Celeste

The face of the moon will always look like a tiger to me. I remember E once asked “When will you ever stop searching for the moon?” whenever we’re out at night. And I’d always tell him, “Never.” And then it dawned on me that maybe just like the moon, I’d never stop searching for him in every person I meet He’ll always be my moon… cold, distant and inconstant. One night he’ll show you all of
him, the next time, just half, then a quarter, then nothing at all. Inconstant. He was my moon. But all I’ll ever be is just one of the many other stars.

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Deconstructing Bukowski

So to my fellow Bukowski fans… here you go. An analysis of Charles Bukowski’s “So You Want to be a Writer?”

if it doesn’t come bursting out of you
in spite of everything,
don’t do it.
unless it comes unasked out of your
heart and your mind and your mouth
and your gut,
don’t do it.
if you have to sit for hours
staring at your computer screen
or hunched over your
typewriter
searching for words,
don’t do it.
if you’re doing it for money or
fame,
don’t do it.
if you’re doing it because you want
women in your bed,
don’t do it.
if you have to sit there and
rewrite it again and again,
don’t do it.
if it’s hard work just thinking about doing it,
don’t do it.
if you’re trying to write like somebody
else,
forget about it.

if you have to wait for it to roar out of
you,
then wait patiently.
if it never does roar out of you,
do something else.

if you first have to read it to your wife
or your girlfriend or your boyfriend
or your parents or to anybody at all,
you’re not ready.

don’t be like so many writers,
don’t be like so many thousands of
people who call themselves writers,
don’t be dull and boring and
pretentious, don’t be consumed with self-
love.
the libraries of the world have
yawned themselves to
sleep
over your kind.
don’t add to that.
don’t do it.
unless it comes out of
your soul like a rocket,
unless being still would
drive you to madness or
suicide or murder,
don’t do it.
unless the sun inside you is
burning your gut,
don’t do it.

when it is truly time,
and if you have been chosen,
it will do it by
itself and it will keep on doing it
until you die or it dies in you.

there is no other way.

and there never was.

ANALYSIS

So I can’t be a writer?

 In this poem, Charles Bukowski—unlike the many other great poets and writers written down in the pages of history and literature books—is discouraging struggling writers to write. Some may think that he uses the reverse psychology method in this poem, but knowing him would tell you that this is not a persuasive poem designed to attract aspiring writers into the world of poetry and literature. There is nothing more to it. Bukowski is not the president of the republic of mind games, and ambiguous poems with complex interpretations are not his thing. This is just the one-dimensional Bukowski relating his growth as a writer, how he kept the fire for writing burning in him, and how in the end the fire dies—either it dies with the writer or it dies first before he breathes his last.

Other than dejecting tortured artists, this poem also tells of the creative process that every writer has to undergo—of the hardships of blank pages and writers block and the myriad of torments before finally getting published.

If we try to deconstruct the poem line by line, Bukowski believes: (lines 1 to 7) that there is a book in every writer, screaming and banging the doors to the world, waiting for the writer to pry his soul open, then exposing every letter in the book that was in him.

A true writer to Bukowski does not spend hours contemplating on a blank space in front of him (lines 8 to 13), knitting words from thin air, because a writer need not ponder for too long since the flow of words for a writer is like a faucet that is turned on—brimming with all the letters all sewed up into words and sentences that not even the writer knows where they come from. However the faucet needs a driving force before it does the flowing, and writers sometimes spend so much time trying to reap something from their brains, when they could just take a stroll, go for a ride and get busy.

Saying “I have nothing to write about” is equivalent to a girl who says “I have nothing to wear” even when she’s got a closet-full of wardrobe. It’s right there in front of her and all she has to do is to pick out what looks good on her and pair it up with something else from the same closet. It’s right there!

For starters, it is best to erase all thoughts of having to write something. Keep a clean slate and go on with your life. An epiphany happens when you least expect it.

Writing for profit is not writing at all(lines 14 to 16) because a writer whose gaze is fixed at the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow is not driven by the burning enthusiasm to write, but with greed and worldly possessions and therefore, the passion to write is nonexistent in his piece. What is distressing with money as the driving force to write is how the expected outcome outruns creativity.

Many pop fiction writers, as they call it nowadays, write to please the reading teenage market because it’s the easiest way to get published and most of the themes of these novels are almost entirely similar (vampires, cancer, dying teenagers, amnesia, werewolves, etc.) One example is the resemblance of the Hunger Gamesand the Divergent trilogies—both have female protagonists who come from lower classes of dystopian nations where people are divided into districts (in Hunger Games) and factions (in Divergent). Another example is John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars which is about young love and cancer—themes that were also in the equally celebrated A Walk to Remember by Nicholas Sparks (who, after all his moving love stories turned into films, ironically has just separated from his wife of 25 years). These stories are just patterns of other stories that gained so much popularity and raked in millions of money in the bag.

Lines 17 to 19 imply how many women fall for men who breathe poetry, especially in Shakespeare’s time (“Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?), when wonderfully concocted poems were used to woo women. Although oftentimes, women mistake a man’s sweet play of words for love—that is how men who are good with poetry lure women into their beds. But practically speaking, poems don’t pay the bills, unless of course you become published like Lang Leav and her partner Michael Faudet whose poetry and love the universe cannot fathom. Otherwise, if a struggling writer who basically writes for a living finds a girl and marries her but never gets published because he waited for his time for too long, soon enough she will leave him when he gets broke.

These lines also attest to Bukowski’s notorious brand as a womanizer. It is no secret that he has slept with dozens of women before he met his wives because his sexual accounts were written down in his semi-autobiographies and poems and Bukowski was daring enough to disclose in interviews that he was, no doubt, a womanizer.

Bukowski’s sexism is manifested in these lines. On the one hand, I think that Bukowski has gone so far as to treating women like sexual fetishes when I watched an interview of him with his wife Linda and then they started fighting and he eventually kicks her more than once even when the camera was still rolling. But to conclude that he was sexist may not be fair for the man because he did not just hate women, he hated people in general (including his parents).

Bukowski suggests that real writers do not modify their work once it’s done in lines 20 to 22 of the poem. This is contrary to Ernest Hemingway’s “Write drunk, edit sober.” Bukowski clearly doesn’t believe in the power of proofreading. He may have relied on editors to do the rewriting because it’s their job, otherwise what would they do if they do not edit? Writers write and editors edit. Bukowski was an embodiment of a realist-gone-so-far. But more often than not, some writers (if not all, except for Bukowski) see to it that they proof their pieces before it reaches the public eye— it’s either after finishing the piece or as they go along.

Perhaps to Bukowski, this is not how writing should take place because maybe for him, this is how one writer loses the natural feel of his piece. And the rawness of his artistry is evident in his novels which were sort of his autobiographical account, except for some details and characters that were added and altered. This was written in the most casual way—of a drunken postman narrating his tedious decades-long job in the American post office, spiced up with his sex life and alcoholism. The novel was teeming with unutterable cuss words, referring to a woman, who at that time was his partner as a ‘bit&%.’

Bukowski, the greatest American non-conformist poet and writer, apparently do not go by the rules set by celebrated icons in the field.

Writing to Bukowski is a burning passion, not an obligation or baggage that you are itching to rub off of your system, or hard work as Bukowski puts it in lines 23 to 24. It’s hard work if the writer is only driven by money or fame, but if it is ingrained in you and it comes as naturally as breathing, you wouldn’t have to sit and stare at your blank paper trying to think of something to write—like how you wouldn’t think of whether or not to breathe or how many breaths per second should you take.

In lines 25 to 27, Bukowski discourages mimicry. Sadly, some writers pattern their style and ideas from other published writers in the hopes of getting readers. To be original is the mantra of a good writer. But we cannot deny the fact that we are what we read. We become replicas of what we take in.

Because of the profusion of great writers who preceded us in this world and the many great literary treasures they left, we unconsciously copy their styles. However, to be original is to be you because everybody else is already taken and you are left with yourself to work on. Thank all the genius poets and writers whose masterpieces now lay covered in dust in your shelves and try as much as possible to stop chanting, “Spirit of Stephen King, come write me a story,” because that is not how it works.

Lines 28 to 32 explain how there are actually some writers who realize that they can be writers later than other writers who started writing at an early age. The late bloomers. These writers just woke up one morning and boom, epiphany! It’s equivalent to a boy who finds his calling and enters the seminary; a scientific discovery that’s worth a eureka!; or a cosmic phenomenon that only happens in a Saturn return.

The ‘roaring out’ of a man who discovers his passion for writing is a life-changing occurrence because like priesthood, being a writer is a vocation and a way of life. But to wait for it to ‘roar out of you,’ and not get anything for far too long, Bukowski says that it’s about time you do something else. Be a painter, a sculptor, a dentist, an engineer, a pastor, or a stage actor! Find your calling.

Some artists create art for various reasons. Some do it for therapeutic purposes, especially for the depressed ones. Art is their way of coping up and squeezing it all out before all their sentiments swell up in their guts; while others do it to express and share their rants to the world. Misery loves company. Nevertheless, there are those who just want to express themselves in writing either to again, make money or be somebody, but before they send it out for all the world to see and scrutinize, they seek for opinions from other people which in Bukowski’s poem (lines 33 to 36)states that a writer who’s not ready reads his piece first to the ones closest to him.

Unconsciously, we seek for their advice first because we know that although what we did was not as good as how we wanted it to sound, they will try as much as possible to sugarcoat their opinions because we are too naïve and amateur to tolerate criticisms from editors and critics. To be great is to go on writing despite rejections because these are but one of the many letdowns that one has to hurdle if he wishes to go on with it.

Being a writer is a self-proclaimed title. Unlike engineers, doctors, teachers, nurses and lawyers, writers are not licensed professionals and a writer is a general term for anybody who writes—be it an advertising agent, a scriptwriter for toothpaste commercials, a technical writer for how tos and directions and indications in packaging labels of medicines, and journalists. Journalism and creative writing stand in two opposite poles. Journalism is objective, creative writing is subjective. There is a really broad borderline between facts and feelings. Balancing the two and learning what pen to use on paper is a challenge for journalist-novelists and Hemingway was one of the few who survived it. Probably to Bukowski in lines 37 to 39, those who do not embody creativity, passion, talent and originality and those who fail the qualifications of a writer he wrote prior to lines 37 to 39 in the poem, are not writers at all.

He supported this with three more lines, 40 to 48, where he discourages hopeful writers to become boring and conceited. But how can one know if he stands somewhere near those lines? Not many writers and artists are aware of their characters—more so with their shadows. People understand themselves least of all and that is why the hardest thing for a painter to draw is a portrait of himself. In the case of writers, there are thousands of autobiographies where the author (who are the personas themselves) only narrates what they see through their eyes, but not what they see within. They may tell of their feelings, but it requires someone to be outside something to view it; and to be outside yourself is far too impossible (unless you astral project). In the same lines, Bukowski strongly affirms that there is a great number of pretentious writers—those who try as much to outrun other writers in terms of, say, a rich vocabulary bank like in the case of Shakespeare. In one of his interviews, Bukowski was quoted as saying:

“Shakespeare is unreadable and overrated. But people don’t want to hear that.

You see, you cannot attack shrines. Shakespeare is embedded through the centuries.

You can say ‘So-and-so is a lousy actor!’ but you can’t say Shakespeare is shit.

The longer something is around, snobs begin to attach themselves to it, like suckerfish.”

We cannot deny the fact that we patronize only those authors who have made it to history books and those that are awarded with so many recognitions because they wouldn’t be able to establish their name if they weren’t good enough. That is what book reviews at the back of paperbacks are created for (and the “from the author of”tags in novels and even films). They were made to let readers know how great the story is without having to read the whole of it because they are already familiar with the previously released books by the same author. It’s a counterpart of a trailer or a snippet. They are made to incite the readers. And once their works become part of the library of great literature, they become a force to reckon with, no matter how crappy their succeeding stories are. They now become shrines. In advertising, it’s called branding.

After providing his readers with a list of what to and what not to do, Bukowski, towards the end of the poem, gives the readers an insight of what it’s like in the world of writing—(49 to 50) of how it bursts out of one’s soul like a rocket, loud and burning with passion; (51 to 54) of how idleness becomes toxic and lethal for a writer. That is how artists are. Idleness drives them insane due to over-thinking and it drives them mad until they finally get an outlet where they can pour it all out through every pore in their skin. Later, Bukowski used the sun as a metaphor for the burning feeling a writer has when the ‘explosion’ within him happens (lines 55 to 57).

Finally, Bukowski ends with lines 58 to 64 with the personification of writing, saying how in time, it will pick someone and soon do it by itself, involuntarily, even without the writer’s will. But soon enough, its spirit shall either die its natural death as the writer dies in his death bed; or it just eventually wears out when the burning passion for writing and the person who was once a writer is left with nothing but the ghosts of his old writer self.

“There is no other way. And there never was.” Bukowski refers to the spirit of writing’s act of knocking in one’s door as the only way one ever becomes a writer. No writer or artist is forced to be one. Art chooses him and he chooses art. It is probably the only vocation that is not dictated by one’s parents or teachers. They may influence him as he grows, but to force him to be an artist when he’s not is impossible. Craft is innate and inevitable. Some develop it through time and practice, and each of us has his own divergent gift that runs through our bloodstream and the only way to find out… is to not try at all. Because soon enough, it will come roaring out of you. And by then, when you have unleashed the monster that was in you, you will be free to tame the wild beast and take control of it according to your will.

How the Mountain School Kids Moved Me

Education–a not so fancy word which has led you to this stage in your life. Have you ever realized how your education has taken you to where you are today? It is one of the constants in the world we live in. An inevitable part of life which has eaten up about a quarter of your life already.

During my most recent homecoming to Zamboanga just this year, I got the chance to experience a once in a lifetime kind of trip that has totally changed my perception on our country’s education system.

It all started when I sat down for a chat with my cousin, Agnes. We haven’t been able to leave each other messages online while I was away, let alone talk! So I spent minutes talking to her when I arrived. I asked her how she was doing with work, and then she told me that she’s now working as a public school teacher up in the mountains! Yes, I have heard news about her teaching in a far-flung area, but I didn’t know it was on a mountain! A real mountain, that is. Because in Zamboanga, mountains aren’t that accessible. Thanks to our local government who’d rather tear of fall the paved roads in highways, only to rebuild them back, instead of extending the already existing roads and paving more ways leading to the mountains. It reminds me of a Twenty-One Pilots song where they go “I’m driving here, I sit cursing the government for not using my taxes to fill holes with more cement.” All right, back to my cousin Agnes. Well, she has always wanted to become a teacher. I remember how we used to play teacher-student with other kids back in the day and how when we were young, she’d tell me how she would really love to wear a teacher’s uniform someday. I honestly thought of becoming one, too. In a country like the Philippines, that is one of the most conventional vocations there is–that is, apart from being a Nurse, an Engineer, a Doctor or a Policeman and all the other ambitions found under graduates’ names in yearbooks. (Except for my best friend Tom, whose dream was to become a Superstar in our high school year book).

That night, Agnes told me that she was going to report to work the following morning. And like the ever spontaneous girl that I was, I asked her if I could come with her because I so badly wanted to hike! She said yes… and that was how my adventure begun.

Morning of January 25, Agnes’ dad drove us by motorbike to the foot of the mountain. It was a challenge for Uncle Toto to drive Agnes and I considering our weight and of course the nasty road condition that I was just telling you about. Uncle Toto had to drop me and Agnes off the foot of the mountain because we still had to cross a river by bridge and walk through steep cliffs. The only way to get to the mountain, Agnes said, was by foot. And so we trekked…

We walked past this signage that says Tribal Area. Members of the Subanon (literally, river people) tribe inhabited this part of the mountain.

They even have this makeshift basketball ring a few feet away from a cliff.

We crossed another makeshift bridge made out of bamboo and a tree trunk.

We were joined by Agnes’ students on the way up. She told me that it has been their routine already. With her also was her PA. She has always had a yaya while growing up, up until she reached college, and even now that she’s working. Such a baby, but I love her. (Haha, hi Neg!)

 

Five kids trekked with us on our way up. The younger one was about five, while the eldest was about thirteen–thirteen and still in fourth grade. They didn’t wear uniforms, contrary to those students who wear khaki shorts and jumper skirts in other public schools. They were dressed in what seemed like house clothes. And even my cousin didn’t wear high heels unlike other teachers because… duh. Who would wear high heels on a hike? But I should give it to her for wearing slacks. 

We walked for about 45 or so minutes and I didn’t complain about my heavy bag, but my cousin’s PA (whose name I forgot) noticed. She offered to carry my bag for me and I tried to refuse, but she insisted. I almost laughed at the look on her face when she carried it on her shoulders. She must have not expected it to be that heavy. My mom packed lunch for me and I brought two tumblers of water because I have an unquenchable thirst for water and that makes me pee  a lot (but that’s a different story).

Halfway through our trek, we took a quick rest atop big rocks.

The rocks up there were massive! There was even one gigantic boulder the size of a hill I saw on our way down (dog for scale):
 

I was already sweating out all the liquid out of my body, hoping we were nearing the school already. But we walked for another more mile or so. But I don’t know, I haven’t got a sense of direction and distance.

Before we reached the school, I was expecting for at least a cemented building with paved floors–the kind of buildings in other public schools across the city. But lo and behold, this was what greeted me in Monte Central Indigenous Peoples Elementary School:

This was the very shack where classes were held.

And these were their improvised armchairs made of scrap wood. I reckon that these were made by their parents since logging was their major source of livelihood, apart from farming. They didn’t even bother painting them. Aesthetics wasn’t a priority in a town like this when there’s barely enough food to eat. Agnes told me that most–if not all–of the students would come to school with an empty stomach. Some would bring packed lunches, with nothing else but rice, some would substitute rice (the staple food in the Philippines) with sweet potatoes, whilst some would spend their one hour lunch break playing around instead just to forget that they’re starving.

Also, their classroom floor was neither tiled, nor paved. It was plain solid ground. The kids didn’t mind them, as what I’ve seen. They have never gone to a real classroom to know the difference.

 This was their library.

It says Baloy nog Kotowan which literally means House of Knowledge. But it was closed by the time I was there. Even Agnes doesn’t have access to it. She said that the doors to the library were only open to students if the school was visited by its founders, the Ateneo de Zamboanga Univeristy’s Center for Community Extension Services; representatives from the Department of Education; and other non-government organizations. In other words, Baloy nog Kotowan is nothing but a mere accessory to the school. How are the kids supposed to benefit from the proverbial ‘house of knowledge’ when they’re deprived of the treasures found within?

Soon as they started classes, Agnes’ students walked inside the classroom and I felt a little uncomfortable as all eyes were fixed on me. Agnes just smiled at me and told me that these kids weren’t used to seeing new faces.

Meanwhile, these were some of the educational materials found within the four corners of their classroom:

Top: Days of the Week / Bottom: Months of the Year

 

I liked the idea of it being in their native dialect Subanen as most, if not all, of the students don’t understand Tagalog which is the basic mode of communication in schools throughout the country. Now with the Department of Education’s implementation of the Mother Tongue Based Multilingual Education, it’d be easier for them to adapt to their lessons as they are able to freely express their ideas in their own dialect and are able to fully understand their teacher’s discussions as well. More importantly, this can also help preserve their linguistic heritage which is an integral part of the Philippine culture. In the Philippines, out of about 120 dialects, only eight are identified as major languages and the Subanen dialect is not even one of them.

Every scheme has its own drawbacks, however, and with the mother tongue based instruction, students may find it hard to cope with the higher education curricula later on as most syllabi in universities are English-based.

Just imagine how it would be like to solve a mathematical equation if Tagalog was the mode of teaching:

“Square root of X raised to the power of 10.”

“Parisukat ugat ng ekis itaas sa kapangyarihan ng sampu.”

Another downside of the mother-tongue based learning is its effect on the students’ career once they step out of school, what with all the development in international relations. Not only that, English has been the language of the corporate world in the Philippines which will make it hard for students of the mother tongue based curriculum to make it through job interviews.

It may be true that this new mode of learning can be beneficial for students in their thought process and that it, too, may contribute to the preservation of endangered languages in the Philippines, especially Chavacano which I find really classy (well, only in some cases).

In just a matter of minutes upon arriving from an hour of trekking to the school, Agnes went on with her daily class discussion. She didn’t take even five minutes to rest, whereas I, all sweaty, thirsty and exhausted, have failed to look for someplace to rest my legs.

There was no hint of exhaustion in her. She even managed to teach two groups of students at once because the school only employed three teachers (which includes the principal). She shifted from one room to the other as the room was only divided by a thin panel made out of woven bamboo splits. Just imagine the noise you have to endure when the other class is engrossed on a loud discussion whilst your class is taking a quiz. The struggle is real.

Agnes told me pre-hike that she was both the grade 3 and 4 teacher which made me assume that the grade 3 sessions are held in the morning, while the grade 4 sessions are in the afternoon, or vice versa. What I didn’t know when we got there was that she teaches them all at once at the same class period!

So here was how it happened…

She started the day by writing math equations on the Grade 4 chalkboard. The little kids started pulling out their notebooks from their backpacks and wrote the numbers written on the chalkboard without Agnes telling them. Soon as she finished the items, she told them to answer the mathematical equation in silence. Afterwards, she walked towards the other side of the room (literally, the other side), pulled out one of the bite-size chairs, sat on it and started reading a story in Chavacano. She translated animal names from Chavacano to English.

 

I haven’t really grasped the plot of her story as I was on the other side of the room (literally, the other side), supervising the Grade 4 class. They were on multiplication and division and like all other students when their teacher is out, the kids peered through each other’s notes. I was quick to interfere and told them that I was their teacher for the day, but still, some of them (in a class of 15), if not most, have shared their answers with their seatmates. That is one concept of education which I cannot fathom. I don’t get why students compromise learning for good grades. Didn’t they come to school to learn? Shouldn’t we all? I don’t mean to sound like Ms. Goody Two-Shoes, but I remember back in college, some of my classmates would slay and go to the ends of the world to get high grades, and if that would mean they had to cheat, then they would. Where’s the fun in that? Learning should be fun. You should get pleasure out of learning. I like learning. I like learning a lot. 

Anyway, I taught one of the kids how to do math… division, that is. And because I wasn’t trained how to teach basic math to kids, let alone anybody, I taught him the sticks and circles technique. (Pretend that I’m speaking eloquently from here on.) The sticks and circles method is basically just grouping sticks together and drawing circles to group them into what they call, divisions. Hah! The kid quickly grasped my concept so he started doing his own equations on his paper.

When Agnes got back, she collected all papers and I volunteered to check them. I must admit, the kids were pretty impressive.

One thing that caught my attention, though, was how their names were spelled. I don’t want to sound judgmental, but their names, although derived from already existing Western names, were spelled a bit odd. Like, Brinda, for example. The Western name Brenda is spelled with an E, but for some reasons, Brinda’s was spelled with an I. But I’ll leave it at that.

Before they hit lunch time, Agnes has announced to the kids that that was her last day with them as she was assigned by the Division Office to another school. Although I know it was hard for her, she didn’t show one bit of emotion. Before sending them off to lunch, she told the kids to come back to class with letters addressed to her… goodbye letters. I was moved by the effort that the kids put on their letters. Some made paper bouquets and filled them with flowers, while some wrote her cute letters like this one:

 

In my short visit to Monte Central, I have witnessed how the kids were too fond of their teacher Agnes. Even the kids’ parents who we crossed paths with on our way to the school loved her.

I have also seen how she cared for the kids amidst all the stress she’s been dealing with everyday that she even celebrated her birthday with them back in November.

Photo taken from Agnes’ Facebook account: https://www.facebook.com/agnes.g.dalugdug

My respect for my cousin Agnes intensified when I saw the kids and when I realized how hard being a teacher in a far flung area is. I have been working for three years now, and my greatest concern when applying for a job is how convenient the travel is going to be, knowing that I will have to go through it everyday. I asked her why she took the job, and she told me that she had to because that was the only way she could get an Item. That was their term for landing a regular spot in the Department of Education. That entitles them to the same perks regular teachers are getting like year-end bonuses, and all other monetary and non-monetary benefits. 

Currently, as per the Official Gazette, teachers classified as Teacher I are getting a monthly salary of PHP19,218. It doesn’t matter where the teachers are assigned. But for a licensed educator to get an item, one has to go through hell first. I remember an old friend, who happened to be my teacher, used to work as a volunteer. I don’t know what the formal job description was in the teacher world. He had spent more than two years working as a volunteer teacher before being officially listed in the roster of teachers. Throughout those years, he shelled money from his own pocket to pay for his expenses, including the materials he used for teaching. That was how hard the teaching profession is. It’s no different from the nursing profession where newly-licensed nurses had to go through many many holes–holes as tiny as that of syringe needles–before they get the job. Some, if not most nursing graduates, even had to pay to work! Oh the irony. The rationale behind that is because they need an experience to get an experience and to get an experience means they have to start from the bottom for who knows how long.

In 2015, the Education sector has received the highest allocation from the Government which was a massive PHP367.1 billion compared to the departments that followed after. The Department of Public Works and Highways came in second at PHP303.2 billion; whilst all the rest are below $200 billion including the National Defense, the Interior and Local Government, Health (which I reckon should be among the top three), Social Welfare and Development, Agriculture, Transportation and Communications, Environment and Natural Resources and finally Science and Technology with only PHP17.8 billion.

With that said, the Philippines has reported an impressive 96.3% literacy rate in 2015, as per UNESCO. However no one has yet predicted whether there would be a change in the country’s standing now that the K-12 has been implemented when the President signed it into law in 2013. It may be that the Government seeks to provide students who couldn’t afford to go to college a chance to be employable as they graduate from high school; but in the real world, employers always favor applicants with higher educational attainments so it doesn’t matter how good a high school graduate is because for people in the corporate world, what matters is what’s written and stamped on paper.

The Government has fed parents with hopes that there would be jobs available for children who will be finishing high school in the K-12 curriculum, not considering the fact that the private sector offers more jobs than the Government does to which the Government does not have any say. I am not writing this to underestimate the capabilities of High School graduates, but my point is that if I were either a massive company, or even a small enterprise, I’d choose the applicant with the higher credential no matter how good the other one is as the paper says it all. Diplomas are now the validation of one’s skills and knowledge. Common sense.

I commend the Ateneo’s initiative of bringing education within reach to those who could not afford it, especially to those kids whose families would never think of sending them to school, not knowing how basic arithmetic and reading skills could help them get by.

It was not until this experience that I was able to appreciate the sacrifices of my former classmates in Graduate School who were most, if not all, teachers. Some of them, like Vanessa, practice teaching at an island barangay. She would relate to us stories of how it is like to work in an island barangay–of having to deal with children who cannot speak her language, of not having potable water, of not being able to see her family for weeks, and of the perils of working in a far-flung area swarmed with terror threats.

The mountain kids have made me realize that we have become too self-obsessed and too caught up in our selfish ways that we forget to value the little things we have; and that the world has become far too advanced for these people to catch up. I just hope that the Government would stop stealing these native people’s rights to their land.

I envy the kids for they live a happy and contented life, appreciating the small things in life. I wish I was a kid again.