Updated 11:42 AM PHT Mon, March 20, 2017
Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — Remember high school?
Do you still remember the cliques, the raging hormones and the burning questions about college and adulthood?
All those certainly helped make high school some of the best years of our lives.
Indeed, perhaps the worst part about high school was having to wake up before there was sunlight to beat the traffic or catch the school bus.
But for Luzviminda Santiago, it is a routine that she has gladly done for 30 years.
Santiago wakes up at 4 a.m. every day and travels for about four hours to do what she has always loved doing: teaching at Makati High School.
To celebrate dedicated early risers like Santiago, McDonald's paid tribute to her on #NationalBreakfastDay, with some help from the countless people she inspired and nurtured through the years.
MedTech turned teacher
Unlike most teachers, Santiago didn't finish education in college.
"Sinabi ko nga, "Major English, minor in P.E.,"" Santiago said. "Mahilig nga kasi akong sumayaw at kumanta. Gusto kong mag-MAPEH (Music, Art, Physical Education and Health) teacher. Kaso nga, ang tatay ko, sabi niya, "No medical technology (degree), no college." MedTech talaga ako. Tinyaga ko 'yun."
[Translation: I said, "Major in English, minor in P.E." I am fond of singing and dancing. I wanted to be a MAPEH teacher. But my father told me, "No medical technology degree, no college." I'm really a medical technician. I perservered through that program.]
After graduating from the University of Santo Tomas, Santiago taught at Siena College for two years, then at St. Paul's Antipolo for 10 years.
After over a decade of teaching in private schools, Santiago decided to move to Makati High School, where she teaches Science.
"Yung unang-unang principal dito is my uncle," she said. "Pero kahit tiyo ko yung principal dito, hindi ako naging permanent agad. Dumaan ako sa butas ng karayom. Four years akong regular substitute."
[Translation: The very first principal here is my uncle. But even if my uncle was the principal here, I didn't become a permanent employee immediately. I went through the eye of the needle. I was a regular substitute teacher for four years.]
The witty disciplinarian
At Makati High School, Santiago became infamous for being a disciplinarian, a moniker that she is actually proud of.
But despite her uptight image in the classroom, Santiago is also renowned for her boisterous sense of humor.
"Lagi akong may rebound pag nagkekwentuhan," she said. "Ako yung pinakamaingay. May isa nga akong co-teacher, sasabihin daw, "Matutulog muna ako, wala pa siya. Pagdating niyan, maingay na faculty room."
[Translation: I always have a witty rebound when there's a discussion. I'm the noisiest of them all. I have a co-teacher who said, "I will sleep while she isn't here. Because when she arrives, the faculty room will be noisy.]
Santiago said in nearly four decades in the classroom, she has learned one important lesson.
"We have to treat the students as different individuals, hindi common as a classroom set-up," she said. "Pero hindi ko 'yun madidiskubre agad. Siguro sa kalagitnaan ng school year, madi-discover na."
[Translation: We have to treat the students as different individuals, not treat them in common as in a classroom set-up. But I can't discover that immediately.]
Keep on teaching
This July, Santiago turns 65, which is the mandatory retirement age for public-school teachers.
This is a day she faces with crushing dread.
"Talagang grabeng nalulungkot ako," she said. "Umiiyak ako talaga every night. Naiisip akong hindi na ako pupunta dito. Mami-miss ko yung pag-meet sa akin ng mga bata at yung pagpapatawa ko dun sa faculty room."
[Translation: I really feel so sad. I really cry over it almost every night. I think about about how I won't be going here anymore. I will miss meeting the students and cracking jokes in the faculty room.]
Santiago said she has two choices after she retires.
"Gusto kong magturo ulit sa private school," she said. "Marami kasing private schools malapit sa amin. Tapos parang gusto kong magtayo ng tindahan ng hamburger. Di ba, 'pag may tindahan ka ng hamburger sa bahay mo, kaya naman takeout-takeout, magpapa-deliver ng ganun?"
[Translation: I want to teach in a private school again. There are a lot of private schools near our house. And I'm also thinking of putting up a hamburger stand. Isn't it true that when you have a hamburger stand in your house, you can do takeout and deliveries?]
But given the choice, Santiago said she wants continue doing what she's loved doing for so long as nothing could compare to the joy of teaching.
Santiago also said she hopes to be like her mother when she grows old.
"My mother is a retired teacher also," she said. "Gusto ko siyang gayahin dahil 'pag ano niya ng 65, kinuha siya ng school dun sa amin. Fifteen years siyang nagturo until 80 years old. At iniyakan pa niya yung pagpapatigil namin."
[Translation: I want to imitate her because when she hit 65, a private school near us hired her. She taught there for 15 years until she turned 80. And she cried when we made her stop teaching.]
Cheers to all our dedicated mentor and teachers like Mrs. Santiago (and her mother) in forming the minds of our youth.