Friday, September 21, 2007

Some thoughts (and persons) on humility

I had a scriptwriting class when I was in college. And I was fortunate to have come across a teacher who has been generous in sharing us his talents in the field. Modesty aside, I say that he is the best screenplay writer our country has ever produced. His name can be equaled to Lino Brocka and Ishmael Bernal, two filmmakers who have carved a niche in the movie industry unparalleled until now.

With the degree of excellence he has achieved for himself, Ricky Lee was rather soft spoken and unassuming. Okay, he was not really the motivational and dynamic teacher I was looking forward to, but he has created a positive impact in me because he knows what he talks about. I did not sense any selfish boundaries on his part to limit what he ought to share to us—from writing tips to a possible break in the writing industry!

Our class with him was filled with movies. We saw lots of films—even those which were banned in our local shore (the film "The Last Temptation of Christ" comes immediately to my mind). That term was memorable for me not only because I had him as a teacher, but grades of flat one in nearly all of my subjects poured on. His subject included.

Towards the end of the term, I asked him to sign a personal copy of the scriptwriting manual he wrote. And he silently scribbled this message: "Sana, mag-improve ka pa sa pagsusulat. Para makinabang ang iba sa talent mo. Tawag ka lang kung may kailangan ka. " I was moved by these words, and this privilege, I pass on to my students.

When I entered Don Bosco, I also met a professor. His name is Dr. Josue Zuniega, EdD. Back then, and I guess, even up to now, he holds the prestige of being the only non-Catholic teacher in that Catholic institution. Everybody respected him not only because of the initials he appended to his name but because of his utter simplicity: he appeared modest but respectable in his clothes, his vehicle was not flashy and his cell phone has seen better days.

He was a cool professor. Rarely would he get mad at the class. He was filled with fatherly wisdom, and he doesn't have to open his mouth to prove it. His mere presence overwhelms all of us. During break time, he is seen together with some of the students, most of the time, he would treat them. Unlike Ricky Lee, I never tasted flat one on any of the subjects he taught me. But I relish encountering him because of his utter humility.

I first met him when he became my teacher in one Education subject. He had to use a microphone because his voice is emaciated with the noise coming from more than 100 clueless college freshmen all huddled to attend his class.

Just last year, he gave us complimentary tickets to watch and listen to his son, top Filipino pianist Joshue Greg Zuniega at the Cultural Center of the Philippines. The entire seminary was invited. Around 30 tickets he doled out to us.

I think, if Dr. Zuniega is proud, he is only too proud of his children's accomplishments.

When I left the seminary, I taught in La Salle for nearly two years. It was a short-lived career, but I still wanted to stay but I had to quit because I decided to return to the seminary.

I reckon that La Salle is not merely a prestigious school for quality education; currently, it has also become a veritable nesting ground for promising individuals who are destined to carve a name in the Philippine society.

One of my former students, Enchong Dee, comes immediately to mind.

He seemed to be an ordinary student, except that he is a member of the swimming varsity of the campus. In college, I think, being a member alone of any varsity team is already a ticket to fame, to popularity. But otherwise, he was nobody but an ordinary student. He's one of the guys, so to say.

One day, he came to me and coyly asked me if I could excuse him in our class for three meetings the following week since he would be competing for a tournament. I got to know that he is a member of the varsity of the campus. I told him it is okay, but reminded him that it is his responsibility to catch up with the lessons. He politely nodded his head and assured me that he can manage.

The following meeting, he came forward and asked me to sign the permission slip coming from the Athletics Office. I was surprised discovering that the competition will be held in Singapore. I did my little research and I realized that to date, he has won over 400 medals as a swimmer (he does butterfly magnificently!). At present, he is training for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

That time, my respect towards him grew more. Yes, he didn't churn out excellent papers, and at times, his essays were dripping with ink coming from my pen after correcting them, but he was persevering. Unlike some athletes in La Salle who would proudly hang on to their athletic skills, and nothing more, Enchong is way out of their league. He is an athlete and real green-blooded Archer to the hilt!

Last year, I was happy seeing his photo used as the banner photo of one magazine with a circulation that covers the entire archipelago. I sent him a message through Friendster and kidded him about his popularity; he confided that "It's not easy to be in the limelight because I know that I serve as a model to the other youth. Please pray for me."

These guys I have mentioned are respected in their own chosen fields. They have become extraordinary individuals in their own right. However, they have maintained to safely anchor their feet on the ground, in spite of their accomplishments.