“Showing our appreciation on World Teachers’ Day” in this week’s issue of the Manila Mail (Sept. 30-Oct. 6, 2015; page A5)

Pilipinasblitz Forever
A column by Bles Carmona

For the week of Sept 30-Oct 6, 2015

Showing our appreciation on World Teachers’ Day

Happy World Teachers’ Day! According to the Holiday Insights website, this special day is always celebrated on the 5th of October. If you could believe it, October 5 is also Do Something Nice Day. Yes! What an inspired pair of special days, huh? Doing something nice for someone else or for several persons almost always evokes a pleasant response: at the very least a smile and a “thanks” directed at you, and at the most you could inspire that person to do something nice for someone else, too. Watch what happens when you do something nice on October 5, but you get double the points if you do something nice for somebody every day, and triple the rewards when the recipient of your “nice” deed pays it forward to another person. Being “naughty” may give you a rakish image and temperament, but being “nice” is the goodness of heart that drives humanity to achieve its greatest feats of altruism and kindness.

Well, for my part in Do Something Nice Day, I decided that I will go back through my long-term memory files and recall the many teachers and mentors in my life. Before I get lost in memory lane later on, I would just like to say at the outset that I thank each of them for their guidance and inspiration. First off, there’s my kindergarten teacher at the Philippine Normal University (PNU), Mrs. Felisa Gamboa Tan, circa 1975-76. Because Mrs. Tan asked me from time to time to lead the class in singing or to make a list of the “noisy pupils” in class, at five years old I got of taste of how it was to lead. Through her tutelage, I felt the bursting elation of being able to read and write for the first time. Because we had recess (our favorite subject, what else?) and play time on the grounds, my classmates and I learned the rudiments of getting along with each other. I also remember Ms. Leonora Oriondo of III-Narra because she had faith in me even when I was a bit slow on the uptake in Math, which is what she happens to be teaching in third grade. Because she was willing to tutor me, I went on to become the Most Outstanding Student of the Math Club, of which she was the adviser.

After fourth grade at PNU, our family made a move to San Pedro, Laguna and so I had to transfer to San Pedro Elementary School (SPES), or what they called “Central.” My fifth grade teacher was Ms. Gloria Austria (now Mrs. Mendoza), an Aquarius who had very high standards in academics, behavior, and life in general. It became a challenge for me to impress her with what I can do. I was the academic #1 student who was also taking my turn selling Nutri-Buns, becoming assigned cleaner along with my group once a week, and winning a drawing or essay-writing contest or two. During my sixth and last grade (no, we didn’t have K-12 yet back then), my teacher was the equally “mataray” Mrs. Juliana Almeida, a Scorpio whose bark is worse than her bite and has a marshmallow heart underneath her temper and voice of steel. When I last visited SPES in 2008 – surprise! Mrs. Almeida is still there, faithfully teaching which is what she does best. She even told me that she read my Youngblood essay in the Philippine Daily Inquirer which is circa Dec. 1997 so she’s sort of updated at that time about my comings and goings thus far.

At the Manila Science High School, I can name some of my teachers and recall why it was pleasurable to learn from them. From my I-Lavoisier days, our class adviser Ms. Hermelinda Rodriguez teaches General Science. I presented my report on the phases of the Moon in class, and she asked me to share that paper with another section. That experience probably had something to do with my growing fascination for the astronomical and astrological facets of the Universe. In II-Dalton, our class adviser was Mrs. Ester Garcia who taught Statistics and Probability. She was so sweet and even-tempered. Another math teacher I had in 2nd year that I liked was Mrs. Juana “Jane” Geronimo, who showed me how math and words in the form of proof can make these abstract concepts more understandable. During 3rd year in III-Bohr, our class adviser was another sweet-tempered lady, Mrs. Libertad “Libby” Javier. She taught Pilipino, and we tackled Dr. Jose P. Rizal’s “Noli Me Tangere.” On the English subject side, our section’s teacher was Ms. Nilda Cas, whose penmanship was so remarkably arty. Ms. Cas asked us to break into groups, write a one-act play, and then stage it. Our group created the play “Chiaroscuro,” which further developed my interest in theater arts and writing. Ms. Mirasol De Silva, our adviser in IV-Copernicus, was my idea of a “dalagang Pilipina:” soft-spoken yet righteous in her manner and demeanor. We thought she would remain a “matandang dalaga” but we heard later on that she got married. She took us through a journey of mores via the Rizal novel “El Filibusterismo.”

In college at the University of the Philippines-Manila, one of our first teachers was Mrs. Tayag who was somehow related to Nilo Tayag from the ‘70s First Quarter Storm. We didn’t have the usual history textbook written by Gregorio Zaide. Instead we worked through the textbooks written by Renato Constantino, who had a leftist view of Philippine history. With our Humanities teacher of two years, Mr. Victorino “Ino” Manalo, the memory that stayed with me was our final exam-presentation. For our group, we had to dramatize the legend of the Holon volcano in T’boli, South Cotabato. I composed the lyrics and melody which, as I sang at the back of the room while playing my guitar, served as the narrative while my group mates did the acting onstage. After our number, there was spontaneous applause from our classmates and then Mr. Manalo focused everybody’s attention to me, and even now I could still remember the warmth I felt inside when my classmates looked at me and my guitar at the back of the room and then gave me a thunderous ovation. Another teacher I couldn’t forget was Marita Reyes, MD who at the time was the Dean of the University of the Philippines College of Medicine (UPCM). She was so approachable and down-to-earth, and during an interview with her for a forgotten class activity or project, “Tita Maritz” peopled my imagination with real stories of her dramatic encounters with patients, colleagues, and – get this – her first “medical” love, which turned out to be Biochemistry. She told me that the first time she heard a biochem lecture, her heart started palpitating with excitement, and right then and there, she decided that after she receives her medical degree, she will be a biochem teacher. She made good on her promise to herself and inspired my generation of medical students, circa late ‘80s.

I didn’t get to finish my medical degree, but I got a practical education along the way. I belong to a family of teachers, to all of whom I continue to be thankful. When I got to California in late 2004, another chapter opened up in my life as an astrologer and tarot card reader. Whenever I am giving a tarot reading, for example, THAT sends my heart pumping with joy and excitement because of the privilege I’m being given of helping another human being. To this end, I also would like to acknowledge two of my teachers in astrology: Ms. Jeanne Russo of Arizona, who tutored me as I took the Math correspondence course of the American Federation of Astrology (AFA) from 2005-07; and Ms. Linea Van Horn, who gave me an introduction to intermediate astrology and is one of my fairy godmothers in the San Francisco Bay Area. To all of you, my teachers, please accept my no-expiration thanks and appreciation!


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