LSGH-ANHS: One heart
BREAKTHROUGH - Elfren S. Cruz (The Philippine Star) - July 28, 2019 - 12:00am

My son Roel, a writer and educator who graduated from DLSU with a Literature degree, recently started teaching 21st Century Literature at the Adult Night High School of La Salle Green Hills. I asked him to share his experience so far:

Every Thursday afternoon, after spending a usual day as a full-time English mentor/tutor to students from various exclusive and international schools, some friends ask me where I’m rushing off to with a determined grin on my face. After nearly two months of telling them of my new teaching position, I’ve gotten used to the puzzled, curious responses.

But I never tire of the slightly astonished reactions when I detail how the ANHS of LSGH, for 41 years now, has been offering Junior and Senior HS programs to marginalized adults 16 years old and above, including a mainstreamed program for deaf learners. 

From most reactions, it’d be easy to frivolously romanticize this institution, with images of Robin Williams-type or Hillary Swank-esque characters swooping into classrooms, rapping and jumping on classroom tables to come to terms with their personal lives while dealing with those who have received drastically less from society.

Being a lifelong Lasallian at heart, I’m fully aware that this does not do anyone justice. Particularly the Christian Brothers whom I’ve personally known to have dedicated their lives to the ministry of Christian education, especially the poor, and uplifting society in all ways and means that settle for nothing less than palpable.

The ANHS is best understood if perceived as any other school. Only in this building, aptly named after Saint Mutien-Marie, in front of which the student population composed of four Junior High sections and nine Senior High sections dutifully assemble before classes start at 5:10 pm and end at 9 pm, this Lasallian spirit – this Animo if you will – takes more tangible forms. Beyond hardcourt conquests and relatively trivial bragging rights.

I hear it in the ever-firm voice of school principal Rey Ducay, each time we greet each other along the hallways, and especially when lecturing rowdy students right after an evening mass early in the school year. Reminding them of the higher expectations in one’s every deed unmistakably embraced as a student of a Lasallian school. 

It also takes form in the sternly grizzled, yet constantly warm, guidance of Bernadette Nolasco, academic coordinator for two years after being a faculty member for nine. With unorthodox lightheartedness that could’ve have given her success as an acerbic, deadpan standup comedian, she has also shared how the past decade has revitalized a belief in the power of dreams, second chances, and the immeasurable rewards of steering others to overcome distinct struggles. 

Like any other school, the dilemmas of promoting among students love for reading, the value of literature, and enhancing all forms of communication skills, are inevitably present. Only here, my two lay superiors, along with other staff I’ve met, have welcomed me as new teacher in a unique way: by taking my hand as I join them in what can only be described as a collective journey.

Any other teacher in any other school is fully aware of the rigors of the profession, this calling. The constant need to improve, the celestial patience required of mentorship, the selfless joy of witnessing others gain true wisdom. Only every Thursday night, I stand in front of two sections of 12th graders, communing with office clerks, maintenance personnel, household help, fast food chain employees by day, tired yet ever-determined learners by night seeking what all students seek. And even a handful of deaf learners who have begun to teach me the virtues of genuine communication. Only here, the zeal is concrete.

As I walk out the campus at the end of my second class, 26-year-old Michael Ombao chats with me about how bouts with juvenile vices and the English language left him ostracized in his former school. Finding time for our assigned readings while working as an office aide at the Lasallian Mission Office, there is a prevalent glint in his eyes as he asks for literary novels he can borrow to complement his studies. 51-year-old Evelin Estabillo and 45-year-old MJ Batacan, brimming with gratitude, have related how enrolling in the ANHS has become a firm means of rediscovering their identity and self-worth. Like 17-year-old Mandy Elevazo, easily one of the most buoyantly sharp young minds I’ve come across in my years of teaching, most of my other students from both ABM and TVL sections have already confided with pride how they’ve transcended respective arduous pasts to embrace their present roles as passionate learners.

We’ve entered each other’s lives perhaps just like I would’ve met students in any other school. Only here, I was fortuitously offered to teach while helping Jacklyn Corpuz, a 19-year-old from Surigao del Sur and household employee of my wife’s nephew, pining to go back home to study and pursue her dream of studying Accountancy in college. I told her of a school within close proximity, and nearly two months later we run into each other along the corridor with now-trademark resolve and glee on both our faces.

Like any other school. Only on weeknights, in an area surrounded by upscale residences and posh schools wherein banning AirPods partly comprise the controversial order of the day, within the walls of the Mutien Marie Building, second chances are maximized to the fullest. Hearty discussions on the true nuances of tyranny break out while tackling post-EDSA literature, bringing a familiar smile to observer and incoming school president Br. Edmundo Fernandez’s face, a trusty role model and Lasallian stalwart. 

And futures are secured with dreams kept, nurtured, in good hands, collectively living as one heart, one commitment, one life, in view of molding Lasallians dedicated to excellence, proud Filipinos willing and able to contribute to society and nation-building.

Like any other school. Perhaps. Only here, the Animo is as vigorous as any. And just as tireless, tangible and resolute.

Creative writing classes for kids and teens

Young Writers’ Hangout on August 3, 17 (1:30 pm-3 pm; stand-alone sessions) at Fully Booked BGC. For details and registration,  email writethingsph@gmail.com.

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Email: elfrencruz@gmail.com.

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