3rd April 2006
One of the big things I helped with was the graduation booklet. A spiffy little Word document if I do say so myself. It automatically prints into a cool double sided folding booklet. Neat! Have a look at it here if you are so inclined.
The graduation kicked off with a formal procession. It must of traveled all of 100 meters. They asked me to join the formal folks at the start of the parade, which was nice. They made me sit with the official group as well. I would of preferred to sit with the kids, but that would of looked a little bit of place.
There were the usual formal speeches and acknowledgement of people before the awards were given out. They awards were a lot more sensible than the silliness of the preschool graduation I attended. Awards were given for: Most Neat and Clean, Most Well Behaved and Most Industrious. There were also some special awards for the grade six graduation class.
I recommended Angelito for the Most Improved Student award. He was most deserving. This was his third attempt at grade six. He was a real problem student but really had a good attitude this year and finished eighth overall. Good for him.
Angelito's is a sad story. His fathered buggered off when he was young and the remaining family has struggled ever since. It is nigh on impossible for a single mother to raise a family here. He was upset that he didn't have a button shirt for the graduation. He couldn't borrow one from his classmates because he is so much bigger than them. I gave him one of my shirts as a graduation gift.
Joseph Marachado was the grade six valedictorian. His first duty was to give the valedictory address. He gave thanks to me at one point during his address. It gave me my first teary eyed moment of the day. He also lead his class in a pledge of loyalty, words for which can be found here.
Joseph won a scholarship to the St. Augustine Private School, which I was very glad about as Joseph comes from a dirt-poor family and could never afford it otherwise. St. Augustine came second overall in the Philippines last year.
The graduates sang a song called Glowing Inside as their commencement song. Lyrics can be found here. Despite its saccharine sweetness, it still made me teary eyed again.
One of the nicest moment in the ceremony came for me when Janica asked me to pin her 2nd Place in Grade IV ribbon onto her. This is normally reserved for parents. Janica's father was most supportive though and even took the picture for me. Very nice.
I also received a certificate of appreciation for my time at Pulao. It was presented to me by Sir Jolo - the headmaster of the school.
A lot of the kids wanted to have their photos taken with me after the official ceremony had finished, which was nice. What was not nice though were the stoopid people who insisted I attend the official post-ceremony snack in the staff room. Dumb. Dumb. Dumb. I wanted to stay and have my photo taken but they all but physically dragged me away.
Lunch at the Marchados
The father works as an artist at the nearby Katamnan Resort. Filipinos wages are quite low. Making a living as an artist anywhere in the world is hard. I'd hate to think how much the father is earning as a Filipino Artist. Can't be much.
The meal they gave me was great. Lotsa pineapple, watermelon, chicken, pork and an abundance of rice. The also splashed out and got me some coke. Every time my glass threatened to drop below halfway, it would be instantly refilled. They insisted that I go first and finish my meal before anybody else even started. This happens to me quite a lot in the Philippines, but it is always a little strange nevertheless.
After lunch we sat outside and ate watermelon.
I thank the family for the meal before heading back to school with several pupils of Pulao in tow.
My lunch with the Marchado family was an unexpected highlight of my time here. They are a great family who are obviously doing something right as both Janica and Joseph are very responsible and mature young kids. They are a dirt-poor family though. Their generosity and kindness was truly humbling.
Janica sent me the following texts the next day:
The program kicked off with official speeches by official people. The Captain of Pulao was first. I didn't really know the captain very well, I doubt he knew me very well so his speech just sounded a little forced and clichéd. Nice sentiments nevertheless.
But, man, Pamela's (from grade 5) absolutely slayed me. Her words were similar to what Joseph and Renalyn said, but she broke down several times in her speech. Which made several people in the audience cry, which made several people on stage cry, which made me cry as well. Was one of the more emotional moments for me.
Pamela, by the way, has the very cool nickname of Pam-Pam. Way better than Yum Yum and infinitely better than Juicy (what were their parents thinking...? ). Pamela also kicked butt in the final exam. She topped the class with a combined score of 258. Second place got a measly 220.
Each class also performed a dance for me.
The Sir Malcolm Energetic Dancers (yes, that's their actual name) from grade six performed a dance for me set to the music of My Humps by the Black Eyed Peas. They invited me to join them during their dance. I knew some of their moves - I had watch them practice during the week - but I had to resort to freestyle so as not to look stoopid. Or was it that my freestyle itself looked stoopid? Dunno. They gave me some flowers as the dance finished.
The same group of girls also sang me a song. Well, I'm pretty sure they sang it for me. They had their backs to me the whole time. Maybe I should of brushed my teeth that morning. Dunno. I can't for the life of me remember what the title of the song was.
Grade five did a dance for me set to the song Don't Push Me So Hard by God knows who.
Thercy Ferrer gave a speech on behalf of the teachers. She was the teacher that was closest to me and I will miss her dearly when I am gone. Thercy is single. The other teachers took great delight in teasing both Thercy and I that we will get married. In Ilongo when you're teasing someone about romantic things you say Yudi (ewe-dee). It is best accompanied by the rolling of the shoulders.
The student teachers speech was given by the very beautiful Mary Jane. She was another one that broke down just a little during her speech. I managed to snag a copy of her speech and it is reproduced here.
Mayor Distura was invited to give a speech, but didn't turn up.
The final speech was given by yours truly. It is reproduced here. I thought it would be nice if I said a line in English, and then the same line in Ilongo. While my Ilongo is okay and I can sometimes stumble through a conversation, it was not really up to this task. So I had Eden, Amay and Vincent help me with the translation.
Doing the speech in Ilongo was a nice idea. Was a good idea to connect not only to the students, but also to the parents in attendance. I got several compliments on my Ilongo afterwards.
Giving the speech was an emotional moment. I tried to encourage them to never stop learning, even if you don't get the chance go to high school.
High school is technically free, but it practically costs 2,000 pesos a year in "voluntary" donations. 25% of the grade six will not be able to afford to start high school.
I think school life shelters you from the real world. You have somewhere to go each day, friends to hang out with and teachers doing a song a dance for you to keep you amused. Once you leave school though, this all ends. This is what will happen for those 25%. They will all of a sudden find themselves in a very small job market. Some of the lucky ones will get a job peddling around tri-cycles. The unlucky ones will be forever doing the occasional manual labor job.
During my speech, I mentioned what my three wishes for the Philippines would be:
One and two would fix most of the problems in the Philippines.
What I most wanted to say was at the end of my speech. I don't think I can say it any better than what I said in my speech.
After the farewell party finished, I posed for a million pictures. Nice.
I danced. I danced a lot. I sweated a lot. Fortunately, the student teachers had given me a t-shirt as a farewell present so I was able to change a rather smelly shirt half way through the evening.
In some ways though, "Disco" isn't
quite the right word. "Family Get Together" is a better
description. The disco was open to grade four, five and six
students and their respective parents. Most families brought along
a plate of food which was used in the perpetual
feast in one of the classrooms.
The disco wrapped up at about one in the morning. I was among the last to leave
It is a bit different here. It will be very difficult to have any meaningful contact with the teachers and students. I've given them my postal address in New Zealand but I doubt if I'll get many letters. Sending a letter to New Zealand is expensive.
I've promised to send some photos of me in Africa to them.
Seeing any of the students again is doubtful. Even if I do come back in a number of years most of the kids would of moved on and be attending high school. The teachers will still be there though. Most of them seemed resigned to the fact that they will teaching until the day they retire.
Sucks to go. No doubt about it. I will miss the kids and the teachers terribly.
2005, 2006 and 2007 Malcolm Trevena.