Today is World Teachers’ Day! I think this is a good time for me to remember two high school teachers who I thought contributed greatly to my passion for writing and its rigors.
The seeds of my love affair with writing sprouted roots during my time in Araullo High School (ca. 1992). Back then, English and Filipino Journalism classes were optional electives for 1st and 2nd year students. Following my fascination with the printed thought, I decided to take English Journalism, which made me de facto staff writer for The Spark, our school’s experimental newsletter. Thanks to Mr. Macaraeg for teaching us the basics of newspaper writing in a fun and light way. We weren’t there for the grade as it was a no-bearing subject, most of us who took the subject just wanted to learn the basics of writing for a newspaper.
The set up was different, however, when we reached Junior year. The top two sections were given an option to take Journalism, no longer as an elective, but as an alternative to Technology and Home Economics (THE). Choosing one meant never having to take the other for the rest of your high school life. The choice was relatively easy for some. THE offers an easier life and greater chances of getting high grades, which meant an advantage in the honor roll. But for a few brave souls, it was not the case.
Mrs. Charito Palanca handled the Journ classes of the upper years. Her reputation preceded her: a typical terror teacher. Stories were rife with how stringent she was with academic requirements but frugal in giving grades. Upper class men advised us not to enrol in her class if we want a load off on the demanding schedule that lie ahead and if we want a shot at a medal come graduation time.
I was torn so we talked about it in the barkada. Four of us wanted to continue despite a fair amount of hesitation. There will be four of us. Strength in numbers. Bahala na. Two more from our class signed up so we were six in all. Classes with her is 1 and 1/2 hours everyday, for two school years.
My memory fails me now on how our typical Journal (yes, that’s how we called it) class went but three things stick out to this day.
First is that she frequently had to be out of school to attend to her other duties as the national Journalism coordinator. So, on those days that she was out, we were left by ourselves in taking good care (read: cleaning) of our Journal room and we had to do many writing exercises which had to be submitted when she gets back.
Second is the ball pen exercise. She asked us one by one to make a good opening sentence for a feature article about the ball pen she was holding. Most of my classmates described the pen and dealt on its importance for students. I said, “A good pen is like a good friend, they never blot out on you,” when I called to recite. Her face lit up and I thought she was amazed by my sudden flash of brilliance (ahem! hehe). I felt good the whole day as it was my example that launched her lecture about good feature writing.
And lastly, there was this time when she was coaching me for Editorial Writing competition in the NCR Secondary Schools Press Conference. She pointed to me a glaring mistake on the editorial piece I previously wrote about the ongoing French nuclear bomb testing at the Pacific Ocean. I wrote there, “… the Mururoa atoll in the Pacific Ocean is beyond our reach…” Oops! It should be “within” she said, as it is very near us. She’s right! What was I thinking?! I still landed a place in the top 10 in the Editorial among Manila schools, though. But I could have had placed higher if not for the mistake.
The chismis about her proved to be true but the upside is that these three experiences had been defining moments in the way I regard the written word. It was from these that I learned to be conscious of clarity, diction, and order; of working independently and being responsible for your own learning; and building up the self and others through words.
Mr. Macaraeg and Mrs. Palanca transformed my fascination into passion. Words wield power and I am glad to have been thrown in the able hands of these two teachers for my initial training. I may have been shut out of the honor roll but the chance of training under them was in itself an honor. To them I owe so much of what I have become now. I am forever grateful.