Sunday, October 2, 2011

Sir Nonoy - My Teacher, My Hero

This post is in celebration of Teachers' Month (September 5 -October 5). UNESCO in 1993, inaugurated World Teachers' Day to celebrate, who else, teachers and their most important role to guide young and old alike in the life-long learning process.

Image taken from the web

This may sound cliche but I owe huge part of who I am today to my teachers. My view on things were in part influenced by these selfless individuals who imparted their knowledge to all of us - in the name of service and sheer love of teaching. I'm writing this short but sincere post straight from my Ina-Tay heart way before October 5th, for the fear that I might get too busy and completely forget.

If you were to ask me who my favorite teacher would be - I will be able to answer you without batting an eyelash. It would be Jose Ma. Y. Tomacruz or just simply "Sir Nonoy" to us his students. He was my instructor in Philosophy 103 (Introduction to Philosophy) at Ateneo de Davao University. I took up MassComm and Philo was among our minor subjects. I'm the kind of student who usually gives half a heart with minor subjects so I can focus more on my majors. But in his Philo class, it was short of impossible to be a half-hearted student and pass. Apart from his imposing physique, I vividly remember our first day of class where he entered the classroom and gave a boisterous "Good morning class!" We sat straight like scared first graders as he proceeded to introduce himself. He then gave a litany of requirements and rules and expectations. I told myself this class surely will not be a piece of cake. To get an idea what I mean click his online syllabus (thanks to all-knowing  Google!).

 Apart from the "general themes of human understanding/knowledge; human freedom and its related topics like subjectivity, search for existential meaning, and the like; and human relatedness" that we delved in class, Sir Nonoy required of us Plato's Allegory of the Cave, Willian Luijpen's Subjectivity and Freedom, Man's Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl and other philosophical readings that have caused me a few episodes of temporary brain paralysis. But there were also times when we would watch films and read lighter books like M. Scott Peck's Road Less Travelled which became one of my all-time favorites.

As in any other class we had oral recitations and we were required to write our reflections on a close-gapped note filler. His instructions were plain and simple - in order to earn a grade we have to write an entire page, that means until the very last line. There was no escape because we all knew Sir Nonoy is going to read each of our fillers. Those who dared to defy repeated the subject the following semester.

His no-nonsense approach to teaching taught me valuable lessons, first and foremost - hard work. Sir Nonoy, in our first class meeting informed us that if we can manage to get good grades in the prelims and midterms, we have the option not to take the final exam. So I read and digested all the required readings and made sure I wrote good reflections on my filler mainly to pass and second to be exempted from the finals. Despite the hectic schedules and conflicting deadlines I had to make sure I was ready for his class. He also trained us to be intellectually curious, mentally tough and confident especially during oral recitations where even the coolest and I-don't-care-if-I-fail students give the library a rare visit to prepare for Sir Nonoy's questions. Whenever he feels you are not sure of your answer, he would stir your brain all the more by asking follow-up questions and the dreaded "are you sure???". A few of my so-called cool classmates endured more than 15 minutes of questioning until Sir Nonoy is satisfied or have had enough of their feigned intelligence.

All my late nights were rewarded when he posted the list of exempted students one week before the finals and my name was on the list! Hardwork does pay-off! All the training I got everytime my name was called to answer prepared me to be tough and confident when I became a professional and had to stick to my guns when challenged. Being his student helped me to broaden my views, to respect others no matter how much their opinons conflict with mine and to live life to the fullest because everything has its definitive conclusion. As a teacher, Sir Nonoy imparted to me not only his knowledge but also life lessons that beyond doubt saw me through to a lot of tough times. To you Sir Nonoy, thank you very much for being a participant of my learning process, which is still on-going by the way; for being the teacher who trains not only the head but the heart and hands as well.

I've never watched "The Truman Show" the same way again after that very healthy discussion with the class.

"We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light." - Plato


  1. Hi Lany! No doubt, Sir Nonoy is an epitome of a modern day hero. By reading through all his qualities you just posted, he exemplifies the traits of an extraordinary teacher.

    I so wish I had a teacher like him too in Philo. I wouldn't have earned a grade of 4.0 back then, LOL! It was my least fave subject and my teacher was not of any help. I was hoping he could stimulate me intellectually but then, I didn't have any interest to listen to all his weird antics and thus, the grade of 4.0.

    Oh well! For my part, there were only a few teachers I can name whom I can say have formed part of what I am today. And yeah, we must be grateful for them for being our teachers, our heroes.

  2. Hi Lainy,

    Sir Nonoy definitely made a huge impact in my life hence the tribute post. Unfortunately I also have horror stories of teachers who made some facets of my student life a tragedy. Maybe because I was not among those who supported their twisted points of view or laughed at their corny jokes. :) Thanks for dropping by lovely!

  3. Hello mam, i was also under mr. Tomacruz in college. Nktawa tlga ako sa sinulat mo kasi relate tlga kme ng mga classmates ko in our BA class! nyahahaha sumtimes we dont study anymore for our major subjct kasi busy lahat basa for his class. i want to b a blogger also bt im not a really good writer like u. thank u 4 helping me remmber my college days :)

  4. Hi fellow Blue Knight Fallen Anne-Gel,

    Thanks for dropping by my little corner on the blogosphere. I think it's safe to say majority of those under Sir Nonoy can pretty much imagine what I was talking about here. His class did feel like a major subject but in retrospect it was good training ground for all of us, don't you think? I also spent sleepless nights reading and re-reading to prepare for the oral recitation, some readings were easy to digest but Frankl was a challenge super - too deep and philosophical I had to read and re-read. I remember scratching my head and going "ano daw?!!!" What batch were you in Ateneo? Don't ask me, I'm probably way older than you!

    On blogging, I think you should give it a try. You never know unless you do it. Believe me it has a whole lot of benefits. You can write about anything under the sun, you are only limited by your imagination. I even have blogger friends who write in tagalog or bisaya! There are online resources for those who want to start their own blogs.

    Drop me a line if you have made your own blog, I'll invite you to the Davao Bloggers Society which is a really fun group. We have lots of activities lined up especially this Kadayawan. To encourage you more, if your blog is up by August 12th, I'll bring you to the exclusive Starbucks bloggers event on the 13th. How does that sound? Lemme know. :) Cheers!