Who We Are

Following an individualized learning plan, each Abot Tala member is paired with a mentor to guide them through their unique paths to achieving their goals and dreams. 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)
Classes: Life Stories: A Biography Study
             Adulting & Relationships Class
             Tea & Conversations 

A homeschooling Mom of two children since 2011, Owie has taught communication and collaboration to other homeschooled teens at the Fort and Alabang.  She was CEO of School in a Backpack, Managing Editor for teen publication The Word 4U 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 on 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
Classes: Math Gym
             PEPT Review
             Organic Chemistry
             Uke Class

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.


For  January to March 2020

Joyce Buen
Class: Theater

Joyce Buen is an Art Management major, radio DJ, voice-over artist, and all-around theatre person; mostly focusing on performing, directing, and teaching. Her theatre life started in the middle of her homeschooling years, doing musical theatre with fellow homeschoolers. She continued by being a performer and member of Ateneo Blue Repertory for the past 5 years. She has also practiced theatre outside of university and even outside the country, working 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.

Dustin Ancheta
Class: (H)istorya: Philippine History in the context of World History

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.

Paula Panganiban
Class: DigiZen 

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.

Paul and Julie Rohrer
Safe and Sound Mental Health Support Group Facilitators

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 home maker, hand-crafter & inspirational blogger. For more information, please visit www.facebook.com/safeandsoundformentalheath


Cristina Guanzon
Classes: Filipino Sign Language
              3D Design & Printing and Materials Class

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 Guanzon
Classes: Filipino Sign Language
               Literature & Creative Writing 

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.

Abs Tan
Class: RPG Maker

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.

Ginger de Guia
Class: Penmanship, Lettering & Doodling

Ginger de Guia is a freelance visual artist and teacher. She enjoys combining her skills in teaching and in art when conducting classes or worskshops. 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.

Diane Gabriel
Classes: DIY Food
              Piano Lessons

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.

Niño Hernandez
Class: Wednesday Art Hour (Painting & Sculpting)

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.

JB Nicolas
Class: Filipino Martial Arts

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.

Gabe Gabriel
Classes: Podcasting 101
              Classical Guitar

Gabe Gabriel, former radio jock, certified Berlitz English language assessor, and voice actor, is also a dedicated husband and hands-on dad to 3 boys. He has hosted and participated in FitCon MNL 2017 and 2018 and is passionate about helping people in their own fitness journeys. In between recording tv and radio gigs, a desk job, and juggling fatherhood, Gabe maintains a home-based fitness routine of HIIT, bodyweight training, and capoeira.

To see the schedule and class descriptions for January to March 2020, click here. For fees, click here

Mentors from Previous Blocks

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 Angue

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 Punzalan

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.

Maqui Castelo
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.

Isa Garcia

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.

Michellan Sarile-Alagao

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 full-time editor at OMF Literature.

Erika Tang

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 Rosales

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 Tajonera

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.

Elizabeth Ong

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 Yoingco

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.


Joei Villarama

As a university teacher in China witnessing how the lives of students are constricted by the education system, Joei was compelled to research about 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.

Laksmi Maluya

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 Smithson

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. 

Tinky Cruz

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 and Canada.

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.

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