To teach is to learn more about my country and my people
A wounded person can become a wonderful healer.
I was born in a remote place in the Cordilleras where certain situations brought me doubts and fears about myself. My childhood was filled with hardship due to poverty. As the eldest child, I bore most of the responsibilities for my younger siblings and, in some cases, the whole family.
I also experienced betrayal of trust by people who should have protected me when I was young.
Teaching, however, made me see the beauty of life despite all this. After graduation from college, I wanted to get as far away as I could. Notre Dame of Jolo for Girls in Sulu province gave me the opportunity.
For four years, I stayed on the island often mentioned only in connection with kidnapping incidents.
Jolo is a beautiful place with wonderful people. But the province has difficulty moving on because of politics and the law and order situation. The people are poorer than those in my native Cordilleras.
I enjoyed the island’s white beaches and bountiful fruits. The warmth of the people was so comforting that it was difficult to leave.
Short vacations brought me to other wonderful places in Mindanao and the Visayas on the invitation of my coteachers.
The situations of people in the places that I had visited made me realize that their lives were more difficult than mine. I saw flooded rice fields in Capiz province that left the community eating cassava with small fish caught from paddies and cooked in a pot of murky water.
Farmers wore clothes that had become sheer from too many washings, the holes covered with patches. Despite all this, they remained positive and happy. Their simple hope was to be able to borrow money again and continue with their lives.
I heard how people would carry whatever belongings they had to flee encounters between the Abu Sayyaf and the military. I witnessed the grief of relatives of innocent people killed, mistaken for military informants or because of the family’ inability to pay ransom to kidnappers.
Christians, despite persecution, remained strong in their faith despite an attempt to burn a cathedral, the murder of a priest, Bishop Benjamin de Jesus, who gave so much to the people of Sulu and Tawi-Tawi, to both Christians and Muslims.
In Biñan, Laguna province, where I taught for a year, the people’s struggle was different. They had to move their things to higher places during typhoons, which brought floods.
After all those adventures, I realized that I could go home to Baguio City where I have now been teaching for seven years.
They sent me to a far-flung annex of a school. Some students walked for an hour or so just to get to the school.
Later, I transferred to the main campus where I taught social studies under the school’s different programs.
The students in the Special Science Program, Special Program in the Arts and Special Program for Sports were amazing. Their talents and gifts strengthened my belief that God was so wonderful, for He gave those things to His children.
I admire the tolerance and determination of students in regular classes to study despite the large class size and their concerns about drugs, gangs, computer game addiction and other issues faced by today’s youth.
The Open High School Program showed the compassion of the school and undying hope of the youth to complete their education that had been interrupted by parenthood, illness and other problems.
The more years I spend teaching, the more I treasure the experience.
(Cate B. Dasco is a teacher at Baguio City National High School.)
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