January Wrap-up: Salvaging the Opening Salvo

“Healthy pa ba ‘to?”

Our office has just had its two-day step back activity cum (Yes, lakas maka-Laguna hullbaloo) capacity-building of its personnel. And that line from a colleague during our no-holds-barred sharing hit me like a punch in the gut. Work has been non-stop last month. Alexander Hamilton lang ang peg namin.

This month has been the busiest so far.

1. On the second day of the year, I ran (alone as usual) going to Bustos, Bulacan. Around 30 kilometers from our house in San Jose del Monte City.  I passed through Norzagaray and Angat going there; Pandi and Sta. Maria on my way back. Huwag daw maging dayuhan sa sariling bayan.

Bustos has one of the most artsy people’s parks. It features the sculptures of the Mercado family members. IMG_20180102_113427

2. A week later, I flew to General Santos City for the first batch of the Scholars’ Circle and Testimonials–an annual gathering of DepEd personnel who had been recipients of scholarships from various partner institutions.

Sobrang init sa GenSan. Hotter than the Metro Manila. I just don’t know if it’s like that all throughout the year. I jogged going to the city hall, people’s/Rizal Park, and the city market just to see a tuna that is not yet diced/sliced/canned.

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We stayed at Greenleaf Hotel which is just across SM GenSan and beside PacMan’s gym.

3. The following week, we traveled by bus (Florida Lines) for the second batch of the Scholars’ Circle and Testimonials in Tuguegarao City. This was the second time that our flight got cancelled so we had to endure a 12-to-15-hour bus ride.

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Cagayan River. Photo taken from Buntun Bridge

4. I decided to spend the following weekend in Sta. Ana, Cagayan–originally to laze around at Anguib Beach. After a 3-hour van ride from Tuguegarao, I reached downtown Sta.Ana–thinking that Anguib is within the area, but I was wrong. The fare to Anguib via tricycle is Php 500 pesos. I opted to stay in a lodge (for Php 500/day) at the downtown and settled with its beaches facing Palaui Island.

I would recommend Lordwin’s Beach Resort if you want to have some quality beach time in downtown Sta. Ana. I didn’t check in there. Naki-tambay lang for two hours sa beach front nila.

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I just hope that the local government would empower its people to keep its shores clean.

5. After the much needed r&r/me time, I braved another long ride–15+2 hours–from Cagayan to our office (Pasig) then to Malvar, Batangas to assist in the finalization of the learning resource packages for a program which will be rolled out in February.

This was my second time in Malvar, Batangas. Non-work related highlights include the 7k-run going to Balete, Batangas to see Taal Lake again, and the catching up  over a cup of  coffee in Cafe de Lipa with a UP Eduk blockmate who now teaches in Batangas State U.

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I still wonder if there are locals who can be contracted to tour me around the lake.

6. On the last Monday of the month, finally, for the first time this year, I got to attend the flag ceremony in DepEd-Central Office. But the following day, agad-agad, I took the last flight to Davao City for our capacity-building workshop–for that much-needed step back and regrouping.

As usual, we only had the early mornings and late evenings to explore Davao. I ran at its People’s Park. There were a lot of locals jogging in the morning. It’s one of the cleanest and greenest public parks in the country. I even heard the loud, rattling call of a  kingfisher.

On our last night, I walked for two hours around the city.  You must visit the Roxas Night Market--overflowing foods to choose from. I dropped by the city hall and Davao’s version of Chinatown. Totoo na safe sa Davao.

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Going back to the question raised by an officemate, all these out-of-town, work-related travels might be already taking its toll on our physical and mental health, and our relationships. Post-fieldwork weekends, which are supposed to be spent to make up for your lost family time, are spent doing our laundry, unpacking and packing stuff again, and getting back those precious hours with our own bed.

As for me, I’m still trying my very best to enjoy these moments. (Or baka nasa denial stage pa lang ako.) During our staff meeting, another colleague mentioned that this consecutive conduct of activities would only last until the first quarter of the year. Laban lang.

So how can we save ourselves from the work-travel burnout?

  1. Exhaust all means to nurture our relationships siguro– LDR or TMR muna–long-distance or technology-mediated relationships.
  2. Exercise, watch your diet, or take your medicines. Bawal muna magkasakit.
  3. Ask God to remind you of the very reason why you signed up for this.

Kaya, JAPAN. Just Always Pray At Night.

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3/3: What to Do in Batan Island, Batanes (South Batan)

1.  Watch How the Carabaos ‘Mow’ the Hills in Marlboro Country

Ang mga members talaga ng animal kingdom, ie. goats, carabaos, and cows, ang nagmi-maintain ng mga hills ng Batanes. Huwag i-provoke ang mga carabaos at may tendency silang mang-habol.

South carabaos

Hindi ka pagbabawalan na bumaba sa may bangin. Pero siguraduhin mo lang na kaya mong bumalik. Mas ok ang view don. 

South Marlboro cliff

View from down yonder. Amazing ‘yong rock/ coral (?) na ito na puro halaman.

2. Don’t Go Down the Stairs at Chawa View Deck

Ang hagdan ay para lamang sa mga lamang-dagat tulad nina Ponyo at Ariel. Cheret.  Itinayo po ito ng mga Tsino bilang kadugtong ng Great Wall nila. Cheret.South Great Wall

3.  Awaken the Scientist in You by Checking Out the Corals at the Summit of the Hills

Wait, pa’no sila napunta do’n? So ibig sabihin nakalubog ang islang ito dati? O baka naman may movements ang mga plates tapos naitulak ito pataas?

South Mountain

Mej buwis-buhay nga lang ang pag-akyat rito. At bangin na siya. 

4.  Measure the Thickness of the Walls of the Stonehouses

Dahil nga land of the wailing winds ang Batanes, pang-malakasan ang mga bahay dito sa kapal ng walls. At di basta-basta ang materyales na ginagamit to build these fortresses.

South Stonehouse

OA daw kung nakalabas lahat ng bato. Plastered daw dapat. At saka nakalubog nang kaunti ang first floor for more grounding.

South stone vakul

Ito ay kailangang palitadahan daw. Pero tingnan mo naman kung saan gawa. Siguro for tourism purposes lang. Oldest stonehouse daw ito sa Brgy. Tuhel. Sabe.

5. Walk Down the Beach in Ivana

While my companions were busy taking photos of churches and stonehouses, and buying stuff at the famous Honesty Store, I headed to the beach and it was worth it.

South woods

South Heart

How can you not fall in love with this pristine beauty? Sabtang Island na ‘yong nasa harap.

South facing Sabtang

Random sea grasses na p’wedeng gawin table centerpiece. 

Selfie Seashore

I just have to include this timed shot. 

6.  Take Refuge at the Mahatao Boat Shelter Port

This port, sadly, reminds me of the documentary ‘The Cove‘. Buti na lang at walang dolphin captivity na nagaganap dito.

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You can climb this islet. May hagdan sa gilid.

South Goat

May hagdan sa gilid, pero the goats in Batanes choose to take the buwis-buhay bangins. 

South Lighthouse

We didn’t make it to the more famous Tayid Lighthouse in Mahatao. But for me, this old one near the boat shelter deserves more publicity. Dramatic. 

That’s it for our first series of minor blogging!

I hope these lists somehow help you make the most of your Breathtaking Batanes experience.

P.S. Sorry at mej hindi hi-res ang pictures. Dinaan na lang natin sa composition at caption. Salamat pa rin, Cherry Mobile.

1/3: What to Do in Batan Island, Batanes (Basco Downtown)

2/3: What to Do in Batan Island (North Batan)

2/3: What to Do in Batan Island, Batanes (North Batan)

1.  Visit Mt. Carmel Chapel (Tukon Church)

The chapel was under renovation during our visit.  Chapel on a hill so tanaw mo ang karagatan at mga burol ng Basco sa labas. North Church

 

2.  Try Rock Balancing (Valugan Boulder Beach)

Sabi, si Mt. Iraya daw ang dahilan kung bakit may ganito kalalaking bato sa tabing-dagat. (Pero bakit sa South Batan walang ganito? E sa iisang isla lang naman sila.) Cheret lang sa balancing act.

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3.  Monitor the Weather at the PAGASA Complex

I’m not really sure if the public is allowed to enter the facility. Under renovation. Besides, ang weather forecast naman sa Batanes ay forever windy.

North Pagasa

4. Pass by/Drop by Fundacion Pacita

(Un) Fortunately, the place was full when we planned to drop by. Wala nang parking space.  At balita ko ay medyo pang-alta nang bahagya dito, pero, pero sabi ay sulit naman. So good for me, I guess.

North Fundacion

5. Be blown away (by the wind and Batanes’ beauty) at Vayang Rolling Hills

OA ang lakas ng hangin sa area na ‘to. Halos hindi ko maisara ang pinto ng van from the inside when I tried going out on my own.

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Kailangang magdikit-dikit at magkapit-kapit or else tatangayin kami. True story.

 

6.  Hide at the Dinaysupuan Japanese Tunnel

This was built daw during the 1940s–uso pa ang World War. Di na namin na-explore ang ibang chambers dahil maputik at madulas that time.

North tunnel

1/3: What to Do in Batan Island, Batanes (Basco Downtown)

3/3: What to Do in Batan Island, Batanes (South Batan)

1/3: What to Do in Batan Island, Batanes (Basco Downtown)

Still wondering how you’ll get the most out of your Batanes trip? Here are some tips which you may include in your Batan Island (Batanes) Bucket List.

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But first, if you’ve done your research, you’d know that your plane will land in Basco which is in Batan, one of the three large islands of Batanes. The other two are Sabtang and Itbayat. We only made it to Batan last December–of all months. It was forever drizzling–perfect setting if Candy Gourlay’s Shine would be made into a movie.

Downtown plaza

Basco Plaza

BASCO DOWNTOWN

1. Rent a Bike 

Feeling ko ay ito ang primary mode of transportation ng mga locals. Halos lahat ng bahay sa bawat kanto ay may nakaparada na bike. Wala pong Basco TODA, although may mga tricycles na nag-o-offer ng tours around the island. Sapat na ang two hours para malibot ang buong Basco (pa lang) kung ikaw ay medyo physically fit/active. Php 25 per hour. Choices: Mountain bike o  Japanese bike.  Other option is to walk or run around the area.

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I rented mine from this store.   But there’s a lot of shops that rent bikes–parang every street meron.

 

2. Visit Basco Lighthouse/ Naidi Hills

Ito yata ang most photographed spot in Batanes dahil nga very accessible. P’wedeng lakarin lang, 10-15 minutes from the plaza. Mga 1.5 kilometers lang yata. Dahil too mainstream ang daytime pasyal dito, why not try visiting it in the evening? It’s open 24/7 yata. P’wedeng-puwedeng umakyat.

Downtown Basco LH

Tatlong beses akong bumalik-balik dito. Araw-araw, ganon.

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View from the top. Walang mga streetlights paakyat ng lighthouse, save for the one outside the local radio station. And the local cemetery is at the foot of the hill. Wala lang.

 

3. Go to a Church Service

Since we were there in December, I made it a point to attend a simbang gabi. 4:15 pa lang, may mga nakatayo na sa labas. I therefore conclude na mostly Catholics ang mga locals. Pero may nakita rin akong mga other churches like ‘born-again’/evangelicals (Jesus is Lord, others), Iglesia ni Kristo, and Ang Dating Daan. The mass I attended was delivered in Ivatan, so umasa lang ako sa mga non-verbal cues. At nakiki-amen.

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Incidentally,  DepEd teachers were assigned to perform an intermission number that dawn. They performed a Christmas medley. Kaso English songs 😦

 

4. Check out Yaru Gallery & Art Shop

Gawa ng 16 local artists ang mga naka-display sa shop na ito. May mga tinda ring hand-painted ref magnets, paper weights, shirts, and post cards. At siyempre kung afford mo, bumili na rin ng artworks nila.  2 pm to 7 pm ang shop hours.

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5. Get your Coffee Fix at Lamon Center

Because Phil’s Brew is closed for the holidays, I had to look for other coffeeshops na hindi masyado nari-review online. May nakita akong superliit na coffeeshop along Abad Street–BikSaFrappe, pero mas magandang tumambay sa Lamon Center na nasa plaza. Mas artsy at mas maraming choices ng kape at pagkain. Maraming college students, so nakakabata ang feels. At si Adele ang bida sa playlist. May libreng panutsa ang fifty-peso brewed coffee na mabilis lumamig dahil sa labas ako tumambay. At environment-friendly dahil nasa mug ang kape. Definitely mas mura kaysa Harbour Cafe.

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6. Stroll Along Abad Street

This is the busiest street in Batanes dahil nandito ang tindahan ng maraming bagay–mga pang-ulam, RTWs, school and home repair supplies, atbp. May ilang ukayan, kainan, at tour companies din sa paligid. Optional ang pamimili ng mga unique palengke items pampasalubong. Super-friendly ng mga tao. Pang-suki level ang treatment.

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2/3: What to Do in Batan Island (North Batan)

3/3: What to Do in Batan Island (South Batan)

Proyekto sa Pagpapakamasining

Magkuris-kuris (to scribble) ang paboritong gawin ng dalawang-taong gulang kong pamangkin no’ng natututo pa lang siyang humawak ng crayons at lapis. Ang mga bakas ng kanyang pagkamangha sa mga panulat at pangkulay, na maaaninag pa rin hanggang ngayon sa dingding ng aming sala, ang nagbigay sa akin ng inspirasyon na gawin ang proyektong ito ngayong 2017.

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Mula nang mabili sa Divisoria Mall ang mahigit tig-i-isandaang pisong notebook, kasa-kasama ko na ito sa aking mga lakad. Katambal nito ang tignu-nuwebe pesos na M&G gel pen (itim). Minsan, ‘pag mas sinisipag ay bitbit ko rin ang tigti-trenta na watercolor set.

Dahil nga doodle notebook ko siya, sari-saring larawan ang naikintal ko rito. May mga naiguhit sa loob lamang ng dalawang minuto, may mga tumagal naman ng halos tatlong oras. May mga pinanday ng inspirasyon, at may mga iniluwal ng disiplina. May iilang hinanapan ng gagayahan, pero halos karamihan ay kung ano ang aking nasilayan.

Sa gitna ng taon ay biglang naglabasan ang mga posts ng mga sketches ng Instagram at Facebook contacts ko na mga tunay na visual artists tulad nina Robert Alejandro, Meg Roxas, Byron Jeff D., at mga miyembro ng Ang Ilustrador ng Kabataan (Ang InK). Mas lalo akong nahimok na ipagpatuloy ang munting proyektong ito dahil sa dulot na inspirasyon ng mga taong hinahangaan ko.

Kaya pagdamutan na ninyo ang nakayanan ko ngayong taon, bilang panimula.

Post Feature

Mahahati sa anim na pangkat ang mga naiguhit.

Unang Pangkat: Looban ng mga Kapehan

Mas nasasabik akong bumisita sa mga lokal na kapehan dahil (1) mas mura ang kape at tinapay, (2) malaki ang tsansa na may markang Pinoy ang disenyo ng tindahan, at (3) siyempre, tangkilikin ang sariling atin.

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Ikalawang Pangkat: (Pilit na) Typography

Paminsan-minsan ay may mga salitang ayaw (a)kong pakawalan kaya’t ipinipinid sa mga dahon ng personal na kasaysayan.

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Ikatlong Pangkat: Tao (tauhan)

Hirap akong iguhit ang sarili ko, maging ang ibang tao. Halata naman.

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Ika-apat na Pangkat: Kasama ang Pamangkin

Sangkot sa proyektong ito ang aking #1 fan–ang aking tatlong taong gulang na pamangkin, kaya mula pabalat hanggang sa ilang mga pahina ay may mga entries din siya–na kadalasan ay dinosaurs.

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Ikalimang Pangkat: (Kaka)Iba-iba

Lumabas ang mga ideyang iguhit sila nang matapos ang librong binasa, pelikulang napanood–o basta na lamang silang iniwan ng musa.

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Ika-anim na Pangkat: Labas

Ang paboritong kong pangkat dahil inilabas nito, hindi lang ang aking kakayahan, kundi ang tiwala sa sarili na gumuhit–na matagal nang natabunan.

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Patunay ang proyektong ito na lagi’t lagi tayong may bagong (muling) matututunan o talentong babalikan dahil maaari pa palang mapagyaman. Bukod pa dyan, busog sa kuwento at alaala ang bawat larawan.

2017, In Transit

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My 2017 is the year of transitions.

In January, I moved in to a new office within DepEd for the last six months of the Alumni Ambassadors Program—some sort of government internship program of Teach for the Philippines. From the Quality Assurance Division of the Bureau of Learning Resources ( for nine months), I transferred to the Office of the Undersecretary for Planning and Field Operations (OUPFO).

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On April 4, I celebrated my first DepEd anniversary.

It was there where I had a deeper understanding of the complex Philippine education system—that it is governed by a gamut of policies and memoranda—which I never bothered knowing about when I was in college or even when I was already teaching, primarily because it’s almost impossible to squeeze in the time poring over those text-heavy documents, even if they were accessible through the DepEd website.

 

Coming from a teaching background, it was a breath of fresh air learning about the other side of running a public school system—the intricacies of hiring DepEd personnel, managing public-private partnerships, formulating policies, dealing with leaders, politicians, and education advocates, etc. As a teacher-turned-technical assistant,  sometimes, it was difficult taking in and out this ‘fresh air’, especially that afternoon when I had a to face a mother who needed help so her son would be allowed to march on stage even if his son’s report card is still in his previous school, the days when I had to be firm on my suggested edits for a public document, the calls I had to endure because the irate taxpayer is entitled to complain about and suggest tweaks to improve the education system, the transmittals/ letters of complaint and request I drafted and never heard about, except for a few offices who gave us updates. It is through those tough situations that I have ‘further adult-ed’—become wiser, seen things from different vantage points.

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The Wonderwomen of the OUPFO during a late-night meeting. Brilliant humans of DepEd.

Even if I had an idea on what I had signed up for, I was still taken aback when USec. Mateo, and the other executive assistants asked me to draft completed staff work (I don’t even have the faintest idea what it is), speeches for minor speaking engagements, and replies to letters from our distinguished legislators. For someone who is not so confident at technical writing—make that writing, in general—that is one big, herculean task. But because you can’t say no to your boss—the USec, the Filipino people, I did those writing assignments anyway. It prompted me to read, read, and read a lot of related materials before I could come up with a decent one-page speech to be cliniqued the next day. Short runs in PhilSports’ track oval and cups of iced Americano were my constant companions on those nights.

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Team Titans Manila welcomes non-members in their training sessions.

Those experiences affirmed my decision to stay in the Department. Although I mentioned to some friends before that I might hop from one non-government organization (NGO) until I make it to UNICEF or any international NGO, I realized, and maybe this is a very adult thing to say, that I have arrived to that stage that I finally wanted to establish a career—to flourish in my sweet spot. So sometime in April, I found myself in the National Educators’ Academy of the Philippines (NEAP)’s meeting room answering interview questions tensely, as always. (NEAP is the training arm of DepEd.) In the initial list that the Personnel Division released, there were forty of us vying for the two positions—chances were slim but my hope was anchored on the fact that this is where God wanted me to stay. A couple of days before my 29th birthday came the good news.

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Sometimes, bus rides get pretty interesting as long as you stay awake hugging your backpack.

The career moves brought in residence transfers. From April to September 2016, I had to endure the Pasig-Ortigas traffic and the Lifehomes flood, which made me decide to go back home and commute every day from San Jose del Monte, Bulacan to DepEd in Meralco Avenue in Pasig. Since work at the USec’s office doesn’t end at 4 pm, I gave space-sharing in the Metro, this time in quiet, flood-free mini-subdivision in Cubao, another chance. Three kilometers of slow-moving traffic from Shaw Boulevard to EDSA-Cubao is quite tolerable. When I transferred to NEAP, my third office in DepEd, I didn’t know that it would entail a lot of out-of-town travels, so it was not practical paying 3K+ monthly and staying only in my Cubao space on weekends/ a couple of weeks. I, for the second time, moved back to Bulacan—back to waking up before four in the morning, back to taking catnaps while in transit.

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This space in Cubao is just a block away from EDSA.

I didn’t know that the 90-180-minute daily commute is just a preview of what I would be doing as long as I am in DepEd-NEAP. Curriculum development writeshops and workshops on different learning and development (L&D) interventions usually happen outside the DepEd complex—in regional NEAP facilities, resort-hotels, and sometimes in comfy hotels (for big events, or when sponsored by the Basic Education Sector Transformation Program). Work-related travels were a far-fetched idea five years ago. This is how ‘all over the place’ I have been this year.

 

April: (San Jose de Buenavista) Antique

May: (El Salvador, CDO) Misamis Oriental

June: Biňan (Laguna)

July: Naga City

August: (Malvar) Batangas, Antipolo (Rizal)

September: (Alabang) Muntinlupa, Cebu City, Marikina City, Los Baňos (Laguna)

October: Angeles (Pampanga), Quezon City, (Bauang) La Union

November: (San Juan) La Union, Tacloban City, Tuguegarao City

December: Manila, (Balanga City) Bataan, (Gen. Trias) Cavite, (Basco) Batanes

 

It is fun until flight delays or cancellations are announced (like the one we experienced in CDO), or when we had to sit through a 12-15-hour bus ride to Tuguegarao. And the truth is, most of the time, we are inside the training venue, and the only opportunities we get to experience the place are when we wake up very early in the morning and run, or stay up late in the evening and stroll. In my case, I would run for an hour—a running tour of the downtown, and visit local coffeeshops for my coffee fix, and sketching project (which deserves a separate post).

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On an average, I spend two hours marveling at the scenery and trying my best to preserve it on paper.

In the midst of any transition in life, I rest in the fact that the anxiety and excitement of the uncertainties are just temporary—that I am always a ride or run away from home. Dr. Michael Brown perfectly verbalized why being in transit is a beautiful thing–

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Stepping Back

So there is this unpublished draft in my dashboard which I wrote sometime in June 2014–during the onset of my two-year fellowship with Teach for the Philippines.

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Week 1

Frustrations greeted me on the first day of school. This had never  happened to me in my five years of teaching. I had always been the jittery-excited teacher who was eager to meet his pupils and do all sorts of gimmicks to make the opening salvo of the school year worth remembering.

But I forgot; I am in a new school now. This time, I am not the teacher; I am a pensive observer from the outside looking in. No getting-to-know-activity, no I-Can’t burial. 

My frustrations stemmed from my unmet personal standards for teaching. This I will explain in due time.

Five days of sitting in in that third grade class made me reminisce my basic education years in public schools. Those 10 years were the best training days of my childhood. I gained a lot of indispensable life skills (sales talk, commuting, taking turns, etc.) that no private school training would have taught me that early in life. 

Another  thing I could not bear, for lack of a better term,  during my Week 1 observation was the poor ventilation of the classroom. Everyone was damped in sweat at 8:00 in the morning. The whisper of the rusty stand fan in row one did not help, at all. Imagine how everyone smelled at 4:00 p.m. dismissal time. I call this whiff: amoy-whole-day.

Twenty-eight months later, and no longer wearing my teacher hat, I would stumble on this unfinished piece–trying to extract something insightful from this chance encounter.

Is this the Universe’s way of reminding me to continue my journey–to pack up, and go back to the place where I used to feel most alive?

That my two-year stint in the public school was just an appetizer–and the best…the main course (and yeah, the dessert) has yet to come?

Will this step back lead to a bounce back–to a comeback?

It is five months before the opening of classes. A lot could happen between now and June.

P.S.

‘Cher Jerson is now at the DepEd- Central Office–serving as a technical assistant under TFP’s Alumni Ambassadors Program.

Finding and Living in that Sweet Spot*

This was written a few days away from the finish line of the two-year fellowship.

***

Teaching in the public school is a dream that I have put on hold for half a decade. And now that it has been fulfilled and about to culminate, my heart is swelling with gratitude for all the precious memories and insights that I have gained in this  journey.

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As a state university graduate, I have always wanted to do something to give back to our country. Teach for the Philippines came at an opportune time when I was a hundred percent decided to do more for our nation.

 
Yes, volunteering once a month in a non-government organization that aims to improve the literacy skills of public school students is good, but if I can do more, why not? I came to a point when clicking the like and share buttons of posts by friends who are part of 2013 Cohort just wasn’t enough anymore, so I told myself– if they were able to take a step of  faith, step out of their comfort zones and step up for this cause, why can’t I also? These thoughts fueled me to embark on, by far, the most exciting ride of my career.

 

Turning Dreams to Reality

 

The public school is the nursery of many budding nation-builders. It is where I planted, watered, and waited for my dreams to flower and bear fruits.
One of my tasks is to make my pupils keep their dreams in mind. Countless times, I have asked them to write, draw, and talk about their short- and long-term goals. I have high hopes that doing those activities would instill the enduring idea that they should hold on tight to their dreams–to keep their eyes on the goal. That mindset, hopefully, would up the chance of putting them in a better life path. This came with our succinct battle cry for the past two years: “Malayo ang iyong mararating.”

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A day-trip at Luneta Park and Museong Pambata with four of our third graders–from Region 4A to NCR

But the reality is not everyone believes that they would go places. Case in point is Michael**. During our lesson on probability in Math 3, he told the class that chance of achieving his dream to become a soldier or even getting into college was very slim. This eleven-year-old Grade 3 pupil’s honest pronouncement hit hard on me. A brief, but to the point, lecture followed as I told the class the importance of holding on to their dreams because there would always be that someone who believes that they could achieve them. That day, all the idealism, twined around reality, made me revisit the importance of engaging all the stakeholders in a child’s education–the school, the parents and the community–if we really wanted to make a difference in these children’s lives.

 
Yes, I did cry over that experience. The initial feeling of powerlessness was turned into a challenge to do more, to teach better and to inspire students to dream bigger. And though far from the ultimate reward of witnessing him turn his dream to reality, seeing Michael in school regularly the following year gave me hope that someday he would make his dreams happen.

 
Being a teacher-fellow also reconnected me to some almost-forgotten goals. One of them is to get involved in campus journalism. I had a taste of being a school paper adviser when I was tapped to train contestants for various writing contests. I was thrilled and honored to impart my knowledge and experience on writing that date back to my grade school years. For a seasonal writer and trainer, the victories of the pupils under my wing reestablished the fact that the seed of being a writer is still in me and is waiting to be cultivated.

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Coached this pupil from a non-section class who eventually qualified for the Regional Sci-Tech Writing

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I also had a chance to take part in coaching students in their monthly performances/ contests. This photo was taken after the kids presented a children’s rights-themed dance. And we copped the top spot in the primary level.

 

Growing Where You’re Planted

 

In a profession where learning is the yardstick of success, the fellowship responds to this with flying colors. The past two years were full of opportunities to grow professionally. The Programming and Training Team provides a wide range of Super Saturday sessions that challenge us to try out new strategies to better our teaching, community engagement and leadership skills. The most memorable Super Sat I attended was the Learning Differences Festival where we got to invite our principal and co-teachers. Each Super Sat is also a good avenue to share and learn best practices.

 

I also appreciate the short and long observations and debriefs I had with my manager for two years Georgina Blackett. As an educator, I like reflecting on how I fare as a teacher. This part of the fellowship made me see my blind spots specially when I have already thought that everything in the planned lesson would flow smoothly. It also made me track my progress in areas for improvement my manager and I identified together. Before, I was afraid that post-observation conferences might just be a nitpicking party, but with TFP, they are a celebration of your strengths and a strategic planning activity to do better in the next observation.

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Team Malaban with our Manager (the most beautiful lady on the right)

 

An entirely new experience I had during the fellowship were the home visits. In other private schools, teachers are prohibited from visiting pupils and their parents to avoid rumors that they are playing favorites. In our case, it was different. We went to their houses to inquire about a pupil’s consecutive absences, to pay our last homage to a pupil who died, to follow up on our request for a birth certificate or just to bond with and get to know our students more. Going home with them and seeing their home environment gave me a deeper understanding of their context.

 

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One of our students lives here. How exciting!

 

Working Under Pressure

 

As an Education major, UP Diliman 2005-***40, I have felt the self-imposed pressure to model good teaching to my co-teachers. I believe that to a certain extent, I have achieved this. I have always been in a constant pursuit for ways to improve my teaching that fortunately translated to better student achievement. This means teaching and doing things in addition to what prototype lesson plans state. This includes our inter-section spelling bees, and literary contests, and poem memorization drills to name a few. On top of these, I can confidently say that I have religiously abided by the Child Protection Policy. Yay!

 

To engage other stakeholders, I brought in persons who also advocate for education to conduct a reading instruction seminar-workshop for teachers (Thanks Michelle Agas of ReadingReady Center and Prof. Portia Padilla) and an art workshop for pupils. I have also tapped the help of my network in raising funds for the needs of our pupils and for other curricular activities. I also got to lead our school group in conducting the Coordinates for Life program, which connected us closer to the parents of our pupils. Knowing that there are many people who are so willing to extend a helping hand gave me so much hope.

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A college blockmate facilitated a Cherry Blossoms Painting Workshop for our kiddos. Thank you Precious Gamboa!

 

Of Impact and Success

 
How can I measure my impact as teacher-fellow? Two years was not enough to significantly affect their (National Achievement Test) NAT or Language Assessment for Primary Grades (LAPG) performances. What are the chances that they would remember some, if not all of the concepts and skills we learned together? Ten months of instruction could not give me that assurance. What I hope that they would remember more vividly was the fact that they had a teacher who believes in who they are and what they can become. That they had a Sir /’Cher who compensated his shortcomings with careful words and actions. That they had a teacher-fellow who tried his best to make learning fun, excellent, inclusive and relevant.

 

My measures of success were the ‘ambush parent-teacher conference’ with Piolo’s mother thanking me for the renewed interest of her son for school, the excitement of students to perform on stage during the monthly convocation, the eagerness of pupils to answer in English, the healthy race for the top ten, the giggles when my pupils correctly spelled multi-syllabic words, the teacher’s day letters and flowers from pupils I have and have not handled, and the overflowing joy that I have felt inside the classroom.

 

The experiences and insights I have gained from my years in the classroom are my guiding light as I continue to push for education equity beyond the classroom.

 

Why do I teach for the Philippines?
Simply because education is my sweet spot. It is where my passion, purpose, and skills meet.*

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Malaban Elementary School co-fellows before Year 1

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After Year 1

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After Year 2

*inspired by Max Lucado‘s Cure for the Common Life

**not his real name

NCBD 2015 Blog Tour: Umuulan ng mga Libro na Aking Paborito

Bilang pakikilahok sa pagdiriwang ng ika-32 National Children’s Book Day (NCBD), narito ang ilan sa mga paborito kong aklat-pambatang Pinoy.

Si-Pilong-Patago-tago

(1) Pilong Patago-tago. (Adarna House) Ito ‘yong kwentong p’wedeng gawan ng maraming adlib dahil sa point of view na ginamit ng manunulat. Sa mga una hanggang gitnang bahagi ng kwento, sa palagay ko, ay sinadyang gawing predictable ang storyline pati na rin ang mga linya ng mga tauhan; para may gulat at kurot-sa-puso factor pagdating ng ending. P’wede ring makipag-interact sa illustrations ang mambabasa para mahanap kung saan nagtatago si Pilo.

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Kasama si Russell Molina (nakaupo), ang sumulat ng mga hawak naming libro.

(2) Tuwing Sabado.(Lampara) Kung may isang kuwento na paulit-ulit na dumudurog ng puso, ito yon. Ito ‘yong tipo ng kuwento na habang binabasa mo (lalo na ‘yong climax) ay talagang kailangan mong magpigil ng luha. Paborito kong eksena’yong inaasar si bida ng mga kapit-bahay niya. Ramdam ko ‘yong pagtitimpi niya e. Kaya siguro tumatagos sa puso ang bawat linya ng kuwento ay dahil sa napakanatural na daloy ng mga salita mula sa narrator hanggang sa mga tauhan. Isang napakagandang kuwento for an inferring and predicting lesson (kung ano’ng trabaho ng tatay niya, bakit tuwing Sabado lang sila nagkikita).

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(3) Si Janus Silang at ang Tiyanak ng Tabon. (Adarna House) Hindi naman talaga ako mahilig magbasa o manood ng horror movies, pero sobrang na-hook ako sa librong ‘to. Siguro dahil sa setting ng istorya–kontemporaryong Pilipinas (may mga malls, mas malalakas na bagyo, mga kabataang nahuhumaling sa computer games) na pinatingkad pa ng mitolohiyang Pinoy (tiyanak, bagani, pusong, sigbin atbp) at inihabi sa sinaunang kasaysayan ng bansa (kuweba ng Tabon). Ang eksenang nagpabilis ng puso ko (habang binabasa ito sa dyip) ay no’ng bumabagyo at magkahawak-kamay ang dalawang tauhan. A-a! Isinara ko talaga ang libro at pumikit muna. (Na hindi magandang ideya dahil mas na-imagine ko sila.) Maganda ang pagkakaputol ng istorya (dahil may sequel na malapit na raw lumabas). May mga rebelasyon na sumagot sa mga nagbabanggaang tanong, na mukhang magsasanga pa sa mas marami at mas nakakapanindig-balahibong pakikipagsapalaran ni Janus.

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(4) Ang Unang Baboy sa Langit. (Cacho Publishing House) Sino ba’ng hindi maaaliw sa baboy na ubod ng linis–na naghihilamos, nagdadasal at namumuno sa paglilinis ng kural (at community organizer pa pala). Ang malalim na mensahe ng kuwentong ‘to na binalot sa (taba at) ka-cute-an ng bida ang humuli ng puso ko. Para sa akin, kinakatawan ni Butsiki ang mga Pilipinong naninindigan sa katotohanan sa kabila ng pambabatikos at paghihinala sa kanila. (‘Di ba ang lalim para sa isang kuwentong-pambata?) Naniniwala ako na lagi at laging may tatayong Butsiki hangga’t may mga naglulustay ng kanilang pork barrel (o kung ano mang bagong tawag dito).

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(5) Si Carancal, ang Bayaning Isang Dangkal. (Lampara) Ito ang unang libro sa Carancal series. Patok sa mga bagets ang mga adventures ng ating munting bida . (Yes, kahit ang paglalayas ni Kuya para makatulong sa pamilya.) Huling-huli rin ng librong ito ang kiliti ng mga bata pagdating sa pakikipagtunggali (lalo na sa mga mas malalaki sa’yo)–na kaya mo silang isahan katulad ng ginawa ni Carancal. Ang sarap ikuwento nito dahil kaabang-abang ang gagawin ng bida sa bawat pahina. Plus, ginawan pa namin ng kanta (bilang pagpupugay) si Carancal sa tono ng Let It Go, kaya lalong bumenta.

Ang mga librong ito rin ang mga paborito kong ikwento sa aking mga klase.

Ikaw, ano-anong mga pambatang libro ang iyong paborito?

Bisitahin ang PBBY facebook page para sa iba pang detalye ng NCBD ngayong taon.

On How TPR Saves ESL Classes

Teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) has always been a challenge to language teachers across different levels. One factor that contributes to this difficult feat is the little exposure that a learner has with the target language. The amount of experience spells the richness of one’s vocabulary, the knowledge of the rules that govern that language and the confidence of the learner to express himself/herself using the language learned.

The dearth of meaningful experience with English leads to learners who are either tight-lipped during English time or the other extreme—garrulous to the point of disrupting the class with their antics and clowning around. Then out of frustrations for the seemingly unresponsive class, the teacher resorts to translating from English to the local language. Learning a new language, then, becomes an arduous task to both teacher and students.

To address this impending distaste to learning English among students,  we can use a well-researched, language teaching technique–Total Physical Response (TPR).

James Asher, an American professor of psychology developed this teaching method. It is based on the theory that the memory is enhanced through association with physical movement.  When you pair up a sentence or any other statement with a physical action, and you do this repeatedly, would increase the likelihood of a successful recall.

TPR is most often used when giving imperatives. Instead of plainly asking your students to bring out their notebooks, raise their hands, or sit properly, couple these statements with appropriate gestures. Upon doing this, you are actually making them experience the language without explicitly teaching the grammar rules. The goal here is that they become familiar with the language and at ease hearing and responding to it.

This technique could also be used with different levels of learners too. For those who already have a considerable amount of vocabulary and a good command of the language, the students could be asked to add actions to his/her answers. For beginners, responding to imperatives is already a sign of understanding of the command or request.

TPR is best used with verbs that call for physical action, but adjectives lend also themselves to this method. For instance, brave is act out with a raised fist, fast is miming a runner with both arms swaying in an acute angle. The key here is to think of a definitive action that the children could easily associate with the given word.