One Small Child at a Time

Teacher Fe, as everyone calls her, is a public school teacher and a social worker with education as her main advocacy.

She’s been teaching for more than two decades—inside the classroom during weekdays and more recently, under the La Huerta Bridge in Parañaque during weekends. She received the Bayaning Guro award back in 2012.   

Teacher Fe is the founder of Journey of Hope, an advocacy that aims to provide education to the less privileged children. Kabayani Community Training Center and Education under the Bridge are two of the main programs under Journey of Hope.  

My brief encounter with Teacher Fe was nothing short of enriching. The first time I got in touch with her, I was only expecting for a brief interview like the usual stuff I do. I didn’t think that someone like her—someone who so obviously have a full daily schedule—would have extra time to indulge me.

But I was wrong.

Instead, I got an unexpected invitation to Kabayani’s moving up ceremony as a guest speaker. To say I had no idea what to do was truly an understatement. More than just introducing herself, Teacher Fe wanted people to truly get know her advocacy and what’s it like to be part of it.

The Kabayani Community Training Center provides a free learning center for kids below 4 years old. Their objective is to equip toddlers with basic knowledge that would help ease their way into formal schooling.

Contrary to what I expected, the ceremony itself wasn’t as formal as I thought it would be. Rather, it seemed like a private celebration, somehow like a family gathering with Teacher Fe as the family head.

She knew the students and their family members as if they were relatives living in the same community. In fact, she fondly and proudly noted that some of the older siblings there were her former students.

Throughout the event, Teacher Fe individually congratulated the students for their accomplishments, gave advice to the parents and encouraged them to start enrolling their kids to formal school. It was evident that to them, Teacher Fe is more than just a teacher. She’s a mentor to the students and parents alike.

It was truly a pleasure to have been given a front-row seat to witness this special event. I was pleasantly surprised when Teacher Fe awarded medals not only to the students but also to their entire family. It was an open acknowledgement of how combined efforts made this success—and will make all future successes—possible.

And with pride and confidence, Teacher Fe wore her own medal as she congratulated everyone for a job well done.  If she could’ve given a medal to all the volunteers and sponsors who continuously make their existence possible, I’m sure she would.

But more than anything else, what truly impressed me was the way those children behaved. Young as they were, they showed obedience and respect—the kind that’s admirable for kids their age.

They obediently followed Teacher Fe’s instructions: fall in line, wear your togas, claim your medals, pose for a picture, etc. Some of the remaining children even helped clean the classroom and arrange the chairs after the ceremony.

As for my speech, well, I don’t remember half of what I said. But what I clearly remember saying was my wish that they will never stop working hard and supporting each other. I told them that even if things get harder, I hope that they will always believe that there are people out there willing to help. I said those words with Teacher Fe, iVolunteer, and all the countless hero volunteers out there in mind.

As part of the program, the kids danced and sang to the rhythm of Lea Salonga’s Lipad. “Lipad. Lipad. Kaya mong lumipad. Maniwala sa iyong galing. Abot mo ang bituin.” They sang these words joyfully, and I believe that no truer words were spoken that day.

Truly, these kids and their families are in for a long and arduous journey. But I believe that like Teacher Fe, we can help strengthen their wings as they fly high.

Right after the moving up ceremony, Teacher Fe accompanied me to go the Education under the Bridge venue—another unexpected extra mile on her part.

Education under the Bridge is an initiative that Teacher Fe started in 2010. Initially, she visited that area—bringing whatever materials she could get her hands on at that time—and started gathering and teaching the children.  Over the years, more children discovered this and joined her. Eventually, it became part of her weekend routine.

Understandably, exhaustion was clearly evident on Teacher Fe’s face. In fact, she fell asleep during the short ride to the bridge. But upon our arrival, and as we were flocked by excited children, she was back to being her lively self.

The kids there were not wearing the best clothes or living in the most decent of places, but their eagerness and obedience were truly admirable. They welcomed us with smiling faces and clear excitement. They immediately followed Teacher Fe’s instructions to fetch chairs and call the others. Some of them even proudly told us that they took a bath and wore the sponsored uniform in preparation for their session.

education under the bridge

With the street as their classroom, the summer heat as their aircon, and the river as their backdrop, they attentively listened to Teacher Fe narrate the different sea creatures using her DIY materials. It was somehow bittersweet to see these children with so little in life be so eager to learn so much.

At some point during that day, Teacher Fe admitted that teaching is tiring, even with the help of her equally hard-working assistants and other volunteers. Although she didn’t say it outright, I could see that she was truly proud of her students, and happy with her contributions in their lives.

education under the bridge

Teacher Fe repeatedly expressed her gratitude to all the organizations and the individuals who continuously support her in her advocacies. She was indeed very proud and grateful to the volunteers who make time to assist in these endeavors, the sponsors who provide them with the materials they need, and even the foreigners who choose Education under the Bridge as their immersion activities.

Teacher Fe is truly an inspiration to all of us.

I hope that as we fly high towards our career goals and dreams, may we never forget to lend our strength to those in need. I hope that we will take active roles in building this nation—one small child at a time.

Lorraine Rañoa
iVolunteer Philippines

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