La Union is in the Heart

An Open Letter to Firth McEachern, a young Canadian recently stationed in San Fernando, La Union, who speaks Ilocano:

Dear Firth,

You may think I’m beating this to a pulp, but the attached Matrix of Bills (House Bill Nos. 66, 93, 162, 191, and 1245) is a neato comparison of the Bills on the Language of Learning now pending in Congress.  Well, anything to help you, my friend.

For your information, I’ve just included the full text of  Catalan’s “Act No. 1, of 7th January 1998″, on linguistic policy in my blog to make it even easier for our LGU friends in La Union to read or refer to.  I hope they don’t compromise too much by deferring to the bills being compared in the attached documents — bills, which to me, do so little to ensure the preservation of the mother tongue largely on the formal education side.  The Catalan Act, as you’re familiar with by now, touches, not only on the formal education curricula, but also on practically all facets of society and I hope you will keep reminding our LGU friends in La Union that — this is the only way Ilocano and our other regional languages can survive or reverse the effects of the decades-old government bilingual policy which aggressively enforced the use of Filipino and English as MOI exclusively to the detriment, as we now know, of Ilocano and the other regional languages.  The LGUs, not DepEd alone, are the best agents in reversing the language shift and they should take advantage of Republic Act No. 9155 — Section 2 of that act provides:

“The State shall encourage local initiatives for improving the quality of basic education. The State shall ensure that the values, needs and aspirations of a school community are reflected in the program of education for the children, out-of-school youth and adult learners.”

Local initiatives such as what the LGUs in La Union and you are contemplating to undertake fall within the purview of R.A. 9155.  DepEd has gone on to pursue that end through the locals’ participation in School Based Management (SBM), as enunciated in this speech delivered by former DepEd Secretary Jesli A. Lapus at the Manila Public Elementary School Principals’ Association(MAPESPA), Inc.,  at the P. Gomez Elementary School, Sta. Cruz, Manila, on February 20, 2008.  In that speech, Lapus said:

“Successful decentralization and SBM will not only make us more effective, they will produce the best results for the basic education sector in terms of learning and management.As proven by many success stories here and abroad, an empowered school can undertake dramatic improvements by generating support from the community. And as school principals, you can take the lead in establishing a viable working relationship between your school and your community.This of course requires a paradigm shift in the way you-as principals- view your role, especially insofar as your relationship with your community stakeholders is concerned. It requires a change in mindset that can translate into a change in the mindset of all your teachers as well.

Our principals are not just armchair, desk-bound principals. Hindi kayo basta bastang principal, kayo ang de-facto manager ng school at kaagapay nyo sina mayor at ang kanyang mga konsehal ganun din ang mga negosyante at mga lider sibiko ng bayan upang itaas ang antas ng ating mga eskwelahan. Our teachers are not just classroom teachers and content deliverers and therefore can only do so much. As I always say: most limitations are almost always self-imposed Ang ating mga guro ay hindi basta guro. Sila ang humuhubog sa mga future achievers ng bayan na ito.

To do this, our principals and our teachers need to develop their people skills, public relations skills and managerial skills. And this happens when our principals and teachers are given the opportunity to shine as empowered leaders and chief catalysts for change to happen in our schools.

This is what we hope to achieve with School-Based Management.

Through School-Based Management, we are setting into motion one seamless machinery wherein each key player-the school, the parents, the local government and the private sector- becomes one vital cog that enables the entire system to run smoothly.

What we are trying to unleash here, therefore, is nothing less than the principal’s untapped power to inspire the community decision-makers and make them stakeholders to make quality education possible-and accessible to all.

Of course, you must realize that a lot of people are more than willing to help-some simply do not know how they could help and whom to approach.

Naniniwala ako na ‘di tayo nauubusan ng mga taong may mabubuting kalooban na handang tumulong para sa bayan.

There are many kind-hearted souls out there who are aching to give back to society. Aside from the many philanthropists waiting in the wings, each school has their generous share of successful alumni who will be more than happy to give back to society a part of their success.

Aside from the obvious benefits it gives our schools in terms of resource generation, School-Based Management provides us with the opportunity to connect with the community- making each participant a truly engaged stakeholder, one who will want to make sure that the efforts he or she had made will not go to waste. In short, it makes the stakeholder more absorbed and involved in the local school.”

And that, Firth, is only the education aspect (Chapter III of Catalan’s Act 1) of what you and the LGUs in La Union are empowered to do in your trail-blazing effort to reverse the language shift in Ilocano.  Yours is, or should be, a multi-pronged comprehensive approach covering, among other things:  institutional use/stimulus, mass media and the cultural industries, socio-economic activities, etc.  Yours will most likely be a more pervasive, almost all-encompassing and systematic plan of attack even General George S. Patton would have envied (remember, Patton had to commission his chaplain to compose a prayer asking God’s intervention in the European Theater of WW2?)

Joe Padre

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