Saturday, August 23, 2014

The Nostalgic Town of Pila, Laguna

Main thoroughfare facing the Plaza of Pila, Laguna
The town of Pila, Laguna is a historic site that is known for its archaic houses and turn of the century architecture.  The town consists of houses that have been preserved all through the years by families who are long-time residents. You don’t see building structures that are more than a few stories high. Most houses are typical of the era during the Spanish times --- high ceilings, big windows, and the used of wooden furniture and artifacts from bygone years.

Liceo de Pila
The church is the center of the town where alongside it, is a parochial school (Liceo de Pila) run by the clergy. The church is situated in the town plaza where you find the town hall and other commercial centers. The local government has disallowed the construction of mega-commercial entities like McDonalds and Jollibee so as not to destroy the little town ambiance of the place.

Many local celebrities have visited the place and used it as venue for historical films.  A number of television shows have also tackled the archaic  age-old charisma of this heritage site.  The town boast of many local eating places where you can savor the local delights like shrimps in coco milk, among many others. The vendors used to sell this delicacy  in front of Plaza Delight, now named  Patio Sophia, but have now transferred to the nearby market area. 

Menu at Patio Sophia
Other local food places have sprouted up like the Evelyn’s Food Place along the national
road. It comes highly recommended by local people due to its numerous food choices. The dining area is of typical Filipino architecture and can accommodate several groups at any given time. If you don’t mind eating barrio-style, then   you can opt to try this place. For the picky eater, the Patio Sophia is a better option and serves the best pancit palabok in the locality. 

Town Church
Pila consists of several barrios that are still agricultural. Most of the farms are planted to rice and vegetables.  Some residents go into hog, goat, duck, and chicken raising for additional income. However, these are mostly done on a small scale basis and only ventured as an added endeavor by farmers. Like other provincial area in the Philippine, many sons and daughter of the residents have gone abroad as OFWs (Overseas Filipino Workers). Hence, many big houses have been constructed in modern European fashion in the barrios and nearby subdivisions.

Municial Town Center
The town is near Metro Manila, and can be reached in less than two hours on good roads. There are air-conditioned buses that ply the site every hour, on the way to the provincial capital of  Sta. Cruz. Non-air conditioned buses are also available and would cost a few 
pesos lesser than the former. The trip to this nostalgic place is worth every peso that you spend on it and  this is one local travel that comes highly recommended. One more thingdon’t forget your camera!  

What else can I say, it is more fun in the Philippines!


Philippine News: A Shot from the Hip
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Thursday, August 21, 2014

Bulacan State University Fiasco: Are Field Trips Necessary?

My Experience with Field Trips

Every student looks forward to joining field trips as part of their extra-curricular studies at school.  They go to places with their classmates, schoolmates, and teachers to frolic and have some fun outside of the school premises.

As a parent, I have experienced having qualms about allowing my daughter on these trips, most especially when she was still in elementary school. Having a daughter, who always had a caregiver following her around, made me feel that she would not survive when left alone to fend for herself.

I remember allowing her only once during elementary school, and threatened to follow her during high school on a mountain trek to Laguna. I know my child cannot stand the heat, fatigue, and insect bites. Before I allowed her to join, I said to her that I will stay on the grounds and fetch her if she got sick. She was adamant and did not allow it.

She felt uneasy being the butt of jokes among her friends, with a mother following her around.   So, I stopped at that but my cell phone was kept open and I called her up every minute, till she got sick of answering my calls.

However, I was proven right all along as she got sick halfway through the climb. She had difficulty in breathing and was unable to finish the trek along with her other classmates. She told me later that her teachers got scared when they saw her turn red and unable to breath.

She did not call me when it happened for fear that I may rush to the site and cause pandemonium and havoc on everyone. As I recall, that incident made her realized that she can’t be that aggressive when it comes to out of town trips.

Perks on Joining Field Trips

Most schools make field trips as part of their extra-curricular activity to take their students to places of interest. The main aim is to expose the students to venues as part of the learning process. The students look forward to these trips as they are given the chance to go out with classmates and friends for a day of fun and frolic.

Being in the Academe, I have been uncomfortable with these out of town trips, more so if it involves swimming. Watching busloads of students could be a pain for teachers. Students can be on their best behavior while in school, but be a pest when they are out with their friends. So having all of them in one go is one statistical nightmare. There is a likely accident that is bound to happen at a mere flick of a finger, if one is not careful.

Dangling a better grade or exemption in the exams are the carrots that are dangled to students to join these out of town trips. I sometimes wonder how excursions to swimming sites help increase a student’s academic performance. Or how can trips to the television stations and malls help them understand their subject matter better. My brain cells squirm with disgust just thinking about it, but I kept my peace and said nothing while still in the academe.

Financial Side of Out-of-Town Trips

Being an accountant, I can sometimes see the money side of these school excursions.  Students are encouraged to pay from P800 to P4000 each, depending on the venue and their length of stay. The amount would include either transportation with or without meals and entry to the place.

This is a big sum of money to students whose parents can barely eke out a living.  I may conclude that these activities are sometimes used by school officials to generate funds for their additional requirements. These would include---additional equipment, repair and improvement of facilities, and miscellaneous needs. The morality side of the argument leaves hanging --- of getting from impoverished students to fund school needs and bric-a-bracs, which could have been sourced out from the local government.

There is no problem with students from top-end schools, colleges, and institutions. But the majority of students does not have the luxury of money;  and having these excursions, can wreck the family budget for a week and be a source of financial displacement. There may be times when the parents would not even have the money to give and are forced to borrow from usurious lenders just so they can fork over the amount to their child.

The schools will say that joining is not mandatory. But, tell that to your child where 90% of his classmates are going and you will see a child that is hurt and envious of his peers. They will be bitter that they can ill-afford these little school luxuries. They say that the school is the great equalizer, with nary a thought on who has the money or not. But in a situation like this, we can say that the scale is judiciously tipped to one side.

Bulacan State University Accident

It was in the news today, August 21, 2014, that seven tourism students perished while crossing the river during their field trip. There were 100 plus students and two faculty members.  With the group were two other guides to help them on their trek.  Nonetheless, these companions were unable to guide the students when the site became too dangerous due to the rushing floodwaters.

In trips where you take numerous people on a guided tour, you should come well prepared before D-Day. The group must be accompanied by knowledgeable tour guides with adequate experience in accident control. Two tour guides for a group of 100 students were inadequate. Careful planning should have been made to mobilize students accompanied by professionals to prevent accidents and costly mistakes from happening.

Having a waiver from the parents would still make the school culpable of gross negligence. These accidents would have been prevented had careful planning been made and the safety of the students given prime consideration even before the trek was made.


School excursions should be well thought off and must consider the safety of their students first and foremost. There should be enough safeguards by having enough teachers to watch over the group while outside of the school premises. 

The timing of the excursions should also consider the season. It is wise that these activities be made during the summer months of February or March, when the rains and floods have stopped.  You avoid possible dangers to your wards by not making them go out during the rainy months of June to November, or when the roads are slippery and can pose dangers to all concerned.


Photo credit: Edgar Edgardo, Kane Kamille Gonzales, Cecille Balana

Philippine News: A Shot from the Hip
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