(Ed. Note: Entrevista con Nata. In this section, our correspondent Nathaniel Sisma Villaluna shares with us his creamy and delectable stories, 100 % inspiring yet zero in fat.)
“Ms. Delos Reyes, when are you getting married? You might turn into an endangered specie.”
Resisting not to laugh, Wowie gave the curious owner of this question a wide smile. After all, being a teacher of young innocent and imaginative minds, questions like this can always turn up unannounced. And she always comes prepared.
Wowie or Rowena Isabel Delos Reyes, who hails from Puerto Princesa City, Palawan, graduated Psychology at the Silliman University and took up Professional Education at the University of the Philippines. Later on, she decided to take a Master in Special Education at the University of Southern Philippines. In 2001, she got a scholarship to study in Valladolid, Spain.
She has always wanted to be a teacher. It was her maternal grandmother who inspired her to pursue her dream of becoming an educator. For her, her grandmother did not only teach her how to read and write but also handed her down values. This time, it is her turn to share and teach those values to her students.
“I come from a family of educators. My grandmother taught me to read and do arithmetic in a very fun and easy way.”
She has been teaching for 18 years now, where she has taught in the pre-school, elementary and high school in Manila and Cebu. She also taught Spanish at Poveda Learning Centre in Manila.
Wowie with her students at Southville International School, Philippines
What kind of a teacher are you?
“I always try to be fair and firm with my students. It is my responsibility to encourage my students to continuously develop and improve their knowledge and skills about things they’re interested in and good at, to become lifelong learners.”
She can no longer count with her fingers those memorable moments she had with her students inside or outside the classroom.
“I always have a class that giggles a lot. One of my favorites is when one of my students came to class and exclaimed, “I heard a bad word said in the play I watched yesterday!” To prevent a bad word to be said in my class, I reminded my students that bad words aren’t appropriate. They’re not accepted in my class. But one of them insisted, “Come on tell.” Before anybody could say something I declared, “No bad words should be said here. This is my domain. You do what I say.” One asked, “What is domain, Ms. Delos Reyes?” and before I could say something another one said, “I know that! That’s the barber of my grandfather. That’s Mang Domeng!”
Giggling students, Cebu International School
In 2008, she moved to Ankara and worked for the Bilkent Laboratory and International school.
“I have a Filipino friend who used to teach in an international school in Istanbul and told me lots of beautiful things about Turkey. This was my first overseas teaching job .”
How were your first days in Turkey?
“Turkish people are hospitable and sweet. It was so easy to fit in. Although it was miserable on my first Christmas in Turkey, because we Filipinos spend Christmas with so much festivity and there were no carolers, no Christmas trees, no Christmas decorations at the department stores, no Christmas songs over the radio and no Christmas cards!, I decided to get my family and friends birthday cards. For me, one reason why we celebrate Christmas is because we celebrate Jesus’s birthday. Some of my friends find it hilarious receiving a birthday card for Christmas!”
There are about 6,000 Filipinos in Turkey. Most of them are employed as household staff of diplomatic communities and rich Turkish families. Furthermore, around 600 Filipinos are skilled workers and professionals working as architects, doctors, engineers and teachers. The greatest number of Filipinos can be found in Istanbul.
How were your students? Your colleagues?
“I always have awesome students! I had great coworkers at Bilkent Laboratory and International School. We partied and traveled a lot! We still keep in touch. One of the things I like about teaching in international schools is people have mutual respect and tolerance for each other. “
How are Filipino students different from other international students that she has handled?
“Students are all the same in the classroom in any country. They’re enthusiastic, sweet, smart and fun to be with. Some of my students keep in touch with me and I have a very friendly relationship with them. I treat them like my own.”
Did your students ask about the Philippines?
“Students are always curious about how is life in their teacher’s country. They asked a lot of questions about the Philippines. I have a student who made me listen to songs of Black Eyed Peas because according to her one of them is a Filipino. I have one who asked me if she could come spend her summer holiday with me because she wants to go to Amanpulo Island in Palawan.”
How did Ankara treat you?
I didn’t have a hard time adjusting when I was in Ankara even if it was my first overseas job or even if I was the only Filipino in my school because I had helpful, accommodating, and very supportive colleagues. Because of this I had a super hard time leaving Turkey. You can get the best of both worlds in Turkey: it’s quite ancient and very modern at the same time. Traveling is another thing I enjoyed in Turkey. I had a wonderful and awesome time in Turkey! My very close Turkish friend said she thinks Filipinos are kind, sweet, resilient and smart. I guess the others see Filipinos the same way.
Wowie in Ankara, Turkey
Are there Pinoys in Ankara?
“Yes, I see them when I go to church. Most of them are nannies. A few were my students’ nannies. Some were married to Turkish and a few work in the Philippine Embassy.
Did you have any chance of integrating with the locals, getting to know their culture?
Yes. I’m always lucky to have very kind and accommodating friends in every country that I live in. I get invited by them and get to experience their celebrations and we traveled together. I get to learn more about their country, their language. I become very close to them and they become my best friends.
With her students at Bilkent Laboratory & International School, Turkey
Why didn’t you plan to extend your stay in Turkey?
“I’d like to work closer to the Philippines because of my mother. I’d like to be able to go home anytime I need to.”
Was it worth it, teaching in Turkey?
“YES! I had a great experience in Turkey. I liked the people a lot they’re very warm and sweet.”
Any plans of going back to the Philippines to teach again in the near future?
“I have already taught in the Philippines for 15 years. I’d like to travel this time and learn about the culture of other countries.”
Do you have a dream country where you see yourself teaching for a longer time?
“Good question. I should start thinking of one already. I think I’d like to teach in an international school and stay long in New York.”
After her stint in Ankara, Wowie got another teaching job in Busan, South Korea where she is a Grade 4 teacher at Busan International Foreign School teaching English, Mathematics, and Unit of Inquiry (combination of Science and Social Studies). But be it Ankara, or Manila or Busan, Wowie doesn’t mind.
“I always get hugs and sometimes letters and certificates (awards) from my students for being a great teacher to them.”
There has been a running joke about teachers that they end up single because they spend most of their time inside the classroom or preparing lesson plans and activities for their students. Does this worry you a bit?
“I am just different and very picky that’s why my soulmate and I haven’t met yet. I am not worried at all.”
“A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.” An American journalist and academic, Henry Adams once said. Endangered or not, to her students, a teacher like Wowie will always be a special kind of specie.