Thursday, September 1, 2011

Confession 101: I am Caught Inbetween (Part 4 of 4)

I made these confessions to help myself to have clearer view over things in my life. And I thank you all for sharing with my sentiments. Sparing a fracture of your time in reading these confessions and giving your valuable comments mean a lot to me. May the Lord will bless you.

Before being a teacher, I am a human being first. This means that I have my own share of burdens and confusions in life. I am not a superhero. Even vampires have emotions. I may appear as a funny person, easy-to-go-with buddy, emotionally stable since I was patient enough to handle students, able to give support and advices (that’s according to your comments), but I have my own struggles to fight within myself. I started to face my greatest enemy: myself. Once you’re affected with internal issues it would be so difficult for you to become an effective individual. (I will not elaborate everything here because it is too personal. I decided to keep it to myself and to my closest friends). To give you a hint how serious it is, well, I went to a psychiatrist and asked some help about it.

Another serious matter which disturbs me a lot is my faith. I am not an atheist. I believe in God. I strongly believe in Him and I can really feel His presence in my life. It’s just that, there some practices of believers in Christ which I started to question and doubt its validity. (This is a very delicate issue so again, I won’t elaborate everything here. It will take more than one blog to discuss it all and it’s not good to young readers).

Having these kinds of confusions undermines my effectiveness as a teacher in a Christian school. And I have great respect with that institution. So which is which? Unsa man gyud ang reasons behind why I left Davao Christian High School? Is it because I need to fix the things within myself which are bothering me? Is it because I find it too hard anymore to handle the behaviors of high schoolers? Or is it because I have to start making bold actions to realize my dream to become an economics professor? I think you know the answer. All of the above.

Yes, it is so complicated. I need answers. I just want the truth. I decided to give myself time to contemplate over these conflicting issues in my life. Sometimes we have to distance ourselves from a conflicting situation because at times, seeing things from a distance makes us see the reality. So I need to move out. (Call me crazy but I asked my students if I can work in their resorts for the mean time. Don’t worry I used to do odd jobs. Remember that I came from a poor family. Not only that, I even applied in a resort which we visited recently in Siquijor.) Weird isn’t it? Well, I just need a place away from distractions and time for myself to figure out everything.

And God gave me that opportunity. I even consider it as a luxury. With millions of unemployed in this country, I can still afford to leave my job and look for another one. I have no plans in working with DOST (My plans are to work at National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) or at Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA)). But just few days after I submitted my resignation letter at DCHS, I gave it try and I didn’t expect that I will be the one who will be hired for the position as a Science Aide. As I mentioned in my previous post, working here in DOST is already a good stepping stone in achieving my dreams. The pace of life here in ComVal and the place itself is perfect for me to contemplate on the things which disturb me.

“You’re in the right track Joel, just go on.” they would say. But it’s just so difficult go on when your heart is left behind. It would be just so easy to do it(moving on) if I am numb. If I just think of work and work. But I think of the people whom I left. One way or another, I was able to build relationships with them. Good relationship. Our friendship, for me, is special. We have countless of good moments being shared; whether it could be with my fellow teachers or with my students. It’s just so difficult to leave behind the people who made great contributions in your life.

In Davao Christian, I had chances to have personal encounters with inspiring people who made my perspective in life even better. People like Francis Kong, Illac Diaz, Queena Cua, Anthony Pangilinan. World class educators like Mr. Meyers (I missed to meet the Bernidos). More importantly, people within my reach who influenced me to become a better individual. I am fortunate enough to have teacher friends like Desi Magnaye and Jocy So and several others. It’s a privileged that you mingle everyday with these highly intellectual people endowed with golden hearts. Your generosity to me will be treasured for the rest of my life. You don’t stop believing in me.

How can you totally leave when you know that in that place people are grateful with what you do? How can you totally leave when students will thank you for what they have learned from you? How can you totally leave when even parents will approach you and thank you for the guidance and support you extend to their children? I am deeply honored to all these things. I didn’t expect that trust and respect you have given me.

I didn’t just teach in Davao Christian, I learn a lot also. I learn to set aside my own struggles to become a father or brother figure for them to feel secure and offer myself to be someone they can depend. I learn to believe in myself and appreciate more my potentials and stretch them in order to teach them better. I am awed and inspired by their brilliance and kindness. I enjoyed lots of things which I didn’t enjoy when I was still young.

It’s not easy to move on because as I simply sit here and stare at the green foliage outside the office, I am thinking of my students. Do they learn well and have fun in economics? Do they learn to appreciate the Philippines now? As I spend my days idly sometimes, I am thinking of the people out there wishing for my presence and eager to learn from me. (Don’t call me “pamati” because I still receive text messages, PMs and wall posts from them asking me to go back and teach. It’s heartwarming guys). Despite the hardships of handling their behaviors, I still miss their company. Despite of all my confusions, somehow I find my place under the sun there. I can feel the worth of my existence. And I think if you find your purpose, no amount of money can equal that gratitude.

Am I going to move on and reach my own dreams or am I going to help others reach their dreams?


Because I am caught in between.

“Lord God, today I commit to you my present location and situation. May you guide throughout this life to just be where You want me to be, as I seek to do Your will. You are my dwelling place and I rest under the shadow of Your wings.”

Psalms 37:5; Deuteronomy 1:33

Salamat sa lahat-lahat DCHS people. True enough "I spent the best years in my life here."

Confession 101: I Have a Dream (Part 3 of 4)

Reaching late twenties, your priorities will start to change. You will have to choose what really matters to you because obviously, you cannot have it all. In my case, I want to pursue things which help me to become a better teacher. Teaching economics would be very difficult if we are going to discuss theories alone. We should put its relevance to the real world and forget the assumption: ceteris paribus or everything else remains constant. To teach is still the greatest goal in my life. And for me to become a better social science teacher, I have to expose myself to the realities outside the four corners of the classroom. I have to undertake jobs which will equip me to become an expert economist. Ambitious as it is but that’s my dream. My simple dream.

It all started when I was in college. Coming from a poor family, I never had a chance to study at my dream school taking up the course which I really want (I was admitted at UPLB for BS in Agricultural Economics program). So I ended up studying at the University of Southeastern Philippines (USeP) Tagum Campus taking up Agricultural Engineering since that’s the nearest school where my family can afford to send me. I really don’t have interest with that course and I can’t really see myself to become an Agricultural Engineer working in whatever company maybe!

I can still remember the moment which I consider the turning point of my life. The moment when I decided to become a teacher. In our sociology class back then at USEP Tagum when I was in second year, listening to Prof. Cenabre who eloquently explained about the relationship of man and the society, I said to my self, “That’s the thing I want to do. To teach about society”. I want to talk about the society and have better understanding about it. At the same time I want to include Math in it because I just love Math. Economics is the perfect field for that. I started to write at the schools in Mindanao which offer economics. Little did I know that USeP Obrero Campus offers excellent undergraduate and graduate economics courses. I started skipping my calculus and physics classes also. Instead of listening to my professors, you can find me at the library reading economics books, newspapers and magazines and checking the stock market (though I didn’t fully understand how it works that time). My grades in our quizzes and exams started to miss the passing mark which previously (dili sa panghinambog) were usually perfect scores. And I really failed in those subjects. It took lots of courage for me to tell my brothers and sisters and my parents about my decision in shifting to other course and transferring to other school. Huh! How can I still afford to transfer where in fact we can barely sustain ourselves in USeP Tagum? But I took the risks. Guys, it was not easy to go to the city and live there with ample funds. Trust me. It’s not a joke. I’m so thankful to the Lord that He has given me that chance to pursue things which I really want. By the way, I took summer classes to pass Physics and Integral Calculus since they are required subjects in Economics.

And there I was, able to finish my dream degree in Economics in a good school (sa econ lang ha). And when DCHS considered me as a qualified teacher in econ, I enjoyed thoroughly my job. I am currently taking my master’s degree in Econ. Honestly, I still have plans to earn PhD degree in economics with concentration in Development Economics. I just love discussing about society and find ways to make it better. I think that’s my own way of helping the country; to generate ideas and to conduct studies which will further the basis for economic policies.

I want to earn my Ph.D. degree in a good university outside the Philippines. This is to have better academic training for me to become a better academician also here in our country. I just can’t afford to finance my post graduate studies on my own in the future since the universities which offer this program are very expensive. Scholarship is the answer and usually these scholarships are being offered to individuals from developing countries like the Philippines with experiences in government service, have teaching experience in college at least for two years, or must have economic research related jobs. And I am so sorry I can’t do it when I continue to stay in Davao Christian. Even right now, there are scholarships offered to me for short courses in economics in Europe but I am not qualified since I don’t have enough exposure to public service.

Right now, working with the Department of Science and Technology as Science Aide where I prepare project proposals, monitors the projects being implemented by the agency, making activity designs for seminars and trainings and facilitate them, is already a good start. This is a good stepping stone for me to be hired in local and international organizations like United Nations Development Program, the World Bank and the like which focus on doing interventions for economic development of countries. God willing, those experiences hopefully will equip me to become an economics professor in the future.

So that’s why I left Davao Christian to pave way for my dream of becoming a professor in economics someday. And what’s the problem with that? It seems a good idea. It may seem so good but I undergo difficult process right now. Why? That’s the last part (4 of 4) of these confessions.

Confession 101: I Became Unbecoming (Part 2 of 4)

Of course, it’s not totally a comfortable life in DCHS. I did not sit in the clouds of glory in that school. Teaching high schoolers is a tough job. You are not going to focus on teaching your subject matter alone but more importantly in molding their personality. You have to influence them to become useful individuals in the society and that is too difficult because you as a teacher has your own limitations. Teachers are expected to be role models. That’s the toughest part of being a teacher. It’s seems that you are not allowed to commit a single mistake.

Virtues in life should be influenced. It’s not as simple as saying “you have to do this and do that” but by showing it to them through your actions. And you cannot simply convince them about your ideals, about what they should do because they have different personalities, different views over things, and different family backgrounds. Each one of them is unique and so must handle them with care.

But as I have said, we teachers too have limitations.

There are instances that I just wonder what did do to them why they treat me that way? Sometimes (or oftentimes?) being bullied. Am I a nonrespectable person? Am I a boring teacher? Or probably I simply suck!

The worst experience happened during the second school year of my stay Davao Christian. When I was about to start my class in Econ and this fourth year guy with a plastic gun in his hand would like to shoot me and shout some funny and insulting words at me which made the whole class burst into laughter. I don’t know how to react at that moment until one student cried in defense of me. (Gwen, thank you much for saving me. I won’t forget that for the rest of my life). It was totally demoralizing but I have to bear with it because I am a teacher and instances like that is part of my job.

Classes sometimes are so rowdy. It seems that they don’t feel the presence of a teacher at all in the classroom. It’s very painful seeing those scattered activity sheets where it took you hours to prepare and longer hours to check. And during quizzes or exams, they will ask you again for another sheet as if nothing happened. The most painful part is when they don’t listen to your discussions and showed some negligence in your subject. Somehow it makes you think that they don’t give a damn with your efforts.

Teachers are teachers. We are supposed to teach, not to entertain. Students often complain a lot about the tasks given to them. Students must do their part also to achieve good results. Learning is like a dance. It takes two to tango. Teachers cannot totally or simply give you good grades. You have to work for it. You have to do your part also as a learner.

In an era where freedom is sometimes misunderstood, it’s a challenge already to instill something what is the norm and what is not. For the first place, you may also wonder what is the basis of that? Of considering an action a norm or not?

During our time, when the teacher will just mention your name because you’re noisy or you did something silly, it feels like you’re face is being splashed by cold water and you want to melt right there because it’s too shameful to be reprimanded in front of the class. You just want to teleport or sublime and be gone in front of the crowd who pity you. But today, things are different. When you scold a student because what he/she did is wrong, he/she will just give you an insulting grin in his/her face. As if they’re telling you “Hei, are you done and can I go back to my business?” I just wish that students should have that sense of responsibility of respecting the person next to them especially their teachers.

It’s not my choice to be born with this annoying black thing in my face (it’s in our genes). And almost everybody would like to make fun out of it. Yeah, it’s not a big deal. It’s not that I’ve gotten numb to it all, I just probably was able to stretch my patience. I can handle it but just like a rubber band, my patience has limitation also. It has been stretched to its maximum level.

Sometimes , I question their sincerity. But I tried to understand that because they are just high schoolers. Part of growing maybe. There was one school year that during our last meeting, I even waved my middle finger in front of them as a sign of my disgust. During my last year in the school, I learn to throw eraser to those students who would not listen. Bring “arnis” sticks to scold those who misbehave. Well, I was just hit rock bottom.

Yeah, I became unbecoming as a teacher so I decided stop and regain some strength and enlightenment. I should set good example so as I have said; I wasn’t able to handle it well. I still wanted to teach but I’m afraid I may influence them in a negative way. I don’t think you would love seeing your teacher being mad everyday, saying foul words just to caught your attention, or even do some physical punishment. I’m afraid I would become like that.

Note: Hindi ako galit. Just airing out what I feel. Don't apologize here. I would appreciate if you are going to show some respect and kindness to whoever your teachers are. I still miss Davao Christian despite all of these.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Confession 101: I miss DCHS (Part 1 of 4)

OK, I must admit I miss Davao Christian. I miss my students. I miss teaching. I miss my wonderful colleagues. I miss Davao. I miss the hustle and bustle DCHS life.

What prompted me to leave Davao Christian was that I abused myself too much. Yes. It’s me. It’s not them. The problem is me. I wasn’t able to handle things well as they should have. To give you an idea about how I live my life back in the city: during weekdays time-in in school is 7:10 but usually I arrived past eight in the morning. I will facilitate classes in different subjects. Check papers, reading at the library, and prepare for my class. In the afternoon, I teach Philippine history to freshmen and economics to the seniors. At 5:00 PM time to have bonding moments with students at the basketball court/canteen/library or have some chit chat with my fellow teachers. 5:30 Math tutorials to sophomores until past 6 o’clock. 6:00 to 7:00 PM some rest and internet. In my last year in DCHS, I had special session at past 7:00 PM until 10:00 pm. At 10 PM, time go home and read some stuffs or simply fall asleep because I’m tired. By the way, one of my weaknesses is my health condition; I easily get tired and easily get sick. During weekends, I attend a graduate school. These somehow are mind boggling sessions but I love it. (It’s a struggle to have discussion with my professors and when I go back to my classroom, I just have a pint of the concept to teach because they are just high schoolers. I even find my econ class too technical. I should have had made it easier). After my classes at SAEc, I have to go home in Tagum to spend some time with my parents and siblings and nephews and niece. Monday early morning, go back to Davao and work. I wasn’t able to give time for my spiritual growth on weekends.

So that’s it. I just miss that lifestyle. I miss facilitating different subjects. My favorite is Desi’s Physics class. Had no chance to faci all subjects within my four-year stay in Davao Christian. I miss talking to students and having usual conversations especially when they confess to me their crushes at school (Thanks for the trust). Hmmnnn… kilig moments for typical high schoolers. Sometimes, students will approach you just to share something about their struggles at home; about on how biased (as they see it) their parents and guardian are towards them; about why people don’t understand the way they are and the worse thing is to compare them to other people; about their struggles in meeting the expectations of the people around them. High school years indeed are wandering years of one’s life. You start to question lots of things about yourself, about life as a whole.

I miss teaching. I think this is the one thing I want to do for the rest of my life; to share my knowledge, to teach them appreciate the beauty and richness of the Philippines and what can we do about it; to open their minds about the importance of economics and how challenging it is; to influence one’s life, to help other people appreciate the beauty of life, to mold young minds and help them realize about the complexities of life. I love to teach almost everything under the sun. (Hmmnn… I become an annoying know-it-all person already). I know I want to be a teacher. I reached four years teaching at Davao Christian partly because of the challenging students I had. It’s even more noteworthy to teach if you have brilliant students like Raphael Go, Marlu Te, Sharmaine Mamaed, Gio Yenco, Kristofer Li, Lian Sta. Maria, Gary Aquino and so many more (so sorry I cannot enumerate everyone… I have high regards to all of you). You have to be equipped when you get inside the classroom and face those 40 curious minds in front of you. Be prepared because out of nowhere they will ask you questions which you might not expect from 12, 13, 14, 15 or 16 years old students. But what’s more rewarding are those students who are very humble and kind. Respectful and obedient. Well-mannered students like Issa So, Justin Ng, Jan Robert Chua, Nathalie Vanya King, Karen Dalapo, Gabriel Tay, Gianelle Yenco and numerous others (again, so sorry I cannot enumerate everyone… I have high regards to all of you). I really appreciate your respect and kindness to me. May God will bless you more.

Bonus experience would be the times when we go out of the school and spend some quality time together. Staying overnight at the beach, or at their posh houses, swimming at their own wave pool, playing bowling, dining out together and my favorite: watching movies together. Thanks a lot also for the people who invited me to be part of their splendid birthday parties.

I miss my wonderful colleagues. It would be very difficult to find another group of people as real and as nice as the faculty of DCHS. The students should be thankful to have teachers like them. I’m thankful that I met Jocy So-Yeung, Desi Magnaye, Elizabeth Juezan, Brian Lopez, Leolyn Jugador, Glema Dizon, John Chavez, Relyn VillapaÑa, Dexter and Sashi, Grace & Mel Basilio, Mam Gina, at marami pang iba (again, so sorry I cannot enumerate everyone). They are very kind and supportive. I’m so thankful that Ma’am Jocy was my coordinator because she helped me a lot cope with my teaching strategies. She never fails to give appreciation and constructive criticisms with my work. One-of-a-kind Desi Magnaye for his generosity and a listening ear. Mam Glema for the trust and support. Mam Grace for the understanding and influence to work beyond my limits. Hahahaha… Mam Leo, a true Mommy. Mam J for believing in me and for her motherly insights about my life. Sir Brian for being a good teacher and company. (Baka magalit yung iba na hindi na-mention, on-the-spot po ito…no review and editing. Pasensya na kung nakalimutan mamention.) The trips together and the simple quality time at the faculty office and at the coffee shops made my stay in Davao Christian a positive experience.

I miss the school itself. The structures. The air-conditioned classrooms. The AVR and the Auditorium. The canteen. The basketball court. And my favorite: The LIBRARY.

But the best things in life are not meant to last forever so we must learn to live and let go.

Monday, May 16, 2011

A country you must explore...and did I hear myself say fall in love too?

My teachers probably had inculcated a deep sense of nationalism in me or probably with those great Filipinos I read about and even met. I don't know why I love this country so much and I must say...the Philippines is indeed a beautiful country. The Pearl of the Orient they say and I couldn't agree more.

I must say that I am fortunate enough to travel some parts of the Philippines since high school. Most of my travels are co-sponsored so less expenditure in my side (besides I can't really afford to travel on my own expenses considering my family's financial status) and yet very rewarding and even more than that. God loves me so much because He gave me opportunities to enjoy His creations even here in our country.

Before, I would be so happy if I can talk to a foreigner. I would be so glad knowing that there are people from other parts of the globe who appreciate our country. I wonder why we Filipinos do not have that much interest in our own land where in fact the Philippines is such an awesome country to explore. It is because what we usually hear, read, and watch about our country are negative things. It has been twice that I was reprimanded by my European friends about why Filipinos prefer to put into the news negative (sometimes frustrating SHALLOW events) than exposing what is something good happening in our country. I was ashamed but I continue to love this country and hoping that someday things will get better.

Going back about exploring the Philippines, there's lot... lot... lot of places to discover in this archipelago which is composed not only hundreds of islands but thousands. From small and astonishing vanishing islands to majestic mountain ranges. Last month, my college friends and I visited the province of Surigao and you will be awed by the wonders of natures there. From crystal clear blue waters of Enchanted River (which is literally enchanted for me) to the magnificent Tinuy-an falls. Only God can create such marvelous nature formations. Today with my teacher friends, I am enjoying the cool waters and idyllic island of Siquijor. Every destination has really something to offer that suits your needs in a vacation...adventure, sight seeing, meeting strangers, meditating or simply unwind from stressful city life.

All we have to do is letting ourselves lost in some places and discover that after all, this country is worth living in.. :-)