Why I keep on re-reading Paulo Coelho’s “The Alchemist.”

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Sink or Swim.”

By Marietta Geraldino

Much has been written about Paulo Coelho’s highly acclaimed novel, The Alchemist. Rightly, so. The novel has remained on The New York Times Best Seller list for over 300 weeks. It has been reviewed by readers from all walks of life and critiqued from both ends of the spectrum.

I first got hold of The Alchemist during one of my visits to the New York City Public Library, my secret hideout when I wanted to ‘disappear.’ It was in 2004. I just moved to New York City and felt so alone, lost, and overwhelmed. Reading novels was one of the ways I coped with work stress and homesickness.

At first, I kept on asking myself, “What makes the story of Santiago, a Spanish shepherd boy, special?” It’s been reported that then-President Bill Clinton was photographed leaving the White House with a copy of the novel. Even Madonna and Will Smith, I learned, raved about the book.

“Where’s the disconnect? Why do I find The Alchemist ordinary?”

“It won fans in high places,” I reminded myself. So, I continued to flip the pages aimlessly, underwhelmed. Then, I began to take notice of the novel’s recurring themes. The message completely and deeply resonated with me:

“To realize one’s Personal Legend is a person’s only obligation.”
“When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you achieve it.”
“People are capable, at any time in their lives, of doing what they dreamed of.”

The novel speaks of the importance of seeking ones’ own spiritual meaning –  passion, purpose – in life, and spending one’s life fulfilling it. A personal legend, as it’s referred to in The Alchemist, is a destiny unique to every person.

Coming to New York City through a temporary H-1B teaching visa was a risk and a commitment to several unknowns. After all, I was already an accomplished educator in the Philippines for 15 years. But really, who would pass up the chance to teach and to live in the city with infinite possibilities? Not me. In fact, working in the Big Apple is a dream come true – a blessing. With my educational portfolio, I was confident that I would make it on day one. How difficult could it be?

I got ‘schooled.’

The reality of teaching in a high-need school in America immediately doused my confidence and enthusiasm. I could not seem to manage my teaching space. I was totally and unquestionably out of my comfort zone.

It was during this crucial point that I crossed paths with The Alchemist. Suddenly, its message seemed relevant. The novel’s recurring theme seemed to speak to me directly – comforting, challenging, egging me on to persevere and to believe in what I do. I was reminded that I came to New York City to do what I do best and that if others could successfully teach under the same constraints, then there’s no reason why I could not.

In 2013, I was named as one of New York’s top teachers.


During the novel’s crucial points, many of the characters that Santiago meets during his journey would say this word. Maktub, according to the crystal merchant, means “It is written.

Fast forward to 2020.

A current situation reminded me to re-read the novel, which is no longer in my possessionThat’s how I came to buy the 25th-anniversary edition of The Alchemist. This time, I intended to read it with purpose – to seek a deeper understanding of Coelho’s divining symbolism and concept of personal legend.

This time, however, it’s the story of the book’s publication that inspired me the most. The foreword reads:

” When The Alchemist was first published twenty-five years ago in my native Brazil, no one noticed. A bookseller in the northeast corner of the country told me that only one person purchased a copy of the first week of its release ….  By the end of the year, it was clear to everyone that The Alchemist wasn’t working. My original publisher decided to cut me loose and canceled our contract.”

Coelho explained, “I was 41 and desperate. But I never lost faith in the book or ever wavered in my vision. Why? Because it was me in there, all of me, heart and soul. I was living my own metaphor.”

This brings me to the question, “Does the novel also speak of my own metaphor?”

Yes. Re-reading The Alchemistafter 16 years, makes me question my current comfort zone. It makes me wonder, “Am I living my personal legend? Is this it?” Or, “Am I like the crystal merchant who has become complacent and has given up the pursuit of his personal legend?”

 I say, “Maktub!” 

And, hence, begins my renewed self quest for a deeper understanding of my own personal legend, as viewed from a new lens. Isn’t such a toll order inspired by a novel that I first thought of as ordinary?




Empire State Building

The tower was lit green in honor of the New York Restoration Project.

Empire State Building

In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “TRIO.”

Right after work on Friday, November 20th, I dropped by Macy’s Herald Square to pick up my online order. While waiting at the Pick Up Counter, I was surprised by “Ms. G! I know it’s you who ordered this.” It was Yvette, my former high school student who now works at Macy’s. What are the odds of meeting someone you know in an island that serves approximately 4 million people on a typical weekday? Believe. 

As I egressed through the store’s 34th St. exit, I was mesmerized by the Empire State Building’s green tower light. Amidst the hustle and bustle of rush hour, I could not help but pause, admire, and capture the view using my iPhone. 

The Empire State Building is New York City’s emblem as the ‘seat of empire,’ heart of the wealthiest American City, and beacon of colors of America’s melting pot.

SEAT OF EMPIRE: New York has been notably known as the Empire State. What could be a more fitting symbol of this nickname than the Empire Sate Building? The Empire State Building is a 102-story skyscraper located in Midtown Manhattan, New York City, on Fifth Avenue between West 33rd and 34th Streets.

HEART OF THE CITY. The Empire State Building’s 86th and 102nd floor observatories provide breathtaking 360° views of New York City and beyond. Hence, the building is also known as the heart of The City of New York – ‘the most American of all the country’s cities’ and deemed as the largest and wealthiest American City for the past two centuries.

TOWER OF LIGHTS. The international icon of the New York Skyline, the Empire State Building’s Tower of Lights has maintained a unique and symbolic lighting displays, since 1976, to recognize various occasions and organizations throughout the year. I’d like to view the Tower of Lights as a cultural symbol – a beacon of colors – with New York City being the most ethnically diverse urban center in the country. The tower’s colors could mean a call to action, a celebration, or thanksgiving for both residents and visitors alike, in this concrete jungle of a city that is widely recognized as America’s melting pot.

Views of New York City from the Empire State Building's 86th Floor Observatory


Which Three Concepts Does New York City’s Empire State Building Symbolize?


by Erika Tellier-Angley

When asked to write about motherhood, a million and one thoughts came to mind. Do I write about the circus act of being a working mom? Do I write about being a working  mother of a child on the autism spectrum? Or do I write about the anxieties and exhaustion that seem to accompany motherhood?

In exploring and settling on a topic, I came across a quote on motherhood by Lisa Alther that succinctly describes my experience:

“Any mother could perform the jobs of several air traffic controllers with ease.”


Dad Edward with Connor and Liam.

Fast forward to June 2009. I had just gotten off the phone with my brother who announced that they were happily expecting their second child. “They’re out of their mind! Brody just turned one in March… don’t they want to sleep?!?!” I thought.

The next day though, which was Father’s Day, I found myself in the bathroom, staring at two pink lines on a home pregnancy test in utter and complete disbelief. I called to my husband, who was blissfully feeding Connor cheerios.

“Edward, lines don’t lie, right?” He rushed in, and peered at the stick on the counter:

“Shut up. Shut. Up.”

“Happy First Father’s Day, babe.”

And so my training began….

My pregnancy  with  Liam  was  the  complete  opposite  with that of Connor. I was never uncomfortable when Connor was in utero, and it seemed that Liam was bent on letting me know that I was the “alien host.” Liam would roll and dive in the womb non-stop.

I was back at work while pregnant with Liam and during a lecture on Geoffrey  Chaucer’s  The Canterbury Tales,  a  student  raised  his  hand cautiously, “Mrs. A? Did you make your stomach do that just now?” Liam had chosen that exact moment to do a somersault and stretch out as far as he could. I shook my head ‘no’ and the student’s girlfriend looked him dead in the eye, “You are NOT going to do THAT to me. EVER.”

Liam spent eight days in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit following his birth,  hooked  up  to more  machines  than  I  could  count,  due  to  his underdeveloped lungs. The back and forth between home and the hospital, all while managing a 15-month old and trying to recuperate, brought me to the realization that I had to juggle all the parts of this life now.

I knew that I could always count on my husband and parents to help, however, they weren’t always going to be right by my side on a day in, day out, basis.


Edward and Erika on their wedding day.

My nickname is now “the glue” and as one can infer, I keep everything together. I manage  the  chaos  to  an organized state.

I’ve become the master of the calendar, enforcer of day in and day out routines and structure down to the minute, all while being flexible and sacrificing my own needs for my boys. I handle blips on my radar, big and  small,  in the  same manner, as to not upset the flow of my house.

Although there have been some desperate moments, there haven’t been any crash landings on my shift.

Liam will be five years old on January 13th, and I am in awe of how I manage to keep my house running smoothly. Connor and Liam are the best of friends, and although part of my job responsibilities now includes being a toy hostage negotiator, I wouldn’t give up my sons’ snuggles or kisses for anything. Their personalities are starting to emerge, and the “one-liners” that they utter are hilarious.

Time spent at the breakfast and dinner table has become a time to practice their “comedy routine.” The most recent iteration had to do with a TV  commercial  they  saw  while  watching a  program  on Disney Junior:

“Hey Mommy! You know what you should get yourself for Christmas? The Magical Flying Tinker Bell! She even has fairy dust!”

How did they know that’s exactly what I want?


Edward and Erika with sons Connor and Liam.

Erika is a National Board Certified teacher and a very dear friend. Yes, I nicknamed her “the glue” because I am in awe with how she manages with ease all the “traffic” of being a working mother in New York City. She takes care of her lovely family so well, teaches like a champion to students in Harlem, and still finds time to support her struggling colleagues in any way possible. She has the softest heart ever and manages to always look beautiful, whether at home or at work.

Of Mothers and Air Traffic Controllers

A Fountain Beautifully Frozen

IMG_6927 2

“Frozen Fountain” Photo by Joshue Olandria

New York City experienced a cold spell today.

This is how the pink granite Josephine Shaw Lowell Memorial Fountain at the Bryant Park in Midtown looks this evening – beautifully frozen!

Located at the western gateway to the park, this granite fountain was designed by Charles Adams Platt and was dedicated in 1912.

The Josephine Shaw Lowell Memorial Fountain is New York City’s first public memorial dedicated to a woman. Josephine Lowell (1843-1905) was a social worker and founder of the Charity Organization Society. #

Source: http://www.bryantpark.org

How I Made It to The FilAm’s “A Collection of Memorable Personal Essays for 2014”

Photo: "A Drop of Trust" by Dupz Escatron Ravelo

by Mayette Timblaco Geraldino

Cristina DC Pastor, the founding editor of The FilAm – a magazine for Filipino Americans in New York, has been instrumental in rekindling my love for writing. I still don’t know what convinced her that I could write. I didn’t tell anyone of my stint as editor-in-chief of The Nicolanian, the official college paper of St. Paul University Surigao.

Days after our chance meeting at the Carnegie Hall for the 2013 The Outstanding Filipino Americans in New York (TOFA NY) Awards, where I was the awardee for Education, Research and Technology, she sent me a private invitation in Facebook. “Mayette,” she said, “would you like to write for The FilAm?”

At first, I was taken aback and thought to myself, “But where would I find the time?” As a New York City teacher and a mother of four, I did not think that I still have the time to write. I also argued, “How does she know that my article would even make it to her writing standards?” Cristina, as claimed by a former student, is a “legend among editors and writers” in Philippine journalism.

But I said, yes, anyway. My first attempt made it to her “What we read this year; The FilAm’s most clicked stories in 2013.”  The article was also re-published by the GMANetwork.com.

And it just took roots from there.

Fast forward to today. I just learned that one of my FilAm articles made it to her “A Collection of Memorable Personal Essays for 2014.”

Thank you, Crien, for that invitation and the opportunity to improve my craft. You have been a good mentor and an inspiration. You re-opened my world to what I love to do, next to teaching math of course, which is writing.

Was it just a coincidence that we met in New York City, no less? Or was it a pre-ordained inflection point?

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