Thank God for teachers

October 07, 2018

AS I write, it is National Teachers Day today -- the culmination of a month-long commemoration honoring our noble and dedicated heroes in the classrooms.

It is only fitting that we publicly and consistently express our appreciation for 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 fondly 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... Ricardo Puno... Together, they all helped mold me into what I am.

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

For more than 3 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. Students came from as far as the neighboring towns of San Pedro, Biñan, Las Piñas and Parañaque.

Its initial teaching staff of 4 (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. He was principal, English teacher, adviser to the student publication and review teacher (for one of the earliest national competitive examination) all rolled into one.

He constantly advised 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/preserving 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 which 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. Upon retirement, he wrote and completed his novel “Message of the Apparition”.

Shortly after his death on February 1, 2006 at the ripe age of 91, the novel’s manuscript turned up among his belongings. A group of his former students published the novel as homage to their beloved mentor.

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