Tuesday, March 07, 2006

I went to United San Pedro's Gym this afternoon and worked on my arms and chest. I've found that gyms are pretty much alike. Gold's Gym or Fitness First in Manila, which usually charter to the class "A" flocks and foreigners usually have better equipment and facilities. You can even get a spa and message if you too after your workout. On the other hand, gyms throughout Manila aren't all that impressive. In San Pedro where I'm staying, they have treadmills, bikes, free weights and the like. The equipment which belongs more in a museum than a gym are extremely old (they look like artifacts from the 70's) . Alot of it just sits there and gathers dust. Usually the music would be blasting away in the background. The big guys, if they're not heaving and grunting away, are usually flexing in front of the mirror. Beware, they don't believe in using towels here, so if you lie down to do bench presses your back might be soaking in someone else's sweat. This is type of gym is for class "C" and below, which probably covers 99% of the population in the Philippines.
Two of my students Marvin and Jomel weren't happy about their thesis and they didn't mind airing it out to the whole class. My fourth year Computer Science class had finished submitting their thesis to a panel of University prefessors who were responsible for the overall grading and evaluation their efforts. A few students needed to polish their documentation, while many had some major - whether it was redesigning the look, function or documentation of their thesis. I couldn't believe how much money they had all spent in putting together their thesis. I think it ranged from 8000 pesos (under US$156.00) to around 30,000 pesos (US$585.00). Thats alot of pesos, especially for a struggling provincial town like Baliuag. Baliuag, the town where I work is situated in Bulacan, which is about an hour's drive from Manila. Its not as progressive or as developed as Manila, its still agriculturally based and many people still depend on farming or relatives sending money from overseas as a supplement. To give you an idea, the average salary is around 5,000 pesos per month.

I could tell by the strain in their voices that Marvin and Jomel were highly disappointed. Their thesis was a study on the effectiveness of teaching computer subjects in High Schools. They interviewed some of the schools and found that the average Filippino classroom had a ratio of one computer to ten students (1:10). Infact, many of the schools don't teach computers at all. Instead, the schools emphasised the teaching of agricultural and livihood programs.

Sometimes theres not much that you can say or do as a teacher. One of my student recently had her mother pass away, another got into fights with her parents. The money that they need to dig up to finish their schooling, to pay for their thesis material, or just even to get by is really putting alot stress on them and their families. Some are in debt, others graduate only to become unemployed, and still others just seem to go around carrying emotional baggages with them.

Of all the challenges that they go through, I admire the ordinary Filippino man. He has a spirit of joy, of generousity and of love. More important he has a spirit that doesn't give up, that won't accept defeat. Maybe you heard of a few bad eggs, but the majority of the people really shine. I think what makes Filippinos unique is the closeness of their families and friends. They do really value relationships, and I think it shows in the way they support and help each other through tough and difficult times. There's alot to be said and written about the Filippino spirit, but thats something I'd like to share with you next time. But let me leave you to think and comment on this quote:

The willow knows what the storm does not know: that the power to endure harm outlives the power to inflict it.

- Blood of the Martyr