CHARLOTTE, North Carolina -- What to do when your baby sister asked you to do something before she breathed her last? As the elder sister, the expectation would be to help make her wishes come true.
My “manghud” baby sister Aida Naelga-Pacana was laid to her final rest the other day and my thoughts raced back six months ago when we had our last talk in Cagayan de Oro City last March.
At the time she mentioned about a research project for high school students. You see, my late sister is a teacher’s teacher. She breathed teaching and imparting science and life lessons to students, nieces and nephews alike.
She espoused the idea of allowing first year high school students to develop their own projects that they can finish until the end of their senior high school years.
Aida had this idea despite her speech difficulty that she incurred in her first stroke. This proposal for students to conduct an “investigative study” on their own should be given importance by the Department of Education (DepEd).
I asked her if she referred to only her science class and she replied that it is applicable to all high school students. Aida said this prolonged research activity by students can produce valuable inputs that can be used by the communities and education planners.
Their research on topics science can be used by the Department of Science and Technology or sustainable hospitality and tourism can be used by agencies like the Department of Tourism and so on.
But the catch is that these research projects should be funded by DepEd. That way, the students can be junior researchers and be responsible for their study.
I am unfamiliar with the DepEd's K to 12 program but Aida's idea may show that the DepEd had a lot of work to do to develop a “culture of research” among high school students.
Aida also suggested logistic and financial support to all students. But reality check here, we know that only those at the top of their class are given support and this support remains wanting.
What I can only remember are the projects I took during my time and that was a long time ago. I may be old but I can still recall our projects were not seriously done. It was only completed as compliance for our graduation.
Maybe school projects improved through the years but much remains to be desired. So allowing students to conduct long term research projects may give them incentive to be serious in their studies and prepare them for the long, tough road of graduation ahead.
I left the Philippines knowing my sister had a point and it was very relevant to improving the country's educational system. I was reminded of her idea when she passed away and I couldn't find myself to argue with the wisdom of her ideas.
She still has other ideas but let me look for that piece of paper that she handed to me which contained her original ideas. Also let me give you my sister's background.
My sister Aida Naelga-Pacana was a chemistry teacher for nearly 30 years since she graduated with an education degree at Xavier University in 1989.
She spent her first year of teaching at Liceo de Cagayan University and her subsequent hiring by the Misamis Oriental General Comprehensive High School to teach chemistry resulted in 26 years spent honing her students's skills and active participation in the community and the parents-teachers association.
Aida was then promoted as principal in a far–flung school in Claveria town, Misamis Oriental two years ago and it was then that she got sick. She was never the same again, being sickly until her death a week ago.
As I write this I could not hold back my tears because I knew she loves her two sons Keven Matthew and Yestin Mark dearly.
She was always the emcee in school programs and her voice will reverberate in the corners of her classroom. I noticed this whenever I visit her at MOGHS and her voice was the first thing that her stroke took from her. Life is tragic at times.
But she continued to climb to the hinterland area in Claveria town every Sunday and went home on Friday afternoon without a whimper. Aida just wanted to impart knowledge to students.
It could have been different if she was still the old, able and energetic Aida that she was known for when she became principal. I saw a Facebook post of that beautiful school in Claveria and it was just unfortunate.
Maybe she reported to her remote assignment because of the salary. And maybe she reported despite the health ordeal she had because she was married to her profession.
A month ago I was surprised to see a greeting from Aida Naelga Pacana” Nang” Day on my Facebook messenger account. She simply said “musta (hello).” It was a surprise because she was not much of a Facebook user.
So I talked to her and she told me that she is going to avail of her early retirement on her birthday on Sept. 21. I asked what made her change her mind even as I prayed that she would retire early.
She answered “kasab-an ko ni (I'll be reprimanded).” I don't want to mention the DepEd official that she named but I asked her why she would be reprimanded. She didn't answer.
That was our last conversation and I grieve that I couldn't talk to her anymore. I can only surmise that this DepEd official may have scolded her due to her health but I don’t really know for sure.
Goodbye Aida, the younger sister I cared for in her during her childhood. Again, Aida made use of her talent not only to share her knowledge and passion for chemistry and the sciences but to teach life lessons to everyone she cared about.
I extend a special “Thank You” to Mrs. Severa Go, the principal of Tagoloan National High School for housing Aida for months prior to returning back to Claveria .
Her support to my sister is greatly appreciated. My niece Dorothy Naelga Raagas who also teaches in the same school told me to include Ms. Agnes Zamaro for also helping Aida.
For now, I take comfort in the thought that Aida is now resting peacefully in the bosom of our Lord.
Published in the SunStar Cagayan de Oro newspaper on September 13, 2017.