Someone Who Believed in Me

Image contain Ms. Michelle and text.

Teachers could influence their students in countless ways. They may either bring a positive effect or a negative effect on them.

Even at a very young age, it was evident that I already had the passion and inclination in music. I had been dreaming to become a singer since then.

My mom attempted to enroll me in some music schools several times and she also tried to hire a voice teacher who could train me to become a better singer. To no luck, those schools and teachers my mom approached were not ready to accept a blind student in the class, not even for a one on one session.

That did not stop me from performing.

In search of a mentor

I still participated in different competitions and other opportunities where I can show my talent. A part of me knew that it wasn’t enough. I knew that I could do better if someone who has the expertise would willingly share his knowledge with me.

Until that time came when I had another opportunity to join a competition for vocal solo and I was chosen as the representative of our school. Once again, my mom tried to look for a voice coach who would help me prepare for the competition.

And once again, we failed.

So even without having a coach, I still decided to join the competition. Fortunately, I won in the first round but then, I did not make it to the next level of the competition. That moment, I cried so hard. I felt like I almost want to stop singing. I told my mom that If only there would be at least one teacher who would take the time to attend to my needs. Someone who has the willingness to teach blind people like me, I will really give my best and prove that I can do better than what they were expecting of me.

A teacher who took a chance

Two years later, I was blessed to have the opportunity to participate in a training program for the youth servants of our parish. That was when I met my very first voice teacher, Professor Armin Comon.

When I introduced myself to him, I found out that he wasn’t aware of my blindness. Later on, I asked him if it would be fine with him having a blind student in his class. I was really surprised by his answer. He said, “It’s okay. That wouldn’t be a problem. You may be blind but you have the talent and most importantly, you know how to listen. Your listening skills will be your greatest advantage in this class.”

That was the first time I heard a voice teacher who showed his willingness to teach a blind student. And he has proven it. He patiently taught me in every session. He truly inspired me to keep on singing. He even told me before the training ends that he was looking forward to seeing me as a successful singer someday.

Eleven years after, I can say that the goal that my teacher and I had was fulfilled. I am now a part of different performing groups, not only of Bulacan, but in other parts of the country. I also received several awards and had won in different competitions as a solo performer. And the best thing that happened was that experience brought a different perspective in other music teachers’ point of view of having a blind student.

At first, I was just asking for only one teacher who would find time to teach me but now I have many of them. Now I’m sharing the knowledge I learned from my mentors to the new members of our groups and with the other musicians I meet as I go on with my journey.

A teacher who believed in me

Image of Ms. Beverly smiling and text.

Have you ever felt like you don’t belong in a certain place? Or ever doubted your abilities because of how society sees you?

I have, but that changed when I met her. The woman who believed in me more than I believe in myself.

It was the first day of my class in high school. I was in the faculty room, talking with my teachers about some arrangements during the class. They asked me how I read and write, how I answer my exams before, and how I take notes. I explained everything to them but they still seem to hesitate in accepting me.

They told me that they were not ready to accept students with visual impairment and that I should go to a school for the blind. I considered the idea but those schools are not accessible for me in terms of transportation. They kept on explaining why they cannot accept me.

I was about to just leave and let things that way when another teacher joined the conversation. She told the other teachers that she is willing to accommodate me in her class since she was also teaching first-year students. One thing that stuck in my mind was when she said that she believes in me.

The idea of someone, who doesn’t even know my name, believing in me made me so happy. She might have seen the determination in my eyes and the eagerness in my face to be accepted. Because of her, my exciting high school life began.

A Thank You

Three years later, there was a card-making contest in our school. As a kid, I love making cards for my loved ones but my self-doubt started crawling in again.

What if they won’t accept my entry because of my impairment? What if my card would be the ugliest card in the contest?

I did my best to stop the negativity in me. I inhaled, exhaled, and had a little pep talk with myself. Why do I keep doing this? Why can’t I just believe in my capabilities for once? With all my questions, the most important one eventually had to be answered: Who am I writing to, anyway?

The memory of my first-day high came and that’s when I decided–I will write this letter to the person who taught me how to believe in myself.

I picked up a piece of pink colored paper from a pile of art materials, got my pen from one of the pockets of my backpack, and started writing, “To my dearest teacher…”

The day of the awarding ceremony came. I was nervous but at the same time excited. I was contented just to be able to make the card. All I wanted was to give it to her. I was ecstatic when I learned that I got the third-place! I didn’t waste any time and gave that same card to my dearest teacher. The smile in her face was worth my every effort. I was happy to be able to appreciate the teacher who changed my life in my own simple way.

extraordinary blessing to be cherish

Image of Ms. Yvette smiling and text.

Short-tempered, uncautious of the words coming out of my mouth, and immediately reacting to everything with defensive or offensive words. These describe who I was before knowing him, my mentor. A Korean Pastor and a founder of an organization that ministers Filipino blind.

Finding a Blessing

“ I want to be a blessing to everybody, not a burden.” These were his answer when I asked him why his name is Blessing. Meeting and knowing someone like him was really a blessing for me! Staying in their ministry for a year had changed me. My knowledge and understanding about the Word of God were broadened and deepened. I was really amazed because of his heart and dedication in helping Filipino blind to become productive and successful.

Being in his position and situation, he can’t avoid receiving negative comments and sometimes disrespectful behavior from other people. Observing him on how he handles these, I can’t help but ask why he keeps calm, why he speaks only a few words instead of defending and explaining himself. These questions came popping out in my mind every time he’s in a difficult situation but these remained unspoken until I had a short but life-changing conversation with him.

Becoming a Blessing

It was during a time when I had conflicts with my co-blind. Feeling depressed and angry, I went to him and told about it. After hearing all my sentiments and offensive words to the person whom I had a conflict with, He advised,”Be calm. Give time and let Jesus Christ work in you. In your heart.”

Upon hearing these, I suddenly kept quiet and waited for his next words. He continued saying, ”All those reactions coming from you right now are worldly behavior. If all of us will be like this, we won’t be honoring God. We should live as Jesus Christ did to the best that we can. If you don’t, you’ll worsen the situation. Keeping quiet doesn’t mean defeat, mostly you win.”

From that time, I became aware and I understood why he kept calm whenever he’s criticized and attacked. No need to be always defensive. No need to be offensive and react to every negative thing and words from other people.

Truly, my mentor is a blessing not just by name but also by deed.

My Most Treasured Rosary

Image of Ms. Maricris smiling and text.

It is undeniable that here in our country, we give so much importance to education. Our parents would always remind us how finishing school will have a great impact on our future. Of course, one of the important factors of a great education is the teacher. I’m sure that everyone here has their own story about their teachers, but for now, let me share mine.

In my early years as a student, I’m not really the type who actively participates in a class discussion. I just simply went to school for the sake of just being in school. It’s also a normal scene for me seeing my adviser having favorites in our class. And most of the time, it’s because of their overly-friendly parents who seemed giving gifts to our class adviser were a part of their monthly budget. But this all change in my 4th grade, when I met Ms. Rosario Rivera, our class adviser. At first, I thought she’s no different from the others until one day, she did something that those teachers never did. She called out my name, and asked my idea about the topic that we were discussing. Maybe you’re wondering what’s so special about it, but for me, this is something new. Aside from the fact that most of the known smart kids in our class had already given their answers, I’m already used to of being unnoticed so her action really took me by surprise. It made me feel that finally, a teacher saw me as one of her students and not just a part of her class. Shyly, I stood up and told her my answer. After hearing my thoughts, she complimented me and told the class that it was the answer that she’d been looking for. It was the first time that I had been acknowledged in my class and it felt remarkable. After that incident, I became more active in our class and gave more focus on my studies.

Looking back, I realized that Ms. Rivera had not only affected me on that day but from that day onwards. Just like her name “Rosario”, she has been like a rosary to me that guides me. If not for her, maybe I’m still the same timid girl that I used to be. Maybe I’m still afraid of trusting myself. Maybe I’m not even here to where I am now. That’s why I’m so thankful to her. Thankful for her being different. Thankful for her helping me see my abilities and lastly, thankful for her being an exceptional teacher of mine.

My Small & Wengcredible Teacher

Image of Mr. Remir and Ms. Rowena

Charles F. Glassman once said, “A genuine teacher does not seek to impress you with their greatness, but instead to impress upon you that you possess the skills to discover your own”

Amidst the excitement and shrills of the crowd, this thought came to mind.

I was inside a jam-packed auditorium, not for anything else, but to watch the ALTA Media Icon Awards – the awarding of the students’ choice personalities in the field of television, radio, movies, social media, and music, featuring four short life documentaries, which included mine.

Just before my story was played on the video wall, one of the awardees for tv, dedicated his trophy to all the teachers. It was World Teacher’s Day that Friday. Then, it dawned me…

Oh my…. How could I ever forget the teacher who changed my life? The same person why my story is being featured that time!

Rowena Gregorio-Morta, now concurrent Communication Arts Department head and ALTACOMM Manager, wasn’t just an ordinary teacher to me. She was first my Editor-in-Chief when I joined the student publication. The same person who gave me the baptism of fire to write sports – where I was not good at, back in High School campus journalism. How could I forget it – running after the varsity team, waking up early in the morning to jog with them. My sports assignment actually made me sign up for the track and field team.

Thanks to the small but terrible Wengkie, as we fondly call her, the four sports articles she gave me and two news beat, became my stepping stone to broaden my writing. The next time I knew, I was already doing more than half of the sports page, with some news and feature write-ups in my first two semesters in college.

When she graduated that school year, I found myself appointed by the student publication adviser as Weng’s replacement as EIC for the next three school terms.

But it wasn’t the last time she would guide me. On my sophomore, she became the student publication adviser. And under her supervision, we were able to make some layout changes and active campus journalism. Not only that, I remember then Ms. Gregorio, assigning to me beats for “S – The Southpaper”, the community newspaper owned by the school president where she mans the desk. She was also instrumental in my Philippine Daily Inquirer stint Metro page, where I had the privileged to cover the Vizconde Massacre trial case.

Wengkie also became my teacher in several major subjects – like Script Writing, Communication Research, and more.

The funny, yet unforgettable memory I had with her, however, was not about academics, campus journalism, or our part-time newspaper work. It happened in my very first NCAA coverage with her in July of 1994.

How could anyone miss that scene, when after the coverage, we, along five others, went window-shopping from Araneta Coliseum to Alimall to SM Cubao – and for some reason, she with three other senior staff, intentionally or unintentionally left me and two other junior reporters, one after the other. And just like a lost sheep for the first time in an unfamiliar place. I had to learn how to go home on my own from Cubao to Las Piñas through the largest parking lot in the country – traffic-congested EDSA!

Thanks again to Ma’am Gregorio. And because she meant so much to me as a friend and teacher – I formally made our ties closer when I made her godmother to my eldest son. And what is the best place to do the reception? SM Cubao, of course – where she left but “taught” me to commute six cities away from Las Piñas!

What an odd time to be reminded of this… The Teacher who changed my life… Thank you Wengkie!

Prof. Miranda, my Chemistry Professor

college graduation photo of Carol Catacutan

It was 9:30 Am and I am 30 minutes early for my Chemistry class. I was already a graduating student of AB European languages from the University of the Philippines but I needed to complete my general education subjects in Science.

I did not go straight to my classroom on the second floor. Instead, I went straight to Prof. Bienvenido Miranda’s room on the ground floor of the Science Faculty Center.

One step ahead

Prof Miranda, already in his late 60s, was already in his room waiting for me. His wife, also a UP Professor, readily assisted me and led me to a chair. After I was comfortably seated, Prof. Miranda led my hand to touch several steel wires and different sizes of plastic balls arranged on top of a wooden board. He carefully led my hand to touch each set of plastic balls connected by wires. In between the plastic balls were lumps of cotton. The balls, wires, and cotton represent the four patterns of electron configuration namely S, P, D, and F. At the center of the board was the biggest ball representing the nucleus of an atom. Around the nucleus were smaller balls representing the protons and the same number of still smaller balls represent the electrons.

As my fingers trailed on the different plastic balls, Prof. Miranda patiently showed me the different patterns on how the electrons were arranged around the nucleus while the cotton represent the energy that binds one electron to another. He patiently showed me the S pattern, the P, Pattern, the D pattern and finally, the F pattern. All the electron configuration models were especially designed and customized for me by Prof. Miranda.

At 10:00 AM, my best friend, Jessica, picked me up from Prof. Miranda’s office and we went upstairs to our Chemistry class where we sat at the back. Minutes after, Prof. Miranda arrived in our room and started his lecture on the four types of electron configuration. As he pointed at every single pattern on the board, I already have the images inside my head. I need not strain my neck to look at the board because my eyes would not see them anyway. Only my hands can read the drawings because I’m totally blind.

Prof. Miranda went out of his way to teach me chemistry in a manner that I would understand. He invested an additional 30 minutes for each class just to show me in tactile form the various protons, neutrons and electrons of an atom. He did not provide me with the extra hours because the Science Department ordered him to do so. He did not spend extra time and money to construct all the models just because he had plenty of time to waste. Prof. Miranda went out of his way to ensure that a blind person would understand Chemistry because he wanted his students to learn.

Going an extra mile

On our mid-term exam, I was instructed to take my exam in Prof. Miranda’s room. Prof. Miranda prepared a pen and blue book for me. The blue book is laid on a wooden board with spikes on either side. Across the board was a plastic strip with two holes at either end for the spikes to pass through. As I move the plastic strip downward from spike to spike, the strip corresponds to every line on the blue book. Then, I took the pen. Prof. Miranda’s wife started reading the test questions to me. After each question, I wrote my answer on the blue book using a pen. As I write the letters, I trail my left hand on the plastic strip to ensure that my writing remains on a straight line. After one and a half hours, I finished my mid-term exam.

On the next meeting, Prof. Miranda announced the results of the mid-term exam. He said that the top scorer got 100 points. Oohs and Ahs filled the room. Then Prof. Miranda called Miss Catacutan. Everybody looked around, trying to identify who that was. I timidly stood up and Prof. Miranda said that I was the top scorer. At the end of the semester, I got a flat 1 for my Chemistry subject not because I’m a science genius but because of a teacher, a Prof. Miranda who embraced me as his student—not a student with limitation but as a person with potential.

Find the Value of Life

Image of Ms. Jaelene Cristel Mina smiling and text.

2X2 + 5X – 3 = 0

Gosh! That’s an algebraic equation. I dislike math; I dislike numbers and I’m not good at solving arrhythmic equations, especially when the teacher is not that willing to assist a visually impaired student like me.

What the teachers usually do was to point on the board and say, “Transpose this number to here and put it right there.”

How would a blind ever understand an Algebra lesson in that method of teaching?

But wait, I will not talk about how bad I was in math or how the other teachers executed mathematical lessons then. Let me share a story about a particular teacher who made a great impact in my life, whom I met in my second year high school, in June of 2006.

Introducing Ms. Jean, a teacher who is described to be a petite lady with a fair skin and a kind face. She has a gentle but modulated voice that sounded so friendly to me.

Do you have an idea what subject she taught? I guess you already got it. Yes, it was math, the subject I hated the most.

Though math is not the type of subject that I really enjoyed that time, I still found it interesting because of the way of Ms. Jean’s execution of the lessons. She’s not the this and that type of teacher. She was so descriptive and specific when explaining equations to the class. In that way, I was never out of place and it seemed like I’m not a visually impaired at all.

I can still vividly remember how we went on with our daily class routine. We started with a prayer then Ms. Jean would share a positive quote or a verse from the bible and let us reflect on it for a while.

She has been an encouraging teacher to everybody. She has always wanted her students to participate in all class activities and get high grades. She was not stock to the traditional math class type where in the teacher would just explain the lesson, give exercises and then dismiss the class.

Ms. Jean let the students to excel in their own strengths. She let us compose a math jingle, play games and collect ribbons. The ribbons would be given to us everytime we participate in the class discussion, get high scores and win from a group game. Those ribbons were collected and later on, would be compiled on a portfolio to be submitted every after grading period along with the quiz papers, answer sheets with scores, assignments and the written quotes and verses shared by Ms. Jean.

She’s eager to conduct review and remedial class whenever she found out that we could not understand a certain topic. She really wanted every student to pass and even outstand in her subject without pressure.

She made sure that no-one, including me, was not left behind to her subject. When she was not busy with her paper works, she would sit next to me and assist me in doing the exercises. There were also times that she used her finger to draw the mathematical equation on the palm of my hand just to demonstrate how the numbers were transposed, substituted and solved.

If it happened that she was not available, she would assign one of my classmates to sit beside me and help me cope with the lessons. To be fair with everyone, Ms. Jean arranged the student assignment as my tutor alphabetically, just in case she wouldn’t be around to teach me.

Everyday, my classmates took turns in tutoring me. Some cooperated willingly, some did not, some were doubtful, and some were just doing it because it’s needed.

Ms. Jean taught us a lot of great things. She did not only teach us how to find the value of X, solve mathematical problems and answer algebraic equations, but she had also shown us that nothing is impossible if you would just trust God and believe in your abilities.

In 10 months of being Ms. Jean’s student, I have learned to multiply perseverance, divide love, add enthusiasm, subtract worries and find the value of life.