Ma’am Balgos (1st year) gave me my first-hand experience of fighting for what is right, even at risk to one’s self. I remember that from out of the blue, she started lecturing our class about how we should stand up for what is right, no matter the consequences. After only a few weeks of classes, she would be replaced by a substitute. Only latter on would I find out (being someone pretty much preoccupied with my first ever crush) that she was removed for urging the seniors to speak out against the then-principal’s malversation of funds for our Research subject.
Ma’am Capinpin (2nd year) taught us Asian history in a way which I took for granted then. Now, I see that it was something you’d never expect to hear in such a conservative setting as a government science high school. See, she taught us about Mao’s Cultural Revolution. She taught us how it was a movement to discard old and useless ideas as so to create a generation who would go forth to build a better society. Being in high school, we were pretty much insulated from the blind “anti-Red” hysteria created by the AFP, the Church, and by conservatives.
Also, he would tolerate pranks and youthful indiscretions committed by the students: when the boys were playing basketball outside of their P.E time, when my class stole the chair of the dictatorial CAT faculty adviser, and so on and so forth.
And then there’s Ma’am Erpelo (4th year). She was very much like Ma’am Balgos in that she wouldn’t take crap from anyone, not even her highest superiors. But she held on to her job until the end of the year. And went on to teach for several more years. And she was certainly much more vocal in arguing, even against senior teachers.
Of course, everyone would also remember her for teaching rituals and other cultural stuff she picked up from being an exchange student in Japan. That one really got famous. And to her favorite students, she would always indulge us in tarot card-reading.
When I took the UPCAT, me and my best girl friend vowed to teach in Kisay after we graduated. That’s why I took Sociology and she took Political Science. But with how my life has taken its twists and turns, I know I’ll never fulfill that dream now (not unless the present students do their own version of the Diliman Commune). But I hope, and I think, that they would be proud to see that someone listened to their lessons then, and remember them until now.
What did I learn from them?
One, that there’s more to life than ourselves, getting into law school, being magna or summa cum laude, going corporate after graduation, and/or making it big, financially-wise. They never got rich for one can only lead the simplest of lifestyles on an ordinary teacher’s salary (only the Administration officials got rich from some fund or another). But you never heard them complain and wish that they chose another career path, or went to another country where teachers get paid more. Sir Jack (Bacabac) even told me when I once saw him at the May Day last year that he did not regret it.
Two, that there’s nothing more important than shaping a new society, one that is really free and democratic. They all understood that they were in a position to do that influencing, by influencing the next generation. They could have chosen to go to another country to teach, they could have chosen to pursue other careers since they had good educational backgrounds. But now, last time I checked, all four of them are sticking it out, imparting what they know to more kids.
And three, that what is right, what is necessary, is not necessarily the easy thing or choice. One of them even was removed from her teaching position because of what was right. And it’s the same thing with changing the world. It’s no walk in the park. It is, to steal from Eman Lacaba, a hike into the less-chosen path. But it is a hike that will make all the difference.