widely celebrated amidst proud announcements that she can now babble, feed herself, walk, navigate an electronic tablet, hold the bottle independently and so on and so forth. CLICK! CLICK! CLICK! CLICK!

CLICKS. You ask why so many clicks? I say “why not?”

Taking endless photos and videos are the things people do to record, remember and share baby milestones with family and friends. Photos and videos show babies’ developmental new tricks and other developmental progress.

People with social media accounts like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram usually see these baby photos and videos posted by relatives and friends. Of course, there’s no denying that we love “oohing” and “aahing” these photos of the little ones.

On the other hand, there are times when it feels like there is over sharing and too much “exposure” for the baby.

OH MY! UMAY!

“OH MY! Your baby is soooo cute and adorable!” These we read in the comments. But if it the same baby in her blissful sleep in an album with 59 photos taken within an hour or so, doesn’t it become “UMAY!” already?

SO CUTE! SO (NOT) CUTE!

All babies are cute, right? Yes, all babies are cute but some are just way cuter and more adorable and more cuddly than others. If someone posts an album of a baby that belongs to the “others” in the previous description, what would you say? Would you comment that the baby is cute, adorable and cuddly when in fact he doesn’t measure up to your personal standard of what is cute, adorable and cuddly?

OH WOW! OA.

We usually gush when we see something really great and say “Oh wow!” This could be for a video that shows your friend’s 10-month old baby taking his first steps. This could be for a photo of a baby who loves eating mashed peas.. We usually say “OA” when the taking the first steps videos are posted one after the other or like previously written, 50+ (or even more!) photos of the baby eating the mashed peas.

To post or not to post. This is one dilemma that parents need to consider when posting on their Social Media accounts. Below are a few reminders on what to post or what not to post about babies:

To post (but not the same photos in no more than 5-10 pictures):
• Baby’s milestones
• Baby’s firsts
• Baby’s monthly pre-birthday celebrations

Not to post:
• Babies without clothes on
• Babies taking a bath
• Babies with other parents’ children
• Baby’s geotagged daycare center place
• Photos with information about the baby
• Photos of baby while unwell

If you parents, however, feel that you need to share these photos and videos on your Social Media accounts, there is no stopping you.

Here are guidelines which may help you ensure you do not endanger the baby’s safety and privacy from exposure to social media:

1. Tinker with the privacy settings of the Social Media accounts to make sure photos are not shared indiscriminately.
2. Turn off geotagged photos which show locations.
3. Only share with people you really know.
4. Ask yourself if you want people you do not really know see the photos you are sharing.
5. Ask yourself if you are willing to take that risk to have your baby’s photos used in other sites without your knowledge and permission.
6. If still you want to share, put watermark on the photo or least blur the baby’s face a bit.
We should value our privacy now more than ever especially since social media accounts are vulnerable to having its contents used by people of bad intent. This has happened and is happening. At this very moment, who knows that photos of your little ones have already been posted elsewhere?

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