Sylvia Benedicto is a teacher who goes out of her way to support her students, a friend who teachers go to for help, an activist who fights for what is right.
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – Strict but generous. This is how Sylvia O. Benedicto, 55, was described by her decade-long friend Tita Cariño, 63. Both are public school teachers at the North Fairview High School (NFHS) in Quezon City.
“She has principles and she firmly stands by it, especially when she knows that she is fighting for what is right,” Cariño told Bulatlat.com.
Benedicto has been teaching for 24 years. Born in Sibalom, Antique, Benedicto was among the first batch of education graduates of the Polytechnic State College of Antique (PSCA) now known as the University of Antique. Her major was Technology and Livelihood Education (TLE) because it was the only one offered in the university. “Courses offered in our school then were all vocational so I had no other choice but to take TLE as a major. What I really wanted was to major in Science or English,” she said.
After graduation in 1984, Benedicto worked in a garment factory in Metro Manila. She took her licensure examination for teachers while working and luckily passed it. “The night before I took the exam I was working overtime in the factory because we had to meet the quota of the client, which was Adidas. I think it was luck because I was not able to review for the exams.”
Before, Benedicto had second thoughts on whether she would pursue her teaching career or not. She tried other work instead. “It was like looking for what I really wanted to do then,” she said.
After passing the licensure exam, she applied in a school and was accepted. However, she declined the teaching position and went back to Antique and took her Master’s degree, also at the University of Antique in 1985.
After taking her Master’s degree, she worked again in Metro Manila. This time she was employed as an office clerk at the Office of Counseling and Guidance at the University of the Philippines in Diliman. “I prepared the payroll in our office. But then I got bored because the job was easy. I felt uncomfortable about not doing anything and the government was paying me with the people’s money. So I resigned.”
She once again applied for a teaching position at the Judge Juan Luna High School in 1989 and was accepted. After eight years she transferred to the NFHS. She is a TLE teacher and teaches dress making.
Benedicto is known as strict and a disciplinarian in school not only to students but with co-teachers as well. “I was elected as president of the Faculty club in 2007 and I showed them that I don’t give any favors to anyone. I follow the rules therefore they too should follow it.”
Cariño said Benedicto was elected as president of the Faculty Club because the teachers wanted change. “The president before her had cases and had misused the funds of the Faculty Club. The teachers were also clamoring for change at that time and they knew that she could do it.”
True enough, Benedicto upholds discipline and truthfulness among teachers. “When I was the president I was strict with regards rules. I didn’t allow teachers to sign the attendance for some late teachers. If they were late, then let it be.” She also told her principal that she would not tolerate any wrong doing. She was also a hands-on president who attended to the problems of faculty members asking for help.
With her strict and disciplinarian image, Benedicto also has a soft spot in her heart. She has been supporting students since she started teaching. She also supports her nieces and nephews with their schooling.
She also helps her co-teachers even with their personal and financial problems.
“Isusubo na lang nya, ibibigay pa nya. She always does what she could when co-teachers ask for help from her especially when she was the president of the Faculty Club. She never refused a teacher who sought her help. She also did not leave my side when my husband died and when my daughter got sick. She really has a good heart,” Cariño said.
“I have two adopted families where I live. They are like my own family,” Benedicto told Bulatlat.com. She is single but happy.
She has no other thing in her mind but to help students who need help and deserve to get help. At present, she is supporting four students. “Before I can still send them to college but it got expensive I had to stop the support because I cannot afford it.”
Like any other public school teacher, Benedicto is affected by the spike in rates of utilities and prices of rice and other basic commodities. That is why students and friends would sometimes ask her, “Are you rich, Ma’am? Why are you helping everybody?”
“I said no. If I waited till I get rich then I would just die without being able to help anyone,” she quipped.
That is why getting married never crossed her mind. “I don’t feel I need a partner (in life). Because once I get married, my own family will become my top priority and I cannot help my scholars anymore. I would have to choose between them. I don’t want that to happen,” she told Bulatlat.com.
But why is she helping everybody? “I just give back all the good deeds that I received when I was also a student,” she told Bulatlat.com. She said that when she was studying, a distant relative, an aunt who was also a teacher willingly helped her through her studies and in return, she did house chores for her. “She is my example, she is my mentor.”
Benedicto said her greatest achievement was helping her students.
Committed to fight for teacher’s welfare
In 2007, Benedicto became a member of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT), which raised her awareness about the real situation of teachers and the education system in the country. Whenever there are mobilizations calling for a salary upgrade for teachers and government employees or protesting against the Performance Based Bonus or the pork barrel or other national issues, Benedicto would be there holding placards and also chanting.
Aside from lending a helping hand, Benedicto has also committed herself to work not only to give quality education to students but for the welfare of teachers as well.
In her many years in NFHS, she had never let any complaining parent humiliate any teacher. “There are problems that cannot be solved in one sitting. Yes there are teachers who sometimes make mistakes but it does not mean that a parent can humiliate them. We can discipline teachers who commit mistakes but not to the point of degrading them.”
Benedicto has earned the respect of fellow teachers for her consistency. “She is an activist but she is also diligent in our work here. She defies orders that she think is not right but she would also follow orders as long as it’s not against her principles,” her friend Cariño said.