I had wanted to be a Broadway star.
I had always been into theater arts. I remember when I was in second grade: I joined the Dramatics Club. I had the time of my life during our production; discounting the fact that I forgot to bring out my assigned props during my scene so I ended up miming two heavy bags of groceries in my hands.
For the rest of my elementary and high school life, I was with the glee club. I focused on music, singing, and I fell in love with the guitar. Come college, I wanted to choose Theater Arts as my course.
However, when I discussed the matter with my family, I saw the concern in their eyes. They’ve never actually prohibited me from doing the things I want, but I knew the source of their subtle worry for my course preference. Here in the Philippines, artists who don’t exactly come from a moneyed background must be practical.
So I chose Elementary Education as my course, since back in high school, an alternative career choice that I considered was becoming a Special Education (SpEd) teacher. This inclination toward teaching was sparked by the life story of singer Clay Aiken, whom I once had a huge crush on. His success despite being a special person inspired me. Though the reason for my career choice was very teenybopper and hormone-driven, it stuck.
I enrolled at the College of Education of the University of the Philippines Diliman.
However, the desire to pursue theater arts remained. I had trouble with my education subjects and with my waterloo, history. I couldn’t see how they would help me teach children with special needs. I wanted to shift out. I still wanted to take Theater Arts. I spent most of my time looking for a good campus theater company to join.
Then I joined the Philippine Educational Theater Association’s (Peta) summer workshop. I took up basic acting because I felt I needed to learn theater and performing.
It was one of the best summers of my life. Aside from once again being submerged in the world of theater, I found out about Peta’s youth arm—the Metropolitan Teen Theater League, also known as Peta-MTTL. The group advocates youth empowerment and participation through theater arts.
Peta-MTTL was the reason why I decided to stay on track in terms of my academics. Being part of the organization made me realize that not formally studying Theater Arts in school didn’t mean I had to give up my dreams; that theater could be used for something so much more than spectacular musicals and creative self-expression.
By my second year in college, I had to choose my area of concentration. We had to pick from the different majors: Special Education, Science, Mathematics, English, Social Studies, Filipino, and Teaching in the Early Grades. As I was listening to the orientation of professors from the SpEd department, I had this feeling that SpEd would be too hard for me; that I wouldn’t be able to handle the requirements, subjects and challenges I would have to go through if I were to choose that path.
The orientation given by the reading department really struck me. They explained how, apart from teaching children how to read and develop a love for reading, they believed that even those with reading difficulties can definitely be taught how to read.
I eventually joined the reading department. I figured that English was my forte, reading was one of my longtime hobbies, and I wanted to be able to teach children with or without special needs.
As school was training me to be a Reading and English elementary schoolteacher, I was also developing an advocacy of functional literacy for all. Meanwhile, Peta-MTTL was training me as a composer and musician, writing songs for the youth.
What I wanted to be when I was a little girl—a Broadway star adorned in lights, drowning in applause and standing ovations—seems like a long way off from where I am now. I am currently a reading teacher giving one-on-one reading lessons to special children. I hope to become a public schoolteacher once I get my teaching license.
But I am also an artist. I continue to write songs and performance pieces for Peta-MTTL. I consider myself an artist-teacher. I may not be a Broadway performer, but every time I teach, I give my best performance, and every time my songs are played or sang, it’s like being given a standing ovation.
The choices I made didn’t exactly get me to where I originally wanted to be, but they got me to where I want to stay. And it’s all so much better than what I dreamed of.
Ada Marie S. Tayao, 21, graduated magna cum laude from UP Diliman. She is the chair of Peta-MTTL. She is a recipient of the 2012 Gawad Chanselor sa Natatanging Mag-aaral in UP Diliman, and is one of the regional finalists of this year’s Ten Outstanding Students of the Philippines. She now teaches reading lessons to children with special needs twice a week at Healing Touch Center and Smarty’s Play Place. The center offers speech pathology, occupational therapy, special education and regular academic tutorial; as well as daycare services for regular toddlers.