The View From Taft

Oct. 5 is observed worldwide as World Teachers’ Day. In the Philippines, the observance of a National Teachers’ Month and Day is led by government and the private teaching community. This formal honoring of teachers in the Philippines, which is aligned with the worldwide celebration of World Teachers’ Day, has drawn and continues to draw, heavy support from volunteer groups such as the Metrobank Foundation.
The Metrobank Foundation, led by its president, Aniceto Sobrepeña, launched its Teacher’s Month Campaign in 2008 with the theme, “Teacher Ko, Idol Ko,” an obvious reference to teachers as role models. In 2009, the theme was tweaked to “My Teacher, My Hero.”
In recognition of the Foundation’s and other sectors’ efforts, President Benigno Aquino III signed in 2011 Proclamation 242 “declaring the period of Sept. 5 to Oct. 5 of every year as National Teachers’ Month.” The following year, another milestone was achieved when Metrobank Foundation was invited to share its National Teacher’s Month (NTM) initiative at the 2012 UNESCO World Teachers’ Day celebration in Paris, France.
In 2014, the NTM Digital celebration was held for the first time. In 2015, more than 6,000 teachers participated in the World Teachers’ Day celebration at the Philsports Arena with President Aquino as guest speaker.
In 2016, Mr. Aquino signed Republic Act No. 10743 declaring Oct. 5 as “National Teachers’ Day.” The next year, the culture of appreciation for teachers was intensified by the holding of a three-day experiential lecture series for teachers, in partnership with the Government Service Insurance System, the Cultural Center of the Philippines, and the National Museum.
As a former teacher, I appreciate all the efforts at institutionalizing programs and traditions to ensure that honoring teachers becomes a permanent feature in Philippine education. It is just proper that teachers are honored on a special month and day. This is because teachers face many challenges, foremost of which are their modest salaries, which serve as a disincentive in continuing the pursuit of the teaching profession or continuing to refine and polish one’s teaching skills and knowledge to be shared with students.
Another serious challenge is that teachers have to impart both skills and values. In effect, they serve as role models — a rather daunting task especially if one is in full view of students at least once a week.
The burden of being a role model becomes both intricate and complex, and even dangerous, when both teacher and student are confronted with the harsh realities of political life. Teachers can be tempted to throw away the book when these realities confront them and to instead depend almost solely on their instincts.
Students look upon their teachers as some kind of moral compass, especially in perilous times. I can only recall the Martial Law days when teachers who openly spoke against martial rule because they believed it was evil had both their careers and lives cut short.
But teachers and universities are mandated to tackle the great issues in the country; they cannot be considered great if they shy away from them. Values such as respect for life and the rights of others are basic rights that teachers should promote, protect, and defend. So, it is both ironic and timely that Teacher’s Month covers that infamous day in Philippine history, Sept. 21, 1972, the proclamation of Martial Law.
The condemnation of the Martial Law proclamation on National Teachers’ Month has given teachers and educational institutions the opportunity to breathe life into their teachings on core values. It serves as some kind of test to “walk one’s talk,” to advocate that respect for human dignity is inconsistent with disrespect for basic human rights.
As Teachers’ Month ends tomorrow, we can only look forward to an even bigger and more meaningful celebration next year so that teachers receive all the encouragement they need and deserve. After all, Albert Einstein once said, “It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy, creative expression and knowledge.” And as one other wise man said, “The guru (the teacher) is the ‘remover of ignorance.’”
Philip Ella Juico was Dean of the Graduate School of Business of De La Salle University from 2002 to 2008. He taught at the undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral programs of various colleges and universities in the Philippines and other Asian countries from 1973 to 2017.