Thank You for the Music

I am not Music teacher,  but I could say that music has been playing a big role in the way I teach and reach out to my students.

If a student ha200213800-001ppens to be in my Hekasi class, he should know at least one song that is related to the topics we’ve had. He probably knows, like the back of his hand, the lyrics of the unofficial opening song of our Hekasi class–Ito ang Hekasi–primarily because it is sung to Taylor Swift’s Blank Space. His favorite line might be “Mahaba-habang kuwentuhan, h’wag sanang antukin”.

Halina at pag-aralan
Kasaysayan, Sibika
Pati na Heograpiya
Nitong ating bansa
Mahaba-habang kuwentuhan
Huwag sanang antukin*
T’yak na ‘ka’y matututo
Ito ang He…KaSi

*At mga gawain (alternate)

I also hope that the songs from different ethno-linguistic groups like Bontoc’s Bagbagto, Visayan’s Si Filemon or Chavacano’s Porque would help him remember how diverse and rich the culture of the Philippines is. The Donna-Cruz-inspired song about population that one group of pupils composed is an affirmation that the lesson’s objective has been achieved.

Songs are also staples of my English class. Concepts stick to memory more easily if they are delivered through songs. The 23 linking and helping verbs are effortlessly remembered when they are sung to the tune of London Bridge.

Be am is are was were been
Has have had
Do does did
Can could shall should will would may
Might must being

Lessons on sentences and subject-verb agreement become less complicated when pupils know the aforementioned song. Transition songs like the Banana Song, with its engaging movements and You Are My Sunshine, with its calming effect, help me manage my Grade 6 pupils.

Aside from helping me impart the target concepts and managing my students, music also gives me a glimpse of my students’ personality and interests. In a survey we have had in class, I have learned that a lot of them listen to the same songs–usually those that are (re)played in different radio stations and other mass media platforms. For a teacher, who does not watch TV that often, this was very indispensable information. I now have a pool of songs that I could use the next time I compose a song in the next months. And I have a wide array of pop culture info that I could use in our discussions.

Indeed, teachers also learn from their students. It might be about the ‘in’ songs of the present generation and how to turn them into a lesson or about how the teacher’s inclinations, in my case, my affinity to music, affect his teaching style.


Writing Issues

I have almost forgotten that I have always wanted to become a writer.

The last time I checked, I made a promise to write more often when I get into the public school. I had foreseen that once I got in, I would have more time for creative writing or self-expression because of the lighter work loads. And yet, months after my second employment, I have not even produced a single story draft or a sensible blog entry.


In times like this, you just want to confront and scold yourself for being so utterly unproductive.

And then your other self reasons out.

I was busy with other equally important things like teaching ( spelled as writing lesson plans, checking tons of paper and preparing instructional materials), working out (running and biking) and a little bit of reading.

Then back to your other self.

Isn’t writing also important to you? If you really want to get better at it, then you must make time for it.

Then you realized that you have been so inconsistent with the voice of your pronouns. Then you keep on hitting that backspace key after reading the last six words that you have just typed. You never get satisfied with how you string together those words. Then you open a tab and google if you use that idiom properly. Then you stare at the blinking cursor as you wonder on how this metawriting would…then you can’t find the right English word for it. Now you don’t want to consult the online Filipino-English dictionary, and now you have decided to just leave the  previous sentence incomplete. Then the thought of using Filipino comes in because you think you could better express yourself in this language, but you would rather not because you…then you can’t articulate yourself anymore.  And you just resorted to reading everything that you have just typed and check if you are making sense or if you’re subjects and verbs are at war with each other. Then there comes the tenses of your verbs which you could never perfect.

Then, you ask yourself, have I been cut out to become a writer?

What can I write?

Can I even write?


These were my thoughts after hearing Dean Alfar’s talk on his Writing and Entrepreneurship journey during Coffee Been and Tea Leaf’s Brew Your Best Year February 21 edition. The speakers shared their stories and inspired us to “discover what’s special about us”.


Aside from speculative fiction icon Dean Alfar, other speakers were the founder of a social enterprise, a web and software development company with a heart for social causes and advocacies; fitness trainer Bok Santos whose humble beginnings paved the way to his reputation as celebrity coach; and the Vanessa Valdez of the Philippine movie industry, writer of some our favorite Filipino movies including One More Chance.

This was a beautiful wake-up call for us people who have forgotten to mine for a treasure(d) chest of talents within us waiting to be discovered.


It is now a pleasure waking up early in the morning. For one, you get ample time for morning rituals and travel time.


But the best bit of it is being greeted by the awesome sky. I just stand in awe of the beauty of God’s canvass.

Every time I look at the sky, I am reassured that I have a God who never forgets His promises. I just know.

Saving Sharks

Capped off a series of Reading lessons on sharks with a conservation campaign.

Immensely proud of the sixth graders for pulling off informative and entertaining #sharkconservation campaigns from Grade 1 to 4th year HS.

sharkie shark


One group made first graders hug the shark.

Selected pupils, who were assigned to wear the shark costume, had more fun than those who did not.

Students have unlearned myths about sharks.

Challenges of the Sea

Challenges of the Sea

I’m pretty excited for the next batch of selections we’re having in our Reading 6 class. The unit’s theme is Challenges of the Sea.

We’ll be perusing a chapter from Sperry’s Call It Courage–Mafatu and the Ma’o (shark). There’s also a chapter from another YA novel. It’s about the heroine Paloma who survives a series of unfortunate events (i.e. leg cramps, shark attack).

Now, that’s two stories that present the terrifying side of sharks. But worry not shark protection advocates because there are also non-fictions that discuss the not-so-explored nature of sharks–how they use their senses to find food. Then I plan to insert mini-lessons on the different species of sharks, shark captivity and conservation.

I’m dying to have the mini-lessons because I’ll be wearing (for the first time in my teaching career history) a (shark) costume during some parts of the lesson.

On the more local side, we have some selections about a secret island, muro-ami, fishboys and Badjaos.

I have also asked my pupils to ready their sea-related trivia every meeting.

It feels great to be a teacher when you have those ideas pouring in.

Date with a Full Mary

“I’ve learned that finishing a marathon isn’t just an athletic achievement. It’s a state of mind; a state of mind that says anything is possible.”

-John Hanc, running writer

Last July 28, I’ve run my first full marathon–a feat that I thought would only happen in my dreams.

When I was in college, I never enrolled for any physically-taxing P.E. subjects, save for the class Philippine Games which was pre-enlisted by my adviser. After getting a bruised knee in that class during a round of agawan-base, I  stayed away from the more active PE classes. I had fun doing stretching routines, playing competitive scrabble and dancing Philippine folk dances for my remaining PE subjects. I actually excelled in all those subjects.  That’s how  I avoided injury-prone activities. That kept me from seeing the possibility that, someday, I would run a marathon .


During my grade school years, I was a full-pledged batang-kalye . I played all sorts of street games–mataya-taya, langit-lupa, patintero, sipa, siato, (street) football, Tom Sawyer, piko, luksong-baka, luksong-tinik, bang-sak and all those other games I can’t name anymore. Knowing this gave me that confidence that I could run for several hours–just like those childhood afternoons  when my Mama would scold us for spending so much time on the street.

My quest for that marathon finish started in January 2011. After several years of being dormant (all work and no play), I decided to run. Someone told me that this could be the way for me to gain some weight. Having an ectomorphic body, eating voraciously won’t work for me. I need to flex those muscles to hit that BMI. So I did run. Lazily. Twice or thrice a month along UP’s academic oval after my M.A. classes. Completing a 2.2 km-run (one round in acad oval)  was more difficult than completing graduate school requirements.


Then came in the hiking bug. The next half of 2012 saw me scaling mountain after mountains.  I had two to three climbs every month. I even attempted to join the UP Mountaineers after quitting graduate school. (the app process was akin to enrolling 18 units in college.) It was with this organization where I met people who would later on inspire me to run, care for the environment and dream for the impossible. I was eliminated from the application process after arriving late in one event. But the whole UPM experience made me see the athletic, for lack of a better term, side of me.

Buying a good pair of running shoes reinforced a goal that has been forming in my mind for months–to finish a marathon. I asked for suggestions from runner-friends and the prestigious Milo Marathon got my attention.

When I was about to register for the race,  I didn’t know that you have to bring an empty Milo pack. I had to rush to the supermarket to buy one and empty the pack inside a restroom cubicle in SM North. No I didn’t pour it in the toilet bowl.

After the epic registration, I started training seriously for my first full mary. I increased my mileage every week. I made routes in SJDM, Norzagaray, Angat,Sta. Maria and Baliuag. Since I don’t have any running coach, reading books about running was an essential in my training.


Waking up early on Saturdays and Sundays–which were supposed to be rest days–was a constant struggle, but I ran anyway. Getting soaked in the rain and baked in the sun was alarming, but I ran anyway. The chance of being bitten by dogs or hit by vehicles was high, but I ran anyway. Boredom, hunger, thirst and  fatigue set in, but I ran anyway.

In December 2012, I had my first fun run. I thought that running 21 kilometers along Commonwealth Avenue was fun. Without any proper training, I finished the race in 2 hours and 1 minute.  Not bad for a neophyte, I thought. The QC International Marathon was a good opening salvo.My year ended with a two-day hike of Mt. Tapulao in Zambales–the peak of my mountaineering stint.

Mountaineering became less appealing as I’ve spent more time on the road–running. I would religiously hit the road twice or thrice a week gaining mileage and training for endurance. I scoured the shelves in Booksale for books about running and stretching.



I joined fun runs championing the causes which I believe in also. I’ve slowly become a runner.

There were a lot of times that doubts slowly ate up my motivation, but every time I would read the bible during my quiet time with the Lord, God would encourage me. These verses fueled my runs:

2 Chronicles 20:15 

He said: “Listen, King Jehoshaphat and all who live in Judah and Jerusalem! This is what the LORD says to you: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s.

Philippians 1:6

being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus

And yes, I was relying on God’s grace as I completed my first full marathon last Sunday. The goal was really just to finish it within the 6-hour cut-off time. But God was gracious enough to let me finish it in 5:01 (gun time)/4:59 (chip time) without any major injury.

God’s grace was reflected in the ample food and water stations, the amicable runners, the good weather, the supportive running organizations and the patient marshals and  motorists. I was able to do a side trip in Manila Bay Pier 15 to visit Greenpeace’s Ocean Defender Esperanza with UPM friends.


And what better way to end the day than going to Victory Nova in Robinson to thank the Lord for His overflowing grace.

Finishing that marathon is a great reminder that with God, nothing is impossible.

So, get up, lace up and run!


Room for Improvement

It is my fifth year of being an adviser and I’m back to my favorite level–grade 4! (I tried handling a grade 6 advisory class last year.) Yay!

I’m also glad that my passion for classroom designing is still intact.

While I was working (i.e. cutting, pasting, pasting, brain-squeezing) this afternoon in  my classroom, I’ve realized that designing a classroom is something that I am actually good at. This is a very indispensable skill that I hope to share with others.

I hope that Art Education classes would develop this among pre-service teachers.I hope to influence more teachers in creating informative, educational, inviting, theme-based classrooms without spending much–the earth-friendly way 🙂

Just the right combination of creativity, research and hard work, I must say.

Here’s a glimpse of my 5 advisory classrooms. Enjoy! Click the thumbnails 🙂


Theme: Outdoor Land Sports


Theme: Nature-Conservation


Theme: Transportation


Theme: Birds and Eggs


Theme: None

Summer for Others

Volunteer activities are a staple of my summer. In the past five years, I have gone to places near and far, met people old and young and did mental and manual works in the name of service. It seems that aside from traveling and wandering (aimlessly), volunteering best defines my idea of a great summer escapade.

In high school, I was in utter disbelief when I was named one of the Service-Oriented Students. I can’t remember any significant contribution of Jerson for the welfare of the students. Yes, I was part of the school paper, but I don’t  think my write-ups echo the voices of the students. Yes, I was in the student council as the secretary, but I really didn’t understand why I was there, honestly. (Apologies to our adviser.)But, lo and behold, that undeserved recognition is a prophetic one.

That award was a hint that I’d be part of our organization’s outreach committee, that I’d tell stories in hospitals, schools and even along the Nagtahan Road. That recognition was a foreshadowing of the many volunteer jobs that I’d be taking.

There are really no accidents, as long as you ask God for explanations. Volunteering is a self-edification exercise. This is what God has shown us when He gave Jesus Christ to us, for us. Jesus is volunteerism personified.

Now, it’s one of my advocacy to lead people into different volunteer works. I encourage you to look for opportunities to be of service to others. It might be in your own church (ministry involvement) or in places where help is needed.

Here are some info that might help you get started with your volunteer career:


1. Facilitate workshops of your interest in ATD’s  Festival of Learning. Aside from this, they hold street library activities in three urban poor areas in Manila. You may volunteer there any time you want.


2. Join this facebook group of pinoy volunteers: Kapit Kamay Kaibigan. I love the passion for service of these people. They are the hope of this nation. Bow. Most of their activities benefit our lolos and lolas, but are not limited to that.

3. Ask your friends if they know organizations who are looking for volunteers. Express your interest even if they haven’t asked you out. This works. My Museo Pambata Gift Giving volunteer work is a product of this strategy. They need volunteers every December. (Side story: I’ve met one staff from MP in our Mt. Balagbag Climb. So make friends!)


4. Google. Most established groups like Save Philippine Seas have sign-up forms in their site. Just fill out the form and wait for their next call for volunteers. I had the opportunity to be a marshal-turned-mural painter during their Q.Ave gig.


5. Start your own outreach activity. Grassroots efforts are the best. I know a group of alumni who gives a free two-month College Admission Test Review to students in our city. Pure love. And mind you, most of the instructors are former students of the review. That’s the volunteerism virus! 

Another grassroots activity is sharing the things you have to others. I dream of doing another book giving activity soon.  In December 2011, books were given to a public school in Misamis Oriental (my hometown).



Friends, the possibilities are endless. You can give away pre-loved or brand new toys, celebrate your birthday in an orphanage (artista level), donate in an NGO,  assist in running events, etc.  Volunteerism is for everyone.  Age, socio-economic status, education, religious and political views should not hinder you to serve.

 Go and volunteer!

But a word of advice, guard your heart.

Side Notes


The encircled words are the unfamiliar ones. They have the option to look up for the meaning of the words after reading.

I have found out that writing side notes while reading lengthy texts ( and even shorter ones) helps in monitoring your understanding, or the lack of it, of the material.

I encourage (and require to a certain degree) my Grade 6 students to write

-comments about the characters
-personal thoughts related to the story
-summarizing words ( use of brackets)
-questions (
-revelations (e.g. I can’t understand this part.)

The good thing about it is their side notes could be in either Filipino or English.

Now, I’m seeing improvement in how they respond to the reading assignments I give. (The selections in our book are really loooong–excerpted from young adult novels.)

And mind you, they enjoy interacting with the story.

International Book Giving Day

International Book Giving Day

Looking for a fresh(er) way to look at and celebrate February 14? Try celebrating it with the thousand book fairies.

Be part of the International Book Giving Day.

According to its website, IBGD is a day dedicated to getting new, used and borrowed books in the hands of as many children as possible. It is a grass root initiative of people who seek to increase children’s access and enthusiasm for books.

You can participate in this activity by doing any of the following:

1. Give a Book to a Friend or Relative.
It doesn’t matter whether the it’s a new or a pre-loved one.

2. Leave a Book in a Waiting Room or Lobby.
Just make sure that you’ve labeled the book FREE. Add also snippets about the celebration.

3. Donate a Book.
It could be to a public school library or to any organization that promotes the love of reading among children.

Spread the news. Give books. Give love.

* The International Book Giving Day poster is by Indian children’s illustrator Priya Kuriyan.