It has been more than a year since my December sojourn to trace my spiritual roots. But the wonders and blessings of and lessons from the place biblically known as Asia Minor are still very much worth telling. Little did I know before that the physical remnants of Seven Churches of Asia mentioned in the Revelations still exist today in the region of Anatolia of modern-day Turkey.

My interest to see the sites for spiritual reflections came about in 1994 when in his sermon, the Pastor of Vienna Baptist Church where I used to worship in Austria shared about his family’s pilgrimage there. I have prayed for the chance to do the same since then. For a long time, however, I wrestled with trepidation and misgivings of a trip to a strange and distant land. Would’nt a personally-funded foreign travel of a lowly paid civil servant be somewhat shameful? So, I asked a few people to pray for this desire.

Once again, the God of the New and Old Covenant proved that He is a gracious God, who would not withhold every good gift to His children. This once-in-lifetime trip to these New Testament landmarks became possible when in August 2003, I got a surprise invitation from an unknown entity to participate in the Uppingham Seminar in Literacy and Development in Rutland, U.K. From London, Istanbul could not be far behind. The resources that became available for a side trip to Turkey exactly met all the costs.

In December 4-9, the fulfillment of my ten-year old desire to walk the paths where the Apostles Paul and John had trod was clearly confirmed. With my anxiety about a travel insurance which I could not afford, the Lord’s protection coverage proved to be the best provision. The trip was indeed good for the body and soul and the mind as well. Forced to rely on my feet again for long distances of unpolluted air of the Bosphorus banks and the Anatolian hills, the trip proved to be physically re-invigorating and an enjoyable therapy for motorbiking-induced weight gain and high blood pressure! It has also occurred to me then that this Turkish part of the Aegean-Mediterranean world is the most important place after Israel in the spread of the Christian faith, thanks to the labors of St. Paul and St. John the Beloved (whose Island of Patmos place of exile) is just in its vicinity.

But arriving at Istanbul Airport (where English is not so well-spoken) with very little money in a cold winter night was very daunting and caused some doubts. The organized Asia Minor tour offered in the airport would cost me a fortune and would need at least seven days to complete. Travel time alone to and from the entrypoint city of Kusadasi is at least 28 hours. Yet I had to be back to London after five days for my return flight to the Philippines. Did I make the wrong decision? The Seven Churches and no other reasons were what I came for. If I would not be able to see at least two of these, I’d rather go back to London in the first available flight, I nearly decided.

To make the long story short, I made it to the Istanbul city center in the freezing early morning of December 5 and chanced upon two tourism policemen, Mehmet and Muharrem. They were very kind to offer me hot tea and to invite me inside their heated little outpost. It was they who introduced me to the cheapest overnight place to stay and helped me find less costly tour to Anatolia. It turned out that I would be the lone tourist in the bus trip to Kusadasi where I was to meet the local travel agency representative. So anxious and discomfited by not being in a group tour, it was heaven-sent to meet a very kind businessman named Engin Kaplan (returning from China to his town of Söke, near Smyrna or Izmir,) with whom I spoke in German and very little English for some information I badly needed. He and his police officer companion Celil Kirin gave assurance that I would find my way and offered help if I would get lost. They also paid for my tea, coffee and toilet during the roadside stops. Months later, Mr. Kaplan and I were still communicating by text until I lost my old cellphone.

Faster forward. Finally meeting my young tour guide, named Ertunga Ecir (Erty for short) at the Kusadasi bus station, I got convinced that covering even five of the distantly adjoining seven cities was a wishful thinking for the remaining three days of the trip which included the return to Istanbul. So, I decided that I would concentrate on the ancient city of Ephesus (Efez) and next nearest site, Laodicea which is about three hours away. Ephesus, after all, is the first one among the seven to which the message in the Revelations was written.

Passing by the new (and inhabited) Ephesus town now known as Selcuk, Erty brought me to ancient site of the city which has been in ruins for more than a thousand years. He pointed to me a curious structure atop a hill near the city gate which was claimed to be the prison house of Paul. Was Paul really imprisoned in Ephesus? – was a question that bothered my mind. I regretted that I did not do serious prior study of the Book of Acts. Perhaps, it was true, I thought. This fact could be inferred from the riot instigated by the idol-maker Demetrius during Paul’s three-month preaching visit. At that time, unrest was stirred by the direct threat to the big business of the city’s craftsmen and the worship of Artemis (aka Diana) by the fast spread of the Christian faith in almost all of Asia (Acts 19:23-33). The scene of Gaius and Aristarchus (Paul’s Macedonian companions) being dragged by the mob that cried “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians” came alive to me when I beheld the amphitheater (mentioned in Acts 19: 29 & 31) from a distance.

The well-preserved massive ancient structure which could seat more than 15,000 is an engineering and architectural marvel. Together with the town’s Odeon a hundred meters away, the theater served well as regular venue for the ancients’ practice of direct democracy and for popular gruesome gladiatorial sports which most likely featured the persecution of the Ephesian believers. To have a sense of their martyrdom, I sat on the theater’s steps, jumped from one seating level to another and peeked through the passages of its lions dens.

Little is left of the spectacular and grandiose Temple of Artemis who was greatly worshipped in all of Hellenized Asia Minor. From the signs of the state- patronized and -protected religion as well as the big commerce that this idolatry engendered, I imagined how much it would cost to be a follower of Jesus. In the heydays of cultic worship, the odd figurines of all sizes of this Graeco-Roman goddess of fertility was favorite souvenir-possession of tourist-pilgrims who would flock to Ephesus.

In one corner of what looked like the ancient shopping center, majestically stands the remains of the Temple built by Domician for himself. This is the Roman Emperor who decreed that he be worshiped by all. From what was explained to me, I surmised that his notorious reign must truly be a period when the faith of the Ephesian Christians was being tested by fire. No wonder, the Lord commended the Ephesian church for its “perseverance and endurance for My name’s sake” (Rev. 2:2-3).

Ephesus is reputed to be both the largest city and banking center of the ancient times. One could still be awed by the remaining traces of its social, intellectual and economic glory which saw better days under successive Greek and the Roman conquest while walking along the ancient marble-paved main thoroughfare. Now the desolate heaps of Doric, Corinthian and Ionic columns and colored stone slabs attest to Ephesus’ fall from where Ephesus never rose and never to be populated again. Coming face to face with the physical evidences to the effect that along with the glorious city’s death went the physical and spiritual demise of the church could chill one’s spine. Did not the Apostle Paul so love, nurture and make so much personal sacrifices for the Ephesian church? Was the fundamental Christian doctrine of “salvation by grace and faith and not a result of works” (Eph. 2: 8) not expounded by Paul to the Ephesians? Today, unlike the once-poor nearby Smyrna (now Turkey’s third largest and most prosperous city) which has a surviving Christian presence, there is now no known believer in modern-day Selcuk.

Long after my trip, I continue to wonder why indeed this happened to the church that was even commended by the Lord Jesus Himself in Rev. 2: 4-5?. Did the Ephesian church really fail to heed the warning to “repent and come back to its first love,” hence, the “lampstand was removed out of its place”?

Local historical accounts gave much information about the Apostle John. It is well claimed that he brought Mary to Ephesus from Israel after the death of Jesus where she lived in a house built for her till her own death. John is widely believed to have spent the rest of his apostolic life there, built and pastored a church (whose purported physical remains I inspected) and been buried in a place near the Temple of Artemis, a proof of which is his ancient but well-preserved grave shown to me by Erty inside the ruins of a Basilica named after him.

Indeed, John’s vision of the Alpha and Omega that prominently figured Ephesus underlines its significance and eternal message for the present-day believers. The three-hour sightseeing gave me a chance to witness to my guide Erty (a graduate of history) whom I found to be intellectually honest and very open-minded. Before we parted, I let him know what the teachings and life of the Apostles Paul and John meant to me. Curiosity also led me to ask if a Muslim like him actually believes in the unique historical claims of the Christian faith which he, day-in and day-out, lectured to his guests. Pointing to Christ as the Master and Lord of St. Paul who made Ephesus a spiritually significant place, I asked Erty if he had already reflected on the implications on his own life of the central teaching of Paul about the only Prophet who rose from the dead and ascended to heaven and the only Savior of the whole world.

Oh, what a joy to hear him say that he should act positively on what he already knows about Jesus Christ – “one of these days I might decide to become a Christian,” was his parting shot. Weeks later, he told me in an e-Mail message that “I would like to celebrate your Christmas, I learned lots of things from you and I have got a bible and I will read the chapter you told me.” Is this the real reason why He allowed me to go to Asia Minor?, so I asked the Lord,. On the long and winding road to the city of Denizli where I would get to Laodicea and the Hierapolis, I imagined Paul and Timothy on foot or riding a donkey (which might be a luxury) to teach and have fellowship with the other churches. I thought of the original scrolls of Paulinian epistles being passed on to churches by couriers walking the same paths I was traveling. Their trips that took days of walking and sailing but which took me only few hours, made Christianity spread like wildfire in Asia and the Aegean world. I wondered if only the speed with which we travel to and communicate with the rest of the world in the age of advance technology could more speedily spread the knowledge and joy of being in Christ. Midway, I was sidetracked by another bout of anxiety and confusion.

I hastily departed from Kusadasi without being informed about travel and tour guiding arrangement. I did not even know at which bus stop to get off but could not ask folks seated beside me because they do not know enough English. Indeed, this trip was part of continuing test of faith. The ruins of Laodicea whose barrenness is starker than that of Ephesus, seemed not to invite many visitors. They would rather enjoy the pleasures and sites of adjacent Pamukkale and Hierapolis mentioned in Col. 4:13 and their exhilarating historical-geological attractions (which I also enjoyed later that day).

Once again, I was a lonesome tourist and this time, in the company of a not-so-articulate guide. With little help from him, I could only turn to the Revelations 3: 17-18. It must really have been a proud super-rich city, an attribute that was shared by the Laodicean church. The New Testament passage gives these clue: “Because you say “I am rich and have become wealthy and have need of nothing….” Indeed, the physical layout of the city and the stumps of the ancient commercial infrastructure gave hints to its economic status. Laodicea, in its heyday was the center of gold trade and banking. It could be considered as counterpart of modern-day London, Zurich and New York financial centers.

Affluent but morally and spiritually bankrupt was Laodicea at the time of John’s vision that the Lord ordered him to write to the church His displeasure, thus: “you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked. I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire, that you may become rich and white garment that you may clothe yourself….the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed….” The Lord’s diagnosis and warning: you are lukewarm and because of it, “I will spit you out of My mouth.”

What shall we be in the age and in time of convenience, prosperity and affluence, was the question I brought back to England and when I returned to the Philippines. In England (especially in Brighton and London areas where I stayed as a student) and Germany, I saw desolation of the many churches that had to close (and some were converted into museums and pubs) because of fast declining membership or simply dying down. The Lord must have really spit Laodicea from His mouth. Even a well-cared for and Paul-nurtured church like the Ephesians ended up in a lonely death. These thoughts now often remind me of the many times of my being lukewarm which I also observe in many present-day churches and fellowships. I think of my own church and my office fellowship – will they persevere in their prayer lives and remain faithful to the end? Will there still be a Diliman Bible Church (where I have spent thirty years of my Christian life) ten years hence or after the passing of my generation? Will the NEDA Christian Fellowship that has been struggling to survive during the past decade, still go on or will a possible decline just reflect the quality and depth of our discipleship? And I pray that the Lord forbid the removal of His lampstand.

My post-Asia Minor trip, I hope, will preoccupy my prayer life especially with the following concerns:

• May I be able to love and abide with the Lord and serve God and Country till the end of my days;

• Erty Ecir, Muharrem Ceylan and Mehmet – I hope I can go on praying for and being in touch with them as far-away friends through texting and the Internet. I always long for the eventual news that they would come to the knowledge of the forgiveness of sins and of eternal life in Jesus. How nice will it be to reach out to Asia Minor again (and the thousands of tourists) through Erty.

• Engin Kaplan and Celil Kirin – too bad, I cannot reach these two kind gentlemen again through texting. May the Lord make Engin to reply to my cards and send me his mobile number and e-mail address. And if he eventually does, may we understand each other in German until the day he (or them) act on the Gospel that was sent to the Ephesians.

“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” (Rev. 2: 11; 29; 3:6; 22) (If anyone is interested to see the pictures of interesting landmarks I took in Ephesus and Laodicea, let me know and I will upload them.)

NAP B. IMPERIAL

31 December 2004

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Give me, O Lord, a steadfast heart, which no unworthy affection may drag downwards; an unconquered heart, which no tribulation can wear out; an upright heart, which no unworthy purpose may tempt aside.(Thomas Aquinas) ********************************************************************************************************************

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 In September, we celebrate Teachers Month and International Literacy Month, too.

In response to the wise and endearing request of Education Secretary Bro. Armin for names and faces of teachers whom we look back to, I now excitedly and gratefully cite the following teachers in all levels of my education for their profound impacts in my life:

Going by EFA’s “expanded vision of education,” I can rightfully claim that my first teacher was my eldest brother, RUDY IMPERIAL (he now rests in peace).  As a teen-ager, it must have been his part-time hobby to explain to me, a pre-schooler, the dialogs in the local comics and the texts of the ubiquitous Liwayway magazine while we lie down on the floor. He was also forced to teach me the Abakada to make up for my inability to attend a kindergarten school. Presto, in less than a month’s time, I was already reading those comics and became a voracious reader.  In Grade 1, a few months later, I was the first reader in the class and my teacher made me guide  other pupils in reading the Abakada.  This recollection of my induction into the printed word and the world of learning now must have become the bases of my personal theories of literacy, pedagogy and non-school-based learning and the reasons for my deep involvement in education.

I surmise that my teachers in Sariaya Elementary School, MISS PRESENTACION DEDACE and MISS DOLORES DE LA TORRE, Grades 1 and 2, respectively,  both  did not have pre-service education higher than the traditional ETC.  My town’s old public school was set up by the Thomasites, hence, I can guess that they have been tutored by them as Grade 7 or high school graduates who were co-opted to teach.  But oh how they excelled in the art of mentoring!  Ms. Dedace’s story-telling developed my early taste for history and politics which further improved my reading. With her style, I did not feel I was a child learner.  On the other hand, Ms. De la Torre’s gleeful and authoritative style made schooling something to look forward to. When we were working on the BESRA-TEDP’s National Competency-based Teaching Standards (NCBTS), these two old teachers of mine were very much in my mind as classic examples of the six domains. Their conduct and performance were the sources of my idea of Domain 7 – teachers’ professionalism and self-respect – which now makes me wonder: what is master’s degree’s additionality in real good teaching?

In the age of feminization of the teaching profession which gives the impressions that you have to be a woman so you can teach well, MR. ARTURO DEDACE, my Grade 5 teacher in the same school exemplified the gentleman-professional teacher. As a big central school which started subject specialization in intermediate grades, Mr. Dedace was admirable in being a teacher of all subjects, especially social studies. I have a feeling that because of the added contents and the learning devices he used, he must have developed my early love for geography and the awareness of my country and the world. He trusted me in checking the tests papers, too, giving me a sense of leadership and confidence. He must have planted the seeds of my ambition to take up foreign service in college. I did not become a diplomat but Mr. Dedace left deep imprints in my love for the social sciences and the basic tools of what I do now.

I would have normally shunned science from the generic competencies I’m supposed to acquire from my basic education. But MRS. LOURDES RONDILLA, my biology teacher in the Quezon Provincial High School must have seen to it that I would not wallow in scientific illiteracy in my adult life. I now sense that she was an old equivalent of the present-day science “nerd” and she proved quite well that one can teach well even without textbooks. But she did justice to her pedagogy by making common sense existing side by side with practical application of the scientific method and the value of empiricism. Without displaying a “terror” tag typical of science teachers, she gave me a sense of confidence and a push in dabbling withbiology that for a while I thought I could take veterinary medicine in college.

In my youth, “college style teaching” was something to shudder at. But MS. ATHENA LYDIA CASAMBRE (at that time) of UP College Baguio, a foreign service graduate herself belied that negative prejudgment with her masterful handling of political science and foreign policy subjects in both contents and teaching strategy (despite the early days of Martial Law). Were if it not for that friendly, homey and humble bearing of now Dr. Casambre-Rood which attended the early phase of my college education and had I taken “Polly Sigh” somewhere else, it would surely have become “political sayang.”  I could only wish now that I had “sat longer in the master’s feet.” Which leads me to a haunting policy question: is the degree from a teachers college alone that an excellent teacher makes?

Today, as a professional myself, the question “what should really be the distinct value and the end of graduate education” haunts me whenever I recall my late history professor Teodoro Agoncillo’s warning on the threats on scholarship. Three of my postgraduate professors I am most fond of give me some clues. Given their remarkable competence and respective styles, I can now infer from DR. MARK BRAY and Department Chair DR. PAUL HURST, both of the University of London’s Department of Education in Developing Countries who were my lecturers in educational planning and management and the late DR. JOSEFINA CORTEZ of the U.P. College of Education that graduate education is most useful and professionally rewarding when a student is treated like an equal, respected and valued for distinct ideas and when graduate work in a discipline either serves as a validation or cross-validation of what actually takes place in the workplace and sharpens one’s skill as a social critic by producing or analyzing existing body of knowledge, old and new.

Thank God, He gave me teachers of these kinds and character. May He continue to bless the Philippine learning system with more and more of my kind of teachers.

nbi: Monday,  12 sept. 2011; 10:59pm

fn: the names and shining faces

While digging my CESO files, I stumbled at the pledges and other statements I made for the closing ceremonies of the Salamin, Diwa at Gabay.  More than 2 years after completing my ELP requirements, I realized that those commitments were not made solely for picture-taking or ceremonial purposes.

When I re-read my still-unlaminated Gabay personal Action Plan On Meeting The Demands And Challenges On A Public Manager, the idea of writing a regular column for the Public Manager occurred to me as most immediate, doable and far-reaching way to actualize my two important pledges.  These are: 1) to work with fellow CESOs on the pursuit of the urgent and long-term reforms on the structure, leadership and management of the Philippine bureaucracy  and 2) contribute to a stable and progressive government and state.

After being resolute about writing this column, I firmed up the function of this column on top of my motorbike on the way to the office.  Some ideas (old and new) about HRD in the public sector and as macro-policy should be ventilated in the Public Manager. The regular sharing of personal thoughts and conviction must be able to stir further debates and curiosity among its readers. If it succeeds in doing so, the exchange of ideas are useful enough as inputs to improvement of the direction and quality of public service.

Who is Nehemiah and why his sense

Before I lay down the areas I want to cover, let me first share the spiritual and substantive impetus behind this column.  I want to write and expound with the sense of Nehemiah.  And who is he, anyway?

Nehemiah is my favorite Old Testament prophet.  He  is known now and then as the Rebuilder of the Walls  of Jerusalem at the time of the Jews’ exile and Persian subjugation (around 445 BC).  A public figure in the midst of hard-core nationalism; he was in the service of an imperialist master which accorded him vast  powers and privileges.  Thus, he had to keep a tight balancing act  with the mandate to serve the interests of his people and society in captivity and on the verge of disintegration and his responsibilities to his superiors.  What a tough time to actualize management of constraints!

His life and ministry are important elements of my meditations. He is the embodiment of my ideal leader and bureaucrat.  After all, no less than then President Marcos envisioned that day “when philosophers are kings.” I surmise that the philosopher-king will prosper only if he is backstopped by the prophet-philosopher-governor-manager in the bureaucracy and local government units. Modern-day prophets are those who philosophize in their leadership and the stewardship of their offices, that is, they function with informed reason (speaking of research-based decision-making), wisdom and discernment and more importantly, moral conviction.  So their tasks are to search for the truth, study, analyze, warn, assert, and push (today’s advocacy instead of cowering under stifling buro-rigidities) and not just act on sheer political expediency.

Here’s why I am awed and inspired by the prophet’s qualities, especially as an HRD manager.  I saw in Nehemiah crucial attributes, values and beliefs which he lived to the advancement of  most effective and fruitful practice of HRD. His most important capital was his spiritual resources.   He had such tremendous gift of discernment in managing human resources – which enabled him to keep good people in the service and  harness them well in the face of stiff opposition. In the face of adversity, his intelligent mind enabled to keep his followers safe, outsmarting his opponents at every turn.

With these attributes, what a master social planner he was.  He saw the problem and uses all the resources available to him to make plans in which he could make people participate.   He could do so because he was a consensus builder. He could unite,  equip and inspire people.  He did not  train in civil engineering but  he became a master builder by being the integrator of complex yet limited human, physical and financial resources at all levels.  As a strategist, he must have employed a great deal of time and motion study that made the Jews (known for their stubbornness)  perform their specific jobs.  The way he delegated each portion of the wall to be worked on simultaneously, saved so much time and energy.

By realistic planning and astute handling of opposition, he accomplished the task (involving both infrastructure and social engineering) after only 52 days. People who have seen Jerusalem’s massive perimeter. wall of today and familiar with modern engineering will have an idea of his technological feat.  Both present -day administrators and the Jews in those days would see him as an effective public manager, a pragmatic leader and a morally upright head who provided the social infrastructure for a whole Jewish culture that should be restored.  He perfected management by objectives (MBO), consumed as he was with two interrelated primordial goals, e.g. glorifying God and vindicating his people.

With such motivations, he spared no efforts and resources to build and rebuild lives and institutions.  He did not ingratiate himself to the Persian sovereign power. He used the privilege not for self-aggrandizement but to make his people and institutions whole again.  The CESB would surely commend his standard of management of linkages being applied to its fullest.  He would have become a Lingkod Bayan Awardee and even get a place in the Hall of Fame for exceptional leadership in public management.

Broad meaning of HRD

Now let me clarify what HRD is all about in this column.  My thoughts and observation about HRD is all embracing enough as to apply to both macro-policy and micro(firm-based) setting.  The Unifying Framework for HRD which was adopted by the Social Development Committee (SDC) of the NEDA Board (published in 2000) describes it as both a process and a end-goal that is concerned with the formation of human capabilities where human beings are the means to development. HRD develops the quality of empower towards improving a nation’s productivity.  The framework counts the initiatives of both the public and private sectors aimed at raising the capacity of people to fulfill the responsibilities as members of the households and organized society while enjoying a wide ranging set of rights and privileges.

I will tackle HRD and all its essential approaches apart from the traditional notions of education and training, I wish to emphasize the aspects of enabling, empowering, equipping and keeping people happy and well motivated.  I must add the unemphasized or overlooked aspect in the HRD spectrum, e.g. the full utilization of human resources as empowering process and end in itself.  It’s not enough for people to be made capable and brilliant.  They should be utilized properly which is both educative and motivational as means.

Future Topics

I want the readers to have some fun and human interest in digesting the series.  My topics in future issues will include those ideas arising from my functions as a public manager in the area of education and manpower development. Of course, I will also dwell on the best practices and models of other persons and system.  So, expect discussions on scholarship and foreign training, continuing education and lifelong learning, recruitment and qualification standards, sabbathical  leave in the traditional agencies and democracy in the workplace.  I also wish to share some thoughts on the national programs which I had a hand in initiating like, the ETEEAP and ALS (Alternative Learning System).  I also want to share some lights on the work of the Congressional Commission on Education (EDCOM) and the PCER.  I may be quite bizarre, but I’m warning that something on motorbiking and mental health will also be forthcoming.

As a parting shot dear readers, I  want to serve notice that I cannot guarantee that mine will be supported by popular views, perhaps not even conventional wisdom. For sure there will be much that will challenge prevalent orthodoxies.

In any case, I shall welcome commentaries, pleasant or otherwise Let the debates roll on till either you or I can rest our case.  Until the next issue of the Public Manager.

The writer is at present  a CES eligible.  He is a Chief Economic Development Specialist in the Education and Manpower Development Division of NEDA’S Social Development Staff.  He completed his ELP in November 2000. The article was first published by the Career Executive Service Board in The Public Manager, its official monthly publication.

11 June 2003

It’s Christmastime. Time to share an old article I wrote to celebrate the coming of the Healer and the Prince of Peace

Nehemiah’s Sense Column. Series 3 (published in The Public Manager of the Career Executive Service Board)

If the Prophet Nehemiah were around today, he would surely minister to the public servants in distress. He would anchor his holistic HRD management on the fact that man and is body and soul.

But he would first give us a picture of how elusive peace has become to the inner man. The silent scourge of modern or industrialized society called stress, with its many causes, forms and manifestation might after all be of epidemic proportion. Middle-aged persons are most vulnerable to nervous depression, hence, the high incidence of the so-called mid-life crisis that sets a confluence of emotional and physical aspects of health.

The affliction can be reactive one which is caused or induced by physical and social environments/stimuli. The second type, e.g. organic or endogenous is caused by certain chemical or hormonal change in the body and in the brain. The two types, however, may be mutually reinforcing.

The symptoms are many and vary in degrees. Most common is the feeling of despair for trivial or no reasons at all. Others are attacked by fear of so many unknowns and sometimes of fear itself and alternating deep melancholy, feeling of dreariness and being weary of life. Some have low level of tolerance and get annoyed even by a normal noise, somebody’s presence or even a usual little crowd. Coupled with restlessness, others complain of some strange thoughts coming simultaneously and uncontrollably which disturb concentration in one’s work or sleep which later on undermine overall bodily resistance to other diseases. But some sufferers would rather conceal their conditions under the blanket diagnosis of high blood pressure.

Interestingly, this affliction respects no one, though it was thought to be a trendy disease of the affluent. Well-known personalities like Vincent Van Gogh, the Dutch artist and an internationally accomplished Filipino musical artist, and bureaucrats are among the sufferers. Yes, even health professionals are not spared. My nurse-friend told me about his colleague who is a well-sought-after cardiologist in Mindanao who is prone to depression. A lady dentist, with a lucrative practice, admits that sometimes she cannot treat patients when it strikes.

The World Health Organization (WHO) describes “health” as something like the sum total of physical, mental and emotional well-being. Curiously, this holistic view of health approximates the Jewish term “Shalom” for peace. Shalom is not just a mechanical Jewish greeting and expression of a wish for another person. Shalom is a state of being where a person is at peace with oneself, with his neighbors, and ultimately with God.

Now, health and welfare policies of all countries are supposed to be consistent with above definition. But our health insurance provision and coverage and the health dimension of the employee welfare policy (both in public and private sectors) still tend to ignore this concept of health. It seems it is only the physical or the medical aspect that matters.

By and large, society, and perhaps, the bureaucracy are not yet prepared to look at depression just like any other ailment for which one should take a leave, seek proper medication and to convalesce from. Thus, for a public servant, it might be professionally hazardous, even suicidal, to state that he is affected by some “emotional or mental” problems for purposes of seeking medical attention or claiming employee benefits.

Because of such oddity, afflicted people might be put at risk by not getting the timely and proper healing. Imagine the grave consequences on HRD and productivity when talented, committed and effective public servants are faced by this dilemma. I might be endangering my own personal dossier and overall reputation by writing on this theme which has to cite my own battle with “emotional” crises for which I consulted spiritual counselors mental health professionals. But I am coming out in the open just the same if only to pave the way for a healthy and more professional view of emotional problems where people need not fear in seeking the proper cure – all in the name of balance and responsive HRD policy.

Rest assured I don’t intend to engage in illegal practice of medicine and I shall stick to the territory of a personal experience which I just relate to those of the others I have read and heard. I find some convergence among the observations, though. Stress and its possible descent to nervous depression have so much personal and official economic and social costs.

On HRD grounds, thus, it is important and proper that the afflicted and his family, the employer and community be parts of the total solution. For the sufferer, the Socratic counsel of “Know Thyself,” is the right beginning. He should face the problem squarely in its early onset. When one runs out of internal resources to cope with the malady, there should be no hesitation and procrastination to seek professional help.

In doing so, an honest assessment of the extent one’s ability or inability to help himself would be most advantageous and lead to a proper cure. Happily, for the endogenous type of depression, both holistic and scientific healing approaches are now within one’s reach. Together with spiritual-psychological approaches, I am fortunate to get equally effective therapy for my hormonal imbalance from natural and non-addictive sources.

It can be noted that over the past fifteen years, the workplace (public and private) has taken notice of the reality and costs of stress in productivity. They actually began to provide stress management courses in team-building sessions or as part of practical HRD programs. But these may not be enough or timely for many people whose state of chemical imbalance already calls for sustained medical and nutritional approaches. At the same time a purely medical ministration may not suffice without factoring in the capacity of the attitudinal aspect or the frame of mind in facilitating the healing of those with endogenous depression.

Overall, we still need a more positive and caring environment in the workplace and community so that sufferers need not be consigned to silent perdition. Just like the Club of Rome which recognized the “Limits of Growth,” so should sufferers and public managers recognize the limits of human endurance. Sympathetic understanding from colleagues and superiors plus a responsive personnel policy would go a long way in breaking the usual deterrence in one’s seeking proper healing attention but also in putting afflicted persons at ease, strengthening self-esteem, keeping their morale high by enabling them to continue to give of their best to their work and society at large. All of these fortify their healing environment and in the process optimize utilization of gifted and efficient human resources.

I close by going back to the public servant in distress. True, by sheer self-effort and talents, one may find “peace” with himself and neighbors. But this may not be complete or tenable for a long time if the ultimate source of that peace is not the Prince of Peace himself.

After all, Shalom, our inner peace is something we make with and is given as a gift by the Person whose coming to earth we celebrate on December 25.

May your Christmas be merry and blessed with the abiding Peace from above. Happy and prosperous New year, too.

nbi: 12.23.02

To the inner parts of the Presidential Palace, Nanjing, China, 2007

Today, being Fathers’ Day and tomorrow, school opening day, I want to write my thoughts on two inter-related matters that may irritate, perhaps, infuriate “loving” parents.

I have been figuring out that if I were a father today, I would certainly face a crisis of fatherhood on the issue of educating my children.

It would be a long-running issue with an assertive wife, who thinks not very differently from other yuppie parents of today.  They believe that in order to secure the children’s “bright” future, there is no substitute for sending their children to expensive private schools.  I can say this with utmost uncertainty.  In my 20 plus years of hobnobbing with would-become and real parents, I have yet to meet those who still keep faith in today’s public school.  Oh, how I wish my generalization would be proven wrong.  

The yuppie parent (and even the not-so-yuppie ones) have hearts bleeding with the sentiment “kawawa naman ang anak ko” – if his/her child would be forced by economic circumstances to attend a public school.  I admit that the more these words reverberate in my quiet hours, the more I cannot understand what being “kawawa” means.  I can well understand the practical economic reasons behind the concern and the pity that pierce the parents’ hearts.  But until now, unlike most parents, I am not yet ready to equate the public school with the place for the “kawawa” child and to virtually condemn this predominant part of our educational system as an institution from which nothing good can come out. 

So, today when the school opens, I would brave the nagging, perhaps the tears of the yuppie wife, by insisting to enroll my kid (or all of them if I had many) in the public school nearest to my home.  This is the San Vicente Barangay Elementary School, which largely caters to its nearby squatter community and is separated from our sector (U.P. BLISS) by a pigsty-lined creek and a perimeter hollow-block fence.  Or if I were working and/or living in my home province, that public school would most probably be my dear 95-plus- year-old Alma Mater, the Sariaya Elementary School – the central school of my boyhood and where most of my dreams and aspirations in life were formed.

The would-have-been wife would naturally assert her queenly prerogative to nurture and determine the “success” paths of her kids. Using argumentum ad misericordiam through the still-vague notion of “kawawa naman ang bata” and “c’mon-be-practical” reasoning, I would surely find it extremely difficult to contend against the wife’s well-entrenched belief that the children’s future is tightly tied to their enrolment in a school for the affluent.  I surmise that her position is based on the widely held perception of the “decline” of the public school system and the hope of most of today’s parents that a stint in the school for the affluent would enable their kids, early enough, to build up a future network of people of economic and social influence.  (The validity of this theory of educational sociology should be a subject of separate discussion.)

 Sa totoo lang, I still cannot pinpoint the time of the onset of the public school decline in our educational history. Until the mid-seventies, the public schools (both elementary and high school levels) were still the most preferred by parents and students alike. At that time, I can still remember that the private school as a whole had yet to be seen in most favorable light. Educational elitism, then, was largely frowned upon.

 As an adult with growing interest in educational issues, I remember two major past instances, perhaps, attitudinal factors behind the damaging blow on the image of the public school. 

 About nineteen years ago, a yuppie education minister (whose parents were considered pillars of the budding Philippine public school system long before the war) spoke before what I can vaguely remember as an assembly of teachers and parents.  I was told that that he wanted to convince his audience about the merits of the public schools. But somebody from the audience was bold enough to ask him: “Sir, may we know what school do your children go to?”  To the credit of the minister, he candidly answered: “Ateneo Prep.”   (Patay kang bata ka!)   Then, he went on to explain the reasons for his choice of the elitist school for his boys.

Also, during the past 20 years that I have been working and interacting with educators and policy-makers both at the central and field levels, I gathered (but I’m no longer shocked now) that many public school teachers themselves prefer to send their children to private schools.  For those who can’t still afford, they would express the aspiration that they too can send them to “quality” private schools, even if such schools are far from their homes and this would involve larger extra costs.  Never mind that basic education of comparable quality may be offered by the public school where they teach is free.

Now, I am no longer surprised at the unending complaint about the alleged “low” pay.  Given a drastic change in lifestyle that private schooling implies to an average family like that of teachers, even if public schools teachers are actually already paid higher than their private school counterparts (thanks to the salary standardization law), the Ma’ams will continue to be caricatured as always busy selling tocino, bra and other goods.

Kawawa naman ang public schools!  What can be more damaging to the institution than having teachers who do not believe in what they do? What could be more earth-shattering than the top honcho of the educational system and many public school teachers themselves giving the unflattering signals when they unwittingly declare, by their acts and values, that the public school is not the place for their own children.

Turning again to the Filipino yuppie parents, it is also no more surprise for me why a big number of them (especially mothers) would brave the uncertainties and dangers in foreign lands and slave themselves even as domestics.  Again, the often-cited and most important reason is that they need more money to educate their children so that their future will be secure. But then, bright future for their children necessarily means that their education is obtained from private schools.  With this observation, I cannot help but recall one similar burning issue that raged within the PilForum, on the Filipinos (the best of them) on the exodus, early last year.  I posted one passionate discourse about the wisdom (or folly, sorry for being judgmental) of premature decisions to migrate only for the reason, which I describe as inordinate anxiety of today’s generation of parents about their children’s most comfortable future.

In that posting, I cited the cases of two young fathers I know, both of whom succumbed to the “ultimate” demand of fatherhood. They both reasoned out: “I wanted a bright future for my children.”  Perhaps, not being a father myself, although I raised five orphaned nieces and nephews almost single-handedly, I confess that I tend to be skeptical about and amazed by this line of reasoning. Given the qualifications and professional standing, let alone the economic status of the two fathers, I’m sure their children would not exactly grow up with insecure or less bright future. So, I go on still groping on just what being “kawawa” really means. Why do children being educated in public schools have to be “kawawa?

Perhaps, because of my plebeian upbringing, something in me is reacting to this form of “revolution of rising expectation” of fatherhood.  Thus, my notion of “kawawa” children is quite different.  To me, children will become more kawawa if I, in my desire to give them a life of affluence, would deprive them of the future ultimate source of strength of character – the wisdom and life-enhancing experiences oftentimes brought about by inconveniences, deprivation, and other trials.  Personally, I benefited so much and I am grateful for growing “wiser” by being educated in the University of Hardknocks, the School of Common Sense and the Institute of Everyday Practice.  These are the things that the Lord used to make our parents and our generation hang tough and dependent on God and on ourselves alone rather than on what this material world has to give.  So, I think I should not  “overdo” parenthood by giving my children every bit of comfort and shielding them from faith-building hard knocks, lest I preclude God from building the inner man in them. I am afraid, children would in the end, live miserable lives, if they were raised overprotected, over-provided and self-centered, tending to think that the world owes them a life of all comforts and freedom from want.

Ultimately and in the long run, the real kawawa children are those who have been programmed to have fewer chances to confront and cope with pains and frustration.  No wonder, psychiatry is increasingly becoming a lucrative practice even in this country.

Because of this stubborn view of what is the real kawawa, I go back to the overlooked and unappreciated merits of the public school system. Too bad, I have no children of my own to help me demonstrate my convictions about this matter. 

First, I would send my kids to school not just to be formally educated.  More than the grade-and-ranks and -honor trappings of today’s formal schooling which sometimes reduces it to mere contests, I want them to gain wisdom.  I want them to be regarded as “learned,” not just to achieve academic honors. I am not prepared to embrace a highly competitive and achievement-oriented educational philosophy and practice that push children into an early induction into the paper chase (later on in life, a rat race). Very often, expensive private schools engender this trend – for this is how they operationalize “quality education.”  (My apologies to a few private schools that have actually modified  their student assessment system).

A basic truism in educational sociology has it that the hidden curriculum is much more powerful than the formal curriculum. On account of this, there is something in the public school (at least the majority of the old ones), which makes it a fine setting for children’s acquiring some of my deeply-held values.  In my own nine-year stint in the public school, I can proudly say, that I learned with very profound effects, from this educational venue and source of wisdom  that probably no others could give.

The other reason, I think, is equally practical, albeit, self-serving. I want to avoid highly probable domestic crises. Honestly, I would be unwilling to pay horrendous tuition and other fees for pre-school which are higher than the fees for the doctoral level.  Actually, my bigger economic-psychological reason is that in the confines of the public school, my kids would be shielded like their father before them, from observing and imbibing lifestyles of the kids of the rich and famous.

Why do I dread this?  I’m sure I would not be able to cope when they confront me with the questions like: you are a working for the government, how come you are still riding on a motorbike, why don’t you take and pick us to and from school with Expedition or Mercedez like our classmates? Or why don’t you want to buy us those high-tech toys and gadgets and fancy clothes worn by our classmates? Don’t underestimate the pressures coming from children for parents to alter the family lifestyle in order to be-like-the-joneses.

Assuming I can afford it, my would-have-been-kids will spend an average of seven hours in an affluent environment of the private schools, interact and surely will grow up with the rich kids for at least ten years.  I shudder at the thought that no matter how disciplinarian I can be, I am not all-powerful enough to control their minds and feelings when they eventually become class-conscious and begin to feel that they are indeed, set apart from the rest of the society, hence, they are to be treated differently, perhaps deferentially by others.  The public school ambience remains to be my best bet for training them for egalitarianism and how to feel deeply for people of their own kind. (My second apologies to a few private schools that already adopted a curriculum designed to train men and women to live for others.)

I am incurably awed by the long history of the capacity of the public schools (of the old genre) to mold young lives and simple folks into great and often brilliant men.  If we search today’s roster of outstanding Filipino statesmen and leaders, both the ranks of the living and the dead, chances are that these persons are products of the public schools.   Among the living ones who have nice stories to tell about their Alma Mater and how they rose above their very humble beginnings include Senator Juan Flavier, former DTI Sec. Roy Navarro, Retired Col. Ed Visperas, and many, many others.  We can also count from among the now dead the likes of Presidents Magsaysay and Diosdado Macapagal (the Poor Boy from Lubao), Ramon Mitra, Jr., etc.

The chief beef of many parents’ of today against the present-day public schools is the unsophisticated ambience (though there are also a number of first-rate public schools in rich cities) together with the alleged “bad influences of peers” who most likely come from low-income families.  But since when did the average public school not have poverty-related image problems? Except for today’s usual problem of overcrowding and the drug menace lurking at the gates of the public schools (meron din sa private schools), the overall situation today is not different from the way it used to be in my time.  A community of the impoverished bounded half of the area of my old school, where gangsterism and forms of social marginalization had a fertile soil.  Because of the passable school fences and gates, the school toilet then was the unofficial toilet of the nearby community. You can bet that sometimes, I, like many other schoolkids would rather not pee at all. Yet, out of the gates of my old Alma Mater, came many fine young men and women who became successful professionals (now scattered all over the world), politicians and even church leaders. 

Today, one average (perhaps despised) public school truly amazes me.  I have a neighbor in the third floor of my building in the UP BLISS who has three sons. The eldest, Garret, is an amiable, humble, unassuming yet very brilliant young professional who sometimes hitchrides in my motorbike on his way to his clinic and post-graduate studies center.  Graduating from the UP College of Dentistry, he finished number one in the Dental Board Examination last year, to the rejoicing of our community. Soon, he will be a dentistry professor. The second son, Earl, is another fine-mannered gentleman who finished Aviation Engineering and is now a Junior Materials Planner at Air Philippines.  The youngest, ten-year old Edgar Jr., is a boy whom every father would wish to have for a son – he is well-behaved, articulate, very polite and helpful. Happily, he now regards me as (and even calls me) Ninong.  This boy is a grade 4 pupil of a double-shift school with a not-so-nice location and ambience, the San Vicente ES that I mentioned above. This humble public school is also very proud to have Dr. Garret Robles and brother Engr. Earl among its outstanding alumni.

So after all the above is said and written, what is my point?  Avoid marrying a highly educated yuppie?  Is it blessed to remain single if you cannot be a father to private school-educated kids?   NOT AT ALL!   The whole point is a simple affirmation of my trust in the Philippine public school as a bedrock of the educational system and I, as a worker in the education vineyard, would like to remain committed to the cause of enhancing its distinct role in our social fabric.

 02.02.02

Is there real education beyond the classroom?  How should that Basic Learning Need be availed and be useful to one’s life and journey?

To start fulfilling the promise I made re; the origin, vision and philosopy of ALS, I reproduce below the message I penned to the Teacher Education and Development Loop years ago:

It’s a matter of great academic and technical interest to all members of the Loop, hence, I feel constrained to respond to this latest posting on the ALS – Alternative Education question via the TEDPLoop.

This is also intended to reach the bigger education community (especially the DepEd) to understand the antecedents and rationale of this “systemic” educational innovation introduced by the Education for All (EFA) Plan of Action 1991-1999, put in place by the ADB-funded Nonformal Education Project (1993) and recognized and awarded by the UNESCO through its prestigious Nomah Prize in 1997. Ultimately, the Republic Act 9155 not only legalized the term but also institutionalized the concept and its future program translation. The Inter-Agency Committee on Education Statistics (IACES) has also followed suit and adopted the rightful definition of the term.

All of us did not only have angst (we also had reservation) about the term “alternative” way back in the 1990-91 consultations before we enshrined it in the EFA-PPA.

To find better justification, we had reference to the “Alternative Education Program” which the Association of Major Religious Superiors and their lay supporters espoused in the early 80’s (with the late Dr. Malu Doronila as spokesperson). However we found that the “alternative” spoken of was really just the “other” kinds or persuasion of contents of what Filipinos should learn to respond to the socio-political ferment at that time. These things were still largely very much about school-based learning. Other than the contents or curriculum, there was not seen any need for alternative to formal education or schooling.

In short, after many workshops and collecting the doubts and objections to the term, we still ended up with the term ALS in 1991. Why, because in essence, the point of reference was the school AND WHAT WE COULD DO (LEARN, TEACH, RESEARCH, ETC) OUTSIDE THE SCHOOL SYSTEM which pedagogically, financially, technically and socially, had so many limitations as foreseen by the original prophetess of the ALS, Dr. Liceria Brillantes Soriano, the founding Director of the INNOTECH. During the last few months of her life when we heard her articulate the natural constraints of schooling in bringing about real education, we did not really have any inkling that we would call that banana ALS. All we had in mind was to find what appropriate term would best describe the vision,the program and the setup and the eventual machinery to carry it out.

Why is it a system? (or a subsystem to be more accurate). First, schooling or the school system was seen as something synonymous with the educational system. We all grew up with that idea that education means schools and schooling. Yet, we all realized that there is a much larger world of learning where people can learn or acquire education (formally, nonformally and informally). It has become a universal truth that learning (sometimes a better one) is not a monopoly of the establishment called schools. In a way, the ALS is really a subsystem of the total learning system which the EFA PPA 1 sought to reconfigure in 1991. Its graphical illustration can be sent upon request.

ALS just followed this line of reality and truth: there must be an alternative way of learning which need not be conducted or take place in the well-established system called schools or within the four walls of the classroom. That set up, NOT JUST THE LEARNING CONTENTS, must be the ALTERNATIVE to the school system. The truth is that there is a better classroom according to the Mother of Philippine EFA, Dr. Lourdes Quisumbing: THE WORLD IS THE CLASSROOM, she philosophically proclaimed during the launching of the EFA 1.

I think it is time to get over the angst or other nasty notions we might associate with the world “alternative.” Director Carol Guerrero of the Bureau of Alternative Learning System could not have justified it in a better way: It is an alternative with the best and legitimate intention and it is an alternative that works (and can succeed, if I may add).

Much of our problem, I think, is that certain connotations stick like a sore thumb and we cannot just shed them off from our mindset. It’s the same way with which the “Grand Alliance” for EFA was received and perceived in 1991. Despite being enshrined in the World Declaration of EFA as one of the cardinal principles around which EFA was to be pursued, Filipinos still viewed it with suspicions and something akin to the famous or infamous Grand Alliance, a political coalition that was born in the early 60’s. Until now, the Jomtien and Dakar Declarations, notwihstanding, people are still affected with unexplained and unknown fear about the term Grand Alliance. But that’s the way it is with its noble philosophy, and we have legitimately constituted the National Committee on EFA (PPA 1) and EFA National Committee (2001-2015) as the expression of the Philippine Grand Alliance for EFA.

For practical, social and legal reasons, we had to create an artificial boundary for the original ALS. (Note that the CHED and TESDA -launched ETEEAP is a higher or post-basic education level of ALS). Because of our commitment to Universal Primary Education which should be COMPULSORY, ALS should preferably be offered and availed by learners who already had enough foundations for “disciplined” learning and who should benefit from especially the hierarchically ordered system of science and mathematics via formal education. To ensure that primary education can be universalized amidst the known limitations of both children and formal education itself, we have to reach out to them through creative but non-restrictive way called Alternative Delivery Modes of formal education (ADM). At age 15 (the viable boundary), learners with capacity to learnd how to learn can already learn further on their own and tackle ALS or indpendent learning with or without help from the schools. This is why ALS in the Philippines is basically for youths and adults. Higher ALS can be had through the Expanded Tertiary Education Equivalency and Accreditation Program (ETEEAP).

It’s all right for academic institutions like UPCollege of Education to offer courses that will cover ADMs. Basically, they are classes or kinds of educational innovations/technology. And the new TEacher Education Curriculum already has provisions for that. Just ask TEDPLooper Allan B about it and see how we can maximize schoolchildren’s exposure to many more kinds of ADMs both here and overseas.

But to combine it with ALS and call it Alternative Education, I’m afraid (sorry for being personally defensive) might not just distort the vision, intention and program. It might even subvert that which is already set in place by law, unless we amend RA 9155. It bears repeating, that other contents alone do not ALS constitute; it is the machinery, philosophy, and learners/workers that do.

I hope that I have adequately clarified and that this may spark further debates that will lead ALS to the equilibrium point as they are offered in the higher education institutions, not necessarily in education faculties.

nbi: 11/06/06

Today, exactly one year after I deeply mourned the passing of our beloved Freedom and Democracy President Cory at the gate of her Times Street house, I gather my old   thoughts on basic education to pay her a “Babang Luksa” tribute.

Without knowing it in life, our Heroine and Mother of the Nation accomplished in death more by driving home in a more extraordinary way the two important learning contents of basic education: attitudes and values towards being a Filipino.

Her prayer of thanks which was widely aired and published says all that was inside her heart : “AKO’Y NAGPAPASALAMAT SA INYONG LAHAT AT LALONG LALO NA SA PANGINOONG DIYOS NA GINAWA NIYA AKONG ISANG FILIPINO.” This has profoundly touched the hearts and minds of many Filipinos who are in search of a true leader of the nation.

Truly, this means so much to the two most important milestones in Philippine education and the Education for All (EFA) movement which gave us the “expanded vision of education” and the measure of “good” teaching through the BESRA.

Without this message reverberating in our national consciousness before and after her passing, perhaps, we would not have noticed that we might have been loving our country less because we are less conscious and proud of our national identity.

In the age of globalization and in the era of “internationally-shared human resources,” nationalism or love of country might have become passe or been relegated to the background. Some might even have unwittingly looked at it as a liability or a “bad word” in the drive for higher foreign investments and accelerated economic development.

This is how adults have looked at it during the past twenty five years of obsession with global competitiveness. What about the children and its implications on basic education? Why is this prayer-statement of President Cory so significant to the New Functional Literacy?

About 27 years ago, the late Dr. Malu Doronila of the UP College of Education, shocked the education community with the revelation of her doctoral dissertation: that the average Filipino kid would rather be a citizen of another country, rather than be a Filipino. Among the citizenships or nationalities they would rather have included being an American, a Japanese, a Saudi and I think five others.

It said it all. This child-like aspiration or real wishes of children on their national identity will speak much about the values and attitudes they would live out in adult life. Perhaps, these are even reflective of the values of their families and larger communities.

Is the average Pinoy not at peace with himself, his country and his identity? Consider the following manifestations:

1. Getting a “green card” or gaining American citizenship has become a high measure of success in life that is well admired and worthy of emulation.

2. Penchant for anything “stateside” even if some local products are highly comparable, price competitive and contextually appropriate

3. Obeisance to or greater cooperation with a foreigner boss; many local managers may not be able to exact the same amount and level of work discipline. Or most Pinoys excel in whatever they do when working in other countries but may not be as productive or effective in local workplace

4. Obsession with the white skin and the whitening of skin. Just see how many advertisements and products openly cater to this physical delight. Take note also of the preference to have a Caucasian-looking espouse to marry and having mestizo children.

5. Sometimes “suicidal” attempts to “try one’s luck” in other countries even if they are already making good in their profession or livelihood in their country. Oh, such true stories of Pinoy professionals and non-poor who were chased by guard dogs while crossing state borders, who hid for days in windowless container vans in freezing weather to get inside European countries, etc.

Note: with the above examples, I would be happy to be corrected or proven wrong by empirical studies. I also don’t intend to generalize and I recognize the economic rationality of the average Filipinos’ desire to land abroad, no matter what difficulties, negative social consequences not to mention the great expense such decision involves. But I tend to think that these predisposition may not be that prevalent if Pinoys have more of the drive and motivations that made average Vietnamese, Koreans, Japanese and Malaysians highly value their identification with their countries and thus give more to nation-building.

What should we teach and how effective can we do in fostering a sense of “shared identity” and national pride that strengthen national unity. What should underpin such basic education that we may also equate with good or quality teaching?

Following the education for all (EFA’s) expanded vision of education and Delors Commission Report on Learning: The Treasures Within, the Literacy Coordinating Council (LCC) officially adopted in April 2008 the new definition of Functional Literacy whose revisit began in 1997. The LCC-convened10-man study group recommended the new definition as follows:

A range of skills and competencies – cognitive, affective, and behavioral – which enables individuals to:

§ live and work as human persons

§ develop their potentials

§ make critical and informed decisions

§ function effectively in society within the context of their

environment and that of the wider community (local, regional, national and global)

in order to improve the quality of their lives and that of society

Operationally and in simpler terms, FL is the ability to communicate effectively, to solve problems scientifically, to think critically and creatively, to use resources sustainably and be productive, to develop one’s sense of community and to expand one’s world view. Along with the new definition officially adopted are five strands of indicators which were heavily influenced by the four global learning goals, e.g. learning to do, learning to be, learning to learn and learning to live together recommended by the Delors Report.

EFA, hence, equates being “educated” with being functionally literate. This is why the Philippine EFA Plan is aptly titled: Functionally Literate Filipinos, an Educated Nation. By this concept, therefore, quality education is not to be seen and judged solely on the basis of how many classrooms, teachers, textbooks, etc. Nor should it be indicated alone by the traditional notion of “academic excellence” indicated by examination scores. Rather, by this yardstick, what should matter more to us as a society, should be how functional individuals and citizens Filipinos have become.

One important strand added and emphasized in the operational definition of the new FL is the “development of one’s sense of community.” To stress its importance in the holistic education of the Filipinos, this strand was assigned numerous and elaborate indicators such as: a sense of personal and national identity, makatao, makabayan, makakalikasan, maka-Diyos, knowledge of one’s history, pride in one’s culture and respect for those of others, self-awareness, self-discipline, sense of responsibility, self-worth, self-realization, pagbabagong-loob, pakikipag-kapwa (pakikilahok, pakikiisa kapatiran). These indicators of functionality practically point to both our schools and other sources and venues of learning what and how we teach and what and how should Filipinos learn values and attitudes, the most fundamental competencies.

It bears repeating that schools, however, need not be solely responsible for bringing about this kind of functional literacy. Sources of informal learning, especially the individuals’ media exposure also have much to do in one’s becoming functionally literate. With the patterns of Filipinos’ media exposure as revealed by the FL Surveys, one can surmise why some who had little or no schooling became functionally literate while some who have higher levels of schooling are still functionally illiterates.

The new definition, indeed, has staggering implications on both the content of and manner of learning and who is delilvering it. By adopting this definition, a policy signal is thus declared to government and society: education is not a monopoly of DepEd but a societal responsibility; learning in schools and out of schools and the ways of delivering education should be consciously be harmonized and coordinated towards a highly functional Filipino.

The late President so loved her country for all its weaknesses and pitfalls that made many Pinoys to leave and even seek other countries’ citizenship. As long as Filipinos can remember President Cory, so will they also remember her prayer-statement which was well demonstrated by her life and deeds. That we can continually be challenged how to be more functionally literate is a great legacy in education and learning that she has left.

May we not be a nation of short memory. By not being so, we can always re-kindle and strengthen our love for the country of our birth. Maybe, that is where real and full national development will begin.

nbi: 1 Aug. 10

fn: cory and FL