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“Experience is not what happens to you; it’s what you do with what happens to you.”

February 12,2014

A lot of us might agree that experience is the best teacher. Edgar Dale, an American Educationalist even proved it with his theory “The Cone of Experience”. He asserted that people generally remember 10% of what they read, 20% of what they hear, 30% of what they see, 50% of what they see and hear, 70% of what they say and write, and 90% of what they do as they performed a task. Once we use more senses in learning, there is a great chance of recall and understanding. Being an educator, the theory of Dale led me to the realization that once something is learned, not only with your limited senses but also including your heart, soul and spirit, it will be very hard for you to forget it. As a Chinese proverb goes; “Tell me and I’ll forget, show me and I may remember, involve me and I’ll understand.”

Just recently, the Tanggapan ng Kalinga of St. Scholastica’s College (SSC) Manila High School Unit sponsored a Community Immersion that was participated in by 20 teachers and 12 students; it was held at the Remontados Community, Sitio Jamboree, Brgy. Cayumbay, Tanay, Rizal and lasted for two and a half days (November 28-30). Excited and happy as we were, it took us more or less two hours to get there. We arrived at around 8AM and gathered at the pavilion of St. Scholastica’s Farm. Jackets and malongs became very significant for it was extremely cold and literally, you could be taken away by the strong winds. When we came, the families together with Sister Alice were already there waiting for us. After setting up and fixing some stuff, we started with an opening prayer and liturgy before we were introduced to the families who adopted us for the next two and a half days.

We went by pairs and were assigned to stay in different but just neighboring homes. All of us were instructed to stay with our foster families for the entire day. Sir Guevarra and I were assigned to stay at Nanay Ester and Tatay Rigo’s house which is just near the vicinity of the farm. Even this kind of thing is not new for me, (and might also be the same for the others who joined). I have to admit that it was very difficult to step out of your comfort zone, live with a circle of people whom you have met only on the same day and adapt to their culture and way of life. It was on the first day when we were also introduced to the two young grandchildren of Nanay Ester and Tatay Rigo. They call them Totoy (three), and Lydel (seven).These two kids were very naughty but generously sweet. Nanay Ester told us a lot of things about their lifestyle, among which were their routines and livelihood. Tatay Rigo is a farmer. Nanay Ester, on the other hand, manages the house while doing barbeque sticks (which was also taught to us) out of bamboo in order to add to the family’s earnings. Indeed, their way of living is very simple and could be very “uncommon” for those who have been raised and accustomed to the city and “instant” living.

On the following day (November 29), we had the tree planting of more than 50 lansones seedlings. This activity was headed by Sir Galicia, Sir Javier and Miss Sombilon, our amazing Science teachers. Next to it, was discussion about the worsening situation of our planet which was facilitated by Sister Alice, the one who manages the ten-hectare farm of St. Scholastica’s. At that time, it seemed to be that we were all students being awakened to realize the importance of what we could do to save and restore the integrity of our Mother Earth. The processing of what we have encountered happened around five in the afternoon of that same day, with Sir Geneta, one of our passionate CLE teachers in the unit, as the facilitator. Tears of joy because of deep understanding and realization flowed as the students expressed how grateful they are to experience simple living away from their families and from their busy and fast moving lifestyle. Surrounded by silence and candles, the atmosphere promotes serenity and could even make you think and deeply ponder. One of the senior students even shared her brief but heartfelt conversation with a kid whom she asked as to why he was not wearing slippers. According to her, the kid just responded, “Mahal po, e. Wala kaming pambili.” The young Scholastican explained that the reason she was deeply moved by the kid’s statement was because it made her see how blessed she is to be able to buy any pair of shoes that she likes anytime she asks her Mom or Dad. Even I, personally, couldn’t also help but be moved by what they were saying. Experiencing their way of living could really make you understand and raise your awareness about the status of our society and our environment as well.

The next day (November 30), all of us collaborated as we had the second to the last activity for the children from our foster families. Cheerful laughter surrounded the place as we played with them and the spirit of happiness was very evident through everyone’s face. I was amazed by how these children played because winning and losing was not a great deal for them; it was because of the fun they had with a group of people who were just strangers for the past two days and whom they eventually considered a member of their family.

Before we left the community, another liturgy was done specifically for the families with whom we stayed for a short span of time. The two and a half day-stay with the Remontados reminded us that in our daily existence, there should be time to pause and take things easy. As the sun rose from its rest, I woke up with great delight and learned that Nanay and Tatay woke up earlier than the usual time just to prepare their token of appreciation for us. Tatay was preparing the malagkit and Nanay was busy preparing the other ingredients for her biko. I was amazed by how the palay transformed into white glutinous rice and that was also the time when I learned how to use the lusong: its purpose: para magbayo ng palay. With the things that I encountered with them, the values, essential skills and affection they showed to us, I told myself, “I will surely miss them.”

Goodbye has to be said. Leaving the families, especially the children who have been attached to us, was hard to be uttered. When we again gathered at the pavilion for the liturgy and the last activity which is the giving of our token of appreciation for the family, I saw faces wearing indescribable smiles, indescribable in a sense that it is hard to identify if it will last for so long or if it will be followed by drops of tears. I remember when I was packing my things and preparing for a long travel going back to Manila, Nanay Ester told me, “Pasensya na sa simpleng nakayanan namin.” She was referring to her biko. I told her that it is my favorite “kakanin” and hugged her. I told her, “Nanay, hindi po simple yang hinanda niyo ni Tatay. Dun pa lang po sa pag-ani nyan hanggang sa pagluto at pagkuha nyo ng dahon ng saging na pambalot, pinagpagalan na.” Giving the grocery items that served as our token for them is the last part but it didn’t end that way. Tight hugs accompanied with sweet messages and tears have been visible and audible in the surroundings.

“Experience is not what happens to you; it’s what you do with what happens to you.” Most probably, if you will just read a book about what is happening to the other members of our society who belong to the group of economically challenged households, you will be informed but you cannot really understand. Hearing these stories from others could just make you be amazed but not affected. But involvement is what really is essential. Every one of us, teachers and students, who joined the immersion, considered that encounter as direct and purposeful. It will not only serve as a wonderful experience. It really made us realize the significance of what we could contribute to the environment and to our community. We exist with a very important role to play. These experiences probably were imprinted in our nervous system, and have rooted down into our hearts. But it doesn’t end there. Becoming socially aware is not enough, it should be paired with becoming responsive, and I think, that is what it takes to be A TRUE SCHOLASTICAN.

by Fernando Lacson Jr.