Saturday, September 21, 2013


“Wa jud ko magtuo…”

I don’t know whose disbelief was greater, mine or hers. Last weekend, I received a text message from a former student, Eunice Borlasa.

One of the perks of teaching is remaining friends with one’s students long after they’ve left the campus. But I was unprepared for Eunice’s update: she was now teaching at a public high school in Camotes Island.

In the nearly 30 years I’ve been lecturing and then teaching at the University of the Philippines Cebu, I’ve seen the shift in choices that swept away our graduates to trendy and well-paying careers in communication.

Quite a number enter the program, passionate to become a journalist. Television still remains undimmed in beckoning the young.

Yet, the stress, risks, and perceived lack of security of deadline-beaters is not as alluring when undergraduates reach their senior year and corporations and call centers pay court. Freelancing in new media and creative work is on the upswing.

Teaching? It isn’t unpopular but it’s also not hot. Being an English tutor to foreigners plumps up many undergraduates’ ascetic allowances. However, in the panorama of choices opened by a college degree, teaching is perhaps a speck, a micro-dot.

Even Eunice, with parents and an older sister who are public school teachers, segued after college to GMA Cebu and then Sugbo TV. She considered taking Education units at the Cebu Normal University as “lingaw-lingaw (pastime),” and passing the Licensure Exam for Teachers as “suway-suway (trial)”.

Yet, why not Education? As Mass Com undergraduates, Eunice and partner Donna Loayon introduced blogging to the campus-based Niños Foundation in 2009. The tandem could have just treated the project to help a group come up with a blog as another class requirement.

Eunice and Donna believed in the group’s advocacy to help street children and saw the potentials of new media in converting others to this cause. Midway in the semester, the Niños were blogging on their own. Their blog is still updated up to now.

Stubbornness sheathed by a mild, non-confrontational demeanor. That was Eunice then.

That’s still Eunice. Her Facebook journal portrays the idyllic life in Poro, part of the Camotes Islands, once known as the “Lost Horizon of the South”.

Among her photos and posts of rusting anchors, drowsing kittens and bonding moments are glimpses of the life of a young person whose meandering has led her to share classrooms with more than 100 grade 7 and third year students of her alma mater, Luciano B. Rama Sr. Memorial National High School.

On Jan. 28, 2013, Eunice posted a close-up photo of three sets of ruled paper covered with her round-shaped handwriting: lesson plans approved by a supervisor. Eunice observed that all the rewriting that went into the “3 LPs” could produce a book.

The pace inside classrooms may differ from that of newsrooms. Yet, the discipline of learning and imparting information energizes both. Immediately after she was hired in July, Eunice relied on her college notes to train students competing in the Department of Education-organized press conference.

Her college degree prepared her to handle English 7 but not her other specialization, Chemistry. In June, she posted that she was seriously studying again Chem (“magtoun nako'g tinud-anay).

It is not enough for her to understand a subject. She wants to simplify a subject so that everyone in class understands before she moves on to the next topic.

“Never give up on anybody. Miracles happen every day,” she quoted H. Jackson Brown, Jr. in a June 27 post.

Love for natural science is not high on the virtues of Mass Com majors. But studying AND preparing LPs on Chem reminds Eunice that, “Who dares to teach must never cease to learn.”

Another perk of teaching is having teacher and student swap places. It’s a privilege to take life lessons from Eunice, who, for her Facebook cover photo, posted the image of an anchor (“angkla”) buried in the sands of Camotes Island.

( 09173226131)

* First published in Sun.Star Cebu’s Sept. 22, 2013 issue of the “Matamata” Sunday editorial page column

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