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I’ve been busy. For the past three years, mostly with motherhood. For the past couple of months, also with work. For the past thirty minutes, with reading old personal entries on this blog. This one stood out to me:
"There are very short periods of time when I’m not really here. Mostly, it’s when I’m walking from one point to the next, passing in between people rushing, walking leisurely, and standing still. The other day, I ordered my regular drink from Starbucks - or what was my regular drink back in San Francisco - and at the first sip, I completely disappeared from Ayala Avenue and was somewhere in between Sansome and Bush.
It is a little bit peculiar, this sporadic feeling of walking the invisible streets of elsewhere. Perhaps we take with us wherever we’ve been, and Home, slowly but surely, becomes not a place, but something that exists within us, something we keep inside our very selves wherever we go.”
That was August 2009. Almost five years ago. And I can certainly recall the feeling I described, but I can no longer feel it. Wherever I am now, that is where I am. I am in the Philippines, my heart and my mind are. The journey from August 2009 to January 2014 has been eventful, mostly great and happy events, with a sprinkling of major disappointments and disillusionment.
It would be easy to say that there’s a thin line between idealism and cynicism, but the truth is, there is a wide open space of apathy, ambivalence, and vague emotions between idealism and cynicism. Being away from the Philippines, my idealism was comfortably cushioned by the distance, by romanticism, by being away from it all. Coming back home, where the reality I only wrote about before actually is reality, my idealism was exposed to the elements. Reading my older entries, I realize now how romanticized my writing was, how cloaked in blissful ignorance, how naive. Perhaps that was important though, to build enough momentum for me to have come home, and at points of disappointment, for me to not completely give up.
So yes, my feet are planted firmly on Filipino ground.
1. What is it that you do with passion, conviction, and determined purpose? Why do you do it? (This doesn’t have to be your day job, of course.)
I am passionate about education, definitely a more multifaceted view on learning and teaching that goes beyond the classrooms. I am interested in the different ways that we achieve education, the different foundations and sources of learning. For me, it is important that I acknowledge and validate the diversity and complexity of ways in which people learn. This might be through personal experience, family history, sharing narratives and stories, through creativity and experimentation, discoveries, travel and journey, introspection, from making connections and interpretations, subversion and dissent, inspiration from art, music, literature, and pop culture. Too often, I realized, these important sources of knowledge are undermined if not stifled. I think this is what attracts me to museum education, not just as a supplemental tool in learning and teaching but an important and powerful tool. The powerful and empowering questions, ideas, surprises, and discoveries sparked by museum visits/experiences are limitless and lifelong. So many of the valuable life lessons I have learned have come from my own museum visits. Why do I do it? I love being a part of a student’s museum experience. For kids to be able to see themselves reflected within the rich diversity and tradition of art. To bridge the gap between the objects and art on the wall to what is relevant to their lives. To help guide students to deeper understanding and making connections through different perspectives; allowing them to weave their own narrative and interpretation. To bring their own experience, history, and identity inside the museum and at the same time recognize our shared humanity. I want students and youths to discover the power of our cultural identity through art. To spark enduring conversations that transcend. A more selfish reason would be that I simply love working in a museum environment. The beautiful architecture, creative colleagues, being surrounded by awesome works of art everyday. It’s my dream job, really.
2. When and how did you know about this passion of yours? Was there a person who influenced you? If so, who and how?
Education is probably in my blood. My parents actually met as teachers in the Philippines so being a teacher/educator kind of runs in the family. I was an eager student. Never really aimed to be the top of the class, but always sought a more well rounded academic experience. It wasn’t until I came to America, when I realized the importance of education as a person with little or no privilege. This was also the time when I realized what good education is and how important great teachers are. In high school, I was a part of a program that had a completely different approach to education. The program used narratives, arts, literacy, and the outdoors as tools to teach the core subjects of English, History, and Science. This means we weren’t limited by the walls of our classrooms. For a lesson on US History for example, we traveled and camped in Lake Tahoe to meet and be with Native Americans (who weren’t in costume) and talked to them about their concerns for their dying language. We surveyed their land and learned about their culture that is very much tied to the land. It was all powerful education. Everything that we learned inside the classroom had real relevant impact on our lives as students, people of color, living in America. Being in this learning environment and having great teachers definitely influenced me to be an educator and develop similar views on education. Of course, other experiences have only reinforced this interest and passion for education. I think about my travels and studies abroad as important influences. To be able to have classes in the Prado and Reina Sofia in Madrid is such a surreal experience. I can also say that informal education has had a profound effect on myself. Traveling throughout Southeast Asia has definitely opened my eyes to the lives of others, to empathy, and finding my place.
3. Who/What are your current influences, role models, inspirations?
I’m constantly inspired. I’ve always looked up to our National Hero Jose Rizal, and the fact that he was so ahead of his time. I feel a kind of special kinship with Rizal having studied and lived in Madrid too. I think my idea of a global, intellectual Filipino comes from studying and learning about Jose Rizal and his fellow ilustrados. I still believe in Barack Obama. Not so much as transformational figure (although he is that too) but as a pragmatist, working with very real issues today. His narrative is just so unique in American culture and politics. Reading about Michelle Obama the other day, I find it inspirational that we have two dynamic and intelligent equals in the White House. Often, I also turn to literature to make sense of the world around me and see things in different perspectives. I’ve found strong resonance in the works of Jhumpa Lahiri, Sherman Alexie, Junot Diaz, and Jessica Hagedorn among others. Once in a while, I also stumble upon words or poems by Pablo Neruda, Langston Hughes, Audre Lorde, Arundhati Roy, and Rumi that I contemplate on and come back to. Visuals, a photograph, art, graphic design can also spark inspirations. Music. Stories. Most of the things you can find on my online brain: http://followyourbliss.tumblr.com/archive. I hope to travel again soon and find inspiration in that. Obviously museum visits. Someone in the museum world, I admire deeply is Melissa Chiu from Asia Society. Her knowledge and expertise is enviable and inspirational. (http://bigthink.com/melissachiu#!video_idea_id=5084) Lately, I’ve been enjoying and really taking in Connections (http://www.metmuseum.org/connections/), an online project by the Metropolitan Museum of Art that asks museum staff to talk about the connections and relevance of the art in their lives. Each one is so unique and interesting. Living in the city is also a great inspiration. Always, I come back the great teachers and mentors in my life. They continue to inspire and influence me.