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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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Thursday, October 10, 2013

The Visit

"The Visit"
Oil on Canvas
42" X 42"

Thom Daquioag, the latest GSIS overall winner in painting this year is the latest addition to the school. He is now the curator of the new Spark Museum of the school and also the coach of a number of students attending a special art class.  He invited me to join an exhibit sponsored by Galerie Anna and I complied.  This is the product of about a total of four days work which spanned two weeks because I am working only on weekends and during the time I got home from work.  Anyway, it is currently on exhibit at the Art Center of the SM Mega Mall and opened on Oct. 5 at 6 pm.   It will be on exhibit until Oct 19, 2013.  

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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Joining the big league

               When I received word from my colleague, Ms. Heidi Padua, asking if I were willing to be a part of LASSO (Lasallian Schools Supervision Organization), I just gave her a casual nod and a perfunctory wink, as I am wont to do thinking that was cute, but not knowing what I have gotten myself into, again.  Then as it really sank in, I said to myself, why not? I can squeeze one more assignment now that I am a little lax with my time.  This was not possible several years ago.  Not only was I a teacher and consequently an administrator, a weekend artist who has to paint and write if only for my own fulfillment, but most of all,  I am also a husband and a father to four growing teenagers with raging hormones. My children have all graduated now and have joined the work force as working class heroes finding their own niche.  So, yes, I do have some extra time.  It was then that I received a call from no less than the Luzon Superintendent verifying from me if I did give my nod. He gave me the name of the school I was to supervise and the name San Francisco stuck in my head.  “California? I was hoping you’d say USA,” I jested. 
                I attended the first Supervisor’s meeting on July 16, wearing an enthusiastic smile with my school uniform. Not knowing what to expect, I eagerly listened to what transpired during the meeting, making sense of what was going on and amazed that I was a part of that august body.   
                I had several qualms during my first visit at Nasugbu.  Nobody knew me from Adam as much as I did not know anyone from there.  All I knew was that the people running the school were a nun and a priest.  A nun for heaven’s sake!  I have grown up with them during grammar school.  I have good memories of them but perceiving them as the “authorities.” That somehow made me feel a tad uncomfortable knowing that I should always be at my best behavior or “I will hear from the Mother Superior!” 
                So, how does one start? Neither had there been an official endorsement coming from LASSO nor was there a turnover ceremony, albeit unceremonious but quite reassuring nonetheless.  So, armed with nothing but again what I perceive to be a charming smile and hopefully a pleasing personality, I introduced myself as the one replacing the former supervisor.  No, I was not asked for my credentials as I feared I would be.  Instead, I was welcomed wholeheartedly and pleasantly, I might add, by the people in charge.  We talked like comrades-in-arms who have not seen each other for a long time.  Smile turned to laughter and I was warming up.  I nonchalantly interviewed them, asked them what transpired during the month and what their plans were for the coming weeks.  We had lunch and a few hours thereafter, I was on my way with pasalubong in tow.  It was then that I knew, this endeavour will be pleasurable and I will be looking forward to my monthly visits.
                The school is very simple, rural and, to a point, nondescript to someone who looks for the intricate operations of a big school.    It does not know the hassles of bureaucracy that sometimes even stands in the way of progress.  It is run like how a mother runs her home.  She asks her children to help clean the furniture, sweep the floor, feed the cat and other mundane chores while she attends to the more important matters.  The school may be small for now but it has the entire community under its wings.  Parents help care for the school as much as the personnel do, for after all, it is where their children learn the intricacies of life.  It is quiet, its air fresh, surrounded by billowing clouds and vast land that  hides in fear from neither the sun nor moon.  Looking at the surroundings and the people with their unabashed, sincere smiles, I know that I am home.  

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Thursday, August 15, 2013

Last summer, I enrolled in a chinese painting class taught by Mr. Caesar Chen.  My purpose was basically to discipline my hand and have a more fluid and simple composition. In this class, I learned about the four gentlemen in Chinese painting, notably plums, orchids and the bamboo.  There is still a lot to be desired but these are some of the products of that class.

 Composition 1
This is my first try to paint on a round canvas.  It was a lot of fun but it did have its unique challenge, especially when painting the edges. This is also the one where I thought of incorporating the well defined hand(s) in my succeeding paintings.

The Seductress
Oil on Canvas
30 X 30
(Cynthia C. Alberto)

I am particularly proud of this one.  I have incorporated a detailed face of a woman.  Something I have not been doing before.  I have always been more at ease with drawing male faces, if ever I did faces.  Too bad I took the picture with my ipad on poor lighting.  It is much more beautiful in the original than this one.  

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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