Archive for September, 2011

I own an elephant since I was in highschool. It is big and disturbing. Sometimes I walk it in school, inside the classroom, inside the library, with my friends, with my family, with strangers but mostly I don’t. I always have to remind myself how big and disturbing it is.

I received the elephant on a car accident. It was raining and so I hardly saw the road. Before I knew it, I was running towards a car. I was badly injured. My left leg was almost ripped into half, all my fingers was gnarled, my broken ribcage implied I could no longer swim, my throat screamed its last scream. And the elephant, as a gift from the offender, would remind me of that dreadful accident. My parents were the least thankful.

Since the accident, my life changed dramatically. When somebody saw the elephant, they too would be reminded of that accident and gave me a pity look together with a reassuring smile. My family exempted me from any exhausting chores. Gone are the days of lifting the garbage bin or carrying the pale of water. The school gave me a special treatment. Its either I will be the first person to get the freshly cooked lunch or the last person to pass a test paper. One would think that was a blessing in disguise. The one, however, is not the injured. For the injured, the blessing can’t still compensate for the pain.

Today, I am walking my elephant. It would be odd in particular days but today is not a particular one. I will be having a presentation of my thesis for the next hour. I can’t talk without the elephant, I became dependent on it. It is worsed than a trauma, this phenemenon is untreatable. Unless, of course, if the heavens go crazy, then I’ll utter my dying wish.

When I enter the classroom, all is in place. My teacher, my technical devices and my classmates. I walk towards the center of the classroom as soon as my name is called. I flip through my note cards and begin my presentation. It is after fifteen minutes when I heard one of my classmates rustling over the back of the classroom and mimicking my voice. I am quite grateful for it. Usually, it takes them only three minutes before they start mocking me. At least now, I made my premise. My teacher didn’t flinch. As usual, he is showing his professionalism, just doing nothing. When my presentation is finish and after some phony bows, I immediately walk out from the classroom. I can’t bear the view anymore.

The scenery always happens when I’m with my elephant. One would have thought that I had gotten over it and people would have been tired teasing me. However, the one hasn’t realized how piercing every smirks and laughs I received. This kind of pain didn’t diminish over time.

There is, however, another reason why I am with my elephant. My book club is having a discussion about “The Lovely Bones” by Alice Sebold and I am tasked to be a discussion leader. I review again my note cards and begin the discussion. I start with the objective questions working up to the intimate ones. They all listen intently to my words, as if missing one word would deprive them of a valuable information. All participated in the discussion, which I am happy for. When the discussion is over, almost all of the members pat my back and praise for the good work and worthwhile session. I smile and return back the favor.

My classmates loath my elephant but my book club appreciates it. That explains the old adage of “you can’t please everybody”. I’m just glad that there is somebody who appreciates elephants, my elephant.

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Typical Public Classroom

On October 5, 2010, Department of Education shocks students, teachers, academe, workers, officials, laymen and, especially, the now-troubled parents when it announces to adopt a K+12 Education System. The news is flashed on every television networks and remains as a front page on national newspapers for several weeks. It has also been the most discussed topic on debates.
The K+12 will replace the current 10-year school cycle of primary education for 12 years. Under this program, a 4-year-old child goes for Kindergarten for 1 year, 6 years for Elementary, 4 years for Junior High School and 2 years for Senior high school before the admission for college.

The government says that a reform on education is “urgent and critical”. Assuming that the public statistics provided is all with God’s truth, Philippines, DepEd tells us, has been lagging behind on standardized test. On 2003 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, for instance, in Second Year High school we ranked 34th  out of 38 countries on Math, in Grade 4 we ranked 23th out of 25 countries and on 2008 results, we were not even worth mentioning – we came last. Not to mention the 2008 scores were from the science high schools, which is the most advanced high school in the country. This results are blamed to the current basic education, “designed to teach a 12-year curriculum, yet it is delivered in just 10 years” and concludes how low the quality of Philippine education is. Problems have also aroused when Filipino professionals, mostly engineers, were not accepted in international jobs reasoning that the 10-year curriculum is “insufficient”.

The additional two years of the curriculum is spent on mastering the previous lessons and the program also offers “areas of specialization or electives” in this period such as accounting, music, arts, agriculture, entrepreneurship, welding, electricity but mostly in technical and vocational skills. High school graduates then in this program, of the age between 17 and 18,  are fully matured to enter college and fully capable for employment, as psychologists claims. College graduates, in turn, will also be globally competitive for the said curriculum are practiced on most countries. However, despite the encouraging facts, people  still remain doubtful. (more…)

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This post corresponds to the Friday meme of the Filipino Reader Conference. And I’m proud to say there will be a First (Yes, you read it right) Filipino Reader Conference on September 14 at SM Mall of Asia. And I’m disappointed to confess that I can’t attend the event. (Why does the Philippines have to be an archipelago?) So much for lamenting the continental drift theory, the topic about this meme is: How hard or easy is it to be a book lover in the Philippines? What are some of your frustrations as a Filipino reader (e.g. availability of books)? What are positive aspects of being a reader based in the Philippines (e.g. book prices are lower here than they are abroad)?

Philippines is a nation of nonreaders. Although statistics suggest that we, Filipinos, have high literacy rate, an average student can only pick one or two books in his lifetime unless of course if he or she is forced to do so (English Book Reports?). The problem is not the availability of the books or its prices but the number of Filipinos who view reading as a waste of time. Unlike an avid reader (I’m referring to myself), these people don’t see the beauty of words, how it can transport you from a coffee shop in London to a forest in South America to an inter-galactic war in outerspace. I’m not saying films, documentaries or any other visual medias are not as effective as literature but I’m pointing out that books also exists for entertainment. By reading books, you let your brain do its job: to think. Reading, in most cases, is a two-way process: you take in words, then you imagine, you take in words, then you imagine. Brains, elementary science tells us, uses oxygen and gives it off, when you think. This event conditions your brain just as jogging conditions your heart. Perhaps, I am getting preachy but you get the point. The benefits of reading is endless.

So how does the small number of Filipino book lovers affect my reading experience? There are no book clubs, at least here in Davao. What I read may just come and go with no room for discussion. You may suggest a online book club but, who are we kidding, what’s better than having a live discourse about a book. Giving an idea and having an immediate response. In my case, I rarely spot someone reading a book (except of course in a library).

This frusturation, however, leads to some positive effects. Since there are only few readers, the library books or bookstore books are mostly available to me. (O Yea!) Recently, I just borrowed Suzanne Collin’s Catching Fire. Had there been many reader, I’ll probably get the book until next month or next semester.

They, the other Filipino bloggers, say that Philippines prices its second-hand book for less than the other countries. I guess I have to agree. Last month, I bought “Bridget Jone’s Diary” for only Php 20. (Current exhance rate is $1 = Php 43.) I don’t know about brand-new books. On our school book bazaar, I was eyeing for the “Screenwriting for Dummies” but it was expensive or was it the original price? It costs about Php 1500 or $35.

Regarding the availability of books, I have mostly no problem. Our school library has plenty of books and if there aren’t available, I can go to a bookstore or if that fails, well, there’s internet. However, there is a problem, at least for me. There is no available “e-book reader”. I tried hopping from one mall to the other, from bookstore to another. E-book readers cease to exist. ( I badly craved for a nook.)

Basically there isn’t much fun in social aspect of reading on a Filipino reader. My hopes, however, are still high that someday Filipino readers will grow in number (exponentially).

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