Teachers: first “modern day heroes” of the Philippines

By Maria Aleta Nieva, abs-cbnNEWS.com

Posted at Sep 08 2008 08:45 AM | Updated as of Sep 08 2008 05:45 PM

Before overseas Filipino workers earned the label, “modern day heroes,” Filipino teachers were considered, hands down, as the modern day heroes of the Philippines. The men and women in this profession shoulder the most difficult task of providing a better education to the country’s future leaders.

Their contributions to the teaching profession, the integrity and competence they continue to uphold, and professional and community involvement draw admirations from other sectors.

Metrobank Foundation is one institution that annually reminds society of the key role played by the teaching profession in the country. This year, in commemoration of its 46th founding year, it honored 10 teachers in the “2008 Metrobank Foundation Search for Outstanding Teachers.”

This year’s awardees are all women—four each from the elementary and secondary levels and two from the higher education level--whose excellence in their chosen field has been deemed as commendable.

The awardees are Jesusa Antiquiera of Padre M. Gomez Elementary School in Sta. Cruz, Manila; Lynn Padillo of Naga Central School in Naga City; Maydelyn Antioquia of President Manuel Roxas Memorial School North in Roxas City; O Marie Theresse Bagas of West City Central School in Cagayan de Oro; Rowena Hibanada of Pedro E. Diaz High School in Muntinlupa City; Ermie Rabara of Midsayap-Dilangalen National High School in Midsayap, Cotabato; Jeanette Dials of Mariano Marcos State University Laboratory High School in Laoag City; Noemi Obcena of Cagayan National High School in Tuguegarao City; Irma Makalinao of the University of the Philippines-Manila; and Dr. Virginia Cuevas of the University of the Philippines in Los Baños, Laguna.

“Over the last two and a half decades, the Search has established benchmarks in excellence and achievements among our teachers. The award has become a measure of performance and contributions, representing a pinnacle of sorts that any teacher can aspire for,” said George S. K. Ty, Metrobank founder and group chairman.

Master showmen

One of the awardees, Dr. Irma Makalinao, a professor of Pharmacology and Toxicology of the College of Medicine of the University of the Philippines-Manila said teachers are not just modern day heroes because they sometimes have to be the “master showman.”

“Because even on days when they have their own personal pain, teachers report to their respective classrooms while they muster enough courage to draw a smile from within and be ready to once more touch the hearts and minds of their students,” Makalinao said in her speech.

Makalinao said her mother’s dedication as an elementary teacher influenced her to join “the noblest profession,” which she continues to serve for 14 years.

“Aside from being a teacher, I am also a pediatrician, a toxicologist, a pediatric environmental health specialist and hazardous materials chemical incident responder rolled into one,” she said.

Teaching under a tree

Another awardee, 56-year-old O Marie Theresse Bagas said she did not consider teaching under the shade of Mohogany trees as a sour experience. In fact, it served as the drive for her to stay in the profession.

On her first day as a teacher she was advised by the principal to hold the Grade One class, composed of 52 children, under the shade while the school building was being repaired.

“During my first day, those children were given to me and then I said to myself, wow this is a new challenge because it was exactly the opposite from where I came,” Bagas said.

Having come from a private school with a different set-up, teaching under the shade proved to be a challenging experience for her. Bagas is a Master Teacher II at the West City Central School in Carmen, Cagayan de Oro City with Science as her field of specialization.

With 34 years of teaching experience, she believes that teachers should take the responsibility of being “developers” and “investors” to children whose minds are delicate and whose personalities are fragile.

Like any other teachers, Bagas considers nothing more rewarding than to be able to finally witness her students become the best that they could be.

“And at the end, you can see the reward when they [students] become professionals, seeing them very successful in life. That’s very satisfying,” Bagas said.

As an added bonus, she explained that being a teacher makes one feel younger.

“If you continuously teach, just like me at 34, one thing nice is you will never get old. You’ll enjoy children, you’ll enjoy people,” she said.

No to working abroad

Meanwhile, Padillo, the youngest among the awardees at 33, turned down an offer to teach in an international school abroad. Although her passion is to teach, she said her heart is still for the Filipino children.

“I am satisfied with what I am doing, and at the end of the day, I could smile,” said the Master Teacher I of the Naga Central School I in Naga City.

Padillo said the country needs more excellent teachers, the kind who would inspire students to achieve their full potentials.

“I want to encourage more students to go into the teaching profession. We need very good teachers in the field to uplift the quality of education,” she said.

For her, teachers make the most of what is available to them when faced with what she calls as challenges like the lack of facilities and textbooks.

“But I think those challenges are just minor to the teachers because it’s when their creativity and innovativeness come out. They learn to adapt to the kind of situation,” she said.

However, this does not mean that the problems faced by the education system should remain unresolved.

“I want the government to realize that teachers are really important and they should be given a little dignity by giving them what is due to them,” she said.

Teaching, a passion

Still another awardee, Dr. Virginia Cuevas, a professor VIII at the UP Los Baños and specializing in plant and fungal ecology said that “teaching is not only a profession; it is a passion and a delight.”

Cuevas is the first awardee from the university and has been recognized by various award-giving bodies as a scientist and a public servant.

One can immediately tell how engrossed Cuevas is in what she is doing by the first names of her four children-- Agham, Sining, Likha and Kalikasan.

She is an advocate of giving the best service to the students. However, sometimes, sacrifices have to be made when it comes to providing students with the best education.

As an example, she said their library is inadequate and that they have to make an effort to look for ways to help their students.

“The library is inadequate so kami mismong mga faculty ang bumibili ng mga textbooks sa amazon.com. There are times when we spend our own money to give the best service to the students. We have to do that kind of sacrifice,” she said.

“Ang laboratory ang daming inadequate equipment. Mga microscope na sira-sira na mas matanda pa sa iyo, pero we still have to deliver as much as possible the best kind of service,” she added.

Like the others, she is proud when former students approach her to tell her that they enjoyed her class.

Must love teaching

“After so many years, kilala ka pa ng estudyante mo na pag nakita ka parang nakakita sila ng long lost friend. Siguro, kung di ka magaling na teacher, di ka babatiin. Pag inapproach ka, you must have done something good,” she said.

As for her advice to soon to be teachers, she reminded them that “teaching is not a lucrative profession.”

“Mababa ang sweldo ng mga teachers. They must love the profession. Service kasi ito, saka noble mission of being able to influence and mold the minds of the youth. Napaka-gandang mission na makatulong ka especially sa development ng potential ng individual. And then secondly, contribution din para sa development ng country,” she said.

The 10 awardees join the Metrobank Foundation’s roster of 276 outstanding teachers nationwide.

Each outstanding teacher will receive a gold medallion, trophy and a cash prize of P300,000.

The awarding ceremony was held last September 5, 2008 at the Metrobank Plaza Auditorium in Makati City.