I believe that two things characterize a great teacher: (1) knowledge and the capability to enhance and share this knowledge, and (2) love for one’s students. Some teachers begin their vocation with good communication skills and a good grasp of their areas, but with little real concern about their students. Over the years, however, true teachers eventually learn to love every individual who comes under their tutelage. Others begin with a genuine compassion for students, but with so meager an understanding of the true essence of their subject that they could not enable their students to comprehend it. Over the years, however, they become experts in their areas.
I belong to the first group: God has graciously gifted me with an aptitude for Computer Science and a facility for languages and communication. However, I am not, by nature, a selfless person. Having grown up with no playmates except my faithful dog and toys, I was very self-centered. When I began my vocation so many years ago, I didn’t really care about my students as long as I “did my job” of covering the syllabus and explaining things in an awe-inspiring manner. It took a while for me to start realizing that they have spirits as well as bodies, hearts as well as minds, strengths as well as weaknesses, sorrows as well as joys.
My journey towards love for my students started when I began to have a personal relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ in 1995 (in Japan, of all places, while I was studying for my PhD in Computer Science). One cannot have a growing personal relationship with God and not care about people, particularly those entrusted to one’s care. How can one love others unconditionally unless one has experienced, and continues to experience, the agape love of our Father in heaven?
Today, more than a year since I wrote that, I am so strongly aware of how the many responsibilities I have accepted have taken away from me the time I need to really get to know and care for my students. Mea máxima culpa. I will need to further hone my skills in saying “no”.
The 31st of December. It’s the day when we revisit all the previous days of the year. In this blog I revisit the top 5 happiest things that happened to me in 2010 as a way to thank God for all good things.
My Top 5 Happiest Happenings in 2010 (in chronological order)
1. PhD in Education
If I were to choose one word to describe my experiences so far as a PhD Education student, it would be: WONDERFUL. Literally full of wonder.
It is full of wonder because, firstly, I’m learning so many things about teaching from some of the best teachers of the university! For example, I learned the true essence of transformative learning as well as love for students from Sr. Teresa Yasa; I learned saintly reverence for and infinite kindness toward one’s students from Br. Ricky Laguda [Update: Br. Ricky Laguda would become the 22nd DLSU President in May, 2012, and the General Councilor for the Pacific-Asia Region in August, 2014]; and I learned masterful instructional planning (UbD-style) and execution from Sr. Joy Luz.
It it also full of wonder because I met several new friends who have either helped me in my need or who have invited me to be part of a very special event or concern in their lives. These include Doc Michie (the ELMD Chair when I joined the program during the third trimester of AY 2009-10); Fr. Dunstan, Chris, and Marivic (from the third trimester of AY 2009-10); and Frs. Richard and Revi (from the first term of AY 2010-11). The photo on the right is from the last meeting of my joy-filled HRM Master’s class with Sr. Teresa. (Thanks to Redg Quimno for the photo.)
2. International Lasallian University Leadership Congress
If I were to choose one word to describe my experiences in Rome and Assisi during the International Lasallian University Leadership Congress, it would be: SPIRITUAL.
It was spiritual because, firstly, it was only by divine appointment that I was able to participate in the congress. Had I been contacted just one day late (to be asked to join the original delegation), I would not have gotten my visa in time for the congress!
It was spiritual because, secondly, I got to know and spend time with the Brothers at the La Salle Generalate, including the very saintly Br. Alvaro Echeverria (Superior General), Br. David Hawke (General Councilor for the Pacific-Asia Region), Br. Robert Schieler (General Councilor for the North American Region) [Update: Br. Robert would be elected Superior General of the Brothers on May 20, 2014] and Br. Alberto Barruso (who gave us a beautiful tour of Rome by night; see photo on the right). We also got to hear around 10 Brothers speak on the most important aspects of Lasallian spirituality and education.
It was spiritual because, thirdly, I gained new friends, my interactions with whom have nurtured me spiritually, including all the Brothers above, Simon (a former Brother from Nairobi), Fr. Boni and Aldrin (from Manado), Fr. Rick (from Birmingham), and, of course, Richie and Cecille from the Dasmarinas campuses, my “partners in crime” (taking photos inside churches, pero discreetly naman).
It was spiritual because, fourthly, I was able to visit Assisi, where I got to see the Crucifix of San Damiano (which our Lord used to communicate to St. Francis his calling to rebuild the Church), the tomb of St. Francis (where I wept unexpectedly, I think because of the overwhelming sanctity of the place), and the Basilica of St. Francis, whose walls were filled with a cycle of 28 awesome frescoes on the life of St. Francis by Giotto and his students. In the photo on the right are the third, fourth, and fifth frescoes in the cycle, titled “Miracle of the Crucifix,” “Renunciation of Worldly Goods,” and “Dream of Innocent II” (in which Francis is holding up the falling church), respectively.
I absolutely love Gothic cathedrals and have visited most of the major ones in Europe, including those in Milan (the largest), Paris, Cologne, Salisbury, and Vienna, but it was only at St. Francis that I got to appreciate the true wonder of Gothic architecture: almost throughout the mass, my eyes were raised up to the heavens.
3. University Fellow
If I were to choose one word to describe my being elected by the University Fellows to be part of their Society, it is: APPRECIATED.
This award is probably the highest award given by DLSU to one of its faculty. Who would have thought I’d one day belong to the Society of Fellows? Proof that I never thought I’d qualify, let alone be elected into it (by the Fellows themselves), was that when Angelo Unite kindly asked me for my CV in 2009 because he wanted to nominate me, it was only in 2010 that I was able to give it to him.
What I truly appreciate about becoming a university fellow is not any benefits associated with the award but the fact that my colleagues in other colleges (my college had no fellows then) took notice of me and appreciated my work, despite my keeping a very low profile. In the photo on the right are the fellows who were able to make it to our Christmas dinner, which also turned out to be my welcome dinner (surprise!), with Brothers Jun Erguiza (DLSU President) and Ricky Laguda (DLSU Chancellor) [Update: Br. Ricky Laguda would become the 22nd DLSU President in May, 2012, and General Councilor for the Pacific-Asia Region in August, 2014.]
In the combo pic below, between the Brother Chancellor and the Vice-Chancellor for Academics, are my favorite high school math and science teachers – Ms. Carmen Cordero (Calculus) and Ms. Luz Jarumayan (Earth Science) – who inspired me not only with their knowledge and pedagogy but, most importantly, their spirituality and love. It was to them that I dedicated my University Fellow award during the July 2010 DLSU Faculty Recognition ceremony. I would not be who I am today without them. May there be more like them in schools throughout the land!
4. Metrobank Foundation Outstanding Teacher
If I were to choose one word to describe my winning the Metrobank Foundation Outstanding Teacher award, it is: AMAZING.
If becoming a University Fellow was something I never dreamed of, all the more was becoming a Metrobank Outstanding Teacher! By God’s grace (and only by God’s grace), I am not so bad anymore as a teacher, but neither do I consider myself outstanding. It is truly amazing how the Lord chooses the weak to confound the strong. God’s grace is truly amazing!
So, firstly, my winning the award despite what I said above is truly amazing. Up to now, I still can’t believe it!
Another amazing thing is that my mom and I got to shake hands with the fifteenth president of the Philippines, President Benigno Simeon Cojuangco Aquino III! I had to mention my mom because, of all the members of my family, Mom was P-Noy’s most avid fan! (Needless to say, she and I voted for him.) In the photo on the right are the President himself, with Metrobank Chair Dr. George S. K. Ty and Metrobank Foundation President Mr. Aniceto Sobrepeña. We weren’t allowed to take pictures at Malacañang, and the official photographer decided to exclude my family members from this photo, but I’m glad that the camera caught a glimpse of Mom smiling beatifically in her beautiful Filipiniana attire. Amazing!
Thirdly, the experience was amazing because I was so inspired by the remarkable stories of my fellow awardees (who are shown seated in the photo on the right, with all the kind officers and staff of the Metrobank Foundation behind us). I had extreme difficulty keeping my tears from falling while listening to their stories during a whole-day fellowship kindly organized by the Metrobank Foundation.
Another amazing thing was that, through the award money, I finally got to pay off my home (a two-bedroom condo with what is probably the best view of the Manila bay and skyline)! Thank God!
Finally, it was also amazing for me to meet the Brother Provincial, Br. Dodo Fernandez. Because I had to convey the formal letter of my award to the University President, but Br. Armin Luistro had already left for the DepEd, it was Br. Dodo who met me! I only spent a short while with him (half an hour, I think), but I was truly impressed by the kindness he radiated. [Update (Nov 9, 2011): Stumbled upon this short paragraph written about me by Br. Dodo. He is now the first Brother Visitor (head) of the Lasallian East Asia District.]
5. Road trip with my two buddies from first year high school
If I were to choose one word to describe my time with my buddies from first year high school, it would be: FUN.
Though I get to see my very good friend, Carlo (based in Jersey City), every year, it was only last July that my other good ol’ friend, Alex (based in Toronto) visited the Philippines after something like two decades! What a great time we had!
Alex stayed at my condo for a month. The three of us were all very glad that he remained virtuous throughout the time! 🙂 He also learned to sleep with the lights out, something that he wasn’t able to do since his mom passed away last year. He also helped me prepare for the Metrobank Foundation SOT semi-final judging.
The three of us took a road trip to Calatagan. It was not the best place in the world to visit, but we had the best time traveling to and from the said place and enjoying our friendship, which has spanned more than 3 decades! Unfortunately, there are no pics of the three of us together (how could we have forgotten that?), but here’s a combo pic:
I thank the Lord for an amazing 2010. Several sad things happened, too, but the Lord was with me through the good as well as the bad times. What a truly good God, Father, and Savior we have!
Thanks, too, to my families (see below) and to my spiritual parents in Japan, and all my spiritual brothers and sisters all over the world for their prayers and love.
As we celebrate World Teachers’ Day, I remember the week of August 31 – September 3, 2010, when 10 Filipino teachers, who were simply doing their best to love their students more and more, were recognized by the President of the Philippines (Aug. 31),
the Philippine Senate (Aug.31),
the House of Representatives (Sep. 1),
and, of course, the Metrobank Foundation and the Metrobank Group (Sep. 3).
I know that if it weren’t for the awesome transforming power of God’s love, I wouldn’t be the person I have learned, in the light of God’s grace, to actually love and be proud of.