Written by Kaye San Miguel

Edited by Victoria Albitos


When I was five, my parents took me to my first ever swimming class, which absolutely terrified me. I was almost sure that if I were to go to the deep end of the pool, I would either drown or get eaten by some ravenous monster underneath. So, before the lesson started, my swimming teacher attached floaties around my short and tiny arms. 

Then, as soon as he securely attached them, he carried me and threw me into the deep end of the pool. I was screaming, crying, and flailing about—I felt like I was sinking right into the bottom of the pool. Needless to say, I was sure I was going to get eaten by the monster who has been waiting for me. Surprisingly, however, I found myself slowly rising up the water until I finally reached the surface. Was it magic or my floaties? I wasn’t swimming, so why is it that I had stopped sinking? 

I then realized that what I was doing was an essential survival skill that I would need at any moment in time: floating.

But sometimes, it’s better to float than to swim.

In the Philippines, it’s been two months since the quarantine started. Upon realizing this, I felt a pang of guilt for not doing as much as I wanted to. In my head, the number of tasks I have to accomplish in this period should be at par with that of when I was still attending classes at university. After all, with all these idle hours we’ve suddenly been given, some of us might like to think of this period as time off. On top of that, we’ve been wired to make use of each free second we have to sharpen our skills or learn new things; in short, we are to do anything that will bring us to a position where we woefully end up with not a feeling of ease, but of exhaustion.

But we have to remember that this is not a vacation. 

Right now, we are merely 5-year-olds—with the pandemic affecting everyone in almost every part of the globe, it’s inevitable to feel that things are spiraling out of control. We are suddenly thrown into a sea of crisis. Grief is swimming around us as if it is waiting for the right time to swallow us whole. Having little feet and short arms can feel as if we have no choice but to swim to thwart us from sinking. 

But sometimes, it’s better to float than to swim. 

We are not supposed to bear the additional pressure of accomplishing a hundred tasks when the world around us seems to be in sudden disarray. We are grieving collectively. It’s commonplace to feel desolate, lonely, angry, stressed, and afraid. There’s a loss of normalcy and certainty. Whether it be because of a toxic environment, a mental illness, the isolation, or simply unease, how are we supposed to swim when all these waves of negativity keep crashing over us?

To float is not to remain stagnant.

Admittedly, it can feel wrong to not do anything when there are people out there working so hard to fight the pandemic—doctors, nurses, workers, and honest public officials are selflessly putting themselves on the line to help the country. But don’t forget that we have an important role to play too: to stay at home. More than that, we can ensure that they are also getting the support they need. But for us to be able to do that, we have to take care of ourselves first.

That’s when self-care comes to play. 

There are things that are still within your sphere of control, and slowly and surely, when you’ve learned how to handle these correctly, you get opportunities to widen this sphere. If you still have work, it is best to set a specific duration of time dedicated to it. Allot some hours every day for your downtime, whether it be a creative hobby or play. Connect with your loved ones. Introverted or not, too much isolation is bad for the mind. Most important of all: get adequate rest. All of these will serve as your floaties to keep yourself afloat amidst the chaos.

Here are some links to resources that can help you cope amidst this pandemic:

  • Feeling anxious about what’s happening? Visit virusanxiety.com, a website by Shine and Mental Health America, a mental-health toolkit to help you manage your anxiety.
  • From psychosocial services to mental health activities, the UP Psychological Society compiled a database containing everything you need regarding your mental health needs: tinyurl.com/MHResourcesforCovid19
  • Need an online support system? Youth for Mental Health Coalition Inc. made a facebook group if you want to join. No requirements needed!
  • Want to talk to a professional? The Mind Nation, Ms. Risa Hontiveros, and Akbayan! Youth have opened FREE Online Mental Health Consultations for anyone who might need it. Book a session here.

Remember one thing: To float is not to remain stagnant. Rather, to float is to give you breathing room. 

Let yourself grieve and feel. Let the waves of your emotions gently carry you. Don’t shut them out or go against them. Acknowledge that what you’re feeling is natural given everything that is happening right now. 

Let yourself rest. Working from home whilst a battle is happening between you and your mind ultimately adds to your exhaustion. If you’re currently holding yourself to the exact same standard as when there was no pandemic, it will be too suffocating. Forgive yourself for accomplishing little to no work today. Forgive yourself for not learning a new skill. Forgive yourself for spending too much time in bed when you wake up in the morning. 

Granting yourself the kindness you deserve allows you to extend that same kindness to others who may need it the most. 

Not only do you help them navigate their way in this confusing situation, but you also get to ameliorate your own emotional well-being. Slowly but surely, the waves of negativity originally drowning you will calm down; although not entirely, you will find that this is enough for you to get through this pandemic. 

You’ve been holding your breath all this time, but that will do you more harm than good. The deadly waves of this crisis will come to a halt sooner or later, and this means that you will not arrive at the same island you originally came from. It’s okay. The rest of us will be there with you. 

The Social Media Epidemic

Written by Anna Divinagracia

Edited by Liv Licardo


Fake news, a current ‘trend and problem, is spreading faster than the coronavirus this quarantine season. In these dire times, some netizens and political figures have been taking advantage of the circumstances to spread fake news to the public.

From superfoods advertised as cures to ingesting disinfectants to deplete the effects of the virus, news that seem plausible – and some that hardly do – are taking over the internet. As a result, we are experiencing another, aside from the COVID-19 epidemic, that may be harmful as well: The Social Media Epidemic.

FALSE MIRACLES AND CURES

The demand for miracles is fueled during desperate times. Because of this, the ability of social media to turn gossip viral becomes a definite advantage for people who love the intrigue. Earlier on the onset of the enhanced community quarantine, talk of a COVID-19 cure was in circulation on social media. Multiple cures and treatments were presented to the public, including simple bananas and onions.

A video on bananas as a preventative measure for the coronavirus was circulating through Facebook and Messenger, claiming that research from Australia has proven that bananas improve the immune system and prevent the disease caused by the virus. To add a striking measure, the video contained the phrase “having a banana a day keeps the coronavirus away.” After the talk reached hundreds, – maybe thousands – the University of Queensland declared the claim false and discouraged the propagation of such fake news.

Another similar claim circulated around the same time, stating that placing peeled onions in a room will remove all viruses and bacteria – including the newly discovered coronavirus. According to the claim, a family in China did not contract the virus due to the absorption brought about by the onions. This was allegedly solidified by a doctor who examined the onions, announcing that it was full of inactive viruses and germs. According to the National Onion Association in the US, there has been no scientific evidence to support the claim.

FEAR IN TIMES OF CRISIS

According to the World Health Organization, COVID-19 is transmitted through respiratory droplets and contact routes. A rumor was once again spread across the World Wide Web, stating that the virus is easily transmitted through the air. Fear rushed as the news spread, leaving medical professionals disappointed by the power of the internet.

At times, fake news goes out of hand that intervention is a must. A Cavite mayor was filed with criminal charges due to the spread of misinformation on a COVID-19 case. During the first few weeks of the coronavirus outbreak, a Facebook account under the name Maggie Bernal posted photos of persons under investigation at a hospital in Cavite and stated that one patient had died of the disease. This caused panic in Cavite City and anger due to the lack of transparency. The local government and police debunked these claims afterwards and discovered that the account was a troll account created by the Cavite mayor.

The most ludicrous news yet could be that 5G internet allows the spread of the coronavirus. How that may even remotely occur, no one knows. Yet, some people believed and continue to believe the lie.

Many conspiracy theorists have also been deeming China guilty as news breaks out that the virus was created in a Wuhan lab. Rare footage showing Chinese scientists working on the virus have leaked, and Chinese scientists repeatedly deny the link to the coronavirus outbreak. Racist remarks have spiked online and offline, with the Chinese and other Asians being blamed for the outbreak.

DOWNPLAYING THE VIRUS

Multiple personalities, some with good intentions, have only exacerbated the problem and have been using their influence to spread unverified information to their followers.

Actors and actresses in the Philippines have downplayed the virus, saying that the virus “is here to help us” and is the “universe’s way of moving forward.” Filipinos on Twitter and Instagram have responded with backlash and anger about these announcements. Some have cited how smallpox, an epidemic eradicated in 1980, was similarly downplayed and resulted in millions of deaths worldwide.

President Donald Trump of the United States is once again taking center-stage as he announces that the coronavirus is “nothing to be worried about.” Virus experts are enraged at the possible repercussions of this statement, seeing that Americans are currently rallying to revoke the quarantine and proceed with normal living. The death cases of the United States are rapidly rising, with the curve not flattening any time soon.

THE PROBLEM

Why are we so susceptible to disinformation? In times of crisis, a public in panic and fear is surely a gullible one. The public will certainly listen to any account they can get their hands on – fact-checked or not. 

Additionally, the only way of connecting to one another is through the World Wide Web. The current situation that puts us in isolation gives us a problem that we have never faced. Man is a social animal, according to the ancients. Due to our disconnection, the daily news delivered by social media is a gateway to the “new normal,” a social reality that man is sadly expected to put up with. In the midst of isolation, interaction through social media is man’s only release.

Creating the illusion of a vaccine and a miracle provides the desperate with another shot at life. Given such information, people who are living in fear can proceed with better conditions than before and can even practice drinking garlic water at home. They live in the illusion of safety and may not expect to contract the virus. Although the illusion presents good intentions, it is an illusion nonetheless. Yet, man still devours it with pleasure.

Downplaying the virus gives us a reason to get out and continue on living normally. Hearing famous personalities also downplaying the virus solidifies that the disease brought about by the virus is simply like any other disease: it can be easily cured, just like the flu. The consumers of such information risk relaying the information to family members and friends, some of which could be more susceptible to the virus than others.

Our isolation from family and friends during these times makes us more likely to accept any information we can get, just because we can share and talk about anything to make us feel alive.

THE SOLUTION?

To date, there is no cure for the coronavirus. To date, the worldwide curve is not flattening. To date, the death rate is rising, and we are far from fine. We have no way of possibly eradicating the virus so far, but we all know how to prevent the spread of the epidemic. Here are some guidelines from the World Health Organization so as to not contract the virus:

  • Stay at home as much as you can.
  • Keep a safe distance as much as possible.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water.
  • Cover when you cough or sneeze. Remember to dab!
  • Sick? Call ahead!

As for the propagation of disinformation, fact-check everything you see on social media. The Internet is a place where anyone can deliver news, and, in times such as these, the news spreads fast like the virus. We live in a time where fake news can kill you and facts can save your life. Here are some questions you can ask yourself to check for fake news:

  • Does it seem to be true? Does any other account verify this article?
  • Do the facts support this, or do I just believe it because it sounds good?
  • Who shared this? Is it someone I trust, or does this person have a record of sharing fake news?

Governments and social media must be more vigilant about the information that is communicated. We must be just as vigilant. Stay at home and read before you share!

Written by: Victoria Albitos

Edited by: Alissa Melodia Frias


Quarantine: a word we have all become familiar with over the past months. The streets are oddly empty, but the internet is alive day and night. Almost everyone with a phone and an internet connection is online. Whether for dancing on or scrolling through TikTok, getting the latest COVID-19 updates, or attending classes and webinars in Zoom, everyone has a reason to go online these days. Ideas zip back and forth, with everyone watching those who voice out their thoughts. Put all these together, and you find yourself in a haven for online activism.

Since activism on the streets is no longer an option because of COVID-19, online activism is the new way to go. From being just a boredom-killing pastime months ago, going online now plays a more vital role in our lives. Activists have put down their placards and picked up their phones, writing down the words they would have spoken into a megaphone, once upon a time.

The convenience of social media

Where can you find people speaking out? Of course, on social media. Technology these days has made almost everything easier. Platforms like Twitter and Facebook are usually frequented by people, especially now that almost everyone is at home. A large audience is already there; all activists have to do to reach them is to send the tweet, post the status, set the trend. With the sheer number of people scrolling through social media daily, it’s an ideal way to spread information and ideas. Infographics about COVID-19 can go viral; so can calls for a better pandemic response. With hashtags like #MedikalHindiMilitar and #MassTestingNowPH, it’s easy to see how the power of social media can be used to call for action and begin positive changes.

Now, we’ve seen how online activism works. But what exactly are the activists and organizations speaking up for?

Speaking up for the people

Now more than ever, there are a lot of important social issues out there to focus on. One hot issue is how governments around the world, including the Philippine government, are handling the COVID-19 pandemic. From President Rodrigo Duterte’s late-night addresses to Pasig City Mayor Vico Sotto’s actions, Filipinos from all parts of the country can weigh in on how our government, whether at the national or local level, is responding to this problem.

We Filipinos aren’t the only ones commenting on the way our government is handling things, though. People from all around the world, Eastern and Western, have been sharing how their authorities are reacting to the pandemic. Citizens have been calling out incompetent politicians and praising the competent ones. Posts exposing overzealous law enforcement officers and apathetic netizens have gone viral, too, which instantly earned everyone’s mixed sentiments, mostly ire.

Besides the people working in the government, people have also been paying attention to the frontliners—the doctors, nurses, and janitors still working in hospitals, and many more essential workers still reporting for duty during the pandemic. Netizens have been acknowledging their sacrifices and calling not just for appreciation, but for better pay, enough PPEs, and fairer, non-discriminatory treatment.

Aside from the issues brought up by COVID-19 itself, there are others that have been fought for online since time immemorial—well, since the beginning of the internet.

Feminism, for example, is an age-old movement that is still relevant today. The rise of social media and internet culture has helped feminists gain a wider reach and a more open-minded, progressive audience. Blogs and sites run by feminists continue to inspire women today. Feminist influencers, women and men alike, still call for equal rights and fair treatment for all. Since its first wave calling for the woman’s right to vote, the feminist movement has helped many women all around the world live better lives, though there is still a long way for us to go to achieve true equality.

Environmental activism is also an important movement that has grown popular throughout the years, with activists calling for proper care for the environment and fighting back against global warming and climate change. Now, the most recognizable environmental activist is Swedish teen Greta Thunberg, who has been going on school strikes for climate change since 2018, sparking similar strikes all over the world. Thunberg and other environmental activists regularly post updates from their social media accounts, further cementing the role the internet plays in activism. 

LGBT+ movements have also grown online. Now, LGBT+ activists speak up online for equal rights and ending the discrimination and bullying so many LGBT+ people go through every day. Through activism, the movement has managed to reach thousands of LGBT+ people and allies, educating those willing to listen about Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Expression (SOGIE). Little by little, the LGBT+ community is gaining acceptance, and even the right to marry in more progressive countries.

Online activism has helped all of these movements and more in achieving their goals. But like all other forms of expression, it has its pros and cons. 

The pros

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Art by Victoria Albitos. Photos by Rishabh Sharma on Unsplash and Ipajoel on pngtree. Icon by Freepik.

With social media as its main medium, it is easy to start speaking up. If you have a phone and an internet connection, you can be an online activist. Where will you go? To social media, where the ease of using popular sites such as Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram has its advantages: thousands of people are online at any given moment. The world is at our fingertips. In our current situation, with most of us stuck inside our homes, going online is the best and only way for activists to carry on, making it their primary focus.

Going online also means getting access to tons of information stored on the internet, and contributing to that store of information as well. News sites are your best friends: we need to understand as much of what’s happening right now as we can, especially if we want to help improve our situation. Besides news sites, critical theorists and their works are also widely available online, with different perspectives of seeing the world. And with self-care becoming increasingly important these days, mental and physical health resources are also just a few clicks away. Whether you’re on Twitter and Facebook to rave about your favorite character in this new series, or looking to spread the word about how to properly wear facemasks, the internet gives you a platform to talk about things important to you and other people.

Online activism is effective because it has a wide reach; anyone with a phone and an internet connection can go online and see your statements. But who has a phone and an internet connection? Those privileged enough to afford them. So who gets to have access to online activism? As previously mentioned, the privileged. 

The cons

There are certain downsides to online activism. The fact that only certain people are privileged enough to access the internet effectively excludes the lower class, who need to use their money on necessities, not luxuries like electronics and an internet connection. If you can’t afford to go online, you are barred from participating in the discussion. The exclusion of the lower class from online activism is counterproductive, as in the first place, it is them that should be benefiting from the changes activism brings about. 

Sometimes, online activism can also be ineffective. Aside from the above reasons, online activism, while easily accessible by those privileged users, is not easily seen by those in power who can actually use their authority to push for positive changes. Unless you go viral or contact the authorities directly, there is no guarantee that someone who can do something about your problem can see it.

Another problem shows itself in the form of trolls that lurk in comment sections and timelines. Nowadays, you’re likely to come across one of these paid users every so often. Spouting whatever propaganda their boss paid them, these trolls are likely to spread fake news, regardless of whatever political party they are aligned to. They are also known for sparking arguments wherever they go, causing the rift between Filipinos of differing political views to grow even wider. 

Trolls also arrive with the fake news that plagues the internet nowadays. In today’s world (aptly nicknamed the “post-truth world”), fact checks are desperately needed to combat misinformation. With the speed at which information flies through the internet, it would be very easy to fake something and watch as tens, then hundreds, then thousands of people get misinformed. Coupled with our short attention spans and tendency to only read the headlines of articles and keep scrolling through our feeds, a troll wouldn’t have a hard time convincing us of whatever they were paid to say. If it’s easy for us to fall for our crushes, it’s just as easy for us to also fall for fake news.

So is online activism effective?

Of course, taking to the streets will always be better than going online. But given the world’s current circumstances, this is the best option to make our voices heard and start a discussion. Our “for now” is rapidly becoming our new normal, and we have to get used to it.

To make the most out of something, you need to maximize the advantages and minimize the disadvantages. This applies to online activism as well. To make sure that online activism makes changes for the better, we need to be as open-minded as possible, activist, or not. We need to learn to be accepting, to educate instead of hating, alienating, and blocking (but if it’s obviously a troll or a fake account, then blocking and reporting would be the correct answer). We need to learn to walk the fine line between educating and roasting; be sensitive and considerate to the person behind the screen. 

If we want change that will benefit us, the people, we need to work together to achieve it.

Written by Kelly Punzalan

Edited by Victoria Albitos


Many of our favorite brands and companies began as small startups that went on to become highly successful ventures‒ Amazon, Canva, Grab, Lazada, Angkas, just to name a few. In the past few years, local entrepreneurs of all ages have jumped on the startup train and have made waves across different industries. Filipina women make up a significant percentage of these entrepreneurs, empowering women and making a difference with worthy causes. These startups are manifestations of women’s grit and innovation, showing that business is definitely not just a man’s world.

1. StyleGenie Asia

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One of the first styling and clothing subscription boxes in the country, StyleGenie provides its clients all over Asia with unique, curated, and environment-conscious pieces to add to their wardrobe.

In August 2016, StyleGenie was brought to life because the founders wanted to make sustainable fashion more convenient and personalized for people lacking time and resources to revamp their wardrobe themselves. StyleGenie clients create their own style profile and have their very own digital stylist handpick suitable items. They then have the option of keeping the items or returning them. Fortunately, returned items don’t just get thrown in landfills, but are resold or donated to Goodwill Philippines.

2. Fetch! Naturals 

pasted image 0 (2).pngFetch! Naturals is a pet care brand that advocates sustainable living and eco-friendly options for our furry friends. Founded by Georgianna Carlos in 2016, Fetch manufactures pet care products such as shampoo and cage cleaners, as well as treats that are not just good not just for pets’ bodies, but are good for the environment as well. 

3. Care.com

pasted image 0 (3).pngSheila Lirio Marcelo founded Care.com in 2007 to help families find the right caregivers and housekeepers for their homes. Since its founding, Care.com is now one of, if not the largest, online marketplace for family care and home services. Millions of families and professionals have benefitted from this platform. The company was reportedly acquired for $500 million last December 2019 by IAC, an American company that owns Vimeo, Ask.com, and Expedia, to scale Care.com on a global level.

4. Ka Nami Pasador

pasted image 0 (4).pngWith a truly empowering advocacy for women, Ka Nami Pasador began its #periodpositivity journey back in 2015. Ka Nami Pasador is a social enterprise based in Negros Occidental that sells reusable menstrual pads. Not only are they promoting women’s health through their products, but they also provide Filipina women with employment opportunities and inspire their customers to transition to sustainable, zero-waste lifestyles.  

5. Tripkada (April Cuenca 2016)

pasted image 0 (5).pngTripkada is a mobile travel app launched in 2016. April Cuenca and the team behind the app describes it as “Uberpool” for travel.” Users are able to organize trips and book slots on other users’ trips as well. Travelers have the chance to save money, pick and choose trips they’re truly interested in, and meet new friends along the way.

6. 1Export

pasted image 0 (6).png1Export, founded in 2016 by Mel Nava, is an online platform that helps MSMEs (micro, small and medium enterprises) export their products to international markets. The majority of the MSMEs that 1Export handles are suppliers of vegetables, fruits, and fruit products, as well as packaged consumer goods. The company now works with over 200 suppliers.

 

Written by Dana Praise Guerrero

Edited by Anna Kristina Divinagracia


New year, new you (as they’d say)! Time to leave those filthy habits behind and brush up on those skills, unlock hidden talents, and rekindle lost memory with these sites and programs dedicated to helping you in your artistic and innovative journey.

CreativeLive

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“Pick your passion!” These are the first words that’ll pop up when you come across this website or app. Introducing a minimalist yet bold vibe, navigation is a breeze with a neat slate of 5 categories to tinker with and a complimentary lesson every time you visit. However, an all-around access would require you to pay so cheaper alternatives should always be on the lookout! 

Free & paid; Available in IOS

Skillshare

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I’m pretty sure you may have heard of this somewhere: a top-tier and classic program sparking creativity, fascinating the mind, and initiating curiosity that is Skillshare. It houses tons of classes ranging from photography to business, and hands-on projects & workshops of renowned professionals under your own perusal! Beware, though, of the sign “start today with two free months of premium,” and get the most out of it right away! 

Free for the first 2 months; Available in IOS and Android

LinkedIn Learning

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Not a lot are aware, but you can also get a knack at obtaining contemporary knowledge from this vintage bit. Explore highly-coveted tech skills on the get-go with this site’s offline viewing feature and curated guides. As the name suggests, you can instantly add (or flex ‘em) completed certificates straight to your LinkedIn profiles, even improving your chances of getting booked or hired online! 

Free for one month; Available in IOS and Android

Code.org

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Want to learn about coding and “change the world?” Code.org is there to help you. Every kid deserves the resources to learn more about computer science, and it gives you just that! Although the platform is very limited, it is still relevant for beginners and even for instructors. Never count this gem out!

Only available in search engines

Codecademy 

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With better and flexible means to solve your programming problems comes Codecademy. With its Codecademy Go version, learners are now able to review and practice concepts around web development, data science, and computer science anytime and anywhere. Take note that progress is tracked daily, so make sure to not miss a beat when it comes to maintaining your STEM streaks! 

Free and paid; Available in IOS and Android

edX

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Advance your career and get mentored straight by Harvard and MIT professionals with edX! It brings top, global institutions’ skills and fields including engineering, business management, and accounting right at your fingertips. Filled with timely announcements, handouts, quizzes, and exams, you’ll be truly equipped for the real world.

Free; Available in IOS and Android

Coursera 

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Sharpen your mind with Coursera’s jam-packed degrees and specializations on a variety of topics at your own time and pace. The beautiful thing about it is the fact that you can be schooled in dozens of languages. Meaning, subjects ranging from the sciences to the arts can now be discussed and taught in Chinese, Spanish, and French. There is also less fret with the presence of readable subtitles and easy-to-follow transcripts. 

Free and paid, Available in IOS and Android

Saylor Academy

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Be motivated and prepared to take on challenges and bridge the gap, at no expense, with Saylor Academy! The site contains numbered, transferable college credits; genius certificates, a blog page introducing personalities, sparking inspiration and connection from its viewers; a featured course section (for those who can’t make their minds up where to begin) and a newsletter on the latest happenings. Whether you’re looking to up your credentials a notch or do casual reads from time to time, this is for you!

Free, Only available in search engines

Udemy

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Learn anything under the sun on an expertly level with Udemy! The world’s biggest selection of courses, at 100,000, with fresh and new topics updated monthly can be found here. Literally, this site has it all so make sure you level your account to a premium to have lifetime access to highly recommended classes. Master cutting-edge topics, for instance, artificial intelligence and blockchain, comfortably and affordably. Definitely, worth every shot and penny!  

Free and paid, Available in IOS and Android

Khan Academy

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Last but certainly not least is none other than Khan Academy! To describe it as an ultimate problem solver for a messed up brain and system is an understatement. Khan Academy provides you with an entire library of tools like videos to accompany you every step of the way. Pick up where you left off with its automatic sync function, up-to-date progress and fun built-in exercises such as raising energy points and energy badges- all 100% without charge!

Available in IOS and Android


Remember, it is not always about the destination, it’s about the journey; that’s what truly matters! These are just a few of the many platforms you can turn to kickstart your way towards polishing your artsy skills yet to be unleashed for the rest of the world to see. Change is constant but learning endures a lifetime. Remember, “hustle kahit hassle.” So, what are you waiting for? Time to install and get those creative juices running because you’re onto something!

Written by: Anna Divinagracia

Edited by: Jeri Francine Tavera


“The whole of life is just like watching a film,” writer Terry Pratchett once said. Romance, comedy, tragedy; a movie for the bored, for the tired, for the inspired, and for all — a film for every moment, a show for every time. We love to binge-watch our favorite movie trilogies, and we groan at the moment the screen blacks out after the season finale. Some of us watch movies to pass the time, and some to be inspired by our favorite characters.

Here are fifteen of Earth’s mightiest heroines, female movie and TV show characters the nerdiest of us love.

Riley Davis, MacGyver (2016 – Present)

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There is nothing this woman can’t hack. From changing the traffic lights to infiltrating government files, Riley Davis is your go-to girl. The trio that composes the MacGyver series wouldn’t be complete without her saving the day, as usual. Fun fact: she was imprisoned for doing the very thing that earned her her current job. Talk about taking your hobbies to the next level.

Delphine Cormier & Cosima Niehaus, Orphan Black (2013 – 2017)

delphine and cosima

Human cloning is the name of the game, and Delphine and Cosima know just about everything there is to play. A clone herself, Cosima enrolled for a PhD in Experimental Evolutionary Developmental Biology where she took up everything there is to learn about cloning. Life became more fascinating when she met Delphine, a French scientist, at an institute for the advancement of biotechnology. Fun fact: Tatiana Maslany, who plays Cosima, plays a total of more than a dozen clones in the series: a cop, some killers (yes), a man (how?), a manicurist, and more.

Abby Sciuto, NCIS (2003 – Present)

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She may look like your basic goth girl — with the jet black hair and black outfits —, but Abby is a master in forensic science. The lab is her home: where she solves crimes and uses her skills to unravel mysteries, leaving most surprised at her powers. You can say she’s a master of the dark arts, and a great one at that.

Temperance Brennan, Bones (2005 – 2017)

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The show is called Bones for a reason; forensics is the game in Dr. Brennan’s lab. Dr. Brennan and her diverse team deal with bones of the dead; they are experts in the field of forensic anthropology and forensic archaeology. With the help of her team, the FBI is able to track down murderers that are sloppy enough to leave clues for her to find. 

Amy Fowler & Bernadette Rostenkowski, The Big Bang Theory (2007 – 2019)

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If comedy and science are two things that make your day, these two scientists will surely make your life complete. While juggling adulthood, relationships, and their STEM careers, these duo of The Big Bang Theory bunch will tickle your funny bone at any moment. Fowler, with a PhD in neuroscience, and Rostenkowski, a waitress-turned-microbiologist, show us two scientists living normal lives; something students pursuing STEM can definitely relate to.

Darlene Alderson, Mr. Robot (2015 – 2019)

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She may look like your typical girl on the street, jacket and all, but don’t let looks deceive you. Just like her colleagues, she knows more than a thing or two about hacking the world’s largest corporations and revealing their injustices to the masses. Just be careful when you give her a drink; she might bring the whole bottle home. 

Cassandra Railly, 12 Monkeys (2015 – 2018)

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What would you do if an incurable plague hit the whole world and you knew what the future in 2043 would look like? Well, Dr. Cassandra Railly of 2015 would definitely try to find the cure and save the unsavable. Using her knowledge in science and technology, she tries to stop the future from happening and devotes her life to saving the human race as we know it.

Cameron Howe, Halt and Catch Fire (2014 – 2017)

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Being a tech-, engineering-, and computer-savvy woman in 1983 is a great feat, considering that your big bosses and your colleagues will most certainly be prejudiced males. Taking the risk, Cameron Howe is one of these strong women, ready to reverse engineer her way through the secrets of tech companies IBM and Microsoft.

Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughn, & Mary Jackson, Hidden Figures (2016)

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They turned their experience into motivation; given what they’ve been through, they deserve more than what we’re giving them. They are the brilliant mathematicians behind NASA. Wondering why your teachers aren’t talking about them in school? Apparently, discrimination has been rampant then and is still rampant now. These women have broken the boundaries of race and gender and have brought men into space with their minds.

Jillian Holtzmann, Erin Gilbert, & Abby Yates, Ghostbusters (2016)

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Ghosts are their forte, and science is their weapon. These Ghostbusters saved New York City when no one believed them. Just like the original Ghostbusters, this remake combines the paranormal and the scientific. Unlike the original however, the women wear the uniform and destroy the green blobs. Most of all, they show us how women in technology need to stick together as a team to fend off the ghosts of our time. (Special mention to Patty Tolan, the fourth member of the Ghostbusters! It turns out that anyone can save the world if only we believed and helped the right people.)

Dana Scully, The X-Files (1993 – 2018)

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She is considered to be one of the most inspirational fictional women on television, leading women to pursue their dreams of becoming women in STEM, a phenomenon known as “The Scully Effect.” The sci-fi show deals with aliens and paranormal cases that Agent Scully and her colleagues are assigned to, with Agent Scully showing us her expertise in the field of STEM.

Princess Shuri, Black Panther (2018)

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Most likely, you have watched this Marvel movie because you like Marvel (at least, that’s what I did). You’ve seen the technology Wakanda has to offer, but you’ve probably missed how amazing the girl behind the scenes is. From designing her brother’s Black Panther suit to creating weapons that can kill, Shuri is a master at invention. After watching Black Panther, there’s no doubt that she’s up there with Iron Man in the tech field.

Felicity Smoak & Caitlin Snow, Arrow (2012 – Present) & The Flash (2014 – Present)

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Sure enough, DC lovers know who these ladies are. The hacker and bio-engineer are hand-in-hand in leading the women in STEM of the DC Universe, despite the lack of these kinds of women in their stories. The two work for Star Technologies and Palmer Technologies in their respective cities, for the greater good of the world. Along with their team, the two deal with vigilantes, time travel, and more threats from the world we live in.

Go Go Tomago & Honey Lemon, Big Hero 6 (2014)

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As a kid, knowing what you want to be when you grow up is a difficult feat. Luckily, there are some animated movies that inspire women to become what they want to be, regardless of stereotypes. These two characters are worlds apart in terms of their personality (and outfits!), but they’re definitely in sync when it comes to developing their tech projects. In the process, because of their smarts, they get to save the world.

Joan Clarke, The Imitation Game (2014)

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“Sometimes, the people who no one imagines anything of do the things no one can imagine.” In a room filled with men who are dying to help build the world’s first computer, Miss Clarke was the first to complete the puzzle that started her career. Amidst the expectations of her parents and her fellow females at Bletchley Park, Joan outsmarted Britain and worked her way up to the great minds that built the supercomputer that outsmarted Germany’s Enigma. The worst part? She had to keep it a secret.

And those were just some of the amazing women we can be in the future. Being a scientist, an inventor, or a web developer isn’t easy, and it sure as hell is harder when you’re a woman. Our heroes make us realize that it isn’t impossible, even if it can be discouraging at times. Learn from fiction and reality: never give up.

 

Annie Jump Cannon: Astronomer

Written by: Victoria Albitos

Edited by: Lauren Fajardo


More than 150 years ago, a star was born; or rather, a girl who would grow up to watch the stars.

On December 11, 1863, Annie Jump Cannon was born in Dover, Delaware to Wilson Cannon, a shipbuilder and statesman, and his second wife Mary Jump. As a child, her mother taught her constellations and home economics. She also encouraged her to pursue studying mathematics and the sciences, all considered unusual career options for women at the time. She was an accomplished astronomer and also a suffragist.

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Annie Jump Cannon. Photo by the Smithsonian Institution on Flickr https://flic.kr/p/64CbRs

After graduating from Wellesley College in 1884 with a bachelor’s degree in physics, she returned home and spent nine years as a photographer, publishing a collection of her photographs. However, after contracting scarlet fever, which led to her almost total hearing loss, and the death of her mother, she decided to go back to Wellesley College in 1894 to teach physics and study advanced astronomy.

In 1896, she joined the Harvard Computers, a group of women working under Harvard Observatory director Edward C. Pickering, under whom she had studied astronomy since 1895. She worked alongside other women who would eventually be recognized as trailblazers of astronomy, including Williamina Fleming, Henrietta Leavitt, Antonia Maury, and Florence Cushman. Together they were nicknamed “Pickering’s Women” and worked on the Henry Draper Catalogue, a star catalogue named after the late Henry Draper, a wealthy physician and amateur astronomer. It was under a group of projects named the Henry Draper Memorial, funded by his widow, Mary Anna Draper, and contained classifications for 225,300 stars. 

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The Harvard Computers at work. Photo from the Smithsonian Institution Archives

The Harvard Computers were paid between 25 to 50 cents an hour, in stark contrast to their male colleagues, who were paid twice that amount. As most of them, including Annie Jump Cannon, were unmarried, they were criticized for working instead of getting married and staying at home as housewives. Pickering also barred them from the “more important” duties in the observatory; they were only allowed to do clerical tasks, such as classifying stars and clearing up photographs. Nevertheless, they took the first steps out of the box in which society was trying to confine women, and contributed important work to the field of astronomy.

Annie Jump Cannon created the Harvard Classification Scheme, a universally adopted system that organizes stars based on their temperatures and spectral types. It was originally devised as a compromise between two systems her colleagues were pushing: a more complicated one made by Antonia Maury, and a simpler one made by Williamina Fleming. Maury made a scheme consisting of 22 groups, from I to XXII, with three subdivisions based on the sharpness of the stars’ spectral lines, a line that stood out from an otherwise uniform spectrum that was used to identify stars, a “fingerprint” of sorts. Fleming’s scheme was more straightforward, classifying stellar spectra according to their hydrogen spectral lines, in a sequence from A to Q.

Cannon simplified and reordered the systems, eventually ending up with the Harvard Classification Scheme, which was used in the nine-volume Henry Draper Catalogue (1918-1924). The system is still in use in modern astronomy today; the mnemonic, “Oh Be A Fine Girl Kiss Me”, standing for the seven spectral classes in the scheme, is still taught to astronomy students throughout the world. In 1922, the International Astronomical Union formally began using it as the official classification system for stars. That same year, Cannon moved to Arequipa, Peru, for six months to study and photograph the stars of the southern hemisphere.

During her career she found 300 variable stars, five novae, and one binary star system. She could classify three stars per minute and was known to be ruthlessly efficient. Her total record came up to around 350,000 manually classified stars. Pickering, her director, was in awe, stating that “Miss Cannon is the only person in the world—man or woman—who can do this work so quickly.”

In 1901, she published her first catalogue of stellar spectra. In 1911, she was made Harvard’s Curator of Astronomical Photographs, succeeding her colleague Williamina Fleming and becoming the second woman to hold the position. She was given the recognition and appreciation she deserved: in 1914, she was made an honorary member of the Royal Astronomical Society. In 1925, she received an honorary doctorate of science from Oxford—the first woman to do so. Ten years later, she created the Annie J. Cannon prize for women who made great contributions to astronomy. In 1938, she became Harvard’s William C. Bond Astronomer.

Annie Jump Cannon retired in 1940, after more than 40 years of work, but not before building a stellar legacy. She remained an active member of the observatory until the end of her life—literally. She continued to work in the observatory until a few weeks before her death. Today, the world honors her with a comet and a lunar crater carrying her name.

In life, she watched the stars. In death, she became one, a shining example for women in science.

Apps Developed By Women

Written by: Zara Wani

Standing on the brink of society’s technological revolution, we witness radical changes that alter the way we live and perform, ultimately leading us into a new dimension. What we search for in this ‘new world’ is a shift to a system that will promote equality, foster growth, and maximize human potential. Undergoing this paradigm shift will allow us to pave our way as we walk on the yellow brick road. Women have provided incredible contributions that allow us to enjoy the many technological innovations today. They have been significant contributors to technology, ever since Ada Lovelace. From being advanced mathematicians to developing software, women have proved that they do not deserve the double standards and discrimination still prevalent in today’s society. Women were leaders of yesterday, are leaders of today, and will be the leaders of tomorrow. 

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Ada Lovelace. Picture Obtained from eu-startups.com

The virtual world interlinks us with modern society, allowing us to explore and connect using the digital landscape. As there are women who have specialized in every technological field, truly they have made an indelible mark in entertainment and efficiency through software applications. 

A prime example: Ida Tin, the founder of the medically-recommended menstrual tracking app, Clue, an application available both on IOS and Android platforms. When interviewed back in 2017 by Business Insider, Tin stated: “Clue is a brand for female health at the highest level but it’s also a tracking app to help women understand what is going on in their [menstrual] cycles and their bodies more broadly.” Many women have discovered the wonders of the application as it allows them to monitor and document every cycle, which in turn has a positive impact on their bodies. 

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Ida Tin. Picture Obtained from forbes.com

Another innovation in the female tech space revolves around Melanie Perkins, the founder of Canva, a graphic-design company valued at $3.2 billion. Essentially, Canva is an online tool that allows the user to create and/or publish professional-quality designs as easy and affordable as possible. During an interview with the Entrepreneur (2019), Perkins states “I guess you could say that design had always played a big role in my life. When I was 14, I started my first business creating handmade scarves that I sold at shops and markets throughout Perth, and I never forgot the freedom and excitement of being able to build a business. That was one of the driving forces that led me to launch what would evolve to be Canva.” Melanie envisioned and built Canva from the ground up and has received international recognition. Melanie’s persevering and hard-working work ethic is truly one to be reckoned with. 

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Melanie Perkins. Picture Obtained from https://twitter.com/melaniecanva?lang=fi

Lastly, another dominant woman in tech is Kayla Itsines, the founder of Sweat. With over 11 million followers on Instagram, she motivates her followers to practice hard-work, discipline, consistency, and commitment. Sweat (available both on IOS and Android platforms) is a personal fitness and training application that allows the female community to benefit from a vast array of features including several types of workouts and meal plans. Injecting positivity and motivation through her app, she inspires people to go the extra mile. Some of her famous quotes include: “Stop waiting for Monday, January first or anything else. Start now“ and “Motivation is what gets you started, habit is what keeps you going.” With her #bbg hashtag, followers post their life-changing transformations. As a woman inspiring and initiating change in the lives of others, Itsines has been regarded as one of today’s respected life-changing influencers. 

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Kayla Itsines. Picture Obtained from womenshealthmag.com

The military hired hundreds of women to solve complex calculations that would improve the accuracy of the weapons during the Second World War. The perseverance embedded as a chip in the minds of these women throughout the course of historic wars has molded a spark in their creativity, values, beliefs, and imagination. As women ventured out in different sectors of society throughout history, they will always remain here in the workforce to stay for good. Revolving around a technological space and channeling it as a creative tool of imagination allows us to change lives for the better. Throughout history, women have always been told to stand aside. But today, women have yearned to redefine the standards, and have been succeeding at altering the pre-existing gender-biased views. Women aspire to have a hand at building the foundation for tomorrow’s innovations. As women make up half of the world’s population, we are the music that the planet dances to, we are the leaders of tomorrow, we are women.

 

October 30, 2019, marked the first of Impacthub’s groundbreaking two-day event: The Impact Hackathon, ImpactHub Manila’s attempt to organize the world’s largest hackathon and break the highly-coveted Guinness World Record. At the Smart Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City, the event aimed to bring together hackers and innovators from different regions in the Philippines.

As part of the Impact 2050 initiative, the event also aimed “to catalyze the impact entrepreneurship ecosystem in the Asia Pacific”, which also worked towards promoting the development of state-of-the-art digital solutions. The Impact Hackathon, was also the second event in the 2019-2020 leg of the program. The first part was the Elevate Roadshow which took place last July to August 2019. After the hackathon, 2050fest, which will provide funding, valuable networking and coaching sessions to startups with potential, will be held in November 2019, and the Incubation, a startup-support initiative for the entire 2020.

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With an estimated 7000 participants in Manila alone, together with over 70 renowned figures and leaders in tech as mentors, speakers, and members of the jury board, the event aimed to promote the booming industry of coding and technology in the country. Many potential startups were pitched during the hackathon, and 27 winners were recognized during the event for the brilliance of their ideas. One of the event’s objectives was also to connect different locations in the Philippines: from Vigan and Pampanga in Luzon, to Bacolod and Cebu in Visayas, to Davao and Iligan in Mindanao. 

The event was also divided into three: Students, Professionals, and Scale-Up Startups. The last of which had different judging details and criteria from the rest. The problems were first presented along with the available technology that could be utilized to formulate a solution. Workshops were then conducted to improve solution-making, followed by 24-hour hacking and mentorship time. The different pitch presentations were then done, followed by the awarding proper.

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During the event, participants were divided into teams of two to five members and their pitches were judged through the following criteria: (1) technical viability/difficulty, which counted for 30% and judged the contestants based on problem complexity and incorporation of different technologies (interface, AI, etc.), (2) business viability, which comprised 30% and determined how pragmatic the prototype was for business applications, (3) social index, which was 25% and determined if the team was able to actualize their solution and communicate their message to the audience, and lastly, (4) design and learning stretch, which accounted 15% and measured how far the teams ventured to learn something new from their comfort zones.

Through these criteria, the best pitch presentations were awarded and given opportunities to further improve and enhance their ideas into pragmatic applications. Impact2050 was truly an avenue for many aspiring individuals with pioneering ideas that were not only innovative but also applicable in the present world.

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Pictures from Impact Hackathon were obtained from Impact 2050’s facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/impact2050/ (More information regarding the event and its winners could be found through the link)

More information regarding the hackathon and future events of Impact 2050 can be found through the link: https://www.impact2050.com/

Written by: Charmaine Espinueva

Wi-Teach is one of the community development initiatives of WiTech that aims to TIE: to Teach, Inspire and Engage with students through sustainable outreach, education and empowerment. The first leg of the WiTeach initiative was launched last August 2-4, 2018 at Marawi City. Students and teachers of the Mindanao State University – University Training Center were taught how to code after computer modules and laptops were donated by the WiTech team. A year later, WiTech then conducted the second leg of Wi-Teach last September 6-7, 2019 at Tagbilaran City, Bohol. 

The recently concluded outreach in Bohol is an extension of WiTeach’s initiatives at Lila National High School. In this mission were Audrey Pe (Founder and Executive Director), Jessie de Grano (VP for Community Development), Marla Abao (VP for External Affairs), Charmaine Espinueva (CommDev Outreach Officer and Networking Events Volunteer) and Jazmine Calma (ComDev Outreach Officer). It was a two-day mission wherein Introduction to STEM and basic coding workshops were conducted for Grades 9-11 students. Workshops on Technology for Education, Research and Office skills and basic coding were also conducted for Lila’s teachers. The educational resources for this outreach were provided for in collaboration with the Library Hub Philippines.

More than the workshops and donations of computer modules,  what WiTech aimed for this outreach was to open students up to the various applications of STEM and to ultimately initiate in them a shift in perspective: that yes, a career in STEM is an option regardless of their background and that ultimately they have the choice to pursue it. 

Tagbilaran is considered as the center of educational excellence in Bohol where most of its private schools are located. However, for most public high schools in Tagbilaran and across Bohol, their graduates only ever consider teaching or nursing professions as options. Furthermore, in the science strand of most public high schools, students are only ever exposed to livelihood and vocational careers in preparation for entry to tourism and service-oriented industries. Indeed this is a very limited view presented to students given the vast options and opportunities available to STEM graduates.

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WiTech Team for WiTeach in Bohol

In addition to presenting students with a wider perspective, WiTeach aimed to introduce new skills in computer science and academic research that can be incorporated into Lila’s curriculum. In the computer classes of junior high school students in Lila, students are only taught how to assemble and disassemble hardware without being taught how to use the software of a computer. On the other hand, some senior high school students lack knowledge of Microsoft Office and how to search for credible research articles despite thesis-making already being incorporated into their curriculum. 

Given these conditions, the talks and workshops for this mission were then arranged to address these concerns. On the first day, in a talk given by Audrey Pe and Charmaine Espinueva, students were introduced to different fields of STEM and the various opportunities available in them. They wanted to break the stigma that maths and sciences are solely for the gifted; the perception that science only exists in the laboratory, in the form of complicated equations with no tangible applications. The speakers broke this image by imparting the truth that science is a part of one’s everyday life, that its applications are woven into one’s daily life due to the human ability to question and ultimately find answers to these queries, that the art of science is only discovered should one choose to pursue it, that science is not purely a complex and intangible concept but rather something founded on purpose.

When asked how many of the students liked science, less than five students raised their hands. However, as the talk progressed, the students were faced with a light bulb moment as they were introduced to the design of software games and applications, electronics, medicine, agriculture, and satellite-operated security systems, to the manufacture of everyday items such as food and drinks, make up, engines and vehicles. Truly, science does not end in the discovery and understanding of the complex but extends further to solve everyday problems and improve the world we live in. 

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WiTech Team with Students and Teachers from Lila National High School in Bohol

Basic programming workshops were then taught to both students and teachers by Marla Abao and Jazmine Calma. The logic and design involved in programming were taught using Scratch – which was a first for both students and teachers. Students showed great interest in the software but the language barrier became one of the struggles during teaching. Most students were only fluent in Bisaya and had trouble understanding Filipino and English. Nevertheless, for students, much time was spent exploring the features of this application and the logic behind basic coding. Teachers, on the other hand, were taught how to use Scratch under the context of incorporating it into their lectures to make their classes more engaging for the students. 

On the second day, applications and resources were introduced to teachers to aid their teaching. At the start, teachers expressed that in addition to the lack of teachers for computer science, planning lectures and engaging students during lectures is a struggle for most of them.  Regardless of the subject being taught, this is a problem that exists and can also be rooted in the language barrier especially when it comes to teaching complex science topics. Moreover, the lack of resources for a conducive and engaging learning environment proved to be limiting. 

The WiTech team then introduced the use of XMind and resources such as Microsoft Office, Google Scholar, Crash Course and Khan Academy to aid their teaching. These are references that teachers can use to outline their lectures and teach their students since they have a better grasp of both English and Bisaya. The team also introduced tips on how to make successful presentations to engage students further. WiTech also shared the idea of using Facebook to disseminate lecture guides and important resources to students, as opposed to it being an avenue for leisure alone. Graphing and plotting software was also introduced to improve the teaching of math classes. At the end of the two-day mission, printed modules ranging from the use of Microsoft Office and Scratch to introductory courses in basic programming, research, and Technology for Education were given to Lila for the usage of both its students and teachers. 

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Indeed much has been accomplished by WiTech but a lot more has yet to be done by the rest of the community. In Lila, as is with most Bohol public high schools, there is a lack of sufficient infrastructure to house its resources. Though computers are provided by DepEd and a Starbooks unit is provided by DOST, the lack of space and wifi connectivity ultimately hinders students from fully maximizing the benefits of having a computer. Currently, the computer lab in Lila is being shared with the sewing vocational subject. Thus, as much as there are computers available, the teachers are unable to maintain them, which affects how computer classes are taught.

Information and Computer Technology classes are not mandated nor offered to the whole senior high school class. Rather, it is only open to the best students on a ‘per-choice’ basis. Furthermore, with the lack of internet connection, lessons are limited to basic applications such as MS Office, video making and hardware maintenance. This hinders students from learning about complex concepts in STEM and computing. The language by which these subjects are taught is also another concern given that the resources available for learning science are in English. Efforts must then be made both by the DepEd and supporting institutions to have basic sciences taught in a language that is understood by a variety of students.