Carren's Pitch

Life by Design

I know I owe a lot to my education (no matter how difficult and burdensome it seemed then). It's nice to be able to keep in touch not just with my own batchmates, but a whole community of ICAns. This particular article brought me literally back to my childhood.

For other ICAns abroad, you can still keep in touch by logging on to This was also published in the AHON website at
Text by: Carren Jao
Published: October 2008

TO THIS DAY it continues to be one of my cherished childhood memories—finding the perfect corner where the sunshine fell on the age-old tables within our library walls, sitting down cross-legged on the chair and hunching over a new fantasy adventure book.

Changing inside-out

I was ensconced in our high school library. The chairs were the same dark brown hue as the bookshelves. It was a bit musty and the tables were sometimes marked with small graffiti carved by mischievous students attempting to forever etch their presence in the institution.

I was only a freshman and the worlds outside and inside of me were changing rapidly. I came in on the first day of class to see all of my friends suddenly spurt up inches. Suddenly, new responsibilities and a sense of growing older came upon me as I put on -- not the royal blue elementary uniform, but the navy blue high school uniform. So many things started changing, but not these books.

Time machines

In 1900, L. Frank Baum published The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, a story about Dorothy who inadvertently gets blown away to the land of Oz. Almost 100 years later, I was finding my perfect corner to read her story. It is mind boggling to imagine that these words, first written on paper a hundred years ago, could survive and ignite the imagination of child like me.

I continued reading of the adventures in the Land of Oz. I read about Tip, the cursed boy who turned out to be Oz’s missing princess. I read about Scarecrow and his quest for wisdom. I read about so many of their adventures and I did not want the story to end.

After closing a chapter, I would excitedly comb through the library looking for the next book in the series. No matter how dusty or yellowed the pages were, there was always a sense of magic opening the first few pages of Baum’s novels.

Sadly, each story has to end and so did Baum’s. After reading his last novel, I was ready to see what else those dark brown bookshelves contained.

I discovered Lloyd Alexander’s Pyrdain Chronicles. The Chronicles tell the story of a young boy named Taran, an Assistant Pig-Keeper destined to overthrow the reign of evil Arawn. Raised by Dalben, a mysterious man wise in the ways of magic and pig-keeping, Taran knew nothing of being a hero. Yet, somehow he was able to overcome challenges that at first seemed too much for him to handle. Throughout the 5-part series, I’ve journeyed with him, witnessing his journey towards maturity as he is forced to make hard decisions in the name of his quest until he was finally – unexpectedly- crowned High King of Pyrdain.

His adventure was colored with other equally complicated characters. Among them were: Fflewddur Fflam, a minor king and full time bard and Eilonwy, a princess with a strong spirit and magical powers to boot.

Little did I know that Alexander’s Prydain Chronicles were based on Welsh manuscripts called the Mabinogion, whose history hailed as far back as the 1300s. It was no wonder I could not pronounce their names properly in my head. But nevertheless, for me to read this story in the late 1900s was something astounding.

These two authors cemented my love for reading. Though written decades or even centuries ago, their stories of triumph over adversity and genuine love reached over to the present, touching the heart of a lone student finding her little sunny corner.

Paying it forward

Through countless hours of poring over these books, I was given a starter course on some of life’s lessons- courage, loyalty, and friendship. It has also opened the world to me and, as I spend more time here on earth, I find myself wanting to give the same gift to my future children and children of our beautiful country.

By good fortune, I was recently introduced to an inspirational woman, Anna Rojas, and the organization she helps run, AHON. AHON (Acts of Hope for the Nation) is a non-profit organization that has taken on the mission of developing public elementary libraries all over the Philippines. It aims to foster the love of reading among Filipino children and uplift the quality of education in the country by refurbishing and developing libraries in the Philippines.

Her work is best encapsulated by her own Multiply site address, 1islandatatime. Though an uphill battle, AHON continues to work tirelessly to provide the same educational resources to students around the Philippines, as I have been fortunate enough to receive in my formative years.

Years ago, I found a home in the library and it has molded my course in life. By helping spread the word about organizations like these, who knows how many other young student’s lives blissfully searching for their own sunny corners will be irrevocably changed?

You too can help. AHON is continually looking for partners, donors and volunteers. You many contact the AHON Foundation at 683-0262 loc 106/109 or email them at Additional information may be found at


Jen Laceda | Milk Guides said...

What a joy to find a kindred spirit! I really enjoyed this article, and it is a testament to the smart, young woman that you are!
-Jen Laceda

Carren said...

Thank you for your kind words, Jen :)

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