Climbing the "sketchy ladder" to a cliff side path

Teachers, Students and Inspiration In The Philippines

“Ahhh man!! I have to get up to go to school!  Seriously!?  Ughhh I wish it was the weekend!  This sucks!”

Yup, I have to be honest.  Growing up in Canada and going through 13 years of public schooling, I definitely had my fair share of moments like stated above.  Moments where I was annoyed with school, and looked at it as being a “burden” on my life.  Don’t get me wrong, I grew up enjoying school… but I never really appreciated the opportunity and resources I had to learn.   I never fully understood just how important and how much of a blessing it is to get an education.

After spending time in the Philippines…

Wow was it ever a big smack in my face.  This country has shown me just how much education should be valued, and how as a student we should appreciate teachers.

Let me share with you three experiences I have had during my adventures here in the Philippines that involved education…

1) The Cabatuan Kids

Last July 2015, I randomly visited a school just outside of IloIlo in the town of Cabatuan. It was 30+ degrees when I visited. Look at the kids… Sitting on the floor because they have no seats or desks, and sweating it out with only fans to cool them down.

High School Class in Cabatuan, IloIlo

High School Class in Cabatuan, IloIlo

I can’t even imagine how difficult it would be to focus on learning when you are sweating it out in a room, let alone having to bend over awkwardly just if you wanted to write something down… but thats what they had to do.  Not only that… they are there.  They show up everyday to learn, and I could see it through the interaction I was having… they value being able to go to school.   I grew up going to public schools that were always highly equipped (in comparison) and gave me the resources to learn comfortably… but it was always so easy to complain, and so easy to want to just “skip class”.  I am telling you right now… sitting in a 30 degree plus room without any proper supplies… now that is a fair excuse to want to “skip class”.  But nope… these kids go to class, and are inspired to hopefully better their lives, learn and get an education.

Heck they even had the energy and attitude to do a “jump shot”.  I wish I had that attitude when I was younger and going to school…

2) The Journey To Learn

I remember having to walk to and from school (although only sometimes).  It wasn’t very far, maybe about a 20 minutes on perfectly paved roads, and if it was raining hard… no worries, I’d always find a ride. Funny though… I remember getting so upset at my parents sometimes for being late picking me up or not giving me a ride home.  Why should I have to go through a little bit of “extra burden” just to go to school. Well when I think about this next story, it wasn’t funny at all that I would get upset… it was pathetic.

There is a place called Bayanga on the outskirts of Cagayan de Oro that I visited last year.

Turns out 18 kids wake up early every morning and accompanied by a few parents will make there way across a big river using a bamboo raft.  When I say river, literally it is a river used for Whitewater rafting, meaning if you fall in without any protection… it can be fatal.  A somewhat dangerous raft trip is followed by climbing up a steep handmade ladder that can only be described as “sketchy” even for adults (look at kuya holding a five year old on his shoulders so he can climb). 

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The bamboo raft being slightly overflowed by water

Climbing the "sketchy ladder" to a cliff side path

Climbing the “sketchy ladder” to a cliff side path

After the dangerous river crossing, the kids still have a few kilometres to go, and they will trek up a mountainside all the way to a road.

Hiking up the mountainside with a 5 year old on his way to school

Hiking up the mountainside with a 5 year old on his way to school

Yes that is the daily commute for these 18 kids to school. They cross a dangerous river, ascend a sketchy ladder, climb up a mountainside and then walk down a long road… Just so they can make it for 7:30am classes.  They do whatever it takes just to get that education.  It was incredibly hard on this day with perfect weather.  I can only imagine if it was raining…

I can’t believe I got upset about having a simple 20 minute commute.


3) Teaching Across Oceans

Growing up going to school.  I never really thought much about teachers.  They were just doing a job, and were there at school because they had to be.  Some I liked, some not so much, and well… I never really did give much appreciation for the dedication it takes to be a teacher.  Was that ever changed in the Philippines.


Last July 2014, I found myself travelling early in the morning on a small local bangka from Kinatarkan Island back to Sante Fe, Bantayan. As I was loading up I met 14 ladies who were the only other passengers. After sharing a little bit of laughter and some morning smiles, I soon found out they ride this boat almost everyday…

They were teachers.

It was their normal commute to go and help educate children.

Everyday they were “basically risking their lives” crossing a massive channel of open ocean for almost two hours in a small boat. They patiently wait, chit-chat and don’t hesitate to ride and continue on with their lives and their jobs. Rough weather? They wait it out and go when they can! When I ask them why they do it?

Teaching, Helping, Educating.

The teachers huddled together in the boat

The teachers huddled together in the boat

It is moments like this that really move me almost to tears. It is moments like this that can give us all a reality check, and inspire us to appreciate something like education and the dedication many teachers have. Looking and seeing the passion these ladies have to be able to go educate others, and looking at what they go through everyday just to be able to do it.

Simply Put…

We shouldn’t just value education… we should value those who dedicate their lives to helping us achieve that education. It is beautiful the passion many teachers have to insure children have the opportunity to grow and become whatever they dream of in the future!

I can’t believe I used to complain about having to go to school.

I can’t believe I would “make fun of teachers” or not fully value them as educators when I was going to school.

As students or teachers… we can all learn something from these stories.  These are real life “educational moments” I had in the Philippines.  Education is a blessing, and is something that should be supported all over the world!  Filipinos have and continue to really inspired me to value it.  I hope you do to.


Tell me what you think

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1 reply
  1. lorna cinco
    lorna cinco says:

    I walked on a trail for an hour from our barrio just to get to the school in our town….indeed education sort of provided me with wings and an eagle eye to be able to spot opportunities in life.


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