ERNANI S. Fernandez Jr., 36, is a teacher from Palo National High School in Palo, Leyte, whose home and school were flattened by super typhoon “Yolanda” on Nov. 8, 2013.
Three days after the typhoon he was able to escape from the destruction and the stench of death in his town by getting aboard a C-130 plane at the Tacloban Airport, which is six kilometers away from his town.
“It was November 11 when my family decided to go to Manila since my wife was nine months pregnant, and the expected delivery was any day that week,” Fernandez said.
“The C-130 transported us to Manila with an experience that I can never forget.”
Arriving at the Villamor Airbase in Manila two hours later, Fernandez immediately informed his parents that they were all alive and safe: him, his wife and his grade-school son.
On the night of Nov. 11 Fernandez, who specializes in technology and livelihood education courses, and who had been in the service for 11 years, logged on to his Facebook account in an attempt to inform the rest of his relatives and friends that his family made it alive from the strongest typhoon to hit land in the planet, a super howler that killed over 6,000 people and caused 2,000 others to go missing.
“I got online and read all the comments of my classmates and friends. While reading all their messages of concern I also scrolled one that was totally different. It was a message saying: ‘Congratulations, you qualify in the 2014 Global Forum in Barcelona, Spain’.”
Three days after the typhoon Fernandez found another good reason to smile. Below are excerpts of my interview with him:
How did you learn about this Global Forum?
Fernandez: The Microsoft Partners in Learning invited teachers around the globe to join the Microsoft Expert Educators Program which is the highlight of the Global Forum to beheld in Barcelona, Spain. I submitted the Internet Communication Technology project of our school online showing the integration of technology in the lesson. The title of the project was “What makes accounting exciting?” It was organized to bring fun and excitement to students on their business and accounting lessons. Through this they were motivated to learn. By incorporating technology to the lessons, students became more responsive to all of the activities, enabling them to cope with the challenges of 21st century education. Microsoft would like the students to acquire 21st century skills that are essential to their success. This is where the expert educators who integrated technology in their teaching come in. The event will be on March 11 to 14, 2014.
What were you thinking about when that opportunity came to you during that difficult time?
Fernandez: I really don’t know my feelings. Of course, I dreamed about being included in this event for my personal and professional growth, but with typhoon Yolanda’s destruction, what matters most now is that we are alive and safe. After the typhoon, I understood that whoever we were, whatever our status was, everything was fleeting. Saying ‘Thank you God for keeping us alive’ is enough for me. The Barcelona trip is just another blessing. God is really good.
How does it feel representing the country in this event?
Fernandez: Maybe God has a purpose in letting me live to represent the country in Barcelona and let the voices of the Paloanons be heard that we need help to rebuild Palo National High School. This will be my other mission there: to ask for help from the other expert educators in the world for our school and for Palo. This achievement is for my students who worked with me on the project.
How many of you will be representing the country?
Fernandez: There are only two of us. My partner is Zoilo Pinongcos Jr. from Iloilo.
Do you have any previous awards that made you confident to join this big competition?
Fernandez: I was recognized as one of the innovative teachers in the country in 2012 during the 7th Search for Innovative Teachers Leadership Award of Microsoft Partners in Learning.
You’ll be leaving your family on this trip. How are you going to deal with that?
Fernandez: It’s difficult to leave my family even temporarily, especially now that I have a newborn baby girl. But I need to sacrifice even for a while. I will not only represent my school in this competition but I will be also be representing the country. I will prove to the world that Filipinos can survive difficulties and disasters.
What’s your message to your students?
Fernandez: Let us not lose hope. Let us be strong and stay positive. God is with us. To my students, I will do my best to win and let the world know that Palo National High School is a competitive school and that its students are really 21st-century learners.
First published at Manila Standard Today, December 21, 2013