[Blueboard] The meaning of service, part 2 (on the 2007 service awardees)

m baytion alunsina2005 at gmail.com
Thu Nov 27 10:19:37 PHT 2008

(continued from part 1)

The early part of E-YES GONZALEZ's Ateneo life was spent as a grade
school teacher. E-yes, twenty-five year awardee in 2007, now director
of the graduate program of Education, considers her years with the
grade school boys among those constituting her best memories of the
Ateneo. Each class was different but "not a day passed without
laughter." Aside from the lessons, they would play board games with
the children during break time. There was also closeness among her

The second phase of her career in the Loyola Schools opened up a
different world for her, and she welcomed the opportunity to give
inputs into helping teachers become better. And to do things which
help the university albeit in a quiet way, like in working to achieve
level 4 in PAASCU: "It was hard work but I enjoyed it. I appreciated
very much the cooperativeness, helpfulness, the community spirit that
helped us accomplish the task."

On a personal level it was gratifying for E-yes to feel the support,
prayers and love from the community when she fell ill. "Hair or no
hair I felt that I could walk on campus and be myself. People made
their love felt in many ways in the care and concern they showed me
when I was undergoing treatment for cancer, and I have seen it given
to other people as well."

BENI SANTOS, then acting dean of the School of Humanities, has been
teaching for 30 years. She was recently given the Outstanding Teacher
of the Year award by the Metrobank Foundation. "Even as a child, I
already loved learning, from grade school and high school, but Ateneo
gave it form, structure and discipline.  I learned to love literature
enough to decide to understand it, and to impart this love to

"In the Ateneo many people nurtured this love for literature: Rolando
Tinio and Bien Lumera who were my teachers instilled further in me the
love of reading and teaching literature. But it was Father de la Costa
who was my teacher in Philippine history for a summer term who
convinced me to go 100 percent into Filipino literature when he talked
to me about his mother's collection of Tagalong novels.

"So after all these years I have looked at literature as important in
an Ateneo education for its role in cultural transformation. For
example, when we took up Norma Miraflor's work ("Letter from Pritil"),
I took my students to downtown Manila and we traced all the places
mentioned in the book. For many of the students, that was their first
time to see that side of Manila, and it affected them profoundly… No
matter how tentative there must be a way of moving the students into
making a gesture of service."

CORNI SOTO of the Education Department said she owes a lot to the
Ateneo because she met her husband here, when she started teaching in
the grade school. Thus, on her 30th year as Ateneo employee she also
celebrated her 30th wedding anniversary! "My husband appreciated my
being in the Ateneo because it allowed me to be near our children.
When my kids were on vacation, I was also on vacation; pag suspended
ang klase dahil may bagyo, nasa bahay din ako.

"What I do believe is that Ateneo encourages you to grow
professionally. Some other schools hesitate to let teachers join
workshops, for example. Here we are encouraged to seek professional
growth, and join outreach services."

After enjoying herself finding new things to teach every year for
thirty years, Corni sometimes muses that there may come a time when
she won't look forward to coming to the Ateneo anymore. Happily
though, she assures us, "that day has not come."

DELFIN BAUTISTA had enjoyed his own grade school years so much he
wanted to share his happy memories of his growing up years: "I had so
much fun in the glee club, in the Boy Scouts, etc. I liked the
outdoors." So instead of going into med school after college, he opted
to teach at the grade school, initially wanting to stay for three or
four years at the most. "Then I got hooked." He once was the Scout
master of Father Joey Fermin, grade school headmaster till last year,
when Father Joey was a Boy Scout.

Delfin's joy at teaching young children is palpable in his youthful
smile and voice: "I enjoy children, and when you work with them, your
age may be advanced, but you never grow or look old. One time I
handled grade 1. For a lesson in science, I brought the boys to the
park and made them hug a talisay tree. Now they knew what a tree bark
feels like from experience, not just from books.

"It's fun teaching these boys. They sometimes confide their problems
in me, for example: 'I have a pet mouse, but it would not become

For Delfin, service is doing what you love to do, not doing what you
have to do. "When these boys come back to say hello, the feeling is so
wonderful. One thing with them, it seems that they do not take
themselves so seriously. They seem happy-go-lucky in their studies.
Yet they become successful. They just need our understanding, they
will learn on their own."

Perhaps the best proof that Delfin made the right choice all those
years ago is something his eldest granddaughter nine-year old Maria
Isabela once said: "When I grow up I want to be a teacher."

For twenty-five-year service awardee REMY RIVERA, "being in the grade
school never gets boring. The children are very accepting people. You
do not have to pretend to be a different person. No matter how
difficult a day has been, they always smile and say, 'Thank you, Ms.
Rivera.' And the next day you begin on a clean slate.

"We have to keep up with them, they know a lot and ask all sorts of
questions, especially Prep boys. One time I was asked, 'If Mama Mary
is not God, why do we have to pray to her?' You never get bored! Every
school year is different even if the subject matter is the same. The
children are all different."

According to Remy, perhaps like in any other work setting, "the
experience is sometimes fulfilling, sometimes frustrating. But in the
end they appreciate what you do even if parents and supervisors do not
see it. What the child says is worth it. Sometimes they leave you a
note at the end of the year, especially those from the lower years.
Physically it is more straining, but I like it better because they are
funny. When they reach grade 6 they sometimes come over to say hello,
and it feels good because I miss them."

The community that Remy is in is "like my second family. Per level
there are like 15 to 25 teachers. Our bonding is strong because we go
through a lot together. We pray, laugh, go through difficult times,
visit in the hospital when someone is sick, etc. It is a caring
community. You can be honest with them, you do not have to put on a
mask, I know they will understand. We are there for each other."

Perhaps one factor for Remy's long stay is that "the place itself
makes you want to linger. It is such a healing place. When I started
teaching, there were goats here, and would enter the classrooms. The
kids [Remy's boys!] would have to push them out."

She could not believe that it has been that long: "Really? Twenty-five
years na ba? I did not notice! Before we were the youngest, now we
worry about what we can teach them. I see in the new teachers the
desire to serve, the love for children.

"Service for me is not losing hope on a child, not giving up on a
child, or the school. For example, [one has to believe that] this
child is not stupid, he can learn. I'll try to help him do his best.
If perhaps Ateneo is not the school for him, he still is not a
failure. The child has gifts. He might be happier somewhere else.
Service is never giving up on anybody, whether student or coworker."

For thirty-five year service awardee ANA GUERRERO, her best memories
of being in Ateneo have been to attend workshops run by the "greats"
like Stephen Covey and the late Virginia Satir. Ana has stayed all
these years because "the assigned tasks were varied and I learned a
lot. I guess my boss trusted that I could deliver and assigned me to
special projects."

It was a challenge for their office, ACESS, to set up the Prometric
Testing Center as part of their service, but they did it and now
serves many other markets beyond the Ateneo.

For Ana, service means "extending professional service to clients,
going the extra mile and not expecting more than what is realistically
fair in return," and advises new employees to "like or love your job
and do your best."

Which goes for "old" employees too, like some of us J.

Another thirty-five year awardee last year was OFFIE ESPEDIDO of the
Personnel office, they who work the hardest for the service awards.
After spending more than three decades of her life here, Offie
remembers fondly her first five years when "I worked as a clerk and
office assistant to Mrs. Abueva, Mrs. Sulit, and Mr. Ben Gajitos. I
was then the youngest, and the only staff in Personnel at the time.
Then Lillian (Vergara) came. We would work overtime without pay. Out
of her kindness, Mrs. Sulit always treated us to food. There were also
days when we would 'exchange' food and baon because the canteen was so

Offie also remembers working on the typewriter, and how everyone had
to take a crash course when the computers made their seemingly
terrifying entry into the office environment. At that time, Personnel
was under the Treasurer's office, and so Offie worked with Father
Fitzpatrick, the first Treasurer, who was succeeded by Father
Steinbugler. Father Samson was then Executive VP, and "it was he who
initiated the service awards."

According to Offie, "mas madaling mag-outing noon, maybe because we
were fewer, the office was smaller. There was also more interaction
before. During breaks these days, people check email or play games on
the computer, and hurry to leave home at 5. In the past, we would have
time to walk to gate 3 to get our rides."

Among the challenges faced by an office like Personnel is that while
Ateneo is a family-oriented community and harbors a friendly work
environment, Offie feels "that we have to be professional in dealing
with other employees, and also in dealing with new people, whose
backgrounds and experiences are different from ours."

Offie's notion of service reflects what she has probably learned early
on many years ago: "When one loves one's work, even if one is not paid
for it, one does it anyway. Service is different when you do it from
the heart."

Our deep thanks to the awardees, not only for the committed and joyful
service, but also for the generosity that allowed you to share your
stories that continue to encourage the rest of us.

-Maricor Baytion
For the University Service Awards Committee

Event in November: National Book Award winner for fiction MGA GERILYA
SA POWELL STREET by Benjamin Pimentel goes onstage at the CCP,
weekends. Stars Tommy Abuel, Bembol Roco, Lou Veloso, Bodgie Pascua,
Dido de la Paz. Tanghalang Pilipino: 02-8323661; 09209621050.

Ateneo de Manila University Press
Bellarmine Hall, AdMU Campus
Katipunan Ave., Loyola Heights
Tel 02-4265984; 4266001 ext 4613
unipress at admu.edu.ph
Visit our website: www.ateneopress.org

Storytelling reveals meaning without committing the error of defining it.
                          - Hannah Arendt

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