Who We Are

Following an individualized learning plan, each Abot Tala member is paired with an advisor to mentor and guide them through their unique paths to achieving their goals and dreams. Abot Tala focuses on meaningful learning that stays relevant in their future careers rather than forcing standardized tests and offering questionable grades. Classes and tutorials are led by guest mentors and facilitators who are experts in their field. We ask members regularly what they’d like to work on and learn which then leads us to search in the community for someone who is willing to share their time and talents with a young person. We’re constantly amazed at the talented and dedicated people we are able to find or who find us.

Abot Tala members get to learn from actual practitioners in the field they are interested in or from people who have an incredible passion for the topic and want to share that with others. Getting exposure to and making contacts with people who are active or retired in the fields teens are inclined towards is an incredibly valuable experience and can lead to many opportunities down the road.


Owie Burns dela Cruz

A homeschooling Mom of two children for eight years, Owie has taught communication and collaboration to other homeschooled kids at the Fort and Alabang.  She was CEO of School in a Backpack, Managing Editor for The Word 4U and taught public speaking for kids at Trumpets Playshop.  She’s worn hats as events host, voice talent, dubber, newscaster, scriptwriter, broadcast journalist but the hat she is most passionate to don on is as Superpower Tapper – helping young people find their unique superpowers.



Ericho Fuentes

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 teachers and people who can help make it possible for them to reach their goals.


Phil Smithson

Phil is the managing director of a strategic design company with a mission to create meaningful change through the application of design thinking principles.  He has over six years training experience with senior leadership teams, managers, government, educators, startups and students from a diverse client base. He is the founder of The Failure School which aims to equip people with an entrepreneurial, problem-solving, innovation-focused mindset.  He wants to be a part of a movement that reimagines what and how students learn to ensure they acquire skills they need for the future.


Arra Corpuz

As editor of UPCAT review materials and college entrance exam (UPCAT, ACET, NCE) instructor, Arra seems to be a natural shoo-in to guide young people through their academic path.  However, Arra breaks stereotypes and is not only an expert in teaching IB and Singapore math, she was also a head ballet teacher, aikido instructor, wushu practitioner and ice skating gold medalist.  She’s an official member of Mensa Philippines (international high IQ society) and writer for their website. Add to that, she’s a licensed real estate broker.


Elizabeth Ong

With over twenty years of entrepreneurial experience in the retail and service industries, Elizabeth sought to share her knowledge by teaching entrepreneurship and marketing in various schools and colleges.  She has conducted local and international seminars on personal financial management, reaching people in Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea and Myanmar.  She had her own radio show called “Business 101” and she was the writer-producer of socio-political radio programs called “Makabagong Isip” and “The Nationwatcher.” She is eager to show Abot Tala teens how to handle money matters wisely.


Liz Claudio

Liz has coached managers and supervisors to develop problem-solving and conflict management skills through group and one-one-one sessions.  She has worked with the HR department to improve talent management and re-align corporate policies. Writer, blogger, strategist, communications specialist, traveler, adventurer, Liz is a “doer of random stuff” which includes conducting training on leadership, time management, business innovation and speaking skills.  Liz has the heart of a mentor, having reached out to young people in church and in slum areas and keeping in touch with those she mentored until they had families of their own.


Cecil Escobar

An art teacher in various schools such as the German European School, Mahatma Gandhi and Brent International School, Cecil is a visual artist, terra cotta clay sculptor and has advocated various causes for women.  She has conducted therapeutic art and healing workshops that has helped individuals gain trust in their capacity to make something out of nothing.  She wants to be part of the process of inspiring young people to express themselves through unlimited and creative work, and of improving their confidence in exploring different media to produce personal, meaningful pieces.

We have received several CVs and are still reviewing people’s qualifications. We aim to have a well-rounded and growing pool of resource persons that represent a diverse field of interests and expertise.  If you have recommendations or know of people who would be perfect as Abot Tala mentors, please do let us know.  We’d be happy to get in touch with them.  Usually, people get excited about this opportunity to mentor and tutor teens in an environment where there is freedom for both student and teacher to create paths based on passion and inclination.



Joei Villarama

As a university teacher in China witnessing how the lives of students are constricted by the education system, Joei was compelled to research about alternative forms of education. Together with her husband and kids, they took a road trip across America, visited progressive and self-directed schools including North Star and proceeded to invite Ken Danford to help start Abot Tala in Manila.  Prior to this, she has worked as a writer, urban planner, designer-architect and served in the government for a couple of years in Congress and DSWD.


Tinky Cruz

Whether it’s helping disadvantaged children have access to musical instruments or master planning an eco-farm, Tinky is a veteran of ten NGOs with causes ranging from giving scholarships to promoting entrepreneurship.  She has made it possible for eleven libraries to be built in disadvantaged areas, has helped farmers co-op get off the ground and become profitable, has paved the way for the Orchestra of the Filipino to acquire resources including laptops for young musicians and has been a Corporate Social Responsibility proponent most of her life.


Laksmi Maluya

A second-generation homeschooler, Laksmi was independently homeschooled from preschool to high school along with her five siblings. Upon starting her own family with her husband, she proceeded to homeschool all their three children. In 2008, Laksmi founded Gopala Learning Haven, a homeschool support center and provider based on a beautiful farm in Silang, Cavite which offers alternative learning to students from all walks of life. Aside from being the program consultant of the Homeschoolers Association of the Philippine Islands (HAPI), Laksmi practices the yoga lifestyle and promotes plant-based nutrition.


Rommel dela Cruz

Bass player, songwriter and book nerd, Rommel has been playing the bass and writing songs for the past 25 years.  He holds bass clinics and church workshops.  He has been with the Freestyle band since 2005 and before that with Barbie’s Cradle.  He has played with luminaries such as Jett Pangan, Kitchie Nadal, Grace Nono, Wency Cornejo and Bayang Barrios.  He brings not only his musicality to Abot Tala but his passionate belief that this type of libertarian education is the way to go if we want to secure a better future for our children.



Abot Tala is a member of Liberated Learners, an international network of self-directed learning centers with member programs across the United States and Canada.

Liberated Learner’s mission is to help create a self-directed learning program in as many communities around the world.  Abot Tala is the first Liberated Learners Center outside North America.

Learning is natural. School is optional.
All around the world.



%d bloggers like this: