Butterfly in the Spring

Faith Encouragement through Life Seasons

Mai Kaufman: Tackling Homeschooling and Cancer

It comes as no surprise that the beautiful and stylish Interior Designer, Mai Kaufman, would find herself on the country’s most fashionable lists. She was one of Philippine Star‘s 10 Femmes of Fashion for Culte Femme and Women of StyleABS-CBN’s Us Girls‘ Best Dressed Celebrities,  Preview Magazine‘s Best Dressed, one of Mega Magazine‘s Most Stylish LadiesPond’s and Plains and PrintsFashion’s Finest and Beauty’s Best, Highly Stylish, Most Beautiful and Glamorous Faces.  In the Philippine Daily Inquirer with Look Magazine, she was among the country’s “most photographed women and men” and “consistent Best Dressed Lister.”  She has been a muse for different fashion and jewelry designers, a brand endorser/ ambassador,  modelled for Philippine Fashion Week (Pond’s Red Collection) and has been featured in different magazines and TV shows.


img_1478At one point, she actually struggled about continuing on the fashion scene. She had already committed to ramp model and be the muse of a designer (who is her dear friend) during Philippine Fashion Week but she was afraid it would glorify herself more than God.  “I didn’t want my life to be just about me, me, me.  I cried to David [her husband] because I didn’t know how to back out.”  It was her [bible] disciplers, Danette Vizmonte and Joy Soriano, who encouraged her to go ahead and do it for God.  If He expanded her borders, He could use it for His glory.

After she proceeded with the ramp modeling stint, Typhoon Ondoy came. A post she put on her Facebook account to help the devastated survivors brought on a response she didn’t expect. Many people generously sent medicines, boxes of milk, diapers, mattresses, new shoes from a shoe factory, clothes, toiletries, food, and other much needed aid supplies, even sacks of new pajamas from a manufacturer. It was then that she understood what her disciplers meant. “I realised that God could use anyone of us. The donors trusted me that whatever they give would reach the ones who need them,” Mai recalls. “Who am I? An ordinary person. But we got calls from different people. Offers and invitations poured in, left and right. God used many people to open bigger doors for me and my family.”

She, along with David and their two daughters, Alexa and Calista, have been offered to be brand ambassadors for leading products and organisations.


img_2299

Recently, The Asian Parent Philippines has also featured her as a poster girl for homeschooling moms [Supermom Mai Kaufman: Homeschooling All Over the World].

img_2298

Here is a little chat I had with Mai when she came to the shop:

How did you get into homeschooling?  I was asked to speak at Ivy Marquez’s Hybrid HomeSchool class and talk about self-esteem and embracing one’s uniqueness. That was my first exposure to homeschooling. I got to speak to the homeschoolers and meet some of them again outside school on different days for a movie date and lunch. Some would come to our place for a more personal Question & Answer bonding time so I became more familiar with the concept of homeschooling.

When Alexa used to go to a conventional preschool,  I felt uncomfortable that she was rushed almost every day when she woke up, ate breakfast, worked on something she was passionate about, and more… The routine of every day just felt unsuitable for us. We started considering homeschooling as an option so our children could live through experiences and have more happiness and freedom to think, speak, grow, make mistakes, learn, to be who they are, and to completely enjoy life.

mai-alexa-fair

Homeschooled Alexa

No wonder your hashtag #unhurriedliving!   I believe in taking the time to live every day in peace and harmony (nothing forced), making the most of what we have and what we are presented with. We only have one life. After my Mom’s passing because of cancer, I realized that it was God’s way of teaching me to value life and relationships more. He impressed upon me the importance of leaving a good legacy which my mom did. img_2302-1What, to you, is the most difficult part of homeschooling? It only becomes difficult if you allow yourself to be pressured by the world. I prefer to let God lead.

How do you recharge when as a homeschooling mom, you are with your students practically all the time? Our daughters are very easy to manage. They respect my space. After doing our lessons, they are free to do anything they want to do. That’s when I get to recharge my body, mind, and soul.

How do you get a day off?  I am happy when I share my day with others. That is my day off… either spent with my family or friends.

It seems overwhelming to take on the task of teaching one’s children everything they need to know. How do you manage?  It just seems overwhelming when there’s comparison and competition. We take our time and enjoy when we homeschool. We are a team. We explore even the academic side together not just with books but also through experiential learning. We don’t worry about our children not learning enough because we have a guide. We are lucky to find a good and engaging curriculum that my kinesthetic children enjoy.

Which homeschooling curriculum are you using now?  Bob Jones University.

img_1499

We also have a co-operative learning group (Homeschool Co-op) wherein homeschooling families get together weekly to do activities together like science experiments, values, art, music, physical activies, etc… parents take turns in teaching what they’re good at.

What do you think is the most rewarding part of homeschooling?  Experiencing what God has in store for us together as a family.

Your husband is also participating in homeschooling?  Yes, my husband leads our bible devotions. Sometimes, he helps me with Science, Geography, Math, Music, Art and PE.

How can fathers who work do that? I am grateful because my husband has his own business.

What are the aspects of homeschooling you appreciate most?  Learning through active living. I love that the girls wake up naturally… without being rushed. We do things together at a relaxed pace. We are free to travel anytime, together. The opportunities for learning and for experiencing life are endless when you have your own time. Everything flows spontaneously.


img_2591How does the homeschooling system ensure that if sometime in the future you decide to mainstream a child into a conventional school, she can cope? At the end of the day, it really depends on the parents’ passion, commitment, and competencies. Having said that, an effective homeschooling program will help the children’s overall learning because of the prescribed curriculum, primary and supplementary materials like textbooks, teachers’ guides, lesson videos, activity books, training, guidance, assessment, among others. My daughters are enrolled with Victory Christian International School  (VCIS) under their Homeschool program.  VCIS provides most of our learning materials.  The curriculum they provide from Bob Jones University is complete and aligned with our Christian formation, the world, and Department of Education (DepEd)-prescribed standards. Online exams and standardized tests are provided by them to ensure that the curriculum is covered accordingly. They also take care of our records and requirements for DepEd.  We want to make sure that everything will be in order if we decide to transition to a conventional school in the future.

In your homeschooling journal photos, you look like you are walking through a three-dimensional book. I am grateful for a husband who loves to travel. [laughs]  It helps in our efforts to develop open-minded, globally-conscious children. We are very happy that homeschooling is working for us.

img_2311

Not all homeschooling families need to travel, do they? No, not at all. It’s just that my kids are tactile/ kinesthetic learners so they learn best when they experience things.

How about for families with tactile/kinesthetic learning kids who are on a tight budget, how can they approach homeschooling? Active learners learn best with stories, visuals and body movement. They engage more when the approach to teaching is fun and multisensory. You can study everywhere (homeschool room, on a rug, inside a coffee shop, at a library, interactive museums, parks…)!  Instead of just answering workbooks, I let the girls solve math problems or compose words using whiteboard colored markers and  write on glass boards or non-porous table tops.

We do a lot of hands-on activities using flashcards, blocks, puzzles, wooden numbers and letters, objects, and toys to teach and reinforce lessons. We do Math with card and board games, Spelling and Vocabulary with Boggle or Word Search. They love being outdoors! We get to cover different subjects when we are out. There are many learning opportunities like field trips, games, art and crafts, experiments, role-playing, and more.

img_2309


What advice can you give someone who is contemplating homeschooling but thinks she doesn’t have the patience to see it through because I’ve heard a psychologist say that if you tutor your kids, “You’re gonna kill!!” of course, in jest. My advice is, Just go for it! and Try it. It’s enriching and fun. From my observation, impatience arises when there’s pressure, competition, and deadlines. Homeschooling is more relaxed.  It’s life changing for us in many ways, all beneficial.

From an interior designer’s point of view, would you like to give tips on preparing an area for doing your homeschool activities at home that is most conducive to learning/teaching?

  • When I designed our home, I wanted to make sure that all areas would be utilized with pleasure and ease. I thought of incorporating the learning styles  of my children with the designs for every room.
  • We wanted to develop in them early the sense of being responsible so I made sure the height of the cubbyholes and drawers are reachable so they can get their own clothes and be able to put their things and toys back after use.img_2609
  • I made sure we have a lot of storage space to keep books and things in order.mai-home-play-area

Do you have a long-term plan to homeschool?  As it goes.

I guess, that’s really all you can do… “the lamp unto my feet” guidance that God provides is really just for the next step.  When asked to speak in schools, I share with the students my experiences and where God has brought me when I simply followed His lead and embraced what I had. I share with them the importance of not manipulating nor altering His best plans for us. We are all different from one another in beautiful ways, each having much to contribute.

How did you come to know the Lord more intimately? Growing up, I had a very prayerful mom. She would remind me to be good. But when I had a challenge for the first time that was greater than what I could handle, it made me seek God seriously. [Mai shared a personal challenge but since it involves people other than herself, I decided to leave it out]

I don’t ask God anymore for anything specific for me. When I pray, I simply say, “Thank You Lord for_____; Please prepare me for what’s to come— whether good or bad. Use me mightily for Your glory. You know what is best for our family.” Then I lift up my loved ones who need prayers.

How does knowing God’s Word impact your life? Knowing God’s word keeps me grounded no matter how bad or strong the shaking is. I know that I only have One audience to please (God). The Bible is a book of wisdom, truth, and revelation. It is nice to read, study, and understand it because God wants to transform and enrich us.  If we read His word and follow Him, we will experience His love, His greatness and His fullness (everything He has to offer).

Can you tell me about your encounter with cancer?  My husband had been convincing me every year to join him for an executive check-up. Always thinking I’m healthy and since I don’t feel anything odd, I would always reply, “no need.” This year, for some reason, I said yes. I didn’t know that there was such a thing as Stage Zero Breast Cancer but that’s what I had: Stage 0 Breast Cancer, Ductal Carcinoma In Situ (DCIS); it is when the abnormal cancer cells are still contained inside the breast milk ducts and have not yet spread outside.

What’s the remedy for that?
Full breast mastectomy.

Why not just part?
I had two clusters of cancer cells that were of high nuclear grade.

Are you wiling to share that?
It’s okay. I know that God wants me to share His story.  The clinical diagnosis of my mammogram said, “possible suspicion for malignancy” and the biopsy result said that I have two clustered micro calcifications of high nuclear grade DCIS.  We saw more than a dozen doctors after that. My husband was already coordinating with surgeons in Singapore but after seeing several doctors here who have had working experiences there, they all said that there is not much difference if we do it here or there; they said it was best to just stay and recuperate here. After two weeks of consultations with different doctors, we went ahead with the full breast mastectomy and immediate TRAM (transverse rectus abdominis muscle) flap reconstruction—this technique uses flaps of your tissue taken from the lower abdomen which is then reshaped to form a new breast.

You remove tissue from the lower abdomen; nakaka-sexy pala ‘to?  Yes. See, how awesome God is?! Another gift from Him! [laughs] It’s like His way of telling me “Just do this for Me so you can see and experience the many surprises I have in store for you and your family.”

Didn’t Angelina Jolie undergo reconstructive surgery using silicone implants for this? Would that have been less invasive?  As much as possible, I didnt want any foreign object inside my body. We also learned from doctors that possible risks of infections or leaks may occur. There is no set lifespan for a breast implant but it will usually need to be replaced at some point and further surgery will be required which I prefer not to go through.

When you first heard the diagnosis, how did you take it?  In shock. Only five close friends from our travel group knew. I also shared the news with my Victory [Christian Fellowship] bible study group. They were so helpful.  A good friend in New York, Tina Aquino, sent me many encouraging messages and bible verses when she found out I had breast cancer. It really helped.

She said, “God is about to launch you on what is yet to be your greatest victory.  This will not end in death and fear.  God’s strength and joy will be made perfect in your weakness.”

That really made me stronger. I felt peace and I was reminded of how good He is with the many blessings my family and I continue to receive. I was very sure that He wanted me to go through this so I can share the good news with others. Two nights before I got operated on, my homeschool friend, Anna, sent me a photo of the Eiffel Tower with a rainbow [sign of God’s covenant]. I had tears of joy because I felt it was God’s way of telling me to just get on with the operation for it is already a battle won…that they’re already rejoicing, enjoying the celebration and just waiting for the celebrant… me. ️

How did you tell your children you had breast cancer?  When we saw doctors almost everyday for two weeks, the girls would ask why we were out everyday and why they couldn’t come. I just told them that we discovered something inside Mommy’s breast that can be harmful and might spread if we don’t take them out right away. I told them that God is good and gracious because it had not spread yet. I told them to pray and thank God for letting us know about it early and for sparing us from misery and inconveniences.img_2297

How did they respond?  They responded like adults.  They understood right away what was happening and what was to be done. They prayed over me before David and I would leave the house.

Could you describe their faith at that time?  I asked Cali if she was confident that Mommy would be healed before. She said, “Yes, I knew you [would] be healed because I kept praying to Jesus.”

mai1-hosp
Do you think their faith is impacted by your homeschooling?  I think our being with them everyday while homeschooling gives them a better understanding of who we are.  It helps when they see how we approach people, circumstances, and life in general. It also helps when they see how our friends are when they are with us. They are cool and fun but they also love and prioritise honoring God. They’ve seen our friends pray over us many times.

img_2312

“For the great works You’ve done in our lives, with grateful hearts and outstretched arms… THANK YOU LORD. All that we are, we owe it all to YOU”- Mai Kaufman’s caption to this picture.

Has anyone ever asked you, If God is a good God, why does He allow people to go through something like cancer?  No one has asked me that yet but if someone did, I’d smile and share that going through something like this is not a bad thing or something to be sad about.  Sometimes, we have to experience something unusual and uncomfortable to appreciate what we have. Strange as it may sound, it was a beautiful experience for me and my family.  I thank God for making us go through this. He was with us from the beginning until the end. All we did was pray and trust Him. He did not and has never failed us. He even gave us so many wonderful surprises after —leaner, healthier body…hahaha…He  opened many incredible doors for me and my family. He brought us to many beautiful places. We have met a lot of interesting and admirable people. We have grown so much because of the many life-enriching lessons we have learned; our annual Homeschool immersion trip abroad which we thought wouldn’t push through anymore, an amazing time spent with loved ones, many fun moments, the love, gifts from many friends, and many more.

Pre-cancer and post-cancer, how did your relationship with God evolve? It’s even stronger now.
img_2317
What would you like to share with someone who’s new or struggling on the journey of cancer?  Put God in between you and whatever it is you are going through.  Let Him go before you and be delighted with what He will do. Bask in His presence.  Rest in Him and know that all will be well.  Keep reading His word.  Allow Him to use you . Let His good, pleasing and perfect will be apparent in your life.  If there is something I did that I know worked, it was my total surrender to Him.  Make wise choices in life and use the Bible as your guide. You can either blindly follow what other people are doing, compare yourself with others and lose your unique personality and individuality OR you can walk on the path God lit for you to take and be enriched every day. If you understand, follow, and share Him with others, your life will be rewarding, fulfilling, and joyful. These are things money can not buy. It’s also nice to have a support group.

I like what you said, “Put God in between you and whatever you are going through.” I think that applies to everything!  What is your life verse?  It’s a passage I’ve held on to since I was single about leaving my comfort zone because God has a purpose for my existence and He will be the one to take care of everything.
Genesis 12:1-3 The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”

What is your life message in this season?  Psalm 34:8 Taste and see that the Lord is good; happy is the man that takes refuge in Him.
Live each day wisely, not on people-pleasing, hurrying, trying to achieve so much for personal gain and glory. It’s nice to slow down and take pleasure in what we are presented with. Embrace life–good or bad–– and live it to the fullest. Don’t feel guilty for slowing down to really live- really hear, really smell, really taste, really feel, and really see.  God wants to lavish us with many gifts but we miss them when we are too distracted and busy.

You are a picture of hope for others.
Thank you.  I pray that more will have the courage and faith to let God lead and simply take the journey with Him and enjoy.
img_2332
=====================

I told Mai she is a picture of hope but she is also a picture of faith, love, perseverance,  joy, kindness, and excellence.  The world of homeschooling with the unexpected episode of cancer  are rather different from the glamorous world of modelling she was in where the spotlights showcased her beauty and style.  Mai turned the direction of the spotlight beam  towards God who has enabled her to embrace even the challenges with gratitude. She is modelling with style her surrender to God to let Him accomplish His best for her.

Lord, thank You for Your beautiful story in Mai’s life. May You continue to use her to encourage all of us to embrace our challenges with (full surrender) style. May You bless and protect her, David, Alexa, and Calista and use them to be a city on a hill, shining Your light where they go for Your glory in Jesus’s name amen.

mai2 kk.jpg

Alexa and Calista at the shop, June 2015

Here’s an article Mai wrote for http://www.Kate.ph: Is Homeschool for You and Your Kid?

Mai Kaufman’s FB
Mai Kaufman’s IG

Encouragement for the Day

See the Wisdom of Wisdom Sy

Looking at the Studio Eleven Fabrics and Wallpapers site will wake up the inner designer in you!  Their mission is:
studio-11-mission
See? They even call you a designer!

Even though their list of prestigious completed projects includes Solaire Resort, St. Regis Hotels and Resorts, Diamond Hotel, Holiday Inn, Marco Polo Hotels, F1 Hotel, Renaissance Hotels and Resorts, One Rockwell, among others, they give excellent service even for designer-wannabes like me (and you if you are one too!) who just wants to spruce up a tired space. A little makeover for your often-used areas is a worthwhile investment in your longer-term productivity, well-being, and disposition.screenshot-2016-09-07-16-33-42 Established in 2002, Studio 11 Fabrics and Wallpapers Inc. is a leading provider of luxury fabrics, upholstery, and interior design products in the Philippines. screenshot-2016-09-07-16-33-51Butterflyinthespring had a chat with Studio 11’s Managing Director, Wisdom Sy, about his business.

BUTTERFLYINTHESPRING (BITS):  How did you get into this business?
WISDOM SY (WS):  My wife’s family has been in this business for almost five decades. A few years ago in 2002, when my father-in-law was about to retire, she was given a branch but I discussed with my wife the prospect of doing our own thing. We asked permission and with the blessing of my parents-in-law, we opened our own business.

BITS: How have you grown through the years from the time you started?
WS:   In terms of brand, we already made a name in the industry by doing our best to provide innovative products for our customers that are not seen elsewhere. We also do our best to deliver happiness to our customers by doing our best to be the friendliest, most responsive, always reliable, and striving to always keep our promises.screenshot-2016-09-07-16-33-50 BITS:  What differentiates you from other similar businesses in the same field?
WS:  We’re very conscious about our branding and as to how we present things. We try to make sure that it’s very easy for the customers to look for fabrics so either we categorize it by color or by texture. We’re very critical in every process, so when we present it, it looks very organized. It becomes easier for our clients to find what they need.  All our fabrics are coordinated well, meaning they will look good even if you mix and match it.studio-11-fabric-swatches BITS: Can you define your branding?
WS: We want to be like the Zara of the fabric industry.  That’s the model we have in mind.studio-11BITS: Oh the clothing store? How do you characterize a Zara?
WS:  Interior designers usually say that at Studio 11, like at Zara,  the fabrics are well curated and edited so all the the fabrics that you will find are chic, fashionable, and upscale-looking with great prices.

BITS: The way you categorize select materials that can be used as coordinates, the client who may not have imagined putting certain materials together will have more options to mix and match.  At the same time, because you filter the available options to top winner on-trend ones, the client’s time is saved from going through (sorry for the expression) “nuisance” choices. The selection task is streamlined yet fruitful!  img_1861

studio-11-table Do you have business principles that you like to be guided by?
WS:  I, together with my wife,… we decided from the start that we would do business adhering strictly to biblical principles.  We tell our accountant to make sure that our sales, revenues, everything is declared properly. We do not exaggerate the features of our products and we take responsibility for any defective items by replacing them without any hassle to our customers. We do our best to keep our promise to our customers even if it may mean sometimes sacrificing profits just to honor our promise of giving them a great buying experience and deliver happiness in all our dealings.

BITS: Wow, that’s great for the customer! Why did you want to “adhere strictly to biblical principles”?
WS:   It’s our conviction to honor God by striving to represent Him well in the business sector by being excellent. We believe that if we follow the Lord, if we honor God by putting Him first, He will be the one to take care of our business.  That’s the heart of God. After all at the end of the day, we are but stewards of this business.

BITS: Why do you believe that?
WS:   We were inspired by our mentors on how they chose to always be faithful even if the blessing was not immediate. Most important for me is to stick to my conviction and really trust God.  The Lord said, “For those who honor Me, I will honor.”   That’s our basis for doing business. From there,

*We strive to be consistent with our values so that God will be honored through this business of His.

*We make sure the customers are always happy when they do business with us.

*We do business excellently as unto the Lord.

*We make sure that we are honest with our labels.  For example, if a fabric is made in China, we will make sure to label it correctly and not claim that it is from Belgium.

*We take responsibility for our mistakes and if anything is defective, we will replace it.

BITS: That makes you a trustworthy vendor.  You might not be the cheapest around but the client can be assured they will get exactly what they pay for. I have a feeling that your fabrics are a little bit more upscale?
WS:   The whole idea of our brand is to be famous for offering upscale-looking fabrics affordably. That’s the essence of our brand.  We want to be known as affordably chic! We may present ourselves as a high-end fabric store but clients are surprised that a lot of our items are affordable.screenshot-2016-09-07-16-31-45 BITS:  That’s exactly up my alley! I love great quality but I also love affordability!  I remember what NYC Fashion Blogger, Nika Diwa said her motto is: “Buy less, choose well.” I think that applies here, too … When you were deciding that you were going to follow God’s way of doing things in your business, how did you see God respond through the years?
WS: Since 2002, we see the hand and favor of God on this business and with our customers. It has not always been easy, we have many challenges along the way but through it all, God always provided what we need at the right time.

We see favor from the customer. Sometimes they don’t know me personally but when they see me, it’s like magaang ang loob nila sa akin. May ganoon na rapport.
.
BITS: Parang unseen favor ano?… which results in them giving you the business…
WS: Yes. Parang may trust sila.

BITS: That’s wonderful! Growing in favour with men… Are there other intangible benefits…
WS:   One area I see is with the staff, since we want to be a channel of Gods blessing , we do our best to help them with their finances by giving incentives above their normal pay to help in their family needs. We also do our best to help them if they have emergency situations like health or death of a family member and because of this, our staff has shown loyalty to me as their boss and have committed to helping the company succeed.

We also do our best to minister to them. Sometimes because of the pressures in business, sometimes di mo maiwasan maging grumpy sa staff pero I do my best to apologize for my actions and I can see that they become more respectful towards me. Parang they can see the authenticity of my Christianity that I’m not perfect but when I make a mistake, I will humble myself to seek their forgiveness even if I’m their boss.

BITS: That’s not common.
WS: That’s what we learn [from reading the bible] …

BITS:  Earlier, you mentioned that you decided to do business God’s way because you saw it from other people who have done it before.  Can you tell me who these examples were?
WS: I may not know her name but there was this one particular lady that gave her testimony.  She was manufacturing fake-branded jeans; it was their family’s only source of provision but God convicted her not to continue because that would be like stealing.  Despite that business being the only source of income and she did not know where she will get her provision, she decided to close down the business and trust God for her family’s provision.  That story impacted me that life is not all about success in this world; true success is choosing to be right with God regardless of the outcome.

BITS: What brought you to a point of trusting God the way you do?
WS:   For the past fourteen years, He has been faithful in our finances; there has never been a time when our cash flow dipped below our needs for the month. There may be months that are tight but at the end, He always provides. Trusting God is an everyday choice. It is never easy to make faith decisions. It’s a moment-by-moment walk and there will be times it will cost you but no matter what happens, you just have to trust that God is a good God.

BITS: What were some of the big challenges you faced?
WS: There was a time when we made an honest mistake with our importation. We didn’t know that we had to get a particular permit when importing genuine leather.  We thought it was considered as a regular fabric.  The stocks were held at Customs and we were being penalized about P800,000. The challenge during that time was, we were asked if we want to pay the penalty or should we just make “lagay” which would reduce the cash output to P150,000.  That particular time, our cash flow was low so if I paid the full penalty, it would make us negative.  I told the Lord, “What’s the worst thing?  The worst thing is we will close down but we will still follow the Lord.  I remembered the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego… “Even if God does not answer our prayer, we want you to know(Nebuchadnezzar), that we will not serve the image of gold you have set up.” That reminded me that at the end of it all, God is still King. So I said, “Lord, I will follow You [no bribery]”  So I told the broker, “whatever penalty, we will pay it.” By God’s grace, He touched the heart of the customs officer who adjusted the penalty to P200,000.

BITS: Wow galing!
WS: Maraming ganon na situation. There are many trials. But we see God’s hand of favor and deliverance.

BITS: How about the greatest blessing, can you remember one?
WS:  Recently, one of my former staff members, she’s now working at BPI. When she was still with us, we had a teambuilding session where I invited Pastor Bong Saquing.  She sent me a Facebook message and said, “Boss, I forgot to tell you… because of that teambuilding we had, I came to know the Lord.”  That’s one of the greatest blessings for me that through our company, our staff came to know the Lord.

BITS: Why? Why is that the greatest blessing?
WS:   It makes my work very meaningful because we do business not only to earn provision for our family but also to contribute to God’s mission.  Our business is not the End to the means.  It’s just something that God is using to accomplish His mission and it’s a privilege to be a part of his work.

BITS: Why then, if you become part of that? What’s the significance?
WS:  At the end of the day, we have to realize that life is not about us but about doing God’s mission. If we become part of that, it’s so meaningful because you are fulfilling what you were created for; and this is the only time you will experience true fulfilment and joy.

BITS: What would be your prayer for your company?
WS: There are still times that I would worry about the future, about finances, so my prayer is for that. But God reminds me that He has been faithful for the past fourteen years, don’t worry or be anxious. My prayer is, “Lord, can You guide us what we need to do; give us wisdom on how to move forward.”

BITS: Is there a message you would like to share with people who are starting in business?
WS: Seek ye first His kingdom and righteousness and all these things will be given to you.

img_1859

Wisdom and Betty Sy

=====

Lord, thank You for Your work in Wisdom and Betty’s lives and business, for using them to be preservers of Your values in the marketplace.  As they provide beautiful materials for living and working spaces, they also make the business world more beautiful with their excellence, honesty, responsibility, and commitment to be faithful to You. Their pre-decided detachment from the business if it will get in the way of their following You is amazing.  Wisdom’s prayer for his business is for thewisdom coming from You and guidance on how to move forward. Like when You asked Solomon to ask anything he wanted, he did not ask for wealth, possessions, honor, long life, nor the death of his enemies but wisdom  and knowledge to be a good steward, You gave him Your wisdom and knowledge and You generously prospered him as well. May You likewise grant Wisdom and Betty the works that bring glory to Your name. I join in the prayer in claiming Your promise that those who honor You, You will honor. And the validity of that promise is as good as the life of the One giving the promise! Thank You in advance for Your faithfulness in Jesus’s name and for His glory amen!

Ardy Roberto: Ang Pera Na Hindi Bitin (Updated Edition)

Ardy Roberto is an author, speaker, and entrepreneur who co-founded two top training and learning events companies, Inspire Leadership Consultancy, Inc. and Salt & Light Ventures, Inc. for which he was named Entrepreneur Magazine’s Top 1o Entrepreneurs as well as the Microsoft Most Inspiring Entrepreneur in 2006.  He is an in-demand speaker for top corporations and organizations all over the country on Entrepreneurship, Work, Stewardship, Life, among other topics. He is one of  Go Negosyo‘s Angelpreneurs, coaching on How to Have the Success Mindsets of Entrepreneurs.  Ardy is also involved in other exciting business ventures including an international ebook conversion and content company called Flipside Digital (www.flipsidecontent.com) and Sugar Manna Food Ventures — a.k.a. Tubo Cane Juice with branches in Eastwood, Century Mall, ATC, SM Southmall, Metro ATC, and Festival Mall and Glorrietta (starting Oct 15).

ardy-miriam-tuboArdy is happy husband to [Miss Universe] Miriam Quiambao-Roberto and happy father to Joshy Boy.  ardy-with-joshy-boy-indian-pose

There are  many occasions when Ardy and Miriam are asked to speak in tandem for organizations and churches.

He is the author of eight books, including the 2011 Ang Pera Na Hindi Bitin – Money That’s Never Short (2011) which ranked #1 Bestseller by National Book Store for Philippine publications in 2011The Heart of Healing, which won a Gintong Aklat Award for Best Inspirational Book; Real Men are POGI – How to be Handsome in God’s Eyes which was among the Top 5 Bestseller in National Bookstore; His books can be purchased through this online link at Amazon or OMFLit.

Following the success of and demand for his #1 Bestseller Ang Pera Na Hindi Bitin book, Ardy has written a sequel, Ang Pera Na Hindi Bitin (Updated Edition) which is due to be launched at the 37th Manila International Book Fair (MIBF) on September 14-18 at the SMX Convention Center, Mall of Asia in Pasay City.

Would like to share with you this interview with Ardy Roberto:

For those who might already have your first book, what can they learn from the second book?
The strategies are the same for saving, getting out of debt, living simply, being enterprising and so forth, but since the first edition was published in 2010, there have been a lot of changes in the personal finance landscape so these have been updated in the second book. For example, my chapter on Savings reflects the new strategies that come with the bank’s lower interest rates on special savings accounts as well as new updates on investing. I’ve also included at the end of each chapter questions that my readers have sent me over the years and my answers to them. For example, questions on whether it is safe to open accounts in Rural Banks, questions on investing online, and starting network marketing businesses, etc. Including this interaction with my readers adds value to the book, I think.

ardy-with-ramon-rocha

Ardy with his original OMF Lit Publisher, Ramon Rocha who encouraged Ardy to publish with OMF back in 2006. Mr. Rocha published Ang Buhay Na Hindi Bitin (more than 500,000 copies sold)  and Heart of Healing before moving to the US.

Did the Lord speak to you about something specific after your first book was released?
Yes! The Lord teaches me to “walk the talk” about Ang Pera na Hindi Bitin. Whenever I speak on the topic, the Lord always uses these as teaching moments–to guide me on how to use the money He’s entrusted to me. I’ve also been led to research more and read more books on the topic like Randy Alcorn’s excellent book – Money, Possessions, and Eternity. The new updated version of my book reflects that.

Do you think wisdom in money impacts other aspects of a person’s life? In what ways?
YES, it’s all connected! Financial decisions are spiritual decisions. Money affects your relationships. It affects your relationship with God (do you honor Him with the money He entrusted to you? Can you be trusted with a little?) It affects your marriage relationship — money disagreements can sour the sweetest marriage. You can honor or dishonor your parents with money.
What do you mean by, “Financial decisions are spiritual decisions”? 
I subscribe to this tenet from Crown Financial Ministries [of which Ardy is a Board Member] that when you make any financial decision, it involves God’s money.  If I’m going to use my money for a particular purpose, have I asked permission from the real Owner of the money?  Am I being a good steward of the resources I have?

I used to dream about having a Volvo. When I became a Christian, the dream Volvo became a ReVO.  I scaled down and viewed how to use the cost difference wisely. When the Revo started breaking down, I figured instead of buying second-hand, I would buy a brand new car to be sure that I don’t endanger my family.  Then I remembered what my mentor, Larry Burkett, said, “Pray before you pay.”  The day before I was supposed to make the downpayment for the brand new Nissan 7 seater for P1.1M, I prayed to God, “God, this is Your money, guide me in how to spend this.” In less than thirty minutes, my friend, Myki, messaged me that he found a website where an almost-brand-new 7-seater Mitsubishi Fusion, costing about P1M also, was being sold.  (I had just counseled Myki the week before to buy second-hand when he told me he was going to buy a brand new car.) The owner won it in a Mercury Drug raffle and had no use for it so he was selling it at a discount for P750,000. A brand new one would have cost near my original budget.  I texted the owner. I went there to check out the car, may plastic pa. But it was like 25% cheaper. I made tawad, “Pwede P680k?” Pumayag!  Before lunch, I went to the bank and got a Manager’s Check. The owner told me that there were eleven more people who wanted to see the car after lunch.  Sabi nya sa akin, nauna lang ako. My budget was 1.1M dapat. Nagasto ko P680k.  But then what do I do? “Thank You Lord, nakatipid ako?” The Lord impressed upon me that the purpose was to give the difference to this group of missionaries.  If I had bought brand new, it would have just served me. With the same amount, it was able to bless others for the advancement of His kingdom.  When I forego a purchase or scale down, the difference can be used for God’s purposes.   (I give where the Lord leads me to give; it’s not always missionaries. If we are to pray before we pay, we should also pray before we give and ask discernment where God wants us to refresh.  I know you shouldn’t tell your right hand what your left hand is doing, in other words, keep these giving to yourself but we are also supposed to be salt and light and encourage others. So pray and discern what to keep to yourself (so that your reward will be in Heaven) and what to share so that others are encouraged to also give. Randy Alcorn says that we should encourage each other by sharing our “giving stories.” Not so that it results in praise to the conduit (us) of the blessing but to the “Blessor”(God). 2 Corinthians 9:11 says, “You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.”  So I share so that there will be thanksgiving to God and encouragement.

That is amazing how God directed you, you got your safer, brand new car, and you were able to invest in God’s work!…  For people who are very privileged, what would you like to share with them? Are there problems that afflict this group?
Don’t trust in “your” wealth. It’s fleeting and you can’t bring it with you. 1 Timothy 6:17 says, “ For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.” Many times the wealthy tend to base their self-worth according to their net worth. And many times the not so wealthy and middle class do the same. We get into the affluenza trap… and it’s conforming to the world. Have an eternity mindset, fix your eyes on heaven, fix your eyes on Jesus.

What do you mean by “affluenza trap”?
Materialism.

I see.  Sometimes, maybe having lots of money can make a person feel content with things that can be purchased that he doesn’t think he needs God… How about for people who are less privileged, what would you like to share with them?
That God is faithful and that He will always provide for all of our needs. Whether you are “less privileged” or “affluent”. Philippians 4:19 says, “And my God will supply all your needs, according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.

Is there tangible hope of getting more income or is it only a matter of keeping on being content with little?
It’s about being content with what you have right now–whether it’s “little” or “lots”. The biblical definition of great wealth is “Godliness with contentment is in itself great wealth.” 1Timothy 6:6  Many times, “less is more”.

What inspired you to write books?
I think that writers are readers. When you read a lot, you identify a certain “writer’s voice.” You try to emulate that. When I started writing and people started saying, “Hey this is good, you should write more,” that’s what encouraged me. But I didn’t have the confidence to really make it a calling.  One day, I remember reading Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven Life and I asked God what’s my life purpose. The Holy Spirit impressed upon me to pick up the bible.  I happened to hold an old bible — it was the King James Version then and my eye got led to Psalm 26:7 That I may publish with the voice of thanksgiving, and tell of all thy wondrous works.  There it was. I was to publish — write — and speak of God’s wondrous works with the voice of thanksgiving.   It just jumped off the page. God revealed to me that it is my calling is to write.  Later, that calling was confirmed when I went on a journey to Mt Carmel in Israel. The Holy Spirit spoke to me and I knew beyond a doubt what the Lord’s calling and assignment for me was. But I’ll reserve that story for another time because it’s a long story.🙂

Ok! Aabangan! Isn’t that wonderful when your life purpose is revealed to you straight from the Word of God! You asked and you received!
How much of your work was influenced by your earthly dad [the illustrious Marketing Guru, Dr. Ned Roberto, “Asia’s Foremost Marketing Authority” who co-authored with Philip Kotler our College Marketing textbooks] ?  
My love for books was influenced by my dad because all the gifts I got from him were not toys but books (except for an occasional Lego).  That was his way of communicating his love and affection. For example when I shifted from Pre-Law to Pre-Med, the next day, tahimik lang sya, but he had stacks of books on biology.  He would pass on a lot of his books to me. I would see him at work writing books, researching.  When I was younger, I was content to go up to my treehouse reading a book. That was then the equivalent of today’s iPad.

ardy-with-dad-ned-roberto

Ardy with his dad, Dr. Ned Roberto

When you are surrounded by books, you must feel loved! :) 

Can you tell me about My Father’s Bookstore? 
It is an inspirational bookstore business that Miriam and I put up. We sell books which teach values that both your earthly and heavenly Father would like you to have. It’s embedded inside Neil’s Kitchen in Alabang. While you’re hanging out, you can pull out some books that interest you. We’re trying the Honesty Bookstore policy now so there’s no cashier. You just pick up a book, put the money in an envelope we provide, and you drop off this payment envelope into the honesty dropbox.  I believe that if you appeal to people’s integrity and honesty, God will honor that.


…Trusting that if anyone takes wrongfully, the real Owner is Your Heavenly Father!  

Do you happen to have a favorite among the books you’ve written?
That’s like asking a father of many children, “Which is your favorite child?”

That’s exactly the answer I thought I might get! 

What inspired you to help others to write their own books?
When I started writing books, people came up to me asking, “How do you write a book , how do you get it published?”  I would get into these long conversations with people then get asked the same question by someone else.  After a while,  I thought I should just make this into a seminar  instead of ulit-ulitin ko.  Doon nagsimula. I would like to believe there was a higher purpose higher than my irritation. Eventually, composing the Project Author [Salt and Light Ventures’s Seminar: Start Writing and Get Your Book Published] invitation to my Subscriber List, was so easy to write with so much joy and peace; it just flowed. Someone read it from the other side of the World Wide Web, and that was Miriam, yung Project Author became Project Bride.

Wow, ang ganda naman non! Bagay gawing movie! Parang mala-Tom Hanks, Meg Ryan.  That’s how you and Miriam connected pala!?
Although that would be much later.  Before Ting [Ardy’s late wife] passed away, she made bilin to her best friend, Carol, that when I get married, make sure that she’s a woman who loves God more than I do.

Swak na swak si Miriam for you! Dinescribe pa ni Ting! 
Ting made bilin to me that I should follow up on my Project Author students.  You see, when Ting went back to the hospital for a span of six months, I dropped everything else, except once a week, I met with my Project Author students. Ting would say, “Dapat i-follow up mo sila.” Sa first batch kasi, after eight or nine months , two pa lang ang nakapagpublish. A few months after Ting died, nag follow up ako sa kanila…

That’s an amazing story! For one of your future books!  Pero grabe Miss Universe pa talaga who loves God! 

ardy-and-miriam-wedding

Ardy and Miriam’s Wedding

ardy-miriam-2-coconut-treesardy-and-miriam-1
Do you have a life verse? 
I have several life verses. It actually changes according to the season of my life. Like now, I’m in a season where I’m praying to know the Holy Spirit more and want to be filled with and led by Him so these verses speak life to me: Isaiah 30:21, 2 Timothy 1:7, Galatians 5:22-23, Ephesians 5:18-20…  When I was writing Pera na Hindi Bitin and in a season of studying personal finance and stewardship, my life verses were Matthew 25 (Parable of the Three Servants), Philippians 4:19, and Malachi 3:10, etc.  When I asked God what my purpose in life is, He led me to Psalms 26:7 (KJV), “That I may publish with the voice of thanksgiving and speak of all thy wondrous works.” And that became my “life verse.” But my evergreen life verses will be John 10:10, Ephesians 3:20, Proverbs 3:5-6, James 1:2-5, Romans 8:28, Jeremiah 29:11, Joshua 3:5, Matthew 7:7, Romans 6:23 and of course, John 3:16.
There are more that come to mind now, but I’ll stop or else this might look like a Bible index. I guess this just shows that God’s word is alive and speaks life to us; that’s what it’s supposed to do. The Holy Spirit uses God’s word to teach and guide us. And yes, that includes about money, too.

The output of your work is a function of God’s biblical leading for you pala—a response to your calling!  

Can you invite readers to your events? 
Please come to the Manila International Book Fair (MIBF) starting Sept 15 to Sept 18, 2016 at the SMX MOA where the new, updated edition of Pera na Hindi Bitin ver 2.0 will be released.

I will be in Davao speaking at an event in the University of Mindanao on September 17 (together with Miriam) but will be at the MIBF on Sept 18 at 5pm-7pm at the OMF Lit Booth to sign books.

You can also catch me speak on Entrepreneurial Mindsets on September 20 (at the Acacia Hotel Alabang) and  September 27 (at Max’s Sucat).  These events hosted by BPI-Family Bank and the Philippine Franchise Association are by invitation but you can message me if you’re interested.  (Pls PM me on FB or check my FB page: ArdyRoberto).  I will be speaking at GCF Ortigas on September 10, 2016 at 730pm-930pm (Real Men are POGI). There will also be a special launch of the Pera na Hindi Bitin updated by my publisher OMF Lit soon. Details to be announced soon!

=====

Lord, thank You for showing us that You are alive and that You speak and guide through Your living Word.  Thank You for the example of Ardy Roberto to intentionally listen and apply what You say.  Thank You for his sharing about Money through his books and speaking which applies to everyone. May Your favor rest on him, his family, his career and business, and all endeavors;   May You continue to establish the work of his hands.  May You continue to use him mightily to share Your heart.  Glory to You for the synergy of his partnership with Miriam in life, family, business, and ministry.  May You continue to bless them immeasurably more than all they ask or imagine as he (they) continue(s) to publish with the voice of thanksgiving and speak of all thy wondrous works in Jesus’s name and for His glory amen.

Brian Welch from Korn

I find this amazing and wanted to share with you:

Debbie Yulo: Mom’s Greatest Gift

Debbie Yulo was in the garments export business for nine years making baby clothes. After giving birth to her third child, she stopped her business completely to became a full time mother. I don’t know if every child in the world understands what it means when a mother gives up something in order to prioritize being a better mom… But Debbie is one who has gratitude for her own mom! This is a tribute for hers!

​​

It’s very important to have a prayerful mom.  I come from a very simple family…the things that we experienced when we were young were simple.  My mom’s rules were very simple but deep into the heart, giving God the priority in our lives, going to church. Ever since we were young, at first it [was] a rule… but then when you go, you realize that the reason why our parents or my mom prays for us and wants us to go to church is so that I will have an abundant life—not materially but spiritually.

I will never forget my mom for kneeling down and praying for us day and night because I can really see it.  That has become a very important legacy for us… I realized that when I feel helpless and really down, down, down there is nothing else to do but to come on our knees and pray.  I really am thankful for that — that she did not give me all the material things or whatever things she thinks she should give us.  It’s not that. It’s the prayers that she taught us in her own simple ways.

 I consider it a privilege to be able to take part in caring for my Mom. She is turning 94 years old in a few more weeks. Although she has full time caregivers taking care of her, I am still very much involved. Am blessed to be able to see her smile, hold her hand, to hug and kiss her. She shared with me the greatest gift of all – to know God and put Him first in my life.  Because I know Him, I know I will never walk this life alone.

Now that I am also a mother, motherhood has given me the opportunity to fully understand the true meaning of unconditional love. It also helped me to teach and apply all the things my own mother taught me as I learn from my children as well. Each day brings new challenges but it is a joy to watch the kids grow into young adults. As I put my faith and trust in God, He continues to do great things in their lives. God is indeed faithful. – Debbie Yulo


Perkins Twins: Double Delight Duo

Jesse and Christian Perkins (known as The Perkins Twins) are a classic example of two being better than one! The twins’ music hits two birds with one stone: entertainment and good influence as they share inspiring advocacies with kids of all ages (including those of us who are above  [Ahem] twenty-five years old).

They were born in Manila where their American dad, Tarny Perkins, and Filipina mom, Tess Pazzuiagan Perkins operated the Coffee California company.  When the twins were five years old, the family moved to Northern California where they were raised.

In school, they excelled in academics and sports…both were high school scholars, and recipients of the  (U.S.) Presidential Awards for Outstanding Academic Excellence during each of the terms of Presidents Bush and Obama. They were the youngest high school varsity basketball players before they shifted their focus on tennis where they would be undefeated in their high school tennis careers, winning the Grand Prix doubles champions in the state of California.  They also played Pop Warner football.  They were featured on ABS/ TFC Channel as Filipino Champions.  On GMA Power ng Pinoy they were the youngest FilAm Difference Makers on a list that included Dado Banato and Cheryl Burke (dancing with the stars).  Both boys received full scholarships to the University of California at Berkeley (CAL).

They were international fashion and commercial models under their mentor, Charleston Pierce (in San Francisco), both standing above 6 feet tall.
perkins 6 modelIn 2013, the Perkins Family decided to come back to Manila.  While Dad and Mom Perkins got busy returning to the coffee business with their Cup of Faith Coffee Shop (Upcoming post on that!), the twins got busy too! And how!  They released their first album, Para Lang Sa Yo, on their own with original Tagalong songs by Vehnee Saturno.  This year, they signed on under Universal Records.  This is their Tagalog single, Ikaw Na:

With their latest album, Can’t Stop, all of the songs were written by the twins in English (except for one Tagalog song).  Favorites include the carrier single, Can’t Stop, as well as Heart of Gold, and Wanna Be Yours.

Jesse and Christian are almost totally focused on singing but also find time for sports, building computer apps, and working at the Cup of Faith.
Teaming up with EDSA Shangrila, they run a tennis training program along with their dad, Tarny, called the Perkins Twins Tennis Academy at the hotel’s two tennis courts (where the IPTL players practiced).

They are also Celebrity Ambassadors for World Vision (Sponsor a Child)
perkins twins world vision
and support the work of  Global Impact for Anti-Human Trafficking as Freedom Fighters.
perkins1 twins global impact
In 2014, they were featured on 700 Club Asia for the episode, Huwaran na Mga Anak (Model Children).

I don’t think this is Two Much Excellence! But wait! There’s more!  Their latest endeavor is a project with the Department of Education (DepEd) where they advocate No Drugs, No Smoking, No Alcohol, No Bullying and Yes to Purity (no love teams) and Good Values for elementary, high school, and college level schools all over the country.

Processed with VSCO with hb1 presetThey spend three to four days in the beginning of each week in a given locality visiting up to six schools per day where they perform a few songs and advocate doing the right thing.  Then they finish the week with an SM Mall Concert on the weekend where they reinforce their advocacies.  After the performance, they mingle with the youth and encourage them to stay in school. In addition, the twins make it a priority to sing and share their testimony for church youth groups.

According to Tarny Perkins, “The tour itself is a family affair – with Dad and Mom, Tess  (the “mommyger” as she likes to say), always on the tour with them. Their photographer is their uncle Edgar (Tess’s twin). And the videographer, sound person, and security are either family members or friends. The pace of the nationwide tour is not expected to slow down anytime soon as they are continue with SM for mall tours throughout 2016. And the twins are planning an even bigger campus and mall tour for 2017.  This is their current mall schedule (with more to follow):

• SM CENTER MUNTINLUPA    10-SepSaturday4PM | Event Center

• SM CITY BATANGAS                 18-SepSunday5PM | Atrium 2

• TOWER MALL                             24-SepSaturday4PM | Event Area

• SM CITY BICUTAN                       1-OctSaturday4PM | Event Center

• SM SAN JOSE                                 9-Oct  (Further details to be announced)”

Butterflyinthespring had a chance to chat with Jesse and Christian. Sharing that with you:
BUTTERFLYINTHESPRING (BITS): What encouragement can you give someone who is struggling with peer pressure? Have you encountered such struggles?
JESSE PERKINS (JP): Oh yes. My brother and I actually grew up in California. A lot of the weekends during High School, some of our friends were drinking, smoking, doing drugs… that was like a “normal thing to do.”  My brother and I were sometimes pressured by people into stuff like that but we both knew that if we wanted to do the right thing and be pleasing to the Lord—we wanted to delight in safe pasture—we would actually never go to these parties.  We would hang out with our friends but not in things that would get us in trouble doing the wrong things.  We’re not here to please other people.  We’re here, first of all, to please God and then we focus on what we’re passionate about.  In our case it was sports, our studies.  It’s easier to combat peer pressure if you’re committed to important things; find something that you really love to do.  And don’t hang out or be influenced by the wrong crowd.
CHRISTIAN PERKINS (CP): A lot of people tend to be insecure giving in to peer pressure from people who tell them to do this and that but I think you can combat that if your security is in the Lord.  My brother and I were raised in a Christian family. Our parents taught us since we were young to follow the Lord and His commandments.  They taught us to read the bible which is the most important thing.  That can give you strength and wisdom to fight against any temptations you may have.  For us, it’s just putting God first in everything you do; and think about, “Is this going to be glorifying to God or is this going to cause me to stumble?”  We used to have bracelets that said, “What would Jesus do?” That kind of mindset helps a lot in trying to be more like Jesus.
JP:  It would be cool if you surround yourself as much as possible with people who share the same values as you who support what you stand for who will help you be accountable and be a good person. Be role models for your friends and don’t let your friends change you. Youth groups in church are good.
CP: We also had role models.

JP: They inspired us.

CP: Yeah, exactly. One of our role models was Tim Tebow, a professional football player in the US who was actually born here [in the Philippines].  He’s a man of God, he walks in the light of Jesus.  It’s important to know that not everyone was doing the bad stuff.  It’s cool to be good.  Of course, Number One: turn to Jesus.

Perkins Twins with Tim Tebow

The twins with their role model, Tim Tebow.

JP: You don’t have to be like other people.  If you’re rooted in the Word, you’ll know what’s right and wrong.  Obviously, you can’t be perfect but we try as much as possible to stay away from bad situations.

BITS: When you say you want to “be accountable,” what do you mean by that?
JP: At church, we have a group of young guys that we’re accountable to; we study the bible.  My brother and I are also accountable to each other.  I think that’s really important because that way, you have someone else helping you to fight the devil. Sometimes someone tells you, “You have to stop doing this… you have to get back on track.”

CP: The group is also encouraging… being open to be corrected, being honest with people and yourself and ultimately, to God.

BITS: I am curious if you were isolated that’ why you could remain pure?

JP and CP [Amused]: No, no, it wasn’t like that. We had a bunch of friends… They respected our values… No one ever said, “You guys are killjoy.”(It helped that we played sports so we kind of had respect from that) But it was like, ” You don’t need to do what we’re doing. You’re still friendly to us.”  We were still friendly to everyone. We just didn’t do things or go to places that would get us in trouble.

BITS: Did anybody ever make fun of you for sticking up to your values?
JP: If you establish right away where you stand in your values and faith, people will understand that right away as opposed to if you’re on the edge [or in-between]. Obviously, we [make mistakes].  We’re human beings also. But if you just make it known right away [what you stand for and] try your best to live that Christian life, people will respect that.  It’s not a bad thing to try to be as good as you can.

BITS: What’s your take on girls?  What can you say to someone who might be wondering if following the Lord is boring, restrictive, and not enjoyable?

For those of you who want to know if you can adopt the Perkins Twins, here’s their answer:

Tarny and Tess Perkins serve as the twins’ manager and “mommyger.” Tarny says,  “What makes the story of the twins unique and one might say ‘a miracle,’ is that the Perkins Twins are bringing their message of hope and inspiration to massive campus audiences and packed SM Mall Shows, with virtually no visibility from the entertainment community (Philippine TV,  press or radio).  We as a family believe that God has a bigger plan than the plans of men.  The twins are bold in expressing their values and will not compromise their faith. They work hard to bring quality and brotherly love (after all, God first loved us) to the Philippine market — which is appealing to all ages. If you have not seen the twins live, you really need to. It truly is a phenomenon.  Their commitment to the fans is to stay until the last person gets their picture (or hug).”

I found out that the reason why Jesse’s name always comes first before Christian’s is that before Tess gave birth and was looking for baby names, she wanted the twins to be named J and C (to be like Jesus Christ). Thus, Jesse and Christian!  They are half-American and half-Filipino, but wholly inspiring.  Their Fan Club is called Perkinspired and I think I just became an unofficial member.

Mommy Tess says, There is no greater joy than to heart that my children are walking in God’s truth. Whenever  there are mall shows, they point their fans to the One they admire. Many of the fans have come to visit at the Cup of Faith while the twins work. I would say, ‘Follow the twins but ultimately follow Who they follow… Jesus.'”

Lord, how wonderfully the twins turned out, being salt and light to the world with some neons, too! May You continue to guard and guide them as You expand their borders as they joyfully and passionately walk in the path You have planned for them giving glory to Your name wherever they go. Thank You for Tarny and Tess and the people who surround them for their diligence and perseverance to finish the race and all for the glory of God.

[For any parent feeling pangs of sadness wondering why their kids are not following the Lord, here’s an encouraging message from Carol Pope, the beautiful wife of Randy Pope, founding pastor of Perimeter Church in North Atlanta.]

Nathan Allen: An Asset to Philippine Tourism (Touched by Inspiring Persons of the World)

img_1669Huffington Post UK named Nathan Allen (I Dreamed of This) as #2 World’s ToWorld’s Top Male Travel Bloggers Male Travel Bloggers. This is what that article said about his blog:

His blog and photos of life in the Philippines is pure dreamy and most definitely helping to promote the country as one of the world’s best tourist destinations, with his posts often reaching a few million people!

Nathan Allen

About two years earlier, Nathan wrote a post to defend Philippine tourism when another foreigner wrote that she would “rather go hungry than eat Filipino food again.”

Before Nathan and his I Dreamed of This assistant, Ella, came to the shop last year, I had the chance to browse through his blog. I was drawn by his genuine appreciation of the Philippines, its beauty, its people, its food.  On the unique, sometimes funny or strange, cultural nuances in Pinoy culture, he seemed to approach with a learner’s mind eager to understand rather than criticize…  He is talking about my country… He is talking about my people… He is promoting humble folk —my countrymen, most of whom can’t pay him back — and their livelihood in far-flung areas and treating them like family.  [This is in contrast to online media criticism that highlights negative things with hashtag “#onlyinthePhilippines” without suggested solutions.]

Why is a foreigner prouder of my country than I am? Why is he doing more for my country than I am?

Soon, I discovered from the comments to Nathan’s posts, that many Filipinos stationed around the world as well as within the Philippines were reflecting on the same questions.

The other day, I was looking for the video files of an interview I had of a chef but instead came across videos taken from when Nathan came to the shop in November 2015.  Nathan has been a great blessing to the Philippines, specially the less privileged and less accessible (sometimes micro-) entrepreneurs in remote areas whose provision for their families depends on the interest generated for their towns.  Nathan wasn’t paid to promote the Philippines but in his passion to upgrade the tourism industry amidst mosquitoes, inconvenient travel arrangements, dangers and hazards even to his very life, when you see the excellence in his work, you would think he was getting paid to have a Hollywood luxurious life. He talked about many lucrative offers he received for his talent but he turned them down because he valued his integrity and credibility more.

This post is barely, barely commensurate gratitude on behalf of many grateful Filipino people (some of whom may not ever have experienced wifi) but I hope this will be able to faintly convey a heartfelt collective resounding Thank You to the honorary Filipino, Nathan Allen!  You are one of us!

How did that happen that you’re not a Filipino but you’re very interested for Philippine tourism to be promoted? 

People were so warm and very friendly to me when I came here.  People really became family to me.  Many foreigners come here and they say that. That’s why it kind of earned a special place in our hearts so you feel like you want to do what you can to help stimulate the economy to help some of the people you met in the villages  and provinces… the fishermen I’ve stayed with… those families.  That’s a really powerful experience.

nathan in province

What was the most rewarding experience you’ve had? … Coming to places like this meeting people like you, being able to share that with other people. Like [Ella, a Filipina] said, people get so happy and proud to see their place, country through the eyes of an outsider, and to see it appreciated.  

nathan albay stole my heart

From Nathan’s post, “Albay Stole My Heart.”

Do you remember the scariest experience you’ve had besides falling into the [man] hole? [Laughter]

Again, this is why I want to streamline the tourist experience… because the DOT wants to bring more foreign tourists into the country and that’s great… but it should be ready.  Because you want [the tourists] to have a good experience, go home, and share, bring more [tourists] because it could really help the country…  This was just a place where the water was quite deep… I guess I didn’t realize that I would have to stay swimming or floating for a long time… in deep water.  I thought there would be a boat or something; I could just hang on the boat but there was no boat. You just swim from the shore way out to… twelve meters… I was getting so tired. The local guide, he had a flotation device and I just said, “Kuya, can I just use that because I’m so tired” and I’m breathing heavy. He looks at me so scared and he says, “Wait Sir!” He just takes the flotation device away… I can’t believe it… I just barely found a mound under the water where I can just [touch] on my tiptoe…  He came back and had something to use to float…Those are the things that they should improve because if you have someone that dies out there, it’s not good for business.

You are helping Filipinos in faraway provinces…

I felt I was very fortunate to be in a position where I had an audience…people who are ready to come experience tourism in the country. Through the blog, they are able to see these beautiful places and be inspired to come hopefully… I wanted to help because I had such an amazing experience, just fell in LOVE with the country. Really. I met so many incredible people that became my family. Eventually, it could really help stimulate the economy, it could help those fishermen. Tourism can really help preserve the corals, the reefs. It’s been damaged from dynamite fishing, overfishing.  Those fishermen— they have a lot of mouths to feed— but if they had income from tourism, I hope they can let the fish populations come back, practice responsible fishing, the corals can regrow. Tourism can really, really help. That’s the one way I could possibly help so I want to try.

nathan Philippine underwater

From Nathan’s post “The Philippines is a Gift from the Gods.”

What are the challenges you have?

It’s very fun for me… but I definitely have had to sacrifice. I don’t have much money at all because I don’t get paid to do it but it’s something I dreamed about literally since I was a little boy coming to places like this and trying the food, seeing the coconut trees [to Nathan and a lot of people who live away from the tropics, a symbol of “the good life”].  A lot of foreigners [who] get older want to come retire here for good reason I can see why: no harsh winters, cost of living is good. 

It’s hard for you sometimes to do what you’re trying to do?
Just in terms of tourism being more successful,  people might be thinking more short term, “Give me the money now,” like Boracay getting completely developed.  They don’t really think long-term for tourism (preservation) so as soon as that place might get ruined, they’ll move on to another place and that place will get ruined. But there’s a better way that’s more sustainable.  Those are the obstacles I hope people will start thinking about because if they do think long-term, it’s a long-term investment for the country, for the people.
The title of your blog, I Dreamed of This, you literally dreamed of this?
[Either] you literally had a dream in the middle of the night but… it’s more like a daydream… something I always wanted to do.  I dreamed of these places, these experiences.

How much of that dream has come to pass?
A lot of it!… I might even say 90 [per cent].  I didn’t expect much. I just wanted to go to those places… see the islands, the beaches, try the exotic foods… I did that. I wasn’t asking too much… I’m simple. That’s why I was able to live the dream.

Do you also see yourself as an official ambassador of your country?

People have told me that… I have American friends that live here… and they’ve thanked me. They say, “We don’t have the best reputation always out in the world.” They said that they like what I’m doing because they feel like it gives them a good name.  I hope that’s true.  

Say, you were representing your country, what would you like to say to anybody from our country?
Am I being interviewed for an Ambassador position? [boisterous laughter]
You never know, Nathan.
… I feel like there’s not really much I can share with Filipinos about my country because everybody already embraces it.

Nathan Allen Nacpan Palawan.jpg

From Nathan’s post, A Foreigner’s Perspective: Filipinos, Don’t Dream About Other Countries, Dream About Your Own!

I was looking at your blog so it’s really more for the Filipino people…
That’s not really my intention but that’s what happened.  It was a side-effect.  I was writing about the Philippines to an international audience, to whoever and Filipinos were really resonating with it.  Maybe a lot of travellers, they just come and they just say, “Okay, this is a beautiful beach, I get to try adobo and they get on their plane and say, “Here’s some photos” which are beautiful.  But for me, I want to go in depth.  I want to know why people are saying “nosebleed” everytime I walk up to them and ask them a question.  All of these local cultural quirks… The jeepney drivers in Cebu would [make this] kiss [sound]; pointing with the lips.  In Canada or the US, elderly parents will go into a Home for the Aged but Filipinos don’t do that.  I covered those cultural differences…[by talking to people], absorbing, asking questions, trying to pick up bits of the language, the food, just because I’m so fascinated by them.

You are like an honorary Filipino for loving the country…

I also feel a certain level of pride myself. [Ella] is talking about the pride she feels reading these articles about the Philippines.  Because I feel people here are like family to me, I even feel proud when the country is being recognized or awarded for this reason or that, it makes me proud of it… like an adopted ” Pinoy.” That’s what they tell me. It’s been two full years all over the country really diving in.  I guess it has become home.  But I’ve been really welcomed that way also so that’s why it means so much to me to try to do what I can to help.  And it is so much fun for me because photography is a passion, travel is a passion, culture is a passion so I think combining all of that… even hopefully provide valuable resources to other travelers who are considering coming.

 Even when I first started to come to Manila, I wasn’t too impressed with the food and service but in the last two-three years, it’s gotten so much better.  In general, the service, the standards, the quality is [better].  I’m very happy.  Manila before was just a stopover for a lot of these tourists  something that they have to endure (I hate to say it) before going to the beautiful paradises but now it’s really changing.  This is becoming a destination in itself so I’m very happy about that.    

======

To come here, traditional values, family values, it’s nice to see that. At the same time, I have to be real… It’s not always perfect.  It’s not always a cakewalk here… At this point, I’m like an adopted Filipino.  Of course, I’m from the US and I’m so happy to have… a foot in both worlds…because the Filipino culture is bringing to the table a lot that we’re missing that we could learn a lot from.  But there are some things that people here could learn from the US.  It’s one of those reasons why travel is so enriching and valuable.  If at all possible, I recommend people trying travel. It really broadens your horizons.  It helps you to get out of your bubble.  

I think I have a name for your next blog… The Accidental Ambassador.
The Accidental Ambassador.  I like it. It’s good.

Thank You, Lord for Nathan Allen, for all he has done to help people all over the country, specially those who were overlooked by others who have platforms to bless them. May You bless and protect Nathan, his team, his family, his travels, his work immeasurably more than all he asks or imagines or dreams about. May the good seeds of good change he planted bear lots of good fruit.  May You bless the Philippines, work out peace and prosperity within, around, and from it. May You guide and direct our leaders according to Your righteousness in Jesus’s name amen.

For Singles: Qualities to Look for in a Life Partner According to Ptr. Art Handog

One day, Ptr. Art Handog and his beautiful-inside-and-out wife, Rose came to the shop with their family friends from Vancouver, Canada.  When I came by for a quick chat, Ptr. Art talked about his work and the conversation veered towards how Rose is a big help and support for him.  I asked him for this blog what are the qualities to look for in finding a spouse. First, Ptr. Art looks at his wife, Rose, puts his arm lovingly on her shoulder and begins intermittently looking at her as though describing her.

This is his reply:

Beautiful on the inside is the most important.
She should be under the leadership of our Almighty God kasi hindi basta-basta e, no?  There are so many people who get married. The weddings are so beautiful. But after two weeks, wala na… it’s over.

How do you test “beautiful on the inside” when you can’t see it?
The way they live.

What do you look for in the way they live?
Not only involved in the ministry but they live biblically, in fear of God; they influence other ladies to grow in their relationship with God.

What does that indicate?
That shows that she is growing in Christlikeness, in character.  Her influence for good and righteousness is significant.

Why do you think sometimes after two weeks, marriages begin to unravel?
Sometimes in the relationship before marriage, everything is beautiful.   But when two people start to live under one roof, that’s the time you begin to discover what the other person is really like.

Is this a common occurrence?…When people know each other for several years, why do things change when they are under one roof?
When they know each other for a few years, wala pa masyadong totoo na nakikita until they are together under one roof, that’s why premarital counselling is important for both parties to discover more about each other beforehand.  If they both have Jesus Christ in their hearts and He is the centre of their relationship,  whatever character each of the persons have, maaayos yon (the relationship can work).

How about if only one is committed to the lordship of Christ?
That’s the problem if only one …

So what’s the solution?
They can look into the One who is the Author of the relationship for the two persons to become one.

If there’s only  one committed  to the lordship of Christ, the burden will be on that person to adjust and love unconditionally?
[Ptr. Art and Rose]  The bible commands, “Do not be yoked with unbelievers.” but if the non-commitment to Christ by one partner arises after the wedding, we counsel the one who is committed to submit to the lordship of Christ, to submit to the biblical guidelines of marriage. By the power of God indwelled in that one committed person, that can be a guiding testimony to the other to seek the Lord.  We’ve seen a lot of cases wherein the good testimony of the committed one also draws the other to Christ. Although the road is tough, there’s hope in God. We believe that the Spirit is really working in the lives of surrendered people and God will be faithful.

Venus Raj: Message of Major Importance

Venus Raj is a Filipina television and film actress, model, and TV host who is a five-time co-winner as PMPC Star Awards Best Morning Show Host (shared with Umagang Kay Ganda hosts).venus short hair

venus modeling white gown

Venus is also a beauty queen, having won the titles of Miss Philippines Earth 2008, Bb. Pilipinas Universe 2010, and 4th Runner Up Miss Universe 2010 besting eighty-five gorgeous, smart, talented, statuesque women from all over the world.  She also won the awards for Best in Long Gown, Best in Philippine Terno, and was a co-winner for Miss Friendship which is uncommon to all be given to one major title-holder.

Butterflyinthespring had this chat with her:

BUTTERFLYINTHESPRING (BITS):  Is there a message which you think God has placed in your heart to share with others?
VENUS RAJ (VR): When I was not a Christian yet, I had several relationships and thought that the vacuum in my heart can be filled by having a relationship kasi I grew up not knowing my biological father.  There is that longing to really know or have someone….to be in my life.  Now the Lord is bringing women to me and I think they are experiencing the things that I have experienced in the past.  Some of the highlights of the topics we talk about is relationships, struggling with purity, and other areas of being a young woman.  It’s also connected to my own story.

venus with young woman

It’s amazing how the Lord is, He will allow you to go through some tough journey but at the end of it, He will be glorified by that story.

BITS:: He’s using it particularly right now in order to help the women He’s now sending to you.
VR:  Yes. Yes.

BITS: When you say that the women you talk to are struggling with relationships, is it mostly boy-girl relationships?
VR:  Yes, about 90%. They want someone or may nanliligaw or yung iba may boyfriend na or yung iba may have crossed that line of premarital sex already.  I’m not proud of sharing my failures in the past but I am proud to say that the Lord changed me; and how He changed me in that journey, I can also share with other women who are experiencing the same struggles.

If you are not focused on the Lord, if you look at people or compare yourself with other people, there will be many insecurities you will realise. You will be disappointed.  Why is that person like that and I’m like this?  Focus on what the Lord has given you and maximise that.  At the end of everything, whatever gift that the Lord has given you, He will ask you to account for that like in the Parable of the Talents, “What have you done with the talent that I have given you?”  I think it’s really important for young men and women at this stage in their lives to surrender their lives to Jesus because the pressure of the world is so much, so much… sometimes even the brand of clothes or shoes you wear, the gadgets that you have, or the school you go to, even that parang ginagawa nang sukatan ng pagkatao o halaga ng isang babae o lalaki. If you don’t go to a sikat na school, they will look down on you pero hindi naman yan ang sukatan ng pagkatao natin.  It doesn’t matter who the people are around you. What’s important is Who you belong to.  If you belong to Jesus, that’s the most important.

BITS: That’s key ‘no, to security?
VR: Yes. Even in the daily life. Even if you are studying, you study for the Lord. Because if you study for high grades, if you don’t get high grades, you will get disappointed.  If you study because your teacher is your crush, or your crush is in the same classroom, pa’no kung wala na sila? So you will flunk? You’ll get low grades … to the point that you don’t want to go to school anymore.  But if you study for the Lord because you want to honour the Lord in everything that you do, then it can be fruitful and you will learn a lot.

BITS: How did you come to that point of knowing God, following Him, understanding His word?
VR: My life was a mess before.  Before Miss Universe, there were people who introduced me to the gospel but after Miss Universe, parang feeling ko, “O, I can do it on my own naman pala.” It’s different when you have the success that you’ve been wanting for a long time already.  You feel like you can do it on your own, like you don’t need God anymore.  Pero time will come that even if you almost have everything— I had a nice paying job before; I had a good-looking boyfriend; I thought my family was okay because I could support them financially and I could help my niece and nephew go to school.  But that’s not enough at the end of the day, I felt empty and I felt that these are not the things that would complete me. Hindi talaga. Eventually I resorted to having relationships. I thought since I have a nice job, I should probably have a boyfriend also that would suffice my needs. Parang, “when you have a beauty queen, you should also have a king.”

BITS:  To complete the look…
VR:  Yes… but times will come na I would really cry in my room and realise these are not the things that complete me, these are not the things that I want. Of course, I was enjoying them because during that time, okay lang, lahat naman ganon ang buhay.  Yung friends na nakikilala ko, they’re showing me how to live that kind of life. Pero hindi eh. Iba, iba talaga.  My now-dgroup leader, she was so faithful in texting me for more than two years.  She would just follow up and send bible verses, quotes… But I would usually just not reply because I knew that I was doing something that was not good and not pleasing to the Lord and I was not yet ready to give up that lifestyle. I was not yet ready to accept Jesus… Baka mamaya hindi na ako pwedeng mag-boyfriend. Then there came a turning point when I came to my dgroup leader, Ate and Kuya (because they were a couple). Kuya said, “Before you talk to us, are you willing to listen to our advice?  Or mag-aadvice kami tapos hindi mo rin naman susundin? Let’s not talk anymore if that’s the case because that would be useless, a waste of time.  That time, I (tearfully) said, “I’m ready to listen!” I said, “Eto na, dere-derecho na ‘to kay Lord.”

BITS: There was a point of brokenness that opened you up?

[Venus shared something that devastated her.  She felt convicted that she was in a situation that compromised on God’s word and the action needed to make her life right with God was painful for her as she had to give up something.]

VR:  My drgoup leader said that I can start anew if I accept Jesus to be my Lord and Savior.  That was the turning point of me saying, “Yes” to the Lord; not my ways anymore… Ikaw na’ng bahala Lord. If magkaroon ako ng boyfriend in the future, ikaw na ang bahala dyan.  Kung wala, just ready my heart to accept Your decision kasi kung ipipilit ko nang ipipilit  yung gusto ko at mali na naman yung pupuntahan ko, another heartbreak, another waste of time, waste of effort.  Ang daming na-wa-waste if you keep pushing what you want and are not listening to what the Lord wants for you.

BITS:  To avoid any error, can you please tell me what was your beauty title?
VR: I was Bb. Pilipinas Universe 2010 and I was Miss Universe 4th Runner-up 2010.

BITS: Wow out of so many women!
VR:  Around 89. That time, the seed [of God’s word] was planted but wala pa yung conviction, boldness, obedience, wala e…I was not yet mature but if I were, I could have used that platform.

BITS: But God has another plan !: )
VR:  Right [big smile], His plans are way better than my plans.

BITS: Are you asked to speak to groups?
VR: Yes, usually schools

BITS: Where can people reach you?
VR: Through private message to my Instagram “Onlyvenusraj” or through my manager.

venus mirror shot

BITS: You winning that coveted beauty title, did you have any securities at that time.
VR:  Oh yeah, a lot! A lot! A lot of insecurities, that’s why I understand young ladies who have insecurities kasi noon parang feeling ko maitim ako, hindi ako maganda, marami akong pimples.  Yung ngipin ko, yung buhok ko etc.   But when I came to know the Lord and just reading His word, makikita mo talaga that whatever He wrote there, yun talaga yung totoo. That’s the truth that we are fearfully and wonderfully made and that we are beautiful in His eyes because we are created in His image.  Yung insecurities/ lies from the evil one telling you that you are not this, you are not that. You have to do this, you have to do that in order for you to become beautiful, for you to be accepted by society pero those are the lies of the enemy (Satan). Kasi diba the enemy comes only to steal, kill, and destroy, but Jesus came that we may have life and have it abundantly. Satan wants to steal your joy of just worshiping the Lord and feeling content with who you are and accepting who you are.

BITS: This is such a powerful message coming from a beauty queen.  I love it. Thank you so much for sharing.

venus coliseum

Befitting her name which means “goddess of beauty and love,” Venus who radiates beauty and love has found the God of Love and Beauty which has given her passionate purpose in life.
=====
Thank You, Lord for Venus.  Her previous failures and challenges are the very instrument You are using to speak Your truths to women and men who did not see that they are created in Your image and are beautiful in Your sight.  Without those failures before You truly grabbed a hold of her heart, she would just be Your beautiful creation but now she is Your beautiful daughter with Your Spirit and truth, Your love and compassion radiating from within. May You continue to guard and guide her, go with her, as she continues to shine brightly for Your glory in Jesus’s name amen.

%d bloggers like this: