Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Thank You & Merry Christmas, The Veritas Family Way

Many Veritans know that I lost my Mom this year--barely a month before Christmas. Many students, teachers and parents know how close I am to her--like a sister, a BFF. I thank the Veritas family for seeing me through the roughest and toughest part of my life. All of you were my strength. Your words and thoughts of comfort and sympathy have given me even more reason to help build and nurture our Veritas family. Family is what Veritas is all about. We are a small school. We call each other by our first names. We work and play together--from volleyball with parents and teachers to facebook chats to robotics. We eat at McDonald's together, and when budgets allow it, sip Starbucks fraps together. We visit each other's homes. We can't even hide anything, with all those CCTV cameras around:) Most of all, we PRAY TOGETHER. That's what family is all about. So as we spend this Christmas/New Year season with our own families, we are sustained by that concept of togetherness--giving, loving, serving, praying. Monci Manny has composed some very beautiful and meaningful prayer services for Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany. We sent you those prayer booklets before the holiday break. We hope you've had time to pray them with your families, as we usher in the Church's Year of Faith. Again, from my family to yours--Thank you for being with us in our time of grief. Now, we thank you for being with us in celebration of Christ's birth, and in looking ahead to 2013. A Blessed Christmas and New Year to All!

Monday, August 20, 2012


What do you say to publishers, authors, and educators of both local and international reknown? How do you connect with people 20 or so years your junior who have read twice, even thrice, the number of books that you have read?

I got the answers to those questions during the 2nd Filipino Reader Conference on Aug 18, at the Filipinas Heritage Library, Makati City. My free ticket to the event was my 10:40am 15-minute panel presentation on "Reading Programs That Work in Schools". I shared the panel with a Master Teacher from Ayala Foundation's Center for Excellence (CENTEX), and the Reading coordinator and program designer of the award-winning POWER Reading program of Kalayaan National High School in Caloocan. Two of my online friends and prolific book bloggers invited me to share our school's reading programs and activities, and of course I jumped at the chance to represent our little school and its big programs.
photo by Mr. Rhett de Jesus, via facebook

I am both happy and humbled by the experience. Happy? Nay, ecstatic! It has always been my dream to mingle with published writers of this generation. It was a pleasure talking books with enthusiasts and teachers. Humbled, as I listened to the trials of public school children, whose hunger for books are hardly filled by the education budget, prompting their own reading teachers to beg and source for books just to feed that hunger. I was so moved by that presentation that I promised the teacher, Ms Asuncion, that I will donate my personal copies of The Hunger Games trilogy to their POWER Book Club.

In the afternoon, I caught part of the book discussion on "Pacific Rims" by Rafe Bartholomew, who interacted with his "fans" live from the United States. If not for an emergency, the teachers and I would have stayed until the end (According to the program, A Readers' Choice awarding ceremony would cap the conference).

Kudos to the organizers and volunteers of the 2nd Filipino Reader Conference! Truly a heroic thing you are doing to propagate the love for books and reading in this country.:)
My loot from the ReaderCon 2012

More on the ReaderCon:

Thursday, July 12, 2012


Today I had the privilege to attend a conference on Christian Meditation at De La Salle-Taft with 9 faculty members and 20 student-members of the Veritas Parochial School Catholic Action organization. Entitled "The Power of Stillness and Silence", the conference (there were three, but we attended the one for educators)highlighted the experience of the Diocese of Townsville in Australia. Our resource speakers, Dr Cathy Day, Director of the Townsville Catholic Education Office, and Mr Ernie Christie, Deputy Director of the Catholic Education Office and a veteran Principal, walked us through the process, the power, the fruits and the benefits of practicing Christian Meditation in schools. The duo was joined later in the day by the Director of the World Community for Christian Meditation, Fr. Laurence Freeman, OSB, and our very own Msgr. Manny Gabriel, also the Director of WCCM-Philippines. Implementing CM in Veritas is fairly easy. I imagine our Kindergartners--5-year-olds--sitting in a circle during their Center Time, eyes closed, sitting up straight, and saying 4 syllables in their head, over and over again for five minutes: MA-RA-NA-THA. I imagine the restless first graders,sitting still on their armchairs (a miracle!). I imagine the fourth graders, sitting quietly, respecting each other's space. I imagine the high schoolers-- de-stressing, letting go, finding a safe place. It isn't hard to imagine. But is it doable? Monday's frenetic schedule, the lunch hour crowd, the rush to the gym, endless meetings and practices, the exodus from classroom to school bus. It does get on everyone's nerves--teachers' nerves, especially. That is why I believe that for CM to be successful in all our classrooms, this "Prayer of the Heart" should first be launched in the hearts of Veritas educators. We must all believe that Silence, Stillness, and Simplicity CAN AND MUST HAPPEN in our school NOW. I believe that this is the best way to address the bully-problem, the short attention-span-problem, and other issues related to undesirable behavior and poor academic performance. But these are just the "benefits", as Mr Christie reminded us. It is the "fruits" that are worth harvesting from the CM experience. Patience. Kindness. Self-control. Love. These and the other fruits are developed through consistent and devoted practice of CM. Most importantly, we are assured of young people whose spiritual lives are nourished through that stillness and closeness to God. This has to be a WAY OF LIVING OUR FAITH--Christian Living in a very personal sense. It should permeate everything that we do as a school, where we hope we could all be kinder, gentler and more loving of each other.
Yes, it's doable, and as Veritans, we are DOING THIS TOGETHER.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Harvard & MIT Freebies?

Free. Online. College Courses. Harvard. MIT. These words don't usually go together, at least in my book. But now they do! Click the link below to read exciting breakthrough news from two of the world's leading and most respected academic institutions. http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/organizations/h/harvard_university/index.html?inline=nyt-org I haven't explored it myself, in my excitement to share it here, but feel free to discover for yourselves how Filipino students like you can possibly earn a Harvard/MIT certificate without spending a single dollar. Imagine being part of the emerging MOOCs, or Massively Open Online Courses! It's also very timely, as four years hence, this year's freshmen will be the first batch of 11th and 12th graders. Veritas may or may not offer 11th and 12th grade, but these levels are inevitable, and particularly useful to earn international degrees and qualify for international certificates.

Friday, March 23, 2012


Cheer up, Veritans! Relive your BEST MOMENTS of 2011-2012 and look forward to school year 2012-2013!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

K-12, here we come!

These are tough times for Philippine education. Much like its American counterpart, the DepEd continues to parry the slings and arrows of critics as it unfurled early this year the K-12 banner that is supposed to save the Philippines from mediocrity. It has weathered the storms of dismal TIMS scores and UbD, but can it survive the onslaught of the likes of everyone from esteemed UP scientists to parents horrified at the prospect of 2 additional years in high school? Veritas has not been sleeping under a rock while all this is happening. We have done our research well in anticipation of K-12. We know it will happen, as it is already happening around the world. We are preparing our 6-year-olds to skip the Prep level and hopscotch their way to Grade 1, through intensive readiness programs in Reading, Math and Filipino. DepEd may insist on using the mother tongue (in our part of the Philippines that would be Tagalog) in the early grades to teach all subjects, but we decided to continue teaching in English.Like we do on a yearly basis, we revisit the curriculum of grade school and high school, redirect certain things, and innovate. Next school year, we will give a name for the flagship English program that has brought our students so much linguistic confidence and proficiency: Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL), where English is not just a subject, but a learning methodology of Math, Science, Social Studies and the Arts. The CLIL framework is popular amongst European countries where demonstrable gains in student engagement and progress have been reported. In Veritas, we have actually been implementing CLIL, with English as the second language used to make meaning in other school subjects. Our choice of English textbooks-- Voyages in English (Loyola Press), English in Mind (Cambridge University Press), Grammar and Composition (Prentice-Hall)--and our teachers' dedication to using the language, have motivated students to use the English language more. Authentic, communicative, high interest books for the English subject have effectively contextualized learning for our students. For the Reading strand of English, we are finalizing a deal with the world's largest publisher of books for children and young adults to provide us with scientifically sound Reading programs---and tons of books, of course--that will ensure that everyone is reading, and reading well. We will also be teaching Science in the first and second grades. Kids are never too young to explore and discover. CLIL shall also set the stage for Foreign Languages learning tentatively starting in 2012-2013. The FL program includes Language and Culture clubs, direct communicative instruction, and in the near future, student exchange programs. Target languages include Mandarin, Korean,Spanish, French and Italian. Studies are consistent on the importance of foreign language in the curriculum: students generally become better citizens of the world--more sensitive to the needs of others, more responsible for their actions, more open to advocate for something they believe in, more sure of themselves and what they can do. These are exciting times for Veritas. Changes are coming, and they are all for the better.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

BYOD (Bring Your Own Device): WIWIV? (Will It Work In Veritas?)

I'd like to share these slides made by Sam Gliksman, a proponent of the BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) system in schools. We all know that Veritas, as in many other schools in Manila, ban the use of cellphones and other electronic gadgets and devices in school. While the ban stays in place, I'd like to take a long, hard look at this policy, and perhaps look at the other side of the coin: What if we allow the devices to be brought in school for EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES? I can think of many such uses: filming a documentary, accessing e-books, using periodic table and trigonometric apps, recording music...students can certainly add to this list. But as the slides suggest, clear policies have to be drafted in order for the policy to work. At this point in time, technology must be seen as a friend, and not as an enemy. A schoolwide effort to make this happen is a necessity, and if things fall into place--parents, admin, teachers and students agree on the guidelines--we can actually star the BYOD scheme next school year. Now, that is really a move we could call, FTW!

Saturday, February 25, 2012


As school year 2011-2012 draws to a close, I put on my thinking cap once again and start mapping out the events for next school year. I've been promoting the coming 30th anniversary of Veritas Parochial School since after the 25th anniversary (I tend to plan waaaaay ahead,sorry), so I hope that Veritans everywhere will embrace the idea and do some pearl-diving with me! Most of the events are still on the drawing board, and I don't want to spoil the surprise. But let me just say that the celebrations will highlight two things: our lasting links with the parish (ROLP) and our academic excellence. If that's not enough, we're thinking of Saturday nights in February 2013 where our alumni, parents, students, teachers and staff will be treated to the best that Philippine and global culture has to offer (there's a big event in October 2012, but that's another story). Our fundraising efforts will hopefully bear fruit, as the school moves to welcome more scholars from the public schools of our parish and neighboring communities. That is the essence of a parochial school, after all: our doors are open to all children seeking holistic Christian education. The coming year's milestone events are also the perfect opportunity to revisit our history--from our humble beginnings as a CWL-run preschool to an academic institution known for its curricular and co-curricular programs. Through it all, we have remained warm and familial, always welcoming our alumni, and yes, our alumni's kids (Some teachers can now call themselves "grandmotthers":))! I enjoin parents and alumni to visit the school, bring memorabilia, share stories, and contribute to the school's ongoing growth. We seek to bring Christ into every lesson, every activity, ever exam, every program. We hope that this coming Pearl Anniversary will light up our lives and hearts, as we share in the fruits of 30 years of Education in Christ's Truth.

Saturday, February 18, 2012


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". More recently, "Linsanity" has become a proper noun referring to the Knicks point guard, Jeremy Lin, who came out of nowhere to lead a fast fading team back into the limelight, and the winning column, with, well, insane double-double performances.

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. Rising star Lin has been praised for being openly Christian. 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.

Here's to an interesting shortened season!

Useful and interesting links: