Start With Why by Simon Sinek


A few years back, when ‘passion’ was everyone’s byword in order to get ahead in life, one meme in Facebook stood out for me. With a starry night skies as the backdrop, it says simply: Purpose is better than Passion.

Start with Why by Simon Sinek elaborates this quote further, complete with a scientific explanation and examples drawn from historical figures and even from his own personal experiences. He even came up with his own graph called the Golden Circle.

The Golden Circle starts with Why in the core, this is followed by the second layer which is the How, and with What as the last layer. Simon Sinek believes that if every business, cause, or personal endeavor is started with a Why, it will not only succeed but it will also inspire people to buy their product or to join their cause. A new concept for me is the Law of Diffusion. Most marketers aim to reach 15-18% of the buyers, but if you focus on the early adopters instead, the rest of the market will follow.

The book is written as if Sinek is just delivering a lecture (I have yet to see the TEDTalk version of the Golden Circle), and he may come off as opinionated and full of hot air, but a quick check at the Notes page at the end of his book reveals that he has done has research and that he has a credible basis for his premise.

Sinek mentions a lot about businesses as his examples, notably Apple. But my favorite of his cases are those of the leaders such as Martin Luther King, Jr., the Wright brothers and Sam Walton.

For someone who has no interest in the marketing and business world, I was actually impressed with this book and would recommend it to a budding entrepreneur. It has also made me evaluate my personal Whys. With that said, I would also recommend it to anyone who is looking for a direction in their lives.

I started reading this book last year around the time I gave birth to my second child. But I only got to finish it after a year and a half because… well, motherhood. But that is the magic of this book. I was hooked when I read just the first few pages, and amidst the daily chaos of parenting a toddler and a newborn, I vowed to myself that I must finish it. I am glad I did. I know what my Why is now.

It is not hard to see why this book became a global bestseller.

Wolf Children

wolf children

Movies that are anchored on myths and legends are often fascinating to watch because they appeal to our fantasies. Stories about wolves, mermaids, and vampires are fictional, yet over the years have gathered quite a following. The Japanese animation, Wolf Children may be about werewolves, but it is not about its fantastic characters and plot that will lure you to watch until the very end, but its realistic theme about the hardships of single motherhood and of raising two unique individuals.

Hana as a university student in Tokyo falls in love with a mysterious man in her class, who turns out to be a werewolf. They are drawn to each other because of Hana’s optimistic and cheerful disposition. Hana eventually gives birth to a daughter named Yuki which means snow and later to a baby boy named Ame which means rain. Life throws a curved ball at the family when Hana’s husband dies unexpectedly. With two young half-human and half-wolves to raise on her own, Hana strives hard to be a mother and father at the same time. Hiding her children from public proved difficult, so she decides to move in the country where her children grew up to eventually choose their own paths.

This is one film that every mom ought to watch. Not only does it tackle about the daily toils that mothers have to face in raising children (single moms especially can relate), but also the joys and the rewards that go with it. It also imparts one lesson that mothers and every parent will have to face eventually – that is learning to let go of one’s children once they come of age. The little ones will also enjoy this film because of the playful way the young werewolves are portrayed. It is interesting to note that with the Japanese emphasis on uniformity over individuality, the young werewolves each took a different path from each other.

So beyond the movie title and the characters, this movie is really a celebration of motherhood.

*I included the lyrics of the movie’s soundtrack. I think Moms should make this as the soundtrack of their lives, too.

Okaasan no Uta (Mother’s song) – the opening song of Wolf Children

‘May I meet you soon, my yet unseen child,’

I always wished as I stroked my belly

Fu-u-u fu-u-u I wonder how your face looks like?

Fu-u-u fu-u- u I wonder how your voice sounds like?

I see myself reflected in your big eyes

as your tears trickled down your cheeks

‘Mama, mama, come, I’m finished with my food!’

‘Ta-ta-ta, ta-ta-ta, come, let’s go out for a walk!’

You hugged your knees, crying out your eyes

Tell me why, I’ll listen to everything

Don’t worry, I’m not going anywhere

No matter what happens,

I’ll be with you I love your face when you laugh

Even when you’re down, please try to cheer up

‘Ru-ru-ru, ru-ru-ru, come, let’s sing a song’

‘U-o-on, u-o-on, come, shout your hearts out’

Ki-ra-ra, ki-ra-ra, may you grow free from care

Run through snow, count the clouds, play in the rain, get blown by the wind,

get buried in flowers, make your grass flutes sing

with your four legs,

with your two legs

A new morning, a new wind,

prepared just for you

A new morning, a new light,

a world just for you

A new morning, a new rainbow,

a world full of wonder

No matter which of the two roads you choose,

I would probably no longer be able to gaze at you from afar

Someday, when you set out on your journey,

I’m sure I will see you off with a smile

U-u-u, u-u-u, but perhaps I’ll be a bit lonely

U-o-on, u-o-on Please, live strong



My Top 10 Favorite Children’s Books

Interestingly, I was only able to read these children’s books as an adult. Even if these books were all written with children as the intended audience, I am sure people from all ages would also enjoy these books the way I did. Six of these books are Newbery winners. So, how did I come up with my top 10 favorites? Simple. I tried to recall all the children’s books that I read, think of the plot and the characters, and see if they could still move me. So here are the favorites (in no particular order):

1. Holes by Louis Sachar


This is one of my assigned readings when I was still teaching, and I had about four students who said that among the books they were required to read, Holes is their favorite. Readers will be engrossed with Stanley Yelnats’ story and the events that led him to dig holes at Camp Green Lake. The subplot which involves Kate “Kissin'” Barlow adds an angle to the story that will make you say that we are all indeed connected. Rich in humor, you will be hooked from the first to the last page.

2. Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli

maniac magee

I have read Jerry Spinelli’s other books, but this one has the best plot and the most well-loved character. It is about an orphan named Magee whose innocent yet heroic efforts helped people he had encountered along his journey when he ran away from his adopted parents’ home. Magee is a weird boy, but his brilliance and non-judgmental ways won the hearts of many. You will find yourself rooting for him and at one point even wish that you can bring him home.

3. Missing May by Cynthia Rylant


This story tackles about death and mourning. Reading this is like chopping onions. Prepare your tissue. I have actually written a synopsis about this book a few months back:

4. Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech

walk two moons“You can’t keep the birds of sadness from flying over your head, but you can keep them from nesting in your hair.”

“Sometimes you know in your heart you love someone, but you have to go away before your head can figure it out.”

“Don’t judge a man until you have walked two moons in his moccasins.”

These are just some of the beautiful lines you can find from this book. This is also a story about loss and about moving on. You will cry with the protagonist, Salamanca Tree Hiddle.


5. Con-Fidence by Todd Strasser


This is written in the second person, so you can really feel that you are the one being conned (yes, this is what the story is all about, thus the title). As a child, we have all felt that desire to belong especially in a popular group. This story lets us go back to the time when we all felt this desire, and how stupid we were to believe that our best friend would never leave us. If you are one of those who still has some of elementary or high-school inferiority hang-ups, you will be able to relate with the character.

6. The Giver by Lois Lowry


I love how utopian and dystopian this book’s setting can be. This book tackles issues like euthanasia, caste systems, communism/dictatorship, mind programming, suicide, eugenics, and many more. If used as a learning material in the classroom, this novel will appeal to the students. Issues in the book can be used as topics for debate and essay writing. It has a bittersweet open-ended conclusion, but one that will make you pray that the protagonist will make it to the safe side.

7. A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park

a single shard

Another story about an orphan who did something heroic. The setting is in ancient Korea, and the writer brilliantly captures the picturesque images of the beautiful mountains and the interesting culture that S. Korea is well-known for. Readers will also be moved by the story of the boy, Tree-Ear and his fascination for pottery. If you are a fan of anything Korean, take a break from watching Koreanovela and from listening to K-pop music, and for the love of children’s lit, pick up this book and READ.

8. Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White

charlotte's web

This is a heartwarming story about Wilbur the pig and his unusual friendship with a female spider named Charlotte. Wilbur is being fattened up to be eaten, but Charlotte decides to save him by writing words about Wilbur using her web. What comes next will make you laugh at the genius of animals and the foolishness of humans. There is something philosophical about the story eventhough the book is intended for children. If you do not feel like reading it, watch the movie version instead. The film adaptation is as good as the book (starring Dakota Fanning and Julia Roberts as the spider).

9. The Call of the Wild by Jack London

call of the wild

No matter how tamed an animal is, it will always have that primal instinct that can be awakened once the wild calls. This is the story about Buck the dog who is kidnapped and sold to several cruel owners until it has found a kindhearted master. The story will appeal to dog lovers and advocates of anti-cruelty towards animals.

10. Daddy-Long-Legs by Jean Webster


This one made me smile and laugh. Written in a diary-like narrative, you will definitely enjoy Judy’s adventures at the orphanage and at her school. You will be entertained by her drawings (yes, there are drawings!) and her tongue-in-cheek description of the people she encounters. You will be delighted and surprised by the ending.


When I wrote this, I wanted to know the difference between children’s books and Young Adult (YA) novels. This site gave me the information I needed and more:

Smaller and Smaller Circles by F.H Bacatan


In its brave attempt to portray the Philippines for what it really is (fractured justice system and corrupt authorities) this novel stands out as one of those novels with socio-political causes. Its messianic theme of saving the country from the evils of poverty is best conveyed through the main character and his sidekick who are both priests.

This novel addresses themes that is now openly being talked about like sexual abuses done by church and school authorities, as well as mental illness.

The writer has a good grasp of forensic science as the details of the crime scene makes you feel like you are watching a good suspense film. However, the cat and mouse chase between the protagonists and the suspect is similar to that of other psychological thriller novels that you basically have an idea about how the ending will go about.

Nevertheless, it is refreshing to read a novel of this genre from a Filipina writer. I hope to read more of her works.

M.C. Higgins, the Great by Virginia Hamilton

mc higgins

There is something mystical about the mountains. The lush green hills, the history of the people inhabiting the little corners of the mountain, the stories of creatures and spirits guarding the forest – these are what cloth the mountain in supernatural grandeur. And this is what makes up the story of Marcus Cornelius Higgins, a teenaged boy who is torn between staying put in his mountain home and exploring whatever is beyond it. You’ll get other themes from this book such as coming of age, getting rid of one’s prejudice, and making an adult decision – the same ingredients that make up most YA books.

My Top 10 Favorite Films

You know that Francis Bacon quote about how some books are meant to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and few to be digested? The same is true for movies. I have always loved watching movies that I even dedicated a site just for movie reviews (yes, this blog!). But as I have no longer the leisure time to watch movies because of my two young children, I thought I would like to refresh my memory of the reason why I set up this blog in the first place. So, I came up with my top 10 favorite films. I have watched more than a hundred films since I was maybe four-years-old, but the movies that made it in my top 10 are those that have made such an impact on me, those that not only entertained me but especially those that made me think and wonder. These are films that left a lingering feeling of many things long after the they have ended. These, for me are movies that are meant to be digested (in no particular order).

1. The English Patient

english patient

Ralph Fiennes’ physique is the reason why I was impressed with this film. Haha, just kidding. The story has a sub-plot; a combination of the past and the present, and of course, the theme that love conquers everything, even in death. There you go, I just gave a spoiler. The film made me melancholic even days after I have finished watching it. It reminded me of loving someone even if it’s wrong, and of moving forward when you know that love isn’t for you. Of course, Mr. Fiennes’ brooding looks will also make you pine for someone as handsome as him. This film is for all the romantics out there.

2. Heart and Souls

heart and souls

In my top 10 list, this is the only film that doesn’t have an award because it really doesn’t deserve one. This made it on my list, however because when I watched this when I was about 13-years-old, it made me think about sudden death and unfinished businesses. It also gave me a crush on Robert Downey, Jr. It’s a feel-good romantic comedy that I think will make everyone smile. Plus, you won’t be able to resist Mr. Downey’s charms here. Be prepared for a corny song number.

3. Room


This film was adapted from a book of the same title. For most part of the film, the focus was on the two main characters played by Brie Larson as the mother and Jacob Tremblay as the child, who was the result of rape. Interestingly, although the main setting was just a tiny room (Brie Larson’s character was abducted and kept in this room for 5 years), it was never claustrophobic nor boring. The two also had superb acting as Larson won the Oscars for Best Actress here, and it opened doors for Tremblay as a child actor. A must-watch film.

4. The Way Home (S. Korea)

the way home

Long before Korean telenovelas become such a hit in the country, this film was already receiving international positive reviews. Again, this film has only two main characters – the grandmother and the grandson. The illiterate grandmother lived in a tiny hut on the mountains where basic necessities like electricity and running water are not known. Enter spoilt city-grown grandson and you get an amusing and heartwarming interaction between a young boy and his grandmother. You’ll appreciate your grandparents more after you watch this. My cousin actually cried and ran to our grandmother and gave her a hug at the end of this movie.

5. Children of Heaven (Iran)

children of heaven

There is something attractive about films that employ young children as main characters. It must be how well a child’s innocence is used as an antithesis against an adult’s corrupt and selfish attitude that makes us want to watch such films – the triumph over good vs. evil. It is basically about a poor brother and his younger sister’s lost pair of shoes. The brother lets her borrow his shoes, and all the while prepares for a race that will make him win a new pair of shoes. Their adventures will make you laugh and occasionally cry. Yes, cry. Especially the ending.

6. The Road Home (China)

the road home

Zhang Ziyi’s girlish looks was best used here as a young girl in love with a local schoolteacher. If you won’t be mesmerized by the film’s plot, the cinematography will. This movie didn’t have a lot of dialogues. Instead, it relied on China’s panoramic rural hills and the actors’ superb acting to deliver its message. I watched this during a seminar on language teaching. The speaker wanted to show how actions are worth a thousand words; that a film doesn’t necessarily need a long script to be entertaining or thought-provoking. This film served its purpose well.

7. Cinema Paradiso (Italy)

cinema paradiso

I watched this when I was in elementary school, maybe I was 8 or 9 around that time. There was an English sub-title as it was an Italian film. I loved the dynamic between the adult character here who was in charge of the town’s cinema and the pesky young boy who was curious about how the films work. Eventually, the boy became his apprentice when the older man became blind. Unrequited love, censorship, chasing your dreams – you’ll have these in this movie. Also, there will be lots of kissing.

8. The King’s Speech

king's speech

This film is all about overcoming disabilities with support from loved ones and from people we least expect to help us. It also gives us a glimpse of Britain’s royal family as Colin Firth’s character is George the VI, Queen Elizabeth II’s father, and Prince William and Prince Harry’s great-grandfather. There are so many great lessons to learn from this movie such as how the ‘royals’ have their own flaws, too and that the underdog will eventually rule over everyone. I used this as my film showing movie in my public speaking classes.

9. Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros (Philippines)

ang pagdadalaga

I’m such a sucker for literary devices such as allusion, foreshadowing, use of archetypes and symbols, etc. No wonder this movie appealed so much to me. It’s the only Filipino film that made it on this list even though I’m a Filipina. The Blossoming of Maximo Oliveros follows the character of a pre-teen homosexual who is in love with a young idealistic policeman. His protective and tolerant older brothers, however are petty thefts who are being chased by this policeman. Nathan Lopez, the boy who played Maximo is so convincing in this film that I wonder why his acting career didn’t take off.

10. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

one flew

Jack Nicholson has always been good at playing the bad guy. In this film, he plays the protagonist – a criminal who instead of being imprisoned is sent to a mental institution. He meets other patients whom he lorded over because of his charisma and devil-may-care attitude. He questions the authority of the doctors and he breaks the rules much to the chagrin of the head nurse who is the antagonist in this movie. It is a good film to watch for those studying to be a psychologist, psychiatrist, and therapist as it gives us a glimpse of how mentally ill were rehabilitated and medically treated during the old days.


The Villagethe village

This movie tells us that a utopian society also has a price to pay. The blind main character, the monster, the reluctant hero, the idealistic leader of the village, and the village itself – they were all well-put together to weave a story with an interesting twist. It reminds me of the Amish in the U.S. It started as a horror film, but it’s really a suspense thriller. Just like any of Shyamalan’s films, this one has surprising ending.

Throwback Thursday: Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe

There is a reason why we love telling stories. Stories evoke different emotions and responses from us – laughter and tears, empathy and anger, hope and despair. A writer is considered brilliant when he can easily draw out these feelings through his prose. Such a writer is Fannie Flagg. Her novel, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe tackles themes of aging and menopause, friendship, and even lesbianism that will make you laugh, smile, frown, and shed a tear or two.

More than the endearing and funny characters, this story is really about a town and how it survived, entertained, and protected its own. Flagg uses a diary-like feel to the place by using the town’s newsletter, The Weems Weekly as the source of its plot. I saw the movie adaptation first, then after a few years, I was able to get hold of the book. I have to say that the film and the book worked hand in hand to fill in some of the loopholes in the story.

Flagg’s style is similar to Rebecca Wells’ (author of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood) writing. Maybe because they both write about the South. If you find Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe in a bookstore, get a copy of it. Better yet, watch the movie.