Staff and Board

Mentoring Staff

Icia Encinas (Program Coordinator)

Icia graduated with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Malikhaing Pagsulat sa Filipino from the University of the Philippines Diliman. A passionate educator for language and literature, she is currently pursuing her Master’s Degree in Language Education from the same university. Icia has experienced teaching people across different ages from preschool to high school and yet she meets every student with the same energy and enthusiasm for every class. Icia otherwise known as “Binibining Icia” as the teens fondly call her, is also a dancer, storyteller, painter, and poet. She believes in encouraging people to be excited about learning new things and makes sure that their learning process is creative, inclusive, and most importantly, relevant to the learner. To her, learning is a partnership between the learner and the educator. Together, they create a path of discovering and learning new things.

Ericho Fuentes (Finance Coordinator)

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.

Diane Gabriel (Parents Coordinator)

Diane Gabriel is a homeschooling mom of 3 boys and wife to the Muffin Man. Her college days were filled with music and art as a choir member of the UP Vocal Ensemble and as a student of the UP College of Fine Arts. Graduating with a bachelor’s degree in Visual Communication, she worked for 5 years as an art director in a top advertising agency, working behind-the-scenes alongside writers, directors, photographers, and other artists. As a stay-at-home mom, after discovering that her sons were on the autism spectrum, she has embraced the unique and challenging but wonderful world of neurodiversity with the pursuit of child-led learning.

Czyka Tumaliuan (Launchpad Coordinator)

A researcher, writer and unschooler, Czyka is the founder of Kwago Bookstore and Publishing Laboratory. An advocate of Free Open Source Software (FOSS), she is a volunteer member of Computer Professionals’ Union (CPU) and is one of the three Filipino fellows in the 2018 Salzburg Global Forum for Young Cultural Innovators as well as one of the first Filipinos who received the 2023 STRP Award for Creative Technology. Her first book Bedspacer was translated into Mandarin by Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts for the first Trans-Southeast Asia Triennial Research Exhibition Series in 2021. Now based in La Union, she helps run Alfredo F. Tadiar Library and community art space in San Fernando. She loves to cook, annoy her daughter and fantasize transferring her brain to a sexy android before she dies.

Board of Directors

Owie Burns dela Cruz 

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.

Michellan Sarile-Alagao 

Mich is a communications professional with experience in the fields of book publishing, non-profit and development work, and knowledge process outsourcing. She has a double degree in Criminology and Psychology from the London Metropolitan University. She’s also been a freelance writer and editor since 2008. 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, Healing with the Arts, and Psychological First Aid. She de-stresses by knitting, watching K-Dramas, and listening to true crime podcasts (while knitting).

Joyce Buen

Joyce Buen is an Art Management graduate, radio DJ, voice-over artist, theater performer, and director. Her theatre life started doing musicals with fellow homeschoolers. A member of the Ateneo Blue Repertory for the past 5 years, she has also worked outside the country with Curtain Raiser Entertainment in Malta, Europe. When she is not busy in the theatre, she is probably at the recording studio, radio station, an art gallery, or just at home, cooking for her friends or hanging out with her cats.

Mikey Amistoso

Mikey is a musical composer/arranger. He is the main songwriter, producer, and frontman of the indie-rock band Ciudad, and the folk project Hannah + Gabi. He has also produced albums of indie bands and artists like Us-2 Evil-0, Monsterbot, The Strangeness, and Lili. Mikey is a renowned film scorer, having worked on musical scores of award-winning and critically-acclaimed films like Ang Nawawala, Harana, Saving Sally, Patintero, and Rakenrol. He has also made his mark in the advertising industry, having made jingles and commercial music for several brands.

Joei Villarama (Founder)

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.

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