My Top 5 Happiest Happenings in 2014

View of the sky from my balcony, December 31, 2014
View of the sky from my balcony, December 31, 2014

The 31st of December.

As in 2012, 2011, and 2010, I revisit the top 5 happiest things that happened to me in 2014, as a way of thanking God for all good things. Will you join me, my friend?

 

 

Memorializing the first presentation of DLSU's NLCC process at the CEAP Convention in Davao (September)
Memorializing the first public presentation of DLSU’s NLCC process at the CEAP Convention in Davao (September)

1. Spearheading curricular and pedagogical innovation and working with a wide variety of talented individuals

As Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, I enjoyed spearheading university-wide innovations in curricula (e.g., the New Lasallian Core Curriculum (NLCC)) and pedagogies (e.g., the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SOTL)). This necessitated my forming and working with various committees of top-notch DLSU professors from diverse disciplines and talented academic support staff, as well as delivering presentations to hundreds of people at university town hall meetings and national conventions. What surprised me was that despite the extremely hard work that all these activities — innovating, working with different people, and delivering presentations — entail, I found all of them…quite enjoyable!

2. Learning new things

I have never learned so many new and diverse things in my adult life. This year, for instance, I underwent training in Bangkok and Manila as an AUN QA Assessor, and soon after conducted my first program assessment at the Vietnam National University in Ho Chi Minh City. I also resumed studying Spanish after a hiatus of more than a decade. And as overall chair of the New Lasallian Core Curriculum initiative, I also had to read up on practically all the twelve (!) interdisciplinary (!) courses that make up the NLCC. For example, I had to read so many books on theology and Christianity (such as those below), which, given the goal of the NLCC — which is to develop in students love for God, humanity, country and the environment, and the virtues and competencies needed to practice this love in the 21st century — play a crucial role throughout the core curriculum:

RethinkingChallenge of JesusJesus and VEGlobalization and CSTContextual theologyPagkamakataoVR1BOATBible and UniSP in CPKungPope Francis

3. Time alone by myself, either watching a show (e.g., at the Saigon Opera House after an AUN-QA assessment) or film,

With the cast of the fantastic "A O" show at the Saigon Opera House (December)
With the cast of the fantastic “A O” show at the Saigon Opera House (December)

or strolling barefoot on a beach (e.g., in Boracay after a workshop presentation),

Unwinding at the beach after a presentation of the NLCC process to diocesan leaders (April)

or reading books, including the fantasy trilogies of Joe Abercrombie (fantastic!) and Rowena Cory Daniels, during long weekends. (I hope to post a review of these before the third trimester starts.)

Abercrombie Trilogy  Daniels Trilogy

4. Fun-time spent with the family or with friends and co-workers (including co-workers in ministry) away from the workplace…

Birthday lunch with Dad, Mom, Pastor Jun, and Sister Janet at my favorite Japanese resto (Feb)
Birthday lunch with Dad, Mom, Pastor Jun, and Sister Janet at my favorite Japanese resto (February)
With Divine, Gwen, and Bing at Camaya Cove (April)
With Divine, Gwen, and Bing at Camaya Cove (April)
With FORMDEV faci alums (April)
With FORMDEV faci alums (April)
With VCA Myrna, ERIO Director Alvin, former COB Dean Boo, and AUN-QA Trainer KC from NUS, at a seafood resto in Bangkok (May)
With Myrna (Vice Chancellor for Academics), Alvin (External Relations Director), Boo (former Business Dean), and Kay Chuan (AUN-QA Assessor and Trainer), at a seafood resto in Bangkok (May)
With the NLCC Course Design Committee (CDC) members at Balay Indang, Cavite (June)
With the very talented members of the NLCC Course Design Committees (CDCs) at Balay Indang, Cavite (June)
With my titas (nieces of my paternal grandmother) and their children) (September)
With my titas (nieces of my paternal grandmother) and their children (September). We love you, Tita Bobby!
With my local church's small-group leaders (November)
With my local church’s small-group leaders (November)
With FORMDEV facis at the retreat center in Batulao (December)
With FORMDEV facis at the retreat center in Batulao (December)
Christmas with the family (December)
Christmas with the family (December)
And with the extended family (cousins and their children, December)
And with the extended family (cousins and their children, December)
My prayer post during Day 1 of the last FORMDEV recollection (December)
My prayer post during Day 1 of the last FORMDEV recollection (December)

5. Last but not the least, time spent alone with God (e.g., Christmas eve). At church I have throughout the year taught on the spiritual discipline of spending quiet time alone with God daily, which includes daily prayer as well as daily reading of the Word of God. Though not perfect, my practice of this discipline was much better this year than in the last, and I believe will get better and better, by God’s grace. As a result, I have come to understand God’s love more, which in turn has resulted in my loving God more, which in turn has resulted in my loving others more!

I thank the Almighty for an exhilarating 2014. May many of the things the Lord has begun in our lives in 2014 start to bear fruit in 2015. Amen!

New Year Fireworks Display (View from my Balcony, January 1, 2015)
View of Manila’s New Year fireworks display, January 1, 2015. (For DLSU people: can you see the tip of the DLSU Christmas tree near the bottom right corner of the photo?)
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My Top 5 Happiest Happenings in 2012

The 31st of December. As in 2010 and 2011, I revisit the top 5 happiest things that happened to me in 2012 as a way of thanking God for all good things.

1. The Great Bow

"Blessing and honor and glory and power be to the One sitting on the throne and to the Lamb forever and ever." (Revelation 5:14)
“Blessing and honor and glory and power be to the One sitting on the throne and to the Lamb forever and ever.” (Revelation 5:14)

Early in 2012, soon after I began a preaching series on the Book of Revelation, I also began to worship God each morning by bowing with my face to the ground. Inspired by the manner in which the twenty-four elders in Revelation 4 and 5 constantly give glory to God (see the image on the right for an artist’s portrayal), I would, in this  position, first worship God for his infinite power and wisdom in creating the universe (Revelation 4:11), and then worship the Lord for his sacrificial love in redeeming mankind (Revelation 5:9-10). Since then, this has been, by God’s grace, the second thing I do each day. (The first thing I do is empty my bladder.)

This manner of prostration, though not commonly practiced in Protestant Christianity or Roman Catholicism, is called “zemnoy poklon” (great bow) in Eastern Orthodoxy. It is also a traditional prayer posture for the Jews (see Hayim Donin’s To Pray as  a Jew). I worship God in many ways, but I now especially and regularly love to worship the Lord in this manner.

2. DLSU-STC Strategic Architecture

Strategy Process (Sison, 2011)
Strategy Process (Sison, 2011)

The establishment of the DLSU Science & Technology Complex (DLSU-STC) at DLSU’s 50-hectare campus in Laguna is an enormously complex undertaking, especially coming after the new articulation of the DLSU vision, which is to be “a leading learner-centered research university, bridging faith and scholarship in service of society, especially the poor.” For the DLSU-STC, I developed, using a strategy process I had earlier designed in one of the courses I took under the PhD Ed program, the following: (1) three strategic intents or ambitions based on the new vision; (2) ten strategic competencies that need to be cultivated in order to achieve the strategic intents; and (3) thirty strategic methods or guidelines for developing the strategic competencies. All these make up a strategic architecture, which is a high-level blueprint for the acquisition of the competencies necessary to achieve the strategic intents.

To develop the strategic architecture I had to read countless books and papers on principles and trends involving all the major aspects of a modern university – research, teaching, community engagement; faculty, students, management, support staff, alumni, and many other external stakeholders; international rankings, income streams, the “new”” fundraising, organizational culture and structure, leadership, technology – as well as Lasallian pedagogy. I also had to conduct countless interviews and FGDs with representatives of all stakeholder groups. Never in my life have I talked with so many people and read so many books for a single output, not even for my PhD dissertations! Nevertheless, I enjoyed the whole process and am proud of the 124-page document that God’s grace has enabled me to submit to the DLSU President. This is not to say that the strategy process, which is iterative as well as recursive, is done; in fact it has only just begun!

3. Interviews with University Presidents

Fluvial Parade by Carlos "Botong" Francisco, National Artist and the Philippines' Greatest Muralist
Fluvial Parade by Carlos “Botong” Francisco, National Artist and the Philippines’ Greatest Muralist

The dissertation I am writing for the PhD in Education, major in Educational Leadership and Management, describes a grounded theory (GT) of the psychosocial process that presidents of autonomous and deregulated higher educational institutions in the country go through as they lead their institutions toward even greater heights. Glaserian GT relies heavily on constant-comparative interviews, and I have so far interviewed 16 presidents. Being the heads of the very best private universities in the Philippines, these 16 men and women had impressive CVs, of course. But I also found every single one of them to be very gracious! I therefore thoroughly enjoyed all the interviews.

Above is a photo I took of National Artist Carlos “Botong” Francisco’s Fluvial Parade (1961), which is in one of the universities I visited. The vibrant tropical colors symbolize for me the university presidents whom I interviewed, while the scenes and stories that the mural depicts symbolize the utter complexity of the psychosocial process that these outstanding presidents have to go through.

4. Mom and Dad’s Golden Wedding Anniversary

Mom and Dad Carrying the Sacred Vessels  (Ciborium and Cruets) on their Golden Wedding Anniversary
Mom and Dad Carrying the Sacred Vessels (Ciborium and Cruets) on their Golden Wedding Anniversary

This year marked my parents’ fiftieth year together, by God’s grace. We had a simple but joy-filled celebration, which began with the most important thing — a beautiful service of thanksgiving and renewal, which was held at the new Christ the King church atop a hill in Muzon, Taytay, Rizal. (This church’s adoration chapel is one of the biggest and most beautiful I’ve been to in the country. The adoration chapel is one of the first things I seek out when I visit a church for the first time.) After the mass, the family and extended family had a great time fellowshipping over lunch and merienda cena.

May the Lord grant Dad and Mom more years of fruit-bearing and ever-deepening purpose discovery and fulfilment in Christ!

5. FORMDEV’s 10th-Year Anniversary

Last but not the least, the FORMDEV family celebrated, by God’s grace, its 10th-year anniversary this year. I’ve already written a two-part blog on this so there’s no need for me to repeat here what I said there other than to say how very, very thankful I am to the Lord for FORMDEV.

With FORMDEV Facis,  celebrating 10 years of God's love and power.
With FORMDEV Facis, Celebrating 10 Years of God’s Love and Power Working in Us and Through Us

Thank God for my families — my natural family as well as my spiritual families (my church and FORMDEV) — and friends!

With Mom and Dad, Penan (my brother) and Tetet (my sister-in-law), nephews, nieces, uncle, aunt, and cousins. On my lap is my beloved niece, Téa-pooh. :-)
With Dad, Mom, Penan (brother) and Tetet (sister-in-law), Nephews, Nieces, Uncle, Aunt, and Cousins. On my lap is my beloved niece, Téa-pooh.
Celebrating my Birthday with Dad, Mom, Pastor Jun and Sis Janet
Celebrating my Birthday with Mom, Dad, Pastor Jun, and Sis Janet
Carlo and I arrived were the last to arrive at our DLSU Batch's reunion, but we both won prizes! In front of me are Donna and Jennie, who have been generously supporting the studies of a couple of youth at my church.
Carlo and I were the last to arrive at our DLSU Batch’s Silver Anniversary, but we both won prizes! In front of me are Donna and Jennie, angels who have been generously supporting the studies of a couple of youth at my church.
Serving as Godfather to Rem and B-Ane at their Wedding. (B-Ane is my pastor's only daughter. I was also a godfather at his only son JD's wedding.)
Serving as Godfather to Rem and B-Ane at their Wedding. (B-Ane is my pastor’s only daughter. I was also a godfather at his only son JD’s wedding.)

I thank God for a wonderful 2012, filled with so much joy (and several anniversaries), by God’s grace!

A blessed New Year (2013) in Christ!

“See I have given you this land. Go and take possession of [it].” (Deuteronomy 1:8)

My Top 5 Happiest Happenings in 2011

The 31st of December. It’s the day when we revisit all the previous days of the year. In this blog I revisit the top 5 happiest things that happened to me in 2011 as a way to thank God for all good things.

My Top 5 Happiest Happenings in 2011:

1. Strategic Management

In one of my PhD in Education (Major in Educational Leadership and Management) courses, I reviewed the literature on strategic planning and management and realized the desperate need for today’s strategy processes to be collaborative, integrative, transformative, incremental, and iterative — characteristics which I sought to embody in a framework for the strategy process which I have begun to use for FORMDEV and for the DLSU S&T Complex in Laguna.

First I asked the facis to pray for, think of, and then write or draw their own vision for FORMDEV. They then shared these with their Bible study groups, and then with the entire group. The BS leaders consolidated the various elements into a single sentence, which the entire group refined into the vision’s current form.  Thanks to Carlo Aragoncillo and Jannah del Barrio for the photo.

I think that one of the reasons that FORMDEV’s vision was never articulated until now (though its mission was clear from the beginning) was that it needed to be crafted collaboratively, under the Holy Spirit’s guidance, for it to have transformative power. So, on 18 DEC 2011, the second day of the second-trimester FORMDEV recollection, the facis and I collaboratively envisioned ourselves to be: A growing community of Lasallian ambassadors for Christ who are on fire for the spiritual salvation and formation of their handles. I look forward to determining, again collaboratively, how we can attain this vision, the most challenging aspect of which is keeping our hearts on fire for Christ and His great commission and commandment.

I’m also involved in strategic planning for the DLSU S&T Complex in DLSU’s 50-hectare campus in Laguna. During the first and second trimesters, I pored over the literature on the four aspects of the newly rearticulated vision of DLSU, held several discussions with various stakeholders, and wrote a paper describing the need for and challenges of a Catholic and Lasallian S&T university, outlining a strategic architecture for achieving the DLSU vision, and sketching a preliminary plan. This coming trimeser, I look forward to conducting comprehensive interviews with S&T faculty members, administrators, students, parents, industrial locators, and government units, in order to detail the strategic architecture.

2. Outreach/study trips to Northern Luzon and Singapore

With fellow members of the Network of Outstanding Teachers and Educators (NOTED) in NCR, and teachers from San Vicente Elementary School in Minuri, Jones, Isabela.

On 25-29 APR 2011, a small group of Metrobank Oustanding Teachers from NCR went on on a road trip around Northern Luzon (Manila – Bulacan – Nueva Ecija – Nueva Vizcaya – Isabela – Cagayan – Ilocos Norte – Ilocos Sur – La Union – Pangasinan – Tarlac – Bulacan – Manila). The trip had two objectives: outreach and fellowship. I wrote a four-part blog about this road trip, so I won’t talk about it here anymore other than to say that I was amazed at how the Lord gave us the strength and openmindedness to enjoy the trip while blessing others.

With a couple of PhD batchmates and four very cool students of St. Joseph’s Institute International

On 16-22 OCT 2011, my PhD Ed batch went to Singapore to visit a variety of world-class educational institutions to learn how they were addressing the challenges of 21st century education. I wrote a two-part blog on this, so I won’t elucidate on it here other than to say how I enjoyed interacting with students, learning strategies of highly effective institutions, discussing these things with my professor (Sr. Joy Luz) and classmates, meeting with former students and FORMDEV facis now based in Singapore, and browsing at Kinokuniya for new fantasy novels to read. As with the Northern Luzon road trip, I was also amazed at the physical strength that the Lord gave me during the Singapore study trip, and the spiritual strength, too, to be able to read God’s word daily!

3. DLSU’s Centennial Celebration

At the DLSU Chapel of the Most Blessed Sacrament. At this very moment, I was probably listening to P-Noy’s speech, which came after a wonderful mass, officiated by then Bishop (now Cardinal) Luis Tagle. Thanks to RJ Anonuevo for this TV screenshot.

16 JUL 2011 marked the first day of DLSU’s yearlong celebration of the 100th year of the Lasallian schools in the Philippines. There were many activities but for me the most joyful and memorable were: (1) the Centennial Opening Mass on 16 JUL, officiated by then Bishop (now Cardinal) Luis Tagle, who reminded us of the mark of Lasallian and Catholic education’s being the loving, living contact between teacher and student; and (2) the daylong prayers of thanksgiving offered to God (from 15 JUL 8:00AM to 16 JUL 5:00AM!). I wrote a two-part blog on the centennial, so I won’t elaborate on it here other than to say how happy I believe St. La Salle and all Lasallians in heaven were on those two days.

4. Church Growth

Baptizing a sister in Christ in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Many wonderful things happened this year at church, by the grace of God, who gave us a loving pastor and a challenging calling in the midst of an urban poor community. But I would like to focus on two things that gave me great joy. First was the formation of small groups. The Lord led me to teach our local congregation about the importance of small groups and how to establish them and keep them vibrant, and it was a great joy for me to receive news of small groups being established in several households, especially among those in very poor areas! Second was the baptism of close to 50 new (and not-so-new) Christians. May we all remain faithful to Christ until His return!

5. Celebrations with families and friends

Thank God for my natural family (Mom, Dad, Penan, Tetet, Karl, Pao, Josh, and Tea-pooh) as well as my spiritual families (my spiritual parents in Japan; FORMDEV; my local church) and several groups of friends. Christ’s love for me through them sustains my faith, zeal, love, and joy.

With Mom, Dad, Penan, Tetet, Karl, Paolo, Josh, Tea-pooh, and Cousins Mau, Tess, and Charm and their families.
Waiting for post-Christmas merienda with my favorite high school science and math teachers, Ms. Jarumayan and Ms. Cordero, resp., and very good friends Carlo and Tookie.

I thank the Lord for an amazing 2011 and another amazing year in 2012!

A blessed New Year in Christ!

Singapore Study Trip – Strategies of Singapore’s Top Universities

From October 16 to 22, 2011, the 8th batch of students of the DLSU PhD in Education major in Educational Leadership and Management (Executive) program were in Singapore, visiting a variety of world-class educational institutions to learn how they address the challenges of 21st century education.

At the NUS School of Computing with my PHDELMX classmates and Sr. Joy Luz, our professor. Thanks to Sr. Maria Nguyen for sharing this photo.

The National University of Singapore (NUS) is Singapore’s oldest and largest university, established in 1905, now with more than 37,000 students (28% graduate students). It is also Singapore’s top university, emerging this year as 1st in Asia and 19th in the world in the 2011 Times Higher Education (THE) rankings in Engineering and Technology (E&T). In the 2011 Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) E&T rankings, NUS landed 2nd place in Asia (the University of  Tokyo was 1st) and 9th in the world. Considering that NUS was a teaching university until the 1980s, its meteoric rise to become No. 1 in Asia, besting such Asian E&T stalwarts as the Tokyo Institute of Technology (my alma mater, now only 5th in Asia and 20th in the world (QS)), the Japanese imperial universities except Tokyo and Kyoto, and the Indian Institutes of Technology, is amazing.

In front of Tokodai's (Tokyo Insitute of Technology's) Main Building when I was still a student.

Nanyang Technological University (NTU) is Singapore’s second largest with more than 35,000 students (30% graduate students). Considering that it is only 20 years old, its rise to become 7th in Asia and 26th in the world in the 2011 QS E&T rankings is phenomenal (as is the rapid ascendance of 20-year-old Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, which landed 22nd  worldwide in the 2011 QS E&T rankings).

I asked the officials what strategies enabled their universities to attain world-class research standing in such a short time. Interesting that, at least from the perspectives of our hosts, the strategies that NUS and NTU employed seem to be polar opposites. NUS in the 1980s sent its best graduates to the best universities in the U.S. with very strong incentives for them to return — they were able to purchase their own houses upon their return using the salaries that accumulated in their accounts while they were on study leave. NTU, on the other hand, has been bringing in top academics in the world to head its various units. For instance, NTU’s new President is a renowned Swedish plant biochemist, while its new Vice President (Research) is a renowned British clinical scientist. The Director of the Institute for Media Innovation is Nadia Thalmann, who received the prestigious Eurographics Distinguished Career Award in 2010.

One university sent its best people to train in some of the best universities in the world. The other tries to lure some of the best scientists in the world to its campus. Two “opposite” strategies. Same effect: phenomenal improvement of research capabilities. Same requirement: money. Lots of it.

As a private university that aspires to become a leading research university in the region, DLSU needs to build a sizable endowment portfolio to finance one or both strategies.  Failing that, or together with it, DLSU could develop such tremendous goodwill (think Gawad Kalinga) that it attracts a steady stream of noble-minded world-class professors and scientists to assist it gratuitously until it attains critical mass in certain strategic areas, always remembering the Gospel injunction to freely give what one has freely received (Matthew 10:8b).

Up next:

  • Singapore Study Trip – Educating Future Video Game Professionals
  • Singapore Study Trip – Discipleship and Evangelism in Christian Schools
  • Singapore Study Trip – My Former Students Now in Singapore

World Teachers’ Day 2011 – The Newly Rearticulated DLSU Vision-Mission

There are three things I would like to blog about today, as we celebrate World Teachers’ Day. The first is about what makes a great teacher. The second is about my first year of blogging.

Third, I would like to simply say how I love the newly rearticulated vision-mission (VM) statement of DLSU, which is to be:

A leading learner-centered research university, bridging faith and scholarship in the service of society, especially the poor.

The VM statement has four parts: teaching (“leading learner-centered university”), research (“leading research university;” “scholarship”), community service (“service of society, especially the poor”), and faith.

Since the first three (teaching, research, and community service) are expected of any university, and the fourth (faith) is expected of any Catholic university, one might wonder, so what’s so special about the newly rearticulated VM for me to say that I “love” it?

Well, first, it is concise. I’m sure those who’ve never been able to remember their school’s or organization’s VM would appreciate the conciseness of the newly rearticulated DLSU VM.

Second, it is cogent. It clearly spells out what kind of teaching, research, and community service DLSU will focus on. On the matter of teaching, the VM says that we will be learner-centered (hope to blog on this soon). On the matter of research, the VM says that we will bridge faith and research/scholarship in the service of society/the poor (another future blog post). On the matter of community service, the VM says that faith and research will drive our service to the poor (another future blog post).

Third, it is compelling. It calls us to be leaders in teaching and research. It calls us to  integrate faith and scholarship. It calls us to do all these in service of society, especially the poor.

Fourth, it is challenging. It is challenging (some would say impossible) to be learner-centered while at the same time excelling in research. It is challenging (again some would say impossible) to integrate faith and scholarship. It is challenging to teach for poverty, to do research that will address poverty, and to do community service that is integrated with the disciplines, and to bring all these under a single strategic framework.

Fifth, it is unapologetically Lasallian. The Lasallian spirituality is, simply put:

In other words, in the Lasallian spirituality, zeal (sustained excellence in what one does) and love (abiding unconditional agape for others, especially the poor) are rooted in faith (belief in, love for, obedience to, and trust in God).

I am proud of the newly rearticulated VM. Kudos to Br. Ricky Laguda, who led and facilitated its writing when he was Chancellor of DLSU! (Br. Ricky is now President of De La Salle Philippines and Sector Leader of the De La Salle Brothers in the country.)

Now the next step is to collaboratively craft a transformative strategy to achieve the VM. A few weeks ago I presented in a conference an approach to strategic planning that is collaborative, transformative, and integrative. Though I plan to use it in FORMDEV, I believe the approach can scale up to an organization as large as DLSU.

See also:

  1. Strategies of Singapore’s Top Universities