Sunday, June 30, 2019

Teacher on Center Stage: Arebella Soniega (2 of 2)

Here is part two of Teacher Ara’s interview. She talks about the literacy projects she initiated in DepEd Pangasinan. She also has advise for young and retiring coteachers.

3. What project are you working on right now and how can the teaching community help you?


This school year, I would like to focus on the development of reading programs for early grades and for the intermediate to secondary level. For the K to 3, I have the Project BRIDGE – Beginning Reading Innovation to Bridge the Gaps in Education. In this project, I am looking forward for innovative teachers who can teach beginning reading appropriately and effectively through story reading and aims to have early graders to be readers in their own respective levels (the least). For the intermediate to highschool students (JHS), I am about to launch the Project BEATLES – Books Enhance Ability Towards Language Efficiency and Sustainability. which aims to strengthen the interest of students to read books and other printed materials. Some features of these programs will be the schools’ initiatives in holding book donations, organizing reading circles, conducting quiz bees, read-a-thon and reading camp. 


Another project I am working on this school year is the development of budget of work, lesson exemplars or DLPs in Filipino for all grade levels.


4. What advise can you give to a new teacher who has seen the ups and downs of the DepEd system; and a senior teacher about to retire?


I never thought I will become a teacher. I had other dream of becoming someone but not as a teacher but when I started my teaching career, especially in the public school, I can only be the best I can. I had experienced being humiliated when I was a classroom teacher. I was placed in a situation I didn’t expect to happen and I survived it, all by myself. After that incident, I gradually earned the respect of the highest officials in the community and eventually inspired me to work with commitment and dedication


For a new teacher, one should not be overwhelmed with the bulk of works ahead. Rather than complaining and criticizing the lapses or gaps in the system, keep improving your craft and do your part as expected from you. Keep working and be competitive fofuture growth and possible promotion. Live within your means and manage your finances well to free yourself from financial loans. As a teacher in a public school, you should be ready and willing to give your time, effort and even money to meet the demands of your work. Since you have chosen to become a classroom teacher, might as well give yourbest in delivering your major task and do it with a big heart. If you don’t find happiness in teaching, then find a job where youcan be happy. Teaching is not just a job or a duty to perform, it is a vocation which requires dedication and a commitment. It is more of a calling or mission that has to be fulfilled wholeheartedly. Since you opted to be part of the DepEd family, then you should be supportive and ever-willing to implement its programs and projects.


For a senior teacher about to retire, make sure that yousustain that good image you have projected all through the years of your services as a teacher until the last day of your teaching careerIf you have been known as a great teacher, keep that image until you retire and you will be remembered that way all throughout your life. If you are known to be on the other side, make some transformations in the remaining years of your teaching career.

5. What are your top 3 recommended books for teachers?


- The Secret Daily Teaching by Rhonda Byrne

- The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren

           - Self-Mastery by Eduardo A. Morato, Jr.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Teacher On Center Stage: Arabella Soniega (1 of 1)

was in Pangasinan around mid-June to conduct a workshop for DepEd teachers in the K-3 level. I was invited by Teacher Ara Soniega who impressed me as one of the dedicated teachers DepEd has in its teaching force. Let us get to know more about her and the work she does with DepEd Pangasinan.

What is your teacher story, so far?

I have been working in DepEd since passed the PBET 1986I am a BSE graduate, major in Social Science and minor in Filipino, however, I spent my first 5 years as elementary classroom teacher in two private schools in NCR – 4 years at Mother Goose Playskool/ Gradeschool in Pasig and 1 year at St. Anthony Learning School in QC – an experience I truly treasured because it has prepared me a better teacher prior to my entry to public schoolIn 1992, I finally entered public school at Antonio P. Villar National High School, the only high school in a small municipality of Sto. Tomas, Pangasinan,  next to my hometown (Alcala)and handled Social Studies and Filipino. I was promoted to MT 1 in 1990 then shifted to HT 3 in 2005 and became an Education Program Supervisor in 2008.I was designated as OIC in a newly opened high school for almost 3 years, then OIC office of the District Supervisor in 2 different districts.

     At present, I am the Education Program Supervisor in-charge of Filipino, MTBMLE, Multigrade Program in Pangasinan Division II.


2. What has been the most rewarding experience you have as  a DepEd teacher and professional?


As a classroom teacher, I consider my being a pre-school teacher (at St. Anthony Learning Center, QC) as the most challenging yet rewarding one because I learned how to become a beginning reading teacher which was far from my area of specialization. It was rewarding because at the end of the school year, my pupils became readers.

 In addition to this,  I was actively involved in the K to 12 Curriculum since it started in 2011 – from the development of materials in MTBMLE to the mass training conducted from Grade 1 to Grade 12 - as a writer (MTBMLE and Grade 4 (Filipino) materials) and as a national trainer during the mass trainings conducted from Grade 1 to grade 6; a regional trainer in Filipino from Grade 7 to Grade 12.

I also became a certified NEAP Facilitator after going through rigid screening and evaluation and facilitated series of trainings conducted for school administrators and supervisors in Region I.

Being in DepEd for 27 years and still counting, a lot of opportunities came my way. I was actively involved in the different activities of the Central Office as regard to the programs assigned to me. These activities provided me the opportunity to experience working with different people at different places and more importantly, an opportunity to take part in worthwhile endeavors that benefitted not only the teachers and learners in my own division but nationwide, as well.

Part 2 of the blog feature will discuss the literacy projects Teacher Ara conducts for K-3 learners.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Book Review: Uprooted

Naomi Novik
Del Rey, 2015

A predictable beginning, a roller coaster ride in the middle and an ending that satisfied the romantic me.

The novel has several cliches but Naomi Novik is a fascinating storyteller who centers her characters at the heart of human suffering, desire and joy. Her wizards and witches are all too human, far from the wizened sages and mages of fantasy. They appear to be stereotypes and yet, their personalities, once matched and mixed in relevant events in the novel result in a wonderful, funny, scary and fascinating alchemy that shows the complexities of life.

For example, Ballo’s bookish approach to magic versus Alosha’s detachment to power is a mirror to humanity’s use of resources and technology and the many ways of dispensing them. Focus on the contents of a book and knowledge becomes rigid and stale. Power and ambition, among other things, corrupt so a personal indifference to both can save, not just life but the soul as well. Indeed, the tension of the opposites is a strong issue in the novel which is best depicted in Agnieszka and Sarkan’s relationship. Her magic is intuitive and organic while his is precise and logical. With chants, stories and songs, she wields her power with great effect. Sarkan, on the other hand is concise and practical like math. But together, their workings combined is a force that can shake the earth, make the oceans rise and move the stars from its firmament. Together, they are amazing despite their stark differences.

Uprooted isn’t great but it is alluring, charming and made me want to read Novik’s other stand alone novel, Spinning Silver.

Rating: 4 Bookmarks

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

PBBY in Baguio for the 2019 NCBD

The National Children's Book Day awarding ceremonies will be on July 16, 2019 at the Cultural Center of the Philippines. On July 20, 2019, PBBY will be in Baguio for the PBBY-NCBD Workshops. For inquiries, send an email to

Friends in Baguio City, see you soon!

Monday, June 24, 2019

Adventures in PAASCU Accreditation

I was recently invited by Madame Sheila Dayrit, school director of St. Mary's Angels College Valenzuela (SMACV) to a meeting and a round table discussion on school library development. The context being that the school will soon be undergoing its first formal survey by the Philippine Association of Accredited Schools Colleges and Universities (PAASCU). As a candidate school, they are preparing for this accreditation visit with nervous excitement.

Memories of past PAASCU experiences come to mind. When I was a school librarian in Xavier School, I had three PAASCU experiences -- two visits as part of the library staff, and the last as the library coordinator so, that made me a member of the PAASCU Executive Committee.

Accreditation is a lot of work. A two day visit is 4-3 years of preparation. After a PAASCU visit by accreditors, one could only heave a sigh of relief. What makes the experience truly meaningful is the involvement of each member of the community. Personally, I appreciate being a PAASCU accreditor. I have so much to thank for.  Being involved in the process of accreditation is a learning experience. Both parties learn -- the accreditors and the school community being accredited. Even the PAASCU learns along the way. The organization is in constant reflection of its processes, systems and procedures. I have had the pleasure of sitting in several assemblies and round table discussions to revise and improve the self survey instrument for Library and AV/Media centers.

In 2009, PAASCU recognized my volunteer work as one of their accreditors for Library and AV/Media Center by giving me the Fr. James Meany SJ Award. I was no longer in Xavier School then, but the award affirmed my vocational calling and answered a question I have kept in my prayers for so long. 

There are people who see PAASCU accreditation as an exercise of compliance, a dog and pony show, and its result will lead the school to raise its tuition fees. I don't blame them. We all are human beings after all. But the fact that it is founded by a Jesuit priest (some will raise an eyebrow), traces of Ignatian charism permeates its system, process and ethos. It will take a while for the rest to figure this out.

For the meantime, I will speak my truth and I hold it lightly in my hands.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

When Friends Recommend Books To Read

Because I was in a reading slump for months now, I posted a request for book recommendations over on Facebook and Twitter. Within minutes, friends sent their replies! Now I have enough titles to consider and acquire until the year ends.

I am sharing the titles I got from book lovers and readers in social media.

1.  Immaculate, Everything, Everything and Little Fires Everywhere
2.  Circe and The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
3.  Verity by Colleen Hoover
4.  Mary Russell Mysteries 
5. Sorcery and Cecilia
6. Stargirl 
7. Love, Stargirl.
8. The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
9. Wonder by RJ Palacio
10. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver 
11. Becoming by Michelle Obama.
12. America is Not in the Heart by Elaine Castillo
13. Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
14. The Last Unicorn
15. Insurrecto
16. Good Omens
17. American Gods
18. Uprooted by Naomi Novik
19. Spinning Silver
20. The Bear and the Nightingale 

From this list, I picked Uprooted by Naomi Novik. The female lead character narrates the story. It is a  first person point of view that is interesting, strong and convicted. The book was published in 2015 and if not for friends, I would have missed this wonder of a story. I will be posting my review, of course! 

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

The 2019 Alcala Prize Winner

Panadero wins Alcala Prize

The Philippine Board on Books for Young People awards the 2019 PBBY-Alcala Prize to Adrian C. Panadero, a Visual Communication graduate from the University of the Philippines College of Fine Arts and a graphic designer and illustrator at And A Half Branding and Graphic Design,  a firm that specializes in creating brand identities.

This year’s PBBY-Alcala Prize called for entries based on the 2019 PBBY-Salanga Prize-winning story, A Delicate Strength: The Story and Art of Araceli Limcaco Dans by Gabriela Lee. A Delicate Strength is a creative nonfiction piece about a young Araceli Dans’ first encounter with art and how it eventually helps her family and country in a time of war.

Panadero shall receive a cash prize of PHP25, 000, a gold medal, as well as the opportunity to be published. He will be awarded at the 36th National Children’s Book Day celebration on July 16, 2019. The PBBY also recognized three Honorable Mention winners: Frances Alvarez of Cainta, Ivan Bryan Reverente of Quezon City and Arlei Dormiendo of Antipolo City.

The contest is co-sponsored by the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP).

For inquiries about the contest, contact the PBBY Secretariat at telephone number 352-6765 loc. 203 or e-mail

Sunday, June 16, 2019

On Reading Aloud and Storytelling (2/2)

In the event of being with two different groups of people who are interested and eager to learn and relearn skills in storytelling and reading aloud, I consider myself fortunate to learn from them too. 

From the TSP volunteers, I realized how our search for meaning and goodness in this world can be actualized in volunteer work. I look back at the young professionals I met a week ago and I am still touched by their hope and their sincerity to help TSP reach its goal of people empowerment through books and reading. From the DepEd K-3 teachers in Pangasinan, I am reminded once again of the values of grit and patience. The Filipino public school teacher is up against challenges bigger than herself or himself. It will take a lifetime to change the system, but it is enough to be able to inspire and affect one person. 

Feeling young and energized with TSP volunteers!

I see the goodness in Rey Bufi and his wife, Grace, the parents and founder of TSP. I admire the resilience of Teacher Ara for continuing on and doing a thankless job. Organizing people and mobilizing them is not an easy task, but they do it anyway. This is the grace I take away from leaving Biñan once in a while. I meet authentic people who, despite limitations, persevere to make a difference in their communities.

Specifically, I discovered how tenuous our connection is with our folk literature and local knowledge. Pangasinan is showing signs of progress, but my conversations with teachers there reveal gaps in the use of their mother tongue and in telling stories from their culture and history. Exposure to different forms of literature is an area of growth as well. Both groups, TSP volunteers and K-3 teachers were fascinated at the folk tales I used as samplers for storytelling. Comments like “ganun pala yun”, “ay pwede pala” were aplenty. 

DepEd Superintendent Balderas explains that reading is comprehension.

The scarcity of books and resources was a clamor of both groups. I resolve to include one or two activities for materials creation next time I do a workshop. As a librarian, I will echo and share this concern. Hopefully, any of my advocacy group could pick from there and help bridge children to books they so badly need to engage in.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

On Reading Aloud and Storytelling (1/2)

I am writing this on may way back to Manila from a successful training workshop on reading aloud and storytelling in Pangasinan. I was invited by the Department of Education of Region 1 through the initaive and effort of  Teacher Arabella Soniega. The training program is designed for K-3 teachers to learn and relearn pedagogy in early literacy education. There were 128 teachers present in the training plus, a dozen school leaders. 

Last week, I was with the The Storytelling Project (TSP) to run the same workshop for their volunteers. Of the 15 volunteers, 2 are teachers and 1 is a librarian. They will soon be implementing TSP’s reading program in a public school in Laguna.

Two workshops. Same topics. Different audiences. Different purpose. Same goals. TSP volunteers need a good skill set in reading aloud because their two-fole roels. One is to support teachers in teaching literacy slills and the other is to provide children with an environment where reading is enjoyed and experienced outside of the classroom. The DepEd recognizes storytelling as an adjunct strategy for reading aloud when learning skills in the four communication arts, namely, listening, speaking, reading and writing. I discuss both in workshops and demonstrate ways of using them.

Reading Aloud from a teaching context, especially in literacy teaching, is a proven technique in teaching comprehension skills. When an adult reads aloud to children, the act of reading and the cognitive processes involved in it are shown, shared and modelled to them in a manner that is enjoyable and non-threatening. In storytelling, the teller does not use a book but a story to take the listener in a journey of adventure, wonder, play and the discovery of insights. Both are multi-sensorial activities that develop many skills including life skills, compassion and empathy.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Lithaan Literacy Festival 2019

Carlo Fernando, a literacy advocate, teacher, and current manager and founder of LITHAAN sent me an invitation to the LITHAAN Literacy Festival.

This event is in partnership with Teach for the Philippines and Ateneo de Manila University. Sadly, I am not available to attend the event so the most I could do is to share it in the blog and social media. 

Read on the collateral and materials which Carlo Fernando. Share if the spirit of generosity moves you.

Having witnessed firsthand how transformative the power of reading is to achieve one's dreams, we are now in the position to help empower others. LITHAAN aims to connect us, to bring us closer through meaningful dialogue, and ensure that our collaborative efforts are made accessible to most. 

In partnership with the Ateneo Laboratory for the Learning Sciences and Teach For the Philippines, I would like to invite you to the LITHAAN Literacy Festival on June 7, 2019, Friday, from 2:00 PM - 5:30 PM at Arete, Ateneo de Manila University. During the Festival, four (4) literacy interventions shall be presented, all of which have shown significant insights, on-going learnings, and meaningful contributions on the advancement of basic literacy in the country.  Attendees will be given time to ask questions related to basic literacy and network with academe, industry, government partners, school leaders, teachers, and advocates. 

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Call for Entries: The 2019 PBBY Alcala Prize

The Philippine Board on Books for Young People (PBBY) is now accepting entries for the 2019 PBBY-Alcala Prize. The winner shall be given a cash prize of PHP25,000.00, a medal, and an opportunity to be published. Prizes will be awarded in an appropriate ceremony to be held during the celebration of National Children’s Book Day on July 16, 2019.
Entries must be received by the PBBY Secretariat and time-stamped no later than 5:00 p.m. on June 7, 2019.
  1. The contest is open to all Filipino citizens except those who are related to any PBBY member up to the third degree of consanguinity.
  2. Entries must be based on the 2019 PBBY-Salanga Prize winning piece of the creative nonfiction, A Delicate Strength: The Story and Art of Araceli Limcaco Dans by Gabriela Lee.
  3. A copy of the creative nonfiction piece may be downloaded here.
  4. All entries must be original, unpublished illustrations that have not won in any previous contest.
  5. All entries must consist of three (3) illustrations that are of the same size, two of which are colored, in sequence, and rendered in the same medium. The third spread should be a rough sketch of any other spread. Contestants are free to determine how to distribute the text for their spreads, bearing in mind that the interaction of art and text is an important criterion of the contest.
  6. A contestant may send in more than one (1) entry.
  7. Each entry must be signed by a pen name only, preferably on a small piece of paper pasted on the back of each artwork. Entries with a signature or any identifying marks are automatically disqualified.
  8. Together with each entry, contestants must submit a separate envelope, on the face of which only the pen name of the contestant shall appear. The envelope must contain the contestant’s full name, address, contact numbers, short description of background, and notarized certification vouching for the originality of the entry and for the freedom of the organizers from any liability arising from the infringement of copyright in case of publication. A format of the certification may be downloaded here
  9. All entries must be sent to the PBBY Secretariat, c/o Adarna House, 109 Scout Fernandez cor. Scout Torillo Sts., Brgy. Sacred Heart, Quezon City by June 7, 2019. Entries may be submitted in person or by courier service.
  10. Winners will be announced no later than June 21, 2019. Non-winning entries must be claimed no later than August 16, 2019 after which they will no longer be the responsibility of the organizers.
For more details, interested parties may contact PBBY by calling 352 6765 local 204 or e-mailing

Monday, June 3, 2019

Writing Workshop at DataBites Los Baños, Laguna

Writing Workshop: Weaving Stories for Kids and Young Readers

Workshop facilitator: Zarah C. Gagatiga

Date and Time: Saturday, June 29, 2019

Session 1 for Kids and teens (grade 4 - grade 12)
9-11.30 AM

Session 2 for Grown ups (college and up)
1-5 PM

DataBites Cafe & Restaurant 10046 Mt. Data St. 
Los Baños Subdivision
Los Baños, Laguna 4030

Points for discussion:
 ⁃ Story Grammar: formats and elements
 ⁃ Children’s Literature Today
 ⁃ The stories that shape our childhood
 ⁃ Why write for kids
 ⁃ Writing workshop: writing, critiquing and revising
 ⁃ Note: if you have stories for workshop and critiquing bring 4-5 copies

Workshop fees
Kids and Teens session - Php 1,000.00 inclusive of snacks and handouts; plus a FREE Book!

College and up session - 
Php 2,500.00 inclusive of snacks and handouts; PLUS a FREE Book!

5-8 participants only

Payment of workshop fee is through bank deposit three days before the workshop date.

For questions and inquiries call or text: 09209672884 09282894627
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