Teacher’s Day: Viral PLM grad pens heartfelt letter for ‘unsung heroes’

Philippine Tribune
Philippine Tribune


MANILA, Philippines — It is the time of the year again for students to give thanks to their teachers. Special traditions such as giving cards, cake and tearful speeches to these wonderful pillars of society are customary this time around and the teachers definitely deserve to feel the love of students. Yet. I’d argue one day as a show of thanks is not enough to show appreciation for all the hard work that teachers do.

The tireless days even down to the lesson planning they do in what’s supposed to be their downtime are a labor of love. It’s also especially true that while it’s common for kids studying now to show love and appreciation, I think it’s more than worthwhile for even full-on adults, former students themselves who have already achieved success, to do so for our educators across the country. 

I have gone “viral” for a single act that I did when I was applying for college at the University of the Philippines. This happened again, four years later when this kid who stood outside UP’s admission office with the sign that said “Reconsider Me?” graduated Magna cum Laude at the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila. The story is sometimes a few paragraphs on paper or a few minutes on video, but it is a much longer journey than that. It is a story of how so many teachers came together to prepare me academically and to mold my character into who I am today.       

I’ve been told that I have been blessed and so lucky to have great teachers from a very young age. One of my pre-school teachers at Saint Helena School in Taguig was very dedicated to making sure we learned our ABCs. I remember Teacher Joy Daileg as someone who was always cheerful and animated in the classroom. Having a conducive and encouraging learning environment in pre-school is so important since children that age can be so chaotic and messy yet Teacher Joy did such a good job in preparing her students for the very long journey ahead as a student. As my English teacher and homeroom adviser in my elementary years, she was also very motherly and kind, the teacher that you can approach when you have a problem. 

Through the ‘Growing Pains’

I believe high school is such a formative time for a kid. So much of a mindset and worldview is built around that time and teachers play so much of a role in that. My high school years in Miraculous Medal School (MMS) were filled with mistakes and growing pains but the teachers there did such a good job in helping me and my friends work through them. 

I was student body president of my high school batch, and that added to the stress of a full academic schedule and my desire to excel in my studies. The close mentorship of Ms. Pacita Perucho is the one that always immediately comes to mind for me as she helped me with the responsibilities of being a student leader. 

I remember advisers like Ms. Gellie Lacatan, Ms. Julie Ann Rolloque and Sir Mark Ones doing such a good job of creating an environment where there was a lot of fun and teamwork to go around for my batch. MMS really had a lot of living legends for teachers as well. I recall fondly the stories of seniors about our Ms. Greta Guitibano who has been teaching there for almost 20 years. It takes a lot of dedication to be an educator, and to have this as a lifelong career makes me admire people like her more. Stories like theirs that echo through different batches of students who have already built their own families and careers, just shows what a good teacher can do to uplift a local community. 

Senior high school was still a new and unfamiliar program when I started studying at the University of Perpetual Help. There was a lot of figuring out if we were counted as still junior high schoolers or early college students. 

Nonetheless, our professors there did a great job in helping us transition into that awkward phase where we truly felt ready to excel in college by the end of it. I particularly have so many good memories of intense class discussions in our humanities and social science subjects with our adviser Sir Jason Ng along with Sir Jessie Rivera and Sir Alec Tobias. 

There were many awesome female teachers, too, like Ms. Michelle Panebe, Ms. Queenie Brocoy and Ms. Romiliyn Balbieran who were always great at keeping a classroom together. Even teachers whom I interacted with outside of the classroom in extracurricular activities were a joy to work with and learn from. My brief days of learning and performing in theater were so good and the trust that Ms. Diane Buenaobra had in me to learn how to act was a big part of that. It’s through teachers like Sir Gabb Fullon and his memes that also showed a more humorous side to educators especially those who were only a generation ahead of us. 

Learning at a higher level 

My college years at Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila (PLM) were where I truly felt the gravity of being a mature student, capable of focusing on learning high-level concepts. 

My professors throughout those four years definitely did such a great job in showcasing their expertise in the field of economics and translating it into a challenging but fair learning process. 

I regret that I was not able to meet and interact with them more in a traditional sense due to the challenges of the pandemic. The missed opportunities will always be something to wonder about, but for the situation we had, many professors in PLM rose up to the occasion to teach under the new normal as best as they can. A staple in our college life was the presence of our department head Mr. Romark Resuello who taught many subjects for different classes. 

A particularly noteworthy professor who stood out to us was our research teacher Dr. Michael Angelo Battung. His disability did not hinder at all his capability to be distinguished as an expert in research and his ability to teach us well on such a heavy and demanding subject. The fact that they and many other professors in PLM serve under a public system also goes a long way in highlighting the fact that they are passionate about helping the deserving and less privileged have an opportunity to experience quality education.

My first teacher 

Yet, like many of the life lessons I’ve learned, so much of them can be traced back to one special teacher. She’s the one who’s had the longest tenure in my life and continues to do so. I’ve been a student of my mother for the longest time from questions as a kid about why Spongebob is a sponge to what’s the best career move a fresh graduate can make. I believe she set the standards of what a good teacher can be in terms of understanding and the innate love necessary to impart valuable life lessons. She is my role model for grit and determination, for being kind, and for putting family first. 

It is no secret that we left an abusive situation, but she never crumbled under the immense pressure of raising the four of us by herself. She is also my inspiration for always being open to learn something new, even if it is something so challenging for her as learning to use the Excel program.  

Honoring educators

Being a teacher is more than just standing in front of a colorful classroom with a blackboard, eraser and chalk. A teacher is anyone with enough heart to pass down honest and authentic wisdom to make you feel a little less lost in life. 

There is such a wide range of teacher personalities in culture and across our lives. From Mister Miyagi from the “Karate Kid” films to the hard-hitting professors in the movie “Bar Boys,” they’re all extremely different in the way they teach but all carry an inner strength and dignity to accomplish their life mission. They all certainly have the passion not just for what they teach but also the importance of passing it down.

It is no hidden secret that teachers today are undervalued especially economically. There are many stories on social media about the frustrations of the educational sector today. These challenges can only grow even more as more and more students pursue their dreams of education. There is definitely so much work for us as a nation and it is frustrating that we have the potential to do more for our educators but we aren’t actively striving to do so.

So, to all the teachers inside and outside the classroom, I humbly thank you so much for doing what you do. It’s magic the way you can equip someone with the necessary tools to chase dreams bigger than themselves. I hope today is filled with lots of sincere speeches and chocolate cake for you. I also hope tomorrow gives you the due respect and compensation that you deserve. For all the Filipino students, my advice is to listen to your teacher, because they have your best interest at heart. 

RELATED: Student who asked UP to reconsider his application graduates magna cum laude at PLM

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