Friday, January 18, 2008

Little Tom (Story of My Student)

Remembering the time that I spent teaching in an exclusive Catholic school for boys filled my heart with nostalgia. Everyday I spent with my pupils had something special that made me smile whenever I think about it.

I had my share with frustrations too but most of the days were spent laughing and learning with my young gentlemen. Moments I had with them are comparable to thousand unique stories.

Contrary to common belief, teachers are not the only ones who impart knowledge to their pupils. Most of the times, these children left a mark to the lives of their educators that makes them stronger, knowledgeable and wiser as they get older in their profession.

Tom was one of those pupils who had an impact in my life. He was my pupil last year and he has something with him that made me beam with joy whenever he crossed my mind.

Tom is a son of a doctor and grew up in a well-off family. He's witty and has a sense of humor. He could make me burst out laughing out in a blue with innocent ideas he would utter.

At the end of my morning classes, I would usually end up sitting so tired in front of the classroom while watching them clean. Long before his classmates were gone to eat their lunch, he would remain in the room checking the chairs if they're properly aligned and if the floor was shiny already.

It was funny watching him scrutinizing every part of the classroom. I would often ask him to go home already but he would tell me, "Wait Teacher..." or other times, "Later Teacher...".

He never got tired doing that routine every single day. I would just shake my head in disbelief that Tom grew up with a helper yet he was doing chores that other pupils would normally complain.

Another admirable quality of Tom was sharing whatever he had. He's one of the most generous boys in the class and sacrificed his allowance many times to give more for the Mission Fund Drive which was a big help for priests and missionaries being sent in far-flung places.

Tom was also a very sweet boy. Whenever I would be in a bad mood because of some classroom violations, he would look at me with that alluring eyes enough to melt my heart. It was a silent appeal to forgive them and of course I would end up with that smile again on my face.

More than these qualities that made that boy special was the concern he showed me many times when I got sick. He would ask me endlessly what happened to me and why I wasn't around for several days.

Furthermore, whenever his classmates would do some naughty things and I was reprimanding them he would just shake his head looking disappointingly to the "culprit".

Tom had endless questions about many things. Perhaps it could be attributed to the fact that he's fond of reading (Hardy Boys and Harry Potter fanatic) so he had always that thirst to find out something new. He's fluent too in English and could talk to me without batting an eyelash.

It's a regret though I couldn't make it when he invited me to be his godmother in their confirmation.

Oh, did I mention about his special skill? He can read words backward! Yeah, he could do it so fast I guess he deserved to be included in the Guinness Book of World Records, right Tom? Who knows this story might be the starting point of you being famous? The Little Backward Reader...

Keep that good heart and innocent smile Tom!

(Tom, thanks for lazy afternoon chatting wherein you amused me many times with latest stories about your classmates. It somehow helped me eased that feeling of terrible loneliness for the first few months I wasn't teaching. I did promise to make you a story, right? So, here it is. Tell your classmates not to be jealous. They'll be the next. Good luck to high school life!)

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Thursday, January 17, 2008

Things Most People Don't Know About Sacrifices of OFW

The beauty of sacrifice lies with the purity of intention...

Take for instance an innocent little girl who shared her food to a beggar, a mother who gave up her career to take care of the kids, a father who worked hard to provide a decent living for a family...when they gave up something, they listened to what their hearts were saying.

Perhaps one of the most ignored sacrifice was that made of OFW's. or the Overseas Filipino Workers. For they did not only leave their family and friends behind but they also lost a big part of themselves.

In exchange of material things are usually pain with many obstacles that they need to surpass in order to provide the needs of their families. They staggered to get through hindrances alone and far from the comfort of their love ones.

More than the emotional setbacks that usually come with settling jobs abroad are endless problems that seem to continuously obstruct the bright future they promised to their family.

A mother or a father would often go home after years of hard work with strange children. After giving the latest model of cell phones, computer, playstation and other material things, the kids would disappointingly say, "They are not enough..."

Some do not only lose love but life as well. Their family welcome in the airport lifeless body and fallen dreams or at times it would be the other way around. They would come home only to find out that they do not get a chance to say goodbye to their loved ones.

A teacher who decided to chase greener pasture in a foreign land ended up staring out of the windows of the classroom with tears in her eyes amidst the curious stares of her pupils. A nurse whose baby she left behind under the care of a stranger would be filled with unbearable sadness after hours of taking care of people she doesn't even know. A helper would often end her day weary with whole day's work but mind is back home thousand miles away...and many more excruciating pain experienced by what we call in our country "modern day heroes".

Most of the times, dreams turned into nightmares when family fall apart because of distance. Years of sacrifice ended up horribly- broken family, goals shattered.

Definitely, one of the most agonizing situation would that be coming face to face with accusations from your own family that you're not "helping enough." Or worst when your own family do not even find ways to appreciate your efforts. It hurts more than what they say.

Undeniably, OFW's tend to answer most of the financial needs of the family. They pay long list of bills one could ever imagined. In addition to that, the family get to enjoy material things which are fruit of hard labor.

However, the beauty of sacrifice made by the Philippines' modern day heroes are not just providing financially but that selfless aspiration to provide the best future for their family.

Notwithstanding the trials and tribulations that block their ways, they continue to work to uplift the life of the people who are very important in their lives- yet at times ignored that selfless sacrifice.

We call them our modern day heroes, but among all the heroes theirs is the hardest sacrifice- that big part of their hearts repeatedly wounded with sorrows by the family they left behind.

With the absence of the warmth of embrace from their love ones, they sleep with tears in their eyes...unappreciated, broken hearted, many times do they need to experience sorrow?

Theirs is the ultimate sacrifice of love. Don't they deserve the same love too?

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The Boy Who Changed My life

Eyes filled with unfathomable sadness greeted me in the room. The boy's eyelids were dropped as if he was ready to burst out sobbing anytime. His face was like of an angel-a lost angel.

Early that morning, I was informed that I would conduct an oral exam to an eleven-year-old boy, Craig, who was a transferee from another country. He was born and raised by Filipino parents in United States and his parents decided to make him experience the Filipino culture by studying in the Philippines even just for a year.

Craig made me realized a lot of things. First is to live a life of acceptance despite of frustrations. I knew that even with the difficulties he went through, he would treasure the times he spent here in the Philippines because he learned a lot of things.

It was a difficult situation because the boy was not informed prior to his coming in the country about it. He thought he would just be in a vacation.

The oral exam did not go well as expected. Craig could hardly look at my eyes and he would mumble words as if not really interested in answering. After about five minutes, I realized that he would not go out of his shell. He did not like the place and worst, he did not like to study in the Philippines. Forcing him to answer my questions would be futile and clearly a waste of time.

I tried to steer our conversation about the places he visited in the Philippines but still he clammed up. All I could remember to his answers were, "I don't know", "maybe", "I forgot", "I want to go home," it was the most difficult conversation I ever had in my whole life. I knew that he had a clear idea what was about to happen in his life.

All I wanted to do that time was to hug him and let him know everything would be alright. But, I did not think he would appreciate it because he grew up in a different culture. I tapped his shoulders instead and allowed that touch to communicate my empathy.

The next day, Craig entered my class. Curious faces of other 11-year-old kids welcomed him. He was looking at the floor the whole time and I was not able to convince him to introduce himself in front of his classmates.

The following days proved to be the toughest in his life. For a boy who spent most of his life in another country, language was the biggest barrier. Though most of his classmates could speak English, understanding his accent was another thing. I tried to design some ways to make it easier for him but it was not simple. Craig was in misery barely a week that he was in school.

How do you understand Tagalog language if your language since birth was English? His biggest difficulty was understanding subjects taught in Filipino.

The first time I tutored him was like talking to a person thousand miles away. When I suddenly mentioned about his family, his face lit up and for the first time talked to me with eye contact. Craig showed to me the photos of his sister, his mom, his dad and his pet. Then he launched into incessant babbling about his friends, home and school.

We had regular tutorial sessions in my place during weekends and every time we do so, I would observe a more relax Craig. There was this gazebo at the back of our home and that's where we usually study. He fed chickens watched fish in the pond while we were studying.

Break time meant eating his favorite pizza and lasagna and playing with Mico (my dog). It seemed that after several weeks of being in difficulty, the boy finally accepted his new environment. We worked on his difficulties and slowly, he gained confidence. In doing so, he finally had new friends.

Craig loved telling stories and he would go on chattering about them every time he would come to my place for our tutorial. When his mom visited him for the first time that year, he talked endlessly about it.

But when his mom left, he was devastated again. He returned to his hard shell. He told me that his mom gave him some dollars and he's going to save it to buy ticket going back to U.S. There was this strong conviction the way he said it.

Craig made me realized a lot of things. First is to live a life of acceptance despite of frustrations. I knew that even with the difficulties he went through, he would treasure the times he spent here in the Philippines because he learned a lot of things.

He's one of my most unforgettable pupils because he made my first year as a teacher special in many ways. Every time I would look at those innocent eyes, my heart was filled with love for a boy who surpassed an ordeal at an early age.

The last time I saw him was during his sixth grade graduation day. He was extremely different from that boy I first met. Happiness and contentment were etched on his face while standing confidently surrounded by his friends.

Goodbyes were not easy but I said mine to my "lost angel" with glee because finally he realized he's home where he would be cradled with love.

“[Kids] don't remember what you try to teach them. They remember what you are.”

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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The Problem with People

Endless sneezing and it was disgusting!

You see, I was out this afternoon to buy my medicines when I had this horrible experience with the most terrible problem in our country, what else? You got it right! Pollution!

Ending? My allergy attacked again! I need additional medicine!

As the black smoke from the tricycle clogged my nose with foreign matter, it made me wish I just stayed inside the house or I brought with me my surgical mask to protect my body from the invasion of killer smoke.

I don't really like to go through the sordid details of how bad the problem in pollution is in our country. After all, my morning started in quite "mystifying scent" where I see and smell only the beauty of everything around me.

Another thing, the town where I live now is far cry from other cities of the country. This is where you can still breath fresh air and lost yourself to the tranquil humming of trees and singing of the birds. So pollution is not really much of a problem.

What happened then this afternoon? Simple, irresponsibility.

The black smoke that has been showered to me could have been avoided if only the driver did his share. Maintaining properly his tricycle would mean a big difference.

Is that too much? Maybe if only the trees and animals could talk, I'm sure they would have the same plea. Add to that the mountains, the rivers, the lakes… believe me, they're crying the same thing.

I got the plate number of that tricycle. It would give me next time an early caution to brace myself, cover my nose, and run for my safety.

Monday, January 14, 2008

One Blessed Day

I woke up that day bathed with sunlight piercing through the blinds of the windows. I stared at the two angels sleeping peacefully in my two sides and hugging me tightly, Trisha and Shayne, my nieces who were entrusted under my care by their parents.

Their faces have that hint of smiles as if they were being lulled into the dreamy wonderland by unknown cherubs. Beautiful feelings embraced my heart.

Later that morning, as I was walking in the yard I smelled the sweet fragrant of the flowers. Some just opened their buds. Yellow, red, pink flowers and green leaves adorned what was once a vacant lot. What a beautiful sight!

As I sat on the grass still wet with morning dew calmness engulfed me. It felt like heaven.

I looked up at the white skies and I could feel a bright promise for my future. It was an amazing sight with flock of birds flying in harmony. As if an unknown melody beckoned them to fly in one direction only.

Then my gaze turned to a tiny spider working on its web. Slowly, he was able to complete it. It was a marvelous vista! One that won't equal to the most beautiful computer graphics ever created. A tiny being building something for its survival. Can't it be an inspiration to all of us?

The ants caught my full attention, too. They were awe- inspiring with their endless pursuit of hard work. Each one a part of the completion of the task. One that signifies not only industriousness but also unity.

I walked farther in the village. I was momentarily taken aback with mother animals protecting and taking care of their young. I was touched beyond details. What a mother wouldn't do for her kids!

The day ended so fast. I couldn't get enough of appreciating the panorama of wonders around me. The sun set came and darkness surrounded my silent reverie but not before I had a final glance to the turbulent shower of red, blue and black skies. It was simply magnificent!

As I tucked in the two kids that night to sleep, I uttered a silent prayer. A gratefulness from the bottom of my heart... for that one blessed day...

My Daily Prayer

"Lord, thank you for bathing me in another dawn of a blessed day. May I have today a grateful heart to value the wonders of the world you've created for us. May I also find the humility to pause for a moment and be appreciative of the things that won't equal to material things offered by the fancy world I live in. May I continue to grow in accordance with what you planned me to be, not to shrink to the ground but to soar high like an eagle."

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