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This Teacher Crosses Three Rivers And A Mountain To Reach His Students
PHOTO BY Courtesy of Emil Bal-iyang
  • The teachers we never ever forget in our lifetime are the ones who love us, inspire us and help us to become better versions of ourselves. These are exactly the ways Teacher Emiliano “Emil” Bal-iyang makes a difference in the lives of his students

    Teacher Emil is a Grade 6 teacher in Lamag Elementary School, a remote school in Quirino, Ilocos Sur. To get to work, he would normally travel from his home in Poblacion, Quirino for more than an hour on his motorcycle, cross three rivers and go up the mountainous area where the school is located. But when the weather is bad, the rivers would rise and teacher Emil would need to walk for more than 2 hours to cross the rivers and get to school.

    A teacher, tutor, and athletic coach

    One of the rivers Teacher Emil crosses to get to school.
    PHOTO BY Courtesy of Emil Bal-iyang

    In school he is an all-around teacher, covering all subjects for his Grade 6 class. He is also the coordinator of the Supreme Pupil Government and a trainer for extracurricular activities

    Before Teacher Emil came to Lamag, their school did not join competitions, but Emil discovered talents both in sports and academics, and encouraged the students to widen their horizons. Now he serves as the school’s coach for athletics, chess and swimming, and he also trains the bright learners to join academic competitions in Math and Science. 

    In the evenings, he would hold remedial classes with learners who are falling behind and sometimes he would also visit his pupils at home for free tutoring sessions.

    Teacher Emil practically lives in their school — he only goes home once a week. He is immersed in the community and involved in the students’ lives, and the parents trust him with their children. 

    Teaching valuable life skills to students

    Teacher Emil started a vegetable garden to help fund school projects.
    PHOTO BY Courtesy of Emil Bal-iyang
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    When he started at Lamag in 2016, he converted a small patch of land into a fish pond. He bought 2 kilos of tilapia fingerlings for the pond and also started planting a vegetable garden as part of their EPP (Edukasyong Pantahanan at Pangkabuhayan) class. They have been maintaining the pond and garden for years until the COVID-19 pandemic happened.

    Many of Teacher Emil’s students are beneficiaries of 4Ps (Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program), so he knows that life is not easy for their families. Instead of asking contributions from students, he encourages his class to sell fish and vegetables from their pond and garden to fund school projects. They have also been able to build a toilet, make flower boxes  and complete other projects using their income from their pond and garden.

    Last March, Teacher Emil, his students, and some parents planned to go on a picnic to celebrate the children's graduation. But their plans were cancelled because of the pandemic.

    Teacher Emil thought of harvesting the fish and vegetables he was saving for the picnic and brought them to his students’ homes. This was a big help to the families because mobility suddenly became challenging for everyone at that time. 

    Continuing in the face of challenges

    He also visits pupils at home for free tutoring sessions.
    PHOTO BY Courtesy of Emil Bal-iyang

    In June and July, when it was time for the students to enroll, Teacher Emil visited his students one by one to encourage them to continue with school despite the challenges brought about by distance learning.

    Teacher Emil really makes an effort to help his students learn and encourages them to finish school. He shares with them his own story — how he was a self-supporting student from high school through college, and how his education now affords him more opportunities and options in life.

    He is proof that education affords a child more opportunities in the future and he continues to inspire and influence his young students through his life of selfless service.

    How to help a #HeroTeacher

    Gokongwei Brothers Foundation (GBF) teams up with Smart Parenting to shine a spotlight on teachers who go the extra mile. For every teacher featured in Smart Parenting #eskwela2020 video series, GBF pledges P15,000 donation in kind.

    You can also nominate a #HeroTeacher! Just go to this link and fill out the form:

    A small amount can mean printer ink, a ream of bond paper, learning modules, and school supplies for our teachers and their young learners. Any donated amount will be pooled together by GBF and divided among our hero teachers.

    You may send your donations through the following channels:

    Direct bank deposits and transfers

    Bank: Robinsons Bank – Galleria Branch
    Account name: Gokongwei Brothers Foundation, Inc.
    Account number: 100230002819

    Wire transfers via swift

    Account name: Gokongwei Brothers Foundation, Inc.
    Account number: 100230002819
    Address: Litton Mills Compound, Amang Rodriguez Avenue, Rosario, Pasig City 1609
    Swift code: ROBPPHMQXXX
    Beneficiary bank: Robinsons Bank Corporation
    Bank address: Main Office Branch, G/F Galleria Corporate Center, EDSA cor. Ortigas Ave., Quezon City
    Correspondent bank for USD: Citibank NY (CITIUS33) or Deutsche Bank NY (BKTRUS33)
    Correspondent bank for EUR: Deutsche Bank Frankfurt (DEUTDEFFXXX)


    Grace Bautista has had a long and varied career before deciding to be a stay-at-home mom in 2019. She's worked as an editor for print and digital media, a school teacher, a Business English trainer to French students, and a knowledge manager for a multinational company. Out of all the roles and titles she's held, her favorite one is "Nanay." She is a homeschooling mom to three boys ages 12, 10 and 2. When she's not busy writing, Grace spends her time experimenting in the kitchen or playing word games with her boys.

     Meet our #HeroTeachers! Read their stories here.


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