We have a popular Tagalog saying which goes
Kapag may tiyaga, may nilaga.

Translated, it means if you have patience or perserverance, you will see it bear fruit.  The literal translation of the saying is if you are patient, you will have food.  Nilaga is actually a popular native soup dish.  Tiyaga by itself is translated as patience or perseverance.  I scoured the internet to verify the translation (I left my English-Tagalog dictionary in Manila) — and to the best of my knowledge, patience or perseverance are good equivalents in the English language.

The word kept bouncing in my mind all morning as I walked to the bus stop.  While in the English language, patience and perseverance are two different things, the use of its Tagalog equivalent could signify either word depending on the context.  (I hope I am not getting lost in the translation here.. haha!)

The 15 year old has been cutting class.  His school has a state of the art notification system which is an automated call that goes to the parent’s phone on record at the top of the hour after his last period and another 2 hours later.  A voice recording informs the parent that his/her son was absent from school today and needs an absence note.  It appears he has been going to school for certain classes but has been missing others, particularly those where he feels he will need to repeat because of the certainty of his failure.

I remember when I was having my own academic challenges in high school, I felt overwhelmed, too, but I never gave up.  And if I could salvage whatever passing mark I could, I moved heaven and earth to try and beg for the passing grade.  How do we impress upon the 15 year old that all is not lost?  That he could at least give it one last shot instead of surrendering four weeks before the school term ends.

Alan and I offer help in chorus.  I still feel bad about the enthusiasm Alan and I had to help him in his History scrapbook project — one of the subjects he has failed 2 periods in a row now.  It was the teacher’s way of allowing students who might be struggling through the study of history on a day-to-day basis to make a comeback.  He gave the project during the first period, due at the beginning of the third.  The students were given a free hand in choosing the items to be included in their scrapbook for as long as it was within the subject matters covered during the whole semester.  He laid out the rules simply –  25 pages, three different items per page, text was to be no bigger than 14 points. 

I googled and printed out materials on the topics covered and gave them to the 15 year old 4 weeks before the project was due, offering to get more if he could list down what other topics he needed materials on.  I patiently typed all the fonts I had in Word on my laptop in 14 points for him to see which ones he might want to use for headlines or text and told him if what he wanted wasn’t there, to show me what he needed and I would surf the net and download the appropriate one.

Every weekend, his father would remind him and offer to help, and I was very willing to do the whole project if he asked, but he said he had it taken cared of.  25 pages of a scrapbook is not a joke.  Father and son even made a trip to the crafts store to get a scrapbook and some select trimmings.  On the days immediately before the deadline, we continued to offer help, and he continually refused.  When it was time to submit, he chose not to.  Alan and I were stumped.

He just chose not to because he didn’t have enough time.  Kung may tiyaga lang siya.. eh di sana meron siyang nilaga. 

I was reading an interview with Janice de Belen in one of the editions of YES Magazine my sister brought me and I was struck by what I read there — she said in essence that you cannot spoil a child because once you do, you are not preparing your child to face the disappointments of life later on.  Perhaps this is one disappointment that he is having a tough time dealing with.  And like a typical 15 year old, he thinks in “the now”, failing to see the repurcussions of his actions today on lost time and his future.

It underscores the importance of teaching children that aspiring and working for something has its rewards — that to produce something good, we must work at it.  When one is constantly given everything and spoonfed, when the challenge to strive for something comes up, the child folds and gives up not even halfway through the battle.

So how do we teach him about pagtitiyaga now?  The hard way, I suppose.

It’s a whole year wasted but perhaps it has to be this way for the child to realize what he is throwing away.  We can only help those who want to be helped.  I just hold Alan’s hand and assure him we’re in this together. 


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