Response: October 2014 Issue

The Gift of Education

With the help of a scholarship from United Methodist Women, Princess Zarla J. Raguindin can be a voice for the silenced in the Philippines.

The Gift of Education
Princess Zarla J. Raguindin with a group of Dumagat children from the Rizal Southern Tagalog region of the Philippines, August 2011.

"We hardly have money for our daily living, but he wants to go to school. So my son needs to sit under the street light when the night comes to read his lessons," a woman told my group during a two-week stay in an urban poor community in Quezon City, Philippines, in 2007.

Even that short exposure left me with a heavy heart. I pondered the woman's words for a couple of days. I started to think: How many young people struggle like this every day? How many children don't know how it is to read and write? How many have lost hope? What about those born with special needs? I realized there was a dearth of professionals able to respond to the challenges brought by economic poverty, which is widespread in the Philippines.

Because of this I decided to study special education. I went to college still carrying my life-changing encounter with the woman from Quezon City. As each semester passed by, I started to see more than the tip of the iceberg. I realized that people with special needs are not only those who have exceptionality in the intellectual, social and physical aspects of their lives but are also those who are at risk because of the condition their environment put them into.

I graduated from Harris Memorial College in 2002—yes, I am a proud deaconess of the United Methodist Church in the Philippines! I was assigned to a local church in my home province for four fruitful years until I decided to pursue advance studies in 2007.

While studying for a master's degree at the University of the Philippines, I was assigned as a person-in-mission in charge of our bishop's ministry for migrant workers through our episcopal migrant desk. I worked with the advocacies and program of the Board of Women's Work, Diakonia Philippines, United Methodist Women's Regional Missionary Office and in the ecumenical community. My assignment was a God-given opportunity to dig deeper into the realities of marginalized communities, workers, urban poor and indigenous people. My experiences set my feet on the ground and opened my eyes. I now work to speak for the silenced and weakened.

In 2010, Harris Memorial College, my beloved alma mater, offered me a full-time position as faculty in the Basic Education Department. I was excited to go back to the institution that taught me so much. I continued my graduate work.

The academic community at Harris encouraged and inspired me to press on to achieve my education goals. The unfailing love of my single mother and my five siblings has been the source of my strength and joy while embarking on my calling. The financial support of the United Methodist Women sustained me, because at times fulfilling my dream required great financial resources. The support of United Methodist Women members gave me an assurance to in turn respond to the needs of others.

In October I successfully passed my oral exam. The defense of my research, titled "Musical Activities and Science Performance of Pupils With Visual Impairment," was a success, and I was able to graduate with my master's degree that same semester. This was indeed another milestone and another offering I can make to our church and community.

Now, as a newly appointed head of the Education and Arts and Sciences Department at Harris, I know that a big task is ahead of me. I have to think as someone in academia while also understanding the realities of society, for in society is where the institution and the church belong. I am looking forward to creating an initiatives for the welfare of children, youth and women who are struggling with poverty.

Princess Zarla J. Raguindin is head of the Education and Arts and Sciences Department at Harris Memorial College in Taytay, Rizal, the Philippines and a deaconess of The United Methodist Church of the Philippines.

Posted or updated: 9/29/2014 11:00:00 PM