Sunday, October 23, 2011

Divine at 15

DID the parents of Divine Saludaga foresee, 15 years ago, that their child would grow to become not just divine but uncommon?

Divine is a senior at Tipolo National High School. According to Justin K. Vestil’s Oct. 18, 2011 report in Sun.Star Cebu, Divine was recently honored as one of Mandaue City’s Top 20 Outstanding Children.

The 20 students were chosen for their academic and community work in their schools.

Although the Sun.Star Cebu article contains no particulars about the students’ achievements, Vestil captured the uniqueness of Divine who, at 15, is unsure whether she will become “a nun, a teacher or a journalist”.

Her being the school paper’s editor-in-chief makes her lean, though, towards journalism.

I expect sass and spunk but hardly poignancy from fifteen-year-olds. (Or perhaps I have watched too many videos.)

What is it like to be 15 and consider options few adults will even glance at as options?

For a foolish reason sustained for a few foolish seconds after reading the Sun.Star Cebu article, I wished Divine stays 15 forever. Anything—her elders, a spike in the hiring of overseas Filipino workers, or even Divine herself—can trigger a change in her life’s decision.

She may realize that, however she decides, she will be embracing a lifetime of work.

Rather, I mean service, the term applied for work that will never be fully compensated.

I’m sure salaries and benefits are better now compared to those in the past, but I believe—based on experience and observation—that the labors of teachers, journalists and nuns can never be covered by paltry things like a pay slip or pension.

Is there a scheme to standardize salaries for the individual exercise of creativity, passion and excellence? There are numbers to prove the aberrations—masses of lazy and incompetent teachers, lazy and corrupt journalists, lazy and sanctimonious nuns—but the sterling exceptions are not as rare as we think.

There are teachers who don’t let poverty—of local families, of the educational system—dim the dreams of their students.

Among those frontliners who can count their official holidays with fewer than the fingers of one hand, some journalists make the extra effort to be accurate, accurate, accurate every time: go to libraries, archives and the streets to verify information; try to reach sources that didn’t, won’t and can’t give their side; and reread drafts to check that no interest is sacrificed or promoted except that of the public.

And nuns—timeless butt of inanities for being childless and sexless—who have been champions of the poor, ignorant, voiceless, abused, abandoned, degraded, soulless, in a word, final resort of those who ran out of options: can you insult the salt of the earth by saying, here is compensation for doing the work that no one else will do?

Can you be 15 and then wake up the next second?

No one can cling to the flush of youth. But here’s my hope, Divine, that you stay always as uncommon as you were at 15.

( 09173226131)

*First published in Sun.Star Cebu’s Oct. 23, 2011 issue of the “Matamata” Sunday column

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