BATU, Indonesia. Photo by Jes Aznar

Sunday, November 9, 2014

The JASMS Way and Why It Should Stay

Somewhere between my heart and Quezon City lies the haven of my childhood, a school that is partly the reason why I am, and its thousands of graduates, are in the mold that we are now.

My parents sent me, and my brothers before me to JASMS-QC where we had the time of our lives. Schooling was not only fun, it was time spent meaningfully and worthy of Einstein’s Dreams.

JASMS or Jose Abad Santos Memorial School is the basic education brand of the Philippine Women’s University. Founded by American child expert Doreen Gamboa, the school is known for the JASMS Way, which cultivates “freedom of spirit, exploration and expression with the ultimate goal of balanced development and growth.”

There, “we learned by doing…dedicated to peace and environmentalism, cooperation rather than competition…” because that was the JASMS Way.

Our school at the time opened to a huge field, with lush green grass and tall trees. It’s probably just a wide backyard but to my young eyes, it was the size of a football field. It was there where I learned how to play softball. There were some monkey bars from where I often fell and hit my head on the soft ground. There was a pond, too where we studied “farming” and “fishing,” soaking ourselves in the thickest mud and cooking the day’s catch during cooking class.

There, it was possible to climb a “mountain” where we played with the spirits and the pixies, held hands with our childhood love and where the lost boys settled their differences: only those who went to JASMS know what “mountain tayo!” meant.

In the huge field, there would be a camp-out with our dads once in a while. The moms were always in school events and meetings so the camp-outs were made for the dads.

My father and I cooked our dinner over the fire that we made. In the morning, I would see the sunrise from the screened-in window of our borrowed brown tent.

Oh, it was always beautiful. Those camp-outs would always be among my most cherished memories with my father.

In JASMS, it was possible to travel to different corners of the world without mom and dad, to learn while playing and to enjoy every minute of one's youth. It was almost okay to be afraid, to express your angst, to rebel and to learn from it in the process.

Today, my fellow JASMS graduates and I are happy pursuing our interests in life. That is, after all, what JASMS gave us.

JASMS did not raise us to become nerds or academic slaves but more importantly, JASMS taught us to do what we want, to pursue our dreams and our passion. It helped us find our place under the sun.

Under the JASMS Way, you get to discover what you want and that’s about the most real thing that can happen to you in this crazy and mad, mad world. 

Now, how many kids can actually discover what they really want to do in life when they grow up?

But sadly, the JASMS Way is under threat. STI, which bought into JASMS years ago, is planning to convert the campus into a mixed-use area with several development partners led by the Ayala Group.

There will be a nine-storey building that will have residential units and a mall. The school will be given classrooms in this building and the campus will be downsized.

To say that this is absurd is an understatement. It is a blatant betrayal of the JASMS Way that I know.

After JASMS, my parents sent me to Miriam for four years of secondary school and to UP Diliman for college. A few years ago, I obtained my masters degree at the Ateneo de Manila University but among my four schools, JASMS is that one place I will always call home.

It is somewhere between Peter Pan's Neverland and Holden Caulfield's sanitarium.

Dismantling whatever campus JASMS-QC still has would be a betrayal of the JASMS Way and an audacious intrusion into a parallel universe where children could see the second star to the right.

As an alumna, I strongly protest such betrayal.