MANILA, Philippines — Luzviminda Santiago, a science teacher at the Makati High School, has dedicated 30 years of her life to teaching, and soon, she has to retire from her selfless profession.
While not yet ready for the imminent and mandated retirement, Santiago can comfort herself with the lasting mark she has left on her countless students. Five of them, in fact, have shared their heartfelt messages and unforgettable moments in a video that pays tribute to Santiago.
Rhea Bengson, a batch 2005 student, said “Mrs. Santiago” effectively juggles teaching Biology, Physics, Chemistry and General Science. Thanks to her, Bengson has a good science foundation when she entered collage. She is now a registered nurse who works at the Philippine Orthopedic Institute in Makati City.
Besides her skills, Santiago is also known in campus for being very strict. Seventeen-year-old Evangielyn Cuevas, her student two years ago, attests to this.
“Sobrang strikto si Mrs. Santiago. Bago siya magsimula ng klase, iche-check niya kami isa-isa kung malinis ang mga kuko namin, ang mga babae dapat nakatali ang mga buhok, ang mga lalaki tama ang haircut (Mrs. Santiago is very strict. Before she starts a class, she will check us one by one if our nails are clean, the girls’ hair must be in ponytails, while the boys’ must be in proper haircut,” Cuevas recalls.
“Kapag nakita ka po niyang hindi nakikinig sa kanya, titigil po siyang magturo (If she sees that you are not listening to her, she will stop in her lecture),” she adds.
Bengson agrees: “Sa klase strikto siya, matinis ang boses (She is strict in the classroom, her voice high-pitched.”
But her kindness transcends her strictness. To many, she has become more than just a teacher.
Batch 1993 graduate Dennis Fernando tells how Santiago has given him fare to go to school for an entire week after his father passed way.
“Siya ‘yong nagpipilit na makapagtapos ako ng pag-aaral (She really obliged me to finish my studies,” the teary eyed Fernando says.
Fernando went on to become an accomplished events specialist.
The tribute is part of McDonald's 5th National Breakfast Day celebration. McDonald's/Released
The same is true for Cuevas whose mother left her 10 years ago. “Wala nga po akong mom, tapos siya, parang pinaramdam niya po sa akin na huwag kang susuko dahil andon naman po siya para gabayan ako (I may not have a mother but she made me feel that I shouldn’t lose hope because she is there to guide me.”
Becoming emotional, Cuevas adds:“Hanggang ngayon po, siya pa rin ‘yong nandyan (Until now, she’s always there for me).”
Evangeline Abrazaldo of Batch 2001, meanwhile, did not foresee that her strict teacher will become her closest colleague at Makati High School. Their relationship has deepened when Santiago helped her get free medicine for her late husband. In return for her kindness, she brings her co-teacher to and from a transport terminal in Makati. Santiago goes home all the way to Teresa, Rizal—about three towns away—and allots four hours of travel time daily.
Businesswoman Leonor Carin of Batch 1993 has this to say about Santiago: “As a teacher, she’s not just a teacher but also a mother and a friend.”
To show their gratitude, Cuevas, Bengson, Fernando, Abrazaldo and Carin gathered their fellow former students to surprise Santiago at the school.
“In teaching, there is fulfillment. You know you’ve played a role in what they’ve become. It’s so fulfilling. I will really miss it,” Santiago tells them in the video.
Titled “Good Morning, Teacher,” the video was revealed on Monday as part of McDonald’s 5th National Breakfast Day. Making the celebration more meaningful and special, it aims to honor those who rise early for work and service in order to help others have new beginnings in life.