Edward B. Antonio
October is Teachers’ Month, fellas.
It is set to be celebrated worldwide on October 5, but any school can celebrate it within the month.
There are many stories about teachers’ heroism, but one story I could never forget was that of one Francisca Suero and Mariana Pe Benito, two teachers who were long gone but left lasting impressions in me.
One day in March (last month of the school months), while in Grade 5 at the Cabugao North Central School, Ma’am Francing, who was fascinated with our class (her advisory class), turned emotional.
“It’s goodbye days for us, kids, and I’ll surely miss the wonderful things we shared this school year,” she said. She went on to tell stories of graduates who passed by her life and the wonderful things that they shared together, too.
“I know one day, you will become great men and women in your chosen careers. When that time comes and I would be very old by then, please greet me when you see me and introduce yourself. You can say ‘Ma’am, I am Edward or Rose whom you said we would greet you when we will succeed and will see you again’ and I would be very happy for that,” she said.
Many years later, when I was already a professional, I happened to see her in the street. She was going home from the church with some of her amigas. I approached her, gave my polite greetings and reminded her of her wish when we were in Grade 5.
I didn’t know if she recognized me but she said the name seemed familiar.
We had a little chat and told her how I passed the board exams and already a professional teacher.
Her eyes glowed and tears fell down her cheeks.
“I am very, very happy for you. Live righteously and keep on lighting the world,” she said.
When I moved to Grade 6, I met Miss Mariana Pe Benito in Section A there at the Grade 6 Building. Pupils who met her a year before said she was a terror teacher and we should better transfer to Section B under the “kinder” Miss Gaudelia Cobangbang.
I tried but the other section was already full and I could not be accommodated. But things turned out good and as the months passed by, I came to know the real Miss Pe Benito. She only looked terror in the face (she was a spinster) but she was the kindest teacher I ever met. She was very kind to me, knowing that we had a hard life way back home. My father was a carpenter and he would ask me to accompany him on Saturdays in his carpentry works. I would end up handing him carpentry stuff like nails, hammer, saw, even his softdrink during merienda time. At home, I always helped him fix our garden, carried water from the neighbor and cleaned the garden of weeds.
One day, Miss Pe Benito surprisingly visited me at home. My father and I were digging fence posts at that time and I was dirty all over. She inspected our garden and she was all praises to the blooming eggplants, tomatoes and jutes. She talked with my father for a while then shook my hand.
The following Monday, Miss Pe Benito narrated her experiences when she visited all of us, but the most wonderful story was her story when she came to our house.
After the end of her narration, she said: “I know this guy (pointing to me) is very industrious. Industrious people can be judged according to the texture of their palms. This boy’s palm is very rough, and I commend him for helping his father everytime there is something to do.”
Miss Pe Benito’s eyes were beaming but when they started to get moist with tears, I suddenly cried.
I was the proudest pupil that time.
When I told this story to my parents, I felt they were the proudest parents in the world.
I went on to join an operetta in a pay-per-view stage show which she directed and role played in school programs. It was a memorable partnership with the teacher whom many considered a terror. But for me, she was one of the most wonderful teachers I ever met.
Many years later, when I became a teacher myself, I came to realize the nobility of the job.
And whenever I reach out to the kids around me during leadership trainings, community services, tutoring slow readers, campaigning for a drug-free school and other pro-youth programs designed to train future leaders, I always remember these two teachers who taught me how noble the teaching profession is.
Both teachers have joined our Creator many years ago and while they are now doing their teaching job in heaven, I hope that my little voice of “Happy Teachers Day, Ma’am Francing and Ma’am Mariana!” reach their ears.
To all teachers here and around the world, Happy Teachers Day!
May our tribe increase.#