By Dr. Jaime C. Laya
These days we honor schoolteachers, Oct. 5 being both World Teachers Day and Philippine National Teachers Day.
My first teachers were my parents, both UP graduates. By the time I was born, they already had eight to nine years experience with kids and in child psychology, something I’m convinced they applied to their innocent firstborn, me.
On knowledge—Tatay got me all 12 volumes of Compton’s Picture Encyclopedia that I read from A to Z over and over. (I consider myself Trivial Pursuit champion). On communication—they both spoke to me mostly in English while Lola Trining, Lola Sanang, and Tia Juli talked to me in Tagalog.
They taught me independence. On day one, Tatay walked me (age six) to school but let me walk home by myself. Of course, traffic was non-existent and the route was fairly simple—a right, a left, then right and two lefts, 11 to 12 blocks in all.
Work ethic, values, and good conduct they taught mainly by example. I never saw them wasting time, take advantage of anyone, talk behind anyone’s back, do something dishonest. From them I formed the habit of doing a post-mortem after every disaster and success, learning how to avoid the former and to have more of the latter.
In two summers (ages 12 and 13), Tatay had me wait at Baguio Teachers’ Camp tables, staying in the waiters’ dorm. I probably tried everyone’s patience, but learned not only HRM but also working people’s life.
Arithmetic was my grade school Waterloo. Tatay bought me workbooks and let me freeze—I would stick my feet in a tub of ice cubes to stay awake—before pointing out the solution. That taught me focus and tenacity.
Nanay couldn’t read my handwriting so she got me a tutor. I still write “x” the way my maestra wanted, but that’s about it—a sad failure.
I’m a Philippine public school and US graduate school product—Albert Elementary, Arellano High, UP, Georgia Tech, and Stanford. I had some great teachers, dedicated to their work, with initiative and inventiveness.
I’ll just mention Mrs. Marquez (Grade IV) who showed a photo of Luna’s Spoliarium adding that it was worth a mind-boggling R39,000 and explained map reading using coordinates that I really didn’t understand. That got me interested in art and old maps.
Miss Pacheco (Second Year English) taught Shakespeare, poetry (“Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard”), and in homeroom meetings Robert’s “Rules of Order,” useful in the thousands of meetings I’ve chaired since.
Without texting or email and with telephones rare, urgent long-distance messages were via telegram. Charges were by the word, so telegrams had to be short. Mrs. Ruiz (Fourth Year English) made us transform long paragraphs into telegrams, making me a man of (relatively) few words.
Mrs. Escandor (Grade VI), Mr. Morales (Fourth Year Journalism), and S.V. Epistola (Freshman English) respectively read aloud my essays on my fictional goldfish; imaginary sports, society, crime, and earth-shaking news events; and Quiapo-Diliman bus-riding. All these have culminated in this column.
Notes: (a) Sept. 5 to Oct. 5 is National Teachers’ Month, culminating on Oct. 5 that is both World Teachers Day, declared by UNESCO IN 1993 and Philippine National Teachers Day, proclaimed in 2016 by R.A. No. 10743; and (b) This column is written in response to a suggestion made by Mr. Aniceto Sobrepeña, president of Metrobank Foundation, Inc. that together with De La Salle Philippines spearheaded the declaration of National Teachers Day and National Teachers Month.
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Tags: Arellano High School Teachers, Juan C. Laya, Miss Dalisay Pacheco, Mrs. Adriana Ruiz, My Teacher My Hero, Philippine National Teachers Day, Silvina del Carmen-Laya, Wala lang, World Teachers Day