Letter to out-of-school youth of blended learning

ZOETROPE - Juaniyo Arcellana (The Philippine Star) - July 27, 2020 - 12:00am

Before K to 12, there was blended learning. Now that school — as we know it, traditional face-to-face — is indefinitely out until someone comes up with a vaccine for the novel coronavirus, there may be no other way to continue one’s education but through blended means: a combination of indoor and outdoor, online and offline, giving credence to the gospel of hard knocks, claiming they’ve learned as much if not more outside the classroom than in it.

Maybe now’s the time to catch up with the classics — there’s only so much one can watch on Netflix, cable or free TV, and when thumbs get tired from Playstation what else can one do but twiddle them? By “classics” we mean the required reading from the old school, whether or not these be the tangible hard copy or digital soft, whichever is accessible, many of them having accompanying Cliff or Monarch notes for better understanding and analysis to guide discussions.

In the high school of the old days, there were, in fact, comics or graphic versions of the Rizal novels Noli and Fili, perhaps our first exposure to a kind of blended learning. And while Google and similar search engines have all but made the once-indispensable encyclopedia go the way of the dinosaur, there can still be found some quaint wonderment while perusing editions of Britannica or Book of Knowledge displayed on the creaky shelf — indeed as if they were museum pieces.

Meanwhile the karaoke joints have all emptied, no one daring to pick up the mic or insert a coin into the machine, lyric book ready. Even the billiard halls are no longer the hangouts they once were, though in some backstreet dives in Mandaluyong the hustlers continue to hold fort, waiting for a chance to spring a quick buck. The chess puzzles on the sidewalks of Sta. Cruz — mate in three for 20 pesos — haven’t seen those in a while. Underneath the LRT, there’s still a ghost of a chance of purchasing a Seaman’s Book, but what for? Many ships are in dry dock due to COVID.

But blended must continue, whether whisky rum or knowledge, or a combination thereof. Back In the day we learned as much drinking our first beers under an aratiles tree by Junior’s  sari-sari store in UP Village, trying to figure out what the acronym printed on our bottles stood for: Sa Aming Nayon, May isang Grupong Umiinom, Eh Lasing. Never did remember what Pale Pilsen meant, lost in the rap style burp of a buddy breaking into laughter.

These days on TV we catch the marathon hearings on whether to grant a franchise to ABS-CBN, which, as kids, we understood to be “Alak, Babae, Sugal, Cabaret, Babae Na naman,” and not at all associated with oligarchs. A chance here to get reacquainted with the Panatang Makabayan citizen’s oath, which an anti-oligarch pro-dictator congressman wanted the dual citizen broadcast owner to recite, in thought word and deed, how he loves the Philippines land of his parents’ birth. The home of his race, which has given him shelter and help in order to be strong, nationalistic and ever reliable.

Not everyone can have the comfort of drinking beer under an aratiles tree, at least not in places with lingering liquor ban under GCQ (gift certificates quarantine). Pag Aratiles Lang Eh Palibhasa Inumin Lang Sana Eh, ‘No?

In the US the race riots unravel a deep-seated confusion. On home soil the Anti-Terror Bill debate has divided a COVID-wracked nation. The Philippine Collegian has just released a collector’s edition which editors said could be the last in a long while in the time of virus and terror. If anyone has a spare copy you know where to send it, certainly not the last gasp of the fourth estate.

Back to the classics, then. Apart from Noli and Fili, we remember Hector’s kid Astyanax thrown down the burning walls of Troy from where Aeneas fled with his father Anchises on his back. Which image was used by Nick Joaquin for the unseen painting in Portrait of the Artist as a Filipino. Whose other story, “May Day Eve,” is read aloud annually at a bookstore in Baguio City almost lost in the clouds. Blended with or without internet or Wi-Fi is the only way to go, for the tailor who thought he looked like Thomas Mann, and the portrait of the artist as a Mangyan. (Last two puns courtesy of Cesar Ruiz.)

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