At Large

Families and students in nation-building

/ 05:06 AM December 13, 2017

Though she is aware that her students come from the “upper crust,” given the CIE (Centre for International Education) British School’s high tuition, the school’s founder Nelia Cruz Sarcol pursues her vision of developing the young people under her care into socially-aware but more important, socially active citizens and human beings.

This goal she pursues through programs that not only introduce but actually involve students in the lives of the less fortunate in the surrounding community. One of them is called the “Gift of GOLD,” gold for “Giving of Oneself to those who have Less and are Disadvantaged.”


“Teacher Nelia” says that to give a taste of “real world learning” to CIE British School’s graduates, students starting from Year 7 to Year 12 establish lasting links with families by developing “home-based microbusinesses.” With the help of the class adviser, parents and social workers, students are paired up with families engaged in entrepreneurial activities, however small. The students then work with the families to develop their products, grow the business, and learn basics like financial management. The relationship lasts for six years, at the end of which the student, or group of students, together with the beneficiary family, “present and defend, in the form of a thesis, the outcome of their business collaboration.” A panel of business people and social workers evaluates each “partnership” program, including assessing how much the family’s “quality of life” had been improved.

To cite one case, Manang Pina was engaged in an informal photography business using an old camera that a relative gave her when some CIE British School students met with her. With their assistance, she took a formal photography course, received a better camera and lenses, and undertook a better marketing program that included, she said, her very first calling card.


In the six years that the students worked with her, Manang Pina also learned videography and post-production processing, while her husband and children were trained in ways to assist her in dealing with her growing number of clients.

But the assistance was not just on business matters. The entire family also underwent “values clarification sessions” that sought to help the members of the family strengthen their relationships, including their relationship with God.

Today, the family lives in a concrete structure (a big change from their old barong-barong) and earns a combined average monthly income of P20,000. Manang Pina is currently the official photographer of the CIE British School. That, to me, is nation-building one family, one student, at a time!

CIE British School is 32 years old, and after establishing locales in Cebu and Tacloban, recently opened its latest branch in Makati. The school is accredited with Cambridge University, which oversees its curriculum and conducts regular assessments. Soon, promises “Teacher Nelia,” they will also receive accreditation from the UK government itself.

* * *

Our sisterhood of TOWNS women was recently shocked by the loss of former justice Flerida Ruth Romero, who belonged to the pioneering batch of TOWNS laureates.

Her sudden passing caught many of her friends and admirers by surprise, and so, it seems, also her family. They held a one-day memorial service for her at the Santuario de San Antonio and fortunately, some TOWNS sisters were able to convey their sympathies to the Romero family.


“Tita Flery,” as we knew her, is best remembered among us TOWNS women for being an indefatigable e-mailer, filling our inboxes with nuggets of wisdom and wit, and forwarding articles that she thought we could all benefit from.

She was an early and passionate advocate of women’s and children’s rights, playing a key role in drafting the Family Code and taking active part in the international arena, heading the Philippine delegation to the 1975 UN International Women’s Year conference. She also served as secretary-general of the Constitutional Commission which drafted the 1987 Constitution.

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TAGS: At Large, CIE British School, Flerida Ruth Romero, nation-bulding, Nelia Cruz Sarcol, Rina Jimenez-David
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