Wanted: A teacher, a pretty one, too
PURPLE SHADES - Letty Jacinto-Lopez (The Philippine Star) - April 4, 2017 - 12:00am

Problem:  What do you do with an unico hijo who’d be left in the care of his yaya for the great part of the day?

Solution:Put him in school. This was my two-year old son, Jebo.  He was the apple of my eye, coddled by family and friends; undoubtedly, our star.

Problem:  If he continued to be pampered and indulged, he’d grow up not knowing any other world where things do not revolve around him.
Solution:  Change of environment.

Problem:  Where can I take him?

Solution:  A friend suggested OB Montessori Center in Sta. Ana, Manila.

“What’s OB?” I asked.  “Operation Brotherhood founded by Oscar Arellano.  They took care of young refugees in Vietnam and Laos by providing medical help, community upliftment through a literacy program.  When OB opened in the Philippines, they added education for the marginalized.  The school was eventually offered to Preciosa Soliven who applied the Montessori method, and the rest is history.”

I looked up the school in the yellow pages (no Google yet), and called for an appointment.  Somewhat to my surprise, the entire school welcomed my son like he had long been anticipated to walk into its environ and be taken by it.

“Welcome Fredrick, with one ‘e’.  How did you get your nickname Jebo?” beamed Precious.  Jebo looked up and cupping his hand whispered, “She’s pretty, Mom.”

Thus, began the amped-up activities that became my daily routine:  I’d scoop him from his bed, drive him to Sta. Ana on our Herbie the Love Bug Beetle and, at the school’s parking area, give him a warm sponge bath, a quick toothbrush and mouth gargle, change his PJs to the school’s checkered vest, and walk him to his Junior Casa classroom, but halt! Only until the threshold.  He’d give me a hug, carry his snack kit, walk to his desk, and wave to me as if to say, “Go home, Mom.”  “Aww, my baby is leaving me,” I whimpered.

The changes were remarkable.  He’d pull out his chair gently and sit on it.  He’d bring out his plate to the kitchen and wash it and wipe it and store it away and whistle while doing it.  I followed curiously a few steps behind, but he wasn’t even aware of me.  He was concentrating on applying what he had learned on the traits so becoming of a little gentleman.  This was followed by more amazing revelations in his school projects, in playing and working with other kids of his age, in his patience and his awe at learning something different or new and his enthusiasm to follow it through, unstopped by time or fatigue.  He built up his confidence and learned to extend his hand to greet people warmly and not blink but look them in the eye.

Our child spoilers were first to notice the striking transformation:  “Look at my mahal!  What an achiever!” exclaimed Lolo Bando. “He held my arm and helped me to my rocking chair,” Lola Petring cheered.  “Not only that, he danced and sang, like a young thespian, oblivious to the stage billing,” continued Lola Lau.  Lolo Arturo, who seldom spoke, summed it up, “My apo, a true maginoo.”

This mother who was absolutely clueless on how to raise a child turned to a puddle.  I held my hand across my chest to keep my heart from bursting with pride, and gratitude (God, I’m doing something right?)

At the end of the year, teacher Connie Suarez approached me.  “We’d like Jebo to stay in Junior Casa for another year.” “Why?”  I asked.  “He’s too young to move to the next level; we’d like to develop his interests further,” Connie replied.

This is the Montessori method:  To bring out the beauty and intelligence of the child at his own pace; do not rush, do not be pressured and don’t force him because it will come at the right time.  You prepare him to take on bigger tasks and responsibility by providing him with the tools, skills, and knowledge to own them.  Every child is full of wonder.  Just a matter of unlocking and tapping into it.

After two years in OBMC, Jebo moved on to other schools mostly based abroad.  His development was patterned to follow the paths of righteousness with hobbies and interests to keep him balanced in both work and leisure.  Although I’ve prayed to keep him safe from sin and harm, I have had some serious bouts of the shakes that reduced me to a fumbling and jittery lump of jelly.  “Are you all right, anak?” I’d ask.  “Don’t worry Mom, I’ve got this,” he’d reply.

I’d hold my chest again.  For the tears, the fears, the pains, the mistakes, and the triumphs that defined his strength and character.  He has owned them.

* * *

Operation Brotherhood Montessori Center is celebrating its 50th golden anniversary.  Congratulations, pretty Precious!

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