The flow­ers—and tick­ets—of May

Philippine Daily Inquirer - - OPINION - hy­acinthjt@gmail.com HY­ACINTH TAGUPA

Long be­fore SK elec­tions were on our minds, long be­fore we even gave a thought about col­lege ad­mis­sions and sum­mer classes, the kids of my gen­er­a­tion were oc­cu­pied with one thing ev­ery May: the “Flores de Mayo.” Ev­ery sin­gle day, we would dress up and pre­pare flow­ers to bring to the church as­sem­bly. By 2 p.m., dozens of kids would be seated on the pews, all freshly pow­dered and ready to sing the “Ave Maria.”

Though the Flores de Mayo is a deeply re­li­gious tra­di­tion, in my home­town it was more than that. The chil­dren who at­tended the gath­er­ings were en­cour­aged to min­gle and make friends. It was a so­cial af­fair for young­sters. And the real magic—at least for us back then—hap­pened at the end of each as­sem­bly, when we would get a ticket for the day’s at­ten­dance. Then, at the end of the month, we would be ea­ger not just for the “San­tacruzan,” but also for the time to ex­change our tick­ets for school sup­plies.

I call it magic be­cause the re­deemable school sup­plies ac­tu­ally got us ex­cited to go to school the fol­low­ing June—a feat that even our par­ents had a hard time achiev­ing. Who knew that the se­cret to get­ting kids in­ter­ested in school is to give them a cou­ple of new note­books and pen­cils? It was a boon for par­ents, too, as they could now worry less about buy­ing school sup­plies for their chil­dren.

It is of­ten said that it takes a vil­lage to raise a child. The Flores de Mayo ticket ex­change was an in­ter­est­ing con­tri­bu­tion of the church to the rais­ing of our gen­er­a­tion. In a sim­ple, un­pre­ten­tious way, a re­li­gious in­sti­tu­tion in our small town ef­fec­tively prod­ded us an inch more to better fu­tures. It rec­og­nized that it wasn’t just faith and spir­i­tu­al­ity that it can pro­vide to chil­dren, but also prac­ti­cal sup­port for for­mal learn­ing.

Th­ese kinds of con­tri­bu­tions shaped our grow­ing-up years. We were raised not just by par­ents and teach­ers, but also by gov­ern­ment-run day­care cen­ters, non­govern­ment kinder­gartens, pri­vate sponsors, and even busi­nesses that sup­ported all sorts of child-ori­ented ac­tiv­i­ties (I can’t tell you how much of a sav­ing grace it was for us to have those den­tal health work­shops and nu­tri­tion pro­grams).

Per­haps ow­ing to the hum­ble size and close-knit com­mu­nity of our town, this mul­ti­sec­toral for­ma­tion came about or­gan­i­cally, with­out bu­reau­cracy or pol­i­tics. Or per­haps it’s pre­cisely the lack of pol­i­tics that re­ally made it hap­pen. In of­fer­ing their con­tri­bu­tions, each sec­tor set aside its own agenda and fo­cused in­stead on the chil­dren’s best in­ter­ests. The lo­cal par­ish, for ex­am­ple, freely sup­ported for­mal ed­u­ca­tion with­out once dis­cred­it­ing our sci­en­tific learn­ing (not even the lessons on evo­lu­tion).

This im­par­tial, non­parochial nur­tur­ing is all the more cru­cial now, when young peo­ple are play­ing more ac­tive roles in so­ci­ety while be­ing sur­rounded by pit­falls. We have pow­er­ful tools in de­vel­op­ing and voic­ing opin­ions, we are more en­gaged in vol­un­teerism and so­ci­etal con­cerns, we have more av­enues for lead­er­ship. But at the same time, we are more ex­posed to mis­in­for­ma­tion, par­ti­san­ship, and cor­rup­tion. The SK, though re­formed, is still con­sid­ered an ex­am­ple of a youth lead­er­ship train­ing ground that’s also laden with cor­rup­tion is­sues.

A bal­anced up­bring­ing better equips us to avoid th­ese pit­falls. When a com­mu­nity is all-hands in the for­ma­tion of its chil­dren—mi­nus the pol­i­tics, mi­nus the nar­row-mind­ed­ness—it re­sults in better chances for those chil­dren to be well-ed­u­cated, per­cep­tive, and con­sci­en­tious.

Look­ing back at those Flores de Mayo years, I find it easy to see that those school sup­plies were sparks that helped stoke a light in us. No doubt some of the kids who once cher­ished the feel of their new note­books and the smell of their new pen­cils have now aced col­lege or even be­come lead­ers in the com­mu­nity. Those tick­ets bought us some­thing valu­able, and for that, we are grate­ful.

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