Pastry, potatoes, painting–and preschool |

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MindChamps International Preschool’s Pink Ching with samples of her artworks —PHOTOS BY LEOM. SABANGAN II

Notice how the milestones in cake decorator Penk Ching’s life start with the letter “P.”

The former banker’s creative journey began 34 years ago when she opened Pastry Bin, the bakeshop that showcased her out-of-the-box ideas through jaw-dropping cake designs.

Next came painting, a hobby she initially developed as a way to destress, which eventually led to commissioned works for friends.

Ching also makes potato chips. December last year, her small artisanal batches sent ecstatic fans (including former President Noynoy Aquino) asking for more.

Her most serious project, so far, is bringing in MindChamps International Preschool, a
Singapore-based learning center developed by Sydney-based neuroscientist, professor emeritus Allan Snyder.

MindChamps’ two tightly guarded campuses are in Greenhills, San Juan, and McKinley Business Park, Taguig City. The school’s curriculum synthesizes early childhood education, neuroscience, child psychology and theater to encourage creativity and confidence among children up to 4 years old.

It’s a coincidence, Ching said, that her family noticed MindChamp is about preschool, pastry, potatoes and painting: “We really didn’t intend to do this, nagkataon lang.”

Her first name, Penk, is Fookien for “peace.”

What is deliberate is Ching’s agenda to remain “productive.” And what better way to do this than to become president of a global standard preschool?

Teaching runs in the family

Putting up a school for young children has always been a dream, Ching said. Teaching runs in the family. A grandfather established the first Chinese school in Manila, in postwar Quiapo, near the old Magnolia ice plant by the Pasig River.

Mind Champs visitors are asked to remove their shoes before approaching the reception area
because the floor of the entire learning center is padded.

“This was the time when Quiapo was still the Forbes Park of Manila,” Ching recalled. “My grandfather and another relative opened the school, but he retired soon after when he got sick, so he wasn’t hands-on.”

Her grandmother, on the other hand, was a teacher from mainland China but chose to become a housewife when the family settled in the Philippines.

Meanwhile, her father, who had a Ph.D. in chemistry, taught in Adamson University. “He also taught in Chang Kai Shek (College in Manila),” Ching pointed out.

In the early 1980s, when Ching was in the United States pursuing her master’s in Management, she would always chance upon friends and neighbors bringing their children to daycare. In those days, childcare centers were unheard of in Manila.

Ching and her sister Shen thought of adopting the concept. Ching stayed on for a few more years to learn the ropes as a research analyst, and later as a finance analyst at the United Nations, before returning to Manila to join Citibank as recruitment and training officer.

MindChamps’ huge play area

And for one semester in 1987, Ching would hurry from the Makati head office to teach Marketing at University of Santo Tomas.
The experience was exhausting, but it came in handy a few years ago, when sister Shen’s colleagues from a multinational training firm in Singapore returned to retire in the Philippines. Among them was a former boss who wanted to bring MindChamps to the country.

‘No hesitation’

Ching was then still busy with Pastry Bin, but she welcomed “with no hesitation” the idea of putting up a preschool. Not only would the sisters fulfill their old dream, it was also a chance to finally work together.
“Mindchamps has 33 branches in Singapore,” she pointed out. “Our curriculum is traditional but taught in a very progressive way. We follow a strict curriculum that runs for 12 months. All teachers trained in Singapore for 125 hours for about six to seven weeks, and an additional 75 hours in the Philippines (before being certified).”

Ching added: “I also underwent training as president because I needed to know what people are doing and I had to be familiar with the system as well.”

Following the Singapore system, MindChamps students are in school for 12 months. “Kids can come and enroll anytime,” Ching said. “At least one director from the school board is always present in school. Others hire somebody to run a school. Kami hindi.”

The school occupies an entire floor of a building. Visitors are asked to take off their shoes before approaching the reception area because the floor of the entire learning center is padded. The school is divided into several sections, the largest of which is a well-lit play area that also has padded walls.

Children not only learn in a classroom setup. They have cooking activities. Teachers are attentive and polite.

Penk Ching says MindChamps has a curriculum taught progressively.

A precocious little boy, one of Ching’s students, walked into the administration office during this interview. Ching said the energy that children bring to MindChamps is “so pure. All your worries are washed away.”

Typical working day

Pastry Bin and her other projects are doing well at the moment, so would there be another “P” project after MindChamps? Ching couldn’t say, but what is clear is that she does not intend to stop, even if her typical working day stretches from 7:30 a.m. to the wee hours as in 3 a.m.

Once the morning errands are done, Ching arrives at the MindChamps campus in the afternoon and stays there until early evening. She has dinner with her mom at home, and once the house quiets down, Ching works on designs for Pastry Bin and her paintings.

“Only when it is quiet can I work. Du’n lang ako makakagalaw,” she said.

“Learning is an ongoing process and I want to be a woman of substance, hindi idle lang sa bahay,“ she added. “Every single minute I want to be productive, otherwise magkakasakit ako.”

Mindchamps International PreSchool Greenhills campus is at 7/F, LHK Square, 288 N. Domingo St., San Juan City. Call 7242677, 0915-1283088; E-mail enquiries.LHKph@mindchamps.org

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