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?