Brain Pickings: Trivia Night for Philippines Disaster Relief

Hit by the strongest and deadliest of storms, the Philippines faces one of the largest humanitarian disasters in recent memory. Super Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda has killed approximately 4000 people and displaced millions of others, leaving truly immense destruction and devastation in its wake. 

Join me at 7 p.m. next Tuesday, November 26 for a trivia night fundraiser to support the disaster relief effort in the Philippines. 

It's only $5 to compete and Pour Girl is generously donating 10% of all sales on food and beverages. All proceeds will go to Gawad Kalinga, a Filipino non-governmental organization, to support the rebuilding and reconstruction process. GK is on the ground rehabilitating damaged homes and relieving crowded evacuation centres in affected areas. 

RSVP on Facebook and get ready to put your thinking caps on! It'll be a night of nerdy goodness! 

Unvisited Corners

It's been two weeks since I got back from the Philippines, ending my "journey to the motherland" and propelling me straight into a different kind of madness -- no, not the chaos of the streets of Manila but the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. I haven't really had a chance to properly process everything that I've been through, all the odd emotions that have swept through me. But alas, the year is coming to an end (still don't know how this happened so fast) and I'm sitting here, reminiscing as I always do...

I've spent the past year all over the place. After graduation (a milestone I often overlook), I took off to travel and explore the wider world. Thirty cities, nine countries, and three continents later, I'm here exhausted by all the moving around, but bursting at my heart seams with a lifetime of memories and an even greater passion for all of life's adventures.

2011 has just been one big love story, albeit an unconventional one. You see, I've fallen a little bit in love with every city and country I've visited. Whether the scenery, the architecture, the culture, the food, or the people...I'm always enamoured by something and I never fail to find something to appreciate. And at the end of every trip, a certain melancholy sets in as I leave a part of myself there. In Florence, I left myself on the steps of the Piazalle Michaelangelo, up top the Alps of Switzerland, in the night clubs of Berlin, on the canals of Amsterdam, in the chocolate shops of Bruges, the riverside in Phnom Penh, the temple mountains of Angkor...

But that's where the Philippines is different. I don't think I've left any part of myself there, but rather I've found pieces of myself. This trip has been in every sense a journey...not just an exploration of some country, but of my roots. On so many occasions during my time there, I felt national pride for a country I've barely spent any time in. Yes, I was born there and am, by blood, a Filipina...and yet, I've spent my life in Canada and for the past nearly two decades, that has been my home. It's an odd feeling. When I read Jose Rizal's books (our national hero), look into the faces of the people, look out into the country's natural landscape, travel through the madness of its streets, I can't help but feel such a strong affinity for and kinship with this place...

I'll never forget the time we were watching Manny Pacquiao's fight and the Philippine national anthem came on. Naturally, everyone rose to their feet. I don't know why but it took me aback...I've never had to get up for any other anthem but Canada's before. And I didn't know the words...I've only ever known Canada's. I am Canadian after all. And yet, as I stood there watching and listening to the people sing the anthem, I couldn't help but feel overwhelmingly patriotic. And it isn't just patriotism either, there's this familial feeling too where everyone, even strangers, becomes your Tita, Tito, Kuya, or Ate (aunt, uncle, big brother, or big sister).

It's like I've stumbled on to these unvisited corners of myself...and what a surprise to find them miles away from "home" (now a fluid word). And it's even more perplexing to hold on to these pieces and not know quite yet how and where to fit them all in the bigger puzzle that is myself...

It's like Pico Iyer once wrote, "every trip to a foreign country can be a love affair where you're left puzzling over who you are and whom you've fallen in love with"...

A Tale of Some Children's Books

My mom loves telling the story of when I first learned to read. It’s a simple one, but she loves it nonetheless. When I was a child, she would read to me every night before going to sleep. One night when I was about four or five she was too tired and, jokingly, she asked me to read to her instead. Much to her surprise, I actually did. She always tells the story with such joy and pride, explaining that she didn’t expect me to know how to read already.

I’m guessing my love of reading started with those bedtime stories and for years I’ve kept the books I read as a child. I never wanted to give them away, initially for purely sentimental reasons but after awhile, I figured it would be best to give them somewhere where they could truly be appreciated….to someone who would take the time to read to children like my mom and dad always did for me. 

And so my sister-in-law and I prepared a box full of my books and other educational toys that we could donate to an organization promoting education and literacy for the children of the Philippines. We had been talking about doing something like this for awhile but only now with my trip back home were we actually able to put our plans into action.

Museo Pambata (which translates to the Museum for Children) is one such organization that does exactly what we were looking for.  As the name indicates, it is a museum…but it is unlike all others in that it’s completely interactive and hands-on, promoting an alternative way of learning for children, especially for those who have no access to formal education. What interested me the most though was their literacy program. In addition to their in house library that’s open to all children, the museum also has a mobile library that travels around the impoverished areas of metro Manila reading to the children of those villages. That’s where I really wanted my books to go.

Just before leaving the Philippines, I made the trip over to Museo Pambata where I was greeted by Kikay and Pamela, two street children who were there volunteering at the library to read to other children visiting the museum. And in an instant, I knew my much beloved books had found a home…

Watch the video below for a tour of Manila’s Museo Pambata.

For more information about the museum, visit

International Day to End Impunity

The first ever International Day to End Impunity was observed in the Philippines with particular fervour as it also marked the second anniversary of the most brutal attack on the press and on democracy. The Ampatuan town massacre of 2009 saw some 58 civilians murdered, 32 of which were journalists. Human rights advocates, students, lawyers, and the media marched towards Malacañang Palace to demand justice for the many slain journalists who were killed in the line of duty and whose murderers and masterminds continue to go unpunished.

The following photos are just a glimpse of November 23rd...