Friday, February 6, 2009

2008 Immersion and Exchange Program of the DALS-C's

Narrative Report
of Noel S. Ortega
for the 2008 Immersion and Exchange Program
of the District ALS Coordinators
Island Garden City of Samal, Davao del Norte
November 24-29, 2008

“City of Smiles”, it is my first impression of the word Davao. But I didn’t just smile because inside my heart I shouted for joy and asked if it was really true when I was chosen as one of the delegates from Cavite Province who joined in the flock of CALABARZON’s District ALS Coordinators or known as DALSC’s for this year’s Immersion and Exchange Program held at the panoramic paradise and naturally gifted tourist destination Island Garden City of Samal, a component city of Davao del Norte.
It was my second visit to Davao and I know that this one is different from the first. At the outset, I assumed that going there was really a laborious task since for me, the word ‘immersion’ connotes engaging a life of people in a certain place- it is more on empathizing rather than sympathizing. It is also just like being in the shoes of someone else. Yet, since I am a believer of “When in Rome, do as the Romans do” and an adventurous person as well, I really enjoyed the experiences and learning acquired from our arrival on November 24 and up to our departure from the place last November 29, 2008.
We are four participants from the Cavite province. Together with Mrs. Narcisa Bergado of Naic, Mrs. Mercy Janairo of Bacoor and Mrs. Teresita Golosinda my companion from Carmona, I arrived at Ninoy Aquino International Airport an hour earlier from our flight schedule. We met there our delegation’s chaperon Mr. Benito Picones from Rizal Province. Our airplane, Philippine Airlines left at 10:25 am and arrived at Davao International Airport on a balmy and foggy 12:25 afternoon.

Maayong Pag-abot sa Davao!

Region XI officials fetch us from the airport and sent us to their DepEd regional office for our traveling and other incidental expenses allowances. They gave us P10,000 each and promised to give the other 5,000 pesos the next day upon the completion of the required documents for itinerary of travel.
After that, without taking our lunch, we traveled the whole afternoon riding in a bus which being transported through a ro-ro boat from Davao City Seaport to IGACUS port. From there, the bus traversed less than an hour upon reaching a small elementary school. We were suffering total hunger at that time since it was already 2:00 in the afternoon. The teachers, since they don’t have prepared food for us, told us to have our lunch in a nearby cafeteria.
After eating our lunch, we made our courtesy call to the office of the city Mayor Aniano P. Antalan. We had some conversations and souvenir pictures taken with him. We went back to the school and from that school we rode once again in an old PUJ, which they said a service vehicle of employees working in the city government office. The road was rough and wet and some of my companions fussed that the travel was long while others were worried because it’s already twilight but we were not yet arriving at our unknown destination. The view of the surroundings we passed-by were full of enormous plants and various tall trees and the most troubling according to them was that houses were less in the place. I stayed calm and enjoyed what the view offered to us.
At last, we arrived Baranggay Kaputian, where we were accommodated in a simple government-owned beach resort. Each group chosen hurriedly the cottage which was suited to them. Upon fixing our personal belongings and taking a short rest, the local DALS C’s and ALS IM’s prepared for us simple dinner and a short program where the kind barangay captain and the jolly vice mayor of the city shared their time to welcome us. After that, we held our meeting with our chaperon and grouped us into two. It was decided that the first group will do the advocacy, social mobilization and literacy mapping at Sta. Cruz, Talicud Island and the second group will go to Barangay Libertad in Kaputian. I was lucky because my name was read to be in the first group. I ardently wanted to swim that night but because I was dead-beat already, I preferred to sleep after that in preparation for the next day activities.

Second Day Rendezvous

I woke up at 5: 00 in the morning with my three companions already awaken and decided after gargling my mouth to splash myself on a cold and very salty water of the beach. Later on, while in the water, I felt some skin irritations which Dante, the local IM, told me were caused by small jellyfish or locally known as “dikya”. I was a little downcast but he said I have to ignore them. I did but the itchiness continued so after a while, even though I really liked to soak myself into the water, I decided to disengage and took a bath with the freshwater.
7:00 o’clock in the morning was our call-time for breakfast and after an hour will be the time to go to our own group’s assigned destination. I was excited to the fact that we were riding on a big banca. But some DALSC’s in my group were nervous and worried. Passing the crystal blue water was amazing. The morning air was cold and refreshing. The boat ran mildly on the placid sea water below. After less than half an hour of sailing on the 3 km seawater, we arrived in the small port of Brgy. Sta Cruz in Talicud Island, one of IGACUS’ nine islets.
A group of men, each with a motorcycle they called “habal-habal” were waiting for us. They took us by two’s and transported us on a stiff and curvy road going up to a small barangay hall of Sta. Cruz. A lady barangay kagawad welcomed us and briefed us about some information of the barangay. While having the conversation, the rain fell which delayed our task that day. When the rain stopped after 20 minutes, we decided to proceed and trekked the 2 km soft, wet and slimy walkway going down to our main target- a group of houses lined along the western portion of the shore. I can’t feel the complexity of our job that time because the view way down the slope was worth rewarding- a tranquil blue sea lying on a serene morning sun. Once again, our leader directed us to find a partner and to start our routine that day.
Juliet Labita of Tayabas, Quezon and I went together and started mapping the locality. We were able to interview a mother with seven children whose two daughters were not attending in formal secondary school. Almost all of our interviewee have members in their family who are not attending formal education. We found out that it was because of financial constraints and some of them preferred to really work to help their parents meet both ends of their day to day life existence. Talking with them was wonderful and touching. Amidst the poverty that they were suffering, you can still read the happiness which are radiating in their faces. Surely they are arduously hoping and praying for a cozier life but they are satisfied of what the nature can offer to them. They never asked for more of what they purely need- and that is food for survival.
My first half of the day ended with a heavy heart upon hearing the people’s little life stories and personal wisdoms. Me and my partner journeyed back to the boat were our companions already waiting for us to have our lunch. After having our lunch we proceeded back to the resort where we slept the first night. Our leader told us to take some rests and then prepare ourselves for the transfer to Philippine Human Resources Development Center (PHRDC), an establishment owned by the government. We would stay there for two nights.
We took at least two hours before arriving at PHRDC. It is an old convent type hostel built on a rocky shore. Small sea ports were built along the shore for embarking goods from small water type transports and fishermen’s vessels. Each one hurriedly chosen his comfortable bed to rest and waited for the dinner to be served. After having our dinner and completing the data in our itinerary of travel, officials from Bureau of Alternative Learning System (BALS) came and distributed our 5,000 pesos allowances they promised to give us during our visit to Region XI DepED Office. Confusions arise when they deducted some amount ranging from P300 to P2000 after their recomputation of the amount we have written in our itinerary of travel. Unfortunately, some of us were not able to get the amount because they were hurrying for the last trip of the boat going back to Davao City proper. They again promised us to give the amount the next day.

Travels and Travails

I woke up at 6:30 and went to the veranda of the PHRDC. The stern rays of the sun in the east greeted me. I saw some of my companions already having fun in the beach water. I grabbed my digital camera and went to them for some souvenir photos. I refused to take a bath since my cough continued to worsen. I went back to the dormitory to eat my breakfast and prepare myself for our next activities which were literacy mapping, FLT, and demonstration teaching to the out-of-school youth learners in Brgy. Guilon for Group I and Brgy. Babak in Mambago for Group II.
After traveling for 30 minutes we came to the place and the barangay captain greeted us. He accommodated our group in his simple barangay hall and gave us the facts and data of his barangay. We found out that out-of-school youth in Brgy. Guilon exceeds the number of youth enrolled in school. That is why ALS A & E Tests were widely activated and given ample recognition by his constituents.
After the short briefings with the baranggay captain, our group leader divided all the members. Some proceeded to do the literacy mapping, others (including myself) prepared the instructional materials for the demonstration teaching, while the rest did the advocacy and social mobilization.
While I was drawing the presentation for my demonstration teaching, the IGACUS Division ALS Coordinator came and informed us that the four of us who are from Cavite were not able to receive the P5,000 because we did not present our official receipt from our air carrier, Philippine Airlines. I tried to call up our Division ALS Supervisor who was in Cavite that time for some help but I cannot reached her because our location that time has no cell phone signal. I ask the local Division ALS Coordinator to help us and relayed our plea to the BALS official to give us the amount since we really paid for our airfare but we left the official receipts to our Division ALS Supervisor. We were promising to give those things to the BALS National Office in Pasig City right after we get back to Cavite, but to no avail, nothing happen.
I was not affected by that, but I pitied my other companions who went there without extra money for other incidental expenditures in the place. I tried to forget the drawback which came that moment and composed myself to do with excellence the assigned task to me.
We went back to PHRDC at 6:15 pm.

Re-exploring the Smile

The day was a lazy one for me. I knew that would be my last day in the place because we will be transferred to Davao City later on. So I woke up and took my breakfast late. Some participants were excited to the fact that the day will be full of fun and shopping too. I just let myself go with the flow, since I was not too excited anymore to roam around the busy City of Smile since I visited and wandered around it already three years ago. The bus took us again to the barge where we transferred into another big and rotten bus which carried us to the hotel which is managed by Department of Environment and Natural Resources employees along Oyangureng Avenue, Davao City.
The local ALS Instructional Managers (IM’s) did not leave us but also served us as tour guides around the city. They took us to the G Mall where we had our lunch. Then after that, we proceeded to Aldivinco Pasalubong Center to buy souvenir items to be given to our co-workers, families and loved-ones way back home. Then we proceeded to SM Davao where we have taken our dinner. Then, we went back to our hotel with smiles in our lips. We spent our last night there.

In Solitude

We woke late to recharge the energy we lost during the previous days. My companions suggested to go back to Alduvinco to buy more pasalubong they forgotten yesterday. So we went there the second time. After buying all the remaining items in our lists, they decided to go back to the hotel because they said they were already exhausted. But I said since I was already in Davao, I want to revisit some of the tourist destinations around the city. They really wanted to rest so I bid goodbye to them and I traveled alone.
I asked some folks where I can find the People’s Park. They told me that the place is a distance walk from Alduvinco but I decided to pick up a taxi because I know that what the people in the provinces called “near” is actually far in reality. I was in a hurry that time since I promised my companions to be in our hotel before the clock ticked at 12:00 noon. The park was still closed but when I approached the guard and he found out that I was from Manila, he said that the park is open for tourists like me anytime. I smiled at him as a sign of gratitude. He gave me a sheet of paper which he said I can accomplish after roaming inside the park. I enjoyed wandering around the park because of the colorful giant stone sculptures in every corner of the place. There were many high school students in pink and blue PE uniform who were holding their field trip in the place. They were friendly and even conversed with me and asked for my email address and cell phone number. We even had a picture taken as my souvenir. After less than an hour, I decided to leave and went to another place. I accomplished first the survey form the guard has given to me and handed the paper to him. I thanked him and went out of the park.
I picked up another taxi and asked the driver to bring me to Crocodile Farm. The farm was still there with lots of carnivorous reptiles. The place is stingy yet amazing because it does not only have crocodiles but with other animals as well like birds, mammals like monkeys and snakes.
After having some photos of the animals, I opted to get to our hotel. I arrived and saw my companions busy packing their suitcases full of pasalubong. I did the same and rested for some hours before boarding a taxi which will send us to Davao International Airport.

‘Till I see you again, Davao

This mixed experiences I gained from this Immersion and Exchange Program for DALSC’s will truly leave an indelible mark in my memory. Not to forget the place of Davao which is truly a City of Smile literally and allegorically. I know I will go back to her once more.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Serendipity in my Life, Discoveries in a Square World

“I would like to be an architect, a planner, a builder of buildings, highways and bridges.”
Never during my childhood life did I dream of becoming a teacher. I don’t have the blood of an educator either.
Yet, I can still recall my childhood days in our remote barrio in Pinagbadilan, Libon, Albay when my playmates and I played “titser-titseran” in variation to the usual “bahay-bahayan” and hide-and-seek. I used to play the role of a teacher since I was the most “knowledgeable” of them all. And as the most intelligent among my playmates and cousins, I often said, “I would like to be an architect someday, so I can build my family a beautiful house.”
I was born from a poor farmer’s family, the youngest in the brood of 14. My father’s enthusiasm for sending his children to school diminished when my oldest sister eloped with her boyfriend right after her high school graduation. Life in our barrio was a hand-to-mouth existence then; so out of depression, my father did not allow my remaining brothers and sisters to continue their studies anymore. Some of them left our barrio and tried their luck as servants in the nearby cities and in Manila. My mother used to justify my father’s decision with her long stories of my father’s hardship and complicated ways and means to support my eldest sister’s education. My mother said that she could not contradict hiss will since she was powerless, plain housewife-just my father’s partner in obeying God’s mandate of “Go and multiply”. I have so many questions about that but I always ended up trying to understand them.
The last four siblings (me included) considered ourselves blessed because my older brother (third in the family) was able to work as a construction worker in Saudi Arabia. That brother supported our family by sending a sum of money monthly to support our needs and our education. But my brother got married when I was in Grade 6 and his remittances ended as well. My father at that time relied once again on his usual work of rice and coconut farming. After my elementary graduation, I was sent to my elder sister who was already married and living in Camarines Sur. She promised to support my high school education. I was lucky that I finished my high school studies because of her magnanimous love, patience and kindness. She herself finished college as working student.
After my high school graduation, I was sent to my sister-in-law in Carmona, Cavite. She is the wife of my brother who was working in Saudi. My brother promised to send me to college at that time. Since my sister-in-law is a teacher, she suggested that I take up education course. I was at first reluctant, but with the persuasion of my sister who sent me to high school, I accepted my fate…
Life in college was not easy since it was not the usual house and school routine. I had to wake up at 4 o’clock in the morning to do the marketing for the canteen that my sister-in-law was managing for she was a canteen-teacher in a barangay elementary school in Carmona then. After marketing, I have to prepare all the necessary things in the canteen: washed the fruits and other utensils for food preparation, prepare the ingredients, cook the food to be sold out, attend to the buyers while memorizing my notes for my quizzes and exams. I had limited time to review all my lessons. After lunch was the time to go home and to prepare myself for school. I used to be late at times. My grades suffered because of my schedule; but I thought of more undesirable circumstances if I did not finish my studies. So I patiently put up with that daily routine for four long years; I used to cry in my solitary moments every now and then. I also prayed for more strength so I would be able to bear all the challenges ahead of me.
To make the story short I graduated from college in March 1994 as Best Student Teacher. I regarded that honor as better than Magna or Summa cum Laude since I bested all my classmates in terms of actual teaching. Some teachers who are very good academically cannot teach their students efficiently and effectively. I also passed the Professional Board Exams for Teachers and the Professional Civil Service Board Exams in the same year.

To acquire formal teaching experience, I spent my first year of teaching in a new private school in Carmona, Cavite the school-year after my graduation. My parents wanted me to go back to Bicol but I refused because I knew (and let’s accept it because it’s a reality in some places) that since I was a new applicant and with no influential person to back me up, I would be assigned to a far-flung barrio school somewhere in the seventh mountain.
God answered my prayers when the following year, 1995, I was called to apply in the public school and because of my good credentials, I was hired quickly with a permanent position in the central school. Since then, I have put my heart and soul into teaching even though I was assigned to handle the Grade 1 Section 7 pupils. I gave and shared my knowledge and talents with my pupils and co-teachers. And my fondness to the teaching profession grew tremendously.
After three years, I was assigned as District Guidance Coordinator. In 1999 to 2000 I was chosen as Outstanding Teacher in the District of Carmona and was given the first Hall of Fame Award in 2001. I was recognized twice as “Natatanging Guro ng Bayan ng Carmona” by Carmona “Sorteo” Jaycees in 2000 and 2001 and by the Rotary Club of Carmona in 2003. I was also honored as Outstanding Teacher in English in the Division of Cavite in 2003. Since 1999 up to the present, I am receiving a Perfect 10 rating which is equivalent to Outstanding in my Performance Appraisal System for Teachers (PAST).
My teaching career flourished further when I held the position of school paper adviser of our young pupil-journalists, My pupils won perennially in the division and regional schools press conferences and also qualified for the national level. Our two school papers “The Central Point” (English Publication) and “Centreglipiks” (Filipino Publication) were yearly winners up to the national level competition for the last seven years. Centreglipiks won in the Filipino category in 2004 and 2005 as Best School Papers in the Philippines. Both were also adjudged as finalists in the 2003, 2004, 2006 and 2007 Catholic Mass Media Awards. With these divine graces, good fortunes and delightful distinctions, I was invited as a lecturer or a resource speaker in campus journalism in various places in Region IV-A.
What more could I ask for? My more than ten-year teaching experience in the academe has given me more than enough personal satisfaction, tangible and pecuniary blessings, emotional strength, intellectual fulfillment and much rectified personal meaning and identity.
I felt so lucky when I was awarded as region IV-A Outstanding School Paper Adviser, Elementary Level, during the Regional Schools Press Conference at Imus, Cavite in January 2005, and Outstanding School Paper Adviser of the Philippines during the National Schools Press Conference in Surigao City, CARAGA Region last February 2005. The following year, God has given me another blessing when I was chosen one of the finalists in the Metrobank Foundation 2006 Search for Outstanding Teachers and Bato Balani Foundation: Many Faces of A Teacher Search.
At present, I am holding the position of Master Teacher I which I got last July 2005. I am also the District Alternative Learning System (ALS) and Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Coordinator. I chose the path of being a Master Teacher even though many said that I am very much qualified for the administrative track. My reason is that I love dealing with pupils than with teachers. I believe that teacher who educated children deserves more honor than parents who merely gave them birth; bare life is given by the parents but the teacher ensures a good life. Teaching young children is an art of awakening the natural curiosity of young minds for the purpose of satisfying it afterwards; the curiosity itself can be vivid and wholesome only in proportion as the mind is contented and happy.

I am happy that I am a teacher, a noble and divine profession. I have to accomplish this task God has assigned to me without regrets and grudges. I love what I am doing now. Though there are some forces enticing me t give up and follow the exodus of teachers who want to work abroad, I have to follow my heart’s desire of serving my own countrymen so that in my own little way I have shared what I have and what I can do as a teacher for the betterment of my society.
The brick road of my teaching profession is long, so I have to continue acquiring knowledge and information for my personal and professional growth and for the totality of my expertise. Reading books, attending seminars, training and workshops and attending higher education courses are only some of them. They are but my armors in my journey and quest of sharing fruitful education.
I may not have reached my dream of becoming an architect, a planner, a builder of buildings, highways and bridges. But God made me a teacher, a planner of “lessons”, a builder of society, a highway of intellect and a bridge between dreams and accomplishment. And I am satisfied.
What a colorful life I discovered in the square world of my classroom!
Serendipity indeed.

Welcome to my world...

I found this day important one
because at last I have now my own blogspot here.
This is what I call, "my Valentines Day gift to my self"
(personally, socially, professionally and even spiritually).
To all my friends who know me for real and reel,
I welcome you all...
Feel free to be a part of this simple spot
about simple "me" in this little corner of world wide web.
It is my delight that you find time browsing my blogs here.
Just smile when you're on it coz your smile brightens my day.
To all those who just coincidentally walk-by
and just find this spot somehow related to who you are,
I dearly welcome you too...
It's my pleasure to be a part of your great and wonderful life.
Whatever you are feeling right now: happy, bored, lonesome, guilty or ecstatic,
let that feeling pass and go.
Good day and Happy Hearts Month!
Hope that your heart radiates love, beauty and compassion to those who need it...