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It’s never too late…

to visit the Philippine Islands or to write again!

It wasn’t until I clicked “Purchase” on the airline website that it really hit me…this trip is happening, this research is happening, this is the life I am living. 

It’s been over 2 decades, 20 years, 1,040 weeks, 7,300 days, 10.5 million minutes since I have travelled to the Philippines. After losing connection to my ethnic roots, the culture from which my life originates, I will embark on this journey to rediscover what it means to be a Filipina – including life on the islands, the love of family, and what it means to lead in higher education. 

When I started my PhD program just two years ago, I would have not imagined that I would be interested in researching the stories and experiences of Filipino/a Americans in higher education. Now that I have made the decision to focus my research on this population of leaders, I also have discovered my desire to learn more about the islands, the people, the culture, and the language from which I originate. 

So this is what I will be doing: I will learn the language. I will understand what it means to be Filipino/a (in the US and the PI). I will talk to both sides of my family and collect ourstories. I will learn what it means to be a leader in higher education. I will love where I come from and the life I have been gifted. 

…and I will write. I will write it all down because my words and these stories are powerful beyond measure and more valuable than gold. It’s never too late to rediscover life, love, and leadership. 

Click here to support Rediscovering PI Life, Love & Leadership by Grace Abenoja Bagunu

Kicking off Spring Break in the Bay

When some of my fellow doc students asked me if I wanted to road trip it with them to San Francisco…my quick first response was…Yes! I can never say no to a trip to the Bay. As the day of departure got closer and closer, and the pile of school work got higher and higher…I began to second guess my decision to go on this weekend trip. Partially because of the work I had to do, partially because of the trips I was taking after the trip, and partially because I had never travelled with this group before and I wondered what might happen when 5 bright, young, strong, and opinionated women travel in a car together and stay in close living quarters for a couple of days. Days before the trip I thought of dropping out…which would have been the worst decision I could have made. It was a trip worth remembering!

Friday started off with a song-filled car ride with Jessica, Mari and Tara from the #bottomtotheBay with a stop in San Mateo for a quick bite to eat at 31st Union (see my Yelp review to get the details of that story) to kill time before Annie’s flight landed. Friday night was chill once Annie arrived at SFO. We checked into our hotel at Club Quarters near the Embarcadero, went to dinner near Pier 1 1/2 then called it a night.

The next day we walked the Embarcadero from the Port of San Francisco to Fisherman’s Wharf. We ate at a fantastic restaurant at Pier 39 called Fog Harbor Fish House and then went on a boat tour of the Bay. Afterwords, I got to see my niece then my friends Chris and Andy joined us on our walk up to Ghirardelli Square. We took a bus to Chinatown for foot massages then enjoyed a fabulous Italian dinner at Firenze by Night in North Beach. We finished off the night at a local saloon in the Tenderloin district called McTeagues. Since it was a late night, we slept in the next morning and then I was off to SFO to head back to San Diego while the rest of the gals continued on their spring break trip. 

A great question was asked on the first night of the trip, “What is your intention for this trip?” and initially I didn’t have an answer…I hadn’t really thought about it! It wasn’t until the next day that I realized what my intention was for this trip. I wanted to kick off my spring break in the bay with these four bright, young, strong, and opinionated women from school who I wanted to get to know better outside of the doctoral school setting. That is exactly what happened. I feel closer in many ways to each and every one of them. 

Here’s one of my favorite pics of the trip taken by Jessica. 

What a weekend to remember! Now that’s how to get Spring Break started off right! 

Do Something…Make Positive Change

Every year someone always asks me, “What are you giving up for Lent?” In short, I never have a good answer for them because when I was a “kid” I would always give up “chocolate” or “eating meat” or some other random “thing” that I thought was “sinful” or “bad for me.” Over the last decade or so I realized that giving up something seemed like a passive way of honoring the Lenten season, so instead, I DO SOMETHING more in my day that allows me to MAKE POSITIVE CHANGE in myself and the world around me. This, I believe, is more in line with my spiritual practice and my Catholic faith. 

So this year, I decided…I am going to walk at least a mile a day…to use that time to REFLECT or to MEDITATE and to engage my body in physical ACTION while I APPRECIATE the beauty in world God has created for me to take in through all of my senses. 

What I have realized on my walks is that…

  • I need better insoles for my shoes to avoid shin splints.
  • I smile at more people. 
  • I see a lot more animals like dogs, cats, birds, squirrels (and their poop). 
  • I explore more paths. 
  • I love the way all types of music helps me connect thought and emotion. 
  • I breathe more deeply.
  • I find the natural beauty in almost anything and everything I pass by…even these huge mushrooms growing in a patch along the sidewalk! 

I wonder if we’ll ever start to ask each other, “What are you DOING for Lent?” instead of what we are giving up. And even if you aren’t religious or if you don’t participate in Lent…what are you doing to make positive change? As I have learned through my own experience and education, LEADERSHIP is an act, it is something we DO, and it is through that action that POSITIVE change happens in this world. So, what are you doing?

Music is… My Muse.

As I sat at a local coffee shop this evening, overhead played a song performed by Louis Armstrong that repeats the words “We shall overcome” and I was instantly inspired to write again for my reflection after a week of experiencing life to the fullest. Like the words of author, Madison Daniel, MUSIC IS MY MUSE tonight.

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The past few days have brought the people I care about to share some of the trials and tribulations, challenges and blessings, deaths and births, and comings and goings of their lives. I am sure this happens quite often to me as I invite people to be open and honest when sharing with me their feelings, but this week seems to have been filled with the extreme highs and lows and everything in between that life can bring. The overwhelming feelings of happiness to the unrelenting feelings of despair, it is clear people are living life! Myself included. 

I am so blessed to have some amazing and beautiful people around me. They love me, support me, give me critical feedback, and celebrate with me! And in return, I share that same love and support with them and others.

Thank you…

for reaching out,

for your loving embrace,

for breaking bread with me, and

for being here for me through life’s many ups and downs.

Together we shall overcome anything that comes our way.

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and as I watch the DVR recording of the Oscars…I watch and feel the music of Pharrell Williams and the fabulous song “Happy” from Despicable Me 2 (one of my favorite animated films!) and I’ll leave you with this thought: 

Life is better when you have others to love, words to sing, and music to dance to!

Inspired to Write

I’m inspired to write again after all these years. 

I rediscovered my love for writing a few months ago thanks to my friend, Jessica, who is an incredible writer and a beautiful person. I realized that ever since I started this doctoral program almost 2 years ago I haven’t taken the time to write/reflect/blog/share my thoughts and views in my world. Earlier this year I started a jar to help me get back to writing and reflecting on the good things that happen in life… image

and it worked! The jar is full and it’s only been 2 months! I’ve been writing more and more every day. When I see something that inspires me or makes me laugh, I write it down. If I want to pray for someone or thank God for a blessing, I write it down. I have two mini journals that I’ve stashed in my purse and my backpack so I never have to feel like I can’t write. I’m also capturing words of wisdom from people in my life to help me get through the day or this program or life in general. 

I’m working on allowing myself to be imperfect when it comes to writing. Now that I have started this doctoral program, I find myself overly critical about my writing…so much so that I never want to post what I write because sure I’m going to have something grammatically incorrect and that is not what is expected from a future doctor of philosophy, right? Well, that tape I play to myself hasn’t served me well these past few years…so I’m going to be #brave and allow myself to be perfectly imperfect. No matter what the critics (myself included) say about it!

Thank you, Jessica, for inspiring me to write again and for the daily reminder that I can Be Brave each and every day I wake up, get out of bed, and start my day. image

I love this quote by Anne Rice…that I thought I would share it twice: 

“Don’t bend; don’t water it down; don’t try to make it logical; don’t edit your own soul according to the fashion. Rather, follow your most intense obsessions mercilessly. Only if you do that can you hope to make the reader feel every particle of what you, the writer, have known and feel compelled to share.” – Anne Rice

Don’t bend; don’t water it down; don’t try to make it logical; don’t edit your own soul according to the fashion. Rather, follow your most intense obsessions mercilessly. Only if you do that can you hope to make the reader feel every particle of what you, the writer, have known and feel compelled to share. Anne Rice