I was consumed by my first-grader’s preparation for the big school; her yaya had chosen, insistently, to go on vacation two weeks before classes, but that was not all.
Actually, my first-grader has outgrown her—she has neither the experience nor the inclination for this stage of her life, supervising homework and other extracurricular activities. And as fate would have it, the yaya’s departure proved timely, indeed a blessing in disguise for both ward and yaya, who has found an opportunity to work abroad early next year.
Moreover, an ideal replacement has been found, a mother of just the right years, with two years yet of college, focused and organized, properly firm and playful. Nanny for 10 years, she was practically willed to us by the mother and daughter she worked for, themselves closely known to us—they emigrated to the States last April. Our own little girl right away took to her, herself being no stranger.
But I still need to be on top of her, as does my son; all this is for both of us—me, since it’s been a while since I was in this situation, and my son, since it’s his first time.
The list of school requirements had been long and entailed tedious effort to meet, not to mention that we had received it too close to deadline. We complied fully a week after school opening.
Adjusting to the big school, we imagine, was not going to be easy for our little girl herself. For one thing, she’s going from a preschool class of 10 to a class of 31. She loves to read and reads exceptionally well, and doesn’t complain practicing doing numbers with her nanny. But the true test of big-school academics and other chores has yet to begin.
What she enjoys, meanwhile, is walking with her dad and nanny to school, which is just outside the village. But coming home is not as pleasant. Exhausted from class work even at this early stage, she’d rather be fetched by car.
And I’m not surprised; I had to change her bag three times until I got the right size—it’s a suitcase. They bring everything every Monday and leave the big books in school until Friday, when they take them back home to refer to when doing their homework.
Even with a rolling bag, walking uphill and in the torrid heat or in the rain—although the route is comparatively short and mostly shaded—can’t be fun.
I had begun to feel sorry for her when I was set straight by a television report showing schoolchildren crossing streams and climbing hills—they do so barefoot, to make their precious rubber slippers last, for the two hours it takes to get to school.
Just then, I got an e-mail about an even more heartbreaking case from our St. Theresa’s classmate and alumni association president, Dr. Chit Noriega-Reodica. She was appealing for banca for students who had to swim to school, their stuff floated and wrapped in plastic.
Attached in the e-mail was a picture of the suitable sort—outriggered, motorized fiberglass. An initial eight should do it for two seaside barrios in Cebu City and five for Coron, in Palawan. Quite happy-looking in yellow and school-bus stripes in blue, each boat can ferry 10 children.
For students of Cotabato City 20 boats are requested, but nonmotorized and smaller ones, each loading four and intended to double for fishing.
My guilty heart just bleeds.
‘Looking out for others’
Ever since Doctor Chit became the president of our alumnae, she has never missed an opportunity to remind us of our school mission, which she herself has adopted for her term: “Looking out for others.” In fact her board seems bent on teaching us to make a habit of philanthropy.
First we sent 50,000 pairs of rubber slippers to unshod schoolchildren around Luzon. After that, every birthday celebration of a classmate became a time for a fundraiser for more flip-flops or something else. Then it was 2,000 hygiene packs for women, bottled water for Supertyphoon “Yolanda” survivors, and schoolbags and other school supplies, good for a year, for 300 Aetas in Zambales and 500 other tribal schoolchildren in Samar.
The requests for Gawad Kalinga houses, each costing over a hundred thousand pesos, we leave to the more affluent Rotarians. Even the boats, at P30,000 and P8,000 each, are beyond our capacities, but with pooled resources we may be able to fill some of the need. Our own class may be good for at least one big banca or four small ones.
We’re not going into this banca project blind, we are being guided by the experienced Rotarians. Not only have they pointed us to a boat-maker in Taytay, Benjamin Valencia, they are also advising us on how to go about delivering the boats and assigning the responsibility for them; we’re told it’s important to find a respected leader of the beneficiary community.
We always try to do more. For instance, when disaster strikes we rise as best we can to the occasion. Indeed, anyone with any capacity for sharing need not wait for a disaster to be moved to philanthropy. Looking out for others is a basic moral responsibility, and for seniors like us, it should by now have developed into a habit.