Tuesday, June 29, 2010

“Poverty” by Martial

(In which the ones who grumble more are the ones who work less.)


The ubiquitous complaint regarding assignments and school tasks in a teacher-student conflict is starting to get into my nerves lately. I feel my frustration getting the better of me, slowly but deeply. I still wonder why students still marvel at the amount of homework their teachers give them. When will they accept the fact that it is eternally included in their roles as learners and stop bargaining?

I wasn’t able to contain my impatience any longer when Crystal suppressed a shriek after I gave her a twenty-item assignment on grammar.

“Aaahh! So many homework! Teacher Jean – “ she stopped speaking and started flipping the pages of her huge notebook to show how many words she has to define for her vocabulary class the next day. “And you – “she looked at me deprecatingly and sighed a disappointed sigh.

“So what?” I asked, raising my eyebrows.

“It’s so many!” she once again flipped pages to prove her point.

“But you have your dictionary. You use that to get the meaning, right? Just do it. Teachers give homework so you can study and practice what you learned.”

“But I’m tired,” she whined. I tried my best to stop myself from wrapping my hands around her neck.

“Who isn’t?” I smiled instead.

“I read many many!”

“I also read.”

“I slept 11 last night,” she reasoned out.

“I’m still working when you’re already asleep.”

“Sometimes I sleep twelve,” she uttered one more irrelevant argument.

“I sleep at past one o’clock in the morning everyday,” I retorted.

“But I wake up eight o’clock,” she sighed.

“I also wake up at eight. Travel for at least an hour. Work more than half the day and go home exhausted,” I enumerated to emphasize that no student’s hardship is greater than the teacher’s.

She sighed. I didn’t know if that’s to show understanding or she thought I talked nonsense, as if she was the one who’s in the more reasonable end of the argument.

I wanted to ask her what worries her. I wanted to reprimand her for thinking that her life as a foreign student is the hardest she’ll ever have. Did she really think that sleeping late and waking up early is a burden? Doesn’t she know that there are students who patiently walk along mountain trails, cross rivers barefooted and swim the sea for hours to get to school and endure the same sufferings to get home? That these same students read the dog eared, yellow pages of their textbooks which are at least four years old using a kerosene lamp? And she complains about reading her new, imported textbooks; writing her homework using her Dong-A mechanical pencil; defining words with the help of her touch-screen electronic dictionary and sleeping late and waking up early in a comfortable dormitory situated in a sophisticated city?

It’s becoming a common trait among them and it’s depressing. It’s depressing to hear them grouse about how hard it is to study when they don’t sweat much for their tuition fee and take their studies seriously. Do they even understand how much their parents have to work to send them abroad? Forget that they’re studying in a Third World nation. Some people in this country never even had the chance to sit in a crowded, dilapidated classroom in the distant provinces let alone before a private instructor. And these less fortunate ones would give anything to have a taste of the full-of-hardships student life that our lucky students scowl at. I bet they don’t even know what real hardship is.
by Martial

When your landlord would not hold your goods
In lieu of rent,
I saw you moving –
Your scrawny red-haired wife was loaded down,
Your gentle white-haired mother, loaded down,
And last, yourself as loaded –
Withered with cold and hunger –
Carrying your household treasures:

A three-legged bed,
A two-folded table,
A broken lamp,
A horn cup,
A rusty stove,
A jar which, surely, once held herrings –
Faugh! – it smells like a dry fish-pond,
A square of strong smelling cheese,
A four-year-old crown of herbs,
A rope of onions,
The resin to restore your mother’s hair
In an old cracked jar. . .
Which corner of the bridge open to beggars,
I wonder, will hold you now?

Thursday, June 24, 2010

A Game of Rhymes

(In which I need a memory enhancer.)


I joined a poetry game on Shredded Cheddar where players are supposed to submit a word and a question. Then they will be given a word and a question submitted by another player. They should answer the question using the given word in a poem.

The game was held a couple of weeks ago (?) and I was (ugh!) the only one who hasn’t submitted a poem yet! And I wouldn’t know if I hadn’t checked my email for the follow-up comments.

So here is my Word and Question poem. I’m really sorry for being late. (Oh, I know late is an understatement.)

Word: ephemera
Question: How many times is too much?

How many times is too much?
If there’s a thing as such,
If we are to follow other’s advice,
Then it has to be “twice”?

But we all differ – you and me
It’s not easy as one, two, three.
A room full of ephemera for Pat
May never be enough for Jack.

How much is too much?
Is then yet another puzzle.
If it also needs an answer,
Oh! It’s such a hassle!

When My Student Meets Richard Cory

(In which my storybook eyes are not enough.)


One thing I like about conversation classes is that the topics may come from anywhere and anyone can say something about it. Depending on the language proficiency of the student, a single topic can last for an hour or two, even days. In one of our classes, Judah and I talked about suicide, the reasons and effects. And because (I think) he’s dead serious about improving his writing skills, I gave a reaction paper about “Richard Cory” as his assignment.

Richard Cory
by Edwin Arlington Robinson

Whenever Richard Cory went down town,
We people on the pavement looked at him:
He was a gentleman from sole to crown,
Clean favored, and imperially slim.

And he was always quietly arrayed,
And he was always human when he talked;
But still he fluttered pulses when he said,
"Good-morning," and he glittered when he walked.

And he was rich, richer than a king,
And admirably schooled in every grace:
In fine, we thought that he was everything
To make us wish that we were in his place.

So on we worked, and waited for the light,
And went without the meat, and cursed the bread;
And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,
Went home and put a bullet through his head.

Though I know it wasn’t right, I expected him to criticize Richard Cory’s actions, write about how wrong his choice was. (And I thought I am not very puritan!) But after providing a brief summary of the poem, he wrote:

But I don’t think we should question Richard Cory’s decision. Why would I condemn him? I do not know his sufferings. No one knows my real sufferings, too. His pain might be too much. So I think if he killed himself, he has enough reason and right.

I didn’t mind the part where he advises people to stop caring much about others – they’re old enough. But what struck me very powerfully was his trust in a person’s decision making and his understanding of other’s pain which was (ironically) manifested by his acknowledgement of his own ignorance regarding how others suffer.

“Judah, you mean he did the right thing by killing himself to escape pain?” I probed after I handed him his essay.

He examined the purple ink on his work and sighed. Then he started and peered over the top of his notebook.

“Right thing? I don’t know,” he sighed again and put his notebook on his lap. “But for me, maybe he just thinks the pain is not tolerable anymore so he just wanted to die. People will think, ‘Oh, he’s crazy! He’s rich and all that then he did this? Crazy!’ But what do they know? It’s his life.”

Right then, after I ignored the fact that he evaded my question, I was convinced that our difference does not only lie in our religion or our language. It’s in the difference of our perspective as well. His insouciance was a perfect façade for a soul sensitive to human sorrow.

To question others why they did something – left, broke someone’s heart, ended their own lives – means questioning ourselves about what we know and how much we understand beyond the surface. Besides, pain – real pain – isn’t always skin deep. It doesn’t always show in the contour of one’s face. And reasons, what are they? When are they enough? When are they valid?

Wealth. Education. Fame. Richard Cory had them all. But if he chose to end his life despite all these, then Judah must be right – his reasons shouldn’t be questioned.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Teacher Tantrums: Who’s Your SpongeBob?

(In which it was a battle between my student and my endangered patience.)


I’ve been suspending this blog entry for a long time since I can’t think of an incident to let it go with. But fortunately, I now have enough reasons to upset SpongeBob fans by including him in this post fueled by a student-teacher fight.

Because of my early shift, I was able to watch SpongeBob. That day’s episode was “Mrs. Puff, You're Fired”. Miss Puff (SpongeBob’s driving teacher) was reprimanded by the superintendent for SpongeBob’s numerous failing grades (1,258,056 times!) She was told that if he failed yet another test, she’ll be fired. She retorted that SpongeBob is unteachable. So they let him took a driving test and Miss Puff guided him with the process, trying desperately to make him remember what to do. In the end, another failed test was added to SpongeBob’s notorious records.

So Miss Puff was fired but instead of sulking over the loss of her job, she was delighted!

“No more SpongeBob!” she laughed in disbelief mixed with relief.

So another teacher took over. He’s a disciplinarian shark wearing military uniform who gave his students this preview of his teaching methods.

“Your spines will break, your teeth will ache. Your eyes will be bloodshot.”

Then he threw two students out for eating and speaking.

In the end, SpongeBob still failed and Miss Puff wept when she realized that she’ll be having SpongeBob in her class again. At least the superintendent now realized how unteachable SpongeBob is.

We were told, as teachers, that if the students didn’t learn, then we didn’t teach. For that reason, we are expected to do our job well and make sure that all students (but I prefer the “majority” of them) will learn. Throughout the class time, we’re also expected to keep our cool and be patient for slow learners. And those things I always tried (and succeeded) to keep in mind (and to practice) . . . until today.

My first student every day is, although not as unteachable as SpongeBob, is definitely not as cheerful and optimistic let alone amusing. He stutters when he speaks and has an attitude as if he’s smarter than his teacher. After having several classes with him in a regular classroom and on telephone as well as hearing the feedbacks from his former teachers, I was utterly convinced that he doesn’t really need the kind of instruction we’re offering. He needs something more special.

As always, I put my best (as well as the most patient and understanding) foot forward in our class. I do not want to be irritated with his antics and mild attacks of arrogance and rudeness. But of course, everything has its limits and my patience isn’t an exception. I didn’t mind if he obviously didn’t listen to me as he kept on giving incorrect answers after another. But he continuously breathed hard on the receiver. And that I couldn’t take anymore.

“Carl, could you please stop breathing hard on the phone? It’s painful to my ear!” I said impatiently.

“W-what? I-it’s not me!” he stammered in defense.

“Then who is it? What is it?” I asked back, my face warmer.

“I-I d-don’t know! I-it’s not m-me! T-the shoo-shoo sound, I don’t know! It’s not me!”

“Ok. There’s no shoo-shoo sound now.”

“I said i-it’s not me! Are you crazy? – “

“- What?!”

Dead air. Silence as cold as the air in the office and as hard as my grip on the table. For more than half a minute no one spoke. The shoo-shoo sound was completely gone. I tried to gather the remaining calmness in me and continued the class. Just two more minutes, I thought.

“Yeah, so Mr. and Mrs. Jenkins even asked their neighbors to do things for them,” I said in an obviously high-pitched voice which made me realize that I’m not a very good liar.

I heard movements in the other line and a button was pressed. I didn’t say more since I know there was no one who’ll respond. I clicked the off button fifty seconds before the class was supposed to end.

I informed the staff about the incident and they promised to check it. After half an hour, Camille dashed in my room, leaned on the open door with her left hand on her left hip.

“What happened? With Carl?”

She’s dead serious. What now? I’m dead meat?

“I listened to the call. It’s your fault!” she said, still dead serious.

“What?” I asked, completely thinking she’s mistaken.

“Yes, and because of that I’m gonna punish you.”

Uh oh. Am I gonna be fired like Mrs. Puff because of the fault of a student?

I looked at her face but couldn’t do that for long because of the hardness of her expression.

“Refresh your schedule!”

I pressed F5 and waited forever for the page to load. The page was slowly becoming clear when she uttered, “Congratulations!” sweetly like a nightingale.

I put my hand on my chest as if in fear of my heart falling. I knitted my eyebrows when I saw her laughing.

“I listened. And I talked to him. I heard the shoo-shoo sound too but he said it wasn’t him. So I told him ‘Do you wanna die or something?’ Haha! But anyway, look at your schedule? Where’s Carl? Congratulations!” Camille gleefully recounted.

I smiled at her but I told her I felt bad with what happened too. I also shouted at him and that somehow made me at fault.

But enough with the guilty trip.

“No more Carl! No more Carl! Haha!”

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

My True Colors and the Constant Reminder

(In which I am advised to unleash my “true nature”)
I wore a black skirt, a black halter tank top with a white bolero matched with white flip flops adorned with flowers to office today. (I know it’s quite feminine but everyone has to acknowledge his/her own gender sometimes, right?) When the bell rang, I went to my room and found that BF and her student, Ricky, were still there. I excused myself and pulled up my most cheerful “Hi” to greet them and walked in. (It’s time for my class and they’re leaving and they said it’s ok anyway.) BF went out first but Ricky lingered a bit, just enough for him to make my day.
“You don’t have to pretend to be lady-like. I don’t mind you using your true natures,” he said matter-of-factly, with a smile.
“What do you mean?”

“We [BF and Ricky] have talked about your personality. I think you’re kind of a fighter,” he said more but all the rest of his words just faded into obscurity. I owe my inattentiveness to lack of sleep and interest. Besides, I already knew about him thinking I’m a fighter (because he told me and BF told me).

“Uhmm. So I heard. Well, it’s still me,” I responded. (What am I supposed to say anyway?) I excused myself and we headed to the door and he was still talking – to which I just nodded in response. I was about seven strides away from him when I caught some of his words: “You . . . like . . . you’re the boss.” I looked back and saw him talking to one of the academy staff.

And he just gave me two songs for the day – one from Ne-Yo and another from Cristina Aguilera. Though I want to think that he doesn’t really intend to offend me, I wonder what’s with the invariable frequency of telling me I’m not feminine!

He said I’m pretending to be lady-like? If wearing a skirt and saying a gleeful “Hi” makes me fake, does that mean that I should always wear baggy pants and approach people with a gangster nod? And talk about my true nature! I could be a serial killer and/or a nymphomaniac for all he knows and he wants me to show my real self?

Wait. There’s more.

After the first half of the two-hour class, I went to the computer room to visit a site and saw a box saying there’s a new program installed. I was checking all programs to see what it was and heard someone spoke from behind me.

“What are you doing?” I looked up and saw Ricky looking at the monitor.

“I was looking for the newly installed program,” I responded.

“What program are you looking for?”

“There was a box here that says there was a new program installed so I’m looking for it to see what it is. Well, perhaps it’s just WordWeb,” I answered, glancing at him. “Didn’t you notice we have the fastest internet in the planet?”

Then he talked of him using a 1mbps internet speed and that he had to pay for it and followed it up with “I have told her [BF] about your personality and she says you’re . . . but I really think you are very boyish.” He even mimicked Manny Pacquiao’s boxing moves to make his point. Or perhaps it’s Tyson he’s emulating. Whatever.

“Well, you’re right. She’s wrong about me. Or maybe she’s just trying to defend or protect me. You’re right. Between your idea and hers, I’ll buy yours.”

He spoke more nodded, smiled and left.

Photo Sources:

Friday, June 11, 2010

A Setting to Paint

(In which artistic skills are challenged.)


This is my first post for Locus Focus, a weekly meme hosted by Enbrethiliel on Shredded Cheddar. And for this entry, I chose a part of the British Columbian coast in Susan Vreeland’s The Forest Lover.


In the morning, with her sketch sack slung over her shoulder, she took a walk far down the beach in the mist. Breathing in sea tang, she felt like her mouth and throat were coated with brine. She looked back at the forest – more dense and tangled and full of mystery than the forested part of Beacon Hill Park at home. How could she ever paint it? No art school taught how to paint such immense, paralyzing magnificence.

- Page 9
Emily Carr sees things “in terms of line and color” and people as “possible paintings”. Her passion for art and her rebellious character eventually brings her to aboriginal villages in an adventure bound to change her whole perspective about art and people.

She sees the “menstrual hut” and some elements of its design stuck her as symbolisms of womanhood; the primitive grave and the bones green with moss on top of ancient boxes and the lush, dark forest and painted them. But when a native saw her paintings, she realized they were just inferior replicas.

As an artist, I understand that the subject of a painting is as important as the quality of the painter’s brushes. The finished artwork has to be something more than sheer beauty and closeness to the original scene. It should be able to tell a story and share feelings. It is easy to be awe-stuck and suddenly inspired when ambushed by an immense beauty. That inspiration will move an artist to transfer the scene on paper or canvas. But drawing the contour and adding layers of colors in a painting is one thing; giving it life and a story is another.

I think most artists share Emily’s dilemma. Artistically producing a two-dimensional version of a magnificent landscape is satisfying, however half-baked. Capturing the scene’s drama is more rewarding yet thought-provoking and risky. The tribal villages and images in it are challenges to artists since their sanctity is difficult to portray in lines and shapes and the mystery and darkness of the forests are more than just tint and shade.

On Liberty

(In which I wish to relive my heritage.)


An officemate gaped when she found out that I write on my YA books. I told her that I underline and/or highlight beautiful and philosophical quotes and unfamiliar words and even write down my comments and the definition of the words on the margins.

“Hey, that is not a text book!” she yelled in disbelief.

Looking back, I realize that I don’t read my text books the same way I read the novels and that text books deserve to be read cover to cover too.

After commenting on a blog post about a book on the pre-war Manila, I was enlightened that my recall of Philippine history deteriorated – that is, if I used to recall well. The blogger said that being poor in our history is another sad manifestation of our “self-effacing nature” and it hit me. And now I am thinking of rereading . . . okay, read – Constantino. After that I may have the time to reread (Yes, I’ve read it!) León Ma. Guerrero’s The First Filipino and another Rizal book. (Suggestions about other authors are very welcome.)

Currently (Re)reading
The Philippines – A Past Revisited by Renato Constantino

And in celebration of our independence, here’s to all of us!

Aming ligaya na pag may mang-aapi
Ang mamatay nang dahil sa ‘yo.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

A Lucid Dream

(In which it hurts like reality.)


It was a journey of an unknown reason
bound to the unknown.
He was a traveler and so I was,
his path similar to mine.
Nights and days rolled by and I
am always by his side.
I often thought that I am somehow destined to be his bride

But lo! The desert turned into the forest
and the forest to my bedroom;
With me on the cushion and he on the floor;
staring right through me.
Screaming in a foreign voice;
uttering deafening insults and painful facts.
Does the truth need always be harsh?

Though aware I was of dreaming,
oblivious I was of why
when I asked him the silly question
he changed into another man!

Then off we went,
outside my house,
Walking on a familiar path.
Behind him, I walked.
His face from my eyes was obscured
but his voice was clear.
It was his.
It was real.

He no longer speaks hurtful truths
and how avaricious I really am.
But he said he has to leave
and that the time has finally come.

We climbed a stairway of hard clay and dust
that leads us to a road.
I wished to walk with him farther
but he looked at me and refused.
At last I saw his face again
but why is he suddenly far?

He finally turned and left me.
I know that I have yet again lost.
I felt my eyes open
and I slowly rose.

June 10, 2010
1:30 AM

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Anonymity Boys and Chokee, the Killer Door

(In which the bullies remind me of Sandy.)

I told Stephanie to write a paragraph using the direct speech which I entitled “One Afternoon in Wonderful Academy” with this format
_______________ said, “________________________
And she wrote this.

The Anonymity people said, “You don’t speak English well.” Yes, I known. But I was really sad. So, I was crying in the Ayin’s room. Ayin told me, “It’s okay Stephanie. They don’t speak English well too.” Now, I’m okay. I will study hard. [sic]

The Anonymity Boys (Yes, they’re boys!) was composed of a Big Bang rapper look-alike (Terry,) a tall, effeminate guy who’s terribly scared of me because he taught I’m overly pedantic (Elvis) and a sleepy little teenager who the other taller and older guys bully (Kelvin). As I see it, they don’t have enough bullying rights to tell a teenager girl her English sucks because they’re students too. But these boys even had the chivalry to tell that to the poor girl’s face.
I overheard Ayin mollifying her yesterday saying “Oh, forget that! They do that because they’re older and they’re boys.” That actually made me think, “Hey let’s go kick their faces and justify it by saying we’re girls and you're younger and we’re older!” Seriously, I still don’t get why age and gender are enough for these guys to bully other people. And the abused ones aren’t supposed to fight back because they’re younger and/or from the “weaker” gender?
Okay, enough of making a teenage joke a big issue.
So it appears that it’s my turn to mollify her (Since it's our class) so I said, “Oh and Terry said that? I’m gonna kill them!”
She responded with no less than a laugh. Then I remembered that I almost bumped into Terry earlier that day and noticed that I didn’t even reach his shoulder level. So how on earth am I going to kill him?
“For Kelvin, I have a fair chance of slitting his neck but for the other two, I’d be lucky if I could even stab them on the chest. The stomach is the best thing I can target though not as deadly,” I told her, tongue in cheek.
“Yes, Terry will only do this to you,” she grabbed a small stuff toy and strangled it. And then she laughed.
“Hmm. You’re right.”
“Scary. Killers,” she laughed again.
That did it. In case you were wondering where the other half of the title is, read on.
I told her the story of a small serial killer introduced to me by a lovely little kid.
Sandy (Remember her?) asked me once if I know Chokee. I didn’t have the faintest idea who Chokee was so she tried to elaborate.
“Chokee! He’s a door!”
“A door?” I queried, still uncertain.
“Yes, he kill! Very scared! Chokee Door!”
I still didn’t get how a door could possibly kill let alone have a name!
“I still don’t get it. How does Chokee Door look like? Square? Is it revolving? How does it kill?”
She slightly trembled as though she were talking of a scepter near us, about to attack any minute.
Then she grabs a pen and a sheet of paper and started drawing silently. After I realized who Chokee Door is, she immediately scribbled roughly on the paper to erase the image, shrinking.
This was what she drew.

I chose the least scary and gory picture but it still gives me the creeps.

Solo by Iyaz and Again by Janet Jackson

(In which there’s another song on replay!)


If I would make a list of things that I liked in our recently held Alumni Homecoming, I’ll be including this song by a performer I’ve never heard about before. The song haunted me for its utterly familiar melody but I always forgot to ask or find out what the title is. I’m always torn between “So Low” or “Solo”. Or perhaps it’s “Low”. Well, you know how we research song titles; we remember a line and Google it. However, I can only understand “I don’t want to w—“ from the song so I didn’t think it’ll be helpful.

Until that fateful day occurred.

I was shopping for clothes with my sister and while she’s trying on some, I heard an incredibly loud music coming from the next store. When I realized that it was the song from the infamous party, I dashed out and asked the store owner what the song title is. (I was worried that he might not know the answer but hey, it’s his CD playing so he must know!)

The music was so loud he can barely hear me. But he answered it anyway. I even asked him to spell it in case I understood badly. (Or is it because I didn’t find his pronunciation reliable?)

Now that I know the title, it’s time to find out why the melody is so familiar. And you know how we find the answers to our queries; we relied on Wikipedia’s all-encompassing knowledge!

So that’s it. It’s from Janet.

Well, it’s still good. And I still like it. He didn’t really humiliate Janet for using a melody from her song, didn’t he?

Monday, June 7, 2010


(In which I look back with mixed emotions.)

Look at me again with the eyes
of an innocent child.
Touch me again with your
warm, trembling hands.
Tell me stories of your life –
Your eccentricities
Your clan
Your complicated life
Your beautiful plans.

Talk to me again.
Forget the struggle for words
and speak about
your philosophies
and romantic analogies.
Tell me again
how stubborn I am
how I enchant you
and torment you.
Confess again to me.
Tell me your secrets.
Trust me.

Let me hear your voice again
in your moments of glee;
its shaking and trembling
in austere sorrow,
pain and fear.
Tell me you’re scared
of missing me.
Of losing me.

Show me who you are.
Talk about your reverence to your people
your family
and religion.
Utter again promises you can never keep.
Write me more letters to read.
Give me more reasons to weep.
Let’s make more memories to look back to.
For you said
that those lovers without
beautiful moments to cherish
are the most unfortunate.

June 6,2010 12:21 AM

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Bon Voyage

(In which the thoughts of an unrequited admirer all pop up suddenly.)

In your clandestine trip,
God bless you.
Regarding your coldness,
I don’t care.
And for your happiness,

For the space between us isn’t measured by miles.
You were already far
Even without
the physical distance.