Wednesday, June 17, 2009


“Beyond those troubled hills of the North
lies my hope all laden with pine
Amidst the soft and silken touch
of morning mist I lay my pr'yer b'fore thy shrine.”
Dr. Dennis Faustino wrote that Sagada Song after famous, or infamous, pangat named Macliing Dulag of the Butbut tribe was killed on the eve of April 24, 1980 for opposing the World Bank-funded Chico River Basin hydroelectric dam project.
Twenty five years after, he would become the principal of St. Mary's School in Sagada (SMSS). Since 2005, Dr. Faustino has been donating his services for free. And nobody would, or could, blame him for falling in love with the place, especially with his residence there, a wooden house built in 1924 supposedly for the medical director of St. Theodore's Hospital, which was leased for life for him. “Here, most of the children began schooling early so we designed a new curriculum” he opened up the plan, “six electives are now being taught to 3rd and 4th Year students in mixed classes: Advanced Chemistry for future medical and health science majors; Business Math for future accountants and business majors; Contemporary World History for future educators, humanities majors, and lawyers; Computer Programming, and Public Speaking; and Art and Design with Technical Drafting for future architects and engineers.”
He even pioneered a fifth year program: “A graduate of Trinity College High School, who is under the tutelage of Kent Sinkey for Computer Science and under me for Music; an SMSS graduate who is studying fashion design with Janet Eason and is on apprenticeship with Sagada Weaving; another SMSS graduate who wishes to pursue a career in Hotel and Restaurant Management, is under the mentorship of Chiqui Say-awen for business studies; a graduate of St. Alfred’s, Tamboan, who wishes to become a nurse, and will soon undergo an apprenticeship in St. Theodore’s hospital; and another one from Tamboan, who wants to study Criminology. The latter two are currently taking refresher courses in Science, History, Public Speaking, and Computer.”
Within the 60.4- hectare land area of Sagada, with the rest of the estimated 12,000 population in that smallest of 10 towns comprising what is now known as Mountain Province – who would expect such success stories? According to Howard T. Fry's A History of the Mountain Province (2006), it all began as a “form of mountain reservation for the non-Christian tribes of the Cordillera Central, then the Americans decided to lay the foundations for the future civilization of these “wild men,” as Dean C. Worcester described them as a force of habit. When the control of United States presidency shifted from Republican to Democrat in 1913, “the idea of separating the mountain peoples from their lowland Christian neighbors was abandoned in favor of a policy aimed at achieving their integration in the body politic of the Philippine nation” was born.
Such concept is taken seriously.
Today, tourists, local and foreign, are not just talking the talk about unity in diversity. Literally, they are walking the walk. Like the American missionaries who settled there late in the 19th that resulted into the Episcopalization of the Isagadas. The 105 year-old SMSS, that used to be a Boys' School, played an importaint role culturally and otherwise. Its former principal, Dr. William Henry Scott, wrote about it in 1958: “As years passed, however, and the value of education began to be more and more realized by Igorot parents, it was possible to start the school off on the road to financial self-suffiency, and after World War II there were enough jobs available for educated mountaineers to make it plausible to charge regular tuition fees.” Well, one of the adopted sons of Sagada who introduced Solid Waste Management and Material Recovery Facility – Dr. Faustino -- took that challenge.
Baptized as Gomowad during a gobbaw or name-giving ceremony, he spoke as an Isagada: “As an educational consultant for Ms. Gina Lopez, the president of the ABS-CBN Foundation, my services were enlisted to advise her on how to upgrade the level of education in public schools. SMSS will serve as the training area and serve as the high school model. By the way, I accepted the award for SMSS as having the “Most Functional Library in the Cordilleras,” in the Private Secondary School Category.
Earlier, its school administrator, The Episcopal Diocese of Northern Philippines [EDNP], was firm in closing down the school but concerned SMSS alumni and friends opposed it by trying to resuscitate its operations with Dr. Faustino. He, then, donated his 2.6 hectare titled property in Floridablanca, Pampanga, right in front of Basa airbase to SMSSI, or about 26 million pesos in total. One thing led another, they were able to build a covered functional gymnasium that is considered to be the largest in the Mountain Province. “The gymnasium which can seat 1,000 people, theater style,” Dr. Faustino imagined, “can easily be the suitable venue for a Philippine Basketball Association demonstration game and performances for Ballet Philippines, and the University of Santo Tomas Conservatory of Music Orchestra and Chorus, all of which are anticipating to be invited as guests for the grand inaugural of the gym.” Once in awhile, he would miss the times when he was still the International School Manila assistant principal who would love the stage. During the 80s and 90s, he would go to Sagada to teach music to students while playing Santa every Christmas, that included sponsoring concerts for the benefit of SMSS where he used to direct plays with local actors for classics like Caucasian Chalk Circle so one of his goals for it was to stage a Kankanaey adaptation of Fiddler On The Roof which he is now working on. One drizzling afternoon, the day before the Pinikpikan Festival, while we, with Ellay, were discussing the miracles of juicing, the open secret of weight loss, all of sudden his pet, Barrack, a pure German Rottweiler, found long lost friends in our kids Psalma, Wika, and Sulat, at home in his garden. All came to a halt, when his eight-year-old pet stood up to kiss our five-year bunso, who cried and was calmed down by our host who gave an achtung! to his four-foot herding puppy! Call it educational leadership. For four years, Dr. Faustino was able to practice what SMSS's motto had been preaching "Aditako Bokodan di Gawis." That is, "Let us share our blessings."
After Manny Pacquiao knocked out Ricky Hatton, Britons have been looking at their Filipina househelp with more respect and awe and are now calling them -- NANNY PACQUIAO!
We are tested by major changes,delayed promises, impossible problems, unanswered prayers, undeserved criticism, and senseless tragedies. But the good news is that God wants us to pass the tests of life we face to be greater than the Grace He gives us to handle them.

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