Teachers as liberators | Inquirer Opinion

Teachers as liberators

/ 01:51 AM September 27, 2014

On Oct. 5, the world pauses to honor and thank our teachers for their lifelong commitment to bring out the best in us. Words like “selfless” and “heroic” will be used to describe these kind and amazing individuals who went beyond themselves and the limited resources at their disposal to liberate our minds and imbue us with the strength of character to meet whatever challenges that Life may throw at us.

So what makes teachers so memorable? The ones I remember best are those who gave me the skill to, in the words of Dr. Seymour Papert, “make the right response to situations that are outside of what is taught in school.”

“The model that says learn while you’re at school, while you’re young, the skills that you will apply during your lifetime, is no longer tenable,” Papert said. “The skills that you can learn when you’re at school will not be applicable. They will be obsolete by the time you get into the workplace and need them, except for one skill. The one really competitive skill is the skill of being able to learn.”

In this context, I’d like to honor my mother and my two elder sisters, who taught me how to read and write at home, way before I attended my first day of kindergarten. To be fair, though, the odds were in my favor. My mother comes from the “maestra” era, when the community accorded teachers with a level of respect rarely seen today. My eldest sister Josie was a very articulate and highly knowledgeable university professor before she passed away. My other sister Melissa is a true intellectual, with two science degrees. Together they connived to introduce an unsuspecting four-year-old to the magic of the written word, just because it amused them.


However, the teacher that I must thank most profusely is actually not even one, in the sense that she has never taught a day in a classroom, or taken any licensure examination for teachers. And yet, I learned so much from her about journalism, both as a business and as a calling, far more than from any lecture or workshop that I ever attended in the university.

Without a doubt, Inquirer founding chair Eggie Duran-Apostol is one of the best mentors that any writer can hope to have. Describing what she has as “a wealth of experience” doesn’t quite cut it. You’ll never hear it from her, but all her awards attest to the fact that Tita Eggie personifies excellence in journalism. All she’ll ever admit to is that she is “a creature of happenstance,” who just happens to have pen and paper at the right place and at the right time, every time.

Tita Eggie goes to legendary lengths to seek and speak the truth. It is a standard of excellence that she lives by, and one that she insists that all serious journalists must live up to. You could say that this is “the Eggie Apostol touch” that resonates in all of the publications that she has worked on, from the Sentinel to Mr&Ms (the magazine and the famously popular Special Editions) to the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

Forty-two years ago, the Marcos regime crushed all dissent and silenced the mass media. The writers who somehow avoided incarceration kept the fires burning, but Eggie Apostol is best remembered for turning a light-hearted women’s magazine into a weapon of liberation. How’s that for journalistic creativity?


Tita Eggie once told me that the damage that martial law had wrought on us is so insidious that many aspects are not clearly evident. She and other writers like herself rebelled against the Marcos regime as vigorously as they could. Partly through their efforts, we succeeded in ending the Marcos dictatorship that systematically dismantled our democratic institutions, including the Philippine Constitution. But Tita Eggie believed that our education system was dealt the severest blow: An entire generation of our youth were forced to imbibe the false sociocivic values of the “New Society,” at the expense of acquiring quality education.

In their 2008 UP Centennial Lecture, Dina Ocampo, Cynthia Rose Bautista and Allan Bernardo said: “Our partners in industry have also called our attention to the mismatch of what our students are learning in our schools to their employment requirements. These are presently complicated by the fact that social environments are rapidly transitioning, and that Filipinos now move across different geographic and cultural spaces, either by choice or by circumstance. Because of this, specific competencies become obsolete rather easily, and persons have to acquire new sets of competencies as they move on in their lives.”


Today, education reform is the Eggie Apostol Foundation’s core advocacy, and there are still a lot of challenges to face. Some of our youth harbor the grossly mistaken notion that martial law was a good thing and that Marcos was the best president this country ever had. Our teachers must show our students how to seek the truth, just like Tita Eggie did.

Butch Hernandez ([email protected]) is the executive director of the Eggie Apostol Foundation and education lead for talent development at the IT & Business Process Association of the Philippines.

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TAGS: Butch Hernandez, Commentary, opinion, Teachers

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