Saturday, October 15, 2011


Haven't blogged for eons, sorry. Busy with school admin work, Mama, and Game of Thrones. But I'll be back soon, True Believers. Very soon (*insert ominous laugh here*).

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Mideo Cruz' "Kulo" and James Soriano's "Language, Learning, Identity, Privilege": My Humble Opinions

Let me jump into the firestorm that is James Soriano's Manila Bulletin article entitled Language, Learning, Identity, Privilege (in; scroll down after Ms. Aguilar's response).

I have never read so much pagbubuhat ng bangko (bench, not bank), and so much pangungutya from a Filipino writer of his own race. He has undone what our vanguards of cultural equality have painstakingly done in word and deed in just a few paragraphs:

"These skills were required to survive in the outside world, because we are forced to relate with the tinderas and the manongs and the katulongs of this world. If we wanted to communicate to these people — or otherwise avoid being mugged on the jeepney — we needed to learn Filipino."

"But perhaps this is not so bad in a society of rotten beef and stinking fish. For while Filipino may be the language of identity, it is the language of the streets. It might have the capacity to be the language of learning, but it is not the language of the learned."

And his coup d'grace:

"So I have my education to thank for making English my mother language."

Read more:

I have read two responses to Mr. Soriano's now-much-googled piece. Mila Aguilar's is the kinder

"This is not to disparage James Soriano, a young man who may have learned German, but hasn’t yet seen the world in all its gritty detail. I wouldn’t quarrel with him, especially since I’m a very old woman of 62; but I would love for him to learn a thing or three about his country."

Inez Ponce De Leon in her blog did not mince her words:

"Your opinion piece did not raise Filipino or English to any level whatsoever. It only showed your readers that you brought Filipino down to the level of admonitions, a language of mere orders, a means of communication with those whom you perceive to be beneath you."

"Can you not see what you have done? English is not a language for you, Mr. Soriano. It is your weapon to wield so that you can reassert your perceived superiority over everyone else.

This issue brings back to mind the spectre of the CCP-Mideo Cruz "Kulo" exhibit. In my very limited understanding of visual arts, I will not even attempt to deconstruct the pieces that I saw online. I just didn't feel like looking at it for longer than a second. Kinilabutan ako sa hiya. Isn't art supposed to make you look closer and longer at something? I don't know. As I said, ME=Art-stupid.

But I do know a tad about English. It was and still is my bread and butter. Like the three aforementioned writers, it is my language of choice and comfort. But Filipino is the language of my blood. It was never just a subject to me. It is in my veins, from home to work and everywhere in between. I listen closely to the dialogues in Amaya and play Joey Ayala songs on my laptop. If that puts me in the level of manongs, tinderas and katulongs, based on Mr. Soriano's simplistic social stratification, then it makes me proud to be Filipino.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011


For the latest Philippine news stories and videos, visit GMANews.TV

When I was in grade school, I would cry and throw a fit whenever my parents would tell me that classes have been suspended due to storm signals 2 or 3 hoisted over Metro Manila. I would pout and stare out the window at  the sheets of rain and listen to the howling winds (our house was just one of two in our street in the late 70's) battering our rooftop.I think I sat around and moped still wearing my school uniform. It was a source of amusement for my parents, assuring them as well that I loved going to school  more than anything else. It was a little different in high school, of course. I whooped it up like any normal teenager, whenever the AM radio announcer intoned his much-awaited "No classes in Metro Manila!" It was especially sweet when the suspension coincided with CAT training days and Trigo exams!

There weren't too many of those in my school days. But now--the merest cloudy skies or hint of rain can put everyone in a frenzy. "May pasok ba bukas?" For the last few weeks since school started this year, that question has filled our school's official twitter and facebook pages, as if nothing else is more newsworthy than the imminent suspension of classes.

Though I am guilty of secretly rejoicing at the prospect of lazing around at home when classes are suspended, it also makes me pity this generation of students--from preschool to collegiate--as week after week, their momentum to learn is cut short not be debilitating storms, but by the constant paranoia of being stranded somewhere between the school and one's house. This school year alone, I have been stranded FOUR TIMES already--a sorry, disgusting record, given that I live just 10 minutes away from school. Our main building tends to be isolated and inundated by some really disgusting liquids from nearby overflowed canals, to the morbid fascination of our grade schoolers who find all that exciting. Last year, a post-Ondoy typhoon caused our library ceiling to leak, permanently damaging a P4,000-hardbound Rizal memorabilia book. Colleagues and friends have suffered worse fates,wading across waist-deep waters of SM Sucat and scampering for higher, dryer ground as flood waters poured mercilessly into their homes. Clearly, this isn't funny any longer.

For the first time this school year, DepEd is actually considering to move the opening of classes from June to September. But in the same breath, they have nipped that dream in the bud, saying that Luzon is the only part of the country that is affected by the weather disturbances of those months, and that it will even be worse for the students to suffer through the stifling summer heat of regular classes in April and May. Point taken. It's also a known fact that many sectors will be affected by the shift: the tourism sector, in particular, will not agree to it. Boracay in July, anyone?

I don't foresee any DepEd-initiated movements in the near future. Neither do I see any improvement in the ever-changing weather systems that have ravaged even the most pristine of natural cradles (New Zealand), and serious, drastic efforts to change wasteful and inconsiderate human lifestyles. In the meantime, students are missing out on contact time with teachers, valuable time for knowledge procurement and drills and skills development. Saturday classes won't cut it--Ondoy came knocking on a Saturday.  I shan't wait while DepEd wrangles with politics and CHED officials reluctantly learn how to tweet. I have a few suggestions and interventions--bandaids if you will--that I believe will help augment the gaps in education whenever classes are suspended:

1. Advance worksheets: These are given at the start of the school year. The emphasis should be on skills and practice, and not on specific topics and lessons, since chances are, students will have left their books in school on that fateful day. Neither should it be dependent on internet use, since not all students have internet access at home, and power and phone lines may be cut during severe weather conditions. The key is to make students use their time practicing universal skills, like mathematical operations and grammar. Teachers just need to instruct the students on how many and which worksheets to accomplish on a particular day.
Math drills-
Grammar practice:

2. Reading booklets: Like the advance worksheets, reading booklets should be given out at the start of the school year. Unlike textbooks, these are left in the house, for use on days of class suspension. Reading materials can range from non-fiction to short stories to an anthology of poems to thematic collections, the length of which is good for one sitting. All subject teachers can prepare such booklets. The selections are followed by a series of writing and reflection activities that should take at least an hour to accomplish.

3. Shortened Class Programs from June-August, and Extended Class Hours from September to March: We all hate it when we come to class in the morning and DepEd sends us home at midday. So why not shorten class hours in the first quarter--say until 1pm only, but extend class hours for the rest of the year--say until 5pm? This will entail major pencil-pushing of course, and the school's parents association should be consulted about it.

4. Distance Education: The University of the Philippines Open University pioneered the Distance Education (DE) instructional delivery system in the country, and to date, it has been the benchmark both here and abroad for the efficient and effective use of cyberspace as a medium of instruction. Can this be brought down to the basic education levels? This is a country that consistently tops the list of the most number of social networking users in the world, with the 15-30-year-old demographic taking up most of the credit. Students don't even need to sit in front of a computer to actually attend an online class. Any mobile device will do. Teachers don't even have to teach live. Lessons can be prerecorded, in keeping with a timetable that already includes those days when classes might be called off, and these can be downloaded, played and replayed any number of times. Lessons conclude with written outputs by the students, or if every member of the class is programmed to go online altogether at the same time, a chatroom-style class discussion can ensue. Anything is possible!

Got any more ideas on how to battle the class suspension blues? Send me a comment or two!

Saturday, July 23, 2011


December 14, 2012. Another Christmas season is coming, and with it, another star in the Lord of the Rings movie franchise-two movies, actually: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and The Hobbit: There and Back Again are currently filming back-to-back in "The Home of Middle Earth", New Zealand.Seventeen months of waiting after a ten-year LOTR drought? Better be worth it!

The Hobbit should be required reading for sixth grade or first year high school. Or for the busy executive or fulltime mom who's willing to take on the lighter side of the behemoth that is the LOTR trilogy.It reads pretty much like a typical boyhood adventure, complete with hundreds of close calls, a treasure hunt, and a really nasty dragon. I actually read this after I finished The Return of the King, and my loyalty to and admiration for J.R.R. Tolkien has been cemented forever since then. The Two Towers made me proud to be an English major in U.P., having written one of my most grueling final papers (for modern British literature) ever. I started to appreciate the depths and breadths of the world's epics, and before long, no professor had to require me to wolf down The Iliad and The Odyssey.

Back then, eons before Cate Blanchett's (as Galadriel) beautiful narrative intro to The Fellowhip of the Ring, the trilogy plus The Hobbit created an organic tapestry for me--a world that's out of this world, yet deeply rooted in this world: the politics, religion, psychology, philosophy, science of it all, timeless and bountiful, were there in Tolkien's manifold imagination. As a flashlight reader, I kept these nuggets close to my heart, moving on to The Sandman series in the mid-90's, until Peter Jackson came along and brazenly shot the three films. The anticipation nearly killed me. The antipathy towards Liv Tyler (sigh, as Arwen) grew and grew, and so did my movie memorabilia. Those were crazy years indeed.

But teaching the novels in high school wasn't a crazy idea at all. Thanks to the movies, mass market paperbacks were all over the bookstores, and my third and fourth year high school students then were reading  The Two Towers and The Return of the King, and writing really splendid essays on them. The entries on my students' thematic worksheets were such a joy to read, and our discussions were alternately hilarious and thought-provoking. I took care to focus on chapters that were not featured in the movies, like The Houses of Healing, where Eowyn and Farmir find each other and nurse each other's broken hearts, and The Scouring of the Shire, where the four hobbits--sans the mighty Elves and Men--defeat the evil forces that have taken root in their homeland The Shire. My students were telling me how proud they were to be annotating the movies to their friends and family, knowing what they knew beyond the movies. They have also come to realize that most everything in pop culture (read: Harry Potter) borrows from  the quest archetype and the heroic tradition. Every other adventure tale after the 50's pretty much echoes The Lord of the Rings, for better or for worse.

The Hobbit films should be promising. Some of the old gang will be reprising their roles (Orlando Bloom, Ian McKellen, Cate Blanchett, Elijah Wood, among others), but it is the new crop of actors that interests me: Thorin Oakenshield, that brave, beloved dwarf leader will be played by Gerard Butlerish Richard Armitage (see pic on the right, also see the Captain America movie, where I think he plays a Nazi)), and Thranduil, Legolas' father will be played by Lee Pace of Pushing Daisies fame (he will also be in the Breaking Dawn film as roguish vampire Garrett). Smaug the CGI dragon will be voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch, the suave villain from Atonement. Lost's Evangeline Lilly is an elf here, and I hope she doesn't glide and whisper like Liv Tyler. What should be interesting to all is Bilbo's epic first encounter with Gollum, and the riddles that led to the ring ending up in Bilbo's pocket.Plus, the merry band of dwarfs that came knocking on Bilbo Baggins' door are featured in the early poster versions. These little guys are poised to make a fashion statement!

"In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit." Tolkien first wrote that line in the middle of checking his students' test papers. Me? In the middle of my administrative paperwork, I'll be blogging about this ongoing journey. That's a promise.

LOTR around the net:

Friday, July 8, 2011


This year I'm handling an organization for 2nd and 3rd graders called SIFI, or St. Isidore's Friends of the Internet. Naturally, many of our activities are web-based, and my role is to guide them in choosing the right sites for them and enjoining their parents to be present whenever they go online. We are also using the free website builder,, which we build one hour at a time every week. What's on the site? Feel-good stuff about God, the Church, school, family, friends, pets, hobbies...we have an entire school year to work on it.

Weebly is the safest and friendliest site builder I've worked on so far. It lets me work safely in the education category, and adult/teacher-supervision drives the site, allowing kids to upload, drag, drop and play in a safe environment. Parents have given me positive feedback about their kids' experiences with SIFI (Now on our second year!) Thanks to St. Isidore of Seville, the walking wikipedia of his time, for being our inspiration.:)

Thursday, July 7, 2011


This app was recommended by computer teacher Angelo.I like the interface, the concept, the affective nature of the site, and the amazing photographic detail.  Best for toddlers and preschoolers!

If you're using Google Chrome, install ASAP:

Tuesday, July 5, 2011


I am so excited to go bookstore hopping this week! More than thrice-postponed, this sojourn into stacks upon stacks of tomes and pre-loved paperbacks is my ultimate favorite when it comes to making school purchases.

I'm proud to note that our school library, though tinier than most libraries, is packed with what students actually LIKE to read. I heard that in some libraries, the Harry Potter and the Twilight series were banned by school authorities. That's pointless, actually, as the kids could easily have bought their copies from any commercial bookstore. What librarians and reading teachers must realize is that popular books ought to be discussed in class, and not be treated like forbidden fruit. I remember the many enchanting hours I spent with students, throwing quotes from the Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter and Twilight back and forth in intimate gatherings for readers. Popular fiction opens up many doors for young readers, and banning them in schools is like shutting the doors in their faces.

Once inside a bookstore, I'm drawn to the graphic novel section. In the early nineties, I was devouring them like crazy, and for over a year, I was on a special Sandman diet. From Preludes and Nocturnes to A Doll's House, I've made it my life's mission to read every single one of Neil Gaiman's gothic masterpieces. The DC, Marvel and Image graphic novels were a no-brainer. 

Where to buy, where to buy…

Besides the ubiquitous National Bookstore, Fully Booked and Powerbooks  there are many other nooks and crannies in the metro that hold a treasure trove of books that won’t make school finance officers’ hearts palpitate, given the much lower prices. The aptly named Booksale, with countless branches and one fantastic warehouse in Paranaque, still tops my list of the best bargain bookstore. I have completed book sets from Booksale throughout the years--Crichton, Ludlum, Uris, Anne Rice, and those tingly historical romances by Judith McNaught and Jude Deveraux. I am forever grateful to Booksale!

Sadly, the Scholastic Book Fairs have lost their charm for me. Perhaps it’s because in the last three years, I have been seeing the same old titles, and too many 39 Clues and Clifford the Big Red Dog. Or it could be the dwindling stock of teacher’s references that I know, looking at the online catalogue, Scholastic is famous for. Sure, the company gives us a percentage of total sales in the form of books, but the stuff we get is mostly eye candy.

I have yet to check U.P. Diliman's own cache of bargain bookstores. I know I've bought several bestsellers and some classics there during my college days. LOTR:The Two Towers for P10! Beat that! As for the bootleg book stalls in Recto...dare I visit again, after 20 years? I wish I had the time to drop by the university presses of UP, DLSU, UST and Ateneo. Though most of their titles are scholarly, collegiate and post-grad types, and thus more suitable for teachers and researchers.

I’ve been to the F. Sionil Jose-owned La Solidaridad bookshop twice before, while waiting for my dad to finish his dialysis treatments. I would describe the place  as quaint, and the books, mouth-watering. All the titles were rare, and unfortunately, quite pricey. I remember buying just two books from there, an anthology/of Langston Hughes poems, and  Teaching Shakespeare Into the Twenty-first Century. Wouldn’t hurt to take a detour to Padre Faura to check out the LS.

I'll definitely blog about this bookstore-hopping experience soon. This teacher ain't resting without a cartful of books for the school library, and sigh...for her own humble bookshelf.

About alternative bookstores:

Hey! July is Children’s Book Month!

A million reasons to love e-books:

Saturday, June 25, 2011


A peek at the trailer for the upcoming production of the Diocese of Paranaque Parochial Schools Association production featuring the diocese's school personnel. No lesson plans, just a whole lot of talent!

Saturday, June 18, 2011


Work has kept me from watching the NBA season live. That has been my sad plight since I started teaching in 1994. Having worked in advertising from 1991 to 1993, it was much easier to catch a quarter or two in the post production room with a rowdy bunch of Bulls fans. And for two jobless years when I was my mom's fulltime caregiver, I was soaking in the Boston Celtics victory, remembering the 80's when telecasts were 3 months delayed, and all we had were Celtics and Lakers games.

The NBA for me has always been ripe with teachable moments. Here are some of them:

The NBA and Language Arts

More than any other televised sporting event, I find the NBA to be the most transferable and appropriate to my work as an educator. Sorry, arnis and Azkals-infected soccer, but basketball is STILL the national game. Proof of that is my expletive-laden facebook newsfeed for every game day of this year's NBA finals and all the relevant playoff games. In previous years, I have designed NBA-themed language exams (ok, sometimes I switch to tennis or Formula 1, but the NBA themes get better ratings, so to speak), and it was so much of a wicked thrill to use such sentence completion items like "Kobe ______ to pass more and shoot less." I could hear the snickers from the students, and I'm glad that everyone ended up writing "needs" on the blank.

I always tell my students that the best examples of idioms can be heard from NBA play-by-play commentators. Marv Albert on TNT is my all-time favorite, but half-time analyses are just hilarious when Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith are onboard (Steve Kerr and Reggie Miller are ok, but they're not as irreverent). NBA vocabulary  and jargon have become part of our lexicon--from "posterized" to "raise the roof", from "nothing but net" to "deep bench", "sixth man" to "lottery team". I'm sure that other sports broadcasts are just as words-worthy, but basketball, being so much less complicated and more graceful than, say, American football, inspires more interesting idioms. Still, I have some issues with our local broadcasters sticking their microphones into the NBA finals. Code-switching (e.g. "With fifteen seconds left on the shot clock, inuubos na lang ng Dallas ang oras.") just doesn't sit well with me. You either do play-by-play in straight English, or do it in straight Filipino. There were many crucial and momentous parts of the finals that got lost in translation. Sayang!

The NBA and Mathematics

The NBA is also a great way to apply concepts in Statistics. I used to collect basketball cards myself, and I like the ones (the Fleer cards) that feature every conceivable stat there is about the player, including college hoops stats in field goals, rebounds-per-game, etc. Students can easily learn averages, ratios, percentages, and making logical conclusions just be looking at game stats. This can be applied to intramural games, where individual records-keepers must focus on a specific variable while the game is in progress. Simply recording scores is not enough. A player should learn from his stats. How many field goals did I make successfully, vis-a-vis the number of shooting attempts I made (field goal percentage)? If I shot below 50%, how will I raise it to above 50? I am the team's point guard, but I made only 2 assists in the game. What does that say about my effectivity as a point guard? Serious athletes should think this way, and not just care about winning and fret about losing.

Geometry and Physics applications abound in basketball. Angles, force, and motion are very important elements worth understanding if a player wishes to succeed in this game. That is why some outside shooters have "sweet spots", where they have the highest probability of getting the ball in. Smart shooters also know inherently how to use the backboard, how to jump and shoot over taller players and outstretched arms. Instinctive defenders know where to position themselves for the rebound and how to get a clean swipe of the ball. The best point guards have excellent peripheral vision, knowing which of the four people on court will best benefit from his pass. Alley-oops from fastbreaks are one of my most favorite game moments, and perhaps the most spot-on application of geometry and physics combined.

The NBA and Social Studies

Next to the Olympic Games, the NBA can be used as a springboard for teaching Geography, World History and Cultural Studies. Just by knowing the names of the players, students should be able to identify which country, or which region of the world the players hail from. Yao Ming is easy. But what about Stojacovic? Kukoc? Eastern European, if you look at the last syllables. Nowitzki-Obviously German. Ginobili-Argentine,  though I thought he was Italian until I saw him wearing the Argentine jersey in the Olympics. From knowing a player's nationalities, students can then do research on the countries of origin, and the unique and fascinating cultures therein. It is interesting to note that players from Communist countries had a more difficult time entering the U.S. to play professionally than their democratic counterparts, and that these Eastern European (e.g. Croatia, Yugoslavia, etc.) ball players were marksmen on the hardcourt because of their military-like training in their elementary schools. Now don't get me started on Yao Ming's early years in China...

The NBA and Values Education

Not all NBA players are model citizens, of course (Right, Ron Artest? Dennis Rodman? Kobe?). But as a sports league, the NBA has an impressive roster of charity events and advocacies that I'd like to believe are not just publicity stunts. Many African-American superstars have openly talked about rising from poverty by using their basketball skills and a lot of academic discipline to get to where they are now. But back stories of valour and triumph from adversity are not always available for the regular NBA follower. Through a player's demeanor, his actions, and his leadership, young people can pick up lessons in respect, sportsmanship, humility, and gentlemanly behavior. Personally, I have rooted for the league's more boring, less flashy players like Jason Kidd, Grant Hill, Tim Duncan, Ray Allen, Larry Bird. One-handed dunks don't impress me much, and trash-talking is a cheap psychological trick to get on the other player's nerves. Basketball for me is still a game of sharp shooting and clean defense. Trash talkers can get in the ring with Pacquiao's mom.

Till next NBA season!

Useful and interesting links:

Saturday, June 11, 2011


If I could only capture every single moment of a child's life in school, I would, and the parents would be oh so proud.

Friday, May 27, 2011


I am a fiercely argumentative person, but on the issue of the Reproductive Health Bill, I have long ago raised the white flag to the more hippily-packaged promotion and propaganda of its supporters. Long before Carlos Celdran raised the Catholic church's roof by flashing his "Damaso" sign, I have  suspected that the Bill has already been passed in principle, and the congressional circus shows are just a chance for both sides to show off their knowledge of the Bible, God, obstetrics and the Constitution.

I will not attempt to argue for or against the Bill. Look what that did to Pacquiao. Instead I'd like to focus on Section 16. Mandatory Age-Appropriate Reproductive Health and Sexuality Education. That's because I'm an EDUCATOR, and the passing of this bill is going to affect the way decisions will be made in the school where I work, and the entire scope of sectarian education. It's going to impact hiring, curriculum, institutional objectives. Most importantly, it will affect our students, who deserve nothing less than a curriculum that addresses what they actually need to know, learn and do to become proactive and value-formed young citizens, and not because its authors and promoters were more articulate and media-savvy.

Here's the full text of Section 16. To save on space, I inserted my comments on certain items in RED.

Age-appropriate Reproductive Health and Sexuality Education shall be taught by adequately trained teachers in formal and non-formal educational system starting from Grade Five up to Fourth Year High School using life skills and other approaches. The Reproductive Health and Sexuality Education shall commence at the start of the school year immediately following one (1) year from the effectivity of this Act to allow the training of concerned teachers. [One Year? This should be a major, or course track in College! Short-term seminars are not enough to prepare teachers to teach such a sensitive subject matter.] The Department of Education (DepEd), the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), the DSWD, and the DOH shall formulate the Reproductive Health and Sexuality Education curriculum. Such curriculum shall be common to both public and private schools, [Ok, when you say private schools, that would be mostly sectarian schools--Christian, Catholic, Muslim. These schools have invested much time, effort and expense on curriculum designs and educational materials that go way, way beyond DepEd's minimum learning competencies. So now, private schools are MANDATED to use a government-designed curriculum? Here is a clear violation of Academic Freedom! I refuse to teach a curriculum that is rammed down my throat!] out of school youth, and enrollees in the Alternative Learning System (ALS) based on, but not limited to, the psychosocial and the physical wellbeing, the demography and reproductive health, and the legal aspects of reproductive health. 
Age-appropriate Reproductive Health and Sexuality Education shall be integrated in all relevant subjects and shall include, but not limited to, the following topics:
(a) Values formation; [Check. Have this already.]
(b) Knowledge and skills in self protection against discrimination, sexual violence and abuse, and teen pregnancy;[Check. Except that "protection against...teen pregnancy" looks suspiciously like "Use contraceptives, kids.]
(c) Physical, social and emotional changes in adolescents; [Check. Have this already.]
(d) Children’s and women’s rights; [Based on what rights? The United Nations? Needs clarification.]
(e) Fertility awareness; [So I'm aware. Then what?]
(f) STI, HIV and AIDS; [Definitely necessary. No use beating around the bush here.]
(g) Population and development; [And here lies the pro-RH banner: We breed therefore we're poor. I still subscribe to: There's Greed, therefore there's Poverty.]
(h) Responsible relationship; [Whoa. No school can teach that. Not to have an early relationship is ideal, but who among the kids out there actually listen, and abstain?]
(i) Family planning methods; [I'm not going to trust a non-medical professional to even touch that topic. ]
(j) Proscription and hazards of abortion; [Check. Have this already. Saw the Silent Scream.]
(k) Gender and development; and [Check. Have this already]
(l) Responsible parenthood. [Check. Have this already].
The DepEd, CHED, DSWD, TESDA and DOH shall provide concerned parents with adequate and relevant scientific materials on the age-appropriate topics and manner of teaching Reproductive Health and Sexuality Education to their children.
Oh, there's a really riotous amendment to that last paragraph:
 "Parents shall exercise the option of not allowing their minor children to attend classes pertaining to Reproductive Health and Sexuality Education." [ So if the parents can opt out of this, why not the schools?]
Bottomline: Congress could pass the Bill now, and not wait for our TV sets to explode, but mandating ALL SCHOOLS to comply with all provisions within one year is an imposition that puts our school-age children at risk, putting them in the hands of haphazardly-trained teachers. Where are the modules that are already being used in the public schools? Do the private schools have copies that they can study? Where are the operating guidelines accompanying Section 16?
Did I say I will not argue? The future well-being of my students is at stake here. Fat friggin' chance.

Pertinent links (where both sides are represented):

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


Blogger's Note: I'd like to start this blog with a multitude of THANK YOU'S. Thank you to Ate Toni Manalo-Santiago, super cousin, unofficial concert tour manager, and Carlo's indefatigable mom who moved heaven and earth to bring the Manila family to the Maroon 5 concert. Gold tickets, no less! And Meet and Greet! Thank you to totally Fab Maroon 5 (James, Adam, Matt, Jesse, Mickey), and Shawn The Bringer -of-Good-News-and-Tickets, for the greatest music and sincerest meet and greet EVER. Thank you to my co-organizer and partner-in-crime, cousin Ivan. Thank you to Ate Ging, Caryl, Mikko, Mykka, Ella, Pam, and the Grandmas-who-did-not-wear-earplugs, Auntie Charito and Auntie Lina, for sharing with me that amazing experience, and of course to dear angel Carlo, who was such a good friend and student of the band, for  extending this friendship to his Manila aunts and uncles. Rest in Peace, but keep Rockin' on!
   photo by Toni Santiago

                                                              photo courtesy of Ivan Antonio

Teachers must watch rock concerts more often. That's right. ROCK concerts. Enough of the sentimental and the unabashed cover songs. There are tons of teachable moments in a rock concert, heaps of lesson ideas from rock songs. I remember teaching conditionals using Eric Clapton's and Babyface's "Change the World", metaphors quoting U2's "One", poetic imagery using Sting's "Fields of Gold", and irony, quoting, what else--Alanis Morisette's "Ironic". Nothing catches a student's wandering attention more than references to music, and when I taught in the late 90's, it was my trademark. Bands were performing The Odyssey rock opera, and the literary club I managed organized, and performed in a concert called "Preludes and Nocturnes", our nod to Neil Gaiman.

From classroom to concert venue: As discerning educators, we must choose the artist, and what the artist stands for. I for one, am partial to simplicity--just the interplay of voice and instruments. I have no great love for acrobatic entrances and glaucoma-inducing eye makeup. What does that have to do with the music?  In my lifetime thus far, I've had the thrill of watching two of the purest artists--Pearl Jam in 1995, and Maroon 5 in 2011, and those massive gigs, more than a decade apart, made me realize the power of this genre, and see pure genius in action:

Sound Checks: As I stood for hours outside the Folk Arts Theatre where Pearl Jam was slated to perform, the sound check for "Even Flow" and "Alive" was keeping the congenial crowd entertained, and it lasted for more than an hour. I realize now that these live concert acts were no joke to set up. It's not just the instruments, but the amplifiers, the speakers, the pedals, and all that tangle of cords, cables and equipment must be in total sync, harmony and balance with one another. This is Physics application like no other, specifically the science of acoustics. Since it's impossible to set up a concert in every Science classroom, teachers can simulate one by asking students to "sound check" various objects. They can even test a class' decibel level when they scream, shout and cheer (though this is best carried out in the gym or field to avoid disturbing the adjoining classes). I remember Maroon 5 front man Adam Levine raising his arms through several choruses, enjoining the crowd to sing along, or to scream louder. From my seat about twenty rows from the stage, I sensed his dissatisfaction, like he's saying, "C'mon. Manila, you can do better than that"! Of course, he didn't have that problem with the M5 anthems "This Love" and "Sunday Morning". The band enjoyed hearing the sing-along as much as the audience enjoyed the band's enjoyment.
                                                                photo by Millette Espiritu

"Musicality of the Filipinos":  I personally enjoyed "Stutter", and the first salvo, "Misery". Even if I didn't know all the lyrics to the other numbers, the catchy tempo and Adam's persuasive onstage charm made me catch on pretty quick. I'm sure the thousands in attendance, the "perfect pitch" Filipinos, were in that same vibe.Adam constantly touted us Filipinos for our excellent musical tone, and even playfully compared us to American audiences. I'm sure he has firsthand experience, hearing Carlo play guitar like a pro, with guitarist James Valentine coaching him on. To prove his point, for "She Will Be Loved", Adam divided the audience into the left and right choirs, asking the left choir to sing "And she will be loved" repeatedly, while the right choir was asked to sing the more wordy verse (Glad I was on the left!). Adam listened like a doting choir instructor as left and right harmonized--loudly, but in perfect pitch! I can't believe that other nationalities are actually incapable of doing that, but if Maroon 5 says so, then I must concur. In my family alone, I can proudly say that we can all carry a tune--from Sinatra to Evanescence, we can bring the house (our little houses, that is:)) down. It comes naturally to us Filipinos, possibly because our language, and all its dialects,  are so melodic to begin with. The "lambing" of Bisaya, the lilting tones of Kapampangan--it's a foregone conclusion that when Filipinos chatter away, it sounds like they're singing. This is an asset that we must nurture in our schools. Sadly, Music education in the Philippines does not only suffer from time and budget cutbacks, it also suffers from a dearth of music teachers. Music, along with the Visual Arts, must be given more attention and emphasis in the curriculum, not just to train future singers and musicians, but also to develop the soul and to stimulate the brain towards creativity. Musical training, in fact, is said to develop mathematical skills and verbal ability.Thanks, Maroon 5, for affirming that the Filipino's got talent.
                                                                photo by Millette Espiritu
Respect and Friendship: It all began with Carlo's friendship with his hero and mentor James. But it could have ended there. Through the years, Ate Toni would send us photos and videos of their jam sessions, of the band dubbing him Maroon 5-and-a-half, with the most poignant image of all--James by Carlo's hospital bedside, still in rocker mode. I know of no other recording artist who does this at all. it's beyond kindness. It's mind-boggling. More than friendship, I believe it's respect for another human being, for a fellow artist, for a boy stricken with cancer but still bursting with so much energy and love for the world. That night, during meet and greet, we all felt it, and not just from the band but from Assistant Tour Manager Shawn, who welcomed us because we were friends of friends who also happened to be big fans. As I shook each Maroon's hand, I could only utter the word, "Hello", starstruck as I was (though I think I managed to call James by name...), but I had a million 'thank yous' that went into each handshake--Thank you for meeting with us, thank you for the free tickets, thank you for giving Carlo the best moments of his life.

And of course, thank you for your music. A new school year is about to begin, and I'm stoked to be in the classroom again.
                                                                 photo by Ivan Antonio

Friday, May 13, 2011


Blogger's Note:  I first posted "Wheeeee for Glee!"  on:
Back then, there was just a handful of Gleeks, Charice was doing cheesy commercials, and Gwyneth Paltrow, if not for Iron Man, was a superstar fast fading into the sunset. Oh, and back then, only Jack TV in the Philippines carried the show, touting it as a "surprise hit", and  "the show that's taking the U.S. by storm." So as more and more Losers are lipsynching to Rachel and Finn's 80's duets, let me reprise what I said back in '09, then put my final grade on the series, with two episodes left in Season 2:

I HATED HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL. ALL THREE OF THEM. High schoolers bursting into song aren't exactly endearing to me, or realistic, since I deal with high schoolers everyday and believe me, they aren't always up for pep squad or choir duty.
A HIGH SCHOOL GLEE CLUB ("NEW DIRECTIONS") BURSTING INTO SONG ON TV, AT LEAST THRICE EACH EPISODE IS SOMETHING ELSE. It is something else,entirely: funny, poignant, preposterous, sarcastic, campy, classy, witty, cheesy--you can't pigeonhole what the first 13 episodes of GLEE have been. You just can't stop with the pilot and assume that you've heard one song, you've heard them all. Instead, you watch on and sing, breathe, quip, cry, snicker with the characters.You hold your breath to find out who won the Rachel vs. Kurt diva sing-off using "Defying Gravity" as the contest piece. You cringe along with Teacher Will as he sings "Don't Stand So Close to Me" to an infatuated student, Rachel Berry. You get goosebumps as a guest hearing-impaired glee club signs John Lennon's "Imagine." So many moments, so little time. I AM SO LOVING THIS SERIES, it hurts that there won't be a 14th episode until April 2010.

-End of December 2009 entry-
That was then. This is now:
I HAVE STARTED TO HATE GLEE SEASON 2. I don't know when  the hate began: Sam's first appearance (because he reminds of The Bieb)? The Madonna/Britney dream episode (lame knock-offs)? The Rocky Horror episode (another lame knock-off)? So many minute, insignificant things have turned me off. With the mediocrity of local TV, and the redundancy of cable programming in this country (how many Master Chefs are there anyway?), Glee was supposed to be my idiot box heaven. So when some episodes drove me to the wall, I turned to Criminal Minds, where teens were murderous and mothers were noxious child abusers.
But one can't really ignore the pull of Glee. Ep. 1, I was ready to diss Charice, thinking, she has nothing that Rachel/Lea Michele doesn't have. I was wrong. To date, it was the most watched one-hour of Glee, and Pinoys had someone else to thank besides Pacquiao for the dip in metro crime, at least for a night. I was wary of every new character, probably because I am a TV pilot purist--whoever's on the pilotor first season  must never be replaced (aside to Criminal Minds: Axeing JJ and Prentiss? Wrong move, execs.). Ok back to Glee 2: none of the episodes have really appealed to me musically. Where is "Don't Stop Believing"? "Alone"? "Defying Gravity"? The new covers are too predictable.
But not the twists. In the most recent episode, "Prom Queen", Kurt and the jock--in-denial are named prom queen and king respectively. If anything, the series is generating a healthy dose of discussions and speculations, and that's a very good thing. If students can make intelligent guesses about what happens next in a TV show, then they are actually practising the skill of predicting outcomes and drawing conclusions. Here's my fb exchange with one gleek student (name blurred to protect student's identity):

The songs may not be to my liking (for I am ancient, and my trip is 90's grunge), but the core of Glee is its depiction of complicatedly entangled relationships and its championing of Losers. My favorite episode of the season is Kurt's and his dad's heart-to-heart on what sounds like sex education at the parental level. The endearing awkwardness of the father, and the defiance of the son is further tweaked by Kurt's own sexual orientation and the struggles he's been having about his identity. Perhaps both pro-and-anti-RH Bill proponents could review that episode and understand how difficult it is to discuss such a subject matter to a teen with raging hormones. It is Kurt's story that I follow most closely, because in him I see a lot of my students, past and present: wanting to belong, struggling with identity, finding solace in his talent, his friends. I do not agree with much of Glee's sexual content and its caricaturizing of school officials and teachers, but I do applaud its ingenious scripts and the writers' respect for youth culture and personality. The show is ripe for a critical analysis of popular culture, and I would get such a kick if high school students actually do it!
Each of New Directions' members has painful stories to tell, and for me, the telling is more poignant and meaningful than the singing.
Will I watch the last two episodes? You betcha. I am going to bark, frown, and throw vitriolic barbs at the TV screen,Sue-style, but I'll be munching my popcorn with unabashed glee through it all.
Pre-final Grade: B+
Further reading:
An excerpt from
on the possible positive use of facebook in schools:

Beyond the classroom portion, Roe has set up several Facebook pages and does a daily principal's update on one of them. Another Facebook page has helped create a Parent Teacher Student Association with 81 members, an extremely high amount for a high school. Students may receive a Twitter announcement that if they show the tweet at a game, they will receive an entry discount and a free drink.
Upon entering the school, a poster in the front office shows at least six websites that the school is associated with, and its official site garners more than 2,000 hits per day. Its student newspaper is an entirely online entity, helping to save printing costs, and the school is always looking at new ways to bring more technology into the classroom.
"It's not about the teacher saying what they taught today," Roe said. "It's about what the students learned today.
"Either we get on the leading edge of technology or we will be obsolete in five years."

Sunday, May 1, 2011


When I first created my main facebook account in 2008 (I've created seven), I didn't know that I would be a little square in the 500M+ global photo mosaic that is now fb. I created multiply and myspace accounts that same year (Sorry friendster, you were SO yesterday in '08.), but in truth, I no longer recall my passwords and usernames for both. Like most trends, social network sites come and promise us the moon, then go and deliver more problems than features.  Facebook, on the other hand, has  been good for our school, since we've begun using our fb official pages as a means of marketing our programs and keeping in touch with students, teachers, parents and alumni. I have noticed too, as I unobtrusively browse my newsfeed while sipping early morning and afternoon coffee (twice a day?!), that people tend to open up more in their statuses, in their links and surveys, in the comments they post. Psychology 101 at work. People reply faster via fb message than on e-mail; videos and pictures load faster as well (Kudos to mobile facebook and photo-sharing apps!).

I will not write about facebook anymore. You readers probably know more about it than I do, but I intend to reprint what it has done, and is currently doing for education, cyber-safety, and other key issues for students, teachers, and families that can no longer hide from the inevitable status update and like button. In this era of connectivity and instant messaging, it is prudent for adults who work with young people to take a serious look at facebook, twitter, tumblr, posterous, and other life-sharing social sites out there in digiland. Adults should in fact LEARN TO JOIN IN THE CONVERSATION--CREATIVELY AND RESPONSIBLY. No ifs or buts about it. We don't want to remain digital immigrants forever, mired in our outdated preconceptions of new technologies. 

Immediately below is facebook's article on safety guidelines for teens, which ALL SCHOOLS must include in their ICT curriculum:

Playing It Safe

How you present yourself on Facebook says a lot about who you are—just like what you say and do at school or with your friends. In all public places, online and off, it’s important to represent yourself as the kind of person you want to be.

The Importance of Being You

Facebook is a community where people use their real names and identities, so we’re all accountable for our actions. It’s against the Facebook Terms to lie about your name or age. Help us keep the community safe by reporting fake profiles to Facebook if you ever see them.

Think Before You Post

It’s easy to get caught up in the moment and fire off a comment that may seem hilarious at the time. But remember, what you say can really hurt someone, or come back to haunt you. Think before you post. It only takes a second or two. Ask yourself if you really want to say it. Make sure you don’t mind if your friends, classmates, or teachers hear about it later.
At the same time, we all make mistakes. If you find yourself wishing you hadn’t said or done something, it’s never too late to apologize.

Don’t Talk to Me Anymore

If you ever receive hurtful or abusive messages or posts on your profile page you have options. Depending on how serious the situation is, you can ignore it, ask the person to stop, unfriend or block the person, or tell your parents, a teacher, a counselor, or another adult you trust. Everyone deserves to be treated with respect.

Report Abusive Content

Be sure to always report abusive content—whether it’s on your profile page, or someone else’s. You can also report inappropriate Pages, Groups, Events and fake or impostor profiles. (Remember that reporting is anonymous, so no one will know who made the report.)

Tips for Teens

  1. Don’t share your password with anyone.
  2. Only accept friend requests from people you know.
  3. Don’t post anything you wouldn’t want your parents, teachers, or employer to see.
  4. Be authentic. The real you is better than anything you might pretend to be.
  5. Learn about privacy settings, and review them often.
This article is for teachers and their vital role as online role models:

Teaching Digital Kids

Technology is all around us, and your students don’t stop using cell phones and social media when they get to school. Both in and out of the classroom, teachers can play an important role in keeping teens safe.

Model Citizenship

Today’s teens are growing up in a digital world. Though most adults aren’t as active with social media and new technologies, teens are still looking to them for examples of how to be good citizens—online and offline. That’s why we encourage educators to engage with students online. Please keep in mind that different schools and districts have varying policies about the use of social media in the classroom. Be sure to understand your school’s guidelines.

Facebook in the Classroom

You can use Facebook as a communications hub. Create a public page or smaller closed group for your classes to keep parents informed, distribute homework or permission slips, and share photos or videos from classroom activities or field trips. Anyone can like a page on Facebook, and students who do will see updates in their News Feed. Groups, on the other hand, allow you to limit membership to only those you approve. You can also email all the members of a group.
Read this blog post to learn more about the differences between pages and groups.

Both Personal and Professional

Maintaining a page or group is also a great way to establish a presence as a teacher without blurring the line between your personal and professional lives. You can interact with parents, students and colleagues via your page or group, called something like “Ms. Smith’s 9th Grade Science Class.” Again, be sure to understand and comply with your school’s social media policies.

Keeping Private Things Private

If you do decide to use Facebook pages or groups to engage with your students, make sure to customize your privacy settings to that they reflect the amount of information you want to share with people who know you from school. As you review your settings, you can click the Preview My Profile button on your Privacy Settings page to see how your page looks to most people on Facebook.
You can also model safe behavior by being careful about what you share online.

Report Abuse

If you see inappropriate content, please report it to us so we can review it. We remove reported items if they violate our Terms.
You and your students can also block another person from finding you in a search, viewing your profile, or sending you a message.

Tips for Teachers

  1. Know your school’s policy on using social media in the classroom, and comply.
  2. Use public pages for your classes to post homework assignments and other updates.
  3. Use groups to control membership and facilitate discussion.
  4. Be a role model of a good online citizen.
  5. Report inappropriate content to Facebook.

And here's a very useful article for parents of teens who are 'digital natives' :

Help Your Teens Play it Safe

For years, teenagers spent much of their free time talking to friends on the phone. Today’s teens aren’t so different. They just have more ways to communicate.

What’s My Teen Doing on Facebook?

Just like adults, teens use Facebook to connect with friends—through chat, personal messages and sharing photos, videos, links and other kinds of information. They use Facebook to announce achievements, wish each other a happy birthday and plan social events - like going to a movie or a friend’s house.

Who Can See My Teen’s Profile?

The only people who can see what teens post are their Facebook friends, friends of friends, and networks (like the school they attend). We maintain added protections and security settings for teens (age 13-17) that ensure their profiles and posts don’t show up in public search results. Similarly, if teens share their location through Places, only their Facebook friends can see it.

Start a Conversation

Parents don’t need to be social media experts in order to ask questions and begin an ongoing dialog with teens. Have conversations about safety and technology early and often, in the same way that you talk to your kids about being safe at school, in the car, riding public transportation, or playing sports.
One of the best ways to begin a conversation is to ask your teens why services like Facebook are important to them. You might also ask them to show you how to set up your own Facebook profile, so you can see what it’s all about. Discuss what’s appropriate information to share online—and what isn’t. Ask them about privacy settings, and suggest that you go over them together, regularly. Set ground rules, and enforce them.

Learn from Your Teen

Today’s teens have grown up with the internet, cell phones and text messaging. Most don’t distinguish between being online or off. New technology has always been a part of their lives, so when we write it off as trivial or a waste of time, we criticize a big part of their social interaction. You probably know this already, but unless you’re really on top of social media, your teenager most likely knows more about it than you do. That’s OK. Don’t be afraid to ask your child to show you the ropes!

It’s about Respect

It’s also important to talk about the Golden Rule: treating others the way you want to be treated. This also applies to using new technologies. Make sure your teens know where to go for support if someone ever harasses them. Help them understand how to make responsible and safe choices about what they post—because anything they put online can be misinterpreted or taken out of context.

Once You’re On Facebook...

If you have a Facebook profile, and have friended your child, try to respect the same boundaries you use offline. Let your relationship dictate how you interact. For example, whether you join a conversation among your child’s friends or if you post on their wall. Think of social media as a get-together at one of your child’s friends’ houses. You can give permission for your teen to attend, and even though you won’t be there to monitor their behavior, you trust your teen to have good judgment around peers and other parents. It’s all about balancing your teen’s growing independence and need for privacy with your safety concerns.
See our Tools page for more information and resources for parenting on the web.

Learn the Lingo

Friends? Friends of Friends? Like? Poke? Wall? Learn what all these terms mean in theFacebook Help Center.

Tips for Parents

  1. It can be tough to keep up with technology. Don’t be afraid to ask your kids to explain it to you.
  2. If you're not already on Facebook, consider joining. That way you'll understand what it's all about!
  3. Create a Facebook group for your family so you will have a private space to share photos and keep in touch.
  4. Teach your teens the online safety basics so they can keep their Facebook profile (and other online accounts) private and safe.
  5. Talk about technology safety just like you talk about safety while driving and playing sports.

Start a Conversation with your Teen

  1. Do you feel like you can tell me if you ever have a problem at school or online?
  2. Help me understand why Facebook is important to you.
  3. Can you help me set up a Facebook profile?
  4. Who are your friends on Facebook?
  5. I want to be your friend on Facebook. Would that be OK with you? What would make it OK?