Paying It Forward @ 24

Last year I wrote Detour 2013 about settling down in Manila and trying out a different field. It’s been INCREDIBLE since! I’ve learned so much and I’m having so much fun working with incredibly talented children. I was only supposed to stay 8 months but in May I finally decided to sign on for another year and now I’m hoping I do well enough to be offered more years of doing something I absolutely love and find fulfilment in.

I’m turning 24 on Tuesday, October 7th and I was planning to put this up a month ahead but there was so much to do, then I blinked, and time had run out so realizing how much time had passed without me even noticing makes this feel even more relevant to do because it’s proof that life’s short and it can pass us by if we don’t put our hearts into living it properly.

I’m not having a party and I don’t want anything for myself but I do want to pay all these amazing opportunities that have come my way forward!

It’s been a little over a year since I kicked back into Alabang and settled into at full-time job in DLSZ. All this time has made me miss the life I had become so used to, travelling to far-flung barangays in Mindanao in support of literacy, education and nutrition programs for the youth.

The last time I stepped foot in Davao Oriental was July 2013 and considering I used to fly out to Davao to take that long drive twice or thrice a year after we began supporting the Mariano Calungsod Regis Elementary School in 2010, it’s really been too long. I’ve been so tied up with my responsibilities in Manila that even when I wanted to go out and touch base, I just didn’t have enough time on my hands and I want to change that because I know that if I stop looking for time and just make time, I can help get them the support that they need and I know I have friends and family who are incredible enough to help me make this happen. In the past years, in response to our pleas for support we were able to make them a library, we started a feeding program, funded their sports programs, brought in computers and we made those kids smile so I know you won’t let me down this time.

This year, I want to go back and though their situation isn’t as dire as when we first visited, there’s still so much work we can do to improve the quality of education these kids are receiving, and to eliminate factors that hinder class attendance.

At the end of the month I have a few days off from work for the Halloween break and I’m looking forward to spending time back in Davao Oriental. I want to fund another year’s worth of supplies for their feeding program and bring in whatever I can to further improve the situation so I am going to ask YOU, my dear family and friends, for your support because I know you’re all incredibly amazing people.

Here are a few ways you can help:

(1) Support the feeding program, FOOD FOR THOUGHT. I’m waiting for updated statistics from our friends in MCRES (it takes some time to communicate with them because cellular signal is very weak up in the Barangay) but two years ago, we found that 35 out of 349 students were malnourished. They were fed hot meals for lunches costing 10php everyday and we were able to sustain that for 6 months with donations from family and friends.

I estimate that at 10php/day, 5 days a week for the last 6 months of the school year it will cost 1200php per malnourished or indigent child.

(2) Donate sports equipment that the kids can make use of during Physical Education classes and free time. In 2012, we brought footballs, not long after they formed teams and a year later they were competing with teams from neighboring provinces with the support of the government.

(3) Donate educational materials, school supplies and books that can go into the library that we set up a few years back. The kids would love to read new stories! The teachers would love boxes of chalk and other consumable supplies that they usually personally spend for when the school budget can’t quite cover everything.

(4) Tell your friends and family about this and help me make another dream come true!

(5) Volunteer to share your skills with the community. I can assure you that you’ll fall in love with the community, I know I did. I’m not sure we can bring volunteers out there this month but we can start planning and set time tables for programs.

–Or tell me your bright ideas and let’s figure something out.

I already have a duffle bag I’m filling up with supplies and happy things so if you have anything you want to share or want to make donations, you can e-mail me at paudelange@gmail.com or contact me at +639063189713.

You can get more updates by joining my facebook event page here: Pau’s Birthday – Paying It Forward

Making Plans

Settling down in Manila with a 9-6 job has taken some getting used to. No more trips on a whim, and no more disappearing for weeks at a time but I’m trying not to let that get in the way of exploring my country!

I’m blessed to have been born and raised in such a beautiful archipelagic country where every city, town, province or what-have-you offers a completely different experience from the next and when I say experience I mean that in the most exciting sense! These places may not be as developed as many parts of the world, there may not always be cellphone signal much less 3G or LTE connectivity but they definitely make up for it with adrenaline–tons of it!

We have mountains, hills, volcanoes, caves, trenches, rivers, valleys and lots of water, lots of salt water! I’ve seen more of my country than most of my kababayans but not quite enough to ever quench my thirst for more so this year, I resolved to just keep going whenever and where ever I can.

Cebu Pacific had a New Year seat sale, I was able to get Manila-Davao-Manila roundtrip tickets at just P20.14 base fare, roughly 3,200Php for two in June. It’ll be a new school year by then but a little weekend getaway can’t hurt. A good soak in the sea and down time with good friends is always a treat.

Over the last weekend, Cebu Pacific had a Valentine seat sale where prices dropped even lower so I was able to score Cebu-Manila tickets for two in July for just 1,500Php; we opted for just the return tickets to Manila because it’s too far along to really plan a full trip and I don’t really know how long my schedule will permit me to disappear so half a trip’s tickets on sale will just have to do for now afterall, I’m seriously considering trying the 2Go Ferry from Manila to Cebu for the experience. Despite having been all over the place, I’ve never been to Cebu so I’m really stoked for this trip and to be able to do it with another set of amazing friends is making me want to hit fast-forward to July right now.

I have a few other trips that I need to plan out and get tickets for, I’m long overdue for a visit to Cagayan de Oro; I’m sure we’ll be heading to one or two new cities to explore while my relatives from all over the world are in town for my brother’s wedding in August; I also need to plan my birthday adventure in October and three or twenty other trips in between because life’s too short to just sit around and click things on the internet.

‘Til the next random thought! Peace out.

TOMS

I heard about Toms,  their advocacy and the whole One For One set-up a few years ago, it was quite interesting but I could not for the life of me wrap my head around the idea that these Espadrilles were actually worth their 4,000Php price tag ($100 in the Philippines) but one day I got giftcards to Adora in Greenbelt and discovered that they carried Toms —Now, since I had enough giftcards for two pairs and since they were now kinda free, I didn’t mind buying them.

They turned out to be incredibly comfortable! I was in college at the time and well, they soon became my go-to shoes. I would wear them everywhere, everyday, and just walk, walk, walk! They were comfier than traditional espadrilles because it wasn’t abaca fibre direct on my soles and though the construction of the shoe is so simple, you feel pretty protected for city walking. It was a big bonus that the Toms advocacy really appealed to my service-oriented lifestyle, I could wear really comfy shoes that looked nice AND with every pair I bought, a child in need would get shoes too! I was happy, kids were happy–it’s all good.

It was an even bigger bonus when I discovered that Toms wasn’t just giving one pair of shoes to children in need, they were giving those kids shoes as the shoes were needed, so that means as the shoe deteriorates or as the children grow, they keep getting new shoes for about 5 years if I’m not mistaken. Incredible, right?

The shoes that Toms gives kids become huge morale-boosters because kids who used to dream of being able to have their own shoes, finally have the shoes that they never thought they would and they can wear the shoes to school everyday and not have to worry about wearing them out. They can now walk to school safely and come to school with less trouble. Simple but truly incredible!

I bought Blake’s book, Start Something that Matters and well that convinced me even more that Toms is a brand to support and talk about. A lot will say that at the end of the day, it’s still a business but hey, we all have to survive but very few make time to make sure they’re doing good for others while trying to survive.

I quickly became a fan and the next thing I know, I’ve bought several pairs in different designs. I’m not really collecting them and just buying them and keeping them in my shoe rack, I buy a pair every few months and really make the most out of them–but that’s mainly cause when I have a new pair, I just can’t stop wearing them everywhere! Yes, I’m fangirling over Toms.

I’ve travelled in them, gone to the beach in them, painted in them, painted on them, got up on stages in them, walked through the jungles in them; I’ve gone to the mall with them, to school, to church, to work, to lunch, to dinner in them; I’ve gardened in them, played all kinds of games wearing them; I do everything in them!

I love all my Toms so much that I just HAD to have Toms Wedges as my graduation shoes! ..to march in them but because Toms doesn’t carry my size in the Philippines, my shoes had to be sent here by my uncle in California. Which brings me to my only disappointment with Toms, they don’t carry size 10 in the Philippines. Most of my Toms were locally purchased from the male selection except the Orange Bimini Stitchout, the Black Glitter and the Black Wedges because Toms doesn’t carry size 10 in the Philippines. I’ve been asking them for years if they could bring size 10s in but I guess I’m also glad they don’t because if they did, I’d probably own a lot more pairs of Toms. Toms are still awesome though and I wear them everyday. ❤

03:56-4:03, Putting my Tom’s on. 😀 https://vimeo.com/30939501

The Comfort of Silence

Seafarers and their families who want to commune with God in their own quiet way can find a safe haven in this Bukidnon monastery.

During times of inner turmoil, there are times that one just wants to hide away or just shut down. A state of quietude for seafarers wanting to take a break from the tremendous pressure they endure on the high seas every single day. They just might find their respite high up in the mountains at roughly 622 meters above sea level, just behind the Kitanglad Mountain range: the Benedictine Monastery of the Transfiguration, where guests realize that inner restlessness can be eased by something as simple as silence. Situated in the hilltops of Brgy. Casisang, Malaybalay City in the agricultural province of Bukidnon, the monastery welcomes guests who come alone or in groups.

The weather is perfect; the sun shines brightly in the day, and the breeze is cool at night. The sights are amazing—beautiful mountains surround you, with coffee fields on the sides, rice paddies sitting quietly next to the dirt roads that lead up to the guesthouse. A masterpiece of National Artist for Architecture Leandro Locsin, the Monastery Chapel sits atop a little hill. The food is delicious; simple and well-balanced, with the relaxing flavors of a homecooked meal. But best of all, the solemn atmosphere is perfect to soothe the restlessness within.

Fr. Columbano Adag, OSB, founded the monastery and has been living on the property since construction began in 1982. He is one of two monks in the monastery who are also priests and the eldest among the monks in Malaybalay.

A solemn experience

Once you’ve settled in, walking around the sprawling property is one of the leisure activities you can find addictive. Adjacent to the Guest House is the Monastery Chapel surrounded by beautiful flowers neatly planted into cascading boxes, and across it is the open field where the Breakfast with the Monks is held every second Sunday of the month. Just beyond the garden is the Museum of Liturgical Vestments with a collection gathered from all over the Philippine archipelago. The museum overlooks the coffee fields that roll gracefully down the sloping hills. The coffee planted in the Monastery farms is roasted and sold as Monk’s Blend coffee.

The Benedictine Monks can be heard singing the Matins as early as 3:40 in the morning if you come close enough to the chapel. If you can get up early enough and find your way to the chapel in the dark to read along as they sing, you’ll find it hard to hold back tears from the absolute beauty of the experience. The monks file into the chapel in absolute silence and then disappear back into the convento as solemnly as they entered.

At 5 a.m., they shuffle back out and sing the Lauds, their morning prayers before they celebrate the Holy Eucharist with a handful of daily massgoers—less than ten on regular days but in the hundreds on Sunday mornings, according to Fr. Elias Serra, OSB, who is the guestmaster of the Monastery Guest House. There are also prayers before lunch, after siesta, and after dinner at 8 p.m.

The freshly roasted Robusta-Arabica coffee in the Guest House brews 24/7 and is free flowing for all guests. Although Fr. Elias always apologizes for the simplicity of the food, this writer finds it scrumptious and delicious. Breakfast is served at 7 a.m., morning snacks are ready at 10, a.m. the lunch bell rings at noon, afternoon snacks are on the table at 3 p.m., and dinner comes out at 6 p.m. Between prayers and meals, a routine is established but it is not imposing. Though you are encouraged to participate in prayers, you are free to do as you please while enjoying the peaceful silence.

Heartspace

Dom. Pachomius San Juan, OSB, aka Dom Paco handles Heartspace—a mentorship program that promotes prayerful living in daily life through retreat programs or workshops, either in groups or in privately directed retreats.

Dom Paco has been a Benedictine monk for the last 29 years and is now a deacon. Among his other assignments in the monastery, he is the retreat master who is regularly invited to direct retreats and recollections in other parts of the country, as close to Bukidnon as Davao, and as far north as Antipolo.

Inspired by sacred scriptures and the Christian contemplative tradition, Heartspace is designed to help you get into the practice of meditation as an expression of spiritual wakefulness as you go through everyday life. It will also help you become an avenue for social change and unity in and around the community you belong to.

This kind of emotional and relational strengthening is something that seafarers, their wives and children can welcome. Fr. Columbano’s history with the maritime industry does go back a long way. During the time that the Associated Marine Officers and Seaman’s Union of the Philippines (AMOSUP) was still based in the piers of Manila Bay, he would regularly say mass in its building and pay a visit to a former student, the late Captain Gregorio Oca.

Locations may have changed, but the connections have withstood it and the need for spiritual refreshment remains the same.

Call the Benedictine Monastery of the Transfiguration at (I need to find the number).

Originally published in Seafarer Asia‘s Maiden Issue, June 2012

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Detour 2013

This year, I’ve gone from being an overstaying college kid to a Guidance Counselor–and I won’t lie, even I was surprised that it happened.

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If you asked me in January 2013 what I wanted to be, I would have told you I wanted to be a chef before I’d even pull Guidance Counselor out of thin air but hey, things happen and I know now more than ever that they happen for a reason.

In the aftermath of Typhoon Pablo, I was engrossed with sending relief goods to Davao City en route to Compostela Valley; by the 3rd week of January I was in ComVal delivering relief goods with an incredible group of friends. It was the 2nd year in a row that I found myself in similar situations; I was so sure that’s what I was made for.

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I spent the next three months, so set on starting a career in the development sector (as many of my NGO friends would attest to) but I hit a major detour, I failed what should have been my last college class to complete my degree.

Though devastated and frustrated, I was ready to do everything it took to finish my Bachelor’s degree and that included sitting still in Manila, something I hadn’t done in a long time.

In February, my Ilonggo, Gepana side family from all over the world were in Manila for our 2nd Grand Reunion and we played host to most the festivities in Alabang. I realized that was the reason that I was given a detour. You see, my DLSU graduation would have been on the same day as the Gepana Reunion and I would have had to pick, I would have had to ask my family to pick between two very important events so the Big Guy in the Sky made the decision for me, learn patience and be with your family. I did and it was an incredible weekend!

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I officially completed all my academic requirements in DLSU on April 19, after a term of Philosophy of Man and I was finally FREE! Little did I know that that freedom came with this insane feeling and a nagging obsessive thought that would badger me with WHERE DO I GO FROM HERE?!

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Sunset sailing

I had been volunteering with GASFI and doing random projects for the maritime industry for a little over 2 years at this point and I was thinking, I loved that enough to take it seriously as I had imagined I’d do for quite sometime at that point. I believe in the advocacy, I thought I knew what needed to be done and where to go with it, how to get there even but yet again, the Big Guy had other plans for me and soon I was looking beyond my comfort zone and seriously considering relocating to a different city or a different country to go after a dream, to explore the world, to learn, to grow, to live life.

There was a lot of thinking and reflecting to be done so I opened my heart and mind up to the endless possibilities; I prayed for guidance that I be placed where I could make a difference.

By early May, I was back in Davao for a mix of work and leisure, we went all over the place from Sur to Norte, to the islands and everywhere in between. I felt right where I needed to be, doing the things I just loved doing: working with kids, having fun with friends and exploring. Two weeks after arriving in Davao, I skipped on over to Cagayan de Oro for craft workshops with my regular summer group, the KKKK-Childfund kids. Summer Camp is pretty incredible out there! We went to the beach, ziplines, white water rafting—How could I not be so captivated by Mindanao?!

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Mom, Me and Dad at the Philippine International Convention Center for my Graduation

I was back in Manila by late May to be with my family for Mom’s Birthday and to prepare for my  graduation in mid-June. And boy did graduating feel surreal! After 5-long but truly incredible years, it was all over. I was sitting in a plenary hall full of strangers, most of my friends had wrapped things up years before me and I only recognised a handful of those marching with me but I would have never had it any other way.

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I may have taken a little longer, or a lot longer than my peers but I was able to experience and learn things in ways that others didn’t. I may have experienced failure and disappointment but each blow made me stronger, as cliche as that may sound.

I opted out of any major celebration in Manila for Grad, we just had a simple dinner with family and I decided to do a joint party with my dear friends in Davao–about 15 of us took the 4-hour road trip from Davao City to Davao del Sur. It was almost like a little fiesta and all the school kids of the Mariano Calungsod Regis Elementary School were invited, all 370 of them and all those involved in making things happen for them.

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Luggage and Donuts

I went home to Manila again after several days in Davao, then my former teacher/mentor/adventure buddy, Ms June asked me to help her with the arrangements for her Dad’s 1st Anniversary so after just 2 weeks in Manila, I was back in Davao again. While we were preparing everything, I was also busy sending my applications out to aid agencies and development organizations and after spending so much time in Davao, I was seriously considering postings for Davao City, Davao Oriental and Compostela Valley.

We were pretty busy there on most days but it was also refreshing to be doing something else somewhere else for a change. We’d be running around the city all day and our nights were set aside for playtime and homework with the kids.

Two weeks in Davao, the last two days out in Davao del Sur were, and always are a treat for me.

1170711_10153161980715515_2044786466_nTowards the end of that trip, I got an invitation from La Salle for a Focus Group Discussion on the Lasallian Mission for our community in DLSZ as an Alumni Representative so I made sure to be back in Manila in time for that but little did I know, more was in store for me.

I arrived in Manila the day before Lasallian Cares, and I can vividly remember walking into the mini-theatre for our pre-program briefing. Old friends welcoming me back to the school that had formed me and opened my eyes to the endless possibilities. It was then that the inevitable was asked: So what do you plan to do now?

I felt like I had just received my freedom and I had this fear of commitment but I also had dreams so I just told them that I was looking for volunteer engagements in the Visayas or Mindanao regions as the baby steps towards joining the United Nations. It wasn’t going to be any long term commitment but it also wasn’t going to be bumming, I wasn’t going to be tied down and I certainly had the freedom to explore different opportunities with contract posts. I thought it was a brilliant idea.

The Universe has this funny way of pulling me back down from the clouds though; not more than an hour later I was chatting with administrators about my brilliant plan, that I had carefully thought out by the way, and I remember being asked if I had ever considered the Lasallian Volunteer Program, I had heard of it and I wanted to join it but I had never heard of recruitment so I was clueless. They told me that if I was willing to give it a shot, they would arrange for my interview and I figured there was nothing to lose so I agreed without hesitation.

My interview was scheduled on the same day as my focus group discussion for Lasallian Cares and I think the LSVP coordinator liked me because he said I was in—the catch was the program starts in April 2014, it was only July 2013 and I had roughly 8 months to wait. What was I going to do for that long?

All of a sudden all my brilliant ideas were up in the air and everything was shifting in mid-air then suddenly another suggestion dropped on me like an airborne bomb: why don’t you work here?

Here was back in De La Salle Zobel. Nothing had ever freaked out and excited me so much at the same time. The idea of returning to serve my Alma Mater was exciting, the idea of working with children like myself was terrifying but I’m not one to back down from a challenge so I filled the form out and gave them my resume.

I had a few other prospects that I explored including a non-profit job next to a bar in Cubao X that actually sounded like a whole lot of fun, a teaching job in a much smaller school, community work in the Visayas and of course the option of working with my Dad so there were many options to be weighed.

Long story short, I got a call for a demo class, an exam, a panel interview, another interview and the next thing I knew I had landed the job; I was a given the position of School Counselor for Athletes and there was no turning back from there.545919_10153315968770515_360152810_n

I’ve been at it for 4 months now and it’s been an incredible experience! I work close to home so I get to spend more time with my family. I don’t have to deal with much traffic so I have more time for the important things in life like sleep. I was given special working hours because I have to be there during training hours so I don’t get up as early in the morning as the rest of the world and they gave me my own office and incredible kids to work with.

I may not have planned to be here when 2013 began but I wouldn’t really want to be anywhere else because right now, it all makes sense and I was put in a position where I can make a difference, it’s different from what I imagined but it’s a fulfilling position nonetheless.

But how about the development sector? What about the dreams? –Well, they didn’t end and they aren’t forgotten.

I read up on requirements for positions that I want and many of the agencies and organizations that could lead me to a UN job require 5 years of work experience in a related field; according the the Millenium Development Goals for 2015 (MGDs), Goal #1 is to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger; I’m continuing my volunteer work in Davao del Sur where we are working to make hunger a thing of the past in MCRES. Goal #2 is to achieve universal primary education, is there a better way to learn about the nitty gritty of education than to work in a school? I may not be teaching but one of my major functions is academic counselling and figuring out how to motivate students to keep going.

The dream lives on and the journey continues. Thank you Universe and Big Guy in the Sky!

Coaching 101

In a recent workshop by Coach Juno Sauler of the DLSU Green Archers with the coaching staff of the DLSZ Baseball Colt Seniors, Coach Juno shared the strategies that helped him lead the Green Archers to victory in the 76th Season of the UAAP Men’s Seniors Basketball Championships.

Coach Juno shared that he spends at least 3 minutes a day simply talking to his players, one on one, but not necessarily about basketball, he says it can be as simple as asking them ‘Kamusta?’ ‘How are your studies?’ ‘How do you think we can improve?” He says he makes sure that communication lines are open with each of his players, being able to discuss how they can work together to build a better team.

He shares a story about a superstar player who had the chance to make a game-winning assist or force a shot against four guards, but opting for the latter option. He ended up missing that shot and costing them team a win. After that game, Coach Juno spoke with the player and asked him how he thought that play could have been improved, helping his superstar understand that he is part of a team. The player, realizing he should have passed the ball and assisted a teammate, now has a clearer understanding of the concept of team work so in succeeding games, you see how he has transformed and learned to work with his team and contribute to critical plays that ultimately lead the team to victory.

He stresses the importance of communicating and making sure that critical situations are addressed and made clear to all those involved.

Beyond his team, communication is also Coach Juno’s solution to managing outside forces: parents, alumni, and supporters. He cites communication is the key to handling situations that would otherwise get in the way of maximizing the potential of his players. When he knows that a parent is difficult, he dialogues with them and explains his strategy and his long-term plans because he says that by making understand, he can bring these parents to his side so that they too can help make that plan happen instead of badgering their children with goals and game strategies that may not be in sync with the strategies of the team.

Honesty and integrity are of utmost importance to Coach Juno, he explains that if someone on his team lies, there will be disciplinary actions: they will not be allowed to train. He shares that if his superstar is absent from training and his reason is that he needs to study but everyone else knows that he isn’t studying, then he will not be allowed to train because even though he is the star player, that teaches the remaining players a very important lesson in integrity and he further stresses that if he gives in, the team gets put under the mercy of that star player when that shouldn’t be the case. As a coach he makes it a point to be in charge and to be in control.

There were only three weeks to go before the UAAP season started when Coach Juno was appointed as Head Coach of the Green Archers and he reveals that there were a lot of things that he wanted to change but that he also understood that he had to prioritize because they simply couldn’t implement everything in time and it would have been at the risk overwhelming his players.

“Are you here to win at all costs or are you here to develop better players?”, Coach Juno asks because as he explains, the team’s goals have to be consistent. He explains that before he meets with his players he first meets with his coaching staff; they might debate and they might disagree but at the end of the day they will all respect the decision of the head coach because while it might not be what everyone thinks is best, it is important to be consistent, and to work together for the same goal using the same plan so as not to confuse the players. To achieve this he suggests, “Determine your purpose; what do we need to do to win the game?” He shares that he never told his players that they had to win the UAAP Championships this year, he just showed them their individual statistics and told them that he wanted them to improve on things like free-throw percentages; if you used to shoot 55% at the line, then your goal is to shoot 60% now and the effect was phenomenal because as each player improved, collectively, the team became stronger.

Coach Juno explains that he makes it a point to set realistic goals and not let his players experience failure in training to ease the pressure on them and help them perform better.

He gave three simple guides for mapping out goals and developing strategies: Why, What and How? Why is defined by your purpose as an individual, as a team and by your goals. What is answered by what we need to do, and what our priorities are. And lastly, How will we achieve these goals and priorities. It all goes back to communication and understanding what the team needs and where the team wants to go.

These lessons we learned from Coach Juno are not just for basketball, they can be adapted for different disciplines and different situations. Communication, Honesty & Integrity, Consistency and Knowing Priorities are just some of the important we lessons we pick up from Coach Juno’s coaching strategies. Now the question is, how do we apply these lessons to our own goals for ourselves and the teams we are a part of.