Tag Archives: Family

Gearing up for Christmas!

I’m excited that Christmas is just around the corner!

Christmas is a wonderful time to spread the love and cheer, and it’s also a great opportunity to create memories with loved ones. Today, I’m blogging about what our family has done in the past so you can get some ideas.

Every Christmas Eve, our Claudio clan comes together to celebrate. We exchange gifts and eat lots of food, like most families. Two Christmases ago, we decided to add something extra and share what we were most grateful for in the past year. In a clan of 30+ people, it helped us to get to know a little something more about each other and in the process, thank God for all the blessings He has showered on our family.

Last Christmas, we had extra time to spare, so I got an idea to do something fun. I recruited my art teacher friend Linny to help me make some plain top hats out of black cartolina (known in other countries as cardstock or construction paper), then I emailed our relatives to tell them to bring art materials and other props that could be glued. All we needed to prepare were some glue guns and we were ready!

When they arrived, each person picked a top hat (the men got the taller ones), and we challenged them to come up with a creative hat using any of the materials that were available. I was blown away by how creative everyone was!

Here are some photos from that night:

We made mini top hats for the kids

Even the adults were into it!

My nephew made his own hat

Talk about effective use of props!

More of the finished products:

This was the winning hat:

The kooky Claudio clan:

You’re welcome to try this out with your family this Christmas!

Meanwhile, we’re still figuring out what to do this year. Got any ideas to share? :)

5 Reasons why Teaching & Speaking are like Kayaking & White-water Rafting

“You never paddle the same river twice.”

My uncle–the adventurer extraordinaire Anton Carag, Jr.–was in the middle of briefing our family about kayaking and white-water rafting when I stopped to write what he had just said. I had a feeling there was a deeper lesson in there somewhere.

Fast forward to today. I was busy developing a workshop that I’m giving next week to some students from the De La Salle-College of St. Benilde. As I was working on the talk outline, I realized that public speaking and teaching are both a lot like kayaking and white-water rafting.

1) Every river experience is different, just as every speaking opportunity is different.

If you’re someone who teaches and speaks on a regular basis, it’s easy to lose your passion and just go through the motions. And when I lose my passion, I often end up preparing less and I’m tempted to simply “wing it.” But just as every river explorer has to enter the river alert, focused, and ready, a teacher and speaker needs to enter every teaching space with the same attitude.

2) Preparation will be your best friend.

Practicing the fall

Before we started kayaking, we were given life vests and helmets to wear. After we put on our gear, Tito Anton briefed us on safety measures, then we were placed on kayaks near the river bed where we each had to practice falling.

To tell you the truth, I was relieved at this exercise. For starters, getting dunked into the river helped me get used to the cold water temperature, and it helped me simulate the experience and realize that it wasn’t as scary as I thought it would be.

In the same way, preparing and practicing a talk or a lesson can help lessen fears and help you prepare for possible obstacles. Am I boring myself in this portion of the talk? Then chances are my audience will start yawning, too. Do I need to insert a video or an activity to keep them engaged? Practicing and simulating helps me anticipate possible roadblocks and adjust as needed.

3) When you hit obstacles, you have to keep digging.

The river has a lot of rapids and boulders that can cause the raft or kayak to stop, fly, or flip. My first instinct would just be to stop paddling and grab on to whatever I can until the obstacles pass.

However, we were taught that when those rapids come, all the more we need to paddle harder. Or sometimes they would call out, “Dig!” because the intensity of the paddling that was required looks a lot like digging.

In the same way, it’s easy to just trail off and change the topic when you hit roadblocks in teaching or speaking. Your students or audience look like they’re tuning out, their eyes glaze over, and blank looks or confused faces stare back at you.

Instead of getting discouraged or resorting to rushing through the material, all the more we need to seize the opportunity to keep digging. It could mean asking questions to try to untangle what’s confusing the audience, or it could mean thinking of metaphors or analogies that will help the audience grasp your point better. Of course, the best time to do this would be during the preparation process, but in case you encounter obstacles in the middle of the action, don’t stop and don’t give up. Just keep on digging.

4)  Speaking and teaching can make you nervous and anxious, but it can be fun and exciting. Although you won’t get to experience that until you put yourself out there.

If you read my blog last week, you know that I wasn’t very excited at the thought of white-water rafting. I’m not a fan of open water, much less raging rapids. But now that I’ve tried it, I can say that I’m really glad I did. I had a lot of fun and I enjoyed going through the adventure with my family. It was definitely an experience to remember.

The Happy Survivors!

In the same way, I’ve often found myself absolutely dreading upcoming talks and workshops. But I’ve pushed myself to keep on doing it because, for starters, I’ve been blessed to be able to learn from teachers, mentors, experiences, and books, and my heart is to share the knowledge to help others. And I can’t help but feel joy when a student tells me that they learned a lot (or something like that). It makes every moment of anxiety and every hour spent preparing worth it. Besides, I’ve also learned that feeling nervous is normal. It helps keep me grounded, too!

5) You’ll want to pray all the way.

I’ve realized that it’s all the same with kayaking, white-water rafting, teaching, and speaking: the Lord will be my strength through and through. I stake my confidence on Him more than anything, because my skills and preparation could possibly fall short, but He never will. :)

Are you a teacher/speaker/adventurer? Is there anything else you can add to this list?

Special thanks to Tito Anton Carag and his awesome team from Adventures & Expeditions Philippines, Inc. (AEPI). If you’d like to know more about having your own Cagayan Valley adventure (kayaking/caving/rafting/watching the circadian flight of bats), you can contact AEPI at (078) 844-1298, 0917- 532-7480, or aepi@whitewater.ph. We had a great time taking in the beautiful sights, eating the delicious food, and experiencing the life-changing adventures! We flew to Tuguegarao via Cebu Pacific Air, but our flight home was canceled due to bad weather, so we took a 10-hour bus ride back to Manila via G.V. Florida Bus Transport. Despite the long trip, the ride was very comfortable. Their buses are new, the restroom was clean, and we got to recline and watch movies on-board. If you’re looking to save money, it’s a great alternative. Here are some other photos from the trip:


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T.G.I.S. – Thank God I Survived! :)

I survived the weekend!

Here are some photos from our awesome adventure up north (Cagayan Province, Philippines):

This trip deserves a longer post, so I’ll tell you more about it in the coming days. I just need to wait for the rest of the photos that were taken during our kayaking and white-water rafting adventures. And I definitely need to catch up on some sleep. Haha.

Did you have a long weekend? What did you do?

Should you go on a faith journey?

What does a “faith journey” look like? One can say that our entire lives can be called faith journeys, but for this blog post, I’m talking about real journeys, real trips–the ones that involve some geographical distance and usually a mode of transportation. But faith journeys are not your ordinary trips. Here’s how I define it:

A faith journey:

  • starts when you step out of your comfort zone
  • involves going down a path you’ve never gone before
  • has no promised results
  • has no definite road map
  • requires you to trust, rely, and get direction from God

My faith journey took place between April and July. I will tell you this:

  • I went to the US without knowing where exactly I would be going and when I needed to go
  • My plans changed as the days went by
  • It did not turn out the way I expected
  • There were a lot of surprising (not necessarily pleasant) adventures along the way
  • My faith was stretched
  • My character was tested and shaped
  • I learned a lot
  • I experienced God’s grace and love like never before

Maybe God’s telling you to go somewhere and you’ve been too scared. Maybe He’s not calling you right now, but He will one day. If that time has come or when that time finally comes, I just want to encourage you to take that step of faith. If you need provision, if you need confirmation, if you need a miracle, here’s what you need to do: ASK. He knows what’s up ahead even if you don’t. And if He called you, He’s already paved the way for you.

God is so wise, faithful, and so full of love. Throw away your preconceived notions and open your mind and heart to what God wants to do (and it’s not always about you…I learned that on the way, too!). The great news is that–in the greater scheme of things–His plan is not just better…it’s the BEST.

It took me forever to write this post, because I knew that my words would not do justice to the whole experience. What I experienced was beyond words. Thank you Lord for this wonderful journey–You are the best travel partner ever. Thank you to my family for sending me off with a blessing. And more than the places and the experiences, the best part of the trip was being able to spend time with all of these people (press play to see the rest!):

You made the journey so worth it.

Now to go back to the topic of this post: do I think you should go on a faith journey?


My simple joys

It’s funny how time and time again we get deceived into thinking that happiness is tied to wealth, success, fame, or power, and yet some of the simplest things in life that we often don’t notice can bring such joy! All throughout this trip, God has romanced me in ways that seem too simple and yet leave such an impact on me. Here are some of my simple joys (some are old and some are new!):

1) SEEING STORIES TOLD IN RANDOM PLACES – Last month, I wrote a post about the wonderful Twitter-like stories that can be found in Central Park. There’s more to be found, if you keep your eyes open!

Love the quote! Found on a bench in Golden Gate Park :)

Can you imagine what it was like when this little boy made this? Such tiny hands!

2) JUMPING – Thanks to a trip that I took a couple of years ago with my relatives, I learned the fine art of jumping for photos. In real life, these moments last for just a second, and yet the memories that come to mind when I see the photos bring a smile to my face every single time. :) Here are some of my favorite jumping pics that were taken during this trip (with a couple of my faves from that trip a couple of years ago!):

3) GOING BACK TO YOUR ROOTS Have you ever visited a home (or city) that you used to live in? I’ve visited my first home twice, and it’s always nice to come back :)

This was during my 1st trip back: my first playground in Palo Alto is still where it used to be!

4) PLAYING SILLY SIMPLE GAMES – In the Kids Church team that I belong to, I’m known as the go-to person when it comes to games. My fellow teachers rely on me to come up with crazy fun games for the kids (it’s a tough job, but someone’s gotta do it!). Outside of Kids Church though, I don’t have the same amount of props or manpower to work with, but I do have some games in my arsenal that always work wonders when there are kids around. And they’re all free too! The first one is 20 questions (but I let them go past 20), the second is what I like to call the “Alphabet Game“, where each player takes turns thinking of something from the given category (we usually use animals, food, or places) that starts with each letter of the alphabet (so the first player gets the letter A, the second gets B, and so on and so forth), and the third isn’t really much of a game, but it’s fun to do. I usually ask a question that starts with the phrase “Would you rather have…”. For instance, “Would you rather have four noses on your face or just one nose but you’ll have to sneeze every 15 seconds for the rest of your life?” It’s HILARIOUS. (I think I’d still rather have one nose, by the way.) The reason I share these is because I’ve had the most wonderful bonding times with my loved ones (kids and adults included) thanks to these games. Apart from the laughs, we get to find out cool stuff about each other–like how some people would rather go to Disneyland than take a trip to the moon!

5) READING A GOOD BOOK – There are so many great books out there, sometimes I wish I could just hand out multiple copies of my favorite ones for free to people. I’ve read around five books during this trip and every time I finish one, I think, “Oooh, I should buy [insert friend or relative here] a copy of this!” If I ran with that thought every single time I would be deep in debt by now. I haven’t tried an e-reader, but I imagine it would be awesome. I would love to be able to have multiple books and a Bible with me all the time without actually having to haul around all the real stuff! But books are wonderful. No list of simple joys of mine will be complete without bringing books up. :) I’ll be doing more book reviews in the coming days and weeks, so stay tuned!

How about you, what are the simple joys that made you smile lately?

Tribute to MTV Philippines

The Super! section of the Philippine Daily Inquirer made a tribute to MTV Philippines, and they asked some of us to write about our memories.

It was one of my toughest assignments ever…there was too much to say! I was still in Boracay with my family when I got the messages from Tammy David and Pam Pastor of Super! so I had to work within the 30 minute computer access I had in the airport to whip up whatever I could. It was so rough, I had to ask Pam to edit me, haha! Thank you very much to Pam Pastor and the staff of Super! for making this tribute and asking us to be a part of it. You can read the whole thing–with awesome pieces by iconic VJs Sarah Meier-Albano and KC Montero, and superwoman Georgette Tengco + quotes from industry people and of course, a tribute to our favorite cameraman and MTV superhero, Tengie Daguio–in today’s paper. What follows below is the rough, uncut, and untitled piece that I wrote, plus the other photos that didn’t make it (there was just too much to squeeze in!):

In the Philippines, MTV has gone through several chapters—it’s almost impossible to keep track. There’s so much to say about working at MTV, that I  believe that anyone given the task to write about it would have a tough time knowing  where to start. From the first day that I entered their Fort office during my job interview, I felt like I had entered a different world. And in many ways, it was.

People think that MTV was all about entertainment, partying, and having fun, but for most of us, it was hard work. We spent long hours in the office and we spent weekends working on out-of-town shoots, concerts, and events, all in the name of giving the audience something to remember. And as fun as it all was, we joked that a lot of blood, sweat, and tears were poured out. We did a lot of crazy things and went beyond the call of duty several times just to have the show go on. One event that comes to mind is a concert in Cebu where KC Montero had to host, do the voice-over, act as a bouncer, and be a water boy all at the same time. Yes, we’re talking about one of the best VJs of all-time, but those were desperate times. But thankfully at MTV, we were more than just a company. We were family.

I worked in MTV Philippines from 2004 to 2006 as Communications and Press Executive and returned in 2007 to 2008 as Head of Artist and Media Relations. While it felt like I was there for much longer time than that, in reality, I was really just a speck in the history of MTV Philippines. Many people have been part of the legacy: from VJs to employees, crew members and freelancers, working at MTV was more than just a job for all of us—it was a time in our lives when we were part of something larger than life. (The continuation + photos after the jump!)

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Superhero series: KYTHE

Today I want to talk about an organization called KYTHE. I’ve been hearing about Kythe since my college days, but I never got around to joining. I’m thankful that I finally had a chance to be a Kythe volunteer last weekend when my family decided to spend a morning at the National Children’s Hospital cancer ward as volunteer play buddies.

Kythe is an organization that aims to help alleviate the anxiety of pediatric patients and their families by uplifting their spirits and strengthening hope. Their slogan–“Because children should be flying kits, not fighting cancer”–says a lot about the heart behind the foundation. They have a lot of programs (they’ve been around since the early ’90s) and they serve several hospitals, making it a good organization to join if you have a heart for children and you’re looking for an opportunity to serve as a volunteer.

Last Saturday at National Children’s Hospital, a child went up to me and grabbed my hand and asked me what my name was. The boy’s name is Macmac, and he has leukemia. He also has the brightest eyes and one of the biggest smiles I’ve ever seen:

He says he’s been in and out of the hospital for years. He’s originally from Bicol, but moved to Manila with his family for his treatments. He’s friendly, funny, and full of life. Because he’s been in and out of there, he knows a lot of the patients and he knows his way around the hospital (he gave me a mini-tour of sorts!). During the time we spent together, we read books, answered word puzzles, played board games with his fellow patients, and spotted the tallest buildings that we could see from the hospital window. I watched him happily wolf down his Jollibee Chickenjoy and Spaghetti meal (we both agreed that between the two, we liked the Chickenjoy more). I wish I could’ve spent more time with him, but when it was time to go, I took a photo of him, and he insisted on taking a photo of me. I said a prayer for him and we hugged each other tight, and then he waved goodbye as he went back to reading his new books.

Meanwhile, not all children are as fortunate to have the energy of Macmac. A lot of the other children in the ward were extremely weak and could barely speak or move. There was one boy who was happily playing a board game with us, but later on in the hour, he was wailing in pain because his condition caused his knee to swell and the pain was nearly unbearable for him. His mother went out to call the nurse and the doctor, so we had to comfort and console him in the meantime. Unfortunately, as much as we wanted to help him at that moment, there wasn’t anything we could do but hug him and pray for him. And as he wailed and twisted in pain, I couldn’t help but feel a deep pain in my heart for this child.

During times like these, you realize that your own struggles are tiny compared to what other people are going through, and if you let it happen, your heart will grow as you learn that you are capable of loving more than you thought you could.

If you have some time and love to share, be a Kythe volunteer. For more information on Kythe and how to volunteer or support their projects, check out their website at http://www.kythe.org.

My 2009 :)

Where do I begin??? There’s so much to say about this Christmas season and this year as a whole–it’s hard to put into words! So in the meantime (once again), I’m going to have to leave you with photos. Lots of them! Hover over the photos for the captions.

Merry Christmas!!!

I’ll tell you more about Christmas 2009, but it deserves a much longer post. In the meantime…

Better late than never :)

Aww phooey. I missed a day on my 30-day blog challenge. To make up for it, I’m just going to have to post twice today!

Yesterday (Sunday) was truly a family day. First up, we had a lunch reunion with the our Claudio “superclan!”


It was great to see my second cousins again! After that, our sub-clan (is there such a term? I’m talking about our immediate relatives) went to Razon’s to have some halo-halo, then I capped the day off with church worship service and dinner with my mom.

Good times. I just wanted to take the time today to remember to be grateful for these times with loved ones. I tend to take them for granted sometimes, but I know there will come a time that I won’t see them as much as I do now. Whether one of us moves away, or one of us moves on, change is inevitable. My prayer is that I’ll remember to make the most out of these times together.