Saturday, October 1, 2011

A Tale about Teachers. (Sipsip Konti..)

A few days ago, I got a sweet message from a former high school teacher.  I haven't seen her for quite some time.  She was making lambing to me.  If I'm not so busy... why don't I write something about Teachers.  It will be Teachers' Day by October 7.

Does she realize what she's making me do? I'm the vocal-type.  If I like something, I can be effusive with my compliments. But if I hate an experience, I can be vicious in my commentaries.  Let's face it. Our experiences with teachers belong to extreme polarities.  Many are really good, that you sometimes, treat your teachers better than you treat your parents. But there are also horrible experiences, that haunt you until this day.

"Madam, Is there any particular thought, you want me to pursue?"  None. It's up to you.
"Ok. Since you've given me free reins, I'll exercise my Freedom of Expression."

This is just a personal tale about the many kinds of teachers I've encountered in all my 15 years of formal education.  As a former news writer, I'd like to think I write objectively.  Thus,  I will tell you  both favorable and unfavorable experiences.

I will omit names of those who made my student life-- hell, but I will try to mention names of those whom I can still remember and made an impact in my life.  Those whom I will miss mentioning --- forgive me.  Blame Epidural.  I have 3 kids that warranted it.  

My first introduction to school was Katon.  It's the old version of nursery in public schools.  In my hometown,  Aroroy, Masbate; my first teacher was Ma'am Chong.  I can still distinctly remember her face, Chinese features but morena, she has a permanent smile on her face.  We go to her house and sit on her wooden floor to listen to Cathechism.  She lives near the church.  

After a while, I vaguely remember that we moved to a formal classroom in our street.  Ma'am Chong is a very religious person and she makes Saints tangible to kids.  Do you know that Lorenzo Ruiz was a mischievous sacristan?  He used to place frogs in the Holy Water at the church entrance, and wait for the women churchgoers to dip their fingers on the font.

I could never forget that story because when I moved to Manila for my formal schooling,  my parents enrolled me in a Chinese school in Ongpin, and the school's name is,  Lorenzo Ruiz Academy!

I have Chinese blood and it is a desire of every Fil-Chi parents that their kids learn Chinese. And so, even if I was just 8years old, they shipped me out to Manila to study.

Now, I don't have any remarkable memories about my English teachers, but  my Chinese Teachers came from a different class altogether. 

They're stern, rigorous, severe. I will not mince words here... They're Draconian.  At that time, Chinese schools still practice Canning.  For those uninitiated, Canning or "Palo" is a traditional Chinese discipline for disobedient kids.  I guess, if your parents do it, it might be OK for some.  "Spare the Rod, Spoil the Child" school of thought, right?  

However, in Chinese schools, at that time,  the parents give authority to schools or do not question the practice of hitting kids when they see fit.  And those times include... being rowdy during class, PE or Recess, not submitting homework,   Getting Failing Marks on tests,  and No parents' Signature on forms.

I can still recall my Chinese teachers, with their gray skirt, pink blouse and white stockings,  as they move from class to class, bringing a box of chalk, eraser and a long stick or ruler.  Ms. Rose. Mrs. Wang. Mr. Lim....

Now, I came from the province with minuscule knowledge in Chinese.  We rarely speak it at home.  You can just imagine how lost & helpless I was.  I get hit almost every after tests results. I get hits on my hands, on my behind, pingot on my ears.

You might ask, why didn't I study? I do study! As a matter of fact,  I have a Chinese tutor during lunch break. But still,  it's so damn difficult, because the teachers do not translate in English. I just learn everything by memory without understanding a thing. How will I go about Essay Writing? How will I answer questions about stories?  Plus, the teachers do not care whether one student there, is just a zombie. I was just a number.  Student No. # alphabetized.

I should have framed my Chinese Class Card before I left that school.  They're all in Red Marks. I was supposed to repeat Grade 5 Chinese before I left.

With that horrific experience, I deduced that  harsh, authoritarian, and impersonal teachers will not make students learn.  Fear will probably make them pass exams, but there will be no lifelong learnings.  Only lifelong scars and bad memories.

Years ago, I talked to former grade school mates.  The school apparently abolished Canning and the Chinese subjects are now Conversational Mandarin, where translation is standard. Thank God!

What works for me, Might not work for You.   There are students who probably flourish well under the cloak of Fear & Punishment.  On one hand, teachers might say, we have to be strict so you will learn.   But definitely, not me... and  this is my personal story.  

Around Grade 5, when I was really failing my Chinese & my English subjects were so-so,  my parents hearing stories that I was starting to have crushes, making telebabad all the time, skipping a few classes, going to the Malls. They decided to ship me back to Aroroy, Masbate where they can keep an eye on me.

They enrolled me at Andres Soriano Jr. Memorial School (ASJMS), a private school subsidized by the local mining company, supervised by De La Salle brothers, and the teachers are "imported" from Cebu City and then in the latter years, Bicol.

The school is in the boondocks, 4KM from where we live, we travel 15-20mins. daily via a coaster through rough, pot-holed, dusty roads, and withstood typhoons to get to the school. Masbate is in the typhoon-belt.  Ironically, this is, the kind of school environment, where I blossomed.

photo credits : ariel sevilleno
It's a small school where everybody knows everybody.  The teachers know who our parents are, where we live, and what my folks do for a living.  The teachers know what my talents are, what I'm weakest at, and they gave me so many opportunities to hone my skills.  As a result, I developed self-confidence and love of learning.

Just to share some of my memorable teachers in the school.  There are so many, I'll just mention the few that impacted me greatly.

photo credits :  jovelyn heyrosa

I remember being asked to represent ASJMS in a Spelling Bee.  My coach then was Mrs. Carmen Quiokeles, who unfortunately could not accompany  me because of health concerns.  Mrs. Quiokeles grilled me spelling words every afternoon, on top of her usual class loads. Mrs. Fonie Limosnero, grade school asst. principal, was my chaperone.  I slept at her house, so I can be early for the trip to Masbate.  (Can you imagine, teachers opening their homes to students?  It's unheard of where I came from).

During the trip to Masbate, we were riding with some guests of the Mining company.  Mrs. Fonie Limosnero kept a steady conversation with the foreigner-consultant throughout the 3hour land trip. The foreigner was so thankful for her conversations;  before we parted ways, he gave her his Watch.  He said, I don't have anything else to give you, but you can have my watch. Thank You for your time.

This little girl was awe-struck.  How did you do that madam?  How did you carry-on a 3hr. conversation & had the man eating at your hands?  Here's madam's wisdom.  "Dewie, When you talk to people; focus the conversation on them, what their interests are, what they like.  Bring them out.  Forget about yourself. Learn from them." At the end of the day, "People will forget what you say, what you did... but they will never forget how you made them feel."

Those words stayed with my heart until now.  When I matured and had some readings, i realized she was quoting me wisdom from Dale Carnegie and Maya Angelou.  You will never imbibe those lessons just by reading, you have to see them in action~ Love it!

(Btw, yes I brought home the bacon,  I was Spelling Bee Champion).

So many wonderful memories.  We joined Bible Quiz in Manila (with Meti Migallos  & Eric Laurio) our coach was Lew Neo, our Christian Living teacher.  Lew was a new teacher & he tries his best to be a great coach, but what I really like in him, he knows to balance, studying & enjoying.  We went around Manila, met with Tico & Tina Maristela, we showed Meti, Luneta Park. We met Lew's sisters & brothers.  We passed until 2nd round of the Contest but we didn't win. However, I became close with Lew's sister Vi, she became my dentist (when I was in college), & his pamangkin used to call me up in college, asking for advises what to pursue etc. etc.

photo credits : dzo jumao-as
photo by ariel sevilleno

We had a really strict teacher, Mr. Lorie Makinano.  His wrath is legendary. I think even his fellow teachers quiver when he disciplines the class.  I remember one time, he was so pissed-off, he tore down the whole Christmas decorations in his homeroom.  There was a Best Xmas Decor Contest.  It was a pity because he did the beautiful fireplace himself, he was creative as he was an articulate Filipino teacher. He also handles the dramatics class. He's a good actor himself.  We staged Ibong Adarna, Florante at Laura. As quick he is to anger, he is also quick to compliment whenever you did a great job.  "Magaling!" that snappy word, made me giddy all the time!

There were two subjects that I consider my waterloo.  Not fail, per se. I just keep my head above the water.  In short, laging Pasang-Awa.  Math and Music.  Consequently, I fear the teachers handling these subjects.

photo credits : dzo jumao-as

Mrs. Rebecca Ramas, was my Math teacher. She's strict, tough and no nonsense.  I know that she tries her best to explain concepts slowly for my part, so I can keep up. I really appreciate that. I'm bad at Math, but I help run our business in Aroroy.  People always wonder, you're Chinese, why aren't you good in Math?  Well, our business runs only in the concept of profit and loss. We have none of those crazy trigo, calculus and geometry :))  In college I took up Mass Comm, I only had Math 101. Thank God!

Mrs. Ruth Almacen, until now, her name sends shivers to my spine. She teaches music and her voice reverberates into Fortissimo crescendo whenever she's mad.  I honestly can no longer remember what makes her mad all the time. Probably those naughty boys disturbing the class or glee club practice. I didn't go into glee club. I'm into Dramatics.  I'm so frustrated with the music subject, probably I'm tone-deaf?  I can't understand why you need to write on top & below those 6 lines. The flats whatever. I cannot distinguish the differences of the black keys on the piano.  They just look black & white, that's it.

Imagine this, my grades are extremes.  Almost all  subjects are Outstanding, 90++ but my music is 76.  Passing. That's how worse I was. She probably just pity me.  Oh, yeah! One time, she told the class, if anyone of you needs to pull-up their grades,  I need extra work.  There's a singing contest, you will earn extra grade if you audition.

This was before I discovered the joy of Videoke.  This was the era of Karaoke.  I swallowed my shame,  because I know I needed passing grades in Music, to pull-up my Averages.  I sang "The Greatest Love of All."  I don't care whether I was out-of-tune. It's the effort. Until now, the song stirs weird memories for me. :))

People comment on how they love my stage confidence, extensive vocabulary and my English articulation. I didn't learn them during college in UP.  It started in the boondocks of Masbate.  I give credit to three of my school teachers,  Mrs. Merien Esber,  Mrs. Tiosejo and Mrs. Macrina Ybarsabal

Mrs. Merien Esber, was a former newscaster in the local TV in Masbate.  She's often asked to emcee programs  & shows of the mining company.  I'm always awestruck on how she can ad lib and think on her feet. Pretty soon, I'm doing my own emceeing, too. Really,  I'm just a poor imitation of her.

Mrs. Tiosejo introduced us to love of reading.  One book a Week. Mark Twain. Charles Dickens. Jules Verne.  You have to tell the class about what you learned.  She made us write our own little adventures stories.

Mrs. Macrina Ybarsabal, she introduced us to the enthralling and intriguing world of English Literature, Shakespeare, Chaucer and my favorite of all, Greek Mythology.  She tweaked my writings skills, as I'm always submitting the longest Theme paper.  She made me join Essay-writing, News writing and Declamation Contests in the province.  More often than not, we reach up to Regional levels.

I devour books, and two of my favorite people in school were the school librarian, Mrs. Esther Albarastine and her assistant, Ms. Sally Pagon.  I really appreciate it that they stay in school during lunch  break, so they can accommodate us (we were the kids who eat in school, others go home).  Ms. Pagon, when Mrs. Albarastine turns her back, allows me to borrow in the Teachers' Only Section.  (Eric Seagal, Jeffrey Archer, Robert Ludlum....)  ;)

Early on, I know my strength lies in speaking and writing well.  This was the field that I wanted to pursue in college. But what to write about?  My Social Studies teacher, Ms. Dorothy Loresto taught me Critical Thinking in history and current events.  Our school is in the mountains, we get newspapers one-week delayed, but our knowledge of current events is updated and we can discuss national issues, as if they're happening just around the corner.   I love current events so much, after college, earning my Mass Comm degree, I pursued  News Writing as a career.  I want to be where history happens.

I have lesser love for the sciences than my love for literature & history.  But my Chemistry teacher, Mrs. Angeles Violango made the subject interesting for me, a right brain thinker.  She always bring it down to "hawakable" level.  Everything here in this world, your favorite coca-cola, the pain reliever you take, are just combo mixes   from that one-page Elements of the Periodic Table.

Our school principal, Mrs. Irenea Amores, I haven't been under her tutelage but her influence cascades into the kind of education that I was getting in the school.  She was strict, tough and she sets a high standard for everyone.  She doesn't settle for "ok na yan." It's always quest for perfection, be it teaching, practicing or performing.  She was the Axis that turns our little world.  I can always feel her  support whenever we go out and represent our school. Her energy is boundless.  Together with her daughter, my classmate Angel, she took us to Cebu City to take our Entrance Exams in UP.  The rest is history...

Educators we Emulate

There are times, when I get pensive about life (must be the age...) I'm very thankful how I've developed as a person.  We have skills to make earn a living, Sustain our families.

I try to look back, during those days, when I was just this insecure,  little kid, whose world is just home-school-home.

If not for our teachers, who spent time nurturing us, molding us... we wouldn't be who we are.  They have their plusses and faults.  But there's no debate with their Best Intentions.

(The biggest compliment that I think, I get from people is... You Inspire Me.  You made a Difference in my Life.)

And... I throw it all back to you ---with much reverence --

Thanks for Inspiring me. 
Thanks for Making a Difference in my Life..

Happy Teachers' Day!

I didn't include my college teachers.  Most of them are impersonal who can't even remember me if we ran across the grocery.   High School Life is the Best Life.  Best friends. Best Teachers.


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Alluring Argao

Argao, a quaint sleepy little town, Southeast of Cebu City. It is the hometown of our classmate Danilo Ngujo. After our grueling, fun and memorable school reunion, Batch '93 made the leisurely two-hour drive (in SPO4's silver Toyota Altis) to Argao, reaching it at about 9ish pm.

Danilo, was expecting us, together with our classmate Jay Francisco, and our younger schoolmates, JB & Raymund, whom they tagged along. "Baka saan pa mapunta yan sa Cebu City, kaya sinama na lang namin, " says Jay. Bait talaga ng mga Kuya. We also tagged along my cuz Ruby, whose with me since we both came from Manila.

You think we would have had too much lechon already at the reunion? No, siree. Another porky was waiting for us to decimate, courtesy of Aldrin & Richel. Unfortunately, Capt. Richel had a flight to Hongkong that night, so he wasn't unable to join us.

You think Dzo & I talked had done too much talking as emcees, that we want to rest our voices? No, siree. A Videoke machine was standing there, challenging us, with our favorite songs waiting to be conquered. The Climb by Miley Cyrus, I don't Wanna Miss A Thing by Aerosmith, the whole of slew of gut-wrenching Aegis and soul siren Nina.

This is gonna be a looooooog night....

At on or about 1am, when we were so inebriated (that's high brow for drunk, so don't bother getting your dictionary 'dahling) We jumped into the pool.

You think, being in the pool, will make us miss our Reserved songs? No way! Walang ligtas si Bon Jovi. Just careful with the mic, you might get electricuted!

I think we finished around 3am. Dead to the world, despite Dzo's and JB's incessant snoring. :)

We woke up to a bright and sunny day, and the beautiful sight of Ngujo's residence amidst the morning sun.

"Dandan! You are living in resort!" They also have a private Chapel and dandan has a workshop for his wakeboard-making hobby below the property. I missed taking photos of those, I don't want the Ngujos to think, I was snooping :)

Breakfast was washed down with fresh tuba, harvested at 5am from the coconut trees around the compound.

Dandan was excited to show us his Argao. First on our agenda was the municipal plaza.

Unity Plaza, is a very well maintained and well-restored plaza, dating back to 1600s. It still has 3 huge original cannons, remnants of late Spanish era and early American occupation.

There's also a Well that has quenched the thirst of Filipinos and Spaniards alike during that significant time.

I felt like I was transported to an old era, where life is laid-back and people take their time, strolling, chatting............ Whoops! I got a text message :) It brought me back to 21st century, & guess what?! The Plaza has Free WiFi! Talk about merging of the old and new. astig!

This is the Argao Hall of Justice, dating back 1605. It served as military barracks during the olden times. According to our reliable tour guide Dandan, it has now been rehabilitated to function as the current municipality’s Hall of Justice.

A typical Spanish town, central to the municipio and town plaza, is the Catholic Church. In Argao, it's the beautiful St. Michael the Archangel Church.

If my Humanities serves me right, this church is Rococo-Baroque style. It's ornate, fluid, over-the-top and playful, and you can see it more in its interior.

Dew: Dan, Did you get married here? It's so beautiful...
DanDan: No, Dew. I got married in the city... Siguro, next time. If the Catholic Church would allow polygamy.
Dew: Buang!

Old paintings on the church's ceilings. You know how I got this shot, right?! Laying-down on the aisle, on my back? Stir..;)

Argao Church also has the Philippines' oldest pipe Organ, made in Leather. Don't debate with Danilo. The pipe organ in Las Pinas is made of Bamboo. Argao's is made of leather. To be more precise, I did my research. Argao's pipe organ is older than the Las Pinas' bamboo organ by 108years. So there!

There are 14 remaining pipe organs the Philippines and 3 of them can be found in Cebu. (Argao's,Church of Patrocinio de Maria in Boljoon, and the Cathedral's)

I hope this one in Argao can be restored to play beautiful music again.

Outside the church, a relic of St. Michael the Archangel is displayed.
St. Michael is actually San Miguel in Filipino, but I'd rather use his English name, since the Pinoy version connotes a different kind of Spirit, not the religious kind. The Samahang Walang Katulad kind. ;)

A little walk outside the church, is a lovely stone arc. I automatically posed for photos, only to be told that it's actually a cemetery! Ngii..

Altar de Sacrificio, served as a cemetery during the Spanish occupation up until the 1800’s. In 2007, the government decided to have it restored and now serves as a resting place for unborn children.

Dandan is telling us to hurry a bit. He still have lots of places to show us.

Our next destination was Argao's mini-park & wildlife. Entrance is a measly 5.00 pesos, but if you're locals like Dandan & Wella, bringing tourist regularly, they come and go for free. With all the people we encountered who knew Dandan by name, I swear, he can run for Mayor of Argao.

This one is pa-cute. But there are wilder creatures out there..

Reticulated phython or "sawa" probably had its daily meal already, hibernating.

This little guy really hates Aldrin. It was rattling the cage, wants to claw him.

I wish all our munipalities have this kind of "pasyalan," mini-zoo. The animals don't have to be imported or the wild kind. Just a place where children can go,and learn a thing or two about local animals.

There's a mini-Zipline and canopy walk for only 35 Pesos! It's so short that Half-way on your shrieking Weeeee..... tapos na!

A boat ride for 25 pesos, that Jay jokes there are crocodiles under the water.

Another cool place in Argao is the RiverStone Castle. I honestly don't know how an English Castle sprouted in an old town, whose history is more on Spanish-American colonialization. So, I'll just say, it's like a theme-park / resort / bar.

There is even a cute little Moat / drawbridge. I'm imagining soldiers in battle, driving through the doors with a battering ram, only to be poured down with hot water by the defending Kingdom.

Riverstone Castle, I will venture a no-brainer guess, probably derived its name from the stones that they got from a nearby river, to make this structure. More likely, constructed at that time when Quarrying was still a legal activity.

Modern Knights of the Round Table..

A Victorian-theme Party / Gig would be nice to have around here.. with the ladies in ballgowns and men in royal cravats.

There is a swimming pool atop the castle, which is totally out of place for a castle, but a good come-on for those who want to take a dip. It can get really hot in Argao.

But we needed to go back to Dan's place. It was his father's birthday, and there was a small gathering, they wouldn't want to start without us.

I normally shy away from goat or lamb, but this one, is irristible!

Ooh, the many, many tales from Mr. Ngujo. MGO days, his stint at Amanpulo, his favorite dishes...and oopps, before he can extend the stories about his son's lovelife... Dandan restrained him!

"Tita Willie, Take home ako nung Pound Cake at Banana-Cinnamon cupcake mo, ha."

Thank you, to our generous hosts in Argao, the Ngujo family. I wish we could visit your place, again. Dandan was talking about Bugasok Falls, Mt. Lantoy, fishing and more places to explore...

But we had to rush to the airport, not only to catch our afternoon flight... but, because we have another batchmate waiting... the good-looking Captain of the Fleet, who was on-reserve that night.. Richel Sale.

What a beautiful way to cap a School reunion!
A day spend with schoolmates, and another day with just our batchmates..and a new place of discovery... Argao.

Sana Maulit Muli !!!