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Rm. N-411, House of Representatives, Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines
+63 2 931 5497, +63 2 931 5001 local 7370

(Delivered by Rep. Edcel C. Lagman during the Teachers’ Day Celebration of the DepEd Tabaco City on 14 December 2007 at the Tabaco City Terrace)

When my immediate kin talk of public servants, the first person that comes to mind is my mother, Mrs. Cecilia Castelar-Lagman, a public school teacher for thirty-five long but rewarding years. Genuine public service necessarily entails devotion to duty and often even self-sacrifice. In Mama I have seen not only dedication and commitment to her job and to her students. I have also seen in her the passion and the heart which is indispensable if one is to become a real educator.

I was a teacher myself and for six years I taught social sciences and law subjects. Thus, teachers, more particularly in the private school need not tell me what their problems are. I know what they are and more, I also have some ideas on how to solve them. When I was a member of the faculty of Philippine College of Criminology, I organized a faculty union, one of the first, if not the first faculty union in the country.

The poet William Butler Yeats once said that “education is not the filling of a pail but the lighting of a fire.” I am proud to say that I am a product of 18 years of public school education – six at the Tabaco South Central Elementary School, four at the Tabaco High School, another four at the UP College of Arts and Sciences and the last four as student at the UP College of Law – and the thirst for knowledge and the love for learning in me is still burning. I was fortunate to have the kind of teachers who taught from their hearts and not only from books.

All these years in school have instilled in me a deep and abiding respect for teachers. I am convinced that teaching is not merely a profession. It is a vocation and therefore it is imperative that a teacher must have a genuine calling to enlighten and inform.

That is why I am heartened that your theme for this year’s Teachers’ Day celebration in the City of Love is more than appropriate as you emphasize the importance of “Institutionalizing the Culture of Heart” not only in our classrooms but also in our families and communities.

In order to actually institutionalize a culture of heart, we must take both pride and joy in our work. Taking pleasure and satisfaction in what we do will inspire respect in others and encourage a sense of worth in ourselves.

To ensure that a culture of heart will reign supreme, we must strive to be honorable men and women who will protect and promote the rights of others even as will not hesitate to stand up for our own rights.

To assure that a culture of heart will flourish in our classrooms and communities, we must endeavor to reject all forms of bigotry and prejudice and instead embrace compassion and kindness. For these are the qualities that make us truly human – the capacity to empathize and place ourselves in other people’s shoes; the ability to show benevolence and gentleness; the capacity to accept our own frailties, exult in our talents and celebrate both our similarities and differences.

The heart is an organ that is literally at the heart or center of the human body. It pumps life-giving blood through our veins. Its rhythmic pounding in our chests signifies that we are alive. It is the seat of our emotions, the symbol of our humanity. It leaps for joy when our efforts are rewarded with appreciation. It brims with pride when a student overcomes challenges and excels in school. It burns with rage when we see an injustice committed in our communities. With kindness, it blossoms and with laughter, it is reinforced.

A person has to have a big heart to be a teacher. So there can be no better emissary of hope and good will than a teacher. There can be no better driving force that can institutionalize a culture of heart than the very people we entrust our children’s future to.

Thank you for having hearts that are able to embrace so many students. Thank you for having hearts that continue to inspire others to do better. Thank you for having hearts that help build character in our children even as they help build better lives through education.