I had an interesting forty minutes last Thursday night, as I joined some of my colleagues in attending a classroom session at the Colegio San Ignacio Alonso Ovalle, where we answered questions posed by the students of teacher David Chamorro, and we asked our own questions in turn.
My friend and co-teacher Joel Falgui, who had helped organize the session, sent us a list of possible questions that the students wanted to know about the Ateneo Junior High School, and about our country. There was quite a long list, and, as I went through it, I noted a couple of political questions. I was hoping that those questions would not be asked, although I’m sure we would be able to answer them as diplomatically as we could.
One of the questions that we found a little funny was the question about whether we went around in boats, and whether we had our own boat. This is because, as Filipino readers know, in the metropolis, we rely mainly on wheeled transportation such as cars, bikes, and buses, and while boats are normally used for inter-island travel, we normally rely on air travel to get from one island to another as much as possible. Still, it was a valid question, as the students were probably aware that the Philippines is an archipelago, so water travel would have been seen as prevalent.
However, as luck would have it, that was one of the questions the students decided to ask during the session. Basically, we answered what I wrote above, and one of my co-teachers shared images of the colorful vinta boats used in Mindanao to illustrate the types of seafaring vehicles in the country. I also added that, in the metro, one of the cities, Malabon, was flood-prone, so a number of households did have small boats in case flooding made roads impassable to other vehicles. Still, we did stress that cars and other wheeled vehicles were the main mode of transportation in the city.
I also helped field a question about Filipino cooking, wherein I described how adobo was made, while another colleague explained the Spanish-related context of the dish, and emphasized that the Filipino adobo was quite different from its Spanish counterpart.
Another question I helped out with was on the question of languages. This was a rather lively discussion, since there are more than a hundred languages in the Philippines. Some of my colleagues also weighed in, and helped explain the nuances between the myriad languages and dialects of the country. One of the students asked about the difficulty of learning English in the country, and one of our younger colleagues responded that, since English was one of the languages learned by many, it wasn’t that difficult to teach the language.
Other points of discussion included sports, where the students asked about the country’s favorite sport, and we asked about their favorite sport. On our side, one of our colleagues explained the prominence of basketball, although he also noted the popularity of football, volleyball, boxing, and esports. For the Chilean students, it was football, with them identifying midfielder Arturo Vidal as one of the best their country had.
Another interesting question coming from the students was on the subject of immigration, on the state of immigration in the country. One of us pointed out that the Chinese and the Malays were the long-time settlers of the archipelago long before the Spanish arrived, while another observed that, in modern day, other foreigners, such as the Koreans, the Indians, and those from the Middle East, came to the country to learn English, as well as train in the medical and nursing professions.
Being both former Spanish colonies, it’s clear we have shared history, but the was made even clearer after one of the guidance counselors pointed out that Ferdinand Magellan, the principal explorer who landed in the Philippines and brought the Catholic faith to the country, had stopped over in Chile just before going to the Philippines. In light of the fact that we are celebrating 500 years of the Catholic faith in the country, it was an interesting factoid that Magellan had helped bridge the connection between the two countries.
While the session could have gone on longer, sadly, there was only less than an hour of class time, but, as Joel noted, the discussion was really rich, and I felt that we learned a little bit more about Chilean culture, and, by verbalizing what we knew about our own history and culture, and listening to our colleagues’ explanations, we learned a little bit more about our own.
Interactions such as these are valuable. By making connections with school communities outside of the country, we make the world a little smaller as we reach out to others and learn from them. The interaction also sparked ideas for what issues and topics we could study in tandem with our international partners. By doing so, we expand our context by understanding and incorporating others’ contexts into our experience.
All in all, it was an enjoyable experience, and it’s definitely something I would participate in again, given the chance.