Dr. Edmond Villamonte has been one of the most well-respected and well-liked reading and language teachers of Don Gaston Arrastia Santecildes Memorial Integrated School in Lubao, Pampanga. A 38-year-old bachelor and the eldest of four children, he has been educating minds and touching hearts for almost 15 years now. He originally wanted to be a businessman like his father but he changed his mind after being inspired by his teachers in high school.
Despite being from a very influential and wealthy clan in Pampanga, the chubby and husky yet boyishly handsome Master Teacher III chose to live more simply so that he could be a good example to his fellow teachers. While his relatives drove flashy cars, he chose to drive a humble 1983 Toyota Corona sedan. He also wore simple yet classic clothes and enjoyed eating at his favorite roadside restaurant with his friends.
One day, after a seminar on distance and online learning, Edmond was summoned by his principal Dr. Cecille Ventura-Riordan to her office.
“Have a seat,” Dr. Riordan enjoined Edmond. “We have something to discuss.”
“Thank you,” replied the elementary teacher.
“The reason why you’re here, Dr. Villamonte,” Dr. Riordan warmly said as she read Edmond’s CV, “is that you have a special mission. I hope you accept this mission even if you are now a Doctor in Education degree holder.”
“I don’t mind, Dr. Riordan,” Edmond enthused. “Not at all. I think I can do anything as long as I do not lose my job as a teacher.”
“On the contrary, Dr. Villamonte,” Dr. Riordan quipped, “this is your chance to be fitter and stronger. I have assigned you to be the team leader and you will be handling the other teachers who will be distributing modules to Aeta students in Porac.”
“I accept my mission, Dr. Riordan,” Edmond snappily said, “and I can start even tomorrow. It’s my way of exercising and I need to shed much pounds. That’s better than going on a keto diet.”
The principal laughed.
“Thank you very much, Edmond,” Dr. Riordan reciprocated, “and I believe in you. You have been an asset to our school since you started teaching here.”
The next day, Edmond woke up at dawn and drank his black coffee. As he was wont to do before going to school, he prayed fervently and then proceeded to the garage to check on his car. He then set off for school, where Rommel and Jasper, along with two other teachers, were waiting for him to arrive.
“Why don’t you replace your car, Sir Edmond,” Jasper joked. “It’s showing its age, just like you.”
“I agree with Sir Jasper,” Benjo, one the other teachers, quipped.
“Well, this car has been tuned up,” Edmond said wryly, “but we all need a tune up. Our bellies are getting bigger.”
The other passengers laughed, and so did Edmond.
When the five teachers arrived at the site, they were greeted by the local guides and the teachers from Porac. While Edmond’s colleagues were initially reticent to teach the Aetas, Edmond himself was brimming with enthusiasm and was raring to go meet the children.
Everyone proceeded to cross bridges, pass through rivers and streams, and trek mountains. Edmond and his colleagues carried the modules that they were to distribute to the children.
“It’s so hot here,” Russell complained after getting drenched in his own sweat. “It’s like I’m in a steam bath.”
“Silly,” quipped Edmond. “Just think of this as a better way of trimming down than basketball.”
After more than two hours, Edmond and his team finally arrived at the Aetas’ community, which was very remote. Many children swarmed around them and were gladdened by the sight of their modules. The teachers from Lubao, along with their other fellow teachers from Porac, started to distribute the modules.
Edmond introduced himself to the students, most of them aged seven to nine and excited to learn.
“Good morning,” Edmond spoke in Kapampangan. “I am Teacher Edmond and I’m here together with my fellow teachers to distribute your modules.”
Rommel and the rest also introduced themselves and proceeded to interact with the children. As the teachers, Edmond included, started distributing the modules, the leader of the pack noticed a shy, reticent girl in the corner, her eyes gloomy. She looked older than most of her peers.
“Hello,” Edmond broke the ice. “What’s your name?”
“I’m Moira,” replied the girl.
“Are you all right,” asked Edmond, who wanted to make sure that Moira was doing fine.
Moira remained mum.
Later on, Edmond got wind of the fact that Moira had never gone to school due to extreme poverty and as a result did not know how to read and write.
He felt crestfallen for the young girl, who turned out to be an orphan and was cared for by her grandfather, the only surviving relative, despite the old man’s delicate health condition.
Talking to Dr. Jake Martinez, the principal of the Porac public school that partnered with Edmond’s school, the reading teacher volunteered to teach Moira and to live for some time among the Aeta community.
“Are you sure about your decision, Dr. Villamonte,” Dr. Martinez asked.
“I’ll be fine, Dr. Martinez,” said Edmond. “I feel sorry for Moira but we have to do something. I do not mind sacrificing even much just to help her level up.”
Dr. Martinez beamed upon noticing that Edmond was adamant in his decision.
Later that day, Edmond sought permission from Dr. Riordan and from his parents to stay with the Aetas to teach Moira personally. Though his parents- Don Ronaldo and Doña Criselda- were against his decision, Dr. Riordan supported him and gave her consent, knowing that Edmond would make a huge difference in a young girl’s life.
Dr. Martinez accompanied Edmond to the small hut where Moira stayed with her grandfather, who was then weak and infirm. The latter was totally surprised upon recognizing the old man, who was introduced to him by Dr. Martinez.
“You…you were the one who helped me when my car broke down many years ago,” Edmond exclaimed upon recognizing Moira’s grandfather Mang Lutgardo. “It’s you, all right!”
“Yes…,” Mang Lutgardo weakly replied, “and I remember you. Why are you here, iho?”
“I’m a teacher now, Mang Lutgardo,” Edmond proudly replied, “and I am here to teach the children and Moira how to read and write. It’s also my way of thanking you.”
Every afternoon and evening, Edmond personally taught Moira to read, count, write, and speak fluently. He saw to it that the thirteen-year-old girl never gave up and persisted. Even if the master teacher almost went down with dengue fever, he never faltered in mentoring Moira and the other children, with the help of Rommel and the other teachers. He never regretted living with the Aetas for several months.
Many years later, Edmond resigned from his post as principal of Don Gaston Arrastia Santecildes Memorial Integrated School to take over his family’s businesses after his parents died. On the other hand, Moira skipped several grades, finished high school, and then become a scholar at UP Diliman, where she graduated with honors.
One day, Edmond bumped into Moira by accident at a coffee shop. He was with his wife Claudia and their three-year-old daughter Heather.
“Are you all right, Miss,” Edmond asked.
“Yes,” Moira replied. “Wait! Aren’t you Teacher Edmond?”
“Right,” Edmond answered. He added, “I remember you! Moira Basuil! How are you? By the way, this is my wife Claudia and our daughter Heather.”
“I’m now Mrs. Carreon,” Moira excitedly replied. “I graduated three years ago, magna cum laude, with a degree in education. I’m now an English teacher at Holy Angel University.”
“I’m so proud of you, Moira,” Edmond exclaimed. “You’ve come a long way!”
“It’s because you sacrificed to teach me and my fellow Aetas,” Moira said.
“And I decided to be a teacher just like you, sir.”
Edmond and Claudia were touched by what Moira had said.
“It’s not a sacrifice, Moira,” Edmond simply said. “It’s been my pleasure, my joy, and my life mission. I am very thankful to God for having a student like you. Please do not forget to help students who need you.”
“Yes, sir,” Moira proudly replied. “I will be much better than you are, Sir Edmond.”
“Yes, Moira, you will be,” Edmond said, “because you are beautiful inside and out and you’ve never failed to make everyone happy.”#