Olongapo students experience VA Beach classrooms, awed that students can speak freely to their teachers

Olongapo City High School students and teachers at Capitol Hill. Photos by Bing Branigin

Olongapo City High School students and teachers at Capitol Hill. Photos by Bing Branigin

By Maricar CP Hampton

Excitement resonated as Filipino students described as “once in a lifetime” their visit to the U.S. as part of the U.S.-Philippine exchange program in Virginia Beach.

“Masaya, sobrang maganda yung experience,” said junior high school student Jonas Soriano.

Four girls from the Regional Science High School (RSHS) in Olongapo City and four boys from Olongapo City National High School (OCNHS) arrived in Virginia Beach last March 18 to participate in the exchange program with Global Studies and World Languages Academy at Tallwood High School under a sisterhood agreement between the two cities of Olongapo and Virginia Beach.

Olongapo Councilman Jong Cortez said the agreement was conceptualized in September 2013. There was an offer from Tallwood High School to bring 10 Filipino students from Olongapo public schools to visit the school’s Global Studies and World Languages Academy in Virginia Beach.

The eight students namely, Thea Ysobel Cortez, Frezniel Bien Salinas, Jonas Exequiel Soriano, John Daniel Mendoza, Ethan Arcelao, Keana McCoy, Via Ronquillo, Juliana Mendoza and Dainty Jewel Manuel, stayed with host families in Virginia Beach. They were chaperoned by Cortez and teachers Miguel Esporas and Lovella Jarobel.

“(Once) the students were matched with a second year high school they stayed with hosts, interacted with the family and they also did the usual things that American students do, like take the school bus going to school and take also their classes,” Cortez told the The FilAm Metro D.C. “It’s a typical day-to-day experience to see what is life like in America especially the public educational system of Virginia Beach.”

The delegation with White House Executive Chef Cristeta Comerford   in front of the White House

The delegation with White House Executive Chef Cristeta Comerford in front of the White House

During their two-week stay in Virginia Beach, the students were given opportunities to share Philippine experiences with a focus on culture, leadership, community service, he added.

“Right now they are doing World Geography and United Nations simulation. They are also learning some bench marking in school like in Tallwoods World Languages, American History. The typical classroom curriculum of a U.S. public schools—Science Math and English as well,” Cortez said further.

Both teachers and students noted several differences in the school system of the two countries.

There’s a big difference between the public school system in the Philippines and the U.S.

“Pag dating sa oras sa Pilipinas mahaba na yun isang oras per subject samantalang dito sa Tallwood 90 minutes each subjects, 4 or 5 subjects a day lang. Merong silang A day and B day. Sa Pilipinas everyday nine subjects,” said Olongapo City National High school teacher Lovella Jarobel.

Keana McCoy, a grade 8 student at Regional Science High School said her classroom experience was “very different.”

“Hindi sila na le-late. Kung may gusto sila sabihin di sila nagdadalawang isisp magtaas ng kamay. Ang mga Pilipino bago magsalita na ninigurado muna,” she said.

Jonas Soriano, 14, agreed: “Kakaiba sa Pilipinas, kasi dito yun students nagko-cooperate sila ng maayos. Hindi sila nahihiya sa mga teacher. Sa Pilipinas medyo teacher lang ang nag sasalita.”

Special field trips took the delegation to the White House, US House of Congress and Philippine Embassy in Washington D.C. The students also went to Norfolk, Williamsburg and some local community of Virginia Beach to give them the opportunity to experience the local culture and learn about U.S. history and government.

Describing the trip to Washington D.C., McCoy, 14, said, “I was amazed because I just see it on TV, Internet and pictures then bigla ko siyang nakita in person especially the Capitol the underground going in tapos pag labas parang normal lang pero yun pala underground yun.”

The trip to Williamsburg also encouraged McCoy to learn more about U.S. history. “Mahilig kasi ako sa history. My going to Williamsburg motivated me to learn more about American history.”

For Soriano seeing the Capitol and the White House is something he will never forget. “The Capitol (and) the White House parang napaka-special ng mga lugar na yun tapos napuntahan ko kaya sobrang ganda.”

Students serenading Ambassador Jose Cuisia at the Philippine Embassy

Students serenading Ambassador Jose Cuisia at the Philippine Embassy

Community leader Naomi Estaris said the students were also fascinated with the weather changes. “Right now they are very intrigued with the change of seasons. That’s something very different for them and they are all anticipating snow.”

“Last night it snowed masaya first time ko makakita ng snow sobrang lamig,” Soriano said.

Before going back to the Philippines, the delegation will take side trips other U.S. cities like New York and California where they plan to visit Disneyland.

In October a delegation of 10 students from Tallwood High School will be going to Ologapo City for the second phase of the exchange program. Aside from participating in classroom activities Tallwood High School students will be visiting historic landmarks like Corrigidor in Bataan, the American cemetery in Manila and Clark and the US embassy in Manila.

One Comment

  1. This would be a productive learning experience for both sides (visitors & hosts). Both would learn what is good and not so good about their educational system, and pick up what could be adapted to improve their own. This concept had been proven effective as the exchange student and/or peace corps programs of Pres. J. Kennedy. Keep it up.

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