Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Time for Pruning a Kamuning Binangonan

I slept early last night so I woke up early. I went outside and saw that the everything was very quite, no sound of pots and pans, no shouts from angry parents and no pupils going to their schools. 

Everything was very still and the weather very calm so when I opened the Tv and found out that the local government suspended classes I was both glad and worried; maybe,this was the calm before the storm. I took the time to do a little pruning and defoliating some of my neglected materials, the weeds show it.

I'm working with a Kamuning Binangonan, a tree common in Rizal Province and one of the common bonsai material available here. 

I have had this material for  quite a time now. I started training this from stump and it has now well developed main and secondary branches but there was one part of this tree that had given me eyesore (pointed by the arrow)


The branch was out of proportion with the whole tree and made this part of the tree looked like one of Popeye's biceps.

Covering the branch with a piece of paper to see if cutting it off would make it look better.

Finally, after a few minutes of looking again and again, I decided to cut it off. this is difficult decision because it took years  for this branch to grow this size.

After cutting, I checked, again, if I made the right decision.

Comparing the two. The profile is now sexier than before.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 

The operation was over. I covered the wound with a plastic sheet to prevent dehydration.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

RECTO on a Saturday

I went to Recto Avenue in Manila last Saturday to buy second hand textbooks for my daughter's schooling. I have been doing this for three years and the effort saves me about fifty percent of the costs compared to brand new textbooks offered by the school.

One thing I notice is that the place does not change. It's the same old faces and the same tables and scattered on the sidewalks with assortments of products on display.

Photo by junbrioso

The same floor mats and chairs where people are sleeping oblivious to the pedestrians and the vehicles gassing them with carbon monoxide. In fact, these street dwellers and vendors have adapted so well with the environment that they have started to look like old jeepneys, hair matted and every crease and line in their faces are lined with soot from exhausts' fumes from vehicles.

The buildings are already condemned yet it is teeming with tenants and wares. It's the same shops with antique worn out signage and printing equipment that any museum would love to have.  .

The same ambiance, that of age and decay and and also that of vibrancy and youth. Observe when you walk along the sidewalks of Recto, you will notice that the old are on the sidewalk sitting on lounging chairs looking old and dead while the middle part are full of activities from young college students walking, talking,laughing, and fidgeting with their  gadgets.

Photo from Philippine Inquirer

I was walking along the side walk when people approached me unabashedly offering their services for forged licenses, diplomas, receipts and other documents. This is what Recto is famous for, forged documents. I don't know how this trade has not been stopped by the authorities. Its all there in the open, advertised  and with not even an iota of effort to secrecy.

Well, if you ask them these forgers would tell you that they are doing great service to the Filipino people because they provide job opportunities for the poor who cannot afford a college education.

I was tempted to buy  an M.A. in English or a Ph.D. in educational management diplomas but thought better of it because people may start wondering: "How in the world did you get an MA and a PhD when you can't even make your verb agree with your subject?"

Anyway, I got the books and went home. The temptation was too much.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Trimming the trees

It's the rainy season and one of the things that I fear every rainy season is the typhoon felling our trees on someone else's roof. This almost happened a couple of years ago, and I guess the trees were not that grown yet so all it did was lean. I was able to correct the trees and save them from felling by tying a rope around them and with the help of the neighbors pulled them up and put braces around them.                                                   
I have since then tried to trim our trees regularly. I used to pay a neighbor to do this but he did it the wrong way. He cut branches without any care as to where the branches would fall and this worried me especially since there were electric cables near the trees. This time, to save money and to do it my way, I did it myself.   

I sharpened my itaks. This was one of the things I learned from my father. I also prepared a rope and a ladder.  I am not as light and as nimble as I used to be, so for safety I lashed a branch to the trunk so that I could have a foothold.   I checked if it could hold my weight, and it did.  

Lashing was one of the skills that I had learned from the Boy Scouts. So, encourage your children to join the scouting movement.   
I am afraid of heights, one of my phobias. I am still scared of it but I guess seeing that no one else would do this job, I overcame it. While on top of the tree I kept repeating Epictetus' words: "it's not the things that bother you, it's what you think of them that does." And actually (there's that darned word again), it's not that high, about twenty feet or so.

I guess this is why Epictetus' philosophy helped an American Vietnam war hero to survive as a prisoner of war for seven and a half years. Epictetus writing was studied and was made the basis for a theraphy, the cognetive behavioral theraphy. One of the most effective according to articles and the premise is so simple:“you largely feel the way you think.” 

So, it's all about using your reason, which we all have, to defeat or control most of the irrational beliefs that we have that in turn controls how we feel. Anyway...


After a few minutes of hacking, the apex or the topmost part of the tree was finally felled. It was scary because it was heavy and I had to make sure it would fall into our property and not into our neighbor's electric cables and roof.

My hands and arms were shaking from the effort. I was so spent that I had to rest for about ten minutes before I was able to come down from the tree.

More work. I had to chop the branches into smaller parts so that I could pile them up in a heap and burn them when weather permits.

Of course, it's not yet finished. I'm not that young anymore and I tire easily, so next weekend again.


Wednesday, June 11, 2014

What's a shepherd? (heavens, this has nothing to do with local church stuff...)

I posted a chart on the board and had the class read the story about a lion with a thorn in his paw (an adaptation of an Aesop's fable)

Here's the synopsis of the story.

There was a lion who was hurt by a thorn in his paw; the paw was bleeding and was already inflamed. Then a shepherd passing by noticed the lion's suffering. He was moved by the lion's helplessness and cry of pain that he sat down and took the lion's paw on his lap and removed the thorn.

The shepherd was later arrested for a crime that he did not commit. He was sentenced to be put in a lion's pit to be devoured. But as fate would have it, the lion was the one he helped and when the lion recognized the shepherd, instead of attacking, the lion put his paw on the shepherd's lap. And when the king heard about the story, he let both of them go. 

So, I had the class read it and then I threw in some comprehension question. I was in the middle of the discussion when I noticed a hand being raised. So, I paused and called on the pupil. 

Pupil: "Sir, what is a shepherd?"

Me: "A shepherd is someone who tends or takes care of an herd of animals like sheep and goats. Pastol in Tagalog"

Pupil: "What is a sheep?"


Another Pupil:"What is a tupa?"

Me:"Tupa is a goat like animal...Shepherds are the people who visited Jesus in the manger."

Another Pupil: "Isn't that the three kings?"

Me: "Okay, here you can see shepherds in the bukids (ricefields) taking care of carabaos. (Realizing later that carabao shepherd is not really a shepherd in the real sense of the word. Carabaos are not herd animals like sheep or goats. Carabaos are working animals.)

I have taken for granted the fact that today here in Taytay and Cainta the carabaos are already extinct. There are no more carabaos and there are no more rice fields except the one in highway 2000 that is now being developed into a subdivision. There are no more pastols and there are no more agriculture hence many agricultural words do not mean anything to my pupils anymore. I am reminded of a Wittgenstein quote: "The limit of my language mean the limit of my world."

This also got me thinking about the Bible. Since most of the images used in the Bible are agricultural, it would be a challenge now to share its message by using this language. In a world where cows are mechanically milked, sheep and other herd animals are equipped with GPS tracking devices and tended by motorized herders, crops are planted, tended and harvested using mechanical equipment sans or with minimal human intervention, crop dusting, genetics, hydroponics, etc. 

Even with school children in cities and urban areas, the change or the shift of language from agricultural or organic to technological and cyber lingo are so evolved and (it seems final) that even words we took for granted about a decade ago like "araro" or plow are now out of their vocabulary and hence beyond their comprehension.

Even books have evolved. It's now paperless. So, what happens to the Bible now that it is about to lose it's physical (paper) form and is now available in digital form. In fact, more and more people are using e-Bibles than the traditional paper books.

Just thinking. Now that technology has advanced to a point where it can develop and create more and newer technologies at an exponential rate, theologians and ministers have a lot in their hands: How to share a timeless message in a dated language?

Or they could take a new look and rethink the Bible stories and myths. 

As for me, I'm content with tending to a few little tress and mini roses.

This has gone far enough...hahahahhahahaha!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

My Class' Top Baons

I was eating my lunch at my table while chatting with my pupils when curiosity got the better of me. I stood up and looked around to check what my pupils were eating for lunch. 

Here are the popular baons (in no particular order):

1. Hotdogs

This is a no brainer. Children loves hotdogs and I too love hotdogs. Everybody loves hotdogs.

2. Hams

I grew up in the martial law era when hams, apples, grapes, chocolates and other imported stuffs were rare and we only see ham during Christmases or when an OFW aunt brought home one, the canned variety. 

But with globalization (or climate change), ham became one of the most popular viand in the country.

I don't know much about hams all I know is that they are sweet, tastes good and they come in variety of shapes like pear, round, oval, sliced for sandwiches etc. 

But what some of my pupils are eating is something else. I don't know how to describe but the closest thing I can think of is paper, it's paper ham. Ham so thinly sliced that I sometimes think the manufacturer uses a state of the art laser surgical scalping instrument capable of slicing materials at a molecular dimension.

I have tasted and ate the ham too and I have to say that they taste like paper. maybe its because its paper thin and my mind is telling me that it is paper so it tastes like paper. Whatever...But the children like it.  

3. Embutido

My wife and I eat embutido as a companion dish to veggies like ampalaya, pakbet, monggo etc. But this embutido is more bread than anything else. Frying them is like frying a pandesal; I can smell the flour. There are no raisins and the carrot is so minuscule that it is virtually invisible except for the orange discoloration here and there. 

What to expect at seven pesos each. But we do eat it at home.

4. Eggs

Fried, boiled, egg fo yung (what ever that is), torta, omelette, sunny side up...

5. Meatloaf

Sliced from cans and deep fried. Of course with a lot of ketchup.

6. Longganisa

I started to have some misgivings about longganisas when I found out from the news that many unscrupulous food processors use "double-dead" meat. That is why it's better to buy from the malls or from established food processors. Or better yet, stop eating them.

7. Burger Putties 

Filipinos will make viand out of anything. Burger putties is one of the "conversion" (from bread to rice) that I find really weird. I cannot think of eating burger putty with rice, its just weird. That is until one food processing company created a burger putty specially made for eating with rice and now they are creating many recipes with it.

But the weird thing is, try using this putty for a sandwich and you'll find that it's too tough and dry for buns or bread. So technically, it's not a putty anymore.

8. Fried Chickens

This is also an all time favorite but I'm seeing less and less of this.

9. Adobo

Adobo is a staple baon because it does not spoil easily. Usually the adobo baons are left overs from last night's dinner.

10. Fried fish

I hate fried fish because of the bones and it is difficult to eat using fork and spoon. But it is a popular baon because, like almost all of the above, it is fried and does not spoil easily.

Saturday, June 07, 2014

The view from the PA operator, Lupang Hinirang in multiple time signatures...

There is a division memo requiring schools to sing the national anthem a cappela. I supposed the reason behind this move is to make the pupils internalize the lyric of  "Lupang Hinirang".

Being the school's PA operator, I observed that during flag ceremonies, the pupils especially the primary levels, are not singing the lyric and the melody correctly. This is only expected because they are still learning the song but what is troubling is that the intermediate pupils are not doing any better; they are still singing the national anthem like they are still in their primaries. I think someone up there noticed this too.

This school year the memo was enforced and the school have started singing Lupang Hinirang acapella. One of the glitches is that many teachers are still used to the old 4-4 time signature while the children , when there there was still accompaniment, are used to singing in 2-4 march time. The resulting performance is quite hmmm...troubling. But this is understandable and not the teacher's fault since there are very few of us who understand a little bit of music conducting.

Many teachers are conscious of how they conduct the national anthem, so when they are assigned to be the teacher in charge of flag ceremonies for the first time, they come to me first for coaching, and I readily teach them how to beat in 2-4 time.Some even asks me to guide them by. looking at me through the windows of the PA system while I shadow conduct.

Anyway, this is all part of the learning process: the daily rigid morning rituals. Though I for one question the wisdom of rote and routines in learning, it cannot be denied that it is--I think educators call this "classical conditioning"--a very important part of basic education. A lot of social skills are learned and acquired from this out of force of habit like: falling in line, obeying authorities, cooperation, etc.

Housekeeping chores etc.

What I appreciate with teaching in a public school, aside from the tenure and the benefits, is that pupils are responsible for keeping their classroom clean and for sweeping the school ground. 

They do this every morning and this has become a habit to them. It's an equalizer, all pupils are required to participate in this, even pupils who are not used to household chores.

Of course this is only possible in the intermediate grade levels where pupils are old enough for the tasks, but for the primary grade levels it's the teachers' and the parents' job.

Unlike in private schools, since most parents are paying for the tuition fees and other charges, it is the school's responsibility to keep the classrooms clean; house keeping activities are limited to scheduled and academic activities. 

This is understandable and most parents who can afford would rather have their children enrolled in private schools for reasons and I think one of them is to free their children from manual labor in schools. 

Maybe it has something to do with the parents' experience during their grade school days especially with gardening: pulling out weeds by hand, tilling the soil, etc., or they have house helps at home and their children is not used to work, or they simply like the status quo.

I think children are missing a lot of education when they are kept off from doing housekeeping chores in the school.

Anyway, most parents' still think that (most) private schools are superior to public schools. This perception, I think, persists because of advertising and colorful school uniforms. But if parents' would sit down and think of the changes in the department especially in the teaching personnel's professional qualifications and their continuing education and trainings, they would appreciate the public school system better.

Monday, June 02, 2014

First Day of school Chaos

Photo from the internet
I woke up at five, had my coffee, watered the plants. After a few minutes of rest, I took a bath and prepared for the first day of school.  

I arrived at the school at five thirty, which is my normal routine. As usual, motorcycles, tricycles and bicycles clogged the streets as they unload their passengers all going to the school.

I prepared the school's sound system for the first flag raising ceremony of the new school year. But it was chaotic and we were not able to do it on time. 

Because of the transition from homogeneous to a heterogeneous class, many pupils were confused as to what section they now belonged to. This re-organization was only announced to the teachers during the summer break, hence the information was not disseminated to the pupils and the parents ,so they too were confused by the new set-up. They expected the same section as was last year's but ended up being pointed to the new listings on the classrooms' doors.

So, instead of directly going to their expected next grade teachers, the pupils (and their parents) ended up moving from room to room looking for their names in the new heterogeneous sections. It's like election day.

Anyway, as usual;, on the first day of school, most pupils were well behaved especially with the reorganization, they were now mixed with pupils from the other sections. They were unorganized unlike with the old homogeneous section where they had developed a sort of pecking order among themselves.

But what's intolerable was the heat. It's so hot and humid (or dry) that I had to wet my handkerchief and continually wet my face to keep from overheating. I was worried about my blood pressure. But all went well.  

So., 199 more school days to go.

Sunday, June 01, 2014

Sunday and I'm still at school! (my fault, again)

Tomorrow, Monday, is the start of school. I still have some stuffs to do. 

I still have to clean my classroom's comfort, room, sweep the floor, again; posts some charts on the wall, etc. So, here I am on a Sunday morning still working.

Though I am one of those who believes that classrooms should have very little designs, charts, and furniture  etc. because they contribute to the distraction and poor focus among pupils, in the case of my old classroom, it helps to hide torn off plywood and  chipped paint on the wall. 

I can't afford to have my room re-painted, it's part of a 50+year old building and according
to rumors it's schedule for demolition. to give way for a new building. Though I'm happy with the possibility of having a new classroom, I will miss the old Rodriguez Building because it felt like our old house.

Anyway,looking around, I realized that I still have no front table. The one I made a year ago was so unstable that even without books and teaching aids on top, it wobbled. I guess that's why my co-teachers did not use it. Well, even I did not use it for fear it might collapse on my foot killing a toe nail or two. 

I decided to disassemble my old front table to rebuild it again using recycled lumber from old desks. 

While doing this, alleged PDAF queen Napoles' face and her cohorts in government popped up in my head. Here we are, teachers, trying our very best to make do with improvised tables, recycled desks and cabinets, doors with loose hinges, old electric fans, etc. Here we are trying to make do with what we have and there they were ripping the country of its money that could have benefited the ordinary government civil servants and the impoverished citizens. Wishful thinking...

After doing rough carpentry, to make it look presentable,  I wrapped my project with orange cartolina and plastic cover. Aside from aesthetics. I did this to cover the rough edges and splinters that may injure my pupils and my co-teachers.

Teaching is a solitary profession, as one seminar speaker described it. Doctors have their nurses, architects their engineers, engineers their foremen, lawyers their paralegals, while we teachers, in the practice of our profession, are solitary figures in the classrooms.

I kept thinking about this while I clean up after my work. This solitary thing suited me well, truth to tell.

I am tired. After the sawing, the hammering, the stapling, and the cleaning after, I decided to call it a day. 

I am not the only one working this Sunday. When i went home at around four in the afternoon, there were still few teachers left cleaning and fixing their classrooms. 

Really, teaching is one hell of a job, it 's all in there: teacher, psychologists, nurse, housekeeper, gardener, actor, entertainer etc. and in my case, a carpenter too.

God, I love this job.

It's Saturday and I'm still working! (my fault)

I did not do my classroom during the brigada eskwela held on May 21, 2014. My reason was that it was still two weeks before the classes and cleaning up my classroom then would mean that I will clean it up again a day or two before classes begin on June 2, 2014. Two weeks is enough time for dirt, dust and birds droppings (yes, birds love my room and they make it their play ground) to accumulate.  

So, I held off till May 31 and because of the procrastination, I am here working on Saturday realizing that its not only cleaning that needs to be done and that I had to come back on Sunday!

My table, shelves and cabinets were hand me downs from retired teachers. I had no idea how old they were but judging from the number of coat of paints, they were at least a decade or so. They needed maintenance and since the classroom is the teachers responsibility, and I have no budget for carpenters, I had to do the work myself. Aside from fixing the cabinet and shelves, I also replaced a slat on the floor eaten away by termites. 

The classroom is your second home. This was what I learned from my co-teachers. Teachers exert efforts to make their classroom beautiful and homey and it's only right because, in fact, teachers spend more of their waking time here than in their homes. 

I asked my sister-in-law to sew me a new curtain. I prefer blue, my favorite color.Also, the sun rises in this part of the room and the sunlight glares my 
pupils' vision making 
it difficult for them to copy what's written on the board.

I had my former pupil help in installing the curtain. Raymart was a great help not only for me but for many teachers. He also did the sweeping, wiping, and the waxing of the floor. Things I could not do because of my asthma.

Posting the section and my name on the door. More work...