Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Family Is Everything

People say that family is the most important thing in the world.  disagree.   It is not an important thing, it is everything.
Contest chair, ladies and gentlemen, I hold here a photo of my family. You cannot clearly see it from where you are seated, I know. Every member wears a smile, and by the number of heads you can tell I have a large family. What you cannot see or even suspect is that behind those smiles is the story of the aches of abandonment, the bitter wounds of rejection, and the deep holes of depression.
Being different and, in my father’s eyes, an un-acceptable unique person, I became the target of his manly ego and the apple of his furious temper. I felt I was his favorite son to do the chores of my sisters, to run to the store and buy him his pack of cigarettes and his favorite brand of whiskey. I tried to please him in every way. I was a model student. But for my smallest mistake, his impulsive fist tore my fragile body, his dehumanizing words shredded my innocent mind, until my smoldering rebellion could no longer be kept imprisoned in the cage of silence.

I found new friends in school among the behaviorally-challenged students. They taught me how to release my anger with cigarettes and drown all my sorrows in alcohol. I became fearless. I no longer cared about my studies. From being a consistent honor model student, I became a consistent visitor in the Guidance Office.

My mother decided to deport me away from the hustle and bustle of the city to the staid serenity of the province. I became my grandmother’s worrisome ward in the deafening silence of a rural town, helpless, lifeless, spending each night staring at the moon asking why my family abandoned me.
For a long time I wallowed in self-pity, bitterness & depression. Then on one of my favorite moonless nights my eyes caught the brightness of a star. As I reveled at its serene beauty I heard myself saying: “No! I cannot be like this forever! I am going to finish my studies, get a job, make a life for myself & they will never hear from me again!"

With renewed ambition and vigor, I finished high school with honors, attended university as a scholar, passed my licensure exam as a teacher and landed a job in the state university.  I lived my life indulging in satisfying my wants, buying everything I fancied, ate in my favorite restaurants & travelled whenever and wherever I wanted. I was living the life I dreamt of.  Yet at the end of the day, I felt an emptiness in my heart.

One day, as I was walking home from work I met a young boy seemingly lost and distraught. "Is anything wrong and can I be of help?" I ventured to say. The boy looked at me and there in his teary eyes was a reflection of myself, young, innocent & with so much love to give.  He reminded me of my family: the laughter we shared at the dining table, the opening of gifts on Christmas & the tender loving care of my mother. The boy answered with the saddest voice I ever heard: “My father just passed away,” and went his way leaving me transfixed on the ground.

His words opened a long forgotten garden in my heart.  I suddenly thought of my own father. How was he?  How was my mother? Did my siblings finish their studies?

I decided to dial the phone and called home.  After long 7 years, I heard the familiar voice of my mother, still soft but frailty. “Joseph, Joseph, my son, is that you?” I could not to utter a word. The tears did the talking that words could not explain. The tears washed away the bitterness & pain in my heart. Like an epiphany everything seemed to make sense to me again. My father hurt me only to become stronger.  I rebelled against them only to become better. They abandoned me only to love them deeper. “At the end of the day, a loving family should find everything forgivable,” so I remember Mark Olsen said.

If there is anything I learned from that experience is that there is no such thing as a perfect family. To borrow the words of Frederick Buechner we might put miles between you and your family “but you carry them always with you in your heart, your mind, your stomach, because you do not just live in a world, but a world lives in you.” In the ultimate analysis of life, family is indeed important because the family is everything.

(My winning speech in DTAC 2016, Abu Dhabi)

Saturday, November 28, 2015

ICC One Communication Championship 2015 (Qatar) GRAND FINALE

Please close your eyes and imagine holding a magic basket. This magic basket doesn’t get full even after putting everything  & anything you want into it. Now take this basket to your bedroom which I’m sure is full of stuff. Remove those things that you don’t need or have not used in 2 years like those old clothes, shoes & accessories & put it in the magic basket.
Can you see the space created from removing those stuff? Can you feel the fresh air circulating in your room? Can you feel a sense of calm, clarity and order?

Now, please open your eyes ladies & gentlemen. What we have done is just the first step on how I’ve found my happiness & purpose in life through the concept of less is more.
Many of us seem to have been born with a keen desire to gather “stuff” and aspire to have more: more followers on instagram, more gadgets, more money, more clothes & scads of all these superfluous things. Yet, with all these stuff, we aren’t satisfied with our lives. What’s worse, with all these stuff, we don’t have control of our time and thus don’t have control of our lives. This made me question things and discovered the concept of less is more or otherwise known as minimalism.
At first glance, people might think that minimalism is only to get rid of material possessions. But that’s a mistake. If we’re concerned solely with the stuff, then we’re missing the larger point. As what my idols in minimalism, Joshua & Ryan Nicodemus, said: "minimalists don’t focus on having less. Rather, we focus on making room for more: more time, more passion, more experiences, more contribution, more freedom. It just so happens that clearing the clutter from life’s path helps us make that room."
I remember the day while I was packing my things to exit from Riyadh to Doha in 2012, I realized that none of my signature clothes, branded shoes & bags really mattered. Aside from the fact that even the most expensive clothes get damaged, I was utterly “broke”. So, I promised myself that when I get back on my feet in Qatar, I would focus on experience rather than material things. Thus, last September, I went backpacking in Europe alone for 1 month which is one of the best times in my life because  I learned many valuable life lessons that material things cannot offer.
Another example how minimalism helped me was when I got to the point of failing in my commitment with my family and friends. I used to be a member of different organizations here in Qatar: Volleyball team, Online TV channel, Bloggers Society, among others. At first, it was fun because I met a lot of "friends", but at the same time, I started to lose my family & true friends. So, I quit from those organizations and re-ignited my relationship with the people I love and focus on an organization that’s greatly contributing to my growth like the Filcom International Toastmasters Club. A toastmaster is a club where you can develop your leadership & public speaking skills.
Moreover, in Toastmasters, the concept of minimalism helped me discover my happiness and who I really am as a person – I am a motivational speaker. Public Speaking is my passion and to inspire people is my mission. Last year,  I was invited to speak to a group of distressed Overseas Filipino Workers who are victims of workplace harassment. I spoke about my Formula for Living, a topic on how I dealt with my depression. I inspired them, but they inspired me more with their strength, faith & hope to carry on this journey called LIFE. And through this, I know that I’m living a meaningful life.
Ladies & gentlemen, minimalism cannot be done overnight. It’s a lifestyle. And while we may have different lifestyles or minimalist life, our paths lead to the same place: a life with more time, more passion & more freedom to get a more meaningful life.
Getting started is as simple as choosing which one should you put in the magic basket?
  • Material things or experiences?
  • More time for your so-called friends or with the people you truly love?
  • More interests or a solid commitment to your passion that gives you genuine happiness and meaning in life?
The choice is yours, but remember: LESS IS MORE.
Good evening!
(Winning Piece in the 12th ICC-One Communication Championship 2015, Radisson Blu, Doha, Qatar)

As shown in Gulf Times dated Nov. 30, 2015

Saturday, November 7, 2015

ICC One Communication Championships 2015 (Qatar), Elimination Round

Grab A Share or Share A Grab: An Equation of Love

Who wants pizza? What’s your favorite flavor? Margarita?  Pepperoni with mushrooms, olives & melting cheese on top? Do you want it thin or thick crust? Now imagine there’s just one slice of your favorite pizza left on the table and it so happened that you & the person beside you reached for that very pizza at the same time.  Will you grab a share or share a grab?

Ladies & gentlemen, many of us will say “share a grab” because sharing a grab, may it be material or non-material things, is an act of kindness. And an act of kindness goes a long way not only to the person who gives it, but moreso to the person who receives it. 

As a teacher, I share my grab of knowledge with my students. Sharing a grab by teaching is my act of kindness. And nothing can remunerate the happiness I feel when I see my students turn into responsible, mature and better individuals.

Grabbing a share or getting help from other people, on the other hand, is the other side of the coin that people usually frown upon. We feel that when we grab a share or get help from other people, we’re weak, inferior, and less of a man. If sharing a grab is an act of kindness, grabbing a share is an act of humility. Accepting help from other people also shows an important reality of life, a life full of challenges & trials. And these same challenges and trials provoke us to go back to our natural, innate capacity to love.

3 weeks ago, I was in Barcelona for my 2nd backpacking trip in Europe. One day, after 6 hours of non-stop walking, I suddenly felt the pang of hunger & thirst heightened by the teasing smell of paella and tapas spilling into the streets of the famous La Ramblas. I desperately reached for my pocket and to my horror, I found nothing but my map. I was a victim of pickpocketing. Walking back to the hostel  for another 6 hours just to get food and water was not an option. I was close to fainting. I looked at the people around me and I heard a small voice saying, “Joseph, my son, you are not alone. Go ahead. Ask for help.”

La Ramblas

Not far from me, I saw a gentle-face lady speaking on her phone. I walked up to her and greeted, “Como esta usted, senora!” which means "How are you, madam?",  and before she could respond to me in straight Spanish, I explained that I was a tourist, was pickpocketed and even just a bottle of water from her would be greatly appreciated. She stared at me blankly. I felt embarrassed. But slowly, I saw a smile on her face. “Perfect! I’m going to a restaurant now & I’d love you to join me", she said. At the restaurant, we talked about the 333-year colonization of Spain in the Philippines. She offered me tips on what to see and do in Barcelona. And when we parted ways, she didn’t only fill up my stomach, but she filled my heart with a realization that asking for help is an act of humility that allows the other person to show an act of kindness.

Ladies & gentlemen, ultimately, a person is two-faced: a face of a giver, and a face of a receiver. It is important that one knows how it is to be a receiver as much as a giver because each face provides a meaningful outlook or realization in order to understand the equation of love: act of kindness through sharing a grab + act of humility through grabbing a share equals to act of humanity which is to love and be loved.

So, to all of you all my dear audience, I know that you have so much to share about this topic, maybe even better ideas, but we have to learn how to grab a share. In the end, it doesn’t matter who gives & receives something right now, what matters most is we take part in the fulfillment of the greatest equation in life – the equation of love.

Before I leave the stage, did you like the pizza?


Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Speech Project 10: Inspire Your Audience

Speech Title: Red Stiletto, Heel to Heal

The spotlight’s on. A sea of people gathers around the stage. Four stern-looking judges listen to the host while he unrolls a piece of paper.

“What is the essence of life?” asks the host for the second time.

 I take the microphone & force a smile.

“The essence of… life…is…uhmmmm….to…”

The crowd howls. My feet -- cold, knees tremble, butterflies fill up my stomach and beads of tears surface my eyes.  “Thank you!”, then I walk backstage crying and frustrated.

Fellow toastmasters & guests, that was the most embarrassing moment in my life. Yes, I lost in the Extemporaneous Contest in high school, but I did not lose the hope.  Paulo Coelho once said,
when you want something, the universe conspires to make it happen.

I've always wanted to be a public speaker. I remember the time my childhood friends wouldn’t play with me because I insisted to be the teacher sharing with them the stories of Moses & Noah and well, Moses & Noah time and again.

In college, I took up Bachelor’s Degree in Education, Major in English. I know that this degree would be my foundation as a speaker. After graduation, I’d teach English in the morning & talk to Americans over the phone in a call center at night which really helped me improve my gift of gab.

But then, as with the economic situation in the Philippines, I was forced to give up my passion and work abroad for a greener pasture. I went to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia in 2010 as an airline ticketing agent. I was able to help my family with my salary, but every night, I was nursing my bleeding heart for not doing what I love to do and in my melancholy, the words of Paulo Coelho reminded me: when you want something, the universe conspires to make it happen. So I left Riyadh and came here to Qatar to seek my passion. With a business visa in my hand, I braved the scorching heat of this Arabian desert & walked into each & every school and company that I passed by. Schools wouldn’t accept me as an English teacher because obviously I’m not a native speaker, while some companies offered me a secretarial or assistant job with a good salary package, but I declined the offer and opted to walk further until the universe picked up my energy and conspired with Nissan Qatar for me to be a Soft-Skills Trainer. Today, I go to work with so much energy and always look forward to training our new staff in customer service, communication & call handling skills, among others.

When you’re passionate about what you are doing, you always find ways to improve your craft. That’s when I learned about Filcom International Toastmasters Club. I take pride for being able to compete in the Division Level and placed 3rd in the Evaluation & International Speech Contests. And that's because of the continuous support from my Toastmasters family.

Moreover, through Toastmasters, doors of opportunities have opened up for me. Recently, an international 5–star hotel here in Doha approached me to promote their events by writing articles on their social networking sites. Apart from the perks & remuneration that they offer me, I accepted it for the growth it offers me as a public speaker. 

After 15 years since that humiliating Extemporaneous Contest in high school, I’m back standing on a stage, this time for public speakers & with my red stiletto. Red means bold. And stiletto is a symbol of empowerment. Combine both & you’ve got the perfect platform to be a bolder, brighter & better you. Don’t worry; I will not wear a red stiletto. It is the title of my website where I promote events here in Qatar and the most interesting part of this website is this: Heel to Heal, a scholarship program that I offer for the less fortunate children from my hometown who are victims of the strongest typhoon ever-recorded, Haiyan. As a teacher, I know that education is the most powerful weapon we can have in life & the best legacy we can ever give.

Finally, if I were to answer the question again in the Extemporaneous Contest, what is the essence of life, this is my answer:

Paulo Coelho is right that when you want something, the universe conspires to make it happen. I want to be a public speaker. From being a loser in the Extemporaneous Speaking Contest in high school, then studying English as my major, finding my passion in Qatar, to winning public speaking contest in Toastmasters, I have experienced & still am experiencing how the Universe conspires to make my dreams happen. And of course, once I start achieving my dream, I do not forget to share my blessings/gifts with others through Red Stiletto Scholarship Program. Truly, a heel to heal! This is the ultimate meaning of life.

Red Stiletto Scholars


Objectives of the Speech:
1. To inspire the audience by appealing to noble motives & challenging the audience to achieve a higher level of beliefs or achievement.
2. Appeal to the audience's needs and emotions, using stories, anecdotes and quotes to add drama.
3. Avoid using notes
Time: 8-10 minutes

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Speech Project 9: Persuade with Power

Objectives of the speech project:
  1. Persuade listeners to adopt your viewpoint or ideas or to take some action.
  2. Appeal to the audience’s interests.
  3. Use logic and emotion to support your position.
  4. Avoid using notes.
  5. Time: 5-7 minutes


Monday, June 15, 2015

Speech Project 8: Get Comfortable with Visual Aids

Speech Title: The Prodigal Son

They say family is the most important thing in the world. I disagree. It is not an important thing; it is everything.

Fellow toastmasters, ladies & gentlemen, this is my family. As you can see, we’re a big, happy family. But what you don’t see behind the smile are my stories of hate, abandonment & rebellion.

Growing up in a big family, being the 6th child & “unique”, it worked as a perfect formula to be the apple of my father’s furious eyes. It seemed to me like I was his favorite son to do the dishes everyday, run to a store to buy him a pack of cigarette and a bottle of whiskey but for my lightest mistake, his fist tore my fragile body; his words tore my innocent mind.

High school came. I ganged up with the notorious students. They taught me to release my anger with smoke and forget all my problems with a bottle. I became fearless. I didn’t care about my studies. From being a consistent honor student, I became consistent in the Guidance Office. So my mom decided for me to stay with grandma in the province. From the hustle & bustle of Manila, I was buffeted by the rebellious waves to a deafening silence of a rural town, helpless, looking up to the moon every night asking why my family abandoned me. Self-pity, hatred & revenge took over me.

“I will finish my studies, get a job & they will never hear from me again!", this is what I promised to myself. I finished high school with honors, attended university as a scholar, passed my licensure exam as a teacher and got a job in a renowned state university.  I was able to buy what I want, eat in a fancy restaurant & travel whenever I could. I was living the life I've dreamed of, but I could feel the emptiness in my heart.

One day, on my way home, I saw a young boy on the street walking aimlessly. I followed and managed to stop him. "What’s wrong?", I asked. The boy looked at me and there in his watery eyes is a reflection of myself, young, innocent & with so much love to give.  It reminded me of the good old, days with my family: the laughter we shared at the dining table, the opening of our gifts on Christmas & the tender care given by mom when we get sick. "My father passed away", the boy said.
As I was watching the boy vanishing into the horizon, his words reverberated in my ears.  I thought of my own father. How is he? How is my mother? Did my siblings finish their studies? On that day, I grabbed the phone & dialed home.  After 7 years, I heard a familiar woman, but with a frailty voice. “Joseph, Joseph, my son, is that you?” I wasn’t able to utter a word. The tears did the talking that words could not explain. The tears washed away the anger & pain in my heart and that’s when everything made sense to me. My father hurt me only to become stronger.  I rebelled  against them only to become better. They abandoned me only to love them deeper.

Today, ours is a picture of one, big, happy family. My father stopped smoking & drinking. All my siblings graduated from college, most of us work abroad & some have their own families already.  Right now, my mom is still complaining how her legs still hurt after a 3-month vacation in UAE & Qatar. 

Yes, it is not a perfect family and it should not be, but as you know, behind our smile are the stories of love and hate, joy and sadness, regrets and frustrations but in the ultimate analysis, the family remains a significant, if not the only place of refuge for the lost soul.
Objectives of the speech:

1. Select visual aids that are appropriate for your message and the audience.
2. Use visual aids correctly with ease and confidence.
Time: Five to seven minutes.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Speech Project 7: Research Your Topic

Speech Title:  The Unwanted Guest

According to the former UN Secretary, Kofi Annan, 300,000 people die each year due to natural disaster and by 2030, this figure will double making it the greatest humanitarian challenge we will ever face. 

Fellow toastmasters & guests, is natural disaster the real problem here? Or is it us – humans?

Wikipedia defines natural disaster as a natural event such as a flood, earthquake, or hurricane that causes great damage or loss of life.

Today, when we switch on our TV for NEWS, there’s 90% chance that we would be greeted by dead bodies or of people desperately crying for help after a natural disaster. Just last month, we witnessed how a 7.8 earthquake struck the mountain nation of Nepal that claimed more than 7,000 lives, injured more than twice as many & left hundreds & thousands of people homeless.

Homeless is a word that brings up an eventful time in my life. How can I forget? It was on the 26th of September, 2009, the day when we received an unwanted guest.  This guest was a traitor. The night she arrived, she lulled our souls in slumber with the gelidity of rain caress, but only to wake us up fighting for our dear lives the next day.  Her name was Ondoy – a devastating typhoon that hit Manila, Philippines.

This is my testimony.

Now, what you see is not a river. This is a farm situated at the back of our village.  And after  6 hours of rainfall, this farm turned into an ocean with an untold force of water, mud & debris.

That untold force resulted to these: death, damages & chaos everywhere. The water tank you see in the picture served as a refuge for a family who stayed at the top until the water subsided. Unfortunately, 2 of my neighbors didn’t make it. One was a grey-haired woman who was locked up in her room, stirred by electricity. The other one was an angel unfondled by her mother while struggling through the flood.

This is where the family used to live.  Look at what happened. Our home, a witness of our fond memories, the laughter we shared at the dining table & even the yelling of my mother when nobody obeys her; our haven that comforted us for many years. It provided us shade from the heat and warmth during the rainy season. But in a snap, Ondoy shattered it mercilessly and we found ourselves in a school, empty-handed, lining up for relief goods.  Even the celebrities were gladiators in this arena combating for the essentials of life.


Looking at these catastrophic & heart-wrenching pictures, I couldn’t help but question God. I was angry at nature. I blamed Ondoy! But it got to the point wherein I had drained my energy from remorse & anger. And in that silence, introspection followed.  “Natural disaster” is our convenience scapegoat because it allows us to blame nature for our own mistakes.

When floods come, we look up to the sky and curse Mother Nature, shouting, “We got hit by a natural disaster!”, when it was due to poor planning who built houses right in natural drainage channels, where trees were cut down & tricked people to live in the valley of death. When forests catch fires and burn our homes, did we really think trees never burn every few decades? Fires are crucial for the healthy functioning of forest ecosystems. And when houses & buildings built near the fault lines collapse, why do we blame earthquake for the loss of life?
Ladies & gentlemen, natural disasters are you know, natural. What is not natural is what we do with nature. Do we need to let our children meet the unwanted guest for them to realize what we realized? Do we want them to suffer the consequences of our poor decisions & negligence?
It’s time to acknowledge and start taking the responsibility for making the world a better a place. The world is here to stay, but for us humans – it will only get worse if we don’t change our ways.

Objectives of the speech:

·      Collect information about your topic from numerous sources.
·      Carefully support your points and opinions with specific facts, examples and illustra­tions gathered through research.
Time: 5-7 minutes