Of green screens, face masks and shields

What COVID-19 has led us to, is unprecedented. From a worldwide healthcare concern, it has evolved to social, political and economic concerns. Just as our understanding of the virus evolves, its effects on us also evolves. How we do things as human beings drastically changed. We are social by nature but this virus prevents us from being physically together. We love to talk and communicate our thoughts and feelings but this virus placed a mask on everyone. When we are allowed to finally see our friends and relatives in person, the mask continues to hide that smile or frown that is the overt manifestation of how one feels. The mask can now serve as a guise on how vulnerable we truly are in the midst of the pandemic.

As a professional whose main job is to help people communicate, we are now tasked do things online, facing the screen with our clients on the other side of the line. Armed with our creativity and clinical judgment, Speech Pathologists are now digitalizing materials, designing online cards and games and even donning costumes to provide more engaging therapy sessions to children online. Now more than ever, we get to work with our clients’ family directly, we see their home environment and observe the family dynamics when it comes to teaching children. When we see children in person, we are tasked to do our job while donning personal protective equipment (PPE). The mask and and the face shield were initially bothersome but one gets used to them. Things can get overwhelming and tiring but the realization of one’s vocation is what matters most. We are able to support families, provide our services and give intervention to those who need it most. The mode may be different but as therapists and educators, we continue to be in the helping profession and this pandemic challenged everyone to level up in terms of service delivery. We have to continue to hold the door, for every person with disability and for every family who feels lost. We also need to hold the door for each other, to remind each other that in the midst of our wanting to give more of ourselves, we have to be kind to ourselves too.

Teaching Future Therapists

One of the things that I have been enjoying doing, is supervising Speech Language Pathology (SLP) interns in their last year as undergraduate students. I became a young supervisor in 1995, two years after graduation. The internship program gave me the opportunity to be in touch with my alma mater, UP CAMP and with the teaching process comes the learning process as well. Now that we have four universities offering the SLP course, I am glad that I am still able to participate in their training programs.

Over the years, I have witnessed interns who bloomed from being awkward around children to professionals who exuded passion in making a difference in children’s lives. I have met interns who almost gave up during the course of the training program but eventually finished strong. There were others who took more time in finishing the course but are now respected and competent specialists. There are a few who finally found the perfect fit for them in another field after trying out internship. Quite a number have asked whether this profession is really for them during internship. My bottom line for students of today is, you will never know unless you try.

Internship entails a lot of adapting to varied work settings, countless sleepless nights (especially during case presentations and report-writing), overwhelming information about varying cases and a bagful of activity plans, therapy materials and books. There are also priceless benefits of internship. One gets the chance to work with other allied health professionals and handle clients while being guided by clinical supervisors. There are professionals who are available for consultation and collaboration is easy. Since interns are exposed to varied settings, from community-based rehabilitation to therapy centers and hospitals, interns may now choose the work environment where they will grow. While most persevere during this challenging training period, some opt to stop and reflect.

What I have noticed recently is that a lot of interns have very high expectations from the program, the supervisors and most especially, themselves. During the training program, they are worried that they are not competent enough to handle their clients. They feel anxious when they do not know all the answers to the questions posed by their supervisors. They expect a perfectly written evaluation report thus the late submission. There is a clear mismatch between what the supervisors expect and what they expect from themselves. I often wonder, if our new set of interns were required to make their own clinical evaluation form, I may not even meet their standards.

Personally, one of the things that this profession has taught me was to take care of myself too. We have to be kind to ourselves so we can be kind and compassionate to others. In the end, we cannot give what we do not have. I am inspired by the Dalai Lama in starting one’s day. He sets his intention for his day to be meaningful. “Meaningful means, if possible, serve and help others. If not possible, then at least not to harm others.”

I am grateful to be in a profession that gives me the opportunity to have a meaningful day with the children under my care. I make it a point to reflect at the end of the day about the things that I said or did not say and the actions done or undone. I sleep with the hope of doing better the next day. Each morning is a reset button for me. Another chance to become a better therapist, to take note of my mistakes and make them my life lessons and to continuously learn something new. My heart is full of gratitude for the opportunity to live a meaningful life, one day at a time, one child at a time, one word at a time.

Four Ps for an Enduring Practice

(This was a speech I made for the CAMP Testimonial 2018. Physical Therapists and Occupational Therapists who recently passed the board exams were given honors as well as the academic scholars of the College of Allied Medical Professions, UP Manila.)

We have read articles and researches on the behavior of your generation, the Millennials in the workforce.

According to a recent article in the Harvard Business Review, there is little in the way of empirical research to support this billion-dollar theory that millennials are all that unique. On the contrary, a growing body of evidence suggests that employees of all ages are much more alike than different in their attitudes and values at work. To the extent that any gaps do exist, they amount to small differences that have always existed between younger and older workers throughout history and have little to do with the Millennial Generation per se.

I attended a seminar for business owners last year and the speaker, a regional general manager of Ascott, shared that they created a task force to understand the Millennials. I was amazed because in my workplace, a therapy center for children, we appreciate the commitment and creativity of the younger generation. When I received the invitation for today’s testimonial, I had to ask myself, would my concerns then as a young professional, be the same as your concerns now? I wanted my talk to be relevant and not just speak of what they call, the generation gap. After engaging in conversations with the young therapists at Trails Center, I have these three important points to share:


As a young professional, it is important that you do something that you love. No matter how small or big the task is, if you do it with love, you do things well.

When I started working, I was still undecided whether to focus my practice on pediatrics or geriatrics. I had a fruitful internship in both, so I made sure that my professional workplace involved a hospital (for geria cases) and a special school (for pedia cases). Most of my batch mates already knew what they will focus on while I was still figuring things out. I just knew that in my heart, I found the profession that I want to do for the rest of my life. I had to make a long letter to my father, expressing my desire to pursue speech pathology and not take Medicine. It was hard because in my father’s mind and press release, I will be the first doctor in the family. I knew then, that as a young speech pathologist, I had to learn from the best. I had the opportunity to work with Dr. Ofelia Reyes, a rehab doctor at the UST Hospital and worked for the longest-running special school in Quezon City, Cupertino Center for Special Children. It took me seven years to finally realize that I am more passionate in creating and implementing programs for children with developmental disabilities. I focused on pediatrics and was starting to reflect whether to continue practicing in the Philippines or abroad. It was during that crossroad that I started to think about my purpose.


They say that, “unless you understand what you are looking for, you won’t find it.”

Most of us want our work to have meaning and purpose. At a certain point in our life, we have to check our internal compass and reflect on where we want to go and what we really want to do. I have always believed that each of us has a core gift that we can share to the world. When I was focused on my pediatric practice, I was able to find my purpose. That is when I realized that my purpose was to teach children and teach teachers. Aside from treating children with Autism, AD/HD, Down Syndrome and other developmental disabilities, I accepted the role of being a Clinical Supervisor. I also knew then that working in a different country will not make me happy. My parents were already in the province, and during my young professional life, I was alone in Manila. I am pacified with the fact that my parents are a 10-hour drive away, I will not add more distance from my family who means a lot to me. After 10 years of pediatric practice, I now had more questions.  Am I happy with my current environment? Am I reaching my full potential with the people I am interacting with and the tasks that I am doing? It took me ten years to realize that I was looking for another platform.


My husband Ern, shared that choosing the right platform is choosing the environment that you think will help you shine. It includes the people around you, the nature of your job and the systems that allow you to interact with other people. When you choose the right platform or stage, you will truly shine.

I am glad to have found my platform in Trails. Trails Center was born after my ten years of practice as a pediatric speech pathologist. Compared to my colleagues, I was considered to be a late bloomer. Most started their own therapy centers a year or two after graduation. It didn’t bother me that I was working as a consultant while they were already center owners. I knew my limitation. I wasn’t ready then. I knew that managing a clinic is different from being a clinician. I had to seek the help of my family when Trails opened its doors in April 2003. Through my husband’s support, we were able to grow Trails to cater to more children with special needs in Laguna and Cavite. Recently, we opened in Manila.

While learning the ropes of running a therapy center, I have also decided to pursue Masters in Reading Education. For those who have read the book, Built to Last, you know that Jim Collins and Jerry Poras first coined the phrase, “the tyranny of the OR versus the genius of the AND”. I have always believed that we may miss opportunities because we have to choose. Am I a clinician OR an academician? Am I a therapist OR an entrepreneur? My challenge is, why not be BOTH? As long as you know that your efforts are aligned with your passion and purpose, you will find the right platform to reach your full potential. Is choosing AND irrational? Perhaps. Is it rare? Yes. Is it difficult? Absolutely. So what do we do then during these challenging situations? The fourth P will be an anchor of strength and perseverance.


Prayer is a time for worship, expression of gratitude, and discernment. When I feel blessed, I pray. When I feel frustrated, I pray. When I feel lost, I pray. Quiet prayer time gives us the clarity that we need during difficult times. It is the time for us to listen and discern if we are doing things according to His will. It is also the best time to turn our worries into worship.

My wish for you is to find your Three Ps through reflection and prayer. Some may take more time than others, just keep in mind that we do not have the same destination, we make our own paths, we have unique core gifts, and so, we only race with ourselves.

Let me end with this passage that I have read with my client who has Autism this morning, I think it applies to all of us, especially at that time when we are looking within.

“Take these words with you every day,

and treasure your own worth—

this planet changed in wondrous ways

the moment of your birth.

You are part of everything.

To life’s great promise you belong.

Rejoice in who you truly are.

Stand up, join in,

And sing your song.