Mong Palatino

blogging about the philippine left and southeast asian politics since 2004


@mongster is a manila-based activist, former philippine legislator, and blogger/analyst of asia-pacific affairs.

Graduation rites are important but they should not be extravagant. Even education officials recognize the need to conduct simple graduation activities. But many schools still want a grand celebration and this necessitates the collection of graduation fees from students.

Student are able to finish basic education without paying tuition but they can’t get their diplomas without paying exorbitant graduation fees? Public schools can sustain their operations for the whole school year without collecting fees from students but they can’t organize a one-day graduation ceremony without receiving payment from parents?

Graduation programs are memorable rituals, but still they are just rituals. The process of education is more important. Parents should be more concerned with the schooling process over the graduation program. We should worry more over the quality of learning materials our students are reading, the teaching methods of teachers, the safety of students inside campuses, and the curriculum implemented by school administrators.

A diploma is a worthless piece of paper for a student who didn’t learn the required competencies imposed by the state. A graduation ceremony is an empty ritual for a student whose learning potential was not realized.

But we continue to glorify and enjoy attending graduation programs. After all, we are obsessed with spectacles and ostentatious display of individual achievements and quantifiable results. We often forget that academic achievers and polite kids are not necessarily the brightest students in the school.

Is it possible to organize simple graduation programs? Yes. In fact, I attended a simple graduation ceremony last March 29 at Sitio Siok Elementary School in Barangay Mabini, Koronadal City. I was a guest speaker in the program and my task was to motivate students and their parents. In the end, it was I who was inspired by what I witnessed in this remote town in South Cotabato.

Siok is a small school located at the foot of a small hill in Koronadal Valley. To reach the school, one has to pass an “abortion road”. Siok does not matter to decisionmakers because of its remoteness and small voting population. The school only has four classrooms (two classrooms were built through the pork barrel of Bayan Muna). About half of students are Indigenous Peoples. Teachers often give lessons outside the school to reach out more IP students who can’t go to the campus. Students walk for at least one hour (two hours everyday) to attend classes.

Despite the meager resources it receives from the government, Siok is able to provide a decent education to students. Faced with a student group coming from diverse backgrounds, teachers adopted creative and appropriate methods and modules. I was impressed by the dedication of teachers in fulfilling their mission to teach and help the students. Often, they have to spend their own money in order to feed the poor students.

There was no overly decorated graduation stage when I arrived in Siok. No expensive graduation togas for students. No new shoes for graduates, some students only wore slippers. No fees were collected from parents. The graduation was held in the schoolyard.

I appreciate the bonding of parents, students, and teachers in the community. Maybe this was possible because the school is really very small. But I feel it was also brought about by the sincere desire of everybody to raise the standard of schooling in the area even with the little support it gets from the state. IP parents are happy that their children are given proper education. Teachers are actively interacting with community residents.

I was enlightened about the miracle of teaching during my brief stay in Siok. Here, schooling is made possible because of the collective effort of the community. I was disappointed to see substandard school facilities in Siok but I was inspired by the perseverance of the people of Siok to deliver and improve the learning needs of their children. There is hope after all.

Far South

I arrived in General Santos City last March 27; it was only my second time to visit the country’s tuna capital. Breakfast was provided by Piston officers who welcomed us in the airport. After breakfast, we campaigned in the public market. While campaigning, I learned that some Muslim women do not like their hands to be touched by men. I encountered this behavior again in Digos (talaga bang bawal hawakan ang kamay o ayaw lang nila sa kandidato?)

We motored towards Polomolok where we had our lunch at Sadok resto. Polomolok is famous because it is the location of the Dole plantation. Polomolok is an ideal agricultural land because it is near the foothills of Mt. Matutum, a dormant volcano.

I was guest speaker during the launching forum of Makabayan Coalition held at Londres Gym in Polomolok. I stayed overnight at the house of my relatives in the nearby town of Tupi.

I was like Mr. Partylist Palengke the following day since our team campaigned at Lagao market in Gensan and Alabel market in Sarangani. I sensed that the Pacquaio-Chiongban electoral match-up is a close fight.

I went to Koronadal City (formerly known as Marbel) on March 29. Koronadal is now the regional administration center of Region 12 after government offices decided to leave Cotabato City.

As mentioned earlier, I delivered an inspirational talk in Sitio Elementary School. Then I paid a courtesy call to Congressman Dodo Pingoy, my esteemed colleague in Congress who is now running for governor in South Cotabato. Thanks Dodo for the Buko Halo-Halo!

Before proceeding to Gensan, we made a brief stopover at Polomolok market in the afternoon. There were many people in the market and most of them were Dole workers. While distributing leaflets, I remembered that Dole is accused of committing unfair labor practices. There is blood in your pineapple? Hmm, what is certain is that there is endosulfan in your pineapple (as reported by farmers themselves). Organically-grown pineapples are small and brownish; I saw these products in the market. Meanwhile, Dole pineapples are bigger and greener – courtesy of endosulfan and other chemicals.

We had our dinner at Tuna Grill resto. We stayed at Dolores Hotel. The following day we had a breakfast meeting with Councilor Lagare, the lone opposition councilor in Gensan. Then I guested in an environmental radio program at DXDX, an RPN-9 station.

We went to Digos to campaign in the market before proceeding to Davao City where I delivered a talk during the planning session of the UP Mindanao Student Council. For merienda, I recommend Lachi’s resto located in Marfori Village. Try their sans rival.

3 Responses to “Schooling in Siok”

  1. […] Mong Palatino » Blog Archive » Schooling &#1110&#1495 Siok […]


  2. Binasa ko. hehehe

    Arjay @NDMU

  3. […] first graduation speech was in Siok, Koronadal. Meanwhile, I truly appreciate the invitation of St Mary’s, my elementary alma mater, […]

    Mong Palatino » Blog Archive » Adventure Time

Leave a Reply