Healthy and well become the pupils of CDL

Why are Child Development Laboratory (CDL) kids not only happy, but also healthy and well?

HAPPY, along with a couple of synonyms, like hal (as in mahal) and wuv-u (as in I love you), were the very first words Marcus learned from the womb and one or two years after he first saw the light.

Marcus is my youngest son, Marcus Christus Abrenilla Santos, 4 years and 3 months old when he joined Child Development Laboratory (CDL) prekindergarten class of schoolyear (SY) 2012-2013. Back then, Marcus could already identify all the primary and secondary colors (perfectly! without any one teaching him, I wonder why and how come?), sing Lupang Hinirang or the national anthem (70 percent correctly), recite the ABCs (80 percent correctly; but I would have preferred if it was the Abakada he learnt first, so that he may learn English and other foreign languages easier and better) and count from 1 to 100 (90 percent correctly). He was assessed at the “makabayan at makakalinangang” Raya School of Quezon City, showed great interest in building blocks as education director Ani Rosa Almario-David (Stanford graduate wife of Randy David’s son CP and national artist Virgilio Almario’s daughter) noticed right away, and passed. QC, however, was not as “fresh and green” as the foot of Mount Maquiling. And so, Marcus’ first real school was the CDL.

The first syllable Marcus uttered was hal even before he could say pa or ma, da or na.

     His first two-syllable word was wuv-u, because back in the womb, we could vividly recall that anytime of the day or night when I will have the chance to kiss his mom’s belly (always) and whispered I-love-you, the li’l angel inside the tummy will move back and forth to acknowledge who-said-what.
     They were the happy years of our life. Happiest even was when he came out ahead of time.
     Marcus was scheduled to come into Mother Earth a little-over middle of March of 2008, based from the pregnancy and ultrasound tests on July the 17th of 2007 that trumpeted the coming of the stork. He was set to be delivered at Capitol Medical Center. We were only visiting the parents of his mom’s for a week or two in Los Banos, and upon our return to Manila on Thursday early-morn of March the 6th of 2008, the li’l creature in a hurry made sure he was rushed to the nearest hospital via a van because he was already cringing in and he was raring to come out, in the elevator up to the entrance doors to the Los Banos Doctors Hospital delivery room! Actual time of delivery was 7:30AM (contrary to the nurse’s log of 7:45AM as his actual birth time that the birth certificate recorded). That made Marcus true-blue Los Banos-born, while me and his Elbi-bred kuya or big brother were just adopted sons of the “University, Science and Nature Town.” Cases of typhoid fever, meanwhile, were rampant within Laguna during those days; Marcus – built upon a healthy and peaceful foundation, literally and literarily, in San Pedro, Laguna, one or two years before D-day, was spared by typhoid…

     By 7:45, it was all done and we were all happy: LBDH obstetrician-gynecologist, Dr Christie Marie Ebuenga, MD came just in time, after her MD classmate from Bacolod prepared everything that should be done in the earlier emergency, while clinical staff took care of all the natal and post-delivery must-do’s. We were forever indebted to Dr Renato V Torres, MD, then CEO of LBDH, and CDL’s very own faculty leader.

     One and a half years after, I relocated Marcus and his mom to a huge Franciscan convent in Marikina that we were developing into an eldercare medical facility. Little did we know, we were in the “eye of the storm” (Ondoy or Ketsana), so to speak, but in the higher part, which was the Marikina Heights, Fortune and Parang areas. Totally ravaged were the lower parts of the then Mayor Marides Fernando’s fiefdom, from Meralco to Bayan down the surrounding areas of Riverbanks, including Loyola Memorial Park, Provident (where the stars conclaved) and the lowest parts: Tumana, Malanday and so on. I even had a meeting with doctors at the General Ordonez facility on Sept the 29th of 2009. Had not I accessed the Net around past-12 midnight, I would have not noticed that heavy rains and flash flooding were drowning people and pets in a huff, stranding motorists and pedestrians, many were succumbing to illnesses and death, properties were wiped out, and the whole nation demoralized. Marcus was spared by Ondoy, and we were happy…
HAPPIER were we when we returned to Los Banos and started mulling over what was the best preschool in Elbi.
     I sought the valued advise of Synergeia education “proactiv-ist” Pilar Habito (June 7, 2012, 11:18:39PM), better half of great Filipino economist Cielito Habito whose younger brother was one of first products of CDL: “I think it depends on the parents’ understanding of the future, and in this complexity, it takes a school, family and village to transform the way that learning occurs…”
     My eldest son, Marvin Myles Santos (University of Santo Tomas or UST Fine Arts & Design, Advertising major), now a professional visual artist in a medical chain of facilities, started his kinder schooling at Morning Star Montessori less than 30 years ago. His alma mater had relocated from a small campus at Bangkal Street, and became bigger inside a gated village in Putho-Tuntungin. In its Batong Malake place is now the Franciscan Montessori.
     Maquiling School was the first school in Los Banos put up by the American soldier-teacher “colleagues” of my lolo (grandfather) Guillermo Santos, one of first Filipino principals and superintendents under the Thomasites, who introduced public education in The Philippines. Southhill caters to the families of International Rice Research Institute expats and staff and those living within the suburbs. The Learning Place is perceived by a few observers to be juvenile and elitist. Christian School International is Protestant; and then there are some other Christian schools around that thrive with barangay daycare centers and public schools. We were born and bred Catholics; and forever will be Catholics, specially, with the emergence of Pope Francis Benedict and his “enlightened” league. Cahbriba which was better known as a Sped (or special education) than multiple intelligence school, laid low. Meanwhile, the faraway Raya School had remained steeped with its PhP65,000.00++ a year tuition policy, without any scholarship program for deserving students. It has yet to bend down, so to speak, for common good. With the hardline stance, I remember the late Raul Roco during his short reign at the Department of Education (DepEd). I was trying to secure for Marcus’ kuya a Study Now-Pay Later plan 20 years ago; but the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) refused, arguing that “Fine Arts was not a priority.” Everything in the 21st century of information, communication, technology and social media now is fine arts, design, and advertising.
     Marcus’ mom, a therapist, had another idea. A client of hers had tipped off regarding a lowprofile school that has been nurturing children’s multiple intelligence for more than 40 years. It is housed inside the University of the Philippine-Los Banos (UPLB) complex. It has a Diliman counterpart, which has been perceived to be as old if not as hotshot, or larger in size: Child Development Center (CDC). We chased for more feedback, both positive and negative. We scoured the web. We were introduced to the paper of its chief, Dr Maris Dy. CDL was it for Marcus!
     First assessment was with teacher Jewely Jean Padilla; Marcus passed. Yehey! We will be participating in an experiment – not as unwilling guinea pigs (test subjects) but as thirsty-and-hungry “researchers” who want to know more about the growing life.
COME June of 2012, came the most rigid test for Marcus, us and the teachers. Marcus was excited in taking a bath, dressing up, packing his bag on his back and taking a ride for school.
     Before the class started, I had observed that Marcus was enjoying all the socialization with newfound classmates and friends, running, playing, shouting with all-smiles on their faces (and hearts). But when the actual class on first day begun, he was frantic. It appeared to me then that he cannot seem to understand why children will go inside the class while parents will have to keep a distance, for three hours. On first day, a parent of one of the prettiest little girls in teacher Christine Reyes’ class (Miling; it was the boys led by Baste, Joseph, Macmac, JC et al who openly described their girl classmate; but of course, there were Cala, Dawnie, Abby and so on who were as cute) was able to videofilm how Marcus was crying and shouting and kicking the closed door to sneak out of the class. Thank God, there was teachers Andrei ____ , Susan _____ and the teacher-aides (College of Human Ecology graduating students) to calm Marcus down and appease him into staying put. Teacher Iya Sanchez was on a stand by, for the ultimate recourse that only an expert and experienced scientist in early education will know how to handle. They did their best, and it was more than good enough. Marcus budged in…
     Onwards his first weekend at CDL, I found it amazing for Marcus to be asking me the one million-peso question, that is something to this essence, in Taglish and Engalog: “Papahal, why don’t we have classes on weekends? Can we tell the teachers to conduct classes even on Saturdays and Sundays?” I thought long and hard how to respond; it was CDL who first convinced to go to school everyday!
     CDL teachers and assists who were honed by the Department of Human and Family Development Studies (DHFDS) were tops in communing and communicating with children of whatever behavior, I had observed. “Nag-uumapaw sila ng pasensya at pag-unawa sa kanilang kalooban!” (They do not get easily pissed off!) Barangay daycare centers should hire them by offering them very good pay and perks that they cannot resist.
     The ability to listen to stories read aloud and the fondness to tell stories himself – not only with the 5Ws and 1H (the who, what, when, where, why and how) but also the feelings and senses that go with storytelling – in Marcus were, I must admit, “made” by CDL. Proof of that was his branded or trademarked punchline during our casual chitchats, morning, noon and nighttime: “… At diyan nagtatapos ang ating kuwento (And that’s the end of our story); Bow! (con todo yuko as in the teatro for the audience’s applause, not apple sauce).” CDL was able to bring out from the children their inherent self-confidence, the ability to think aloud, speak out their minds and express their creativity beyond imagination. I can write a whole tomo in extolling the truth, wisdom and value of the CDL system, in the point of view of a hands-on father. Sayang nga lamang at hindi ko nai-nursery si Marcus sa CDL?, a sweet regret, to my mind.
     Commendable indeed was CDL’s experiential teaching where kids learn about the birds and the bees, water fun, letters, numbers, lines, colors, shapes, music, arts, culture and so on in the spirit of fun and play. Moms and pops, pop lolos and lolas, kuyas and ates (brothers and sisters), and yayas, nannies or guardians of CDL pupils should have more time to also learn with the kids by gracing their mini-forums on what makes life really worth living. CDL was aplenty with seminars or workshops or just-meetups on the whole spectrum of human development.
     I, for instance, had chanced upon the stooping down to the level of the children by our police officers, in a pep talk by the former LB or Laguna police chiefs, so that our law-enforcers may not be mistaken as: “Pulis, pulis… nanghuhuli ng mga bata!” (Cops pick up kids and send them to jail.) And so, when CDL celebrated its 49th anniversary in February 2014 and invited pupils from all other public and private preschools (including GF Tots and Kids Care Center of teachers lola Myrna and lolo Virgilio Garcia) for a treat to a storytelling session with Kuya Tony _____ (a prodigy of my good friend, the late great Filipino playwright Rene O Villanueva, creator of Batibot) and his two grownup children, a confluence of early childhood educational systems was in the offing.   I told myself: CDL is really it! Let it not stop to pre-Kinder. I urge Noynoy Aquino, our Education policymakers, the UP System leadership, our governors, mayors, congressmen, the business community and the successful alumni of CDL for nearly 50 years to fund and support its extension to gradeschool, the way I enjoined my good friend, Vim Nadera of the Philippine High School for the Arts (PHSA) atop the National Arts Center in Mount Maquiling, to work for annexing a college for artists.
     Guess to where I sent Marcus after CDL? Where else but to the care school of the Garcia Family inspired by the wisdom of teacher Myrna Garcia, one of pioneer teachers of CDL back in the 1960s.
     In CDL, Marcus was awarded with a “Best in Building Blocks” citation. After GF Tots & Kids had helped us parents nurture him on how to further read and write and maintain a modicum of good manners and right conduct, teacher Myrna’s faculty led by Maria Fatima Collado – a proud product of CHE – had honored Marcus with “Most Observant” award, citing him as follows: “for demonstrating interest in exploring the natural environment and raise questions with what he sees.” In GF, the physical play and not computer games or gadgets were emphasized, as CDL was harping about to techie-parents-who-will-get-lost-in-life-if not-wired  since day one. And that is why I take great pride in being a doting father to a product of CDL. By just accompanying and fetching your kids to and from CDL, you will pass by the UP Los Banos (UPLB)  Applied Mathematics monthly exhibits. He has yet to realize it now, but Marcus – who always stopped and looked – was introduced to algorithm early on, with those arithmetical exhibits. It’s the way to go.
     Where does Marcus go from here?
     “If you aspire an MIT-Harvard transformational pedagogy, [Cahbriba is the prototype as validated by accredited school of the future], ” Pilar Habito supposed, carrying on from what she said earlier. “Family learning is a core essential discipline. Accepting pre-K to highschool 11-12 or lifelong learners like you as parents, CDL and Tots and Kids are fine.” Maquiling School or Christian School International is, perhaps, our next stop? Enlighten us…
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