Singapore family sends daughter to PH public school
MANILA, Philippines – While most tourists in the Philippines head straight for the beaches, a Singaporean family went off the beaten track for their vacation by sending their child to a Philippine public school.
Toh Yong Chuan and his wife were taken aback one day to learn that their 8-year-old daughter, Deborah, and her peers compared vacation plans in school. Deborah went home that day wondering why her family didn't travel outside the country like her classmates did over the holidays.
“Worried about where this might lead, we wondered how to give our daughter a bit more perspective about life and holidays,” he wrote in The Straits Times.
The family went to Cauayan City, the hometown of their Filipina househelp Maricel. The rural area that depends on rice and corn farms is home to just 122,000 people.
The experience of the family reflected the state of public education in the Philippines. (READ: The value of education: Australia vs the Philippines)
Deborah attended Cauayan South Central School with Maricel’s 9-year-old daughter Charelle. For three days, she was like any normal student, even wearing the school uniform and riding the tricycle to school.
The school, considered the largest public school in the area, has about 4000 pupils in 87 classes. Toh observed that the school provides free education to children “working-class parents including farmers, labourers, and women working overseas”.
Toh described the school as “nothing like any in Singapore.” Aside from uneven pathways to school buildings, the dimly-lit classrooms with poor ventilation were packed.
“Teachers kept going even as the temperature soared to a sweltering 38 degrees,” he recalled whenever three-hour power interruptions happened.
To their surprsie and amusement, Deborah quickly formed a bond with her classmates. On her last day in school, she wrote that the strongest impression of them was kindness.
It did not only show in the children. Parents threw a lunch party for the departing family. Toh wrote that the community bought different kinds of Filipino food such as fried noodles, grilled fish, and stewed pork.
At the end of their stay, Deborah’s parents got more than what they expected.
“My wife and I had imagined that a few days in a school in Cauayan would leave Deborah appreciating Singapore and her school more,” her father wrote. “But physical discomforts left less of an impression on her than the acts of kindness and friendship from children she had known for such a short time.”
The warm attitude given by the people of Cauayan left Deborah wanting to go back.
“We had been guilty of under-rating Deborah's ability to adapt and to value small acts of love and kindness over material comforts,” Toh wrote.
A different side
Sentiments poured on the Straits Times article as Netizens saw Toh’s move as light in a difficult time between Singaporeans and Filipinos. (Read: Anti-Filipino protest rekindles anger vs foreigners in Singapore)
“This article comes at the most opportune moment when some Singaporeans try to tarnish their society by being mean to Filipinos,” Vida Gruet commented. “This shows the more kind and rational side of our historically friendly neighbour.” –Rappler.com
Editor's note: Rappler tried to contact the author of the Straits Times article.