|Dr. Ho with the Filipino gifted (literally) beside the Christmas tree of knowledge|
Vim Nadera: How would you define giftedness? Do we, as Filipinos, have indigenous, or traditional, concepts about it?
Leticia Ho: Giftedness is a “condition resulting from a responsive biological and social environment that is manifest during the developmental period of life and describes significantly above average performance inferred from the current performance and estimates of future performance and contingent upon the person’s task commitments to attainments in adaptive behaviour”. No, for the moment, I am not aware of indigenous or traditional concepts that have come up except henyo, matalino but mostly referring to academic intelligence. I remember hearing the term “PANTAS” which you suggested. It referred to someone who has grown in wisdom. It did not occur to me to use it to refer to a young gifted person. But, after our discussion, I realize that this can be the Filipino term for the gifted no matter what age. But additional advantage is the expectation of wisdom which connotes the gift being honed (through different means) and imputes it being used for the common good.
VN: Are your kids gifted, too, like you? What made you gravitate towards the gifted?
LH: My daughter and son are definitely gifted in many ways. But like me, they underachievers. Like me, too, they are very shy, a trait common to the Peňanos, and they did not like being focus of attention even if both are very talented. Both are selective, too, doing really well in areas or tasks which they love doing sometimes neglecting the others. I did not push them but I encouraged them to do what they do best. At the end, they preferred to be happy than pressure themselves. In my case, I did best when there was challenge. Otherwise, I did not see the need to do any better than what was acceptable. Now that I am working on the gifted, I often see what is commonly called the tyranny of the average. I gravitated towards working with the gifted because I wanted to answer many questions I was asking myself about people who are very intelligent but were not doing beyond the average for many reasons. Foremost among these is the inability of teachers to see behind the façade of being average. Many teachers, too, have their own biases about who is more intelligent among which are being good looking, socially adept, assertive, to name a few. They are seldom aware, more so accepting, of the non-intellective factors which are vital in development of cognitive and academic abilities.
VN: What are your programs as the incumbent Chair and President of the Philippine Association for the Gifted?
LH: The Philippine Association for the Gifted, or PAG, was originally conceptualized to provide support to children who have been identified to be gifted and to their parents many of whom find parenting the gifted to be both a difficult and challenging role no matter how blessed they feel about having a gifted child. At one point, the PAG went into assessing the potentially gifted but this service was stopped and given to psychologists that interested families were referred to. Right now, the emphasis of PAG is to intensify its membership campaign so it can reach all parents of the gifted and provide assistance to them with respect to parenting skills and programs for the gifted. The Parent Support Group (PSG) is very active in providing these services at same time planning summer activities for the gifted to ensure their holistic development. The PAG is the only association for the gifted which has a multi-disciplinary membership of pediatricians, psychologists, teachers, and parents of the gifted. Considering its membership, it can very well address a wider sector of professionals who can take on programs for the gifted and work with them more effectively. The PAG was responsible for the declaration by former President Joseph Estrada of the last week of November as the week for the Gifted and the Talented. It actively participated in seeking legislation for the establishment of the Philippine Center for Gifted Education.
VN: How does PAG complement the Philippine Center for Gifted Education (PCGE)?
LH: The Philippine Center for Gifted Education (PCGE) was founded in 2010 as an alternative to the establishment of a similar program through legislation. Its establishment was made possible through the financial assistance of a family that has gifted children and who would like to share their blessings with the other Filipinos. PCGE aims to be a world class institution that will provide leadership in gifted education in the Philippines and the ASEAN region. Our mission includes to advocate for the equitable access to services and programs in gifted education in the Philippines (in the areas of identification and nurture of the potentially gifted); to develop programs that will ensure a holistic approach in developing the potentially gifted in a wide range of cognitive and artistic domains, creativity, leadership and foster their social, emotional development and commitment to helping in national development; to mobilize the interest of different sectors of Philippine society in advocating for the gifted and providing assistance to them; to facilitate professional development of teachers, psychologists, counselors, and others in providing assistance to the Filipino gifted at all levels; to make possible parent empowerment in the understanding and managing their gifted children; to develop partnerships with local, national, and international organizations that advocate for the gifted and gifted education; and to conduct researches that will aid in legislation particularly for the understanding and management of the gifted through programs that will nurture them.