AMS: Tell us the story of your latest project/occupation.
April: One of my professors, Dr. Edwin Pilapil, is the dean of the college of arts and sciences of Cebu Technological University-Main Campus (CTU–Main); so he is actually a guest lecturer at CNU in the MA Literature program. My classmate encouraged me to apply as a part-time instructor at CTU with him, but I was the only one who was called back for a series of interviews with the vice presidents and the dean. I think Dr. Pilapil remembered me for two reasons: First, I was the first student at CNU who made a research on comics as literature; I received a lot of criticisms from my classmates on this because they did not think it was literature. I studied Larry Alcala’s Mang Ambo in the Filipino Masterpieces class, so Dr. Pilapil has nicknamed me Mang Ambo since then. The second reason (and I think this is the reason why I got hired) is that I gave a lecture-recital about the musicale Les Misérables in his oral literature class. I did the whole act-sing-discuss thing. I was one of the actors in a local production of the musicale, so I had the necessary materials.
So that’s how my career at CTU–Main started. But the real shocker was when one of the vice presidents told me about their lack of classrooms. He said that many of the classes were held in corridors, stairwells, tents, huts, the gym (which includes the basketball court and the stage), and other available spaces, even underneath the trees. He was my first interviewer, and he was letting me make a choice: go home or go on; and I chose the latter. I am used to different kinds of teaching environments since my days as a community service student-facilitator/trainer at the Civic Welfare Training Services (CWTS) of University of Cebu–Main (UC–Main). I’ve brought students to river clean-ups, Sinulog parades, and other similar activities. But I also felt that what was waiting for me at CTU was something more.
Indeed, it was. When I looked at my teaching load, my heart sank. I was getting ready for those areas I mentioned above, but I was not prepared for TBA. What’s TBA? To Be Arranged. Meaning, we did not have an assigned classroom, so we had to look for it ourselves. It was easy to back out, but I have made a decision. Besides, I see this as an opportunity for me to improve myself as a teacher. For the love of challenges—yes, it is.
On the first few weeks of the first semester, I met my TBA classes by posting announcements on the bulletin board. I gave the class officers my mobile number so that they could tell me where they were staying at the moment. Most of my classes at that time were good for one and a half hours each, so a few minutes was often spent on looking for classrooms or spaces.
I found out that it is easier when the class is TBA for the whole period because as soon as we find a space or classroom, we can go on with the class uninterrupted unless there is another class that is assigned to that area. One of my classes last semester was good for three straight hours; however, it was assigned to a room on the first two hours and TBA on the third. Sometimes our activities would be cut because we had to transfer somewhere else, so I learned to plan considering the schedule. Sometimes, I would give my students a ten-minute break while some students and I would look for a classroom, a stairwell, or a tent. Most of the time, we would stay at a stairwell unless it rains. I was lucky because my students did not seem to mind the uncomfortable situation; but sometimes, they would take their liberty too much and have longer breaks, which would delay our activities. (They would eat breakfast instead of snacks.) In this situation, I relearned the value of being friendly and good natured because at least two teachers from another college gladly gave me their classrooms without me asking them. The first time it happened, I wanted to cry out of gratitude.
This semester, I have TBA classes again as expected: two are writing courses and one is a major subject. I learned to be more organized, and my students are now assigned in teams that look for classrooms every meeting. For my major subject, although it is filed as TBA, it is no longer one. We are now staying at the stairwell at the sixth floor. I went there on our first meeting this year. My students were not around, but there was a pool of water on the landing because of the rain the night before. So I made a mental note to start looking for another place just in case.
It is not easy to plan because classes do not have uniform schedules. In fact, you do not hear a school bell ringing to signal the end or start of class periods because they do not begin or start at the same time. However, what is sure is that there is a lunch break for everybody between 12:00 to 1:00 PM. Then again, TBA classes are a challenge. I have learned and am still learning how to reinvent my methods and approaches in teaching to adjust to the situation. It is true that learning does not only happen within the four walls of the classroom.
Although TBA classes can be daunting, I still enjoy being in CTU because of the kinds of courses given to me and the extracurricular activities they offer to the students and teachers. This semester, I have nine classes with three preparations, which means I have enough time to prepare for every class. Moreover, I’ve been given one of each kind of course: major, general, and professional; and each course focuses on one area of communication: speaking, writing, and reading. I like to think that this is a complete semester because of the kinds of classes I have. And because I am not loaded with classes, I still have time to join local theater productions. In fact, my latest show will start this January 26 until February 10. This is something that was impossible for me to do in my previous school, time- and health-wise.
In terms of extra-curricular activities, I always make it a point to be participative. I have sung in almost all activities in school since I joined the in-service training last June. If I was not in the major parts of the program, I was always chosen to give an intermission number. One time, I was told to sing on the spot. Thank God, a student brought his acoustic guitar, so I borrowed it and sang Ketchie Nadal’s “H’wag na H’wag Mong Sasabihin.” I would like to reserve a cappella singing for my classes only, not on stage. I also coached my co-teachers in singing “Handog ng Pilipino sa Mundo” in the Buwan ng Wika celebration.
I was also one of the coaches of the cheering competition during the intramural games. I am not good in dancing or choreography, so I just chipped in on vocalization. They won champion, but I do not want to take full credit for it. I was only one of the many contributors. I was just happy we made our dean and the whole college proud.
CTU also became popular last December for its “Gangnam Style” mass dance. It was in honor of one of our vice presidents who was retiring. Moreover, the student government wanted CTU to make it to the Guinness World Records as the largest number of students and teachers dancing “Gangnam Style” at the same time. I am not sure if we made it, but I am sure we all had a great time dancing. And now, I am looking forward to more school activities.
CTU calls itself “the university of tomorrow.” Indeed, there are a lot of potentials in the school, and I hope I could contribute to its realization.
College students having their classes under a stairwell
AMS: Tell us about the biggest successes and failures in your life. What worked, what didn’t, and what did you learn?
April: I am only twenty-six years old, and I know I still have so many things to do and so many to learn. What I consider as my biggest achievement is performing in a musicale. I grew up watching Disney movies, musicales, and plays; but to become a stage actress myself is a dream come true. More so because my first play was Creative Thespians’ Club Inc.’s production of Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables where I was one of the alternates for Madame Thenardier. I realized that I’ve been waiting for this for almost ten years. My first taste of stage plays was in third year high school; we had a historical drama festival of the greatest revolutions in the world where our class presented the Russian revolution.
Deciding my biggest failure is different to do. I’ve had several ups and downs, but I’ve always managed to get back on track. Perhaps what can be considered as my biggest failure would be allowing people to lead me on and bully me. I have a tendency to trust people too much, and some of them have hurt and deceived me. My classmates bullied me in senior high because we were vying for honors and scholarships, but in the end, I was still awarded class valedictorian and received the coveted hundred-thousand-peso college scholarship from Gaisano Foundation. When it comes to men, the same thing had happened before. One of my friends stole a guy from me. It was painful and humiliating, especially because the three of us were co-teachers; but anyway, I couldn’t lose what I never had. There was another one who almost promised me the stars but was unwilling to leave his girlfriend. I learned that it is not easy to trust people, especially men who are too generous and those who tell you that you’re special but they have other women—and women who tell you that they don’t understand why you like a particular guy (he’s just not their type) because they could still snatch him away from you. I don’t think I’m naïve; I was just too kind for my own good.
I learned so many things, especially in the past two years. Ever since I got out of the walls of my alma mater, University of Cebu, I have felt like the world is suddenly new to me. After spending half of my life in the same culture, I was suddenly in a sea of new possibilities. It was April 2011.
I purposely chose a different career after four years of teaching at UC because I wanted to find out if I could work somewhere else. I wanted to know where my niche was. I worked as a copyeditor at Xlibris. Everything was good, especially learning the editing and indexing using the Chicago Manual of Style, but soon I got bored facing the computer the whole day. I became less productive and effective. Just then, I realized that I should go back to teaching because of the contents of the manuscripts I was editing. Many of them pointed me back to my happiness: the classroom full of students. I even cried reading one particular manuscript because the words rang so true to me that I wanted to pack my things right away. I left Xlibris full of lessons about life through the writers and their works. But it is not only that—one of the friends I had at work invited me to audition in their musicale. Yes, that’s how I got started in theater, and I will always be grateful to JJ for it.
Moreover, I also wanted to focus on my master’s degree. I shifted to MA Literature in June 2011, so my thesis writing course in the MAEd–English language teaching program is still pending at Cebu Normal University because I am currently writing my thesis for literature. I got angry and depressed because I did not get the support I expected from my MAEd–ELT professors. I was submitting title after title, but nothing was approved. They also promised me that they would just give me a list of possible titles to work on, but I never saw that list. Please do not call me impatient here. I waited for a year before I finally decided to shift. Besides, other students were also either shifting majors or transferring to other schools because of similar experiences. I must admit that I really feel at home in my current program. Plus the professors are all student-oriented, not to mention excellent.
If I could sum up everything I learned here, it would be this: happiness exists in fulfilling God’s purpose in me. I learned that I only have to trust God that he knows his purpose for me and I should do everything I can to achieve that purpose. I thank Rick Warren for writing that amazing book. That’s where I realized that I can be as simple as Santiago in Coelho’s The Alchemist for me to complete my personal legend. I believe that God allowed those unpleasant experiences to happen to me so that I would realize that I must take a detour when things are not right and continue to chase my happiness. Truth be told, several people have already commented on how happy I seem to be now. Who wouldn’t be happy fulfilling God’s purpose?
AMS: What do you want to achieve in:
April: The next week: The next week—better yet—the next four or five weeks, I would like to have successful Progress shows. I want to make my roles bigger and better than last year. In short, I want to give the story justice, especially because F. Sionil Jose, the writer himself of the original short story also entitled Progress, will be watching in one of our shows. Aside from theater, I would also like to watch the Les Mis movie, enjoy the Sinulog festival, and accomplish all scheduled activities in my classes.
The next year: Perhaps I would be married next year. Hahaha! I do not really know when I’d be married. It’s up to my boyfriend. Hehe. But I would like to proceed to the doctor’s degree program next year. Then finish my MAEd–ELT thesis. I should already be expanding my teaching career by next year. Plus I want to act in more stage plays and to have more singing engagements, explore myself more as a performer.
The next 10 years: I made a drawing of my ten-year plan in a short bond paper last 2008. So far, I’ve already accomplished several of them. In the next ten years, I would like to check off all the items in the illustration. Moreover, I would like to have already established a happy and secure family and career by then.
AMS: What was your most inspiring moment in teaching?
April: The most inspiring moment I’ve had as a teacher was when I coached a student for an inter-school oratorical speaking contest. It was my first time to be an oration coach. I had a limited experience with regard to oration at that time because I’ve only joined one oratorical speaking contest in my whole student life. I was a debate speaker though. Moreover, I was also assigned to write the oratorical piece—another first for me. The greater challenge was I only had ten days to do everything. But the greatest issue was UC has never won—not even third place—ever since that contest was created by University of the Visayas. On the fifth year of the competition, UC made it as first runner-up. I couldn’t help but cry. Not bad for a lot of firsts with only ten days to beat, I thought as I smiled at my student on stage.
April Anne with her students
AMS: If you were to tell us what are the most important skills that you need in order to be successful in life, what are they?
April: There are many books and articles written on this, but I noticed that they all have something in common. First, to be successful, you should know what it is you want. What drives you? What’s your passion? What do you really want? It is only when you have a clear sense of direction that you would know how to proceed. Second, you should have the right tools for that kind of success you want. If you want to be a singer, then I sure hope you can carry a tune. In addition, you should join organizations, extend your network, attend seminars and trainings, or other similar endeavors to keep you updated, to sharpen your tools. Last but not the least, have the right attitude. One famous Cebuano stage director taught me this: “Passion is not enough; you should also have the discipline.”
More pictures of April Anne’s school
AMS: What is your definition of success?
April: Success is when you achieve balance and happiness in your life. You get to do what you enjoy doing, earn enough to sustain a healthy lifestyle, serve the community, have a good relationship with people and with God, and many other things. People want different things, but they all want abundance. But the point is to avoid excess and overindulgence and to still be happy.
AMS: What are your favorite things?
April: Movie: Pride and Prejudice (based on Jane Austen’s novel, starring Keira Knightley). I’ve watched this several times and fell in love each time. It’s safe to say that I’m a romantic. Although I’ve not watched Les Misérables yet, I am sure it would be another favorite movie for me, and I’m afraid Hugo would beat Austen this time because of my personal attachment to his work.
Book: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. This is one of those novels that I never get tired reading. My personal copy was full of highlights and underlines, but I forgot who borrowed it. Well . . .
Place on Earth: Maya, Daan Bantayan, Cebu. This is where my mother grew up, and it is a safe haven for me. It is the northernmost barangay in Cebu province and is only a boat ride away from Malapascua Island. I love the beach, the hills, the coconuts and bananas, and most of all, the four-hour bus ride.
Travel: Different places in the Philippines and Europe. I love traveling. I’ve been to different places in the Philippines, but I want to explore the other islands I have not visited yet. As they say, never be a foreigner in one’s own country. If I could travel abroad, I’d like to have a European tour and visit all those places I’ve read about in history and literature.
Food: Sweet and sour fish. It is because my mother is a good cook. I like to eat this food when it’s a day old or when most of the meat has been eaten by others so I can explore the bones and the head of the fish. And of course, the taste of the sauce is something to enjoy too.
Drink: Green tea. I prefer green tea over coffee. It’s healthier especially because I don’t add sugar.
Quote: “When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it,” Paulo Coelho wrote in The Alchemist. This has become my life guide in fulfilling my purpose or, in Coelho’s term, my Personal Legend.
To read other inspiring Success Stories, click here.
Alpha Sanford is the creator and editor of Aspire.Motivate.Succeed! a personal development website which aims to inspire and motivate people from all walks of life through its bi-weekly articles. She interviews and features inspiring individuals whose extraordinary work impact the lives of many people in the community. You can contact her via facebook, twitter, email or pinterest.
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