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Sunday, May 28, 2017

Remembering Dylan Thomas - "Do not go gently into that good night"

"Do not go gently into that good night" became one of my mottos as a young person and the poem was reintroduced to me in Michelle Pfeiffer's 1995 movie, Dangerous Minds, when, as a teacher in an inner city school, she used poetry to inspire her students.
"Do not go gently into that good night,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light"

Those words came to me at the right moment of my life, at 24 years old, when I just decided to live the life I wanted - I had some idea how it should be - but I didn't know how to go about it.
Much like Robert Frost's line "I chose the road less traveled by", I was supposed to turn right (and everything was telling me to turn right), but I guess the Lord pointed me to the path on the left, and as they say, the rest is history.
I am already middle-aged now but Dylan Thomas' words continue to ring as strongly as when I was half this age. I guess now that I'm getting a little bit closer to my mortality, it even weighs more heavily, because now, the finish line is much closer than I would really want it to be.
I bought this book today in my favorite Book Sale shop and it's a biography of this esteemed poet. He's Welsh pala. Interesting! I hope I find the time lang to read it!

Monday, May 22, 2017

Starbucks in Aseana City: The Biggest in the Country - that's what they told me

I continue to be amazed at how millennials have really embraced the Starbucks culture, considering that the coffee chain isn't a new brand anymore.
A new branch just opened near the school and the whole time we were there (maybe around an hour), the queue never let up!
And there is an existing branch already about a 10-minute walk from this one!

Is it a case of, "I just have to check out this new place" or "I just have to take a picture in this new branch for my IG so I would look cool to my friends".
Either way, the Tantocos are laughing all the way to the bank - and American Starbucks stockholders as well.
Everyone is happy.
The interiors are pretty nice, it looks like the one in Eastwood, but this time, the ceiling seems much much higher and the height of the glass walls should allow natural light to come in during the day.
The Starbucks interiors that I used to know is undergoing some tweaking - and it seems to be working as the crowd kanina was the younger set.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Versace on the Floor: Wearing Versace While Teaching High School Students

Once in a while, I wear clothes to school that reflect my true personality, usually just opting for my usual Ralph Lauren and Lacoste shirts since their designs are "school friendly".
So today, I decided to wear my Moschino shirt with the big red flower and the tagpi tagpi design - which one teacher aptly described as - "something that a pre-school pupil would draw".
 One time, I wore my other Moschino shirt with bright sky blue print and cursive text on it and I remember, one of the school heads, the one who's always serious, make a compliment on it!
And I remember during Valentine's week when I wore my pink Paul Smith hand-painted flower shirt which included some embroidered flowers as well - and some of the teachers said - "instead of bringing flowers, I wore the flowers!".
My students' wide-eyed reactions to the clothes when I enter the classroom are just as amusing and the cute comments they make which I reply with a curt thank you - careful not to draw too much attention to it and just proceed with the lesson.
At least once in a while, the kids can see that clothes they see in couture fashion shows can actually be worn in a school setting - if you just find a confident cool person to wear it without being too self-conscious.
Frankly, I can't wait to wear my fully embroidered Paul Smith shirts or my tattered Junya Watanabe's "poverty look" collection but maybe when my students are really comfortable with me na.
 When they have fully accepted the fact that teachers, and not only runway models or celebrities, can also don couture fashion pieces.
I'm also still waiting for the right moment to wear Versace!
Wearing Versace while teaching high school students concepts like poverty and war and conflict - haute couture meets social realism. I'm sure that's par for course in all Ivy League uni's.....

Abstract Art: Profound Beauty in Emptiness and Reflection

I don't know why I am drawn more to abstract work rather than true renditions of objects and humans. For me, they are more exciting to watch.
And I thought I've seen all types of abstract work.
However, these paintings done by some of our best local painters are amazing! They are almost devoid of color, and even if they do, the colouring is so minute that when you step away from the painting, the colors subsume themselves to the general hue that the painter decides.
My favorite among this set is this almost plain white rendition of empty white space with only a big circle as the shape. Talk about having to reflect on a blank white circular space.

"Abstract art is not meant to reveal perfect renditions of objects and people. Instead, much abstract art is meant to set the scene for reflection."
There is an ongoing exhibition of 70s and 80s abstract art at the CCP entitled "You Are Here" featuring some of the top Filipino abstract art painters during that time including Arturo Luz.
These works though are antitheses of the abstract work that I love - the chaotic work of Pollock, the misshapen figures of Miro, Dali and Picasso - and the deliberate boldness of colour in Rothko's works.
However, these paintings are almost antiseptic and as the exhibit says, it borders on emptiness.
"Emptiness in art does not stop at how the work looks, but continues by helping you think about what kind of feeling it invokes in you".

My Gratitude to My Great Chemistry Teacher, Ma'm Evelyn!

After more than 30 years, I was finally able to personally thank one of the best teachers I had in my learning years.
These are the Ariza sisters, Helen and Evelyn and both are teachers.
In the middle, Miss Evelyn Ariza, is my first year high school Science teacher way back when Madonna was still a virgin, Borderline was the song that would get all of us rushing to the dance floor during the soirees.
Anyhow, Ms. Ariza has since got married and she's Evelyn Ariza Cimafranca now and last night, her son, all grown up already, was part of the violin section of the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra.
See how life plays out!
I finally got to thank her for being such an excellent teacher because she taught us the periodic table, including the useless information of atomic number and atomic mass of each element (JOKE!), so that when I transferred to another high school later on, I was way ahead of my peers in Chemistry class since I already knew those things.
In other words, I kicked-a**!!
And she also taught us how to use the bunsen burner and how to handle the test tube when there are chemicals in them - which was very useful when I did my Chemistry lab in UP much later on.
Because in UP, the teachers don't assist you. Bahala kayo sa buhay niyo sa lab! Here's the experiment, read it, do it! And the teacher just leaves the classroom. Nakakaloka!
It felt really good to finally thank her after all these years. The truth is, teaching the periodic table, if handled by a lousy teacher can be pretty traumatic for students.
Up to now, I have adult friends who don't know how to balance a simple chemical equation and they shudder at the experience they had.
And the great thing now is we're peers! Of course, she has 35 years of solid teaching experience on her sleeve while I am still a neophyte =)

When Underachieving Yet Bright Students Use Their Gifts, the Results are Spectacular!

As a teacher, I am hard on students whom I feel have so much to give but are underachieving.
I am teaching a research subject kasi and the subject needs someone who's talented in writing and in analysis.
Some of my students don't have both, but they work hard and give good work, so I reward them amply.
But there are some, who are very good in both, but are reckless with their gifts - and that quietly pisses me off!
So these past two terms, I have subtly found a way to motivate these gifted but underachieving students to give their best.
Mind you, it's not easy! Clever students are the hardest ones to get through to - and since they are rich kids, it makes the work doubly harder.
How do you motivate a kid to study and do well in school when his or her allowance is already 1000 pesos a day?
Para que pa mag-aral? Mayaman naman si Papa!
But because I know what they are capable of, my job is to let them produce the best output that they can possibly give!
Sayang naman ang mga gifts nila if mabubulok lang.
I felt I have given enough time and advices to the hard workers, now I felt it was time to polish the underperforming diamonds!
And the results have been positive!
Two of them just submitted their work today, 4 days ahead of the deadline!! (They usually submit very late before!!!)
And my God, I browsed through their papers and their work was brilliant! I wanted to cry for joy right then and there!
Finally, I got through them!
I also read an excerpt of the work of the most talented writer in my lower batch - and her work was of exceptionally high quality - parang nilampaso nya ang competition!!
My simple joy is just to see my brightest students do brilliant work and to see that some of them have risen to the occasion has made my teaching days worthwhile.
I am now looking forward to see everyone's work over the weekend, and I hope some of them will give me their best work yet!