BATU, Indonesia. Photo by Jes Aznar

Sunday, June 8, 2014

The Miracle That Is JASMS

Sharing with my readers a graduation speech for JASMS Grade School Batch 2014 which mentioned my thoughts about my favorite school. (I went to four -- Miriam, UP and Ateneo but JASMS remains my favorite of all). If you are looking for the perfect school for your child, this is it. 

Graduation Speech by Concepcion Vallejo-Pijano

Many times over the past few weeks, I have often wondered why I was chosen to address the Grade 6 students on graduation day. I have been having nightmares about what to tell you.

There’s a gap of over half a century between our generations. And I wonder what I can share with you that would make sense in your world, that is now dominated by computers, the I-pad, I-phone, X-box and games like, Angry Birds, NBA 2K 13, Minecraft and Halo.

Let me begin by congratulating the Batch of 2014 who belong to Generation Z. You are now standing at the midpoint of the K to 12 basic education program, moving up to junior high and senior high which is equivalent to 6 more years of schooling. You will be the High School Graduates of 2020. Isn’t that awesome? But that’s the future.

Let’s focus on today - Today we have come together to celebrate your graduation from Grade 6. The JASMS education which you have received goes back to 1933 when Doreen Barber Gamboa pioneered in childhood education which is “child-centered” and totally different from the educational approach of her time.

It is surprising that 81 years after Doreen Gamboa pioneered in this approach, it is only in the recent past that educators in the country are focusing on student centeredness. It is said that in Mrs. G’s world, the child was the center. In this school that she created, which is JASMS – YOU are the center. 

This is the reason I kept my 3 sons here in JASMS in the mid 80’s and now I have 5 grandchildren who are all studying here. For the second generation of Pijanos who are here now, coming to JASMS was a blessing, short of a miracle, a milestone in their young lives.

Let me tell you the story of how they landed in JASMS?

In SY 2012-2013, they were all enrolled in an exclusive school for boys, about 7 minutes away from home. It was a good school, academic-oriented, but the classes were big, about 40-45 students per class.
It was John who sounded the first red flag when he told us he wasn’t happy there. He was being bullied and the class of 43 kids were rowdy and noisy. In September 2012, (about one and a half years ago) we decided to transfer him to JASMS.

One evening in September last year, he said: “Lola, it’s my anniversary at JASMS. It has been a very happy year for me”.

In June last year, his older brother and 3 cousins joined him at JASMS. This is the happiest period in their young lives. For them, JASMS is a piece of heaven on earth, and rightly so, because here, love abounds.

It is a caring environment where every child is unique and respected.
Mrs. Gamboa’s favorite line which you can see etched on the wall here at JASMS states, “A child grows up only once, let his childhood be a happy one.”

From the Internet, let me share with you what some graduates have written about JASMS:

A Manila-based multi-awarded journalist who is a world-traveller - Iris Cecilia Gonzales wrote a beautiful blog entitled, “J-A-S-M-S Oh yes! The school we love the best, " and I quote: 

“Somewhere between my heart and Quezon City, lies the haven of my childhood, a place which is largely the reason why I am in the mold that I am now.

It has been so many years ago since we stepped out of our playground to live the rest of our lives. 

Today, we are proud and happy pursuing our interests in life. That is, after all, what JASMS gave us. It did not raise us to become nerds or academic slaves but more importantly, JASMS taught us to do what we want. It helped us find our place under the sun. JASMS allowed us to be children. It also gave us enough time to grow.”

This resonates with the famous statement of Doreen Gamboa which says: “Each child has his own time for blooming, It mustn’t be hastened and it mustn’t be held back.”

From another website called TeacherJulie. com: I quote:
“If one would observe the children at JASMS, they are different from students in other schools. They are happy, noisy and confident. One can feel their energy just watching them play, interact with one another and perform in front of people. They are friends with their teachers and principal. They go through a learning process that is different from the traditional setting because they focus more on the process. They are enjoying their childhood.”

We all know that teachers and administrators are what make an excellent school. Today, allow me to pay special tribute to 12 teachers who have been here at JASMS for more than two decades, interacting with the kids, teaching and loving them every step of the way and keeping the institutional memory of JASMS alive:
Mr. Abelardo Giron, Mr. Herminio Laygo, Mr. Isidro Manrique, Ms. Amelita Manangbao, Ms. Aurea Cavinta, Marilyn Donato, Ms. Rosario Rosales, Ms Julie Monsale, Mrs, Flocerfida Singh, Ms. Maria Poblete, Ms. Venus Ramos and Ms. Marivic Roman.

I would also like to pay a special tribute to Mrs. Remedios Cruz, Principal of PWU-JASMS, Manila who has taught here for many decades and has made a difference in the lives of the students under her care.

These teachers and the rest of the faculty make learning an exciting journey where new opportunities are constantly being created.
Let’s give a big round of applause to your heroic teachers, who day in and day out have accompanied you in your journey of discovery and learning.

We also have in our midst, 4 JASMS alumnae, who have decided to remain in JASMS to carry on the JASMS tradition: They, too, are my heroes:

Mrs. Diana Gutierrez, Principal, High School Batch 89, Mrs. Rosanna Prieto Luciano, Mr. Norman Ramirez and Mr.Claude Despabiladeras

Can we give these alumnae another round of applause? Their passion, dedication and commitment to the JASMS tradition and way of life are admirable.

I also wish to congratulate your parents for letting you come to JASMS. Dear Parents, I can assure you this is one of the best decisions you have ever made in your life for your child.

My job takes me across the country visiting schools, and I can tell you that we are lucky because here in JASMS, classes are small – 16 to 20 students. This is rare, very rare. Only international schools in the country are able to do this.

JASMS continued existence is a blessing to the Filipino nation.
Its facilities may not be that great, but their graduates are able to pass the most difficult entrance exams in the country - given by UP and the Ateneo. In my son’s class 25 years ago, two thirds of the entire class made it either for UP or Ateneo. This year, majority of those who took the exams passed.

It is said that those who pass the UP and Ateneo entrance exams belong to the top 2% of the graduating class in the entire country.

Truly, this is a wonderful record which tells us that JASMS is one of the best institutions we have in this country.

Again, let me quote from Ms. Gonzales’ blog: “There, it was possible to climb "mountains," to soak oneself in mud and enjoy it, to travel to different corners of the world without mom and dad, to learn while playing and to enjoy every minute of one's youth”.

A renowned American writer of children’s books, Dr. Seuss, has this to say: “I A renowned American writer of children’s books, Dr. Seuss, has this to say: “I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells. Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living, it's a way of looking at life through the wrong end of a telescope. Which is what I do, and that enables you to laugh at life's realities."

Learning to laugh at life’s realities, keeping a balancing act as you go through life and learning to cope with life’s various challenges – this is the miracle that is JASMS. "

Educators agree that what remains with a person after leaving school are not the classes attended or papers and projects submitted but the co-curricular activities pursued outside the classroom. These activities have a far greater impact on our lives than all the hours spent in the classroom.

Maybe this is why John was beaming with happiness and pride last night at dinnertime when he was recalling the many experiences and achievements he has had since he came to JASMS a year and a half ago.

As we end, let me give you another quotation from the blog of Rhissa Garcellano, HS Batch 87, which states: “ We honour and acknowledge the people and the institution that have played a big role in our lives. (It is) because of the school’s different approach to teaching that we are who we are today – great unique individuals. JASMS gave us tools to learn through experience, to discover on our own, to keep asking questions and to grow in an environment filled with so many wonderful options.”

It has been 81 years since Doreen Gamboa created JASMS. Many generations later, it is still turning out happy kids, eager to make a difference in the world.

It is a miracle how it has survived through the decades. I guess God must be watching over it and the generosity of the teachers and administrators have made this possible.
For this we are eternally grateful. I do not have enough words to tell you how much I appreciate JASMS and the impact it has made on our lives as a family.

Thank you, JASMS, for helping me raise three happy boys in whose veins run deep the philosophy of founder Mrs. Doreen Gamboa, “learning to be free”.

To the JASMS High School Department – get ready for this Magnificent Grade School Batch 2014.

They are flying high, they are brimming with joy at discovering a brave new world which is Junior High.

My parting words to the Graduates are again taken from Dr Seuss: "You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. You are the guy who’ll decide where to go."

Congratulations, Batch 2014. Stay happy!
Concepcion Vallejo-Pijano

(Mother of 3 JASMS alumnae and grandmother of 5 JASMS students)