Wednesday, December 10, 2003

University of the Philippines and Philippine Science High School

It's been raining in the city of Oakland in Northern California. Probably two more days of rain is in store. I suppose I am lucky compared to the poor devils who have to play in the snowstorms. They get frozen ice thrown at them. Sure it's fun to make a fallen angel and a snowman. But, you also happen to freeze your butt, your hands, and your feet! Maybe it's fun to have snow for one day of play. But snow for three months is hell.

I have been amusing myself by taking the a google jeepney in the internet. I like looking for amusing blogs of highly intelligent people who have something to say besides discuss their love life in the internet. Let's face it, reading about people pining away for evil men is not my cup of ginebra. Oops, it's early in the morning. Not ginebra. Vodka!

Reading some of the Pinoy blogs, I realize that the admissions process in the Philippines is one of the hardest. It has to be. One takes the UPCAT in which one is graded on math, verbal etc, etc (probably like the SAT). Then, in the application to UP, you pick a campus like Diliman or Los Banos. Then, you select which major you want. However, you better make sure that your UPCAT scores are high enough. Because if it is not, off you go to some other major.

I always wanted to go to UP Diliman. It had that aura of being the best in the Philippines. When I was five or six years old, we would go to the campus and I would be struck by those triangular bus stops on either side of the road. I call them bus stops because I don't know what they are. More than anything, those triangles hanging in the air represented for me the goal of UP.

Of course, since we are discussing past lives, I would have probably gone to Philippine Science High School. Sigh. I wonder if I could have fulfilled my dream of being a scientist if I had gone there. Or would I have ended up on stage or theatre? Maybe then I could have met and married Pops. (Focus! Focus! I need to stop thinking about the princess in distress!)

The one difference that I saw between American teaching and Filipino teaching is that explanations are always available in the classroom in the United States. Mind you, this is from the public school of the Los Angeles Unified School District. For example, even though I was learning algebra in English, I managed to understand the distributive property of numbers as compared to the associative property of numbers. In fact, I enjoyed math during high school. But in the Philippines, I remember that algebra was something that I could not understand for the life of me. For some reason, the lessons in the American school made sense to me. I don't remember that being the case in the classrooms in the Philippines.

Of course, this could be because I just studied harder when I came to the US. I do remember saying to myself that it was a new life and I could remold my life. In the Philippines, I was not a distinguished student. I was constantly the student who kept going back and forth between the A class and the B class. Each year, I would hope that I was in the A class, and then wham! I get to show up in the B class. That’s was extremely disappointing because I could see the patterns. I was just not that gifted naturally in mathematics or in verbal. But I could see patterns, and maybe that is why I was pretty good once I was in the US.

With respect to Phil Science High School, I was supposed to go there for high school". I managed to squeak by as an alternate. I remember when one of the employees of PSHS went to our house. He lived just across the street so he wanted to deliver the package personally. I almost wreaked the house when I celebrated my admission. I had visions of greatness I tell you!

My parents and I visited the high school and I tell you, it looked like an American high school in terms of architecture. It was the single most beautiful school I had ever seen. The corridor was dimly lit, but we could peek at the science rooms. I could see those mini-sinks with the glittering faucets. The spit-shiny new classrooms. And the smell. It was the smell of America. In my dreams PSHS still ranks as number one.

Unfortunately or fortunately for me and my family, we knew that we were going to go to the United States. If I had attended PSHS and then left before graduation, I would have had to pay for the tuition and the costs. So, my parents made the hard call and decided that I should not enroll there. I was heartbroken. I saw PSHS as my only way of getting into UP Diliman.

Several years later, I end up graduating from the school that was the model for the University of the Philippines. Berkeley. At one time, the SO was giving a tour to some Philippine artist/professor/intellectual. He asked to go to Barrows Hall the economics and business administration building. Said personage stood in front of the bust of Barrows and introduced himself. Talked to the bust for a few minutes about the system in the Philippines and then left.

In the diasporic land which is America, we come to these moments of irony. I would trade away some of it if I could just set foot on the UP campus and the PSHS campus . Hmm, maybe they need a lecturer for molecular and cell biology over there?

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