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Sunday, October 05, 2014


Last night, I was contacted by my friend Henry asking if I wanted to join him in watching another play at the PETA theater.  The first time we went there was to watch the Rock (or was it spelled Rak?) of Aegis.  While some of the humor in that play escaped me (maybe because of my age) and notwithstanding the fact that I am not an Aegis fan, I did enjoy the show. so, without any ifs or buts, I decided to give a Filipino play another try.  This time it was entitled FNL, a play written by Rody Vera.

The play starts with a Filam raised (even probably born) in the States having a dream about Florante and Laura which albeit the fact that he could neither speak nor understand Filipino, was struck with a Tagalog word "linggatong". His parents are getting ready to take him back to the Philippines as they have gone bankrupt.  Like a typical narrow-minded Filipino living in the States, they believe their son would be their saving grace with his chances of being a rap star is strong with the knowledge that Filipinos love anything Stateside.

Meanwhile, the female protagonist, Flor, who works at a call center who can talk English with an Am erican twang also has suddenly got an attack of Filipino words which is so ancient that none of her colleagues (or the audience for that matter) could understand.  Both protagonists will discover that they share the same affliction of losing themselves and reciting words uncontrollably. It turns out that her patriotic father was   taking possession of her soul while Lance, by Balagtas himself.

Personally, I find depth with the story as it tackles the complexity of our nature as part of the human race.  Our language has not only been outshined by a language of oppressors but it has also developed into several dialects ingeniously created by sub cultures like bekimon and jologs talk. The writer's genius is shown by his expertise to handle these languages and point out his main thesis of language being the only way that can unite us. This he did without being preachy but, as true to our nature,  did it with humor. Another aspect I found to be witty was the addition of a lesbian lover of Flor who would recite a poem in English albeit without feelings or emotions implying that while we use the english language for intellectual discourse, it is only in our native tongue that we can feel emotions.

While the thespians of Rak sang a lot better (understandably so for afterall it was purely a musicale than anything else) the songs are not bad and the singers are alright.  My main beef, if I would be allowed to nitpick, is that the humor in both plays rely on contemporary events which given a few months or years will have to be reinvented, otherwise would not work.  Case on point, in Rak, there was this reference to the Vhong Navarro case where the actor was asked "to bring foods".  As the popularity of the issue has waned, the audience did not find it funny anymore.  In effect, a play like this does not become immortal but only relevant today.  Also, while I am not homphobic, it uses gay humor which I feel seems to be ubiquitous in every comedy we have.  In fairness, the play's use of gay humor is justified as it uses gay lingo as one of those dialects that "bastardized" (not my idea but, for me, is the premise of the story).

Nonetheless, I truly enjoyed FnL as it tackles a subject close to my heart. That there are still Filipinos who think that English is better and that anything Stateside is worthy to mull over, that English is far better than our own simply because it is the medium of instruction. That those who speak English well is much more intelligent than those who could not.  With our true identity being lost as observed by Lance that while he could speak english well, is lost as he could not pass as neither American, African-American nor even a Latino back in the States and a true Filipino here in the Philippines.  It just brings to mind Filipino households trying to rear their children in English but does not have the time to train their children and leave them to their nannies making their children good in neither languages.

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Thursday, June 26, 2014

School Rules

(This post is my own personal opinion and it holds no other purpose but to express my sentiments)

I get it. School rules are necessary and should be followed to the letter.  Rules are issued to instill  discipline among the members of the school community, be it for the students or the faculty alike.  Discipline is "the desired and/or expected norm of conduct." The importance of having rules is clearly enunciated in the case of DLSU vs. CA where the court, in stressing its importance  said : "the essential establishment of rules...may be regarded as vital, not merely to the smooth and efficient operation of the institution, but to its very survival." The court could not be any clearer than that.

Rules are an integral part of schools for their smooth operation.  They are imposed to establish to provide order and  harmony among each member.  Imagine a world where there are no rules. Each one will be acting on his/her own regardless of whether or not such an action is to the detriment of someone, especially another person in the community. Eventually, there will be nothing but chaos. Even the universe has its own rules or laws, the very reason why we live the way we do.

In order for rules to be effective, they should have teeth.  A rule that is ignored is inutile.  However, to make rules really earn its teeth, they have to be known by every member and that there should be a clear reason for their imposition  -  one must not run in the hallways, this is not a playground and one could get hurt;  one should take or use somebody else’s property without permission of the owner – that would be stealing.  There should be a clear reason why this or that is forbidden.  It could either be harmful for the doer or to somebody else.

When the rules are clear and the reason for its imposition is known and accepted, there will be no problem. However, sometimes, rules can be as abstract and unclear.  When this happens, each one can have their own interpretation until it becomes a free-for-all which only brings more confusion rather than enlightenment.

There are  rules which could be obscure to the point of being illogical to the members of the organization.  Often, these rules are viewed as whimsical or capricious as the members do not understand why this is being implemented.  Examples of these could be  the rule on hair color, or one's choice in clothes when a standard uniform is not required.   Let us take hair color for example.  What if there was a rule forbidding someone to teach with his/her hair dyed blonde?  Following the logic posed earlier, it could be assumed that this is so because blonde hair is bad.  But why? Often, they say, "this" is not a teaching hair color - if there is something like that.  What if the person is a natural blonde? He/She shoud not teach because she possesses bad hair.  But is this right? Can one not teach effectively because the color of his/her hair is not the prescribed one? Should the person color his/her hair black because that is the accepted hair color for teachers - in the Philippines, at least?  Why is it bad to have blonde hair in the first place? Does it hamper one’s thought processes? Does that impair a person's judgment? Is it too jarring for students that they cannot follow the lesson because the teacher’s hair is not "au naturel"?

Sadly, these are unacceptable because they do not follow the wishes one, if not all, in the administration.  They probably think this does not display good taste? Just because most Filipino hair is black, we assume that any other hair color is not acceptable? Is this not just a matter of opinion? This fact goes with the choice of clothes and the like.  I have been poring over this and came to one conclusion.  It is bad enough when a person forces his/her own morality on another.  It is even worse when one dictates his/her own personal tastes on anyone.   Just as I do not adhere to censorship, I do not want others meddling with my personal life.   I may not be cool in my choices of clothes, or they may frown on the food that I eat for these are too oily and dangerous to my health or they may not like how I behave in public. But as long as I am not a risk to someone, I don’t care! I am proud that I can be  who I am.  My personal tastes are my own. Allow me to enjoy my freedom. Let me suffer the consequences of my choices.   I  made them on my own.  To standardize such would be synonymous to animals,  who, after having engaged in a mating ritual, returns to the anonymity of the flock.  That is not me. I want to retain my identity wherever I go at any time in my life.  And so, unless the harming consequences of these rules can be explained to me with clarity and with a very convincing argument, I say let me be! 

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Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The Picnic

Several months ago, I was contacted by my friend. I was surprised by his call because we hardly communicated since he left the school (used to teach at the same school) where I am. Even more surprising is that the call was not the usual hi, how are you, let's meet up for a beer or two.  This time was different because he informed me that his wife wants to commission me for a painting.  That would have been just fine as I could always use the extra dough.  I asked him to show his wife what kind of stuff I do so that she would have an idea what she's going to get should the plans push through.  

Several minutes, I suppose right after the wife has seen my works, he contacted me again to tell me that they liked what they saw.  Now, I was getting excited.  I asked him how big the painting would be.  Now, that was the real surprise.  He said about 60" X 144"! I was kind of shock.  "Hey, that is quite big!"  THen he goes, "I know. My wife's worry now is if she can afford you."  So, I gave him a rough estimate and offered to see the wall first to get the right dimensions.  Of course, at this time, I was already praying that the project would go through.  

About a few weeks thereafter, my friend came to see me in school.  He asked if I could go with him that following Saturday.  I said yes.  And so, we went to his house and I made some measurements and closed the deal.  

Since I don't have a studio where I can work on a huge piece like this one, I asked if they would be willing for a triptych, a three-paneled painting. I was happy that they agreed.  Fast forward to three months, constantly purchasing more oils,  and the painting is done.  

When I showed them the picture, my friend said the wife liked it but would like to know my thought process while I was doing the pieces.  Well, nothing much.  I just kept in mind that they wanted it green, mind the composition, have several families,  and always, always check the color harmony.   Voila! here it is:

      "The Picnic"  Oil on Canvas  4' X 11'

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Wednesday, February 12, 2014

A Fine City, Singapore

As I sit  at the lobby of a very small hotel here at Lavender Road in Singapore waiting for my wife, two daughters and their aunt from a last minute shopping spree, I reminisce on the good times we've had since our arrival on Sunday, Feb. 9.  To my delight, we landed at Changi airport, one of the finest airports in the world, not in that budget flight airport they had, when I first came here several years ago enroute to Malaysia. I was told by our cab driver that said place is no longer in use.

First one that I got to see were my good friends, Alf and Zharro who is several months pregnant with their second child.  They were with their very cute and adorable baby, Zeetee who took a little time to warm up with me but once got going, really got going! She would call out to me and point at whatever interests her at the time, usually water. To her young mind, every male she encounters is "ninong" and, young as she is, would pronounce it as Noni!  So, she would call out "noni, water!". This would go on and on and when she was already on her feet, she would run ahead with her squeaking sneakers and call out "noni" and made sure I was watching.  She was so cute that everybody in my hotel room would giggle everytime she smiled.

My friends took me to Suntec mall. We made the rounds and made sure I go around the fountain of wealth and had merienda there. They took me next to Marina Bay Sands Hotel and its environs.  After a happy, non-committed stroll of the park, we had dinner at the fastfood chain and they took me back to the Hotel.

The following day, I had a good breakfast of laksa in a nearby hawkers' place. I will be having laksa every breakfast during the rest of the stay.I was with Kuya Rizal who paid for my breakfast.
From there we started our tour. First stop was at Suntec taking a ride at the MRT, the subwy train system, a good four minute ride from our hotel.  From there we took the city tours bus which had already been paid for when we bought tickets to Sentosa. Our first stop was at the  boat rides where one rides a boat tour of about an hour around the city.  From there, we went to Orchard Rd for lunch. Then we went back to Suntec to catch a free ride for Sentosa.  Once we were there, we went ahead to sea aquarium. It may not be as spectacular as the atoll reef experience I had with nitz in hongkong but it is as impressive just the same. When we have consumed everything we could out of the area, we headed back to the bus station and headed down to Bugis for some shopping. Then we went to the nearest MRT station and headed back to Lavender Rd again.

The following day, aftet breakfast, we headed back to Sentosa. We had lunch there at the Malaysian Hawkers Street. I had Biryani of muttons which my companions thought was too hot. it was okay forn me, though. Then we went to Universal studios. we enjoyed the shows, the photo ops with the characters and the rides, particularly the simulatd ride fighting with the autobots! nitz and I enjoyed it too much that we did it again withour friends, Gregor and Leslie. Waterworld show was spectacular as well and while I have seen this already in Thailand, I was still pretty much amused

 By and large, Singapore is a very nice place. Everything is so efficient.  The transportation is as excellent as Canada's and one only has to know the system, which is not really that hard, and one can go to any place without any worrries at all.  The cab we rented on our way to and from the airport is no less than a Mercedes Benz! Now beat that Manila.  The food is nice, although one has to know the amount of heat one can tolerate as they could really be very spicy.  Cheap food can be had at the hawkers which is practically all around and they are very clean.     What  is even more wonderful is the combination of ethnicities that live here in hrmony.  the Chinese, Indians, Malays seem to live together nicely and peacefully that the systems work without any glitches at all. Remarkable indeed.  If I am going to nitpick at all it would be the rat race people seem to live by in order to keep up with the high standard of living.  I was told tht the cleaning, janitorial services are usually reserved for the elderly. This is because they have to continuesly earn their keep.  They could sometimes be a burden to their young ones that they hve to keep on working or nobody could tke cre of them.  There had been bews, as a matter of fact, that some elderly had been bused simply because they had been a nuisance prompting th government to launch commercials about respecting them.  besides that, you seldom see people smile  unlike in Manila, dubbed as where the happiest people on earth live. Really, something has got to give, in my opinion.


Thursday, February 06, 2014

Looking for a job?

Looking for a job used to be worrisome. What with the seemingly endless walk in one's best Sunday outfit trying to find an office with a vacancy, the ensuing long queue one has to pass through just to get interviewed, the very long wait that is full with fear and anxiety praying for luck.  And yet, even if one becomes lucky in his/her quest, it may turn out that he/she ended up in a job not suitable for him/her.  With the new technology that resulted from computerization and the internet of practically everything these days, trying to find a job should not be as troublesome anymore.    

This is the concept of the guys who teamed up to create a site for job hunters and employers alike.  They have racked their brains and technical know-how to come up with something that would help job hunters and employers alike.  The site would help one from creating a resume to finding the best match for his/her skill.  Likewise, the employer would not have to look out for good employees as they will be given to them on a silver platter.  

Come and try it. Go to jobcentral.com.ph


Saturday, January 11, 2014

What is true education?

This post is triggered by a friend’s fb post on Dec. 25, 2013.  In his wall, he posted a stack of books, probably his collection, and wrote:

"Is education a manifestation of the
superego qualifying and categorizing what we perceive and project ourselves to
be? Perhaps, but an educated man is not educated at all once he labels himself
and other people label him educated as well. Will a tricycle driver be more 
educated with a picture like this, a diploma in his sidecar? This is the reason
why i choose to be a teacher. Merry Christmas to all those teachers who
don't simply seek to educate"

This got me thinking.  What is education really for.  To a lot of people, education is about getting that diploma on the wall, make parents proud, and find a job and probably, get rich.  We are so proud brandishing our diplomas and sometimes even look down on others who failed to get one.  We feel smart having gone through all the preparations we made in order to get that piece of paper.  Unfortunately, there are some who, because of the high scholastic achievements feel like they are walking on cloud 9, way up there and look down on those lesser individuals who have not attained what they have achieved.  Is this what education is all about?

To be honest, education, while it does make our parents proud that we have finished college, is neither a guarantee that you'll end up having a good job nor will it make you rich.  There are a lot of college graduates who end up doing a lot differently from what they prepared for in college.  Let's face it.  We are producing more graduates than we have created jobs for them.  And each year, the number grows and grows and we have accumulated a huge number of misplaced graduates if not unemployed. 

Personally, I view education differently.   While I used to have the same notion as anybody, in my years of experience as an educator, I have finally come to the conclusion that education, in order for it to be meaningful, should be viewed as a personal enlightenment.  When we seek answers to questions during a time of wonder and awe, or maybe during times of confusion, find the answer or solution to a problem, imbibe the spirit of such information, then, we become educated. It is in the self - realization that we begin to know.  It is in finding answers ourselves that we begin to really understand. It is in finding the solutions to our problems that we find fulfillment and grasp the true meaning.  We do not need teachers to do that.  Especially teachers who think they know everything and that they are God's gifts to mankind sharing all the information they know, even if these are useless information.

Don't get me wrong.  Teachers play a very important role in the educational system.  While it is true, and I shall stand by my opinion, that education is a very personal matter.  However, sometimes, because of all the distractions we have, we tend to be lax and do not worry or marvel at the things around us.  When that happens, we do not ask questions.  We are comfortable the way we are.  And when we do not ask questions, we do not move forward.  Sometimes we do, but the problem is we may not be asking the right questions.  This is where the teachers come in.  They are the catalysts, the motivators and the guide for students to seek answers to the right questions.   Why do you think you need all those algebraic equations when you don't actually need them personally.  How many times have you used your knowledge of finding the x in linear functions in real life? The true teacher is one who makes you think.  Those equations are there for you to solve as an exercise for you to use your brains.  Think!  When you couldn't find the solution right away, they help you find it.  They find ways to make you find your way in the thickness of the forest.  It is the prime duty of the teacher to show you the connections.  This leads me to another point.  Since these are the ways in order for you to put your thinking caps on, a teacher should know how to motivate.  How could you be interested in finding the solution to a problem you do not find relevance in your life?  True, adults tell you that you will make good in life if you are good in  Math, Science and, in our case, English (because that is the medium of instruction).  How that is is probably because these are the subjects where you do a lot of thinking.  But surely, a good teacher should know how to make the subject interesting or the students will just play around if not sleep out of boredom.  The good thing is that the education system is improving.  We are starting to see the importance of showing the children the practicable use of the information we are giving them.  I did not have that luxury.  It has always been memorize, memorize during my time.

I think I digressed a bit.  My true intention of writing this post is that education is not to brag about.  We get educated because we want to know.  It is the drink that we need to quench our thirst, the food to sustain our lives.  Other than that, the knowledge we brag about is nothing.  As a matter of fact, the person who brags about his erudition is the one who needs to be treated like an idiot.  For after all, we are just humans and it is impossible for us to know everything.

"And listen to others, even the dull and the ignorant for they, too, have
their story"

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Tuesday, December 10, 2013

What does it mean to teach?

Being a Fine Arts graduate with nary a course on teaching, being accepted to the academe as a teacher was never a career I ever dreamt of having.  I have always seen myself as a Graphic Designer in some acknowledged Advertising firm or a well-known painter independent of any organization without a care in the world of what my place is in a capitalistic society. However, for some reason unbeknownst to me, I ended up to be a teacher. I may attribute it to karma for I was the teachers’ nightmare when I was still a student. Nevertheless, I was asked to teach and had to accept and embrace it for that was how the dice rolled. With neither experience nor proper training, I was left with nothing but my sheer guts and with the most basic sense of logic I could muster. I plunged ahead and taught middle school Art thinking it would be a walk in the park.
When confronted with a task unprepared for, what one can do is to search within the deepest recesses of his/her psyche and remember the things that transpired during one’s learning years.  What did my former teachers do right and what did they do wrong?  How did I learn? How much time do I prepare and how much time to I allot for every project and concepts to be learned?  How would I know that the students have learned what they are supposed to learn?  What concepts are important for them to know?  Which among the concepts are more important?  These are some of the questions that beleaguered my then young and inexperienced self.

My first impression of teaching was that I am supposed to be the source of all information.  I am the know-it-all, come-to guy who has the answer to every query my students have, be the solution to their problems, etc.  I cannot say “I do not know” for that would only mean I am not a competent, learned man which I am supposed to be.  I should be a sage of some sort, almost a prophet to some degree.  I am way above the children for I know things they do not know and it is my duty to teach them.  After a year of surviving the classroom, I began to doubt my concept. Several years after, I confirmed it. I knew I was wrong - totally wrong missing the mark by more than a mile!

I could not be the source of all information for I do not have a brain that works like a computer.  My memory could not retain as much information as a computer can.  Even if I were the champion of some trivial game show, there are still a ton of things I will not know.  And to think the questions coming from children are far from ordinary.  Sometimes, they are not even related. Oftentimes, they ask questions coming from nowhere, you would be amazed and just wonder what this or that child was thinking in order for him/her to ask such a question.   I had to research a lot, study my lesson so that there would not be a child’s question left unanswered.  And that is only about the subject I teach.  It was then that I realized it’s alright to say “I don’t know! Maybe we can both look it up and compare notes tomorrow,” or “why don’t we make that your assignment for tomorrow?”

I thought that because I was the master of the subject I teach, I could teach it with my eyes closed.  Never have I thought that there were complexities that would arise based on the different personalities of my wards, experiences based on the social strata where the students come from, demographics, among other things.  I would have to watch my language, make sure that my words are not too complicated and have to be within their learning level.  Most of all, I learned that teaching is like acting onstage.  You have to enunciate, make yourself interesting and be understood at all times. Otherwise, I will just be a blabber of inconsequentially irrelevant information.

I had to find ways of teaching the same concepts based on the age level of my students.  And this is not only because of the fact that I had to teach the same subject to students from Grs. 1 to 12.   That was the easy part.  The harder part was to teach it to the same Grade level, of practically the same age but of different learning levels for chronological age does not equate to the same learning ability.  I should make lessons that would not be too hard for slow learners but not too boring to the more intelligent ones.  

Another impression I had was that the students should learn how to accept what I was saying, hook, line and sinker.  I was wrong.  Most of my wards are just there because they have to. Society dictated that they have to be in school.  This is where I learned about the word “motivation”.  I should make my lessons appealable to these kids.  Short of begging them to do their tasks, I had to find ways that would make them work.  A teacher could not make a student learn.  Not by force or bribery. They have to “like” it like a candy appeals to them.  A teacher needs to make learning fun and that is a relative word.  Fun is not a word that has an accurate meaning.  It changes according to age. 

Another life learning lesson I have about teaching and which is probably the best one of them all is about respect.  One cannot demand respect, it shall be given to you, if you know how to play your cards right.  One cannot impose respect from another individual even from a toddler.  One has to earn it.  Try to impose getting respect from someone, you may be able to on the surface but this is all gone when you turn your back. 

I can go on and on but I know everything will lead to only one message.  The comparison between my pre-conceived ideas about teaching is very far from my actual experience in the classroom.  No one is prepared enough.  The challenge the classroom brings is limitless and change from time to time.  I have been teaching for nearly thirty years and in all those years, I still continue to learn.  Now that I am nearing retirement, I will not be ashamed to admit that I have spent half of my years of teaching as a learning phase just to know the ropes hoping that at least, one or two in my class learned something from me. 

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Twenty years of teaching must sure amount to something. A new friend in cyberspace suggested I ought to have a journal by now. I agree.

Taken by my friend Arlene Lawson in her room at Century Park Sheraton in May, 2000.
Posted by Hello
Location: Bambang, Pasig City, Philippines

Jack of all trade, master of none. First a disclaimer. My students have discovered this blog and they might think that what I write is gospel truth. Worse is they might find an argument that they think they can use, for some reason or another, against their teachers. So, to set the record straight, it is NOT. As a matter of fact, I write and open it to feedback to get another view in the hope that somebody would tell me if I am wrong and reenforce my thinking if it is right. Not that I will accept anything thrown my way, though. Just so I can think about it some more and decide whether my original stance is right or definitely off tangent. So there. I hope that clarifies everything. Now, on to blogging.

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