Saturday, July 29, 2006

Changing the World... One Clip (and Class) at a Time

What do I have in common with middle schoolers from Whitwell, Tennessee? Yesterday, I would have said NOTHING; but today, after watching Paper Clips, I can wholeheartedly say: SO MUCH.

I thought Kyle's One Red Paper Clip project was entertaining, but this Paper Clip Project is an amazing miracle and moved me beyond tears. Adrian, the boyfriend of my Fjupy Friend Trixy, told me about this documentary last year. My dad beat him to his promise of sending me a copy; Papa found the DVD shop at LAX last week and brought home a copy for me as a surprise. I watched it today and I am completely overwhelmed and inspired.

Here's a press release to summarize the film from the official website:

Something amazing happened in the town of Whitwell, TN; a town where the population peaks at about 2,000 people and where the word "skyline" is epitomized in breathtaking views of the rustic Smoky Mountains.

The citizens of this rural Tennessee community are almost exclusively white and Christian; the town was not accustomed to cultural diversity. But in 1998 that all changed with a classroom project at Whitwell Middle School. The "Paper Clips" project sparked one of the most inspirational and profound lessons in tolerance, in one of the most least likely places.

Linda Hooper, the school's principal, created the project out of her desire to help students open their eyes to the diversity of the world beyond their insulated valley. What ultimately happened changed the lives of the students, their teachers, their families and the entire town forever, and by the end, they had a new goal: to open the eyes and hearts of people around the world.

"Paper Clips" is a moving story about these students and their emotional journey as they begin to learn about the horrors and tragedies of the Holocaust. Despite the fact that they had previously been unfamiliar with the Holocaust, their dedication was absolute. With a promise to honor and memorialize every lost soul, the students decided to collect one paper clip for each individual exterminated by the Nazis. By the end of the project, the students not only collected 11 million paper clips, but were able to house them in a donated WWII railcar, so they would always have a permanent tribute to the millions who were lost and a permanent memory of the time their small school in Tennessee changed the world one classroom at a time.

After more than two hours (I watched all the additional interviews and extended scenes in Disc 2) and several tear-stained tissues, I realize that I just might have more in common with the students and faculty at Whitwell Middle School than my fellow Filipinos who live next door. My experience as a Third Culture Kid (TCK) and my adventures with The Yellow Paperclip with Bright Purple Spots seem to mirror Whitwell's Paper Clip Project.

After living in four countries, studying in six schools, and working for a global firm, I'm proud to say that I have always been an advocate of tolerance, intercultural friendships, and making the world an even smaller place by building global connections and going out of your way to understand and appreciate other cultures. I've experienced the whole world come together under a bright red-and-white striped marquee (during our annual United Nations Day celebration), around a noisy cafeteria table (a phenomenon that takes place every single day at an international school), and in various telephone conferences (exchanging best practices in marketing with DDI colleagues from all over the world)... and I love it!

The documentary's intro page says that the feelings that connect us... are greater than those that divide us and I can't agree more. We may look different and have our own passports, languages and gods, but trust me: there really is an analogous human condition - something that brings us all together and makes us one and the same. More than just feelings, there is something fundamentally the same in all human beings that connect us and make us one: is it our capacity to improve ourselves? to enjoy life? to self-actualize? to believe in a Higher Being? to love? It could also be in enjoying the same cup of coffee, or sharing traditions like family dinners and gift-giving. I can't seem to articulate it beyond the "analogous human condition" (I forget which philosopher said that but it's a line from Dr. Garcia's PH101/102 class which has stuck with me since sophomore year) and my personal experience as a Third Culture Kid hanging out with people from all over the world. Perhaps Bono sums it best with the line: We're one but we're not the same.

The Yellow Paperclip with Bright Purple Spots is also a story about tolerance and acceptance of our unique selves, as it is a story about travel, global connections, and finding a home wherever you are. When Ani commented that it wasn't a very Pinoy story, I took it as a compliment; far from being an alamat or local folklore, my story is meant for all the TCKs and global citizens, for all who recognize yet respect differences among human beings, and for everyone who wants to make the world a smaller, and thus a better, place. I'm not sure how many people fall into these categories but the students and teachers at Whitwell definitely do.

The Paper Clip Project started in 1998, was celebrated with the dedication of the Holocaust Memorial in 2001, and continues today with the maintenance of the memorial, student scholarships and the construction of a new building. While I know I can't contribute much to their goals of raising hundreds of thousands of dollars, I wholeheartedly support this Paper Clip Project in my own small way. I will:
  1. tell everyone about the miracle that took place in Whitwell and encourage them to watch the film
  2. promote understanding, respect and tolerance across cultures in small everyday things (especially here in Manila, like pointing out and making people more sensitive about their racial biases, the use of politically incorrect terms, and overly nationalistic ideas)
  3. continue building and strengthening intercultural connections and friendships
With all the hate in the world, particularly with the ongoing conflict in Lebanon, tolerance and intercultural/inter-religious/international respect is critical for survival, ceasefire or even a glimpse of peace. If middle schoolers can get it... why can't world leaders? Perhaps Whitwell student Latosha Worley puts it best: "If people from Whitwell can make such a big difference, imagine what the rest of the world could do if they tried." The world would be a more peaceful place if all political and religious leaders learned from the kids of Whitwell, Tennessee. It may be simplistic, but I've often thought that if all the world leaders were Third Culture Kids, then perhaps there would be less conflict because then they would have a friend from all religions and cultures. Could TCKs - and paperclips - pave the way for world peace?

I said it when Kyle got his house, but I'll say it again with much more conviction now: never underestimate the power of a paperclip. It can change the world and make it a better and smaller place... actually, it already has!

Friday, July 28, 2006

2007 PBBY-Salanga Prize Call for Entries

The Philippine Board on Books for Young People (PBBY) is now accepting entries for the 2007 PBBY-Salanga Prize. The contest is co-sponsored by the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) and The National Library. The winner will be given a cash prize of P25,000.00, a gold medal, and an opportunity to be published. Prizes will be awarded in an appropriate ceremony to be held during the celebration of National Children’s Book Day in July 2007. Below are the guidelines for the competition. For more inquiries, you may call the PBBY Secretariat at 372-35-48. You may also log on to or email

Contest Rules
  1. The contest is open to all Filipino citizens except those who are related to any PBBY member up to the third degree of consanguinity.
  2. Stories should be intended for children aged 6 to 12 years old. The plot and the sequence must be capable of sustaining an illustrated book of 28 to 32 pages.
  3. Entries may be in Filipino or English.
  4. Entries must be in hard copy, double-spaced, on short bond paper. Maximum length is five (5) pages.
  5. A contestant may send in more than one (1) entry.
  6. Each entry must be signed by a pen name only. Five (5) copies of each entry should be placed in an envelope, on the face of which only the pen name of the contestant should appear.
  7. Together with each entry, contestants must submit a second envelope, on the face of which the pen name shall appear. This must contain the contestant’s full name, address, contact numbers, a short literary background, and a notarized certification from the author, vouching for the originality of the entry and for the freedom of the organizers from any liability arising from the infringement of copyright in case of publication, and affirming that the entry or any variant thereof has a) never been published nor b) won any other contest i.e. that it has never won 1st, 2nd, 3rd, honorable mention in any other contest or otherwise been awarded a medal, a citation, or included in a publicized list of meritorious entries to a literary contest.
  8. All entries must be sent through snail mail to the PBBY Secretariat, c/o Adarna House, Inc., Room 102, JGS Building, 30 Scout Tuazon St., Quezon City.
  9. All entries must be received by the PBBY Secretariat no later than 5:00 p.m., October 16, 2006.
  10. Winners will be announced no later than November 13, 2006. Non-winning entries may be claimed at the PBBY Secretariat until December 1, 2006.
The winning story will be the basis for the 2007 PBBY-Alcala Prize. For more details, interested parties may contact the Philippine Board on Books for Young People, at Room 102, JGS Building, 30 Scout Tuazon St., Quezon City, Telefax 372-3548 or email

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

What if I told you...

My dad had an interesting story to tell me over dinner tonight. He interviewed a literature graduate from DLSU today who mentioned a particular interest in children's literature. When asked follow-up questions, she went on to say that she was quite disappointed with most local children's books... with the exception of a recent book she read called The Yellow Paperclip with Bright Purple Spots. She said the story had good rhythm, the artwork was exceptional, and she and her younger siblings enjoyed it. But she couldn't remember the name of the author or the illustrator! All my dad had to say was: "What if I told you that the author of that book is my daughter?" She was stunned in disbelief.

I don't mind that our names didn't stick (May Ann, I guess our names are difficult to remember?)... I'm just happy that the story and the artwork left a mark!

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Papa's Pretty Paperclip Pasalubong

My dad just came back from a two-week business trip and I got some great paperclips as pasalubong! Aside from the documentary Paper Clips, he found some decorative paperclips in Seattle and LA. I checked out the website on their packaging and I found some great photos of the exact ones Papa bought for me.

Check out more of Allison Connors' flower clips and Nunn Designs from these sites. They're great addition to my growing paperclip collection. Thanks Pa!

Saturday, July 22, 2006

A Handy Paperclip for Roger

Roger is the trusty Honda Accord I drive approximately 60 kilometers a day. He and I have been roadtrip buddies for the last five years. We've been so busy that I failed to notice a year and approximately 40,000 kilometers had gone by since his last tune-up. Yikes! So I brought him to the shop today and had him all checked out and tuned up.

One of my complaints was that my windshield washer (?) wasn't squirting out water anymore. The car mechanic called out to his buddy: "May paperclip ka ba?" (Do you have a paperclip?) Armed with a silver paperclip, he straightened it out and proceeded to poke at the tiny holes. Soon after, sudsy water was squirting out as it should. Voila!

A handy paperclip to unclog, and a trusty car to keep me company... and completely broke.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

National Children's Book Day 2006

Congratulations to Ian Casocot, J. Dennis Teodosio and my good friend Marielle Nadal for winning the 2006 PBBY-Salanga Prize! They were awarded for their winning stories at the National Library today. Here's the announcement from the Adarna House website:

For the 2006 PBBY-Salanga Prize, The Philippine Board on Books for Young People awards honorable mention to three authors: Ian Casocot (Rosario and the Stories), J. Dennis Teodosio (Tonyong Turo), and Marielle Nadal (Can You See (What Buboy Sees)?). No grand prize was awarded this year.

Aside from being multi-awarded and well-published, Casocot maintains a website on Filipino writings and literary criticism. Like Casocot, Teodosio has also bagged many awards for his writing, including those for Best Screenplay at the Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature. Marielle Nadal, on the other hand, is a graphic artist by profession and works full-time at a foundation.

Tonyong Turo
, a story in Filipino, deals with materialism and the true values of things and people. Rosario and her Stories, is a story in English that deals with the Filipino folk tradition of storytelling. Rosario is the story of an out-of-place girl who is able to show her friends the unique beauty of her lolo’s stories. Can You See (What Buboy Sees)? is a story in English that affirms life in a Filipino community and speaks of reaching out to the people one sees during the day-to-day trip through town.

National Children's Book Day (NCBD) is celebrated every third Tuesday of July to commemorate the first publishing of Dr. Jose Rizal's children's story. I can't believe it has been a full year since the last NCBD celebration. How do you measure a year in one's life? In paperclips, books, new friends, and most importantly, in rekindled friendships.

Congratulations, Yelley! I'm so proud of you, my big little sis! Check out more of Yelley's photos from NCBD 2006 here.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

One Red Paperclip = A Dream Come True

Kyle did it! In exactly one year, he has successfully traded one red paperclip for a house! Check out his big news here. I blogged about him when I first found out about his adventure in August, and then again when he was featured in CNN. I'm so happy his big dream has come true!

Visit to find out more about this amazing paperclip adventure. Never underestimate the power of a paperclip.

Congratulations, Kyle!