Launchpad Program Director
Mich is a communications professional with experience in the fields of book publishing, non-profit and development work, and knowledge process outsourcing (KPO). She was a Reporting Officer for the ICRC, the pioneer National Media and Communications Manager for IJM Philippines, and Program Director for a local KPO company that provided e-learning support management to students in the US and Australia. She was also a Book and Acquisitions Editor for OMF Literature, a local non-profit publishing house.
In addition, Mich has been a freelance feature writer and editor since 2008. She has written for local print and online publications, and has edited numerous books and communications materials for authors and non-profits both here and abroad. Mich was a fellow for poetry at two national workshops: the Siliman National Writer’s Workshop and the IYAS Creative Writing Workshop. Her poetry has been featured in local and international publications.
As an advocate of self-directed education, Mich continues to learn about various topics. She recently completed online certificate courses in Children’s Human Rights, Feminism and Social Justice, Healing with the Arts, and Psychological First Aid.
Owie Burns dela Cruz
Abot Tala Executive Director
Owie is an Interest-Led and Self-Directed Learning advocate. She started homeschooling her kids in 2011 and discovered unschooling in 2017. Owie has taught communication and collaboration to other homeschooled teens. She was CEO of School in a Backpack, and Managing Editor for teen publication The Word 4U Today. She’s worn hats as events host, voice talent, dubber, newscaster, and scriptwriter. She has also done several talks for different corporations and communities about alternative education. The hat she is most passionate to don is Superpower Tapper – helping young people find their unique superpowers. To the teens that she mentors at Abot Tala, she is their “tita” (auntie) because that’s who she has become to everyone, always eager to help, cheer on and support everyone until they reach their goals.
As a university teacher in China — witnessing how the lives of students are constricted by the education system — Joei was compelled to research alternative forms of education. So she, her husband, and two boys took a road trip across America, visiting progressive and self-directed schools. This is where she came across the North Star Self-Directed Learning center for teens and its founder, Ken Danford. She proceeded to invite Ken to help start Abot Tala in Manila. Prior to this, Joei has worked as a writer, urban planner, designer-architect, served in Congress, in the DSWD, and in a pharmaceutical company in Tianjin. She is also an online entrepreneur and nature lover.
Our block mentors are industry practitioners with extensive experience in the fields of their specialty. Throughout the block they will conduct regular classes, give personalized feedback when requested, and be there to answer specific industry-related questions for Launchpad members.
Nathania (Tanya) is an artist, entrepreneur, and social justice advocate. She has over thirteen years of experience in innovation and entrepreneurship; serving vulnerable groups such as children at risk, families living with chronic or terminal illnesses, survivors of trafficking and trauma, and migrant workers. She is the founder of TAYO International, a venture that builds simple and rewarding tools that help migrant domestic workers build confidence and competence in their personal finance management.
Tanya is also a leadership, wellbeing, and creativity coach. As a coach and facilitator, she creates space for participants to learn and discover. As a painter, she works primarily with oil paint, pen, charcoal, and digital ink — on canvas, wood, and paper. Her work is full of movement, texture and story. She sews her poetry into her visual work.
Tanya has studied in Costa Rica, the United States, and the UK. She has an MBA from the University of Oxford and currently lives in London.
Hanna Guison Fernandez
Hanna is currently the Chief of Staff and Corporate Strategy and Planning lead at one of the biggest FinTech firms in the country. Prior to this, she was a Regional Senior Manager at Uber for almost 3 years and was former Senior Strategic Specialist at International Justice Mission where she worked for 7 years. Her experience and expertise is on managing cross-functional projects that change the way the world moves, works and thrives. She is an advocate for children’s rights and has a passion for learning and problem-solving which is why working in tech excites her.
Equally important, she is a homeschooling mom of two strong boys and a supportive partner to her husband, Micah. They love to travel as a family and experience new cultures together.
Donna Patricia Manio
Donna is a trusted communications professional and lifestyle journalist with over a decade of international and local industry experience. As a PR professional, she has led initiatives for global brands in the academic, hospitality, and tech industries. She has also written speeches for C-level executives and ambassadors.
Donna is a proud alumna of the Ateneo de Manila Institute of Literary Arts and Practices National Writers’ Workshop and the Siliman University National Writers’ Workshop, two of the most prestigious writing fora in the country. Some of her creative writing and communications work have won awards and grants. She earned her master’s degree in Marketing Communications from De La Salle University, Manila.
Ailene is currently based in Connecticut. Her past lives include: travel junkie, jazz singer, entrepreneur, writer of devotionals and magazine articles, beauty advocate, marketing manager, kook, youth volunteer. She graduated with a degree in Organizational Communication from the University of the Philippines back in the days before smartphones were invented, and has since added to that with certificates in Retail Marketing Excellence, Nonprofit Management, Project Management, and a Six Sigma Green Belt.
None of her past lives are as taxing or as confusing as being a military spouse to her Corpsman husband, though. In this current role, she is also the family’s nutritionist, cook, coach, financial manager, cleaner, librarian, logistics specialist, and manager. She is devoted to introducing the American East Coast to Philippine coffee through Kapé (a social venture based in Vancouver) while learning how to homeschool her daughter Aria.
Julie Tarroja Rohrer
Julie, more known as the artist and musician Julianne, has been in the music industry for almost 20 years now. But behind the curtain, she’s had quite the reputation among close friends and colleagues as a “Martha Stewart On Steroids”. She majored in Interior Design and has a natural knack for creating beautiful things other than her music. She’s also a part-time graphic and set designer, although homemaking takes the cake and has been one of her biggest passions, even before she became an official Mrs. She’s honed her home and design skills through firsthand experience by building her home with husband Paul (who’s also a Launchpad Mentor with Safe & Sound).
Paul and Julie Rohrer
Paul is from Tennessee, USA and Julie is from Manila, Philippines. Paul has been a missionary and has been involved in non-profit work since 2012. Julie is a respected, influential singer-songwriter/artist and has been in the music industry for almost 20 years. They met in 2013 while in the mission field, married in 2018, and together started SAFE & SOUND FOR MENTAL HEALTH in the Philippines in 2019.
Joyce Ann Burton Titular
Joyce is our Bb. Pilipinas Universe 1985 and Miss Young Philippines 1981. She’s been in Media for 20 years: as a news anchor on ANC and RPN 9 Newswatch and as an announcer and news presenter on NU107. As an actress she has performed in stage plays and has appeared in teleseryes, movies and independent films. She is also an accomplished host as well as a professional voice talent who you’ve most likely heard on radio and TV. For eight years she was the official voice of cable channel 2nd Avenue. She has been a commercial voice-over form many household names like Dove beauty products, Abbott Nutrition, Yamaha Motors Philippines and SM Malls. And if you’ve ever flown Cebu Pacific, it’s her voice that welcomes, instructs and flies with you. Joyce has also served, for the past 6 years, as one of the co-hosts of CBN Asia’s The 700 Club. She is also a co-teacher with her husband Ron in their workshop “Your Best Voice Ever” and as a shy person herself, has helped many people get past their own shyness and fear of public speaking.
Ron has been in the Media & Broadcast industry for over 30 years as a network director, station manager, program director, production manager, and radio announcer. He’s a professional voice talent who’s voiced many commercials and was the official voice at one time for stations like NU107, Joey FM, RJTV, The Home Shopping Network, Solar Sports and Basketball TV. He has hosted on stage and on TV and has been involved in media start-ups for radio, television and internet ventures such as Radio Republic, United Christian Broadcasters’ The Edge Radio and NOW XD under Far Eastern Broadcasting Corporation. Together with his wife Joyce, they conceptualize, produce and manage in-store radio platforms for major brands like Yamaha Motorcycles. But their biggest passion in life is to help people realize just how amazing, powerful and beautiful their voice is. They do that through their workshop “Your Best Voice Ever” which they have been teaching and developing over the past 15 years.
Cindy pursued her education at the University of Hong Kong while working full-time in her corporate job. Having worked a decade in the travel industry, specializing in the Middle East, Central Asia, and Africa, her work allowed her to travel to over 50 countries, including Antarctica.
Cindy is now a full-time creative entrepreneur. She founded several businesses, including 8Letters Bookstore and Publishing, aiming to boost the evolving Philippine indie author industry. Aside from offering indie publishing services to professionals and aspiring authors, 8Letters nurtures a thriving writing community by conducting a monthly LitFest with author launches and writing workshops.
Passion Hustles is another project of hers that helps small businesses thrive by providing website design and web content. Her clients come from all parts of the world.
As travel remains in her blood, Exceptional Wanders was born, while her latest start-up is Tita’s Lifestyle that provides helpful advice and supplies to “titas” in the Philippines.
Cindy is also the author of several books, including 31st, Back in Santa Barbara, Embracing Uncertainties, One, Two, Sh*t, The Meatball Club, and Diaspora Journey. She now resides in Siberia in her pursuit of more adventure and inspiring stories to write.
Chemist, educator, and scientific researcher, Ericho has taught both science and non-science majors at the Ateneo de Manila University and has delved thoroughly into topics such as heavy metal contamination in Philippine mining sites. Aside from being the go-to math and science guy in Abot Tala, Ericho sees himself as one who can help learners realize their goals at the same time introduce them to other mentors and people who can help make it possible for them to reach their goals.