Dr. Onofre Pagsanghan and Independence Day

"The teachers of this country, one may say, have its future in their hands." - William James

I first heard of Dr. Onofre Pagsanghan (fondly called Mr. Pagsi) of the Ateneo as a teen-ager. As a high school student in Poveda, our class would troop to the Ateneo to watch the theater presentations of Dulaang Sibol.

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I also came across a quotation of his, early in life, a quotation which would sustain me through everything that came my way -- although I must admit, that I have generally lived a super blessed life. The quotation went like this:

"Isa-isahin, himay-himayin ang Kanyang mga pagpapadala. Sa pagbabalik-diwa, mamamangha na lahat nga naman sa buhay ko at sa buhay mo ay biyaya. Pati na yaong lihis sa ating mga hiniling, sa pagbabalik-tanaw higit palang magaling."

Here is my translation of the quotation in English but the vernacular really sounds so much better:

"Analyze each thing that has been sent to you. As you recall, you will be in awe that everything in my life and in your life is a blessing. Even those things that happened which were contrary to what we asked for, we will realize, in hindsight. left us better off."

Fast forward to today, or specifically to schoolyear 2010-2011. I never did expect that my son would suddenly find himself with Mr. Pagsi as his English teacher and moderator as he started high school. Mr. Pagsi actually turns 84 years old today, the day we celebrate Philippine independence. He continues to teach at the Ateneo to this very day, teaching his students not just about English or grammar, but about life lessons and the values that will make our country truly independent from indifference and mediocrity.

As parents, we were blessed to learn lessons from Mr. Pagsi too. I was always personally amazed at his ability to connect with the boys even at his age of 83 (then) and to be able to share his life experiences and wisdom with his class. My son says that all their English classes with Mr. Pagsi were interesting and Mr. Pagsi once told me during a parent-teacher conference that: "Oh, our English classes are always hypnotic!" Such was his passion as a teacher. Such was the gift of Mr. Pagsi.

I also noticed that Mr. Pagsi was a very "personal" person. He took the effort to introduce himself to and greet each and every parent -- during each school affair. During gatherings, he would stop to talk to different groups, sharing stories about his boys and how much they were taking up in class. Almost always, as well, his reminder was that the boys should always put Christ at the center of their lives and at the center of their education. He also says that: "Your life will be successful if you end up in the arms of God."

I have always believed that a good education is the key to independence, financial and otherwise. Anything and everything we have can disappear in a flash, but knowledge and faith, properly taught and nourished, last forever.

Mr. Pagsi also liked to tell the boys: "If there is one day that you did not learn anything, then you were cheated." So, the boys always wrote down the 20 things that they learned daily. I also wrote down 20 things I learned from Mr. Pagsi throughout the year and I share them with everyone here:

1. "You should be more alive than me. I'm 83, you're only 13." (as told to the boys and re-told to the parents)

2. "It's not what you say, it's what you do." (as told to the parents) "Mr. Pagsi is just here to help you. The primary responsibility of raising children is still with the parents."

3. "1-A will be a season of chances, choices, and changes."

4. "You cannot be a billionaire, if you cannot do your schoolwork."

5. "If you want the real thing, you pay for it."

6. "If you did your best, no matter what your marks, God is smiling."

7. "Hindi pa ako puwedeng ilagay sa kahon. Masisira yung kahon." (They cannot put me in a box yet. The box will get destroyed.)

8. "The boys are very bright. If they have a dumb teacher, the teacher will just get massacred."

9. "You cannot not study in 1-A."

10. "Focus!"

11. "You will change depending on your choices."

12. "If you don't believe in yourself, who will?"

13. "God should be your center. A wheel is only as strong as its center. You can live without one eye, ear, arm, or leg, but you cannot live without your heart. Your center will determine your life."

14. "When you are busy, you do not waste time."

15. "If anyone gets a grade lower than 80, that means I'm not a good teacher."

16. "When you do something for someone you love, you should smile."

17. "Everything belongs to God more than anyone."

18. "Your number one enemy is yourself."

19. "Thank you for our sons. May the end of the day find us closer to You than when the day started." (Mr. Pagsi's prayer with parents at the start of a parent-teacher conference.)

20. "You've got to have brains but you've got to have the heart."

Happy independence day Philippines! Through dedicated teachers like Mr. Pagsi, may we have future leaders and citizens who will make the right choices to bring about real change. Individuals who will always do their best and serve with a smile.

I asked my son before when he thought Mr. Pagsi would stop teaching. My son quickly replied: "For as long as he can talk and he can walk, he will be teaching." Happy birthday Mr. Pagsi. May you have more years to talk, to walk, and to teach.

[By Angelica Viloria | Sunday, June 12, 2011] [an error occurred while processing this directive]

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