Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Simbang Gabi... Truly Pinoy!!!

Misa de Gallo… Simbang Gabi… Aguinaldo Masses… Christmas Novena Mass… I am now back in the UAE. This is the country where I grew up. A country 6,000 kilometers away from my beloved Philippines. Today was the first time I attended the Simbang Gabi in my Parish here. It is quite ironic since I live right across the church compound, and was not able to make the nine days for 2011. Attending the Simbang Gabi was something that made me proud to be a Filipino. It is one of the Filipino People’s contributions to the Roman Catholic Church. It gives us a sense on zeal, a sense of faith to those who turn to God in preparing for the great feast of Christmas. In my eleven years of stay in the Philippines, I was able to witness the richness of these nine days of preparation. This gave me several reflections and realizations.

First, the Simbang Gabi is an expression of one’s Faith. Many believe in myths that this practice is something that can make WISHES come true. “Pag nakumpleto mo and Simbang Gabi magkakatotoo ang wish mo.” Yan ang paniniwala nang marami kaya sila bumubuo ng Simbang Gabi. Wishes are based on the paradigm of chance. If you make wishes, you lack faith. Therefore I believe that Simbang Gabi is more than a practice of WISHING. It is an act of FAITH. Faith will allow us to move mountains. Faith will allow us to work with the will and power of God. Those who received answered prayers on these nine days did not just make a wish, they had FAITH.

Second, it is an act of self-discipline and sacrifice. Whether one attends the dawn masses or the anticipated masses, I am overwhelmed by the determination of those who complete these nine days. I commend you. It shows how much you are willing to sacrifice rest or long hours of sleep just to be with the Lord on these nine days. I guess if we are able to sacrifice nine days for the Simbang Gabi, then we can make further sacrifices for our Faith in the future.

Third, it is a communal act. It gives us Filipinos a sense of identity and belongingness. Whether I am at the Divine Mercy Shrine in Mandaluyong or St. Michael’s Church here Sharjah, the atmosphere of festivity and faith combined is simply something that is automatically realized. You will immediately feel that you are with your own. That need to belong is answered by this communal act.

Fourth, it is an act of giving. I say this from the perspective of a server. In the mass, I observed the servers here in Sharjah. I could relate to these servers. They are different from the servers in the Philippines. They are different and special because the servers here, many of them, are far from their loved ones. They are far from their loved ones, yet they are still capable of giving something to the people. In their brokenness they still have the willingness and courage to share. They are something that I look up to. For all the lay faithful serving at the altar, they do not just part take in the celebration like the usual mass-goer; but, they are privileged to be facilitators in uniting the rest of the faithful. They help the priest and the congregation unite in one voice to actively participate in this sacred mystery of faith. It is a gift of the server to the Catholic faithful this Christmas.

The Simbang Gabi is almost over. For those who have completed and have served in these nine days, I feel happy that you are doing something Filipino, something Filipino for your faith. May your Christmas be meaningful as these nine days of preparation.

Monday, December 19, 2011

A World Much Larger than One's Own

(From my Facebook Notes, October 5, 2011, World Teachers' Day)

Education is indeed a dynamic phenomenon. It makes or breaks an individual. It is an endeavor that becomes a meaningful reward to both the learner and the learned.

This school year is very different compared to the last five years of my teaching profession. I am now teaching in the school where I spent most of my basic education. It is meaningful in several ways. The school was a second home for me from the years 1990 to 1999 (Grades 3 to 12). It has contributed to my well being in several ways. Within those years, it has molded me trough the many challenges I faced and through the good people I have met along the way. This year I am back no longer as a student, but as a teacher. It is great and feels great to be back. To be with my past teachers and to be able to work with them.

I would remember back then, my teachers were the best source of knowledge and in many instances wisdom, which allowed me to see things from a different perspective. Many lessons that were considered significant always stayed with me. Straight grids for graphs that Ms. Ayesha Shaukat draws using free hand on the board while teaching Physics... Mr. Jerry Lovette's interesting stories and facts that supplemented the boring English Literature material... Mrs. Seema's long standing patience... Constructiveness of the Math lessons that I still remember to this date, Mrs. Sandra Qazamel's English portfolio during the Elementary years and many more.

But there is more to lessons in being a teacher. A teacher is someone who chooses to live his life so that others may also live. They are here not just to impart what they know, but also to impart their whole being. They share themselves so that their students may also live. It is a cause more noble than choosing to live for one's self. It is choosing to embrace a world much lager than their own.

To my fellow teachers in the academe, we must remember to keep hope burning every time we deal with the challenges of our profession. Let us continue to believe in what we do and in the potential of the young minds that we are molding. Who they will become is a reflection of how much we have really given them. We live in a globally challenged society that yearns for more free-thinkers that will allow humanity to survive amidst the social collapse and economic turmoil now and beyond. Let us have hope and give hope for we cannot give what we do not posses.

Today, October 5 2011, is our day. Let us continue to remind ourselves how significant we all are.HAPPY WORLD TEACHERS' DAY.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Bending Values

We belong to a generation where values are continually distorted. Many now try to compromise their "values system" by how they want the world to respond to them and their preferences. The so-called social norms are now placed at stake because people are driven to come up with their self-declared norms. And all these are done for the sake of making one the god that he or she wants to be recognized as.

I am a teacher and I believe that students should be given a chance to grow and be formed holistically so that in the future he has his own sense of direction. I will recall the time when I wanted to apprehend a group of students because of cheating. I was teaching these students how to create basic webpages. Out of my three years of teaching the subject matter, I could tell if a student has cheated or not. Well to cut the story short I was not able to apprehend nor correct the students because of so many reasons that pointed out to one ultimate truth - I was not able to teach these students the value of honesty because the school administration "feared" what parents might say. If you are an educator reading this, you might thinks it's crazy but yes it does happen.

Schools should be the place where students are taught enduring riches. Values are embedded through schools so that the child learns how to make every situation count. This should be a part of the student's learning curve so that he will be capable of becoming a great individual in a world where everything is being compromised for the sake of personal gain. That is the wealth a school can give its learners. Values are not just taught through plain words but through difficult moments that would serve as crossroads in determining what truly is right and erroneous. This should hold true for both the student and the educator. People who operate schools should realize this difficult reality; if not, then they should not even consider running one.

The Gifts of Being An Educator

It is not an easy task to be an educator. It comes with several things in the package. Difficult bosses. Difficult parents. Difficult students. Difficult situations. Name it, so many things can be considered "difficult" in the day to day undertaking of a teacher. What makes teaching so rewarding? Teaching feels rewarding when...

...students come back to you one day and they recall one of the lessons you have taught them.

...students thank you for something that you didn't actually think would have an impact on them.

...students recall simple gestures that wasn't really a big deal for you, but still they have grown up to appreciate it. day you realize that your past students in high school are graduating from their tertiary classes and are soon to be part of the roster of professionals. Suddenly you get a feeling that you have given the world a contribution through the knowledge you have imparted on these professionals. are given great mentors in the field. They make work easier because they have a great tendency of "lighting up the path." get to pause for a moment and you get to laugh at jokes and pranks with your students.

...your immediate superior or principal appreciates the small things you do and you get to realize later on that those small things contribute to the "bigger scheme of things." handle a set of primary students, you will start to feel that there is still a child inside you. are challenged to be creative so that students don't end up snoring in your class, and suddenly you realize that you can be a stand-up comedian in the spur of a moment.

If teaching was NOT difficult, then there would be no avenue for us teachers to grow. As I grow in this industry called teaching, I know that my list will go on and it will get longer in time. For the moment, "that's all folks!"

Sanctifying Grace

It was Friday, March 12, 2010. I was an ambitious and challenged individual. Ambitious because I felt that my surrounding in Don Bosco Makati was no longer challenging. I was happpy and fulfilled in Don Bosco. I have been with the Salesian school system for a total of 8 years already, and I wanted a change in environment. Challenged because I knew I could do more. So it was that I was browsing through websites of different schools and I happened to find an opening for a part time faculty in a school that I perceived to be one out of the ordinary. It was called Singapore School Manila. So I grabbed the so-called opportunity and applied.

Monday, March 15, I received a call from the school asking me to come for an interview. Thursday, March 18, I came for demo teaching. Thursday, March 25, I signed my contract. Memories... memories... memories... I even asked my friends to pray for me to get the job... and here I saw the power of prayer.... hehehe... Well, as we say, the rest is history...

This school year has not been a good ride for me. It is the most dragging one. I would remember my walks from the MRT station to the school. When I reached the highway, and as I walked by the walls of the Paseo, people were scarce and it was the right place to start cursing just lo unleash the hard felt tension. March 31, 2011 was far from reach during that time. Hell, I didn't even want to finish my contract.

As the succeeding terms progressed, I only had one question in mind, "Dear Lord, why did you bring me to this blasted place?" I believed in my heart that God was a wise genius. Everything was brought to fruition according to his wisdom. And so I waited.

At this point, I would like to share with you some of my realizations and reflections on this school year that will soon come to pass...


God was actually teaching me to be patient. He placed me in what I could considered the lowliest and most degrading point as an educator and I could hear him tell me... "Look, things could be better or it could be worst. There are no perfect situations but we can make the most of what we have."


I consider myself a teacher who is very young in the profession and I know there is so much more to learn. In my earlier years of teaching I have always held on to my expectations. Expectations could make or break us. Ergo, don't have expectations. If something happens that is beyond your control, screw it - get over it. If something extremely good happens in the journey, consider it a bonus. There are other good things in life to see and ponder!


Happiness is essential to attain excellence. If you are happy with what you do, then the rest follows. Ergo, do the things you love to do in a place where you can be happy. Then, the rest will follow.


Persistence. God only puts you in a place that He knows you can handle. As the atheist philosopher, Nietzsche, puts it: "What does not break you makes you stronger."


People. We are social beings who depend on others. I am thankful for the many wonderful people I've met in the process. At its great to have crossed roads.


Smile. The place taught me to smile, to SMILE MORE. Tuwing pumapasok ako sa Primary Faculty room ng naka ngiti, ang parating lines ng mga teachers, "Siguro wala ka nanamang ginagawa!" Hindi naman sa walang ginagawa, I just needed to smile. It was one way of easing the tension from the so stressful environment. One of the paired-values taught to us Bosconians is "joy and optimism."


Humility. God placed me in a situation that I could hardly control. And I guess it was training ground to see how I would manage without losing my strings... well, maybe not loosing my strings that much....


Finding God. A Bosconian confined with Bosconian practices. That was me before SSM. I took spirituality for granted. I took it for granted because it was just within reach. When I left, well, it made me appreciate my faith more because I learned to make Him part of everything. It led me to a spiritual sojourn. And of all the things that I would consider blessings fom a place where I expected this least to be, this happens to be the best.

This school year has been a year of grace.

As the Benedictine Fathers put it, "that in all things, God may be glorified."

I'm Back!!!

It has been months since I last blogged here. I wish to catch up.

I have been pretty busy with work in the past months and it hasn't been a joy ride.