Xavier

(Catching up)

This school has been my second home for the past 12 years. I’ve switched campuses, but the community spirit and drive for excellence remain the same. I am thankful for this school because of all the lessons I learned and all the opportunities I have been given to grow as a person and as an educator.

I enter this new school year with apprehension because I’ll be handling a new grade level alone. Again. It seems like I’ve been on my own for the most part of my stay in the new campus. I do have direct supervisors, but as the only senior teacher in the department, they pretty much leave me alone to my devices so that they can focus on the new members of the team. I love the independence and trust they give me, but I hate having to grope in the dark most of the time. 

What did I learn from this? 

Trust. Perseverance.

Gratitude list

  • Xavier School San Juan
  • Xavier School Nuvali
  • St. Francis Xavier

L

I’ll just do a gratitude list because today is full of L words.

  • Lakad: Filipino for the word “walk,” lakad can also mean a trip out of the house to meet with friends or do errands. Today I had to go do errands and am thankful to be able to do so with the company of a close friend who’s moving into our village soon. She had errands for their house and I had errands for our car so we accompanied each other to our lakad. I don’t usually get to hang out with friends anymore especially this summer break, so this impromptu lakad was a blessing even though it was full of errands. The best part was when we decided to visit another good friend in a neighboring village for late afternoon snacks and ice cream. Perfect day is perfect. ūüôā
  • Love: My friend was talking about her new life as a married woman during our errands, and she was saying that it was so hard for her to understand her husband’s work because it forces him to stay at work until midnight. His work in a local candidate’s campaign keeps him busy, and while she understands that the campaign work was only temporary, she can’t help but worry when he isn’t home by 9pm. I realized that this girl–my friend–was sticking with her husband not because they’re already married and there’s no way out (no divorce in this country) but because of her love for him. They’ve had similar problems before and some which have caused her to cry buckets and buckets of tears, but through those oceans of tears she never once thought of leaving him. That to me was and is inspiring, and it reminds me that great love is also great work.
  • Laguna: I live in a province called Laguna, an hour south of Metro Manila. When my parents told us that we would be moving away from the city and into the province, I was heartbroken. I had already established close-knit relationships with friends and neighbors, and the thought of leaving was too much. I cried when our car pulled out of the garage one last time. Now, however, as I was doing my errands, I can’t help but say a silent prayer of thanks because my parents decided to move the family here. There’s traffic, yes, but nothing like the one in the metro. There are cars and commercial buildings as the province is slowly becoming more urbanized, but almost 20 years later the fields still outnumber the buildings here. I am grateful for the convenience of the newly opened malls, but I am also grateful for the fresh air and the kind locals. Even the migrants like myself have imbibed the ways of the people here. The villages are quiet, there are no loud videoke concerts in the middle of the night, and people are in bed by 9pm. The life here is both ideal and idyllic. As my colleague says, “I’m so glad I moved to Vacationland!”
  • LA Lakers: I’m no basketball fan, but even I know of Kobe’s achievements and contributions to the sport. I am thankful to the Lakers for taking care of Kobe and giving him opportunities to shine and show the world how the sport is also an art.
  • Line: This refers to the mobile chat platform. Similar to Viber but less annoying, Line has allowed me to stay in touch with friends from all over the country and even the ones abroad. I don’t like Viber because the notifications are usually delayed, and sometimes the notifications only arrive when you open the app. Line is just so much better. Plus the stickers are also better in Line than in Viber.

Jumping jacks

On top of yoga, I do THIS workout, and I hate it. The only reason I haven’t quit yet is because I don’t quit easily.

It’s called the seven-minute workoit and it’s literally just seven minutes long. Tne first one is the jumping jacks. For thr past few days I’ve cheated because I don’t do the jumping part; I just do the arm raising part. Today I did the jumps and because I did this after yoga (focus on warrior poses–strenuous for the legs), my legs were ready to kill me. I have no idea why I even decided to do it after so many warrior poses.

In hindsight, I’m glad I did it just because.

 

I cheated at jumping jacks

 

Gratitude list

  • Jumping jacks
  • Joy: I’m counting the days to my next period using an app I just downloaded, and one of the things it asks me to input as part of its cycle analysis is my mood for the day. I realized that I only pay attention to my mood when I’m PMS, which in my dictionary stands for PLENTY of MOOD SWINGS. The app reminded me to keep track also of my happy or joyful moments, and this has helped me be grateful for each day. I end up reflecting if I were happy or joyful by recalling my day, and the brief reflection allows me to find something good within my day.
  • Juice: I’m no fan of juice, but sometimes it’s a welcome break from ice cold water on a hot summer day.

2015 in review

My favorite teacher, Rica Bolipata-Santos, posted this writing assignment on her FB account:

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Ma’am Rica said that it wasn’t really important to follow the number but that we should “Write [our] year, in honor and in supplication.”

So I choose to write my year in months, with these highlights and disappointments and game changers and things I focused on and forgot remembered in the order they happened.

Continue reading

Almost on break

I refer to the annual semestral break and not a personal one.

I sit at my desk with piles upon piles of papers surrounding me and I find it necessary now to just pause and sigh and write. All these students, eager to pass, eager to get a high grade, but neither understanding the text completely nor writing very well (“decent” is the best adjective I can give them) break my heart. I echo the perennial cry of teachers around the world, “WHERE HAVE I GONE WRONG?! WHAT AM I GOING TO DO WITH THESE KIDS?!”

And so I sit and listen to Beyoncé screech Love on Top and Mumford and Sons mumble and rage about white blank pages and love.

Ah, love.

I would like to believe that my heart has grown bigger, that I’ve learned to be more accepting of people no matter how disagreeable they may be to me. My dislike of certain people remains, but… I’m trying to be more… well. I’m just trying to be nicer and kinder.

Be kind. Everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.

Be kind when you’re working.

Be kind when you’re on break (academic or personal).

Be kind to your family.

Be kind to your enemy.

Be kind to that poor person knocking on your car window, asking for some change.

Be kind all the time.

Para kanino tumitibok ang puso mo?

Translation: For whom does your heart beat?

———————

Art by JJ Agcaoili

Art by JJ Agcaoili

Who was I kidding? Other people may have believed me, but the armor wasn’t there to protect my heart. It was there to keep people out. Who wants to let in the evil of the world? Who wants to let in scumbags and scoundrels? I had no time for those. My vision for myself was clear. IS clear. SAVE THE WORLD, ONE SHITTY BRAIN AT A TIME.

Oh, I know you want to protect me. But I can’t breathe in here,¬†cried my heart.

Shut up.

You ruin everything, you know. You make me cry when I should have a brave face on. When I should have a stern and scary face on. You make me weep.

Weeping makes me tired. If I’m tired, I can’t work.

But the tears cleanse you. They get rid of the bad stuff.

I.

AM.

EXHAUSTED.

FROM.

CRYING.

They don’t take me seriously. Not my bosses. Not my students. Not my friends. Why? I cry easily. When I’m mad, I cry. When I’m sad, I cry. When I’m happy, I cry.

ENOUGH ALREADY.

But look, you’re hurting now the more you keep me here.

I NEED TO WORK. STOP BUGGING ME. STOP IT.

I love you.

ST-

*sigh*

Who am I kidding?

Slowly, I unlock my heart, remove the armor, zip it wide open.

I love you.

I love you.

———————

Written as a response to a writing prompt posted by the artist mentioned above.

the original writing prompt

the original writing prompt

I don’t think the title and the piece have any obvious connections. I’m not quite sure I know, either, but it was the first thing that popped into my head when I read the prompt and saw the art. What came next was… a surprise to me. I haven’t written creatively in YEARS, and I’m not sure this qualifies as a poem or a short story, but it’s mine, and I’m iffy about this but… That’s all I can say.

Also, JJ said I can only use this in class if I post my own response to the prompt haha. ūüôā Thanks for the challenge, JJ. ūüôā

Hirap

hirap is Filipino for either “poor” or “difficulty,” so if you say that someone or something is¬†mahirap, you mean that someone is poor or that something is difficult.

Last Wednesday my colleagues and I were required to answer Pope Francis’s call to “go to the peripheries,” which, in our case, meant the Payatas community in Quezon City, around 2 to 3 hours north of my school.

I’ll be honest; I was scared. I have heard and read stories about how Payatas was just full of trash, and rightfully so, as it was one of the country’s landfills. There was a huge mountain of trash there, and people living near it either scavenged through the trash or had to live with the stench when the wind blew unfavorably.

Many of us were scared, but we gamely answered that call. The service interaction¬†was part of our annual spiritual growth activity. We’ve been on service interactions before, but it was our students who interacted with the less fortunate; we teachers merely supervised. This time, though, we were the ones who were required to interact. Needless to say, I found myself in my students’ shoes, full of apprehension and worry.

Soon, I realized I needn’t have worried because Payatas is AMAZING. Yes, it is not the cleanest place in the world, but the residents there do their best given the mountain of trash, which, honestly WAS NOWHERE VISIBLE FROM WHERE WE WERE. It was a good thirty minutes away from where our¬†bus dropped us off.

We broke off into groups upon arriving, and we played some games to break the ice. Then we were partnered off–one teacher with one Payatas mom. My partner, Ate* Vangie, and I took a ten minute tricycle ride to get to her house then had to walk for five more minutes through narrow¬†streets and unpaved alleys. When we got to her house, I saw that there was a small tindahan* or¬†sari-sari* store in front manned by her mom. Inside were two of her six children, Jed and Jenella, the latter a four year old who kept looking at me but wouldn’t talk to me.

The tiny house was cramped but clean. There was no untoward smell inside nor outside the house. There was food on the table.¬†Ate Vangie had gotten up at 3am that day (like she does every day) to prepare the meals for her family and the¬†lumpiang toge (Filipino version of spring rolls; filling is of mung bean sprouts) that she sells. She gave me the last two pieces in the store. I tried paying for it, but she wouldn’t let me. She was horrified. I felt ashamed.

Anyway, her¬†lumpiang toge was one of the best I’ve ever eaten. She mixed her own vinegar dipping sauce to go with it and the combo was just absolutely delicious. I was one of the lucky ones whose partner was able to serve food. The partners of my other colleagues didn’t have food at home and therefore were not able to serve food.

The food serving wasn’t our idea. In fact, we planned to be the ones to bring the food to them, but when they heard that we were to go to their houses to interact after the games, they insisted that they prepare for us. They wouldn’t hear of not being able to serve their guests even a simple meal. It just so happened that others had had a bad night with their husbands ¬†and therefore were not able to prepare anything.

The hospitality of our Payatas partners is legendary. Here were people who had next to nothing, who lived day to day worrying about what to serve their children or how to send their children to school, yet these people openly welcomed strangers into their homes without batting an eyelash. What they wanted? For people to listen to them and not judge them because they lived next to a dumpsite.

And you know what I realized?

I realized that these people were¬†mahirap not because of a LACK or because they were poor. ¬†Our partners were¬†mahirap¬†because they were having difficulty in achieving their goals. As my colleague astutely pointed out, WE were the ones who seemed to LACK because we were always looking for MORE. We were never content. Our partners’ common wish was for their children to finish their studies. It put OUR own wishes to shame for we wanted to travel the world or finish our own studies. Our partners thought nothing of themselves. They were always thinking of other people.¬†¬†My own partner did not complain about her status in life. All she kept saying was that she was proud of her children because they were doing well in school, and her eldest was a year from graduating college.

I’m crying now just thinking of my partner again.

took selfies with my groupmates, partner Ate Vangie, her daughter Jenella, and her mother

took selfies with my groupmates, partner Ate Vangie, her daughter Jenella, and her mother

I was wholly disturbed by the experience.

Filipinos are racist and discriminatory jerks, and the Payatas residents experience that regularly. We found out at the end of our interaction that whenever they try to apply for jobs, employers turn them away as soon as they find out that they are from Payatas. It is unfair because they want nothing more than an opportunity not even for themselves but an opportunity to help their families.

We all went back to work the next day crying during our debriefing/reflection and resolute in our desire to reach out to and help those in the peripheries.

This is not just a Catholic thing. Helping out is expected of any decent human being WHATEVER their belief.

We were disturbed. We were shaken. We will help.

———

*ate¬†(pronounced ah-teh) is an honorific that means “older sister.” also used as a sign of respect towards a slightly older female

*Tindahan means store.

*sari-sari means “many different things” or “variety”.¬†¬†Sari-sari¬†store is a small home-based store that sells a variety of goods that you might need at home such as a sachet of shampoo (if you’ve run out already and it’s not yet grocery day) or a pack of crackers or a loaf of bread or a bottle of soda, etc