Stars & heroes

NEW BEGINNINGS - Büm D. Tenorio Jr. - The Philippine Star
Stars & heroes
Dr. Ruth Estacio, educated both in Notre Dame of Marbel University in Koronadal City and University of Twente in The Netherlands, receives her Ambassador Antonio L. Cabangon Chua Gintong Parangal for her extraordinary hard work and discipline in the field of education in Mindanao

Teachers are stars. They are also heroes.

Their luster enables others to shine, too. Theirs is a heroism that also creates heroes.

Dr. Ruth Estacio, schools division superintendent of Sarangani, is both a star and a hero. With the Department of Education (DepEd) in Mindanao for 25 years now, she has stared both snakes and rebels in the eye — while a newbie teacher in the mountains as she carried, among others, a huge blackboard to marginalized communities. She won both the snakes and the rebels in pursuit of educating the children, even the children of lawless elements.

“Mas takot ako sa ahas kaysa sa rebelde (I’m more afraid of snakes than rebels),” she told The STAR in a phone interview days after she was awarded the highest accolade at the 11th Ambassador Antonio L. Cabangon Chua Gintong Parangal para sa Edukasyon, Guro at Pamumuno held at the Bulwagan ng Karunungan at the DepEd compound in Pasig City. The yearly award is a tribute to Ambassador Antonio L. Cabangon Chua whose life and work, especially when he founded Fortune Life, highlighted the value of hard work and discipline that continues to inspire pupils, students and teachers.

The Gintong Parangal awards, which is done with the advocacy group MaryLindBert, honor educators in two categories: Pamumuno (governance) and Guro (teachers). Estacio top-billed the awardees in the Pamumuno award, which is given to education division administrators, assistant superintendents or superintendents “who have exemplified extraordinary hard work and discipline in leading their respective divisions to achieve success and champion the virtues of education.”

The Guro award, on the other hand, recognizes the extraordinariness of a public school teacher in upholding with excellence his or her responsibilities as an educator.

Estacio was honored for her “compelling vision and genuine commitment to service” when she was schools division superintendent of South Cotabato. In the three years that she was the head in South Cotabato, she helped establish an internationally recognized Quality Management System and made the division ISO-certified — these were accomplished despite the pandemic.

The pandemic notwithstanding, Estacio and her team at the division converted about 45 elementary schools to integrated schools in South Cotabato. This means more children will not have to stop schooling after grade school because they can push through high school as secondary education is already offered in the area.

“Oftentimes the problem for dropouts is the lack of high schools in the area. We found a solution to that by integrating schools,” Estacio said.

Guro awardees (from left) Dr. Moises Lopez III, Michael Armentia, Michael Malvar, Anna-Liza Jimenez and Marybeth Arcenas.

“I’m also very proud to say that we introduced robotics to DepEd South Cotabato, even if it is not part of the curriculum. This thrilled the students because their creativity and critical thinking were put to the test, and they did well in robotics,” she said, adding that close coordination with Melvin Matulac, Pinoy Robot Games founder, achieved this feat for the 25 high schools in the area.

Because robotics is not part of the curriculum, no funding is earmarked for it. Estacio’s spirit was not dampened. With hard work, dedication and resilience, she and her team reached out and touched the hearts of LGU leaders who were willing to support them and the students. Now, the schools in the division have a module for robotics. Estacio is all the more inspired to replicate her achievements in South Cotabato in Sarangani and anywhere her work brings her.

“The Pamumuno award is not only mine to keep. It takes a village to educate a child. This is a collective effort of everybody in the division,” she said.

By leveling up, Estacio aims for the “fourth industrial revolution in education,” which is the advent of artificial intelligence. “Everything should be done with due diligence. Every advancement in knowledge is welcome but with due diligence,” she said of artificial intelligence.

She added it is a challenge to master AI considering that the “third industrial revolution in education,” which is the computerization and digitalization of education, is not yet fully executed.

Pamumuno awardees (from left) Dr. Joel Pelenio, Dr. Jordan Solatorio, Dr. Cynthia Tablang, Dr. Dennis Masangcay and Dr. Ruth Estacio.

Her most fulfilling accomplishment as an educator, she said, was when she worked with the indigenous people (IP) in Sultan Kudarat. She spearheaded IP education, Arabic Language and Islamic Values Education, Alternative Learning System and Special Education, which she and her team executed in the disadvantaged areas of the province.

How did they do it?

“With a positive mindset, bearing in mind the mandate of DepEd, quality and access to education, making sure all children go to school,” Estacio said.

A positive mindset, for Estacio, means walking five to 10 hours in the mountains and grassland to open schools and assign teachers, cautious but nor fearful of the threats, particularly in the areas infested by rebels. The only threat educators like her consider is physical threat — “when we ride horses in the mountain and below us is a ravine and the snakes in the hinterland.”

“But even rebels cooperate when they know the government is doing its part in uplifting the lives of their children, in this case, access to quality education. So the rebels become the PTA officers. That’s why I am not afraid of them. I have a dialogue with them. The ‘lawless elements’ respect teachers. They also have dreams for their children. And that dream begins with their children’s education,” she said.

Her observation is valid: “People of different ideological beliefs will go back to the government if the government is there.” Estacio has seen with her own eyes that rebels will return to the government when there are schools for their children, farm-to-market roads that ease commerce and hospitals for their medical needs.

Estacio will not stop paving the way for every school to have access to electricity by coordinating with other stakeholders like One Meralco, which, through the efforts of her team, provided solar power to 10 schools in far-flung villages in Mindanao.

“We will not stop advocating for good values and good deeds. I live by that. I am committed to that,” she said.

In Dr. Ruth Estacio’s voice and deeds can be found the brilliance of stars, the handiwork of heroes — and the commitment of well-meaning educators.



(For your new beginnings, e-mail me at [email protected]. I’m also on Twitter @bum_tenorio and Instagram @bumtenorio. Have a blessed weekend.)

vuukle comment


  • Latest
Are you sure you want to log out?

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

Get Updated:

Signup for the News Round now

or sign in with