After guiding him through his first ironing experience, McTery was ready for his graduation ceremony. High school begins in seventh grade in the Philippines, so sixth graders graduate from elementary school. We had spent the morning planting, cleaning, and giving one of the dogs a much-needed bath before getting ourselves ready. After lunch, we drove to Bangbangolan Elementary School with Prescilla, the owner of Nature’s Healing Home and Valerie, a French/Swiss guest staying at the farm this week.
This was also a ceremony for the Kindergarteners who would be moving up to first grade, and an awards ceremony for selected students in grades 1-5.
Chairs were set up in front of the outdoor stage. Everything was roped off for the graduates and the one parent that each would walk down the aisle with. There were no seats for other guests, who were milling around the outer courtyard.
The principal and teachers walked down the aisle last and, without warning, I was asked to join them. I tried to refuse, but was practically pulled into the group and soon found myself sitting on the stage with other distinguished guests.
I spent the next two hours listening to speakers and shaking hands on stage while presenting diplomas and awards to students in every grade. Each speaker began by thanking and acknowledging the officials on stage, and always stumbled when they got to me. No one knew who I was or why I was there, except for the principals and teachers. I became “Mr. Tim” for most of the introductions.
Graduate McTery was excited and nervous about the whole ceremony. He had been practicing the songs he and his classmates would sing and the pledge they would be reciting. We pulled up YouTube videos of the songs so he could practice at home. Here’s a little more about him.
McTery is 13 and came to work at Nature’s Healing Home about two years ago so that he could attend school here. His cousin and aunt are also here. He is an expert at planting and has taught me a lot about the local plants. He is always pulling a leaf or berry off of a plant for me to try since he knows all the edible ones.
He is a very hard worker! McTery leaves for school at 6:30 and returns at 4:30. He does chores, usually involving planting or fixing things around the farm, until dinner. After dinner, he and his cousin clean up and we finally sit down for our English lesson at around 8:00 pm. There are chores to do on the weekends as well. I’m impressed with how helpful he is and how hard he works.
McTery told me that he likes living at Nature’s Healing Home because of all of the people who come to stay there. He is a great host and very friendly with the visitors. He also likes his school and the principal. English and reading are a challenge for McTery and he worries about what high school will be like. He misses his village and his parents. He has not been back there since he came to San Fernando.
I have been invited on a journey to McTery’s village tomorrow (April 8) with his aunt and cousin. I have been hearing about the village since the day I met McTery, and I know he is excited to show me what his life was like there and introduce me to his family. I do not expect any wi-fi or 3G service, or time to write, so expect about a week or so before my next post (for all you readers who worry when I miss a day). I will be in good hands!