Teachers as leaders

Published October 3, 2021, 12:05 AM

by Dr. Jun Ynares


Dr. Jun Ynares

We laud the initiative by our legislators to pass a law compelling the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) to extend deadline for the registration of voters in the 2022 national elections for another 30 days from the signing of that law.

As we write this column, it is still uncertain if the bill would be signed into law by the President. We join in the hope of many that he will.

It will be recalled that the registration period for voters would have ended last Thursday, September 30. There was a major clamor for an extension. The Commission on Elections stood pat on its pronouncement that there would be no further extension, a move which fueled the formation of long queues of citizens hoping to get their names into the voters’ roster.

Our lawmakers noted that about 180 days of the registration period were lost due to the pandemic. Had there been no extension, our lawmakers said some 12 million Filipinos stood to be disenfranchised.

That would have been tragic. After all, our right to vote was a hard-fought one.

Among those who fought hard to win the right to vote for women were Filipina educators who stood at the forefront of the crusade for Women’s suffrage.

The 2021 celebration of the National Teacher’s Month which began on the 5th of last month will end this coming Tuesday. Before the period ends, our column would like to pay tribute to Filipino teachers as leaders, and cite in particular the Filipina educators who led the fight for women to be given the right to vote.

The list begins withConcepcion Felix de Calderon, a native of Tondo and who was born in 1884. She was a math teacher. Her teaching job helped her finance further studies. She became one of the first four Filipinas to become lawyers at the turn of the 20th century.

Teacher Concepcion was joined in this crusade by other educators: Pilar Hidalgo-Lim who also taught mathematics and who became the third president of the Centro Escolar University; Josefa Llanes-Escoda who founded the Girl Scouts of the Philippines; and, Rosa Sevilla de Alvero, also a daughter of Tondo who made history as the first woman dean at the University of Santo Tomas.

In this crusade, these Filipina teachers were joined at the forefront by other prominent women leaders of the early 1900s: writer and beauty queen Pura Kalaw Villanueva; Dr. PazMendoza Guazon who was the first woman graduate of the medical school of the University of the Philippines; and, Constancia Poblete, a revered peace advocate and founder of Liga Femeninadela Paz.

These Filipina teachers and civic leaders lived during an era when women were considered the “weaker sex” and were mostly expected to be “homemakers”.

Early on, these Filipina leaders defied both stereotypes and traditional expectations. In the fight for their right to vote, they campaigned ferociously, delivered fiery oratory and inspired our countrymen to affix their signatures in the petition that would be filed before the legislature.

In 1920, Teacher Concepcion and two of her peers spoke before the legislature to take a stand for that right. Thirteen years later, the legislature passed a bill granting them that right. The 1934 Constitutional Convention enshrined that right in the 1935 Constitution – a victory for the Filipino women who played a major role in shaping our country’s destiny.

It appears that the educators of Teacher Concepcion’s generation saw their role as more than just downloading knowledge and information to their students.

They saw themselves as models and molders of character – not just of their students but also of the nation.They taught us that being a Filipino demands that one be fully involved in the affairs of the country and that one must be able to fight and stand for one’s rights.

The Irish Poet William Butler Yeats wrote: “Education is not the filling of a pail but the lighting of a fire”. Icon of Freedom Nelson Mandela said: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”.

They must have had Teacher Concepcion and her peers in mind.

After all, Teacher Concepcion and her fellow crusaders did change the world of the Filipina with their historic feat.

We commend the Metrobank Foundation, Inc. for its yearly search for and recognition of the country’s most outstanding Filipinos. This year, the Foundation included two educators in this list: Teacher Lou Sabrina Ongkiko of Quezon City and Teacher Jason Albaro of Muntinlupa City.

With this recognition program, the Metrobank Foundation, Inc. helps all of us to be reminded of the leadership role that our teachers play in the life of our nation.

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