Monday July 23, 2018

Bunye: The noblest profession

IN 2008, Bro. Armin Luistro, F.S.C., then President of De la Salle Philippines, together with the Metrobank Foundation President Aniceto Sobrepeña, spearheaded the Teachers Month Campaign.

Their efforts culminated in the signing of Presidential Proclamation 242 by then President Benigno S. Aquino III "declaring the period from September 5 to October 5 of every year as National Teachers' Month."

Subsequently, by virtue of Republic Act 10743, October 5 was declared as National Teachers Day.

It is only fitting that we publicly and consistently express our appreciation for the nobility and quiet heroism of our teachers. A nation that honors its teachers is a noble nation. After all, without teachers there would be no lawyers, doctors, engineers, soldiers, captains of industry, priests and public servants.

I have a strong fondness for teachers. My father, Alfredo Sr., my mother Sofia, my sister Victoria (ABB}, and even my youngest, Frannie, were all former teachers. I, too, consider myself as a teacher - having once taught catechism in public schools in Marikina as part of my college extra-curricular activities.

Thus, whenever the occasion presents itself, I never tire of speaking about my former teachers and professors: Consolacion Francisco, Simeon Bumanglag, Paz Ruivivar, Concepcion Ofina, Fidela Garcia, Carmelita Perez, Pilar Leaño, Marcela Ponce, Pilar Franco, Teodora Sacco, Catalina Roque, Sofia Bunye (my mother), Cesar Tiangco, Eric Torres, Dory Katigbak, James Culligan S.J., Gabriel Singson, Pompeyo Diaz, and Ricardo Puno. In one way or another, they all helped me become what I am.

On this occasion, allow me to write about one of my most remarkable teachers.

For more than three decades, Cesar Sioson Tiangco served as the first principal of my alma mater, the Muntinlupa High School (now Muntinlupa National High School or MNHS). Established in 1945, MNHS was the very first post-war public high school established south of Manila.

Initially conceived as a school for the children of Bureau of Prison employees, the school soon found itself attracting students not only from the New Bilibid Prison reservation but even beyond the boundaries of Muntinlupa. Outside students came from as far as the neighboring towns of San Pedro, Biñan, Las Piñas and Parañaque.

Its initial teaching staff of four (including the principal) had to perform multi-tasking to meet the needs of the schools growing population. The other pioneer teachers of Muntinlupa National High School were Catalina Roque, Teodora Sacco and Lourdes Tibayan.

We found Mr. Tiangco awe-inspiring as he proved himself more than equal to the task of being principal, English teacher, adviser to the student publication, review teacher for one of the earliest national competitive examination. One of his key messages to his students: Read, read and read.

Day in and day out, he was first in school and last to leave. We, his students, could only wonder where he got all that energy.

But as busy as he was, he still found time to indulge in his two passions: collecting butterflies and writing.

Together with his five pretty daughters, he amassed a collection of hundreds of beautifully preserved butterflies, which he proudly shared with his students and visitors.

He wrote short stories and poems that saw print in the pre-war Sun Tribune Magazine and later in Agricultural Commercial Industrial Life, Philippine Free Press, Mr. and Ms. and Women's Magazine.

His short story "Father Damian's Trial" placed 14th among 100 Best Short Stories submitted by Asian Authors in the 1987 Asia Week Story Competition. His play "Wild Flowers" topped a contest held by National Library Association of the Philippines for Stage Play Presentation.

He also authored two books: Making Life Beautiful (a collection of inspirational essays and stories) and Message of the Apparition (a novel).

In 1976, after serving for 31 years as principal in Muntinlupa High School, Mr. Tiangco became principal of the Rizal High School, his alma mater.

He retired four years later upon reaching the mandatory age of 65. He died on February 1, 2006 at the ripe age of 91.

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