For Windel Alvarez, becoming the regional winner of the 14th Gawad Geny Lopez, Jr. Bayaning Pilipino Awards is not about basking in success; rather, he views it as an acknowledgement of qualities that he deems necessary to help many learners realize their own success as well.
“I am truly blessed to be the regional winner, which boosts my confidence and [serves as my] inspiration to realize my vision and advocacy. It recognizes many other qualities: ability, struggle, effort, and above all, total self-giving in service,” Windel narrated.
Windel found himself treading the path of Alternative Learning System (ALS) in 2007 when he was assigned as Teacher-in-Charge of Technology and Livelihood Education (TLE) on all levels at Northern Peninsula High School. This was where he experienced participating in summer missions and assisting illiterate voters during election.
But his life found a deeper meaning when he was assigned in a far-flung barangay. Of the learners Windel met, Francis struck him to be the one needing his help the most as the 21-year-old has been the object of ridicule due to his inability to read and write.
“He was treated by his neighbors very indifferently and most of the time, was bullied by children and even boys his age,” the teacher shared.
Windel’s first impression was that Francis has mental incapacity, but soon discovered that the only ill afflicting the potential learner was illiteracy. At his age, Francis as never set foot in a school and does not know how to read nor write his own name.
“I could not help but take pity on the boy. He seemed fearful and hesitant toward everyone and everything he did. Being illiterate made him feel less privileged, less human. He failed to realize that he has dreams because he did not know anything,” Windel lamented.
When Windel was assigned as a ALS mobile teacher in Caramoan, Francis was the first to enroll. With determination taking the place of hesitation, Francis slowly changed his life. In just one month, the new learner transformed his ABCs to syllables, words, phrases, and eventually, simple sentences. His scribbles have become strokes, and being able to write his full name became the first big difference in his life.
“Acquiring learning opened the door for Francis to reach his once unreached and unseen dreams. To learn how to read and write may be a simple thing, but for Francis, it means life. This freed him from fear of living life to the fullest and [helped] regain his lost confidence,” Windel stated proudly.
Since then, he was able to serve out-of-school youth (OSY) and adult in 49 barangays and 23 sitios of Caramoan. Because of ALS, he was able to share his knowledge, help lessen illiteracy in his municipality, and give inspiration in other districts of Camarines Sur.
Challenges were not wanting in his eight years of service – “from encouraging prospective learners to enroll to seeking support from the community and the stakeholders; from reaching learners in coastal and islang barangays to just listening to the day-to-day problems of these deprived and depressed members of society” – but Windel stood firm with his vocation.
“For me, being a teacher is no longer a job, but a mission. It is my advocacy and mission to give life to these people who are underprivileged or deprived of education, to bring back their dignity and have a good life. To see them holding their diplomas with honor and pride is the greatest reward a teacher could ever have. To see them employed and able to provide for the family is the fulfillment of my mission and dream.”
For Windel, all learners are worth the hardwork, failure, and sacrifices. He advises fellow educators to endure the challenges because these reveal the best version of themselves and their learners. Thus, he further reminded, “We must work not to impress, seek approval or recognition, but for a cause. Working hard is also going the extra mile, apart from what is done by the average even if it means sleepless nights or no quality time with your loved ones. It is not giving up when everything fails, but holding on until you reach your goals.”