WHILE heading a state college in Surigao del Norte for five years, I proposed halfway in my third year of assignment to set up a fisherfolk museum in Malimono – a town 36 kms away from Surigao City, seat of the College’s main campus. I thought that a fisherfolk museum was a fitting multi-purpose facility (educational and cultural) and entrepreneurial too, which could serve eco-tourism. Malimono is a coastal town. As one travels from the main campus to Malimono, stretches of the clear blue sea are on one’s right. One is treated to clear pure air, splashing sounds of children bathing in merriment and on some sandy stretch are homeward bound fisherfolk after an early morning or afternoon bountiful catch.
I came to head the College in September 1998, barely three months after its being chartered as the Surigao State College of Technology— a merger of the Surigao del Norte School of Arts and Trades in Surigao City, and the Malimono School of Fisheries. Two-year diploma programs supervised by Tesda were common to both campuses. Its main campus was preparing for its initial baccalaureate in the liberal arts and teacher education for its first school year as a state college.
The presidency of the fledgling college was no holiday for me. There was no problem with any group nor with anyone – the faculty members, the staff, the politicians, the community. The problem was changing mental models on matters academic and no one was to blame. It was the natural course of any social group that assumed a new identity – from being schools of livelihood technology to a college offering academic degrees. This shall be it — a more rigorous academic bent; for its academics to dwell on reflective thought, on man’s longing for truth and beauty as expressed through the arts as well as to probe into the sciences to reach out to the unknown; —while no less in value, continue learning and teaching the technology and livelihood education programs — keeping true to the more practical, more down to earth, more on the here and now, which the merged vocational-technical schools had long excelled in. It may be said, this new identity was a marriage of earth and heaven.
After sending several teachers to earn their respective graduate degrees, we opened at Malimono baccalaureates in fisheries and in food technology and at the main, added a major in mathematics. On its seventeenth year this 2015, the College is on its way to university-hood.
On my third year, having gotten a grant for a fish sanctuary which assured sustained fish culture, it was ripe time to have maximum return from our rich fish capture. At this stage of our “fish-program” we successfully tapped a half million pesos grant from DOST-TAPI for food (fish) processing equipment. We produced smoked fish, marinated dried fish and even fish meal for feeds. Almost no part of the bigger variety was wasted. The fine meat, we made into Spanish sardines and the shreds, into fish loaf. Teachers were excited to indulge in entrepreneurship. The schools in landlocked areas were our welcomed market. Business was brisk.
The mood of our modest campus was ripe for a proposal. And that was when we thought to put up a fisherfolk museum. The teachers dutifully and actively sought out whole nooks of Malimono for relics of all types of fishing gear and fishing boats. They researched on the make of each, when, how and which part of the sea each was used, and all other information connected to fishing practices. The shop teachers did miniatures of each fishing artifact, painted each close to the originals. The social science teachers documented the socio-economic dimensions of fishing, and the science teachers wrote notes on scientific as well as folk beliefs of fishing in decades past.
We were to train townsfolk to explain each artifact in English, should tourists later on wish for first-hand information on fishing habits in Malimono. We planned for attractive postcards with photos of fishing gears and like some modest museums would invite patrons to be “Friends of the Malimono Fisher Folk Museum.” The National Commission on Culture and the Arts favored us with a visit of a representative who recommended a curator to train two of our teachers for our dream museum. We were guided to put our plans on the drawing board. Suggested footwork kept us on our toes.
At the same time, the main campus teachers and staff had their hands full with our initiatives —several first ever experience of continuing professional development (CPD) in this part of Mindanao—- particularly for the smaller schools in the islands around. These included a week-long English language teaching seminar funded by PAL czar’s Foundation for the Upgrade of Standard Education (FUSE) conducted by de la Salle University professors; a US Embassy-sponsored regional American Studies conference guesting “imported” experts; a creativity workshop by a Palanca awardee while on the side, preparing for the British Council sponsored two-week seminar on Occupational English for Tesda language instruction. Invitations, confirmations, venue, amenities, etc.— all well prepared, the CPD initiatives went on smoothly; participants ecstatic over what they had undergone. Soon my tenure was up, extended until the law allowed. To date, the museum remains a dream – the Surigao Fisher Folk Museum that never was!
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Teresita Tanhueco-Tumapon, Ph.D., is one of the Philippines’ most accomplished educators and experts on institutional management in colleges and universities. Her studies have included not only education and pedagogy but also literature. She has studied not only in the topmost universities in the Philippines but also in Germany, Britain and Japan. She is now the Vice-President for External Relations and Internationalization of Liceo de Cagayan University (in Cagayan de Oro) after serving as its VP for Academic Affairs for six and a half years concurrent to her ten years as dean in the Graduate Studies of the same university. She holds a Lifetime Professional Achievement Award from the central office of the Commission on Higher Education.