Saturday, July 11, 2015

The Perfect Last Day in Tacloban Part III

Saturday, July 4th

    After a fascinating tour of Sotoham Cave in Basey, we had a feast for lunch which was delivered to us by boat (thanks to the Mayor).  Then we jumped into colorful Kayaks to paddle off to the natural bridge and enjoy the cool feel of the lake.


The trip to the bridge was a good tricep workout. I thought I would be able to go without shoes in the kayak, boy was I wrong.  The rocky area was painful on my feet, not like a massage.

The mayor's wife and Marian all tried to give me their shoes but my stubborn self wouldn't take them, so I just walked slowly, and took the pain, it hurt.  Finally we got to the other side and got back into the kayaks to head to the natural bridge -- it was gorgeous.

The bridge was naturally created by the rocks and it was so beautiful to look up at it from the fresh water lake below!

We spent around 45 minutes in the fresh water swimming around and jumping into it.  We were the only ones there, it was so secluded, I felt like it was something out of a movie.

The picture to the left is me taking it all in and loving it!

It's amazing the beauty nature can create on it's own, I felt so lucky to experience that.  We were also so fortunate to have had perfect weather while we were there, not a drop of rain!

Gail and I spent time doing yoga poses on top of a rock before jumping off -- that was a little scary but really fun.  The jump into the water left me feeling refreshed and exhilarated, I ended up doing it two more times--a starfish pose then a dive, woop woop!

We ended the spectacular day by stopping at the Mayor's country home in Basey and having, you know what, a snack --cassava cake and coffee.  Then, we walked to his mother's home down the street. Filipinos always live close to family and sometimes even live in compounds where everyone is nearby.  The mayor's mom was so adorable and sweet, she welcomed us into her home and was very excited to have us.  She also reminded me a lot of my grandmother to the point where it made me cry a little, I just couldn't control my emotions!  I am so excited to see her, it's been 12 years.

Mayor's country home!
 We ended the day with another snack at Sir Aldim's house this time and we got the chance to meet his sister, which was nice.  His home is so him, it's perfect for him, very cute -- it even has a spiral staircase.

We ended the day with drinks at a local bar with Obet, Dean, and Aldim, all enjoying San Miguel beers.  It was a bittersweet ending because it was so nice to be with them and remember the time we had together but knowing that it will probably be a long time before we see them again was very sad.  There is hope for them to visit the states though, and I have a lot of confidence in myself that I will  get back to the Philippines and Tacloban again, my work here is not done!

Thursday, July 9, 2015

The Perfect Last Day in Tacloban Part II

July 4th, 2015

   Once we arrived at the caves we carefully stepped off the boats with the help of the guards and headed up to prepare for our cave tour.  We were pleasantly greeted by guitar music and the natural beauty of our surroundings!

 These guitarists were wonderful, the music really created a nice ambiance while we ate lunch and we even danced to the music!

The hut below was where we put our things and ate lunch, quite pretty and slightly rustic at the same time.

We all got helmets from the people there and set off on our adventure through the cave.

Of course I chose the orange helmet ;)

We toured through the right and left chambers of the cave, saw bats, and some interesting stalactites (hangs from the ceiling) and stalagmites (mineral deposits that grow up).  The neat thing about this cave is that there are no lights that are already planted in the cave, we used two flashlights to see everything, it was really neat.   
The sparkly white is calcium carbonate and we were not allowed to touch it because the oil on our skin will cause it to turn brown, it is very pretty and eye catching though.  We also saw tiny bats sleeping at the top of the cave.
There were some really neat formations and when you use your imagination you can see how they resemble different things.

The figure to the left looks like a giant jelly fish!   See the mini-bats below.  Overall, the cave tour was pretty neat, and it wasn't as cold as I thought it would be in there.  I have many more pictures from inside the cave you can see on my facebook page :)

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

The perfect last day in Tacloban -- Part I

         Saturday, July 4th

         Today is the 4th of July, and I kind of forgot about it --- the day was that spectacular!  We were picked up at Hotel XYZ (Yes, that's really the name, and I have the story behind it) at 7:30 in a van with the wife of the Mayor of Basey and Marian (both English teachers and colleagues of Obet's).

We had spent time with the Mayor's wife the night before and she just exudes goodness, she is so sweet, generous and kind, so it was nice to be able to spend more time with her.  Sir Aldim met us at the van and we drove to pick up Obet and the mayor's bodyguards and his driver.  It took over an hour to the Sotoham Caves and Natural Bridge.  The roads were uneven and narrow, but we saw how people who live in that area harvest rice and dry it.

Rice being dried on the street.

As we drove through the town of Basey (pronounced "Basay), I took pictures of a nipa hut, market, subdivision, and elementary school.

Boy outside of nipa hut
Love the markets

Version of the nipa hut

Elementary School

Subdivisions are so different in the Philippines.  The roads are very narrow

The town is quaint and simple.  We picked up two bodyguards and the driver of the mayor in town and headed to the lake where we would get on a pump boat to travel to the caves.

Then, off we went, taking two pump boats to the caves, it was gorgeous on the way there.  

The picture above is a suspended bridge.  I'm sure it is not being used since many boards in it are broken.  The sights of the mountain on the way to the caves were beautiful, it was like being in the set of a movie just before the suspense starts to build up.
   The Philippines has so much unspoiled natural beauty!

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Last Day at Leyte National High School Part II

Friday, July 3, 2015 ( I apologize for being behind on my posts!)

     The second part of our last day on Friday was the Closing ceremony.  This was time time the other two fellows and I planned to do our performance for the students and staff.  The ceremony was short and sweet.  It opened up with some incredible performances from the students:

 This was the opening choir, and they sounded beautiful!  They also sand the Philippine National Anthem, so pretty.

Below is the opening dance performance, the costumes were gorgeous with vibrant colors.  The students were all birds, I think maybe eagles.

This is a snippet of the caliber of dancers we watched.  They also won a national championship, they were something to see!

I have been continuously amazed and in awe of the talent and creativity I have seen during my time here in the Philippines, these kids are all around incredible, from the arts to academics, I wish everyone could witness this, they are one of a kind!


Our thank you performance to the students and staff was nothing like what they presented to us, but I think we definitely surprised them, it was very unexpected.  After our thank you performance we presented thank you card and a certificate of recognition to Obet for all that he has done for IREX and the TGC program.  

After that the program came to a close and I was then bombarded with pictures!  I have never had my picture taken this much, not even on my wedding day. Filipinos LOVE selfies, and everyone seemed to want a picture with me.  Below is just an idea of how crazy the photo op was.  Overall, it was an overall fun last day with the kids, although my face hurt by the end of it ;)


"Where's Alex?!"  I'm somewhere in the middle.  

Last day at Leyte National High School Part 1

Friday, July 3, 2015 

     Today is our last day, we spent a little over an hour preparing for our thank you performance to the students, staff, and administration of Leyte National High.   We are scheduled to give some closing remarks to everyone and I thought it might be cool to do a speech choir performance, similar to what they prepared for our welcome ceremony. 

The other two teachers absolutely loved the idea and collaboratively we planned the presentation, mind you, it will not be near the level that the students performed at but we did our best. 

This morning we had the opportunity to visit a small public school called Marasbaras National High School, and it was probably pretty much tied for the best classroom experience I've had, I did really enjoy presenting to Leyte about my school.  We were surprised by the students standing in a line playing the drums and saluting us as we walked to the entrance of the school, what at welcome!  Every school has greeted us in their own special way, we were also given pretty name tags. 

I thought it was neat that they had
a wall with pictures of teachers
doing best practices!
We visited two 8th grade classrooms, the first was a science class and the students were learning about force and motion, the second was a math class where they were dividing polynomials,  advanced right?!

I did find out from the principal that these two classes were ones that students testing into, so that aligned with what I observed.  It was neat though, the teacher was using a projector and created an interactive lesson by having the students come up and place each activity into it's appropriate category, either pull, push, or twist.  For example, turning a doorknob is a twist. 

Then the math teacher came in (so we, the fellows never moved classrooms).  We found out that was because the math teacher had prepared a powerpoint and that room was the only one with a projector.  She started with an objectives slide, and stated the objective aloud.  Then she went out to solve a class problem together which was a review.  There was a lot of whole group choral responses or just the teacher posing a question to the entire classroom. 

This English teacher does not have a projector so she makes use of colored printouts and typed definitions for students.  Teachers in the Philippines do not have much, but they definitely try their best and use all resources!  

One of the fellows and I really wanted to see a regular classroom, not one that was considered "gifted" so Obet kindly obliged us and we went in to observe an English class.  That was one of my favorite classroom visits.  You could tell right away that this class had regular students in it by their behavior and some of their answers.  They were working on describing cultural traditions in a picture with support from a text.  The students worked in groups and read through the text together. 

While students read in groups, I took that opportunity to listen in to a group of boys read.  It was so interesting to see them all reading the text aloud chorally.  As a teacher, I think that's a good strategy, but when kids read in a small group I like to hear each of them read.  So, I asked the boys to take turns reading sentences and paragraphs, which allowed me to listen to their fluency and correct any mistakes in pronunciation.  I was amazed at how fluently the boys read, it was wonderful.  After they read a paragraph, I stopped them do a check for understanding about what they were reading, the boys answered accurately and used text evidence it was great to see that the students who were in a regular class were also well behaved and had good reading fluency and comprehension.

Then, the teacher had a few students come up to present on what they learned, unlike the other classes we've seen (more advanced ones), the students were very shy and hesitate to volunteer.  After the first presentation, nobody wanted to volunteer to present second, so I chimed in.  I suggested that the teacher call on the group I read with next, and she did.  The boy closest to the front of the picture above, Qryl, was the one to go up -- it was evident that he did not want to do that and had some anxiety.  He did reluctantly go up and did what the teacher wanted him to do.  Afterwards  I came over to him to congratulate him on a job well done and on his courage to do that.  I told Qryl that he should volunteer more often in front of the room and asked why he did not.  His response was, "I know ma'am, I need to get more self-esteem."  Hearing how he understood his own area of improvement was so reflective of him.

Qryl on the right

Soon after, the class transitioned over to history and the students stayed in the same room and got out different notebooks.  A new teacher came in for history, which was taught in the dialect Waray.  I continued to watch Qryl and noticed him sitting up straight in his seat and eagerly listening.  The teacher asked a question and he raised his hand to answer, and I could tell he felt more confident in himself too.  Watching him made me feel like I had made a difference in his life and I felt the sense of fulfillment that I have only gotten in teaching, it's why I pursued education.  Below is a picture of me with all of the boys I listened to read and gave suggestions too.  From left to right the names of the boys are:  Qyrl, Mark, Kenlie, Isabelo, Lemuel, Elvero, and Jay.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Presentations and Classroom Visits

Thursday, July 2

    Today, I finished my presentation to two other classes and they went well, the kids absolutely loved learning the Bachata!!

After that we had the chance to visit an Elementary Public School.  In fact, it was called a Sped school, or special school that has both students who are gifted (advanced), and students with autism.  I thought that was neat, I don't think we have anything like that in the United States.  The thought behind that is the gifted learners could support the students with special needs.  We also had the opportunity to visit a primary classroom, first and second grades, that was a lot of fun for me!

Practicing the bachata!

What was incredible about the primary classrooms were the class sizes, 45 students!!  I was shocked! I do not believe there should be that many students in a primary room, they can't even move around --and students that age need the movement!  I spoke to the group on the right a little bit, some were very shy, but a few answered my questions.  They all knew their short vowel sounds for the most part, a few were confused by short e and short o, but they got it.  I was also able to steal a moment from the teacher to teach the class a cheer, it was so exhilarating, and they all listened so well!

1st grade classroom, 45 students
I had to squeeze behind this group to get a picture, very crowded, but students still well behaved!

It was wonderful to be able to visit these primary classrooms and it was so nice to see how  well behaved and respectful the little kids are as well!  It is clear to me that students in the Philippines value education and the teachers are highly respected --makes me want to teach in the Philippines!