A love affair with Inquirer

I was still a teacher at the biggest school in Makati, Pembo Elementary School, when the Inquirer in Education’s (IIE) serial reading story, “Frannie Learns a Lesson” rolled off the press for, I guess, more than six Mondays (It was for eight Mondays. –Ed.).  Little did I know then that I would partner with the Philippine Daily Inquirer in the future.

I was then an award-winning school paper adviser so I read the Philippine Daily Inquirer (PDI) with interest. It was and is my ultimate news source. It has been pretty helpful for me in training young writers in editorial and feature writing and cartooning.


Jess Abrera’s cartoons never fail to amuse me. Steph Bravo’s cartoons have that indelible stamp of hers that I look forward to in every issue.

The editorials make me nod my head in agreement. And Conrado de Quiros’ biting columns never fail to impress me. In an old blog, I confessed that I’d marry De Quiros in a heartbeat. Who does not love intelligent men?


I read with enjoyment the Youngblood essays, and the fact that the Inquirer has that column for the young and the Highblood column for the over 60 miffs me no end. I’m of Middleblood and have much to write about being a middle-lifer but there’s no section for us. This is, like I always say, a disservice to mid-lifers. I even asked Mr. Ruel de Vera, when he became my feature writing teacher at Filipinas Heritage Library, to please add a section for mid-lifers like me.  But enough of that.

I love the Learning section to bits because I’m an educator. In 2008, I was assigned as officer in charge of Jose Magsaysay Elementary School (JMES) where, after a year, I did become the principal.

Lo and behold, sometime in 2009, I espied an announcement in the upper right hand corner of the Learning section. They were inviting teachers to sign up for the serial reading project for the story “Jose, the Fly Reporter.”

I persuaded teachers Michelle Tacolog, Aris Penoliar, Erlinda Dayrit and Michael Mamon to give it a try. It was our first time to partner with the Inquirer. The kids loved it. The parents liked being able to keep the newspapers so they could read it at leisure.

Afterwards, our names, faces and artworks were on the pages of the Learning section. In the Inquirer no less! I gave copies to the division superintendent and the division English supervisor.

On the third year of the Bench-IIE serial reading program, we joined again. This time the story was the heartwarming “Legend of the Pony’s Tears,” an American Indian legend. My teachers who participated this time were Josephine Montana and Aida Agustin.

Our third partnership with IIE was for Cyan Abad-Jugo’s “Yaya Maya and the White King,” which happens to be my personal favorite. We were represented this time by teachers Marisse Eng, Mamon and Sarah Putan.


Aside from being a teacher for life, I occasionally dabble in art. I’m a naturally curious individual. Anything artsy, anything that catches my eye, is fair game for new ideas.

I would gather my teachers around in a powwow and discuss literature and art activities with them. One teacher said she felt she was getting the support she needed whenever we talked about how we could make the most of the serialized story for the students.

As principal, I don’t do classroom teaching, but I can listen to my teachers and offer suggestions.  I back up my words with action. I provide the teachers with materials. I buy books on drawing, painting, cardboard art, origami and the like. I google art activities. I also tell the teachers to look for additional ideas in Ed Emberley’s artwork.

The principals of the Inquirer’s other partner schools may want to follow our example. It is one thing to tell your teachers to participate and altogether a different thing to provide them with ongoing consultation as well as materials.

In June, I was transferred to another school after having been at JMES for four years. Principals have no permanent posts and so off I went to Hen. Pio del Pilar Elementary School I.

I proposed to my English teachers Jessica Angeles, Helen Alma, Marcia Rivera and Mimi Murillo that we join the Bench-IIE serial reading program this year. Other teachers at Pio I—Teresita Avellana, Alma Ramirez, Jacque Dalag and Rogen Cainap—assisted the teachers involved in the series by giving them ideas on how to connect the story with art. I made sure I was on top of things, of course.

The participating teachers were a bit apprehensive at first so I discussed things with them and assured them of my support. They attended the pre-series workshop and they were enlightened. This time, editor Chelo Banal-Formoso introduced something new—we were given advance copies of the story and we wrote lesson plans by group.

Factoid: Catch a kid by 9 years of age, inundate him or her with books and newspapers and that kid will be a reader for life.

As a Master of Arts in Reading Education graduate of the University of the Philippines, I believe that stories and books capture our heart, mind and soul and ultimately shape our character. Every teacher is a reading teacher. And we, who are blessed in this regard, should share this gift with the world for it gives power and confidence to the young who will grow up literate, creative and critical thinkers.

As an educator, I will try my best to see to it that the children in any school that I lead will benefit from the Bench-IIE serial reading program because of its significant advantages and because I enjoy being a partner of the Inquirer.

This, in a nutshell, is a principal’s love affair with a newspaper.

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