Second mother's love: Teacher buys togas for poor students
MANILA, Philippines – For her students, Virgita Diaz has a heart big enough for a class of 51, and more.
A heartwarming photo of Virgita Diaz buying graduation togas for her Grade 6 students went viral on Friday, March 29. She is a teacher from Kiblat Elementary School in the province of Sarangani.
After learning that 18 of her students had no togas and 41 others had no graduation caps for their Moving Up Ceremony on Tuesday, April 2, Diaz decided to do something about it. She shopped for togas in General Santos City, an hour ride from Kiblat.
"I bought togas for them because I didn't want Tuesday to come with the kids not having anything to wear. My students commonly come from broken families. Some were abandoned by their parents. That's usually the story of the kids I bought togas for. They've really been through a lot," Diaz told Rappler in Filipino.
The togas cost her around P7,600 ($146), more than her monthly take-home pay of P6,600 ($127). Her salary is P21,000 ($403) without loans.
"Ang naisip ko, bahala na walang matira sa akin, ang importante maibigay ko 'yung pangangailangan ng mga bata," she added. (I thought to myself, it doesn't matter if I have nothing left for myself, as long as I can provide for the kids.)
The touching gesture made one of her students emotional, Diaz said.
"Umiyak daw siya, kasi sabi niya sa 'kin, hindi bale daw na wala siyang nanay, wala siyang tatay. Ang importante, may teacher siya na nagmamahal sa kanya," Diaz said. (He cried, because he told me it didn't matter if he didn't have a mother or a father. What mattered was that he had a teacher who truly loves him.)
Kiblat, a remote community in Malungon, Sarangani, is home to families whose primary source of income is farming. Often, these families barely make ends meet with their unstable income.
More than meets the eye
Diaz's Facebook post has gotten over 28,000 reactions and 14,000 shares as of posting time, with netizens commending Diaz for her generosity.
But there's more to her story than meets the eye.
Knowing how tough life is for her students, Diaz has made it her life's mission to provide for them even in small ways, whenever she can. She recalled how their classroom didn't have its own restroom, which led to her "sacrificing" her salary to have restrooms built for her pupils.
"Ang importante sa akin, 'yung paano ko magampanan 'yung papel ko bilang pangalawang magulang. Hindi lamang sa pagtuturo ang papel ko bilang teacher," an emotional Diaz said. (What's important to me is how I can fulfill my responsibility as their second mother. My role as a teacher doesn't end with teaching.)
Diaz also recounted how an ice cream vendor would often pass by their classroom. She could tell how badly the class wanted ice cream but couldn't afford to buy for themselves. "Ma'am, hindi pa kami nakakain ng ice cream (Ma'am, we've never had ice cream)," the students would tell her.
"Kahit kaunti lang pera ko, kinukuha ko pa sa bag ko para mabilhan at makakain sila ng ice cream," Diaz said. (Despite the little money I have, I'd still get it from my bag just to buy and have them eat ice cream.)
She stressed the need for teachers to love their students unconditionally.
"Kahit gaano kalaki 'yung gastos, ang importante noon ay makatapos sila sa pag-aaral at makapaghanap ng trabaho. Kasi balang araw, magiging future builder of our community 'yung mga bata na 'yan," Diaz added. (However expensive it is, what matters is that they finish school and find a job. Because someday, those kids will become the future builders of our community.)
Public school teachers have long called for a salary increase for them. In 2018, the Department of Budget and Management announced that no budget was allocated for teachers' salary hike. The department said however that an increase should be expected this year. (READ: You want good quality teachers? Pay them right – World Bank expert) – Rappler.com
P52.09 = $1
Sofia Virtudes is a Rappler intern. She is a development communication graduate from the University of the Philippines Los Baños.