Tuesday, May 12, 2020

AHEAD: Ensuring Quality Education and Learning During COVID19 and Beyond

PRESS RELEASE - After months of class cancellations, we now ask ourselves, how will learning look like in the new normal? How do we ensure the quality of education during and even after these uncertain times? 

It is undeniable that education is a necessity. It is an essential activity that needs to be adjusted to in the new normal. Especially for kids since education and learning plays a critical role in their development.

Given the effects of the current pandemic, the processes of learning and education have shifted taking schools, teachers, and parents by surprise. Alternative but necessary solutions are now being set in place such as online learning to ensure continuity of learning and growth for students. 

AHEAD has established its credibility as a supplemental education provider that is equipped and ready for online learning. In fact, it has been offering online tutorials since 2008. While the shift to online learning was sudden, AHEAD was able to transition smoothly to a digital set up. Additionally, preparations were already set in place for teachers and staff with training on multiple educational applications to conduct seamless classes online. Since online learning was something that most Filipino students are not familiar with, AHEAD decided to conduct free trial sessions to allow students to experience online learning.


Recognizing the need for education now more than ever, AHEAD gave students the opportunity to try online learning by providing free daily warm-up classes in Math, Science, and English since last March 23.

In less than a month, more than a thousand Grade 12 students have signed up for these free warm-up classes. This has been a helpful way of giving them something meaningful and beneficial to do during their time at home not to mention experience online learning. 

With the extension of the ECQ, AHEAD has decided to offer other free online services such as a review sampler which is a week-long free review to maximize the student’s time at home. They have also provided a mock test that shows you how you would score should you take the UPCAT today and which subjects you need to improve on. Free supplementary classes that tackle specific topics such as Language Proficiency are also available here. Summer enhancements for kids as young as 5 years old are also being offered. 


Supplemental learning institutions like AHEAD truly play a significant role in our education system and how this season will shape the next generation’s knowledge and skills. It provides them the additional skill and training they need for school. 

However, the shift to learning online or digital is inevitable with the uncertainties of the future. We saw how physically learning together can be interrupted anytime just like what happened in the past few months. Forecasts predict that the online learning setup will now be part of the new normal. 

This is why AHEAD President Ms. Rossana Llenado launched AHEAD Alpha - the first BlendFlex school in the country that merges recorded or live online and/or onsite learning, incorporating the best of traditional, progressive and home school practices used in different parts of the world, revolutionizing the educational landscape in the Philippines amidst the pandemic. 


AHEAD Alpha aims to provide solutions to the worries and hassles of online learning by making education accessible yet exceptional. Years of expertise and experience of educating students has enabled AHEAD to effectively adapt to the situation and transition to a purely online educational system. 

Using a one of a kind learning method that inspires learning, AHEAD Alpha promotes non-graded assessments, unique curriculum, Singapore Math training, and the unique application of Mind-Mapping and Speed Reading techniques to Science and History. 

Trusting the programs crafted by education experts, one can actually enjoy the benefits of online learning such as flexible schedule and environment, lower transportation costs of going physically to a center/ school, and most of all the sense of self-discipline and responsibility one develops by managing your time to study. 

Formally opening its doors for enrollment last May 8, orientation activities parent seminars, free trials, short enrichment classes will commence these coming weeks with the first round of classes set to begin on June 8. 

As AHEAD continues to develop unique lesson plans and learning methods that are tailor-fit for every child in the best and effective way possible, Alpha will surely make a big difference during this unprecedented time.

*To be featured on Press Release Tuesdays, send it to frances@topazhorizon.com.

Saturday, May 09, 2020

Not invisible

This was in my drafts folder, in 2016. I don't know why I never published it but here it is because it made me happy reading it now, the day before Mother's Day of such an extraordinary year. It's such an ordinary story and I want to remember it forever.

* * * * * * *
"You're just like Piero."

My husband Vince declared this yesterday while our toddler woke up languidly from a long nap.

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"You stretch when you wake up," he replied. "There," he nodded towards our youngest boy. "Just like that."

Later at dinner, Vince added, "Piero is really just like you. He's stubborn like you. He's cute like you." He said this while he was spooning chopseuy onto his plate, matter-of-fact, absorbed in his dinner, very casual, no gooey eyes. Like he was saying, Just sayin'.

Later in bed, I realized with a start that Vince watches me. And so I kinda went a bit panicky, aware I've let myself go since we had kids. I'm 25 lbs heavier since the day we met. I'm all stretched out in the tummy area. The boobs and butt areas, too, if I'm going to be honest. I dress for comfort not for style or sex. I'm a mom now and this mom is usually busy and exhausted and annoyed and exasperated. What does he see? Does he like what he sees?

Well, he said I'm cute like Piero. I don't know if 40 and cute go together but he still enjoys being with me, talking with me, and apparently looking at me, too. After almost 18 years together, he still looks at me. He still looks at me! He still sees me, he still wants to know me. And he still loves me.

And then I remembered all those times I rushed past him, on the way to a crying, needy, demanding, angry, hungry, sleepy, poopy, sick, or whatever-it-is-this-time child; and all those times he said he wanted to chat and I said, "I'm tired;" and all those times I was so busy working I didn't even look up from my computer when he said, "Hi." I remembered and I wondered if he hopes I see him, too.

Because I do. I do! I always think of him whatever I do. I always look at him, too, when I can, when I'm not looking down at the kids, the chores, the work. I wonder if he doesn't see that I see him the way I don't see that he sees me.

My heart is feeling tender now. My husband still sees me. I don't even care now if he likes what he sees. The fact that he's still looking means he still cares (and he must still like what he sees!). 

I'm not invisible. 

I'm not invisible. 

I'm not invisible.

Thank you, Vince. I see you and all that you do for us. Now I need to make sure you know you're not invisible, too.

Friday, May 08, 2020

What it's like to be quarantined in Côte d'Azur in the South of France

Many years ago, before AirBnB, my friends and I joked that each of us should buy a house in a different country so we can stay over there for holidays and we won't need to spend on hotels. Well, it's come true. They have scattered with the wind save for me, still here in Manila. Thank goodness for social media and messaging apps, we can keep tabs on each other!

Like us, my friends are also quarantined in their little spot on the globe. I still can't believe it, how all over the world, we are fighting this COVID-19 pandemic together. It suddenly makes the world such a small place. My friend, Nicole, suggested I share how people's lives are like everywhere during this strange time. It was a fantabulous idea! It will make us feel less alone in our cooped-up existence by making us virtually visit someone far away. I hope you agree!

Pogi ng asawa ni Nic!

So today, let me introduce you to my friend, Nicole. If you're a Loyal Reader, you must've spotted her here and there in old blog posts. We became friends while working as magazine editors. Nicole was the super chic and talented beauty editor of Cosmopolitan before becoming the freelance beauty editor of OK! magazine. These days, she's not on my blog anymore because I haven't seen her in years since she married and moved to the South of France. She is delightfully happy and soooo in love these days. I can imagine how lovely it must be to be required to be stuck at home with the love of your life in such a gorgeous place as Côte d'Azur! Here's what her life's like:

What are your lockdown rules specifically?
The lockdown rules in France are pretty much the same for the whole country. The only difference (that I am aware of) is that a few cities require you to wear a mask or implement certain curfews. 

Whenever we go out, we have to prepare a form called the Attestation de Déplacement Dérogatoire. It's like a permission slip where you have to enter your personal details and indicate the pre-approved reasons for going out: essential work, groceries, exercise, to walk your dog, urgent family matters like if you’re sharing custody of children, medical appointments, etc. The attestation can be handwritten, but if it’s printed or filled up on your phone, then it comes with a QR code that can be scanned at checkpoints. If you don’t respect the rules, you get a €135 fine for the first offense. 

Still stylish even in the empty streets!

How is your town taking to the lockdown? 
I think everyone is doing the best they can. At 8 p.m., people gather by their windows to pay tribute to the frontliners—you’ll hear clapping, random trumpet playing, dance music, occasional fireworks, and even boats blaring their horns. The only thing that’s strange to me is that I see a lot of people walking around and even kids playing outside without masks. But our town started distributing them for free to encourage residents to wear them and you can also buy masks at groceries and pharmacies now, so hopefully this will change. 

How do you get your food? 
My husband goes to the grocery every two weeks. So far, the stock situation has been fairly good and there are delivery options available. Our local market and some restaurants have also opened for takeout recently. But I think the funniest thing I noticed was that a lot of people were ordering wine for pickup from one of our neighborhood restaurants. Of course, the French need their wine! 

Nic prepared this for their Easter meal.
Another Nic confection. I don't know how this couple stays slim!

You can go out! Whyyyyyy??? 
Everyone is allowed to go out for exercise once a day for one hour and within one kilometer of your home. We’ve been on strict lockdown since March 16, but we only started going out for short walks towards the end of April since we wanted to stay home as much as possible. But now that masks are more available and the weather is warmer, we take walks on paths where we run into less people maybe 2-3 times a week. It's been good for our sanity! 

What will you do once lockdown lifts? 
Since we live near the sea, I find myself daydreaming about going on a nice picnic and taking a dip in the ocean. I definitely hope I can visit Manila again soon because it’s unnerving when you don't know when you'll be able to see your family again! But I try not to think about these things too much since everything is so unpredictable anyway. I just take it a day at a time and try to appreciate the simple things. As long as everyone is healthy and safe at the end of the day, that’s all that truly matters. 

Oh, what a view! The South of France is one of the prettiest places in the world.

What have you been doing during quarantine? 
We usually spend most of the day cooking and baking! Making bread really helped me relax and experimenting with different recipes in the kitchen made us both happy. I tried studying a little French and did some yoga a couple of times a week, but it never really stuck. So I switched to crocheting while he'd watch a series on Netflix or catch up on the news. After dinner, we turn off our screens and play a game of cards, Monopoly Deal, backgammon, checkers—something old school. And of course, there's Instagram, Facetime calls, and lots of texting with friends and family. Making videos for those with birthdays in my family actually became a trend, so I think we also made at least four or five of those. My husband also learned to cut his own hair! I'm hoping I can teach him how to give me a manicure next! Haha! 

Nic making the most of quarantine by baking bread.

Gosh, I miss this woman. Nicole's quarantine diary sounds dreamy — I'm looking forward to spending time at her place instead of an AirBnB! But even she lets slip that there is anxiety for the uncertain days ahead for all of us. Well, we can choose to despair or we can make our shuttered life at home beautiful, safe and heavenly for us and the ones we love just like Nic did!

Get to know more of Nic's adventures by following her on Instagram @beautyandsparkl!  

Have a good weekend safe and healthy at home, mamas!