Saturday, September 03, 2011

Lessons from “Alo”

“Nganong nag-apil-apil?”

It’s a short trip via jeepney from the University of the Philippines (UP) Cebu in Lahug to a Vhire terminal at the North Reclamation Area. Usually, I enjoy this ride at the end of the day. I’m going home and can let my thoughts drift this way and that.

Last Thursday, though, my fellow passenger gave me the longest 10-minute 04L ride so far.

Barely getting past the phalanx of knees, I was balancing my knapsack and tote full of books and papers on my lap when the man across me fired this question.

I instantly looked at my side companions, thinking I had interrupted a conversation.

The man called Chito corrected this assumption when he addressed me again, prefacing with “Ma’am” the question he didn’t give me time to answer—“Maestra ka sa UP?”—before consuming most of that 04L ride with a rant against “thoughtless” and “naïve” students and their even more misguided and wayward mentors.

Hanging on to my seat and my precious papers, with our knees knocking with every spurt and jerk of the jeepney, I messed up my chance to insert at least two complete sentences in my fellow parent’s nearly unbroken tirade.

Claiming that he will never allow any child or relative of his to enroll in UP “to get brainwashed,” Chito expressed a perception shared by others reacting to the arrest of three UP Cebu students after violence broke out over the fencing of a disputed property in Aloguinsan.

According to Sun.Star Cebu’s Aug. 30 report by Kevin A. Lagunda and Justin K. Vestil, 36 farmers and their supporters were arrested for pelting the police with stones, human waste and acid. Bayan Muna, Karapatan-Central Visayas and the Farmers’ Development Center (Fardec) countered that violence was initiated by the cops, who hurt the farmers and their supporters.

Chito’s exasperation stemmed from the perception that the students were sent by their teachers to Aloguinsan. He said that aside from disrupting their studies and worrying their families, the students’ arrest will make it difficult for them to find jobs. What have they got themselves into?, he asked in rhetorical Cebuano.

Those arrested were part of a group, including students of another university, that was transported by Fardec to Aloguinsan for their Basic Masses Integration (BMI), “an immersion program that is supposed to help them understand the farmers’ plight,” reported Sun.Star.

None of my fellow teachers sent the students to “Alo” (to use the students’ “nickname” for the site of dispute). I don’t know any teacher who condones lawlessness or excuses the neglect of family and school duties for “social transformation”.

I know, though, that many teachers and students believe in not confining their learning to the four walls of the classroom. This principle, so oft repeated it has become a cliché, embraces not just the virtual worlds opened by technology but the much older, much tested school of experience.

Non-government organizations may call this exposure BMI. Those in the field of Mass Communication call it the “field”. Whatever the jargon, personal involvement (“pag-apil-apil”) through observing, witnessing and even participating in the realities experienced by other Filipinos outside one’s stratum is education, I dare say the only valuable one for being authentic.

Yet, unlike in a classroom where the conditions can be controlled and the disputes are safely within the range of the anemic to the acerbic, life has few screens to sieve the decent, the rational and the civilized from what’s immoral, inhuman and barbarous. Thus, mentoring the young makes one responsible for widening their perspective to look beyond the moment, substantiate passion and rhetoric, and act on decisions after examining options and consequences.

Yes, Chito, it’s called teaching, not brainwashing.

( 0917-3226131)

*First published in Sun.Star Cebu’s Sept. 4, 2011 issue of the “Matamata” Sunday column

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