Pen Strokes

December 8, 2008

I Create Excellence! (BNT’s Return to the MSE Penthouse)

Finally, near the end of the year, we’ve returned to our usual meeting venue at the Penthouse of the old Makati Stock-Exchange (MSE) Building! While this venue was being refurbished, we have had to hold our meetings on the 4th Floor of the same building and in the, now famous, Rocci Café! Though I will miss our alternative venues, somehow, it feels right to be back here!

Our theme for the night, “I Create Excellence”, couldn’t have been more appropriate! Not because we had a perfect meeting… we all know that this particular meeting was far from being perfect… but because we witnessed once again how every member was eager to make this meeting another memorable and fun BNT meeting! The great artist, Michelangelo, once said “The greater danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we hit it.” Our eagerness may have been the cause of some of our little mishaps that night; but we aimed high; and we still had one rockin’ BNT night! (more…)

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November 11, 2008

A Hundred Thousand Swans

Cancer could not rob Jette of Life!

Cancer could not rob Jette of Life!

September of 1988… It must have been around 5:00am when we heard it; loud thumps and banging coming from my sister, Jette’s room! Noise loud enough to wake up everybody in the household! Naturally, we all rushed to Jette’s room to see what was happening; and what we saw would send a chill down my spine…

Jette was banging her head against the concrete wall of her room! Blood was oozing out of her ears and nose! Blood was everywhere! She had been complaining about migraines and headaches for the past several months but the doctors we consulted with found nothing wrong with her. But if there was nothing wrong with her, why was she banging her head against the wall?

Without wasting anytime, we carried Jette, screaming and kicking, to Dad’s car and took her to the hospital.

At the hospital, doctors ran several tests and procedures on her but found nothing. Finally, the MRI Result came out and indicated that Jette had a tumor the size of a one-peso coin wedged between her skull and her spine! She had Cancer! She had cancer? What? I started to worry about a lot of things! I worried about Jette! She was so afraid of pain! She would cry at the slightest hint of pain. And what about Mom? How would she cope with this? She worries about everything! And me? I didn’t want to lose my only sister! But in the midst of all my fears, one thing worried me the most… My Dad! (more…)

November 7, 2008

Through My Father’s Eyes

My Mom and Dad with my youngest daughter.

My Mom and Dad with my youngest daughter.

I think that I was just 9 years old when I first saw it… A handwritten sign taped to the upper right-hand side of my Dad’s medicine cabinet mirror. I remember just two words from that sign… “Discipline” and “Dream”…

I didn’t really pay that much attention to that sign since, at age 9, you don’t really pay much attention to those stuff. But, for some reason, the words, “Discipline” and “Dream”, stuck to me. It wouldn’t be until I was much older that those words would have a clear meaning to me and help me to understand the man behind the legend… that was my Father…

He was born Nunilon M. San Agustin in the shanties of Ilo-ilo City (Southern Philippines). But his Father, my Grandfather, gave him the name “Nene”, which meant “little girl”, because, as a toddler, he would often cry for even the flimsiest of reasons.

My Dad was also smaller than most boys his age.  The fact that he was small and that he was named “Nene” made all the other boys in his neighborhood pick on him… That would be the biggest mistake of their young lives.  For, you see, though my Dad was viewed as a “little runt”, he was one TOUGH LITTLE RUNT! (more…)

November 4, 2008

Preparing a Powerhouse Speech…

8c44As Toastmasters, giving speeches is inevitable; which means that learning to prepare your speech is a crucial skill to have. However, I believe that PREPARING SPEECHES is not just a Toastmasters’ skill… it is a Life-skill. It helps us hone other skills like… for instance… WRITING… which is a handy skill to have in everyday life. It also encourages us to READ… especially if our speech is technical in nature or requires research. And… a well prepared speech builds our SELF-CONFIDENCE… and isn’t self-confidence the main ingredient in LEADERSHIP?

In my case, I not only prepare speeches for Toastmasters’ meetings or contests; I also prepare speeches for a living. Allow me to share with you some of the lessons I’ve learned when preparing speeches. I certainly hope that what I share will help you in Life… and also in Toastmasters! (more…)

November 3, 2008

Absolutely Nothing to Say…

Ah! The freedom of senseless talk!

Hmmmm… This is harder than I thought! I actually can’t think of anything to say! Not that I’m used to thinking; but there must be something senseless for me to say!

All I can think about is Alvin’s “Old Rubber Shoes”! There I go again! THINKING! I should keep reminding myself that thinking is too dangerous an act for me. SO WHAT DO I SAY??? Why can’t I think of anything to say??? (more…)

November 2, 2008

What I LEARNED as a Contestant in District 75’s MidCon 2008…

Maayong Aga sa inyong tanan!

Let me dive straight into it…

The District 75 Mid-Year Conference was a blast! Sure there were some hiccups (like any event, there will always be hiccups); but, generally, the entire event was a rousing success! It was well prepared and the pomp and pageantry was simply awesome! Congratulations to Division D for an outstanding job!

I’m really glad I got to attend this occasion. Actually, I almost wasn’t able to make it to Bacolod had it not been for your (Toasties) support and the support of the Division B Officers and Area Governors. For this I present my most heart-felt “Thank You”!

Sad to say, however, that the only trophy I was able to take home was the 1st Runner-Up Trophy for the Singing Contest (By the way, the trophies are beautiful). Initially, I was disappointed with this… and because I am a proud person, I would blame the judges for what I viewed as their “incompetence” in judging… but truth be told… I probably won only in my own mind! I forgot the cardinal rule before giving a speech (or a performance)… CONSIDER YOUR AUDIENCE (or in this case, consider who your judges will be) so that you may be able to prepare the appropriate speech for the event!

(more…)

November 1, 2008

BNT’s Night out at Rocci Café…

Gege at Table Topics... That's me with my back turned.

Gege at Table Topics... That's me with my back turned.

Rocci Café…

The down side? The place was cramped…
The up side? The place was cramped!

Last October 23, Butter n’ Toast decided to hold it’s meeting outside of the usual MSE Building; perhaps to, somehow, break the monotony of always holding it in the same place. We picked a quaint little café on Jupiter Street called Rocci to hold our meeting.

When I arrived at the Café, I had two initial reactions… the first was that I liked the ambiance; the second was that it was cramped! The second worried me. I kept thinking thoughts like; “Where is the stage? How will we fit the guests? Oh no… A Powerpoint Presentation! I hope we don’t break anything!”…  But when they started to serve the crispy, tasty and oh so heavenly sandwiches, I started to calm down.  It just goes to show you that my stomach… which is already infamous amongst BNT’s long-time members… actually dictates the way I feel!

When we started the meeting, however, my initial fears disappeared! As in true BNT Tradition, our meeting was all about fun and learning and learning to have fun… and we had an abundance of it that night! Here’s why… (more…)

Seven Candles

Christmas in a house with NO ELECTRICITY!

December 24, 2006… It was almost Christmas Eve; the cupboard was empty; the table was without food and we had NO ELECTRICITY! In fact, we’ve had no electricity for the past six months! All we had left were just SEVEN CANDLES… Seven Candles to light our house for the rest of the month… How did we get this low?

Our past Christmases were never like this! They were always well celebrated, well attended and well LIGHTED. We had money back then; but it wasn’t because I was successful… My Dad was successful! In fact, he provided for all of us… my family included. Because of this, we could afford to send my children to exclusive schools and we could also afford travel to foreign lands like Europe, Japan and Australia.

And… I did little to try to get out from under my father’s wing… and why should I? Life was easy back then!

But come to think of it, it was this “easy life” that made us complacent! I lived irresponsibly and my family disrespected me for it. My children only obeyed me out of fear and my wife grew very distant from me. I… I was never a father to my children and I was even less of a husband to my wife! Money had made us strangers. I didn’t know my own children and they didn’t know me! (more…)

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