It’s a good thing that President Aquino has signed Proclamation No. 242 declaring Sept. 5 to Oct. 5 of every year National Teachers’ Month. This observance is meant to give recognition to our teachers, our unsung heroes who have the unique role in molding and preparing students for the future, when they have to take over as leaders of communities and of the country.
Last year, Education Secretary Armin Luistro stressed that “Filipinos should regularly take time to revitalize the image of teachers and draw public attention to the value of educators in society.” In line with this, he launched a “Thank You” campaign that encourages students to write letters or send cards, or post a greeting in social networking sites for teachers. And the campaign quickly caught fire!
To be sure, all of us still remember some of our teachers with affection and gratitude. For, indeed, we would not be what we are today without them. Two teachers clearly stand out in my memory because these two were the ones who motivated me to learn and achieve. Sir Diosdado P. Galang and Ma’am Cecilia O. Legaspi were my English teachers in my high school third and second years, respectively. Shy and bashful as I was, these two superb mentors, apparently believing in me, encouraged me to be more self-assured and confident of myself.
Sir Galang was also our adviser in The Granary, our school’s official organ and he was with me when I participated in two national secondary press conferences, one in Manila and the other in Bacolod City, during my senior year. In both conferences, I won in the “Best Editorial Writing” contest. In later years and after I became a full-fledged physician, he would constantly get in touch with me. He considered me part of his family. I was even asked to stand as “ninong” of one of his grandchildren. In his seventies, he migrated to America to live with his daughter. We continued to communicate with each other until the time of his death a decade ago.
Ma’am Legaspi was like a mother to me and to many of her students. She was one of our best teachers in high school. Once, she asked the class: “What is the difference between an artist and an ordinary person?” When my turn to answer came, I said with apprehension, “an artist sees more than what an ordinary person sees.” Whereupon, she announced to the class that mine was the best answer. Looking back, I now realize she was one teacher who really believed in me, and she always prodded me to write, write, write.
Much later, when my articles got published in national publications, she would be among my ardent rooters. When I came back from the United States in the 1970s to start my medical practice in Cabanatuan, she invited me to lecture before her students at Wesleyan University-Philippines where she was the the dean of the college of education. On that occasion, she introduced me to one and all that I was her all-time favorite student. That was for me a great compliment coming from one of our excellent teachers in Nueva Ecija High School. To these two terrific and exceptional teachers, I humbly say, “Thank you for everything!”
It goes without saying that there were other unforgettable teachers of our generation who all helped us get closer to our dreams: Sir Telesforo Mendoza, who taught us the value of self-discipline and the importance of keeping up with current events by reading the newspapers, which indeed has become a lifelong habit for me; the stern-looking but competent Ma’am Soledad Sicat, who drilled us well in grammar and composition and literally forced us to read books for our home-reading reports; the affable Sir Aurelio Marbas, who was everybody’s favorite math teacher; the inimitable Sir Julian Lipana, who introduced us to the wonders of general science; Sir Roman Batangan, who whetted our appetite for learning more about the “modern times and the living past”; the ever-prim Ma’am Florentina
Santillan, who taught us to be proficient in Filipino; the very articulate Ma’am Victorina
Tanchoco, who taught us how to speak English well; Ma’am Jovita Cruz, who patiently mentored us in biology; Ma’am Salud Santos, who diligently mentored us on the complexities of physics and algebra. They were our heroes. They were all dedicated and superb teachers deserving of our affection and admiration—to this day.
A Cabanatuan-based pediatrician, Dr. Floriño A. Francisco is a freelance feature writer and 2010 TOPICS (The Outstanding Physician in Community Service) awardee.