Everyday is a brand new day for Phil

It was an uphill battle for Phil Saraspe when he first landed in Thailand. Phil writes, "Contrary to what I believed, seeking for a job has never been that easy in Thailand. I have encountered plenty of appalling incidents along the way...(and) my application in different schools (were) turned down for various reasons."

In one Sunday mass, he got acquainted with another Filipino who told him of a job vacancy as a teacher in one school in Samutsongkhram Province. After a series of interviews, he finally landed a job but it "was not the end of my battle but the beginning of my real journey as an OFW." He was assigned to teach seven-year-old children who "could hardly utter even simple greetings in English." That experience, Phil says, was really challenging. Eventually, the children's English proficiency improved and they even managed to win a national-level English contest through Phil's help. (I'm actually imagining those feel-good films about teachers: Stand and Deliver, Dead Poets Society, Mona Lisa Smiles, etc. - Nebz).

Phil continues: "In the end, I have understood the real value of teaching abroad from my young Thai students...I have seen how my passion and dedication changed the lives of my students. I realized that my decision to go abroad has never been in vain for I have harvested more than what I have expected... I (made a) difference in my students' lives, (and that's) more than what I really wanted."

Phil now teaches in Bangkok after a year and a half stint in Samutsongkhram leaving his first teaching stint with "sadness and pride."

For this Issue 3 of the Kablogs Journal, we are honored to feature Phil Saraspe, a high school Math teacher in Thailand. He is the writer behind Wits and Spirits, PEBA 2009's Top 3 Blog.

Here's the gist of our Q&A interview with Phil.

How do you find teaching as a profession?

Teaching as a profession is very challenging yet fulfilling. It is very challenging because you are in direct contact with people who are expecting something from you. As the students enter the classroom, they usually expect something from the teacher and the fact is they have different expectations. Some would like to learn something new, some would like to have someone to talk to, some would like to show what they’ve got and some do not exactly know what they’re doing or what they’re going to do inside the classroom. It is very challenging to meet all those expectations from your students and the fact that you need to help them to become what they want to become is more challenging. As a teacher, you could not just push your students to do what you want them to do without considering what they really want to do. When you would only push what you believe is right without considering the students’, your classroom would become a threat to your students and they would eventually become unmotivated to learn. That’s a disaster! That and many other aspects make teaching a really challenging profession.

However, with all those challenging tasks, teaching is no doubt a very fulfilling profession for me. Every day is a brand new day if you are a teacher. You would never exactly know what would happen the following day. Opportunities to learn are always coming into your way. I love when I get to learn something from my students and I love it more when students learn something new from me.

Teaching is not your first dream. Do you think your life would be a bit better had you been a political scientist, for example? (Phil dreamt too of becoming a journalist or a computer engineer - Nebz).

I don’t feel sorry for being a teacher because I would never be what I am today if did not become one. I actually ended up enrolling for computer engineering because of my high school friends but my passion actually is on language. In short, engineering was a socially motivated dream. Hehehe.

From my parents, I learned to become happy with what I have and make the most out of it. It would have taken more years if I pursued my dream to enroll for Mass Communication or Political Science. I came from a family whose income is not enough to send me to a private institution offering the courses I wanted. I was advised by my parents to take any feasible course and aim for a college degree then after that, when I start to earn I could pursue what I have dreamt of. I did exactly what they advised me although it was very difficult as I used to hate Math. But taking Secondary Education Major in Mathematics was the best thing that I could do during that time so with all forced enthusiasm, I enrolled in a course I never imagined taking and majored a subject I hated the most. However, such experience made me realize something: I learned that I could exactly be happy with what I have. It’s a matter of attitude. Now, I am happily teaching Mathematics to secondary students here in Thailand and I couldn't be any happier. It's inwardly fulfilling.

For now, I think I would be in the field of education that’s why I enrolled for a Master’s Degree in Education here in Thailand. I believe that nothing could be happier than the life that I have at present although I would still choose to be happy with what the future would offer.

How do you find Thailand as a workplace?

Conducive. The cost of living here is cheaper compared to Philippines so I don’t have to worry much about my budget and I am earning much better than what I used to earn in the Philippines. I also like their food. Thailand offers a huge variety of food in which most of them are authentically Thai while some are foreign-influenced. I also love their smile. Thai people love to smile. My students even smile at me when I scold them. They are respectful too of teachers. And the public service in Thailand especially to foreigners is really awesome.

What I don't like of Thailand is the communication gap. I am often informed on the eleventh hour or not informed at all about what’s going on at school. I am sometimes surprised when students do not come to my class the entire period because they have some activities in which I was not informed. I also don’t like it when I go buy a shirt and the saleslady would say “We don’t have big size” right before I could start choosing. It happened to me several times already. And the scorching heat of the sun during summer is unbearable too! Other than that, I love Thailand.

I am uncertain how long I will stay here. That could be two years or two days. What I am considering is my dream of becoming a university professor in the Philippines. I need to be more competent in order to attain that dream. What I am considering are the opportunities for professional development like graduate studies and professional conferences while not losing the opportunity to support my family. I would always consider the country where I can be professionally developed professionally and at the same time have the chance to help my family back home.

What is Phil Saraspe's dream?

I actually have lots of dreams which I identify as short term and long term. I dream of backpacking around Asia, writing my own book and a whole lot more. But ultimately, I dream of becoming a professor in one of the respected universities (like U.P.) in the Philippines and I know I still need to run miles to achieve that dream but I am optimistic that I would fulfill that before I retire. I just hope that I can keep myself focused in achieving that dream.

What is Phil like if he's not being a teacher?

I am a very outgoing person and I like a lot of activities especially outdoor ones. I dance like nobody’s watching when I am really into it. I go wild in a disco and that’s normal to me. Cooking fascinates me and I concoct my own recipe. I often change tracks/I am fickle (so do not wonder if I am very inclined into something today and enthusiastically do a very different one the following day). I am the only son among five siblings. I read a lot and it’s quite awkward to tell which one is my most favorite when in fact most if not all of them have entertained me and changed me in one way or another. I am a wide reader and I do not stick to one kind of book or reading. All reading materials could fascinate me depending on my mood and my favorite book also varies according to my mood.

What got Phil into blogging?

Language is my passion and politics is one of my interests. I got into blogging because I wanted to hone my skills and express myself. But before Wits and Spirits was formally coined, I just did blogging for the sake of doing it and to divert my attention when I feel too much homesickness. The topics of my blog are actually very diverse and I get into them randomly. I write what I want to write in that particular moment. I write my passion, my thought, my experience – anything that comes to my mind during a particular moment. I do not just blog about a particular topic because everybody is writing about it (although I feel motivated sometimes). My blog is very personal as the topics I come up usually are from my inner desire or shall I say, desperation. In short, I do not force myself to blog if I don’t feel like doing it. That is why I easily update my blog because almost everything there comes easily to me as I live day by day.

Of what he's written so far, what is Phil's most favorite?

Ohhh, I’ve got more than a hundred entries in my blog and I could hardly choose which one is my most favorite as I like them all. I usually delete a blog post after days or weeks when I realize that I do not like it. So, as long as the blog post is there, it’s my favorite. But I think those posts related to personal inspiration, family and teaching are near to my heart and my mind.

As an OFW, blogging helped me a lot in diverting my attention to something worthy instead of thinking much on my homesickness. It has also helped me connect with other OFWs. Blogging has actually expanded my network. As a teacher, in particular, blogging helps me convey to people that teaching is not actually a boring and tiring job. Through my blog, I attest to them that you could still live as a normal being even if you are a teacher and I discovered that students would love you more if they would learn that you are normal – you have life beneath those strict moves and loud voice in the classroom. For my students who discovered that I am blogging, they have learned that I also live a different life aside from the usual me who they see every day and they sometimes tell me, “Oh, Mr. Phil you like this, you do that…etc.” and I am surprised to learn that they knew them from my blog.

How has winning the PEBA 2009 changed your blogging?

First of all, I never expected that I would land in the top 10 (Honestly! It’s not a Janina San Miguel thing!). I joined not because I was confident to win but because I believed my blog was qualified and I have also noticed that I have got plenty of posts in my blog already but still I was not sure if someone really gets into them. Not only winning but joining PEBA 2009 helped me realize that there really are people who read my blog and follow my story. It’s very uplifting. I became more inspired to blog after winning PEBA 2009 and my advocacy to inspire people though blogging was made even stronger.

To his fellow expat bloggers, this is what Phil has to say: Continue pursuing your passion and inspiring others with your beautiful stories of virtuous attempt to fight against adversities of living/working in a land where you are indifferently different.

And to fellow OFW's: We might have experienced right now the comfort we never had when we were in the Philippines. We might have given our families the life we were not able to give when we were in the Philippines. With all those great things we have today but we never experienced in our country, do not forget that we are what we are right now because we are Filipinos.

Let’s keep the fight not only for ourselves and our families but for our beloved country as well.

Written by Nebz Bandiez

► Read our previous Spotlight articles.

2 Reactions:

Everlito (ever) Villacruz said...

masinop at talento kung susuriin...mabuhay ang pinoy! mabuhay ka wits and spirits..

Mr. Thoughtskoto said...

Thank's for this Nebz. You're wonderful. Your entry about Phil and his blog WITS AND SPIRITS is wonderful. PEBA 2010 is coming this July.

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