With Great Distinction

My daughter sat hunch over on a bar stool, and her eyes were glued to her MacBook sitting on top of our kitchen center island. She was watching her university’s President give the ceremonial address on-line. At the end of his speech he conferred to all the graduates, who were watching at their homes, their respective batchelor, master, and doctorate degrees.

It was sad that the commencement ceremony end up in this manner. No marching of the students with their cap and gown on a large auditorium. No roll calls announcing the names as they receive their honor and diploma. No adoring family and friends applauding as their graduate walk up the stage.

The ceremony culminating the hard fought four years of college was a letdown, and I felt sorry for my daughter that her graduation rites came to be this way. Damn this corona virus pandemic!

I certainly know the awful feeling of not being able to march for your graduation, for I myself was denied of that opportunty when I finished my medical school. Though the circumstances in mine was totally different and I have only myself to blame. The memory is still painful up to this day, but that’s a different topic for another day.

However, despite the bittersweet turn of events, there is a momentous achievement that cannot be denied.

Seventeen years ago when our daughter started her formal schooling, we had serious fear. This is a girl who did not speak until she was past the age of four that we even consulted a speech pathologist. When she was about to be a kindergarten, she only speaks in words and sometimes phrases, but not sentences. It’s not that she’s unintelligent, at least that was what we want to believe, she was just different.

We knew that if we enrol her to a conventional school she would be labeled by her teachers, and most likely be bullied by her classmates. But most of all we were worried that she may not develop into the fullest potential that we know she is capable of. That was when we decided to homeschool her. And it was one of the best decisions we ever did.

I commend my wife who did the heavy lifting in homeschooling our kids. I know that there were days that it was a struggle. Yet we pressed on. We were always looking for ways to tap their strengths and fortify their weaknesses, especially in our daughter, hoping to unlock her abilities. But more importantly, we asked for heaven’s guidance in all our undertaking.

Math came easy for her, but language and communication was her Waterloo, and constructing even a 2 or 3 sentence essay was a difficult endeavor. Thus we chose a curriculum that was literature heavy and had them read 20 to 30 short story books or classic novels per school year. One bright thing that happened was when we introduced her to music, it became her language and she found her voice.

We homeschooled her until highschool. Besides the education we had at home we also used tutors to prepare her for college. This included lots of music activities as well. And as she entered college, we were again uncertain of how she would adapt to conventional school. Did we educate her enough? Did we train her enough? Did we equip her enough?

Four years of college had gone by. It went so fast like a blink of an eye. Our daughter did not just survived college, she thrived in it. She got scholarship and maintained it throughout. We were relieved and we felt vindicated.

For any of you my readers, who have a child or know of a child who may be struggling in school, I want you to continue to believe in them. I am convinced that there are no dumb kids. They only have different and individual ways of learning, and we as parents and educators just need to discover their potential. Invest in them, including your time, and if you need to take over their education, then do so.

On this occasion of epic magnitude, our joy is magnified. With magnificent pride and with magnanimous love, we present to the world our 2020 graduate. And she even did it with a Latin honor of Magna Cum Laude.

our graduate

We thank all our family and friends who supported us through this journey, and to God be the glory!

(*She missed Summa Cum Laude by a very slim fraction. But we are not complaining. Magna Cum Laude translates as “with great distinction.”)

Seriously

From out of the blue, I received a greeting recently from a classmate in pre-med and in medical school whom I have not heard from for a long time. In fact I am receiving many thoughts and prayers from friends and family lately knowing that I am a frontliner in this war against COVID-19 especially in the ICU.

I wondered what prompted my classmate, but I was both surprised and touched that she remembered me and also my birthday. After hearing from her, I was reminded of our class party during our senior year in undergrad which was held in their upscale home in the Philippines.

In that party we had a game that was patterned to the old game show “Make Me Laugh.” The idea was that the “contestants” would try not to laugh as “comedians” do their best to make them laugh.

Being one of the jokesters during my college days, I was one of them who would attempt to make people laugh. There were 3 classmates of ours as “contestants,” and there were 3 of us “comedians.” If the first comedian was unable to make the contestant laugh, then the 2nd and the 3rd would give it a try. The contestant who would not crack a smile or laugh wins.

I was the first comedian.

I was a lanky kid in college, weighing 115 lbs in a 5’8” frame body. I look like Fido Dido. My gig was I borrowed an over-sized leather jacket (yes, there were leather jackets in Manila) from one of my burly classmates, and I filled the sleeves and the chest area with socks so I looked muscular. I also borrowed a heavy duty power twister bar from a classmate to show that I am trying to flex my arms. In other words, I am like the Filipino actor “Palito” impersonating Arnold Schwarzenegger.

On the first contestant, after I came out of the room and started walking to the contestant, she already burst into laughter as well as the whole class. I did not have to do much. Needless to say the 2nd and the 3rd jokesters did not even need to come out.

On the second contestant, I saw that she was trying so hard to keep it composed when I came out. But when I walked towards her and came face to face with her, she was red and to the point of bursting. After I tried to flex my muscles by bending the power twister (in which I really struggled), she finally lost it and broke into a laugh. Again the 2nd and the 3rd comedians did not have to do a thing.

On the 3rd contestant, I could sense that I would have difficulty making her laugh. She had this calm demeanor that was unperturbed by my nonsensical act. And while the whole class was already rolling in their bellies laughing, she just looked at me with a half-a-smile like that of Mona Lisa. After a minute of trying, I failed to make her laugh. I was a failure!

By the way, the second and the third jokesters did not succeed as well.

At the conclusion of the game, some classmates got hold of me, dragged me, and dumped me in the swimming pool. I had my full street clothes and shoes on! I was just the first one that was thrown into the pool though as what followed next was a pandemonium with many of the class being shoved into the pool. And we were not even drunk as there was no alcoholic drinks involved.

It was not supposed to be a swimming party. Perhaps they blame it on me, for not able to make that particular classmate laugh, that ended up into a pool-dumping frenzy.

On the side note, I know many of my classmates live in exclusive gated communities and have their own swimming pools. However, I pride myself that we have a bigger pool at our house in Sampaloc Manila, that is the whole street turns into a large swimming pool after a heavy downpour.

I admit, I was goofy when I was young, and perhaps I am still today though I may have mellowed. Maybe I just don’t take myself seriously. However at that time I wonder, were they laughing with me or were they laughing at me? It’s just funny that the kid who they probably would not take seriously before is now seriously taking care of people who are ill and in serious condition.

Life has a weird sense of humor.

(*photo taken a few years back at Petra Jordan)

No More Free Concerts

Last week, I took a day off from work, drove a couple of hours, travel more than a hundred miles, just to see a concert.

It was not a concert of one of those pop superstars, like Adele or Lady Gaga. Nor was it a concert of some well-known classical artist like Andrea Bocelli or Yoyo Ma.

It was my daughter’s concert. It was their university’s orchestra performance. And it was their first concert for this school year.

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I have seen my daughter play cello in the orchestra multiple times in the past. From her grade school days, to high school days, and to community orchestra. From the screechy-sound of beginners, to more polished tones of intermediate, to quite advanced.

Though this maybe the best group that she’s been a member so far. After all they were all music majors, both undergraduate and graduate students. As far as I am concern, they can be considered “professional” musicians now.

We knew back then, that when we introduced our little girl to music, that she has a special attachment to it, and we cannot deny the fact that she has a gift for it. So it was no surprise that that was the career path she chose to pursue. Even though honestly, I tried to sway her to a different path.

I know as a parent, we wanted a secure future for our kids. So we prefer professions like engineer, or doctor, or lawyer. But what’s wrong with literature, or arts, or music, if that’s where our child’s passion is? Success should not be gauge only on how much money we can earn, but also on the satisfaction and joy on doing what we love to do.

It was heartwarming to witness that my daughter is getting very skillful on the cello, as well as playing with the orchestra. But playing cello is not even her major. She’s majoring in another instrument. A much larger instrument, the piano. So there will be more concerts and recitals to attend to.

All those years of music lessons are finally paying off. We’re proud as well that our homeschooling “experiment,” (we homeschooled her from kindergarten to high school) was a success. All of our worries that her education was not adequate, were all appeased.

Now, my daughter is not merely surviving, but thriving in college. She even was granted a good scholarship that covers her college tuition, so we only have to pay for her food and dorm. With the cost of college education ever on the rise, ranging from $10,000 per year in state universities (for in-state residents) to $50,000 or more per year in private and more expensive institutions, getting a college degree these days can definitely break the bank.

Back to the concert. Though some of the selection they played were kind of hypnotic to me, I was able to stay awake through the concert. Over all it was fantastic. After the final bow, the audience were up on their feet. The only gripe I have on the concert is that it was not free. Sorry, I’m cheap.

But I get it. It helps support their university’s music program. Besides, the quality of their performance was superb that the concert was even recorded, and maybe aired one of these days on a public radio station. Definitely worth paying for.

So for the first time, I bought a ticket just to see my daughter perform. But I’m OK with that.

I wonder, would I have to pay a more expensive ticket when it’s time for her solo piano performance?

Empty Room

As parents, there are events in our child’s life that are happy moments, that we are proud of and we celebrate.

Events like their first spoken word, or their first step. Or maybe it is their first goal in the kids’ soccer league, or their first medal in the youth swim meet. Or maybe it is their first piano recital or perhaps their first role in their school play.

Or perhaps it is your child’s first visit to the principal’s office. What? Oh my mistake! We defintely are not proud of that, and don’t celebrate that event.

However, there are also events in our child’s life that are supposed to be milestone, but somehow we are sad that that day has come.

One of those events is when they enter college. Especially when the university they are going to is more than a hundred miles away, and that means they are leaving home.

So the day that we are preparing for, and also dreading for, but know that it is coming, has come.

Our little girl is off to college! Where did time go?

my daughter’s school bag evolution: from elementary, to high shcool, and college

As we sent her off to college the other day, I was having some difficulty bringing her stuff and things down the stairs to load in the car. It was not that her stuff was heavy, like her teddy bear. Or maybe a little bit, like her drawer. But it was more so that my heart was heavy. I can’t seem to let go.

We want her to stay home. Perhaps just to be with us for a little longer. But we also know that it is time. Time for her to pursue her chosen career. Time for her to follow her dreams. Time for her to go out there, and make her own mark in this world.

As I passed my daughter’s room this morning, something have drawn me to enter it. Perhaps I was hoping that she’s still there, sleeping in her bed. Perhaps I was wishing to find someone there that I would nudge out of bed, and tell her to go hop into the shower, for it is late. Perhaps I was just missing someone to greet good morning, and remind her that I love her.

We are definitely not washing our daughter’s bedsheet, pillow cases, and blanket. We will leave her bed as is, as she left it. Until she comes back home for a visit.

 

 

Kwentong Bulsa

Ano ang laman na iyong bulsa? Pitaka? Cellphone? Mga barya? Kumpol ng susi? Kalahating bubblegum? Lipstick? Rosaryo? Sigarilyo? Balisong? Ticket ng lotto? Balato ko ha!

O walang laman ang iyong bulsa? Teka, baka naman nadukutan ka na? O maaring butas lang ang iyong bulsa?

Ano man ang antas mo sa buhay, meron at meron kang bitbit, at hindi umaalis ng inyong bahay, na wala ito sa iyong bulsa.

Hindi ko sasabihin kung ano dapat ang laman ng iyong bulsa, akin lamang isasalaysay kung ano ang nasa aking bulsa sa iba’t-ibang yugto ng aking buhay.

Noong kindergarten:

1. bente-singko

2. panyolito

3. jolens (marble)

Simple lang ang buhay noon. Simple lang din ang aking pangangailan. Kaya’t bente-singko sentimos (benchingko tawag ko noon) lang, ay kasyang-kasya na. Kontento na ako dun. May hopia o kaya bazooka bubblegum na akong mabibili, at may sukli pa.

Ito ay noon, ngunit sa ngayon kahit balat yata ng bubblegum hindi kayang bilihin ng benchingko.

May panyolito rin akong baon noon. Kahit ayaw kong magdala nito, ay lagi itong nakasuksok sa aking bulsa. Dahil mabait (*ubo-ubo*) akong bata. Kasi sabi ng nanay ko kailangan ko raw ng panyo, kapag pinapawisan o kapag tumutulo ang sipon. Sa totoo lang para sa akin, pwedeng nang pamunas ang manggas ng t-shirt ko.

Ang panyolito ba ay tanda ng aking pagsunod sa aking mga magulang?

Lagi rin akong may jolens sa bulsa. Dahil laro lang ang laman ng utak ko noon. Walang muwang. Walang responsibilidad. Malaya. Malayang tumalungko sa lupa at magpakadusing, sa paglalaro ng jolens.

At simple lang din ang aking pangarap – ang matalo ko sa jolens ang aking mga kalaro. Hindi naman sa pagyayabang, minsan ay naging asintado at mahusay din naman ako sa laro ng jolens.

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larong jolens

*****

Noong highschool at college:

1. suklay

2. panyo

3. wallet

Noong mga panahong iyon, meron na akong suksok na suklay sa aking bulsa. Yung natitiklop na parang balisong. Ito ay sandata ko na dala-dala araw-araw. Kailangan ayos lagi ang buhok. Kahit pa makipagsiksikan sa jeepney o sa bus, basta may suklay, guwaping pa rin.

Kusa ko na ring sukbit ang panyo. Kailangan punasan ang tagaktak ng pawis. Kailangan punasan ang sipon. Kasi nakakabawas sa pogi points kung basa ng pawis o tumutulo ang sipon. Dahil ang pangunahing pakay noon ay ang pumorma.

Dala ko rin ang aking wallet, kahit wala namang laman ito. Madalas nga kasyang pamasahe at pang soft-drink lang ang laman ng pitaka ko, pero bitbit ko pa rin ito. Bakit kamo? Kasi pampaumbok din ng puwet ito! Pati nga panyo ko (minsan dalawang panyo pa) nasa kabilang bulsa sa likod ng pantalon, para pantay ang pagkatambok.

Kung yung mga babaeng hindi nabiyayaan ng dibdib ay naglalagay ng medyas sa bra, kaming mga patpat na lalaki, ay panyo at pitaka sa puwetan ng pantalon.

Pero nagsimula na rin namang akong mangarap sa panahong iyon. Maliban sa makaporma at mapansin ng crush ko, ay may pangarap na rin, na sana makatapos ng pag-aaral, magkaroon ng matinong hanap-buhay, maging maginhawa, at magkaroon ng laman ang aking pitaka. At hindi lang hanggang porma ang suksok na pitaka.

*****

Ngayon

1. cellphone

2. wallet

3. susi

Sa paglipas ng panahon, nag-iba na ang aking pangangailangan. Wala ng suklay (wala nang susuklayin). Wala ng panyo. Hindi na mahalaga ang paporma.

Cellphone na ang laman lagi ng aking bulsa. Ito ang aking kuneksiyon sa trabaho, sa pamilya, at sa mundo. Narito ang aking mga contacts, schedule, e-mails, at notes. Gamit ko rin ito para alamin ang mga bagay na hindi ko alam – tatanungin ko lang si Mr. Google.

Ang aking cellphone ay hindi lang pang-selfie at pang-facebook. Pero siyempre gamit ko ito bilang kamera para sa aking blog, at pang-update kung may sumilip sa aking website. (Salamat sa pagtangkilik!)

Nandiyan pa rin naman ang aking wallet. Pero hindi pa rin ako nagdadala ng malaking halaga. Dahil plastik (credit cards) ang madalas kong gamit. Ibig sabihin, malakas ang loob mangutang at gumastos, dahil may trabaho na.

Iba na rin ang pangarap ko. Hindi lang para sa akin kundi para na rin sa kinabukasan ng aking pamilya. Kailangan may laman ang pitaka para may pang-baon ang aking mga anak.

Isa pang laman ng aking bulsa ngayon ay mga susi. Susi ng bahay at susi ng kotse. Mga bagong laruan kapalit ng jolen? Puwedeng sabihing medyo nakaka-angat at matagumpay na tayo dahil may pag-aari na.

Ngunit bahay at kotse ba ang simbolo ng tagumpay? O ito lamang ang mga panibagong pangangailangan sa yugto ngayon ng aking buhay. Siyempre kailangan ng bahay para kanlungan ng pamilya, at kotse para makarating sa dapat patunguhan.

Pero hindi ko pa rin naman lubos na pag-aari ang bahay at kotse, at patuloy pa rin itong hinuhulog-hulugan. Kaya kailangang patuloy din ang aking pagkayod para mabayaran ang mga ito. Ang mga susi bang aking dala-dala ay nagpapalaya? O ito’y gumagapos na parang tanikala?

Pangangailangan nga ba ang laman ng ating bulsa? O tayo’y alipin ng nasa loob nito? Pero hindi ko rin naman sasabihing mabuti pang walang laman ang ating bulsa.

Tunay na mas simple ang buhay noong jolen pa lang ang nasa aking bulsa.

*****

(photo by Rodgie Cruz from pixoto.com)

Beyond Testing

Recently my wife and I were helping our daughter prepare for a national exam. It was the Preliminary Scholastic Assessment Test (PSAT) or also known as National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (NMSQT). For my readers who are not familiar with this, it is one of the standardized tests high school students here in the US take. It is one thing colleges can use to evaluate for admissions, as well as qualification for scholarship grants. It is akin to the National College Entrance Examination (NCEE) in the Philippines which I took to apply for college. (By the way, NCEE was abolished in 1994, ten years after I took it.)

Test prep 1

It seems only yesterday, we were introducing the ABC’s to our daughter and teaching her how to count 1, 2, 3. Now she is way beyond 1A + 2/B = 3C. And indeed, we are preparing her for college admission already. In another blink, she’ll be off to college. Where did time go?

I would consider myself an expert test taker. That’s not bragging. Or maybe a little bit. With college exams, medical school tests, medical licensure exams (both US and Philippines), American board exam and different subspecialties board certifications – I believe I have taken so many exams that I have my test-taking skills refined to a tee. But that’s not my best qualification to coach my daughter for the PSAT. I may also have aced my college admission test, but that’s not my prime qualification either.

I believe my foremost qualification to help my daughter prepare for the exam, is the plain fact that I am his father, and I really cared for her future. In fact, my wife and I have taken our children’s education personally that we homeschooled them.

I remember my father telling me years ago, that the best inheritance they could leave me is education. We may not have much but I am thankful to my parents for the education they provided me, and the opportunities it opened for me that led me where I am now.

I have mentioned in the past that my father came not from a family of means, but a family of farmers in the Philippines. They were hardworking yet simple people. My father was the first one in their kinsfolk to pursue a higher education and to have a college degree. He did it by working to support himself through college.

My mother on the other hand came from a family of teachers. Most of them were elementary school teachers, including my mom. She was my first teacher, who introduced me to reading and math, even before I officially enrolled in kindergarten.

I have also mentioned in my past posts, that I am the first in our clan to go to medical school. I wished my dad could have seen me graduate, but he died prematurely even before I completed my first year. Even though he passed away, I was blessed that I was still able to finish medical school. Thanks to scholarship.

Last year, one nephew of mine, finished medical school. So I am not the only doctor now in our clan. I hope there will be another one in the future, even in my own immediate family.

My daughter does not know yet exactly what college course she wants to pursue. Nonetheless she is leaning towards music and math. One thing she knows though is that she does not want to be a medical doctor, and I am fine with that.

But there’s more important things in life than grades and scoring high in exams. There’s more important assets in this world than titles and college degrees. Values like integrity, honesty, perseverance, love, and family, just to name a few. I hope I can teach these to my children as well.

Whatever happens to the PSAT/NMSQT; or whatever college or career my daughter pursues; or whatever future for that matter, she will have – there is one thing that will not change. And that is I will be proud of her no matter what. Just for the simple reason, that she is my daughter.

(*image from here)