Abot Tala focuses on meaningful learning that stays relevant in their future careers rather than forcing standardized tests and offering questionable grades. Classes and tutorials are led by guest mentors and facilitators who are practitioners and experts in their field. We ask members regularly what they’d like to work on and learn which then leads us to search in the community for someone who is willing to share their time and talents with a young person. We’re constantly amazed at the talented and dedicated people we are able to find or who find us.
Owie Burns dela Cruz (Executive Director)
A homeschooling mom of two children since 2011 and unschooling mom since 2017, Owie has taught communication and collaboration to other homeschooled teens. She was CEO of School in a Backpack, Managing Editor for teen publication The Word 4U Today, and helped teach public speaking for kids at Trumpets Playshop. She’s worn hats as events host, voice talent, dubber, newscaster, scriptwriter, broadcast journalist but the hat she is most passionate to don is as Superpower Tapper – helping young people find their unique superpowers. At Abot Tala, the teens have decided to call her “tita” (auntie) because that’s who she has become to everyone.
Ericho Fuentes (Academic Mentor)
Chemist, educator, and scientific researcher, Ericho has taught both science and non-science majors at the Ateneo de Manila University and has delved thoroughly into topics such as heavy metal contamination in Philippine mining sites. Aside from being the go-to math and science guy in Abot Tala, Ericho sees himself as one who can help learners realize their goals at the same time introduce them to other mentors and people who can help make it possible for them to reach their goals.
Joyce Buen is an Art Management major, radio DJ, voice-over artist, theater performer, and director. Her theatre life started doing musicals with fellow homeschoolers. A member of the Ateneo Blue Repertory for the past 5 years, she has also worked outside the country with Curtain Raiser Entertainment in Malta, Europe. When she is not busy in the theatre, she is probably at the recording studio, radio station, an art gallery, or just at home, cooking for her friends or hanging out with her cats.
Michellan has a double degree in Criminology and Psychology from the London Metropolitan University and a Master of Fine Arts Degree in Creative Writing, specializing in Poetry, from De La Salle University Manila. She was a Fellow for Poetry in both the IYAS National Writing Workshop and the Silliman University National Writing Workshop. Her poems have been published in The Manila Times, Philippine Daily Inquirer, and Philippine Free Press. Her poems are also included in various anthologies such as Crowns and Oranges: Works by Young Philippine Poets, At Home in Unhomeliness: An Anthology of Philippine Postcolonial Poetry, and Desde Hong Kong: Poets in Conversation with Octavio Paz. She is an indie writer and editor.
Block 4: January-March 2021
In his first look at competitive chess, Gavin Ong led the Xavier School chess team to several championships in PAYA, PRADA, and ISSA as the team captain for his latter three years in high school. In addition to his successes in Xavier, he also represented the District of San Juan in the NCR Palarong Panrehiyon Secondary Boys Division from 2013 to 2016. He carried his successes to college where he played in the UAAP for the Ateneo de Manila Blue Eagles from Seasons 79 to 82, nabbing the Rookie of the Year award in his first year. He continued to lead the team as captain for the remainder of his career in the UAAP before graduating from the university in 2020 with a degree in Business Management. During the quarantine period, he participated in online FIDE-rated competitions and acquired the Arena International Master (AIM) title, which he eventually replaced by achieving the highest official online title offered by FIDE, Arena Grandmaster (AGM).
Kaiser as a professional is an Archivist trained in Audio-Visual archiving in the Film Archive of Thailand. But as an artist, he specializes in Photography and Cinematography with 10years of working experience in the industry including ABS CBN, and has directed Various music videos and marketing campaigns.
Jennifer is a Computer Science Major who minored in Japanese studies at the Ateneo de Manila University. Her passion for the Japanese language and culture began when she was first introduced to anime at a young age. She was enamored by the medium and the way it presented mature themes and tackled issues that people face in their everyday lives. She was a member of the Ateneo Student Exchange Council and was frequently assigned to welcome and interact with Japanese exchange students. Through learning Japanese, she realized how fulfilling it is to be able to properly communicate with foreigners in their native language and how this leads to a fruitful exchange of cultures and ideas.
Nat is a History graduate and advocates the importance of keeping historical narratives alive and truthful. Being a tinkerer, he has always had an enthusiasm for various antiques and historical artifacts. Nat feels that preserving and studying these items can contribute to making Filipinos understand and appreciate history more deeply. He is currently taking up graduate studies in Archaeology in UP Diliman, where in the future, he hopes to find a place in the field. When Nat is not mulling over things related to history, he enjoys tinkering with other things such as looping guitar and bass, performing improv, and trying out new recipes in the kitchen.
Watercolor enthusiast, musical geek, and literature nerd, Icia loves art in all forms. A graduate from the University of the Philippines Diliman, Icia pursued an unpopular Bachelor of Arts Degree in Malikhaing Pagsulat sa Filipino. Her previous Creative Writing and Filipino teachers in high school inspired her to learn more about our country’s culture and literature. She found her passion for teaching when she worked as a preschool teacher for two years. She taught English, Filipino, Art, Music, and Movement to young children. The Philippines is home to many beautiful languages and Icia hopes to bring children and teens closer to appreciating our own language and culture in fun, engaging, and thought-provoking ways.
Cristina graduated with a degree in Industrial Design from the University of Santo Tomas, and it was here that E.A.R.S. (Early Action Response System), an assistive safety device for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, was born. She designed and developed it having been born profoundly Deaf herself. Upon graduating from college, she worked for the Design Center of the Philippines under the Philippine government’s Department of Trade and Industry.
Pauline graduated with a degree in Communication Arts from the De La Salle University-Manila. Together with her sister Cristina, she co-founded Innovable, Inc., a startup dedicated to providing innovative, adaptive solutions for persons with disabilities. They also currently teach Filipino Sign Language, serve as FSL interpreters in the workplace, provide employment and other support to the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. She is also very passionate about literature and writing.
Paul and Julie Rohrer
Paul and Julie are the founders of Safe and Sound for Mental Health, a support group that meets in different parts of Metro Manila. Paul is a good, old country boy from Tennessee, USA. He loves southern cooking, hunting, the outdoors, and American Football. Julie is a singer/songwriter and happy homemaker, hand-crafter & inspirational blogger. For more information, please visit www.facebook.com/safeandsoundformentalheath
Diane Gabriel is a homeschooling mom of 3 boys and wife to the Muffin Man. Her college days were filled with music and art as a choir member of the UP Vocal Ensemble and as a student of the UP College of Fine Arts. Graduating with a bachelor’s degree in Visual Communication, she worked for 5 years as an art director in a top advertising agency, working behind-the-scenes alongside writers, directors, photographers, and other artists. As a stay-at-home mom, after discovering that her sons were on the autism spectrum she has embraced the unique and challenging but wonderful world of neurodiversity with the pursuit of child-led learning.
Gabe Gabriel is a former radio jock, certified Berlitz English language assessor, and voice actor. He began his radio career as an announcer at 96.7 KLite in Baguio City. After moving to Manila, he went on to Jam 88.3 with daily segments such as “Hard Drive” and “It’s Better Late with Gabriel”, and a Sunday show on Christian contemporary music called “Lifted”. He is also a dedicated husband and hands-on dad to 3 boys. In between recording TV, radio, and digital ads and juggling fatherhood, Gabe maintains a home-based fitness routine of HIIT, bodyweight training, and capoeira.
Ramil started programming when he was in 4th grade when a friend introduced and taught him how to code. He also learned how to fix computers when he was young but by breaking a few first, of course. Ramil is now a software engineer and is passionate about teaching programming to young minds.
Kathleen Modina-Angue, MD, FPCEM
Dr. Kay is a board-certified Emergency Medicine Physician as well as an American Heart Association Instructor teaching both Basic and Advanced Cardiac Life Support. Fluent in Japanese, she also serves the local Japanese community as the Medical Coordinator of a prominent Japanese Clinic. Aside the rush she feels from defibrillating patients in the ER, she has a passion for manga, gemstones, quantum physics, and youtube cookery. She believes that a little bit more Science Literacy can go a long way in enriching everyone’s lives–especially when dealing with the messy details of growing up and keeping healthy.
Marthy has been writing and designing from home for the better part of the last decade and he’s made an adventure out of it spanning across the globe. From stage-directing a show in Malta to show-running an anime with the Qatari Culture Ministry, from winning an international award for hawking cup noodles to co-founding Gunship Revolution, one of Southeast Asia’s most prolific digital arts providers, Marthy loves helping people establish their identities both as brands and as individuals. Marthy has been engaged in helping build up the local Freelancing Culture alongside his company and believes that innovative models of learning like AbotTala will be key in preparing young creatives for their own adventures ahead.
Nate is a social media influencer with a perpetual burger craving and a following of over 80,000 subscribers on YouTube. For him, growing up homeschooled was part of the reason he was so interested in learning new things as well as brave to challenge the status quo. He graduated cum laude with a degree in BS Communications Technology Management from Ateneo de Manila University.
A visual artist by profession, Monica hopes to spark curiosity and passion in people through drawing, painting and everything else in between. She draws her inspiration mostly from organic forms like plants and animals to convey her feelings and world-view. She has showcased her work globally, having participated in the Folkestone Triennial in the UK and held group shows in Japan. Locally, she held her first solo show in Galerie Astra, Makati and joined the Tagaytay Art Beat at Museo Orlina, Tagaytay. She has an MFA from Global Art Practice Department of Tokyo University of the Arts, Graduate School of Fine Arts and an undergraduate degree in Animation from De La Salle College of Saint Benilde.
Tiago is an editor, producer, and multimedia journalist by training. He is an M.S. graduate of the Columbia Journalism School, specializing in emerging tech, business, and feature reporting. At Columbia, he focused on social issues and human rights reporting, with coursework in breaking news coverage, digital verification, and visual storytelling. Over the last three years, Santiago has worked at BusinessWorld, helping shape the publication’s business and editorial strategy as it transitioned into the digital age. He currently serves as an innovation and business narrative consultant for small businesses and global entrepreneur networks.
Camyl is the design principal of Gal at Home Design Studio. She has been in the home and interiors industry since 2015, after almost a decade in communications and publishing. She took up a few terms at the Philippine School of Interior Design, and finished with a certificate in Interior Design from the New York Institute of Art and Design. She is currently working on getting her Residential Interior Design Qualifying Certification (RIDQC) with the Design Society of America. You may find some of Camyl’s work on her Instragram: @galathome
Class: Basic Digital Film Making
Maqui is a multifaceted visual creative with skills in photography, videography and graphic design. He finished a degree in AB Communication at the Ateneo de Manila University with a focus on TV & Film Production, Public Relations and Advertising. While initially entering the media industry as a talent, he has since co-founded and co-owns a local production house called Limitless Production pursuing a career behind the lens. As a creative, he is guided by his respect for the craft and for his desire to tell meaningful stories.
Gen, the Canine Life Coach, is a dog behaviourist who was selected by the Cesar Milan (National Geographic’s Dog Whisperer) to participate in “Cesar’s Recruit: Asia”. Her work and training with Cesar Millan has made her a much-sought pet trainer both locally and abroad. She has also trained pets for TV commercials and film appearances. Besides pet training, Gen also dabbles in modelling, diving and music.
A three-time ALIW Awardee for Best Female Classical Performer, Camille has sung in operas, operettas, oratorios, zarzuelas, concerts, and recitals. She is one of the founders of Viva Voce Voice Workshop, an intensive summer voice camp. She teaches at St. Scholastica’s College School of Music and the Philippine High School for the Arts. She has studied at the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts and the Conservatory of Vienna. The way things are done in Abot Tala is how she would have wanted her own education to be – something to be excited about every day.
Nikole is a Psychology graduate from De La Salle University and is currently working as a theatre teacher and performer, as well as a social media manager. Her passion for the arts had led her to take various workshops in Manila and programs from Mountview Academy in London, and American Musical Theatre Academy in New York. When she is not doing work, you will find her songwriting or reading a book. Nikole believes that it is by integrating an understanding of people and their passion that they are able to be truly happy and successful.
Chep is the marketing manager of Los Angeles Fitness Inc., the company that holds both Gold’s Gym Philippines and UFC Gym Philippines. He oversees brand representation, be it on their social platforms or otherwise. His knowledge of graphic design comes from his bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts: Information Design from Ateneo. From digital arts, photography, to videography, he looks forward to sharing what he knows to help cultivate creativity.
Stuart Paul Dee Yang
Stu is currently with American Creative Design and is a consultant for Multi-Spectrum Prints and Del Constructions. He is also a part-time lecturer in the Industrial Design Course in DLSU-College of Saint Benilde. He is the owner of My IDEA Works Inc., which is a Rapid prototyping company that specializes in 3d printing. Stu is also a homeschooling dad and is passionate about drawing, sculpting, and painting.
Leo is a Certified Design Thinking Strategist for On-Off Group based in Manila, Philippines. Together with his team, he helps businesses create innovative solutions for pain-points specific to their operations. He facilitates Design Thinking workshops that encourage business leaders to employ empathy to address their customer’s and stakeholder’s needs. Leo has delivered workshops to various private and public institutions including top Filipino universities, national government units, and multi-national conglomerates across a variety of industries.
John Robert Lim
Hailing from Taipei, Robert has spent the past decade or so enthralled by Japanese popular culture. From anime to video games and trading cards, the list of “Akihabara attractions” that he enjoys going on. With a degree in psychology and experience in social studies, Robert has made it a priority to make his passions productive and see how they affect the world around us.
Ginger de Guia
Ginger de Guia is a freelance visual artist and teacher. She enjoys combining her skills in teaching and in art when conducting classes or workshops. In 2016, she released a publication, “Color with Purpose’ with OMF Lit. and has done collaborations with brands like Certified Positive and GetFiled! Her mural works can be spotted in art spaces, homes, and establishments such as Ayala Malls the 30th, Novotel Hotel, and SM North.
Razel is the co-founder of Kahon ng Karunungan and the KNOW Movement. Through Kahon ng Karunungan, she has helped reduce educational equity by providing over 1500 self-learning kits to students affected by natural disasters such as the Taal Volcano eruption and Typhoon Mangkhut. She also co-founded the KNOW movement, which is a network of youth-led NGOs around the world aiming to combat educational inequity. The KNOW movement has over 30 partner NGOs and is working in countries such as the Philippines, Canada, Nigeria, Lebanon, and various parts of the US.
Bearer of a storytelling family’s lasting legacy, Leandro Reyes, the great-grandson of Severino “Lola Basyang” Reyes, brings the craft of tale-telling into a new age; uses his training in theater arts to paint performance poetry with elaborative gestures; His art is an assortment of different characters playing poet. He has been described to make “poetry with a surprise center.” Leandro writes to tickle the kid your heart can still manage to beat as, along with pestering the grown-up your mind has thought itself ready for. Leandro, an event producer and touring artist, has a track on the spoken word album Southversive and Bigkas Pilipinas vol. 2, has released the self-published graphic poetry book “Love, Smog, and All Things Warm” with co-creator Camcas Cervantes; He now is set for a Singapore – Malaysia Poetry tour and is hoping to release his next book this year.
Tanya is a Biology graduate from the Ateneo de Manila University with a passion for the environment and the outdoors. It is her awe and wonder for the interconnectedness and design of the created world that drives her to continue exploring and learning whether through books and research or more adventures in the seas and mountains. Last year, she took a workshop on Organic Farming, which led to finding a new hobby in home gardening and reigniting her dream to have her own farm one day. Currently, her work revolves around science education. She hopes to inspire more people to be curious, to go out and appreciate all that nature gives, and to care for it in return.
Isa Garcia likes to divide her time between teaching and writing. By day she works as a full-time instructor in a small arts school in BGC. Otherwise, you’ll find her writing articles for print or planning her next book/passion project. She is the author of Found and Like Lines on a Map. She loves dogs, learning new things, and going to the beach.
Paula is a former online journalist, book editor and lead content specialist. She is the founder of Digital Street Academy, a group that aims to guide and train Filipino SMEs in positioning online reputation and branding. She also helps other digital marketers and thought leaders to reflect the best practices in executing campaigns especially for content marketing and strategy, Native
advertising and SEO.
Abs graduated with a degree in IT but holds a vast array of interests including (but not limited to) gaming, Japanese culture, and music. When he isn’t busy with his day job, Abs can be found going on adventures in the mountains or spending time with his friends.
Niño is a painter, art teacher and a professional musician dividing his time as a guitarist, percussionist, and flutist, who also happens to be a bamboo flute maker. He has performed with famous local artists in the Philippines such as Grace Nono, Pinikpikan, Joey Ayala, Julianne, Kitchie Nadal and Cynthia Alexander. He is currently part of the band, Loquy and Art Director for Crane Lake Camp, a summer camp in West Stockbridge, Massachusetts. Niño Hernandez’ pieces are abstractions and, in some cases, exact representations of the surfaces of everyday objects such as leaks on walls, cracks on concrete, or corrosion on metal. To see his work visit Niño Hernandez Art on Facebook.
While being a materials science and intellectual property specialist by trade, JB has honed his skills in Arnis in his free time. His passion and devotion in the Filipino Martial Arts has made him reach a specialization level of 10th-degree black belt. He formerly taught arnis in UP Sangkil Karasak from 2009 to 2018 and has founded Lightning Makati, an arnis club based in Makati.
Originally from Sao Paulo, Brazil, Erika has traveled to 25 countries, can speak 5 languages (Portuguese, English, Spanish, German, Mandarin Chinese) and has lived in Chile, China, Thailand, Scotland, and Germany. She has worked as a model, actress, scriptwriter, stylist, and coach but it is the heart of a volunteer that finds Erika helping vulnerable people coming out of homelessness, addiction, and poverty. She has supported people with disabilities and used yoga as a healing tool for those who have experienced trauma. A believer in every person’s dream, Erika loves the opportunity to nurture young minds in the Philippines through Abot Tala.
Dingdong is a founding member of SPIT (Silly People’s Improv Theater), the Philippines’ premiere improvisational theater group and is the Festival Director of the Manila Improv Festival. He is a senior faculty of Third World Improv, a school dedicated to the art and practice of improvisational theater. He is currently a faculty member of the MINT College Theater Arts Program, served as improv coach at the British School Manila and was a faculty member of the Repertory Philippines Summer Camp. He has done corporate training, giving workshops on team building, effective communication, creativity, and spontaneity.
Vier (which is number four in German and pronounced “fear”) Tajonera is a homeschooling dad of two, a fencing coach, and is soon going to run the Forge Martial Fitness Gym along Pioneer St., Mandaluyong City. He was part of the Philippine National Fencing Team from 1991 to 1998. He was a gold medalist for fencing (saber) in the 1993 Southeast Asian (SEA) Games and has been teaching fencing for more than ten years. He is also a brown-belter in Kendo, a traditional Japanese sword fighting martial art and has a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Ateneo de Manila University. He started teaching illuminated saber fighting, based on the fictional Jedi martial art from Star Wars which borrows heavily from Kendo and traditional fencing.
Constanza Daniela González
Daniela is a Chilean registered psychologist with experience mentoring and counseling youth from diverse ethnic, cultural, socioeconomic, and religious backgrounds. She is passionate about mental health, learning, and volunteering as a form of service and a means to community building. She enjoys supporting young people to thrive and is always up for a meaningful, potentially life-changing conversation over a cup of tea.
Rommel dela Cruz
Bass player, songwriter and book nerd, Rommel has been playing the bass and writing songs for the past 25 years. He holds bass clinics and church workshops. He was the bass player for the band Freestyle for 13 years and before that with Barbie’s Cradle. He has played with artists such as Unique, Sarah Geronimo, Jett Pangan, Kitchie Nadal, Ebe Dancel, Nicole Asensio, Rico Blanco, Grace Nono, Wency Cornejo, Bayang Barrios, Lani Misalucha, Regine Velasquez and more. He brings not only his musicality to Abot Tala but his passionate belief that this type of libertarian education is the way to go if we want to secure a better future for our children.
With over twenty years of entrepreneurial experience in the retail and service industries, Elizabeth sought to share her knowledge by teaching entrepreneurship and marketing in various schools and colleges. She has conducted local and international seminars on personal financial management, reaching people in Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea, and Myanmar. She had her own radio show called “Business 101” and she was the writer-producer of socio-political radio programs called “Makabagong Isip” and “The Nationwatcher.” She is eager to show Abot Tala teens how to handle money matters wisely.
Maggie graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Humanities and in Child Development & Education. She spent a year as a teaching artist in a creativity center, served four years in a progressive preschool for ages 2-5, and the following three years as an IB-PYP teacher. Outside the school setting, she facilitates private in-home classes and workshops while pursuing freelance illustration. She believes that individuals have agency over their own learning and that their creative process involves inquiry, play, and exploration. Curiosity, courage, and commitment are attitudes she recognizes and nurtures throughout one’s journey of self-discovery as an artist.
Dustin is a history nerd and homeschooling dad of a 9-year old who hates boring, lectures. Because of this, it became his personal mission to create engaging lessons in an effort to keep his daughter’s love for history alive. Thankfully, Dustin has an extensive background in political science with a major in international relations and a minor in history. Professionally, Dustin is a business consultant, founder of Cultural Intelligence Philippines, and leads guided walking tours of Manila.
As a university teacher in China witnessing how the lives of students are constricted by the education system, Joei was compelled to research alternative forms of education. Together with her husband and kids, they took a road trip across America, visited progressive and self-directed schools including North Star and proceeded to invite Ken Danford to help start Abot Tala in Manila. Prior to this, she has worked as a writer, urban planner, designer-architect and served in the government for a couple of years in Congress and DSWD.
A second-generation homeschooler, Laksmi was independently homeschooled from preschool to high school along with her five siblings. Upon starting her own family with her husband, she proceeded to homeschool all their three children. In 2008, Laksmi founded Gopala Learning Haven, a homeschool support center based on a beautiful farm in Silang, Cavite which offers alternative learning to students from all walks of life. Aside from being the program consultant of the Homeschoolers Association of the Philippine Islands (HAPI), Laksmi practices the yoga lifestyle and promotes plant-based nutrition.
Phil is the managing director of a strategic design company with a mission to create meaningful change through the application of design thinking principles. He has over six years training experience with senior leadership teams, managers, government, educators, startups and students from a diverse client base. He is the founder of The Failure School which aims to equip people with an entrepreneurial, problem-solving, innovation-focused mindset. He wants to be a part of a movement that reimagines what and how students learn to ensure they acquire skills they need for the future. Phil facilitates The Failure School as a pop-up class at Abot Tala.
Whether it’s helping disadvantaged children have access to musical instruments or master planning an eco-farm, Tinky is a veteran of ten NGOs with causes ranging from giving scholarships to promoting entrepreneurship. She has made it possible for eleven libraries to be built in disadvantaged areas, has helped farmers co-op get off the ground and become profitable, has paved the way for the Orchestra of the Filipino to acquire resources including laptops for young musicians and has been a Corporate Social Responsibility proponent most of her life.
Abot Tala is a member of Liberated Learners, an international network of self-directed learning centers with member programs across the United States.
Liberated Learner’s mission is to help create a self-directed learning program in as many communities around the world. Abot Tala is the first Liberated Learners Center outside North America.
Learning is natural. School is optional.
All around the world.