HELLO, TITA.

YOU were surprised, I think, by my immediate response when you asked me if I have plans to go abroad in our conversation over the phone the other day. My reply, if I remember it right was, "Hindi. Kailangan ng mga teacher dito." ("No. Teachers are needed here.")

Let me set the record straight.

There are things we do because we are obligated and there are things we do because we are passionate about it. They say that this is what separates the youth from the adults. Adults do things because they are obligated to do it. Youth do things because they are passionate about it. I believe in it, Tita, not because I am nineteen and still in my youthful years but because it is what I am living through.

I write because I want to awaken the minds of the Filipinos to the kind of hell they are living in and that bottomless pit to which these politicians lead them. I want to give the Philippines a memory, a history to which they will turn to for a promising future. It is only through memory that a nation endures. And I want this nation to endure. I wouldn't wish to look back and see that I am guilty of not doing what is right—that I had become as apathetic as my generation had turn out to be—and did what my parents taught me: mind our own businesses.

We have been repeating history, not because history repeats itself but because as a nation, we don't know—and don't even bother to know—our past. As a result, we don't have the wisdom required for progress.

I am giving you a classic example and I hope you wouldn't mind.

In 1872, a garrote sentence killed three Filipino priests after being suspects of planning to overthrow the government. Their death is the main reason why José Rizal became the national hero of the Philippines.

A century later, Marcos proclaimed Martial Law and there arose the young and liberal Senator Benigno Aquino, Jr., who would be the Leader's rival and most vocal critic.

In those events, the Filipino waited for decades to gather enough courage and was awakened after the death of the most likely leader for them to act in pursuit of what they think is right as one nation.

Forgive me if I am speaking like an activist. I have been spending those aguinaldos of yours for the books of F. Sionil José. Remember that two thousand pesos you gave? The one that is for, as you say, a new pair of shoes and a new bag for my practicum next year? Well, I bought three books in José's bookstore, which totaled to a little over a thousand. My mother as usual, was surprised. The economist in me tells that the amount is little compared to the ideas that I can teach in the future.

In two years time, I am going to graduate and return to the classroom. I will teach because I don't wish the future generations to become like the zombies of the old who only know how to memorize and lack the thinking skills required to be at par with international standards. I believe this is the major error of our educational system. We have been emphasizing the importance of rote learning that we don't realize that we are actually imposing on our learners that analysis is not important, comprehension is not important, for mere knowledge of the subject makes a student pass his courses. Never mind if he does not understand. Never mind if he learned only through short-term memory. What is important is he knows, therefore he learns. This is like China manufacturing: quantity over quality. We are having a big number of graduates who does not have the right learning they could give back to society once they join the labor force.

I'm not saying you belong to that generation because I'm sure you don't. I'm saying we need critical and reflective thinkers who are aware of what is happening around them. To mold them is to demonstrate the importance of the link of the past, present and the future of this nation. Our past will continue to haunt us until we resolve the hounding present. I don't want my students to become mere armchair philosophers or secretaries or stenographers of the future. The world is waiting for the grapes to be pruned! What can mere sitting, thinking and repeating the teacher's ideas accomplish?

I have probed the parts our predecessors have forbidden us and for that, I know I shall pay a price. I don't know if it would be for the good or bad of this nation but F. Sionil José—he yielded to the cry of Motherland in using his fiction to give us memory. The least I could do is use the classroom to correct and give our interpretation of our History.

I know you will say that I am living in an illusion for today, abroad is the place to be a successful professional and earn much-needed cash. But success and richness are not measured by money alone. Gold and material possessions catch rust and deteriorate while ideas never die.

Faith will keep me going. As corny as this may sound, please pray for me.

Regards,

Your pamangkin

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