St. Batman

Image Credit: tenminutes.ph

Image Credit: tenminutes.ph

Gumagawa ako ng presentation deck para sa isang ilulunsad na courseware sa Math. Kasama sa mga slides ang pagtalakay sa mga isyu ng pagtututo ng matematika sa Pilipinas at ang isa sa mga isyung ninanais na patuunang pansin ay ang tindig ng mga mag-aaral tungkol sa larangan.

Gusto ng nakataas namin na isingit ang mga salitang “plug and hope” dahil ugali daw ng mga mag-aaral ang pag-memorya ng pormula at saka bara-barang pagsingit ng mga halaga upang makuha ang sagot kahit hindi talaga naiintindihan ang problema. “Plug in the values and hope for the best.” Ayun, kaya “plug and hope.”

Sa akin naman, bilang suking tagasalungat, hindi ako sang-ayon sa “plug and hope.” Hindi bilang ideyang sumasalaman sa tindig sa Math kundi sa mismong mga salita. Sinira na ng media ang salitang “plug” para sa akin. (Salamat, South Park at 9gag.) At sa tinatawag na kolokasyon sa lingwistiks, mas madalas ko nang maipagtagpo ang “plug” sa salitang “butt.”

Sabi ko, kung ako ang magtatalakay ng slides, mas pipiliin kong isingit ang imahe ni Batman dahil maituturing na nating santong patron ng mga pasaway na estudyante si Batman. Ilang mag-aaral ang sumasambit ng mga salitang, “Bahala na si Batman,” tuwing may pagsusulit? Iwinasto naman ako ng isa naming kasama dahil hindi lang daw mag-aaral ang sumasamo kay Batman kundi ang malaking bahagi ng sambayanang Pilipino.

Oo nga naman.

Kulang na lang ipagpilitan nating Pilipino si Batman at ikampanya ang pagiging opisyal na santong patron ng mga namomroblemang Pilipino.

Kaya dapat maituwid ang paniniwalang ito dahil sadyang kupal si Batman. At sa tinagal-tagal nang ipinagsasa-Batman natin ang ating mga alalahanin, may naitulong na ba talaga si Batman? Dumating ba siya para saguting ang eksamen? Binayaran ba niya ang mga utang mo?

Hindi. Dahil madamot si Batman.

Biruin mo. Henyo siya at kayang-kaya niyang sagutin ang pinakamahirap na pagsusulit. Bilyunaryo siya kaya kayang-kaya niyang bayaran ang utang mo. Pero wala siyang ginagawa para sa iyo. Sakim.

Ngayon. Balik tayo sa presentation deck. Mahirap din namang makaisip ng tayutay na sasalamin sa problema sa edukasyon. Pabor lang ako sa paggamit kay Batman dahil nais kong puksain ang masyadong pag-asa sa kupal na ‘yun. Ngunit wala kaming magagawa dahil tila nakapako na ang direksyon na gamitin ang “plug and hope.”

Bahala na si Batman.

Hindi na maginhawa

Quezon City Food Fest 2014

Quezon City Food Fest 2014

Food trips are quintessential to any barkada. Communal gluttony is probably one of the key reasons humans were driven towards the concept of tribes. Even after 10 years out of college, food trips still draw our little band of misfits together. When word got out about the Quezon City Food Fest along Maginhawa, we knew it was time for us to get together.

Too bad our kaing mama (bigkasin nang maragsa ang “mama”) days of sisig and lechon have given way to more “conscientious” food pickings, no thanks to signs of aging. We used to gorge on cholesterol-laden platters accompanied by heaps of rice at Mang Jimmy’s back in college. Now, we hesitate ordering extra rice lest our growing paunches creep another inch. Still, food is food and food with friends is always a welcome opportunity.

We looked forward to it since we know of plenty of places to find good food in the area though I had my reservations knowing how large a crowd a food fest can draw. Personally, I’m the type of guy who would go to malls early morning as they opened to avoid the throng. I hate disorganized crowds. Maginhawa was to be closed starting Friday so we opted to just spend the night at Jojo’s place since it was a few blocks from Maginhawa itself. I left my ride at the office at V. Luna since road closure meant heavy traffic.

The event was advertised to start at 9AM so we decided to go early even if we only had a few hours sleep. (We spent the night before watching indie flicks and shooting the shit.) As early as that, I was already pegging that the organizers screwed the pooch with this one big time. Tents were still being erected. Only a handful of exhibitors were ready with food. Attractions weren’t even set up.

You could just wish that those aren't pirated DVDs in front of the police.

You could just wish that those aren’t pirated DVDs in front of the police.

 

Our initial walk to get breakfast proved fruitless so we decided to go for the permanent establishments in the area. We ended up walking towards Malingap and getting our breakfast on at Pi Breakfast and Pies. Man is a creature of habit, I guess.

Heading back for a second pass after a good hour and a half, it wasn’t even any better. Still no signs of cooked food. The road, which was supposed to be closed, was still being used by residents but mostly government vehicles (red plates) ferrying VIPs cut their way through the crowd literally inches away from running over someone’s unlucky feet. There were select bustles of activity but only because the politicos were having their token appearances and their cadre of “volunteers” followed them like they were Jesus (Jesi? Jesuses? What’s the plural?) feeding the five thousand.

Having had our fill from brunch, nothing really drew our attention save for the real estate booths and stalls with food-unrelated goods. We mostly had to keep our eyes on the road for the stray dog shit littering the streets. There were lechon and burger stands but Cebu lechon and Snack Shack have already set bars on the best buck-per-bang for those meals. And those, I personally could reserve to feast on other days.

And perhaps that’s the one thing that hindered me from appreciating the event at all – my proximity to Maginhawa. I basically worked in the area for a very good part of my professional career. My work moved me from Matalino to V. Luna to Diliman to working out of Mahabagin and then back to V. Luna. Maginhawa and its peripheries were basically a walk or a trike ride away. Maginhawa as a foodie destination isn’t a novelty to me.

Vigan Longanisa with Aligue Rice and Salted Egg - Pi Breakfast and Pies

Vigan Longanisa with Aligue Rice and Salted Egg – Pi Breakfast and Pies

By noon, we were convinced of how underwhelming the event was and headed back to Jojo’s place. Mike and I had other things to do so we decided to call it quits for the day. We were only thankful not to have experienced the bigger crush of people in the afternoon which our other friends (un)happily reported via social media. Stalls apparently ran out of food. No places were available to sit down and eat. Traffic was horrible.

If I were the one to organize it, I would make it a different event. Instead of just parading through a two-kilometer stretch of road hoping to spot a stall from which to buy food, I’d simply require exhibitors to offer bite-size samplers of their best sellers for free to all making the exhibit a walk-through food buffet. I’m sure the QC government could have subsidized that in the form of incentives like tax breaks for participating establishments.

But no. The government has overpromised and underdelivered. Many went home tired, hungry, and angry. Again. Like always.

Still fighting the fat

I lost the genetic lottery, being born in a family predisposed to obesity and all the ailments of fat people. Weight has been a constant battle for me but I’ve been fat for most of my life.

I can only remember five times when my body mass index was within normal for my height – childhood until Grade 3 (before I had to puff steroids for my asthma), a brief month-long stretch after a bout of dengue fever when I was 14, three years in college, a brief spell around my graduation from master’s, and during my wedding.

It was a battle getting my weight down (and I have succeeded most times) but I am too darn lax/stressed/depressed to keep it down for longer stretches. And it’s pretty tough to beat science without effort (something to do with the body being used to having that many big fat cells). Body type’s a bitch too, being a pudgy endomorph.

Now that I’ve breached the damn 3-oh mark, I don’t need a doctor to tell me that I should be taking care of myself a tad more. But despite the big scare earlier this year, I chomped my way to being 20 lbs overweight just more than a month. Just around that time, my wife and I were starting to get excited with the prospect of getting our own place and investing to fund our travel plans.

That’s when the proverbial moment of clarity struck: I got to live to enjoy that.

And one thing that would help me reach that is to get myself healthy. So on to my hopefully final effort to get my weight down. In previous efforts, I had to rely mainly on dieting mainly through calorie counting. I did stretches of taking in less than 1,300 calories a day and that helped me drop pounds quick. It was tough, constantly minding what I can and can’t eat.

Now, however, I decided that diet wouldn’t be my way to go anymore. I’ll stick to my allowable 1,700 daily calorie (which meant I could eat five small meals a day without fussing too much about how many calories eat bite would pack) but introduce myself to a daily workout regimen. Besides, science has proven that physical activity is better than dieting alone. High-intensity interval training (HIIT) helps remedy heart and blood chemistry issues.

It’s been a bit over a month since I’ve started doing circuit training and low-impact HIIT and I haven’t really lost much weight. I was only able to lose half-a-pound a week on average. I was able to lose 1 to 2 lbs a week doing the diet thing. So weight-wise and shape-wise, it seems that I’m not getting results. It’s now a matter of convincing myself that this is for the long haul and that I shouldn’t be it for instant results.

The good thing is that I do feel myself getting stronger and that my cardio has improved as I’ve finally gotten my legs back to power my three-point shots during our weekly basketball games and that sprinting up and down the court’s not that big a deal anymore.

I’m glad that I’m able to keep it up for this long despite work-life balance being perennially wrecked by work. Hopefully, I can power on through.

Premature

up-basketball-bonfire-joker-meme

A sigh of relief as UP’s Men’s Basketball Team finally notched a win after two years and 27 losses? No. Talk about going all out to celebrate the losing-streak breaking win with a bonfire. It’s the first time in my existence as a maroon that I remember UP holding one.

And for what? To celebrate one win.

I do appear to be cynical by saying that but holding a bonfire is a reaction that is way out of proportion to the reality. If UP is all about honor and excellence, then the bonfire is an ugly misinterpretation of those ideals.

Defining honor. I’m all about creating a winning culture and that entails staying grounded after breaking a pathetic losing streak. The bonfire’s like throwing a pie in the face of Adamson after knocking them down. I think the bonfire would’ve been palatable for me if we won over some stronger team and not the other weakest in the yard. What gives us the right to start walking as if we had the biggest swinging dicks in the yard? Until that win, we were the other whipping boy. I expected UP to have been more humble victors given the context.

Defining excellence. So is ending losing streaks now our benchmark for bonfire-worthy achievements? UP boasts of a long line of champions from other sports (and from other disciplines) but when did we ever give them such a fan fare? When did we ever glorify not-being-last? In sports, premature celebrations get laughed at and yet here we are enabling one. If holding a bonfire after one win in the middle of a season isn’t premature celebration then I don’t know what is.

Anyway, so all of this has happened and many had their thrill with the win and the bonfire and all. The monkey’s off the back. What now? I’d say get a grip and get over it.

This should be the first real step towards excellence for the MBT. Build on the high and use this win as a springboard to more victories. In football, the most dangerous minutes for a team are the ones after the team has scored a goal.

And for the management and the admin, maybe it’s time to start addressing underlying issues rather than going mental after resolving one symptom. Start building a true winning culture.

For your viewing pleasure, here’s a list of embarrassing premature celebrations in sports. Learn from these, damnit.

Tossed in the blend

Despite the hopes of creating a blended learning environment, real limitations exist in how technology can be made available inside and outside the Philippine classroom. As such, bulk of learning experiences still rely on brick and mortar methods.

Having worked in e-learning. I know how it has been a challenge for schools to even implement blended learning strategies and methods. One key challenge is the comfort level of teachers (especially the more senior ones) to adopt technology.

Being digital migrants (compared to learners who are digital natives), some simply view the use of technology in education as simply using projectors and computers. PowerPoint often becomes the pinnacle of educational technology, never mind if students are not at all impressed with bullet-laden slideshows accentuated by dizzying (and cheesy) animation.

It is critical to expose teachers to new ways of doing things. The problem is, many teachers aren’t even exposed to the new philosophies and approaches to teaching that are proven to be more effective in today’s environment. For example, in teaching English, it is proven that using the communicative language teaching (CLT) approach is more suitable for second language learners like us. And yet, many English teachers still go by traditional methods hooked up on grammaticality. It is in part because of the tendency to teach in the manner through which they were previously taught, in part because they aren’t even aware that there is CLT.

The cost of infrastructure is another. It is a major investment for schools to provide a 1:1 ratio laptops/projectors per classroom. Computer labs (hardware + software + networking + maintenance) remain to be a blows to schools’ budgets. Having competent and sustainable IT support is also a challenge. Many have made a killing by offering overpriced IT services to tech unsavvy school administrators.

Internet speed and cost also remains dismal. How can we use the wealth of information already made available if a single class of 30 using a connection throws back the whole school infrastructure to dial up speeds on a per user basis. Good luck loading educational videos with that.

Now there will be much buzz about flipped classrooms. Flipped classrooms are where the fact parts of learning is taken out of the classroom (goodbye, boring lectures). Instead, students get to learn these things prior to classroom engagement thanks to internet and digital resources. Classroom learning now becomes an opportunity for mentoring, collaboration, and accomplishment of performance tasks that enhance, re-align, and elaborate on the information the students have discovered online.

It all appears to be quite nice. It’s the “in” thing in international education conferences an soon, in local conferences. It would be quite tragic to see how it would be spun by many an “expert” as the panacea educators are waiting for without having to discuss the real issues that need to be addressed.