AFTER three years of being in “staycation,” we are now moving around again, with  the loosening and removal of restrictions. It’s the time of the year when balikbayan relatives start to visit, which we missed the past two years. Reunions are such great times.   Despite the time and distance, when you meet close relatives and friends again, it’s as if even your childhood years just happened yesterday, with no time lost.

As we catch up with each other’s experiences of the past years, we reminisce memories and laugh at old days mischievous events. Sometimes it becomes almost a “therapy session” where you are able to let your heart out.

There are so many activities happening in addition to the Zoom and face-to-face meetings. Many are going out, as can be gleaned from the slow pace of traffic. In my case, I try to limit going only to open areas such as Makati Garden Club, my garden in Antipolo, and the newly opened Coconut Grove in Admiral Hotel, which has an excellent view of the sunset.

I attended Joy Madrid-Balatbat’s Ikebana book Kyoto Mornings in Autumn launch held at Artha Residences atrium open area. Joy is very talented and has a big heart, as proceeds of the book will benefit poor bright children with scholarships to keep them off the streets and make them useful citizens. She demonstrated an ikebana arrangement that amazed all of us. She certainly makes good use of farm discards such as coconut husks, dried branches, et cetera. It was a good venue to meet new and old  friends I have not seen since the pandemic started.

The Filipina CEO Circle (FCC, a powerhouse of women leaders whose advocacy is the advancement of women) has started face-to-face meetings. Last week, we had a tour of the Ayala Museum with an inspiring talk by TOWNS Awardee Gina Romero, capped by the uplifting music of Alessio Benvenuti, violinist, pianist and conductor of the Manila Symphony Junior Orchestra.

An unconventional entrepreneur, a community builder, and TOWNS awardee, Gina’s story is heartening. She is an only child of a domestic helper who grew up in the United Kingdom and lived among overseas Filipino workers who left their kids home in the Philippines to work overseas. She often asked the questions: “Why do these women have to choose between work and family? Why do they need to leave the Philippines to find work?” Since 16, she started several businesses and failed several times. But she looked at these failures as teaching experiences, “failing forward,” in the words of John Maxwell. Today, she runs “a number of businesses with a focus on providing a platform for women to harness technology for success.”

In 2013, she co-funded “Connected Women” (CW), a Philippine startup enterprise, with Ruth Owen, another dynamic lady. CW provides technology skills training to women and online job matching. The vision is for women and mothers to work from home and spend more time with their families. The pandemic led their business model to focus on upskilling and providing socially responsible outsourcing for the AI industry. With increasing technology and connectivity, CW wants to make sure that no woman is left behind. With Agnes Gervacio as its new CEO, these three spirited ladies, tech smart, business savvy, but with feet on the ground, will certainly bring CW to greater heights, creating  big impact for women  and financial inclusion.

I also attended the roundtable discussion on “Responsible business conduct in the food value chains in the Philippines” sponsored by AGREA, headed by “Agriwoman” champion   Cherrie Atilano together with the Kingdom of the Netherlands Ambassador Marielle Geraedts and Amy Melissa Chua of Philippine Partnership for Sustainable Agriculture (PPSA).

It is so nice to be free and go out once again. As we want to be up and about this coming Christmas holidays, let’s strengthen our immune system with vitamin C, exercise, eat healthy and follow health protocols such as social distancing, washing  hands, and wearing masks, especially indoors.  Count our blessings!


Flor G. Tarriela was former chairman of Philippine National Bank. She was formerly undersecretary of Finance and the first Filipina vice-president of Citibank N.A. She is a trustee of FINEX and liaison officer for the Ethics and Financial Inclusion Committee. She is also an environmentalist and a passionate gardener.