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When passion-driven teaching succeeds

Jee Y. Geronimo
3 awardees of Metrobank's Search for Outstanding Teachers talk about teaching and more

MANILA, Philippines – “Every success story will almost always have a teacher behind it.”

These were the words of Sen Aquilino Pimentel III, who delivered the keynote speech during the awarding ceremonies of the 2013 Metrobank Outstanding Filipinos on Thursday, September 5, coinciding with the first day of National Teachers’ Month.

The 29th batch of the Search for Outstanding Teachers consists of 4 elementary teachers, 4 high school teachers, and 2 college professors.

Standing out among 367 nominees, the 10 winners were lauded for their excellence inside and outside of the classroom: Fely Batiloy, Dr Mitchel Rodriguez, Cherry Vinluan, Rodel Sampang, Dominique Maquiran, Marcelo Otinguey, Dr Maria Teresa Bautista, Maria Lorna Garnace, Dr Alfredo Robles Jr. and Dr Emilyn Espiritu. 

Rappler sat down with 3 of the awardees to talk about how they got into teaching, what made them stay, and how their passions fuel their profession.

PLAYTIME. In this still photo, Fely Batiloy sings one of her student's composition about dengue awareness. All photos by Rappler 

Teach and play

Fely Batiloy grew up singing folksongs to the strum of her father’s guitar. She clearly has talent, and one she did not wish to keep to herself. So she chose to teach it.

In her 19 years of service, she not only mentored the children’s choir of Iloilo City’s Special Education-Integrated School for Exceptional Children (SPED-ISEC), but also composed and arranged songs used in the Mother Tongue-Based Curriculum of the Department of Education.

She teaches music both to elementary and high school students, and with her wide range of songs – from folksongs to the timeless Walt Disney ones – she makes every class seem like playtime.

“It’s not really that challenging [teaching special children], I’m enjoying it because it’s my passion, so it’s just like playing,” she says.

It goes without saying that her choir members are fast learners. Once, they were only given 15 days to prepare for a competition, and Fely only needed 3 hours each day to practice a 5-song repertoire with 3 voices.

But it must have been the teacher factor too. “You know when you have your choir, it’s backbreaking. [But] hard work is the value.”

“Music…[can] touch the heart and soul of a person. You can sing when you’re happy, when you’re sad, when you’re lonely. For me, music is the most powerful medium of instruction.”

LIFE AS SERVICE. Marcelo Otinguey selflessly shares his talents and resources to serve his community. 

Teach and serve

Life was hard for young Marcelo Otinguey and his family. He wanted to be a nurse, but it was a dream his parents could not afford.

He went into teaching values education in Ampusongan National High School instead and discovered that his accidental profession can still be a platform for his mantra: “Life as service.”

In Bakun, Benguet, children skip school to help their parents in farming and mining. Since Marcelo could not bring them to school, he decided to bring the school to them by putting up community libraries and learning centers.

His joy in serving the community extends to the indigenous peoples. By way of education, he has helped preserve and nurture the cultural heritage and practices of the Kankana-ey Bago Tribe.

The best part of the job, he says, is when students thank him. “Salamat sa iyo dahil sa patuloy na pag-gabay mo sa amin. Salamat din sa iba’t ibang karanasan na dahil sa iyo ay natutunan namin,” he remembers his students as saying.

(Thank you for continually guiding us. Thank you, also, for the different experiences we learned because of you.)

“I think it is still my passion to serve, I think that is innate in me, even when I was young, I feel it…Kahit wala kang pera, wala kang resources, yung ginagawa mo parang magaan sa kalooban (Even without money and resources, what you do feels good inside).”

READ: Rappler’s #ThankYouTeacher live conversation

REWARDING. Emilyn Espiritu says the highlight of every teaching year is when she sees the faces of her students light up as they receive their diplomas. 

Teach and care

Dr Emilyn Espiritu could not escape teaching. With a mother who did it for 43 years, and relatives who served in public schools, she wanted to avoid it at all cost.

But as she found herself applying for a teaching job straight out of college, she knew she had been indoctrinated to be in it for the long haul.

She began teaching environmental science at the Ateneo de Manila University at a time when they were stereotyped as “tree-huggers.” But as problems concerning the environment loomed, enrollees of the program boomed.

“I hope to see the day when there will be no need for a B.S. Environmental Science because then that means we have solved the environmental problems that we face, so this course will become irrelevant,” she says in a mix of English and Filipino.

Her research and expertise in the field has benefited various government and non-government organizations.

But for her, practice still trumps theory, and it is in her personal battles for the environment that she gets her students to listen and act on what they learned.

“I saw that it was not just the environmental science majors who were doing programs for the environment. I saw the involvement of other students coming from other disciplines. That’s when I realized they saw how they can contribute,” she says. –

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Jee Y. Geronimo

Jee is part of Rappler's Central Desk, handling most of the world, science, and environment stories on the site. She enjoys listening to podcasts and K-pop, watching Asian dramas, and running long distances. She hopes to visit Israel someday to retrace the steps of her Savior.