My Five Happiest Happenings in 2018

My Five Happiest Happenings in 2018

The 31st of December. It’s the day when we revisit all the previous days of the year. In this post I revisit the 5 happiest things that happened to me in 2018 as a way to thank God for all good things.

(This is my eighth reflection on my “happiest happenings” for a particular year. For earlier reflections, see 201720162015, 2014, 2012, 2011, 2010.)

So, my happiest happenings in 2018 are (not in any order):


I’ve transferred twice already to a completely different research area. My first area was artificial intelligence (AI): my PhD computer science dissertation involved the development of a machine learning (ML) algorithm that used knowledge as well as data for conceptual clustering. Then, I  switched to software engineering (SE). Now–and, I hope, finally–I’m in information systems (IS) and games for learning (G4L).

What caused the changes in areas? Perceived impact on the country would probably be the main reason. When I was in AI, the country was not yet ready for it. I thought SE would be more useful and so I worked on software quality practices, but the country was not ready for that either. Now, in IS, I am using the grounded theory method (GTM) to understand how information technology (IT) is used (and misused) in the IT-enabled services industry (e.g., the BPO sector). From this I plan to propose ways to improve processes, technologies, and training for the said industry.

The International Conference on Information Systems (ICIS) is the most important conference in the area of information systems, so the acceptance of my paper (co-written with one of my PhD students, R. Lavilles) is one of my happiest happenings in 2018. Presenting it at the conference (and receiving great comments, especially from C. Urquhart) and attending the workshop of the AIS Special Interest Group on GTM (organized by N. Levina, who treated us to a lovely dinner) added further joy.

Program of Session V of the Human Behavior and Information Systems Track

Next year’s ICIS will be in Munich. The last time I was in Germany was when I did postgrad work in Saarbruecken in my early 20s. So, maybe I’ll submit a paper to ICIS 2019!

2. G4L

From SE, I actually transferred not just to one area (IS) but two, the second being games for learning (G4L). One of my long-standing research interests lies in technology-enhanced learning (TEL)–this is a thread that cuts across much of my research. For a while, I thought that intelligent tutoring systems (ITS), which I applied my ML algorithm in, would be the answer to the lack of qualified teachers, until Gen Z appeared, with its preference for digital games and social media for learning.

Right now, I and one of my research groups are in the process of designing and comparing (a) quickly gamified math drills against (b) math lessons designed within a carefully constructed game world. Before commencing, we spent a month observing grade-4 mathematics classes, particularly at a resource-challenged school, where I hope we could help change for the better the life trajectories of financially challenged children.

Observing a Grade 4 Math Class at a Resource-Challenged School Near my Campus


When almost a decade ago I enrolled in the PhD in Education program at the Brother Andrew Gonzalez FSC College of Education (BAGCED), it never occurred to me that I would one day be called to lead it.

BAGCED has tremendous potential to help improve the state of education in the country. The graduate programs and certificates that we offer are taken by hundreds of principals and superintendents of schools and districts. The conferences and seminars that we organize (e.g., ARAL on action research) are attended by thousands of basic education teachers nationwide. Our research results have the potential to improve educational processes and policies.

I have a dream for BAGCED: inspired innovation for impact. I hope that I will be able to lay the foundation for this dream quickly.

A Vision and Master Plan for BAGCED-02 (Cropped)
A Vision and Master Plan for BAGCED

4. San Francisco

ICIS 2018 was held in San Francisco, and though this was my third visit to the Golden Gate City, there were several new and happy experiences for me.

First was a happy reunion with an old friend, P. Claudio, who, a long time ago, gave me my first tour of the pier and the sights and restaurants near it.

Second was buying a nice Ralph Lauren overcoat at 70% off at Macy’s. I’ve always wanted to have a nice overcoat, but I did not want to spend a lot of money on something that I would rarely use, given that I live in the tropics.

Third was spending  a day at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA). Though I prefer the New York MOMA, there are so many art works to like at the SFMOMA, including the works of G. Richter.

Gerhardt Richter’s Photorealistic Painting, Lesende

5. Monthly Outings with Mom and Dad

Last but not the least of my happiest happenings in 2018 is not a single event but several events happening monthly, when I would take Mom and Dad out for lunch, shopping, and a haircut.

With Mom, Dad, Tita Aida, Riza, and Ely at our Favorite Restaurant


As I say goodbye to 2018 and welcome 2019, I thank God, who chose me before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4) to be part of the Light of the World (Matthew 5:14), for all His blessings.

And I thank my family, friends, and those whom I minister to, for their love.

With the Kids in my Nuvali Home
At Church with the Light of the World
With Carlo and Pam Fajardo
With the K3J Youth
With my Laguna Campus Computational Thinking (IECMPTK) Students

Happy New Year!

A New Song for a New Day

The Resurrection of the Christ by Carl Heinrich Bloch

April 1, 2018

Resurrection Sunday, the greatest of all feasts!

Today, by God’s grace, I and the youth group (Kabataang Kay Kristo Jesus or K3J) of our church will be handling the P&W and preaching at the worship service. And for this special occasion, God placed in my heart a new song. I’m sharing the lyrics below. Later I hope to find a way to share a recording of it.

Happy Feast of the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ!

Raymund Sison

Capo 3
G – D – Em – C


Seek first the kingdom of God
And all His righteousness
And all these things will be added
Added to you

Rapped Chorus:

God is able to do
Infinitely more than we would dare to
Ask, so ask and it will be given to you
Seek God’s Kingdom—believe, and be blessed

God is willing to heal
Any and every disease and sickness
If we place our hands on sick men and women
In the name of Jesus they will be healed

Sung Chorus:

God is able to do
Infinitely more than we would
Ever dare to ask, so dare to
Seek and be blessed

God is willing to heal
Any disease and sickness
If we place our hands on the sick
They will be healed


For the name of Jesus
Is above all names
So in the name of Jesus
Disciple all the nations

Verse, Rapped Chorus, Rapped Chorus with Sung Chorus,
Verse, Rapped Chorus, Rapped Chorus with Sung Chorus,
Bridge, Verse (higher octave) (2x)


When I was little, I loved looking at pictures depicting the life of Christ in my grandmother’s Catholic prayer book. Of course, as a child, I didn’t know (or care) who the painter was, until many years later, when I would receive a book titled “Jesus: The Son of Man” containing high quality reproductions of Carl Heinrich Bloch’s Fredericksborg Palace Chapel paintings. Thank you, Ada, for the beautiful gift!


My Happiest Happenings in 2017

This is my seventh year of reflecting, through my blog, on my “happiest happenings” for a particular year. (For earlier annual reflections, see 20162015, 2014, 2012, 2011, 2010.) My happiest happenings in 2017 are (not in any order):

1. Finishing my PhD in Education

I began my studies toward the PhD in education in 2010. I could have finished in 2013, but the Lord did not allow it; instead, I had to learn two important lessons.

First lesson: Please only God. I tend to be a people pleaser, but the Lord taught me not to please people but to please only Him: “Our purpose is to please God, not people” (1 Thessalonians 2:4b, NLT). I learned that when I please God, I do not need to concern myself with how other people might view me or my work. I also learned that pleasing God fulfills my potential and makes me happy.

Second lesson: Never compare myself with others. I remember Max Ehrmann’s Desiderata from long ago: “If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself .”

As soon as I have learned these lessons, I was able to defend my dissertation successfully and pass with flying colors.

I’m now thinking of whether to transform my dissertation into a book. The big question for me, based on my understanding of William Germano’s From Dissertation to Book, is whether I have sufficient material (research results) to give leaders the encouragement and the tools to improve themselves or their situation. I know that the Lord will guide me in this, too.

2. Salvation from Permanent Injuries

When, during a sudden downpour, my former car skidded, rammed through a tall lamp post, and crossed the traffic island into the other lane, I was profoundly grateful to the Lord that: (1) the only injuries I sustained were a stiff neck due to whiplash; and (2) there was no incoming traffic. The car was declared by the insurance company as a total wreck, and so I was able to purchase a newer and better vehicle, cash!

The Lord is good. Not only were I and others saved, but I also learned so many things (e.g., about the importance of the daily unhurried reading of God’s word and prayer in cultivating one’s relationship with God), and even got a vehicle that I really like!

3. Organizing a Medium-Sized Forum on Educating Generation Z

As head of the Society of University Fellows, which is celebrating its Pearl Anniversary this academic year, I organized what I hope would become an annual Fellows’ Forum on Higher Education, the inaugural theme of which was Educating Generation Z.

Gen Zers were born around 1995, at about the same time as the birth of the World Wide Web. While doing research for the situationer that I had to give, I realized that several paradoxes exist concerning Gen Z, one of which is what I call the Friendship Paradox: Though Gen Zers might have many friends on social media, they might have very few real friends. This can have several causes as well as effects, including what Jean Twenge suggests in her 2017 book on iGen that greater suicide risk is associated with longer average daily Internet use. Since the Forum, I have talked to various groups of people, trying to convince them of the need to study further how Internet use might be adversely impacting today’s children and youth, and what we can do about it.

4. Teaching about God’s Love and Our Fruit Bearing

I’m very grateful for having been asked to give the message for 2018 to my local church. The message was about John 15:16: “You did not choose me, but I chose you, and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. And the Father will give you whatever you ask in my Name.” For the first time, I articulated, based on experience and reflection, a framework for fruit bearing.

Bearing fruit can be viewed as a process that begins with an understanding of God’s love for us as unique individuals. This leads us to respond to God’s love in kind, by doing what God wants us to do, not out of duty, but out of love. As we obey the Holy Spirit in the big things as well as in the small ones, we bear fruit, i.e., our character becomes more and more like that of Christ, and people are drawn to Christ’s love through the testimony of our actions as well as words. And “the Father will give us whatever we ask in Jesus’ name.”


As I say goodbye to 2017 and welcome 2018, I thank God, first of all, who chose me before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4), and whose love for me is so great that I can never understand fully it (Ephesians 3:19a, NLT).

And I also thank my family, friends, and those whom I minister to, for their love.

With Dad, Mom, Pen, T. Violet, T. Grace, K. Mau, K. Mark, P. Jun and S. Janet on my x0th birthday
With current FORMDEV leaders on my x0th birthday.
With former FORMDEV leaders (one of whom is getting married in Feb 2018).
With some of the K3J (youth group) leaders and members wearing our banner shirt for 2018: I Chose U (John 15:16).
With Grace and Zoie, my very kind neighbors, on my x0th birthday. (The to-go bag is for Zoie’s husband, Joey.)
With Divine and Gwen, former associates at the Office of the AVC for Academic Affairs

To everyone I wish a new year “filled with the love and power that comes from God”! (Ephesians 3:19b, NLT)

Gen Z’s Friendship Paradox

Andres Bonifacio Day, 2017.

Stumbled upon the Facebook post below, which reminded me of the urgent need to look more deeply into what I called, in my talk, Gen Z’s Friendship Paradox: Having more (Facebook) friends but possibly less emotionally satisfying friendships compared to earlier generations.

Jean Twenge, in her 2017 book iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy – and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood – and What That Means for the Rest of Us, notes that Gen Z youth are more depressed than those of the past, and suggests that this might have to do with the number of hours they spend online:

I plan to work on this (among so many other topics!) after I get my PhD in Ed, which I hope and pray will be this December. 🙂

Stay tuned!

On Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church


“The work of salvation, in its full sense, is (1) about whole human beings, not merely souls; (2) about the present, not simply the future; and (3) about what God does through us, not merely what God does in and for us.”


April 15, 2017. Eve of the Feast of the Resurrection of Jesus.

In preparation for this year’s celebration of the greatest of days, I read Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church (2008), by N.T. Wright, whose The Challenge of Jesus: Rediscovering Who Jesus Was and Is I read for Resurrection Sunday 2015.

The book can be viewed as having two main points.

First: The historical and bodily resurrection of Jesus points not only toward life after death (in heaven) but, more importantly, toward the “life after life after death” (148), i.e., in the “final coming together of [the new] heaven and [new] earth, [which] is God’s supreme act of new creation” (208).

Second: We who are created in the image of God, and who have been redeemed from death through the atoning death of Jesus, are led and empowered by the Spirit to reflect (94) the Resurrected Lord to all of God’s creation here and now, on this earth, as well as in the new one. “The intermediate stage between the resurrection of Jesus and the renewal of the whole world is the renewal of human beings – you and me! – in our own lives of obedience here and now.” (249)

Before, between, and after his painstaking exposition of the above points, Wright does his best to expose the errors in the popular worldviews of materialism and Gnosticism and their modern/postmodern variants, and in popular beliefs about death, life after death, the second coming, and the role of Christians in this present world.


Now to quote some of Tom’s sentences that either caused me to pause, to smile, or to weep:

On salvation:

“The work of salvation, in its full sense, is (1) about whole human beings, not merely souls; (2) about the present, not simply the future; and (3) about what God does through us, not merely what God does in and for us.” (200)

On life after death:

“Life after death, it seems, can be a serious distraction not only from the ultimate life after life after death, but also from life before death.” (198)

On reflecting God:

“One of the primary laws of human life is that you become like what you worship; what’s more, you reflect what you worship not only back to the object itself but also outward to the world around.” (182)

So in worship we reflect the Triune God back to the Triune God, and at work and in ministry we reflect the Triune God to the world. Wow!

On kingdom work:

“[B]uild for the kingdom. This brings us back to 1 Corinthians 15:58 once more: what you do in the Lord is not in vain. You are not oiling the wheels of a machine that’s about to roll over a cliff. You are not restoring a great painting that’s shortly going to be thrown on the fire. You are not planting roses in a garden that’s about to be dug up for a building site. You are— strange though it may seem, almost as hard to believe as the resurrection itself—accomplishing something that will become in due course part of God’s new world. Every act of love, gratitude, and kindness; every work of art or music inspired by the love of God and delight in the beauty of his creation; every minute spent teaching a severely handicapped child to read or to walk; every act of care and nurture, of comfort and support, for one’s fellow human beings and for that matter one’s fellow nonhuman creatures; and of course every prayer, all Spirit-led teaching, every deed that spreads the gospel, builds up the church, embraces and embodies holiness rather than corruption, and makes the name of Jesus honored in the world—all of this will find its way, through the resurrecting power of God, into the new creation that God will one day make.” (208)

Wow! In relation to the above, I can’t wait to read and maybe blog about Chris Travis’ inSignficant: Why You Matter in the Surprising Way God is Changing the World.

Still on kingdom work:

“We must therefore avoid the arrogance or triumphalism of the first view, imagining that we can build the kingdom by our own efforts without the need for a further great divine act of new creation. But we must agree with the first view that doing justice in the world is part of the Christian task, and we must therefore reject the defeatism of the second view, which says there’s no point in even trying.” (216)

And still on kingdom work:

“As far as I can see, the major task that faces us in our generation, corresponding to the issue of slavery two centuries ago, is that of the massive economic imbalance of the world, whose major symptom is the ridiculous and unpayable Third World debt… Sex matters enormously, but global justice matters far, far more. The present system of global debt is the real immoral scandal, the dirty little secret – or rather the dirty enormous secret – of glitzy, glossy Western capitalism.” (216)

And finally, on Easter:

“If Calvary means putting to death things in your life that need killing off if you are to flourish as a Christian and as a truly human being, then Easter should mean planting, watering, and training up things in your life (personal and corporate) that ought to be blossoming, filling the garden with color and perfume, and in due course bearing fruit. The forty days of the Easter season, until the ascension, ought to be a time to balance out Lent by taking something up, some new task or venture, something wholesome and fruitful and outgoing and self-giving.” (257)

Now, what new, wholesome, fruitful, outgoing and self-giving task or venture shall you and I take up in the next forty days? 🙂

Happy Feast of the Resurrection!

P.S. Thanks to Raam Dev for the new, cool Independent Publisher theme. And also to the Automatticians for Twenty Ten, my blog’s first theme.

P.S. 2  As in previous Resurrection Sundays (see e.g., 2016, 20152014, 2013), there were birds singing just outside or dogs barking happily at a distance. And this time, I also saw a rainbow. God is good.


On Mathematical Mindsets

I was finally able to finish Jo Boaler’s Mathematical Mindsets, thanks to the seven hours of flight to KL and back. 🙂 As I wrote in my previous book blog post on Mindset by Carol Dweck, Mathematical Mindsets was the first book I began reading this year but I ended up finishing Mindset first.

Jo defines the mathematical mindset as one in which “students see mathematics as a set of ideas and relationships, and their role as one of thinking about ideas and making sense of them.” She then goes on to say that, although young children may begin to develop (what Carol calls) a growth mindset in mathematics early in life through games and puzzles, this quickly changes to a fixed mindset when they enter school, where they are forced to memorize number facts and follow a single, procedural pathway through timed tests and homework, in which they mindlessly apply a decontextualized mathematical procedure again and again. This in turn privileges students who memorize facts and procedures easily, deceiving them into believing that they are mathematically “gifted” (a myth that a fixed mindset apparently perpetuates), and, conversely, causing those who don’t memorize easily to believe that they are dumb in math or, worse, that they are dumb, period.

In lieu of these bad pedagogical practices, Jo offers evidence-based alternatives. For instance, instead of timed tests, which (can) cause lifelong and possibly debilitating math anxiety, and which give the impression that the essence of mathematics is being fast, she recommends the use of conceptual mathematical activities without time pressure (see e.g., the activities in her Fluency Without Fear web article). Jo also believes that homework that involves mindless practice of disconnected procedures should be replaced with reflective activities, if not eradicated altogether. And instead of “tracking,” in which students get placed into ranked sections, with the lowest performing students being placed in the bottom section, Jo recommends teaching heterogeneous classes instead, using strategies such as open-ended tasks, a choice of tasks, individualized pathways (using, e.g., SMILE cards), or the complex instruction model of Elizabeth Cohen and Rachel Lotan.

What I liked about this book is that it references many research studies (Jo’s as well as others’) and mathematics pedagogies. What I didn’t like about it is that ideas are repeated in the same form again and again and again (get the idea?) throughout the book, bloating it. Jo also tends to toot her own horn (e.g., “In an award-winning research study… I…”), when she obviously doesn’t have to. But I understand how difficult it is for academics to write popular books, so I take my hat off to Jo Boaler (and Carol Dweck) for making their results accessible to those of us who are not experts in their fields.

Possible books for next month’s book blog post:

  • Pernille Ripp’s Passionate Learners: How to Engage and Empower Your Students (2016);
  • Kevin Carey’s The End of College: Creating the Future of Learning and the University of Everywhere (2016); or
  • Greg Toppo’s The Game Believes in You: How Digital Play Makes Our Kids Smarter (2015)

Till then!

The Real Beauty

Beauty and the Beast is one of my favorite Broadway musicals – I especially liked Susan Egan singing Home and Terrence Mann singing If I Can’t Love Her – so I was a bit disappointed not to see these two songs in this year’s live action film. (Yes, there’s the new Beast song, Evermore, but it doesn’t sound as good.) But there are three things in the Beauty and the Beast live action film that more than make up for these.

TRB - Emma Watson

First: EMMA WATSON. She might not be able to sing like Susan Egan did, but she does have a lovely, innocent voice (yes, despite auto-tuning) to match her lovely face and body and, I would like to believe, her soul, too. If there’s any single reason why the live action film is better than the 1991 cartoon, it’s her. I’m glad she chose to be Belle instead of Mia (in La La Land), and I’m sure she’ll get her Oscar or BAFTA someday. At least she already has a Britannia Award, along with other fine actors like Tilda Swinton and Emily Blunt.

Second: the dazzling cinematography, production design, costume design, and visual effects. It is in one or more of these categories that this $160-million film by Bill Condon (Dreamgirls) might bag an Oscar. Celine Dion’s How Does a Moment Last Forever might also win Best Song. [Update: Meanwhile, on April 13, 2017, the film joined 28 others that have earned $1 Billion at the box office. Can it surpass its fairy tale sibling, Frozen? As of July 1, it is only $32,000 behind.]

Third: the great ensembles. There’s the “castle ensemble” including Emma Thompson (Mrs. Potts, who sings Beauty and the Beast), Ian McKellen (Cogsworth), Ewan McGregor (Lumiere, who sings Be Our Guest), Audra McDonald (Madame Garderobe), and Stanley Tucci (Maestro Cadenza) singing, for example, the Beauty and the Beast Finale (but sadly they did not sing Human Again); and the “village ensemble” including Luke Evans (Gaston) and Josh Gad (LeFou) singing, for example, Gaston or Belle.

A lot of people have of course compared the 2017 live action film against the 1991 animated film, and pointed out that the singing in the latter is superior. I agree (but the singing in the Broadway musical soundtrack is even better), but the 1991 film did not have a live, beautiful Belle, dazzling cinematography and design, and great actor-singer ensembles.

TRB - Wall

Thanks to Alex Zamora for treating me to the musical long ago! 🙂